Alien invasion turns up pressure
XCOM 2, (XO/PS4), 5 Stars, Age: 12+
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail, as Keano would say. Or in XCOM 2's case, prepare to fail, prepare to fail. Few games ruthlessly punish mistakes as much as this turn-based sci-fi strategy series but, rather masochistically, you'll keep coming back for more.
This console conversion of the PC hit suffers from regular technical glitches. But it's a measure of its persuasive set-up - a guerrilla war against the aliens who invaded earth in the original XCOM - that XCOM 2 always drags you back in.
This sequel puts most missions on the clock - eg, rescue the hostages within 10 turns - and introduces many random events. Preparation is imperative, whether that's researching new tech or scanning the battlefield to best position your squad's advance on the alien troops.
But improvisation is your best friend - for when it all goes pear-shaped. An unseen squad of enemies might land just behind you or your best soldier could become mind-controlled and turn on you. XCOM 2 never stops being a scrabble for survival, but the way it invites emotional involvement in your struggle makes it one of the most compelling titles of the year.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice
(Nintendo 3DS), 4 Stars, Age: 12+
More graphic novellas than games, the latest in the Phoenix Wright series transplants the highly strung lawyer to a new jurisdiction - one where séances of the crime scenes now play a part in the trial.
This novel twist aside, the familiar mix of humour and deduction forms the core of the courtroom dramas, as Phoenix and his pals attempt to solve five heinous cases of murder.
Logic sometimes takes a back seat but Phoenix provides plenty of entertainment for the keen mind.
The Tomorrow Children
(PS4), 2 Stars, Age: 12+
If Minecraft was remade by the post-perestroika Soviets, Tomorrow Children might be the result.
A peculiar blend of resource gathering and town building yoked to a satire of communism, TC lacks the wit and, most importantly, the fun to sustain the player through thankless collection tasks and incessant loops of crafting boredom.