Helldivers 2 proves a basic ideology: create something special and the players will come. Built on a foundation of cheeky satire and visceral gunplay, this cooperative shooter is engaging, charming, dynamic, and at no point feels greedy or unnecessary. It's live service done right, with appropriate progression and a feeling of global connection as you fight toward a shared goal. Server issues still impact this game's release and they aren't insignificant, yet they are still a mere minor inconvenience when compared to Helldivers 2's many triumphs.
The Cub is a fascinating romp through post-apocalyptic Earth. Balancing dark themes with delightful levity, the game finds a way to showcase both the best and worst of humanity with biting wit, vivid visuals, and impeccably implemented audio. It's all let down somewhat by gameplay sequences that can't maintain the same quality as the game's other elements. However, even with that rather big caveat, The Cub still manages to present a lovely package worth opening.
The Last of Us Part II Remastered brings not just extra content but extra heart to an already much-loved game. This is one for the fans, with a plethora of additional features that highlight the best aspects of the game's design whilst giving further context and glimpses into its development. Bursting at the seams with things to do, see, and unlock-The Last of Us Part II Remastered is a celebration of one of gaming's greats.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder is yet another magnificent showing from Nintendo. To take a concept that's so well understood but still find new ways to impress is no easy feat. Yet Mario Wonder excels in this field thanks to incredibly dynamic gameplay, headlined by the imaginative amazement of the Wonder Flower. It's hard not to fall in love with this new release, a game that's packed to the brim with charm and zest.
Mortal Kombat 1 may not be a massive evolution of the fighting game formula, but what's on offer is still incredibly detailed and lovingly implemented. From the camp fun of the game's main campaign, to the beautiful flow of online fights, to the string of new ideas found in the seasonal Invasions Mode. There's a lot to digest here and a lot to enjoy. Another success by NetherRealm Studios, solidifying them as a masterful fighting game force.
Starfield may not be the seamless and faultless persistent open world some may be craving. Though what it does provide is still certainly worthy of elation. Give the title some time to warm up and you'll uncover a vastly refined and picturesque journey of otherworldly proportions. A game of size, scope, and quality all wrapped into one-the beauty of discovery is but a warp drive away.
A curious world of delightful wonder, Pikmin will never fail to be a series that invites warmth and joy with its vibrant world and colourful companions. New gameplay ideas are plentiful with Pikmin 4, many of which work towards expanding the game in interesting new directions. Not every new mechanic lands as elegantly as others, with Night Expeditions and co-op mode being two notable disappointments. Though overall, Pikmin 4 still finds a way to bring about that same glee that has lasted within this series since its inception.
Humanity greatly succeeds across audio, visuals, puzzle design and more. It's an unusual game at heart but one that uses its abnormalities to its benefit. Practically unforgettable, this experience will test you as much as it inspires awe through delightful sensory stimulation. This beautifully complete and polished game may lose a touch of its precision in its later stages, though it still captivates through a wild ride of absurdist depictions and satisfying design.
Redfall is an interesting concept with some valid ideas, some cool lore, and some great moments driven by solid visual design and a knack for leaning into the supernatural. But with a vapid and dull open world, bad mission design, constant backtracking, and a plethora of performance issues—this release ends up sucking the life out of you one glitch at a time.
Bramble: The Mountain King finds ways to excel throughout the ~6-hour adventure. With superb audio design and some really satisfying and engaging storytelling centred around Nordic folklore, the game showcases glimpses of greatness and refuses to hold back from depicting the horrifying and grim world around you. It's a shame that every new enemy's introduction and build-up is undermined by the inevitable average boss fight. It's true there's obvious room for improvement with Bramble's gameplay, though the overall experience is certainly still worth uncovering, especially as the game goes from strength to strength with some seriously impactful core moments.
Never quite sure what's lurking below the surface, Dredge captivates from the jump with a well-defined and engaging gameplay loop built atop the foundation of a creepy and beautifully atmospheric setting. The storytelling and questing push this fishing management game into new territory as you uncover just how deep this ocean runs. Some repeated quest archetypes aren't enough to drag this gem down as Dredge continues to surprise and delight from the moment you first set sail to when you finally hang up your sailor's hat.
Resident Evil 4 rips you right back to 2005 and reminds you how special games can be. A remake done right, this release amplifies the game's strengths and obfuscates its weaknesses, making for a superb and modern take on a classic. Whilst further improvements could have been made, the results still speak for themselves, as Leon and Ashley's journey becomes immortalised with contemporary gameplay and visuals that maintain respect for the original release.
Perish offers a great world to explore and a surprising amount of graphical prowess for an indie roguelike. The setting is intriguing and the combat varied and engaging enough. The game stumbles with framerate drops and a gameplay loop that may not have been finetuned to perfection, though if you have a crew to play with, Perish still offers a good amount of fun that's worth your time.
LONE RUIN is a game that's simply too short for its own good. A lack of content means the experience is over long before it ever should be, and any additional difficulty modes and a survival mode don't do enough to justify the small scope. The experience is saved somewhat by good gameplay and a great spells/upgrades system, though not enough to call this one a real must-play.
Undoubtedly fun for a fright night with friends or a YouTube reaction video, Choo-Choo Charles will find its place comfortably as a not-so-serious meme game with some good horror ideas. There's a charm to the whole experience supported by the fact that its short runtime means it never overstays its welcome. However, the game's shortcomings are simply too obvious to overlook. Requiring more polish, depth, and variety, Choo-Choo Charles doesn't have the longevity needed to be anything more than a fleeting piece of sharable internet entertainment.
Pokémon Scarlet & Violet represents the power struggle between innovation and execution. There's so much promise in the idea of a fully integrated, cooperative Pokémon game, yet the final product I experienced with Pokémon Violet falls short of those aspirations. There's still a lovable structure found within the game, driven by a more immersive world design and a new generation of adorable mons. Though the polish is lacking, failing to completely realise the ideas put in place and falling short of expectations.
Featuring a fun and slightly silly setting for this genre, Grounded comfortably provides the basics that allow it to create an engrossing and at times horrifying survival experience. Add a good amount of worldbuilding and a narrative that compliments the gameplay nicely and you have a cooperative experience well worth your time, even if a few bugs (and not the good kind!) have stuck around throughout its pre-release period.
Wylde Flowers is what you get when you take a farming/life sim, such as Stardew Valley, and focus more heavily on the narrative and characters. A constant shift of events and huge amounts of voiced lines brings this world to life, even if that focus does mean the simulation aspects of the gameplay are reduced. With a lovingly detailed world and equally lovely examples of diversity, you could do a lot worse than spend your week playing Wylde Flowers.
The Last of Us Part I finds a way to make an already incredible game even better. It may not be the most needed remake in the landscape of gaming, and I can't fault anyone for not wanting to pay full price for the experience, but it's undeniable just how much work has gone into this release. Phenomenal graphics, superb sound design, immersive DuelSense controller features, beneficial gameplay tweaks, and the best suite of accessibility features found in gaming. The Last of Us Part I is a must-play title for anyone still yet to experience Joel and Ellie's story.