In some ways, those adjectives suit Draugen as a whole. Slightly dated game design and some poorly telegraphed narrative elements aside, the game makes for a wonderful four-hour adventure. The town of Graavik is a delight to look at, and the stories it hides drag players deep into the mystery. The design tropes of walking simulators are backed up with more logical cause than is often the case, while the story leaves just enough open to keep the player thinking after the credits have ceased to roll. Draugen seems unlikely to win any awards for originality, but it shows what mastery of the ‘walking simulator’ format looks like.
American Fugitive, simply put, is fun. Fallen Tree Games has added its own unique twist to a classic gameplay formula, and utilised a simple but engaging narrative and a beautiful original score to maintain the player's interest until the very end. Despite a few minor flaws in gameplay, the game stands strong against its competition. Players looking for a fast, fun, and mature sandbox game should not miss American Fugitive.
Observation is almost a great game. Characters are interesting enough to hold up an often-surprising story, gameplay sweats intensity and is rewarding more often than not, and what No Code has managed to put together in spite of its small budget is tremendous. What stings more than anything is the thought of what could be. The game has a lot of things that need fixing, even if the hiccups are mostly surface level and technical. Observation truly seems to be only a few patches away from cementing itself as a worthwhile experience in the narratively-driven genre of games. Until then, Observation’s shot at the moon left it drifting into space.
Simply put, RAGE 2 is a strange beast. Perhaps that was inevitable as the follow-up to a middling first effort developed across two very different studios. Perhaps that shared production is also the reason for the lack of unity. Whatever the reason, RAGE 2 is clearly best suited to a particular kind of player. The game offers an often-beautiful environment combined with easy, enjoyable traversal mechanics. Comprising the bulk of the experience is some of the finest and most diverse gunplay combat to be found gaming today. However, these charms are let down somewhat by the lacking story and structure and a general feeling of a tonal mismatch between the bland protagonist and the madcap world.
Team Sonic Racing does not do anything that is revolutionary, but the single-player mode is a significant improvement on previous Sumo Digital racing titles, since the teamwork and customisation options add quite a bit of depth. The result is clearly meant to promote local multiplayer, but players can still have lots of fun solo. Team Sonic Racing definitely packs enough entertainment in to be worth the cost of entry.
Asobo Studio has crafted an exceptionally dark atmosphere that brings the journey of its innocent characters to life. Both action and stealth-oriented players will find something to love in the mechanics despite their leading nature towards a particular playstyle. Those that love an immersive experience will be engrossed by the highly detailed, grim world. Some frustration with later levels may hinder the impact of the ending, but, regardless, A Plague Tale is a gorgeous game with endearing characters and smooth gameplay that showcases the potential of Asobo Studio.
Fade to Silence contains many interesting elements, but they simply do not combine well. The mix of a meditative base builder with clunky combat and the stress of permanent death results in a gameplay experience that is certainly unique, but unfortunately not enjoyable.
Close to the Sun is a spectacle piece for the explorative player that is well worth sinking time and money into. Despite the horror label, the game is not so scary that it cannot be enjoyed by everyone. The game may be short with a frustrating conclusion but this should not deter players from picking up this title. From highly detailed environments to smooth gameplay, Close to the Sun is a short, but unique experience that deserves players attention.
Jupiter & Mars is a calming experience overall. In small doses, the title could be a great antidote to a stressful day, particularly if played in VR. However, the game’s short length and lack of threat makes it too dull for long-term or repeat play. The soundtrack is the project’s major stand-out element, and the OST album would be worth buying on its own—if and when it ever becomes available.
SteamWorld Quest: The Hand of Gilgamech is a wonderful, fun RPG adventure that has a lot of depth to delve into, secrets to explore, and story to uncover. The game looks beautiful, sounds brilliant, and has a smooth and absorbing gameplay flow. SteamWorld Quest, is surprisingly easy to get completely sucked in to, with the card game elements providing an impressive amount of complexity to the combat. Any RPG fan should give serious consideration to adding the title to their Nintendo Switch library and fans of previous SteamWorld games will find a lot to enjoy in the art and lore, too.
Katana ZERO is far better than what should be expected of an action-platformer. The gameplay is incredibly rewarding and challenging in all the best ways, and the combat never ceases to portray the power the player has. As the main character fights for what he is told to do and to solve the lingering questions, the game does an amazing job of showing the folly of the character and even growth he goes through. Between the combination of story and gameplay, as well as a multitude of features unique in the genre, Katana ZERO stands above all others.
Pathway is a decent game, but it could be superb if a few more events were added into the randomised event tiles and the campaign storyline was strengthened. The combat has a solid strategy core to it, and the music and visuals are both brilliantly crafted. Variety is the spice of life and video games; Pathway just needs to add a bit more of that spice to make it stunning.
Although Falcon Age is far from perfect—with an overly ambitious story and an annoying amount of backtracking—it has a lot of heart. Outerloop captures the themes of oppression and captivity well and creates an ending that reflects this while keeping the game light-hearted and friendly. Falcon Age is a short, but sweet, experience for all ages that pet lovers will particularly enjoy.
Playing Weedcraft Inc is ironically addictive. Something is always available to improve, and those with competitive personalities will find that the urge to beat the competition or create better strands of weed is irresistible. Weedcraft Inc demands the players attention, which creates a sense of ownership over the business empire being created and hooks the player in to play for “just ten more minutes.” Despite the occasional feelings of tedium, the overall experience is an inventive illustration of this ever-growing economy. The nicely polished systems offer a challenge for new and experienced players of the management sim genre. With inviting visuals and an engaging story, Weedcraft Inc creates a unique tone compared to other management sims, ultimately hooking you in for another hit.
Once these issues have been corrected, Woolley Mountain will be a fun, if short, experience worth playing just for some quick laughs. As frustrating as the title can be, it is shining example of how to do comedy in video games without ever being offensive. If puns and light-hearted silliness are your style, then you will adore what The Mystery of Woolley Mountain has to offer.
The most impressive aspect of the game goes beyond its effective console port. The game is “small” in the indie sense, not made by hundreds but by a core team of four developers. Nevertheless, the game's graphical presentation, attention to detail, and handcrafted design are all so instantly appealing that plenty of AAA gamers who give it a go will surely find themselves hooked. Also, definitely tell that friend who likes BioShock that another kick of spooky, clanking, clockwork mystery is available to jump into.
Tech Support: Error Unknown would have been more impressive if it had a clear message, perhaps about worker exploitation, or corporate overreach, or even the damage hacker activists can cause. Sadly, this aspect is either so subtle as to be undetectable, or missing entirely. What this leaves behind is an entirely too accurate simulation of the daily grind of a tech support technician, where the main interest lies in trying to find the end of each story branch, and fun is largely put on the back-burner.