Bugsnax sees Young Horses building on the strange sense of humor it developed with Octodad while embracing some familiar, less adventurous gameplay hooks at its core. I let out an involuntary "aw" when I saw my first Kwookie scuttling across the ground, but the real heart of Bugsnax is its cast of lovable Grumpuses. It has great characters, an entertaining story, and all the Bugsnak catching is just varied enough to keep the experience interesting to its end. All that talk about Bugsnax over the past few months wasn't misguided: it's a flavor-blasted joy.
Spelunky 2 is an outstanding sequel. Derek Yu, BlitWorks, and the rest of the team behind it have assembled a game that adds to what made Spelunky great without trending toward bloat or changing too much of the essentials. In some minor ways, the level randomization and art style don't feel quite up-to-par, but the overall package is polished, compelling, and brimming with secrets. As ever, players will die over and over in pursuit of a successful run or even just an ounce of progress, which is the way it's meant to be. I'm excited to see what others uncover as they pick themselves up again and again to venture deeper into Spelunky 2's depths.
Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing In Disguise is hard to love, even by the standards set by its predecessor. In leaving Greenvale behind for a style of prequel and sequel storytelling split across Louisiana and Boston, Deadly Premonition 2 jettisons the much of what made the original charming (along with some interesting mechanics and variety) in favor of an empty town and a story that serves up tropes and bits of lore that do little to enhance or build upon what made the original fascinating. All the while, terrible performance makes it more of a slog than its uninspired ideas and pacing do on their own.
Half-Life: Alyx is billed as a VR return to the series, and that's exactly what it delivers. It does what Half-Life has historically done well, and without the clouding of nostalgia or unhelpful notions of what constitutes "revolutionary" design, it ranks alongside Half-Life 2.