There’s not much else that can be said about Pure Pool (also we’ve reviewed it previously, so check that out). VooFoo Studios has successfully made a game that remains relevant and feels current over half a decade after it first released it, and for “sports games”, that’s a rare achievement indeed. You’re not going to find better ball porn anywhere, and so, even though this is a port of a six-year-old game with very little added to it, it’s great that it’s now portable and on the Switch.
Serious Sam remains the perfect foil to all the self-serious and often toxic shooters that we see today. All three games (and the two DLC expansions) that are contained in this collection are pure, unmitigated fun, and there's not a single (admittedly high-quality) rendition of Ronald Reagan across any of them. Not coincidentally, while I've already deleted that CoD off my hard drive, the Serious Sam Collection will stay on my Switch for quite some time to come. In short bursts - particularly on the commute after a hard day's work - there's nothing more cathartic.
Demon's Souls kicked off what has become an exhausting caricature in the games industry. From "git gud" to comparing every halfway difficult game to the Souls series, Demon's Souls is ultimately responsible for that. It wasn't the most commercially successful game in itself, but word of mouth earned it a cult status and was directly responsible for the very mainstream Dark Souls. And now people can re-discover the dark majesty of that series foundation. It's a game that deserves to be elevated beyond the jokes and seen as a genuine piece of video game art. I would be very interested if those who have come to the Souls series later will find the deliberately unpolished elements of this remake to be as appealing, but given that FromSoftware will almost certainly never touch the King's Field series again, for me, personally, this is as good as it's ever going to get. As a PlayStation 5 launch title, it's a fascinating example of something that is both deliberately old and a brilliant use of the console's very new hardware, and brought together, Demon's Souls is reason enough to own the console, all into itself.
I've never played a game more thoroughly unpleasant than Black Ops Cold War, but since this is the video game industry, the only thing I'm meant to be talking about is how much fun it is to press those buttons. So, let's finish the review and do that (since I know this conclusion is all most people are going to read anyway). Yes, it is fun to press buttons. You can even press buttons in multiplayer, and after however many Call of Duty titles now, the half dozen development teams that worked on this thing know how to make multiplayer button pressing fun. There are standard multiplayer modes, and classics like Zombies are back because people like those modes. It's all very accessible since this series is as mainstream as they come and Activision would hate for people to find it overwhelming. In short, if you want to play Black Ops Cold War as a completely passive sponge, then you'll have a lot of fun pressing those buttons. This score, below, is for you. For anyone else who is even mildly interested in thinking about the games they play, I can't put into words clearly enough how unacceptable I find this game to be.
I don't want to take anything away from Sackboy: A Big Adventure. Platformers are one of the genres I am least inclined towards, and were it not part of a (fairly limited) launch range on the PlayStation 5, I might not have been inclined to play Sackboy at all. I am glad that I did, though, because for pure whimsy and quality level design it's a real challenge to Nintendo at its best in this genre, and that's no mean feat. Just don't go in expecting the same qualities that made the LittleBigPlanet series itself so beloved.
Having written visual novels myself I know just how difficult it is to turn decisions and branching narratives into something cohesive and interesting, regardless of the direction that the player takes through the narrative. I shudder to think what a wall of sticky notes would look like to map out a game with 600,000 words and nearly 2,500 decisions. Choices That Matters is a game of breathtaking scope that takes place in the most modest kind of game possible; the humble text adventure. That it tells such an excellent page-turner of a story with all those words and branching paths is the icing on the top.
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is a genuine cultural artefact. It never forgets the need to be entertaining and engaging, but every facet of the game is invested in communicating the Japanese cultural perspective on the world, from how we see the divine, to the respect that we should hold for the very staples that sustain us. This is a game that transcends the conventional expectations of video games, to deliver something much grander and more inherently valuable than passive entertainment to consume.
That being said, as far as the gameplay is concerned, this series is going nowhere interesting at this point there while there will be more, and I really implore Ubisoft to take a good, hard look at the bloat and consider whether a more streamlined approach that doesn't get in the way of the best feature (the history and narrative) would not be wiser next time around.