Having a high-concept idea is all well and good, but it doesn't matter what kind of story you tell, or the world you create, if the act of playing the game is so unpleasant. While occasionally putting the pieces together, often Observation left me bored and frustrated.
At first it seems that Heaven's Vault is an absolute treasure and you can just marvel at the creative ideas that Inkle Studio came up with. But in between all those moments when I loved the game, some of the gameplay mechanics made my eyes glaze over and the experience would lose its luster.
MLB The Show 19 isn't a standout, but it does offer another strong outing from the baseball franchise. If you bought last year's game, this isn't an essential pick-up, but if you've skipped a year or two, or are a newcomer to the series, it's a good pick-up.
Devil May Cry 5 is an action title worth playing, filled with bombastic action, over-the-top character moments, and fun mechanics. It's a game that forgoes any sense of nuance and relies on simply overloading your senses, and often succeeds at doing just that.
Mashing up unique aesthetics and gameplay doesn't always yield a perfect result, and Ape Out tries to fit together two disparate ideas without successfully navigating the challenges of such an endeavor. Too many elements just don't work at a fundamental level, making it an uneven effort at best.
The Hong Kong Massacre is obsessed with fist-pumping, high-octane action and is a great offering for action fans that enjoy the likes of Hotline Miami. The first two hours are largely spent finding the game's wavelength, but the pulsing energy of the design helps propel you along. Before long, you'll be swan diving through windows and lighting up rooms with gunfire in pure action bliss.
Resident Evil 2 is certainly propped up by being a remake of an already excellent game, but it doesn't simply lean on that legacy. There's so much great work being done to revitalize the experience for a modern audience, and those efforts deserve to be experienced. Nostalgic fans already got their preorders, but for newcomers - you need to summon your courage, turn off all the lights, and let this game fill you with dread - because it's worth it.
Occasionally, Road to Eden comes to life with fun, challenging combat and a smart implementation of stealth. But even so, the feeling quickly disappears as you remember that there's little to enjoy after you've won. The game often seems empty and dull, with under-utilized characters and clumsy pacing, and not enough overarching mechanics to keep you engaged in the long run.
Hitman 2 is a disappointing follow-up. Instead of working to expand on the elements that worked in the previous entry, there's been a misguided effort to simply add bullet-points to the back of the box. A bad story, less impressive levels, and superfluous new modes leave the sequel lacking an identity, like 47 himself.
Persona Dancing: Endless Night Collection isn't going to change your life, nor be an experience to carry with you forever, but it is a charming and entertaining distraction that will almost certainly win you over while playing. If you're a Persona fan, it's a must-play, but even if you're not, this could still be a fun game to pull out when you need a pick-me-up.
It's easy to respect something like Return of the Obra Dinn. Puzzling together clues from each death scene is tricky and rewarding, but the motivation for doing so is lacking. There's no one to care about on the ship, no reason to uncover the mystery other than to prove you've done it, and it holds the game back from being exceptional.
The stealth mechanics and fun world traversal in Shadow of the Tomb Raider make it a great game. Whether Lara is smothering herself in mud to shank enemies and return to the shadows, rappelling down into gloomy caves, or blasting creatures with her powerful shotgun, this game has a grimy edge that makes it well worth playing.
If you're an absolute die-hard, I guess you've already picked up Madden NFL 19, but otherwise I'd warn you to hold off and continue playing last year's version. There's nothing special about this year's edition, and with all of the technical issues, it's a major bummer.
Guacamelee! 2 is more of the same. That's not a bad thing necessarily, and with a funny new story, those who have enjoyed Juan's previous adventure will likely be left smiling. But if you're new to the franchise, I'd still recommend starting with the original game before deciding if the sequel is worth picking up.
If you're just here for the combat and don't mind a bad story, or if you're looking to soak up the nostalgia of the golden age of the genre for hours on-end, there might be enough here to justify a purchase. It was perhaps too much to expect that Octopath Traveler would compete with the JRPG greats, as sadly it misses the mark in understanding the nuances of what made those titles so iconic.