God of War Ragnarok is, by no short means, one of the most fulfilling sequels released within a popular franchise. It beautifully doubles down on everything that made the previous game good, and adds just-enough new content to keep gamers from feeling like everything is a repetitive slog. Characters and story are the clear winners here, with gameplay and level design following on from the previous title in a comfortable and natural way. The way the writers at Santa Monica Studio have implemented narrative for absolutely everything in the game seems magical and unlike any other video game to release since Mass Effect. Furthermore, the way in which traversal has been upgraded feels like a significant addition; truly changes the way the game feels. Locales are open and vast, and visually stunning, while brand-new animations, level design, and beautiful special effects showcase the graphical fidelity of the game spectacularly. God of War Ragnarok is an experience unlike any other, and is truly an exceptional video game.
It is clear WB Games Montreal put concentrated effort into the development process of the game. Although there are many inconsistencies throughout Gotham Knights, some of which can be truly game-breaking for some gamers; the overall narration and world building are superbly well done. So much so, it offers an experience deserving of both fans of the Batman comics and gamers who want more of “the dark knight”. Collectibles are a hit or miss in the open world and traversal is just an overall disappointment, but stepping into the shoes as one of the Dark Knight’s sidekicks is a proper treat. Batman truly is dead; long live the bat-family.
There is no denying how counterintuitive the very existence of Mario + Rabbids seems to be. Yet these Rayman critters are seemingly here to stay, and have seen a lot of growth from the franchise’s inception. Sparks of Hope doubles down on what it means to be a good sequel. Ubisoft have clearly listened to fan feedback from the previous game and have implemented all of the necessary changes to bring players a wonderful new gameplay experience. While the promised combat “overhaul” may feel and, ultimately, look arguably less meaningful than it is made out to be, it still feels refreshing and new thanks to a combined set of smaller changes. The game also looks and plays like a current-generation title, which is a huge plus. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope truly goes beyond all expectations set by its predecessor, providing a refreshing and charming, if somewhat casual, take on tactically minded gameplay.
Whether gamers wish to support publishers beyond buying a game more than once, or have perhaps been holding out for the series to come to PC, now is the perfect time to complete the Nathan Drake saga. At its worst, the Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection for PC does the franchise a disservice by being called a "collection", even if it does include two incredible titles worthy of the suggested retail price. However, as a PC port, Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves is nothing more than a means to end, making the release merely average at best.
Video Game Fables enjoys minimal faults and even fewer flaws. Its very design – incluiding the simplicity of it – aids in pointing the spotlight where it counts most. The game has a wonderful, if somewhat basic, narrative, but it employs humour and fourth wall-breaking irony in calculated and poignant intervals. It looks and feels like a classic SNES title, but conducts itself with all the candour of a hit up-and-coming indie title most worthy of a player’s time and money. From its unique setting, through to its wonderful staying power, Video Game Fables is exceptionally quaint and fun.
Simply put, it is incredibly challenging to recommend The Last of Us Part I to anyone who owns, or has played, the original release or its remaster. The game is exceptional in its quality, and features the same masterful story that arguably dwarfs that of the sequel. It features some of the most loveable (and hated) characters the video gaming has ever seen, and it looks absolutely stunning. The issue, however, is how it simply does not justify its own existence. There is no doubt how The Last of Us Part I is the definitive edition of the game — it will go down in history as an essential part of gaming. However, the knowledge of how it is, truthfully, nothing more than a visual upgrade with no multiplayer mode, and heavily marketed accessibility features, is downright disappointing – to say the least.
Aquadine is a gift that keeps on giving. From its well thought-out cast of characters, through to the prevalent water themes in the city and all of its sights and sounds, there is a constant reason to keep on playing. While the various routes are a little short, they still serve as complete packages on their own, making the addition of an epilogue route even more exciting for completionists. It has its fair share of emotional beats, but the story ultimately serves as a wholesome adventure with friends [and lovers], mysteries and truths, and even a mermaid or two! Aquadine is a surprise, for sure, but it is most certainly an exceptional and welcome one.
It needs to be said how Saints Row titles have always been a fun and extravagant romps. This reboot is pretty much just more of the same, but with additional safety nets. The revamped humour is appreciated, and the current-generation take on what is a decade-old franchise is most certainly enjoyable, to say the least. It is just a shame how boring and, ultimately, forgetful, the overall experience is – leaving players with no real desire to return to the world. Characters are masterfully designed, and the open world is truly a marvel; but a boring slog of a campaign, literal game-breaking bugs, and an over-reliance on a faction system that ties into the campaign, is just not desirable. The game is good, but oh-so-forgettable.
Voyage is, simply put, a superb experience. From its meaningful score through to the passion-filled hand-painted scenery; the characters therein, and the overarching mysteries of the crash and the planet natives, it is exceptional in its execution. The game is masterful in how it relies on player interpretation to tell its story as well – something rather unique to this indie title! While the puzzles are almost non-existent, the game still manages to induce all of the necessary emotions while players make their way through the various and gorgeous levels. As far as cinematic experiences go, Voyage has undoubtedly set the bar wonderfully high.
Train Valley: Console Edition is proof of concept of an award-winning mobile game in the making, which is really where it deserves a spot. Looking past the controller flaws and judging the title for what it is; the overall idea is quite engaging and wonderful. More so when one considers the exciting and somewhat nostalgic premise of laying down and building model train tracks! The puzzle element of figuring out how to efficiently get all trains from one station to another is extremely simple to understand and not too challenging to figure out. This simplicity creates seriously addictive gameplay – perfectly built with chill play sessions in mind. For added joy, it is highly recommended to listen to Kylie Minogue Essentials while the game is played.
There are many things Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes does right, and even more it excels at. So much so, it becomes almost trivial to think of the few caveats bringing the title down, but no game is perfect. Three Hopes is, when all is said and done, a title for Fire Emblem fans and not really anyone else. It helps to push the Dynasty Warriors series in a more modern direction and it features quite a few additions the franchise desperately needs. It brings the iconic Three Houses narrative and characters into an alternate history where some of the lesser characters can thrive, and new and unique stories can be crafted. It has a unique new take on the iconic events in Fire Emblem, all of which work masterfully with the way Dynasty Warriors carries its stories. The end result provides fans with an exceptional and enjoyable experience, from start to end.
At the end of the day, Mario Strikers Battle League does not come without its faults. The overall gameplay experience, along with the look and feel, will undoubtedly get a little tiring. When considering the sheer depth of characterisation, however, whether through the selection of characters, the gear they can equip, or the little ways in which characters conduct themselves on the pitch; these all serve as little reminders of how the focus is absolutely on throwing as much personality at the player as possible. Gameplay is as casual as Mario games get, and the game runs as expected. The few faults it does have makes the game a little bit of a hard sell at full price, but overall it is a good title with the ability to become exceptional in time or with a sequel.
Despite its misgivings, Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong remains an enjoyable experience. Players use to visual novels and text-based adventures will find a lot to love with this game. Similarly, players who can look past truly horrendous lip synching can revel in the beauty of the unique Deus-Ex type art style. The overall totality of immersion to be found is also immense. The game is slow and deliberate, and while the story really does not touch on any World of Darkness aspects beyond the surface-level, a lot of care and effort has been made to ensure players feel like they are part of the underbelly making up The Masquerade and its many coteries, camarillas, and seedy gangs. There is no denying how rough around the edges the game is, and likely will remain. Despite this, the title knows its place and comfortably fills a gap many Vampire: The Masquerade fans may have as they patiently wait for Bloodlines 2 to divine itself into existence.
There really is no argument of whether The Quarry is a must-play title or not. At its worst, it is a significant upgrade from what Until Dawn offers gamers. At its best, The Quarry delivers an emotional and tense story with some of the best cinematography and visual fidelity the video gaming horror genre has yet seen. The exceptional narrative, awesome characters, and gut-wrenching gameplay are facets every horror game should have, and more. It is, simply put, one of the best horror titles of the current console generation, and will be extremely challenging to beat.
Kao the Kangaroo is not flipping the platforming genre on its head or reinventing the wheel, but it most certainly comes as a breath of fresh air in a space desperate for something other than Crash, Spyro, or even Astrobot. It is a simple and fun 3D Platformer meant for easy going and fun play sessions. It is a commendable goal for a game release in 2022, and it certainly ticks all the correct boxes. Ultimately, the game does not disappoint in its endeavours and is a solid platforming title to play and enjoy with family and friends.
From the way fighters are presented, through to the incredibly nuanced and layered combat mechanics, the King of Fighters XV proves why it truly is a contender for ‘king’ of fighting games. Although improvements can be made for an even better experience, the game ultimately proves how it deserves a spot amongst the best fighting games available. It simply has it all. Newer players may be hard pressed to enter the arena, but there are so many new inclusions to the formula that the price of entry may be worth the learning curve. This latest title in the franchise has been a long time coming, and there is no doubt the inevitable sequel will finally push the bar up even further. For now, however, the game rests comfortably alongside other fighting game staples.
Old World: Heroes of the Aegean marks the game’s debut on Steam, and it rightfully earns a spot on many favourites lists. It is truly unlike most 4X games currently available, and adequately serves to raise an already high bar. While the game can do with a bit more tutorialisation, there are enough pop-ups and explanations for adventurers to being their journey. Immersion is a massive focal point and the inclusion of supremely detailed stories and scenarios truly levels up the experience beyond what even the developers may have intended. It truly is an exceptional title, one worthy of taking the title as the king of 4X games.
Gran Turismo 7 is a driving simulator at heart. As such, the game’s overall driving experience is the primary point on which it should be judged. As far as professional racing simulation goes, Gran Turismo 7 once again finishes in pole position. From the attention to detail in car design, through to how vehicles feel on track and the way the controller feels in-hand; it is all rather exceptional. However, a game must be judged on everything it encompasses, not simply its core experience. Therefore, when observing the package as a whole, there are some truly weird gameplay design decisions, which detract from the overall experience. Sifting through hundreds of dialogue pop-up and lore turns the game into a Wikipedia simulator more than anything, and sitting through a six-minute unskippable cutscene every time the game boots up is rather annoying [Editor’s note: it can be turned off within the menu, but why the extra steps when a simple ‘skip’ button would suffice?]. Furthermore, the dissatisfaction of reduced rewards in favour of a forced “need” to spend on micro-transactions; especially after having to play entire hours of practice rounds, then ensuring one can make it through the tournament without hitting too many cars, cutting too many corners, and placing first; is utterly demoralising and removes any and all enjoyment from the overall experience. What should have been a wondrous new king of the streets has been turned into a digital billboard no better than a copy/paste FIFA; and this, truly, is the worst feeling ever for such a beloved franchise. As a result the game is, simply put, not even worth the cost of entry.
MLB The Show 22 is, rather disappointingly, just another yearly iteration of a franchise title. While the gameplay is stellar and it truly is one of the best sports simulation video game titles currently available, it does little more to excite over the 21 release. Upgrades are minor, to say the least, and graphics remain largely unchanged. As such, and for these reasons specifically, MLB The Show 22 can simply not be regarded as a game that truly sets the bar in any meaningful way. Sure, it improves slightly on the 2021 variant of the franchise, but it largely comes across as more of a 2022 refresh and content update than offering any meaningful and progressive changes.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a work of digital art. It transcends any other LEGO title before it, and stands as a testament to what a great LEGO Star Wars game can and should be. From the way it overhauls and remakes the Prequel and Original Trilogies, through to how these additions translate to the brand-new Sequel Trilogy, is nothing short of amazing to see, enjoy and experience. It ultimately sets a very high bar for all LEGO games to come. Especially when the smaller additions, like changes to the traditional camera and level design, truly enhance the overall experience — for this alone, the game is worth picking up. The game’s exceptional quality and gameplay are a pinnacle of the LEGO franchise and platforms alike, and should be experienced by all – whether Star Wars fan, gamer, or both.