SpongeBob SquarePants nails the feeling of the source material and it does a great job of replicating the free and fancy fun of those old-school platformers. That being said, it's not a great game, at least if you're over the age of 12. It's lacking in challenge, it's rather short, and there's very little replay value. For the younger players who haven't been jaded by this wonderful and wicked industry, it's a serviceable platformer with authentic voice acting that gives players a chance to be part of their favorite show. For everybody else, it's a short distraction that had the potential to be so much more.
After a dozen or so hours in Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition, I can safely say that it's the real McCoy. This is not a watered-down port to give Microsoft an easy first-party Xbox Game Pass release. It's the real deal and as feature complete as the PC edition, which is quite an accomplishment. A myriad of quality-of-life improvements makes the original game, while still a classic, very much redundant. The only reason to keep hold of the original is to preserve those big beautiful boxes PC games used to ship in. We're in a new age now, and Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition is the perfect example of taking an ancient game and giving it just enough love to make it feel almost new, something that many other remasters and re-releases so often miss the mark on.
GRID Legends is a great game. GRID Legends for Meta Quest is not. I'm impressed that Codemasters managed to cram a full console racing game into a VR headset, but the compromises required to do so are too many. For racing fans waiting for a decent native Quest racer, this unfortunately isn't it.
Toy Soldiers HD is a fantastic tower defense game that fans of the genre should definitely play. It's easy to learn, hard to master, and there's a ton of replayability with the lengthy campaign, the extra levels, collectibles, achievements, and survival modes, which I've spent a lot of time playing. The controls for vehicles can be a bit stiff and the lack of co-op multiplayer is a big disappointment, but given how few decent tower-defense games there are on console, it's easy to overlook the very few shortcomings Toy Soldiers HD brings to the table. Now, when are we getting Toy Soldiers Cold War?
If you're a PS Plus Premium subscriber, there's no question that you should download and play Ridge Racer 2. It's simple, fast, and fun, and in the current climate of live services and stupid dancing emotes, there's no racing game quite like it anymore. For a quick nostalgia fix it's highly recommended, and who knows, maybe it's just a toe in the water for Bandai Namco to gauge interest for a potential Ridge Racer revival? Heck, there's the next game's title right there: Ridge Racer Revival. Fingers crossed...
As far as simulators go, it's not the worst. To the game's credit, it does offer the dull, mundane day-to-day routine that a lot of actual police officers call a career. If you want to spend hours writing tickets and slowly progressing in a meaningless career in law enforcement, you can do it here without the risk of being vilified on social media. But it could have been so much more had the systems in play been deeper and more robust, not to mention, fun. Instead, Police Simulator: Patrol Officers is a bit of a buggy mess that feels half-baked and not ready for patrol just yet. Back to the academy with this one.
Marvel’s Iron Man VR is a decent game, no matter where you play it, though I would argue that the Meta Quest 2 version is perhaps the best way to play thanks to its ease of use and cleaner visuals. The intuitive controls, fun aerial combat, and some quality presentation make for a heroic effort by developer Camouflaj, and a worthy addition to any Quest 2 library.
For those of us with fond memories of pushing coins into arcade machines and handling sticky light-guns that only worked half the time - Crisis Brigade 2: Reloaded is great fun, and a throwback to a simpler time of gaming. Even if you're a youngster who has had to go on the TikTokTubeBook to find out what an "arcade" is, you'll have a blast, too. There's enough single-player content and multiplayer, as well as the promise of future content updates to make it worth a download on your headset of choice. Just remember the knee pads.
Destroy All Humans! 2 – Reprobed is a really good game that doesn’t take itself seriously. In some ways, it’s a relic from another era, a reminder of how simple and fun games used to be; a time before the endless grind. Heck, there’s even couch multiplayer, once a standard feature in games that has slowly faded out over the years. Despite its heritage, Destroy All Humans! 2 – Reprobed feels and plays modern enough with refined controls, decent visuals, and enough over-the-top fun to easily overlook the few shortcomings.
The Last of Us: Part 1 is the definitive version of Naughty Dog’s classic. Sadly, I’m afraid the conversation, at least among the old guard who first took Ellie under their wing all those years ago, will hone in on the economics rather than the breakthrough emotional storytelling and the grounded gameplay.
Arcade Paradise lives up to its name by essentially being a modern plug-n-play TV compilation (remember those?) wrapped in a competent and rewarding business sim dressed up in the most garish of 90s fashion, complete with dial-up internet, Solitaire on the PC, and more turquoise tracksuits than I’d ever like to see. The collection of games on offer is massive, and the earn-buy-earn loop works well at keeping the game from becoming too stale too soon.
While the length may be an issue, there is a flip side to it. Just as I was starting to tire of the guns and sword combo fest, it was over. It wasn’t long enough for me to get tired of its main selling points: the top-tier graphics and the chaotic combat. The visuals are stunning, granted, but the game takes place more or less across very similar environments, except for the gunfight on the wing of an airplane hurtling toward a black hole – Neil DeGrasse Tyson would pull that scene apart in a second. If the game ran for a further six hours but locked in with the linear locations I’d tire of it before the end. The combat, while being fun and encouraging experimentation, doesn’t have the depth to carry the game for much longer – I’m sure that by hour four I’d completely drop the melee side and just stick to running and gunning, and then it’s no different to most other shooters out there.
I’m conflicted when it comes to PowerWash Simulator. On one hand, it’s an absolute bore and a chore with one-dimensional gameplay – can I even call it gameplay? – but on the other, it’s still strangely fun and moreish, and seeing the grime trickle away and the percentage done counter ticking slowly upwards was enough to keep me wasting water for hours on end. It’s an oddity, for sure, but one that I can’t seem to peel myself away from, and the more I play it, the more I wonder if the world wouldn’t be a cleaner place if we could all get the job done with a gamepad.