Super Mario Odyssey represents a shift in direction for Mario. For about a decade we had exceptional but tightly structured 3D series entries, but this new arrival's building blocks go back to Super Mario 64. It's a very modern take on ‘sandbox Mario', however - Cappy and his abilities are key additions that freshen up the formula, and we have a sizeable and diverse set of lands to explore.Odyssey will, inevitably, now enter the discussions about the ‘best' Mario games. In the second half and post-credits - in particular - it takes on a life of its own, showcasing incredible design and development flair. It's also a wonderful showcase for the Switch, and could introduce a whole new audience to the wonders of Mario in three dimensions. For the veterans among us, meanwhile, it's yet another special release to remind us of why Mario is still gaming's number one.
Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaire's Conspiracy feels rather comforting, the video game equivalent of a warm blanket.
For fans of SteamWorld Dig we suspect the recommendation isn't needed as they'll buy this anyway. For those that skipped the first game, however, Dig 2 is a must-have - its charming aesthetic and cast set the scene for a tightly designed and clever exploration game. Now the wait begins for SteamWorld Dig 3.
Sine Mora is an intriguing, stylish shooter that's well worth a punt at a budget price. Sine Mora EX, however, is a trickier sell; the underlying quality is still there and it can be a memorable experience, but the additions are sloppy and add little, making it tough to justify at its full price. On Switch it has portability going for it, with the game looking handsome on the handheld or TV - it's understandably sharper and easier to play than in the previous Vita version, for portable fans. It's a fascinating game, and may draw you back for plenty of repeat plays or even score-chasing runs to climb online leaderboards. Its flaws, however, mean it's not currently among the best of its genre.
This is the third time we've reviewed this game, on each occasion a more feature-packed and improved iteration. Despite its 2010 roots - and pop culture references to match that time - it stands up extremely well, as pixels this stylish and action this chaotic don't lose their edge. Retro City Rampage DX is still an anarchic, almost overloaded game that bombards the senses while, at the same time, maintaining impressive polish in its gameplay. Whether you're playing it for the crazy story, excessive retro-styled violence or a mix of both, it still has the goods.
Piczle Lines DX is relatively pricey (at launch) for a download puzzle game, but it offers 300+ sizeable and quality picture conundrums to solve; it'll take most players a long time to solve every image. It's a fun mechanic that feels like a clever combination of other puzzle styles, and the option to detach the Joy-Con and use the touchscreen alone also makes it an appealing game for a bit of quiet downtime slouched in a comfortable chair. Its smartphone legacy lets it down a little in presentation, and beyond solving lots of puzzles it's lacking any smart variations in modes or even multiplayer. Nevertheless, in terms of serving up plenty of challenging content it does the job rather well.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a must have for Switch-owning fans of turn-based tactical games. More importantly, such is the style and depth on offer that it's also ideal for those that haven't played much of the genre, for whom 'X-COM' sounds like a silly acronym from a war movie. It introduces the concept in the best possible way, and then utilises its own ideas for what becomes a smart and - at times - deliciously challenging experience.It's perfectly acceptable to be surprised by Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, as many have been since its E3 reveal. The end result delivers on all of the potential that we could suddenly see back in June; even if you don't actually like the Rabbids, this game - and its familiar Mario cast and setting - is so good that Ubisoft's mascots are likeable. Well, almost.
Sonic Mania is a true return to form for the mascot, in his 2D 'Classic' guise at least. It celebrates the glory days of the original games while also enhancing their qualities and taking on new ideas. From new areas, imaginative second acts and some delightful boss encounters, the development team has poured a lot of passion and talent into the project. The occasional bug and a couple of brief and cheap areas deprive it of Sonic-style perfection, but it's pretty darn close.Is it the best Sonic game ever? It's in the conversation, though the classics it's honouring may stake a claim for slightly greater 'flow' in the campaigns. Frankly, it's better just to call it a dead heat and skip the argument - Sonic Mania belongs in the company of the games to which it pays tribute - the Blue Blur is back.
Infinite Minigolf is another solid arrival on the Switch eShop, and most importantly adds to the steadily growing variety of genres and themes on the store. It does a very nice job of delivering over-the-top, entertaining minigolf, with plenty of official and user-created content to keep players busy. The downsides are slightly baffling systems and a crowded user interface, and the fact that some less experienced gamers may find the required precision for shots a little too demanding. Overall, however, this one is definitely under par - in a good way.
For fans of the series Hey! Pikmin will undoubtedly be tempting, and it also serves as a cute and accommodating introduction to the franchise for 3DS owners. Despite its strong points, though, it has that feel of a 'second-tier' Nintendo release, not helped by the limitations that 2D play places on the core concept. It's solid but a tad uninspiring, fun but unsurprising, accessible but lacking in witty design. The best Nintendo games achieve the high points with no sacrifices, but it's here that Hey! Pikmin falls slightly short.Ultimately it's a decent game, and younger gamers in particular - or those that want a gentle introduction to Pikmin - will likely get the most pleasure and mileage out of it. For everyone else it's worth going in with sensible expectations.
Cars 3: Driven to Win falls for some of the pitfalls that are expected of a game released to coincide with a movie's arrival in theatres. Rather rushed, rough around the edges and with minor but persistent annoyances, older players will certainly recognise the symptoms.That said, it hits top gear in some respects. Its gameplay mechanics are rather fun once grasped, there are a variety of modes and tracks to master, and despite its sidenote of a narrative it goes big on the film series' charms. Young gamers and fans of the films will likely get beyond its flaws and rather enjoy what it does well, and it comes across as a game that was pushed out the door early but, nevertheless, was developed with some pride. It's a bit of a 'banger' in car terms, but it has a good lick of paint and a good engine - one to pick up on a whim or at a discount, perhaps.
Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas is an ambitious title that does some things rather well, finding a way to endear itself to players. It has a few problems, some from design choices and others from its mobile legacy that should have been adjusted for console, but what it doesn't lack is heart. The desire of the developers to pay homage to classic adventure series, but in their own way, shines through. It's a flawed title, but if you're willing to overlook those issues you may find it to be an enjoyable experience on the Switch eShop.
Disgaea 5 Complete is a tough game to judge. On the positive side it offers an extraordinary volume of content, its own quirky approach to storytelling and a complex set of systems that complement each other well. Unlike some other major strategy RPG IPs, however, it struggles to present its complexity in a cohesive way, with a user interface that groans under the weight of its goals. Fans of the game and series likely adore this hardcore approach, but some more familiar with strategy games that are more focused and precise in their execution may find it hard to fall in love with all of those layers of detail. There are so many terrific parts to the game, but they get somewhat jumbled together.For Disgaea fans this game is worth a purchase, especially as it includes all DLC from the original and plays beautifully on the go. For strategy RPG fans we still give it a hearty recommendation, but with the proviso that it's more demanding and tougher to master than many of its genre contemporaries. If you're up for the challenge and time investment, and can tolerate its zany characters and settings, then it's well worth adding to your Nintendo Switch collection.
Thumper is a fantastic video game, an extravagant rhythm experience that's also a brutal assault on the senses. It's extremely difficult, painfully so at times, yet we feel the need to persevere, retrying tough stages over and over again. Even when that's done the drive for better ranks remains, simply because the game compels us to play on.The level of challenge, though, shouldn't be underestimated - even for strong players short sessions may become necessary in the latter third of the game, in particular. The only real flaw of Thumper, in actual fact, is that it offers so little respite and no 'easy' mode for players. Some may scoff at that, saying it's a game designed to be tough, but the downside is that without that optional concession the game will be inaccessible and impenetrable for some players.That's a pity, as for those up for the challenge it's a wonderful - albeit gruelling - gaming experience.
When it comes to passing final judgement on a re-release like this it's tricky - do we scale back praise because it's content we've mostly seen before, or simply judge a release on its own merits? We've opted for the latter here, and so we have a definitive version of a fantastic Wii U game that adds its own extras to spruce up the experience.Mario Kart 8 Deluxe delivers a huge amount of racing goodness right out of the box, and it's a polished version of a Wii U entry that was a proper Battle Mode away from being top of class. Now that issue has been addressed, what we have is arguably the best Mario Kart release we've seen. Some will argue about where this entry stands in the pantheon of the franchise, but for our money it's competing for top spot.It's the definitive Mario Kart 8 experience, content-rich and a delightful feast of comedic, cartoonish karting action. It's a game that continually raises a smile and, occasionally, induces that trademark Mario Kart rage as shells strike and positions are lost. It's addictive and unifying, unfiltered fun that draws in anyone daring enough to take up the wheel. If you're a Switch owner, it's an easy choice.
Overall, LEGO City: Undercover doesn't quite stand up as well in its 2017 form as it did when it originally came to Wii U; series improvements have come in the years since that leave this one looking slightly dusty in comparison. There are also some technical issues that hold it back, with odd graphical blemishes - a pity as the updated engine is generally an improvement - along with performance issues in co-op and handheld mode.That said, played as a console game in single player, like its original, this still offers an easy-going and slightly anarchic fun time. The same crazy storylines, set pieces and scenarios are still here, as are the cheesy jokes riffing on famous movies. LEGO City: Undercover's case isn't quite as convincing as it was in 2013, but it still has plenty to offer.
Metal Slug 3 is a blast, all told, and for those that want to experience a retro run and gun classic - that was once expensive and out of reach for many - this is a nice option. It's a hoot, with the anarchic action and quirky animations contributing to a fundamentally bonkers experience. HAMSTER, to its credit, has also loaded in some nifty customisation options so that you can dabble and experiment. It's a short experience unless you seek out various alternate routes, of course, and as outlined above we think it flirts on the line of 'authentic slowdown' and 'annoying performance issues'. In many cases we suspect the former and had a lot of fun regardless, but the latter crept into play occasionally.At the end of the day, though, for fans of the genre this is tough to ignore. Whether playing on your own or with a buddy, it's sure to raise a smile and even a few laughs as you obliterate everything on screen.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a landmark release for its franchise and Nintendo. It's the first time that Nintendo has truly taken on the open-world genre in a current-generation sense; in arriving late to the party, though, it embraces some strengths from top-of-the-class games while also forging its own identity. This game is a revolution for the franchise, but the Legend of Zelda essence is still there - its soul remains.The end result, then, is a captivating experience. This will be in the running as the best game in the IP's history, and it will likely be discussed as a leading contender in the broader open-world genre. Nintendo has bravely taken one of its biggest franchises in a new direction, and it's delivered a triumph.