enfrdeitptrues

Arcade

  • Astyanax (NES)

     

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    Game Info:

    Astyanax
    Developed by: Jaleco
    Published by: Jaleco
    Release date: March 8th, 1990
    Available on: Arcade, NES (NES version reviewed)
    ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
    Number of players: 1
    Price: $329.95 new, $ 7.49 used

    "Astyanax.... Astyanax.... I'm waiting..." the voice of a girl in your dreams continues haunting you. All you know is you're running late for Biology class and you've got no time for strange fairy tales. Or do you?

    One day, Astyanax is transported into the world of Remlia by Cutie, a fairy from this world who explains that the girl in Astyanax's dreams is Princess Rosebud of Remlia. She is being held captive by the evil wizard Blackhorn and Astyanax is the only person who can save her. Astyanax protests, but agrees to do the quest when he realizes only Rosebud has the magic to send him home. Cutie will remain your companion throughout most of the game, often helping you and refilling your magic meter or helping you change your weapon, known as Bash.

    Astyanax is a side-scrolling game available in both an arcade and an NES version. I am reviewing the NES version here as that is the main one I have played and am familiar with. Many years ago, as a 4 year old, I checked this out from my local library and could never make it past the second level. For many years, I forgot about it, but the memories of colorful levels and a truly amazing soundtrack remained in my subconscious. 20 years later, I finally found the game and was able to complete it. Since then, I've repeatedly replayed it. For an 8-bit game, this has an amazing storyline and some amazing plot twists and turns. Spoilers marked throughout.

    Astyanax
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Unique and clever storyline;  amazing soundtrack; colorful graphics
    Weak Points: Glitchy in places
    Moral Warnings: Nudity, scary henchman villain;  occult-heavy setting

    This game is hard. Back in the day, games were made as hard as possible, and Astyanax does not have save points, as games back then often did not, but Astyanax really goes for 'screw you' in terms of difficulty. You can easily fall off into pits and many bosses require you to make choices about either using your magic and STILL not killing them or hacking and slashing and hoping you have enough health to make it. My first time playing it as a 4 year old, I could not get past Medusa, the boss of the second round, and even as an adult, many bosses stumped me, or frustrated me as I had to fight them after an already difficult miniboss. One level is particularly dangerous, (about halfway through the game) and this isn't even the final level. After this, the boss rush on the final level doesn't seem too bad.

    After each level, or round as the game refers to it, you are treated to a cutscene that further explains the storyline. You can skip these if you wish, but I don't recommend it as doing so will rob you of an amazing storyline and interesting perspective. You are either shown the story from the perspective of the villains as they spy on Astyanax and Cutie, or Cutie and Astyanax as they make their way through the world of Remlia. My favorite of these is the one halfway through the game where Blackhorn and Thorndog, his sidekick, are spying on Cutie and Astyanax and taunt Rosebud that her friends are 'doomed.'

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

    Game Score - 72%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls 4/5

    Morality Score - 70%
    Violence- 6.5/10
    Language- 10/10
    Sexual Content- 5/10
    Occult/Supernatural-3.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical-10/10

    The graphics are what you would expect from an 8-bit game- don't expect anything like the cutscenes from later Final Fantasy games or Call of Duty graphics here. But they are colorful and entertaining, which is probably why this game made such an imprint in my mind even if I didn't finish it as a kid. The soundtrack is amazing. The opening theme, title screen, rounds 1, 2, and 5 are my favorites. The ending theme makes me cry especially as this is the scene where everything comes together, and unlike most NES games that just had a 'THE END', the ending here is meaningful and rewarding to the player. The soundtrack seems to be somewhat inspired by ancient Greece or Rome, which is appropriate as the game appears to be largely based on Greek mythology. I will let the tunes speak for themselves rather than defining it by placing a link here

    How about moral warnings? That is where I have some concerns. Many female enemies are barely clothed, and both Cutie and Rosebud show either stomach or cleavage. Medusa, the previously mentioned boss, is completely naked. The violence is no different from any other NES hack and slash. There's no blood though, and the enemies just disappear into nothingness. Thorndog is quite frightening; I would not give this to a young child at all. (assuming they can even get to the scenes where he is seen given the game's difficulty.) As with any fantasy game, there is magic, used by both sides, but it is fantasy magic and not occultic. The borderline concern I have is the spell 'bind' as this actually freezes your enemies on the screen (or you, if it is used against you by a boss). There is no swearing though.

    All in all, I love this game and it earned its place as a nostalgic game, if forgotten often in favor of Mario, Zelda,the original Final Fantasy, and even Dragon Warrior. Just keep it away from young kids.

  • Atari Flashback Classics (Vita)

     

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    Game Info:

    Atari Flashback Classics
    Developed by: Code Mystics
    Published by: Atari
    Release date: December 19, 2018
    Available on: PS TV, Switch, Vita
    Genre: Arcade
    Number of Players: Up to four online
    ESRB Rating: Everyone with mild violence and use of tobacco
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you Atari for sending us this collection to review!

    The Atari 2600 was released in 1977 and was the first console I've owned. The graphics were pretty basic, but the games on it were pretty fun. Sadly, my favorites like Frogger and Summer Games are not in this collection. The 5200 was released in 1982 and only had a two year lifespan. I never owned a 5200, but our family did get the 7800 in 1987. I hope there is a Flashbacks collection with 7800 games someday, but until then, this is a solid collection of 2600 and 5200 offerings.

    As of this review, there have been three Atari Flashback Classic volumes that retail for $19.99 apiece. Each of the volumes has fifty games from the 2600, 5200, and arcade eras. The recently released Atari Flashback Classics for the Switch and Vita systems includes 150 titles of which most of them are from the three volumes mentioned earlier. The best part is that this bundle is only $19.99. I recently reviewed volume 3 on the Xbox and the controller issues are solved on the touch screen enabled consoles. The only downside to the Vita version is that the multiplayer is a little trickier, but not impossible.

    Atari Flashback Classics
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: 150 classic games in one bundle
    Weak Points: Multiplayer is difficult on the Vita
    Moral Warnings: Some games have violence, magic, tobacco use, gambling

    Many classics in this bundle include 2600 and 5200 versions of Asteroids, Centipede, Millipede, Missile Command, and Super Breakout. Granted the visuals are not stellar in either version but in some cases like Missile Command, I preferred the 2600 version for the controls.

    If you enjoy sports games there are plenty in this bundle including Atari Baseball (Arcade), Atari Basketball (Arcade), Atari Football (Arcade), Atari Soccer (Arcade), Miniature Golf (5200), Realsports Baseball (5200), Realsports Basketball (5200), Realsports Football (5200), Realsports Tennis (5200), Realsports Volleyball (5200), Super Challenge Baseball (2600), Super Challenge Football (2600), Super Baseball (2600), and Super Football (2600). The Pool Shark (Arcade) game is very simplistic, not realistic, but it is still fun regardless.

    Some games support two players and others require it. Games like Sword Fight (2600) and Xari Arena (2600) work well with two players on the Vita. Each player gets to control their avatar with the joystick on their side. Sea Battle will launch, but requires two players. Like many titles, this one’s objectives are a bit confusing and it’s worth reading the manual for it from the main menu. Thankfully, you can enlarge the manual since the Vita’s screen is rather small for reading it.

    Atari Flashback Classics
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 70%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 4/10
    Sound - 5/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 86%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    Destroyer (Arcade) is fun where you have to drop missiles timed with the ships below and at the proper detonation depth. Dominos (Arcade) is very similar to the classic Snakes game where your ever-growing line of dominoes cannot touch the walls, itself, or the opponent’s dominoes. Maze Invaders (Arcade) is probably one of the best-looking games in this bundle. In Maze Invaders you have to collect all of the fruits in the changing mazes while avoiding enemies and their attacks.

    Some of the games have magic like Wizard (2600). Other games like Black Jack (2600), Casino (2600), and Slot Machine (2600) are clearly gambling oriented. Thankfully, the currency is virtual. There are other titles with accidental or intentional violence. In either of these scenarios, there is no blood and very little detail. This collection is family friendly and can be enjoyed by anyone not put off by the poor visuals and audio limitations of games from this era. On a positive note, Basic Math is a helpful math flashcard game that’s good for learning arithmetic.

    Overall, this collection is a pretty good bargain considering that it has most of the titles from all three bundles at the price of one of them. Granted there are lots of sports games and duplicates, but there are many other gems that I am enjoying. The nostalgia is great, but probably won’t hold the attention of younger gamers who are spoiled by the detailed visuals of modern titles.

  • Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 3 (Xbox One)

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    Game Info:

    Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 3
    Developed by: Code Mystics
    Published by: Atari
    Release date: December 13, 2018
    Available on: PS4, Xbox One
    Genre: Arcade
    Number of Players: Up to two
    ESRB Rating: Everyone with mild violence and use of tobacco
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you Atari for sending us this collection to review!

    While I haven’t played the first two Flashback Classics bundles, my first gaming console was an Atari 2600 and I moved up to a 7800 from there. I never got to see or play a 5200 with its numeric and paddle controllers. There are even a few arcade era games with better visuals than the pixelated 2600 and 5200 offerings. The gameplay surpasses the visuals in many of these games and if you’re looking for eye candy, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

    There are fifty titles in this collection and a couple of the classics that I recognize include Asteroids (5200), Centipede (5200), Millipede (5200), Missile Command (5200), and Super Breakout (5200). Due to licensing, none of my favorite games have made it into any of the Flashback Collections yet and those include Pac-Man, Ms.Pac-Man, Frogger, and Summer Games. I’m hoping E.T. never makes the cut because that game was horrible. I just remember constantly falling into holes in that stupid game.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Lots of sports games and classic 2600 titles in this bundle
    Weak Points: A couple of the titles are unplayable due to poor controls
    Moral Warnings: Some games have violence, magic, tobacco use

    If you enjoy sports games there are plenty in this bundle including Atari Baseball (Arcade), Atari Basketball (Arcade), Atari Football (Arcade), Atari Soccer (Arcade), Miniature Golf (5200), Realsports Baseball (5200), Realsports Basketball(5200), Realsports Football (5200), Realsports Tennis (5200), and Realsports Volleyball (5200). The Pool Shark (Arcade) game is very simplistic, not realistic, but it is still fun regardless.

    Some games support two players and others require it. What fun is a Sword Fight (2600) with just one person? Fire Truck/Smokey Joe (Arcade) is a racing game that has two players controlling both parts of the same vehicle. It can be played solo, but is clearly intended for two players. Sky Diver (Arcade) is competitive, but can be enjoyed solo. Sea Battle (2600) requires two players.

    Destroyer (Arcade) is fun where you have to drop missiles timed with the ships below and at the proper detonation depth. Dominos (Arcade) is very similar to the classic Snakes game where your ever-growing line of dominoes cannot touch the walls, itself, or the opponent’s dominoes. Maze Invaders (Arcade) is probably one of the best-looking games in this bundle. In Maze Invaders you have to collect all of the fruits in the changing mazes while avoiding enemies and their attacks.

    Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 3
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 62%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 4/10
    Sound - 5/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

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

    While I enjoyed the majority of the games I’ve played, I must admit that many of them are confusing and I had no idea what my objectives were. Built-in manuals are available from the main menu for the 2600 and 5200 titles, but not for the arcade games. My other (and bigger) complaint is that a couple of the games are unplayable since they are designed for a paddle and the Xbox controller does not work properly for Super Breakout (5200). Missile Command (5200) is a little challenging with a cursor, but doable. The side number pad for Holey Moley (2600) works well with the controller for this whack-a-mole style game.

    Some of the games have magic like Wizard (2600), but this is one of the games where I really didn’t know what I was doing. There are other titles with accidental or intentional violence. In either of these scenarios, there is no blood and very little detail. This collection is family friendly and can be enjoyed by anyone not put off by the poor visuals and audio limitations of games from this era.

    I have seen Atari Flashback console bundles at Walmart and they sell for under $19 there. For $19.99 you can play all of the same games and not have another plastic device laying around your house. While some of the games in this collection didn’t interest or utterly confused me, I did enjoy a few of them. I’m not sure I would pay $20 for this collection, but it’s worth considering if it goes on sale.

  • Boom Ball: Boost Edition (Switch)

     

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    Game Info:

    Boom Ball: Boost Edition
    Developed by: Virtual Air Guitar Company
    Published by: Virtual Air Guitar Company
    Release date: October 11, 2018
    Available on: Switch
    Genre: Arcade
    Number of players: Up to two players
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $12.99

    Thank you Virtual Air Guitar Company for sending us this game to review!

    Boom Ball: Boost Edition is a fun 3D version of Breakout. Your goal is to hit and remove all of the blocks using your ball and keeping it in play. Though you start off with one ball, you can wind up with up to twenty-four in play! As long as you can keep track of one of them, you won’t lose any of your lives.

    There are fifty levels on the main map with ten more that can be unlocked with medals earned by completing a level. Each stage can earn you up to four medals if you can clear it, beat the gold time, not lose a ball, and complete it in turbo mode. In turbo mode you only have three balls instead of five.

    Along with adding more levels, you can unlock various paddle designs with medals as well. There are lots of colors and avatars available. If you use the touch screen controls, you don’t get to see the paddles though. While the motion controls are a neat concept, I found them finicky and struggled to complete the tutorial using them. The touch screen worked well for the most part except for the time where I could not trigger the last block explosion without switching to the motion controls. Thankfully, you can toggle between controller modes mid-game, but doing so costs you precious seconds if you’re aiming to beat the gold medal time.

    Boom Ball: Boost Edition
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Lots of variety in levels and balls available
    Weak Points: The controls can be unresponsive at times
    Moral Warnings: Some levels have witches, skeletons, and other creepy Halloween-like themes

    With each block you take out, the boom meter will fill up. When the boom meter is full, you can hurl explosive balls at the remaining auto-targeted blocks. The boom mode makes finishing a level with only a few blocks left much quicker. Besides exploding balls, there are bigger ones, heavier ones, and multiple ones available in many of the levels. The different ball types and level themes keep this game fresh and exciting.

    Each level has multiple themed waves. Some of the levels are in the daytime while others take place in the evening or in outer space! In the beginning, the shaped blocks are stationary but eventually they start to move around. Both stationary and moving obstacles are introduced later on in the game.

    Boom Ball: Boost Edition
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

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

    The visuals are colorful, detailed and nicely animated. I like how the doodles on the map’s background animate when you hover over them. The background music is pleasant, but not memorable. I like the breaking glass sound for when a ball is lost.

    Boom Ball: Boost Edition is a family friendly game that can be enjoyed by gamers of all ages. There’s little to complain about morally. With that said, it should be noted that a few of the blocks are shaped as witches or skeletons as some of the levels have a creepy/Halloween feel to them.

    By sharing the Joy-Cons, two players can play simultaneously. The touchscreen experience is better suited for single-player though. I’ve been spoiled by the accuracy of Virtual Reality to appreciate the motion controls that this game offers. The rumble support is a nice touch if you prefer to play with controllers. In the end, the asking price of $12.99 is reasonable with the amount of content and replay-ability this title offers. If you’re a fan of Breakout, you’ll enjoy Boom Ball: Boost Edition.

  • Breakout: Recharged (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Breakout: Recharged
    Developed By: Adamvision Studios, Sneakybox
    Published By: Atari
    Release Date: February 10, 2022
    Available On: Atari VCS, Linux, macOS, PlayStation 4/5, Switch, Windows, Xbox One/Series
    ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
    Genre: Arcade
    Mode: One or Two Player
    MSRP: $9.99

    Thank you Atari for sending us this game to review!

    I have fond memories of Breakout, mostly from the Atari 2600 that I played it on as a child. (Yes, I'm old.) This was one of the games that was really well suited to the paddle controllers - basically a wheel that you turn to move the on-screen paddles to wherever you like as quickly as you can turn the knob. It was a control scheme that early arcades and home consoles offered, but hasn't stood the test of time.

    For those not familiar with Breakout, it was a very simple early Arcade and Atari 2600 (and others) title where you control a paddle on the bottom of the screen, and various bricks are shown at the top. A ball is then released, and it bounces off of anything it touches - the wall, the bricks above, or your paddle. While the walls remain unharmed, the bricks are broken if hit, and your goal is to clear the level of bricks. If the ball gets past your paddle to the pit on the bottom, you die. Over time, depending on the version of the game (Super Breakout has some more features), the bricks may move down on the screen, in an almost Space Invaders-like fashion, to make things even more difficult. Early versions of the game are quite difficult, as the ball moves very quickly, and your paddle is quite small.

    Breakout: Recharged is an update for modern platforms, along with some newer ideas to keep things fresh. While the original games used simple raster graphics, Recharged uses a stylized vector-like art style, and goes for a flashy aesthetic, not unlike other classic modernizations like Space Invaders Extreme or Pac-Man Championship Edition. For example, when an exploding block is hit, the screen shakes. The backgrounds feature moving lines that look really neat and give it a retro-futuristic look. Good stuff, even if that art style was classically used in other Atari games, like Asteroids.

    While virtually any system can likely run this game perfectly - even an old laptop running Linux has little trouble - I must say that PCs (of any kind, Windows/macOS/Linux) or Atari VCS are likely going to be the best experience. Not because of frame rate or any performance reason, but because of mouse controls. On consoles you are pretty much limited to gamepads; on PCs, you can use a mouse, which closely resembles the speed of a paddle controller. The Atari VCS's classic controllers have a rotatable joystick, which also simulates a paddle, perhaps even better than a mouse. While I don't have access to an Atari VCS (the modern version, I mean), I can't imagine them missing the ball on that one... it would be criminal.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Solid update to a classic arcade; nice graphics; decent but not exceptional music; co-op mode is really fun; online leaderboards
    Weak Points: A few notable bugs, like the mouse cursor moving to another screen; Steam Cloud absent and sorely missed; action is slower than older entries
    Moral Warnings: Negligible violence against inanimate objects

    With massively updated graphics comes a much larger playing area, and everything else is larger, too. The paddle (that you control on the bottom of the screen, not your paddle controller) is larger, the ball is larger, and the bricks are, as well. The ball is also a lot slower than it was in the old days, so the difficulty is also much more manageable. I had little trouble getting to the moving ball in time - unless I messed up, missed, or some other obstacle got in my way, like a blast from a turret, which can be quite the challenge on some levels!

    The game consists of Arcade and Challenge modes, which is where most of the content is. Arcade is pretty much what it sounds like - keep going until you run out of lives. In Arcade mode you choose which submode to play: Recharged, Classic, or Classic Recharged. In Classic, you simply play Breakout with no power-ups, and you have three lives. In Recharged you only get one life, but you still get some of the many upgrades that are littered throughout levels. Classic Recharged is both - you get power-ups and three lives, obviously making this the easiest mode to do well in.

    Power-ups are one of the major changes to Breakout since the classics, though not at all unfamiliar to players of other brick breaker games. Arkanoid (by a different publisher, Taito) famously moved the genre forward with power-ups in the late 1980s, and this game has a similar idea, with a twist. Certain bricks, that are typically blue, release a power-up when broken. When caught, you get that power-up for a limited time. Unlike Arkanoid, where you used the power-ups in some cases by pressing a button, these are used automatically on a timer. This is a nice twist, since Arkanoid had an action button, while Breakout does not. These power-ups definitely can help you survive, with things like a longer paddle, the rather odd time warp, or several different paddle-based weapons that all really come in handy. One power-up that took a while to figure out is one that changes a small number of bricks into exploding ones randomly in the play space. This is both more useful than it seems, and easy to miss if your eyes are focused on the ball most of the time.

    As great as power-ups are in Arcade mode, they really come to life in Challenge mode. There are fifty Challenge levels, each with a different level layout and goal for completion. These can vary from just clearing the screen to getting to a certain point value to breaking a number of bricks with a weapon or even with exploding blocks. These are all well designed and exercise different skills to master. I enjoyed completing them all in solo mode, and my son and I also had fun playing around twenty of them together in co-op mode.

    All modes support co-op, and it's great fun. You split the screen down the middle, with the first player getting the left hand side of the screen, and the second getting the right. Unfortunately, player two can only use a controller - mouse input is limited to player one. This does make sense, but gives player one a massive advantage - but one that's worth taking advantage of anyway, because both players benefit if either one does well. You also start the level with two balls in play, which is normally not easy to get unless your level happens to have the three ball power-up. It can be nervewracking if one of the two players keeps letting the ball get past them though!

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

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

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

    Despite all of this good stuff, there are a few issues worth noting. First of all, I ran into a few bugs. (To be fair, there has been a patch released since my testing, but I don't know what was fixed since there is no changelog.) My in-game achievements and Steam achievements are out of sync, which is annoying, and in game, all of them were unlocked - but on the flipside, I didn't get credit for completing every solo challenge level, either. A more serious bug for users of dual monitors, or windowed mode, is that the mouse control seemed to be based on the mouse pointer behind the scenes, and if you have more than one screen (or the window takes up less than all of it), you can move the mouse outside of the play area, and even onto the other screen. This can really mess you up when your paddle becomes unresponsive for unknown reasons. Once I realized the issue I was able to adjust how I played, but it definitely tripped me up at first.

    Because of the gamepad support (and console versions as well, presumably), the ball speed is a lot slower than I expected, in part because of my experience with the classic versions. After playing this one, I launched Atari Vault, a Steam game that has one hundred old Atari classics in it, including the Arcade version of Super Breakout, and the Atari 2600 version of Breakout. And my suspicions were confirmed: those games feature a much faster ball. This makes sense since paddles are so sensitive, but this means Breakout: Recharged feels a bit slow in comparison.

    From a technical point of view, outside of the bugs I noted before, it runs well. I found the Windows and Linux versions both play great, and my laptop has a 240Hz screen, and this game supports a 240Hz mode, which looks fantastically smooth. One of my laptops is quite old; old enough that I only put Linux on it, and it plays Breakout: Recharged quite well, though turning off effects reduced stuttering quite a bit; ironically it stutters more in the menu than it does during actual gameplay. The lack of Steam Cloud is sorely missed though, as my desktop has made tons of progress, but these other PCs all have to start from scratch. Thankfully, in Arcade mode that doesn't matter much, since you always start from the beginning regardless.

    Morally, this game is as clean as it gets - the paddle can blast bricks, and certain turret-bricks can blast your paddle. Stuff can also explode.

    Breakout: Recharged is a game that I grew to like more than I did at first. It's not going to shake the gaming world, certainly, but sometimes you're in the mood for some simple fun, and Breakout: Recharged definitely fits that bill. The price is also reasonable, which is a great plus. The music is good, though it can definitely get repetitive, but it's really not a major issue. If you love classic games like Breakout, then this is an absolutely solidly modernized version, despite being a bit slower paced, thanks to the death of paddle controllers. If you enjoy arcade classics, then it's highly recommended.

  • Breakpoint (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

    Breakpoint
    Developed by: Studio Aesthesia
    Published by: The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild
    Released: September 24, 2020
    Available on: Windows, Nintendo Switch
    Genre: Arcade Action
    ESRB Rating: E for Everyone (Mild Fantasy Violence)
    Number of Players: 1, online leaderboards
    Price: $4.99

    Thanks to The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild for sending us a review copy!

    Breakpoint is an arcade twin-stick “shooter” set in an arena of bright neon shapes that will no doubt draw comparisons to the highly esteemed Geometry Wars games. What sets this game apart is that it trades in the standard guns for an array of melee weapons, inherently putting the player a lot closer to the action.

    Gone is the standard issue rapid-fire blaster. As you pixelate the infinite swarm of geometrical constructs, they occasionally drop other weapons. The hammer swings slower but deals the most damage; the daggers are short ranged but very fast; the lance has the longest reach and can punch through swarms to hit important targets; the axe has the widest swing arc; and the sword is the all-rounder of the lot. While your attacks have a limited range, it’s very easy to hit and kill multiple enemies in a single swing, especially if you finesse your aiming during the attack animation. Weapons also have a heavy swing which knocks away tougher enemies. I ended up taking the daggers or lance whenever they were available, mainly for their fast attack speeds.

    Breakpoint
    Highlights:

    Strong Points:Unique focus on melee in a twin-stick shooter; built-in replay function
    Weak Points: Only one game mode
    Moral Warnings: Geometrical violence

    Enemies drop score multipliers and charge gems on death. Score multipliers are pretty straightforward, you’ll need them in your quest for a top score. Charge gems will charge your weapon up to three times. With each level of charge, you gain the ability to throw your weapon with the left trigger (and resetting its charge), and your weapon will improve. It’s only temporary though; as soon as you reach the first level of charge, a Break bar appears around your ship; each attack thereafter counts down to a Break. On the last hit, your weapon reaches its breaking point, dispersing all the gathered charge energy in a large explosion. Throwing your weapon is a great way to trigger a Break in the middle of a large swarm. As a player who relies on primary weapons and constantly forgets about bombs and other such special weapons, I very much appreciate the Breakpoint mechanic – it’s like having a recharging bomb that automatically activates when most appropriate. I enjoyed the constant tension of deciding whether to hold a charge for a superior attack or throw it for an immediate explosion.

    Breakpoint has a neat cast of enemy shapes all ready to swarm the arena. It starts with small swarms of basic Darts slowly moving towards you, tough Bruisers that can take a beating, and Shooters firing around randomly. Later on there are more interesting enemies. Deadeyes shoot at you from a short range and run away when pursued, making the Lance a very good counter. Riders leave behind a (non-deadly) wall to fence you in. Wards are immune to regular attacks, and Bunkers are immune to Breaks. Guardians protect everything around them and are truly a nightmare to contend with when paired with the basic Dart enemy. Like any good shooter, these enemies all create their own little ballet with the player, compounding in a wonderfully complex capoeira. Beyond the geometrical violence, there are no moral concerns. Kids can enjoy this as much as anyone else.

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

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay – 17/20
    Graphics – 7/10
    Sound – 8/10
    Stability – 5/5
    Controls – 5/5

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

    On top of all this, every run is recorded and can be replayed later, and you can also watch replays of other players via the leaderboard. After playing for a while, I returned to the main menu and discovered that I had somehow unlocked a Hard mode. This was a fun change of pace. Instead of slowly building up the action, you’re tossed right into the thick of it. All the enemies can spawn from the outset, and you skip right past the first few boring minutes.

    The graphics are gorgeous for what they are, and it is entirely fair to compare Breakpoint to Geometry Wars here – it has most certainly earned the right to that comparison. Enemies break up colorfully into their component lines on death, like a party sparkler burning away. The arena’s visuals beat to the rhythm of the adrenaline-pumping soundtrack. The intensity and pacing of the aesthetics only dulls momentarily to sell the Break explosions. One thing that Breakpoint doesn’t mimic from Geometry Wars is the warping of the background hex grid, which makes the field a lot clearer to read; I was extremely grateful for this “lower” graphical detail.

    There’s a lot to like about this arcade title. From the neon colors to the electronic soundtrack, every Breakpoint triggered is a satisfying mini-catharsis to the constant chaos. If you like twin-stick shooters but want something a little different, this game is an easy recommend at $4.99.

  • Bubble Bobble 4 Friends (Switch)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Bubble Bobble 4 Friends
    Developed By: Taito
    Published By: ININ Games
    Released: March 31, 2020
    Available On: Nintendo Switch
    Genre: Action, Arcade, Multiplayer, Party
    ESRB Rating: Everyone (Mild Cartoon Violence)
    Number of Players: Singleplayer (with optional co-op play for up to 3 other players)
    Price: $39.99

    I would like to thank ININ Games for providing the review code for this game.

    When it comes time to have fun with a videogame, most people want something just engaging enough to get you interested and easy enough to learn without being too easy. Bubble Bobble 4 Friends attempts to be a mix of both.

    Bubble Bobble is a classic series. While more known for it's "inverted-Tetris" pure puzzle game counterparts and various clones, it also has some titles that are platformers with puzzle elements. This game is one of the latter.

    There is a story to this game, mostly about stopping an evil magician and his robotic henchmen, but it's fairly forgettable. The gameplay, however, is quite the different story, Using the ability to spew bubbles, your little dinosaur protagonist can use these bubbles as stepping stones (as they can float upwards), to trap enemies or a temporary bridge. Jumping and crawling are other activities you can perform in the various levels. Nigh all levels have the objective of defeating all enemies until you reach the next. The boss battles are scaled-up versions of fighting regular foes, and you must avoid hits (you lose a life if you take even one) while pelting bubble until the boss is finally trapped for defeat in one.

    Bubble Bobble 4 Friends
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun to play and simple to learn puzzle platforming
    Weak Points: Limited variety in the level structure
    Moral Warnings: Mild cartoony violence against robot-like beings

    The early levels are pretty brainless, but later levels will test your platformer skills, Aside from general lack of mission variety, it's hard to complain about the number of levels, and bare minimum this game can take most of a day to beat if you take it slow.

    Graphics depend on if we are talking about the Switch version or original arcade version bundled inside. The original arcade version looks like the 8-bit days of gaming and is nigh identical. As for the Switch version, it looks stunning as well. The colors tend towards bright and cheerful, and while a 2-D platformer, there are some 3-D background effects and semi-3D characters that blend well with the art style. Compared to the 8-bit pixel look of the original arcade game, the style is "cutesy pastel retro" for the main game.

    Sound generally tends to be light and cheerful soundtracks that at least keep you awake if they aren't all that memorable and set the mood for a cartoony and somewhat kiddy platformer game. Did find the noise for shooting bubbles a bit irritating after a while, but this can be mitigated by turning down the sound effects.

    Bubble Bobble 4 Friends
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 97%
    Violence - 8.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Controls are fairly simple and use mostly the D-Pad, the four main control buttons, and the start and select keys. Anyone familiar with a Super Mario game or a similar platformer will be able to adjust within seconds, but the controls are very responsive and easy to quickly memorize even if you are new to platformers.

    I should note I did not test the multiplayer features. This game supports inviting 3 other players for cooperative gameplay. According to the description of this feature provided by the developer, it is intended for couch play, or all players should be close in the same room during co-op play.

    Morally, this is a pretty clean title. The only thing worth noting is some cartoony violence against cute little robots involving hitting them with bubbles and watching them fly off the screen when defeated, but that's it.

    For the sale price, it'll provide enough fun it's worth your money if you want a platformer with a few puzzles yet is still not too difficult at all. Morally, I see no reason this should be any major concern for a young child old enough to watch cartoon slapstick comedy or older.

  • Cyber Protocol (Switch)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Cyber Protocol
    Developed By: RedDeerGames
    Published By: RedDeerGames
    Released: September 26th, 2019
    Available On: Nintendo Switch
    Genre: Arcade
    ESRB Rating: E
    Number of Players: 1-4
    Price: $ 9.99

    First of all, thanks to RedDeerGames for the code for this!

    Pac-Man repackaged! No, seriously. This is what I would call it if we titled our reviews. This may even have been intentional, as the trailer even advertises it as "inspired by Retro Style." Cyber Protocol's levels and mazes are very similar to Pac-Man, although it provides you with a bit of a different storyline. Basically, the objective of this game is to bring your droid friend back to life. How? You go through all 100 of the levels in this game to reboot his 'cyber protocol'. The game opens with an intriguing introduction that draws you into the sci-fi setting of the game, and then quickly you are directed to the mazes that are the meat of the gameplay.

    It's hard not to compare it to Pac-Man, and other reviewers have also noticed similarities. But that doesn't make it a bad game. Far from it. Opening with a similar (but not identical) maze to the classic, you are drawn into a game that requires you to proceed from one end of the maze to the other in order to progress. Like Pac-Man, you go across the screen and eat dots. There are even places on the maze that equal instant death. Or rather, when your cursor lands on a skull, you are sent back to the beginning. However, a difference is there are no fruits to eat or ghosts chasing you- you just have to get from one end to the other of the maze. This isn't as simple as it sounds. On the third level, a death trap is about a ¼ of the way through the maze, and it seems impossible to progress without stepping right into it. You have to find a creative way around this to progress to the next level.

    Cyber Protocol
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Clever repackaging of vintage arcade games, particularly Pac-Man; fun gameplay; intriguing graphics
    Weak Points: Can get boring after the first few levels as it feels like you are doing the same thing over and over
    Moral Warnings: Simulates hacking

    Cyber Protocol is supposed to make the player feel like they are hacking. As I've never hacked before, I cannot verify to how true this is. But as gameplay progresses, it becomes more obvious what one is supposed to do. Basically, as the game progresses and you get closer and closer to the ending, the mazes become more complex.

    The sounds and controls are top-notch. Like any technology-based game, there are a lot of bleeps and blips, but this is not a boring soundtrack at all. As the cursor rushes through the maze, literally almost every action has a corresponding sound. The dots eaten sound just like Pac-Man. The rushing cursor has its own noise too. Hitting the traps plays a unique sound as well. The soundtrack is not a boring, drippy elevator music. It is a lively soundtrack that is perfectly appropriate for the sci-fi background and setting of a computer-based world where you are on a quest to rescue your droid friend. In fact, the soundtrack is so popular it is available on Nintendo eShop as part of the Cyber Protocol bundle. For me, I'm satisfied with the music while playing the game, but aficionados of the tunes can buy them and play them within the game for the price of 9.99

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

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 90%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical -8.5/10

    Now, how does it hold up morally? There are no swear words in the game, no examples of gross or inappropriate humor, no overly sexual situations, no occultic overtones. It's a pretty clean game in that area. But as the game is meant to simulate hacking, that could raise some concerns. You are not hacking, but is it ethical to pretend you are? If one is really picky, one could raise moral concerns over this.

    All in all, I was not disappointed with Cyber Protocol and it gave me great fun and joy while providing nostalgia about my days playing Pac-Man on the NES when I was a young child. The only concern is the simulation of hacking, and the brightness of the atmosphere may not be recommended for sensitive gamers. But it's a decent game and pretty fun.

  • Deep Space Rush (PS4)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Deep Space Rush
    Developed by: BUG-Studio
    Published by: Ratalaika Games
    Release date: October 22, 2019
    Available on: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
    Genre: Arcade Platformer
    Number of players: Single player
    ESRB Rating: E 10+ for Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Mild Language
    Price: $4.99

    Thank you, Ratalaika Games, for sending us a review key!

    It does not take long to see all of what Deep Space Rush has to offer. What is in the game offers little reason to keep picking it up. This side-scrolling shooter sends the player into a station to stop an alien infection, and there they are returned, back to the beginning of a randomized station, after each death. The most progression offered is increasing enemy variety as the areas go by and a pool of upgrades at the occasional healing shop. It does not take long to buy all upgrades, and once you do, there is little more to work toward. The shooting gameplay is not enjoyable enough to encourage repeated play sessions. Though I have kept playing to attempt to get further down the procedurally-generated hallway, I felt done with Deep Space Rush in a couple of hours.

    A guide for the simple controls - move back and forth, jump, and shoot - appear whenever the game is started. The first time you play, you are given brief instructions on what your character is entering a space station for. This speech sets the barest amount of narrative and includes the only swear word in the game, d*mn, once. The speaker also tells the player not to bother leaving witnesses. This may be immoral; fortunately, the game has no innocent NPCs to hurt that I could find. Deep Space Rush cannot be faulted for containing story or gameplay filler, which is good in an arcade shooter.

    Deep Space Rush
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A few clever guns and power-ups
    Weak Points: Few and underwhelming upgrades; limited motion hinders combat; little incentive to overcome difficulty
    Moral Warnings: One use of d*mn; alien blood; player kills aliens with guns and explosions; aliens, turrets, and traps attack the player; the player is instructed to leave no witnesses in opening dialog

    The gameplay is underwhelming, mostly due to level navigation. There are a variety of guns, and while most are interchangeable, all feel useful. One gun that bounces beams off the walls and another that seals enemies in a bubble are particularly fun and powerful. Movement and jumping are less satisfying. It’s not that they are unresponsive; it is more that they feel inadequate. Deep Space Rush is a game that demands precision to stay alive but lacks polish in in the challenges it presents. Traps are the most common culprits. The tendency of the procedural generator to jam traps close together makes navigation more frustrating than fulfilling. Flashing laser walls differ from each other in frequency and sometimes are quite close together. Spikes are sometimes enemies in disguise that will leap out of the ground when the player attempts to pass them. If there’s a way to distinguish the enemies in disguise from immobile traps, I haven’t discovered it. While trying to pass laser walls, there is not a good way to draw out hidden jumping aliens. The final element making mobility a chore are enemies that explode, taking out the ground with them. They detonate whether they reach the player or are shot away, so there is always the possibility of crossing a chasm while avoiding laser walls and hoping spike monsters don’t rise from the ground.

    This may sound exciting, and I believe the game’s marketing material would include this under “challenging.” But the character’s jumps simply don’t feel suited to dealing with all these in quick succession in addition to the standard enemies. While the spikes, turrets, and lasers encourage care, the enemies encourage sprinting. It is just easier not to deal with the alien threats directly, because the player can only aim a gun forward or backward.

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

    Game Score - 56%
    Gameplay - 9/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 89%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 9/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

    The aliens have decent variety. They jump, teleport, burst into goo (further hampering mobility), and fall from the ceiling. This last group attempts to latch onto the character’s face, disrupting control for several seconds. I’m not sure this has ever gotten me killed, but that may be because it’s the enemy I prioritize so that I don’t fall into a hole.

    Besides guns, the player also unlocks a speed boost and a shield. The shield is a reprieve, letting the player zap all enemies on contact. The boost is a killer, making navigation over spikes and under lasers harder. It might be worth focusing on shield upgrades while ignoring the red boost completely. The other unlockables are guns followed by gun upgrades. The gun upgrades are probably useful, but their incremental increases do not give great boosts in power. Worse, everything is unlocked relatively quickly. Without compelling music or graphics, the loop of runs feels monotonous. Deaths, whether alien or player, are not gory. The low detail violence is the main potential moral concern.

    I encountered a few sound and visual glitches while playing Deep Space Rush. All were amusing in some way and did not hamper progress, so I don’t hold them against the game too much. Yet the game does not have much to offer on the whole. The gameplay is limited and difficult without great incentive or help in trying to perform well. Even for the low price, I do not recommend Deep Space Rush.

  • Downwell (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Downwell
    Developed By: Moppin
    Published By: Devolver Digital
    Released: October 15, 2015
    Avaiable On: Windows, iOS, Android, Switch, PS4, PSVita
    Genre: Arcade Action, Platormer
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10+ (Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood)
    Number of Players: Single player, online leaderboard
    Price: $2.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Downwell is a clever little arcade-action game from 2015 about diving down a well. Why are you diving down a well? No explanation is given at the outset, but the reason is also a bit of surreal humor if you manage to make it to the end. It’s a title that cuts to the chase and explains exactly what’s going to happen without trying to sound pretentious or pad to a required word count like some poorly underpaid video game reviewer.

    As you dive downwell, you’ll encounter a procedurally generated pit full of platforms and enemies. The objective is simple and intuitive: get to the bottom of this well. And to help with this, you are equipped with Gunboots, a weapon as stylistically edgy to arcade gaming as the Gunblade is to anime. Movement is simple: left, right, and jump. Hitting the jump button again while airborne will fire your Gunboots downward. You have a limited amount of weapon energy, but it reloads whenever you touch the ground. Two actions in one jump button, but with zero confusion since only one action is relevant at any time. It’s a clever way to simplify the input, given that you’ll have little time to fumble over the controls as you dive at breakneck pace down the well.

    Enemies come in a few varieties, but what matters for the most part is whether they can be killed by shooting at them, or by jumping on their heads in your best Italian plumber impression. Kill an enemy and it will drop some gems. Bounce on an enemy and you’ll also reload your gunboots. Clever! Chain kill enough enemies without touching the ground, and you’ll score some bonus gems, extra weapon charge, and maybe even a health boost. Movement is fast, fluid, and responsive to match the pace needed to achieve these combos, but if you need a bit of extra airtime, you can jump off walls once, and the recoil of firing the gunboots will also stop your downward trajectory momentarily. What a clever little mechanic!

    Downwell
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Tight and compact design where everything cleverly fits together; fast paced action
    Weak Points: Very high difficulty in later stages
    Moral Warnings: Killing monsters; ghosts and skeletons; one upgrade icon is a fetus

    On occasion you’ll see little gaps in the side walls with a bubble. Step in the Time Bubble and time stops while you explore a small side room for a gem cache, or a shop to purchase health and weapon charge, or change weapons. The weapons are a varied lot, from your standard machine guns to spread guns to powerful lasers and the momentum-inheriting Noppy, and they use up different amounts of weapon energy per shot. Weapon pickups will also increase your weapon energy charge or restore lost health, and it’s a clever way to get players to engage with all the weapons rather than sitting on a single good weapon. Finish a level and you’ll be able to choose from one of three upgrades. These are mostly utility options though, which means progress is a matter of your skill level rather than your ability to stack damage.

    Collected gems also go toward unlocking new palettes and new “styles.” Palettes are straightforward, and they change the game from black and white and red to a different set of three colors. Styles offer modifications to player abilities. Arm-Spin changes most side-rooms to weapon drops, Boulder offers more starting health for reduced end-of-level options, Levitate has floatier jump physics, and Handstand discards upgrades for cheaper shop prices. None of these options are particularly gamebreaking however, and few players can expect to make it to the fourth stage, let alone defeat the end boss.

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

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

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

    The aesthetics of the game are simple and to the point. The incredibly sparse palette of black, white and red makes everything incredibly easy to read – if something is red, then it’s dangerous and should be shot rather than jumped on. Just by looking at an enemy, you have a sense of what it will do, and how you should approach it. The sound design is also simple and to the point. Gems ping as you collect them, the gunboots fire with an appropriate 8-bit crunch, and the background music evokes the bouncy echo of the well’s stony walls. Have I mentioned how clever this game’s design is yet?

    Besides defeated enemies exploding in little piles of bones and disappearing, various enemies in later levels are ghosts or spirits. One of the upgrades, “Youth,” also has questionable imagery, as it is a fetus - abortion is of course an inhumane practice that stands in opposition to God’s commandments against murder. The game is otherwise quite light on moral concerns.

    Downwell is a game that manages to pack mechanics into mechanics. It’s an overflowing well of ideas packed into the span of a coffee break that will have you bouncing on heads and maximizing your air time for some amazing combos. And that’s clever.

  • Fewar-DVD (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Fewar-DVD
    Developed By: dev_dwarf, HIS, Lewmoth, nickmuse
    Published By: N/A
    Released: December 31, 2021
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Action-arcade
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: Singleplayer
    Price: $4.99

    Fewar-DVD is an top-down survival arcade game where you play as a sentient heart and dodge a variety of traps. I find it comparable to Pac-Man in game-feel due to having similar movement restrictions and constantly being chased down by red swords. Fewar-DVD is imperfect in a lot of ways but ends up being one of the most visually interesting games I’ve played in a while and has a very addicting gameplay loop.

    The goal of Fewar-DVD is to simply get to the end of the game, dodging obstacles and collecting treasure. At least, that’s your starting goal, but I’ll explain the looping aspect of the game later. There are 5 different areas each with their own little quirks, such as the first area’s large swinging axes or the walls being made of swords and other sharp objects in the fourth area. The rooms are pre-built patterns that are randomly slapped together and have some treasure thrown into a couple rooms and a key to unlock the blocked off-center room. To get to the next level you have to grab the key and travel into the eyeball in the center room, rinse and repeat 15 times. The run variety mostly comes down to the item placement and general level design, making for a very simple gameplay loop.

    Along the way you can find shops that contain a few different upgrades. There isn’t a large variety of these, but the items sold there are incredibly useful. Generally, I find it almost a necessity to pick up the heart shield that orbits around your character and blocks damage for you and the revive item that gives you a second wind. There are also things like a compass and a big sword that you can use to break traps.

    Fewar-DVD
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Thematically interesting; addictive gameplay; challenging
    Weak Points: Game breaking bug; can get a little repetitive
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence

    The endgame content is where Fewar-DVD shines. In the Interim area you have a choice to either end your run, or you can keep going, looping back to the first area of the game. When you loop, the game gets progressively more difficult, adding more traps to dodge and blocking off corridors with toxic black walls. The constant increase in difficulty forces you to play more and more carefully, and the game slowly goes from being hard to brutal. There’s also a secret area hidden behind looping that provides a very fast reaction-based challenge and messes with the order of areas you proceed to. I find that looping mechanics are executed perfectly here, and are what causes this game to be so addictive; the push to survive for longer and longer.

    There are a few issues and weird inconsistencies with the game. There’s a lack of control and video options. I’ve found that Fewar-DVD plays differently between mouse controls and a controller. With a controller you’re able to actually slow down your character’s movement speed while on a mouse you always move at a set speed. There’s also a bug in the game that causes it to crash upon loading a level that happens randomly and often enough to end a good chunk of runs. A nit-pick I have is due to not being able to ever stop moving, your spawn placement can be kind of iffy in a couple of the areas leading to almost guaranteed damage upon entering a new level, but I’ve found you can prevent the needless hits by moving your mouse cursor to the center of the screen during the loading screen.

    Fewar-DVD
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 3/5

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

    The visuals and audio are incredible. The top-down view of the world has a very grainy and edgy look to it, it feels eerie and unsafe. The game is incredibly vague about what it’s trying to be from a thematic standpoint, but it also makes sure that all important information is plenty visible. Everything is oddly clear despite being covered in murky filters, and you add on screechy, crunchy sound effects on top of that with upbeat electronic music blasting and it becomes a very unique experience. Morally there isn’t a ton going on to cause concern.

    There are routinely symbols on the ground that you use to travel and getting your heart-shaped player stabbed is a common occurrence. I am actually surprised the game doesn’t have an ounce of blood around or any explicit messaging considering the theming, but the game remains relatively clean.

    Fewar-DVD is far from a perfect title, however, it is a unique little gem that provides a difficult challenge and a great gameplay loop that keeps you coming back. For the asking price I’d say it’s easily worth trying the game for yourself despite the issues.

  • Foxpaww Breakout (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Foxpaww Breakout
    Developed By: SnowySierra
    Published By: SnowySierra
    Released: February 19, 2021
    Available On: Linux, Windows
    Genre: Arcade; Block Breaker
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: Single player
    Price: $0.99

    Thank you SnowySierra for submitting this through our Steam Curator.

    Take the classic block-breaker genre, add a bunch of cute woodland creatures, and you've got yourself FoxPaww Breakout by SnowySierra. An arcade-style game that takes inspiration from the Breakout series, but with something a little bit different. Whereas many games of this genre take place on one screen and the goal/objective is to eliminate all the blocks, Foxpaww’s objective is to save the trapped animals across multiple screens in a single level.

    Most block-breaker games only have the player control the paddle to hit the ball around. Foxpaww, on the other hand, has the player control both the ball and the paddle (in this case, the paddle being a paw). Using up or down on the arrow keys, mouse wheel, or WASD has the ball curve giving it a bit more control beyond the designated path the paw hits it in. Moving left and right with the previously mentioned controls moves the paw around. There are three different methods of control, whether it’s only using the mouse, the keyboard, or a combination of both. As of version 1.3.6, the controls were touched upon and refined, feeling better overall. The resolution issues prior to version 1.3.6 were also fixed, making it so that your mouse cursor stays locked onto the game. Keyboard controls are not as swift or accurate as mouse movement, but are way less annoying to deal with.

     

    Foxpaww Breakout
    Highlights:

    Strong Points:Sickeningly adorable visuals
    Weak Points: Doesn’t evolve beyond its simple concept; awkward controls
    Moral Warnings: Graveyard/Halloween themed levels with skulls and ghosts

    Foxpaww is split into 21 randomly generated levels, each containing many different rooms to find the captive animals. There are different types of “blocks” ranging from fluffy kitties and puppies, apples, carrots, ice crystals, cacti, and rocks. Sometimes there are larger “blocks” that consist of trees and snowmen that spawn more blocks if left undisturbed. There are a few graveyard/Halloween-themed levels that have little ghosts and skulls floating about. Most of the blocks have adorable faces and the ball itself is a fuzzy brown creature. It’s sickeningly sweet! At the bottom is a row of thorny bushes. Don’t let the fuzzball touch them or a small amount of heath will decrease. A life will be lost if the entire health bar is depleted.

    Two "new" game modes were added with version 1.3.6. The original mode is now titled adventure mode. The adventure mode adds dangerous enemies that take away some health if knocked into, as well as more hazards. Some levels in adventure mode now have a no paw challenge which makes it so that all navigation is done through the keyboard or control sticks. The actual new mode is breakout mode where mouse control takes priority and the ball will now automate towards an open area to the next screen.

    With the randomly-generated levels, Foxpaww boasts a high amount of replayability, but a player will most likely see everything that is offered within the first 15 minutes of playing and may drag on for many. There are these fuzzy notes scattered in the levels that act as requirements to move on to the next level. They’re fairly easy to collect and most players will reach the max of 99 before a third of the way through. The notes also heal a portion of health. In July 2021, the game was updated to give animals given special abilities. The animal you save will take over acting as the ball and paddle. For example, the owl has the ability to fly over terrain while the rabbit increases in speed. Saving animals overrides the ability of the current one so there is a bit of strategy when it comes to rescuing animals.

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

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

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

    The music and sound effects are fine. There are only a few tracks in Foxpaww, but it does fit the relaxing tone. Sound effects are pretty unique as there is a distinct sound for each property. Hitting the ice crystals has a cool shattering sound effect, collecting the fuzzy notes is distinct, and hitting ghosts gives off a little “ooooo…” sound effect. This game can almost give me diabetes for how cute it is.

    Foxpaww Breakout is another entry to a long-standing genre spanning about 45 years. It’s super adorable and the aesthetics are nice. The recent updates have refined the gameplay and make it a worthy addition to any Steam Library. I’m sure that if you like furry animal creatures or something generally safe for all ages, it’s an hour and a half well spent.

  • Germination (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Germination
    Developed By: Sullivan Boyd, Caden Petersen
    Published By: Sullivan Boyd, Caden Petersen
    Released: April 13, 2018
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Arcade; platformer
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: Single-player
    Price: $3.99

    Thanks to Sullivan Boyd and Caden Petersen for the Steam review key!

    Germination is a simplistic arcade platformer designed around the Mario head-stomp mechanic combined with a combo system. The game is the pure definition of coffee break with my longest session being at most 5 minutes long and an incredible sense of “one more try”.

    The main goal in Germination is to simply get to the end and rack up a score. Supposedly there’s a boss fight at the end, but I’ve never made it further than maybe halfway. The game is brutally difficult but remains completely fair. Your only mode of combat is stomping on top of plant-based enemies. Enemies are designed in a way to make this difficult, with some shooting from side to side and others drilling through the planet and launching themselves into the air. Even the basic flower can do a bit of a sidestep to just barely get out of the way of being stomped. To get a good score, you have to take advantage of the combo system. Make sure to never touch the ground and stomp as many plants as possible. From a 5-15 combo, your character becomes faster and faster, while also being harder and harder to control. At a 25 combo, you can activate an ability and break the planet you’re on, killing everything on the map. These systems are mechanically simple, but require a lot of precision to execute.

    Germination
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Addictive; clean pixel art; mechanically solid; challenging
    Weak Points: Challenging; unfitting soundtrack
    Moral Warnings: Crushing several plant-based enemies

    Your playing field is the outskirts of a small 2D planet with a bit of gravitational pull. The gravity is a large part of what makes character control difficult during a combo. During a combo, you end up less and less affected by gravity, which means you end up further and further off the surface of the planet, and your astronaut is faster and lighter. While at first I wasn’t a big fan of this because it felt impossible to control with precision, I found that with practice you still can control the character just fine.


    The artwork of Germination is really good. The pixel art characters blend together nicely and everything is easy to distinguish. The sound effects have a nice weight to them despite being arcade-like. The music is very good and has a dynamic system where certain enemy spawns change the soundtrack, but it sounds way too laid back for the fast paced nature of the game. There is controller support but I haven’t gotten it to work with my Xbox One controller, and controls cannot be rebound. I haven’t noticed any bugs in my playtime. There was no tutorial which was off-putting, but luckily this wasn't a huge issue due to the simplicity of the game.

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

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 95%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 9.5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Germination consists of a lot of killing, but it’s all against various plant-based creatures. There is no blood in sight and your human character simply drifts off into space when they die. There is an online leaderboard so there is potential for offensive names.


    I thoroughly enjoyed Germination. It’s simple and has a high skill ceiling and stomping on enemies has a perfect ‘oomph’ feeling to it. The online leaderboards give me a great incentive to keep grinding away and each session is unique and short enough to keep from becoming stale. For the cheap price and minimalistic mechanics, I recommend it to everyone who may be interested.

  • HEIANKYO ALIEN / 平安京エイリアン

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    HEIANKYO ALIEN / 平安京エイリアン 
    Developed By: Mindware Co., Ltd.
    Published By: Mindware Co., Ltd.
    Released: October 13, 2017
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Action, Maze, Puzzle
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: 1 to 2 players
    Price: $13.99

    Thank you Mindware Co.,Ltd. for sending us this game to review.

    A long time ago, if someone wanted to play video games, one would have to walk to a place such as an arcade, a laundromat, or some other facility like a pizza shop. People didn’t have the luxury of a massive library of genres right at their fingertips and play with or against people across the world in seconds. Consoles back then were also mostly seen as a luxury item that belonged to the rich and wealthy, so poor people were typically at the mercy of arcade machines and a fistful of quarters if they wanted to get their game on. Heiankyo Alien was originally released in Japan in 1979 as a computer game by the University of Tokyo’s Theoretical Science Group, and then as an arcade cabinet in 1980. Heiankyo Alien managed to be a fairly influential game of the genre, but is fairly obscure to international audiences.

    HEIANKYO ALIEN manages to both be a remake and a remaster, as it includes two games: the original “Heiankyo Alien” and the arranged version “Heiankyo Alien 3671.” Both games have a simple premise: run around a maze while avoiding aliens. Dig holes around the area to trap aliens in them and then fill the holes to eliminate the aliens. It feels similar to other maze games such as Pac-Man and Bomberman, but still has many differences to make it feel unique. In 3671, there are a wider variety of options for the player such as power-ups that can help you dig faster, run faster and multipliers that increase your score. Control options include both gamepad and keyboard, and both are responsive, smooth, and easy to use. 

    HEIANKYO ALIEN / 平安京エイリアン
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A large amount of settings that can be changed to your liking; The original game is included with this package.
    Weak Points: The original game is basically there for novelty purposes; No high score tracking or leaderboards.
    Moral Warnings: Killing aliens; Your character turns into an angel when you die.

    Different from the original, 3671 also lets you score points if you make an outline with the boxes by running alongside them. Since 3671 puts more of an emphasis on scoring, the game is played in 5 minute increments with infinite lives. The aliens move in an erratic manner, but there are methods to influence the paths they take. Digging holes in certain spots can potentially move them where you want them, and there is candy you can pick up that attracts the aliens. You can use these strategies to set up a trap. Be wary, as even if an alien is trapped they can be freed after five instances of alien cries or about 8 seconds. This does apply when you are in the process of burying them too. Alien allies can instantly free their brothers and sisters if they happen to bump into a trapped alien. As the levels increase, more aliens appear on the screen, but your digging/burying and movement become faster too, to give an edge against the increasing horde.

    3671 is a very colorful and bombastic game. There are lots of effects going on such as blur effects from the character and the enemies, particle effects that pop out when the levels increase, everything changing color as the time ticks down, and lots of words being displayed on the screen. The psychedelic visuals, combined with the groovy music and clear sound effects, make the game feel like a constant party. As the levels increase and more and more aliens are displayed on the screen, all of this can be pretty overwhelming and it can be very easy to lose yourself in the madness. Fortunately, there are option settings that let you tweak all of these effects to your liking; you can even turn them all off if you choose to do so.

    In the options menu, not only can particle effects be adjusted, game settings can be adjusted as well, such as what level you begin the game on, the layout of the maze, the position of where you character spawns, and an interesting setting called Glitch Encore Alien. This setting doesn't seem like much at first, but is actually a key component to obtaining a very large score. The setting is tied to the mechanic of the alien eating candy, and if you happen to build a hole on an alien eating candy, it will create a special type of hole that can amass a ton of points.

    HEIANKYO ALIEN / 平安京エイリアン
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 68%
    Gameplay - 11/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

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

    I did come across some issues with 3671. For a game that makes an emphasis on getting as big of a high score as possible, it doesn’t keep track of high scores at all. If one wants to save their high score, they would have to take a screenshot once the game is over. It’s also very strange that when 3671 starts, it lets you either open up the program or the manual in a PDF file. Only one of these options can run at once so unfortunately you cannot have both running at the same time.

    The original Heiankyo Alien game, while it is nice that it is included, is definitely a product of its time, and is pretty hard to play today. Your character moves much slower than in 3671 and the aliens move a bit faster. There are no power-ups for you to use, the aliens can get out of the holes faster, and your character only has three to five lives. The controls feel very stiff and digging/burying is excruciatingly slow. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get the co-op function to work either, but even if I did, the game was originally meant to be played with the players facing each other. In a way, the inclusion of the original feels more like a novelty than for someone to actually enjoy. It reminds me of what Vanillaware did for Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, and even though (in both cases) the original pales in comparison to the remake, it’s always nice to include things like that to observe a part of video game history.

    In terms of moral issues and warnings, there are a few. The concept of a premature burial is your only way of defense against the aliens, and when your character touches a competent alien, the alien proceeds to eat the player and they turn into an angel and float away. The 8-bit style graphics make it impossible to show anything graphic, but the implications of the whole thing is pretty gruesome (or maybe I just think too much about silly things such as this).

    HEIANKYO ALIEN can be a good time for the right person, but it’s not meant for everyone. People who love arcade style games, or grew up during the times where arcades were plentiful, will most likely get a lot of enjoyment out of this package, but the style of the game may have little appeal to a newer generation. It does have some potentially addicting properties, but for me, without leaderboards or score tracking, I feel I got everything I wanted from the few hours I played it. In the menu I noticed some grayed out modes such as "Idol Mode" and "Mod Play," even though almost a year has passed since the release, so I’m not sure if they will ever be implemented. I would potentially like to see HEIYANKO ALIEN released for the Switch in the future, as the quick play nature of the game really complements a portable system.

    -Cinque Pierre

  • Invasion (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Invasion
    Developed by: Brutalsoft
    Published by: Brutalsoft
    Release date: June 15, 2018
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Shooter
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $2.99

    Thank you Brutalsoft for sending is this game to review!

    Invasion begins with your character, an FUF soldier, enjoying a peaceful night in the mountains. Their respite is quickly interrupted as a helicopter swoops down and escorts them to headquarters. Aliens are invading and it’s up to you to save the world.

    When you first launch Invasion, you’ll be asked for your call sign, skill level, difficulty, and game mode. There is a campaign and survival mode with a normal and hardcore difficulty level. As a female gamer I opted for the soldier difficulty since the previous two (boy and man) didn’t apply to me.

    This game is only controlled with keyboard and mouse. The WASD keys will move your tank while the left mouse button fires you light guns and the right mouse button fires the heavy guns. The space bar is used for initiating slow motion mode.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fast-paced gameplay; low price; good music
    Weak Points: Noticeable slowdowns even with a high-end gaming desktop
    Moral Warnings: Combat violence; language (d*mn, b*stards) and inappropriate gestures; tobacco use

    The levels are broken down into fourteen waves and there’s a progress bar on the lower right-hand side so you can see how far along you are. On the left-hand side of your screen are four gauges that you have to pay attention to: heat, slowmo, armor, and a nuclear symbol.

    As you fire your weapons the heat gauge will rise and when your weapons overheat, they’ll stop firing. This means that you can’t spam the firing ability. When the armor depletes, you’ll fail the level. You may get some help from a CPU ally and it’s nice to know that they can die without failing the level. However, one advantage the AI has is the knowledge of which direction to shoot before the enemies appear on the screen!

    The enemy ships come in different sizes, speeds, and flight patterns. Once defeated, they’ll often drop power-ups that can slightly refill your gauges. The slow motion ability is nice and comes in handy when you have multiple enemies on your screen. Pink power-ups charge up the nuclear strike and when the nuclear symbol is fully illuminated, an attack will commence shortly.

    Upon completing a level, you’ll earn some credits which can be used to increase your max armor, speed, heat, and cool down periods. You can also upgrade your guns which have stats you need to pay attention to like damage per second, heat per second, and cool down per second.

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

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay: 17/20
    Graphics: 7/10
    Sound: 7/10
    Stability: 4/5
    Controls: 5/5

    Morality Score - 74%
    Violence: 7/10
    Language: 5/10
    Sexual Content: 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural: 7/10
    Cultural/moral/Ethical: 8/10

    Like many Steam titles, this game supports cloud saves and has nineteen achievements to unlock. One of the achievements is called Butthead and shows a cartoon rear end. Other things to note include your character flipping off the aliens and some language (d*mn, b*stard). Spaceship violence is a given.

    The combat graphics are simple, but get the job done. The story sequences are done in a comic art style. For a game less than 100MB, I’m rather impressed. I must say that my high-end gaming machine (Ryzen 5950X, 32GB RAM, SSD, 3080 Graphics) stuttered multiple times while playing this game so I think it can use some optimizing.

    All of the communication is done via text dialogue. The rocking background music is quite good and is available for purchase on Steam for $1.99.

    With a $2.99 price tag, this game is certainly worth looking into. Especially with a Steam sale. The game stuttering is a bit of a bummer, but I still enjoyed my time shooting down alien space ships.

  • Jet Set Corps (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Jet Set Corps
    Developed By: NowakGames
    Published By: NowakGames
    Released: Nov 11, 2020
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Action, Arcade, Platformer
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: Up to two players
    Price: $7.99

    Thank you NowakGames for sending us a review code!

    It’s pretty crazy to see how far video games have come since they’ve been commercially available in 1972. From 2D 8-bit games of the past to massive 3D games containing trillions of polygons. Although I was born in the 90s, I’ve played many games that originated from the 70s and 80s. Jetpac in particular came out in 1983 on the ZX Spectrum by the company we know as Rare. I did not have a ZX Spectrum, but I was introduced to the game in Nintendo’s Donkey Kong 64, as it was a minigame contained in said entry of the Donkey Kong franchise. The goal of Jetpac is to fly your little astronaut around a 2D plane collecting pieces of your ship, and then fuel to fly away. Various aliens would try to ram into you, so armed with a blaster, you would defend yourself. This would pretty much repeat until you lose all your lives. Believe it or not, this was a critically acclaimed game way back in the 80s.

    Like many things in life, some people are unable to let go of the past, and NowakGames takes the Jetpac concept and does a half-remake and half-reimagining of the gameplay and concept. Now known as Jet Set Corps (previously known as JETPACK), It’s time to take a trip back to the past and experience the gaming your parents experienced, or even yourself did when you were a kid.

    Jet Set Corps still retains the basic gameplay and presentation and adds a few more concepts to it. First of all, there are two game modes. Old school is what you would expect it to be, but not quite. There’s actually a brief story to Jet Set Crops. Aliens attack the Earth. Only armed with a blaster and jetpack, you must fly around vaporizing aliens and saving colonists. At least six colonists are required to be saved before fuel can be collected to leave the planet. Old school mode may play the same as the game it is inspired by, but there are 18 levels to be completed, each with its own style and sometimes even gimmicks to explore. One level you might have to avoid meteors while saving the colonists and other levels may be covered by darkness, with only your character being illuminated. The latter gave off a survival horror kind of feel as at any time an alien may surprise you and instantly eliminate you.

    Jetpack
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Imaginative gimmicks that spice up level variety; multiple difficulty levels; breathes new life into an old classic
    Weak Points: Inconsistent level difficulty; stiff movement; annoying menu music; new school is the weaker game mode compared to old school
    Moral Warnings: Violence and explosions

    At the end of every level, a Space Invaders-styled level is played and if you shoot down all the enemies with your ship before they reach the bottom of the screen, you are rewarded an extra life. Each level contains different types of enemies with different patterns. To help out, Jet Set Corps grants you many different power-ups such as a shield to protect you from one hit, a projection of your character that collects one colonist/ship/fuel for you, and an upgraded blaster. The power-ups end up making the gameplay loop feel fresh, but only one power-up (with the exception of the upgraded blaster) can be held at a time, and the only way to pick up a new power-up is to use up the older one.

    New school takes the concept of endless runner games and applies them to Jet Set Corps, making it a 2D side scroller. Fuel, ship parts, and colonists still have to be collected, and the game mode simply goes on until all lives are lost, unlike old school mode which has a definitive end. New school has no set difficulty settings and simply going further is the challenge, with the pace of the game speeding up after each level. It’s nice for a change of pace but it's obvious that it simply acts as a topping to the main course.

    How NowakGames handles difficulty is done nicely for the most part. Levels in old school mode can be attempted an infinite amount times but losing all of your lives resets your score. There are also three difficulty levels, with normal being the default setting. On normal, you’ll start off with four lives. Hard and insane are unlocked by completing old school mode on the previous difficulty. Hard and insane not only add more enemies to the levels—they also add certain gimmicks that were part of some of the later levels as mandatory features. Hard makes you start with three lives while insane only lets you start with two. On the other hand, the levels themselves have an inconsistent difficulty to them. I found level 2 of old school to be substantially harder compared to level 3, and level 7 to be way easier than even level 1. Maybe a part of it has to do with how objects and enemies spawn. In Jet Set Corps, they spawn instantly and have a randomized pattern as to when they spawn. This can lead to some cheap and frustrating deaths, especially on the higher difficulties as enemies are already on the move the millisecond they appear on the screen.

    In all of the game modes, the astronaut controls a bit stiff, almost like they have trouble moving. If controls were more responsive and a bit more floaty, I feel the experience would be better received. The stiffness might be an accurate representation of the games during the 70s, but is it really necessary? Other than that, the rest of the controls are a simple two-button layout either with gamepad or keyboard sufficing.

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

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay 15/20
    Graphics 8/10
    Sound 5/10
    Stability 5/5
    Controls 4/5

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

    Now as Jet Set Crops is a retro game, it has retro graphics. Aliens have one tone in color and explode in a burst of color almost like a firework, while the astronaut is mostly white and blue. The level layout and backgrounds have a good amount of detail to them. In the options menu, there are many different visual settings that emulate the retro look. You can have scanlines and white borders at the corners of your monitor or TV to reflect the CRT style. There’s a bloom effect as well to imitate the "glare" that CRTs gave off. Messing with the visual features is delightful and they can be changed at any time.

    One thing I do not miss from early 80s games is the sound effects and pre-NES era music. I did not know music could be this annoying. In a way it does reflect that period well, however, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Please, if retro sounds are to be desired, emulate the YM2612 (Sega Genesis/Mega Drive) sound chip or even the Ricoh RP2A03 (NES/Famicom) sound chip. I know it wouldn’t be “accurate” but some liberties must be taken. The beep and boop sound effects themselves from enemies and weapons aren’t bad, they can stay.

    Moral warnings are very few as this is such a basic premise. The only thing I saw is the violence. Enemies and the player explode when they are killed. The story is simple so no language or sexual content is present, and no unethical decisions are made.

    I was surprised by this new vision on an old classic. NowakGames didn’t simply just take an old property and re-release it—in many ways they made it better. Jet Set Corps is an enjoyable experience for people who long for simpler times. The initial experience isn’t very long, taking less than an hour to beat. However, there are a fair number of reasons to come back such as multiple difficulties, beating high scores, and simply replaying levels or playing new school mode. It’s also pretty good morally too. Even though its weaker points are pretty weak, they do not detract from the overall experience. For anyone wanting to “modernize” an old property, take a look a NowakGames’ Jet Set Crops.

  • Match Point (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

    Match Point
    Developed by: Jolly Crouton Media, Ltd.
    Published by: Jolly Crouton Media, Ltd.
    Released: October 9, 2018
    Available on: Windows
    Number of Players: 2-4 players
    Genre: Arcade
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you Jolly Crouton Media, Ltd. For sending us this game to review!

    Match Point is an arcade-style local-multiplayer-only PC game. To play, the game requires a Xbox-style controller/gamepad for each player. Once all of the players join the match, they choose which team they would like to play on and move to their side of the map. Upon the game’s start, the players move around the map and use various moves to get the ball into the other team’s goal. The team has two minutes to play and score more points than the opposing team, and then a “last chance” is issued, where each team can score as many points as they can until the ball touches the ground (which is coated in red during a “last chance”), when the “last chance” ends. Then, once the game is over, each player’s results will be shown. The goal has a guard that is decently quick to regenerate, so players must first break the shield and then hit the ball into the goal shortly afterward.

    The controls in the game are plenty easy to adapt to, but are still worth going over. Use the left stick to move around on-screen, A to jump (and double-jump when pressed twice), and use the right trigger to kick the ball. The left trigger is for tethering the ball, and more moves can be executed in combinations: to do a super kick, one must hold the right trigger until fully charged, and then release to perform the super kick. In order to execute a super tether, hold the right trigger to charge it, and then press the left trigger to perform a super tether. These moves all contribute to scoring points against the opposing team.

    In this title, there are seven different game modes and eight different maps to play them in. The default mode – Standard Mode – is where all of the controls listed above are permitted for use in-game. Other modes, however, are less complicated; modes like Simple Mode. In Simple Mode, all of the moves except the super kick and the super tether are able to be used during a match.

    Tennis Mode is a lot different to both of these game modes: Players can only stay on their side of the map (where their team’s goal is), and no tethering is allowed, along with the fact that there aren’t any guards on the goals, so points are earned a lot quicker in Tennis Mode. Moonball Mode is quite distinct as well. In it, players are unable to kick or tether the ball, so they must bump themselves into the ball to make it move. Also, the effect of gravity is lessened, hence the name Moonball Mode.

    Match Point
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Multiplayer, fun gameplay, good rumble on gamepad/controller
    Weak Points: No single player mode, no online multiplayer 
    Moral Warnings:None!

    Magnet Mode, along with a few of the other game modes, is quite interesting. Once a player touches the ball, it becomes attracted to members of the opposing team. This makes it much more difficult to score points for your team. Momentum is key in Magnet Mode. Another mode that is interesting in this same aspect is Twitchy Mode. In Twitchy Mode, no moves are restricted, as in Magnet Mode. However, all players – along with the ball – become noticeably smaller and more sensitive to motion. Momentum isn’t as vital to score points in Twitchy Mode.

    The last game mode available on the list is Mayhem Mode. It is as it sounds: a disaster. There are three balls that players must pay attention to, and each player is shown as white, no matter what their team color is (in every other game mode, players are shown as whatever their team color is), making it much more difficult to keep track of one’s location on the map.

    The eight different maps that matches can take place in include standard, pro, volley, hoops, uneven, high, hockey, and shift. The Standard map shows the goals stretching along the walls, occupying the entire wall. In the Pro map, the goals are in the same spots, except they do not fully occupy the walls. Instead, they only cover the middle portion, making it more difficult to score points.

    The Volley map mimics the way a Volleyball game functions, whereas the goals are of equal length occupying the perimeter of the floor. Because of this, it is easier to score a point, yet harder to defend your own goal. Ensuring that the ball doesn’t make contact with the ground is quite difficult. The Hoops map is similar to this, yet different in other areas. Two-thirds of each side of the map (on the floor) consists of the elevated goals. The other one-third is the space where players can stand that isn’t goal territory. Players can stand on the goal, but they don’t always need to.

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

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    The Uneven map has little purpose in my opinion. Both goals are on the wall, but the goal on the left is three times the size of the right side goal. In every other map, the goals are the exact same size, but this map serves as a good map for matches with an uneven amount of players. High is a map where both goals are on the ceiling, with a small space in between them. Tethering isn’t as useful in this map, however kicking the ball is extremely helpful.

    In the Hockey map, the goals are about the same size as they are in the Pro map, but the goals are closer to the middle of the map, leaving space where players can move behind the goals if need be. They cannot score from behind the goals, however, which helps replicate a hockey game even better. The last map that can be played in is the Shift map, where goals are the same size that they are in the Pro map, yet they both are constantly moving vertically along the walls in a synchronized fashion. This makes it an abundance more challenging to break the goal shield, let alone score a point.

    The graphics of Match Point are as basic as they can get when it comes to their detail, however they are very colorful. Since players are shown on-screen as vertical rectangles, this is something the Atari 2600 could replicate, but when they score, the effects are really neat. Match Point’s main menu has a color scheme of yellow and orange, and I find that combination very attractive.

    Sound and music heard in Match Point is very appropriate for what is going on. During a match, players will hear sort of intense, upbeat music that very much fits the situation and compliments the style of game that Match Point is. Its quality is neither exceptional nor noticeably inadequate.

    As for moral warnings, there is nothing wrong with this title. It is morally perfect; people of all ages can play it. In fact, I found that playing this game with my family was quite enjoyable; it was very fun. I would recommend this game to anyone who has friends to play it with, and to conclude this review, I will say that Match Point is well worth the price.

  • Missile Command: Recharged (Android)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Missile Command: Recharged
    Developed by: Nickervision Studios
    Published by: Atari
    Release date: April 9, 2020
    Available on: Android, iOS
    Genre: Arcade
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: Free to play with micro-transactions

    Thank you Atari for providing us with a review code!

    Missile Command was originally released for arcades in 1980. I played the Atari 2600 version which came out in 1981. The Atari 5200 edition supported the paddle controls which seem to be a better fit than a joystick. Unfortunately, I never got to try the 5200 version with the paddle controllers. The Vita emulated version in the Atari Flashbacks collection is inferior to the 2600 due to poor control emulation. With that said, the touch screen controls in this remake are a match made in heaven!

    The 40th anniversary remake has some notable changes. There are multiple missile launchers and plenty of ammunition to go around. The enemy attacks are nonstop and keep coming until all of your structures are gone. Power-ups and the ability to upgrade your arsenal are added along with online leaderboards.

    Missile Command: Recharged
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: True to the classic game with touch screen support; online leaderboards
    Weak Points: The AR mode is a bit glitched; micro-transactions
    Moral Warnings: Buildings explode

    Since there is no backstory, it’s unclear as to who is relentlessly attacking you and why. They seem to be using missiles of various sizes and bomb-dropping ships though. At first, the missiles maintain their trajectory, but some of them change course and are harder to hit as a result.

    You start off with three buildings that can launch counter-missiles and six buildings to protect. If the missile launchers are destroyed, they will regenerate but the other buildings will not. As your missile launchers disappear, so does your firing power. When all of the buildings are destroyed, it’s game over.

    Purists may not appreciate the power-ups, but I think they’re a nice addition. They have to be shot to be activated, so technically, they’re optional.

    Here’s a breakdown of the ones I have encountered:

    Bomb – Destroys all incoming missiles on the screen
    Fast – Super fast firing rates for a limited amount of time
    Homing – Auto-aiming defense missiles
    Mega – Collateral damage to all nearby missiles
    Rapid – Rapid firing mode, not sure how this is any different than the fast power-up
    Shield – Gives your buildings a temporary shield that can withstand a missile hit
    Time – Slows down everything but your missiles

    Missile Command: Recharged
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay: 16/20
    Graphics: 7/10
    Sound: 8/10
    Stability: 5/5
    Controls: 5/5

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

    After each game, you’ll see your current and previous best score. No matter how good or poorly you have done, you’ll always earn points to spend on four different upgrades. You can increase the power of your attacks, the reload speed, the velocity of your defensive missiles, or reduce the amount of time needed to rebuild a missile launcher.

    If you’re itching for an arcade experience, there is an AR mode which will render an arcade cabinet around your phone camera’s surroundings. I found the AR mode to be cute, but glitchy. I did appreciate the vector graphics in the normal mode. The synthesized background music adds to the retro feel as well.

    Missile Command: Recharged is free to install, but unlimited play can be unlocked with a one-time fee of $2.99. If you’re a fan of the original game, this remake is worth checking out.

  • OlliOlli: Switch Stance (Switch)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    OlliOlli: Switch Stance
    Developed by: Roll7
    Published by: Gambitious
    Released: February 14, 2019
    Available on: Nintendo Switch
    Genre: Arcade
    ESRB Rating: Teen for mild blood and violence
    Number of Players: Up to 4
    Price: 14.99

    Thank you Good Shepherd Entertainment for sending us this game to review!

    OlliOlli: Switch Stance is a skateboarding game that has two different versions: the original OlliOlli, and the sequel: which is called OlliOlli: Welcome to Olliwood. OlliOlli is more pixelated than the sequel, but it is still fun. The other one is great too; it looks really good and has more to it. While they both are from the same series, they are much different.

    OlliOlli

    OlliOlli is a side scrolling skating game where you use a controller to do flips, go fast and avoid obstacles. All you need to do to complete a level is to get to the end. Doing this is not as easy as it sounds. The player will have to do jumps, grinds, and tricks to do this. There will be lots of things that try to prevent you from finishing, like stairs(stairs make you fall off of your skateboard), trash cans(you might want to jump over those), and traffic cones(you should dodge those too). You can use the joystick to grind on rails to get amazing combos, do tricks, and more.

    OlliOlli: Switch Stance
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun, fast paced, multiplayer
    Weak Points: Some bugs
    Moral Warnings: Mild Violence, blood

    There are 5 different areas that you can skate in, and they all have something unique about them. They all have their own map, and the obstacles are all different.

    This version of OlliOlli has very pixelated graphics, but they are not bad. It is still easy to tell what is happening.

    There is decent music, and the music fits the game. There are a couple of different tracks, and which song that plays depends on the level.

    OlliOlli is not violent at all, besides when you fall over. When your character falls off their skateboard, they start tumbling and rolling. Other than that, it's is fine, so I think anyone should play it.

    OlliOlli: Switch Stance
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

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

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

    OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood

    This is also a skating game which is the sequel to OlliOlli. This version is very similar to the first, and it has different music, better graphics, different maps, and some new features. The new features include manual, water traps, fire traps, and lava traps. Manual is a new way to keep your combo going when you touch the ground, giving you the ability to rack up massive combos that you would never be able to achieve in the first OlliOlli game. Water traps are a new obstacle that you need to get over. They are just pools of water where you sink if you land in them. There are also lava traps which do the same thing. Fire traps just kill you if you roll into them.

    There are 5 different locations that you can go to skate, but you have to unlock them first. You can skate in Olliwood, at a temple, in the wild west, in a destroyed carnival, and in the future. They all are fun, but also difficult.

    There's pretty good music, and it is very fitting. There are multiple songs that play, and they all sound good and fit the levels.

    The graphics are a lot better than the first game's graphics; they are so good that they look hand-drawn!

    I only noticed one tiny bug. Here's what happened: I jumped over a water trap, but I landed on the edge. It played the drowning effect where I was, so it looked like I fell into the ground. Other than that one, OlliOlli 2 is completely bug-free (from what I can tell).

    There is some violence that I do not like. There are things like bloody spikes, lava pits and fire that you die when you fall into them, which I don't like at all either. And on top of that, the destroyed carnival that you can skate at is called the Carnival of the Dead and it has lots of blood and dead bodies lying around.

    I think both of these games are fun and enjoyable, but it takes skills to beat them. I think anyone who likes games that are always moving and difficult in a good way, then I think that OlliOlli is for them(it also comes with two versions of OlliOlli so it's kind of a win-win).

  • Pig Eat Ball (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Pig Eat Ball
    Developed by: Mommy’s Best Games
    Published by: Mommy’s Best Games
    Released: September 26, 2018
    Available on: Windows, PS4, Xbox One
    Number of Players: Up to four players with Party Mode, but Adventure mode is Single-player
    Genre: Arcade-style 3D-Platformer
    ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Mommy's Best Games for sending us this game to review!

    Pig Eat Ball is an action-packed arcade-style 3D-platformer game that is available on Windows/Steam, PS4, and Xbox One. You play as Princess Bow, and your father tells you that you should be getting married soon, however, you have other plans, which consist of exploring the galaxy. He has devised “The Royal Games” for men to participate in, and the winner of these games is to marry Princess Bow. You do not want this to proceed, so you disguise yourself so that you can play the games with the hope that you will win, and not be forced to marry.

    In each minigame (which you can’t quit in between), your goal is often to eat all of the “yummies”, which look like yellow tennis balls that are rolling around the screen waiting to be eaten. Sometimes, you are timed to devour a certain amount. This task is difficult because enemies will often inhabit the environment and disturb your objective, and sometimes even make you throw up your food. Barfing the yummies you have eaten so far is common, and often necessary to get through tight spaces, because you get slower and fatter the more yummies you consume, thus making it more difficult to maneuver in the level’s environment.

    That is not the only minigame featured, however. In some minigames, the game-mode is different. Different game-modes include trying to break the most blocks (some of which alternate from breakable to non-breakable), collect the most stars, and in multiplayer mode (playing the same competitive challenges except with up to four players using connected controllers), game-modes can vary from these to challenges like eating the most ice cream cones, staying inside the circle for the longest amount of time as it moves around the screen, or making the most sandwiches by retrieving all of the materials first.

    Pig Eat Ball
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun gameplay, eccentric art, multiplayer  
    Weak Points: No online multiplayer
    Moral Warnings: Fantasy Violence, Crude Humor, and Use of Alcohol and Tobacco 

    Once you complete a level, you will get a rating of multiple medals. This rating will depend on how well you did in the level, how much time it took to complete it, and a few other factors. If you earn all of the possible medals you could get, you will receive a pearl. The space station you live in runs on the power of pearls. Pearls can be viewed by pressing Tab, and they are much like achievements of perfection because they show you how many levels you have completed without flaw.

    In order to retrieve all of the pearls, you must travel all throughout the space station to play all of the minigames and win all of the medals. The space station is divided into four main sections: there’s the Main Hub, the Alpha Module, the Beta Module, and the Gamma Module. You will go through the game in that order.

    Before you start each level, you are given the option to customize your character‘s looks, accessories, and power-ups. You can change your character’s disguise and/or abilities. Power-ups help a lot, but once you use a power-up, you can’t use it again. Power-ups are one use only.

    The controls are pretty simple and easy to adapt to. The direction your character is facing is that of the mouse cursor, and you can use WASD to move around. Left-click to boost your character to your mouse cursor’s current location, and right-click to zoom in on your character’s spot on the map.

    Pig Eat Ball
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    Since this title supports gamepad as well, the controls for that are worth explaining. Use the left-stick to move around, A to boost forward into the direction you are facing, B to barf up the yummies you have eaten so far (may be necessary to fit into tight spaces), X to zoom in on your character’s spot, and Y to zoom away from it. You can also use the D-pad to maneuver across the map, if it is preferred.

    The somewhat pixel-like art style is semi-detailed, with unique portrayal of the characters. This look is an interesting one, not something I would think to be desired by some people, but still not repulsive at all. These eccentric graphics are very colorful and quite fitting for the kind of game Pig Eat Ball is.

    The audio is something else. It is quite descriptive, with the barfing noises especially, and I found that somewhat uncomfortable. Not that I couldn’t endure it, but I still found it to be somewhat disturbing. Otherwise the audio is fine though. The music is alright, and the style of the music changes when you go through certain areas of the game. To illustrate, in the minigame rounds, the music seemed more intense, yet fitting for the environment. After the games were over, once I went back into the space station I was in at the time, the music seemed to get calmer. I think it’s supposed to compliment whatever atmosphere your character is residing in, and it does a good job doing that.

    As far as moral warnings go, Pig Eat Ball is rated E for everyone 10+. It earns this rating for the crude humor it has (the way it portrays barfing and stuff), the fantasy violence, and the use of alcohol and tobacco in this game. I think this rating is appropriate, but if anything, maybe it should be T. That’s just my opinion though. I would recommend keeping this in mind, however, that it has use of tobacco and alcohol.

    The game itself is pretty fun, though! Don’t let the title fool you, this game is really fun. With the multiplayer option, I think that makes it even more worth the purchase. For those wishing for an eccentric, interesting title with an outlandish story, I do recommend the title Pig Eat Ball.

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About Us:

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

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