Monster Truck Championship is the best monster truck game to be released. The lackluster presentation and technical hiccups hold it from being great. The driving and stunt controls are solid, even if they take some practice. Short draw distance causes frequent pop-ups during races. There's no music during races, and the crowd is completely silent most of the time. It doesn't take that long to make your way through all 30 of the career events, and in the process, earn millions of dollars. Some appearance parts can cost a pretty penny, so you'll need to replay events to unlock everything.
Cake Bash is the feel-good frantic party game I needed to play this year. The sharp, beautifully rendered environments and comically delicious characters are a treat...literally. Local and online multiplayer worked like a charm (besides a single time where everyone was forced to restart). However, I do wish that the game instructions aren't skipped when playing online, especially when playing with someone new or experiencing a new event for the first time. Although the overall amount of events and mini-games is small, it may take a few rounds to see them all at least once.
Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix is the type of sequel that will make you smile, improving every aspect over its predecessor. The racing feels smoother, picking your kart components and crew is fun, and there is much more variety in terms of the intellectual properties used this time around. There are plenty of single-player additions, such as time trials and challenges to complete after beating the Slime Grand Prix cups, online multiplayer for up to eight players, and four-player local split-screen multiplayer. Sadly, the racers are again silent, which is such a missed opportunity to record new voice-overs or use samples from the shows. Considering the title's budget price point, it is hard to dwell on it too much but would have elevated the entire experience.
Projection: First Light is a charming tale of a little girl learning perspective and self-enlightenment through various cultures worldwide. The gameplay loop is continually changing as you move through areas, adding new elements such as swinging platforms, fire breathing dragon statues, spikes, massive boulders, and more. There are even a few boss encounters, although the final boss sequence (I won't give too much away) quickly becomes frustrating due to finicky precision controls during a chase scene.
The new team in charge of Tennis World Tour 2 has thankfully made enhancements to a series that badly needed a do-over. It puts it in a better position for the future by expanding the roster and making key gameplay improvements. Although animations have been doubled, characters still appear to be quite stiff at times and even slide into animations awkwardly. The courts are nicely rendered, and when playing exhibition matches, you can freely alter the surface type on non-licensed venues. I think the timing of strokes needs to be adjusted, especially when playing on an easier difficulty.
Hotshot Racing's retro-inspired high-adrenaline arcade racing is simply a joy to experience. The courses themselves are varied, colorful, charming, and full of personality, albeit slightly on the simplistic side in terms of the track designs. Yes, the AI rubber-banding is a relic of the past, but does help deliver tense racing moments. Cranking up the difficulty is similar to moving from 50cc to 150cc in Mario Kart; everything feels faster. The local and online multiplayer should give the game legs, especially considering how fun I found the additional game modes. Now excuse me, I need to live my life drifting through the jungle, avoiding dinosaurs, and trying not to explode.
The complicated issues and themes hinted at in The Suicide of Rachel Foster present a haunting tale of digging up the past based on one's perspective. The start of the game hammers home Nicole's father as the leading cause of the death of teenager Rachel Foster, but when you first reach the hotel, the game's narrative focuses on her survival. Slowly day after day, things unwind, as memories come flooding back. A few plot twists are sprinkled throughout, but nothing should feel like a surprise once they happen if you are paying attention.
Shing! delivers a unique approach to the stagnant brawler genre, but still has room for improvements. When a lot of yōkai are on-screen, I found myself wagging the right analog stick like a mad man, attempting to handle so many foes at once. The whole point of advancing the genre is to avoid having to "mash buttons" or, in this case, "waggle." The additional challenges provide added value, and through great voice acting and funny dialogue, I cared about the characters by the time I finished the game.
Fight Crab's goofy premise, and at times cumbersome controls are all part of the charm. The game puts over 20 types of delicious crabs in front of you, battling to the death with oversized zany weapons. I couldn't help but chuckle the first time I faced off against a crab dual-wielding shotguns. The added online and local versus multiplayer and online co-op is a treat, especially considering how well the online mode works on Nintendo Switch.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 is the definitive experience of playing through two of the greatest games of all time. The modernization and enhancements across both means both games play similar (although purists have the option of reliving the control schemes from either THPS1 or THPS2), and that's not a bad thing considering the advancements the series has made. This bundle is precisely what THPS fans have been waiting for, ensuring once again The Birdman has the stamina for another run.