Like most hardcore gamers, I would play through every good game I could get my hands on — if I had the time.
Alas, there are only so many hours in a day, and I have to maintain a life outside of video games. But I still like to at least try most everything that looks interesting, even if only for an hour or two.
That’s why I’m not assigning any star ratings to the games I’m covering this week. They’re all worth playing (consider them three stars or higher if you need an absolute), but I just didn’t have the time for full reviews.
“Ever Oasis” for the Nintendo 3DS for $39.99: Rated “E” for Everyone.
Part city-building sim, part action role-playing game and all adorable, “Ever Oasis” is defined not only by its unique aesthetic, but its surprisingly measured action.
Players take on the role of a young seedling who creates an oasis with the help of a water spirit named Esna. But to create this oasis, you must go on regular quests to find more residents, whom you then assign to certain roles within the town.
The character designs are unlike anything I’ve seen in a handheld game before, which is appropriate, considering you play as a seedling. Whether or not they are visually pleasing is a matter of debate, and the rather disconnected story doesn’t push you to learn more about them.
Surprisingly, the real-time combat is the best aspect of the game, requiring slow, measured strikes that can only hit after you learn an enemy’s pattern. You even get a couple of characters to join you on the road, giving the game a classic “Secret of Mana” feel.
I didn’t get invested enough in the story to keep playing, but nature lovers who like action-RPGs may want to give this one a shot.
“Elite Dangerous” for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC for $49.99: Rated “T” for Teen.
I knew this game was far too large and involved for me before I even rented it. But I at least wanted to see what it was like.
It’s even bigger than I thought. The kind of game I could latch on to if I were perpetually unemployed.
Best described as a space adventure, trading and combat simulation, the player explores a realistic 1:1 scale, open-world galaxy based on the real Milky Way. That means the universe is literally the same size as the actual Milky Way, full of online players who may want to trade with you or open fire.
There’s a lot more to it than that, of course, and even the simple act of piloting your ship takes more button combinations than I thought possible. While the graphics don’t live up to the standards of most AAA productions, they are serviceable, considering what you get in return.
My own experience with the game amounted to little more than flying around a bit, but I could feel the Milky Way and the thousands of adventures within it calling to me.
That’s when I put it away. I don’t have time for a 500-hour space voyage. But you might — as long as you don’t play anything else.
“Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun” for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4: Rated “M” for Mature.
Set in a place and time that’s close to my heart (Japan in the 1600s and 1700s), “Shadow Tactics” is so damn cool that I almost added it to my overstuffed gaming itinerary.
Too bad I’m no good at stealth games.
That’s exactly what “Shadow Tactics” is — a stealth-based samurai game played from an extremely elevated position. The tilted overhead perspective gives you a nice view of your character’s surroundings, and you’ll soon find yourself switching between characters based on their strength and ability.
A quick glance at the screen may fool you into thinking this is a turn-based strategy game a la “Final Fantasy Tactics,” but it’s all real time. It’s more comparable to those commando missions in “Command and Conquer,” but you control the characters directly instead of using a cursor.
While not on the same level as bigger budget games, the graphics are crisp, stylish and serviceable, as long as you don’t mind controlling characters as tiny as ants.
If you’re into stealth gaming, don’t overlook it.
“Hey! Pikmin” for the Nintendo 3DS for $39.99: Rated “E” for Everyone.
I’ve been a big fan of the “Pikmin” series since my college days, and designated “Pikmin 3″ as one of my favorite games of 2013.
“Hey! Pikmin” isn’t nearly as good as “Pikmin 3,” but it is a lot different, serving as a kind of beginner’s launch pad for casual gamers who might want to get into the series.
The concept, however, is pretty much the same. The player takes the role of an adorable, big-headed (literally) astronaut who crash lands on a colorful planet. The only way he can escape is by recruiting little anthropomorphic saplings who answer to the astronaut’s whistle.
That sounds a lot weirder in print than in the game.
Unlike previous entries in the series, “Hey! Pikmin” is presented in a flat, two dimensional perspective, very reminiscent of “Lemmings” — an obvious influence on the franchise. But since this is on the 3D handheld, the top screen shows you what’s above eye level.
While the previous games created tension through a time limit that forced the player to gather their Pikmin before nightfall, no such limits exist here. That makes this a much easier game.
But I don’t mind an easy game. Especially one with the relaxing, zen vibe of “Hey! Pikmin.”