That being said, Life is Strange 2 boldly covers subject matter that so often is tiptoed around or completely ignored in entertainment, and it's refreshing to see the studio address topics like racism and police brutality head-on. While I'd like to see some technical aspects polished up (the facial animations still lack a decent range of expression, for example), Episode 1 is a solid start on this new saga in the series. I look forward to seeing what becomes of the Diaz brothers as they continue to head towards Mexico over the course of the next four episodes.
Give me a female lead who wakes up, pisses out her diaphragm and does a shot of Jager while she's still on the toilet. Give me someone who is messy, who makes mistakes not out of a misguided and entitled sense of right and wrong, but because human beings are flawed and have complicated motivations. It's a tall order in an atmosphere where AAA games are designed just as much by their investors as they are their writers, but in the case of Shadow of the Tomb Raider, I still wish they'd actually get their hands dirty.
As a first-party Nintendo game, it's entirely possible my expectations were a little too high going into the game. That said, it didn't feel worth the storage space it took up on my SD card, even though I got it for free. The game aims for surreal and surprising, but just feels shallow. Desperate to find something nice to say about WarioWare Gold, I even tried the "kid test" and ran it by my young niece.
These days, with all the focus on online multiplayer, it's not as easy to find a satisfying couch co-op game, especially one that can be enjoyable across several age groups. Playing such a good one reminds me of how much more spirited a game feels when you can feed off the other players' energy in person. Overcooked 2 should be cherished, even if it's exhausting and threatens to tear your family apart.
Things do pick up once the matches get serious. The variations in each level are a great change of pace, and cycling through the power moves and special shots can be really satisfying once you built up the dexterity and reflexes to pull them off. It's just such a shame that you have to skip through so much of the game just to play it. When I actually get to play Mario Tennis Aces, I really enjoy it. But it lacks the luster of that high quality Nintendo shine.
And until then, the game is still solid enough to be worth a playthrough, especially at its price point and if you're a fan of VR. While I'm still not sure splitting the games into chapters was necessary, it works to provide a bit of a break between lengthy sections spent meandering through airspace, which helps ensure the game's main gimmick doesn't become too stale. Downward Spiral: Horus Station is drifting in the right direction, even if it sometimes loses its grip.
The story, mechanics, lore and aesthetic are all fantastic, but some simple tweaks, like improvements to the mission notes, would balance the crafting and survival aspects enough to make them less of an impediment to completion. That being said, whatever effort you put in to finish Smoke and Sacrifice will be worth it. It's flawed, but it's a step in the right direction for survival crafting games, and I hope to see others in its genre take the same initiative towards aesthetic and narrative in the future.