So it’s 5 levels really, but they are excellent levels, masterful executions of a brilliant concept by a team at the top of their game. And, on top of that, we’ve already got the other two games—which are available for dirt cheap, now—to make a single, expansive, globetrotting experience that sees our familiar, baldheaded puppetmaster accessing the world’s ultra-wealthy just when they thought they were invincible, dancing through the class divides like the nameless angel of death that he is, and then blowing someone up with an exploding golf ball or something.
Even for all its charm, it’s easy to see an older version of Nintendo at work in Pikmin 3 Deluxe. It is defined by a competence and execution of interlocking systems rather than the expansive wonder that came to define the developer’s biggest hits of the Switch era. For all the ways that the game does manage to convey a certain sense of scale at times, it’s a far cry from the open horizons of Breath of the Wild or the maddeningly deep puzzle boxes of Super Mario Odyssey. It’s a game from the Wii U era, before Nintendo had quite figured out how to expand its sense of whimsy to a much wider audience.
[Luigi's Mansion 3] is a contained, crafted experience, no more and no less than a professional, clean and near-perfect execution of an idea that you already like. It is not shockingly new or transcendent, but you don’t always want that. It is relentlessly charming, consistently charming, and punctuated in every moment by the sheer joy of sucking.
If you have the time and the inclination, buy Red Dead Redemption 2. It's a great game. It's an impressive game. Just know what you're getting into, and do your best to make it through the story to what's on the other side. This review is now nearly 3000 words long, and not nearly long enough for one of the greatest and most vexing games I've played in years.
Super Mario Odyssey is a fun game, an unoriginal observation that feels nonetheless vital in the modern gaming landscape. It is a game that tasks you with finding joy, and then lets you point yourself in the right direction. It is a game you should play.
The pacing, as always, is impeccable, moving between climbing, combat and puzzle-solving at just enough of a clip to keep things engaging, ending with an impressive set piece that rivals the series' best on both a technical and visual level.
The gameplay is the star here. Rise of The Tomb Raider does everything Tomb Raider did and does it better, taking a still-growing heroine into an unfamiliar location and unfolding its lethal mysteries as we grow to meet them. This is still not the game it could be, but it's remarkable how quickly Crystal Dynamics has taken a half-dead franchise and turned into one of the most vital experiences on the market today, true to its essential character while still feeling absolutely new. This is the new standard for third-person shooter/adventure games. I want another.
Cry Wolf may not have been as strong as some of the episodes before it, but it remains an appropriate capstone to an excellent series that once again proves that Telltale is one of the most interesting companies in the video game market today. I can't wait to see what they do with Game of Thrones.
There is the idea of what a Thief game should be here, and it's not complicated. Strip it down, get back to the essentials, and this game may have played something more like Arkane's excellent Dishonored. As it stands, however, it's neither itself nor, really, anything else.
This sort of game could have convinced some of the faithful to get on board towards the beginning of the console's lifespan, but it will have a tougher time today. This game will win few new converts, and for all its brightness, does not feel particularly fresh.
Ryse: Son of Rome isn't terrible. It has its gorgeous visuals, forceful combat system and relatively tight storytelling to recommend it. It's also short, unvaried, hampered by an obsession with QTE events and far shy of a complete game experience. As a game, it won't hold its own next to some of the third-party stars of this holiday season. It has neither the addictive, consuming multiplayer of Call of Duty nor the imaginative scope of God of War, but still holds promise for its next iteration, if that comes.
Knack does have that one good idea — the character gets bigger, the character gets smaller — which is enhanced by the idea of making him big with other materials like wood and ice. But it's never really explored. You're constantly being forced to shed all of your collected relics to activate an elevator, or something, or receive a large cache of relics before a big fight. Size is controlled by the situation, not the other way around, and so this system never feels as fluid as it could.