Reflection upon Yooka-Laylee raises a genuine smile in a way that few video games ever do these days. Undoubtedly, this will sound like the stereotypical ramblings of a Banjo-Kazooie fan drunk on nostalgia; it's true that when Rare slipped into obscurity, setting to work on other types of projects, they left a massive void for this brand of quirky, humorous, collection-heavy platforming adventure. Playtonic has recognised and rectified this, reminding the gaming world that this sub-genre has fallen out of favour for far too long. While it leans on a unique contextual crux, considering the team's history and the Kickstarter origins of the project, the end result is something truly delightful in its own right. A brilliant successor that perfectly channels the creative energies of the N64 platforming era.
While no single element of Red Dead Redemption 2 is revolutionary, due to its ambitious scope, it's greater than the sum of its parts. Few single-player experiences excel simultaneously at telling a deep and poignant story, whilst also providing the player with such a huge extent of freedom and possibility.
DiRT 4 really does succeed in extrapolating new things from two different sides of the driving spectrum. The 'Your Stage' procedural track generator really does feel like a revelation, which will ensure that drivers remain on their toes even after clocking countless hours already. As stated, it's remarkable what this can do for drivers if they're willing to adapt and learn, and certainly helps to cultivate technical understanding and development. A more in-depth follow-up review on the PC version will be coming soon, but there's no doubt about it: DiRT 4 is one of the most exciting driving releases this year. A much-celebrated brand comes back with a bang.
While no single component is particularly revolutionary or unfamiliar to the genre, this is an extremely memorable platforming experience that, unlike its main collect-a-thon rival this year, never feels laboured. This is down to a nicely streamlined but still deep hub and world structure, in conjunction with so many neat touches and playful twists on the collect-a-thon formula. From start to finish, it's charming and funny, with excellent art design and gorgeous visuals. The music from Pascal Michael Stiefel is brilliant (although it's a shame that only two tracks were contributed by Grant Kirkhope in the end) while the use of real dialogue definitely makes things livelier and more engrossing. Through all this, its sheer charm and its gratifying gameplay mechanics, A Hat in Time affords itself the ability to do what it wants, and ensures that it really goes the distance. It never overindulges in nostalgia or tribute, and it makes sure to poke fun at itself, as well as the rest, along the way. It's a collect-a-thon gem, if ever there was one.
DiRT Rally 2.0 does nothing but improve the reputation of the purest, modern rally series out there. Codemasters' flagship sequel retains the same uncompromising sense of difficulty and challenge as seen in the original, but achieves it with a new-found sense of finesse and variety. The expanded and evolved Rallycross experience offers something equally visceral, but in a more quick-fire format and with exciting contact-based racing. This is an excellent counter-weight to the more gruelling and linear experience found in Rally events, and it may serve as the better jumping-in point for lesser skilled players. Overall, Codemasters have outdone themselves with one of the greatest rally packages ever made. Whether it quite out-manoeuvres Richard Burns Rally where it counts, the physics and handling through the wheel, is a matter of opinion, but it certainty hits that mark. One thing is for sure, rally fans everywhere must play DiRT Rally 2.0!
In conclusion, ignoring the stat glitches, lack of private lobbies and the somewhat questionable way the game is packaged, what's underneath the hood is seriously impressive. Any dedicated racing nuts who feel like testing themselves at the wheel on console should look no further. While there are other console games, such as Project CARS, with more cars and more courses, claiming also to be serious racers, Assetto Corsa undeniably owns the genre on console now, due to its uncompromising and unwavering dedication to realism. For now, there's nothing better for that on console. It's just a shame that it lacks the polish and omits some major draws, such as private online lobbies, which stop it from being considered a classic.
Ultimately, The Magic Circle relies on its pure intrigue to sustain the player throughout. It draws on decades of gaming history, offering a short, but poignant, commentary on the state of games today, whilst still managing to deliver something altogether quite different. Occasionally, the game requires your willing patience, but once a couple of hours have been sunk into this fantastic abstract meta game, you'll likely revel in its charm and inventiveness.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole is an excellent RPG that adds a hefty amount of mechanical depth to improve upon The Stick of Truth. Admittedly, some of the gaming commentary is less effective if the player has experience with the previous instalment. However, there are still plenty of surprises and enough side-splitting moments to make it a must-buy for any fans of South Park, especially if seasoned gamers, too. While the storyline itself isn't quite as clever as something from the show, the jokes and dialogue meet the same standards. The kid's move from fantasy to super heroes pays off, although if there's a third adventure, it would need to deviate more substantially from its predecessor. It's a shame the existing DLC couldn't have been included as standard, but at least the Switch version runs without issue for the most part, and wasn't delayed for too long. Overall, this is an excellent port.
Although this is a forgiving stance, there's just so much more that captivates: from the intense battles, and slaying of dragons, to the gradual sense of empowerment as the player's character grows and develops, distinguishing powers and abilities. There are so many hidden secrets in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition, so many facets to unearth, and choices within those to fraternise over, it's hard not to be sucked in by its charm and intrigue. So long as it's appreciated for what it is, a revisiting of a classic that influenced practically all open-world RPGs that came after it, Skyrim Special Edition is a very stellar package which holds up very well indeed, despite it's issues, against more recent competition. If you've never played it, now is the perfect time, and with the advent of the Playkey service, it opens up the game to a much wider audience.
On reflection, F1 2016 is a game that has enhanced itself significantly with this instalment. It accentuates the smaller details of the sport, but also makes a series of more wholesale changes, which makes the game seem more purposeful. The availability of proper lap analysis and telemetry data brings a proper purpose to practice sessions. It finally turns a too often pointless mode into the proactive, useable tool that it should be for improving driver performance. While it's not the perfect outing, it's a more serious and functional affair that will appeal to the purists two-fold. Codemasters has certainly learnt from DiRT Rally, which didn't deter less serious racing fans, but introduced the details to players in the right way. Although it is not quite perfect overall, it's an encouraging step in the right direction and still easily the most authentic F1 racing game ever made.