Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythm Festival is a solid new entry in Bandai Namco's rhythm game franchise, offering a roster of fresh music to enjoy, some creative new game modes, and more unlockables to have fun collecting. The game doesn't offer as many multiplayer options as its predecessor did, but does feature more to keep solo players occupied. Rhythm Festival also offers what is arguably the biggest addition the franchise has ever seen, the Taiko Music Pass-a new music subscription service that can greatly expand the life of the game while also bringing with it some additional concerns over our subscription-laiden future.
Desta: The Memories Between can't quite figure out how to make the most of its odd genre mashup. Though the individual elements are solid, a lack of commitment to roguelike randomization in the single mode available at launch means the systems don't really mesh together how you'd expect, and the replay value suffers as a result.
Shovel Knight Dig isn't just a cash-in on the series' popularity. It's a game that stands on its own merits as a worthy prequel to the original. The titular hero's moveset translates perfectly to a more vertical orientation, and Nitrome's bite-sized level design makes full use of Yacht Club's well-established gameplay style. The 16-bit-style visuals and music are an absolute treat, especially for fans of the series, and the roguelike elements present a nice sense of progression and replayability. Shovel Knight Dig might not be the exact sequel that fans have been clamoring for, but it's the next best thing.
You Suck at Parking introduces a creative twist to the isometric racing genre where "stopping" is the entire point. Its campaign is surprisingly extensive, with enough new obstacles and traps introduced throughout to keep things interesting. Unfortunately (and surprisingly), it's the multiplayer that lets the game down by not offering enough variety or reasons to keep coming back, even with a season pass hanging over your head.
Steelrising is a new Souls-like twist on the French Revolution that unfortunately doesn't see all of its lofty ambitions grow into accomplishments. While its gameplay is enjoyable once you get far enough to earn some unlocks and get main character Aegis more decked out, it tries to mimic elements of FromSoftware's action RPG classics without always understanding what made said elements work. When Spiders leans less on taking inspiration from other games and more on presenting its own ideas, however, we get an intriguing-and surprisingly deep-alternate take on an important moment in France's history.
Sure, this might be the third time that Naughty Dog has released The Last of Us, but it's also the most fully realized version. The enhanced visuals and animation bring Joel and Ellie's story to life in a way that was previously unimaginable, and the gameplay still holds up, despite not totally catching up to Part II. Whether or not you want to pay to play the same story for a third time is up to you, but that won't change the fact that it's better than it's ever been.
Immortality finds creator Sam Barlow building on the found-footage FMV framework of Her Story and Telling Lies in ambitious and surprising new ways. That boldness pays off in the frame-shifting narrative, which encompasses three meticulously crafted feature films, their creation, and the sinister truth of what happened to the woman who starred in them. But the "match cut" system you use to navigate between clips and discover new ones means the actual process of piecing together the story is messier and less satisfying than in his previous work.
Saints Row pairs a great open-world city and respectable gameplay fundamentals with repetitive, dated mission design, a story that never finds its footing, and too many bugs to count. Depending on what you prioritize in a game, you may get some enjoyment out of it, but at best you're looking at a diamond in a whole lot of rough.
Cult of the Lamb is two games in one. Part roguelike, part management sim, neither of the halves feel totally fleshed out on their own, and provide little challenge. Still, the synergy between the two halves is undeniably compelling, and the art style is infectiously adorable, giving you enough reason to play through one more in-game day, and then one more, until you've been awake for an entire out-of-game day, feeling totally brainwashed.
As Dusk Falls is exciting, beautiful, and heavy-handed. Its more streamlined approach to narrative gameplay and its less traditional art style create an immersive experience that engages with the player's imagination. That it can work both as a morally challenging single-player story and a party game for multiple players speaks to the confidence that its developers have. But its second half of the story undercuts some of the tension that its excellent first half builds, and a terrible cliffhanger might leave you feeling betrayed.
Stray does a great job at letting you act like a cat, turning a wide range of true-to-life feline behaviors into clever gameplay mechanics. But it's much less successful at making you truly feel like a cat, as the game's more conventional approach to its gameplay and story routinely shatters your immersion in odd ways. If you can suspend your disbelief and look past the missed opportunity of a more cohesive experience, however, there's a lot to like in its moody cyberpunk world and varied challenges.
Escape Academy is an exceptionally well designed puzzle game, if not a flawlessly executed one. Developer Coin Crew Games has replicated the creativity and fine-tuned challenge of the best real-world escape rooms while amping up the fantasy and stakes in a way only video games can. But the studio's inexperience rears its head when it comes to polish, with stiff console controls being the most obvious knock on an otherwise great experience.
With this third of Tengo Project's revivals of classic 16-bit Natsume releases, the team has certainly saved the best for last. Pocky & Rocky Reshrined takes what was already a fantastic run 'n gun experience, and expands, enhances, and improves pretty much all of the original Pocky & Rocky's components to masterful degrees. From its stunning graphics, to its rich gameplay, to its fleshed out cast of interesting characters, Reshrined makes its predecessor proud while also introducing an all new generation of players to a core game that's still just as worth playing today as it was 30 years ago.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge looks to bring back the glory days of Konami's side-scrolling arcade beat 'em ups and home hits based on everyone's favorite young green ninjas. In its visuals and gameplay, Dotemu and Tribute Games have not only matched those retro classics that they're paying homage to here, but perhaps even surpassed them. Sadly, this trip through time is somewhat marred by inconsistent audio and an Arcade mode that feels more like a slog than a thrill.
Sniper Elite 5 is the best game in the series so far. Its intricately designed levels, deep weapon customization system, and satisfying gameplay offer hours upon hours of entertaining ways to kill Nazis. After five games, the game's story and character development still feel too underdeveloped, making every mission blend together in an unending series of contextless kill cams and gravelly voiced one-liners, but if you don't care about any of that then you will still find a lot to enjoy.
Vampire: The Masquerade - Swansong can be a compelling experience, especially for those who are already familiar with the World of Darkness. Its RPG mechanics lend depth to an otherwise standard narrative adventure, as long as you can grasp their meaning. But wonky gameplay balance and even wonkier facial animations, not to mention some of the more overwritten and under-earned emotional beats, can make falling in love with its vampires harder to swallow than a mouthful of blood.
Trek to Yomi is one of the most visually striking games to launch in a while, delivering on the promise that a samurai game can truly capture the look and feel of classic Japanese cinema. Unfortunately, good looks can only get you so far, as the gameplay and story don't quite live up to the standards set by its art direction. But if you are in the mood for a samurai game, you could do worse than Trek to Yomi.
Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is an ambitious game that brings all nine numbered Star Wars movies together for the first time. Filled with story and side missions, large open hubs, minigames, and literally hundreds of characters to unlock, Skywalker Saga hits nearly every beat while maintaining the brick-smashing, object-building, puzzle-solving action the Lego games are known for. Filled with irreverent humor and little Easter eggs around every corner, this game is the perfect way to revisit everyone's favorite sci-fi family saga.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land does pretty much everything it needs to as the pink puffball's first 3D adventure. Clever level design and the appropriately named Mouthful Mode show that Kirby's floating, sucking ways can work in a 3D space. Forgotten Land might not reach the highest heights of Nintendo's other first-party adventures, but it definitely shows that Kirby can hold his own in a three-dimensional arena.
The best and worst thing about Tiny Tina's Wonderlands is that it feels like another Borderlands game. The shooter gameplay is as tight and responsive as ever, the weapons are fun to use, and the writing is a marked improvement over Borderlands 3. The characters are once again at the center of the game's comedy, and the performances are great (when the actors are actually committing to their roles). But, because this is more Borderlands, a lot of the same annoyances with the series persist, especially when it comes to inventory management and the sheer amount of meaningless loot. Really, Wonderlands' worst offense is that it can't get over the series' legacy of looting and shooting, and misses the opportunity to take real inspiration from the tabletop worlds that it parodies.