Kao the Kangaroo is not flipping the platforming genre on its head or reinventing the wheel, but it most certainly comes as a breath of fresh air in a space desperate for something other than Crash, Spyro, or even Astrobot. It is a simple and fun 3D Platformer meant for easy going and fun play sessions. It is a commendable goal for a game release in 2022, and it certainly ticks all the correct boxes. Ultimately, the game does not disappoint in its endeavours and is a solid platforming title to play and enjoy with family and friends.
From the way fighters are presented, through to the incredibly nuanced and layered combat mechanics, the King of Fighters XV proves why it truly is a contender for ‘king’ of fighting games. Although improvements can be made for an even better experience, the game ultimately proves how it deserves a spot amongst the best fighting games available. It simply has it all. Newer players may be hard pressed to enter the arena, but there are so many new inclusions to the formula that the price of entry may be worth the learning curve. This latest title in the franchise has been a long time coming, and there is no doubt the inevitable sequel will finally push the bar up even further. For now, however, the game rests comfortably alongside other fighting game staples.
Old World: Heroes of the Aegean marks the game’s debut on Steam, and it rightfully earns a spot on many favourites lists. It is truly unlike most 4X games currently available, and adequately serves to raise an already high bar. While the game can do with a bit more tutorialisation, there are enough pop-ups and explanations for adventurers to being their journey. Immersion is a massive focal point and the inclusion of supremely detailed stories and scenarios truly levels up the experience beyond what even the developers may have intended. It truly is an exceptional title, one worthy of taking the title as the king of 4X games.
Gran Turismo 7 is a driving simulator at heart. As such, the game’s overall driving experience is the primary point on which it should be judged. As far as professional racing simulation goes, Gran Turismo 7 once again finishes in pole position. From the attention to detail in car design, through to how vehicles feel on track and the way the controller feels in-hand; it is all rather exceptional. However, a game must be judged on everything it encompasses, not simply its core experience. Therefore, when observing the package as a whole, there are some truly weird gameplay design decisions, which detract from the overall experience. Sifting through hundreds of dialogue pop-up and lore turns the game into a Wikipedia simulator more than anything, and sitting through a six-minute unskippable cutscene every time the game boots up is rather annoying [Editor’s note: it can be turned off within the menu, but why the extra steps when a simple ‘skip’ button would suffice?]. Furthermore, the dissatisfaction of reduced rewards in favour of a forced “need” to spend on micro-transactions; especially after having to play entire hours of practice rounds, then ensuring one can make it through the tournament without hitting too many cars, cutting too many corners, and placing first; is utterly demoralising and removes any and all enjoyment from the overall experience. What should have been a wondrous new king of the streets has been turned into a digital billboard no better than a copy/paste FIFA; and this, truly, is the worst feeling ever for such a beloved franchise. As a result the game is, simply put, not even worth the cost of entry.
MLB The Show 22 is, rather disappointingly, just another yearly iteration of a franchise title. While the gameplay is stellar and it truly is one of the best sports simulation video game titles currently available, it does little more to excite over the 21 release. Upgrades are minor, to say the least, and graphics remain largely unchanged. As such, and for these reasons specifically, MLB The Show 22 can simply not be regarded as a game that truly sets the bar in any meaningful way. Sure, it improves slightly on the 2021 variant of the franchise, but it largely comes across as more of a 2022 refresh and content update than offering any meaningful and progressive changes.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a work of digital art. It transcends any other LEGO title before it, and stands as a testament to what a great LEGO Star Wars game can and should be. From the way it overhauls and remakes the Prequel and Original Trilogies, through to how these additions translate to the brand-new Sequel Trilogy, is nothing short of amazing to see, enjoy and experience. It ultimately sets a very high bar for all LEGO games to come. Especially when the smaller additions, like changes to the traditional camera and level design, truly enhance the overall experience — for this alone, the game is worth picking up. The game’s exceptional quality and gameplay are a pinnacle of the LEGO franchise and platforms alike, and should be experienced by all – whether Star Wars fan, gamer, or both.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart feels wonderfully faithful to childhood memories while, at the same time, clearly belonging in 2021. The title looks and plays like a modernised version of a nostalgic memory. In this regard, it is in a league of its own and serves as a shining example of what gamers can look forward to as the new generation of consoles matures.
Dawn of Ragnarok is first and foremost, an end-game continuation of the Asgard story in the main game. Unlike Wrath of the Druids and Siege of Paris, players enter a brand-new world that is absolutely massive in scale. Similarly, gameplay additions and story attempt to reach ambitious new heights that only the likes of Norse Mythology would ever allow. With this in mind, it features a story that spans around 25 hours, and additional content to keep players busy for a good twenty thereafter. New gameplay additions like the Hugr-Rip and the Atgeir will keep fans of the base game engaged at all times too, making it a perfect expansion for players who want more of Odin. Dawn of Ragnarok is good, and will tide any fan over until the next game in the franchise comes around.
There is a lot to enjoy and like about Martha is Dead. From the way LKA skilfully draws inspiration from horror classics like Fatal Frame and Silent Hill, through to how the studio delivers an exceptional thriller narrative; it makes the game a drama unlike any other. The title hooks on the pretence of being a horror, then pulls one in on the idea that it has a sea of lore and story. It is truly wonderful in this regard. While there are one or two things it can do better, its spot-on narrative delivery, and wonderful twists and turns as the end draws near; are memorable, to say the least. Mixing these story beats with an uneasiness hardly ever felt in video games, makes the game both unique and a must-play title, and raises the bar for all thrillers to come.
Over the years, many have tried to work out what exactly it is that makes games successful. Is it the art, music, mechanics, or a combination of all three? Although a definitive answer remains elusive, what is known is how games continue to stay with us, and the titles often remembered are not always the ones to win awards. Rather, they are often the kinds of games that reach into our souls and ignite an unforeseen passion. Kingdom of the Dead is a loving and thoughtful successor to a much-beloved series that birthed an entire genre, and maybe, just maybe, Kingdom of the Dead will be able to revive those same feelings of love and enjoyment once more for an entirely new generation.
It is unknown whether Grove Street Games worked on quality assurance at all or whether the studio actually bothered to patch out some bugs, but that is most certainly not how it seems. All games in the collection have lazily been ported from their mobile counterparts by a company who has seemingly never worked on other platforms before. All games have furthermore been given a remaster treatment so shockingly bad, they have somehow recessed and now look and play worse than any kind of emulated version ever would; and the entire Grand Theft Auto franchise, as masterful and great as it is, will now forever be marred by incompetence — let alone three classics forever disrgraced in such a way. There is no argument that Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is an abhorrent mess, and an incredibly disappointing one at that.
Rainbow Six Extraction might share a name with Rainbow Six Siege, but it feels like a wholly different game and it is all the better for it. For all intents and purposes, the game acts as another “game mode” and an extension to Siege, but players most definitely do not need to own or know anything about the latter title to enjoy Extraction. There is something about team-based strategic titles with persisting status effects that simply just… works, and Ubisoft definitely nailed it with this one. Whether players want to shoot tar like aliens in the face, or have some PvE fun in the “Siege-verse”, Rainbow Six Extraction is definitely the game to play. It is, wholeheartedly, a good game, and will only get better as future balancing comes into play; more of those loveable operators from Siege enter the fray; and extra exciting challenges come into circulation.
Shin Megami Tensei V truly outshines any previous main or spin-off title in the franchise. Persona 5 may have been an incredible feat, but this game simply sets a new standard. Part of the game’s allure comes from a surreal horror aspect no other franchised game has managed to successfully capture, but Shin Megami Tensei V is truly so much more. It is a classic Japanese-roleplaying game at its finest, thanks to the involved and nuanced plot, well-written characters, and unmovable resilience in terms of how it just does not fix what is not broken. It is a collection of all the best aspects of what makes a good Shin Megami game, and just like Nocturne before it, will go down as an exceptional game to beat.
After the divisive release of Sword and Shield, it comes as a surprise to learn how Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are actually really good remasters. Sword and Shield were unapologetic in their newness, with gameplay that may have been flattering for some with a new visual style featuring more faults than boons. Even so, the games still brought something new to the stagnant franchise. Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, on the other hand, embrace what made the games as good as they were for their time, which ironically also means they fall to the curse of nostalgia. While returning to the Sinnoh region is a treat, and the visual upgrades are wonderful, its familiarity ultimately begets a lack of creativity. Strangely, it appears as if these remastered titles have been made to serve an audience who have yet to experience the originals or the superior Pokemon Platinum. In this sense, the games are quite good and they do manage to wonderfully capture the delight of Pokemon games from the past; but in so doing they also introduce a longing for something ‘more’ in the games to come.
It is easy to get lost within the world and tale spun and conjured within Hades. Being the first video game ever to win a literary Hugo award for its narrative is nothing short of incredible. It is also incredibly well deserved, and an exciting new accolade for future games to aspire towards. Heart is arguably the most crucial part of any game, and it is something Hades has to spare. At its core, Hades is a relatable and timeless coming of age story about family, and is a deep dive into the greek gods and their stories – something rarely explored outside of the classroom or on the big screen. There is also a powerful underlying lesson to be learnt about embracing the journey and accepting failure as an inevitable part of moving forward. Even without any prior love for rogue-like games, Hades is absolutely worth at least trying. The gameplay is smooth and complex enough to keep the player entertained and invested, even through tears of frustration. Everything else it offers is just polishing on an already gleaming gameplay experience.
Before We Leave is a great debut offering from Balancing Money Games. It takes the common post-apocalyptic tropes associated with RTS games and adds a unique mix of 4X gameplay to its fold. The result is a moderately fun and interesting title focussed more on the idyllic notion of civilisation advancement over the high stakes gameplay normally associated with titles in this genre. As such, it is a high accessibility title with fairly low stakes gameplay; which may be off putting to some RTS purists. Even so, the overall experience is enjoyable and certainly worth trying.
The realistic focus of Insurgency: Sandstorm may be off putting to some, but in practice it features a decent balance of simulation and fast-paced twitch-shooter elements. The setting may be somewhat cliche, but the gameplay speaks for itself in how masterfully everything has been done. Multiplayer matchmaking happens quickly too thanks to the game’s crossplatform nature, and matches can last anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes – sometimes much longer if there is a constant back and forth in certain game modes, making it a nice and easy one to pick up and play after work or during lunch breaks. The game is essentially a mix between Escape From Tarkov‘s hardcore simulation and Call of Duty‘s casual and bum-rush fun. Overall, it is a good game and one that will likely be played by more hardcore fans for the foreseeable future.
The current Steam Early Access build of Sphere – Flying Cities most definitely showcases a few areas in need of serious polish. The narrative absolutely needs work and proper tutorials and explanations of key points do need to still be added. While the premise is alluded to with the game masterfully playing off the key concepts, it comes as a bit of a shock to to discover a lack of a full-fledged campaign. Where are the moral quandaries that come with a burning home planet? Where are the ideological questions and philosophical musings one must consider? How long can a player hold out before upgrading water reserves or building an extra domicile? Thankfully the game is still a preview for a reason, but with an Early Access release from October 2021, these questions become more prominent as the game is consumed by the public. Small improvements to the narrative (perhaps through answering some of the aforementioned questions) and other much needed gameplay changes, could very well elevate everything good about Sphere – Flying Cities, into a rather unique and exceptional experience. Until then, the game serves as a base for the possibility of something great.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is truly an unexpected surprise. Gamers who have played Marvel’s Avengers might know what to expect from a gameplay perspective here, but they will be blown away by the absolutely wonderful narrative design and direction. A deep, personal tale is always a winner, but when it is gorgeously executed in conjunction with everything else that makes up a gaming experience; it is sheer perfection. Despite the simpler combat leaving a little more to be desired, it is easily overlooked courtesy of the enjoyment provided by the exquisite mocap, wonderfully formatted dynamic conversations, and the sheer scale of the environments. It all tips the scale in the game’s favour by an exponential margin. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a spectacle in terms of superhero adaptations and truly brings out the best of what games like these have to offer. Where Marvel’s Spider-Man (2018) set the bar for games focused on individual heroes, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (2021) sets the bar for those focused on working within a team, and it is exceptional from start to finish.
The online/career mode presentation in Riders Republic can be a bit ostentatious at times, but it quickly fades out of memory as soon as an event loads up; for this is what the game is all about. Races and events are exhilarating, with all-out action and speed around every corner. The game has its fair share of unlockables and there are more than enough collectibles dotted around its open world map to keep one busy for many hours. Of particular note is how Riders Republic allows for any and all players to enjoy its many sports disciplines. The game’s reliance on simple button inputs for every race welcomes players of all skill levels, and thus enhances the number of players available for multiplayer events. Ubisoft Annecy truly went all out with this one, and their love for this brand-new intellectual property beautifully shines through. There are one or two niggles that need some work, but overall it is a great experience worthy of any player’s time.