Scars Above doesn’t rewrite the rule book, nor does it break any new ground, but it plays mostly well and remains enjoyable through to its end through combat variety, environments, movement and storytelling. Ropey graphics, bugs, light-feeling weapons, as well as frustrating sections, environments and some unfulfilled mechanics mean this also lacks the polish and quality to match up to other diamonds in the genre.
Advance Wars 1+2 Re:Boot Camp might just find a permanent home on your Switch between its epic, lengthy campaigns, multiplayer variety, and custom maps. Nintendo and Wayforward have set up a release that is incredibly generous, highly enjoyable, while reinvigorating a franchise many thought they may never see again. Brutal difficulty curve aside, there’s no first party game on Nintendo’s lineup more suited for Switch than Advance Wars and if you’re willing to put the time in, you’ll be heavily, heartily rewarded.
The Isle Tide Hotel often tries to be too clever for its own good and it ends up harming the overall experience. It’s hard to care much about the characters because half the time you don’t know what they’re talking about, the UI keeps slowing you down and breaks momentum and pace for the game at almost every key decision, and despite offering ten different endings, you might not even make it to seeing one because the game rarely fails to grip or interest.
Operation Wolf Returns: First Mission doesn’t set the groundwork or foundations for the genre like its predecessor did all those years ago. In fact, it doesn’t seem to have learned anything from the original, despite the modern day revamp in VR and inclusion of haptics. Its problem often is that it was a game designed for VR and the porting to flat just hasn’t gone well between controls and technical issues. It’s passably fun with a buddy in co-op, but once you’ve played through the first mission, you’ve got a pretty good idea of everything the game has to offer. Which is, in all honesty, not that much at all.
Minabo: A Walk Through Life is an easy-going, happy-go-lucky clicker that can evoke some deep thought and reflection. It’s fairly simplistic, though, so its price might raise an eyebrow but if you’re looking for some downtime between games or while watching TV, this could fill a gap.
Amnesia: The Bunker is a well-designed, short sharp episode in the award-winning horror series. The setting is suitably tense, the new inventory management and puzzle-solving philosophy feeds into the suspense, along with the limited resources, and the multiple endings do add replayability. Short length and some interactivity issues aside, this is another memorable Amnesia game and one of the best to date.
Robocop: Rogue City is one of this year’s biggest and best surprises. It’s not always perfect and things are scaled back a bit too much in some cases, but the witty quips, all-out gun fights, variety in mechanics and objectives, and surprising human element of the story, once again acted by the brilliant Peter Weller, really wins you over again and again. This game actually makes you feel like Robocop in the best possible way by showing great respect to both player and license, resulting in not only the best Robocop game since the original but a brilliant throwback to the golden era of FPS.
Park Beyond is one of the most satisfying, enjoyable management sims I’ve played in years and is the spiritual successor to Theme Park I’ve waited over twenty years for. On PS5, there’s definitely controller frustrations with the DualSense, as well as weighted cameras, in-game pathing issues and texture breakdowns, so playing on PC is probably the way forward. But issues aside, if you’re looking for a game to play to relax or to really test your skills, this one does it all.
AK-xolotl is the most entertaining roguelike I’ve played since Nuclear Throne. It nails that sense of pacing, it adds some suitably fresh quirks to differentiate itself and it’s full of belly-busting humour that is rib-cracklingly hilarious. This is an absolute triumph and must-have looter shooter that’s one of the best indie games of the year.
Sea of Stars is a defining moment for classic RPGs reinterpreted in a modern way. Sabotage Studios have found a unique balance that compliments everything that came before and presents it in a way that today’s gamer will recognise and appreciate. From story, to visuals, music, and combat, this game is an incredible accomplishment that you simply must play whether you’re pining for days gone by, or are looking for an experience to wash over you with a wave of refreshment, taking you on a memorable adventure you’ll never forget.