Skul: The Hero Slayer is a fun little title whose cute graphics belie the tough challenges and grinds that lie within. Dying is all part of the appeal, and never once is it frustrating or unfair. You’ll want to keep returning again and again in order to get just a little bit further, or to perhaps secure a new type of outfit or skill. It deserves a place on your playlist if you have any sort of affection for old 16-bit RPG-brawlers.
Aquanox Deep Descent is a very welcome return for an underrated series. In this era of modern re-imaginings, this game delivers in introducing Aquanox’s world to a new generation of players. The movement may be slightly cumbersome and things may get a bit hard, but it always manages to be engaging and fun. The world and story, combined with the solid multiplayer elements for both PvP and co-op, make this a well-rounded experience and essential purchase for fans of six degrees of freedom-type shooting games.
Serious Sam 4: Planet Badass is a return to form for fans of the franchise, with more than enough new mechanics and contents to keep the formula interesting and fresh. But does it come recommended? Well, sure. And I say this with more conviction than any of the prior titles. Serious Sam is niche, but it’s a niche that has gained a significant following in the last decade. If you’re any sort of fan of first-person shooters, then you’ll likely enjoy it. Just be willing to check your brain in at the door and expect it to be one of the most brutal yet satisfying grinds you’ll ever play.
Iron Harvest 1920+ is a gorgeous-looking RTS that harkens back to the classics while bringing its own unique brand of destruction. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and the slower style of gameplay definitely won’t appeal to everybody, though real-time strategy fans looking for their next fix should seriously look into trying it out, especially if they happen to have some buddies they can rope into playing against them, or with them if you prefer.
The fact that 90’s shooters are as popular as ever is a testament to their sound design philosophy. Of course, the catalogue is as extensive as ever, what with a steady stream of retro-styled shooters gracing our screens on a nigh-regular basis. Hellbound is another such title, now a full-fledged game, which has emerged from languishing in Steam’s Early Access. And does it hold up against its peers? To put a fine point to it: oh, Hell yeah.
Stela is the sort of dark and moody platformer you’ll want to play after being saturated by colorful traps in Super Mario Maker 2. It does nothing new, and don’t expect to walk away from the experience with a new sense of profound realization. Nonetheless, you’ll enjoy the time you have with it, even if the ending is disappointing and the game requires a fair degree of trial and error.
Effie‘s mixture of fairytale storytelling and fun platforming work to make an endearing and playable little gem of a game. It’s by no means groundbreaking, but there’s a ton of love put into it and it displays excellent design, even though the combat could use a bit more refinement.
Little Nightmares is the finest tidbit of creepiness you’re likely to have this year. It does many things right: it’s dark and unsettling, the gameplay is varied enough to keep players interested, and the style and presentation gives it a character all its own.