WWE 2K Battlegrounds is clearly a rush job, but the game's simple, fundamentally sound action can be a real breath of fresh air at times. Unfortunately, that air is tainted by overbearing microtransactions that feel particularly crass given the game's cartoony, kid-friendly aesthetic. Battlegrounds could have been a contender if 2K had truly believed in the game, but once again, the publisher only seems to be interested in wrestling open fans' wallets.
It's hard to escape the feeling that the current-gen version of NBA 2K21 is merely a rushed appetizer before the next-gen main course. Yes, NBA 2K21 can still be a great time, but stagnant presentation, copy-and-pasted modes and features, and new mechanics that clearly weren't fully worked out combine to make the game feel like a half-hearted buzzer beater throwaway.
Crusader Kings III pulls off a difficult dual victory, bringing a new level of depth, charm, and polish to the franchise, while also making it far more approachable than before. Some aspects of Crusader Kings III still aren't as user-friendly as they could be, but overall, this is a worthy heir to the throne.
EA Sports UFC 4 is obviously made by people with a true love and respect for MMA, but it's also pretty clear they didn't have a ton of resources to work with. The action is better than ever, but the flash and depth you expect from an EA Sports title is MIA. This year's UFC game comes out of its corner hot and provides a few exciting moments, but doesn't quite have what it takes to go the distance.
Battletoads is surprisingly successful at recapturing the spirit of Rare's beloved NES original. The game's striking visuals, wildly varied level design, and satisfying sense of challenge easily make up for the occasional frustrating moment or groan-worthy joke. If you've been waiting 26 years for a new Battletoads, Rash, Zitz, and Pimple's latest ought to scratch your itch.
Skully is a masterclass in bad platformer design. Characters that are a chore to handle, sloppy level design, lousy camera controls, irritating puzzles, and a general lack of personality combine to create a profoundly tedious experience. If challenge is literally all you care about (even if it's wildly unfair), Skully might be worth a shot at a steep discount. Everyone else should spare themselves the headache.
Destroy All Humans! is a respectable clone of the 2005 original, featuring impressive visuals and moments of explosive fun, but painfully-dated writing and some frustrating missions bring the game back down to earth. Destroy All Humans! is like a pristine 4K Blu-ray re-release of a campy cult movie – a certain niche audience will appreciate the effort, but many may question the point.
Creaks renovates a well-worn genre, delivering one of the most satisfying indie puzzle-platformers in some time. Between its stunning visual and audio design, absorbing world, and perfectly-balanced puzzles, it's hard to find serious fault with any part of this game's construction. If you're a fan of puzzles or Amanita Design's past games, you need to grab a flashlight and delve in.
Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise is as bonkers as you'd expect and fans will no doubt enjoy catching up with Agent York, but a lack of atmosphere, dull action, serious technical issues, and the creeping sense that Swery is becoming a touch too self-aware conspire to kill the fun. Deadly Premonition 2 is for the hardcores – most other folks can safely close their investigation after finishing the first game.
Summer in Mara can be endearing and sometimes evokes the spirit of better games like Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley, and Wind Waker, but poor UI, confusing mechanics, and repetitive quest design harshes the game's mellow vibe. Perhaps Summer in Mara can be improved with updates, but for now, I'd only book myself on this island cruise at a discount.