Washington Post's Reviews
“Engage” continues the series trend of mashing up tactics and RPG elements, but while the latter falls flat and feels out of place, it excels in the former. And if my biggest qualms are with the game’s least Fire Emblem-y parts, I consider that a solid entry in the series.
This uneven mix of humor and design keeps “High on Life” from ever feeling like a natural combination of video game and traditional comedy, even if there are plenty of moments where glimpses of some better blend of the two elements appears. What’s here is worthwhile for audiences curious about the concept of a comedy shooter, but it’s too uneven and stiflingly desperate to please to recommend beyond that.
I still haven’t made up my mind if I’m going to be returning to “World of Warcraft” any time soon, whether it is to see how “Dragonflight” evolves from here or to try out future expansions. But after all these years, I’m glad I returned to witness the start of a new journey for a group that spent decades in stasis. Seeing the Dracthyr regaining control of their fate gave me hope that the next time I visit Azeroth, the people behind this world might have freed themselves from their historic shackles.
“Dwarf Fortress” is a storytelling engine as much as it is a game, spitting out associations and facts and details that you can shape into a coherent and specific narrative. This is also what we do to our own lives, personifying random events so that they feel significant rather than a matter of chance. Life isn’t usually a satisfying narrative. It isn’t so much that “Dwarf Fortress” is a perfect simulacrum of life, but that it shines a bright light on the human tendency to look for meaning in everything. I care about my dwarves because the stories I make up about their lives are also the ones I make up about my own.
There are glimpses of something special in the Hello Neighbor franchise, and Eerie Guest promises in an end game screen that more content is forthcoming. Let’s just hope whatever they come up with offers more horror and more intrigue — and less mystery around why we’re playing these games in the first place.
In the end, “Need for Speed Unbound” is a street racer simulator that nails what it sets out to do. The style that you can bring to the racetrack goes from you to your car and even the comic-book graphics you summon with your racing skills. At the same time, it doesn’t feel arcade-y; it still feels like a beautiful racing game. It doesn’t sacrifice style for substance, or vice versa. It just brings one of the best racing experiences of the year.
These issues are not unique to “The Devil in Me.” “The Quarry” often felt uneasily patched together, struggling to reconcile all of its plot threads. All of this raises a question that haunts the experience of Supermassive’s games: Amid players’ expectations of visual fidelity and complex narrative, how sustainable is a format where, at any point, any fully voice-acted, motion-captured character can die and be cut from the game in an instant?
One thing Game Freak does have working for it is that people want to play this game. People want open-world Pokémon. Game Freak may be struggling to get there, but it’s been really cool to be able to see it getting closer with each new generation.
There are funnier games out there, from the refined comedic diction of “Untitled Goose Game” to the sardonic humor of “Portal.” But it’s the thrill of discovering ludicrous scenes, and the delight of digging into every crook and cranny in search of more absurd secrets to unearth, that elevates “Goat Simulator 3” above the one-note joke of the original game. Take a long walk along a quiet street, or hitch a ride on a moving van toward the next city. Perhaps you’ll spot the sigil of Baphomet, or meet a clandestine group of occult worshipers, hidden behind the dense foliage of bushes and low-hanging trees. Drag a scarecrow into a satanic circle or two, and see what unfolds; it’s usually an unexpected treat.
“Somerville” reminded me of the qualities that I cherish in adventure games, particularly their ability to plunge one into the unexpected. I appreciated how its mechanics sidestep the usual weaponry that goes along with science-fiction games. (A gun-toting, super-soldier shows up at one point, but things don’t end well for them.) “Somerville” effortlessly pulled me in from moment to moment because I was eager to discover the next audiovisual flourish around the corner. There is a sequence toward the end where the man revisits places that is particularly captivating for the way in which it makes the familiar strange. That said, I was a little disappointed with the final scene in the game, which struck me as an overly familiar allusion to the ending of Tarkovsky’s film “Solaris.” But that aside, “Somerville” is the best adventure game I’ve played since “Little Nightmares 2.”
The game’s name refers to the reappearance in a painting of an element that an artist had painted over. As much as characters in “Pentiment” might fight to maintain the status quo, or to turn away from history and heartbreak, they’re no match for the forces that send humanity hurtling forward. While I initially started “Pentiment” hoping for a riveting distraction, what I ended up with was a game about uncovering history and past trauma. In many ways, it is more admirable, brutal and perhaps healing to just face these problems head on.
In engaging with the story’s opaque and contradictory surfaces, one may flail about, tentatively reaching for this or that hypothesis. But if the game wants to get nuts, let’s get nuts. Maybe Ariane is somehow adrift in her own dream, in which her subconscious is drawing from the tyranny of the Eusan regime and from Ariane’s personal torments, which are adumbrated in notes and cutscenes. Elster may be a dreamed-up figment after all, a conduit for Ariane’s vague psychic baggage, whereas Ariane may herself be subject to the dreams of a less discernible entity (“the red eye beyond the gate”). In any event, Elster and Ariane seem to be searching for each other, and for some mystical escape hatch — a means of jettisoning their dismal surroundings. They do not wish to die, but they long to see beyond the veil, and to answer at last some dimly perceived wake-up call.
As enjoyable as “Modern Warfare II” is — and it is certainly enjoyable on the whole — the moments when the story prompts uncomfortable real-world questions about the game’s intentions shatter its illusion of immersive entertainment. In those moments, I forget about whatever it is that Capt. Price and Co. are tasked with doing and just wonder what people were thinking when they made the decision to include whatever cringeworthy moment I just witnessed. As Infinity Ward plunges ahead with this story — teasing an upcoming Russian attack during a mid-credits cutscene that includes a nod to the airport massacre from the original “Modern Warfare 2” — they’d do well to devote a little more scrutiny to such decisions.