Smoke and Sacrifice tells a compelling tale of a mother searching for answers after being forced to give up her son. While the game's gorgeous art brings its grim world to life, its story is ultimately undercut by poor pacing and vague objectives. Smoke and Sacrifice shines in concept, but falters in execution.
Spiritsphere DX remixes a well-worn genre, adding tons of variety on top of a simplistic core mechanic. It offers plenty of unlockables and play modes, but they don't add much to its replayability. Spiritsphere DX shines in short multiplayer sessions, but likely won't hold solo players' attention for long.
A clever addition to Mario + Rabbids that plays to the original's strengths without takings many risks. While Donkey Kong Adventure likely won't win the game any new fans, it's a treat for anyone who were left wanting more. The expansion trims some of the fat from the original, delivering a quick, focused game that quits while it's ahead.
Earthfall is a cooperative FPS with a few interesting ideas that it fails to deliver on. Built on a poor foundation of unsatisfying combat and repetitive mission structure, every aspect of the game is mediocre at best. With some serious retooling, its light building mechanic could be an interesting twist, but there's little reason to play Earthfall in its current state with so many better examples of the genre already out there.
Graveyard Keeper makes a lot of bold choices, replacing the friendly, relaxing atmosphere of typical life sims with a more goal-directed structure in a more cynical setting. While I found its pace tedious at times and would have preferred more focus on the grave-tending mechanics, more patient players will find a lot to like in its wealth of well-developed diversions, fantastic art and music, and pitch-black comedic aesthetic.
Guacamelee 2 recaptures everything that made the original great and adds a few new tricks for good measure. It's a joy to look at and it feels great to play, especially when it focuses on challenging platforming. The game feels a little padded out with lots of backtracking and locked-room combat sequences, but it's still an absolute blast to play.
Death's Gambit is buggy, unpolished, frustrating, and derivative. At the same time, it features some interesting bosses and unexpected storytelling tricks. It's sure to be a divisive game, but you may be won over by the atmosphere its fantastic art, music, and voice acting create, if you can overlook its flaws.
Despite an extremely promising opening, The Low Road fails to capitalize on its own interesting premise. Every part of its presentation, from art to music to voice acting, is fantastic, but the puzzles that make up the game fall flat. Though I was happy to spend time with The Low Road's characters, the game around them doesn't hold up.
Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner --- M∀RS is one of the best looking mech games out there, despite being a remaster of a 15-year-old game. Its fast, flashy combat still looks and feels good, but is constantly undermined by an extremely unwieldy camera. With its short, linear campaign, dull story, and terrible dialogue, The 2nd Runner seems stuck in 2003, despite its slick graphical upgrade.
The Bard's Tale IV could be a fun — but seriously flawed — game if it weren't hamstrung by technical problems. Its frequent framerate drops, bugged combat abilities, and crashes are compounded by an archaic save system that makes it far too easy to lose progress. Though it features some great combat and challenging puzzles, they're not without their own flaws, and become extremely repetitive over the game's 30–40-hour playtime.