For casual players there is not much beyond childish delight but in the scenario sandbox of destruction and design Cities Skylines - Natural Disasters makes a gameplay experience that is tense, trying and terrifically satisfying.
There is no doubt that Q.U.B.E. 2 owes such a debt to a rich past, and with such a strong design direction and philosophy there is plenty to enjoy inside this geometric puzzler. Where Q.U.B.E. 2 really succeeds is reminding the player what is great about being locked in a room alone with a puzzle. It's a shame that the execution doesn't spread across all the areas, but there is certainly enough to enjoy and cherish in this gratifying design.
It's clear that Beholder: Complete Edition is trying to tell a story about oppression, coercion, and state observation, but its heavy handedness and console controls dilutes the message it's trying to produce. Other games have achieved much more with so much less, yet that shouldn't distract from what is a management game with a delightful twist. It's fun to be the bad guy and hauling out a tenant because you spied them eating fish can be strangely compelling. Sometimes admin can be fun and Beholder exploits the subservient and rebel in us all.
Cities: Skylines - Snowfall is a rare expansion that manages to bring holiday cheer to a game that could have easily exposed it for a cheap cash-in if it wasn't done right. However, there is just enough added challenge and detail to the expansion that makes it a welcome addition to the core experience. It is by no means essential, but it adds some twinkle to the transport and some ho-ho-ho to the heating. Cities: Skylines - Snowfall is a perfect expansion to welcome in the Christmas season.
For fans of the board game, and indeed more slower, seasoned tactical play, Blood Bowl 2: Legendary Edition offers a unique and inviting gaming experience. It's a statistical conundrum wrapped up in the familiar, which makes learning the rules and expansive options much less daunting. It definitely suffers from dips in pace and rhythm, which at times threatens to suck the life from within. However, the turn-based play is consistently engaging and brutal.
It's a shame that in trying to invoke so much nostalgia, instead Thimbleweed Park invokes frustration. A clumsy set of mechanics, humour that quickly runs dry, and a narrative line that splits and diverges in too many directions creates an obstructive experience. That is not to say that there isn't plenty to enjoy here. Fans of the genre will delight in the puzzling and will be able to easily forgive the game for all these tiny foibles.
How it has been allowed for Everybody's Golf to exist on PlayStation is beyond anyone's comprehension, but may Sony continue to get away with this tomfoolery for another twenty years because it's simply a pleasure to have Everybody's Golf on PS4. Accessible for all ages, play styles and ability, this is a game that is the closest thing a player is going to get to being gently hugged whilst holding a DualShock.
Absolver is an experience shrouded in patience and unerring attention to detail. It ultimately rewards players who are happy to spend the time picking apart tiny parts of the title's deceptively simple combat and world building. It is atrociously difficult at times, but such is the framing of the game, Absolver's difficulty curve is designed to teach and inspire, rather than frustrate. Although rather short at around five to six hours, Absolver is still a delicate examination of martial arts and how game design can drastically impact the lessons the player should draw from the world.
With all its reference, heritage and lineage, what Demetrios loses in consistency it makes up with heart. It's clear that the person behind the ones and zeros is in love with the genre, albeit a genre that leaves no place to hide. It's difficult to ignore the dips in an otherwise generous and gracious video game. The puzzles are involving and interesting, and the mechanics are well integrated into the weave of the design. For fans of the genre, there is a lot to like here, but there is also a lot that might put some people off. Luckily, it turns out that the developer may have done enough to stop putting many people off, but only just.
There is a slither of something within Get Even to enjoy. An intriguing story, narrative beats that hit hard, and a sound design that brings out the terror and peril of exploration. However, only those with the most patience will uncover these treats, as it all remains buried amongst basic puzzles, bad plotting, terrible combat, and awkward dialogue. What Get Even attempts to do is bring together several elements of game design to try and lift the walking simulator genre forward; however, it's a game that seems ashamed of its own inspiration.
What really lets Bridge Constructor down is that the main puzzle that holds up the game is just so interesting. Working out how to build the most effective bridge in the given circumstances can be a rewarding experience. However, with a lack of a tutorial and a control scheme that has been designed in mud, the game is clearly not at home on the PlayStation 4. It's too bulky and considered, whereas the game should be swift and agile. Bridge Constructor is suited to the nimble fingers on a phone, not the thoughtful and plodding console thumbs.
What irks about Flinthook is found in every roguelike; the sudden deaths, the lack of tangible progress and the inability to feel safe within your environment. However, some players will delight in this usual pattern and others whom usually fight against such road blocking will find enough within the walls to come back time and time again, gluttons for such delightful and gloriously designed punishment. Flinthook is a ballet upon spikes, far too risky to participate in, but get it right and the rewards are such a beautiful spectacle.
All the time bending clichés could have easily applied to The Sexy Brutale, but instead of riding on the shoulders of other titles that have gone before it, this is a game that shows that a flashy mechanic is more than the sum of its parts. With a narrative that is driven by discovery and an overall theme that oozes style and panache, The Sexy Brutale takes the player through a streamlined and perfectly paced investigative adventure that is genuinely witty and profound.
From encouraging beginnings, Anoxemia only continues to deteriorate minute by minute. Strong controls only become weaker and the gameplay only matches this decline. It feels as if every effort was made to curtail the early embrace of exploration and discovery. Even the resource management becomes an uncomfortable routine. The early signs of promise show a studio that had genuine ideas of capturing the mirk beneath the seas, but ultimately there just isn't enough to stop Anoxemia from being dragged to the depths below.
It's fair to say that often the game bites off more that it can chew. The more tenacious players will get the most from 8DAYS. Those who are willing to embrace dips in pacing, balance and fairness will see equal spikes in design, direction and gameplay. Those who rely on a sturdy narrative or a strict structure to provide their gaming enjoyment will be put off by the varying styles and direction. It is a worthy effort, but only to be enjoyed by a select few.
Death Squared needs to be congratulated for bringing much needed diversity to the couch co-op market. While there is a lot to like about how it approaches co-operative design, the player is often left, though, with the feeling that it would be a lot easier and simpler if they were to just solve the puzzles on their own. Although co-operative play is tense, fun, and rewarding for the most part, the temptation for one player to dictate the play and take control hampers any chance for that cheer to spread across all the people involved. What should be a test of mind and logic instead is a test of patience and will, which for some will be a delight but for others an arduous task.
Kill the Bad Guy never succeeds in the task it's setting out to do. Like a botched assassination, it's messy, clumsy, and insensitive. There was an interesting idea here once, yet it feels like a wasted opportunity for some genuine moments of humour and puzzle craft. With muddled controls, and even murkier morals, this game automatically lost any respect people may have had for it the moment it lost respect for its own design and direction.
It's worth a few laughs for the odd hour or two, and possibly more if you're the kind to tinker with ragdoll physics and game mechanics to comic effect. I wouldn't buy this expecting any epic JRPG narratives or emotional rollercoasters but you didn't really expect that... did you?