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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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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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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.

 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

 

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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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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.

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Nintendo Nintendo Switch Nintendo Switch Reviews

Golf Story – Review

A Whole in One

Golf Story is one of those games that makes very little sense on paper. Trying to explain the premise is not an easy task, but it only takes a few moments with the game to realize just how special this game really is. It is a fantastic blend of RPG games of old and the simple game play of Nintendo’s Golf that everybody should give themselves a chance to fall in love with.

Golf Story follows the journey of a young man who may have been a great golf prodigy in his formative years. As your father teaches you the basics, your natural talent has your father drooling over the possibilities of your future in golf. You start to get the sense that you are the “chosen one”, which is a nice throwback to basically every Final Fantasy game ever made, then abruptly we fade to black and come back 20 years later. Now a young man who has since given up his golfing dreams, you are looking to reclaim your aspirations at the very golf course that your father taught you. But things have changed here at Wellworn Grove, and not for the better.

Wellworn Grove is falling apart. Mollrats are stealing balls and chewing the course apart, the owner is more concerned with making money at any cost, and everybody is a cranky-pants. As you make your way through Wellworn Grove you are greeted by people who would rather have nothing to do with you. You want to prove yourself worthy of being coached by the towns coach and you must run around and show off your golf skills, help some people with menial tasks, and help get Wellworn Grove back on top of the golfing world all while acquiring new skills and equipment to help you on your journey to greatness.

The writing in Golf Story is cheeky, funny, and all around clever. There are no voice overs, but it uses really clever text tricks to convey emotions otherwise. Chat bubbles will tilt, text would shake, and in some cases the speed of the text will even change to help drive home how a character feels. It is also a nice touch that the main character isn’t a silent protagonist, but rather a goofy character in his own right. There is a strange “Stepford Wives” feel to the townspeople as you progress that leaves you feeling uneasy yet compelled to continue. Unfortunately, you won’t see any choices to make during dialog, which can be a bummer, but Golf Story has a story to tell and we are all along for the ride.

The game has you exploring 8 different golf courses, which are basically towns. Each course has a unique set of characters inhabiting them and its own set of crazy challenges. The isometric 2D golf mechanic makes things simple enough, but still has a degree of challenge that is welcomed. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t really utilize the potential hazards on the courses, and it doesn’t give you much information about the green other than wind speed , direction and slope of the ground. This could have you using a little trial and error on some shots, rather than knowing exactly where and how to hit your tee shots.

Aside from playing golf matches against CPU opponents, you will complete challenges but nearly all of them involve you trying to hit a certain target with a golf ball or disc (yes there is also Disc Golf).  When you complete these tasks you are rewarded with money and experience points. The money can be used to buy better clubs, while experience points level you up so you can increase some stats like Power and Spin. All in all, you level up pretty quickly, but there are no real optional side missions that you can miss, so most players will be leveling up in similar ways. This leaves very little in the re-playability of the single player campaign.

The aforementioned single player campaign should take between 12-16 hours to complete, but you won’t really feel compelled to play through it a second time. With that being said, there is some competitive multiplayer but only local, which is a bit of a bummer.

Golf Story is a charming game with a ton to offer fans of both the Golf Genre and the RPG genre, without overbearing the player with the typical tropes of the latter. Its various courses, challenges, and quirky side missions will leave players doing “one more mission” until the wee hours of the morning. I do wish that there were some more varied side missions, however.  If you have a switch and want to fall in love with a new franchise that oozes adorable whit, charm, and engaging yet intuitive game play – Golf Story is your game.

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Nintendo Nintendo Switch Nintendo Switch Reviews

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle Review

The premise of Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is as ridiculous and over-the-top as you would expect. A passing glance at the game’s cover art is indication enough that the experience is going to be unlike any Super Mario Bros. title you’ve played before. But the details of the how and why Ubisoft’s lovable white mascots merged with Nintendo’s iconic Mario and the Mushroom Kingdom are of little importance. The real showstopper, is the game’s first-rate approach to the strategy genre, and how it’s amusing yet analytical gameplay-style may very well be one of Mario’s most entertaining outings.

Presentation-wise, Mario + Rabbids captures the sights and sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom masterfully. Each of the four worlds is undeniably Super Mario Bros. fare with familiar terrain abound; one minute you’ll be in a desert…that has been wreaked by an ice storm, and the next you’ll be on haunted grounds complete with everyone’s favorite videogame ghosts. Each of the four worlds is divided into nine sub-levels that build up to a halfway point, mid-boss battle and culminate to a grandiose, larger-than-life boss fight. As you explore and solve simple block-pushing based puzzles to proceed, you’ll come across Rabbids hanging out doing…Rabbid things, in addition to the seldom Goomba and oversized Bullet Bill hanging out in the background. It very much looks like a traditional Super Mario Bros. game, but that is of course, until you get to the gameplay.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle has often been compared to the likes of XCOM, and rightfully so. At the onset of each encounter you are tasked with moving your ragtag team of three along the battlefield, looking for the best possible vantage point while keeping yourself guarded safely behind blocks and out of your opponent’s line of sight. There is a methodical underpinning at work as each move you make may result in either a perfect victory or your own undoing.  What sets Mario + Rabbids apart from conventional strategy games is how each of the characters plays off one another – quite literally. Victory comes from set-ups and combinations and using each of the players abilities to gain the upper hand. For example, Mario’s Hero Sight is a passive ability that triggers when an opponent enters his line of sight. When used in conjunction with Rabbid Mario’s Magnet Dance ability, you can draw enemies closer to Mario thus activating the ability for a free hit. Combinations such as these are absolutely teeming in Mario + Rabbids; its cartoon-ish exterior hiding the surprisingly deep mechanics that lie within. all these abilities can be unlocked via your characters Skill Tree which lets players custom the teams stats and powers to their own liking. In addition, elemental effects such as Burn, Push, Vampire, and Freeze that are assigned to certain weapons, abilities, and environmental hazards add just the right amount of unpredictability to gameplay as a whole.

But for as well as it plays, and for how adorable the experience is, one cannot help but feel that the Super Mario Bros. aspect of Mario + Rabbids falls a bit short of expectation. On your journey you’ll find the occasional HP-Restoring Mushroom, but where is the Fire Flower, or the Invicibility Star? Mario is no stranger changing into Toad and Tanooki Suits; how great would it have been to see the plumber don a Rabbid Suit? Rabbid Kong and Pirabid Plant are incredible examples of the mash-up enemies you would expect to see in a game with such a loony, madcap setting. Why then, do the majority of the enemies feel so uninspired by comparison? It somewhat feels like a missed opportunity, one that will hopefully be rectified via add-ons/DLC. But if the recently announced Season Pass is any indication, you would be best to temper those expectations.

Technically, the game runs smoothly with the concessional slow-down/frame-rate drop. It’s a minor annoyance and does not hinder the experience at all.

The blending of Super Mario Bros. and Rabbids isn’t a perfect union, but it is incredibly hard to put down once you get started. Expect plenty of replay value as each of the four worlds houses a secret sub-level and 10 Challenges, the latter of which can be played solo or locally with a friend. There are hidden chests full of weapons, art, music and 3D models to discover so completionists may expect to play the game after the credits have rolled.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a game no one asked for, but ultimately will be celebrated for its existence. Its the kind of game that you want to see succeed as it opens up a lot of exciting possibilities for Nintendo and 3rd-Party relationships. If you are a Switch owner with even the slightest interest in something other than the frantic action of ARMS or Splatoon 2, then Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle belongs in your library. It’s so stupidly charming that you can’t help but fall in love with it every time you pick it up.

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Nintendo Switch Reviews

Death Squared Review

Straddling the line between terrible and O.K. is never somewhere anyone wants to be, but that’s exactly the space Death Squared occupies. It has some decent voice-over work and introduces some interesting concepts throughout, but never manages to capture that Co-op magic that’s been all-but absent from this generation of gaming. SMG Studios has created a few games that really have that “one more run” feel to them. Death Squared, unfortunately, does not. Nothing it presents pulls the game out of being frustrating for all the wrong reasons, or stops it from just being outright boring at times.

Death Squared’s campaign consists of 80 levels ranging from relatively simple to throw-your-controller-at-the-screen hard. The entire campaign can be played co-op with 2 players if you think you can stomach screaming at the person sitting next to you for that long. There’s also a party mode that allows 2 or 4 Players to run through 40 unique levels and a “vault” of 30 or so other extremely difficult puzzles with more to come as free DLC post-launch.

Playing with 4 people very quickly devolves from simple discussions about what to do and who does it, to yelling at whoever messes up. It doesn’t really hit that co-op itch that a game like Portal 2 nails. It’s not slick or modern. It’s not unique or forward thinking. It all just feels incredibly generic.

Most levels have you moving on a very tight set of tiles that require a kind of precision that isn’t at all present in the controls. Falling off the stage and walking into things you don’t want to walk into are all part of the package in Death Squared. Sure, there is some trial and error in any game like this, but here we move past trial and error.

There were many times where my fellow robots and I had figured out a solution to a puzzle and would time and time again fail because of how loose the controls were when accuracy was necessary. Playing alone is even more of a trial of patience. There is no indicator as to which control stick controls which robot. Often the corresponding robot will spawn on the opposite side of its given control stick. The number of times I died on a level just because of this was embarrassingly frustrating.

It’s just bad design. There is a difference between forcing the player into a trial and error scenario and killing them nonsensically, and Death Squared seemingly treads that line.

I can’t say I had much satisfaction out of beating any given level. My only reward was being brought to the next stage hoping maybe between this stage and the next was a bit of dialogue between a programmer and an AI explaining why I was even trying to figure these puzzles out at all. What little charm the game does have comes sparsely through these little bits. I found myself chuckling every once and awhile. It leans pretty heavily on some Human/AI tropes that we’ve all grown to know over the past decade or so, but it does an admirable job of at least trying to make up for the lack of identity permeating throughout the rest of the game.

At the end of the day, Death Squared really doesn’t present anything unique. Its touchy controls work against the precise nature of the game. Though the sparse amounts of dialog in the game gave me a few chuckles, it never breaks out of its box. It’s just a worse version of the same jokes we’ve heard before. It’s a shame because SMG studios has put out some really great mobile games but what they have here is altogether unremarkable. Death Squared is Lame Cubed.

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Nintendo Nintendo Switch Nintendo Switch Reviews Sony

Mario Kart 8: Deluxe – Review

Tuning Up the King of the Kart

The last Mario Kart that I purchased was Double Dash on the Nintendo Game Cube. Double Dash was an incredible cart racer, and the very rock bottom of my Mario Kart addiction. In the following years, it would take a heavy 12 step Playstation rehab program and cleansed myself of Nintendo for the most part. Sure I owned some other Nintendo hardware, played many of the games, but my addiction was elsewhere. Then there was the Nintendo Switch and the gateway drug, Zelda that invited me back. Now Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is here and , well, consider me hooked.

For years Mario Kart has been the epitome of the arcade racer. Many have tried to emulate it; Crash Team Racing, Mod Nation Racers, Diddy Kong Racing, etc.. but none can take away the sheer dominance that is Mario Kart. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has taken the franchise, and everything that makes it fantastic, and perfects it in nearly every single way.

Mario Kart 8 came out for the Nintendo Wii U, so when 8 Deluxe was announced some people felt burned. I can sympathize with those people, but that does not change the fact that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is an incredible game. Sure this may be a full priced port, but there is no shortage of upgrades here. Right from the start you have all characters (save for one Golden Mario) and stages open to you. This includes all stages and DLC from vanilla Mario Kart 8. It was a strange move at first, as Mario Kart is known for its unlockables as motivation for overcoming challenges, but having all of it open for you is actually quite refreshing. Don’t fret though, there is still plenty to unlock in the form of kart parts, customization options and a sweet Golden Mario.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe brings some features back from previous installments that really liven up the game. You can carry two items again, and battle your friends in classic battle modes which the fan base had been clamoring for for years. There are 8 battle mode specific stages and some really fun modes here. A five balloon battle, Bom-omb blast mode (the only weapons are you guessed it…bom-ombs), Renegade Roundup, Coin Runners, and my favorite; Shine Theif (which is basically a capture the flag mode). There is plenty of mayhem here for you and your friends to enjoy.

Speaking of fun with your friends, the most remarkable thing this version accomplishes is making use of the features of the Switch. It is flawlessly seamless to play with multiple Switches. You can support up to 8 Switch consoles here. It really is amazing. Online play, with the exception of no voice chat, is impressive. We all laughed at Karren bringing her Switch to that BBQ, but by Toadstool, it works!

The visual upgrades are not completely mind blowing, but that’s not to say that the game isn’t gorgeous. We are running in 1080p here in TV mode (up from 720p on WiiU) and 720p in handheld (compared to 420p on WiiU gamepad)Mario Kart has never looked this good. Period. There is very little to complain about visuals wise. Its also worth noting that the frame rate is solid.

All of these enhancements are great, but the game really shines when you are on the tracks. Driving never felt this good nor was ever this accessible to so many different types of players. For newcomers there is “smart steering” which helps keep you on the track. For those of us that play for long gaming sessions, there is an “auto-accelerate” so that you don’t have to be smashing that “a” button down (even though you dont have to smash it with all your might, admit it…you still do). You can just focus on the driving while the game works that gas button. All in all, the controls are absolutely perfect.

Folks, if you were on the fence about adding this to your Switch collection for any reason what-so-ever, get off the fence and go buy this game. The immense cast of characters and tracks, plethora of battle modes, enhanced visuals, and incredible controls make this one of the best Mario Kart games. Nostalgia aside, this is my new favorite Mario Kart and I have little doubts it will be yours.

 

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Nintendo Switch Reviews PC Reviews Playstation 4 Reviews X-Box One Previews

Snake Pass Review

Wow, what can I say about Snake Pass. Snake Pass is a retro-inspired platformer, where players slither, curl and climb their way through increasingly challenging worlds filled with intricate obstacles and fiendishly mind-bending challenges.
When a mysterious intruder threatens the tranquillity of their home, it’s up to Noodle the Snake and Doodle the Hummingbird to embark on a daring journey to save the day.  Controlling this dynamic duo, you must ‘think like a snake’ and slither, curl and climb your way through 15 levels across 4 increasingly challenging themed worlds.  Snake Pass is a unique take on the platforming genre that is intuitive and fun to learn, but will gradually test your snake charming skills to the limit.

Yea thats the basics. Well it’s the total package.  With no dedicated jump button (cause snakes don’t jump), you must use R2 to move forward while moving back and left and right with the left stick in a “S” motion to build up speed. It’s easy enough to do, but frustrating while trying to line up your movement towards a bamboo stick that you must climb to acquire three gems to open the final gate, one of the many ethereal wisps placed, or one of the 5 coins hidden in the level.  While finding anything other than the three gems is not required to pass the level, part of the fun of Snake Pass is moving around to find these collectables, and that is where it fell short for me.
Climbing and moving around is not difficult but can be very frustrating as the camera is not always placed in a way to accurately see what you are trying to grab.  You can move the camera around with the right stick, but trying to do that all while trying to climb a stick holding R2 to move forward, holding X to pick your head up, L2 to hold tightly, the left stick to move Noodle’s head in the direction you need to it go, and the right stick to move the camera to just the right angle, only to find out that the right angle is no viewable because something is in the way, is only frustrating.  One good thing I can say about Snake Pass is there is no time limit associated with the levels so you can fail many times, with no fear of losing out on progress other than you having to collect what you picked up after your last save.

Every level is built with Noodle unique style of movement in mind and the enchanting environments, is the only reason to play this 3D platformer, as the story is very much lacking.  As of the writing of this review, I have not beaten the game but have made it through a majority of the levels.

At the price point of $20, it will be available on Steam, X-Box One, Playstation 4, and Nintendo Switch.  While its not a must buy, I would say its a game that is unique enough to at least try.  Sumo Digital, who is the developer behind Little Big Planet 3, hired Seb Liese to make Snake Pass after winning of Sumo Digital’s inaugural Game Jam, Snake Pass was created as a love letter to both the favourite games of his youth and his childhood pet snake.  Sam was also very good at making community levels in LBP3, but sadly it seems he should have spent more time making these 15 levels!

Check out the reveal trailer below

editors note:

a PS4 review code was supplied by developer, Sumo Digital, for the sole purpose of review