Tiny Tina's Wonderlands is a Borderlands game. It's not a spin-off, it's not inspired by, and it's not a mix of Borderlands and D&D - it's just Borderlands. It's a waste of a great concept, and comes with the typical Borderlands drawbacks of potentially grating humour, way too many guns, way too small storage space, and a lot of always-on characters who aren't given enough room to breathe. It's fun, but it's nothing special. The worst part is it could have been.
Ultimately, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax doesn’t seem to quite know who it’s for. It should be aimed at Persona fans, but the steep learning curve and lack of fan service elements lean away from that idea. As a fighting game, it doesn’t seem that compelling either, and asks for heavy investment in a story that’s relatively light on gameplay. It will find some fans, but it doesn’t look likely to pick up many outsiders. But hey, at least it has rollback netcode now.
People are going to play this game and have a lot of fun. That’s all a lot of people want from a game, and Forbidding West delivers. Through a certain lens, it deserves the perfect scores I’m expecting to see. But much like Ghost of Tsushima, a lot of you are going to come away disappointed by the lack of substance and new ideas. In many ways, Horizon Forbidden West is like it’s own machines. It’s grand, it’s gorgeous, but it has no soul.
Ultimately there just isn't enough here, and even for an indie game in a world of huge budgets, I don't think it's unfair to point that out. Pupperazzi is sweet and delivers what it promises, but you need to make your own fun because the game doesn't test you in any meaningful way, and nor does it let you apply your own creativity to it enough. But it lets you take pictures of doggos, and that's all some people will need.
When all’s said and done, it feels better than Cricket 19, and that makes it the best cricket game on the market. It’s not as breezy as the Brian Lara series, but purists will prefer the depth here. Big Ant Studios is doing a great job of providing a solid cricketing experience on a limited budget, and if you want cricket’s answer to FIFA, this is as good as you’re going to get.
Overall, Brain vs Brain is exactly what you’d expect of Big Brain Academy on the Nintendo Switch. It doesn’t feel like it has changed all that much in 14 years, but maybe it didn’t need to. It’s the most gamified title in this genre, and to mess with it too much might have diminished the appeal, but it’s a little disappointing that a decade and a half of studying leads to the same B+ grade.
Eidos-Montreal’s Guardians of the Galaxy is brilliant, but the one thing holding me back from giving it a higher score is how dated many of its conventions seem. The power cooldown has no plan B, QTEs are everywhere, and again… Eagle Vision. It’s a few years behind the times, even without George Michael's dulcet tones. It’s fun, but it certainly isn’t fresh, and for a lot of people, that will be enough. In some ways, it's an experience not to be missed. In others, it's an experience you've had before.
All in all, Jackbox Party Pack 8 is a great entry in the Jackbox series, propped up by Job Job and Drawful Animate. The Wheel of Enormous Proportions is one of the better trivia games when it’s not trying to be funny, and less punishing than Trivia Murder Mystery Party. The Poll Mine and Weapons Drawn are both new ideas for the series, but only Weapons Drawn really lands, and even then if you have the collective works of Jackbox, I don't think it'll come up in the rotation much. It's a solid Jackbox Pack with two great-if-not-quite-legendary games, one good trivia game, and two more experimental titles that your mileage may vary on. It's not Jackbox 3, but hey, it's also not Jackbox 6.
FIFA 22 is just like any other FIFA game. It’s a very, very good football game, and with NBA 2K taking its eyes off the prize in favour of the State Farm drip, it’s left with a tap-in to be 2021’s best sports sim. HyperMotion makes a difference, create-a-club adds some personality, and everything else is the same. What more were you expecting?
When everything clicks, Sable is a great game. Once you've got your head around a quest, especially a longer one with a few moving parts, you can get lost in the world climbing buildings, finding secrets, unlocking puzzles, and gathering knick-knacks. Unfortunately, the game leaves you to your own devices far too often, and doesn't present an interesting enough world for you to want to get lost in it. I'd say at least I could enjoy flying around in it, but after my hovercraft conked out, I didn't even have that. It cares too much about how it wants to make you feel and not enough about how it's going to get you there.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a very good game that feels like it’s already been left behind by modern genre conventions. There’s nothing all that frustrating in that - we shouldn’t expect games, especially those made by studios the size of Ember Labs, to be constantly groundbreaking, but so much of Kena feels borrowed from elsewhere that it’s difficult to call it great. It’s a solid, enjoyable experience, and charming enough that you won’t care that you’ve played versions of it before. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s a pretty nice wheel nonetheless.
Severed Steel feels like playing the Deathloop trailer. Not the actual game, specifically the trailer. Specifically the run shoot kick montage that comes in right at the end. Slick, stylised, and never slowing down for a second, Severed Steel looks set to launch without much fanfare, but if you want a game that gives you a great time and then leaves you alone, give it a try. KILL. THEM. ALL.
NBA 2K22 is an almost impossible game to rate, because it’s a damn good basketball game at its core. The biggest problem is how it tries to be anything but a basketball game, and while that doesn’t damage the overall quality on the court, it makes it hard to root for it. It’s the ‘03 Lakers, and I hate the ‘03 Lakers.
Annapurna Interactive has a staggering back catalogue, but 2021 has frankly not been great for the publisher. Last Stop failed to leave any kind of impact, Maquette is a game with Bryce Dallas Howard in it and not much else, and Twelve Minutes, despite being loaded with star-power, wastes its time loop mechanic in service of a ridiculous twist ending that derails the entire game. With The Artful Escape, plus Neon White, Stray, and Solar Ash to come in the near future, it feels like Annapurna is back.
Playing Cris Tales is like reading an especially lyrical Paulo Coelho novel, except every ten pages or so, someone slaps it out of your hands. Then you realise some pages are out of order, and you need to flick through the seemingly random pattern before you continue. Also, some pages are so smudged and coffee stained you can’t read them, and a few pages haven’t been translated at all. When Cris Tales works, it’s a wonderful experience, and there’s a great game in here somewhere, but it sabotages itself at every turn. I’ll be keeping a close eye on Dreams Uncorporated - but Cris Tales is a near miss that looks to the future, while clinging too hard to the past.
All things considered, Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is a great sports game but only a decent Olympics game. Nearly all of the 20 (or is it 16?) events offer an enjoyable enough time and only a few are bogged down by mechanics, but once you’ve played them all a couple of times, you’re done. If you dabble in the two player mode regularly or find a game online, it could be a deeper experience, but it just feels like the trimmings aren’t quite there. I won the boxing gold medal as a bunny rabbit maid with blue hair though, so there’s that.
The only gripe anyone could possibly have about this game is that they personally prefer the narrative driven THUG and THAW games. I probably do too, but in terms of the raw THPS experience, this game has everything you need and more. Warehouse is the best opening level of all time, and you can spend hours in each park figuring out new lines. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 Remake is a magnificent game, and while the Nintendo Switch doesn’t offer the definitive version of the game, but it almost does, and that’s good enough for Jamie Thomas.
I’m not necessarily a fan of all of the design choices - it’s often both too open ended and too restrictive - but I understand them all, and I wish it was less of an exception to the rule. I can’t fault its narrative, or even its design, despite my disagreements. If someone told me they consider it a perfect game, I wouldn’t have anything besides personal preference to come back at them. But with the fiddly game design likely to block off even more players than the already niche themes, I can’t help but wish a game so focused on socialism could have been more welcoming to the masses.