6Souls isn’t the most original of titles but there’s enough fun platforming, tricky bosses, and well considered animation and sound to keep you happy for the whole of its duration. Had the level design been a little more varied, with some of the older mechanics brought back a little later in the game, and there been less reliance on the Soul Boost, it would have gone to another level still.
As a lover of both wildlife documentaries and videogames I absolutely wanted to fall in love with AWAY, but the rough edges of the gameplay and some bugginess proved just too much of a burr under the saddle to be entirely enjoyable. The frustrating gliding controls, a rogue camera, and a smattering of weird and wonderful bugs throws salt on the rich earth of a great idea. The premise is a marvellous one and I applaud the team at Breaking Walls for doing just that – smashing down another wall of what can be made into a videogame. I hope that the team continues with their ‘Survival Series’ and works to bring more playable nature stories to life in the future – I have every faith that this could be a wonderful franchise with only some refinement.
If you enjoyed the escapism of Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley or Spiritfarer but want something a little lighter; something short and sweet yet not too saccharine, you could certainly do worse than a short break to Haven Park. The game is a very reasonably priced for its size and scope, and while unlikely to make anyone’s Game-of-the-Year list, is nonetheless a nice palate cleanser between meatier titles.
While I feel like I’ve had more negative things to say about Disgaea 6 than positive, I definitely enjoyed my first foray into the Netherworld. The characters are great fun and make up for a rather well-worn plot by quite simply being well presented and entertaining. The combat is a little long-winded for my tastes but once you’re in the thick of battle there’s really a lot to like, and I can see why the series has so many admirers. There’s plenty to enjoy for returning fans and newcomers alike, though I warn first-timers to be aware of the emphasis on grinding to a ridiculous rate, and to be ready to have AI completing more battles than you in the long run. If you’re someone who enjoys fine tuning party management and are happy to leave the hands-on battle management to the robots, I think Disgaea 6 is definitely one for you, dood!
Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars - a game that’s full of humour, fluid gameplay and a story, which despite being hamfisted to bring two series together, was ridiculous enough to work. It is more Neptunia than Senran Kagura so I think it’ll appeal to the former fan base rather than the latter, but the run time left a bitter taste - just as the game was starting to roll, it ended. The team up between both franchises was a strange choice from the outset but it's well crafted and surprisingly well done, at least until the developers seemingly decided it was time for the Neptunia and Senran Kagura girls to wrap up and go home.
Neptunia ReVerse feels more of a test of how the PS5 hardware works for Idea Factory & Compile Heart rather than providing players with a new experience, and after ten years the game is starting to show its age. References to the bygone era of PS3 & Wii, cut scenes being given a spit and polish rather than recreated, and the issues with a sub-one second load between battles just gives the impression this is an aging port and not a modern day enhancement. The game is very self aware and the core game is still pretty fun to play albeit with repetitive sections and a little bit of a grind to cope with. Arrange Mode offers up a challenge and remixes the dungeons and items found within but overall Neptunia ReVerse suffers from typical “first game in the series-itis”; there’s a lot of good building blocks which have since been fleshed out and better implemented in the newer titles.
It’s a shame that this game locks what good content it has behind a boredom-wall of turgid cutscenes and pointless, button mashing combat. It isn’t a long game, with around 20 hours of content, but it feels like it could have been a stronger contender if a lot had been cut and a more interesting, better paced story had been presented as the hook. Everything it does well can be found better elsewhere, and, while I haven’t played it myself, the reception to the series’ own first translated title The Gate of the Firmament is far, far more positive
SkateBIRD might sound like one of those joke titles that is played for around five minutes before being forgotten about, but what is actually here is a well thought out skating game that’s full of charm and humour. While the skate mechanics are a little rough around the edges, once I got over trying to execute each move perfectly and relaxed into the game’s casual nature, my time with it was rather fun. All things considered, if you’re after a wholesome, silly skating game, SkateBIRD does fit the bill, albeit in a rough "seagull-fighting-you-for-a-chip" kind of way.
Radio Viscera is an entertaining romp through the camp of Y2K cultists to say the least. The twin stick shooter manages to tick a lot of boxes and make you forget the few negatives. While the setting is a little ‘by the numbers’ and some of the puzzles could have been implemented slightly more effectively, you’re left with a relentless and comical game that doesn’t overstay its welcome. With fast paced controls that are perfect to a tee and cartoonish violence everywhere, Radio Viscera accomplishes what it sets out to be – a fun shooter experience and you can’t fault it for that.
Metroid Dread is a wonderful addition to a storied but long-dormant franchise, and offers some modern shine on a traditional experience. The stunning visuals and some simple but fun new mechanics make it a joy to play, even through the sometimes punishing difficulty level. The busy controls might bamboozle some players in heated moments and others will argue that it’s too short to justify the price tag, but there can be no mistaking the overall quality of the title.
Nerd Monkeys have done an excellent job compacting a light puzzle platformer into a small space and painting it absolutely beautifully. You aren’t going to find a world beating new mechanic for puzzle platformers and you might have to crack your mind wide open to find the story but I’d say it’s a worthwhile pick up despite its few shortcomings.
Empire of Angels IV is a tough game to recommend to the players who live and breathe Strategy RPGs. The stripped back nature of the battle system has no real depth to it, and the constant backtracking to previous encounters to grind levels will be annoying and takes a shine away from the story and visuals. By the same token Empire of Angels IV is the perfect introduction for people who aren't used to the S-RPG genre. The battle system is straightforward enough to get the hang of and isn't complicated in the slightest - enemies are just tough enough to make you think about how to approach each battle and with regular backtracking to grind those levels, it's a good way of working out which heroines work well with your play style.
I can’t call G-Darius HD anything other than a run-of-the-mill arcade shoot ‘em up. While the capture ball and beam duelling are fun wrinkles to the gameplay, they aren’t enough to make the game stand out against a myriad of other titles in the same genre. The achievements and graphics updates are nice but I struggle to look past its short run time and genesis as an arcade cabinet that’s designed to eat your money. Sadly, this just isn’t an ideal console title. Fans of the genre will be overjoyed to have G-Darius HD available in their games library, but I don’t think it will capture many hearts outside of those players who forever yearn for the glory of the arcade High Scores table.
Corpse Killer is a decaying relic of its time, with few redeeming features that would encourage anyone to unearth it. The full FMV levels are hilariously bad and the point-and-click shooting is the dictionary definition of rinse and repeat gameplay. B-movie aficionados or former Sega 32X players seeking some nostalgia may be slightly more inclined to resurrect this one, but the cheesy plot, poor production, and miniscule amount of gameplay will not appeal to many modern players at all. It’s an amusing time capsule to my misguided, zombie-enthused youth, but this is one that should absolutely have stayed buried.
Ultimately, Spelunker Deluxe HD is for those who have the time to memorise the level layout, can handle odd control lag and are “hardcore” in a way most people no longer recognise. This alone hugely limits the audience, but it’s a game likely to have an incredibly loyal fan base but a game that will struggle to attract more players.
Alfonzo’s Arctic Adventure manages to stay fresh throughout the entire experience – it finds a decent balance between challenge, frustration, and a sense of accomplishment upon completing a level. There’s not much to say about the plot – largely there isn’t one – but the brief bits of dialogue between the heroes and villains get a good chuckle every now and then. The gameplay takes centre stage, and it’s good and solid. Just be prepared ahead of time to resist hurling your controller through your screen as you lose yet another life to a bird shitting on you at exactly the wrong moment.
Tails of Iron is a solid, confident entry to the genre. The tightly focused encounter design, meaty combat and enjoyable world-building and storytelling with adorable rodents who think they’re people, I didn’t find much not to like. The difficulty may be a turn-off for some, but the game keeps to the core soulslike tenet of playing fair and making sure that when you die (and you will die), you’ll know what you did wrong to bring it about. If you’re looking for a challenging, rich adventure then I’d highly recommend joining Redgi to reclaim his kingdom and his crown.
Golf Club: Wasteland is a strangely compelling experience. I found the gameplay frustrating, yet your protagonist isn’t playing golf through the ruins of a post-apocalyptic Earth to “win”, and to get the most from this game neither should you.
Overall Minute of Islands is a deep, thoughtful narrative experience with just enough weight to its simple gameplay to keep interest as you push through to its conclusion. It deals with some difficult subject matter in an engaging and challenging story, and while there are aspects I’d have liked to see it go a little deeper on, for the length and scope of the game I really can’t fault it.
Lake is certainly not for everyone. It’s a very specific experience that tries as hard as possible to take as much ‘game’ out of the game and leave you only with the relaxing story element. And on balance, I’d say I enjoyed my time with Lake; I breezed around that leafy town not knowing if what I was doing mattered or if I really cared about that or not. It’s like having a day off work without any plans – the world is your oyster and there’s absolutely no pressure.