I’m on a spaceship with a talking tree, a creature that most definitely isn’t a raccoon and a space Llama. In any other game this could be considered weird, but in Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s just a Monday. Assuming they have Mondays in space. It was never brought up. The point is, the Guardians of the Galaxy are one of the strangest groups in comic books, and until Marvel turned them into a household name in 2014 they were a relatively unknown bunch of misfits that dealt in some of the weirdest aspects of the Marvel universe. So a videogame based on their antics sounds like a perfect fit. We deal in weird shit all the time. How does their first foray into games hold up?
Halo Infinite certainly opens with a bang, leaping straight into a cinematic that picks up exactly where Halo 5 left us during its cliffhanger ending. We witness the UNSC Infinity being destroyed at the hands of the Banished, while the Master Chief is systematically picked apart by the hulking form of Atriox, a character first introduced in Halo Wars 2. As opening sequences go it’s definitely explosive and attention-grabbing, but it’s also the first example of how Infinite can feel rushed and at odds with itself; you never get to take control of the Chief and join the fight for the Infinity. The destruction of the Infinity, a major part of the Halo lore, is glossed over in a brief cutscene, the death of its crew barely shown. There was a perfect opportunity to create a level built around the desperate fight to save the ship and the inevitable loss you would have to suffer at the hands of Atriox. For some reason, however, 343 opt to tell the players what happened and rarely show, a theme that permeates the entirety of Halo Infinite.
Indie games are the home of some of the best puzzle-based experiences around because they are willing to take unique, interesting ideas and run with them, or in some cases roll with them. That’s Tandem: A Tale of Shadows in a nutshell. The opening cutscene lays down the basis of this weird story: little Emma is intrigued by the disappearance of Thomas Kane, the only son of the famed Kane Illusionists who disappeared a decade prior. Scotland Yard have failed entirely to penetrate the twisted Kane mansion which houses all manner of oddities. On her way to the gothic abode a teddy bear falls from a speeding carriage, and to little Emma’s surprise, the bear immediately jumps up and pursues the runaway vehicle. Together, Emma and Fenton the teddy enter the mysterious home of the Kane’s and wind up working in tandem to solve the numerous puzzles that hide dark secrets.
Jurassic Park: Evolution 2 was ultimately a charming but slow management game that suffered from a lack of depth. The magic of breeding and looking after massive dinosaurs gave way to fairly bog-standard gameplay interspersed with moments of chaos when a T-rex broke free and ate a few paying customers. When Frontier announced a sequel I was excited to see if they could fulfil all the potential the original had of being a casual but hugely entertaining sim-park title. As evolutions go, this one has a few random mutations that need to be removed from the genome if there’s going to be a third game, but overall it’s a decent improvement. It’s bigger, it’s meatier, it’s toothier. If the first game was the classic T-rex, this is the Indominus Rex. Welcome, to Jurassic World: Evolution 2.
Halloween may have already passed in a sugar-induced blur but that doesn’t mean I can’t talk about spooky stuff, right? Sunshine Manor is actually a prequel to 2016’s Sunshine Camp, although you don’t need to have played that. It has all the hallmarks of a creepy good time: a weird mansion, a mystery to solve, some demons and even a cult! It’s all wrapped up in a rather nice visual style, too, that harkens back to the 8-bit days. Hell, it even has a dog you can pet! What more could you possibly want?
Let’s take a meander down the ruined street of memories to a console generation where grey and brown were the predominant colours. The Xbox 360 had been out for a year and was doing well for itself, with several games managing to shift over a million copies. As for me, I was finally looking to move on from my ageing Playstation 2 and join the new generation of consoles with their shiny graphics. As a PS2 owner, the PS3 was naturally tempting – I was familiar with the games already, after all, but the price tag was pretty hefty. The Xbox 360 looked great, but nothing on it stood out to me. And then Epic Games and Microsoft revealed their new game, Gears of War, and suddenly the choice was obvious. It turned out to be a good choice because the Xbox 360 era was glorious.
So many games these days release broken or have their review code held back until the very last minute because the developers and the publisher aren’t confident about the reception. It’s so refreshing when indie developers come along and are proud and confident of their work. So confident, in fact, that Exor Studios have a demo of The Riftbreaker available to play, plus the Prologue. That confidence is well-founded, though, because while The Riftbreaker does have some problems it’s also a great blending of genres, combining base-building and some good ‘ol fashioned shootin’.
Massive. Daunting. Difficult. Deep. Complex. Time-consuming. Confusing. Rewarding. Satisfying. Slog. These are just a small selection of the words that could be used to describe Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous. This mammoth RPG is based on the pen and paper Pathfinder system, and is a sequel to Pathfinder: Kingmaker, a game I’m sad to say I missed. I’m sad to say it because if Wrath of the Righteous is anything to go by, I missed something special. While it does have some issues, there’s no doubt that Owlcat have forged something awesome.
Probably my favourite moment in UnMetal came when sneaking through a screen full of sleeping guard dogs. My stench was visibly wafting across the screen, alternating between going straight up and straight down. The goal was, of course, to carefully weave through the deadly mutts without my horrific, sewer-drenched clothes waking them up. But on my second attempt, I thought of something: I went to the inventory and equipped the thermal suit I had previously used to pass by thermal sensors. To my surprise and delight, the suit contained my reek and I was able to amble through the dogs. Was this just some bug, or had the lone developer really considered that I might stick the suit on? I think it’s the latter, because this is a seriously well-designed game.
The Avengers heading to Xbox Game Pass was probably, to steal a phrase from Thanos, inevitable. It sold okay but struggled to make its development budget back, and its reception was rather lukewarm. Hell, my own review was hardly a glowing recommendation. But now that it’s on Game Pass? Well, Marvel’s The Avengers becomes a more enticing prospect. It may have found its true home. Time to suit up.