When it comes to pure fan service, there won't be many better this year than Return to Monkey Island. It feels like the true sequel to LeChuck's Revenge and it feels as though its clever, self-referential wit is a product of Gilbert's return. As sad and nostalgic as parts of Guybrush's newest tale can be, I had a wonderful time revisiting familiar people and places in yet another golden-age adventure.
The Last of Us Part I is, for all intents and purposes, the same The Last of Us that you know. It doesn't take liberties to completely reshape the experience and nor should it. It does, however, smartly enhance the original's combat through A.I. advancements, and drags the original's production values over the line to create a product that can stand unified with its more polished sequel. The Last Of Us: Part I is without doubt the most definitive version of The Last of Us on the market.
In what is effectively Tony Hawk's Pro Skater meets The Running Man in a war of attrition, full of guns and vibrant colour, Rollerdrome is a well-crafted arena combat-survival game set atop jam skates. Though as solid as the core loop is, the game is let down by a narrative that fails to measure up to the game's pulsating setting as well as a disappointingly sparse range of arenas that you'll see far too often.
Cult of the Lamb is sure to be a homegrown success on the back of its tremendous presentation, which is helped along by captivating notions of cultism and devotion. I just wish there was more of an accord between the game's working parts, which ultimately feels like a game of two individually brilliant halves.
As it ran its course, I realised I quite adored As Dusk Falls. As a decades-spanning crime thriller throughout America's western plains, it's well acted and admirably realised. Although the cliffhanger beckons another chapter, my journey through As Dusk Falls felt whole, though I can't wait to explore all of the possibilities on offer.
For Cuphead fans, The Delicious Last Course is an essential add-on adventure that more than delivers enough content for the price of admission. The art is sumptuous, the fights are fanciful, and there's effort crammed into every nook. I expect some might say The Delicious Last Course under delivers considering the time between drinks, but I'm a cup half full kind of guy.
Card Shark succeeds at establishing wild stakes within its wonderfully weird take on 18th century France. It serves up a memorable cast, a story that rewrites history in a fantastical way, all the while arming the player with tricks of the trade that'd make Penn and Teller blush. For a game that's more about playing your opponent than your cards, Card Shark is a memorable adventure.
Gibbon: Beyond the Trees, like Old Man's Journey before it, is a tightly-packed, hour-long adventure that lays bare the eco-terrorism that continually threatens these titular primates. While it doesn't do anything particularly groundbreaking as a game, it's a brisk, beautiful and, at times, terribly sad game that moves along at a rate of knots, even if that places a strain on the now-aged Switch hardware.
As an homage to Akira Kurosawa's contributions to Japanese cinema, Trek to Yomi is an unparalleled adventure to the shores of hell and back that meticulously encapsulates and delivers an experience through his lens. It's when you look behind its eyes that you discover the game's soul is missing in a disappointing case where a wellspring of style and authenticity is anchored by a sad lack of substance.
Ghostrunner: Project Hel, fortunately, feels like a carbon copy of what came before it. Hel, like Jack, handles beautifully and makes traversing Dharma City a treat. And while it is brief, it's exciting to get a window into ways this team can continue to expand upon this great cyberpunk universe
Shredders, in an analogous sense, is more Session than it is Skate. It's hard to see the odd story resonating with anybody, the generously proportioned terrains are sparsely populated and, as a package, it feels feature-poor. This is all despite it feeling super confident in its controls and systems. It's a small slam from which the developer can dust themselves off, but it's far from a wipeout.
While I enjoyed a fraction of my time exploring Martha is Dead's gorgeous Tuscan farmlands, the thing I'm most thankful for is how mercifully short the game is. The closing credits shocked me back into coherence like a bolt out of the blue to cap off what is-and I'm being generous-an interestingly imperfect experience.
Through neoteric ideas around what combat can be, many of which were conceived with Absolver, Sloclap has carried the classic beat 'em up into the present with Sifu. It might be brutal and unforgiving, but it never feels cheap and it's a pleasure to continually learn the complexities of kung fu while bathing in the world's surplus of flair and ferocity. So push through and persevere, because there's one hell of a game on offer here.
Courtesy of some really great hand-drawn art, it's hard not to adopt the game's most excellent and bodacious attitude through osmosis. But OlliOlli World's strength, as it has always been, is in its low barrier to entry and the fact it's just so damn fun to pick up and play.
With an adventurous campaign, complete with a sandbox that'll still be there when your friends can join the fight, and a multiplayer suite that feels like a note-perfect revival of the Halo of old, Halo Infinite feels like the complete blockbuster sci-fi shooter we've been waiting for from 343 Industries. It hasn't happened overnight for the team, but the mantle passed to them, at last, feels earned.
By making Solar Ash radically different from Hyper Light Drifter, Heart Machine has avoided boxing themselves into a niche while being able to continue and build a universe they clearly care for. It wears its influences on its sleeve and comes together as a cosmic mix of a few games held dear by many, and as long as they continue to do this, I'll eat it up until I am far beyond full.
Bright Memory Infinite is a disappointing follow-up to a prelude that made its share of promises. It's a shame because a polished expansion on the original concept would have had a certain cult appeal, whereas Infinite feels watered down. It's a pretty game, and best of all it's free for those who lashed out for the prelude, but in the end, it plays like a game that got spooked by its own shadow and is a result of improbable ambition.
It's hard to fault the moment-to-moment gameplay of Back 4 Blood when all of its pistons are working in tandem and you're running with a good crew. Though the effort to contemporise and grow beyond its roots is commendable, just about every other aspect of the game feels like a misfire. The campaign isn't fun and, more offensively, it pays no regard to solo players.
It's no surprise given Milestone's pedigree that Hot Wheels Unleashed is a mechanically sound and confident racing title as it boils down the true essence of Hot Wheels and puts on a showcase exactly why they're a beloved pastime. The bloated story mode does little to obfuscate the game's skeleton crew of modes, though I think the game will find resilience through a community of online racers and their wonderful, imaginative creations.