This meticulously crafted title is more than just an ode to the golden age of animation – it’s a punishing yet moreish game that’s not for the faint-hearted
You may have heard that this game is hard. We can report, its difficulty has not been overstated – but punishment isn’t everything it has to offer. While Cuphead is decidedly painful, committed to beating you over the head with death after death in its 1930s-style animated world, it’s also meticulously crafted. It’s rich in tone, near pitch perfect in its balancing and it’s dedicated to teaching you the best way to succeed – all while you desperately sway between bashing your head against a wall and screaming in victorious elation.
Bosses are the central spectacle here – ultra-paced, wonderfully designed, concentrated encounters that punctuate its run-time – but the immediate appeal is its inimitable art style. As a homage to the early days of animated cartoons, Cuphead is about as authentic as you get. The film grain crackles and its watercolour backgrounds pop with an obsessive attention to detail that never lets up. Its characters, too, are a work of art, offering up some of the most visually distinct creatures you will see in video games. That unflinching authenticity seeps into every part of Cuphead, from its menus to its music; from its character names – shout out to Porkrind the shop keeper – to their voice work. It’s fantastic across the board.
The latest in the racing game franchise is as confident and accomplished as its predecessors, and should appeal to aficionados as much as beginners
There are some driving games so convincing and enthralling that, after an intense play session, you find yourself instinctively straight-lining the local mini roundabout in order to nestle into the slipstream of a septuagenarian’s Toyota Aygo during your weekend supermarket run. Forza Motorsport 7 is now one of those games.
Presumably conscious that key aspects of its franchise have been lapped by rivals
The Mini SNES will allow original fans to share the beauty, joy and creative brilliance of Mario, Yoshi, Zelda and more with families and friends
Over the last decade we have become used to seeing Nintendo written off, then returning to the fray with an astonishing piece of hardware. The chunky Game Cube failed in the PlayStation era and everyone thought that was it – until the Wii came out and revitalised casual gaming.
The Wii U was a sales disaster, its Toy Town tablet controller failing to entice developers or consumers – but now the Switch is killing it with a much better implementation of the same concept. This boom and bust model goes back further, though – it began with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
The hyper-accelerated tag team brawling series returns with a beginner-friendly riot of mega combos – but the first casualty is nuance
Over the course of two decades, the Marvel vs Capcom franchise has mutated into a sprawling crazy quilt of exuberant brawling. Look for a unifying theme and it seems to be loopy excess, with overflowing character rosters, screen-filling hyper combos and a fondness for mob-handed tag-team battles.
Arkane’s standalone game is a bit of an indulgence, but it offers a beautifully dark and detailed world of grand interiors and dimly lit streets to get lost in
Dishonored’s new standalone adventure has quite the setup: you have to murder a god.
Throughout the five year history of this steampunk stealth adventure series, this eponymous deity, the Outsider, has been at the centre of everything – dealing in regicide, revenge and all the juicy stuff in between. He’s an omnipotent force who watches and intervenes from the void – a mysterious place between worlds – giving mortals like Billie Lurk, our new protagonist, spectral powers.
Pro Evolution Soccer gets a Bolt boost, an arcade cult favourite prospers online, but a five-year-old 3DS game shows it age in a console revamp
PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Konami; cert: 3 ★★★★ Luis Suárez’s unlikely PR revival is seemingly complete, as he fronts Konami’s new partnership with FC Barcelona in the latest iteration of Pro Evolution Soccer. He has chosen a good platform, as PES 2018’s player likenesses and crowd animations look sublime.
Naughty Dog’s long-running, much-garlanded series aces the Bechdel test and breaks new boundaries with two female leads
Throughout the latter half of the 1990s, video games were often talked about as a looming threat to cinema. The advent of CD-Rom technology promoted the medium’s blocksome characters from avatars to actors, complete with lines of dialogue written by professional scriptwriters and spoken by performers loaned from TV and film. Soaring orchestral soundtracks backed three-act structures and, as games popped from 2D to 3D, the composition of scenes, lighting and lines of sight became concerns for digital directors as well as film.
At some point the trajectory shifted. Games still borrow filmic techniques, but the truly cinematic video game – that which seeks to mimic the characterisation, structure and run-time of a blockbuster movie – is endangered, squeezed out by world-conquering, team-based
It has taken a fan game to bring Sonic back to where he belongs – a two-dimensional platformer full of thrills, spills and 90s gaming nostalgia
Poor Sonic Team. After Sonic the Hedgehog and its Mega Drive sequels captured the imaginations of school kids around the world in 1991, the development studio behind the character hasn’t quite been able to find the magic formula that made the original game such a hit. After years of ill-thought out additions - werehogs, treasure hunts, royal love interests, even the third-dimension was arguably a stretch too far - it has taken an officially endorsed fan-game to recapture the essence of what made Sonic the only real challenge to Mario’s platforming crown all those years ago.
If the 90s had never ended, Sonic Mania is the follow-up we would have had instead of making do playing Big the Cat fishing mini-games in Sonic Adventure. All those horrid secondary characters we’ve grown to hate over the years are nowhere to be seen, save for a couple of cameos that only hardcore Sonic fans will even recognise such as the cast of
As Nadine and Chloe take over the franchise, the Lost Legacy offers up all the thrills, spills and puzzles we’ve come to expect and is better for passing the Bechdel test
You can tell that Uncharted: The Lost Legacy started as more of an expansion than a standalone game. Rather than spanning the globe like previous Uncharted games, it all takes place in one part of India. And you get to play as a woman, who are so often relegated to DLC in these big franchises such as BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea or smaller spin-off games such as Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. Even in Naughty Dog’s own The Last of Us: Left Behind, we only got to play as Ellie after we’d met her through the eyes of generic video game man Joel.
But The Lost Legacy expanded during development, and although Uncharted 4 season pass holders won’t have to pay for it, it’s now a full-length by-the-numbers Uncharted game led by two women – the Indian-Australian Chloe Frazer and the black South African Nadine Ross.