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.