Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is the ultimate comic book power fantasy. From its empowering gameplay mechanics which evoke the heroism in the game's iconic characters to its event comic-styled storyline and presentation, there is a lot for Marvel fans to enjoy here. While the moment to moment gameplay more than justifies the price of admission, when taking a step back, certain facets of the game's inherent design knock it down a few pegs--but not enough to dissuade me from giving this game a solid recommendation for the comic fans in the room.
Super Mario Maker 2 is a game that transcends its flaws. While the game can improve in several key areas, these shortcomings are triumphantly eclipsed by the strengths of the game. From its robust and accessible suite of level creation tools to its myriad ways to play, the sheer potential for fun, subversive Mario experiences outshines any problem the game may have. Super Mario Maker 2 is more than a game, it's a community—one I plan on spending a lot of time in.
Nicalis' marriage of puzzle and fighting game elements in the fan service-heavy Crystal Crisis coalesces in a largely satisfying experience. While the roster can feel unbalanced, loading times can be long and the story mode feels trite, the overarching, nuanced gameplay will keep players strategizing and returning to Crystal Crisis time and time again.
Team Sonic Racing is a fun and intelligently designed, albeit content-light, kart racer. The game's central focus on teamwork gives the experience a unique and engaging flavor and its sense of speed kept me dialed in. But, that isn't enough to assuage the title's evident flaws. From an unimpressive roster of stages to lacking modes outside of Team Sonic Racing's great single-player campaign, I'd be hard pressed to see this game lasting more than a dozen hours for many fans. While the fundamentals are fun, this racer could've used a tune-up before coming to market.
In concept, Bird Game + seems like a pleasant spin on the traditional on-rails genre. In execution, Bird Game +misses the mark in nearly every way from its surprising lack of mechanical polish to its shallow design. While its aesthetic and genuinely enjoyable boss fights are undeniable highlights, they're nowhere near potent enough to outweigh the game's fundamental issues.
Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04: VR Kit is ingeniously designed. The synthesis of physical cardboard Toy-Con with commensurate digital software creates a tactile and fun virtual reality experience that feels decidedly Nintendo. However, once the initial magic of Labo VR wears off, all that is left is a shallow, oddly assembled lot of minigames that won't last more than an afternoon.
Yoshi's Crafted World is a refreshing, modern 2D platformer from Nintendo that, for once, truly feels new. From its gorgeous aesthetic to its myriad creative level motifs and gameplay ideas, Crafted World embodies the spirit of fun. While the game's soundtrack is decidedly lackluster and its co-op feels underbaked, this is undeniably the most ambitious and fun 2D platformer from Nintendo in a long, long time.
Elli's relaxed nature makes it the perfect game to unwind with. Its world is gorgeous and its gameplay is solid, due in large part to its well designed puzzles. By the same token, its myriad technical issues and solid, yet totally shallow, core mechanics and story hold it back from being truly great.
The Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker Special Episode delivers consistently fun and refreshing puzzle action. Aiming higher than the base game, this DLC stretches the Captain Toad mechanics and concepts in new ways, while also offering interesting new settings to explore. That said, the Special Episode's reliance on remixed content from the base game and truncated runtime hold it back from being truly great. Nonetheless, this DLC offers an afternoon of colorful, creative single player or co-op entertainment.
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a game that would have benefited from being released in a vacuum. As it stands, this package is one that can neither live up to Nintendo's own suite of contemporary 2D platformers or the Deluxe moniker it is tagged with. Even beyond this point, the game is little more than a window into a bygone era of Nintendo. Offering simple, polished platforming action, this title is suited only for those who have exhausted the genre's other options on Nintendo's hybrid system.
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes is outrageous. The game is uncompromisingly zany: full of smart design, fluid combat, and laugh out loud personality front to back. While some may be turned off by its low budget feel and disjointed design, those who can look past these rough edges will find a hack-and-slash so quirky that it'll be tough not to fall in love. This title stands as a shining beacon of bold creativity and anyone who values risk-taking in games owes it to themself to give Travis Strikes Again a shot.
Pokémon Let's Go is a curious game which bucks the established trends of mainline Pokémon titles. The series' signature, turn-based combat takes a backseat to the experience of simply existing in the world of Pokémon, capturing Kanto's ‘mons with brand-new, well-executed capturing mechanics. This game lacks many of the “hardcore” features that scores of fans, myself included, have come to expect from a new title. However, in the wake of these features is a Pokémon experience that engaged me in a manner unlike any title in the series' past.
Super Mario Party is some of the most fun to be had with a local multiplayer game on the Switch. Unfortunately that is compromised by a deluge of limited modes and design decisions that pull the whole package down. Based the fun factor alone, Super Mario Party justifies its price tag for anyone looking for a new game to play with friends. However, Super Mario Party's fun factor well exceeds the title's fundamental design principles--so tempering one's expectations is a must.
Hover is a game with fundamental design and movement flaws that limit theoverall appeal of the game. However, surrounding these problems is a great universe that is matched by solid mission variety, a unique level-up system, and interesting energy mechanics. In addition, the game's robust basketball-parkour mode, Gameball, is an absolute highlight, and offered the most fun Hover has to offer. Depending on how much these design issues affect your enjoyment will largely depend on what you prioritize in games, and as such, Hover is difficult to give a blanket recommendation.
Super Lucky's Tale is a very predictable 3D platformer. It checks all the boxes it needs to while drawing heavily on the genre's tentpole titles. Due to that derivative nature in conjunction with the title's very low difficulty and padded progression, Super Lucky's Tale is a hesitant recommendation, and only for the hardcore platformer fan. There is some laid-back fun here, but nothing about this title pushes the envelope in any substantial way, and won't be supremely appealing to a non-fan of the genre.
Mini Metro's dynamic gameplay kept me engaged, yet never left me feeling overwhelmed. Whether I was simply looking for twenty minutes of casual puzzling or a burst of hardcore strategy, Mini Metro's deceptively nuanced gameplay worked on both levels equally well. With some quality of life improvements and a more detailed presentation, Mini Metro could propel itself even higher, but even with these concessions the game is easy to recommend.
Laser-focused and brimming with charm, Donut County is one of the year's best experiences. While brief, its laugh-out-loud sense of humor and laid-back, tactile gameplay combine precisely to create a game like no other. You'll come for its physics based puzzle-solving, but you'll stay for its quirky cast of characters and world. This is not a game to be missed.