A Vault of Mystery Mini Reviews At the Edge of the Horizon


Forza Horizon 5
Always nice to have a photo mode for screenshots

Forza Horizon 5 (Playground Games/Microsoft, 2021, PC/XBO/XSX)


I raved about this one already as my #5 game of 2021 about a week ago, so I'm not going to say too much more here. It's a phenomenal open world racer that I'll probably keep playing as a podcast game for quite some time, and you'll be able to find something to love if anything about racing games is appealing.


MSRP: Free on Gamepass, AAA pricing otherwise

Time to beat: 20+ hours



Mysteries Under Lake Ophelia
This game doesn't get very dark thematically, but it does lower the brightness a lot

Mysteries Under Lake Ophelia (Bryche Bucher, 2021, PC)


If you're familiar with indie games at all, you can probably guess that this game has horror elements just from the fact that it looks like a PS1/Dreamcast title and released recently. But that would mislead you a bit - despite the look of the game and a content warning featured prominently in the splash sequence, there's absolutely nothing remotely scary about it beyond a mildly disturbing sequence of nonsense at the very end. Think of this as an expanded version of the fishing from Ocarina of Time with a weird ending tacked on.


Unfortunately, it mostly reveals that there was a reason that was just a minigame. Even with slightly deeper mechanics, there's just not enough to this game for it to stay interesting for very long, and grinding up the money to buy the best gear will take forever unless, and to some extent even if, you get remarkably lucky like me and catch the rare super-valuable fish almost immediately. And since the ending can only be triggered on specific days, you might still have to stand around doing nothing for 20 minutes even when you finally have the right equipment. This is a great idea for a game, but the execution is just not there.


MSRP: $5

Time to beat: Just over 2 hours, but most playthroughs will take significantly longer


Yamafuda! 2nd Station
The English translation is incredible

Yamafuda! 2nd station (KPC, 2021, PC)


A Japanese card battler where you fight against fatigue instead of enemies. Your goal is to reach the top of the mountain (using hike) while defending against enough HP damage (using care) to get there without hitting zero. There are a number of thematically appropriate status effects and artifacts that modify gameplay, but by and large that's all you're doing. It will be very familiar if you've played any other card battler.


It'll also be very easy, at least until the last mountain of the regular campaign. The first 9 are trivial to get through and mostly serve as a very extended tutorial through which to unlock good cards. The difficulty ramps up significantly for Mt Fuji and presumably for the bonus mountains and second campaign tat unlock after reaching the summit, but I was pretty bored of the game's simplicity after 10 mountains. It's a really cute game and could be a solid way to introduce kids to this genre, but as someone who has played a ton of these games, it got repetitive quickly.


MSRP: $13

Time to beat: ~4 hours



Mirror's Edge
Actually a screenshot of the PC version

Mirror's Edge (DICE/EA, 2007, PC/360/PS3)


I've probably finished ME 50-75 times on PC and another 5 or so on PS3, so this is not even remotely a review of my first impressions. This was my first experience with the 360 version, though, and HLTB wants it as a new playthrough, so I figured I'd also share some quick thoughts on how this one version stacks up.


Poorly. Compared to the experience on even an okay PC these days, the 360 version has unbelievably long loads, is constantly sticking terrible textures right in your face, and uses a bizarre control scheme where almost all of your actions are on the shoulder buttons and triggers. I died quite a few times just from how unintuitive jumping with LB is, and I really don't think there's any reason it couldn't have been A, which is not used in any real way. Y is actually the only face button you'll use much, and that's disarm for some reason. It really makes no sense.


ME is still one of my favorite games ever, so I'd recommend it despite all these flaws if 360 is your only option, but it's far from the best way to play the game.


MSRP: I doubt you can buy the 360 game new anymore

Time to beat: Probably around 6 hours for a first run



Vault of the Void
I was so focused on getting one tooltip out of the picture that I missed a second one

Vault of the Void (Spider Nest Games, 2021, PC)


I'll say right out of the gate that this is an Early Access game and could change significantly before release, but I'm content to give an initial impressions review based on beating the current build on normal difficulty with one of the four characters.


VotV is Slay the Spire by way of something like Shadowverse. You face off against a set of enemies on a traditional card game battleground, but like StS you can always see enemy intents and are climbing levels of a tower on the way to the final boss. Dig even a little deeper, though, and this is really its own game. Every character after the intro guy has two unique mechanics that completely change how you play, and the game is centered around being able to purge (discard) cards to gain one mana. High cost cards are far more playable than you're used to since you always have four other cards you can convert, and on top of that you also don't discard at end of turn unless you want to. Complicating things even further, enemies deal "threat" rather than direct damage, which means you don't actually lose HP unless you fail to build up enough block on the turn after the attack. In effect, you can see incoming damage on round ahead, which is extremely valuable when dealing with status enemies.


Add on a huge amount of combo potential, interesting floor exploration, and a final boss sequence unlike anything I've seen in one of these games and you've got a card battler that already looks like a classic even though it isn't properly out yet. I have no doubt that I will be playing a lot more of this game.


MSRP: $15

Time to beat: ~6 hours to win normal mode once, no doubt many hundreds to do everything

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