Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Review Round-Up - October / November 2021

A duo of sensational first-party games, one from Nintendo and one from Microsoft,
Metroid Dread and Forza Horizon 5 definitely delivered excellent experiences all-around.

We don't usually combine two months of reviews together on SuperPhillip Central, but that's exactly what we're doing here with October and November for this special Review Round-Up!

Way back in October (though to be honest it doesn't feel all that long ago), we took to the court--the dodgeball court, that is--and enrolled in Dodgeball Academia. The game delivered copious amounts of charm and earned a B for its satisfying if not occasionally repetitive gameplay. From dodgeball, we moved on to a different kind of ball, a Super Monkey Ball with Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania, a remake of SMB 1, 2 and DX! It scored a great B+.

After rolling around in some hazard-filled stages in Banana Mania, we took to the miniature toy tracks of Hot Wheels Unleashed, which was a game that still has some assembly required to be a truly great game. As it is, it scored a satisfying B- grade. 

A duo of indie games soon followed starting the month of November in top form with the excellence of Flynn: Son of Crimson, hacking and slashing its way to a fantastic A- grade. Then, we needed to unpack from all that action--literally--with Unpacking. This totally Zen experience satisfied, so the game got a well deserved B grade.

Last but certainly not least were two games that stand as some of the best released this year. What a way to cap off the month with both Metroid Dread and Forza Horizon 5. Both excellent exclusives for their respective publishers and console manufacturers, and both earning a superb A grade apiece. 

To round out this Review Round-Up, take a look at an excerpt from and link to each review, as well as a reminder to gaze at the SPC Review Archive where all 1,021 reviews currently published and available on SuperPhillip Central are ready for you to peruse!

Dodgeball Academia is a colorful, crisp-looking game, exuding immense Saturday morning cartoon vibes through its super-fun story and eclectic cast of characters. The immense amount of dodgeball battles (how ever enjoyable at first) and backtracking may grow tedious and repetitive at times, but the game introduces enough variety to keep things from getting too stale. All in all, you'll want to enroll at Dodgeball Academia if you haven't already. You'll have a ball.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania offers a complete Monkey Ball series package that is well deserving of the series' 20th anniversary. There is both quantity and quality oozing out of the game like a fiercely squeezed banana still wrapped up in its peel. The amount of stages is staggering, and each mode offers a unique series of them to enjoy. The Party Games, too, are mostly enjoyable at the end of the day with a few stinkers here and there. Finally, the sheer number of missions to complete and things to unlock, whether they be modes, costumes, cosmetics, characters, camera aesthetics, or what have you will enjoying some Banana Mania for months, if not years, to come. 
With more updates to the track editor, more single player content, better coin and Blind Box economy, more vehicles and track environments included, and improvements to the online racing experience, I can imagine a much better game. As of now, Hot Wheels Unleashed features enough quality under the hood to make for an entertaining racer, but not enough to make it a "must buy" at this point in time. Don't misunderstand--this is still one of the better, if not THE best Hot Wheels game available to date. It's simply spinning its wheels a little too much for this particular gamer.
For a first effort from Studio Thunderhorse, the team has managed to craft one of the better indie titles of the year. And perhaps that's a bit too limiting as a description. Nay, Flynn: Son of Crimson stands as one of the better titles of the year, indie or not. What it lacks in length, it more than makes up for in brilliant design--whether within its levels or its gameplay, its immaculate pixel art style, and terrific pacing. No matter if you pick it up off Game Pass on Xbox or PC or purchase the game, you're in for a real winner with Flynn: Son of Crimson.
Unpacking succeeds at what it sets out to do: create a calming and zen-like gaming experience for players. Whether you opt to adhere to the game's rules of positioning items or not (which can be turned on or off at any time), you can create and enjoy the game the way you want. As someone who has an admittedly short attention span, I didn't think I would take kindly to the ordinarily painstaking and tedious task of opening up boxes, removing their contents, and placing everything where I deemed they belonged. However, despite there being the periodical bouts of repetition in the overall design, I ended up enjoying my time with Unpacking.
Mario Party Superstars delivers a supersized party package that really feels like a proper successor to the Mario Party crown after all of this time. While for me, annual releases of the series did make for a dull series, requiring a change to the formula at the time, I'm very glad that ND Cube has returned the Mario Party series to its roots in utterly fantastic fashion. The number of boards is disappointing, and some mini-games chosen are a bit boring and worthy of a head scratch, but all in all, Mario Party Superstars is a bonafide bountiful bash worth celebrating with a few friends, family members, or thanks to online play, complete strangers as well.
At the end of the day and at the end of this particular chapter of the Metroid saga, Metroid Dread was a title well worth waiting for. It offers an ingeniously designed and organized world that is an utter delight to explore, it delivers Samus at her most mobile and fun to control, and it brings with it a stellar amount of awesome action. While the challenge and EMMI sections featured in the game might put off some players, for me, Metroid Dread offered just the right amount of difficulty to make for one memorable, masterful, and magnificent Metroid title--one that I can't wait to play through over and over again.
Forza Horizon 5 is a magnificently crafted open world racer with a world in Mexico that is varied in amazing geography that is just a blast to explore and drive about mindlessly in. Racing and driving feel tremendous and realistic in all the best ways (and some of the worst if you're not into realism and want a much more "arcade" feel than what's presented here). The absolutely massive amount of content currently in the game and constantly coming with seasons means you'll have plenty of reasons to keep returning to Mexico and enjoying the ride. I sure know I have so far, and I also sure know that I will continue to do so. 

Meanwhile, if you felt like a party (or two), the Mushroom Kingdom crew AND the Monkey Ball
 cast were more than ready to do so in their respective games!

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