A witty, vicious, and charming-as-heck romp through a Victorian steampunk city, Sovereign Syndicate wraps its tight, character-driven story in layers of deliciously decadent prose. Delving through the seedy underbelly of this alternate-universe East London is compelling on its own, made all the more intriguing by the different perspectives of its trio of protagonists. Despite a few glitches at launch and some slightly rushed final moments, Sovereign Syndicate is a deeply satisfying narrative RPG and an absolute pleasure to play through.
Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince's significant performance issues unfortunately sap a lot of the joy out of the game's core loop of exploration and grinding, detracting from an otherwise solid monster-collecting experience. However, if you're able to overlook its painful opening hours and sloppy storytelling, there's a decent, comforting game lurking under the surface. Hardcore Dragon Quest lovers will find hours of grindy RPG goodness to enjoy and a colourful, varied world to get lost in – though certainly one far less polished than fans of the series would usually expect.
Knuckle Sandwich is a charmingly absurd and lovingly crafted RPG adventure that delights in surprise. Its wonderfully nostalgic, SNES-like glitchcore visual and audio design constantly shifts style, and its rollercoaster of a plot happily sets up player expectations, subverts them, and then subverts them again. Unfortunately, the game is let down by a frustratingly restrictive inventory and some game balance issues leading to lengthy, repetitive boss encounters. However, Knuckle Sandwich's charm and dry humour shines through at every step and is sure to leave you chuckling.
Thirsty Suitors is a wicked combination of a warm hug and a shot of tequila. It absolutely nails its colourful, over-the-top style in every aspect, keeping you thirsting to jump into your next dramatic turn-based confrontation or unlock a new ridiculous Summon. At the same time, it explores complex family dynamics through a beautifully simple cooking mechanic, and provides thoughtful reflections on cultural expectations, relationships, and the diversity of the queer experience. Despite some mechanical unsteadiness in its skateboarding segments, Thirsty Suitors is an explosive, chaotic, and utterly delightful experience from beginning to end.
While it's sporting a new look and name, EA Sports FC 24 is a familiar and altogether solid entry in the juggernaut that is EA's annual soccer video game series. Picking up the controller for a quick session with mates feels as comfortable and natural as it ever has, with plenty of mechanical depth for hardcore football fanatics to obsess over. It's a shame that the glitches present at release can be match-ending, and placing microtransactions front-and-centre in a full-priced retail game always feels icky, but the sheer variety and quality of game modes on offer make up for these shortcomings for the most part. EA Sports FC 24 is a true celebration of the world's game, with plenty of content for longtime fans and newcomers alike.
A polished, cleverly designed, and utterly joyful experience, Sea of Stars takes the best parts of classic RPGs and distils their essence into something at once comfortingly nostalgic and refreshingly modern. Its combat system twists traditional turn-based combat into a satisfyingly tactile blend of strategy and execution, making exploring every inch of its gorgeous world an absolute pleasure. Despite some odd pacing in the final act and the occasional cringey joke, Sea of Stars holds up as a fantastic modern RPG and a must-play for fans of the genre.
A wonderfully peculiar blend of visual novel, choice-driven RPG, and off-Broadway musical, Stray Gods embraces the theatrical duality of comedy and tragedy and wraps it into a narrative experience that can be at once gut-wrenching and cheeky. Through some excellently written and performed dialogue, incredible audio production, and effective use of player choice, it provides an intimate and personal music theatre experience. While its semi-animated visual style and simplified gameplay may prove off-putting for some, Stray Gods is a unique and compelling love letter to the theatre kid inside us all.
A simple but endearing experience, Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg is a nostalgic adventure that does justice to the satisfying crafting mechanics that have represented the series' identity for nearly a quarter of a century. While it might lack the complexity and depth of more recent entries, and some of its "classic" elements feel a little dated, it provides a solid core gameplay loop within a charming package. It's a bite-sized nostalgic RPG romp that feels cosy as heck and never outstays its welcome.
A compelling, nuanced story told beautifully and with many diverging paths, Harmony: The Fall of Reverie is a stunning example of how powerful the visual novel format can be. It uses the desires, pains, and histories of its characters to paint a rich emotional landscape against the context of a changing world, with the player's decisions shaping both the intricacies and the broad strokes of this world's future. With striking art design, immersive writing, and massive variety of story possibilities, this is a must-play for narrative adventure fans.
A chilling fever dream of dystopian hope, After Us takes the mechanics of an atmospheric puzzle-platformer and uses them to create a beautifully unsettling experience that feels a little too real. Its satisfying traversal challenges through gorgeously rendered wastelands provide plenty of engaging gameplay moments for platforming fans, though its relentlessly oppressive environments may prove too harsh for some. Haunting and immersive, but definitely not for the faint of heart.
It's disappointing to come away from Mail Time feeling more frustrated than relaxed. All of the elements for an adorable, wholesome experience are there: its cast of animal characters are incredibly well-written, its art direction is delightful, and the entire premise is utterly charming. Unfortunately, a litany of glitches and janky platforming controls really disrupt its vibe. While I'm hopeful that its incredibly ambitious solo developer is able to support the game with patches down the track, it's sadly difficult to recommend Mail Time in its current state.
Rendezvous is a beautiful-looking game let down by some unfortunate gameplay design decisions. It has a stunning visual aesthetic, blending retro pixel art with modern lighting and rendering effects to create a suitably atmospheric and moody cyberpunk vibe. However, it is held back by bland combat, cheap instant-fail stealth segments, and puzzles that vary between overly-simple and frustratingly unintuitive. While the city of Neo-Surabaya is vibrant and intriguing, the action-movie main plot doesn't leave much space for exploration or immersion. There are some neat ideas in Rendezvous, but fans of adventure games will be left wanting.
Atelier Ryza 3 is a wonderfully cheerful celebration of everything there is to love about modern JRPGs. Its gorgeously realised world is filled to the brim with quirky characters, vibrant environments, and a whole lot of charm. While its many interlocking systems (which are taught through tutorials that prove simultaneously verbose and unhelpful) may prove a barrier for newer players, persistence and a sense of curiosity are rewarded with a rich and deeply satisfying level of mastery. The core gameplay features – exploration, combat, synthesis, and key creation – feed into each other in a delicious loop that is at once addictive and relaxing. Atelier Ryza 3 is a joyous, cosy romp that will delight any JRPG fan looking for something refreshing.
Hinting at a grand and epic adventure, SEASON: A letter to the future instead presents a personal, vertical slice of a transient world. Through its small-scale stories and simple gameplay, it exists as a reflective meditation on liminality that encourages patience and presence. It weaves environmental storytelling and player choice into a compelling emotional journey. While it may occasionally stray into an overly-earnest territory and doesn't quite nail its pacing, SEASON: A letter to the future is a special, honest experience and a worthy addition to any narrative adventure lover's library.
A whimsical romp across a colourful world of magic and monsters, Dragon Quest Treasures is a comforting and nostalgia-filled addition to the series. From its recruitable monsters that ooze personality to its collectible trophies, this title is full of charm and is an absolute joy to play – in short sessions. Some frustrating camera issues and a repetitive gameplay loop do get stale when playing for longer periods. Dragon Quest Treasures is best enjoyed in little bites, each of which is sure to bring a smile to your face.
Police Simulator: Patrol Officers is a game that should not have been made. It provides a core gameplay experience that is neither realistic enough to be a simulation nor interesting enough to be an actual game. At the same time, it unironically tries to cater to a fantasy that positions everyday people as enemies to be dealt with. Shamelessly borrowing the trappings of the Grand Theft Auto series without any of the satirical overtones leads to an unsettlingly pro-violence experience. It is even difficult to enjoy the game's impressive environmental design thanks to a litany of visual glitches. Police Simulator: Patrol Officers misses the mark in almost every regard.
While it may not appear as glamorous as Scientology, Honey, I Joined a Cult is deceptively addictive. Its alluring capacity to let you micro-manage down to the tiniest detail, its swathe of customisable components, and its cheeky writing will leave you obsessed and indoctrinated (if only for a few hours). It takes a fair amount of grinding to build up a cult worth following, but those with the patience to stick around will find a decent amount of management-sim goodness to worship here.
Tinykin delivers a fun-sized chunk of satisfying 3D-platforming joy for all ages. Its charming cartoonish visuals and delightful cast of insectoids are bursting with personality and whimsy. While it doesn't provide much of a platforming challenge and drags its feet a bit through some repetitive escort missions, it's impossible not to smile at this joyous mini-world of anxious dung beetles and partying silverfish. A relaxing, cozy little adventure that will entertain the young-at-heart.
A short, sweet romp through a world of dreams, Lost in Play is a joyful celebration of imagination and play. Its gorgeously familiar cartoonish visuals and focus on endearingly absurd scenarios win over the frostiest of hearts. While some of its trickier puzzles may leave younger gamers stumped and even frustrate their parents, it's impossible not to grin at the wacky antics Lost in Play loves to throw at you. Recommended as a little cosy treat for the young at heart.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 takes the best elements from its predecessors and combines them into a uniquely compelling gameplay experience, all while telling a nuanced and captivating narrative of its own. Its beautiful and stylistic art direction lends a rare maturity to its visual presentation, while its heartfelt, melancholic story comes together in an epic, personal conclusion in spite of a couple of odd pacing decisions. Through a complex and refined reimagining of the Xenoblade combat system and top-notch worldbuilding, Monolith Soft have once again cemented their position at the forefront of the JRPG genre. Series veterans and newcomers alike are in for a deep, immersive narrative adventure with dozens of hours of engaging combat and satisfying exploration.