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How My Blood Boils: Ranking the Bosses of ‘Sekiro’

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Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a game that enters into a long held tradition of From Software games with gnarly difficulty and epic bosses. Bosses aren’t just an addition in Dark Souls or Bloodborne, they are a main feature. Every one of them is a mountain to be ascended, and you’re just going to have to train yourself on how to climb these particular mountains.

Sekiro is no different in this regard. With 16 epic bosses, From’s shinobi opus of honor and blood utilizes an adaptive version of battle and traversal from previous games to create some of the most intense, soul-shaking, sweat-drenched battles in the history of the medium… and we’re here to break ’em down for you, live and in color.

16) Corrupted Monk

Sekiro Corrupted Monk
By far the least engaging boss in Sekiro is the first version of the Corrupted Monk. Essentially an over-large version of one of the game’s many mini-bosses, this iteration of the Corrupted Monk has very little to offer. Also, with only a single deathblow marking his end, he is one of the most easily conquered, and least satisfying, bosses in the game. Though he puts up a decent fight, his place is destined to be at the bottom of this list.

15) Headless Ape


By the time you’ve reached the Headless Ape, you’ve already dealt with a headless ape. The shock of the initial ape getting up after his decapitation is a fantastic moment, but this battle is just redundant. The second stage tries to spice things up by introducing a second ape, which makes things much more frenetic, but since this additional ape shares the same attack patterns, it still just feels like a re-skinned boss, tougher though it might be.

14) True Corrupted Monk

Sekiro True Monk

Though the setting of this fight is jaw-dropping, like with the Headless Ape, most players will be left wondering why they’re doing this all over again. The True Corrupted Monk would actually be a pretty cool boss, had you not already faced an inferior version of her earlier, but since you have, even her evolved second and third forms bring little enough to the table to make her truly impressive. However, points for the moment when that centipede head bursts out in the third stage… pure nightmare fuel.

13) Lady Butterfly


Depending on how you play the game, Lady Butterfly will either be the first or second boss you face in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Either way, she’s one tough nut to crack. She moves fast, walks on invisible tightropes, and faces you in one of the games best settings. Unfortunately, her second form does too little to justify its existence, leaving most frustrated players wanting this fight to be over with. Her design though, wow. I’ll bet you’ve never battled an elderly ninja warrior in any game, ever.

12) Folding Screen Monkeys

Sekiro
Though this placement may be somewhat divisive, I think the Folding Screen Monkeys are one of the best surprises in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Reminiscent of the classic Metal Gear Solid 3 boss, The End, the Folding Screen Monkeys fight sees you sneaking around and utilizing environmental hazards in order to get the best of the 4 eponymous primates, one by one. With plenty of fun mechanics and the sinister ghost monkeys always on your trail, this is a battle that starts seemingly easy before growing increasingly tense.

11) Divine Dragon


In a time-honored tradition of From Software games, the Divine Dragon is a puzzle style boss. A huge, imposing God who must be defeated via cunning rather than might, the Divine Dragon is more bark than bite. Once you get past the trash mob first stage, you will mainly be reckoning with your own anxiety more than anything. After you’ve got a hold of yourself, you’ll see that the Divine Dragon takes very little to conquer. Still, with lightning striking and soaring gales of wind, this battle is epic in every sense of the word.

10) Genichiro, Way of Tomoe


Even if your second run-in with Genichiro has only a little to set it apart from the final stage of the previous encounter, the setting and stakes of the fight make the Way of Tomoe a moment of true tension. Now equipped with the Black Mortal Blade, Genichiro brings everything he’s got in order to take down Wolf and take the Dragon’s Heritage by force. The whistling reeds, strong winds, and a storm brewing on the horizon make the final battle with Genichiro an intense affair.

9) Great Shinobi Owl

Sekiro Owl
Owl is a fierce opponent, and probably one of the main walls players will hit in terms of Sekiro bosses. His massive sword, the speed of his strikes, and the small size of the arena will leave players scrambling to overcome him. All it takes is one mistake, and Owl can have you down for the count. Also, when things get tough, Owl is not afraid to fight dirty. A brutal encounter, charged with rage and treachery, the fight with Owl is a battle to be remembered.

8) Isshin Ashina


Siding with Owl at a crucial plot point will unlock this battle, and seal the player’s fate as a Shura. Isshin Ashina may be old but he’s still one of the greatest warriors in the land, and when he steps up to put down the latest Shura, he means business. Though the fight begins as a straightforward duel with a sword-fighting master, it evolves into a daring feast for the eyes, as Wolf and Isshin weave their way in and out of flames in a desperate battle for victory.

7) Owl Father


There are two moments in the game where Wolf will be struck by an unseen blade off screen, dooming him to death. As players might suspect, Owl, your adoptive father, is responsible for both. This secret boss, in the flashback at Hirata Estate, confirms as much. Younger, faster and more sinister, Owl Father is an even crueler version of the wall that players hit earlier in the game with the elder Owl. His second stage, complete with a flaming spirit of an owl will test the mettle of even the greatest Sekiro players.

6) Emma, the Gentle Blade

Sekiro Emma
Though the battle with Emma is a short one, requiring only a single death blow, it still stands out in the mire of Sekiro boss fights for a few clear reasons. First of all, Emma is only the third woman you do battle with in the game. Second, she doesn’t fight you with malice, but with the sort of resigned disappointment of someone who expected better from you. Finally, her delicate battle style and graceful movement bely a deadly warrior hiding in the cloak of a physician. A truly jarring and morally challenging fight, Emma will leave the Shura Wolf wondering what he has done after defeating her.

5) Gyoubu Masataka Oniwa


While Gyoubu Masataka Oniwa might not be the first boss you will face in the game, he will certainly be the first you’ll defeat. As such, Gyoubu is the first true test of the player’s mettle, and that makes him very memorable. A hulking samurai warrior sat astride an armored war horse, Gyoubu’s speed and reach make him seem insurmountable until players notice the small telltale grapple sign each time he wheels his horse around. A thrilling battle, Gyoubu will push players to the edge before they can achieve victory over him.

4) Guardian Ape

The Guardian Ape is one of the largest and most intimidating enemies in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Players will encounter him sitting peacefully at a pool of water, but once he takes notice of you, look out. He’s big, he’s fast, and he hits like a truck. He’s also not afraid to get dirty in order to win. However, the best part of this fight doesn’t come until the moment you think you’ve won. After decapitating the Guardian Ape, he returns from the dead, swinging a massive katana and his own disembodied head at you as his new weapons. Shocking, visceral and brutal, the Guardian Ape is one of the most memorable encounters in the game.

3) Genichiro Ashina

Sekiro Genichiro
Being the man who struck you down in the opening chapter of Sekiro, Genichiro Ashina is a foe players will be eagerly looking forward to facing again. However, when you finally do reach him, you might begin to re-think that sentiment. A fierce three stage battle, the showdown with Genichiro will push players to their limit at this stage in the game. The first two stages are a straightforward, if tough, duel with a warrior in his absolute prime, while the third will bring on the Lightning of Tomoe, a daring attack that can spell instant defeat. Equipped with a bevy of long and close range attacks, Genichiro is a man we must begrudgingly respect, even as we seek to dispatch him.

2) Demon of Hatred


Another secret boss, the Demon of Hatred isn’t just a stellar creature with an awesome design, he’s also the secret to a major part of Sekiro lore. When the Sculptor disappears later in the game, players are left to speculate on what has happened to him… that is until they find this massive Shura roaming the fiery refuse of a smoldering battlefield.  A towering demon with three health bars, the Demon of Hatred is less a boss than a full-on dominating force of nature. His vast arsenal of attacks, which increase in size and scope as the battle advances, are all capable of doing massive damage, if not taking the player down outright. A boss who requires patience and perseverance, the Demon of Hatred would be the most rewarding battle in the game were it not for the final boss.

1) Isshin, the Sword Saint


Isshin, the Sword Saint, is the final test of everything you’ve learned over the course of Sekiro. The battle with the man who started a bloody revolution and took power over the land is a fight for the ages. Players will have to master the block, dodge, parry, deflect and mikiri counter maneuvers in order to even have a sniff at taking down the Sword Saint. A gruelling three stage fight, Isshin begins with a katana, before unleashing a spear and pistol, and finally, the lightning of Tomoe. As embers bristle between you and Isshin, and a massive storm grows and roars in the background, Isshin advances mercilessly on the player. His thrill at returning from the grave for one last legendary battle comes out in his fierce battle cries, and if you mess up for even a split second, you can bet he will capitalize on your failings. A wildly challenging fight, the final encounter of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice will take absolutely everything you’ve got to come out on top.

Mike Worby is a human who spends way too much of his free time playing, writing and podcasting about pop culture. Through some miracle he's still able to function in society as if he were a regular person, and if there's hope for him, there's hope for everyone.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Jai

    May 12, 2019 at 11:38 pm

    Corrupted monk is female so Emma would be the 3rd.

    • Mike Worby

      May 13, 2019 at 6:57 pm

      Oh jeez, you’re right, I’ll make the correction. I even used “her” in the Corrupted Monk’s write up.

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‘Garden Story’ First Impressions: The Coziest of Adventures

Long-awaited Twitter darling Garden Story just released its first demo. Here’s what we learned after playing through it twice.

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Following the unfortunate (but understandable) delay of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, there’s been a distinct lack of chill, aesthetic games to fill the void. Garden Story’s charming environmental art and animation have earned it a dedicated social media following, but it wasn’t until Picogram released a demo just a couple days ago that anyone with a Steam account could actually experience the game for themselves. So, just how fun is this wholesome little RPG?

Setting the Scene

Garden Story’s demo centers around the newly-appointed village guardian Concord (a grape) and their first steps in rebuilding Autumn Town, a community ravaged by a sinister force known as “the Rot.” Chatting with villagers reveals a bit of insight into the situation at hand; it’s soon clear just how much the other townsfolk need the player’s support.

There are several clear parallels to old-school Legend of Zelda titles here, but Garden Story manages to set itself apart rather quickly. For one, this isn’t a solo adventure; the player sets out with Rana (a frog) and Fuji (a tomato) on a friendly quest to be as helpful to the surrounding community as possible. Seeing friends around and watching cute scripted cutscenes between the crew does a great job of instilling a sense of camaraderie and friendship.

In another pleasant twist, everything here is themed around building rather than destroying. Instead of traditional swords and bows, Concord repurposes his dowsing rod and scavenging pick into makeshift weapons. The combat itself calls to mind Stardew Valley; simple, minimal, and clearly not the main focus. There’s a pesky stamina bar that restricts the number of times Concord can attack and how far they can run, frequently forcing players to pause between barrages. In this way, encounters often come off as more of a necessary evil in Concord’s town rehabilitation journey than a main attraction.

Rebuilding a Community

So, how does one go about aiding the town? The method highlighted in the demo was by attending to a quest board with three different types of requests: Threat (combat), Repair (exploration), and Want (gathering). Each is accompanied by a task that plays an integral part in keeping Autumn Town safe and in good working order (e.g. clearing out Rot, finding sewer access so new resources can flow into town, and so on).

Aside from fulfilling requests, there are a few interesting hooks to incentivize hitting every shiny thing you come across regardless. The more different types of items are scavenged, and the more catalogues are filled by being updated with new materials, the more literature becomes available to give little bits of insight into Garden Story’s world and history. Then, in another parallel to Stardew Valley, any leftover resources can be sold in the pursuit of buying tool upgrades.

While the full game will feature four locations to explore and tend to, there was still plenty to do in Autumn Town itself by the end of the demo. Rana mentioned that villagers will post new requests daily, and the demo even featured a mini side quest (called “favors”) that led me to obtain a brand-new tool. Between daily requests, favor fulfillment, and dungeons spread across four different regions, it’s looking like there will be a good bit of content here for those who really want to hang around Garden Story’s world for as long as possible.

Ambient Appeal

Though it remains to be seen just how enticing its complete gameplay loop and accompanying systems are, Picogram’s latest is already delivering on its core appeal: being a cozy, relaxing experience. The color palette is soft, the lighting is moody, and the soundtrack is right up there with the Animal Crossing series as having some of the most mellow, loopable tunes around.

In fact, it’s the sound design in particular that gives Garden Story such an intimate feel. From the sound of a page turning when entering and exiting buildings to the gentle gurgles of a bubbling brook in the forest, it’s clear that composer Grahm Nesbitt poured a ton of love into making this one feel just right. Here’s hoping the full game more than delivers on all the potential shown here.

Garden Story is slated to release in Spring of 2020 and is available to wishlist on Steam.

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How Asynchronous Online in ‘Death Stranding’ Brings Players Together

Hideo Kojima’s latest game creates a sense of community by aiding other players on the same perilous journey.

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Death Stranding

Video games have always been fascinated with the idea of player interactivity as a means of crafting a power fantasy. The player typically goes on a hero’s journey, eventually culminating in them being the one and only savior of the world inside the game. Typically associated with single-player games, MMOs also crafted that same narrative but with the conceit that everyone is going on this journey. Often the acknowledgments of other players are in multiplayer-specific features such as PvP and Raids. Destiny is a great example of a series that takes players on the same journey and makes no promise that the story is different between players by even allowing them to engage in playing story missions together. It all feeds into the larger narrative of Guardians fighting together to save the Light. A game that handles this very similar and perhaps more successfully is Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding.

While lacking any direct player-to-player interaction, Kojima’s latest game is drenched in the conceit that community is crucial to triumph over adversity. You can read many articles about the game’s ideas of community from fellow writers on the site. What hasn’t quite gotten the attention it deserves is how revolutionary Death Stranding feels in terms of utilizing asynchronous online to greatly affect the game itself. Games like Dark Souls and other FromSoftware titles have included the ability to leave notes (which Death Stranding also offers) that help (or trick) players as they venture throughout the world on their own. How those notes’ effects are manifested are often on a much smaller scale – helpful at times but often to warn players of an impending way they might die. They don’t have a large impact on the player, only a temporary means of cheating death. 

Where Death Stranding becomes something greater in scale is in what it lets other players do to other peoples’ single-player experiences. In the game, you play as Sam Porter Bridges who is tasked with reconnecting America from coast-to-coast. At first, the game thrusts Sam into its narrative, taking the reluctant, isolated character and forcing him to eventually realize the importance of hope and connections in dire times. As Sam starts bringing more and more people onto the Chiral network (which allows instantaneous communication and the transferring of 3D-printable goods), so too does the game open up and reveal its ultimate goal: to bring players together.

Death Stranding

This doesn’t mean players will ever talk to other players, and the game very much avoids any real negative actions that can be performed on players. In fact, someone could play the game without ever actively engaging with online features. Instead, the game will passively hand out “likes” to other players whose ladders are used or roads are driven. If one wanted to fight the game’s narrative and instead keep Sam isolated and away from the community that the Chiral network provides, they could definitely do that – no matter how antithetical it would be to do so. Death Stranding even offers an offline mode that would nullify all of that and keep the experience solely on the player’s impact on the world and no one else’s. 

Yet there’s a reason the online mode is the default mode. It was near the end of Episode 3 (which also happens to be when the game unloads almost all of its mechanics onto the player) when I finally realized the impact I was having on other people’s games. I had spent an entire day playing the game, but focusing largely on delivering premium deliveries – these are optional challenges that essentially boil down to carrying more cargo, damaging cargo less, or getting to your destination in a set amount of time. Death Stranding doesn’t ever tell you the best way to get somewhere. Instead, it places a wide array of tools in front of you and assuming the Chiral network is set up in an area, it can provide a rough guide on places to avoid or infrastructure already built. However, one of the key pieces of infrastructure missing for my playthrough was roads. My efforts immediately became focused on building a network of roads that made their way all throughout one of the larger areas in the game.

The game doesn’t ever make you build roads. It tells you the option is there but it doesn’t force your hand. Often tools will be introduced, like zip lines and floating carriers, but the game never demands that they’re used. Of course, engaging with those tools will make your life easier. There are easy ways to start building infrastructure in Death Stranding: ropes and ladders can help to scale mountains or plummet depths. Those will remain in the world for other players to use and will even appear on their maps as they hook up areas to the Chiral network. So, someone who plays the game earlier than someone else could lay down ropes and ladders, and depending on when the other person starts playing, they will find those once they have progressed to a point where they are traversing that area. Where the game becomes even grander in its sense of community is the realization that the more players commit to building roads or setting up zip lines, the more other players benefit.

Death Stranding

The reality is that ladders and ropes are temporary – they cannot be rebuilt, they can only be replaced. The game’s Timefall – a weather phenomenon that acts as rain but ages anything it comes into contact with – can reset an entire map after a while if there is nothing more substantial placed on the map. So in my game, I decided that whenever I could build a road, I committed to doing so. This could mean going to multiple waystations and collecting materials that have amassed over time from deliveries, or going out in the world and finding these materials like Chiral crystals. At a certain point, I would load up a truck with multiple deliveries that were on or near the roads I had built, as well as with as many metal and ceramic materials I could load into the truck before it reached capacity. As I delivered packages, I’d replace them with more deliveries and more materials from each waystation. Eventually, I’d find myself at a point where a road was not built yet and would then build that road.

Community stands as the strongest component of Death Stranding .

In contrast to a game like Dark Souls, actions in the world such as providing notes on the ground or helping another player with a boss battle is helping them cheat death. The community that is being built is not one that has any lasting effect on the world in the game. No Man’s Sky may let players interact with each other and further their knowledge of the universe within the game, but often that help is relegated to an isolated planet. It’s a more contained impact. Hideo Kojima created a game where players don’t just build infrastructures for themselves, they can intentionally or inadvertently assist other players throughout their games. This leads to players like myself creating strand contracts with other players who have built things I liked in the game. A strand contract is a powerful feature because it means more of that players’ roads or other items built for the world will show up more frequently in my game.

Every Action in Death Stranding Creates Hope

One of the perks of building so many roads is you also get a lot of likes, whether passively given because someone used the road or actively provided by a player because they not only used the road but were appreciative that someone built it. It’s hard not to feel important in someone else’s life when you’ve made their experience less cumbersome because they no longer have to drive over rocky terrain or through enemy territory but instead can take a highway to their destination. What’s better is that more substantial developments like bridges and roads can be repaired by other players and even upgraded. So while I laid the initial roads down, I actually haven’t spent any materials repairing them. Instead, notifications come in and tell me players have repaired roads I’ve built. There’s no real reason to do that unless the infrastructure built was necessary to their journey through the game – making it easier but also providing the same feeling of helping out a larger community. 

Community stands as the strongest component of Death Stranding – a game that doesn’t even try to be subtle in its intentions. Traversing Kojima’s version of post-apocalyptic America is harrowing on your own. With just your two feet and a package to deliver when the entire world itself is trying to stop you from doing so, America isn’t just divided – it’s hostile. Where Death Stranding shines brightest is when it offers a helping hand. Players aid one another to achieve the same unified goal: save the country. All of this is under the assumption that the country can be saved, but there is no denying that seeing someone else’s rope hanging off a steep cliff, or a Timefall shelter where it rains Timefall on a constant basis, is one of the most satisfying feelings. In Death Stranding, it isn’t enough to know that you’re making progress, but that everyone is willing to assist others to reach the same end goal. It’s a game where every action creates hope and is built upon the idea that we are at our best when we work together.

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Game Reviews

‘Woven’ Review: Comfortably Soft and Lumpy

Despite those blurry visuals and stilted gameplay, there’s something endearing about this innocent elephant’s adventure.

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With a sincere warmth and fuzziness that conjures up dreamy recollections of 3D games gone by, Alterego GamesWoven mostly overcomes its blurry visuals and technical jankery to somehow create a pleasant, old-fashioned experience. Those excited by modern gaming probably won’t give this lovable hand-me-down a second look, and perhaps they shouldn’t; extremely simple actions and soothing narration support a fairy tale quality that’s probably best suited to younger players. However, anyone willing to look past the well-worn exterior in search of a relaxing break from stressful button pushing may squeeze more fun out of this familiar stuffed toy than they might originally expect.

Woven tasks players with taking control of a meandering patchwork elephant named Stuffy, and guiding him through a sparsely populated knitted world that seems to have met an untimely demise. Because Stuffy has cotton for brains, he is assisted on this journey by a much smarter metal firefly named Glitch (a reference to his role in this story?), who floats alongside the curious-but-clumsy plush toy and provides hints as to how he can use his various abilities. Together, this odd couple will traverse open plains blanketed with colorful yarn grass, maneuver around impassable felt trees and plants, and hopefully discover the secret of where Stuffy’s clueless kin have all gone.

Along the way, the duo will walk great distances (often without much event), solve the occasional environmental puzzle, and generally just keep on keepin’ on.Woven is mostly straightforward in its campaign, merely about getting from point A to B by whatever means the path requires. Most often this involves finding new blueprints that allow players to change Stuffy’s design from an elephant into a wide variety of other animal shapes, each with a set of abilities that come with a new set of arms, legs, and a head. For instance, while the stocky (and adorable) bear can push plush boulders and perform a mighty stomp, the goat and frog can both use their legs to hop, while the kitty cat is able to push buttons on rusted consoles that activate dormant machinery.

However, these abilities are usually only able to activate when context-sensitive prompts from Glitch appear, so don’t expect some sort of platforming freedom. Woven handles a bit clumsily in that regard and others; strolling is definitely the order of the day, as long as Stuffy doesn’t get hung up on the geometry.

But these actions do help provide variety; a tropical bird of some sort (toucan, maybe?) can sing certain notes, while a pelican-thing can fly (sort of) over land and shallow water with great speed. And so, it often becomes necessary in Woven to alter Stuffy’s look with a total reweave. These designs can be applied at various sewing machine-like stations scattered about, which go a step further than just swapping Stuffy the deer for Stuffy the ape. Each blueprint is comprised of five parts, allowing for players to create a Frankenstein Stuffy made up of all the best abilities the player has on hand (or cushioned paw). By mixing certain sets, Stuffy will soon be able to scale mountainside crags, cross piranha-filled rivers, and pick up industrial cogs without the need to make a pit stop and bust out new needle and thread.

Some truly hilarious (or horrifying, depending on your sensibilities) aberrations can be created; seeing Stuffy hobble on hooves as he flaps a wing on one side and swings a muscular gorilla arm on the other, all with the head of a squirrel, is freakishly entertaining. In addition, for those who like to wander off the beaten path, there are a plethora of knitting patterns to discover, tucked away in both obvious and devious locations (and denizens). These cosmetic enhancements can also be applied at the sewing stations, essentially giving players seemingly endless amounts of customization. And these aesthetic changes even get in on the puzzle act every once in a while, especially when a pesky cobra shows up.

But outside the odd ‘connect the power line’ or ‘raise and lower platforms’ objectives, Woven doesn’t throw much at players that even young children shouldn’t be able to handle — and that seems to be the aim. Stuffy’s adventure lives or dies on its wholesome and serene vibe, which players either buy into or they don’t. There’s no combat here, very little to actually do outside hunting down those patterns, illuminating some painted caves, and activating some of Glitch’s ‘memories’ contained by machines hidden in the soft folds. Ongoing narration is pleasant to the ears, often conveying old-fashioned morals and cutesy jokes, but there’s no more story than in a classic fable.

And make no mistake — though the world is certainly bright and cheerful, it’s also quite fuzzy around the edges. The tactile nature of the cloth textures is lessened greatly by the low definition (at least on the Switch version), eliciting memories of the Wii-era. An increased crispness would have really made the world of Woven pop off the screen, perhaps luring in a larger audience who have become accustomed to such. There is still plenty of charm, but it feels like a missed chance at that true magical feeling the game seems to be shooting for.

Other stumbles come when certain worlds try to open up a bit more, which might lead a younger audience to get frustrated by the lack of direction (especially when they keep getting hung up on that geometry!); Woven definitely works better when it’s casually guiding players along, letting gamers of all ages envelop themselves in the easygoing atmosphere instead of requiring tedious backtracking. There’s just something nice about sitting back and relaxing to hummable music, watching the roly-poly amble of a stuffed kangaroo.

Woven will not be for everyone; those who play for challenge or eye candy won’t find either here. And yet, despite those blurry visuals and stilted gameplay, there’s something endearing about this innocent elephant’s adventure. Woven certainly has its share of lumpiness, but somehow remains cozy regardless.

‘Woven’ is available on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Switch (Reviewed on Switch).

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