Every week on The Free Cheese Podcast, we begin with a segment called Now Playing where we talk about the games that we’ve been spending time with. In this article, we’re bringing a bit of that conversation to the written word because it isn’t dead yet.

We’ll share what we’ve been playing and we encourage you to ask questions or share your own thoughts on what you’ve been playing in the comments.

This week was filled with a lot of Final Fantasy at the beginning, as I came off of my Brave Exvius kick from last week. It took me back into Final Fantasy VI as I finally remembered where to head next and began the grind in the forest of dinosaurs. However, the grind came to a halt midweek once Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle released.

I can’t echo the sentiment enough that I am so surprised by this game. In more ways than one, I can’t believe how much I’m enjoying this game. I’ve never had an interest in anything related to the Rabbids, and I can’t believe that I’m playing another XCOM game with Mario in the title.

It can seem a little reductive to refer to this as XCOM, and I know that we’re all going to continue to refer to it as such, but it is an easy qualifier for the game. Grid-based tactical strategy with some really light RPG elements as you rank up characters and unlock new abilities and weapons. Every battle is another challenge and one that keeps you creative with your approach.

I’ve really enjoyed the game so far, despite some minor complaints and grievances. I really enjoy the combat and the sense of completion felt when I figure out a map and tie one thing to the next during my turn. Really mastering the techniques at play lends a lot to the feeling of reward. There are times that I wish the game added a bit more variety, but I know that I’m early on and there are stages that I’ve yet to perfect, so I have room to return and play more. The overworld navigation is simple and throws some puzzles into play, but it can sometimes feel like a slog getting from stage to stage when you’re ready for more. It’s a really minor thing that is not holding back my enjoyment of the game at all.

I think it’s something I’ll keep at for a while in little chunks and keep returning to as new maps and challenges are added to the game. The humor and the strategy pair so well in a way that I never thought possible.

 I was having a little spook fest the other night which mostly involved watching Channel Zero and finally playing this game called Sara Is Missing. I had on my PC but it didn’t feel right playing a game about going through a missing person’s phone on a PC. I found that the game does exist for iPhone and for free so i didn’t have anything to lose but about half an hour.

It’s not as creepy as I was expecting it to be, but still an interesting concept nonetheless. If the title wasn’t obvious enough, a girl named Sara has gone missing and you just so happen to find her phone. It’s operating system companion is known as Iris (yeah, they went there).

Iris has developed a sort of human like persona as it’s helping you recover files to go through. You have to cycle through past text messages, emails, and photos to find clues as to what happened to her.

The game tries to be somewhat philosophical about what it means to make choices, but it kinda falls short on that. The game can end multiple ways depending on some of your choices, none of them feel too accomplishing however. I still like the idea of the game overall. It has some interesting twists and a concept I’d like to see be improved upon. If you wanna kill some time and want the cheapest thrill possible for the price of free, check it out.

Side note: Why would Sara have a photo of herself as her phone background? Ego much?

On the heels of the release of XCOM 2: War of the Chosen, XCOM 3 came out this week and I’m really enjoying it. OK seriously though, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a lot of fun so far. It’s scratching the itch for a turn-based strategy game that I didn’t realize I had. I recently finished the first world and am currently going back to previous chapters in the first world to get all perfect battles.

The actual gameplay is a good balance of casual and hardcore. There are a lot of options and skills to consider when making moves, but I never feel overwhelmed. The initial tutorial levels do a slow but well paced build to the point you are comfortable with all the abilities and mechanics of the game. I love the way this game makes you play aggressively with the “Dash” mechanic. It’s nice that a game in this genre encourages aggressive play.

This game is missing a cool meta game aspect that XCOM brings. This is because XCOM: Enemy Unknown was the first turn based strategy game I put a lot of hours into. I’m now accustomed to having a base management simulation between turn based strategy, which Kingdom Battle doesn’t have. My minor complaint is obviously a preference but one that makes me want to play XCOM over this game at times.

I haven’t had a good opportunity to go handheld yet, but I feel the way the chapters are set up make well for a good on the go experience. I will probably try this out at work later today. So far this game is impressing me as much as it did at E3 when I threw my credit card at Joe’s TV.

Posted by Joe Dix

Joe is the creator of The Free Cheese. He eats a lot of pizza and takes thousands of pictures of his pugs Oswald and Earl every day.

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