John Cal McCormick
- Final Fantasy IX
- Persona 4 Golden
- Mass Effect 2
In the end, Unepic would probably be a better adventure game. This twenty hour or so unabashedly old school RPG is frequently broken up by conversations between characters and these interactions are amusing enough to make the often finicky platforming and combat sections worth persevering with. As a whole, the game has enough charm to recommend to fans of the genre, and those that stick around will likely be impressed by the surprisingly deep RPG mechanics and the Metroidvania approach to level design. However, it's hard not to wonder if the quality of the writing on display here would be better served in a game with a stronger focus on storytelling.
Shantae and the Pirate's Curse has many of the trappings of a fantastic Metroidvania game, but has a few notable flaws holding it back from greatness. For people who can't get enough of the genre, the game will likely serve as an enjoyable and light-hearted diversion, but for gamers looking for a Metroid substitute on the PS4, there are better options like Axiom Verge or Guacamelee! already available on the system.
Shadow Complex Remastered is, in many ways, a perfect gateway drug for the Metroidvania genre. It's accessible and straightforward, and the story features just the right mix of swashbuckling heroics and moustache twirling pantomime villainy. It's perhaps too easy for seasoned veterans of the genre, and some aiming issues and questionably designed boss encounters sour the package a little, but if you've got a few hours to kill and you're waiting for another proper Metroid game, then you could do a lot worse than Shadow Complex.
Shadwen is a stealth-action game in which there's no action and the stealth is completely undermined by counter-productive design choices that defy logic or reason. The whole package suffers from a distinct lack of polish and is chock full of half-baked ideas and badly implemented mechanics. It's a Frankenstein's monster of a game stitched together from the dead bits of other, better games, but ultimately it possesses the heart and soul of none of them. There's no reason to recommend Shadwen to anybody other than prospective game developers looking for a lesson in what not to do.
Dino Dini's Kick Off Revival doesn't attempt to compete with FIFA and that's fine. There's a place on the market for simpler, old school sports games that rely on arcade fun rather than authenticity. But this reboot of the franchise is actually a step backwards for the series in some ways, and the lack of a tutorial or help of any kind results in the learning curve being more of a learning brick wall. There's nothing wrong with being difficult to master, but the game is difficult to pick up and play too, and the rewards too few to justify the effort. Kick Off Revival can be okay in short bursts, but the sheer weight of issues with the game make it hard to recommend to anybody other than fans of the original Kick Off games. And even they will likely be disappointed.
Where The Banner Saga stands head and shoulders above most other role-playing games is that the world created by Stoic Studio here feels truly on the precipice of collapse. So often when we play role-playing games we're given a rag-tag band of heroes who must join together to overcome a seemingly insurmountable threat. But for all the apocalyptic histrionics of games like Skyrim, Persona 4, or one of many Final Fantasy titles, there's always amusing side-quests to take part in or brief moments of levity to break up the tension. The Banner Saga 2 is a story about the end of the world, and few games do a better job of constantly reminding you of that fact.
Roger Ebert once famously opined that video games are not art, and Ghostbusters is Exhibit A for his case. This is not art. It barely qualifies as a game. Sure, it's not broken like some games are. It's functional. It works. But there's no risk, no ambition, and not a trace of anything resembling the personality of the Ghostbusters movies or cartoons. This is a game that seems like it was made with the specific purpose of tricking parents who don't know any better into buying it for their kids.Who ya gonna call? The Samaritans, probably.
As far as puzzle platformers go, Inside is the new benchmark. This is a game that manages to spin a compelling yarn without uttering a single word, and one that is designed so meticulously that the puzzles it contains never once become rote or frustrating. It's beautiful to look at, and the minimalist sound design complements the almost greyscale aesthetic perfectly. But beyond the technical proficiency on display, the true genius of Inside is in the feeling that it left us with once it was all over. This is a game that will probably stay in your thoughts for days once you've finished it.
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X is definitively the finest music game on PlayStation 4. It boasts a ton of replay value, and the mechanics are in a league of their own. Trying to better your own high scores can become incredibly addictive, and you could sink hours into the game without even realising it. If you know that you hate J-pop then this game won't be for you any more than a great football game like FIFA 15 would be for someone that hates sports. But if you're willing to take a chance on Hatsune Miku and her sugary sweet brand of pop, then you'll find an incredibly well-crafted rhythm game that is welcoming to new players while providing just enough of a challenge for veterans of the genre.
Even if you haven't seen the Psycho-Pass television series before, Mandatory Happiness does a good enough job of making it clear what's going on to be enjoyable. It tells an engaging and thought-provoking story that deals with some heavyweight and uncomfortable subjects, and one that poses plenty of ethical dilemmas along the way. If you can get past the borderline non-existent gameplay then the narrative will probably keep you entertained for a dozen hours or so, although it may leave you wondering if this story would have been better told over a few episodes of the anime instead.
While the occasional technical issues might hamper the experience somewhat, XCOM 2 remains a superb strategy game that expertly weaves stellar mechanics and emotional story-telling into an engrossing campaign in which every choice that you make feels genuinely important. It can be both brutally difficult and depressingly ruthless, but the scant moments of joy that you'll experience in your attempts to overthrow the alien regime should provide more than enough incentive to keep fighting the good fight.
Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky is an advertisement for the mantra that less is more. There's an enjoyable ten hour game here, but it's buried in a repetitive and frustrating forty hour experience in which the majority of the content not only feels superfluous, but actually detrimental to the whole. The story it tells might be good enough to justify grinding through the uninspired battles and platforming sections were the game dramatically shorter, but as it is the sporadic narrative can't save what is a largely tedious affair.
The core Hatsune Miku gameplay has barely changed, so if you liked it before, you'll like it now. The most compelling case for picking up Project DIVA Future Tone lies in the options you're given as to how much of the game you want to buy. While the free, base package won't give you much to sink your teeth into, either of the reasonably priced add-on packs offer an awful lot of bang for your buck, and combined they make up the most robust and complete version of Hatsune Miku ever released.
Nioh is about as approachable as a game of this ilk can be, and while that may offend the hardcore sensibilities of some Souls fans, it's a title that will likely appeal to many players who want a gameplay challenge but are turned off by the obtuse nature of Dark Souls' storytelling and the murky explanations of its mechanics. The experience is marred by some unfortunate difficulty spikes and lacklustre bosses, but the rich loot, levelling systems, and fast, often thrilling combat do more than enough to justify Nioh as a worthy contemporary to From Software's efforts – and an impressive return to form for Team Ninja.
There's a kernel of an idea buried within The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing that has potential. The son of a legendary vampire killer continuing where his father left off is at the very least a vaguely compelling starting point, and the action RPG genre could certainly benefit from some more humorous titles to serve as palette cleansers between all the hell and death and misery. Van Helsing's lighthearted tone certainly helps it to stand out from most games in the genre, but neither the battle system or the narrative are interesting enough to make it worth persevering with the other.
One part Persona, one part Ace Attorney, and one part Battle Royale, Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair are two of the very best murder mystery titles available for PS4 right now, together in one pack. While the games may move just a tad too slowly for some players, those willing to take a chance on a visual novel with a difference will find Danganronpa to be a fascinating, multi-faceted, frequently surprising story that's among the most compelling on the market, full of engaging characters, anarchic humour, and jaw-dropping twists.
PaRappa the Rapper Remastered is a time capsule from the late 90s – warts and all. The high-definition gloss might make the game look better than ever, but it can't mask how the genre has moved on in PaRappa's absence. The mechanics don't hold up against the competition of today, but the fantastic soundtrack, charming characters, and budget price should prove more than enough to get the nostalgia juices flowing in anyone who remembers the old dog's first outing 20 years ago. You gotta believe!
Mass Effect: Andromeda is a great game buried under a mountain poor design choices and narrative shortcomings. Everything is more complicated than it needs to be, and the sheer amount of busy work forced upon the player is staggering, but if you can be bothered to put in a few hours doing the admin there are plenty of rewards for fans of the series. It's not the Mass Effect you were hoping for, and it doesn't live up to the high standard set by the original trilogy, but as a jumping off point for a new trilogy in a new galaxy there are enough promising characters and intriguing story elements to suggest the Andromeda 2 might be everything you wished this game would be.
Tangled Up in Blue lacks the narrative heft of many of the best Telltale games, and the individual Guardians aren't given enough to work with in the short running time to help distinguish them from the versions seen in the 2014 movie. There are flickers of hope – usually involving Rocket – that the characters will come into their own in future episodes, and some of the flashbacks and backstory hint that the storyline might go in interesting directions, but it feels like Guardians of the Galaxy-lite, lacking the irreverent humour, swashbuckling action, and the occasional heart of James Gunn's surprise hit.
For those who have grown accustomed to the Telltale approach to adventure gaming, Dreamfall Chapters might prove to be too frustrating an experience to warrant persevering with, but for people who fondly remember trapping the infamous goat in Broken Sword or the rubber chicken zip-line in Monkey Island, it might provide a welcome dose of nostalgia.