Sunday Gold represents a bold effort to teach the old dog of point-and-click adventure games some new tricks. While there are some flaws and frustrations, BKOM Studios’ experiment has been broadly successful and players who would never normally touch an adventure game may well enjoy this one. In any case, Frank, Sally, and Gavin are likeable new characters who hopefully will get to humble the rich and powerful once again.
Ultimately though, No Place for Bravery is so heavily indebted to its influences that it never carves out a real identity of its own. A game that should lean heavily on its combat, and on telling its story, instead becomes bogged down with frustrating traps and repeatedly going over the same ground. The reliance on opaque systems and too many written lore extracts also detracts from the accomplished visuals and sound. In a market increasingly crowded with games drawing from the same well, it isn’t clear that there is a place for No Place for Bravery.
Neither of the two layers in Circus Electrique would satisfy on its own. Of course, neither needs to – Zen Studios have built a game where two connected sets of systems continually reinforce each other. The result is an engine which keeps generating new problems and possibilities, sustaining the fun for hours on end. The combination of management and tactical elements might appeal to a relatively niche audience, but for that crowd Circus Electrique may be just the ticket.
Today, XCOM 2 is still the gold standard for turn-based tactics and Desperados III is arguably the ultimate Western tactical experience. With Hard West 2, though, Ice Code Games have captured some of the greatness of these landmark releases. The fiction could be more compelling, and the challenge a little less unfair, but this is a trove of head-scratching shootouts that is easy to recommend to tactics fans.
Cursed to Golf has such good aesthetics, and is based on such a fundamentally sound idea, that all of this could be forgivable – and some, no doubt, will relish the challenge. The roguelike structure, though, means that these frustrations have to be endured over and over again. Unlike, say, Nuclear Throne or Into the Breach, the game lacks the smooth and addictive core gameplay to make that feel worthwhile. It’s for that reason that despite taking a strong first shot, Cursed to Golf ultimately ends up feeling under par.
Over the years, Rebellion have been the target of a lot of glib claims that they have merely “made the same game over and over” with Sniper Elite. While it’s true that the studio has never thoroughly overhauled their formula, the series has consistently improved with each instalment. With Sniper Elite 5, these enhancements are truly stacking up and Rebellion’s passion and experience shines through. While its thin story and demand for patience mean that it isn’t for everyone, this is an enthralling fifth entry in a series that has continued success firmly in its sights.
Games which work to revive the glory days of ‘80s platformers are a fairly common sight these days, and are a logical choice of project for developers like Small Bros. B.I.O.T.A. has the special qualities that are needed to stand out from the crowd. It summons up the memory of the run-and-gun games of yesteryear, but never becomes repetitive or frustrating as they did. Its modern conveniences, like save-anywhere and a flexible character system, turn the game into something more than just a retro revival. Games with a philosophy this obviously nostalgic aren’t for everyone, but anyone who digs this retro look is sure to enjoy a trip to Frontier Horizon.
Forgive Me Father can seem a little off the boomer shooter pace at times. While attractive, its aesthetics could be a bit more cohesive – for example, a pulsating Lovecraftian HUD would be much more appropriate than the flat comic book one that Byte Barrel went for. The level designs are certainly not as inventive as the ones found in the best of the genre. With that being said, the game has a lot to offer retro shooter enthusiasts and from time to time, it comes together wonderfully.
Ironically, though, Weird West is a game which could have been so much better had it been made by a much larger team with the resources to make good on its ambitious design. What has been achieved here is laudable, good and occasionally great, but WolfEye may have been better advised to take on a project of a more manageable scale. There is real imagination and talent on show here, but Weird West is not the best way to harness it.
Over the last decade, Polish developer Flying Wild Hog has taken the Shadow Warrior shooter series originated by 3D Realms in 1997 and made it very much their own. With each new entry, the studio has felt free to make big changes. Now that the long-delayed Shadow Warrior 3 is finally here, it’s clear that the developers have given the formula its most aggressive rework yet. The result is a startlingly stripped-down sequel that focuses exclusively on its short but sometimes glorious single-player campaign.
Aiko’s Choice is a document of a developer at the top of their game, doing what they love to do. Fans of the original Shadow Tactics are sure to enjoy these new missions, particularly because of the way they expand upon and improve the main game. Currently, Mimimi Games are working on their next real-time stealth tactics game with the codename “Süßkartoffel” (or sweet potato in English). Before Shadow Tactics was released, the company nearly went bankrupt – now able to self-publish their next game, anything seems possible. In the meantime, Aiko’s Choice serves as a reminder of how enthralling real-time stealth tactics can be.
It’s a longstanding truism that annual games are not well-suited to innovation. They tend to make only small, incremental changes but even these can thrill or displease the loyal year-on-year purchasers. Vanguard is exactly that kind of game in exactly that kind of series. What it does have is the extremely high production standards and level of polish that Call of Duty is known for these days. This looks and plays every bit like a game which cost many, many millions of dollars to develop. If you have ever enjoyed a Call of Duty game you will enjoy this one, too, and can expect to be kept busy until the next edition. 18 games in, that is about all we can expect.
Eastward is a remarkable achievement in a number of ways. Those for whom the world, story and characters really click will likely regard it as a minor masterpiece. A more general audience can revel in the visuals and music, and also get a lot out of the combat, exploration and puzzles, but may find the game frustratingly talky and slow-moving. Ultimately, it is the prospect of the game’s script that will help players determine if a trip Eastward is one worth taking.
Foreclosed is the work of a very small team, and it shows. This is an indie game which in a number of ways, certainly can’t compete with comparable games with vastly larger budgets. This goes a long way towards explaining the lacklustre combat and the game’s short length, which means it can be completed in under five hours. With that said, Foreclosed has an excellent aesthetic and a number of genuinely intriguing scenes. For fans of cyberpunk, or of third-person adventures generally, this is a trip into the future that is worth taking.
The No More Heroes games are a strange, wild ride. They may be repetitive, and potentially wearying if played back to back, but SUDA51’s unique take on the hack-and-slash genre is a frequently intriguing one. The limitations of these PC ports are clear, but hardly a dealbreaker for anyone who is intrigued by the games but missed them the first time around.
Essays on Empathy is a fairly niche product – the projects here are more intriguing than entertaining, and the relative lack of interactivity will be a red line for many people. On the other hand, for those with a strong interest in narrative design and on the joys and pitfalls of indie development, this collection is a rare and valuable insight into a team who are undoubtedly forging their own unique and admirable path.
It may be more modest in its aspirations than the sprawling open-ended RPG some may have expected, but like a wolfpack on the hunt Earthblood is very efficient at what it does. Its story, characters and scope may leave something to be desired but its use of the lore is intriguing and its stealth and combat components are equally compelling. A pleasant surprise, Earthblood hopefully bodes well for future World of Darkness games.
Looked at as a puzzle game, or as a strictly entry-level stealth adventure, El Hijo has a lot to recommend it. It has a distinctive and attractive look, and a charm all of its own. Those looking for a genuinely emergent or inventive stealth experience, however, will be better served elsewhere.
Gamers who love it when a plan comes together are better catered to than ever, and while they will enjoy much of Partisans 1941, they may prefer instead to revisit one of the new giants of the genre. This particular war story may be best left to the completists.