- Devil May Cry 3
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
- Mother 3
Georifters isn't the worst platformer, but an ugly aesthetic and repetitive level design make for a generally unpleasant playthrough. What's especially disappointing is how creative the core mechanics are. Players are encouraged to manipulate the world around them, but stages are so basically built that even the most engaging puzzles barely offer enough stimulation. Georifters does have a fairly decent multiplayer mode, but mainly due to circumstance rather than thought provoking game design.
PGA Tour 2K21 is a fluid take on golf with incredibly tight mechanics that would be perfect for newcomers were it not for 2K's aggressive microtransactions. All sense of progression is held back by an in-game shop that demands hours of grinding on the player's part or real-life money. What is worse is that this practice makes it difficult to enjoy everything the title has to offer. Player customisation moves too slow and career mode simply offers too few rewards to feel rewarding. There is a good game in PGA Tour 2K21 somewhere, but it will never be found so long as microtransactions hold back actual game design.
One of the most addictive rogue-lites on the Nintendo Switch, Heroes of Hammerwatch blends classic action RPG progression with a hostile world design that'll have heroes second guessing every turn they make, and whether or not their next foe will be their last. Procedurally generated level design can never match up to thoughtful handcrafted stages, but HoH is able to cut the difference thanks to its easy to pick up gameplay loop, and an understanding that even the smallest bit of progress is meaningful. Between experimenting with classes, upgrading your town, and dungeon-eering with a trusted group of friends, Heroes of Hammerwatch is a must-play.
Monster Sanctuary is a charming take on the monster raising formula, albeit not without its faults. In spite of this, Monster Sanctuary is an addictive RPG that is hard to put down. Monster hatching is an incredibly simple process, every single monster has its own skill tree, and combat has been balanced enough so that just about any team can get through the main game in the hands of savvy players. Monster Sanctuary is a diamond in the rough if there ever was one.
A distinct lack of game modes, no means of playing offline, and even the inability to make a private game with friends overshadows all of Rumble's innovations. Faster paced gameplay centred around a single worm is a breath of fresh air - and implemented quite well - but it's held back by a stripping away of Worms' most identifiable qualities: turn-based gameplay that emphasised strategy, destructible environments that continually redefined stages, and a never-ending stream of charm that kept matches as entertaining as they were engaging. Worms Rumble resembles its predecessors superficially, while failing to carve out a clear identity by recycling what little content there is in-game ad nauseum. Rumble will almost certainly be updated with new modes over time, but franchise veterans are bound to be disappointed and newcomers are better off waiting until then.
Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition is arguably the game Capcom should have always released. While the original was a powerhouse in every sense of the word, its pristine quality simply meant any imperfections were all the more noticeable. Vergil's return rounds out an already tight cast of characters playable with some of the most in-depth combat in the franchise. Turbo mode picks up the pace to challenge a player's physical and mental reflexes on every level. Legendary Dark Knight pushes the power of the PlayStation 5 by rendering large swarms of enemies on-screen, all for the player to kill. Devil May Cry 5 was already one of Capcom's best titles in years, and this Special Edition only elevates it.
This is the Zodiac Speaking sets itself up as a moody and mature take on a series of still unsolved murders, but the game in practice lacks a considerable amount of finesse. Beyond running poorly on the Nintendo Switch - to the point where anyone who exclusively plays undocked should avoid a purchase outright - the script is as overindulgent as it is clunky and what few attempts there are at building tension are downright comical. This is the Zodiac Speaking might have been worth suffering through the flaws if the game had tighter controls and ran better, but the Switch release simply isn't worth the money.
It's quite telling that Ever Forward's demo (released independently with the subtitle Prologue) isn't that much shorter than an actual full play-through. Despite the title's tense stealth sections, and fairly involved puzzle-solving, the fact of the matter is that the final product plays out like the tutorial to a much longer adventure that never starts. By the time Maya's story starts to breathe, and the core gameplay begins introducing complex and layered puzzles, the journey is more or less over. The atmosphere is commendable, as are the puzzles actually present, but the is sure to leave genre veterans disappointed, and newcomers desperate for some meat to chew on.
Creepy Tale certainly lives up to its namesake, courtesy of superb sound design and art heavily inspired by the works of John Kenn Mortensen, but it's a title which falls apart under scrutiny. A completely silent narrative is ambitious, as is designing puzzles exclusively around visual cues, but there's barely an hour of actual content in-game. Any puzzle-solving veterans are basically guaranteed to roll credits within 45 minutes. What's worse is that while the atmosphere is palatable (with enough mild scares that feel earned), Mortensen's "influence" borders on plagiarism. He's mentioned in the staff roll for what it's worth, but under a very specific "Inspired By" credit. Regardless of any involvement Mortensen may or may not have had, the fact the game is dripping in his style does it no favours - if only because it's a blatant imitation lacking artistic integrity. Creepy Tale is fine enough on the cheap, but it won't satisfy competent gamers, nor is it a suitable introduction to newcomers given its emphasis on gore.
The genuinely thought-provoking Ring Battle system, engaging puzzle design, and care given to Olivia's characterisation all make The Origami King the best Paper Mario since the series' Wii outing, but that wasn't a high bar to begin with and the series is still struggling to come up with an engaging gameplay loop in light of the lessened RPG elements. Without experience or levelling, random battles lose their lustre fast. Likewise, Accessories don't make up for a lack of Badges or traditional equipment, keeping combat relatively static and offering little in the way of non-Toad rewards for uncovering secrets. Worse is Intelligent Systems' love affair with bloated pacing holding back otherwise well-designed dungeons and set pieces. The Origami King is an overall step in the right direction, but it's emblematic of the fact that Paper Mario has no interest in honouring its legacy or living up to its potential. If nothing else, a direct sequel could easily unfold Origami King's many creases.
Considering how mindless and tailor-fit for mobile audiences the substanceless gameplay loop of Shop Titans is, one has to wonder why Kabam saw fit to pursue a PC release. Of course, the "why" is made painfully clear the moment players hit their first wall. Progression is very blatantly designed around micro-transactions. Anyone who doesn't want to spend a dime will need to contend with a very long grind. Even then, the game actively withholds items and content from players who don't want to spend real money. Worse yet is the monthly subscription service, which Kabam fully expects anyone who wants to play Shop Titans in earnest to purchase. Already aggressively mediocre experience by design, jumping from mobile to PC has done Kabam's shopkeeping "simulator" no favours. Shop Titans is worse than video game junk food; it's slop.
Looks can be deceiving, and while In Other Waters does look too simple for its own good, it's a title overflowing with depth. Between a well written script, intensely atmospheric sound design that begs for headphone use, and methodically slow pacing, it's hard not to think of Ellery Vas' expedition through the depths of Gliese 677Cc long after all is said and done. Moody and sombre, In Other Waters is a must read… and must play.
In spite of featuring less content than the title's 2013 remake for iOS and Android, that doesn't change the fact that this is the best version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 currently available for a home console. Knuckles is included as a playable character, Super Sonic and Super Knuckles have their own unlockable modes where the Chaos Emeralds are collected out the gate, and the inclusion of the Drop Dash only adds depth to already excellent platforming. With a fantastic set of levels, and plenty of quality of life additions, SEGA AGES Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is one of the line's better offerings.