Washington Post's Reviews
Studio MDHR’s “Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course” provides players with a five-star meal. As I picked my teeth, let out a final sigh of relief and felt full from my experience, I can only hope that the DLC’s name was just a play on words — and that there’s still room left for dessert.
For a dystopian narrative, “Stray” isn’t interested in preaching to the player. It doesn’t try to make grand statements about mankind’s hubris or shortsighted innovation. Instead, it walks you through a living, breathing city where robots have molded their own society from the ashes of another, and lets players make of humanity’s self-destruction what they will. And that impression will stick with you long after the game ends.
This pairing of humans and the natural world up against a common antagonist, not necessarily as allies but as common victims, makes it clear how intimately Norco is tied to the swamps, valleys and fields that surround it. This interconnection between individuals with little in common on the surface but a shared place and history is where “Norco” locates the possibility for hope, a provocation that might offer those of us playing a model for our own local responses to corporate encroachment and environmental devastation. Through these mutually affecting connections between humans, nature and technology, “Norco” creates its own robotic story, disturbing, personal and fresh, an experience that should not be missed.
“Eternal Threads” almost seems aware that it’s not building a strong case for your emotional investment in whether these six people live or die. Throughout the game, mission control chimes in to remind you that these people’s lives definitely matter, that the average person has such and such number of descendants, so the fate of these six people and, more importantly, whoever comes after them could ultimately decide the fate of the world. And while that’s all technically true, I suppose, I can’t help but feel that “Eternal Threads” would have found infinitely more success laying the foundation for players to care about its existing characters instead of hinging your investment on theoretical stakes.
Available on Xbox Game Pass, “Trek to Yomi” is a no-brainer download for anyone wanting a simple yet cinematic action game that harks back to classic PC adventures and 2D blade-action titles. At a $20 asking price, it’s a more debatable purchase, especially considering the short clear time. But at the end of the trek, I didn’t regret a minute of it, once I got over the fact that the combat was never going to be the real hook. It’s a gorgeous visual feast, and once I started it, I found it hard to look away.
Perhaps, ultimately, you have to accept with “The Centennial Case” that you’re not so much Sherlock Holmes as Dr. Watson, offering up ideas that might be taken on board by the real star, or given short shrift. If you don’t mind playing second fiddle to its fine cast and weaving plotlines, there’s plenty here to keep you gripped. As with any good TV murder mystery, the intent is to keep audiences guessing. “The Centennial Case” should keep you guessing throughout.
For what the game is — a sequel to “Three Houses” with real-time Musou combat — it delivers what it promised. There’s a mystery to “Three Hopes” that can only be unraveled with dozens of hours of combat and cutscenes, and the game assumes substantial preexisting knowledge of “Three Houses.” Fans will enjoy reuniting with their favorite characters, but the derivative plot and built-in grind make it a tougher sell to anyone else.
“Shredder’s Revenge” achieves everything it set out to do, and will go down as an instant classic for its genre. No matter what era, whether it’s 1987, 1989 or 2022, it would be one of the finest, most exciting video game experiences of the year, honing an arcade formula as ageless as Turtles in time.
Right now, “Battlefield 2042” is better than it has ever been, though that remains faint praise. And given all that’s come before, the best decision for its future, and that of the Battlefield franchise, may be, in some measure, to simply let it go.
Puzzle games have to manage a delicate balancing act: If solutions are too simple, players lose interest; too difficult, and they feel cheated, like the answer was never decipherable to begin with. “Escape Academy” was opaque at times, but the answer always felt like it was within my grasp, if I just tried out this one idea, or thought about the puzzle from this other angle. Giving players that sense of empowerment is hard, and games don’t always get it right. But “Escape Academy” walks that tightrope with finesse, joining the pantheon of frantic-but-fun co-op greats.
“Endling” isn’t the sort of game you might settle down to play after a long day of doomscrolling through social media; it’s the sort that forces you to confront the monstrous scale and toll of human activity on the ecosystem and the planet. And yet, even as a deeply apocalyptic look at what feels like the imminent end of our world, the game’s profound pessimism doesn’t stray too far from the truth. Scientists have already warned that we are in danger of losing 20 to 50 percent of all species by the end of this century; the bulk of this is due to human activity.
What gives the MachineGames' Wolfenstein titles their own mojo is the casual way they pair generic gameplay with silver-tongued characters who reflect on their faults, speculate on their fates, and enjoy mundane occurrences like going to a pub and cadging free drinks. In this way the game's B-movie vibe is evocative of the work of those skilled filmmakers who embrace the silly or even the self-consciously stupid.
When I finished "Dark Souls 2," I felt utterly burnt out with the series into which I had poured over 400 hours. But "Bloodborne's" labyrinths and fantastic creature design ensnared me from the first. Whereas "Dark Souls 2" felt to me as if it was laboring under the weight of its forebears,"Bloodborne" feels like the swaggering culmination of them. From Software has, in the best possible way, brought the evil back.
There are some who can dominate Battlefield's multiplayer with an Olympian efficiency, but the overwhelming majority are marooned in the middle, where the concussive sound of bullets and the smoldering plumes left by grenades aren't signs of domination but reminders that you're still on your feet, not dominating the world, but surviving in it for another few seconds. There's genuine awe in these moments, a beauty particular to video games, demanding respect for scale and the necessary investment of thought, coordination, and time to accomplish simple acts like moving a duffel bag from A to B. It's a poetic antithesis of the game's story mode, proof that order can more easily come from conflict than from conflict's preemptive repression.
Like a punchdrunk heavyweight in the 15th round, "Revelations 2" is both a sad echo of former glory and an agonizingly perfect summation of it. It should have been over long ago, but it remains a marvel to see how much will remains in the slouching goliath, the once powerful frame of sculpted muscle and sinew slowly turned into dead weight, counting as a victory anything that keeps it on its feet for another round.
The zombie is the perfect antagonist for this kind of interactive delusion, always justifying new abandonments by threatening another victim, a cycle which goes on until the entire world has been infected and stands in the streets, needed by no one, and with nothing left to want.