Heather Johnson Yu
Lake is an extremely charming story-driven title where you can accidentally be so nice to everyone that you end up forgetting to live for yourself. For the right kind of person, that in and of itself can be a much-needed wake up call; for everyone else, it’s in the very least a soothing little mail-carrying simulator that allows you to set the pace. If you’re looking for some slice-of-life goodness that provides some chill and calming ambiance, taking it easy with Lake is a no-brainer.
Despite any aforementioned hiccups, Patron is an addicting medieval city-builder that can hold its head up high amongst the others in this well-established genre. With absolutely gorgeous visuals and a soothing, ambient soundtrack to match, Patron looks and sounds good — and for players who loved similar titles like Banished, it’ll feel good as well. If this is one of your first medieval city-builders, you may need an attempt or two before you really understand the ins and outs of running such a settlement, but diehard fans of the genre are bound to discover that Patron is their pewter goblet of mead.
Townscaper is minimalist in every sense of the word — minimalist gameplay, minimalist UI, minimalist sound — but the sheer amount of potential hidden within this title defies its style. If you’re looking for a new obsession or a nice little title to play during lunch breaks or just before bed, Townscaper is the soothing sandbox town-builder that will do the trick. The town-building aspect may be instantaneous, but you’ll soon learn you spend an awful lot of time discovering all the little signs of life that spring up along the way.
No More Heroes 3 dazzlingly outshines its predecessors in many respects. The combat is vastly superior, the overworld map makes a triumphant return, and the art styles and music are so brilliantly executed to the point where I want to buy the entire dev team a round of drinks. In the team’s eagerness to return to a clearly beloved franchise, I think a lot of fantastic storyline ideas came together in a way that didn’t always fit perfectly, but No More Heroes 3 was never anything less than a total blast. If you’ve already played the other three games in the series and loved every second, I have no idea why you’re still reading this article — go get No More Heroes 3 already!
Road 96 started off a bit rocky for me but quickly became one of the best games I’ve played all year. It’s absolutely on my top 10 games list for 2021, and, given enough time with it, I’m sure it’ll be yours as well. The Switch is a fine home for this politically-charged narrative, and if you have a desire to overthrow corrupt systems or just cross the border for a better life, chances are you’ll feel the same way too. If you want to get lost in a dystopian world, then do everything in your power to leave it, hitchhike your way to Road 96.
Those hoping to fully LARP as a lavish lady of 18th century France won’t be disappointed with Ambition: A Minuet In Power. This invigorating visual novel has all the twists, trysts, romance, and intrigue you’d want from a game about high society on the cusp of the French Revolution. Will you help your fiancé free France from the ignoble nobles? Or will you lose your head in the process?
While it is my firm belief that ISLANDERS should be enjoyed by all gamers, I’d first recommend the PC version over the Switch port. If your only option is the Switch, then please — get this game. But if you have a PC, I’d start there instead (honestly, it’s so cheap you might as well buy it on both platforms). ISLANDERS is fantastic for a few minutes of play to chill out during lunch or wind down before bed. No matter which platform you choose to play it on, ISLANDERS is a simple, soothing strategy game that’ll make you rethink city builders — one island at a time.
The Magnificent Trufflepigs asks players to stop frantically trying to achieve arbitrary goals and instead reflect on why we’ve undertaken them in the first place. It employs an interesting and underutilized mechanic, only to completely change it up once the main character achieves some desperately needed personal growth. It may require a second playthrough to totally understand not only the big reveal but overarching message; luckily, it’s a three hour excursion (at most) across bucolic English countryside, so that extra time is time well spent. If you find yourself exhausted by constantly trying to check things off life’s list, you deserve a breather — grab a metal detector and take a walk with The Magnificent Trufflepigs.
Pecaminosa – A Pixel Noir Game hits all the right notes in both the pixel-art style and noir genre. It has fun fights, challenging bosses, interesting art, and even some entertaining mini-games to break the routine. It’s easy to recommend but difficult to master; expect more action and less mystery with this police action RPG. If you want something that feels new yet simultaneously possesses retro vibes, take a deep, long draft of Pecaminosa – A Pixel Noir Game.
With soothing music, calming visuals, addictive gameplay, and a unique tale that unfolds slowly, The Wild At Heart is incredibly easy to recommend. In fact, the only thing you will need to find real enjoyment with this gem is a controller and a good 20 hours to sink into it. There is so much charm and energy in this little puzzler, and I was so engaged in figuring out the whimsical world of the Deep Woods that I hardly noticed the time just whizzing by. If you’re the type that likes to play problem-solving games to relax, you absolutely need The Wild At Heart.