- Final Fantasy VI
Hi-Fi RUSH is a rockin’ good time that invites every player to the party whether or not you’re into rhythm games or action games. It is a crowd-pleaser that finds a way to pull your heartstrings either with its soundtrack, story, or seamless gameplay. It is definitely a must-play for 2023 and can easily be one of the best games of the year, no two ways about it. Rhythm hybrid games will still be a hard sell for me, but if it is approached the same way, then Hi-Fi RUSH just set a standard for this novelty. It goes to show that a single gimmick alone doesn’t make a good game, but a combination of excellent mechanics and an entertaining story would rise above the cheap ploy.
Spongebob Squarepants: The Cosmic Shake is a serviceable platformer that succeeds in offering a simple yet fun time for its target audience. While it is a surprisingly entertaining game, the fluctuating difficulty spikes can give experienced gamers something to enjoy but can be a bit frustrating for others, especially the children who are fans of the show. The game does have enough extras and content to keep players busy, especially with the challenge of collecting every costume. Overall, if you’re looking for a relaxing and relatively stress-free affair with the cast of the show, Spongebob Squarepants: The Cosmic Shake could be the game you’re looking for.
SEASON: A Letter to the Future is a beautifully written atmospheric adventure that may not appeal to all tastes. The pacing is a little meditative, and the plot is ambiguous to the point of being obtuse, which may frustrate the impatient player. If collecting entries for the codex isn’t your thing, you might find SEASON’s gameplay a little light. Despite its flaws, there’s much to enjoy in SEASON, especially if you’re a fan of narrative adventures. Patient players will be rewarded with a rich story and cozy soundtrack, but the unsatisfying final act is a turn-off.
Forspoken is a game of unrealized potential. A lot of the bad press it received in the months leading up to its launch was due to its writing and dialogue, which are honestly not that bad when taken in context, but the game has a tendency to use things in excess, making them something that you’d rather miss out on. The combat and traversal mechanics are generally fantastic once they come together, but the half-baked story and lack of immersive storytelling aren’t quite as present compared to the gameplay. It's terribly paced first few hours also don’t help, giving off a misunderstood first impression that may lose players before it gets a chance to recover.
Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion is a nostalgia-fueled balancing act of mechanics that worked and flawed creative choices. Despite some annoyances, the odds tipped in favor of a fun return to this prequel to a beloved franchise. Nostalgia wins, in the end, to provide a bittersweet homecoming with familiar characters and an improved combat and crafting system to match modern sensibilities.
The Callisto Protocol excels as an atmospheric survival horror title, at least in its early parts of the game. However, because so many of its inconsistent combat mechanics could’ve used more balancing, the aspects that made the title stand out ultimately worked against it. Moreso, the unsatisfying conclusion squanders the mystery that’s been set up at the start of the title with its impressive cinematic cut-scenes. I commend Glen Schofield and his team for sticking to the overall concept and experimenting with new mechanics, however, many of these creative choices snowballed into a frustrating time for random horror fans looking for a good scare.
Evil West returns to the glory days of action games with a fun and straightforward approach to the genre. The combat is frenetic, simple, and fluid enough to create the ultimate vampire slayer. You also have straightforward characters that scratch an itch and then some. While there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, I feel that they could’ve done better by utilizing the current-gen console’s power to push its visual style and charming characters to a higher standard. However, due to its frame rate issues and lazy enemy variants being thrown at you in swarms, Evil West may be an annoyance in higher difficulties.
Goat Simulator 3 doesn’t take itself seriously, and that’s a good thing. While it’s definitely a blast, it’s hard to recommend this because your enjoyment of it depends on your tolerance for the concept. For me, it ended after a few hours before I got bored, but the fun can definitely last if you’re taking advantage of the online multiplayer feature. That being said, while there are a lot of activities and jokes to be had, if you’re the type of player that enjoys having a defined path to follow, Goat Simulator 3 is probably the furthest from it. It would be advisable to check out some videos about the game first before diving in.
The Devil In Me, the last installment in this anthology, tries to innovate the tired formula but doesn’t really succeed. The developers have experimented with new features such as adding an inventory system and improving their existing QuickTime events, but at the same time, they shoot themselves in the foot by overdoing certain aspects that could have made for a better horror game. The Devil In Me works as part of the complete set. However, as the season-ender that would collectively blow our minds, it definitely could’ve done more to push the envelope.
The Chant has some good ideas, but unfortunately squanders its current-gen pedigree by delivering a straightforward survival horror that doesn’t innovate nor entertain. Featuring underwhelming visuals and repetitive combat mechanics, its short playthrough can be a challenge. What we have is a forgettable by-the-numbers survival horror game that tried too hard to become other games when it could’ve stood on its own with its charm and ideas. Truly a missed opportunity.
The developers have created a myth of epic proportions through a divine marriage of storytelling and gameplay, renewing the franchise with a tale of hope that ties itself up well enough to offer a satisfying and exhilarating conclusion. God of War Ragnarok is Santa Monica Studios’ way of raising the bar, creating a new challenge for themselves on how they will manage to top this one in their next outing. It is easily one of the best games of 2022 and quite possibly one of the best franchise sequels of all time, taking its rightful place in the gallery of legends.
Serial Cleaners improves a lot of components from the original, especially when it pivots towards a more story-driven interface. The voice acting and the overall creative choices make it an indie game worth trying out for the story and also for its unique way of telling a crime story from a different perspective. The best part of the game is interacting with the unique cleaners that give Serial Cleaners so much character by utilizing creative ways to tell the story through different eyes. Above all, there’s the enjoyable stealth action that takes you from start to finish, allowing you to tackle each level at your own pace.
The Diofield Chronicle excels with fantastic strategic elements that give a fresh take on the genre. The game moves away from the traditional turn-based chessboard movement system and allows for a deep real-time strategy involving a diverse unit customization system. However, The Diofield Chronicle fails to deliver a solid overall experience because of its basic plot, bland visuals, and lack of engaging side activities. Players don’t have a reason to get attached to the characters and the story, making the playthrough a tedious one. The game certainly shows promise, and it looks like the developers have a solid framework they can work on here, making us look forward to what the next iteration of The Diofield Chronicle will look like.
Steelrising is a game changer for more casual players that want to experience the genre. The Assist mode is truly a gift, offering a good compromise for both sides of the difficulty conversation while alienating none of them, allowing both newbies and veterans to easily jump right in. What awaits players is a game with a frenetic pace and fun combat, topped off with a serviceable story to keep you interested and motivated to keep going.
Inscryption is definitely a game I’d recommend trying for its unique experience, and I’m happy to get a chance to play it on a console a year after sticking to the PC. It’s a perfect synergy of roguelike deck builder and horror mystery that’s engaging from the moment you start playing until after you’ve completed the story to further explore its many mysteries. While it does have its issues and it may require a little bit of effort to gain momentum, it’s definitely worth the reward as you uncover Inscryption‘s many secrets and become fully involved in its world. It’s exhilarating, anxiety-inducing, and you may even get a laugh from its quirky dark humor; taken as a whole rather than the sum of its parts, this is where Inscryption truly shines.
Destroy All Humans! 2 - Reprobed is a fun romp now as it was back in the day. The charm of the game is easily felt, and going through its varied arsenal to explore its many different areas is certainly a highlight. THQ Nordic has preserved the content of the game while giving Crypto a facelift to modernize the series. The humor may not work for everybody, but given the chance, it is a fun game that you can clear over the weekend by yourself or with a friend. Destroy All Humans! 2 - Reprobed is a breath of fresh air, and while it doesn't attempt to do anything needlessly clever, it is an honest game doing what it does best: to entertain.
Saints Row doesn’t exactly add anything new to the franchise, taking a back-to-basics approach and reliving what made Saints Row 3 a fantastic title by building up on that. While the reboot makes it cater to certain sensibilities, the new direction will not be for everyone. Hopefully, it won’t deter you from having a good time. The series fanbase will either love or hate the game because of this sharp change in direction, which is especially felt in the new cast of characters and the writing. Should you choose to overlook these, you can expect a lot of mindless and unapologetic fun for hours. Saints Row is not a perfect game, but the components that make it a good game are good enough. The visuals and presentation could've used a bit of work, and some bugs could have been squashed first, but Saints Row delivers on an open world front that is somewhat fun and entertaining despite the tired formula that could use a fresher take next time.
Cult of the Lamb deserves a place in your library with its perfect blend of both thematic elements and gameplay mechanics. It’s a stupendous balancing act that takes its roguelite elements and community management and starts out as something simple and accessible, then expands to a robust and complex game that keeps you coming back for more. Just like its cult themes, Cult of the Lamb draws you in with its creepy-cute charm, and even as chaos ensues, you watch it unfold like a slow-moving train wreck. When the shoe drops, you’ve realized that its tentacles have taken hold and you find yourself completely hooked on its dark and demented world.
Endling: Extinction is Forever has moments of heart and engaging gameplay with its interesting blend of survival management and immersive narrative adventure. However, it screws the pooch by giving us too much of its message while not motivating us to play more because of its slow pacing and unclear tutorials. Don't be mistaken, there is an excellent game underneath the many frustrating elements.
While I didn’t have a good impression of Stray in its first hour, the succeeding adventure won me back with its interesting story and lore. If they did away with the button prompts and the curated cat activities, the exploration and experimentation by the player could really stand out, allowing for a more organic experience. Stray really comes alive once B12 has been introduced and then the world fully comes into view. B12 and the cat’s dynamic completed the game and really opens up the world, introducing the culture and society of the Companions. In a world that’s devoid of humanity, these AIs really capture what it is like being human, warts and all. For a game that’s about the end of humanity, it is actually quite hopeful and bittersweet. This year alone, most of the games I’ve reviewed dealt with a post-apocalyptic scenario with varying levels of bleakness. Stray stands out from the clowder, so don’t let its limitations lead you astray.