Halo 3

Chief’s back and more blockbuster than ever. Halo 3 is one of those titles upon which so much was riding since fan expectations were vast and everything had to be perfect. Halo 3 wants to be so much… And it is, mostly! It doesn’t have the edge that Halo 2 had or the pure awe of the original but it closes the story of the Flood competently. The music moves us, the vocal performance delivers, and most importantly, the assault rifle is back, baby. Master Chief’s adventure on the Ark is good fun, but delivering on everything means making compromises.

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

These days, playing Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus feels somewhat trite and frustrating. As a platformer, it lacks much of the delight of other titles, especially later entries of the same genre and even the same series. Its visuals are really something, however, with the world of Sly being appealing and exciting, showing a Paris in cartoon dark blue and pin-pricked with gold that remains delightful. It’s a shame that this game should hit the scene three months before Wind Waker, which it easily beats both aesthetically and environmentally but not at its characters and certainly not at fun.

Halo 2

Halo is really a series about level design. The story is about architecture certainly, the colossal space stations and the aliens who love them. The gameplay too, could not be more concerned with the way spaces mold the action within them. Halo 2’s firefights are like water which takes the shape of its vessel finding sparkling frenetic joy both in the stealth mazes of the Arbiter and the elevator arenas of the Chief. It is the perfect Halo game. And, in light of the future sequels, Halo 2 is like releasing a greatest hits album before even starting your career.

Part Time UFO

Part Time UFO delights as a co-op physics toy. In this Switch port of the 2017 smartphone game made by HAL, you play as a tiny cartoon UFO with an extendable claw who comes to Earth to pick up part-time work in a gig economy focused on lifting and stacking. What’s truly great about this game is its scale, it’s small and direct. The game has one perfect song and one perfect mechanic both remixed and explored across not too many stages. Part Time UFO celebrates the chaos and charm of working together against wacky physics in a beautiful world.

Halo: Combat Evolved

It is with no hesitation that I recommend you stubbornly pretend that nothing else exists except for Halo: Combat Evolved. Nothing else within that franchise, anyway. The first title was given the love and consideration from which all first entries into long , eventually bland, series benefit: the fear that this would be the only title so it MUST be great. It’s exciting, colorful, and paces the game play premises and challenges beautifully across the campaign. My recommendation is to play it like you already love it: co-op, on Heroic, with the Old Graphics, under a blanket, and with some soup.

Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin

Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin is like having a dream about Dark Souls years after you played it. Dark Souls should be grim, unwelcoming, and alien. You are fighting, exploring, kindling, and burning; however, suddenly there’s this meaningful action. Now, DS2 has a perfectly balanced sprinkling of… humanity? It’s fun, certainly, more fun than the predecessor. The combat is bold and heavy, and the duels are meaty and more interesting than fighting giant monsters. I laugh at real jokes, I’m moved by real characters. The game plainly states that it wants to cure “hollowness”, and it does.

Moon: Remix RPG Adventure

Moon: Remix RPG Adventure is such a wonderful artifact, a vibe-y, cordial experience that does more for games about non-violence than many of the titles published in the twenty-three years since it’s release. Finding a non-violent solution to a problem has become a cliche design metric, often distilled to a dialog tree or similarly simplistic branching choice. Here we have the full thrust of the game geared towards saving the bodies and souls of so-called monsters. The adventure game pace may be a bother but Moon must now, with its availability and enchanting new translation, be considered vital RPG canon.

Anodyne 2: Return to Dust

The first Anodyne was such a strong little title. Perhaps, it was too much bias of what made the first title sing that causes me to feel so uninspired by the second. Anodyne 2: Return to Dust has dungeons with thoughtful details, sharp composition, and grounding pixel art. However, they are accessible only through tedious, “zany” conversations held in the 3d overworld. Where the first game was withholding and aloof, this title is only too eager with its quirkiness. It’s not complex, it’s burdensome. One has to play Psychonauts in order to play Link’s Awakening. The chores ruin the treat.

Final Fantasy IV

Sometimes, Final Fantasy IV will pull a Smart RPG move and act as though it struggles with its own balancing when really it’s just turning certain battles and sequences into a puzzle. A test of your knowledge where your understanding of the mechanics allows you to work out how it wants you to do things. Other times, it really does simply fall apart and the game doesn’t know how to get you to the next melodramatic personal sacrifice without doing some chores. Does this mean I don’t understand Final Fantasy IV? Yes. Do I think it’s my own fault? No.

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider is a breezy encore to Dishonored 2 which removes more than it adds. No chaos level, no void magic upgrades, no ship buddies! Turns out I really miss having Hypatia and Sokolov hanging around the Dreadful Wail. I want to love it, I WANT to want an arcade Dishonored 2. But no chaos means no meaning to my choice of approach. My options for taking out my targets are simply to kill or K.O. but they’re all leaders of an evil blood cult so it’s not a difficult one. It’s all so light, so airy.