MEMBER PROFILE FOR JohnnyXeo-XBA
Average Overall Score Given: 7.61143 / 10
Total Forum Posts: 4
When I was working at video game store last year, I heard people talking about Hades and how it was must play for the Switch, as it was addictive and perfect travelling game for the handheld. It was a title that intrigued me that I then put on my 'to check out' list but regretfully I never did get around to checking out on the Switch. However, with it coming to Xbox Game Pass I no longer have an excuse to not try it out.
Hades is the name of the God of Death and the underworld he governs over is also known by the same name throughout all of Greek mythology. Zagreus is the son of Hades and Prince of the underworld who you play as throughout your adventures throughout the underworld. The underworld has been Zagreus’ home his whole life and yearns to leave it behind and escape to the world above where his extended family of the likes of Zeus, Aphrodite, Athena, Hermes and Poseidon have dominion.
The thing about the underworld is, once you’re there you are not allowed to leave, but this doesn’t deter Zag at all as he battles his way through the realms. Hades, his father, is confident that the warriors, monsters and other undead creatures throughout the underworld will do their job and prevent Zag from escaping. However, the gods of Mount Olympus step in and lend their aid with boons (special powers) and gifts (upgrades and items) to help Zag escape to the surface. With these boons and gifts I quickly beat the undead that guarded the halls of Hades before reaching the first of three Fury Sisters, Megaera. Meg is guarding the gates to Asphodel, the next realm in Hades where she toyed with me for a bit before putting me out of my misery as I obviously out classed.
As with most roguelike games your death doesn’t mean your ultimate demise, and upon your death you are revived in a pool of blood within the House of Hades. All your memories and experiences are intact to attempt another escape or as many as you need to. As you progress through each escape attempt through the realms of the underworld you will collect darkness, gems, keys, nectar and other items that you can use to trade for abilities, artifacts and new weapons. Darkness is best represented as your experience you gain and will help you unlocked new abilities through the Mirror of Night that is located in your bedchambers.
There is a wide variety of abilities that allow you to do more damage, increase your chances of getting better boons and gifts, or the one you really need to complete a run through Hades is the ability to auto-revive after a death. There is plenty more and you have to customize which abilities you use to your gameplay style, or in some cases, gear it towards the type of weapons you are using. There are six weapons in total which includes a sword, trident, shield, bow and arrow, gauntlets and a cannon. Obviously, there is a mix of melee, missile and power differences between all of the weapons, and for myself I found the most success with the sword and trident but you will have to explore what works best for you. Each of the weapons can be upgraded and transformed to have different abilities or stronger powers.
There is also a variety of keepsakes that you earn by gifting Nectar to the individuals that cross your path like Nyx, your adoptive mother, or Achilles, the warrior who trained you to fight or any of the gods that lend you their boons. These keepsakes have specific enhancements in battle, from simply increasing the odds of getting better boons, more hit points or temporary invincibility. My advice at the beginning of the game is to give Nectar at least once to anyone who will take it to unlock these keepsakes and start using them. The more you use them, the more powerful they will become and you can incorporate them into making your escape attempts slightly easier.
Combining of all these resources will help you have a successful run but you have to keep in mind that even though it seems like a hack n’ slash combat system, there is a fair bit of strategy in how you fight. Sure, the common enemies you can slash around and mow them down pretty quickly, but when you get to any of the bosses you need to think how your current loadout is going to work. Personally, keeping your health as full as possible is a pretty good strategy for me as I tend to not block at all and go full aggression. I tend to find items that will increase my health or lets me absorb health back for every hit I deal out.
I did find the first Fury Sister, Meg, the hardest of the bosses to get through as I was just figuring out my style and the best way to take her out with my preferred style of play. The others were a bit easier until I got to the final boss who absolutely destroys me almost every time I encounter them. I have done over 100 runs in Hades so far and I have only managed to beat the game twice. Even though you do die quite often, when you do succeed the victory is so much sweeter as the game challenges you on so many strategic levels.
Hades is visually stunning and can be best described as an artistic masterpiece. Parts of the game representing the depths of hell with molten lava, rusty chains, decaying corpses and of course all of the denizens of the underworld when combined together create something that is quite beautiful. In stark contrast to rest of the underworld is of course Elysium where heroes and those blessed by the gods spend their time when they have passed on to the underworld. The bright and vibrant setting is full of life, vegetation, blue waters and of course the many guards that keep those blessed caged in the underworld. Although it is quite beautiful you are still reminded that this is part of the underworld and is the God of Death’s domain. This world is crafted with so much care and artistic quality that I could easily get some prints made of some of the scenery in the game and most visitors would not even realize it all came from a video game.
Hades is beautifully voice casted by a myriad of amazing voices and isn’t just a bunch of grunts, attack sounds or stereotypical sound effects you often find in these types of games. There is a full-on narrator throughout the whole game, complicated backstories and sub-plots happening between Zag and all of the individuals he encounters. Zag also tends to get himself in the lives of those he encounters and will aid them to bring them closer to their individual desires. These stories are all discovered the more and more conversations you have with all that you encounter, and each time you do more is revealed often through the spectacular voice acting. Backdropping all of this is amazing original soundtrack that was created by Darren Korb who has created soundtracks for Pyre, Transistor and a personal favourite of mine, Bastion. All of these soundtracks are amazing in their own right but Darren has definitely outdone himself on Hades.
Hades, in my opinion, is probably the best roguelike game I have ever played and I can not find a single negative thing to say about this title except that I wish there was even more levels or perhaps the addition of a co-op mode with some of the characters that Zag bonds with. But that doesn’t take away from how spectacular this title is and how much I highly recommend that you try out Hades. My only regret is I didn’t get to play Hades much sooner.
**Hades was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**
Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection
Back in the day when Ghosts 'n Goblins came out I was 4 years old and it was a title that I didn’t really became aware of until Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts came out for SNES in 1991. I’ve played the crap out of that title on my trusty SNES, but was pretty horrible at it and my more adept gamer friends would help me out at certain portions of the game. I have gotten better over time at the more challenging titles, but as a working parent and someone who games to relax – the super challenging games are sometimes a headache when you want to just chill for a couple hours. However, the nostalgia of this title drew me in but I was prepared to get my butt kicked by Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection.
Graphically, I was drawn into the familiar surroundings of the world of Ghosts 'n Goblins but quickly noticed at how much more polished the 16-Bit recreation was with the enhancements that current hardware technologies bring us. Sir Arthur's, the main protagonist, movements remind you of that clumsy Uncle that never seems to have a clue, but you love him nonetheless. That to me is the best way to describe the feeling that Sir Arthur evokes as you watch him traverse the different terrains throughout the game worlds. Those terrains range from graveyards, spooky forests, hidden caves, ruins of castles and of course this wouldn’t be a Ghosts 'n Goblins game without a fortress complete with dungeons, traps and of course enemies.
The OST is absolutely amazing, and if you don’t quite believe me or are in love with it as much as I am, then you need to know that you can download the soundtrack on various streaming services. There is some experience and renown behind the soundtrack with the composers working on projects like Devil May Cray, Monster Hunter and Resident Evil to name just a few. With that caliber behind the soundtrack, I was not surprised at how well the music created the atmosphere, suspense, drama and tension as you traversed each of the areas that Sir Arthur faced. Couple this with the stellar sound effects and you have one of the best sound experiences that a 16-Bit world could ever have.
As for the gameplay, saying that Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection is hard is pretty much the understatement of the year. You die in this game, often, brutally and at times rage-quit worthy, especially if you’re not very patient. However, if you use all the tools at your disposal in the game combined with some memorization and practice, you will increase your odds at beating the game, however, you will still die a lot along the way. Some of these tools at your disposals are throwing daggers, spears, hammers and of course there is your trusty armour. Obviously, each of the weapons work in their own unique ways with the daggers thrown super quick with low damage, the spear doing more damage but much slower and of course your trusty hammer that pounds a punch but you have to get up close and personal to get a hit in.
What is a Ghosts 'n Goblins game without a bit of magic thrown into the fray with spells becoming available as you find these lightning bug type creatures called Umbral Bee’s scattered throughout the levels. The more you collect, the more spells you can unlock or more powerful versions of those spells. Spells like Firewall, Thunderstorm, Doppelganger, and Kitted Out (allows you to carry more weapons) to name just a few. Pretty much all of the spells are able to be upgraded to more powerful versions of themselves as you progress to aid in your quest. I did find most of the spells useful and used them more in case of an emergency type situation and focused on the weapon set I had to make sure I had a good balance of melee and missile weapons.
One feature that is crucial for anyone who is horrible at these types of games but enjoys the adventure is unlimited lives. For the purpose of this review, I turned it on to get through the game and experience all the levels so I could see the whole scope of the game and level design. At first, I thought this mode would make me play through once or twice, but it actually made me want to go back and try and do it the proper way to see if I could actually do it. So essentially, I was able to play around and figure out how certain things on certain bosses and apply those patterns to the more difficult settings.
Everyone should be encouraged to play Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection at the difficulty they would get the most enjoyment out of the game, as that is the whole purpose of games; to have fun! As you could probably tell I quite enjoyed this new revamped version of Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to hit up some nostalgia or is looking for a challenge, even with unlimited lives.
Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Rust: Console Edition
Rust is a game that I have heard about in passing, mostly from my young children who would watch YouTube videos of players pulling pranks on each other and my children laughing at the hilarity of it all. From a distance this looked like something that I might play if it ever came to console, so when the opportunity came a knocking I asked my kids if Rust: Console Edition was something I should review, and I was met with a resounding yes. So here I am, jumping into a game I know very little about with a 10-year-old boy leading me through this adventure.
Jumping into the game I became instantly disappointed as Rust: Console Edition looked and felt dated right from the first moments I jumped into it. With that initial impression I did some research to glean some more information about Rust and found out that this title has been on PC for about 8 years now, and this console version of Rust is pretty much a straight port. This explains why it feels dated and why I am getting some eye strain playing through this title. Don’t get me wrong, it still is a pretty good-looking game for its age, but coming to consoles, especially knowing what the Xbox One and Xbox Series X can do, it is definitely underwhelming and bland in the graphical department.
If you were like me and don’t know much about Rust here is a brief synopsis: Rust is a multiplayer survival game where you can play with up to 100 players. Starting off with yourself in your birthday suit and armed with a rock you must use your smarts, patience and at times brute strength to survive in the world of Rust. Using your rock to break down resources nearby to build weapons, other tools you may need, and of course to get yourself clothing. Eventually you have to build some shelter to keep yourself out of the elements along with providing some protection from hostiles such as animals or fellow players. During all of this surviving you have to remember to do everything else you would do in real life to survive like eating and drinking as well. Not to mention that this is a huge multiplayer experience where you can either be a loner, create friendships with other players or become enemies which will obviously result in conflict.
On the surface this does sound like a lot of fun, but, and it’s a very big but – other games in his genre do it much better, much prettier and with a whole lot more improvements. Realistically it’s great that they are bringing Rust to console players finally, however, if you aren’t going to add anything new to compete with games that are newer on the market – what are you offering gamers to play this on console who have been playing this on PC already?
As someone who hasn’t played Rust before I absolutely got my arse handed to me on every occasion with gamers who have a bit more time to dedicate to being on the server that you compete with them on. Scavenging for supplies becomes just as dangerous, if not more, than hunting animals or other players in the game, because if you’re focused on that then you’re just leaving yourself open to be snuck up upon. This constant state of fear may be fun for a lot of gamers out there, but not this one, as I do enjoy games but in a lot of cases I am an average gamer at best and in essence, easy pickings.
As I progressed through the game I felt like I was punching water and with every task I did to get ahead, as it quickly filled back up with some new problems or setbacks each step. This is the whole purpose of the game of course, to just survive, but unless you get some help from some friendly people, you’re pretty much doomed to fail. Did I mention if you manage to get your shelter constructed, put away some resources in it and log out for the day that you can still be attacked by the other players in the game and all of your hard work is literally flushed down the toilet? For all intents and purposes, this game is not meant for casual players and you are severely penalized in the game if you are a casual player just looking to play now and then. Casual players do have an option with the purchase of their own server and inviting only people they trust to not rampage on them or pillage all of their loot, but that does seem to take away from the essence of the game and who wants to spend even more on a game that should have better options for the casual market.
If you’re really into this type of hardcore survival game and can get over the dated graphics, controls and overall feel and this was the only game you wanted to play everyday, 7 days a week for 8 hours a day, then I can honestly see you really enjoying Rust: Console Edition. If that doesn’t appeal to you then this might be a hard pass otherwise. However, this is if the developers were to take the time and build a Rust 2 from the ground up specifically for consoles and not just a port, keeping in mind that not everyone, especially console gamers, can dedicate that much time to a single game to just survive and succeed. If they can overcome these issues and make the title a bit more modern then we could have a really amazing game. Sadly, they didn’t do that and we are left with what I feel is an unfished game trying to cash in on its popularity.
**Rust: Console Edition was reviewed on an Xbox Series X and provided by the publisher**
Overall Score: 7.3 / 10 Star Renegades
To be honest, I never knew the term Roguelike before I heard it to describe Star Renegades. I’ve played plenty of Roguelike games in the past but must have been living in a shoe to never heard of the term before. Either way, I knew the chances of me loving Star Renegades was high as I love RPGs and it seems I can add roguelikes with RPG elements to that list going forward as well.
Star Renegades takes place in what appears to be there future where your dimension is being invaded by a Dimensional Galactic Empire hellbent on destroying all life it travels to. You as the player is guiding a rag tag band of heroes, scoundrels and misfits to defend your dimension from the invaders. Each run through of the map pits you against various enemies from grunts, mini-bosses and then there is your epic bosses. Not to mention the treasure and secrets about an ancient culture that you find along the way. Not only are you faced with the invading army you also encounter traitors to your dimension who have teamed up with the invaders to hopefully get a seat at their table.
If you haven’t played this type of game before you should know that you’re going to die often throughout all of your runs and this will ultimately play into the overall strategy of the game. As you progress through each playthrough you'll gain more weapons, armor and accessories to help out your heroes. Along the way you will end up recruiting new heroes to the cause as well that bring a host of different abilities to help you in your war. While doing all of this looting and exploring there is the combat element of that game which was quite enjoyable.
If you have played classic turn-based RPG game in the past you’re going to revisit the good old days of turned based glory, although turn based here requires a quite a bit of strategy to taking on your foes and emerge victorious. Using different abilities at your disposal you can manipulate the battlefield to cause your prey to lose shields, staggered to the point they skip their turn which allows you to open up your offense to take out your target. At the same time, your enemy can use similar maneuvers on your team so be quick to shield yourselves or at least plan out the proper tactic to minimize casualties on your side of the field. There is a bit of experimentation here as you mix up your troops to create the optimal team.
There is nine characters with their own set of moves to create this team from and can help you tailor your team to your gameplay style. There is your typical tank, support and hybrid classes that have become a staple in games of this nature. They don’t particularly stand out too much as there isn’t much character development aside from your stereotypical tropes found in RPGs; 'The Empire killed such and such and I am going to save the world!' kind of rhetoric that is pretty much in every RPG.
Although I can say that Star Renegades was an enjoyable game in short bursts, it isn’t a game to sit down and beat in one sitting, as it will most likely cause bouts of rage quitting. The strategy elements combined with the nostalgia factor in the atmosphere of Star Renegades still doesn’t overcome the drain factor of continuous gameplay. This is a game that I feel would be better built into a full-blown RPG, as the strategy and the basis of a story is there but definitely needs to be fleshed out a bit more. Fans of the rougelike genre should enjoy Star Renegades for a bit, but probably wouldn’t go back to it after completing it.
Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 NBA 2K21 Next Generation
It’s been quite a few years since I’ve jumped into an NBA game, actually I think the last time I popped in an NBA title was NBA 2K6. So, with that in mind it goes without saying I was definitely going to experience quite a few improvements, however, I am mainly going to be focusing on what has been brought to the table for the next generation systems, as I played this title on Xbox Series X. If you’re looking for a full in depth review I highly suggest you check out Brent’s review: http://xboxaddict.com/Staff-Review/Xbox-One/14418/NBA-2K21.html
Typically, when I play any sports title, I like to jump into the MyPlayer game mode to introduce myself to the gameplay, any new mechanics, along with a bit of story to get a good feeling for the game. I was pleasantly surprised to find that in my absence from playing basketball in the past few years that they have made some huge strides and have brought the choice of playing in the WNBA. Dubbed, “The W” this is the first time ever that you can create a WNBA player to live out a career in the WNBA that has all 12 WNBA teams. As a father of a young lady it is great to see the representation of female athletes that for all of my years of gaming has not been a strong element in the sports genre. Kudos to 2K for being vanguards in making sports games representative of all genders and races.
Although playing in the MyPlayer mode has some great representation of the pros along with some colleges, the story part of NBA 2K21, although captivating and interesting at the beginning, just gets boring and repetitive later on. However, let’s face it; you’re not playing a basketball game for the story, but for the gameplay and the graphical experience.
This is where NBA 2K21 Next Generation kicks it up a notch, as you see how far graphics have inched ever so closer to looking like reality. In MyPlayer there are some actors that have been brought to life in their respective roles played by Djimon Honsou, Jesse Williams and Michael K. Williams who are exact replicas and had me going, “Wow! That’s so good!”. However, on the flip side your created player looks so cartoonish and blocky that the juxtaposition is staggering and ruins the graphical experience every time you see your created player. There are a lot of options when creating your player, but no matter what you do your character is going to stand out like a sore thumb.
Do I expect perfection with a created player? No, but I would expect it to compete with the other graphical representations of player models throughout the whole time, not just certain segments. Aside from this glaring issue everything else is smooth, beautiful and is animated with care. Being a former high school basketball player, it is nice to see actual movement that players would do while in the moment, like rocking back on your heels or standing on your tippy toes to get a little bounce in your step. Not all of the athletes do the same set of movements so the gameplay is a lot more organic rather than a rinse and repeat model often seen in sports titles.
In the background, unlike arenas during this current climate, are full of fans which breathe life into the game with even more unique interactions between fellow fans and vendors weaving in and out of the crowd, or fans photo bombing interviews. It’s nice to see a developer put some effort in this aspect of the game because typically this is an after thought and something I hope that is expanded on in the future, as it's small details like these that makes the gameplay much more immersive.
Speaking of making NBA more immersive is the stellar in-game soundtrack that has over 350 songs throughout the whole game and introduced myself to some new tracks that I’ve added to my Spotify playlist. Basketball and the music industry, especially Hip Hop, have gone in hand ever since I’ve played and watched the game. Be it a car stereo playing while you play on your local school playground or it blaring in the gymnasium, there are always songs that get players and fans pumped up.
What really makes NBA 2K21 even more special is playing it on an Xbox Series X, where the power in that box makes the overall experience so much better with very quick load times, amazing frame rates and quick and polished gameplay. Not only do you have better gameplay, gamers who are making the jump to next-gen after starting their careers on PS4 or Xbox One should rejoice as your MyTEAM Progression along with your VC Wallet will be shared across both current and next-gen consoles. This includes all of your points, tokens and pulled cards so you don’t have to feel like you have to stay last gen to just keep your stats.
Visual Concepts has made the jump to next-gen and has done so incredibly well for players jumping into NBA 2K21 for the first time, making it seamless for players since its initial launch to transfer to their progress to Xbox Series X|S. Aside from some created players needing a bit of an upgrade graphically, NBA 2K21 Next Generation is a solid sports title that fans will surely enjoy for the gameplay, its visuals and love of the game.
**NBA 2K21 Next Generation was reviewed on an Xbox Series X**
Overall Score: 8.6 / 10 Bee Simulator
Ever wake up and say to yourself, "I really wish I could experience life as a bee."? Well, for you and any other avid apiarist, there is finally a chance to do just that. Welcome to the world of Bee Simulator, a game that takes you into the nitty gritty everyday life and responsibilities of a little bee as she learns her new role in the hive.
This title sounded great at first; mix a little bit of nature facts with the relaxing simulator genre game style and you have yourself a winner, right? Wrong. Bee Simulator starts out slow and just never seems to pick up.
Let’s start with the positives though because it's apparent that someone put a lot of time and effort into this title by the graphics alone. The title is absolutely beautiful. The artwork is unique and captivating and if the whole premise of the game was to fly around and look at the scenery it would be a success. The graphics to me scream indie title as they have that special artistic feel to them that I love.
Ok, so with the good out of the way, let us talk about where Bee Simulator fell short... The mechanics of the game are pretty standard: Fly up, down, and side to side as you explore your hive or the outside environment. You might even have to fly through a few hoops while you are out there. You are equipped with a special skill called Bee Vision that helps you identify plants in increasing rarity based on the colour they show up as through this view. Fly to the flower, collect the pollen and when your meter tells you that you can’t hold anymore, fly back to the hive to deposit it.
As a little bee you also have to look out for enemies while out and about. Some might just pick a fight with you, and the obvious answer to that is to work on your hand-eye co-ordination to hit the right pattern of buttons to strike back. The combination of fighting mechanics combined with the turn-based approach just felt off to me. Maybe a different fighting style might have improved the experience here, possibly something a little faster paced.
There are also some other actions you need to perform such as dancing for your directions. Again, this was accomplished by performing a series of patterns, which makes a bit more sense as dancing does involve patterns. When flying out in the open I was disappointed to see the lack of attention to detail as I almost flew right into a human’s face (on purpose mind you) and they didn’t even flinch or react. There were some instances where they did react but only when built specifically into the game sequence.
The voice work is what really brings the game down in my opinion. All voices sound pretty much the same and I kept wondering if this title was maybe someone’s college project where they were forced to voice every single character on their own. I know all bees in the hive are female but they definitely don’t have to sound the same. There was also some questionable use of quotes (albeit converted to bee quotes) of famous franchises like Skyrim and Star Wars., which in turn had me thinking about copyright issues rather than the game itself. All in all, I spent most of my time playing thinking of a plethora of other things rather than being enthralled by the game itself.
Bee Simulator offers a unique look into the day to day life of bees but for anyone but the avid apiarist, Bee Simulator lacks the intrigue and excitement that would typically draw a player to the game and keep them interested for long term. The fighting sequences were bizarre, the objectives a bore and the voice work left you scratching your head. Unless you are looking for a pretty fly through the park, I’d skip on this one.
Overall Score: 6.2 / 10 Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King
Being old enough to remember the theatrical releases, along with the video game releases of Aladdin and The Lion King during the early 90’s, suddenly made me feel really old as I booted up the re-releases of these two titles for Xbox One. Having only played these titles in passing at friend’s homes as I wasn’t into gaming as much as I am now, I only remembered one thing about these titles; That they were ridiculously hard, and most kids my age back in the 90’s would right rage quit before trying again the next day. There was definitely no hand holding back in the 90’s but with modern gaming booming there is a lot more, and these Disney Classics got an option to make these titles a whole lot easier.
Most people know the rough storyline of these movies and I won’t bore people by going through details of how these stories go, as you can look it up all online or get a Disney + membership and just watch the movies and all of their sequels. The graphics have not been upgraded at all or changed from the original titles which do include the console versions along with the handheld counterparts, and as an extra bonus you also can try a final cut and show floor demo versions. I am a fan of taking an older title and remaking it with modern tools to make the graphics or enhance the gameplay, but, on the other hand I am not a fan of up remastered titles and would much rather play the original format so that I can enjoy it in its original glory so that my younger gamer kids can see how far gaming has come. I do have to say that the graphics hold up quite well considering what they were based on and how far graphics have come today. The streets of Agrabah along with the desert sands stand the test of time, and the vibrant jungle that is young Simba’s home during this youth pops right out as one would expect. The music and sound effects on the other hand could have used an upgrade but does keep that 90’s feeling alive with the 16-bit sound quality one came to expect during the era.
The controls are great and have aged well, being on par with modern day platformers, and yes, the titles in question are still quite difficult with Lion King probably being the hardest of the pair. However, this is where the rewind feature comes into play, so you don’t have to die 33 times before nailing a certain sequence in the games. With a touch of a button a mysterious invisible guardian angel will plop you right back in a safe spot so you can try the obstacles once more without having to start the level over. Yes, it is quite the hand hold to get you through tough spots, but it's not a horrible feature to get you through a game that you maybe couldn’t finish before.
Along with the rewind feature there is also an auto-play feature that allows you to watch a playthrough with no mistakes and gives you the ability to jump into the gameplay yourself at any point in time that you choose. However, as soon as you jump into play yourself you can’t switch auto-play back on, but will still be able to rewind later on if you get stuck once again. For gamers learning the ins and outs of the levels, it would have been nice for the auto-play to be toggled on and off, but with this feature combined with rewind there should no reason why you can’t get through the game.
Going into Disney Classics: Aladdin and Lion King I had a good idea of how punishing the game would be along with some classic graphics and sounds. However, with the rewind and auto-play features in the game it made the punishing levels a bit more tolerable, or at the very least, a whole lot less time consuming. With these tweaks, if you haven’t beat these titles as a kid, then you have the tools to do so, and if it’s new to you then you will definitely not have a problem.
Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Need for Speed Heat
The Need for Speed series are usually in the top of my favourite arcade racers across the past few generations of consoles. There have been some hits, misses and mediocre editions throughout the years, and we’re here to find out how Need for Speed Heat matches up against its sibling titles.
Need for Speed Heat opens up with some local racers trying to outrun the Palm City Police Department (PCPD) where most of the crew gets away, except for one, which the PCPD runs off the road, nearly launching them off a bridge. This sets the stage for how corrupt and what lengths the PCPD are willing to go to stop street racers at any costs. The driver lives to tell the tale, but his ride has an unfortunate accident and falls into the water below. This essentially breaks up the crew and enters you as the new driver arriving to Palm City: host city to the Speedhunter Showdown.
The Showdown is a legit way for racers to earn cash and compete in racer without the PCPD running you off the road for illegal street racing. This sets up the game for Day Racing (Showdown) and Night (Street Racing) which you have to compete in both equally, as one earns you cash to buy car parts while the other earns you reputation to unlock new parts to upgrade your ride. As you know, the police will do what they can to stop street racing, so you have to weigh the pros and cons of what type of races you will participate in. Each type of race has objectives that can earn you a little bit of cash or rep, so you could rack up a bunch of cash in Showdown while slowly gain rep, or street race and get the opposite in return. Personally, I like having the objectives because it gives you something to achieve every time you are racing and as it tosses a new set of goals periodically it does mix it up a bit.
The story does build up around this gameplay premise as you learn the ropes from Ana, the leader of the crew that you just saw dismantled, who seems desperate to form a new crew as she starts putting you through the ropes to determine what kind of driver you are and if you could be trusted. What spurns this obsession seems on the front someone just being nice, but you can tell that there is more to the story than what is initially revealed. Sounds pretty stereotypical doesn’t it? Well, the story doesn’t waver too far from the kind of material that you would see in cheesy racing movie, which is a lot of good fun but doesn’t compel you to get involved with the characters in the game.
The gameplay is pretty typical fare for racers with natural controls to accelerate, brake, nitro boost, etc. However, I did find it odd that instead of using the brake button in combination with acceleration to drift, that it simply worked by tapping right trigger twice while on a turn to get you drifting smooth. Even after playing for a few hours I still found myself falling into more traditional control schemes, however, over time I did adjust. As I said before, there is Day and Night races which are circuit or point to point races with random story missions mixed into the game as you gain more reputation. As you can see, you can’t really progress through the game without doing equal parts Day/Night races, but there are some collectibles and other objective based tasks to complete throughout Palm City.
These objectives include jumping through billboards, speed traps, long jumps and spotting graffiti, which all give you some kind of bonus, be it new car parts or cash. What this all really means is some additional gameplay, so if you’re in the mood for racing or for exploration, then you have a lot to accomplish to keep you busy no matter how you choose to play.
As mentioned, you do unlock new parts through gaining reputation and performing objectives, which leads into a very basic tuner where you can upgrade your car and spec it out for specific track types. Basically, when you change around your parts, you’re just looking for whichever part gives you the most increase to your overall car score. Beyond that, you have some selection to spec it out for off-road, racing and drifting, which I honestly didn’t notice too much difference when it comes to drifting, but a definite difference when you’re in the mud.
After you get your ride under the hood all set then you can customize the look which adds a lot more options. If you want to take the time to go through them all you can change pretty much every aspect of the car from fenders, tires, grille, windows and mirrors. Along with those changes you can change up your paint job, add decals and wraps. If you’re a bit lazy though you can just go online and search for designs that other players have made and just apply it to your car. Then you get into some flare like nitrous & exhaust colours, tire smoke and the under glow of the car for some added options. A lot of these extra cosmetics will cost you some extra cash, but if you want the best-looking ride in Palm City, you’re going to have to spend that hard-earned cash.
The soundtrack is pretty decent and meshes well with the racing scene of Palm City, but at the same time, the game would play just as well without the music in the background. The sounds of the streets have its own element with exhaust popping, tires screeching and metal crushing under the weight of the wall you just ran into. Mixed throughout all of that is the voice acting and the occasional cutscene which, like the soundtrack, is quality work, but nothing to brag about, and in some cases, the voice acting sounds phoned in. However, the main characters like Ana, Lucas and Officer Frank Mercer keep the core of the story well acted, believable and consistent.
At the end of the day, Need for Speed Heat is a decent arcade racer that racing fans will enjoy, but shouldn’t be expecting a top tier title like others in the series or in comparison to premier arcade racers like the Forza Horizon. At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a new Need for Speed game, this brings police chases and big crashes to an average at best title.
Overall Score: 7.5 / 10 Marenian Tavern Story: Patty and the Hungry God
What initially drew me Marenian Tavern Story was when I saw a brief trailer showing off the grid-based combat similar to Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem, both series that I am still huge fans of to this day. Digging into it I learned that it had more in common with games like Stardew Valley or the Harvest Moon series where there is a combination of running a tavern, harvesting crops in the nearby areas and even a bit of gardening.
The story starts off with Patty, her little brother and their butler making a trip to one of their homes. At one point the little boy runs into a statue which happens to unlock the God of Poverty. who in turn starts a series of unfortunate events. The family loses their home, their tavern and all of their wealth with a snap of the fingers. Luckily, there is nearby rundown tavern that the mayor has allowed Patty to take ownership to run and rebuild their fortune. At the same time, they figure out that the God of Poverty powers will weaken when he is fed yummy meals and treats.
Combat is grid based and isn’t overly complicated, save for some boss battle, as you can easily hit the "Auto" button to speed up the combat and let it blast through it as quick as possible. If you do get into a boss battle it is mainly so that you can control when you heal or use certain types of magic, because in the Auto mode it doesn’t seem to work as well. It’s a typical grid based where you select your target, choose the action and repeat.
Exploring the areas, you will come across trees, shrubs, grassy areas, and more that you can harvest food to use as ingredients, and there will of course be some precious treasure hidden in some areas that you have to solve basic puzzles to get to.
After you have gone through all the combat and exploration, which for some reason you can only explore one area per in game day, you are off to your tavern to make some food. There are really two ways to create food: by recipe or create your own food.
Recipes are gathered through exploration (off of book shelves or scraps of paper on tables) or by talking to locals to get the favourites of the area. Recipes are by far the easiest and safest way to create food. In come cases you don’t get the full recipe and make an educated guess. For example, you will get a recipe for Egg Bread and the ingredients will list a pan, bread and "????". Obviously, the final ingredient will be an Egg, however if you put the wrong ingredient you will lose everything you put into it but you will gain a little knowledge for the recipe. Crafting your own food is pretty much selecting ingredients you think will create some food and hope that it will unlock something you can sell on your menu. The recipe system is the highlight of the systems they have in place and is full of depth that you normally don’t see in a 'food' crafting system.
After you have put out your menu you are ready to open for the day which will have a small cut scene of patrons coming to your establishment. Afterwards you will get the final results of your sales for the day. You can use this money to buy recipes, new kitchen equipment, weapons and armour to help you in your quest of getting out of poverty. This is the game in a nutshell and is quite repetitive in nature.
The cities may change, you will upgrade your establishments over time and gain more and more money, however, the essence of the gameplay is doing the same thing over and over again. For some this will be quite addicting, for others it may be quite boring, so keep that in mind if you try to give Marenian Tavern Story: Patty and the Hungry God a shot.
Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 ToeJam and Earl: Back in the Groove!
ToeJam and Earl, back in the day, was a game I didn’t get too much hands-on play because I had to get my Sega Genesis gaming in through friends, as I was a proud owner of a SNES and that garnered most of my focus. However, I did hear a lot of positive things about ToeJam and Earl, and with that in mind I figured 28 years later was a good time to experience a different dynamic duo.
ToeJam and Earl: Back in the Groove starts off with setting the story with the titular duo, along with their friends Lewanda and Latisha, are off on a cruise with a “borrowed” spaceship that they don’t fully know how to control. This results in an accident near Earth, which results with ToeJam & Earl creating a black hole that sucked up the planet and regurgitated it into a complete mess. Did I mention that their spaceship also got sucked up into the black hole? With that, the only way for everyone to return home is to explore the newly spewed out Earth for the needed ship parts to reconstruct the ship.
The pieces of Earth that you explore are flat pieces of land floating through space, along with that there are scattered humans all over to hinder your exploration of the bits of Earth. At first when jumping in, I was expecting a bit more complicated gameplay, but at it’s core it is pretty simple. First, avoid the humans at all costs as they just get in your way. Second, explore each level, fully collecting all the presents and ultimately spaceship parts that you can find. Thirdly, HORDE all the presents and your money. In the earlier levels, you can get away with some skillful maneuvers to get around all the humans, but later on you are going to need the presents that you collect. Inside the presents are powerful powerups that you are going to need to utilize in later stages to progress.
The powerups include slingshots to launch tomatoes at your human bothers, gas clouds to scatter enemies, disguises to bypass humans altogether and wings that help you fly from one side of the level to the other, avoiding any contact at all with the pesky human beings. The money collection comes into play because it is what you use to check what’s inside your presents so you can lock in what you’re going to be able to use, otherwise it is completely random which can be a huge pain in later levels.
Doing a bit of research on the game beforehand, I did learn that this edition of ToeJam and Earl incorporates stats for characters, with their starting stats all being a bit different than the others as well. These stats determine speed, health, present skill, search skill, inventory size and your luck. These will level up as you continue through the game making it a bit easier with each level you gain.
All of these aspects make up for a decent gameplay experience, however, unless you use all the tools you have at your disposal, you may rage quit at the later levels. Although the game appears to be simple, it gets chaotic, overwhelming and just darn frustrating if you’re not prepared for it. This frustration extends into multiplayer, as I thought it would make the game a bit easier with more hands in the pot, but it actually made it a bit harder because of how the camera worked. When each character spreads out it expands the camera view very wide, making it sometimes difficult to see what you were doing and forces you to stick together to make sure everything was zoomed in properly. With that one downfall it did unfortunately ruin the co-op experience of the game for me. However, if that one issue doesn’t bother you then you will be able to couch co-op along with playing with friends online as well.
On the presentation side of the game I was warped back to the 90’s from the very first frames of the opening cut scene, and it perpetuates throughout the whole game within the look and sounds of the experience. The backwards ball caps that ToeJam and Earl wear, the makeup styling on Lewanda and Latisha and even how they talk all bring you back to that good ole 90’s nostalgia feel. It makes me miss the 90’s a little bit, but at the same time it makes me wonder how the fashion industry survived. All of the music has deep bass rhythms playing in the background that reminds you of Seinfeld, and we get visited by Saved by the Bell vibes with squiggly lines plastered just about everywhere they could put them. The colour schemes are vibrant and the in your face art style brings everything to the perfect “fruit gushers” explosion of 90’s goodness.
I enjoyed my first foray into ToeJam & Earl and really enjoyed the childhood memories that it brought out. It’s a solid title for a single player playthrough but the multiplayer may not be for everyone, which is unfortunate because it’s great to see a couch co-op title spread itself into an online experience. Fans of the series will definitely and should buy!
Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Monster Boy and The Cursed Kingdom
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap was my first foray into the Wonder Boy series, and I fell in love with the game mainly due to the art style and challenging gameplay. This leads ut to my latest review Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom. Monster Boy has been dubbed the spiritual successor to Wonder Boy, so it was an easy decision to jump into Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom as my next review allowing me not only to just play the game, but to give you my thoughts on the title too. If you’re wondering why this 'successor' isn’t just called Wonder Boy, it all boils down to the fact that Sega has the rights to the name Wonder Boy, which has resulted in the development team creating a similar, but obviously different game in Monster Boy.
The hand drawn art style that most 2D platformers have been created with since their inception is used in this game. With this in mind, gamers should consider themselves lucky to have the artists who worked on Monster Boy create the games spectacular worlds. The lush, vibrant, and spectacularly drawn environments that you navigate through are simply known as the Monster World Kingdom.
You take on the role of Jin, a.k.a Monster Boy, and along with the aforementioned world itself, the character design of this character is amazing, allowing all the visuals to draw the you into the virtual world. Jin is the protagonist and hero of the story that you take control of. His look and style is a well-crafted addition to the environments in all of his forms, be it human, pig, lion, frog, snake or dragon.
How did Jin happen to be able to transform into all these other forms? Well, it all starts with his crazy Uncle Nabu who happens to be a magician, and who also appears to be on a bender (drinking alcohol for the young ones reading this). This all makes a bit of sense considering the original title was Monster Boy and the Wizard of Booze. While on his bender, Uncle Nabu happens to turn the bulk of the citizens of Monster World Kingdom into various humanoid animals. As his nephew, you set out with your brother Zeke to put a stop to his mayhem and get him to turn all your friends back into their human forms.
To do this you have to search the Monster Kingdom far and wide for five animal orbs that allow ,you, as Jin to choose one of the aforementioned animals forms. Taking on one of these animals will grant you an assortment of different abilities based on the form. As you progress through the game you acquire the ability to take on new forms, which in turn creates new and crafty puzzles to solve based on the abilities each animal form grants. The controls are your typical platform fare with attacks, jumps, unique abilities, and some magic to level the playing field. However, all the abilities are spread out through all of the different forms that you gain possession of.
The first form you can take on is your Pig form, which your Uncle turns you into when you first encounter him, and along with this form comes a powerful sense of smell; so powerful that you can sniff out hidden areas, doors and traps. The snake form allows you to enter small entrances, climb up mossy walls and float across water while the frog form allows you to swim and use your strong frog tongue to swing across, or launch to, hard to reach places using specific launch pads. The lion form allows you to charge full steam through walls and across water to open up areas normally not available to the other forms. And finally, there is the powerful dragon form, which gives you the ability to fly and shoot fire balls to take care of some pesky enemies.
We also can’t forget about the cool armour and weapons that you can purchase from the blacksmith, using gems that you find through Monster World Kingdom. Swords that freeze water, boots that allow you to walk on and grip ice, shields that reflect fire balls, bracelets that produce more drops, and many more variants on these items that assist you in solving the obstacles throughout Monster World Kingdom.
But wait, there is more. What’s an adventure that starts off with a magical twist and that doesn’t offer your own set of magical spells? BOOM, you get this addition as well. You better be ready to launch tornadoes and lightning bolts on the fly to get through this game, and your spells will help you do this.
Overall, I really enjoyed the challenge that the in-game puzzles offered, and the scope of thought put into creating them. There are usually multiple ways to solve the obstacle ahead of you, and as you access more of your arsenal, and more animal forms, you can go back and solve the puzzle again allowing you to unlock a new area or gain access to some precious loot you could not get before. It always amazes me, as a gamer, at the creativity of game developers and how they think about all of the little details that go into creating a single room puzzle, but having the foresight and intelligence to combine multiple rooms into huge intertwining puzzles.
Spread throughout the whole game is the beautiful music that connects everything altogether using music from the Wonder Boy series along with some original melodies. As I have said in many reviews, music can make or break a game in how emotionally invested you become. If music doesn’t match up well with what is happening in the game there is a huge disconnect. Luckily for us this isn’t the case in Monster Boy, where we are treated with over 40 different musical pieces.
Simply put, I love Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, so much so that is has made my list of games that I would recommend it to people as "must-play' for those that are fans of the platforming genre. The art, the music, the gameplay and the overall challenge found here are all top notch, and in my opinion it is a game that reaches perfection in this genre. I am personally hoping we will see a continuation in the series and how it could grow into even more.
Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Jackbox Party Pack 5, The
It's that time of year where the nights becomes more crisp, the leaves turn color and the snow flurries trickle through the air. This can only mean that the newest Jackbox Party Pack has arrived just in time for the frigid Canadian winter so we don't have to go outside and deal with all that crap! It is quite nice for the Jackbox Games to release Jackbox Party Pack 5 (JBPP5 for short) at the perfect moment to coincide with hibernation time. Oh, and below you will find my thoughts on this party game which I am fairly sure it will be pretty awesome.
Bundled within JBPP5 are five games: You Don't Know Jack: Full Stream, Split The Room, Mad Verse City, Patently Stupid and Zeeple Dome. Briefly glancing at the bundled titles I am happy to see four brand new titles and an updated version of You Don't Know Jack (YDKJ), which is a fan favorite. Now for those of you out there who aren't too familiar with the series should probably know the basics of Jackbox Party Packs in general. First and foremost, is it is a party game that doesn't require controllers or for everyone to own the game. Only one game needs to be loaded up on your screen, or in some cases, over a stream. What everyone needs to play is a device that can log into jackbox.tv to enter the room code for the game you are playing to jump in. Everything you need to do within the game is controlled by your phone, be it entering an answer, drawing or controlling a sprite. Don't worry about knowing how to play each game either, as there is a tutorial of how to play each beforehand to explain the rules of the game.
As a fan of the series, I had to jump into YDKJ from the get go, as I love trivia games, and this is one of those trivia games I have always gravitated towards. It works like game show with host Cookie Masterson asking the questions, and in Jeopardy fashion, correct answers earn you cash and wrong answers take it away. Some of the questions are just straight up knowledge questions where you are presented with multiple choice answers. Dis or Dat is where you're given two categories like X-Men Characters (Dis) or Game of Thrones Characters (Dat), and they spit out the names of the characters where you select Dis or Dat to score some cash. There are many ways Cookie presents his questions, but he does have a new medium that he presents it on. This time Cookie is streaming through the their made up service called BinjPipe, which really just changes his delivery and the addition of some fake BinjPipe commercials. Overall YDKJ hasn't changed up that much except for some new questions and new jokes from Cookie.
Split The Room is a new game to the Jackbox series that is pretty hilarious, depending on how inventive and/or crude that your friends can be. Basically, you pick two situations like Having Wet Socks For Life or Constantly Having a _______. However, the situations are user entered in that blank, with the sole purpose of creating a split vote between all of the people playing. The closer to a split vote you get the more points you get. As you can imagine, this game is better with larger groups and definitely produces some great laughs. Did I mention this game is hosted by talking cats? How can a game be horrible if it's hosted by a talking cat? Overall, this was a great game to play with friends and is more about how well you can read a room to guess what that group would choose to achieve greater success.
Mad Verse City is definitely the best addition to the Jackbox line up with Mad Libs mashed up with Rap Battles and the 90's. Who can really ask for more when it comes to a game? My kids have been playing with the Mad Libs feature on our Google Home, so I can't wait to try this out with them. Basically, the story has gigantic robots invade Mad Verse City and an epic rap battle ensues where Shadow Master MC and DJ Raych referee the battle to decide who the best rhymer in the land is. Everyone playing has their own robot where they are given parts of lyric, having to fill in the blanks to create the dopest rap to go up against another robot. After the lyrics are presented, everyone votes on their favorite and the winner gets the cash. Highest cash winnings at the end of the game wins the battle. As you can imagine, the type of immature people who would play party games like this produce a lot of innuendo, sassy and downright offensive lyrics that had all of us in stitches while we played this great addition to Jackbox Party Pack 5.
Patently Stupid is a new drawing game from Jackbox that I was initially excited for, until I dove into the game. Firstly, I am not the best artist, but I do enjoy that I can draw in this game and not be judged too harshly, as it's not about quality, but more about getting your point across in any of the Jackbox suite of drawing games. With Patently Stupid you are attending an invention seminar where you fight it out to create the best solutions to everyday problems that we probably don't encounter very often.
Simplified, one player is going to come up with the scenario that needs to be solved, and once the scenario is selected, a player will create an invention that will solve that issue. In turn, they draw the solution and slap a name and slogan onto it to enter into the presentation stage of the game. During the presentation stage, players get to explain their concept and then the investing stage of the game begins. This is where players get to vote on their favorite invention, and in turn, gracing that player with some cash. This process repeats and the player with the most cash at the end of the game wins.
Yes, as complicated as that description of the game is, you will have to trust that it's a little bit more straight forward when you're playing the game itself. However, that straight forwardness doesn't make it any better of the game. I think they did make this drawing game a bit more complicated, and could focus on the drawing aspect more than coming up with names, slogans and presentations.
Zeeple Dome is an interesting game addition to the the Jackbox line up and can be explained best by saying it's a co-op style Angry Birds. Each player is in control of a different colored alien, and you have to use your alien to shoot another species of aliens in a battle dome. This shooting is done on your phone, and just like Angry Birds, you pull back and aim to where you want your alien to go. Pro tip here is to do your best to keep your eyes on the screen and hand on the phone, so you can see the sight line to aim better. However, if you don't have the best hand eye coordination, then you can easily slip your fingers off the browser box. I almost wish they made a Jackbox App where I could make it full screen and use my screen from edge to edge.
Aside from that one controller issue, Zeeple Dome is quite a bit of fun and gets challenging quite quickly. There is a level of cooperation too, because when you drop the shields on one of your enemies, it becomes immune to all other colours, except the new shield color which corresponds with one of the aliens in the game. However this color change is only temporary, so you have to time up your attacks quickly and efficiently. As you make your way through the dome, it continues to get harder and harder, but also a lot more crazy. Although different than the typical Jackbox game, it is plenty of fun and I highly recommend the developers expand on the idea and turn it into a full fledged title with some more flair.
Overall, the biggest draw for this Jackbox Party Pack is the new You Don't Know Jack and newest gem in Mad Verse City. The other titles are just enjoyable but fall more into an average category instead of the AAA stuff that Jackbox Games normally publishes. If you're a fan of the series, then it's a no-brainer, but if you're not, you may just want to mooch off your friends and play with them.
Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Airheart - Tales of broken Wings
It's been quite a bit sit I've had the chance to sit down and review a title, and the one I chose to break my teeth on again is Airheart: Tales of Broken Wing. What drew me in was watching the stellar visuals in the trailer as your Airstrip flew around fishing and shooting down pirate ships. Let's dive a little deeper though and see if the first impression holds up well.
Airheart has the soul of a old school game, but with the flourish of modern art styles, which creates an amazing back drop and world to play in. The rich and colorful world in the skies full of clouds, floating islands, flying fish and airships that round a great looking title. The story flows with some pop up vignettes that you read along, and sometimes some text dialogue with the main character Amelia. If you didn't get the homage to Amelia Earhart here don't be too embarrassed, as I only figured it out while writing this review. Amelia, is of course is a young pilot, and sky fisher, who is trying to make her way in the world about Granaria. Along with the great visual presentation we are also provided a pleasant musical score and on point sound effects that you would expect in a game that places in the skyies where you are having dogfights.
Granaria is a floating city where your main base of operations is, and above Granaria is where you collect resources. Above the great city of Granaria are many levels where you hunt fish to sell, find salvage and battle pirates, or in some cases, because a pirate yourself. At your Airport in Granaria you will tinker away on your airship with the resources and salvage you gathered to enhance your airships maneuverability, defense and offensive capabilities.
The more you enhance, the higher you can go up the levels to get more lucrative loot, however, the higher you climb the more dangerous the world becomes. This enters us into the cycle of loot, upgrade, climb up the levels and repeat, which gets boring very quickly, as there doesn't appear to be any smaller scale objectives aside from reaching the Sky Whale which at the apex of the sky levels.
Amelia's aircraft comes equipped with weapons of course, which vary in rate of fire, burst size and strength. Along with the basic weapons, you are also equipped with a harpoon which can be used in a variety of ways, like swinging an enemy craft into one of the many floating islands in the sky or to dismantle armor on larger ships. Along with weapon upgrades you will of course have engine and armor upgrades as well, so that your ship can be better equipped for those higher levels.
Pirates are probably the best way to get the salvage you need to craft objects in your workshop, and probably the more enjoyable way to acquire anything in the game. Piloting around and taking down the smaller crafts is pretty simple, but there are much larger warships that are armed to the teeth that are much more challenging, but definitely more rewarding. There are random objects that are floating around the sky levels to collect, but you can also capture the many species of skyfish that are flying around that you sell to buy blueprints and parts.
The blueprints are used in a crafting menu where you experiment to find out what the different parts combined together can create. There isn't any listing of what you can do, but with experimentation (or a quick google search) you will be able to craft anything that you need to turn your ship into a lean, mean, skyfishing, pirate battling - flying machine!
On the controls side of things, Airheart is a typical twin stick shooter that veteran and new gamers will be able to pick up quickly after a level or two to start their grind of fishing, fighting pirates and upgrading their ships. However, one thing I haven't touched on is the fact that this game doesn't have any save point system at all, and if you die, you lose everything that is on your aircraft, including any upgrades you may have applied. Mind you this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but you do discover it by crashing your ship and losing everything, because it doesn't explicitly say that there isn't a save system, so here is your warning now folks!
Airheart was quite enjoyable at first where you get to enjoy the beauty of the game and figure out the controls, mechanics and how to upgrade your ship. However, once you realize this game is quite the grind, and your progress doesn't save, it quickly becomes a chore. I don't want to whine and say the game is too hard though, because it isn't. I totally get that death is a huge component for some games, but because you have to upgrade your ship to be able to reach the higher levels and their infamous Sky Whale. The addition of some sort of save system would turn this below average twin stick shooter into a stellar title, or even the ability to keep any upgrades that you have acquired. Unlike other twin stick shooters where your upgrades are temporary, or you have ammo reserves, you either have the upgrade or you crash and it's gone.
Airheart is great in short bursts, but because of the lack of any save feature, the title quickly becomes unenjoyable and a pointless grind that most gamers would give up on pretty quickly unless they are an achievement hunter looking for a new title to max out on.
Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Disneyland Adventures
Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth, so they say, is on my bucket list of places that I have to see in my life, especially now as I am the proud father of three Disney loving children. This fact alone makes it even more of goal in the future. So, what does this have to do with a video game review you ask? Well, let me explain.
In 2011 a game was released that attempted to bring the Disneyland experience into your living room. Disneyland Adventures launched on the Xbox 360 for Kinect, and it was a game that was all about experiencing a virtual Disneyland Park. Hearing this I was of the opinion that it was more of a gimmick and something that I passed over because I thought "How could a game measure up to the real thing?". Not to mention, the motion controls for Kinect for Xbox 360 weren't the best to begin with. Many years later Disneyland Adventures has made its way to the Xbox One and I am taking the opportunity to check it out the second time around.
Diving into the game you do notice that this is definitely an upgraded game and not something built up brand new for the power that is in a Xbox One X. Although this is supposed to re-create what a Disneyland Experience may be like, you are left with a more of a cartoon like experience rather than a detailed and realistic visual presentation. Don't get me wrong, the game does look good and is obviously geared towards younger gamers who love Disney, not an adult like myself who is used to the best graphics he can get on console.
What is somewhat noticeable is that the dev-team didn't do much to make the game a next generation version of what it was, keeping it fairly close to the original, when it comes to the visual side of the game. With this in mind, you will notice that there are some frame stutters that do appear from time to time which you wouldn't really expect with an older-gen title with current-gen upgrades. It is more of an annoyance rather than something that completely messes up the overall gameplay though.
While wandering the park the characters you encounter, like Mickey and Goofy, all look like they are supposed to and sound pretty much like them too. The voice acting is most likely not the main voice actors who typically get the work for the television shows or movies, but whoever it is, they bang it out of the park and bring you into the World of Disney. Don't worry, you will encounter just about every Disney character you can think of like Cinderella, Stitch and Buzz Lightyear to name a few. Mind you, I've only seen and heard Disney via television as a young as a young boy but the sights and sounds are what I've pieced together of what Disneyland would actually sound like.
The gameplay element is quite simple – exploration and rides/games. Disneyland Adventures is really meant to be an interactive experience that takes you to Disneyland without all the fees for travel, accommodations and food. With this game now optimized for a controller experience it was a lot of fun just seeing everything throughout the park without using what I can only imagine would be awkward to use motion controls to navigate the virtual park in front of you.
Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Critter Country, Mickey's Toontown and many more well known Disney attractions are areas that you explore in Disneyland Adventures. While you are exploring don't forget to grab all the collectibles you encounter. Without some collectibles to find the exploration aspect would get boring quite quickly, so this is a welcomed addition to keep that part of the game quite alive.
Next are the rides, which are set up as mini games that allow you to explore worlds from Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan to name a few. As a former Kinect game it doesn't translate well into controller based gameplay, as it feels like you are playing Dance Dance Revolution or Rock Band on a controller. which isn't a whole lot of fun. As someone who no longer has a Kinect, I can see the appeal of the motion games for Disneyland Adventures, but not enough to invest in the hardware again. I almost wish I could have just picked a ride and went through it in an almost VR fashion, or first person view, to get a feel for what the rides would actually feel like.
Overall, it doesn't sound all that bad of title to play through, but what I've briefly described is the bulk of the content of the game, which is great for young toddlers to kids, who are maybe upwards to 7 years old, who would enjoy playing with their parents. Older kids and adults will quickly fly through the content though and will most likely find the price tag a bit too much for what you're getting, even though it's not a fully priced title.
Disneyland Adventure is a game, or should I say experience, that I would happily recommend for young kids and Disney Lovers. However, it is a short adventure and the conversion from a Kinect title to a controller based title for certain aspects of this updated title didn't translate well and makes it somewhat mundane at times. Disneyland Adventures is something you want to love, cherish and play over and over again, but unfortunately just doesn't have the staying power that the real Disneyland would obviously have.
Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 South Park: The Fractured But Whole
South Park: The Stick of Truth was a hysterical game that had me laughing for hours upon hours and falling in love with the animation of South Park all over again. When I heard of the sequel I was excited, but skeptical, that South Park: The Fractured But Whole could compete with the near perfection of its predecessor, a master combination of RPG and a twisted adaptation of the Lord of the Rings that was comedic gold. Could this new release stand up to my expectations? Could they even match it? With these thoughts in mind I unfurled my cape and flew into South Park: The Fractured But Whole.
With many years to perfect the animation style that South Park has become known for, there is no doubt that they nailed it down and delivered an exact replica of South Park. Iconic characters like Cartman, Kyle, Stan, Token, Wendy, and Craig, along with the adults the likes of Mr. Mackey, Mr. Marsh, Mrs. Broflovski, and Mrs. Cartman, they all bring life to the world of South Park. Whereas all the homes, stores, iconic landmarks like City Hall, South Park Elementary, and the ever standing town of South Park sign sitting across from the bus stop, all set the stage for the action that's about to unfold.
The battle animations are hilarious, especially the finishing power moves that each of the characters have. Each move is creatively designed with the character in mind, like when Captain Diabetes engorges himself on sugary treats that puts him into a hulk like rage that allows him to destroy everything in his path. As someone who picked a Speedster class to start, I was granted a finishing move that combines a bit of Bruce Lee with the Flash as you pummel your enemy with a flurry of punches that leave them wondering where you're coming from and going to. All the animations are pretty neat and I think fans, and non-fans alike, will enjoy what is offered in this area.
As the "New Kid", and like you could in Stick of Truth, you can customize your characters sex, race and appearance, and based on your selections the characters in the game will treat you differently, or in some cases the difficulty of the game will change. The creators have always satirized current events along with injustices in the world and it is no different when it comes to this video game either.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole not only nails it in the graphics department, but it rounds out it's overall presentation with the full support of the iconic voice actors like Trey Parker and Matt Stone, not to mention the musical score and sound effects that fans of the television show or Stick of Truth will easily reminiscence about Although there isn't anything new brought to the table aside from some new sound effects and music that brings a super hero story into the fold, it should be noted that if they brought anything new to the game it would have taken away from the South Park feel. The developers masterfully incorporate what is tried and true with this new theme without swaying away from what South Park is.
First and foremost South Park: The Fractured But Whole is an RPG that takes you on a journey that directly follows the aftermath of South Park: The Stick of Truth. Taking on the role of the "New Kid" once again, you quickly learn that that the local kids are no longer interested in playing out their own version of Lord of the Rings and have split up into two local gangs of Super Heroes: Coon & Friends and Freedom Pals. A local cat has gone missing and a reward has been offered which the two groups of super heroes race to find first, but only one group of heroes can win and rescue poor Scrambles.
The combat system has been revamped a bit from Stick of Truth and uses a grid based system which generally is the combat system used in a lot of my favourite RPG's. I am a huge fan of Final Fantasy Tactics and the Fire Emblem series, so this was definitely a welcome addition and adds a bit more strategy to combat situations. Each move a character has can target an individual grid, a line through the grid, or an area attack. Some moves allow you to push the enemy back giving you much needed space to work with, or in some cases it allows you to hit the enemy and push them out of the way taking the enemies spot in the battlefield.
Knowing what your moves can do can turn the tide of battle quickly, especially when using them in combination with other moves. For example, I enjoy playing a Speedster/Assassin where I can sacrifice my next turn to do two actions in one turn. When activated, I strike deep into the enemy lines taking the place of an enemy and often knocking them straight into another enemy causing even more damage. After that I use a smoke bomb attack that not only deals damage to the enemy but will make my character invisible protecting him for a portion of the battle.
The story is on par with the Stick of Truth and some of the comedy is over the top, and I'll be honest, it even grossed me out now and then, especially during the portion of the game where you have to infiltrate the strip club and perform lap dances. With all of the hilarity in this title, the game does fall a bit short in comparison to The Stick of Truth. Such is the challenge with sequels as it will always be compared to the original.
While playing through the game I did encounter some minor issues like cameras zooming in the wrong places. This would cause the game to freeze or lose audio for a bit. All of this was minor in comparison to the game breaking bug that I encountered. After just completing a Coon & Friends meeting about our next steps in tracking down Scrambles, one would normally be prompted to change out of your clothes, go home, eat dinner then go to bed. Unfortunately, I wasn't prompted to do any of that and was just left to do side quests. After completing all the side quests that I could, some in hopes that it would somehow prompt the next set of story missions, I was sadly disappointed.
As I write this review I haven't been able to progress past this portion of the game and I played for hours upon hours up to this point. Even after seeking help from Ubisoft Support, along with a member of the Ubisoft Team who worked on The Fractured But Whole, still no solution was found. I have to credit those who helped, as they offered a lot of suggestions to let me carry on my journey, but none of the trouble shooting that was offered ended up rectifying the issue that I encountered. Aside from the starting over, and hopefully being able to get the prompt during a second play through, I was at a loss of how to continue the game. To be honest, after putting in almost 20 hours into the game with about five of those attempting to get to the next section, starting over is not that attractive of an option.
With all this in mind I do have to score the game accordingly with this bug, as it broke the game. With the great story and new gameplay mechanics its not hard to imagine that the score for this game would have definitely been higher, as the game was good up to where I couldn't progress any further. That being said, since I couldn't fully enjoy South Park: The Fractured But Whole with the bug that stopped me, I'm left feeling mediocre about this game. It's kinda of sad too, as I was enjoying much of what I played, but to have the game 'break', and leave me stranded, is a big letdown, and something that affects how this game scores overall.
Overall Score: 7.3 / 10 NBA 2K18
It has been quite some time since I've played a basketball game on a console, probably going as far back as the 90's with NCAA Basketball for the SNES which launched in 1992. It was a great title making you feel as though you were a real player on the court and offering a 3D perspective that was so much better than the competition was offering at the time. Sadly, there have been some b-bal games that have been released over the years haven't really built on this and some have been somewhat disastrous, but there has been one series that has been on top of the virtual NBA world, and that is the NBA 2K series. Regardless of his history though, I was not ot sure whether or not to expect a hit or a flop when I went into this review, but I was hopeful NBA 2K18 would ignite that same flame of excitement I had all those years ago.
First off, the game looks great. The visuals are stunning and it could almost pass for a real basketball game on the television if you didn't know any better. The designers did some great work on the up close and personal details, the sweat dripping down the players faces, the likeness to the players in real life and even the beautiful team courts. The player animations are also quite smooth and watching them as the action unfold on-screen is pretty impressive.
This level of detail extends to the custom player mode as well with plenty of options to create the 'baller' of your choice, but, only when this player is actually playing in game. In the career mode, outside the court, your custom player looks awkward and sticks to a whole plethora of stock animations that even some of the NPC's use. Its pretty awkward when the NPC and your player are doing the exact same thing at the same time. With so much good, there seems to always be a little bad and in this game, and I found that this was in the lack of effort that went into the design and appearance of the background and spectators. Understandably this area doesn't get much attention but it is noticeable should you take a close look.
In the music department, you'll be blown away by the soundtrack that has been curated for NBA 2K18. There are tracks from artists like Busta Rhymes, Def Leppard, Outkast, Notorious B.I.G., Panic at the Disco and Kendrick Lamar. Eclectic is the best way to describe it and it does its job in getting you motivated for game day. Commentators join the sound mix with Kevin Harlan giving the play by play which is pretty good even though at times it can become repetitive, which is to be expected in a video game setting when you play a full season of games.
If this doesn't eventually drive you bonkers you are sure to love the addition of TNT's Inside which features Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal and Kenny Johnson. Sit back and enjoy some fantastic, but unemotional, pre-loaded dialogue that was plugged into the game for what I can only imagine to be filler because it did little else for me. That being said, it does give you the TV-like experience of watching a game from the comfort of your couch, and adds a bit to the whole NBA experience. Sadly, the voice acting in career mode seems to be where the effort was lacking (if you can believe it). It just didn't work well here as the lines were bland and it felt somewhat off.
Now, voice work is all fine and dandy but lets talk about what is really important about any sports game: the controls. As someone who has been sitting on the sidelines for awhile when it comes to sports games, I found the controls intuitive and very easy to understand allowing me to get the basics of passing, shooting and dribbling up the court. Even though you can find some some success with these basic controls, take the time to look into the settings to see what else you can do.
You should find find yourself blown away, like I was, at the depth of moves that were available combined with the abilities to call out plays to score some points against teams with great defense. There were things like picking a bounce pass, an alley oop, calling pick and rolls or even highlighting players that you're going to pass the ball to in motion so they can get in the right spot to score some easy points. If I went into it all this would turn into more of a 'how-to' manual, so take it from me and check this section out to really get the most out of this game, especially if you want to win.
Apart from the standalone single player or online matches, the game offers some modes that put you in charge of the teams directly, and they are MyGM and MyLeague. These let you get into the nitty gritty of basketball operations, developing a team into a contender and hopefully a champion. MyGM offers more of a simulator experience that offers a story mode which is called “The Next Chapter” and draws comparisons to MyCareer, except this time it's a story mode for those budding GM's out in the world. MyLeague allows you to create more of a fantasy world for you to control rather than manage a simulation experience that some players prefer.
Most will probably start out by selecting MyCareer, which lets you plan as an up and coming player as he makes his way up into the league. Its fun until you make it then after a few games but it can get boring. It is a steady path of playing games to gain game experience and boost your stats, going to practice to earn perks to help your game and doing mundane tasks to get lucrative sponsorship deals. What I found extremely odd is not having the ability to play as a female player considering there is the WNBA to build a whole other league for all gamers to enjoy.
All of the game modes in NBA 2K18 are all integrated into a hub world called Neighborhoods, which is a virtual world that includes shops, your agent, your apartment and a whole lot of other players that are online at the same time. Personally, I wasn't a fan of this feature of the game as it equated to my character walking to a lot and wasting a butt load of time going from one menu option to another, but for the diehard b-baller, and those who are fans of the NBA 2K series, I can see the attraction for those who fall in these groups.
Along for the ride is the MyTeam mode which allows you to build your own basketball team, be it filled with the best of the best or your all time favourite players. This is all done through a virtual trading card system where you purchase the cards with Virtual Currency (VC) which can be earned by just playing the game, or if you just want to get what you want right away without hours of game play you can of course purchase more VC via micro transactions, Keep in mind that all of these card packs are randomized and it will take quite a few purchases to get the exact team that you want.
When I was checking out all the features in the menus I found it quite odd that the Online Mode didn't jump out at me and I had to do some investigating as there are options in the Play Now. You can also take your MyTeam online as well to play against opponents. The main online mode where you may want to put most of my attention would be in MyLeague Online where you can make your own league with friends to compete against each other to see who would reign supreme. Playing a few matches online I quickly learned that I am horrible against other people, but what I did learn from playing online is how to play better in general. There is nothing as humbling as getting your butt whooped, and I did indeed get whooped in style, but I sure learned quite a bit too. Definitely take your time learning the controls in and out before you pop online if you're a total noob like I was.
There is some hits and misses in NBA 2K18 with some amazing graphics, stellar controls and a decent online experience that holds the core of the game together. However, there needs to be some work done in the custom experiences along with some coaching for the sportscasters to sound a lot more realistic and sincere rather than reading from a script. In the end though the core gameplay experience is superb and I can see why this series has been the go-to basketball game for quite sometime. NBA 2K18 will no doubt entertain and delight basketball fans and sports fans alike.
Overall Score: 8.2 / 10 Mr Shifty
As a fan of Shadow Complex, which was a metroidvania style game, I was immediately drawn to Mr. Shifty. Why is this you ask? Well, it is because it somewhat reminded me of that title, but on a more simplier basis as it appeared to be a stealth game. Well, after playing it I can honestly say that I was 100% wrong in this deduction. As I entered into the world of Mr. Shifty, I quickly learned that the stealth element of the game is not as in-depth as I had hoped, and that it is more of a top down fighter. However, I quickly learned that Mr. Shifty didn't need to be like other titles as it made a valiant effort in its attempt to stand out on its own.
Mr. Shifty's top down action thrusts you into a story where you play the role of Mr. Shifty himself. You have to infiltrate an evil corporation that has a plutonium core secured away. Why do you have to steal it? Simply put, it's an evil corporation and they must be up to no good if they want all this plutonium to themselves.
The combat incorporates teleportation and traditional button mashing combat to solve the various puzzles set out before you. These puzzles are your typical variety that combine environmental and combat mechanics that you would find in many games. For example, you have to take down a bunch of enemies while teleporting back and forth between walls to avoid being hit, all while you progress to another section of the floor that is full of lasers that could either be stationary, rotating, or following you closely behind. After all that mayhem there is most definitely some more enemies, that will require you to use your attack & retreat tactics, that you quickly have to adapt to.
This example is also definitely the highlight of the game, as the combat is well implemented and could have carried the game if the level design was much better. That being said, the mechanics, although quite good, can get really repetitive quickly, as the levels are pretty much the same over and over again, which ultimately kills the gameplay.
Visually, Mr. Shifty is not all that special. It has what I would best describe as very simple character models, but you can easily tell the difference between tme. You'll notice the guards with guns are different looking than the heavier set enemies who pack a punch and can take some damage versus the simple 'one-shot-kill' enemies.
The environments look pretty much the same throughout the whole game, as you can't change up too much inside an ultra secure office building that one man can easily get through, but that's video game science for you. However, all the environments are crafted well for the purposes for solving puzzles. I'd feel safe in saying that they are on par with some of the mobile games I have downloaded to my phone to pass the time while waiting at a bus stop or at the doctor's office.
On top of the mobile quality graphics, the audio seems to fall into the same category as you are treated to some mobile game quality music and sound effects. The background music sounds like cheesy elevator instrumentals with very little variety except some increased tempo during intense sequences you'll come across in the game's levels. Intertwined with the music are sound effects that reminded me of the 60's era live action Batman show starring the great Adam West. However, the sound effects probably would have been a whole lot better if Adam West beat boxed them and the developers added them into the game. Suffice to say I wasn't a huge fan of the overall presentation of the game as I felt they could have put a lot more into this area of the game to take it to the next level, but it felt like they had just copied and pasted this portion of the game in and called it a day.
Mr. Shifty couldn't be held afloat with some great game play mechanics and an relatively cool combat concept. Unfortunately, the shoddy graphics, lackluster sound and music, combined with some boring and repetitive environments, turned what could have been a heck of a game into a complete downer. Unfortunately Mr. Shifty has become Mr. Lousy and is a definite pass.
Overall Score: 5.5 / 10 Broken Age
Parts of me feels like an old man set in his ways when people talk about PC gaming as I shake my head on the inside, thinking about how much console gaming is not necessarily better but is a whole lot easier to deal with. No video cards to worry about or other programs hogging resources that I have to shut down, just pop in the game and boom I am ready to go. Broken Age first and foremost is a PC game which I am lucky, if you consider waiting over two years for it to come to console lucky, to get to play and review it for Xbox One.
Initially I was drawn to this game after being impressed by the visuals in the trailer and I wanted to see if Broken Age would continue to deliver on the story front. Broken Age really showcases the artistic talents of Double Fine. There are people out there who would question how great the visuals of a game can be when it is simply a cartoon. Sure, there are realistic games like Quantum Break that push a machine like the Xbox One to its upper limits, but when I look at the art in Broken Age I see so many different levels. The expansive palette of colours used combined with the superb shading and textures create the world of Broken Age, where the environments range from bright & cheerful exploding with positivity, to the dark, gloomy and depressing depths of outer space. The two main characters of Shay and Vella are carefully crafted to create two very distinct personalities that fit in well with the light and dark play within the environments.
Personally, I love it when big name talent lend their voices to games because it draws the attention and interest of those gamers who may not normally check out a point and click title like Broken Age. Broken Age features Elijah Wood, Jack Black and Wil Wheaton to name off the big guns so to speak. In addition to these, there are some wonderful voice actors like Jennifer Hale, Cree Summer and Richard Horvitz, who you may not immediately recognize by name but would definitely know their work if you checked out their resume. When you have such a star studded cast you are usually in for a real treat, and Broken Age definitely delivers on the voice acting front bringing you in deeper to the world that Double Fine has created.
The musical score is just as impressive as the voice cast with composer Peter McConnell, who like some of the voice actors, you may not recognize, but his resume includes composing for franchises like Star Wars, Monkey Island, Sly Cooper and not to mention the cult favourite Grim Fandango. Suffice to say the Broken Age soundtrack is wonderfully composed and the years of experience Peter has shines through. The score is something I would gladly add to my video game playlist to enjoy throughout the day.
As a point and click adventure game there's not a whole lot to talk about controls like I normally would in most reviews. The best way to go at it is just to dive right in and experience the story itself. Double Fine are master story tellers and they know how to evoke emotions in their audience and keep you coming back for more. Without wanting to ruin the story which I would if I went into detail, I'll leave it to you to discover on your own.
With Broken Age you have a superb musical score combined with stunning visuals and not to mention a thoughtful and emotional story. If you're a fan of Double Fine games, point and click adventures or just want to enjoy a great story, Broken Age is a title for you.
Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Sonic Mania
If you're a gamer and haven't heard of Sonic the Hedgehog, you should definitely feel ashamed, as this iconic character has spawned not only games (video and board), but television shows, comics, clothing and a plethora of toys that my own children often ask me to purchase. Having had Sonic Mania on my radar since it was announced, I was excited to get this title in my hands and I jumped right in as soon as it downloaded to my Xbox One.
Sonic titles were never strong on story, and Sonic Mania is no different. It starts off with Sonic and a couple of his well recognized friends, Tails and Knuckles, jumping into a plane and heading off to investigate a powerful energy reading that they detected. When they arrive at their location they find that Doctor Eggman and his goons are also on the hunt for the energy, so Sonic and his pals must battle their enemies to reach the energy first. With the basics plotted out we get to jump into the gameplay which can be simply described as retro classic 16-bit goodness.
The gameplay for the most part is exactly what a Sonic game is known for. It's the same experience that you would experience if you popped in the original Sonic the Hedgehog from 1991 on the Sega Genesis. Sonic blurs through each of the zones going through tunnels, loop de loops, bouncing off spring loaded platforms or being boosted through areas via power-ups found throughout the zones.
Keep in mind that you can play as the two other characters in the game; Tails, who can fly and swim and Knuckles, who can climb walls and glide. Sonic's ability is to dash as soon as he lands a jump, allowing him to pick up speed quickly. This is really good to know as some of the levels are infinitely easier with the other characters, but on the other hand this also creates some new challenges when using the other companions.
Each “zone” is split up into two acts where you make your way through obstacles themed after the zone itself. Green Hill Zone and Chemical Plant Zone are two that I instantly recognized as these zones have been mainstays in many of the Sonic games as well as the cartoon. I do admit I have binge-watched some of the Sonic cartoons with my sons in the past while, so it is fresh in my mind. Other zones that are in the game are Studiopolis, Flying Battery, Press Garden and Stardust Speedway.
With each zone there are some unique obstacles that you have to deal with. For example, in the Chemical Plant you use a chemical plunger to combine chemicals to make the otherwise deadly pool of acid turn into a huge trampoline to bounce your character to new areas. Another example is The Flying Battery level that uses magnetism to cling your character to metal objects making it easier to traverse deadly areas that might get you electrocuted. Finally, in Press Garden, you face off against the cold elements, placing your frozen self inside a huge ice cube which you can use to slide yourself down a hill to smash areas open for more exploration.
Aside from the main campaign levels you can show off your gaming skills by participating in a Time Attack mode, which posts your times against all the other gamers in the world to see how you stack up. I am proud to say that I was in the top 10 for some of the levels before the game released, though I am sure that my placing will plummet when the superfans get their hands on this title and show us reviewers how it is really done. Along with Time Attack there is a Co-op Competition mode where you race through the zones to see who is quickest to the finish line and ultimately play for bragging rights.
Though this title is faithful to the original games of Sonic's glory days, you do not have to fear that you are just playing a remastered edition of old levels. The zones build on what made Sonic great and push it even further with some of the unique obstacles mentioned above, combined with new level designs that even an accomplished Sonic player as myself had to stop and have a few, “Wow, that was really cool!” moment. One such instance was when Sonic gets launched through the air, floats for a bit, and then gets suddenly whooshed into a huge turbine to be spit out on the other side.
Visually, much like the gameplay, we are presented with what is a faithful artistic recreation that the original developers would be proud of. The retro 16-Bit style that has had a huge resurgence in modern gaming is amazing, and Sonic Mania fits well into this genre, even upping the ante a little bit more. In the video settings you'll find an option to set the game to look like a CRT television to put the final touches on that retro feeling. Sonic, Tails and Knuckles look as they should in their sprite forms, along with the many enemies that they encounter throughout the zones. As I mentioned, the level designs have a lot of cool moments, but the way they look is just as awesome in broadening the world of Sonic, even more-so for fans of the series.
Music and sound stays true to what Sonic fans have become accustomed to, with what I can only describe as a wheel revving as Sonic speeds away, the classic ding as you grab onto golden rings to the sound of Dr. Eggman's robots blowing up to tiny little bits. The music changes based on the zone that you are in along with the situation you are facing, be it the sunny Green Hill Zone to the skies in The Flying Battery Zone or how the tempo picks up more and more as you are drowning and desperately trying to get back to air. Did I mention if you're not careful you're going to die a lot?
Sonic Mania is what fans of the blue hedgehog have been wanting for years, as it is a return to what made Sonic who and what he is with lighting fast 2D side scrolling action and some new levels to blast through. With some bragging rights on the line, SEGA has thrown into the mix the Time Attack and Competitive modes which will add some replay value for some of the serious Sonic players out there. Sonic Mania is great for the fans and if you never played a Sonic game before, this is definitely a great place to start.
Overall Score: 9.3 / 10 Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap
I am a lover of the retro remakes that have been released on consoles recently, especially with the huge amount of nostalgia that they evoke. That being said, I hadn't heard of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap before starting to play it for my most recent review. With a little bit of research I quickly learned that this particular incarnation of Wonder Boy was originally for the once hyped Game Gear from SEGA, a system that I never even owned or played.
The game begins by throwing you immediately into a world where you must enter a castle and battle a dragon who, after a small bit of time, completely destroys and curses your character, who of course plays the role of Wonder Boy in this title. There is an option to play as a female, but for the purpose of the review we shall use the name Wonder Boy. The curse that is laid upon you turns you into what I refer to as a draconian, a humanoid dragon. I think that’s much better than Lizard Man, don’t you think? After you are cursed you make your way to a nearby town which starts is where the game starts you on your journey.
Like most games from the ancient days (my sons words, not mine) there isn’t a whole lot of hand holding in Wonder Boy and you have to figure out what to do by using some old fashioned exploration and some trial and error. During your travels you will encounter bosses and puzzles that you must defeat and/or solve in order to gain new equipment, or in the case of defeating dragons you will gain new forms to morph into. These different forms will give you access to new areas in the game so that you can find treasure, more bosses and even more puzzles.
With your accumulated treasure you can buy weapons, shields and armor upgrades at the local shop to make Wonder Boy more formidable as he progresses to new areas. There are also items you can use, like boomerangs and fireballs, that have a finite amount of uses, but you’re in luck as you can collect these simply by defeating enemies. It should be noted that the boomerang, if used properly, can last forever as long as you never lose it. The game hides plenty of hidden goodies throughout so make sure you explore everywhere to discover secret areas which will help you progress even further.
The game starts off pretty standard and it progressively gets harder as a game like this should, but for gamers who aren’t up to the challenge Wonder Boy can be outright depressing to continue playing. If you love a challenge though then Wonder Boy is for you as you will die over and over again as you figure out the best way to solve puzzles and get through areas, which can equate to you feeling like you are practicing more than anything else. The most frustrating part of the game is probably in the combat mechanics, because if you don’t time a maneuver correctly you will miss and more than likely die pretty quickly.
Luckily, if you die you are sent back to the town you started in with all of your equipment and treasure. Thankfully you do not have to travel back to your corpse to get your gold back and this makes it a bit easier to farm areas for more treasure. On top of the plentiful deaths the game is can be beaten in 7-10 hours depending on your skill level. This is a bit of negative for me as I prefer a game that has more substance to it and takes a bit longer to finish. In retrospect though, not too many games from the 80’s provided the hours upon hours of gameplay that we have become accustomed to, and some may see 7-10 hours as long enough for this remake.
In regards to the game's visuals, it is a beautiful game and I fell in love with the cartoon art style that the designers chose as they overhauled the game. Creating a modern look has done this game justice, but you do have the ability to toggle between the modern graphics and the original graphics from the 80’s, which can give younger gamers a glimpse into the past or allow older gamers, like myself, a bit of nostalgia. Personally, I have a harder time looking at some old school 8-bit games as my eyes start to burn and almost scream in pain at the horrendous and dated visuals. I am told gamers older than me find it much easier on their eyes mostly due to the fact that they are probably going blind.
Along with a graphics upgrade the game also received a soundtrack overhaul with some great tunes to backdrop the action. The music helps expand on the atmosphere with the right tone and tempo to create excitement and calm depending on the areas you are travelling. Just like the graphics, you are able to play with some of the settings to mess around with the sound to incorporate some of the 8-bit feel to the modernized title.
All things considered, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a beautiful enhancement to what was obviously a hidden gem back in the 8-bit era of gaming, which unfortunately I missed. Despite the brutal difficulty and the somewhat short gameplay, playing it years late is enjoyable and highly recommended, especially for those gamers who are looking for bit of nostalgia or a modern looking side scrolling platformer to play through to get away from the glut of FPS, driving or sports games out there.
Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 88 Heroes
The 8-bit style of gaming has had a huge resurgence over the past few years with quite a few hits and a whole lot of misses, so when one comes along it’s almost a crap shoot of what you’re going to get in the retro style genre of gaming. 88 Heroes is a new title brought to fans by developers Bitmap Bureau. They have taken their shot into the fray of 8-bit glory to see if it can attract old and new gamers alike.
88 Heroes is definitely a standard platformer on the surface as it has all the basics you would normally have in game found in the genre, which includes a lot of jumping, attacks, and of course untimely deaths. What makes this platformer stand apart is that you aren’t just one character, nor are you just two, as you play as 88 characters who happen to be some of the worst heroes in the world with some really bizarre powers.
The heroes range from a child who randomly turns into a monster, a cat that shoots lasers, a basketball player who can jump high and throw his ball, and of course a big bad ass with a sword. These are just a few of the 88 Heroes who have banded together to take on Doctor H8. Doctor H8 has pointed 88 warheads at Earth and has given the world a demand to pay him 88 Octillion dollars in 88 minutes or he will launch the warheads. This is where our ragtag heroes enter the fray as they work together using all of their unique abilities to solve 88 levels in those precious 88 minutes.
After I learned all that I could about this game it quickly became a must try and I jumped into the fray, and I have to admit that I died a lot to start off. With each death I got to play a new character which came with a bit of a learning curve as you have to figure out how you’re going to solve the particular level with their unique ability. Luckily, as you learn each of these 88 heroes abilities you collect some coins throughout the game, and if you collect 88 (Go figure eh?) of these coins you will be able to revive one of the heroes back into your arsenal.
I can say this game is quite challenging but it doesn’t incur the rage that I have with other platformers. It challenges you to make sure your heroes stay alive so you can complete the 88 levels within those precious 88 minutes that is for sure. Did I mention you only have 88 seconds to complete each level? Aside from learning each of the heroes abilities you find that the controls work really well and are intuitive if you played your share of platformers. If you haven’t don't worry as it is still easy to pick up.
Along with the 88 Mode you are further challenged with the Magnificent 8 Mode where you are graced with picking 8 of your favourite heroes to complete the challenges you barely did with 88. This was quite a challenge and I do admit I didn’t fare too well within this mode. Another challenge is Solo Mode where you pick just one hero and have 88 lives to complete the 88 levels, which on the surface seems a bit easier than the Magnificent 8 because you would obviously pick your best hero; however, having the variety of powers at your disposal does make the game infinitely easier.
Graphically, 88 Heroes is exactly as you would expect from the genre with the pixelated heroes and enemies moving throughout the screen. Of course there are the familiar platforming elements like traps, jumps and platforms scattered throughout the environment to create the challenge that is 88 Heroes.
Interestingly enough, the levels are viewed on a huge security monitor while Doctor H8 and his minions watch on and provide commentary. With this revival of 8-bit gaming I have gone back to play some of my favourite 8-bit games that I loved during my NES days. This led to me thinking to myself “How did I ever play these games?” Bitmap Bureau have done a wonderful job of taking the 8-bit history while putting a modern touch on the graphical presentation.
This also extends into the music and sound effects that heighten the world and helps the game deepen the atmosphere that oozes nostalgia. The upbeat tempo of the music carries you from level to level which interacts well with the variety of jumping sounds that each hero makes, along with the sound of swords, lasers, guns or a good ole fist to the face that completes this 8-bit experience. As I mentioned Doctor H8 does provide a bit of commentary, especially when you die as he doesn’t turn down a chance to mock you at your failings, but he will also sarcastically congratulate you on your victories. My favourite is when he gets mad at his minions for doing a horrible job trying to kill you.
Bitmap Bureau has done a top notch job of creating a game that provides you with the nostalgia of the golden age of gaming. They manage to bring their own twist with everything in the game revolving around the number 88, which seems a bit odd at first, but once you get into the game it is what makes it truly enjoyable and makes 88 Heroes stand apart from other platformers. I have to say that I am definitely looking forward to what Bitmap Bureau has to bring us next, perhaps an 88 Villains or 99 Heroes is around the corner.
Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Yooka-Laylee
When looking at the latest list of games that I could potentially review I saw the title Yooka-Laylee and was intrigued because of the play on words. I love bad puns and lame dad jokes, so I did some research and found a game trailer to check out, and I was instantly entranced, thinking to myself that this game reminds me so much of Banjo-Kazooie back in the Nintendo 64 days. My Editor informed me that a good chunk of the Playtonic team are former developers of Rare who actually worked on games like Banjo-Kazooie.
With that little tidbit I did some more research and not only found out that some of the developers worked on Banjo-Kazooie, but they have also worked on Viva Pinata. One of the artists even had a hand in creating the modern day Donkey Kong characters that we've come to know and love. This simply means that Playtonic has the experience and motivation to bring a true spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie. With this fact being known there will obviously be some comparisons to Banjo-Kazooie but I will do my best to not bury myself into the nostalgia that much.
When jumping into Yooka-Laylee you are immediately presented with lush, bright and detailed environments that are not only reminiscent of Banjo-Kazooie, but it's almost like they took that world, shook it up in a barrel and threw it on a canvas. They must have had the framework already done, and then they went through and brought it up to modern day standards with new textures, colours and more details than ever before to create a familiar, but whole new world for the characters Yooka and Laylee to explore.
Yes, the two characters that take on the role of the heroes are a duo again, but this time they are represented as a Chameleon and a Bat. They are quite adorable, so much so that I wish I could have the pair as stuffed animals of these two for my young daughter. The other characters in the game are just as vibrant and detailed with nothing overlooked in this cartoon stylized world. The developers at Playtonic have nailed it 100% in creating a stunning and vibrant setting that gamers of all ages can enjoy.
Along with the visuals, another aspect that really stands out is the musical score that has been created for this colourful game. Music can make or break a gaming experience, especially if it doesn't create the right mood, and it can also make games frustrating because it can be quite annoying. That being said, Playtonic has knocked it out of the park and has created an emotional score that is somber and peaceful when exploring the quieter parts of the world, but it ramps up to a frantic pace when in battle, and even more heart pumping when fighting in boss battles. The musical score of Yooka-Laylee is a journey in itself and I am jealous of the Kickstarter backers that will be getting a soundtrack CD to enjoy.
The game starts of with Yooka and Laylee relaxing and enjoying the sun when suddenly Capital B and Dr. Quack unleash a powerful machine that sucks up all the books in the world, taking them to their factory known as Hivory Towers. To prevent the evil duo from having a monopoly on the worlds literature, Yooka and Laylee set out foil the plans of Capital B and Dr. Quack.
One of the books taken is a magical book that has its “Pagies” all fall out, leaving them scattered all over the world. If Yooka and Laylee can collect all these Pagies and reconstruct the book they will be able to stop Capital B and Dr. Quack. How are they to do this you ask? Well, they enter the magical worlds inside these Grand Tomes that are hidden away in the Hivory Towers by using all of their abilities, along with some new ones they learn along the way.
The controls are fairly simple to use with your typical fare (e.g walking, jumping), but you will learn some new skills from a somewhat helpful snake named Trowzer. His help is not free though and he will require payment, via the in-game currency called Quills, for learning new moves that you'll need to progress through the game. Trowzer also teaches you a new move every time you enter a new Grand Tome so he can expand his merchants reach across all these worlds. The tutorials for learning these moves are detailed enough that you pick them up quickly and put them to use right away. For example, Yooka can roll into a ball to climb large inclines, eat berries off of trees to shoot ice and fire, or do a ground pound. Laylee can use her sonar (she is a bat for goodness sake), which comes in handy in stunning enemies and opening new areas.
There are a multitude of other ways to enhance your characters. You can do so using an item called "Play Tonics". You get these from a character named Vendi. These tonics are unlocked by performing objectives in the game which will give the duo some well deserved stat enhancements. Another character in the game, Dr. Puzz, has you collect Mollycools so that he can help transform the duo, giving them even more abilities to solve the wonders of the world.
You also have a health and power meter to monitor. Your health can be restored by eating butterflies that spawn all over, often appearing after you defeat an enemy. Your power meter does restore over time, but you can also eat butterflies to replenish it too so you can get back to using it when adventuring. All of these abilities work well in the platforming world that you set out to explore. They are incorporated into the game stages so that as you explore you'll learn as you go along.
One thing worth noting regarding the overall gameplay is that in some areas that you will get frustrated due to how the camera sometimes flips back and forth to a different angle at key moments. This can happen when fighting simple enemies all the way up to bosses. The bulk of the game is quite flawless when it comes to camera work, but unfortunately when it does fail it seems to be at critical moments that cause some frustration. As a gamer you can adjust for the flaw, so keep that in mind when you come across it as it doesn't break the game, but does cause a few "What the heck!" moments.
Along with the core gameplay there is Rextro's Arcade, which does take place in the campaign. You have to earn credits to play the arcade games found here; however, there is a separate menu where you can gain access to immediately play these arcade games in the single player or multiplayer styles. There are 8 games in total and all are very simple party style games with my favourite being Kartos Karting, which is obviously a racer. Other high points in the arcade are the Gun-tlet Run where you play an on rails shooter to get the highest score. There is no difference in the gameplay of these arcade games if you're playing solo or multiplayer, except for in multiplayer you are duking it out for bragging rights.
Aside from the annoying camera work, Yooka-Laylee is a whole lot of fun that will keep platformer fans busy for hours on end as they explore every nook and cranny throughout the world. This is nostalgia done right. Playtonic Games have used their past experiences and brought them into the hear and now. They have managed to keep the core elements that everyone came to love in Banjo-Kazooie while managing to ramp everything up to the next level. Yooka-Laylee is a game that is a pleasant surprise, an enjoyable experience, and one we highly recommend for gamers of all types.
Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Warhammer Quest
As a young nerd who played a lot of video games, I also played a lot of pen and paper RPG’s like Dungeons and Dragons or Vampire, and of course my fair share of board games. With that being said, I never made the plunge into playing Warhammer games mostly due to the fact that I am a horrible artist who didn’t want to butcher my pieces by painting them. In hindsight I could have had a friend who was more artistic paint some up for me, but alas, Warhammer never came to be a game I played, and as an adult I have not had the time to play. A video game option definitely seemed like the best recourse to replace my poor artistic skills and get me into the game though, hence my interest in writing my review for Warhammer Quest.
Graphically, the gameplay is more like playing Dungeons & Dragons where you have a grid map that you travel through and fight various enemies which range from monsters like rats, goblins, orcs, to run of the mill bandits or soldiers. Did I mention the graphics seem like they are from the over 10 years ago? Along with that there is a bunch of stereotypical adventures that are 'save-the-princess' variety or 'defeat-the-bandit' raids that are detailed with brief blurbs on the screen detailing the adventure you are about go on.
There are no animated stories to watch and there is no voice over work to detail the finer points of the adventure(s) you are about to partake in. Suffice to say, with the environments designed on a basic bird’s eye view, the characters and NPC’s are designed in the same way so you don’t even get to see your characters faces unless you count the very boring portraits in the adventurer’s guild where you select your party.
Along with the dated visuals are some lackluster sound effects and music that, from what I experienced, seemed to be thrown in because the developers thought for a few minutes and had a "Eureka!" moment which helped them decide that these elements might be good in this game. Suffice to say you have the sounds of weapons like swords, axes, and bows and arrows as they fly through the air, and for the bulk of the time, missing their targets.
It should be noted that Warhammer Quest was originally released on PC in January of 2015 and shortly later that year on iOS. From the research I have done, compared to what we have on the Xbox One, it is purely a port. Unfortunately for gamers this means that the gameplay is not optimized for a console play though.
This is immediately noticeable when navigating the menu system. On the console the bumpers and triggers are often used as shortcuts to navigate menus, and I had to use the analog stick/d-pad to scroll through all of the options to get to the menu button I needed. You will find that you will hit the wrong way and it messes up the order you are scrolling through, leaving you to cycle through a few more options. Suffice to say it is quite obvious that game was made to be used with a touchscreen or mouse.
With this obvious annoyance of being optimized for other platforms or devices, I did find that I managed to enjoy the combat for the most part. I have always enjoyed turn based tactical games and Warhammer Quest delivers on that front, but in the most basic of forms because it’s more about being at the right place rather than making sound tactical maneuvers. For the most part I just have all tank type characters that can take a lot of damage and let them wail on the enemies and take them down. I’ve tried using missile type characters, like Rangers and Mages, but more often than not they miss their targets which creates plenty of frustrating moments early when trying to use a balanced party, at least in my opinion.
The rest of Warhammer Quest is pretty much about entering a dungeon, killing enemies, completing a quest, then go to town to collect your reward and repeat. This is appealing to many gamers who like the aspect of doing battle and collecting a lot of loot, and I do admit I enjoyed doing this in short bursts where the mobile aspect of this games history comes out, though unfortunately you'll find some negative in this console port.
Mobile games are not designed for players to sit for hours playing a game over and over again. They are set up to play in short bursts, about 10-15 minutes while you’re on a bus ride or visiting, ahem, the porcelain throne. With this in mind, Warhammer Quest gets boring quickly and doesn’t have a whole lot of staying power to keep you interested for long. This is a huge bummer as this game has a good foundation for fun but totally falls apart with the finer points of the game not being fleshed out as well as they could.
It's kind of sad really, but with dated graphics and sound effects, controls that seem better focused for PC or mobile devices, and some combat balance issues, Warhammer Quest is more of a bust than a boon. Maybe it could build itself into a solid franchise like many games that didn’t do well the first time around and rebounded to greatness. Here is hoping things can turn around and fans get games like this, but more polished in the future.
Overall Score: 5.5 / 10 Trulon: The Shadow Engine
Watching the trailer for Trulon: The Shadow Engine I was reminded of one of the first RPG’s I ever played for SNES that has become a favorite among many: Chrono Trigger. I loved the fantasy/steampunk world that I travelled through where many of adventures were had. On this alone I was curious enough to try out Trulon to see where it placed amongst these greats.
On the graphical side of things, the developers of Trulon nailed the look for it, although a bit different than some of the 16 Bit RPG’s of the past, it comes into its own style and is reminiscent of the graphics that older gamers like myself grew up with. The look was nailed down but there was a few glitches here or there where I could walk off some maps and get stuck, to the point where I had to restart the game. Luckily, it brought be back to same spot I got stuck, but on the proper side of the map so I could continue my quest. Another annoyance that occurs often is when I had to select a chest, or any item really to be opened, the screen would shift suddenly and put me in an exact spot to open the chest. It seems like a little thing but it happened enough that it annoyed me every time it happened. You shouldn’t have to be in a specific spot to open a chest when it could easily be opened from any side.
On top of that there is one specific house in one of the cities that if you walk into, you are greeted with a black screen. I could hear the menus opening as I hit the menu button, so I figured I'd try and get out of it and leave, but unfortunately that didn’t work at all. With that bug I had to restart the game but luckily I was able to load right back into the game just before I went into the bugged house.
Luckily, they nailed down the music and sound effects to bring you deeper into the world that has been built for you to play through. Although there is no voice work for any of the characters, the change in tempos and the variety of music throughout each different area helps aid in your journeys. That journey starts you off in a small village where you as Gladia, the local monster hunter's daughter and apprentice, set off to a nearby village to give aid because your father has become injured in what you assume is a recent battle. At that village you quickly learn that there is an increase in monsters in the nearby areas, so you set off to deal with that issue and only discover more mysteries to solve. As you progress you add more characters to your party like a cleric, mage, fighter and a thief to round out the party.
There is a lot of substance to the story that has been crafted, and lot of that is picked up from taking the time to chat with NPC’s, as their little comments here and there gives you a small glimpse of what the background to this story is. With a little digging online, there is a Trulon book as well called Shadow Gears, and even a live action musical that takes place at PowerPark in Suomi, Finland. Although it’s pretty awesome the world that they have been built is these other types of mediums, it doesn’t help that this is a traditional RPG styled game with a broken card system combined with a huge curved wall to get over as you progress through the game.
First of all, I love that this a traditional RPG style game where you improve your stats as you gain experience and gain new cards to improve your deck. There are items you find along the way that you can use to increase damage, defense or add special abilities to your characters. However, there is no way to sell or buy these items anywhere else in the game and appear to be completely random drops.
For those of you not familiar with the card style of battling, you start with a basic deck where you add stronger cards and use these cards to do battle. Getting new cards are either found in chests, through battling or leveling up. When starting a battle your cards appear randomly in your hand and on top of that each character has their own individual deck. Doesn’t sound so bad? But, when you earn your cards at random you have a randomidzed deck that often doesn’t work for every battle. Cards such as healing ones are an absolute necessity and often I would get those cards when it was too late to even use them. There is of course a way to customize your deck, but the fault that lays in this game is that the only way to get new cards is by battling through the game and continuing on with the story. It doesn’t help the fact that once you use a card it is removed from your main deck for the rest of the battle and not put in a discard pile to be reshuffled in later. These decks at best are around 20 for each character at the time I rage quit the game and decided it was time to write up this review.
I am an experienced RPG player with one of my very first RPG’s played on NES being Final Fantasy, the one that really started it all. Playing greats like Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Earthbound and Dragon Quest, the list will on and on as it grows every year. What drove me to rage quit is that I got to an area where I was under leveled and enemeies were over powered, which means in an RPG is that it’s time to grind some random encounters to get my level up. However, what totally boggled my mind is when I am wandering around to get these random encounters, that the level on these monsters elevated to the same as the monsters that forced me to look for random encounters. After around 10 attempts to find something I could possibly beat to gain a few levels I had to give up before my wall gained a hole from my frustrations.
I understand games get harder in RPG’s but I should never have to give up on a game because of a poor level scaling feature that was obviously not tweaked properly to make people want to quit. I want my games to challenge me and maybe make me have to re-try something about 6 times, but when you start approaching double digits you definitely know something is wrong with the balancing of the game.
Suffice to say there is quite a bit I like about this game, with how well the steampunk/fantasy setting was portrayed, which was well supported by a great backstory that was easily seen in quips from NPC’s, and if you look online there is even more there via other mediums. However, I definitely didn’t enjoy walking into a house and having to restart multiple times because I thought it might have been a one-off. On top of that, the lack of available cards, the curved wall that I hit and was almost quite impossible to get over, combined with some graphical glitches, it brings the whole experience right down. It’s a good start and something that could be built on, but a great story and great graphics doesn’t carry a game to greatness. You have to worry about all those little things as a whole to create a great experience.
Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 Toby: The Secret Mine
I am one of those rare people who didn’t enjoy Limbo at all when it came out while everyone else was holding it to such high acclaim. I just didn’t get what was great about a black and white platformer when compared to the rest of the genre out there. I can even say that when I played it to give it a fair shake I wasn't sold on the game (don't hate me). So, when approaching my next review, Toby: The Secret Mine, I can definitely say I was hesitant about it given the comparisons that the title was receiving towards Limbo and how I felt about that game.
Well, people can change and/or be surprised right? Toby: The Secret Mine is an improvement on the black and white look that some games haven taken as an artistic presence in the past years. It’s improved in the sense that on the surface it might just seem black and white, but when you dig into it you will see a huge color palette of dark hues and tones, and some color too, that are incorporated into each level. All at the same time when looking at the designs of each level, you'll see how the wonderful art style creates a delightful world that is dark, damp and eerie, but yet not one that you don't want to look at.
As a whole, when you combine the art direction with the music and sound effects, whcih blend hand in hand with each other to continue with the dark atmosphere that the developers obviously strive for, you will get the sense of the scope of the presentation. As I played this good looking game, I found that there were times that I would get shivers when entering the dark and wet areas of the game, because they did such an amazing job of using all of the presentation tools that they had available to them. Kudos to the dev-team for the work they have done in this area.
As I progressed through this platformer the story unfolded. You'll find that all of your friends are kidnapped and taken away by some sort of monster, and it's up to you to save the day. The first level takes you through the basics of jumping around, flicking switches, and solving some of the puzzles that you will face in this world. Although as an older gamer I appreciate the lack of hand holding, but some on-screen prompts might help some of the younger generation as it took my son about 10 minutes to figure out that you have to hit B to make one of the moving chambers actually move. Aside from a minor complaint like this, the controls are pretty intuitive and work much like any other platformer you may have played in the past.
In this genre you’re going to die a lot, and Toby: The Secret Mine it is no different, but with the save system you are usually put back right at the start of the puzzle you are working on, encouraging you to look around and explore this beautiful world. However, even though you may die a fair bit this game, it is incredibly short with only 21 levels to go through. I was able to sit down in an afternoon and complete it. Unfortunately, it is also noted that the levels are nothing special when compared to other titles found in the same genre, and as an avid gamer I was able to quickly solve the puzzles as I have seen many versions of them before in other titles.
For $9.99 (Cdn) Toby: The Secret Mine is a short adventure that is worth looking into for the art design alone and I would love to see the story of Toby told in a graphic novel medium. That being said, it's gameplay, although standard, doesn't bring anything distinctly unique to the table and often the puzzles are just too simple. It's also unfortunate that the game is fairly short and doesn’t offer any replay value at all to allow you to squeeze a few more hours out of it. Some new levels, as some free or relatively cheap DLC, would be great to give this beautiful game some more life. At the end of the day Toby: The Secret Mine has a beautiful cover, given its' overall presentation, but when you get into the meat of the gameplay it seems to lack in a lot of key areas that would make this a hit.
Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Bridge Constructor Stunts
I have been a puzzle game fan since I started playing video games, from my early days with Tetris and Doctor Mario, all the way to games like Puzzle Quest and all of their iterations. I've played a lot of games in the genre and enjoy a lot of them. In between all this "puzzling" I have had great love for games lik Lemmings, The Incredible Machine, and The Lost Vikings. So, when puzzle platformers come along like Bridge Constructor, which my sons and I had plenty of fun with, it was pretty easy to want to pick up Bridge Constructor Stunts to check out and put through its paces.
Bridge Constructor Stunts builds upon the previous game (Bridge Constructor) where you have to build a bridge with a set amount of materials, and then test the bridge by having vehicles go over it to see if it will hold up. If it holds up you win the day and move on to the next bridge building assignment. However, the major different between the original game and Stunts is that you have to build bridges, ramps, platforms, or wild stunt based structures and drive a vehicle through a stunt course to get from point A to point B to achieve the objectives.
The controls for building the stunt course are pretty simple, as you click a button to start building and use the analog stick to adjust how far out you would like the construction to go. Repeat the process with the different materials at various points in the course and you’ll have a stunt track in no time. This is exactly the same control scheme from the original title, but in Stunts you have to build a lot more different, and of course stunt based, items throughout the track to complete the objectives this time around.
The structures, like the bridges, do have some science built into them. If you are like myself, and you have had the chance to build model bridges in science or math class in the past, you will quickly learn that a triangle is a lot stronger shape than say a square or rectangle. Building with triangles throughout this game is a must, as well as any other well-known building shapes.
After constructing your course it will be time to test it with your trusty stunt vehicle, which you put through the course while collecting golden bolts and green stars. These collectibles unlock other objectives on each level rather than simply requiring you to just complete it. In some levels it will be required to get a certain amount of these collectibles before completion which adds a bit of difficulty as you go along.
Visually, since this game is pretty much a port from the iPhone/Android game, you are presented with simple but cartoony graphics that don’t match up well with Xbox One technology you play on, as they definitely seem to fit less powerful devices like your mobile phone or a tablet. The same goes for the background music and effects, which are best described as simple but they set the mood appropriately for this genre of gaming. The presentation as a whole is nothing to write to the VGA’s about at how amazing the music is, but it works in a simplistic manner.
Personally, I am not a fan of mobile games being ported onto the current generation of console marketplaces to generate some extra revenue, as most of these games are around a dollar on mobile devices but they are usually at least 5 bucks on consoles, just because we play it on our TV. Due to the fact Bridge Constructor Stunts is a mobile game first makes it near impossible not to sit there and blaze through the levels, as it’s meant to be something you quickly play while waiting in a doctor’s office or while riding on a bus. On top of this, the replayability of this game, aside from getting the collectibles, makes it an even harder push to keep on playing once done.
In the end we are left with a mobile game on a big box that just doesn’t have any staying power to keep most of us captivated. To be honest, it didn’t even make a dent in my 7 year old's attention span as a new gamer himself. Although this game is enjoyable for the short bursts you’re probably better off on getting it on a tablet or your mobile phone to get the best bang for your buck. That being said, I am sure there are those that may want to consider it if they want to take a break from the glut of holiday AAA titles when they only have a minute or two to game.
Overall Score: 6.5 / 10 Marvel Pinball Epic Collection Vol. 1
I’m a huge fan of pinball right from when I was a young gamer. Going to the arcade there was a sense of allure and mystery to those pinball games, mostly due to the fact that I wasn’t tall enough yet to be able to see the whole table to play the machines. However, as soon as I did sprout up I gave these machines a whirl and my love affair with pinball began.
Time has passed and I still do see pinball tables from time to time in hotel game rooms, at drive-in movie theaters or in much bigger cities where you you can see some arcades once again, which also happen to serve some tasty beverages. That being said, they are not very common anymore and a lot of gamers are left with virtual pinball tables and Zen Studios are the masters of this business. With the launch of the Marvel Pinball Epic Collection Vol. 1 we are graced with 10 tables, with some oldies and some newer tables, for fans to dig our teeth into.
We could go on and on with some explanations about how mechanically great the pinball simulation that Zen Studios creates with each table, along with realistic dings, whistles and clangs. On top of the amazing physics they also manage to present a polished and detailed presentation of any theme that they put into one of their tables. When I say they are the masters of pinball simulation I truly mean it and you are in for a treat when you pop into any one of the 10 tables offered in this collection. However, some tables work better than others as I find the various tables can fall into a recreational or pro category, which could scare off of some gamers. But what’s great about Pinball FX2 is that you can go into the options and change up the physics if you need to tailor the tables to how you want to play. Keep in mind though if you change the physics you won’t be earning any achievement points as well.
As I said, in this physical release we are graced with 10 tables that include the following:
- Marvel’s The Avengers
- The Amazing Spider-Man: Venom
- The Invincible Iron Man
- Doctor Strange
- Fear Itself
- World War Hulk
- Civil War
Having played most of these before through the Pinball FX2 game itself, where I downloaded some of these tables in packs or as individual tables, you might be left wondering that if you can download all of these why should you buy this disc? Well, for starters it’s a great price that is comparable to the price of buying them all online. Also, if you’re new to the pinball genre of gaming then this is a fun way to pick it up because I can confidently say that these tables are among some of the best that Zen Studios have to offer. On top of that they are all Marvel themed and if you love anything Marvel this is a great way to delve a bit more into the stories while having a lot of fun doing it.
World War Hulk has to be one of my favourite story arcs in the Marvel Universe and is something I would love to see come to the big screen after they get through all of the Infinity Gauntlet stuff that is permeating through the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Basically, the heroes of Earth deem Hulk to volatile and send him off in a spaceship to outer space where he crash lands on a planet, and with a whole lot of story in between Hulk is eventually able to make his way back to Earth, and to say he is a bit pissed off is a huge understatement. He exacts his revenge on the heroes and this forms the premise of this particular pinball table as you defend against the Hulk. It's a solid table and one you should enjoy.
Growing up I watched a lot of cartoons. One of my regular go-to cartoons at the time was Spider-Man and that’s where I got my first introduction to Venom, and I absolutely fell in love with the whole story of Spidey, Venom and Carnage, along with the other symbiotes. This is another table that is great for story and is loads of fun. It features a mini-table within the table itself where you have to break Cletus Cassidy (a.k.a Carnage) out of prison.
The Civil War comic book arc is a series that brought me back into buying comics once again as an adult, but as an adult sometimes we have to make tough choices, and along the way I stopped buying these great stories and artistic works. However, when I heard about heroes going up against other heroes I couldn’t resist. This table does a great job of playing up both sides Pro and Anti-Registration sides of the Mutant Registration Act.
For those of you who only got the gist of this story through the movies I recommend that you spend the money to buy up a good chunk of the graphic novels telling this great story. With Civil War II around the corner it would be a great primer to get you into the story because even though this does a great job telling the core story you wouldn’t be doing yourself justice letting this pinball table try to tell you the whole picture.
Zen Studios has even captured the arrogance of Tony Stark as he battles the Mandarin and Whiplash in Stark Tower. The smug comments, and even how he stands in his office in his expensive suit and only dons his Iron Man suit when things get a little bit dangerous and he has to take on the villains. Being able to communicate his smugness and arrogance of the overly rich "Mr. Stark" through a pinball table is kind of amazing when you think of it.
Marvel Pinball Epic Collection Vol. 1 is one of the best collections of Pinball tables that both fans of Pinball or the Marvel Universe can easily get into and spend hours upon hours bouncing a little silver ball around a table. The amazing content combined with the masterful execution from Zen Studios makes this a really great entry for newcomers to the genre, for fans who haven’t delved into this content yet, or it might just make for a great gift for that geek in your life on a special occasion. The Marvel Pinball Epic Collection Vol. 1 is highly recommended by this gamer and it would be a shame for anyone to not try their hand at it.
Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2
Dragon Ball is the first anime that I remember watching at an early age on YTV here in Canada. Over the years I've watched my fair share, but I never actually took the time to play one of the video games. Though the trend of taking intellectual property from other mediums and putting them into a video game has not had the best track record of creating successful games in the past, I was hopeful and optimistic that Dragon Ball could make the transition. Having cultivated a love for both the series and the artistic style created by Akira Toriyama, I was rooting for this title.
Fans will be familiar with some of the aspects of the story right from the get go, but being a newcomer doesn't dampen the experience. The role you take in the game is that of a member of the Time Patrol. These individuals go through the time line of the Dragon Ball Universe correcting points in time that, if changed, would have severe consequences on the overall timeline. The introduction to the game is a lot like the Dragon Ball show, with several episodes building up the tension between the characters to the point where everything explodes and the final battle takes place.
When the battle does finally happen you come in as the Time Patrol and start kicking some butt. It was surprising how easy the controls were to pick up, allowing you to execute some insane combos as well as some iconic moves, from the large cast of Dragon Ball characters. Once you get through the first battle you will get into more of the guts of the game where some basic RPG elements come into play.
There is a bit of hand holding at the beginning that helps to walk you through some of the basics of combat, along with your mission to keep the timeline secure. At the center of it all is the Time Nest and within is a small city called Conton City. This is where the Time Patrol can get access to items, clothing, training, and side quests, and also also acts as a hub to gain entry to online battles. The first thing I noticed about the Time Nest was the annoying music that permeates throughout the area. This music grated me so much I wanted to jump into battles just to get away from it at every chance. As you progress through your journey you will be able to acquire customization items for your character and other fun things to occupy a budding Time Patroller in Conton City. Also available in the city are parallel quests, which are side missions set in an alternative timeline from the main story mission. This adds a whole lot of replay value with a total of 100 parallel quests to finish in either co-op or online.
In terms of character creation, there are limited options on offer here when compared to in-depth RPGs. You can select either a male or female gender from Human, Saiyan, Namekian, Majin, and the Frieza race. There are additional customizations available for these characters, but they mostly range from slight alterations in a predefined set of attributes and features. You learn your arsenal of moves as you move through the story and you'll meet trainers that will teach you moves that you can assign to your character. You may also run into trainers along your journey like Yamcha and Krillin who teach you some of their more well known moves from the television series.
The gameplay usually revolves around fights where you team up with other players online or have AI controlled characters join. Considering how chaotic and over the top some of the Dragon Ball Z battles unfold, we definitely get the same feeling of how zany the battles can get. Ultimately, the best part of these battles is using moves and super moves that you learn from trainers in Conton City. The more you level up the better moves you get access to. Landing these moves, especially the ones from your favourite characters, can give you a sense of elation and accomplishment at the same time. However, you just can't go off hammering these moves back to back as there is a stamina and KI meter to hold you back and it charges back up over time. It does charge up pretty quickly so you have to throw in a few button mashing combos to pull off the big move to pass the time.
Take some button mashing combat, flashy looking special moves, an art style that closely resembles the anime, and fight scenes that are beautifully animated, and you have the ingredients for Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. The game manages to immerse you fully into the world of Dragon Ball and builds upon the formula of the first Dragon Ball Xenoverse all while addressing its previous shortcomings. It might not be a perfect game for everyone, but it is a definitely a delight for Dragon Ball fans as they get to experience their favorite moments from the show in game form.
Overall Score: 8.5 / 10 Jackbox Party Pack 3
Whether its at a social gathering or through some online streaming, Jackbox Party games have been a staple for this gamer when wanting hilarious good times with friends. Each game is unique and encourages the players to flex their brains, artistic ability and bring out their inner stand up comedian. The only limitations in these games is your imagination and if you have a great group of players ready for a good time, you just never know what to expect. Jackbox Party Pack 3 builds on the previous releases with some new titles and sequels and this gamer couldn't wait for an excuse to get his friends together and starting playing.
Though this title is platformed for the Xbox One, you don't actually use your controllers for game play. Using a computer, tablet or smartphone, you control your actions through your computer screen or devices touchscreen. In order to connect to the game you will be prompted to put in your room code that you obtain from the host at Jackbox.tv. Once in a game you can be asked to answer questions from a list of options, create your own responses or even draw answer illustrations. One of the great things playing on your own device makes possible is opening up the player field. Even if your friends don't see eye to eye on gaming platforms, the likelihood of them having a smartphone or tablet is high and therefore they can join in the fun. The ability to play through live streaming like twitch.tv also means you don't all have to be huddled around your living room on games night to play. The only issue that I have found through streaming though is that there can be a lag between the host game screen and the individual devices. While in the player action screens its best to focus on your own device as opposed to the main screen to make sure you don't miss any questions.
So, you've logged into jackbox.tv, your munching on snacks and you are wondering, what do we play?For this third installment, we've been graced with five games: Quiplash 2, Trivia Murder Party, Guesspionage, Tee K.O., and Fakin' It. Each game has a set number of minimum players needed which may impact your selection depending on your group size. Though you can play some games with 1 or even 2 players, these titles are definitely more enjoyable with more players and some even require 3.
Quiplash 2 (3-8 players)
In Quiplash 2 you are prompted to answer two questions usually the silliest or more obscene answer has the best chance of winning. After everyone answers their questions they get shuffled up and the players get to vote on their favourite. The person who gets the most votes wins. Obviously this is a title that yields a lot of laughs and brings out some of the crude, lewd and downright awful sides of your friends. This is pretty much what Quiplash was but this time aside from new questions you have the opportunity to create your own weird prompts to suit your friends and families.
Trivia Murder Party (1-8 players)
This title was the one that intrigued me the most as I have some good memories attending Trivia Murder Parties in the past and love the concept. Unlike my Trivia Murder parties of the past this version takes more of a Saw approach where everyone who is at the party must answer trivia questions and if you get them wrong you will most likely die. Only your wits can keep you alive and you are put into a sudden death situation. Don't worry if you die though because you're not booted from the game and you get to continue as a ghost until the last person is dead or has escaped from the party. This is a little bit different than I expected but different can be good.
Guesspionage (2-8 players)
Guesspionage was a really interesting title as it scratches your Family Feud itch. Jacbox has surveyed people using cameras, audio recordings and just about any kind of surveillance they could get their hands on. Oh, they claim to have surveyed people on the internet but both you and I know that the Jackbox team logo looks like a Big Brother type and we shouldn't believe in these government brain washed peons!
However, when playing this “game” you are presented with a fact like “BLANK percentage of people haven't had brunch in their lifetime.” If it's your turn you get to guess the percentage and the closer you are the more points you get. However, the other players get to guess if they think it's lower or higher and get points of their own. Sounds pretty boring on paper, I thought it would be but some of the questions and answers are rather intriguing.
Tee K.O. (3-8 players)
This title has you draw right off the bat and there is no rhyme or reason to what you draw. It can be anything a cat, missile, a blade of grass or some abstract art. It doesn't matter you just draw three things and after that you create some slogans and everything gets mixed and matched up to create some t-shirts that duel it out to see who reigns supreme. Who wins the matches between t-shirts is all voted on by the players and points are awarded to the players who had their art or slogan on the t-shirt. Most points win this competition and trust me there will always be a t-shirt combination that will have you keeled over grabbing your ribs in laughter.
Fakin’ It (3-6 players)
Fakin' It is the first game from Jackbox that it is not streaming friendly. For this game you have to be able to see the other players as they perform actions based on a secret instruction given to all but the “Faker”. Participants will perform one of four actions: raising their hands, holidng up fingers, pointing or making facial expressions. After this, the group will determine who didn't get the instructions and made it up as they went along. Get your poker faces and excuses ready because you'll need them to get out on top in this game.
Suffice to say I thoroughly enjoyed Jackbox Party Pack 3 and it was quite refreshing to have a whole new suite of games to play from these great creators. There is enough variety for all type of party gamers and hilarity is almost guaranteed to ensue. If you're looking for a laid back approach to playing some party games without having to whip out some cards or other board games than Jackbox Party Pack 3 is something you should pick up and as anowner of all of their titles I highly suggest you pick them all up.
Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 NASCAR Heat Evolution
I have a fascination with NASCAR, and what has driven that fascination (pun intended) from the very beginning are the drivers. They are a highly skilled group of men and women that make it fairly interesting to watch fast cars turn left on a track for hours at a time. With such a structured racing environment, these drivers are the main component (their personality, successes, and struggles) that, in my opinion, draws in the crowds. Hoping that NASCAR Heat Evolution would deliver in a well rounded career driven NASCAR experience, I jumped in and buckled my seat belt for what I hoped would be an exhilarating ride.
From the home screen you can select from various local or online gaming options. Local gaming includes Career mode, Challenges, and a 'straight-to-the-action' Race mode. Selecting Career brings you into the customization features available for your driver and vehicle. There were slim pickings in the vehicle customization area though, as you simply select a vehicle icon of an already existing driver. You also can't fully customize your cars number as its dependent on the vehicle manufacturer you select. This was really disappointing, as it prevented me in fully creating an experience that was unique for me. There is a bit more selection in your drivers appearance, but nothing to really write home about.
Once you've handled the customization process you jump right into the racing with a simple objective of placing 30th in a race. I might as well have been playing the simple race mode, as the career mode offered nothing to draw me in. No backstory about you as a rookie driver and no history about NASCAR itself for any players who might not be as familiar with the sport, though there are some fast facts that pop up on the loading screen, but they don't tell you much. There isn't even a simple tutorial to show you what you can do.
While in a race you will instantly notice that the graphics are horrible. Its like you were playing a really bad aviation game from the 1990's where everything close to you is clear but everything else is blurry, or moves in and out of focus. To add insult to injury, your cheering fans in the stands just stand there like statues, and lets not forget the strategic marketing (Sprint, Coca Cola, Geico, etc) that is associated with NASCAR. I would prefer to play an 8 bit game where I know the graphics are a “style”, and not one with this type of visuals where you can tell that the developer didn't make use of the technology available. If these graphics were by choice, it baffles me as to what they were thinking.
The audio has all of the components one might expect from a racing game; the engine whirring, the cheering fans, and the pit crew sounds as they change your tires. There was some voice work which was standard, and again lacking in variation with common statements being: “All Clear”, “Still there”, “Stay low”, and “We'll get them next time”. Aside from menu music there is no music in the game as races stick to standard sound effects and voice work to set the stage.
Moving on to the controls, it really doesn't get much better. The car is not very responsive and you spend your time toggling the left control stick to keep the vehicle on the track. Most of the time the car kept pulling into the wall unexpectedly, which was extremely frustrating. There were several boxes and images that pop up telling you of your vehicles condition and there is a required rear view mirror. Depending on where you finish you can acquire new sponsors, more fans, and money. All of these aspects play a role in expanding the racing experience for you by building up your garage, which in turn makes your car better.
There is some online play, but finding people to play with was quite difficult. This was not surprising given the caliber of this game. I was only able to find other players in the Hosted Lobby mode, and while I did participate in a couple races, the only major difference is that the human players are a lot more likely to 'love tap' you into the wall way more often than the AI controlled drivers. Unfortunately I wasn't able to participate in the Normal or No Rules modes as there were no active players every time I tried.
Overall, NASCAR Heat Evolution is a like a massive wreck that happened on the track, the result being crushed metal and fiberglass that smashed 180 mph into the wall, and you get to play the contents that the dev-team threw into the game from that gnarly mess. Last generation graphics, horrible controls, no music, typical audio, and a whole lack of ingenuity, it's not a nice mix. It's as if they slapped the NASCAR logo on a bad racer hoping the logo itself would sell the game when in reality they should have invested in the game itself to make it carry on its own weight rather than rely on paid license, that being the NASCAR name.
Overall Score: 3.0 / 10 Stories of Bethem: Full Moon
From the very first trailer of Stories of Bethem: Full Moon that I viewed it was clear to me that the title tugged at memories from a time when I was gaming as a teenager. It reminded me of those times when I was playing some 'classic' titles on my SNES like Secret of Mana, Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past and Earthbound. Stories of Bethem definitely channels these titles on the surface. Suffice to say I was game to play and I wondered if it could take me on a new adventure and create some new memories.
Right from the start you'll realize that the story is not very unique but it's far from the worse I have come across. A young man named Khoma is searching for a cure for his cursed father, a curse that was placed upon him courtesy of the Blue Witch. As he travels across the landscape he comes across the Red Witch who sends him on an adventure to gather some artifacts that will allow her to lift the curse from his father. With the objective at hand you gain access to some basic air magic and healing potions then off you go to the first dungeon to explore and find your first artifact.
Visually, the game is much like the classics I previously mentioned and the developers definitely create a wonderful homage to the 8-Bit and 16-bit generation of RPG's. However, this time around the developers have a much more vast palette to use and they definitely do so but within the confines of those days of "limited-'bits'-available-but-still-look-great" glory days. Old-school gamers will obviously feel reminiscent of they visuals but newer gamers, like my 10 year old son, will call me out for playing a game with such horrible graphics.
The music and sound effects are wonderfully crafted to add to the atmosphere of the 8-Bit and 16-bit eras with the music changing from area to area depending if you're in dungeons, on the plains or finding your way through pixelated forests. Of course the music intensifies even more when you're fighting in a boss battle and everything speeds up.
The first area you explore requires you to use all of your skills with air magic, along with your virtual physical prowess to complete a combination of feats like blowing up plants, pushing rocks around and into holes, piloting an air balloon with your magic to solve puzzles, and finally fighting monsters. After you complete the first dungeon you're off exploring the rest of the world and figure out what is next. Yes, I said it – YOU have to figure out what to do next. There is no hand holding in this title and when you're trying to power through this game for review purposes you definitely realize this because there we're many times I got stuck just skipping through areas.
This is a game where you have to explore, talk to every single NPC in the game (not just to figure stuff out, there is a lot of hidden humour in the game as well), open every single chest, search every house... I am sure you get the point. To get through this game you pretty much have to find everything and once you slow down, like I eventually did, the game becomes a lot more enjoyable. Essentially I stopped using a basketball to hammer a nail and got out my trusty hammer to do the job right.
Mechanically the biggest difference in this genre is that along with some magic you usually have armour, shields, and a big bad ass sword to take down your enemies with. This time though you're only equipped with some magic and the clothes on your back. Conveniently, you can buy some clothes from a vendor that will give you special attributes like healing, mana regeneration, or make the hearts you collect work better. So with this in mind you may need to take on a different strategy when fighting enemies, which involves a lot of attack, retreat, heal up and the rinse and repeat moments.
Stories of Bethem: Full Moon is a great old school RPG with lots of action in it. Although this title definitely hits the nostalgia level, the story had me wishing for a little more substance. All in all the gameplay and exploration aspects are a lot of fun and will easily entertain for hours. Hopefully the developers will build on this title and release a sequel or two in the future because there is most definitely room to expand on the world they have created for Stories of Bethem.
Overall Score: 7.5 / 10 Attack on Titan
When Attack on Titan came out on Netflix I binged and watched the whole season in one weekend. It probably would have been a whole lot quicker if I didn't have to be an adult and go to work and take care of the kiddos. My sons aren't into anything with subtitles so it wasn't something I could convince them to enjoy as well. Suffice to say when I had the opportunity to take the video game version of this series on for review, it was definitely a no brainer.
Immediately when hopping into the game I noticed that the developers obviously modeled the artistic style after the anime series but there is something about how they did it that seems to be a little bit off, which is especially noticeable in the cinematic portions of the game where the bulk of the story gets told. Instead of using the actual series footage and the beautifully animated material that they had access to, they re-created scenes from the series using their graphics engine. This unfortunately made the characters in these cinematics look blocky and out of place. Although close to the original medium, it would have been ideal for them use direct footage from the series to create a more authentic feel to the game. Even though that design choice doesn't seem to fit the series, the graphics were definitely not horrible and were really well done. Where this really shines was in the game play itself. This is where it worked for the game in the graphics department and I couldn't see it going any other way. There were some glitchy moments where Titan's would fall over oddly and your character would get stuck in places, but once you got used to the controls those moments were not happening nearly as much when I was first learning the game.
Although I am not a huge fan of the choice in recreating scenes from the series, they either got the exact same voice actors or some really talented folks to re-create the cast, as they didn't miss a beat. The talent is immediately noticed as the fears, joys, and rage that comes out of the characters at times is clearly heard. The musical score definitely helped tighten the Attack on Titan world, which shows the developers obviously took a great passion towards doing so. Not to mention the spot on sound effects of soldiers flying through the air taking out Titans along with their blood curdling roars when you give one of them fine cuts to their bodies. Which leads us on how to take these bad boys out.
For newcomers to Attack on Titan, you fill find yourself learning about ODM (Omni Directional Mobility) gear which is some grappling hooks on pulleys that launch you around by hooking into trees, or in a lot of cases, into Titans themselves. Oh, and if you don't know what a Titan is, it's a massive giant that eats humans and causes a whole lot of mindless destruction. Titans are who you want to kill, and you do that by using the ODM gear to swing your way behind the Titan and using some sweet swords to cut out the nape of their neck. This is the one and only weak spot on a Titan, as if you cut anything else off like arms or hands, they will eventually regenerate. You can take off the limbs to make it a bit easier to take out the nape of the neck, but often I found it best to go for the kill shot to end the battle quickly before any casualties occur.
The ODM gear is your main mode of transportation in the game which allows you to traverse the maps and locating Titan's to slay. In general, each level is pretty much the same where you are tasked with exploring an area, kill some Titans, and a boss level Titan often called an Abnormal. Abnormal's work a little different than your typical Titan as they have intelligence and often have a target that they are trying to get to, be it a person, building, supply cache, etc. Throughout the levels other soldiers will shoot up a flare gun to indicate that they need help as they are being overwhelmed by Titan's, and it's up to you to get there and provide support. These side missions will benefit you in a variety of ways.
Upon completion, traps will open up, or you will gain access to supplies, or the soldier will join up on your team. On a team you have the soldier you are controlling which rotates between Eren, Mikasa, Armin, and Levi, along with four others that aid you in your battles. Each character can command their team to do specific things like guarding, fanning out to attack titans, or to focus on certain titans. Each character has a special ability with Armin's being the ability to target specific limbs and get this team to attack Titan's at his command. If you wish, you're able to go through a whole level without Armin lifting his blade once by commanding other soldiers to attack. Each other character has their own special abilities, like Mikasa being able to get bonus attacks in, or Levi having a spinning attack that does extra damage. Eren's ability contains some spoilers to the story if you haven't watched the anime, so you're going to have to play the game to find out what he can do.
Aside from these gameplay elements there is one other introduction of transportation, and that is horses which allows you to traverse areas you are not able to use your ODM gear due to lack of structures in areas to grab on too. The horses allow you to move around Titan's where you would normally grapple onto a Titan to deliver some killing blows. This is the game play cycle in a nut shell, except what kind of game would it be if you didn't get to be a Titan yourself!?
At one point in the game it deviates from being a soldier into you becoming a Titan yourself, which allows you to deal massive damage to your enemies by punching, kicking, throwing, or even jumping on top of them to deal the final blow. Taking on the role of a Titan is a lot of fun but it simply degrades into a button masher where there is little strategy and mostly a lot of “HULK SMASH!” type of moments as you just beat things down in your way. This may be a negative to some, but there is something to be said about taking some time in a video game to vent frustrations by going full tilt in a old fashioned slobber knocker. I thoroughly enjoyed these battles when I had the opportunity to do so regardless of its simplicity.
You are graded on your skills when playing through the levels and also level up your characters along with the ability to buy new equipment and upgrades. Even though you can buy upgrades, they don't seem to make all that much of a difference in the scheme of things except for cosmetics. Although there a lot of fun aspects to Attack on Titan, it does tend to get repetitive with a lot of the same types of mission objectives repeated over and over. I often found myself skipping through dialogue, not because I knew the story already, but it didn't add a whole lot to to the gameplay value. Skipping through those scenes got me to the meat and the potatoes of the game, which is the action versus titans of course.
Attack on Titan surprisingly is a great adaptation from anime to video game that added a lot of fun and enjoyable experiences. The biggest downfall is the repetitive levels that you just push through to get them done and over with, which is sad because they could have done a whole lot more to add layers to the gameplay. Attack on Titan could have been a lot of better with a RPG base rather than an action game with RPG elements sprinkled in. Overall though, I think fans and newcomers will enjoy this title if their looking for a great action game, regardless of how invested into the anime you are.
Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Azkend 2: The World Beneath
Azkend 2: The World Beneath gives the first impression of a neat puzzle title which draws from great puzzlers like Hexic and Bejeweled. Addicting games in their own rights which have garnered quite a loyal following, but in terms of this review, the question is how does Azkend 2 hold up when compared to these big hitters in the puzzle genre?
First off it should be noted that I have never played the original title, but from doing a bit of research online, I was able to figure out that the sequel has been built upon the original game with a lot more story and some new gameplay mechanics to mix it up a bit. If you're interested in playing the original Azkend, there are free downloadable versions on many online retail stores. Azkend and Azkend 2 are both mobile games, with the sequel now on Xbox One.
The core gameplay mechanics are simple in Azkend 2. You take the pointer and select a puzzle piece, and while holding the pointer in place, you connect identical pieces together to create a section of the puzzle board to clear off the table. What's different from this puzzler when compared to something like Bejeweled, is that the pieces don't have to be in a straight line, so feel free to make a horizontal, diagonal, or vertical lines should you desire. In Azkend 2 you make connections in any way you like as long as it's a continuous and doesn't fall back on itself. Throw some power ups to help clear out levels into the mix and you got yourself a somewhat unique puzzler.
The story mode starts you off on what one would assume is a pirate ship on the ocean and you come across a dangerous whirlpool which just happens to be a portal to another world for you to explore. As you explore each of these areas, power ups are unlocked which will perform various actions like randomly clearing icons, area explosions, or acting as a wild card to link together connections to get them even bigger. The story is one of exploration and discovering new and interesting places, but to be honest, the game would have been better off focusing on adding more levels for gamers to play through. One of my pet peeves is when a story is thrown in just for the sake of being there when the game mechanics can hold up the game on its own.
Each area has four puzzles to solve, and as you conquer each area you are presented with a segment of the story and a mini game that has you finding a spot on a picture with a view finder. Aside from a brief change in the gameplay, this portion of the game had no added value and if I wanted to play a 'find-the-object' type game I could have easily picked up a Where's Waldo book. Where's Waldo would have been infinitely more challenging than what was included in this game.
The rest of the title is repeating this process over and over again, but when a game repeats itself this much and the levels are completed so quickly, it should never ever have come to console because this is a mobile game; pure and simple. To make matters worse, the music throughout the game is just as repetitive and is typical puzzle game fare. Last but not least, you know that boring story that didn't need to be included in the game? well, it came with an annoying narrative voice that explains their astonishment of finding new and and intriguing areas. This is the worst voice acting I have heard in a game in the past few years.
Visually, the game isn't that much of a looker, with simple graphics that have become synonymous with mobile puzzle games, as that's how it has been translated to the console version. There hasn't been a whole lot of extra work put into the presentation except smoothing it out for bigger screens.
The core puzzle gameplay of Azkend 2: The World Beneath is a lot of fun, but it really seems that it is meant for a tablet or cellular phone, not the Xbox One. I could easily see people, including myself, playing it while waiting for a bus, sitting on said bus, or while in a store standing in a line-up getting ready to make a purchase. When it's on a console like the Xbox One however, and you are hunkering down to play games for a few hours, or heck, even 20 minutes before heading to work, this game will get repetitive quickly. I definitely suggest you save your money and get this title on one of your mobile devices to get the best bang for your buck and truly experience this game as it should be played. If you must have a new puzzle game on your Xbox One, this title may just may suffice.
Overall Score: 6.2 / 10 TRON RUNr
Growing up I'd never heard of Tron, to to be honest here I have to admit that I didn’t watch the original movie until a friend decided to do a Tron marathon and watch the original 80's movie followed up by Tron: Legacy, the sequel that was received to mixed reviews. After watching the original I just didn’t get the appeal of it, but I imagine at the time it was quite the technical marvel. Although the original didn’t do it for me, Tron: Legacy instantly became one of my movie favorites, and even though some of the game adaptations weren’t the best, I still enjoyed playing them to delve further into the Tron universe. That leads me to this review.
Developer Sanzaru Games Inc. and Disney Interactive have released another Tron title, this time called Tron Run/r, which as the name suggests, is a runner based game, and and given how games of this type have fared before, this can be a good or a bad thing. There are a few great runners out there but there are also a ton of knock offs, wannabes, and downright garbage titles trying to catch in on the casual gaming genre of “runners.” So, does Tron Run/r fall into the good category, or into the realm of shareware and crappy programs?
There are three types of game modes available in Tron Run/r including Disc, Cycle, and Stream. The first mode, Disc, is what I’ve come to know as your typical runner, but unlike most that I have played where it’s a side scroller, this title has turned it into a first person view where you run, jump and smash through 3D environments while grabbing collectibles throughout the levels. You'll also be able to use your Disc (hence the game mode name) to assist in your challenge.
As you progress through more and more levels you'll find that you will add in a few new moves into your repertoire of skills such as sliding, wall running, and gliding, all which help you to navigate through the levels. Of course, as you move through the game the difficulty increases, often to my frustration given the spikes, and it had me restarting quite a few levels as I adjusted to the new mechanics. This is not a deal breaker by any means, just something worth mentioning.
The next mode, Cycle, is the mode I enjoyed most, but it makes sense given that I have always enjoyed cycle games of all kinds from unicycles, bicycles, and of course motorbikes. In the Cycle Mode you race against light cycles through a variety of different circuits while doing your best to get to the next checkpoint making sure you have ample time to finish the course. You'll find yourself up against other racers who are doing their best to either knock you out of the race or to box you in to slow you down. The only negative I could say about this mode is it’s a little lackluster in the actions you can do and the skills you use when compared to the Disc Mode.
The final mode is the Stream Mode, is a mash up of the two previous modes combined into what is best described as an Endless Runner. Overall it's a great mode to challenge players who have mastered the previous modes. Basically you’ll run through mashed up versions of the courses where you will switch back and forth between the two mode types.
Throughout all the gameplay what is perfectly clear is how damn good the controls are compared to other 'runner' games where the controls do not work at all. In Tron Run/r's case the developers got it right, providing anyone who picks this game up with intuitive controls that respond how you would expect. The only reason you can blame the controls in this game is totally on the user’s end, which means "its your fault" if you die.
Graphically, this game looks exactly how I would hope when compared to the great visuals of Tron Legacy (the movie). That being said, you shouldn’t expect it to be a high caliber graphical experience, but the simplicity is what makes it a great runner in itself. The focus is on the controls and creating a fun game rather than a AAA visual experience that may look pretty on the outside but lack substance on the inside. The sounds and music combines well with the visuals to polish off the atmosphere and world of Tron with some definite similarities between the movie and game.
Tron Run/r is a lot of fun, and if you’re into this genre it would make a great game pick up. Heck, for those who who love the movie, and even for those not into Tron at all, this game deserves some serious consideration. For me, being a fan of the genre and Tron: Legacy, I feel confident giving the game 'two thumbs up' and will be popping back into it for those quick gaming sessions that are a great break during a busy week.
Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Teslagrad
Teslagrad is a title I have been interested in for some time; however, with my junker of a PC (read: way under-powered for even this game), and being a Xbox One only console owner, I was out of luck until it was brought to Microsoft's current console under the ID@Xbox banner. As a personal note, I have to say that that I am somewhat ecstatic to finally get my hands on this puzzle/platform title and that any other way to describe my excitement would be a bit of an understatement. I seem to always have new puzzle games of some nature on all of my portable devices, and simply put I am addicted to them. So when offered the chance to review this Teslagrad, I jumped at it given the basis of what the game is all about.
The story unfolds quite quickly with a mysterious man carrying a baby towards a home, dropping him off and leaving for places unknown. Fast forward many years and this baby has grown into a young man. The story now has our hero running for his life over the roof tops of the city being chased by Russian soldiers. Eventually the chase leads him into a castle and this is the point where the game takes its' adventure into puzzle territory. You acquire your first tool in the game, gloves, that allow you to change the polarities of various objects and when used correctly it allows you to make your way through the castle.
The narrative style of the game is interesting as it relies on imagery alone. It does a good job of using theatrical scenes to give you a sense of the happenings in the past and present. This might be a little frustrating for some gamers out there though as there is little to no hand holding or clear direction. Much of the "figuring out what’s next?” is all down to you as a player as you explore and figure things out the old fashioned way, by observation as well as by trial and error. It is definitely easy to overlook some hidden passage to an area that is crucial to progressing forward and this creates a lot of backtracking and actual exploration instead of an arrow and a magical gold line telling you where to go experience. Kind of old school as you are "the author of your own destiny" so to speak.
As you make your way through the game you will come across enemies that you simply have to avoid or block off using your special tools and the environment around you. If you get hit just once by an enemy you are toast and you will have to start back over the beginning of the room. There are also boss levels where you battle not with your fists and/or weapons but with the tools you have collected. The boss levels involve more complex and challenging puzzles which is nice as they are not just a simple cakewalk.
In addition to the game's need for exploration, there are also hard to reach collectibles, in the form of scrolls, that are scattered throughout the castle. Some scrolls can only be obtained by using tools that you get further on in the game and this requires you to backtrack to get to some of the earlier scrolls that were unreachable. Backtracking seems to be quite commonplace in this game, but it's not particularly a bad thing.
With all this great storytelling and the gameplay options, the true test of this title came down to the controls. They aren't bad at all. I adjusted to the controls early on in the game and got used to the physics of the game itself. As one might expect from the title, Teslagrad draws a lot of inspiration from science. After the initial acclimation in regards to how you navigate through the game, and how you control all your actions, everything should smooth sailing, well except for the occasional and unplanned trip into an electrical force field, pile of debris, or some spikes.
The graphics in Teslagrad look amazing and are a great hybrid of anime and steampunk design. From the dusty and gloomy libraries to the underbelly of the dark caverns below the castle, you will find yourself exploring in a variety of settings that craftily set the stage for the events at hand. The music and sound effects aren’t anything special, but they work well in tandem with the graphical presentation to create that emotional response you need in a game where the story is not told through words.
Teslagrad is a real gem, a diamond in the rough to be exact. If you love puzzle platformers and you’re looking for something new to try, I would highly recommend this ID@Xbox title.
Overall Score: 8.3 / 10