February Bite-Sized Review Round-Up: Puzzling Dimensions

I review The Witness and Megadimension Neptunia.

February had so many games it made my head spin. It was easy to get lost in the big releases that came out and ignore the smaller ones, or even the more "niche" titles out there, but I've managed to spend some time with them and let you know what I think. 

Before you make a purchase, try these bite-sized reviews on for size and see what you think!

Megadimension Neptunia

Despite its confusing title, Megadimension Neptunia VII isn't the seventh game in the Hyperdimension Neptunia series.

It's actually the sequel to Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. It's the first proper PlayStation 4 entry for the long-running series, and while it's serviceable enough for fans, it's disappointing as a next-gen title. 

Megadimension Neptunia VII follows protagonists Neptune and Nepgear happening upon a broken Dreamcast that ends up pulling them into another dimension where one CPU is left: Uzume (Orange Heart.) 

The trio of CPUs are tasked with saving the world in the first arc of the game, with two story arcs to follow that tie everything together. It's just as silly and retro gaming-based as the rest of the series, but it's not exactly a gripping narrative. 

There are a few reasons to explore if you've played the rest of the series. For one, there's a character based on Seaman. Secondly, the game engine is vastly improved, with consistent frame rate and less chugging. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean much when many of the areas have been copied and pasted from previous games with the same dungeon layouts.

 

Combat is largely the same as the previous entries as well, with special new team-based attacks and Giant Battles that switch up the formula a bit. Essentially, it's Hyperdimension Neptunia, scaled out a little better. 

Fans will find plenty to like here, but Compile Heart has a ways to go before Megadimension Neptunia is seen as a truly next-gen title.

 

The Witness

Jonathan Blow's long-awaited The Witness spent eight years in development after its precursor Braid made the scene. It takes time for greatness to marinate a bit, and that's what we get with The Witness, an arresting and engaging series of puzzles that delight, obfuscate, and even teach. 

Players find themselves on an island with no idea of why or how they're there, much like Myst before it years ago. After beginning to explore, it becomes immediately evident that there's something bizarre going on, by way of the abundance of puzzles scattered throughout the island. These manifest in the form of "line puzzles," or grids featuring an entrance and an exit you've got to reach by drawing a line. On the other side of the puzzle the line is mirrored, and the lines you're drawing cannot touch. 

It sounds simple, but in action it can become very involved and frustrating. When you figure it out, there's a refreshing "a-ha!" moment that may well be one of the most rewarding ever seen in a puzzler, especially with the way the puzzles themselves interact with the island. Luckily, if you find you've got issues with one puzzle, the island is an open world to explore so you can solve puzzles at your leisure at any time, all the while learning along the way.

 

The Witness combines exemplary game design, dozens of hours of gameplay, and plenty of secrets to unravel. It's well worth trying out, especially if you dig thoughtful puzzle-solving.