Zachtronics make a detour from its puzzle game destiny with the visual novel Eliza. It's slick in its design, though shy on the big choices you might expect from most visual novels. Still, packed with a stellar solitaire minigame, impressive voice acting, and one of the most prescient narratives I've seen in games, if you're a fan at all of interactive stories that'll have you gripped from start to finish, Eliza is it.
Not even striking art direction and sincere storytelling can save the unfortunate nature of Sea of Solitude. Marred by dull action and, at worst, frustrating sequences, Sea of Solitude ends up feeling like twice the length of its runtime. Those monsters and that world sure are gorgeous though.
Judgment is very much a Yakuza game in detective clothing, but with some clever twists and a killer mystery at the center, it ends up feeling surprisingly distinct. While some of the detective-specific mechanical additions are a drag, everything else vibes really well with the familiar Kamurocho setting. It's easily the best of the recent line of Dragon Engine-developed games in the series—even without Kiryu Kazuma at the center, and even without a karaoke minigame.
The newly introduced cooperative puzzles and some of the new concepts are where BoxBoy + BoxGirl shine the brightest, like a yellow laser striking down pain. Even with a bit too much of a samey feel now four games in, and some performance issues when the levels and abilities get complex, BoxBoy + BoxGirl is a swell puzzle outing for the Switch.
Heaven's Vault may have one of the most well-realized video game worlds ever, with your curiosity and personality molding your story through the Nebula. Whether you're fascinated by history or just by a personal sense of duty, there's a lot to love about Heaven's Vault, even if the clunky movement and frustrating sailing sour the overall experience.
Apex Legends spices up the battle royale formula with hero-based shooter pizazz and its revolutionary pinging system, which helps everyone feel welcome to the team. Though its Season One rollout has been disappointing content-wise and its visual flair remains bland, Apex Legends still has the solid foundation necessary for a free-to-play shooter to survive in the long run. And with 50 million players reached in its first month, it's not like it's slowing down anytime soon. We're all jumpmasters now.
Trials Rising adds a layer of annoyance on top of its already-winning formula, with its clunky world map and tedious level gating. Luckily, beneath that exterior it's just as electrifying as it's always been. The tracks are all a joy to race through as you chase landing on the leaderboard or overcoming tough Contracts. With its international approach and attention to detail, each level's design—from an art and gameplay perspective—feels like the best Trials has ever been.
For all the new in Kingdom Hearts 3, there is plenty of the old too. The action combat is more satisfying than it's ever been, even if it's a tad easy to skate through the main storyline. For longtime fans of the series, all those emotional payoffs that have been building for 17 years await. For newcomers, buckle up: because you're in for a wild ride of bonkers Disney interactions and some exciting boss battles.
If you miss your S.E.E.S. pals or Phantom Thieves buddies, then look no further than the boogie bliss of Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight. While it's a rhythm game still best suited for portable, if you're a fan of the Persona soundtracks, it's a sweet way to enjoy its excellent music all over again. Though without a story mode unlike its predecessor and a so-so rhythm game still at its core, both games end up feeling a little lesser, reserving these entries for only the most dedicated and eager of fans.
Sometimes Tetris Effect dances into the profound: wherein the music, the visuals, and the act of playing Tetris can make you—dare I say it—emotional. Then there's the other side of Tetris Effect, the tedium with instant-fast speeds and hard-to-discern tetrominos in more than just a few levels. Tetris Effect is at its best when it's just normal Tetris, with no strange shapes for blocks; with just the music and visuals to help you drift away as you fall into a flow. In PlayStation VR, that effect is only leveraged, making it a must-own game for the virtual reality platform.
The minigames of Super Mario Party are great, taking advantage of the Switch hardware in unique and creative ways. It's the dialed back board game and its lackluster extra modes that let the whole package down though. While it's still bound to be a great party game to break out when friends visit, it lacks the drama of the best in the series.
Life Is Strange 2's debut episode, despite its faults and its slow-moving pace, starts the series off compellingly, setting off on a road trip adventure that I'm sure will bear more hardship for the two brothers than unlikely friendships.
The Gardens Between is a great example of a puzzle game with the most simple of mechanics, showcasing how much can be stretched out of so little. Its light story of friendship is sweet (if not a bit too saccharine). It complements the core mechanic of controlling the passage of time, and well, the inevitability of how no matter how much you'd like time to stand still sometimes, it'll move along regardless.
Despite a new developer at its helm, Shadow of the Tomb Raider ends up feeling like more of the same. The new additions to stealth are great; the bow continues to be one of the best in all of video games. Then guns enter combat and the self-reflective story falls flat, making Shadow sometimes a chore to get through. The puzzles in those tombs are pretty spectacular though. I guess she really is the Tomb Raider now.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 won't make those who haven't clicked with the series yet a believer, but for fans, it's well worth the journey if you don't mind retreading some familiar ground. While the slow middle and Majima side campaign are disappointing, Kiwami 2 is still another solid entry in the Yakuza canon.