There's a half-decent time to be had bashing your way around Stranger of Paradise's dungeons, but routine level design, rough edges and messy narrative delivery stop the experience evolving into a compelling adventure. Despite its efforts to create ordered systems, chaos has the final word.
Sifu is a master of hand-to-hand combat, injecting its kung-fu showdowns with exhilarating fluidity, tactical depth and cinematic scale. Its structure is harder to fully embrace, though, as it demands a lot of repetitious dedication to even reach the final stages. At times that feels needlessly punishing, but the thrill of the fight should help pull you through.
Solar Ash is a highly original open-plan platform game. A slim move set that rewards momentum is the perfect means of exploring its swirling, broken landscapes and executing its more exacting challenges. While some of its elements feel overly simple, that doesn’t detract hugely from a clinically focused and fresh experience.
Not every idea lands — a parody of turn-based JRPG battles toward the end feels overly labored — and it’s hard to escape the sense that writer and co-director Suda51 is being self-indulgent even by his standards. Perhaps there’s such a thing as trying to squeeze too many references and cameos into a script. For all the surprises, the riotous homages, plot twists, characters and style switches, there’s not much to bind them, and not much genuine innovation.
It’s a structure that ensures different perspectives and voices carousel in and out with pleasing regularity, but also in accordance with your mood. It works to intertwine three stories that are differently enjoyable — Meena’s is the most interesting character study, Donna has the most captivating mystery, John is primarily the comic relief — playing them off each other to make them that much more gripping than they would be alone. Variable State may still not have found the perfect interactive formula for its cinematic talents, but until it does “Last Stop” remains a moderate success.
INTERmission is a classy addition to one of last year’s best games, which itself runs a little better now on PS5. It’s great to see Yuffie again, brought up-to-date to match the rest of the cast and providing her uniquely wide-eyed perspective on Midgar. We’re ready to move on from the great city now, but this is a fine farewell party.
Biomutant’s feature list seems to include everything a successful open-world action RPG needs. But journey through its towns, fields and bunkers, and there’s no intrigue in its exploration or weight in its relationship building. Not even a worthy combat challenge to hold everything together. With so many ideas left under-developed, it wastes a setting that had far more potential.
Resident Evil: Village is a powerful monster, bolting together parts from Resident Evils 7, 4 and more besides. It’s longer than recent games in the series, yet still feels trim and sculpted as it shifts between it wide range of locations and set pieces. The downside of its eclectic approach is some unevenness and less tension, especially in a relatively weak opening act. But its eventual blend of parts is gloriously big, daft and fuelled by the finest of nightmares.
Oddworld: Soulstorm is an advancement on previous games in the series in every way, but that’s both its biggest achievement and the source of its problems. The complexity and variety in its locations is commendable, as is the wealth of tools at your disposal for dealing with its many tricks and foes. But many of its systems don’t work together reliably, or don’t respond with the necessary speed, which leaves an experience that’s rarely as entertaining as it promises to be.
The tactical flexibility in Bravely Default 2 is among the best in class, and tinkering with its possibilities is a fine pass-time in itself. But it gets bogged down in a churn of routine battles, wayward balancing and humdrum fantasy. While the original game’s compact focus felt comfy on a 3DS, the Switch magnifies the blemishes of the sequel and leaves it looking a little underdressed.
Little Nightmares 2 is a cautiously expansive sequel which expertly paces its shocks and creepy atmosphere. The detail and weight of its locations are unnervingly believable, while its monsters are hellishly otherworldly. Exciting, brutal and darkly humorous, we just wish it gave us more reason to stay longer.
Equal parts stunning achievement and terrible mess, for every wonder in Cyberpunk 2077 on PS4 there’s a handful of frustrations. Performance issues affect not just how the game looks, but how it plays and feels, constantly taking bites out of what would otherwise be an impressive and exhilarating experience.