To some, Super Mario may appear tired: a mascot whom Nintendo trots out every few years to sell another console with repackaged but fundamentally stale ideas. Super Mario 3D World is a fierce rebuttal to the accusation. Mario and his makers once again assert their dominance of spatial navigation games, displaying a rude abundance of ideas to delight, surprise and celebrate innocence and playfulness.
The game struggles a little over the mid-to-long term: the difficulty doesn't fluctuate much and, soon enough, you're merely turning the cogs rather than responding to thrilling challenges, but Zoo Tycoon is pleasant and engaging, even in its absence of spectacle.
Dead Rising 3 is still one of the strongest titles in the PS4/ Xbox One launch line-up, but that's more down to a lack of sharp competition than any peculiar brilliance. A more forgiving proposition than its forebears, this is an enjoyable zombie romp that's lost some of its character in the lurch onto the next generation hardware.
But there is no denying the sense of accomplishment when you solve a puzzle, arranging the branches, vines and spouts of water in the correct way and then successfully manoeuvring Max across them and safely into the next screen. It's a game that makes you feel smart and, unlike Limbo, never surprises you with unforeseeable traps: there is always an opportunity to stand back, assess and, finally, execute. It's a somewhat short, enjoyable and inoffensive game that delivers on the potential of its mechanical promise, if not its narrative premise.
Despite the range of games on offer (everything from motocross to pinball) there is an inevitable sense of repetition, perhaps because the original games themselves were, behind the artwork, less distinct than they first appeared. As with many reconstituted products, NES Remix is immediately delicious, but inspires an obsession that it can't sustain for long.
Nevertheless, despite its unevenness and occasional cruelty, Teslagrad is a bold and captivating proposition. The unusual and elegant aesthetic is persistently attractive, and the lightness of touch with the storytelling brings the world-building to the fore. Its Nordic development team are fledgling (this is only their second game) and there's fidgety keenness to the game's ideas and creative execution. Teslagrad would have benefited from a more experienced publisher to help round off the sharp edges and better balance the challenge. But in the meantime, this is a rough yet worthwhile jewel.
Had this game been released a decade or two ago, it might have been seen as a classic of its type, alongside Super Metroid and Symphony of the Night. But today, at the tail end of a wave of Metroidvania-style games, Strider fails to stand out. It's a competent, workable game that draws inspiration from the right places, but which is rarely anything more than a cover version of the greats.
At times the game suffers from a lack of ambition, placing far too much importance on the tiresome looting of endless cupboards and dressers in the vain hope that this will be enough to propel you forwards. In other places, Thief suffers from too much ambition, unable to draw its systems into a cohesive whole. Whether the game simply needed more time or entirely different foundations is never quite clear. Either way, it's a game that adds up to less than the sum of its parts.
Kinect Sports Rivals is a well-constructed game with an enjoyable structure and smartly integrated multiplayer. But it's already looking dated as it continues to struggle against the limitations of its chosen interface. For all the extra power of Kinect 2.0, and the surrounding artifice of online competition, at its best the game only equals the highs of older, more familiar games - games whose players and makers have moved on.
Daylight has neither the creeping sense of psychological dread of Fatal Frame nor the poster man antagonist of Slender, and its reliance on cliche lacks distinction. But if the game's straightforward purpose was simply to panic and upset its player then it is an indisputable success, no matter how cheap the tricks employed.
Scram Kitty and His Buddy On Rails is a wonderfully idiosyncratic creation that, despite its smorgasbord of influences, feels like nothing else. It's also a game that ignores current design fashions: there is no overarching list of achievements, there are no sideshow systems or alternative stages to upset its rhythms, no adornments to distract from the core task. For some, the lack of variety combined with the stiff challenge will be too much. (Even for competent players, this is a game that requires such a degree of concentration that it's best played in short bursts.) For others, the steepness of the initial learning curve will throw them from the rails before they get anywhere. But for those who master its controls, there is glorious opportunity for showboating play; it's a game built with admirable craft and singular focus, and it richly rewards your investment.
Video game players are familiar with the law of diminishing returns. Even as new entries in a series tirelessly improve upon their predecessors, our interest nevertheless wanes; with games, improved is somehow less exciting than new. Mario Kart 8 is a rare thing, then: the best entry in a series and the most exciting yet.
With its delicious score system taken into account, Astebreed is well-constructed, well-presented and well-balanced. A certain amount of delight comes from the novelty of a 32-bit-esque indie game, as it offers a welcome change from the army of sprite-based titles of the previous few years.