Games: All pace and grace but no plot space
Mirror's Edge: Catalyst (XOne/PS4/PC) 4 Stars Age: 16+
The original Mirror's Edge holds a special place in many people's hearts, at least of those who noticed it among the flood of games pushed out in the Christmas rush of 2008. Sadly overlooked despite a distinctive art style and a refreshing parkour-based storyline, ME finally gets a deserved sequel, though releasing it in the dog days of summer hardly ends up kind to the franchise either.
Strictly, Catalyst is a prequel but bears a strong similarity to its exciting (if flawed) inspiration. Fleet-footed courier Faith returns to an austere, dystopian city where running and jumping along the rooftops bypasses the Big Brother-ish security on the streets below.
The execution of Faith's first-person parkour feels exhilarating as she climbs, sprints, hurdles and slides across the concrete and steel skyline. But the thrills grind to a halt whenever Faith encounters the dopey corporate stooges guarding the city. Ungainly combat meets staggeringly stupid AI, with the only saving grace being your near-invulnerability as long as you keep moving.
Catalyst's hokey plotting and the contrivance of randomly placed quest-givers also undermine the fiction of an oppressed city.
When it works, ME works well. Catalyst's newly open world enables Faith to choose her own path and pace. Players can create timed running routes to challenge other gamers.
Yet too much still works against Faith for Catalyst to be truly considered a ground-breaking sequel.
Dead Island: Definitive Collection
(PS4/XOne/PC) 3 Stars Age: 18+
Though hardly crying out for a remaster, Dead Island's return shows the original to be a fun, if disposable, zombie-apocalypse adventure in a tropical resort. No amount of graphical upgrades can hide its mechanical failures but there's hours of entertainment in battering the undead with weapons while seeking an escape from paradise.
The follow-up, Riptide, adheres to the law of diminishing returns while the third game in this package, Retro Revenge, is a peculiar 2.5D side-scrolling rhythm actioner with little to recommend it.