Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story demystifies yordles’ existence in a way that emulates some modern simulation favorites like Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing. While its gameplay skews more straightforward, guided, and simplistic, Bandle Tale is presented in a way that is charming and contains ample mystique thanks to its glorious pixel art and soundtrack.
Ultros is a psychedelic cosmic loop of a metroidvania. Its combat is approachable and simple, while its gardening encourages creativity and problem-solving that is rarely seen in the metroidvania genre. I had a good time playing Ultros; it mystified me while giving me room to stress-test its cosmic universe and fully explore its boundaries. While I wanted more complex combat and intentional varieties of color, I was quite satisfied with my journey to warrant a play in the future. Ultros is a trip worth taking at least once.
I’m going to assume that most Tekken fans are no longer on the fence after seeing the overwhelmingly positive coverage of Tekken 8 over the last few weeks. Truth be told – Tekken 8 has earned that praise and more. Its immersive combat is fluid, cinematic, yet visceral. It sticks to its serious yet goofy roots through utilizing imaginative character archetypes and flat-out silly character customization. Its Special Style dramatically simplifies Tekken 8’s combat for new players to get them up to speed against series veterans like me. If you’re new to the series, Tekken 8 is the fighting game you should play this year. If you’re still deciding between which fighting game to play this year, Tekken 8’s combat and mechanics are the most satisfying yet. I highly recommend Tekken 8 – it’s helped 2024 start off on the right foot.
You don’t need to be a BlazBlue diehard to appreciate BlazBlue Entropy Effect. Its roguelike gameplay features some of the most fun yet complex combinations of button mashing and attack chains. It is far more approachable than most roguelikes I’ve played recently thanks to how it presents complex information to players and gives them opportunities to test out mechanics without relying on trial and error.
Persona 3 Reload is not a carbon-copied remaster of Persona 3 Portable or even Persona 3. It’s a refreshed perspective of Persona 3 that removes a good bunch of pain from older RPGs while retaining the charm and character of the original. It feels like many thoughtful decisions were made to better the game’s flow without compromising on its core experience or watering it down. My only concern is that owners of 2023’s Persona 3 Portable might feel like there aren’t enough changes to warrant a replay. But, if you haven’t yet experienced its source material, Persona 3 Reload is without a doubt the best version of the game to play.
This is all to say that Phantom Abyss falls somewhat short on achieving the goal of offering a challenging parkour adventure in a roguelite package. The whip and phantom gameplay involving other players’ trial and error are unique, but its clunkiness, difficulty, and disparate progression are worth a pause. I’m confident that additional polish and content are coming down the pipeline, but I need more from the current state of the game.
The Last of Us Part II Remastered is a candidate worthy of your attention. Looking past its story (again, its story is incredible) and emotional power, there is enough additional content to warrant a full replay for existing owners. If you’re a new owner, this is no doubt the edition you should be securing to fully immerse yourself in Naughty Dog’s desolate future.
Bahnsen Knights is an interesting visual novel that leans heavily on pulp fiction storytelling while giving players the illusion of choice. While the game is quite short, it’s a good recommendation for a player wanting a gripping narrative set within a late 80s aesthetic.
All things considered, Not for Broadcast VR is absolutely a title that any new VR owner should play. It involves just enough virtual reality input that gives players a taste of what to expect when playing a virtual reality game. At the same time, it excellently weaves a story involving propaganda and revolutions all the while critiquing the role of the news media in the most subversive sense.
To say that Trinity Fusion is missing the mark would be overlooking its other successes as a roguelite. It boasts fluid combat and platforming that keep its gameplay fresh. The weapon/spell management tied with the Amplification system creates a persistent set of variance that avoids becoming stale. My main two critiques of the game are that of its hazy progression system and its lack of a concrete pull that keeps players engaged for longer periods of time. I know that Angry Mob Games has additional content on the way, but waiting a smidgen longer may let Trinity Fusion hit its stride as a roguelite.
Outer Wilds: Archaeologist Edition is the best chance Nintendo Switch players have at experiencing a truly innovative game, albeit one that isn’t best presented on Nintendo’s little console that could. There’s quite a lot stacked against Outer Wilds thanks to how quickly it lets players do what they want and the clunkiness of the early game. Acquired tastes aside, it’s worth a try and even worth to complete. That said, if you want the best experience, you’re probably better off choosing the PC/XB/PS versions.
Call it refined nostalgia. Call it a love letter to Metroid Fusion and other Game Boy Advance metroidvanias. Call it what you want. 9 Years of Shadows is a good, short, yet approachable metroidvania. While it doesn’t quite hit the depth of combat complexity and story beats of its GBA predecessors, it overdelivers via gorgeous pixel art and an orchestrated soundtrack. Its Nintendo Switch port is not the best in its current state, but it’s worth playing if you’re wanting a metroidvania to play on a lazy Sunday.
Spirittea is the farming sim with Miyazaki vibes I've wanted for a hot minute. It doesn't onboard the player in the most intuitive fashion, so it's a smidge hard to pick up to get into the groove. But, once you've managed to parse through the disparate tea leaves that make up its multiple activities and mechanics, it's worth a try. I'm looking forward to seeing how Spirittea evolves in the future while I enjoy its coziness this holiday season.
The Last Faith is a grueling metroidvania, leaning into pinnacle souls-like gameplay elements that reward exploration, precision, and patience. Its combat may be simple and fun, but the challenge of mastering its traversal may be too much to handle. Its gorgeous visuals might not be distinct enough to separate itself from the pack of its predecessors, but it's a great start for those wanting to test the waters of the souls genre.
Astral Ascent is the roguelite I've been wishing to play for a hot minute. Its combat is highly variable, incredibly replayable, and quite gorgeous. It's a fantastic example of a roguelite that is easy to pick up, fun to return to, and rewarding despite losing early and often.
Blasphemous 2 felt incredibly good to play despite its challenging nature and complex combat. It's a great Soulslike 2D action-platformer that doesn't rely on nonsense gimmicks that make the game artificially difficult for the sake of being punishing. Its exploration, art direction, and worldbuilding are unmatched in a sea of modern Metroidvanias released in 2023. If you're down for a good challenge or path of penitence in a Roman Catholic-inspired 2D platformer, look no further. Like it or not, you will pay for your gameplay sins.
Killing spiders is incredibly easy – Kill It With Fire VR makes it fun. Scratch that – it makes it dumb fun. Despite the jump scares and spiders, I kept myself fully entertained because of the sheer number of ridiculous things I could use to kill spiders. If a book from the shelf wasn't enough, maybe a shotgun would do the trick. No dice? Shurikens. No? Fine. Flamethrower. That'll work. Some of its controls lack explanation and its features could be better explained. Once you figure it out, Kill It With Fire VR lends itself for a fun afternoon VR experience or party game if you want to mess around with some friends.
Ebenezer and the Invisible World has its moments of fun and rewarding exploration through completing optional sidequests and finding secrets. It looks great, too. However, its big swings in the form of ghost management and stiff traversal/combat lends to a less than stellar experience. May this experience become better in the future with more time and polish? Absolutely, but it's worth waiting to see what happens.
I wish I didn't have to review Dave the Diver because of how much I worry about letting too much of its best parts slip. It's a fantastic title that's worth "going in blind" simply because of how it continuously surprises players, including me. Its Switch port maintains its greatness, barring some slight visibility issues of the smaller fishies and the loading screens, so it's hard for me to recommend the Switch version if you're deciding on which platform to purchase Dave the Diver. However, one thing is certain: You should not miss out on Dave the Diver this holiday season. It's a pearl in an ocean of other holiday AAA titles vying for your attention.
If you're wanting to expand your musical tastes or play some more of Invector: Rhythm Galaxy, I recommend that you get at least one of its song packs. The Spinnin' pack is more for EDM folks, whereas Latin Power contains great choices for those interested in reggaeton/Latin pop music. I'm a smidge disappointed that the packs only contain music and not much else, but hey – the tracks themselves are excellent candidates for a rhythm game and will assuredly join your "on repeat" playlist this holiday season.