But with things as they are now, there are a few too many issues that come to the fore once you try to settle in for a longer player session. Visual clutter causes unnecessary confusion, movement feels unrefined, playing it in longer sessions borders on monotony, and its monetization leaves much to be desired. And despite it all, I’d like to see Foamstars succeed. There are good bones here, and ones that could easily lead to a strong title were they to get beefed up over the course of balancing and patching the game. With things as they are, however, Foamstars just doesn’t make as large of a splash as it needs to.
It’s hard to deny The Last Faith its place as a solid entry into the greater canon of metroidvanias, but its successes aren’t without any caveat. There’s no shortage of content, but that content is somewhat inconsistent in how fun it is to play through. Boss fights are addictive to learn, but leave the player wanting for more variety in their patterns. The standard metroidvania progression is fun, but the soulslike elements can feel tacked on. This is all to say it’s well worth the time for even seasoned metroidvania enthusiasts, but it can be hard to ignore the areas that needed a bit more refinement while spending said time with it. The Last Faith is a strong title with some clear stumbles, but quality still wins out more often than not, and I’m eager to see Kumi Souls Games’ next effort as a result.
Jusant is not a game for everyone, but if you expect it to be one you’ll appreciate, it probably will be. Its noteworthy climbing mechanics are kept fresh throughout the adventure by asking you to utilize them in different ways, its ponderous atmosphere is top notch, and the environmental storytelling within its detailed world really gets your imagination going to a degree I hadn’t remotely expected. But it isn’t perfect. It’s more traditional storytelling elements are weaker, it doesn’t challenge the player very much, and it runs short at about six or so hours long. These detractions end up being minor disappointments in the face of a very successful adventure game, but they’re still there all the same, and it’s a shame Jusant doesn’t eschew them to become something even more special than it already is.
Hello Kitty and Friends Happiness Parade is one of those games that simply struggles to stand out. It’s an endless runner/rhythm game hybrid that has great potential in theory, but its monotonous gameplay, uninteresting art style, and grindy moment-to-moment loop make it a difficult recommendation. If the game were to offer something more than exactly what justifies its existence, it could have been a great time, but instead, Hello Kitty and Friends Happiness Parade provides an unexciting rhythm game with Sanrio characters and absolutely nothing more.
Either the novelty wears off after only a few sessions (Dodo Re Mi, FixyText) or the game simply runs on too long (Hypnotorious), and Tee K.O. 2 is exactly what it says on the tin with only minor improvements. With everything accounted for you’re still in for a fun time with friends, but it nevertheless remains a weaker experience compared to previous Jackbox offerings.
The end result here is a balancing act—a little of column A and a little of column B. Phantom Liberty’s main questline absolutely explores a more espionage-tinted angle than its base game counterpart with, but there was a concerted effort to intertwine them in a way that still feels seamless. Its side quests may not feel like anything new, but the level design and encounters have never been better. In that sense, Phantom Liberty is Cyberpunk 2077 distilled. If you enjoyed the base game, it’s hard to see you being dissatisfied with this expansion. And even if you aren’t enticed by any of the new content on offer, Update 2.0 has brought net improvements to the overall gameplay that make it more than worth taking another trip through Night City.
Though its overarching story is similarly lacking, Remnant II is a significant step up in quality from its predecessor in all the ways that matter. Everything that set the original apart from its contemporaries has been upped considerably. Boss battles are much more memorable and engaging, the procedurally generated levels more interesting, and the classes more impactful. I would have preferred to be granted new gear at a quicker pace and have more direct control over my build options in a first playthrough, but the positives otherwise coalesce into a very addicting (and fairly challenging) co-op shooter that’s difficult to put down.
Lord of the Rings: Gollum struggles under its own weight from the word go. Any benefit from a grimmer, more unvarnished look at the characters of Middle-earth from an atypical perspective is immediately undercut by a bevy of technical issues, clunky controls, unexciting game design, and stilted presentation at constant odds with the player.
Its plot goes in one ear and out the other, its visuals are nothing to write home about, and its combat is more shallow than its highly customizable stats system implies, but it’s still an enjoyable enough action RPG at its core. Trinity Trigger fits the bill if you’re looking to turn your brain off and save the world for a jaunt, but don’t expect it to leave a lasting impact.
Rare is the sequel that shifts genre from its predecessor, and rarer still is the sequel that lands said shift in a successful and seamless way, but this is exactly the case with Everspace 2. It’s packed to the nines with twitch shooting to keep you engaged, a satisfying loot grind bolstered by diverse item choices, a gorgeous rendition of space to zoom through, and a sizable amount of unique content. Moreover, it’s all wrapped up in a well-executed (if somewhat familiar) science fiction narrative. There’s certainly a blemish or two—chiefly the title’s struggle to pace non-combat sections—but Everspace 2 provides so much of a good thing that it’s hard to mind.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is an impressive iteration for Team Ninja. It’s a more accessible title without sacrificing the challenge intrinsic to its success, it features one of the developer’s most satisfying combat systems to date, and it accomplishes this in levels that sport more verticality and exploration than ever before. It falters more than it probably should with regard to storytelling and graphical presentation—a somewhat consistent shortcoming in Team Ninja games—but it’s an exceptionally easy recommendation for anyone who enjoys more tasking action RPGs.
More than that, it pays mechanical homage by providing tangible RPG elements that complement the rhythm game portions without overwhelming them. When you pair this with a sizable amount of high quality tunes and room for mechanical improvement for the player, Theatrhythm Final Bar Line has a lot to give rhythm game fans and Final Fantasy fans alike.
Its adherence to the cartoon is also its saving grace, as excising the IP from this title leaves you with little more than a simplistic, passable platformer. If nautical nonsense be something you wish, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake will absolutely deliver enjoyment on par with the cartoon itself—just don’t expect there to be much of anything you haven’t seen before.
It’s a very level game—enjoyable at first, but not very exciting after you’ve spent several hours with it. When you combine this with its emphasis on replayability over length and a paucity of mechanical revision, you get a lacking game with a highly contradictory price tag. These drawbacks are hefty, and they cause 2023’s Colossal Cave to be a difficult recommendation for those who aren’t already enamored with its text adventure roots.
Thanks to sparse placement of save rooms and challenging enemy locations, the player will be constantly hitting walls to their progression and replaying the same paths repeatedly (and in both directions). Tragically, the only reward for triumphing over these is often a predictable, meager upgrade or another equally difficult stretch of rooms, thus forcing Astronite to be a monotonous experience. The quality boss fights simply aren’t plentiful enough to make up for its shortcomings.
After so many Dragon Ball games repeating the same story arcs and putting players in control of the same characters, it’s a fun and refreshing experience (at first) to see what events on the scale of Dragon Ball Z would feel like from the perspective of a regular joe shmoe on the street. It’s a novel enough concept that makes for some great fun in the first few days of play, but it doesn’t take much longer for the cracks to start showing. This take on the asymmetrical multiplayer genre makes sense and there’s some appreciable execution outside of it simply being a Dragon Ball game, but it’s hard to see The Breakers really grabbing players thanks to its dearth of content, multiple grinds, and matches that start to feel a bit too familiar once you get past the new player experience.
Which is exactly why it pains me to remember that Scorn was a long time coming, and while the visuals suffer nothing for it, the mechanical design of the game at large feels outdated and incongruous with its aesthetic triumphs. Despite a solid (if somewhat superficial) iteration of survival horror mechanics, the lack of enemy variety and an archaic checkpoint system guarantee multiple spots of unnecessary frustration. These sections end up being little more than forced time away from the game’s proper strengths of puzzles and atmosphere. Scorn is still a journey worth taking for its appearance and environments alone, but I would have traded away every single repetitive combat encounter for just one more puzzle to sink my teeth into.
Soulstice absolutely works as a love letter to action games of the bygone PlayStation 2 era. Vitally, however, it does so without losing a clear identity of its own. Its combat system is unique in the way it asks players to actively monitor mechanics while also avoiding enemy attacks and dishing out flashy combos in true character action game fashion. Its boss battles leave quite a bit to be desired, and the level design may be a bit too narrow at points, but <em>Soulstice</em> manages to make up for these shortcomings with an emotional story and a unique brand of observation-based gameplay that ensures its status as a confident addition to the genre.
Metal: Hellsinger is exactly as in-your-face and easy to pick up as a rhythm FPS featuring death metal should be. If you’re even remotely a fan of metal music and first-person shooters, you’ll have a great time with the six or so hours that it takes to reach the game’s credits. By the same token, if you’re not a fan of the two elements, there probably isn’t going to be much here to change your mind. It’s a bespoke marriage of concepts that work together perfectly, and all core elements are finely crafted to create an experience that’s difficult to put down once you really get going.