enfrdeitptrues

Action

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Boom Box Blue!
    Developed by: VaragtP
    Published by: VaragtP
    Release date: December 11, 2017
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Action
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $0.99

    Thank you VaragtP for sending us this game to review!

    In Boom Box Blue! your goal is to collect as many stars, bombs, and power-ups as you can without touching the enemy blocks falling from the sky. In order to prevent the blocks from taking over the game area, you’ll have to drop bombs on them. The enemy blocks come in all different shapes and sizes, but they all blow up the same.

    As you collect stars and upgrade your character, you can spend upgrade points on increasing your health points, bomb blast radius, number of bombs to carry and the rate of dropping stars. Maxing out the health points and bomb carrying capacity helps you last longer in the game. Falling hamburgers can replenish a health point, but will cause your character to grow, and as it gets bigger, it will be harder to avoid enemy contact. You can counteract the growth side effect if you vomit out the hamburger within seconds of swallowing it. Conversely, mushrooms will cause your character to shrink slightly. Thankfully, the smaller state does not impact the number of bombs you can carry. The last power-up is an hourglass which slows down time temporarily.

    Boom Box Blue!
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun and simple gameplay; less than a dollar; can unlock all of the achievements in an hour
    Weak Points: Can only exit the game from one area; no controller support
    Moral Warnings: Blocks get blown up and hamburgers get thrown up

    To keep the gameplay interesting several random effects will trigger. For example, the night mode will significantly reduce visibility. When the wind blows, the enemy blocks will get whisked from one side of the screen to the other. Dodging them becomes trickier as they travel outside of their normal falling patterns. The last random limitation I noticed was a reduction in the food items dropped. Outside of that effect, the drop rate for all items is pretty ample.

    The gameplay is relatively simple, but fun. It doesn’t take long to max out the levels of the blue box you control and I managed to unlock all thirty-five Steam achievements in an hour. If you’re looking for a cheap and easy game to unlock Steam achievements in, Boom Box Blue! has you covered.

    Boom Box Blue!
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 72%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 95%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    Graphically, this title is rather simple and it did not fully utilize my widescreen display. I assumed that this game was a mobile port, but I couldn't find it on the mobile market place anywhere. The interface isn’t hard to use, but you can only exit the game from the main menu. If you go into the upgrades section, you can only replay the level and cannot go back to the main menu to exit the game.

    The sound effects are cute and get the job done. The background music is decent but there is only one song. More variety would have been nice here. Adding more background music would have increased the game’s meager 10MB install size though.

    In the end Boom Box Blue! is a simple game that is fun, but can be maxed out in an hour’s time. The asking price is a reasonable ninety-nine cents so I can’t complain too much there. It’s now one of my eight perfect Steam games so that’s a nice boost to my profile too.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Bossgard
    Developed by: Sand Sailor Studio
    Published by: Sand Sailor Studio
    Release date: April 18, 2019
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Action
    Number of players: Up to six
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $12.99

    Thank you Sand Sailor Studio for sending us this game to review!

    Bossgard is the second game made by the small indie group based in Romania, Sand Sailor Studio. I haven’t played their first game, Black The Fall, but it has mostly positive reviews on Steam. Bossgard is currently in Early Access and may be tweaked a bit before fully releasing. In its current state, the (player-controlled) bosses are way over-powered in my opinion.

    If you ever wanted to play as an intimidating boss in a video game, then Bossgard is for you! Not only can the boss regenerate health, summon shields, go berserk, and activate traps, they also have a second stage! How cool is that? Each of the abilities have a cooldown phase, so you can’t spam them. With that said, the bosses are super powerful and hard to take down... even with five Vikings hacking away at them.

    The bosses have different looks, attacks, and movement patterns. The plunger boss can only hop around while the cube one flops in a player-specified direction. The Vikings are clued in on which direction the boss will move or attack next, but they may not have enough time to dodge it. Some Vikings are more agile than others. The stronger Vikings can also take more hits than the dainty ones that attack from a distance.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Local and online play; you can play as the boss; funny humor; lots of variety
    Weak Points: Not many games to join online; bosses are over-powered
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; references to Norse gods

    There are several Viking characters to choose from and they each have a pre-determined weapon equipped. The special attack/ability can be customized before battle. Some of the abilities include resurrection, powerful attacks, summoning shields/creatures/turrets, and slowing down or poisoning the boss. It’s good to have a well-rounded team with melee fighters and archers chipping away at the boss from a distance.

    As the Vikings attack the boss, they will charge their power enabling them to activate their abilities. The boss gets two full health bars if you factor in both of their stages while the Vikings share a pool of ten lives. Once all of the boss’ health or Viking lives are depleted, the battle ends. The players are then rated on their performance and given nods for who took and dealt the most damage, who dodged the most, who did the least damage, and who died the most. The players will then be given some favor by various Norse gods. By accumulating enough favor you can unlock some customizations for your character. Currently, the equipment is only for looks, but ability changing options may come at a later date.

    Bossgard is fairly clean, but does have some violence which is to be expected for a game revolving around boss battles. The references to Norse gods is not a surprise either given that there are Vikings in this game.

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 88%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The levels are colorful and unique. Each of them has a different theme with traps that the Vikings will have to try and avoid. A furnace-themed level has flames that shoot out of the vents, while an island level has sharks swimming around it. If there are no traps, the boss may have the ability to summon allies to assist them.

    Each of the characters--bosses included-- have some decent voice acting. The electronic background music adds to the battle intensity. The weapons and sound effects are fitting too.

    Bossgard is best enjoyed with friends and can be played locally or online. Unfortunately, there isn’t much of an online presence at the moment, so I’d recommend holding off if you’re looking for online matches. Single-player battles are possible, but I’ve only had luck beating the boss with the Vikings set to the highest AI level. The bosses are much too powerful, especially with their health regeneration abilities.

    Hopefully, during Early Access Bossgard gets more balanced and cultivates an online community. The price is reasonable and is worth considering if you don’t mind playing solo or locally until more online matches become available.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Caromble!
    Developed By: Crimson Owl Studios
    Published By: Crimson Owl Studios
    Released: August 27th, 2015
    Available On: Microsoft Windows
    Genre: Action, Strategy
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: Single player with leaderboards
    MSRP: $12.99

    Thank you Crimson Owl Studios for sending us this game to preview!

    Caromble! is a brick breaking game inspired by classic titles such as Breakout and Arkanoid. You control a flat, horizontal paddle and bounce a metal ball around the playfield, breaking bricks, causing explosions, and transforming the map. The game takes place in an industrial, apocalyptic setting where you battle the forces of chaos.

    I think it's important to frame this game in the context of its creators. Crimson Owl Studios is a group of five guys who work on Caromble! once a week, on Fridays, in a living room. The game has been in development for over six years and is now in Early Access on Steam. I must admit that I have a bias against Early Access games, due to the tiny percentage of them that turn into fully released titles. With that being said, Caromble! looks promising and development continues to this day. At the time of writing this review there is a fresh update from the developers posted last week. The developers seem determined to continue working on the title to completion, however development is slow.

    I really like the art-style they chose for the game. The smooth, but low-poly graphics work because the textures have this painted-on feeling. They really nail the post apocalyptic industrial setting they were going for. The powerups are brightly colored, stand out from the stage, and easy to differentiate between good and bad.The explosions and other effects are nice, but sometimes when there's a lot of visual effects on the screen there's a noticeable slowdown.

    Caromble!
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Art design, challenging gameplay
    Weak Points: Level progression, reward system
    Moral Warnings:None

    The most striking part about the sound work is the intro. There's a very loud "This...is...Caromble!" at the start, but it sounds like the "a" is silent and sounds like "Cromble." The soundtrack is a mixture of pounding industrial rock beats and more low key electronica tracks. It's all mixed well and fits the game. The sound effects are adequate, but they seem low-fi and aren't synced well with the in-game events. The sound effects are definitely lacking a few layers of polish.

    Despite the fancy stages and item physics, the core gameplay is the same as the classic games that inspired it: you control a horizontal paddle and bounce a ball around the stage and break blocks, taking special care not to the let the ball fall. In this game the "bricks" have been replaced by crates, boxes, and explosive barrels. After breaking a certain number of "bricks" a portal opens up and takes the ball to the next section. After completing three sections a boss, of sorts, spawns and you have it to hit five or six times to win and move on to the next level.

    Caromble!
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score -70%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 96%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content -10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Progression in this game is extremely rigid and frustrating. There are three or four sections per level and four levels in a chapter. You have to defeat each section in order to advance to the next one and eventually defeat the boss before you can advance to the next level. When you start a level you have 2 extra balls and you may or may not find extra ones since extra balls are a random powerup. The developers have added a "mercy" mechanic where if you die, you can choose "mercy" and you'll be given another ball, but your score won't be placed on the global leaderboards. For what it's worth, there are four chapters available in the game currently and I was the 7th person ever to complete the 2nd chapter. This rigid linearity is extremely frustrating and I wish they would convert to some kind of star system where future levels could be unlocked based on achievements you accrue in each stage. The example I laid out has been the norm in a number of free-to-play mobile games, so there's no reason why this game has to be so frustrating to advance through. Even the extra skill challenges are unlocked by advancing through story mode, so if you're stuck on level, you're basically stuck in the whole game.

    Caromble! supports a surprising number of control schemes. You can use keyboard, your mouse, or a controller. I tried each of these and keyboard was initially the most responsive control scheme. For some reason, the default sensitivity for the controller and mouse are set at 35% and 40% respectively. These settings make both controls schemes sub-optimal at best. Once I cranked both of these up to 90% the controller felt as good as the keyboard and the mouse became my preferred option.

    Caromble! is a small, fun game that doesn't try to do too much. It's good at what it does and my major complaints can be ironed out while the game is in Early Access. There aren't really any moral issues in the game. Caromble! doesn't have any kind of narrative, only that some big red force of chaos has come and you have to defeat them by playing Breakout. You could say that since the boss is identified as a being of chaos, defeating it is a noble endeavor, but that feels like a stretch. As I said, it's a small and limited but fun game with some problems. It's priced at $12.99, which honestly I think is too high given the existing content and the snail's pace new content is added but perhaps that may be worth the investment due to there not being many new games like this being made.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Clustertruck
    Developed by: Landfall Games
    Published by: tinyBuild
    Released: September 27, 2016
    Available on: Windows, Mac OS X, SteamOS
    Genre: Action, Platformer
    Number of players: 1 
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you, tinyBuild, for sending us a copy of this game to review!

    Clustertruck is the name of a food delivery company located in Indianapolis. It also is the name of a video game from Landfall Games and tinyBuild. Somehow, I suspect this is not coincidence. 

    In the game, your job is to jump from truck to truck until you finally reach the goal. But what are the trucks carrying? Why is their driving so bad? And why are you racing along the tops, sides and bottoms of these vehicles in order to reach the goal? Maybe you're delivering food....

    But whatever the reason, this bizarre take on the sport of parkour is entertaining... for the first few levels. Then the game takes a severe difficulty spike, and becomes more frustrating than fun. 

    Clustertruck
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Difficult, challenging platformer; amusing concept; short levels
    Weak Points: Steep difficulty curve; lots of luck required in order to win
    Moral Warnings: Trucks run into each other; some Hell-themed levels

    The game is presented from a first-person perspective and consists of running along loaded semi trucks. You can jump from truck to truck as well, and in some instances off portions of the scenery. But if you touch the ground, or some areas that are considered to be taboo, you fail the level and have to start over from the beginning. Fortunately, each level is pretty short and can be completed in around a minute or less. That is, if you're lucky.

    Although the levels are the same, and the trucks always start in the same locations, this isn't a game of simple pattern memorization. The trucks will drive into each other and jockey for some sort of position or pecking order, and this changes at random every time you start the level. Just because a certain dash or jump worked one time doesn't mean it will the next. As a result, the game requires a lot of quick thinking, and quicker reflexes.

    Unfortunately, due to its nature, it also requires a significant amount of luck. There were many, many times I ended up failing a level simply because a truck I expected to be under me suddenly veered a different way. Or just wasn't there at all. Sometimes – especially after a particularly high jump – you just need to hope that there will be a truck between you and the ground when you land. Most of the time there won't be, and after hitting the ground inches from the goal line 20 times, you'll probably grow tired of the repetition. 

    Clustertruck
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 60%
    Gameplay - 8/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 86%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The game can be controlled by the keyboard or a game controller. However, I found that I got more precision from using the keyboard. For some odd reason, the controller gave my unseen character a bizarre, floaty quality that ended up making the game even more difficult. This wasn't particularly enjoyable, and the frustration made me want to quit the game more that persevere through to the end. 

    The sound effects consist mainly of trucks honking and crashing into each other. Some other effects can be heard, depending on the theme of the level. The soundtrack consists of a bland rock theme that was quickly forgettable. The graphics were mediocre as well, with everything consisting of polygonal graphics, and not terribly impressive. It's simple enough to tell what's going on, but not terribly eye-catching.

    To its credit, there aren't too many things to worry about on the moral front. There are collisions between trucks, and apparently a Hell-themed region (which I didn't advance far enough into the game to discover). Sometimes trucks explode as well, but I just saw that from the trailers for the game. I didn't venture far enough to see that happen. I had enough of bouncing along trucks. Wait, scratch that – I had enough of falling off trucks and hitting the ground before I got to that point.

    So in a nutshell, I didn't really enjoy my time with Clustertruck. Some might enjoy it, but I didn't. I'd rather try to enjoy the food from Clustertruck in Indianapolis. Their menu is huge! If anyone reading this has ordered from them, you'll have to tell me what they think.

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    CMYW
    Developed by: Shane Berezowski 
    Published by: Black Shell Media
    Release date: October 16, 2015
    Available on: Windows 
    Genre: Shooter
    Number of Players: Up to four
    ESRB Rating: not rated
    Price: $3.99

    Thank you Black Shell Media for sending us this game to review!

    The original Asteroids game was released in 1979 by Atari and it was available on the 2600 as well as a standalone arcade game.  CMYW has a similar look and feel with a simple spaceship in the shape of a triangle.  With the lack of detail, it’s hard to distinguish which side of the ship is forward until you fire at the incoming asteroids.  

    There are two different game modes and both of them involve destroying asteroids heading your way.  In the cooperative mode you have to protect your own ship and the base.   If your ship gets destroyed, you have a limited amount of time before your astronaut runs out of oxygen to make it back to the base to get a replacement ship.  Up to four players can work together in blowing away asteroids, but only one can get a replacement ship at a time.  Since there’s a slight delay in getting a new ship the chances of surviving while waiting are slim.  

    Sometimes asteroids leave behind minerals or power-ups after being obliterated.  Your ship has a limited number of inventory slots so it can only carry five mineral ores at a time.  Be sure to return the ores to the base to free up more space.  The power-ups include enhanced shields, multi-shot bullets, an axe attack, and homing missiles (my favorite!).  

    CMYW
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Adding multiplayer breathes new life into a classic game!
    Weak Points:  The triangle shaped ship makes it hard to distinguish which way it’s facing; no online multiplayer
    Moral Warnings: Spaceship violence

    The longer the game lasts, the harder it gets.  The asteroids vary in size and speed, and there are other projectiles to worry about as well.  In order to keep your base safe, you cannot stray too far from it.  The concept is simple, but this game is quite challenging.  After you die you’ll see your score and vow to do better next time.

    The controls are easy, but take a little getting used to.  To accelerate your ship simply press the A button and you can use the joystick or Dpad to adjust the direction.  Firing is done by pressing the X button.  My son and I grasped the old school controls just fine, but my daughter got frustrated with them.    

    CMYW
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 72%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 4/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 94%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

     

    While CMYW is fun to play by yourself, it’s more fun with more people (provided they’re not whining about the control scheme).   In the co-operative mode the final score is broken down by contributed most to it.  The competitive mode requires more than one player (logically) to enjoy.

    If you’d rather shoot your friends out of the sky, the competitive game mode is what you’re looking for.  In this mode all of the ships are deployed in the center of the screen with an asteroid strapped to them.  Whoever survives the longest wins.  Death can be caused by having your asteroid destroyed or by running into another object or player.  

    Even though you can die and kill others in this game, it’s still pretty family friendly and safe for people of all ages to enjoy.  I look forward to enjoying more gaming sessions with my son.  The price is a reasonable $3.99 and is worth picking up if you have friends nearby who appreciate nostalgic games.  

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Conan Exiles
    Developer:Funcom
    Published by: Funcom
    Release Date: Jan 30, 2017
    Available on: Windows, Xbox One, Playstation 4
    Genre: Action, Survival
    Players: 1-100
    ESRB Rating: Unrated (will change when ESRB decides rating.)
    Price: $29.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Funcom for sending us a review code for this game!

    Early Access, survival, open world: these are scary warning flags for PC gamers these days. Games like Rust, DayZ, and Ark: Survival Evolved will be under extreme scrutiny the day the Early Access tag goes away. I can't blame the developers of these games. Ambitious games will take a long time to complete by even the most skilled game developers. Yet when a game is released it should be judged no matter how brutally. So let's look at brutal barbarism with Conan Exiles.

    Conan Exiles takes place in the Conan The Barbarian universe. You are sentenced to exile for a randomly generated set of crimes. Mine were debauchery, cheating at dice and breaking the fourth wall. You can choose gender and physical features you want to your hearts content. You also choose a religion to start with. Once you do, you're untied from your prison and you're tasked with surviving. You have no help, no friends, and everyone, creatures and fellow exiles, will try to kill you.

    The gameplay is the most important part of any survival game. The combat and movement feels right for a game where you play as a barbarian yet right now it's very basic. You swing whatever is in your hand with the left or right mouse buttons. Mouse movement controls the camera and WASD controls movement. While it is challenging, pushing yourself for survival is a strong part of Conan. It was quite satisfying when I finally had a base built. 

    Conan Exiles
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A quality survival game with the world working against you. It simulates natural survival instincts well.
    Weak Points: Aside from Early Access frustrations, soundtrack is boring and there is not enough done to push a unique aspect of the game yet.
    Moral Warnings: Idol worship, butchery and nudity is abound in this game. Don't expect to do a pacifist run anytime soon. Enslavement is encouraged to become a bigger threat in the world. The world itself encourages you to revel in the brutality of everything.

     

    Every survival game has its unique features. In Conan you can enslave NPCs called thralls to serve you. By torturing them on a wheel of pain, they will benefit you in various ways from blacksmithing to combat. By sacrificing enemies to a god, you can unlock special recipes from that faction. You'll eventually be able to summon avatars, destructive creatures of your chosen religion. They will unleash destruction against enemies in their way. 

    With these types of games you'll want to keep certain things in mind. Conan Exiles is not a game you can pick up and play for a few hours. Consider these games a more intense Minecraft. If it's not other players, Early Access server wipes will eventually wipe out your hoards of treasures. Despite the thrall or avatar mechanics, Conan doesn't have a lot of that early game "wow" that other survival games have. The main appeal here will be the Conan world. Fans will more than likely pick up this game compared to non fans. That isn't a problem though; if the devs can keep a confident community going then they should have a quality survival gem on their hands. The mod support the devs give also adds a lot of variation to your experiences. 

    The soundtrack to the game doesn't add much yet. The game music has intense drumbeats during battle, yet I found I would rather listen to my own music than the game's. 

    Conan Exiles
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 72%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 24%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 2/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 0/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 0/10

    With any Early Access titles expect a lot of bugs. One bug I was able to recreate is seeing menu selection highlights burned into the screen when the menu is completely off of my screen. I also experience random frame drops. Remember, with Early Access games you can be in for the long haul.

    Multiplayer will be more of the same with the added bonus of players acting as either friend or foe. You might find populated servers with hundreds of grand structures. You might find a few people hiding in the trees. Yet they will either help you, or rob you for your meat and items. The AI is competent enough for a great challenge. So consider starting your journey in a single player server first.

    Sacrifices to idols, bloody murder, and genital customization are in this game. The characters can appear nude, yet there is a option to shut it off. With any game where survival is a focus, the world will force you to do what you must to survive. You can even eat and cook human flesh. This game is designed to appeal to the most brutal of tastes. You can turn the nudity off completely or partially if you so choose. The violence comes from the gory effects alone, the combat isn't the most detailed. The genital or chest expansion seem to be just aesthethic and it wont effect the game world in any way. Its the world and context that adds to the brutality. With everyone fighting first and asking questions never, you get the feeling of that brutality. Also remember you can build a torture wheel to torture npcs to fight along side you. 

    The world can appear cruel, yet with a barbaric determination you can survive in Conan Exiles.

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Cooking Witch
    Developed by: VaragtP
    Published by: VaragtP
    Release date: May 18, 2017
    Available on: Windows
    Number of players: Single-player
    Genre: Action
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $1.99

    Thank you VaragtP for sending us this game to review!

    Cooking Witch is a simple and casual game where your goal is to capture and cook children by throwing them into your giant cauldron. As gruesome as this sounds, the game is rather silly in its presentation and thankfully, it’s not that gory. Your ultimate goal is to collect as much meat as possible which can be spent on various upgrades to your witch’s stats, broom, hook, and cauldron.

    The children are broken down into colors and each one yields different rewards. Besides meat, all of the children will give you some stars, which are used to extend the time in the level. Children dressed in green provide the most amount of stars while the chunkier yellow ones give you a lot of meat. The heavier kids will drain more stamina and will take more effort to bring to the cauldron safely. Children dressed in red will give you a heart, which replenishes some of the witch’s health.

    At the beginning of the level, you’re given some simple objectives like cooking a certain quality or color of children. At the end of a level, you’ll be awarded up to three stars depending on how many objectives you have completed. As you collect stars, you’ll unlock upgrade paths for your broom, cauldron, and fishing hook.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Inexpensive and silly game that is fun to play in short spurts; cloud saves
    Weak Points: Only one level; cannot pause or tab out of the game
    Moral Warnings: You’re a witch who abducts children and eats them

    As you can imagine, the fathers are not too happy about you eating their children. After a couple of the kids are tossed into your cauldron, the dads will come out with their rifles. If you drop a child on top of their head they’ll get knocked out and you can throw them into your cauldron too! Some of the mission objectives involve knocking out or cooking a specified number of fathers.

    If your aim is off while dropping a child into the cauldron or on top of a pesky dad, chances are they will not survive the fall. You can still grab their body and toss it into the cauldron to get the meat and stars you desire. In case you are wondering, yes, there are objectives and Steam achievements for intentionally splatting children on the ground.

    As I mentioned earlier, there is no blood or gore as this game is as silly as it is wrong. The children are all wearing pumpkins on their head so you cannot see their expressions alive or dead. The graphics aren’t incredibly detailed either. Once picked up, the kids cry like infants so they seem to know that they’re doomed.

    Cooking Witch
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 68%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 69%
    Violence - 4/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 3.5/10

    While I’m not sure what kind of music goes well with cooking children, I don’t think public domain classical music is the most fitting. Despite the lackluster visuals and audio, I can’t complain about the meager asking price of $1.99.

    Besides the objectionable premise, my only other complaints are with the game’s interface. You cannot pause the game or alt-tab out of it without losing the mouse cursor. The graphics quality is adjustable, but not the sound levels. When it comes to the music and sound effects they can only be turned on or off.

    When all is said and done, this is a simple title that is goofy and fun to play in short spurts. If you’re looking for a game to entertain you for hours on end, then you’ll want to continue your search. This game is light on your wallet, but definitely doesn’t promote good values whatsoever.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Cornerstone: The Song of Tyrim
    Developed By: Overflow
    Published By: Phoenix Online Publishing
    Released: April 26, 2016
    Available On: Linux, macOS, Windows
    Genre: Action-Adventure
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: $19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thanks to Phoenix Online Publishing for the review key!

    When the subject of Vikings comes up, certain things spring to mind: longships, axes, ale, looting and pillaging might be among the first thoughts. Not all Vikings are created equal, however; some prefer to stay on solid ground, taking less to aggression and more to craftsmanship. As Cornerstone: The Song of Tyrim illustrates, the only real difference between a warrior and a homebody Viking is the time it takes for them to set out to beat you up.

    Cornerstone puts you in the shoes of Tyrim, a young Viking boy who prefers to skip out on combat and sailing to stay home and build things. When the men of his village, including his father, leave and don’t return for a week, the nagging worry and diminishing supplies finally prompts him to action. With a proficiency for crafting and a decent sword arm, Tyrim sets out onto the high seas for the first time to find the missing men.

    Since you play as a young boy setting out from a brightly-colored island for the first time in a 3D action adventure with puzzle elements, the obvious comparison is to the Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Indeed, Cornerstone does take a step in that direction, though it’s noticeably rougher around the edges. You maneuver Tyrim around his environment, building weapons, armor, and other helpful tools as needed to solve mainly physics-based puzzles and fend off fiends in your way. The adventure takes place on eight different islands separated by a vast sea – though Cornerstone’s ocean has very little of interest compared to Wind Waker’s. There are some nice touches – Ships and ship debris will appear, whales will come up for air and birds will dive down for fish – but there’s no reason to stop and get out anywhere but the main islands.

    Cornerstone: The Song of Tyrim
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Consistently competent gameplay; good music and atmosphere
    Weak Points: Long loading screens; somewhat buggy and unstable
    Moral Warnings: Violence and magic use; undead enemies; alcohol use; mild language (d*mn, God’s name in vain)

    What sets Cornerstone apart, however, are its crafting feature and its physics engine. Tyrim carries with him wood, stone, wool, and fuel, and uses them to create anything from boxes to swords to mines to jet boots. Everything he creates has a varying amount of durability, tying your adventuring ability to your resources and vice-versa. You’ll find treasure chests with bigger material bags and better crafts as you explore. The physics engine is well-programmed and consistent, and the world is designed to let you use and abuse it to creatively complete or simply bypass puzzles with little ill effects other than potentially skipping huge swaths of the plot.

    The combat isn’t anything to write home about: you swing your weapon, you block attacks with your shield, and you can throw things at your enemies to damage them. The last option is usually the best, since throwable objects are often in large supply, have no chance of breaking, and don’t use Tyrim’s stamina bar – this drains quickly upon attacking or blocking but refills just as fast, and doesn’t add much to the game other than making sure you can’t stunlock your enemies. Some more powerful foes have secondary attacks that can circumvent your shield, such as bombs or magic, which helps keep you on your toes somewhat; these attacks can also knock Tyrim down, forcing him to drop his gear and potentially leave you defenseless. There’s also a rudimentary stealth aspect to the game, mostly limited to crouch-walking around enemies who will either fail to see you when you’re right in front of them or spot you across the map; it can be useful in some situations, but can also be freely ignored. For the record, there is a familiar-looking jump attack Tyrim can perform, but it doesn’t appear to do double damage.

    The real draw of Cornerstone, then, is in the exploration. The islands are varied and vast, with crafting resources and treasures tucked away all over. The dungeons and their equivalents are suitably mazelike and danger-filled, and while not every puzzle is a winner, there are some gems among them and most all of them are enjoyable to complete. The decent world-building helps out here as well, with each island having its own backstory and tribulations. While the dialogue is hit-or-miss, with its comedic tone usually falling flat and too reliant on breaking the fourth wall, the characters are varied and vaguely memorable, and the interesting settings will likely see you take interest on how the problems are resolved.

    Cornerstone’s presentation adds greatly to the game’s exploration focus. The graphics don’t make a great first impression: the title screen consists of plain black font on white squares attached to a brown signboard set among some less-than-impressive scenery. The character models aren’t anything fantastic either, though certainly not offensive. What rescues the graphical missteps, however, is the art style. Each island holds its own theme – desert, mine, library, etc. – and the lighting and texturing more than enough to make up for the lack of polygons. The atmosphere on each island fits its setting perfectly, from Tyrim’s cheery home to the stormy cliffs to the dystopian China analogue. The music greatly helps in this endeavor as well: not only does it enhance the intended mood of each location, it’s surprisingly good in its own right. The sound effects are less impressive, but they convey what they need to clearly and accurately, so there are few complaints to be had there.

    Cornerstone: The Song of Tyrim
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 84%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 9/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The game’s main failing is in its stability. It takes a fair bit of time to move from the title screen to the main menu, and loading the actual game from there can take nearly twenty seconds. Once it loads, however, you’re in the clear outside of a few inter-island transitions that are usually much snappier. Sailing from one island to another will result in the game freezing for five to ten seconds as it loads up the new setting, including rather suddenly despawning anything on the screen that isn’t Tyrim, his boat, and the water. There were also severe and long-lasting framerate drops on occasion, but it only happened two or three times. Finally and most egregiously, the game hard-locked upon finishing the China-themed island, forcing the use of the task manager to manually close the process. For what it’s worth, however, the game and its physics engine run quite well most of the time, with only a few instances of an object phasing through the floor or the wall – even if one of those objects was Tyrim at one point.

    Cornerstone is a bit of a mixed bag, morally speaking. Violence is a given, and enemy bodies stick around after death but don’t bleed in any way. Skeletons are your most common enemy, with ghosts appearing later on as well. Tyrim can’t use any magic, but a group of earth magic-wielding cultists are among the main antagonists. Blue crystals that seem to absorb and extend life are a main part of the story, though even with the cult’s involvement it’s painted as more scientific than occult. As with any Viking society worth its salt, alcohol is prevalent, though Tyrim and the other minors never use it themselves. Lastly, some mild language is present, including one or two instances of using God’s name in vain – despite Tyrim mentioning “the gods” at one point. The overall cartoony veneer helps to temper the moral issues, but they remain nonetheless.

    It might be accurate to call Cornerstone: The Song of Tyrim a budget Zelda game, but to do so would do it a disservice. While somewhat repetitive and unpolished, the serviceable gameplay and excellent atmosphere warrants attention. The $19.99 price tag could be a tad steep to some, but it’s certainly worth a look come sale time.

    -Cadogan

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Cosmic Cavern 3671
    Game Title: Cosmic Cavern 3671
    Developed By: Mindware Co.,Ltd.
    Published By: Mindware Co.,Ltd.
    Released: July 14, 2016 (original release: July 1980)
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Arcade, Action, Strategy
    ESRB Rating: none
    Number of Players: Single player and two player
    Price: $4.99

    [This game was reviewed after the September 20, 2016, Ver2.0 update.]

    Thank you Mindware Co.,Ltd. for sending us your game.

    Ahh, the eighties. That good old decade when life was simpler, neighborhoods were safer, and arcade games only swallowed one quarter at a time from your pocket. Granted, I was born in the nineties, so I’m only able to imagine what that era was like. Still, regardless whether you lived back then or not, those years left strong impressions that echo today. Respected classics like Tetris, Centipede, Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong survived time and avoided obscurity thanks to their makers. Developers had no crisp graphics or grand musical scores to fall back on. They had to succeed by inventive gameplay and gameplay alone. Cosmic Cavern made its debut alongside these classics in 1980. It might not be nearly as famous as the others, but that does not mean it couldn’t be a forgotten gem in its own right. To make its return more special, respected talents such as artist Hiroshi “Mr. Dotman” Ono and composer Yuzo Koshiro worked to recapture the original experience’s magic with a little extra polish on the side.

    Cosmic Cavern 3671 is as classic as arcade games come. The music, the art style; it’s a nostalgia fest. Upon startup, the game flashes a quick control schematic before displaying the main menu, and true to fashion, a demo will play if the game is left to itself. You can choose between single player mode or two player mode. As expected by eighties’ standards, success is tied to scores. Rack up the points for as long as you can survive. Now, if you wanted me to explain the game’s story, I’d be as stumped as you, but arcade games never needed solid setups to begin with anyway. However, what I did theorize is that you’re this space digger guy who is protecting his home base from little alien creatures. Well, I assume they’re aliens, anyway. I mean, when some creatures are either pink, Muppet-like blobs or walking goofy goggles, what would you think they were?

    Cosmic Cavern 3671
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Solid Gameplay, Great Visual Options
    Weak Points: Inconvenient Controls, Unexplained Multiplayer
    Moral Warnings: None

    Your controls are few and direct. The arrow keys move you around. ‘Z’ will plant a defensive mine to your left. ‘X’ will plant one to your right. You dig automatically just by running over the yellow dirt blocks, but you can also walk about without digging by holding ‘Shift’. If your enemies are running too sluggishly for you or you’re waiting for a specific moment, the ‘C’ key will fast forward gameplay for as long as it’s pressed. Now, this type of control scheme is all well and good. It hearkens to simplistic 80’s styled gaming, so there’s not much ‘bad’ to rant about. However, I would have liked ‘Z’ and ‘X’ to be further apart. Those keys were so close together and acted so similarly that I kept messing up my mine placement. It cost me my life a few times, but there is an even bigger crime in the control schemes. There are no button guides for multiplayer play. I’m serious. I searched high and low, in-game and out, but I could not get instructions on how to control player two. So much for monster fighting with my sisters.

    Digging up dirt will grant you points. More upturned soil means a higher score, but digging pits willy-nilly limits your ultimate score in the long run. At a certain phase, you get to paint outlines around the dirt blocks you left behind. Once you outline a section of dirt, it will change color, becoming worth double the points. Keep that in mind, especially when you dig your first tunnels. The second way to gain points is to farm your enemies. However, touching active enemies is an instant ‘Game Over’. Same goes for letting them reach your base (another reason why you don’t dig paths carelessly). However, if you can get them to fall down pits or stun them with your mines, the little weirdos will be knocked out for a bit. It’s a temporary nap, but if you’re quick; they snooze, they lose. Also you don’t have to worry about using up your mines. If your pockets run out your base has an endless supply ready for you to pick up at any point. What this gameplay does is encourage you to concentrate equally on survival and future gain. Sure you can cut off every path the little creepers have by digging haphazardly, but then you lose potential in your final score for the later phases. It gets you to form strategic patterns that’ll trip the little suckers up and provide you with points to reap later on.

    Upon first impression, Cosmic Cavern 3671’s gameplay doesn’t sound all that complicated. It sounds like you only need to trap the monsters then do whatever you want. Easy. However, this game has its ways of assisting or ruining your plans. There are two hidden items in the soil: a heart and a diamond. Both can be activated at any point after they’re found. The diamond doubles your current score, so you wouldn’t want to use that right away. However, the heart is trickier because it re-fills already dug up dirt at random. This could disrupt your booby traps, or it could block off paths that left your base exposed. Either way, the heart is a safeguard at best or a minor inconvenience at worst. The only actual upheaval is whenever the monsters decide to go nuts. Once in a while, the enemies will be rage-stomping furious. Their populace then booms. They’ll run twice as fast and can break through solid soil. It’s intimidating to be sure, but if you play your strategies right it’s possible to survive and rack your score even higher. It just can catch you off guard if you’re not thinking about it.

    Cosmic Cavern 3671
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 98%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    For presentation, Cosmic Cavern 3671 obviously won’t measure up to modern standards of realism, but that would be horrendously unfair to judge visuals based solely on that. So how does this reboot stack up? Quite well. Its details aren’t quite as memorable as Donkey Kong’s, but it’s far more colorful. The newer creature designs are oddly cute and distinct. Plus, the painting mechanic adds extra vibrancy, but if that weren’t enough, the people who restored this game rolled out the red carpet. They allow gamers the option to play the game in its original format, both in traditional black and white or in color. That, I must say, was a very nice treat. I imagine anyone who grew up with this game would be very pleased. One complaint I do have, though, involves the sound effects. They were just obnoxiously loud. Even with both my speakers and headphones volumes set to low, I got startled out of my seat on multiple occasions whenever I started the game. I’m not a fan of cheap shot jump-scares, Mindware. I’d appreciate not having those, thank you very much. However, I do once more applaud those digital artists. They rose above the call of duty to give Cosmic Cavern 3671 both a creative makeover and historical respect.

    Only someone who’s really anti-videogame will have a moral qualm with Cosmic Cavern 3671. Enemies you ‘kill’ (if you can even call it that) just ‘boop’ out of existence like cherries in Pac-Man. If you die in the game’s default mode, a ‘Game Over’ screen flashes then asks if you want to play again. The original format’s death animation is a little different. It used computer symbols and numbers to portray a monster’s mouth, but last I checked, the only time any kid was afraid of numbers was on math exams. Beyond that, there are no other extra features to corrupt in Cosmic Cavern 3671. That’s something worth smiling about indeed.

    In this culture of up-to-date attitudes and rampant revamps, this re-release of Cosmic Cavern 3671 is a heartwarming testament of the tried and true. That being said, I know that eighties games aren’t something some audiences stampede for. Goes to show how spoiled we’ve become by these cutting edge visuals, cinematic spectacles, and more data content than we’d ever need. I’ll even admit that Cosmic Cavern 3671 doesn’t personally thrill me, but I’d be an ignorant fool to deny that it was games like these that first shaped the innovative industry we enjoy today. Actually, this “simple” game’s gameplay is anything but. It’s concept is easy to grasp, but to play it well is deceptively tricky - even if the multiplayer feature eluded me completely. Single player fans of the eighties, straightforward challenges, or historical gems will love this unearthed piece. The developers knew Cosmic Cavern 3671 didn’t need to have the latest and greatest bells and whistles to be good. It already was good.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Danger Zone
    Developed By: Three Fields Entertainment
    Published By: Three Fields Entertainment
    Released: May 30, 2017
    Available On: Steam (Windows 7, Windows 10), PS4 (Playstation Store)
    Genre: Action
    ESRB Rating: E10 for Everyone 10 and up. Mild Violence
    Number of Players: 1 player offline
    Price: $12.99

    “Revvin’ up your engine, listen to her howlin’ roar!” Danger Zone is the latest video game release from Three Fields Entertainment Limited. Three Fields is a British development studio, founded by Alex Ward, Fiona Sperry, and Paul Raul in 2014. The former two founders also previously founded Criterion Games, who developed games like the well-known Burnout series, and the latter founder worked with them during their time at Criterion Games. The studio made two other games, Dangerous Golf and Lethal VR, which are both destruction-based games, released in 2016. The previous two games were stepping stones for creating a spiritual successor to Burnout’s crash mode. Danger Zone is meant to achieve that vision.

    Danger Zone, contrary to the name, is not a Kenny Loggins simulator (as much as I wish it was). It is actually a crash test simulator where the whole goal of the game is to take your crash test vehicle and cause as much destruction and explosions as possible. There is not much else to say about that. There is no back story as to why you are tasked with this job, it just happens. In the beginning your vehicle starts off in an enclosed area, where the objective is to drive into incoming traffic to cause as much damage as possible. You obtain points for every car crashed, destroyed, or driven off the edge. There are tokens on the stage which multiply your score, as well as an ability called the “Smashbreaker.” Typically, you can only build up a Smashbreaker after a specific number of crashes are obtained, in which then you can force your car to make a huge explosion. Once the car explodes, the vehicle becomes reactive, causing anything that touches you to also explode, giving you a score multiplier. Fans of Burnout are very familiar whit this mechanic. When your vehicle is blown up, you can direct your vehicle in the air, causing it to collect the other tokens or crash into even more vehicles. Make sure not to fall off the field, because even if you crash, if you vehicle falls off, your score is invalidated.

    Danger Zone
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Graphics are well-polished. Crashing into things is very fun.
    Weak Points: Tutorial isn’t as in-depth as it should be. Car variety is non-existent. Scene variety stinks.
    Moral Warnings: Don’t crash cars in real life, kids!

    There are 4 medals for each stage that you can obtain: gold, silver, bronze, and a hidden platinum medal. You must obtain at least a bronze medal to pass onto the next level, or you must replay the level. When you first look at the game, one thinks it's all about crashing. It is about crashing, but it has some puzzle-like elements to it as you have to crash with finesse to cause the highest score possible. It has a fast pace because vehicles come and go, and it doesn’t give you an infinite amount of cars to wait upon. If a vehicle goes and you missed it, that is all you get. This can cause a bit of trial and error with your attempts as you do not have much time to pinpoint where the vehicles go or where the pickups are located. This causes the game to actually be fairly difficult and challenging, especially if you go for the platinum medals. It isn’t too hard for a casual player to never be able to beat, but casual players or players not familiar with Burnout’s crash mode will be playing most levels multiple times before moving on to the next one. I do like the small amount of depth they add into the game, such as obtaining crashes without crashing your vehicle itself, or that rear-ending causes crashes without crashing yourself. It would have been nice if they went over something like that in the tutorial.

    Danger Zone
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 68%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 5/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 98%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The crashes and game itself have an arcade-like feel, which considering what it took inspiration from is a good thing in my opinion. The visuals, while rather nice and crisp, could use more work, specifically on the damage side. All vehicle damage is texture based, so there are no visible dents, it only changes the coloration of the exterior of the vehicle. That means only burn marks, cracked glass, and small scratches are shown unlike other games where the vehicle damage is much more defined. The controls feel a bit slippery at first, but do not take long to get used to. Sadly there is no reverse button or option on the vehicle which can lead to restarting the level. The sound quality is fairly standard and acceptable, but the thing that you’ll notice when you start the game is that there is zero music. They couldn’t have even been bothered with adding a main menu jingle or anything. I think the lack of any form of music hurts the game as it makes it feel empty. Since the whole game takes place in a crash testing facility, the scenery will get old very quickly. Adding to that, the vehicles you crash into are the standard police car, typical sedans, taxis, flatbed and box trucks, and school buses. The only car at your disposal is a standard crash test vehicle. The game really could have used more variety on the player and AI side, such as jeeps, SUVs, light duty trucks, motorcycles and so on. A vehicle enthusiast would not be pleased. The lack of variety harms the game as the samey visuals can be pretty stale. The camera is pretty good, but there should have been a top-down option or the ability to back up the camera so you could see more of the area and what you can knock yourself into.

    In terms of moral warnings, there really is only one, and that is crashing vehicles. But since none of the vehicles contain living beings, it's fairly safe. There are zero uses of language or imagery that people would find objectionable, so that’s a plus in my book. Overall, I’d personally say the game is okay. Crashing vehicles into one another is great, but the game could definitely use more polishing in areas. For a price of $12.99 from a small indie studio, I can’t be too critical. With three test fields, containing in total twenty levels, it’s a nice price range for the amount of content. For standard players, it’ll take you 2-3 hours to simply beat it, but for people who are trying to obtain a max score, it’ll be a longer game for you. In a way, I look at the game as a movie’s worth of entertainment and it gives you exactly that. A simple game with a simple premise makes it easy to get into but for people wanting a bit more meat on their plate, I’d say to skip out on this and possibly wait for a sequel or for someone else to try their luck. For people like me that were thirsty for anything to resemble Burnout, or for people who are borderline obsessed with Burnout’s crash mode, I’d say to give this game a shot. It’ll take you “right into the danger zone.”

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Dangerous Road
    Published By: Starsign
    Developed By: Starsign, SIMS Co.
    Released: November 10, 2016
    Available On: 3DS
    Genre: Action, Puzzle
    ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: $2.99

    Thank you Rainy Frog for sending us a copy of the game to review!

    Frogger is a classic game that many have used as inspiration for their games. Dangerous Road from Starsign appears to be a modern take on the old title.

    There are 50 levels total to be played in Dangerous Road, split between two modes. The first mode is Goal Run and it is made up of 30 levels. The goal is to guide one of four animals to multiple checkpoints before reaching a flag that marks the end of the stage. Each animal has a unique ability that they can use a certain amount of times per stage. Rabby the rabbit has the ability to walk over water, Spring Chicken can leap vertically into the air to avoid vehicles, Pascal the Tanuki can slow down time for a few seconds, and lastly Kumagoro the bear can run extremely fast. These abilities aren't always necessary but are fun to play around with.

    Dangerous Road
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun action-puzzle game for kids; Cute graphics; A nice take on a retro classic.
    Weak Points: Can become stale; More skilled gamers may not see the appeal here; Needs more music; Grammar errors.
    Moral Warnings: Like Frogger before it, animals are shown being struck by vehicles.

    Gameplay feels like an expanded version of Frogger in that you move in a direction one tile at a time as everything around you tries to end your progress. You have 300 seconds to avoid traffic moving at a moderate speed, jump across logs drifting along rivers, and dodge speeding trains. There's always a chance to fail by being careless, but with the generous amount of time given, it's easy to plan out each step the first time you play a level. The environment generally stays the same throughout each of the 50 stages just with different obstacles thrown around. There is also a star that can be collected that will grant invincibility for a short while. Those looking for more of a challenge can attempt to beat each of the levels as fast and in as few steps as possible.

    The second mode that can be played is Survival Run. The goal is to survive in a road with multiple lanes for 60 seconds without being hit by traffic or trains. You simply move around until time runs out. This mode is fairly self-explanatory and is made up of 20 levels, though the gameplay of this mode doesn't really change much. At 30 seconds "Rush Hour" will activate and more vehicles will fill the screen making things tougher. This mode isn't as deep as Goal Run, but it does add some replayability to the overall game.

    Dangerous Road
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 64%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 5/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 98%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The graphics have a style that's reminiscent of early 3D polygonal games. It's charming and does manage to stand out from other 3DS games, though they do still come off as low budget. The music is catchy but you'll hear the same track looped infinitely when playing. The minimalistic approach is almost to be expected from a game at this price, but it definitely could have used more tracks to listen to.

    At the end of the day this is an incredibly sub-par game that is worth the price if you enjoy casual games or just want something to take your mind off of more complicated games. Nothing here will blow you away but what it does, it does well. Survival Mode did manage to make me come back a few times which was enjoyable. This one would be great for kids that already enjoy smartphone games.

    -Kyuremu

  •  

    System Requirements
    OS: Windows 95/98/ME varied results under Windows 2000 and XP CPU: Pentium 90Mhz RAM: 16MB VIDEO: PCI or better SOUND: 16 bit Direct X 5 compatible Age: Teen

    Introduction

    This is one game that way back in 1997 I was highly anticipating. Having played the previous title in the series, Dark Forces, and having enjoyed it immensely, I couldn\'t wait for the promise of a multiplayer Star Wars first person shooter. This seemed to be basically a multiplayer update for Dark Forces, which disappointingly did not have any type of multiplayer, along with a new engine to power it. Boy was I wrong. It was so much more.

    Graphics

    You may wonder why I\'m starting with the graphics aspect of the game. Many people have said that graphics don\'t make a game and that it\'s the game play. I wholeheartedly agree with them on this one. The reason is because the graphics in Jedi Knight are actually not one of its stronger points. The graphics work, nothing extremely spectacular. When compared with Quake II, which was released the same year, Quake II clearly wins the graphics arena hands down with its OpenGL accelerated graphics engine. If you are a graphics freak, then you probably won\'t be impressed with the engine used for Jedi Knight, which was designed in-house by Lucasarts. It definitely won?t stand up to today\'s engines like Quake 3 Arena or the Unreal engine. But if you?re looking for game play, read on. That said, let\'s move on the next area.

    Single-Player

    This is where the game really shines. The single-player adventure is one of the most exciting I have yet to play, right up there with Half-Life. The story line is pretty much the same old Star Wars storyline, you know the old: evil-guy-who-wants-ultimate-power-so-he-can-rule-the-universe scenario. But what sets this game apart is the execution of it. The story is executed with such style that one cannot help but gape in awe. One word comes to mind when playing the single player missions: huge. The levels are immense and take quite a while to get through. Even after playing a mission through once, it took me an average of 30-45 minutes to complete each mission. Compare this to the simplistic levels of Quake II and see the rift that divides the two single player scenarios. Another thing to note the rich and varied locations of the single player adventure: Nar Shadaa, Valley of the Jedi, starships, and even Katarn\'s home planet. Another important aspect of the single player game are the amazingly well done FMV cut scenes. Lucasarts has included some of the best quality FMV\'s I have ever seen in a game. The quality is not all, the cut scenes cleverly push the story along with rich characters which creates more depth and emotion that the poorly executed game-rendered cut scenes of Jedi Knight II. Rather than detract from the intensity as the cut scenes in Jedi Knight II do, the cut scenes of Jedi Knight push the story along well, keeping the missions from become routine and repetitive. Couple this with the use of a lightsaber which you get in one of the early missions and force powers which you gain along the way, and you simply got an incredible and engaging single player adventure. Another feature that I like is the ability to choose which path you will go down as you play the game. If you kill civilians and harmless druids, you will begin to go towards the Dark side of the force. If you protect them and do not harm them, then you will lean towards the Light side. There is a different ending depending on which side you choose, so be sure to play it through both ways. The nine other weapons that Katarn will collect along the way are nothing to ignore. This powerful arsenal contains such weapons as the Rail Gun, Concussion Rifle, Imperial Repeater, and more. Now, on to the multiplayer.

    Multiplayer

    Jedi Knight shines in multiplayer just like it did in single player. Though the multiplayer modes bring nothing new the genre, the ability to use a lightsaber and force powers makes it a completely different faire that your typical Quake death match. The most fun mode is the sabers only mode. In this mode only sabers can be used and whatever level of force power can be used as set by the host. The creates a game where skill is relied upon more than speed and quick reflexes. Learning to master force powers and the use of the saber is essential to being able to win a saber only match. The multiplayer levels are fun enough, the most famous level for sabers being Battleground Jedi, which is one of the standard saber proving grounds. However, the multiplayer modes lack innovation and more levels would have been appreciated. This is a minor gripe as multitudes of levels can be downloaded from The Massassi Temple (http://www.massassi.net/). The fun factor of playing Jedi Knight online kept me playing it right up until Jedi Knight II was released.

    Sound/Music

    Music is the standard John Williams soundtrack, which perfectly accents any Star Wars game because it is the essential Star War music. The sound is adequate, nothing spectacular, but doesn?t detract from game play either.

    Stability

    This game was designed to run on the Windows 9x line of operating systems. It is best that you run it on one of the three 9x OS?s; 95,98, or ME. I have had varied results on Windows 2000. On one computer it worked perfectly but on another, which had run it perfectly in Windows 98, I could not get 3D acceleration to work and it was quite choppy in software mode. So the results may vary depending on your configuration.

    Conclusion

    Overall, Jedi Knight is a solid title, though slightly lacking in the area of its graphics engine - which is definitely showing its age, the amount of multiplayer levels included in the game, and the non-innovative multiplayer modes, it shines as one of the best first person shooter of 1997 and beyond. This game will be a classic in its own right. I suggest you go and get your copy at Amazon.com for only $9.99 USD or find a used copy on Ebay.com for even less. You will not be disappointed unless you?re a graphics freak. Oh, I almost forgot, offensive content. This game has no blood, language, or sexual material included. It does have shooting of other characters though from a first person point of view, but none of the deaths are violent or explicit. It is rated T for Teen.

    Final Ratings

    Game Play: A Graphics: B- Sound: B Interface: A Stability: B Offensive Content: B
    Overall: A
  • boxart
    Game Info:

    de Blob
    Developed by: Blitworks
    Published by: Nordic Games
    Release date: November 16, 2017
    Available on: iOS, PS4, Wii, Windows; Xbox One
    Genre: Action platformer
    Number of players: Up to four
    ESRB Rating: Everyone with Mild Cartoon Violence
    Price: $19.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Nordic Games for sending us a review code!

    At first, I thought de Blob was a Splatoon knockoff, but then I realized that it predates it by seven years! de Blob was originally released in 2008 on iOS and Wii. The gameplay and visuals remain the same though the cutscenes could have benefited from being remade since they are a bit blurry and pixilated on higher resolutions. I haven’t played the game on the Wii to compare the controls, but they are functional though not as precise as we hoped for on the PS4. Other than these nitpicks, I found this game very cute and am happy to finally have it in my library.

    There are three game modes: Story, Free Paint, and Blob Party. In order to unlock more levels in the Free Paint and Blob Party modes, you’ll have to complete the ten story levels. The story mode is timed and has enemies to contend with. If you simply want to paint buildings without worrying about enemies, challenges, or running out of time, then you’ll want to do the Free paint mode. In Blob Party up to four players can compete against each other in various mini-games to tag the most buildings in their chosen color.

    The Paint Match mini-game is the most like Splatoon where you have to paint buildings in your color and you can repaint buildings previously claimed by others. Whomever has the most buildings in their color at the end, wins. Blob Race is similar to Paint Match but once a building has been painted, it can’t be painted over. Blob on the Run only allows one player to paint at a time and they have to be knocked out in order to allow another to paint buildings in their color.

    De Blob
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun gameplay for people of all ages
    Weak Points: The movies are poor quality and should have gotten a makeover; floaty controls that are not very precise
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence

    If you’re stuck playing solo, the Story and Free Paint modes are quite fun. The story is short and sweet where Chroma City was invaded by INKT creatures that sucked away all of their vibrant colors. The color revolution was born and their goal is to bring vibrant colors back to their city. You play as their champion, de Blob.

    In each level, you only have a limited amount of time before INKT catches up to you so you can’t dilly dally. While I never completed all of the optional goals, I never ran out of time either. While there are usually a couple of time extenders scattered in the levels, more can be earned by completing challenges and by liberating Raydians. In order to liberate Raydians, you have to restore color to all of the buildings in a group. Once that’s done, the creatures trapped inside will come out for you to restore their color back to them. Challenges comes in different difficulties and usually require you to paint certain buildings a particular color within a short amount of time. The harder difficulty challenges may have obstacles in the way like puddles of ink that can hurt De Blob or water that removes his paint color and supply.

    Each building, tree, or wall costs paint points to color them. De Blob can only have a maximum of one hundred paint points at a time. The paint points are replenished by collecting the red, yellow, or blue paint from the paint bots roaming the streets. More colors like green, purple, and orange can be created by combining the primary colors.

    De Blob
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 96%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    In order to clear a level, various gates must be opened by colorizing the area and completing challenges. To open the exit portal, a certain objective like reclaiming a landmark must be completed. After leaving a level, you’ll be rated by the percentage of the area you colorized, how many Radians were liberated, how many challenges were completed, and so forth. Depending on the results you are awarded a gold, silver, or bronze medal.

    I like how each level lets you choose the mood music for it. What’s cooler yet is that the music changes and gets more complex as you switch paints and colorize the buildings. The soundtrack is really great in this game.

    As mentioned earlier in the review, the visuals are not optimized for higher resolution screens. While everything else in this port runs fine, it’s a shame that the graphics didn’t get a much needed overhaul.

    In the end, de Blob is a fun game that can be enjoyed by the whole family. The retail price is $19.99 and I have seen it for half off on Steam if you prefer the PC platform. I look forward to the sequel that will be releasing on consoles soon.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    de Blob 2
    Developed by: Blue Tongue Entertainment
    Published by: THQ Nordic
    Release date: February 27, 2018
    Available on: Nintendo DS, PS3, PS4, Switch, Wii, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One
    Genre: Action platformer
    Number of players: Up to four
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for Comic Mischief, Mild Cartoon Violence, Mild Language
    Price: $19.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you THQ Nordic for sending us a review code!

    I haven’t played the de Blob games in their original format and I am glad for the re-releases so my family can enjoy these classics together on the PS4. de Blob 2 was originally released in 2011 on the DS, PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii. The DS version is a bit different than the console version and I haven’t played it so I can’t comment on the gameplay. More information about the releases can be found here.

    There are two game modes: Story and Blob Party. In order to unlock more levels in the Blob Party mode, you’ll have to complete the eleven story levels. In Blob Party up to four players can work together and complete various challenges.

    The story continues from the previous game where Comrade Black was exiled to an island. He managed to escape and has been stealing the vibrant colors away from the nearby cities. de Blob has been summoned by the professor to add color back into this world and to put an end to Comrade Black’s shenanigans once and for all.

    de Blob 2
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun gameplay for people of all ages
    Weak Points: The movies look better than de Blob, but are still not high resolution; not as many music options as the original game; repetitive gameplay
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; potty humor

    Before you begin the story mode you’ll have to select a difficulty which cannot be changed in the easy mode. On the easy difficulty you start off with more time and lives. In each level, you only have a limited amount of time so you can’t dilly-dally. While I never completed all of the optional goals, I never ran out of time. It also helps that there are usually a couple of time extenders scattered in the levels; more can be earned by completing challenges and by liberating Graydians. In order to free Graydians, you have to restore color to all of the buildings in a group. Once that’s done, the creatures trapped inside will come out for you to restore their color back to them. Challenges comes in different difficulties and usually require you to paint certain buildings a particular color or eliminating tougher than normal enemies. The harder difficulty challenges may have obstacles in the way like puddles of ink that can hurt de Blob or water/tiles that remove his paint color and supply.

    Each building, tree, or wall costs paint points to color them. de Blob can only have a maximum of one hundred paint points at a time. The paint points are replenished by collecting the red, yellow, or blue paint from the paint bots roaming the streets. More colors like green, purple, and orange can be created by combining the primary colors. One new addition to this game is a second player character named Pinky that can give de Blob some color and shoot some enemies down for him. This is especially handy for the UFO-like creatures that drag him to the nearest poisonous ink puddle. In this title, de Blob isn’t the only one that has to deal with ink baths. There is an ink cult that baptizes their initiates in ink and de Blob must put an end to their heinous acts.

    Another new addition is collectible inspiration power-ups. With inspiration you can upgrade de Blob and Pinky’s stats and ammo levels. More platforming challenges are found in this game and they typically revolve around triggering switches while being a certain color. Some of the platformer levels end with a boss-like stage so be prepared with plenty of ink ammunition. Some new power-ups make defeating enemies and bosses a lot easier too.

    de Blob 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 93%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    In order to clear a level, various areas must be transformed by colorizing the area and completing challenges. To open the exit portal, certain objectives like reclaiming a landmark must be completed. After leaving a level, you’ll be rated by the percentage of the area you colorized, how many Graydians were liberated, how many challenges were completed, and so forth. Depending on the results you are awarded a gold, silver, or bronze medal.

    As the world gets more color to it, the background music becomes livelier. The music is still great and not surprising as de Blob’s composer, John Guscott, worked on this title too. My only complaint with the music is that you cannot change level tracks as you could in the original game. Like the previous game, the voice acting is still gibberish.

    The cut scenes in de Blob were noticeably pixelated and low resolution. Though the movies in this title were not nearly as bad, they were not high definition. Everything else looks and runs great and the controls seem more accurate this time around.

    In the end, de Blob 2 is a fun game that can be enjoyed by the whole family. There are some instances of potty humor such as burping and farting. Cartoon violence is also a given. The asking price is very reasonable and is bound to entertain for a while. Since the levels are a bit repetitive I could only bring myself to complete one section per sitting. Despite not being completely hooked, I enjoyed my time returning color to the world with my son often by my side blasting away at INKD soldiers and robots.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Death's Gambit
    Developed By: White Rabbit
    Published By: Adult Swim Games
    Release Date: August 13, 2018
    Available On: Windows, PS4
    Genre: Action-Adventure, Role Playing Game
    Number of Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: T for Blood and Gore, Use of Alcohol, Violence
    MSRP: $19.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Adult Swim Games for sending us this game to review!

    Death's Gambit is a 2D side-scrolling action RPG (Role Playing Game) designed for those seeking a challenge. At first, it seemed like this would fall into the 'Metroidvania' style, where you collect upgrades and explore new areas as new skills allow you to do so. While there can be a fair amount of backtracking if you want to, it turns out that while you do find new weapons, and can upgrade existing ones if you wish, by and large the game is not linear in this way. It's actually remarkably open ended, which is really cool in its own way.

    You see, despite strong expectations to the contrary, you never do end up getting that double jump upgrade that seems like it just has to be around the corner. Instead, you have to explore, defeat bad guys, and explore some more to figure out how to get to that hard-to-reach secret. (There are a small number I never did figure out how to reach.) Once you get to a certain point, you can choose to explore fairly freely - and if you buy a specific emblem and use it before you're powerful enough, you can go and die as much as you like. Some areas are locked behind other bosses, but most are there ready for you to explore as much as you like.

    When you start, you first get to choose from one of seven classes, each which specializes in something slightly different. I was a Blood Knight in my playthrough, as having opportunities to heal damage through aggressive play suited me just fine. I tend to wail on enemies when given the chance, anyway. That's not always the best way to go, as death can come swift, and often. Thankfully, through your contract with Death, you can die as many times as you like.

    In the beginning of the game, you find yourself on the brink of death after your unit of soldiers dies on an expedition sent to find the source of immortality at Siradon. Death offers you the chance to live again as an immortal yourself as long as you work to stop the other immortals living there. Once you agree, you begin to search and explore, while taking advantage of being raised again and again to the last Death statue that you rested at. Chances are, unless your skills strongly surpass mine, you will likely need it again and again.

    Death's Gambit
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Well designed, interesting gameplay; great music; nice weapon variety; combat feels great; interesting pixel art, with really nice animations; very challenging at times
    Weak Points: Text display is really unclear if you don't have a 1080p screen; a few minor bugs; very challenging at times
    Moral Warnings: Game is extremely dark and brooding, with lots of blood, gore, and undead and other mystical creatures; magic is used by enemies and the player; a hexagram is shown for an enemy attack; alcohol use is shown in a few places, and you can choose to imbibe yourself; violence, as you kill (and kill again) lots of creatures; the word 'h*ll' is used

    In order to have a chance against these powerful foes, you'll need a weapon. There are ten main types of weapons, each driven by a primary damage stat. Longswords, Greatswords, Greathammers, Halberds, and Axes are Strength-driven weapons. This means their damage scales with a higher Strength. Daggers, Scythes, Spears, and Bows are Finesse-driven weapons. Tomes, and the special Spell Blade, are driven by the Intelligence stat. Every weapon has a minimum required stat for use, a damage rating, and a unique moveset. Strength weapons tend to do the most damage per hit, Finesse ones tend to be fast or have range, and Intelligence ones are magical. I played almost entirely with Strength weapons in my playthrough.

    Besides weapons, you also have weapon abilities, which are skills you can activate if you have the right weapon equipped, and a shield. Abilities cost Soul Energy to use, which you can gain through attacking enemies; if not used, it naturally drains while just standing there or moving around. Shields are critical to learn, as you can't always dodge every attack. Instead, you can absorb the blow without taking damage, though each type of shield does have a limited number and strength of attacks it can take before it breaks. Breaking is not permanent; it just staggers you and leaves you vulnerable for a moment. Once you're back to normal you can use the shield again.

    Attacking, blocking, dodging, and most other moves cost stamina. This is a critical resource, as once you run out, you have the honor of just standing there or moving – but no attacks for you. Along with Strength/Finesse/Intelligence, which relate to damage dealing, there are other stats as well. These relate to total health (Vitality), total stamina (Endurance), and regeneration rate (Haste). These three are just as important as the others, though I ended up putting the most points into my damage-dealing stat (Strength, in my case) as it has the biggest impact in boss-beating by far. You can't increase Soul Energy through increasing stats.

    I found that more often than not, doing the most damage as quickly as possible was the most effective way to get through bosses. This is probably heavily influenced by my playstyle and character class; I'm sure that if I spent the time to actually get skilled at this game, rather than plow through it brute force, I may have found other methods more effective. As it was, I ended up maxing out my character's level before completing the game; it was surprisingly quick to do so, and I always felt like the constant growth kept the game interesting.

    Most weapons actually only have one version of them, with a few notable exceptions. There is only one axe, for example. Rather than being stuck with the starter weapon the whole game, you can enhance your weapons through the use of Soul Stones, and eventually Immortalite. These items are relatively rare; I was not able to max out any weapons in my first playthrough, though to be fair, I did waste some on non-endgame items. You can get some back by disenchanting loot, but I still didn't get quite enough in a normal playthrough.

    Death's Gambit
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 72%
    Violence - 2/10
    Language - 9/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

     

    Enemies vary in strength and power quite a bit, but even the weakest enemies can kill you if you are not paying attention. A simple archer, which takes just a few hits to kill early on, remain a significant threat near the end of the game. There are a few places where they gang up on you, and if you don't eliminate them quickly, they can kill even my endgame character if I'm lazy (and let's face it, endgame characters usually have the luxury of being lazy). Bosses can be quite challenging; I did at least one out of the recommended order, and it took me close to fifty deaths to finally beat it. But the levels I gained sure made the other bosses easier!

    Graphically, this game is good, but not great. The pixel art is good, and some of the bosses and enemies look great. The animations are also excellent. What really bothered me was that if you don't use a 1080p screen, some of the art, but especially the text, is scaled in the worst way possible. Have you ever seen a really lazy nearest-neighbor scaling algorithm try to increase the resolution on a fractional resize? Well that's exactly what's happening here, and it's hideous. I use a 1440p screen most of the time, and it's bad enough, though I was able to read everything. Scaling down to 720p, which I needed for my GPD Win 2, and it was barely readable at all. The game was perfectly playable and looked great otherwise.

    The sound effects do their job, but the music is really nice. I wouldn't say the music is the kind that is likely to get stuck in your head, but it is very nice to listen to while playing, and certainly adds to the mood to improve the experience. The voice acting is really well done. The language is mostly clean, though there are mentions of 'h*ll'.

    There is a lot of violence; while there is of course the typical animated violence when attacking other creatures, there are also many moments of blood and dark, brooding environments. There are areas where there are pools of blood everywhere, and skeleton parts, severed body parts, and so on. You serve Death, who is a creature composed of bones, and carries a scythe. The art around the characters is really great, but quite dark. Enemies are all over the map, but several are magical in nature, and you can use spells as well. One enemy's attacks form a hexagram. A small number of creatures imbibe alcohol, and you are given a mug full of it to drink yourself if you choose to.

    Death's Gambit is a fairly enjoyable 2D side-scrolling action RPG. It was both what I expected (many compared it to a Dark Souls-like experience) and something a bit different (it avoided an expected Metroidvania trope). The art, animations, music, and combat are all very well done. I hope they fix the resolution issue, and, while I did occasionally experience a small number of bugs, it was nothing earth-shattering. If the genre, style, and especially content don't bother you, then I would recommend you to look closely at this title; I enjoyed it enough that I wouldn't mind attempting a New Game+ run if time allows.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Deceit
    Developed By: Automation; Baseline Games
    Published By: Automation
    Released: March 3, 2017
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Action, Shooter
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: 6 players online/LAN
    Price: Free to play

    Thank you Automation for sending us a review code! (Note: We received a code for this game from a time when it had to be purchased.)

    It’s like Mario Party, but for adults—in the sense that you’ll end up with strained friendships, not the whole minigame virtual board game aspect. Deceit is the name of this first-person shooter. You’ll have to cooperate with your team or deceive the ones around you to escape out of the dark abandoned facilities, or slaughter the ones trying to escape. It is both a competitive and cooperative game at the same time!

    Six players will start in a room, but out of those six players, two of them will be infected. In truth, the game is a 4v2, but the innocents have no idea who is an innocent, or even an infected—whereas the infected players know exactly who is who. Deceit plays in stages where the first stage, everyone collects supplies such as armor, ammo for your pistol, and special items to help you out such as cameras, flashlights, antidotes, and even a lethal injection. These items are unlocked through cooperation such as one person standing on a switch while the other person takes it or through minigames like target practice. Meanwhile, the infected players must collect blood bags from around the area without being spotted. Infected players also can collect all of the same items, which adds further into the whole deception aspect.

    Deceit
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A unique concept for the genre; microtransactions are fair
    Weak Points: Priced DLC that unlocks new Infected; playing solo can be a very strenuous experience; lacks depth (mechanically)
    Moral Warnings: Blood; violence; supernatural creatures called Terrors; heavily encourages lying, trickery, and deception to get ahead; strong language and blasphemy through the diary entries

    The second stage is the blackout stage, where the monsters come out and play. This is when the infected can turn into the Terrors, creatures who prowl the darkness, but only if they have a full blood meter (which takes either three full bags or six half bags of blood). Infected are vulnerable to the light when transformed, so this is the reason why cameras and flashlights have such an effect on them. During this stage, the innocents must run around and collect fuses to reactivate the power. Infected can halt the process by collecting fuses themselves as humans, or eliminate players as a monster.

    After it loops again to the first stage after the blackout, it will then go into the final stage where any innocents left must escape and the infected are now enraged. Being enraged means they can transform no matter how much or little blood they have, and it becomes a last-ditch effort to kill the rest of the survivors. I sure hope all those items the innocents stockpiled throughout are of use. Infected players may have a disadvantage in raw numbers, but they make up for it by being able to kill innocents in one hit. Matches last between five and fifteen minutes, making Deceit quick to pick up and play.

    The level-up system takes inspiration from Overwatch and similarly styled games. Every level gives you a token in which you can exchange with the dealer to gain various cosmetics. The process is rather unique as it is in the style of a memory cup game. What’s interesting is that if any of the cups are a rare or legendary cosmetic, they will glow purple or gold. The experience you gain through matches to level up also grants you a skill tree where you can purchase passive perks to give you a slight edge over everyone else. The microtransactions are pretty fair because the biggest purchase is around $35, and you level up fairly quickly, giving you plenty of opportunities to obtain lots of poses and skins.

    Deceit
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 70%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 59%
    Violence - 2.5/10
    Language - 5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 5/10

    The main draw of Deceit is the use of deception, feeling like a digital version of Mafia or Werewolf. Since this is a highly communicative game, you’ll want a working microphone or headset. Although there isn’t much depth in the game mechanics, the bulk of it comes from the way you deceive others. Sometimes, as an infected, you may want to help out others to take the suspicion off of you. When you take a blood bag, you can even use this trust that you gained from prior moments of teamwork to blame an innocent nearby and have them eliminated early. Trickery goes both ways; as an innocent, you can hide around in areas to see who picks up the blood bag or even ask information such as the distance to the exit (as infected players are unaware of this information). Since you have to constantly lie to get ahead, Deceit isn’t the most moral game out there and its probably best to avoid this if you’re uncomfortable with constant deceitfulness. Other warnings include the graphic violence, blood, and dead bodies all over, and that the Terrors are of supernatural elements, such as yetis and werewolves. There are also diary entries scattered throughout the levels that have blasphemy and harsh languages such as f**k and s**t.

    Playing solo in Deceit is like taking all of the worst aspects of any multiplayer game and blending it together into one messy package. Regions and servers are not locked and anyone can join any region, so the language barrier shows itself quickly. Deceit holds a high Chinese and Russian audience due to its free to play nature, so more often than not you’ll run into someone that you cannot communicate with unless you happen to know Mandarin or Russian yourself. People without mics are also present and the only way you can communicate with them is with the chat or quick chat (voice commands). The chat is slow (and the added effect that they may not know your language) and while the quick chat bypasses the language barrier, it is also barebones and is only slightly better than being silent. A lack of anti-cheat system means you’ll run into your fair share of hackers, with the matches crashing every once in a while (any experience gained in the game is lost). Lower levels are plagued with people who refuse to communicate or trolls, while higher levels are filled with others that take the experience way too seriously—or trolls, leading to very hostile moments.

    There also exists DLC for Deceit. With the nature of the game, one would think that it would simply be cosmetics. Unfortunately, the DLC is playable Infected: the werewolf and the vampire. The only way you can get them is by purchasing them. In free to play games, I never liked the form of DLC that gives paying players an advantage over others and it in itself is bad practice.

    As of 2019, the original developer, Automation, closed their doors and a new developer by the name of Baseline Games took over. Only time will tell if Baseline Games can give the much needed supported Deceit needs. I would love to see a more robust voice system—something like HiRez Studio’s voice guided system (VGS), a huge list of preset voice commands accessed through a few keystrokes. Even with its flaws and lack of depth, Deceit is a fine game, but only if you play with your friends. The solo experience is for masochists only as there is just too much nonsense within and the whole state of Deceit doesn’t play kindly to a solo experience. If you have five or more like-minded friends, I’m sure you’ll have a good time working together and hoodwinking each other. There are only four maps (with the fifth one in the works), and a handful of items and Infected so this one is best played in short bursts. Be prepared to have someone mad at you at the end of the frightful night.

     

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Destroy The World
    Developed By: Nihad Nasupovic
    Published By: none
    Released: February 8, 2019
    Available On: macOS, Windows
    Genre: Action
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: up to four players local
    Price: $0.99

    Thank you, Nihad Nasupovic for sending us a review code!

    When you really think about it, the world is actually very easy to destroy. We’re already doing a good enough job as is with all of the pollution being strewn about. But you know, don’t contribute more than you already are. If you’re feeling angry on one of those days, just do it hypothetically—like with this appropriately named title: Destroy The World.

    Created by Nihad Nasupovic, Destroy The World is where you, well… destroy the world. The entire goal of the game is to go through cities, rain forests, the polar ice caps, and even the tropical islands and lay waste to everything that you see. The creature whom you play as is a giant, pink, starfish-looking monstrosity. I always knew deep down that Patrick was the most diabolical character that lurked under the sea. Ok, that's not actually Patrick, but a similar looking being named Bam-Bam.

    Destroy The World starts off in a tutorial city so you can get used to how Bam-Bam moves. Tank controls are the name of the game so it can only move in the direction that it is facing. Run with the shift key or square/X button if you’re using a controller. Camera control is very versatile. Moving it far away gives a top-down perspective while moving it in close gives off more of a third-person view. Your options for controls are with a gamepad, keyboard, or a combination of keyboard and mouse. However, these can only be remapped in the configuration settings window that pops up before the game starts.

    Various moves can be used to aid in your destruction. In the beginning, you only have access to some kind of headbutt attack and a butt slam with other abilities being unlocked as progress is made. In the end, you’ll end up with a kind of poop weapon, fire breath, and a blunderbuss? Kinda strange to round it off with a traditional weapon. Use all of these to your advantage to reach 100% destruction.

    Destroy The World
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Simple, casual experience; surprisingly decent music
    Weak Points: Very short with little replay value; mutliplayer is hard to function; destroying everything is taken a bit too literally
    Moral Warnings: The task is to destroy the world; pretty violent with animals exploding into red when killed; some mild language like “a*s” and a self-censored “F-bomb”; partial forms of nudity; crude forms of humor, particularly on the poo and fart-based kind

    When our narrator says “destroy everything,” he means it! Levels start off fairly small so destroying everything that can be destroyed is fairly simple. When levels start to get larger is when the problem of destroying everything comes into effect. You’ll go from smashing everything in sight to playing Where’s Waldo? with that last tree, building, or animal that needs to be squashed. There is a map that can be viewed to help out somewhat with that last 1%. Before the 1.0.1 update, it was supposedly even worse with the percentage tolerance. Strangely enough, no other forces try to stop Bam-Bam from making a mess of things. In future updates, I would like to see some form of opposition like military units or even an opposing monster.

    I always wondered if something can be both good and bad at the same time, and Destroy The World showed me that it is quite possible—in terms of graphics that is. The ground textures are truly bad, with graphical glitches all around. And yet the models of the buildings and animals are actually pretty good for something made with the Unity engine. Although every stage is encased in a square grid, each level does look different from one another.

    The music is surprisingly decent—far better than I thought a game like this would have. Nice, simple beats overall. The narrator has this faux excitement in his voice that makes Destroy The World feel like a type of game show, further supported with the stock sound effects of a laugh track and the elevator-like music in the menus and loading screen.

    Up to three of your friends can join you in destroying the world. In multiplayer, the main goal is still the same but with the players competing with each other in points instead. Because of the multiple players on one screen, the camera is in a static position. All of the stages are the same, with the exception of the final level where the very terrain is destructible and you must end up as the last person standing. Multiplayer took me a while to operate because the first player has access to both the keyboard, mouse, and the first controller plugged in so it's recommended to remap the controllers before choosing multiplayer.

    Destroy The World
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 58%
    Gameplay - 9/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 70%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6/10

    Destroy The World is surprisingly violent. It’s a pretty goofy game on the surface with a silly looking controlled character and the exaggerated music and sound design. It manages to be very bloody as well. I realize the game has you kill animals, but I did not expect them to explode into pools of blood! Our narrator tends to have quite the mouth on him too. He does say “a*s” for one line, and also drops an F-bomb (he does, however, bleep it himself for the latter). The humor can border on childish and immature. Going back to the poop attack, most of the time it isn’t poop—sometimes it is a ball or a type of gem, but other times it really is poop, exploding poop as a matter of fact. And geez, Patrick- I mean, Bam-Bam! Would it kill you to put on some pants?! I can see your butt crack! I don’t want to stare at anyone’s butt crack, even if you are an ambiguous blob creature with an unspecified gender!

    All of this destruction kinda makes me feel bad, and I guess I can blame that on the facts that Mr. Nasupovic provides on every loading screen. One fact (paraphrased) being that our ice caps are being melted at a rate three times higher than they are being formed—although more recent studies show that statement might not be entirely accurate. With each level being based on real-life environments, Destroy The World isn’t just mindless entertainment. I feel that he also really wanted us to think about what our actions are really doing to the world. In a metaphorical way, the walking blob of destructions represents us. It really makes you think, doesn’t it? Don’t feel too bad—every copy sold helps replant a tree, courtesy of the charity Plant for the Planet.

    In an ironic twist, this review actually took me longer to write up than to complete the game. Destroy The World is a very short experience, lasting on average 45 minutes and the only reason to replay the game is with the other character unlocked at the end and to improve on your completion times. According to Nihad Nasupovic, future updates will provide more levels. It also manages to be both immoral and moral at the same time. In the game, it is crude, violent, crass, and takes pride in all of it, while providing facts on how certain practices are harming the planet at the same time. If you do buy the game, you help plant a tree somewhere in the world. Destroy The World is a simple, casual, and basic distraction that exists only to satisfy a certain itch; just don’t expect anything more than that. Truth be told, there are far worse ways to spend a dollar.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Deux Ex: Game of The Year Edition
    Developed By: Ion Storm
    Published By: Square Enix
    Released: June 22, 2000
    Available On: Steam (Microsoft Windows and Linux via the Proton middleware for Steam)
    Genre: First-person Action-Adventure
    ESRB Rating: Mature (Animated Blood, Animated Violence)
    Number of Players: Singleplayer (optional Multiplayer mode)
    Price: $6.99

    Thinking outside the box is a common suggestion given many people, and in some videogames, entire genres have been built around nonlinear gameplay choices. One of the defining games of this genre is Deus Ex, which even today has people reinstalling it to see how many different ways you can play it.

    Deus Ex (from the Latin phrase "Deux ex Machina" or "god in the machine") is a game that is both a successor to the System Shock games (which were also nonlinear and featured futuristic themes); and a game that carves out it's own niche by fusing nonlinear gameplay with a storyline that would be cliche ordinarily but dares to make a new twist on the conventions it uses anyway.

    Deus Ex is set in 2052, where terrorism has become such an issue the United Nations has formed a counter-terror outfit called UNACTO to deal with things, and you play as Agent J.C. Denton, a rookie who soon discovers a massive conspiracy to bring the world to its knees under the auspices of a megalomaniac who intends to make the series title quite literal. The story is a mix of every conspiracy trope ever (though the manner in which they are actually true is played with), a dystopic look at a world where human augmentation is common yet humanity is backsliding as opposed to advancing, and soulless megacorporations and corrupt governments are bringing humanity closer and closer to the edge of the abyss.

    The gameplay is a blend of first-person shooter, adventure game, some visual novel elements, and aspects of puzzle games. Combat is similar to the Unreal games, albeit rendered much more realistically, with weapon skills that must be trained for you to be effective with them and damage from weapons easily fatal if they hit critical organs. A heavy emphasis is put on exploring environments and discovering multiple means of achieving objectives, then choosing the best one based on your inventory and playstyle. Many branching storyline paths determine how the story unfolds based on your actions and dialogue choices. Finally, there are many puzzles based on overcoming obstacles like electronic tripwires, keypads, and even classic jumping puzzles to span gaps over pitfalls.

    Another key feature of gameplay is that how ruthless or merciful you are is entirely up to you. It is entirely possible to play Deus Ex as a stealth game, shedding not a drop of blood, even avoiding the deaths of certain plot characters who you ordinarily are forced to fight, though some require some game glitches be abused to achieve this. Conversely, you can leave the game world covered in dead bodies if you choose to be ruthless. Both are viable, and both will change how you are regarded by certain characters.

    Deux Ex: Game of The Year Edition
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Extremely nonlinear gameplay that allows any type of playstyle; excellent music
    Weak Points: Some flat voice acting
    Moral Warnings: Extreme violence with blood and gore (though the blood and gore can be disabled); Drug use and ability to sell drugs to others; Frequent PG-13 level swearing; Some references to Greek mythology and Christianity, the latter in occasional blasphemous ways by the villains; Option to kill in cold blood almost anyone in the game, including children; Implied prostitution; Thievery can be actively engaged in by the player

    Graphics tend towards a dark, gritty style, with many real-world areas retaining a cyberpunk aesthetic mixed with a film noir style heavy on oppressive darkness (with nigh all levels taking place at night). By early 2000 standards the graphics are quite good and while somewhat dated by modern standards, still hold up in maintaining the atmosphere. The excessive darkness is also a gameplay element, allowing for both stealth and an impediment, as you must light up many areas to see where to go next.

    Sound is an eclectic mix of techno, jazz, and electric guitar riffs to give the aural impression of a cyberpunk world. Sound effects complement the music nicely in further setting the mood. The voice acting is generally good if a bit lacking in inflection in places, though some of the more cheesy or even flat acting is something of a charm point, many of the more famous lines having become internet memes, like "A BOMB" or "What a shame".

    Controls are keyboard and mouse-driven, and while it takes a bit of practice for new players to get used to, it is quite intuitive, and the keys can be rebound for player preference. The game physics engine is a tad floaty, and this makes jumps and dealing with gravity a bit hard to manage, but with some adjustment, the average player can learn to deal with this, and some of the odd physics can even be glitched to the advantage of the player.

    Stability is generally excellent despite the age of the game. It will run fine on Windows, and even Linux under Steam's Proton service with little to no issues, though some fan patches for improving the graphics rendering and fixing some annoying if generally minor bugs would be recommended. The engine is fairly moddable, and mods can be added with little to no stability issues for the most part either.

    Deux Ex: Game of The Year Edition
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 92%
    Gameplay - 20/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 46%
    Violence - 2.5/10 (+1 if blood/gore disabled)
    Language - 3/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 3.5/10

    Morally, this game is pretty checkered at best.

    Violence can, if you so choose to be violent, get pretty gruesome, with blood and gore everywhere, though you can disable most blood and gore in the game options. However, nonlethal players will find they can keep this to a minimum for the most part, and how violent the game gets is largely dependent on your playstyle, with several nonlethal game options available to you to incapacitate as opposed to killing enemies. Even machines can be disabled instead of destroyed in nigh all circumstances.

    Language can get pretty crude, with a lot of vile slurs and expletives, generally from the more criminal and generally disreputable characters (with words like d*mn, h*ll, and b***h), and some allusions to sexual acts are made (including some implied sex happening behind a closed door at one point you can overhear). Sexual content is largely limited to some rather skimpy female outfits and some implications of prostitution, though the latter is not portrayed positively, with a few sidequests related to saving women from this profession.

    This is a sci-fi game, and while there are a few minor one-off references to demons (like the Underworld Bar's logo), this game stays pretty far out of the occult and supernatural. There are Greek mythology references, specifically to the characters of Daedalus and Icarus, generally used as shorthand for the potential and pitfalls of technology. There are also some Christianity references, which crop up quite frequently. The villains do make some blasphemous references to Christianity, but this is not portrayed positively.

    For example, your main character is JC (Jesus Christ) Denton, which the game will even allude to in a comment at one point, though in-game, JC is considered a code name. However, like the real Jesus, JC has a generally moral outlook, believing in justice, fairness, and free will that is tempered by a firm moral code. If you play in a nonviolent, diplomatic style, JC's actions are quite messianic, with JC often ending fights without bloodshed or even violence, showing charity to the downtrodden, and generally acting much as Jesus would. Conversely, you can play in a sociopathic style and completely invert this.

    Several other Bible references abound, with your main character's brother named Paul (after the bIblical one), and while these are generally allusions to the Bible, some of the references can give vital plot detail clues as well.

    On the cultural and ethical side of things, the ability to play as you deem fit means JC can do a lot of vile things if you like. You can hurt or even kill anyone, including children. Alcohol is a healing item (with some drawbacks though). Due to plot reasons, the in-game drug Zyme can not lead to addiction for the player, but you can take it and even sell it to other characters who are NOT immune to addiction. There is also the ability to be a rampant kleptomaniac, and while a lot of this takes place in the sense of taking enemy supplies to further your mission, you can also steal from innocent people and even mug them by knocking them out and taking the contents of their pockets. You can refrain from doing this though, how much of a thief you are is entirely dependent on your choices.

    Finally, while the player starts as a sworn law enforcement officer, they defect from their organization when they discover it is riddled with corruption and is forced to ally with many shady characters, including some criminal organizations. This is only because those supposed to be in authority are proven to be compromised at best and utterly corrupt at worst. The ultimate goal in the end is to break their hold on the world at large. Regardless, there is a villainous ending choice that changes nothing you can opt for if you choose.

    As a game, Deus Ex is an unparalleled example of how to make a game where any playstyle is viable. It's worth playing for anyone no matter how violent or peaceful you may be, especially if you enjoy a really good story that manages to make the tinfoil hat conspiracy crowd not look insane while still being excellently written. Morally, while this takes place in a seedy world falling apart at the seams with a lot of dark elements (including lots of death, mentions of suicide, and general misery), the player can choose to either bring some light to the world or make it even worse depending on how they decide to play.

    No matter what, Warren Spector made a classic that will forever stand the test of time, and Deus Ex is a definite must-play for any adult who wants to play any way they like and still be able to beat this timeless if darkly themed masterpiece.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Diluvion
    Developer: Arachnid Games
    Published by: Gambitious Digital Entertainment
    Release Date: Feb 2, 2017
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Action, Open World Adventure.
    Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: Unrated
    Price: $19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Arachnid Games for sending us a review code.

    It is always interesting to think about how the world will end. How will humans survive? Sadly some think it's going to be by zombies and we are all going to turn on each other. What if, through our own ingenuity, we survive an Ice Age instead? With Diluvion we get to go on an under the sea adventure for a great treasure at the bottom of the ocean. We have no land to get back to for the world's new Ice Age has frozen the entire world. Humanity has thrived with renewed culture, faith, and hope. However, whether it be greed, curiosity, or desire we dive deep into the dark depths of the ocean.

    In Diluvion you play as a captain you can name, and your one and only goal is to find the greatest secret of humanity buried at the bottom of the ocean. You choose from one of three submarines to begin your game with and a short tutorial will start your journey. As you progress you purchase crew to increase the power of your weapons, sonar capabilities, torpedoes and engine. Keeping crewmates in the hanger will slowly repair your ship over time; it will be faster if you keep repair kits handy. Managing resources is key as you need air tanks to keep your crew breathing and food to keep their bellies full. Scrap metal will serve as your main source of ammunition for guns. When you visit one of the sea's many sub nautical locations such as the cities and research capsules you will automatically refill on air tanks. 

    Diluvion
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A game with a great sense of adventure and exploration. Lovable crew and a lovable story. 
    Weak Points: The navigation will be a test of your patience. Keyboard controls are not equal to controller controls.
    Moral Warnings: Violent ship battles and immoral characters to be found here. People will put money over their own lives.

    Merchants will have scrap metal and other essential materials for sale if you have enough currency to trade. Less populated locations usually have various materials from fish bones to old above world items. It seems memories of life on earth have a monetary value. The ocean has plenty of foes to prevent passage from undersea monsters to enemy submarines. When you defeat enemy submarines you can choose to dock with them for great loot. Occasionally some crew members of sinking subs will offer to join your crew for the right price. Engineers can upgrade your submarine or sell you new ones as long as you have the material and the cash. In order to dive deeper you will need to move your ship past level one so don't expect to do level 1 runs with Diluvion. If you explore well you can even find a place to build your own personal base to upgrade. As you upgrade this place it will be filled with merchants and crew members to help you along. 

    The best part of the gameplay for me was the combat. Each battle felt tense and exciting and I had to make quick choices to run away or to turn and fight, charging into glorious combat. I didn't necessarily care why they were fighting me and that's a good thing. Whether they were pirates or grumpy travelers, the only reason I needed to fire back was to keep myself out of Davy Jones' Locker. Lots of survival combat games don't give me that sense of dread of when I lose because I know I'll come back one way or another. Diluvion doesn't even have a perma death system of any kind and I still fought tooth and nail to survive. I ended up caring about my crew. The lore you get is from finding story entries in different landmarks and NPCs swapping tales. It is a simple way to tell a story and nothing presented to me was complex or deeply thought provoking. Yet something about the simplicity of the characters made me all the more interested in them. Whether it was my gunner's love of explosions, my shy sonar man's personality or my older and wiser engine captain, I came to fall in love with my crew and I swore I would keep them alive. 

    Diluvion
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 70%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 0/10

    The cons will manifest in your patience with the game. This game has no direct navigation system you may be used to in other games. As mentioned before you find landmarks in the game that will be marked on your map once you find a map treasure for it. Yet a compass and the discovered landmarks are all you have to guide you. By holding down your sonar button you can bounce sonar waves to find walls as well as mark enemies and places. The NPCs will not point you in any particular direction and only tell you where you need to go. To explore you're going to have to remember directions you've explored from particular landmarks. For example, to find a SOCOM base first I chose a landmark to use as my base of operations then explored each and every direction to find tunnels and locations. Golden fish trails will point you in the general direction of where you might need to go. However this won't give you the exact location of the next story events. This game can require extreme patience, and it can begin to get aggravating. That sense of exploration was lost to a burning desire to find where the next part of the story was.

    The ship turns on a dime with a controller, but keyboard controls feel awkward and stiff. The keyboard controls are not bad, but they won't give you the precise movement and control that a controller offers. Not only is constant docking with defeated enemy ships immersion breaking, it's messed up that people charge you before they join you on sinking ships. Would you charge someone to rescue you from a watery grave?

    This is a winner take all world. While you don't necessarily see any form of gore or violence in the combat. This is a world where morals have no place and the world is focused solely on survival. The characters can be very cut throat and in the world of Diluvion everyone seems to be focused on what's at the bottom of the world rather then trying to return to the top. Don't expect anyone in this world to have strong moral fibers. I'd recommend this game for anyone above the age of 14 due to way this game's story can push you to focus on survival over moral character. I said earlier that if you find a survivor on a ship you dock they will still ask for money before they join your crew. How immoral do you have to be to put money over your own life? 

    How deep will you dive with Diluvion? This game definitely is worth putting your captain’s hat on for; give it a try!

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga
    Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
    Developer: Larian Studios
    Released: November 5, 2010
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood; Suggestive Themes; Violence
    Available on: Xbox 360; PC (version reviewed)
    Genre: Action Role-Playing Game
    MSRP: $40 (Amazon affiliate link)

    Thank you to Larian Studios for sending us a copy to review!

    Sequel to the cult hit, Divine Divinity – Divinity 2: The Dragon Knight Saga steps away from its isometric predecessor to offer a different kind of game. Now with the focus on third-person action, Larian Studios set out to correct some of the mistakes with Divinity 2\'s original release, Ego Draconis. With an updated engine, retooled gameplay, and inclusion of the Flames of Vengeance expansion, Divinity 2 sets the bar high. Let\'s see if this RPG is worth the gold.

    Divinity 2\'s yarn revolves around the exploits of a Dragon Knight, a new recruit into an order of like-minded folks who have glowing eyes and special combat training. Not only are you a superstar to lowly villagers, but you\'re also targeted early on by the main villain, Damien. Damien, who threatens to kill you at every chance that he gets, fills the archetypical role of the bad guy, both by spouting bits of monologue and looking grumpy.  The story itself takes around 30 hours to finish, depending on how many side-objectives you feel like accomplishing. Divinity 2’s story wrapped up in an abrupt fashion, which felt both disappointing and undercooked; the expansion – Flames of Vengeance – alleviates this to some extent, by continuing where the main game left off. Or, you can play the expansion straight from the menu with a new higher-level character. Either way, the extra few hours are worth it.

    Along your journey in Rivellon, you\'ll accept quests from townsfolks, bandits, ghosts, and even inanimate objects. Quests range from fetching an item such as a journal, to clearing out an enemy camp, or even sneaking a group of pigs back to their rightful owner. The quests found here have several outcomes depending on which path you choose. Should you slay some guards so the pigs can escape, or leave the pigs where they are to the dismay of their owner? The actions you choose may not evolve on the level of say, the Mass Effect series, but they do have a wide amount of effects that you can see relatively quickly.

    Quests are not all cut and dry, however, with many leading you into dungeons packed with enemies. The large number of dungeons, caves, and tombs you visit also have the occasional hidden passage or concealed switch. Finding these may lead to chests full of bounty, or in more than one situation, lock you in with enemies. With so many enemies standing in your way, you\'ll need something to fight them off with.

     

    When considering how to go about combat, you\'ll have a few options to choose from. One way is with melee combat by utilizing axes, hammers, and swords. Dual-wielding, two-handed weapons, and shields are available as well. For the spell caster classes, you can go barehanded or choose to rely on your backup sword when the mana runs dry. There\'s bows for the ranger class, though I found this to be the least thrilling. Every swing of the sword or arrow shot requires a simple click of the mouse. While this is fine for the warriors, it makes being a ranger pretty underwhelming due to the lack of mobility. Being forced to stand in one spot to fire off arrows doesn\'t work as well as I hoped when it comes to this combat system. Assigning items and skills to your number keys without needing to fumble around in the inventory screen for a potion is here as well.

    By completing quests and slaying enemies, you\'ll be rewarded with experience points. After a set amount of points, you\'ll level up. Each level grants you stat points, which go towards increasing the character\'s focus. There are several different stats and passive percentages that alter how a character will perform, so pumping strength for your warrior, or intelligence and spirit for your mage would be the right course of action. Skill points will also be awarded after each level up. These range from passive abilities such as damage increase with certain weapons and mana efficiency when casting spells, to active roles like heals, summons, and fireballs. While I would\'ve liked to see a more diverse array of skills, the ones here, while rather simplistic, get the job done.

    About a third way into the main game\'s story, the option of having your own headquarters is made available. This headquarters, or “Battle Tower” as it\'s called in-game, houses multiple NPCs who make the journey less stressful, and add a bit of depth to what would be a rather standard RPG. A necromancer handles mixing and matching of your pet, a summon who can be called into battle to fight along side you. Limbs you find during the game as loot or from quests alter the pet\'s stats and abilities depending on what parts you choose. An enchanter allows you to customize gear by removing bonuses from weaker pieces and slotting them into your better armor and weapons.

    An alchemist allows for the crafting of potions, and the skill trainer offers skill redistribution for a price. Some of these processes require ingredients. In a smart move by the developers, you\'ll have three runners: NPCs who automatically fetch these items after a set duration. By paying for better weapons and armor from the NPCs mentioned above, the runners will have higher rates of success in finding that special item you require. The whole Battle Tower concept is pretty neat, not only because it makes tedious tasks easier, but because it adds a sense of accomplishment and of influence that a great hero would normally have.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points:Solid dialogue and plenty of written lore; exceptional voice acting; graphic engine runs smooth and offers pleasant environments; subtle humor throughout

    Weak
    Points: Uneven difficulty; crude and dated menus; not very newbie friendly; uses SecuROM

    Moral Warnings:
    Sword and sorcery abound in combat; blood is seen in environments and with melee attacks; occult themes like mind-reading, communication with ghosts, and necromancy are present, as are pentagrams; innuendo in some dialogue

    Not long after the Battle Tower, the ability to transform into a dragon will open up. This is one of the better aspects of Divinity 2 alone. Though it is simplistic to an extent, there\'s plenty of cool factor because, well, you\'re a dragon. While the dragon can be customized to some degree, it\'s largely hands-off, except for the occasional dragon armor piece here or there. The arcade action as the dragon gets tiresome as the game progresses, however.

    As neat as all of this sounds, one huge drawback when playing Divinity 2 was the difficulty level. I played on normal difficulty for a large portion of my experience, but I eventually had to bump down to casual from the sheer frustration that the game can throw at a player. Early on as a warrior, enemies could take me down in only a handful of hits, and with poor weapons, I had to trick the AI by hiding behind obstacles so I can slowly regenerate my health. Only a few hours later, with my character around level 12, the game\'s challenge seemed to nose-dive, offering up weak enemies that were dispatched in one to two hits. It\'s a weird aspect of the game that comes off as bipolar. One moment you\'re chugging all the potions you have just to stay alive and the next you\'re enjoying a cakewalk through a dungeon.

    The fantastical nature of the world crafted by Larian brings with it the content that readers may find inappropriate. Generic bandits, goblins, and skeletons show up throughout the gameplay experience. Along with them are various demons, summoned beasts, dragons, ghosts, and the undead.

    Spells can and will be used by the player, whether for combat or during scripted sequences. The priest class can summon allies to aid in battle, and mages employ different types of explosive spells; enemies, too, can use the same skills and tools in battle. Combat is largely tame, even though violence is shown through the use of bows, bladed weapons, or fire magic. Blood is seen in combat, but nothing over the top.

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay 16/20
    Graphics 7/10
    Sound 9/10
    Stability 5/5
    Controls/Interface 4/5

    Morality Score - 46%
    Violence 3.5/10
    Language 6/10
    Sexual Content/Nudity 3.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural 0/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical 10/10

    Dark and decrepit environments like crypts, tombs, dungeons and caves make up the majority of where you\'ll be fighting. One dungeon had an experimentation room with bloodied corpses on tables and sharp tools nearby; another had corpses that were hanged. Some rooms are littered with the bodies of dead adventurers or with skeletal remains. A villain is pieced together with various body parts for the main purpose of serving a powerful necromancer. The pentagram symbol is visible for some spells and in books that require interaction to progress through the story. Spell invocation, mind reading, communication with ghosts for quests, and using a blood altar are present, too.

    One quest ends with an adulterous relationship between two characters, and some minor dialogue with townspeople is laden with subtle innuendo. Cleavage is present with many female characters, and some are fairly buxom or wear tight-fitting armor. I haven\'t seen anything in the way of nudity or sexual contact compared to other western RPGs on the market. Swearing is low-key: a few “b-stards” and “d-mns” are sprinkled in the dialogue, but again, nothing out of hand.

    With all that said, the fantasy elements that envelop the story are fairly dark through and through; the majority of these cannot be avoided. Please be aware of that if the themes above are not something you want to experience when purchasing a game of this type.

    Sound is one of the best aspects of Divinity 2. Character dialogue is mostly well-acted with varying degrees of accents, emotion, and a good amount of humor. I\'ve yet to run into a character that wasn\'t voiced. Even your own character\'s actions have narration, which helps to guide you in the right direction. It was quite refreshing to come from the handheld text-based RPGs I recently played to a game where everything is voiced; it sure added a lot more character to an already interesting array of characters. Several of the musical pieces that accompany new locations are crafted nicely and fit the area\'s theme, but they can be hit or miss. I did hear a few lackluster ones that either sounded out of place or were a tad convoluted to the point of muting the music until I reached a new location.

    Divinity 2 is built on the Gamebryo engine, which you may of seen in Oblivion or Fallout 3. Here though, the faces aren\'t smudged or, well, downright ugly. Much of the game is easy on the eyes and ears. Excluding enemies, character models are detailed and are different enough so villages aren\'t filled with clones. The graphics of the game can be quite lush, and offer plenty of open vistas to take in; one can easily find panoramic moments, whether it\'s standing on a waterfall, overlooking a cave filled with lava, or when traveling in forests. The third-person camera may have some issues in tight corridors or in flight, but it\'s largely fine.

    Dungeons are jam-packed with detail and appear like others have visited the location before. Aged, ruined, or forgotten, these environments feel alive despite housing all matters of beast. There\'s plenty of nice touches along the journey in environments you visit, whether it\'s a cave\'s natural blue crystal giving off a faint glow or a jail cell holding shackles, a journal, and skeletal remains.

    One big issue I had with the game\'s graphics was that they were locked at 30 frames per second (FPS). While fine on a console, this made the entire game an eyesore to play, due the choppy nature of rendering and how clunky the combat seemed. I saw that a recent hot fix allowed the game to go higher than 30 FPS. After applying the right settings, it improved the gaming experience greatly by allowing a much more fluid feel, in both combat and exploration. The video I posted with this review has the game configuration at a steady 60 FPS, so if you pick up the PC version, be sure to unlock the game from 30 FPS before starting the story.

    When it comes down to it, Divinity 2 is a well-crafted game that doesn\'t exactly transcend the genre. Plenty of heart went into the game and it\'s easy to see that. From the well-written dialogue to the large amount of quests to the nice dose of humor, there\'s plenty to enjoy. The game was, frankly, grating the first three hours or so I played. As time went on, though, I eventually warmed up to it. The world becomes less confined the longer you play, and it feels more expansive by the time you hit places like Sentinel Island and Orobas Fjords, around the eight to ten hour mark.

    For hardcore RPG fans yearning for some adventure, this game has it in spades. You\'ll easily sink dozens of hours into this game if you choose to work at it. At $40, it\'s a reasonable deal, especially with the improvements to the core game and the included expansion.

    More casual gamers, however, may want to look at other options instead. The slower story progression, difficulty of the game, and lack of hand-holding make this a hard sell to those not used to such staples of the genre.

    -- Jonathan "Keero" Harling

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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