For fudging hell’s sake, 2023 just won’t let us get to grips with our backlog. We’ve only just emerged from Atomic Heart and Hogwarts Legacy, and there is Resident Evil 4 waiting next to our big black box. It’s a bad time to have no free time.
April’s Up Next has a huge fourteen Xbox games on it, which is an indication of whether it’s going to let up on quality games. In the article below, you’ll get wind of some of the finest games to release on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One through April 2023 – Dead Island 2, Minecraft Legends, Star Wars: Jedi Survivor and Ghostwire Tokyo, to name but a fraction.
It’s a good thing that we’re getting so many quality games, there’s no doubt about that. But can we hurry up with the universal four-day work week so that we can actually get to play them?
Road 96: Mile 0
Road 96 was a wee gem, a narrative adventure road movie that also, somehow, managed to be a roguelike. Developers Digixart clearly thought their game was a gem too, as they’ve turned on the flux capacitor, revved the engines, and gone back to the future, all the way to the month before the events of Road 96.
Road 96: Mile 0 is less about survival as you find your way across the border, and more about watching society collapse. You swap between two characters – Zoe from the original Road 96 game, and a young boy called Kaito – as you watch the sandstorm roll in. President Tyrak takes office, and democracy falls apart.
But what makes us rather excited for Road 96: Mile 0 is that it can all go a bit Hi-Fi Rush, as the dreams of these young rebels become a free-flowing rhythm action game.
EA Sports PGA Tour
EA Sports’ golf franchise gets a thorough rebranding this year, as it becomes EA Sports PGA Tour. Now you can experience thirty of golfing’s greatest courses in all of their Frostbite engine glory.
The headliner for EA Sports PGA Tour is ‘Pure Strike’, which EA are clearly rather pleased about, thus the capitalisation. Pure Strike breaks every golfing interaction into its three constituent parts: fluid swing mechanics, innovative Ball Behavior, and lifelike Course Dynamics (more capitals, clearly important). Then they get their caddy to give them all a polish. There’s twenty different shot types too, although we’re not sure if ‘cockily use the golf club as a snooker cue’ is one of them.
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened
We’ve been critical of a few recent remasters, for sprucing up games that are barely a few years old. Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened has the right idea, as it’s bringing a game from 2007, at a whole sixteen years of age, kicking and screaming into the modern era. It’s applying the wonderful graphics and engine from Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One to a game that debuted on PC-DVD ROM.
The game tells the story of how Dr Jones and Sherlock first became a sleuthing couple. It’s also a very un-Conan Doyle tale, as the two take on the Cthulhu mythos. It’s a game of rock-paper-scissors-tentacle, but we’re not convinced Holmes would be much of a match for Cthulhu. Let’s see how it works out.
Microsoft had an ignominious week, as it didn’t even manage to chart in Metacritic’s Best Publishers of the Year ranking for 2022. Only releasing four games in a calendar year will do that to you. But Minecraft Legends is here to flick the bird at that news, adding yet another exciting Microsoft exclusive to a packed 2023.
Minecraft Legends is an action-RPG that’s not too far removed from Minecraft Dungeons. But this time things are third-person with an over-the-shoulder camera, as you jump headlong into action and pyrotechnic block destruction. There’s a strategic edge to this take on the Minecraft universe, as you lead entire armies into battle against a new enemy – the Piglins.
The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story
From Digital Sun, makers of the unsung Moonlighter, comes a Riot Games collaboration: The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story. There’s certainly a fair amount of Moonlighter in the screenshots and trailers so far: this is an action-RPG where you play Sylas, a mage who wields the chains that kept him captive for many years.
The premise isn’t too far removed from Minecraft Legends, in an odd coincidence (although they look about as different from each other as any game can be). You are wandering into battle with recruits that you’ve gathered on your travels, looking to take down the Mageseekers who imprisoned you. It’s a tale of revenge, and a beautiful one at that.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly
In March 2022, the creator of the original Coffee Talk, Mohammad Fahmi, passed away. He was much-loved in the indie community, and the two projects he was working on – Afterlove EP and a second Coffee Talk episode – could never have been expected to launch. But, somehow, we’re sitting here writing about Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly. The final work of Mohammad Fahmi is making its way into the hands of Coffee Talk fans.
Much like the first game, this is a visual novel that has you holding heart-to-hearts as you pour coffees for fantastical clientele. This time round, you can decorate your lattes in any way that you can conceive, as well as fill them with a much greater range of ingredients. If you played the first game, you will already know whether you want to pull up a stool for this one.
Dead Island 2
There was a time when we thought Dead Island 2 would never come out. But it’s shambled out of the closet and we couldn’t be happier. The only question is whether we’ll have finished Resident Evil 4 in time to play it properly.
Dead Island 2 is taking the approach of if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it. It’s an array of ludicrous weapons, almost all of the melee variety, hordes of slavering undead, and a sun kissed backdrop for your decapitations. This time round, the action is in LA (or Hell-A, as it’s proud to announce), and the enemies have at least evolved. Now you have to face variants, as well as the infected, plus the mysterious ‘apex’. Survival is not guaranteed.
Not every combat game needs to have arcs of blood and killstreaks. Strayed Lights is something of a fighting game for pacifists, as you travel around an oneiric world in an attempt to cleanse some out-of-control spirits, rather than put them in the ground.
It’s a beautiful game that borrows the bioluminescence of an Ori game, and introduces a spot of Simon Says to its combat mechanics. You need to match the colours of the attacks that you’re facing, as you participate in a combat dance that has you parrying and dodging more than attacking. We had a chance to preview Strayed Lights, and we’re extremely excited about whether the full game can continue to wow us.
Bramble: The Mountain King
If you love Little Nightmares and Inside, we’d like to introduce you to Bramble: The Mountain King. Similar to those games, you control a lost child in a world that would happily chew you up. But instead of the darker palettes of those two games, we find ourselves in the forests and bracken of Nordic folk tales.
We’ve played a preview of Bramble: The Mountain King and it was love at first sight. The bright surroundings and cute gnomes skittering around our fight are all a ruse though: because Bramble the Mountain King has a tendency to interrupt the serenity with a terrifying beast like the Näcken. It’s all sunshines and rainbows until you find yourself in an ogre’s belly.
The Last Case of Benedict Fox
The Last Case of Benedict Fox has no rights to look as good as it does. Made by Plot Twist, who – up till this point – were probably best known for their Drift Zone racing series, it’s yet another Metroidvania on the Xbox. But watching the trailer quickly shows you that this isn’t just ‘yet another’ Metroidvania. It’s gorgeous and Lovecraftian: a Luigi’s Mansion exclusively for adults.
The Last Case of Benedict Fox is also the first case of Benedict Fox, as you explore a decrepit mansion with the rather natty ability to travel into the memories of the departed. Within those memories, you can piece together a case that involves mysterious cults, forbidden rituals and the odd demon.
Treachery in Beatdown City: Ultra Remix
We’ve had our eye on Treachery in Beatdown City: Ultra Remix for some time. That’s mostly down to the bizarre mash-up of beat’em up and tactical RPG. Take Double Dragon and force it into a Final Fantasy VI jelly mould and you’re pretty much there.
In Treachery in Beatdown City: Ultra Remix, you are approaching combat in what looks like a traditional belt-action manner, until the menus appear and then you are suddenly choosing whether to grapple, throw, punch or dodge from a list of potential actions. It feels utterly wrong, but from the demo and previews that we have seen, this has the potential to be very good indeed, not least because it decides to take current affairs in a headlock and address them directly.
Star Wars: Jedi Survivor
Everybody’s second favourite red-headed jedi (after Obi-wan, obvs) is Cal Kestis, and he’s back for another adventure in Star Wars: Jedi Survivor. We’re five years after the events of Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, as Cal finds himself increasingly pushed back to the Outer Rim by an Empire that’s got a taste for Jedi Knights.
Expect more of what made Star Wars: Jedi Survivor such an engrossing tale. That means a single-player focus, lightsaber battles with an increased number of moves, new Jedi skills and an entire galaxy to light-speed through. Even Cal’s new beard is gloriously rendered.
From Fable alumni comes Tin Hearts, a heart-warming puzzle-adventure set in the workshop of a Victorian inventor. Tin Hearts looks to make an alloy of narrative adventures and discrete puzzles, as you lead a platoon of tin toy soldiers to an exit. You’ll get them there with the use of cannons, balloons and springboards, in what looks to be a modern re-forging of Lemmings.
There are forty levels here, and we’re promised that each level is like a riddle to be solved. We hope that it can capture some of Fable’s humour and completely believable world on the way.
A year after it debuted on PlayStation, we’re finally getting to explore the streets of Ghostwire Tokyo. Not only that, but we get to do so for the price of a Game Pass subscription, as it arrives day-one on the service. Not bad at all.
The Tokyo of Ghostwire Tokyo is having a bad old time of it. Not only is it frozen in time, but all of its inhabitants have gone missing, and in their place is a horde of supernatural entities. That’s more than just a difficult Monday. You ally with a powerful spectral entity who wants revenge on the occultist who caused this mess, in a game that’s been garnering rather good reviews on the other side of the console wars.
Do you get the feeling that 2023 is going to be one of those years that people recall when they think of the best years in gaming? We can think of years that had better titles at this point in the year – 2022 and Elden Ring spring to mind – but we can’t recall a year that had so bleeding many high quality gaming experiences by April.
Does May continue the trend? You bet your calloused backside it does. Next month you can expect Redfall, Suicide Squad and LEGO 2K Drive, among others, dropping onto Xbox. We’ll see you then!