Despite my minor complaints, Salt and Sacrifice is an insanely fun Souls-like featuring brutal challenges, great level designs, beautiful hand drawn graphics, interesting enemies and boss fights, cool gear to find and upgrade, a fun leveling system, and one of the most enjoyable co-op experiences I've had in quite a while. The fact that this game was designed by so few people and is of such high quality for a relatively low MSRP of $19.99 is nothing short of astounding. While not perfect, Salt and Sacrifice kept me entertained for well over 20 hours and made me excited for the next entry in this incredible series.
Trek to Yomi is a beautifully crafted experience. From your first steps into the game's world to your last players will be constantly enthralled by the tense combat, tightly written story, and exquisite art direction. It is rare that a game is released that thoroughly wows you with its graphics, atmosphere, and creativity and Trek to Yomi succeeds in all three departments. It is an experience that I highly recommend to all players.
House of the Dead Remake is a fun, quick romp perfect for a night in with a friend, but will most likely wear out its welcome after a couple of hours. The HD graphics help update the game to the modern era while the addition of unlockable weapons, a horde mode, and multiple difficulties help to extend a rather short campaign, but still doesn't offer much reason to continue playing after you've completed the game a few times. The thing I was excited for the most, the motion controls, ultimately became my biggest disappointment and I can't help but feel that there was a huge missed opportunity to not package the game with a gun peripheral. Still, the core game remains fun despite being released over 25 years ago.
Quest for Infamy is a near perfect recreation of point-and-click adventure games of the past. Featuring hilarious dialogue, immature humor, a variety of locations to explore, some clever (and some frustrating) puzzles, and a decently long campaign with an interesting story to unravel. Game breaking bugs and a few of the genre's persistent issues, such as frustrating design and confusion as to where to go or what to do next, do present themselves and in this modern era are far harder to forgive. Still, Quest for Infamy is fun, funny, and worth giving a shot.
Submerged: Hidden Depths is the perfect game to play when needing a break from the more stressful or narrative intense experiences. Featuring a powerful orchestral score, relaxing exploration and puzzle solving, and a subtle yet interesting story about the bonds of family and the power of hope, Submerged surprised me and provided me with one of my favorite experiences of the year.
What Lies in the Multiverse is one of the most unique puzzle/platformers released in recent years. Featuring gorgeous pixel-based graphics and a charmingly self-aware sense of humor, the game constantly throws a variety of new set pieces and obstacles at you and continues to find clever ways to use its central universe swapping mechanic. Despite some unexpectedly dark undertones, the game remains mainly upbeat, telling a story that deals with loss, friendship, and life in a surprisingly mature way. What Lies in the Multiverse is well worth picking up for fans of puzzle based games.
Ghostwire: Tokyo is a unique blend of FPS, RPG, and horror with a creative twist on how we approach fighting in an FPS. Despite a few grievances about the length and ambition of the project, it is still a good game, but unfortunately it merely toes the line between good and great, never quite finding its footing. Still, Ghostwire: Tokyo is well worth picking up.
Elden Ring is the culmination of all the Souls entries up to this point, creating a near perfect gameplay experience filled to the brim with incredible boss fights, gorgeous graphics, and an insanely large world to explore. A variety of new ideas, including crafting and the addition of the spirit horse Torrent, help bring a new level of immersion to the proceedings while simultaneously helping Elden Ring feel like a unique entry in the Souls genre. With gameplay tailored for players who want to experience the world solo as well as those who wish to play nearly the entire game in co-op, Elden Ring is a masterclass in design. Minor gripes about a couple of boss fights and the sheer density of the world to explore leaving many areas potentially undiscovered aside, Elden Ring is a nearly flawless experience which old and new fans of the Souls series will enjoy.
Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves collection brings two of the PlayStation 4's best games to current gen consoles in brilliant remasters that would fool even the pickiest of gamers into believing these games were native made for the PlayStation 5. Packed full of adventure, heart, incredible storytelling, fantastic visuals, and believable characters, the Legacy of Thieves collections shows why Naughty Dog is one of the undisputed champions of the medium.
The Gunk is a creative, witty, and charming adventure game, albeit a bit on the short side at only five or six hours in length. Still, the writing, world, and exploration more than make up for the short campaign as players will find themselves immediately immersed in the world and Rani and Becks' friendship. Unfortunately, a few technical problems plague the game, the most blatant of which – getting stuck on various items – becomes frustrating in later platforming sections. Still, The Gunk is an adventure well worth partaking in.
Grim Dawn: Definitive Edition is an overwhelmingly great package, stuffed with hundreds of hours of content, incredible replayability, a variety of distinct classes to choose from, a huge open world ripe for exploration, more loot than imaginable, and fun combat. Despite its age, Grim Dawn holds up incredibly well when stacked against more modern ARPGs and has made a fluid transition from PC to console with only a few minor slowdown issues.
The Last Stand: Aftermath is a rougelite with a unique concept which keeps each run feeling fresh. Each character, despite having nearly no dialogue, still feels distinct and gives you the sense that each volunteer who sacrifices their life in the name of the community is important. As you progress and unlock new and better equipment and upgrade your survivors, runs will become longer and unveil new story beats, constantly keeping players pushing to unlock the next upgrade, find the next supply cache, or uncover more of the world's lore.
The Grand Theft Auto series will always be seen as a cultural milestone in video gaming which led to the open world games that we cherish now, but the years have been a bit harsh on the trilogy and the complete lack of care put into what is essentially an afterthought of a remaster doesn't help matters much. The few updates made with controls, shooting, and lighting are nice, but not enough to justify the $60 price tag. The games are still worth revisiting, especially if you've never played the original releases, but only if you aren't playing on PC or the Switch as those versions seem to share the bulk of issues the game is currently experiencing. So far PS5 is the way to go for a hassle-free trip into Liberty City, just maybe wait for a price cut first.
Mario Party Superstars is the culmination of all that is great about the Mario Party series. Sporting many of the best boards and mini-games pulled from the series' long history and featuring multiple quality-of-life updates including online play, the ability to save and return to a game later, faster gameplay, a variety of different playstyles between the boards, a leveling system, and a ton of items to unlock, Mario Party Superstars may be the best entry yet in the long-running series. Here's hoping Nintendo supports this release and adds new boards in future DLC.
Tandem: A Tale of Shadows is a surprisingly unique twist on the puzzle genre, making incredible use of light and shadow. The dual character perspective is clever, and helps to create increasingly complex puzzles, which thankfully avoid crossing the line from challenging to frustrating. The short length may upset players hoping for a longer adventure, but helps keep the game flowing smoothly and prevents its core gameplay from becoming stale. Add in a beautifully crafted world and unique boss fights, and Tandem begins to stand out from other puzzler games currently on the market.
Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is a uniquely thrilling horror experience. Armed with only a camera and your wits, the tension is palpable and oozes out of every nook and cranny of Mt. Hikami and the surrounding areas. The camera serves to be as trusty of a weapon as a gun and adds a distinct tension to the action that few games could replicate. The atmosphere, level design, and story all work in tandem to create a surprisingly tense and beautiful experience, despite relying a bit too much on backtracking and having a rather thin story.
Pumpkin Jack is a retro-inspired platformer that features a great sense of humor, creative boss fights, a variety of levels, a few interesting puzzles, and some inspired on-rails sections. While the combat can border on frustrating and the game can be completed in 4 or 5 hours, there is still a lot to love – especially if you are a fan of PS2 era platformers.
Toy Soldiers HD allows players to live out the scenarios they once created as a child playing with toys on a rainy Saturday afternoon, while also providing a complex, stressful, and beautifully crafted strategic experience. I found myself eager to see what was next, to retry levels with better defenses after learning what to expect, and to hop into a multiplayer match (even if I couldn't at press time). I may not have played the original, so I can't compare the remaster to it, but if the original was half as good as the remaster then I am sorry that I missed out on this series for so many years.
While hilarious and fun for a couple of hours, Fisti-Fluffs players will be hard-pressed to find many reasons to come back after a night or two of entertainment. Still, the hilarious win animations, variety of modes, customization options, and killer metal soundtrack make for a good night in. While there are a few issues with slowdown and bots freezing, none of these ruins the experience enough to worry about in the long run.
In Sound Mind is a psychological horror game which borders more on tense than scary, and proves to be a unique look into the minds of struggling individuals. Having each tape/patient provide a different world, with the patient's inner torment essentially lashing out as the level's boss, is a unique twist on the genre. The juxtaposition between the monster trying to hurt you, but also expressing its doubt and fears, all while Desmond attempts to calm it and show that he wants to help, felt surprisingly fresh – and gave me much more reason to continue than a simple good versus evil fight would have. A sense of humor, large levels, and a variety of puzzles make In Sound Mind a game worth picking up for those looking for a new twist in an overdone genre.