Super Smash Bros Ultimate review: A love letter to the Nintendo roster
Super Smash Bros Ultimate (Switch) ★★★★★ Age: 7+
Generosity is the watchword for Ultimate, the acme of Nintendo's fighting series that has racked up almost two decades of madcap brawling. With 74 fighters, 750 tunes and more than 100 level designs, even the raw numbers fail to do SSBU justice.
But Ultimate has more up its sleeve than mere volume. It's a love letter to the entire Nintendo roster, a cross-pollination that celebrates gaming icons beyond the Ninty family and a restive, constantly inventive journey. For sure, it's still about two (or four or eight) players whacking seven shades out of each other on a 2D platform. But never mind the width, feel the quality.
To me, SSBU remains a little messy, too chaotic for its own good (especially with more than two players). It lends itself too readily to button mashing and, if playing on the couch together, there'll be many shouts of "WTF!" But that in itself can be attractive, a way to hook novices in before they learn the subtleties of every character's fighting style, with their specials, their recovery moves, or even just their flair standing out from the vast crowd.
The principle of abundance extends to the liberal helping of game modes and options, including a dead-cert new favourite called Spirits, which sends a single player on an epic RPG-style voyage.
The cloud in the silver lining is Nintendo's familiar Achilles - online multiplayer, a capricious service that can perform perfectly snappy for a while before descending into a treacly quagmire.
Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom
(XO/PS4/Switch) ★★★★★ Age: 7
Thanks to the vagaries of copyright licensing, this should really be the glorious return of platformer darling Wonder Boy. But forget the name change, Cursed Kingdom is a spiritual successor to the popular 80s/90s series that nails the original's vibe and its eye-watering difficulty.
Your shape-shifting character (a pig, a snake, a frog, a lion, etc) traverses a 2D platform world demanding coordination, meticulous timing and more than a few brain cells to tackle the head-scratching puzzles. Zapping between forms every few seconds is often mandatory.
It's gloriously done, constantly surprising and frequently very funny.