enfrdeitptrues

Platformer

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    Octahedron
    Developed by: Demimonde
    Published by: Square Enix
    Release Date: March 20, 2018
    Available on: PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for fantasy violence
    Price: $12.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Square Enix for sending us this game to review!

    On a dark night in a remote cabin there’s a man writing a letter by the warmth of his fireplace. After the fire goes out, he steps outside and wanders into a nearby cave where he stumbles a upon a floating and pulsating octahedron. Being a curious fellow, he touches it and becomes digitized and sports a new look with an octahedron as his head!

    As this transformed man, you must traverse through fifty handcrafted levels. There are a few levels in each world and in order for the next one to become unlocked, you must collect enough materials along the way. If you fall short you can replay levels as long as you have enough lives to spare. Each life gives you three hearts which can be replenished if you break free an imprisoned heart.

    Besides hearts, you can collect flowers, shapes, and break as many light bulbs as you want. Other than the well thought out and puzzling levels, the platform summoning mechanic sets Octahedron apart from other vertical platformers I have played.

    Octahedron
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun and challenging gameplay; well-designed levels; good background music
    Weak Points: The flashy neon graphics may trigger epileptic seizures
    Moral Warnings: Bloodless violence

    Unless you’re in a designated area that allows for more, the main character can summon two consecutive platforms at a time. A typical usage would be to jump by pressing the A button, and then pressing the right trigger or X to create a temporary platform then repeat the process a second time to go even higher. The platforms can go vertical or horizontally. If you summon your platform in specific spots, they can quickly elevate you or warp you through tunnels.

    There are plenty of pre-existing platforms to use and figure out as well. Many of them are straightforward while others are crawling with enemies or other obstacles. Some platforms have to be charged up by your movement in a specific direction to solidify while others appear or disappear with every summoning of your own platform. Like many games, timing is key. Besides reflexes, you’ll need to equip your thinking cap to solve some of the obstacles set before you.

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

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 9/10
    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

    Exploration is rewarded and required if you wish to collect every shard available in each level. Many of them are off the beaten path and require a little extra effort to acquire. At the end of each completed level you’ll be shown a progress report of how many materials have been collected and you’ll see if you’re above par or not. 

    Visually, this title is simplistic but nice. The flashy neon levels remind me of Tron a bit. I like how each level brought forth new challenges that kept the game interesting and fun.

    The electronic background music is quite good and available on Steam as a DLC bundle for the base game. The additional levels and tunes will set you back roughly $6.

    Octahedron is a solid game and great for anyone who likes challenging vertical platformers. The asking price is a reasonable $12.99. There’s not much to complain about morally other than some digitized violence. This game is a safe recommendation for gamers of all ages though some thinking and fast reflexes are required to succeed in it.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

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

     

    Thank you Sokaikan for sending us a prerelease build!

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

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

    Okinawa Rush
    Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Organic Panic
    Developed by: Last Limb
    Published by: GameMill Entertainment
    Release date: March 29, 2016
    Available on: Windows, PS4, Xbox One
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of players: Up to four
    ESRB Rating: E 10+ for fantasy violence
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you Last Limb for sending us a review copy of this game!

    Organic Panic is an epic battle between fruits and veggies against meat and cheeses.  The evil gang of meat and cheese are attempting world domination and are using Apple's sister’s magical energy to power their devious technological equipment.  To save his sister, Eva, Apple must train his organic army on how to use their special powers to conquer the forces of darkness.

    The four main characters each have special abilities that are not accessible to the others.  Kiwi can spray water while Cherry can control the earth.  Coconut can alter gravity while Carrot hurls fireballs and can climb walls.  Sometimes you’ll get to switch between characters to use each of their abilities to get past obstacles that are blocking their way to the exit portal.  If either character dies, you’ll have to start over from the beginning of the level.

    Not all of the characters are available from the start as you’ll have to rescue them one by one in the single-player adventure mode.  There are over two-hundred levels which have destructible environments and physics that can work in your favor or kill you. I like the silly death scene captions like “Darn,” “Come on!,” and many specific to how you died.  One of them does say “That sucks.”   

    Organic Panic
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Cute physics platformer game that lets you have a food fight without all of the mess
    Weak Points: You have to complete the adventure mode before unlocking the multiplayer game modes
    Moral Warnings: Food fighting violence; minor language (sucks); magic use

    Some of the levels are more challenging than others with many of them being finished in less than a minute while others take more time to get through.  Although the exit portal may be nearby, bonus points are awarded if you can defeat enemies and locate the hidden gem before you leave the level.  If you’re not happy with your final score, you can always go back and try again to increase your ranking on the global leaderboards.  

    After the comic book driven story mode is completed, the bonus levels and multiplayer game modes become available.  There are co-op and versus game modes that allow food fights between two and four players.  Other than various food getting blasted, chopped, and squashed into pieces, this is a fun game that can be enjoyed by the whole family.  When it comes to food fights, Organic Panic probably offers the cleanest way to have one.  

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

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

    Morality Score - 89%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The levels have various obstacles that have to be avoided or destroyed.  I love the destructible environments that the Cherry and Carrot players can demolish.  Some levels are covered in metal and are impervious to attacks. There’s plenty of level variety so chances are that you won’t get bored, just stumped or frustrated occasionally.

    The sound effects get the job done, but the background music is forgettable.  No complaints, but I’m not rushing out to buy the soundtrack either. 

    Though we played this game on the PS4, it’s also available for the Xbox One and in early access for Steam users.  The Steam version seems to have some stability issues that have racked up enough negative reviews to lower the game’s overall rating to “mixed.”  If you own a console, I recommend picking up that version if you want to be able to enjoy the game right away.

    There’s a lot to like in Organic Panic and my kids enjoyed watching and playing this game with me.  My only complaint is that you have to complete the main story mode before you can enjoy the multiplayer gameplay options.  Hopefully PC users get a more enjoyable experience soon.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Pankapu
    Developed by: Too Kind Studio
    Published by: Plug In Digital
    Release date: September 28, 2017
    Available on: Linux, macOS, PS4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone with mild fantasy violence
    Price: $11.99

    Thank you Plug In Digital for sending us this game to review!

    Pankapu was successfully Kickstarted in 2015 and the first chapter was released on PC in 2016. In September of 2017,the second episode became available and the complete edition was released on current generation consoles. The complete edition sells for $11.99 on all platforms.

    This 2D platformer tells two tales. One is of Pankapu, a valiant warrior given the quest of saving Omnia, the world of dreams, from an invasion of Hya’Nagis from the nightmare world. Pankapu’s story is being read to a young boy named Djaha'rell who suffers from nightmares and is recovering from a personal trauma that is slowly revealed throughout the game.

    Like many platformer games, Pankapu can explore various areas by jumping across moving platforms while avoiding various obstacles like electric currents, boulders, and retractable spikes. Many enemies resemble slimes and bats, though several original forms appear as well. At first the slime creatures aren’t too threatening, but they soon get bigger and start spitting at you, exploding, and shooting laser beams in your general direction. Thankfully, Pankapu has or soon acquires a countermeasure to each attack type.

    Pankapu can take on three different Aegis/forms. The warrior/Bravery mode gives him the defense and the ability to block attacks with his shield. While the heavy armor makes Pankapu more durable, it weighs him down and in this form he cannot stand on red crystal platforms without them disintegrating. The archer/Ardour mode makes Pankapu more nimble and lighter. The ranged attacks are nice and the ability to dodge attacks are crucial to advancing in many dimly lit caverns. The final mage/Faith form isn’t available until the second half of the game. The mage Aegis can heal and use water/ice attacks.

    Pankapu
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Beautiful artwork; fun and challenging gameplay
    Weak Points: Framerate drops and crashes on the Switch
    Moral Warnings: Fantasy violence and magic use; nudity

    Many levels have various shrines that strengthen Pankapu’s various forms and abilities. Every level has Mudjins (winged slimes) in them that often takes some keen eyesight and skill to locate and retrieve them all. Vary rarely are they along the “beaten path”. For every twenty-five rescued Mudjins, Pankapu will receive a Lutanite fragment which will add another health diamond if four of them are collected. Some levels have Lutanites in them which are worth replaying for if you missed it the first time around.

    Replaying levels is a given between collecting Mudjins you’ve missed and ones that were inaccessible beforehand. Many levels have sections that require abilities that were not available on your first run through. The Ardour’s double jump skill and the warrior’s ability to remove red crystals blocking the path are a couple of examples of skills needed to unlock inaccessible areas of levels early on in the game. I like how the world map shows you how many Mudjins are in a level and how many you have collected. Each level also has a silhouette of the special items available and they are filled in once retrieved.

    Pankapu is pretty challenging later on in the game and I’ll admit that I happily left some Mudjins behind as they were too much of a hassle to retrieve. Granted there are plenty of checkpoints and I’m grateful that they replenish your health when you first get to them. Unfortunately, they don’t fill up your health every time you visit them - only when you first activate and respawn from them.

    The difficulty was just about right and I enjoyed this game in short gaming sessions. I don’t think my sanity/blood pressure could survive several hour long play sessions. I’m thankful for the portability of the Switch version and this game is great to play while waiting at the vet or doctor’s office.

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

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 78%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Unfortunately, the Switch version does have some of its own drawbacks. One time I completed a level and I wasn’t sure of if it was loading or if it froze. Thankfully, it was loading without the loading icon. I did however get an error once and lost a significant amount of progress in a chapter since I had to start it over from the beginning upon relaunching the game.

    The visuals are astounding in this game and I love the vivid colors and art style. The Switch ran this title well for the most part, but there is some noticeable stuttering. This game is bound to look good no matter what format you play it on.

    The audio is well done though it doesn’t impress me as much as the visuals. The voice acting is good and the background music is pleasant to listen to. The music didn’t get in the way, stick in my head, or make me want to buy the soundtrack.

    From a moral standpoint, Pankapu is pretty family friendly. There is cartoon violence and some fantasy magic. There are various deities and elemental characters in the game. Pankapu is created by the god of dreams, Iketomi. In the beginning of the game there is some “Barbie” caliber (curves but no details) nudity shown.

    If you love platformer games and don’t mind the fantasy deities, violence, and magic, Pankapu is worth adding to your Switch library. I look forward to future games from Too Kind Studio.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Poncho
    Developed by: Delve Interactive
    Published by: Rising Star Games
    Release Date: November 3, 2015
    Available on: OSX, SteamOS, Windows
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you Rising Star Games for sending us this game to review!

    Poncho was pitched on Kickstarter in September of 2014. Although the campaign was unsuccessful, Rising Star Games published Poncho to make this multiple dimension puzzle platforming game a reality.  Gamers who are familiar with Fez will see many similarities with the retro soundtrack and visuals along with the perspective shifting capabilities.  However, instead of rotating the screen for a different view, players can shift between the foreground and background dimension to solve various puzzles.  While not available on the 3DS, Poncho would utilize its depth 3D effects perfectly.  

    The premise is simple; humanity has ceased to exist and robotic and plant life is all that remains on Earth.  With his dimension shifting abilities, Poncho can go back and save mankind and perhaps get to meet his maker in the process.  While Poncho is mostly alone, he will meet some allies, like the Junkyard King who will reward him for reassembling his robotic army for him.

     

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Unique platformer that lets you shift between the foreground and background to solve puzzles 
    Weak Points: High frustration factor as the levels and puzzles can be confusing at times; short amount of gameplay if you’re good at it; the main menu is only accessible while you’re in a level
    Moral Warnings:None!

    There are eight levels and each one has a set amount of robots to fix as well as gems and keys to collect.  Gems are used as currency to buy additional keys from merchants.  The prices of the keys will go up after each purchase.   If you can’t afford to buy keys, take comfort in knowing that they can often be found inside of the levels if you’re willing to solve puzzles to reach them. The Junkyard King also gives keys out as a reward for fixing his robots.  

    Keys are crucial to advancing the game to unlock newer levels. So be sure to have a couple of each color on hand at all times.  New abilities can also be found in the levels, but you have to work hard to earn them as they require going off of the beaten path to access them.   

    Besides locating keys, broken robots, and gems, Poncho must find the teleporter to unlock future levels to advance the game’s story.  The levels typically consist of a few screens wide, but the meat of them is in their depth and height.  As Poncho walks to the left or the right, it won’t take long before some obstacle blocks his path and in order to move forward he’ll likely have to go in the foreground or the background to bypass it.  Switching between planes is also required to ascend and climb up onto ledges that reside in a different plane. 

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

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

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

    Switching between planes is easy enough once you have the controls mastered.  The left and right triggers switch between planes and the Xbox 360 controller works flawlessly in this game.  For an added challenge many of the platforms switch between the planes on regular intervals so timing them correctly is required.  Other platforms shift planes when you do and those are trickier to master.  

    Despite the sixteen-bit graphics, they are nicely detailed and colorful.  The retro look and feel are charming and the soundtrack is available for $4.99 if you like it.  I thought it was decent, but nothing spectacular.

    While Poncho is kid safe, the puzzles may be frustrating for people of all ages.  I found this title to be best enjoyed in small doses.  If you are good at it, it can be beaten in a few hours.  Because of those concerns, I wouldn’t recommend buying Poncho at full price.  It’s been on sale on Steam before and is worth looking into at a lower price.  

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    PuzzGun
    Developed by: Aleski Rajamaki, Matias Rajamaki
    Published by: Codera
    Released: May 9, 2018
    Available on: Windows
    Number of players: Single Player
    Genre: Puzzle-Platformer
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Price: $2.99

    Thank you Aleski Rajamaki, Matias Rajamaki, and Codera for sending us this game to review!

    PuzzGun is a 2D retro styled puzzle solving platformer game by Aleski Rajamaki and Matias Rajamaki with easy-to-pick-up gameplay. The controls are easy to learn, and on level one you are shown a detailed illustration of each function. You play as a cowboy who decides he wants to explore a mysterious castle owned by an evil wizard. Apparently, nobody that entered the castle was ever seen again, and he wants to be an exception, of course. The wizard sees you right away, however, and “enslaves” you to the castle “forever.” Once you complete the 63 levels in the game (21 levels per section, no skipping levels), you will be freed from the castle.

    Your objective in each level is to reach the rainbow gem, which can be anywhere in the level. You can jump up to two blocks high. To help you reach the gem, you can shoot only gray blocks in your way to make them disappear, become bouncy (make you spring upward when stepped on) or to spawn a green block next to or on top of it to make it easier to reach some place with the gun in your hand. These effects depend on the ammo type you shot the blocks with. Ammo is limited harshly, but just barely enough to complete the level is provided. You may have to collect it, though.

    PuzzGun
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Detailed pixel art
    Weak Points: Repetitive background music
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence

    To collect ammo (if necessary), you will need to find the spinning colored cubes in the level. They could be right next to your spawning point or across the level. If they happen to be across the level, you will most likely spawn with some ammo. The different colored spinning cubes (collectible ammo) associate with the different ammo types. The green cubes will spawn a green block next to or above a grey block. Blue cubes give you ammo that will make a block disappear, and a yellow cube will make a block bouncy, meaning you will spring upward when you step on that block.

    Like most games, there are a few things you can do that will kill you. These include falling off of the map and contacting spikes, spinning razor-like gears, and deadly lasers. When you die of any cause you will turn into a bunch of red pixels in a sort of splashing formation.

    The controls are rather simple, but still require explaining, which the first level provides. Left-click to shoot your gun, right-click or scroll to swap ammo types. Use your mouse to aim. A to move left, D to move right and W or Space to jump. E for map, Q for playing tips, and R to restart the level. Often doing something in the wrong order will cause you to have to restart.

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

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    In story scenes, the graphics are formed by somewhat large pixels. However, the art in these scenes is descriptive and detailed and ultimately very pretty. I find the art style interesting in a good way. In the normal levels the pixels are much bigger and compliment the retro style better.

    The music that plays in each level is as far as I know the same, but it goes in a pretty large loop and I like it because it is very calming and keeps me from getting super frustrated at the game when I can’t figure out how to complete one of the puzzles.

    PuzzGun can be puzzling and frustrating at times, but YouTube videos and walkthroughs are very helpful if you get stuck. I found PuzzGun to be a very enjoyable title with no moral issues besides cartoon violence. To anyone looking for a fun puzzle game I would recommend PuzzGun. I look forward to future games made by these developers.

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    Rainbow Dash
    Developed by: Romans I XVI Gaming
    Published by: Romans I XVI Gaming
    Release date: February 23, 2017
    Available on: Android, Roku
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $1.99

    Thank you Romans I XVI Gaming for sending us this game to review!

    When I first heard the name of this app, I was reminded of My Little Pony. Thankfully, this game has nothing to do with the popular cartoon series. Your goal in this title is to make it to the end of the level and color as many of the gray platforms along the way as possible. Upon reaching the end of the level, you’ll be given a completion score and have the option of moving forward or replaying the level to improve upon your score.

    Using the controls and mastering them are two different feats in this game. The main character/pixel will move on its own. To make it jump you simply need to tap on the screen. Successive taps will make it jump higher. There are many platforms of various sizes to jump onto and they often are free-floating giving you many opportunities to jump to your death and start over at the beginning of the level. Checkpoints would have been a welcome feature, but that would have made this game too easy perhaps.

    Rainbow Dash
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Family friendly game that does not have micro-transactions or ads
    Weak Points: Some deaths caused by unresponsive controls; no checkpoints; steep difficulty curve
    Moral Warnings: None!

    In total, there are ten levels and an infinite mode to enjoy. The difficulty ramps up rather quickly so it didn’t take me very long to get frustrated with this game. Anything after the third level, I found raising my blood pressure.

    The visuals are simple but effective. If the default rainbow theme is not your style, you can change the color scheme. There are various shades of pinks, blues, and browns to please all sorts of color palettes.

    While the peppy music in the background is relaxing, it did little to ease my frustration. I got used to the record scratching noise of my pixel character falling to its doom.

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

    Game Score - 64%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 4/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

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

    The deaths in this game are not bloody or gruesome in any way. Though this game is rated for everyone, I only recommend it for people who have a lot of patience. I believe that the difficulty level is too steep for many young kids (or grumpy adults) to enjoy it.

    The $1.99 price tag won’t break the bank if you find out that it’s not your cup of tea. If you like challenging platformer games and supporting Christian developers, Rainbow Dash is worth looking into. While my kids enjoyed this title for short periods of time, they liked playing another game made by Romans I XVI Gaming, Puzzle Showdown 4K on the PS4 more. Despite Rainbow Dash not being for me, I do look forward to more family friendly titles from this company!

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Ratchet & Clank
    Developed by: Insomniac Games
    Published by: Sony Interactive Entertainment
    Release date: April 12, 2016
    Available on: PlayStation 4
    Genre: Platformer, Shooter
    Number of players: Single-Player
    ESRB Rating: E 10+ for animated blood, fantasy violence
    Price: $29.00
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    As one of PlayStation’s most popular franchises, Ratchet & Clank was bound to release a game for the PS4 system. The franchise’s latest title, simply titled Ratchet & Clank, is a reboot to the PlayStation 2 classic and a tie in to the 2016 animated film. Boasting spectacular visuals and an explosive gameplay style, Ratchet & Clank is one of the most enjoyable PS4 games currently available.

    The story to the game mostly follows the original 2002 game’s plot, though many things change in the second half of the game. Ratchet is a mechanic who one day meets a defective warbot named Clank. The two of them try to stop an evil businessman named Chairman Drek from blowing up planets in order to salvage the remains and create his own planet. The plot is fairly straightforward, but it is not exactly interesting. Despite it being a reboot, the game acts as if you are already familiar with all of the characters. Because of this, there is not much interaction or development among the cast. I was surprised to find that Ratchet and Clank do not seem to talk much other than Clank giving Ratchet mission objectives.

    Despite the lackluster storytelling, the game maintains a solid sense of humor. The game consistently proves to be quite funny and the voice cast is great. James Arnold Taylor now voices Ratchet in the one story he did not (Mikey Kelly voiced him in the original version). David Kaye and Jim Ward again voice Clank and Captain Quark, both performing as well as usual. However, one change in the voice cast is rather disappointing. Hollywood star Paul Giamatti replaces Kevin Michael Richardson as Chairmen Drek, and the result is a very awkward-sounding performance. Any line of Drek’s dialogue that is exclusive to the game is performed by Eric Bauza, but unfortunately his acting is just as awkward. None of this is helped by Drek’s poorly written character, who’s entire dialogue seems to consist of jokes that are not funny.

    Ratchet & Clank
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Beautiful graphics, both artistically and technically; series-renown weapons; major gameplay improvements to the original; genuinely funny dialogue; great voice cast
    Weak Points: Underdeveloped story; occasionally lazy character animations; smaller world sizes; Chairmen Drek’s character and voice
    Moral Warnings: Cartoonish violence; animated blood

    Many of the gameplay mechanics are similar to the classic 3D platformer games of the early 2000s, such as Jak and Daxter or Crash Bandicoot. What makes the Ratchet & Clank series unique from other 3D platformers is its weapons and chaotic action. The reboot is no exception. As you progress through the game, you are able to purchase several different weapons, each featuring a unique style of combat. Some are as simple as throwing grenades, while others are as crazy as turning enemies into sheep. The end result is an incredible, mayhem-inducing spectacle of a game.

    Some elements to the gameplay have been added to since the original. Weapon upgrades, which were introduced later in the series, are now possible. Weapons can be leveled up five times in the first play through and ten times in a harder mode called “Challenge Mode.” You can also purchase weapon upgrades using a currency known as “Raritanium.” There are other additions from the original. “Holocard” collecting, an addition that is brand new to the franchise, involves you collecting various cards to complete sets. Each set gives you additional enhancements and available weapons for purchase.

    Unfortunately, the level design is a bit too similar to the original title. Though the worlds themselves look fine, they end up being rather small compared to many of today’s triple-A titles. I cannot complain too much about this, though. At least the gameplay is deep and engaging, unlike many of today’s “open-world” games (e.g. No Man’s Sky). I would rather play a game with small worlds and a lot of depth than a game with big worlds and little depth.

    Ratchet & Clank
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 87%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8.5/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 88%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    Of course, the most obvious update to the game is its graphics. Unlike other remakes that simply smooth out previous graphics, Ratchet & Clank has completely redone its visual presentation, resulting in one of the most beautiful remakes ever made. Its cartoony style is full of color and is notably easier to look at than many of today’s more mature-looking games. However, it’s not quite the best looking game I have played. Though visually the game is beautiful, many of the cinematics are reduced to simple animation bits where the characters hardly move. This hinders the storytelling, which was not very spectacular to begin with. It is also worth mentioning that the framerate can lag a bit during gameplay when the action gets too intense. Despite these minor issues, the game is always a joy to look at while in gameplay.

    There is not much to mention when it comes to moral content. Some Ratchet & Clank games can get pretty edgy with their humor, but not really with this one. The reason, I think, is because the game is based on a more child-oriented film. This is a good thing for concerned parents, but can result in some juvenile humor (typically found in clips from the film). There is no swearing either, unlike previous games that have slipped in a couple of words. Obviously, though, the game is very action-packed. Most of the fun comes from demolishing your enemies in crazy ways. All of it is fairly cartoonish, but not to the same degree as games like Disney Infinity. There is also some animated blood and one planet you travel to has a scientist that has you collect brains from creatures. This, too, is not as bad as it sounds, but can still be a bit gross for some younger audiences.

    With jaw-dropping graphics and a great voice cast, Ratchet & Clank is definitely one of the best presentations of the current console generation. This is somewhat ironic given how negatively received its film counterpart was. It’s improvements to the series’ old-school gameplay make this remake, for the most part, superior to the original. Though the storytelling is somewhat disappointing, Ratchet & Clank is blast to play for gamers of all ages.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Ravva and the Cyclops Curse
    Developed By: Galope
    Published By: The Hidden Levels
    Released: January 15, 2019
    Available On: Linux, macOS, Windows
    Genre: Action-Adventure, Platformer
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: Single-player
    Price: $2.99

    Thank you Galope for sending us a review code!

    8-bit games have been gaining popularity within the past decade and a half, considering that many of the kids who grew up playing these games are now able-bodied adults. Game development has also gotten much easier with wider access to game engines and way better technology. Ravva and the Cyclops Curse goes back to those simpler times where games were more high-score based, story/narrative was kept to a minimum, and difficulty made up for the fact that some of these games technically weren’t even an hour long.

    Being a 2D action-adventure platformer game, Ravva and the Cyclops Curse has quite the competition these days. The basic premise is that an unnamed summoner does battle with the evil Cyclops Lord. Unfortunately, the summoner was bested in battle and turned to stone. Unbeknownst to the Cyclops, the summoner has a child by the name of Ravva, and now it is up to Ravva to find a way to revert the petrification.

    Like most 8-bit platformers, Ravva is a fairly linear progression from level to level, with each level lasting up to five minutes. Like many platformers, Ravva has a life system, and one hit means you lose a life (similar to games such as Contra). Ravva makes its separation from its brethren by introducing a multitude of abilities—signified by a respective spirit. Most of these abilities augment your shot trajectory such as the red spirit shooting projectiles in a 45-degree angle upwards, the blue spirit shooting elevated freezing shots that can pierce enemies or the green spirit lobbing its projectiles. The yellow spirit, however, doesn’t harm most enemies. Instead, it sends out a type of sonar that can reveal hidden items or extra lives. Ravva herself controls very nicely being able to stop on a dime at any moment and general controls being very responsive.

    Ravva and the Cyclops Curse
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A nice balance of difficulty; a bit more emphasis on puzzles and secrets than others in the genre
    Weak Points: Switching between spirits can slow the pace down; default keyboard controls are awkward
    Moral Warnings: You play as an owl summoner who has to defeat a cyclops; abundance of magic, with the summoner character using spirits to attack; the word “hell” is uttered once in the secret ending

    Ravva puts a bit more of an emphasis on puzzle-like gameplay instead of a “run-and-gun” style that it seems to imply at first. Some spirits can only break certain blocks and lead to alternate areas granting a higher score. The game greatly encourages you to swap between spirits to obtain the highest score possible. Obtaining a certain score can even unlock secrets. There are ways to speedily go through levels as well, also earning large amounts of points if you go through a level without losing a life. Ravva caters to both high-score chasers as well as the speedrunner type and manages to reach a wide audience without excluding one or the other. There is a bit of an imbalance with the power-ups with the most noticeable one being the invincibility power-up. It doesn’t last very long and is seldom seen. In fact, the amount of invincibility granted when Ravva loses a life lasts longer than the actual power-up which I found rather strange.

    Being inspired by the NES games of the third generation of video games, the graphics are simple. The color pallet is generally two-toned. I would say the overall style is close to something like Shovel Knight. Most enemies have a red and black color scheme. Backgrounds are typically a primary color and black giving off a mysterious and ominous kind of setting to match the whole fact that Ravva is traversing through the domain of the Cyclops Lord. It may not be as detailed as 8-bit games, but it fits and it is done in a rather clean fashion. In the options menu, there are even filter settings to give off even more of that retro feel, with one filter setting resembling the scanlines of CRT TVs.

    Interestingly enough, the music and sound design seem to be more inspired by the frequency modulation synthesis that the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive known for. The Genesis FM synthesis has this distinct “twang” to it that many people (including myself) adore, and Ravva has many of said “twangs” inserted. The music itself is pretty standard, but there are only a handful of tracks in the game as opposed to the ten stages available. The music loops fairly quickly so it can get repetitive. The sound effects are crisp and each one sounds very distinct.

    Ravva and the Cyclops Curse
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 77%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 6.5/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 84%
    Violence - 7.5/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 6.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Playing Ravva with a keyboard is doable, but a bit awkward as the default buttons for switching between spirits and actions such as jumping and shooting are far apart from each other, leading to uncomfortable finger placement. Remapping the controls is recommended if a controller is unavailable. I would still recommend a type of gamepad as the layout is more comfortable for this kind of game.

    Three difficulty modes in total exist within Ravva. There are not a huge amount of differences between them. Kids mode (being the easy mode) makes it so that you have an infinite amount of lives and getting hit only makes you lose your power up and some time. Kids mode does make it harder to obtain a high score as the perfect bonus from completing a level is missing. Master mode, the one being above the standard Normal difficulty makes it so that a game over kicks you back to the home screen and that extra lives can only be obtained though score thresholds.

    Ravva has the typical fantasy violence, with fictional creatures being vanquished by fictional means. The usage of magic is arguably the biggest moral concern of this kind of game. The main character, Ravva, is a summoner who uses spirits. The Cyclops Lord uses a great deal of magic himself, from creating portals that spawn the supernatural enemies to his very own attacks. It’s a bit of a spoiler, but there is a secret ending. Even though the aforementioned ending is quite humorous, it does use the word “hell” in the dialogue. Other than the supernatural aspects and the one instance of the “aCh-Eee-double hockey sticks” (the latter most people won’t even see), nothing else stood out to me.

    Ravva and the Cyclops Curse is a pretty good retro platformer. Outside of maybe one moment, there is a nice balance of difficulty with it not being too easy or too challenging, making it safe and enjoyable for people of all walks of life and skill levels. It doesn’t overstay its welcome—only taking around an hour to beat for your first time, with a good amount of replayability being a higher score, trying out a higher difficulty, or obtaining the rest of the Steam achievements. Switching between spirits may slow the pace down at a few moments and I would have rather seen each elemental spirit mapped to a specific button instead, but overall it is a nice package. For a cheap price, Ravva is one of those games you’ll come back to every once in a while for that quick itch to scratch. It is a smooth, responsive experience for a great price.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    RiME
    Developed by: Tequila Works
    Published by: Grey Box
    Release date: November 14, 2017
    Available on: PS4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Puzzle, Platformer
    Number of players: single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ for fantasy violence
    Price: $39.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Grey Box for sending us this game to review!

    RiME was originally released for PC, PS4, and Xbox One in May of 2017. Unfortunately, the Switch port is very poorly optimized with a noticeable graphical downgrade and frequent frame rate drops. It’s a shame since I really do enjoy the game, but I couldn’t help but wish to play it on another platform for a smoother experience.

    When first launching the game, you’ll be greeted with a long loading screen. The logo will slowly get colored in as the loading progresses. Sadly, there are no witty quotes to entertain you while waiting for the game to load.

    RiME's story reveals itself more and more as you play through it. The main character is a young boy who is stranded on a mysterious yet beautiful island. He catches a glimpse of a tower in the distance and sets off to go there. This is easier said than done, as there are many puzzles and paths that need to be opened before crossing through.

    RiME
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Beautiful environment; fun puzzles
    Weak Points: Poor performance and long load times
    Moral Warnings: Mild violence

    Fortunately, the young lad is not alone: a friendly fox yips at him, leading him to his next objective. There is a cloaked figure that appears throughout the game as well. The puzzles need to be solved by the boy though. There are some helpful walkthroughs available online if you get stuck.

    The controls are pretty straightforward as the main character can move around, jump, climb, and yell/sing at various objects. You can shout at many statues and orbs to trigger events. There are also many stone structures that need to be pushed/pulled into place to align key-like mechanisms.

    RiME

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

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 4/10
    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

    There are some environmental and aggressive wildlife obstacles that need to be contended with as well. For example, wild boars can be lured away or to places by using nearby fruit. Death is possible in this game though it’s not very bloody. Thankfully, RiME provides plenty of checkpoints.

    Visually, this game is very pretty. Sadly, whenever the game pans over the landscape, the main character gets noticeably downgraded and jaggedy in appearance. The Unreal Engine powers this title and the Switch is noticeably underpowered to handle it in all of its glory. Some of the areas are dark and hard to see clearly on the Switch’s screen. Docking it may be easier for the low-light areas.

    The background music and sound effects are well done. I like the calming music and atmosphere as I wrack my brain to figure out the puzzle in front of me. The shouts and singing from the boy are good too.

    In the end, RiME is a well-polished puzzle/platformer game. Unfortunately, it’s not suited for the underpowered Switch. If you do have the means of playing it on another platform, I highly recommend doing so.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Rise & Shine
    Developed by: Super Mega Team
    Published by: Adult Swim Games
    Release date: January 13, 2017
    Available on: Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood and Gore, Violence, and Language
    Price: $14.99

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

    Gamearth is a peaceful planet that’s now under attack from the Nextgen aliens.  A legendary hero that looks very similar to Link bestows a mysterious gun called Shine to a young kid named Rise.  It’s now up to Rise & Shine to save the planet!

    Shine isn’t your ordinary gun, as it can talk and grant its owner the ability to respawn when they die.  There are various add-ons and bullet types available for it as well.  For example, there are electrical bullets that wreak havoc on electronic devices.  One cool ability is the remote control option that lets you direct where you want the bullets to go.  Enemies won’t just sit around and wait for you to control a bullet; be prepared to act quickly and time your attacks with precision.

    Rise & Shine
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Awesome hand drawn artwork; lots of homages paid to classic video games
    Weak Points: Only a couple hours long if you’re good; if you’re not good, you’ll probably be frustrated instead
    Moral Warnings: Blood and gore; some language (bad*ss, d*mn, WTF)

    While Rise & Shine is a beautifully drawn 2D platformer, there’s a fair amount of puzzles to solve.  Besides dodging and controlling bullets, you’ll have to shoot and think your way out of locked rooms as well as disabling menacing bosses.  Many of your attacks are timed so accuracy is crucial.  As cool as Shine is, it does have an ammo limit and will need to be reloaded frequently.  You won’t survive long if you think you can run out in the open and fire a spray of bullets haphazardly.  Many areas have rocks and you can hide behind them for cover.  Use them!  When things die in this game blood and gibs splatter all over the place.  

    Checkpoints are used and you cannot save whenever you like.  Upon completing the game, an Iron Man option becomes available where you have to complete the game in one life as your save file gets deleted if you die.  Completing the game can be done in as little as two hours if you’re good or several more if you’re a glutton for punishment.

    Rise & Shine
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 71%
    Violence - 2/10
    Language - 6.5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Rise & Shine is not an easy game as you will die often and be forced to learn where to walk safely to avoid various traps and land mines.   Relying on a steady hand is also necessary to guide the bullets where they need to go to take down bosses.      

    While the beautiful graphics got my attention, the story isn’t very original with the simple premise of kicking the aliens off of your planet to save it.  The dialogue is witty and I appreciated the homages paid to various games like Duck Hunt and some series including Half-Life, Portal, The Legend of Zelda, and Mario.  

    If you enjoy puzzle platformer games and don’t mind dying a bunch of times, then you’ll probably enjoy Rise & Shine.   Despite the gorgeous visuals, the rest of the game is mediocre and extremely short.  The sound effects are great, but they drown out the forgettable background music.  Because of the frustration and length of the game, I recommend holding off for a sale before buying this one.

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    RIVE: Wreck, Hack, Die, Retry
    Developer: Two Tribes
    Published by: Two Tribes Publishing
    Release Date: September 13, 2016
    Available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, macOS X, Linux
    Genre: Action, Twin Stick Shooter, Platformer
    Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: E for Everyone, fantasy violence, mild language.
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

     

    Thank you Two Tribes for the review code.

    I hate it when something's short and sweet; you want more and when you find out you won't get any more of it, you just end up disappointed. Today's title, RIVE: Wreck, Hack, Die, Retry is just that, a sweet treat that is over just as quickly as it began. Lets dive right into the wreckage and see what treasures we can pull out of this game.

    RIVE puts you in the role of a simple space trucker who loves video games. During a routine mission harvesting space junk for cash he gets stuck in an abandoned factory. His only company is a witty AI butler who has control over the entire station. While not everything is as it seems, the good ol' space trucker just wants to escape with his loot and sanity intact.

    Rive
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A well built game with quality voice acting, music and content.
    Weak Points: The game is sweet but short; anyone who spends more time with this than the average length of content is truly a hardy gamer. 
    Moral Warnings: Cartoonish explosions and mild language are all you have to worry about. The trucker will let out a damn or asshole every now and then.

     

    This game is a simple space shooter that focuses on your own reflexes and ability to think at a moment's notice. The game has some auto scrolling sections reminiscent of games like Gradius but most of the time you will be platforming and taking on enemies as a spider tank. The game is linear so don't expect a Metroidvania like experience. Aside from your regular infinite ammo machine gun you have a choice of one of four unlockable super weapons. Each of these four weapons shares one charge; once you use it you'll have to find an ammo box before you can use a super weapon again.

    As you progress through the game, you unlock new difficulty options. These include a speed runner mode where you have limited time to beat each mission as well as a single credit mode, challenging you to beat the game without dying. Aside from campaigns you can select missions you defeated individually to play again and you may set different modifiers for the mission. You also have a battle arena you can access to see how long you can last against waves of enemies.

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

    Game Score - 94%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    The alternate modes are designed to appeal to those of a score attack mindset. If you don't like that sort of thing you probably won't play much of the game outside of the campaign, as you don't have anything to unlock except the new missions to play. The super weapons are fun but they are trivial for the purpose of progression. The average run time for most people to beat the 12 missions in campaign mode stretches between two to three hours. The music is great and catchy, reminiscent of old space shooters. The voice acting between the trucker and the cynical AI is fun and filled with video game references. Yet that sort of thing won't entertain everyone a second time. Thankfully the gameplay is solid despite the short amount of content.

    Morality problems are few and far between with this game. This game has cartoonish explosions of many robotic enemies and a bit of a gruff side to the trucker's lines. He will let a curse word slip every now and then like damn or asshole out of frustrations.

    While RIVE is a short game, it is still a game of above average quality. I highly recommend this game for anyone who wants a simple and clean 2-D twin-stick shooter.

     

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Rogue Stache
    Developed by: WubsGames
    Published by: Black Shell Media
    Release date: January 6, 2017 (Early Access)
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Action Platformer
    Rating: M for Intense Violence, Blood and Gore, and Language
    Number of players: 1
    Price: $4.99

    *Advertising disclosure* Though Black Shell Media is a former advertising partner, this review is not influenced by that relationship.

    Thank you, Black Shell Media, for sending us a review key!

    Eye-based aliens have attacked a spacecraft to steal the crewmembers' facial hair. Please, please do not make me spend more time on the setting of this roguelike. The main character will jump, shoot, dash, and shoot through four groups of four levels (each group ending in a boss fight) before progressing to the final boss room. This is a short game, and this is not a weakness. Indeed, the longer the levels go on - certainly if one replays them - the more obvious it becomes that there is little meat on Rogue Stache's bones. There were moments when the mechanics of this simple game combined, almost perversely, to give me an exciting experience. Even then, the tension was based on the hope that, maybe this run, I would finally beat the game and be free of my obligation to play it.

    Rogue Stache is, as the name implies, fascinated by facial hair of all kinds. Enemies sporting multi-color mustaches have a higher health pool than average. The player character picks one of several mustaches and beards, each of which grant bonuses and debuffs. Hats, crafted randomly with tokens picked up in levels and boss fights, add similar effects. Every five levels of experience, the player is given a choice of random stat upgrades. Any variety Rogue Stache has comes from these various buffs and debuffs. Some raise your speed, health, or fire rate; others grant bonuses to your in-game super mode, Stache Power. Stache Power charges up as you kill enemies, and unleashing it gives your weapons unlimited ammo and increased fire rate for a short duration. Upon level 5, you might be given the chance to upgrade Stache Power to make your character invincible for the duration. This is the kind of upgrade that feels like it really should have been in the base package.

    Rogue Stache
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Weapons feel powerful; short, gratifying loop of experience and power-ups
    Weak Points: Repetitive level design; repetitive enemy design; repetitive weapons; repetitive music; uneven controller support
    Moral Warnings: Lots of blood and gore; "hell" as a swear word; killing of humanoid zombies

    This is because enemies are cheap in almost every sense. There are not very many of them, so their cheap assets are copied and pasted with almost no variety in all levels. Some enemies are dropped out of the boundaries of the procedurally-generated levels. But several enemies are cheap in the sense that they kill you very quickly with little chance to fight back. These enemies tend to come in swarms, either of piranha-like flying...things or floating, high-health, exploding eyes. As is typical for the genre, death means restarting from the first stage, at level one, with whatever base upgrades you have unlocked. There is something to be said for making a roguelike difficult, but the difficulty should contribute to the game in some way. In Rogue Stache, the cheap enemy swarms primarily give you a reason to use invulnerable Stache Power; without them, you'd be in little danger of death. There'd be little danger, that is, until the final boss that spams its small chamber with beams like it's in Ikaruga without giving the player room to maneuver. Suffice to say that I never enjoyed engaging the enemy while playing Rogue Stache. One boss must have felt similarly indifferent because, despite having "flame" in its name and appearing in promotional material shooting a flamethrower, it never spurt so much as a spark at me.

    A surplus of weapons attempts to spice up the game. Different weapons fire in arcs, fire rapidly, pierce enemies, and so on. There are a good number of them, and some are particularly well-suited to certain enemy types. For example, the flamethrower kills the flying piranha things quickly. For another example--uh.... Hm. No, that's all I've got. Certainly many weapons are more powerful than the starting pistol, but, again, I wouldn't say they are particularly enjoyable to use.

    I alluded to fun in the opening paragraph, and a particular combination of mechanics will explain why. Killing enemies raises experience until a level up. Leveling up gives your character back full health. Some enemies are cheap nigh-insta-killers. Stache Power kills enemies quickly, thus giving experience quickly. The most exciting gameplay loop I experienced was getting knocked to almost zero health while just shy of Stache Power. I would then need to carefully snipe enemies until the power fully charged. Once it did, I would trigger it and jump invincibly and gleefully - yes, Rogue Stache made me feel gleeful - into a hoard of cheap insta-killers and paste them against the walls with abandon. My goal was not so much to clear the way as to hit the next level to regain full health. These experiences required a little bit of tactics, which surprised me in a game so determined to go down like stale sugar cookies otherwise.

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

    Game Score - 52%
    Gameplay - 10/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 4/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 74%
    Violence - 2/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    Keyboard and mouse control rarely gave me problems. In fact, I often accidentally performed dashes and wall jumps that turned out better than whatever I had planned on. The gun follows the mouse cursor anywhere on screen, allowing you to line up shots on enemies as they come around walls. My time with the Steam Controller was more problematic. The aiming reticle was reluctant to follow my thumb, and controller mode locks the reticle in a tight radius around the main character. Perhaps a different controller would have better results; then again, the Steam store page does advertise "full controller support."

    If you need a reason not to play, the game is incredibly bloody and gory. Bodies and eyes bleed and blow apart. Fleshy appendages dart across the screen. It's not highly graphic, exactly (it was hours before I realized that the melee weapon is a knife instead of a shovel), but it is very red. The only voice acting comes from the main character shouting, "Oh, yeah," and "h*ll yeah," after a kill or weapon pickup. On occasion, such as in Steam Trading Cards, the word bad*** makes an appearance.

    Rogue Stache is in early access. I understand that it feels short and repetitive, and it has the basic mechanics to enable a fun shooter-platformer in the future. Unfortunately, the enemy types and level variety to turn this game into something fun have yet to be created. That may happen, that may not. In the meantime, the highest praise Rogue Stache earns is that, whatever else it is, it is not pretentious.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Runbow Deluxe Edition
    Developed by: 13AM Games
    Published by: 13AM Games
    Release date: November 1, 2016
    Available on: 3DS, Windows, Wii U
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of players: Up to nine players
    ESRB Rating: Everyone for Mild Fantasy Violence
    Price: $29.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you 13AM Games for sending us this game to review!

    Runbow was originally released for the Wii U in August of 2015.  Since then there has been added DLC which is included in the Deluxe Edition along with the game’s soundtrack.  The rest of this 2D platformer party game remains the same.  

    While playing by yourself is an option I don’t recommend it.  In total there are over one hundred and forty challenges that require making your way through changing terrain to collect a trophy as fast as possible. Certain platforms are only usable when the changing background is a different color.  Like many platformer games, there are numerous ways to die including spikes, crushing blocks, boulders, and wide chasms.  With each death you’ll see a random witty slogan that makes fun of your efforts. My favorite taunts include "Never give up except now," "Take a deep breath," and "Like that but better."   If you find the challenges too much you can usually skip them or enlist a friend to join in your game to help out.

    Runbow Deluxe Edition
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun game concept and lots of different game play mode to enjoy with friends
    Weak Points: Some of the challenges are frustrating, but they can be skipped
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; Shantae’s outfit shows off her belly

    As you progress you’ll unlock new characters to play as and many of them are from popular indie games.  My family recognized Shovel Knight, Shantae, Gunvolt, Commander Video from the Bit Trip series, and Lilac from Freedom Planet.  Each character has unique abilities and attack moves.

    Aside from the single player adventures, there are four multiplayer modes to choose from.  In the run mode all of the players run towards the trophy and the first one to get to it, wins.  Another take on this mode is Colour Master where the player with the gamepad can drop bombs, lightning bolts, colors, enemy AI units, and can temporarily reverse the controls for the rest of the players to prevent them from getting to the trophy.  The running team gets points for each player who reaches the trophy.  

    Runbow Deluxe Edition
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

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

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

    While my kids enjoyed the Colour Master Mode, the Arena was probably their favorite.  If you enjoy brawler games, then you’ll find plenty to love here.  The King of the Hill mode is fun and some of the locations for the coveted crown are a challenge to get to and stay put for several seconds. 

    The included DLC unlocks a whole new adventure mode along with several new costumes and multiplayer levels.  The soundtrack is bundled in via a bandcamp code.  That portion alone is worth $9 if you enjoyed the music.  While the soundtrack is energetic and fitting for this high energy game, I had no desire to own it.

    Despite not falling in love with the music, the kids and I enjoyed the rest of the game.  There is cartoon violence, but other than that, Runbow is a fun game that can be enjoyed by the entire family.  Like many games, it’s way more fun when you have friends to play alongside or against you!  This is a great addition to any Wii U owner’s library.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Runner3
    Developed by: Choice Provisions
    Published by: Choice Provisions
    Release date: May 22, 2018
    Available on: macOS, Switch, Windows
    Genre: Runner platformer
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for cartoon violence, crude humor, mild language and tobacco use
    Price: $29.99
    (HUmble Store Link)

    Thank you Choice Provisions for sending us this game to review!

    I played the original Bit.Trip Runner which was released in 2011, but I haven’t played the second runner. The graphics have improved a lot since the first game and the difficulty has been ratcheted up as well. Only consider buying this game if you don’t mind dying fifty times or more per level.

    I must admit that I’ve been quite humbled playing this game. I wish that I could see how I could do with teenage reflexes but I can’t. Instead, I tried to get some kids (mine and other people’s) to play this game to see how they “enjoy” the brutal difficulty. In the small sample group, the kids only played a level or two before deciding they had enough.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Colorful visuals and funny humor; voice acting by Charles Martinet
    Weak Points: Infuriatingly difficult; not much content to justify the $30 price tag
    Moral Warnings: Mild language (d*mn); gross humor; cartoon violence

    The concept is simple enough where you have to collect gold and/or gems while jumping/kicking over and sliding under various obstacles. Each level has one hundred gold bars to retrieve and twenty-five gems to collect if you’re up for an even tougher challenge. The gold bars and gems can be used in the in-game shop to buy accessories and customizations for your characters.

    You can choose to play as CommanderVideo or CommandGirlVideo. Other video game personalities like Shovel Knight, Dave Lonuts from Whoah Dave!, PIXL’s Sadbot, and more make an appearance as well. CommandGirlVideo is pretty curvy, but you can’t see too much since she’s all the same color. Some plumber crack is shown later in the game though.

    In total, there are three differently themed worlds with ten mandatory levels in each. Optional levels are available, but they are brutally difficult. Bosses must also be defeated to move onto the other worlds.

    Runner3
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

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

    Morality Score - 84%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    Given the difficulty of the first few levels, I doubt many impatient younger or reflex-challenged older games will move on past the food world. While each level has a checkpoint in it, making it to the said checkpoint will take many attempts. Skipping the checkpoints are possible but you have to be a glutton for punishment to do so.

    If you’re good at this game the three worlds and thirty levels won’t keep you busy for too long. The witty humor, pretty visuals and vehicles add to the appeal, but the difficulty is only for the most determined gamers.

    The music is good and I like how it gets more complex with each boom box collected in the levels. The boom boxes speed up the character and gives them the rainbow trail if they are all collected. Charles Martinet is the voice actor for the narrator and he’s most famous as the voice of Nintendo’s Mario. There is some minor language (d*mn).

    Despite Runner3’s charm, I only recommend picking this title up on sale due to its extreme difficulty. Even if you are good at this game, you probably won’t get $30 worth of entertainment. If you’ve done well with the other games in the series, Runner 3 is worth looking to.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Rynn's Adventure: Trouble in the Enchanted Forest
    Developed by: Arcane Four Studios
    Published by: Arcane Four Studios
    Release date: March 31, 2016
    Available on: macOS, Wii U, Windows
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone for mild fantasy violence
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you Arcane Four Studios for sending us this game to review!

    Rynn's Adventure: Trouble in the Enchanted Forest is Arcane Four Studios’ first game. It’s a challenging 2D side-scrolling platformer available on the Wii U and on Steam. The developers also wanted it on the 3DS and the Xbox One, but I can’t find the title there. Though Rynn's Adventure: Trouble in the Enchanted Forest is rated E for everyone, it should only be played by those with a lot of skill and/or patience as this game is extremely tough and I found it to be more frustrating than fun.

    The story is decent as Rynn, the Enchanted Forest’s princess, must save it from an evil wizard who imprisoned the king and queen in his dark castle. Along with running and jumping, Rynn starts off with a nose dive and a fireball-like attack that can knock out most of the enemies in her way. As each level’s boss is conquered, she’ll unlock new power-ups and skills.

    Rynn's Adventure: Trouble in the Enchanted Forest
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Checkpoints
    Weak Points: Laughable sound effects; wonky controls; frustratingly difficult 
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; magic use

    Few of the foes are pushovers as some of them have annoying abilities that can temporarily burn or put Rynn to sleep. There’s a decent variety of enemies, but their sound effects are extremely obnoxious and repetitive. The noise from the wasps/bees literally makes my kids laugh aloud and other creatures emit fart-like sounds that cause my children to snicker even more.

    The visuals are a mixed bag. Though the level design is good, the implementation could be better. Many of the platforms are not fully registered and it sometimes takes a couple of jumps to have Rynn land on them successfully. Of course, there are dissolving platforms and some of them only move when she’s on them. I did not like the rotating platform wheels in the sky level. Wall jumping is a required skill and there are several hidden nooks and crannies that need to be explored if you wish to collect all of the gems in each level. Even if I did clear a level without acquiring all of the games, I would have no interest in trying it again due to the merciless difficulty.

    Rynn's Adventure: Trouble in the Enchanted Forest
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 46%
    Gameplay - 5/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 4/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    Along with gems, you’ll have to collect a specified number of keys too. You can play the levels in any order with exception of the final area. As you begin each level, you’ll only have a couple of lives and a health bar that depletes with every attack or fall made. There are several checkpoints so you won’t have to start from the beginning each time you die.

    Despite the checkpoints, I was not able to get very far in this game. Some of my assaults were completely ineffective from enemies that had projectile attacks. Other times I would get past the enemies only to be struck down by a hard-to-avoid wormhole or another annoying obstacle.

    If you’re looking for a challenging platformer Rynn's Adventure: Trouble in the Enchanted Forest may be worth considering on sale. It has been discounted as low as 50% off on Steam. The only moral concerns are cartoon violence and some magic use. In all honesty, for the same price, there are many other platformers out there that are more polished and fun to play. The only satisfaction I got from this game was uninstalling it.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Seasons after Fall 
    Developed by: Swing Swing Submarine
    Published by: Focus Home Interactive
    Release date: May 15, 2017
    Available on: PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Puzzle platformer
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you Focus Home Interactive for sending us this game to review!

    Seasons after Fall is a beautiful 2D puzzle platformer that features charming painted visuals, great voice acting, and excellent background music from a string quartet. If you’re searching for a lovely experience, this is it. Although this game is family friendly, it’s strongly focused on a nature religion that involves activating dormant altars to restore the forest to its former splendor.

    Your character is a seed who has been called forth to possess a fox to gather essences of the seasons to harness their powers. With each essence collected, the fox can alter the environment around it and access areas previously inaccessible. For example, there are geysers that spring up more water in the springtime versus the summer. In winter mode, you can freeze the geysers and jump on them.

    Seasons after Fall
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Beautiful visuals and exceptional voice acting/string quartet background music; fun gameplay 
    Weak Points: Easy to get lost or to trigger some puzzles; roughly eight hours of gameplay
    Moral Warnings: This game is based on nature magic and restoring altars to complete a ritual to restore the forest to its former splendor


    Other puzzles involve finding the correct season to activate plant bridges or open up mushrooms to hop onto them. Sometimes mushrooms will drop a crab-like creature which can sprout mushrooms in a designated area. One annoyance is trying to get one of those crab creatures to spawn after losing the previous one from a stupid mistake (they can’t swim so make sure you’re in winter mode).

    Most of the puzzles are straightforward and I was able to figure them out on my own. While there are only a handful of locations, it is easy to get lost in them and a map would have come in handy. Thankfully, there are plenty of YouTube playthroughs available to point you in the right direction if you get lost or stuck.

    Seasons after Fall
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    The controls are pretty easy as your seed/fox can move, jump, and bark. Surprisingly, the seed cannot jump, but it can bark without the fox’s body which doesn’t make much sense to me. The fox’s yip is adorable and the voice acting of the guardian and seed guiding you are well done.
    The seed giving you instructions isn’t all that she seems at first. When the fox finds places to sleep, her backstory slowly becomes revealed. Sadly, some instances of animal abuse are hinted at in the backstory. The fox can cause some crab-like creatures to explode if he barks at them in the winter. You’ll need to kill a few off to access some blocked paths.

    Visually, this game is quite charming. I love the art style and each season has its own color palette. Summer has vibrant colors and fall uses various shades of orange. Winter has cool blues and shades of purple while springtime has a lot of rain and gray clouds.

    If the nature religion theme doesn’t bother you, this game is bound to stimulate your senses. The puzzles will get you thinking a little bit, but some may find them too easy. The PC version of the game came out first and sells for $14.99 which is $5 cheaper than the console edition. If you enjoy puzzle platformers, you’ll want to keep an eye out for this one.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Semblance
    Developed by: Nyamakop
    Published by: Good Shepherd Entertainment; Gambitious
    Genre: Adventure, Puzzle, Platformer
    Release Date: July 24 2018
    Available on: Switch, Windows, MacOs
    Number of Players: Single Player
    Rating: E for Everyone
    Price: $9.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you to Good Shepherd Entertainment for the review copy!

    Quite often, the greatest innovations come from the smallest of companies. New ideas have always been key to success in the video game industry, where everyone always desires something new. The first game from a South African studio to arrive on the Switch, Semblance, looks to keep up this track record. It takes the idea of platforming literally, with the main action of the game being the formation of platforms. Will this create steady ground for the company, or will it simply miss its jump?

    Semblance is a game focused on the manipulation of platforms to solve puzzles. The story is very abstract, resulting in it being as malleable as the world it is set in. A crystal menace is taking over, corrupting the soft, flexible world you live in. You play as an unnamed blob, who has the ability to manipulate the terrain that he is on, in combination with his flexible body. He sets out to save the world, collecting orbs and restoring the balance of nature. Once again, there isn’t much to say about the story, as it is rather basic. If this was a design choice, it was quite subtle, yet clever. There are other parts of the story told throughout the levels, though nothing groundbreaking is revealed. While the story is cliché, it’s not the reason one should have purchased Semblance in the first place, so it’s forgivable. If one bought Semblance, they bought it for its unique gameplay.

    Semblance
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great visual style; lovely music; clever gameplay
    Weak Points: Occasional glitch left me stuck in a wall
    Moral Warnings: Minor violence, potentially disturbing plot points

    Semblance is a platformer, though I could never figure out if it should be classified as puzzle or action. It certainly blends a bit of both to create a unique experience. Hazards are dotted throughout the levels, which require skill to dodge and advance past. However, it’s nothing compared to “twitch” platformers, such as Super Meat Boy or Slime-san. In place of difficult platforming is the puzzle system of Semblance.

    In Semblance, most floors and walls have the same color. This indicates that the material can be modified through the protagonist’s powers. The blob can force floors to rise or depress, leading to many possibilities for puzzles. Later on, the blob can also flatten itself like a Frisbee, opening up many new paths. These abilities felt like Semblance‘s main progression system, as each area gradually became much more complex. The real challenge of Semblance occurred within these puzzles. While few puzzles left me stumped for too long, many puzzles often required a plethora of failures in order to find a relatively simple solution. Of course, some puzzles could be solved in multiple ways, but it seems like there is always an intended method. Immense satisfaction was always felt immediately after clearing these puzzles. I enjoyed the majority of the puzzles, simply because the idea behind them is so flexible (literally). The game was never too punishing for mistakes, so I am encouraged to always try again. Despite introducing new concepts, all the puzzles always felt like they still were made with a simple premise in mind: reshape the world. Sure, the blob can become flat or slender, but even the puzzles that use these features always focus on how players change the landscape. By always remembering the main idea, Semblance‘s puzzles managed to be creative, unique, enjoyable, and never convoluted.

    I love Semblance‘s gameplay. I feel that it never lost sight of the original concept of molding the world to win. I feel that many great games forget what made them great, instead focusing on extra fluff. While this works well in many cases, it leaves some dissatisfied with the experience. Semblance made it clear what the focus was, and stuck to it. In a sequel, I would love to see new manipulations, but still continue the idea of no new powers for the blob. Right now, I feel the difficulty curve was mostly done right, with only a few grievances here and there. This made Semblance much more fun to play than some other puzzle/action platformers, which had difficulty spikes, then stagnated. I feel that Semblance‘s gameplay had just the right difficulty, while always maintaining the original focus very well. For that reason, I love it.

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

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    Semblance‘s soundtrack and artistic choices are quite interesting. I’ll admit, at first, the simplistic style was off-putting. I assumed it would get boring extremely quickly, and would become an eyesore to play. Luckily, Semblance‘s team never intended for this in the first place, and gradually change the look of the game as the player progresses. Each world has very different background music and imagery, which is quite enjoyable to look at. Both the soft natural world and the dangerous crystalline lands are simply gorgeous, and I’m glad I didn't dismiss Semblance originally. Semblance‘s soundtrack and art style are quite fitting and well made, even if the first impression didn’t convey that.

    From a moral viewpoint, Semblance is very safe, as is expected from platformers of its nature. The minor violence in the game is neither graphic nor emphasized, so it's as safe as a Mario Brothers game. There isn't a trace of language or sexual content included. Some may be unsettled by the idea of a crystalline plague devouring the gelatinous world, but I personally didn't find much wrong with it. Semblance has a bit of an abstract storytelling style, which helped it stay morally straight throughout the entire game.

    Semblance is quite a pleasant surprise. The gameplay is definitely the highlight of the experience, being properly balanced, innovative, and simply fun. The simple concept of molding the levels turns out to be a flexible one, leading to many fun experiences. The game also sounds and looks great, using a style that grew on me as I played. There are other platformers I would recommend over it, but if you are tired of traditional platformers, Semblance may be just for you.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
    Developed by: WayForward
    Published by: WayForward
    Release Date: December 20, 2016
    Available on: PS4, Windows, Vita, Wii U, Xbox One
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of Players: Single Player game
    ESRB Rating: T for Teen for suggestive themes and cartoon violence.
    Price: $19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Although I Kickstarted this game and received a code from Way Forward, XSEED sent us review codes for the console version of this title.

    Crowdfunded games are an interesting beast to tackle. For those that may remain new to the world of crowdfunded gaming, it's a term used for games that were funded by communities usually consisting of fans of a particular company or people that were impressed by the product's presentation. Through websites such as Kickstarter the funds are raised for the main product and then stretch goals may or may not be added. It doesn't necessarily make a game harder to review, yet you have to take into consideration if the end product is what was promised at the beginning of the crowdfunding campaign. So let's find out if Shantae: Half-Genie Hero was the promised product or snake oil.

    Shantae: Half-Genie Hero stars the belly dancing half-genie Shantae, guardian of Sequin Land. Once again, her arch nemesis Risky Boots decides to stir up trouble. With Shantae's home town once again in shambles due to a pirate attack, the mayor decides to fire her and seek out a new guardian genie. Never one to leave the protection of the world up to chance, her uncle sends her on a quest to find the parts to a machine that can protect the world permanently.

    Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellently done platformer with a fun story and enjoyable art. 
    Weak Points: This game might be a bit short for some gamers.
    Moral Warnings: This magical genie's outfit and most female character's outfits are reminiscent of belly dancer outfits so there isn't that much coverage there.

    Gameplay wise everything is what you would expect from WayForward's hair whipping super star.  While previous games were a bit more open ended in terms of exploration, this time around you have a hub world to select different levels. Shantae's signature transformation dances make a return. Throughout the game you learn different dances to transform into a monkey, an elephant, a mermaid and much more to navigate in between levels. Items called relics will also give Shantae particular buffs such as a faster hair attack, magic spells, or new abilities to her various transformations. Players will find themselves returning through levels once they gain new abilities to find new skills for Shantae or items to progress the story. 

    The game has plenty of pleasantry to the soundtrack. Each song compliments each stage's theme nicely. Whether I was in the Mermaid Falls, the Hypno Baron's castle or the magic carpet raceway everything felt thematically appropriate. WayForward is no stranger to artistic effort. The cartoon visuals mesh together well with gorgeous backdrops. There is some small bits of voice acting but it isn't for every line of dialogue, only for particular moments. 

    Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 94%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 82%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The Kickstarter campaign delivered exactly what was promised in the initial game as well as two stretch goal bonus chapters. At a later date a mode to play as the villain Risky Boots is in the works as well as costumes for Shantae that will give her different abilities to work with in the game from her normal moves. While the final amount of money raised was not updated on the main Kickstarter page, due to the extended PayPal funding RottyTops, Bolo and Sky modes are being worked on. 

    As far as notable cons this will depend on the gamer in question. At the time of writing this review I beat Shantae in five hours and fifty minutes with 80 percent of items in my collection. Beating the game unlocks hero mode; you play as Shantae once again only with all of your main transformation dances unlocked already. For some people this can be a bit of a short game. As said before there are plans for a mode where you play as the villain Risky Boots with her own individual story, or a story mode to play as Shantae's companions, yet we don't know when that's going to  be available.  

    Morality wise Shantae is a magical genie so there is a lot of spell casting and magical themes in the game. Shantae's dark side makes an appearance though the love her friends have for her quickly revert her to normal. With the female characters keep in mind that Shantae is a belly dancer so her outfit consists of a bikini top and harem pants. Most of the female character's outfits also have that belly dancer feel to them. While I'd personally be ok with a ten year old playing it I would not allow my daughter to dress like Shantae for Halloween. Violence in this game is as the ESRB rating says, "cartoon." That being said Shantae is a very heroic character and can teach some good things such as working hard to be a hero with no thought of a reward and doing good things just because being good is the right thing to do. You'll find a quality experience in Shantae: Half-Genie Hero as you dance through the danger to make her world a happier place.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Snoopy’s Grand Adventure
    Developed by: Behaviour Interactive
    Published by: Activision
    Release Date: November 3, 2015
    Available on: 3DS, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone with mild cartoon violence
    Price: $29.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Activision for sending us this game to review!

    Snoopy’s Grand Adventure is a tie-in with the recently released Peanuts movie.  While I have yet to see this movie, I have grown up enjoying the comics and A Charlie Brown Christmas since both have been around longer than I have been alive.  If you haven’t seen the movie yet, there are some references, but nothing story breaking or spoiling as this is a separate adventure.  

    All of the neighborhood kids have decided to play hide and go seek; however, none of them have returned. Snoopy starts to get worried and sets off to find them one by one.   Each child is hidden in a different area and can only be retrieved after conquering the boss that’s guarding them.  New areas become available as keys are found to unlock them. Other hidden keys unlock costumes for Snoopy to grant him exclusive abilities while equipping them.

    Like many 3D platformer games there are obstacles to scale, enemies to jump on top of, and plenty of jelly beans to collect.  Each level also has six hidden Beagle Scouts (yellow birds that look like Woodstock) to locate as well.  Perfecting the levels requires multiple replays as you unlock and use outfits to enter into areas that were previously inaccessible.

     

    Snoopy’s Grand Adventure
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Decent platformer game for young children with plenty of variety and costumes for Snoopy to change into; ability to reclaim lost health hearts
    Weak Points: Slow performance at times; inconsistent difficulty spikes; crashes
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence

     

    Some of the costumes grant Snoopy the ability to climb fences, locate hidden rooms, turn enemies into jumpable platforms, and low gravity jumping.   If Snoopy is not wearing a costume, you can extend his jump momentum by using his ears as a helicopter propeller.  

    The controls and gameplay in general is pretty simple and well suited for a younger audience.  The Y button is used for selecting items while the B button is used for jumping and propelling Snoopy’s ears.  The D-pad or analog controls can direct Snoopy’s movement.

    The level design has some nice variety as the locations range from jungle terrain to the lunar surface to Snoopy flying his dog house to take down the infamous Red Baron.  The enemies can be temporarily disabled by pouncing on them, but they will regain consciousness before too long.  Fortunately, they are usually easily avoided and if you do get hurt, you can often reclaim your lost health heart before it floats out of reach.  While I liked that game mechanic, it added frustration when the heart was impossible to get back.  In those rare instances it was more of a tease than a help.  Dog treats are scattered throughout the levels and they can restore some of Snoopy’s health.    

     

    Snoopy’s Grand Adventure
    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 - 96%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    I found the temple levels frustratingly hard compared to the ones later in the game.  The enemies in those levels threw objects that were difficult to avoid at times.  Thankfully, for each defeated boss I got an additional health heart.  If I’m feeling up to it, I’ll have a better chance at perfecting those levels with more health and costumes at my disposal.  Completing the game without redoing many of them took me less than six hours.

    My kids enjoyed perfecting my jelly bean count for some of the levels and Snoopy’s Grand Adventure is suitable for people for all ages. Seasoned gamers will not find this game or the boss battles very challenging at all.  

    The inconsistent difficulty spikes may frustrate younger kids and adults like myself.  The 3D graphics are cute but not optimized for the 3DS and ran poorly.  Switching to 2D mode helped a little bit.  

    Unfortunately, I have experienced several crashes that dropped me back to the 3DS menu.  One of these crashes was right after I beat the final boss which was incredibly lame and I didn’t see the purpose or what I did to actually win the game.  On some of the bosses, you have to avoid their attacks, while others simply require you to stay alive until the time runs out.     

    In the end,  Snoopy’s Grand Adventure is cute, but it has some flaws.  Before being given a review code, I purchased the game on sale for $10 and at that price it’s worth getting.  Any Peanuts fan should keep an eye out for this title when it goes on sale.   

     

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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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