The Case of the Golden Idol is a game that makes me feel like a TV detective, slapping photos on a wall and drawing red lines between them. Those strings of yarn crisscross throughout my notebook, connecting characters and murder weapons and motives. It’s easy to get sucked into small details looking for a lead, but the feeling it gives when I’ve locked in the correct answers… It’s like I’m the most brilliant person on earth — even if just for a moment. The Case of the Golden Idol, like other deep detective games, expands past its own boundaries and into the pages of my notebook, leaving me thinking about its clues long after I’ve closed the game.
The Last of Us is very much a product of its time, and there’s certainly issues there. But now that I’ve seen how well it’s aged overall, I can really appreciate it — not as a cultural relic or a stepping stone, but as its own grisly, beautiful creation.
Electronics Arts has said an update toward the end of this week will be deployed to fix these bugs and others. It’s certainly not an ideal rollout for a highly anticipated expansion pack like High School Years, but once that fix rolls out, the expansion is well worth a look.
There’s a lot to do in Bear and Breakfast, a lot of story to unspool, and a lot of different characters to meet. You’ll pick up tons of trash and serve food to the humans that threw that trash on the ground. You’ll put down carpets and hang photos on walls, install plumbing and hire someone to fuel your fires.
It felt nostalgic, like playing a video game sitting next to a friend, taking turns flipping the manual pages back and forth. It felt like making notes in those margins, circling hints and clues to come back to later. Sometimes, it was utterly surprising. A person found something so bizarre, unlike anything I'd seen yet in this world - and it flipped the game upside down. There's the community aspect to the language, too: Little bits open up as others present theories and translation methods, each pulling a different piece of information into the puzzle. When someone makes even the tiniest breakthrough, it feels unreal.
OlliOlli World showcases that creativity in its fairly expansive multiplayer and social elements as well. Within each level, I can see leaderboard stats for other players - including a few close to my skill level, deemed my rivals. But I can also watch replays of their runs, to see how they've approached these different levels and what tricks landed them their scores. I can watch replays for the top scorers, too.
In following these threads, Tux and Fanny transcends its original art style by introducing new games - literally found on floppy discs hidden in the world - that are essential to Tux and Fanny's lives. In these games within the game, the pixelated characters may enter a surreal 3D world, turn to claymation, or find themselves rendered in watercolor paint. Heck, there's even a home simulation video game that has me playing a looped section over and over again; the loop changes slightly each time, eventually descending into nonsense. And yet, it makes complete sense.
Halo Infinite swaps out the loadouts and armor abilities of earlier games for a few new pickups, including the grappling hook, which is by far the most useful of these tools. After relying on it so much in Halo Infinite's campaign, it feels criminal to pass it by in multiplayer.
What makes Animal Crossing an appealing franchise is that I’m able to meet it on my own terms — even if those terms are the polar opposite of the ones I brought to the game in 2020. New Horizons is no longer my “global living room,” as Bijan Stephen described Fortnite in 2018. It’s more like my secret clubhouse, a space that’s mostly just for me, and maybe the kind of friends that feel comfortable sitting in silence. Coming back to the game this time — alongside all of its new content — means doing things differently, but it’s still just as satisfying.
John and Sam's abilities are also key in some of Eastward's more challenging boss fights, in moments where slapping enemies with the frying pan (later, John will also acquire a gun, flamethrower, and cog weapon, alongside different bombs) is simply not enough. These boss fights are often simple in theory: dodging hits, stunning enemies, and taking a swing, for instance. But, like the puzzles, they require a precision that can be hard to master; the sheer simplicity is clever and deceiving.
Instead, Chicory asks, "What if there's a better way?" A person's worth is inherent, and it's not chosen for us. If we tear down those systems and rebuild something new, we can shift legacies and choose them for ourselves - it's no longer a gift bestowed upon us by some unfair, undated structure. With a little practice, maybe anyone can wield a paintbrush.
It's Mo's grandmother who urges Mo to go to a place she has always feared. The place, it turns out, is not anywhere near as repulsive as the intricate musculature of the underground caves, or the harsh reality of the island being killed by fungus. Instead, it's beautiful; the full scope of Minute of Islands' colors are on full display, with intricate, marvelous mushrooms growing out of what was once flesh and spore. But this is also a place Mo can only enter without the comfort of her Omni Switch. Her fear, it seems, is not tied to the monstrous, but instead, to vulnerability.
Anyone that's played New Horizons will be familiar with the sorts of errands necessary to complete the spirits' tasks. Much of the time, the spirits have lost things that the player needs to find around the island. There's a lot of fishing, harvesting resources, and collecting items. These tasks can be finished within a half an hour or so most of the time, especially if I just have to do something like find a recipe book that's been stashed in a pile of leaves, but sometimes a task can require me to log in across multiple days. Say, for instance, I need to bring salt to the spirit baker on the island. That can only be purchased through Cozy Grove's shopkeeper, and I'll have to wait if it's not there on the day I need it.
It reminds me of a relationship I had, one that I thought I would never see myself out of. It's these memories of mine that give Maquette's narrative that emotional weight, even when the writing is clumsy or stilted. When I look back at that relationship, it's only just a speck in my 32 years of life, something that hardly gets a thought. It's hard to imagine that there was a time when it was so much bigger, where I lived in a fantasy world of my own creation - but I did. And Maquette has the right beats, and recursions, to bring up that feeling in me, that conflicting sense of scale.
Valhalla’s most intriguing story is one about faith, honor, and family, but it’s buried inside this massive, massive world stuffed with combat and side quests. That balance is not always ideal, but I’m glad, at least, that it forces me to spend more time seeking out interesting things in the game’s world.