Pokémon Scarlet and Violet takes the familiar trappings of the mainline series and overextends them while supporting its structure and foundation with duct tape and silly putty. Scarlet and Violet promises to add more to the core Pokémon formula, but all it truly adds is more square footage. It’s a game that invites unflattering comparisons to other open-world video games, current and past, and even ones from Nintendo itself.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a frantic game about violence and tension. The most defining moment for its gameplay is running away in fear from a larger Alpha Pokémon, whilst you haphazardly toss Pokéballs at smaller, unsuspecting Pokémon in your path. Despite the grind, I felt motivated to catch these mons, rather than dreading random encounters like in previous games.
Despite its mechanical flaws, in depicting a story of flawed characters, it’s hard to pass up on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. This title feels free of franchise-building and shady business practices. While it tries to ape on your familiarity with the property, it somehow all stands on its own. The visuals, lovable characters, and the promise of hijinx in space are inviting, but within this off-beat exterior is a solid emotional core.
The Jackbox Party Pack 8 will probably not be the end of the line for this series, and even though the games today are far more complicated than something you’d see from the first or second packs, iteration is the key to a fun pack of games. Gather your friends together (if it’s safe) and get cracking on uncovering the intricacies and strategies of these games — hopefully with a ton of laughter in between.
Regardless, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl serves as an example of how surgical marketing can be, feeding competitive players with specific bullet points while trying to cast a wide net with its popular IP. Playing it may certainly make you smile, and moments of hype can follow. But in the end, it’s an extended meme at best and a monument to capitalistic cynicism at worst.
There are countless video games designed to bring simple joy to players, usually with adorable visuals and relatively easy and relaxing mechanics. Even still, mainstream video games are obligated to include objectives and a sense of challenge, often to a point where you have to work and jump through hoops for some solace and a pleasant shot of dopamine. Enter New Pokémon Snap, the long-awaited sequel, and a game that has you grind to earn that wholesomeness.
Whenever a video game utilizes classic narrative and gameplay tropes, it may be difficult to not see it as derivative rather than as a homage. The previous title from developer Hazelight and director Josef Fares, A Way Out, had this pitfall. However, the studio’s follow-up cooperative-only title, It Takes Two, demonstrates that variety and humor are key ingredients for turning familiar elements into a unique blend.
Before playing this game, the sheer existence of a third new Hitman game was enough to excite me. Because of how familiar I was with the gameplay mechanics, I was eager to hone my skills, take on new challenges, and learn new locations in and out. With that, Hitman 3 was almost exactly the game I wanted and expected — sometimes predictability and familiarity can be that comforting.
As ineloquent as this may sound, Black Ops Cold War is a weird game. It plays like a tug of war between the advancement attempts that Infinity Ward put forward in last year’s Modern Warfare and Treyarch’s own mechanical contributions to the series over the years. What results is a product that tries to have its cake and eat it too, except that Black Ops Cold War seems to want to eat multiple, different cakes. It’s a strange entry in the series that lacks polish and quality. Still, I have to admit that I am having a lot of fun with it, in the way I would with a flaws-and-all action flick.
With The Dark Pictures Anthology, it is quite obvious and explicit that Until Dawn developer Supermassive Games is attempting to muck about with as wide a spread of horror tropes as possible. It’s certainly an advantage for the ambitious project — there are countless horror cliches and gimmicks stuck in our collective minds. But in the midst of my first playthrough of Little Hope, the sophomore entry of The Dark Pictures, I questioned whether or not these tropes were worth having any affection over.
One of the most endearing traits of any Jackbox Party Pack is how high-concept most of the games contained within are — you can explain the premise of these games to any novice and create unlimited hijinx. But with Jackbox Games turning in a new collection every year, more concepts are going through the pipeline, and the mass volume of them are diluting the ease of use of these packages. The Jackbox Party Pack 7 is undoubtedly fun, but explaining these concepts to new players is more of a challenge than ever.
Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix is an anachronism of a video game, looking like it came from the 2000s while including characters from recent television shows. The first Nickelodeon Kart Racers, from 2018, was soulless and cynical, but I can say that the sequel is twice the game its predecessor was. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean much, as the first game set the bar so low that it’s below even Rock Bottom.