Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse - Part 1 is thoughtfully constructed with low-pressure environments and the promise of a global thriller with a supernatural curse reaching back to Biblical times. It's strung me along this far, so I'm ready for part 2, but part 1 is doing very little to hint at any major payoff for this sleepy but good-natured point-and-click adventure.
Distinctive writing, nuanced combat and impossibly beautiful art headline The Banner Saga. Strong workmanship went into the character builds. The rethought turn-based tactics are unique and sensible. And I just couldn't slow down the insistent narrative of this brave world and the bold new legend it's sewing together.
Transistor is one of my favorite games of the past year, easy. Without being weird and unrecognizable as a video game, Transistor turns many video game tropes on their heads—subtley. It also features an excellently written and likable narrator, a fully realized and meaningfully motivated female protagonist, a twist on the tired old tech tree of yore, a soundtrack that's integral to the storytelling fabric of the game, and a complex enemy composed of cowards, contemporaries, and anything-but-bloodthirsty rivals. There's not a note, pixel, or line of dialog out of place.
Hatoful Boyfriend is not the pigeon-dating sim you're looking for: It's more than that. Curb your enthusiasm for branching storylines after playing through the early romance portion of the story. After you cross the point of no return, the game is out of your hands, and you're left with an on-rails storyline progression. Regardless, it will subvert each and every one of your preconceived notions of what Hatoful Boyfriend could even remotely be about.
Take simple, Pitfall-like platforming (minus the rope swinging), mix in a hint of Sword & Sworcery's art style, and then you have an overreaching X-meets-Y makeup of The Deer God. I feel like its motivations are far better than half-hearted; creatively and intentionally. But The Deer God keeps asking me to return to a life I find less and less interesting with each reincarnation.
Marvel's Avengers–Age of Ultron looks like a 10-car pileup glued together with overly looping dialogue and a few forgivable missteps. Even without prior existing knowledge of these superheroes' thoughts and motivations, it's still a challenging table with subtle rewards.
The premise behind Nom Nom Galaxy wears thin after a can or two. Its neatly focused premise and evolving puzzles don't progress at a rate to keep things stimulating for more than a few planets' worth of corporate conquest. The minimalist art is, at times, print worthy. The music makes me want to move back into a dorm room. But Nom Nom Galaxy doesn't often inspire the sense of exploratory wanderlust that should underpin Terraria-like worlds such as these. And the narrow gameplay and tightly wound clock makes everything feel like too much work, not enough play.
Rack N Ruin is a twin-stick shooter (sort of) with a juvenile appreciation for wanton destruction. The role-reversal, with you as the bad guy, brings up some interesting questions, but the story doesn't take neart enough advantage of that fact. It can be good to be bad, but Rack N Ruin's character isn't all that deep.
Sometimes you're a rat in a cage. Sometimes you're a lion. But when all your planning, patience, and possibly plain old good luck finally pays off, The Escapists rewards in a rare way. Because in The Escapists, whether you catch a break or catch a beatdown, you'll know you've earned it.
When it comes to psychological scares, this whodunit of a ghost story introduces you to your own worst enemy: Being inside your own head. You may anticipate more horror than you'll actually run across, but that's a horrific thought in its own right.
Tearaway is something like seeing Where the Wild Things Are, hobbled together with Elmer's glue, cut along dotted lines with terrible little grade school scissors, and creased with papercraft folds. It's an adventure that's big on controls, a bit weak in dialogue, and best enjoyed in smaller, bite-sized sessions. Tearaway is unusual, in every sense of the word.
The Talos Principle is a meaningful exercise. Sure, I worked out my brain with some good old fashioned puzzle solving. But the real workout began when I started sweating questions of why-am-I-here existence, of what constitutes consciousness—and whether the end is really the end, or if it's really the beginning, or if it's somewhere along the way.
Fallout 3 was seven years ago. Fallout 4 is one you can play, off and on, for the next seven. Congratulations, Bethesda: You've outdone yourselves again. You've made the Wasteland more beautiful, ugly, open ended, funneled down, thoughtful, and frantic than ever.
Divinity: Original Sin knows when to be whimsical, and when to take its strategic gameplay seriously. The trade-offs can be heavy. The penalties are stiff. The payoffs feel great. Old school role-playing game fans: There's a lot here for you to take in. It'll often fascinate and it'll occasionally frustrate. Getting into Original Sin's groove is a great niche to find yourself in. This Enhanced Edition on PS4 is indeed better in many, many ways.
Tharsis, you hate me, but I like you. Your small and meticulous craftsmanship. Your board game sensibilities. Your dancefloor rhythms thumping out the soundtrack to my cyclical death. I couldn't stop myself from voyaging (and dying on the way) to Tharsis again and again.
If My Little Ponies trampled a bouncy house and shot it toward Saturn, then you'd have an idea of what Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime looks like. It'll be tough to make an FTL-like more adorable than this one. The frantic one- or two-player co-op is mandatory and makes for a not-so-lonely outer space.
Even better than presenting its dangers, Firewatch presents the threat of danger. This is no feel-good summer beach read; this is a brutally beautiful and fragile story of people running from their problems—and problems running away from any tidy conclusions. This is the video game equivalent of a page turner, and adventure games have rarely been in finer form.
Sky Fortress cranks up Just Cause 3’s bombastic effects more, if that were even possible. The addition of the jetpack wingsuit and Bavarium rifle make a video game-y video game even gamier. They change up the game enough—and in enough good ways—that I wouldn’t want to give back the new toys.