Not for the first time in recent months, Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass has been bountiful with its, er, digital fruit of late, so I thought I’d share some thoughts and more on some of the new and sometimes “retro-nouveau” releases that I’ve been spending my time on. In particular, and in the order I played them, we are going to look at:

  • Art of Rally
  • Quake
  • Psychonauts 2
  • The Artful Escape
  • Myst
  • Sable

Art of Rally. From the second I laid eyes on the first screenshots of this, I knew it was absolutely for me! What I didn’t quite appreciate though, was that behind the heavily stylised low-poly visuals there was a proper rally game waiting to get its hooks right into me through a 20+ hour career mode! It might look like an old top-down arcade racer reimagined, but there’s a serious – if stripped down – and authentic, twitchy, skilful rally driving experience here. And I do like one of those!

As an aside, while I was enjoying Art of Rally, and even trying its photo mode (as you can see), I had a brief and crazy urge to do a video review. Now, I’ve barely even recorded a video with my phone, let alone create something properly and then edit and upload it somewhere… I know nothing about video! I’ve got a few ideas and wouldn’t mind having a go at learning with this though, so watch this space!

Quake. On one hand, this remaster of an all-time classic is still loads of fun, crazy challenging and sometimes utterly infuriating in its retro design, but much like the recent Dooms, what I reckon is the colour palettes at odds with my own colourblindness, combined with speedy frame rates, causes motion sickness that means I can only play it in short bursts. This means I’ll probably never be motivated to finish it, but I’m glad it’s in my library all the same, and is definitely worth this short mention just in case you’d missed it. For my part, I’m having a wonderful time with TimeSplitters: Future Perfect on PlayStation 2 at the moment, and I’ll probably be hanging out there for my shooter needs for a while yet!

Psychonauts 2. As I write this, a good couple of weeks after the credits rolled, I still don’t know how I feel about this triple-A 3D plattformer! Unlike its predecessor, movement felt good in the main, but there were times where the camera went a bit old-school (think Mario Sunshine) and dampened my enthusiasm for the more complex platform areas. Apart from boss fights, combat was unnecessary filler. Cut-scenes were often over-long and over-dramatic. But for all of this, the promise of the next bewilderingly ingenious, utterly spectacular set piece kept me going! The psychedelic Sixties level in particular was just jaw-dropping, and that alone is pushing me towards the conclusion that I probably enjoyed it after all!

The Artful Escape. This game is absolutely stunning! It’s a brilliantly imaginative narrative musical journey, and when it appeared on Game Pass I really wasn’t ready for quite how blown away I’d be! The soaring, saturated rock guitar soundtrack that cleverly harmonises your controller inputs, combined with ridiculous levels of visual creativity and no-stress cinematic platforming results in about four hours of pure exhilaration, thrills and psychedelic wonder. If you’re into music, just play this!

Myst. I’m not big into puzzle games, but I don’t mind them if it’s all logic and I’m in the mood, and I think the new remastered version of this must have caught me just right! I initially only fired it up because I was fed up of seeing the icon (because I can’t resist downloading most things when they appear on Game Pass), but it’s not bewildering for very long if you’re paying attention, then suddenly I couldn’t leave it alone! Three late nights later and I’d finished it, and I’m still tempted at another quick run right now, knowing what I’m doing from the off. If you never played the original PC classic, then there’s no better time.

Sable. I played almost three hours of this striking open-world platformer before the bugs, the screen tearing, the jerkiness and, above all else (literally), the frustrating climbing became too much. In the year of 2021 I’m not puzzling my way up a series of giant dinosaur bones and arid mesas for ten minutes to be dropped back to the ground again with no hint of where I was supposed to have gone next! Very stylish, mind, but ultimately a waste of my time and one that I won’t waste any mor…

Okay, I know you’re not supposed to finish your word sandwiches on a downer, but despite that I still could not be happier with my decision to jump to Xbox Series X instead of PlayStation 5 for the first time in both of those console’s histories. Actually, we could go out on a real downer over there, as I’ve also been checking out the last of my PS+ library before it expires… No interest in September’s Hitman and Predator offerings, which honestly was a time-related relief, but I did stick it out with last month’s WWE 2K Battlegrounds for a couple of hours… I love my wrestling, and I love my wrestling games, but what a mess that truly is! And over on Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, that pesky motion sickness got the better of me again within minutes! But again, that was a bit of a relief because I’ve got my Game Pass to keep me busy now, so one more run through of Journey then let’s see what October brings on PS+ before we say our last fond goodbyes!