Despite its imperfections, Alwa’s Awakening is an enjoyable experience. The retro art style, rich colors, and music accompany gameplay that is quaint, yet engaging. Those who grew up on the NES will find it a fine tribute to games of yesteryear and those who did not will still enjoy a pleasant, playable adventure.
Combat is interesting and challenging to a point, character interactions are charming, and dungeons do help break up the monotony, but it isn’t fulfilling overall. FE: SOV is nothing special, but it is a perfectly serviceable title good enough to act as a gateway into the rest of the Fire Emblem series.
Thumper makes a huge initial impression, and is a great effort for the two man team of Drool; they obviously put a lot of love and thought into creating a unique and evocative experience. Unfortunately, the lack of distinct game play and musical score may turn off all but the most devoted completionists and challenge seekers.
OneShot is a great game overall. It’s a lovely, surprisingly captivating experience that does more than enough to overcome its shortcomings. While not as revolutionary as the aforementioned Undertale or Pony Island, it borrows concepts from these games well, and molds them into an experience that is often more satisfying on the whole.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, in broad terms, seems to be a stripped down Far Cry 4 with more focus put into bullet ballistics. While the elements of a decent title are buried in here, there is a noticeable rough edge around everything that throws off the feel of the game. Some parts, such as the slow-mo sniper camera, seem like a cheap imitation of better titles. The lack of interesting side quests made me question if a switch to open world gameplay was the right choice. Perhaps providing a focus on smaller, well-designed maps instead of three large ones would have better fit the action-stealth genre. While the game is relatively bug free and the controls are decent, there is not much motivation to complete it due to repetitive missions and uncompelling plot. CI Games has a long track record of rather mediocre games and unfortunately this entry does not break the mold.
Really, all this means is that SMT: 4A is a fine game with a major problem – it is a sequel. If SMT: IV didn’t exist, SMT: 4A would feel like a fresher game. It does bring some major improvements to the previous game but balances them out with some major regressions. In the end what’s left is a game that does enough to be enjoyable but not enough to be great. The story is more engaging, the gameplay on the whole is better, but the loss of atmosphere and overall addition of monotony makes this a game mostly for those who were a fan of the first. Since it’s a sequel, I suppose it succeeds in what it set out to do by finishing up the story, but in some cases, it does not really feel like a necessary continuation. There is not enough new content for a standalone game, making this feel more like “disc two” than an actual new title. A tricky business, indeed.
Prey has problems, but it’s still a titan of atmospheric storytelling. Despite its failings as a horror game, and despite its immense amount of technical issues (which will hopefully be patched away), it is still an engaging experience that should keep you hooked throughout. The variety in playstyle, the satisfying and unique powers and weapons, the masterfully crafted atmosphere and level design elevate Prey but it never quite reaches escape velocity, and remains pleasantly in orbit.
Horizon: Zero Dawn is a triumph with a handful of minor flaws. Exciting combat, an engaging new world to explore, and a likable, confident protagonist combine for a rewarding experience. While I don’t hasten to call this a system seller, I do think that all PS4 owners should give this game a serious look. With such a strong original property, and an exciting fusion of so many quality game elements, it’s clear that Guerrilla Games has a great deal more to offer than reliance on the Killzone series, and I’m excited to see what they’ll be working on next.
Platforming ain’t dead. Yooka-Laylee however doesn’t really break any new ground. It does, however, apply a nice fresh coat of paint over the old mechanics of Banjo-Kazooie. The mini-games throughout provide some variety from the usual jumping around, but they rarely captured my interest for more than a minute or so. It is a great modern take on the platformer genre, but the bright colors and quirky music quickly dull after a couple hours when you find the game has little else to offer. Perhaps some will revel in the return of the collect-em-up, but the gameplay, however well-made and tight it is, seldom seems rewarding.
Seasons After Fall has many elements of a fantastic experience. The rich, vibrant world, excellent artistic elements, and novel environmental interactions make it worth playing. Yet as I retraced my steps searching for the next objective just out of reach, it was a fitting parallel to the game as a whole – constantly coming so close to extraordinary but falling continually short.