enfrdeitptrues

Platformer

  • Super Phantom Cat (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

    Super Phantom Cat
    Developed by: Veewo Games
    Published by: White Lake Studio
    Released: March 7, 2019
    Available on: Windows, Nintendo Switch
    Number of Players: Single Player
    Genre: Retro platformer
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $4.99

    Thank you Veewo Games and White Lake Studio for sending us this game to review!

    Super Phantom Cat is a retro-platformer game with 56 levels, including the tutorial and other introductory activities. There are six sections in which the levels (with different themes) are found: Mystic Forest, Lost Garden, Torrid Oasis, Glacial Valley, Dark Spire, and Ancient Tree. The main character’s little sister Ina has been kidnapped, and it is their job (your job, technically) to retrieve her.

    Every level is infested with critters and robots, both good and bad. Usually, the bad critters are exterminated by being jumped on by your character. You start each level with three hearts/health points; each time you are hurt, you lose one, but sometimes hearts can be found in levels that add to their health.

    Many obstacles can obstruct the completion of a level, including spikes that may pockmark the ground, unruly critters who refuse to stop following your character, and heights that might be too high for your jumping range. This is why abilities exist and are given to you throughout the game as each level is completed. The Vine power and the Blink power are two examples.

    Super Phantom Cat
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun gameplay, cute art style, cool music
    Weak Points: No multiplayer, no controller support
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence

    By pressing K at any point in a level, you can use a skill (if that level permits it); either Vine power, which allows your feline to make a vine on any wall so they can climb it, or Blink power, enabling your feline to quickly phase through a few blocks, which would permit them to reach places that they would not be able to before.

    Secrets are also in abundance in Super Phantom Cat. Every level has at least one or two chests, and most of the time, they are filled with massive amounts of coins. Some chests require keys to open them, and usually the key chests contain Hero Fragments. When enough Hero Fragments are collected, a new hero skin will be unlocked. Your character can be customized to wear this hero skin.

    After a level is completed, a rating is provided depending upon whether or not the star was collected (there is one star in each level, it is often hidden), how many coins were collected (there are coins everywhere throughout the level), and how many secret chests were opened.

    The controls are especially simple. To play, press J to jump, hold J to jump higher, and use A and D to move sideways. Since I find that to be quite a stretch on the keyboard, I would recommend using both hands when playing Super Phantom Cat. Also, as previously mentioned, press K to use skills.

    Super Phantom Cat
    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 - 98%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Super Phantom Cat has a simple, cute, and extremely colorful art style. In fact, it makes even the deadly robots look cute. This art style extraordinarily fits both the type of game it is and the music that plays in the background.

    The music is decent and changes vastly in each level, but one thing remains consistent: The songs played always conform perfectly to the environment they are featured in. Sometimes, however, the loop for whatever song is playing ends abruptly, which I find annoying. The music contained in the loop was always nice to listen to, though.

    Moral warnings do not go very far in this game; all there is to comment on is the fact that death is involved, so it falls under the category of cartoon violence. That is the extent that moral warnings go to, so further explanation is not necessary.

    There were a few things that I noticed and found interesting: If your avatar does not move at all for a few seconds, they will pull out from behind their back a Nintendo Switch and start to play it. I also discovered a mistake of some sort in the development of the game. Ideally, players should be able to successfully maneuver through the level without being immobilized, or getting stuck at a certain point. Essentially, they should not have to resort to restarting the level. Unfortunately, that is precisely what happened to me.

    I had just received the Blink skill, which, again, allowed me to hop through a wall in an instant if need be. Well, I used it to hop through a wall and onto a bouncy critter. I bounced on its head, but failed to reach the ledge. Because of that, the critter hid itself, preventing me from trying again. That particular type of critter will come back again if given some space; it is a shy one. But since space was one thing I did not have a lot of, I was unable to provide it enough for it to give me a second chance, so I was stuck. Unfortunately, I had no choice but to restart the level.

    Super Phantom Cat is a really pleasant pick, so I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a cute game to enjoy. Since cartoon violence is as far as violence goes, ethical issues are next to nonexistent when it comes to this title. I look forward to future projects from this developer.

  • Super Ubie Island Remix (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

    Super Ubie Island Remix
    Developed by: Notion Games
    Published by: Black Shell Media
    Release date: January 15, 2016
    Available on: PC, (Android, iOS and Wii U coming soon)
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: E for Mild Fantasy Violence
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you Black Shell Media for sending us this game to review!

    Super Ubi Land was successfully Kickstarted in March of 2013 and exceeded its meager $5,000 goal.  Because of the similarity in the name, Ubisoft had the developer rename the game to Super Ubie Island.  The Steam Remix game has quite a few differences from the regular version.  Some of those changes include tweaked levels, cheat codes (which I couldn’t find anywhere online), in-game achievements, more secrets, and enemy rewards.  Unfortunately, the lives system is different and you only have one life with two hearts now.  The two hearts allow you touch an enemy but spikes and water are instant kills with no checkpoints to respawn from.

    Like many games involving aliens as the protagonist, Ubie crashes his spaceship on Earth and has to locate and fight bosses to reclaim the pieces to put it all back together.  When the ship crashed the worker bees at a hive became scattered and the queen bee will reward you for bringing back her missing children.  Each level has three bees to locate and your progress is automatically saved when completing a level.   The levels are challenging and chances are that you will have to complete them several times to collect the available bees within them.  

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Cute and challenging platformer
    Weak Points: No check points
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence

    There are coins to collect which can be spent at the shop and you can purchase customizations for Ubie like the ability to change his color to black or pink.  The enemies will drop coins or hearts upon their deaths and in a few seconds will respawn again.  You’ll see an outline of them so you can know where they will be resurrecting from.  Many of the levels have trophies and plants to uproot for more points or health.  Last but not least are hidden diamonds that have great rewards if returned to the man that hid them.

    Other than collecting stuff and stomping on enemies, there are many jumps and double jumps to pull off to reach the end of the level. Ubie has a balloon that he can use to glide around as well.  Some of the platforms will start to crumble or explode when Ubie lands on them.  Unlike the enemies, they do not respawn.  Fans of classic platformers will appreciate the typical platformer elements in this game.  

    The art style is simple, but functional.  Each world has a different look and feel ranging from forest levels to desert ones.  There are a decent amount of enemies and they are not to be underestimated, especially the spikey or exploding ones!

    Super Ubie Island Remix
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 4/5

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

    Sound wise this game is pleasant, but not memorable.  The sound effects are cute and many of the actions have descriptive sound effects that are funny if you pick up on them.

    While I was able to enjoy Super Ubie Island Remix using a controller, I did encounter some issues.  Steam does say that this title has partial controller support, and that’s true since some of the actions in the game menu had to be triggered using the keyboard.  Another issue I encountered was that my Bluetooth controller would stop responding in-game.  In order to activate the controller again I would have to bring up and exit the pause menu using the keyboard.  While annoying, this issue was not game breaking.  I still preferred the game controller over keyboard controls.  

    The last issue worth noting is that upon exiting the game, the NWJS process still runs in the background and you have to manually stop it in order to play any other Steam games since it thinks you’re still in the game and will not let you launch another.

    In the end, Super Ubie Island Remix is a cute platformer that challenged and reminded me of many SNES classics.  While this game doesn’t bring much new to the genre, it’s still fun to play and worth picking up when it goes on the inevitable Steam sale.  Hopefully some of the glitches will be ironed out soon though.

  • SuperEpic: The Entertainment War (Switch)

     

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    Game Info:

    SuperEpic: The Entertainment War
    Developed by: Undercoders
    Published by: Numskull Games
    Available on: Switch, Windows
    Release date: December 12, 2019
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen for language
    Price: $17.99

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

    SuperEpic: The Entertainment War takes place in 2048 where videogames have been ruined by Regnantcorp who specializes in addictive free games. Due to many hostile takeovers, they are the only game developer left on the planet. It’s up to a llama-riding raccoon named TanTan to break into their corporate headquarters to save gaming and the world!

    TanTan doesn’t have much to fight with and uses odd weapons like a toilet plunger, guitar, vacuum, golf club, and a lamp post to name a few. As new areas are explored, he’ll find merchants that can upgrade his weapons, stats, and sell various accessories. Many areas will be inaccessible until certain tools are found like a snorkel for underwater exploration and bombs to break through walls. Towards the end of the game you can find a pogo stick and wings that will allow you to get to places you couldn't reach previously.

    At first, TanTan just has a health bar. Eventually he’ll get a stamina bar to pull off some maneuvers like double jumping, wall bouncing, and gliding through the air. A rage meter is required for throwing various projectiles like coffee mugs, keyboards, and dumbbells.

    The gameplay is “Metroidvania” style with exploration and platforming elements. There are plenty of boss battles too. The story mode can be finished in roughly 10 hours or more if you go for the multiple endings and play through the QR code minigames. I spent over nineteen hours with all of the back tracking and playing the mobile app spoofs. If you don’t have access to a phone or tablet to play the minigames, you won’t miss out on required items but nice-to-have accessories. The minigames are spoofs of popular mobile games including Flappy Bird, Candy Crush, and Crossy Road (Frogger for old-school gamers). Additional in-game currency can also be attained by “mining” pig coins by using QR codes as well.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Silly weapons, parodies of mobile games, and other humorous tidbits; good music
    Weak Points:  Some of the QR codes in the game take some effort or multiple reader apps to open properly; unresponsive controls
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; Language (*ss, b*stard, d*mn, hell, crap), blaspheming

    After some progress in the story mode, you will unlock a rogue-lite mode for even more fun! I ran into a few snags during the story mode and found some helpful YouTube videos online. The developers are also super-responsive on the Steam discussion forums.

    Visually, this game has a 16-bit old school appearance. There’s a decent variety of enemies and bosses to defeat. The bosses aren’t terribly challenging and I often beat them on my first or second attempt. The corporate headquarters is pretty complex with multiple floors to explore thoroughly. With elevators you can easily go back to previous areas/floors. You will be using those elevators a lot.

    Be sure to stop at the washroom because that’s where your progress is saved. If you die, you have the choice of respawning at your current location and lose half of your gold, or to go to your last save spot for free. The respawning at your current location can only be invoked once per save.

    The pacing is handled by obstacles that you’ll have to come back to later once you have the means to bypass them. The map has various points of interest like elevators, shops, sleeping employees, and bathrooms marked for your convenience. The ability to add my own markers would have been nice and would have saved me lots of time trying to figure out where to go and what to do next. There is no direction in this game, just exploration.

    Visually, this game isn’t very breathtaking. Though it has a throwback segment that is reminiscent of the SNES era, the regular visuals aren’t too much more complex. The level design is quite confusing and the story mode map is the same for everyone. True to rogue-lite games, the maps in that mode are randomly generated and will be different for everyone. I don't see a seed number to share your experiences with others.

    SuperEpic: The Entertainment War
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 78%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 6.5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

    The sound effects are fitting, and sound good with all of the player and enemy weapons used. The background music is also well done and has a good amount of variety.

    The controls may be easier to pull off if you have a Pro controller. I found the pogo stick/mega jump hard to pull off consistently. Wall jumping is also a skill that you'll need to perfect if you want to beat the game. The multiple endings are determined by how many people you rescue and by how many security cameras you destroy.

    On the surface, SuperEpic: The Entertainment War may seem family-friendly, but it does have a decent amount of language that warrants the Teen rating assigned to it. Along with *ss, b*stard, d*mn, hell, and crap, you’ll see some blaspheming too. No matter how greedy and bad Regnantcorp is, it doesn’t give you the right to break in and trespass on their property. Most of the violence is cartoon-like, but one of the endings is a bit more dark.

    The asking price of $17.99 is reasonable if you enjoy Metroidvania and rogue-lite games. If you’re not a fan of hours of backtracking, you may want to wait for a sale or skip it altogether. Though the QR code apps are not mandatory, they do provide some humor and uniqueness. In the end, I enjoyed this title, but prefer games with more direction.

  • TECHNOSHPERE RELOAD (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

    TECHNOSHPERE RELOAD
    Developed by: Adaptive Game
    Published by: Adaptive Game
    Released: May 15, 2019
    Available on: Windows
    Number of players: Single player
    Genre: 3D Platformer
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $4.99

    Thank you, Adaptive Game, for sending us this game to review!

    TECHNOSPHERE RELOAD is a futuristic 3D platformer game available on Steam for $9.99. The player’s goal is to prove the technosphere’s survival on the dangerous journey into the heart of an asteroid in order to save humanity from disaster. The “technosphere” is an orange and black technologically advanced ball that the player controls in an effort to maneuver through the various kinds of traps, turrets, lasers, mazes, bombs, and more throughout the game.

    Of course, like anything else, the technosphere requires maintenance. Small blue circles called energons are spread about the map and are required for the technosphere to function. The absence of energons for too long will cause the sphere to collapse.

    TECHNOSHPERE RELOAD
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Beautifully descriptive 3D graphics; full controller support; cool realistic sound effects; 31 available Steam achievements; training level/tutorial available; challenging
    Weak Points: Most animations are unable to be skipped; challenging
    Moral Warnings: There are no moral warnings as far as I can tell

    Along with energons, spheres are spread around and meant to be collected. They look like a replica of the technosphere, except they are noticeably smaller. When collected, they provide an extra life. These were very useful for me because I found the game challenging and ended up accidentally falling off the map and exploding rather often.

    When the technosphere loses a sphere (also known as a life) and explodes, it re-spawns at the most recent checkpoint it visited. However, when it loses its last sphere, the player must restart from a point much farther back, sometimes even the beginning of the section.

    Sometimes, in order to make things easier or more difficult, a portal will, when traveled through, switch the technosphere from normal mode to limited mode. Limited mode means the sphere cannot jump or brake completely, while normal mode enables the use of both of those features.

    TECHNOSHPERE RELOAD
    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 - 96%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    I found it a whole lot easier to play through TECHNOSPHERE RELOAD on a controller/gamepad, and the controls are not very complicated. To play, a player must use the left stick or the D-pad to control where the sphere goes, press B to brake, A to jump, right stick to move camera view, and LT to summon a protective impulse.

    Throughout the map, the player may find several different methods of acceleration. For instance, there is the accelerator ring (along with the brake ring). Once the technosphere enters it, it performs a massive (yet rather brief) speed boost. And, once it enters a brake ring (you guessed it), the sphere is stopped. Another way to move someplace really fast is by using an acceleration battery. Once collected, the player can activate it by jumping and then pressing right trigger while the sphere is still in the air.

    Accelerated or not, I really enjoyed rolling around with the technosphere in TECHNOSPHERE RELOAD. I found it rather challenging, and there was one time when the application froze up, but other than that, I find no reason not to recommend this game to anyone, especially since I found no moral warnings.

  • Thy Sword (Switch)

     

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    Game Info:

    Thy Sword
    Developed by: GamePhase
    Published by: Ratalaika Games
    Release date: May 15, 2020 (Switch); May 13, 2020 (Xbox One); May 12, 2020 (PS4, PS Vita); November 14, 2017 (PC)
    Available on: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Windows
    Genre: Hack-and-slash platformer
    Number of players: Single player, local 2-player co-op and competitive
    ESRB Rating: T for Blood, Violence, and Simulated Gambling
    Price: $9.99

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

    Thy Sword seeks to emulate decades-old platformer action games such as Barbarian and Bubble Bobble. I have little experience with most of its inspirations. Still, this game is at its most fun and reliable in the moment-to-moment gameplay inspired by the classics. Tight controls, predictable enemy patterns, and satisfying feedback in combat make the events on-screen at any one time a joy. At a higher level, Thy Sword does not hold up as well. The randomly-generated level layouts and shop stock do not significantly alter gameplay from playthrough to playthrough. Character unlocks add a bit of variety, but the staying power of Thy Sword is directly related to how much fun the player has in one screen of gameplay. If a careful dance of jumping and slicing satisfies, then Thy Sword is an easy recommendation.

    The narrative of Thy Sword is mostly told in charming written rhyming verse. It is also entirely unimportant. The player is a warrior who must defeat the Dark Overlord with “thy sword” (or bow, as the case may be). Levels usually come in a set of five screens filled with platforms and enemies. Once the enemies are killed, the door to the next screen unlocks. Enemies drop money which is used between levels to buy upgraded equipment, regain health, and play Blackjack with a group gathered around a small pixel campfire. Many areas end in a boss battle. Each boss is good - so good that they stay the same on every playthrough. You can adjust how much progress through the levels is lost when you die, from none of it to all of it, depending on the difficulty level.

    Combat and platforming are simple and entertaining. Thy Sword provides tools that could, I believe, allow one to play without ever taking damage. Most attacks can be blocked, and enemies telegraph what they are about to do. They can also be strategically separated from each other to enable safer approaches. Occasionally, a bird with a key will fly by and can be defeated to unlock a treasure chest. Traps (spikes and exploding barrels) and environmental hazards (lava and respawning bats, for example) mix things up from level to level. When I took damage, it always felt like I’d made a preventable mistake. Even bosses follow short predictable patterns. They may be hard to beat on a first try, but once they’ve shown all their attacks, they can be managed.

    Thy Sword
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Solid controls for perfectible combat; satisfying sound effects and visual feedback; reasonable difficulty levels
    Weak Points: Little variation on repeated playthroughs; curious glitches in long-term progression
    Moral Warnings: Pixelated combat, blood, and beheading; sorcerer enemies with projectile magic

    This is not to say Thy Sword is easy. Rare health drops demand careful play. Getting carried away hacking at corpses (which the game encourages with extra treasure) can open the player up to hits from behind. Higher-risk moves like chasing the bird with the key or using a slow special attack to decapitate enemies in one hit come with higher rewards in the form of money. Bosses take long enough that beating them is more a matter of focus and steady execution than reflexes. Difficulty levels do not change what enemies do; rather, they change what happens when you die. On the easiest difficulty, retries are free. On medium, you start with three extra lives, with the option to buy more from the shop. On hard, there is only one life.

    Store equipment upgrades enable double jumps, enhance speed, increase health or damage, and so on. Bows and arrows can also be purchased or used from the start with the right character. More characters, and thus more starting equipment and levels of health, can be unlocked. This would be the only source of persistent progression, if it worked. On my Switch, I unlocked a character and used it. While using it, I seemed to unlock the character again. After a few new games, the character was no longer available. A different character was supposedly unlocked, as well, but has never shown up as an option. It is not clear to me what isn’t working or if this problem is unique to the Switch port. Unfortunately, character unlocking was my primary hope of variety. The game is generally stable; glitches in the character unlock system are disappointing.

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

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 82%
    Violence - 4/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    In addition to single player, Thy Sword allows the story to be played with two players cooperatively. Gameplay remains otherwise similar. Friendly fire is on, and the one-hit kill decapitation move works on players. This also applies to the simple two player deathmatch mode. Item drops are randomized, and players fight until one has fallen. It works well enough, but I hold a slight grudge against this mode because it was after playing it that my game forgot about my unlocked character.

    The pixel art, if not beautiful, conveys all that it needs to. Decapitations, blood, and magic are identifiable without seeming overly gory. Sound effects contribute to the feeling of power provided by the combat. The music is created with the same sound system as the Commodore 64 and fits the mood well. If vibration is on, the Switch controllers will rumble with attacks, damage, and death. Again, the feeling of playing any one screen is satisfying.

    I’m not sure how long any particular person would enjoy Thy Sword. If playing straight through on easy mode, the game will last a couple of hours. That is, in one sense, everything the game has to offer. Other characters provide different health and starting equipment, and randomized layouts don’t change the level progression or enemy pool significantly. In another sense, Thy Sword offers solid entertainment as long as clearing each screen remains engaging. If 2D hack-and-slash is what you want, Thy Sword will provide. I just think it might not provide as much variety as you hope for.

  • To The Top (Oculus Rift)

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    Game Info:

    To The Top
    Developed by: Electric Hat Games LLC
    Published by: Electric Hat Games LLC
    Release date: May 18, 2017
    Available on: Windows (HTC Vive and Oculus Rift)
    Genre: Climbing/Platformer
    Number of players: Single-player (multiplayer coming soon!)
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    price: $24.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Electric Hat Games for sending us this title to review!

    To The Top is a timed climbing platformer game that takes place in virtual reality. I enjoyed being able to virtually rock climb in The Climb and I also appreciated the fact that I was able to do so at my own pace (as long as my hands were adequately chalked). In To The Top, you have to clear thirty obstacle courses as fast as you can. There are global leaderboards so you can compare your best scores with others online. This is the first competitive VR game I’ve played and it’s both fun and challenging.

    Aside from getting the fastest times possible, each level has several Geoms that are optional to find and collect. Most of the Geoms are easy to locate, but there are hidden ones that are a different color and are usually off the beaten path. Can you find all of the Geoms AND get a fast completion time?

    The obstacle courses are divided into three categories: Easy, Medium, and Hard. In order to access the harder levels you have to earn enough medals on the easier difficulty. Medals are earned by finishing levels before certain time goals. Multiplayer is in the works but not available yet. The developers have been very responsive in the Steam forums and share progress updates on a regular basis.

    To The Top
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun and challenging levels to complete as fast as possible
    Weak Points: No way to re-calibrate center; confusing controls; may cause motion sickness
    Moral Warnings: None!

    Moving around in this game take a little getting used to, but once you’re used to it, it becomes second nature. You can climb around objects by using one hand at a time. Leaping is done by having both hands on one object then looking at your destination and letting go. The more sequential jumps you can do without stopping will lead to faster and longer jumps. There are some moments of sliding and gliding and you can control your direction by looking around. There are also opportunities to skate and fly.

    This is a very fast-paced game and may cause motion sickness for some. I was only able to enjoy this title in short spurts as the intense motion nauseated me after a while. On a different note, I really got into this game and it made my hands sweat so you may want to invest in some wipes to keep close by.

    With all of the twisting and turning I found that my headset would stop being tracked when I had to turn my head in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, there is no support for re-centering or calibrating the camera at this time. Oculus friendly controls are in the works and I can tell that this game was designed on and for the Vive primarily.

    To The Top
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

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

    There are forty-three Steam achievements and several trading cards available for this game. Steam Workshop would be nice to implement for designing and share user-created maps. The developers are aware of this desire and may implement it after adding multiplayer. One game feature I discovered from reading the discussion forums was how to properly exit a map that I didn’t wish to play. If you look at your wrist, you can bring up a menu to exit a level. I wish I knew about that earlier instead of leaving the game entirely.

    The graphics are serviceable, but didn’t blow me away. The level design, on the other hand, is quite challenging and well thought out. You’ll have to master all of the move mechanics to unlock all of the levels and to make a name for yourself on the leader boards. The sound effects are decent and the background pop music is interesting and fitting for this game.

    To The Top is quite an exhilarating VR experience. It’s very fast paced and competitive, so if you’re looking for a relaxing game you’ll be better off with another title. If you easily experience motion sickness you may want to hold off on buying this game as well. If you have VR legs and want to show off your impressive speed run times, then you’ll find a lot to like in To The Top. I look forward to future updates and games from Electric Hat Games.

  • Toby: The Secret Mine (Android)

     

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    Game Info:

    Toby: The Secret Mine
    Developed by: Lukas Navratil
    Published by: Headup Games
    Release Date: October 20, 2015
    Available on: Android, iOS, PC, Mac, Linux/SteamOS
    Genre: Puzzle Platformer
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $4.99 on mobile platforms, $9.99 on Steam

    Thank you Headup Games for sending us a review code!

    Toby’s twenty-six friends have been kidnapped and it’s up to him to rescue them in twenty-one life threatening levels.  There is a death counter in this game and it shows your death tally on the main menu.  I have earned the achievement for dying more than one-hundred times in this puzzle platformer game.

    Many people compare Toby: The Secret Mine to LIMBO and it does share the simplistic and dreary styled 2D graphics.  That’s the end of the comparing I can do since I haven’t played LIMBO (yet).  While most of the gameplay consists of jumping onto platforms and avoiding death, there are a fair amount of puzzles and switches to unlock as well.  Most of the levels don’t have time limits, but some do.

    Toby: The Secret Mine
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun platformer and puzzle elements
    Weak Points: Not fond of the timed levels; sluggish controls
    Moral Warnings:Some violence, but no blood is shown

    In fact, many of the levels can be completed within a few minutes.  Levels can be re-played if you find out that you missed a friend to save on your first run-though.  Chances are high that you’ll die at some point in this game and when you do, you’ll be taken back to a checkpoint or back to the beginning of the level.  Most of the levels have a few check points, but some don’t have any!

    The level design is well thought out and you have to explore every nook and cranny to locate your friends.  They’re not always on the beaten path and will often require locating a key before being able to free them.    The keys, along with levers and buttons, are often hidden or guarded by monsters, bombs or arrows being thrown in your general direction.

    Toby: The Secret Mine
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

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

    Morality Score - 90%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - -10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Some of the obstacles to contend with in this game include deep pits and water, spikes, saw blades, bombs, sandworms, snow storms, and lasers.  The death sound effects are pretty good, but there isn’t any blood shown when he dies.  There are multiple endings and both of them focus on violence and destruction.  The background music is decent, but it’s often overshadowed by the excellent sound effects.

    The controls on the Android version are touch screen based with arrow buttons for moving left and right and an up button to jump.  There’s a circle interaction button that is used for pushing buttons and pulling levers.  While the controls are serviceable, I'd rather use an external controller instead.  For that reason alone, I’d consider the Steam version though it’s twice the price.  

    In the end, Toby: The Secret Mine is a challenging puzzle platformer that entertained and frustrated me simultaneously.  I really disliked the time attack levels, and the rest of them often stumped me as well.  Fortunately, there are many written and video walkthroughs available if you get stuck.  If you can pick up the Steam version on sale I’d recommend that for the controller support, but the mobile one is a decent price for a game that will keep you busy or stumped for a few hours.

     

  • Toki (Switch)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Toki
    Developed By: Microids
    Published By: Microids
    Released: Dec 4, 2018
    Available On: Switch
    Genre: Arcade, Platformer, Shoot ‘em up
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for everyone 10 and up: Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood
    Number of Players: Single-player
    Price: $29.99

    Thank you Microids for sending us a review code!

    The days of the arcade are long past us. With consoles and handhelds in general being more affordable to the average consumer, this means that many games will not have certain arcadic, quarter-crunching features and opt in for microtransactions to make a profit instead. Toki, developed and published by Microids, is of the former statement, reminiscent of what some may say are “the good ol’ days.”

    Some of you older readers might be familiar with the name Toki, as this Toki is a remake of the 1989 game of the same name (also known as Juju Densetsu in Japan). I personally wasn’t familiar with Toki at all before reviewing this game, so I simply thought it was an indie game that took inspiration from the crazy hard arcade games of the past. For those unfamiliar with Toki, the game stars the titular character, a tribesman who is turned into an ape creature by the evil sorcerer Vookimedlo. The demon Bashtar, working alongside Vookimedlo, kidnaps Miho, Toki’s beloved. That’s the general premise of the story. Arcade games did not, or simply could not have the expansive narratives of games today—as it is just an excuse to get the ball rolling. Don’t expect an award-winning plot—it did originally come out in 1989, after all.

    Toki immediately starts off with no tutorial, but teaches you from experience, with the very first enemy taking cues from the most famous goomba of our time—walking very slowly towards you. For people who have played platformers before, your first instinct will be to jump on the enemy, and thus would be rewarded with a defeated enemy. Others may try and press all the buttons to see what they do, and will also be rewarded with a projectile shot out of Toki’s mouth in a rather exaggerated fashion. Now for the reasons why Donkey Kong’s estranged cousin can shoot Contra bullets out of his mouth… Your guess is as good as mine; It is what it is after all. Controls are rather simple, with B and X to shoot, and A and Y to jump. The control stick and directional buttons are to aim horizontally or diagonally. Be aware, as Toki has not mastered the ability to shoot and run at the same time. Fortunately, Toki can shoot as fast as you can mash the button.

    Throughout the levels, there are various powerups that can be collected, such as a football helmet that protects your front from damage, sneakers that give you higher jump, and a wide variety of different patterns, such as a spreader, wave-like shots, bigger bullets, and a flame breath. These powerups only last for a limited time. Let's go back to the football helmet and sneakers for a moment. The setting is all over the place and doesn’t take itself seriously, as there is an almost nonsensical blend of ancient and modern set pieces all throughout the game. As Toki is an arcade game, every action earns points, and earning enough points gets you an extra life.

    Toki
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fluid hand-drawn graphical style; simple to play, and responsive; very faithful to the original 1989 classic
    Weak Points: A bit too faithful, especially for its price range and short length; the majority of the challenge comes from trial and error situations
    Moral Warnings: The damsel in distress is immodestly dressed, showing off excess cleavage and midriff; the penultimate and final bosses have hearts that can be attacked, which also bleed and explode; the sorcerer Vookimedlo uses magic to transform our main character into an ape man; a demon by the name of Bashtar works for Vookimedlo

    Like most shoot ‘em up games, Toki tends to die in one hit from basically everything. Of course dying in one hit isn’t a feature exclusive to games of this genre, but current games give you infinite lives if they so happen to be on the more challenging side. Toki, however, is pretty generous with checkpoints, though in some cases, there are a few checkpoints that could be better placed as an enemy will immediately attack at some of them. Four difficulties are available for Toki, ranging from Easy (which gives you 9 lives and 9 credits) all the way to Hardest (which gives you 2 lives, 3 credits, and makes enemies withstand more damage). Even on the easiest difficulty, Toki can present quite the challenge and my first playthrough had me use almost all of my credits to beat the game. A lot of the game is a genuine challenge, but like most arcade games of that time, Toki suffers from trial and effort that can result from cheap deaths (and would be another quarter or quarters spent back in the day).

    Toki went through quite the troubled development cycle. This remake was originally announced way back in 2009 by Golgoth Studio, and was suppose to come out for the consoles of that era, as well as the Steam platform in 2011. It just so happened to miss that period by a long shot. It would go through moments where it would be mentioned here and there to let people know that the game wasn’t canceled. In 2018, it would the be picked up by the French developer Microids and announced to come out exclusively for the Switch for a late 2018 release. I’m assuming it came out only for the Switch because of how well-received and successful indie games have been doing on the platform. I can also make another guess as to why Toki took so long to come out in the first place.

    Everything in Toki is hand-drawn. I’m a huge sucker for anything hand-drawn, as animation can express thoughts, feelings, and ideas in a way that words cannot. The hand-drawn animation style seems to become less popular as the years go by over digital animation as digital animation takes less effort to do well in, and is way less time consuming. Digital animation does have its upsides, but compared to hand-drawn, it lacks the fluidity that the latter tends to possess. In a way I am glad that France hasn’t forgotten about the wonders of hand-drawn animation. They also seem to be one of the last bastions to hold on to the tried-and-true pen and paper, as mostly everyone either traded in the old fashioned weapons for a Cintiq and slap it in your choice of Flash, Toon Boom—or outsources their animation to Korea.

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

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 84%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Anyways, Toki’s graphics are a sight to behold, as each enemy is expressive and all have their own unique walking, attacking, and death animations. This even applies to our hero himself. Backgrounds and scenery are quite the sight to behold, with areas going from jungles, ice tundras, volcanic caverns, and a rather modern-looking palace. Each level is very unique from each other, and aesthetics-wise looks far superior to its 1989 counterpart. The orchestrated music complements the bouncy art style of the game. For someone who has to save their beloved from the clutches of evil, he does have a rather chill expression and walking animation. It’s almost like he doesn’t have a care in in the world, with his head bobbing and arms dangling so nonchalantly.

    The 1989 version didn’t have much in the way of moral concerns and warnings, besides the usage of magic by the sorcerer Vookimedo who turns Toki into the ape man you are playing as. Interestingly enough, the remake does have a few more concerns at hand. As expected of a French developer, both Toki and Miho show off more skin, with Miho in particular showing off her midriff and cleavage. There is one zombie-like ape enemy encountered many times throughout the game. Bashtar is a demon, and also exists as the fifth levels' boss. You attack his heart, while his appendages show off the bone of where an arm or leg would be attached. Vookimedlo, when accepting his untimely death (for him) is rather explosive, as his heart bleeds in a striking fashion. Not sure what the ESRB meant by “mild.”

    I have played and beaten Toki a few times—though I have yet to beat it on Hardest. As I grew up in the days of the arcade and like a game that presents a challenge, I have personally enjoyed my half dozen or so attempts. I assumed that at first, it was a $10-$15 game, and would be able to recommend it to most people, but even with spectacular animation, and being faithful to the original, a 30 dollar price range might be asking too much for the average game player. I understand that animation is not a cheap endeavor if you want it to look good, but 2018’s Toki is a bit too faithful for its own good to the 1989 counterpart—where the only real difference is the graphical approach and musical style. For most players, they will play the game once or twice, which will take an hour and a half at the very most to complete, and then forget about it. Even if the game is mostly safe for children, the children of today may not like the dated mechanics or the gut-punching difficulty so it’s hard to recommend for them. There is a very valid reason to why video games have mostly moved on from the archaic approach of artificially lengthening of a game in favor for the dozens to hundreds of hours of grind that many modern games use. Unless you really love arcade shoot 'em ups, it would be best to wait for a sale.

  • Toy Odyssey: The Lost and Found (Xbox One)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Toy Odyssey: The Lost and Found
    Developed by: Hiker Games
    Published by: Digital Smash
    Release date: September 21, 2016
    Available on: Android, iOS, macOS, PS4, Xbox One
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for fantasy violence and alcohol references
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

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

    Young Felix and his family recently moved into a haunted mansion. Ever since then Felix has been getting nightmares and his favorite toy, Brand, would like to help stop them. Every night the house shifts its layout and Brand comes to life to embark on his various quests. At first, it’s just Brand, Pike, and a firefly working together, but other toys that have not become corrupted can be rescued and join Brand’s cause.

    The base of operations is in Felix’s room and in there you’ll have access to a workbench for crafting weapons, and the ability to construct defenses as long as you have the necessary resources on hand. Whenever Brand ventures out of Felix’s room, the house’s configuration will be different. Brand can explore until he gets knocked out or return on his own and the game will advance another day.

    Though the mansion’s layout and enemies reset every evening, any upgrades to Brand and his inventory are left alone. Occasionally, the base will be raided, and some of the supplies will be taken if there are no defensive measures in place. In order to build defenses you need to have the required materials on hand. Weapon upgrades require blueprints along with often hard to locate materials.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Interesting premise; lots of opportunities for crafting and upgrading your character’s abilities
    Weak Points: Clunky level design; bad enemy placement; repetitive sound effects; poor controls
    Moral Warnings: Toy violence; option to gamble; haunted toys and house; alcohol and prescription drugs scattered around the house

    By defeating corrupted toys, slashing various beverage containers and opening chests, Brand will acquire bolts and other useful items. Many of the house rooms are locked and you’ll have to find keys in order to open them. There have been times where there were no keys and I could not progress any further and had to return back to base. Most of my exploration sprees were cut short by Brand getting knocked out.

    Thankfully, Brand can be upgraded and given more health and passive abilities by spending bolts, the in-game currency. If you stumble upon a slot machine, you can gamble the bolts if you’re feeling lucky. Bolts are also required for upgrading weapons and creating defenses.

    The rooms/levels have variety, but they don’t always flow together nicely. It’s not uncommon to open up a door and walk into an enemy or have them fall onto you from above unexpectedly. To make matters worse, Brand often changes direction after an attack and sustains unnecessary damage as a result. Some of the platforms or ledges in the levels are inaccessible which further adds to the frustration.

    Toy Odyssey: The Lost and Found
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 68%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 2/5

    Morality Score - 80%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    Sometimes a challenge will appear in a room and if you can complete it, you’ll get some good loot. The challenges include finding the treasure chest or turning on all of the light switches before the time runs out. Another challenge was to not attack any foes in that room. Some areas will have a power stabilizer that will illuminate a few of the adjacent rooms if activated. Teleporting between some rooms is possible if you can find and clear out rat holes.

    Aside from rats, you’ll also encounter roaches, slimes that multiply and get smaller when defeated, books, paper airplanes, and various hostile toys and UFOs. Some of the toys like ninjas have ranged attacks. Brand has a melee and a ranged attack but the latter is limited.
    The creepy atmosphere is well depicted with the dark and gloomy rooms and eerie background noises. Some of the movement noises got a little repetitive after a while. The voice acting is well done though.

    In the end, Toy Odyssey: The Lost and Found is okay, but could have been much better with improved controls, enemy placement, and level design. This title is free to play on mobile devices (with in-app purchases). I recommend checking it out there or waiting for a good sale before buying it. There are better and cheaper Metroidvania style games out there.

  • Tyler: Model 005 (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Tyler: Model 005
    Developer: Reversed Interactive
    Publisher: Maximum Games
    Released: August 20, 2018
    Available on: Windows, Xbox One
    Number of Players: Single player
    Genre: 3D-action puzzle platformer
    ESRB Rating: E 10+ for Fantasy Violence
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you Reversed Interactive and Maximum Games for sending us this game to review!

    Tyler: Model 005 is a very well-polished single player 3D-action puzzle-platform game that can be enjoyed on either Xbox One or Windows. You play as Tyler, a miniature robot accidentally powered on in a thunderstorm in 1955. In this game you progress through a series of story-based puzzles that may help reveal the mysteries of the robot(s) around you, the environment, and your creation.

    To solve these puzzles, since you are but a miniature robot, it can be difficult to do certain things and reach certain heights such as the top of the stairs or the bookshelf. And since you can only restore your battery from light sources and the occasional “restore battery” item (which don’t appear too often) it makes things even more challenging. However, trying to figure out the answer (which can be different in the Windows version vs. the Xbox One version) will allow you to explore the environment and possibly find memories. Once you find a memory (what looks to be a blue orb), you will have the option to restore it. Once you do, you’ll see the words on the screen that Tyler is saying and he (you) will remember something about the past that relates to what you’re doing.

    Tyler: Model 005
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Good graphics; challenging, fun gameplay 
    Weak Points: Asks for language preference each time you launch; no way to find out controls in the main menu; challenging 
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence

    This is not true for all of the puzzles, but for some you may have to solve them in a certain order or find certain things before others.

    It is guaranteed that as you are trying to solve these puzzles you will encounter enemies. These enemies are different, however, to those you would see in other games. In order to complete one of the puzzles I had to fight an auto vacuum. More common pests, though, are ones such as spiders, wasps, beetles, ants, and rats.

    In almost every room in the house you are in, you will find tools that will allow you to customize your character’s looks and abilities. When customizing Tyler’s looks to your preference, you can change the head, face, accessories, hands, foot, paint job, and weapon to your liking. As for changing abilities, you just go up to the portal and exchange bolts for things like having more light exerted from yourself when your battery is full and how fast you move.

    The controls for this game are sterling both using keyboard and mouse and the gamepad, though with the gamepad more so. With keyboard and mouse you use WASD to move, both left and right-click on the mouse are melee attacks, and you can use C to draw your sword. Tab is to reverse time, which can be useful in some maneuvers. Double tap W to roll, F to interact with certain objects such as turning lights on or making a music box play, B to roll, and R to pick stuff up, for you can hold certain items such as coffee mugs and pencils. As for Xbox One/gamepad controls, use the left stick to move, right stick to move the camera, A to jump, right trigger to throw a cherry bomb (cherry bombs are very helpful when fighting bugs), and all of the other triggers are for melee attacks, but you can draw your sword with Y so that the triggers, except RB, will allow you to swing your blade at the enemies you encounter.

    Tyler: Model 005
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

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

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

    While focusing on the puzzles in the game, you barely notice the music. But when it gets to its climax, it can be quite charming and complimentary to the gameplay. Which, in fact, is pretty good. Even when I had to turn to YouTube walkthroughs for help, I still found the game to be very entertaining.

    The graphics, in every way, are superb. Everything, once you launch the title, is shown in great detail and color. If your monitor cannot support the highest of resolutions, you can adjust that of the game. The animation, too, was without bugs or lag. I found that the astounding graphics genuinely complimented the gameplay and story.

    Tyler: Model 005 has great gameplay, controls, sound, graphics, and a lovely story that made me tear up at the end. When you are hurt by an enemy, the edges of the screen go red for a moment, but that’s just about as far as moral warnings go. I very much recommend this title for anyone even if they aren’t looking for a 3D-action puzzle game like this one. I look forward to future games from this developer.

  • Type:Rider (Switch)

     

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    Game Info:

    Type:Rider
    Developed By: Ex Nihilo
    Published By: ARTE Experience
    Release Date: April 25, 2019
    Available On: PS4, Android, iOS, PS Vita, Microsoft Windows, Switch, Linux, macOS
    ESRB Rating: E10+, Fantasy Violence
    Genre: Platformer, Education
    Number of Players: Single-Player 
    Price: $2.99

    We want to thank ARTE for sending us a copy of Type:Rider for the Nintendo Switch. Thank you very much!

    As both a writer and pastor, I personally know how important using the proper fonts can be. Fonts are so much more than just the way that letters are written; they convey everything from emotion to urgency. I used to think that typeface fonts were simple artistic expressions of famous people that ended up having those fonts named after them. Boy, was I wrong about that. Little did I know that fonts are the culmination of both history and culture; they themselves tell the stories of the past. How did I find this out? Well, it wasn’t through diving into countless encyclopedias or scouring Google for the answer. No, I discovered this through nothing other than a video game.

    The game that I am referring to is Type:Rider, an educational platformer created by developers Ex Nihilo and ARTE Experience. Having done a little reading up on the game before playing it, I was skeptical to see if this was anything more than just riding onto letters as platforms to reach an end goal. Among all my doubts, I can honestly say that I was quite surprised by what I actually experienced.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun and creative platforming with unique level design; a great lesson through the history of typology; soothing music; simple game mechanics
    Weak Points: A few UI and stability problems within the gameplay; very little replay value; too simple for some players’ tastes
    Moral Warnings: A few intense moments with a gun and laser cat (you read that right)

    The plot of Type:Rideris very simple: You play as a typographical colon rolling through history discovering the truth about fonts that appeared over the ages. Starting from the origins of print, you roll through various levels that revolve around both the theme and time period of the fonts. Each level consists of 26 English letters and other collectibles that must be gathered to learn more about the history of the typeface. Every time an “@” symbol is collected, a new page in an interactive book is unlocked revealing details about certain pieces of history that may have inspired the way letters are written. Such fonts that have featured levels are Gothic, Garamond, Helvetica, Times, Claremont, Pixel, and yes, even Comic Sans.

    As boring as the history of typography may sound on the surface, Type:Rider does an incredible job of making it both exciting and engaging. The levels are designed in such a way to reflect the era and place of origin of the font. Helvetica is a font that originated in the Swiss Alps by artist Max Miedinger in the mid-’50s, so the level is a snow-covered ski lodge-type experience through frost-covered letters and snow blowers. The Claremont font comes from Wild West wanted posters, and its level in Type:Rider reflects that. The levels are so engaging that they actually compel the player to do something that games have never been able to do: read. To fully know why the levels look the way that they do, the player must read the descriptions that come up after informational pages are unlocked. It is an educational and artistic experience that very few video games have been able to supply in the past.

    The game mechanics, platforming, and puzzle-solving that occur in Type:Rider are rather simple compared to other titles on the market. This is not a difficult game to get through and can easily be completed 100% in under 2 hours. Reading all of the information gathered from the collectibles takes a little more time, but beyond that, the game is very straight forward. I believe that is by design, though. Each typeface can be selected from a “hub” after the game has been completed, so that allows for this game to be used to teach students in a unique way. I can see a teacher pulling this game up on a projector and playing it as the student marvel at the art and typography presented to them. Perhaps the developers are onto something when it comes to using video games for interactive education.

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

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    I thoroughly enjoyed my playthrough of Type:Rider, but I did come across some problems in the gameplay. Despite its beauty, this game is prone to bugs, as some of the platforms require the colon the travel in some rather tight spots. There were some places where the colon would get stuck on a platform or glitch out completely. These were often minor stability issues that did not break the game, but they were there nonetheless. I also found that this game lacks true replay value due to the fact that all the collectibles are very easy to find. The “&” symbol is said to be a challenging McGuffin to find in each level, but I had no problem at all. The simplicity of this game may turn many players away from diving into it.

    Type:Rider is an excellent indie title that does what indies do best: it flips the script on video games. This game takes something as simple as typeface and turns it into a grand adventure of puzzle-solving, learning, and discovery. My children enjoyed the game; my 11-year-old son even liked reading the history of the fonts. There are no major moral concerns within this game as all of it revolves around font history and nothing too explicit. There was a moment where a crosshair follows the colon and tries to shoot it in the Claremont level, but that is the extent of the violence that takes place. This is a great game to share with the family and even teachers within local schools. Here’s a quick tip: after you complete the game, head directly left under the water to find the secret Comic Sans level. It is there that you will learn about the modern history of memes and our love of cats.

  • Typoman Revised (Xbox One)

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    Game Info:

    Typoman Revised
    Developed by: Brainseed Factory
    Published by: Brainseed Factory
    Release date: February 16, 2017
    Available on: Linux, macOS, PS4, Windows, Wii U, Xbox One
    Genre: Puzzle platformer
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for fantasy violence
    Price: $12.99
    (Kinguin Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Brainseed Factory for sending us this game to review!

    Typoman Revised is a 2D puzzle platformer that was originally released in 2015 on the Wii U and later came to PC and PS4.  In 2017, the Xbox One was the latest platform to add this game to their library.  For the reasonable price of $12.99, you can set off on a journey to save the world from doom and evil.

    The hero is comprised of the letters of the word hero and begins his journey rolling around as the letter O.  As the other letters/body parts are collected, he’ll be able to jump, climb, and swing across the various obstacles in his way.  The last body part to be assimilated is the Hero’s second arm.  Sadly, the enemies keep running off with it and it’s used as incentive to keep going.  A guardian angel like figure gives the hero some hope and initially shields him from danger.  Most of the time, the hero is on his own though and needs both agility and wits to survive the puzzles ahead.

    Typoman
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun and unique game concept
    Weak Points: Short amount of gameplay; graphics stuttering; there are many tricky puzzles, but walkthroughs exist!
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence

    Many of the dangers are words or even letters by themselves.   The spikes the hero will have to avoid are capital As.  The enemies are made up of the words doom, evil, gorge, and so on.  One of the most useful enemies is Lie who you can use to convert words to their antonyms. I love how good truly conquers evil in this game.    

    While there is a decent amount of platformer gameplay, there are more mind benders than anything.  So many dead ends have to be solved by combining letters and/or unscrambling words to conjure up a solution.  For example, if a door is closed due to a switch being off, you’ll have to build the word “On” to flip the switch.  

    The levels have a desolate and gloomy feel to them and scattered throughout are quotes of inspiration and hints to help solve upcoming riddles. As you collect quotes, they’ll be displayed in the game’s journal and if you miss some it’s pretty obvious when you read it.  

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

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    There are lots of ways to die in this title and I’m grateful for the generous amount of checkpoints provided in this game.  Besides spikes, there are stomping blocks, poison gas, fire, electricity, and syringes that will kill you if you’re pricked by them twice.  Since the hero is comprised of letters, his deaths are not bloody and he often disappears with a simple pop or puff of smoke. 

    In total there are three chapters and the prologue which teaches you the controls and basic gameplay mechanics.  If you’re decent at platformers and word puzzles you should be able to beat this game in a couple of hours.  I’ll be the first to admit that many of the word puzzles stumped me, but there are plenty of helpful YouTube walkthroughs available out there.   

    If you enjoy platformers and word puzzles you should definitely look into Typoman Revised.  This title is available on many platforms and since I experienced some stutters on my Xbox One Slim, I’d recommend the PC version for better performance.  Given the macabre environment and syringes, I agree with the E10+ rating and recommend this game for slightly older children.  

     

  • Upwards, Lonely Robot (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Upwards, Lonely Robot
    Developed by: Random Layers
    Published by: Kasedo Games
    Released: March 10, 2016
    Available On: PC
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of Players: Single-player story; two player competitive mode
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Price: $9.99

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

    “I think we’re the only ones left.”

    Human life is near extinction. You are a robot, created to search for any remaining intelligent life. Every day you climb new towers, with seemingly no progress in your search.

    Successfully climbing a tower unlocks a recorded message. These messages help bring insight into the world and your surroundings. I found the overall story to be quite interesting and I anticipated reaching the top of the towers to listen to new recordings. They are all voiced well and help keep you entertained. 

    The whole premise of the game is to climb to the top of the towers. Of the 75 story levels included in the game, each one is slightly different than the last, varying in tower height and thickness, enemy selection, hazards, and so forth. As you progress, new mechanics and hostile robots are introduced into the game, adding to the difficulty and varying up the gameplay. Your robot also has a charge bar that must be attended to; if it fully drains, you lose the level. Scattered throughout the levels are a variety of fruit that will help fill it up and keep you alive. There is also an in-game timer located at the bottom of the screen, but none of the levels have a time constraint. There are a variety of unfriendly robots and other various hazards that will slow your progress and decrease your charge. Some levels also have a purple cloud that slowly destroys the tower underneath. You must carefully and speedily navigate the tower in order to successfully reach the top. 

    Upwards, Lonely Robot
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun arcade-style gameplay; interesting voice acted story; pleasing visuals
    Weak Points: Gameplay can feel repetitive; nearly no change in scenery
    Moral Warnings:None!

    The game has four difficulty levels: easy, normal, hard, and very hard. I played through the story levels in normal difficulty. Most of the levels only took me one try, but some proved to be a bit more difficult and required multiple attempts to master.

    There are three extra upgrades that your robot may be given at the start of the level. These include a double jump, high jump, and teleportation, which allow you to phase through the platform directly above and below your character. I found all the extra abilities to be fun additions to the core gameplay.

    Apart from the main story levels, the game also includes other modes. Climber mode allows you to set up your own level from a variety of presets included in the game. Infinite mode challenges the player to reach new heights as you race against the purple cloud in an endless level. If you select certain level presets, your score will also be uploaded to the leaderboards to compare with other players. Finally, duel mode is a one-on-one split-screen battle between you and your opponent. The winner is decided by whoever reaches the top of the tower the quickest or whoever stays alive the longest during the match. As like the previous modes, you can choose the size, difficulty, upgrades, and so forth of your tower to keep the gameplay varied. The competitive mode works both locally and online.

    Upwards, Lonely Robot
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    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

    Visually, the game looks really nice. The towers are well designed and have lots of detail. Unfortunately, there isn’t all that much change in scenery, as all of the towers look nearly identical. The music is also enjoyable and bursting with energy. Again though, the game lacks variety, and you will find yourself repeatedly listening to the same tracks. 

    The controls in the game are tight and responsive. I tried playing with both an Xbox 360 controller and a keyboard, and found both to work well. The game runs smooth and I had no significant performance issues.

    Upwards, Lonely Robot is an interesting platformer that’s both well designed and engaging. The game does suffer from a bit of repetitiveness, but the extra modes, increasing difficulties, and leaderboards do offer a fair bit of replay value. So climb on lonely robot, and hope that one day, you’ll find a friend.  

  • Valley (Switch)

     

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    Game Info:

    Valley
    Developed by: Blue Isle Studios
    Published by: Blue Isle Studios
    Release date: March 7, 2019
    Available on: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, macOS, Linux
    Genre: RPG Platformer
    Number of players: Single player
    ESRB Rating:T for Blood and Violence
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you, Blue Isle Studios, for sending us a review key!

    The central appeal of Valley is the fantasy of running down a ski jump faster than humanly possible, leaping off, and landing safely. Walking on walls, a grapple gun, and more sweeten the pot over time. For certain people, myself included, that is enough to spark interest. If that's you, let me tell you now: Valley delivers. Until the last moment of the game, it lets you run down hills, launch onto mountainsides, and leap through the trees. Indoor and underground sections do not feel confining. The more typical woodland environment is visually interesting and freeing. Though Valley doesn't provide strong motivation to replay levels, it satisfies while it lasts. Valley is not the ideal first-person 3D platformer, but it's a good one.

    The player character of Valley is a modern archaeologist who enters a little-mapped valley and stumbles upon the old WWII exosuit which facilitates the game. The L.E.A.F. suit is the type of tech that provides such wondrous services that one might ask how it remained an obscure prototype. This exosuit gives the wearer super speed, super jumping, and control over life and death. The game introduces that last out-of-place feature about as abruptly as I did. It's central to the story, less so to the gameplay. The story centers on the experiments run in this valley in pursuit of what might be a spoiler. A scientist has a large ego; a scientist concludes that the project's reach exceeds its grasp; things explode. It's well-done, if not very creative. More creative are the spirit-like wisps who wander the valley along with their taller, more deadly cousins called Wendigo who eventually become enemies. The in-game Slenderman poster is merely an Easter egg from the developers of Slender: The Arrival; in return, the game provides a surprising end-game boss in tune with the slowly building horror atmosphere.

    Valley
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Pretty and varied environments; steady supply of new mobility abilities; lots of opportunity to run and jump freely
    Weak Points: Certain abilities are a hassle but necessity to use; exploration off the main path is unevenly rewarded; can be too easy
    Moral Warnings: Some swearing; Blood splatter and human skeletal remains; Wendigo myth and cannibalism referenced; Ghost-like enemies; Ritual locations including a shrine implied to be used for human sacrifice

    Limited energy powers grappling, double-jumping, and bolts of light used to pacify enemies. Taking damage from enemies siphons energy. Taking damage while out of energy, falling into water, or falling into holes kills the player character. This is where the power over life and death comes in. The player revives nearby, but the valley starts to die. Trees wilt and animals die. The L.E.A.F. suit allows life to be taken from or given to the environment in exchange for energy. If the valley runs out of life energy, it's a game over. The game motivates life-giving with golden acorns needs to unlock extra areas which often contain audio logs and suit upgrades. Bringing trees and animals back to life also effectively provides extra lives for the player. It's a neat mechanic. I was at risk of a game over maybe twice, both times due to poor handling of the grapple gun. The game provides enough energy pickups to allow most life to be restored, either for acorns or for the player's own satisfaction. On Switch, at least, the graphics are good enough to make valley restoration satisfying. The environments are varied, though not very detailed.

    The star of the show is the L.E.A.F. suit's mobility capabilities. The hills, rocks, and ruins in the valley provide plenty of fodder for running and jumping. I have no idea if the gravity is realistic. It feels weighty without being oppressive. Running straight through the level without taking detours is fun and rarely challenging. Some areas were explicitly built by the in-game creators of the suit to train with it. The artificiality of ramps and tree platforms does not hamper the joy of jumping around. The grapple gun does not feel as good to use as I would hope, but when it works, it works. Walking on walls can feel disorienting, but leaping over a chasm and attaching to the side of the opposite wall feels awesome. There are a few more abilities, all delightful. The game is more creative with indoor space than I expected, sometimes taking advantage of very obvious uses for the L.E.A.F. suit that make sense both for the story and the gameplay.

    The game is not as good at filling empty spaces in levels. Early on Valley makes clear that the player would do well to gather acorns and small gears. Sometimes they are on the side of the path; often they are tucked onto higher cliffs. I wish exploring the levels was rewarded more often, especially since I must stop the more-enjoyable running in order to do it. To gather all the collectible gears, levels must be revisited with abilities gained in later levels. I was not very excited to do so after gathering all upgrades; mostly I just wanted to play through the levels again while ignoring collectibles.

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

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 15/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 80%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 6/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Valley's story unwraps over time; its gameplay is much more straightforward. For me, the game mechanics are deeply and viscerally appealing. The story mostly elicited feelings that it was better than it needed to be. It's also scarier than it seems at first. The Wendigo can pop out of nowhere to rush the player. They do not eat the player as do the Wendigo of real-life myth, but sometimes the player will find skeletons of those who were less fortunate. Ruins and audio logs suggest that certain areas used to be used for human sacrifice. One of the pits the player can fall into and die has something supernatural and full of teeth at the bottom. Next to the gore, the occasional swearing in audio logs is probably a minor concern. The voice acting is decent. The music can be thrilling but is more often merely passable.

    The Switch is probably not the best platform for Valley. The console’s power seems to limit graphics and framerate. If it's the only option available or if portability is desired, Valley on Switch is still worth it. The game is fun throughout. At maybe six to eight hours it was not long, nor did I find it too short. If running and diving through trees interests you, I recommend you try Valley.

  • War Ender (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

    War Ender
    Developed by: Infinite Level
    Published by: Infinite Level
    Released: July 26, 2018
    Available on: Windows
    Number of Players: Single player
    Genre: Action platformer
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Price: $4.99

    Thank you Infinite Level for sending us a review code!

    War Ender is an action-platfomer game made and published by Infinite Level. You play as Red, part of an organization created to eliminate the group of villains who took peace away from the city. Your motivation to go out and fight is found when you happen upon your friends lying dead at the side of the road. You figure out that these villains who removed the city from its peaceful state were the ones who killed your friends, so you end up tracking them down. Every time you launch the game, it shows you the story, but you have the option to skip it.

    In War Ender, you play through many different levels and worlds (three levels per world) and defeat many different kinds of enemies. These enemies include green turrets (shoot in a straight line, limited range), red turrets (bullets follow you, limited range), gunner humans (shoot in a straight line, limited range), robots (carry no arms but hurt you on contact while running around), mines (hurt you when stepped on), and much more.

    Throughout each level, along with various enemies to fight off, there are checkpoints to respawn at when you die. When you get to a checkpoint flag, your health is fully restored. Often nearby these checkpoints are health-up packs, which may not fully restore your health as a checkpoint would, but they significantly refill it. There will normally be around three or four checkpoints in each level, and the fourth will likely be the flag that signifies the end of the level.

    War Ender
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun gameplay; challenging; supportive of both keyboard and gamepad
    Weak Points: Low-quality graphics; challenging  
    Moral Warnings: Violence 

    Though a tutorial is provided, the controls are still worth going over. When playing with a keyboard and mouse, you use A and D to run left and right, and the arrow keys are to shoot in different directions including under you if you are in midair, which can help you maneuver the level and get to otherwise unreachable places. Use the space bar to jump, S to fall through thin surfaces to get to lower areas, and press the L shift and R shift to dodge left or right. If you are playing War Ender with a gamepad, use the left stick to move and A to jump. You can use either the right stick or X, Y, and B to shoot in different directions. Press the left trigger to dodge left and the right trigger to dodge right.

    The graphics in the game are nothing special, for they are rather colorful but very simplistic. They are not detailed, nor realistic. Not many things in the game, if any, have a round shape to them, or slightly rounded corners even. Most things you see in the game are rectangular; the graphics are not very detailed.

    At almost all times while playing War Ender, you will be hearing music of some sort. It is normally an imitation of heavy metal, minus the words. The audio is fitting, though; it compliments the style of the game and the fighting and all that. It might not be the best of quality, however it does seem to go well with the game, and I appreciate the accompaniment as I fight the bad guys.

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

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 90%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Fighting bad guys with a gun in your hand is considered to be cartoon violence, however, some parts of this game go beyond the cartoon boundary. Especially considering that at the very introduction of the story, it is mentioned that you find your friends dead on the street.

    War Ender is a really fun game, even if I got frustrated at some of the levels. However, I did find a few bugs, or at least I do not think they were intentional. There are many platforms that assist your maneuvering through the levels, and some of them make you bounce upward when you jump onto them. I found that if you bounce on one of these platforms and press the space bar, you will shoot downward.

    Even if you don’t use these platforms, I found some issues with shooting downward. In order to shoot in this direction, you must first jump up, and then press the down arrow key. However, if you hold the space bar and try to fire down at the enemies below you, you won’t be able to fire. It will not allow you to shoot.

    While I was fighting a boss in the second world, when it was almost defeated, I approached the boss and the screen centered around the right of the boss, making it harder to fight it, because only its right half was showing. Later in the battle, it re-centered to where I could see the whole thing and easily destroy it. This happened every time I respawned to try to complete the third phase of the battle. I do not think that it was intentional.

    Albeit there were some times in which I was frustrated at the game, and even though I did find a few bugs, I found War Ender to be a really fun title. I enjoyed playing it and would recommend it to anyone who likes this style of game and story.

  • Wenjia (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

    Wenjia
    Developed by: Dilemmastudio
    Published by: Dilemmastudio
    Release date: October 17, 2018
    Available on: Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $8.99 PC, $14.99 Xbox One

    Thank you Dilemmastudio sending us this game to review!

    Wenjia is a platformer where you have to traverse through two different dimensions to save some oppressed rabbit creatures who are being chased out of their forest home. You control a cat who can phase shift, ride the wind, and double jump, but cannot swim. Along with water, you’ll have to avoid lava, fire, and lots of spikes.

    Jumping is a skill that you’ll have to master down to the millisecond as this game has little leeway for miscalculations. Some of the jumps are simple while others require phase shifting between them or consecutive jumps to clear various obstacles. As you’re moving through the levels, you’ll come across balls of energy that can be collected and used toward unlocking game extras and Steam achievements. Most of the time these energy balls are off the beaten path and are not easily accessible.

    Wenjia
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Beautiful visuals and symphonic background music; many checkpoints
    Weak Points: Very challenging with little lenience on timing and jumping mechanics; plenty of room for more checkpoints
    Moral Warnings: Plenty of opportunities to die; you have to explore an energy realm

    Be sure to change dimensions often as there are usually energy balls, bouncing platforms, or portals only visible in one view. Some portals and jumping platforms require you to phase shift before accessing the next one. It’s worth noting that there is a slight delay before you can phase shift again which makes traversing the obstacles all the more challenging. Thankfully, there are quite a few checkpoints scattered throughout the levels. However, there’s many more places where checkpoints would have been nice to reduce some of the frustration that this game provided.

    There are Steam achievements for completing this title in less than an hour and with fewer than five deaths. I put in nearly four hours before throwing in the towel and I can only guess that I have died several hundred times or even over a thousand. The gentle shattering noise the cat makes upon its demise is quite fitting, by the way.

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

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    I really wanted to like this game as it has gorgeous visuals and exceptional background music. The soundtrack is not for sale on Steam yet and I’m kicking myself for missing the giveaway contest for it. When it does become available, I’ll consider picking it up though.

    The art style is very pretty with each of the dimensions having a different color palette. The material world is vibrant and full of life while the energy realm has a more pale and dreary atmosphere. Both dimensions are pretty in their own way.

    If you like speedrunning games or challenging platformers, Wenjia is worth looking into. Some of the levels have you racing against the clock while others let you take your time to complete it. When completing a level, you are given a letter score based on your time and by how many energy balls you have collected along the way. Since it can be completed in less than an hour, and some may find it frustrating, I recommend holding out for a sale before picking it up if you’re a casual gamer.

  • Woodle Tree 2: Worlds (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Woodle Tree 2: Worlds
    Developed by: Fabio Ferrara
    Published by: Chubby Pixel
    Release date: September 16, 2016
    Available on: Windows, macOS, Linux
    Genre: Open World Platformer
    Number of players: 1-4 (local or online co-op)
    Price: $3.99

    Thank you, Chubby Pixel, for sending us a review key!

    When a dark force sucks the life and water from the trees in the center of the Wood Lands, a sentient tree stump must become a hero. Alone or with friends, the player guides the stump from snow-capped mountains to sandy islands, from the desert to the lagoon. With little more than a leaf and a double jump, the stump collects small drops of water scattered throughout the game's eight zones. This is not a technically impressive game, nor an especially long one. Nevertheless, for all its simplicity (and, in many cases, thanks to it), Woodle Tree 2: Worlds provides one of the most kid-friendly 3D platforming experiences available.

    Since an open world is a major change from Woodle Tree Adventures, let's start there. The central hub at which the player begins is laid out like the spokes of a wheel, eight trees pointing the directions to different game areas in all corners of the map. In addition to the zones listed above, there are forests, caves, a mountaintop town, canyons, and hills. The world is truly open to exploration, and there are pleasant meadows, rivers, and animal villages wherever the player wanders. Only loading divides the different areas. Frequently there are dark zones overrun with black goo and enemies. Sometimes these protect cosmetic unlockables. Unfortunately, as with the rest of the game world, other times they protect absolutely nothing. The fun flora and fauna of the world make for a nice walk to the main areas, but there is little reason to stay and the graphics do not give much to gawk at. On the other hand, the game shows an impressive amount of distance. After clearing the mountaintop village, I glided off the highest point I could. As I floated back to the center hub, I could see well into several other zones. It was a good view.

    Woodle Tree 2: Worlds
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Varied terrain means varied platforming; the core gameplay of jumping and gliding scales well to player ability
    Weak Points: Repetitive and bland graphical textures; imprecise combat hinders rather than compliments platforming; camera angle is too restricted; much of the world feels empty
    Moral Warnings: Your character shrinks and disappears if it takes too much damage

    The play areas are colored as well as the plain graphical assets allow. They are more subtly distinguished once you start jumping around. At one end of the map you have to navigate ledges carefully to activate the wooden platform equivalent of a ski lift. Elsewhere you have to dive underwater to find a well-hidden water drop. Trampoline mushrooms, booster flowers, and updrafts lend more variety. These little changes in play mix up the whole experience. The level design consistently and pleasantly surprised me.

    The game often uses yellow brick roads to guide the players who might be too young to appreciate that reference. Collectable berries trace walking and jumping paths. In addition, water drops in your current zone are visible as far as the map can render at once. Combined with the already-impressive draw distance, this ensures that, if you take a look around, you can find a water drop on the horizon and start heading for it. The player will get lost from time to time, and the game will bring him back to the right path. All in all, it is easy to move around the map.

    The basic mechanics are forgiving of inexperienced players. The leaf your stump carries is used to carry water, swat switches or enemies, and glide. This last mechanic provides an unlimited slowed fall, letting the player recover from missed jumps. The water and switches grow/raise platforms and open bridges. Combined with the open world, jumping's versatility furnishes multiple paths through the game world. A cautious player might hop and dodge to a switch in order to lower a door, and a more experienced player might time jumps to avoid the door completely. The freedom to approach gaps and blocks from multiple angles kept the game fresh for me, well outside of the target audience. The game lends itself to casual speedrunning. Intentionally or not, it rewards precise play with shortcuts and risk.

    Woodle Tree 2: Worlds
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 70%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 3/5
    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

    Various animals, friend and enemy, wander the landscape. Dark dots and other creatures serve as the primary enemies. They usually send the player back to a checkpoint after one or two hits--the same number of leaf whacks needed to turn most of them into puffs of smoke. This is the only potential moral concern; games do not get much more family-friendly than Woodle Tree 2. Combat is cumbersome because it is difficult to aim the leaf. The camera does not help matters; it stays close to the player avatar at all times and cannot be panned far up or down. In a move unforgivable in every 3D game since Ocarina of Time, there is no button to reorient the camera behind the character. You usually have plenty of time to move the camera; it's those times that you don't that enemies will be able to reach you.

    The visuals are bland, and the sound is only slightly less so. The collectible masks and leafs are fun while adding little to the experience. The occasional loading or clipping glitch crashed the game. These hiccups ended play sessions and didn't detract from the game much. I did not get to try co-op; however, I feel confident saying that the level design does not encourage multiplayer play. I suspect that after a second player helps you hit a switch to activate a platform, he would just be dead weight who has to wait for the sliding platform to come back down so he can take it up. There is no intrinsic reason to bring along friends for the adventure.

    I enjoyed Woodle Tree 2: Worlds much more than I expected to. The plain world is fun to bounce around in, and the levels are well-constructed. For every time the world disappointed me with an empty dead end, it surprised me with a secret area or interesting new concept. Would I recommend buying it? Probably not for yourself if you are old enough to be reading this review. At the same time, if you buy this game for a youngster who, for one reason or another, doesn't engage with it, try it out yourself. This soothing game might bring a smile to your face.

  • Yoku’s Island Express (Xbox One)

     

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    Game Info:

    Yoku’s Island Express
    Developed by: Villa Gorilla
    Published by: Team17
    Release date: May 29, 2018
    Available on: PS4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Pinball, Platformer
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for Animated Blood, Crude Humor, Fantasy Violence
    Price: $29.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Team17 for sending us this game to review!

    Yoku is a dung beetle headed to Mokumana Island to become their new postmaster. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes before his arrival as their deity, Mokumana, is attacked and it’s up to Yoku to rally the three island chiefs to save it.

    A dung beetle is an interesting choice for a starring character. Thankfully, most of the time Yoku is rolling around a white pinball. Later on in the game, you can change its color. Though you can move left and right to explore the island, most of the movement in this game is done pinball-style!

    Combining platforming and pinball genres is rather different, but fun. There are also some Metroid-like elements so you can throw Metroidvania into the genre mashup as well. Granted, I prefer having more control of my character like traditional platformers, but I enjoy the pinball aspects quite a bit too. The hand painted levels are very detailed and can be daunting at times when realizing that getting from point A to point B will require a lot of pinball action. Scattered around the levels are several telescopes to give you a broader view of the island to see how close you are to your next objective.

    Yoku’s Island Express
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun mashup of pinball and platformer genres; colorful hand-painted visuals
    Weak Points: Unlike traditional platformers you don’t have complete control over Yoku unless you’re good at pinball or physics
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; slugs explode; yellow blood; potty humor (the main character is a dung beetle)

    Like most platformers, you’ll need to collect stuff. Fruit is the collectible currency on this island. You’ll need to use fruit to unlock bumpers required to access new areas. Sometimes fruit is on the ground waiting to be picked up, but you’ll earn a lot more as you knock it loose in pinball areas. By putting mail in red mailboxes you’ll earn some fruit that way too. Wallet upgrades are worth seeking out as they allow you to carry more fruit at a time. Some of the bumpers cost eighty pieces of fruit to unlock and the beelines that allow you to quickly traverse the island cost one hundred pieces of fruit to activate them. Along with fruit, there are eighty wickerlings to collect during your journey.

    The controls are pretty simple as the left trigger activates the blue flipper and the right trigger moves the yellow flipper. Some bumpers require both triggers to be pressed, but you won’t want to press both triggers all of the time. Many of the pinball sections have locked bumpers that require collecting purple orb-like keys to make them accessible. Other obstacles include boulders that can only be removed by vacuuming up explosive slugs and using them against the giant rocks.

    Yoku’s Island Express
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    Along your journey, Yoku will befriend some helpful allies. Kickback the Bee will block some thorny plants and prevent Yoku from getting injured and losing fruit from them. The Dive Fish allows Yoku to go underwater. In the beginning of the game, Yoku gets a party horn that’s useful for waking up slumbering characters and opening up flowers/checkpoints.

    There is some cartoon violence as slugs explode and Yoku has to suck them up with his vacuum tool. In the beginning of the game there’s a giant eel-like creature that demands a toll of a mushroom. Yoku can give the eel a normal mushroom or a poisonous one that knocks it out. There are some boss battles and they’re handled pinball-style.

    Yoku’s Island Express is a silly mashup that works surprisingly well. Because of the lack of control, I only enjoyed this game in small spurts. The game can be completed in six to eight hours depending on how good you are at pinball. If you enjoy platformers, Metroid, and pinball games, Yoku’s Island Express is worth checking out. If you’re still on the fence, there’s a demo available. This is an impressive first entry from Villa Gorilla and I look forward to more titles from them.

  • Yooka-Laylee (Xbox one)

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    Game Info:

    Yooka-Laylee
    Developed by: Playtonic Games
    Published by: Team17
    Release date: April 11, 2017
    Available on: Linux, macOS, PS4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of players: Single-player, Up to two players for co-op multiplayer
    ESRB Rating: E 10+ for comic mischief
    Price: $39.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Team17 for sending us this game to review!

    The classic 2D Donkey Kong Country and 3D Banjo-Kazooie games bring back many fond memories for gamers who enjoy platformers from the '90s era. What made these games special is their challenge and the thrill of collecting all of the items despite their treacherous locations. The creative talent behind the aforementioned games are on staff at Playtonic Games and their first project, a “Rare-vival” called Yooka-Laylee was successfully Kickstarted in June of 2015. The $175,000 goal was exceeded with its ending amount reaching over 2 million.

    The main characters, the chameleon Yooka and his female bat companion Laylee begin the game lounging around their tropical home in Shipwreck Creek when Capital B and Dr. Quack threaten the existence of all of the world’s literature. Along with many books, the enchanted pages from Yooka and Laylee’s mysterious Grand Tome are taken away from them. They must travel to Hivory Towers to re-collect all of the Pagies and quills scattered throughout the five worlds.

    Each vibrant and 3D rendered world has two hundred quills in it and those are used for purchasing moves from a shady snake seller named Trowzer (trouser snake, get it?). Some of the moves include rolling up slippery slopes and shooting projectiles. Battling against bosses or fully exploring the world will not be possible without these moves, so be sure to buy them early and often. Thankfully, the quills are pretty easy to locate and collect.

    yooka-laylee
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Nice throwback to '90s classic platformers that require collecting lots of items
    Weak Points: Despite the cute graphics this game can be deceptively hard and may turn away some gamers; confusing level design; annoying voice acting; mini-games are boring when playing solo
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; potty humor; gambling references; sexual innuendo

    Pagies, on the other hand, often take more effort to get. They are used for expanding and opening up new worlds. Each world has twenty-five pages in it and they are usually locked away until a quest of some sort is completed. One of the easier quests is locating the fractions of a page to make a whole one. Other pages can be yours by winning races or by completing timed challenges. If some of the challenges are too much for you, you can skip them, but be warned that one-hundred Pagies will be required to take on the final boss.

    Ghost writers dwell in each world, and they'll reward you with treasure if you get their attention. In order to get them to acknowledge you, you’ll need unlock some of Trowzer’s special moves first. There are some characters who will refuse to talk to you in your chameleon form. When you befriend a scientist named Dr. Puzz, she’ll be able to transform you provided you can get her machine up and running first.

    As you can imagine, the Pagies take a lot more work to get and there are plenty of them to retrieve if you’re a completionist. Besides the main game, there is a retro arcade with a few minigames that can be played by yourself or with a nearby friend, stranger, or family member. Here’s a quick rundown of the minigames:

    Bee Bop – As a bee drone, you must defend your hive from invading enemies
    Blag the Flag – Keep your flag secure from enemies that are after it
    Glaciators – Collect as many quills as you can before the time runs out. You must be wary of the shifting ice and enemies coming at you
    Gun-Tlet Run - Blast away at corplets in this chaotic shoot ‘em up
    Hurdle Hijinx – A poker themed racetrack that requires you to jump and switch lanes to avoid upcoming obstacles
    Jobstacle Course – Collect quills in this shoot 'em up game
    Kartos Karting – See how fast you can complete your laps without hitting obstacles, enemies, or negative power-ups
    Up ‘N’ Nova – Collect quills in this space flying game

    yooka-laylee
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    Some of the minigames are over when the time runs out while others let you play until your five lives are depleted. When the mini-game ends, your score will be added to the local leaderboard. While these games can be played solo, I highly recommend recruiting a friend. Playing a kart game without any opponents is boring and wrong.

    Yooka-Laylee is mostly kid safe and will hopefully entertain more than frustrate younger gamers. Some of the innuendo went over my head at first, but they're present. There’s cartoon violence and some burping, but that’s as bad it gets. The humor is silly and appreciated.

    In the end, Yooka-Laylee is a cute game with the exception of annoying gibberish voice acting. Aside from that complaint, this title is bound to entertain gamers for a while, but it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. If you’re longing for a retro styled platformer, Yooka-Layee will deliver in spades, but don’t expect anything more and you’ll be happy.

  • Yumi’s Odd Odyssey (3DS)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Yumi’s Odd Odyssey
    Developed by: Agatsuma Entertainment
    Published by: Natsume
    Release Date: March 20, 2014
    Genre: Platformer/Puzzle
    Number of Players: Single-Player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $29.99

    Thank you Natsume for sending us this game to review!

    Yumi’s Odd Odyssey is the third game in the Umihara Kawase series which is popular in Japan.  This is the first and only game to come to North America.  The series began in 1994 on the Super Famicom system.  The sequels were released on the Japanese PlayStation, PSP, and DS systems.  What sets this series apart from other platformers (other than the bizarre dream world and creatures) is that the main characters are equipped with a bungee-like fishing line that they can attach to surfaces and sling themselves around the level.  Yumi’s Odd Odyssey offers plenty of jumping and climbing to fall under the platformer genre. However, there are many situations that require problem solving skills and a lot of patience to overcome.

    There are fifty stages to complete and many of them can be finished in a couple of minutes or less.  Some levels are more complex, especially when it comes to boss battles.    Most of the levels have backpacks that can be collected.  In the original game, these represented extra lives, but that is not an issue in this release.  You have unlimited retries, and this game counts how many times you have failed a level.   (This feature was not good for my self esteem.) 

    Yumi’s Odd Odyssey
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: The first of this series to come to North America; unique visuals and challenging gameplay 
    Weak Points: If you’re good at this game it can be beaten within a few hours; $30 asking price
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence

    To finish a level you must make your way to the exit door and some levels have multiple doors which interconnect to other stages in the game.  There are many obstacles from the beginning to the end of a stage.  You’ll encounter walking fish that make you wonder if the heroines are really small or if the fish are big.  Besides the monsters you can usually hook and reel in, there are slippery ice surfaces and deadly spikes to avoid.  You’ll have to use the environment to your advantage, especially since the bosses are immune to hook attacks.  To make matters worse, all it takes is one hit to send you back to the beginning of the level.

    Fortunately, there are multiple characters to choose from and each provides a helpful and unique ability.  Emiko unlocks check points in levels that can be used once apiece.  (I used her the most!)  Noko provides a slow motion hookshot which can come in handy if you need the extra accuracy.   I was aware of music and feature unlocking as I progressed the story, but these other characters are not mentioned.  Changing characters can be done in the profile menu.  

    There are five endings and I imagine they depend on how many backpacks are collected or by how long it took the user to complete the levels.  The original game gave the best ending for completing the entire game in roughly a half hour. Needless to say, there is plenty of replayability if you have the perseverance.   

    Yumi’s Odd Odyssey
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

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

    Yumi’s Odd Odyssey is a niche game that will appeal to those who longed to play the Japanese releases.  The $30 price tag seems a bit steep in my opinion.  There isn’t much of a story to hook you in, but the physics are fun to play around with until you fail the same level forty times or more.   

    The graphics are unique and utilize the 3D effects nicely.  The background is realistic looking while the foreground has various platforms to maneuver through.  I like how there are day and night levels to add some variety and additional challenge.  The disturbing enemies deserve a mention and these including walking fish and pollywogs.     

    The background music is pleasant to listen to but didn’t blow me away.  It was actually a bit soothing while I was getting angry at myself for dying yet again.  While this game is family friendly, I’d be surprised if children would enjoy it given the game’s brutal difficulty.

    Old school gamers should look into Yumi’s Odd Odyssey if they enjoyed previous entries in the Umihara Kawase series.  Anyone else looking for a challenge may be pleasantly surprised with this game as well.  I wish there was a demo available, but sadly there is not.  Thirty dollars is a lot to part with for a game that’s short if you’re good at it and even shorter if you’re fed up with its intense difficulty.

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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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