enfrdeitptrues

Action

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Mighty Monster Mayhem
    Developed By: Rank17
    Published By: Rank17
    Release Date: April 20, 2017
    Available On: Windows (HTC Vive or Oculus Rift VR headset required)
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Genre: Action/Simulation/Sandbox
    Mode: Single Player, with online co-op
    MSRP: $14.99

    Thank you Rank17 for sending us this game to review!

    In our age of early virtual reality (VR) experiences, Rank17 has covered most of the bases. They have their sports game (VR Baseball, not reviewed). They have their wave shooter/melee game (BladeShield), and they have their arcade style game (Super Pixel Smash). They even have a zombie shooter (Armed Against the Undead). And with Mighty Monster Mayhem, they also have their Rampage in VR experience. Thankfully, it covers what is important in that genre pretty well.

    For those not familiar, Rampage was a classic (1985) arcade game where George, Izzy, and Ralph, a giant gorilla, lizard, and wolf, respectively, set about to destroy a town by gobbling up humans and wrecking nearby skyscrapers. There is some kind of story behind it (and even a major motion picture that was released this year starting Dwayne Johnson), but it was always secondary to the action of bashing buildings, eating people for snacks, and knocking helicopters out of the sky.

    There are actually several Rampage clones in VR these days, including one another reviewer played on Oculus Rift, called VRobot. I can’t speak to that game, but my son said he slightly prefers this game over that one.

    Mighty Monster Mayhem
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: You get to wreck buildings as a giant creature; fun sandbox to break stuff in; innovative locomotion method; voice acting is pretty good
    Weak Points: Controls can be wonky at times; military enemies can be challenging to stop if you want to stay alive
    Moral Warnings: The story is a revenge plot; you eat people, and red splurts out of them; people and property destruction is required in order for you to progress

    The backstory on this one is that you take the role of an ostracized scientist who intends to take revenge on those who insulted him and his work. Fully ready for the mad scientist role, you step into his place and you can hear him talk as you smash the town to bits. Some of the voice work is done pretty well, and I had fun hearing it. It does start to repeat after a while though, and he rarely keeps to himself, so some players may find him annoying. I did not.

    Each level has a primary objective of destroying a certain number of buildings, along with some handy secondary ones. These include eating scientists or soldiers, destroying mailboxes, recovering DNA, and more. Doing so can sometimes unlock other characters rather than just the default purple giant cephalopod. There are golems, oni, insects, and reptiles available to round out the roster. And there are several different levels with objectives to complete in each one as well.

    The main thing about a VR game of this nature isn’t the graphics or sound, though those are important, but the mechanics of smashing things. And this is quite good, though not without the occasional bug or misdetection. The mechanics of punching, ripping apart walls, or picking up and throwing things is decent, though not great. What I really enjoyed was the unique approach to movement it took.

    Most VR games 'play it safe,' and have teleport movement only. This means that you point where you want to go, and you are instantly transported there. This works great for many types of games, but not as much for action ones. What they did here is kind of genius. To walk, you click in the grips on the Vive controller, and move your arms in a doggy-paddle like motion. Since you are moving your body, you rarely get sick, and it’s a natural way to move around. I like it. To climb up buildings, you reach up, pull the trigger, and pull down. It’s pretty natural, and well done. You can also leap off of the buildings, which feels crazy since the buildings are so tall.

    Mighty Monster Mayhem
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 76%
    Violence - 4/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 9/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 5/10

    Of course, with all of that movement, sometimes I found myself slightly motion sick, but it wasn’t bad enough for me to want to stop playing. I drank a glass of water afterwards, and I was fine. The graphics are believable, but nothing special. When picking up people off of the street, they look like the most simple of models, with little more than some face lines drawn on. It makes sense they would be simple given the desire for frame rate over expense when keeping a good experience relies on that more than most other considerations.

    The music and sound effects/voices are actually quite good. I found myself actively enjoying the music, and the voice acting does a great job of making you feel a little crazy given the subject at hand. Hearing him talk about how smelly other scientists are and how he still wanted to eat them was worth a nice laugh.

    Morally, the expected is here. Lots of violence, and you eat people for fun and they splat red, so there’s that. You are actively ignoring (or destroying) the local military and police, as well. The goal is to get revenge against others, which is hardly wholesome. It is notoriously difficult to take good notes while playing a VR game, but I did not catch any curse words to the best of my memory.

    Mighty Monster Mayhem is exactly what it says on the tin – you get to romp around town as a giant monster, and rip apart the town. And you get to do it as a mad scientist, who says many crazy things off-the-cuff. What else is there to say? If that sounds fun to you, then give it a shot – you may just like it.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Miner Meltdown
    Developed By: Mighty Pebble Games Inc.
    Published By: Mighty Pebble Games Inc.
    Released: Aug 2, 2017
    Available On: macOS, Windows
    Genre: Action
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: Up to 8 players online
    Price: $6.99

    Thank you Mighty Pebble Games Inc. for sending us a review code!

    I’ve had the glorious opportunity to explore caverns. They are a very interesting, yet very dangerous experience even when you know what you are doing. To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend most people to actually partake in cave exploring because many things can go wrong instantly. Stick to video games or something safer. Luckily, Miner Meltdown can possibly pique your curiosity when it comes to cave-dwelling action.

    Miner Meltdown is a 4v4 2D sprite-based side-scrolling action game where you and up to three others engage in mortal combat. Deathmatch, Crazy King, and Diamond Dash are your three game modes. Deathmatch is self-explanatory, Crazy King is a king of the hill variant, and Diamond Dash is a game mode where you must collect diamonds and return them to your base.

    Miner Meltdown
    Highlights:

    Strong Points:  No two maps are the same, making every experience unique; gameplay is smooth, enjoyable, and contains lots of weapons; runs on nearly any PC
    Weak Points: Multiplayer is non-existent outside of very specific times during the weekend; rope mechanics are buggy so it’s easy to clip out of bounds
    Moral Warnings: Blood; characters explode into giblets when killed; some NPCs consist of mutants that resemble zombies

    Your miner starts out with a pickaxe, a sword and a rope. The pickaxe and the sword act as your primary weapons (used with the left-mouse click), which can be picked from the 1-4 keys. Merchants are scattered across the map which let you buy more weapons with gold ranging from flamethrowers, pistols, shotguns, and rocket launchers, with even more to unlock as you level up. Gold can be obtained by picking at the cave walls, or killing other players. Be cautious! Other miners and merchants are not the only living beings in the caves. Mutants also want nothing more than to see you dead!

    Movement is pretty simple, using the tried-and-true WASD with the space bar to jump. Right-click is to use your gadget. By default, your gadget is a rope, which lets you swing around like Spider-Man. Unlike our friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, the rope mechanics do have a tendency to make you clip out of bounds. You can also buy gadgets and secondary weapons/items from the merchant such as a jetpack to help you traverse the field, or a glow stick to help you see a further distance. The pickaxe is also a very important for movement, as the map is 100% destructible. You know as they say, when in doubt, dig out!

    I like that developers haven’t given up on using 2D sprites, as Miner Meltdown looks nice, although goofy. The character design has charm to it, and character heads can be swapped through many combinations such as a pirate miner (isn't that an oxymoron?), a “puberty miner,” and even a ninja miner. I guess being a miner is very profitable, considering anyone and everyone is doing it. The sound quality is nice, and the sounds the characters make are pretty funny too.

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

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 84%
    Violence - 3/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 9/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Digging around, shooting people, and swinging are all quite enjoyable (there is even a dedicated button to pelvic thrusting). The game is very simple to pick up, and can be enjoyed by casual players and hardcore players alike, but there is one itty-bitty, teensy-weensy, pretty substantial, super-huge, massive problem. The multiplayer is dead. Outside of some moments during the weekends, there are usually zero players playing. I was only able to get one PvP match with a human player. All the other times, I could only play with bots. Unfortunately, Miner Meltdown never seemed to have a huge player base in the beginning.

    There are some moral concerns with the game, however. It looks rather cute at first, but once you kill your first enemy, you realize it is rather bloody for a 2D sprite-based game. Not only is blood left on the floor when characters are killed, but they have the tendency to explode into giblets when slain. It's quite exaggerated in a cartoon-like manner, as the giblets look like pork chops. As previously mentioned, there are some mutant characters, but the human-shaped one acts more like a zombie.

    If you have a group of friends, or an online chat group, or a LAN group, you can buy Miner Meltdown and have a good time as it runs on any computer that came out within the past decade, and is cheaper than a lunch. The portrayal of Miner Meltdown might be a bit too violent for young kids, so I would only recommend buying if you have older people to play with; otherwise, you’ll be stuck playing against bots 99% of the time. It is such a shame as Miner Meltdown is a good game and has well-executed ideas and mechanics; it just happened to get caved-in among the hundreds of other Steam games.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    MOTHERGUNSHIP
    Developed By: Grip Digital, Terrible Posture Games
    Published By: Grip Digital
    Release Date: July 17, 2018
    Available On: Windows, PS4, Xbox One
    Genre: Action; First-Person Shooter; Rogue-like
    Number of Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: Teen for Fantasy Violence
    MSRP: $24.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Grip Digital for sending us this game to review!

    Four years ago, Terrible Posture Games made a little First-Person Shooter (FPS) called Tower of Guns that gathered a small but loyal following. The premise of that game was to enjoy a short, quick session of player vs. environment (PvE), where you shoot down lots and lots of enemy robots, while doing your best to stay alive. Level and enemy layouts were random, which lends itself well to lots of replayability. That team is now back with the spiritual follow-up, MOTHERGUNSHIP.

    Rather than just lots and lots of enemies to blow up (though there is that), there is now a crafting and leveling element, which makes you gradually gain power as you not only gain experience, but also new and better weapons. As you complete missions, you can take with you whatever you find, and add it to the ship’s inventory. You can then choose a limited number of items in that list to take with you when you start another mission. There are several at a time to choose from; there is always a story mission, as well as a few other side missions which can help you gain experience or weapons if you need them.

    MOTHERGUNSHIP
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun shooting action; lots of bullets to dodge; levels are unpredictable; humorous dialog; graphics are great
    Weak Points: No difficulty level selection; failure loop is easy to get stuck in; levels are too random at times
    Moral Warnings:Lots of shooting and blowing up robots (and you die a lot); AI robots are the butt of lots of insults

    I’ve generally enjoyed my time with MOTHERGUNSHIP, and the basics of combat and shooting is really well done, and feels great. I also find it funny that you can collect the ability to jump many, many times over – a simple double jump is not enough. One time, I collected seventeen jumps! That was nearly unlimited in practical use, and was fun when trying to avoid bad guys, or lava and such. Unfortunately, I have not gotten so lucky again since that run.

    There are two major problems with this game. First, is the random number generator (RNG). The levels and drops are truly random – and sometimes, that leads to lots of jump upgrades, but no healths. Or lots of shops in the level, but no coins to buy new weapons. Or lots of coins, but no shops to buy them. Or lots of enemies – and no chance of survival with the crappy weapons you might have started the level with.

    If the RNG is particularly tough on you, you may find yourself on a losing streak, which then limits or eliminates all weapons from your inventory, which can lead to a losing spiral and you get weaker and weaker without good weapons. They try to alleviate this by giving you weapon testing levels, but I still found myself losing to even the easiest level one weapon testing levels. While you do gain experience (which allows you to make permanent upgrades when you level), it is not difficult to get stuck in what amounts to a weapon drain loop as you continuously lose. No amount of excellence in shooting or neat ideas can make up for a negative feedback loop.

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

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 93%
    Violence - 7.5/10
    Language - 9/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Thankfully, the game itself is fun. No two levels are exactly alike, though the environments do start to feel repetitive after a while, despite technically always being unique. Beating a level is quite a chore, and a relief when it happens – but it happened far to rarely for me. I suppose you could argue I need to ‘git gud’ - and to an extent, that is true. But if beating the campaign is not accessible for most, then perhaps it should be reexamined, especially when this happens in the first few hours of gameplay. A selectable difficulty level could be another approach to solving this problem, as those who seek the difficulty will be pleased. Either way, the second or third mission should never be a steep difficulty wall, no matter what game this is.

    And that’s really my problem with MOTHERGUNSHIP. I want to like it, and it’s not that I don’t - but at the end of the day I don’t want to play a game where I don’t feel like I am making any progress. I am okay with challenging games, if the gameplay itself is really compelling, or playing it makes me a better player, and I can somehow learn from my mistakes. But here, you will never play the same level twice, and what killed you last time may be totally different from what does it next time. With no levels I can learn to conquer, or with too few tools to earn to take on the level again renewed, it’s just no longer fun, nor is there a compelling reason to keep going.

    I really want to like MOTHERGUNSHIP. It has a fun premise, rock-solid gameplay and shooting mechanics, and great ideas. It also really helps a lot that the developers avoided putting in curse words, which made me very happy. (The AI is brunt to a lot of jokes, but computers don’t have feelings, right?) Only robots (or you) die. So I want to give this game a chance. Thankfully, it seems that the developers are looking into player feedback, and do intend on patching the game to improve the sometimes terrible RNG, and hopefully other issues. They have already promised co-op to come, and more content as well. Once they make it so a level can usually be completed by most competent players, then I imagine I will also enjoy it very much. Until then, I’m going to pass.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Next Up Hero
    Developed By: Digital Continue
    Published By: Aspyr
    Released: Jun 28, 2018
    Available On: macOS, PlayStation 4, Windows, Switch, Xbox One
    Genre: Action, RPG
    ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+: Fantasy Violence
    Number of Players: Up to two players online
    Price: $19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Aspyr/Digital Continue for sending us this game to review.

    Heroes summoned through the power of song. In the world of Next Up Hero, your voice has more of an impact than you’d realize. The premise is intriguing as I’ve played few games that dabbled with the concept.

    Next Up Hero is a dungeon crawler action RPG where you have a choice of 11 ranged-based or melee-based characters to tackle dungeons called Ventures. Each Venture has four difficulties to choose from with four locations ranging from a tundra to a lava land. Levels inside the Ventures contain special gimmicks tied to them such as “defeat a certain amount of enemies” or “watch out for falling rocks.” At the end of every Venture is a boss, and once defeated, you can choose to end the Venture and collect your rewards or push onward to collect more rewards.

    The gameplay of Next Up Hero is presented in a top-down view, similar to games like Bastion and Transistor. The controls are fairly simple, with the standard WASD movement, mouse to aim around, left mouse button for primary attack, right mouse button to use the secondary ability, space bar to dodge, and the R key for the third unlockable ability. A unique feature to this game is the ability to summon fallen heroes, or in this case, AI controlled players to assist you called Echoes. Every time a real player perishes in combat, their Echo is left in that exact spot for a passing player to summon using the Q key. These Echoes can assist you in combat, or be “consumed” with the E key to summon an Ancient to aid you. Ancients can either attack enemies or grant you boosted stats to even the playing field in particularly tricky moments. The PC version has native controller support for both the Xbox controller and PlayStation controller and it controls more like a twin-stick shooter. The dodge is mapped to the right stick which is a bit awkward and can take some time getting used to it. Keep in mind that controls cannot be remapped so left-handed players may struggle with the controls.

    Next Up Hero
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Cute hand-drawn art; Echo system is a rather interesting concept.
    Weak Points: Everything requires some type of grind to obtain; server-based, even when playing solo; very simplistic design, from the gameplay, to the level layout; bosses are huge damage sponges and there are only a few in the game.
    Moral Warnings: The Echoes resemble ghosts or spirits.

    The entire concept of Echoes is compelling for a game such as this, and even when you’re alone, you’re never truly “alone.” Even your untimely demise can help a player reach further in their objective. There even is a co-op option to play the game with a friend, and streamer integration from Mixer or Twitch for the viewers to help or harm your journey. There further is the option to play “player-created Ventures” which are more or less player-enabled modifiers and custom Ventures to challenge the player, with an incentive for both the creator and the participants. If the player makes a Venture, and no one is able to complete it within a certain amount of time, the creator is rewarded with rare and powerful equipment, and vice versa for the player.

    Characters are all hand drawn, and I have a really soft spot for hand-drawn art. The hero design reminds me of the Mighty Beanz toys, but with a bit more detail, such as actual limbs and a head. The style is rather cute and did invoke nostalgic feelings from me. Music is also rather good, although fairly low in volume, even when the music settings are set to max in the options. When you first start getting into the game with your character of choice and tackle these dungeons and summon many fallen heroes, the combination of it all is quite fun to partake in.

    At least, for first hour or two that is. Woefully, the problems of Next Up Hero really start to show after this point. I understand the game is a RPG, but I’ve played free to play games and MMOs that didn’t feel as needlessly grindy as Next Up Hero. Everything in this game is a grind, from earning characters, to leveling them up, to gaining abilities, equipment, and even participating in the endgame content itself is a grind, as that requires a special currency that can only be obtained sometimes through chests or from leveling up. Not only do you have to grind to even equip the equipment, you also need to grind for passive abilities on top of that, in which you need to grind for to even equip said abilities.

    Enemies sometimes drop tokens that are used to level up your passive abilities, and there are also rare variants of these enemies that also drop tokens to unlock rare versions of these abilities. These rare enemies only pop up occasionally, but can be manipulated to appear in a slightly higher frequency by spending currency to spawn more of them in the Venture. Some of these rare abilities can take up to 80 tokens to fully level up, but you’re lucky to see maybe three of the same type of rare enemy in a single Venture. And this only consists of one of the many cases of grinding in the game.

    Next Up Hero
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 60%
    Gameplay - 9/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 92%
    Violence - 7.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    It doesn’t help that even though each level has a gimmick tied to it, most gimmicks feel the same because with most of them, you still have to kill a certain amount of enemies to unlock the gate that will lead you to the next level. Only a few objectives don’t require a certain number of enemies such as the “bounty hunt” or “community checkpoint” which is an optional objective in that if you beat the miniboss in the area, the community will be able to start the Venture at that point. Levels are also way too spacious and rather bland design-wise. They really should have downsized the levels. There is also one rather annoying gimmick called “don’t get greedy” in that if you collect money, it harms you. Money is integral to the game, and having something that punishes you for something as necessary as currency is very poor game design. It also slows the game down and heavily punishes melee-based players as there is a vacuum effect when collecting money.

    Getting to the bosses, they are also very annoying and boring. They end up being huge damage sponges with most of them only having brief moments of vulnerability. Even if you push the boss further down, the boss doesn't gain any special attributes or attacks when encountered once again. They’re just the same damage sponge with nothing new to show for it. All in all, you’ll see what Next Up Hero has to offer in only a few hours of playtime, and it makes the game feel very repetitive, as the depth of the game is as shallow as a puddle of water.

    I didn’t find much morally concerning with the game. There is a story contained within Next Up Hero about something with these Spoken Voice Houses who use the power of song to summon heroes and how these Houses combat the Ceaseless Dirge, and two people from the opposing Houses named Ovalia and Quinn find themselves stranded in the world that the Ceaseless Dirge comes from. Frankly, I remember very little about the story, but nothing stuck out for me, including the story itself. The entire concept of the Echoes does resemble spirits or ghosts, which add a supernatural aspect.

    I would only recommend Next Up Hero if you have a friend to play with, an active streaming community, or just really like grinding, as it is too simplistic for a RPG, too much grind for a paid game, and too repetitive for a solo experience. From my experience, the PC community isn’t all that active either as I was barely able to take advantage of the Echo mechanics to summon Ancients. One may have more luck playing on the consoles as there is potential for a more active base for Echoes. Next Up Hero is not a terrible game, as I do enjoy the art style, the music/sound effects are good (when I could hear them), and the game is rather stable for an always-online game as I only experienced two server-related issues that simply kicked me back to the main menu, but I personally feel there are much better alternatives to spend your $20 on as it failed to appeal to me on any other level.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    NieR: Automata
    Developed by: PlatinumGames
    Published by: Square Enix
    Released date: March 17 2017
    Available on: PS4, Windows
    Genre: Action RPG
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Violence
    Price: $52.24 on Kinguin.net
    (Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Kinguin.net for supplying us with a review code for this game!

    NieR: Automata is the sequel to 2010’s  Nier which is part of the Drakengard series.  Sadly, I haven’t played the other games so I can’t tell you how much better or worse it is compared to others in the series.  The story in this title is quite intriguing and the characters are well developed and likable.  While there's plenty of action in this game, there's a lot of mysteries to solve within it as well.  Your job is to find out the source of the alien robots and why they have taken on a life of their own.  Not all of the robots are hostile either - should you wipe them all out or let the peaceful ones survive?  The choice is yours.

    The main character is a female looking android named 2B and early on in the game she’s accompanied by a young male appearing android named 9S.  2B is very mission focused and straight to the point while 9S is more talkative and tries earn the respect and approval of 2B. Their mission is to eliminate the alien machines that have populated the planet and have caused the remaining humans to flee to the moon.   These human designed androids are humanity’s last chance for survival and repelling the alien threat once and for all.  

    2B is a fighting class android and is quite powerful if given the right weapons and software to use.  9S is a good support unit and can be programmed to be offensive, supportive, defensive, or balanced in combat.  Hacking plays a role in some of the boss battles and 9S excels at hacking and thinking outside of the box in tough battle situations.  

    Both 2B and 9S have pod devices that provide support fire and powerful attacks that require some time to recharge after use.  Besides the pod you start off with, two more can be located in the game if you’re diligent in looking for them.  Sadly, you can only have one pod activated at a time.  Switching between pods and weapon sets is easy to do and the menu system is extremely well designed by offering automated tweaking or customizing things on your own (with risks and warnings).

    NieR: Automata
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun action RPG where you get to slice and dice alien robots into shrapnel; 26 possible endings; excellent graphics, music, characters, and story telling
    Weak Points: Game crashed to my desktop a couple of times
    Moral Warnings: Strong language; blaspheming; blood and violence; partial nudity

    The battles are quite fun and there’s something special about converting evil robots into scrap metal.  The bosses are massive and extremely intimidating. Many of them have multiple phases to beat before they finally go down.  Sadly, given the game’s limited saving functionality I lost significant progress when the game crashed to the desktop after beating a tough boss.   

    Some of the androids you’ll be fight against are very humanlike in appearance and even bleed when attacked.  Androids can apparently be choked to death too which doesn’t make much sense to me.  If you’re connected to the internet when playing, you’ll be able to loot or revive corpses of fallen players to aide you in your journey.  Like the pods, you can only have one revived ally at a time.  

    Fallen players and some of the android characters in the games have some partial nudity going on.  When you get down to it, they’re not much different than a naked Barbie or Ken doll.  There’s no details on the chest other than muscles and contours.  Nothing differentiates the males and females below the navel, but some rear ends are shown.

    The outside world is nicely detailed with the lush vegetation and limited wildlife encompassing the planet.  You’ll see birds in the air, you can catch fish in the waters, and you're able to ride the boars and moose wandering around the city ruins.  You’ll have to give the animals some bait in exchange for an opportunity to ride them.      

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

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 19/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 56%
    Violence - 3.5/10
    Language - 1.5/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The audio in this game is superb.  The background music and voice acting are both exceptional and pleasant to listen to.  You can definitely tell which robots have evolved and express their emotions when talking to them.  

    In the beginning you’re restricted on where you can go, but you’ll be free to wander and play this game as you see fit early on.  There are lots of side-quests to accept from fellow androids, defectors, and even friendly alien robots if you decide to let them live.  Depending on your actions you’ll get to experience multiple endings.  I witnessed the A ending and if I’m not mistaken, there are twenty-five more to see if I want to continue playing this game and unlock even more of its unique story.  Needless to say, there is plenty of replay value in this title.

    Aside from the violence and Barbie doll nudity, there is a fair amount of language.  The Lord’s name is taken in vain and other cuss words are used throughout the game.  Not surprisingly, some of the excluded words were found in the names of some of the fallen players.  Throughout my journey I did not find the F-bomb, but I saw every other word.    

    Religion is not particularly shown in a good light in this game and that’s all I’ll say without giving away any spoilers.  In her opening monologue, 2B expresses her intent to kill God if He existed.  (While 2B kicks butt in battle, God would totally win BTW).  As a regular churchgoer I often sing worship songs to God and give Him all the glory.  The motto in this game is “For the glory of mankind.”  

    Despite the many moral issues, NieR: Automata is a very fun and thought provoking game.  The battle system is fun and challenging with various game difficulties and endings to extend total gameplay time.   My only complaint is the number of crashes I have experienced while playing.  Hopefully the game gets patched and runs smoother for others.   

    Kinguin NieR: Automata - 728x90
  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Nine Parchments
    Developed by: Frozenbyte
    Published by: Frozenbyte
    Release date: December 5, 2017
    Available on: PS4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Action RPG
    Number of players: Up to four
    ESRB Rating: E 10+ for mild fantasy violence
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you Frozenbyte for sending us this game to review!

    Nine Parchments takes place in the Trine universe at the Astral Academy. The students there are a ways away from graduating, as they have to master their spell casting techniques and not be a hazard to anyone near them. In the middle of a lecture, there is an explosion in the building and nine of the academy’s parchments go flying away in the wind. To redeem themselves, students vow to return each of the parchments safe and sound.

    When first launching the game you’ll get to choose your gametype (single or multiplayer), difficulty level (Easy, Normal, Hard, Hardcore), and mage. At first, there are only two mages available, but as you collect staffs and complete quests you’ll unlock others. Each mage has a starting spell set that can be altered later on. The mages can equip hats and staffs that can enhance their appearance or boost their spell casting abilities.

    Nine Parchments
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Wonderful visuals, music, and voice acting; fun multiplayer gameplay
    Weak Points: Multiplayer joycon controls are trickier to use than a pro-controller
    Moral Warnings: Fantasy violence and magic use, pentacles adorn some of the staffs

    The tutorial level will show you the basic movements and techniques. I found that playing in twin stick mode is much easier than using a joycon by itself. I couldn’t figure out how to flash (quickly dash) when playing in multiplayer mode using a joycon. Jumping and spell casting are other critical skills that need to be mastered before venturing out from the academy.

    While exploring and taking in the beautiful scenery, you’ll need to keep an eye out for treasure chests and collectible blue quills. The treasure chests can blend in and are not easily noticeable. I like how the game lets you know how many quills you have collected and how many remain on the level. Since backtracking isn’t always possible, you’ll need to stay alert at all times. Monsters will come from out of the ground and other areas and will start swarming and/or pelting your character with magic attacks. Your mage has a limited number of spells and mana at their disposal. Many of the creatures have elemental affinities so if you attack them with their weakness, you’ll do more damage. However, if you attack a fire creature with a fire spell, no damage will be taken. If you’re in a pinch you can do a melee attack but mages are pretty weak and can’t take too much damage before dying.

    If you’re playing solo you will get resurrected once before having to respawn from a checkpoint. Multiplayer co-op allows for unlimited revivals and if all of the mages die, a random one will be resurrected once like the single-player mode.

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

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 73%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 0/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    As long as you exploit the elemental weaknesses of enemies, they should go down with little effort and some dodging while you’re waiting for your mana to refill. The bosses are much more challenging and they all seem to be attracted to the parchments for some odd reason. Some of the battles take place in confined spaces and when you add area of effect damage, things get pretty hairy. When playing with friends you’ll have to take friendly fire into consideration as well.

    Though Nine Parchments is rated for everyone ten and older, there are some moral issues worth noting. Magic is a given and unavoidable since enemies will use it against you. Sticking with melee only attacks is suicide. When enemies and players fall in battle they do not bleed and there is no gore; they may break into pieces though. If you use an ice spell there may be chunks of ice left behind. I was saddened to see pentacles adorning some of the mage staffs.

    In the end, Nine Parchment is a well polished game that is best enjoyed with friends. Just make sure that your allies are accurate with their spell casting and don’t hurt you too badly. If you don’t like magic or occult symbols in your games, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Ninja Smasher!
    Developed by: Q-Cumber Factory, Pumo
    Published by: Pumo
    Release date: July 21, 2016 (3DS)
    Available on: 3DS, iOS
    Genre: Action, Adventure
    Number of Players: Single-Player
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10 and Up (Fantasy Violence)
    Price: $3.99

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

    If you've been a fan of the Nintendo eShop for any amount of time, you'd know there are a lot of games that have ninjas as their main character. Most are decent, some are bad, and then there's Ninja Smasher! from Pumo. This retro 8-bit styled action game takes a few mechanics from other successful titles that have appeared on Nintendo's early consoles, and makes its own experience from them. Metroid, Castlevania, and Ninja Gaiden are no doubt the first games you'll think of while playing Ninja Smasher!

    You are a nameless ninja attempting to rescue a princess who has been kidnapped by the monster overlord, King Tengu. The game actually has no dialogue written in it at all, making it all about the action. Armed with only his sword, he must travel the land in order to obtain special skills that will allow him access to King Tengu. The ninja will find elemental magic attacks along the way. These will increase his damage potential and he'll also be able to buy bombs and shurikens from the shops, further increasing his deadliness.

    Ninja Smasher!
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A fun twist on the Metroidvania-style of gameplay; Tight controls and fluid animations; Unlockable characters after the game is beaten; Made for speed running.
    Weak Points: Backgrounds lack detail; The music, though pleasant, loops for most of the game; Circle pad is completely unused.
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence.

    The game plays out in a rather linear fashion, though backtracking is necessary to progress. Conveniently there's a room that acts as a gateway to each of the areas, albeit each door is blocked and can only be reached will newer skills. Each new area feels different from the last, with new enemies and obstructions constantly introduced, keeping things fresh. My only complaint is that movement is completely controlled with the D-pad. It's not a problem until you get the skill that allows the ninja to hang from ceilings. It requires precise directional inputs that just do not feel comfortable attempting with the D-pad. The circle pad would have alleviated this frustration, but for some reason it went completely unused. There's also the option to switch to a complete touch screen input, but I found this to be a less ideal way of playing the game.

    Graphically, this game isn't going to win any awards, though the character sprites are well detailed. Backgrounds are messy and look unfinished. I can understand they are trying to keep it simplistic, but the art just looks out of place. As the map is displayed on the top screen there's no 3D visuals, which was a shame. Animations are smooth and buttery, though some areas of the game showed some slowdown for a second or two. The areas themselves are all distinct and feel unique from one another. The music doesn't change with the different areas, only changing in certain cavernous sections. It's fitting and pleasant, but the three hours I played could've benefitted with the addition of more music.

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

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    One of the first things I noticed when I started the game was the timer that's always on the screen. After a few minutes of jumping and wandering around, it became pretty clear that this game was designed to be completed extremely fast. One of the first upgrades you'll find is a double jump, obviously allowing the ninja a second jump midair. But jumping and slicing an enemy in midair not only keeps the ninja's momentum, it also allows another jump to be performed. Even taking damage from an enemy restores the ability to jump again, which is perfect for damage boosting. The developers built many of the levels around these mechanics, making traveling a breeze. It also should be mentioned that some of the achievements also encourage beating the game under certain time limits.

    Ninja Smasher! is a game I wasn't expecting to enjoy as much as I did. It took me three hours to beat the game, and afterwards three new characters were unlocked. These new ninjas play differently from each other and actually provide a good reason to start a new game. The robot ninja in particular allows the player early access to areas because he has a jetpack and can fly for a few seconds. There's a lot to like in this small package, and with such a cheap price tag, it'd be hard not to recommend this one.

    -Kyuremu

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Nioh: Complete Edition
    Developed By: Team NINJA/Koei Tecmo Games
    Published By: Koei Tecmo Games
    Release Date: November 7, 2017
    Available On: Windows, PS4
    ESRB Rating: M for Blood and Gore, Violence
    Genre: Action Role Playing Game
    Mode: Single Player with online co-op
    MSRP: $49.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Koei Tecmo Games for sending us this game to review!

    Nioh mostly takes place in historical Japan not long after Oda Nobunaga’s death. It starts in London, where the protagonist, William, has his childhood guardian spirit Saoirse stolen by the antagonist Edward Kelley. This spirit is quite powerful, as it allows him to easily locate Amrita, which is a spiritual energy with powerful effects in the real world, and is the reason Kelley stole it from him. His deep relationship with Saoirse is also why he never stays dead – after every fatal encounter, he is restored to the last Kodama Shrine that he prayed at. Amrita acts as experience does in most games, and he does lose all Amrita collected after death; if he wants all of that back, he better be prepared to work to find his grave again.

    Shortly after his initial encounter with Kelley, William determines to find Saoirse once again, and sets off across the world in search of her, which eventually leads him to Japan. What he finds there is a land filled with demons and death. He soon meets a ninja named Hattori Hanzo, and eventually makes an alliance with his lord, Tokugawa Ieyasu. William is soon renamed Anjin, and becomes the first foreign-born samurai.

    It doesn’t take too long before William’s skill with a blade becomes renowned in its own right. But this skill is not without work and sacrifice. As the player, you must learn and understand the movement, blocking, counterattack, skills, stances, and ki systems (at a minimum) to be able to do well against the many and quite tough opponents that you face. The first two levels, the ‘tutorial’ level in London, and the first Japanese level, were quite brutal to me, with many, many deaths required for me to have any hope of passing them.

    The combat is very fast-paced, with the 3D third-person action being both quick, and very precise. Even the simplest enemy can destroy you in about three hits. Blocking and dodging is required, and once you learn about the differences between armor weights, you soon discover that lighter armor leads to a more dodge-focused playstyle, while heavier armors lead to a blocking-focused playstyle, simply because you just can’t dodge that quickly. I found that, for me, medium armor with agility level ‘B’ was the best compromise between movement and armor. There are ten different types of weapons; three of them are ranged, with the rest various kinds of melee weapons. They are all interesting, and each one truly is different from the other. Not only do they differ in base stats, but also in how they feel while playing, as well as the skills that they offer.

    Nioh: Complete Edition
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Long and interesting game with deep and rewarding gameplay; excellent graphics; lots of historical (or quasi-historical) lore; very challenging, and rewards skilled play
    Weak Points: The early part of the game is very frustrating until you learn how to play properly; long loading times; crashed once
    Moral Warnings: Lots and lots of violence, including tons of blood and gore; some female enemies wear revealing outfits, including lots of visible cleavage; some curse words like ‘h*ll’ and ‘b*tch’; lots of mystical references, including magic used by both enemies and the player; there are evil spirits (yokai) and friendly ones (guardian spirits) and the main character, William, can see them both, while most cannot; a magical substance, called Amrita, is something that only a small number of people can see, but it can both help and wreak terrible havok on the world; lots of political fighting, death, and intrigue, including discussion of mistresses; alcohol use shown

    Stat stacking is another seemingly simple mechanic that becomes much more important as the game goes on. There are many, many ways to increase various stats and bonuses as you go on. Each piece of equipment is randomly rolled. What bonuses it grants makes a huge difference in your effectiveness. If it was just equipment, that would be easy; but no, there are prestige bonuses, armor and weapon sets, guardian spirits, Kodama bonuses, and probably other things I am forgetting that all can add up to increases in power, skills, or other ways to increase effectiveness. And of course, you gain levels, too.

    Bosses took me many deaths, and lots of practice to figure out the patterns to get them just right. As your gear and skills get better, they do seem to be a bit easier – but just a bit. Living Weapons, which are powerful attacks that you can use with your guardian spirits, can really help turn the tide, or wipe out that last chunk of health once you have your enemy’s health down far enough.

    Unlike many games, Nioh has a humongous level cap of 750, and it has many difficulty levels that you use to get there. As you keep using New Game+, everything just gets harder and harder, and you get more and more powerful. With continuous loot drops, more and more skills and challenges to keep you going, there are many players with hundreds of hours into Nioh.

    And I have over 100 hours in myself, and haven’t quite beaten my first playthrough yet (though I am pretty close). There are six base regions, with even more in the included DLC (PS4 had the DLC released over time, rather than at release as on PC). Each region has between seven and nine areas, and some areas have more than one level to play each. On top of this, there are Twilight and Master missions, which can be even more difficult, but with greater rewards, too. The content quantity in this game is just immense. There is a ton to do, and plenty of value – even at full price. And the New Game+ grind just keeps it going for as long as you want to keep playing.

    There is very interesting lore, that I found even more fascinating once I realized that the William in this game is based on the historical figure William Adams, and that the Japanese figures represented are almost all based on reality. Yes, some artistic liberties are taken, and on some characters more liberty was taken than on others, but the game is overall based on actual history. As recent events corroborate, truth can often be stranger than fiction – but even despite all of this, it’s really the gameplay that takes center stage here.

    You will spend most of your time beating (or getting beaten by) various human or yokai enemies in Nioh. Yokai are evil corrupt spirits, not all that much different from demons or poltergeists. While humans can be powerful enemies, and sometimes definitely are, most of the nastiest foes are yokai. These enemies often take the form of undead skeletons, horned demon-beasts, odd umbrella-shaped creatures, and more. From what I read, many of the enemy designs are based on Japanese lore, so they are very interesting and varied.

    Nioh: Complete Edition
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 96%
    Gameplay - 19/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 58%
    Violence - 2/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 3/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Not only are many of the creatures dark and magical, but your character also can speak to (generally helpful) spirits, often called guardian spirits. These represent your grave when you die, are the powers unleashed when you use your Living Weapon, and give various bonuses that can make a significant difference in your power level, or grant you a massive bonus against certain bosses. Your character can also use Ninjitsu skills or Onmyo magic, which often have elemental properties, and you can build a character to be mage-like if you wish, though you cannot truly neglect the way of the sword (or other chosen weapon).

    As you probably surmised by now, Nioh has plenty of violence, blood, and gore. You chop enemies to bits, and blood splatters all over the place during battle. Some scenes show many corpses that litter the battlefield. This game is definitely not short on blood. Fortunately, when it comes to curse words, they only very rarely use a PG-13 curse word like ‘h*ll’ or ‘b*tch’. There is discussion of political intrigue that includes putting close ones to death, as well as mistresses and such. There is nothing romantic on screen. Some female enemies show significant skin and cleavage, but no human females do that as I recall. There is alcohol use and drunkenness shown.

    I had a mostly bug-free experience, except for one crash, and a funny but inconsequential bug: if you Steam screenshot while watching a cut scene, the voices get really slow as the game slows down then catches up. It’s pretty funny, but does no harm. The gamepad controls are excellent; they more recently added mouse and keyboard controls, but this kind of game is probably best with a gamepad anyway.

    Nioh: Complete Edition is a truly excellent game, in both quantity and quality. The adventure is long and interesting, the battle and loot systems are varied and truly carry the game by itself, not to mention all of the other, deeper systems, like forging clans, online modes, and more. I really love how you can fight other player’s revenants, which are basically computer controlled AIs with the equipment and stats of the player character that died there. I got most of my best equipment from killing them, rather than enemies or monsters. (A double thank you to the guy who dropped an Odachi with AA Strength on it!) It’s awesome to think about who else I have helped with my great equipment, and I also wonder how many of my own pieces someone else improved, and then I got them back myself from their corpses.

    Nioh is fantastic – though not without its moral issues; I strongly recommend sticking with the M for Mature rating system on this one, assuming the dark atmosphere, bloody violence, and dark spiritual forces don’t keep you away from this title.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Noitu Love: Devolution
    Published By: MP2
    Developed By: Konjak
    Released: September 15, 2016 (3DS, Wii U)
    Available On: 3DS, Wii U, Windows
    Genre: Action, Platformer, Shooter
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10 and Up (Fantasy Violence)
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you Joakim Sandberg for sending us a code for his game!

    Noitu Love: Devolution has been available on Steam for a few years now, but Nintendo 3DS and Wii U owners can now play this retro-themed action side-scroller. 

    Noitu Love: Devolution is actually a sequel, but it's not necessary to play the first game to know what's going on. Devolution is set a century after the events of Noitu Love. The titular character defeated the evil robots known as the Grinning Darns and their leader Darnacus Damnation. Darnacus had created robots known as Evomatics and planned to turn everyone into monkeys. They've now returned and not only are they causing mayhem through time travel, they also reactivated a doppleganger of Noitu's assistant, which was also created by Darnacus. Luckily, watching the intro cutscene will shed some light on the events in the previous game.

    Devolution follows the main character, Xoda Rap, and a new team of heroes called The Green Helmets, led by Mr. Almond. The Green Helmets assist Xoda along her adventure by providing information about the locales and enemies. About halfway through the game Mr. Almond is actually kidnapped. Only Xoda can save him and put a stop to the Darns.

    Noitu Love: Devolution
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Beautiful graphics; Charming characters and a brilliant soundtrack; Great level designs and challenging boss fights.
    Weak Points: Controls do take some time to get used to; No way of exploring or returning to a previous point in a level.
    Moral Warnings: Moderate amount of violence throughout the game; Leader of the Darns name is Darnicus Damnation.

    The gameplay in Devolution is rather simple. Movement is mapped to the face buttons, but you can also use the circle pad and D-pad. Holding down 'A' will determine how high Xoda will jump. Attacking is controlled by tapping on enemies with the stylus. You'll continue to attack as long as an enemy doesn't hit you while the strikes are connecting. Tapping enemies that are farther away will have Xoda flip her way over to wherever they are on the screen. Double tapping left, right, or up on the D-pad will unleash special moves that are not only good at dealing damage, but are effective ways to move about levels. These can also be performed by sliding the stylus in the appropriate direction.

    Each of the seven stages are based on a different time in history, making each one feel incredibly unique. This helps keep the game fresh and not become stale or repetitive. There's even a side-scrolling shoot 'em up level! Stages don't go on longer than they need to, and the midbosses and bosses along the way require that you learn their patterns. These fights had me scratching my head as to how I needed to deal damage. It doesn't take long to figure out and I appreciated that the game wasn't holding my hand. My only issue is that once the screen begins to scroll, you can't go back. This made taking in the scenery a bit of a challenge, but the point of a game isn't to stare at the backgrounds all day, so it's forgivable. As you progress through stages you'll gain points. These add up at the end of a stage and will determine which letter grade you'll receive. This is great for players that enjoy getting high scores.

    Graphically, this is one of the best looking games on the 3DS. The retro aesthetic bleeds personality, and I couldn't help but feel the same way I did playing Cave Story for the first time all those years ago. Xoda and the other members of the Green Helmets each have their own style, and the designs of enemies and bosses are just amazing. Bosses in particular vary from a sea serpent to a transforming train. Coupled with their attack patterns and overall designs, these are incredibly memorable fights that will likely stick with the player long after they finish playing.

    Noitu Love: Devolution
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 92%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The soundtrack for Devolution is filled with some rocking chiptune that matches perfectly with the rapid progression in stages. Just turning on the game and hearing the main menu theme, you'll know there was a ton of love poured into the tracks. The distinct sound your weapon makes, and all the noises made by the robot enemies do well to compliment the action found on screen. I rarely keep my 3DS at max volume, but I did for the entirety of my playthrough of the game.

    Now Devolution is a bit on the short side, lasting me around two hours to see all seven stages. Therein lies the beauty though. There are unlockable characters, one of which is actually the robot doppelganger, Rilo Doppleori. She plays much differently to Xoda, and there's even a hidden boss for  her story arc. Adding in hard mode and trying to get a high score, there's plenty of reasons to replay the game. 

    As this is a shooter there is a moderate amount of violence, though the enemies in the game are robots and other non-human creatures. When all is said and done this is a fantastic little gem. Memorable boss fights, a rocking soundtrack, and a fantastic art style all seamlessly come together to make a standout title that any 3DS owner can easily pick up and play. Some may find the $9.99 price a bit too high for the length, but fans of retro games like Metal Slug and Mega Man will find a lot to like here. Noitu Love: Devolution gets a high recommendation from me.

    -Kyuremu

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas
    Developed by: Cornfox & Bros
    Published by: FDG Entertainment
    Release date: May 17, 2017 (Vita) March 17, 2015 (PC) November 14, 2013 (iOS)
    Available on: Android, iOS, macOS, PS4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One, Vita
    Genre: Action, puzzle
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: E 10+ for fantasy violence
    Price: $12.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you FDG Entertainment for sending us this game to review!

    Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas was originally released in 2013 and has sold over a million copies since. The fact that it’s available on every current gaming system has something to do with that. The positive reviews and homage to Zelda are two other reason for its success. Fans of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker will find much in common, though I will be upfront and state that I have not played a Zelda game since the original two on the NES. With that said, I did enjoy my twelve hours into this title and wouldn’t mind playing Wind Waker if the opportunity arises.

    In Oceanhorn you play a nameless young man whose parents are gone. The father hasn’t returned since trying to battle Oceanhorn, but he left behind his notebook as a guide. The mother passed away and the main character is in possession of her pendant. The pendant has a mind of its own and guides him to a cave where he’ll find a sword and a shield. Until then, he can throw vases at enemies to defend himself.

    A hermit on the island shares the story of Oceanhorn. The Islands were the mighty kingdom of Arcadia. The age of enlightenment led Arcadia to amazing scientific discoveries as engineering and magic came naturally to them. A dark mage, Mesmeroth, led a war against Arcadia. Three sea monsters appeared, one of them being Oceanhorn. Since the father hasn’t returned, it's now your job to seek it out; staying on the island is endangering the inhabitants as monsters are attracted to your mother's pendant. To unravel the mystery of Oceanhorn you must discover the secrets of the three sacred emblems (Earth, Ocean, Sun). You’ll also need to upgrade your sword and shield before facing this sea giant.

    Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun Zelda-like game with plenty of dungeons to explore and puzzles to solve
    Weak Points: Can be beaten in less than twelve hours; got stuck once
    Moral Warnings: Fantasy violence; magic use; numerous deities you’ll interact with as you collect various emblems; undead enemies 

    In the beginning, you have four hearts and they each take two hits before depleting. If you chop up some plants and break jars, you may find gold coins, bombs, arrows, magic potions, or hearts to replenish your health. Many islands have heart pieces to increase your maximum health and blood stones that needs to be mined to unlock a powerful spell. Be sure to comb over every island and you can buy a radar to let you know how many secrets remain on an island. It doesn’t take long before you acquire a boat that enables you to explore the next island. On Tikarel Island, you’ll have the opportunity to vanquish a rat in a cellar. Blue diamonds are awarded for each slain creature and this experience is used to gain levels and earn abilities like holding more bombs and arrows.

    Be sure to talk to all of the villagers as they may give you a useful item or information on other islands to visit. Once an island is mentioned, it becomes available to sail to from the world map. When you’re sailing, you’ll have to aim your pumpkin seed shooting gun at monsters, bombs, and other debris in your ship’s path. At docks, you can go fishing and compare your catches against other gamers on the global leaderboards.

    Many of the dungeons follow the same formula where you have to collect regular keys until you can obtain the master key which opens all of the doors and the treasure chest with the main item inside. The emblems are protected by a boss that has to be defeated before you can take your prize. The bosses have an attack pattern to work around and weaknesses to exploit to secure your victory. If you die in battle, you’ll only be revived with three hearts no matter how many you have unlocked in the game. Thankfully the boss rooms have plants and jars nearby which can yield hearts if destroyed.

    Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 83%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Each emblem represents a god that gives thanks for being purified and lends its power to the hero. The father also makes a reference to Gaia in one of his journal entries. Magic use is required for damaging enemies and solving various dungeon puzzles. Most of the puzzles involve moving crates to certain floor tiles. If you mess up a puzzle there is usually a reset button nearby. One time my character got stuck between crates with no way out. I had to exit to the title screen to continue my journey. Thankfully, there are plenty of checkpoints and auto-saves so not much progress was lost.

    Visually, Oceanhorn is very colorful and it looked and ran great on my Vita. I enjoyed the portability and didn’t have to sacrifice much performance in return. Upon reading the game’s opening credits, I recognized Nobuo Uematsu’s name. He’s one of my favorite composers and I enjoy his work in many of the Final Fanstasy games. Not surprisingly, the music is really good in this title. The voice acting is well done as well despite the gods speaking in gibberish.

    If you enjoy Zelda games, then you’ll want to look into Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas. The bosses and puzzles are not too challenging, but there are plenty of walkthroughs and videos available if you get stuck. The asking price is a reasonable $12.99 which is slightly less than the PC version when it’s not on sale.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Odin Sphere Leifthrasir
    Developed by: Vanillaware
    Published by: Atlus
    Release Date: June 7, 2016
    Available on: PS3, PS4, Vita
    Genre: Action RPG
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen for mild blood, language, alcohol use, partial nudity
    Price: $39.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Atlus for sending us this game to review!

    Odin Sphere was original released in 2007 on the PlayStation 2.  It was well received but had some complaints about the gameplay slowing down when numerous enemies were on the screen.  If you’re like me and haven’t played the original game, it’s included in this remake and is playable from the main menu.  The save files are not compatible with the remake though.   After completing the remake, and checking out the original, I must say that the improvements are definitely noticeable yet the game remains true to its roots.  

    Both games have the same little girl in the attic reading the stories about the main characters and their role in Armageddon.  Here’s a breakdown of each character’s story:

    Gwendolyn: A valiant Valkyrie warrior who just lost her sister Griselda in battle.  She is given Griselda’s powerful psypher spear which gathers the life force of each slain enemy and becomes stronger.  Gwendolyn strives to earn her father’s favor, but ends up disobeying him instead.

    Cornelius: The prince of Titania is in love with princess Velvet of the fallen kingdom of Valentine.  Most of the kingdom’s inhabitants have been transformed into rabbit-like Pooka creatures.  Cornelius is turned into one as well and is trying to convince his father of his true identity and expose the imposter that is impersonating him.  Cornelius is given a powerful psypher sword to aide him in his quest. 

    Mercedes:  After her mother’s death in battle, the young princess is thrust into the role of being the queen and has to earn the respect and loyalty of her subjects.  It’s an uphill battle as her cousin is trying to steal the throne from her and is rallying troops against her.  Mercedes is armed with her moth’s psypher bow.   

    Oswald: Known as the shadow knight, and has a powerful berserk attack.  The psypher sword he wields gives him great strength, but curses him into the service of the netherworld’s queen, Odette.  Oswald is tired of being used by others and seeks to live life on his own terms.

    Velvet: Although she wasn’t transformed into a Pooka like the majority of her kingdom, she’s trying to decipher the curse her mother cast upon her.  She’s trying to change her destiny and save the world in the process.  She has a psypher chain weapon to help her rewrite her fate.

    Odin Sphere Leifthrasir
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Improved visuals; great English or Japanese voice acting; excellent story and fighting mechanics
    Weak Points: May not be worth purchasing again if you own the original game
    Moral Warnings: Fantasy violence with some blood shown; language (b*stard); skimpy outfits on some females; Norse mythology 

    The character stories are played in a specific order and they all have the same game mechanics.  The intertwining of the characters and their unique fighting styles set them all apart though. Each of the five or so hour journeys are enjoyable.  After all of the character stories have been completed, they must all fight the final Armageddon bosses in a specific order to correctly fulfil the prophecies.

    Gameplay wise, Odin Sphere qualifies as an action RPG with the beat-em-up fighting and the character skill customization options.  When an enemy is defeated, they release phozons which can be collected by the player and used to grow plants or level up their weapon or unlocked skills.  

    While some experience is earned by defeating enemies, mid-bosses, and bosses, the fastest way to earn experience is to eat.  Some enemies will drop seeds that you can plant and use phozons to help them grow and produce berries and other experience-rich fruits.  You may also find cooking ingredients that a traveling chef can use to prepare meals in front of you, or to go.  Not only do meals give you experience points, but they also permanently increase your health along with restoring some of it.  The traveling chef’s services are free, but the chefs in the Pooka village will cook food for you with the Valentinan coins you find throughout your adventures.  No ingredients are required for those meals.

    Odin Sphere Leifthrasir
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 92%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 66%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

    Alchemy is another skill that you’ll need to master to brew up healing and elemental attacking potions.  Antidotes and cures for fire burns will keep you alive longer in boss battles since they use the same potions on you that you could be using on them.   Alchemy and food recipes can be found throughout the story.  There are many secret rooms containing valuable power-ups and other goodies so be sure to explore and check every nook and cranny!

    The 2D graphics in Odin Sphere Leifthrasir look amazing on the Vita and are equally impressive on the PS4. Yes, there is cross-save support. The characters and enemies are well animated and nicely detailed.  While it could have been much worse, some of the females could use more armor as their midriffs were exposed in battle.  No matter how many enemies were on the screen, I did not experience any stutters on my Vita. 

    Audio wise, this title is equally impressive with its great voice acting and pleasant background music.  Although Japanese voice overs are an option, I stuck with my native English language.  There is some language with the word b*stard appearing in the dialogue.

    In the end, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a well-polished and fun game that should be considered owning it as long as you’re not put off by the Norse mythology, language or violence.   Owners of the original game may enjoy the enhancements, but may want to hold off for a sale before buying it again.  Newcomers to the series will find a lot to like here.  

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Okinawa Rush
    Developed By: Sokaikan
    Published By: Sokaikan
    Release Date: Late 2017
    Available On: Windows
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Genre: Action Platformer
    Number of Players: One or Two
    Version Reviewed: 0.30
    MSRP: TBD

     

    Thank you Sokaikan for sending us a prerelease build!

    Recently, Okinawa Rush had a successful kickstarter campaign here. Unfortunately, we couldn't cover this game until afterwards, but thankfully it was successful, because this appears to be quite the gem.

    In the introduction, enemy ninjas come and take your wife, kill her, and steal your children. They seek a ninja scroll that has the secret to your powers. Of course you refuse, and then set out to wipe out the evil enemies and get your children back.

    Okinawa Rush
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Really fun combat system; great retro graphics and sound
    Weak Points: It's a free alpha demo, so not much content and a few bugs
    Moral Warnings: Animated violence; blood and gore, but it can be disabled!

    The story is pretty basic, but really, that's all it has to be. What you have here is not so much about the story, but about the gameplay. Okinawa Rush is FUN. It's a side scrolling beat 'em up where you punch, kick, jump, and perform various special moves and combos that are simply a blast to perform. And sometimes literally – your attacks include fire blasts and projectiles, along with the more typical uppercuts, kicks, and other powerful moves. Beating up bad guys is so enjoyable here I can't recall anything like this.

    There are also RPG elements, where you earn money and can upgrade your dojo, as well as perform katas, which are routines that help a martial artist focus their skills; they can help make you more powerful. These upgrade systems are only in a very basic form in the demo, but they show a potentially very interesting upgrade system when the full game comes around.

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

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 19/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 87%
    Violence - 4.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10
    +1 for disabling blood and gore

    There is also co-op mode, which is a little bit more unfinished at the moment (which is why it's not in the public demo, only the press kit). As you might expect, it's a lot of fun, though rather quirky in its current form. I would say it is worth waiting for.

    Morally, there is the typical martial arts violence, with quite a bit of blood and gore in the default setting. If you choose to disable blood from the main menu, it does more than turn off the blood. After speaking to the developer, it also sanitizes the story a bit to make it more children friendly, by taking out the murder of his wife in the intro, for example. It's a neat idea, and one that I know many parents will appreciate, since this game will be a blast to play with your kids.

    Okinawa Rush is one of the best prerelease demos I have played in as long as I can remember. While it's obviously short, unfinished, and rough around the edges, it's a ton of fun – and I highly recommend keeping a close eye on this one. The final release may be worth the wait!

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Omensight: Defiitive Edition
    Developed By: Spearhead Games
    Published By: Spearhead Games
    Released: May 15, 2018 (PS4/Steam), Dec 13, 2018 (Patch 1.04 and Switch)
    Available On: PlayStation 4, Windows, Switch
    Genre: Action, Adventure
    ESRB Rating: T for Teen: violence, blood, use of alcohol, mild language
    Number of Players: Single-player
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you Spearhead Games for sending us a review code!

    The apocalypse is near, exactly 24 hours until the dark god Voden consumes the world. 300 years ago, Voden was sealed into the Kladen sword by Yarbog. The world of Urralia is once again torn by war, and desperate actions have caused Voden's seal to break and threaten all of life. In dire situations such as these, the Harbinger appears and attempts to right what was wronged and reverse the world's bleak fate.

    Omensight, by Spearhead Games, is an action-adventure murder-mystery starring anthropomorphic characters. You play as the Harbinger, who once again must find the root cause of the end of the world. The entire plot takes place in a single day, and the Harbinger must constantly go back in time to experience different perspectives that lead to Voden taking control of the world of Urralia. Throughout the journey in time, the Harbinger will interact and learn about five key figures: Draga, a feline who is the general of the Pygarian army; Indrik, the tyrannical bird-emperor of Pygaria; Ratika, the mouse leader of the Rodentia army; Ludomir, a bear who is struck with grief and out for revenge against Indrik; and Vera, the Godless-Priestess whose murder is the cause of the end of the world. All five characters have a part in this murder-mystery and only learning about their motives will bring the mystery to light, and is the key to stopping Voden.

    As the Harbinger goes back in time and learns more information, she later gains the ability of Omensight, the power to pass on visions of the past to others. Granting these visions to the characters you interact with may possibly make events play out differently than they are supposed to, gaining even more information on what happened to Vera, and what caused Voden's seal to break. All of the characters have their reasons for doing the things they want to do, and not everyone is whom they seem to be. Memories are also scattered throughout the levels, presenting even more lore on the characters and the world.

    Omensight: Defiitive Edition
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Wonderful art style; engaging story and interesting characters
    Weak Points: Gameplay can get repetitive due to how the narrative is presented
    Moral Warnings: Murder, violence, and blood shown throughout; story takes place in the middle of a war; one character is typically seen drinking and is called a drunkard; polytheism is present as many characters say "by the gods" or "oh my gods"; most characters are of a neutral alignment so they tend to make a few unethical decisions, including the Harbinger herself; one character's moniker is referred to as the "Godless-Priestess"; multiple characters use magic, possibly powered from the respective god or gods they worship; a cult is one of the factions present; use of language such as d**n, a*s, hell, b****rd, and one instance of sh**e (spelled the British way); some enemies and allies come in the form of spirits 

    The combat of Omensight is fairly simplistic, feeling similar to the Batman Arkham series. Light and heavy attacks are executed by the square and triangle buttons respectively and can be chained together in increments of three. The cross button is to jump, and the circle button is to dodge attacks. Combat flows well together with responsive controls and how the Harbinger weaves through enemies. Like the Arkham games, whenever enemies attack, an exclamation point is displayed above their head, giving you the opportunity to dodge. At the end of the day, the Harbinger returns to a hub point where she can level up from the experience gained from defeating enemies and opening chests, or upgrade her equipment with amber collected throughout the day.

    As level-ups occur, the Harbinger gains extra abilities that are used by the triggers and bumpers, such as slowing down time in an area around you, or the ability to grab enemies or objects. You can combine these abilities in clever ways to gain bonus amber. Aggressive play is encouraged in Omensight as a mechanic heavily relies on it. In combat, there is a gauge that fills up whenever the Harbinger attacks or successfully dodges attacks; likewise, the gauge decreases whenever the Harbinger is attacked or is out of combat. Certain abilities that the Harbinger gains through levels use this gauge, such as firing energy balls, or instantly slaying your enemies in a swift movement.

    I do admit that the overall combat does a great job in feeling fluid and powerful, but it is harmed by the repetitive Groundhog Day nature of the narrative due to its simplicity. Simple gameplay and combat in itself is not a problem, but when you experience similar scenery and enemies—it becomes more of a flaw than not. Even though there are multiple factions that you come into conflict with, most enemies feel very similar to each other, with one or two enemy types that are unique in each faction. The repetitive combat is not helped by traversing through the same set pieces multiple times. Typically, many action games would mix it up with platforming or puzzle segments, or even different weapons for a change in combat, and Omensight doesn't offer much outside of action and dialogue. Most of the time, outside of beating up mobs of enemies and walking through set pieces to get to the next fight, there is only a handful of the aforementioned. In my opinion, the combat ends up being Omensight's weakest feature.

    On the other hand—the graphics and art style are really something else. Omensight takes a cel-shaded approach and reminds me of a mix of the Sly Cooper series and Furi, due to the way Omesight uses anthropomorphic characters and the general use of color. The Harbinger herself is a very appealing character visual-wise, and also looks the most human-like. She even gains pieces of armor on her character as she progresses through upgrades. The set pieces, even though you will come across them more than a half-dozen times, all have a great variety between each other. The levels themselves almost look like they were ripped from a canvas itself. Spearhead Games did a fantastic job with the use of lighting and shadows, given how small their development team is, seeing as they used low-poly textures for the environment and characters.

    The sound design and music aren't meant to stand out on their own—but rather complement the world. The score is gentle in situations where conversation and exploration happen but picks up in intensity when the stakes are high. Unlike many indie games, Omensight is fully voiced. Every word of dialogue within the main plotline has a speaking role attached to it. For me, whether a game has voices or not doesn't matter to me, but the acting is good in my opinion, outside of a couple of phoned-in performances. My personal favorite lines were when the characters would interact with the Harbinger. They would make commentary if you roll too much or spend lots of time breaking boxes. For the latter, some of the characters would find your antics rather humorous, and others would be annoyed—especially when the situation gets more hectic.

    Omensight: Defiitive Edition
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 75%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 7.5/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 65%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 7.5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 4/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6/10

    One aspect that I found rather interesting is how Omensight separates difficulty settings. The difficulty is segregated by combat and by narrative, giving the players the choice on how they want their adventure to role out. If you want combat to be a challenge, but don't want to think too hard about the mystery, you can set it as such where the narrative will give you hints periodically instead of having to remember the clues yourself. I would like to see this type of balancing in other games and hopefully in Spearhead's future projects as well.

    As Omensight begins in the middle of a war, there is a lot of violence and murder present. In the Harbinger’s case, she likes to split her opponents in half either horizontally or vertically. However, any innards are instead depicted as blue light, similar to how the Harbinger looks. Blood is either shown in small amounts in combat, or in a pool of blood in some scenes. The character of Ludomir is usually depicted as a drunkard, and you are even introduced to him back in time with him drinking his sorrows away at a bar. Because of his state and aggressive nature, he also delivers most of the language presented in Omensight—from mild swears like d**n, hell, a*s, and stronger swears like b****rd and one instance of sh**e. The world of Urralia is also a polytheistic world, with the characters worshiping multiple gods. The character of Vera is also at times referred to as the "Godless-Priestess." In many cases, the situation isn't of a black and white morality as it is more of a black and gray morality. These characters are very flawed individuals and will take drastic measures to try and make things right, even if they have to go against laws and authority to do so. The Harbinger, in particular, is arguably the most neutral character in the game, as she only cares about removing the imbalance of the world, which is Voden. She is seen as more of a force of nature instead of a character as every inhabitant treats her as a big deal (as long as she is able to prove she is the real Harbinger). Sometimes, spirits are seen throughout the game as the Harbinger can come into contact with them. In general, Omensight has a lot of morally questionable aspects to it.

    Originally released in May, patch 1.04 and the Switch version in December marked the release of the Definitive Edition, unlocking an alternate ending and the option to replay previous days for things you may have missed out on. The alternate ending was made for people who were dissatisfied with the original ending. I personally prefer the original ending as it matches the general tone that the writers were going for. Even though the gameplay itself was a bit too repetitive for me to truly enjoy, the anticipation of what happens next, as well as the motives of the characters kept me coming back to finish it. Omensight takes great pride in its story, visuals, and voice talent, with the gameplay serving as a compliment instead of the driving force. With how the world of Urralia presents itself, it could only work as a video game and not anything else. Omensight makes me appreciate video games more as a form of media for the way they can present ideas to an audience. I really enjoyed seeing the characters and their motives, even if there are a few plotholes here and there. It does have a lot of questionable moral aspects to it and the general tone is suited for a more mature audience. Omensight mostly appeals to people who adore narrative in their games. In being just under 10 hours for $20, it is a nice price for the amount of content, despite the repetitive nature and little reason to replay. If Spearhead Games can just fine-tune the combat in their future endeavors, they may just create an amazing product one of these days.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    OMG Zombies!
    Developed by: Laughing Jackal LTD.
    Published by: Ghostlight
    Release date: March 26, 2019
    Available on: PS3, PSP, Vita, Switch, Windows
    Genre: Action
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen for violence, blood, and gore
    Price: $4.99

    Thank you Ghostlight for sending us this game to review!

    OMG Zombies! was originally released as OMG-Z in 2011 for the PSP and PS3 systems. It later arrived on the Vita and Steam in 2014. The latest Switch release offers more levels and new zombie variants. For controls, you can use the touch screen or Joy-Cons.

    The story in OMG Zombies! isn’t the greatest, but it’s serviceable. Basically, some mad scientists created a plant pollen that causes creatures to become zombies and explode upon contact and further spreading the disease. Initially humans were not impacted until the same scientists decided to experiment on a young gangster which went horribly wrong.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Simple and fun concept
    Weak Points: Not much of a story
    Moral Warnings: Lots of blood and gore; blaspheming

    As a result, there are several zombie variants roaming around the city of Redfield. Civilian zombies split in two and explode affecting a small radius. Fat zombies have a wider area of effect. Police zombies fire a shot in the direction when are facing when dying and soldier zombies fire three shots in random directions. Acid zombies leave behind a pool of acid upon their demise and trigger any zombies who step in it for a short while. The new zombies include runners, electrified ones, and some that spew up a blood ball in a random direction before they die..

    Once you’re familiar with how the zombies die it’s time to take them down with precision to create the best chain combos possible. Since you only have a few bullets, you have to rely on the domino effect to wipe out as many zombies as possible. While there is some skill, there’s a fair amount of luck since you can’t plan where the soldiers will shoot or where the blood ball zombies will send their payload. As simple as this game sounds, the gameplay was addicting and I had the “one more level!” syndrome.

    Depending on the percentage of zombies you take out, you’ll be awarded with money and medal for the level. The higher the medal, the more money you’ll earn. If you’re not satisfied with your performance you can replay levels to improve upon your previous results.

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

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 66%
    Violence - 1/10
    Language - 5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Money can be used to upgrade your ammo, exploding barrels, and the zombies themselves. As you upgrade zombies, you will increase their attack power and area of effect.
    Each additional upgrade will cost more than the previous one.

    Many of the levels share the same map but just offer different zombies on them to mix things up a bit. Telling the zombies apart is a little tricky at times, but you can press the right trigger button to color code them. The levels are monochrome with lots of red blood puddles.

    Other than excessive blood and gore, there is some blaspheming in this game. Besides the title, you’ll find the phrase “GD it” spelled out in the dialogue. Thankfully, it’s not voice acted. There is some fitting suspenseful background music though.

    Overall, OMG Zombies! is a surprisingly simple and fun game. I'm surprised it took me this long to finally play this game, but I'm glad I did! The asking price is a very reasonable $4.99.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Out of Ammo
    Developed by: Rocketwerkz
    Published by: Zen Studios
    Release date: January 30, 2018
    Available on: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PSVR
    Genre: Action/Strategy
    Number of players: Up to four online
    ESRB Rating: Teen for blood and violence
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you Zen Studios for sending us this game to review!

    Out of Ammo originally launched on Steam in the fall of 2016. It has positive reviews and I can see why Oculus and HTC Vive users enjoy this game. In the past I have been disappointed with the PSVR limitations ruining otherwise great games. Sadly, this is one of those cases. If you have the means to play this title on another platform, I highly recommend doing so.

    When launching Out of Ammo you’ll be taken to a hub where you can read about the controls, arrange multiplayer sessions, select a single player mission, or enjoy the shooting range. The controls are neat in this 3D virtual reality shooter/strategy game. As the title suggests, you’ll often run out of ammo and will have to reload your weapon manually each time.

    Before diving into any of the maps, I strongly suggest going through the tutorial level. In the tutorial you’ll learn about the various defensive structures and soldier types that you can temporarily take control of. In the eight survival maps, you’ll have to see how many waves of enemies you can survive against before your headquarters is compromised. Every so often, a helicopter will drop off some supplies and soldiers to put to use.

    Out of Ammo
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun concept; active multiplayer
    Weak Points: Confusing controls and calibration issues due to PSVR limitations
    Moral Warnings: Bright red and pixelated blood comes out of wounded soldiers

    The supplies can be used to build structures like sandbag bunkers, machine gun turrets, sniper towers, and tents for engineers/medics. Engineers are needed for building and repairing structures while medics tend to wounded soldiers. Riflemen can be stationed at the bunkers and machine gun turrets. Snipers are intended for the towers to give them good visibility. Rocketeers can go anywhere but some form of cover will keep them alive longer.

    The AI is pretty good and the soldiers will fight back when enemies attack them or come within range. You do have the option to control any unit for a limited amount of time. You can control the solder until they run out of ammo or time. There is a cool down period before you can take control of the same unit again.

    As you hold down the base you’ll earn command points. You can spend these points on specialized attacks like a guaranteed sniper shot, artillery assault, or an air raid. Just like controlling units, there is a cool down period before you can utilize the same attack again.

    Aside from the survival maps, there are three somewhat story driven ones. In the Overwatch map you play as a sniper who must protect an allied crash site from enemy soldiers closing in on it. The Vertigo map is my favorite which has you trying to hack a computer while surviving waves of enemy attacks as the files slowly transfer onto the USB drive. The Icarus mission puts you as the only survivor in a crash site and you must stay alive for eight minutes while a rescue team is dispatched to your location. The ammo is scarce and scattered around. Each bullet counts in this mission.

    Out of Ammo
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 68%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 1/5

    Morality Score - 92%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Each of the maps takes place in a different environment and they provide both variety and unique challenges. The graphics are cube/Minecraft stylized. When a soldier is wounded, bright red and pixelated blood is shown. If a medic does not arrive in time, bodies will disappear after a short while.

    There is no background music, but the limited voice acting is well done. The sound effects are fitting too, since the online gameplay supports voice chat, your mileage may vary when it comes to cussing. Thankfully, the people I played alongside didn’t swear.

    It didn’t take long to find someone to join me in a multiplayer mission. Having allies makes the missions much easier. When all of the players die, the mission ends. There is no respawning.

    There is much to like in Out of Ammo. The controls are a little confusing at times but pressing random buttons eventually gets me the desired result. Unfortunately, the experience sours when the poor tracking and calibration issues rear their ugly heads. This is not the fault of the developers, but of the hardware limitations of the PSVR. I cannot stress enough that if you have the means of playing this game on another platform, to do so.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Overgrowth
    Developed By: Wolfire Games
    Published By: Wolfire Games
    Released: October 16, 2017
    Available On: Linux, macOS, Windows
    Genre: Action-Adventure
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: 1 player. Some mods allow for 2 players.
    Price: $29.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Humble Bundle for sending us this game to review.

    Nine years is quite a long time. In 2008, I was just getting out of middle school and going into high school, and now far past the days of college. During that time frame, the developers of Wolfire Games decided on quite the ambition: to create a context-sensitive action game based on their previous game, Lugaru (Loo-Gah-Roo). It took them a long time, but they finally managed to release Overgrowth.

    Overgrowth (a sequel to Lugaru) stars an anthropomorphic rabbit named Turner who, after he witnessed the murder of his friends and family, and went on a quest to avenge them, is now trying to find a new purpose in his life in the corrupt world he lives in. The story is merely an excuse to have situations where our rabbit friend can lay the smackdown on whoever happens to be in the way of his ignoble journey. What separates Overgrowth from other action games is that your attacks are all context-sensitive. Depending on how you move, and how close you are to the enemy, you will use different attacks. As Turner is a rabbit, most attacks will use his feet, but he sometimes uses his fists as well.

    A strange set of controls, Overgrowth is operated similar to a first or a third-person shooter rather than a typical 3D action game. The camera is operated by the mouse or right control stick, and most of your actions such as attacking, jumping, and rolling are used by the mouse buttons or bumpers and triggers on the controller. It takes some time getting used to the odd scheme, but it really does make sense once everything starts to click together. All the actions can rebind to something else if the default controls are too weird or uncomfortable.

    Overgrowth
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A simple, yet intricate combat system and physics engine; Steam Workshop support
    Weak Points: Long loading times; huge levels not used to their full advantage; too reliant on mod support
    Moral Warnings: Blood, violence and murder; fantasy racism

    The Phoenix Engine is the engine used by the developers, and one that was developed in-house. Phoenix relies very heavily on physics for both its movement and combat system, and both are woven together wonderfully in a grand display. Everything, from the fighting to the way movement is used is tied to the engine. Characters will move faster and slower depending on the trajectory of the terrain, and jumping cannot be altered once the motion is carried. Movement is really fun and free. The sense of weight carried is utilized masterfully and I found myself in many cases simply just jumping around in the world. I would very much like to see a parkour based platform game use this engine one of these days.

    The combat of Overgrowth is nothing I’ve ever experienced in a game. Even though the game only uses one button to attack, it has such an attention to detail that it never feels repetitive. As stated previously, attacking is dependent on how close or far your enemies are, and if you are unarmed or not. Rolling and jumping play an important role in combat as well. In most situations if there are simply too many enemies to fight, one can take a stealthy approach to eliminate them one by one. Turner can use weapons to dispatch his enemies, such as knives, swords, and rapiers. Damage by hand-to-hand combat can be rather inconsistent at times, but in a way, it feels like real life, and I personally like that aspect, as it adds a uniqueness to Overgrowth that very few games have.

    The most interesting aspect about the combat system is that almost every attack and weapon that Turner can use, his enemies can use as well. In a way, this evens out the playing field. The enemy variety is small and contains others like rats, cats, dogs, and terrifying wolves. The wolves are a unique set of enemies that have clear distinct advantages over Turner, but a knowledge of the combat system can make quick work of these supposedly overwhelming foes.

    Making your own game engine is an impressive feat for any developer. With a ten-year development cycle, I did expect more from the story mode. The story portrays itself as scenarios where Turner must defeat all the enemies in the area, or accomplish platforming through the use of parkour. There are a lot of scenes in the two story modes, but each scene lasts a few minutes at the most (excluding screw ups). This also means plenty of loading. Loading times are also quite long, as the loading consists of rendering a large field as well as the option to instantly load. Even though the large fields are quite nice to look at, it’s mostly a wasted effort as most of the space isn’t even used in the situations that presented themselves. It would have been better if at least half of those fields were condensed into arenas, or if they were actually used for something. Both the Overgrowth and Lugaru story (the official stories) last about two to three hours for Overgrowth and one hour for Lugaru. A rather short journey for something with such a long production.

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

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 87%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 8.5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    Mod support is a great thing. It adds longevity to any game where either the developers meet an untimely demise or simply stop supporting the game. Relying heavily on mods is not such a good thing to do as it puts too much hope on aspects that can’t really be judged heavily, as mods can vary greatly in quality. I’ve tried a few mods out myself and typical of them, some are very good and some are very bad. As of right now there are over 250 mods, and it is all through Steam Workshop. Instead of messing around with files, all a person needs to do is hit the subscribe button and the mods will now be accessible through the game. Wolfire Studios even took a mod one of the fans made (named Therium-2), and added it as an unoffical campaign. I’ve played through that story and it is better than both the Wolfire campaigns, but since it wasn’t created by the developers themselves, It feels weird to me to give credit to the developers for something they didn't originally have a part in making.

    For those who have heard of films such as The Plague Dogs and Watership Down, the art style and design of the animals in Overgrowth reminds me a great deal of said films. Just like those films, Overgrowth isn’t kid friendly either. Our main character has no qualms about killing as his past is filled with tragedy. The tale is very sad, filled with revenge, murder and death. Characters bleed quite a lot, but blood can be disabled through the settings. The color of the blood can be changed too, which I found rather interesting. The different species that interact with each other also treat each other with discontent and have terms used to mock each other. If they only sat down and bothered to listen to one another, a lot of the conflict in the game wouldn’t happen in the first place.

    A near decade of anticipation is nearly impossible to live up to. If you think of Overgrowth as a game in the traditional sense, honestly, it isn't a very good one. The price of $30 is a steep one for something that looks like it came out in 2007, a short campaign, and the dependence of mod support is an unreliable gamble for a game as niche as this. Overgrowth as an engine and an experience is a fantastic piece of work. Everything just flows together so naturally and seamlessly; the movement and combat is so well thought-out and put together that I personally can have lots of fun with it, and strong mod support can keep people like me coming back for a long time. The game is rather violent, but the graphic violence can be disabled so even those disturbed by blood do not have to deal with it if. For those not 100% sure, it might be in your best interest to try out Lugaru HD Demo as a demo for Overgrowth (unfortunately) doesn’t exist. If you end up liking the Lugaru demo, a great time awaits you in Overgrowth.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Paper Mario Color Splash
    Developed by: Intelligent Systems and Nintendo
    Published by: Nintendo
    Release date: October 7, 2016 (In USA)
    Available on: Wii U
    Genre: RPG with some action-adventure elements
    Number of Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
    Price: $59.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    One day on a stormy night Mario gets a knock at his door.  Turns out it’s Peach and Toad!  Except they don’t look very happy.  Mario lets them in and Peach delivers him a letter, which in actuality is a color-drained toad!  Mario looks at where the postage stamp came from and turns out it’s from Prism Island.  Without hesitation Mario, Peach, and Toad travel through a storm on a boat and eventually reach Prism Island, only to find the place deserted.  It’s up to Mario to find out who did this and bring Prism Island back to normal.

    Color Splash gameplay-wise is very similar to its predecessor, Paper Mario Sticker Star.  Mario finds a 3D paint bucket named Huey, who is eventually turned into paper form by Mario.  Huey travels with Mario for the whole game and provides Mario with a paint hammer, which is crucial throughout the game.  Every area Mario explores is filled with colorless patches and using the paint hammer Mario can paint them back to normal again.  Areas Mario explores range from forests to riding on a train.  Another gameplay element is called “cutout.”  Huey takes Mario out of the current place he is in and allows him to cut out a certain part of the environment in order to make it to unreachable places.  The catch with this is that you have to be EXTREMELY precise with where you're standing in order to make it work.  A hint is provided if you're near a place where you can use the cutout ability, but it’s hardly useful, if at all.  Smashing things with paint is extremely enjoyable and will have you looking for every colorless patch.  The environments are also enjoyable to explore as they are each unique.  I dislike the cutout ability because it requires too much precision in order to make it work.

    The turn-based battle system returns and Mario now uses cards to battle.  There are three different types of cards: normal cards, thing cards, and ally cards.  Normal cards are Mario's basic attacks ranging from jump, hammer, and variations of these plus other attacks.  Thing cards are powerful cards that play a funny animation that greatly damages your enemies.  Thing cards are required for most boss battles unfortunately.  Ally cards are similar to partners like in the original Paper Mario and The Thousand Year Door, except after the battle is over they disappear.  Cards can also be painted to increase attack power.  Oh, and the HP of enemies cannot be seen; you have to rely on looking at their sprite to see how much is left painted in them.  My honest opinion on the battle system is that it’s pretty bad.  Scanning through your cards is very annoying (as you can have up to 100 cards to search through), and the overall battle is just boring.  Bosses are a different story as you have to have a specific “thing” item in order to defeat most of them.  Though one touch I liked about the battle system is that enemies say little phrases every once in a while to provoke Mario to attack them, often revealing their strengths or weaknesses indirectly (so if a spiny said to jump on him, then that means you shouldn’t jump on him).

    Paper Mario Color Splash
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great exploration; graphics are amazing; dialogue is hilarious
    Weak Points: Battle system is boring and annoying; no original characters; story is bland
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; color gets sucked out of NPCs, which is basically sucking their life out; Bowser is possessed

    The story itself is pretty bland, but is an improvement from Sticker Star.  Bowser kidnaps Peach once again, but at least they give a reason behind why Peach is kidnapped besides just kidnapping her for normal reasons.  The idea of Bowser being possessed was a great idea, but they didn’t take it very far at all when they could’ve, and it ended up being pretty dull.  I’m glad Luigi and Bowser can talk in this game since they didn’t in the previous Paper Mario game.  The paint star memories of what happened before Mario came to Prism Island were a neat touch as well.

    Controls are good for the most part.  You can either play on the TV or just on the gamepad for off TV play.  Whichever one you choose the gamepad will be the controller.  Mario controls very nicely in this game.  The only time where I found the controls to be annoying was during battle.  As I mentioned earlier scanning through the cards is pretty annoying, and you have to do that via touching the gamepad screen.  This means you have to slide your finger or stylus back and forth over and over to be able to find the card you want, then paint it, and flick it into the battle.

    Audio is amazing in general.  It comes in very well and the music plus sound effects are awesome as well.  Each music piece feels just right in each area Mario is in.  Oh, and did I mention the graphics are the best in the series?  With this game being the first HD Mario game the graphics outdo every other Paper Mario game by far.  Even the animation of the paint splashing from your paint hammer is extremely nice to look at.

    Paper Mario Color Splash
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    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

    After beating the main story there are a couple of side-tasks you can do.  There are these temples called Roshambo Temple and they play in a manner similar to Rock, Paper, Scissors.  Winning these Roshambo Temples will earn you ridiculous amounts of coins and, if you beat all three opponents, an exclusive card.

    Another side-task you can do is visit a museum that is located in a dojo house in the east part of town.  There you can donate cards of all types and in turn you will get access to different tracks in the game and artwork of different areas they worked on throughout the development of the game, including early artwork of Huey and other characters.

    The main moral warning in the game is that there is a lot of cartoon violence.  There is also a couple points during the game where NPCs are sucked of their color by enemies, and since in this game color is life, the enemies are basically sucking the life out of NPCs.  Mario also gets sucked of his color when he dies in a battle.  Also Bowser gets possessed by black paint throughout the whole game (and you can witness it happening), which makes him a bit more evil than usual.  When Mario visits a haunted mansion, he finds it filled with toads who are ghosts.  There are boos and dry bones as enemies, and there is a magikoopa named Kamek who uses magic and spells.  The bosses also use minor magic.

    My final thoughts on the game is that it’s very good overall.  When it was announced I was very excited and even preordered the game.  They fixed a lot of issues that were present in Sticker Star.  Some issues fixed are that exploration is no longer boring and they upped the amount of humor in the game.  Other issues are still around in this game such as the over-usage of toads and generic enemies but I didn't mind it hardly at all, especially with the amount of humor that was in the game.  My only real complaint is the battle system, as it's very boring and poorly implemented.

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Pizza Blitz!
    Developed by: Arrow Block Entertainment LLC
    Published by: Arrow Block Entertainment LLC
    Release date: August 12, 2017
    Available on: Android, iOS
    Genre: Action
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: Free with micro-transactions

    We met Arrow Block Entertainment at Gdex and they were showcasing their first game, Pizza Blitz!. The premise is simple: you have to dodge various obstacles like jets, cars, cows, rocks, and boxes to make it to your pizza delivery’s destination safely. Each level is randomly generated and there are different weather conditions like rain, snow and the darkness of night. Make sure you prioritize purchasing the headlight upgrade for each of your vehicles. Other upgrades include fuel efficiency, better tires, and a more powerful engine.

    The first mode of transportation available is a bicycle. After earning enough experience, you can unlock a skateboard, an ATV, a go kart, and several cars and trucks. Flashier muscle cars are unlocked by purchasing golden pizzas with actual money in the game’s store. You can also buy coins which can be used for upgrades. Free coins can be awarded by watching ads. Earning coins and experience by completing levels isn’t too difficult.

    Pizza Blitz!
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun gameplay with some challenging levels
    Weak Points: This game is supported by in-app purchases; got stuck multiple times
    Moral Warnings: You can crash and fail to deliver the pizza

    When beginning a level you’ll have to keep an eye on three meters. The health meter goes down for every collision. After three hits, it’s game over. The gas meter in the middle shows you how full your gas tank is. If you run out gas, you’ll fail the delivery and see the game over screen. The last gauge is how many tips you have collected throughout your delivery. Tips are earned by running into gold coins on the road or in the air. Some conditions like a wet pizza will lower the value of the coins collected.

    Even when the road has two visible lanes, there are in reality four lanes to weave in and out of. It can be rather hard to discern which lane to be in to collect coins and gas tanks. With the random level generation you’re at the mercy of the randomizing code to supply you with enough gas tanks along the way. Gas has usually been sufficient but at least one of my runs was ruined by no available gas tanks. I have also had deliveries cut short by getting stuck in jumping ramps and running out of gas.

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

    Game Score - 72%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    The nighttime levels are a bit cheap with the very limited visibility. Despite having a headlight equipped, it’s hard to see anything but dim headlights of oncoming traffic. I like how you’re notified when the delivery destination is only 25 meters away. What really burns is crashing and failing the level with the finish line in sight.

    The daytime levels are very colorful and the graphics aren’t too detailed, but they get the job done. The rain and snow effects are nicely handled by the Unity Engine. The sound effects are decent and the Italian theme music is very fitting.

    Pizza Blitz! Is a cute game that’s fun to pick up and play. Other than crashing, there isn’t anything else to worry about morally. Financially, parents may want to lock down their payment settings to prevent their kids from purchasing upgrades without their permission. Thankfully, many upgrades can be earned by simply completing delivery runs.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Polyrun
    Developed By: Aurora Gameworks
    Published By: Aurora Gameworks
    Released: July 31, 2019
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Action, Endless Runner
    ESRB Rating: No Rating
    Number of Players: up to two players
    Price: $1.49

    Thank you Aurora Gameworks for submitting this to our Steam Curator!

    Sometimes, you just gotta run—feel the air flow past your hair, and watch as nature goes right past you. But since the new age doesn’t go outside anymore, you can easily replicate that in video games. New Zealand-based developer, Aurora Gameworks, created Polyrun, an Endless Runner where they make a bold claim to “throw a wrench into those cookie-cutter ad-intrusive games, and inject our passion and creativity!”

    Endless runners can come in all shapes and sizes. Polyrun, in particular, comes in a third-person view. As with most endless runners, the goal is to go on for as long as you possibly can, moving left or right to dodge the obstacles in your path. The controls are simple—in fact, they are so simple that they only require the usage of two buttons. You have the choice between A and D, the left and right mouse clicks, or the use of a controller which can use the D-pad or left and right triggers. One hand is all you need to play so you can do whatever you want with that other hand, whether its to flip burgers, calculate your finances, or keep that fuzzy cat away from your electronics!

    At first, you’ll start at a slow pace, but as the game continues onward, you’ll start to go faster, requiring more precise reflexes. A score multiplier is located at the top of the heads-up display and increases by .1 for every couple of seconds or by narrowly dodging the obstacles. Little squares can be collected for additional points. There are three power-ups that can be collected: A score multiplier that increases it by 5, a score magnet that pulls all of those squares into you, whether you are in the path or not, and the invincible power-up that lets you bowl through anything that stands in your way.

    Polyrun
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A bunch of customization for your character; multiplayer can be enjoyable if you have a friend (or want to text your ambidexterity); simple gameplay that you can immediately get into 
    Weak Points: Gaining Polycoins to purchase custom options can be a bit of a drag if you’re not consistently getting one million points or more
    Moral Warnings: A bit of violence as you run into stationary objects all with bone-crunching sound effects and screams of agony; some of the custom options include an LGBT flag and pin

    Polyrun has a bit more depth than you’d realize at first and is pretty flexible in your playstyle. Do you simply play the waiting game and go for distance, racking up points slowly but surely, or do you play on the edge and dodge shrubs, trees, bushes by mere millimeters to rack up that score multiplier? Whichever playstyle fits you the, the key to getting high scores is to look ahead and not always directly in front. Not only do you get to see what's in your path, but power-ups can also be seen in the distance way ahead of time. Sooner or later no matter how good you are, you will crash into something causing you to catapult high into the air or even into the sides. It is funny to see your poly runner launch itself into the air and slowly float back down.

    Six different levels are available, each having a different design. You’ll run through forests, alpines, a city at night, deserts, suburban areas, and jungles while electronic and techno beats accompany you. All levels play the same but are distinct enough design-wise that they are worth playing at least once each. Polyrun uses a cel-shaded, low-polygon style that has a type of timeless charm to it. It also keeps it running at a stable 60 frames on most hardware as the system requirements are pretty low.

    After gaining Polycoins through numerous runs, you can go to the customization shop and buy a boatload of custom options from headwear, pins and neckwear, hands, footwear, and eyes. They range from serious attire such as shoes and shades to unusual gear like shark hands, fox tails, and glowing eyes. Making your character as stylish or goofy as you can be is enjoyable in itself. Each custom option can range from 500 to 2500 coins and 96 total pieces. For every 10,000 points or so on your score, you get around the equivalent of 10 Polycoins so if you’re trying to get every piece of attire (which there is an achievement for), It can take quite a while to reach that point. If you beat your high score, you can get one piece free of charge. It is on a one-hour cooldown to prevent abuse. Personally, the cooldown could be completely removed as most people are only going to beat their high scores a handful of times at the most.

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

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 94%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

    Outside of the single-player endless runner, there are competitive multiplayer modes with two players one of which being a standard competition, and the other one is a tournament mode which is a best-of-three. The main differences are that the multiplayer is on a time limit, and bumping into trees and boxes only knocks down your score and score multiplier. There are two exclusive power-ups, one being some kind of power-up that changes the squares on the screen to a larger orange color. The other one covers the opposing side with distorted pixels, making it harder for them to see what’s coming up. Although I had no one to test out this mode with, it was fun for me trying to navigate two players on two different sides.

    Being a runner game, there isn’t much to talk about in terms of morality. There is a bit of violence because when the player rams headfirst into a barrier, they scream out in pain and it sounds like a bone breaking alongside it. Also seeing that this is a 2019 game in a world where the LGBT community is gaining increasing relevance, that means others will start to pander to them. Polyrun keeps it very basic in such that some of the custom options your poly runner can have are a pride flag and a pride pin.

    For something that is the same price as a drink in a convenience store, Polyrun has good value. It is a nice game to start up quickly for a few minutes of game time and the amount of character customization options separate it from all the others. Aurora Gameworks could make the grind for all attire a bit less daunting, but it is a simple, fun casual game. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some more running to do.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Pool Panic
    Developed by: Rekim
    Published by: Adult Swim Games
    Released: July 19, 2018
    Available on: Switch (Reviewed), Windows
    Genre: Adventure, Puzzle
    ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ for Crude Humor, Fantasy Violence
    Number of Players: 1-4 (Split screen)
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you to Adult Swim Games for the review code!

    Pool is a game that means many different things to people; teenagers play it digitally with their friends, adults often have fond memories of this cultural icon, and mathematicians see it as another beautiful example of how theoretical work transcends into the real world. No matter who you are, it's impossible to deny that pool is significant to European and American culture, and ties together many branches of academia. Like anything else of importance, the game industry has tried to adapt pool, leading to an interesting result in the form of Pool Panic.

    Surprisingly, Pool Panic does have a substantial single-player campaign, despite being a party game. Just like the actual game, one controls the cue stick, with which they hit a ball of the same name. This is the closest thing to a protagonist, as you physically control the cue ball between levels and explore the world with it. While there isn't much of a narrative, there is certainly a lot of content to be found. There are over 100 levels, and amazingly, they all felt unique in some way. It's interesting to see how the passion the developers had allows them to manipulate pool in such a way that prevents it from growing stale.

    Pool Panic
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A creative adventure mode with decent length; nice balance of skill and randomness
    Weak Points: Often hard to see the table correctly; sometimes random elements ruined the skill, lack of control
    Moral Warnings: The humor, although mostly harmless, may been seen as slightly offensive

    From undefined walls to neurotic billiards, the developers of Pool Panic came up with many ways to change the gameplay during the campaign. No two levels felt the same, and I found myself engrossed with discovering how to optimally play under strange circumstances. Although, by the end, a few stages started to feel repetitive. This was partially from the fatigue of playing so much pool, but also partially from design. The developers market this as "the least realistic pool simulator", and they certainly deliver on the promise. Where else can you fight a giant spider with a wooden stick and resin balls? Some of the levels became so outlandish, I forgot I was playing pool. Luckily, most ideas only stayed for a stage or two, so the game never felt too gimmicky. I think the adventure aspect of the game should be marketed more, as just calling it an electronic version of pool would be an injustice to the single player. It's what kept me playing, so it's a shame that it's briefly touched on in the trailers.

    Each level has a primary objective that is, of course, to win the game of pool. It's a game with plenty of intricacies, but can easily be picked up by anyone, which is arguably the best way to show a game is well designed. Of course, being set in a fantasy world, few of the actual skills used to play pool competitively are needed here. One won't find themselves calculating the slope and angles of incidence and reflection in order to perfectly design a path to victory, as they would in an actual competitive match. At times, it even feels as if this kind of behavior is discouraged, as the sentient billiards will occasionally move by themselves. Skill is primarily used when determining whether a power shot or fine hit is necessary. There are also a few extra objectives available for each stage, such as completing it with as few shots as possible, or committing no fouls. These generally require some skill and added plenty of reasons to go back to old levels, though I didn't feel a need to do this for every stage.

    There are a few extra modes in Pool Panic as well. These include local multiplayer and Panic mode. In local multiplayer, up to 4 people can play pool together. It's rather self-explanatory, but is certainly fun for a while. Panic mode presents the player with randomized levels that have time limits, so it helps provide a bit more skill-based gameplay. Of course, due to the nature of Pool Panic, it's always going to be more party focused than skill based, but I appreciate having something to work towards in terms of skill growth.

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

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

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

    There is one glaring problem in Pool Panic: a lack of control. The camera is the biggest problem. Instead of allowing the player to have full control, it follows the cue ball, meaning that the action is always on the screen - but the action isn't always intended. The camera often doesn't show everything in the area, leading to many bad shots that are completely out of player control. This significantly lowers the quality of Pool Panic, since it becomes frustrating to fail what should be a perfect shot.

    Pool Panic has the charming style that Adult Swim is known for, and I found that to be quite enjoyable. Despite just being balls, the designs all have character and portray emotion quite well. People often underestimate the power of drawing everything, and Pool Panic proves the merits of personalizing the visuals. The music was nice, but was a bit repetitive. I didn't mind this too much, but I would have liked a bit more variety.

    The only thing that is wrong about Pool Panic from a moral standpoint is that some of the humor, although not as offensive as some of Adult Swim's content, could be seen as crude. I personally have no problem with it.

    Overall, Pool Panic is a good game that has a dualistic approach to balancing skill and fun. I think it benefits from mixing the skillful and casual elements, though I would have liked modes that allow for both ends of the spectrum to be seen. The lack of control over the camera is an unforgivable issue, as it leads to many frustrating moments. Pool Panic isn't a normal party game, with its extensive adventure mode and overall design, and I believe that it is quite good as a result, even with a few problems.

Latest Comments

About Us:

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.

S5 Box

Login

Register