An amazingly woven web!
Spider-Man is my favourite super hero, and my affinity to Insomniac Games is similar to the nostalgic attachment many have with Nintendo. I grew up with these two major entities, both of them shaping my sense of identity and fostering this current passion of mine – Spider-Man: The Animated series and Spyro the Dragon were the definition of my childhood. The collaboration between Sony, Marvel, and Insomniac Games is nothing short of a match made in heaven; this amalgamated passion project is a conspicuous labor of love and is one of the best representations of everyone’s favourite webslinger. Marvel’s Spider-Man is a testament to Insomniac’s pristine quality and unparalleled level of passion, for their “underdog” pedigree is a perfect match for the thematic nature of Spider-Man. Insomniac Games has not only crafted one of the most satisfying gameplay experiences in recent memory, but they also created one of the most empathetic and emotional Spidey stories in the character’s on-screen history. While its narrative may fall onto familiar territory every now and then, it’s constantly filled with surprising twists and turns that range from the notably delightful to the undeniably heartbreaking, drastically flipping any preconceived notions of the established universe. It’s a fantastically well-told story that soars meteorically due to the excellent cast of characters and the strong performances behind them. Insomniac’s notable level of care and polish is also heavily reflected in Spider-Man’s gameplay, with each element striking a resounding, yet harmonious balance. Web-swinging and traversal is unabashedly invigorating, but also bears certain therapeutic tendencies. Combat is accessibly simple, yet has a profound layer of depth and complexity, which results in a brilliant system that oozes an unparalleled sense of style and fluidity. Each element is seamlessly weaved into a wonderful web that provided endless entertainment while providing an emotionally rich story that rarely pulled its punches. While a few derivative design choices and repetitive elements slightly hinder the core experience, nothing fully detracts from what is one of the most captivating and addicting experiences of the year. Marvel’s Spider-Man is without a doubt the best Spider-Man game ever created; its Insomniac Games’ best work to date, and one of the best superhero games of all-time. It’s remarkably spectacular and undeniably amazing.
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A path worth traveling…
Square Enix’s inaugural foray onto the Nintendo Switch immediately captured everyone’s attention during its reveal early last year; with its pristinely crafted art-style, ode to traditional RPG design, and blissfully whimsical musical score, there was simply no shortage of interesting components to anticipate. Octopath Traveler is a gorgeous amalgamation of the RPG fundamentals of yesteryear and a conscious effort of modern polish and refinement. From a gameplay standpoint, Octopath Traveler is an excellent ensemble of the finely tuned elements you’d expect from a Square game – the addictive “break” mechanic alleviates the monotony of rudimentary battles, while the job system adds a significant layer of versatility and player flexibility that’s seldom found in the genre. With Octopath Traveler, you will undeniably come for the exuberant pixel art and the emotional musical composition but will ultimately stay for its addictive gameplay and simplistically complex battle system. To describe Octopath Traveler’s characters and narrative as disappointing would be a disservice to the emotional dissonance experienced throughout the 60 hour journey; there is a strong disconnect and lack of empathetic value as each character’s story is purely isolated, with characters having little no interaction with one another, resulting in the worst display of character development I have experienced in a video game. While some stories bear more emotional weight than others, they are still disjointed and uninspired, and pale in comparison to the simplistic standards of storytelling for any medium. Its narrative structure also struggles to find a sense of cohesion and focus, constantly fumbling on its isolated and disjointed nature. Octopath Traveler’s encompassing narrative is its biggest failure, and while its gorgeous ambience and finely tuned gameplay alleviate its shortcomings and carry the overall experience, its disjointed and apathetic structure leave a bad taste that simply never goes away. Negative qualms set aside, Square’s latest may not be their greatest, but it’s still an experience worth traveling.
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*This review originally appeared at wizarddojo.com*
An inspirational climb to greater heights.
January has never been a heavy hitting month for video game releases – it functions as a relative calm before the storm. However contemporary showcases have proven to be a delightful exception to the rule, transcending January into a mainstay of quality. January 2013 saw the release of one of the best modern JRPGs in recent memory, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and January 2017 introduced the franchise resurrecting Resident Evil 7: biohazard, a franchise reviver and one of the best games of 2017. This past January also had a masterpiece simmering under the radar, the independent platformer with tremendous heart, Celeste. While its sense of scale is rather diminutive compared to the previously mentioned January entries, its level of quality never faltered, making it an undeniable front-runner for game of the year. Plated with its impeccable level design, brilliantly simple mechanics, and slew of deviating paths and hidden goodies, Celeste transcends into a remarkably defined staple of the modern 2D platformer. Its pitch perfect gameplay and refined mechanics are enhanced by its impeccably crafted pace and gameplay implementation, introducing new twists and turns at every corner, significantly upping the ante with each new chapter. Aside from its mechanical prowess, Celeste boasts one of the most beautifully crafted narratives to ever grace the gaming sphere, a creative element typically undermined or absent in mainstays of the genre. Celeste’s inspiring coming of age story is a breath of fresh air to the expanding portfolio of 2D platformers. While these two fundamental structures of Celeste are inherently separate, both exude an unparalleled level of quality, becoming prime examples of their craft and are seamlessly harmonized as a result. Celeste is not only a remarkable start to the new year, it is arguably the best modern 2D platformer, standing tall amongst the meteoric heights of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Ori and the Blind Forest.
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*This review originally appeared at wizarddojo.com*
Reach for the moon…
The Super Mario series requires no introduction; to say that it is synonymous with the video game medium would be an immense understatement. Its cadence to this unanimous praise is heavily warranted as the Super Mario series is game development at its finest. One staple and undisputed fact that has remained a constant of sorts for the legendary series is its profound sense of unadulterated fun; no other series is able to emit an equivalent sense of elation or wonder. However, Mario’s strongest backbone and alluring element is its ability to adapt and evolve. The core ingenious structure has remained intact for over three decades, with innovative ideas and constructs implemented into each new iteration of Mario. It’s a successful formula that rightfully acknowledges and respects the past, but also leaves way for innovation and improvement, encompassing a disposition for unpredictability and audacity. Super Mario Odyssey is a prime example of Nintendo’s pristine ability to take the familiar and beautifully mold it into something brilliantly exotic. In a lot of ways, Super Mario Odyssey is a renascence of the 3D sandbox platformer, however this magical adventure is far more than the sum of its parts. It redefines the structure of the series in terms of its gameplay variance, level design, and progression structure, while paying homage to its roots and acting as a celebration of sorts for the beloved franchise. It’s a delicious adventure that is equally parts exploration and platforming, and is chockful of enticing secrets and goodies to discover. Super Mario Odyssey is an amalgamation of each minute element that validates the series’ perfect standing; this foundation is enhanced considerably through Nintendo’s ingenious use of inventive concepts and implementations, crafting an experience that is constantly evolving in surprisingly brilliant ways. It’s an unabashed masterpiece that surpasses the insurmountable standards set by the Mario franchise. Super Mario Odyssey is the definition of perfection and is a glorified testament to Nintendo’s unparalleled sense of creativity and innovation.
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