enfrdeitptrues

Action

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Rock of Ages 2: Bigger & Boulder 
    Developer: ACE Team
    Published by: ATLUS USA
    Release Date: August 28, 2017
    Available on: Windows, Playstation 4, Xbox One
    Genre: Action
    Players: 1-2
    ESRB Rating: E for everyone for fantasy violence, language, crude humor
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you ATLUS for the review code.

    So, one of the surprise sequels of 2017, Rock of Ages 2, is a great game. While the first game wasn't the most amazing indie game on the block it was top notch for what it was. Let's roll over history with Rock of Ages 2.

    In Rock of Ages 2 you play as Atlas, and as you are holding Earth above your head, Zeus asks you to pose as he draws a picture. You accidentally drop the planet and you pick up a boulder in its place. Before Zeus realizes you dropped the world you jump down into the planet to try and hide from him. Along the way you have to fight against historical figures in the most obvious and straightforward way. You'll have to roll your boulder down various obstacles to crush your enemy's castle gates. Once you do you can squish your enemies flat with your boulder. Be warned they will have a chance to squish you with their own boulder as well. You have to be faster! You can earn gold by breaking the course and getting rid of enemy obstacles. The gold you earn can be used to place various obstacles to slow down your foe. Just like you, your opponent can put obstacles in their way to impede your boulders. You will have to learn how to dodge every type of trap to quickly beat the course.

    Rock of Ages 2: Bigger & Boulder
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: This game is a solid title on all fronts. The courses are a challenge and It's a well rounded experience from start to finish. 
    Weak Points: None whatsoever.
    Moral Warnings: Mild cursing and the crushing of historical figures. Some mild lowbrow humor. Some heavily censored nudity for Adam and Eve and particular statue characters such as Atlas. Living Depictions of False Gods.

    The gameplay can best be described as a 3d version of the classic game Marble Madness. The problems the original had were improved. Aside from barrel bombs, defenses felt useless in the first game. Walls and other defenses are now a challenge to get through. You'll have to figure out how to best impede your opponent and you'll have to take risks to keep your time better than your foe.

    Aside from the different opponents in the campaign mode you can revisit levels to earn extra stars in an obstacle course race mode. In this mode both you and your opponent share the same path on the course and you must make it to the end three times in first place to win. You'll be able to unlock gates with your stars to face various bosses such as the Thinker statue, a sphinx and more. The game has a time trial mode as well where you can race down the various courses without any obstacles in the way to compete on a global speed leaderboard. You do have a multiplayer mode as well but don't expect to find people to play this with randomly. You'll have to find friends that have the game if you want to experience anything against another person. You also have a local multiplayer option. This allows you to race other players down the same course or you can see who crushes who first under the boulder of their choice.

    Rock of Ages 2: Bigger & Boulder
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

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

    Morality Score - 78%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 6/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Artstyle, humor, graphics and gameplay all blend well and nothing really inhibited the enjoyment. Each stage had a pleasant soundtrack, the noises were satisfying as I smashed through the courses and each opponent was a challenge. Each and every cutscene was funny and cute and even respected the history it was from. Squishing Edvard Munch's famous "The Scream" painting was one of my favorite parts, even if I still question how it managed to command a boulder.

    Morality problems are here and there in this game. Some of the cutscenes are a little violent but without blood it's mostly just slapstick. The cardboard cutout style foes don't have potty mouths or immoral tendencies so have fun destroying history. No cuss word is directly said though some mumbles could be taken for cussing. You have some censored nudity of Adam and Eve as well as famous statues that are depicted in the nude, censored of course. You also have living depictions of false gods.

    This game definitely gets a near-perfect score on the indie game list for sure. This game is perfect for gamers of all skill levels and ages. Enjoy crushing the competition in Rock of Ages 2.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    20XX
    Developed By: Batterystaple Games, Fire Hose Games
    Published By: Batterystaple Games
    Release Date: August 16, 2017
    Available On: Windows
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Genre: Action Platformer/Rogue-like
    Mode: One or Two Players
    MSRP: $14.99

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

    Having grown up with classic video games, Mega Man was always near and dear to my gamer heart. I have great memories with Mega Man 3, and later X and X4. Though the challenge is, well, pretty intense, I was always able to beat them with a little (or a lot) of perseverance. There have been several attempts to regain the feel and joy that these games bring, even from one of the original creators of Mega Man after he went independent. Many of these efforts have had mixed results. What is surprising is how well the 20XX developers did. They also added enough to make it more than merely a clone: they turned it into a Rogue-like.

    For those not familiar with the classic Mega Man X franchise that this borrows so much from, the premise is rather simple: you are one of two warrior robots, either the ranged focused Nina (styled after Mega Man X, except female), or the melee focused Ace (styled after Zero). The chosen robot then plays a 2D side scrolling level, typically with a lot of enemies and dangerous spikes. After making it through the challenging platform filled level, they find a boss waiting for them at the end. Once this boss is defeated, you then take their weapons, which you can then use on future levels – either as a tool to help you get through the normal enemies, or as a foil against a powerful boss, as they often have a weakness to specific attacks.

    While that alone – a well implemented Mega Man X clone with different characters – would be enough to get excited about, they really took it to the next level by turning it into a Rogue-like. A Rogue-like is a game that takes some elements from the gaming classic Rogue. What is relevant here is that the levels are randomly generated, and you lose most (or all) of your progress when you die. While that may seem strange, and indeed that was my thought at first, it's actually brilliant. Rather than the limited levels and power-ups of a typical game in this genre, levels are randomly generated, so no two playthroughs are the same – though if you want, you can specify the level seed, and play it more than once if you want!

    20XX
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Good graphics and animations; great chiptune soundtrack; fantastic replay value; creative and compelling powerups; quite challenging; the developer support is some of the best I have ever seen; perhaps the best homage to Mega Man X yet
    Weak Points: Quite challenging
    Moral Warnings: Animated violence against other robots; creator scientists treat the robots as robots and dispose of them freely

    This ends up bringing an incredible amount of replay value to 20XX, as beating a level isn't enough; you have to beat the whole game in one sitting. This is most definitely easier said than done; I have never been able to beat the game at all, despite my best efforts and work to unlock various power-ups, or choosing the easiest difficulty levels. As you progress, you earn soul chips. These chips can be used to unlock permanent and temporary powerups for future runs. I reached a point where my permanent unlocks were too expensive for my skill level, and while I have plenty of temporary unlocks to get still, I just have a long way to go before victory will be in my grasp. This was made all the more clear when I was schooled online, so much so that the guy I was playing with kept leaving the game because he didn't want to play with such a n00b again...

    So while perseverance definitely plays a role here, you also have to have a certain skill level with difficult jumps and tricky shots, or you just don't have a chance. I don't say this to knock the game; it is meant for more skilled players, and the game is good and well balanced enough where it doesn't feel like the game cheats or anything. Every mistake I made felt earned, even if I got real tired of some of those nasty jump sections, or the even worse ice levels...

    The bosses are also a lot of fun to fight. What I didn't expect from my time with the Mega Man franchise is that here, unlike there, the same boss is much more difficult in level six rather than level two. Bosses may have extra moves, more health, do more damage, or even have changed action patterns based on how far you have gotten. While it does make sense, it also means that the skill wall you need to climb is that much steeper if you aren't up for that whole 'practice makes perfect' adage.

    There are a ton of different challenges available. There is the basic Reverent (easy) difficulty where you get three lives, Normal with only one, and Defiant where you can apply skull modifiers to make it even harder. There are also daily, weekly, boss rush, and hardcore mode challenges available. There are also leaderboards, if you want to see how bad you are compared to everyone else.

    20XX
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 93%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    There is local co-op, as well as co-op online play. You can play with friends, or random strangers via the auto lobby system. When I tried to play online, I didn't have to wait at all to find someone to play with, though when I tried again later, there wasn't anyone around. The community is active enough, especially the forums, that I am sure if you really want to play with someone, you should be able to. My son really enjoys playing this game with me when he has a chance.

    And really, there is no reason not to play this with someone of any age. There is robot on robot violence, and the intro shows a bit of a societal panic as buildings are being attacked by giant robots. It is presumed that you are there to stop it – but the 'story' is fairly skeleton; you are there to get to the end of the levels and beat the big baddies that wait for you; nothing more. This game is squeaky clean and I would personally have no problem with anyone of any age playing it, assuming they can handle the difficulty, of course.

    The graphics are good, and the music is very good. The chiptunes are perfectly appropriate, and fun to listen to. The soundtrack is very inexpensive, and worth it in my opinion. They also offer FLAC files, which is a nice touch. The sound effects also work well.

    I just wanted to point out one quick thing: this developer has been perhaps one of the best early access developers I have ever seen. They released the original early access on November 25, 2014, and they have been updating this game like clockwork every two weeks for almost three years. You could see the countdown to the next patch right from the main menu before 1.0 hit. It was amazing, and while I expect this to wind down at some point, they have been continuing to patch the game even as recently as three days ago as of this writing. I have also had my posts in the forums replied to by the developers directly. These guys deserve the highest praise for their dedication to their player base. Great job!

    20XX (which is a clear allusion to the Mega Man 2 intro – the 20XX intro is also a visual reference as well) is a clear homage to the source material – Mega Man and the X series that followed – in the best kind of way. Nina and Ace are both a ton of fun to play, and feel right – Ace's combos work great, and Nina's charged or rapid fire shots are also great. Wall jumping is perfect, and so on. And the gameplay is basically endless if you want it to be; there is actually an endless mode modifier for Defiant if you choose to use it. Honestly, 20XX is a very easy recommendation. The price is right, the game plays great, and is a lot of fun. Just be ready to earn those skills!

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    A Knight's Quest
    Developed by: Sky 9 Games
    Published by: Curve Digital
    Release date: October 10, 2019
    Available on: PS4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Puzzle Action Platformer
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen for violence, language, crude humor
    Price: $24.99

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

    A Knight’s Quest is a throwback to classic action platformers from the nineties. The dialogue has many popular words like "radical", "bodacious", "tubular" which were used by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Although this game is colorful and has a pleasing art style, it’s not nearly as family-friendly as the Legend of Zelda games it’s modeled after. Sadly, it has other flaws that take away from the fun factor as well.

    You play as Rusty, a clumsy adventurer with a metal arm. On his latest adventure, he unsealed a crystal overlord that’s now hovering over his village. The mayor asks Rusty to locate the legendary heroes that specialize in wielding various elemental powers. As Rusty seeks them out, he will learn to master the wind, fire, ice, and time-stopping powers needed to undo the mess he created in the first place.

    Although this is an open world game, there are many inaccessible areas. One of which is a slime trader who will unlock inventory spaces for slimes that you can collect on your adventure. Until you meet him, prepare for not having enough space to carry many vital resources. In an attempt to free up space, I accidentally sold my pickaxe. Resources are also in short supply so be sure to destroy every barrel, crate, and clay pottery piece that you come across as they may have coins or other handy items inside.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Colorful visuals; funny dialogue; good background music
    Weak Points: Some dungeons are poorly lit; inconsistent controls when it comes to using the rail system; not enough inventory slots or resources available; not much of a gaming community to reach out to if you get stuck
    Moral Warnings: Bloodless violence; undead enemies; elemental magic use; language (d*mn, *ss); crude humor

    Like many platformers, you’ll have to jump onto and across various ledges, rocks, and columns. Not all of them are stationary either. Mastering wall running is another requirement. Later in the game, you’ll acquire some boots that allow you to glide on rails. The rails often have obstacles that you’ll have to jump over. Failing to do so may cause Rusty to lose his balance and fall off.

    Fortunately, when Rusty takes a spill he’ll be respawned (health bar permitting) with a little less health than before. Some of the rails have multiple paths and require you to jump between them to continue on your away. What should normally be a simple jump is way more complicated in this game. Often times Rusty would jump past the rails and fall to his doom. The respawns are generous until your character runs out health. When your character dies, he will respawn at the beginning of the area and any items collected since then will have to be re-acquired.

    Healing wells are nice, but not free. Thankfully, they can be used indefinitely free of charge after the initial fee. Until you leave an area, any defeated foes will remain that way. Unlike The Surge games, using a healing well will not respawn the enemies.

    There’s a good amount of variety when it comes to the monsters you’ll have to fight. Many of them are pallet swapped and only differ in color and elemental weaknesses. There are slimes, worms, skeletons, octopuses/squids, and bigger variants of them all. The bosses are pretty intimidating too. They’ll have different phases with a regenerated health bar. Sometimes enemies will have a barrier around them that needs to be disabled via elemental magic before you can do damage to them.

    As Rusty ventures out to find the legendary heroes, he will learn how to harness their powers himself! With each new elemental ability learned, Rusty will have to backtrack to formerly visited regions to see previously inaccessible areas. There are many timed challenges along the way that are very unforgiving and will take a lot of patience and perfection to complete. If you’re not a fan of being timed, you won’t like these very much.

     

    A Knight's Quest
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 68%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 2/5

    Morality Score - 70%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 6.5/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Races are also available and though they are timed, they usually have a little more leeway. Meteorite ore is given as a reward and it’s needed for upgrading your weapons at the town blacksmith. Townsfolk are not very chatty and often have repetitive bottled phrases like “I’m a slave to capitalism.” Quest related NPCs have funnier dialogue that’s often laced with curse words or sexual overtones. I have seen words like d*mn and *ss used.

    On a quest to assist four incapacitated guards, two of them had crude expressions. One of them complained that the heat was making him sweat off his “giggle berries.” Another guard was completely frozen and after thawing him out with a bomb, remarked that the frozen state gave him “shrinkage.”

    There are some mushrooms that will allow you to bounce off of them to access different areas. Before they let you bounce off of them they require some doodie/fertilizer to help them grow. Battling enemies involves violence, but thankfully it’s bloodless.

    As you attack enemies and talk to NPCs, they’ll mutter gibberish. The background music is much higher quality and fitting to the environments you’re in.

    For the most part, A Knight’s Quest ran fine for me. However, I have experienced several glitches that killed off my character on multiple occasions. If Rusty gets stuck, he may be killed off and will respawn nearby. I’ve also had a fighting glitch happen mid-battle and lost some health as a result.

    In the end, A Knight’s Quest is a fun but flawed game. When you know where you’re going, this game can be fun. If you get stuck, there are not many active online communities to reach out to for help. The game controls are disappointing and should have been fine-tuned a bit more before releasing. If you’re looking for a Zelda-like game for your children, you’ll want to look elsewhere as this title has crude language and juvenile humor.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    A Plague Tale: Innocence
    Developed by: Adobo Studio
    Published by: Focus Home Interactive
    Release date: May 14, 2019
    Available on: PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Number of players: Single-player
    Genre: Action, Adventure
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood and Gore, Strong Language, Violence
    Price: $44.99
    (Humble Bundle Link)

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

    A Plague Tale: Innocence takes place in France in 1349 during the Inquisition and the plague. You play as Amicia, a 15-year-old girl who is from the well-to-do De Rune family. She has a five-year-old brother, Hugo, who has been seriously ill for most of his life and their alchemist mother is trying to find a cure for him. With her mother tending to Hugo most of the time, Amicia has a closer relationship with her father who teaches her how to use her slingshot to hunt.

    It doesn’t take long for the soldiers of the Inquisition to arrive at the De Rune estate and slaughter everyone in sight. For some reason, they are specifically looking for Hugo and want him alive. I won’t spoil any details, but suffice it to say that the story is quite intriguing and is spread out into seventeen chapters.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Touching story; fantastic visuals; excellent voice acting and background music; frequent checkpoints/autosaves
    Weak Points: The AI characters can get stuck/left behind/killed at times
    Moral Warnings: Extremely gory and violent; with the Inquisition storyline, religion is shown in a negative light as religious figures are depicted as power-hungry and willing to sacrifice others for their gain; blaspheming and colorful language including several instances of the f-bomb; a couple of your party members are thieves

    Amicia, who hardly knows her brother, becomes his caretaker and they befriend other orphans later on in the game. Until then, there are plenty of Inquisition soldiers and rats to avoid making contact with. The rats are afraid of light sources so if you’re near fire or have a torch you’ll be okay. The problem with torches is that they don’t last very long, so you don’t have much time to waste while using one.

    Soldiers are a bit harder to avoid. If they are not wearing helmets you can sling a stone at their head to take them down. They will bleed when hit and may die as a result. Compared to seeing people burned at the stake or eaten alive by rats, the stone to the head is not that gory. There are non-lethal approaches like throwing a stone at a jar to break it or into some armor to get the guard’s attention elsewhere.

    Stones are a limited resource, but in boss battles, they tend to replenish after a short while. Along with stones are other resources laying around that can be used to upgrade Amicia’s equipment or concoct helpful potions that can put guards to sleep or make their helmets acidic so they take them off. Amicia will also learn how to start and douse fires with alchemy. Extinguishing the enemy’s torches makes them vulnerable to rat attacks.

    A Plague Tale: Innocence
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 50%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    If rats make you queasy, you may want to skip this game as they appear in swarms quite often. Other issues to take note of include foul language with every word imaginable and some blasphemy. The Catholic church is not shown in a positive light as one of their leaders is depicted as being power-hungry and willing to sacrifice other people’s lives for his goals. This church leader’s health is not the best as it appears that he’s suffering from the effects of a rat bite. You’ll see him getting blood injections from “volunteer” prisoners. As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of bloodshed in this game.

    The visuals in this game are astounding. While there are plenty of grotesque images to make you wince, there are some truly beautiful sights to behold as well. Sadly, many of the towns you visit have been preceded by Inquisition soldiers and have left bodies of animals and townsfolk laying around the street. There are also battlefields covered in bodies. As realistic as this game looks, I’m glad that I didn’t have to smell what I imagined it would have been like.

    The audio portion is equally impressive with an exceptional musical score composed by Olivier Deriviere who has many AAA game titles under his belt. The voice acting with French accents is quite good too. I can see why many people are describing this game as a masterpiece.

    I completed the game in a little over ten hours. Though the story is linear, there are some Steam achievements available for keeping your eyes peeled for flowers and gifts to collect. I could have done a bit more exploring in my playthrough it seems. Even with my 63% Steam achievement completion rate, I’m very satisfied with my time in this title. As fun as this game is, it does deserve its Mature rating and should not be played by younger children as the imagery could be nightmare inducing.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Air Missions: HIND
    Developed by: 3Division
    Published by: 3Division
    Release date: March 21, 2017
    Available on: Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Action
    Number of players: Up to five online
    Price: $16.99

    Thank you 3Division for sending us this game and DLC content to review!

    Back in the '80s I enjoyed playing Choplifter on my Atari 7800. Like Choplifter, Air Missions: HIND does have some missions that require rescuing soldiers. However, you’ll be spending most of your time destroying enemy targets instead. The controls in Air Missions: HIND are much more complex and landing took me a few tries before I survived the process. Thankfully, most missions don’t require you to land to complete them. Even if they do, there is a handy checkpoint system that can restore you to the last save point without having to restart the mission.

    The eighteen-mission story campaign in Air Missions: HIND begins in 1980 and advances in years as you progress the story. Besides the campaign, there’s an Instant Action mode that has eleven missions readily available. The campaign mode gradually unlocks missions as you complete previous ones. Other than unlocking missions, you’ll also receive more weapons and rockets to use in future skirmishes. Different model helicopters like the HAVAC, HIP, and HOKUM are available via $2.99 DLC purchases.

    Multiplayer is supported though I wasn’t able to find anyone to play against, cooperatively or competitively. Thankfully, I did get a taste of helicopter dogfighting in one of the instant action missions. No matter which mission you choose, you only get a limited number of weapon reloads and once all of your ammo is depleted you’re as good as dead. In the dogfights every shot counts so use your bullets and rockets sparingly. Some missions have you firing from the door gun which is interesting.

    Air Missions: HIND
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun and casual helicopter simulator
    Weak Points: Multiplayer is dead; not many community maps available; poor mouse controls
    Moral Warnings: War violence that involves shooting down enemy aircraft, vehicles, and soldiers; language and blaspheming

    Creating and sharing missions is possible with the in-game editor and finished projects can be shared via Steam Workshop. As of this review, there are only thirty-seven player submitted entries. There are many options available when creating missions. You can set the maximum amount of players to five, the location, time of day, and winning conditions. You can set the mission to be at sunset, night, and on a clear or almost clear day. The missions can take place in Central Asia, Eastern Europe, South East Asia, and Yuzhny Island.

    Even though my gamepad worked great for navigating the menus, the tutorial only taught mouse/keyboard controls. Instead of remapping the buttons, I just memorized the various key commands. One issue I noticed is that the mouse cursor was not properly calibrated in the editor while running at full screen and when the game was windowed, it worked fine.

    Visually Air Missions: HIND is a bit dated. It ran well on my desktop and I didn’t experience any performance issues other than a little tearing here and there. The explosions of my helicopter and enemy units look pretty good though.

    Air Missions: HIND
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 78%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 2/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Since you’re fighting for the Russian army it should come as no surprise that they speak in their native tongue. Fortunately, for the rest of us there are subtitles. Sometimes those subtitles will include blaspheming and mild language (hell, d*mn). Another moral concern is the war violence. Most of the time you’ll be shooting at aircraft and vehicles, but there are times when you’ll be tasked with gunning down soldiers. If you don’t take them down first, they will not hesitate to down your helicopter.

    The sound effects and weapon firing noises are all well done. I liked the catchy menu music as well. Though I don’t understand Russian, I think the voice acting was good too.

    In the end, Air Missions: HIND is a solid helicopter game that’s reasonably priced at $16.99. If you’re hoping for online multiplayer, you will want to look elsewhere. There’s still plenty of fun to be had in the single-player modes and with the ability to create your own missions, the possibilities are endless. Hopefully the Steam Workshop community grows over time.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    ARK Park
    Developed by: Snail
    Published by: Snail
    Release date: March 21, 2018
    Available on: Oculus Rift, PSVR, HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality
    Genre: Action
    Number of players: Up to four online
    ESRB Rating: Teen for blood and violence
    Price: $39.99

    Thank you Snail for sending us this game to review!

    A couple of years ago I was gifted ARK Survival Evolved. Sadly, I must confess that my backlog is so massive that I have not had a chance to play it yet. Since I can’t accurately compare the two games in a timely fashion, I’ll just focus on ARK Park which is very similar to Jurassic Park, but in virtual reality! In ARK Park, there is a learning center where you can learn about and interact with dinosaur holograms. This will be a great area for dinosaur and VR loving kids to spend time in this title.

    The other game modes can use some adult supervision. In the exploration mode you can walk around areas and scan genetic sequences of the dinosaurs on the island. Scanning the dinosaurs is easier said than done as you have to aim at their heads for several seconds and try to keep up with them as they run away from you. The dinosaurs seem to follow an often predictable pattern so you can use that to your advantage when trying to scan them. Unfortunately, some of the species only make a one time appearance and if you don’t scan them fast enough you’ll need to try again next time you visit the area. Thankfully, your progress is recorded and the materials collected are stored in your inventory. Many areas are not unlocked until you clear a portion of the previous one.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Gorgeous visuals; good sound effects
    Weak Points: Nobody to play online with; glitches like dinosaurs being stuck and unscannable; not much content out of the box, but more is being added
    Moral Warnings: Dinosaur violence

    Crafting is required to succeed in this title. In the exploration mode you can harvest materials from plants, rocks, and crystals. With the collected items you can 3D print some hunting gear, guns, and turrets. In a game where you can hatch, paint, and ride dinosaurs, why would you need guns and turrets? For the battle mode of course!

    Unlike Jurassic Park, the dinosaurs here are controlled via towers to make them not aggressive towards humans. Sometimes these towers go offline and need to be repaired. The battle mode is literally tower defense where you have to stave off waves of dinosaurs while the robot (slowly) repairs the conditioning tower. Before attempting the battle mode, I highly recommend crafting a second pistol so you can dual wield.


    The game modes are fun though there isn’t enough content to warrant the $40 price tag in my opinion. The developers are frequently adding more content so that’s encouraging. Sadly, I wasn’t able to find anyone to play alongside online so I can’t comment on the multiplayer.

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

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

    Morality Score - 95%
    Violence - 7.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    With the negatives out of the way, I must say that the visuals in ARK Park are truly stunning. The dinosaurs look intimidating and I have to confess that I did jump back when the T Rex was running past me. The environments look great and everything ran well on my Nvidia GTX1070 powered laptop. Other people have had stability issues so keep the refund policy in mind when purchasing this title digitally. Unfortunately, Oculus is not as generous on issuing refunds as Steam is.

    The sound effects are good. The environmental sounds and dinosaur noises are believable. I’m still not 100% sold on the tour robot guide having a Southern drawl. The other voices are fine though.

    In the end, ARK Park is well polished, but seems unfinished. I would recommend picking it up on a sale if you’re a fan of ARK or Jurassic Park. I’m happy that the developers are still adding to it and I hope that the multiplayer picks up a bit. There’s a lot of potential here.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Arrow Heads
    Developed By: OddBird
    Published By: OddBird
    Released: September 21, 2017
    Available On: PC
    Genre: Action
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: 1 - 4 offline, 2 - 4 online
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you OddBird for sending us a copy of this game to review.

    Arrow Heads is a pretty multiplayer game about shooting your friends with arrows and was made as a student project at a college. This was the best project submitted and got the honor to be further developed into a full game. This game is all about high paced, chaotic multiplayer mayhem. It is that aspect that hurts the game the most.

    Arrow Heads is a game built around playing with friends in either couch or online play in the game’s main arena mode. In this mode you and some friends get to choose your loadout and battle each other on the game’s wide assortment of levels. The action in this game is pretty wacky and fun. Your goal is to kill all of the other players, but when a player dies that doesn’t mean the game is over. They can still flop their body over to the other players and hit them with their not so lifeless corpse. While playing this mode you can unlock bird seed which allows you to purchase many different kinds of cosmetic changes for your character and different types of “arrows” for your bow.

    The problem with this gamemode is that this game’s playerbase is basically dead for online play. I’ve sat in a lobby by myself waiting for another person to join me so I could really experience this mode and nobody joined. I did a little research and found out that the most players this game has had playing it ai one time in the last month was six. That really limits your chance of being able to play this mode. Thankfully, the game offers a survival mode that can be played solo. Unfortunately, it appears that none of the stuff that can be unlocked in the multiplayer mode is available to be used and you don’t collect any bird seed. This mode however was pretty fun the few times I played it. In this mode you get put onto a randomly selected level and must fight against waves of bears that are coming to attack you. The variety of the enemies here is really good with a decent number of the enemies you’ll encounter being nuisances more than being a lethal threat. This was the mode that I spent the most time playing.

    Arrow Heads
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Nice, but repetitive soundtrack; visuals are pretty; interesting enemies.
    Weak Points: Very simple gameplay; some funky controls; some very oddly designed levels; a practically dead multiplayer scene.
    Moral Warnings: Game has you either trying to kill other players or bears; some slightly crude things said by the announcer.

    The gameplay of this game is pretty simple. In it you shoot arrows from your bow, but all of the arrows get shot in an arc. You must hold down the shoot key to be able to charge up a shot, increasing its range and giving it a straighter trajectory. If you hold down the fire key for too long your aim will start to bounce around. At first I thought the game was having a problem with aiming but this feature seems to be intended. After it bounces for a bit, the arrow will just fire off and you’ll start charging a new one. When standing still, you also get the ability to deflect an incoming shot, but I personally found that there was too much going on to ever stop moving.

    The arrow shooting mechanic is pretty solid until you add in the art style the game went for. The game bills itself as an isometric game and it uses 2D art in what feels more like a 3D world. This leads to a weird thing where the hitbox for the enemies in this game tends to be near their legs. I’ve had many times where I aimed for where the enemy was only for the arrow to fly by behind their heads. It also doesn’t help that where you aim isn’t exactly where the arrow goes. The arrow actually goes a bit above where the indicator is at. I found it to be really hard to manage to hit things in this game especially since most of the things I’ve fought were so mobile. Another issue I had was there are some special abilities in this game. You get them after you have collected enough of a resource that drops when you kill something. When you collect enough, it spins a wheel to decide which special ability you get. This freezes your player in place, but it just slows down time for everybody else. One time I got a special and while it was choosing what ability to give me, I got to watch an enemy line up a shot on my character. That enemy instantly killed me once it finally gave me my ability.

    The art also has led me to not like some of the levels. The levels look very nice and pretty but look a little bit more like something that would be in a 2D game. One of the levels I played on had a ramp that you could go up, but that ramp was at a weird angle so it was really easy to walk off. Once you walked off, you were in a hole under the ramp. Your only way to get out was to go up close to the bottom of the screen, behind the UI, and then go over to the ramp where you had to jump up over the ramp to be able to walk back up. That whole level was a bit trippy too. Something just feels off about the depth and verticality of the levels.

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

    Game Score - 56%
    Gameplay - 9/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 2/5
    Controls - 3/5

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

    This game has a pretty cartoony art style and this is heavily represented in the character design. In the survival mode, the basic enemies are these little bears that jump at you to stun you. They are about half the height of your character and look like little cubes. They are pretty adorable. This game also has a pretty decent soundtrack. The music is very cartoony feeling and wasn’t bad to listen to. I also thought what little voice acting it had with the little announcer dude was nicely done.

    The stability for this game is pretty poor. Many times when I launched the game it would just go to a black screen and lock up my computer. I’d have to restart my computer in order to fix it. It took me a while to find out what caused this. Apparently, if you try and launch this game with another program open on your computer it might cause this. That is pretty annoying. I also had one experience when I loaded the game where I couldn’t move my mouse onto the right side of the screen. 

    The morality of this game was pretty good. The game is a little violent with you trying to kill your friends or bears, but it all done in a very cartoony style. Game did have a few crude things said by the announcer, but they didn’t say anything that bad. There were a couple gross jokes and the guy encouraging you to go kill the bears, but I didn’t ever hear a curse word. This game feels like it was intended to be enjoyed by children. Most of the jokes seem like something a little kid might like.

    My final thoughts are that the game is okay. There are some problems I had with the art style and the way levels are designed and I am not happy about the stability problems, but if you really like this type of game it is, you’d probably like it. The main thing that would really prevent me from recommending it is the fact that the online multiplayer is basically dead. If you have friends you can play it with in person it would probably be okay. From a moral perspective, I’d say it would probably be okay to let a kid play it. I’d maybe give it a rating of E 10+ for some of the violence, but I don’t think it is anything that will offend anybody. It is just a pretty looking, okay, dead multiplayer game.

    --Paul Barnard (Betuor)

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    ASSAULT GUNNERS HD EDITION 
    Developed By: SHADE Inc.
    Published By: Marvelous, Marvelous Europe Limited
    Release Date: March 20, 2018
    Available On: Windows, PS4, PS Vita (soon)
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence
    Genre: Action
    Mode: Single Player
    MSRP: $11.99 (Complete), $9.99 without DLC

    Thank you Marvelous for sending us this game to review!

    I’ve always had a soft spot for giant robots. Whether we are talking about the iconic ‘80s Transformers, the great Western franchises BattleTech and MechWarrior, or the Eastern ones like Mobile Suit Gundam, I’ve always given them a chance, and usually liked the results. ASSAULT GUNNERS HD EDITION (the actual title is all caps, sorry) is a HD remake of an obscure mech PS Vita game that was never released here in the West. Now we get to play it on Windows PC and PS4, and for the very reasonable price of $9.99.

    There is a story in Assault Gunners. It has something to do with being on Mars in the distant future and... something. I mostly ignored it because it just got in the way of the next mission and more action. This game is really all about just shooting other robots with your robots. It’s mindless fun, pure and simple.

    It takes place in a third-person view, where you get to see the back of the robot, and shoot, boost, or jump (if you can get it to work), dodge incoming fire, and blast the other robots to pieces. Each mission you earn development points, as well as pick up a certain amount of parts. These parts are used to customize your robot, which can include simpler things like weapons up to things like the entire upper torso or lower torso with legs. These can affect stamina, damage dealt, or movement and rotation speed. There are a ton of options, and you get more to mess with after each mission, so this game will keep any budding robot mechanics happy for some time.

    ASSAULT GUNNERS HD EDITION
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Simple robot blasting action; decent amount of mech customization; good value
    Weak Points: Using mouse + keyboard is almost cheating; no subtitles for most of the in-level Japanese voice acting
    Moral Warnings: Robot violence

    This game was originally designed to run on a PS Vita before being ported to modern platforms, and graphically you can tell; it looks serviceable but not great. When it comes to controls, I noticed keyboard and mouse support, so I thought I would try that first, thinking that I would eventually settle on using a controller like I often do with console ports. That is most definitely not the case here. It’s a single-player only game, so there is no such thing as ‘cheating’, but if there were, it would probably be using a mouse for this game.

    On a gamepad, when you move and you aim, your cursor moves quite slowly. Looking into this on the Steam forums, I discovered that the rotation speed part of the robot specification has a large impact on how quickly you turn, which may make the armor vs. speed tradeoff worth it for many players, which really affects what you would use for the bottom part of the robot. This is not the case with the mouse, because it completely ignores all rotation speed limitations. If you move your mouse quickly, you turn quickly. Most PC players would complain if this was not the case, but it basically breaks the game – it becomes much, much easier, since if you have decent aim with a mouse, you will almost always hit your target. Of course that doesn’t mean that big explosions are somehow left behind now – I still love those grenades for clearing out enemies.

    ASSAULT GUNNERS HD EDITION
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 70%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

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

    And there are a ton of enemies. Depending on the level, there can easily be hundreds of robots, flying drones, or tanks on screen for you to pummel into smithereens on screen at any one time. And if you do want to take things into your own hands, you can do that too – with brass knuckles and such. I usually found myself using grenades to clear areas, and using rapid-fire guns or lasers when trying to take down boss or single powerful units.

    Sometimes a level tasks you with arming (or disarming) various satellites or bombs or some such things. This usually just requires sitting in the same place for about three seconds. It sounds easy, and it usually is, though you may want to clear a path there first if there are too many baddies around. One thing that I found oddly frustrating is that a small number of these points you have to get to are on top of a building or a small hill. This means that you have to use the extremely hard to execute ‘jump’ feature of your robot. I found this a bit easier when using a gamepad, but when using a mouse and keyboard, I would try to jump, and did it almost completely by accident – I was not able to do it on command at any time, but I eventually messed around with the button enough to get it to happen enough times to clear those missions. It’s very strange and a huge misstep in a game that otherwise controls quite well. Also, all of the voice acting is in Japanese with no subtitles, so whatever they are saying to you mid level I was completely oblivious to while playing. The music and sound effects are quite fine and get the job done.

    ASSAULT GUNNERS HD EDITION is perhaps one of the simplest games I’ve played in recent memory. Even Earth Defense Force, which quickly became one of my favorite games after reviewing it a few years ago, seems equally simple at first glace – just blow up alien invaders. But that game has hidden depth that this one seems to lack. It takes hints from games of a past era, and hasn’t really evolved much beyond them. It’s a fun, simple game for when you just want a diversion from the more serious and involving fare that’s out there. And the price is very fair.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Assault Spy
    Developed By: Wazen
    Published By: NIS America, Inc.
    Released: Oct 2, 2018
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Action
    ESRB Rating: Rating Pending
    Number of Players: Single-player
    Price: $29.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you NIS America for sending us a review code!

    I came across Assault Spy when it was in early access. I love action games as they are one of my favorite genres, but as the game was in early access at the time, I simply put it on my wishlist, in hopes it would get a full release. I’ve gotten burned plenty of times on early access games and was not willing to put down money on something that may or may not release. What really caught my attention is the rather unique premise of the game. Typically in action games, you’re either some super powerful human or demigod who may or may not be some chosen one on a grand quest or whatever. In this, you’re simply a salaryman who smashes robots with a briefcase and umbrella. The unconventional weaponry sold me on the game alone and when the game officially came out, I was raring to give it a shot.

    Assault Spy is a 3D “stylish" action game heavily inspired by the Devil May Cry series. Our main character is Asaru Vito, a salaryman who is also a corporate spy for the country of “Japam.” He’s actually quite competent at his job — or at least he was until he was forced to have a sidekick, an irritating yet smug little girl by the name of Kanoko Yotsuba. She wastes no time getting in harm's way, while constantly mocking Asaru for every blunder he makes (no thanks to her of course). Their latest mission is for reconnaissance of the Negabot mega corporation, but as they were on their way to the building, Negabot becomes part of a hostile takeover by Mr. Showtime and his assistant, Chidori. Now, Asaru and Kanoko are forced to save Negabot from the unknown terrorists. Along the way he comes across Irene Yoneda, the development manager of Negabot, and Kazama, a rival spy from another organization.

    Even though the story is never a selling point of these types of games, the story is actually quite humorous. There were quite a few times where I would laugh at Asaru and Kanoko’s interactions. They roll off each other quite nicely with their constant banter and mocking of each other. The overall story is pretty goofy and pokes fun at the business world, and even though the voices are in Japanese, the voice actors do a nice job portraying the emotions of the characters in this outlandish world. I’d say it's worth checking out at least once, but if you simply want action, you can skip all the cutscenes.

    The graphics of Assault Spy are of an anime style. The 2D art in cutscenes is very well drawn and the bright vibrant colors of the characters complement the dull, gray corporate setting. The 3D character models have a plastic, almost costume character look to them, which works fine for the enemy design, but makes the humans looks strange (especially when their lips don't move in cutscenes). Each character, with the exceptions of Amelia and Chidori, share their eye color with their hair color and there are also some small details such as Asaru having bags under his eyes, a cheeky commentary on the overworked Japanese man. Music is also well done, with some of the tracks being dynamic, changing depending on how well you are doing in the fights.

    Assault Spy
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fast-paced, freestyle combat; two playable characters with distinct playstyles; humorous story; humanoid boss battles; great visual and audio clarity; a training mode included to practice combos. 
    Weak Points: The two playable characters share the majority of their levels; not a whole lot of enemy variety; forced stealth section, twice; the UI can at times get in the way of seeing enemies. 
    Moral Warnings: Violence; language throughout with mild swears such as "d*mn," “hell,” "(dumb)@$$," some stronger swears such as "b*st*rd" and "sh*t," and one instance of “f**kin’ b**ch”; one instance of God’s name used in vain; Asaru has some perverted thoughts towards Irene, one of the more well-endowed characters in the game. 

    Assault Spy skips the puzzles and platforming segments that many games of the genre have and instead focuses on pure action with a health point system instead of a health bar. Most of the transitions consist of moving from one room to another, and the overall amount of rooms that don’t have action and require precise movement are a handful at the most. Every room that battles take place in are an arena with lots of open room to maneuver around. Sometimes there are destructible environments in place such as glass cube dividers. The scenery is rather unique for action-oriented games since the entire plot takes place in a corporate facility. Levels contain areas such as the general office floors, complete with cubicles, a courtyard, a parking garage, and even the rooftops of the building. Enemies even consists of things that you would expect a business to have, such as traffic cones, drones, electronic signs, and even robotic businessmen (well maybe not robotic businessmen, at least not yet). I adore this style as I rarely see things like this in video games, let alone in the action genre, outside of a specific level or two at most.

    Asaru’s playstyle is fast and smooth, almost like a ninja. In the beginning, he only starts off with his briefcase which acts as his light and medium attacks, and exploding business cards as projectiles. A little into the game, he gains access to his umbrella, which acts as his heavy attack with a wide arc. The umbrella is great for crowd control, but can potentially leave him open for attacks. His dodge and dash button are combined with tapping to dodge and holding the button to run. If an attack is dodged at the right time, the dodge will have invincibility frames. Asaru revolves mostly around just frames, a technique and term adopted from Bandai Namco’s Soul Calibur and Tekken series. In Assault Spy, the technique is appropriately named JUST, and when an action is performed during a specific frame, the following action will do increased damage. Unlike Tekken/Soul Calibur, the timing for JUST attacks are pretty generous, and even have a visual cue as a shine on his briefcase. With a press of a button, Kanoko will come to Asaru’s aid, acting as a decoy to attract enemy attention. Asaru also has access to an “Overdrive” mode where he gains increased speed, as well as invulnerability for a short time.

    A bit more into Asaru’s story, you unlock Amelia Smith, a reckless CIA agent from “Mamerica” who is a great combatant, but is terrible at the actual spy work. She also likes to squeeze in random English words into her Japanese from time to time. Amelia does have similar control to Asaru in movement, but her fighting style is vastly different from his, with heavier concentrated strikes. She uses a form of martial arts enhanced by her shock gloves and shoes. Her gimmick is that with every attack from her fists, a meter builds up which, depending on how full it is, will give her charge attacks various properties or greater damage. She also has a pistol as a projectile and a halberd-like weapon which acts as her heavy attack.

    Like most action games, Assault Spy has an in-game currency which can be used to buy upgrades, and depending on the ranking you earn for each battle, you gain a bonus amount. Both characters only have a handful of moves at their disposal in the beginning. When more moves are purchased is when the game really starts to shine. Whoever Wazen is, they did their homework quite well. Almost every move and action can be chained and canceled into each other. Combos can cancel into a jump, which can be chained into a charged attack, which can go into a dodge, and so on and so forth. The control of the game is so buttery smooth and seamless that it’s an absolute joy to get into, and gives off a sense of progression as your skills and reaction time increase and lead to some crazy and stylish action, zipping across the field like an absolute madman. Controllers are the preferred option for me, but keyboard and mouse is completely usable and has the better potential if gotten used to. Both can be remapped to your liking which is always great.

    The visual and audio clarity play an important role as the camera stays in place when in battle, unless you manually operate it. Even if enemies are off the screen, there are indicators from both the user interface and in the game itself that give you notification that an enemy is going to attack. All your attacks and actions have distinct sound and visual effects that pop out and are very noticeable to indicate if an attack connects or whiffs. There is one instance of the UI kind of getting in the way, and that is the points section. There were a few moments when all of those points were racking up, I couldn’t exactly tell how far or close the enemy was to me, which led to me getting hit, but it didn’t happen often enough for me to get annoyed with it. Going back to the corporate office setting, you would think that all those cubicles and objects would be visually impairing, but if an object is in the way, the character and enemy gain an outline that gives off a distinctive glow. I really love this choice as there were many action games that I’ve played where I couldn’t tell if an enemy was being obscured by an object. The developer adds all these small aspects to their game that add to the overall enjoyment of the product.

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

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 76%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 3/10
    Sexual Content - 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Everyone understands that the human or human-like boss fights in action games tend to be the best bosses in the genre. A test between two similar foes, equal in power. Fights like these are fondly remembered by the community and for good reason, like the bouts between Vergil in Devil May Cry 3 and the conflicts with Jeanne in Bayonetta 1. Luckily, the developers took note of this and make every boss battle in the game a human-like fight. Most bosses in the game have a guard meter below their health bar, which gives them super armor (the ability to not be flinched when attacking) in the front. If attacked enough times from the front, their guard will break for a limited amount of time, which gives you free reign to wail on them as much as possible for as long as the meter is depleted. Slapping around the bosses in the arena and seeing how far and long I can juggle them in the air is almost a euphoric feeling. The boss fights are easily my favorite part of the game and human-like bosses are my favorite to fight in action games as they demonstrate the best the combat system has to offer.

    But of course, like every action game, the developer has to add something completely stupid and unnecessary. For Assault Spy, this is stealth sections. Don’t get me wrong — I like stealth and stealth games. I just don’t like stealth sections in non-stealth games because they are always implemented poorly, and are also a lazy way to pad games with content. I didn't like them when I was a kid, and I still do not like them to this day. It’s bad enough that Asaru has a stealth section, but you have to do it again as Amelia and it's the same exact thing. Fortunately, in subsequent playthroughs on a completed file, you can skip the section entirely and just continue on with the action. There are also some minor annoyances like the enemy variety and that Ameila sharing a lot of the same level design as Asaru, but at least every enemy (except for one) is unique from each other and Amelia plays so differently from Asaru that it manages to not feel repetitive.

    And now we’re finally at the morality section. Of course there is the obvious violence and some of the violence is directed towards humans. There is language in the game and it starts off with mild forms of language such as "d*mn," “hell,” various usages of "@$$," and one usage of "sh*t" in Asaru’s story. In Amelia’s story, the language is a bit more frequent as "sh*t" is used numerous times, and one instance of “f**kin’ b**ch.” I assume Amelia’s story has more swearing in it due to the stereotype that Japanese (and I guess everyone else when you really think about it) have towards Americans, in that they swear a lot. There are other F’s uttered, but are all bleeped out by the game for comedic effect. God’s name in vain is also used once. No blood is present in the game as the majority of the enemies are robots. When Asaru first sees Irene, he does have an inappropriate thought, which Kanoko obviously teases him for it as she notices him staring at Irene’s breasts.

    For a relatively unknown game with a budget and production nowhere near the titles it took inspiration from, the small team at Wazen managed to create a work of art that is nearly on par with its stylish action brethren. Assault Spy is a great game that I can easily recommend to fans of the genre, at least if they are around a teen age. Thankfully, most of the flaws are minor at best such as some grammatical errors, some wonky translation at times that the more savvy anime consumers might catch, and one moment where Asaru and Kanoko switch voices for a brief moment. Most of these can be fixed in a future patch. It also runs great as long as shadows aren't set to "MAX" (shadows are notorious for killing performance in many games). I personally haven’t run into any detrimental bugs or crashes, though I've heard that some players ran into issues with Asaru where he would lock in place, and the only way to recover is to restart from a previous checkpoint.

    The campaign may take only 4-6 hours to complete for each character, but there is plenty to come back for such as a boss rush when the game is completed once with either character. There also exists a gauntlet of battles called the Death March, where you will tackle 50 challenging stages as a timer counts down to zero, and they must be beaten all in one sitting. A tag team mode unlocks when you beat the game as both characters where you can switch between both characters instantly, further adding to the combo potential. After the game is completed with either character, there are two unlockable difficulty modes which not only change up enemy placement, but also makes enemies more aggressive and gives you less health, as well as other extra goodies once you beat those modes and difficulty levels. $30 may seem like a lot for an indie game, but it has content that comes close to its $60 counterparts. I would really like to see Assault Spy come out on consoles in the near future as it is crazy fun — furthermore, in what other game will you ever get the chance to beat things over the head with a briefcase?

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Astral Chain
    Developed By: PlatinumGames
    Published By: Nintendo
    Released: August 30, 2019
    Available On: Nintendo Switch
    Genre: Action, Adventure, Hack and Slash
    ESRB Rating: T for Drug Reference, Language, Use of Alcohol, Violence
    Number of Players: 1 player / 2 player co-op mode where the second player controls the Legion.
    Price: $59.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Astral Chain is a hack and slash action game developed by PlatinumGames, a studio well known in this genre for great titles such as NieR: Automata and Bayonetta. It was directed by Automata's lead designer, Takahisa Taura; with help from Devil May Cry and Bayonetta creator Hideki Kamiya. People were extremely excited for this game just for these names alone, and I'm glad to say they were not disappointed.

    Astral Chain takes place in the near future, where creatures from another dimension, known as Chimeras, have started to pop up. These creatures appear through rifts between the two worlds known as Gates. They often kidnap humans and take them back through the gate, into a dimension of terror known as the Astral Plane. Worse still, Chimeras bring with them a dangerous material known as Red Matter. If humans are exposed to this energy long enough, they start to Red Shift; turning into aberrations, which are monsters similar to Chimeras. These threats were starting to pose a real threat to humanity. One man, named Yoseph, decided something had to be done in order to save it.

    Yoseph built what he called an Ark, a structure designed to house and protect humanity from any further damage. He got as many humans known to be safe and took them onto the Ark, then sent it out into the ocean. They lived peacefully for many years, but Chimeras soon started to appear on the Ark, causing Red Shift and taking humans precious to survival back to the Astral Plane. This reached a boiling point in one of the Zones of the Ark, Zone 9. Though they tried to combat it, without possessing a true weapon against Chimeras, they were forced to abandon the battle and lock away Zone 9. After this, Yoseph decided a weapon was needed to fight back.

    At the start of the game we're given a female or male character to choose from, soon revealed to be twins. The character you choose can change their hair style and color, as well as eye color and name. It turns out the twins are both employed in the Ark City Police Department, and at the start of the game we're on a mission to backup overwhelmed officers in the city. We fight some aberrations using a motorcycle equipped with guns in a short on-rails segment, then reach the city. We fight a few enemies while the game teaches us the basics of combat, then meet with our twin. It's a short reunion, however, as we're soon attacked by invisible enemies.

    After fighting for a few moments before ultimately losing, we're saved by our father, Maximilian Howard, as well as his two partners. Using a creature similar to the invisible ones, they defeat the monsters. We learn that their group is part of a secret division of the police called Neuron, and they fight Chimeras using a Legion. This creature is very similar to a Chimera, but has been shackled and can be controlled by the user, known as a Legionis. The twins are then given some cool equipment, as well as a Legion of their own, to serve and protect humanity.

    Astral Chain
    Dealing the final blow to a strong Chimera
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fast-paced gameplay; amazing art style and visual quality; great soundtrack; fun controls
    Weak Points: Rare frame rate dips; poor writing
    Moral Warnings: Some language and blasphemy present; talk of ascending humanity; monster design possibly inspired by biblical demons

    Like other Platinum titles, Astral Chain has great core gameplay. The main mechanic present in this game is what I would describe as parallel fighting, where you control both your character and their Legion at the same time. Fights are always interesting due to the challenge in controlling both things at the same time, as well as many other mechanics in battle. The first of which being what weapon you'll choose to use. At the start of the game you're given an X-Baton, which can stay as a baton for fast and close up attacks, or transform into a blaster for anti-air and ranged attacks. Later on you'll unlock the ability to change it into a giant sword known as a Gladius, which is insanely strong but incredibly slow.

    There are also different types of Legions in the game, each with their own fighting style and ability. The Sword Legion is quick and strong, and excels at close-ranged fighting. The Arrow Legion is slower and weak, but is the only Legion capable of taking down flying enemies. The Arm Legion is the second slowest and quite strong, with the unique ability of allowing the player to wear the Legion like a suit of armor, offering protection and allowing you to use powerful attacks together. The Beast Legion is like a giant K-9, and can be ridden; allowing you to easily traverse the map if you need to get somewhere quick. It's the fastest Legion in battle, but also the weakest. The Axe Legion is a hulking beast, possessing incredible strength, but lacking heavily in speed. It has the ability to generate a shield around itself, protecting the player from attacks or environmental obstacles.

    Every Legion has an energy bar, and when it is used completely the Legion disappears, leaving you totally exposed and open to attack. If you let your energy bar go fully down, your Legion will need to recharge quite a bit of energy just to reappear. You have the ability to bring out and call back your Legion, allowing you to choose whether you want to use up all your energy or make sure it doesn't run out. Your energy bar fills up quickly when the Legion is called back, and doing damage with your weapons fills the bar back up. As such in battle you need to balance your own health and the Legion's energy, making sure they're working fine in parallel.

    There are many other fighting mechanics in Astral Chain, such as sync attacks. First you must finish a combo, which is usually a string of about 5 hits. Once you land the final hit in a combo, you'll hear a sort of shimmering sound, time will slow down for a short period of time, and a blue flash will appear over your character; signaling that you can perform a sync attack. If you choose to do so, you'll use up a bit of your energy, and your Legion will use a strong combo depending on its type and your weapon. The Sword Legion does multiple sync attacks if you use the Baton, but only one if you use the Blaster or Gladius. The Arrow Legion does multiple attacks if you use the Blaster, but not the Baton or Gladius. You constantly have to monitor your own health and the Legion's energy, while performing sync attacks, swapping weapons or Legion types, and many other things I don't want to include as not to spoil the experience nor make this review too long.

    Outside of combat, you do some actual detective work. During these segments, you'll try to find information on a certain individual, where a Chimera went, and other things of the sort. As you talk to NPCs you'll pick up words relevant to your investigation and save them in your police notes. You can also find a number of side quests on your investigation, known as Blue Files and Red Files. These are usually things like finding a person or animal, getting some sort of item or defeating a group of enemies. After you obtain all the information relevant to your main objective, you must find your partner. You'll then have to compile the information you've been getting and figure out what's going down.

    Now you might be thinking, "what about the rest of the game?" I'm happy to say that although a good bit of effort went into the gameplay, Astral Chain's crowning jewel is its world. Astral Chain features a previously mentioned futuristic world, and embraces a futuristic Cyberpunk theme beautifully. The Ark is full of amazing art and detail that made me stop and enjoy the scenery, providing a great distraction between fights as not to bore the player. Many great locations are present in this game, such as Central City, a sprawling metropolis full of vehicles, ads, neon lights and screens. At its center lies Harmony Square, designed around the infamous Times Square.

    Astral Chain
    The beautiful Central City
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 78%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 5/10
    Sexual Content - 9/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 6/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    Providing a large area to explore and discover, with gorgeous visuals and interesting side quests, I genuinely enjoyed just walking around this area for an hour or more, seeing how many things were packed into it. Later on in the game we visit a city abandoned by the government, full of citizens cramped into small and trashed places, living bleak lives yet holding on to hope through the despair they face. There's also the Aegis Research Facility, a cold and industrial science lab that's empty and lifeless, reflecting the experiments and evils that are likely contained inside the walls.

    There was a lot of effort put into the unique appearance of each section of the game, and it shines through beautifully, accurately representing the feel of each area and the citizens or events that exist within them. Beyond that it looks absolutely stellar, and the clean anime art style combines perfectly with the realistic cyberpunk theme. It runs at an almost rock-solid 30FPS, though there are some very rare frame rate drops during intense battles. Coming off the back of disappointing performance and visuals in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, I was impressed that such graphics could be achieved without a noticeable sacrifice in frame rate or resolution. One thing that should be noted, however, is a lack of any anti-aliasing. Though I personally don't mind it and think it adds to the sharpness of the art style, it should be mentioned for those who hate the shimmering jagged lines of a game without anti-aliasing. In my 20 hours of playtime, I never even noticed it until it was pointed out to me.

    Now we move on to my favorite part of Astral Chain: the [b]incredible[/b] soundtrack. It cannot be stressed enough how amazing this soundtrack is, both in and outside of the game! Combining ambient piano with powerful choirs, and stringed instruments, banging metal and pumping electronic sounds, this soundtrack has something for everyone. When outside of battle, calm tracks play that invite a playfulness that promotes investigation and exploration. Inside of battle, however, the gloves are taken off. Pounding electronic music is fused with rocking metal to provide the perfect backing to the all-out brawls that fights end up being.

    Astral Chain controls excellently. Not once did I feel that the game cheated me with a misinput or cheaply designed system, and recognized my failures were my lack of focus. The dual control system works flawlessly and never felt like a chore to use. You move your character using the left analogue stick, use the right trigger to attack, and the right shoulder button to call back your Legion. You hold down the left trigger to command your Legion, and then use the right analogue stick to move him around. The left shoulder button is used to activate your Legion's unique ability, such as the Arm Legion's armor, or the Axe Legion's shield. The face buttons are for using items, swapping Legions, dodging from attacks or interacting with objects. The D-Pad is used for swapping weapons, as well as checking your notes or taking a photo.

    I would like to mention the writing quality, which is a bit... subpar. It's not terrible but there's an overreliance on tropes that are common to anime, which can lead to some scenes just being very cheesy or generic. It's obvious that the writing was tossed to the side in this game in order to give us an amazing world with great controls and music. And while I do believe it was the right thing to do, it is a bit sad that the writing is carried by the world and gameplay. The last thing I'll note is that the game could be considered short, being around 20 hours long, with some post game missions that are just battles against most enemies present in the game. While these semi-boss rush battles are fun, they can get stale when played back to back. If you missed side quests earlier in the game, you can load previous sections and go back to find them, compete for better scores on levels or just play them again. Overall I believe Astral Chain has a good length, not stretched out to ruin the flow of the game, nor condensed to feel unfairly short.

    Astral Chain contains several references to biblical Christianity, such as Noah's Ark and the creatures known as Legions, the name of a group of demons that were mentioned in the Apostles. Though there are no religions present in the game. There are references to ascending humanity and the typical "become like gods" trope. Some slight language is present; the occasional d### or h###, with some blasphemy here and there, but not enough for me to remember any. There was also some s###, b#### or a##, though these were almost never said. There are some futuristic drugs present in the game, as well as some drinkers, but they were few and far between. There are some Chimeras or characters with somewhat questionable design, but there's nothing revealing or detailed enough to note. There are enemies or scenes that could be seen as disturbing, though compared to other games they're quite weak. Overall I'd say Astral Chain deserves its teen rating; it's not perfect but definitely not bad for a modern action title.

    All of these things combined into an experience that was incredibly enjoyable, and one I have no problem with experiencing again in the future. The deep gameplay, stunning visuals, amazing soundtrack and optimized controls culminated in one game that I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone.

    - Remington

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Attack on Titan
    Developed by: Omega Force
    Published by: Koei Tecmo
    Release date: August 30, 2016
    Available on: PS3, PS4, Vita, Xbox One, Windows
    Genre: Action
    Number of players: Up to four players local and online
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Violence
    Price: $39.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Koei Tecmo for sending us a review code for this game!

    My husband and I enjoyed the Attack On Titan anime which this game recreates in its Attack Mode single-player campaign. If you have any plans on watching the anime, you may want to do that first because this game will spoil it for you otherwise!

    The premise is that humanity is struggling to survive and has walled themselves in as a last resort to protect themselves from huge titans that pick them up and eat them whole. Things get hairy as the walls (which are named after goddesses) get breached and titans flood in and ravage the towns. To make matters worse, some of the trusted soldiers have the ability to turn into titans. Humanity has to fight back if they want to survive.

    The main character is Eren Jaeger who watched his mother get eaten when he was a young boy. Since then he vowed to fight back and to avenge his mother’s death. The single player campaign takes you through his boot camp experiences, being assigned to the military police, and later the scout regimen. The scout regimen is held in high regard by the civilians since they are the only group to leave the city’s walls and often return with fewer soldier than they departed with.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Engaging story that is true to the anime; fast paced action; great visuals; active multiplayer
    Weak Points: Survey mode is not as fun as the story driven or online adventures; Japanese only voice acting
    Moral Warnings: Despite being able to disable blood, plenty is shown in the cut scenes; limbs and appendages will be cut off from the titans on numerous occasions; the titans do not wear clothes but they don’t have reproductive organs either; language (b*stards, d*mn); references to goddesses

    While you’re a cadet you’ll learn how to use your equipment and how to efficiently take down these towering titans. The titans have a vulnerable spot at the nape of their neck and in order to reach it or any of their other limbs you’ll need to use special ODM Gear, which uses gas canisters to thrust you into the air. Between the grappling hooks and ODM Gear you’ll be slinging yourself around like Spider-Man. Be sure to watch your gauge levels, refill your gas canisters, and replace your dull blades as needed. There are replenishment points on the battlefield so be sure to make note of their locations.

    The titans come in various sizes and they are all deadly. If you get picked up by one you’ll have to mash the triangle button repeatedly to slice off their fingers to free yourself. Some of the titans are tougher and smarter than others. Later in the game you’ll come across ones that require taking out their limbs before you can do any damage to the nape of their neck. Other variants toughen their muscles and do a number on your blades if you strike them in a hardened spot.

    In the beginning of the game you can disable gore which is a nice feature. Even with that option enabled I still saw plenty of blood in the cutscenes and limbs/appendages sliced off throughout the game. Watching people being eaten is rather unsettling as you see their body parts bitten off. The titans don’t wear any clothes, but they don’t have reproductive organs either. The humans don’t know how they reproduce and most of the attacking titans are masculine in appearance.

    The story mode comprises of three chapters and throughout the campaign you’ll be switching between various squad mates and a titan! You’ll unlock characters for the Exhibition Mode as you play through the Attack Mode. After the credits roll, you can still complete various side quests and scouting missions. The scouting missions have single-player/survey missions or multiplayer expedition missions. You can play along with friends or people online. I had no problem finding people to play alongside online.

    Attack on Titan
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

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

    Morality Score - 67%
    Violence - 3.5/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Though the scouting missions help you acquire materials and items to better your equipment, they are nearly as fun as the story missions in my opinion. Depending on how well you do on a mission you’ll be given a letter grade, materials, medals, and money towards researching better gear. I like how you can combine items to make better ones or look into new technology altogether. Be sure to check up for better models of all of your gear and horses throughout the game.

    Despite the short story mode there is still plenty to do with the exploration missions, side quests and online play. Fans of the anime will enjoy the story and may even recognize the voice actors that reprised their roles for this game. Sadly the voice acting is all in Japanese, but it’s still very well done.

    The 3D cel-shaded artwork is really neat and stays true to the look and feel of the anime it's based off of. There are lots of different looking titans to slay and plenty of variety in locations to do it in. This game ran great on my PS4 Pro.

    Overall, any fan of the Attack On Titan anime should look into this game. The active multiplayer community is refreshing to see even after being released almost a year ago. The same moral issues are present in the anime will be found in this title. Because of the blood, violence, and mild language, this is not a game to be played near or by children. Chances are the titans may give young kids nightmares since they are pretty creepy.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Attack on Titan 2
    Developed by: Omega Force
    Published by: Koei Tecmo
    Release date: March 14, 2018
    Available on: PS4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Action
    Number of players: Single-player, online multiplayer
    ESRB Rating: Mature for violence, blood and gore, language, partial nudity
    Price: $42.05
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

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

    Attack on Titan 2 plays very similarly to the first game. However, instead of playing as the lead character Eren Jaeger, you’re literally a nobody who is only remembered by a journal they left behind. The gender and the name of the character are determined by the player. Your character is a 104th regimen cadet who is training alongside the characters known from the first game and the anime it’s based on. If you haven’t seen the anime, you’ll probably want to do so since the story will be spoiled for you otherwise.

    The premise is that humankind is on the brink of extinction because these ginormous titans enjoy snacking on them. To protect themselves they have erected several tall walls to separate themselves from the titans. Each of the walls is named after a goddess and houses many villages and wooded land between them. In the past one hundred years there have been breaches in the walls and the humans are trying to reclaim their territory and fight back against the endless attacks from the nearby titans.

    Your cadet is training for three years to go into either the military police, the garrison, or the scouts. The military police is the most sought after group since they have the least amount of danger. However, only the top 10% are allowed to join their forces. The garrison regiment is in charge of keeping order within the walls. The scouts are the ones responsible for studying and fighting the titans outside of the walls. They suffer the most casualties as a result.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great (though mostly repeated) story; solid action and controls; good (Japanese) voice acting; nice visuals
    Weak Points: Nobody to play alongside online
    Moral Warnings: Blood and violence as you slice the napes of and dismember titans; the titans are naked but they lack genitalia; language (*ss, b*stard, d*mn); references to goddesses

    Much of the story is the same as the first game in regards to the traitors among the group who have the ability to transform into titans. While Eren has the ability to do so, he is fighting for humanity instead of against them. He is not the only good titan though. The identity of the colossal and armored titans are revealed later on in this game. In fact, not much new story content is shown until you’re 75% through with the single-player campaign.

    Thankfully, several new abilities are introduced to keep the game interesting despite the mostly repeated story. During your missions, you can build various bases that can replenish your supplies and attack nearby titans. Of course, the titans don’t take kindly to being attacked and will head toward these bases and attack them. There’s a wide variety of missions and sometimes you’ll get to play from a titan’s perspective. I found the missions where you have to capture the titans alive the most challenging.

    At the end of a mission you’ll be graded by how quickly you completed it and by how many titans you defeated along with how many optional objectives you completed. During most of the missions a fellow cadet or two will send up a green flare indicating that they’re in danger. If you don’t get there in time to rescue them, they will die. Granted these are often no-name soldiers like yourself, but they will still be gone from the game until you complete the main story and can have a chance to go back and rescue them.

    Between battles, you can walk around town and talk to your fellow squad mates. As you build up friendships with them various cutscenes will unlock. Along with funny sequences, you’ll also get to unlock attributes and abilities when your friendships level up. Completing scouting missions will bolster your popularity as well. Another benefit to friendships is unlocking your buddies as playable characters in Another Mode/multiplayer portion of the game. While Another Mode can be played solo, it’s the place to be to arrange multiplayer campaigns and battles. Sadly, I couldn’t find anyone to play alongside or battle with online.

    Attack on Titan 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 67%
    Violence - 3.5/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Though the single-player campaign is a bit short and can be completed in a little over ten hours, there is still plenty to do after completing the main story. I like how you can continue the story after the credits roll. Along with rescuing people you let die previously, you can try again at some conversations that didn’t go correctly the first time around. An inferno Mode unlocks after completing the story and this mode doesn’t hold your hand or give you any mercy.

    Aside from the new modes and features, everything else is on par with the first game. The cell shaded graphics are excellent and the titans are pretty detailed and hideous in appearance. Though gore can be minimized, there are still splashes of blood in the cutscenes. It’s kind of hard to avoid bloodshed when you’re required to slice into and remove appendages from the titans.

    The Japanese voice acting is good as well and I believe the voice actors carried over from the previous game. There’s a fair amount of cussing and it’s sub titled for those who haven’t learned the naughty Japanese words yet.

    In the end, I’m not sure if this game justifies the $60 price tag since most of the story is rehashed. It’s still fun to play and there is plenty of things to do and new content to see. If you really enjoy the anime and the first game, you’ll probably enjoy this one as well. If you’re looking for multiplayer fun, you’ll be disappointed here.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan
    Developer: Kiro'o Games
    Published by: Plug In Digital
    Release Date: April 14, 2016
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Action, Adventure
    Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: Unrated
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you Kiro'o Games for sending us the review code.

    Some say that your first game won't be that good and you might not want to release it. This doesn't apply to every game dev out there. Yet the newer you are the more people tell you to slow down. With Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan I am confident to say that the game released not only kept to its Kickstarter promises, but it's a fairly decent game. While it is by no means a perfect game, I can give a preview of my thoughts and say I can recommend this game with some asterisks. Let's go redeem Enzo with Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan.

    Aurion is set in a world steeped in old African culture. You play as Enzo Kori-Odan, the prince of Zama. This young man is set to marry the love of his life, Erine Evou, and take over as the ruling King and Queen. However, his vile brother in law stages a coup to take over the kingdom. You and your wife are exiled from your kingdom to a far away corner of the world. Enzo must find the secrets of the Aurion, an energy channeled by the strongest of warriors to become powerful enough to defeat those who would lay claim to his crown.

    Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A unique beat 'em up game that has very fast paced combat and a strong story. 
    Weak Points: Animations can make the game seem a bit clunky or slow in non combat parts of the game. The game will feel repetitive after awhile and the story will make or break it for some gamers.
    Moral Warnings: Standard video game violence, you have some slight sexual references as well. There are mystical and voodoo themes some may find bothersome. 

    Gameplay is the usual beat 'em up formula. You fight using combo attacks, spells and Aurion techniques to take down enemies as quickly as possible. Your abilities come in many varieties from damage spells to his ancestral Aurionic techniques. His wife Erin serves as a spell caster. She learns different mystic abilities to heal her husband, boost his power, or fight with strong spells. As they level up Enzo can learn different Aurionic forms, combat styles and spells along with his wife. Past a certain point in the game you can discover ways to fuse your Aurionic forms to create even more powerful abilities. The story kept me on the edge of my seat. The pacing of the game felt like it was tested and they knew exactly how to string the player along without holding hands or losing attention. Despite some issues that felt like they could have been better balanced the story does help carry the game.

    The soundtrack is an original African folk music style and it's quite catchy to listen to. The controls are mostly tight though the climbing mechanic can use a bit of work. When you climb there seems to be a small bit of input lag that I was able to recreate on keyboard. Other than climbing issues the controls are free flowing and simple in combat. This game's Macromedia flash style makes the animations seem like it's running at less than 60 frames even though my computer would tell me otherwise. 

    Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 78%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 8/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 6/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The game gets repetitive rather fast. Games don't necessarily need lots of variety in what you can do to make the game good. Yet when you're relying on combat alone it is going to be hit or miss with a lot of people. The Aurionic forms seem to make the game a little unbalanced. You have a skill to charge your ability points at the cost of some health, yet with plentiful healing items and Erine's healing spell, I was able to keep my Aurionic abilities active from the beginning to the end of most battles. Changing the difficulty only seemed to add more health and damage to enemies so I already knew what was coming in each fight. 

    The game has a lot of references to tribal mysticism and voodoo with specific characters. The elemental energies of the Aurion as well as the animal spirits they channel in particular moves could be seen as voodoo. Characters use the word b*tch once and some sexual references are made to a married couple sleeping together. I'd recommend this game to a teen age group.

    I want to congratulate Kiro'o Games for making a decent game for a first attempt. I hope that your own legacy will grow in the game industry just like Enzo's does in Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan. 

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Ballistic Tanks
    Developed By: Kirk Lucas
    Published By: KL Studios
    Released: September 20, 2016
    Available On: Windows, Mac and Linux
    Genre: Arcade, Action
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: 1-4 offline
    Price: $4.99 (Steam)

    Do you remember the ‘80s and ‘90s video game arcades?  As a child, I only got to experience them at the amusements on holiday.  The retro graphics with bright shimmering colours, blazing out sounds as if they compete against the other arcade cabinets.  Ballistic Tanks brings back that feeling as an arcade shoot ‘em up.  When you load up the game the main menu has a mini demo of AI tanks battling each other as loud music pumps out the beats.  It’s already enticing you to play and you don’t need any quarters.

    You can play single-player, 2 player co-op or multiplayer with up to 4 players.  The premise is simple: Destroy enemy tanks and be the last tank remaining.  There is no network support, it’s couch co-op.

    In single-player and co-op you earn coins, which are dropped randomly by destroyed tanks. Pick them up before they disappear from the arena and you get to spend the coins on upgrading your tank on the next play through.

    There are also other random drops that upgrade your tank in lieu of purchasing them and include special abilities otherwise unavailable, e.g. a bubble shield that effectively gives an extra life and a laser that shoots through walls.

    Ballistic Tanks
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Bright and colourful graphics; fast paced action; multiplayer with co-op
    Weak Points: Some game breaking bugs; limited solo replayability
    Moral Warnings: Destroying other tanks that disappear in an explosion.

    Multiplayer is a 4 player affair and will automatically assign bots for any absent players.  It includes several modes to keep you interested.  Powershift is the most interesting, adding a gameplay modifier to each round that adds to the fun, e.g. small tanks, hostile environments, and modified weapons.  Juggernaut has a central capture location which will turn the capturer into a juggernaut tank.  In all modes, the winner in each round earns a gold star.  The first player to win 5 gold stars wins the match.

    There is enough gameplay and content to keep you entertained in solo player mode for the first few hours.  The novelty really lies in it becoming something you'd pick up and play for short bursts.   Multiplayer will add to its longevity if you have friends or family around to play.

    Firing at and destroying other tanks provides satisfaction to the ears, and the eyes are equally pleased with simple 2D presentation enhanced by bright colours and graphical effects.   The music and sound effects complement the ongoing action.

    Your tank can be controlled via mouse and keyboard or gamepad. For multiple players additional gamepads will be required.  I found using the mouse and keyboard to be easier as the mouse pointer can be used to gauge your shots better than with a thumbstick.

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

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

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

     

    Levels are given variety through destructible walls and conveyor belts.  There are also entryways allowing you to quickly traverse through to the opposite side of the arena.

    The AI is pretty basic, relying on numbers to increase the difficulty. The AI doesn't know how to work the entryways I mentioned earlier, which can be used to the player's advantage.  They can also get stuck behind walls and other tanks as they struggle to find the best route to the player.

    There is nothing morally concerning outside of destroying other tanks.  When playing multiplayer you will be shooting each other.  The game does not state if the tanks are occupied or if they are radio controlled and there is no indication there are people inside of the tanks.

    Ballistic Tanks is a fun game with appeal for those wanting to scratch their retro gaming itch or who like a quick shoot ‘em up.  It’s a fast-paced action game requiring twitch-like reflexes while keeping one eye on your tank and the other on all others.  There is fun for the solo player and even more fun when friends are involved.

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Bastion
    Developed by: Supergiant Games
    Published by: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
    Released: August 16, 2011
    Available On: Windows, Linux, macOS, iOS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, and Use of Alcohol and Tobacco
    Genre: Isometric Action
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)


    The soul of Bastion is the soul of a fairy tale, from the music to the voice acting to the art style. The gameplay driving you through this story of loss, regret, and survival is filled with options and the motivation to explore them. Bastion does not offer the tight mechanical fun of the great platformers or the narrative depth of more cinematic games. Instead, come to Bastion to let your mind explore. The developer, Supergiant Games, describes the effect well in their mission statement: “to make games that spark your imagination like the games you played as a kid”. Sit down, pick up a controller, and let Bastion tell you a story.

    The player is dropped into the broken fantasy world of Caelondia with little fanfare. The player character, known only as the Kid, wakes up following an event called the Calamity. His only companions are a hammer and the gravelly voice of the Narrator. The hammer can be switched out later for one of the game’s ten other weapons, but the Narrator’s voice remains. He gives running commentary of the game's events, recounting the actions the player takes as if telling a story by the campfire. The story is minimal, and the Narrator gives you just enough to get connected to the world and wonder what happened to it. Most of the Kid’s time is spent expanding and repairing the Bastion, a safe haven in the midst of the Calamity. He does this by collecting cores of power from the levels spread around Caelondia.

    The Narrator has an extensive script, but it is never burdensome. This is thanks to excellent writing and delivery along with Bastion’s unique story mechanic: the reactive script. If you stay in an area, the Narrator has a comment for it. If you blaze through enemies with no trouble, he might comment on that. He says a unique line for each of the fifty-five two-weapon-loadout combinations. The player doesn’t hear character conversations directly; instead, the Narrator describes them. This technique keeps the story moving and provides continuity to the storybook feel of playing Bastion.

    Joining the Narrator is a stunning soundtrack. It has a frontier flavor to match the Kid’s exploration of The Wilds. It is creative, unique, and plain good listening. There are a few vocal tracks which especially dominate their respective levels. The soundtrack is available for purchase, and I encourage you to check it out after playing the game.

    Bastion
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Beautiful environment and music; well-written, reactive narration; customizable play through buff, debuff, weapon loadout, and weapon upgrade variety
    Weak Points: Camera angle makes precise movement and aiming difficult; customization is limited for the first half of the game
    Moral Warnings: The player character kills people and animals in a cartoon-styled but seriously-themed world; characters recognize a pantheon of gods

    The world of Caelondia has a beautiful, painted style which belies the dark events of the story. The country is quite literally broken, floating in the air as chunks of land. Tiles to walk on rise from below as you approach. Each of the twenty-or-so levels has its own flavor and background. Here’s an old military outpost; there’s the remains of a port town; this mountain has become a center for the few animal survivors of the Calamity. The varied creative animals of Caelondia make up most of the enemies. Different types require different approaches, and levels lend themselves to certain weapons. This ensures that your playstyle is often changed up at the cost of making some weapon combinations virtually unworkable.

    The weapons are as varied as the enemies and environments. You always have access to a shield with counter-attack capabilities. There’s the hammer, a bow, a dart launcher, a machete, a spear, several guns, fire-spewing bellows, and more. All can be upgraded with components found in the levels. Each upgrade tier has two options, and you can switch between them anytime you visit the Forge. Upgrades include damage-over-time, homing, armor-piercing, charged shot, and others. Along with two weapons, you can equip a limited-use, rechargeable ability. You can equip stat-boosting elixirs (health, speed, defense, shooting spikes when at low health) alongside debuffs with rewards (increased experience, increased material, etc.). The Kid levels with experience earned by killing enemies, gaining a new buff slot and some HP at each level.

    The downside is that you open up many of these gameplay options by rebuilding the Bastion, and that happens over time. After collecting a Core, you choose a single structure to build. If you build the Armory, you won’t have access to the upgrade Forge yet. If you build the buff Distillery, you won’t have the special quest Memorial. You get all the structures before the game’s halfway point, but it can make for some frustrating moments early in the game. This is mitigated somewhat by buildings being accessible within some levels. However, each level becomes inaccessible once you clear it, so this utility is limited.

    In step with the increased capabilities of the Bastion are new ways and new reasons to use your fancy toys. Weapons have a challenge stage associated with them. For example, the hammer level requires smashing trash in a dump, and the level built for the pistol, which fires bullets as quickly as you can click, turns the Kid into a dueling sharpshooter. You gain rewards including materials, special abilities, and experience.

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

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 86%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    It should be noted that these stages and weapons are integrated into Caelondia and the narration without a hitch. This is especially true of the character challenge stages, accessible directly from the Bastion as the story progresses. Each of the few named characters is associated with an item in the Bastion. Interact with it, and you are transported to Who Knows Where, a dreamland where you fight waves of enemies to try weapon loadouts and gain experience. This is also where you learn character backstories. Between waves, the Narrator gives snippets of how these characters got through the Calamity and to the Bastion. The stories are touching, dark, and engaging. Personally, they are what got me to push through the difficult Who Knows Where levels.

    Caelondia is a complex world worth exploring without prior knowledge. I’ve avoided worldbuilding and story details to avoid spoilers, but I have to allude to them for the sake of moral analysis. The ethical landscape of Bastion is intentionally murky. You should be aware of a few standard things: buffs come from alcohol at the Distillery, a Who Knows Where stage is entered by smoking a pipe, and your main character progresses by killing animals and people. The screen turns blood red as you lose health. The game is cartoony, but the Narrator makes sure you know the Kid is a tough, violent survivor.

    The most interesting aspects of the world come from worldbuilding flavor. The game’s themes are ambiguous and mature. Among them are survivor’s guilt, suicide, war, and revenge. Bastion does not pass judgment on its characters’ actions; it takes the higher ground of letting you form your own opinions. More potentially troubling is the pantheon. The denizens of Bastion recognize, with various levels of reverence, ten gods. Debuffs with rewards are activated at the Shrine dedicated to the various gods, and at least one enemy type is implied to be controlled by a god. You as the player can ignore the Shrine, but you can’t ignore the pantheon. The Narrator says, “Mother only knows,” referring to Micia, the goddess who gives life. He muses on whether or not the gods have abandoned the world. In a song by the Narrator available on the official soundtrack, he says of the gods, “They ain’t gonna catch you when you fall. You’ll be pleadin’ while you’re bleedin’.” Again, the game does not pass judgment on the characters or their beliefs. That’s up to you.

    The game has an easy mode to help people get through the story. It also has a score attack mode which allows you to replay levels. It is designed for those who want to focus on the gameplay. Once you finish the main game, you gain New Game+ mode. It lets you carry your unlockables with you into a new playthrough and seems to be the only way to open all buffs and special abilities. The NG+ enemies do not scale in difficulty, potentially resulting in the practiced and well-armed Kid bulldozing through. On the positive side, it is integrated into the story well.

    Controls are Bastion’s primary weakness. Paths must be navigated on more than the eight standard directions, and keyboard control takes more effort than it should. The isometric (angled top-down) view does not help matters. Still, the first time I beat the game it was with the keyboard, and it was enjoyable. For NG+ I used a controller. This helped significantly, but it also highlighted deeper problems with movement. The issue isn't the control device per se; the issue is eight-directional movement through a world that requires navigating on more than those eight axes. This isn't uncommon in isometric games, but it is particularly irritating when, as in Bastion, you can fall off the vast majority of the platforms and rolling is your easiest way of escaping heavy enemy fire. There is a mouse-based movement control scheme as well, but I couldn’t get the hang of it. In all modes, the Kid locks onto enemies to help with movement and combat. While this usually helps, there are often so many enemies onscreen that you can’t efficiently switch to the one you want to target. The game gives minor damage for falling off stages and is not punishingly difficult, but the control and camera quirks make challenge areas unnecessarily troublesome. There is fun gameplay here, but the polish went into art and story.

    Bastion does all things acceptably and some things exceptionally. The music, art, and voice acting combine to create a beautifully atmospheric game, and the weaknesses of the control scheme do not significantly detract from the experience. The gameplay, while not the highlight, carries its weight using variety in playstyle and enemy design. This game is a work of art. I hope it can “spark your imagination” like it did mine.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Battery Jam
    Developed by: Halseo
    Published by: Halseo
    Release date: November 22, 2018
    Available on: Switch, Windows
    Genre: Action
    Number of players: Up to four locally
    ESRB Rated: Everyone with mild fantasy violence
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you Halseo for sending us this game to review!

    Battery Jam is the first game released by Halseo which was formed by three guys who met in college. Your goal in this title is to turn the majority of the floor tiles to your/team color before the two-minute match ends. Neutral floor tiles can be converted by simply walking over them. Changing over colored tiles takes a little more strategy. Thankfully, there’s a handy tutorial to teach you the basics.

    Tiles can be raised for cover or destroyed to reveal the lava underneath them. Pools of lava can be dashed over to create tiles of your color. Each robotic player is equipped with a stun gun that can be used to knock players into lava or slow them down a bit. By mashing the A button, the gun effects can be reduced significantly.

    A couple of Boomboxes spawn on the levels and there are multiple ways they can be used. Shooting at them will cause them to move/detonate. If you take down another player with a Boombox, the surrounding titles will turn to your color. If not, the box will simply explode in a few seconds and the blocks in its radius will revert back to lava.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Colorful and fun in short spurts; color blind mode
    Weak Points: Not enough game modes to keep things interesting long-term
    Moral Warnings: Explosive violence, however, there is no blood

    In the event that your character dies, they will respawn in a few seconds. Eliminating a player does buy you some time, but I found focusing on converting blocks more effective in the long run. The block conversion progress is tallied up in real time so you can tell who is in the lead throughout the match.

    There are two game modes: Classic Jam and Team Jam. The same rules apply for both modes, but the second one lets you team up instead of having it be a free for all. Multiplayer is limited to local only, but if you don’t have anyone to play against, you can add in some bots. The bots have five different difficulty levels and playing against the middle (3) setting was sufficiently challenging for us.

    In total, there are eight maps and many of them have different themes. Unfortunately, some of the other maps just have a different color palette or background. Speaking of color, it’s nice to see a color blindness mode to make it easier for some players to enjoy this game.

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

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 93%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Two game modes and eight maps aren’t going to keep things very interesting for long. There are many game options and customizations to keep things fresh and exciting. The number of Boomboxes can be changed or removed altogether. Teleporters can be added to the maps. The match length can go from a minute to an hour or even an endless mode if desired. The respawn rate of the players and Boomboxes can be changed as well. If you just want a deathmatch style game you can change the winning condition to number of kills instead of tiles claimed. There are some handy preset options and deathmatch is one of them. So that technically makes it three game modes available.

    The background music is energetic and perfect for the frantic gameplay. The sound effects are fitting and get the job done. Voice acting is non-existent as the robots don’t talk and there is no announcer. The body language and facial expressions of the robots are great though.

    From a moral standpoint, this game is pretty clean. You can shoot at and knock robots into lava. Other than that, there isn’t any blood or gore to speak of.

    Overall, Battery Jam is a cute game that can be enjoyed by the whole family. With the little level variety and gameplay modes available, this title won’t entertain for long periods of time. It is fun in short spurts and the price tag is pretty reasonable. It’s certainly worth picking up on sale. I look forward to more titles from this developer.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Beyond Dimensions
    Developed by: Cool Frogs Studios
    Published by: Black Shell Media
    Released: March 11, 2016
    Available on: Windows, macOS, SteamOS/Linux
    Genre: Action, Roguelike
    Number of players: 1 
    Price: $4.99

    Thank you, Black Shell Media, for sending us a copy of this game to review!

    The world is in trouble. The universe is running dangerously low of magical energy. In order to replenish our precious stores, a brave hero needs to be sent to another dimension in order to retrieve it. And the hero they chose is... YOU!

    Or that guy. Or maybe him. Or that lady in the corner over there.

    Beyond Dimensions, the debut game from Cool Frogs Studios, takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the whole end-of-the-universe scenario. You play a mage sent via technology into other dimensions in order to retrieve purple crystals that contain magical energy. Along the way, you'll encounter skeletons, machine gun turrets, and monocled dinosaurs who attack you for simply being there. Although your character is rendered in an 8-bit style – apparently, that's how people look in your universe – the scenes you travel through vary, including a blocky, Minecraft-style world. All the action takes place in an over-the-top, isometric style viewpoint, even if the graphics themselves vary. It's possible to unlock a first-person perspective as well.

    Beyond Dimensions
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun gameplay; whimsical approach; dinosaurs with monocles throw spells at you
    Weak Points: Randomization sometimes makes things too easy, or frustratingly difficult; bland music
    Moral Warnings: Violence; magic use

    One of the neat things about the game is the amount of customization that you can put into your game. In addition to changing the difficulty and the perspective, you also can change any of the color options of your character. Models include male and female mages, as well as a robot. You also can change the class, as well as the spells you can use in your foray into the randomly-generated dungeons. Steam Workshop integration allows you to use avatars created by other players as well. Take note that, in order to actively choose some of the class or spell options, you must complete different objectives first. These include killing a set number of creatures with certain spells, or gathering a certain number of crystals. If the options are locked, then you'll be given a random spell instead.

    Traveling through the dungeons is easily done with the keyboard and mouse, but controllers also can be used. However, a three-button mouse is highly recommended. It is possible to complete the game using just a two-button trackpad (I'm speaking from experience here), but you lose access to your second spell in the process. Weirdly enough, neither my Logitech controller nor my Xbox controller would work in the game. Although I could move through options from the menu, I could only use my melee attack with the Logitech, and no buttons responded on the Xbox. Although the store page indicated that the game had "full controller support," the failure of both came as a surprise to me.

    The randomness can also lead to the game becoming surprisingly easy. The first time I successfully completed the game, I was randomly given a lightning spell and a healing spell. The lightning spell allowed me to strike creatures anywhere on the screen... even if they were behind a wall. I managed to defeat two of the different area's main bosses simply by standing outside the room and blasting them from an adjacent corridor. The third one turned into a simple game of "keep away" while running around a single L-shaped bush. Even though some of the enemies in the other areas posed a threat, the bosses were a surprising pushover. 

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

    Game Score - 66%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 3/5

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

    The difficulty seems to lie in the earliest levels of the game. Once you are capable of obtaining a few power-ups – either through opening chests or purchasing them from the rare stores that appear on a few of the levels – the game becomes a lot easier, sometimes ridiculously so. As a result, gameplay tends to be relatively short. Either you'll die within the first 10 minutes of the game, or you'll sweep through everything in approximately half an hour. However, this isn't always the case – I had a good run going in one game and could have won easily... but as soon as I spawned in a new area, I was ambushed by the third world's mid-boss and two other spell-casting dinosaurs, with nowhere to run. A great game came to a screeching halt purely due to bad luck.

    As a result, I have had mixed feelings about this game. On one hand, I really like it, due to its fun gameplay and whimsical approach. On the other, the game comes off as frustratingly difficult that often changes to laughably easy before too long. There is a nice variety of customization to the game, but controller support is nearly nonexistent.

    There are various graphic glitches as well. At times, the screen will flicker oddly, as if trying to bring up images from my computer desktop. Some characters will continue to twitch and bounce around like they are made out of rubber upon death – and in the second world, the soldiers occasionally have their limbs stretched out for no apparent reason when they die. This makes Beyond Dimensions feel like it's not completely finished, and it could use a bit more polish.

    Although there were no language issues that I encountered, violence is a given in this game. Creatures die when you blast them with your spells, or they run over traps. There isn't any blood or gore when they die, though. There are some skeletons that appear in the first world, and occasionally bones litter the dungeon floor. Magic is used by both the player and the inhabitants of the third world. 

    Beyond Dimensions certainly doesn't break any boundaries, but it's a fun variation of the familiar roguelike. Although occasionally frustrating, it can provide a measure of fun as well. At only $4.99, it's well worth the price of admission. 

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    BladeShield
    Developed By: Rank17, Silicon Storm
    Publisher: Rank17
    Release Date: November 28, 2016
    Available On: Windows (HTC Vive required)
    Genre: Action
    Number of Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    MSRP: $2.99

    Thank you Rank17 for sending us this game to review!

    Since the beginning of time (well, the late 1970s), it has always been a fantasy of any warm-blooded human to wield a lightsaber and smack down foes.  BladeShield is an unlicensed (no Star Wars license from Lucasfilm/Disney) Virtual Reality (VR) game that has models that look like lightsabers, but are not.  They are BladeShields.  These weapons have two modes – one that happens to look a whole lot like a lightsaber, and a shield mode.  But they do sound awfully similar.

    You hold two BladeShields, one in each hand.  The weapons can change from blade to shield mode with the press of the touchpad.  This change can be done at any time, and as often as you like.  Both the shield and blades can deflect projectile attacks, though the shield is much better at it.  If you do manage to deflect shots with your blade, you charge it up.  Once fully powered up, you can stab the blade into the ground and activate the power with the trigger to release an EMP blast that clears the screen in a moment.  It works great when you need it, though it is easy to forget that it's there.

    At its core, BladeShield is what is commonly called a 'wave shooter'.  These games are common enough in VR that they have become a genre all their own, more or less. You have various waves of enemies that, once defeated, bring on the next wave.  You rank your success both on your score, and on what wave you reached.  It's a classic system that heralds back to the earliest days of gaming (Space Invaders, anyone?) and has resurged since we are in the early days of VR.

    BladeShield
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Very nice graphics; nice variety with the blades + shields; good intense fun; fantastic value for the price
    Weak Points: I had technical glitches, but it was resolved with a driver update
    Moral Warnings: Exploding robots

    What makes it different is simply that it's mostly melee based rather than via firing a gun.  Each round, a set number of enemies come at you in waves.  There are some that you have to kill by reflecting shots back at them, and with others you typically will slash at them with your blade.  It is easier to aim the shots with your shield rather than the blade, but you can use both to deflect.  It's also fun in that you can use a shot from one enemy to kill another, if you are skilled enough to do that.

    The most common enemies are the floating monocled robots that fly around you and shoot blasts your way.  They are easy to deflect and kill, and don't move too fast. Then there are ground based two legged walking types that leap at you, and the fun and fast round flying bots with a blade spinning around them.  They can be very dangerous, especially if you let them get behind you, so watch out!  There are also large turrets that shoot massive energy blasts at you that can only be defeated via shot reflection.  While it's technically possible with a blade, I hope you don't mind bringing out the shield while they are in play….

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

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    Each wave of enemies significantly changes this up, and I did not find it to get boring very quickly.  It's fun, exciting, and shooting for a high score is always a blast.  What impressed me is how polished this game is for such a low price.  I feel like they really did a great job striking the proper balance between the scale of a project, and the polishing of said project.  Any time you have a small development team, and especially a low price, you have to properly balance objectives.  Often, you have to choose between something with lots of content and variety, or a simple, highly polished experience.  This team chose the latter, and chose correctly.  Other games have made the wrong choice, and suffered for it, with a recent example being Bank Limit.

    I'm sure this is not the only game like this.  After all, there are hundreds of glorified tech demos on Steam for VR these days.  But it does a good job at it, and it's fairly polished as well.  The only problem I had is that my NVIDIA driver would regularly crash on startup, which thankfully went away with a newer driver.  I have been in contact with the developer, and they have been very responsive and helpful in dealing with this issue.  

    At the fantastic price of $2.99, BladeShield is really a no brainer.  If you have a VR kit, you should get this game at such a wonderful price.  There are almost certainly more advanced wave shooters out there, or ones with more content, but if you are looking for the simple thrill of slicing and bouncing shots back at enemy robots, with wave after wave of increasing difficulty, then this is a great place to get your fix.  And at that price, I highly recommend it.

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King
    Developed By: Castle Pixel, LLC
    Published By: FDG Entertainment
    Released: March 28, 2017
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Action Adventure
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thanks to FDG Entertainment for the review key!

    Imitation is the highest form of flattery, as the saying goes. In the video game industry, however, it’s more accurate to say that copying is the highest form of greed, as publishers and developers single-mindedly chase after the latest big moneymaker. It’s important to note that imitation and copying are not the same; an original work inspired by another is vastly different, and superior, to a soulless clone. Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is, thankfully, an example of the former.

    Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is a 2D action adventure that borrows heavily (and proudly – there’s a near-namedrop in the opening sequence) from the 2D Legend of Zelda titles. As Lily, the newest Knight of the Rose, you traverse the kingdom in search of the three ingredients that will wake the king from the cursed slumber forced upon him by his brother and court wizard Crocus. Along the way, you’ll gain useful items, purge the land of Crocus’ evil, and occasionally endure impromptu scene changes from the audience – after all, this is simply a bedtime story a grandfather is telling his grandchildren.

    The gameplay is standard for games in this genre: outside of the movement keys, you have one key bound to the sword and two others that can hold whatever items you please. Health is measured in the tried-and-true heart meter, with every attack taking half a heart. Blossom Tales makes use of a slowly-recharging stamina bar rather than a limited inventory; other than the various healing potions, offensive items take a chunk out of Lily’s energy. Both health and stamina can be upgraded by finding four heart pieces or energy crystals scattered throughout the decently large kingdom. There’s something to find on every screen of the overworld, which, when combined with the varied landscape, makes exploration interesting and usually rewarding.

    Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Enjoyable Zelda clone with good exploration and gameplay
    Weak Points: Uninteresting sidequests; low variety in item function
    Moral Warnings: Violence and elemental magic use; undead enemies; grave desecration

    Similarly, the dungeons are large and engaging, if stylistically generic (featuring forest, fire, ice, and evil castle varieties). While most enemies fall into two or three archetypes, the bosses are more thought out, with a few feeling more at home in a top-down shooter instead, serving as an effective cap on each dungeon. The puzzles both inside and outside the dungeons do subscribe to the “get item, use item” formula, but only sparsely; mostly, you’ll find puzzles based around pushable blocks, floor tiles that change color or fall away, and Simon Says minigames. In all cases, the puzzles needed for story progress never get too difficult, with the more strenuous ones saved for optional upgrades. What Blossom Tales excels at is keeping things from getting stale; you’ll never run into vast stretches of similar puzzles, barring bad luck on the overworld, which makes pushing onward, and even backtracking every so often, something to look forward to.

    For all its successes, however, there are a few missteps. Some are minor, like Lily’s walking speed being a tad slow and the sword having a slight delay built into its swing. There’s also the traveling salesman, who only shows up in certain areas of the map from 9:00AM to 5:00PM based on your computer’s clock, with no in-game indication of this other than a generic “sorry, we’re closed” sign - you'll have to either wait or manipulate your system's time to interact with him. The lack of item variety hits a little harder; nearly all of them fulfill the same “ranged damage” role, making most of them superfluous – the boomerang, with its ability to hit one enemy twice at a low stamina cost, is vastly superior to nearly every other item outside of a few niche uses or personal preference. Blossom Tales’ biggest failure is in its sidequests: while there are three timed obstacle courses, a journal page scavenger hunt, a mail courier quest, and a few small minigames, there are a ton of dull "gather twenty enemy drops and return" tasks to complete. Since the others either encompass the whole game or last a few minutes, most of your active sidequesting will be mindless grinding. With how well put together the main quest is, the lack of interesting sidequests stands out all the more.

    Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 78%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

    The presentation is competent, with its greatest success being its framing device. The graphics are good for what they are, though the 8-bit characters somewhat clash against the 16-bit backgrounds. The music is harder to fault, being consistently good and even occasionally catchy in the short-term. The game’s setup as a bedtime story, however, actually plays into the gameplay: rarely, the two children will complain about a puzzle being too easy or argue over what enemies they want to see, which makes the grandfather – and the game – have to change on the fly. Like with the main puzzles, these are played sparingly, making each instance a joy to encounter.

    As an action title, violence is a given, though enemies disappear in a puff of dust – save for one enemy in the forest that looks to burst into blood, but given the rest of the game, it might just be unfortunate dust coloring instead. Lily does get a handful of magic spells; these are all elemental, outside of one that can summon bees. Skeletons, zombies, and ghosts appear in varying frequency, with a whole segment of the game devoted to dealing with Crocus’ necromancy. There’s a church in the main town that may or may not worship flowers, but it’s barely given any attention. Finally, there’s a surprising amount of grave desecration – not just pulling tombstones, but blowing up non-respawning coffins for goodies. The game never draws attention to it, either – though it does set up a rather effective dark joke toward the end of the game. As with most of its story elements, the game never dwells on anything too much; with the colorful atmosphere and upbeat tone, it’s only grim in the background, which might ease the moral hit on younger children.

    Altogether, Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King gets a lot of things right. Its good pacing and restraint towards its puzzles and unique elements, along with its serviceable combat, make it evenly enjoyable from start to finish. While rather easy and not very long – the main story, plus some exploration, lasts ten hours or so – the $14.99 asking price is certainly fair. Whether you’re a Zelda veteran or a curious newcomer, it’s worth getting comfy and listening to this bedtime story.

    -Cadogan

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Bomberman: Act Zero
    Developed By: Hudson Soft
    Published By: Konami
    Released: August 29, 2006
    Available On: Xbox 360
    Genre: Action
    ESRB Rating: T for Teen: Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes
    Number of Players: 1 offline, 8 online 
    Price: $19.99 new, $3.99 used
    (Amazon affiliate link

    I think I’ve been insulted. I don’t feel insulted, and I don’t think it was intended as an insult, but Bomberman: Act Zero may be the most offensive game I’ve ever played. From its complete overhaul of the Bomberman IP to the paltry three modes of play, this is perhaps the most flawed but still playable game I’ve had the displeasure of reviewing. 

    The gameplay is very similar to that of many other Bomberman games, you fight in a labyrinth filled obstacles as well as enemies that you must defeat in order to progress to the next level. Your only weapons are hazardous bombs that will leave an explosive horizontal and vertical trial in any direction not blocked off; you can also find upgrades for your bombs that will allow you to place down more bombs at a time, increase the length or strength of the explosive trial, as well as hasten your walking speed. However upgrades can be a double edged sword, as your own bombs could be the very thing that finishes you off.

    Perhaps it’s just my memory failing me yet again, but I still think of the Bomberman series as a fast-paced, chaotic action game with a multiplayer mode that can’t be beat. Act Zero doesn’t change that—at least, not entirely—but it just feels…wrong. The quirky, upbeat Bombers are replaced with lifeless robots, and the varied settings of games past are exchanged for an underground prison complex. No matter how much light reflects off of gray and faded green, they’re still boring colors. Making matters even worse, the creation process for making a player character shows the robots in a semi-nude form (no genitalia, similar to a Barbie doll).

    Bomberman: Act Zero
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: I’m sure masochists will love it.
    Weak Points: All of it; the entire game.
    Moral Warnings: Explosive (but not gratuitous) violence and robot nudity.

    And I can deal with that; I’ve played through my fair share of bland/offensive games. I’ve learned quite a bit about design, color usage, and artistic trickery through playing poorly designed video games. It’s been a learning experience for me. This however, is bordering on torture.

    For starters, there is no life/continue system. It’s “You are dead” followed by an unceremonious fade to the title screen every time a fatal mistake is made. This wouldn’t be a problem normally, but this isn’t exactly normal. Running through a maze laying bombs haphazardly will get you killed in Bomberman, and even careful planning can’t stop all of the random elements of a match. Power-ups and sudden death can often end a match suddenly, and it usually ended in my opponents’ favor.

    As mentioned before, the selection of modes is pathetic. Excluding the online, which is almost certainly dead by now, that leaves the Single Battle-FPB (normal gameplay, except with a life-bar and a third person view) and Standard modes and Standard modes. Each mode can only be played alone, and both are nearly the same. Ninety-nine levels, one life, and no continues—because failure and repetition is just so much fun! Now, I would let this go if there were some way to skip the levels that have already been completed, but there isn’t. In fact, I can (somewhat ashamedly) say that I only played approximately 5% of the game.

    Bomberman: Act Zero
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 38%
    Gameplay - 5/20
    Graphics - 3/10
    Sound - 3/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 85%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    It’s not that I didn’t feel like playing more (though I didn’t), but I simply couldn't keep a perfect streak of wins past the first five levels or so. The power-ups, such as increased agility or bomb capacity, carry over from the previous level, but this isn’t really a good thing. The COMs start out with enhanced abilities too, and once the bombs start going off, things get dangerous. My death almost always came from an explosion originating on the other side of the screen; because it just didn’t seem like a threat at the time. Then, once I realize the blast radius is much larger than I anticipated, I’ve already been vaporized by the flames.

    The sinking feeling upon death in Act Zero is indescribable. In most games, death only provokes the player to get farther next time: to strive further than last time. However, Bomberman: Act Zero doesn’t have this effect. Instead what follows is a form of depression characterized by meditating on whether playing through a few more levels is really worth it when no reward is offered. Why keep playing when no end goal is present?

    There are always the online leaderboards—which have some heinously large high scores—but the fact of the matter is that no one cares anymore. Properly integrated into a title, high scores can be a competitive way to keep friends playing games together, but this simply isn’t the case here. Much like Act Zero itself, the high scores merely exist: unloved, forgotten, and unwanted.

     

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

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