To me, 343 Industries have succeeded with Halo Infinite in two of the most important gaming aspects, its brilliant gameplay and story. Graphically it may be underwhelming, on the Series S at least, and it could have at least done with six months more of polish, but this was easily the most fun I’ve had with a Halo game since Halo 3. The open-world setting of Zeta Halo breathes new life into the series and gives players the freedom to explore with plenty of opportunities to fight the Banished in whatever way you wish, whether on foot, via ground vehicles or by air. This is a major return to form for the Halo series and it’s great to see Master Chief back to finish the fight!
Overall, Forza Horizon 5 is easily the champion of racers. The variety and freedom on offer, from the vast quantity of activities to vehicles and the different biomes of Mexico, all create the most enjoyable racer I have ever played. The Showcase events feel epic and are greatly complimented by the games’ gorgeous visuals, especially the dynamic weather system that adds an extra layer of excitement with dust storms that can engulf you and the tropical storms that you can see rolling across the sky for storm chasers to seek out. Whether you’re a racing enthusiast or not, Forza Horizon 5 will have you belted in for a complete joyride!
Petoons Studio must be commended for creating such an authentic Peppa Pig experience with My Friend Peppa Pig. My daughter loved playing along with Peppa Pig and her friends, she was fascinated that she was controlling a game that looked identical to the cartoon that she enjoys so much.
Overall, for my first time playing a game specifically aimed at children, I had a great time playing PAW Patrol The Movie: Adventure City Calls with my daughter. It’s the first game that has truly captivated her and she could pick up and play herself. She would never fully complete it or find all of the collectables without my help, but as she grows older the game will at least help teach her the mechanics that she will need for more complex games. There is a good amount of variety within each mission and a fun selection of mini-games to keep my daughter wanting to keep coming back to play the game. The PAW Patrol team is most certainly ‘on a roll’ and it’s well worth visiting Adventure City to enjoy this child-friendly game.
Song of Iron brings together a visually beautiful rendition of Nordic environments and music, which is complemented by weighty combat gameplay that makes you feel like a true Viking, and while the game’s puzzles and traps are a little rough around the edges, they thankfully don’t hinder the overall experience. If that’s not enough to draw you in, simply pick it up to experience the story’s twist alone – it had me thinking I was drunk on Viking mead, it’s that crazy!
Psychonauts 2 is easily one of the most entertaining platformers that I have played in recent years. The level design is so impressive and constantly throwing new ideas at you that creates a fresh gameplay experience throughout the games lengthy story. Once again, Double Fine Productions have instilled themselves as some of the finest writers on the gaming scene with a narrative that successfully manages to walk the fine line of merging comedy with sensitive mental health themes and being completely respectful of the subject matter. Raz has equally become one of my all-time favourite gaming protagonists and I really hope we won’t have to wait another 16 years to jump into some new mind-bending experiences.
Microsoft Flight Simulator offers the most detailed, realistic and impressive flight simulator package which is also an absolute marvel to play on Xbox consoles, whether it be the Series X or less powerful Series S. Asobo Studio should be congratulated for their accomplishment in bringing this game to consoles, especially with the fact that the game offers the whole world to explore, including real-time mapping and weather systems. For newcomers to the series, that may initially find the thought of a flight simulator daunting, you can be assured that the accessibility and assistance options, along with the flight training challenges, all help to offer an experience that is enjoyable whilst still feeling authentic. For flight enthusiasts, you don’t need me to tell you that Microsoft Flight Simulator is an absolute must-buy!
Death’s Door is easily one of the best and well-rounded action games that I’ve played this year. It gets all the basics right and then excels with a compelling story and cast of characters, a gorgeous and interesting world to explore, and combat that is intense and extremely enjoyable. It’s an absolute must and has left me now never quite looking at a crow in the same way, always wondering whether it’s about to attack and reap my soul!
Narita Boy has instant appeal with its gorgeous pixelated visuals and absolutely ‘80s-esque banging soundtrack. The ‘80s nostalgia, thankfully, isn’t all this game has to offer as the narrative is surprisingly emotive, and the lore of the Digital Kingdom is interesting, if not a little techno jargon-heavy. Swinging the Techno Sword and cutting through enemies is immensely satisfying and the challenge is spot on. Jumping mechanic aside, this is easily one of the most accomplished 2D pixelated action-platformers that I’ve played in recent years and I would highly recommend that you load up your Narita One console and become NARITA BOY!
Lost Ember successfully creates a mechanic of switching between animals and exploring a gorgeous world in a seamless and unique manner. It’s a real highlight of the game which is only complemented further by having such an engrossing and strong narrative. It is a shame that some technical hiccups impair the games’ overall quality but none the less, it is a very worthy title for nature lovers or those looking for a relaxing experience to add to their Nintendo Switch library.
The Nintendo Switch is really becoming the console of choice for visual novels/Adult-themed narratives and Catherine: Full Body is definitely one of the most engaging and enjoyable I’ve played on the console. Vincent’s journey questions the morality of relationships in a very interesting and often humorous manner, while the game also offers some of the best written and entertaining cast of characters in the medium. While the visual novel aspect of the game was perfectly handled, the block puzzle stages might not appeal to all. These did very much grow on me over time as I found myself becoming a traversal wizard, offering unique gameplay like no other on the market.
In summary, Beyond Blue captures the sense of adventure via exploring the depths of the ocean better than any marine themed game that I’ve played. The sense of scale, detail and realism is such an incredible feat. Other than the exploration, I also enjoyed the aspects of the game spent with Mirai within her submarine, but I wished that this part of the game had been expanded further to help pad the game out a little more. E-Line Media has accomplished their goal of creating a beautifully engaging game, whilst also acting as an educational tool with the compelling Ocean Insight documentaries. If you have any interest in nature, in particular marine wildlife, then there is no better game than Beyond Blue.
Arise: A Simple Story has done something no other media has done to me in quite some time, send me on a rollercoaster of emotions. The game’s environments are visually very pretty and often quite quirky, while the musical score is truly moving and compliments the game perfectly. While the time manipulation concept is nothing new, it is done very cleverly and makes for some interesting platforming sequences. Platforming precision may be a minor irritation but it doesn’t impede the overall experience in the slightest.
I can’t express enough just how well The Gentlebros delivers in making a ridiculously charming and rewarding game. Cat Quest II has bucket loads of terrific humour, adorable characters and you will never tire of the entertaining cat and dog puns on offer. The second playable character really adds to keeping combat fresh, whether you play the game in solo mode or in local co-op with a friend. Cat Quest II may be overly familiar to those that have played Cat Quest, but more of the same is definitely not a bad thing when the game is so entertaining and fun to play. This cat-venture is a terrific sequel that certainly gets my tail wagging with joy!
Untitled Goose Game provides a honking good time. The idea of playing as a horrible goose is genius and unlike anything I have ever played before. It’s a family-friendly game packed with plenty of laughs and puzzles. The game, however, only justifies my initial feelings – geese are pure evil and should be avoided at all costs!
Don’t let the shortness or lack of challenge of Hamsterdam: Paws of Justice prevent you from playing this rather excellent little brawler. I enjoyed every minute of my adventure with Pimm, helping to defeat Marlo and his Vermin Gang, and restore peace and tranquillity to Hamsterdam. Pimm is an adorable little hero that packs a mean punch. Fingers crossed for a sequel where he could potentially be joined by his Grandpa for some intense co-op hamster-fu action!
Whilst Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a terrific game and will keep you entertained for a number of hours, I don’t think the game is worth the £34.99 price tag and I would recommend waiting for a price drop before you buy. When you think that you can purchase Hollow Knight for half that price, it’s more impressive visually and you can easily plough 60+ hours into the game, then I feel that Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, with its lack of polish, should have therefore been priced much more reasonably at no more than £25. I’m minded to say that you are paying more for the fact that the game is produced by Igarashi than its true worth. I’ll conclude by saying that, quite simply, for fans of the Castlevania series or classic Metroidvania games, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is an essential purchase.
FAR: Lone Sails created a sense of isolation unlike I’ve ever felt before from a game. It’s visually stunning and moulds resource management and exploration in a fun and unique way with having to operate your land-ship to traverse the beautiful, yet bleak world. It might be a tad on the short side but as a whole, the game is extremely satisfying and a pleasure to play.
I had a blast playing Reverie: Sweet As Edition. It’s a superb nostalgia trip which oozes charm and feels so right being on a Nintendo console. It honestly feels like it could have been created or endorsed by Nintendo themselves, it just has that magical feel and high quality to it. Some experienced players might be put off by its easy difficulty, but Reverie’s unique style and charisma makes it well worth experiencing as it’s a whole lot of fun that can be enjoyed by all.