More than seven years after its initial announcement, Ray's the Dead just doesn't feel like a finished game. Clunky gameplay and numerous bugs don't do the imbalanced and overly difficult encounters any favors, while certain other concepts in the game feel underexplored and go unutilized. It's potential to delve into unique puzzle mechanics is overshadowed by obnoxious and frustrating combat segments and bugs impacting critical elements of the gameplay. Ray's the Dead might have a lot of heart, but that heart is contained within a cumbersome rotting corpse crawling with bugs that make coming back from the dead more chore than triumph.
Star Wars Squadrons is nothing if not an authentic experience. It's goal is to put you in the cockpit of a starfighter in the Star Wars universe, and to that end it succeeds admirably. An uninspired story serves as training for Fleet Battles, an epic multiplayer experience that recreates the best of Star Wars space combat in ways that no other games have. EA and Motive's firm stance on Squadrons as a standalone one-time-purchase experience is both commendable and the very thing that limits the viability of what it could grow into.
The Walking Dead Onslaught is a serviceable enough Walking Dead VR game if it piques your interest, but its hard for me to recommend. While the ties to the AMC series are fun and interesting, Saints & Sinners is simply a better game. I traditionally don't like comparisons in reviews, but the release dates, themes, and mechanics of these two are just too close to ignore. Fans of AMC's The Walking Dead will probably enjoy Onslaught as a bit of supplementary material featuring characters and locations from the show, but Survios' take on the world is just an okay VR game that doesn't strike any notable chords for either The Walking Dead or VR in general.
Many games fall into the roguelike genre, but few define it. Spelunky 2's secrets and danger-infused caverns make it simultaneously one of the most frustrating and rewarding games I've ever played. Yet, having barely scratched the surface of what it offers, I can't wait to start another run-whether in search of secrets or just to see how far I can ultimately get. And in the end, isn't the desire to continue playing the hallmark of any great game?
For all of my criticisms, Marvel's Avengers is still a game I can't wait to get back to playing. While there's a lot of work to do, it gets one main thing right: it's fun to be an Avenger. Crystal Dynamics captured this incredible feeling of being a superhero and distilled it into a digital environment. Combat is deep and nuanced, with far more complexities and character than your traditional superhero brawler. Right now, Marvel's Avengers is a bit rough around the edges, but "good isn't a thing you are. It's a thing you do." If Crystal Dynamics can smooth performance and squash bugs, as well as build out a more compelling endgame experience, it has a lot of potential to be one of the most memorable and replayable loot brawlers of this generation and next.
Vicarious Visions' reputation for developing nostalgia continues. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 and 2 not only lives up to the beloved classic games, but it lives up to my memory of the beloved classic games; an important distinction. It walks the fine line of recreating the classics for a modern era, while never feeling either dated or burdened with new and unnecessary changes. The small quality of life tweaks are all in service of building on the games you remember and getting players comfortable on the board 20 years later. Age hasn't slowed these skaters down. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 and 2 looks and plays better than ever, and lands a perfect combo.
Control: AWE is good in that it's more Control. But it feels like it was leaning a little bit too hard on being a teaser for its Alan Wake connections and the Remedy Connected Universe, which hurt its ability to be a really fun and engaging expansion for the Control side of things. For as brief as the expansion is, much of the runtime feels like it's just spinning its wheels and never really going anywhere. I'm always happy to step into the shoes of Director Jesse Faden again, but AWE never gains its own identity as anything more than an interactive MCU-style post-credits scene; a lot of set up that we'll need to wait years to see payoff. But hey, now you can replay the Ashtray Maze while you wait.
The Alto Collection console release is more or less a straight port of the mobile titles made to work on a big screen with a controller. That's not a bad thing at all, as the mobile releases were deservingly award-winning games, but it's a missed opportunity to make some slight UI and gameplay optimizations that could have really polished the experience on console. Still, The Alto Collection is deserving of your attention, a peaceful mountain adventure that's designed to be played in short spurts, but almost impossible to put down once you get going. "Just one more run," never looked so beautiful or felt so zen.