Katana Zero is a game that I loved playing, but I walked away from it with some major reservations. On top of its tight, excellent swordplay, fun time-shifting powers, and pitch-perfect soundtrack, Katana Zero packs some interesting storytelling tricks that I wasn't expecting. On the other hand, it uses its innovative structure to tell a story rife with ill-conceived takes on disturbing subject matter without a content warning in sight. Katana Zero is an extraordinarily fun experience for the few hours it lasts, but the bad taste it left in my mouth lingered much longer.
Outward is an ambitious, uncompromising game, sometimes to its own detriment. There’s a lot to like about it, from its unique take on player character death to its focus on the mundane aspects of adventuring. But every moment when it really shined was surrounded by drudgery and frustration. Outward is sure to appeal to some players, but it often undercuts its own best features.
Unruly Heroes features a mix of platforming and combat with four characters that you can switch between on the fly. With a handful of interesting bosses and plenty of mechanical variation between levels, the game never locks you into one style of play for too long. Ultimately, though, I didn't find any part of it that much fun to play, which wasn't helped by its leaden controls and uneven difficulty.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice manages to live up to its monstrously high expectations in nearly every way. Its high-risk combat system is as satisfying as it is punishing, and its level design begs you to explore every inch of the world. While its locations and enemies aren't as varied as in previous From Software games, you'll hardly notice when you're locking swords with opponents across several beautiful settings. Sekiro tells an intriguing tale about loyalty and mortality packed with surprises and easy-to-miss side stories.
Mana Spark is a middle-of-the-road roguelike that gestures toward a lot of interesting ideas, but doesn’t fully develop any of them. It’s a fun game at first, with a good combat system and a nice variety of unique enemies, but it doesn’t offer nearly enough to stay fresh on repeated runs through its samey dungeons.
Wargroove has the confidence to stick to simple, familiar gameplay with a few twists, rather than try to wow you with its novelty. While its charming graphics might make it look cute, it offers a vicious challenge that gets a bit uneven at times. If you get into its slower pace and high difficulty, it also offers plenty of alternate game modes and custom campaign creation tools to extend the fun.
Vane lets players shift from the form of a bird to a child as they explore a strange, hallucinatory world set to a fantastic synth soundtrack. But what starts as a liberating flight through a vast desert eventually devolves into a linear trek through cramped corridors. Vane is a strange, haunting game that deserves attention, but it abandons its most interesting ideas too early on.
Fitness Boxing doesn't have a lot of features to speak of, but it does provide a solid workout. Its exercise routines are challenging and enjoyable enough, despite their atrocious background music. Fitness Boxing isn't going to be the most fun game on your Switch, but it's worth checking out if you need a little extra motivation to get your heart rate up.
Bladed Fury doesn't break any new ground, but it's got its 2D hack and slash fundamentals down to a science. Its beautiful hand-drawn art style and great enemy designs bring its mythological rendition of ancient China to life, even when its story fails to.
Using only text messages, Bury me, my Love develops two relatable main characters and tells the engaging story of a Syrian woman's search for refuge in Europe after her sister is killed in a bombing. The game rewards multiple playthroughs with its compelling writing and interesting storylines, though replaying the same passages can be tedious.
Ashen uses the Souls-like formula to tell a very different, optimistic story about community. Whether you're playing alone, with an AI companion, or with another person, combat with the game's varied enemies and bosses is challenging and satisfying. Ashen's world feels real and lived-in, and getting to carve out your own settlement and watch it prosper is truly satisfying.
Below is a dark, mysterious game that invites you to illuminate its secrets, then punishes you for trying. While it does a great job invoking a sense of wonder, thanks in part to its sparse, tense soundtrack, its genuinely great moments are spread far too thin. Below will certainly be a divisive game, but it offers a compelling experience for players willing to put up with a good amount of frustration and tedium.
Book of Demons introduces a unique card-based skill system and a sense of humor to the stuck-in-its-ways ARPG genre. It has plenty of tricks in its dungeon to keep you on your toes, but gives you ample ways to form your own strategy. With three distinct classes and an endlessly replayable quest, you can get lost in Book of Demons' papercut dungeon for quite a while.
Gris is an incredible achievement, using its art, music, and gameplay to tell a thematically consistent story about a woman overcoming her grief. Despite the weighty subject matter, the way its protagonist's triumph over sorrow is reflected in increasingly fluid and diverse platforming makes it a joy to play. While Gris is low on challenge and impossible to fail, it still feels exciting. Even if it doesn't sound like your kind of game, Gris absolutely deserves a try.
At its best, Desert Child captures the feeling of working toward a big dream while struggling to even buy your next meal. Unfortunately, those moments come sandwiched between a lot of repetition as the initially fun races become a chore that you have to do over and over again. Desert Child's unique setting, filled out with great art and a killer soundtrack, is fun to explore for a while, but the game runs out of gas a little too quickly.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden's blend of turn-based tactical combat with stealth is interesting, but not always successful, and its story doesn't take advantage of its unique setting. Although the ability to explore the world and sneak up on enemies adds a fun twist to the genre, it brings unwelcome complications and technical hiccups as well. I also ran into numerous performance issues, including game-ending freezes, that strained my initial fondness for the game.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker sets up an epic story, expansive world, difficult combat, and lively characters, but all these elements eventually become tiresome. Its unforgiving difficulty and strict adherence to Pathfinder tabletop rules will likely turn away more players than it attracts, and while its kingdom management sim sets it apart from similar RPGs, no part of the game ever feels wholly original. Despite boldly putting players in the role of a king or queen, it never engages enough with the consequences of your decisions, or whether you have the right to make them at all.
Cybarian: The Time Travelling Warrior is a difficult, often frustrating retro action platformer that values its old-school aesthetic over all else. Everything from its graphics and sound to its difficulty and controls recall an earlier era of gaming, but it does nothing to expand on that legacy. Players looking for a challenge may take some pride in conquering Cybarian, but its short playtime and mostly empty levels leave very little to sink your teeth into.
Moonlighter's original conceit blends shopkeeping with monster-slaying in a way that's satisfying for most of its length. While both its combat and trading eventually get repetitive, the gorgeous graphics and pixel art make it a pleasant journey while it lasts. Unfortunately, your character's quest comes to feel as shallow as the merchant's life he wants to escape with its uninteresting goal and uninspired conclusion.