Agatha Christie – Murder on the Orient Express retells the classic adventure in a surprisingly compelling way through two very different protagonists, an eclectic cast of suspects, and a wide range of puzzles that pay homage to the original while blending in modern concepts. Sound issues, regular backtracking, and random shifts in difficulty spikes might be a bit off-putting to some players but the decent writing, acting, and use of mind-mapping to sift through your adventure will keep you invested to the end.
Detective Pikachu Returns is more of the same from the 3DS original, but with the fun addition of using unique Pokémon abilities to interact with the world and help you solve puzzles, a bunch of side missions to investigate and a continuation of a story that ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. It’s a little bit too easy going and predictable at times, and you feel like some mechanics and concepts could have been flesched out and developed further, but this still feels like such a refreshing insight and approach to the world of Pokémon and one I’d love to see developed and expanded upon further in the future.
Dolphin Spirit – Ocean Mission offers an infectious, important message, the game is calming and relaxing enough to just play casually, and it’s a nice easy going game you can breeze through pretty quick. You can even ride on a dolphin! It’s not always great, it doesn’t play the best on Switch and is a bit of a throwaway experience, but there’s still quite a lot to take and draw from it.
Party Animals is a ridiculously good time. It tickles every funny bone in your body, looks absolutely gorgeous and offers some of the most fun you can have in a multiplayer game. There are some issues with the game not offering offline local multiplayer, hefty microtransactions and some control issues, but none of it really takes away the fun of just throwing each other around various battlegrounds and knocking each other out after a death-defying dropkick or headbutt.
Fae Farm takes note of what works in many great games and combines them in an entertaining, enjoyable package that offers great opportunities for replayability and multiplayer. Its relatively forgettable cast, grindy activity, along with some other minor frustrations do detract a bit from the game, but if you’ve ever loved farming sims / even if you haven’t, you’ll find plenty to enjoy and unpack here.
Trine 5 is the absolute best installment in the series to date. The higher production values, expanded co-op, customisation and indivdual talent trees, coupled with the fiendish puzzle solving and expert physics Frostbyte are renowned for compliment one another brilliantly. Minor glitches aside, the game still falls into the same trap as its predecessors of being a little too repetitive late on, but whether you’re on your own or with a family, you can have some great fun with this one.
Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The London Case is a fun detective mystery that’s well written and acted, particularly in the titular role. Unfortunately, some random bugs and glitches do creep in to affect the experience somewhat, you revisit the same locations time after time, and the gameplay flow does become a bit frustrating between ordering things a certain way and relying a little bit on random, dumb luck. A great time can be had throughout, however, and this is a good one to play in-between 2023’s beefier experiences.
En Garde! brings character, energy and finesse to your pad within moments of play. It moves well and is balanced wonderfully with combat that matches and even surpasses many great games out there already. Its difficulty will definitely be offputting to some and its size may not be enough for others, but this game knows what it is, leans elegantly into it and gives you a memorable journey from its opening to close.
Moving Out 2 is delightful. It’s not a huge reinvention of what’s come before, but at the same time it adds enough to keep it fresh with newly styled levels and mechanics, new ways to work together to get bigger items around faster and full online crossplay. It’s smooth, stable, steady and an absolute blast to play together with friends and friends you’ve yet to meet. It’s my favourite party game this year!
Viewfinder is one of the most complete and compelling puzzlers in years with a unique hook that seperates it from the rest of the pack. The aesthetics are mind-melting and the concepts are dazzling, despite the short length and the ease at which you can cruise through the game. All told, Viewfinder is one you won’t soon forget and a game we’ll look back on with the greatest fondness for generations to come.
Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals is a fascinating follow-up that smartly continues adventures in a world we know and love, while adding in exciting twists and turns that tie up loose ends from the first game and expand it convincingly. Some minor technical issues and narrative speedbumps aside, there’s clever new mechanics and a bigger, richer game to explore that makes for one of the most satisfying stories this year.
Dordogne is a work of art in more ways than one. From its striking pastel art style, to the soundtrack, storytelling and even the way it blends its gameplay mechanics, this is one of 2023’s best surprises and outside of text accessibility, some minor texture clipping and heavy-handed controls, this is an unforgettable adventure that will put you through a rollercoaster of emotions.
Killer Frequency has a cool, unique concept that matches up together surprisingly well and is led by a cast of engaging, interesting characters who gel beautifully. The scenarios you work through are smart and clever, there’s a great soundtrack to play through, and the plot and gradual exploration of your station keeps you invested. A padded conclusion, and some clashes with VR and flat through interactivity and navigation do hold this back a bit, but this was still a great trip that we were glad to take.
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum had a rough start prior to launch but despite its followup patches, it’s still not a good game. It plays with some interesting concepts but they are so often overshadowed by its poor controls, loose movement, and overly slow story where everyone feels like a bit part except the titular lead. There is a certain charm that ever so often seeps through, to make it a partly enjoyable platforming and even stealth experience, but just as it builds any kind of momentum the game swiftly reminds you of its drawbacks and frustrations.
Tin Hearts is a joyful puzzler with heart and style. It creates a soothing, engaging atmosphere with charming music, encourages discovery of your surroundings with mechanics that are gradually, smartly implemented and introduced. As a VR first title, playing in flat can be a bit jarring with controls and interactivity feeling a bit on the clunky side, but regardless of how or where you play, this is an adventure you should experience.
Ravenlok is a game full of surprises and felt incredibly satisfying to play, tapping into a genre I actually need a whole lot more of. Its lack of real combat strategy, button mashing and frustrating camera, as well as the speed you can blaze through with no returning hook do, unfortunately, limit the game’s potential. But what’s here with story, characters, setting, and style will, ultimately, make sure you have an enjoyable time while you’re playing.
Teslagrad 2 is a short, mostly well engineered puzzler that never really emerges from its predecessor’s shadow. It looks great, mostly handles decently with some platforming frustrations and interesting sections that mix things up just enough, but that also has a lot to do with a rapid run time.
Sherlock Holmes The Awakened is an enjoyable re-imagining of one of Frogwares best takes on the great detective. Stunningly recreated with Unreal Engine, this story has new puzzles, a wealth of side missions, quirky mechanics, and an intriguing plot that keeps itself interesting throughout. A remarkable accomplishment considering the horrendous circumstances the studio has had to overcome.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is one of the most unexpected, unusual releases of all time. It completely goes at odds against the original source material, it has no obvious audience base as a result, but it remains an enjoyable, creative, bold take on a character we felt we knew inside and out. A stagnating second half and a steep price tag let this one down from an outright recommendation, but there’s still enough in here that deserves your attention, embossed with a trademark signature style and quality that could only come from the Umbran Witch herself.
Deliver Us Mars is a sequel that doesn’t quite hit all the highs of its predecessor and never really pushes the genre forward in any new ways. Mechnical gripes aside, though, it has a meaningful, memorable story with a good, relevant message, enjoyable dialogue and a beautiful soundtrack that all compliment each other very nicely.