Assassin's Creed Origins is a pharaoh's tomb chock-full of shiny treasures for gamers, especially those fascinated with Ancient Egypt. The side quests may feel a little repetitive, but the credible, nuanced characters and diversity of the main plot make up for it. And with so much to explore and do in its jaw-dropping setting, Origins is exceptional.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is a prime example for anyone making the case that video games are a powerful art form. Creatively ambitious, it's exceptionally well-thought-out and implemented – making it striking at both a sensorial and psychological level as it delves deep into an exploration of life with psychosis. It has its gameplay flaws but remains must-experience for adult audiences. An instant classic for this generation.
It has its flaws, and definitely isn't mainstream, but 11-11: Memories Retold is an important and emotionally potent game. For players with patience, and those who lean towards shorter, contemplative and character-driven gaming experiences, it's something to add to your library. For everyone though, gamer and non-gamers alike, it is an engrossing and educational look at war from a relatable, individual perspective. And right now it feels like the world could do with just such a well-though-out reminder about the humanity of others.
It'll be an acquired taste, but for those who have the patience for its deliberate opaqueness, Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is the type of game its fans will be playing on and off for months, if not years. Its challenging nature makes it equal parts compelling and frustrating, but there's no question this smart survival adventure contains loads of rewards for persistent players.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Whether you call it an interactive movie game or desktop thriller, Telling Lies is a gratifying and authentic-feeling fly-on-the-wall experience. For the most part. Exceptional performances and an intriguing, topical story are undercut by a jarring gameplay choice that forces you out of the game when you least want it.
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.
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.
Lego DC Super-Villains is a light-hearted and surprisingly lengthy romp for the whole family. Gameplay doesn't break from the established Lego formula, and the controls can actually be frustrating at times. You'll soldier on, though, thanks to an entertaining story and lovingly-recreated DC universe – especially if you're a comics fan.
With sumptuous hand-crafted visuals and a throwback LucasArts approach to puzzle-adventure gaming, Trüberbook is a treat for genre fans. Well, in part anyway. It's a pity that all the goodwill the game generates is drained by an unsatisfying story that doesn't bother to answer even half of the questions it's raised.
Moons of Madness is an engaging and atmospheric effort that feels like a Love(craftian) child of Half-Life and Dead Space. You'll be playing more for the cerebral rewards than the scares, though. Despite its seamless merger of cosmic horror and credible sci-fi, the game doesn't quite match its potential in the consistent emotional intensity of its execution. Plus, the ending feels rushed.