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496 games reviewed
82.1% of games recommended

Kotaku's Reviews

Feb 1, 2023

I’ve always believed that mobile games are an approachable gateway for new fans to enjoy an otherwise esoteric IP, and Engage streamlines the gameplay in all the right ways. Unfortunately, though, the story falls short of what I’ve come to expect from any Fire Emblem game, and I’m still struggling to understand why. With Fates, the poor writing could be attributed to its sheer character bloat, but Engage has a reasonably normal-sized cast. The watered-down stories felt like an intentional appeal to capture new audiences. But at some point, I want to move on from the appetizer to the main course. With its disposable conversations, shallow handling of themes, and incohesive visual design, Engage is the chicken wing, rather than a full chicken dinner.

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Unscored - Forspoken
Jan 30, 2023

Forspoken deserves better than what shipped on January 24. The strength of its story and protagonist do outpace its many problems, but much like Frey’s early struggles in seeing her own greatness, it’s clouded by unfortunate circumstances.

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Assuming you don’t collect or do everything in every world, Cosmic Shake is about 10 hours long, which is similar to 2020’s remake. And while it crams a lot of good jokes and pretty levels into that runtime, it leaves a lot out, too, with the lack of multiple playable characters the most disappointing excision. I also found Cosmic Shake to be a bit less stable than Battle, though its technical issues never made it unplayable. Still, even if it isn’t quite the sequel I wanted to 2020’s amazing remake, I’m still very happy to get another colorful, fun, and light-hearted Spongebob action platformer in 2023.

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Jan 30, 2023

15 years later, we have more compelling protagonists to choose from, and even more interesting space zombies, like those in Dead Space creator Glen Schofield’s The Callisto Protocol, which is also mired by repetitive bosses, but at least looks and sounds incredible. The Dead Space remake accomplishes what it set out to do, it makes an old game compatible for modern consoles. But that’s all it does. 2008’s lightning stays in its bottle.

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Dec 20, 2022

Despite its room for growth, I can’t recall the last time I was genuinely this excited to sit down for multiple rounds of a first-person shooter. As an endless story generator that spins up scenarios of randomized action and survival, few multiplayer games have come close to capturing my time and attention as thoroughly as Warzone 2.0’s DMZ has.

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Unscored - Genshin Impact
Dec 16, 2022

HoYoverse usually releases a major nation every year, and our next destination is the France-based region of Fontaine. This is where the god of justice resides, but I find this a little ironic. It says in the lore that she’s not willing to challenge the divine—the rulers in Celestia who have colonized this world and caused multiple genocides against its inhabitants. How could she be just if she won’t challenge the rulers who demand the world’s fealty by force? By now, I know that HoYoverse has a good answer planned. We just need to wait an entire year to find out what it is.

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Unscored - High on Life
Dec 13, 2022

High On Life, like Rick and Morty, walks up the precipice of revelation, opens its fly, and pisses into the chasm. It’s fucking funny to almost do something different in form and function just to pull away at the last second, isn’t it? You thought we really gave a fuck, didn’t you? Fucking idiot. Here’s a fart.

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Sadly, the end result of Crisis Core is an overcomplication of the story established in Final Fantasy VII, filled with various details that just amount to more history lessons and homework to be able to make sense of everything. Its undying antagonists and plot points that refuse to be resolved (Genesis’ fate is uncertain in the end) weaken the role of death. When we consider that so much of what made Final Fantasy VII impactful was the irreversible death of an important character, it’s hard to walk away from Crisis Core with the impression that anything is meaningful or at risk of loss in this world.

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Dec 9, 2022

But sadly, a reliance on bad stealth sections, a lack of scares, and an overabundance of upgrade materials early on derail the game and make it a rather lackluster, not very scary experience.

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Unscored - Scarlet Hollow
Dec 8, 2022

I feel like Scarlet Hollow is a demonstration of how the format for the visual novel is just a foundation on which so much greater can be built. While the screenshots may look like a standard VN, the game itself is vastly more, not just with its RPG-like systems and ridiculously complex balancing of choices, but the far greater sense of scale, time, and significance. I’ve been blown away by it all over again.

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Dec 2, 2022

I consider The Callisto Protocol one of the most ambitious games I played this year, maybe even the most next to Elden Ring (though I think Elden Ring is in a league of its own—I don’t know if anything will be able to approach its depth and sophistication for a long time). Its thoughtful attention to environment, sound, and touch is what, I think, next-gen gaming should be like: an experiment with the senses and with story. The game has its issues, too, which can’t be ignored. But at least it feels human.

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Dec 1, 2022

I know, I know, I’ve had my fun mocking the visual glitches and performance issues in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. But I really hope that the performance issues don’t ultimately define how we talk about this generation of games. This isn’t just a game that needed more time in production—Paldea is fundamentally not designed to be pleasant to explore. The open-world mechanics might have felt more novel if I hadn’t also fallen off Pokémon Legends: Arceus earlier this year for similar issues with samey world design and unremarkable graphics. Scarlet needed to clear that low bar, and it did not. Maybe by the time the next generation comes along, the series will be able to recapture what makes Pokémon so thrilling in the first place.

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Dec 1, 2022

Need for Speed Unbound is unlikely to pull the franchise out from underneath the shadows of bigger, more popular racing games in 2022. But I do think it has a chance of helping the series stand out more. And regardless of if Unbound becomes a big hit or not, it’s a damn fine game with some great ideas that make every race more exciting and every upgrade feel more valuable. And it looks rad the whole time, too.

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Unscored - Evil West
Nov 21, 2022

For me, Evil West is the kind of game I miss these days. I’ll fully admit, I love games like Destiny and Fortnite, games that never end and are filled with battle passes, crafting, loot, etc. Those games can provide hours of fun and are great to play while chilling with friends or listening to a podcast. But I don’t want everything to be a complex, all-encompassing, time-monopolizing social experience that continues to grow and evolve as time goes on. And Evil West is a wonderful example of the kind of games I want more of moving forward. Not everything needs an endgame or a crafting table. Sometimes, I just want to move forward, hear some bad banter and punch some monsters in the face for a few hours. And Evil West gave me exactly that. No more. No less.

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Nov 3, 2022

Kratos and Atreus are the heart of this new era of God of War. Ragnarök provides them plenty of quiet moments and lets you see just how much they’ve grown and developed since 2018. Getting to see the journey they take together to reach this new point in their lives is truly my favorite part of this sequel.

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Unscored - Bayonetta 3
Nov 3, 2022

Although Bayonetta 3 sequel baits itself in its after-credits, its ill-advised twists have truly sapped my enthusiasm for further adventures in this universe. If I were to revisit the Bayonetta franchise again, I’d most likely opt to replay Bayonetta 1 or Bayonetta 2 instead of subjecting myself to Bayonetta 3’s lackluster story again.

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Unscored - Victoria 3
Oct 24, 2022

Even the world itself is a bummer. Victoria 3's map is beautiful, even more than Crusader King 3's, a globe bristling with colour and variety and an ever-changing landscape as cities and railroads expand over the decades. But you rarely, if ever, actually use it. This enormous 3D recreation of the entire planet is sitting in the middle of your screen for almost the entire time you play the game, taking up huge amounts of real estate, and you almost never (there are a few exceptions) have to click on it, since the game’s primary interactions are all more quickly and easily handled via sidebars and buttons. It’s a real shame!

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Unscored - Riley & Rochelle
Oct 19, 2022

I really hope Sheinman does something very different for his next game, because I really think this format is done now. But Riley & Rochelle is a great, if sometimes scrappy, way to prove what a solid idea it’s always been.

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Unscored - Valkyrie Elysium
Oct 7, 2022

Valkyrie Elysium feels much more like a spin-off entry in the Valkyrie Profile franchise than a full-fledged new main title. Its smaller scope, budget, and design lend it a “PlayStation 2 game” feel. The game’s combat is its saving grace, alongside some fun character interactions. Without the Valkyrie name and branding, Elysium could’ve very well been written off as a somewhat generic action game.

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Unscored - Beacon Pines
Sep 22, 2022

This is a splendid creation, superbly written, with spellbinding art, and a unique approach to telling a story. It’s also a fascinating exploration of grief, loss, and more than anything else, how we react to change. That and secret underground organizations and their evil plans to control towns through fertilizer production.

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