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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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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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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.

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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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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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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.

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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.

 

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PC Reviews

Roller Coaster Tycoon: Classic – Review

Classic Ups and Downs

Roller Coaster Tycoon has had some ups and downs throughout the years, but when RTC Classic made it debut on smartphones, the developers at Origin 8 Technologies had captured the long lost magic of the series’ pedigree. Now, the game has come to PC and it proves once and for all that RCT belongs as a PC staple for years to come. Roller Coaster Tycoon: Classic is a prime example of what to do when creating a repackaging of a classic game series. As a long time fan of the series, I found myself overwhelmed with the sheer amount of content here. The classic game-play that I grew up with remains mostly unchanged from what I remember, but that is not a bad thing. This is a very good thing, especially for those looking to get back to the basics and build incredibly intricate theme parks.

Right off the bat, you are given an insane amount of park types to choose from: from tropical adventure theme parks to industrial parks. We are talking about 90+ different theme part scenarios to choose from here. This game literally combines Roller Coaster Tycoon and Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 and holds nothing back. If you have played the series before you should feel right at home; the park builder is robust and intuitive, but hides many secrets under its many layers of customization.

It is hard to articulate what RCT does right without comparing it to its contemporaries but the basic game-play is that you place games, rides, food stands, bathrooms, and decorations to create a happy place for your guests to spend their hard earned money. The loop is simple, the happier the guests, the more will show up and the more that show up, the more cash you have to continue to upgrade. The first 2 hours or so of each match is largely the same every time. You have guests that couldn’t care less about your park, but with every upgrade you get bigger and better. There are some challenges you will face like placing building in areas that become less functional as you have more rides spread across bigger spaces, but that is the rub when it comes to these games. You have to think ahead just as much as in real time.

This repackaging isn’t perfect, however. One of my gripes with this game is that there isn’t a mode to change the graphics from the classic 1997 graphics to something more pleasant on the eyes. I feel like that would have added a nice level of polish and really make it stand out. While the game runs way smoother than it ever did back when I played in the late 90s (which is still impressive given just how much is going on on the screen), i still found that moving around can be a little cumbersome. This game is clearly not an evolution of the concepts of the series. It is a nostalgia trip that can end abruptly if you come in wanting a fresh experience.

Overall, RCT Classic does exactly what is advertised, and not much more than that. This game proves that the franchise still has legs. The classic game-play is as addicting as it ever was, but the lack of modern features and style make this just shy of a true home run. If you love this franchise, or loved it in the past, this game brings it back to what you fell in love with to begin with. For $20, this is a no brainer for fans. Those of you who might be on the fence about giving the genre a try may be turned off by its decades old game-play and visual style.

Proven Gamer was provided a copy of Roller Coaster Tycoon: Classic for review on Steam.

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Absolver Review

SloClap’s Absolver is and isn’t one of the best games I’ve played this year. It comes under the genre of MMO games. If you’re playing MMO games it is worth buying a decent mouse, we recommend you check out the iControlPad review of the best MMO mice for an overview. It’s unique take on hand to hand combat is by far the game’s bread and butter and I can’t recall a game where I’ve felt more like I was actually doing martial arts. Unfortunately, in between the intense moments of reading opponents moves and firing my own back I found myself wandering around a largely- lifeless, mildly-claustrophobic open world wondering what the game could have been if it had been a bit more fleshed out. There are no side quests, no real distractions at all to be found in the world of Adal. It’s empty. It’s maddening at times. But, it’s completely deliberate.

Absolver’s barely-there story is your character’s rise from a lowly Prospect to Absolver and is as ambiguous as the rest of the game. You’ll wander the world, fight all the dudes that need to be fought and rise to the position of Absolver. I wish the game’s namesake title held more weight. By the time I finished the game I felt like I had learned a lot but barely accomplished anything meaningful.

For how short it is, the “Boss” encounters are all relatively challenging, especially if you’re going at them solo. I lost at least once to each of the bosses I went up against before finally figuring it out what I needed to do to best them.  All told the campaign took me roughly 5-6 hours to complete. The meat of the game is really in the PvP and “Combat deck building” aspects.

How the combat in Absolver comes together and feels is absolutely brilliant and full of choices. Right from the get go you’re asked to chose from one of three styles: Forsaken, Khalt, or Windfall. Once you choose a style you are unable to switch. Luckily there are multiple character slots so you can try out all of them and figure out which is best for you. Each style has it’s own unique defensive ability. Forsaken can Parry attacks, Khalt can straight up absorb attacks, and Windfall(my personal favorite) is all about dodging attacks at close range. All three of the starter styles are rated by “difficulty” but I found the rating of the three styles to be pretty arbitrary. I had more trouble timing the Parry and Absorbs with Khalt and Forsaken but was perfectly adept at timing my dodges with Windfall. A final fourth class, Stagger, is unlockable in game after encountering a particular enemy. This Drunken Master type style mixes Offense and Defense Simultaneously and is meant to be the most difficult style to master in Absolver.

Each of these styles also ties into one of the attributes you can increase by leveling up. Paying attention to which style is effected by which attribute is key to success in PvP. While they don’t explicitly tell you what style is anchored to which attribute it is pretty clear before committing any points what effect it will have on your current build. You also gain a few special moves via leveling up: Being able to quickly drain an opponent of stamina or push back some encircling enemies and a few others.


The rest of a player’s moves are tied to their Combat Deck. Here players can equip loads of different moves to eight different slots. Each of these slots corresponds to one of four “Stances”. Players can create  huge flowing combos and pick powerful transitional moves.

The selection screens for combat and gear aren’t explained upfront and can be very confusing at first. You really have to dig in to understand each of the systems.

While combat choices are pretty slim when you first start out, you’ll fill in much of your Combat deck quickly within the first few hours. By dodging and blocking enemy attacks you gain knowledge of moves you don’t currently have. Do this enough and you’ll eventually unlock new moves to throw into your deck. Each move in your deck has certain starting and ending stances that will determine what you can and can’t combo into or out of. I tried my best to create a deck that if executed properly could loop infinitely. I’m not sure if this was the best strategy or not but it seemed to work well and it gave me a better understanding as to what was coming next in a combo chain and what attacks came from what stances.

You can also manually adjust your stance by holding right trigger and pointing your control stick toward whatever stance you’d like to better suit your current predicament. At first I didn’t use this much, but, after a few hours went by, I was doing it constantly because it was imperative to use certain strikes in certain situations. Hitting block immediately after throwing out an attack will feint the attack. Again this was something I didn’t understand how to use till much later. I started using it to bait out certain attacks and counter accordingly. This is how Absolver makes you thing about fighting differently than any other fighting game I’ve ever played.  It doesn’t handle it’s complexity in the same way as a Tekken or Soul Calibur. It isn’t about memorizing overly complicated inputs. It’s not about chaining special moves together that are Down Right Fierce(puns are fun).  Absolver derives its complexity in understanding the tempo and timing of fighting; The management of space and stamina and it does it damn well.

Often, by accident, fights would end up looking choreographed. This was especially the case when fighting another player as opposed to A.I. I can’t even explain how cool I felt the first time I ducked a high shot, jumped over a low shot, and counter attacked an opponent. That’s one of the really interesting facets of Absolver. Not only is the combat weighty and balanced, but it also has the tendency to just feel and look like it’s straight out of an old king-fu flick.  

Though Adal is small, it’s all intricately designed and pretty easy on the eyes. Soft Pastels and a minimalistic art style make Adal look stunning without being to visually busy. This tonal shift away from high-definition sprites and character models isn’t foreign to the world of indie game development. Polygonal and Voxel models are all the rage at the moment. But here, Sloclap did such a good job of making Absolver’s package so ambiguous that any other stylistic choice would have been a disservice to the rest of the game. There were a ton of times where I stopped dead in my tracks just to take in my surroundings. Whether it was looking over a vast forest or staring up at a massive tower, I was continually surprised at how gorgeous this compact open world was.


Many people at a glance have compared Absolver to Dark Souls. While I understand the comparison at a base level I don’t think it’s apt in describing the core experience of what  Absolver is.  It’s very much in it’s own category. It’s kind of a simulator in a sense. It’s more about the feel of the combat than the look of it(though it does look great). Absolver, altogether, in everything it presents and how it presents them seemingly has a singular purpose: It is laser beam straight from martial arts to a controller and in that pursuit it absolutely succeeds.

7/10








 

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PC Reviews

Bendy and the Ink Machine Review

Bendy and the Ink Machine[/i] is a first person action horror game with puzzles to solve in order to escape the old animation studio where you are trapped. The game is released in episodes, the first being available for free. Currently there are only two episodes with a third one on the way and five expected in total.

I went into this title completely blind, I had never heard of it before and wasn’t even sure what genre it was. From the title and cartoony title screen, I thought I was getting into a harmless adventure game that would have me solving puzzles. Needless to say I soon found myself scared and afraid to even continue playing. I am not good with these types of games, especially when jump scares are used. I don’t dislike them, frankly I enjoy the thrill at times but it certainly took me off-guard. However, the game was enjoyable; it’s very atmospheric and has a unsettlingly story that is just as scary as the jump scares.

You take the role of Henry, who has been invited to the old animation studio where he once worked; However, things aren’t as he left them. Most of the story is told through tape recorders found throughout the map where employees recall their tales of working at the company. Henry doesn’t say much and has little personality at all -his goal is to escape and that’s about it. To say the story is weird would be an understatement, from what I gathered someone decided to perform some dark rituals to bring cartoon characters to life and it backfired. Now the studio’s mascot, Bendy, wants to kill everything. While the game promises to “decimate your childhood” I didn’t experience that at all. Sure, it was creepy but there is so little story development I was more left with an “I don’t care” sort of feeling. I want to escape because it’s a game, not because I’m invested in Henry. Bendy may echo classic cartoon characters, but isn’t actually one of those characters. The game does follow the example of [i]Five Nights at Freddy’s[/i], blending innocuous (if sometimes unsettling) childhood memories with horror. I hope later chapters expand upon the story and flesh it out more.

The game can be played with a keyboard and mouse combination or a gaming controller, I opted for the later. It’s first person so you’re able to look all around your surroundings, open doors and interact with objects. There are a few puzzles to solve but not many in the first two episodes. The only difference between the two is you gain an axe in the second episode and will have to fight against monsters. I wasn’t too fond of this, it took away from the spooky atmosphere and mystery of what was lurking around you. Actually seeing it and being able to kill it changed the nature of the game. At its best, you’re wandering around trying to escape as things unnerve you.

It’s the art style used in this game that really caught my attention. The game uses a very simple color pallet relying on great shadow work to add depth to your surroundings. When I first stepped into this world I had the exact same reaction the main character did “What the heck happened here?” Everything’s a mess, the walls have creepy writing scrawled on them and the studio’s mascot, Bendy, shows up everywhere. Following you but not physically following you, or is he? The game also has full voice acting and a good soundtrack as well, everything really delivers the feeling that you’re in an old timey animation studio.

While I enjoyed playing [i]Bendy and the Ink Machine[/i], I don’t enjoy how it’s being released. I don’t like when video games are released in episodes -to be blunt, I despise this practice. Not only that, from what I’ve played of the first two you can beat them in about an hour without a guide and much less time with one. The puzzles are also not very challenging. While the first episode is free, the second one costs six American dollars which is a bit pricey for such a short amount of game play. While yes, so far it’s fun and it does have Steam trading cards and achievements I personally recommend waiting until all of the episodes are released. Hopefully they will be compiled together so players can pay one price for access to the whole story. The demo is free, however, so I would recommend giving it a try and see how you enjoy the style of this game.

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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

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Talisman: Digital Edition Review

Based off the board game, Talisman: Digital Edition tries to bring the fun from the tabletop to consoles and PCs. While I can’t comment on how entertaining the actual board game is, it seems likely that something was lost along the way during the transition to video game.

Talisman is a turn based game that pits you against other human or AI characters. The goal is to reach the center of the board and kill off the remaining characters. There is a plethora of characters to choose from (especially with DLC expansion packs) that all have their own advantages and disadvantages. You draw adventure cards when landing on certain tiles which may give you items, monsters to fight, or an event that causes some effect to your, or someone else’s, character. Item cards increase your stats or help your character through certain situations. Monsters take a life from you if you lose, or nothing, most of the time, if you kill them. You can also attack other players if you land on their spaces in order to take their items or a life.

Without any experience playing the tabletop version, I found it very difficult to get a grasp on Talisman. The “tutorial” is not easy to follow and only shows “hints” when a situation occurs instead of giving a set of rules or guidelines before playing. A mock tutorial game or even just a written “how to” list would have been extremely helpful, but it just isn’t there. It took me multiple games for me to get the hang of what I was doing, which, if my ability in the game is any proof of, was still not that great.

While playing Talisman: Digital Edition, I could tell that it was not made with PS4, or consoles in general, in mind. Touching the touchpad brings up a cursor on the screen that can’t actually click anything. There are buttons on the screen that aren’t “selectable” but pressing certain buttons causes them to make animations like they were “clicked on.” The left thumbstick has you select the different players and see what items they are holding, but doesn’t let you navigate the board or select important cards when prompted. Those jobs fall to the D-pad which was just confusing and seemed unnecessary. It is clear that Talisman: Digital Edition was meant for the PC.

I am sure that there are many things that could have been done to make Talisman: Digital Edition more enjoyable, but you really have to force yourself in order to like this game as it is currently. If you are really looking for a “Talisman” experience, you may be better off grabbing a few friends and heading to a tabletop.

 

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The Walking Dead: Ties That Bind 1 & 2 Review

Reviewed on PS4

The Walking Dead represented a new direction in story telling for Telltale back in 2012. With an emotional and compelling story mixed with fantastic relatable characters, Telltale placed themselves in game of the year conversations across the globe and have become the standard of modern story telling in video games today. The Walking Dead Season three titled: A New Frontier, is now the forth installment in the Telltale Walking Dead series, and it does not disappoint in episodes one and two. To be fair, it is really hard to tell a story with the weight and gravity of the original season and after the third installment falling some what flat and not really progressing things in the Walking Dead universe, I went into this game with mild expectations. As a fan of the series and of Telltale’s work I was, and am still optimistic about the future of where they go with the Walking Dead.

In previous installments the game focuses on a little girl named Clementine who went from a helpless little girl to a strong and courageous character that has survived everything this post apocalyptic world has had to offer and then some. In A New Frontier, you follow a new protagonist named Javier, a professional baseball player, instead of Clementine from the previous two main line seasons. The first episode opens up with Javier rushing back home only to find his father Rafa has died and his family in mourning. Very early in the game the choices you are faced with already carry emotional weight and establishes the tone of the relationship with your brother. This theme continues throughout the first two episodes as you flash forward and Javi assumes leadership of the small group consisting of Kate, your brother’s second wife, and his two kids. Not long into the game you cross paths with a hostel group called The New Frontier (similar to the saviors from the main line Walking Dead comic and TV show), and protagonist Clementine. I was glad to see her introduced early on in the game and to my surprise she has been hardened from life in this world overrun by zombies and awful people alike.

Graphically this Walking Dead game is a great improvement to Telltale’s previous titles. The character design is still the graphic novel cell shaded style we know and expect, but the models are also more three dimensional and a little bit more realistic. Telltale has touted that they are using a new engine, but I have to be honest when I say do not be fooled their games still don’t run well. With characters popping in and out between scenes and the slight stutters when the action picks up just shows through and through that this is a Telltale game. As for my experience, none of this affected the gameplay, but one can only imagine what the rest of the episodes will look like. Seriously, Telltale, fix your engine! Sound design and voice acting are great as to be expected, but I just wish that overall the game would run a little smoother. However, it is still an improvement from past games.

The moment to moment gameplay in TWD was really tight and between the two episodes never left me board and ready for a change. The dialogue and relationships introduced so far have been great and the QTE has not been overbearing or broken. It definitely seems that Telltale has learned a few things from previous episodes ad seasons. There wasn’t any real slow downs to this point which made for great pacing. Also, as you progress throughout the two episodes there are flashbacks into what Clementine was doing in between seasons two and three. These flashbacks have been short and sweet and have continued to build an already fantastic character in Clementine. Javier is also very likable from early on and the same goes for most, if not all, of the characters introduced thus far.

All in all, this is shaping up to be a great game. New engine, new graphics, same great story telling and dialogue mixed with some new great characters and a fan favorite from the previous installments. As per usual, the twist and inevitable cliff hanger at the end of episode two was fantastic and completely unexpected. I am really enjoying where this story is going and truly cannot wait to get back into the next upcoming episodes. If you are a fan of the previous games, you will definitely like this one. If you were lukewarm towards them, I would still suggest this game as it is an improvement to an already great formula with the caveat that there are still some of the same engine issues as before. Granted they are better but still not perfect. As for first timers into the Telltale Walking Dead universe, this is still a great starting point as you follow Javier and his family closely while learning more about Clementine without being held back by not playing the first two games.

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Overcooked! Review

Overcooked is brought to you by Ghost Town Games and it is a very easy game to pick up, there are only 4 different action buttons that you use throughout the entire game. Walk, grab/put down, chop/wash, and boost. Please note that the first two levels are really easy with 2 or more players, then the game takes a crazy turn and gets more difficult. as it adds level hazards, like moving trucks or ice or even Rats! All easy to adapt to if you have the chops in the kitchen! There’s also a “taunt” button. I didn’t see how it helped or didn’t help any given situation, it was just really funny to watch them spout “curses” in a kid friendly Gordon Ramsey style.

The whole premise of the game is to sharpen your chops to appease the beast. Whom is destroying the world from the time line you come from. Yes, you start off not being able to satisfy the beast (a spaghetti monster) then have to travel through time to become better versed in the ways of the kitchen in order to eventually quell the spaghetti monster. After you travel through time and start you food culinary quest you are greeted by a top down over world style map in which you use to go level to level, or kitchen to kitchen. You travel via a food truck/bus and it’s super reminiscent to traversing the overworked in Final Fantasy VII.

Going back to how difficult the game is, this all changes after some time of play and practice and upping the communication between you and the other players, treat it like an actual kitchen, call things out and make sure everyone has a role and can keep up with it. One player cuts, one player cooks, and so on with delivering food and washing dishes. Each activity that’s fine takes a set amount of time depending on how many cooks are doing the exact same activity. Example: If you’re cutting mushrooms by yourself then it would take 5 seconds, if someone was on the other side of the counter cutting the same mushroom it would take 2.5 seconds. This can be utilized very effectively if you have a season veteran running everything else like plating dishes or washing said dishes.

actualoc2

The game does a really good job of bringing back couch co op. So much so that you can play two players with one controller. Let me explain, earlier I mentioned there being only 4 actions you can perform in the game. If you pick two players but only have one controller it will take the usual control scheme and split it right down the middle. The two sticks being movement for two players and the bumper buttons being the action buttons. I honestly really enjoy this. I’ve missed couch co op for the longest time and I’m so happy to see developers taking the extra mile and making a two player game available to play with one controller. I know wii games will let you pass the controller, but this game is co op! Which means two players playing at the same time.

The versus mode is unlike anything I’ve ever played in the best of ways, you control two characters in one kitchen. You can chop thing while your other hand is moving the character and cooking and delivering the food! It’s wild crazy and fun! This game is a must play for people who want something new to throw into the mix of multiplayer game nights!

The trophies are all very easy to obtain not counting the earn all three stars in every kitchen trophy, as some of the kitchens are very difficult. I cannot see how anyone can make it very far in the game with only one player.

All in all it is a very solid game, where team work and communication is key. There are very few bad things I can say about the game. The only problem I had with the game was how precise I have to be with where I put my cut veggies or other such items I have to pick up then put down. However after sometime that got easier with practice. The levels change with every new area you unlock so things DO NOT become stale. Pick up this game with a good partner or team and you won’t be putting it down until you save the onion kingdom!

PG8_10

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Battleborn Review

Gearbox Software has come a long way over the past years. The company made a name for itself with PC mods and the company hit it big the Borderlands series. Does the company still have the ability to create a new game title? We find out with my review of Gearbox’s new title, Battleborn?

The plot is set a million years in the future where there is only one star left in the universe and every race battles for supremacy of the last solar system. A powerful villain is planning something with the last star and it is up to the Battleborn crew to make sure the remaining star and worlds are safe. Gearbox kept the same quirky humor and character design that made the Borderland series great, but the story may not be the most interesting reason for you to buy the game. There are some great cut scenes and humor between characters, but they are limited and left me wanting more.

Battleborn10_620x322

The game contains 25 different playable character that can be unlocked through player progression. Each character contains different attacks, customizable abilities, and styles help players decide their gameplay strategies. Every character has different strengths and weakness that you will have to learn if you want to complete a game match. Gamers may not enjoy playing every character because each character has a very radical form of gameplay. One gunner character has more agro ability while one elf archer has more long distant attacking gameplay. Personally, I only enjoyed the sword wielding vampire who gained health as he unleashed swift melee attacks.

Battleborn is a great game for those dedicated players who want to spend several hours learning how to play and utilize every character. For the casual gamer, this concept may be frustrating because you will die often in the game. There is a huge learning curve with all the characters and unlocking everyone will take a long time. Players may give up before getting every character in the game.

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The missions work well when engaging in online coop, but only work if you select your desired character(s) before someone else does. The multiplayer experience can be rewarding when you do select your character, set your characters skills and abilities, and play with others.

The multiplayer gameplay focuses on League of Legends or Heroes of the Storm objectives based matches which is far better than a simple kill count match. While moving away from the kill count is fun, one multiplayer game can take a long time. One match can take up to 35 minutes to complete. This may sound like fun, but the endless fight between the same five online players on line can drag on and wind up being frustrating.

While Battleborn has a decent story and fun cut scenes, the long progression and multiplayer games turn you away. If you’re a League of Legends fan, Battleborn could be up your alley. I give Battleborn a 6 out of 10.

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McDroid Review

Many tower defense game seem simple and laid out. They tend to follow a basic formula in terms of gameplay. Build defenses, upgrade your forces, and watch the enemy walks into a gauntlet of defensive attacks. My initial mindset was, “If you played one tower defense game, you played them all.”
McDroid takes a bit of a different approach to the tower defense genre. Your character, a spider-like droid, lands on a planet after a long journey in space. When you land, ship informs you the planet is overrun by indigenous lifeforms. It is up to you to eradicate the wildlife and colonize the planet.
The game starts off rather simple with you moving across simple level and a helpful tutorial. You collect strawberries and other minerals, you return the strawberries to your spaceship, use the strawberries and other items to build laser turrets or make upgrades, maintain the turrets as waves of enemy creatures attack your spaceship.

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If you are expecting to shoot or attack any creatures on your own, that concept doesn’t apply in this game. You main function is to build, harvest, plant crops or tress, and repair. The game is fun and simple at first, but the challenges and difficulty increase in no time. While you may think you have everything set up for a level or challenge, you quickly discover your muti-tasking abilities are going to be your strongest sill in game progression. I had every turret built, multiple mines ready for a wave of enemies, and though I could sit back and watch. I soon discovered my turrets were falling fast and I needed to make quick repairs or build replacement turrets.
That challenge is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of challenge difficulty. As you go up in levels so does your world. The levels get larger and multiple sites/objectives will be required for level completion. I looked at one level that had four different sections and I thought, “How am I going to beat this level?”
After a couple of hours, I discovered McDroid follows a much different path style from other tower defense games. The 360 degree control of the camera view give a much better depth to the game where most tower defense games have been stuck in over the top view.
Time management, running back and forth, and multi-tasking are essential skills for McDroid. You will run around a board building and upgrading defenses, moving items all throughout the board, planting and harvesting materials for currency, and terraforming the land. There is a lot that can be done in one level leaving you emerged in the environment. After a couple of hours, I was hooked on the game.

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While I found the game-play amusing, I wasn’t too keen on the music for the game. The music appears to be a rock guitar playing while obliterate alien life. While it was a different change, I didn’t think it was my cup of tea. You may think differently after hearing it, but I didn’t enjoy the music.
The game offers online co-op play which decreases the difficulty factor when multiple player are working on different parts of the map. The game doesn’t seem to scale the difficulty based on the number of players in a level. This could be good if you are tuck on a level or bad if you want a different challenge with other players.
McDroid is a fun game for gamers to play, but will require you to strategize and plan your moves. The game may look odd at first because you are collecting strawberries to convert them into turrets, but those thoughts quickly subside when you are racing to build, repair, and repel.
PROVEN GAMER SCORE 8/10

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Gunscape Review

Gunscape is a first person shooter and world building hybrid combining familiar elements of Minecraft and contemporary shooters such as Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. Solid gameplay mixed with an easy to use level creator makes for a fun game that allows players to jump right in and create single player, co-op, and multiplayer deathmatch arenas or full length campaigns.

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Gameplay and level creation are key in Gunscape, but it also comes packed with a meaty campaign if you are not interested in creating your own. Although the story (or whatever you want to call the narrative during the campaign) is quite forgettable, (if you can even figure out what is going on) Blowfish Studios compiled a slew of levels showing off just what Gunscape is capable of while also playing to the nostalgia of old school first person shooters. There were shades of Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and even Turok. Not to say Gunscape is trying to imitate other games, but I appreciated the nod to old school games that paved the way for this genre.

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There’s quite an arsenal in Gunscape as well as plenty of enemies to do battle with. From creepy little dead girls and zombies all the way to Nazi-esque soldiers and dinosaurs, variety is on the menu. Each of the eight chapters are comprised of several short missions that can be completed very quickly, and truth be told, there isn’t any real depth to what is going on in the game. The majority of my time in Gunscape was spent playing with the level creator. It is simple, quick, easy to use, and has plenty of items and blocks at your disposal all while allowing up to eight player split screen for a fun and faced paced experienced. If you are looking to just create a small deathmatch arena, or a large scale multilevel maze with bases on each end for your teams to occupy and do battle, you can with ease. You can also string your levels together to create your own campaign and share them for you and your friends to enjoy.

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Graphically this game isn’t really that impressive, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for by giving you a world to build and explore without having to mine for hours. Gunscape is intentional with its 90’s first person shooter feel from guns and enemies to the music in each level. If you are looking for a fun block building experience where you can battle up to 8 players locally and run a saw blade through a dinosaur then this is a great game for you. If you are looking for a cinematic experience with great dialogue and in depth story telling then I would look somewhere else. With Gunscape the barrier to entry is minimal and the replay value is high. I would recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of older first person shooters and fans of world and block building.

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PROVEN SCORE 7/10

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Resident Evil Zero HD

In a world where the line is often blurred between true survival horror and action adventure, Resident Evil Zero HD is a breath of nostalgic, fresh air. Bringing back the look and feel of classic Resident Evil survival horror with updated 1080p graphics and trophy/achievement support, this HD remaster takes an existing good game and makes it better.

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Resident Evil Zero opens up with an unfortunate helicopter crash right outside of Raccoon City near the Arklay Mountains. You start the game with protagonist Rebecca Chambers, the youngest member of Special Tactics and Rescue Service (STARS.) Once Bravo Team regroups from the crash, they stumble upon a Military Police vehicle turned over with two soldiers shredded to pieces while their prisoner and former marine Billy Coen is missing. Shortly after finding what seems to be an abandoned train, Rebecca and Billy cross paths and the adventure begins. From here on out, the unlikely duo encounter a huge array of zombies, dogs, monsters, and the newest addition, leeches. Like most Resident Evil titles, you start off battling your way through your traditional slow moving dead heads. Then, shortly after, there is a nice little throwback to the original RE with a dog burying through a window at you. It’s not long after that you come across these slimy and disgusting leeches in hordes throughout the train only to discover their hive mind mentality and ability to come together to form something even more disgusting and terrible. You don’t spend too much time on this murky, thought-to-be-abandoned train, before you pay a nice visit to one of Umbrella Corporation’s spooky Mansions. From there your quest to survive really takes off as you battle zombies, monkeys, leeches and their counterparts, crows, and other unfortunate experiments from Umbrella’s finest.

Graphically, this game is stellar. The already beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds have been touched up with new lighting and textures. It is quite beautiful at times, and this title provides plenty of environments to explore from the train to the mansion, inside and out. The cut scenes in the game still look great, but it does not appear that they received the time and detail as the rest of the game. As far as the enemy character models go, there is an insane amount of detail. And much like the personalities of our two main protagonists, the character models look good but lack detail in some areas.

Speaking of dull personalities, just like classic RE games, some of the voice acting is just plain out bad. Billy Coen, with his 80’s hair that kind of looks like a Joe Dirt mullet, his tribal tattoos, and his cheesy one liners, fails to deliver when it comes to becoming a big hitter in the series like Leon Kennedy or Chris Redfield. Rebecca’s character could have been better. A bright young member of STARS looking to prove herself could have really been helped out with some better dialog. Or maybe just a better dance partner. Either way, neither of them were just plain out bad, but there were times where I laughed at the utter dullness of the two somewhat bland protagonists. Now as for Oprea Leech man……I still don’t know what he is. His character just doesn’t fit the universe. It looked as if he was ripped from Parasite Eve or Final Fantasy. And then of course Wesker, who goes down as one of the greatest, most interesting, and coolest bad guys in all of video games, shows up and delivers the goods as one would expect.

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Unlike last year’s Resident Evil HD remaster of the HD Remake, the gun play in RE Zero is actually pretty good. In the original RE bullets were not only scarce, but it would take almost an entire clip to put down a zombie. In Zero, that is not the case. Depending on the difficulty you can take down a zombie or dog in as little as two rounds. And like any good survival horror, ammo and resources are few and far between. Inventory management is key in RE Zero! In previous Resident Evil titles you have a limited amount of slots on your person, but you had these strategically placed inventory crates that you could run back to at any time and exchange items, health, and ammo. In this game, that is not the case. You have six slots per character and you can trade items in between them on the fly. You can also drop items anywhere in the map and come back to them unlike in most games where if you discard an item, it magically disappears. For an added challenge, your larger weapons like the hunting rifle don’t just take up one slot, they take up two not including ammo. So, you will spend a very large amount of time looking at your items trying to plan what you need to make it to the next save point and weighing the pros and cons of guns and herbs vs items to progress through the game.

You have the option to play with the old tank controls or a fast more modern version of them. As a personal fan of the Resident Evil control scheme, I feel the tanks controls are an important building block to creating the tension needed in a proper survival horror game. But I understand that can make these games much more difficult for casual gamers to pick up a title like this and run with it. Zero does feel much faster and more responsive than previous RE titles, and this game adds a new mechanic to the series by giving you the option to switch between characters on the fly with the push of one button. At times this is a very nice and fun feature, but there are some instances where the AI is just not good and your partner will die and you will be forced to restart from your last save point and it’s possible that you did nothing to deserve it.

Alongside the challenging Trophy/Achievement list, Capcom added some new and fun content. Aside from some silly outfits there is Wesker mode. To unlock it you must complete the game. Then you are allowed to run back through and smash Zombies and other creatures with all of Wesker’s super abilities. Unfortunately you still have to hear Billy Coen’s somber and often flat voice rather than the iconic DC Douglas. But hey, at least you look cool!

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With fixed camera angles, tank controls, beautiful and spooky environments, and that classic Resident Evil charm, Resident Evil Zero was good before and continues to impress today. The crisp 1080p graphics with the much improved lighting, great sound, fun but tension filled gameplay, and new game content like Wesker mode, this Resident Evil title a must play.

PG8_10

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WWE 2K16- Review

Over the past decade, Wrestling games and their fans have been stuck. Given that developers have tossed back and forth between the idea of simulation and arcade style games. Dating back all the way to WWF Wrestlefest, these games have been traditionally brawlers/fast paced games which didn’t feel well set for a 60 minute Iron Man Match. Past games let you brawl into WWF New York, and drop the People’s Elbow in Times Square. These matches would make you impatient if they went over 5-6 minutes and quickly become boring. More recently, with 2K’s acquisition of the WWE franchise rights, things have begun to change. 2K has brought the title more towards a stylized simulation and made this a real fan favorite for wrestling fans.

A Commitment to Excellence:

Starting with the Main Event. WWE 2K16 brings wrestling back to the table in all of its kayfabe glory. To compliment the largest roster the game has hosted, character models have been updated, and look stunning in their updated environments in 1080p at 60 frames per second. Given the last incarnation of WWE 2K was plagued with screen tears, match ending glitches and some inaccurate character models. Fans will also be delighted to know that Cody Rhodes (Star Dust) will not get jumbled in the ropes during his signature Disaster Kick. Another small thing you might not notice in this year’s title is updated and outdoor arenas.

Large Roster, Larger Community:

For me, the community is a huge part of WWE games. I love being able to sign on at any given time during the day and see that I can get matched up with an opponent. On top of improved online connectivity, 2K’s community creations have grown due to a major revamp on the Creative Mode side. Players are now able to utilize multiple different variations of gear thanks to new sections, and this in the long run makes for many characters easily created, which improves on the already MASSIVE roster. It is very easy to get carried away and create characters to actually replicate your ideal dream matches. Some of my favorites thus far have been:

  • Tommy Dreamer Vs. Raven
  • Ric Flair Vs. A.J Styles
  • Jason Voorhees Vs. Crystal Lake Camp Counselors (Handicap match)

*Editors Note: We made Randy the Ram, no Ram Jam though.

Another story told, another great showcase:

2K Showcase mode returns this year, and with it a new story. Stone Cold Steve Austin is the featured athlete of both cover and showcase this year. The story of the meteoric rise of “Stone Cold” is well told and historically accurate through excellent FMV, and video bumpers. The matches themselves are well chosen and some of the most important pieces of Stone Cold’s rise to fame. This mode beyond boasts great unlockable content and a high replay value.

What We Didn’t Like About WWE2K16

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A great game doesn’t come without at least a small fault. WWE 2K16 suffers from a major setback in its technical aspects. Grapple and Submission are almost as hard to understand as that girl who you fell in love with in college, but could never get to say the worlds. I mean honestly, it’s a timed button mashing system that runs you in circles. This was a major problem last year. Given the games strategic mishaps, this will leave you frustrated and in need of a shot or two if your timing is off. Adding to that is a convoluted circular pin escape system that would even keep Cena down for the 3. This has been an issue plaguing the 2K series for more than a year. I can see this frustrating long time patrons of the series. It feels like a major learning curve. This is my opinion though. Many people do enjoy the new controller system.

Overall, WWE 2K16 is a major upgrade over its predecessor. 2K put in the work this year that was needed in last year’s incarnation. In a year of broken games, it’s good to see at least one annual title rise to its community’s demands, and fix the things we felt was wrong.

*WWE 2K16 was provided for review by 2K Games. This review is the independent publishing of The Structure Network, and has in no way been sponsored or provided.

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Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 1 Review

Telltale Games has had quite the busy year so far—they finished up their newest episodic story with Tales From The Borderlands while the upcoming season finale to Game of Thrones:A Telltale Games Series is coming this November. It seems that the team at Telltale is not done yet this year as we got the first of five episodes for Minecraft: Story Mode, which is their take on Mojang’s widely known and popular creative game. Unlike the previous games they have put out—which had characters, stories, and a world to use for source material—with Minecraft there is a free range to create a unique story with original characters we have never seen before.

Even so, Telltale definitely put themselves in a tough position when they picked up Minecraft to make an episodic game for. It’s tough to imagine how a game where you basically explore a world and build whatever you want to would transition into a five-part episodic story driven game where there aren’t any characters or places you can reference.

I will say that Minecraft: Story Mode does a good job with what it was trying to accomplish, the game features the iconic crafting table which allowed you to create items to help progress through the story, and while it wasn’t at the depth of crafting Minecraft itself has it was still nice to see it put in the game.

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Minecraft: Story Mode features Telltale’s bread and butter point and click gameplay while also including a good amount of quick time events and combat. The developer’s dialog and story options return as well, though this time around they are a bit more lighthearted. Minecraft: Story Mode is child friendly and without many decisions that might have you questioning yourself or getting too emotionally invested. The game’s simplistic gameplay allows anyone to jump in and enjoy the story and have fun which, at it’s core, is what Minecraft is about.

With that being said in Minecraft: Story Mode you take on the role of Jesse who, joined by with his friends and pet pig named Rueben, is trying to win the Endercon building competition with the hopes of meeting Gabriel the Warrior, a member of “The Order of the Stone.” Gabriel and his allies are the group of legendary heroes that defeated the Ender Dragon. Things go south and our ragtag group of unlikely heroes are on the quest of a lifetime to find the remaining members of The Order of the Stone so they can help save the world.

Minecraft: Story Mode also boasts a wealth of talented voice acting. If you picked a male character for Jesse the game’s lead voice actor is the hilarious Patton Oswalt while Catherine Taber voices the female version. With the supporting casting of comedian and actor Brian Posehn as Axel, I found myself enjoying any dialog sequences involving Patton and Brian. And just like in previous TT games there are, of course, various story related choices that can result in minor changes to the game’s outcome. From getting black eye to losing your stone sword and deciding who you team up with going into Episode 2, your choices matter. But, I’ll shy away from any details as to avoid spoilers for those of you who have yet to play the game yet.