Pacific Drive takes each genre it tackles in a bold new direction, and creates something that’s not necessarily unheard of, but feels entirely unique in its design, care, and the way in which it pulls you into its world. You’ll immediately begin to care for your car as you keep it safe, and exploring the Zone consistently provides new, refreshing things to keep you engaged and daunted. Though the milder aspects can feel repetitive, it adds to a worthwhile experience that is absolutely worth playing.
After all of this, I got what I was expecting from the game: a damn fun time. What I didn’t expect, however, is to be thinking about it so much after each game, wanting to dive right back into hell with others alongside me. I can’t wait to get better at the game, face bigger threats, to see what planets this galaxy holds, and just what each planet will throw my way. I’m not one to often fall into multiplayer experiences, but even with a quickly-resolved rocky launch, Helldivers 2 is a strong and careful foundation for the beginnings of a flagship multiplayer experience of 2024 and, if it bears the strength of its launch, into the years to come.
I didn’t hate Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice Leaague, but that’s only because it’s hard to feel anything too strongly about a game like this. This might be the most rinse and repeat a game of this stature has ever rinsed and repeated, and the fact it delivers good interpretations (though not Arkham accurate) of established characters is its only saving grace. With each new bundle of content likely to be low on narrative and chock full of the same missions (probably with a new name that play exactly the same way), it feels like Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is only going to get worse from here.
Inconsistent graphics and the lack of a female protagonist we had in Portable aside, however, this remains a solid means of enjoying one of the finest RPGs of the past two decades. Its writing is sharper, combat is more satisfying, and it brings this world to life in ways that just weren’t possible several generations ago. Reload might lack its signature rough edge, but those coming around for the first time will find plenty to love.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth raises the bar in every way to take its rightful place as the new peak of the series. Whether you’ve been with Kiryu all this time or you joined the series with Kasuga, you won’t be able to help falling in love with this captivating new entry to the series that perfectly pairs the past and the future, our two favourite protagonists, and RGG’s typical blend of quirky comedy and heartwrenching plotlines. If it’s not my GOTY in December, I’ll eat my Majima Construction hard hat.
That being said, by launching with a free version, Rising has given itself a fighting chance. While I find it hard to recommend Rising to most people at full price, I wholeheartedly recommend that anyone even vaguely interested check out the free version. There is a lot to love about Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising, and without risk of buyers remorse, players should jump into the free version to see if they are a good fit for Gran’s merry band of adventurers.
Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it has the best mechanics and combat the Dragon Quest series has ever seen, with the monster-focused gameplay loop providing endless fun. On the other hand, overcommitment to the silent protagonist trope and shocking performance issues drag the experience down significantly. Although held back by dated hardware and dated design choices, The Dark Prince is one worth courting.
If you’re a 40K fan or just looking for a combat-heavy RPG outside of the normal fantasy fare, Rogue Trader will make a welcome addition to your library. It dives deeper into the setting and lore than any other video game to date, showing that it’s clearly a game by fans, for fans. Owlcat gave us multiple Pathfinder RPGs - hopefully, we’ll see more adventures in the Koronus Expanse in the future as well.
And yet, as you struggle through the game's often abstruse systems, there is something rewarding in it all. More clarity both over where to go next and what the game itself is built upon would be welcome, but what is here is worthwhile and, for those with a greater tolerance for getting lost over and over or finding the right way and being unable to progress because the search has tired you out to much, A Highland Song holds some promise. After everything, the view is just about worth the climb.
All in all, Steamworld Build is a great addition to the series, providing a unique but refined take on the city builder genre. Anyone looking for a more complicated, hardcore experience might find it a touch underwhelming, at least until the game really starts to find its feet. Even so, its forgiving nature and slow but consistent feed of gameplay mechanics make it especially appealing to more casual players or folks new to the genre.
Even if it were left as it is, Bluey: The Videogame is a step above every other game built with children playing their very first video game that I’ve played with my son to date. The Peppa Pig games are great, the Paw Patrol ones are okay, but much like when you compare the shows, what Bluey has to offer on the video game front is comfortably superior. The show is for adults and kids alike, but the short runtime and minor bugs mean the game is far more catered to the little ones - but as one of the best of its kind, it’s pretty wackadoo.
Fashion Dreamer was never going to be a Game of the Year candidate, however it did have the tools to be a favourite game for many. On a purely technical level it runs smoothly (as smoothly as games ever do on Switch), but with its aimless story, lack of depth, oddly colourless world, and misguided focus on influencer culture means it finds itself as one of 2023's worst dressed instead.
Persona 5 Tactica is undone by the fact it's unsure if it's putting the Persona twist on the tactical grid game, or using Persona characters to introduce newcomers to the genre. Maps and missions are repetitive, the more interesting elements that each Persona brings are sanded off, and there's an overreliance on basic gun and melee attacks that don't suit the Phantom Thieves at all. But when it clicks, there is an unmistakable charm about the Phantom Thieves themselves, and drawn-out though they may be, the epic scale of the bosses is a good shake-up for the genre. It's not the perfect goodbye of Strikers, but it is a sign that the sun should set on the Phantom Thieves in peace.
KarmaZoo’s creativity and ingenuity make it incredibly appealing, especially when layered with its humorous character and charm. However, whether you can stick it out for the long haul to enjoy the game at its fullest is another matter entirely. There is plenty to love and I’d recommend it for any social night, but I don’t think we would ever stick with it long enough to unlock even half the avatars.
WarioWare: Move It! is a complicated game to talk about, because at its heart the whole thing is so deceptively simple. You follow simple instructions presented on screen to stay alive and complete bizarre tasks, all of which are framed by adorable characters and fun stories which aren’t important, but remain stylish and lovable enough to ensure this cute package feels complete, despite its short campaign length and a reliance on local multiplayer to draw the most fun out of it. Nintendo has repeatedly said this is a full successor to Smooth Moves on the Wii, and I’d be lying if it doesn’t capture the same joy that comes from waggling WiiMotes around in my living room as a kid.
Without spoiling things, Star Ocean eventually devolves into schlocky cliché territory, but by that point, you’re firmly on board, ticket purchased and ready to see its journey through to the end. Star Ocean: The Second Story got the remake treatment for a reason - it’s a classic of the genre with compelling characters, wonderful storytelling, and oodles of satisfying mechanics. R goes to great lengths to streamline the Star Ocean experience and make it more beautiful (the new arranged soundtrack is glorious), and while it might have sustained a bit of the difficulty that made the original a triumph to overcome, it still squarely sticks the landing.
This is a competent survival game, adding nothing to a formula long since perfected by games like Subnautica, games that it falls far short of. It relies on the pull of Tolkien to keep players pushing through, otherwise it would be all too easy to give up on your mission and do something else, anything but mining. There are moments of magic, like when your team of dwarves begin to sing, deep harmonies echoing off the cavernous walls. But these moments are too few and far between, and the lore can only take you so far. As a space to hang out with fantasy-minded friends, Return to Moria is a nice jaunt. I just wish there was something more to do than swing this damn pickaxe at another damn wall.