Despite reservations about the levels and combat in particular, there’s still a lot of fun to be had here. The platforming feels great and every frame of the game is gorgeous to look at. We just hope the next adventure takes a bigger leap in the gameplay department.
Whether Bandai Namco decides to continue this venture down the JRPG route remains to be seen, but it would be a shame to abandon the solid foundations found in One Piece Odyssey, which has set 2023 off to an incredible start with its high production values, beautiful world, intuitive combat, and wonderful celebration of one of the best mangas to ever be created.
There are a lot of things to admire in Sherlock Holmes Chapter One, and when it works, it all comes together in a fantastic new way. Unfortunately, there are far too many instances of clues that perhaps made sense to the team that made it, but not the player. Just when you start finding your stride, a roadblock appears as you struggle to figure out your next steps. The jump to an open-world setting ultimately feels unnecessary and adds to the confusion. Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is not a bad game at all, but the experimental gameplay feels like a missed opportunity that a sequel could perhaps refine.
It may sound like we're being a bit down on this year's Call of Duty, but it's only because we know the franchise has potential. Warzone has proved it with multiplayer and Black Ops Cold War showcased it with its campaign. We hoped this would build upon those foundations, but instead it steps back into familiar territory. It's not a bad game by any means - in fact, even at its worst it's better than most first-person shooters out there - but as the games industry evolves, it's time for Call of Duty to bring something new to the table, and this isn't it.
Despite these flaws, Demon Turf is still an incredible platformer - one of the best in years. It's easy to learn but hard to master and is filled with content ranging from easy challenges to devilishly challenging gauntlets. With such a fine-tuned platforming experience, it's easy to overlook the boring combat and performance hiccups. While the latter will most likely be ironed out, the combat is here to stay, but if you can get past that hurdle, Demon Turf is a joyous throwback to the platformers of old.
While Echo Generation stumbles a few times, our time with the game was never squandered. It's a testament to how wonderful its world is to explore, along with its engaging RPG systems. You never quite know what surprise will be in the next frame of the game. Will it be a mysterious alien spaceship? Or will you stumble across the legendary monster in the woods? The intrigue never lets up, and while the narrative itself doesn't quite land as well as you may hope, Echo Generation delivers an exciting adventure that Xbox Game Pass subscribers are not going to want to miss out on.
If developers Ludosity and Fair Play Labs can stick with the game post-launch and build it up, it could end up being a completely different story in a year or so, but as it stands, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl feels like the shell of what it could be.
This being said, the adventure Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan took us on never ceased to put a smile on our faces. With a whole cast of memorable and loveable characters, a gorgeous world to explore with a fantastic art style, and a seafaring adventure that just begs you to explore 'one more island' - it's hard not to love what's on offer. It stumbles along the way and may not be for everyone, but ManaVoid Entertainment has crafted a special experience for those it does resonate with.
Despite its shortcomings, we were always drawn to come back for 'one more run'. It nails the roguelite gameplay hook and has a unique gameplay mechanic to support it all. While it at times feels as though the game's fighting against you when everything comes together, there's nothing quite like it. Clearing a room of monsters in time to the guitar shredding soundtrack never gets old and the constant progression of unlocking new characters and skills is an incentive to keep trying. It's not a home run, but those who buy into BPM: Bullet Per Minute's charm will certainly have a good time.
If you've never played Alan Wake, this is the best possible way to experience the game. For anyone who loves horror or Remedy's other titles, there's a ton to unpack here with an engaging narrative and stellar gameplay. The remastered enhancements bolster the game even further, giving it a place in today's gaming world, and while the gameplay doesn't perhaps hold up as well as it did in 2010, Alan Wake Remastered is still as joyous as it was back then and a perfect treat for the Halloween season.
Despite these missteps, Xuan Yuan Sword 7 surprised us with just how fun it was. It harkens back to classic adventure games from the early '00s, filled with all the charm of that era. Sometimes it's refreshing to play a game that knows exactly what it wants to be and accomplishes it with very little getting in the way. While there are some localisation issues, some presentation problems and a lack of challenge in its combat, we do hope Xuan Yuan Sword 7 finds an audience in the west, as it would be a shame not to see how the next entry can build upon these solid foundations.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania isn't going to win any game of the year awards, but it's undeniably fun. While it's perhaps not the entry that will put the series back into the mainstream, fans of the original will likely have a good time and newcomers will see what the fuss is all about. While there are some questionable design choices, such as a finicky camera and microtransactions that feel out of place, this is an enjoyable adventure with AiAi and his friends.
Islanders doesn't necessarily reinvent the wheel and may have a few control issues, but it still provides a hugely enjoyable time that's always there to dive into between other games. It also has a very enticing price point of £4.19 / $4.99. The game has quickly become a perfect title to wind down with when extended sessions of Splitgate have aggravated us or the intense subject matter of Lost Judgment has become too much. If you’re looking for something to break up your gaming life, Islanders: Console Edition is a fantastic choice.
Yakuza games have been arriving thick and fast over the years, but Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio still hasn't lost its touch. It's hard to think of another series with such regular entries that manages to constantly evolve at this level. While most don't add too much to alter the formula, Lost Judgment throws just about everything it can into its world without feeling over-saturated. With the main story, side quests, school stories, mini-games, exploration and other distractions, it's hard not to be impressed with what's on display. There's still an element of hand holding in the detective sections we'd love to see worked on and the lip-syncing may not be the best, but the team's first attempt at delivering a simultaneous worldwide release for the series is a gamble that has paid off and perhaps offers the best entry in the franchise so far.
Despite these hurdles, we hold no doubt they'll be ironed out in the coming weeks. What will be left is an underrated gem that has unfortunately slipped under the radar. Coming out the same week as Tales of Arise, Life is Strange: True Colors and Sonic Colors: Ultimate, the game appears to have been lost in the noise. It's a shame, but we're confident an audience will be found of people such as us who will love and embrace this game - warts and all. Lost in Random may not strike a chord with everyone, but for those it does, they will absolutely love it.
Ultimately, it's a game full of great ideas and some addictive gameplay mechanics, but clashes with some poor pacing and a complete shift-up in the second half that loses all the charm. For an Xbox Game Pass title, there's undoubtedly some fun to be had in the survival space sim if you can look past its flaws. Just don't go in expecting the Lost in Space experience the game tries to sell.
With all this said, there is enjoyment to be had in Kitaria Fables if you can look past the clunkiness. The combat, for one, feels really great and gives you a ton of abilities as you progress through. Farming is also a satisfying system. If the game had just lent harder into one aspect, we can't help but think the end result would have been a tighter experience. There were times when it felt like we were playing a classic original Xbox title with its presentation, which lent a nice charm. Unfortunately, there's only so much that can carry you through its 20-or-so hour-long story.