Song in the Smoke is an excellent survival game that creates a genuine sense of dread as you manage your resources and explore often unforgiving environments. The setting is interesting, and while the visual textures can suffer a bit at times and the actual combat was a bit off for me, the sense of discovery while exploring new places was an immersive thrill.
Astria Ascending is a beautiful game to look at, and the various systems provide plenty to do while soaking the aesthetic in. There’s a deep, interesting world here that took a bit of time for me to sink my teeth into, but once I got into the groove I really enjoyed peeling back the layers. That said, there are concerns around the pacing at times and the platforming elements fell a bit flat for me as well. Astria Ascending is a good JRPG overall that fans of the genre will likely want to give a try.
Hot Wheels Unleashed is a fantastic and thoroughly enjoyable arcade racer that brings my childhood imagination to the big screen in thrilling fashion. The visuals are fantastic, there’s plenty of modes and some pretty solid progression elements that kept me coming back for more.
NBA 2K22 is a successful return to form for the series. An extra year on the hardware has certainly helped, and the developers continue to blend lightweight RPG elements with action-packed basketball for an end result that I have sunk a ton of time into already, and will no doubt continue to play throughout the rest of the year. The focus is still on the Career mode, with minor tweaks to Franchise, WNBA and MyTeam, but that’s okay by me – MyCareer is where I’m usually at. There’s still room to improve, but this year’s iteration of the series is worth playing for hoops fans.
Mayhem Brawler is a solid beat-‘em-up game that manages to do something few games in the genre do: make the narrative interesting. This is handled through a bevy of excellent comic book style panels and the ability to choose your own path to different endings. I do wish the combat was just a bit smoother, since that is what the core gameplay is all about, but the oodles of variety and fun supernatural theme make Mayhem Brawler fun despite its flaws.
Fort Triumph is a solid strategy game that should appeal to fans of the XCOM series. I can’t think of anything else quite like it with a fantasy setting, making it a rather unique game. The overall package is generally fairly enjoyable, even if the wrapping (sound effects, narration, uneven humor) has some rough edges to it. Fans of the genre should find enough here to enjoy though.
For me, Cardaclysm: Shards of the Four is a mixed bag with a ton of potential, but too many small issues that are impossible to completely overlook. I really liked the card evolution and deck building systems, I appreciated the quests, equipment and randomized nature of the stages, and the turn-based combat is generally satisfying. I just don’t like the difficulty spikes that are largely due to the uneven resource requirements and the rough control optimization. I have a feeling this would play better on PC with a mouse and a keyboard, but appreciate seeing games like this make their way to consoles, where I tend to play more. A bit of UI / control cleanup and better balance of resources would make Cardaclysm: Shards of the Four a much better overall title that is still worth a look – but be ready for a bit of frustration.
If you’re one of those people who feel like the annual releases are nothing more than roster updates, most likely it would take a massive release to convince you otherwise, and Madden NFL 22 is not that title. That being said, if you enjoy the core gameplay of the Madden franchise and can’t wait for some NFL action? There’s still a lot of fun to be had here and I certainly enjoyed my time with the game.
Synth Riders is an excellent rhythm game, with a strong selection of songs and fantastic visuals that really drew me into the experience. The variety of modes and difficulty customizations make this the kind of game that is easy for people to pick up and play, but also provides a gameplay loop that keeps you coming back for improved performances. The lack of online multiplayer is one of the few bummers here, but the overall package is too good to pass up on.
Streets of Rage 4: Mr. X Nightmare is a fairly priced bit of DLC that is the perfect reason for people who played this title a year ago to pick the game back up again. All three new characters play differently from one another, providing a satisfying variety as you pound your way through hapless bad guys once again. The Survival mode also exceeded my expectations and has that addictive ‘one more time’ feel to it.