In 2018, Tetris Effect's mesmerizing sounds and sights heightened the classic game's aesthetically pleasing properties and its ability to consume our attention to almost therapeutic levels, reinvigorating our appreciation for one of gaming's oldest obsessions. But even as former GameSpot editor Peter Brown proclaimed Tetris "" in Tetris Effect, he noted it "sadly" did not apply its wondrous approach to multiplayer. Two years later, Tetris Effect: Connected--an updated re-release for Xbox consoles and PC--fills that gap. Just as the original did for the classic version of the game, Connected reimagines Tetris multiplayer with flair and vision. It also loses a major component, VR support, which delivers the most intense version of the experience. While I'm of two minds on that tradeoff, the soothing intensity of Tetris Effect hasn't lost any potency. On the contrary, it feels more vital than ever in 2020.
Though it adds and removes modes whole cloth, the core of Tetris Effect remains unchanged. Despite the fact that Journey mode hasn't been touched, its shifting, syncopated themes enraptured me level by level, even on my second time through. Tetris Effect is a significant challenge to average Tetris players like myself. Each level revs the speed up to push you just up to the edge of what you can handle. Even as you improve--and you are getting better, whether you see it or not--the levels scale to demand your full focus. It sounds unapproachable, but there's something about the combination of the way your brain looks for patterns, combined with the rhythmic sensory elements and this challenge, that lets you give yourself over to the game, almost trance-like, without even trying.
You'll need that focus in multiplayer. Whether you're playing cooperatively with other players or competing against them, the multiplayer modes in Connected ratchet up the intensity found in the original. Connected features four multiplayer modes--three competitive, one co-op. As in most games, other players will push you in ways a single-player campaign will not.
Immortals Fenyx Rising knows perfect is the enemy of good. Typhon, its big bad, is obsessed with perfection; as he overthrows the gods of Mount Olympus and strands them on the Golden Isle, he strips them of their essences, and with those essences, the flaws that made them legend. Aphrodite loses her passion, pettiness, and jealousy; Ares his rage; Hephaistos his suffering; Athena her self-righteousness. In their quest to reclaim those essences, Fenyx, a lowly soldier in search of their brother Ligryon, argues those flaws should be celebrated, not forgotten. Their tale doesn't always impart that lesson, but it's able to deftly take its own flaws in stride and, while not reaching the highs of the gods it worships, earn its own praise.
Fenyx Rising sets the bar high for itself by borrowing heavily from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You can climb your way up just about any solid surface if you have enough stamina; one of your four major abilities lets you magically float objects above your head and move them around to solve puzzles; the Golden Isle is littered with vaults, one-off puzzles that take place in self-contained parts of Tartaros. The list runs deep.
Despite all the borrowed elements, Fenyx Rising hews closely to Ubisoft's flavor of open world. At first, it was hard not to treat every similarity I spotted as a point of comparison. Fenyx Rising, for example, lacks a real sense of exploration. You're rarely lost, since the first thing you do in every region is head to the nearest vantage point, scout the area to reveal it on your map, then mark a bevy of collectibles and activities to chase. I never got the sense I was "exploring" the Golden Isle so much as I was beelining it to all the icons I'd already marked, which told me exactly what I would find when I reached them. I wasn't paying much attention to the world around me because nothing is really "hidden," which is disappointing only because in its early hours, Fenyx Rising did remind me of the spacious Hyrule of Breath of the Wild, where every rock formation or tree stump hinted at some surprise worth telling someone else about.
(Xbox Series X/S,
Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla mixes up its RPG elements a bit in how it plays with the concept of a skill tree. Rather than give up the goods from the start, you reveal chunks of it from the fog as you go. I guess it technically adds a bit of mystery to character progression, until you realize you can just poke around online and see maps of the whole darned thing. Still, even if you have the whole tree laid out in front of you, it might be tricky to figure out what to prioritize. I’ll make it easier: get the Missile Reversal skill as soon as you possibly can. That single ability has transformed the way I play the game – in a good way.
I’ve always enjoyed parrying and countering attacks as long as that’s been part of the Assassin’s Creed series. There’s something I find satisfying about waiting for an enemy to attack, only for your character to knock it aside and punish that enemy for having the nerve to take a swing. Once you get the timing down, it’s the best. And it’s the same in Valhalla. Still, I was getting annoyed during some of the larger raid-type missions, in how archers and other ranged attackers would (wisely) hang back and take pot shots at me while I was busy killing their friends. The nerve! Sure, I could block those incoming projectiles, but it kind of broke my combat flow. The cure for that problem? Why, it’s Missile Reversal, of course.
Click image thumbnails to view larger version
It’s a pretty easy skill to find, even if you’re still mostly fogged up. Head straight down from the starting node, sticking to the yellow path. After a few clusters, you’re set. Once you unlock it, the real fun begins.
Now, when those ranged goofballs do their thing, you can tap the bumper button and hurl whatever they sent your way back to ‘em. Rocks? Arrows? Little explosive pots? Yep, yep, and yep. The timing is super easy to master, since ranged guys will telegraph their attacks with a visual indicator that fills up right before they fire away.
That’s great, but it’s not the best part. You know the Order of the Ancients Zealots patrolling the map? They’re pretty tough, especially in the early game. I kept running into them and thinking, “Maybe this time will be different!” And it never was! Sure, I was woefully under-leveled for these encounters, but I couldn’t resist attacking them whenever I saw them smugly riding their horses. Going toe-to-toe with them may not work well, but you know what does? Missile Reversal! Thanks for asking!
If you can keep them at medium long range, you’re golden. Most will pull out spears or other long-range weapons and try to make up the distance. When they do, you can fling their stuff right back at them. Do that about 10 or so times, and they’ll be ready to give you a nice little speech that they’ve prepared just for you. I was able to do this for guys several dozen power rankings above me with very little difficulty. If nothing else, it’s a great start for your ultimate goal of dismantling their entire filthy operation.
So yeah. Missile Reversal. Unlock it as soon as you can. It’s great!
Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, Stadia, PC
A powerful titan of legend has launched a massive assault on the Greek gods of mythology, severing them from their essence, smashing open cracks to the underworld, and infesting Earth with corrupted beings from the afterlife. A setup like this isn't uncommon in the world of video games, but when it comes to comedy, a dark premise such as this isn't the first thing you might think of. However, that's exactly the direction Ubisoft Quebec went with Immortals Fenyx Rising.
While the inspiration drawn from games like the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Studio Ghibli films like Howl's Moving Castle is evident in the gameplay and visual style, it was a different genre of film that dictated the tone Ubisoft Quebec employs with Immortals Fenyx Rising. "I felt like a lot of video games are incredibly dark, and I had missed this feeling from childhood that movies like the Princess Bride or Naked Gun or Airplane had given me; I felt like, 'Why can’t a video game have that kind of tone?'" says narrative director Jeffrey Yohalem. "It got tipped in that direction by the fact that Greek mythology is actually full of comedy. Unlike our religion today, which is seen as a moral compass where everything is very serious and is how you should act if you were a perfect person or a perfect deity. For the Greeks, their mythology was like their soap opera or their reality television, where you’re seeing people who are just like us making mistakes and you’re learning from the things in the stories that result in tragedy."
Immortals Fenyx Rising attempts to balance awesome action, epic stakes, and well-timed humor
According to cinematic team lead Michelle Plourde, the team's desire to make a humorous game started during the development of Assassin's Creed Odyssey. "What we learned from Odyssey was that we really enjoyed making funny, lighthearted types of stories in games," she says. "We took what we learned from Odyssey and where that kind of shined through and we transferred that into Fenyx Rising, but instead of making that where you see instances of the story being funny at some points, we tried to make it so it’s a comedy instead of this type of serious game."
The entirety of Immortals Fenyx Rising is narrated by Zeus and Prometheus. To say these two have a complicated relationship would be an understatement: When the titans and gods clashed for the first time, Prometheus was one of the few titans who sided with the gods, so the two are basically old war buddies as well as cousins. However, the relationship soured when Prometheus fell in love with humanity and stole fire from Olympus to give to the humans. To punish Prometheus for this betrayal, Zeus chained him to the side of a mountain and has an eagle peck out his liver every day before it regenerates every night. However, the Typhon crisis made them realize they need each other, so Prometheus weaves a tale of Fenyx, a mortal who will save the gods from the doom they are facing.
While Prometheus is the driving force of the narrative, Zeus chimes in with jokes. However, he can also serve as an unreliable narrator, sometimes going as far as hijacking the story because he's bored by what Prometheus is saying. In one instance, when Fenyx dives into the first Vault of Tartaros, Zeus is certain it would be deadly for a mortal, so he cues a fake credits scroll where either he or Prometheus is listed in every role. A bit later, the first boss battle occurs because Zeus is bored and decides it's a good time for Fenyx to fight a Cyclops.
The unreliable narrator mechanic was a way to shake up the storytelling of Immortals Fenyx Rising while also adding some humor into the mix. "We thought it added flare!" says Plourde. "We have these feuding family members, so why not make use of them and have what they’re saying come to life on screen since they are telling a story? Why not make use of it as a kind of gameplay/narrative tool? It’s a tool to have them bicker and be different. Obviously, Zeus can take over control of the story because he’s present with Prometheus, so why not?"
The humor isn't limited to just Zeus and Prometheus. In fact, as you rescue the defeated gods and reunite them, the Hall of the Gods starts to come to life, and you should expect some lively conversations once the gods see their old peers. "The Hall of the Gods becomes kind of like a beach house in a reality show," game director Scott Phillips says. "As you free the gods, you’re adding voices to that cacophony and they’re all interacting with each other. They have this huge backstory and some of them love each other and some of them hate each other."
Over the early moments of the game, players can expect references to airplane turbulence and a joke about shoes when Fenyx encounters Nike, the goddess of victory. The game may take place in ancient Greece, but Ubisoft Quebec didn't shy away from some winks at the player in the 21st century. "The line was almost only drawn where a joke would age badly, as in people 30 years from now wouldn’t get the joke," Yohalem says. "The turbulence joke, anyone who knows what an airplane is would understand that joke. That was the line: to create timeless, modern humor."
Immortals Fenyx Rising launches on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, Stadia, and PC on December 3. Our coverage hub is nearly complete, so be sure to click the banner below to learn all about Immortals Fenyx Rising prior to its launch!
(Xbox Series X/S,
Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC
I’ve been playing a lot of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla over the past few weeks and have had a pretty good time tracking down targets, finding secrets in the vast open world, and calling over my friends to help me open chests of supplies because sometimes those lids are really heavy, okay!? In many ways, it’s like a greatest hits of the contemporary Assassin’s Creed games, pulling in elements that have worked in the past and scaling back on others. However, Ubisoft decided to surprise us by bringing back something terrible from past games. No, I don’t mean Layla – we knew she was returning. I’m talking about one of the worst objectives in all of gaming: chasing after something that’s trying to flee from you.
This has never been fun. It was bad when you were chasing pages of Poor Richard’s Almanac in Assassin’s Creed III, and when you were chasing lyrics to sea shanties in Assassin’s Creed Rogue. Heck, it was bad when you had to chase down runaway orbs in Crackdown 2 or the egg thieves in Spyro. It’s an annoying activity in the best of circumstances, capturing the same feeling as when your hat blows off on a windy day and you have to run after it and all the neighborhood kids laugh and when you finally get it back you put it on angrily which is admittedly very silly looking and the kids laugh even harder. You know, video game stuff.
Back to Valhalla: The problem is amplified by the fact that these pieces of paper are usually perched in treetops or up high. And if you’ve played the latest game – or really any Assassin’s Creed games in the past – you know that climbing trees is not exactly a major part of assassin training. Eivor does their best to fumble around the trees and leap from branch to branch, but it invariably devolves into inexplicably taking a nosedive out of nowhere or, just as frustrating, groping around the trunk and hugging it. Meanwhile, the paper continues to flit along, tantalizingly out of reach.
And when you finally do manage to grab the blasted scrap? What’s your big prize? A tattoo design. A dumb tattoo design. “Hey, I found this drawing on a piece of trash I found, please stab it into my face.” OK, more importantly, it removes the mystery icon from your map, which is important if you’re a big weirdo like me. But for that amount of effort you should get a coupon for a free sword or something. Or, better yet, maybe it could unveil part of the fogged-up skill tree.
On the bright side, as much as I absolutely hate these objectives, it could be worse: the paper could have a suspicion meter.
No, your bird can't get the paper for you. Don't be ridiculous.
My six-player Destiny 2 fireteam fired away as the Deep Stone Crypt raid boss, the toughest enemy of the Beyond Light expansion, teleported around the arena and roared with rage. We threw everything we had left at the flying monster in a desperate attempt to stave off defeat. Bullets and grenades filled the air as chunks of orbital debris slammed down onto the landscape, threatening to crush us as we scrambled for cover. It was now or never--if we didn't manage to kill this thing immediately, it would kill us, and we'd be back to the start of the lengthy fight. And we'd sunk more than 12 hours into the raid over the past two days already.
But then: an explosion. The boss twisted in pain and a cheer went up from our crew. Finally, we'd bested the greatest challenge of the new expansion, after hours of struggling to work out the mechanics and suffering death after death to its powerful enemies. It's moments like this one that keep me coming back to Destiny 2. There's nothing quite like powering through a Destiny raid, relying on teammates to handle complex roles and cooperate through some of the game's most creative designs.
Beyond Light provides more of what Destiny 2 is good at: satisfying first-person shooting, a great raid, fascinating places to explore, and a whole lot of punchy guns to try out. It also maintains some of the game's lingering problems though, like a reliance on repetitive content and time-sucking grinds to arbitrarily raise numbers. To put it simply, Beyond Light is largely more Destiny--if that's a thing you like, you'll enjoy it, and if it's a thing you complain about, you probably won't.
Editor's note: In November 2020, NetherRealm patched Mortal Kombat 11, adding next-gen optimized technical upgrades for the Xbox Series X, Series S, and PlayStation 5. Below are our impressions of how the game runs on Series X and PlayStation 5, written by Mike Epstein. Continue after the break for the original Mortal Kombat 11 review.
Mortal Kombat 11 is a snappier, sharper-looking game on next-gen consoles. On both Xbox Series X and PS5, the incredibly (and sometimes disturbingly) detailed fighter has received a minor technical facelift and one or two new features that will ultimately make the game better for everyone. Though NetherRealm released a new version of the game, Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate, to coincide with the next-gen launches, all MK11 players receive access to the next-gen versions of the game and their benefits. On Xbox Series X/S, you simply need to download the game. On PS5, you will need to download the separate PS5 version of MK11, which you can grab free of charge if you own the PS4 version. (This means that you need to have a PS5 with a disc drive to get the upgrade if you bought a physical copy on PS4.)
MK11 sees similar improvements on both platforms. The next-gen versions run at a "dynamic 4K resolution," which means it runs in 4K under ideal circumstances but will change resolutions on the fly to maintain smooth performance. According to , it's also received a general tune-up, visually. As with most last-gen games, the next-gen consoles cut down MK11's load times dramatically. The menus, which once took 5-10 seconds to load on Xbox One and PS4, load almost instantly on the Series X and PS5.
I've never really been a musician. When I was in middle school, I took the trumpet. In high school, I took guitar lessons. But I was never dedicated enough to the craft and I dropped both after a couple of years. Making music, even just for fun, was a prospect I left behind a long time ago. So I'm surprised by how inspired I was by Fuser, Harmonix' new musical mash-up making game. While it has a score-based story mode similar to the studio's past games, Fuser actually empowers you to be creative and make music from parts of songs you may already know. The core mechanic, switching tracks in and out to make music, is easy to use and wonderful to play with. The game Harmonix built on top of that core idea, however, doesn't always take advantage of it effectively. As a result, Fuser is better at spurring you to be creative than it is at challenging you. That may sound like a daunting, niche experience, but no game's made it easier to feel good about getting creative.
Fuser rides a vanishing line between music game and music-making toolkit. As a mash-up DJ, you create music by blending (or fusing) parts of songs together to make a new and often dancier version of your own. Each of the 80-plus songs in the base game's library, plus a growing supplemental library of DLC songs, is broken down into four color-coded instrumental tracks, which you can switch in and out on the fly, changing the song as you go. You can play the drums from "Killing in the Name" by Rage Against The Machine, the guitar from "Jolene" by Dolly Parton, the trumpets from "Bring ‘Em Out" by T.I., and the lyrics of Sean Paul's "Temperature," and they'll all cohere into one brand new sample. Your set is an evolving compilation of combinations.
The music you use spans decades and genres far beyond what you might expect from a game about DJing at a music festival. The tracklist spans pop, rock, country, dance, hip-hop, R&B, and Latin/Caribbe music from the 1960s through 2020. As with Rock Band, there's a nostalgia that draws you in, but you quickly cultivate a new and surprisingly deep relationship with specific tracks that you may not have had before. I found myself growing to enjoy songs I knew but didn't really love before, and staying away from some songs I like, but don't fit in with the songs I like using most. Everybody I know Guitar Hero or Rock Band has a song they know and like from playing those games. The same thing happens here.
Katamari Damacy Reroll is out today on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, giving those console owners a chance to play a remaster that came out on the Switch and PC a couple years ago. It gives the existing game a coat of HD polish, and, well, that’s about it. And because I’m a tremendous sucker for Katamari Damacy, I immediately downloaded it this morning. Yes, I am part of the problem.
I’ve played the first few levels on my PlayStation 5 via backward compatibility, and it’s exactly what I thought it was going to be: Katamari Damacy. The cutscenes are sharp-looking and it now fills a 16:9 screen, but other than that it’s the same game I fell in love with 16 years ago. Would it have killed Bandai Namco to do more than the absolute minimum effort here? Probably not. Do I wish this were part of a bigger collection of Katamari games? Absolutely! Ultimately, that disappointment melted away the moment I jumped into the first level and started rolling a bunch of stuff into a ball. Like I said, it’s Katamari Damacy.
The visuals maintain the original release’s blocky aesthetic, which remains a large part of its charm. The objects that you collect are often just abstractions of their real-world counterparts, particularly the animals and people who inhabit these debris-scattered landscapes. Animations, when they’re even present, are as simple as can be. That’s not the point, however. I remember the spectacle of seeing so many objects displayed on my screen, like someone dumped a tub of Lego pieces on my floor. Of course, instead of just blocks and wheels, the “pieces” in Katamari Damacy start out as small as thumbtacks and cherries to bowling pins, bikes, and eventually entire continents.
As the Prince rolls his ever-growing Katamari ball, the people begin screaming in terror as it approaches. Who can blame them? What started as a tiny collection of trash quickly scales to a very real threat. It still makes me laugh, but those moments are far from the most impactful moments on the audio front. Katamari Damacy’s soundtrack is the only game soundtrack I’ve actively sought out; I’ve listened to it countless times over the years, and it never fails to put a smile on my face. In my opinion, it’s about as close to perfection as it gets; even though I still have no idea of what any of the songs are about, they’re at times inspiring, sentimental, and silly. And, above all else, they’re undeniably catchy.
If you’ve never played the first game before, this is a great way to start. I’m not in love with the $30 price point, especially considering the lack of any new content, but it is what it is. More than anything, I’ve been consistently happy with how well it holds up. Nostalgia is a powerful force, but the joy that I’m getting from rolling around and picking stuff up isn’t reliant on the feelings of the past. It was a blast then, and it’s still a great deal of fun now. And now that you can easily download it on current consoles, you have no excuse if you missed the ball the first time around.
I recently started watching Cobra Kai on Netflix. When I say "watching," I mean "binging." It only took me a couple of days to get to through the first season (which is excellent), and I'll probably watch most of season two tonight. If you haven't watched it, or the Karate Kid films that are essential prequels, you're missing out on a fun, heartfelt drama that does a fantastic job of making you care about each character. It's also about karate and an old rivalry being reborn.
As you would expect, Cobra Kai's video game adaptation from developer Flux focuses mostly on the karate, but it's also surprisingly authentic, both in bringing in the actors from the show and nailing its humor. The big difference between the two is the tone. The game shuns realism to deliver fireball attacks, comical takedowns, and the belief that everyone in the world is born to solve their differences by punching each other in the face. The show does embrace that last point to a degree, but everyone fights everyone in the game.
Flux's gameplay inspiration harks back to the era of the Karate Kid films and is a sidescrolling brawler that you'd expect to pop a quarter into. It plays like Streets of Rage, Double Dragon, and Final Fight all rolled into one experience. The good news: It's colorful and has a surprising amount of depth in its skill tree and story, which gives you the choice to play the campaign as either Daniel LaRusso and his crew or Johnny Lawrence and Cobra Kai.
Now the bad news: It's clunky. The characters move with the mechanical precision of RoboCop. Thankfully, when you do eventually line up on the same plane as an enemy, combos take over and it's more about timing than anything. The jerky movements are a major setback that is a constant. That said, I still had fun playing the game.
Johnny's humor (which is basically a fundamental lack of tact) is fantastic, such as saying the best way to set a trap for him is with babes. I also adore the care that went into each of the takedowns. In the first level alone – which just happens to be an arcade – unique takedown animations are created for Skee-Ball machines, cars, basketball hoops, and even a giant stuffed octopus. Much like the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brawlers, you can also throw enemies toward the screen.
I'm still early into the game, but I'm having fun with it, despite the control setbacks. It drips with nostalgia and is a licensed game the like of which we rarely see any more. If you love the show, it's worth a look, especially if you can play it cooperatively with a friend. It's out now on Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.