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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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Playstation 4 Reviews Reviews

20XX Review – Playstation 4

A Mighty Challenger

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

No Carbon Copy

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

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

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

Soul Chips n’ Dip

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

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

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

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

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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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Diablo III: Rise of the Necromancer Review

Kill, loot, boss battle, repeat. This is the formula that makes Diablo, and games like it, shine so brightly.  In the years since the launch of Diablo 3 launch, Blizzard has added only one new character. For $14.99, you can take control of a brooding Necromancer as you journey through the game’s five chapters. Unfortunately there is not much to this expansion other than the addition of the new character, which doesn’t add much to the overall experience.

Rise from your grave…

The Rise of the Necromancer DLC comes with the new class and a few little extras, which makes it a hard pill to swallow for the price. With that being said,  it is fun — but not mind blowing in any way. The Necromancer is a good mix of range and pet attacks. The character controls much like the demon-summoning, ugly baby of a Wizard and a Witch-doctor.  Blizzard has made the Necromancer fit very well within the frantic energy and darkness of Diablo, as you spill nasty blood and guts with spikes, bones, and spears, as well as summoned undead who do your bidding. Blizzard has given as much detail and polish to the voice acting and animations as they have to the characters that have been around for years.

You feel like a true bad-ass when tearing monsters limb from limb. You can even explode the corpses you left behind to do incredible splash damage. Unfortunately, the Necromancer’s skills don’t mesh well, as in other classes. I found it hard to focus on one style of play; Blizzard wanted me, as I saw it, to pick one focus over another.

I liked using skeletons to help fight, but it was at the expense of my ability to do massive damage.  I found myself summoning bodies to do the fighting while I sat back and sniped from a distance. The class made me feel like there was no defined “role” for it, as the Monk is for DPS and the Witch-doctor is for control.

The seemingly real point of the Necromancer: look cool while killing stuff.

All other classes do this too.

The Ultimate Price

This pack is more like an add-on, and much less of an expansion, but Blizzard has released a meaty patch to go along with it. There are a few added zones and bounties to do in adventure mode, as well as a new rift challenge. That is a nice touch, but it has nothing to do with the actual content you pay $14.99 for. That is the true issue. You are paying $14.99 to play a new character class. While other games, like Marvel Heroes Omega, do this, too, Marvel Heroes provides many characters for you to buy. Here, you are spending — at this point — 50% of the retail price just to add a new available character.  It is fun to play as the Necromancer, but you can pass on the class and not feel bad.

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Playstation 4 Reviews

SHU Review

Shu begins like a 2D platformer plucked from the NES era: a malevolent entity unceremoniously appears and lays waste to your hometown. As the last vestige of hope, the village elder tasks you with defeating the ancient evil before it brings about the end of the world. The set-up is as conventional as it gets, but what Shu lacks in narrative it more than makes up for with gameplay.

Much like the classic platformers Shu draws its inspiration from, controls consist of jumping, gliding …and little else. Fortunately, the game’s sensible – albeit linear – level design affords plenty of opportunities to take your basic abilities to stunning new heights. As you make your way from platform to platform, gathering bright, shining butterflies along the way, you will come across currents of wind that will carry your adorable self across massive chasms, and propel you closer towards the end of each level. But as refreshing and nostalgic as the proceedings appear to be at first glance, Shu works in handful of gameplay mechanics to help keep repetitiveness to a minimum.

As you rush towards the one weapon capable of ridding the world of the merciless menace that haunts you, you will come across a number of displaced townsfolk who will join and aid you for a brief period of time. The rotund Joro allows you to add height to your bounce off of trampoline-like flora and ground-pound through reinforced platforms, providing access to a once-restricted areas. Okoro lets you miraculously walk across water. The slender-framed Lati opens and closes budding flowers, in turn creating additional platforms for you jump onto. You and your pals will only have your traversal to worry about as the vibrant world is completely devoid of enemies. Occasionally the aforementioned evil – monstrous a purple cloud with a gaping maw known as the Storm – will chase you as you frantically jump and glide your way through Shu’s 15 levels, adding a sense of urgency to the game’s otherwise playful presentation.

‘Difficult’ and ‘lengthy’ are not words one would use to describe Shu. With a generous checkpoint system and the only challenge stemming from the chase sequences, the delightful platformer can be completed by even the most novice of gamers in a matter of hours. Death never feels cheap and is almost always a result of your own missteps and bad timing. If you are looking for something to brag about, however, completionists and competitive gamers may look to each level’s collectibles and hidden items as well as its leaderboards. If you are so inclined, you may put your speed-run skills to the test and try to best other players from around the world to complete a level as quickly as possible.

Shu’s artistic styling has an undeniable Rayman-like quality about it. It comes as no surprise as the series was a huge inspiration for developer Coatsink. From the characters to the environments, it all pops with the color and vibrancy of a cartoon. Its soundtrack is as equally top-notch and melodic and hypnotic tunes add a layer of wonderment and charm to the overall design.

Shu is an unassuming 2D platformer with a lot of heart. It does away with pointless bells and whistles and provides a pure, uncompromising platforming experience that is simply fun to play. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, or break new grounds in the of Super Meat Boy or Ori and the Blind Forest. But remains and is thoroughly enjoyable title that is worth its $11.99 price of admission.

PS4 Review Code for Shu provided to Proven Gamer publisher/developer Coatsink.

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Playstation 4 Reviews

Syberia III Review

An adventure 10 years too late.

The last Syberia game released in 2004 to critical acclaim. It was a gold standard of which adventure games would be measured for years to come. Since then, Tell Tale has released the award winning Walking Dead series among many others. Supermassive released the critical darling Until Dawn, and Quantic Dream has released the notable Heavy Rain. Needless to say, the bar has been raised since 2004. Can Syberia keep up with the genre? Sadly, the answer is no, but that is not to say that we don’t have a good game on our hands with something to offer fans of the genre.

Full disclosure: I have not played previous Syberia games. I did minor research on the cult following of the series and have come to understand that the previous two games are held to a very high regard. With that in mind I was excited to see what Microïds has been up to since Siberia II released in 2004. Since its announcement in 2009 that it was in development for PS3 and PC, its production was quite slow to say the least. Here we are in 2017 with a finished product. With Final Fantasy XV and The Last Guardian taking a decade to make, I will not hold development time against Syberia III.

The story picks up moments after Siberia II’s ending. Our hero Kate Walker (whose name you will never forget as it is repeated by every character about 40 times per conversation) is in a dire situation. She revives in the psychiatric ward of a mysterious hospital while the Youkol people, a primitive but peaceful tribe, waits for their guide, Kurk (who is Kate’s bunk mate in the institution) so that they can complete their great ostrich migration. This is apparently important to the tribe’s survival as the ostriches provide food and mounts, among other tasks.

Our hero – Kate Walker. Katewalk. Katewalker. Miss Kate Walker. Etc etc…

 The Youkol are basically human Ewoks here. Even their native language sounds like Ewok dialect. The Youkol people, however, are not liked by the locals of Valsembor village and this sets the tone for our adventure. Kate and the Youkol’s must find their way to continue the migration to assure the survival of the Youkol people. It is not known to the player (unless perhaps you played Syberia I or II) as to why Kate cares about these people and their mission, but I digress. You have your goal and set forth on your adventure. Don’t worry, I won’t be speaking too much on story as I don’t want to spoil anything for anybody.

The game is a series of conversations with NPCs and Puzzle solving to move the story along. The dialog choices are plentiful, but don’t really have many consequences. There are some conversations that will lead to a character reacting differently to you, but I cannot tell if that has a direct relationship to the actual story, even several hours in. That could be disappointing to Tell Tale games veterans, but it didn’t really turn me off in any way. I actually prefer to trudge on without wondering if I made the right choice. (I’m looking at YOU Until Dawn).

The moment to moment game play can be a bit dry but when you get a puzzle to solve, that’s where the game can be fun. The puzzles largely feel rewarding when completed and really help move the action forward. They vary from incredibly easy to laughably obtuse. One puzzle had me organize a key to fit a key hole, while another had me messing with a dam. The key was as simple as turning to line up on the holes, but the dam was difficult in that it was totally unclear what I needed to actually do. Some other puzzles need you to speak to certain people in order to gather the next important piece of information, but the game doesn’t do anything to tell you that. Sometimes the person could be three load screens back, which is frustrating. One puzzle early on has you needing an item to attract an owl to your location. I knew what that item was, but I couldn’t get it because the game wanted me to talk to Kurk first. Then he tells me I need the item that I already figured out I needed. Only then was I allowed to obtain the item. It is stuff like that that takes me out of the narrative and swearing at my television.

Inventory…

Speaking of the narrative; the game has some impressive ambiance, but completely ruins it with horrendous voice acting and syncing. The impressive snowy landscape is haunting. The music sets a truly creepy tone. Adding an air of mystery that follows you at every turn. I don’t get a horror game vibe, but rather just an unsettling feeling. The game does this masterfully. Then somebody opens their mouth and sucks the air right out of the room. Terrible acting, audio hiccups, and laughable lip syncing are in the forefront of the offenses.

Haunting Landscape

Audio hiccups aren’t the only issues here, though. I am playing this game on a PS4Pro, yet the frame dips often and in some cases load times can be 10-15 seconds. Not only are load times long in spots, but the load screen pops in at seemingly random times. For example: I was in the middle of figuring out a puzzle when I took an item to the solution and when I clicked to interact, it went to a load screen. The scene didn’t change, it just went on as if it never happened. It was weird and I was left wondering if the game had crashed for a moment. As I continued to play, this continued to happen. Sometimes even moving Kate Walker around the environment can be a chore as it is not clear where you can and can’t walk. Sometimes a small rock will block you from being able to walk in a straight line. Moments like that can make a simple task take an extra few minutes. I can’t help but wonder if the game would have benefited from a couple more months of polish.

Get used to this screen

Even with all the audio and visual hiccups, I have to say the team at Microids creates a very inspiring story with some really fun characters. Bad acting aside – the characters were cliché, but fun to interact with. Familiar, but strange enough to be different. While I don’t have the background to care too much about our hero, I still find myself pushing forward wanting to know what’s going on in her bizarre adventure.

Adventure games have evolved past the Syberia formula. Tell Tale, Quantic Dream, and Supermassive have outperformed Syberia 3 in nearly every tangible way. With that being said, this does not take away from Syberia’s charm. Even with all its technical flaws, I still find myself wanting to move forward. Fans of the series will find something to love here, but should probably wait for a few patches to fix those technical issues. Fans of the genre have many superior options at their disposal.

 

Played on a PS4Pro.

Proven Gamer received a review copy for this title.

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The Walking Dead: A New Frontier Episode 3 ” Above the Law” Review

With episodes 1 and 2 of Telltale’s The Walking Dead: A New Frontier ending on such a strong note with a fantastic cliffhanger, episode 3 “Above the Law” has plenty to work with and gets off to a good start. Javier and company make their way to a new settlement only to find that his long lost brother David is not only there, but is an important high ranking official within the New Frontier. Telltale does a great job of building David’s character to be mysterious and possibly not trust worthy. The episode starts with main protagonist Javier and the remnants of his family with new found friends Tripp and Jesus immediately being locked up in a holding cell without any clear sign that they will be released even though the guy in charge is his brother. From there, the usual dialog options prompt with little evidence to show that your choices will really change the way you and your brother get along. In fact, it seems no matter how you respond the facial expressions you get in return stay tense, and it is just a matter of time before Javier and David come to blows.

Telltale has done an excellent job with their use of fan favorite Clementine for this installment in the Walking Dead series. Even though she is not the main protagonist, she is a very strong support character and her involvement in the story moves it along quite nicely. She has issues with the New Frontier, which you learn about in a really smart and fun flashback, and more specifically David, Javier’s brother. She insists that you cannot trust him no matter how the scenario plays out. This keeps you constantly on the edge when it comes to fully trusting and interacting David even when it seems that you can, and seemingly should. Episode 3 also builds on the estranged relationship between Kate and David, and her desire to get away from him as soon as possible even after being separated for years due to the current state of the world from the outbreak. Telltale has done a good job of building Javier’s character by using family and how far you will go to protect them, all while leading to the inevitable fallout between David and Javier and ultimately who will end up with Kate. Unlike the last episode, this one tried to leave you with a big cliff hanger but didn’t quite hit a home run. I was actually caught off guard by how abrupt the ending came about. This didn’t kill the experience, but it defiantly left me saying “That’s it?” Again Telltale is in a good place to pick the story back up and hopefully will lift the curse of previous games and make episode 4 memorable and fun to play.

Overall this episode runs great and looks fantastic. I did not experience any of the usual Telltale engine slow downs, framerate drops, or chugs. In fact the episode ran smoothly and never crashed, which unfortunately is saying a lot. Graphically The New Frontier is a great looking game and the story to this point has held up quite nicely compared to previous Walking Dead games. Overall this episode was a little short but definitely delivered and left me wanting more even though it had a lack luster ending.

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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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Horizon Zero Dawn Review

The post-apocalyptic world has never looked so beautiful. Guerrilla Games has traded the war-torn wastelands of Killzone for the lush landscapes and sun-kissed vistas of Horizon: Zero Dawn, a third-person action game that stars Aloy, a fierce yet compassionate warrior searching for the truth of her past.

Guerilla Games’ painstaking attention to detail is evident in small touches. The moonlight, reflecting on the water, follows Aloy as she runs along the river. Aloy crushes leaves as she runs across the land, rousing crunching sounds with every heavy step. Every moment of Horizon Zero Dawn feeds admirably into a massive adventure teeming with intrigue and excitement.

From the Sacred Lands of the Nora to the sun-drenched towers of Sunfall, the world of Horizon Zero Dawn is expansive and gorgeous, and we have to credit Guerrilla Games for creating a world where awe-inspiring, memorable vistas happen organically and perpetually. You don’t have to seek out photo-worthy moments, because they are always 50 feet ahead.

Horizon Zero Dawn features Photo Mode, which is almost a game within a game. It’s easy to spend hours tweaking and editing a collection of pictures, cycling through filters and perfecting the depth of field. Photo Mode is perhaps the unsung hero of Horizon Zero Dawn, as it commemorates, quite stunningly, Aloy’s incredible journey through the Carja lands – and beyond. What’s more, the PlayStation 4 facilitates sharing with friends, which makes Photo Mode all the more appealing.

A great game takes inspiration from other (successful) games but never loses a sense of identity or originality.  In the case of Horizon Zero Dawn, Guerrilla Games has ensured that, while some elements feel familiar, they have created a game unlike anything you have played.  You can see where Guerrilla Games has taken inspiration from, among other games and franchises, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Assassin’s Creed and Shadow of the Colossus; however, Horizon Zero Dawn never feels like a copycat.

Horizon Zero Dawn features an engrossing and prodigious narrative that often tugs at the heart. While the game progresses through action-packed missions, Guerrilla Games sometimes slows the pace with quiet, thought-provoking moments that enhance the story and complement the frantic battles.

The story in Horizon Zero Dawn starts as a seed and grows into a sprawling epic that leaves the player somewhere that is unexpected yet welcome. Guerrilla Games deserves admiration on their excellent storytelling that introduces endearing characters who show that the human heart and spirit prevail. Guerrilla Games leaves the story with a nugget of unfinished business. A particularly notable loose end that, hopefully, has an answer.

Aloy, the fiery-haired protagonist, is a compassionate bad-ass who lends a helping hand as easily as she takes down a Sawtooth. Aloy remains perhaps the most endearing character that Sony Computer Entertainment, thanks to Guerrilla Games, has created in a long, long time. Aloy, while fierce in battle, often seems to be a master of diplomacy. The Aloy’s aura adds much to the story and the game, and she casts a large shadow; however, through superior storytelling, Guerrilla Games has created a world full of people whom you will care about. The long list of names reads like a Games of Thrones guide, but each character helps shape the outcome in immeasurable ways.

Horizon Zero Dawn is a nearly perfect combination of combat, exploration, storytelling and platforming. Guerrilla Games have created a massive world for players to explore, but, thanks to transport machines and fast-travel packs, the world never feels too big.  Load times are kept to a minimum, as gameplay transitions seamlessly from one area to another.

Among Aloy’s many side missions and errands, players can enter four Cauldrons, which are enclosed excavation and experimentation sites that test players’ skills at combat, platforming and stealth.  Aloy’s climbing technique is reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed parkour, which makes traversal fluid and crisp.  Three of the Cauldrons end with boss fights against gigantic, powerful machines, and if you finish the four special areas, then you earn overrides that allow you to tame and befriend machines.  In combat, you are always outnumbered, but if you tame and enlist a Sawtooth or a Thunderjaw, then you sway the odds more in your favor.

Combat, oftentimes devolving into a frenetic fight against a squad of malicious machines, requires quick reflexes and precise shooting. It’s fun and satisfying to take down machines, which seem all too excited to play operation with Aloy’s organs. As the game progresses, you fight increasingly complex and larger enemies, which keeps the action exciting and challenging. With 25 varieties of machine in the beast log, you need plenty of ammunition to survive Horizon Zero Dawn.

Raw materials and resources are abundant. As you travel, you come across plants and roots that can be collected and combined to make potions, traps and, with parts scavenged from fallen machines, munitions. The crafting menu, which allows you to make items, is easy to use but doesn’t feel overly simplistic or “dumbed down.” If you devote the time, you can collect enough raw materials to maintain a steady supply of items – without having to spend money at merchants.

Merchants seem omnipresent, and they are always happy to sell you wares or purchase excess goods (from you). Thrifty players, who enjoy scavenging for resources, can save their metal shards, the currency in Horizon Zero Dawn, for large purchase like weapons and armor.

Horizon Zero Dawn features an impressive and varied arsenal of weapons. Aside from the bow and arrow variants, most of the weapons tend to be afterthoughts; however, it’s nice that players are “burdened” with choice.  The bow wins most battles, but sometimes it’s best to tie down enemies with a Ropecaster or set up a kill with a Tripcaster: A device that shoots elemental trap wires.  The weapon mix allows for some strategy, as the “run and gun” style isn’t always best.

I felt the same way about Horizon Zero Dawn in the first hour as I did during the closing moments. My enthusiasm never waned.  When describing Horizon Zero Dawn, I use two words: phenomenal and unforgettable.

Horizon Zero Dawn hooks you from beginning to end. Guerrilla Games have created a technical masterpiece, as well as a gorgeous world with an enthralling narrative that provides far more depth than Horizon Zero Dawn lets on from the outset.  Even though you spend a lot of time in battle, discovery is the key element that drives Horizon Zero Dawn.  Sony has published a landmark game.  Horizon Zero Dawn, and its revelations, sticks with you.  The story and characters stick with you.  Horizon Zero Dawn has flash and edge, but at its core, it’s all substance and heart. Horizon Zero Dawn isn’t only a generation-defining game; it’s a company-defining game.

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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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Double Dragon IV Review

Double Dragon IV perfectly replicates the “old school” look and feel of the series’ origins. It’s the latest throwback to the neon-tinged 1980’s, as game developers continually peruse the catalog of dormant franchises. It’s nice – every once in a while – to cozy up with an old friend; and while Double Dragon IV isn’t progressive or groundbreaking, it earns points for paying homage to a legacy franchise that many 30-somethings remember fondly.

If you have played Double Dragon on the Nintendo Entertainment System, and you want more of that, then Double Dragon IV will fill your needs.

From the start, Arc System Works, the developer of Double Dragon IV, appeals to your sentimentality. The title screen blasts familiar music, as the wave of nostalgia pounds you in the face like a jackhammer takes to concrete. The soundtrack is killer. What’s more, it’s faithful to the Double Dragon heritage, as Arc System Works has ensured that you will be humming along as you punch and kick ne’er-do-wells into blinking oblivion. The soundtrack is on point, as it feels true to its roots but not outdated.

The game play hasn’t evolved much – except that Arc System Works added inexplicable and unnecessary platforming segments to Billy and Jimmy Lee’s to-do list. While most segments are brief and painfully easy, some areas in the later stages of the game will test your patience. Despite their prowess in the martial arts, Billy and Jimmy, the Double Dragon, aren’t the most precise or able platformers around, so falling into a pit is surprisingly easy and terribly frustrating. Double Dragon IV, like its predecessors, isn’t an easy game (to be good at), given the plodding nature of the combat. You need to protect credits like a dragon guarding a cave full of jewels and gold coins.

If you play alone, it’s hard to beat every story mission — or even get to the final mission.  Par for the course, you punch and kick (and roundhouse kick) your way through an army of oddly similar villains.  I feel sorry for the woman who has given birth to multiple Abobos.  Each mission is short, which helps balance the difficulty; however, without a block button to deflect attacks, it’s hard to stay on your feet. Oftentimes, enemies encircle you like a pack of hyenas, which means that, without a block button, you’re exceedingly vulnerable. Double Dragon IV needs a block button. During numerous brawls, you fight two or three boss characters, and a block button would help even the odds.  You can’t save during the game, so if you lose all of your credits, then you have to start again from mission one.

If you manage to finish mission 12, then you unlock Tower Mode, which tests your skills against floors and floors (and floors) of enemies.  In Tower Mode, you have zero continues.  While this unlockable mode adds replay value and challenge to Double Dragon IV, Tower Mode doesn’t change the fact that the main game, Story Mode, is oftentimes more frustrating than fun.  Enemies, for instance, sometimes wait atop ladders and attack you as soon as you climb up.

Double Dragon IV is faithful to the original game, so Arc System Works deserves credit for authenticity. Who doesn’t remember the disembodied Micky Mouse hand guiding you to the next area? Who doesn’t remember standing at the edge of the screen and punching (or kicking) until the last enemy is finished? The Double Dragon series is fun to revisit, but the formula gets old after one or two trips through the grinder. If you want the best experience, then you need to bring a friend to the fight. Double Dragon IV features couch co-op, which is definitely the best way to play an “old school” brawler. Friends make life better, and a friend can help you tear through grunts and boss enemies like a flock of ravenous seagulls.

Double Dragon IV offers online cooperative play via Share Play — but it is available only to PlayStation 4 users.  Share Play is hidden within the Share menu, and given that there’s no online option on the title screen, some players might assume that online play is not available.  Arc System Works can’t assume that everyone knows how to find the Share Play feature — or that it’s available in a game.

Double Dragon has always been best in small chunks, so you can play Double Dragon IV without much commitment; however, nostalgia carries enthusiasm only so far. Double Dragon IV deserves no more than an hour of your attention. It’s nice to dip your toes in the water, but the pool is shallow – despite its rocking soundtrack. Imagine that you’re blasting Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” while trying to enjoy an inflatable kiddie pool. We often have reverence for classic games, but few of these games offer enough depth to keep our attention. Double Dragon IV honors its roots, which is good – until you realize that you’ve played a nearly identical game.  For some, the price — $6.99 — is right, and Double Dragon, as a series, deserves our respect; however, Double Dragon IV does nothing but prey on nostalgia.

Disclaimer: Arc System Works provided a review code.

 

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Siegecraft Commander Review

Siegecraft Commander is a neat little RTS that blends tower defense, turn based strategy and traditional RTS systems that are easy to use and understand whether you are a strategy veteran, or if this is your first time with the genre. At first glance this medieval inspired cartoon world seemed like it would be filled with factions of creatures and humans alike but in reality there are only two races of playable characters. There are the humans, which are broken down between the Peons and the Knights, and the Lizard men, which are separated into a warrior class and a sorcerer class with nothing really special about either one. Although it does not take long to learn the mechanics of the game, I found that once you get started there isn’t anything really compelling about the game or the factions you are playing with and against.

For starters you can chose between two different campaigns. The Knight campaign where you battle the Lizard men, or the Lizard men where you battle more Lizard men. The game is bright and colorful, but there isn’t much of a distinction between the characters other than the humans are blue and the Lizard men are orange, but when you play against other Lizard men you can’t really tell which of the infantry are yours. The environments do not really offer much to look at either. Overall bland settings with small changes in size and scope.

Mechanically the game is actually pretty strong. As one who doesn’t normally play strategy games this one was very easy to start and understand. As each level or match begins you have your starting structure called your keep. From there you can build either an outpost, a garrison, a library or in the case of the Lizard men similar structures just with different names. Ultimately you will find yourself building outpost after outpost because Siegecraft does something I think is pretty unique (or at least I have never seen it before) where the game has you launch a cannonball that spawns your structure if and when it lands on a flat surface. As you erect your outpost a wall instantly raises up connecting you to your structure making your Keep the heart of what will almost become a hive. In fact everything you build stays connected to the structure you launch it from. This makes expanding somewhat difficult because you are limited on where you can build by whether or not the land is suitable. Once you start growing your outposts if you double back and try to build off of an old outpost you may or may not have room leading to the player having to think about where and how they want to progress so they have the space to do so.

Once you are in battle things get a little tricky because if the enemy destroys an outpost that you have built multiple structures off they will all explode! This forces the player to be more strategic on how he or she builds, where he or she builds, and where the player attacks from. As I progressed through the game and built new structures, fired off new weapons and progressed through the campaigns I found that the controls left me down the farther I went. This game would greatly benefit from using a mouse and keyboard rather than the Dual shock 4, but since I reviewed the game on a console, I found that my frustration began to outweigh the fun factor. For example the feeling of progression would come to a screeching hault once enemy AI would begin to build their outposts and arsenal in almost spider mine like fashion and attack me from both sides. At times I felt outpaced almost two to one when it came to building up my forces against the AI. This continued to the point of me shutting down the game for extended breaks because I simply got tired of fumbling through the map and getting defeated while feeling like if I could just navigate a little faster this wouldn’t happen.

Overall Siegecraft Commander falls flat even though it has some strong game mechanics. With an empty world, and baron story and a control system that feels a little sluggish this game doesn’t resonate with me as a player. Although I do believe there is something good here it failed to connect with me and keep me engaged. Playing against another player locally was much more fun in my opinion than either side of the two campaign options. PVP coupled with the option to move in real time or turn based was much more fun than battling the AI that felt faster and seemed as if it moved much more fluid than I could.

Reviewed on PS4

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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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Weeping Doll Review

October is a time for girls dressed as Harley Quinn, candy, and kids just being generally silly and asking complete strangers for candy (I know a guy who does that every day of the year.) Anyway, beyond these things, October is a time for things that are scary and therefore scare us. This October, Playstation VR launched much to the appreciation from a community of gamers looking for a new experience. PSVR launched with a couple of scary games/demos, but there was one game a few of us were anticipating after it missed its launch day.

maxresdefault-1Weeping Doll, from Oasis Games, is a game that should scare and enthrall you as you piece together a mystery in a traditional Japanese home. What the dev team at Oasis forgot when working on this game were solid mechanics, stability, and simply put; the fear factor that comes when providing a “horror genre” game.

weeping-doll-10In Weeping Doll, you portray the role of a maid who is sent in to a frenzy after a phone call from the lady of the house. I know this sounds all sorts of interesting, and many of you would be excited to hear that it is set in a traditional Japanese house, but sadly, the hour long game feels forced and once again is missing the haunted house part. Even worse, you find dolls throughout the house posed in sexual positions, and that’s just weird.

If Weeping Doll was a VR title you were waiting on, take it from us and skip this title in favor of something a little more dynamic and playable.

PG1_10

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Virginia Review – Virginia Tells A Deep and Engaging Story Without Uttering a Word

Virginia is a First Person, narrative based, noir adventure game set in the early 1990’s with an evident inspiration from 90’s television shows such as The X-Files or Twin Peaks, yet developer Variable State still manages to tell a rich and engaging story in their own unique way. Dialogue between characters is replaced with a sort of pantomime during each scene, where emotion is still conveyed through each characters actions, and not a single word is uttered.  Very similar to silent-movies, each scene is accompanied by a music score, and an incredible one at that, and managed to captivate me as I searched each area for clues or was simply transitioning to the next scene.

You play the role as FBI Agent Anne Tarver, who is sent on a case to find a missing boy in the small town of Kingdom, Virginia.  As you investigate his disappearance, you begin to unravel the mysteries of your partner’s past, as well as coping with your own, as you dive into  the character’s psyche, and explore her fears and subconscious thoughts about the investigation.

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Gameplay mechanics are very simple.  Although each area is filled with props and the occasional collectable, I was not able to interact with the environment.  Instead, most of the game is completely A to B in terms of its linear exploration, and the game made it quite easy to detect where you needed to go next. There were no choices in the game that ultimately affect the outcome of the game’s ending or my relationship with each character.  I simply “pointed and clicked” the predetermined choices and witnessed the affect.  Although this may seem overly simplistic, the game does manage to direct it’s linear style in a very distinctive way, by making use of various cinematic tricks such as “film transitioning”.  One scene portrayed me in a diner drinking my coffee, then immediately cut to me riding shotgun in a car on the way to my next destination.  These scene conversions happen often, and creates a sense of disorientation which helps to bemuse the plot of the story.

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My only complaint about the game is the ending. After completing it’s 2 hour, thought-provoking campaign, I felt that the game ended abruptly without explaining important story elements in further detail.  What started out as a simple tale of conspiracy, lead to the borderline supernatural, and even though that would usually excite me, I was left feeling empty and unexplained.

Virginia is an emotionally mature, and captivating game that I highly recommend for fans of the first person adventure genre.  The game does an exceptional job at placing you in the story and creating deep emotions during important parts of it’s narrative.  Accompanied by an incredible music score, don’t be surprised if this title gets some mention at this year’s Video Game Awards.

PG8_10

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Breach and Clear: Dead Line Review

Reviewed on PS4

Breach and Clear is a third person action strategy hybrid form Mighty Rabbit Studios. Having no prior experience with a Breach and Clear game I was welcomed by the melding of two of my favorite genres in all of gaming and that is squad based military shooters, and zombies. Unlike most games with those two themes Dead Line does not just stay an action based military shooter, or a strategy game up allows the player to chooses his or her play style on the fly.

My first instinct after playing the tutorial in Dead Line was to stick to third person mode. I didn’t appreciate all of the aspects of Command Mode (this is the strategy mode,) but I did like the fact that I as the player controlled the movement of my squad instead of it being real time. As a matter of fact there were plenty of instances where I would assign commands, then switch out of Command Mode so I could quickly get myself out of a jam. You are very quickly overwhelmed when a zombie horde starts attacking you. There are a handful of different enemy types ranging from the slow moving roamed, to the faster paced crawling zombies, larger boss type infected, to glowing spitting infected that leave a trail of acid once they lock onto your squad and launch their glowing ball of goo. The most difficult of all of the enemies would have to be the remaining human military soldiers. You will battle horde after horde and come out on top, but once you are surrounded by an enemy squad it does not take long for your team to be quickly dispersed.

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You travel back and forth throughout the city, and it’s outskirts running small missions and bringing supplies back to your safe house. One of my favorite parts of the game were the dungeons. Scattered all throughout the city there are medical boxes, ammo crates, and loot crates. But the rare items are hidden deep in the dungeons. Level by level and floor by floor there are tons of undead to slay and plenty of loot and gear to collect. Much like Diablo there is great reward in traveling from building to building and into the sewers clearing out all of the enemies so that you can squire the next best weapon and the next best piece of armor.

There is a pretty extensive skill tree for each of your soldiers as well. As you mow through the undead and battle your way through the remaining humans you accumulate scrap which is the game’s currency for upgrading your weapons, as well as experience points for upgrading your team’s skills. You can customize your squad’s armor and equipment and you can upgrade those items as well. All in all I was very pleased and impressed by the amount of upgradable teams and weapons in Breach and Clear Dead Line. Each of your team’s members specialize in a certain skill i.e.; medic, demolitions, sniper class, and team leader, and at anytime you can add other skill trees to your character if you have the said amount of skill points. There is plenty of game here and the grind to fully upgrade your team is quite long.

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The sound design is quite nice in Breach and Clear. It reminded me of old 90’s horror films from the opening screen. The music score is very well done and I never found myself getting tired of it. Graphically Dead Line is a little underwhelming by today’s standards. The game doesn’t look bad, but I often found myself somewhat lost in the city, and outside of the city because the environments didn’t change that much. Even in some of the dungeons the game doesn’t really shake things up that much and the game does suffer from some unfortunate glitches. There were plenty of times when my team would be wiped out and the game would totally reboot instead of let me respawn. And I also found that every time I would download a game in the background Breach and Clear would not load past the main title screen. At first these bugs were not very alarming until I switched to a different PS4 with a different profile and I still had these issues. There are also frame rate drops when the maps loads. Again, at first it didn’t bother me but after a while I got quite annoyed, especially when it would take a few seconds to load so I could get back to killing.

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Breach and Clear is overall a neat and interesting game. There are a few bugs that did hurt my experience and graphically I wasn’t impress but these things wouldn’t keep me from recommending the game. As a matter of fact I enjoyed my time in Dead Line. The option of switching to and from Command Mode to full control of the player is a very cool game mechanic that I personally appreciated and am glad I have experienced. The loot grind and skill tree will leave you with plenty of incentive to find the next dungeon and clear the next area for many hours.

Proven Score 6/10

Categories
Playstation 4 Playstation 4 Reviews Sony

Riptide GP: Renegade Review

From the very first race there has been a consistent theme with Riptide GP: Renegade, FUN. The follow up to the IOS games Riptide GP, and Riptide GP2, Renegade does much more than deliver a polished Jet Moto meets Hydro Thunder mash-up. In fact, it takes what was great about these franchises and makes something truly wonderful. In fact, even grinding out some of the races didn’t lose any of the fun factor. Vector Unit has truly made something special here with the Riptide franchise.

The games starts out with a very simple tutorial in the form of a story set piece. You are dropped right into a race and the game teaches you its simple and responsive control set-up by hitting waves and doing tricks to gain XP and boost all while you are illegally racing your futuristic hydro-jets. Then, we fast forward a few years where you rally up with some familiar faces to race in small tournaments gaining experience and money in, what I would call, Fast and Furious meets Wave Race. There isn’t much for story other than some small trash talk segments before you race, but hey that’s all you really need. Each tournament is buttoned up with a “Boss Battle,” where you sometimes race in a series of events. Once you beat said boss you obtain their ride.

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Riptide offers just enough of an upgrade system to keep you racing and trying to obtain three stars in each race so that you can max out your hydro-jet without it seeming like an endless grind. Each upgrade doesn’t really feel that different, but once you fully upgrade your jet it becomes pretty rewarding and worth doing. There are also a handful of customization options, but nothing too crazy. All in all, Riptide feels like it has just enough of everything so there is some depth, but isn’t an endless grind. It is also very fair with the amount of money earned on each race, and I found in my play through that I was able to fully upgrade my jet, and then some, by the time I unlocked my next vehicle.

Graphically, Riptide is very pretty. The water looks great, the lighting is spot on, and the environments are absolutely beautiful. The game often reminded me of Motor Storm Apocalypse when it comes to weather changing or the environments changing after certain laps. At one point, a Space Craft launches in the background of the race and the force from the rocket caused the waves to rise allowing you to pull off tricks for extra experience points. From racing through a futuristic city aqueduct system, to a battle scene in a military base, all the way to a sky high multi-level space ship ending with some weird water spout vortex, there is plenty of cool things to see while racing at high speeds to be the best in Riptide GP.

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The sound design is fine in Riptide. At times the wind blowing in a stormy section sounded more like screeching tires rather than a rocket powered water jet, and the repetitive house music in the background became a little taxing. There are times where to get the three star rating you have to replay some of the races. My advice would be to do yourself a favor and load up Spotify in the background.

Content light is definitely not the case for Riptide. As a matter of fact, the career mode is pretty in depth offering several variations in race types such as a normal race and an elimination style race where you have a small amount of time before the last place competitor gets eliminated. This process continues until you are the last man standing. There is also a checkpoint based raced that is also timed. I found this race to be the most difficult for me, personally. The Freestyle race would have to be my favorite requiring you to land the best tricks for the most points in a set amount of time. Riptide also sprinkles in cops on hydro-jets from time to time to make things more difficult. They are quite the pest. As a matter of fact, they will side swipe you relentlessly and one wrong move will knock you out of the top spot. Most notably, there is a great split screen mode. This reminded me of the Nintendo 64 release Wave Race where 2-4 players could hop wave, bust out tricks, and race competitively. Last but not least, Riptide has an online mode. I did not spend a ton of time with this, but I was very happy to find that there were not any trophies locked behind the online multiplayer.

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All in all, Riptide GP: Renegade is a great game with a tremendous replay value. With great graphics, smooth and fun gameplay, and plenty of options for the single player and the multiplayer, I would highly recommend this game. Whether you are a casual player or a hardcore gamer, there is something here for everyone. If you were a fan of Jet Moto, Wave Race, or Hydro Thunder then this is defiantly a game for you, and yes Riptide has a platinum trophy.

 

PG8_10

 

 

 

Categories
PC Reviews Playstation 4 Reviews X-Box One Reviews

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.

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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

Categories
Playstation 4 Reviews Sony

Adr1ft Review

Ever wonder what it what it was like to be Sandra Bullock and be virtually all alone in space? Well you’re in luck because there exists a game Called Adrift (Adr1ft) where you are literally drifting in space with nothing but debris and solitude surrounding you. The game starts with your basic tutorial that does an excellent job teaching you the ins and outs of the game. This is a very unique game with unique movement, and the only thing that I can compare it to, is the space walk segments from Dead Space and Dead Space 2. As for solitude you are definitely alone and, Adrift nails its goal with great atmosphere and wonderful sound design that really sets the tone for this experience.

Since we’re talking about space walking, let’s bring up the movement in Adrift. For lack of a better term, it’s stellar. However, there is a drawback. The destruction of the space station that you called home for the passed 3 years affected your space suit, causing your oxygen to be used as fuel for your thrusters. So what’s keeping you alive is also what’s getting you around. Before we go any further I want to mention how breath taking the game is, From the tutorial to the actual game. It’s visually striking and a sight to behold. Don’t forget to get an eyeful of that pale blue dot we live on. Paired with headphones and a dark room it actually feels like you’re in the grasp of the black nothingness that is space. Even the main menu filled my eyes with Unreal Engine 4 goodness. So from right then and there I was ready to accept space and it’s infinite beauty. The physics in this game is really next level, Everything holds weight, or lack there of rather. You bump into something and it goes flying. You use an air canister toss it and it B-lines and never stops until it hits another object. There is no combat in Adrift so it does carry the “walking simulator” stigma, and I can see some players experiencing issues with motion sickness. After all it is a first person experience and you are floating around and at times spinning around looking for collectibles and oxygen.

The game doesn’t hold your hand when it comes to the story, if you want to find out what happened go and explore every little nook and cranny you can. There’s everything from audio files to emails you can read to learn about the past 3 years on this rotating abode. Another thing that I can compare to Dead Space, is the fact that there are little pieces of story in almost every corner of the game. During your exploring time don’t wander out too far, or you will die, your oxygen will only last for so long and get you so far. The game really depends on you remembering where you went and doesn’t really give you a concrete objective. You hit the scan button and it points to oxygen or a collectable. You want to go out and find where you’re supposed to go next but the fear of running out of oxygen is very real, and is incredibly disheartening. You start to wheeze and grasp for the blank space in front of you. Then the color fades from everything around you and you’re accepted into the black waters of space. To really get a hold of where you want to go next in the game remember where you came from, go out a ways from the wreckage and then pick a point you think you haven’t been to yet and go for it. Picking up all the oxygen you can is key to survival. Adrift does get easier once you get your first suit upgrade, which is fairly early in the game. The similarities of the corridors and rooms and bigger structures can get a little stale but there are small differences on the inside that you can really appreciate.

You will be followed around by a disembodied voice that will almost constantly talk to you. They nailed the voice of this computer because again the sound design in this game is great and the voice of the robot is not annoying at all. It’s almost comforting hearing it and having that feeling that you’re not alone. But the cold harsh reality is that you are alone and your only true objective is to escape and make it back to earth safe and sound.

Let’s move on to Trophies, there isn’t a platinum which is a bit disheartening and should be mentioned as I did review this game on the Playstation 4. But don’t let that keep you from that 100 percent completion rate. EVEN if most of the trophies are collectibles, which I despise,  that is one of the very few things that I dislike about Adrift. Moving to a few more trophy points, there are 15 total and over half of them are hidden. So get to collecting and beating the game! You’ll have a great time exploring and an even greater time boosting around the rubble and debris!

In closing if you’re a fan of sci-fi or space, walking simulator or survival games, pick this one up and you won’t be disappointed. There are a few draw backs to the game like lack of combat, the walking simulator aspect, and it is a relatively short game, but they are overshadowed by all the things this game does right, like aesthetics, graphics, sound, and the overall story. This was an overall good experience. Pick it up and stay in space for awhile!

PG7_10

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Nintendo Playstation 4 Playstation 4 Reviews Sony Wii U X-Box One

Kerbal Space Program Review

Reviewed on PS4

Kerbal Space Program is a rocket crafting, space exploration simulator with multitude of options and features. From building a space craft from scratch, launching rockets into space, conducting experiments, and managing resources KSP puts plenty of tools at your disposal but it forgot the most important one, FUN. There is a lot to do in this game and I found that it was quite overwhelming at times, but no matter how much Kerbal Space Program has to offer there were a few themes that ran pretty common throughout my entire experience.

First would be the learning curve. Tutorials are key in this game. My first few hours were spent trying to build my own custom rocket ship. I turned on the game and bypassed the training missions ready to launch myself to infinity and beyond! Instead I found myself extremely frustrated and utterly confused as to why none of the parts I assembled would make an adequate ship ready to be launched into space. After learning the basics of space craft building I found a nice little folder with pre built rockets ready to go. So the next few hours were spent trying to successfully make it out of the Earth’s atmosphere. Much to my dismay I learned I am not very good at simulators. Although I did really enjoy making it a few thousand meters only to lose control and spiral to my ultimate destruction. But one can only crash to his or her doom so many times before they grow tired of the monotony and are ready to move on. Space is nice, and there is a feeling of accomplishment once I made it to the great beyond, but every step of the road there was just plain boring.

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Graphically this game is a joke. I know the point of this game isn’t the graphics, but KSP looks like a straight port of the PC version. All the way down to the mouse cursor. The text is entirely to small and there is quite a bit to read. The sound design is a barren wasteland as well. There really isn’t much going on at all sound wise. So it is hard to become fully immersed in the experience. On top of it’s less that stellar graphics and poor sound design, the game doesn’t run well in certain spots. From loading a new rocket, to launching said rocket, down to disengaging stages of your space craft there are several frame rate glitches and dips.

The controls take some getting use to as well. The curser can be moved by motion control and by the left thumb stick. This grabbed me by surprise a few times bc I thought my controller might have been glitching out on me. Come to find out if you move the DS4 it imitates the mouse from the PC version. During the launch of your missions you have to balance your rocket and the default button mapping is clunky to say the least. Control of your craft takes a ridiculous amount of trial and error and a decent amount of skill.

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To it’s credit there is a ton of content in KSP. This is a very deep and educational Space simulator. But I would not say it is a fun game. It’s strengths are the seemingly endless amount of possibilities when it comes to creating your space craft and putting together your team of astronauts. Resource management and flight stability make this game very challenging and the victory of launching a successful mission is very satisfying. But my biggest take away from KSP is the game does not respect my time as a player. It takes hours to learn the most basic of operations and the reward from the trial and error was just not there. I respect this game for being a strong simulator, but did not enjoy my time with Kerbal Space Program.
PG5_10