Before We Leave has a surprising amount of depth and layers to it, that you’ll continually uncover as you play. This is a non-violent game, but it’s anything but safe. Some may balk at the minimal consequence to properly treating or taking care of your peeps, but the space whale and other ancient creatures will do their part to disrupt your rebuilt civilization in more meaningful ways. Before We Leave has left an indelible impression upon me, from the visuals to the unique gameplay, this is a planet builder that won’t be eclipsed anytime soon.
Perhaps the whole point of the Oddworld games is that they’re supposed to be difficult. Perhaps the fun is supposed to be derived from overcoming seemingly impossible odds, even if it means beating your head against the wall too many times to get there. Unfortunately, this kind of fun feels dated and cumbersome to me, which is particularly hard to rationalize against the backdrop of an otherwise loving and carefully crafted re-imagining of a beloved entry in a beloved series. I expect the die hard fans will enjoy Soulstorm a great deal, and I’m really happy for them that this game exists. Speaking as a longtime admirer of the series who was hoping to finally be won over completely, I’m still left waiting for that magic moment.
This is a game meant to be played in short sessions, and maybe that’s where its mobile roots show, but it’s far from shallow. Skate City is a low stakes game. Over time, the in-game challenges and goals it asks you to perform become more demanding, but that’s only part of it. There’s an overwhelming sense of chill as the lo-fi beats kick in and the quiet atmosphere goes rolling by. Like Stevie Williams said about skateboarding, Skate City is poetry of motion.
As far as the quality of the port goes, it’s pretty excellent overall. The controls are great, the visuals look about as good as they possibly can without reworking some of the art, and after you ease in, all of the nitpicky details fade away as you enjoy a romp through lively, detailed, smooth-as-silk renditions of Kamurocho and Onomichi. This is, quite simply, the best Yakuza 6: The Song of Life has ever looked or played, and if you’ve been waiting for the PC release to experience it, you’ll be delighted with the final product.
Despite some of the unevenness and slowness toward the end, It Takes Two is still a fantastic experience that elevates cooperative games to a level they are rarely treated to, and is one of the most fun games you’ll have played with a friend or partner in years. I love what Hazelight is doing to revitalize the genre and think of new ways to make it fresh and fun, and the focus on collaborative play is a huge part of why the game is so damned successful. It’s an absolutely joyful experience nearly throughout, and the innovative mechanics, beautiful visuals, and inspired locations will keep you engaged from beginning to end on this journey unlike any other.
MotoGP 21 requires precision, and is not very welcoming to newcomers, even with tutorials and its easiest difficulty setting. There’s a commitment to learning the game’s systems to start to feel like you’re improving. Now, there’s some sharper textures, inclusion of HDR on PC, and other graphical improvements that look great; but nothing about the visuals or gameplay feels all that new, or next-generation. MotoGP 21 is a solid, competent, but ultimately stale racer that coasts with this year’s release.
Crash Dive 2 is not the most attractive game out there, but it does have its moments. What it lacks in visuals, is made-up with its depth in gameplay. While I enjoy most of the additions and improvements here, I personally prefer the first game — though I find them to be on-par with one another. Crash Dive 2‘s best feature is its approachability, blurring between arcade and simulation, streamlining the once dormant sub-genre in clever and interesting ways.
Even after finishing the game, I’m eagerly awaiting what else is coming from Spooky Doorway this season. It’s a laugh-a-minute with clever puzzles and rewarding gameplay. You’re encouraged to explore and read every piece of dialogue, or risk missing something crucial or funny. The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark is so sharp-witted, it’s easily one of the best adventure games to come along in years.
All of the systems around Aqua Kitty have been improved and expanded upon in meaningful ways to make Astro Aqua Kitty be so memorable. From simple things like earning experience to picking your next upgrade, there’s a progression that keeps you invested in your character. The quest system is handled elegantly, dynamically giving you tasks to complete and simply marking your map that keeps things from becoming unwieldy. There are a multitude of options for each playthrough at a dozen hours each time, and Astro Aqua Kitty is a game you’ll be coming back to again and again.
This is Rebellion at their best, a game that’s like coming home even though you haven’t been there for nearly 20 years. Sure, some things have changed, and you’re not sure how navigate it, but you feel good being there. Rebellion kept what worked in the last game, added a bunch of new things, and it all feels like Evil Genius still. If you’re new to the series, this is a great starting point for anyone. For returning players, this is a sequel in the truest sense, with more fun and replayability than before. Evil Genius 2: World Domination is easily my favorite game of the year, and it’s never felt so good to be bad.