We finally dig into Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, INDIKA and more, then get building LEGO’s new Star Wars Podrace Set.

Long regarded as the best entry in the series, fervor for a remake of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has been building over the 20 years since it originally graced the GameCube. Thankfully, the long wait has been worth it and this Switch iteration is without question the definitive way to play the classic adventure.

For those who missed it the first time around, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door sees Mario and friends visit the town of Rogueport for a treasure hunt, only for things to quickly get wildly out of control thanks to new baddies the X-Nauts. What follows is one of the quirkiest, funniest tales in Mario’s history that will genuinely have you chuckling from start to finish.

But while the story hasn’t needed to really change, the aged visuals certainly did and the end result is truly beautiful, especially if you’re booting it up on the Switch OLED model. The paper aesthetic shined two decades ago, and that magic works again here thanks to Nintendo’s careful and considered rework of character models and environments. I loved exploring the colourful world, but it has to be said that it’s incredibly disappointing this version drops its framerate to 30fps compared to the original’s 60. It shouldn’t stop you from playing, but you will feel it.

Nintendo has also seen fit to revamp the soundtrack and add a few quality of life improvements like a hint system and easier partner switching, and both do well to build on an already rock-solid foundation.

There’s arguably still a little too much backtracking, but it’s a minor quibble in an otherwise excellent game. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door deserves a place in every Switch owners library.

Meanwhile, Xbox gamers have also been patiently holding out for Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 – the first exclusive title to be announced for the Xbox Series X/S back in 2019. Much like the Thousand Year Door remake though, good things come to those who wait, because this is an absolute powerhouse title that is truly breathtaking from the moment you get started.

Love Gaming?

Get the latest Gaming news, features, updates and giveaways straight to your inbox Learn more

Senua’s Saga picks up from the events of the 2017 original, but to delve too deeply into Ninja Theory’s narrative might actually act as a disservice given its relatively short runtime (around 6 hours and change depending on how you play). That’ll likely be a sticking point for many, but personally worked perfectly well for my current lifestyle and is hard to argue with considering Game Pass subscribers will instantly have access anyways.

What nobody will take issue with is how good Senua’s Saga looks and sounds. The power behind Unreal Engine 5 is on full display here and it’s clear that the developers have spent a lot of time significantly upping the ante. It’s absolutely drop-dead gorgeous and the best looking Xbox game so far.

Likewise, the game’s binaural audio impresses yet again and demands headphones for the experience. Hearing the various voices and whispers is truly unsettling and consistently helped set the dour mood the game encompasses. Combat and puzzles unfortunately haven’t received the same boost, but they’re perfectly serviceable and never feel as though they drag the experience down.

If you have Xbox GamePass, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 is a total non-brainer. But even if you don’t, it’s a game more than worthy of your time and money, and is a great showcase for the power of the Series X.

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is available now for Switch.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 is avaible for Xbox Series X/S and PC.

Also out now…

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes (Switch, PC)

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes is a game that revels in its mysterious nature. Whether you’re trying to uncover your role in the story or just unlock the door in front of you, you’re never quite sure what’s around the next corner. What’s not a mystery though is that this could be the best puzzler of 2024 so far.

It’s worth noting that these puzzles are the meat and potato of Lorelei and the Laser Eyes. If you’re not on board to solve an endless barrage of riddles and brain teasers then this might not be the game for you. But if it does, it’s an all-encompassing experience that’s challenging without ever really feeling unfair.

I never felt hoodwinked by a solution and most made perfect logical sense, even when I was stumped for large periods of time. In fact, it might even be worth investing in a little notepad to keep track of everything – such is the depth of this experience.

Sink into the rhythm and Lorelei and the Laser Eyes will be an engrossing, delightful experience.

LEGO Star Wars Mos Espa Podrace Diorama Set

Believe it or not somehow Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace has turned 25 years old. Time flies, right? But while the movie itself continues to have somewhat of a mixed reception, the same is unlikely to occur for this celebratory LEGO set.

Priced at $119, this 18+ Mos Espa Podrace build sets its sights on one of the film’s biggest wins – the weird and wonderful world of podracing. As a result, it continues LEGO’s more recent foray into the diorama design aesthetic. That means you shouldn’t expect an overly complicated build, but there is still a substantial number of pieces at play (718 to be precise) that are largely used for the rock formations that act as the scene’s backdrop.

If you’ve got lingering nostalgia for the films (or even the beloved N64 racer), there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had here as you build miniature versions of both Anakin and Sebulba’s pods, and much like the rock foundations, LEGO has done rather well to utilise some less conventional pieces to make the vehicles pretty authentic while managing to stick closely to the core brick-based design language.

I also need to commend the manual, which serious Warsies will be chuffed to discover delves into the classic movie scene this Mos Espa Podrace set is replicating, and how that translates into its LEGO-fication. It’s a nice touch for fans and yet another fun way to embrace the celebratory nature of the set as a whole.

All-in-all the Mos Espa Podrace Diorama isn’t the most complex set around (and isn’t the cheapest) but this is an entertaining build perfectly suited for a relaxing weekend. The finished model also isn’t dramatically large, and would do well as a shelf ornament.

You can buy the Mos Espa Podrace Diorama set for $119.99 from the LEGO Store.

INDIKA (PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC)

Controlling a nun in 19th century Russia who also happens to have casual chats with the devil isn’t something we expected to be doing in 2024, but that’s exactly what INDIKA presents.

But while its central premise is unexpected, its execution is also surprisingly well-handled and leads to a surprise gem that doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s a bleak-well acted title that does to some pretty dark places I wasn’t really expecting, but was consistently engaging. Slightly less engaging is the gameplay itself, which is basic at best, merely filing in the gaps between narrative beats as you solve your way through environments or add to an intentionally pointless skill tree. That said, there are the odd pixel art-inspired diversions that serve as a total tonal shift, which never fail to surprise and add to the unique experience INDIKA offers.

And perhaps that’s what makes INDIKA so appealing. It’s bound to be unlike anything else you play in 2024 and for that reason alone it’s worth checking out.

Endless Ocean Luminous (Switch)

If you’ve been looking for a supremely zen video game to get lost into, Endless Ocean Luminous might be the perfect thing to sink into. It’s a game that throws away all the traditional stresses games can present and instead allows you to jump into various bodies of water in order to scan and catalogue all manner of aquatic life.

There’s also the odd bit of treasure to track down but Endless Ocean largely leaves you on your own to float about, explore and scan to your heart’s content for the 500+ species around. That might sound like a peaceful expedition, but it unfortunately can quickly turns to tedium as you search for a little more depth.

For gamers that cherish a bit of mindless tinkering then that loop may very well work for you. Personally though, I craved something a little more substantial, especially with a rather threadbare story underpinning it all. Jumping in with a group of fellow divers didn’t help much either, so fingers crossed the next underwater expedition has me jumping at the bit to get my flippers on.

For more on this topic, follow the Gaming Observer.

Get unlimited access to the coverage that shapes our culture.
to Rolling Stone magazine
to Rolling Stone magazine