The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe has been deliberately designed so that whether you’ve never heard of the game before and are starting fresh, or you’re a seasoned veteran who experienced all the endings of the 2013 game, there is still plenty here for you to enjoy. The humour may not be for everyone’s taste, but the writing remains as sharp as ever. All of the new content adds about 3 hours to the game’s runtime if you go hunting for every last ending, plus a couple of minor amendments to the original game content are fun to spot. All in all it does flesh out the original in a meaningful way, making this an unqualified recommendation to those who have never experienced it. There has never been a better time to experience The Stanley Parable, where the end is never truly the end.
Overall I thoroughly recommend Gerda: A Flame in Winter as a bold branching adventure game which is keen to tell the story of a relatively unknown part of the Second World War, in a mature and thoughtful manner. The in-game glossary helps to explain a lot of the historical backstory, as well as educate players in an elegant fashion. I’m looking forward to seeing what stories PortaPlay might decide to tackle next.
Even though it’s “another one of those games”, I still found it surprisingly compelling. I liked doing the little sidequests to help a young girl’s spirit find her grandmother’s old umbrella (which had become possessed), or helping a group of friendly tanuki (Japanese racoon dogs) reunite with their boss. I liked reading the thoughts of the cats and dogs, wondering where all the humans went. If it had been a bit more adventurous, Ghostwire: Tokyo could have been something very special, and although gameplay-wise it plays it safe, there’s enough weirdness and personality here to make it worth a visit.
It’s a shame that the game didn’t take the opportunity to be a bit more bitingly satirical with its jabs against for-profit higher education, but there is certainly more than an element of truth to the PA announcement saying; “university gives you a bright future, and clouds it with debt.” Two Point Campus certainly scratches the itch for more management game zen, and does it with panache.
Wayward Strand is a very unique game with a lot of heart, and it tells its non-linear, intertwined narratives in a very naturalistic fashion, which you can freely jump between as you guide Casie across the decks of the airship. The game’s ending is somewhat lacklustre, but I admire that the game didn’t attempt to invent a dramatic finale simply for the sake of it. It’s certainly worth a playthrough or two to see the various stories and conversations you missed the first time around, and the heartfelt, caring atmosphere it fosters will help to raise your spirits.
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.
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.
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.
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.
République is definitely a game which was deliberately designed as a throwback stealth title, and on those criteria, it certainly succeeded. That said however, the camera system is nonetheless frustrating, and while the stealth gameplay is solid, it does get rather repetitive as time goes by. The Anniversary Edition isn’t a graphical overhaul so it’s still the same visuals from 2016, but the story and world remain as interesting as they ever were. If you missed République the first time around on iOS or the second time on its original console release, and you’re a fan of old-school stealth games, this should certainly be a game you’ll enjoy. For more casual players, it will depend on your tolerance for struggling with the movement and camera system.
Silt’s plot is delivered very similarly to that of the Playdead games, being entirely dialogue free. It’s certainly a game about the experience and emotions of what you’re seeing and hearing, as you swim your way across an alien underwater world, filled with beauty and nightmares galore. While there are elements of horror here it’s not as deliberately horrifying as Limbo with its grisly death animations, and is more interested in invoking a sense of wonder as you explore. For fans of the Playdead games Silt is an easy recommendation, but it’s also fully accessible for newcomers to this style of puzzle game.
Although South of the Circle failed to touch me emotionally at anything other than a surface level, it is nonetheless a nicely paced and structured linear narrative adventure, merging the frozen wastes of Antarctica with the golden afternoon sunshine of Cambridge. If you enjoyed Virginia, this game is an unquestionable recommendation given its stylistic overlap, but if you’re put off by linear narrative adventures of this type, South of the Circle probably isn’t going to win you around.
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.
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.
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.
I can definitely see Dreams having a long lifetime, especially if a PS5 version is swiftly released after the new console. Being able to dive in and try out what’s new and exciting in Dream Surfing is always great, as is slowly building up your skills in Dream Shaping. I don’t think I’ll ever to able to create a masterpiece of my own, but I admire Dreams greatly for empowering those people who can.