For all the new in Kingdom Hearts 3, there is plenty of the old too. The action combat is more satisfying than it's ever been, even if it's a tad easy to skate through the main storyline. For longtime fans of the series, all those emotional payoffs that have been building for 17 years await. For newcomers, buckle up: because you're in for a wild ride of bonkers Disney interactions and some exciting boss battles.
If you miss your S.E.E.S. pals or Phantom Thieves buddies, then look no further than the boogie bliss of Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight. While it's a rhythm game still best suited for portable, if you're a fan of the Persona soundtracks, it's a sweet way to enjoy its excellent music all over again. Though without a story mode unlike its predecessor and a so-so rhythm game still at its core, both games end up feeling a little lesser, reserving these entries for only the most dedicated and eager of fans.
Sometimes Tetris Effect dances into the profound: wherein the music, the visuals, and the act of playing Tetris can make you—dare I say it—emotional. Then there's the other side of Tetris Effect, the tedium with instant-fast speeds and hard-to-discern tetrominos in more than just a few levels. Tetris Effect is at its best when it's just normal Tetris, with no strange shapes for blocks; with just the music and visuals to help you drift away as you fall into a flow. In PlayStation VR, that effect is only leveraged, making it a must-own game for the virtual reality platform.
The minigames of Super Mario Party are great, taking advantage of the Switch hardware in unique and creative ways. It's the dialed back board game and its lackluster extra modes that let the whole package down though. While it's still bound to be a great party game to break out when friends visit, it lacks the drama of the best in the series.
Life Is Strange 2's debut episode, despite its faults and its slow-moving pace, starts the series off compellingly, setting off on a road trip adventure that I'm sure will bear more hardship for the two brothers than unlikely friendships.
The Gardens Between is a great example of a puzzle game with the most simple of mechanics, showcasing how much can be stretched out of so little. Its light story of friendship is sweet (if not a bit too saccharine). It complements the core mechanic of controlling the passage of time, and well, the inevitability of how no matter how much you'd like time to stand still sometimes, it'll move along regardless.
Despite a new developer at its helm, Shadow of the Tomb Raider ends up feeling like more of the same. The new additions to stealth are great; the bow continues to be one of the best in all of video games. Then guns enter combat and the self-reflective story falls flat, making Shadow sometimes a chore to get through. The puzzles in those tombs are pretty spectacular though. I guess she really is the Tomb Raider now.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 won't make those who haven't clicked with the series yet a believer, but for fans, it's well worth the journey if you don't mind retreading some familiar ground. While the slow middle and Majima side campaign are disappointing, Kiwami 2 is still another solid entry in the Yakuza canon.
Katamari-likes are not quite a genre, but Donut County makes a case that it should be. Its inspiration is clear, and it takes the toy-like nature of its vision farther with a resonate message at its center. Moving around a hole and consuming all the low-poly things that lie in your path never really gets old from a mechanical perspective, even if the scripted scenarios do upon a replay from its level select. Donut County may not only make you hungry for donuts, it'll make you hungry for supporting your local family-run shops too.
There's a lot to like about We Happy Few, with its unique psychedelic dystopian setting and well-developed story, but it's the moment-to-moment action that crashes down on you like a bad dose of Joy. So-so survival elements, the lack of mission variety, frame rate issues, prolific bugs, and tedious stealth and combat will make you want to cook up some Joy for yourself, so that maybe you too can forget the bad stuff and remember only the bright side of things.
There are moments of greatness in this campaign, but I'd still only recommend it to the biggest Splatoon fans—the ones who play it on a nightly basis like me, itching for an Octoling to join Inkopolis in Turf War and Ranked battles. Otherwise, more casual fans might find Octo Expansion to be a touch too grueling to love.
If you can deal with a healthy dose of bugs, State of Decay 2 is an extremely satisfying and unpredictable management sim with a solid action-survival game laid on top. The sequel's improved UI, new multiplayer component, and additional maps help it stand out from its predecessor, even if the moment-to-moment is largely the same.
You may think it's impossible to feel empathetic over an inanimate blanket, and yet, in Forgotton Anne it feels like second nature. And not just for blankets—for all long forgotten things brought to life in the magical Forgotten Lands. While the platforming is often frustrating, the game's captivating world, art direction, and meaningful choices more than make up for it.
Even with a cliched story at its center, A Way Out's persistent co-op elevates it to new heights for the newly married co-op adventure genre. The split-screen ebbs and flows according to what's happening with each character, enriching what would usually be a more-typical, stagnant co-op experience. While the middle of the game drags in some sections and finds itself littered with lousy, inessential combat, its first few hours and superb finale sequence are strong enough to make the whole journey worth seeing through.
On the surface, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine seems like it has a recipe for an incredible game. It stretches the lengths of what story-driven, Twine-like games can accomplish in scope—thematically, narratively, and in terms of the dozens of writers from different cultures and backgrounds behind them. And yet, the game's onerous pace and the way it relegates the stories you collect to flash cards ends up doing a disservice to the game's strengths.
Platformers, especially those with a retro flair, come along often. But so rarely do they work as well as Celeste does. Celeste is an exercise of excellence in the well-trodden platforming genre. Whether it's the score that kicks up just as busily just as heroine Madeleine does, the mechanics that build and build with each new room you uncover, or its lushly pixelated landscapes: there's a lot to love in Celeste. It's the sort of game that makes you feel strong while playing it; if you can dash-jump through impossible holes between narrow icy spikes to climb that goddamn mountain, you can probably do anything.