Hal Laboratory and Nintendo smashed it out of the park with Kirby and the Forgotten Land, adding yet another gem to the already stacked Switch library. No, it's not the most challenging or taxing gameplay experience going, but that's not what one should expect from Kirby either. Perhaps it could be described as the perfect palate cleanser or antidote to those more difficult experiences - and more importantly, unlike those titles, doesn't require as many caveats to its recommendation. For those who enjoy their character designs round, this will likely appease, but at the end of the day, it's just… fun!
Return of the Obra Dinn is without a doubt a thinking man/woman's piece of crumpet. It is someone that you can take out on a date and have a riveting conversation with, but then scratch your head about some of the things they've said afterwards.
Whether it's the influence of all the shapes and all the colours, or the enjoyable "clack" sound of cubes tapping along staircases, Manifold Garden is totally hypnotic. It's easy to get lost in a flow state while traversing between cubes to switches and other cubes, imbibing in the phenomenal, ever building soundtrack. It has none of the script or context of a title like Portal, but one would easily suspect that that would conflict with the undiluted audio-visual treat that this experience proffers. Manifold Garden builds a compelling, meditative world, and easily stands on its own merit as a highly recommended first person puzzle. It is short but sweet, as they say, and paced excellently. Jumping off into the abyss, and thinking about how to solve the next puzzle will never fail to reward - it makes one feel clever and always fits within the framework of rules which were previously set.
Whether it's down to the sharp, intelligent writing, or fantastic hand-drawn style and animation, Spiritfarer has a charm that could be described as almost Disney-eque… well, maybe that would be true if the first passenger Stella encounters wasn't a chain smoking deer. That charm is without a doubt [i]Spiritfarer[i/]s best asset, and something that many will latch on to consciously or subconsciously when coming to their own judgement on its quality. Yes, it can be slow and repetitive, but that is also part of the point. The 2D take on a life-sim is a path less travelled for the genre, and unique in this instance. It creates an appealing world wherein the developer has gone to great efforts to flesh it out, and make it feel lived in. It all hangs together very nicely, indeed.
No pun intended, but Part Time UFO is the very definition of a pick-up-and-play effort. You know… pick up… with a claw… Ahem! Anyway, it's rewarding for short bursts and designed very well for this kind of play, with a level of polish not found in some other 'short burst' titles. It also saves some of its best surprises for the endgame. With an included co-op mode too it's a design sensibility, and a deceptive amount of content, that shows off HAL Laboratory's years of expertise of structuring reward in that respect. It may frustrate players on longer sessions, though, or after multiple fails on a repeated 'job,' but this is always offset by the charming and colourful style, which by the way also includes some well-placed cameos in the stage background to look out for. Along with that rock-solid reply value, this is definitely easy to keep coming back to.
Elden Ring is an experience that will not be forgotten in a hurry. It's a tremendous, hulking, massive achievement but because it is tremendous, hulking and massive, it is one that comes with many caveats. The shelves in CeX and conversations with people who stopped playing at Stormveil castle can certainly attest to some of those caveats. Much like any FromSoftware title, it's not going to be for everybody, but paradoxically it is one of their hardest and one of their most accessible to date. It offers huge value in one package, and perhaps is a little too much value, only becoming clearer when nearing the endgame. Don't be mistaken by the criticism, though. This is a phenomenal achievement with a moment-to-moment that is incredibly engaging and immersive. No doubt it will be deserving of the end-of-year accolades it will inevitably receive. One pushes through Elden Ring as one pushes through life, with all the highs and the lows that it brings.
It is fantastic to see the medium of video games 'do' and 'be' things like Arrog. Sure, it's a tricky one to review and recommend 'as a videogame' because it's not strictly one per se. It can have the descriptive, but it is also a bit more artsy, more personal, more meditative. It almost seems like it'd be perfect for a rainy Sunday morning with nothing else going on to just soak in. Definitely there is room for a lot more for this kind of thing to be incorporated into the medium. It'd be nice to see it become more of a norm to see rather than an exception, but it stands out for that reason. Admittedly, it will likely appeal to a certain kind of person, one that is more contemplative, but it is also worth the price of admission to find out if thee is that certain kind of person. This is also an easy platinum to achieve. Simple, the key word here is simple. Perhaps the desire might have been to get something a little more substantial or, as Jamiroquai would say, to go a little deeper underground. But actually it's completely okay not to go deeper underground. It's easy to overeat. Perhaps it is the simplicity that makes this work, and exist as a true alternative. Affecting and very worthwhile.
Inked: A Tale of Love is a puzzle-adventure at its soft and squidgy centre. Often, it's quite a slow and straightforward puzzle-adventure at that, notably, with origins established on mobile platforms. Nonetheless, it is a gratifyingly chill affair because of this. It is furthermore that of the love-based narrative for which it takes its namesake that carves a surprisingly dark and twisty story that ensures the proceeding three to five hours don't ever get a little too chill.
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is a potentially great RPG, trapped under a less-than-stellar console port.
Maybe it's the throwback design influences that are slightly too far outside of this reviewer's reach to appreciate and retro fans that remember playing the ZX spectrum will find a lot more to get out in this title. The desire is strong to get on with Horace, it really is, and he might even make you laugh at times, but just like the guy wearing socks and sandals, there are too many things holding it back.
The saving grace for Thunder Paw is that generally sprites are cute, and music hits the mark for driving progress forward without being too repetitive. Whether or not that's enough to entice is up to the individual to decide. There's conceivably a compulsion to play on and best the unfair challenge, particularly with an early monkey boss level, which required keeping up with an increasing pattern speed in spite of a gimped weapon range. One hopes it might be a worthy first attempt, and it is if that's the case, but otherwise it is just a bit "rough." An oddity indeed.