Dragon Quest Builders 2 review: New kid on the block
PS4/Switch ★★★★ Age: 3+
Successful clones of Minecraft are few and far between. It's not that there are none, more that any contenders fail to do anything new or reach a critical mass of users.
The original DQB falls into both the latter groups but this second bite of the cherry could be the one to break the mould. Not that it might topple Minecraft from its pedestal but rather it could create its own audience of building fans. Crossing the familiar young hero tropes of Dragon Quest with the elaborate construction fantasies of Mojang's bricktastic blockbuster, DQB2 even take a few cues from Nintendo's peerless Breath of the Wild.
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The upshot is a smart, story-led open world to explore, transform and conquer. Unlike the free-form assembly of Minecraft, DQB2 usually asks you to fulfil the specific requests of other characters, be that a farm, a building or a just piece of furniture. Between crafting, resource-gathering and monster bashing, the tasks occasionally feel a bit rote but there's enough humour and leeway to keep things interesting.
Outside of the narrative, the hub island on which you first land allows sweeping scope for your own construction ingenuity, drawing on the lessons and resources gathered in the story.
Throw in cooperative multiplayer plus the puzzles inspired by Breath of the Wild, and this mash-up has the potential to build its own fanatical following.
Sea of Solitude
(XO/PS4/PC) ★★★★ Age: 12+
Some people consult a physician when dealing with depression. Cornelia Geppert wrote a game about it. The German designer uses Sea of Solitude as a kind of catharsis for her loneliness and mental health issues.
SoS (the abbreviated title can hardly be coincidental) frames issues such as bullying, marital break-up and melancholia with the lens of a light platformer in which a woman explores a flooded city (another allegory) via a boat.
The symbolism often has the subtlety of a sledgehammer (the woman is frequently threatened by dark monsters or shadowy figures). Yet aided by the beautifully rendered world, this is a thoughtful expedition through rarely charted waters with a message of redemption running through its sombre themes.