The last week has been one of spacefaring, planet hopping, and battling evil alien overlords. Four games, two indies and two major studio releases, qualified for Game Together coverage over the past week, but two of them take place in galaxies far, far away. If you like space games, you’ll want to read up on these — you may be surprised to find out how we got on with them. Onto the week together!
Starlink: Battle for Atlas
We’ll have more to say about Starlink tomorrow (if you know what we mean) but for now know this: Starlink launched in October 2018 as a toys-to-life game where the toys are optional. You can play it totally digitally if you prefer. We did, and we liked it better that way compared to how we got on with Disney Infinity and LEGO Dimensions. There was a lot less dust collecting. Plus, my son and I stayed up way too late playing this one on Saturday night.
Think of it as No Man’s Sky in the vein of a Ubisoft open world — lots of quest markers and stuff to do, but the several planets left for you to explore feel more engaging than many of the French publisher’s more popular games, which I personally found surprising. Also, it’s not as intimidating or daunting as NMS can be. It’s still hard for us to go back to that game after long periods away, but Starlink doesn’t have that problem. We had a blast playing this in co-op and even earned every achievement. Keep it here and we’ll have much more to say tomorrow.
To date, we’ve had three distinct options for our recommendations:Highly Recommended, Recommended, and Not Recommended. We are creating a new one in the spirit of nuance and accuracy this week to make room for Anthem. It gets our first ever Recommended But…
The reason for the caveat-laden header is twofold. For one, it’s certainly not a game particularly designed for families in the typical way you’d expect. It’s a big budget AAA loot shooter from the team behind Mass Effect, so it’s far from the genre counterpart above with its much kid-friendlier themes. It’s also a bit buggy in our experience, even months on from launch.
Having said that, we still recommend it for the right audience. Game Together isn’t meant to just be about games to play as a parent and small child pairing. It’s for all sorts of co-op combinations, two parents, two older kids, big sister and little brother — whatever combination works. As a co-op game, Anthem definitely has the mindless spectacle to allow for you and a partner or three to enjoy your time together fighting aliens, exploring gorgeous locales, and just chatting.
Hero Express is a game you likely haven’t heard of, but also the kind of game which you’ve almost certainly played. Similar to Hill Climb Racer, this 2D platform racer wouldn’t feel out of place on phones, but we’ve been playing on Xbox and enjoying it all the same. The bizarre and barely-there story conceit is so quickly glossed over, you’ll feel like you missed something, but within three minutes you’ll also come to understand it doesn’t matter.
The upgrade tree is addictive and smartly designed, pushing you to not just beat a level — which itself will take several retries — but stick around to really master each vehicle. The superhero-turned-delivery driver (we guess?) is a strange protagonist, as are his apparent archvillains who will prevail if we don’t… drive… well enough? It may sound like we are bashing the game, but really, it’s simple one-more-try fun and totally worth your time if you like having these sorts of games on an at-home screen.
Look, we don’t hate Ratalaika Games. In fact, we quite appreciate their weekly dose of easy achievements and trophies. They’re one of the few companies still releasing games to the Vita too. It’s just many of the games they publish are obviously lacking in glaring ways and make up for it by offering the easy metascore to unlock.
Bouncy Bullets nearly got our recommendation as a cutesy, nonviolent shooter which equates to a game of NERF, basically. But in the end, this game is a platformer first and foremost, and in that regard it’s a tough sell. Way too floaty with dimensions that feel unfair or inconsistent at times, it really struggles to merit its relatively low asking price. If you love easy gamerscore or a quick platinum, of course, none of this matters. But if you’re looking for a decent or better game to play with a loved one, anything else on this list would be better.