DeadToast Entertainment has made a game that builds on the systems and mechanics it introduces incrementally to the player. This is a game where you feel like John Wick, (or maybe Neo for a more accurate Keanu Reeves reference) by game’s end. The late game annoyances in platforming don’t sour what is otherwise and incredibly fun game where you’re in direct control of the action. The tagline is “Blood. Bullets. Bananas.” and that couldn’t be more accurate. Though, I’ll never look at a banana the same way again after experiencing the final level. My Friend Pedro is equal parts substance and style, with emphasis on the style.
There’s nothing cooler than seeing a Ferrari F40 re-imagined as a LEGO vehicle that you can not only drive but customize in Forza Horizon 4. In a lot of ways, this feels like a test for Playground Games to do a standalone LEGO racing game someday. As it stands, this is a great expansion for people of all ages, despite how displaced it seems from the rest of the game. LEGO Speed Champions doesn’t disappoint in its delivery, but it does feel like it’s taken a few missteps in the build process. Ultimately, this is a childhood fantasy come true.
MotoGP 19 has so much new going on that makes this a must-own for those following the franchise. The series still manages to lack a personality, but is now forming its identity with this release. The before and after TV-style presentation is really solid, but I wish there was more. Fans and historians of the sport will love the challenge mode, and everything it offers. If you've never played the series before, this is the year to get into MotoGP. MotoGP 19 has no shortage of simulation racing to be found in its multitude of well-rounded modes.
Shakedown: Hawaii is better than Retro City Rampage in just about every way, but they find a way to compliment each other. The game’s biggest strength is not relying on references, even though I miss them. The story is very guided by being very hand-holdy. I wish you were given more creative latitude, but that’s where the free roam and arcade modes come into play. With a styling akin to a Super Nintendo or Genesis console, Shakedown: Hawaii looks and plays amazing. It’s being ported to literally everything, and no matter where you play it: you absolutely should.
Void Bastards is among the very best of the genre, and my favorite game of the year so far — it’s an instant classic. It’s as if you have infinite lives, and upon death you realize your save is 15 minutes old. Sure, you can’t pick up from where you left off, but it’s never anything to feel defeated about when you have to start anew. Blue Manchu has thought of everything when it comes to its systems and how they interact with each other. Centered around the story and progression, this is a wonderful experience. Without hesitation, Void Bastards is exceptional in every sense of the word.
Hell is Other Demons offers two great, differing modes that will grab your attention, and hold it for hours. The aesthetic will almost hurt your eyes, but you’ll never want to look away from it as the soundtrack and accompanying effects both visually and audibly are tantalizing. Cuddle Monster Games has achieved something special with Hell is Other Demons. This is a devilishly clever bullet-hell shooter that you need to see for yourself.
RAGE 2 is doused in neon, bright colors, and blood. This post-apocalyptic punk-wave world is an absolute blast thanks to the co-development of id Software and Avalanche Studios blending styles and ideas. I wish there were more main missions as they are often the most exciting part of the game, but this is a game where you make your own fun. It has a better and satisfying ending over the previous, and has a fully-realized open-world with things to do that doesn’t ever waste your time. RAGE 2 has been worth the wait. When combat is in full swing, its kinetic energy and momentum is the most stupid fun you can have.
Sniper Elite V2 Remastered has dated gameplay that’s a stark reminder at how much the series has improved with Sniper Elite 3 and Sniper Elite 4. When examining this game as a purely standalone experience, Sniper Elite V2 Remastered is a solid game that benefits from improved visuals and a way for those who haven’t experienced this series with a better way of doing so. This game’s influence is one to be remembered, and is captured so well with this remaster.
I feel like Starlink: Battle For Atlas has been overlooked, and very much underappreciated. It offers a fantastic space arcade experience whether you’re on a planet or in space, and the smooth transitions between each is ever so satisfying. I do consider the PC version the best and definitive way to play the game, with the exception of the Star Fox content you’d find on the Switch. It is also otherwise in full parity with the other console versions to include the support of the physical toys if you wish to go down that route. Starlink: Battle For Atlas is great for all ages, and has no shortage of content or enjoyment.
Katana ZERO is really fantastic at providing mind-bending, reality altering sequences both in gameplay and story. While I never felt like I knew where things were going, it ultimately falls short of greatness by the end. With nothing more than a tease and a wink, the game ends, feeling unfinished with too much of a setup to continue via DLC or a sequel. That said, Katana ZERO is absolutely a worthwhile slashction platformer that does unexpected things with its story to make this a must play.
At five dollars, ISLANDERS is a steal. What it lacks in permanence, it more than makes up for in replayability thanks to its point system for score chasers and procedurally generated landscapes. I only wish I could zoom in to get a better look at what I’ve made, but that’s a quibble against something really fantastic and cool. Beyond that, this is a game I keep coming back to for how laid back it is, for it relaxes me between games I’m playing. ISLANDERS is simply wonderful, a micro game for macro enjoyment.
Dangerous Driving is somewhat basic for a racer, but this offering goes at incredible speeds and has unexpected depth and nostalgia for a series that’s found new life. On PC, you’ll have to forego some modern features and connectivity over its console brethren. The amount of hours you’ll spend in Dangerous Driving feels really good, and something you’ll keep coming back to. Dangerous Driving has its flaws, but it’s a magnificent return to form from a small team that knows how to make a Burnout game all but in name.
Limbic Entertainment has breathed new life into Tropico that seemingly had offered all it could with the last entry. Tropico 6 eschews the things that didn't work, keeps the things that did, and introduces tons of great new features. I enjoy how the way the new systems play off of one another, that landmasses change how traffic is shaped, the genius levels of pirating world wonders from their original locations, all adds up to a streamlined offering that lets the personality shine through. Tropico 6 doesn't miss a beat with its latest entry, even with a new developer behind the series – in fact, it is the best of the series because of it.
Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is absolutely packed with content and things to do, and those things to do never, ever get boring. There’s so much to talk about still, but this is such a wonderfully crafted game. With such a focus on longevity and setting the bar so high for quality of activities, it gives me the confidence in this game, and its future updates. I’ve never before seen such care taken into account for all players at every turn of a game. This is the most improved sequel ever made. Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is simply astounding.
Xenon Racer looks and feels just like a game you’d find in the arcade. It’s such an easy game to pick-up and play for any amount of time. It’s a fun game that suffers from just being generic, and lacking any kind of personality. It’s missing something I can’t quite put my finger on, but I think for the right price this is a good get. Xenon Racer doesn’t try to be anything more than it is, so with that, you’ll find a solid futuristic racer to play.
Hypnospace Outlaw uses its own originality to spark nostalgia for the weirdest time on the internet: the late 90s. It takes a while for it to “click”, but when it does, it’s an absolute treat as you work through your cases. With a solid 10-12 hours for the story to reach its conclusion, this is a fantastic experience I want more of. With there being more discovery and fascination ahead, you’ll only want to spend more time on this faux internet. While I wasn’t fond of the times I had to retread territory I had already cleansed, Hypnospace Outlaw is the most fun I’ve had playing a game this year so far.
After Trials Fusion, it was unclear where the series would be going from there. Trials Rising feels refreshing and more down to Earth this time around. It never fails to impress, make you laugh, or affirm you’re in complete control. This is a game that’s always fun to pick up and play, even if the things like gear crates and load times on the periphery aren’t. It’s clear RedLynx haven’t run out of tricks yet, and Trials Rising cements that – this is the best Trials has felt yet.
Far Cry New Dawn is all over the place, as crafting and resource gathering slow the game down. The RPG elements are unnecessary and not at all fitting for Far Cry. The story moves at a feverish pace, and ultimately stumbles across the finish line with underdeveloped characters, grinding materials for upgrades, and a lackluster finale. With all of that said, the shooting, stealth, and open-world are still an absolute joy. And Far Cry New Dawn finally ties up some loose ends that were dangling in Far Cry 5. Far Cry New Dawn makes the apocalypse overwhelmingly colorful, fun, and an exciting twist on the environment of Hope County.