When you compare this to titles like Minecraft of Stardew Valley, Summer In Mara fails to match up to its predecessors that stand tall in this harvested field. Sure, it looks pretty and for some of the younger kids this may even be a good stepping stone to get into this genre, but the gameplay loop and repetitive quest design wears thin long before the end of the main narrative.
The Last Of Us Part II will be an incredible game for some and a disappointing, narratively disjointed mess for others. Graphically, the title is easily one of the best looking on Playstation 4 and the level design is second to none. The art feeds into this beautifully too, with an aesthetic that switches colour palettes and ideas throughout the 25 hours to prevent the game stagnating. Unfortunately all of this is undermined by characters with very little depth, a narrative that flits between personas and flashbacks with little rhyme or reason, and some genuinely unsatisfying conclusions for almost every character at the end, save for Ellie. As someone who loved The Last Of Us, Part II is a tough pill to swallow. It’s a game that asks perhaps the biggest question of all – why should I care about these characters? And that’s something this never really answers with much conviction.
There’s something strangely endearing with Beyond Blue that’ll keep you playing through to the end. The simplicity of its scan/travel gameplay loop does become tiresome by the end but the calming, meditative state of exploring the ocean and watching these creatures in their natural habitat is worth persevering for. The story has some nice emotional beats too and the characters each have their own motivations and a decent level of depth. It may not be as good as Subnautica or Abzu but it does have the edge over those games when it comes to educational content. For that alone, Beyond Blue is well worth playing through and a reminder of how precious and beautiful our watery world really is.
Acting as a soft-reboot for the Sakura Wars series of games, this PS4 title essentially plays out as an interactive novelization of an anime. It’s a game that feels like a half baked medley of ideas, swinging between a slice-of-life dating simulator, a simple hack’n’slash arena fighter and a visual novel. The result is something that’s disjointed and feels like three games awkwardly squeezed into one 20-hour title. With an archetypal anime story full of the usual tropes you’d expect holding everything together, a couple of stand-out moments in its narrative just aren’t enough to elevate this above disappointing mediocrity.
Make no mistake about it, Minecraft Dungeons is not a game designed for experienced gamers looking for a challenge. It’s an entry-level dungeon crawler tailored for older kids looking to branch out from the blocky open-world nature of Minecraft. In that respect, the game is worth picking up and certainly holds enough of the aesthetic flair and charm from the Minecraft IP to feel like a natural spin-off. The gameplay is basic so kids should be able to pick this up quickly and aside from a disappointing leveling up system, Minecraft Dungeons is a fun co-op experience that knows who it’s targeting and executes on that perfectly.
Those Who Remain certainly won't be for everyone and there will undoubtedly be a good portion of players that take one look at the early, clunky mechanics and outdated character models and turn this off. That's a shame though because if you can get past some of the initial jankiness, Those Who Remain opens up to produce a pretty enjoyable (albeit flawed) Indie horror experience. The sound design is great, there's some nicely placed jump scares in here and the story is engaging enough to actually answer the numerous questions raised early on about what's going on and why this town is blanketed in a nightmarish veil of despair. This won't win any awards for being the best horror of the year, nor is it likely to be a title you return to in a hurry when you finish it. For £15.99 though, if you can look past some of the graphical issues and bugs and take to the story being told, there's enough here to make for an enjoyable enough play-through that's actually worth experiencing despite its flaws.
Moving Out is one of the best couch co-op games to be released in quite some time and combines the best elements of Donut County and Overcooked to create this hybrid of endless fun. The gameplay tweaks are smartly implemented, allowing both kids and adults alike to enjoy it, and the campaign is fun, full of great humour and increasingly elaborate levels. With a vibrant aesthetic, a simple but effective gameplay loop and plenty of levels to chew through, Moving Out is easily one of the best Indies of the year and a must-play for sure.
Someday You’ll Return is a great 6 hour game stuffed into an over-sized 15 hour package. On the plus side, the story is certainly gripping, the graphics look great and the sound design is some of the best in any video-game this year. Frustratingly, what begins as a really interesting and hellish dive into an adventurous mystery with horror elements quickly becomes bloated and bogged down, throwing in far too many unnecessary stealth sections and obfuscated puzzles.
Overall though TT Isle Of Man 2 offers up a much improved experience over its predecessor. While it still remains a challenging and at times frustrating game to play through, there’s enough improvements to make it worth jumping back into to check out. If you’re on the fence then it’s worth a rental and just like driving itself, eventually it’ll click and the experience is unlike other motorcycle sims out there. It’s not perfect, and the long loading screens and steep learning curve will almost certainly be tall towers to climb but if you can persevere and make it to the summit, there’s a decent enough view that’s worth holding out for.