We can't lie - we hated The Longing. We hated every second of playing it for review. Is it a resounding success at presenting all of its themes? Is it thought-provoking in a way that few games manage? Is it an exhausting slog we wouldn't wish on our worst enemies? The answer to all these questions is yes. But, with all that said, you cannot help but respect the developer's audacity and unwavering commitment to their principles. What the game sets out to do it accomplishes with flying colours, and it's filled with clever ideas and meditations.Ultimately, The Longing is one of those video games that defies traditional scoring metrics. What kind of score would you give a game that succeeds so triumphantly at being utterly, utterly tedious? A one? A ten? It feels inadequate and somewhat trite to split the difference, but here we are.
There's something just a tiny bit cynical about the "please like me!!" cutesiness of Rain On Your Parade, but despite our best efforts we ended up doing so. Just. It coasts on "what will they do next?" novelty rather than any kind of meaty, significant gameplay, but sometimes that's okay. It's something new, which is appealing, and the toybox feel of the proceedings lends itself to a broad appeal – we can see young kids and people who vibe with its twee presentation getting a kick out of it. If you've had your fill of 'cutesy', though, you might find yourself hoping for a break in the clouds.
One of those rare titles that takes inspiration from the classics but manages to forge its own identity, Smelter is a breath of fresh air that uses its influences very wisely, assisted to excellence by generally pretty terrific level design with only a handful of lesser segments bringing things down just a tad. The proceedings feel confident, original and polished, with gorgeous graphics and an outstanding soundtrack that calls to mind the likes of Mega Man X4 for its action stages and evokes Yuzo Koshiro's majestic ActRaiser score for its side-scrolling levels.
What seemed unimpressive in 2004 now feels enjoyable and imaginative, and we're not sure what that means, exactly. It's simultaneously cheerful and challenging, and there's a lot of joy in the journey as well as the destinations. The cursed spectre of 'gameplay variety' (read: jack of all trades, master of none) looms over the material, but by making the diversions brief and ultimately simple it manages to keep the player guessing to an extent throughout its languid twelve or so hour runtime. Some backtracking and minor camera issues bring things down a touch, but overall Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue is a surprisingly solid slice of character action, and one we fear may have been underserved at the time of its original release. This is not just a sequel that's content to rest on its laurels, and that's worthy of respect. Hooray! We made it through the whole review without any silly, lazy Aussie clichés. That's bonzer, mate!
Here's the thing, and it's a bit of a kick in the pants. Genesis Noir is a very cool, very interesting and exceptionally well-presented game. It tells its esoteric story in an effective, exciting way with a litany of memorable visuals, fantastic artwork and a genuinely brilliant soundtrack. And, unfortunately, we simply can't recommend playing this compromised, ill-fitting, arduous and glitchy Switch port in the slightest. Maybe it's just us, but knowing we could be experiencing the spectacle of this clearly brilliant piece of art in a much higher resolution, at much greater fidelity, and with an order of magnitude less frantically wriggling the left analogue stick because we're convinced the game has broken is just a sobering reason to ask why we would even bother if this version isn't your only option. Even if you do only have a Switch, we'd recommend waiting until you have something else. This is a game that deserves better.
If you already have a soft spot for Stubbs the Zombie, you're going to have a perfectly fine experience here. But we wonder why on earth anyone would hold a candle for a game this obviously flawed. There's some ambition here for sure, but something is always working against it. You can't lose yourself in its mindlessness because your character is too weak. You can't really formulate a decent strategy using your powers because you can only gain access to them through the rote melee combat. The jokes didn't make us laugh. The premise is fun but the gameplay simply doesn't do it justice. We'll say it again – in order to make Stubbs the Zombie fun at all, you have to possess one of the firearm-wielding humans, thus transforming it from a load of baffling nothing to a pretty dull shooter. Please, no more resurrections for Stubbs. Let the man rest.
Despite a somewhat lacking narrative and a fairly short length – we saw the (beautiful) credits in less than four hours – Sea of Solitude is fun to play while it lasts. It looks superb and there's plenty of variety in the locales even in its brief running time. Sadly, though, it's not a standout – it wasn't on its original release and it still isn't here on the Switch. It's no walking simulator, but in trying to marry its story with somewhat rudimentary platforming gameplay, neither are entirely satisfactory. Of course, your mileage may vary in what the various heavier themes mean to you, but we found them pretty leaden and uninteresting takes on what are admittedly quite universal issues.
An absolute pleasure from start to finish, what Kaze and the Wild Masks lacks in originality it makes up for in the strength of its level design, responsive controls, kinetic move set and attractive visuals. Excellent, action-packed platforming through and through, with great gameplay variety and gimmicks that don't compromise on what the game is best at – challenging, fast-paced obstacle courses and deviously-hidden secret areas. Easiest sell? Kaze and the Wild Masks is to Donkey Kong Country what Freedom Planet was to Sonic the Hedgehog. Don't miss this one.
While it's a compelling package, Citizens Unite!: Earth x Space doesn't excel as an RPG in either of its halves. There's fun to be had, but it's obfuscated to some extent by technical issues and a lack of balance to its gameplay. That said, a lot of love has obviously been poured into this title and if you like your games with a bit of a unique personality, that's very much in evidence here. If you've already played these RPGs before, there's not enough here to draw you back for a repeat play, but new players might find this worthy of their hard-earned cash – if they're willing to put up with some rough edges.
A breezier, simpler game than its clear inspirations, what Curse of the Dead Gods lacks in narrative it makes up for in focused, crunchy gameplay. Combat is interesting, exploration is rewarding and the systems in play are sufficiently diverse to make this a winner. It won't consume you forever, but you'll feel far from short-changed by this game of meaningful, divergent dungeons.