Gaz and I have known each other for decades and have played a lot of puzzlers together over the years, but we both agreed that We Were Here Forever stood out as one of our most enjoyable experiences. The creepy fantasy theme is delivered in a great visual style and hammered home by some phenomenal voice acting, and each cut-scene dragged us deeper into the lore and kept us invested in what we were doing. The puzzles are well designed (for the most part) and require enough thought to be challenging without causing frustration that disconnects you from the game. Yes, some voice chat problems and a couple of broken puzzles did cause annoyance, but that wasn’t enough to turn us off from a fantastic experience – We Were Here Forever is an absolute must for puzzle and escape room fans alike.
Merging a roguelike and a golf sim should not be nearly as fun as Cursed to Golf undoubtedly is. The retro-inspired visuals and bouncy soundtrack belie a truly stout challenge that takes a lot of practice to overcome. You’ll rue every poor shot choice and curse every mistimed button press, but battling through the trials of Golf Purgatory is an incredible gameplay experience that will have coming back for more time and time again. The only real thing missing is a multiplayer mode, but even without it, Chuhai Labs has undoubtedly hit a hole-in-one.
In summary Lost in Play is a great debut from this studio, and I’m eager to see what they come out with next. Fittingly for the game’s narrative there’s an overflow of imagination and charm to be found here in a compact package that won’t outstay its welcome; packed with story, puzzles and games that are clever and varied. And Goblin Poker, which might be worth the entry price alone.
Slight negatives put to one side, I must say that Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince was an absolute blast from start to finish. I couldn’t put it down as I just wanted to get on to the next dungeon, solve the next set of puzzles and get a new item to open up the next section. I wanted to read the next part of grandpa's endearing story and his conversation with his delightful grandkids. The only thing that stops me scoring it higher is the obvious copycat nature of a lot of the gameplay. However, I do feel that although Zelda et al have sowed the seeds of this genre in that special place in all our hearts, The Minotaur Prince helps those seeds blossom into more of the same beautiful and enjoyable gameplay that the genre has to offer.
Tarnishing of Juxtia is an interesting if unoriginal entry to the genre. It’s hard to recommend over other entries, as it feels a little bareboned compared to the atmosphere of Hollowknight, the fluidity of Dead Cells or the world design of Tails of Iron, nevermind the epic expanse of Elden Ring. But if you’re looking for another challenge (or if it’s on sale) you might find something to pique your interest in its workmanlike but enjoyable combat, or the hidden depths to its world-building and narrative.
SENSEs: Midnight manages to take all of the ingredients that made 1990s survival-horror games fun and bake them into a hellish experience with few redeeming features. There’s zero atmosphere to accompany you as you (slowly) backtrack across Ikebukuro Park, avoiding bland, almost-invisible enemies as you go. With a protagonist who is entirely inanimate except for her breasts, dizzying camera angles and a complete lack of quality gameplay, SENSEs: Midnight should stand as a warning of what not to do for developers looking to capture 90’s survival-horror nostalgia. This is a huge step back from an opening title that, while flawed, at least showed some promise.
With a magnificent setting, well structured social mechanics and a really effective upgrade system, Gamedec brings a lot to the table. While held back by a muddy middle act, moments of ropey dialogue and some swampy movement controls, Gamedec has other areas that shine - exploring the mega-city of Warsaw and investigating its residents is good fun, and makes wonderful use of the rich source material. The lack of hands-on action will make this a non-starter for some players, but fans of old school RPG’s like the Fallout and Baldur’s Gate will find that the intrigue more than makes up for the lack of dice rolls.
Voyage is a videogame canape – a delicious morsel of an experience that looks incredible and puts a smile on your face while it lasts. With gorgeous hand-painted environments and sweet animations backed up by an impressive yet subtle score, I thoroughly enjoyed my few hours trekking through the alien lands. While the gameplay doesn’t amount to much more than steering left and right, and the puzzles a simple collection button pushing, Voyage punches well above its weight and offers an enjoyable narrative experience that only asks you to use a little interpretation along the way.
Meet me at NooN is a unique and stylish puzzler that will be very popular among fans of the genre, particularly those who enjoy games at the higher end of the difficulty spectrum. It’s a pretty little game that will keep you on your toes with some very cleverly thought out mechanics, but the difficulty spikes and lack of variety in all areas might turn off more casual fans. Meet me at NooN has a great premise and execution but is ultimately pegged back by a repetitiveness that saps some of the enjoyment as things progress.
A wonderful blend of top tier pixel art, retro-inspired music and seriously gritty combat makes Souldiers an enjoyable, though sometimes prickly, experience. It’s a title that boasts some engaging (if not lengthy) levels that are underpinned by some inspired metroidvania mechanics and filled with a myriad of well designed enemies. While perhaps overfilled with unnecessary items and burdened by a few mechanics that can’t help getting in their own way, Souldiers offers a fantastic challenge throughout, and the vibrant world of Terragaya is an absolute joy to discover.
Evil Dead: The Game manages to tick a hell of a lot of boxes when it has no business too. The hammy horror is surprisingly well put together and the balance between good versus evil feels fair during play. The cabin in the woods is lovingly recreated, Campbell’s snarky and witty remarks are out in force and terrorising players as the Kandarian Demon is something any fan can get on board with. Each of the survivor classes offers unique ways to play and while there are a few drawbacks such as the lack of a meaty single-player and camera issues, Evil Dead: The Game is an entertaining, fun game that can be summed up in one, all-encompassing word: Groovy.
I know I’m not the target audience for Kao the Kangaroo, it is clearly aimed at younger players, but there is a fun time to be had. It is a shame that Kao suffers from all of the technical drawbacks. The save states simply don’t work and the graphical slowdowns make the game unplayable. Putting the bugs aside, Kao is an easy-breezy platformer that is fun to play. It might not be the most inspiring platformer out there but it is fun.
As a technical showcase of what the PlayStation 5 can do Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart sets the bar and sets it high and don’t get me wrong, all of the elements of a brilliant platformer are present and the gameplay is phenomenal while it lasts. Out of a 20 hour 100% run, only 5-7 hours of Rift Apart is spent playing the game, while the rest of the time was spent watching cutscene after cutscene full of explosive set pieces. So long as I didn’t deviate from the set path, those few hours where I had control were absolute perfection, but it felt like Insomniac Games was focused more on how pretty they can make a videogame look rather than producing a memorable game that fans have waited eight years for.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a playful and colourful depiction of a galaxy far, far away, and one that boasts about as much play time as you’d ever want to get out of a single game should you be willing to endure some significant repetition in order to wring every drop out of it. With hilarious retellings of all nine movies and some new gameplay elements, there’s a lot to like, but clunky camera angles and the head-scratching decision to leave out online multiplayer hurts the overall impression. This might just be the definitive LEGO Star Wars game that fans are looking for, but since only Sith deals in absolutes, I’ll leave that judgement to the will of the council.
Silt is a truly stunning game, with dark visuals that draw you in and impressive sound design that underpins a murky and sinister world. The simple puzzle solving acts more as a conduit for the artistic vision than to offer a legitimate challenge, but the experience is undoubtedly enjoyable despite the gameplay offering little in the way of difficulty. The story is a little vague and open to interpretation, but artistic-types will find it genuinely intriguing – the only real downside is that you’ll certainly be left wanting more, with the story reaching a haunting crescendo just when it feels like it could open the door to so much more. I would play another game set in the universe of Silt in a heartbeat.
While the controls might feel a little unwieldy for Switch players using Joy Cons, players using a pro controller (or playing on a console with more player-friendly peripherals!) will have a whale of a time blasting their way towards the tower to regain their memories. The risk-reward mechanics make every decision really count, and with a host of memorable bosses, awesome randomly generated encounters and boat loads of unlockables, it’s a title that you’ll be hooked on for hours on end despite some slight teething problems.
Superliminal is quite simply a masterpiece. Pillow Castle Games have taken an interesting premise and ridden it to a place that no developer has gone before, resulting in an impeccable game. The perspective-based mechanics are just incredible, and there’s a level of innovation in the puzzle design that deserves recognition alongside some of the greatest games of all time – truly, Superliminal is to visual trickery what Portal 2 is to physics. I cannot recommend this game enough.
Lumote: The Mastermote Chronicles is a charming and thoughtful puzzler. The protagonist is adorably loveable and while the premise is simple, it is well executed. Some of the puzzles did leave me questioning if I broke the game or was doing it correctly though. The quirks to the game’s design, such as being unable to backtrack, were annoying but not much of a distraction, and what really sells the game is the visuals and sound design. The plinky-plonk soundtrack coupled with the vibrant visuals pull you into a world I wanted to live in.
I cannot overstate how much I’m looking forward to playing the next three seasons to complete The Witch Queen Expansion. It started off with a bang and the story brings changes to Destiny 2 that were needed. There are a couple of negatives to The Witch Queen, particularly with the smaller map, which is severely limited compared to other areas. I’d have also liked to have seen the Hive Guardians utilised more often, as they only seem to be trotted out sporadically, but these are just minor points on a well-put-together expansion. If the remainder of the year continues in this vein, it’ll be hard for me to leave The Witch Queen alone long enough to play other games. Even as it stands, The Witch Queen Expansion is a thoroughly recommended addition to Destiny 2.
Overall, then, Arise remains an interesting platform experience. The gameplay is fun, the time manipulation is a well-used and well-developed mechanic, the visuals and sound are solid, yet the narrative goes to some strange, tone-deaf places and the overall message is, at best, mixed. Joyful at the beginning, borderline offensive in places in the middle, and thoroughly bleak by the ending.