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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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Nintendo Switch Reviews Reviews

INK – Review – Nintendo Switch

A Splash of Brilliance

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

A Shot in the Dark

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

Friend of Foe?

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

Pleasure for Eyes and Ears

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

Going in Blind.

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

Review code has been provided by Digerati. 

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Nintendo Switch Reviews

Pokemon: Quest – Switch Review

Pokemon: Money Pit

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

Tap Tap Tap it in…

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

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

Stephen Uses Play Game…it failed

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

I want to be the very best…

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

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

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Nintendo Switch Reviews Reviews

Wizard of Legend Review – Nintendo Switch

The Dark Souls of 2d Pixel Art Action RPGs.

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

Stick and Move.

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

Trial and Error…and Error.

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

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

Lend a Helping Hand.

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

Pixel Beauty.

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

Final Thoughts.

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

 

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Android Reviews

Prizefighters – Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Nintendo Nintendo Switch Nintendo Switch Reviews

Golf Story – Review

A Whole in One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PC

Pylon: Rogue Review

I consider myself a relatively hardcore rogue-like fan. I follow the genre closely and have played most of the more high-profile titles in the time since the genre took off a few years back. I might not be very good at them, but I love the challenge most of them present; that old school “Higher Score” mentality that brings me back to arguing with friends about how to best defeat a Megaman boss or who could beat Mario 3 the fastest. Games like The Binding of Isaac and Spelunky led the surge in the rouge-revival in recent years, and it’s a genre that doesn’t seem like it’s going to slow down anytime soon. With what seems like a new Rogue-like dropping every day, it’s really hard for most games in the genre to stand out. It requires something either truly unique or just an overall great package to win over the rouge-like community.

On the surface Pylon seems like it could have been a contender in the flooded rogue-like market. Attempting to mix the rouge-like formula with Diablo and a little pinch of The Binding of Isaac sounds like a dream. What we get instead of this dream is a game that can’t quite figure out what it wants to be. Almost every facet of the game is so thinly spread that I had a hard time taking the game seriously.

Pylon’s minute to minute gameplay is nigh impossible to break through as two of the three characters available at the start of the game, Both melee fighters. The third of the opening classes, a ranger, fairs a bit better but is incredibly boring to play compared to the other two. When you start a new game, you choose one of the three characters and a fighting style which slightly alters that particular fighter. Only the first fighter, the ridiculously named Moneydin who has some weird version of Midas’ touch, had more than one style available. Once selected you’re dropped onto a randomly generated over world map that’s reminiscent of Mario 3. Different nodes represent different levels, but in reality they all just boil down to a randomly generated mishmash of procedurally generated arenas that are appropriately themed to whatever over world you’re initially plopped into.

This is where the game really starts to fall apart. Up until this point, we’ve just seen some poorly designed menu screens that look like they could have been ripped from bad Xbox 360 Arcade game, but nothing indicating the actual quality of the gameplay.

Spoiler alert. It’s really bad.

Combat for all three of the characters feels terrible. It’s not that the controls are sluggish or the animation is bad, it’s that the general gameplay loop of Pylon is tedious and insanely boring. Halo became famous for its 30 second loop that drew players in. In pylon any time frame of fun is entirely non-existent. Each stage is a series of gated in arenas that range from too small with too many enemies to so big that you may have to run around for a minute or two finding the last enemy to proceed to the next arena. When you enter an arena you’ll find yourself fighting such notable enemies as generic Zombie, Giant Scarab, Another Other Scarab, Maybe a Raptor! You’ll endlessly kite all these foes until you clear out the arena. As the Ranger this is pretty easy, but boring. You just cartwheel dodge away from everything and the game becomes a third-rate twinstick shooter. As the two initial melee characters it’s much harder simply because you have to get close to attack an enemy and will inevitably be hit. This essentially makes using these two useless for making any kind of meaningful progress.

Once you clear out one of these arenas a chest appears that always has gems and sometimes has a power-up. The power-ups work kind of like The Binding of Isaac where they are suppose to be synergistic, minimal upgrades that form some wacky run once you get enough, but none of them are interesting enough to care about. Sometimes there are slightly larger chests hanging around that require a key to open. These are literally just larger versions of the smaller chest and have a higher chance to have an item. There’s no visual change. If you clear out all the arenas in a certain level you’ll get an even bigger chest which, again, is just a larger version of the original chest. These chests are highly indicative of the lack of polish in Pylon.

As you move through the arenas in a given level you’ll notice that health drops are few and far between. As is normal with most rouge-likes, your total health persists through levels. So damage you take on one level carries over to another and once you croak the run is over. You can hop into a shop in the over world and use the gems you’ve accumulated to buy health, power-ups, and new gear that improves your overall character. Like the rest of Pylon these shops present nothing interesting or new.

That’s really my lasting impression of this game. There’s nothing that it brings to the table that it does even remotely well even down to it’s menus and basic UI elements. Nothing it does is interesting or new. It is a bad collage of ideas from other games that you should play instead of playing Pylon: Rogue. I’m sure the game will find a small audience, but for the most part, I would just suggest not wasting your time.

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PC Reviews Playstation 4 Reviews X-Box One Reviews

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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Playstation 4 Playstation 4 Reviews Sony X-Box One

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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Playstation 4 Playstation 4 Reviews

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

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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.

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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

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PC Reviews

Zenzizenzic Review

Zenzizenzic is definitely a game that is as hard to play as it is to say. I’m not the biggest fan of shooters and less so for shoot ‘em ups, so I didn’t know what to think going into it. I was pleasantly surprised.

There isn’t any kind of background story to say why the seemingly endless fleet of baddies want you dead, but I can roll with that in this kind of game. Zenzizenzic has the familiar-feeling stage levels as well as practice levels for the bosses and hidden stages within the regular levels. The stage levels are typical for shoot ‘em ups meaning that you try and dodge walls of bullets while trying your best to keep your endless stream of bullets pointed at an enemy. Eventually a boss comes out and you have to learn the pattern of its attacks and hope to survive (although you can spend points to get back lives).

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I don’t really see anything about this mode that sets it apart from other shoot ‘em ups. You can switch up your weapons once you purchase new ones, but each weapon has their own unique style that takes getting used to. To be honest, I found that the first two weapons were the easiest to use and the most effective at killing the Bad Guy Ship Horde. It is just shooting/dodging with some modicum of skill to build points and reach the next stage.

There is an entirely different mode called Macro mode. This more resembles a 2D open world for your Pew Pew ship. Stats like speed and fire rate drop at the beginning and you need to kill and survive in order to buy upgrades to stats and weapons. I think this is very unique to this genre and found myself having a lot of fun in it. There are obstacles to fly around, treasure and points to gain, items to collect, and still endless waves of bad guys.

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Normally, I don’t care much for how a game looks, but it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t mention the visuals in this game. Something between the trippy background and the chaos of mutual fire and “explosions” make just watching the game appealing. I have died more times than I’m willing to admit by being distracted by the visuals of it.

I was not expecting much going into this game, but this game is definitely above the norm. It offers more than other shoot ‘em ups I have played, especially with Macro mode. Zenzizenzic is a game that you should grab a friend and try not to die with together.

PG7_10

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Telltale’s Game of Thrones: Episode Four “Sons of Winter” Review

Telltale regains the footing in the Seven Kingdoms.

Sons of Winter, the fourth episode in Telltale’s Game of Thrones series, is a turning point in the series based on the popular HBO TV show, Game of Thrones. As of this point, I really hadn’t been interested in what happened to the Forresters. But, man, what an episode.

In this episode, I felt like I was actually making a difference. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. If I messed one thing up in my grand plan, me and my family were sure to be doomed to death. Everything just felt more meaningful without the weight of living up to the TV show.

Thankfully, the writers behind this episode have written out any possible ties to the TV show, other than a passing mention of The Red Wedding and Margaery Tyrell showing up to scold me, I felt like I didn’t have to watch the TV show to understand the weight of my choices, which was a problem with the previous episode “The Sword in the Darkness”. It just feels like a Telltale game, instead of a thing that HBO made to promote Game of Thrones Season 5.

Oh, and it wouldn’t be a Telltale review if I didn’t mention the performance. It’s really great. Sure, there’s the occasional hiccup during the Season recap, but other than that, the game finally runs well.

So, if you’re interested in Game of Thrones at all, this time is great as any. The story, gameplay, decisions are all meaningful now. There’s really no reason I can see not to pick this game up, other than time constraints.

PG8_10

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Playstation 4 Reviews

Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag PS4 Review

The Assassin’s Creed franchise has been a subject of controversy for a couple of years now.  For the most part, that criticism has been warranted.  Once the series became annualized, gamers realized just how stagnant the games were becoming.  Mission variety consisted of trailing an individual and than killing said person.  Of course there were a few optional methods of performing the kill, such as stealing from a person before killing them, or sneaking into a location undetected before striking the person down.  But variety is practically nonexistent.

If you came into Black Flag with expectations that the newest entry would alleviate some of the stagnant mission variety, than you may leave disappointed.  However, and this is a rather large however, this is by far the most fun I’ve had with any game in the series.

Compared to other A.C. games, Black Flag has the simplest story yet.  Most people will probably scoff at this and mark it as a flaw, but it actually makes the game more enjoyable and accessible.  Sure it helps if you know the story of Desmond, but you do not need to have played them to enjoy this title.  Players control, privateer turned pirate, Edward Kenway, through his love-fueled journey to make enough money to support his family.  During this adventure, Kenway gets swept up in the never-ending fight between the Templars and the Assassins.  This conflict hasn’t altered much from previous entries, in that, the Templars are still out for global domination and the Assassins are tasked with stopping them.

If Assassin’s Creed 3 was a slow crawl that built in anticipation, than, thankfully, Black Flag moves from 0 to 60 in the first couple of minutes of gameplay.  Players are given control of Kenway’s flagship, The Jackdaw, with every option to sail and pillage wherever you so choose.  Which is nice, because there are dozens of islands and towns to explore at the players leisure.

Most of the locations contain several chests to loot and secrets to obtain, which breaks up the monotony of sailing from one island to the next.  Although roaming around an island can be fun, the most entertaining feature in the game is sailing.  The development team took what was an interesting mechanic in AC3, and made sailing the main reason to play Black Flag.  Nothing beats sailing your way through the Caribbean, especially when ship-to-ship combat, harpooning locations, discoverable shipwrecks and the occasional storm surrounds players at every turn.

It is also through the sailing mechanics that you notice how beautiful and detailed the world of AC4 really is.  Dolphins swim alongside of The Jackdaw, hurricanes and storms bristle in the foreground before encroaching upon your ship, and whales can be found breaching while you move past their locations.  Once you discover a location that you want to roam around on, lush forests that harbor inner secrets surround the players at every turn, making exploring an island in full 1080p one of the best reasons to own a PlayStation 4.

Black Flag’s gameplay mechanics are more polished than previous titles, but there is some real room for improvement.   There were times where Edward would be running through the jungle and stop abruptly on what would appear to be an easy ledge to climb, especially given that he jumps from heights of fifty feet or greater into a pile of hay without getting injured.

Similarly, while I was playing one mission towards the end of the game that tasks players to sneak into a fort, Edward would continually come to a complete halt while traversing a gap no greater than one foot.   This led me to getting caught repeatedly, forcing me to replay the same segment seven or eight times in a row.   While this didn’t occur frequent enough to make it a major complaint, it was annoying nonetheless.

Meanwhile, current day missions feature a new character, that doesn’t speak, show any emotion, or really have any point other than being the glorified gopher for a voice in his Bluetooth headset.  You are told to go from one location to the next, than back to your previous location for no apparent reason other than progressing the story.  When you are given the ability to discover the Abstergo building, you can’t really do much besides collect sticky notes and hack computers.  Although hacking computers will reveal some hidden information about Desmond and other subjects, there is no real substance to going out of your way to accomplish this.  It’s a shame that Ubisoft can’t figure a way out to make current day events more than a tacked on way to waste time.

As far as multiplayer is concerned, if you weren’t a fan of it in previous games, than this time around will not change your attitude.  It is essentially the same gameplay from the last couple of games, just with different maps and characters.  Although it is fun for a couple of hours, it is nowhere deep enough to make me want to replay it frequently.

Overall, the world of Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag has kept me happily occupied for longer than any other game in the series.  At no point in my two-dozen or so hours playing the game, was I at a loss for content.  While the story isn’t the best, it is certainly stimulating enough to keep you interested in Edward Kenway and his exploits.  Beyond the minor gameplay complaints and lackluster current day events, Black Flag is a game well worth placing into your library.

PG9_10

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Gucamelee Review

Guacamelee is “Juan” heck of a game. Drinkbox has done it again, and brought another great PSN game on to the PlayStation consoles. Guacamelee! captures the humor, art, and musical style that all of their previous games have brought. The game also has wonderful platforming elements, a great combat system, and a really good story. It has all the elements a game needs to be a great game, but Guacamelee! has a lot more than just those.

The game starts off introducing you to the main character, Juan. He is a farm boy from Pueblucho, a town that greatly respects luchadors. Juan goes to help out a man when El Presidente’s daughter is caught in a fire. Juan rushes over, only to find a skeleton by the name of Calaca, has captured her. Juan tries to fight back, but sadly, Calaca kills Juan. In the world of the dead, Juan finds a mysterious luchador mask. He then progresses out of the world of the dead, and obviously, tries to save El Presidente’s daughter from Calaca. This makes for an interesting plot line throughout the game, and is not just a complement to the excellent gameplay that comes along with it.

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Speaking of that gameplay, it is arguably one of the best platformers I have ever played. Why it is, is because it actually makes you think, and it can actually become quite difficult. At some points, I had to pull off crazy combos to get to the next platform, and after I had completed them, I felt like a luchador myself. The platforms are laid out perfectly, and I never had a problem with something being impossible or too hard to pass. As the great Goldilocks once said, “It was just right.”

Juan can also beat up baddies along the way. The excellent combat system makes that super fun. Juan can pull off awesome combos, in both the air, and on the ground. It’s fluid, and it just feels right in place with how everything else in the game works. Along with just his punches and kicks, Juan also learns some mystical attacks from a goat-man. These can be used to break objects in the environment or when battling enemies. These have great, funny names attached to them like the Rooster Uppercut, and my absolute favorite, The Dashing Derp-Derp. I just love how the combat works, and it just feels right for the game.

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The enemies won’t cause you too many problems (in the normal mode that is), but the bosses will kick your butt over and over again. These bosses will take you many, many times to figure out. Their attack patterns are all so diverse, and finding out how to stop them is even harder. Eventually, when you do figure them out, it feels awesome, and like I said before, like a real luchador.

My only real problem was that the game was a bit too short. My first time through clocked in at 4 hours, and 4 minutes. I didn’t go out of my way for collectibles, or do any of the side-missions on that run-through. However, if you were to play on hard, the game lasts longer (you will have to re-do more parts), or if you did look for collectibles and do the side missions. If you did any of those things, the game could last you 10-20+ hours. Still, I wish there was a little more content to it, even though I really enjoyed what it had.

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Humor is where Drinkbox excels the most. There are references to so many things you wouldn’t believe. On the billboards, there are ads for “Mega Hombre”, “Casa Crashers” and even an ad in Spanish for their last Vita title, Tales from Space Mutant Blobs Attack. There are also funny references to other things outside of games, like the meme, Grumpy Cat, or the movie Wreck it Ralph (they put “Bust it Bill”). All of these were hilarious, and the character dialogue and gameplay has even more references and jokes. Guacamelee! had me laughing the entire game.

The art and music are great as well, and fit with the overall aesthetic of the game. The art has a 2D beautiful surface in the front, and some kind of background that pertains to the kind of environment you are in. Like for example, the desert scene has sand dunes in the back. The game looks beautiful on both my TV, and my PlayStation Vita’s 5 inch display. The music is an upbeat, Mexican style. It fits wonderfully, and sounds especially nice when coming through headphones.

Guacamelee! is an all-around awesome game, and anyone with a Vita and/or a PlayStation 3 should pick it up. It’s one of the greatest platformers that I’ve played in a while, and it has all the elements a game needs to be great; awesome gameplay, great soundtrack, good graphics, and a fun story. Guacamelee’s got it all. It doesn’t matter if you’re broke, or don’t have any money, you need to buy Guacamelee. Believe the hype, it’s really that good.

PG9_10

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Playstation VIta Playstation Vita Reviews

Switch Galaxy Review

Switch Galaxy is a game by former Liverpool Studios developers, and you can tell in every aspect. Switch Galaxy captures the same sense of speed and beauty that Wipeout always shined in. The music is great, along with the designs of everything from the vehicles, down to the tracks and barriers. Even the price is great. The only real major problem I have with it is that it is a little too short. When that is your only complaint, you know you got a pretty good game on your hands.

The gameplay is simple, yet wonderful. You move from lane to lane, dodging enemies and barriers, and collecting credits as you go. There are power-ups to help you pass barriers; destroy barriers, and one to steal credits from enemies. They are all basic, but can get hard to see when flying across space at the break-neck speeds you can reach in this game. It can also be a little hard to see upcoming enemies, as they sometimes can blend in with the surroundings, but I think it just adds to the little difficulty in the game.

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The “story” mode of the game lets you travel from galaxy to galaxy, imposed with a time limit. Hitting barriers and enemies will slow you down, but most of the time they are really easy to dodge. I only failed to make time once in a level in the latter half of the game. There are about 25 levels, which, if you take every path and do the challenges, equates to about a an hour or so of content. The challenges are really no challenge; they just require you to reach an easy distance on the track. I wish there was more to the story mode, it had lots of potential.

However, there is one mode that can become obsessive, and what I think is the real “meat” of the game. It is the survival mode, where it makes the game like an infinite runner. Once you get far enough, it really gets hard, and it always makes me want to try to beat my previous score. They set goals for you, but I wish there was some sort of leaderboard, so I could strive to beat other peoples’ scores. If you reach these preset goals, you get a ton of credits, which can definitely help you go farther.

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The credits I speak of are the in-game currency. You can use them to buy upgrades, new ship skins, and one time shields and such. The ship upgrades are cool, and will definitely help you with that survival mode, but everything else is just okay. However, you cannot use the barrier passes in the survival mode, which stinks, because that’s where I really need them. The ship skins are okay looking (I prefer the original), and the barrier blocks just weren’t doing it for me. The ship upgrades are the only thing I really bought, and are the only things that really did any good for me in trying to make my performance in the game any better.

Everything else about the game is awesome. To the upbeat sort of dubstep-like music, from the beautiful graphics of all the ships and the tracks you travelled on, all the way down to the minute details of the game, like giving population numbers and race percentages for each galaxy. Even though it’s a Playstation Mobile title, you can really tell that Atomicom put a lot of time, detail, and effort into the game.

Switch Galaxy is a great Playstation Mobile game, with simple yet fluent gameplay, a good upgrade system, awesome graphics, and a great soundtrack. The game captured the great sense of speed, aesthetic, and style that Wipeout nailed for years, and it has worked out amazingly. The only thing that’s wrong is that there aren’t a lot of levels for the story mode. This is a great game, and I suggest you go pick it up right away.

PG8_10

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Playstation 3 Playstation VIta Playstation Vita Reviews

Zen Pinball 2: Star Wars Tables DLC Review

I love pinball and I love Star Wars. So, you can imagine how excited I was when Zen Studios announced they were making Star Wars Tables. Their first pack was released recently, having three tables: Boba Fett, Episode V The Empire Strikes Back, and Star Wars the Clone Wars. Some tables I like more than others, but they are all great. If you enjoy either Star Wars or pinball, you should definitely check these out.

The first table is the Boba Fett table. I don’t like this one as much as the others, but it is still great. Your ball is Boba Fett, and by hitting different lanes, you can take contracts from the Empire, or from Jabba the Hut. These are fun, and a cool part to the table. The table has a ton of other bells and whistles that other tables have, such as a multiball mode, lane combos, and some fun hurry ups. The table itself is beautiful, with its vibrant colors, and character models. The table is well branded to Star Wars, as Darth Vader and Jabba make live, spoken appearances on the table. Boba Fett will even say lines as you complete missions, and get combos. There is even the Great Pit of Carkoon from Return of the Jedi that ruins your combo when you fall into it.

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Even though this table sounds awesome, it has some flaws too. My ball seemed to lose momentum at random times, and it came off the left flipper way too fast. Also, some of the set pieces stopped my ball. I like a table where the ball can move smoothly across without it ramming into something. This is a good table, but the others are better.

TABLE SCORE: 6/10

 

 

The next table is Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Like the Boba Fett Table it looks nice and has good character models. These tables’ main missions, however, are based off the movie. If you hit the middle part of the table on both the left and right parts, you activate a movie scene. The scenes are taken directly from the movie, showing Luke tying up the AT-AT on Hoth, or the Ewoks taking back Endor from the Empire. This table is obviously greatly branded as well, with everything being taken from the movie. The only complaint I have about this table is the difficulty in scoring. This is tied with my other favorite table, the Clone Wars table.

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TABLE SCORE: 9/10

 

 

I am not a big fan of the Clone Wars series, but I am a huge fan of this table. Zen once again did a great job with visuals, character models, and branding. You can train to be a clone in this table which helps you rack up huge points and has you doing missions as the Jedi trying to take down the Sith Lords. These are all great for points, but there is one spam combo called the Liberation Hurry Up which you can use to get tons and tons of points. You hit a top-left lane multiple times to activate it, and once you do, you can hit another lane over and over for millions of points per hit. One time, I got over 20 million points in under 30 seconds with it. You can also hit the hurry up lane, where Yoda will give you quotes that I promise you will hear over 9,000 times. They got really old, and quite annoying while hitting the lane. That minor complaint aside, this table had some excellent features to it, and is another great table to add to your collection.

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TABLE SCORE: 9/10

 

 

The Star Wars tables are the best I have played in a while, and I suggest you check them out. They are well branded and designed, so even if you don’t like Star Wars you will definitely enjoy these tables. They come in one big pack, so you will have to get them all to play them, but it is well worth the $10 spent. May the force be with you.

PG8_10

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PC Playstation Vita Reviews

Super House of Dead Ninjas Review

Super House of Dead Ninjas does not mess around. The very same tightly-knit mechanics that make SHODN a ton of fun to play are the same ones that will make you lower your guard, lose a life, and curse yourself for your dumb mistake. It’s the constant sense of urgency brought on by the ever-depleting timer in the corner of the screen that will coax you into trying to brute force your way through stages in a rush. Beware, though. It is an instant death sentence. Death is essential to progressing through SHODN to help you learn specific enemy patterns and experiment with different weapons. Thanks to the game’s upgrade system, dying often means permanently acquiring new abilities, weapons, and upgrades that help you to improve your progress every time you play.

Think of Super House of Dead Ninjas as Spelunky, only if your spelunker moved with the speed and agility of Super Meat Boy and carried shurikens. That is all to say: it’s a very fast-paced roguelike. Though unlike many games of its type, SHODN allows you to begin your journey from any stage you’ve already completed. In a way this is great, because at some point there isn’t much value in repeating the first stage over and over. Every stage is randomly generated, to a point. While the stage won’t be the same every time you play it, you quickly begin to recognize tile sets that are simply placed in a different order.

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Possibly the greatest single element in SHODN is its upgrade system. Many roguelikes force the player to start each new session with nothing but knowledge, but SHODN’s upgrade system is designed to give you a new advantage nearly every time you die. New weapons, projectiles, and bomb types are unlocked by completing tasks that are usually easy to meet without trying. All of the upgrades are completely permanent, including health and time enhancements. In this way, no matter how much trouble I had along the way, I was at least going into a new session with a new advantage.

There are only four stages in Super House of Dead Ninjas, but don’t let that fool you. Each one will take many tries to complete. As for the final stage, that can only be accessed by completing the third stage on Hard mode. Considering Hard mode supplies you with one measly life, I’m not ashamed to say I’ll probably never be able to pull that off. In order to add some considerable replay value, MegaDev has included a level editor. The editor is simple enough to use, and includes Steam Workshop functionality, so you can download other players’ stages to your game.

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Super House of Dead Ninjas effectively draws the best elements from games like Super Meat Boy and Spelunky. Its fast-paced movement and tightly-wound combat excels in giving SHODN a feel all its own. It’s a roguelike that encourages you to keep trying by dangling each upgrade in front of you like a carrot on a stick. With its low barrier to entry, replay value-adding level editor, and superb upgrade system, it’s hard not to recommend Super House of Dead Ninjas to any roguelike fan. 

PG9_10

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Playstation VIta Playstation Vita Reviews

Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken Review (Vita)

Rocketbirds is a cinematic puzzle platformer, that is definitely fun, but has plenty flaws too. Puzzles get repetitive, the story is pretty bad and often doesn’t make sense, the combat can be very frustrating, and the game is pretty short. Platforming is fun, and is the heart of the game, but the other aspects are not as good. If you are able to overlook the flaws, you can find an okay puzzle platformer in Rocketbirds. But those flaws are unfortunately very hard to ignore.

The gameplay is simple, being a platformer. The puzzles are for the most part easy, except for near the end of the game. The puzzles don’t provide the same sort of satisfaction given from games like Portal, where you feel intelligent for solving them. Instead, they hide things from you, things that often feel too hard to find. You can spend buckets of time just looking for things that blend in. The art style doesn’t help this at all. While the art style is aesthetically pleasing, it makes seeing where you have to maneuver difficult. Some of the puzzles are fun, but most are bland and repetitive.

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Combat in Rocketbirds is okay, but can get quite annoying and frustrating. When it works, it is a good and fun system, but sometimes the enemies just overpower you. For example, with this combat system, the final boss is ridiculously difficult. It took me far too many tries. There were times it worked well, and those were some really fun times in the game, but when it doesn’t work, and the level is too hard, it can get really frustrating.

The story is confusing, and with the limited dialogue, it doesn’t really explain what is going on at all. What I got out of the story is that Hardboiled Chicken was recruited by the penguins, and didn’t like that they were taking over innocent towns and people, and then quit and became a renegade soldier. He then goes and tries to liberate the town that the penguins have most recently taken over, Albatropolis. The story really does matter much in the grand scheme of things, and it didn’t get in the way much.

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The amount of content is kind of disappointing as well, as the game is really short. There are 15 missions, lasting at most about 20 minutes each. That turns out to be about 5 hours, which feels a bit short. There are 3 signs, or collectibles, in each mission, for a total of 45 signs in the game. Other than that, the only things that will keep you playing are the Co-op campaign, and that lovely platinum trophy.

Speaking of the trophies, they are mostly pretty easy. There are trophies for collectibles, doing specific things in the levels, and that one trophy that prevents you from a platinum trophy. You have to complete the Co-op campaign. That shouldn’t be very hard, except you can only play online via invite only.

As far as sound design goes, the voice-overs are not great, but few and far between. But a real plus is the music, which is pretty great. The music is done by New World Republic, and pairs up really nicely with the gameplay. It was a sort of rock-techno band, and their stuff in the game is great. Especially at the end of the game is when the music starts to kick in, and I was rockin’ out on my little Vita earbuds.

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Rocketbirds Hardboiled Chicken is a mediocre platformer, with a few too many flaws. A confusing story that doesn’t really matter, bland puzzles, not so great combat, and a lack of replay value. There are some positives, however; some decent platforming, a good soundtrack and a pretty art style. For ten bucks, you could do a lot worse, but there are plenty of better times to be had on the Vita.

PG5_10