Games: Different engine, same Gears
Gears of War 4 (XO/PC), 4 Stars, Age: 18+
A decade almost to the day has elapsed since the original Gears of War exploded like a grenade on Xbox 360. Three sequels later and it's as if the intervening 10 years almost never happened.
Gears of War 4 riffs on a well-honed formula - muscular sci-fi marines with preposterous guns dipping in and out of cover to defeat monstrous aliens. Such a popular franchise was never going to take reckless chances, so it plays to its core strengths of visually arresting locations, punchy multiplayer and grotesque enemies.
The story mode really requires co-op play for the action to come alive, not helped by the stodgy opening - a sludgy trudge through waves of dull robot fodder. But when the new alien race dubbed the Swarm crash the party, GoW4 hits its stride, juxtaposing fearsome firefights with a jauntier tone among your squad of renegade soldiers.
If single-player has been tweaked only slightly, then multiplayer benefits from a host of adjustments, not counting the pesky microtransactions. You'll certainly enjoy the reworked Horde mode (five-player survival against endless waves of enemies) but will fall in love with Dodgeball, which revives a team-mate with every kill of your own.
Paper Mario Colour Splash
(Wii U), 3 Stars, Age: 3+
Wahoo! If you've ever had a bad day at work or just feel a bit down, Mario and his chums are the perfect prescription. Even an average effort, such as Colour Splash, stocks more cheery medicine than most games.
PMCS features the familiar Paper Mario shtick of 2D characters in a 3D world. Naturally, it looks gorgeous in its Wii U-supplied day-glo colours, but the turn-based battles have become even more tedious than usual. Yet a script full of zingers and the irrepressible enthusiasm of Mario and co overrides many reservations.
(PS4/PC), 4 Stars, Age: 3+
This is maths heavily (and cleverly) disguised as entertainment. The series of platform puzzles appear initially straightforward but quickly delve into the realms of geometric brain-teasing.
Your character's movement directly affects the environment and solving that "equation" in each level provides the path to progress.