The Forgotten City is a consistently engaging mystery that I couldn't help but get trapped in. It features an amazing blend of narrative mystery buoyed by some fun bouts of exploration and light combat, just enough to really break up the pace. It's a game that encourages you to put pressure on its established boundaries to see what you can break and change. There's a brilliant web of mystery within a time loop that you can manipulate, delivering some great and clever commentary around a whole bunch of topics. Seeing how far Modern Storyteller has come from "The Forgotten City" mod to this full game makes me beyond excited to see what Nick Pearce and the team come up with next.
Doki Doki Literature Club works best if you go into it knowing nothing about it. It's still a visual novel dating sim, and the Plus! version really doubles down on the visual novel aspect, but it breaks the status quo and does the unexpected, making a deeply disturbing psychological horror game out of something that looks cute and adorable on the surface.
As a complete package, Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade just feels like the definitive version of an already perfect game. And the addition of Episode INTERmission is a great excuse to bring old players back for new content (or just a solid extra couple of chapters for new players).
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is proof that some series are timeless. It celebrates and retains the classic gameplay first created nearly 20 years ago, while simultaneously feeling completely at home as a showcase PS5 title. It tells a heartfelt story that explores beyond Ratchet and Clank, bringing in new characters that stand tall in their own right. And those tools of destruction? They're here in spades, more destructive than ever before. Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart continues the PlayStation legacy, and I can't help but hope that in time it heralds the return of the PlayStation buddy platformers of old.
For better or worse, Mass Effect Legendary Edition is effectively the same classic trilogy we played a decade ago, warts and all. BioWare finely balanced updating the games with leaving elements that would recapture that classic nostalgia of first taking off across the stars in the Normandy. For my experience, this was the perfect way to bring the classic trilogy to modern audiences while preparing everyone for more Mass Effect to come. We'll get our proper new-gen Mass Effect soon enough, but right now, this is where players should experience where it all began with Commander Shepard's epic three-game saga. Whether you're an eager fan looking to return or a curious new player who wants to see what all the fuss is about, this is Mass Effect.
I can't get enough of Knockout City. Velan Studios put an impressive amount of work into a confluence of themes and mechanics that all work together in harmony for a symphony that resonates with a rubbery thwack. Everything feels polished to a degree that is rather monumental for a day one launch, and their plans to support Knockout City for the foreseeable future will ensure it stays downloaded on my hard drive. Every once in a while, a special game comes along that redefines the rules; that finds a unique concept that nobody knew they wanted, but that everyone ends up loving. Knockout City is one of those special games, a passion project built on originality that will surely go on to be bigger than anybody could have initially imagined.
Presenting the lore of Robin Hood in a whole new way, there's a really fun and unique game in Hood: Outlaws and Legends. While it has a number of balancing issues that can impact matchmaking in various ways, it's all wonderful when it works. Hood is a game that frustrated me on numerous occasions, but was also one of the most thrilling and distinctive multiplayer stealth experiences since Assassin's Creed's multiplayer modes. With some long term love and care, Hood has a ton of potential to really stand out. Hopefully that means the growth of the community with it in order to establish the kind of healthy player base that a multiplayer title needs.
Skate City is buoyed up by its excellent and mellow lo-fi soundtrack, a veritable repository of chill beats to skate to. This defining aspect helps elevate a simple concept to put you in the right mood to engage with it. While the visuals are nothing to write home about and the finnicky controls can sometimes cause frustration, there's still something special about chilling out with a 20 minute skate session after a hard day's work, and discovering yet another great lo-fi tune. However it should have launched for consoles with at least all of the content and modes from the mobile version, if not more for its bigger platform debut. While Skate City is a relatively engaging and mellow experience overall, it's one I have a hard time recommending on console at its new premium asking price.
Resident Evil Village is a good game with a lot of opportunity to have been a great game. And yet, for as many criticisms as I have, it was an experience that I was happy to play through a second time immediately after finishing the first. The new setting, creatures, villains, and story are engaging additions to the Resident Evil canon, even if the gameplay doesn't seem to have evolved all that much and the scares have been pulled back. It's still a fun romp in a new setting with new monsters; a great and fitting piece of the broader series that makes me excited to see where it's all headed next.
Returnal is an essential PS5 title, now and throughout the console's life. Housemarque took the rogue-like bullet-hell formula and applied it to a AAA experience in a way that creates something exceptionally unique yet wholly familiar. Returnal is an engaging experience in narrative, gameplay, and player discovery, consistently surprising on every level. Utilizing the PS5 technology in a way that most other developers are barely tapping into, Returnal feels like one of the first truly next-gen experiences, letting Housemarque set the stage for the new console. And like Housemarque games before it, it's the kind of game that will withstand the test of time, begging for additional cycles well into the future.