1006 Published Reviews
I worked through the entire campaign in just under two hours and, in spite of some missed achievements, there’s little that’ll have me rushing back to play again (although I can see myself revisiting every now and then). I do hope it's successful enough for 1DER to produce a more fleshed out adventure in the same style, as the building blocks of a great title are here. As is, it’s a little light on content, but I wouldn’t discourage anyone from playing Grayland, as there are far worse ways to spend two hours of your time.
Super Crush KOSwitch
It's commendable that Vertex Pop chose to hone in on and elevate one specific elementâ2D arcade brawling. The results speak for themselves, thanks to smooth, rewarding, and flexible combo-based action. In the case of Super Crush KO, however, more attention to the structure, content, and variety of each level would have made the product even richer and more replayable. Those who enjoy titles like Guacamelee!Â primarily for its suplexes and uppercuts will surely appreciate this adventure, but fans looking for a fuller action-platformer experience might be unready to rumble.
Ultimately, Punk Notion/Cubeish Games’ newest title is tough to critique because of its tragic balance between dozens of wonderful small qualities balanced out by several detrimental fallbacks. It feels like some up-and-coming creatives who’re expanding their final game-school demo into a full product, with all the issues that’d come along with that.
Psikyo Shooting Stars AlphaSwitch
Despite some missing extras, Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha is a fine collection of some of Psikyo's best works. The headliners include Dragon Blaze and the Strikers trilogy, while Zero Gunner 2 is a fun diversion and Sol Divide interesting mostly for its novelties. Scrolling shooter fans—particularly those with a Flip Grip—should snatch it up, aim for high scores, and prepare themselves to complete the package with February's Bravo anthology.
For someone looking to solo pilot a collection of handsome looking mechs in stunning 2D I’d highly recommend looking into Hardcore Mecha. It’s full of fun and addictive gameplay, with a great hook in its simulation mode to keep the action going far beyond the game's campaign. If you're hoping to find your next multiplayer obsession or weekend party game, however, then I think you’ll be left feeling pretty disappointed.
Ancestors: the Humankind OdysseyXbox One
Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is not a game interested in holding your hand; in fact, I think it takes pleasure in quickly kicking you out of the nest. It’s an idiosyncratic game I’m able to respect the further away I am from playing it. Brevity is by no means a problem with this $40 title, as you’re looking at dozens of hours of gaming time. But it’s those hours within the game that don’t feel worth it for me. Momentary flashes of brilliance give way to often-unintuitive systems invested in being a nuisance than an engaging simulation. It's an interesting specimen that would’ve benefitted from annoying tedium and clunky controls being weeded out of its gene pool.
Shenmue III feels like the sequel fans were robbed of so long ago and tells the next chapter in a story 20 years in the making. It does so in a way that anyone who enjoyed the original titles, whether that be back when they were released or more recently, should be able to appreciate. Hopefully fans won't have to wait 18 more years for Shenmue IV.
Narratively, it is well done albeit predictable. The presentation is also generally strong, despite stuttering and hollow voice acting. Finally - even though short and unchallenging - the gameplay encourages exploration and provides a lot of variety, with plenty of replayability for those motivated to collect items. Through all this, it's very apparent that Lost Ember is a labour of love; one that forgoes any sort of depth and complexity in gameplay for the sake of beautiful presentation and an interesting story.
Darksiders Genesis, when it is all summed up, is the best experience I have ever had in this genre. The fluid combat, great storytelling, superb voice-acting, fun single and multiplayer action, darkly colorful art style, and smooth gameplay makes this one of the most enjoyable games of the generation for me. THQ has just declared open warfare on the likes of Blizzard, Runic Games, and the other ARPG big dogs, and I suspect there will be many souls reaped in the coming years.
It's a worthy successor to boot, due to rewarding gameplay, non-linear level design, and audiovisual assets that will transport you back to the height of the run-and-gun era. A few levels are a tad too ambitious, platforming can be fussy at times, and the package is relatively slight, but for fans of 16-bit arcade action Gunlord X is a no-brainer.
GRIS is exactly what gaming needs more of. It's a poetic adventure that doesn't rely on violence to hold the players' attention and it boasts an original concept, but above all it represents beauty more than any other game in recent years. Available for a low price, and now with trophy support on PS4, you're likely to enjoy it from the first to the last second for its lyricism and its sensitiveness. GRIS did indeed have a strong "impact" on my heart and mind.
Shovel Knight ShowdownSwitch
Although it doesn't live up to the high standard set by the premiere Shovel Knight game and its single player expansions, Shovel Knight Showdown is a fine multiplayer brawler. With CPU bots and a diverting story mode, it's viable as a solo experience. Thanks to over a dozen characters, several customization options, and multiple stages inspired by franchise locales, it's a decent party game offering. Just don't expect a deep, balanced, or strategic fighting experience.
Need for Speed HeatXbox One
When strictly evaluating the exclusively-8th gen releases, Need for Speed Heat safely ranks as the best. That doesn’t say much. A mediocre story, inconsistent online structure, and design issues tempered my enjoyment; and yet, the solid foundation with respect to racing and customizing kept me interested enough to reach the checkered flag. But it’s a shame that’s as far as my enthusiasm consistently went. It’s like seeing the game cover’s Polestar 1 on an empty airstrip unwilling to go past fourth gear.
Those revisiting the franchise after several years are in for an epic ride and a familiar but sleeker brand of PokĂŠmon, complete with smoother, more modern sensibilities. Still, those coming directly off the enchanting journey that was Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon might find this to be a more tepid adventure that only sometimes manages to live up to its Dynamax-sized hype.
Jamestown+ is an unlikely combination of mechanics, situations, and characters, but in the end all that matters is that it's a quality shoot-em-up. Its approachable mechanics and four-player co-op make it ideal for groups, its different modes and settings grant it staying power, and its graphical and audio assets provide plenty of charm. Bullet hell levels can be arduous and backtracking gameplay tedious, but these faults shouldn't stop aspiring explorers from planting their flags in this solid shooter.
Instead of serving as a heterodox example of untrammeled artistic freedom to celebrate, Death Stranding winds up being a cautionary tale. Is the game unique? I’d say it qualifies as that, yes. But after tackling its bumbling, sometimes-contradictory gameplay until completion (40 hours), all that translates to for me is it being a uniquely annoying time. Coming from someone who can find engagement in protracted Codec conversations, I’m still stunned at how tiresome this game’s story tends to be.
Shovel Knight: King of CardsSwitch
King of Cards is the triumphant end of an era. Five years in the making, the Shovel Knight saga is now complete, rounded out with one of its strongest entries. King Knight's moveset takes some getting used to and the game plows into a difficulty spike in its final few stages, but overall this is a robust package with cleverly-designed levels, tense 2D platforming, tons of side content and secrets, a silly story perfect for Shovel Knight vets, and novelties that raise the entire production beyond what is standard for the genre. Yacht Club Games, take a victory lap; you've earned it.
Children of MortaSwitch
Perhaps no game embodies this sentiment better than Children of Morta, a strong entry in the rogue-lite sub-genre that features a satisfying gameplay loop, a touching story about familial love, and some remarkable pixel art. Its roguish tendencies lead to some frustrating, premature losses, its "corruption fatigue" mechanic is unnecessarily punitive, and some members of the Bergson family are less useful than others, but in general the game represents a winning convergence of art, design, and narrative.
The Outer WorldsPC
Although not without some drawbacks, The Outer Worlds is one of Obsidian's better efforts. The strong dedication to player agency, impressive replayability, multitude of variety, and masterful implementation of RPG mechanics results in a title sci-fi RPG fans should not miss. Sure, the lack of challenge later on in Normal mode can be a let down, but it is at least somewhat mitigated by optional higher difficulty levels. Even though the audio design leaves a lot to be desired, the presentation, aside from some stuttering, results in a strong feeling of a different universe.
All in all, Simulacra is an interesting and in many ways strong FMV adventure title, but one somewhat let down by middling acting (at best) and a lack of attention to streamlining the gameplay for consoles as part of the porting process. The story and sub-narrative are very good, however, boasting interesting twists and turns, as well as a large number of Easter Eggs that make it surprisingly replayable.
Police ChaseXbox One
Police Chase may go down as one of the worst games of this generation with this added qualifier: “to make it past a console’s modern certification process.” It’s one of the priciest asset-flipped racing games I’ve ever seen. And despite not spending one red cent of my money, there’s still this pit in my stomach as though I’d been robbed and am searching for recompense. If games publishers & developers had badges, I’d tell these folks to turn theirs in.
Close to the SunXbox One
With some woeful design decisions, dangling plot threads, and a distracted core identity, Close to the Sun loses initially-gained traction. There are great concepts on display and almost each presentational aspect showcases quality technical craftsmanship. Sad as it may sound, their sophomore attempt at this specialized genre shows clear improvements from what they’ve crafted before. Yet it’s still far away from the titans who are able to incorporate player agency and interaction in a more fulfilling way.
Manifold Garden is easily among the best puzzle games of this year, arguably of this generation. You can see the inspirations of M.C. Escher’s Relativity fused with games like Antichamber and Etherborn, tackling perspective and gravity respectively; despite that, there’s something more to it. Whether it’s the uncharacteristic appreciation of architecture or the sense of limitless scale, there are some nuances that make it feel refreshing. And it’s with that new take, combined with good pacing, encouraging puzzle layout, and awesome visuals that make this a garden well worth tending.
STAR WARS Jedi: Fallen OrderPS4
With the story component faltering and the cut-and-paste gameplay elements of other titles robbing it of rarity, I didn’t enjoy my time with Fallen Order as much as I hoped I would. While I would have liked to have seen Respawn introduce fresh new gameplay elements of their own, at least there are redeeming qualities to this galactic tale that really shine. Here’s hoping the next installment refines these issues, and that it isn’t too far, far away…
Ritual: Crown of HornsSwitch
Ritual: Crown of Horns is a second-rate Wild West title, in the end, due to ugly visuals, overly difficult scenarios, and some counter-productive controls. Yet it also shows a lot of promise, thanks to its genre-mixing gameplay, soundtrack, and storyline. There's a core here of interesting mechanics and conceits that needed more time in development and an extra layer of polish.