I want to love Stonefly. It has all of the right pieces to make something great. When those pieces come together, though, the fit isn’t quite right, and the resulting whole has its share of holes. This is a game that’s big on concept and playfulness, but translating those qualities into something that you interact with as a player fails to cleanly make the jump. Most specifically, the game play isn’t quite there; the mechanics are all fine, but the balance is off in some crucial ways that disrupt the experience and cause the game to get in the way of itself. Stonefly is at its best when its showing off its beautiful artwork and telling its story, and the parts in between where you fight lots of bugs and gather too many resources feel in opposition to that side of the experience rather than in service of it. I still enjoyed a lot of my time with Stonefly, but this feels like an experience that would have benefited from being shorter, and more focused on exploration and its narrative.
FEZ is the perfect confluence of beautiful visuals, deeply satisfying gameplay, a richly designed world, tightly interconnected systems, an astounding soundtrack, and fantastic pacing. Seldom are games this well composed, and it feels mostly as fresh today as it did the day it came out. This is the definition of a classic; it endures time and shows the mastery of its work as it ages. It will always be one of my favorites, and I can think of no more fitting a place to experience FEZ, be it for the first time or the tenth.
Judgment is an easy game to recommend, especially with the sequel coming out in September, and I’ve had as much fun with it as any other mainline Yakuza title. Plus, it’s hard to argue with getting a full-fat, high quality Yakuza narrative experience in a $40 price point. This is a really promising start for a new franchise, and it’s only going to get better from here. Seeing RGG Studio stretching itself and finding new ways to apply and change the formula it’s already found so much success with is an exciting and welcome shift. Whether you’re racing drones, playing a Mario Party inspired VR board game for cash, tracking down cheating spouses, chasing a local parkour crime gang through the streets, or solving a really thorny murder mystery, you’re going to find yourself having a blast.
As far as the quality of the port goes, it’s pretty excellent overall. The controls are great, the visuals look about as good as they possibly can without reworking some of the art, and after you ease in, all of the nitpicky details fade away as you enjoy a romp through lively, detailed, smooth-as-silk renditions of Kamurocho and Onomichi. This is, quite simply, the best Yakuza 6: The Song of Life has ever looked or played, and if you’ve been waiting for the PC release to experience it, you’ll be delighted with the final product.
Despite some of the unevenness and slowness toward the end, It Takes Two is still a fantastic experience that elevates cooperative games to a level they are rarely treated to, and is one of the most fun games you’ll have played with a friend or partner in years. I love what Hazelight is doing to revitalize the genre and think of new ways to make it fresh and fun, and the focus on collaborative play is a huge part of why the game is so damned successful. It’s an absolutely joyful experience nearly throughout, and the innovative mechanics, beautiful visuals, and inspired locations will keep you engaged from beginning to end on this journey unlike any other.
The good news is that Yakuza: Like a Dragon is the same incredible game on PS5, as well as an excellent RPG. This particular release amounts to a light coat of polish that makes some subtle improvements but nothing truly revolutionary as we’ve seen with some other PS5 upgrades. This may largely be owing to the fact that the original release already looked excellent, but it still would have been nice to see the PS5 release support a full 4K60. Also unfortunate is the lack of using much of the DualSense controller’s features, but again, this is the sort of addition that’s hard to shoehorn in after the fact. While the PC is still the best place to play Yakuza: Like a Dragon, the PlayStation 5 can keep pace well enough and it’s a solid way to experience Ichiban’s incredible, can’t-miss story.
The Yakuza Remastered Collection for PC is exactly that; a set of remasters that give the old games just enough polish to run cleanly on the PC and ensure they can live on to be enjoyed for years to come. While there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking or exciting about the ports, and while I would have really liked seeing a bit more attention paid to crisping up UI elements and maybe polishing the pre-rendered cut scenes, the work on the ports is solid and the games run great and there’s honestly little to complain about. Whatever minor hiccups might exist are completely worth it, as the ability to play all three of these Yakuza games in higher fidelity is by itself a huge treat.
I want to love Maquette. It’s is a solid puzzle game whose moments of brilliance are regularly interrupted by stumbles and rough spots. It soars much more often than it dips, but there are enough times where things don’t land that the experience can feel disruptive. While some extra time to polish some of the rough edges would have been majorly beneficial, it’s still a wholly unique piece that merits your time and attention. Just know going in that it’s imperfect, as all of us are, and try not to let those little details get under your skin.
While rough around the edges in a few areas, overall The Medium is an excellent adventure that’s not lacking in scares, and is thoughtful in how it approaches its subject matter. I felt the tension, the dread, the sadness, and the fear in those moments where they presented themselves, and I felt a connection to Marianne and her story that I don’t often feel in many games, regardless of genre. It’s a beautiful game to look at and the art direction is excellent throughout. The Medium has a lot of heart and it wants to tell you important things, if you’ll listen. I’m not generally one to say that I enjoyed my time with any horror game, but this is a case where that is absolutely true for me, and that alone is reason enough for me to say this is a world worth experiencing.
I honestly could go on about all of the reasons why Hades is so incredibly good for another 1500 words. There is so much to unpack and explore here, but at a certain point you’re better served by just playing the damn thing yourself. Hades is Supergiant at it’s pinnacle. It is the culmination of a decade’s worth of buildup to an unparalleled experience that leverages all of their expertise, and it exemplifies the possibilities of what early access cycles can be with a supportive community and a responsive, talented team of creators. It feels as though everything Supergiant has made prior has been rehearsal for this triumphant performance, but better still, it shows the heights they’re capable of and leaves you with the strong impression that this is just the beginning of what they have in store. Don’t wait for a sale, don’t wait on Hades for any reason; if you are even remotely interested, you absolutely have to play it right away, and I promise you will not regret it.