Really, the Trails of Cold Steel series is like one of those favourite fantasy books that you can read and re-read over and over again. Whether that be Lord of the Rings, Magician, Thomas Covenant, Drizzt Do'Urden's novels, Earthsea or Game of Thrones, they (and Trails of Cold Steel) all share a quality that makes them eminently relatable and comfortable. There are some excellent themes scattered through the game with regards to the impact of conflict, political and moral relativism, individual heroism and the strength of the group. Unfortunately, all the strengths of this series are tied up with its narrative, and we're at the point where it's hard to discuss the narrative without giving important moments away, so my review can't really reflect just how enthused I really am about Trails of Cold Steel. All I can say is that the fourth chapter is, if anything, even stronger than what came before and so while you should play all four in order, this is the one to look forward to the most.
So Pikmin 3 isn't the massive game. It never has been. It wasn't on the Wii U, and it's no "bigger" on the Switch. What it is, however, is a load of fun, and the charm is irresistible. Have we had more impressive remasters of games that were, to be frank, more impressive in the first place? Sure, but Pikmin isn't meant to be "AAA" and it doesn't try to be. Whether you've played this game previously or not, it's still a charming delight.
Transformers: Battlegrounds did the right thing in eschewing the Hollywood "mature" efforts and the games that tried to piggyback along with those to give us a true Saturday morning cartoon aesthetic. It was also right to go with a turn-based tactics game, rather than yet another action effort. What this game does is add to the Transformers property and demonstrate that it can be more versatile than the folks in suits have been pushing for over quite some time now. It's certainly not the "XCOM clone" for people that come to XCOM for the nuanced tactical strategy, but it's a nice, light little game and, for someone like me who grew up loving Transformers, only to watch the series be driven into the ground in recent years, it's nice to have something nostalgic to some very fond memories that I had as a kid.
I know it's a tough gig being a game developer when hours played is a key metric and the pundits bleat on about content rather than things that are actually important, like thematic intensity or narrative depth. Taking something that could have been something special and diluting it to give those pundits something to throw onto their backlog isn't going to help video games develop as an art form, though. The Red Lantern upset me more than most; most games aren't made by people with the vaguest understanding of art. The Red Lantern, however, clearly is the concept of artists and the vision is compelling. Next time they should try delivering a game that supports the vision, rather than what they think will boost the Metacritic score.
"Indie" visual novels are a dime-a-dozen these days. If even I can make them, then anyone can. What's harder to do is create a visual novel with a distinct (and interesting) personality, and which has either something substantial to say or is downright funny. Lached Up Games is very much about the humour, and combining an ochre Aussie sense of humour with a heavily fanservicey Japanese aesthetic is certainly distinctive enough that you've not played anything like what this developer produces. You probably should play the original Max's Big Bust before getting into the sequel, but the second is bigger and better (in every way), and it is, put most simply, pure entertainment.
There's such a lack of polish and precision to Tears of Avia that it's difficult to blindly recommend. As a fan of the tactics JRPG genre, I did enjoy this, but it would be disingenuous of me to suggest that there weren't many other games out there with a similar ambition that are executed far better.
Tempered at the edges as it might be, Onee Chanbara Origin is still crass and skimpy, and an explicit work of nostalgic grindhouse for anyone that remembers that genre. Additionally, short as it may be, it's genuinely well-made for what it wants to be: a mindless action game.
Ultimately, Agatha Christie's The ABC Murders is a perfectly competent point-and-click detective game, competently ported to Nintendo Switch. It's more difficult to deliver a "great detective" story in a way that feels appropriate to the character and the players than most people would think, but the developers have done an admirable job here overall. Just do yourself a favour and resist looking up a guide. Not all the puzzles are perfectly executed, but for this game to have the right impact on you, you really do want to be solving each puzzle without assistance, even if that does mean that you feel like your Poirot's IQ has dropped a couple hundred points.
I'm left wondering just who would want to play Postal Redux. The game works, sure, but there are a lot of top-down isometric shooters that work. I understand the appeal in playing both transgressive and offensive games, but Postal isn't actually transgressive, since it has so little to say and while it clearly caused offence in the '90s, there are games that are much more capable of causing offence now if that's what you're looking for. Play Hotline Miami. Hotline Miami upset plenty of people. Postal, meanwhile... Postal in 2020 comes across as bland, and for a game (and series) that relies entirely on upsetting people, even when the gameplay is competent, for it to be "bland" is to make its very existence pointless.
I will also say that I have enjoyed Liege Dragon more than some of the others from Kemco, too. There is a more solid narrative to it, and I really like the visual design of that combat system. Though, being entirely honest here, it was probably the sexy princess that got it over the line for me. That really is one very inspired costume design.