The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of MedanPS4
Despite its technical shortcomings, Man of Medan is a decent maiden voyage for Supermassive’s new Dark Pictures Anthology series. The deluge of branching paths and chilling atmosphere combine well enough with its brief yet keen story that invites players to repeatedly run through it. But an abundance of cheap jump scares, semi-frequent slowdown, and initially goofy cast members mean that it pales in comparison to Until Dawn; the studio’s magnum opus that all of its titles will forever be compared to.
An FMV adventure about a hospital-bound amnesiac could certainly work, especially if they expanded on their own twist. The end result gives a lackluster attempt at both its genres, and that’s a shame. Instead of an illuminating revelation of emergent gameplay, all Headspun managed to give me was a headache.
Knights and BikesPS4
The charm that covers nearly every inch of this game is also infectious, especially as this medium can better actualize its main characters’ imagination into something playable. Sometimes those playable aspects can get in the way but it’s still easy to saddle up on this bike even if that bike sometimes slams on the brakes.
Quantity does not equal quality but upping both at the same time is an elusive task that many developers don’t quite nail. The uncanny story only gets better for those who delve into its extensive pieces of lore. Its combat is inherently energetic and gratifying and more so once you combine different abilities and play it at faster speeds. From its narrative to its world to its puzzles and combat, Control intrigues its players and invites them to think and rewards them handily for doing so; a true remedy for overly linear and coddling game design.
Ancestors: the Humankind OdysseyPC
Charting human evolution is an extraordinarily complex concept for a video game, yet Panache Digital Games has pulled it off by way of carving its own route through a crowded genre. There’s nothing flashy about the brutal landscape in which you attempt to evolve your lineage, and I assume some won’t be interested in a game with unlockable abilities that include being able to sniff a bit farther or hear a little clearer. But this is a wonderfully unique experience that will be deeply appealing to those interested in a hardcore challenge.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution!Switch
Konami has done a good job of updating Legacy of the Duelist for the Switch, but some additional difficulty options and a revamped user interface for deck building would have been nice. There is so much content here that it can quickly become overwhelming to anyone that doesn’t constantly think about the “heart of the cards.” Despite some minor issues that hold it back from being the ultimate Yu-Gi-Oh! game, this is a fantastic reminder of how enjoyable the card game is and why players fell in love with it in the first place.
Oninaki tackles the theme of death brilliantly thanks to some poignant scenes and a willingness to go where most games won’t. That thorough exploration of death ties into every aspect of the game from its hack and slash gameplay to the ending choice that will leave players reflecting upon the journey they just went on. It isn’t often that a game truly succeeds as art, but every part of Oninaki goes back into its core motif and that’s why it is an essential action RPG.
Telling Lies is like the best parts of an adventure game, a mystery novel, and an art nouveau movie all rolled up into one. It tells an exciting story uniquely and shows that Sam Barlow’s success with Her Story wasn’t just a fluke. Besides a few frustrating moments, Telling Lies was one of the most compelling gaming experience I’ve had yet in 2019.
While Dicey Dungeons isn’t an infinitely replayable dungeon crawler, that’s probably for the best. So many roguelikes demand that players devote themselves for hours and hours to see everything the game has to offer. In Dicey Dungeons, everything is already on the table. It’s a highly replayable game that you can pick up for short sessions whenever the moment strikes. Lady Luck will be waiting to whisk you through battles and a boss fight before giving your character a highly improbable chance at winning your goal. That’s fine though. It gives you plenty of reasons to come on down again and again.
Age of Wonders: PlanetfallPC
Age of Wonders: Planetfall is one of the most unique 4X games released in recent memory, and that is great news for a genre that can be a bit stale at times. Its blend of XCOM-like combat with the traditional strategy elements isn’t perfect, and there are some rough spots that Triumph Studios will need to work on in the future, but it provides an enjoyable and fresh challenge. While the generic sci-fi world isn’t as rich or organic as the previous high fantasy settings, its amount of depth and ways to play carry it up and beyond many of its genre rivals.
Taken as a whole, Rad does more right than it does wrong. Because it has some money behind it, it probably spends a bit too much time on worldbuilding and presentation. It’s all truly great stuff, but it ultimately gets in the way of the gameplay, making what should be a satisfying loop feel bloated. With luck on your side, the game transforms its middling action into a stunning mix of unique ideas and interesting combat. It’s all up to how much you’re willing to go through to get to those runs. With some tweaking and a starting ranged option, Rad could be one of the greats.
If you’re a fan of any breed of first-person shooters, Ion Fury should be on your playlist. Even among its retro FPS peers, 3D Realms has put out a best-in-class experience that rivals anything released this year. The fact that such a game can come after the character’s inauspicious debut in Bombshell makes it all the more miraculous. The adventures of Shelly Harrison have truly begun, and hopefully, there’s no end in sight.
The Great PerhapsPC
The highlights of The Great Perhaps are few and far between. It’s mildly interesting to see how nature has reclaimed the world since mankind was wiped off the face of existence but it’s not as intriguing as Tokyo Jungle or the litany of novels and films that have touched upon the subject. There’s nothing original here and the gameplay is so unpolished that it offers nothing for players aside from some easy to unlock achievements that are dished out for simply getting through the story.
Rebel Galaxy OutlawPC
Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is a great arcade space shooter with a lot of style. Unfortunately, it lacks a bit in substance, and expanding the various systems and lore would have taken it from a good game to a great game. However, Outlaw does fill a niche and is an excellent space arcade shooter.
I hope that Square Enix finds a way to give players the best of both worlds. An abridged telling of the story up to Shadowbringers when you use a Tales of Adventure would go a long way towards smoothing the process. As of right now, I can’t recommend Shadowbringers as a direct starting point for Final Fantasy 14. Instead, play through the base content a bit and get a feel for it. You’ll thank yourself later.
Fire Emblem: Three HousesSwitch
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is far from just an upscaling of the 3DS games. It’s an evolution for the series which makes it appealing and accessible even to those who aren’t crazy about strategy RPGs. It’s a great gateway for the genre and another excellent addition to the Switch library.
Metal Wolf Chaos XDPS4
Metal Wolf Chaos needed a remake instead of a remaster. The general premise and FromSoftware’s commitment to its ridiculousness is almost worth the trip in and of itself, but the levels tend to be either offer no challenge or such a steep one that players will have to grind to get past it. Yet despite this, it’s still great to see it being released worldwide for the first time.
Beyond: Two SoulsPC
While it will make you chuckle at times, overlooking Beyond‘s problems is worth it to get to the story that is buried underneath. If an editor were to remove about half of the chapters in this game, it would make for a thrilling and satisfying tale about life and loss. As is, Beyond: Two Souls is over the top silliness that hits a lot of the right notes despite itself. If you’ve been scared off of Cage’s work before and you don’t mind a tale that takes itself much too seriously, you might just be hooked by Jodie’s journey.
MARVEL ULTIMATE ALLIANCE 3: The Black OrderSwitch
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is a fun beat ’em up with a wide variety of unique heroes to choose from, though stumbles when it comes to offering players more than the basics. Though it has a much better voice cast and presentation than its predecessors, some additions such as the Synergy and Extreme attacks feel underwhelming, and customization options are slim. There’s plenty of enjoyment to be had just beating up baddies as Wolverine, Deadpool, Spider-Man, and co., but considering the 10-year wait, Marvel fans could be forgiven for wanting a little more.
Madden NFL 20PS4
The new Face of the Franchise mode is totally underwhelming and fails to tell a meaningful story and the X-Factor abilities are helpful for newcomers but don’t really change how a solid player would play the game any. These changes are all a positive for long-term but it lacks any selling point and has launched in a frustrating state that undermines the solid football mechanics that EA has refined over the past several decades.
The rest of the game has MachineGames’ signature fantastic writing, performances, and cinematography, but there just isn’t enough of it. The story is pretty thin in the long stretches between cutscenes and makes sense with the game’s more open approach but it’s disappointing because of how skilled the storytellers at the Swedish studio are. It deserves more, despite its budget price.
Redeemer: Enhanced EditionXbox One
Nothing from the weird upgrade change to the technical glitches stops Redeemer from being enjoyable. It’s a solid brawler that hits hard and delivers a fun action movie good time for a few hours. However, that admittedly standard gameplay doesn’t make up for all the problems, and nothing from this equation makes it worth a $30 asking price. If you have a PC, you might just want to dig out the $15 original and enjoy Vasily’s full arsenal of deadly movies for the entire campaign.
Senran Kagura Peach BallSwitch
Senran Kagura: Peach Ball is briefly enjoyable, but is bogged down by a lack of things to do aside from skipping through tedious dialogue. Senran fans may find themselves content with the ways you can, ahem, interact with its cast, but for the rest of us this is a passably decent pinball game and little else.
Blazing Chrome is an amazing package that does exactly what it sets out to do and is for people who know what they want from it. By the same (arcade) token, it is difficult to recommend to anyone who even begins to question whether it’s a game for them. Beating Blazing Chrome is a badge of honor, the latest test of skill tossed onto a pile of old cartridges. You can spend hours and hours grinding out this handful of stages, experiencing both intense frustration and the rush of victory.
Dragon Quest Builders 2PS4
I’m ecstatic that Square Enix took a gamble on this series. Dragon Quest is one of the oldest and most popular JRPG franchises, and its a perfect vehicle for this sort of gameplay. It’s colorful and friendly while still having enough adult themes to keep you hooked. I was glad to see a lot of the issues from the first game were rectified, and I can’t wait to see where the series goes from here.