Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair neatly captures the essence of Yooka-Laylee and reimagines it as a new type of game. It's a distillation and a simplification, but it's effective. Then, as its grand finale -- a necessary conclusion that looms over the whole game -- it turns uncharacteristically punitive. It's rewarding, that much is undeniable. But it also leaves you feeling like all those hours spent beekeeping never really prepared you for the final challenge. Those bees just afford more leeway over the course of a very long struggle. It's kind of a buzzkill.
The Coalition has achieved a lot with Gears 5. The writing and action often rivals the best moments in the series, even surpassing its predecessors at times. The overall package is the most robust Gears has ever seen. But, the big structural alteration feels like an unequivocal misstep. Gears 5 is a rousing success, but it could've done without the needless change.
Faith serves a few important purposes within the Life is Strange 2 story. It shores up some loose ends from the brothers' past, it proves the lengths Sean is willing to go to in order to protect Daniel, and it gives Daniel further autonomy by letting him make his own decisions. It's an exciting chapter that leaves everyone worse for the wear. That's the cadence we've come to expect from Life is Strange, though.
There's no question that Sean and Daniel leave Life is Strange 2's third episode with more scars than they began with. Scars have a way of robbing innocence and dispiriting the spirited. It's no wonder Daniel is disillusioned. But that headstrong attitude leaves Wastelands feeling like an episode without much development. Deep in the California forest, the weed is growing but that's about it.
Still, DreamWorks Dragons: Dawn of New Riders is the rare movie tie-in that doesn't flagrantly lean into a reliving of the film. Dawn of New Riders tries to do something else entirely, and that's admirable in its own way. There's a decent time to be had -- especially for youngsters -- and its flaws and shortcomings don't grate too much, thanks largely to a relatively short runtime. But, because it forges its own path, Dawn of New Riders won't make a lasting impression on the How to Train Your Dragon canon.
Crackdown 3 is a good Crackdown game, which, unfortunately, doesn't mean much anymore. Modern game design has surpassed the Crackdown model by leaps and bounds -- as high and far as an agent can jump. The most remarkable thing about Crackdown 3 is how unambitious it is. It's content to come off as dated, like a relic from a bygone era. That can be comforting in a way, but it's immeasurably more disappointing. Crackdown 3, just like its kin, is only a distraction and nothing more.
Rules is bookended by some heartrate-spiking sequences, but the majority is spent relatively comfortably. Music has crescendos and decrescendos because they're dynamic. Loud has more impact when everything was soft just moments ago. Rules is a decrescendo. It's quiet and it's retrained. But all indications are that Life is Strange 2 won't stay quiet much longer.
It's more Forza Horizon 4, but Fortune Island has a hook that's worth its weight in gold. Turning an island into a giant scavenger hunt is the kind of allure that works perfectly with Forza Horizon. Elsewhere, completing events has its own intrinsic appeal; excelling at racing and stunts is rewarding because it's a racing and stunts game. In Fortune Island, progression brings about a sense of mystery and discovery. That's a reward that's nearly as rich as the millions of credits scattered about the island.
Even though it's not the most thrilling side of Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Hunted accomplishes what it sets out to do. It's an introductory chapter, one that establishes a new conflict at the origins of the Assassin's Creed lore. Although reserved, Hunted manages to be plenty entertaining. More importantly, it constructs a compelling foundation for the rest of Legacy of the First Blade. If the latter two-thirds can build on the first chapter, we're in for one hell of a story.