As a technical showcase of what the PlayStation 5 can do Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart sets the bar and sets it high and don’t get me wrong, all of the elements of a brilliant platformer are present and the gameplay is phenomenal while it lasts. Out of a 20 hour 100% run, only 5-7 hours of Rift Apart is spent playing the game, while the rest of the time was spent watching cutscene after cutscene full of explosive set pieces. So long as I didn’t deviate from the set path, those few hours where I had control were absolute perfection, but it felt like Insomniac Games was focused more on how pretty they can make a videogame look rather than producing a memorable game that fans have waited eight years for.
Lumote: The Mastermote Chronicles is a charming and thoughtful puzzler. The protagonist is adorably loveable and while the premise is simple, it is well executed. Some of the puzzles did leave me questioning if I broke the game or was doing it correctly though. The quirks to the game’s design, such as being unable to backtrack, were annoying but not much of a distraction, and what really sells the game is the visuals and sound design. The plinky-plonk soundtrack coupled with the vibrant visuals pull you into a world I wanted to live in.
I cannot overstate how much I’m looking forward to playing the next three seasons to complete The Witch Queen Expansion. It started off with a bang and the story brings changes to Destiny 2 that were needed. There are a couple of negatives to The Witch Queen, particularly with the smaller map, which is severely limited compared to other areas. I’d have also liked to have seen the Hive Guardians utilised more often, as they only seem to be trotted out sporadically, but these are just minor points on a well-put-together expansion. If the remainder of the year continues in this vein, it’ll be hard for me to leave The Witch Queen alone long enough to play other games. Even as it stands, The Witch Queen Expansion is a thoroughly recommended addition to Destiny 2.
Skabma - Snowfall tells a beautiful story of the Sami people. While the story weaves through realistic situations of survival, it’s coupled with magical and mystical folklore that has not been told in such a way before. The visuals are brilliantly represented and having the game told in the Sami language was refreshing. There are some issues with the camera and the lack of clarity on some missions did leave me scratching my head, but the message that Red Stage set out to tell works brilliantly and is an experience I’d want to play again, despite the pitfalls.
The snappy and fluid controls of Destiny 2 are the standout features and work like a dream. It elevates the game to a point where the action is never overwhelming enough to make you want to throw your controller down the nearest black hole. Even if you prefer playing solo, there are hours upon hours of content for you to enjoy. The game treads a line that keeps the game challenging yet accessible, so players of any skill can join in, and while Destiny 2 can feel like a Halo knock off at times, Bungie certainly delivers a AAA experience at a price that’s hard to complain about.
I desperately wanted to like The Dead Tree of Ranchiuna; from the opening of the game my senses were firing from the visual treat on my eyes, and when the narrator started telling the story, I could feel the beginnings of an exciting tale. But it wasn’t long before the sheen from such a powerful first impression began to fade. The story tries to be cohesive, but it quickly descends into a dark tale revolving ostracisation and finally slides into something so far-fetched it completely ruins the experience.
The Letter is a scary, if somewhat predictable affair riffing heavily from Japanese horror films such as Ringu and The Grudge. The plot starts off strong but by the end game, when you’ve heard the same lines of dialogue seven times, I ended up wishing death upon all of the characters as I skipped through the same dinner party, although the final conclusion wasn’t one I was expecting. Once the main story has concluded there is still a large amount of game left to explore and branching story options to discover, which does add more context to the whole experience and gives the game a tonne of replayability - it’s just a shame that the visuals and scripting hold it back from being a truly great experience.
Martha is Dead isn’t a horror game in the sense that ghosts will try to jump scare you around every corner, but the atmosphere LKA have created certainly made me think that might happen, and after realising that Giulia isn’t as a reliable narrator that you think, the game twists and turns in a way I simply didn’t expect. The visuals are stunning and are a great showcase for the new generation of consoles, and when they are paired with an authentic soundtrack, it really felt as if I was in Italy in the 40s. There are moments in this beautifully dark video game that forced me to change the direction of my playthrough and I am already excited to go back and explore the additional routes, especially once those bugs have been flattened out.
You might call me old before my time, but for me Word Forward is an engaging puzzle game that really tests mental capacity. Despite how tough it gets, I enjoyed what can only be described as an oddly specific form of torture (particularly once I clicked the music off). By implementing a chess-level of strategy, it elevates the title to one that stands out in the overcrowded casual-puzzle game space. Word Forward makes no bones about being difficult; even with the power ups it will be a struggle to complete all of the challenges, that is unless you either take a serious amount of time carefully planning each move, or are a seasoned enigmatologist. Either way, I’d say it’s worth it to try.
Monark treads the fine line between a good RPG and a truly great one. I enjoyed that it was a stripped back affair and that I only had the story to focus on instead of thousands of pointless side quests. The story, while dark, was enjoyable, particularly in the second half of the game. Some of the investigative portions really tested my mettle and while there is a grind to keep up with the difficulty curve, this was well balanced and always fair. If the early stages of hunting Pactbearers wasn’t the same process in a different environment, Monark would be a truly great game. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a pretty good RPG, but the flaws are noticeable, and it runs the risk of putting people off.
Cake Invaders was a rather fun time, and in the couple of hours I’ve put into it so far, blasting wave after wave of enemies didn’t get as stale as I thought it would. The graphics are cute, the music is just repetitive enough to be annoying, yet forgettable, and the price point is absolutely spot on for the amount of game you are getting. A multiplayer mode would have been nice, but the charm, accessibility, and simplicity of Cake Invaders meant I just wanted to try to beat my own score and is a true guilty pleasure in the making.
Despite all of the shortcomings, Nexomon is a fun video game to play, especially factoring in the cost of the game. Even at it's full price, there is a compact RPG that you can play and enjoy the visuals and story. There is a tough grind that feels like a slog early on, but this isn’t a game that offers more than 30 hours of gameplay, nor does it pretend to. The simplicity of the gameplay means that even after an extended break away from playing, which is probably caused by using the stock of twenty Nexotraps, you’re always able to pick up where you left off with relative ease.
Sadly Clockwork Aquario offers little challenge and can be completed in next to no time at all. Once the game has been beaten for the first time everything is unlocked and the only thing left to do is look at a rather nice gallery or try to beat your own high scores. If there is one element that saves Clockwork from being forgotten for another thirty years, it is it’s co-op mode. While the levels stay the same, save for a few extra baddies, the frantic experience of simultaneously playing with and against Player Two is the genuine highlight of the game.
For the most part, Bustafellows is an enthralling game with branching narrative options set to a jazzy soundtrack presented as a cop show. Side A of the story explores criminal activities and where the most interesting aspects of the game are found. Side B, aka The Romancing of the Various Lads, brings the decisions from the previous chapters to fruition, but it still feels tacked on and forced. It might be a typical visual novel trope and therefore expected, but Bustafellows simply doesn’t need romance and it acts as a detriment to the overall enjoyment of the story. The first part of Bustafellows shows that there is a lot of appeal for a clever crime caper story; beautiful environments fill the screen and are accompanied by a jazzy soundtrack, and with multiple leads to follow there are a number of outcomes to explore, it’s just a shame it’s marred by the romancing part of the game. That being said, I would still recommend this to visual novel fans, or people looking to get into the genre, as the story and setting of New Sieg is one of fun and enjoyment.
Putting all of the bad business decisions to one side, we are left with a great game that I urge people to experience and, a year since release, most of the main bugs have been cleaned up. The main story is on the short side and feels rushed, and once levelled up to a certain point, everything becomes a little too easy. The side missions are where the fun resides and taking time to explore the huge open world, getting to know the history of the city and the key inhabitants is the most rewarding quality about Cyberpunk 2077. The whole piece showcases a gritty life in the underworld with over the top violence but also eases the tone with moments of utterly insane fetch quests. Cyberpunk 2077 might have taken a year to get to a decent state but has been one of the most fun games I’ve played in the last 12 months, warts and all.
Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars - a game that’s full of humour, fluid gameplay and a story, which despite being hamfisted to bring two series together, was ridiculous enough to work. It is more Neptunia than Senran Kagura so I think it’ll appeal to the former fan base rather than the latter, but the run time left a bitter taste - just as the game was starting to roll, it ended. The team up between both franchises was a strange choice from the outset but it's well crafted and surprisingly well done, at least until the developers seemingly decided it was time for the Neptunia and Senran Kagura girls to wrap up and go home.
Neptunia ReVerse feels more of a test of how the PS5 hardware works for Idea Factory & Compile Heart rather than providing players with a new experience, and after ten years the game is starting to show its age. References to the bygone era of PS3 & Wii, cut scenes being given a spit and polish rather than recreated, and the issues with a sub-one second load between battles just gives the impression this is an aging port and not a modern day enhancement. The game is very self aware and the core game is still pretty fun to play albeit with repetitive sections and a little bit of a grind to cope with. Arrange Mode offers up a challenge and remixes the dungeons and items found within but overall Neptunia ReVerse suffers from typical “first game in the series-itis”; there’s a lot of good building blocks which have since been fleshed out and better implemented in the newer titles.
SkateBIRD might sound like one of those joke titles that is played for around five minutes before being forgotten about, but what is actually here is a well thought out skating game that’s full of charm and humour. While the skate mechanics are a little rough around the edges, once I got over trying to execute each move perfectly and relaxed into the game’s casual nature, my time with it was rather fun. All things considered, if you’re after a wholesome, silly skating game, SkateBIRD does fit the bill, albeit in a rough "seagull-fighting-you-for-a-chip" kind of way.
Radio Viscera is an entertaining romp through the camp of Y2K cultists to say the least. The twin stick shooter manages to tick a lot of boxes and make you forget the few negatives. While the setting is a little ‘by the numbers’ and some of the puzzles could have been implemented slightly more effectively, you’re left with a relentless and comical game that doesn’t overstay its welcome. With fast paced controls that are perfect to a tee and cartoonish violence everywhere, Radio Viscera accomplishes what it sets out to be – a fun shooter experience and you can’t fault it for that.
Metroid Dread is a wonderful addition to a storied but long-dormant franchise, and offers some modern shine on a traditional experience. The stunning visuals and some simple but fun new mechanics make it a joy to play, even through the sometimes punishing difficulty level. The busy controls might bamboozle some players in heated moments and others will argue that it’s too short to justify the price tag, but there can be no mistaking the overall quality of the title.