Alas, it wasn't meant to be. Twin Mirror is the rare game where I love the world, premise, and characters, but can't actually professionally recommend it. The foundation was laid, but a good story needs more than just the building blocks. In hindsight, following Life is Strange's episodic model might've worked wonders here, as it would've bought Dontnod extra development time along the way. All throughout Twin Mirror, people complain that Higgs abandoned Basswood and won't spend any time there. As it turns out, we need to spend more time in Basswood too.
But I also found myself making excuses for Assassin's Creed Valhalla until I couldn't any longer. It mimics the Odyssey formula but takes a step backward in almost every way. It sacrifices story for scale. It's designed to discourage stealth in favor of epic battles. It's true to the Viking experience, but it isn't true to the Assassin's Creed experience. That's why it comes off feeling like the least essential game in the whole series. Impressive in some of its accomplishments, but inessential all the same.
When you go trick-or-treating, you don't come back 100 percent with candy you love. There's some bleh stuff mixed in, stuff that you put up with to get to the candy you can't wait to eat. That's a perfect analog for Pumpkin Jack. You'll push past parts of it because this mascot platformer has some really great qualities. And, when viewed as a whole, a bucket full of candy ain't so bad.
All this time, the first Mafia was the best of the trio. It just took a phenomenal effort from Hangar 13 to do it justice with Mafia: Definitive Edition. This feels like the rare necessary remake that elevates and builds upon the original. It's truly an offer you can't refuse.
I finished AWE with a yearning for more Alan Wake and a yearning for more Control. Remedy has more or less confirmed we'll get more of both at some point in the future, although they might be presented through the lens of yet another series. That's the reality of the Remedy Connected Universe. As a trial run, AWE manages to be a great double-dip on some beloved narratives, even though it's not necessarily a great representation of either Control or Alan Wake individually. Sometimes the sum is greater than the parts, sometimes the lake is really an ocean.
Crypto-137 is hellbent on ensuring that humanity meets a terrible fate. By comparison, Destroy All Humans has met an enjoyable-enough-but-certainly-not-amazing fate. That's fine, but it's tough to not feel as though something truly great could've happened with some more creative license. If nothing else, this remake left me thinking that Destroy All Humans is still a viable property and that a brand new game might not be such a bad idea. But maybe that's because an extraterrestrial has control of my cortex.
All my quibbles are on the periphery of Gears Tactics, though. The core -- getting onto the battlefield and agonizing over every move -- is excellent. There's a smart experience here, one that feels both authentically Gears and tactics. That's the best possible outcome. Gears Tactics is a great Gears game and a great tactics game. This 90% doesn't miss.
If the eponymous Savage Planet is your Kindred explorer's residence, the space rock called DL-C1 is a timeshare. It's a decent little getaway -- probably worth the investment, a change of pace, and the vacation is over quicker than you'd like. But, despite what the name suggests, Hot Garbage is far from a dump.
It's a pleasure to dive back into Control, and that's why I genuinely enjoyed my time with The Foundation. I still love hunting down every research note and every minute-long audio file -- anything to fill in more of the lore gaps in this bizarre, enigmatic world. This expansion does all of that even if it's ultimately left feeling inconsequential. Ironically, The Foundation fails to build on the excellent structure Remedy already built with Control.
Life is Strange 2 represents a sophistication of Dontnod's storytelling capabilities because it effectively adds up and weighs moral decisions to truly influence the narrative outcome. Every ending comes with some degree of complication -- that much was to be expected -- but it's satisfying because they're all befitting of the characters you molded. Whichever direction you took Sean and Daniel's lives, chances are you'll feel responsible for their fates. It's personal. Because it's personal, it's memorable. That's about the utmost positive quality for this style of story.
Still, Superliminal's satisfying every time a puzzle clicks. It sounds obvious, but that's the most redeeming trait a puzzle game can have. Sometimes it'll take you by surprise, sometimes you'll train your eye to see it coming. But analyzing a situation, exploring possibilities, and approaching it from unique angles never fails to be rewarding. Is that enough to offset the realization that you're starting from obtuse and working backward toward logical? It all depends on your perspective.
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.