974 Published Reviews
JUMANJI: The Video GameXbox One
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is not a great movie, or even a good movie, but it is able to coast along based on the charisma and chemistry of Johnson, Black, Gillan, and Hart. Jumanji: The Video Game has no such safety net. In the absence of its talented stars, and weighed down by monotonous levels, tedious gameplay, simplistic AI, and outdated assets, it struggles to justify its existence, outside of a cynical attempt to capitalize on the launch of Jumanji: The Next Level in December.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020Switch
Story mode could have been deeper and more interactive and individual games could use a few more customization options, but in general this is a lively, sentimental, and inspirational way to experience the Olympic Games without buying that plane ticket to Tokyo.
Call of Duty: Modern WarfareXbox One
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a game unsatisfied with the series’ expired technology but not much else. It’s a reboot that so glibly grabs from more memorable campaigns of the past and relies on cheap shocks to distract from that. The multiplayer supporting it ranges from sub-par cooperative options to promising competitive modes in desperate need of tweaking. Where this reboot stumbles can be plainly seen when measuring it in two distinct categories which the original so easily surmounted: its past and its competition.
Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and the Lion KingSwitch
Despite missing a few key titles from each of their corresponding franchises, this collection is overflowing with content to both play and consume in a variety of ways. You can experience Aladdin from its roughest Game Boy incarnation all the way through to its Final Cut precision, or use the rewind and watch features to assist you through the African countryside on Simba’s journey to adulthood. However you choose to experience these classics, you'll be glad you did, and you may even gain some insight into why they are so revered.
In conclusion, Concrete Genie taps into a creative wellspring that wants to emphasize player creativity, but doesn’t commit to it in a meaningful way. And I was among the first to have hoped otherwise, as there is something incredibly potent at its heart. PixelOpus harnesses the empathetic theme that no villain, real or imagined, can ever take this one foundational aspect away from you: your creativity. This alone could be enough carry you throughout all of its respective modes, but it wasn’t enough for me.
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret HideoutPS4
With its delightful novelties and visual improvements, Atelier Ryza would have been a must-have if only Gust had put more effort into its characters, story, and building a more interesting world in general. Alchemy is worth hours of joyful thinking and battles feel more exhilarating than ever before, but KoeiTecmo's game falls short in terms of overall content. The writing is once again underwhelming and the adventure itself holds too few surprises to amaze. Atelier simply needs longer development time if the developers intend to live up to the series' PS3 era.
Song of HorrorPC
It’s clear that Protocol Games has something promising here - they certainly know how to craft an oppressive atmosphere, and how to make players uncomfortable. I just don’t think they’ve quite figured out how to do that while making the gameplay feel natural. If they can take this style of tension building and take the core gameplay in a different direction, I think this could prove to be the groundwork for something genuinely special. As it stands now, however, the first episode of Song of Horror is a genuinely unnerving experience, but ultimately fails to really find its footing as a game.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HDSwitch
Torn from its origins in 2006 and enhanced with modern visuals, new features, and, most importantly, analog controls, Banana Blitz HD is the best version of the game. Its mini-game collection is meek and its story mode is weighed down by difficulty spikes and pedestrian boss battles, but its arcade gameplay, clever course designs, and Decathalon mode make it an overall decent entry in the Monkey Ball universe.
Stranded Sails - Explorers of the Cursed IslandsSwitch
What drew me in to Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands was that it reminded me of games like Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon. In all fairness, there is a very basic, fun game to be had here. Farming, crafting, exploring, discovery… all check-boxes marked. Unfortunately, Stranded Sails never introduces enough depth or reason for fans of the genre to really dig in and stay a while.
Deliver Us the MoonPC
Deliver Us The Moon is a shame to review. It’s easy to sense the enthusiastic space-faring adventure freshman KeokeN was striving to create. And they certainly demonstrate their capabilities in regards to visual consistency, technical sound design, and the momentary space-sim qualities in towards the beginning, but it’s ultimately a case of juggling the narrative exploration and platforming gameplay that other games have handled much better. It’s an also-ran structure supplemented by an also-ran story once the most stimulating parts have asphyxiated in the vacuum of space.
Lornsword Winter ChroniclePS4
Lornsword was regretfully not the console RTS I had envisioned when I first saw the trailer. It does a fine job of stripping the genre down to its essentials and working notably well with a controller, but outside of that it exists in a bland world where a third of the missions feel like a chore rather than an interesting challenge to overcome. The embryo of a solid console RTS game is there, but it needed more refining for it to stand out and become something truly special.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's AwakeningSwitch
The game itself is a fulfilling experience and I felt a healthy mix of nostalgia and a fresh sense of wonder while playing through it, but the biggest boon for me is the reaffirmation that Nintendo hasn't entirely cast aside the classic tenets of the Legend of Zelda experience, making me quite hopeful that we'll see future games in the franchise that hold on to what made the series originally special in so many of our hearts.
Into the Dead 2Switch
Into The Dead 2 offers a surprisingly robust and entertaining experience - one that is much more compelling than the smartphone version that I subsequently played. You can easily play a level or two during a break or spend sustained time with it. It’s also great for unofficial multiplayer, passing the controls back and forth to see who can rack up more kills, or complete the different challenges. Though the game wasn’t what I was somewhat arbitrarily expecting, it is probably better for it. Though it’s simple on the surface, it’s altogether plain old fun!
Valfaris is metal incarnate. With spectacular hand-crafted art, thumping music, snappy controls, and visceral gameplay, it's a solid successor to the great action-platformers of the 16-bit age, and an ideal fit for those who want a little Judas Priest with their run-and-gun action. Its short running time, steep difficulty, and counter-productive weapon upgrade system dampen the experience but don't come close to sinking it. In the immortal words of Tenacious D, "You can't kill the metal; the metal will live on."
Refinement this rare, in such an exploited platformer phylum, is the focal point of why I typically felt engaged. However, it’s also tough to elevate it among prestigious counterparts when nuanced ideas aren’t fully realized and are often mired by abstruse symbolism. If INSIDE demonstrates a poignant story can be shouldered solely through unstated background details, thick atmosphere, and a depressive art style, Stela demonstrates it’s tougher than it looks.
FROSTPUNK: CONSOLE EDITIONPS4
Frostpunk: Console Edition is a brutal game where every choice comes at a price. Tight controls, clean UI, and no noticeable frame rate issues proves that a click-heavy mouse and keyboard game can work great on consoles. With Endless Mode and all DLC scenarios included, you'll more than get your money’s worth at a $30 price tag. Make no mistake, though, this game is cold, in every sense of the word. Good luck out there.
Trine 4: The Nightmare PrinceSwitch
Trine 4 is the best game in the franchise, and a refreshing return to the series' roots after the ambitious-but-flawed third installment. It's as beautiful-looking and sounding as ever, it sports a dynamic puzzle system that conjures unique challenges for differently-sized parties, and it includes scores of clever puzzles with multiple outside-the-box solutions. Combat, while improved, prevents the game from realizing its potential, as do a superfluous skill tree and the lack of communication tools in online multiplayer.
The Bradwell ConspiracyXbox One
The Bradwell Conspiracy is something of an underdog story for me. Do you remember The Station? Probably not. Aside from inhabiting the same sub-genre, they’re so alike by surprising me with the main trick they pull. That’s what struck me the most - one moment which is deeply imbedded in my memory. Sure, at times the puzzles feel arbitrary and storytelling qualms can’t be discarded either, but the sum of its parts click together for an experience that’s worth it.
Star Wars™ PinballSwitch
If you adore both Star Wars and pinball, this package is probably a game-of-the-year contender. If you enjoy one and not the other it's still a worthwhile investment. There are enough special features and fan service to entertain the pinball agnostic, and plenty of interesting gimmicks and modes to satisfy those who think of "Star Wars" as Reagan's missile defense system.
With over 25+ hours invested in Indivisible I can honestly say this is one of my favorites games this year. Everything about it exemplifies quality, charm, and creativity. To include so many different genre types usually means one or more area will suffer because of it. However impossible, Indivisible proves it is possible to pull off. Stellar voice acting, inspiring music, challenging platforming, robust combat, gorgeous aesthetic, diverse character roster, rewarding exploration… Indivisible.
Killer Queen BlackSwitch
While maybe not as lively as a true arcade setting, Killer Queen Black does an admirable job of mimicking its success in that field. Its quick rounds, easy to learn/hard to master mechanics, and appealing visuals should make it inviting to players of any skill level. It's an enjoyable game, even when getting matched with strangers to play. The real magic, though, is in getting a proper team together in the same room to yell at, toss some pollen around with, and shout with triumphantly when the two queens clash and yours comes out on top.
In short, GreedFall is akin to how I’d treat a breakout album from an up-and-coming band: excited to dig into their past work to see what I’d been missing for so long. Despite valid complaints outside of the technical annoyances endemic to middle-market games like this, it’s just shy of fantastic in my eyes. Spiders have risen to the occasion with multifaceted quest design, a sound role-playing structure, and an interesting storyline with great world-building.
This is a stunning take on a tried and true formula. It keeps the core of what makes souls-like games work and piles on several successful layers of experimentation. Between the character creation tools, companions, and Blood Code system it may even be unmatched in terms of customization. There are systems built in to help players succeed, but not at the loss of that coveted genre challenge, and the visuals and story are top notch. Anime Dark Souls shouldn’t be a derogatory term, because that's exactly what Code Vein proudly is.
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible LairSwitch
Quibbles aside, I’m pleased to say that Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a great game. I feel that Playtonic made the right decision in changing to a 2D perspective, as they’ve been able to draw from a wealth of experience to craft a hugely enjoyable adventure. It falls a little short of the hallowed DKC trilogy, but it’s the closest you’ll get to a new entry in that series. Blessed with the charm, wit, and fun factor you’d expect from such a talented group of creators, this should be a guaranteed crowd pleaser.
Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iXSwitch
Copen's latest adventure proves that the Azure Striker franchise is strong enough to sustain a spin-off. It also delivers some of the best momentary action in the series. A few levels are meek, the story never lives up to the premise, and the whole thing is over too soon, but mechanically and graphically it's one of Inti Creates' better titles. Here's hoping for Luminous Avenger to start a sub-series of its own.