Cult of the Lamb has the potential to be one of the next big indie hits. The cute art style and comparisons to Hades and Animal Crossing: New Horizons will draw potential players in, but the game truly stands alone as its own experience with an intriguing story, a haunting score, and a world that grows more and more alive the longer you stay in it. The blend of gameplay styles also addresses some of the criticisms of both the roguelike genre and the farm management genres – runs are deliberately shorter so players can spend more time at the homestead, but the homestead isn't so much of a resource sink that players will feel they need to spend all their time cleaning up their camp instead of killing enemy cultists. Cult of the Lamb expertly balances a number of different mechanics, themes, and gameplay styles to create a fiendishly good time, making this game a hauntingly fun escape.
While I've joked while playing that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 was a great series of cutscenes with some fighting in between, the game gets away with its glut of cutaways because the story is quite good. Sure, people can see some of the twists coming from a mile away, but the core mystery is so intriguing and weird that you really want to keep playing to figure out just what the heck is going on.
Despite being so old, this is one of the more inventive and creative RPGs that I have ever played, and it really shows where some of Square's ideas for later projects came from. Those who have been waiting patiently for decades to experience Live A Live will no doubt be happy with this remake, and anyone else who is merely looking to scratch their itch for a new RPG to play should find a lot to like here, too.
Where dogs are usually considered "man's best friend," Stray suggests that cats may be robot's best friend. This is a game that wears its heart on its sleeve and expertly weaves its themes into everything the player does. There will likely be many people who buy this game because they want to play as a cat and their itch will be scratched, but there's also a high chance they will come away moved by its story of companionship and get caught up in its soothing and equally mesmerizing atmosphere. There are a lot of amazing looking games coming this fall, but Stray has already cemented itself as a contender for awards season.
If losing the cerebral, tactical piece-moving combat doesn't dull your interest – if that's not why you came to Fire Emblem in the first place – Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes has enough of the franchise's DNA to satisfy. And in some ways, zooming across a battlefield while triggering abilities like Assassinate or Nosferatu seems more in line with the chaotic, war-torn battlefields of Fodlan than what came before. I might not go so far as to say that Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is my ideal for what Fire Emblem could and should be going forward, but it is quite frankly a lot closer to perfection than it has any right to be.
The four games contained in Sonic Origins are excellent. More than 30 years later, they've aged quite well, and Sonic Origins is the best possible way to revisit them, or play them for the very first time. Playing all four games, I was taken aback by how Sonic Team was able to make each game feel distinctive. However, after all the reissues some of these games seen, long-time Sonic fans will have to decide if the collection's extras and changes are worth the price of admission. Of course, now that Sonic Origins has been released, I sincerely hope that Sega offers similar packages for other Sonic games. If the company ever decides to give the Sonic Advance games a similar treatment, I'll be first in line.
Capcom Fighting Collection is the best way to play many of these classic arcade titles as there have been enough adjustments to each title and adjustments to the ease of playing each one that it marks this collection as the best one of these re-release packages yet. It's a great step in the right direction for the future of collections of this ilk, and a great first collection for fans who might have never checked out one of these before. There are some repeats, but the new additions make up for it.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge distills all the components that made me fall in love with Konami's games as a kid while adding just a handful of modern features and extras to make the experience feel modern.
Ultimately, Mario Strikers: Battle League reminded me a bit of last year's Mario Golf: Super Rush. Both games offer a fun core gameplay experience but are ultimately very thin in terms of content which hinders their replayability. If you don't have a dedicated group who wants to play Battle League on the regular, the game could end up collecting dust on the shelf. Next Level Games has promised additional roster updates and other content releases after release, so hopefully the game grows into a more robust experience after a few months.
The Quarry is a charming and surprisingly intimate horror story that creates real stakes and successfully does away with the idea of plot armor. Although it has some annoying or even frustrating quirks, it's a worthy successor to a game like Until Dawn and highlights Supermassive Games as masters of their craft.
The original Pac-Man has been offered in countless ways on countless platforms over the years; at this point, some fans couldn't be blamed for feeling sick of it. Fortunately, Pac-Man Museum+ manages to offer a library with a surprising amount of variety. I thought I knew a lot about Pac-Man going into this game, but I walked away with a much deeper knowledge of the franchise, and all that it's had to offer over the years. I also came away with some new favorites that I might never have discovered otherwise. I probably never would have discovered Pac 'n Roll or Pac-Man 256, or remembered just how much I enjoy Pac-Attack. The lack of Ms. Pac-Man is disappointing, and the arcade customization could have been a little bit deeper, but this is a strong collection of games that should delight both long-time Pac-fans, and those new to the series.
Diablo Immortal, a game I spent hours playing and want to see more of both in terms of its events, story, and roles beyond my Monk, has broken that trend. It does not at all play like a game to be booed on stage, and the planned PC version should make it even more accommodating for those who prefer that platform. Whether you're playing it to stay occupied until Diablo IV comes out or playing it out of excitement, Diablo Immortal is simply worth playing.
Sniper Elite 5 has scratched an itch that I have had since Splinter Cell vanished nearly a decade ago. The stealth, level design, and sandbox elements have created something that will be incredibly fun to replay both by yourself and with friends. Although Rebellion still has to tighten up some areas such as the story and close-quarters gunplay, this is an extremely refined stealth game that has taken the series into a new era with a lot of meat on its bones.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong does an admirable job of bringing the World of Darkness tabletop experience to video games. Anyone who has been a fan of or curious about Vampire: The Masquerade but perhaps struggles to get a gaming group together, or wants something to do between sessions, will find Swansong a welcome substitute. The strength of the narrative-based gameplay, bringing a rare weight to choices, successes, and failures, will give any fan of narrative or adventure games something to enjoy, even if the tedium of exploration will likely wear on players at least a bit. Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong could have used another coat of polish before being released, but it does enough right that I hope to see the team behind it get another crack at the World of Darkness.
Despite its jagged, toothy edges, Evil Dead: The Game remains one of the more pleasant surprises of this year so far. Gripes are pushed to the background when you possess a survivor and use them against their team or rend a Deadite to bits with a chainsaw and even with some movement hang-ups on both teams, every match plays out relatively smoothly. If Saber Interactive keeps up with community feedback and delivers more DLC down the line, Evil Dead: The Game could solidify itself as one of the truly great asymmetrical horror experiences.
Once again, Nintendo has delivered a package of activities that are easy to learn and a blast with a roomful of people. Playing Nintendo Switch Sports really took me back to 2006, and it felt great to play something that made me feel the way the Wii did.
Trek to Yomi starts to come into its own only as it heads towards its finish. It's easy to admire what Flying Wild Hog set you to do with Trek to Yomi. It's an attempt to blend the appeal of the classic samurai film genre with the interactive moodiness of fellow indie games like Playdead's Limbo or Inside. It's partially successful in that regard, but while the ideas underpinning the game are solid, their execution leaves something to be desired. Ultimately, Trek to Yomi could have benefitted from more time studying the blade.
Citizen Sleeper has captured my imagination in a way that few video games do. Thoughts of characters met and what could have been have percolated through my mind since finishing a playthrough after roughly five hours, which I did with an urgency not typical of me. If you're looking for something different, something that feels both fresh and timely and often beautiful and sometimes horrifying with its implications, Citizen Sleeper is all of those things and more.
By all accounts, MLB The Show 22 is still a great baseball game, but it definitely isn't going to blow you away if you already put a lot of time into The Show 21. The changes that have been included here in the latest entry feel more iterative than they have in quite some time, which leads to the final product feeling a bit disappointing. Still, in all of the ways that matter, MLB The Show 22 is another strong installment, even if it doesn't quite feel like it has taken a next-gen leap just yet.