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Top 5 Hidden Gems on XBOX Gamepass (Q1 2022)

Microsoft’s massive Gamepass library can be slightly daunting to sift through. With a regularly updated roster currently boasting 363 games, from the original Xbox all the way through to brand new X|S titles and Game Previews for beta releases, there’s a lot to take in – so we’re here to lend a hand with our guide to some of the service’s hidden gems.

5. Lake (Xbox Series X|S • 2021)

Lake is a relaxing, wholesome and very pleasant little game. It does a lot right. You’re a single woman approaching middle age, who returns to her idyllic lakeside hometown in Oregon, USA after a long absence to help out her parents by delivering the mail – they’re on a holiday in Florida, and dad normally does the run. That’s it. And I LOVE IT!!! The story and dialogue will appeal to fans of those small-town 80s dramas where nothing much really happens, but which have an undeniable charm and warmth to them that makes it worth the trip. You can choose to be nice-as-pie with the dialogue options, or in some situations, a bit more blunt… I was nice most of the time as it just seemed to fit with the game, and as every delivery person knows – “you don’t shit where you eat!”. Performance isn’t fantastic, mainly where draw distance and pop-in are concerned, but this is far from a dealbreaker. In fact, I wouldn’t say anything is fundamentally wrong with the game at all. It achieves its purpose admirably and stands pretty well alone in its field at the moment. I can’t overstate how good it feels to play a game where you just drive around a lake and have nice conversations with people, after the mental and spiritual carnage we’ve all endured for the past few years.

At various points you may find yourself saying “oh, I wish you could do that…”; it would be great to have a sequel expand on the open world just that little bit further whilst still retaining this first game’s magic. The jarring vehicle collider physics are not exactly satisfying either, but then again, being able to wantonly destroy property en-route would require whole new gameplay mechanics and some kind of penalty system, interfering with Lake’s cool and calm flow – as it stands, the minimal HUD and lack of points/attributes/penalties does work towards the goal of providing one short, sweet, and aesthetically pleasing experience, depicting a simpler time in a town where it seems nothing can go wrong.

Personally I’m a big fan of short and focused story experiences like this, and the semi-open world setting really works for Lake. And the voice acting is superb across the board, even from minor characters.

4. OMNO (Xbox One • 2021)

Another title made with stress-free relaxation in mind, and also making great use of its small scope, Omno should appeal to fans of Zelda and Ōkami. Across self-contained Chapter levels which utilise a gorgeous cel-shaded art style, you’ll solve some mildly challenging and decently fun puzzles, gain a small handful of abilities, and finish each level to 100% by finding collectables, including stone carvings which reveal the story in an abstract and fragmented way. Your minimap is populated upon discovering Assassin’s Creed-style vantage points – the character sits down to meditate while we get a quick 360° panorama of the lovely surroundings. This is an aesthetic experience first and foremost.

Omno gives the feeling of a polished platformer-RPG, but the level design and overall brevity is such that you can tackle it in bite-sized, mostly dialogue-free chunks, rather than having to explore a massive world and play for 50 hours before you’re anywhere near finishing the game. After my playthrough I read that it was a solo development effort by Inkyfox’s Jonas Manke, making this gem all the more impressive.

3. Remnant: From The Ashes (Xbox One • 2019)

Remnant is not only an essential purchase for Fallout fans, but for action RPG fans in general. The writing and lore are fantastic, the Dead Space x Souls-ish combat is very satisfying – though thankfully not quite as punishing – and the movement/control systems feel modern, tight and refined. In fact I’d describe the whole experience as ‘refined’. That’s not to say it’s a safe or rigid play; rather, that Perfect World has kept things nice and tidy with the aim of piquing our interest right from the start, making those critical first hours with the game a real joy, even for seasoned veterans of the aforementioned titles. Games in this general vein have been a dime a dozen over the past decade so it is quite refreshing to play something like Remnant, which takes such clear influence from a handful of particular games, yet entirely avoids feeling like a hodge-podge crossover.

The interior level design will be familiar to Fallout fans with a few “key” differences (for example, the use of keycards... ha ha) but I would almost say it’s nicer here in some areas, like the initial complex which is just a fantastic opening level. Graphically sound and the voice acting is great for the most part, as are the music & sound FX. Conversations with NPCs are Fallout style – again, great writing here, which is more towards Days Gone quality than that of FO4. You might think I’m overdoing it with the Fallout comparisons, but just play it and you’ll see. Great fun.

2. New Super Lucky’s Tale (Xbox One • 2019)

Here’s an example of when not to judge a book by its cover. Those expecting yet another generic Super Mario World clone designed with minimal effort should be pleasantly surprised by New Super Lucky’s Tale. The game has 3D platform levels ala Super Mario 64, but also includes 2.5D sections reminiscent of Crash Bandicoot, and a hub world structure/world doors which are clearly based on those from the Spyro universe. Lucky himself looks a bit like Conker, and I am convinced his running animation is modelled on Conker’s as well... in other words, NSLT is a respectful tribute to some of the greatest platformers ever, with squeaky-clean modern graphics and a few new tricks up its sleeve. That’s more than enough to earn this gem a spot on the list.

The main ability not seen in any of those classic platformers is the ability to burrow underneath pretty much any ground surface that isn’t solid rock, where a lot of loot is hidden and which also factors into some puzzles. The original (and quite similar) Super Lucky’s Tale is also on Gamepass if you’re craving more, after what is predictably not the longest playtime.

1. ReCore: Definitive Edition (Xbox One • 2017)

This is another one of those games which on the surface appears to be a technically sound “remix” of several classic titles, but has more than enough of its own flair to really deserve a playthrough. ReCore takes major inspiration from Metroid Prime, Borderlands, Tomb Raider, and even some golden-era PS2 platformers like Jak 3 and Ratchet & Clank, with a few elements that are quite unique (eg. the awesome ‘jetpack dungeons’, epic platforming sections towering high above the sands, and a fishing-rod style Finishing Move minigame where you wrestle with the line tension to successfully “Extract” an enemy’s Core).

I generally dislike games with all-synthetic enemies as I find the delivery often lacks warmth and/or a decent story, but here you could tell the writers had really done their homework, and everything flows well. There are even some cool sci-fi throwbacks in there, like the home hub “Crawlers” which clearly pay homage to the Spice Crawlers of Dune’s Planet Arrakis. I’d say Dune probably influenced the landscape and structure design in general, too. There is fantastic attention to detail on the many derelict megastructures you’ll find partially buried in sand and rock. The designers have populated and spaced out points of interest on their maps very nicely, making them fun to explore.

So that's it for our 5 hidden gems on Gamepass. Let us know what you think or if there's something else that you think we missed. Hopefully there's something above that you like the look of enough to give a playthrough soon.

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