FUSER is all about player creativity and freedom. It's less focused on technical recitation of precise button presses and more on how in the groove you can get yourself. For decades, Harmonix has been harnessing the power of music and delivering a feeling of super stardom to players. FUSER puts that directly into the players' hands more than any game before it. Even with a PS5 and next-gen games in hand, I can't turn the music off. If you yearn for the days of the plastic instrument revolution, just without all that junk taking up space, FUSER will put you as close to the stage as any music game possibly can.
Marvel's Spider-Man Miles Morales is the perfect showcase of the PS5, espousing multiple enhancements to its last-gen predecessor while also feeling familiar. Even apart from its standing as a flagship PS5 launch title, Miles Morales is Insomniac perfecting the formula from the original game and offering an experience that is more concise, focused, and full of heart than the first.
Astro's Playroom is the epitome of the PlayStation 5. It's the foundational software kicking off the next generation of PlayStation gaming. ASOBI Team from Japan Studio could have just phoned it in with a handful of gimmicky levels to distract players while they wait for Miles Morales or Demon's Souls to download, but they didn't. They developed a full fun platforming experience that not only demonstrates the PS5, but celebrates 25 years of PlayStation history in some pretty special ways. It's a powerful showcase that honors everything that led to the "5" in PS5, while also providing a pretty clear picture of what makes this new generation so special.
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.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is a fun enough game in its own right, but it's encumbered with the weight of near-ancient game design practices. It's new bright visuals bring Bikini Bottom to life in a whole new way, with character animations now better portraying the classic cartoon than ever before, but its gameplay is still firmly anchored to 2003, some of which has been negatively impacted by its updated visuals. At its core, Rehydrated is a repetitive and cumbersome 2003 platformer. A bit of water in 2020 isn't enough to soak new life into this old dried up sponge.
Edna & Harvey: The Breakout – Anniversary Edition takes the much maligned English version of the much lauded German original and gives it a fresh coat of paint that feels right at home on modern consoles, yet still retains some of the original problems that kept it from joining the point-and-click pantheon of greats. It's got a great new art style and a fantastically intuitive console interface, but never breaks out of a kind of plodding mediocrity that keeps it from moving up from being just okay to something better.
Skelattack is a game of exceptional mediocrity, a frustrating adventure with an identity crisis and a balance problem. It screams potential that it never even comes close to reaching as it draws obvious inspiration from numerous places, but fails to capture the charm and intention behind those progenitors. Its story and art is its strongest aspects, but the stagnant gameplay drags down what could have otherwise been a pretty good concept. There's a core of a good idea here, but like it's lead character, there's simply no meat on these bones.
The Last of Us Part II is an era-defining game; a perfect companion to the first that harmonizes with, rather than smothers, that original pivotal ending, crafting an unforgettable and emotionally challenging narrative with these beloved characters.
In terms of the quality of the content, Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath is a great addition to a genre that typically only sees smaller updates like characters and stages. Shang Tsung taking a lead role brings a classic Mortal Kombat feel back to the story that has long since abandoned the more grounded conflict between the realms for events taking place on a much grander scale across time. While its price as an add-on may be pretty high for what it ultimately delivers, being part and parcel of a complete collection of Mortal Kombat 11 makes it a great entry point for new players who didn’t pick the brutal fighter up since it released last year.