In Sound Mind is an ambitious project that seeks to depict dark subject matter and does so successfully with a narrative about overcoming our mental fears. The experience is dragged down by a frustrating inclusion of combat, and an approximately 12-hour length that isn’t justified, at a detriment to the story. It’s not conventionally scary - though it has its hair-raising moments - but it’s disturbing and at times uncomfortable due to a sometimes grounded and sometimes surreal delve into the effects of mental illness on the mind. On the plus side, there is an uncanny valley companion cat - that you can pet - which is instantly a redeeming factor.
It’s fair to say New World hasn’t been a total failure so far for Amazon. The servers are constantly full and nearly one million concurrent Steam players is a mark of success for any game. However, on a mechanical level there are many things lacking, that detract from the whole experience. A lack of any meaningful quest content, combat that isn’t fun for over half the game and an apparent drought of endgame content make it a game that might be worth skipping over until a few content updates or expansions. Plus when the most fun aspect of your game is picking flowers as opposed to slaying beasts or completing quests, maybe some of the game needs a rework.
Echo Generation honestly feels like it could have been one of this year’s great indie games, but the developer's inspiration from 90s adventure games ended up being both a boon and a curse. It has a brilliantly refined style and atmosphere that provides a sense of nostalgia. It’s eclecticism in its music, art style, and enemy variety also worked to keep it fresh and engaging, but the frustrating balancing and dated puzzle implementation sullied its more immersive aspects, and can’t be overlooked.
Demon Turf should be remembered fondly in a few years time as a solid platforming experience. The core of the gameplay loop is close to perfection, with the combat tirades and checkpoint system letting it down. Movement mechanics are tight and satisfying, along with well-designed levels that challenge the skills the player will have built up over the course of a playthrough. It’s got a loveable presentation thanks to its melding of 2D and 3D art, bright music, and the majority of its art design and aesthetics. It doesn’t do much to shake up the platformer or collect-a-thon, but it nails the important aspects of each one to craft a deviously fun romp through the Demon World.
Fights In Tight Spaces is a fantastic example of a turn-based strategy game. There's so much depth to the mechanics and different strategies that can be utilised, that paired with the roguelike elements, makes for an endlessly replayable experience. The purposefully minimal presentation helps to make the combat the centrepiece of the game, highlighting the momentum and force of the fighting. It hardly reinvents the wheel, but it explores melee combat with a vehement focus that you don't often see, making for a tight fighting experience.
Ultimately, Halo Infinite's multiplayer is a victim to its progression system, that stands in the way of the excellently refined core of the game. It's certain to be a mainstay for years as the developers work out the kinks and factor in the fan feedback. Their work still paid off though, because the gameplay of Halo Infinite is the best of any multiplayer shooter from recent memory. It's just sullied by the egregious implementation of artificial hurdles to that gameplay, which knocks a point or two off the score. Without this abhorrent progression? Halo Infinite would be one of the best multiplayer shooters of the last 10 years.
In the end, The Gunk sits in the middle of the pile. The core of sucking up the Gunk is satisfying for the roughly four hours of playtime, but the lack of a difficulty curve for the puzzles or combat lets it down. Its story makes an honest attempt at character drama that works for the most part, but the short playtime doesn't leave us quite enough time with the characters or world. It's by no means bad and there's not much poorly implemented content here, but it's a plainly inoffensive experience that settles when it could have punched slightly higher.
In the end, Expeditions: Rome rises above the previous entries clearly, with more polish and refinement than ever before. The game may not fully achieve its aims due to some underdeveloped systems and inconsistencies in the design, but as a historical role-playing experience, it stands unrivalled. It's a must-play for anyone with an interest in Ancient Rome, and it offers more than enough for fans of CRPGs.
Ultimately, Yu-Gi-Oh Master Duel is a must-play for fans of the franchise, and they'll fit right in despite the lack of beginner-friendly design. If you're new on the other hand, it's hard to recommend unless you can bear with the frustration that's sure to plague your first games and put in the effort to learn the myriad of mechanics. If you can overcome the hurdles, you'll be blessed with one of the most electrifying and rewarding TCGs on the market, with richly tactical gameplay, stylish presentation, and some of the friendliest monetisation that can be found in free-to-play gaming.
Shadow Warrior 3 is a great return to form for Flying Wild Hog, and a much-needed comeback for the series after the middling reception of the second game. While the gameplay can falter early on due to the lack of challenge and intensity, it soon ramps up to create a bombastic experience that beautifully borrows from retro and modern shooter design. While your mileage may vary on the game's sense of humour, and the full package feels a little underdeveloped due to a lack of replayability - it's undeniably a whole heap of fun.
Iron Lung is a masterclass of how to effectively build tension and dread. It runs at just the right length to explore its minimal gameplay ideas, while remaining mysterious and opaque enough to feel larger than the immediate experience. It's well worth the time for those who enjoy experimental game concepts or suffocating atmospheres, and what lurks in the blood ocean may stick with you well past your playtime.
TUNIC is a type of game that feels increasingly less common in this industry, and its dedication to upholding a mystery that it lets the player figure out themselves is commendable. It has an enchanting world that's well worth exploring for yourself, and the way it asks you to use the instruction manual is a breath of fresh air for engaging with a game. While it doesn't fully stick the landing thanks to some later combat sections that sour the experience, it's an undeniable gem of wondrous action-adventure.
Weird West really is a wonderfully wild experience. Its mysterious and fantastical take on the American West is a unique change-up for a typically overdone setting, and the elements of black humour help to bear its bleakness. Many of the immersive sim elements gel well with the CRPG design to produce a living and reactive world, shaped by your gameplay and narrative choices. Some of its systems don't quite feel worked out yet, and it doesn't always stay consistent across its five episodes, but Weird West is a grand debut from WolfEye that understands the core of what it is to be an immersive sim.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim tells an ambitious and compelling story that takes an anaconda's worth of twists and turns, but it's careful to never overwhelm you to the point of exhaustion, while remaining grounded enough in its characters and concept to deliver everything with a bang. While the other half of the experience is pretty unremarkable in comparison, it doesn't prevent 13 Sentinels from standing high as an example of video game and science fiction storytelling.
Trek to Yomi presents its world through the lens of classic Japanese cinema, reinforcing its thematic exploration of self-reflection and overcoming failure with masterful presentation and design to form a captivating experience. Combat presents a satisfying learning curve that rewards carefully studying your opponents and mastering the moves in your arsenal, and while overall it can falter at times due to uneven pacing, it's well worth undertaking the trek yourself.
Eternal Threads is a solid attempt from first-time developer Cosmonaut Games, presenting a sci-fi, time travelling mystery where you'll need to monitor how cause and effect influences the events around you. Its clear and engaging time manipulation mechanics make the meat of the game satisfying to engage with, and focusing it on the personal issues of everyday people grounds the experience. Despite the uneven presentation and lack of a major challenge, it makes for a worthwhile light puzzling experience.