The Lost Crown makes it hard to put the controller down, constantly urging players to follow its paths just a little further. Following its persistent pull to explore more of Mount Qaf is easy, though, thanks to how good it feels to do so. Between its first-rate platforming and engaging combat and progression, The Lost Crown’s various parts coalesce into a sublime loop. Gameplay is king, and this Prince of Persia understands that.
With Ghostrunner 2 behind me, I’m thrilled more of this series exists. Even after rolling credits, I'm excited to tear through its levels once more to find collectibles like sword and glove skins and old-world artifacts like VHS tapes, and try my hand some more at the delectably simple roguelite minigame. Though Ghostrunner 2 falters in a few ways, like its more open-ended sections and superfluous wingsuit, what remains in the hours outside of those missteps is its best-in-class parkour action. And like its predecessor, it remains a damn treat.
Lies of P's greatest strength is how it rewards and empowers you at every turn to venture further through this twisted tale of puppetry and monstrous humanity, despite its oppressive world and formidable enemies. I struggled to pull myself away from Lies of P, even when it had me fuming. It delicately balances the fun of a Soulslike with the challenge the genre demands and only falters a few times. That it maintains that balance within the confines of a fairytale most know best because of Disney, flipping it on its head to tell something more in line with Carlo Collodi's original The Adventures of Pinocchio, is another achievement of Lies of P. But above all that, Lies of P uses the familiar, the highlights, and the lessons learned from the authors of the Soulslike subgenre to create something unique, fascinating, and exhilarating. Neowiz aimed for the stars, much like the ones its Pinocchio wishes upon, and hits them with machine-like accuracy.
Delivering something different and unique in a genre clogged with games set in real-world wars and battles, or at least meant to emulate them, is a commendable effort and pays off here for Ascendant. Immortals of Aveum is a great first outing, mixing the fantasy genre’s vibes, storytelling, and world exploration with the gunplay of a modern shooter.
With credits behind me, I’m excited to discover more of Monoth’s secrets and collectibles I haven’t yet found, and I’m especially thrilled to play more with my 7-year-old nephew. Illusion Island doesn’t overhaul the platformer genre, or the Metroidvania formula for that matter, but its distinctive no-combat focus on simply moving through Monoth keeps the trip amusing, brisk, and gratifying. I would have liked more challenge; this is a simple adventure that might not capture the interest of platformer enthusiasts with little to no preoccupation with Disney. But when met on its own terms, it’s hard to deny Illusion Island is a jubilant love letter to these characters and platforming.
Oxenfree II doesn’t shake up what its predecessor did in 2016, but it delivers more of the excellent writing and charm I expect from Night School Studio. While it's light on gameplay beyond traversal, it’s done in service of the characters. After 10 hours with this cast, I want more, but I’m happy with where this story ends and how my choices shaped that ending. Despite bad checkpointing and a swift rush to the end after an overly long setup, this return feels earned and essential, with a message that resonates far more than Oxenfree's. With Oxenfree II behind me, I’m thrilled Night School Studio delivered something special more than seven years away from this world.
When I look back at my time with Clive, his friends, his enemies, and Valisthea, it’s those highs that I vividly remember. FFXVI is very different from its predecessors, but in many ways, very familiar; And it’s still a Final Fantasy, through and through, reminding me why I love this series so much.
Humanity strikes a delicate balance between challenging me at every turn and allowing me to feel like the god its narrative props me up to be. It’s an imaginative experience that provides a rush I imagine computer programmers feel when dozens of commands and lines of code finally work together to create a desired outcome. Its puzzles come wrapped in a beautiful package, from its minimalist visuals to its excellent clicky electronic beats. And best of all, these elements work together to emphasize a simple but effective message about what it means to be human and why life’s most intricate puzzles are easiest to solve when we work together.
Crime Boss: Rockay City is proof that star power isn’t everything. In fact, it’s a reminder that a celebrity cast does nothing for a game when it’s void of anything interesting or fun to support it. When run-ending bugs appear, Crime Boss is miserable, but even when I’m running a mission bug-free, I lay witness to a painfully dull take on organized crime. At its best, Crime Boss functions – I can shoot weapons at enemies, empty bank vaults and warehouses for loot, watch cutscenes with recognizable faces and voices, and grow my empire – but it never captures my attention in a meaningful or memorable way. Instead, it pushes me further and further away, leaving me with no desire to ever return to Rockay City.
Rytmos is short and sweet, and its minimalist visuals and zen-like beats left me feeling warm. Its puzzles match everything else the game is doing, and it all works together well to highlight the music, its inspirations’ place in history, and the instruments that create it. The audiophile pedigree of Floppy Club shines through in Rytmos, and it feels designed specifically with musicians and music enthusiasts in mind, but puzzle fiends will also find a chill afternoon of challenges to play through here, too.
Despite that lack of propelling factor, I’m still completely engrossed in this game, playing it during any 15 free minutes I can find throughout my day. Though I’ve technically completed the game, I want to SSS rank all of my favorite songs, dig deeper into the libraries from Final Fantasy games I’m less familiar with, and show off my rhythm prowess against other players. This is a fantastic rhythm game set to the tune of arguably the greatest music catalog in all of games. While I would have liked more guidance in how to proceed, the musical content on offer is so diverse, so nostalgic, and so well done, that I have no problem composing my own fun.
When The Cosmic Shake is at its best, it sounds, looks, and plays like the kind of game I would have begged my parents to buy me growing up. But when it falters, it’s boring. It’s a game I recommend to fans of SpongeBob SquarePants with ease; for those looking for a great platformer, though, better options lie elsewhere in the sea.
Players looking for deep customization, expertly crafted strategy RPG combat, and a heartfelt story with adoration for more than 30 years of Fire Emblem history will find that and more in Engage. It’s one of the most gripping games I’ve played on Switch and, ultimately, one I struggled to peel myself away from.
With The Entropy Centre behind me, I’m fascinated by what Stubby Games accomplished with its debut. It’s full of excellent puzzles, but the stuff around them, like bugs and narrative pacing, stop the entire package from coming together in an equally impressive way.