This week, Prince of Persia, a DS revival and ghosts in your bathtub.
Welcome back to the Games Release Roundup for 2024! It might seem like a late start to the year and you may be wondering why the past two weeks haven’t had a roundup. Simple – there weren’t any games being released!
But there are now, and this week we get a small selection of new titles both big and small. And I’ve made more of an attempt to play something of each of these where possible than ever before. I’ve played at least a small section of all but two of this week’s releases, with demos making up most of it, although one is a re-release that I played on its original release (The Last of Us 2) and another I had a review code for elsewhere (Palworld). There have been some other changes in how I approach this every week, so hopefully we’ll see a better roundup for all of you!
So, highlights? Obviously, Game of the Week as always, but the new Prince of Persia and the Another Code remake are also worth your time from what I played. Palworld is also…curious. I’ll just put it that way.
In re-releases, The Last of Us 2 Remastered is out for PS5. This re-release of the controversial 2020 PS4 exclusive sees some minor visual upgrades, plus some new modes including a roguelike named No Return. Personally, I do not recommend The Last of Us 2 due to its confused messaging and tedious pacing, and what I’ve seen of the new additions seem to muddle the game’s message further. But your mileage may vary, so pick this up if you think you can put up with it more than I could.
In Early Access on Steam this week, New Cycle is a city builder in a post-apocalyptic world. A solar flare has knocked out all of Earth’s tech, leaving humanity to re-learn how to live off the land with simple means.
The big Early Access release of the week is Palworld, an open world survival game inspired by Pokémon. It’s a game all about managing your resources so you don’t starve out in the wilderness, but also you can capture little creatures known as Pals who can journey with you across the world. These Pals can also be set to work at your bases, where they can gather resources for you. Eventually, you can give your Pals guns. I will not elaborate. Mostly because I don’t understand.
The Night Is Grey (PC) is a point and click adventure set in a moody forest where the only human inhabitants appear to be a man named Graham and a little girl named Hannah. Together, they must avoid being eaten by wolves that may not really be wolves. A fairly straightforward point and click, and one that may be a little too obtuse at times based on its demo, but intriguing all the same.
The Cub (PC, PlayStation, Switch) is a 2D platformer that evokes the likes of Another World and Oddworld. You play as an orphan living on a ravaged Earth as humanity begins to return from their exodus on Mars, attempting to survive in the harsh conditions they’ve been left in. Meanwhile, the game’s soundtrack heavily draws from an abandoned helmet broadcasting radio shows from the Mars outpost. It’s an interesting concept but from what I played, especially with the radio broadcasts providing a unique method of worldbuilding. However, the gameplay may be a little too sluggish to maintain interest from a wider audience.
Turnip Boy Robs a Bank (PC, Switch, Xbox) is the sequel to Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion, a top-down action-adventure. Much like the first game, you play as Turnip Boy, who has to commit crimes to evade the clutches of a corrupt government official. It’s all very silly.
Another Code: Recollection (Switch) is a remake of Another Code: Two Memories (aka Trace Memory in North America), a DS game about a teenage girl looking for her father on a spooky island of mystery, assisted by the ghost of a young boy who can’t remember his identity. This point and click adventure was originally built to take advantage of the features of the DS and its development led to the detective classic Hotel Dusk.
This remake completely overhauls the visuals, shifts the perspective from top-down to over-the-shoulder and provides a new set of puzzles to solve built around the Switch. It also contains a remake of Another Code R, the Wii sequel, which unlocks when you finish the first game. I remember the original being a decent point-and-click for the DS, and the demo for the remake indicates a more fleshed out experience that’s likely to expand its interesting concept. It’s also just great to see Nintendo reviving some lesser known properties from their back catalogue.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown (PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox) sees not only a return for the Prince of Persia franchise, but also a return to its 2D roots. Moving the franchise to a Metroidvania format, The Lost Crown sees you playing as Sargon, a warrior who is seeking to rescue the prince from a cursed city. It’s awesome to see Ubisoft finally bring the series back, and also make a game that isn’t built on the tired Ubisoft formula. The strong emphasis on Persian mythology (plus an Iranian composer) to add authenticity and some cool innovations to the genre look like they’re making this a welcome return to a beloved franchise.
Game of the Week
Sure, we’ve got a new Prince of Persia game being showered with praise, but the game that’s caused my attention the most this week is Home Safety Hotline (PC), and so it’s Game of the Week.
Home Safety Hotline puts you in the shoes as a new phone operator for, well, a home safety hotline. You are who people call when they need pest control or a cleaning service to remove mould from their homes. But there’s also a sinister side to your job, as there are some less documented threats that you may be called on to deal with. Possibly even the supernatural.
Picking Game of the Week this week was difficult. But I can’t deny that my time with the Home Safety Hotline demo has left me thinking about incessantly ever since. It was a short experience that barely got into the meat of things, but it hinted enough at its vibe to sell me on the whole concept.
The entire game is presented as if it’s an aging Windows 95 machine, and the calls are full voice acting with crackly phone audio, giving the whole game an analog horror feeling. It’s a simple point and click concept, but there’s a persistent sense of dread, along with a touch of SCP Foundation influence that makes this a mystery worth investigating.