It’s only been half a year yet the gaming industry has seen a plethora of new and exciting titles being released into this ever changing world, from true next generation games on the PS5 and Xbox Series X to fantastic little indie titles that will blow you away with innovation, nostalgia and pure unadulterated fun. In this list we refine down the many releases that have come so far this year, highlighting the very best 2021 has offered so far in release order.

The Medium

The Medium was a hotly anticipated Xbox exclusive that released early in 2021 promising a true horror experience combined with next generation gameplay mechanics, and boy did it deliver. The ability to switch between two separate worlds that occupy the same space is not only a massive gameplay challenge but also a huge technical challenge that truly utilises the Xbox Series S/X next generation capabilities.

Boasting a chilling narrative combined with an equally eerie yet entirely awe-inspiring atmosphere, The Medium manages to keep you on the edge of your seat whilst also making you marvel at the truly stunning level design. With a very old school system of fixed camera angles, this risky choice actually enhances the gameplay rather than detracting from it, allowing you to truly take in the breath-taking environments from the best possible vantage points.

Read my full review of The Medium here.

Maquette

Maquette is an indie level puzzle game from Annapurna Interactive that plays with scale whilst telling a modern-day love story. It’s unique approach to the puzzle genre stands out, playing with size where small actions can have unfathomably large consequences. Playing with the world within a world mechanic, Maquette takes seemingly mundane objects and turns them into the necessary tools and solutions in order to progress with the narrative.

The modern-day love story is one which doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and allows for a perfectly balanced accompaniment for the challenges the game throws at you. Maquette is a short game and lacking much replayability, however Maquette is definitely a unique experience that puzzle game lovers will relish in.

It Takes Two

It Takes Two is the latest game from Hazelight Studios and revolutionary game director Josef Fares. With his breakout hit Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons which focused on controlling two characters in order to solve puzzles and progress, Josef then moved onto A Way Out, a uniquely cooperative two player game. Since then, he has returned with the phenomenally ambitious It Takes Two, another solely two-player focused game that follows two parents, Cody and May, who are turned into dolls and coaxed along by an overly entertaining and equally obnoxious anthropomorphised relationship therapy book, Dr. Hakim.

This game takes you on a small-scale journey in a hugely ambitious world, taking the simplest of environments and reimaging the small on a huge, unwieldy scale that promises for endless fun and surprises. This is a truly genre bending game, taking on all kinds of puzzle solving. Each level is a completely new experience, combining different genres and gameplay mechanics whilst keeping true to the core of the games narrative and meaning.

Read my full review of It Takes Two here.

Returnal

Returnal is a next generation, PS5 exclusive roguelike that truly challenges players in a series of harsh yet beautiful environments throwing waves of increasingly challenging and complex enemies at you. This game has a clever take on the roguelike genre intertwining it with a deep and twisting narrative, where you learn more and more about the protagonist Selene as you progress through the game. Every time you die you relive the crash landing on the planet, starting the death repetition loop again but with more knowledge and some permanent upgrades.

Whilst this game is extremely fun once you get used to its roguelike style, it is far from an easy game and will truly challenge you. The one downside to this game is the fact there is no mid-run save option. Whilst it is a mechanic of the roguelike, it forces the player to either sleep their PS5 and risk and auto-update deleting that run, or play through right until the end of that run, which can take a very long time with each biome. Another issue is if you wanted to play something else in-between, closing down the game will also delete the current run.

Resident Evil Village

Resident Evil Village is the newest mainline instalment of the highly acclaimed Resident Evil franchise, and boy does it pack a punch when it comes to survival horror. Following on from Resident Evil 7, you play as Ethan, continuing his story as he tries to escape the horrific experiences of the Baker household by living a somewhat normal life. Alas, he is quickly thrown into a cacophony of horror chaos where he must do all he can to survive.

This game keeps the eerie first person perspective of 7 whilst incorporating the heavy duty action sequences that 4, 5 and 6 had to offer. With this and the exploration of several genres of horror, Resident Evil Village provides a ridiculously fun and varied experience whilst keeping true to the complex and disturbing lore of the franchise.

Death’s Door

Death’s Door is an unexpected hit from developers Acid Nerve, published by Devolver Digital. Put simply, in this top-down hack-and-slash puzzle game that harkens back to dungeon-esque Zelda titles and even souls-like action. I could compare this game to many others, including Hades, in order to understand it, however this is a game best experienced rather than described. The art style is beautiful, the gameplay is simple yet just complex enough to having you coming back for more, and the tongue in cheek characters add a level of soul to the game I did not expect.

In Death’s Door you play as the honest and hardworking crow in the business of reaping souls, however your life gets all that much more difficult when a reaped soul is stolen from you, taking you on a journey to get past death’s door.

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