I want to like Steelrising, I really do, but it just won’t let me. Every aspect of the game feels like a barrier to the one thing I enjoyed: combat. Even that got boring. The characters are bland, the story is dull, the setting is derivative, and the finished product is too buggy and bloated to truly enjoy. It needed a few more turns of the key to go the distance and keep on ticking smoothly.
Card games can be a tough sell, especially in video games. The threat of mechanical complexity can put some off, while for others it just seems a boring choice when fully-animated adventures are just as readily available. Sometimes, Foretales doesn’t do the best job of countering this argument, as it can disappear up itself through endless, monotonous combat. And yet, when it puts down the dagger and lets you explore the world to work things out for yourself, it shows that we’re nowhere near close running out of engaging new ways to use small slabs of art.
Session is the skating game I've always dreamed someone would make, where performing even a 'simple' trick is significant and challenging. There are no mile-long grinds or 900-degree kickflips here: just real skating in its rawest form. It doesn't just simulate the sport, but the art of skating too. You need to get creative, looking at the everyday clutter of a city and dreaming up ways to make something rad out of it. That's what street skating is all about, and why Session is the best virtual expression of the artform yet.
No Place for Bravery surprised me in many ways. When I first started, I was ready for a gory festival of combat with a good story to go along with it. What I got was a beautiful, dark narrative that pushed me to reach the end credits far more than the promise of combat would have. The things I loved most are things I can’t talk about in this review for fear of spoiling the experience - No Place for Bravery feels fantastic to play, and Glitch Factory has created a story that will stick with me for years.
Although its stealth systems can feel a little too forgiving and easy to work around, Serial Cleaners’ grungey story is still one well-worth going through thanks to its likeable cast, sense of style, varied levels, and satisfying core mechanics that manage to stay fresh throughout the adventure.
Sunday Gold is a game with a lot to say, says it eloquently, and has an aesthetic and artistic direction that I’ve fallen in love with. However, it must be said that the execution leaves something to be desired - the game excels in set pieces, confrontations, and dialogues, but getting from one highlight to another is a bit of a slog. I’d play another game following Frank, Sally, and Gavin in a heartbeat, but I’d hope it flows much better than Sunday Gold.
Return to Monkey Island is everything I wanted and more. Daft humour with plenty of dad-worthy gags, puzzles to both frustrate and delight you, lovable throwbacks around every corner, and all while being effortlessly enjoyable. It feels like Monkey Island has fittingly come full circle with this title in many ways, and yet I can’t help but be selfish and want more Guybrush from Gilbert. There’s still room in the scrapbook for more adventures, and if we’re lucky, maybe we won’t have to wait 30 years for the next title.
There’s a lot to love about Potion Permit. It’s a game that, as mentioned, gives you a purpose, and does a great job of letting you experience the journey from total newcomer to heart of the community. It’s a perfect game for those seeking a relaxing, chilled-out experience - a tonic for a market filled with life sims that emphasise profit and efficiency. The only things lacking are a little difficulty to keep things interesting and some bug fixing to keep things running smoothly.
I had a lot of fun with You Suck at Parking, something I could stick on for the night and play while passing the controller back and forth with a friend to try and one-up each other when we kept inevitably failing. It has that communal feel, especially with its leaderboards, that will no doubt push people to try and perfect its Deathrun-like level design. I can’t wait to see what community pops up around it, but, unfortunately, I don’t think You Suck at Parking built enough of an identity to leave a lasting impression.
When you hit a streak on the beat, enemies melt before you and you race across the map, racking up eight- or nine-figure scores with ease. Sometimes you fall off a little, though, and start missing every shot as you struggle to find the rhythm. This is frustrating, but it’s meant to be. Once you stop, take a breath, and start shooting again – to the rhythm, this time – you soon find your groove again and everything makes sense. The shooting feels great again, the game flows perfectly again, the toughest enemies are felled again. In these moments, Metal: Hellsinger feels really special.
It will never not be uncomfortable to see genocide and any kind of game mechanics on screen at the same time. But Gerda avoids this as best it can, offering us a game that puts history at the forefront, understanding that nothing else is more important. It’s an uncomfortable journey, but one that shows what RPG-lites are capable of.
Immortality feels like a logical endpoint for the last seven years of Barlow's work. Though his cast has expanded to include a full Smash Bros. roster's worth of characters, and the script has expanded to include three full movies with contributions from several writers, it feels like he has ended up, basically, where he started. Like Her Story, Immortality is really about one woman. As in Her Story, she may not be who you think she is.
Whether you’re a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or not, the Cowabunga Collection is without a doubt the most impressive gaming compilation there’s ever been. Collecting 13 hard-to-find games with every possible bit of extra content is an incredible effort, and the fact that most of them are still a blast today is just the icing on the cake. The Cowabunga Collection is truly a shellebration of everything TMNT.
Pac-Man World may not be Pac-Man World 2 like I’d hoped, but it’s still a solid classic platformer with enough unique elements to help it stand out. Those who have played the original will no doubt appreciate the nostalgia, but those like me who missed it originally will still have a good time.
Northway Games has crafted one of my highlights of the year with this narrative adventure. It’s wonderfully engrossing and hiding so many worthwhile character moments and gorgeous secrets well worth uncovering. I’ve already spent so many hours with the game and feel like I have barely scratched the surface, prepared to dive back in and live out this life over and over again until I settle on an imperfect resolution that feels well and truly my own.
At this point in time, it takes a lot to stand out in a sea of Metroidvania action platformers. With its gorgeous presentation and memorable boss fights, Islets does just that. It has some of the tightest platforming I’ve ever experienced, but I felt that the unbalanced combat design drags it down. I really enjoyed my time with Islets - it took me around 12 hours to beat the game, and it certainly doesn’t feel like time wasted - and I’d recommend it to any fan of Metroidvanias, but I don’t think it has universal appeal.