All of that being said, Spider-Man: Miles Morales doesn’t wield the weighty price tag of $69.99 that other first party titles do and will. The $49.99 price seems to be of accurate value, and since I’m not a fan of Souls-like games and the universally-acclaimed Demon’s Souls does not appeal to me, this is so far, and will likely remain, my favorite of the PS5 launch titles. Like Miles stepping into the heroic role once occupied by Peter, Spider-Man: Miles Morales had the huge shoes of Marvel’s Spider-Man to fill, with all of the expectations that comes along with the title. It’s a little less than what you once got, and isn’t quite the masterpiece of its predecessor, but is still more than worthy of your time and attention. Hopefully, the universe continues onwards with a larger adventure, because Insomniac has created one of my favorite currently-running video game franchises.
Luckily for PS5 owners, Bugsnax was added as the first free game for PS+ users, so there was little risk in jumping in to it for any players that enjoy playing online. The end of Bugsnax hit around the 10-hour mark, and I enjoyed most of my time spent on Snaktooth Island. The actual decisions made in the plot, as well as the overall absurd premise, often left me scratching my head more than the mystery of Lizbert’s disappearance, but the bright oddities of this bizarre planet, with its hilariously-combined food creatures and its animated residents, were enough to keep me playing all the way through. My own children enjoyed the silly antics of the bugs as well, and though they didn’t catch to the more adult-themed nuances, were interested in Snaktooth’s tale. If you have a PS5, are subscribed to PS+, and aren’t expecting a masterpiece, then Bugsnax is worth your time as a silly, absurdist escape.
If you’re new to Level Down Games, you should know that we reserve perfect scores for the very rare event that a game should be considered a true masterpiece of its genre and that, for the life of the reviewer, we wouldn’t change a thing about the game. In 2019, we didn’t award a single perfect score to any game. I hope that our miserly use of tens leads you to take it very seriously when we finally hand one out. When I say that the music, story, combat, and flow of Hades is very near perfect, I don’t mean that I would change something, only that there is something that might have room for improvement that I have not been able to identify after many hours of playtime. Hades is priced at an affordable $24.99, and since its release has already had a few sales. It is worth much more than the asking price, and I genuinely can not recommend it enough.
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, and I’ve long adored games that embody the cheery hilarity of the season, including Costume Quest, themed events in Animal Crossing, and the costumes characters might acquire in World of Warcraft. Pumpkin Jack easily enters this pantheon of all-hallowed gaming for me, and I enjoyed nearly every moment I spent with it. Pumpkin Jack is a game that will have little difficulty being enjoyed by gamers of all ages, and I’m excited to get to share an updated version of one of my childhood favorite genres with my own children.
Earlier in August, another boat-faring game by the name of Spiritfarer was also released, and which I also reviewed, and if you are going to get one game about boats and oceans this month, get Spiritfarer. In fact, I would have a difficult time recommending Windbound over almost any game, and for almost any reason. In most regards, Windbound struggles to feel like a game at all, instead playing like a demo for a far-from-release Kickstarter project, or the alpha build of a new engine, where game mechanics have only been implemented for testing purposes. This isn't an early access project, but is a full release with an audacious asking price of $29.99 for an adventure that, according to Steam metrics, took me all of 4.3 hours to breeze through. The best part is that it only took me less than five hours to see the ending credits. Oh well, at least Tony Hawk comes out this week. DON'T LET ME DOWN, TONY!
I can't say that Spiritfarer is a game for everybody, or that it's a perfect game, or even that it's MY perfect game, but I can say that it was a surprise just how much I found myself tangled up in the tales of my friends, and how much each one emotionally resonated with me. It made me consider my relationship with my children, and the duties I have as a father to raise, love, teach, and protect them. I considered my aging and elderly grandmother who lives multiple states away and is due for a visit from me. My thoughts wandered to my own mental health, how I care for myself and whether or not I give myself the attention that I need and deserve. Very seldom does a game come along that so precisely taps into my emotions and causes such a state of reflection. It's difficult not to recommend Spiritfarer to anybody at this point, because it is the most special indie game I've played in a long time.
If you haven’t played Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout yet, I strongly recommended everyone reading this to watch a Twitch stream or YouTube video. The colors are bright and inviting, the gameplay is easy to grasp, and though I don’t think it will be everybody’s cup of tea, I think that most gamers will find at least SOME fun to be had in the trails of the jelly beans. The team at Mediatonic seem dedicated to this game’s success and support, and there is truly so much potential for this game. I can see myself a year or two from now, having a wardrobe full of unique colors and costumes, playing through as-of-yet unreleased minigames, still trying after that elusive crown, and still laughing each time I get haphazardly tossed to my doom. For me, the asking price is an easy investment to what I envision will be endless hours of fun. At the end of 2020, there will be a lot to look back on. Mostly bad, but some good, and I think Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout will be high on my list of good.
Dépanneur Nocturne is only $4.99 on Steam, a measly sum that is worth the price of entry for the handful of hours you can easily spend exploring. There will likely be sales in the future, and I could imagine this being a free game in a future Epic giveaway, but it's always nice to support these small independent studios when I have the opportunity. Dépanneur Nocturne isn't likely to win any year-end awards, but on a Wednesday afternoon in a quiet home, I was happy to be whisked away for a quick diversion from these otherwise hectic times.
I won’t act like Neon Abyss is a game for everybody, or even for most people. The difficulty scale is much too high for younger gamers or those that get frustrated too easily. The repetitive gameplay loop won’t keep many people interested. Even those that love rogue-likes, especially The Binding of Isaac and Dead Cells, might be put off by the repetitive appearances of their least favorite minibosses. Indeed, I think Neon Abyss would benefit from some DLC that improves upon the variation one might experience from run to run. But, for what it’s worth, and for those that particularly enjoy this type of painful punishment, you’ll find an impressively compelling loop that will keep you returning again and again and again (I even bought a new controller for my PC to help me play a little better). This is a game that deserves to be discussed amongst the best indie games of 2020, and will rank amongst the greats of its genre.
Thankfully, you won't have to buy Streets of Rage 4 for its retail price of $24.99 to enjoy it on PC or Xbox - the game is available on Xbox Game Pass, and for most gamers, that will be enough. Streets of Rage 4 wasn't perfect, but it was certainly better than I expected it to be and set a stage for future beat-em-ups that I hope more developers take cues from. Most surprisingly, Streets of Rage 4 made me want to boot up my NES and SNES, pop in the brutal fight fests of my childhood, and teach my 5-year-old just how hard games used to be.