With a wicked sense of humour, loads of visual flair, and a surprising amount of cerebral satisfaction packed into its deceit-filled race against the clock, Overboard! is a delight. It's one to keep within arm's reach when you're in the mood for short bursts of frantic, but low-effort, fun.
It's beautiful, it's charming and its insights are given greater punch by exceptional voice acting. Yet, despite ticking so many boxes, The Magnificent Trufflepigs never manages to find the sweet spot of player satisfaction due to some odd, clashing design choices.
FMV games aren't to every taste, to be fair, but for a change of pace, and an opportunity to jump into the genre, Erica is the best of its class. A dark, gory thriller, Erica comes across like a compelling mix of Broadchurch and The Wicker Man, elevated by surprisingly strong performances and polished production values. Pity about the restricted, rigid control options that have carried through to the PC release.
Sweet and leisurely delivered, Lost Words: Beyond the Page sneaks up on the player to deliver a powerful emotional punch. It's strikingly stylish, it's heartfelt, and it has a lot to say about the grief that accompanies losing a loved one, reflecting its complexities with honesty and tenderness. While lacking in puzzle challenge, the game is a rarity that offers a memorable experience for players of all ages.
Romantic relationships have their ups and downs, and players will likely go through the same experience with Maquette, which seesaws between satisfying and frustrating. Charming world design and bittersweet relationship observations are offset by a couple of opaque puzzles and patches of gameplay clunkiness (bad enough to force level restarts), which mar the overall sense of enjoyment.
The Shore may be rough around the edges in a number of departments, including the quality of vocal performances, and a story that just sort of ends without resolution. The game is so powerful a visual and atmospheric experience, though, that the flaws are worth overlooking. Given the way it absolutely nails its striking depiction of the Cthulhu Mythos, The Shore is recommended, especially for Lovecraftian horror fans. It’s a dark indie pearl worth a five-hour dive.
Literally straddling the line between supernatural and real-world horror, The Medium is satisfying, sleek, and sophisticated in every department. While it makes only limited use of its signature simultaneous reality mechanic, and features some of the same gameplay frustrations as earlier Bloober Team games, it's easy to overlook such stumbles. The Medium sidesteps scare gimmicks to deliver a masterclass in mature horror, one rooted in atmosphere, all-round restraint and an enthralling region-specific story. Note: On Xbox we scored the game 8.0 for some intermittent performance issues.
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.