Trials Rising adds a layer of annoyance on top of its already-winning formula, with its clunky world map and tedious level gating. Luckily, beneath that exterior it's just as electrifying as it's always been. The tracks are all a joy to race through as you chase landing on the leaderboard or overcoming tough Contracts. With its international approach and attention to detail, each level's design—from an art and gameplay perspective—feels like the best Trials has ever been.
The newly introduced cooperative puzzles and some of the new concepts are where BoxBoy + BoxGirl shine the brightest, like a yellow laser striking down pain. Even with a bit too much of a samey feel now four games in, and some performance issues when the levels and abilities get complex, BoxBoy + BoxGirl is a swell puzzle outing for the Switch.
Judgment is very much a Yakuza game in detective clothing, but with some clever twists and a killer mystery at the center, it ends up feeling surprisingly distinct. While some of the detective-specific mechanical additions are a drag, everything else vibes really well with the familiar Kamurocho setting. It's easily the best of the recent line of Dragon Engine-developed games in the series—even without Kiryu Kazuma at the center, and even without a karaoke minigame.
Zachtronics make a detour from its puzzle game destiny with the visual novel Eliza. It's slick in its design, though shy on the big choices you might expect from most visual novels. Still, packed with a stellar solitaire minigame, impressive voice acting, and one of the most prescient narratives I've seen in games, if you're a fan at all of interactive stories that'll have you gripped from start to finish, Eliza is it.
Untitled Goose Game is a game about being a bully, but an adorable one. As a pesky goose, you honk, waddle, and drive human beings nuts—I assume as real-life geese do. The occasional frustrating task barely holds back Untitled Goose Game when it's at its best: where you're setting up elaborate (or not) situations to annoy people and ruin their day.
Some significant technical issues manage to do little to hold back the charm and wit of Wattam. It's a game that's great fun for both kids and adults, with slapstick humor and a sweet message of understanding people, despite your differences, at its center. It's made with today's toxic climate in mind, boiling the world's issues into something that doesn't feel cloying, but instead feels positive and welcoming. That, to me, is an achievement.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is the best sort of remaster: its improvements may seem minimal, but it overhauls most of the tedium that once plagued the Wii RPG classic. While some things it can't fix with polish—the too-big environments, the boring side quests, its messy battle system—for fans or curious new players, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is easily the best Xenoblade Chronicles out there, even with its annoyances.
A distinct, cel-shaded and anime-inspired style isn't the only thing remarkable about Necrobarista. From its main story to the entertaining text adventures that paint between the lines of its more stylishly presented narrative, Necrobarista is an engaging visual novel from start to finish. Some minor complaints in how it executes unlocking additional text adventures does little to hold back the death-concerned coffee shop adventure.
Prolific server issues and slim bonus settings are holding Fall Guys back for now, but for the time being, the wobbly obstacle course battle royale forges its own path. It's easy to envision the game only getting bigger from here on out—especially considering this launch era has been declared as Season 1, battle pass and all. As a foundation, Fall Guys is an endlessly engaging one. I'll be chuckling as I fumble to finish lines for quite some time.
Beat by beat, you've seen elements of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim's plot elsewhere before, but you've probably never played anything quite like it. How 13 Sentinels strings its complex narrative together is nothing short of astonishing. It operates like a great melodramatic sci-fi TV show, only reworked and shuffled into an interactive format, and it takes full advantage of it. And for that, even with weak RTS battles complementing it all, it's an easy recommendation.
At its core, VA-11 Hall-A is the rare cyberpunk story that has heart, and even goes so far as to give its female characters agency in their own lives. It’s a story where we, the player, take the backseat, and soak it all in. Just like a good book.
It's rare to see game worlds as intricately detailed as the one in the space station of Tacoma. Even with its mostly lackluster characters and a story that never quite sinks its hooks into you, it's a spacecation you'll want to make time for. Hell, in what other game can I set up and play a game of billiards by myself as panicked digital ghosts worry about their livelihood? None, really.
While not the best game in either series, Puyo Puyo Tetris is still a great combination of two puzzle classics. Sometimes going together like peanut butter and jelly, other times more like peanut butter, and uh, something that doesn't go with peanut butter. All in all, a worthwhile addition to the slowly growing Switch library (or PS4 library, if spontaneous on-the-go multiplayer is not your jam).
Pyre's strengths lie in a lot of things: its beautiful visuals, amazing score, multi-branching tale, gameplay that somehow marries the best of sports games and tactical RPGs. But it's wrapped in an expansive story that doesn't quite earn its keep over its many hours, and fails to flesh out the endearing characters you meet and spend time with all along the way. In the end though, Pyre's a quest worth taking if you're up for the challenge and the inevitable dread you'll feel when you lose sometimes.
Absolver comes extremely close to being an amazing game with its deep 1v1 melee combat and unpredictable player encounters, but where it falters is in, well, nearly everything else. The world feels lifeless. When more than one fighter joins a battle, battling becomes frustrating and clunky. There's a lot of potential with Absolver. But unfortunately, it's not 100 percent of the way there yet.
Episode One: Awake of Before the Storm is a surprisingly promising entry for the short three-episode series. There's the right amount of callbacks to the series that made so many fans fall in love with Chloe and Max in the first place. While I still wish the dialogue wasn't as teenager cringe-y in a not-realistic way, there's far more of it this time around that plain isn't. Hell, even Chloe's eventual over-usage of "hella" is explained in a tongue-in-cheek nod to the future. For everyone who was worried about Before the Storm's authenticity under the reigns of a new developer: don't be.
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.
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.
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.