Editor's note: The review contains spoilers for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier. Throughout Telltale's The Walking Dead, we have seen what living in a zombified hellscape can do to people. The one perpetual ray of hope was in Clementine, the little girl whose soul you've been trying to protect since the first hour of the first season, and the character you control in Telltale's latest chapter. She was one of the depressingly few children left, now forced to grow up in a hostile world of zombies, desperate survivors, treacherous backcountry, deathtrap cities, and, above all, rampant, indiscriminate, ignoble death. We've seen, in New Frontier, what this world does to her. It has robbed the music from her voice. She carried the tragedies she has endured like a ball and chain wrapped around her neck.
It's worth mentioning that sad, storied history to understand just how strangely heartening it is that The Walking Dead's final season kicks off on a note of… well, hope is a strong word. Acceptance may be closer to the truth. Having known so little else of the world before, Clementine having pushed past her broken, bloody adolescence into early adulthood with her sanity intact may be the greatest blessing Telltale could've possibly given her character.
Without a doubt, much of that likely comes down to necessity. While we never see the how of it all, when Done Running begins it is at least six or seven years after the events of...
Despite its focus on death and the afterlife, Flipping Death is a charming and wholesome adventure. Its zany and often eccentric characters bring the well-paced story to life with fantastic voice acting and a gorgeous 2D art style. Despite some frustrating platforming elements, its campy humor and satisfying puzzle mechanics make it a delightful journey throughout.
Flipping Death puts you in the shoes of the recently departed Penny, a young girl who is accidentally thrown into the job of covering for Death. The role turns out to be rather elaborate, and you’re quickly tasked with helping ghosts resolve their unfinished business. In addition, you’ll have to help the wonderfully sassy Penny attempt to figure out how to return to the world of the living.
In order to give these dead folk a hand and solve various puzzles, you’ll be frequently switching between the worlds of the dead and living by using your trusty scythe to possess mortals and take advantage of their special abilities. Some actions need to happen in one world before the other and vice versa, such as using a person's extraordinarily long tongue in the world of living to paint the boat of a deceased captain, or using a doctor's set of defibrillators to bring a recently passed ghost back to life. You'll need to constantly flip between the two worlds and experiment with character abilities in order to find the right solutions.
Just like the forcibly stretched grins of its inhabitants, the joy found in We Happy Few is a facade. The game's fascinating setting of a drug-fueled society wasting away in fake happiness is squandered on repetitive environments, poorly paced and downright boring quest designs, and a variety of confusing mechanics that never find harmony with each other. Its three individual tales of survival manage to deliver some surprisingly poignant moments, but We Happy Few does its best to dissuade you from wanting to play long enough to see them through.
We Happy Few takes place in a timeline where Germany reigned victorious after World War II and has England bowing to their whims. Children are sent to the German mainland without reason, and the quiet town of Wellington Wells is plunged into a drug-induced mirage of peaceful, happy co-existence. With pills called "Joy" helping citizens forget the atrocities of the past, uprising is far less likely. But this fake sense of tranquility brings about its own problems. Citizens refusing to live under Joy's medicinal spell are outcast to the borders of city, forced to live in decrepit, crumbling houses while they wait to starve to death. The citizens of Wellington Wells are always happy to see you, but only if you abide by their rules.
It's 1983. The Cold War is underway and there's a global conspiracy being perpetrated by a mysterious organization called Beholder. Fighting against Beholder are you and your rival organization, The Cabal. In Phantom Doctrine, you have the choice of playing as either an American CIA or a Russian KGB agent in charge of their own group of spies, but regardless of your alliance, every move you make needs to be carefully considered or there will be world-ending consequences. This feeling of high stakes strategic decision-making and a constant sense of urgency will become second nature as you progress through this engrossing campaign.
Tension and suspicion are ingrained throughout Phantom Doctrine to great effect. Its isometric turn-based combat system is rewardingly complex, steeped with the feeling of paranoia, where every variable decision and tactic needs to be carefully considered--even before a mission begins. The sprawling narrative is full of intriguing characters and plot twists befitting of a spy epic, with a distinct sense of distrust in voice performances (both Russian and English), and a noir soundtrack to perpetuate the overall atmosphere.
The isometric turn-based tactical combat system may look outwardly similar to other games in the same genre--action points, cover, and overwatch will be familiar concepts--but there are also many unique intricacies to internalize, and it will take some time to learn due to a large number of options available when it comes to completing objectives. Going...
Unavowed sounds straightforward on paper. It's a classic-style point-and-click game about demonic possession set in New York City with people to talk to, and puzzles to solve. However, as you get to know its characters and fall further into its mystery, it becomes increasingly clear that Unavowed is much more than it appears: it's a brilliantly written adventure that makes you care deeply about its inhabitants and subverts your expectations.
Many tales involving demonic possession typically conclude with the entity being banished from its host, but in Unavowed, this is where the story begins. Your character wakes up on a rain-soaked Brooklyn rooftop with a hazy memory, surrounded by people you've never met. To your horror, they inform you that you've spent over a year slaughtering people throughout New York and there's a citywide manhunt for your capture. They are the Unavowed: an ancient, hidden order of demon-hunters dedicated to protecting the city from all kinds of supernatural threats. With the spirit seemingly gone, you join their ranks and work to piece together the what, how and why of your demon's bloody murder spree across the city.
It's a good setup for any mystery, but Unavowed sets itself apart with charismatic, fascinating characters and stellar writing. From the members of the Unavowed to bystanders you encounter on street corners, every inhabitant of this version of...
While some fans of the series were disappointed when Monster Hunter XX came to the Switch as a Japan-only exclusive, the good news is that we don't have to suffer in region-imposed torture any longer. The latest big fish in the franchise's pond, Monster Hunter World, is finally here, and it blows the previous western releases out of the water.
For seasoned players, the gameplay loop in Monster Hunter World is immediately recognisable. Your job is a cycle that involves crafting weapons, bulking up, killing monsters, and looting them for materials. However, a well-crafted narrative has not traditionally been a part of that gameplay loop, and that may have been a deterrent for those looking for a foothold into the franchise in the past. Luckily for them, the first major point of difference here from the previous mainline titles is the way that the plot and gameplay are grafted together. A spinoff, Monster Hunter Stories, stepped off the beaten track by introducing a simple yet satisfying narrative, and now Monster Hunter World solidifies that step by using the building blocks of previous narrative concepts to deliver a well-paced experience that spends more time focusing on the bigger picture.
While you spend a lot of time chasing an Elder Dragon that wouldn't look out of place in the movie Pacific Rim, Monster Hunter World's choice to integrate Guild and Village quests into one coherent story...
Following 2016's co-op cooking hit, Overcooked 2 introduces a fresh set of kitchens and recipes to conquer. Like in the first game, simple controls and a cute, cartoony style lend levity to intense dinner rushes where one mistake can lead to culinary disaster. The fun and chaos of playing with friends is preserved in the sequel, as is the far less exciting reality of playing solo. And while the added online play can't compare to in-person antics, the new throwing mechanic and a host of ridiculous kitchen layouts make for a delightfully frenetic follow-up to a couch co-op favorite.
Like the original, Overcooked 2 takes you from one poorly laid out kitchen to the next, tasking you with cooking as many dishes as possible within a set time limit. Whether alone or with friends, each kitchen poses its own set of problems and hurdles; conveyor belts make basic movement more difficult, floating rafts and hot air balloons cause kitchens to shift under your feet, and the sink is usually nowhere near the dirty plates. It can be hard to figure out how to approach each level, but it's very easy for even the best strategies to devolve into chaos.
Tucked away in a long-forgotten prison lies a corpse. From time to time, a sticky mass of green goo slips into the cell and gives the body a burst of life. Stomping forward, the armored mass of carrion charges through zombies and hordes of undead on a vain quest to find the way out. Fans of Dark Souls will notice… more than a few similarities, for sure, but this particular outing isn't what it appears to be.
Dead Cells is a fascinating amalgam of several of today's most popular indie genres. It juggles elements of tough-as-nails action games and Metroid-inspired exploration platformers, with the procedurally generated levels and random item allotments found in roguelikes. It's impressive how it all comes together without a hitch, especially given that the persistent character growth found in games like Dark Souls or Metroid squarely conflicts with the randomized resets emblematic of Rogue-inspired games.
The balance struck here is one of unlocked opportunities. Each time your avatar stirs back to life, you're given a fresh chance to press through the stages. You encounter them sequentially, so you have an idea of what to expect, but your choices in each will determine your ultimate path. So, for example, while the first stage is always the Prisoner's Quarters, your next hop could be the Promenade of the Condemned or the Toxic Sewers. At first, only the former will be available. But, in time, you'll earn runes that confer permanent changes and open up new routes.
Nothing about the hype, release, disappointment, and slow, disciplined redemption of No Man's Sky has been typical. As such, the great paradox of the Next update isn't exactly a surprise. It introduces some drastic improvements to the base game, not to mention a great deal of what Hello Games' Sean Murray promised and was pilloried for not delivering at launch. It is a grander, more cohesive experience that makes the infinite expanse of space feel much less lonely. But what Next really ends up emphasizing through all of its quality-of-life improvements and additions was that the game we got on day one was always going to be "the game."
You start out as an amnesiac astronaut stranded on a random planet with a broken ship that, once repaired, takes you on a potentially neverending search through a near-infinite universe. What you seek can vary; it may be answers that explain your identity crisis and the odd state of the universe or a wealth of natural resources to fund an extended tour of strange, far-off planets. Though you begin as a disadvantaged lost soul, it's entirely possible to study your surroundings, take advantage of what they have to offer, and become a social and military force in the eyes of No Man's Sky's alien races.
Through multiple updates, this has always been the very soul of No Man's Sky. Ever since the Atlas Rises update, "You are not alone" is the first phrase another living being speaks to you after...
The Madden series aims to be a true-to-life representation of the popular American sport, and Madden 19 is a refined step forward with advancements across the board. There are some issues hanging over from past games, and the Franchise updates are not as big and exciting as you might expect, but Madden 19, with its capable Frostbite engine and its compelling Longshot story mode, remains the best, most complete Madden game to date.
On the field, Madden's gameplay has never looked or handled better, and this is due in part to a new system EA calls Real Player Motion. One of the biggest pieces of this is the new "one-cut" feature for ball-carriers that allows them to change direction quickly and with a burst of speed to get around a defender. An appropriately timed cut, coupled with an acceleration boost, lets you make tight, fast, and precise turns that help you get through the line or to the edge when making runs. You can also perform hesitation moves that can make a big difference in those crucial moments when you see an opening or a gap, and it's thrilling to successfully execute a run, even if it's only for marginal yardage. Establishing the run game can be critical, and it's nice to see Madden 19 make running responsive, fun, and representative of what you see in real NFL games.
To balance out the new tactics for ball-carriers, Madden 19 adds a new strafe burst mechanic for defense....
Although Chasm offers a rare procedurally generated spin on the classic Metroid formula, its demanding combat is what makes it stand out from the sea of imitators. Monsters roam among the twisted confines of an underground lair, demanding deft swordwork and stubborn determination to survive. And it's in that deadly dance against lurching zombies, scurrying rats, and all manner of creepy-crawlies that Chasm truly shines. The tense fights leave you with sweaty palms and an elevated heart rate, keeping you glued to the action as you venture ever deeper below ground.
As a recruit stationed in a castle far away from civilization, Chasm hints at a greater world just waiting to be explored. But after you're chosen to investigate the disturbances at a small village, it soon becomes clear the world's mysteries have to take a backseat to more pressing dangers. Journals uncovered as you explore the mines, temples, and jungles explain why evil beings are being summoned, but the story doesn't offer an interesting spin on a ho-hum premise. The little narrative appeal comes from the citizens you release from cages. Each person has their own tale to tell and errand for you to run, giving you someone to fight for as you eradicate the enemies.
Thankfully, combat is the main draw of Chasm. Melee is the predominant manner of attack, and there are a wide variety of swords, hammers, knives, and other short-range weapons to find throughout the adventure. Fighting relies heavily on timing as you must...
WarioWare, one of Nintendo's strangest and most inventive series, tasks players with completing increasingly quick and difficult 'microgames,' each just a few seconds long. It's a pure expression of one of Nintendo's strengths--its games are often overflowing with abundant ideas that are all quickly experienced and equally strong. WarioWare Gold is positioning itself as the ultimate WarioWare experience--one that mixes together the three play styles that have defined the series' previous handheld releases.
The 300 microgames are split between Mash games (which use the D-Pad and A button, like in the Game Boy Advance original), Twist games (which are controlled by tilting the console, à la WarioWare: Twisted!), and Touch games (that use the touchscreen, like DS launch title WarioWare: Touched!). There are also a handful of games that make you blow into the microphone, making the playlists that incorporate them slightly more embarrassing to play on public transport. Just under 40 of these microgames are new, with the rest being pulled from previous games in the series.
When you start one of WarioWare Gold's microgame playlists, you'll be hit with a cavalcade of tasks in quick succession. In the space of a minute you might find yourself hammering the A button to snort up a dangling snot bubble, using the D-Pad to guide Wario as he jumps on Goombas,...
Note: Care has been taken to avoid major specific spoilers for The Banner Saga 1 and 2. The broad narrative setup for The Banner Saga 3 is discussed.
The Banner Saga 3 begins just like the last installment did: by throwing you into the middle of the series' ongoing story, Chapter 16, specifically. It is a seamless continuation of the series that began four years ago, meaning this third and final chapter is not a good entry point into the series--even its recap cinematic relies on a lot of assumed knowledge. But Stoic Studio's Banner Saga formula--featuring lavish hand-drawn art, a satisfying turn-based combat system, a beautiful Austin Wintory orchestral soundtrack, a compelling Nordic-inspired story, and branching choices with consequences--is still as successful as it was in the first game, and this final chapter provides reassurance that the trilogy has maintained its strength from beginning to end.
Where the first two entries in the series revolved around war and refuge, respectively, The Banner Saga 3 focuses on desperation. As an all-consuming darkness slowly destroys the world, the story again follows the perspectives of two different groups. One is a large, mixed-race clan who have fortified themselves in the city of Arbberang, which serves as the final bastion of all who still remain. The other is a smaller group of mercenaries traveling towards the center of the darkness with a magical escort, hoping to reverse its effects. There's no longer one particular race or group that serves as the...
Semblance is a game that relies on your enjoyment of the satisfying feeling that comes with the act of reshaping objects and environments. The game's world and its unnamed blobby protagonist are as malleable as playdough, and it's up to you to restore this world after it is infected by another harder, sharper race of blob. It's thin on plot justification, but that's fine--Semblance is a solid puzzle-platformer with a great hook and well-designed levels.
The game has you solve level-manipulation puzzles to collect numerous scattered orbs floating just outside of your reach. When you come across an orb, the camera will zoom out so that every piece of the landscape you need to solve the puzzle fits within a single screen, and it's up to you to figure out which platforms and walls to bend and shape to reach the orb. Levels are decorated using limited color palettes, but if a platform or wall has one consistent color tone, you can squish and deform it with your body.
Your character, a small indistinct blob, can move, jump, dash, and "reset" shifted pieces of the environment. Dashing allows you to shift or reshape platforms and dig crevices into larger parts of the level. You might need to dash into a suspended platform from below to push it up, creating a hump you can use to reach a higher ledge; alternatively, you might need to dash into the...
It’d be easy to dismiss Earthfall as nothing more than a Left 4 Dead clone, and you wouldn't be wrong to do so. Despite riffing on well-known and beloved source material, Earthfall drags, with unremarkable missions and mediocre gunplay weighing down almost every action-packed setup. Any potential it shows is ultimately undercut by one thing or another, and your enthusiasm suffers along with it.
As one of a group of four players fighting back against an alien invasion, you will blast through gruesome swarms of enemies while completing simple objectives and hopefully make it to the next safehouse to catch your breath and resupply. You regularly encounter choke points during missions where your team gets surrounded by enemies, and Earthfall attempts to make these familiar moments interesting by giving you mobile barricades that can be used to create holding points. But frustratingly, it feels like there’s no rhyme or reason to these encounters as enemies just keep coming at you randomly, making it very difficult to strategize as you attempt to fortify your position.
There are rare moments when Earthfall settles into a groove, such as when you get the chance to blow up a group of enemies with a well-placed shot to a gas tank on the back of forklift. Most of the time, however, your encounters are far less impactful. Enemies are usually bullet sponges, especially some of the special varieties. And despite there being a variety of firearms, including shotguns and rifles, they generally...
Mega Man and Mega Man X are related, but only just. Whereas Mega Man is plucky and wholesome, Mega Man X is often melodramatic and grim. The two series are joined by some loose themes and for being peak action-platforming in the '90s when competition was fierce, but Mega Man X has always been a little more complex and experimental, for better and worse. The Mega Man X Legacy Collection pays homage to the series in its near-entirety, with only a few shortcomings to detract from the overall quality of the compilation.
True to its name, this set captures the legacy of MMX--from the original Super NES classics, to their natural progression onto 32-bit systems, to the somewhat disastrous journey into 3D on the PlayStation 2. Only missing are a handful of Mega Man X curios: the pair of Xtreme Gameboy titles, the Maverick Hunter X remake for the PSP, and the strangely endearing spin-off RPG Command Mission. Three of those four were remakes or retellings in one way or another, so their absence is understandable.
With such a wide variety of emulation represented, technical proficiency becomes the key to a successful collection. The Switch version, where I spent most of my playtime, performed on-par with expectations, with no more slowdown on the Super NES titles than I remembered, and consistently smooth quality on the more technically demanding PlayStation- and PlayStation 2-era games.
20XX wears its influences on its sleeve. If you're familiar with Mega Man X, then slipping into the metallic bodies of 20XX's two core protagonists--the gunner Nina and the swordsman Ace--will feel like coming home again. Both characters are satisfying to control, and executing combinations of dashes, wall jumps, and attacks is an intuitive process with lots of room for in-depth choreography.
But the levels you tackle are where 20XX differs from its inspiration, with obstacles and enemies procedurally strung together. For the most part, this works as intended, with new enemies and hazards progressively introduced with each new stage. A corridor that is usually calm might be riddled with spike traps the next time you enter it, adding new challenges to a previously safe area. Other times the shift can feel unfair, filling the screen with projectiles and moving parts that demand superhuman reflexes with practically no margin of error. These areas can bring the strongest of runs to a grinding halt through no fault of your own, which is incredibly frustrating.
Dying is central to progression in 20XX though, so even the most infuriating of deaths have silver linings. During each run you'll accrue Soul Chips, a currency used in 20XX's hub world to purchase permanent upgrades, item unlocks, and single-use buffs. Simple additions to your overall health and special weapon energy are priceless during more difficult later stages, while simple perks such as enemies dropping more health or buffs to overall dash speeds provide...
Fighting EX Layer is a one-one-one fighting game that's built for a very specific audience. There's no tutorial, no story mode, not even a basic arcade mode yet. However, the resulting game is built purely on competitive fighting with focused efforts on making the brawling as satisfying and engaging as possible. And to that end, developer Arika succeeded spectacularly.
Fighting EX Layer comes from Arika, the developer behind the Street Fighter EX series for the PlayStation 1 and 2, and features many of the original characters created for those games. Faces like Blair Dame, Doctrine Dark, and the fan favorite Skullomania are all here to deliver epic beatdowns while looking better than ever. If you enjoyed the SFEX games, playing EX Layer feels like seeing old friends again after a very long time--though you don't need to remember the roster from a 1996 game to have fun with its colorful cast of fighters.
Of course, characters in a fighting game are just empty shells without a solid fighting engine to back them up, and EX Layer delivers that. The six-button fighter incorporates throws, dashes, a special overhead attack, varied special moves and super attacks, and basic attack chain combos (executed by pressing light-to-strong attack buttons in succession.) Movement, particularly dashing, feels swift and responsive even for slower characters, and basic attacks are satisfying thanks to a combination of well-designed animations and delightful auditory and visual flourishes.
Mothergunship wastes little time in throwing you head-first into its fast-paced and over-the-top bullet-hell experience. As the spiritual successor to indie roguelike FPS Tower of Guns, this homage to '90s action games balances a number of clever mechanics throughout its pulse-pounding jaunt through the inner depths of alien ships. As you're dodging hundreds of enemy bullets [while wielding a railgun, grenade launcher, and a flamethrower on one arm] you'll find that Mothergunship offers a satisfying and fun take on classic first-person shooters.
Stepping into the boots of a space soldier in a power suit, you'll work with a tight-knit crew of rebels, led by The Colonel, who plan to stop an alien invasion of earth led by the titular mastermind Mothergunship. The main story itself is entirely secondary to the action, mostly offering context for the game's antics. However, the many cheesy voice-overs and the self-aware video game humor throughout are surprisingly endearing, even if it's mostly background noise. The Colonel and his crew of rebels--which includes an anthropomorphic frog, poking fun at Star Fox's Slippy Toad--serve great supporting roles as you amass a ridiculous arsenal of weapons and level up your power suit.
Nintendo has all but cornered the market on streamlined, cute adventures for all ages. While Captain Toad made his first appearance in Super Mario Galaxy, he's since been spun off into his own puzzle-platforming series based on a very different type of design philosophy than you may be used to. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker debuted on the Wii U back in 2014, but as Nintendo moves much of its legacy system's library onto the Switch, Toad has another shot at stardom. And it's certainly a worthy outing--even four years on--for anyone who appreciates clever puzzles.
The core gameplay conceit is one of level design. You'll need to rotate a cuboid world around Captain Toad as you look for clues and solutions from multiple angles. Each move helps change the level, affecting how different parts react to one another and to you. As you turn the stage, you can see different pieces and elements. It's not uncommon to shift things around and notice a "POW" block in a convenient location. Toss a turnip from the other side, and you can dissolve a wall with its power and move through.