Dulcet tones and somber notes played in time represent the curious duality of Moonlight. It is, at once, a heroic adventure and the name of the subdued storefront that you alone run. Centered in the heart of a once-bustling town, all the greats, the audacious plunderers of dungeons that were sealed long ago, have died out. The markets and the merchants of your hamlet have all but vanished alongside them. Always looking to the horizon, you see what could be--in both yourself and the town--and set out to claim your glory and bring riches back from the depths of dangerous dungeons.
On first pass, that's a tall ask, and one that doesn't necessarily fit together the way you might think. This isn't quite the same as saving a town the way you might in a classical Zelda game --though references to those nascent adventures abound. Instead, your eye is on unearthing the depths of five dungeons that lie just north of town. Each is like a world unto itself, and getting into and out of these spaces is often a feat--made that much more treacherous by the monsters that inhabit them. Still, the depths hold untold riches, artifacts, and supplies that were once essential for trade.
The balance that Moonlighter strikes then, is tasking you with battling beasts and carefully collecting trophies and supplies based on the needs of the people in your town. Instead of gathering loot and hauling it back to a shopkeep as one does in...
Calling Onrush a racing game is a tad reductive and maybe even a little disingenuous. Sure, there are two- and four-wheeled vehicles careening around a track with reckless abandon. But with no finishing lines in sight, achieving victory in Onrush is about much more than simply seeing who can reach a chequered flag first. This bold idea for an arcade racing game comes from a new studio formed out of the remnants of Evolution Studios. It's a curious transmogrification of various genres and styles, taking elements from the high-octane takedowns of Burnout, the multi-vehicle chaos of Evolution's MotorStorm, and the class-based competitive action of a hero shooter like Overwatch. These influences might be unmistakable, but developer Codemasters has crafted a wholly original and innovative racing game that's quite unlike anything you've ever played before.
Describing how this off-kilter mixture functions is best achieved by explaining Onrush's Overdrive mode, which dilutes the anomalous experience down to its purest form. Here, two teams of six go head-to-head in up to eight diverse vehicle classes, with victory achieved by chaining together boost multipliers in order to rack up points. Earning boost is done by hitting jumps, wrecking opponents and weak fodder vehicles, performing bike tricks, and other actions that are tied to specific vehicle classes. Once you've depleted enough boost you can unleash the cathartic Rush Ultimate, which propels you forward at lightning speed and provides a bonus ability that is, once again, tied to your vehicle class. Overdrive is...
2D anime fighters like the BlazBlue series are often intimidating for their elaborate movesets and demand for precise execution. However, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle breaks from tradition by simplifying its gameplay systems, and bringing in characters from three other franchises to join the fight. By no means does the simplification make Cross Tag shallow--the dynamic tag system and the clever ways you can mix mechanics are where Cross Tag shines. Factor in the charm of these distinct worlds and you'll have plenty of reasons to consider this fast, flashy, and endearing fighter.
Across four mainline games, BlazBlue developed a complex fighting system, while Persona 4 Arena and Arena Ultimax distilled the formula and captured the charisma of the eponymous RPG. Under Night In-Birth (from developer French-Bread in collaboration with Arc System Works) had its own twist on a deep, yet accessible fighting game. The RWBY animated series makes its fighting game debut, and the cast's talents and flair make the transition incredibly well. Cross Tag Battle unifies all four series as a five-button fighter with two main attack buttons, a universal overhead attack that can also function as an EX attack, a tag button, and the partner skill. While it may seem a bit too straightforward, even the most historically complex characters on the roster remain true to form where it counts. By distilling classic fighting mechanics, the focus is shifted from performing elaborate directional inputs to creating openings for sweet high-damage...
Golem often feels at odds with itself. This gorgeous puzzle-filled adventure successfully wraps you in a mystical world, where bright hues and cheerful melodies set the mood. But beneath this inviting exterior lie disjointed challenges that no amount of whimsy can sugarcoat. Even with smart mechanics that are introduced at a sensible pace, Golem's rhythm is regularly disturbed by jarring difficulty spikes and obtuse solutions.
A vague narrative tells of a lost civilization that once upon a time used magical stone creatures to build and maintain its structures. These beings, or golems, are practically extinct, save for one you're tasked to rebuild throughout ten puzzle-filled stages. Starting as a lifeless ball, the golem feels like a nuisance at first, which only serves to make its eventual evolution that much more gratifying.
As your golem is slowly pieced back together, new mechanics are introduced to allow for more complex puzzles. When it gains the ability to walk on its own, for example, you will have to accurately predict its movement while manipulating the environment to clear pathways at the right moments. Later, it evolves into a dog-like creature that you can command to move to specific locations, and will eventually grow strong enough to carry you across treacherous tracts of land that are otherwise impassable.
Like many of Nintendo's most memorable video games, Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido takes a seemingly mundane fixture of life and extrapolates it into a novel gameplay idea. In this case, co-developer Indieszero (Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, NES Remix) has built an action-puzzle game around conveyor-belt sushi, which serves as a vehicle for its match-three-style duels. And thanks to a knowingly zany presentation and regular stream of new mechanics, Sushi Striker is a fun and consuming puzzler unlike anything else currently on Switch, despite a few niggling issues.
Battling foes by throwing plates of sushi is an inherently silly premise, and Sushi Striker fully embraces the concept by wrapping it up in an even more ridiculous story. The game begins in the aftermath of the Sushi Struggles, a bitter war that took the parents of protagonist Musashi (who can be either a boy or girl) and resulted in the Empire gaining complete control over the world's sushi supply. As it happens, Musashi displays a preternatural gift for Sushi Striking--the ability to conjure plates of sushi and throw them in battle--and soon joins the Sushi Liberation Front, a Republic force fighting for the noble cause of sharing sushi with everyone. The tale only gets more absurd from there, but it remains delightfully charming throughout thanks to the hilarious writing and amusing anime cutscenes.
Musashi's journey encompasses more than 150 puzzle battles, which offer a novel and deceptively simple twist on match-three gameplay. The object of these is...
West of Loathing is not as simple as its art style might lead you to believe. Its black and white color palette, stick-figure characters, and crude hand-drawn art might appear to be devoid of personality. But in practice, its visual simplicity acts as a malleable canvas for its imagination to run away with reckless abandon. West of Loathing is an involved Western adventure game/RPG hybrid that embraces absolute absurdity with mechanical flexibility and comedic personality, making role-playing in its monochromatic old West thoroughly entertaining.
The backbone of the game is its jokes and ingrained humor. Every little thing in West of Loathing serves as either a punchline or the lead-up to one. It exists in the writing naturally--the main narrative involves a bizarre cataclysmic event involving demon cows and rodeo clowns. The flavor text is filled with irony and wordplay, and conversations with characters play out like short sketches. The sheer amount of jokes draws you into Loathing's crudely drawn and ludicrous world, but what's more impressive is that they rarely fall flat, and if they do, there's often another to draw your attention away immediately.
But West of Loathing's consistent sense of humor runs deeper, woven throughout your interactions and the game's menus and UI. Attempting to search spittoons for items will engage you in long lectures from the narrator as they attempt to stop you from doing so by describing, in great detail, how...
Metroid-style platformers have become more common recently, which makes standing out from the pack a daunting task for new games in that style. Yoku’s Island Express overcomes this hurdle by creatively combining both Metroid-style exploration and pinball mechanics into one unique product. This combination sounds unusual at first, but the final result is a charming, delightful, and wonderfully satisfying hybrid.
You play as Yoku, a cute little beetle who has a ball attached to his hip with a string, and it's his first day as postmaster on Mokumana Island. The story is cute and straightforward, and there’s a large amount of backstory sprinkled throughout the game, but it doesn’t take long for the rest of Yoku’s Island Express’ beautiful game design to quickly take the spotlight.
The world of Mokumana Island is gorgeous, and the delightful painterly art style realizes each of the game's different stages with vibrancy--lush jungles and dark labyrinths blend in seamlessly with stunning snow-covered mountains and underground caves, and the background scenery is just as beautifully detailed as the foreground. Every environment is perfectly accompanied by sound design which gives everything a cheery and quirky atmosphere, and the charming background music keeps things light and breezy throughout. The roster of supporting characters is also a delight to meet. Ranging from animals and plants to imaginary creatures, the large cast of NPCs are all amusing in their own ways. Some give you...
The broad premise of The Forest is far from unique. A plane crash lands on a seemingly deserted island, and you, a lone survivor, have to figure out a way to survive. It doesn't take long, however, until blood curdling screeches fill the night and glowing eyes appear in the distance. Once it sets in that your new home isn't as empty as it first appeared, The Forest evolves into a uniquely harrowing adventure that you won't soon forget.
Cannibals inhabit the grassy fields and pristine lakes around you, watching your every move; they are the source of The Forest's ever-present tension. You might expect monsters like this to attack on sight, but their behavior is erratic. Sometimes they'll charge forward to unsettle you during daylight but stop just outside striking distance to simply stare in silence. Other times they might feign a retreat before leaping into nearby trees to quickly get behind you. The Forest's enemies aren't easy to predict, which makes each encounter thrilling.
The breadth of enemy types is impressive too, and they can get surprisingly weird. As you explore the island more and dive into terrifying, pitch-black caverns, enemies transform into terrifying body-horror figures--amalgamations of appendages that bellow deep, disturbing howls. They're frightening to behold and even scarier to fight.
Vampyr may seem an unlikely game from the studio that made the narrative-focused Life Is Strange, but being an action-RPG doesn't preclude it from being a great vehicle for storytelling. It's set in a harsh city in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, and much of the game involves potentially becoming the savior the world so desperately needs. If anything, Vampyr feels like the spiritual successor to the beloved cult hit Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines, but with much of that game's vampire politics replaced by heartfelt interpersonal drama. It's a story strengthened through the power of choice, with the fate of thousands resting on your ability to sacrifice your needs for the greater good.
Vampyr takes place in England, 1918, at the height of the Spanish flu pandemic. You play as Dr. Jonathan Reid, a renowned doctor just back from the frontlines of World War I. Not even minutes off the boat, he's violently welcomed back to his homeland by a vampire and subsequently shoveled into a mass grave. When Reid reawakens, confused and stark-raving mad with bloodlust, he attacks the first person he comes across. Before he's able to process his profound grief and confusion, a guild of vampire hunters chases him off into the night.
How deep you're able to dive into Vampyr's narrative rabbit holes depends on your dialogue choices, and whole subplots can be blocked off permanently by not correctly identifying what a patient needs or wants to hear.
Dillon the Armadillo is every stoic hero of the Old West... but as an anthropomorphic armadillo. He doesn't say much because he really doesn't need to. His prowess with weapons and dedication to defending good folks just trying to make their way is essentially his whole character. And while, until now, he's been known for his forays within small downloadable games, Dead-Heat Breakers represents a big next step for the franchise.
Most of the game makes the transition well, in part because the premise is played in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. Dillon's a no-nonsense guy, and seeing him surrounded by a colorful cast of goofy sapient animals works pretty well. But, after a time there's definitely the feeling that too little game is spread out over too much time. Dead-Heat Breakers grinds to a crawl at times, and while it's far from insurmountable, it's hard to shake the feeling that in this case less would have been more.
While Dillon may be the game's namesake and main action hero, he's not the actual protagonist. When you start up the game, you'll have a Mii of your choice polymorphed into an Amiimal. And it's this "person" that the story centers around. In short, you've narrowly survived an attack on your home town, and you've gone to get help from the infamous "Red Flash," Dillon. On your way, your big rig is attacked by some industrial monstrosities and Dillon and his sidekick/mechanic Russ happen to be in the right place at the...
Hell, by its very nature, shouldn't be enjoyed, but there's still something enthralling and entertaining in seeing creators imagine it in various ways. Agony, on the other hand, is less about Hell as a vehicle for entertainment or even fear. Agony's version of Hell is simply a place of unimaginable horror. It is depraved beyond reckoning, a place whose very brick and mortar is composed of atrocities. It is a place that never opens its sick, emaciated maw except to blaspheme and torment. Hell is terrifying in Agony, which goes hand in hand with the fact that the game is also torturous to play.
In Agony, you are a freshly fallen wretch who wakes up at the gates of Hell with his memories--including his true name--burned away during the trip down. Under normal circumstances, it'd be torture time for the rest of eternity, but somehow, the new meat walks through the gates with most of his wits about him, and only one piece of knowledge: that Hell has a guardian angel, the Red Goddess. Only she can help him regain his lost memories, and help him escape perdition. So begins a long, arduous journey of survival horror--closer in function to Clock Tower or Alien Isolation than Resident Evil--to meet the Goddess, and beg for her dark blessing.
Agony's single most breathtaking achievement is Hell itself. It is an enormous, heretical province of terror, the ungodly conceptual Venn diagram between Hieronymous Bosch, H.R. Giger, and Clive Barker. The very...
The Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection is another example of Digital Eclipse going above and beyond to properly port and pay tribute to a bounty of classic Capcom games. This anthology includes 12 Street Fighter arcade ports in all, and four of the best have been updated for online play. You can also find plenty of insightful history to unpack outside of combat. From soundtracks to sprite animation breakdowns, to high-res design documents for classic and cancelled games alike, there's a wealth of high-quality reference material to round out the robust selection of games.
All told, the 30th Anniversary Collection includes the original Street Fighter, five versions of Street Fighter II, three iterations of Street Fighter III, and the Street Fighter Alpha, Alpha 2, and Alpha 3. It's great to have all of these seemingly arcade-perfect ports in one place today, and with any luck, for many generations to come. Eagle-eyed aficionados will note the absence of Alpha 2 Gold and Alpha 3 Upper, both of which were available in 2006's Street Fighter Alpha Anthology on PS2, but their omission is far from a deal-breaker.
Much like its sudden release, Quarantine Circular aims to surprise. The second installment in Mike Bithell's short-story series doesn't have a direct narrative connection to the first game, Subsurface Circular, but it carries over the same sharp writing and intriguing central premise. This time the story jumps between characters instead of delivering its tale through a single lens, and while this structure leads to some tonal inconsistencies, Quarantine Circular is still a thought-provoking experience worth seeing through.
Like Subsurface Circular, Quarantine Circular is a straightforward narrative adventure. You never take control of its characters beyond determining how they respond to others during a conversation. A directed camera does a good job of keeping you engaged, utilizing sharp cuts and slow pans to evoke tension and serenity at the right moments. Its soundtrack, too, does an excellent job of setting the tone of each scene, especially after a sensational opening sequence.
Humanity is facing an extinction event in Quarantine Circular, which makes the simultaneous arrival of extraterrestrial life both inconvenient and suspicious. Taking place aboard a vessel tasked with maintaining a quarantine in a vulnerable city, you shift between multiple perspectives while trying to determine why the aliens have arrived and if they might be linked to the plague that's ravaging life across the globe. Although you never see the effects of the plague in action, Quarantine Circular ramps up the stakes quickly with a trail of clues that hint at what's happening outside the ship's confines. There's...
Detroit: Become Human posits a well-worn future, when androids have become so lifelike and so deeply integrated into human society that surely it's only a matter of time and circumstance until they break through to the other side and achieve consciousness. There isn't much time spent examining how such a seemingly preventable event might be possible; Detroit is primarily focused on androids' experiences during the process of their awakening, and their shock when looking at humanity with eyes unclouded for the first time. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide how they react in the face of adversity.
It is a gameplay-light experience broken up into dozens of chapters with hundreds of decisions to make during cutscenes and explorative sequences. The only real challenge is to be fast, thorough, and perceptive enough to guide characters towards decisions that match your moral compass--or not, if you prefer your stories messy and chaotic. As a result of the myriad crossroads in Detroit, few players will experience events in the exact same way. Pivotal moments gone awry can lead some characters to premature deaths, but even small deviations can have a lasting impact on the state of the people, places and events you encounter throughout. Many of the decisions may seem mundane at first, but however benign a choice may seem, they add up, and gradually draw you into each character's individual experience.
Out of the numerous games to spring up under the Bit.Trip umbrella, it's not exactly a surprise that the most accessible of the bunch, Bit.Trip Runner, would be the one to transcend its retro-styled roots. In bringing the Runner games' mechanics to a fancier playground on the Switch, developer Choice Provisions has made its most ambitious game yet--but in doing so, may have revealed the limits to how far it can push the concept. It's also the most difficult, and if you haven't already invested in a good sturdy case for the Switch that might stand up to having the system thrown at terminal velocity out of a living room window, now would be a good time.
On paper, the gameplay is as deceptively simple as it's always been. Your character runs forward automatically, and it's up to you to jump, duck, slide, and kick down obstacles until you reach the finish line. The secret sauce of the Runner series is that every action and every item in a stage is plotted to work with its music, a whole game trekking along to simple melodies. Stages can be unpredictable, but if you have any sense of rhythm whatsoever, losing yourself to the music can get you through the tougher moments.
Roguelike pixel-art games are so common that it almost feels like a cliché. Without a great hook, many of these would-be indie hits wind up lost among ever-filling digital storefronts. However, Wizard of Legend, despite a painfully generic title, manages to distinguish itself from its peers with fast, challenging gameplay. Despite a few missteps, it successfully delivers an engaging and endearing experience.
After a breezy tutorial framed as a series of interactive wizard museum exhibits, you finds yourself whisked away into a new dimension--one with an ever-changing, multi-floor dungeon inhabited by three all-powerful wizards. The challenges you face in this dungeon are called the Chaos Trials, and only wizards of truly exceptional skill have ever conquered them…meaning, of course, that you need to become a wizard of exceptional skill.
Your wizard character has animpressive moveset, with a basic melee spell, a dash/dodge spell, and two powerful techniques with cooldowns mapped to each of the controller's face buttons. While...
For a game that’s based on the world of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, Conan Exiles has remarkably little to do with any part of that universe. It’s a big, open-world survival sim that sticks true to its initial hardcore vision to a fault. When you combine the steep learning curve of a deep but confusing crafting system with largely monotonous gameplay and a spectacularly awful UI, Conan Exiles feels like it does everything it can to push back on those curious enough to step into its admittedly intriguing but highly flawed world.
The game opens as you regain consciousness in the scorching desert, completely naked and vulnerable. As an exile, you are trapped in a doomed and cursed land with nothing but the faint memory of being cut down from your crucifix by Conan, the giant hunk of man-meat himself. From there, you’re free to wander off into the wild yonder. The exiled lands are massive, made up of different environmental biomes that can be explored freely from the outset. Spectacular-looking sandstorms can roll in out of nowhere, forcing you to seek shelter lest they consume you. You can climb anything from mountains and trees to walls and buildings, provided you have the stamina. This adds an extra dimension to exploration, with the added payoff of some lovely views of Conan's varied world.
When it first released in 2014, Framed was declared game of the year by no less than Hideo Kojima. In the years since, this has been the game's enduring legacy--it's not just a good game, but one that inspired an industry heavyweight with its inventiveness. It's a fundamentally robust, unique idea executed well.
Framed Collection brings together Framed and its 2017 follow-up Framed 2 (a prequel, although the plot is largely inconsequential) to Nintendo Switch and PC--both were formerly exclusive to iOS and Android. They are essentially puzzle games in which you're trying to solve a narrative issue--they present comic books where the main characters die or get arrested on every page. Several panels are laid out on each screen, each one depicting different scenes, usually involving one or more of the game's unnamed protagonists trying to outsmart the police or overcome an obstacle. In the opening stages, all you need to do is switch the panels around so that the character can safely get to the end of the 'page' and escape it.
Once you have the panels in an order that you think will work, you press 'play' and watch what happens. To give an early example, if the first (immovable) panel shows two police firing their guns then you'll need to move the panel that shows a table into...
Hyrule Warriors is a beautiful, chaotic mess of a game. It's got all the glossy rupees, imaginative monsters, and fashionable characters you'd expect from the Zelda series (and plenty you wouldn't), topped off with some nods to the medieval hack-and-slash Dynasty Warriors series. In place of puzzles and elaborate levels or side-quests, you're here to do one thing--mess up some monsters.
This shouldn't be new to most folks, as the original run of Hyrule Warriors launched back in 2014, but the port to Nintendo Switch brings all the extra characters and items from the DLC, plus some added costumes and all the content from the 3DS version. That's a ton of content to bring to the table, but the game's central theme is the same as ever. That makes the Switch version a tough sell for all but the most dedicated fans of the original or those who have never set foot into the wacky world of this strange mash-up. Given the Wii U's relatively meager sales, though, this is a great second chance for the strongest Zelda spin-off ever.
For the unfamiliar, Dynasty Warriors is a tactical action game that tasks you with managing an army and controlling specific keeps or tracts of land. All the while, you are able to insert yourself directly into the fray as an uber-powered demi-god. That allows you to shift the tide of battle, essentially acting as the queen in chess. Powerful though you may be, you've also...
State of Decay 2 sometimes feels like a far-too-real representation of the mundane reality that comes with surviving a zombie apocalypse. Consistently being on the hunt for food, resources to craft ammunition, and survivors to bolster your ranks doesn’t always translate into a captivating gameplay loop--especially when you’re faced with horrors other than the countless undead that roam around you.
Like the first game from Undead Labs, State of Decay 2 infrequently checks in with an overarching narrative. You’re given the choice of three pairs of survivors to start off with, each with their own bare-bones background stories. Those stories don’t really matter, but your decision does define your starting area and the preliminary survivors you’ll team up with to combat a growing sickness called the Blood Plague. The plague is the singular goal for you to work against, as your community strives to eradicate it from your town and build towards a brighter future.
That mission boils down to finding zombie-invested settlements that you’ll need to first scout out and ultimately destroy, with grotesque, beating Plague Hearts at the center. These fights are the only real way to measure progression through State of Decay 2’s otherwise open-ended campaign. Each settlement you conquer strengthens the rest, forcing you to step back and regroup before attempting to blow up the next. They're the toughest challenges the game has to offer, too, serving up waves of foes for you to fight as you valiantly lob another Molotov at the heart, hoping...