After years of development and a handful of delays, Koji Igarashi’s highly anticipated return to gaming is perfection personified, or close to it. It is one of the finest side-scrolling action-RPGs that you’ll play, with beautifully stylistic and colorful visuals that work wonderfully with the 2.5D presentation. The endgame grind may be too much of an investment, but I love every moment of it, especially considering how much I enjoy the hack-and-slash gameplay and being able to swap between my customized presets at any moment. It may feel quite familiar to his previous work but sets the bar for the series moving forward.
Judgment proves that Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio's gameplay approach works with a new set of realized and charismatic characters. While it was a shame to see Kiryu's journey came to an end last year, Yagami and his former Yakuza buddy Kaito may be my new favorite duo. The narrative is highly engaging, and whether you use the Japanese or the English voices, the performances are outstanding. There is so much to see and accomplish between main story missions, that it is hard to list even a small portion of what you can do.
Rise of Industry is such a delight and a much deeper experience than I was expecting. Almost every aspect of your budding empire can be maintained and tweaked to your personal preference, although you’ll have to give the customers what they want. Competition is fierce, and not only is the AI cutthroat, but you’ll have to properly build a transportation network to ensure traffic doesn’t slow down your profit margin. On top of that, pollution becomes a concern, and when you throw the random events and auctions into the mix, there is so much that you have to track to keep your business flourishing. While I may have built my empire on wool, nothing came between me and my desire to become the ultimate supplier of potato chips and berry pies. The game launched with Steam Workshop support, ensuring the game has a bright future due to the endless possibilities.
Fade to Silence does leave its mark on the survival genre, namely the terrific use of a dynamic weather system. However, everything else in the game is slightly cumbersome, from combat to item management. With player inventory being limited, your only option is to transfer items to your stash at the camp. However, the only options are to place items one at a time, or everything you happen to be carrying. There isn’t any way to transfer individual stacks of items. The game needs a better introduction to many of the game’s mechanics, especially when playing on the harder difficulty that can leave you with starting over with nothing, outside of the permanent unlocks.
Given that it is a free-to-play title, I'm genuinely surprised and actually delighted by the polished feel of the title. There are several available modes (requiring a constant internet connection), an active community to play against, and ways to get by without having to pay for anything out of pocket. Considering there are some pay-to-play titles can really put the onus on gamers almost requiring buying something from the developer, overall it's a nice change of pace, making Age of Sigmar: Champions a solid title.
Desert Child has its moments, but most of the experience feels shallow. The repetitiveness of wandering through the town after each race was more of a distraction than anything. The retro-inspired pixel art is enjoyable, and most of the game's music works within the racing setting, but I had to mute the game when walking through the town.
Rival Megagun, as I said, is a fun experience. For those that played a lot of these types of titles back in the day, it'll draw some serious nostalgia. Even now listening to the music while writing this, it sounds very reminiscent of the 16-bit era. My only major concerns with the game are the keyboard controls (easily fixed by using a controller) and the shortness of it. Like I mentioned earlier, the story mode is excellent, but once you've run through the handful of levels with multiple characters, it loses some of its charm. Sure you can play on harder difficulties, but that's mostly in the form of challenge only so you can collect some more cards. Expect to win some and lose some while playing online, which I hope will continue to have some legs. I was able to find matches quickly, but it's hard to judge what the community will look like in 6 months to a year.
Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is everything that you'll want in an official sequel to the Monster World franchise. Regardless of the late game frustrations and spike in difficulty, it is one of the best modern day platformers I have ever played.
The well-designed and vibrant post-apocalyptic world of Darksiders III is simply a joy to traverse. The narrative is well-written, and the boss encounters, including the interactions between characters, before, during, and after encounters are quite enjoyable. Although the game takes its inspiration from new titles and genres, it still feels like it belongs in the series I've been playing for the past eight years. On the technical front, the game suffers from occasional hitching and slowdown, even on an Xbox One X.
Speed Brawl has a lot more to offer than standard beat ‘em up titles. I certainly dig the unique and colorful stylized animated characters. The game features satisfying local and online multiplayer for the game's 50+ events. There weren't any joinable open online parties while testing, but I was able to invite a friend without issue. There are global leaderboards for each of the events if you are into that type of competition as well.
Steel Rats may be the surprise I've been looking for as we get into the busy (and crowded) holiday season. It combines a rather robust motorcycle combat system with a slick movement system. The developers even threw in massive boss encounters that utilize all of your abilities. It wasn't apparent at first that you can freely switch between biker members, but once realized, you can tackle any situation. Each biker has their own set of skills, but regardless of who you use, the game is simply fun and engaging. There are also unlocking bike and character skins for each of the four characters. Playing on a PlayStation 4 Pro, however, textures seem to take forever to pop-in, which is disappointing as the rest of the game is mostly impressive visually.
I wanted to enjoy this game, I honestly did. However, The One We Found suffers from a case of "no polish." There's a lot of good ideas and gameplay in theory, but the practical aspect falls short of expectations. If this had received some more time to fix the overall buggy experience and improve upon some of the clunky control aspects and elements, I feel this review would be in a much different tone entirely.
2064: Read Only Memories draws its inspirations from the greats of the old-school adventure games like Grim Fandango, Myst, and Monkey Island. This point-and-click adventure title has all of the trappings of games made upwards of 20 years ago contained in a beautifully rendered pixel art world with a fun, quirky cast of characters behind it. For fans of slower, puzzle-based games, this will be a must-have on their consoles. However, it is better suited for the PC and feels a little sluggish and off-putting using an Xbox controller when trying to manipulate objects. Plus, with how the game is slower paced and requires a lot of backtracking and managing of objects to help fill out the game's world and provide humor, those seeking faster and more direct gameplay/humor will turn away quickly.
Without question, Call of Cthulhu captures the nightmarish Lovecraftian cosmic horror feel. Even if you haven't read any of the mythos or haven't experienced the tabletop game, it is still a satisfying investigation into madness. It's impossible to see everything the game has to offer in a single playthrough, but the stealth and equally awful boss encounters and gunplay (one section near the end of the game) may turn players off from returning. An option to autocomplete these sections may be a worthwhile addition, especially for those that want to experience the wonderfully dark storytelling and see all of the alternate choices.
GRIP: Combat Racing is a blast from the past, with intense racing and thrilling arena-based competition. The developers set out to make a modern Rollcage and have thoroughly succeeded. The inclusion of split-screen multiplayer, a rarity these days, is much appreciated, especially with the highly customizable online experience.
While it can be challenging, Phantom Halls is a cheesy horror movie lover's dream game. The combination of fun gameplay, RPG elements, and an oddball story about the "Slayer Club" (wink wink) in their efforts to save their town show just how far Incedium is willing to go to show their love of B-movie Horror. There are so many callbacks to iconic franchises (Evil Dead DLC anyone?) There's some definite challenge as well, which I think many will enjoy.