It’s easy to forgive Turok‘s shortcomings though because it’s still a pretty fun shooter, and its low-fi graphics are much more palatable in portable form. It’s not exactly an essential purchase for all, but as a playable piece of nostalgia, it’s been dragged into the modern era fairly successfully for fans to enjoy without many of its original frustrations and limitations.
Remarkably then, even through disappointing attempts at horror and puzzling, Conarium is just about compelling enough to warrant seeing through to the end. It’s not particularly mind-blowing from a narrative perspective, but it is engrossing and satisfying. If only it pushed harder for a sense of dread and terror, or even simply provided more of a challenge, then we’d be talking about something that truly stands out as a thoughtful, engaging horror game.
With Devil May Cry 5, Capcom tweaks the winning formula here and there to not only freshen up the most famous action hack n’ slash series around, but actually push it back to the top of the pile once again. Yes, it stumbles occasionally, and perhaps replay value isn’t quite as high as it could have been, but Devil May Cry 5 once again embraces the kinetic madness that made so many fall in love with Dante and his blood-spattered adventures in demon-slaying in the first place, and that’s truly what makes this a great game.
Coming back to how Oniken plays, it is clearly trying to be a loving homage to 80’s side-scrollers, but it misses the point in how it uses its challenge. Rather than have proper structure and reliance on muscle memory as the games of that era did, Oniken often relies on cheap and nasty death traps that are very much designed to be ‘tough’ instead of challenging. Yes, you can ‘beat’ it and muddle through, but there’s little warmth or enjoyment to it. On the upside, playing it on the Switch’s handheld mode in bursts does alleviate some of the frustration. The only problem there being the Switch already has plenty of 8-bit games of higher quality both old and new to play. So, pretty or not, it’s hard to recommend Oniken to all but the most ardent retro gaming fan.
Observer puts another horror string in the Switch’s bow. It remains an effective and compelling sci-fi horror trip that isn’t afraid to take things at its own pace whilst sticking firmly to its own rules. That does mean that it’s not going to be to every horror fan’s tastes, but it’s admirable that it stands by its convictions to deliver an unsettling and evocative experience.
I fully recommend The Shrouded Isle for anyone wanting an unconventional, horror-led take on the sim management genre. It really does go to some messed up places if your imagination is willing to back up the writing. The caveat here is that it's hard to recommend this Switch version if you're planning on playing it on the go. It's just about worth persevering with if that is your choice, but it's an unfortunate oversight nonetheless.
Book of Demons does interesting things with a genre dominated by stat-heavy grind titles with furious clicking/button mashing. The majority of the busywork is abolished in favor of ease of use and it’s honestly quite refreshing. As mentioned before, the setup of Book of Demons really could make it an accessible way into the genre for those not familiar with it/enthused by it, and for seasoned dungeon crawler fans it offers up something of a respite from the usual formula.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a positive step in the right direction for the future of turn-based strategy on a mechanical level, but it finds itself lacking in the storytelling department. Hopefully, we get more from this world. A bigger, deeper sequel is a must at this point because there’s huge potential for Mutant Year Zero to be a frontrunner in the strategy arena.
While Hitman 2 is, in many ways, more of an upgrade to the previous game than a full-blooded sequel, it’s crammed full of interesting interaction and now its topped off with a genuinely excellent multiplayer in the form of Ghost Mode and legacy content, it’s the best Hitman package ever put together.
There is a lot of promise here, but not quite enough of it fulfilled. The combat could have been done away with completely (rare as it is anyway) and the stealth either ditched or simplified. The strong suit of Call of Cthulhu is in its conversation/investigation mechanics. Sure the game would have been a little lacking in variety if that’s all there was but honestly, it would have been a much more consistently enjoyable and immersive adventure for it.
So the port itself is fine, but clearly not much more than that. While the games look great for their age, they’re simply not designed for modern televisions and it shows. A visual overhaul could have done wonders and truly made Requiem an essential purchase. Instead, we have fairly basic ports of one very good game and another that is in the pantheon of the greats. Given neither are on current-gen consoles before now, there’s merit to this collection for that alone, but it should have been so much more.
There’s a criticism to be made for Friday the 13th Killer Puzzle being more of the same with a horror license slapped on top. It’s absolutely true, but in fairness to Blue Wizard, more of the same is a-ok when it was great to begin with, and having Jason and so much of his history packed into a compelling selection of bite-sized puzzles is a huge plus. The addition of daily kill competitions adds a bit of longevity to proceedings too. With all the uncertainty (and craziness!) surrounding Friday the 13th in recent months, it’s nice to have something that so successfully celebrates Mr. Voorhees’ baby boy attached to a great puzzler.
The direction The Exorcist Legion VR takes virtual reality horror in is one I’d love to see more of in future. This very much feels like the nucleus for something more elaborate as the hardware grows and adapts. It doesn’t do anything revolutionary, but it does understand what can be done with VR horror so much better than most. It doesn’t outstay its welcome and rarely resorts to cheap tricks to unnerve and unsettle you.
What Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics does well is offer a fairly approachable turn-based strategy for fans of the tabletop RPG, and also act as a nice introduction to that RPG for the uninitiated. It lacks an extra bit of polish and a few more bells and whistles, but it’s still an enjoyable enough tactical adventure.
Transference is in some ways, a tighter twist on Bloober Team's Observer (with a dash of that company's Layers of Fear in the mix). But it never reaches the loopy and inventive highs of that game's head-messing. Not that there isn't merit to the strange and disturbing places Transference goes because it definitely has a good line in loopy. It just needed a bit more substance to the quieter moments.
Sagebrush aims to look at the humanity behind the subject matter, and while it doesn’t always work as well as it could, it does reach dark and revelatory heights from an unexpected angle. Its slow pace should be its greatest strength, but there needed to be a touch more environmental storytelling to make the most of the wandering you do.
Paratopic is a brief trip through an unnerving twist on reality and it admirably packs in so much atmosphere and mystery into that diminutive framework. The most telling sign of its quality is in how its scuzzy psychological creepiness stays with you, whether you like it or not.