Releasing early in the new gaming generation, Call of the Sea sets the benchmark for story-driven adventure puzzle games moving forward. It's an experience full of surprises, from its lush game world that takes advantage of next-gen graphic capabilities, to its emotionally impactful story that puts a fresh spin on the Cthulhu Mythos. It's also surprisingly challenging; so much so at times that the frustration over its obtuse puzzles damages your sense of immersion, and goodwill towards the game.
Remarkably flexible, frantic, fun and funny, Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! serves up a cooking sim that's great value for money, and entirely what you make of it. All the ingredients are there, whether you want to stick to comfort food with very little mental nourishment, or dial up your ambitions with complex culinary masterpieces that must be served to the second. Micro-management skills aside, you're given the freedom to determine how engrossing your experience is.
One of the core debates within Observer: System Redux is whether augmentation makes recipients more or less. In the case of this enhanced edition of the acclaimed, dark cyberpunk tale, it's definitely a case of more. Barring a few graphic and gameplay niggles, the developers have taken a cult indie classic and improved it further, providing a better balance of mystery thriller and psychological horror to accompany the brain-spearing next-gen visuals.
Tell Me Why is a moody and mature-minded mystery focused on family secrets, while touching sensitively on themes like mental health, gender, and indigenous cultural practices. It's slow going but compelling. Less successful is a supernatural gameplay component that's never fully explored, and feels superficially integrated with the storyline.
I Am Dead is a deceptively charming and emotionally potent experience. It's hard not to be won over by its good spirit and intricate, lovingly crafted world. Despite its simple gameplay and heavy dose of eccentricity, it's a tender reflection on ordinary lives, death and the power of memory. A game that will linger in the memory.
It's clearly well thought out, but in execution The Signifer doesn't quite match up to its intriguing concept and utterly convincing setting. The latter are so strong, though, that they keep you engaged even as you grapple with clunkier gameplay aspects and an abrupt ending. Ambitious, cerebral, worth investigating.
Visually striking and mentally satisfying, Creaks is a puzzle platformer that fully embraces its oddball nature. Some control and pacing niggles aside, it's a bright new genre entry, sure to have extra appeal for people with darker, cerebral tastes in entertainment.
Bridging film and video game, interactive movies are a niche format. However, with most of us having a lot more time on our hands during lockdown, now may be the time to give this hybrid genre more attention. Removing many of the annoyances FMV adventures are associated with, and featuring strong production values, The Complex is a solid entry point, even if it's far more enjoyable as a choose-your-own adventure experience than film entertainment.
The video game equivalent of a shot of espresso, award-winning Fractured Minds is a short, potent and tonally dark exploration of living with anxiety and other mental health issues. In some ways, it's obviously the effort of a teenage game developer. In others, well, a good many adult creators can learn from its perceptiveness and sophisticated implementation.
Horror-adventure Close to the Sun pairs an emotionally-engaging narrative with arguably one of the most stunning and memorable game worlds of 2019. Pity about the frustrating gameplay choices and story decisions that ramp up in the final third of the game. They cast a shadow over the accomplishments that preceded them.