I know I sound like a broken record here, but I can’t say enough how refreshing The Artful Escape is. In a sea of third-person open-world collect-a-thons, first-person shooters, and free-to-play action games, it’s nice to be able to just rock out and chill to something that doesn’t require lightning reflexes or demand intense attention from you.
When I played through Streets of Rage 4 just over a year ago, I noticed something almost immediately. There were some Boss characters that felt just a little too...fleshed out to simply remain Bosses you fight in a scrolling beat 'em up. Not to mention two of them had been playable characters in previous entries of the series. Needless to say, when the Mr. X Nightmare DLC was announced a few months ago, my suspicions were confirmed and my excitement took over. Now it's finally here and I got to spend some time going through it all and I must say, I'm very impressed with what's on offer here, particularly at this price point.
If you can look past the scarcity of modes and the anemic nature of the ones on offer, Samurai Showdown Special Edition is a fantastic return of a beloved fighting game franchise. It's a refreshing option for those who might want a break or palate cleanser from the combo heavy and more bombastic fighting games that are more prevalent in the scene today.
I mean yeah, in the end it's "just Tetris" but it goes deeper than that. This is a Tetris game that can be as chill or as intense as you want it or need it to be. It's an experience that draws you in, you can't help but lose yourself for hours.
The Falconeer is a must for fans of Crimson Skies or frankly, the air combat genre. While it sometimes may show the limitations of its indie roots, this isn’t enough to detract from what’s on offer. Even as someone who isn’t normally a fan of the genre, I found myself enjoying simply flying around getting to missions.
Fans of classic arcade racers from the 90s will feel right at home with Hotshot Racing. Lucky Mountain have clearly demonstrated an understanding of what made those games so great while adding just enough modern modes and systems to allow for both better re-playability and player engagement.
There’s more than enough content here to keep younger gamers busy and even older gamers nostalgic for the genre will enjoy what’s on offer. The caveat being that the game has no difficulty settings and more seasoned gamers might find it a touch easy. But I feel the game is enjoyable enough to not notice how easy the game is and just soak up all the platforming goodness being thrown your way. There’s outfits to buy, secret stages to find and a reasonable amount of collectibles that don’t feel overwhelming or are difficult to attain.
It’s honestly hard to recommend this title outside potentially as an option to keep the kids busy due to the 4 player local multiplayer. As I said earlier, the potential for something genuinely good is buried there somewhere, but there’s just too much lacking in just about every area to recommend forking over $30 to play this.
West of Dead is a really enjoyable game that hooks you with its combat. While the idea of starting all over again can be a brutal punishment, particularly when you’ve found yourself nicely upgraded and powerful, the game is fun enough for it to not detract from your enjoyment too much.
This game is divisive, there’s no doubting that and I can completely understand why someone wouldn’t enjoy it or wouldn’t quite get it. But if you approach it with measured expectations and treat it as more of an experience as opposed to a game, there’s a really relaxing use of your time to be had. This is a truly ambitious indie game and I can completely see the LIDAR technology being refined and used in future games. As this game is also confirmed to be part of the Smart Delivery program for Series X, it’s possible we could see some of that refinement as soon as later this year. While this isn’t for everyone, it’s worth checking out even to take in the views that the LIDAR tech provides. As the resident achievement hunter of XboxEra, the easy-ish 1000GS and low price entry point also helps.
Streets of Rage 4 is everything I could have wanted in a sequel to such a venerable series that I’ve always held in such high regard. It’s clear that both Lizardcube and Guard Crush get it. They managed to create a sequel that belongs right alongside its predecessors despite having to manage fan expectations and the ever present nostalgia that can inflate people’s memories of the old games, particularly after some three decades and change. It’s a prime example of how to modernise a bygone genre without abandoning the spirit of it, all while capturing the feeling of what made it so special and fun all those years ago. This is an absolutely mandatory play for any Streets of Rage or scrolling beat ’em up fan. I also recommend anyone with a penchant for old school gaming sensibilities to definitely give this a go.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is everything any Blind Forest fan would have wanted, or possibly hoped for from a sequel. Moon have created a game that has every right to be in the ‘AAA’ conversation with its 3D counterparts, with a level of care and polish normally reserved for much larger studios and far bigger budgets. Ultimately, it can’t be said enough how incredible Ori and the Will of the Wisps is. Blind Forest was already my personal favourite metroidvania of all time and Will of the Wisps has managed to raise the bar even further.