Ars Technica's Reviews
"Cozy" doesn't quite describe Against the Storm, but there's a reason I'm thinking it. It's a real feat, honing a game to offer layers of depth, infinite strategic options, and replay value while not making it intimidatingly sharp. There's a good chance you'll find respite from the interlocking systems that run your life inside those of this complex, calming builder.
For people who haven't played it in a while, the Super Mario RPG remake is a fun opportunity to revisit a game you remember fondly. For those who are new to RPGs, this game is a great and low-stress introduction to the form, much like the original game was for kids in the '90s. The worst thing I can say about it is that it's a little short, and for people who know the original, you might come away wishing that there was just more Mario RPG to play. Though that may just be me continuing to pine for the true sequel this game never got.
As the game continues, there's just enough enemy variety to keep this routine from becoming too boring. A particularly tough enemy might require you to throw tough Rock Pikmin to break through, for instance. Or you might need to clog up the blowhole of an elephant-trunked enemy to stun it and expose its armored weak point.
Dynamic mode provides the true button-mashing experience. I like to think of it as a "kid brother" mode. There are only three buttons, and they perform different attacks depending on which one you press and the range from which you press it. With a single button, you can throw a fireball from across the screen, punch someone when closer to them, or execute a throw while up in their face. A combo button makes you jump in for an attack from a distance or execute several moves in a row from up close. It's so easy that it feels like cheating, but with a little practice, I was able to feel in control of my actions.
Each class has a gimmick-or "specialization"-that unlocks as you progress through the game. The Barbarian, for instance, can lug around a huge arsenal of weapons and gains "expertise" with each as you use them, granting buffs and special effects. The Necromancer can choose between different types of minions or sacrifice them to extract their power. The Rogue has three specialization options, one of which is a WoW-like combo-points system. Every class has its own personality and quirks, and they're all a blast to play.
While I enjoyed exploring these different worlds, I sometimes struggled to figure out where to go and how to make my trek there. Though the game features a helpful 3D holo map that shows paths and layouts for areas-along with generous fast travel and ridable mounts to cover great distances-the game does struggle with conveying which parts of the environment you can truly interact with. This led to many moments where I was faced with solving a puzzle or making a jump to a hard-to-reach area without knowing whether or not I was simply there too early to solve it.
In all of the best possible ways, Bayonetta 3 is leaning into the parts of itself that are more earnest than ever—all while going harder than ever on doing whatever it takes to simply be cool as hell. If you're looking for a strong, coherent storyline, this was never the series for you. But if you are a fan of flashy spectacles, a varied and creative arsenal, and larger-than-life characters, Bayonetta 3 more than delivers.
Similarly, boss battles feel woefully undertested and suffer from agonizing spikes of challenge and confusion. There's also an overworld aspect of spending in-game money to unlock new paths, though many of the unlocks don't actually lead to new levels; instead, they only dole out cosmetics used to decorate a "locker" interface that is tucked into the very back corner of a single multiplayer lobby. (Decorating your tiny Splatoon 3 locker is perhaps the utter opposite of trimming a bonsai tree; the act of putting objects into your virtual locker is a nightmare of physics collisions and red Xs indicating that, no, you can't decorate your locker the way you want.)
Graphical upgrades and smarter enemies make this version of TLOU the best one yet, but those updates fail to address an issue at this game's core: TLOU was originally designed for the PlayStation 3, and at its worst, TLOU Pt 1 still feels like a PlayStation 3 game.
If Digital Eclipse addresses even half of my nitpicks in a future patch, that would take this collection past its current state of "good enough" to "easily recommended" territory. In the meantime, weigh your own particular nostalgic appetite before reaching in for a slice of the Cowabunga Collection-or order a tastier pie from the competition with Shredder's Revenge.
When I got the wingsuit working, I could fly decent distances while diving to maintain speed, then pull up on my joystick to catch more air and keep going. But the wingsuit is just a wingsuit, and in a series like Saints Row, that feels like a missed opportunity. Why not let wingsuit flyers shoot a gun, fly higher with a jetpack, or grab onto power lines and fling themselves around? After I experimented with flight a few times, I found the system too unwieldy for consistently convenient travel and leaned on fast travel or cars.
One early moment appears to block players' progress with a gate, but with no other direction to go, players will likely walk toward the gate, only to realize its bars are wide enough to let a cat easily pass through. It's one of the many examples of the game reminding players that they are tiny and can get through small paths, and I really appreciated when Stray's puzzles rewarded proper "just walk right through" thinking.
Last Course also includes a series of five optional battles that revolve around chess-themed bosses, though in these, all weapons and charm-based offensive abilities are disabled. You can only defeat these bosses by keeping track of flashing-pink parts of the bosses, then repeatedly colliding with those with your parry maneuver. Miss Chalice's updated parry ability makes her a great choice for this optional boss-rush sequence, but however you face it, Studio MDHR uses this parry-only restriction to execute some of the series' most memorable boss moments (even if they're a bit easier than the standard bosses).
There is a story, told mostly through notes left strewn around the environments, but I’d be lying if I said I paid any attention to it. The draw here is the gameplay loop, and if what I’ve described above sounds tedious to you, the game is absolutely not for you. Rogue Legacy 2 is a game about repeated failure, and only slow, incremental progress will lead to your success.
NSS bowling doesn't yet include its "challenge" lanes in online matchmaking, but I hope these come in a patch because they're the exact twist that the Wii Sports formula needs. As played in either local multiplayer or online friends-only matches, these include static and moving obstacles in lanes, and they randomly rotate in each frame. I like how they force players to shift their throwing position and wrist rotation to get different kinds of strikes, instead of doing the same wrist-waggle "cheese" moves repeatedly. The default bowling mode is fine, but the challenge mode is where it's at for consistently refreshing virtual bowling.