Hot Wheels Unleashed is really nice to look at and sometimes fun to play, but I’m not sure who it’s for. The in-game currency model is unnecessarily convoluted and annoying most of the time. The difficulty is unbalanced to the point where I was forced to play on easy and swallow my gamer pride. The online multiplayer is where the most enjoyment is, but expect to invest hours trying to pull a car that can compete with some of the rarer racers. If Unleashed were a contender in a race, it would place 12th, like I did many times.
Actraiser Renaissance is a surprise return of a long-lost classic, but one which falls flat in execution in more ways than one. It has moments of brilliance, and there is undoubtedly substance and depth in its many systems. Still, all the moving parts don’t come together cohesively or logically, and it ultimately feels like two completely unrelated games taped together as one, with neither fully complementing the other. Old school fans will no doubt find the experience worth investing in after the tedious start, but for most other players, there are just plenty of far better alternatives.
Death’s Gambit: Afterlife is the product of a dedicated team that wants to provide the best action experience possible. This revamped version offers plenty of new systems for returning fans and puts its best foot forward for new players. There’s great attention to balance in this Souls-like Metroidvania that supplies enough challenging encounters and deep customization for all players to enjoy. It looks like the Afterlife ain’t so bad after all.
Centipede: Recharged is a welcome modernization of a timeless arcade shooter. The classic ’80s gameplay is fully intact, and the new power-ups and challenges spice up what was already a fine-tuned experience. Some of the best games in the world are ones that instantly wire into your reflexes, and Centipede: Recharged is definitely one you’ll want to keep around for pure shooting bliss.
There is nothing quite like these unique games, especially when in top form like Banana Mania. Their prowess at granting addicting stages and a constant desire for self-improvement are borderline unmatched. Quite honestly, seeing this revival is legitimately miraculous. I implore fans and even those who are vaguely interested in getting this collection and giving it a shot to let Sega know that classic Monkey Ball still has a thriving, dedicated market.
Mary Skelter Finale is a worthy conclusion to this turbulent saga of struggles against seemingly impossible to overcome odds. The cast is spread apart and segmented but undoubtedly bound together by the simultaneously cruel yet compassionate whims of fate. The gameplay is arguably at its height in this entry. The returning systems are satisfyingly addicting with the inclusion of the Zapping mechanic and standout character interactions. Even when accounting for the poorly paced main narrative and over-indulgent dungeon design, this is absolutely a finale worth experiencing in all of its unabashed, climatic glory.
Axiom Verge 2 is a great game with undeniable flaws. The combat lacks focus regardless of what kind of player you are. Still, exploration manages to be enjoyable and engaging. This game is catered for Metroid fans. Anybody else might have a difficult time embracing its charm. At the end of the day, though, Axiom Verge 2 is a delightful time, deserving notable acclaim and overall success.
Astria Ascending had me invested in the 25 hours it took me to get to the final dungeon. However, that comes with a padded runtime of level grinding, lengthy battles, dungeon navigation confusion, and many menu interactions. So if you begin, prepare not to understand what is going on until 10 hours into the game, but if you don’t have that time, don’t bother. However, those who do get far enough are in for a genuinely fun JPRG experience that only requires a few quality-of-life improvements.
In Sound Mind excels at its atmosphere and characterization of Desmond and the delusions of his patients. Combat can feel a little lackluster, and the story structure is formulaic. However, there is a love of horror on display found in the environments and core design of the experience.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a remarkable and magical adventure, and it’s honestly still hard to believe this is an indie title. This is the kind of game that simply needs to be part of every gamer’s library and one that raises the bar for the adventure genre in this generation. With emotional story beats, a compelling game world, engaging level design, challenging boss battles, and surprising combat versatility, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is an experience far greater than the sum of its many interconnected parts.