5 video games you need to play in April
A month of genre-defining classics, indie innovation and lots of nostalgia
After a March that will arguably go down as one of the GOAT months of video game releases, in steps April – traditionally a relatively quiet time.
But for those of you that are somehow done with Zelda, and Mass Effect: Andromeda, and Horizon Zero Dawn, and Ghost Recon: Wildlands, and Ni...you get the picture, there’s actually plenty to keep you occupied as the four-day chocolate egg scoff-fest approaches.
Here’s everything you should treat your spoilt-for-choice thumbs to this month.
Persona 5 – PS4 (Out now)
Anyone already familiar with the Persona games will no doubt be on letterbox watch waiting for the latest entry to drop through the door, but for the uninitiated, here’s the pitch (and stick with us here): you play as a teenager who, due to unfortunate circumstances revealed at the beginning of the game, is forced to transfer to a new school in the middle of bustling Tokyo.
Much of your time will be spent doing day-to-day stuff – taking a part-time job, forging friendships, dating, going to class, joining a book club – in what very quickly becomes a maddeningly addictive life-management simulator. Don’t overbook yourself though, Mr Social Butterfly, because when night-time rolls around it’s all about fighting corruption, taking down enemies and infiltrating creepy mind palaces with your gang of ‘Phantom Thieves’. Quite a lot for one kid to be taking on, to be honest.
It’s a Japanese role-playing game that adopts a turn-based combat system as is tradition in the genre. Every member of your team has their own Persona that can be used in a clash, and you add more by capturing them, Pokemon-style. Old-school battling can put people off, especially those who are used to the balletic real-time combos of modern action RPGs. But when everything looks and sounds as outrageously good as it does here, we’d be surprised if Persona 5 doesn’t convert a lot of the cynics. Even scrolling through the bewitchingly stylish menus is fun.
The game is already being lauded as one of the best RPGs of all time, and while making the most of it will require a hefty and intimidating time-sink (well over 100 hours if you want to see everything it has to offer), it’s worth the inevitable sacrifice you’ll have to make to your real social life.
Yooka-Laylee – PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch (11 April)
It’s a good time to be a fan of platformers.
The long-awaited Crash Bandicoot remake is coming this summer, Super Mario Odyssey is nailed-on to be brilliant, there’s a new 3D Sonic game on the way (which we remain cautiously optimistic about), and before all that we have Yooka-Laylee, an open-world adventure from the creative talent that brought us the Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong Country games back in the genre’s heyday.
The £2m+ backing the game received on Kickstarter shows there’s an appetite for pure 3D platforming experiences like the ones that dominated the charts in the late ‘90s, and the ex-Rare staffers haven’t let them their generous supporters down on that front: for better and for worse, this is a game dripping in nostalgia. Its ridiculous premise, daft characters and vibrant colour scheme will appeal to kids, sure, but Yooka-Laylee feels as though it’s aimed squarely at those who grew up with an N64 in their bedrooms.
The story, as if it matters: Yooka, a friendly chameleon, and his back-chatting bat sidekick, Laylee, have their magic book snatched by villain of the piece, a Trump-esque bee who goes by the name of Capital B. The quest to get their prized possession back takes the duo to five themed worlds, retrieving ‘Pagies’ in each one to unlock the next.
The impressive levels are varied, crammed with things to do and bursting with ideas. Not every dated genre trope is welcome in 2017 – we don’t miss wonky cameras – but play this game and you’ll be taken back to a time gone by, long afternoons after school when the only thing you had to worry about was timing that double-jump.
PaRappa the Rapper – PS4 (4 April)
Thought that was it for your April retro fix? Think again, (big) kid. Towards the end of last year it was announced to a very excitable PlayStation Experience audience, that PaRappa The Rapper, the cult PlayStation rhythm game, would be getting a the shiny 1080p remaster treatment on PS4.
Over 20 years on and it’s lost none of its quirkiness. There are still, at least to our knowledge, very few games that centre upon a rapping dog in a beanie who learns karate from a wise humanoid onion.
It doesn’t always look quite as nice in motion as you might have hoped. The game has received an HD lick of paint rather than a ground-up remake like last year’s fantastic Ratchet and Clank, but the core hook is still there – you time button presses with lyrics that scroll across the screen – as is its timeless hip-hop soundtrack.
If you never played the original then it’s worth checking out a piece of vintage gaming history, if not for the (admittedly simplistic) gameplay, then for the goofy, toe-tappingly catchy music that has more than stood the test of time. If you did, then it’s a blast from the past you might find tricky to resist.
Little Nightmares – PC, PS4, Xbox One (28 April)
Much-anticipated Little Nightmares is a creepy puzzle-platformer that garnered a lot of buzz at its various public showings last year.
In it you play a little girl named Six, who is kidnapped and taken to The Maw, a nightmarish underwater ship. She’s given a chance to escape, but doing so will require confronting various horrors along the way. Stealth is a big part of the experience, so someone should probably have told Six that wearing a striking yellow jacket probably wasn’t the wisest choice. Kids.
It’s notable that the game is developed by Tarsier Studios, whose previous work includes Tearaway Unfolded and multiple LittleBigPlanet titles – all of which are about as warm and cuddly as a combination of pixels on a screen can possibly be. The unnerving darkness of Little Nightmares is a brave departure from all of that, and we’re looking to seeing how it pans out.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Nintendo Switch (28 April)
In Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Nintendo Switch owners are treated to the same peerless racing game that many (including us) lost countless lunch breaks, Friday pre-drinks and hangover days to – but now they can take it wherever they go.
Mario Kart 8 on the train? Sold. Mario Kart 8 in the departure lounge? Definitely. By the pool? Bliss. In the pub? Someone’s going to suggest it eventually.
To entice those who already own the Wii U game, Nintendo have thrown in a decent wedge of bonus content. All the downloadable tracks and characters released after the original are included from the off, as well as a handful of brand new characters and a totally revamped battle mode.
It’s one of the best party games of all time, full stop. If you have a Switch and haven’t played Mario Kart 8, then there isn’t even a question to be asked here. If you had it on Wii U (as I did) and are trying to talk yourself out of ponying up for a second time on your shiny new tablet – then good luck. I wish I had your self-control.