Monster Hunter Rise

The bottom line is that there are a few tiny punctual complaints that can be thrown at Monster Hunter Rise. In general, though, the balance of the changes executed by it leans far more to the positive than to the negative. Via its streamlining of various gameplay details, it ends up removing a lot of little annoying quirks that were more bothersome than challenging. Thanks to the beautiful flexibility it adds to hunters’ movement and arsenal, it produces the most thrilling and satisfying battles the saga has ever witnessed. And with a thick pile of progressively tough quests to be tackled, it gives players plenty of reasons to keep going for many hours. The conclusion is that, sure, Monster Hunter has been much harder and demanding in the past, but it is tough to make an argument that it has ever been this fun to play.

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What The Golf?

What the Golf? is so unpredictable it is a bit hard to summarize and it breaks so many rules that even its core concept is occasionally disrespected. Its essence, though, is that of a mini-game collection centered on a very narrow idea: physics-based shenanigans that heavily satirize the titular sport in ridiculous and varied ways. Its low production value and corny humor are absolutely calculated; the extent of its cleverness in gameplay as well as laughter, however, is magical, and the title squeezes a shocking degree of value out of the wish to turn the game of golf on its head. As a product that throws hundreds of ideas at the wall to see which ones stick, What the Golf? is naturally an effort of ups and downs; of brilliancy and dullness. The fact that its excellent moments far outnumber the problematic ones, though, means that it can be recommended without any caveats to anybody: avid gamers will encounter plenty of challenge; people who play casually will be hooked in by its humor and simplicity; those who hate golf will relate to its motivation and appreciate the shots taken at fixing the sport in the wildest possible ways; and those who love golf will like the surrealistic twists it implements on the game.

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Golf Story

With its accessibility, charm, and quality, Golf Story has the capacity to draw in both those who admire the sport and those who do not. Centering a gaming experience around the combination of RPG elements with golf may not be a completely fresh idea, but it is one that was abandoned so distantly in the past that the game ends up feeling either like a major discovery or like the realization of a long-lost dream for gamers who wish Nintendo had continued to explore this very mixture in the Mario Golf games. Golf Story, however, is more than the picking up of a torch that was once let go. Despite a couple of minor design issues and a generally tame difficulty, the title shines by taking the concept of a role-playing sports game and expanding it to its furthest reaches, pairing the expected tournaments and matches with various sidequests, distinct wacky tasks that are somehow solved by taking golf shots, and the touching simple story of a man who tries to find redemption in the midst of fairways and greens. Golf Story is, therefore, the maturation of an idea that started out quite promising and that, after quite a while, is at last taken to its maximum realization.

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Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time

What is astonishing is that despite all of its anger-inducing shortcomings, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time cannot be ignored completely. As a testament to the clever ideas it holds and to the seemingly timeless originality of the franchise, there is still some fun to be had by traversing all of its stages. This is a game whose heart is pure and unaltered platforming goodness coming straight out of the sidescrolling era; yet, keeping true to the trilogy that preceded it, that classic approach to the genre is wisely augmented thanks to various possibilities opened up by the added third dimension. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time moves the franchise forward by gifting the marsupial hero with a quartet of gameplay-altering skills and by giving him the helping hand of three new playable characters that get their own stages. These are additions that, by all means, work wonderfully; what does not click, however, is how the game frequently mishandles its elevated difficulty, creating a quest that is a constant struggle between fun and annoyance. The winner of that conflict varies greatly, and the end result is a product that frustrates for what it is and for what it could have been.

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Spyro Reignited Trilogy

Featuring a lackluster beginning in Spyro the Dragon, a much improved sequel in Ripto’s Rage, and one of the era’s most expansive takes on the genre in Year of the Dragon, Spyro Reignited Trilogy ends up being a mixed bag that provides an interesting look at how the franchise went from a naive shot at 3-D platforming to a fully realized concept that was able to stand up to the likes of Banjo-Kazooie, Mario, Crash, Donkey Kong, and Rayman. To further accentuate the contrast between its good and bad aspects, even the best two titles of the package stumble on crucial matters like controls, loading screens, and frustrating design choices. Nonetheless, Spyro Reignited Trilogy is a worthy purchase to anyone who either has fond memories of the dragon or to those that have no nostalgia regarding the hero but that crave for a rebirth of the 3-D platforming genre. In the case of the first group, they will be happy to see classics that were a key part of their childhood be resurrected with so much care for visuals and music. Meanwhile, gamers that fall into the second category will discover at least two flawed but entertaining gems that prove that even if mascots are a relic of the past and 3-D platformers are far from having the importance they once held, the gameplay style still holds up quite nicely.

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Little Nightmares II

Little Nightmares II does little to expand on what was established by its predecessor, hence coming off as a much lighter breath of originality; furthermore, it inherits many of that game’s problems, including trial-and-error patterns as well as a short length. However, its horror is so gripping; its atmosphere is so tense; its monsters are so grotesque; its gameplay is so engaging in its simplicity; and the violent moments it contains are so unexpectedly brutal that it is impossible not to be hooked. Little Nightmares II, like its title implies, is a disturbing sequence of small self-contained horrors that unfold in multiple locations. They make players wish looking away was possible, but the fact their lives are on the line means they have to keep starring at the utter unfolding horror. Likewise, they cause one to hope unplugging and waking up from the bad dreams were a possibility, but the desire to get to the bottom of the title’s ridiculously well-constructed lore and world will simply not allow the cowardly way out to be taken. As such, the only option is to keep on digging deeper and deeper, facing the horrific situations contained within as they come up and delighting at the fact that, despite residual issues, the world has been given a second glimpse into the rotten fairy-tale storybook which houses the universe of Little Nightmares.

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Soul Searching

Soul is a movie that, through death, steps in to look for meaning in life. As it turns out, it does not find a big answer; in fact, it has no answer at all to offer. What it shows, instead, is that – as far as our earthly perception goes – human existence is nothing but a sequence of usually small events whose significance and power will be lost on those who are either looking too hard for a purpose or working excessively towards a goal without ever giving themselves a chance to stop and smell the roses. As it happened in Inside Out, it is possible to question whether the message is understandable to kids; additionally, and coming off as pure flaws, it can be pointed out that Soul uses a couple of plot devices that feel too forced in order to make some of its major events unfold and that the conclusion it comes to is kind of cliche. What cannot be denied, however, is that it surprises and succeeds in sending its message in a way that is original, delicate, unexpected, powerful, and beautiful. In other words, it fits right in the Pixar tradition of touching animations that ought to enchant children and, even if for just a few days, make adults contemplate their lives from a different – and better – angle.

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Immortals Fenyx Rising

Despite ultimately being a more compact version of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, problems like these indicate that Immortals Fenyx Rising is biting off more than it can chew. Or maybe, in the end, the shortcomings that punctuate it serve to show that a little bit of extra development time would have allowed plenty of opportunities for some of its ideas to mature into a more full-fledged state. Nonetheless, the game comes out of its daunting endeavor – the one of replicating the experience provided by one of the greatest adventures of all time – with pretty good results, overall unsurprisingly falling far below the quality threshold of its source of inspiration but at the same time being able to outdo it slightly in a couple of aspects. Immortals Fenyx Rising is not Breath of the Wild, but it is fun, charming, challenging, and clever. It imitates Nintendo’s untouchable franchise more effectively than nearly all of those that attempted such lunacy before it, and due to that it is the perfect slice of The Legend of Zelda goodness for fans to endure the long winters that usually separate the main releases of the franchise. More than a side-dish, however, Ubisoft’s effort is simply a very good game on its own right, for even though it copies much more than it creates, its formula is just impossible to resist and its approach towards Greek mythology is undeniably quite well-done.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is ultimately the blueprint for all modern RPGs that seek to evolve while remaining true to the genre’s traditions. Even though the size of its overworld is certainly important for that success and Bethesda’s achievement in building it cannot be overlooked, this is – when it is all said and done – not an adventure that thrives solely because it takes place in a huge explorable landscape, but because it employs such scenario impressively well: using it to construct an alternative reality that other than incredibly deep also happens to be stunningly believable. Behind all of those positive characteristics lies the title’s true major victory: the freedom it puts in the hands of players. After all, if the intent of role-playing games is to allow the participants to choose their own paths and be whoever it is they feel like, then The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the true realization of that ideal. From flawless hero to dirty criminal, all options are on the table, and even if this is a quest vaguely centered on the fight against a particularly evil dragon, the journey contained here can take whatever form those who are in control choose to give to it.

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Super Monkey Ball 2

It is through such means that Super Monkey Ball 2 is able to write the book on how it is possible to successfully transport a simple gameplay format from arcades to homes. The game does not forget its origins; in fact, it thrives so deeply in those roots that it dedicates one of its three main modes to a progression style that is strongly based on an arcade staple: having to clear a long chain of challenges with a limited number of lives. At the same time, however, it executes the necessary transformations to make its experience worthy of a console, constructing a solid solo adventure and one of the system’s best multiplayer offerings, which achieves variety by looking away from the franchise’s traditional spectrum of monkeys in balls rolling through crazy stages. And like that, with its core always firmly centered on gameplay that is so ridiculously simple it shuns the use of buttons, Super Monkey Ball 2 manages to be challenging, flexible, fun, addictive, and packed with fantastic content.

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