We’re now in the midst of the video game busy season, so get excited because we already have two incredible contenders for 2019’s Game of the Year…
Astral Chain (Switch)
Much like many of Platinum Games’ previous efforts (Bayonetta, Nier: Automata) Astral Chain is a wild, unexpected ride that’ll have you scratching your head in all the best ways.
Part Power Rangers, part Gundam, and even part Pokémon – the action game is a fascinating mix of influences that is just so damn cool to watch and play.
As a rookie police officer, it’s your job to fight off dimension-jumping aliens, dubbed Chimera, by doing battle alongside a Legion – a Chimera that has been turned into an ally via a physic link.
This ‘Astral Chain’ is designed to help aid humanity’s ultimate survival. It might not always make a lot of sense, but the anime-inspired plot helps set up some wonderfully dramatic setpeices that’ll have you smiling.
There are also a lot of mechanics at play here, sometimes overwhelming so, but once you have the hang of combat a few hours in, choosing how best to tackle each frantic, colourful encounter is a thrill. Just make sure you stick with a proper Pro Controller.
The choice of a silent protagonist can make custscenes feel a little stilted, but it’s a minor niggle when the rest of experience is so surprisingly strong. Make no doubt about it, you’ll want Astral Chain in your Switch library pronto.
Control (PS4, XBO, PC)
Already known for quirky, experimental games like Alan Wake and Quantum Break, you never quite know what you’re in for with a Remedy Entertainment game, and Control certainly follows that trend to new heights.
Thanks to a cold opener that quickly asks more questions than it answers, Control manages to suck you in with its serious Mr. Robot-esque vibes, then keeps you hooked with its stylish blend of X-Files meets Twin Peaks mystery.
Throw in a shape-shifting weapons and telekinetic combat and you’re in for one hell of a mind-bendingly enjoyable time – especially once you start modding and upgrading your abilities.
Even when the combat does start to feel a little samey, you’ll constantly want to piece together protagonist Jesse Faden’s tale as she battles a dangerously powerful otherworldly threat.
Weird yet wonderful, this is hands-down Remedy’s finest work thus far. You should remove all self-control and add this one to your must-buy list.
RAD (PS4, XBO, Switch)
This roguelike adventure is pretty much everything you’d expect from Double Fine Productions, as you roam a procedurally generated wasteland in the hopes of bringing life back to the world following a post-post apocalypse.
RAD‘s world is chock-full of ‘80s references and screwball humour – especially with a neat mutation mechanic that provides you with a range of random abilities to help defeat foes. But it’s also this randomisation that can cause frustrations – as some abilities are destined to lead you to your death and levels become confusing to navigate.
Definitely a game more suited to genre fans.
Hotline Miami Collection (Switch)
Already well-established hits on consoles and PC, Hotline Miami and Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number have headed to the Switch and its made the transition wonderfully. The twitch-based gameplay remains rock solid, as do the incredibly brutal visuals.
If you have yet to experience these indie darlings, or are just dying to replay them, this portable iteration is a treat. Sure, you’ll still likely be confused by the plot, but that’s all part of the fun.
Damsel (Switch, XBO, PC)
An arcade platformer that actually stems from our shores courtesy of Screwtape Studios, Damsel is an impressive homegrown effort that falls just a touch short on becoming something truly special.
Set in a cartoon universe where vampires and humans coexist, you take control of the titular lead – an agent for the Department of Sanguinarian Affairs – after being tipped off that something about this ‘arrangement’ might be going slightly array.
What follows is a fast and frantic barrage of action as you rescue hostages, hack computer terminals and do away with no-good vampires. When the action flows, there’s a lot of stylish fun to be had, but a relatively thin plot and repetitive level design do unfortunately bring the momentum back down.