Resident Evil

The immaculate and horrific atmosphere of Resident Evil is clearly the product of a game whose every single piece was designed to serve its ability to create tension. Sometimes, that subordination works for the best, as it is the case of its frightening scenarios, its calculated soundtrack, its obscure and fragmented storytelling approach, its controlled yet open-ended exploration, its ominous puzzles, and its dedication towards putting players in situations where life is only maintained through grueling survival. Sadly, that focus also causes a couple of considerable slips, which come to the surface in its constantly shifting and fixed camera angles as well as in the extreme implementation of its inventory system. As big as these problems may be, though, Resident Evil is just too successful in mixing genuine horror with engaging gameplay to be contained by any of that. Once it starts, its infectious suspense breaks through whatever physical barriers stand on its way, quickly surrounding gamers and immersing them inside a thriller that tests one’s capacity to both be resilient and not look away.

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SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech

SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech ends up being pleasantly enjoyable as a whole, displaying a good deal of competence in the building of all parts that constitute it. It is true that, when all of these elements come together, what is formed is an experience that – inside the RPG genre – does not quite produce ripples as strong as those generated by Dig and Heist in their respective niches, which makes the game’s overall impact feel somewhat subdued in relation to those caused by its peers. Nonetheless, even if it does not put a fight against the major actors of the role-playing field, SteamWorld Quest qualifies as another successful venture by Image & Form, because its plot flows nicely and stars likable heroes; its technical features exhibit a quality in production that feels like a new frontier for the SteamWorld property; and its card-based battling mechanics are original and flexible. Due to that, regardless of how it does not possess the makings of one of those special indie effort that challenge products made by much larger companies, SteamWorld Quest is likely to satisfy those that are already converted to the franchise and lure in a batch of new fans.

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Cuphead

Cuphead is absolutely magnificent. It is old-school not only in visual and musical presentation, but also in gameplay; however, it uses its blatant and ancient influences not as a way to coast towards success, but as a source of inspiration to build character. In the old gritty cartoons from which it borrows its animation, its calculated artistic imperfections, and its vicious tone, it finds cues that are sufficient to allow it to exist inside a realm that is absolutely its own. Meanwhile, in the action run and gun games that were so dearly beloved by its creators, the title locates basic premises in pacing, challenge, and controls that it employs in the assembling of a sidescroller whose focus lies on struggling to take down mighty multi-phased bosses that are as inventive as they are capable of filling up the screen with an obscene amount of hazards. And in the combination of those two veins, Cuphead builds an experience that, more importantly than being unique, manages to be fun in spite of its unbridled brutality; inspiring, through the sheer joy that is playing it, gamers to come back for more even after they have been shot down for the hundredth time.

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Yoshi’s Crafted World

Yoshi’s Crafted World, then, poses a bit of a dilemma to players, because while its generally low level of difficulty makes simply getting to the end of the quest a task that does not reveal the full extent of its wonderful design, aiming for full completion unearths some frustrations of its own. The bottom line, though, is that regardless of how one chooses to approach the quest, there is a lot of fun to be had, whether the player in question is a child who is taking their first steps into the gaming world or a veteran with a fondness for the platforming genre. And that quality stems from how Yoshi’s Crafted World is constantly changing not just the gameplay quirks around which its stages are built, but also the nature of its stunningly detailed environments. These two elements, which never repeat themselves through the course of forty levels, form an adventure that is entertaining and inventive all the way through, mixing situations that fall perfectly among the character’s traditional exploits with unexpected gameplay detours and mechanics that creatively take advantage of the depth of the title’s tridimensional scenarios. It is thanks to such prowess that Yoshi’s Crafted World rises above its obvious flaws to qualify as an experience that cannot be missed and a product worthy of the Nintendo stamp.

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Transistor

Transistor does hold some flaws. It has a short length; it possesses a linearity that may be perceived as exaggerated; and its constant alternation between walking and battling can feel too predictable. Its impeccable and overflowing style, however, overpowers it all, and allows the game to deliver an experience that although certainly not as refreshing or great as that of its precursor, Bastion, is still immensely enjoyable. Its battles are dynamic and offer an uncanny amount of possibilities via simple building blocks; its plot is compelling due to its initial vagueness and the boldness found in its presentation; its highly artistic inclinations generate visuals and music of incredible quality; and its omnipresent narration, inherited straight from its predecessor, lends it a lot of identity. Due to that, even if it shares notable similarities to Bastion, Transistor is clearly not simply resting on past laurels; it is, quite stylishly, repackaging a gameplay and narrative format that achieved huge success while adding a few clever flourishes of its own. And it does so quite well.

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Bastion

Ultimately, the features that make Bastion remarkable are intimately connected to its presentation, be it in the unique manner it chooses to broadcast its plot or in its visual and musical splendor. And those are, in the end, the traits that are bound to deeply mark those who play it. Still, below that shiny surface, lies a quest supported by very strong mechanics. In injecting the options and customization usually available in role-playing quests into a combat system and progression style commonly found in hack and slash titles, Bastion strikes an engaging balance between action and strategy. And although its core does carry a high degree of simplicity, it succeeds in dodging the traps of repetition thanks to how it is always building levels around different scenarios that slightly affect gameplay. For those reasons, even if its graphics and narration will be the strongest memories players will have regarding the game, these two elements are likely to work as hooks that will bring to the surface delightful recollections of adventure and combats.

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Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is by no means a perfect effort, as issues of different sizes and intensities can be found in many of its numerous modes. Even with that in mind, though, there is simply no stopping the game from feeling like the gigantic culmination its title indicates it intends to be. Installments of the saga have always been stunningly ambitious, and without ever faltering they have invariably succeeded in living up to the lofty expectations both its developers and the entire gaming world hold whenever a new entry in the series is planned. Ultimate is, naturally, not different, as it follows the norm perfectly. However, the fact it does exactly what is expected of it does not diminish the magnitude of the achievement that is putting out such an extremely polished, balanced, and enjoyable game that involves so many distinct and popular pieces. It is a Herculean task that can only possibly be topped through endless hours of labor and love, and it plays so delightfully it more than honors the accumulated greatness of the franchises it borrows from.

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Guacamelee

Featuring brilliant platforming, thrilling combats, and the option for up to four players to join forces, Guacamelee is a very refreshing take on the Metroidvania niche. As it turns down the complexity of its map, letting it peacefully rest on a level of simplicity far below the one seen in other giants of the genre, it allows its unique traits to take over the show. Due that, although it does have a good amount of secrets and plenty of backtracking to those who are willing to tackle it, the game ends up coming off as a fast-paced platformer that is punctuated by beat ’em up portions and takes place in a fully connected sidescrolling world. And the impressive synergy between the wrestling motifs of its battles and the Mexican-inspired tones of its art, dialogues, characters, music, and cultural references adds a layer of charm to the final product that makes it nearly irresistible; so much, in fact, that its colors, theme, and overall frantic rhythm may even convert – or at least temporarily please – gamers who are not big fans of the genre.

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South Park: The Stick Of Truth

Through a lot of good ideas, sharp writing, and a few minor shortcomings, The Stick of Truth succeeds, then, in translating to the gaming universe the greatness and politically incorrect ways of the South Park franchise. It is a game that never loses sight of the elements that make the property on which it is inspired shine, and charmingly – not even for a second – does it forget that, ultimately, these are imaginative kids using what is at their disposal to role-play as the standard high-fantasy characters they have grown to admire. It is, therefore, an adventure that mixes equal doses of the innocent and the disturbing to form a hilariously absurd plot and set the basis for gameplay that is simple and enjoyable. The Stick of Truth is a very well-written and certainly offensive South Park movie in playable form, and under the guise of an accessible and entertaining RPG it marks the first time ever the confronting television show gained a gaming installment whose quality matches that of the original material.

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Undertale

Undertale is so outlandish that it is sometimes a bit hard to explain what it does; and it is able to pack loveliness, dread, and oddity together so neatly that it is occasionally tough to understand how it makes it. Nevertheless, if one were forced to point out what it is exactly that causes it to be so fantastic and original, it would be reasonable to single out its unrestrained wackiness and how it leaks into every area of the title; its incredible battle system, which doubles as a text-based puzzle and an action-packed mini-game of avoiding projectiles; the extent and quality of its script; and the way it takes advantages of players’ choices to build three adventures that are very distinct and that beg for multiple playthroughs. Undertale is a one-man achievement, and although its visuals do show that it was built under restricted circumstances, nothing else about it indicates that was the case, especially the density of its textual content and the abundance of ideas it sports. However, the game’s status a sole endeavor ends up making a lot of sense, because it takes a special kind of liberty – one only found in lonely journeys – for a product to be so authorial, artistically free, and consistent in its beautiful absence of consistency.

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