For fans of the OG PSP game, Crisis Core Reunion is a fantastic remaster, seeing how meticulously a game can be updated with enough budget behind it. For fans of Final Fantasy VII on PS1, this is an opportunity to play the best game in the original Compilation (no offence to Dirge of Cerberus) on modern consoles. Its many changes and additions help bring these PSP mechanics closer to modern standards and the game is better off for it. For fans of Remake keen to understand more of this world and characters, Crisis Core is a great amuse-bouche before Rebirth launches next year.
Pentiment is a remarkable achievement in storytelling. If I were to play again and make different choices I'm sure I would discover new dimensions to these characters I've come to know very well. Thanks to the game's aesthetics, its meticulously researched writing, and the pedigree of its development team, the story of Andreas Maler is well worth experiencing. The game gracefully balances serious themes, soap operatic twists, and some very funny moments, revolving around a large cast of diverse, complex characters. Obsidian may have taken a risk making a game so unlike anything else they've made before, but the gamble has well and truly paid off. It's not just a game for lit nerds.
A Plague Tale: Requiem is both a worthy sequel to a sleeper hit, and a brilliant game on its own. Asobo Studio have shown their knack for using believable human relationships as the basis for an unrealistic supernatural horror story. The next chapter in Amicia and Hugo's story deserves to be seen, if anything because the narrative is both unique and powerful. Despite the increasing brutality of this world and minor mechanical issues, you'll be in safe hands with this game, unlike our young heroes.
Mothmen 1966 is ultimately a terrific little horror game, reminding us that the genre can be more than first-person jumpscare factories. As the first episode of the 3-part first volume of Pixel Pulps, the adventures of Holt, Victoria, and Lee provide a terrific first impression of what will hopefully be a memorable series. The brief interactive interludes do not hold up to the polish of the writing, soundscapes, and graphics of Mothmen 1966, but LCD Game Studio have a chance to update those mechanics when the next episode, Varney Lake, comes out later this year.
Gibbon: Beyond the Trees is a fantastically paced game seemingly designed to be experienced in bite-sized chunks with challenging controls that could be mastered by those willing to put in the effort. With all the thought and care put into representing these beautiful creatures and their heartbreaking lives, the game’s issues appear to stem from a lack of resources, not passion. Despite the repetition and technical struggles, it’s a short, sweet experience whose positive elements are more memorable than its faults.
It’s cheery, lighthearted entertainment, but the focus on local multiplayer comes with the loss of a stronger game for solo players, where it’s a lot easier to think about the missed opportunities and strange restrictions contained within its bright facade.
FixFox is a delightful title that manages to be a comfortable experience despite the at-times heavy themes. The self-fulfilling loop of repairing machines is the highlight, and it’s what you’ll be doing most, outside simple puzzles. Occasional unclear objectives, however, drag the experience down during specific moments. But once you get past FixFox’s quirks, it confidently takes you through a gentle, emotional ride.
Chocobo GP could’ve been a simple kart racer that draws players in with beloved characters and tracks from the history of Final Fantasy, but instead, Square Enix boldly chose to make a sequel to an unpopular PS1 game. Bolder still was the choice to gate the promise of a more interesting game behind season passes and premium currencies. Mechanically, Chocobo GP is sound, and has enough ideas and potential to stack up to other franchise racers. However, I’m anxious to see how long this game lasts after release. There’s every chance it’ll develop a loyal playerbase large enough that Square will continue to support it, and maybe even rebalance the game to make that price of entry less steep. But as it stands, I don’t think Chocobo GP offers enough at launch to justify the effort and money required to keep playing it.
Pupperazzi isn’t difficult or cerebral. This photography simulator doesn’t have the budget or serenity that other games in the genre might provide, but handily makes up for it with charm, personality, and hundreds of dogs being big goofballs. Even playing the same level multiple times will give you a random assortment of dogs and toys to mess around with, so the game doesn’t grow stale easily. It’s a fantastic example of a video game letting you live out a simple real-life fantasy: walking around without a care in the world, taking photos of endless dogs, and their fluffy, scratchable butts.
Brisbane-based developer Witch Beam have made a delightful game that I know fans of Aussie indies have been looking forward to for a long time. It isn’t just a fantasy where I’m more organised than in my real life, it’s a relaxing, stress-free experience that I will definitely revisit.
Despite some of the JRPG royalty involved, Astria Ascending just isn’t able to live up to the high expectations. The good news is that Artisan Studio seem committed to updating the game over time, so ideally the rough edges present will get smoothed out.
Psychonauts 2 is absolutely fizzing with ideas in gameplay, story, and presentation. Its story is emotional, its characters are hilarious, its worlds are huge and imaginative, plus I had a fun time actually playing the dang thing. Apart from some minor issues with the optional dialogue, it’s clear Double Fine went all out developing this title. Nothing feels rushed, nothing feels unfinished, and nothing feels like padding. This is a fabulously well-made game, and a perfect game for lockdown. If you’re looking for some extra joy from your video games, you need to play Psychonauts 2. If you’re a fan of the original, I suspect you’ll like it even more.
Samurai Warriors 5 is an ambitious reboot, removing many features from previous games while emphasising what makes the series tick. There is very little to do outside combat, but the combat is delightful, and the variety between characters makes each one a joy to play. Despite some superfluous systems and clunky camera and AI issues, Samurai Warriors 5 offers fantastic action gameplay. If you’ve been intimidated by the Warriors series in the past, this is a great place to hop on.
Where The Heart Leads is a terrific narrative game that has you make hard, fascinating life choices on behalf of its characters to create a story that feels your own. It utilises its surreal elements sparingly, instead opting to focus on the realistic personal lives of its many richly nuanced characters. Despite some slight issues with dialogue, menus, and the camera, Where The Heart Leads is a great experience, and a fascinating exploration of issues rarely covered in games.
Studio Fizbin have crafted a wonderful experience that achieves exactly what it sets out to do. It’s set in an intriguing world and tells an emotional story that explores a specific type of sadness, and how it affects relationships between loved ones. I can’t remember the last time a game affected me so much that I yelled at my screen due to something a character said. Despite my pedantry, I had a brilliant time with Minute of Islands and look forward to playing it again some day.
After having played Persona 5, and last year’s updated Persona 5 Royal, Persona 5 Strikers was like slipping into a warm pair of fluffy slippers. It brings back these characters I’ve spent hundreds of hours with, and gives them a nice little side story, if not a full-fledged sequel. Much like the other spinoffs, you might not enjoy the game if you aren’t familiar with the world of Persona 5, but for those who are, you’re going to have a lot of fun. There’s quite a few drawbacks, but Omega Force and Atlus have successfully converted Persona 5’s gameplay into a whole new genre, warts and all. I’m curious to see what either studio does next.