At the end of the 90’s, Frontier released one of the best theme park titles of all time in Rollercoaster Tycoon, a game that felt like a natural successor to what Bullfrog had produced in 1994’s Theme Park. With many titles since Rollercoaster Tycoon failing to strike the right balance between creativity and theme park management, Frontier’s newest addition to the sim line-up is probably as close to a natural step forward for this genre of games as we’re likely to get. Planet Coaster is an accessible and creative title but also relatively basic when it comes to its management sim elements. Still, there’s an incredible amount of customization here that truly lets you go wild and create the theme park of your dreams.
Shadow Of The Tomb Raider ultimately bows out this trilogy of games with a whimper rather than a roar. The gameplay may be a little better this time around compared to Rise but the disjointed nature of its various mechanics make this game more frustrating and under-developed than it should be. I love Tomb Raider and have played almost every game since its original on the Playstation all those years ago but Shadow Of The Tomb Raider feels like a cruelly ironic name for this final title; a game overshadowed by what’s come before and never once looking like stepping out of the darkness and becoming a shining beacon for the franchise.
Set in the Ancient Frontier universe, Steel Shadows continues the lore of the epic strategy RPG franchise with a new story and a return of the turn-based strategy combat that made the original so appealing. In doing so, Steel Shadows comes with the same flaws and questionable design choices the original had which may leave some fans a little disappointed.
Much like Grand Theft Auto 4 before it, Red Dead Redemption 2 is likely to be one of those games that's looked back on with a more critical eye in years to come. The story and visual design of the game is near perfection and those things cannot be overlooked. How much you get out of Red Dead Redemption 2 depends on your tolerance with the controls and how much weight you put on gameplay as a defining feature of a title. For a game that achieves perfection in so many areas, the linear structure of missions and frustrating controls make Red Dead a title that feels as stubborn and set in its ways as the gang you ride with into the sunset. If that isn't a bittersweet sense of irony, I don't know what is.
Book Of Demons is an action hack’n’slash RPG that gets almost everything right. Inspired by the original Diablo, Indie company Thing Trunk have put together the perfect love letter to that game, mixing a range of challenging enemies to boot with a well-implemented card deck system. Unfortunately, the game is let down by some clunky gameplay and an awkwardly convoluted UI that’ll likely make or break the experience for you.
After the financial success of the Crash Bandicoot remake it was almost inevitable that a slew of studios would follow suit and recreate other iconic classics. With Medievil and Resident Evil 2 looming on the horizon, Activision’s Spyro Trilogy was met with some criticism over delays and controversial downloads before its release. Thankfully, the game (or games as the case may be!) is another sure-fire hit, keeping everything intact that made the originals so endearing with enough of a graphical upgrade to make it worth the extra cash.
Despite its short length, Donut County is a brilliantly polished, refined little Indie game. Its premise is simple, well executed and incredibly addictive. There's something profoundly satisfying with dropping items into a hole, and seeing this expand and grow offers up a really satisfying feeling of progression. Donut County is quite simply a really well put together game and one of 2018's biggest surprises - even if it is a little short.
If you're a little fatigued with the usual Far Cry formula and are looking to try something a bit different, steer clear of New Dawn. Despite its pretty visuals and reasonably well implemented RPG mechanics, this is largely an unchanged Far Cry experience. The enemy AI is woeful, the game suffers from the same poorly paced story beats as Far Cry 5, while the gameplay loop is almost virtually unchanged. However, if you're looking for more of the same, you can't really go wrong with this one. A little short in length and light on content nonetheless, New Dawn is simply a DLC add-on flaunted as a full priced stand-alone game and it just doesn't do enough to justify this.
After the mediocre effort of Lego Incredibles and the familiar, but largely entertaining, offering of Lego DC Villains, The Lego Movie 2 attempts to merge two worlds but fails quite considerably. For the younger members of the family, Lego Movie 2 is a simplistic, entertaining and well-rehearsed Lego game with less bugs and a better aesthetic compared to Lego Worlds. Sadly, the lack of a compelling narrative, interesting missions and a repetitive gameplay loop makes The Lego Movie 2 a really poor offering in comparison to other Lego games. It’s not terrible but it is a far cry from what we’ve come to expect from this studio.
The Division 2 is a thoroughly enjoyable and challenging shooter. It improves on almost every aspect of the first game with a whole wealth of content and options on offer. Despite a few convoluted screens, the menus are better designed this time around and the loot progression fine-tuned to perfection. Given the scepticism I had going into this one, Ubisoft have delivered one of the best games of 2019 so far and a very enjoyable third person shooter in its own right.
Resident Evil 2 is not just a fantastic remake, it’s a very good horror game in its own right. The atmosphere, voice acting and sound design are outstanding, with each environment set up to maximise the horror. The story can be completed in around 8 hours or so but the different play modes and separate storyline for Claire gives you incentive to play through this one again to experience the whole story. It’s worth doing too and with no microtransactions, loot boxes or free to play mechanics in sight, Capcom have delivered a refreshingly straight forward game, one that’s easily up there with one of the best of 2019.
These things aside, as an authentic Devil May Cry experience, DMC 5 absolutely nails it. The fighting is smooth, the graphics stunning and there’s a slick fluidity to the action that makes it a highly refined hack’n’slash and one of the better ones released in this genre for quite some time. Even if you’re not a fan of Devil May Cry, there’s enough here to enjoy and it’s absolutely a title I’d recommend checking out.
How To Train Your Dragon is, in theory, a movie franchise rife for decent video game adaptations. With plenty of lore, world building and material to draw on across both the TV and film platforms, it’s surprising then that the games haven’t managed to take advantage of this as much as they should. Despite some fun dungeon crawling mechanics and a simple, original story, New Riders fails to deliver a compelling and memorable experience, devolving too often into the usual tropes you’d expect from this sort of movie tie-in.
Rage 2 is not a bad game but it's not a particularly good one either. At its best, this bland open world is overshadowed by glimmers of brilliance in its combat. At its worst, Rage 2 borders on mundane and laborious, taking liberties with your time through meaningless quests and unskippable dialogue. If you value your time, Rage 2 is not a game I can recommend. Its combat is spread far too thinly and the few shining moments of brilliance are dimmed by a mundane tasks and mechanics we've seen time and time again, delivered with more flair in other games.
Having said all that, there are some wonderful boss fights here, with the Great Serpent and Lady Butterfly my personal favourites. I loved the way these developed and throughout the game there are glimmers of excellence sprinkled throughout. With a lack of customisation and replayability, Sekiro pales by comparison to what’s come before though. It’s a good game, no doubt about it, but it’s a game that can’t quite decide who it wants to appeal to. It’s likely to be far too challenging for the average gamer while Souls fans will likely lament the lacklustre combat compared to what’s come before. What we’re left with then is a beautiful game, one that’s stuck with a real identity crisis that some will love and others will loathe.
It's a bitter pill to swallow because Mortal Kombat 11 is actually a really fun and enjoyable fighter. It's gory, gruesome and full of some of the most absurd, crazy fatalaties in the series' storied history. The fighting has multiple layers of strategy too, ranging from X-Ray moves, counters, interactive environments and more. This game should be a high 7/10 or even an 8/10 but I just cannot recommend something with such predatory microtransactions in. Mortal Kombat 11 could be great, but it suffers a gruesome fatality at the hands of its microtransaction-riddled infrastructure.
In comparison to 2033 or the original Metro game, Exodus fails to match up. The open world setting is a nice idea poorly implemented, contradicting the claustrophobic, tense atmosphere that worked so well to define the previous games. There is some potential here but the shallow characters, clunky controls and cliched silent protagonist make this a game that would have been a hit 10 years ago, but feels out of place in 2019. There is enjoyment to be had here, but if you're looking for something to match its predecessors, Metro: Exodus fails to live up to expectations.
I had a lot of fun with Zombotron; it's accessible enough to jump in and have a blast right away whilst deep enough to allow for some progression and variety to keep things from growing stale. While some of the later levels are tough and overload the segments with far too many enemies, for the most part Zombotron manages to nail its premise with precision. When it comes to the saturated Indie game market, Zombotron has a lot going for it and given it's cheap price on Steam right now, it's well worth checking out.
Armed with a decent aesthetic and a unique twist of horror and real time strategy, The Are Billions is let down by a rigid gameplay loop, a lack of building variety and a steep difficulty curve. While there is fun to be had here, and the game certainly has its fair share of stand-out moments, veterans of the genre will be disappointed with the simplicity of building whilst newbies may find themselves struggling to work out the best strategy for expanding and progressing.