Serial Cleaners has a very solid core idea and adds just enough variety with its four characters to make each level feel engaging and unique. I like solving the puzzle of how to get all the bodies while attracting as little attention as possible. The strength of the gameplay makes it easier to ignore the more undercooked elements of the narrative.
Wayward Strand in many aspects is just like an elderly who takes their times and cannot be rushed. The dialogues cannot be skipped, the characters cannot be hurried and every event unfolds following its own pace. Some stories are almost boring, while others carry a heavy emotional load.
Broken Pieces has a decent narrative and puzzles that mostly make sense, with a camera system designed to evoke nostalgia. But the combat sections, few as they are, are mediocre and players need to quickly become invested in the story to keep moving forward, finding puzzle solutions, and returning to their home before 8 PM.
Little Orpheus began life as a video game for phones and, on those platforms, its limited gameplay probably did not stand out as much. This made it easier for the narrative and the presentation to impress players and to keep them moving to see how the story of Ivan and the nuclear bomb ends.
Betrayal at Club Low might not the best-looking game and its gameplay might sometimes feel limited or unfair. But the game has plenty of weirdness, a clear goal, great moments, and the ability to get players to explore, take risks, and deal with failure. A small universe and well-defined mechanics make this one of the first titles I have played through three times (with another run planned) in quite some time.
Steelrising is an interesting take on the soulslike formula. Exploring the French Revolution in the body of an automat is definitely something that I never thought I’d enjoy. However, while things look promising on paper, the execution is quite poor.
Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2 has an inspired mix of narrative and presentation, with decent gameplay but somehow it is constantly under-delivering. There’s not enough madness to be found, players spend too much time picking stuff up rather than investigating weirdness, and the world is too normal to keep players moving forward.
Foretales manages to be both innovative in its gameplay and deliver an engaging story, a rare combination in the world of card-driven video games. It’s fast-paced, asks players to think about actions and consequences, and deals with the fate of the world and with more personal relationships.
Circus Electrique is like a complex trifle: it has many layers that need to be in sync in order to achieve balance. It is not a game you can take lightly, and you will spend a lot of time figuring out details, statistics, strategies and tactics.
Legends of Kingdom Rush is a competent if unimaginative experience. The universe has some quirks, but most players will be able to instantly tell the inspiration for each character or enemy. The mechanics are decent and deliver some tense battle moments, but there’s nothing inherently new to engage with.
The rogue elements aren’t as interesting as the tactical battles, but they serve the game well. Unfortunately, neither the universe nor the presentation is good enough to keep players engaged if they fail to connect with the mechanics in a deep way. Tyrant's Blessing is initially charming and delivers good tactics puzzles but might lack staying power.
Hard West II, just like the predecessor, is the living proof that there’s life after XCOM too. Although the game could do with a bit more weapons, in between the multiple abilities and poker cards system, it offers enough variation to warrant a full playthrough.
XEL is a game that understands its genre, but the development team fails to see that solid innovation is required to compete, given how crowded it is. The basic exploration and combat work well and the time stuff is an interesting addition. But much more is needed to get players interested and to keep them playing.
Scathe is a good first-person shooter for anyone who loves the genre and appreciates a challenge. The story is good enough and the combat feels visceral. Moving through the same rooms can become repetitive but the FPS mechanics are good enough to keep players engaged.
Overall, in around 10-15 hours you can finish (again) the second chapter of the Furon invasion on Earth. The co-op mode is a welcome extra, that elevates the fun, while the four different difficulty levels keep the challenge in check. There are moments though when the game could have used a bit more balancing, like the fight with Gojira. Even with all the new improvements Destroy All Humans! 2: Reprobed remains a AA title that offers a glimpse in the PS2 era.
F1 Manager 22 is a great way to create alternate narratives for fans. Pick your favorite team, try to find ways to push it to ever-increasing performance, despair when races don’t go according to plan, pump your fist when you create the perfect strategy, and manage to get past Leclerc and Hamilton on the final two laps of Bahrain. The game will draw in fans who simply want to see if they can do better than real managers and obsessives that aim to tinker with the setup during each practice session.
Saints Row raises mixed emotions: on the one hand it has its moments when it is fun and manages to engage you in its criminal empire building fantasy. But for each high you have at least one low, that turns the game into a technical mess and makes you feel like you are playing a not so pretty GTA clone.
Cursed to Golf is not a sports sim but it will deliver many more thrills than any careful reconstruction of real-world golf can. Getting the ball into the hole using my last shot by carefully using an Ace card and plenty of spin made me scream with joy. I almost cried when two successive shots somehow landed in the water.