The design approach taken by The Longing is bold, but it is not something everyone will appreciate. We live in an era of endless distractions, with many different forms of both work and entertainment clamouring for our time. Perhaps the developers behind The Longing have a point that it’s worth it to slow down once in a while.
Separation is long on atmosphere and artistry, but short on content. The impression it provides is that something deep and meaningful is hidden in its beautifully realised world, but the glacial pacing and slightly frustrating controls seem intent on keeping it in the dark. Separation has things to say, but does not quite seem to know how to express them.
Zombie Army 4: Dead War delivers all the archetypal aspects of zombie, lore from its Haitian folklore origins, novels, and iconic films. The storyline and gameplay have a classic B-movie vibe, and Rebellion gives the audience what they would want:gore, humour, and satisfying kills. The studio has taken the series to the next level with tons of undead, missions, and areas to explore. Even if this game is a player’s first experience of the Zombie Army franchise, it is a great title to start with. Rebellion has perfected the zombie shooter, and the titanic zombie shark transforms the game into somewhat of a masterpiece.
Of the two games in the re-release pack, Bayonetta is the one that stands out the most, as it is easily the most fun. Shooter fans might have some fun with Vanquish, but anyone who likes action hack-and-slash titles such as God Hand or Devil May Cry should grab a copy of Bayonetta immediately, if not before.
Luna: The Shadow Dust has a beautiful art style, and the early puzzles are fun and interesting, but it falls short of becoming a truly great game. Players who are adept at out-of-the-box thinking might find more to enjoy here, but many will be put off by the levels of frustration prompted by later puzzles.
Kunai is, for most part, a wonderfully complex Metroidvania. The colourful artwork, smooth movement, and clever level design are some of the greatest the genre has seen, but the high difficulty of the boss encounters will prevent some players from fully enjoying this vibrant world.
The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters is a terrifying, well-executed fusion of survival horror and adventure game sensibilities. The game is extremely tough, but also rewarding, and will forever create an association between the sound of high heels and danger.
MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries delivers a fun, combat-adventure game and a worthy sequel within the franchise. The movement controls, backing action music, and combat mechanics offer a thrilling, Mech-based action game. However, the inconsistent narrative design, demanding PC specifications, and frustrating repair mechanic detract from the game’s potential. In its current state, players may find Titanfall 2 the more appealing mech-centric choice.
Darksiders Genesis may be a spin-off, but it is a star in its own right. The classic looting, shooting, and stabbing style of the game feels of another era in the best way possible. Airship Syndicate has delivered a game truthful to its origins, yet fresh for a modern appetite. Players willing to forgive its minor mishaps will delight in the heavenly romp through Hell that Darksiders Genesis has to offer.
Sparklite is a fascinating and enjoyable rogue-lite adventure title ripe with nostalgic elements for 2D Zelda fans without feeling like a rip-off. Geodia’s world maps are stunning, and the time-loop mechanism allows for almost infinite exploration without boredom setting in. Sparklite carves its own place in the rogue-lite genre and offers an almost perfect balance of gameplay.
Similar to how Ryo is eternally stuck in 1987, Shenmue III is trapped in 2001, when having an open world with many NPCs was more important than filling that world with anything interesting. The game tells a high-stakes plot at a snail’s pace, with terrible writing and acting. The clever combat system of the previous games has devolved into a button-mashing mess. The title does have moments of brightness: the actual story beats are great, the setting is fascinating, and it features the best forklift simulation on the market. However, with such incredibly dated gameplay, only the most ardent fans will enjoy Shenmue III. Even then, it is easily the weakest link in the franchise.
When Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts works, it works amazingly well. The process of spotting, planning, and sniping makes for a tense, engaging experience, especially given the expansive maps that almost always provide multiple vantage points and approaches. However, the game too often demands that players close the gap and suffers as a result. Although Seeker’s toolkit is filled with toys, too many rely on noise, and the enemies flock to the slightest sign of the player’s presence, making the game tougher than will likely be enjoyable for many. Add to that the bugs that, although not game-breaking, are annoying and a story that is not much of a story at all, and Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts falls short of its ambitions. Maybe next time, CI Games will have its scope calibrated properly.
The story is meant to be controversial, pulling on the heartstrings of the player to tell a story of why war today is so much more convoluted than it used to be. In the story, many characters go through challenging moments that make the player ask whether they can handle making the hard decisions. While the story gets dark with instances of torture and terrorist attacks, the game feels like it was scared to go all the way, holding back when situations should have pushed for more. Although the story has tropes and moments of gamification, the plot is still incredibly relevant and thought-provoking. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare may be the best in the series.
Despite everything written so far, Narcos: Rise of the Cartels does exactly what it aims to. The game is not an attempt to rewrite the strategy rulebook, but rather a gateway drug for anyone not familiar with the genre who is already hooked on Narcos. In that context, the title is solid: an entry-level strategy game that eases players in. The shallowness stems from the mass appeal and, as such, is a strength. However, those concessions will not spark joy for strategy veterans or anyone looking for a meaty, engaging experience.
Planet Zoo has some balancing issues and explains certain concepts poorly. Once the game is understood, however, it offers such loveable inhabitants and deep simulation that its shortcomings can be forgiven. The game shows how difficult running a zoo ethically can be, but also convinces the player how worthwhile that endeavour is by offering adorable animals at every turn. It is clever, complicated, and perfect for animal lovers.
Like its protagonist then, Woven is an odd beast. Alterego has succeeded in making something distinct—the game certainly stands out from the crowd. However, that uniqueness comes with concessions. Every charming feature is offset by a fumble: a fun premise by a non-existent story, a stunning aesthetic by burdensome exploration, solid puzzles by technical issues. Nevertheless, the game is fully functional and will certainly be worthwhile purchase for young children or anyone else who enjoys the simple pleasures.
RUNE II lacks the wow factor to be a serious contender in most Game of the Year lists, but that does not mean it should be overlooked. The game is solid and dependable, its faults never quite enough to sink it. Moreover, Human Head should be celebrated for daring to take a different approach to its open world. Where many games try to drive engagement through more quests, more distractions, more collectibles, more everything, RUNE II pares that drive back to its bare essentials. The result is a game that successfully walks the tightrope between appealing to the linearity-loving traditionalists, fans of sprawling RPGS, and the adherents of Minecraft’s make-your-own-adventure style of play.