It will be very difficult to find a game I have enjoyed exploring more than Balatro this year. Learning its mechanics were like learning a new language and it was all-encompassing. Balatro should be the design template going forward for many designers, it contain 0% fat and is trimmed to perfection. Not a pixel or mechanic is wasted in this immensely addictive roguelike. Its a shame that so many people will just gloss over its pure presentation and design. Bravo all involved.
Unique, funny and so entertaining, Lil' Guardsman has all the traits I want from games in my old age. Lil' Guardsman is like nothing else on the market, it's beautiful and so well written that its world will swallow you whole. It's not often you get to play a game that makes you smile from start to finish but Lil' Guardsman stole a Lil' piece of my heart. I cannot recommend it enough.
Teardown is superb. The perfect mix of creative gameplay, sandbox destruction and a rewarding gameplay loop add up to something truly special. I could not put it down, as I was constantly thinking about how to complete each objective and it let my creative juices flow. Teardown is one of my favourite games this year and is truly unique in an increasingly repetitive medium.
While RoboCop does have some fun moments and enjoyable gameplay, it is, on the whole, a shallow, repetitive experience. Living the power-fantasy of being RoboCop does not save it from glitchy, rudimentary gameplay and a story that is too similar to the movies. If you love RoboCop like me, you may find something here to enjoy, otherwise, look elsewhere for your gaming goodness.
While I enjoyed Gloomhaven in the end, I found the tutorials and general usability to be lacking. I also found myself missing being around a table with friends and playing with board game components. Apart from that, Gloomhaven offers a massive sprawling campaign that is very moreish when it gets going and It will keep players entertained for hours upon hours. I just wish some of the sharp edges had been filed off and new players' hands had been held a bit tighter.
The presentation and content of Shotgun King will put a lot of people off. However, if you like chess and rogue-based games it is well worth a bash. I adored its presentation, it reminded me of games form my youth, yes, I am that old. Pairing one of the oldest games on the planet with rogue-lite elements works far better than it has rights too and Shotgun King is truly unlike anything else I have played. We need more games like this, its what drives the industry forward in a sea of cut and paste shooters and RPG's.
A weak combat system and a few gamplay niggles don't detract from what is an eerie, adventurous tale. Yes the story could have been stronger but the visuals and mostly entertaining gamplay make Gylt an enjoyable game that never outstays its welcome. However, I do feel a few tweaks here and there could have made the game vastly superior.
Grindstone is one of the most addictive games I have played this year. A beautiful presentation melded with a rewarding, visceral gameplay loop makes you not want to put it down. Grindstone is a bright, Saturday morning cartoon where you can meet weird people, and chop up endles amount of cute characters, what's not to like? I cannot recommend it enough, Grindstone is brilliant.
If you don't like Monster Hunter this expansion will not change your mind. However, if you do then this expansion is a must-buy. New Monsters and maps are a given but the updates to the switch skills, the follower system and various tweaks really add to the whole experience. Plus, with all the updates released so far already available, there is a massive amount of content here with more to come. Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak may not be perfect but it skirts incredibly close to it.
As golf games go, this is the most fun I have had in a while. It's a massive improvement over recent years' titles. The career mode is both addictive and rewarding, it's full of contact and the presentation is both cinematic and beautiful. A few issues will not get in the way of what I think is the best golf sim around at the moment. Let's hit the greens, people!
While it's functional I feel that Catan: Console Edition could have done a bit more to sway me from playing with its cardboard counterpart. The multiplayer features and AI do a lot for players who cannot get three friends together but some of its presentation, especially the audio side, leaves a bit to be desired. The app could also do with a bit of work to make it more viable. While I will be quite happy to play this by myself or when there is only two of us, it will never replace its board game equivalent. Catan: Console Edition could have been great, as it is, its serviceable, which is a shame.
For a game that should not be fun, PowerWash Simulator is very addictive. The 'ding' you get when each piece gets cleaned is so satisfying and rewarding, as is seeing a massive area go from being dark brown and dirty to shiny and new. In a world of very similar games that fail to offer anything new, PowerWash Simulator achieves this with aplomb and makes me happy for future unique titles. There's nothing quite like this game on the market and that in itself means you should give it a try.
Now and again you will want a game that while not being 'flashy' is warm, unique and entertaining. Sail Forth is all of these and will keep you interested for hours. There's boat-loads to do with its many activities and wacky characters. The navigation is rewarding, the combat never gets old and everything looks so wholesome.
A roster of uncanny characters and their interactions is enough to detract from a well-trodden, predictable story. New Tales from the Borderlands is chock full of mini-games, laughs and great performances throughout. With cameos from well-known, returning characters and that distinctive art style, New Tales from the Borderlands is definitely worth playing, especially for Borderlands fans.
Session: Skate Sim is unique amongst its peers. Its control scheme, while taking time to master, is massively rewarding. Rolling around the streets and finding your own skating lines is addictively entertaining. It's a shame about the quest system, its overall presentation and some of the rough edges but do I feel Session is a few patches away from greatness.
Inscryption is an amalgamation of deck-builder and escape room games, and is unlike anything I have ever played before. In an age of video games where uniqueness is at an all-time low, it was amazing to be so surprised at regular intervals. Inscryption will test what you think a card battling roguelite is and its constant twists and turns will keep you on your toes. It's a game where I fully feel like I have sculpted my deck myself; it's wild, it's dark and it's utterly brilliant.
For a mish-mash of genres, Cult of the Lamb does an excellent job of making both parts feel significant and dependent on each other. It's gorgeous, rewarding and made me laugh throughout. As your cult progresses and you move on from cleaning up everyone's poop, you will see your followers flourish. Designing and maintaining your base is excellent and I enjoyed the rogue-lite runs that can be completed in easily in under 15 minutes. Highly recommended, cult-based, rogue-lite shenanigans.
Short but ever-so-sweet, Trek to Yomi is a pretty linear affair that respects your time. The combat is nuanced, evolves over time and is entertaining to learn. Small bursts of exploration are rewarded with collectables and upgrades but your main path is never obscured. It's cinematically beautiful and what's done with perspective and setting up each scene is really unique. Trek to Yomi is unlike anything else I have played recently, it's not bloated, pure and I appreciate that a lot.
While Roguebook may not be my favourite game in this genre, it does offer a lot of variation and a few interesting tweaks to the genre. It's jaw-droppingly beautiful, incredibly creative and the crucial card play is very entertaining. The exploration is a nice addition and creates a risk and reward system to proceedings, as is the card crafting. While you may not be able to create a lean, all-killing deck, what you can create is a heaving bag of frivolity and opportunities.
Even though it was initially difficult and with very basic combat, Infernax wooed me with its comical gore, beautiful music and simple art style. Infernax will not be everyone's cup of tea but if you have a bit of time and want to play something a little different, I can recommend it. Just beware, you initially may need to navigate a bit of a skill wall of sorts to progress.