Digitally Downloaded's Reviews
Fundamentally, though, MLB the Show 23 is a good game. MLB the Show 22 was a good game. Adding the Negro Leagues mode was noble from Sony (and no doubt the kind of goodwill-generating progressive addition that will keep the licensor happy with how Sony is treating the IP). However, the misstep with the World Baseball League and a complete unwillingness to build on any mode but the awful Diamond Dynasty also make this year’s The Show unacceptable. If you missed last year’s iteration, then you can add a couple of stars to this score, because for you, it won’t be one of the most cynical annual iterations that we’ve seen in sports games for quite some time. For the rest of us, though. No. Not good enough.
Omen of Sorrow is a missed opportunity. It should have been more extreme and followed Mortal Kombat in dancing with taboo. The Switch version also needed optimisation, because loading times are a killer to the fighter genre. Because it plays things too safe, this won’t be remembered as an all-time great example of the genre, however, it is still a bit of fun fantasy dark gothic action and, should there be a sequel, I would expect a more confident development outfit to really deliver on to the excellent potential this fledgling property has.
Anno’s core strength is the cities that it allows you to create. Sometimes it does feel more like a puzzle game than a simulator, as you desperately try to figure out how to give your most demanding residents access to everything they crave. However, the satisfaction of doing it well is almost incomparable for the genre. I am a firm believer that simulation games, at their best, teach you about real-world jobs, processes, and social/cultural/environmental dynamics, whether that be flying a plane, driving a train, running a hotel or building a city. Anno does that, and it presents players with a vision for cities that will, hopefully, be the future of urban planning.
Putting aside my disappointment at the lack of AI competition, Transport Fever 2 is every bit as good on console as it is on PC. And since it’s a very, very good game, you’ve got no excuse to skip it for the second time.
Atelier Ryza 3 should be the final chapter for Ryza, and it’s a fine send-off. It’s a game in which nostalgia plays a key thematic role, and has been made for nostalgic Atelier fans first and foremost. I know this probably sounds like faint praise, but Atelier is my favourite JRPG series and Ryza 3 is a perfectly fine game in that context. Hence the store. It’s just that, more than anything else, I dearly hope that after the next Marie remake, Gust settles down to give us new stories, new adorable alchemist girls, and some new ideas again.
I don’t watch traditional sports to speak of, but I do watch a lot of pro wrestling, precisely because it’s staged and allows for stronger narratives than you can get out of a simple sports match. Getting all of that into a video game is a tall order, and WWE 2K23 comes very close in most respects to making that happen. It’s fun, mostly fluid and packed with content… as long as you ignore the money-making My Faction mode entirely.
Mato Anomalies had picked the right kind of experience to ape. The Persona series is consistently the most intelligent and thought-provoking in the JRPG genre. The developers have also done a decent effort to understand the thematic basis of those games, and at least attempt their own spin on it. Unfortunately, whether for a lack of resources or an inability to bring the creative elements together cohesively enough, Mato Anomalies’ greatest achievement is simply demonstrating just how hard it really is to make a game like Persona 3, 4 and 5.
Despite failing to recapture lightning in a bottle, Resident Evil 4 remake stands on its own merits as a game of impeccable quality.
It’s just as well for the game that it does give us a relatively fresh look at World War 2, and some strategically interesting battles that we just don’t often get to flex our strategic minds with, because the presentation of it would make it hard to stomach otherwise. Thankfully, presentation aside, Strategic Mind: Spectre of Communism is impressive in the way it presents history, the depth of the tactics offered, and the selection of battles that we get to play through.
The one and only problem with Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society is that it is a sequel. Where its predecessor was so memorable because of the way it played with genre and convention, Galleria has the unfortunate distinction of being more of the same, and therefore no longer a surprising delight. It still tells a wildly entertaining story, has a tight and creatively different approach to dungeon crawling, and is a great way to spend 40-50 hours of your time. It’s just not as exciting because it’s no longer different.
Those gripes are minor indeed. Bayonetta Origins is a far more brilliant addition to the Bayonetta character and mythos than I would have ever guessed it could be. It’s by turns sensitive, charming, exciting and dramatic. The game gives Bayonetta a depth of character that adds so meaningfully to the world and story of this incredible character. This is essential. It’s not a “spinoff.” It’s a critical addition to the franchise. PlatinumGames has truly delivered something both surprising and special with this effort.
Am I going to be raving about Seven Doors for years down the track? No, of course not. It’s not a game of the year, it’s not going to wind up on those “1001 games you must play before you die” lists and books. But Seven Doors is a good way to spend a few dollars, and something you can enjoy without stressing about what the game demands back of you. It’s too easy to overlook these kinds of games, but they have their place.
Catan – Console Edition is a perfectly fine adaptation of a hugely popular board game. The developers have done their best to make it work for both online and offline play, and present it gorgeously. I just wish that another, equally talented developer, took Twilight Struggle, or the Game of Thrones board game, or any of a few hundred other incredible board games and adapted those instead.
With stunning and highly stylised character art, some exceptional and efficient writing, and some excellent “death game” scenarios, Paranormasight is one of the better visual novels that I’ve played in some time. Square Enix might not be known for this genre, but perhaps the company should look for more opportunities to participate in it, because while this won’t outsell Final Fantasy XVI (to put that mildly), it does remind us of how, among the bigger publishers, it is probably the most creative and willing to take risks on smaller scale projects like this… and just how good it is when big publishers support creative projects that aren’t expected to sell millions of copies.
Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is by no means a mainstream horror game, is the point that I’m making through this review. However, it is incredible. In the context of the broader Project Zero series, it’s going to be fondly remembered. It’s hard to look past Project Zero 2 as the masterpiece of the series, but the intensity of the atmosphere and strength of the narrative in this one means that this one isn’t far behind. More importantly, however, is that in 2023 this is one of those surprisingly rare attempts at a Japanese horror game, as opposed to a horror game made by Japanese developers. They’re different things, and this game is not only an excellent piece of entertainment, but it is also an enormously useful resource for anyone that wants to understand the aesthetics of horror outside of the western mainstream.
With the exception of the poor localisation, Ruku’s Heart Balloon is the epitome of good-naturedness, and has actually been built with confidence and expertise around that. Whether this is the very first game you’ve ever played (I can’t imagine too many toddlers read DDNet, but hey, welcome!), a parent looking for a way to connect with your kids, someone with a non-gaming spouse or an esports professional that is looking for something that’s going to give them a break from those toxic communities, Ruku’s Heart Balloon has a little something for everyone.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a really majestic epic, and a stunning new interpretation of a book that has already been interpreted so many times in video games. It’s a compelling telling of the story, backed up with one of the fastest and most entertaining takes on Soulslike combat that we’ve seen to date. Just make sure you’ve got your energy drinks to hand. You’re going to need some serious focus thanks to the sheer speed and precision that this game demands.
If you don’t, it’s a very good shmup, if not one of the most complex out there in terms of gameplay mechanics. You’re still ultimately chasing a high score and not much else – and I didn’t appreciate that the default high scores were set pathetically low, because I’d rather have something to chase from the get-go. Still, I am a bit of a Raiden tragic, so in that frame at least, this is definitely a top game – for me.
I do appreciate the effort that went into Remorse: The List. The developers had a strong vision and did their best to execute on it. On a technical level, I also found it to be quite impressive for the Switch. There are much bigger games that struggle to lift to this visual and mechanical quality on that hardware. But, unfortunately, at the end of the day, this is a horror game where its enemies – which it relies on far too much to carry the experience – are more likely to make you giggle than sweat. That’s a death knell for any horror experience.
Grim Guardians: Demon Purge is Inti Creates at its safest, working in a genre it is most comfortable with. That’s not a criticism, given how talented the developer is at this stuff. If you enjoy the older Castlevania games, you’re going to love this. At the same time, as confident as this production is, it’s hard not to wish that the team at Inti Creates had pushed themselves a little further for this outing. It’s just a little too safe for broader appeal beyond its main niche.