Xenoblade Chronicles 2 review: Sprawling, seductive ... and daft
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Switch) ★★★★ Age: 15+
You probably shouldn’t laugh but the inevitable reaction to some of the more pretentious dialogue in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a guffaw. Not because it’s inherently funny but because there’s something ludicrous about grandiose statements dripping from the mouths of anime characters in British regional accents.
If the faintly ludicrous localisation doesn’t do you in, the complexity of the battle systems just might. All of which would be a shame because XC2 offers such a rich world, heaving with sights to admire and monsters to conquer. This sequel to the Wii and Wii U adventures raises the ante in terms of its sprawling, seductive world and expansive storyline.
But it weighs everything down with an unnecessarily arcane combat set-up, which involves pairing up with an artificial lifeform to grant extra weapons and move sets. There’s so much to remember, even if it is doled out in dribs and drabs, that your battle screen is a mass of icons and pyrotechnics.
Nintendo has had a fantastic debut year with the Switch and XC2 rounds it off in some style. Yet you can’t help but feel a “director’s cut” that streamlined some of this game’s more ambitious notions would be a winner.
A Hat in Time
(XO/PS4/PC) ★★★★ Age: 7+
SHAME it shares a release window with the ultimate platformer Super Mario Odyssey but A Hat in Time shows it’s learned a trick or three from the maestros. Clearly, it wears its inspiration on its sleeve, this cartoonish world plucking from ideas frequently seen in classic 3D platformers.
But the loving care with which it has been put together shines through. And after a hesitant opening level that looks good but feels a little directionless, Hat in Time hits its stride. Coincidentally, the hats metaphor of Super Mario Odyssey is also present here, granting our hero Hat Kid magical powers based on which one she’s wearing. As the levels glide from light (a comedic movie set) to dark (going to work for a demon), AHIT demonstrates its grasp of Mario’s fundamentals with plenty of gags and buckets of charm.
It may not be the most original game of the year but it is one of the most fun.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2
(XO/PS4/PC/Switch) ★★★★ Age: 3+
THAT title may be a mouthful but it hints at the full-to-bursting nature of this latest iteration to issue from the Lego factory. This crossover franchise has always been generous with its content and LMSH2 features more than 150 heroes, albeit many you’ve never heard of from Marvel’s back pages.
It does focus loosely on the Guardians of the Galaxy, though, who engage in the usual Lego staples of exploration, brick-bashing and re-assembly. The characters each possess a special move and there’s a nice variety in the locations drawn from disparate corners of the Marvel universe. When you’re not laughing at some throwaway gag, you’re enjoying the slapstick combat, with a new emphasis on lengthy boss fights.
Even though the gameplay is over-familiar, the signposting a little obscure for younger players and the technical glitches a regularly unwelcome visitor, LMSH2 still manages to be uproariously entertaining.