Gravity Ghost imagines the maelstrom of adolescence further complicated by its protagonist's untimely death. As an elliptic platformer, it's concerned with reaching a neat-and-tidy series of goals. As a narrative experience, it's consumed by normalizing the despondency of its cast. Gravity Ghost's kinetic novelty may have ebbed since its 2015 debut, but its resolution, which seeks idyllic healing from an enormous tragedy, still creates a powerful statement.
Lucah: Born of a Dream is a neon crash of allusive storytelling, deliberate top-down combat, and distressed, manic ambience. Its indirect means of expression risks losing the player in its internal contradictions—it's hysterical and tender, it's demanding and soothing—but tenacious pandemonium is also its objective. Lucah: Born of a Dream seeks an audience that can relate to its world without needing to make explicit sense of its features.
Blood & Truth is a savvy and seasoned virtual reality thriller confident in its suave posture and meticulous operation. It is simultaneously a bonkers riff on outrageous action cinema where it's just as easy imagine its main character as narrowly sentient tank treads with gun-hands born to decimate cloned hordes of bungling bald men. Blood & Truth works even as its internal truth is a grinning mystery.
Ritual of the Moon's takes five minutes from twenty-eight consecutive days to consider, measure, and test the variable nature of morality. It's a cycle of play that finds a rhythm with the player's social and behavioral conflict, and questions that seemed trapped in ethereal ambience reveal honest and unexpected conclusions. My own introspection and negligence, as it turns out, have a lot in common.
Everybody's Golf VR's devotion to (and immersion in) the ambience of golf transcends its simulation-oriented peers. As I swing a virtual club with one of my physical hands on a course populated by dinosaurs, instead of feeling lost in the abstract, I'm committed to refining and improving my shot. Everybody's Golf VR's affable pragmatism and judicious feedback grant access to a sport I had always considered too distant and aloof to negotiate.
Saints Row: The Third was a sacred moment in time where lunatics reimagined the animus of an open-world crime game. It enabled players to thunderously lead a prestigious gang of miscreants and also turn themselves into a toilet. Eight years later Saints Row: The Third's glut of Content is more difficult to digest, but its outrageous ambience is (mostly) still so sweet.
Shakedown: Hawaii energizes its open-world satire with the transparent and ruthless cynicism of modern commerce. Its antihero's flagrant and invincible dishonesty would go beyond parody if it weren't kept in check by the player's underhanded complicity. I want the money numbers to go higher, too. And I'll destroy or ruin anyone in Shakedown: Hawaii's lush pixel paradise to see it through.
Jupiter & Mars presents a sincere restoration of the radical environmentalism that permeated pop culture in the early 90's. Steering its pair of dolphins through a neon post-human wonderland measures against its persistent undercurrent of despair and culpability. Jupiter & Mars lets players smile at what's left while scowling at the wreckage we're doomed to leave behind.
Katana Zero's blade isn't sharp enough to cut through its self-indulgent idiosyncrasy. Inventive action sequences that neatly divide improvisation and orchestration and a novel time-rewinding mechanic both suffer under an overwrought style miserably impressed with its own posture. Katana Zero works best when it's not auditioning to change its title to Edge Lords.
God's Trigger's grindhouse kitsch is effective because you can believe it was made by deeply inspired people who barely knew what they were doing. Blundering adrenaline has an unconscious authenticity which, by its nature, translates to a gnarly player experience. Misadventure is technically still an adventure.
Dangerous Driving bets that spurned fans of Burnout still want more Burnout made by the only people they would trust to make more Burnout. It's a skilled recreation, albeit one that forgets wild innovation and grinning novelty were as important to Burnout's identity as racing and smashing up outrageous cars. Dangerous Driving, ironically, is defined by familiarity and comfort.
There is no satisfaction in immortality. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice proves its thesis by matching the resolve of its protagonist with the potential of its player in a performance choreographed by agonizing lessons and industrious rehearsals. When it's showtime presentation seems instinctive and proficiency feels powerful. Sekiro demands immense competence, but, once its needs are met, the payoff is irresistible.
Hypnospace Outlaw presents a precise simulation of the apex of 90's internet culture. Separating anarchic innocence from hubristic malice is the objective while soaking in the garish spectacle of a lost time is its gratuity. Twenty years removed, Hypnospace Outlaw exposes the dividing line between the internet as a digital frontier and its current status as a corporate hellscape.
Lavish pop-goth theatrics and profusely ridiculous violence compose the bible to which Devil May Cry 5 remains unabashedly faithful. Whether engaging with micro-intricacies buried deep inside its three protagonists or simply opting for maladroit participation, both approaches are furiously consumed with making the player look and feel extraordinary. Devil May Cry 5 is flexible, confident, and genuine Devil May Cry.
Ape Out parades the alliance between thunderous jazz and an irritated bloodthirsty gorilla. Two unrelated objects defined by being out of control are both under your control in the form of a violent top-down brawler. Symbols crash when gorillas and humans clash and the performance is beautiful and preposterous.
FutureGrind forges, destroys, and rewrites neural pathways until gray matter is shaped to command its style of acrobatic vehicular platforming. Uniracers meets Trials is an easy shortcut, but it undersells the succinct density and progressive challenge of its level design. FutureGrind has the goofy novelty and formidable sincerity of what's expected from a platformer in 2019.
Like the pearlescent shimmer across its desert surface, Vane is difficult to observe and define with precise clarity. Its world presents either an invitation to wonder or a provocation to explore and it's often seized by the tension pulling in opposing directions. Vane can be brilliant and subversive or confusing and frustrating and it's impossible to separate its intentions from its misfortunes.
Wonder Boy in Monster Land's nascent fusion of platforming and role-playing mechanics creates viable candidacy for M2's meticulous talents. If the SEGA AGES line continues to explore the breadth of Sega's catalog, games that inspired creators are just as valuable as games that empowered players. Wonder Boy in Monster Land is proud to be part of the former.
The Eternal Castle [REMASTERED] prevails through its devotion to the garish glitz and grime of its early 90's apocalyptic techno/retro-future. It's a complete aesthetic that romanticizes graphical antiquity and idealizes a parallel with the maximum of its era's volatile culture. The artifact of The Eternal Castle may be invented and artificial, but it's no less effective in proving its power.
Outer Wilds' compact clockwork universe does more with twenty-two minutes than its spacefaring peers can imagine in a lifetime. It treats curiosity as a Möbius strip and trusts its network of divine secrets will drive the player toward a reasoned conclusion. By turning away from the zeitgeist, Outer Wilds' sublime presence can only be defined as otherworldly.