Fashion Dreamer was never going to be a Game of the Year candidate, however it did have the tools to be a favourite game for many. On a purely technical level it runs smoothly (as smoothly as games ever do on Switch), but with its aimless story, lack of depth, oddly colourless world, and misguided focus on influencer culture means it finds itself as one of 2023's worst dressed instead.
Persona 5 Tactica is undone by the fact it's unsure if it's putting the Persona twist on the tactical grid game, or using Persona characters to introduce newcomers to the genre. Maps and missions are repetitive, the more interesting elements that each Persona brings are sanded off, and there's an overreliance on basic gun and melee attacks that don't suit the Phantom Thieves at all. But when it clicks, there is an unmistakable charm about the Phantom Thieves themselves, and drawn-out though they may be, the epic scale of the bosses is a good shake-up for the genre. It's not the perfect goodbye of Strikers, but it is a sign that the sun should set on the Phantom Thieves in peace.
Spider-Man 2 feels like it’s right in the centre of Sony’s blockbuster sequel design philosophy. Where Horizon Forbidden West did the same thing but bigger, The Last of Us Part 2 elevated itself technologically, narratively, and most importantly, ambitiously. Spider-Man 2 falls between these approaches - it has some of Horizon’s safety, but with a slice of the elevation The Last of Us brought. Spider-Man 2 is the future of polished, competent, elevated sequels, and brings with it so many technical flourishes and a perfect execution of the formula that it stands in a class of its own. Like Miles’ own motto, Spider-Man 2 can be itself, and be greater.
If you love Crash Bandicoot and you've been waiting years for what once was Wumpa League, there's probably just enough there to convince you that this is a good game. But it's not. It's a bad game. They shouldn't have made Crash Bandicoot into this thing, and deep down all of us know it.
C-Smash VRS is an interesting revival of a forgotten classic, perfectly suited for the virtual reality medium from the active nature of the gameplay to the futuristic visuals. However, it conspires to make the experience frustrating with precise controls, harsh timers, and a lack of solo play modes despite the (doomed to be mostly unused) multiplayer option having a far greater range. It's not quite 6-Love, but it's just about 6-Like.
There is a lot here for a young kid to enjoy, especially one who is tuned into Lego. The tracks have solid variety, both in terms of aesthetics, obstacles, and various challenges (like lacking destructible items to fill the boost bar), but it barely matters when you'll win every race until you hit a progression wall that asks you to grind out cash generation or pay to skip it, and then start winning again. It's creative, but it's also a bit of a mess. Lego 2K Drive mixes Forza Horizon and Mario Kart together, but it's not as good as either of them, and doesn't bring much new to the table either. There are building blocks here for Lego to use for future IP-less games, but this doesn't quite put them all together in a way that will interest anyone who isn’t still in primary school.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor has everything a Star Wars fan will want - it's an excellent story, and uses classic Star Wars tropes, musical cues, and narrative moments. But if you're not enamoured by a John Williams horn reprise, what you have is a decent adventure game with a vibrant but often annoying open world that you keep being sent back to, that rarely lets you think for yourself and often just doesn't quite work properly. For a story so sharp, it's a shame the game gets in its own way so often.
Switchback VR is a steady rail shooter that offers decent variety and an interesting tour through some old levels, but never tries to earn The Dark Pictures name. The choices don’t matter, the Curator is just a creepy Where’s Wally?, and the stakes or even setup for rescuing characters was lost on me. However, it’s reliably spooky, action-packed, and has the best designed villain in the series. It’s a rail shooter obsessed with its own past, so it makes sense that it’s two steps forward and one step back.
Call of the Mountain has wonderful elements to it, and it lands the most important part - the physical experience of climbing - perfectly. Trailers and even my own video capture don't quite convey the speed and agility you feel while scrambling. Unfortunately, other parts of the game are too thin, with the inability to wander back the way you came and the constant stop-start nature of its thin narrative working against its own appeal. With some fresh ideas, huge scope, and clever adaptation of an existing property without relying on a simple remake, Horizon Call of the Mountain is an important game for VR. However, I'm not sure it's a great one.
This is the best Fire Emblem game to play ever. No exaggeration. I have not experienced all of the very early games, but I have seen enough to plant my flag for this one. But to fully experience? Way down the list. It's frustrating in the extreme - I just do not care about these characters and their plight, and even the ones where I might have, the game offers me no reason to invest whatsoever. I highly recommend Fire Emblem Engage because the gameplay and battles are stellar. Just be prepared to find yourself skipping a lot of stuff by the end.
High on Life just isn’t very good, and there’s not much more to say. I think a lot of people are taking the route of ‘well, if you love this humour you might enjoy it’, but I already do love this humour and I did not enjoy it. It’s the ghost of video games past, with boring shooting and a bafflingly slim progression loop propped up by bad jokes that feel like some bros on a podcast writing their own Interdimensional Cable skits. It’s free on Game Pass, but your time on this planet is precious. Give this one a miss.
Too much game is never a bad thing for some 'pennies to enjoyment ratio' players, but Bayonetta 3 overstays its welcome and dips from being an all-time classic to just being a very, very good video game. It's not the all-time top five Switch game that I think it might have been with a few different decisions here and there, but it's still a must-play title.
Ultimately, Mario Strikers: Battle League feels like Liverpool’s trophy cabinet this year. An FA Cup and a League Cup are nothing to sniff at, but it feels below par. With no cup final goals and two victories on penalties, they didn’t even underachieve with style. Battle League is very similar. It’s Mario Strikers again, and the football itself is pretty good, but the stuff of legends? Not even close.
Even though the two new elements were a bit of a let down, I'd still thoroughly recommend new players try out Bugsnax as it comes to its new platforms, as it’s a delightfully whimsical take on the catch-'em-up, and the narrative goes to strange, dark places - although it perhaps doesn't commit to the bit as much as it should. Bugsnax is a great game for newcomers, no doubt. For returning players? Well, don't expect much from the new customisation of your house, and while the Bigsnax are just Bugsnax by a slightly different name, if you liked Bugsnax and you want to catch more tasty critters, the DLC has some creative new creatures for you to sink your teeth into.
If you've been missing playing Bowling and Tennis in your living room, and are keen to add Football and Badminton to your repertoire, then Switch Sports is the game for you. If you're hoping for a modernisation of everything Wii Sports had to offer, you won't find it here. Switch Sports is the Gerrard slip made video cartridge - so close to greatness, yet so far.
In short, MLB The Show 22 feels like MLB The Show 21 after a decent-but-not-major patch has been installed. If you haven’t played the series for a few years, or are a newcomer looking to dive into baseball sims for the first time, this is the best thing on the market. If you picked the game up last year, you’re paying for minor tweaks and a roster update, and you might not feel a new game is worth it.
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.