Away: Journey to the Unexpected begins as a fun and lighthearted romp with a few very unique wrinkles to its gameplay. Unfortunately, this quickly unravels and is severely hampered by poor design choices that sour what was first an enjoyable experience.
NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 is a lacklustre effort after last year's promising start. It attempts to address some of the issues but these end up being unforced turnovers that makes the game actively worse. When you couple this with only one of the major gameplay problems being addressed, you find yourself with a disappointing sequel. This is a series that definitely does not need to be on a yearly cycle, and most people who bought the original last year will find they have already had their fill.
WWE 2K19 hasn't changed much at its core, but the smaller alterations to the overall package make it a vastly more enjoyable experience to previous instalments. Introducing a proper story to MyCareer gives players an actual reason to play it this year and it's a genuinely engaging experience. The increased depth of the player creation suite means each superstar feels different from the next, while quality of life improvements in Universe will be music to the ears of diehard fans. All of this adds up to make WWE 2K19 the best entry of this long-running series.
NBA Live 19 is an admirable attempt at snatching the NBA video game throne, but ultimately it fumbles. While there are a number of quality of life improvements in the career mode, it drops the ball in too many areas. Even diehard fans will be hard pressed to find many improvements to the series' gameplay compared to entries from a decade ago.
NBA 2K19 is once again the best simulation of basketball. When it comes to gameplay, presentation, and polish 2K's latest entry is undoubtedly unmatched. However, basic cosmetic options being held hostage behind microtransactions and an obtrusive story during MyCareer are huge unforced turnovers and prevent NBA 2K19 from cementing itself as the Greatest Of All Time.
Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion is an enjoyable sail along the high seas that is ultimately hampered by being rough around the edges. The battle system and story are an enjoyable experience, but absurdly long load times, frame rate stuttering, a clunky menu system, and a poorly developed upgrade system hamper the experience. It's still an entertaining experience, and fans of the show will likely love it, but those looking for an incredible RPG experience here might be left a little disappointed in its squandered potential.
Despite a couple of flaws, Super Bomberman R is a strong entry into a long-running franchise. It doesn't try to reinvent the wheel, but offers enough variation to the gameplay to keep veterans of the series on their toes, while also helping newcomers ease into the format. It's a shame that online battles seem to be such a mess at the moment, because with that up and running to its full potential this would easily be the definitive Bomberman game.
There is an extremely interesting world on display in Impact Winter and there are traces of greatness scattered throughout. Unfortunately, there are far too many examples of cumbersome, clumsy, and frustrating execution that end up melting away the game's frosty facade. With such a heavy emphasis on multiple playthroughs, most players would be lucky to stomach their first 30 days of survival.
Way of the Passive Fist starts out strong with an interesting concept, but that interest soon wears off thanks to poor execution. Once you've played the first chapter you've pretty much played all 10 as there is never any variation on offer. Combine this with the fundamental flaws of basing the gameplay purely around blocking and dodging and you have a recipe for a promising and unique but ultimately disappointing game.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker's Memory is an impressive take on the monster collecting Japanese RPG format. Collecting and levelling up the digimon may seem a little too simple for die hard genre enthusiasts, but the typing, elements, and memory limit all help to add extra layers of depth to the gameplay. The DigiFarm and the interactions with your monsters also help create a bond, making them more than just tools at your disposal - something that other similar games miss. Hacker's Memory is an enjoyable romp overall for both Digimon fans and non-fans alike.
Ben 10 is an enjoyable little beat-'em-up romp. All 10 of Ben's aliens feel fleshed out and vastly different from one another, and jumping from enemy-to-enemy in the fast-paced combat is suitably satisfying. Fans of the show will be thrilled with the faithful recreation of the show's art style and general feel. Unfortunately, it's a little bit let down by the afterthought upgrade system, incredibly short length, and non-existent difficulty.
WWE 2K18 is a solid entry into the annual series, but is unfortunately let down by a few clunky implementations. The presentation and actual wrestling gameplay are as good as ever and Universe Mode has seen a number of additions to make it far more enjoyable. Unfortunately, the ambitious attempt to revamp MyPlayer misses the mark a little with glitches, repetitive side-quests, and a story that's afraid to deviate even a tiny bit from its set path.
The LEGO NINJAGO Movie Video Game is another good entry in the LEGO series of games. The increased focus on combat pays off with a fleshed out system that makes each character feel unique, while the free-running provides enough safety nets to keep you from getting frustrated. Despite a couple of technical hiccups and a poorly thought out ending, LEGO NINJAGO has so much going for it that the overall experience isn't dampened.
One Piece: Unlimited World Red - Deluxe Edition is exactly what a licensed game should be. It captures the essence of the One Piece franchise through its story, writing, and characters, while also providing gameplay that could stand on its own without the name attached to it. Ganbarion has struck a delicate balance of creating a game that works for both hardcore One Piece fans and players who have never heard of the series before.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II improves over the original in some ways, but fails in many others. There are a number of great quality of life improvements here and two new classes are very welcome. Unfortunately, the meat of the game is the combat, and it's just not very interesting. It becomes a chore to trudge through enemies and there's not even the pull of an intriguing or interesting story to keep you motivated.
Leaving Lyndow has some promising aspects, but overall it's a frustrating experience. The puzzle sections are poorly thought out and mostly implemented to impede the player's progress and extend the running time for a little while longer, while the technical hiccups shatter your story immersion.
Toby: The Secret Mine has plenty of great ideas that could make it a great game, but it quickly plummets down a mineshaft thanks to a number of missteps. It generally succeeds as a puzzle game, but the heavy focus on platforming doesn't work well and hampers the overall experience. By following the basic visual style and gameplay from such a highly regarded game like Limbo, The Secret Mine sets itself a standard it's never able to reach.
Portal Knights brings some interesting new wrinkles to the crafting genre that has become so popular recently. The increased focus on combat works well, particularly with the boss battles and having a clearly defined end goal is a great way of keeping you invested. Unfortunately, some of the other additions like the poorly thought out stats system and the reliance on random drops for creating crucial portals keeps the game from ever fully achieving knighthood.
Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island is a sound gameplay experience, but lets itself down in a number of other areas. The humour and dialogue fall incredibly flat and there's really no rapport developed between Skylar and Plux during the game. The game's also very short, and while this isn't a terrible effort by any stretch, it begs the question why you wouldn't just play Ratchet & Clank instead.
NBA Playgrounds is a good modern take on the old-school arcade basketball game genre. It brings enough new ideas to the court to keep things feeling fresh, but at heart, it still retains the charm and accessibility that made NBA Jam such a beloved franchise. There are a few kicks with the shooting mechanics and rebounding is less than ideal, but the gameplay is strong enough in other areas to ensure it's still an overall slam dunk.