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PC Reviews Reviews

Graveyard Keeper Review

No Rest for the Living.

Graveyard Keeper begins on a rather somber note. It opens with a nameless character – the hero – out doing some shopping on a rainy night. The music playing in the background hints that something tragic is about to happen. Words scroll across the screen:

“Even in everyday routine there is a place for loving and feeling loved…especially when someone misses you.”

This can’t be good…

The hero then receives a call from what the Caller ID displays as a woman clutching a heart-shaped pillow. “Isn’t that sweet”, I say to myself. But before I have time to really appreciate the moment, a car horn pierces through the rainfall and the brief and abrupt sounds of an accident fill the night sky. Seems like our hero is very much dead. But this is only the beginning of Graveyard Keeper’s story.

Death Becomes Him

The hero awakens in a fog-ridden space and is greeted by a shadowy figure with red eyes. He informs our hero that he has ‘turned a page’ in his life that he is ‘home’ now, in the graveyard. He christens our hero as the ‘Graveyard Keeper’, and informs us that we must be good in our new role if we are to ever hope to see our lady love again. The mysterious man tasks us with digging up someone named Gerry who apparently has the answers we seek. As the questions begins to mount, our hero suddenly slips out of that foggy realm and awakens in a small house, determined to find Gerry and to make sense of what is going on. Well, it isn’t long before we dig up Gerry – who just so happens to have been buried in our backyard. And whatever serious tones the game was trying to set-up, quickly vanish in the blink of an eye as Gerry turns out to be a talking skull who then prompts you to harvest fresh corpses for meat before giving them a proper burial.

I’ll give you a second to let that sink it.

Graveyard Keeper is a lot like Stardew Valley…if Stardew Valley suddenly found itself in the trappings of a cult classic B-Horror Movie. The gameplay is a farming-sim through and through but instead of the focus being on parsnips and potatoes, Graveyard Keeper is all about creating and maintaining a nice place to lay the dead to rest. Each gravesite has a number within it which indicates the quality of your work, and quality is determined by a few factors. For instance laying down a Flower Bed and a Stone Crucifix are far better options than settling for a flimsy Wooden Cross and nothing else. Quality is also effected by the state of the corpse you inter. While you have the option of being an ethically-sound Graveyard Keeper and take the best care of the dead that are left at your doorstep by a…talking donkey (told you, seriousness goes out the door FAST), you can also bend your morals a bit and harvest a corpse for its precious organs, blood, and even bones. Doing so will go towards your valuable research and help gain points for the game’s Technologies System.

::Ding:: Bring Out Ya Dead!

In order to be able to craft upgrades to further beautify your graveyard, you will need to earn Points. Points come in three distinct categories: Red – which represents your hand-crafting skills, Green – which indicates your understanding of all things in nature, and Blue – which signifies your spirituality and your knowledge of things not of this world. But having knowledge of how to build an item or cultivate certain crops is only half the battle. Resource gathering is also a big factor in Graveyard Keeper so expect to chop wood and mine for minerals in order to put your studies to practical use. While it seems that the game provides you with an awful lot of leeway in how you can go about creating the perfect graveyard, the amount of information and mechanics it throws at you at the onset can be a little overwhelming.

Graveyard Keeper has a lot of flexibility in terms of what you should prioritize. It never really holds your hand but instead gently ensures that you put your hand into each of the myriad of systems it has built into it. The sense of freedom is rather nice but I often felt that even the slightest bit of guidance would have gone a long way. I’m a pretty patient gamer and I have no problem getting down into the nitty-gritty of a game’s mechanics, but I really felt that I needed just a little something to make all these systems a bit more manageable.  On top of the graveyard upkeep and corpses to deal with, expect to farm, mine, study, and sell. Oh, and don’t forget about your relationships with the townsfolk. Much like the graves and the corpses you will so lovingly tend to you, you also need to make sure that your rapport with the living is just as good as with the dead. It takes some getting used to but once you find the proper balance, it eventually all starts to make sense – it just may take you some time to get there.

I’m not a the biggest advocate of farming-sims only because of how much of a time sink they can be. But Graveyard Keeper tickled a certain morbid bone in me and I applaud developer Lazy Bear Games in its clever spin on the genre. Graveyard Keeper promises hours of fun for those willing to invest the time in it. It also helps that its got a wicked sense of humor and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Game code provided by Tiny Build for review. 

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Nintendo Switch Reviews Reviews

Cosmic Star Heroine – Nintendo Switch Review

A Retro Space Opera That’s Out of This World

As a working father with two children under the age of three, the Nintendo Switch has been something of saving grace when it comes to getting in some time to game. Being able to to enjoy Nintendo’s offerings from the comfort of my sofa while the little ones partake in a viewing party of Little Baby Bum (do NOT Google that, you’ll thank me later), has been the sole reason for me being able to keep up with the current generation at all. So whenever I catch wind of a game I would have otherwise missed being ported over to the Switch, I get as excited as my kids do while they watch their god forsaken show. One such game is Cosmic Star Heroine.

Same Alyssa…Same…

Developed by Zeboyd Games, Cosmic Star Heroine is a JRPG-influenced title which recently made its way to the Switch after initially being released in 2017 on Steam and on the PS4/Vita. Right on the onset, you are introduced to Alyssa L’Salle, a no-nonsense API Agent who is known throughout the galaxy as an all-around badass. Her amusing banter is quite refreshing when compared to the cliche amnesia-ridden heroes of the JRPGs during the 16-Bit era. Over the course of the game, you are introduced to a motley crew of party members including: Chahn – a Gunmage and Alyssa’s closest friend, Dave – a top-tier hacker that scares easily, Arete – a leader of a terrorist organization, Lauren – an indie band singer (and yes, you will hear her sing and it’s magical), and many, many others along the way. At different points in the game, your party members will be swapped out, broken up, and reunited, allowing you to really experience each one without having to ignore anyone. No character felt like they were sidelined as Cosmic Star Heroine plays up on each party member’s build and moveset. Traditional JRPG jobs/classes take a backseat to allow for more fun and fresh abilities. Everyone just meshes so well together and their strengths are underscored by Cosmic Star Heroine’s greatest innovation – it’s combat system.

Inspired & Evolved

Unlike the JRPGs it was inspired from, Cosmic Star Heroine’s combat mechanics are unlike anything I have ever experienced. Instead of being able to spam “Attack” or “Magic”for example, each ability has a limited amount of uses before it needs to be recharged. Abilities can only be recharged by choosing the “Defend” option. So don’t expect to get by on the same ability when fighting a group of enemies. Cosmic Star Heroine is all about strategy and using the right combination of abilities and knowing when to defend. But the innovation doesn’t stop there. The game also employs a Hyper Mode and a Desperation Mode. As you pick and choose between your abilities, a Hyper Meter will fill up underneath your character’s Health Meter. Once it’s full, your next move, be it an Attack, a Buff/Debuff, or a Heal, will be more potent than it would normally be. Desperation Mode on the other hand is a mode your character enters when they have lost all health and have dipped into negative HP (yes, that’s a thing). In Desperation Mode you are have one last ditch effort to heal yourself before you say bye-bye. Oh, and did I mention Style? During combat you gain Style which is signified by a percentage above your Health Meter. The more Style you have, the more damage you deal. Pretty neat huh? All in all, party members can equip up to eight unique abilities and will constantly learn new ones as they level up (at an incredibly brisk pace, mind you). I found myself messing around with these ability permutations a ton over the course of my playthrough, which made late game confrontations all that more exciting.

Sing it girl

Outside of swapping out abilities, you’ll constantly comes across new weapons and gear to try out. The game always makes it a point to provide you with the best equipment while also giving you enough options to play around with. Weapons come in a healthy variety and while some may be stronger than others, ‘weaker’ ones often have a few auto-buffs that make them worth taking into battle. Items are handled a bit differently here too. Instead of stockpiling a metric ton of potions to heal, Items in Cosmic Star Heroine also work on a recharge system adding yet another layer of strategy to the mix. It all blends so well with the game’s presentation and story.

Lightspeed Storytelling

Cosmic Star Heroine has a wonderful brisk pace about it. I found myself going from beat-to-beat, battle-to-battle at at incredibly satisfying rate. The game doesn’t force random battles on you (thankfully) and has all enemies laid out for you on the screen. It really helps keep the game moving along and doesn’t break up the story it’s trying to tell. Speaking of which, the story is really something. There is a buttload of drama to be found in this sci-fi meets spy thriller. Taking a cue from the likes of Phantasy Star and Lunar and a healthy bit of Blade Runner throw in for good measure, Cosmic Star Heroine starts off innocent enough with you and your team busting a few terrorists and saving a few hostages. All in day’s work, right? But what starts off as a typical day for Alyssa and her posse, quickly spins out of control when one of their superiors has hatched a sinister plot to gain control of the world. I got to give Zeboyd Games credit where credit is due – you really don’t see enough science fiction in a JRPG. Fantasy setting are cool and all, but stumbling into an abandoned factory that covered in streaks of blood and sprawling with mutated meshes of flesh and metal is really something special to behold. It also helps that soundtrack is of the highest quality and the expressions on the 16-Bit sprites communicate a wide arrange of emotions. Take all of this and add a decent amount of pixel-perfect cutscenes and you have an experience that shines brighter than any star in the galaxy.

Let the battle begin!

Cosmic Star Heroine is  a must-have title for both fans of the JRPG genre and newcomers alike. It is an atmospheric space opera with very clear influences of the Sega Saturn’s best role-playing games. With a combat system unlike any other, a gorgeous retro aesthetic and a stellar soundtrack, Cosmic Star Heroine is a product of pure passion. You can tell that the two-man team of Zeboyd Games gave this game their all. While there might be a few shortcomings when it comes to character development, Cosmic Star Heroine brings some much innovation to the JRPG formula while keeping the heart and soul of its 16-Bit muse intact.

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Nintendo Switch Reviews Reviews

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles – Nintendo Switch Review

A Masterclass of Whimsical Adventure.

Editor’s note: The score of 7/10 was accidentally put for this title. This was to be a placeholder, but was posted in error. The true score has been updated. 

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is the latest game from the folks over at Prideful Sloth. It takes cues from open world games like Breath of the Wild, Crafting games like Minecraft, and sprinkles in a little town building ala Dark Cloud. Yonder creates a wonderful, albeit flawed, whimsical adventure that’s  worth every moment. It’s a beautifully crafted adventure that has you exploring vast landscapes with a massive smile sprawled across your face and sets the tone right from the start. After creating your character you will explore an open world to find Sprites (magical creatures that help you unlock mysteries of the world), gather resources, and help local inhabitants.  You’ll do all of this with no combat nor any real sense of urgency.  In this unique way Yonder allows you to focus on its most important aspect – Fun.

The Calm before for Mincraftian Storm

The games opens up with you on a ship heading towards the island of Gemea. Upon landing on the island you are given the simple task of harvesting some resources. Soon after you are set on task after task with more and more options at your disposal. That’s the main crux of Yonder: Resource harvesting and management. You will be building different tools to help you gather larger, rarer resources which in turn will help you discover and craft more items. That game play loop is ingeniously addicting and at times the amount of crafting recipes seems almost endless. It keeps progression from feeling tedious and makes it feel more like it’s own adventure. What’s problematic is that crafting can sometimes feel obtuse and never quite feels as intuitive as it should for a game centered around crafting and building. It’s strange considering that the game is clearly aimed at younger audiences and a more casual crowd. Despite that, it is quite easy to get lost in wanting to discover one more item or one more area.

Each area you unlock has it’s own progression associated with it. As you complete quests in a given area this percentage will slowly tick up toward that golden 100% mark. It gives Yonder that “checking boxes” feel of certain open world games like Assassin’s Creed.

 A Helping Farmhand

While plugging away at helping townsfolk I came across a dilapidated farm. A young farmer tasked me with rebuilding the farm to its former glory. This portion of the game had me going back to my memories of one of my favorite games, Dark Cloud.  Piece by piece you reassemble the farm and reap its benefits. While you have the creativity to build what you want and when. Where you build it on the farm is just as predetermined as Dark Cloud was, which is a slight bummer. There is something about wanting to have the farm flow my way as opposed to the way the game wants me to. It is a minor gripe, but a gripe nonetheless.

Do it Again and Again

What you do in Yonder doesn’t vary very much. Helping out townspeople and farmers is basically one fetch quest after another.  Exploring the world and casually unlocking new items to craft is really what kept me pushing forward, even if I thought maybe it was time to put the Switch down and do something else. There is just something about the charm. As you move forward you clear some murky areas to reveal and unlock more portions of the map. Outside of that and helping the townspeople there isn’t much to do. As I had mentioned before, that didn’t really bother me. I was more focused on just plugging away and enjoying myself in a Animal Crossing/Minecraft kind of way, minus death and taxes of course.

The Verdict

Overall, Yonder is flawed in what it isn’t trying to be, but a master at what it is; an adventure of exploration.  Here you will not find monsters to kill or starvation to stave off, just a beautiful word to discover and rebuild. Yonder is about peaceful exploration of a charming world where you learn little by little how you can create change one errand at a time. This game is perfect for sitting down with a little one and having fun. Those looking for action and challenge, or maybe something more stimulating, might want to look elsewhere.

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles was provided by Stride PR for Prideful Sloth for review. Total Playtime approx 11 hours. 

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Nintendo Switch Reviews PC Reviews Playstation 4 Pro Reviews Playstation 4 Reviews Reviews X-Box One Reviews XBOX One S Reviews XBOX One X Reviews

Dead Cells – Multiplatform Review

Scaling Rougelite mountain, one cell at a time

Ed Mcmillen has been a hero to me since the release of Super Meat Boy. His follow-up, The Binding of Issac, is easily in my top ten most played games over the past decade and I greatly admire his cutesy-gore aesthetic. It’s is such a well crafted game and has layers upon layers of content that slowly reveal themselves at an almost perfect pace. I poured hundreds, if not, thousands of hours into it through it’s various incarnations. Hell, bought it on every system I owned that it was available on. It was hands down my favorite rougelite for years. “Was” being the key word in that sentence. Dead Cells, in all it’s parts, is expertly executed. From the combat to the ever growing number of weapons and skill unlocks it strikes the perfect balance of the grind for knowledge and forward progression.

Isaac has been king of the roguelite castle for years, and in no way is this meant as a slight to the game. I think Ed is ready for the world to move on and the gaming community is hungry for the next big thing. There have been an absolute avalanche of games that have tried to recreate the craze that Isaac started but most have fallen just short in one way or another. Games like Nuclear Throne and Enter the Gungeon seemed like the next logical step, but on May 10th of last year Motion Twin’s Dead Cells hit Steam Early access and started its road to full release. More importantly, it started it’s climb to the top of rougelite mountain. Between then and now the game has changed drastically: Mechanics from early builds have been completely altered. More than a fair share at the request of the community. The weapon and perk selections have grown dramatically and, thanks to Motion Twin’s dedication to making Dead Cells truly great, a fantastic community has built itself around the game. 

Combat Savvy

The core of the Dead Cells experience lives in it’s combat and weapons systems. Combat is Fast, Fluid, and surprisingly tactical. As you play through the game you’ll pick up blueprints for a bevy of weapons, items, and perks that you can unlock using cells dropped from all the enemies you will inevitably slaughter. The combination of swords, shields, bows, skills, perks and other gadgets feels almost endless. You have four slots to fill, two of which can be filled with either a melee weapon, ranged weapon, or shield. The other two are where your skills go. Each run will have you balancing new strategies depending on what weapons and skills drop and what perks you choose. These weapons, items, and perks are broken down into three, conveniently color-coded, combat styles: Brutality, Tactical, and Survival. The three styles tie into perks by giving you passive buffs like  “Killing an enemy gives you X health” or “Shortens the cooldown on your skills by X%.” Building up any of these three styles with whatever power-ups you get is just one part of a larger synergistic combat system.

Every item you pick up has a chance to have an “Affix.”  This system helps keeping runs from feeling too similar. In a single run you could pick up two Ice Grenades and depending on the Affixed they have they could handle completely differently. These range from just additional damage to things like “Does 125% damage against a bleeding target” or “Enemies killed with this weapon explode into a cloud of poison gas.”  Using these affixes to build synergies is not only key in succeeding in Dead Cells but maliciously fun. Curating a build well can lead to some absolutely vicious combinations.

Once you’re savvy enough to what the game has to offer, and if RNGsus is on your side, you could end up in a situation like the following: A group of enemies are in front of you. In your main weapon slot you have a sword that does 100% damage against a burning target. In your secondary slot you have Firebrands. In your first skill slot you have Oil grenades and in your second Skill slot you have a Deployable turret that causes its victims to drop a swarm of bitters. You open the salvo by throwing your Oil Grenade, this douses anybody unlucky enough to be in the blast radius with a Flammable oil that enhances the effects of any fire weapon. After they’re drenched in oil you throw the fire brand and it lights up the ground and any enemy in the immediate area. The enemies covered in oil take extra damage from the fire. They are roasting up real good. You deploy your turret and then move in to attack with your sword. Every swing is eviscerating any foe that happens to be covered in flames, as they die a swarm of bitters crawls out of their corpse thanks to the turret you put down. The bitters help with taking on the rest of the hoard. Before long, everything is dead and you’re left standing. A scenario like this is the norm in Dead Cells and this is just one example of the synergistic possibilities. The minute-to-minute gameplay is non-stop action.

Nothing Rogue… Like it.

Dead Cells, much like the aforementioned Binding of Isaac, is a game that reveals its layers to the player over time. Though this is a quality of almost all rougelites, not many pull it off as gracefully as Motion Twin did here. While It can be absolutely devastating losing a good run, your knowledge of new enemies, areas, and paths constantly lead to new possibilities. You learn and move on.  Dead Cells never feels unfair in that quest for knowledge. Death is seldom a symptom of the game working against you. It gives you all the tools to succeed and looks at you to execute to the best of your abilities.

As you progress through the game you’ll find Runes scattered about the world. These runes open up new, sometimes, faster paths through the game. What’s more interesting is that opportunities to use runes that you’ve yet to unlock present themselves in almost every area of the game. So in addition to unlocking whole new areas, the runes also allow players to access even more parts of existing areas. These offshoots usually contain extra weapons or power-ups that would have been otherwise inaccessible and can sometimes help a ton at the beginning of a run.

You sure do have a pretty…. Background.

If I had any friends that thought pixel art couldn’t be gorgeous, I would very likely show them Dead Cells as an example. Multi-Layered backgrounds haven’t looked this good since parallax scrolling was invented.

Alright, maybe I’m being a bit hyperbolic, but seriously, Dead Cells is easy on the eyes. For the amount of carnage that can be happening on screen at any minute, everything is easily defined and readable. Every weapon or enemy attack animation is fluid and incredibly well designed. You can really see and feel the weightless slash of the Balanced Blade vs the slow brutal smash of The Nutcracker.  Despite it being randomly generated, Dead Cells’ levels can often feel hand crafted. You’d be hard pressed to find something in the genre that even comes close to handling level design this well. No two areas feel the same. The Toxic sewers feel oddly claustrophobic. They’re a maze of pipes and paths. The Clock Tower feels daunting and insurmountably lofty. It’s really remarkable that Motion twin was able to pump this much character into each section of the game and you can clearly see the care they took in building Dead Cells. 

 

The Verdict

Dead Cells is a metroidvania at heart but even a single playthrough will reveal that it is so much more than that. Motion Twin took such care in crafting every aspect of the game that the end product is truly something special. The combat is brutally beautiful, the art and level design in each area can at times be awe inspiring, the sheer number of combat possibilities seems infinite, and the soundtrack fills the game with an energy that few fail to capture. If you haven’t checked out Dead Cells yet, I highly suggest you do. It is a unique experience in more ways than one and will keep you coming back for more after every run. I can’t wait to see what Motion Twin does next.

Dead Cells was purchased by the reviewer and 100% promises that he didn’t plagiarize this from anywhere.

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Playstation 4 Reviews Reviews

20XX Review – Playstation 4

A Mighty Challenger

Developed by Batterystaple Games, 20XX is an interesting little platforming experience. The die-hard Mega Man fan in me was constantly at odds with what I was experiencing. “NO!…that’s…that’s just NOT right!”, I would scream incessantly at my television. “…YOU DON’T DO THAT IN A MEGA MAN GAME!!” I went on like this for quite a bit of time. But after I let myself calm down and somewhat begrudgingly 20XX grab me by the hand, I was left with a pretty damn good experience that was a lot more fun and innovative than I initially expected.

No Carbon Copy

At first glance, 20XX is everything you would expect out of a title that is entirely inspired by Capcom’s iconic blue bomber – particularly his X counterpart. Instead of Mega Man X and his saber wielding sidekick Zero, you have Nina and Ace (I didn’t care of the names either) who stand in restrictively as the heroes that players can choose from. All of the abilities/mechanics players would expect are present and accounted for: Nina can jump, shoot, charge and dash her way through enemies and obstacles while Ace uses a bladed weapon to slash throughout opponents at close distances. But the surface level gameplay (which again, is nearly a carbon copy of the Mega Man X series) sort of ends at the surface. Once players take a glimpse at what’s hiding underneath, it soon becomes apparent that 20XX is so much more than a hollow clone of Mega Man.

20XX takes the traditional Mega Man format of choosing a roster of eight Robot Masters/Mavericks that the series is know for and instead replaces it with roguelike gameplay and procedurally generated levels.  At first, I thought of this to be nothing more than a shallow gimmick (hence my conniption fit earlier). But after a few playthroughs, it all started to make remarkably good sense to me. It was – FREAKING GENIUS.

Players are tossed into a random level with no indication of which boss they will be going up against. You have one life – so once that health meter runs out, that’s that. Upon making it to the boss and besting them (which arguably wasn’t that difficult for me) players are given a rather surprising option. Sure, it might seems like the common sense route to take the boss’s ability, but what about added health? Or  boost Nina/Ace’s damage output? Or maybe up their defense stats? This is where the game completely diverts itself from everything players have come to expect from a Mega Man game and injects it with a bit of originality. It soon becomes apparent that the game is all about balance and picking and choosing between the right abilities and stat boosts to keep going and evading death for as long as possible. Make no mistake – death is inevitable. Fortunately, there is an upside to that as well.

Soul Chips n’ Dip

While death in 20XX means an entire run (along with any weapons/buffs players may have acquired) is completely reset, the situation isn’t as dire as one would assume. Players can collect a currency known as Soul Chips through each run which carry over and accumulate. Soul Chips can be used to purchase upgrades players can take on their next run or  permanent stat boosts to health and damage output. 20XX wants to reward you for playing over and over again knowing that each time it will be a little more forgiving, but if players are ever in need of assistance besides grinding for Soul Chips and constructing a proper build, 20XX offers online co-op play so players can have a friend join in on the action (seriously, why hasn’t a Mega Man game done this?).

One would think that after a solid week of the Mega Man X Legacy  Collection 1 + 2, that I would be all mega-ed out. It turns out that I could not be more wrong as Batterystaple Games’ 20XX was able to provide me with a Mega Man X-like experience that I wasn’t initially prepared for. The game offers a lot of replayability in the form of Daily/Weekly events to keep players coming back for more. The randomized nature of each run makes the game hard to put down and the entire packaged is underscored by a very fitting soundtrack of electric guitar riffs. While some of the boss battles can be a little inconsistent and the level design can be a touch too hard to navigate through sometimes, it doesn’t take away from the overall experience. 

Mega Man fans looking for something fun to fill the void until Mega Man 11 (and hopefully Mega Man X9) needn’t look any further. 20XX was clearly developed by a team with an incredible passion Mega Man and their understanding of the genre and what makes it work really shines through.

Playstation 4  Code for 20XX provided to Proven Gamer courtesy of publisher/developer Batterystaple Games.

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Project Darwin: X-Box One Preview

Overlooked Battle Royale contender – or something else entirely?

Project Darwin is a Battle Royale-ish Deathmatch on Steam and Xbox One Game Preview program and free-to-play. The term Battle Royale, in my opinion, is being used solely to attempt at generating buzz for the game. In all honesty, calling it a traditional deathmatch would be far more accurate. There is really only one actual Battle Royale element at play in this title– but we will get to that in a minute.

Project Darwin takes place in a dystopian post-apocalyptic version of the North Canadian Rockies. In this future, the surviving remnants of humanity pit prison inmates against each other in a high tech death arena for live streaming entertainment and social experimentation.

A match in Project Darwin takes place between 10 players, but with a super fun twist: 9 of the players are gathering materials to craft weapons and upgrades, setting traps, and hunting one another. The 10th player gets to fly around in a drone and control the arena. This feature, in my opinion, is the best part of this game. I feel it really sets it apart from other Battle Royale games. The Director controls almost everything. The materials being placed randomly, they can setup their own hazards, and they control the environment as well. The match takes place in a hex-grid and instead of a closing circle of death– the player controlling The Director gets to shutdown the grids one section at a time. They can also heat them up, or even drop a tactical Nuke on a section as well. Both players and directors fight for the audiences favor, which is how you gain experience and level up, earn loot, etc. If a director bullies one player the entire match, this will displease the crowd and they will get a bad rating. So there is some safeguards to ensure that this director is “fair in their unfairness” as the game puts it.

The Players, are armed with just a bow and an axe. They can gather materials like wood and leather around the play area as well as find chests with various items in them. They can then use these things to craft better armor, increase axe damage, fire arrows, etc. The director will drop electronic components at random places in the map, these locations are broadcast to all the players and are extremely valuable as they can be used to give you special abilities like invisibility, teleportation, and ridiculous high jump. These are game changers and good way for The Director to herd players towards one another.

I’ve played it quite a bit and can honestly say it’s definitely worth checking out. I really don’t feel like it’s getting the attention it deserves. It really stands out to me in a cluster of Fortnite and PUBG clones. The art style is really pretty. Some might say it looks like Fortnite, but the Canadian wilds really give it a dark ambient sense of danger, and the mix of primitive guerilla fighting style with high tech makes it feel fresh and inventive. As someone who has put in thousands of hours on PUBG and played a bit of Fortnite. I can honestly say Project Darwin deserves some attention and I really think it’s only going to get better and more fun as it updates.

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Reviews

Plantronics RIG 500 Pro – Review

The current market for gaming headsets is flooded with choices. With all those choices, there are excellent headset and there are simply terrible ones. I am happy to report that the RIG 500 Pro might be the very best headset I have ever used. The RIG 500 Pro can be used on PC, PS4 and X-Box One with ease. Simply plugging in the 3.5mm jack into the controllers and you are good to go. To my surprise, this also works flawlessly with Nintendo Switch, which was key for me as I have yet to find a headset that was as comfortable as my Turtle Beach that I use on my other consoles. Lightweight, comfortable, and sexy, the RIG has the big sound to match its gorgeous looks.

Built for Comfort

 

One of the most important features to me when picking a headset is comfort. The thick padded ear pads fit over me ears with ease, which is an incredible feat because my ears are jerks. The head strap has a nice thick pad as well and the plastic top is flexible but stiff enough to hold form. Once the RIG 500 Pro is on your head, you forget it is there. That is the absolute best attribute of the device. To my delight, the headset also stayed on my head as I hop skipped and jumped all about my living room in anticipation of a Victory Royale (spoilers I lost as the final kill). I had not gotten to final 2 prior to this moment and I have a feeling that is all due to the incredible sound coming from this headset.

A Sound Foundation

A headset can be the most comfortable thing on Earth, but if the sound coming out of those ear muffs is all kinds of butt, that doesn’t matter. The RIG 500 sounds like I am in the recording studio recording the sound effects myself. Lows are low and highs are high. Mid range sounds stand out yet all these sounds blend together perfectly. Hearing that rocket in the aforementioned final 2 in Fortnite whiz passed my face was  a sound to behold, even if the end result was my body being pulverized to smithereens. The fact of the matter is; every step, crack, bullet and click was heard loud and clear. I had an advantage, and it was due to the crisp, clean, and downright gorgeous sound coming out of the RIG 500 Pro. Just to be sure, I also tested the set for music and podcasts. I usually use Sony MDR-XB950B1 headphones and if I wouldn’t look like a total nerd on the train, I would swap them out for the RIG 500’s in a heartbeat.

A Clear Winner

The one thing I was worried about when I opened up the RIG 500 Pro was the stick mic it comes with. I had many issues with the mic on the RIG LX1 I reviewed last year and it spoiled my whole experience with the headset. Fortunately my apprehension was quickly overwritten with delight as my teammates heard me loud and clear. I also tested the mic using Audacity, to see just how clear I was. While I was nowhere near as clear as with a studio mic, it was absolutely serviceable for in-game chit chat. There was very little popping or spiking, which was very nice.

My New Headset

Being the most comfortable headset I have ever put on, and having crisp and clean audio,  the RIG 500 quickly became my new gaming headset. The added control to mute and raise or lower volume with ease is a bonus. Being a 3.5mm jack, this headset’s biggest strong point is its diversity of use. When you buy the RIG 500 Pro, it could very well become your new headset for much more than just console gaming. The RIG 500 Pro retails for $89.99. 

The RIG 500 Pro was provided by Plantronics for review.

Categories
Nintendo Switch Reviews Reviews

Paranautical Activity Review (Nintendo Switch)

Fool’s Gold

Paranautical Activity, a 2014 game by Code Avarice,  has finally made its way to the Nintendo Switch courtesy of Digerati. For those of you who aren’t in the know, Paranormal Activity is a rogue-like FPS with 3D voxel graphics which has you running around and shooting a bunch of shit up. Sounds pretty fun right? Well…not really. If you are wondering if Digerati’s efforts to bring this title to the Switch should even have been bothered with, the answer is a resounding no.

Doomed

At the onset, you are immediately tasked with choosing character. I suppose at this point I would be going on about the pros and cons of each one but seeing as the game itself doesn’t clearly spell it out, whom you end up choosing is of very little consequence. Sure, one character has more health and another shoots farther, but during actual gameplay the differences are negligible. After you select your character you are dropped into and empty room and it slowly dawns on you that you should really be reevaluating your life choices. The empty room is literally just that – an empty room – with nothing but a door on the other side of it. Once you make your way to the door, you find yourself in another room but this time there is an enemy in it; WHAT FUN! I don’t think much of the little bugger so I blast…and I blast…and I blast some more, and then I die. Without enough time to even contemplate dying at what is an intro/tutorial level, my character re-spawns into a slightly different room, also with a door like the one before it. Gee…what could be waiting me on the other side? Surprisingly it was a completely different enemy…which proceeded to kill me in similar fashion as the previous one. Something was very, very wrong here. And eventually I realized that my bullets weren’t actually connecting with my target at all – I just thought they were.

Paranautical Activity’s most glaring flaw is its incredibly poor action feedback. Nothing in the game appears to have any real weight to it. Bullets chug out of your gun a tad too slow and float-y before completely disappearing off of the screen. Did they hit your target? You are never really quite sure. I found that the only way to really make sure I hit an enemy was to be extremely close to it. So close that – you guessed it – your whopping three health bars are sapped away from you almost immediately. Look, I get that the rogue-like genre has a reputation of being ‘challenging’ but the challenge shouldn’t in broken gameplay. What we have here is a just an obvious failure of game design. And it really sucks because Paranautical Activity does have a few good things going for it.

Do you ‘mined’!

Graphically speaking, the game is actually pretty nice to look at. Its Minecraft-like aesthetic while a bit off-putting at first slowly began to grown on me. The game’s rather creative and eye-catching enemy designs convinced me to press on just to see what I would be put against next. The constant struggle with the misguided gameplay/combat mechanics aside, Paranautical Activity has its share of unique monsters. The ‘blood splatter’ and elemental effects are wonderfully vibrant and colorful, and help give a lot of life to otherwise bland and dull level design. The soundtrack is a complete nostalgia-fest as well, tickling your earballs in all the right places. It very clearly that a lot of thought went into the game’s graphics and sound design (with exception to the actual levels themselves). If only the same can be said of Paranautical Activity’s gameplay.

Man Overboard

Overall, Paranautical Activity is a fun concept that has moments of interest, but is too poorly implemented to really make it worth the time it takes to tolerate its frustrating mechanics. FPS gameplay should not be this poorly executed. And its a real shame because the monsters are an absolute blast to discover. If you are a fan of the genre, there might be something here for you to latch onto…maybe. But I were you, I might want to hold out until something with slightly tighter gameplay mechanics comes along. I hear Doom and Wolfenstein II are wonderful on the Switch…

 

 

 

 

 

Disclosure: Paranautical Activity Review Code for the Nintendo Switch was provided to Proven Gamer by Digerati.

 

Categories
Nintendo Switch Reviews Reviews

INK – Review – Nintendo Switch

A Splash of Brilliance

Equal parts exhilarating and frustrating, INK is a puzzle platformer with a twist that has you coming back for more and more. You will run, jump and wall slide your way to victory & and feel that familiar rush of ultimate satisfaction – or the gimmick of INK will run its course and you will be looking to get your puzzle platforming fix elsewhere.

A Shot in the Dark

INK has you assuming the role of an unassuming white square that resembles a tofu block. You sit there in a completely dark space, with no light to guide you. Platforms lay in complete darkness waiting for you to explore them. You take your first leap into the emptiness only to splat against a wall once invisible to you and splash ink all over it. You now see the side and part of the corner of what appears to be the top of a platform. Everything you touch, gets splashed with bright multi-colored ink, revealing the platforms in front of you and allowing you to reach the end goal of the level. While trying to figure out where the platforms lie can be fun, it is often times a forced trial and error. This is ultimately more frustrating and less satisfying than you would hope, especially with a platformer with a nice balance of the two like Celeste still fresh on the mind.

Friend of Foe?

Just as you get used to the game’s floaty platforming controls, they throw enemies at you. At first, you don’t really know they are enemies, so you might go and touch them, and if you do, you die and go back to the beginning of the level to start over. Your next thought is to avoid them – but once you do that you realize you cannot go through the gate at the end of the level. It requires you to kill all of the enemies. You soon figure out that to kill them you must jump on top of them. This sounds simple enough, but imprecise hit detection has you landing on what you believe is the top, but is too much of the corner and you will die. You can string a few kills together and propel yourself forward, only to be stopped dead in your tracks by an invisible wall you have not splashed yet. Luckily when you do die, only enemies respawn, the platforms do not go back into darkness. When you do reach your end goal it is incredibly satisfying, especially when you reach a boss battle that really tests your skills. These battles are intense and brilliantly designed and had me wishing that the game was more of that and less guess-work platforming. Speaking of intense, you can play local co-op with a friend using split joycon. Seeing how you stack up against a friend is fun, but playing with split joycon, I can tell you first hand, is NOT recommended. If you have a pro controller you might want to use that instead.

Pleasure for Eyes and Ears

One thing that is evident here is that a lot of care went into the vibrancy of the visuals and the beautiful soundtrack. Each splash of color is a visual treat and bouncing around to the catchy beats ties everything together quite nicely. You almost catch yourself platforming rhythmically, even though the game is not designed to be played that way.  Once you do get into a nice groove, especially when trying to do some speed runs, the presentation enhances the experience tenfold. It is a rarity these days to find a game that blends ambiance in such a cohesive way, but INK does it flawlessly.

Going in Blind.

Ultimately, INK has a bunch really great ideas. Clever level design, gorgeous visuals, and intense boss battles will have you coming back for more, but floaty controls and forced trial and error may have you looking to more polished experiences to scratch that puzzle platforming itch..  With 75 levels for you to explore, you will have plenty to enjoy.

Review code has been provided by Digerati. 

Categories
PC Reviews

Cultist Simulator Review

A Cult of Literality

Do you ever feel the monotony of working day after day just to be able to work again tomorrow? Perhaps you have an interest in the mystic arts or the occult? Do you want to be part of something bigger than yourself? Then maybe it is time to join a cult! If that is too much work, then maybe just play Cultist Simulator.

Pick a card…any card.

Cultist Simulator is a cross between a tabletop card game and a text-based RPG. There are some main categories such as Work, Dream, Explore, Talk, and others that you bring specific cards to in order to start timed events. When the events end, cards might be altered and/or you may get specific or random cards. The cards are varied from things like Health, Vitality, Reason, and other ideas to specific locations and characters. You have to use specific cards in specific categories in order to advance toward being in a cult while also keeping enough health and funds to stay alive. You can also pause or speed up the game to help get through events faster and easier. When (not if) you die, you can start a character with a different background that gives you new advantages or perspectives such as starting with a better job in order to get funds more easily.

If this sounds confusing… well, that’s because it is. There are tons of cards that all do different things, start different events, and can even alter events by being added to them after they start. A large portion of the game is organizing the cards and categories on the table as you keep getting more. Some cards even disappear or change into something else after a certain amount of time without being used. Some categories show up suddenly and kill you or cause some other harm if you don’t put specific cards on them in a certain amount of time. This makes it very easy to get overwhelmed and lead it to spiral if you don’t make good use of the pause function.

In 10,000 words or more.

The explanations that appear for the cards and events are often wordy and vague which doesn’t really help you figure out what you need to do next. This also forces you to keep pausing the game to read which either makes you tired of reading or breaks any kind of tension with the other timed events going on at the same time. Cultist Simulator often plays like a book.

That being said, the art that is in this game looks great. The music does cause a suspenseful atmosphere that helps bring a tense feeling as your character is “going down the rabbit hole.” When things are going your way, Cultist Simulator is a fun text-based mystery which is rare these days. However, the tendency to be over-complicated and the sudden downward spirals on characters really overshadow some of the potential that the game has.

A Steam code was provided by Weather Factory Weather Factory for review.

Categories
Nintendo Switch Reviews

Pokemon: Quest – Switch Review

Pokemon: Money Pit

The Pokemon Company set the internet into a frenzy on Wednesday when it announced Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee coming later this year, announced that a new “core” RPG was coming to Switch next year, and a new “free to start” game called Pokemon: Quest was out now on Switch. Eager to jump in and see what the latest Nintendo had to offer to Pokemon fans, I downloaded right away. Was I about to embark on a quirky yet fun Pokemon adventure, or was I going to get into a half baked mobile game with a Pokemon coat of paint? Unfortunately, Pokemon Quest is just that – a mobile game with Pokemon.

Tap Tap Tap it in…

The gameplay is simple; you have a team of three Pokemon, enter a level, your team auto runs the level and you smash the special moves buttons until your win or lose. That’s about it. Sure you might want to balance your team or load up on the appropriate type for the boss, but the actual gameplay is just a few taps here and there. Some of the attacks are area of effect attacks, some are massive punches, either way you will be spamming the buttons waiting for the next attack to cool down. As you plow through each level you will eventually reach a level with a power requirement higher than your own. That is when you go back and waste one of your precious battery charges to do some older missions. While you are battling you get cooking ingredients to make food that attracts new Pokemon to your camp, or you get stones to help power up your Pokemon. This seems attractive at first, but quickly becomes cumbersome as you fill up your box quickly and have to spend PM Tickets to fit more.

When you use stones to get some boosts to stats or attacks, the stones stay in your inventory. By the time you reach the teens in Pokemon level, each member of your team should be able to hold around 4 stones on average. That means 12 stones will be sitting in your box that holds 20. That leaves only 8 slots available to fill on expeditions. Don’t worry, you can spend an in-game currency to double the box space. Don’t have the currency on hand? You can spend real money to get more! And that, my friends, is where this game loses all its charm and is exposed for what it really is; a money pit.

Stephen Uses Play Game…it failed

The game has so many ways to try and get you to spend money. It is a classic mobile game in its predatory nature. This would be fine, if it weren’t a Pokemon game. Something tells me this one is going to cost parents a lot of money. It really is astounding how many ways they try and get you to spend in-game currency. Want to decorate your park to get some boosts? Pay me. Want to do more than 5 missions in a row instead of wait for your timer? Pay me. Want to keep your items when you die in mission? Pay me. Want to increase your bag size? Pay me. You want to increase your pokebox size? Pay me. If you were earning the PM tickets at a faster clip of 5-10 per hour I’d say this was a fine model to keep you engaged, but the fact that you can only do 5 missions before needing to wait a cool-down timer out just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I want to be the very best…

It may sound like I hate this game, but that can’t be farther from the truth. This game is stupid fun. It is charming and mindless. A perfect time waster while watching a show or riding the train. The addiction to collecting Pokemon is as strong as ever and upgrading my team is satisfying when I can do it. As much as a simply hate the micro-transaction model peppered all over this game, I cannot help but push to the next expedition or replay the previous boss battle to find better loot. If you can look through the brush in your way, a good time can be had here. Hearing the classic Pokemon’s battle cries while they battle all over with flashy moves can be highly entertaining.

Quest has a ton of charm, but has you waiting for timers to tick down, spending in game currency to speed things up or give you a boost, and questioning whether you should spend a few bucks to make things a little more fun. The mobile game “free to play” model hurts what is otherwise a fun, although mind numbing, Pokemon game. Only the hardest of the hardcore Pokemon fans will stick with this one past the first few areas, while others will stick to their 3DS until Let’s Go Pikachu comes out in November. If Nintendo decides to slap a $10 price tag and remove all the ridiculous artificial barriers and micro-transactions, this game could be a must own for Pokemon fans.

Categories
Nintendo Switch Reviews Reviews

Wizard of Legend Review – Nintendo Switch

The Dark Souls of 2d Pixel Art Action RPGs.

Wizard of Legend is the creation of Contingent99, a two man indie dev studio based out of Los Angeles, California. I have to admit I know nothing about the game prior to being reached out to by our partners at Humble Bundle, but upon playing through the action RPG this past week I can assure you, many people will hear about this one. Wizard of Legend has you taking the role of a Wizard with a simple dash and attack at your disposal. Soon after you start your journey you gather a few spells and it is off to the races. From there you are immediately tossed into a “trial” where you quickly learn that there is much to discover in your mastery of the mystical arts. Simply put, Wizard of Legend is a challenge.

Stick and Move.

Wizard of legend has you equip two spells in to go along with your face button slash attack and dash move. Spells can be found and purchased, but anything acquired in a level will be lost if you die. This has your spells changing just as much as the procedural generated levels themselves. There are three vendors in each level, but which vendors varies. Some sell spells, some sell artifacts, and there is even one that has you trade in a current spell  to randomly pick a different one. The combat itself is frantic and impressive. Stringing spells together to create a spectacle of damage is incredibly fun, when it works. Too often I find myself using my more powerful spell and missing completely, needing to wait several seconds to use the spell again. Bouncing between the spells still remains fun, but not without some flaws.

Trial and Error…and Error.

This issue here is that you simply do not know what spells do, how they work, or if they will be useful in your current run. You will spend hard earned diamonds on new spells, but you are buying them somewhat blind. There is a short description, but until you buy it and equip it, you simple don’t know how that spell will feel. What’s more, each death resets the order of the levels you are attempting, thus spell weaknesses might be a moot point. Load up on fire attacks to take on the forest levels might work on turn one, but if you die and start over you may be thrown into the fire level. The random nature hinders player progression a bit much for my taste. With each failure, you hope to get better, but the order of the levels changing makes it so that what you learned may not be important on your next run.

The good part of death is that you do get to keep your earned diamonds, so that you can upgrade spells or buy new ones. Gold, however, is gone forever. Gold is really only used in-level to buy health upgrades and some other tools, so it is not missed as much as you would think. There is your classic loop. Fight-Die-Buy Stuff. Eventually you will find the right combo of spells and the perfect cloak to buy and victory will be yours! Well…Maybe…

Lend a Helping Hand.

Couch Co-operative play is a godsend for Wizard of Legend. Playing the game with a helping hand, being able to mix up different spells to find the perfect match, really helps get through the games tough challenges. The game never falters when the second player joins and slings spells all about the screen. If you have a buddy willing to play with you, I cannot recommend that enough. Just maybe sure they play with their own controller as to not…you know…risk them breaking one of yours in anger.

Pixel Beauty.

Aside from the bone crushing difficulty and lack of information, Wizard of Legend sets the bar for gorgeous pixel art and fluid movement. The combat animations are sharp and smooth and make the fact that you are getting your ass handed to you somewhat more palatable. Monster designs, although a little derivative at times, are stunning. From tiny ghost and blobs to massive God of War-like trolls, each design pops and moves gorgeously. There are some simple pallet swaps on some enemies, but the enemy designs are impressive nonetheless. Just when I thought I was tired of Pixel art, Wizard of Legend proves that great pixel art can make that fatigue vanish.

Final Thoughts.

Wizard of Legend is a gorgeous action RPG with an engaging combat system and addictive gameplay loop. The game’s lack of information to help lead you through the early moments hold the player back from succeeding more than it should, but does not take away from the overall fun factor had. Playing with a friend is an added bonus that more games like this should explore having.

 

Categories
PC Reviews Reviews

Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle Review

A cut, slice and stab above the rest.

Let me just get one thing off my chest right off the bat before I begin this review proper. Gun Media – the folks behind the Friday the 13th multiplayer game – should really take some notes. I’ll go into further detail but my goodness; the amount of interchangeable weapons, outfits, and kills Blue Wizard Digital crammed into Killer Puzzle is staggering. With that said, let’s move on to the review.

Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle is an isometric top-down puzzle game cut from the same blood-stained cloth as its predecessor Slayaway Camp – Blue Wizard’s first foray into lighthearted horror game (yes, that is a thing) territory.  You take control of Crystal Lake’s infamous hockey-masked slasher and slay your way through a series of levels plucked from Jason Voorhees’ grisly cinematic history. Controls are limited to sliding the drowned mongoloid boy turned killer across a grid until you come face-to-face with a hapless teenager…at which point Jason does what he does best. Once you dispose of (i.e. decapitate, dismember, disembowel…toss a bookcase on top of) your targets, the proverbial Final Girl..or boy, or person will appear on a designated ‘X’ marker on the map. You final kill is treated to a timed button-press scenario where you have an opportunity to watch a brutal cutscene play out if successful. It is a silly, yet incredibly satisfying way to end a puzzle. 

The game plays out alongside the loving guidance of your mother’s decapitated head. She offers a whole lot more than encouraging remarks and praise for her special, special boy, however.  She also dispenses valuable words of advice (such as alerting you to a environmental gameplay mechanic/gimmicks), hints (by means of telling you which action you should take first), or even going as far to show you the level’s solution. It’s all for the greater good of netting you with more kills. Kills are more than just to satisfy gore-fiends (and believe me, you will be more than satisfied). Murdering teens increases your bloodlust. Maxing out said bloodlust increases your rank and awards you with a random weapon to play with. Kills are also tied to the game’s many unlockable outfits.

As you play new obstacles are introduced. For example, the second level has Jason going to jail (as if he could contained!)  In addition to the inmates – which are your primary targets – the map is also littered with security guards. Approach these guards head on and Jason will be busted, and it’s game over. So you always have to mindful of what each map gives you to work with. Environmental hazards such as bear-traps and open bodies of water are a double-edged. While you can scare the teens into these insta-kill areas (though it is a whole lot more satisfying to kill them yourself), traps can end your life as well. Luckily there is a Rewind feature which lets you undo your last action in case you mess up. There is a Redo button which lets you start and entire level over from the beginning if you feel you messed up to the point of no return. 

I was taken aback by just how much content was crammed into a game built for a mobile platform. For starters there are the levels. Each of the game’s 10+ levels is divided into 13 maps , each landscape more varied and detailed than the next. From New York to NASA, Blue Digital Wizard has taken the very best of Jason’s silver screen stomping grounds. Aside from the main puzzle mode, you also have to option in doing a Daily Challenge. Complete a streak of 13 challenges and you net you a super fancy loot box that undoubtedly holds a badass weapon in it. There is also a Murder Marathon mode. This mode takes the timed button-press mini-game players encounter during the final kill of each map and turns into an endless mode. It’s a fun distraction and actually a way quicker way to increase your rank.

Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle is a definitive must-buy for horror fans. It doesn’t drastically deviate from the formula is established in Slayaway Camp, but it doesn’t have to. The adorably animated cries and screams are well worth the price of admission.

Steam code was provided by Blue Wizard Digital for review.

Platform: iOS, Android, Steam
Release Date: Friday, April 13, 2018

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PC PC News PC Reviews Reviews

Into the Breach – Review

Human civilization is at its breaking point. Gigantic insectoid creatures known only as the Vek are on the verge of global domination. The only defence that humanity has left is a squad of powerful time-traveling mechs who’ve set out to eradicate the Vek and save the world. Sounds like a bad B-movie right? That’s because it totally could be the back-of-the-box description for any number of terrible Straight to VHS Sci-Fi movies you used to find at your local video store(YEAH I SAID VHS, I’M OLD!)

That’s all part of the charm of Subset Games’ Into the Breach. It’s equal parts Mystery Science Theater, X-com, and Chess. It blends these all together into a one of a kind silly, deceptively brutal, ingeniously tactical game. This Sci-fi rougelike had more than enough tricks up its sleeves to pull me in and keep me hooked.

At the outset of each run you’ll choose a squad of three mechs, one pilot, and one of four islands to start on. After completing at least two islands you’ll be able to access a 5th, final island. You can either try to tackle the final island at that point, beating the game, or continue your path clearing the remaining two islands. Completing more islands allows you to become more powerful but comes with the caveat that enemies will scale with you. While playing you’ll acquire coins by satisfying certain conditions specific to each squad that will be used to eventually unlock new pre-built squads of mechs.  After unlocking your second squad you’re also given the option to roll a randomized team selected from all the current mechs you have unlocked or put together a custom squad.

Each mech fits into one of five categories: Prime, Brute, Ranged, Science, and Cyborg which all have different specialties. On top of the mechs you’ll unlock Pilots in various ways as you play. Each pilot comes with a special perk like Extra XP per kill or extra grid defense. They gain experience  and level up over the course of a run, gaining extra perks until they reach a max level. At the end of a run whether you succeed or not you’re allowed to take one pilot with you, perks and all, to the next timeline.

All these things, the teams, the mechs themselves, and the pilots all play incredibly differently. Mixing and matching all these things can produce some wildly varied results.

A lot of what i’ve just described really embodies the brilliance of what Into the Breach is all about. It’s about making choices like what mechs to bring or if it’s worth the effort to tackle a third or fourth island and the consequences of those choices.

The turn-based battles play out on an isometric eight by eight grid; the same size as a chess board. Subset has even included the option to turn on a coordinate system that labels the rows and columns just like chess. I found they helped quite a bit in visualizing moves. Some streamers I’ve watched play Into the Breach, like LethalFrag, have used the coordinates as a way for viewers to suggest moves. I don’t know if Subset had intended on this but it’s a pretty cool consequence of the underlying system.  The eight by eight grid is not the only similarity Into the Breach shares with chess. Each battle is about thinking ahead and moving the pieces of the puzzle you’ve been given. It’s a weird hump to get over because As gamers we’re often told to try to kill everything.

Into the Breach presents itself like that type of game on the surface, but digging deeper you find it’s much more about mitigating damage and moving the pieces of the puzzle. How Subest manages to get this across is kind of brilliant and also a little dastardly. You are able to see the next action each Vek will take and how many Vek will be spawning in on the next enemy turn. This presents the odd dilema of “kill the things” vs “Move all the pieces….then maybe kill them.” A lot of the mechs in the game don’t deal much, if any, direct damage; however, most can shift enemies a tile or two in a given direction. Some have other ways of ensuring enemies can’t do damage, like being able to deploy shields or dropping smoke that completely interrupts a Vek’s attack.

It makes you feel both like a genius and an idiot as things either go your way or unravel entirely. Should you have killed that one Vek instead of shifting it? Could you have positioned your squad differently at the beginning of a mission? These are all questions you will ask yourself in your playtime with Into the Breach.

Let me explain a little with an incredibly simplified scenario. Let’s say you have a Vek with two health about to launch a long range attack at a building four tiles directly in front of it. To the right of that building is nothing, it’s completely empty. The tile to the right of the Vek shows a new enemy will spawn on the next enemy turn as well. You have an artillery unit that can do two damage with a direct hit but will shift anything adjacent to the target tile over one to the right. In this scenario you can either choose to kill the existing enemy or shift it over to block the spawn. You chose to kill the existing Vek and let the new enemy spawn. Turns out that new spawn is a powerful unit that heals all Vek by one every turn. Now you have to deal with it.

Choice and Consequence.

You’re main task on each stage is simple, to stop the Vek from destroying small civilian towers that dot the playfield.This task is key to the overarching objective of Into the Breach; Keeping the power grid in your current timeline alive. The more buildings that are destroyed the more the power grid drops. Once it drops to zero it’s game over. For most games in the genre death more or less just means starting another run; there’s not much of a story tie-in. Into the Breach tackles the “Why?” of rouge-likes in a way I can’t recall seeing before. It  makes me care a bit more about a run. Watching the Vek pop up out of the ground and swarm a stage when you’ve failed feels worse here than most losses in games. The game really hammers this home by letting you know that your team now has to abandon the current timeline and try again. That word, “Abandon” it evokes a different kind of emotion than “You died” or a game over screen. It lets you know that you’ve not only lost but you’ve also failed humanity to the point that they’re not worth saving. You have to leave them to die and try again.

Little details like that, or the little speech bubbles that pop out of the civilian buildings as you drop your mechs on the play field help, pull the narrative together.  They make the times you do succeed in a mission, or end up beating a game, feel every bit as victorious as the losses feel demeaning.



You’ll juggle the overall objective with missions within each stage. These range from “Kill x amount of Vek” to “Don’t let the Vek kill that one building” or “ Make sure this one Vek doesn’t die.”  Completing these objective will yield rewards that can restore power to your power grid or give you reputation to spend once you’ve cleared an island. Reputation can buy you new weapons or extra reactor cores to spend powering up a mech.

These reactor cores act as a modular level up system, you can activate them as needed to fill in power nodes on a mech and move them around if needed. If you’re familiar with Subset’s last game, Faster Than Light, it works much like the power system there.  Each mech comes with certain powers activated right out of the gate that can usually be enhanced by cores. Most weapons you’ll buy throughout a run will require at least one core to activate. On top of all that the reactor cores can also be spent to increase the area of movement or health for any given mech.

Again, this is a game all about choices.

Something that lives entirely outside of the bubble of choice and consequence is the overall aesthetic of Into the Breach. It’s got some really slick menus. When choosing a stage on a given Island you’ll see a fully laid out preview of the stage, the missions for the stage, and any additional hazards or special threats that may exist.  Loading into a stage from that preview is instantaneous and it feels damn cool. The Camera Just zooms in and the mission starts immediately. It’s oddly satisfying and speeds the game up in a place where I would normally expect a loading screen. The pixel art isn’t anything particularly mind blowing but does more than enough to get the ideas being conveyed across.

Subset Games’ follow up to FTL proves they’re not just a flash in the pan. The minute to minute gameplay of Into the Breach is so much it’s own brand that if you were uninitiated to the world of indie games you’d have no reason to think the same developer made both. Aside from the start menus looking similar they are almost altogether different experiences. Into the Breach is intelligently deceptive. It makes you think at the outset that it’s the kind of game where you need to “Kill all the things!” when in reality you’re just trying to “Move all the pieces.” Each randomly generated stage is it’s own puzzle with it’s own pieces. The only constant is the tools you’ve chosen to get the job done and how you use them.

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Nintendo Nintendo Switch Nintendo Switch Reviews Reviews

Kirby Star Allies Review

Kirby – Nintendo’s insatiable pink puffball – has finally made his Switch Debut in Kirby Star Allies. And while the formula hasn’t changed too much from previous iterations, fun, four-player action and endless copy abilities to combine elevate Kirby’s latest adventure to new heights.

I feel that I should start off by going over the Kirby Star Allies’ plot – or its lack thereof. It’s as throwaway and predictable as any fan of the franchise would expect, and is mainly there to act as delivery system for the real star – the snazzy new gameplay mechanics. So in case any of you were wondering, here is the story in a nutshell: some heart of darkness something or other has been unleashed by some black mage looking dude (who probably wasn’t hugged enough as a child) and sends all of Dreamland into a tizzy. It’s now up to Kirby to utilize the power of love to win over the hearts of his enemies and assemble a ragtag team of allies to put an end of the dark force…so pretty much every Kirby game ever – moving on.

As the name implies, Star Allies is all about recruiting enemies to your cause and utilizing their unique abilities to your advantage. The gimmick isn’t anything new to the Kirby franchise – the plump pink protagonist has been convincing denizens of Dreamland to fight alongside him for years., but what makes the gameplay mechanic so much more interesting is that Kirby can imbue abilities/weapons with elemental properties. Sure, that Sword Ability is all fine and dandy, but if you happen to have a Burning Leo on your team, you can upgrade your blade into a Sizzle Sword. And along with the added sensation of setting your enemies on fire and watching them run around all frantic-like while engulfed in flames, your blazing blade can also burn down bushes and melt ice blocks. Fire isn’t the only element you can expect to instill into your abilities as Water, Ice, Electricity and Wind are also on hand to further augment your powers. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. There are also unique abilities when you are equipped with non-elemental abilities such as Suplex, Parasol, and Spider. For example, amplifying the Parasol Ability makes your umbrella grow bigger, allowing you to better protect from falling debris or even block the flow of a cascading waterfall.

Half of the fun in Kirby games has always been about coming across new enemies and wondering what sort of abilities they might bestow. That fun factor has now increased ten-fold when you slowly start to realize just how you can bolster one ability with another. Nintendo doesn’t fail when it comes to bringing Kirby’s most notable feature center-stage as there are no shortage of abilities you can mix and match. But while it certainly is refreshing to see the creativity on hand when you see abilities play off of each other for the first time, a part of me wishes that Nintendo would be a bit more daring, and introduce a radical number of new copy abilities rather use series’ staples over and over again.

From a design perspective, the layout of Kirby Star Allies follows the pattern of Kirby games. Each of the themed worlds is broken up with a series of stages which culminates to a boss fight at the end. Extra Stages can be unlocked as well as a Dream Palace where players can recruit unique allies to Kirby’s cause. The soundtrack is every bit as engaging and memorable as the older games with plenty of fresh tunes mixed in with fan-favorite oldies for your listening pleasure. The aforementioned Extra Stages, for example, feature a classic Kirby tune which makes playing them so much more enjoyable. The simple score goes hand-in-hand with the games accessible nature as everything from the controls to the layout of each level and the placement of enemies, is all designed to make the experience as easy as possible. Which brings me to my own true gripe.

There was a time in the Kirby franchise when being hit by an enemy would result in the player losing their ability. There was also time when reaching a hidden path or utilizing an environment-specific gimmick (like a cannon with an unlit fuse), meant holding onto a specific ability as it wasn’t readily available…and certainly not in the same room as the ‘puzzle’ itself. Yes, Kirby wasn’t meant to be a hard game and I’m not asking for it to be the Dark Souls of copy-ability-based, side-scrolling platformers. But I guess the point I’m trying to make is that perhaps I may have outgrown the series. It seems to be geared towards a much younger audience ,a fact that I wasn’t quite ready to accept as the series had always been a big part of my childhood. But when I realize that I had beaten the entire game without so much as losing a life and had accumulated more lives than I knew what to do with, it made me long for the days when the series was even the slightest bit challenging. Fortunately, co-op and additional modes have transformed Kirby into a crowd pleasure, and playing it with friends on the couch does more to harken back to a simpler time in gaming, than a difficulty spike ever would.

Kirby Star Allies gets a lot of things right. It is brimming with color and dials the cuteness factor way up. While the Story Mode will last no longer than 8-10 hours, there is plenty of extra game to dive into once the main campaign has come to an end.

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PC Reviews

Prismata Review-In-Progress

In 2014, Lunarch Studios launched a Kickstarter campaign which would inevitably raise $140,000.00 for a title known as Prismata – a hybrid game which meshes Deck Building and Turn Based Strategy. Now, with a combined eight years of development time, Prismata has been released (sort of) on Early Access. And while I readily admit that Prismata is one of those games that I honestly knew very little about prior to playing it for the first time (which is something of a shocker as it blends two of my favorite genres), the result may not have been entirely worth the wait. At least, not in the current state that it is in.

Prismata’s Campaign consists of five chapters, with the difficulty of each ramping-up considerable post Chapter One. The first chapter is essentially a two-hour tutorial, teaching you the ins-and-outs of the game’s mechanics. Normally, I object to such a prolonged level of hand-holding, but the systems at play here are surprisingly deep, and a touch more nuanced than I had anticipated. To put thing simply you are, more or less, base building…but with cards. Units you…build, produce resources. Resources are in-turn used to (you guessed it) build more units. The aforementioned strategy however begins once the game begins to open up and leaves everything up for the player to decide.  Would it be best to hoard a metric ton worth of gold and pray that the enemy doesn’t go ham on all-out attack? Do you play on the  defensive side while slowly building up an offensive force? The more you play the more strategies and options begin to present themselves. And is that particular aspect – ‘the how should I approach this’ scenarios, which is Prismata’s most brilliant component.

Six hours or so into the campaign left me feeling that I was ready for something more, that what I had only been playing a primer for the real challenge. Again, not to say that the campaign isn’t difficult (Chapter 2 will destroy any sense of confidence you may have after completing the lengthy tutorial that is Chapter 1), but the campaign is hardly the main attraction here.  Sure it does have a neat sci-fi aesthetic going on but the dialog is text only. And more often than not I found myself mashing the space-bar to get through the drivel and get to the action. Fortunately, there is so much more to explore than just the campaign.

The Combat Training Mode offers you the chance to adjust your strategy to solve puzzles. PVP Mode allows you to test your mantel against players from all over the world. But while these modes are fun to dive right into (if only to get away from the campaign) Prismata’s Events are true star of the show, that is…when the damn thing works. Unfortunately, I encountered far too many hard crashes and even simple disconnection issues once I ventured away from the single-player campaign. That being said, PVP Mode and Events (again, when it actually works) are a whole of fun, and are most likely what will keep players engaged as the game is fine tuned throughout Early Access.

I would also like to mention that if you have a touch screen PC or Laptop, play it that way. Using the mouse just feels a little clunky, but the swiping and tapping of the screens feels natural and intuitive. It makes me wonder how a game like this might fare on mobile platforms.

Overall, Prismata is shaping up to be a worthy contender in the card strategy genre. The only thing that is really holding it back is a bit of polish. As a title in Early Access I understand that the developers are going to take all that constructive community feedback and build on what I think is a winning concept. I look forward to the improvements and digging even deeper into some PVP and Events as the player base expands.

Note: Review code for Prismata provided to Proven Gamer courtesy of publisher/developer Lunarch Studios, prior to its Early Access release.

Categories
Nintendo Switch Nintendo Switch Reviews

Toki Tori 2+ Review

I admit, when I began my initial play-through of Toki Tori 2 +, my first thought was: why can’t I jump? – I’m a freakin’ bird! And why do I waddle so slowly?! But the more time I spent with the adorable puzzle platformer, the more captivated by it I became.

Toki Tori 2+ is a puzzle game through-and-through, and it is your job to guide an adventurous chick from one side of the screen. You do so with very simple and limited controls. The ‘B’ Button allows you to perform a Stomp Technique (who knew chicks were so hefty) while the ‘A’ Button activates a Chirp. The pitch of your Chirp is determined by how hard you press the button down, so light types produce a soft melody while a long press results in something a bit louder. Combinations of light and hard presses generates a song; think of it as a simpler version of an ocarina (and if you don’t get that reference, why are you playing video games?). Both of these tools are used to solve puzzles which are, as I stated before, essentially what the game is all about.

For the most part, Toki Tori 2+’s puzzles involve interacting with the on-screen flora and fauna of the environment. As your movement is very limited, you will have to rely on the various creatures of the world to get by. Sometimes that involves stomping on the ground to force creatures away from you. Other times it involves feeding them a bug which causes them to burp up a bubble for you to be encased in and hover to your next destination…cause video game logic, I guess. And other times it can be as simple as a flying bird snatching you with its claws and carrying you to your next platform. Sounds simple enough, right? But when you put all these elements together, that’s when things can get a bit tricky.

On the onset, Toki Tori 2+ does a wonderful job of lulling you into a false sense of security. It’s charming and unassuming exterior aside, the puzzles begin quite simple enough – perhaps even mind-numbingly so. But as you progress, the more you begin to realize that there is an evil force at play here the escalation in difficulty (and frustration) increases astronomically. There are moments where it feels as if you are keeping track of just too many things at once: okay, I have to lure that bug over here to feed that frog but I also have to make sure all these lobsters in crates shuffle in the right direction…and so forth and so on. It can get a tad overwhelming, and more often than not, you’ll fail and  have to repeat the entire process over from the beginning. It’s this sort of trial and error format that rob you of that ‘a-ha!’ moment and make the proceedings more like a chore.

Fortunately, the game’s adorable aesthetic and simple, hum-worthy soundtrack lighten up the mood enough to keep frustration to a minimum. That coupled with a new checkpoint song (which I have read was not earlier versions of this title), which allows you to place a checkpoint wherever you like, reduces aggravation tremendously. Sure, it doesn’t take away from trial and error aspect I spoke of before, but it does let you set yourself up in a nice place should you fail a puzzle over and over again.

Overall, Toki Tori 2+ on Switch is fiendishly deceptive title which wears a cute little mask to hide its cruel intentions. The difficulty of some puzzles may be a bit much for novice puzzle game players, and certainly isn’t the type of game that is for everyone. But if you are willing to forgive a few minor grievances, you will find a strangely satisfying title to help pass the time between the next big budget release.

Nintendo Switch Review Code for Toki Tori 2+ provided to Proven Gamer courtesy of publisher/developer Two Tribes.

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Nintendo Switch Nintendo Switch Reviews

Dandara Review

The world known as Salt was once home to a peaceful, prosperous people. It was a world populated by musicians and poets, great thinkers and dreamers. Until one day, a dark oppressive force plunged Salt into ruin. Thus begins the tale of Dandara, a remarkable 2D platformer that is unlike any game I have ever experienced.

I honestly did not know what to expect when I sat down to play Dandara for the first time, other than the exploratory structure of the classic ‘metroidvania’ formula. And yes, it does fulfill the necessary requirements of that often overused, yet incredibly accurate descriptor: a free-to-explore map with access to new or previously inaccessible areas guarded by either gaining of new abilities or overcoming an obstacle. But where Dandara differs from the very games it draws inspiration from lies in how it handles movement. Tradition dictates that you, the player, use the directional pad to move about the character on a 2D plane. Dandara ditches the convention entirely and instead opts to relegate movement through jumping and clinging to surfaces around you. When Dandara jumps to a surface, you are able to aim where she can jump to next with the analog stick. Most of the time you are confined to a 180 ° radius of where you can aim Dandara but if you injured and knocked off of a surface, you are given a full 360 ° radius to move freely and regather yourself.

While it might sound limiting at first, and even a tad frustrating (what do you mean I can’t just walk?!), I have never felt such a sense of freedom of movement in a game. Watching Dandara’s gravity defying antics is an absolute marvel to be a part of, made all the more satisfying as you get a better handle of the control scheme. Admittedly, it did take me some getting used to but once I get the hang of Dandara’s movement, I could not help but smile. It was as if Dandara and I were locked in a dance, an elegant ballet, and the world of Salt was our stage. And the same could be said about the game’s combat mechanics.

Any ‘metroidvania’ title worth its salt…(I’ll see myself out) features a decent amount of combat. Fortunately, Dandara is not only packed with a wide variety of too-cute-to-kill enemy sprites, it also features an assortment of weapons and abilities to make all that inevitable killing fun. Aside from your standard blaster (which can fire in after you charge it for a short period of time) Dandara eventually gains access to green-colored missiles that pulverize  stone barriers and deal massive amounts of damage (just like Metroid!!), purple projectiles which ricochet off of surfaces to get to those almost but no quite out-of-reach enemies, and even a defensive shield to guard against oncoming attacks. Your weapons and abilities coupled with the slick and precise movement mechanics, make for intense moment-to-moment gameplay. The enemy placement and layout of the world constantly keep you on yours toes: one moment you’ll be able to observe a situation and execute an attack slowly and methodically and other times you will be frantically jumping, shooting, and then retreating while formulating a plan on the fly. And it’s all due to Dandara’s most notable achievement – its level design.

Dandara’s breathtaking visuals do the ‘metroidvania’ label justice. As a HUGE fan of retro graphics, I completely fell in love with the artistic design and the well-thought out placement of platforms. Each room can often feel like a small puzzle as getting from Point A to Point B is never as obvious as it seems. The game starts off very subtle but eventually the environment itself takes part in how you navigate around the room. From physics-based platforms and alters that can extend Dandara’s jumping reach, it is clear that the developer put a lot of thought and attention to the massive world.

While the 8-Bit era undoubtedly played a factor in Dandara’s design there is an…inescapable…(ugh, and I really hate to make this comparison because it’s lazy but here I am doing it anyway) Dark Souls influence at play here. In an interview with Long Hat House (which can be listened to here) the team acknowledged the elements it borrowed from From Software’s wildly successful Dark Souls series and thankfully it turns out to be more than I initially anticipated. Scattered throughout the world of Salt are campsites (bonfires) where Dandara can rest and use her accumulated essence (souls) to upgrade her base stats and skills such as maximum health, the potency of her health vials (Estus Flask), and so on. Campsites also act as a respawn point when you die…and you will die…a lot. When you die or meet ‘oblivion’ as the game puts (so dramatic), you leave a ghostly echo of yourself in the spot where you met your demise along with all the souls you’ve gathered – I mean essence, SORRY! If you are able to reach your floating phantasmal form, you regain all the essence you lost – no harm, no foul. I get this. Countless of other games have done it. It isn’t anything new. But what I wasn’t expecting these borrowed mechanics to do was play into to Dandara’s overall world-building and help shape the narrative that is compelling you to move forward.

There is a painfully real and haunting aspect to Dandara I honestly was not expecting. Whenever you reclaim your spirit after you die, a text prompt appears which simply states “Dandara – Serious Injuries” referencing how you met your end. Throughout the world of Salt you will encounter the souls of its dead citizens…and the game does not pull any emotional punches when it describes how they met their tragic fate. One soul I discovered early on revealed that the individual I came across had died of sadness. And that just hit me in a way that I wasn’t really prepared for, that I had to take a moment to take that in. It lends a certain authenticity to Dandara, an element that a lot of modern big-budget titles tend to overlook.

In terms of negatives, there isn’t much I encountered that marred the overall experience. The map system could be better as I often felt it was working more against me that it was for me. Defying gravity comes with sudden perspective changes, as the rooms you occupy shift and rotate to accommodate your movement. The only issue is that while the room shifts, the map remains static so referencing it was more of a head-scratcher than anything else. Another gripe I have is with the button-layout. Why…oh why..do developers insist on mapping ‘jump’ and ‘shoot’ to anything but ‘B’ and ‘A’, respectively. As a classically trained gamer, that layout is embedded deep into my muscle memory. It does me no good when I’m scrambling in an intense shootout and I accidentally use a health vial when I intended to shoot. And if you are hellbent on mapping the buttons in your own weird way, please…PLEASE give me the option to remap it myself. Okay, rant over. Moving on. 

Dandara has a lot of heart and you can see it coded into every single pixel. It is clear that Long Hat House put a lot of love into Dandara and the labor of that love is more than obvious. It is an experience I won’t soon forget and I encourage you to not let Dandara slip passed you. It won’t offer much in terms of  replayability, but at the price of $11.99, it doesn’t need to. What you have is a beautifully crafted title with the gameplay and soundtrack to make it one of the most unforgettable indie games of the year.

Nintendo Switch Review Code for Dandara provided to Proven Gamer courtesy of  publisher Raw Fury.

Categories
Android Reviews

Prizefighters – Review

Prizefighters is a watered down, albeit addicting retro style Punch Out! inspired mobile game. For a franchise that is beloved by so many, Punch Out! games are too few and far in-between, so titles like this can be quite exciting. Prizefighters looks and feels very similar to Punch Out!, which turns out to be it’s biggest flaw. With that being said , there is something really fun here that players may want to give a chance to, especially being it is a free to play game.

The premise is simple – create a fighter and fight up the ranks. The fighting is nearly identical to Punch Out! with the exception of command input. Button presses are replaced here with touch controls.  I was worried about the control scheme for obvious reasons but the input works surprisingly well. The screen is tapped in 4 sections to execute your punches. Top Right and Top Left do left and right jabs to the face. Bottom Right and left do the same for body shots. The more punches you land, the more power attacks you save up. Hold a punch to do a sweeping hook or cross to the body or face. Swipe up to block your face and down to block your body. Swipe left and right to dodge. It is quite simple and just as effective. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the game to work with a controller, but maybe I need to fiddle with it a little more.

What makes the fighting a little bit too simple is the fact that the opponents you fight have no personality. That means they do not have any special moves like in Punch Out! of yore. You may see some patterns emerge, but they are not distinct enough to really call them unique to those fighters. There are no Bald Bull style charging attacks, no crazy combos, no tells. It is just you blocking and dodging, saving stamina, and unleashing a barrage of attacks. While the fighting might be simple, and not very varied, it still has moments of excitement and challenge. With every fight you earn some currency. You use that currency to unlock some customization options or, and this is my favorite part, you can increase attributes. You also gain XP when fighting which can be used to level up some skills. Want to be a fighter that focuses on raw power? You can do that. The choice is yours. Don’t misunderstand by though, we are not talking Elder Scrolls leveling up, but it is a really nice touch to a relatively simple arcade boxing game.

Eventually as you progress in your career you will win championships. Every fight you have after winning the belt is a title defense, which adds a nice layer of meta to the mode. My fighter had a 4 fight series in which I won the title, then lost it to the next ranked fighter. I then lost my rematch and went down to fight the boxer I had one the title from in the first place. I leveled up in the process and then took on the champion and LOST AGAIN. I felt defeated. These were my only two losses, but I will NOT give up. I press forward and finally beat my nemesis. He had my number there for a bit, but I was able to overcome and gain the 17th rank. It is moments like this that make a fairly straight forward mode entertaining.

Aside from moving up the ranks in career mode, you can fight the NPCs in an arcade mode. Arcade mode is a welcome departure from career mode because the fights in career mode can get pretty tough as you are under powered a few fights in. Earning extra currency to level up is important here, especially if you don’t want to spend real life cash to get some more gold. I’ve put in a solid 5 or so hours so far and have had no desire to spend any money outside of just supporting the developers.

The look and feel of this game just feels right. The animations are nice and the pixel art is gorgeous. The only area it is lacking is in the music department. The grunts and the sound of glove hitting face is great, but there is no cool track to fight to. It is a shame because the menu music is so rad. Maybe in the future we can get some sweet new tracks. All in all, there is a charm here aesthetically that shouldn’t be ignored.

One of the really cool features here is that this game comes with an in-game video capture tool, which is uploaded to an in-game social media platform called Everyplay.  It is a really cool feature I wish more games had baked in. I’ve never heard of Everyplay, but it is a really neat idea I hope to see implemented into more titles soon.

Overall I think Prizefighters is a really great homage to Punch Out!, and a really nice foundation for what I hope is a new franchise in the genre. If you liked Punch Out!, or 8-16 bit boxing games of old, give this a try.

 

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PC Reviews X-Box One Reviews

Holiday Gift Guide 2017 – Plantronics RIG 400LX1 Review

At this years PEPCOM Holiday Spectacular I was given the opportunity to review a new headset out of the new line of sets by Plantronics called RIG. Gaming headsets are flooding the market as competitive gaming becomes more and more popular. The competition is heating up as companies try to innovate, and Plantronics has made some significant changes that gamers should be excited to get their hands on. Ultimately, however, some concessions have been made that take away from the experience altogether.

The first thing you should know about this headset is that it is 100% Dolby ATMOS enabled, and actually comes with this “in package”. No need to purchase anything extra to get this incredible audio experience. For those that don’t know what ATMOS is, it is basically this: ATMOS simulates sounds not only on a x axis but also the y. In other words – sounds sound like they are coming from above or below. A full range of sounds. Bullets sound like they whiz by your head. You hear footsteps that actually sound like they are above your head. It is truly a remarkable feat when it comes to sound engineering. But the thing is – this headset has nothing to do with ATMOS. You can use nearly any headset to get the same experience. This headset, however, does have some incredibly crisp audio.

I currently bounce between different headsets and the RIG-400 is by far the highest quality as far as pure sound goes. Highs are sharp and clear and the lows are full of bass and full of punch. You really cannot get a more clear picture of sound. What is picture of sound? I don’t know. I just made it up, but it feels the right way to describe it.

The biggest downside to this headset is the microphone. It is a very short stem that stick out from the ear piece and can’t really reach your mouth for clarity. I have had mulitple complaints about my audio quality from my teammates on Destiny 2 and even in Skype chats. I had to switch to my podcasting mic so that I was heard clearly.

This headset is very light on your head, which is nice, but the lightweight plastic also creeks a lot. Every head turn or tap on the chord connecting you to the amp on the X-Box One controller comes through in your ears. It can ruin some of the audio that these headsets emit in such quality.

One of the niftiest features in the aforementioned amp that snaps into the bottom of the X-Box One controller. The dial is easily accessed with your thumb, which allows you to adjust on the fly very easily. There is a little switch that can let you adjust in-game audio or chat audio as well.

Overall, if you are looking for a new headset to buy this holiday season, the Plantronics RIG series may be a good option. The 400 LX is a bargain at $49.99, as well. If you rely heavily on using the microphone on your headset, however, you may want to look elsewhere or invest in Plantronics higher quality sets.

The Plantronics RIG series is available at your major retail stores and Amazon.com for $49.99

 

Proven Gamer was given a RIG-400 LX1 for review.