Dragon Quest XI excels when it emphasizes fighting bad guys, exploring dungeons, and finding treasure. It's a visual feast populated by a cast of colorful monsters more engrossing than its main characters. Uneven story beats and some icky bits sometimes slow Dragon Quest down, but superb mechanics remain the focus, making Echoes of an Elusive Age a top-tier JRPG for the modern age.
Superhypercube is simple, but thankfully the comprehensible premise doesn't confuse simplicity with shallowness. As your skill improves and the challenge increases, rotating and dropping the ever-changing three-dimensional shapes gets ever more engaging. When I eventually, inevitably crashed, I was always hammering restart the moment the prompt appeared. That’s the mark of an amazing puzzle game.
While Fire and Ice’s art direction and music are woefully generic, the well-constructed level layouts create a solid arcade-style experience that accomplishes a sense of extraordinary speed while accommodating a reasonable degree of control. Sonic Boom successfully draws from much of what makes the best of classic Sonic game play satisfying, sprinkles in a better-conceived exploratory structure, and remixes it into an intelligent, cohesive, and rewarding package.
Route Zero: Act 4 constantly alternates between serene and unsettling, with the occasional dash of humor thrown in. The comic visual and dialogue nods help immensely, keeping the dense, introspective writing from simply becoming too much navel gazing. And Route Zero certainly seems to understand this about itself, poking cleverly at its own art-film aesthetic from within while still unapologetically engaging topics like spiritual exhaustion, death, orphanage, and existential angst. The balance works.
Contraptions Workshop seems tailor-made for YouTube or Twitch, a delightfully conceived tool for showing off the creative genius of dedicated and inventive craftspeople to online audiences. It certainly succeeds in that ambition. Building any effective automation requires experimentation and rewards practice, creating a real sense of progression that's surprising for a game with no new mission or story content.
Wasteland Workshop adds some neat new cosmetic window dressing to Fallout’s settlement-building systems, but the piecemeal additions didn't include enough new gameplay applications to hold my interest. The traps and creature-capture mechanics are briefly enjoyable but not fully fleshed out, which quickly makes them deteriorate into disappointments.
Automatron is a fun piece of DLC that expands Fallout 4 in some interesting ways, applying the sort of customization previously reserved for settlements to your traveling companions. The results are satisfying. The story mode is brief, the narrative is mundane, and sadly the all-too-familiar Fallout 4 bugs are still hanging around, but the overall experience is rewarding, imaginative, and a pleasure to play.
Thanks to the timeless quality of the writing, Day of the Tentacle remains as enjoyable today as it was when first released over twenty years ago. Faithfulness to the original art design is reflected in every lovingly-drawn line and hue of the gorgeous graphical presentation, and the zany humor is consistently spot-on. New players should be aware that the leaps in logic can make a few of the puzzles very difficult, but the witty wisecracks keep the search for solutions tremendously entertaining.
There's a pretty good game buried somewhere inside Cobalt, obscured by layers of poor balancing and technical glitches. The energetic combat and fun weapons make multiplayer a neat pick-up-and-play experience, but the bungled and buggy story mode just doesn't cut it. Cobalt left me feeling blue.
Submerged attempts to replace tension with curiosity as a motivating force, and largely succeeds even though its environmental storytelling isn't as dense as it could've been. It's an unchallenging, occasionally beautiful experience that caters to our instinct to see what's on the other side of the mountain. In the moments where Submerged rewarded inquisitiveness, I loved it. When it occasionally stumbled in that responsibility, I found myself wishing for a more polished and complete world to explore.