Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a wonderful love letter to Castlevania fans. It's gothy, camp, and unabashedly old school. But it's also a meticulously crafted game that constantly rewards players for exploration and offers unbridled options in combat. For long-time Metroidvania fans, Ritual of the Night is an unmissable celebration of the genre from the mind of one if its chief architects, while for newcomers it's an accessible entry-point that's easy to pick up and oh so difficult to put down. Let's hope the next one doesn't take quite as long.
This Diablo clone shares many of the mechanics with the famous dungeon-'em-up, but scarcely manages to execute them with the anywhere close to the same degree of quality. The moment to moment gameplay is where Warhammer: Chaosbane falls shortest, offering a loop that is neither fun nor addictive by any recognisable measure thanks to dull combat and disappointing loot. There's little reason to recommend Warhammer: Chaosbane in a world in which Diablo III exists – which is the world we currently live in – so we're not recommending it.
Observation uses the unfathomable vastness of space to wonderful effect, conjuring a palpable sense of both isolation and dread that rarely falters across the six or seven hours it'll take for you to see it though. Minor quibbles with some aspects of the storytelling and a couple of quality of life issues don't detract from what is an engrossing adventure that thrills far more frequently than it frustrates.
Phoenix Wright has finally made his debut on a PlayStation console in the form of the Ace Attorney Trilogy, and you'll have absolutely no objections from us. This collection of three brilliant games is well worth the attention of adventure game fans, visual novel aficionados, or budding lawyers. The mind-bending, labyrinthine murder plots are far-fetched but engaging, the writing is consistently pithy and amusing, and the characters you'll meet are charming and unique. It's an open and shut case – Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy rocks.
Vane is exhausting, ponderous, bewildering, endlessly frustrating, needlessly obtuse, narratively unsatisfying, mechanically clumsy, and technically shoddy, all shot through a camera so ill-equipped to deal with the rudimentary task of showing you what's happening on screen that you might as well pop a blindfold on and try using The Force.
YIIK: A Postmodern RPG, sadly, never shines as brightly as it does during its opening hours. There's enjoyment to be had here, sure, especially for anyone with love for the '90s – but all of the references to Chrono Trigger and Pogs in the world can't balance out the pleasure-less battle system and overly complicated levelling up mechanics.
Just Cause 4's traversal system can be wonderfully entertaining, and the chaotic, explosion-sim physics in play are frequently exhilarating, but they're manacled to a game that has absolutely no idea how best to use them. What's the point in giving players an array of tools that lets them cause wanton destruction on a gargantuan scale, and then designing a campaign full of drab, copy-pasted missions that barely require you to use them? It's a bit like getting the coolest BMX on the market for Christmas, but then your Mum tells you you're only allowed to ride it around the garden where she can keep an eye on you. Cheers, Mum.
Each mission in Hitman 2 is a treasure trove of wonderful emergent gameplay, excellent satirical writing, and lashings of delicious, jet-black humour. The targets you'll hunt are almost universally rotters which thankfully takes care of any lingering moral quandaries you may have about their imminent demise. It's better that way. We really don't want to feel bad about tinkering with an old man's oxygen tank so it blows up and kills him when he sparks up a cigarette, do we?
Valkyria Chronicles 4 has the unenviable task of reinvigorating a series that hasn't seen a mainline home console entry in over a decade, as well as washing away the bad taste left in players mouths after the dreadful Valkyria Revolution. That it succeeds so comfortably on both fronts is at once a surprise and a delight. The storyline is thoughtful and engrossing, the cast is varied and likeable, and the combat is challenging and rewarding throughout. This is the game Valkyria Chronicles fans have been waiting for, and one that newcomers to the series should be equally excited for.
With stellar writing, challenging combat, a compelling central quest, and dozens of worthwhile side activities, Divinity: Original Sin II is one of the finest role-playing games available on PlayStation 4. There's the occasional small issue and some scant technical hiccups – particularly when playing online – but these are minor quibbles. This is a dense, engrossing adventure, packed to the hilt with stories worth hearing, conflicts you'll want to resolve, and secret treasures just begging to be discovered.
The Banner Saga 3 is a fantastic tactical role-playing game that confidently concludes the overarching storyline of the series in a manner entirely befitting with what has come before. Little has changed on the combat front - although this game does perhaps feel a mite easier than first two Banner Saga titles - but it's the storytelling where the release truly excels. The stakes are high, and after two and a half games spent getting to know dozens of wildly different characters, watching their fates unfold during the superb finale can be both exhilarating and soul-destroying.
The Lost Child isn't a game bereft of merit, and we're sure that there's a number of people who'll enjoy the visual novel slash first person dungeon crawler approach taken here. But it's certainly a game with limited appeal - even among the role playing game demographic - thanks to the lifeless battles and cumbrous dungeon design. It's a game that pays more than a passing nod to numerous other RPGs - Pokemon, Persona, and other Shin Megami Tensei titles - but sadly, never approaches the quality of any of them.
Jurassic World Evolution sits happily in the difficulty sweet spot: it's easy enough to pick up and play that park builder novices will likely have a good time, but it's involved enough that genre veterans should enjoy it as an amusing diversion between more hardcore titles. While there's a couple of tedious processes involved, building a park is generally entertaining, and dinosaur fans – who isn't a dinosaur fan? – will likely be enamoured with the array of creatures available, and the mischief they can get up to.
Yoku's Island Express is one of the most surprising games of 2018. The combination of pinball and Metroidvania is, on paper at least, a little like dipping your French fries into your milkshake; as good as the two elements are separately, they shouldn't really work together. But thanks to an array of smart design choices, a wonderful art style, and some genuinely inventive puzzles, Yoku's Island Express is a game that only rarely frustrates – and frequently delights.
Past Cure is a bad game. It's bad bad. But it's also the best kind of bad game, in that it's not for a lack of effort or that the team were bereft of ideas that the finished product doesn't come together. If anything, the game is too ambitious, with too many ideas, and it inevitably crumbles under the weight of numerous poorly implemented gameplay styles and a total lack of a cohesive identity. It's a bit like when your mum tries making Baked Alaska for the first time – sure, the end result is a sloppy mess, but you've got to applaud the audacity to try it in the first place.
Final Fantasy fans will likely be enamoured with the array of classic locales to battle in, re-imagined songs from previous games, and the impressive roster of fighters on offer here, but it's all downhill after that. Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is a disappointing fighting game that crumples under the weight of poor design choices and crippling technical issues, leaving little reason to recommend it to anyone other than fervent supporters of the brand.
The Sims has always been pretty bizarre, when you think about it. It's different to most forms of escapism in that it turns the monotonous tasks we hate doing in real life into a game, replicating the very thing most of us are trying to avoid by playing it in the first place. The Sims 4 is the latest and best in the long running franchise and there's absolutely nothing else like it on the market for PlayStation 4. It's the most faithful recreation of the drudgery of daily life on the market, but it's also marred by a bewildering array of control quirks, annoying bugs, and overnumerous menus. If you're prepared to persevere with the more clumsily implemented aspects of the game then there's a lot to love - and there's a ridiculous amount of content - but some will likely be put off by its often obtuse nature.
Guardians of the Galaxy has been a bumpy ride, with the occasionally poignant character moments and amusing dialogue exchanges drowned out by perfunctory action sequences, tepid puzzling, and the unshakeable feeling that the whole endeavour is just a pale imitation of the Guardians movies. The finale's heightened pace plays to the series' strengths, removing much of what made previous episodes so frequently frustrating, and so perhaps if there is a second season of Telltale's Guardians -- and, like any Marvel movie, you should probably stick around until after the credits for hints as to what might happen next -- we can only hope that it follows the blueprint of Don't Stop Believin'. It's not perfect, but if you're a fan of Telltale's formula or the eponymous Marvel characters, the improved latter half of the series makes Guardians of the Galaxy just about worth playing.