Androids dream of electric peace
Nier: Automata, (PS4/XO/PC), 5 Stars, Age: 18+
When the credits roll on Automata, you're witnessing merely the end of the beginning. For this sequel to 2010's enjoyably bonkers cult hit Nier has much more up its elegantly garbed sleeve than meets the eye.
Conceptually, mechanically and visually, it's assembled from a hotch-potch of ideas, a melting pot of post-apocalyptic sci-fi, retro homage and furious swordplay. Indeed, Automata shifts between these styles - and more - in a heartbeat as it unspools the labyrinthine, dream-like storyline of 2B and 9S, two androids fighting the rise of evil machines on a future Earth.
Developed by combat specialist Platinum Games (Bayonetta et al) to a recipe by Nier's unhinged auteur Taro Yoko, the screen flicks periodically between full 3D, top-down 2D and side-scrolling. Though initially confusing, it ranks as one of the lesser distractions in a world filled with spectacle, from giant bosses to sweeping vistas, to delightfully eccentric characters.
Underscored by an evocative soundtrack, Automata never ceases trying to surprise you. And if Platinum's famously flashy combat proves too challenging, an easy mode renders the hacking and slashing nigh-on automatic, leaving you free to appreciate Taro Yoko's universe. Just when you think it's all over, Automata switches gear to reveal a new version of the story - five versions, in fact - that riffs cleverly on what's gone before.
(XO/PS4/PC), 4 Stars, Age: 7+
Minecraft - it's Lego for the Xbox generation, isn't it? Which begs the question: why didn't Lego itself didn't invent the notion first? But almost a decade after Minecraft caught the world's attention, the brick king finally jumps on the construction sandbox bandwagon with Lego Worlds.
In concept, if not execution, Lego Worlds resembles its upstart. It hands you randomly generated worlds on which to impose your own imagination, enabling you to build almost anything using traditional Lego bricks.
First, though, you must plough through a heap of pre-rendered challenges before you get access to the full range of tools and options. Consider it a tutorial, albeit an over-extended one.
The clunky controls, particularly on consoles, make building more fiddly than necessary and the game feels unusually buggy.
But the sheer breadth of possibilities from the myriad types of bricks and shapes available will be intoxicating to young players. It's not a Minecraft killer by any means, yet Lego has laid the foundation for an interesting future.