The Talos Principle 2 somehow managed to impress me even more than the surprise of the original game did, leaving me completely blown away not only by the sheer size of the game, its beautiful environments and interesting characters, but also the masterful integration of the puzzles into both the world and the storyline. It might seem artificial and contrived to be solving these puzzles, but in the same way that the Portal games managed to make them seem entirely natural, so too does The Talos Principle 2 ground them geographically and philosophically within its world. It might have been almost a decade since the first game, but The Talos Principle 2 was more than worth the wait.
Like a Dragon: Ishin! is absolutely another Yakuza/Like a Dragon game. If you love this style of game, and are ready for the sometimes slow pace the story moves as well as some of the more frivolous side activities and stories, you’ll get exactly what you were hoping for plus plenty of fun surprises. However for those who either haven’t tried the franchise or have dipped in before only to bounce off, this game doesn’t offer any evolutions on the formula which might tempt new players, beside the historical setting itself. But if you even have a passing interest in Japanese history, you can learn a surprising amount from it.
The Oregon Trail is absolutely one of the paramount classics of the edutainment games genre, and this newest version pays homage to that history while also introducing plenty of new content, and being more inclusive in its treatment of Native Americans. With plenty of unlockables, different modes, collectables and quests to undertake on every journey, the variety of things you can encounter means no two expeditions are likely to be the same. Plus, it might teach you a thing or two about 19th Century pioneer life along the way.
Much like Spider-Man (2018)’s excellent launch on PC back in August, Miles Morales is another fantastic PC version of a previous PlayStation exclusive. Next year we’re anticipating The Last of Us Part 1 (the remake version) will make its way to PC and likely God of War Ragnarök at some point, but I also hope we see some older PlayStation titles such as the earlier Uncharted games. I just hope the gap of time between the release of Spider-Man 2 planned on console and its PC version is not as long as the four years between the original game and its PC release.
Gungrave G.O.R.E. is the kind of game that is going to appeal to two different groups of people: Fans of the original two games, or people nostalgic for this particular style of bullet hell third-person shooter. Returnal in 2021 is an example of this kind of game done in a modernized format with some Roguelike elements, while Gungrave G.O.R.E. deliberately eschews any modernization in an effort of being an authentic, era-appropriate experience. If you’re in the mood for some over-the-top action and can stomach some repetitive shooting, Gungrave G.O.R.E. will satisfy that itch.
Goat Simulator 3 is undoubtedly a meme game, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t also some meat behind the memeing. Goat Simulator 3 is deliberately mindless, easy-going fun, with no plot to speak of and activities designed to give you an easy laugh. Its brand of humour is a somewhat acquired taste but I will admit to chuckling at the absurdity of many of the situations you can get into with a goat who knows no fear. Goat Simulator 3 is a bigger, more action-packed version of the same madcap wackiness which many enjoyed in the first game, and I suspect for most players, that will be the bee’s (goat’s) knees.
It’s also quite a short game, although I personally thought the length was sensible given this kind of overwhelmingly horrifying atmosphere can become tedious if used too long, which was one of the criticisms pointed at the otherwise excellent Alien: Isolation. Scorn is a difficult game to love, but for its singular visual flair, it is one I respect.
In many ways Beacon Pines is a fairly standard adventure game but the great emotive writing and specifically the branching narratives exploration do make it feel quite different from other games of this style. Being able to go back and undo any decision and choose differently, and then play through that path before jumping back to the old one can lead to interesting developments, such as meeting certain characters earlier, or learning information which while you as a player know, Luka and his friends experiencing this linearly do not. There are minimal traditional puzzles and most of the game involves talking to the right characters, but there is certainly plenty of atmosphere and personality in every part of the game. Beacon Pines is a lovely way to spend some hours in the company of some charming characters and a nicely emotional sequence of branching narratives.
While it might stick true to the standard point-and-click formula, The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow works because it uses its atmospheric story and great, interesting characters to draw the viewer in, helping you to inhabit Thomasina and her point-of-view in a manner like a role-play game. As the dire warnings about what might happen if Thomasina excavates Hob’s Barrow continue to mount, there is a real theme of the clash of science vs. faith and superstition, which the game explores really well. If you like adventure games and you’re looking for a thoughtful horror story with plenty of worldbuilding, The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow has it in spades.
The special editions of Monkey Island 1 and 2 in 2009 and 2010 respectively showed that there was still a voracious appetite for more of Guybrush’s adventures, so I’m glad that Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman finally got to have another shot at “ending” the Monkey Island story in a manner which they envisaged. Return to Monkey Island is more Monkey Island, and if you’ve been missing out on that for years, this is an excellent return to form.