All that said, KarmaZoo gets a lot more right than it doesn't. Ultimately, it succeeds in delivering a simple but fun experience, and its clever design means players behave positively and altruistically. If you're looking for an online game with good vibes and friendly co-op, this is it.
EA Sports WRC combines Codemasters' off-road racing pedigree with officially licensed cars, teams, and locations. The result is a confident and robust rally game that boasts super-fun driving, intense and challenging stages, and all the modes you could expect. It's only really let down by technical and performance problems. Here's hoping those will be ironed out in due course, because this is otherwise a rewarding rally game that gets (nearly) everything right.
Despite one or two missteps, Jusant hangs together thanks to a well-realised, unique location and, more importantly, a fun and engaging way to interact with it. The climbing at its core is wonderfully tactile and finds a balance between complexity and accessibility. The spire of rock you're ascending is an interesting place to explore, gradually shifting into new environments as you ascend. We're not totally sold on the story, and the animation and camera can be clumsy every so often, but the game remains a solid, meditative adventure throughout.
Frog Detective: The Entire Mystery is a short but very sweet trilogy. It's thoroughly silly, but manages to tell an earnest story as you enjoy its brilliant dialogue, great soundtrack, and endearing cast of characters. There's little replay value and the gameplay is minimal, but it'll win you over with real warmth, humour, and positivity.
Marvel's Spider-Man 2 is a confident sequel that builds on the previous games in practically every way possible. Smart additions and refinements to traversal, combat, and open world activities mean this is the best Spidey game from Insomniac yet. We do have some minor criticisms about the story, and the combat does become repetitive eventually, but this is overall an absolute blast full of moments that'll surprise and delight.
We're a bit at odds with ourselves on Sonic Superstars. Fundamentally it's a really enjoyable side-scrolling Sonic title, but the two big ticket features - chaos emerald powers and co-op - are arguably the worst parts of it. While the emerald abilities have their uses, co-op just doesn't mesh with this gameplay at all. We can absolutely recommend this as a solo experience, as there's a lot to like about the fresh art style, largely great soundtrack, and multi-layered level design. Throw in a friend or two, though, and it quickly gets messy.
There's a lot to like about Saltsea Chronicles. It has a clever structure, low-pressure gameplay, and even a neat minigame to play in each location. Add on top an eye-catching style and meaningful decision-making, and you have a pleasant, ship-shape adventure.
In a year packed with brilliant games, Cocoon manages to stand out thanks to its unique mechanics and some of the best level and puzzle design we've seen in years. It holds your attention with an intriguing sci-fi world, challenges you with puzzles spanning multiple worlds, and keeps you hooked with accessible controls and minimalist presentation. With only the most minor grievances holding it back, we're confident in saying this is up there with 2023's best.
The Crew Motorfest is the best in the series to date. While some may miss the enormous US map of old, O'ahu makes for a much more inviting setting with its tropical vibes and varied environments. The handling has never been better either, somehow feeling good no matter what you're driving. A wealth of things to see and do is made manageable thanks to the addictive Playlists, although some presentation decisions can make the game feel a little scattershot sometimes. Even with a couple of potholes, though, Motorfest is an entertaining drive and, knowing Ubisoft's track record with live service, will only get better over time.
However, Nour is more a quick snack than a filling main course. For us, it's like a packet of crisps; lots of flavour and satisfying while it lasts, but it's all over very quickly. You can nosh through this game in an hour or two, after which you're given more ways to mess with each level, but there's little reason to return for seconds. It's a neat novelty, it makes solid use of the DualSense's features, and it looks and sounds great. Ultimately, though, it didn't hold our attention for long. Of course, everyone's taste buds are different, so you may enjoy toying with this endlessly, but for us, it's no more than a yummy appetiser.
We did run into one or two bugs, like the camera being in the wrong place and a hard crash, so it's not the smoothest experience. Despite that, there's a lot to like about this unusual little adventure. If you're looking for a unique point-and-click game with surreal visuals, an eerie atmosphere, and some interesting puzzles, this is worth a shot — but we're intrigued to see how it evolves in a sequel.
Overall, Sea of Stars is immensely enjoyable from start to finish. While it's been inspired by various classic RPGs, it sets itself apart with an engaging story, some brilliant characters, and surprisingly deep lore. On top of that, the combat is great fun thanks to its involving, strategic mechanics, and exploring the gorgeous pixelated world is rewarding. It isn't perfect, but it overcomes any flaws with its charming presentation, a world ripe with things to see and do, and no shortage of personality.
It's a very concise game with a laser focus on its core idea. Framing the action with lo-fi presentation and a daft plot about the black army defecting to the white kingdom, it feels like a forgotten 90s PC game. To that point, there's not much to it beyond the main mode, though there are extras for clearing it — Endless mode is self-explanatory while Chase mode is a interesting take on survival. It's a tight-knit package that, while repetitive in the end, succeeds with its less-is-more approach.
Immortals of Aveum presents us with an interesting new fantasy universe in which magic replaces bullets, but in practice it doesn't quite hit the mark. Despite solid fundamental action, combat can quickly become difficult to read, devolving into a dizzying swirl of colourful effects. Solid presentation and performance lead to some visually arresting scenes, even if the story isn't particularly memorable. It's a good first effort from Ascendant Studios, and the potential is absolutely there, but there's a feeling that the team bit off a little more than it could chew.
Seven levels provide ample opportunities for neat lines. These include a street, school, shipyard, and so on, each more challenging than the last. Each map features spot challenges and other simple score attack modes, and you'll slowly level up as you progress, unlocking later stages and more customisation options for your skateboard. While they're nicely designed with multiple paths, they can feel quite empty, not helped by the so-so visuals. We could've also gone for a few more maps and modes, but there are plans for post-launch updates. Ultimately, when you're in the zone, pulling off sick combos while the THPS-inspired soundtrack blares, it feels great. Once you wrap your head around the gameplay and it all clicks, it works very well indeed.
Having said that, some of the puzzle design here is excellent, and the core idea is strong enough to easily keep you going throughout. Setting aside the narrative, which is pretty forgettable, this is a largely impressive, compelling puzzle game with a truly unique gameplay hook.
Rogue Legacy 2 is an excellent sequel that takes the compelling magic of the original and throws the kitchen sink at it. It more than lives up to its own legacy with smart additions to the formula and an incredible amount of variety. Unlocking meaningful upgrades and discovering the deep layers of gameplay keep it fresh dozens of hours in. Once you get past the tidal wave of mechanics and information thrown at you, it stands among the best rogue-likes and -lites available.