Tactics Ogre: Reborn is an insanely high-quality remaster. There are so many improvements, including gameplay additions, menu expansion, display clarity, improved graphics, orchestrated music, and fully-voiced dialogue. This remaster isn’t a cheap cash-in. It’s the quality level of remaster that all others should aspire to. The only complaints I can make about the game is that the story and gameplay are dense, and won’t be for everyone. Every tactical RPG fan needs to play Tactics Ogre: Reborn. And for strategy JRPG fans, Tactics Ogre: Reborn is good enough that it might be the exception when saying you’re not a fan of the genre.
Return to Monkey Island is fantastic. Brilliantly written and full of charm, the game manages to deliver a fresh experience in a nostalgic world. Even though the new art direction is divisive, the storytelling and humor are top-notch and make this a highlight of the franchise.
The Chant has an intriguing premise and setting that set it apart from its cousins in the horror/action adventure sphere. While it doesn’t break any new ground with its mechanics or combat, and it’s definitely not very scary, its exploration of psychological states adds a bit of specific narrative color. Budgetary limitations in character models, lack of refinement, weak combat, and inelegant animations aside, The Chant is just unique enough to make it appealing to fans of the genre.
Broken Pieces is a creative game with a plot containing a variety of puzzles, decent exploration, and questionable combat. Being the only character in the entire game, it can get rather lonely. However, that adds to the overall experience of being, well, all alone. Although this was under the psychological thriller genre, it was neither psychological nor thrilling – but it was unique. It may not be as mind-provoking as expected, but it had an intriguing story and a fairly smart protagonist, even if she was a terrible shot.
If the only console you own is a Switch, then Aeterna Noctis is a very good Metroidvania. I’d put it a tier lower than the best of the best in the genre, but still better than most, because of its excellent gameplay. If you own a PS5, Xbox, or PC, then the Switch should be the last version you play. The camera is too zoomed-out for handheld mode, and the framerate is very choppy compared to the other smooth versions. I wish I could also report on how the PS4 and Xbox One versions compared to the next gen versions. They were all planned for the same release day, and ended up taking another year to become available, so I would assume they are all downgrades that had to be quality compromised.
God of War Ragnarök is a masterpiece. Even though the game maintains many elements that were established in its predecessor, it refines them to create an unforgettable experience. The quintessential storytelling is a highlight of the medium and its impeccable combat will keep you enthralled throughout. Although Santa Monica Studios set a high bar with their previous outing, Ragnarök soars above it.
This is a worthy successor to Valve’s Portal games. It doesn’t have the polish and production values of those games but makes up for those shortcomings with it’s gameplay. If you love Portal, you, at the very least, really like The Entropy Centre. The Entropy Centre aims to bring a new meaning to the slogan: Build a Better Tomorrow.
Overall, Batora: Lost Haven is a fun game, albeit with a few shortcomings. The dialogue and the cartoonish visuals appeal to a younger audience. Meanwhile, the detailed statistics and complex controls make it feel more mature. Are you a fan of sci-fi action games or isometric action RPGs in general? Then Batora: Lost Haven could be a worthwhile game to sink your teeth into.
At its core, Triangle Strategy is a tale about the dangers of extremism. It paints a grisly picture of greed, selfishness, and horrors committed in the name of Unity, Morality, and Liberty. However, it also offers up the hope that the cycle of violence can be ended. Bringing true peace and understanding to Norzelia won’t be easy, but it is possible.
Ghost Song doesn’t try to reinvent the Metroidvania genre, but neither does it clutter it up with extra mechanics for the sake of complexity. It’s approachable but challenging. What it lacks in originality is made up for by attractive art, good level design and overall, addictive fun.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II will not convince non-believers to jump into Call of Duty. If you’re a fan, you’ll be buying it. If you’re a relapsed fan, you’ll likely come back. And if you hate Call of Duty, you’ll still hate it. It’s a solid effort with a well-designed campaign that feels like you’re playing a summer blockbuster movie. The multiplayer, although severely lacking some key ingredients such as hardcore, the ability to ping, and crossplay issues, is still quite enjoyable. It’s still Call of Duty multiplayer, but it brings enough fresh tweaks to keep us fans happy.
Resident Evil Village: Winter’s Expansion includes a wide range of content. Shadows of Rose is a great addition to the family saga and neatly ties up narrative threads from the base game. Although it follows conventions of the franchise, the supernatural twist does add a new element that leads to some innovative scares. The inclusion of a third-person mode for the main campaign is a fantastic addition and the new characters are great for the Mercenaries mode. Although Rose’s story is a little short, the expansion offers some memorable moments and gives a reason to return to the macabre village.
In conclusion, Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher is only for Monster Rancher and Ultraman fans. If you’re not familiar with both, a lot of the humor will mean nothing. Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX is a better starting point for the Monster Rancher series, despite the added online combat in Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher. But the other reason that I have a hard time recommending Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher is that it’s almost a full-priced game. This is a shallow, repetitive game, and one that I’d imagine 95% of people who play it will only spend a small amount of time with. I would have an easier time suggesting the curious check it out if it was budget-priced. But as it stands, Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher is only for people who want more Monster Rancher, or love 60s Ultraman.
Whether or not you enjoy this game is dependent on what you’re expecting from it. In the world of hypersexual, campy, insane action games, this sets a new standard. Every successive boss fight raises the bar, the action is always intense, and it oozes charm. There’s more move variety, the characters are beautiful, and the tone is impossibly over the top. If you’ve bounced off of Bayonetta games before, I can’t promise this time will be different. The pacing and core gameplay loop remain largely intact. But for fans of the franchise, Bayonetta 3 is easily as good as it gets. If you loved the first two games, you’ve got to check out this one.
Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is a great fit for asymmetrical multiplayer. I’ll take any chance to engage with a film that made a huge impact on my childhood. Also, the film lends itself very well to this style of gameplay. My hope is that future support includes new content. I’d love to see maps set in iconic locations, like the Sedgewick Hotel. Additional ghosts and equipment (like the pink slime gun) would be great, too. There’s a solid foundation to work with and future plans would go a long way to keeping the experience fresh.
I’ll even give EA credit. Fifa feels like simulation soccer. Madden feels like simulation football. I know that they’re capable of bigger and better things. But, for now, NHL 23, like all the ones before it, still feels like the black sheep of the family. As if it’s simply incapable of ever feeling like hockey. It’s telling that the worst cover in EA Sports NHL history is tied to the most disappointing game in nearly ten years.
Rather than just coast off the ingenuity of the first game, Sparks of Hope reaches beyond its predecessor. The Sparks give an extra layer of agency and choice to the player, while handing those same deadly tools to your enemies. The battles are fast-paced, clever, and compelling. So much so that the sections outside of battle feel like an exhausting slog by comparison. The dialogue is at turns both witty and insufferable, while the actual plot exists only to justify the action. Don’t let my bizarre set of blinders deter you, though. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is an excellent follow-up to the remarkable original game.