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Backlog: The Embiggening – May, 2023

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By Nelson Schneider - 04/30/23 at 04:00 PM CT

Welcome back to another look into the near future! Spring is winding down, and as May comes upon us, the Games Industry has its last gasp in releasing solid Q1 titles to build operating revenue for the rest of the year. Unfortunately for the gamers on the receiving end of the corporate machine, those “solid titles” are more like “solid turds,” dropping from the Industry’s collective rectum and giving us all concussions if we aren’t wise enough to move out of the way. Will we see anything with actual merit released this Spring? Read on as we sift through the sludge together!

In the shovelware category, we’ve got all three varieties represented, once again. In the ‘Licensed Swill’ category, we’ve got a LEGO-themes Racing game, “LEGO 2K Drive,” with such a vague title that the only things we know about it are that it features LEGO bricks and is published by 2K games. There’s also the last-gen backport of “Hogwarts Legacy” coming to the PS4 and XBONE, in spite of those consoles being dead, obsolete, and generally worthless even when they weren’t. Lastly, there’s a new J.R.R. Tolkien tie-in game called “The Lord of the Rings: Gollum,” starring everyone’s favorite insane proto-hobbit.

In the ‘Super-Casual Barely-a-Game’ category, we’ve got another three titles: “Fitness Circuit” for the Switch, “That’s My Family: Family Fun Night” for… the Switch, and “Cozy Grove” for… the Switch and PS5, which is also a port from Steam. And here we thought Nintendo had given up on the Blue Ocean strategy. I guess third-party shovelers didn’t get the memo.

Lastly, we come to ‘Annualized Releases,’ which breaks the nice Rule of Three we had going by only having two games: “Farming Simulator 23” and “TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 3,” the latter of which is newly Annualized, but nevertheless is demonstrative of the question, ‘Do we really need another one of those so soon after the last one?’

With that crap out of the way we can move onto ports, that overwhelming phenomenon that has been drowning gamers in re-releases of old things with new price tags slapped on, which has been ongoing for two entire console generations already. Unsurprisingly, the ports, remakes, rehashes, compilations, and other attempts at wringing more profit out of already-sunk costs outnumber everything else, once again. However, unlike the recent trend of the Nintendo Switch being the primary dumping ground for these endeavors, the PlayStation is, briefly, back on top, reclaiming the title of PortStation for its Sony masters. Sony consoles are getting “Classic Racers Elite,” “Ziggurat 2,” “Ys 9,” and “Shadow Warrior 3,” with PlayStation VR2 specifically getting “Song in the Smoke” and “Synth Racers” from PCVR. Then, PlayStation is sharing a huge number of ports with other consoles (mostly the Switch, but with a little bit of Xbox in there): “BPM,” “Starsand,” “The Knight Witch,” “Garden Simulator,” “Alchemic Cutie,” “Trek to Yomi” (which was, ironically, shown off by Sony as if it was a first-party exclusive, which it ain’t), “VirtuaVerse,” “Truck Driver,” and “Company of Heroes 3.” While the Switch does share the majority of those just-mentioned ports with PlayStation, the much smaller number of ports it has to itself – “SkateBIRD,” “Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle,” and a compilation (not-so) helpfully called “Humongous Classic Collection” – let it get steamrolled by Sony for the first time in many years. Good (bad) job, there, PortStation!

Is there any room in the schedule, then for new games? Yes. But they aren’t multi-platform releases for once! There’s only one new multi-plat coming in May, and it’s some sort of crafting/cooking/RPG abomination by NIS – an expert in RPG abominations – called “Monster Menu: The Scavenger’s Cookbook.” No thanks!

Wow, for the first time in I-don’t-remember-how-long, there are a lot of exclusive releases coming in May, with several of them attempting to be system sellers. Leading off, Sony has a weak exclusive sequel in “The Caligula Effect: Overdose,” which is yet another NIS game that probably doesn’t have much of an audience or fan demand. Next, Microsoft has a new exclusive coming for the first time in eons, in… oh dear, it’s that stupid ‘Left4Dead’ clone with vampires, “Redfall.” Lastly, Nintendo has a whopping three times as many exclusives as the other guys with third-party efforts coming from… urg… Taggrin and Idea Factory, with a ‘Bubble Bobble’ sequel, with the confusing original Japanese title “Puzzle Bobble Everybubble!” and a sequel to the Casual competitive/cooperative Role-Playing Board Game, “Dokapon Kingdom: Connect.” Lastly, we’ll mention Nintendo’s first-party effort: “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom,” a direct sequel to “The Legend of Zelda: Break of the Weapons,” about which I’m feeling fairly ambivalent.

Well, that could have been better, but it also could have been a LOT worse! While I’m not gnashing at the bit to play either of them, I’m mildly interested in both “Lord of the Rings: Gollum” and “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom”. I’ll need to wait for some audience impressions before I pull the trigger on a Licensed ‘Lord of the Rings’ game again, plus a deep, deep discount on Steam or some other PC storefront. “Tears of the Kingdom,” on the other hand, promises to bring all of the annoying things from “Break of the Weapons” back for a second song-and-dance, but wants a ridiculous $70 for the privilege. I’ll try to borrow it, or maybe even sign up for Gamefly and just rent it, since none of those long-ass Sandbox games are the type of thing I enjoy replaying.

Backlog Embiggened: +2

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