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Ultros is a slick Metroidvania-style experience that doesn’t only introduce plenty of unique ideas but also looks absolutely breath-taking with its surreal visual style. It does a good job of getting all of the basics of the genre right, whilst the looping, eating, and gardening mechanics each add their own unique twist to the formula. Sure, these mechanics don’t always hit the mark (especially with the focus on eating GOOD body parts getting repetitive over time), but they never stop the game from being a lot of fun to play. With so many Metroidvania-style releases available, it’s nice to play one that does something that feels genuinely different to the norm – and believe me, Ultros is a game that isn’t afraid to be different.
Tomb Raider I-III Remastered is a nostalgic treat, with the remastered adventures of Lara Croft standing the test of time over the last twenty-plus years. Of course, it helps that Aspyr have done an absolutely fantastic job of bringing the classic adventures into a modern light, with the revamped visuals, cool gameplay additions, and inclusion of all expansions ensuring this is the definitive way to experience three of the most iconic video games of the 90s. There’s no doubting that the old-school gameplay won’t be for everyone and the modern control scheme does feel like a misstep, but Tomb Raider I-III Remastered still stands out as one of the most impressive remastered releases that I’ve ever played.
Persona 3 Reload completely reinvigorates the original release, with excellent improvements made across the board to help the game hold up to modern standards. The combat is more enjoyable and strategic than before, the daytime activities are more substantial and easier to track, whilst the visual upgrade is top notch, with the game arguably looking better than Persona 5. And sure, there were some things that couldn’t be fixed (such as the somewhat dated dungeon design of Tartarus), but most aspects of the game have seen significant improvements that make it even better to play. There are some unusual omissions made that prevent Persona 3 Reload from being the definitive edition of the game, but it still stands out as an exceptional RPG that fans of the series are sure to love.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden blends together captivating storytelling and compelling gameplay mechanics into one heck of an enjoyable experience, with the pacing of the adventure balancing out its combat, explorative, and investigative elements perfectly. Best of all? It feels unique, with your role as a Banisher making for plenty of morale dilemmas that’ll keep players hooked in until the very end. It could be a bit guilty of being on the easy side whilst the frame rate hitches were a little bit annoying, but neither issue stopped me from having a really good time with the game. Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden might not have been on everyone’s radar, but it stands out as one of the early surprise hits on 2024.
Foamstars is a unique and fun shooter that has some really cool ideas, but it’ll need to see regular content updates if it hopes to survive in the busy world of multiplayer shooters. Having it release on PlayStation Plus Essential instantly gives it a pretty strong player base, but whether or not it’ll sustain that will come down to how often we see new game modes, characters, and arenas. And sure, what’s on offer can be a ton of fun (especially when playing with a good team), but it needs a more extensive offering of content if the game hopes to stick around for the long-term.
Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior blends together time-bending puzzling and hack-and-slash combat in a creative and satisfying fashion, with players having to carefully plot out their actions if they hope to survive. It’s all well and good to slash away at enemies to defeat them, but with your past actions determining your immediate success, you’ll have to be methodical in your approach if you want to succeed. It might sound overwhelming (and yes, it can be difficult) but it actually makes for a really rewarding experience that’ll keep players hooked in until the very end. It can be a little repetitive in places and the difficulty can be frustrating at times, but it never stops Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior from being a unique and creative experience that adds its own fun twist to time manipulation.
Helldivers 2 is absolutely brilliant, with the strategic yet action-packed gameplay complemented by the unpredictable madness that can unfold at any minute. Between the powerful weaponry and Stratagems at your disposal, the co-op focus that sees you working with three other players, and the sheer ferocity and overwhelming nature of your opponents, the game is packed with thrilling moments that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat as you barely scrape through each encounter. I’m completely hooked in, and with the developer promising free additions to the game in the future, I think I will be for a long, long time. There is one big caveat at the moment though: public multiplayer is broken. Whilst you can play with friends in private games, I haven’t had any success joining a public game. I’ve been lucky enough to have friends to play with so it hasn’t affected me so far, but it is definitely worth bearing in mind if you don’t have others to play with. It is due to be fixed soon though, and when it is? You can bump my score up a notch.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is the best entry in the series, with it fine-tuning the formula of the previous games to perfection. Combat is more dynamic and strategic than before, the narrative will hook you in with its effective pacing and emotional beats, the world is beautiful and packed with surprises, whilst the side-tasks and sub-quests are more engaging than ever thanks to their fun (and often wacky) tasks. It’s simply phenomenal and should DEFINITELY be kept in mind when Game of the Year conversations start later this year.
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League can be repetitive, but the excellent storytelling, fun gunplay, and gorgeous visuals save it from mediocrity. I’ve had a really good time with the game, especially when playing with friends, whilst seeing the unique and dark spin on what remains of the Arkham-verse is really refreshing. It doesn’t always embrace its protagonists’ strengths, missions can get repetitive, and I don’t know if the live service aspects will keep me coming back in the long-term, but Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League still deserves credit for delivering an entertaining experience that feels befitting of the titular band of anti-heroes. It’s not perfect, but you’ll still have a good time saving the world as you kill the Justice League – especially if some friends join you for the ride.
Granblue Fantasy: Relink is a wonderful RPG that offers a tantalising narrative, wonderful visuals, and epic action-orientated battling. I found myself completely hooked in from the moment I started playing, whilst the streamlined approach ensures that the adventure feels perfectly paced and never forces players to grind. And don’t worry – even those who haven’t heard of Granblue before will be able to appreciate it’s storytelling. I know that the PlayStation 5 has a few high-profile RPGs releasing in early 2024, but honestly, if you’re a fan of the genre, you REALLY won’t want to skip Granblue Fantasy: Relink.
Lil’ Guardsman adds a fantasy-fuelled, Saturday morning cartoon twist to the Paper’s, Please formula, and believe me, it’s a whole lotta fun. I loved using every trick at my disposal to learn the intentions of the bizarre folk trying to make their way into the city, whilst there was nothing better than getting the perfect score in each interrogation. Add to that the funny little side tasks, the wonderful visuals that make up the charming world, and the excellent voice acting that brings each interrogation to life, and you’ll quickly find that this quirky puzzler definitely deserves your attention.
The Cub is a very exciting platforming romp that never slows down thanks to its rich variety of gameplay and manic set pieces. It looks gorgeous too, whilst the radio station that plays throughout your journey adds a dash of realism to the catastrophic plight that Earth faced prior to your adventure. It isn’t perfect, with a few little issues with the controls early on and the occasional frustration here and there, but I found myself completely hooked in from start to end. You’ll probably beat it in one sitting, but those few hours playing will be a hell of a lot of fun.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is absolutely brilliant, with the excellent combat and traversal of the game complemented by a wonderful world to explore. Whilst it doesn’t necessarily try to re-invent the Metroidvania genre, the way that it delivers every aspect of its design is simply sublime, whether that’s when leaping across the expertly crafted platforming segments or taking on enemies in intense action sequences. The allure of the world design encouraged me to explore every corner of it, whilst the boss battles offer some jaw-dropping sequences that bring each element of the experience together in spectacular fashion. It’s just an amazing game and a wonderful new direction for the Prince of Persia series to take. It’s left me genuinely excited to see what’s next for the series – here’s hoping it won’t be another fourteen years before we get to see it…
Turnip Boy Robs a Bank isn’t too original from a gameplay perspective, but the manic action and quirky setup ensures players will have a good time pulling off their veggie-themed heists. There’s a fast and rewarding sense of progress to the game that keeps you pushing forward through the bank and unlocking new goodies to play around with, whilst the core gameplay loop offers plenty of fun as you hack and blast away at any enemies in your path to pull in some cash. And sure, it could be a bit easy in places (with exception to a few later sections), but the exciting loop of each run ensures it doesn’t hold the game back. It keeps things simple and doesn’t have too many fresh ideas, but there’s a lot of fun to be had committing unlawful acts with everybody’s favourite turnip in Turnip Boy Robs a Bank.
Vertigo 2 easily stands out as one of the most impressive releases on PlayStation VR 2, with its action-packed adventure offering a wonderful world to explore, zany storytelling, and thrilling shootouts. I’ll admit, I didn’t even know the game existed before playing, but it didn’t take long to hook me in with its intuitive design and exciting gameplay mechanics. It’s really, REALLY good. I mentioned that PlayStation VR 2 didn’t have many must-play games at the start of this review, but believe me, Vertigo 2 is one title you won’t want to miss.
The Last of Us Part II Remastered offers the definitive way for players to experience what was already a masterpiece, with the visual enhancements and additions making the game even better than it was before. Whilst the improved visuals, performance, and load times go a long way in making it look and feel better to play, the new modes like No Return and Lost Levels feel like genuinely substantial additions that’ll even keep veterans of the game gleefully glued to their screens once more. It all comes together to act as the perfect reminder that Naughty Dog are masters of their craft, with The Last of Us Part II Remastered sitting at the pinnacle of gaming greatness.
Home Safety Hotline is a creative and clever analog horror experience that’ll keep players entertained (and spooked) with its call centre-themed puzzling. The gameplay loop is addictive and engaging thanks to the creatively disturbing enigmas that callers send your way, whilst the old-school presentation will certainly vibe with those who’ve been using PCs since the 90s. The best part of all? It just feels so unique to play. Whilst it does share some similarities with the likes of Papers, Please or Security Booth, there’s just something about Home Safety Hotline that makes it feel unlike anything else I’ve played before. The fact that it also just so happens to be a lot of fun is the cherry on top.
Micro Machines: Mini Challenge Mayhem lacks the excitement and creativity seen in its forebearers, with its slot car-style racing missing that special buzz that the series is known for. When I think of Micro Machines, I think of quick-paced racing action where I’m jostling with rival racers across imaginative miniature tracks full of hazards and real-world objects – unfortunately, this is nothing like that, with it instead feeling dull with its simplified approach to driving. It isn’t a complete disaster and it’ll definitely appeal to some players (especially youngsters who are unfamiliar with gaming), whilst the track builder is especially cool to use in mixed reality. Overall, though? It’s hard not to be disappointed in this underwhelming virtual reality revival of a classic racing series.
House Flipper 2 doesn’t reinvent the formula of the first game, but still offers enough new ideas and refinements to make it even better to play than before. You can go all out on the building and renovation work to make plenty of money, or you can take it at your own peaceful pace – House Flipper 2 offers something for everyone, whilst the expanded building tools and intuitive sandbox mean you have more freedom than ever to showcase your creativity and share your creations with other players. It really does improve on just about every facet of the previous game, whilst the more polished presentation and design makes it prettier and more accessible than before. It’s just really, really good, and I think I’ll be spending a LOT of hours showing off my house flipping skills over the coming months…
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is a mesmerizing experience that manages to capture the beauty and essence of the movies perfectly. The gameplay is a lot of fun too, and whilst it does fall under the typical Ubisoft open world design formula, some refreshing explorative elements and action-packed set pieces ensure it never gets tiring or repetitive. It can be guilty of being a bit more ordinary on the combat front and there were some little flaws here and there, but Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora really does live up to the high standards set by the movies. It’ll be a treat for fans who have been excited to play a part in the fascinating world of Avatar, but I think even those who are fresh to franchise will find their experience to be pretty special.