A deal with the Devil starts the story of Cuphead, and at times the gameplay can make the player feel as if they are in hell, yet the graphics speak to a time long past, revitalized by Studio MDHR. While the future of the title seemed uncertain at times, and the decision to go beyond a simple litany of boss battles to more of a true platformer in 2015 pushed the developers to their limits, the end result has truly taken the industry by storm. Those gamers who were smitten by the title at first sight and have waited years to see the release as well as those who have heard of the game by word of mouth or simple happy accidents should all be impressed and pleased with this result. Inherently difficult games can lose players if the rest of the production also falls flat, but no such problem can be found here. A simple narrative premise and the quintessential "easy to learn, hard to master" gameplay find a happy marriage, tied together by rich visuals and a snappy soundtrack that make every minute in the game unique. No shame should be felt in restarting levels countless times, or needing to take a breath before going on. Cuphead was not made in a day. Thus, players need not finish in one. In fact, the title is best taken in small doses, in sections and boss fights, simmering and sipped like a fine meal made by a very fine chef. The magic of the title is to be appreciated, not rushed through, and all the elements combine for an experience long in the making that will remain in the mind as fondly as the era that players are transported to when a cup makes a deal with the Devil and a soul is on the line.
Mass Effect: Andromeda succeeds in realizing BioWare's vision to make players feel like a Pathfinder making their way through the unknown. From the characters and plot, to the galaxy map and open planets, the studio uses a familiar set of ingredients to craft a new adventure that still bears the flavor of Commander Shepard and the Normandy. This game is an instance where, more than ever, the game genuinely gets better the more one plays. While not a perfect sequel, with issues that need to be addressed, both technically in the now and narratively in the future, BioWare has created a strong opening to a new story that is worthy of the Mass Effect mantle, while also forging a fresh path through the shadows of legend.
Standing alone, Before the Storm has an emotional arc, which goes to say that the experience is not an inherent waste of time. The nature of truth that is at the heart of the narrative is not without merit—a worthy exploration of an important theme to be sure. Overall, Deck Nine does as the best as any studio could be expected to in trying to recapture the magic of the first season, even if the experience ultimately leaves players wanting more of that original magic. Perhaps these shortcomings are simply a testament to the quality of the initial installment. Any attempt to replicate Life is Strange would always fall flat, and no one can be faulted for failing at such an impossible task. In the end, even with all the proper precautions and setup in place to capture the same lightning in a bottle, the emotional maelstrom that is Life is Strange is so potent because of the storm at the heart of the game. Anything that comes before is just the calm.
In the short amount of time players have to try out the new mechanics and get reacquainted with the old, Dontnod sets up a new story that could be as emotionally resonant as the first game, but in different ways. Given the age difference between Max and Chris, the same exact situations cannot play out, nor should the story be the same. Superheroes are as popular in the gestalt as ever, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and The Incredibles 2 to My Hero Academia and One Punch Man. The unique chance to tell a compelling adult story from the point of view of a child—one who may have superpowers at that—is oh so delightful, and if anyone is up to the task of taking what is popular and familiar and subverting expectations to craft something raw and beautiful, Dontnod has that locked down.