Welcome to a new monthly feature being trialed here at SG, Game Pass In-Review! While Gamepass does provide a very low financial barrier to entry when it comes to checking out what’s on offer, there is still the barrier of free time. As many of us here at SG are… Seasoned, free time is a barrier we know all too well. To help with this first world problem, we at SG will give you our quick impressions on some of the major game pass releases each month!
Some quick disclaimers to get out of the way:
- These are more or less impressions of the games below with what we hope will be enough information for you to determine if it might be worth your time and bandwidth. These are not intended to replace reviews and therefore will not be scored.
- Although we will do our best to play and provide impressions and information on all games, sometimes there are just so many games added that some fall through the cracks. (Apologies!)
- We will be focusing mostly on games that launch on the console service, with some PC as well. Games that previously launched on console and are now making their way to PC (or vice/versa) will likely not make the list.
- We also will not be covering games that are revealed to be making their Cloud Debut on the service.
For the first month of Game Pass In-Review, April was no slouch. Xbox has shown an affinity for casting a wide net in terms of the types of game they offer their customers and to that end they quite literally hit a home run here. We have Sports games, Action games, Mysteries, Deck Builders, Strategy games, Adventure games and even sentient snack hunting games!
MLB The Show 22 – Sony San Diego Studio | Sony Studios
I don’t think I will ever get used to seeing that Sony Studios logo animation on my Xbox, but here we are with MLB the Show Launching on GamePass for the second consecutive year. There has been somewhat of an uprising building up over the last few years, with sports fans getting tired of the perceived level of effort going into each annualized release of their favorite sports games. Although MLB The Show 2021 was no where near the worst offender, they were also not immune to this criticism.
With The Show 2022 they are aiming to distance themselves from that stigma and are including some pretty cool updates here. There are some market improvements to the iconic Road to The Show mode with an, in universe Podcast tying the events of the game together. Complete with fill on FMV and celebrity guest stars, which really added to the immersion. I truly looked forward to these, as this level of production is somewhat unrivaled amongst contemporary sports titles. The stadium builder has seen some pretty decent improvements over last year as well. Perhaps most notably though is the addition of online co-op play. This is a feature that had been long requested and pairs really nicely with the full cross play support that also finally makes its way to The Show
MLB The Show continues to be the best modern baseball game you can play these days. If you are a fan of Americas past-time, then you will definitely want to check this out.
Chinatown Detective Agency – General Interactive Co | Humble Games
General Interactive Co is a small 3 person team founded in Singapore but based all over the world and Chinatown Detective Agency is their sophomore outing. CDA, as the title hints at, is a detective game. Heavily inspired by the Carmen Sandiego games of the 80s and 80s, where your wit and critical thinking far outweigh your thumb speed and hand eye coordination. Just like in Carmen Sandiego you will need to conduct real-world research and investigations to solve some of the games puzzles and mysteries. This means actively leaving the game to conduct research on your own online or perhaps if you want to play on hard-mode busting out the old library card. A very interesting concept that had been somewhat lost to time until now.
Unlike Carmen Sandiego though, this game takes place in a near future cyberpunk setting, having more in common with Blade Runner or Black Mirror than the children’s cartoon of the 80s and 90s. In the game you play as Amira Darma, a former cop turned private investigator. As an up and coming private eye and are open to taking on any and all clients, even the shady ones, as you try and establish yourself. The game features some nice ambience and pixel art with a near fully voiced cast, which is a nice surprise coming from such a small team. The puzzles here are very complex, and will likely test some players patience. However, for those who have an inquisitive mind and an appetite for a challenge there are not a lot of games out there as intellectually rewarding as this one.
Life Is Strange: True Colors – Deck Nine | Square Enix
True Colors is the third mainline game in the Life is Strange series but the first time Deck Nine has been given the keys to a full release, having previously created the fantastic Before the Storm prequel spin off game. Hailing from Boulder Colorado, Deck Nine is actually one of the oldest studios in our industry. Originally going by, Idol Minds, the studio, ironically was founded by two ex Sony San Diego employees Scott Atkins and Mark Lyons in 1998. They had some early hits with the Coolboarders snowboarding series but after entering the mobile market, and a failed Kickstarter, they re-branded themselves as Deck Nine. The re-brand came along with developing a brand new tool set that was built specifically for making narrative driven adventure games. This proved to be a fruitful endeavor as before the storm was a great adventure and True Colors is the best entry in the series so far.
A common critique of the Life is Strange series was that while they had great storytelling, it seemed to be somewhat trapped behind dated visuals. True Colors feels like production values have finally caught up with the story telling, which sucked me into the story more then ever before. You play as Alex Chen, a girl with supernatural empathetic powers. She can sense and feel other peoples emotions, a power that ties in very nicely to the games storytelling mechanics. After a rough childhood jumping from foster family to foster family, Alex travels to Haven Springs, a small mountain town in Colorado. Haven Springs is beautifully realized and is home to an interesting cast of characters. As is common with the rest of the series, the soundtrack is phenomenal. In fact Haven Springs has a record store I would often go to just to listen to some of the games music. Overall this is one of the finest narrative adventures available today, and is a must play for fans of the genre.
Lost In Random – Zoink | EA Originals
Zoink is a studio out of Gothenburg Sweden, who are no strangers to the EA Originals program, having released the 3D plat-former ‘Fe’ under the banner just a few years ago. Lost in Random is by far their most ambitious title to date though with some pretty unique aspects on offer. For starters the game looks like it has been ripped straight out of the mind of Tim Burton. What it lacks in its color palate it makes up for drastically with its creative locations, which aesthetically fits in perfectly with the likes of Holloween-Town in ‘The Night Before Christmas’. The games world and its characters are very memorable and I genuinely looked forward to meeting the next NPC or seeing the next location.
In Lost in Random you play as ‘Even’, one of the two twin sisters of ‘Even’ and ‘Odd’, who are forced to roll a dice to determine where their futures will lie in the world of Random. After your sister has an unfavorable roll, Even sets out on a quest to save her from this fate. Leading us into the gameplay, which is just as unique as the setting. Tying together the expected exploration and story is a combat system that is very reminiscent of one of my all time favorite hidden gems, Phantom Dust. The game combines real time third person combat with deck building and is a very clever system. Your combat prowess with you trusty slingshot allows you to draw cards from your pre-constructed deck which further enhance your ability to dispatch your foes. All and all I cant wait to explore more of this game as its creativity leaps off of the screen. Discovering games like this is one of the best parts about services like Game Pass.
Bugsnax – Young Horses | Fangamer
Young Horses is a small 8-person indie outfit from Chicago, Illinois. They specialize in creating quirky, innovative and charming experiences. The founding members burst onto the scene in 2010, after meeting up at Chicago’s Depaul University, with freeware release of Octodad. The game was well received in the indie scene and after which they decided to go on and form Young Horses, releasing a sequel as well in Octodad: Deadliest Catch. Bugsnax is by far their most ambitious release and carries with it a lot of the same quirky charm the studio is known for.
Releasing originally as a PlayStation exclusive, the game has finally made its way to Xbox and is launching on Game Pass. In the game you play as “The Journalist”, and are tasked to travel to Snaktooth Island after getting a summons from famed explorer, Lizbert Megafig. Upon arriving at Snaktooth you quickly realize that the Island is overrun but creatures that are each a unique combination of animal and snack. For example there is the Fryder, half French fry half spider. As well as the WeenieWorm, half worm half… hot-dog. What’s worse is that the group that travelled to Snaktooth with Lizbert are addicted to eating these Bugsnax, which in turn mutates parts of their bodies to mimic whichever snack they ingested. A process called, Snakification. You Also will quickly learn that Lizbert has gone missing and the town of Snaksburg is in turmoil.
Throughout the game you will meet and get to know the residents of Snaxburg, interviewing them in an attempt to find out what happened to Lizbert, while also helping them solve some of their personal issues. Of course you will also catch a bunch of Bugsnax using the various traps you will unlock as you progress. The game is very well written, having gotten a chuckle out of me numerous times, but also tackling some pretty serious and relevant social themes. Catching each Bugsnax is a puzzle within itself and was an enjoyable experience the whole way through. This was one of my favorite releases of 2020 and I’m so happy it has finally landed on Xbox. As a bonus the game is also launching with its brand new Isle of Bugsnax DLC which adds new quests, Bugsnax and a new biome to explore.
Weird West – WolfEye Studios | Devolver Digital
This is the first game from the newly formed WolfEye Studio. Founded by Raphael Colantonio and Julien Roby, both of whom were Arkane Studio veterans. With a passion for immersive sims this small team is completely remote, with members spanning 4 different continents. We actually had the pleasure of reviewing Weird West at SG when it released.
From our Review: “Weird West had me hooked from the moment I sat down with it. It’s a well-designed, interesting game that offers something a little more intriguing than a lot of games. The moment to moment exploration and combat is delightful, and I loved experimenting with different ways to complete my objectives. The sandbox design is Weird West’s ace in the hole, and if you can overlook some of the blandness of other aspects, you’ll have a really good time.
It’s a fantastic first title from WolfEye Studios and you can be sure I’ll be following them closely in the future to see what they do next. For now, I’m heading back into the lab to see what else I can make happen.”
Check out our full Review of Weird West from Ainsley Bowden
Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion – Snoozy Kazoo | Graffiti Games
Snoozy Kazoo is a 7 Person team out of West Springfield, Massachusetts who makes “really, really dumb video games.” (according to themselves). Focusing on making silly light hearted experiences is refreshing in an industry that can sometimes take itself to seriously and Turnip Boy absolutely fits the bill. This was one of the first games I jumped into after dumping 100 hours into Elden Ring and It quite honestly made me appreciate the game more.
The game has you play as the titular Turnip Boy, who until now has been an upstanding citizen of Veggieville. At the beginning of the game it is revealed that the nefarious Mayor Onion has accused you of Tax Evasion and is going to repo your house if you don’t do his bidding. If you have not figured it out yet the game takes place in a world ruled by anthropomorphic fruits and vegetables. The game features some nice pixel art and a surprisingly great soundtrack, while closely mirroring the game-play you would expect from a 2D Zelda game. The Most memorable aspect for me though is the hilarious writing. There were many times that I was laughing out loud as a lot of the jokes and social commentary landed well for me.
I will note however for Xbox gamers that the console port has had some bugs being reported. I personally had some issues getting several achievements to pop, so achievement hunters beware. The PC version seems to be fine though and the developers have been very transparent about this and their plans to fix it so stay tuned for incoming updates.
Overall this was a pretty solid month for Xbox game pass. It will be interesting to see what May brings as the big June Xbox + Bethesda showcase is just around the corner, and there are typically a lot of game pass related reveals at those shows. Have you gotten a chance to check any of these games out? let us know in the comments below!