1267 Published Reviews
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-ReckoningXbox One
In the end, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning - Fatesworn is certainly a long title and more content. Personally, the talk around remasters getting exclusive expansions feels more exciting than what's offered here. There is genuine creativity and fan service that argues this expansion's purpose, but they're constrained by Kaiko's amateurish design choices, lesser production values, and the original's admittedly-aged foundation.
HALO InfiniteXbox Series X
Halo Infinite does often corner me into praising it "in spite of x faults", rather than the "because of y positives" that I'm used to; that said, it's hard to mind when I'm so thoroughly engaged with what's on offer. It's true the delayed content (Forge/Campaign Co-op) and the live-service approach dampen my enthusiasm, but it shows how much still spills over with what's already here.
If you're concerned about investing in a game that was canned 30 years ago, worry not. Judging by the final product, lovingly restored by Steve Snake, Ratalaika Games, and several of the original Westone employees, this game should never have been cancelled. It looks amazing, it sounds great, and it plays remarkably well for its age.
It’s unfortunate, because I think that this title and the developers have so much going for them, and I truly wanted to enjoy Solar Ash more than I did. The developers at Heart Machine have created a game with an impeccable amount of heart, it’s just a shame they didn’t give it enough soul.
If you can look past the flaws, there are some real highs in the kinetic brilliance on display in the fight and flight element of Chorus, making it worth considering, even if it can’t be wholeheartedly recommended based on all elements of the game. There may be a chorus… but there isn’t quite a harmony.
Shin Megami Tensei VSwitch
If you can look past some technical warts, you'll find in Shin Megami Tensei V one of the best games of the year. It's an enticing turn-based RPG with a fascinating premise, tactical combat, tons of content, challenging gameplay, and an addictive demon fusion framework that alone will occupy hours of your time. If you're a Switch owner and an RPG fan, this one is a no-brainer. Just be prepared to wipe your calendar clean for the next month or so.
Call of Duty: VanguardXbox Series X
Leave it for a subtitle like "Vanguard" to be attached to such a safe title – even by Call of Duty's own standards. Aside from select tweaks to competitive multiplayer, you see this play out across all fronts; there are brief intimations of an interesting idea before the game retreats to a comfy routine. What sours this even further is the clear decline of polish alongside these expectations. WWII has seen better days.
Battlefield 2042 is a great and unique shooter. Conquest mode, which remains unrivalled in terms of gameplay balance, teamplay, and its war-like atmosphere, has been elevated to stellar new heights. It is, at the very least, dozens of hours of fun for shooter fans who are looking for more complexity and a greater sense of scale than Call of Duty's multiplayer manages (although it too is great in its own way).
Pokemon Brilliant DiamondSwitch
In short, Brilliant Diamond is frankly exasperating. The Pokemon Company is an entity with resources beyond most developers’ wildest dreams, and yet it consistently creates some of the least inspired and unadventurous titles in the industry. Brilliant Diamond is no exception. Even with the leeway for not changing things up that being a remake carries with it, this is just a rip-off.
Mario Party SuperstarsSwitch
A slew of fun content, sleek presentation, QoL improvements, and solid online play make this a definitive Mario Party game. Being a sort of antithesis of the more unique, motion-heavy Super Mario Party, diehard fans of that game may be somewhat turned off by this reprisal, with its far safer approach. But if you can appreciate this one for what it is - a polished, fleshed-out homage to Golden Era-Mario Party - then this gem really shines.
Pumpkin JackXbox Series X
Regardless of where I land on it overall, Pumpkin Jack is another great example of the prodigious work one developer can accomplish with modern tools. I think that's a wonderful testament. When looking at the game proper, I think Nicolas Meyssonnier's work falls just short of its action-platformer goals. But when you consider its great Halloween-themed visual design, engaging soundtrack, strong personality, creative potential, and its place in today's market, genre fans can still have a gourd time with it.
The best thing I can say about Tunche is that it’s only the second worst thing involving poorly-drawn depictions of cartoon monkeys to come out of 2021. The core combat is slow and lacks variety, the story and artistic elements of the game don’t add much, and the mission design makes this an experience that's about as enjoyable as being thrown into the pathway of an oncoming 18 wheeler. And at least with the latter I have a good excuse to get off work afterwards.
Unpacking is a lovely game to play, a thoughtfully crafted experience where an empathetic approach rewards the player. Slight moments of repetition and occasional confusion don’t detract from a synergetic experience where there’s so much more to unpack than simple possessions.
For everything Aeon Drive does right, it gets something else wrong. It certainly has its fun, high-speed moments - when the level design permits - but the story is full of holes and in an age when there are dozens of other 2D platformers that do more and better, it's hard to recommend Jack's adventure.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of AshesPS5
If “those that sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.”, we should all aspire to be the tornado leading towards harmony, if not for our sake, then to honor the departed who rightfully deserved it. The truth will only be revealed to those who seek her, but justice discovers all enemies of peace and knows a thing or two about culpability.
Is Panorama Cotton worth your time and money? Maybe. Considering the original game's rarity and prohibitive price, it might be a worthwhile investment for collectors and Cotton super fans. For casual shoot-em-up fans, though, you should probably stick with Cotton Reboot!. Panorama is gorgeous and wonderfully weird, but its clunky gameplay and rail shooter format hold it back. What's more, the Switch port doesn't do much to elevate the source material.
The Caligula Effect 2PS4
The Caligula Effect 2 is basically The Caligula Effect with different characters, poorer writing, and less enjoyable gameplay. Unlike the two previous games, this sequel doesn't innovate in any way, nor does it boast any compelling content. There's also a clear lack of polish. The clever battle system and the fresh ideas introduced by the series deserved far better than this for a sequel, but Furyu seems to be driving the franchise into a dead end.
Kena: Bridge of SpiritsPS5
I’ll admit to a trifecta of positive biases when reviewing: a new developer, new IP, and fitting the middle-market mold. I think these are all great qualities to see flourish in the industry. But over-emphasizing this background info shouldn’t diminish Ember Lab’s actual work either. This team mastered a quality that even veterans have an issue with: succinctness. It’s not making adventurous strides in the genre, and a few issues still get to me, but that invisible-yet-tangible quality makes it more than the sum of its parts. That’s what puts this developer and Kena: Bridge of Spirits among 2021’s best success stories.
Death Stranding: Director's CutPS5
Shigeru Miyamoto made video games 'fun'; Hideo Kojima made them interesting, proving they could not only be a diversion, but a powerful expression that teaches people, bringing us together as an entire species, instead of just the person sitting next to you. Look at it this way: For $10.00, you could take a discarded copy of the most misunderstood, unappreciated AAA game of 2019, elevate it in virtually every way, and possibly even learn something.
Death's Gambit: AfterlifeSwitch
Overall, Afterlife is a solid entry in the Souls-like sub-genre and the very best version of Death's Gambit you can own. It's packed with content, both old and new, and features engaging combat, dangerous exploration, and varied boss battles. Its narrative runs out of steam towards the end, some of its mechanical experiments don't stick the landing, and exploring can be tedious at times, but in general Death's Gambit: Afterlife provides everything you'd expect from a 2D action-RPG in the Souls mold.
Tales of ArisePS5
Tales of Arise is a near perfect comeback for the series. It's clear proof that taking your time and investing in superior technology can eventually lead to a greater game experience. Throughout, you can feel Bandai Namco's resolve to provide a state-of-art JRPG, one that's thoroughly enjoyable in almost every respect, from story, to visuals, combat, and side content.
Dread takes a lot of gambles and the vast majority of them pay off. Between the rock solid exploration and atmosphere, the incredible boss fights, and the solid tension building of the EMMIs, Dread is probably the definitive 2D Metroidvania of the 21st century. The 2010s may not have been kind to Samus, but the 2020s are certainly showing her in with style.
Lost JudgmentXbox One
If you’re new to these games as a whole, I’d recommend starting with the mainline Yakuza series instead, and maybe finding your way to the Judgment titles if you desperately find yourself in need of more when you’re done. Lost Judgment has, perhaps fittingly, somewhat lost itself. It’s focused so much on cleaning up the gameplay that it forgot what really gave Yakuza its appeal to begin with; the charm and soul of the writing, setting, and characters.
Life is Strange: True ColorsXbox Series X
As True Colors trundles towards its finale, changing from a mechanically-light adventure game to a confined interactive movie, the 'means' of reaching here come with numerous sacrifices: poor pacing, mismanaged stakes, annoying narrative conveniences, and so on. It's a game that elicits a plethora of vivid emotions, both good & bad, but my overriding true color by the end was beige.
Lake's biggest offense ultimately is its inability to provide closure after building up the characters as well as it does. There's no jump-cut to show what's happened to Meredith after her two weeks of living in Providence Oaks and interacting with its locals, for example. The game simply abruptly ends panning out towards the lake with Meredith driving away, with the save data allowing you to go back just far enough to choose a different ending. Like many of the game's mechanics, it all feels a bit incomplete.