Under the Radar’s 2022 Holiday Gift Guide, Pt. 2: Video Games | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Under the Radar’s 2022 Holiday Gift Guide, Pt. 2: Video Games

The Year’s Most Turbo-Charged Gaming Gifts

Dec 06, 2022
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Our 2022 Holiday Gift Guide is just beginning to snowball here at Under the Radar. Yesterday we took a look at some of our favorite unplugged gaming releases (read: board games and tabletop RPGs) that landed this year. Now we’re turning our attention to video gamers’ gift needs, from gaming-related books and peripherals to, of course, games themselves.

Stay tuned in the coming days as we continue to unveil more categories for our 2022 Holiday Gift Guide, from toys and vinyl to collectibles, books, comics and more. While you’re at it, why not take a look through Under the Radar’s subscription options? Your gift would doubly help support our efforts to bring new artists straight to your giftee’s ears.

Miniature Arcades

Missile Command Replicade (New Wave Toys)

RRP: $159.99

Missile Command is definitely a product of the Cold War. Atari developed and published the arcade classic, which came out in 1980. Gameplay is very rudimentary by today’s standards, but exciting at the time (and still challenging in 2022). Six cities are being attacked by ballistic missiles and it’s your job to defend them before your own silos are destroyed. Now Missile Command comes to New Wave Replicade series where they make much smaller tabletop versions of the old school arcade games that were once in huge freestanding cabinets. Putting aside how much technology has progressed in the last four decades, allowing for such small versions, it’s simply pure fun to be able to play the arcade games of your youth in a version the replicates the look and feel of the original. Like the original, the game includes a trackball to control where your defending missiles are aimed. Missile Command Replicade is 1/6th the size of the original and can be nicely displayed on bookshelves or wherever suits you. In fact, why not get a whole series of the Replicade games and have a mini-arcade in your bedroom or living room? My nine-year-old daughter Rose says of the game: “The missiles are cool.” By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Q*bert Replicade (New Wave Toys)

RRP: $159.99

Q*bert is another 1980s arcade classic that New Wave have recreated for their Replicade series. Released only two years after Missile Command, in 1982, it’s easily to see how quickly computer game graphics improved in those two years, even if Q*bert is still fairly basic compared to modern video games. Like many deceptively simple games from the early ’80s, Q*bert remains difficult to master at first. Warren Davis and Jeff Lee designed the game, from an initial concept by Lee, and it was developed and published by the Chicago-based company Gottlieb. Q*bert is a quirky little orange creature with no arms and a long snout nose. You have to hop him around various pyramid levels, avoiding snakes and other creatures until you land on every cube to progress to the next level. The game is considered one of the all-time classics of the golden age of arcade games and Q*bert is one of the most recognizable video game characters of the era, so much so that he appeared in the modern video game-inspired movies Wreck-It Ralph (2012) and Pixels (2015).

Q*bert Replicade also includes Faster Harder More Challenging Q*bert, a previously unreleased sequel to Q*bert that was developed by co-creator Warren Davis in 1983. Like Missile Command Replicade, it is 1/6th the size of the original arcade game, but unlike Missile Command, Q*bert Replicade has an HDMI port allowing you to connect the game to a big screen TV or projector, merging retro and modern sensibilities. My nine-year-old daughter Rose says of the game: “I like how easy it is, I got to level four.” By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Gaming Accessories

Razer Hammerhead True Wireless X Earbuds (Razer)

RRP: From $69.99

No matter what you’re playing and where, Razer’s True Wireless X earbuds are designed to enhance your gaming, movie, or music experience. With a comfortable, in-ear design that features Razer’s Chroma RGB lighting on their outsides, these models feature both active noise cancellation and a special low latency mode that’s been engineered especially for gaming. They’re also set up to do things like switch modes, answer calls, or skip songs with quick taps to your earpiece—and quickly switch on and pair to your device straight from their sleek carrying case. The colors and audio options are fully customizable via an additional app, and with a 24-hour battery life off a 30-minute charge, they’re always ready to fire up and take on the go.

The best part of these earbuds is that they’re an all-purpose gift—their Bluetooth capability lets you connect them to pretty much any modern console, phone, or television. They’ll fit any gamer’s needs. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

Afterglow Wave & REMATCH Controllers for Xbox (PDP)

RRP: $44.99 (Wave) and $37.99 (REMATCH)

A new controller is always a great gift; after all, they’ll be using it no matter what game they’re playing. For those whose console of choice is either of Microsoft’s next-gen or previous-gen consoles, PDP has two new, officially-licensed Xbox controllers on the market.

If you’re going for a neon, cyberpunk style, the Afterglow Wave wired controller (left) is about as cool-looking as they get. Designed with lighted waves that run along the grips and backlit thumbsticks, the Afterglow controller allows players to customize not only the color patterns that glow as it’s plugged in, but the functions of two extra buttons on the backside of the controller. For streamers, these look pretty awesome on camera—or, if you prefer to game in a dark room like myself, its subtle glow ensures you’re never fumbling around to find your controller in the dark.

Another option is the REMATCH, which has the same helpful, customizable trigger and button features as the Afterglow—and while it doesn’t light up, it comes in stylish patterns. Whichever you choose, you’ll be putting a well-appreciated gift into their hands… quite literally. By Austin Trunick (Buy them here.)

Books

Go Straight: The Ultimate Guide to Side-Scrolling Beat-Em-Ups (Bitmap Books)

RRP: $44

The old-school, beat-em-up style of game has experienced a bit of a resurgence in recent years, but gamers of a certain age will remember a time when it was the main thing in gaming. If you owned a console or loitered in an arcade in the late ‘80s to early ‘90s, you’ll no doubt have fond memories of pumping quarters (or continues) into many of the stone cold classics lovingly covered in Go Straight: The Ultimate Guide to Side-Scrolling Beat-Em-Ups. Think: Streets of Rage, Golden Axe, The Simpsons Arcade Game, TMNT, River City Ransom, and the like – there are hundreds of titles covered here, from the big names to some real obscurities.

Like the Bitmap volumes we’ve recommended in holidays past, Go Straight is a beautifully-constructed and exhaustively-researched tome. The games are covered chronologically, with write-ups from journalists and even input from some of their creators. Each entry is illustrated with high-quality screenshots, many of which highlight some of the most iconic moments from the game. (Double Dragon, for example, calls back to the co-op ending—where you’re forced to fight against your partner for the heroine’s affections—which took me right back to a heated battle against my cousin in front of his NES almost three decades ago.) Something truly brilliant about this particular Bitmap tome is that it actually contains hints, tips, and strategies for fighting the more annoying enemies in many of the bigger games—these are presented as cool, fold-out spreads—so that when the book inspires you to revisit the games via old cartridges or *cough cough* emulation, you’ll be better prepared to survive for the long haul. It’s an awesome touch, and it’s really given me the urge to seek out the titles here that I never played. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

Jeremy Parish’s NES 1987, SNES 1991, and Virtual Boy Works (Press Run Books)

RRP: $34.99 – 39.99

For the better part of a decade, YouTube historian Jeremy Parish has been conducting one of the most thorough explorations of console gaming via his ongoing Video Works series. If you’re familiar with his channel—and if not, get on that—you’ll know that his game-by-game assessment of the NES library is probably the most detailed look at one system and its game that anyone’s ever attempted, let alone pulled off. Going in chronological order by release date, his series looks at each game’s history, gameplay, and influences over runtimes that can reach up to thirty minutes each in length. If you want to learn the history of console, it doesn’t get any more comprehensive than this. (He doesn’t limit himself to the Nintendo Entertainment System, either: his Segaiden series looks at the games released by Nintendo’s biggest competitor, and he’s also given the full exam treatment to games on the SNES, Game Boy, and Virtual Boy, among others.)

Press Run Books, an offshoot of Limited Run Games, had teamed up with Parish to adapt these videos into book format. The latest is NES Works: 1987, which goes game-by-game through the Nintendo System’s banner year. (Although it’d been stateside for two years already, 1987 is when the NES came of age.) It’s an incredible work, full of reference-quality box, cartridge, and manual photos, hi-res screenshots, and text adapted from the lengthy NES Works videos. All of the big-hitters are here, including Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, and Mega Man, but they’re also accompanied by so many lesser-known cartridges. (Think: Sqoon. Not “spoon,” Sqoon.) Even for those fans who have watched the hours and hours and hours of videos these entries overlap with, there is tons of new bonus content across the book’s whopping 420 pages.

While the NES may have been the console I logged the most time on during my formative years, there are two more Works books (and counting) available covering more recent consoles. SNES Works: 1991 chronicles the Super Nintendo’s first full year on shelves, while Virtual Boy Works covers the entire lifespan of Nintendo’s strangest and most ill-advised console.

You can pick your favorite, but dedicated gaming scholars are probably going to want all three. By Austin Trunick (Buy them here.)

Games

Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration (Atari/Digital Eclipse - Xbox/Steam/PlayStation/Switch/VCS)

RRP: $39.99

It may be hard for some of us to believe, but 2022 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Atari—the trailblazing company that almost single-handedly shaped video gaming as we know it. The brand is celebrating their legacy in a number of ways—including birthday-branded clothing, limited edition cartridges, and further releases for the new Atari VCS hardware—but for anyone who’d like to explore five decades’ worth of gaming history from the comfort of their couch, we have to recommend the very cool Atari 50 software they just releaser for computers and consoles.

Part documentary and part game compilation, the main mode of Atari 50 plays out like a journey through time. Starting at the dawn of Syzygy Engineering (the precursor to Atari) and proceeding through their arcade and pinball days, the boom and collapse (and rise again) of cartridge systems, and all the way up to the uber-connected modern consoles of today, Atari 50 is one of the most fun history lessons you’ll come across. Each chronological step on this path is packed with newly-recorded interviews with former programmers and the people they inspired, scans of rarely-seen ephemera such as photos and trade advertisements, and of course the games themselves! There are more than 100 titles included from all points in Atari’s history: not just old favorites from the 2600, 5200, and 7800, but Lynx essentials and a handful of modernized remakes that were reimagined for this release. If you know anyone with the least bit of interest in video game history, they’ll eat this right up. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

Cuphead Physical Edition (iam8bit – Switch/Xbox/PlayStation)

RRP: $44.99

Cuphead was first released in 2017 for Xbox One and Windows and landed on the Switch in 2019 and the PlayStation 4 in 2020, but now it’s finally gotten a physical edition release on Xbox One, PS4, and Switch (we were sent the Switch version). The Standard Edition has just been released and includes the original game, the Delicious Last Course Expansion, six collectible Cuphead Funnies Cards, and a Cuphead Club Membership Card. A Collectors Edition comes out in the first quarter of 2023 and includes a fully working Cuphead marionette puppet, a hand-crank music box, and more.

The game has inspired The Cuphead Show!, an animated show on Netflix that premiered this year (and which I’ve never seen). The quirky concept and character designs are wholly unique in the world of video games. Cuphead and his brother Mugman have cups and mugs for heads (who knows why, again I haven’t watched the show). Cuphead looses a bet with the Devil at his casino during a craps game, even though Mugman tries to stop his brother. As a consequence the brothers have two choices: give over their souls to the Devil right now or keep them by hunting down runaway debtors and bringing their souls to the Devil. Obviously they choose the latter and what follows is a series of “run and gun” levels and many boss battles. Some critics have called it one of the hardest video games ever created and based on the levels we played we are inclined to agree (and we had the game on the easy setting!). What makes Cuphead stand out is its look. Creators Chad and Jared Moldenhauer (who are brothers) were inspired by classic cartoons of the 1930s (aka the Jazz Age), including the early works of Walt Disney Animation Studios (from the neck down Cuphead resembles Mickey Mouse), Fleischer Studios (who produced the glorious original Superman cartoons), Warner Bros. Cartoons, MGM Cartoon Studio, and Walter Lantz Productions. This vintage feel really adds to the game’s creativity, and its soundtrack, Selected Tunes from Cuphead, was even #1 on the Jazz Albums Billboard charts for one week in 2019. My nine-year-old daughter Rose says of the game: “I like Cuphead because it is challenging and you fight potatoes with faces and crazed carrot maniacs.” By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Kirby and the Forgotten Land (Nintendo – Switch)

RRP: $59.99

The beloved video game character Kirby first debuted 40 years ago in 1992’s Kirby’s Dream Land, a black & white platformer for the iconic Game Boy system. Since then the adorable little blob has appeared in over 40 games, although the latest, Kirby and the Forgotten Land, is the 13th mainline installment in the Kirby franchise and also the first to fully be in a 3D world.

In the game, Kirby is sucked into a vortex from his native Dream Land and finds himself in a mainly abandoned place called New World. There he finds that the Waddle Dees from Dreamland have been kidnapped and he sets to rescue them. Kirby’s unique ability is that he can inhale objects and enemies to briefly have unique abilities, such as shooting fire. In more out-there moments, he can inhale larger objects, such as a car (allowing him to drive around), a large ladder, or a giant traffic cone, essentially becoming those objects. In local two-player mode, a friend can play as Kirby’s spear-toting sidekick Bandana Waddle Dee. The colorful game is pure unadulterated fun for all-ages and at multiple points it’ll leave you wondering, “Where do they come up with this crazy stuff.” My nine-year-old daughter Rose says of the game: “It’s funny he inhales vending machines and shoots out soda cans. This game is awesome!” By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

LEGO Brawls (LEGO Games/Bandai Namco Entertainment – Switch/Playstation 4/Playstation 5/Xbox One)

RRP: $59.99

There have been many LEGO video games over the years, but never one quite like LEGO Brawls. Many previous LEGO games have been based on a pre-existing fictional universe (such as Marvel, DC, Harry Potter, and Star Wars) and have followed a plot, sometimes closely tied to the movie it’s connected to. LEGO Brawls is purely about battling others in different levels inspired by classic LEGO sets/worlds (such as in space or the Old West), as well as ones connected to LEGO’s popular Ninjago line (and cartoons) and the Jurassic World series. In the space level watch out for falling asteroids as you fight your opponent(s), in the castle stage you need to watch out for the lava that fills up the bottom of the screen every minute or so before draining away again.

The game first came out in 2019 on Apple Arcade, but this year it was released for the Switch (the system we played it on), Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. You can play locally with friends in the room via Free-For-Brawl mode or you can play online via Versus or Co-Op modes. The game also allows you to design your own characters. And while it’s a fighting game, it’s all bloodless, which explains the E10+ rating (everyone 10 and up). My nine-year-old daughter Rose says of the game: “I like how it has many character and weapon packs you can choose from like pirates, Old West, Ninjago, space, and more.” By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

A Monster’s Expedition + Earlier Adventures (iam8bit – Switch)

RRP: $44.99

A Monster’s Expedition + Earlier Adventures is four delightful puzzle games in one. In the title game, A Monster’s Expedition, you are a super furry monster attempting to traverse across a long series of small islands. You have to work out which trees to knock down in which order to build basic bridges or rafts. It’s a very tranquil game, but can prove challenging. In Cosmic Express you need to build train tracks in space, each level the tracks have to be built to follow a precise course in order to pick up and drop off all little alien passengers in the correct sequence or you won’t proceed to the next level. We won’t lie, at least once we had to look up on YouTube how to complete a level. A Good Snowman is Hard to Build is seasonally appropriate right now and for that game you have to work out how to build snowmen in the right order to complete each level. And finally Sokobond is the most educational of the four games, as you connect the correct atoms to form molecules. By getting four charming and challenging puzzle games in one package, A Monster’s Expedition + Earlier Adventures is excellent value for money and hours of mind-scratching fun. The game also comes with an 18x24 poster of the full world map from A Monster’s Expedition, which is quite useful. My nine-year-old daughter Rose says of the game: “My favorite of the four games was definitely Cosmic Express because it was hard and not many of my games are that challenging.” By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Nintendo Switch Sports (Nintendo – Switch)

RRP: $49.99

Those of a certain age may have a deep nostalgia for playing Wii Sports, either as a kid if you’re young enough or with kids (nieces and nephews or your own child). It was the perfect game to show off the Wii system and its sensor that allowed you to virtually hit a tennis ball back and forth simply by swinging your controller around. Nintendo has finally upgraded the game for the Switch, with Nintendo Switch Sports, and fans of the original won’t be disappointed.

The changes to gameplay are fairly subtle. You still move your controller around as if it’s a tennis racket or a sword. But the graphics are certainly better than in Wii Sports. There are also new sports on offer this time. As well as tennis and bowling, two favorites from the original, added are badminton, chambara (essentially sword fighting), volleyball, and soccer. Volleyball is particularly fun and challenging to master, due to the multiple moves required to score a point. For soccer, the physical version of the game comes with a leg strap for you to put the controller in for your attempts to score a glorious goal. Nintendo Switch Sports is an accessible game that would appeal to players of multiple ages and skill levels, regardless of their fondness for the original game.

My nine-year-old daughter Rose says of the game: “Nintendo Switch Sports is a really awesome game that made my arm sore for two days.” By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Pokémon Legends: Arceus (Nintendo – Switch)

RRP: $59.99

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know much about Pokémon. I was too old to play the card game or watch the cartoon, by the time it became popular in America, and I’ve generally been mystified by it most of my life. My nine-year-old daughter Rose, however, has been obsessed with all things Pokémon for over a year now, collecting and trading the cards, battling friends, and watching the various iterations of the cartoon on Netflix. Also, my wife Wendy has gotten into the card game with Rose and has been leading an afterschool Pokémon club at our local library attended by up to 30 kids every week. I still don’t really know my Mewtwo from my Mimikyu, but Pokémon Legends: Arceus was one of Rose’s most anticipated video games of 2022, so we had to check it out, and she definitely wasn’t disappointed.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus is an action role-playing game that is a prequel to 2006’s Pokémon Diamond and Pearl (which I’ve never played and I imagine has no connection to Prince’s similarly named album). Your character is sent back in time through a space-time rift by Arceus, the creator deity of the Pokémon-Universe, to the island of Hisui (inspired by the real Japanese island of Hokkaido) in the Muromachi period (which was approximately 1336 to 1573). You are tasked with, what else, catching Pokémon (“gotta catch them all,” as the catchphrase goes) across the island. You also engage in Pokémon battles. Gameplay is incredibly fun and easy to pick up. In some ways, it brought to mind a more family-friendly and Pokémon-infused version of Red Dead Redemption, at least in terms of gameplay. Rose says of the game: “What I like about Pokémon Legends: Arceus is that it takes place before Ash’s era and how Arceus gives you a mission to seek out all the Pokémon of Hisui and at the end of the game you can catch Arceus himself. I also like how realistic the art and Pokémon are and how Pokémon roam around freely. Last but not least, I also like how there are a lot of Alpha Pokémon and if you didn’t know, Alpha Pokémon are bigger and more powerful. It’s my favorite of the all the games we got for the gift guide this year.” By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

The Quarry (2K Games - Xbox/Steam/PlayStation)

RRP: $59.99


A number of games have attempted to capture the feel of ‘80s slashers and low-budget horror films, but The Quarry is the first to nail that vibe. The game sets you down in modern-day Hackett’s Quarry, a remote summer camp in upstate New York—it’s so far off the beaten path that cell phones are useless, which lends to the game’s retro atmosphere. Car troubles strand the young adult counsellors at the camp for one extra night after the season ends. As he leaves to get help, their boss warns them to stay inside the lodge—but why do that, when these unsupervised youths could instead throw an all-night rager?

Unfortunately for our heroes, Hackett’s Quarry is a strange place with a grim past—and beings that emerge, looking for prey as the summer ends. The Quarry plays much like a Telltale-style game, forcing players to make quick choices that will have rippling effects later on, and send the story down one of its many branching paths. There are QTE events, some light combat, and other things to determine the outcome of the game’s many fast-paced, frantic action scenes. This is the perfect sort of horror game for people who want to play something scary, but don’t love the back-tracking and inventory management that drain the life out of the survival horror genre.

Did we mention it was scary? While there are plenty of jump scares, The Quarry is more about mood and ambience—let’s say, all-around creepiness. Two of the game’s outstanding elements are its writing and acting, which are both top-notch. The Quarry smartly gives the player time to control each camp counsellor individually for an hour or two before the killing starts, letting you inside their heads a bit and making the player sympathize with every one of them. That way, you’re invested in everyone’s wellbeing, and you genuinely feel remorse when one of your poor choices leads to their demise.

The Quarry is really fantastic. Full disclosure: we’ve only played it through once, but we can see so many places where our choices could have led to a different story path. We’re eager to play again, and see those other outcomes—we’ve read that there are nearly 200 different endings, and we’d love to give some of our favorite characters a better chance than they got from us the first time around. When a 10-ish hour narrative adventure has this much replayability, it’s doing a lot of things right. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

Rogue Legacy 2 (Cellar Door Games - Xbox/Steam/Epic/Switch)

RRP: $29.99

We sunk many, many hours into the original Rogue Legacy when it hit Xbox in 2015—its steep difficulty curve was offset by an extremely addictive progression system which kept bringing us back after every devastating face-plant. Now, the quintessential roguelite’s core gameplay and humor are back in a sequel, but the overall experience and customizability have been expanded tenfold. It can be hard to improve on a classic, but Rogue Legacy does so in every conceivable way.

More classes? You got ‘em. More spells, weapons, and traits than you can shake a stick at? They’re here. A tech tree that sprawls out in a dozen directions—and deeper weapon and rune customizations? Yup. How about an all-new experience system that encourages you to keep switching up your play style? Challenges that unlock further bonuses? And what about a “House Rules” menu that lets you dial down the difficulty if the going ever gets too tough? We’re guest-imating that we’re maybe only halfway through the game’s main storyline, yet we keep finding new things in Rogue Legacy 2 that take us by surprise. (On top of all of this, a massive update was unleashed on the game in early November, adding even more stuff for players to discover.)

Cellar Door Games clearly spent the years since Rogue Legacy’s release thinking of ways to build upon the game and make it better, because Rogue Legacy 2 delivers on everything a fan of the first game could have wished for—and some things they never knew they wanted. If you’re a fan of platforming action and are into a challenge, Rogue Legacy 2 is one of the most fun and addicting titles of the year. Its cartoon fantasy style is also pretty family-friendly, and that aforementioned House Rules menu allows you to tone down the difficulty level on the fly, in case you want to take turns making dungeon runs with children. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

Splatoon 3 (Nintendo – Switch)

RRP: $59.99

Splatoon 3, as its title suggests, is the third game in the Splatoon series. The game is set in a wholly unique post-apocalyptic universe where ink is king and anthropomorphic marine animals share the land with humanoids, able to breath outside of the water. It’s like a massive creative game of futuristic paintball. In this third-person shooter you’re armed with a yellow ink gun and can also turn into a squid-like creature to ride in the ink (which also refills your gun). You can either play story mode or engage in online battles with friends or strangers, such as competing in Turf War battles where the team whose ink covers the most territory wins. In story mode, you follow an elderly squid, Craig Cuttlefish, down a sewer, after which he enlists you to help get rid of fuzzy ooze and fight Octarians covered in fur. Fans of the first two Splatoon games will probably find much to enjoy here, although my nine-year-old daughter Rose and I had never played either of the previous games and we picked Splatoon 3 up just fine. Splatoon 3 is the second-fastest selling video game of all time in Japan. Rose says of the game: “It’s weird in a good way and interesting and fun.” By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (Crows Crows Crows - Xbox/Steam/PlayStation/Switch)

RRP: $24.99

For nearly a decade, The Stanley Parable has been one of those games that our most trusted friends have been urging us to play. “It’s incredible!” they’d say. “It’s really, really funny,” they’d say. “It messes with your head,” they’d say. “That all sounds great, but what’s it about?” we’d ask—and their response was always the same: they’d avert their eyes, and sheepishly stutter something along the lines “I probably shouldn’t say,” or “It’s better if I don’t tell you.” They’d rant and rave about how mind-blowing their experience with The Stanley Parable was, then get all hush-hush when pressed for details.

With the release of The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe, we finally understand their struggle: once you’ve tried it, the last thing you want to do is spoil it for your friends. So, we’re going to tread very lightly here in our description, and generally say that The Stanley Parable is a game about playing a game. Not helpful? Okay… Well, you play as Stanley, an office worker toiling his life away in a boring job. A narrator instructs you on how to live out Stanley’s day—but these are merely suggestions, and it’s up to you whether or not you’d like to follow them. And we’re stopping there, seriously—the less you know, the better.

The Stanley Parable is as meta and self-aware a video game as we’ve ever played, and every bit as brilliant as everyone’s been hinting at. (The piles and piles of acclaim it’s received were spot-on.) You’ve probably heard of it, or had someone nagging you to give it a try—and the best we can do is say that yes, it’s every bit as good and hilarious and mind-bending as you’ve been told, and this remastered, expanded edition is your perfect opportunity to finally get with the program. Join us in the cult of The Stanley Parable, won’t you? By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge (Dotemu - Xbox/Steam/PlayStation/Switch)

RRP: $24.99

I remember the day I “beat” the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game like it was yesterday, even though it was more than 30 years ago. And by “beat,” I mean, I watched some older kids dump countless quarters into the machine until they made it to Shredder, and then I joined in with my own pithy allotment of coins. Sure, I hadn’t done all of the hard work, nor had I poured much of my own money into it… but you can bet it was the main thing I bragged about to all of my friends once we returned from winter break. I had tasted victory, and you bet I was going to rub it into their faces.

Of course, I eventually got to play the NES port—and went nuts for Turtles in Time when that landed on the SNES later on. (Not to mention, logged many hours into different re-releases in more recent decades.) So, of course the brand new TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge was going to be calling my name: it’s clearly a love letter to those arcade classics, made for people like me, by people like me. Shredder’s Revenge looks and feels like a direct continuation of that legacy, but with modern updates to smooth out all of the outdated mechanics we forget about as we look back at them through rose-tinted glasses. These include online co-op modes (up to six players!) and extra characters (Splinter! April!); challenges, collectibles, and unlockables to add replay value; and more fluid, responsive controls without slowdown. Updated in the right ways, it’s a game that’ll bring back those thrills you experienced circa 1990—especially if you have a friend (or friends) around to share a couch for an in-person, beat-em-up team-up. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

Tinykin (TinyBuild - Xbox/Steam/PlayStation/Switch)

RRP: $24.99

It’s the far future. You’re Milo, a space traveler on an expedition to the newly-rediscovered planet Earth. But, it’s not what you expected—first off, you’re about an inch tall. Second, the humans appear to be gone, and the world is inhabited by odd-but-helpful little critters known as Tinykin. Finally, it appears you’ve arrived in the early 1990s, and the house you’ve landed in is overrun by chatty insects who are close to your current size!

Tinykin is a 3D platformer with a focus on exploration and puzzle-solving. The setting is incredibly playful—imagine a bright, colorful, and cartoonish Honey, I Shrunk the Kids—and the overall vibe is quite cozy. Many puzzles revolve around talking to the many (friendly) bugs living around the house and interpreting what they want—they don’t know the names or nature of the household objects the humans left behind, and their speculation over their use is fun—and lending a hand, or manipulating the Tinykin to interact with the environment and its massive items in different ways. The puzzles can be tricky but are never obtuse, and the platforming is very forgiving. We’d recommend this delightful (we’ll even call it relaxing!) adventure for anyone who turns to video games as a way to unwind, or as something you could play through together with your family. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)



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