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.
Second Extinction shows promise, although I wouldn't want to play without a full three-person party. Through Steam Early Access, the developers plan to expand the game with new types of mutations, emergence events, weapons, updates/fixes, seasonal content, and more. It's fun dropping supply pods onto raptors and watching them get launched through the air. Weapons feel a tad underpowered, but I'll admit none of them are currently fully upgraded. Each of us did experience crashing here and there, but once you boot back into the game, there's an option to rejoin, and it worked every time. I think it is a bit silly that the game doesn't support drop-in/out support once missions have started, and I do hope cross-play will come once the game launches on other platforms.
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.
The new team in charge of Tennis World Tour 2 has thankfully made enhancements to a series that badly needed a do-over. It puts it in a better position for the future by expanding the roster and making key gameplay improvements. Although animations have been doubled, characters still appear to be quite stiff at times and even slide into animations awkwardly. The courts are nicely rendered, and when playing exhibition matches, you can freely alter the surface type on non-licensed venues. I think the timing of strokes needs to be adjusted, especially when playing on an easier difficulty.
Hotshot Racing's retro-inspired high-adrenaline arcade racing is simply a joy to experience. The courses themselves are varied, colorful, charming, and full of personality, albeit slightly on the simplistic side in terms of the track designs. Yes, the AI rubber-banding is a relic of the past, but does help deliver tense racing moments. Cranking up the difficulty is similar to moving from 50cc to 150cc in Mario Kart; everything feels faster. The local and online multiplayer should give the game legs, especially considering how fun I found the additional game modes. Now excuse me, I need to live my life drifting through the jungle, avoiding dinosaurs, and trying not to explode.