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.
Despite an absolutely stunning visual design and an imaginative interpretation of Sámi culture, Skábma – Snowfall is let down by some frustrating design decisions. Its cumbersome control scheme and lack of guidance between story objectives lead to gameplay roadblocks that hurt the pacing of an otherwise compelling narrative. While it stuns with its gorgeous landscapes and presents interesting (if underutilised) ‘spirit drum’ mechanics, it’s difficult to recommend Skábma in its current state. I’m looking forward to seeing Red Stage Entertainment continue to support the title and bring out its strengths.
A renewal of the monster-collection genre, Coromon takes the well-loved gameplay formulas of its genre predecessors and polishes them for the modern era. By providing unique twists on traditional turn-based combat, a delightful presentation, and a slew of quality-of-life enhancements, Coromon delivers a nostalgic adventure filled with wonder. While it may occasionally stick a little too faithfully to its RPG roots for the less patient creature-collectors, there’s a whole heap of juicy monster content here for any budding trainer looking for a refreshing take on a classic style of game.
Not For Broadcast ambitiously challenges the player to reconsider their ethical framework, political values, and personal loyalties through its incredibly clever combination of stressful management sim gameplay and acid-tongued writing. It’s not for the faint of heart, but balances its dystopian terrors with biting satire. With exceptional performances from its cast, a unique and varied system of mechanics that changes with each broadcast, and tonnes of extra story content, any budding media mogul will be both delighted and horrified with all that Not For Broadcast has to offer.
For fans of the series, or for players looking for a slightly more involved grind during their commute than the usual mobile fare, Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX offer a heap of monster-rearing pleasure. However, this pair of titles is truly a product of its time: a lack of tutorials, janky graphics, and a set of opaque gameplay systems reliant on heavy grinding might prove too high a barrier for the average creature collector. Pick this up only if you’re prepared for a nostalgic romp through the highs and lows of late nineties game design.
A fun little party puzzler, Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain gives the ol’ neurons a thorough workout in a jolly, well-presented package. While its single-player mode lacks longevity and will only keep the most dedicated brainiacs engaged, the sheer maddening joy of trying to compete in its frantic multiplayer offering is delightful and sure to keep your grey matter nice and juicy. Between its smooth touchscreen controls, charming presentation, and customisable difficulty options, Big Brain Academy provides a solid party experience for the whole family.
There’s nothing quite like wiping sweat off the floorboards in your living room after a thorough workout, and Knockout Home Fitness manages to deliver high-octane thrills with its intense exercise routines. However, an unintuitive user interface with no customisation options, a lack of substantial unlockable content, and imprecision in its motion controls hamper the experience for players seriously committed to getting fit.
A faithful remake of the most polarising 3D Zelda title, Skyward Sword HD provides numerous quality of life improvements that help polish some of the original’s roughest edges. Its issues with pacing, repetitive gameplay elements, and a lacklustre narrative remain moderate detractions from what is an otherwise legendary Zelda experience, filled to the brim with the charisma, creativity, and satisfying dungeoneering the series is famous for. While it doesn’t bring any new content to the table, the addition of button controls and portability (courtesy of the Switch) means there’s never been a better way for newcomers and diehard fans to experience the strategic combat and innovative puzzle-solving of this lofty adventure.
A niche but mostly well-presented experience, Red Solstice 2 attempts to create something entirely new by blending established genres. While its mishmash of strategy mechanics into an action game doesn’t quite hit the mark, it does provide a swathe of tense, tactical moment-to-moment gameplay and absolutely nails its occasional moments of creeping alien horror. It’s far from a strategy game at heart, and struggles to strike a balance between its complex real-time strategy mechanics and action-oriented gameplay – but for sci-fi fans who are prepared to overcome the game’s learning curve and just want to squad up and rip apart some eldritch abominations, there’ll eventually be plenty of gooey green blood to sink your grenades into.
A few odd design decisions prevent Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield from growing into the action-packed blockbuster it yearns to be. While the title finds its footing once you’ve unlocked its speedier and more difficult game modes, it’s a bit of a slog to get there. For those willing to put in the effort to get to that endless runner’s high, there’s a slick experience to be found here. Although less patient parkourists might want to look elsewhere.
Lost Words: Beyond The Page is an example of storytelling that can only exist through the medium of games, and a testament to the artistry of play. Its powerful writing, eye-watering design, and incredibly truthful narrative are held up by simple intuitive gameplay that immerses you in its story. While it’s not a challenging experience, Lost Words pulls you into an emotional journey that will linger long after the ending credits. This is the kind of game that makes me excited to play games, even if they leave me in tears.
An incredibly exhilarating and playful experience, Speed Limit is a love letter to the action-packed blockbusters of decades past. It blasts you through its quick campaign at lightning speed and will leave you with your heart pounding, your palms soaked, and a massive cheeky smile across your face. Though it could be a bit kinder to players unfamiliar with arcade-style difficulty and some of its levels aren’t as bombastic as others, Speed Limit is still a sweet and short neo-retro explosion of fun. Fans of the arcade-era and folks looking for something fast-paced and unique will find a lot to love here.
As much as I wanted to love Sword of the Necromancer (particularly after getting further into the story) it’s held back by so many annoyances that I didn’t have an amazing time playing through it. There are definitely some cool ideas, and the enemy design in particular is excellent, but issues with its core gameplay keep it from being the fun little experience I was hoping for.
Unto The End is a beautiful and brutal journey that has clearly been crafted with a lot of heart. It presents an unapologetically skill-based combat experience with wordless narrative in a savage, hostile world. While its gameplay outside combat can be a little clunky and its high difficulty restricts its appeal to players with lots of patience and coordination, those looking for a unique and challenging 2D adventure will be well satisfied with Unto The End.
Fitness Boxing 2... presents a finely tuned and engaging workout regimen with clear goals and excellent feedback on progress. With its cast of annoyingly optimistic virtual instructors to spur you on through intense, demanding, and varied exercises, as well as a wealth of unlockables to inspire the budding achievement hunter, Fitness Boxing 2 provides a high quality niche experience that’ll have you jabbing, weaving, and blocking like a sweaty Rocky Balboa.
Despite issues with the previous title in the franchise, I had High Hopes that maybe Let’s Sing 2021 would be Good As Hell, but I guess I was just a Sucker. Technical issues with the core singing mechanic cop much of the Blame, but even when the game tries to Lean On its varied play modes it can’t provide a Yummy experience. You’d be much Happier putting on a karaoke playlist and screaming along with your mates (when singing together is safe again, of course). To this disappointing game, I only have one thing to say: Thank U, Next.
From its relatively insignificant main time-travel gimmick to its almost-right controls, there’s not a whole lot going on that we haven’t seen before in a more polished fashion. If you’re itching for some hardcore platforming action and can look past its flaws, you’ll find a rough gem in YesterMorrow’s visually stunning world – just don’t go in expecting another Celeste.
Those with a desire for escapism and a healthy amount of patience will find a solid few hours of rewarding narrative here – if you’re after something with a bit more wanderlust and a bit less “dying alone and unloved”, you might want to look elsewhere.
Going Under takes some of the most frustrating trappings of late capitalism and turns them into literal dungeons. It’s a funny, acid-spirited take on the organisational failures of tech startup culture that doesn’t pull its punches. Between whacking baddies with a giant stapler and trading useless cryptocoins for powerups, there’s rarely a dull moment on the floors of these office hellscapes. While playing for long periods exposes some of Going Under’s repetitive elements, there’s more than enough fun here to recommend this action-packed rogue-lite to any dungeon-crawler fan with a LinkedIn profile.
For a strategy game that wants you to play for long sessions, inching your way “halt by halt” to safety for your tribe, As Far As The Eye lacks the quality of life features that would make the experience rewarding. Fans of turn-based strategy games might find enough enjoyment here to look past its most obvious flaws – there’s certainly a mechanically dense, lore-heavy strategic experience here for those willing to work for it – but if, like me, you like your games served without a healthy dose of frustration, you may want to look elsewhere.