In Play is a column taking a weekly sideways look at new game releases.
Bait your clicks, moi? Well, for one thing, it's my website and I'll troll if I want to. For another: I absolutely mean that headline. Of course, our official game of last year was Bloodborne, while you guys picked The Witcher 3: fine choices both. But in the internal polling there was another game that topped my list, and Chris Donlan's, and Chris Bratt's, and as any fool knows we are the real tastemakers around here. (Also: like I said, my website.)
That game is Klei Entertainment's stunningly good indie game of tactical espionage, Invisible, Inc., released on PS4 this week. Do not be fooled by its moderate price tag, its crisp 2D sprites or its functionally elegant presentation. This turn-based game of hacking and infiltration is the real deal. It's my personal favourite strategy game since the first Advance Wars. There's no question that it is automatically the best strategy game available on PS4, and will remain so until such time as Sony's console gets a version of XCOM 2. (In my view, it will remain so beyond that point as well, but I can only get away with that while Bratt's horsing around in France.) It is exquisitely balanced and its randomised layouts and well-judged difficulty levels make it thrillingly tense and unpredictable, as well as endlessly playable.
"It is an extraordinarily well designed game," I wrote when I paid tribute to the PC and Mac edition in our Games of 2015 series. "Its systems, instead of sprawling outward as in, say, Civilization, are bound together in a cat's cradle of interdependence that draws tighter the deeper you go into the game. And the balance is breathtaking. I don't want to call it 'perfect', because that would imply a game that exists in a state of harmony, rather than one that lives on a knife-edge. Invisible, Inc.'s keynote is tension, and everything is orchestrated to keep you close to the edge of disaster, taking just the right amount of risk... If you're looking for the purest achievement in the art of game design in 2015, look no further."
Word, I would now type if you were ever allowed to say that in response to yourself. The console edition of Invisible, Inc. comes with the excellent Contingency Plan expansion. If you have a PS4 and any interest in tactical gaming, buy it now. Hopefully we'll get an Xbox One version before too long.
Not that there's nothing newer to recommend this week, although even the newest games aren't really new. (This seems to be a common theme, doesn't it?) The Banner Saga 2 is not so much a sequel as a continuation of this gorgeous, sorrowful, rambling, role-playing yarn. It won't come as any surprise, or really any disappointment, to fans of the first episode that its charms lie in the way it picks up the threads of your story than any great improvement in the game's enjoyable but flawed battle system.
"It's a wonderful, wonderful game that draws you in with its brittle art style and its heroes and villains, only to ask of you the most impossible questions," wrote Chris B in his review. "Make your choices, face the consequences, survive the journey. This is a series that still, to this day, justifies the existence of Kickstarter. It's beautiful and it's sad, and despite its stilted approach to turn-based combat, is undeniably worth your time."
Also this week we have a couple of unashamed throwbacks, of quasi-remakes, of what I believe the press releases insist on calling "reimaginings". One is more inventive, the other is more successful. Nintendo and Platinum Games' Star Fox Zero has had a strange route to existence, via a sketchy E3 demo conjured by Shigeru Miyamoto in an attempt to persuade the world, or himself, that there was a point to the Wii U's GamePad. Its homage to Star Fox 64 gives it plenty of retro brio, but it's a stretch, and it shows in a game that doesn't quite reach the lofty standards of its twin developers. "Star Fox Zero isn't quite a remake, then, but it most definitely feels like a reunion, where heart-warming bursts of nostalgia and shared memories occasionally give way to bouts of awkward shuffling," wrote Martin in our reveiew. "It's enjoyable enough, and if you've any affection for Star Fox 64 it's worth showing up, but there'll definitely be moments when you wish you were elsewhere."
Still, it's nice to have a shiny new on-rails shooter for a change - and it's also refreshing to play a pretty mascot platformer with big-boy production values. Remember when those were a video gaming mainstay? Seems like a while ago, no? Insomniac takes us all the way back to 2002 with a new-old Ratchet & Clank, a game based on a movie based on the original game. That might be a merchandising solipsism, but Insomniac doesn't care, and despite it being their eleventh Ratchet game in 14 years, it's one of their most vivid and enjoyable. Instead of the usual paragraph, I will quote just a single screenshot caption from Bratt's review: "Doesn't this look really fun?!"
Now that I think about it, that's all three decades of video game journalism boiled down into just five words. No wonder we need those click-bait headlines.