Available On: Switch
Super Mario Maker was a clever delight when it launched in 2015 on Wii U. The simple premise – a full editor suite for making and playing Mario levels across multiple eras – was an instant hit, recreating the dreams of many a dreamy kid scratching out level designs in a school notebook. The Switch sequel keeps the same solid editing and classic Mario gameplay, while adding several high quality pieces, a vastly expanded story mode, and online and local multiplayer.
Available On: PC (Windows, Mac, Linux) , PlayStation 4, Switch
Card battlers are fashionably popular right now (see our review on the excellent SteamWorld Quest), and Slay the Spire checks just about every box for popular indie genres. Deck-building. Dungeon Crawling. Random Encounters. Roguelike. Even more than most in the genre, Slay the Spire is a purely mechanics-driven game, with very little storytelling. But those systems work beautifully together to create a memorable, deep, and easy-to-play experience that rivals many physical card games.
Available On: Switch
What started out as a goofy mashup of a handful of Nintendo characters having a What-If throw-down has spent the last two decades transforming into one of the most beloved, consistently excellent series on every Nintendo console since the Nintendo 64.
As the fifth game in the series Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is well deserving of its Ultimate title, featuring every fighter and stage from previous games while providing a solid balance of new and classic gameplay modes, though it’s still a series built for, and best enjoyed locally rather than online.
Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
I made the mistake of passing on Slime Rancher when it launched last year, dismissing it as overly cutesy and simplistic. I’m pleased to report that after spending some quality time on the Far Far Range, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Newly arrived on PlayStation 4 this week, Slime Rancher boasts a perfect blend of ranch management with open world exploration, using little more than a portable vacuum.
Publisher: Wonder Forge
Game Length: 45-60 minutes
A good villain usually makes for a good story, and one of Disney’s strengths throughout every era was its memorable cast of villains. Some, like Maleficent, have even become more popular than their heroic rivals. Yet we’ve never seen a tabletop game that focuses solely on the darker side of the Disney universe, until now.
Disney Villainous is an elegantly constructed, asymmetrical card game where you play as one of six classic Disney villains. Each villain has their own deck of cards, player board, and goals, all of which reflect their sinister machinations in each film. Being bad never felt so good.
Off With Their Head
Players begin by selecting one of six infamous villains: Captain Hook, Maleficent, Jafar, Ursula, Prince John and Queen of Hearts.
Every villain is tasked with completing their own objective, ripped straight from the films. Jafar has to unlock the Cave of Wonders, hypnotize the genie, and bring both he and the lamp to the Palace, while Captain Hook needs to defeat Peter Pan at the Jolly Roger.
Each turn you move your player marker onto one of four locations on your player board. Each space has several different actions available, from playing cards to gathering power and vanquishing heroes. Choosing where to go and how to utilize both your cards and your limited actions each turn is a delightful puzzle.
At the same time, you’ll need to draw from the fate deck of your opponent’s heroes to foil their plans, while they do the same to you.
Choose Your Fate
While the villains are trying to get their various objectives done, those pesky heroes are always in the way. One of the actions allows you to draw from your opponent’s fate deck of heroes, select one of two cards, and play them on the top portion of their player board. Heroes cover up half the actions, weakening that villain’s options, as well as including debilitating effects specifically designed to undermine that villain – such as discarding Maleficent’s curses or stealing power from Prince John.
The fate deck is a lot of fun and helps alleviate the multiplayer-solitaire problem that frequently crops up in these kinds of games. It provides a high level of interactivity between players, and leads to some fun table talk as players see who’s doing well and work to thwart them.
The card art, player board, and player pieces are absolutely lovely. Disney fans will be satisfied to find classic art depictions of movie scenes and characters on each card. The foldout player board looks fantastic and the pieces are gorgeous 3D color-coded symbols of each villain. As great as the components are, the modeled plastic cauldron that holds the power is cheap by comparison.
With each villain having unique rules and cards, some of them play far more complex than others. Prince John and Maleficent are very straight-forward, while Ursula’s need to apply Binding Contracts to defeat heroes and only ever having access to three locations at a time creates a much more difficult scenario.
The balance between villains seems fine – almost every game I played was very close. Though Maleficent won every game she was played in, regardless of who played her. A complexity rating for each villain would have been very welcome, though the guide pamphlets do a decent job explaining their unique play styles.
Villainous has a recommended age of 10+. Despite being a Disney game it’s complex enough to make it suitable only for older kids, teens, and adults. The fact that the most recent villain is from 1992 is a big clue that it skews to an older crowd than most Disney games. The game is easy enough to teach, but each villain has its own rules to learn and strategies to employ, and you have to pay close attention to what your opponents are doing.
Villainous is a fantastic and cleverly designed card game. Each villain’s deck and strategy is richly thematic and expertly tied to their respective films, and the fate deck is an effective way of adding deliciously diabolical player interactivity. Hugely recommended for Disney fans looking for their next favorite card game.