The Knight Witch is an intriguing amalgamation of genres. Flying through stages and battling foes feels great. The unique approach to special attacks and the Metroidvania style progression work extremely well. While the narrative intrigues and includes some innovation, its presentation is simple. Regardless of this, the game is a blast and freshens up the shmup genre.
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet is a step in the right direction. Game Freak successfully reimagines the formula in an open-world format and improves on its previous experiments with this design. The ability to tackle any gym is refreshing and the three distinct story paths give more reason to explore. Unfortunately, the number of performance issues cannot be overlooked and these hinder what could have been a highlight of the series.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me is a fitting end to the season. Each game celebrates the many facets of horror but this title resonates in a way that surpasses previous entries in the franchise. The voice acting is brilliant and this helps to make the characters feel authentic. As well as this, the improvements in traversal and inventory give it more gameplay options. While the movement is a little stiff and the concept is still cliché, the execution of its storytelling and characterization is to die for.
McPixel 3 is frantic fun. The mixture of minigame madness and point-and-click puzzles deliver ridiculous outcomes which continue to amuse throughout its relatively short run time. Frustration can build, especially with its often bizarre solutions, however, the humor quickly overrides this. Even though some jokes don’t land, it’s sure to make you laugh, particularly if you enjoy silly and slapstick comedy.
Return to Monkey Island is fantastic. Brilliantly written and full of charm, the game manages to deliver a fresh experience in a nostalgic world. Even though the new art direction is divisive, the storytelling and humor are top-notch and make this a highlight of the franchise.
God of War Ragnarök is a masterpiece. Even though the game maintains many elements that were established in its predecessor, it refines them to create an unforgettable experience. The quintessential storytelling is a highlight of the medium and its impeccable combat will keep you enthralled throughout. Although Santa Monica Studios set a high bar with their previous outing, Ragnarök soars above it.
Resident Evil Village: Winter’s Expansion includes a wide range of content. Shadows of Rose is a great addition to the family saga and neatly ties up narrative threads from the base game. Although it follows conventions of the franchise, the supernatural twist does add a new element that leads to some innovative scares. The inclusion of a third-person mode for the main campaign is a fantastic addition and the new characters are great for the Mercenaries mode. Although Rose’s story is a little short, the expansion offers some memorable moments and gives a reason to return to the macabre village.
Asterigos: Curse of the Stars is a great entry point to Soulslike games. Its accessible combat, difficulty options and pleasant atmosphere will entice many to the game. However, the unintuitive level design and lack of a detailed map can cause frustration and result in you aimlessly roaming the grounds. Although it may not do enough to appeal to veterans, those interested in dipping their toes into the genre should start here.
Atari Mania is an absolute blast. The world includes a number of puzzles that adds variety to the speedy microgames formula. While the company lacks the same number of mainstream icons as Nintendo, the implementation of popular IPs is masterful. The controls are a little stiff and performance did falter at times, however, the love and admiration for the classics are palpable. With its imaginative mashups, nostalgia-filled collectibles and extremely addictive gameplay loop, Ataria Mania is a must for retro enthusiasts.
NieR: Automata The End of YoRHa is an amazing package that has been wonderfully ported to the Switch. Those who haven’t played it previously have another opportunity to experience the remarkable epic, whereas the lure of a handheld version may also tempt aficionados back to this sensational hack and slash RPG.
FIFA 23 is the perfect end to the franchise. The addition of the PowerShot opens up new ways to score and the overhaul of the chemistry system allows you to add more variety to your team sheet in FUT. While the game doesn’t drastically change the formula, it evolves on its already strong foundation to create the most immersive experience to date.
Alfred Hitchcock: Vertigo weaves a wonderful mystery that is full of surprises. The direction and audio pay homage to its namesake and will please fans of the source material. It is disappointing that your choices have little to no impact on the story, however, this can be overlooked due to the lovingly crafted tale that will keep you gripped throughout.
The Spirit and the Mouse is a relaxing dawdle through a lovely French village. Playing as the cute, electric-fused Lila is a joy, however, the lack of options available to traverse does hinder the expedition. While the premise is packed with possibilities, the tedious and formulaic mission design makes this an arduous trek.
No Place For Brave is an incredible top-down adventure that tells a touching story about the lengths one will go for family. Its weighty combat is challenging but fair which makes each battle a thrill. Although I did encounter the occasional bug which stifled the pace, this didn’t hinder what was a wonderful and touching experience.
Wayward Stand tells an intimate story that you discover at your own pace. The non-linear design gives you the freedom to personalize your journey through a long weekend at work with your mother. The in-game clock makes the world feel alive and pushes you to follow story arcs rather than meander. While the conclusion is a little lacklustre and there is an absence of gameplay, this is a wonderful passage through a moment in time.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle R is a celebration of the weird and wonderful world of the franchise. Fans will love the number of characters and nods to key moments from the series, however, the gameplay lets it down. Its age becomes more apparent as you fight. The sluggish combat and simple systems mean that it can’t compete with its peers. While fans of the original will enjoy the new features, it misses that knockout blow.
Midnight Fight Express captures the action synonymous with films like The Raid. Combat feels great and includes enough depth to pull off technical combos but is also simple and accessible for newcomers to the genre. The story is a miss-fire and lacks the cinematic flair which is within the gameplay. Whilst the aesthetics are basic, it does feel like a fight through a seedy underworld. The addictive gameplay loop makes you want to replay levels to achieve the highest score. Ultimately, Midnight Fight Express achieves what it set out to do: make you feel like an absolute badass.
Tinykin is a joyous trek through the 90s. Full of charm and wonder, the game manages to add to the foundation laid by Pikmin to build a lovely adventure. Every area has lots to find and do which fleshes out the relatively short runtime. While the game lacks challenge, it makes up for it with a bucket load of character. The simple controls and intuitive design reduces any frustration and allows you to freely command your troop. Due to this, you can’t help but smile during the entirety of the game and will enjoy each second.
South of the Circle is a bold title that deals with mature themes. Its approach to storytelling is refreshing as it interweaves flashbacks to assemble a larger narrative. In addition to this, State of Play also respects its audience. They don’t oversimplify elements and allow you to interpret aspects. While the gameplay lacks substance and can cause some passive moments, the lovely design and spectacular score help make this a memorable experience.