Five years after the last full retail release, Harmonix has returned with Rock Band 4. Like your favorite band that's been out of the studio for too long, Harmonix's return is a welcome one. Who better than the masters of the genre to bring back one of the most storied franchises of the last decade for another run at greatness? With new platforms and audiences to reach, the time seemed right for Rock Band to once again make a claim to the throne of the ultimate music franchise. Much of what makes up Rock Band 4 will be immediately familiar to longtime players, but that's not a bad thing. Rock Band 4 brings back feelings you didn't even know you were missing, and improves upon the formula just enough to make everything feel fresh and new, while being as comfortable as a pair of worn-in leather pants.
When you look at point-and-click adventure games today, it’s hard to think of a time when these games did a heck of a lot with so much less. They’ve become lavish in their scope and it’s a definite part of the charm bringing point-and-clicks back into prominence. Pencil Test Studios hit opposite of that method with their new point-and-click, Armikrog. It’s got charm – oodles in fact – but the game harkens to a bygone era of point-and-clicks that tasked players with making the most of what’s there and dealing with it. Unfortunately, Armikrog brings back many old problems and mixes them with new ones as well, occasionally distracting from what is otherwise a funny and beautiful game.
The music, a generic, 2001-esque rock tune, cuts in and out on the loading screen, then restarts entirely when the level starts to load. Objects pop into view haphazardly, and most textures only start to think about showing up for work. Your character is last to appear, an undetailed blob that vaguely resembles Tony Hawk; you feel a vague unease to go along with his blurred features. The objective: using your skateboarding skills, knock 25 giant balls out of a pool. There are actually 26 balls, but whatever. You struggle with the controls, flailing and flopping on maneuvers you swore you landed, all while the timer counts down with a corporate logo hanging heavy above it. You've nearly gotten all of the balls out when you jump. Tony goes ragdoll for no reason and launches twenty feet into the air in grotesque slow-motion until he tumbles down, into the ground, and jams there like a twitchy tombstone. The textures of his clothes and face finally load; his face is an expressionless, joyless mass with eyes more dead than Gravelord Nito.
Skylanders Superchargers is the latest iteration of the popular toy-to-game series coming out of Activision and Vicarious Visions. In addition to the 117 fully playable characters from the previous entries of Skylanders comes 20 new characters, some brand-new and some favorites re-imagined, for the new adventure in Superchargers. The most notable update is the inclusion of 20 new vehicles that bring road, water, and sky-based levels and travel to your battles against the villainous Kaos. Superchargers supplies a distinctly unique and refreshing change to the usual Skylanders game, though this adventure isn’t quite the entirely fine-tuned ride it set out to be.
The first year of Destiny has been a bumpy ride for Bungie. From an underwhelming final product to a very flimsy first DLC pack, Destiny has seen a lot of ups and downs in only its first year of a proposed ten year plan. The House of Wolves was a step in the right direction for the game, and even though the Taken King undoes some of what that DLC introduced, it is exactly what Destiny needed after it in order to progress.
If you thought taking the characters of a fan-favorite role-playing game and throwing them into a fighting game was as drastic a departure for the Persona series as was humanly possible, Persona 4 Dancing All Night proves otherwise. Combining the beloved grind-fest RPG with a rhythm game takes Atlus' outside-the-box thinking to a whole new level. All the characters you've spent hundreds of hours with over the course of the past few years return again, only this time they've set their sights on saving the world through the universal language of dance. It shouldn't work. Persona 4 Dancing All Night is probably the largest deviation from the core concept a franchise has ever received, yet somehow, it manages to be everything fans could possibly have hoped for.
Frictional's SOMA utilizes the same style of gameplay set in the gorgeous, dangerous and terrifying setting of PATHOS-II. Fortunately, SOMA's path through darkness is a gorgeous and thought-provoking one, and it's in these thoughts where its true sense of horror resides.
I just put the finishing touches on a brand new stage for Mario to conquer with friends and strangers at the helm. There are enemies galore in my aptly named stage "Enemies Galore!," with Goombas and Koopa Troopas lining also almost every square of the arena provided for my customization. With a few quick taps my stage is uploaded to the world, and I can either choose to keep building or try some courses of my own. This is the beauty of Super Mario Maker, the coolest idea to come from the minds of Nintendo in quite some time. This game gives me the power to do something I never could before: take the Super Mario formula for building challenging stages and create my own Mario opus, then upload that stage for the world to get their hands on. It's charming, it's addicting, and the best game Nintendo has put out this year.
The wasteland is a dangerous place, filled to the brim with psychotic warmongers and vehicular violence on every road. Luckily our hero is well-suited for such a world, and Mad Max does a pretty good job of making the player feel as powerful as the titular hero throughout the adventure. There’s one enemy that even Max can’t overcome however, and it defines the entire Mad Max experience: repetition.
After 17 years and numerous times when he said he was finished with the series, legendary game maker Hideo Kojima has released his true swansong to the Metal Gear Solid franchise in what is likely going to be his magnum opus, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Both controversy and a high level of expectations surround The Phantom Pain, as Kojima is expected to be leaving Konami after three decades of working there. Fortunately, The Phantom Pain shatters these expectations and transcends its circumstances through sheer gameplay alone. If Hideo Kojima really is leaving and never planning to revisit the Metal Gear series he started on the MSX2 back in 1987, then consider this the perfect way to say goodbye to the fans and the franchise.