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Beat the back-to-school blues with these summer video games
Match colored blocks in time to music in "Lumines Remastered," a colorful puzzle game. - photo by Resonair, Enhance Games

Summer is traditionally a quiet time for video game releases, but this year, publishers bucked the trend by releasing several high-profile games.

Blockbusters like “Call of Duty,” “Marvel’s Spider-Man” and “Red Dead Redemption 2” are set for the fall, making summertime months the perfect time to launch smaller, more experimental games for the whole family to enjoy.

Here are eight games ranging from single-player stories to chaotic multiplayer action appropriate for all ages. Each game offers a unique experience from both AAA game developers and smaller independent game makers at an affordable price point.

"Lumines Remastered"

Price: $14.99

Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

Metacritic: 83

ESRB Rating: E

“Lumines Remastered” is the latest release in the music-based puzzle game series. Like “Tetris,” players are tasked with dropping colored blocks onto a grid. However, Lumines comes into its own by requiring players to time their drops to an overarching rhythm, which helps build combos and score multipliers.

“Lumines Remastered” features several different play modes including single-player score chases over 100 levels, multiplayer battles and a puzzle mode that challenges you to create various shapes out of colored blocks.

“Lumines Remastered” also features enhanced rumble on Nintendo Switch, calling back to the Trance Vibrator for “Rez,” another rhythm-based game developed by Tetsuya Mizuguchi. Aptly titled Trance Vibrator mode, Switch owners can place up to 8 joy-con controllers along their body, where they’ll pulse in time to the music, like massive speakers at a concert. While it’s not as flashy as Miziguchi’s “synthesia suit,” it’s still a cool application of Nintendo’s hardware.

“Lumines” fans might also want to keep an eye on Miziguchi’s next rhythm game, “Tetris Effect,” which will release this fall for PS4 and PlayStation VR.

"Overcooked 2"

Price: $24.99

Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

Metacritic: 83

ESRB Rating: E

Like it's predecessor, "Overcooked," “Overcooked 2” is a fast-paced arcade co-op cooking game that challenges up to four players with cooking gourmet dishes in precarious situations across 40-plus levels. Chopping vegetables on a hot air balloon? Check. Throwing a bowl of soup through portals while dressed as a platypus? It’s all there.

Although players can go at this one solo, it really shines when multiple players lend a hand. Instead of switching between multiple chefs, “Overcooked 2” rewards cooperative and efficient play with a simple three-star rating system. To master a level, you’ll need to play well with others.

"Overcooked 2" also supports local and online play. However, IGN reports that the Nintendo Switch version doesn’t include voice chat, which could complicate the game’s strategy elements.

"Guacamelee 2"

Price: $19.99

Platform: PS4, PC

Metacritic: 86

ESRB Rating: E10+ for fantasy violence and mild language

"Guacamelee 2" builds upon the original "Guacamelee," a beat-em-up exploration platformer — meaning the character jumps between platforms — set in a Mexican-inspired world. According to IGN, developer Drinkbox Games has focused on improving the game’s referential humor while delivering smooth, challenging platforming action.

In the original, players are cast as Juan, an agave farmer who holds the power to travel between the real world and the land of the dead. In this sequel, Juan teams up with a team of guardian deities to save the Mexiverse (a web of alternate-reality Mexicos) from an ailing luchador. Up to four players can join in on the action at any time using a drop-in/out mechanic.

The game also focuses on fighting combos and acquiring various abilities to traverse the world. Juan can smoothly uppercut, dodge and slam into the ground, which can be used to defeat demonic monsters, and this second version also adds more emphasis to Juan’s chicken form (yes, really), giving players access to more potent attacks in this smaller state.

"Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy"

Price: $39.99

Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

Metacritic: 80

ESRB Rating: E10+ for cartoon violence and comic mischief

Originally released last summer as a PS4 exclusive, PlayStation’s original mascot has finally made his way to other consoles. The “Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy” is a faithful remake of developer Naughty Dog’s cult classic platformer games. Each game has been given a graphical and mechanical overhaul to bring it up to modern-day standards.

Although story really isn’t Crash’s forte, each title follows the cartoon marsupial as he jumps, spins and body-slams his way to victory. Along the way, players can expect to fight flesh-eating plants, nuclear scientists and enraged polar bears. Each game also features dozens of collectible gems and time trials, which add a ton of replay value.

Fans of the trilogy can also look forward to the upcoming “Spyro Reignited Trilogy,” which brings a similar level of love and polish to the Spyro the Dragon series. Spyro fans can expect to see the trilogy hit store shelves on Nov. 13, according to publisher Activision.

"Super Bomberman R"

Price: $39.99

Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

Metacritic: 67

ESRB Rating: E10+ for cartoon violence

Originally released as a launch title for Nintendo Switch, “Super Bomberman R” has since been rereleased on every other platform with additional content. The game features a story mode as well as a more straightforward multiplayer battle mode.

The game’s core gameplay is simple: players drop bombs to clear rubble in a maze, all while trying to catch their opponents in the blast. Online play is also surprisingly detailed and features a league ranking system to ensure players are never outclassed by stronger opponents.

“Super Bomberman R” features 27 characters with their own special abilities. Players can choose from classic Konami characters, like Simon Belmont of “Castlevania,” Snake from “Metal Gear Solid,” Pyramid Head from “Silent Hill” and even WWE wrestler Xavier Woods — complete with a trombone. Each platform also includes a unique character: PS4 features Ratchet and Clank, Xbox owners can play as Master Chief from “Halo” and PC players receive P-Body from “Portal 2.”

"Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker"

Price: $39.99

Platform: Nintendo Switch, Nintendo 3DS

Metacritic: 82

ESRB Rating: E for mild cartoon violence

“Captain Toad” is the latest in a series of refugee ports from Nintendo’s previous console, the less-than-successful Wii U. The puzzle game follows Captain Toad, a treasure-hunting ally of Mario who is afraid of virtually everything. After his partner, Toadette, is captured by a massive bird, Toad must march his way through dozens of unique puzzle boxes to save the day.

Each level tasks players with collecting a star, which is often hidden behind a series of puzzles and challenges. Toad can throw radishes at enemies and pull switches, and players can manipulate various platforms and gears through the Nintendo Switch’s touchscreen. Optional objectives, time trials and hide-seek challenges add plenty of replayability.

The game also supports co-op functionality. While one player controls Captain Toad, another can shoot vegetables at enemies and collect coins, simplifying the game for less-experienced players. “Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker” also includes new “Super Mario Odyssey” levels, which call back to New Donk City and the Sand Kingdom.

"Mega Man X Legacy Collections"

Price: $19.99 digital (collection 1 & 2 separately), $39.99 retail (bundle)

Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

Metacritic: 89 (collection 1), 63 (collection 2)

ESRB Rating: T for blood, cartoon violence and mild suggestive themes

The “Mega Man X Legacy Collection” bundles together all eight of Capcom’s "Mega Man X" titles in a few different packages. The series is available on all digital platforms in two parts — four games in each part — while the retail physical version will net you both collections for the same price. Regardless, both titles are an excellent tribute to Mega Man’s late-90’s adventures.

Set in Mega Man’s future, the "X" series stars X, an upgraded version of Mega Man tasked with defeating the Mavericks, a collection of animal-themed robots turned evil. Unlike the main Mega Man series, “Mega Man X” focuses more on fast action over challenging platforming and combat.

Alongside each game, developer Digital Eclipse included a museum gallery full of high-quality of concept art, production stills and products from the original releases. An easier rookie difficulty is also included, which can help younger, less experienced players get through more challenging stages. A boss rush mode featuring battles against two Mavericks is another great addition and encourages a level of strategic thinking not seen in the original games.

Critics hold the first “Mega Man X Legacy Collection” in the highest regard. While all eight games are worth playing, many of the games in the second collection of four games feature less compelling gameplay, nonsensical story beats and clunky, divergent gameplay. If you’re on the fence about where to start, definitely grab the first collection, which holds an 89 critical average on Metacritic, versus the second collection’s 63. Fans may find something interesting in the latter four titles, but anyone unfamiliar with Mega Man might be better off enjoying the series' stronger entries.


Price: Free, with in-game purchases

Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, iOS, Android

Metacritic: 83

ESRB Rating: T for violence

The wildly popular "Fortnite" recently arrived on the Nintendo Switch and Android devices this summer, joining almost every modern gaming device out there. The game drops 100 players onto an island, where they build, sneak and shoot their way to victory.

"Fortnite" supports squad-and-team-based multiplayer for up to 50 players, making it easy to accommodate varying skill levels. The game also features “Save the World,” which places more emphasis on defeating monsters and defending a base as a team.

The game most recently launched its fifth competitive season, which features an updated map, new player skins and a time-travel theme. Although the game itself is free, players can purchase the Battle Pass for $10, which unlocks a tier of skill-based challenges.

If completed, these challenges can reward you with new character skins, weapons and enough V-bucks — the game’s unique currency — to inevitably purchase the next battle pass, according to Forbes.

"Fortnite" also supports cross-platform play between PC, Xbox, Nintendo Switch and mobile phones, which makes the game immediately accessible for families of any size. PS4 owners, however, can only play against PC players. For more information, check out Polygon’s guide for enabling cross-platform play.

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