Alex Santa Maria
- Halo: Combat Evolved
- Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
- Burnout 3: Takedown
It's impossible to experience the greatest moments of GTFO without a group of friends, but the launch version of the game makes it worth the effort. 10 Chambers has developed a content-packed co-op shooter where it's exhilarating to succeed - and, crucially, it can even be fun to fail. There's just enough horror and action to satisfy a wide variety of players, but finding those players and gathering them on a regular basis can be a hassle. Still, anyone willing to do so will see that GTFO has a huge chance for success in the long term, especially if the developers continue to crank out more highly refined nightmares.
It's not often that a falling block puzzler can capture the imagination, but Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon finds a buried nugget of novelty in this well-worn ground. Even though it's possible to blast through the adventure, most players will find that savoring the gameplay and enjoying their time with the noble knights is the right call. Pocket Dungeon feels of a kind with Nintendo's various Mario spinoffs and should be an essential purchase for not just fans of the series but puzzle gaming aficionados everywhere.
While Hextech Mayhem: A League of Legends Story provides a great experience in short bursts, none of its levels feel as replayable as the best of the developer's past work or the best of the rhythm genre. This is a fatal flaw in a game with gated progression, and there are no supplementary modes or other features to distract from it. As it stands, the game's mix of mobile mechanics makes its release on traditional platforms baffling, and only those who are immediately intrigued by Ziggs in a game outside of League of Legends will get something substantial out of the final product in its current available forms.
At the very least, Vaas: Insanity succeeds more than Far Cry 6 proper at moving the franchise forward. By the same token, sanding off the hard edges of a character conceived in a much different world could sever the last few connections to Far Cry's glorious past. The DLC's roguelike structure feels novel but incomplete, another ultimately unsuccessful attempt at mixing things up after Far Cry: New Dawn's RPG elements and Far Cry 5's DLC adventures into new genres. If Ubisoft can do a better job of recapturing the spirit of its other two antagonists in the rest of Far Cry 6's season pass (or in the recently rumored Vaas film project) franchise fans may finally have something to celebrate in 2021.
Demon Turf feels like a missed opportunity for its engaging, interesting new world to be catered to such a niche audience. Perhaps these lost levels can give way to an adventure with Beebz that's more up to speed with the general public, but for now, Demon Turf is well worth a try for hardcore platforming fans and difficult to recommend for those less fond of the genre.
With a lengthy campaign that supports every aspect of its genre-bending gameplay, The Riftbreaker feels like a momentous big-budget release. Thankfully, its amazing visuals that scale well from less powerful rigs all the way to the latest GPUs keeps its aesthetic an eye-popping selling point across multiple setups. The fact that it can also showcase that graphical prowess on the latest consoles and still provide a refined strategy experience makes this a special entry into the genre. EXOR Studios has delivered a surprisingly great single-player experience that offers dozens of hours of thoughtful play.
This all isn't to say that the entire game is a slog, but Into The Pit rolls out new content far too slowly. With player upgrades that are mostly changing numbers around and rooms that aren't hard to puzzle out, playing becomes an exercise in enduring repeated content before finally stumbling onto something that makes things feel fresh. Even then, what does unlock often isn't enough to truly fuel more runs. At the end of the day, Into The Pit is too repetitive to truly succeed as a roguelike and too skim on content to survive as an FPS without those trappings.
Overall, Lemnis Gate brings a lot of innovation to the table, surpassing its time travel rival to present a strategic FPS that's well worth some attention. While held back by a lack of modes outside of online multiplayer and an outdated presentation, launching on the hugely successful Xbox Game Pass service makes the game palatable to those with an existing subscription. Whether it's jumping into an online lobby or gathering a group of friends for private matchmaking, there's nothing else quite like Lemnis Gate on console, and it's well worth a look for anyone who wants to see one possible future of the FPS genre.
Hot Wheels Unleashed feels less like a cohesive racing experience and more like a framework where more and more Hot Wheels branded content can live as the months go on. This comes through not only in the lackluster presentation but in the currency system that robs players of any sense of urgency to complete missions. It doesn't feel satisfying to go through an hour of races and grind up currency to get a single box that contains a duplicate of an already-unlocked car.
Thankfully, there is enough in WarioWare: Get It Together to keep fans plugging away at high scores and microgame mastery. The character movement can make some of the games far too simplistic when compared to the timing-based gameplay of past series entries and in the similar Rhythm Heaven series. However, the trade-off in pure variety makes for microgames that keep players on their toes for far longer, and anything that keeps the WarioWare train going is a good thing. Even after excising the baffling online mode, this is the same great WarioWare experience on a platform that lets players bring it to the couch and share Wario's distinctive brand of gaming with friends and family.
For all its faults, Cruis'n Blast does a great job of capturing the style of its '90s predecessors. Throughout its various cups and in multiplayer, there's a lot of arcade fun that's a welcome break for anyone tired of Mario Kart 8. It's easy to wish that more time went into having a variety of modes rather than tracks that can feel too similar to stand out, and the graphics certainly aren't hiding the fact that this game was first released five years ago. Still, anyone looking to relive the days of Cruis'n USA will find a lot to like by taking a whirlwind tour of what Blast has to offer.
Beyond Mankind: The Awakening has few redeeming qualities. The story is nothing new, the gameplay has pacing issues, and the presentation is generations out of date. There are plenty of indie games out there that showcase innovative gameplay and moving storytelling for a relatively small fee, and with the bar that high, Beyond Mankind: The Awakening fails to even make the jump to try to meet it.
Ultimately, Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions has the same depth as one of Capcom's arcade home port from decades ago, and no amount of Survivor music, Rocky quotes, or arcade gameplay can distract from how little there is to do. For big fans of the films, Creed Champions might just be worth a pickup for the arcade mode's absurd spins on Rocky lore, but anyone else will have to really consider their options before getting into the ring.
Considering how few nostalgic throwbacks exist for Taito's back catalog, it's a shame that the Space Invaders Invincible Collection isn't a home run. Without the inclusion of Space Invaders Extreme, the whole thing would be a hard sell. This selection is by no means definitive, and several of the included games are mere variants with differences that even some hardcore fans may not recognize right off the bat. Anchoring the entire set, Extreme is certainly worth the time of anyone who enjoys a good arcade challenge, but the rest of the offering is only going to appeal to diehard fans of the arcade classic.
While there is definitely room for improvement, Jupiter Hell is one of those Early Access projects that really used its time well. Two years of development make this finished product feel like a polished and definitive roguelike experience. Imminently approachable and nostalgically fulfilling, Jupiter Hell slays all expectations and provides a potent combination of action and strategy that shouldn't be missed. Everyone from veteran rogues to boomer shooter diehards will find something to appreciate in these bloodstained halls.
Shadowverse: Champion's Battle isn't going to be remembered as a game of the year candidate, and fans of the original game will likely have more fun continuing to play on phones rather than giving this a shot. However, for fans of the anime and those who enjoy a good family-friendly JRPG, Cygames has put together a well-rounded experience that shouldn't be ignored. It's fun to spend a few dozen hours remembering how engrossing an absurd story about a group of friends saving the world with card games can be, and Shadowverse: Champion's Battle does that better than most.
From the moment that Boomerang X's demo hit Steam, it was possible that DANG! and Devlover had a hit brewing, and the full experience delivers on that promise. No occasional difficulty spikes can get in the way of this exciting mixture of retro FPS movement and stylish action, and Boomerang X will likely remain a contender for one of 2021's best indie titles throughout the rest of the calendar year.