"Donut County is an entertaining diversion: it’s quirky, simple to play, and doesn’t outstay its welcome. Given so many games-as-service are currently vying for hundreds of hours of your life, small gems like this are a valuable and finite source of relief."
Verdict: Donut County is a short, entertaining tale of a trash panda who just wants a sweet quadcopter.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth
"In the wake of Legion, I was concerned how Battle for Azeroth would up the stakes. How do you go bigger than an intergalactic demon army led by the greatest villain in Warcraft history? But Battle for Azeroth simply avoids the comparison altogether. It's an expansion that proves I don't need an apocalyptic threat to inspire me to fight, I just need a vibrant world and characters to care about and some fun new features to play around with. Battle for Azeroth has more than enough of those."
Verdict: Even if its new loot system is a bust, Battle for Azeroth is a vibrant expansion full of wondrous new locales to explore, characters to meet, and stories to tell.
Shenmue I & II
"Shenmue is a strange, meandering, often obtuse series. You spend most of it walking up and down the same handful of streets asking horribly-acted NPCs banal questions. Sometimes you might get to fight someone, but not often. And yet, I love it. I love its passion for the mundane. I love its sad, downbeat tone. I love the detail of its environments. I love it when it snows. I love that stupid rock music that plays whenever Joy is riding her motorcycle. I love asking people if they know where I can find some sailors. I love the music that plays in the MJQ jazz bar. I love that fight on the rooftop as the sun sets over Kowloon. I love forklift racing. And I love how, all these years later, I’ve never played anything else quite like it."
Verdict: A weird, beautiful, melancholy martial arts adventure. Flawed, but an unforgettable, singular experience.
"Unavowed is another fantastic adventure from Wadjet Eye, and it’s great to see studio founder Dave Gilbert back in the saddle. The humour didn’t always land for me and some of the voice acting is a little iffy, but otherwise this is a fine example of a modern point-and-click adventure. The addition of character customisation and companions doesn’t sound like much, but it massively changes the feel of the game, even if other aspects, such as the puzzles, are still steeped in the past. The next time you wake up with a sore head and no memory of the night before, be thankful you didn’t leave a trail of death in your wake."
Verdict: An atmospheric, well-designed adventure elevated by borrowing elements from role-playing games.
Monster Hunter: World
"Like your character, Monster Hunter: World dresses its breathless combat in every assortment of the most arbitrarily complicated garb, all in the name of variety. It is an abyss of 'replayabilty’, an exercise in patience and observation for the ultimate payoff: an infinite black sea of invigorating dragon murder. And a new hat."
Verdict: Monster Hunter: World’s thrilling fights with fantastic beasts never get old, even if they require tiresome item management during downtime.
"Functionally it’s not much different with strangers, but Overcooked was made for good-natured bickering with people you know. As long as you’re cooking with friends, you’ll have a riotous time with a sequel that still offers one of the most deliciously chaotic multiplayer experiences on PC."
Verdict: Busy friends list but short of local pals? This safe but solid sequel was made for you.
"Dead Cells' punishing structure can cause grief. Its boss battles are well-conceived and gratifying to overcome, but being reset back to the start of the game every time you die makes it a slog to practice against them—something that Dark Souls or Castlevania players, with their nearby save points, take for granted. Similarly, you might grind away to unlock the right weapons for an encounter you've been struggling with, only to find that they don't spawn at all in the run where you need them. And when a good run goes south, it's always heartbreaking. This is an excellent game, but it can be pretty mean sometimes. Or to put it another way: this is one of the best games I've ever quit in frustration."
Verdict: A stellar action platformer with gorgeous presentation and excellent combat. Punishing but worth it.
"You’ll have to repeat sections over and over again to master them, and I found my patience wearing thin more than once. But that’s part of the deal in these kinds of games, and if it’s a quality, polished Metroidvania adventure you want, you can’t do much better than Chasm, even if it does play it a little safe."
Verdict: Beautiful pixel art and tight controls make Chasm a fine, if reserved, modern take on the Metroidvania.
"Putting up with a minor annoyance is worth it, because Yakuza 0 is one of the most eccentric, idiosyncratic and downright charming games around. It deftly moves between drama and humour, between story and action, between arcade action and lengthy, well written pulp dialogue about a man who is incredibly good at punching. There's simply nothing else quite like it, and it's well worth your time."
Verdict: Comfortably the best, funniest and most heartwarming game about a desperate battle over real estate, now available on PC as a good port at a generous price.
The Banner Saga 3
"With the world falling apart, it makes perfect sense to zoom in on its people—and their wildly different responses to their extraordinary predicament make for enthralling, wrenching drama. The result is a thrilling and affecting finale that closes the book on a bleak but riveting journey in fine style. It is, in short, the ending the saga deserves."
Verdict: A daring, exciting and bleakly powerful payoff that handsomely rewards your investment in its characters.
The Sims 4: Seasons (DLC)
"But, more generally, Seasons makes the world of The Sims 4 feel richer and more real. The events are useful for pushing you out of ruts in your playstyle and mixing up the day-to-day routine of your households. It’s the same price as the base game, but it’s worth it because it reinvigorates the whole prospect."
Verdict: Changing weather and festive traditions enrich the four-year-old life sim.