I've had Kentucky Route Zero on my backlog for what seems like forever (a quick google shows the TV version came out in January 2020) and I finally got around to playing it at the start of September and what else is there to say except this game is my jam? It took me a little while to acclimatise to the experience, I wasn't immediately smitten, but by the end of the first episode I was well and truly on board. I read through Lanark by Alasdair Gray for the first time earlier in the year and Kentucky Route Zero stirred up similar feelings - the utterly Kafaesque and baffling logic made it feel very much like an interactive version of that book. It definitely tailed off to a certain extent towards the end, it didn't stick the landing as well as I had hoped, but those few evenings playing through the bulk of the game left quite an impression on me. I have to mention the musical interludes though, they were hands down some of the most captivating moments I've experienced in the medium, stand out sections in already stellar experience.
Next up I thought I would give Beyond: Two Souls a go, I played Heavy Rain recently and I was not impressed at all but I figured that Quantic Dream might have done better with the follow up and, for the most part, I was correct. Page and Defoe elevate the performances far beyond the schlocky, wooden acting on show in Heavy Rain and the range of interactivity tends to be more interesting here too but it still suffers from a lot of the same problems as Quantic Dream's first PS3 outing. The writing is still sub-par, taking sudden turns that don't seem to make any sense and in general moving around the environments feels as stiff as it was in Heavy Rain, ruining any success the team has in immersing the player into the world and its story. The way the narrative was structured did work to the games benefit though, ensuring that there were questions on my mind going into most chapters, but on the whole it was a pretty average experience - although it has redeemed Quantic Dream enough in my mind to want to give Detroit a go when the mood strikes me.
I dusted off my Wii U gamepad and downloaded the Virtual Console version of Metroid Prime: Hunters next. Visually, even with the obvious jaggies on my 4K TV, it was instantly impressive - it does a great job at recreating the Gamecube visuals on a vastly underpowered system but the controls took a while to get used to, I tried several different set ups but eventually settled on having the TV show the top screen while the gamepad showed the touch screen. I figured that exploration would be pretty limited compared to its siblings on more powerful hardware and first impression were that it was going to take place in more restrictive, indoor environments but the level design actually ends up being more varied than I first feared. The worlds still feel very much like levels but the more open environments on the planets help to make it feel like more of a world. Unfortunately it suffers a lot from repeated boss fights, having to fight the same two bosses over and over was pretty tedious, especially as the fights don't get shorter as you get further in the game, the battles for the last two Octoliths changed things up a little bit but not enough to redeem the concept. The difficulty spike for the final boss felt pretty sharp though, it might have just been me being rubbish but it felt like a marked step up from the rest of the game and it took me a while to defeat it. I've played through every Metroid over the last few years (apart from the NES original and the Game Boy sequel - but I've played the remakes so I've technically experienced everything the series has to offer) and Hunters is definitely the weakest entry but it was still a lot of fun to play through and it must have been mind blowing to play this on a Nintendo DS in 2006.
Last up I continued my Castlevania odyssey by playing through Castlevania: Bloodlines on Switch. I think this is technically the first Mega Drive game that I've ever played but even for a novice the telltale visual differences from the SNES are plain to see, sprites are definitely a bit smaller and transparency is clearly bodged with dithering techniques but its still undoubtedly Castlevania. I was a bit disappointed with how much more linear the level design is than something like Rondo of Blood but I suppose they were working with more limited storage capacity. I don't feel like I was properly able to engage with the game, it was a nice distraction to play through a couple of levels a night but it didn't leave a mark like Rondo & Symphony did, I'm interested to check out the Game Boy entries that are in the collection but my next taste of proper-Castlevania will undoubtedly come from the recently released Advanced collection that I will be picking up when I've got a few more games crossed off my backlog.