If there’s a game that I certainly wasn’t expecting to gush over this year, it’s Sonic Mania. Sure, the original 2D Sonic the Hedgehog games are awesome, but it’s not like Sega hasn’t tried to capitalize on fan nostalgia for these classic games before. Sonic the Hedgehog 4, which came out in two parts in 2010 and 2012, was fun, but it lacked the soul and creativity of the original games. That game was the New Super Mario Bros. of the Sonic series, simply providing retro style stages without thinking out of the box.
Sonic Mania, however, is different. This game feels like a celebration, treating the history of Sonic with a care and reverence that previous games have missed. Mania has it all: obscure references to older games, beautiful sprite artwork, creative set pieces, great music, perfect platforming physics, but most of all, fantastic level design. Mania successfully takes the baton from the Genesis titles, and ends up evolving into what could very well be the best Sonic game ever produced, period.
Mighty Gunvolt Burst is the sequel to 2014’s Mighty Gunvolt, a short crossover between the good Azure Striker Gunvolt games, and the not-so-good Mighty No. 9. I never played the original Mighty Gunvolt, but I can vouch for this game being a good throwback to the classic Mega Man games. Developed by Inti Games, the developers behind the excellent Mega Man Zero series on the GBA, Burst elegantly packs enough nostalgia for those who crave a new Mega Man game, while carrying enough unique ideas to set it apart.
The first Splatoon on the Wii U was a pleasant surprise at the time. On the Wii U, a console that was lacking in “fresh” games, as it will, it was thrilling to see a game that was so original, deep and fun as that game was. On top of that, Splatoon‘s popularity made it an obvious choice for a quick sequel on Nintendo’s new Switch system. So, does Splatoon 2‘s obvious similarities to the first game make it lack the freshness of the first game, or does it still wow with its squiddy goodness?
Well, fortunately, Splatoon 2, for the most part, is good. It takes the excellent foundation of the first game, and builds upon it to deliver a game that is doubtlessly better than what came before. While there are no huge changes from the original, there are big additions and smaller changes that make this more than worth the purchase for any returning squid, and a must-purchase for any new fish out there.
NOTE: This game is available on PC, PS4 and XBox One, and a Switch version is incoming. For the purposes of this review, I played the PS4 version of the game.
If you haven’t heard somehow, Yooka-Laylee is the work of Playtonic Games, a group of developers made up of former members of Rare, the developers responsible for games such as Donkey Kong Country, GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark. This game began its life as a kickstarter campagin, and it was billed as a revival of Rare’s work on the Nintendo 64 with fantastic platformers such as Banjo-Kazooie and its sequel, Banjo-Tooie.
For much of its opening hours, Yooka-Laylee actually does recapture a lot of the great things about those games. I got butterflies in my stomach while discovering its many quirky characters and worlds, as well as compulsively collecting the game’s collectibles. However, along the way, the game doesn’t just hit snags–it totally derails. One moment you’re dazzled by how fun this game is, and the next you are cursing it to hell and back. This cycle repeats itself from front to back in Yooka-Laylee.
Nintendo’s newest IP, Arms, left me a bit puzzled when it was first announced. It looked fun, but the idea seemed kind of shallow, like Wii Sports‘ boxing game with a coat of Disney paint. With Nintendo’s newest Direct presentation, they’ve given us an in depth look at the gameplay of Arms, and what kind of experience it will offer. I have to say, this game is looking much more interesting than I initially gave it credit for.
I held off on getting a Pro Controller for the switch for quite a long time, mainly because I wanted to give the Joy Con controllers and their grip a fair go. I have to say, I loved them! I played 120 blissful hours of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild using Nintendo’s new concept. However, when playing Snake Pass‘s tricky platforming challenges, as well as the Splatoon 2 testfire event, it became apparent that I needed something with more substantial control sticks to provide better accuracy for certain types of games.
NOTE: This game is available for all major platforms. For the purposes of this review, I played through the Nintendo Switch version.
This year, all of the attention for the neo-collectathon-platformer has been aimed at one game: Yooka-Laylee. But with all of this, it’s easy to forget that the genre didn’t disappear off the face of the planet, and other platformers do pop up from time to time. Some even dare to try new things, to the point where they can even be considered experimental.
Snake Pass, the latest game from the developers partly responsible for Little Big Planet 3 and the slightly under-appreciated Sonic & Sega All-Stars series of racers, is just that. This is a game that has one foot firmly planted in the genre’s roots in collecting items and making precise button inputs, but has the other foot in experimenting with new game mechanics and control schemes. Snake Pass is as inventive and creative as it is charming.