Ori and the Blind Forest was developed by Moon Studios and published on Xbox One by Microsoft Studios. It will be released on March 11, 2015 for $19.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.
If I'm ever asked sum up Ori and the Blind Forest in just a few words, I'll undoubtedly describe it as beautiful, sorrowful, thought-provoking and magical, but it's also a game which offers a stiff challenge that stretches across a vast and diverse range of environments and offers a lot of replay value. In fact, I'd have to say that Ori is one of the best games I've played in a long time and it may even be one of my favourite games ever, despite belonging to a subgenre of platform games of which typically I'm not a fan.
Although Ori is basically a platform game with RPG-lite elements, it features a system of advancement through the unlocking of new and different abilities – double jumping, air-dashing and so on which in turn allow access to previously unreachable areas. This style of game is traditionally likened to Metroid and Castlevania, but due to its graphical leanings and wonderful musical score, Ori is perhaps most alike to Dust: an Elysian Tale among its peers.
As a reviewer, I'm duty bound to tell you what genre a game belongs in, or how it looks and how long it is, but the truth is that Ori is one of those special kind of games that works hard to set itself apart (and boy does it succeed) because almost everything comes together perfectly to create a tight and eminently enjoyable experience which allows it to sit aside from similar games and perhaps even redefine the accepted norm.
Roundabout was developed and published by No Goblin on Xbox One. It was released on February 20, 2015 for $14.99. A copy was provided by No Goblin for review purposes.
Where do I begin when reviewing Roundabout? The absolutely ridiculous '70s B-Movie FMV cut-scenes? The insane gameplay? The bonkers music and voice acting? Or maybe with the fact that when I beat the game I was at 29 percent completion — not even 30! Roundabout is an almost review-proof game, but I’m going to try.
In Roundabout, you play as Georgio (of course, played by a woman, because why not), a limo driver who can’t seem to stop spinning. The game has a top-down point of view, and an open world in which you pick up people who need you to take them places and complete wacky objectives. It’s like a cross between Crazy Taxi and the old top-down Grand Theft Auto games — except you can’t stop spinning, which turns everything into a game of figuring out how to maneuver without blowing up.
Pneuma: Breath of Life was developed and published by Deco Digital and Bevel Studios. It was released on Xbox One on February 27, 2015 for $19.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.
If I learned anything from The Road to El Dorado, it's that it's tough to be a god. Sure, being worshipped and all-powerful is great and all, but you've got to live up to some high expectations. The prospect of being a god is the main conflict in Pneuma: Breath of Life, offering a unique perspective on being an all-powerful deity.
It's important to emphasize that this isn't your usual god game. You're not an omnipresent spirit hovering over society, controlling life forms and building habitats, nor are you slaughtering your fellow divine beings. Pneuma is a first-person puzzler, putting you in the hypothetical shoes of Pneuma. As the creator of a brand new universe, you set out to explore your work and discover your powers. While the set-up may sound captivating, the game doesn't quite reach god-like quality.
Blue Estate was developed and published on Xbox One by HESAW. It will be released on February 18, 2015 for $12.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.
Four letters can easily sum up my thoughts about Blue Estate: "YMMV." It's an acronym used in many internet forums to shorthand the phrase, "Your Mileage May Vary." Little other explanation is needed for anyone who understands that phrase. Truly, it's been a long time since I've played a game that I had such a hard time commenting on and has also left me both indifferent and satisfied at the same time. Blue Estate is a dark humor rail shooter based on the Eisner Award-nominated Blue Estate comic books from Viktor Kalvachev. While I don't know the storyline or details within the comic, I can kind of imagine them after playing through this game.
There is one easy way to tell if you'll like this game or not, and that's watching a gameplay trailer. After about two or three minutes, you'll have a good idea whether or not you'll like the gameplay and can tolerate the humor. If you like rail shooters, chances are you'll enjoy this game. If you don't like rail shooters, Blue Estate won't win you over. Blue Estate never strays far from its core concept throughout the entire game. The game objectifies women, goes through many racial stereotypes and essentially makes fun of everyone and everything. It also doesn't take itself very seriously, so why should you? As a game that presents itself as humorous, it is very hit or miss.
Hand of Fate was developed and published on Xbox One by Defiant Development. It will be released on February 17, 2015 for $19.99. A copy was provided by Defiant Development for review purposes.
Hand of Fate is a unique game containing rogue-like elements in its gameplay and storytelling by way of playing cards. Because some of you are likely wondering, this game is completely unrelated to the 1966 movie Manos: The Hands of Fate. One of the first things that came to mind while playing was that this game is probably the closest thing we'll get to a Munchkin video game for a long time. To me, this game came out of nowhere and is a fresh breath of air from most of the games that have released recently.
I have to admit, I had to play this game for about a week before I could come to a consensus on my thoughts. On some days, Hand of Fate is amazingly addicting, spawning thoughts like "let me push to defeat one more boss" or "please let me complete more subquests and make progress in unlocking everything." On other days, this game was a very unpleasant game in which I would curse its existence due to unfair random luck, unfair scenario cards or a random assortment of strange frame rate issues (which luckily have all but disappeared in the last few days). Hand of Fate is a gambler's paradise.
Game of Thrones Episode 2: The Lost Lords was developed and published on Xbox One and Xbox 360 by Telltale Games. It was released February 4, 2015 for $4.99. A copy was provided by Telltale for review purposes.
In my review of Game of Thrones Episode 1: Iron From Ice, I mentioned that whilst things were being set up rather nicely for the series ahead, the episode in isolation was a little uneventful. Thankfully, The Lost Lords goes some way to correcting this and features more action, more opportunity for intrigue and at least one twist which I certainly did not see coming.
The Escapists was developed by Mouldy Toof Studios and will be published on Xbox One by Team 17 Digital. It is set for release on February 13, 2015 for $19.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.
The Escapists positions itself as a kind of craft-em-up roguelike set across a number of fiendishly designed secure facilities including prisons and POW camps. Think of it as somewhere between Terraria, Monaco and any number of top down action-RPGs. The main difference is that in order for you to be successful, The Escapists demands significantly more time and patience than almost any other game I've played — and what's more, it's perfectly suited to being a cute 8-bit indie title.
With only a very small number of simple core mechanics to rely upon, The Escapists turns the table on the typical sandbox approach taken by similar games. Instead, players are literally forced to adhere to a strict regimen of roll calls, mealtimes, break-times and work whilst simultaneously plotting their escape. It's an inspired system that asks an awful lot from players and results in the rewards being all the sweeter.
"It's like Gone Home," my roommate tells his curious D&D buddies of the game I'm playing for review. A cursory glance at the screen would lead you to believe that he wasn't wrong, either. The game in question, Life is Strange: Chrysalis from Dontnod Entertainment and Square Enix, does feature a similar protagonist. Main character Max Caulfield is a young, confused girl looking for answers about the disappearance of another girl. After five years away in Seattle she's returned to her small hometown of Arcadia Bay, OR to attend a prestigious boarding school. Chrysalis' setting puts Max in classes, at the school dormitories and at an old friend's home. She's not literally alone like Kaitlin Greenbriar in Gone Home, but as the shy kid in the back of the class, Max often feels like it.
If you stopped reading this review after that first paragraph, no one would blame you for describing Life is Strange as that game that's "like Gone Home." The two titles have one big difference, however: Gone Home is about solving puzzles, while Life is Strange is about solving conversations. And whereas video game puzzles usually only have one correct solution, conversations have room for many possible options to carry a game forward.