Hood: Outlaws & Legends is the best PvPvE game I've played in quite some time. Sure, it has its issues; the AI can sometimes feel braindead, class balancing needs to be tweaked, and animations can be a bit janky, but the adrenaline rush of the heist makes up for all of that. Not to mention, this is only a $30 game, and the developers have released a fully fleshed-out roadmap for ongoing support. Players can expect new characters, game modes, seasonal events, cosmetics, and more. And did I forget to mention that the game already has cross-play matchmaking at launch? Hopefully, the developers can expand the party system for cross-platform friends.
I think Call of the Sea has something to offer a variety of gamers. The puzzles are fun, challenging, and genuinely make you learn more about the world around you and Norah's personal challenges. On top of that, learning more about Norah herself and what has caused her illness is a huge draw – it's one of those mysteries you want to figure out more and more as things progress. The bright, popping visuals and simplistic gameplay all tie this into a pretty good bow for those who want to give it a shot.
The Pathless is an open-world exploration title with unique puzzle-solving mechanics and one of the year's best soundtracks. The tense and enjoyable boss encounters were a delightful surprise. The free-form approach to the exploration and plethora of puzzles to solve, most being optional, give you the sensation of freedom while traversing. It's simply fun, aimlessly soaring through the air with my eagle, bouncing across rivers and down snow-covered mountaintops shooting at talismans. It's not a long experience, as I clocked my completion at roughly eight hours, but there are plenty of trophies to earn by collecting all of the relics, along with completing various other tasks.
Observer: System Redux remains a solid experience, but with more content and much better visuals. The oversaturation of neon lights is a bit much, but otherwise, the game is still the same great product I played a few years back. I enjoyed the additional content and graphical overhaul, neon lights, and all. This dark sci-fi noir game (still starring the late, great Rutger Hauer) continues to capture the imagination as you trek your way through the mystery of your son's death.
Bright Memory can be completed in just over 30 minutes the first time through, but suffers from technical and control issues. It was designed as the first episode of many but came across as an unfinished product or proof of concept, with pieces that seem ripped from other game series. There are even bonfires that don't seemingly serve any purpose, complete with a "bonfire lit" message when activated. The narrative lacks substance and any reasoning about why the events have transpired, unless you read through the game's description page, which features all the information you'd expect to find in-game.
Galacide is an intriguing and unique take on the side-scrolling shooter genre. The addition of match-3 tile puzzle mechanics keeps you engaged and forces you to be mindful of your position onscreen. The expert difficulty proved too much while playing alone, but I had a blast with four of us frantically trying to survive amongst the chaos.
Endzone: A World Apart shows a ton of promise, especially for those looking for an in-depth city builder and simulation management game. There's a literal TON of ways to manage your settlement, depending on the map and game at hand. The world, a broken ruin of what was before, is ripe for your taking as you work to keep your settlement alive and growing amidst the debris. Endzone is a fun yet complex game. It reminds me of the old Settlers titles, where the game's complexities grow as you get further and further into the layers of what's contained within. But that is also potentially one of its failure points – the sheer volume of stuff to manage and control can be daunting, much like how it probably would be if we were to find ourselves in a similar scenario within real life.
A demanding skill-based experience, Ghostrunner makes you feel like a cyberpunk ninja. Thanks to the quick restarts, and generous checkpoints, the game never feels overwhelming or unfair. The 17 levels took me close to twelve hours to complete but depending upon your skill level. If you search around for collectibles during the platforming sections, it could be a shorter/longer experience. The enemy variety and ever-changing visual aesthetic for each area of The Tower keeps the game from feeling like a chore. The synthwave cyberpunk soundtrack by Daniel Deluxe fits well with the impressively sharp visuals.
Pumpkin Jack isn’t a long experience (roughly four-five hours) but is full of nostalgia for classic 3D platformers. It is a fun romp that hits all the notes that I’d want from a Halloween release. It has colorful and detailed visuals, a fantastic soundtrack, throwback style gameplay, and a few laughs. There are plenty of collectibles to find if you wish to hunt for achievements. Surprisingly, Pumpkin Jack is arguably a more robust release than the recently released remake for MediEvil.
The Signifier is a relatively solid interactive experience where you dive deeply into the ideas of self, psychology, technology, and the eventually marrying of the two and the potential ramifications. The mindscape, and some of the creepy factors within, are the best parts of the game and something I recommend anyone see at least once, given how it's presented. But, I also wonder if there's enough meat to the average gamer. It's an intriguing enough story with some twists, but there's only so much to do.
G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout serves up nostalgia for G.I. Joe fans, with a narrative that feels right at home for the series. The colorful and stylized cel-shaded visuals are perfect for the franchise, making you feel like you are playing inside a comic book. It's a real shame that the overall gameplay falls flat thanks to poor aiming mechanics. The AI that joins you when playing solo is utterly useless, and enemies can backtrack faster than you can advance towards them. There are optional side objectives to complete, and collectibles to find, which unlock alternative looks for characters, weapon skins, and comic cover art.
Monster Truck Championship is the best monster truck game to be released. The lackluster presentation and technical hiccups hold it from being great. The driving and stunt controls are solid, even if they take some practice. Short draw distance causes frequent pop-ups during races. There's no music during races, and the crowd is completely silent most of the time. It doesn't take that long to make your way through all 30 of the career events, and in the process, earn millions of dollars. Some appearance parts can cost a pretty penny, so you'll need to replay events to unlock everything.
Cake Bash is the feel-good frantic party game I needed to play this year. The sharp, beautifully rendered environments and comically delicious characters are a treat...literally. Local and online multiplayer worked like a charm (besides a single time where everyone was forced to restart). However, I do wish that the game instructions aren't skipped when playing online, especially when playing with someone new or experiencing a new event for the first time. Although the overall amount of events and mini-games is small, it may take a few rounds to see them all at least once.
Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix is the type of sequel that will make you smile, improving every aspect over its predecessor. The racing feels smoother, picking your kart components and crew is fun, and there is much more variety in terms of the intellectual properties used this time around. There are plenty of single-player additions, such as time trials and challenges to complete after beating the Slime Grand Prix cups, online multiplayer for up to eight players, and four-player local split-screen multiplayer. Sadly, the racers are again silent, which is such a missed opportunity to record new voice-overs or use samples from the shows. Considering the title's budget price point, it is hard to dwell on it too much but would have elevated the entire experience.
Projection: First Light is a charming tale of a little girl learning perspective and self-enlightenment through various cultures worldwide. The gameplay loop is continually changing as you move through areas, adding new elements such as swinging platforms, fire breathing dragon statues, spikes, massive boulders, and more. There are even a few boss encounters, although the final boss sequence (I won't give too much away) quickly becomes frustrating due to finicky precision controls during a chase scene.