The design approach taken by The Longing is bold, but it is not something everyone will appreciate. We live in an era of endless distractions, with many different forms of both work and entertainment clamouring for our time. Perhaps the developers behind The Longing have a point that it’s worth it to slow down once in a while.
Separation is long on atmosphere and artistry, but short on content. The impression it provides is that something deep and meaningful is hidden in its beautifully realised world, but the glacial pacing and slightly frustrating controls seem intent on keeping it in the dark. Separation has things to say, but does not quite seem to know how to express them.
Of the two games in the re-release pack, Bayonetta is the one that stands out the most, as it is easily the most fun. Shooter fans might have some fun with Vanquish, but anyone who likes action hack-and-slash titles such as God Hand or Devil May Cry should grab a copy of Bayonetta immediately, if not before.
Luna: The Shadow Dust has a beautiful art style, and the early puzzles are fun and interesting, but it falls short of becoming a truly great game. Players who are adept at out-of-the-box thinking might find more to enjoy here, but many will be put off by the levels of frustration prompted by later puzzles.
Code Vein tries hard to overcome its flaws with anime style and flamboyance—and in many areas almost succeeds. The character creation and Code-based upgrade system are intriguing, but the combat and partner AI are too inconsistent to overcome the uneven pacing and difficulty. Code Vein has its positives, but is flawed as a single-player experience.
Devil’s Hunt is visually stunning in many ways and seeks to rise above its indie roots, but sadly the game is lacking in polish in many areas. Though at times the gameplay can be genuinely fun and engaging, Devil’s Hunt suffers from frustrating flaws that put it in the shade of other hack-and-slash titles. The clunky and occasionally tasteless writing does the game no favours either.
Overall, Torchlight II is a very solid console port. The gameplay loop is generally satisfying despite the minor annoyances, and can even feel a bit zen once the player manages to sink fully into the rhythm. Torchlight II does not do anything remarkable for the action hack-and-slash genre, but functions as a good spiritual successor to Diablo II and makes for a good alternative for hack-and-slash fans who were put off by Diablo III.
Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is something of an oddity. The game has a lot of depth to uncover and problems to overcome, but with a difficulty curve like a brick wall, many players will end up walking away in frustration. For those with the patience of a mountain, this is worth checking out, as the lush environments are beautiful to behold, and many fascinating discoveries wait to be made and passed on down the generations.
The Sinking City is one of the best Lovecraft-inspired games available and, despite some slightly awkward controls in places, the game is brilliantly crafted. Fans of horror will love its atmosphere and those who enjoy investigative games will quickly become absorbed in the depth offered by the gameplay. Those who loved L.A. Noire or Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, and players of the tabletop game, should definitely give thought to picking this title up.
Team Sonic Racing does not do anything that is revolutionary, but the single-player mode is a significant improvement on previous Sumo Digital racing titles, since the teamwork and customisation options add quite a bit of depth. The result is clearly meant to promote local multiplayer, but players can still have lots of fun solo. Team Sonic Racing definitely packs enough entertainment in to be worth the cost of entry.
Jupiter & Mars is a calming experience overall. In small doses, the title could be a great antidote to a stressful day, particularly if played in VR. However, the game’s short length and lack of threat makes it too dull for long-term or repeat play. The soundtrack is the project’s major stand-out element, and the OST album would be worth buying on its own—if and when it ever becomes available.
SteamWorld Quest: The Hand of Gilgamech is a wonderful, fun RPG adventure that has a lot of depth to delve into, secrets to explore, and story to uncover. The game looks beautiful, sounds brilliant, and has a smooth and absorbing gameplay flow. SteamWorld Quest, is surprisingly easy to get completely sucked in to, with the card game elements providing an impressive amount of complexity to the combat. Any RPG fan should give serious consideration to adding the title to their Nintendo Switch library and fans of previous SteamWorld games will find a lot to enjoy in the art and lore, too.
Pathway is a decent game, but it could be superb if a few more events were added into the randomised event tiles and the campaign storyline was strengthened. The combat has a solid strategy core to it, and the music and visuals are both brilliantly crafted. Variety is the spice of life and video games; Pathway just needs to add a bit more of that spice to make it stunning.
Tech Support: Error Unknown would have been more impressive if it had a clear message, perhaps about worker exploitation, or corporate overreach, or even the damage hacker activists can cause. Sadly, this aspect is either so subtle as to be undetectable, or missing entirely. What this leaves behind is an entirely too accurate simulation of the daily grind of a tech support technician, where the main interest lies in trying to find the end of each story branch, and fun is largely put on the back-burner.
For fans of old-school roguelikes, a lot is to be enjoyed in Tangledeep. For those who enjoy tinkering with skills, weapons, passives, and feats, the expansive menus and options also offer a great deal of depth to be explored. However, this depth comes with the price of making the experience somewhat unintuitive, which is exacerbated by the clunky movement system. Players will find a lot to enjoy in Tangledeep if they have the patience to explore its complex systems to discover what lies beneath the surface.
Eastshade is transcendent. While the game may not be perfect for everyone, fans of RPGs and players looking for a relaxing video game will certainly want to check it out. The game's gentle soundtrack and gorgeous visuals nicely accompany its detailed open world for a beautiful, chilled out experience.
Vane is beautiful in its expression. Players will find themselves stunned by the world the game depicts, but, unfortunately, the title seems to be an expression of style over substance. Vane looks and often sounds amazing, but the developer has pursued making a work of art at the expense of something that is fun to play. Overall, Vane could certainly be considered a work of art. Nevertheless, though it was clearly aiming to be the next Shadow of the Colossus, it hits wide of the mark, as Vane lacks the depth and impact of that classic title.
Toki is a fun way to kill some time, and will certainly appear to retro arcade fans. The artwork, animation, and music are all amazing, but the sometimes unfair difficulty and lack of extra game modes means the game is an unfortunately brief experience that probably is not worth revisiting once completed. The Retrocollector Edition redeems the game somewhat with some great extras, particularly the mini arcade cabinet, but unfortunately the game itself does not have quite enough substance.
Unlike many 'Optional VR' games, Tetris Effect thrives in VR, and a PlayStation VR headset is by far the best way of experiencing this game. Tetris Effect is a very polished, absorbing, and beautiful experience, and well worth checking out for anybody who has a PlayStation 4, especially if they also have a PSVR headset.