Aside from occasional camera troubles, Vane stands out as one of the most immersive titles of 2019. Whether exploring the world as a child or a bird, the visuals masterfully blend together in a beautiful environment worthy of exploration. In relying on visuals instead of dialogue, players can form a deeper appreciation for the world around them - one open to interpretation. Vane is not a particularly long adventure, but it's one that'll leave audiences reflecting long after the credits have rolled.
As far as presentation goes, Dry Drowning does put its best foot forward. The excellent sound direction pairs well with the muted, almost gritty art style. Unfortunately, for as aesthetically and stylistically pleasant as the visual novel is, its script leaves quite a bit to be desired.
Absolutely filled to the brim with content, Chocobo's Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy! is a charming take on the Mystery Dungeon format. While it might not offer too much in the way of innovation, there is a refined quality to just about every aspect. From the Buddy System, to the wonderful integration of Final Fantasy's Job System, there's very little on display that doesn't ultimately come together. The difficulty's pacing might pose a problem to some, but Square Enix's latest interpretation of the Mystery Dungeon franchise is bound to be remembered as one of the series' highest points.
Using Journey to the West more as a clever backdrop rather than outright adapting it, Unruly Heroes makes for a charming action-platformer that pokes fun at one of China's most important novels, while also crafting together a wildly fun experience. With four distinct characters to choose from across 29 visually stunning levels, and the journey to restore balance to Heaven and Earth results in rarely a dull moment. Toss in a surprisingly engaging combo system, on the fly character switching, and plenty of secrets to uncover to tie the package together, and Unruly Heroes winds up quite the formidable platformer.
With some of the best designed boss fights this generation, a beautifully rich animation style, and impeccably fine-tuned controls, Cuphead stands out as not only one of the best indie titles on the Nintendo Switch, but one of strongest releases this generation, period
Outward isn't so much bad as it is outwardly bland. Bolstered by its genuinely endearing premise, and an emphasis on a more "human" approach to the RPG genre, the title is simultaneously held back by lacklustre presentation, an underwhelming combat system, and a main game that goes on far too long to justify the onslaught of hostility thrown at the player.
While the journey is more important than the destination, the fact NAIRI lacks a traditional conclusion - leaving many arcs and themes in a resolution limbo - hurts the narrative considerably. Considering just how much the story focuses on Nairi as a character, a cliff-hanger ending that places emphasis on plot comes off structurally inappropriate at best. That said, the script, atmosphere, and puzzles all warrant at least one playthrough. Tower of Shirin might fall much flatter than it needed to thanks to a poorly realised ending, but NAIRI, as a whole, is a charming point-and-click with plenty of heart.
While the combative elements leave much to be desired, Mage's Initiation to pay tribute to the old Sierra titles of yore without failing to craft an identity of its own alongside the homage. D'arc's initiation is almost too simple for its own good, serving as a prologue of sorts to a grander adventure, yet so much focus placed solely on a single story beat is exactly what allows the narrative to lend impact to any given moment. The plot itself may never get too exciting, but active world building, endearing visuals, and focused puzzles ensure that in Mage's Initiation: Reign of the Elements there is seldom a dull moment in D'arc's journey.
Catherine Classic may not be the definitive way to experience Vincent's journey of self discovery, mainly due to some pesky technical issues, but it is a solid port nonetheless, with a few improvements of its own. Faster loading times, crisper visuals, and dual audio support, elevate the title from beyond just another bog standard PC port. It is unfortunate that English audio clips in when playing in Japanese, but Catherine is so thoughtfully designed, and so well-written that it's easy enough to endure the port's more disappointing qualities in favour of the incredible experience underneath. Catherine Classic is a great alternative to the PS3 original, if flawed.
Despite a fairly strong lead in from Thicker Than Water, Episode 5: From the Gallows is unable to craft a wholly satisfying conclusion to A New Frontier's story. In many respects, this finale is exemplary of Telltale at its absolute worst: uneven character focus, forced cameos, rushed pacing, meaningless choices, and uninspired plotting. Although A New Frontier comes out thematically cohesive, that means little when the final product found itself unable to fully develop its cast before the finale while also refusing to commit to either Javi or Clem as the protagonist. As From the Gallows comes to a close, it feels as it season three still had more story to tell.
Devoid of both style and substance, Poi is perhaps the least interesting 3D platformer currently available for the Nintendo Switch. Not only is it mechanically shallow with a relatively skill ceiling and floor, the level design rarely, if ever, gets creative enough to mask how lacklustre the platforming can be. To make matters worse, this is just charmless all around thanks to an incredibly safe aesthetic that renders a potentially fascinating world completely unmemorable. This neither reinvents platforming, nor serves as a suitable love letter to the genre, ensuring it is best left forgotten.