enfrdeitptrues

Platformer

  • boxart
    Game Info:

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

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

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

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

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

    Clustertruck
    Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Cosmic Leap
    Developed By: Michael Hall
    Published By: Zen Labs
    Released: March 17, 2016
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Platformer
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: $0.99

    Thanks to Zen Labs for the review key!

    It’s another season of the universe’s highest rated (and only) game show, Cosmic Leap! This year’s contestants, fresh from the empire’s newest liberated sector, are some of the most promising yet! Can the star player, known only as the Duke, survive this harrowing test of reflexes, gather his crew, and catch the eye of the Emperor?

    Part platformer and part runner, Cosmic Leap’s goals are simple: navigate various obstacle courses and reach your rocket ship at the end, preferably within a set time limit and/or while gathering five coins scattered throughout the stage. Unlike your average platformer, however, the stages are made up of planets of varying sizes. The bulk of the game lies in jumping from planet to planet, dodging missile-shooting UFOs and leaping over spikes and flaming skulls, all while figuring out the best route to the goal.

    All of the game’s one hundred stages, separated into ten levels, contain two objectives: finish under a certain time, and collect all five coins. These do not – and in most cases, cannot – be done in the same run, giving most stages a second life to them. Accomplishing both in a single course will unlock a “cosmic” stage, which are generally harder than the normal ones. Most of the normal stages also contain extra characters and spaceships flying through the area; jumping into these unlocks them for personal use. In essence, this gives each stage two or three variations: speed for the time limit, precision for the coins, and a mix of both for the starships. Most stages take no longer than twenty seconds, so retrying isn’t usually an issue – and with how brutal the difficulty can get later on, you’ll be retrying a lot. Cosmic Leap introduces a few mechanics as the game progresses, such as wormholes or even multiple characters to control simultaneously, helping to keep the gameplay fresh throughout.

    Cosmic Leap
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Decent, novel concept; good music; great entertainment-to-price ratio
    Weak Points: Poor controls; hazards are occasionally hard to see
    Moral Warnings: A character named “Hella Handsome Man”; implied slavery and general dictatorial tyranny

    While the inter-level variety is up to snuff, the controls are less so. Your character moves forward automatically; pressing any direction will make him halt, and a second press will send him on his way again. Which way, however, depends on both the control scheme and his facing. The standard setup makes right clockwise and left counterclockwise – which effectively reverses your controls when you’re on the bottom half of a planet, as pressing right will make you run left and vice versa. The alternate settings keep the directions relative, fixing that problem – but instead, if you wind up on the leftmost or rightmost edge of a planet, moving in your intended direction is more or less a dice roll. Internalizing a clockwise movement rather than a directional one is in your best interest; otherwise, expect a lot of misdirection and confusion. There’s a hefty amount of momentum on your character as well, so skidding straight into obstacles can be rather common. It might serve the game to have an option for a two-button control: one for changing direction, and one for stopping and starting; as it stands, however, you’re left with two different but equally clumsy control schemes.

    Additionally, jumping comes in two flavors: a single jump that keeps your speed and planetary alignment, and a double jump that slows you down while allowing you to switch planets. The first flaw here is that you can’t jump while standing still: trying to results in your character running forward again without ever leaving the ground. Secondly, switching planets feels almost arbitrary at times; sometimes the gravity will catch you from far away when you don’t mean to cross over, while occasionally you’ll practically bump your head on your intended destination but fail to properly change planets. Lastly, though the game is two-dimensional, each planet is a 3D object, so you’re not always running on a monitor-relative 2D line. This serves to make some jumps higher or shorter depending on the direction you’re moving, and make obstacles nearly impossible to clear with a standard jump – or even slam headfirst into an orbiting missile you’ve previously run under with no issues. All in all, while these problems don’t make the game unplayable, they do make it frustrating at times.

    Graphically, the game’s blocky 3D models create a pseudo-retro style reminiscent of 8-bit games but with a more modern definition and color palette. The game does look quite nice, with bright colors and quality space-themed backdrops, though the lighting can shroud obstacles from view – sometimes, the only way you’ll know a spike in on the underside of a planet is by running straight into it. The forty characters all carry their own distinct styles; expect to see some less-than-subtle references to other characters, ranging from Commander Keen to Carmen Sandiego. Cosmic Leap also comes with a visual filter emulating an old-school CRT television, with scanlines and a slight warping effect on the edges, and you can freely toggle this on and off in the settings.

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

    Game Score - 65%
    Gameplay - 11/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 2.5/5

    Morality Score - 96%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 9/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The sound effects and music clash somewhat, with the former limited to NES-esque beeps and boops and the latter sticking to standard 21st century fare. Still, it keeps with the thematic blend of old and new, and both do their jobs well. The music especially stands out; though only six tracks play, one for the title screen and one per two levels, each song keeps a high-energy tone and is enjoyable to listen to even as you’re replaying a stage for the twentieth time.

    It is also worth noting that the game suffered slight freezing twice, with the first lasting for just a moment and the second taking a good five seconds to resolve. Aside from those two blips, the game ran perfectly fine – though a few hazardous projectiles have a tendency to clip through planets and hit you. Finally, though the controls are configurable, the standard keyboard layout has the relevant buttons widely scattered around the keyboard, and has the rather baffling decision of putting the default “accept” key on the space bar but have the UI show an outline of the enter key. The title screen displays a prominent “controller recommended” text box in the bottom left corner, and you should heed its advice.

    As a relatively simple 2.5D platformer, there aren’t many moral issues to find. What little violence is there is of minimal concern: characters explode into pixels when struck, and your offensive options are limited to tricking UFOs into shooting things for you. The language is almost entirely clean, save for an unlockable character named “Hella Handsome Man.” Despite the tone and genre, Cosmic Leap contains some semblance of a story, told via the game show host in between levels. While downplayed, it does imply a tyrannical empire, slavery, and physical torture behind the upbeat, goofy interludes. This will likely go over the heads of younger players, but adds a surprising and appreciated depth to the game. Regardless, the controls and difficulty are bigger hurdles for children than any of the small moral problems.

    Altogether, Cosmic Leap is a promising game that’s entertaining when it works and frustrating when it doesn’t. The fast-paced platforming action is engaging but marred by the clunky controls and sudden seemingly-random deaths. Still, with a price tag of only a dollar, it’s worth taking a look at; if you try to A-rank every stage and unlock everything, you’ll get well more than your money’s worth here.

    -Cadogan

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Dad Quest
    Developed By: Sundae Month
    Published By: Excalibur Games
    Released: February 23, 2017
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Platformer, Comedy, Adventure
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: $12.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Excalibur Games for sending us this game!

    When I first loaded into Dad Quest, I was greeted to a short cutscene of why children are indestructible and powerful beings who lack guidance. But then everything changed. They brought the Dad into the mix. And now this creature without guidance has been turned into the best thing it can be. Not to mention Dads have strong feet. This is the kind of feel you can expect from this game.

    Dad Quest is a basic platformer, and it knows this. But this game succeeds in building an odd, yet hilarious world. Every Dad is not powerful on their own. In this world, Dads use children as their weapons. They throw them at enemies, they bash people with them, they even somehow manage to light people on fire with them. It seems like some genetic editing has caused these little critters to be indestructible weapons of mass destruction. Nevertheless, as a Dad yourself, you can choose to use your child how you want. You can bash enemies from afar, or get up close and personal to smash them. There are some power-ups you can collect that do things such as make them do more damage, light enemies on fire, or freeze them. It even has some side quests and missions you can choose to complete or leave alone. The platforming section consists of things like double jumping, rolling, climbing on walls, and more usually seen in the genre.

    Dad Quest has a simple, yet colorful collection of graphics. For all the pixel haters in the house, this game will not be your cup of tea. Dad Quest looks like a spiritual successor to the SNES and GBA era of graphics, combining big and smooth pixels with colorful, yet not overly powerful palettes. I was also taken by surprise at how fluid the graphics looked. The animation on the characters and enemies are incredibly smooth and well detailed. When it comes to animation quality, the only other pixel art game I've played that matches it is something like Hyper Light Drifter or Kingdom. 

    Dad Quest
    *Fly away little bird*
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great writing; Nostalgic graphics and music
    Weak Points: Slow and sometimes boring gameplay; Somewhat tedious sections; Short amount of playtime
    Moral Warnings: One use of blasphemy; References to a "Dad Spirit"

    Dad Quest's music also reminds me of an era that refuses to be forgotten. An age when all songs sounded the same because each console only had a few sounds they could make. Violins that sounded digital but not horrible. Synths and bells that were somewhat plucky and hollow, yet could be assembled together to make a full and rich sound. The basses remind me of something out of Earthbound, and the drums out of a SNES game. Although they don't have the same compression these old songs had, they sound very good. The melodies are simplistic and play a sort of backup to this free-spirited adventure game.

    Now, here is where I talk about Dad Quest's best feature. Its writing. Dad Quest is not a serious game, and like I said before, it knows this. You can see from its dialogue and writing that it isn't trying to tell a deep story that has a poignant purpose behind it; it's simply trying to have a good time. There is some story though, which I shall now tell you about. All throughout this world are many Dads, just like you. You'll meet many different types of Dads along the way, with unique children and abilities.

    All of these Dads are trained by a worldwide company known as "TM." TM has a mission that they give Dads to embark on, known as the Dad Quest. From what I understood, the objective is to become the very best Dad you can be, and obtain the three "Dadges" from the three Super-Dads (not a term used in the game but one I'm just going to use for them). The three Super-Dads are as follows: Mountain Dad, Desert Dad and Cave Dad. Each of these three Dads possess a Dadge. Collect them all and perhaps you'll be showered with endless rewards.

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

    Game Score - 68%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 80%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The controls for this game feel simple, polished and fluid, not over-complicated or convoluted. You can choose to use either a keyboard, or a gamepad. I was surprised by how at home the gamepad felt. I actually played through the game until about the end using my keyboard, then had the genius idea of trying it with my Xbox One controller, and it felt great. Now, let's get on to the cons.

    Now, I don't have many issues with this game. However, there are a lot of times where I just felt bored. There were some gameplay-only sections between dialogue or meetings, where it wasn't entirely much fun, and just climbing or platforming, no dealing with enemies. I did take some breaks between playing this game, as some days it just didn't keep my interest. The graphics are also alright. They're not spectacular, but they're good. I'm going to give this game a higher score of 7 however, just because of the amazing and fluid animations.

    Now morally, there is almost nothing wrong with this game. I've seen no inappropriate character design, no crude language or jokes, and only one use of the word "God" in a blasphemous manner. There was also a couple mentions to a "Dad Spirit" but they didn't explain it very well, so I'm not going to consider it something like the Holy Spirit, but it's something to note. But for one last critique, I must point out this game is very short. I managed to finish this game in about 8 hours, and I took my time doing quests and reading all the dialogue I could. This is an early access game, and only two chapters are currently available, with a third chapter coming soon which should add a bit of content.

    So, in closing, Dad Quest is a hilarious and well-written platformer, albeit a bit short and boring sometimes.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

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

    Thank you Nordic Games for sending us a review code!

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

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

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

    De Blob
    Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

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

    Thank you THQ Nordic for sending us a review code!

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

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

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

    de Blob 2
    Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D
    Developed by: Retro Studios
    Published by: Nintendo
    Release date: May 24, 2013
    Available on: 3DS
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of players: 1-2
    ESRB Rating: Everyone with Mild Cartoon Violence
    Price: $18.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Nintendo for sending us this game to review!

    Donkey Kong Country Returns was originally released for the Wii in 2010 and has since been ported to the 3DS and the Wii U (virtual console).  Since I’m blessed with a New Nintendo 3DS, I haven’t experienced any performance issues running this title, though it does run at 30FPS compared to the Wii’s 60FPS.  The portability is worth the trade off in my opinion.  

    Upon launching the game, you’ll be prompted to choose between a single-player or two player experience.  In order to play local multiplayer, both players need to own a copy of the game.  Once the game mode is selected, you’ll have to choose which mode you want to play.  The classic/more challenging experience is available, but an easier mode has been introduced that gives Donkey and Diddy Kong an extra heart along with more stuff available at Cranky’s island shops.  Once the difficulty is set, it cannot be changed mid-game so choose wisely.  If you’re new to the series I recommend trying it on the easier mode first because even on easy, this game gets pretty challenging later on.

    The story is simplistic, but it works.  Tikis have invaded the island and have hypnotized many of its inhabitants.  Donkey Kong isn’t phased by their hypnotic powers and is pretty angry about the Tikis stealing all of his bananas.  With the help of Diddy Kong, they’re going to get back every last one of them!
    Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D
    Highlights:

    Strong Points:A portable port of the challenging but fun Wii game
    Weak Points:Some of the later levels get rather difficult and can be frustrating; runs at half of the speed of the Wii version
    Moral Warnings:Cartoon violence

    Donkey Kong has several abilities including jumping, pounding the ground, and blowing dandelions/candles/fires out.  These skills will come in handy when it comes to locating all of the hidden letters and puzzle pieces scattered throughout the seventy plus levels.  If you miss collecting a letter or puzzle piece, you can always go back and replay a level.   If you die mid-level you’ll have to restart from the beginning or at a checkpoint and recollect the letters since the last checkpoint.   Collected puzzle pieces are accounted for after dying though.  

    Besides collecting puzzle pieces and letters, there are also bananas and banana coins to grab.  For each one hundred bananas gathered, Donkey Kong will earn an extra balloon/life.  The coins can be spent at Cranky’s shop, which sells balloons individually or in cost saving bundles. There are also keys available, which will unlock a previously inaccessible level.  Various power-ups and other helpful accessories are available to purchase as well.

    While Donkey Kong can usually survive a couple of hits, there are many instant death scenarios.  When partnered with Diddy Kong they double their number of health hearts.  If half of the hearts get depleted, Diddy Kong will go away until you can find another DK barrel.  Diddy Kong’s rocket boost is helpful, especially during boss battles.  Thankfully there’s usually a DK barrel available before triggering a boss fight.

    The levels, enemies, and boss battles have a pattern to them.  If you figure it out you’re golden, if not you’ll be losing balloons left and right.  Thankfully, if you run out of balloons, you have the option of continuing and getting four more without having to start the game over from the beginning.  You will lose progress made at checkpoints though.  If you lose many lives, you’ll have the option of shadowing a competent Donkey Kong to learn how to complete the level.  However, if you do beat the level this way, it won’t count until you can do it on your own.

    Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    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

    While I was thankful for the checkpoints, I often wished that there were more of them.  Most levels have just one.  The enemies are usually avoidable, but the environmental threats are much harder to avoid.  There’s a decent amount of variety when it comes to enemies including different types of bats, birds, drums, sharks and several others.  The environmental obstacles include bombs, tidal waves, stalagmites, and stalactites.  

    There’s plenty of level variety and many of them were fun while others are brutally difficult.  It wasn’t uncommon for me to lose twenty lives on a single level.  Yes, there’s the sense of accomplishment for finally completing it, but that quickly ebbs away upon discovering that I was missing a puzzle piece or a letter and I had no desire to replay it to perfect it.  I was often frazzled, but happy to continue onward in the quest of reclaiming the stolen bananas.    

    While this game is pretty clean with cartoon violence, it may be too difficult for younger children to enjoy.  It is great for playing in short spurts though.  It brought a smile to my face when I was greeted with a “You have been playing for a while.  Why don’t you take a rest?” screen.  I remember seeing those a lot growing up!

    In the end, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D offers a lot of challenge and variety to the platformer genre.  I typically enjoyed the levels where I was able to ride rhinos, rockets, and mine carts, though they got pretty challenging later on in the game.  If you don’t mind a challenge and enjoy finding hidden secrets, this game can be yours for less than $19 physically.

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Dragon: A Game About A Dragon
    Developed by: Games With Dragons In
    Published by: Games With Dragons In
    Release Date: April 24, 2015
    Available on: PC
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $5.99

    Thank you Games With Dragons In for sending us a copy of this game to review!

    A dragon who goes by 'Dragon' is happily sitting at home watching trashy talk shows when he discovers that his girlfriend has been kidnapped by the evil king.  To protect his hostage, the king surrounds his castle with a barrier that can only be broken when the four orbs are re-united.  Dragon must travel across the land to defeat the guardians possessing these orbs.  

    Even though Dragon is gentle in nature, it doesn't stop hunters, evil knights, and tuba players (that shoot out saw blades) from attacking him. At first Dragon is limited to scratching and breathing fire, but throughout the game other elemental attacks like ice and lightning become available to him.      

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent soundtrack; witty dialogue; unique art
    Weak Points: Short amount of gameplay
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; tobacco references

    Like most platformer games, there are various ledges for Dragon to jump onto and chasms to jump across.  Many levels have hidden power-ups that can permanently boost Dragon's health and attack power.   Whenever an enemy is defeated, they'll drop some money.  With this money Dragon's stats can be upgraded and each successive upgrade will cost more money.  

    Besides the boss battles, there are two level styles.  There are the free roam levels where you can explore at your leisure, and there are timed levels where Dragon has to outrun an angry mob of sheep or a wall of fire closing in on him.  The timed levels have good treasure hidden in them too so be sure to check out all of the available paths. 

    Dragon: A Game About A Dragon
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 84%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    The music in this game is extremely well done and is reminiscent of classic video games like Sonic the Hedgehog, Final Fantasy, and Mega Man.  I wish there was an option to buy the soundtrack because it is worth picking up.  The composer, Zach Parrish, did a great job!  There is no voice acting, but the dialogue (available in many languages) is very witty and fun to read.  

    What sets Dragon: A Game About a Dragon apart from the other games I have played is its very unique art style.  Many games boast about hand drawn artwork, but this is the first game I have played that's obviously crayon drawn as well.  It's very unique, but sometimes it is hard to see what platforms are usable and which ones are not.    

    The unique artwork and gameplay attracted my kids to my monitor and thankfully this game is fun and safe for the whole family to enjoy.  Like many platformer games there is cartoon style violence.  At the end of most of the levels there is a campfire where Dragon will stop and take out his pipe and smoke it.  

    Dragon: A Game About a Dragon sells for $5.99 on Steam.  If you like classic platformer games it's definitely worth looking into.  Since I was able to beat the campaign in two hours, I'd recommend holding out for a sale to get your money's worth.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
    Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
    Developer: Ninja Theory
    Released: October 5, 2010
    ESRB Rating: Teen for Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence
    Available on: PS3, Xbox 360 (version reviewed)
    Genre: Action-Platformer
    MSRP: $39.99 (Amazon)

    Recent trends in game design have, of late, indicated that certain developers believe that simplified games are en vogue. Stripped down displays, sparse controls and more have begun dotting the landscape. No longer do we have to wade four menu screens deep in a role-playing game to give characters that extra punch that might help. Sports games favor single button presses, as an antidote to a steep learning curve for anything resembling skilled play. Even platformers, that simplest genre of years ago, have somehow become “simplified”, perhaps needlessly so.

    And so it is with Ninja Theory’s newest game, an action-platformer called Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. The majority of Enslaved is focused on the traversal of crumbling environments and the defeat of giant robots. While both of those things sound like they could add up to – let’s speak plainly here – an awesome game, neither really hits its mark at any point during the ten- to twelve-hour game.

    The problem is that the gameplay is either utterly unengaging or, in the case of the (very basic) combat, unresponsive to the point of frustration. Platforming is completely one-dimensional. You hit one button to swing and jump from grip to grip, and if you want to descend, you can pull the control stick down and hit that same button, or you can hit another button. It’s literally that simple, and absolutely uninvolving.
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Mostly gorgeous graphics; engrossing narrative and characters
    Weak Points: Uneven gameplay; sometimes unstable framerate, especially when a lot of activity is on-screen; platforming is way too easy, and hampered by unevenly difficult combat
    Moral Warnings:Violence against robots takes the fore here; one of the characters, Trip, is consistently dressed provocatively; lots of profanity, most of it involving blasphemy

    It also doesn’t help that most areas feel like carbon copies of the opening train sequence from Uncharted 2. In that game, it was impressive, it was cinematic, it felt like something new (and if not new, the execution was near flawless). Here, it feels like a retread, one pockmarked with frustration and cheap deaths brought on by an almost broken level of linearity. And even without that broken feeling, the very fact that you can’t miscalculate jumps and you can’t really make any mistakes during the course of gameplay makes the game almost unbearably easy through these sequences.

    During the platforming sequences, the only places where I died were when interacting with Trip (your companion). In more than one sequence, I found myself having to throw her across a gap. This wouldn’t be a problem, but actions are only permitted in very small areas; even if you’re right next to an indicator for an action, the game won’t react unless you’re in a predetermined spot. When I finally threw her across, the game refused to let me jump until I was in a specific spot. Trip was, meanwhile, hanging onto a ledge, waiting for me to pull her up, or else fall to her death. After making the jump, I stood on the ledge above Trip and jammed the button that would haul her up (in this case, the B button). Four or five button presses later, she fell and I had to restart. You learn to adapt, but it sucks the fun out of the platforming – and not because you die.

    All of which says nothing of the combat. Like the platforming, it’s marked by unresponsive controls, and seems to take its cues from other games by other developers. When it pays off, it’s flashy and fun. All too often, however, enemies will swarm and overwhelm the player. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining because the combat was artificially hard; it wasn’t. But instead of a trial-and-error, “I did this wrong” kind of feeling, I ended up having an overriding sense of aggravation during these (all too frequent) segments of the game. I turned the game off a few times during my playthrough, simply because I didn’t want to deal with it anymore.
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay 15/20
    Graphics 7/10
    Sound 10/10
    Stability 3/5
    Controls/Interface 3/5

    Morality Score - 73%
    Violence 6.5/10
    Language 3/10
    Sexual Content/Nudity 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical 8.5/10

    Other games with this kind of hack and slash mentality have a very deliberate pacing to them. This is true even with the hardest of these. There’s a natural rhythm that those games fall into by design. Enslaved has none of that. You can’t measure its combat system as something decent, because there isn’t much “system” there. Enemies rush the player, throw cheap attacks and do so without pacing or flow. It’s such a stark contrast to the platforming that it’s almost as if two different studios developed the different areas of the game.

    Conversely, boss battles are cool, but also pretty much a mess. The camera pulls in annoyingly close during these encounters. It makes no sense, because without that fault, these encounters (which do not generally make use of typical combat elements) would seem to be some of the standout moments of the game.

    Sprinkled throughout are some interesting shooter segments, which break up the pacing but yield mixed results. They aren’t difficult and they aren’t obtrusive, but they feel off. Moving around the reticule isn’t smooth (I was coming off some marathon Halo: Reach sessions when playing Enslaved, which might be the reason for this), but instead seems to rely on a grid. I couldn’t get the reticule to move in anything but straight lines and angles, while enemies I was aiming for were moving in smooth arcs.

    Yet while I have some serious issues with the fundamental ways that Enslaved is played, not all of it is bad. In fact, a lot of it is pretty good, and that’s what makes me feel so torn about this game.

    Despite being really, really green, Enslaved is a mostly gorgeous effort. Textures are sometimes a bit too muddy, and light bloom is almost too obtrusive. Animation is amazing, however, with solid performances by Andy Serkis as Monkey, and Lindsey Shaw as Trip. And when I say “performances,” I mean exactly that: voice acting and motion-capture were done at once, so these characters feel like they’re there. Though the game isn’t dialogue-heavy, its emotional resonance certainly benefits from this.

    The sparse dialogue is made stronger by just how well-written it is. Penned by Alex Garland (screenwriter of 28 Days Later and Sunshine), Enslaved’s excellent plot is made so by the impressive demonstration of growing trust and dependency (a relationship) between the two leads. It defies the audience, because it’s never what the audience wants – willfully – and that’s just what makes it one of the best stories to come out of the medium in years.

    Based on Journey to the West, one of Chinese literature’s four great classics, Enslaved follows Monkey and Trip as they attempt to make their way to Trip’s home. After a daring escape from a crashing slave ship (a sequence all too similar to the opening of Uncharted 2), Trip fastens a headpiece to Monkey’s head. If he removes it, he dies. If he abandons her, he dies. If she dies, he dies. Monkey’s reason to assist Trip is purely a selfish one, and it drives the plot and the action for a good portion of the game.
    Enslaved’s story – easily the most captivating part of the game – stands out because of the growing relationship between the lead characters. A third wheel of sorts, Pigsy, comes in late in the game and mostly provides additional comic relief and help with gameplay scenarios. Ultimately, he’s a necessary element to the plot, but he always feels somehow superfluous to the proceedings.

    I don’t like the ending. It seemed slightly obtuse to me, mired in cliché and philosophical posturing. But then, the ending doesn’t so much matter here; the journey is what is important. Until those last few moments, it’s a magnificent one, despite the shortcomings of the game proper.

    There were some stability problems I ran into while playing Enslaved. My Xbox froze at least twice when I was playing the game, and once on the load screen. At one point, I ran into some strange glitch that caused a reticule to not appear on the screen. Hopping off the turret that I was manning, and then remounting, fixed this.

    The frame rate also sporadically drops in Enslaved. It’s a good-looking game, but it’s not that impressive. With the amount of action happening on-screen at once, the sometimes-stuttering gameplay seems a bit odd.

    One of the biggest problems I actually do have with Enslaved is the unnecessary level of profanity in it. Monkey frequently curses, often blaspheming in the process. Trip and Pigsy aren\'t exactly innocent in this regard, either, but neither character curses just as much as Monkey does.
    Worth mentioning also is the somewhat sophomoric humor that Pigsy brings to the table, specifically one instance with a genital joke.

    There\'s also plenty of violence in Enslaved, but only the beginning of the game has the player fighting people. After that initial sequence, robots are the main enemies, and there\'s no shortage of them. There\'s supposed to be blood somewhere in the proceedings, and stuff does spray out of the robots that you kill from time to time, but it\'s black and oily-looking. Coming from robots, I simply assumed that it was oil and moved on. Still, it\'s worth noting, if you\'re concerned about that sort of thing.

    Trip wears typically revealing clothing, which is surprising given the way her character acts. I\'m not saying that I expect every female lead in any game to be dressed in a modest, Puritanical fashion, but I also don\'t want to see female character designs appealing to the baser appetites of the gaming culture. That Trip is designed as such is annoying, because her personality conveys something much, much different.

    Still, the game remains very much in T-rated territory, not pushing the box with sexuality or violent content, and hardly providing content worthy of more than a PG-13 rating in film.

    I walked away from Enslaved, and was ready to be as harsh as possible because of how frequently I became annoyed with it. The game was enjoyable, to be sure, but there are far too many rough edges for me to fully recommend it. Were that extra layer of polish added, and some balancing issues fixed, this would be an automatic recommendation. As it stands, I can’t much say that it’s an amazing title with a great story on top of great gameplay. It’s not. The story is worth experiencing, but how much you get out of the rest of the final product is highly dependent on your tolerances as a player.
  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Family Tree
    Developed by: Infinite State Games
    Published by: Eastasia Soft
    Release date: October 10, 2019
    Available on: Nintendo Switch
    Genre: Pinball, Platformer
    Number of players: 1-4
    ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
    Price: $7.99 USD

    Thank you Eastasia Soft for sending us this game to review!

    If you have read the last few reviews I have written, then you know that I am a family man. My wife and I have been married for nearly 14 years and have two beautiful children and one on the way. Life is pretty good, and as the father of the house, it should be clear that I would never let anything happen to my beloved family. I wouldn’t even let a maniacal candy skull named Pedro abduct them and strew them across all four seasons. Nope, I would fight to save my family, no matter how incredibly impossible or unrelatable that scenario actually is. However, for the little fruit people of Infinite State Games’ level-by-level platformer Family Tree, this is a horrific reality.

    The day is going well for Mr. Fruits and Momma Orange and their family of a million and two seed children. The children are told not to stay up too late, but they don’t listen. As it gets dark, a maniacal floating skull named Pedro comes and steals all of the seeds away. It is up to Mr. Fruits to go from tree to tree, season to season, and rescue his children before Pedro is made aware of the caper. It is a fun and very simple story to match a very simple game.

    Family Tree
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Family-friendly fun; very colorful and original gameplay; ease of play is great for young gamers
    Weak Points: Extremely repetitive gameplay; maybe too juvenile for older players; controls take some getting used to
    Moral Warnings: The main antagonist, Pedro the Skull, may be to too creepy for younger players to handle

    Family Tree is a pinball platformer game that has a level by level system very similar to that of most free-to-play cell phone titles. I call this game a pinball platformer because it does not use the traditional control scheme that most platformers use. In order to move up the tree, Mr. Fruits has to be launched instead of directly jumping with the push of a button. This forces the player to aim the fruit and calculate its trajectory using a dotted-line as a guide. Mr. Fruits can move back and forth, but he only hops a little in each direction with the use of the L and R trigger buttons. These controls take a little bit of getting used to, but after a while, they prove to be smooth and responsive.

    Each level presents a wide variety of obstacles ranging from “barrel blasting” plants to angry purple squirrels. Momma Orange is the goal of each level, and she usually sits high in the tree that Mr. Fruits must climb. He must also collect fruit seeds along the way. When Mr. Fruits begins his climb, a timer begins to count down showing when Pedro will wake up and mount his attack. If the level is not cleared fast enough, Pedro the Skull will show up and slowly chase Mr. Fruits until he catches him, stripping him of all the seeds that he accumulated during his trip up the tree. Trust me, Pedro means business.

    Family Tree is broken up into various “years,” each of which is divided into four seasons. Each season consists of a total of eight levels. The sprites and obstacles change their appearance depending on the season that you are in. This change, however, it purely cosmetic, as the mechanics of each level stays pretty much the same. After each set of eight levels, Mr. Fruits must transition to the next season by engaging with Pedro in a race to Momma Orange and her seeds. This event takes the place of boss battles, and can actually be a little challenging.

    The childlike aesthetic of this game adds rather colorful flair to the gameplay. Family Tree’s hand-drawn animation is somewhat basic in design, but it complements the simplicity of the game itself. The color palette in this game is bright and lively, showing each of the seasons in the colors they are known for. If I didn’t know better, I would say that this game has a child’s touch, innocent and simple.

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

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

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

    Simplicity, as it seems, also translates into ease of play. Once you get a hang of the controls for Mr. Fruits, it is actually quite easy for seasoned players to fly through the levels. Most of the obstacles and enemies are simply reused over and over again, so the game does not present a wide variety of gameplay. Every stage is pretty much the same; Mr. Fruits starts at the bottom of the tree and must hop to the top and rejoin Momma Orange. There are no “monkey wrenches” in this system; it is uniform, consistent, and predictable.

    From what I can see, this game was made with children in mind. The gameplay is very simple and the mechanics do not allow for a great deal of concentration or thinking to navigate. Morally, Family Tree is as innocent as its name suggests. However, I did let my daughter play the game and she had one minor concern; Pedro is a little scary. It’s not that he is this monstrous skull that steals the happiness of children, he’s just creepy. Couple his creepiness with the timer heralding his arrival and you get an anxiety-laden experience that some children will shy away from.

    Family Tree is a fun little novelty game that kids will love and parents will enjoy right alongside them. There is a multiplayer mode that allows for up to four players to battle each other in a vertical race to see who is better at navigating obstacles. Overall, Family Tree presents the Nintendo Switch with a fun little title that is best played in spurts. The hand-drawn graphics and child-like aesthetic keep this game interesting despite its rather repetitive gameplay. This game is a good addition to any family’s Switch catalog at a mere $7.99. Just look out for Pedro, because as my 8-year-old says, he’s really creepy.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    FoxyLand
    Developed by: BUG-Studio
    Published by: Ratalaika Games
    Release date: November 29, 2019
    Available on: Nintendo Switch, Windows, and Android
    Genre: Platformer
    ESRB rating: E for Everyone
    Number of Players: 1 player only
    Price: 4.99

    Thank you Ratalaika Games for sending us a review code!

    FoxyLand is a fun platformer where you run around an island, collecting gems and jumping over spikes with hopes to save your girlfriend. It is very short, but that is expected considering that it is only 5 dollars. It has 36 levels, plus 3 bonus Halloween-themed levels. Other than the length, it is great and I enjoyed it very much.

    It is pretty fast-paced, which is part of the fun. Each level is different, but I can't say that the difficulty of a level depends on the number. During levels you will have to collect all gems, and once you do so it shows you where the goal is. You will sometimes have to solve a puzzle or find your way around some sort of obstacle to get a gem, while other times they will be out in the open, waiting for you to pick them up. There will sometimes be an enemy guarding it, too.

    FoxyLand
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun; family friendly; low priced
    Weak Points: No multiplayer; short
    Moral Warnings: A little bit of violence

    The story of FoxyLand is that a fox named Foxy is with his girlfriend, Jennie, and then an eagle swoops down and grabs Jennie and flies away with her. It keeps on dropping gems, which explains why you have to collect gems to beat levels.

    One thing that I think FoxyLand needs is more boss battles. The only boss it has is a skeleton in the last extra level. In my opinion, it would be better if there was one every ten levels at least. Maybe even a boss on the last normal level would be okay, because I did not expect saving the fox's girlfriend to be that easy.

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

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 4/5
    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

    I think it is a little annoying that there are only 3 songs that play in the entire game, but they are pretty catchy. The same song plays on almost every level, which means that if you play FoxyLand, you will have to get used to it. The sound effects are pretty good, but they aren't accurate. The controls are great because they are easy to remember and learn. There are a few bugs, but not any game-breaking ones. The graphics are okay, but I think that they are supposed to look a little pixelated.

    FoxyLand is an appropriate game for anyone to play, so there are not very many moral issues. It does have some cartoon violence, because you can kill enemies by jumping on top of them. You can also die by falling into a pit of spikes, but it does not have any blood. When you die, your character flies into the air and it looks like he crashed into the screen and cracked it.

    This game entertained me, but it is not very long so I wasn't entertained for very long. You can give it to your child and I think they will enjoy it, but again, it won't take them long to beat it. Other than its length, it is fun and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys platformer games.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Freedom Planet
    Developed By: GalaxyTrail
    Published By: XSEED Games (Switch), GalaxyTrail (all others)
    Release Date: August 30, 2018 (Switch)
    Available On: Windows, macOS, SteamOS/Linux, Wii U, PlayStation 4, Switch
    Genre: Action Platformer
    Number of Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence
    MSRP: $14.99

    Thank you XSEED Games for sending us the Switch version to review!

    I have always enjoyed the classic Sonic the Hedgehog games, even if I never did beat any of them; I was a Nintendo kid, and only had friends with a Sega Genesis. Nevertheless, it was hard to deny that Sega had a great series that made lasting impressions on those who played it. A few years ago, I became aware of Freedom Planet, which is one of the best non-clone homages to Sonic out there, or at least as far as I have seen. I was pretty excited about it, picked up the PC version, and instantly fell in love with it; but I never got far enough to review it. Now that XSEED Games is releasing the game again on Switch, I just had to take the chance to give this game the time it deserves.

    Ever since the indie game revolution from a few years back, there have been several standouts that really did a wonderful job of not only paying homage to classic gaming, but even improving on it. Shovel Knight is clearly one of them, and I would say that this one is another. It’s not a perfect game, as there are a few rough difficulty spikes, but overall, it’s a truly excellent adaptation of what made Sonic so great, and it takes it to the next level.

    Freedom Planet
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent pixel art, music, and sound effects; great voice acting; gameplay is a fantastic homage (and even improvement) over the classic Sonic the Hedgehog formula; each character plays quite differently
    Weak Points: Some big difficulty spikes
    Moral Warnings: Alien enemies attack, steal, kill, and torture; fantasy violence

    Freedom Planet takes place on planet Avalice, where the people rely on an artifact with seemingly endless power called the Kingdom Stone. A few kingdoms want this power, and there is a very fragile peace, and an alien invasion that sets off death and destruction. A group of friends, Lilac, Carol, and later Milla, find themselves thrust into the middle of this conflict, as Lilac’s endless sense of justice and helping others drags them all into an intergalactic conflict. The cutscenes are fully voice acted and extremely well done. The only difference between the two modes that you choose when you start the game, Adventure or Classic, is whether or not you can watch the cutscenes; Classic skips all that story stuff and gets right to the action.

    If you have ever played one of the classic Sega Genesis (or GBA) 2D Sonic games, then you have a pretty good idea how this plays, but even still, there is more to it. For those who have not, each level is a massive and detailed 2D side-scrolling platformer, with lots of hidden secrets, ramps, circles to spin through, and so on. It is very fast paced, and there are many paths you can take from beginning to end. There are flower petals to collect, and if you get two hundred of them, you get an extra life. There are also protective orbs you can grab, not unlike other games of this type. Every level has mini-bosses and end bosses, and they can be quite challenging as you often have to memorize their patterns in order to defeat them.

    Unlike Sonic, each character has physical attacks, and the three play uniquely. Lilac is the most Sonic-like, with a spin dash like move, and spin attacks that bop the enemies senseless. Carol is a cat that attacks with her claws and various martial-arts attacks. She can also grab her motorcycle to really mess things up or get to difficult places. Milla plays really uniquely; she can jump, flutter her dog ears, and create gel blocks or a shield out of thin air. Each character plays very differently, and is worth a replay if you love the core game, which you just might; the level design is fantastic.

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

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    Graphically, the polish and pixel art are quite something to behold. If it wasn’t for the widescreen presentation, this could easily have passed for a 1990s game – and that’s a compliment. The characters look excellent, the background and enemy animations look great, and the music is a really nice mix of synth and instruments. It’s a great soundtrack, and I’ve considered picking it up. The voice acting is the other thing that gives away that it might not be a 1990s game; it’s also great, and fully voice acted.

    It’s pretty safe for most audiences, as the violence is typical classic fantasy violence where you smack various robotic or organic creatures. However, in the Adventure mode, a few of the scenes later in the game are quite disturbing, as you witness Lilac being tortured by what appears to be an electric shock by the enemy. It’s extremely unsettling; you may want to have the youngest players stick with Classic mode.

    Freedom Planet is a wonderful homage to the 16-bit Sonic formula, and in many ways, is even better. It’s a blast to play, performs perfectly on both PC and Switch, and is incredibly easy to recommend to any lover of platform games. It’s a game that I’m long overdue in reviewing; if you have even the slightest inking of interest in a game like this, you won’t be disappointed; the price is more than fair.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Fur Up
    Developer: Snowflurry Entertainment
    Publisher: Snowflurry Entertainment
    Released: August 31, 2017
    Available on: Windows, macOS
    Number of Players: Up to four players
    Genre: Platformer
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Price: $1.99

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

    Fur Up is a vertical platformer game made by Snowflurry Entertainment. It is a rather simple game, but I still found it fun. Your character is a fur ball that jumps up onto platforms that disappear once you jump on them, so you must constantly be moving. Your goal is to jump as high as you can and then beat your high score which will be featured on the leaderboards. There is an option for multiplayer mode, in which it will search for servers online. If a local server is found it will be included in with the online servers. In the multiplayer mode, it can have up to four players playing simultaneously. Players can tell each other apart since the fur balls are different colors. Your fur ball could be blue, orange, pink, or green and may alternate between rounds in the single-player mode. During multiplayer mode the platforms do not disappear once you jump on them, so your only goal is to go up as high as you can without falling down or coming into contact any animals that may lurk on certain platforms (which will kill you).

    Fur Up
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Multiplayer
    Weak Points: Certain annoying sound effects
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence

    There are different kinds of platforms you can jump on that have different effects when you jump on them. Most platforms you see will be one solid color, while others will have more than one color on them. These multicolored ones have special effects. Red & green platforms along with yellow & blue platforms will boost your fur ball up 10x higher than a normal one would. The orange & green platforms, the pink & blue platforms and the pink & green platforms will give you more points than a normal platform would. Also, if you jump on a platform occupied by an animal without touching the animal you will also get more points than one that isn’t already occupied.

    Along with the gameplay, the controls are simple too. Gamepad is not supported, so the only thing you really need to play this game is a mouse. Left-click to jump up, and move your mouse left and right as the character follows as quickly as your mouse cursor, except somewhat following gravitational rules.

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

    Game Score - 72%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 5/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    The visuals are pretty simple, but also colorful. The way the animals are portrayed makes some of them seem mean and gruesome because of the way they were drawn, but I think it’s cute.

    As for sound, the background music is appropriate. Sure, it loops, but in general I like the songs that play as your fur ball goes higher and higher up. However, there are a few sound effects I am not fond of. When you fall off of the map a downward spirally noise plays that I find quite annoying in its low-quality. Another one I don’t like plays when you die from touching an animal of some sort. Animal quarreling noises play and then a voice that says “You lost! Hahahahaha!” I would often get even more frustrated hearing that after I had gone so high and then died while coming into contact with an animal.

    Overall, I found Fur Up to be a cute game. As far as moral warnings go, all I found was cartoon violence. And since this game is pretty cheap, I can recommend it to anyone who wants a simple multiplayer platformer as long as they can handle some annoying sound effects.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Geometry Dash
    Developed by: RobTop Games
    Published by: RobTop Games
    Release date: December 22, 2014
    Available on: Android, iOS, macOS, Windows
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Price: $1.99 

    Geometry Dash is a 2013 mobile and Steam game developed by Robert Topala, or RobTop. It is a rhythm based platformer game that happens to have nothing to do with geometry. There are four versions: Geometry Dash Lite, which is the free version with ten levels (only available on Android and iOS). It also contains ads. The most popular version, Geometry Dash (the full version), costs $1.99. This version has twenty-one levels, three of which need to be unlocked via coins, that you can find hidden in levels. The least popular version of this game is called Geometry Dash Meltdown, and it is free but only comes with three levels that are not included in the full version. As of recently, Geometry Dash SubZero came out, but I have not played it nor know much about it. This review is based off of the full version of the game.

    There is no story involved in Geometry Dash; your objective is just to survive, or complete all of the levels provided. In each level your icon will encounter various spikes, walls, drops, and other obstacles to overcome in the pressure of the autoscroll. The levels are very colorful, but with much detail. Your icon is usually a square with designs of some sort on it. Your icon is changeable, and you can earn new icons by unlocking achievements or buying them in the store, which uses orbs, the in-game currency.

    Geometry Dash
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great soundtrack; addicting gameplay
    Weak Points: Simple visuals; included software to create new levels is complicated and hard to use; micro-transactions
    Moral Warnings: One character is referred to as a demon

    Players can create their own levels and upload them so anyone can play them. The software included with the game is hard to use, especially with the mobile versions. I found it difficult to rotate objects both on my tablet and on my PC.

    The controls are very simple when it comes to actually playing the game. In the mobile versions, tap the screen to jump, and on the Steam version, left click or press the space bar to jump. While playing, that is all you need to know regarding controls.

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

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 92%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The soundtrack consists of one song for each level there is plus the song that plays when you play levels in practice mode – that’s twenty-two songs, and they’re all dubstep. It’s known to be a good soundtrack, and you can download it in-game for $0.99 each song. You can also extract the music files from Steam to avoid the costs, but people on mobile devices aren’t so lucky.

    When your character dies by hitting an obstacle of some sort, it just kind of explodes. There is no blood involved, neither does your character leave any evidence showing that it died in that spot. As for any other moral warnings, there is a character you will meet who is referred to as a demon. Other than that, there is nothing else worth worrying about in that sense.

    For the game’s simplicity, Geometry Dash is rather challenging and frustrating, but at the same time really fun. I’d recommend this game to anyone who has the patience to master it.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Ghost 1.0
    Developer: @unepic_fran
    Published by: @unepic_fran
    Release Date: June 7, 2016
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Action, Platformer
    Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: unrated
    Price: $12.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you @unepic_fran for sending us this game to review!

    Ghost 1.0 is a game I'm almost sorry I didn't pick up sooner. Exploratory 2-D games also known as "Metroidvanias" to many are quite popular. Yet these games are very hard to get people to invest time in. Without proper direction and challenge, people will put a bad Metroidvania on their backlog. While it may not be the very best game in the genre, it certainly shows the love of Metroidvanias are here to stay. This is Ghost 1.0.

    Ghost 1.0 is set in a futuristic corporate world; the Nakamura corporation has finally developed an artificial intelligence that can make robots exactly like humans. These new robots with this new AI are built to be housekeepers. Two men have hired the assassin for hire, Ghost, to steal the blueprints. As the story unfolds however, Ghost learns just what the cost of immortality will come to. Artificial life is not without sacrifice.

    Ghost 1.0
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: The game design is near perfect, if you want a strong well made Metroidvania game this is for you.
    Weak Points: While it's a well made game, you'll say “I've played this before” very quickly. This only applies if your familiar with this kind of genre.
    Moral Warnings: Not much in the way of morality except the end of the story and what it implies.

    Ghost 1.0 is a Metroidvania platformer with lots of love built into it. You go from room to room exploring the Nakamura space station looking for power ups, new weapons and various upgrades all while searching high and low for the AI blueprints. You have a map to guide you as well as assistance and narration from the two men who hired you. When push comes to shove Ghost can leave her body to possess other mechanical beings. You have no time limit and you can use a button to go back to your original body swiftly if you so choose. Throughout the game you can find trip alarms that start an enemy wave event; If you defeat the event you get rewards from currency to new weapons. If you die you'll be brought back to the last save point you activated with only one weapon. If you return to the last spot you died then you might get some weapons and power-ups back.

    The game itself is well designed; you'll always know where to go and you have everything to aid you. The atmosphere and music help immerse you into the world of a kick butt robo-girl and nothing seems off about the game. The constant banter between the operations chief and Ghost can get a bit annoying but it's nothing that gets in the way of the game-play. Each narration moment has a purpose from tutorials on new abilities and mechanics to funny little moments and references. While the game's story and voice acting helps it stand out from the rest, the game-play itself is nothing new.

    While the game play is well designed it isn't exactly the most unique thing on the block. The weapons and mechanics are all truly familiar. You'll have your long range, AOE and short range weapons. You'll also sink back into the habit of exploring the area to look for safe rooms and out of the way upgrades. Thankfully it's at least done well. This game can bring new people into the Metroidvania type game. While I'll enjoy my time with Ghost 1.0, It will not always be my go-to game.

    Ghost 1.0
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 90%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7/10

    Sound effects and music are decent. The music is pretty immersive and fits the setting. The voice acting is decent and it helps move along the story. The sound effects fit the weapons and they have enough variation to keep things fresh, you wouldn't want to here a laser sound from a grenade would you? My only nit pick issue is I wish voiced scenes happened more often. Seems the earlier scenes were just to teach the game and then they slowed down as I progressed.

    Morality isn't a big issue with this game. It has cartoony violence with explosions and gears, no blood. The language is very clean as well. The story can go into some complex issues that cover slavery so the story itself is not for the younger set.

    While Ghost 1.0 is not the biggest thing on the block, it's definitely worth a purchase. Not every game has to wow you at every turn with something new. Returning to familiar territory from a new angle can be just what people need. I will also state that others that are new to the genre may just stick with Ghost 1.0. This game is filled with speed running potential as well.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Ginger Roll: 3D Platformer
    Developed by: IRF Media
    Published by: IRF Media
    Release date: December 23, 2015
    Available on: Android, iOS
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of players: Single-player
    Price: $0.99

    Thank you IRF Media for sending us this game to re-review! 

    Last year we reviewed several builds of Ginger Roll and were unimpressed with the game’s performance and revenue model that charged for lives to play the game.  Several of our criticisms were addressed in the renamed game that now goes by Ginger Roll: 3D Platformer.

    The game’s story is actually explained in the game now and there’s a tutorial to teach you about the basic controls and the available power-ups.  Ginger Roll’s premise remains the same with Saif being trapped in a Zorb ball by the evil child genius, Iblis.  In order to stop Iblis from world domination, Saif must complete the various challenges set before him.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Cute concept and visuals
    Weak Points: Repetitive and annoying music; confusing level design and menu interface; it's easy to lose your game progress; not enough time to complete some levels; game will not launch if your mobile device is not online
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon deaths; one Hell themed world

    Ginger Roll/Ginger Roll: 3D Platformer is very similar to Monkey Ball where the main character rolls around in a blue ball which can be controlled with your tablet’s gyro sensor or via a software joystick.  While the concept of gyro controls is good, the implementation is lacking and I found the software joystick to be more precise.  

    There are four areas with fifteen levels apiece for Saif to traverse in order to stop Iblis. Since I don’t like linking my Facebook account to games, I played using the guest option.  Sadly, I found out the hard way that tapping the power icon logs you out instead of exiting the game.  Logging out of the guest account erases all of you progress without warning.  Some of the levels I lost progress in it took dozens of lives to complete too.  Thankfully this game replenishes lives without charging for them anymore.  When your default twenty-five lives/hearts are used up you’ll automatically be credited with three more.    

    Cookies are scattered throughout the levels and if you collect enough of them you can unlock different outfits and characters to play at the in-game store.  Besides cookies, there are also power-ups like jetpacks available.  There are also obstacles like fans, decelerators, and even deadly saw blades to avoid.  

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

    Game Score - 56%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 4/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 0/5

    Morality Score - 100%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    When Saif dies he makes a funny sounding cartoon-like scream.   Unfortunately, the background music is annoying, repetitive, and hard to disable.  Disabling it is possible, but the game didn’t seem to remember my preference of keeping it off.  

    Most of the levels are pretty straight forward and can easily be completed in the thirty seconds allotted to do so.  Before you begin each level, you’re shown a fly-by sequence to see what you’re getting into.  Even with the fly-by, some of the levels were still pretty tricky and finding the entrance to some chutes to go in was rather difficult.  Other levels are exceptionally long and the thirty seconds given is not enough time.

    Even though noticeable improvements have been made in Ginger Roll: 3D Platformer, there are still too many flaws for me to recommend spending $0.99 on this title.  More variety in music and increased time for longer levels would be appreciated.  The biggest issue by far is the confusing interface and how easy it is to accidentally erase your progress. That’s unforgivable, and I consider myself to be a pretty forgiving person.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Ginger: Beyond the Crystal
    Developed by: Drakhar Studio
    Published by: Badland Games
    Release date: October 24, 2016
    Available on: PS4, macOS, Windows, Xbox One
    Number of players: Single-player
    Genre: Platformer
    ESRB Rating: E for Crude humor and mild fantasy violence
    Price: $14.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Badland Games for sending us this game to review!

    The world was once peaceful and a goddess protected the tiny blue villagers as they brought gifts to her stone idol. Not long ago, the goddess stopped talking to the villagers and bestowed upon them an infant named Ginger.  When Ginger came of age, his village and others nearby were devastated by an attack on the crystals that have been corrupted and scattered across the land.  It’s up to Ginger to cleanse the crystals and to restore the towns who are missing their inhabitants.

    In order to rescue villagers and rebuild towns, Ginger will have collect blue crystals and building materials throughout his adventure.  The blue crystals act as a currency to rescue villagers and to buy accessories to cheer them up after the trauma they’ve been through.  Another way to make them happy is to rebuild their houses that have been destroyed in the chaos.  In order to rebuild their houses and other buildings you’ll need to locate items such as wood and rocks.  Sometimes they can be found scattered throughout the land, but another way to earn these resources is by completing quests.

    Ginger: Beyond the Crystal
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Cute characters and a decent variety of levels and challenges; nice background music
    Weak Points: Forced camera views; clunky battle system; loading screens
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; Druid religion references; Halloween and undead themes; magic use

    Besides cleansing crystals, Ginger can be kept busy by completing tasks for the villagers.  The quests usually consist of fetching various items, defeating nearby monsters, or winning a timed race.  The compass-like interface on the bottom of the screen makes it easier to find the items needed for the fetch quests, although it can only track the resources required for one quest at a time.  Because of this limitation, you may only want to accept one quest at a time.  

    Before moving onto the next town, the current one must be fully cleansed of its evil by purifying all of the red crystals into blue ones.  There are two red crystal level types; one method is when a red crystal appears in a town you can jump into it to enter a 3D platforming challenge.   Typically, you’ll have to cleanse several red crystals that are on floating platforms, which are surrounded by several spinning and rotating ones to navigate through.

    The other method of cleansing red crystals involve going through portals to enter various themed areas like a volcano, a crypt, and a mine to name a few.  These areas have one crystal to cleanse but getting to it requires appeasing or defeating a guardian/boss of some sort.  These areas typically have sections that are only available if Ginger has the appropriate outfit/ability.

    Ginger: Beyond the Crystal
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 83%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 3.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Throughout his journey, Ginger will rescue people who will grant him special powers.  For example, a minstrel will give him the ability to  play a lute to unlock gates by repeating a simple musical melody puzzle.  Another ability he’ll acquire is to change into a mouse to access areas that he would normally be too big to enter.  To extend the gameplay time you’ll have to go back to previously explored areas to access and open chests that were not available to you previously.  Another option to extend your gameplay time is to try the hard/old-school mode that transforms the checkpoints to mere healing stations. With some of the timed puzzles, I’m happy with my choice of playing this game on the default/normal difficulty.

    Fans of many classic 90’s style 3D platformers will find much to like in this colorful and cute game.  Overall Ginger: Beyond the Crystal is well polished, but there were some noticeable slowdowns on my Xbox One.  The soundtrack is exceptional and sets the mood nicely.   The voice acting consists of gibberish which some may find cute.

    Though this game is relatively safe for children to play, they may get flustered at the difficulty and skills required to complete the spinning platform challenges.  On the moral front, there are several references to druid beliefs and goddess worship.  Ginger can wear a magician outfit, which grants him the ability to cast magic spells.  Lastly, some of the levels have undead enemies and Halloween themes. 

    If you like challenging platformers and don’t mind the worshipping of goddesses and crystals, then Ginger: Beyond the Crystal is bound to entertain you for a bit.  The price is a reasonable $19.99, but I’d hold off for a sale just in case the jumping and timed puzzles aren’t your thing.   

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Glo
    Developed By: Chronik Spartan
    Published By: Chronik Spartan
    Released: October 23, 2017
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Puzzle
    ESRB Rating: none
    Number of Players: Single player
    Price: $4.99 on Steam

    Thank you Chronik Spartan for sending us this game to review!

    Glo is a challenging puzzle game that claims on its Steam page to be one of the most challenging games you will ever play, and that certainly seems to be the case with me. I have found this game very difficult, and it gets exponentially more difficult as it goes on. Glo consists of 100 levels and 4 “boss battles” (although I haven’t been able to get to any of the boss battles because the game is so hard).

    Upon startup, the player is greeted with a screen with the game’s controls and items on it. Glo supports WASD, arrow keys, or controller. (I have found it easiest on controller, since the movements are a lot smoother.) The player has to press Esc or Select on the controller in order to exit this menu; the time that the controls menu is on the screen is decided by the player. Once at the main menu, the player is greeted by the game’s title, the menu buttons, and a death counter. There are five options on the main menu: “Start,” “Speed Run,” “Memories,” “Tutorial,” and “Exit.”

    The first and last options are fairly obvious. Pressing “Start” will launch the player into a menu with a one-dimensional scroll of levels (and they can’t skip any). The player is only able to scroll to the level that they are on, and no further. The “Speed Run” option allows the player to see how fast they can beat the entire game, and there is a stopwatch in the upper left hand corner. The “Memories” option allows the player to see the text from any “Memories” that they have collected throughout the course of the game. The “Tutorial” option simply re-displays the controls/items screen that appears upon startup.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Simple story draws the player in; graphics are aesthetically pleasing; levels are challenging
    Weak Points: Levels can get frustratingly difficult; music consists of one (fitting) loop track
    Moral Warnings: Enemies explode upon death into a particle fest, only the inscriptions on the wall are shown and not the source

    Once the player enters the first level, they are greeted with the sight of the cube that they control, and the exit. Everything except a small radius around these two things is pitch black. Some of the items in-game are there to help light up the rest of the world. If the player is using a keyboard and mouse, there is a teal crosshair to match the teal and black world theme. However, if you don’t have a 16:9 screen resolution, there are black bezels at the bottom which show the path of the cursor if it crosses through them. If the player clicks on any area in the level (which is usually very short, as the exit is almost always visible), then there will be a crosshair bullet shot that will light up the area around it. This bullet is not an item to be acquired, it is something that the player always has.

    As they move on through the level, they will find that there is text written on the walls. In the first few levels, the text helps the player move on to the next level, but as time goes on, the text starts to tell a story. What kind of story it tells will be up to the player to find out, as I’m not going to spoil it here.

    Each level is unique and difficult, and it requires not only puzzle-busting skills, but also lots of coordination. For example, there was a level early on that required the player to time their double jumps perfectly, which is quite hard to do because of the level of accuracy that is necessary. If, by chance, the player dies, they are respawned at the beginning of the level. They don’t need to worry about running out of lives, as they are infinite. (Thank goodness, or I would’ve ran out a long time ago!)

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

    Game Score - 71%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4.5/5

    Morality Score - 96%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural -9/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The graphics of Glo are quite simple, as the overwhelming majority of the structures and characters are made up of colored squares. The one loop track that is played is simple, catchy, and fitting of Glo’s atmosphere. As it goes on, enemies start to appear in levels, and they are made up of simple shapes. The text is the only thing that disturbs the simple shapes of the world; it’s slightly fanciful, but, it’s a Windows standard font, which removes some of Glo’s clean finish.

    As for moral issues, Glo doesn’t seem to have many. The story seems quite innocent from what I’ve seen, and while it’s simple, it’s enjoyable and adds some depth to the game. When the shape enemies die, they explode into little tiny squares, and there’s no blood or gore involved.

    Glo is a game I would recommend for those who are patient and like a good challenge. If you’re the type of person to rage quit from dying at the last second, then Glo is absolutely not for you. If you like stories and puzzle platformers, then Glo is definitely worth checking out!

    - Kittycathead

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Gravity Island
    Developed By: ILIKESCIFI Games, Clement Willay Games
    Published By: astragon Entertainment GmbH
    Released: September 21, 2016
    Available On: iOS, Windows
    Genre: Puzzle Platformer
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: $4.99 (Steam), free with ads (iOS)

    Thanks to astragon Entertainment GmbH for the review code!

    Did you ever capture fireflies in jars when you were younger? Were you ever sad to see them go when you finally released them? Did you ever get the urge to chase them down to the ends of the earth, stuff them into a lantern, and use them to light your house? If so, Gravity Island may be your ticket to fulfilling that long-lost wish.

    Gravity Island is a puzzle platformer centered on the simple premise of solving mazes while collecting Lumies. These little light-emitting creatures were the pets and lantern of the main character, a small white bear-like being named Shiro. When Shiro accidentally drops the lamp and all his Lumies fly away, he sets out to get them back.

    Gravity Island’s main mechanic is, predictably, gravity. Every level will have blocks with arrows on them pointing in one of the four cardinal directions; touching these will shift gravity as indicated, allowing you to walk on the ceiling and walls. Each of the game’s four worlds introduce a new gameplay element, such as springs or transporters, for you to contend with alongside the gravity. While the path to the level exit might be rather simple, making it there with all three Lumies in tow can prove to be more strenuous.

    Gravity Island
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Tight controls; engaging puzzles
    Weak Points: Short and easy; no way to see the full stage; some bugs
    Moral Warnings: Shiro becomes a ghostly angel when he dies

    The levels are generally well-designed, with your goals easy enough to plan out after some wandering. However, with no pause function and no way to see the entire level beyond what’s around Shiro, some later levels become less about planning and more about trial-and-error. Often, you will be presented with two or more paths, one leading to the exit and one to a Lumie, with no way to discern the two. If you happen to take the way to the exit, there’s a high possibility you will not be able to return to the junction, forcing a restart. In addition, while the game is usually decent in showing you obstacles like spikes on the road ahead, many of them are three or four gravity switches away. You’ll have to contend with the dangers immediately in front of you first, and then try to remember where the spikes were - while coming at them from a different angle. This leads to a lot of leaps of faith, cheap deaths, and otherwise needless restarts.

    Even though this is a rather large design flaw, it amounts to only a minor annoyance most of the time, as each level is short – most come in at under a minute, and a very rare few will take over two. The controls are near-perfect as well, both in responsiveness and layout: Shiro moves exactly as you command using the arrow keys and spacebar (or analog stick and A button on an Xbox controller), making the simple acts of running and jumping quite satisfying. With the level reset button on the enter key (or Y button) and easily accessible at all times, even repeated failures won't keep you out of the game for long.

    While these easy restarts do wonders for the game’s flow, they also highlight its longevity issues. Level difficulty is sporadic, with difficult levels occasionally followed by mindlessly easy ones, but completing the game with every lumie will only take around two hours. Though it tries to add some replayability by displaying the time it takes to beat a level, this doesn’t seem to be saved anywhere in-game – you’ll have to write your times down yourself if you’re aiming to beat them later. The responsive controls do make speedrunning a rather enjoyable affair, but the fun is entirely self-made in this case.

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

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    Presentation-wise, Gravity Island is solid throughout. The levels themselves are rather samey, but the backgrounds are colorful and pleasant to look at – though spikes will occasionally blend in with the scenery. Shiro’s animations are a bit awkward, but competent enough. The tutorials are presented in cute sketches of Shiro performing the indicated action, adding to the game’s lighthearted atmosphere. The music is decent sounding but ultimately forgettable, being comprised of generic children’s cartoon-styled tracks, though the song for the final level stands out from the pack in a good way. The game is marred by some technical issues, however, most notably a rare instance of Shiro sliding through walls upon changing gravity – which can be manipulated to your benefit sometimes. Also, the Steam achievements will randomly fail to activate; according to them, I managed to complete the game without ever learning how to jump.

    Morality-wise, there’s only one real problem of note. Shiro can die if he lands on spikes or burns up in an explosion or fire arrow. The latter has him fall into a pile of ash with cartoonish googly eyes, but the spikes burst him and have his ghostly angel begin flying in whatever direction is currently up. This is especially jarring, as the tutorial sketch just shows Shiro sitting down and crying after hitting spikes; the startling popping noise and rather macabre aftermath in-game came as quite the surprise, especially with an otherwise innocuous experience. Even if Shiro does come right back upon restart, it’s enough to potentially give some parents a pause before proffering the game to younger children.

    Overall, Gravity Island is a game with undeniable charm and solid gameplay, but lacks content; some, maybe even most, gamers could easily beat the whole game in one quick sitting. For those with little time for anything but a quick play session, however, it might be worth taking a look at when a sale rolls around. There’s also a version for Apple devices that is apparently free with some ads, which might be the better choice for playing on the go. Whatever direction you decide to go with this game, it’s at least worth a look.

    -Cadogan

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Guacamelee!
    Developed by: DrinkBox Studios
    Published by: DrinkBox Studios
    Release date: April 9, 2013
    Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, PS Vita, Wii U, Windows, Linux, macOS
    Genre: Action platformer
    Number of Players: Up to 4 players
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Use of Alcohol and Suggestive Themes
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Guacamelee! is a really fun game based off of Mexican culture, and also lovingly makes fun of it.

    The story of Guacamelee! is when a skeleton named Calaca steals Juan’s (the main character) childhood friend to marry her. Juan tries to fight Calaca, but Calaca knocks Juan out in one hit. When Juan wakes up, he finds his town on fire. He walks through the town and sees the luchador statue. The luchador mask comes off and floats to Juan. It goes onto Juan’s face and he becomes the luchador!

    There are two towns you can visit and each one has at least one quest. The quests are just something simple, like sorting someone’s chickens because they escaped their pens, or gathering ingredients because someone wants to make perfect chili. There are also three temples you can visit. These are the Temple of Rain, the Temple of War, and the Great Temple, where Juan rematches with Calaca.

    The game is fun to play, and is very colorful. For example, each power-up has its own color. If you use a certain power-up it flashes a unique color.

    Guacamelee!
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Lots of fun; good story; can be very challenging; has a lot of funny jokes
    Weak Points: (PC only) GOG version supports only 2 players while Steam version supports 4
    Moral Warnings: Violence, alcohol references and magic use

    Guacamelee! has some references to Satan. For example, Calaca says that he beat the devil. Also, you get to go to El Infierno, which is Guacamelee!’s version of Hell. In El Infierno, you meet Satan and he is in the form of a chicken. He says that Calaca turned him into the chicken. Juan also gets turned into a chicken, and Satan tells you how to get back to your normal form.

    The enemies you fight are all skeletons, except for a couple of totem-like things. A lot of the skeletons look very similar, but you can tell them apart by their behavior, and by their clothing. There are some large ones and some small ones, and even the bosses are almost all skeletons.

    The ESRB rating said there was mild language, but I don’t recall seeing any. There was use of magic and mentions of Satan, as I have already said. Also, there was use of alcohol. One of the bosses was a man made entirely of fire. This boss used alcohol for fuel. Because of this, he was very crazy and uses guns to fight. He once even ran out of ammo because he kept shooting the sky instead of shooting you.

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

    Game Score - 94%
    Gameplay - 20/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 68%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6/10

    The controls are easy to learn and all the abilities are pretty simple with some funny names. Here are some of the abilities you can get: Olmec’s Headbutt, Rooster Uppercut, Dashing Derpderp, and Frog Slam.

    The art is weird, but not bad. The music is Mexican-styled, and it isn’t bad either. The graphics are great, and simple, because the game is entirely in 2D. The game runs very smooth, and does not lag at all.

    There isn’t any voice acting besides Juan grunting when he jumps or punches. The sound effects are also pretty good.

    I highly recommend this game because it is fun, and challenging. It also has a good sense of humor. For example, it makes fun of Wreck-It Ralph (it calls it Break-It Bill), and the Mario Brothers (it calls them Los Super Hermanos). The game even makes fun of Mexican culture. A lot of times the game makes you mash buttons, and that’s what makes it challenging. There is even a training place that teaches you some button-mashing combos! As much as I like this game, I still don't think little children should play it because of all of the alcohol use, mild language, and supernatural references.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Guacamelee! 2
    Developed by: Drinkbox Studios
    Published by: Drinkbox Studios
    Release date: August 21, 2018
    Available on: Switch, Windows, PS4, and Xbox One
    Genre: Metroidvania Platformer
    Number of players: Up to 4
    ESRB Rating: E10+ For Fantasy Violence, Alcohol Reference, and Mild Language
    Price:$19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Guacamelee! 2 starts right at the end of the first game, at the last boss. If you already completed Guacamelee!, you may be confused, wondering how you saved your girlfriend, Lupita, after the events of that ending. Rather than dealing with that storytelling challenge, the developers decided to retcon the story instead. That is why the game starts you off at the last boss of Guacamelee!; you get to beat him up again, though it's much easier this time. Like most games, it gets more difficult as you continue.

    Now Juan is married to her, and they have children. After several years, he goes out to get some avacado so Lupita can make her amazing guacamole. Unfortunately, he finds the antagonist Salvador trying to make his own guacamole, that turn out to be not your typical chip dip - this is the sacred guac that can grant him immense powers. In order to get it, he sends his minions to collect powerful relics so he can make the ultimate dip. If he succeeds, he can take over the world. Since Juan is a famous luchador, and he's already saved the world once, he gets to do it again.

    Guacamelee! 2 plays and feels a lot like the first. It is still a side-scrolling 2D beat 'em up where you can explore the world, gain new abilities, and unlock new areas as you get more powerful. You have most of the same moves, like punch or kick or throw or all those others. There are others that unlock as you play. For example, there is the Dash-Punch, The Rooster Uppercut, and several others. You continue to get more as you keep playing.

    Guacamelee! 2
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Very fun, and even more with friends; is challenging; easy controls
    Weak Points: No online play
    Moral Warnings: Mild language; Alcohol Reference

    You fight many of the same types of enemies, but they look different. While the starting town looks similar to Guacamelee!, where you go from there is all new and very different. Unfortunately, Infierno (the game universe's version of hell) is featured more prominently than it was before. You end up going there and meet up with Satan again, as much of the action takes place in his realm.

    Chickens have a large role; even larger than before. Here, you get the ability to transform into a chicken and can fight as one. There are plenty of abilities that the chicken can learn, including the Pollo Shot and the Pollo slide. There are characters in this game that are chickens, and they mentioned that they worship the “Chicken Messiah” and the “Chicken Illuminati.”

    Guacamelee! 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 96%
    Gameplay - 19/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 77%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 8/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    The people in this game can be fun to talk to because they sometimes say silly things. I also really love how every person you meet has a different personality and everyone has something different to say. The only thing I don't like about them is that they worship the “Old gods.” The people don't use profanity; the only one who does is the antagonist, Salvador. There is one section of the game where there are quite a few, but they are all bleeped out.

    The music is good, and the game runs really well, too. The visuals are quite excellent, and use high-resolution 2D art. The controls are very easy to get used to, so if you want to have a friend that isn't very experienced join in, they will catch on quickly. The game recommends using a controller, and I do too. I found it to be very stable, as I haven't experienced any bugs or crashes.

    I really enjoyed Guacamelee! 2 for its combat, characters, witty dialogue, and level variety. You can go to a town to help people and complete their quests, or look for secrets in a temple or a forest. You will sometimes find someone who can train you and give you new abilities, like improving the strength of your special moves or giving you more maximum health or stamina. There is lots to do and I always felt like I could keep playing if I wanted to with more to find ahead of me (until getting 100% of the map, which I have not done yet). If you like action platformers and the appropriateness issues are not a problem, I highly recommend Guacamelee! 2, especially for fans of the first.

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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.

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