Played with: Mouse & Keyboard and Xbox 360 Controller
Paid: $0 (Key provided for review)
Of all the franchises that Telltale has tackled, Minecraft seems to be the one that was met with the most scepticism. There’s no real plot in the original game; any sense of story comes from the player’s own creativity. The world is randomly-generated, with a distinct lack of memorable landmarks and locales. How can a game that amounts to a digital toy be turned into a linear, narratively-focused adventure? Well, Telltale seems determined to find out, even if it must build a new world from scratch to do it.
Slow, stamina-based combat? Check. Enemies that respawn whenever you rest to heal? Check. Experience points that get dropped every time you die? Check. No, this isn’t some ill-promoted sequel to the Dark Souls series; it’s an isometric action game by the name of Immortal Planet.
To say that Immortal Planet draws heavy inspiration from FromSoftware’s famous series is an understatement. For the first half hour or so of the game, every time I asked, “I wonder if it does this thing that Dark Souls does?” the answer was a resounding, “Of course!” Thus, Immortal Planet takes place in a semi-open world backed by a largely vague narrative. As a mysterious Awakewalker, you are tasked with restoring the Cycles of the planet, the lack of which has caused it to turn to a frozen wasteland. In your way stand countless enemies with varying attack patterns, all of which need to be analysed and circumvented to succeed.
Then again, perhaps a more accurate question is, “How do I describe Redout without drowning this review in more buzzwords than the average E3 press conference?” The thing is: doing so would require me to pour hours and hours of time and energy into a single paragraph instead of just playing more Redout. Not exactly ideal. With that in mind, allow me to indulge.
Redout is one of the most delightfully high-octane, edge-of-my-seat racing games in recent memory. It’s a thrilling adrenaline rush of an experience that caused more emotional outbursts from me than a House of Cards season finale. It’s a finely-tuned joyride that’s been polished and balanced until it shines in a cornucopia of flashy colours.
What I’m saying is that Redout is really freaking good.
Randomness in games is an excellent method of promoting custom story generation. The fact that nearly everyone will have an experience that is at least marginally unique means that there’s always something new and interesting to talk about that many players may have never seen or heard of. That’s the goal with The Long Journey Home, a rogue-lite space game that channels FTL: Faster Than Light and No Man’s Sky into a challenging, galaxy-trotting, survival experience.
Omega Force’s catalogue of Warriors games has become incredibly prolific over the years, with dozens of instalments spanning many historical periods and franchises. Throughout this catalogue, they’ve carved out a niche for themselves in the “spectacle fighter” genre, though for the uninitiated, it may as well be the “shonen anime: the game” genre. Each title is a pure, unadulterated power fantasy, giving the player control over numerous heroes who are capable of slashing through scores of enemy soldiers with little more than a wave of their hand. While the overall gameplay tends to stay somewhat similar, the key difference is always the setting. The franchise has visited Hyrule, ancient China, and even Gundam…Gundam-land, but now it’s time to make a return trip to Japan for the latest Samurai Warriors title: Spirit of Sanada.
The titular Guardians aren’t the only thing under pressure in the second episode of the ongoing point-and-click adventure series. Following a painfully average first outing, Under Pressure is tasked not only with continuing the established story, but also with giving players a reason to care. Featuring new characters and locales alongside some far more dramatic emotional beats, is there enough here to help the series claw its way out from mediocrity?
Pulling off good horror with pixel art is difficult. Titles like Lone Survivor come to mind as somewhat recent examples of pixelated horror done right, but such games are far from the household names that Outlast, Amnesia, and even Slender have become. Part of the reason for that may be that it’s difficult to properly set up jump scares when playing from what is generally a pulled-out, third-person view; giving the player so much vision can undercut the effectiveness of such surprises. To combat this, many “bit horror” games choose the same tactic chosen by The Count Lucanor: the horror comes from the imagery and circumstances rather than their sudden presentation.