[Previous]    [Playstation 5 index]

 [A-L]  M-Z

This site contains affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase after clicking a link, site may receive a commission at no additional cost to you.
Games are rated relative to other games for the same system.

Playstation 5 Reviews M-Z

Madden NFL 23
Grade: B-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2022)
Posted: 2022/12/19
Rating: Everyone

screenshotMy interest in Madden waned during the PS4 era, but with a new generation upon us I thought it was time to climb back on the wagon. It helps that this year's cover is graced by the late, great John Madden himself. I regard the many years he provided color commentary alongside Pat Summerall as the "golden age" of the NFL.

When you first fire up Madden NFL 23 you're forced into replaying the Super Bowl rematch between the Bengals and Rams. I think they do that to buy time for the install process. The game looks like a million bucks, with picture-perfect stadiums inside and out. I like the cutscenes of fans, as well as coaches interacting with players on the sidelines.

After the Super Bowl you're forced to play yet another game! This is the John Madden Legacy game. It's a nice homage to the man who started his career in the 1960's as a player before finding success as a coach and in the booth. The commentators discuss his career highlights and there are Madden video and voice clips peppered throughout.

After playing those two games you're finally introduced to Madden 23's new features, but I can't say I'm impressed. There are now ten ways to throw a pass? Wonderful. Another unwanted feature is the "key moments" mode which reduces each game to a handful of pivotal plays, skipping the rest! Can you imagine playing a game like that? Well, it's the default for franchise mode!

Madden 23 places a lot of renewed emphasis on player reactions and celebrations. After making a first down you can do a dance or make the first-down sign. After a touchdown you can even initiate team celebrations. I find that stuff very stupid but I guess it's part of the modern game. The kicking meter has been very much dumbed down, to the point where a 50+ yard field goal is like a chip shot - even if your name's not Justin Tucker.

You'll notice I haven't complained about the basic gameplay, and that's because on the field Madden 23 is beyond reproach. Players move with utmost realism, and I love how they'll make tippy-toe catches along the sidelines. Playing as Tom Brady, it's so satisfying to zip the ball to a receiver, who then gracefully tucks it in and turns upfield. I suspect the NFL instructed EA to tone down the hits, because they appear noticeably soft.

It's got polish but Madden 23 suffers from a lack of showmanship. The commentators yap away non-stop but I can't remember one thing they said. A Madden/Summerall commentary mode would have been awesome. The half-time and post-game shows are mere statistical screens, with no video highlights, interviews, or insight. EA played it safe with this one. Unlike its colorful namesake, Madden NFL 23 feels decidedly corporate. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Mortal Kombat 1
Grade: B
Publisher: Warner Bros. (2023)
Posted: 2024/3/22
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language)

screenshotAs much as I detest the title, I can't deny that Mortal Kombat 1 delivers epic violence with a cinematic flair. It really should have been called Mortal Kombat Zero, as it effectively fleshes out the backstories of many classic characters. The 22-character roster includes all the oldies and a bunch of new faces you'll forget about after two seconds.

The story mode is substantial. With its lifelike graphics, professional acting, beautiful locations, and well-choreographed fights, it's like watching a movie. In fact, I'd rather watch this over the 2021 Mortal Kombat film! The origin stories are fascinating. Ever wonder how Kenshi lost his sight or how Milenna got her hideous smile?

The fights are seamlessly intertwined with the narrative and the kombat feels surprisingly fresh! The rounds are ideal in length, the controls crisp, and special moves are easy to execute. There's no shortage of crazy new attacks. My favorite is Reptile's "crocodile roll" which looks astonishingly real. The new "fatal blow" moves expand upon the old X-Ray attacks, providing an exciting way to stage a dramatic last-minute comeback. Are they cheap? Probably.

Each match is technically two-on-two as you can strategically call in a partner. This concept is pretty dated (King of Fighters was doing it 25 years ago) but it's never been done this well. Often your partner will simply apply a quick hit but sometimes you're treated to some really elaborate tag-team maneuvers.

The story is enthralling thanks to its menagerie of characters, humor, and unexpected twists. The dialog however tends to be dull and cringy. "May the best person win!" Huh? Some of the bright, flowery locations tend to undermine the mystique the series has cultivated over the years. And what's the deal with the frame-rate drops during cut-scenes?

I noticed some other minor flaws. When fighting the CPU, the jump kick is far too effective. Even if you jump clear over an enemy, you'll still deliver a blow to the back of their head! Having "block" assigned to R2 doesn't feel right. The difficulty is surprisingly low. I made it through the entire story (over six hours) without losing a single match, although I did yield a round here and there. The "easy fatalities" are a good idea but I never got one to work.

The story eventually goes completely off the rails, attempting to tie together every previous storyline using a confusing "alternate timeline" gimmick. The insane final battle is a potpourri of random characters including Ninja Mime, Double Trouble, and a female Johnny Cage. Completing the story rewards you with the longest end credits sequence since Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

Chris and I gave the versus mode a workout, and he was impressed. The animated intros and outros for each character are quite entertaining and often funny. I like how there's only a brief pause between rounds, with both fighters resuming on the side where they left off. The stage select is nice but why did they make the stage pictures the size of postage stamps?

There are several offline modes (story, towers, training, versus) but no offline progress is recorded and that's a shame. In previous games your progression allowed you to unlock all sorts of fun, random features. In Mortal Kombat 1, once you finish the story the replay value drops substantially. That's too bad because MK1's fighting engine is unquestionably terrific. © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

NHL 22
Grade: B-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2021)
Posted: 2022/12/28
Rating: Everyone

screenshotHockey and video games go together so nicely! You have a bright white rink, a little black puck, and a bunch of guys in pads banging into each other. NHL 22 lets you dive right in with that ever-handy "play now" option.

I don't see how the graphics can get much better than this. The arenas are meticulously detailed and the players are truly lifelike. Even the raucous crowd and animated mascots look great. The commentators are positively amped, as if they've just gulped down three pots of coffee!

I'm starting to notice a trend, which is that the controller sets the PS5 versions apart from their PS4 cousins. The jostling of the players causes constant vibration feedback, prompting my buddy Eric to remark "Dave! I think there's a little mouse trapped in my controller!" There's also a cacophony of sounds emanating from the controller speaker, including whistles, yells, and some fuzzy music. I think they went a little overboard.

The controls continue to be an issue for me. While I try to embrace the default dual-stick scheme, I never feel totally comfortable with it. The alternate "NHL 94" controls (yes, that's what they are called) simplifies things to two buttons, but they aren't as responsive as I was hoping. If you try to slap a shot but you're on the wrong side, your player will need to pivot his body before he can perform the shot, giving your opponent ample time to steal the puck.

The graphics, while shiny and oh-so-bright, are also kind of busy. The game super-imposes stats on the ice, tiny player icons, dotted lines to indicate passing opportunities, and all kinds of other junk. The only thing not highlighted is the damn puck, which is pretty easy to lose track of! Is it just me, or are hard-hitting body checks a thing of the past? I guess the NHL has gone the NFL route, toning down the action.

I have much respect for the franchise mode because it gives you the option to gloss over tedious details like draft, trades, salary cap, and staff management. Disable all that crap and you're pretty much left with a season mode, which is what I wanted in the first place.

Critics love to nitpick but I can't deny NHL 22 is exciting. When you deliver a pass in front of the goal, it's intense! And when the opposing player has a breakaway attempt, you'll be holding your breath! It's no NHL '94 (Genesis, 1994), but if a buddy comes over and wants to go toe-to-toe, this is the game you'll want to pull out. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

PGA Tour 2K23
Grade: B
Publisher: 2K Sports (2023)
Posted: 2023/6/14
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis has got to be the most effortless golf game I've ever played. PGA Tour 2K23 is so smooth and polished, with precise controls, beautiful courses, and negligible load times. It begins by prompting for your control preference. I opted for the default analog swing mechanism which EA pioneered two decades ago, but you can also opt for the old-school button-press method.

I should let you know up front this is an offline review. My Comcast Xfinity internet has been on the fritz, so I'm glad PGA Golf 2k23 plays fine right out of the box. You can play as your own custom character or choose from several pros including Tiger Woods, Jon Rahm, and Bubba Watson. Best of all, you can select from literally dozens of readily-available scenic courses.

The quick tutorial is relatively painless save for one glaring oversight. The instructions happen to be displayed on a panel covering the left third of the screen. That would be fine if there weren't hiding the damn swing meter! It's kind of a big deal, and quite an embarrassing mistake on 2K's part.

The action on the links is beyond reproach. You can hold the triangle button to view a "fly by" of your current shot, and you can also hold the triangle to expedite your rolls. This means you can play a full 18-hole round in under 15 minutes! It's like speed golf and I love it! The load times are practically non-existent. A second after you sink your putt you're already lined up for the next hole.

I'm hooked on the analog swing mechanism. Not only does it require you move the thumbstick smoothly back and forth, but the speed in which you do so dramatically affects your shot. As with real golf, if your form is a little off it makes a big difference. When putting, pay close attention to the slope, as even a small dip can have a dramatic effect. You need to be precise because the holes are extremely tiny and unforgiving.

The amateur skill level sets you up on the tee with a reasonable club pointing in the correct direction. Pressing the O button brings up an overhead map, but the map always consumes the same amount of screen no matter how long it is, which is confusing.

The course scenery looks very beautiful with tranquil ponds, wooden bridges, and sea views. I love the shadows of trees creeping over the greens. The music is very serene and relaxing. Wow - a sports game without rap music! The commentator isn't exactly Jim Nance but he's likable enough, providing gentle encouragement.

Trying to make par on any course is a fun challenge, and you can play your friends locally. The one thing missing from offline play is user profiles and stat tracking. It would be nice to know my best score for a given course but 2K doesn't have the technology at this time. Feel free to take the game online if you want a career and all the tedium it entails. Personally I prefer the casual experience and PGA Tour 2K23 has that covered. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sony (2021)
Posted: 2023/1/6
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotI've enjoyed this series since the original Ratchet and Clank (PS2, 2002), and this latest chapter is quite the spectacle. It opens with a parade flying over a bright futuristic city honoring our heroes. When all hell inevitably breaks loose, the game looks even more impressive, maintaining a smooth framerate as a million objects are flying in every direction!

The premise is that our lovable little robot Clank has created a "dimensionator" gun allowing dimensional travel. Inventing it seemed like a good idea at the time, but would you believe it fell into the wrong hands? Is it just me or does Ratchet look like a furry version of Chris Hemsworth? You'll also play as an alternate dimension version of Ratchet who's a girl. The villain Emperor Nefarious is so over the top, he's practically begging to be played by Jim Carrey in the big screen adaptation.

Rift Apart takes full advantage of the PS5 controller. There's a lot of cool sounds that emanate through the controller speaker and the adaptive triggers are also used to good effect. You can squeeze them half-way to unleash a normal shot, or harder to go full-bore. It's cool how your finger feels the resistance at the half-way point. Holding in the trigger for rapid-fire causes the controller to spasm, making you feel as if you truly are unleashing bolts of energy!

The action is pretty straightforward as you warp between alien planets looking for parts or whatever. I appreciate how certain missions are marked as "optional", in case you just want to advance the story. There are some very cool locations including a rainy, Blade Runner-esque futuristic city. Adding variety are puzzle stages for Clank that feel like a 3D version of Lemmings (SNES, 1992). The game saves automatically, which is pretty sweet.

The shooting is fun thanks to ample firepower and thunderous explosions. Your standard gun fires five missiles at a time in a wide configuration. Another weapon discharges a blast of lightning that destroys anything in close range. Another deploys a robot ally to fight for you. There are tons of weapons to choose from and experimentation is half the fun.

The controls could be better. Using the directional pad to toggle weapons is a little awkward, as I never knew what weapon had ammo at a given time. The game uses every button on the controller, and at times it twisted my fingers into knots! The jet boot "speed runs" are especially tricky, forcing you to use combinations of four buttons.

The new ability to travel through portals - while a nice visual effect - gets a little tiresome and confusing. Fighting in the expansive arenas is fun, but it's hard to maintain a sense of your surroundings. I often find myself backing into enemies. It's easy to forget you also have melee attacks, which are also quite effective.

Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is a satisfying combination of exploration, puzzles, and combat. The game looks pristine, although I did get stuck in the scenery once upon respawning. There's nothing revolutionary or even particularly memorable it, but if you're looking for offline action this is good, clean fun. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

Copy link to this review
1 player 

Return to Monkey Island
Grade: D
Publisher: Devolver Digital (2022)
Posted: 2024/6/29
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotThe original Secret of Monkey Island (Sega CD, 1993) was a charming point-and-click pirate adventure rife with odd predicaments, offbeat humor, and an acerbic wit. I was saving Return to Monkey Island for the summer knowing it would have an easy-going, tropical vibe. I was right!

"Return" is apropos, as this game reuses many of the same island locations and characters from the original game. The new characters offer a glaringly-diverse and highly unlikeable cast of personalities. Even Threepwood himself comes off as whiney and lame.

The appealing scenery is rendered with deep color, moody lighting, and a nice sense of depth. Characters are composed of angular shapes that look artistic but can be hard to make out. The steel drum music does a fine job of capturing that caribbean vibe. When on the pirate ship, excellent jaunty tunes are ominous and haunting.

The game however is weak. For a dialog-heavy title, you'd expect a lot of fun, quirky banter. Instead the conversions come off as watered-down and playing-it-safe. The prose is so predictable you won't want to bother chatting with strangers. The "jokes" not only tend to fall flat but drag on and on. Whenever you have a conversation with Carlita (governor of Melee island) you have to engage in a swordfight, and it's just tiresome.

I've never been keen on the puzzles in the first Monkey Island game, as they always had the most bizarre, roundabout solutions. Return to Monkey Island doubles down on that formula, so I didn't feel the least bit guilty about consulting the ever-present hint feature. That said, it felt satisfying to complete quests that required collecting items or performing a checklist of tasks.

Although it's easy to navigate between locations (love the run button), selecting items to examine is surprisingly awkward. Each object worth examining on the screen has a white circle around it. This not only looks bad but demystifies the exploration element. And trying to select the correct circle can be a real pain in the ass.

The game does offer plenty of fan service, with frequent references to the previous Monkey Island games. And while its leisurely pace may appeal to some, its gameplay feels like it's treading water. If they fed all the previous Monkey Island games into ChatGDP, it would probably spit out something like Return to Monkey Island. File this one under D for Disappointing. © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

Copy link to this review
1 player 

Grade: C
Publisher: Sony (2021)
Posted: 2023/3/2
Rating: Teen

screenshotReturnal is a game that actually looks like a next-generation title, and it's about damn time! The woman in the opening cinematic is so lifelike I mistook her for a live actor! The plot is straight out of the movie Aliens. An astronaut named Selene is traveling alone in a small spacecraft when she decides to investigate a "familiar" signal from a nearby planet. After crashing onto the surface she finds herself in a haunting, ominous world.

While venturing through expansive, damp caves, Selene is forced to battle tentacled alligators, screaming pterodactyls, and other freaky aliens. After clearing each area you'll want to collect all the glowing items before heading to the exit.

Selene is prone to dying, and when that happens a few scenes flash before her eyes before she's returned to her ship. You then head back through the same caverns. It's not exactly the same thing over and over, but damn close! The fact that she continues to return is the mystery at the heart of the story. It soon becomes evident that she is indirectly interacting with versions of her past self. Trippy!

The action is intense and I like how you run instead of walk. The controls are silky smooth and the shooting is satisfying. The aliens are properly slithery and their tentacles move with uncanny realism. The audio is jarring. When that loud music kicks in, you know [expletive] is about to get real. When you die, Selene's realistic shriek is unnerving! I really like all the high-tech weapon sounds that emanate from the controller.

But there are so many annoyances. Portals will have you hopscotching all over the place. The extreme darkness makes it hard to determine if you're about to step on solid ground or plunge into an abyss. It's hard to make out all those tiny symbols on the map. And then we have a fabrication area that lets you make useful items but you never have nearly enough "obolites" to do so.

I played Returnal nightly for several weeks. There were times when I was so riveted I forgot to blink! Still, I can't imagine playing this for hours on end. It's too redundant. If I felt like I was making progress, that would be one thing, but this is the Groundhog Day of video games, and I have my limits. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Rumble Fish 2, The
Grade: D
Publisher: Dimps Corp (2022)
Posted: 2023/12/31
Rating: Teen

screenshotI picked this one up on a whim while perusing Amazon. The game beckoned me with its old-school, 2D fighter aesthetic. I had never heard of Rumble Fish before, but apparently it was a popular anime series in Japan that spawned a line of games. Rumble Fish 2 was originally released in 2005.

I love the artistry of this game. The fighters are cell-shaded and the backgrounds convey a semi-digitized 3D appearance. I'm a sucker for a good city skyline and this one boasts a few. That said, most stages feature bland industrial environments like a generator room, shipping docks, or a junkyard.

The 13 fighters are a colorful bunch. Boyd looks like Santa Claus on vacation in Hawaii. Garnet is a sexy nurse with an impressive rack. Lud is a punk with a rooster haircut and Orville is a wrestler. Bazoo is a scary, towering zombie. Four of the characters are scrappy little kids, and while you'd think they wouldn't stand a chance, they are quick and block everything you can dish out.

The buttons include strong and light punches, strong and light kicks, and a dodge. Shoulder buttons trigger combinations of these, but I found those to be more bark than bite. They trigger flashy effects that do minimal damage. In my experience the low kick is the most lethal move in the entire game. Dual meters fill for offense and defense, but I don't know how to use them.

The fighting is pretty exciting with torrid pacing and action-packed matches where fortunes can turn at the drop of a dime. There are a limited number of special moves but flashy visual effects add pizzazz. In addition to the arcade mode there's are time attack, survival, training, and two player versus modes.

It's a shame this package is so barebones. There's no instructions and the training mode is worthless. When defeated in versus mode, there's no retry so you have to exit out for a rematch. There's no local saving of high scores or best times; the "ranking" menu option is online only. You could play the game of your life only to be presented with "Game over. Thank you for your participation." Yeah, it actually says that! The Rumble Fish 2 deserved a first-class treatment, not this slap-dash port. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Sackboy: A Big Adventure
Grade: C
Publisher: Sony (2020)
Posted: 2023/1/6
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIf you're looking for a Playstation 5 "starter game", Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a safe bet. Fully playable off-line and kid-friendly, this is basically a 3D version of Little Big Planet (PS3, 2008). Assuming the role of a cute little guy made of burlap, you'll explore "crafted" worlds of fabric, clay, cardboard, wood, zippers, and shag carpet.

Sackboy's gameplay is easy-to-grasp as you jump, punch, grab, and roll your way through dozens of colorful stages with imaginative, patched-together scenery. Though the gameplay is basic, there are original flourishes like hanging onto a spinning cylinder or flying on rockets you ignite. Each area introduces new ideas. For example, in the jungle world you can hurl a boomerang to clear out weeds.

If you enjoy collecting stuff, this game is for you! You'll gather all sorts of bells, balls, and symbols. There are piles of balls all over the place, and frankly I got a little weary of collecting them all. The only ones I really cared about were the blue balls which unlock new areas. They are harder to find, and sometimes must be earned through hidden mini-games.

The controller is used to good effect, providing audible and vibration feedback whenever you perform an action. One time my controller felt and sounded like a stomach gurgling! I love the train stage where you can feel it rumbling down rickety tracks! The game also shines during the undersea levels where you tilt the controller to guide wooden planks.

The soundtrack offers an eclectic mix of disco, funk, and world music. In the stage featuring that "don't believe me just watch" song, the scenery comes alive. Perfectly synchronized with the music, platforms move to the beat as wooden characters dance in the background. This game is quite festive!

Sackboy: A Big Adventure feels like a more fully-realized version of Astro's Playroom (PS5, 2020). There's plenty of areas to unlock and discover, but it all starts to look the same after a while. The fixed camera causes occasional depth perception problems, causing you to plunge to your death during what should have been an easy jump. Sackboy couldn't hold my attention for long, but it would often bring a smile to my face. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

Copy link to this review
1 to 4 players 

Grade: C
Publisher: Limited Run (2022)
Posted: 2024/2/26
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotI'm always on the lookout for a new snowboarding game, but Shredders came out of left field. I spotted it in a Limited Run email. There aren't many new snowboarding games coming out, and the last one, Steep (PS4, 2016), was saddled with "steep" online requirements. Thankfully you can play Shredders offline.

I love the look and feel of this game. The slopes are so smooth, natural, and wide-open, with plenty of ramps to jump and pipes to grind. There's an exhilarating sensation of speed as you carve the powder. The background music consists of chill beats and samples that help you get into a zone.

A series of practice stages get you familiar with the basics. The game is very forgiving. It's very easy to land on your feet - in fact there's a button (L2) dedicated to helping you do just that.

The story mode is an endless series of short "missions", which may involve mimicking tricks, performing a jump, or racing behind a snowmobile. The controls take some getting used to. It seems like everything is mapped to the analog sticks and shoulder buttons. Holding R2 and releasing to jump seems reasonable, but to flip or spin you'll need to flick sticks before your launch.

The actual story involves some girl trying to help two guys become social media influencers with a "rad" new snowboarding channel. The cut-scenes feature banter that's often cringy ("Yo man - that was ace!) but sometimes very funny.

Each mission has a primary goal and multiple secondary objectives. The primary goal is usually pretty easy, so it's not hard to progress. Upon wiping out you can "reset" yourself with the press of the button. Unfortunately, sometimes the game doesn't reset you far enough back to execute your trick. The game also suffers from periodic slow-down and frame drops.

Lining up with ramps can be a challenge. Even during successive retries the steering controls feel imprecise and squirrelly. It may have something to do with the camera angle, which is not perfectly centered behind you. Trying to line up with pipes to grind is especially frustrating.

In addition to the story mode there's a "free ride" mode that just lets you do your own thing. If you want to compete with others you'll need to go online. There's a bunch of menu options but I didn't understand them and there's no instructions. I didn't love Shredders but found it enjoyable to pick up and play every now and then. Frankly I'm just glad to own a serviceable snowboarding game for my PS5. © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Sonic Frontiers
Grade: D-
Publisher: Sega (2022)
Posted: 2023/2/2
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotI think most gamers associate Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis, 1991) with his classic 2D games, featuring cheerful graphics, simple controls, and exuberant music. Well, after experiencing a brief moment of clarity with Sonic Mania Plus (Switch, 2018), Sega is back to cranking out mediocre 3D variants nobody asked for. Sonic Frontiers tries to be more serious and heavy. I don't know about that, but it certainly is depressing!

Clearly designed by committee, Frontiers flails in all directions with bad ideas. Incredibly, this game has quite a bit in common with the disastrous Sonic the Hedgehog (Xbox 360, 2006). Instead of a quaint town, the hub is an expansive island where you can dash far in any direction without smacking into anything. I will admit the natural scenery is quite beautiful and there are some amazing sights. The ever-changing time of day and weather conditions are a nice touch.

The bulk of the game consists of collecting items and exchanging them with characters stationed around the island. Frontiers has more items than a freaking Lego game, and I mean that in the worst possible way. There are rings, gears, charges, tokens, gems, keys, seeds, prickly hearts, regular hearts, and a laundry list of other crap. The sheer volume of items makes each feel less valuable.

Occasionally you'll unlock some monument that lets you play a "cyber world" stage. These are the high-speed "blast-processing" stages most people expect in a Sonic game, letting you zip through tunnels and run around loops in checkerboard worlds. Unfortunately the controls feel slippery and the stages are not conducive to exploration. You spend half the time bouncing around totally out of control.

Frontier's control scheme is entirely too complex. There must be at least 100 moves in this game. Every time you turn around the game introduces some new, unwanted evasive maneuver or crazy attack combination. As if to acknowledge these are too much to memorize, every load screen doubles as a "training simulator", focusing on a random move. Are you rolling your eyes yet? Now might be a good time!

The tranquil piano that pervades the game is rather sad, but when a boss shows up the music becomes utterly terrifying. That flying squid freaks me out, and there are some really massive Shadow of the Colossus (Playstation 2, 2005) style bosses. I have to remind myself I'm still playing a Sonic game! Fighting these behemoths feels more exhausting than fun thanks to bewildering camera angles and annoying button-mashing mechanics.

I played Sonic Frontiers for weeks hoping the fun would kick in eventually. Its lengthy cut-scenes try to pull at your heartstrings but they are just nauseating. If I invested an inordinate amount of time with this, it was more out of duty than enjoyment. While technically impressive in scope, Sonic Frontiers is one joyless, tone-deaf, and decidedly-corporate platformer. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Street Fighter 6
Grade: C
Publisher: Capcom (2023)
Posted: 2023/11/18
Rating: Teen

screenshotStreet Fighter 6 makes a terrible first impression with a bizarre intro featuring some ultra-effeminate dude sashaying around an arcade and mingling with players. Besides being straight-up creepy, what does it possibly have to do with street fighting? I don't know, but it makes Capcom look like the Bud Light of game publishers!

Street Fighter 6's roster is a mix of old and new. Old standbys include realistic renditions of Ken, Ryu, Cammy, Dhalsim, E. Honda, Chun Li, Blanka, Guile, Dee Jay, and Zangief. Ryu looks badass with his new beard but Ken looks like a homeless derelict. There's an old guy named JP who looks like a resurrected Christopher Lee. Most of the eight new characters are annoying in a Tic Tok influencer kind of way. Luke looks like a normal white guy, making me wonder how he slipped past Capcom's quality control.

The tutorial mode reveals the remarkable depth of this game. The new "drive gauge" provides a new class of special moves which include parries, rushes, and reversals. "Drive impact" moves are pretty spectacular, splattering colorful paint all over the place. I was pretty proud of myself after completing the onerous tutorial, until I realized it was just the beginner tutorial!

Street Fighter 6 is hampered by some ill-advised and unnecessary new control schemes. The default "modern" controls dumb things down to light/medium/heavy/special attacks. If that's not simple enough for you, the AI-assisted "dynamic" mode boils things down to three "auto-attack" buttons. What is the point of playing a game that does everything for you?! Thank goodness six-button "classic" mode is still an option.

The stages depict realistic scenes like the streets of London, a Japanese koi pond, an aircraft carrier, and Jamaica tiki bar on a beach. While highly detailed, they lack any sense of atmosphere and feel instantly forgettable. The game's instrumental musical score is excellent but the frequent use of rap music gets old in a hurry.

The action-packed matches don't require much effort to generate some major fireworks. The controls are super-responsive and pulling off special moves is a breeze. Jamie looks like he's break-dancing on his opponent! Mind-numbing combos are the order of the day, and by the end of each lengthy match you feel exhausted.

My friends came away unimpressed, saying the controls felt like they were too automated. It doesn't help that the frenetic action is obscured by constant sparks, flames, explosions, and splattering paint. I did find the play-by-play commentary interesting, giving the action an esports vibe.

I'll give Capcom credit for trying to provide a decent offline experience. The arcade mode saves local high scores per character, but limits you to 5 or 12 stages. Why not have an old-fashioned arcade mode where you try to beat all the other characters on their own turf? Was that too obvious? The story mode is generic. I walk up to some poor schmuck on the street, challenge him to a fight, and proceed to bodyslam him 20 times in a row. What is the point? Oh - to "level up", of course. The city scenery looks nice but I wish I could enter some of these hipster restaurants and battle in there.

It's hard to find technical fault with Street Fighter 6 outside of the fact that it controls too well. Capcom still has the chops when it comes to programming, but this effort lacks direction with its multitude of control schemes and uninteresting new characters. I didn't find it particularly fun, and feedback from my friends came primarily in the form of shoulder shrugs. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Grade: B+
Publisher: THQ Nordic (2021)
Posted: 2024/4/26
Rating: Teen

screenshotSucceeding where Microsoft's Forza Horizon series fell short, Wreckfest is arcade racing with photorealistic graphics. There's a buffet of events to select from including dirt track races, smash-em-up derbies, and combinations of both. The mayhem and destruction is so satisfying, it left me wondering why you don't see more games like this.

Most of the tracks look decidedly country, like something you'd see in the Dukes of Hazzard. Part paved but mostly dirt and mud, there's a lot of hills to jump and corners to slide around. Between the kicked-up dirt, loose bouncing tires, and time-of-day lighting, the visuals are convincing.

The triggers are used to accelerate and brake, with O as the handbrake. It's amazing how precisely you can regulate your speed. Just be sure to tap the brakes around sharp curves. Take a turn too wide and you'll end up spinning wheels on the shoulder as the next group of cars slip by.

The races are a blast. When you have 16 automobiles packed together at the starting line, you know that the first turn is going to be utter chaos. I love how CPU cars aggressively try to run each other off the road. Show them no mercy because they are out for blood. If they catch your back bumper they might turn you around.

The audio is surprisingly solid. The menu music is kind of chill but hard rock is played during the race to match the high level of intensity. The haptic controller feedback feels good but is underused. I can feel when I switch gears but not much else. The surround sound is more effective; I can often hear an opponent creeping up from behind before I can see him.

New events, vehicles, and upgrades automatically unlock as you progress. The ramping difficulty is challenging enough that you won't be bored, yet reasonable enough that you'll make steady progress. New types of vehicles are constantly introduced. Tired of racing a muscle car? How about a school bus? How about playing smash-up derby in a damn harvester? Heck, some events are on riding mowers, with drivers being launched on impact.

It's a shame this is a one-player game (locally at least). A four-player split-screen mode would have been a blast. Then again, it can be hard enough to follow the tracks in single-player mode with their constantly-changing surfaces, frequent forks, and harsh lighting conditions.

I love the damage-modeling in Wreckfest. It took Sony 15 years to figure out how to do that in their Gran Turismo games! Your vehicle can sustain a hell of a lot of damage before going kaput. And there's nothing more satisfying than getting your rambling wreck over the finish line, front smashed-in and doors flapping loose.

The physics is somewhat "floaty", giving the action a slow-motion quality. Brent pointed out this is probably for the best, as the game might otherwise be a lot harder to control. As it stands, anyone can pick up a controller and go to town. Packed with short but thrilling races and insane smash-up derbies, Wreckfest is the most consistently enjoyable game I've played on my PS5. © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

[Previous]    [Playstation 5 index]

 [A-L]  M-Z

Screen shots courtesy of MobyGames.com, PSU, Softpedia, GamingBolt, Push Square, NerdStash