We review Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Unpacking, The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes and test out the new Nanoleaf Lines.

If you’re after some new games to play, there’s plenty of worthy new offerings to take a look at. First up Marvel’s latest crack at video games with Guardians of the Galaxy…


Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, XBO, Switch, PC)

Let’s be honest , while there was quite a bit of hype behind last year’s Avengers game, it didn’t quite live up to the hype. What’s fascinating, however, is that Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy exists on the exact opposite end of the spectrum. Not only has it released to almost zero fanfare – it’s a bloody excellent jaunt.

If you’re a fan of the MCU you’ll no doubt notice quite a bit of ‘inspiration’ being borrowed from its silver screen counterpart, but that’s hardly a bad thing. While you might recognise core character traits, it’s a brand new story with a team still finding their footing.

As a result expect plenty of chaos, action and even the odd emotional moment. It’s a tale told incredibly confidently while still packing plenty of whip-smart jokes. If there’s one gripe it’s that the combat is fairly one-note and repetitive, but the constant chatter and inclusion of the Huddle – mid-battle pep-talks that can lead to some banging songs – help keep you smiling all the same.

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is beautiful, enjoyable, funny and an absolute delight to play. It’s also one of the biggest surprises of the year.

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In case you’re not convinced, here’s another 5 reasons why you should check it out.

Unpacking (Switch, XBO, PC)

An absolute Aussie gem, Unpacking takes what is mostly a boring and mundane task and turns it into one of 2021’s biggest delights. Working your way through a number of years, you’ll unpack the contents of a nameless protagonist’s belongings across major milestones.

Things start out simple: like deciding where to place your prized plush toys and journal, but as the years progress you’ll be forced to think about how you go about squeezing your items into shared spaces. The gameplay is never tedious and never stressful – instead telling a surprisingly moving story in a wonderfully creative manner.

To reveal too much would be a disservice to the team behind the game, so all we will say is that you owe to yourself to play Unpacking.

It’s cathartic, charming and a perfect showcase for Australian-made games.

The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes (PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, XBO, PC)

While The Dark Pictures’ Anthology’s past outings have arguably varied in quality, what’s undeniable in our view is that House of Ashes is the best entry thus far. The horror game might not be overly shocking or scary, but it delivers an absolute motza of tension from start to finish making the tale of a military unit stumble upon some supernatural terrors an edge-of-your-seat affair.

As always, much of the fun lies in making key decisions to see how the tale eventually plays out. Unexpected button prompts are particularly engaging, especially with the threat of potentially sending your cast of characters to an early grave. It’s a shtick developer Supermassive have made their own, and they are in fine form with House of Ashes. The good news is that everything comes to a rather satisfying conclusion this time as well.

With only one game left in Dark Pictures’ first season (the recently announced The Devil in Me), we’re excited for a big finish.

Eastward (Switch, PC)

Eastward might not be a game you’ve heard much of, but don’t hold that against it. This tale of a man and his adopted daughter in a post-apocalyptic landscape takes plenty of inspiration from Zelda, but the nod actually works in the game’s favour.

Whether you’re using your frying pan weapon to take out enemies, solving puzzles or working your way through pseudo-dungeons, Eastward moves at a good clip. Where it really shines though is with its beautiful pixelated world, engaging characters and strong soundtrack.

This is an indie title well worth taking a look at.

Tetris Effect: Connected (Switch)

Ever since its launch back in 2018 we’ve been huge fans of Tetris Effect. We’d even go so far as to say it’s the best Tetris game ever released. Connected adds a multiplayer component to an already strong product, then throws the whole package on the Switch.

If you’re yet to play through Tetris Effect, it’s a work of art – providing you the classic shape-matching gameplay you know and love with a soundtrack that often bops and weaves to your actions. It’s perhaps as spiritual an experience you’ll likely ever get from a video game and this Switch port is no joke either. It might lack the pristine visual polish of the more powerful consoles, but it still packs plenty of punch – especially on the beautiful Switch OLED screen.

An absolutely essential addition to your library.

Hands-on with the Nanoleaf Lines

When it comes to smart lights, the folks at Nanoleaf produce some of the best around, and while we’ve been big fans of their past products like the Canvas, Nanoleaf Lines may just be their best work yet.

Crack open the Lines and while much of what you see may look a little familiar, the big point of difference this time around is that unlike the rest of the company’s line-up, these LED light bars are actually backlit – each bar featuring dual colour zones.

It’s a smart decision which allows you to feature two colours at once and enjoy much more flexibility with your setup. We actually prefer the output of the Lines as well – it’s projection onto the wall a more subtle approach that’s less aggressive on the eyes.

The panels themselves are also more visually appealing – slim bars that when connected to one another create a much more modern aesthetic than the bulkier squares of the Canvas. That said, if you invest in enough bars you can still create all sorts of shapes and designs thanks to the 60 degree connectors that link everything together.

All in all we were thoroughly impressed with the Nanoleaf Lines and decided to make the most of ours by placing it neatly behind our TV to create an extra level of immersion when watching films. If you connect them to your gaming PC, the Nanoleaf desktop app will even allow screen mirroring, reflecting on-screen activity through the lights.

The smartphone app could use a bit of fine-tuning, but that annoyance aside, if you’ve got the cash (the Starter kit will set you back $349.99) the Nanoleaf Lines are a great accompaniment to any gaming space.

For more on this topic, follow the Film & TV Observer and the Gaming Observer.

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