Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 just can’t quite seem to get its balance right. On the surface, it really celebrates Nick culture, giving life, style and substance to each of its fighters, helping them stand out and feel like a true version of themselves through their abilities and supers. There’s intriguing ideas in here, including a rogue-like story mode and some stunning stages that really bring the universe to life, but the difficulty curve is unnecessarily hard, the campaign wears out its welcome quite quickly, and the game is full of performance problems and stop/start UI that pulls you out of the experience way too easily.
Trolls: Remix Rescue fails at almost every hurdle. The awful camera and brutal bugs make it borderline unplayable at times, but equally it’s underwhelming and generally boring as you traverse its unfinished looking environments and repetitive, simplistic gameplay. Even its rhythm based action, local co-op and soundtrack can’t really save this one from being a washout, whether you love Trolls or not.
The Talos Principle 2 is a stunningly presented sequel, with glorious visuals, breathtaking soundtrack, and a semi-open world environment you’ll want to explore every inch of. Its puzzles gradually, smartly evolve with the game and its ideas stay interesting and fresh, but it’s the compelling conversations and thought-provoking dialogue that you’ll stay for, presenting intriguing scenarios and heart-wrenching moments. Some issues around performance and end-game puzzles aside, this is an important release for the genre, a successful sequel in every sense, and a must play whether you’re a fan of the genre or not.
Dreamworks All Star Kart Racing is the best alternative racer in the genre for a long time. There’s a great roster to choose from, kart variety and garage customisation lets you tweak your vehicle how you see fit, and it all looks really well presented and polished. Track variety is a little bit limited and repetitive with only one or two memorable standouts, multiplayer modes could be a bit more varied and the voice acting grates after a while, but this is a really promising start for, what we hope will be, an ongoing franchise with more games to come.
Robocop: Rogue City is one of this year’s biggest and best surprises. It’s not always perfect and things are scaled back a bit too much in some cases, but the witty quips, all-out gun fights, variety in mechanics and objectives, and surprising human element of the story, once again acted by the brilliant Peter Weller, really wins you over again and again. This game actually makes you feel like Robocop in the best possible way by showing great respect to both player and license, resulting in not only the best Robocop game since the original but a brilliant throwback to the golden era of FPS.
Ghostrunner 2 follows on very closely from the first, adding in some enemies, abilities and mechanics, but very much maintaining the essence that made it a cult hit in the first place. Its brutal and often unfair difficulty mean its really not going to be for everyone and the performance and bugs could present a real tipping point for those who are just about managing to keep pace. But for fans of the first, those who love dynamic action sequences and are ok with a little bit of tough love, you’re going to fall head over heels for this one.
Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol 1 comes complete with the same world class, incredible games but sadly doesn’t feel like a worthy collection of this world-class franchise. The presentation causes unnecessary confusion and the preservation is surprisingly lacking across all the featured titles. There’s some great optional extras in here, such as screenplays for all games, a compilation for the franchise and a fan-dream of being able to play the different MGS 1 territorial variations along with playing some games on respective platforms for the first time. But nothing has moved on for MGS 2 and 3 since the HD Collection and without Twin Snakes or any major, noticeable tweaks to MGS1, there feels like a lack of desire to really maximise the potential of today’s platforms. This should have been a huge moment, bringing the original trilogy together like this, but you can’t help thinking this could and should have been more.
Lords of the Fallen is a fairly solid, enjoyable Souls-like that really finds the mood and atmosphere that was prevalent in early From titles. The use of Umbral offers some really clever mechanical ideas that keep things fresh, the dynamism to create combos also opens up a range of possibilities, and you’ve got a nice range of environments and bosses that provide a worthy challenge. There are some frustrations with combat though, between balance and abundance of enemies, as well as some technical hiccups and issues around the multiplayer component, but all told, this gets more right than it does wrong.
Sonic Superstars is slick, smooth and the best Sonic game in a long, long time. It captures the spirit of the original series, modernises it in a way that will connect with today’s audience, and finally sets up an exciting pathway for the future of a franchise that has struggled to stay relevant. Not all concepts are the finished article, its ideas do run a bit dry late on and there is some stop/start gameplay here that can get a bit frustrating, but the creativity, energy, vibrancy, and thrill-seeking that permeates throughout will ensure this is one adventure you won’t soon forget and one you’ll want to replay again and again.
Gargoyles Remastered is an absolutely incredible reinvention of 1995 aesthetics with a beautiful style that feels like it’s been ripped out of the original cartoon and a stunningly recomposed soundtrack that tugs at those nostalgia strings. Unfortunately, it does still feel like a game trapped in time with clunky controls, sharp difficulty spikes and underwhelming boss battles. It’s also a bit limited in new features for this remaster, but at a fairly attractive price, the mechanics offer something a bit different from other games of this era and the style and setting has an atmosphere most platformers can only dream of.
Agatha Christie – Murder on the Orient Express retells the classic adventure in a surprisingly compelling way through two very different protagonists, an eclectic cast of suspects, and a wide range of puzzles that pay homage to the original while blending in modern concepts. Sound issues, regular backtracking, and random shifts in difficulty spikes might be a bit off-putting to some players but the decent writing, acting, and use of mind-mapping to sift through your adventure will keep you invested to the end.
Phantom Liberty is an absolute triumph in game design and one of the best pieces of DLC ever made. It’s that rare release that not only goes further than the base game but improves the overall experience with supporting updates. With a fantastic, unforgettable cast of characters, superb writing, tons of action, and wonderfully creative missions, if you’ve been waiting to play Cyberpunk 2077, this is the incentive you need to jack in. The content can be a bit too action-heavy with danger around every corner and there’s some time delays between missions which get a bit frustrating, but none of this is enough to deter you from Dogtown.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage has gone right back to stealth-focused basics which seems destined to split the AC community down the middle. It’s as close to a remake as we may ever get for the original and sometimes it’s to a fault. Despite its stunning visuals and seamless parkour, the combat is really iffy, the environments soon become samey and mechanic repetition set in pretty quickly. While it’s welcome to see the hard-focused return on stealth and the Assassin’s Contracts actually make you feel like an Assassin again, the change in pace between games is really breakneck and it’s probably not going to be to everyone’s tastes.
Detective Pikachu Returns is more of the same from the 3DS original, but with the fun addition of using unique Pokémon abilities to interact with the world and help you solve puzzles, a bunch of side missions to investigate and a continuation of a story that ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. It’s a little bit too easy going and predictable at times, and you feel like some mechanics and concepts could have been flesched out and developed further, but this still feels like such a refreshing insight and approach to the world of Pokémon and one I’d love to see developed and expanded upon further in the future.
Forza Motorsport is a brilliant reinvention for the franchise that will appeal to core drivers and Horizon fans in equal measure. With a more approachable barrier for entry, but plenty of substance with endless customisation possibilities, tweaks and fine-tuning, there’s something for everyone. Minor technical issues and environmental repetition aside, you can add in a visual style that will set the benchmark for the generation, and a long tail that will ensure the game stays healthy for months, even years to come. Forza Motorsport is a must play, no matter what skill level you’re at.
The Crew Motorfest offers fun, fast-paced variety, all with a stunning aesthetic and excellent presentation. The always on component is disappointing, environment repetition becomes noticeable, and playlists disappearing is a shame, but this is such a brilliant game with so much content you can lose hours without even realising.
Dolphin Spirit – Ocean Mission offers an infectious, important message, the game is calming and relaxing enough to just play casually, and it’s a nice easy going game you can breeze through pretty quick. You can even ride on a dolphin! It’s not always great, it doesn’t play the best on Switch and is a bit of a throwaway experience, but there’s still quite a lot to take and draw from it.
Wargroove 2 is the perfect example of how to do a sequel. Stick with what worked the first time, logically add in new mechanics and ideas that add to the experience, offer a whole new mode that will keep you playing past the campaign, all while offering robust tools to expand your own experience and share with the world. There’s a few teething issues here and there, but nothing to detract from one of the better turn-based strategy games in recent memory.
Party Animals is a ridiculously good time. It tickles every funny bone in your body, looks absolutely gorgeous and offers some of the most fun you can have in a multiplayer game. There are some issues with the game not offering offline local multiplayer, hefty microtransactions and some control issues, but none of it really takes away the fun of just throwing each other around various battlegrounds and knocking each other out after a death-defying dropkick or headbutt.
The Isle Tide Hotel often tries to be too clever for its own good and it ends up harming the overall experience. It’s hard to care much about the characters because half the time you don’t know what they’re talking about, the UI keeps slowing you down and breaks momentum and pace for the game at almost every key decision, and despite offering ten different endings, you might not even make it to seeing one because the game rarely fails to grip or interest.