3 great games I wish I’d pulled off the backlog sooner

I know I’ve said how many games we’ve got to look forward to in 2022 multiple times already, but there’s always plenty being left behind in our collective backlogs. Today, we’re going to take a look at three of my favourite games I didn’t have a chance to explore when they first released. Rather than just skipping over mentioning them simply because they’re not “current”, we’re going to give them the attention they deserve, even if it may be a bit belated!

Have you been exploring any older releases? If so, what’s your favourite one you didn’t manage to experience and appreciate when it first released?

Life is Strange: True Colors

Backlog games: Life is Strange

Life is Strange as a series of games never really did it for me. Its original game had a great premise with its focal point being the “butterfly effect”, but left me aggravated by its love interest, Chloe, a character who, despite the fact we were clearly supposed to sympathise with her, was far too immature and selfish (and really, really fucking annoying – Ed.) to deserve any kind of impactful emotional attachment. The game also failed at making its secondary characters interesting, leaving them feeling throwaway, and the work as a whole lacking in depth and a sense of coherent story.

Obviously from that critique alone, it should go without saying that I did not enjoy my time with Life is Strange: Before the Storm either, since that is a prequel that stars Chloe. Life is Strange 2 improved its characterisation with two greatly captivating and interesting leads, but still failed to create an outstanding cast outside of them, and its plot was lacklustre.

But then came Life is Strange: True Colors, the best in the series by far. Hot take? Perhaps, but let me explain.

Let’s go over the minor nitpicks first, since True Colors isn’t by any means perfect. My main criticism is that it’s simply too short — and this is made all the more obvious by its episodic nature. Its runtime of barely three hours and the abrupt ending of each episode makes this all the more troubling, particularly if you paid full price for it on its original release.

But I thankfully didn’t, and taking the price question out of the equation made my time in Haven Springs feel worthwhile despite my stay only being a brief one. The central setting is cosy, and the premise of main character Alex Chen looking for a place to settle down and call home alongside the brother she hasn’t seen for years is compelling. Alex herself is extremely charming, witty, intelligent and kind, and she’s a true empath.

She wants to help others, and uses her power to be a mirror for others’ extreme emotions. She goes through a journey of self-improvement and closure that makes for some very poignant moments, particularly when we see her experiencing things for the first time: learning what “belonging” is, becoming part of a community, discovering what “home” means to her, learning how to forgive, dealing with life’s challenges, and ultimately understanding how to “just live”, as the game puts it.

True Colors appears idyllic and cosy thanks to its world design and well-crafted sense of an endearing, closely knit community. The bright, pretty colours complement the poignant themes of grief, mourning and trauma, and the story explores some heavy stuff at times. Haven Springs’ residents all suffer from ugly emotions at one point or another, challenging their goals of pursuing love, a successful career or simply understanding their emotions.

The entire experience is a comforting one despite how heavy it gets at times — it tells us that we should acknowledge all sides of our emotions, but rather than letting them take control of us, we should experience, process and overcome them. Therefore, the main message of Life is Strange: True Colors is that everyone hurts.

Haven Springs is filled with characters who are going through their own personal journeys completely separately from Alex’s own growth — and it’s up to us to take the time to give them some attention, and perhaps help steer them towards better days in their futures.

This all benefits Alex, too, as her interactions with the residents of Haven Springs cause her to question her own pursuit of happiness, whether she truly can follow her own dreams, whether she really will be able to find a sense of purpose in her own life — and how to be brave, both for her own sake and the sake of others.

Mechanically, the game is much the same as the rest of the series aside from a new aspect of touching characters’ emotions to discover heartfelt and emotional dialogue. But there was nothing wrong with the gameplay of the previous Life is Strange games; it was the story and characters that let them down. Now we also have some good characters and narrative, True Colors provides a reassuring, positive and comforting experience — topped off with two of the best love interests in the series.

I was genuinely touched by the experience, and had I played it last year, it would definitely have been among my favourite games of 2021.

Play the game now on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox everything, or Windows PC via Steam.


Backlog games: Othercide

I stumbled across Othercide after Limited Run Games listed it for a physical release. It piqued my interest thanks to its strong Claymore vibe. The Daughters, the cast of playable characters, are all female, and the main character is the Mother; we see the narrative unfold from her perspective.

The game itself features a roguelike-esque gameplay cycle, challenging you to clear a number of dungeons and beat a final boss in order to reach the next “era”. Despite its relatively simple appearance, its XCOM-esque gameplay is surprisingly tricky to master, with trial and error being important to learn things. The whole game’s design is deliberately disturbing and uncomfortable, making you feel a sense of dread and remorse as you sacrifice units to heal and power up the Daughters — but ever action you take is of the utmost importance.

After battles (known as Synapses), you get a rest period to restore some health, but if you took too much damage you may not heal back to full. As such, it may be in your interests to create new Daughters to challenge the upcoming battle — or even sacrifice existing Daughters. It’s a suffocating experience that often feels like you’re being backed into a wall within its bleak world, with the aesthetic acting as a constant reminder of this darkness.

That said, there’s also a continuous sense of progression no matter how many reruns you have to do before finally succeeding. All the Daughters have adaptable abilities, and their “memories” can upgrade and enhance their various combat skills. Their personalities are shaped by your actions, too; depending on your performance in battle, you’ll influence and affect their mentality, leading them to develop both positive and negative attributes that can greatly change your team’s dynamic!

It all accumulates into a broody and atmospheric tactical RPG that is as unique as it is challenging, where players really do have to think ahead to secure a victory against all the odds. I cannot recommend this game enough, so go play it on your Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One or Windows PC via Steam as soon as possible!

Ring Fit Adventure

Backlog games: Ring Fit Adventure

I’m both saddened and astonished that it look me until 2022 to experience Ring Fit Adventure, a Nintendo Switch physical exclusive, and what a mistake that was. Lockdown was, of course, the ideal time to pick it up, but despite me missing out on such a golden opportunity, I’ve still found that Ring Fit Adventure has helped me to become surprisingly regimented about something for once — mostly thanks to its built-in alarm system that reminds you when it’s time to get your heart racing and blood pumping.

The fact it’s an exercise game wasn’t even the main thing that appealed to me: I was intrigued to own an unusual RPG. It has an utterly bonkers story with a villainous body-building dragon named Dragaux who acts as a means of delivering messages about the toxicity of gym culture, pushing yourself too far and being self-conscious. (See, games are political, too – Ed.)

The game’s combat features turn-based, vaguely Pokémon-esque battles where your attacks are workout sets. There’s even an element of strategy to it, where different “colours” of attack — which translate to different types of exercise — can be used to exploit enemy weaknesses.

Alongside that, we have the obligatory levelling up system and the ability to unlock new exercises as you progress, plus smaller exercises along the way that keep the joints working — pulling the RingCon apart to suck up coins, pushing it in to destroy boxes and the like. And there’s meaning to all this, too; the coins you collect with these optional additional exercises can be used to acquire new equipment and consumable items.

The best thing about Ring Fit Adventure is that it doesn’t really feel like you’re doing a workout, and thus you’re much more likely to stick with it than attempting to commit to a daily session on the family treadmill. Instead, Ring Fit Adventure offers a genuinely entertaining experience while making exercise mindless fun. It’s helped make me more organised by planning my sessions, but also helped me feel more comfortable in myself by getting back into exercising. I haven’t really pulled my weight since school ended — PE has never been on my mind since. So thanks, Ring Fit Adventure!

What are your favourite backlog discoveries of late? Let us know down in the comments, via the usual social channels or on the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page!

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Lilia Hellal
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