The music is as diverse, and I often found myself just sitting back, taking it all in, because the second I picked up the controller, the magic clashed with how stiff the character was. That toppled with awkward controls that often stutter or outright don't work, and Wonderworld fails in the most important part of any platformer - movement.
Eldest Souls is one of the most beautiful indie games out there but the hurdle to get into it is far too high. The skill points handed out to upgrade your character do little to help while there is no room to learn the mechanics. The notorious Souls difficulty is only amplified in the boss-rush genre, which makes this a near-impossible entry-level game. For anyone who enjoys Dark Souls’ most difficult segments emphatically because of the challenge, Eldest Souls has a lot to love. But that’s just it - Eldest Souls is one for the die-hard fans and no one else.
From milking bugs to slaying frogs with jetpacks, Tails of Iron is an off-the-walls, brilliantly intuitive sidescroller, but it has a heart and keeps you gripped from start to finish as you slaughter a conveyor belt of would-be challengers. It’s not about avenging your father, not entirely - it’s about family and community. Vin Diesel would be proud. Sadly, it’ll probably get lost in the busy end-of-year shuffle among the triple-A powerhouses. But in the downtime between releases, make some room for Tails of Iron - it’s one of 2021’s best.
Doctor Who doesn’t work without those three things - it’s a fairly bog-standard sci-fi show at the end of the day, but it’s mine and many’s favourites because of the Doctor. The Doctor is the show’s edge, a lovable idiot that’s too smart for their own good tying everything together, ending up in random situations and being forced to interact with strangers to uncover plots of intrigue. We do none of that here. You go to A, do what you’re told, go to B, do what you’re told, until the game ends. Given how short it is, you’re better off watching a few episodes from the show, because this is barely Doctor Who, let alone a good game.
Once you get going, it’s hard to put Grow down. Animal Crossing tends to have a firm cut off point each day where you know you’re best leaving it until the island replenishes, but in Grow, you can sleep and keep going. It’s therapeutic in a way that even its inspirations aren’t. Often games like this can get overwhelming fast as new features pile on. Grow doesn’t - it’s simple and to the point, so that relaxing sensation never wanes.
An Outcry is an unsettling game in more ways than one. The talking birds that eat people are frightening, sure, but there’s a weird comfort in embracing their company when given the choice between them and the transphobes filling the halls of your apartment complex. It almost feels like purgatory, a place of judgement with the birds acting as reapers, and you’re watching as these horrible people are picked off one by one, punished for their wrongdoings. An Outcry is a quaint world packed with so much character and atmosphere, oozing personality while holding up a dark mirror to our own, yet it makes me proud to be queer and proud to embrace who I am.
There aren’t many games I’ve been bursting to play. Skywalker Saga was a rare case, but that came with an added risk - not living up to the hype. It’s the first Lego Star Wars to bundle the films together since the Complete Saga and that’s a tall order, especially since it’s now nine films. Not just three trilogies, either, but all their worlds, their cities, and their landmarks. The old games had small hubs with Dexter’s Diner and Mos Eisley’s Cantina, but Skywalker Saga goes above and beyond to bring Star Wars’ galaxy to life. It lived up to the hype and shattered my expectations. Somehow, Lego Star Wars returned, and it returned with style.
Hooked on You is a fun spin-off for Dead by Daylight fans, but if you’re a dating sim fan, you’ll probably find it a little lacklustre. It’s often simplistic and repetitive, but it brings the ‘90s meta edge to horror games in a way that hasn’t really been done before, with characters I fell for and a world I didn’t want to leave. It might be a breezy 70-minute game, but I’ll be going back for all the achievements and digging into every single romance all the same.
I had a lot of fun with You Suck at Parking, something I could stick on for the night and play while passing the controller back and forth with a friend to try and one-up each other when we kept inevitably failing. It has that communal feel, especially with its leaderboards, that will no doubt push people to try and perfect its Deathrun-like level design. I can’t wait to see what community pops up around it, but, unfortunately, I don’t think You Suck at Parking built enough of an identity to leave a lasting impression.