Eastward

In the end, it is this meticulous nature that drives Eastward over the top. The game is not perfect. Truthfully, it could actually be a lot better if it were clearer in its plot and if it found better pacing in a few specific segments, be it by cutting down on the talking, by focusing more on answering some of its biggest mysteries, or by achieving a better overall balance between gameplay and script. However, the careful way in which most aspects of its world were put together makes falling victim to its charm nearly inevitable, because it is simply hard to find an adventure – whether it is indie or not – with as much care oozing out of its visuals, music, and characters, and with as much ambition to develop all of that into such a large scope. Because of that, even if Eastward does not quite qualify as the best independent game ever, it certainly goes beyond many of the usual limitations of the scene, daring future indie efforts to look past those boundaries so that more than matching big companies in terms of the quality of their output, like they already do, the best independent studios can start competing in production values and scope as well.

Full Post

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles

Inserted in a tradition inaugurated by the trilogy starring Phoenix Wright, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles carries the expected characteristics that have always made the franchise a thrill to play: gripping cases, unforgettable characters, quality humor, cartoonish production values, and text-based puzzles that bring creative gameplay to trials and investigations alike. However, two factors in particular play an essential role in making the title feel like a peak for the property: the fact its ten episodes gravitate around a greater mystery, creating an epic of nigh unimaginable scope; and the quality of its gameplay additions, which make the action in and out of the courtroom more engaging than ever. Because of that, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is not just a great new chapter in the saga; it is also, so far, its brightest moment.

Full Post

Mario Golf: Super Rush

Mario Golf: Super Rush is a mixed bag. On a positive note, the title pulls off the miraculous task of reinventing a sport, and it does so in three ways that are excellent. Contrasting with that energy, however, the game has such obvious holes when it comes to content that it works as a prime example of how the success of a franchise can cause studios to take a lazy approach to what they produce. And that lackluster nature sadly happens to be accompanied by gameplay stumbles that cause a perfectly established accuracy mechanic to be thrown out the window and replaced by a much worse system. Still, Mario Golf: Super Rush should not be disregarded. Its core is still good, and be it in the sports’ traditional setup or in its fun new variations, the game is likely to hook those with a love for multiplayer, whether it is online or in person. In a way, it is a testament to the strength of the series, which is able to deliver quality even in an effort that is so incomplete and problematic; yet, it is inevitably sad to see that the value that was meant to be the main driving force of the franchise is working to hold it back from greatness. Because Mario Golf: Super Rush could have been irrevocably marvelous if its brand, concept, and mechanics alone were not enough to guarantee its success.

Full Post

Oxenfree

Carrying the sensibilities of suspense films and rescuing the frequently tarnished premise of a teenage group getting into supernatural trouble, Oxenfree is a clear display of how far the gaming industry has come in terms of storytelling. Through nearly constant smoothly flowing dialogues powered by excellent writing and delivered with flawless acting, the game turns its central cast of characters into an unforgettable ensemble; the kind of group that transcends the boundaries of the product to become an important part of the lives of those who join them on their journey. As a bonus, the arch of these starring teenagers is tied with a thrilling tale of horror. Surely, it is disappointing that a truly satisfying explanation to the title’s core mystery can only be achieved through a boring and relatively long sidequest. Moreover, anyone looking for a bit more action might be a bit underwhelmed by an adventure that is cleared by mostly walking, selecting dialogue lines, and tuning a radio. But except for those who fall into the latter faction, Oxenfree should not be missed. Writing that is this good just does not appear very often, and even though games may be starting to challenge books and movies when it comes to weaving tales, great stories like this are still a rare find regardless of the medium.

Full Post

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap

By landing in a world that is absolutely packed with brilliant games that either belong to the Metroidvania genre or take inspiration from it, there is really no way The Dragon’s Trap could have measured up to the best of them. This is, after all, a remake of an 8-bit title; and one that deliberately opted to preserve the gameplay of the original in its entirety. Consequently, despite flawless visual and musical updates, its overall spirit inevitably reveals an outdated heart. But antiquated and bad are far from being synonyms, and The Dragon’s Trap pulls one incredible trick when it proves that what was great back then can still be enjoyable as long as its design was smartly done. The Dragon’s Trap does not come in to dethrone the new kings of the castle. What it does, instead, is provide a satisfying glimpse into the genre’s past, revealing that it knew much better than many of its contemporaries how to use nonlinear gameplay to push action-platforming forward to completely new grounds.

Full Post

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.

Full Post

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.

Full Post

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.

Full Post

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.

Full Post

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.

Full Post