Lil Guardsman is a perfect palate cleanser in this sea of bigger releases in early 2024. Its heartwarming and genuinely funny story and cast of characters make multiple playthroughs a joy and not a chore to replay. I have become a huge fan of indie games in the past few years, and developer Hilltop Studios have come out swinging with Lil Guardsman. Perfectly walking that line between cozy and comedy, I loved every minute of this one and if you need a smile; I highly recommend it.
Phantom Abyss can be a run roguelite with its free-running, puzzle solving, and trap avoiding adventures. But throw in the phantoms of real-world players who act as a guide of what to do and not do through these temples takes things to another level. Mileage can vary though as a lot of the puzzles, temples and traps are reused and thus can make the game start to drag on and feel repetitive. Being in early access for so many years though there is quite a lot of content here that players can dig through before fatigue will set in. And with all the talk about Indiana Jones lately, why not start practicing your whip skills.
With a full explorable River City, a story with multiple endings and the surprise Double Dragon fighting game; there is a lot on offer in Rivals Showdown. Unfortunately, it’s held back by an overly repetitive soundtrack which will start to grate on one’s nerves, and some very uneven combat until the late game. These games are usually good for some fun beat-em up action but it takes so long for this entry to hit its stride with the combat that by the end I was just running on auto pilot. I think there is a lot here for fans to discover but this isn’t going to bring in any new fans, especially when the last two entries in the River City Saga were much better.
Overall, I felt like Troublemaker is a solid but janky beat-em up. The atmosphere, presentation and story are all really well done, feeling like a Karate Kid type spin-off. It has its moments of over-the-top craziness but at its core tells a nice ‘slice of life’ story about an area of the world that I have never been. And if you were to tell me that this was an accurate depiction of Indonesia I would 100% believe you. Well minus the child fighting tournament that is school sanctioned of course.
While I enjoyed my time with Song of Nunu, I did have a few small gripes. I wasn’t a fan of the stealth sequences; not that they were inherently bad I just am not a fan of forced stealth in games and wish it would go away. I would have liked some more time with a few of the side characters all of which come from LoL but that’s simply because I am a fan. What I really can’t wait for is the team to make a game on the Noxus Empire, specifically Darius. Oh man, he’s in the forthcoming fighting game but I really want a solo game to use ‘dunkmaster’ Darius. But I digress, as a fan of League of Legends this game is really a no brainer, but for non-fans looking for a fun, action-adventure title then you should look no further than The Song of Nunu.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is hands down the best metroidvania that I have played in a long time. My gold standard has always been Castlevania: Symphony of the Night but Ubisoft has really knocked this out of the park. As a long time, fan of the series, I was elated to see the first trailer for this game and am so glad that the team stuck the landing. Sargon is a fantastic character in this universe and I for one am so proud of the fact that he is black and leading this game. I know that some people are upset at not playing as the prince but to those folks I just want to say give this game a chance, if you are a fan of the Prince of Persia series, I can almost guarantee that this game will make you smile. And after the banner year that video games had in 2023, it bodes well for 2024 that the first big game out the gate is as fantastic as Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown.
Listen, I have waited a long time for this game and Remedy delivered a masterpiece here, flaws and all. The new creation of their own Remedy Universe shines brightly with the amount of crossover on display here with their last game Control. It was almost surprising how much the Federal Bureau of Control comes up against Saga and the FBI over the course of the game. I say surprising, but it is actually exciting to see what the future holds for these games. If Alan Wake 2 is any indication, Remedy is just getting started and whatever the greater story being told here I cannot wait for more. Fans of Alan Wake and its spin-off American Nightmare are going to love getting to reap the harvest of those seeds sowed so long ago. But Alan Wake 2 is also accessible for new fans alike and I would admonish anyone who genuinely enjoys weird, deep stories to check this one out.
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is a fantastic game even if it leans heavily on its Far Cry roots. Graphically, Pandora is simply stunning to behold, whether running on the land and jumping from vines or soaring through the flying mountains; the visuals are just breathtaking at almost every angle. And while it has solid combat gameplay when it comes to the native weapons, I still can’t tell if the awkwardness of the human weapons is on purpose or not. Not to mention the awful objective markers, hunter vision and hunger system. Oh, I didn’t even tell you that you have to keep your Ikran feed as well. It’s all rather frustrating because I enjoy my time with Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora and it would be a fantastic game but for those issues above. It all adds up and just amounts to being frustrated with the game which is devastating because there is a fantastic game buried under all these mechanics.
If you are a fan of the Naruto or Boruto anime or manga then you will find loads to love about Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections. Touting the largest roster in series history and an in-depth encyclopedia that covers all the various titles and terms that are used in the series which makes it easy for newcomers to understand. Fights are dazzling and chaotic and developer CyberConnect2 has done an amazing job in that regard. But with the multiplayer being broken on Xbox and the fact the gameplay has been largely unchanged I can’t help but think that this series is in need of some sort of shakeup to push it forward into the future.
There is fun to be had in Gangs of Sherwood but it is really only found playing multiplayer either with friends or strangers. Not only does this make each act not feel as long, since there will be more people to pummel enemies but when players fall in combat it is better to have a friend pick you up than lose half your gold that you need to upgrade your character’s attributes. The entire game just feels like a mix-mash of ideas and things and while some things work, others are done better in other games.
As a RTS fan I don’t hate Realms of Ruin at all, its multiplayer matches are much more entertaining than the campaign; and they even have a ranked playlist for those who really wanna prove their stuff. But as a Warhammer fan I must say I am disappointed, while I am appreciative of the knowledge, I gained about the Age of Sigmar and some of these factions, I just felt that this game sacrificed the humor and over the top nature of the 40k universe for a stoic and very serious tale. But maybe that is just the nature of the Age of Sigmar side of things, as I said this was my first entry but if players enjoy multiplayer RTS games I would recommend Realms of Ruin for its fun and thrilling multiplayer.
I loved my time in Sandrock, it genuinely feels innovative within the farming/cozy games that have come out lately. As I said it My Time at Sandrock offers a ton of content for players to tackle, even though it can be overwhelming at times. The PC version also allows players to play the game co-op, at the time of this writing its not planned to come to the other platforms but that may change. The colorful art style, desert setting and memorable characters make for a fantastic adventure that players of the genre shouldn’t skip.
Robocop: Rogue City is an absolute gem of a game. While not as polished as a AAA title, it still manages to look great in motion and function just as well. The bugs I found were minimum and usually happened when I killed an enemy near a guardrail, for some reason they are all programmed to fall over no matter how far away from the rail they may be. But I never ran into any real issues here, Rogue City is as solid as Robocop himself. I would be remiss if I didn’t shoutout the excellent audio in Rogue City, from the excellent Peter Weller reprising his role as Alex Murphy/Robocop to the inclusion of an EXCELLENT piano version of the classic movie theme if you are a fan of Robocop, Rogue City has been made for you. Playing Rogue City, I couldn’t help but think that Teyon has done for Robocop what Rocksteady did for Batman. They managed to highlight another side of the character in the interactive space by allowing players to really embody the ‘cop’ part of Robocop.
El Paso, Elsewhere is a fun throwback to a simpler time in video games. All we needed was dual pistols, a slow-motion dive and some gruff narration and this game checks all those boxes. While I was not blown away by the PS1-esque graphics; I am sure that there will be those that will enjoy them. But it’s the story that folks should come for, the tale between these two lovers is something worthy of a sad opera. Despite its shortcomings El Paso, Elsewhere surprised me quite a bit and could end up being quite the sleeper of 2023.
I’ve said it on the podcast a few times, I love Fae Farm. Having the 4-player coop is truly icing on the cake as these games are so much more fun with friends, being able to divide and conquer to accomplish tasks is the preferred way to play these cozy games for me. Fae Farm has managed to breach my top 10 list for 2023 which any REAL gamer knows is just an absolutely bananas year for the medium. Not every game has to have realistic graphics, all-star voice casting or even an animal mascot and I think Fae Farm proves that in a year of bangers just being a fun, smart, cozy game can be enough to stand out.
I wanted to love Hellboy: Web of Wyrd as a lover of beat-em up games but more so as a HUGE comic book fan, sadly the game just fell short in a few too many areas. As I said the art style is just beautiful to look at, I cannot understate how amazing it looks but once you start moving and the weird frame trick issues pops up everything just comes apart for me. Lance Reddick made for a fun, threatening, caring, funny, thoughtful portrayal of Hellboy, and whether that is attributed to Mignola’s writing or his own talent it was a fantastic take on the character. It’s just so upsetting that the rest of the game was not as strong as the narrative.
I had a lot of fun finding out the various ways I can mix and match spells and the different gun types, but the narrative in Wizard with a Gun is lacking. Honestly the game feels like it is really just meant to be played with a group of friends, which it does feature 4 player co-op. Having the extra guns with a different set of bullets would make some encounters WAY easier but more to that just having a person to play and talk with would do a lot. The gameplay loop isn’t bad it just wears then if you are playing solo, if you have a group of friends who enjoy games like Don’t Starve Together or even Ark then you all should take a look at Wizard with a Gun. Its unique blend of sandbox and twin stick shooter is a lot of fun for a while alone but I can see it being endlessly fun with friends.
To make matters worse the game didn’t work for like a week after its launch due to its reliance on an always online model. Server issues plagued users on all systems, some people weren’t able to redeem their items that they had paid extra for, it was just a mess. Oddly enough, I was able to play before launch which means I didn’t get to play with real people as I gave up trying to play the game after day 3 of it not working. While I never was able to compete a heist that didn’t devolve into a shootout, I am sure there will be those pros that can. As I type this the servers are still working and Starbreeze is reporting millions of players; and I wish them well but I am gonna take my cut and get off here. Hopefully next time their game is functional at launch.
I wasn’t a fan of The London Case, admittedly I am not a huge fan of Hercule Poirot outside of live action media though. But for me this game just felt unpolished and perhaps rushed, which maybe it was because as I write this a new Hercule game is set to drop this very week. Again, this is a sequel in a series that I haven’t played so this may be an improvement I don’t know, what I do know is that for someone who enjoys mystery, adventure games The London Case shall remain unsolved for this fledgling detective.
The Crew: Motorfest is just that, a celebration of (almost) all things that have a motor. There are a ton of cars from dozens of manufactures, even a DeLorean which I am currently saving for. I am not a race guy, but I had a lot of fun with Motorfest, especially once I unlocked the vehicle switching. Being able to go from a car into a plane at the press of a button is dope, while I wish the developers had tuned the controls for all the vehicles instead of just focusing on the cars; I never had a real issue controlling the planes, boats or off-road vehicles. But if you are looking to catch some beautiful Hawaiian sun, drive some of the most beautiful cars you’ve ever seen, then The Crew Motorfest might be for you.