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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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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