Pam K. Ferdinand
This release really needs two separate review scores: one for people who’ve never played the originals and one for players who will frolic through the levels with experience and rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia. Fans of the original Tomb Raider games will probably be thrilled with these remasters. For non-veterans, though, it will be an arduous journey, and the new textures, lighting, and “modern” controls won’t make much difference. It will be hard to judge these titles through the lens of ’90s tech and game design rather than 2024’s, and new players might have a tougher time overlooking issues that veteran players embrace as quirks or don’t see at all. However, it seems safe to assume that most people picking up Tomb Raider 1-3 Remastered already appreciate the originals, and so this score is aimed more at them. Newcomers, approach with caution.
The combat in Lysfanga really seems to do all the heavy lifting, and it’s unfortunate that the rest of the game leaves so much to be desired and feels like it’s just there as ungratifying filler. However, it’s a hack-and-slash game, and the fighting is what’s ultimately most important. For non-completionists, the game can be finished in about 15-20 hours, and most of that time will thankfully be spent in combat taking out bad guys.
There’s little doubt that gamers who liked The Talos Principle will enjoy its sequel. It offers much the same experience in a more cohesive package. The puzzles are more accessible to the layman while still presenting a satisfying challenge, and very few will have to be skipped, even for someone who doesn’t consider themselves a puzzle person. And while the philosophical meanderings can be a bit long-winded, most of them can thankfully be ignored. Overall, any complaints pale in comparison to the fully engaging adventure puzzle experience that Croteam is offering with The Talos Principle 2.
Published by Sega, Amplitude Studios' Endless Dungeon is a roguelike twin-stick shooter built around a tower defense mechanic. Featuring a range of playable characters who each come with their own nuances, the game's missions are taken on by squads of three, with players having to clear procedurally-generated levels while defending a special bot. Endless Dungeon can be played solo or in co-op.
There are other complaints, such as the front-loaded need to make money, which evaporates after Mineko acquires all the crafting tools and benches, immediately negating one of the few mechanics that kept anybody playing. But, ultimately, Mineko’s Night Market is a melding of boredom and frustration, and a lot of that frustration stems from the fact that the game could have been good. It had the graphics, music, story, and the makings of a gameplay loop that should have been thoroughly engaging. Instead, it just feels like nothing was pushed to its full potential, leaving both the game and the player wanting more.
Overall, Sabotage’s retro-inspired RPG is a strong offering that is doubly impressive considering it’s only the second project from this budding indie studio. There are too many points to expound upon — be it the soundtrack, story, combat, gameplay, or graphics — but they are all skillfully implemented. Even on the technical side, there are no complaints. Sea of Stars is simply a really fun, well-rounded game that any fan of RPGs will surely enjoy.
While every Pikmin game has followed the winning formula that was established two decades ago, each has added its own tweaks here and there. Pikmin 4 seems to have taken the biggest leap in that regard, and yet everything feels like a logical and fitting next step. The core of the gameplay is the same and provides the hours of whimsical RTS challenge and fun that fans expect, while the new modes and mechanics keep it from feeling stale. Every mainline game has been an improvement on the last, and Pikmin 4 is no exception. Other than the co-op, there’s really nothing negative about the game, besides perhaps the loading times. But it’s really a testament to how great Pikmin 4 is that waiting 30 seconds to get back into it is too long.
Ultimately, however, this latest entry in the franchise is simply not exceptional. It’s easy to get sunk in and lose huge chunks of time tending crops and animals or befriending villagers. But, overall, Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is a steady middle-of-the-road offering with nothing to recommend over anything else currently available in the genre. Almost every aspect of the game is good but not great.
Published by Private Division, Piccolo’s platformer set in a post-human world is a solid offering and another reminder that indie games can provide well-rounded, memorable experiences. After Us can be completed in about 10 hours, 20 for thorough explorers, and nearly every minute of it will be enjoyable. The visuals are impressive, the gameplay is fun, the levels are varied, and though the story is rather simplistic and a bit vague, it serves its purpose. After Us probably won’t rise to the top for many people, but it definitely won't sink to the bottom either.
Luckily, as the player progresses, builds an army of strong combatants with useful quirks, accumulates a stockpile of weapons and hats, and unlocks perks in the research lab, the game gets easier. The challenge definitely remains, but the balance begins to noticeably shift from frustration to fun. People jumping into Mr. Sun’s Hatbox should be prepared to get annoyed and occasionally exit the game feeling irked. But those who persevere will be rewarded with an indie roguelite that ticks all the boxes and is perfect for a quick, fulfilling play session.
Octopath Traveler 2 is more of the same with side quests, interesting characters, and a large world to explore. It essentially gives fans of the first game an additional 60 hours of what they already enjoyed, and newcomers can jump right into the sequel without worrying about what they might have missed.
It probably won’t appeal to those who have a hunkering for a more action-oriented experience. But for a relaxing evening on the couch, without much thinking required, the adventure title definitely delivers. It’s simply a beautiful game, both in terms of graphics and the story that it tells, and will leave players with a pleasant sense of wonder, curiosity, and vague nostalgia.
Ultimately, Land of Screens may serve as a helpful reminder for a few players, but most people already know that it’s important to look up from their devices sometimes. As a non-developer, it’s difficult to see how Serenity Forge could have relayed its message in a more engaging manner, but there are developers who have successfully sneaked a societal call to action into their games. This is usually accomplished by focusing on gameplay first and sprinkling the message throughout for people to uncover themselves. Instead, Serenity Forge has made the entirety of Land of Screens about the message and only marginally concentrated on anything else. This has resulted in a flat experience that lacks the ability to inspire.
Overall, Nobody Saves the World could have been exceptional, but there are certain aspects that are lacking. The expected Drinkbox Studios humor isn’t pervasive enough to keep people playing to see what’s next, the story is negligible and seems like something tossed in to give players a half-hearted sense of purpose, and the repetitiveness of quests gets tiresome very quickly. The positives of the game – the appealing art style, variety of skills and dungeons, and perhaps multiplayer — might not be enough to keep players interested either. That being said, the gameplay and presentation of Nobody Saves the World will undoubtedly win over many people, and it may capture the attention of others for a solid chunk of time.
These issues are unfortunate because Sable is a remarkable game that would normally warrant a higher rating. But the problems, although minor for the most part, were encountered with such regularity that they can’t be overlooked. Hopefully, Raw Fury will fix these hiccups quickly because, without those flaws, Sable truly is a beautiful and minimalist journey through an open world that is a joy to explore.