enfrdeitptrues

Platformer

  • Light Fall (Switch)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Light Fall
    Developed By: Bishop Games
    Published By: Bishop Games
    Released: April 26, 2018
    Available On: Switch, Windows, macOS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
    Genre: Platformer, Adventure, Action
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence and Mild Language
    Number of Players: 1 offline, no online play
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Bishop Games for sending us a review code!

    Light Fall is honestly one of the most intriguing platformers I've ever played. It manages to take what you expect or know from the genre, and change the formula.

    Light Fall's premise is simple: You're a small boy who seems to have lost his memory. This world around you is shrouded in darkness. The world, called Numbra, is hidden in a darkness that only the stars pierce. Light Fall's gameplay seems to take influence from Donkey Kong Country and Super Meat Boy, but puts its own original spin on it. It also has some basic rules. There's physics, no fall damage, the ability to jump and bounce up or off walls. However, Light Fall is unique in its implementation of its original feature: The ability to instantly call a sort of ground under your character.

    In this game exists a thing called the Shadow Core. The Shadow Core is a sort of box that provides ground for your character, however there's a catch. You can only call the box to you 5 times, and after that fifth placement it won't place again. In order to use it again, you have to touch solid ground that is not the box, and its placements will reset. You can also position it in several different ways, however those are not big enough to go into detail here. The cube can also be used to interact with the world, and create things or move them.

    But, Light Fall does fail in some ways. Throughout the game a sort of non-important/non-playable character narrates what is happening or what is going to happen. Light Fall feels less like gameplay, and more like storytelling. The game plays great, yes, but it progresses only as fast as the story wants it to. In addition, Light Fall has a deeper backstory it wants to tell. The way this game chooses to tell it is by hiding memory crystals through the world that you can unlock to read stories from the first captain to discover Numbra. But it decides to tell a lot of the story. What I mean is that there are 100-200 word stories for each crystal. It decides to show these words in big text, on small lines. Maybe 6-7 words a line. Then it decides to show these lines with maybe 7 on screen. Then it decides to very, very slowly scroll them up Star Wars style. In a fast paced platformer game, it absolutely killed the atmosphere. After about 5 crystals, I chose to just continue with my life.

    Light Fall
    The shadow core... which I fell off of and proceeded to die
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Original and fast gameplay; dazzling graphics; good voice acting
    Weak Points:  Some gameplay designs are frustrating; performance issues on the Switch; pacing on narrative is slow
    Moral Warnings: Several characters proclaim to be gods/goddesses; describes characters being raised from the dead

    Light Fall has an absolutely gorgeous palette of hand drawn graphics. Of course, I didn't verify with the developers, but it certainly looks hand drawn. The best way to describe this game's graphics is Ori and the Blind Forest meets LIMBO. An enchanting mix of bright whites and colors coming together with a dark undertone of black and grey remind you this place is shrouded in a neverending darkness. Light Fall also has gorgeous effects, bloom, lens flares and more that come together to make it feel like a polished game.

    Light Fall's story is where I start to pull away from this game. It follows the life of a character who meets a wise owl, but can't remember anything about himself. Later on it's shown that this game has several people they call celestial gods, and that your character is in fact one of them. You go through the game making sure your friends (the other 4 gods) and the people you protect (who also worship and build altars to these gods) are all safe. A character in this game, said to be a god, once cast a spell that stole all the light from the sky. You break into his temple and destroy him. One character that later receives power believes he has become a god. You end up destroying said character. All in all, the game has an unnecessary reliance on gods and mythology.

    The music in this game is average. It doesn't seem very original or memorable, but it does make the experience a bit more enjoyable. It's very cinematic; smooth and dramatic at the same time. It's a nice contrast to the empty feeling world. However, outside of the game it doesn't have anything special going for it. The sound mixing on this game is usually good, but there are some times they didn't do very well, where it's either extremely quiet or ear bursting loud. The atmosphere they create with environmental sounds and effects is quite nice.

    The controls are also alright; on handheld mode they feel good. However, in docked mode they feel very delayed. This may be due to another issue I'll note in the cons. Speaking of which, let's talk about those.

    Light Fall
    From early on, you can see this game looks great
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 68%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 73%
    Violence - 5.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 1/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    While the gameplay is fast paced and fun, there are some rather big issues when it comes to boss fights. In most games, the camera during boss fights stays roughly the same, or gets a little closer. In Light Fall, however, they decided the best way to do this is make the bosses huge and pan the camera way out. In a game where your character is already very small, they chose to make him practically the size of an ant. The camera is so far out, that the small size, combined with the fact your character is solid black on an already black background, makes boss fights extremely hard and difficult to follow.

    There also seems to be some performance issues. On docked or handheld mode, the game stays very smooth, and I only see some delay during boss fights or detailed scenes. I messaged the developers and they said both modes should run at 45-60FPS, and that handheld and docked mode ran at 720p and 1080p respectively. Because of these performance issues I'll dock a point from stability. Light Fall, however, does run smoothly on other platforms.

    Morally, everything I listed earlier about gods is an issue. The game also references and pictures a "sea dragon" that has been bound in a cave. It does not say anything special supernatural about the dragon though. At the end of this game most of the people these so called gods protected were dead. However, one of the gods sacrifices themselves to raise the dead and bring them back to life with their "inner light," which apparently makes them powerful. This light is put into each of them, and they called the occurrence of it Light Fall. But that's about it. There is no sexual content in this game, and although the game is rated for mild language, I don't remember hearing any. My best guess is it might be in the memory crystal entries.

    So, in closing, Light Fall is an original piece of art, with gorgeous hand drawn graphics, but is plagued by moral, technical and design issues.

    - God's Gaming's Contempt

  • Light Tracer (PSVR)

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    Game Info:

    Light Tracer
    Developed by: Void Dimensions
    Published by: Oasis Games
    Release date: September 26, 2017
    Available on: PSVR, Windows
    Genre: Platformer, Puzzle
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you Oasis Games for sending us a review code!

    A mysterious princess is in need of your assistance. Her kingdom is suffering from a serious sickness and she needs to reach the top of the Tower of Bellbatis to find the cure. As a helpful deity-like being, your job is to guide her by showing her the path she must take to save her people.

    To play this PSVR exclusive 3D puzzle/platformer, you’ll need to have two Move controllers. The controller on the right is in charge of illuminating the princess’ path while the left controller rotates the tower to get a better perspective. Like many platformer games you can make the princess jump across moving platforms and collect floating gems/coins along the way. Some of the platforms are controlled by you using circular and up/down/left/right hand gestures.

    In total, there are eight chapters with five levels in between them. Each chapter unveils new terrain and challenges to master. In the beginning, you’ll have green grass and stony ground, but later you’ll need to contend with slippery icy surfaces and gravity flipping platforms. In the event that the princess falls off of the tower or comes in contact with an enemy or dangerous object, she’ll be teleported to the last checkpoint. Thankfully, the checkpoints are plentiful in this title.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun, challenging, and fresh concept in a flooded VR marketplace
    Weak Points: Some rage-quit inducing puzzles; the world rotating may cause motion sickness
    Moral Warnings: Mild fantasy violence

    Despite the numerous checkpoints, many of the puzzles are frustrating to get past. To make matters worse, it takes a while to get everything positioned properly to attempt a difficult jump or avoid injury from enemy attacks. If you have past bouts with motion sickness, you may experience it in this title with all of the world shifting and standing position required to play this title.

    Because of the difficulty of this game, I don’t recommend it for gamers who are easily discouraged. It is pretty tame morally speaking with the possibility of the princess plunging to her death or being attacked by enemies and bosses. At first, the princess can’t attack and has to rely on defensive only maneuvers.

    Dexterity is a must to successfully climb this tower. Your left and right hands will have to do different tasks and one wrong move will put the princess in harm’s way. If you can multitask, then you’ll do well in this unique VR game.

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

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

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

    The visuals are colorful and the variety between the chapters is good. The level design is solid if not cruel at times. Throughout the game you’ll learn several new tricks and maneuvers to keep things interesting.

    From an audio standpoint this game is decent. There’s a fair amount of background music variety and the voice acting is good. Given the high levels of frustration some more soothing music would have been appropriate here.

    In the end, Light Tracer does a lot of things right but can easily frustrate some gamers. Like other PSVR titles, I ran into some controls/tracking issues but when I repositioned myself they were corrected. If you’re looking for a unique and challenging VR puzzle/platformer, Light Tracer is worth adding to your PSVR library with a reasonable $14.99 asking price.

    **Steam Version Update**

    The content on the PC version of Light Tracer is virtually identical to the PS VR release. The graphics are a bit sharper, and if you use a higher resolution headset, quite a bit sharper than on PS VR. The PC/Steam version was originally designed for HTC Vive, and even though I was using it with an Oculus Rift S (which did work fine), all of the button prompts and tutorials were written and designed around the Vive controllers. For example, when it says you need to touch the touchpad, you instead need to push in on the joystick. Pushing in on the joystick to simulate pressing the touchpad to rotate platforms and such works, though it was a bit unwieldy until I got used to it. You could just touch and direction on the right controller to encourage our friend to walk, and was much easier to do than moving things around.

    The company logos were double-vision blurry when starting the game on the Rift S (they were actually clear if I crossed my eyes, which I can do on demand) but there were no other graphical issues that I noticed during gameplay; it looked crisp and sharp. The most important control, the pointer, worked just fine, which is a big improvement over PS VR's easily glitched tracking. Even with the more accurate controls, the game is still a bit cumbersome, and falling off is quite easy to do on accident.

  • Lode Runner Legacy (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Lode Runner Legacy
    Developed By: Tozai Games, Inc., O-TWO inc.
    Published By: Tozai Games, Inc.
    Release Date: July 13, 2017
    Available On: Windows (macOS and Linux planned)
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Genre: Puzzle Platformer
    Mode: Single Player
    Price: $15.42
    (Kinguin Affiliate Link)

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

    When I was (much) younger, one of my friends introduced me to Lode Runner when he mentioned that his mom liked the game very much. As a result, when I saw Lode Runner: The Legend Returns for Windows 3.x all those many moons ago, I picked up the CD and understood what she saw in the game – a simple concept that was genuinely fun to play, and required quick thinking to succeed.

    There were a couple more sequels on PC, with the last one being Lode Runner 2 (which is a very different game). Imagine my surprise when I went to play this game again, and found that there hasn't been a substantial update on PCs since the 1990s, and that my old copy isn't so easy to play on modern computers anymore. Thankfully, consoles have fared a bit better, with Nintendo, Xbox, and mobile platforms getting more recent releases. Nevertheless, this series started on PCs (Apple II was the original), and it sure is great to see it return once again with Lode Runner Legacy.

    For those who have never played Lode Runner, the concept is rather simple: your goal is to grab every coin in the level, while also avoiding death. Once you do this, it unlocks the level exit, which you must make your way over to and climb to get out. That's pretty much it, but you are rather restricted in how you can move and what your tools are. For one thing, you can move left and right, or up and down ladders. But you cannot jump at all – so if you can't reach it, you can't get there. Also, you can destroy blocks directly to the left and right side diagonally below you (assuming they are destructible), but not underneath, above, or next to you. Given your limits, every time you move about a level it requires very careful planning, because it is very easy to trap yourself or accidentally kill yourself.

    Lode Runner Legacy
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Long overdue return of the classic gameplay formula; nice graphical update; level, item, and character editors; online leaderboards
    Weak Points: Limited custom resolution options
    Moral Warnings: Technically you can kill bad guys by embedding them into a brick; online custom items could theoretically be obscene

    You see, when you destroy a block, it starts to fade back in. Once that completes, anyone in that spot will die, including yourself. So you have to move fairly quickly, avoiding self-made traps. Also, since you can only break blocks diagonally below you, dropping down to get something can require significant planning, since you can't just break one block and drop down if there is no escape from wherever you land.

    Most levels have moving enemies in them. You can break blocks and have them fall inside as an easy way to avoid them (which may lead to their death), or if your footwork is fancy, you can stand on top of them. This can be tricky because they can move under your feet, and lead to unexpected deaths if you aren't careful.

    Each level plays out like an action puzzle, which can be fairly quick on its own, and there is both a timer and point system that judges how good of a job you do. There are online leaderboards, which is always a fun feature, and encourages replays. I loved seeing my name on there (since I had the opportunity to play the game pre-release) though since the game has now been released, the hardcore fans quickly eclipsed my scores (well, most of them, as of release date).

    Lode Runner Legacy
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

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

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

    There are four main game modes, along with some editors to round out the package. There is the adventure mode, which attempts to wrap a very simple story around the game, while gradually introducing more and more new enemies and other challenges to round out those fifty levels. There is also a puzzle mode, which is more about solving the level the only way possible (usually) in the fastest time, rather than the focus on points. There is classic mode, which makes our character look much simpler, and includes all one hundred and fifty original Lode Runner levels. The new levels have our hero take up more space on the screen, so a smaller classic character was necessary.

    The final game mode is world levels, which are user created levels, which integrate with Steam Workshop. In these levels, there may also be user created characters or items as well. As you would expect, there is an editor for each of these types built into the game, so if you fall in love with this classic, and love making levels, there is a ton to do here. I am sure other Lode Runner fans would also really appreciate it – with Steam Workshop integration, the potential content is virtually limitless, dependent only on the creativity of the players.

    Lode Runner Legacy is a competent and long overdue revitalization of a true gaming classic. The older releases have had hardcore fans for decades, and for good reason. Despite some minor flaws, like limited resolution support (720p and 1080p only), lovers of puzzle games everywhere should take note: a time-tested classic is back. While I prefer playing games like this in short spurts, it fits that purpose quite well and is always entertaining. Highly recommended.

  • Magical Star Pillars (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

    Magical Star  Pillars
    Developed By: Toolkitz Games
    Published By: Toolkitz Games
    Released: April 25, 2018
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Platform, Puzzle
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: 1 player
    Price: $6.99

    Thank you Toolkitz for sending us this game to review.

    An adorable little girl by the name of Tiff is the star of the game Magical Star Pillars, a 2D puzzle-platformer where the main goal is to navigate levels to collect stars. Tiff’s journey starts off with her and her unnamed bird companion relaxing on their island, when they come across a strange star. This star grants the duo a telepathic message that the Star Pillars are in danger. It is now their job to restore power to the Star Pillars.

    As mentioned above, there is a story to all of this, and a narrative is played during the tutorial, whenever an ally is encountered/rescued, and when a Star Pillar regains its power. The overall plot is something I didn’t expect from the game and it does give life to the world that Tiff runs and jumps around in. Of course a plotline in a puzzle-platformer is unnecessary, but it’s nice to have. The starting island you begin on acts as a tutorial, explaining the mechanics of both the levels and the overworld. The overworld can feel weird to navigate at times, especially on certain islands, as Tiff will have to squeeze through tight spaces which she easily gets stuck on. Maybe it would have been better if the overworld was more like a menu, but the developer is aware of these problems and has fixed some of these collision issues, as well as planning to fix more of them in later updates.

    Magical Star Pillars' levels are the strong point in the game. After the tutorial, there are four islands that Tiff must go to. Any island can be started in any order, but some levels do require allies obtained from previous levels. In a way, the game is both linear and non-linear because even though you can start any island by your choosing, you will have to at least partially complete one island to complete another. There are over one hundred levels spread across the four islands with many puzzles and platforms. A lot of these levels contain robots that can be avoided, and depending on the level can also be destroyed (they mostly act as obstacles to avoid).

    Each island has a special gimmick attached to it such as Steam Island focusing on using geysers to jump very high, and Storm Island using turbines and ice to mess with or hinder movement. The final level of each island contains a boss, which you have to overcome with the combination of the allies gathered throughout the game. The Steam Island boss in particular can be fairly buggy as I had it glitch out on me four times before I successfully defeated it.

    Magical Star Pillars
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Strong platforming; some puzzles are very engaging; a large amount of puzzles
    Weak Points: Overworld can be clunky to navigate; sometimes the allies can slow down the pace of the game; music can get repetitive 
    Moral Warnings: Robots are out to get you, and that’s a bad thing; supernatural setting

    I enjoyed the majority of the levels due to their layout of the design, the unique attributes to some of the levels, and a good variety of puzzles. The game also has a moderate amount of challenge to it as well. It never feels too easy nor too hard at any point of the game and many levels do test the platforming skills and puzzle knowledge of the player. There is no life system attributed to Magical Star Pillars; instead, each level keeps track of how long you took to complete it, as well as how many restarts it took or how many deaths.

    The solid mechanics are greatly attributed to the controls. The control scheme is very simple with standard movement using the arrow keys, jump by using the spacebar, and the shift key to your character’s respective ability. The F5 key can be used to retry a level, and the escape key to exit a level as there will be some levels that can only be completed with certain allies. Keep in mind that F5 and the escape key have to be held down for a second for the action to work. It’s rather strange, but understandable as it prevents accidental pressing of the button. Controller support is also available for people who want it; it's serviceable, but I personally prefer the keyboard for platformers. The controls are extremely responsive and the characters can both start and stop at a moment's notice, allowing precision platforming.

    Later on in the game, you gain allies and can switch between them with A, S, D or F. You start off with your bird companion, who's action is toggled by the A key. He acts more as panning for the camera, a very useful ability to see what comes up ahead in the levels and to come up with a good plan for the puzzles. The other allies can also move and jump, but are typically limited in other aspects, and also cannot be used to collect the stars, even if they can reach them. Sometimes the allies can slow the pace of the game down, due to their slower movement, but this only comes up every once in a while.

    Magical Star Pillars
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    The graphics are okay, I guess. The world itself very basic, and some of it looks like it was done in MS Paint (especially some of the areas on Clay Island). The characters have a special charm to them. I found them to be very cute and they have an appeal. Even the robots I found to be cute. Though the designs are simple, every piece of scenery is clear as to what is and isn’t something that can and should be interacted with. The music is a nice little retro style with MIDI aspects, but can get repetitive fairly quickly as there are only a handful of songs in the game, and they loop after 30 or so seconds. If you get annoyed by it, the music can be toggled off in the options menu.

    There is not much wrong morally in the game. There are robots that are out to get you, and some of them have spikes, some shock with electricity or bombs, and the little moments you can retaliate are all against robots. It’s all portrayed in a cartoon manner and when your character is struck, death is similar to how a classic Sonic the Hedgehog or Mario game deals with it. Basically the bare minimum. As evident in the title, there is also magic, but I’ve never seen it used throughout the game by the players or the enemies and is only mentioned and seen through exposition during some of the cutscenes.

    Magical Star Pillars has some rough spots in and around, but the enjoyable mechanics and levels make it a very solid puzzle-platform game. I had a good time going through it. It’s not too long, only being 3-6 hours for your first playthrough, but the semi-linearity and the quick-play nature can warrant repeated playthroughs. There is also DLC being developed that will release around September of 2018 that contains more levels and more companions. It’s rather cheap for the amount it gives you and I can recommend it to any platform and puzzle fans, as well as people of all ages.

  • Max: The Curse of Brotherhood (Switch)

     

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    Game Info:

    Max: The Curse of Brotherhood
    Developed by: Press Play, Stage Clear Studios, Flashbulb Games
    Published by: Wired Productions Ltd
    Release date: December 21, 2017
    Available on: PS4, Switch, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One
    Genre: Puzzle platformer
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: E 10+ for Fantasy Violence, Mild Language
    Price: $19.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Wired Productions Ltd for sending us this game to review!

    Max: The Curse of Brotherhood was originally released in 2013 and was re-released on next-gen consoles in 2017. One of the biggest complaints about this game was the controls. Hopefully the Switch version resolves those issues. This is my first time playing it so I can’t compare the versions unfortunately. The story remains the same though.

    Max is annoyed with his brother Felix and finds an incantation online that will make him disappear. He chants it and his brother is quickly whisked away. Immediately regretting his actions, Max jumps into the portal to save him. At first, Max doesn’t have any weapons but it doesn’t take long before his famous marker comes into play.

    With his marker, Max can cause specially marked sections of the ground to form and collapse columns, branches, and vines. The last two abilities he’ll learn are controlling water flows and using gas to propel himself. There are equal parts of platforming and puzzle solving in this 2.5D game. You’ll have to move around blocks and work around enemies that cannot be touched due to spikes or poisonous gas they emit. Every level also has these big eyeballs on trees that Max has to uproot if he doesn’t want the evil mastermind Mustacho to keep spying on him. There are seventy-five eyeballs to remove and eighteen amulet pieces to collect through the seven chapters and twenty levels in this game.

    Max: The Curse of Brotherhood
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Lovely visuals; fun gameplay
    Weak Points: Some of the obstacles require more luck than skill to overcome
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; sibling rivalry; gross enemies; Max is guided by a spirit lady

    The only replayability this game has to offer is to collect eyeballs and pendant pieces you may have missed in previous levels. In all honesty I was happy enough to get through the levels and have no intention of going back.

    Though the 3D Pixar-like visuals are charming, it doesn’t take long for frustration to set in as you try multiple times to get the drawing physics to cooperate only to die quickly after and go through the drawing puzzle all over again. When the puzzles are simple the drawing mechanics work really well. That’s not always the case though and there are many drawing puzzles that have to be solved during action sequences where Max has to keep moving or die. Sometimes the game will slow down time and give you time to draw, but there are some instances where you have to draw on the go and those are annoying.

    If you’re not a fan of quick time events you will not enjoy this game at all. There are more quick time events than you can shake a hand-drawn stick at! There are some boss-like creatures or just elements in general that Max has to flee from. Sometimes there is a logical jumping pattern and other times it seems that you have to preemptively jump when it doesn’t make sense to do so in order to succeed. Thankfully you have an infinite amount of lives and the amount of checkpoints are pretty generous.

    Max: The Curse of Brotherhood
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 70%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 2/5

    Morality Score - 96%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10
    +3 for promoting good family values

    The sound effects are good and the voice acting for all of the characters is well done. With some of the screams and shrieks from Max I really felt guilty for accidentally killing him.

    From a moral standpoint, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is pretty clean. There is some cartoon-like violence, but no blood or gore. Though the ESRB mentions mild language (without examples), I haven’t come across anything concerning. During Max’s journey he is guided by a spirit lady that teaches him how to obtain and use his marker abilities. Many of the marker abilities are acquired in ancient temples and ruins. On a positive note, I like the theme of forgiveness and brotherly love that this game promotes.

    In the end, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a cute game that is flawed by too many quick time events and complicated drawing puzzles. I only enjoyed the game in short spurts and it felt like a chore to complete the levels at times. If you see the game on sale it may be worth picking up.

  • Miles & Kilo (Switch)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Miles & Kilo
    Developed by: Four Horses
    Published by: Four Horses
    Release date: July 5, 2018
    Available on: iOS, macOS, Switch, Windows
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone with Mild fantasy violence
    Price: $7.99

    Thank you Four Horses for sending us this game to review!

    Miles and his trusty dog Kilo were happily flying in their plane until it got off course and ran into some nasty weather. As a result, their plane crashed on a mysterious set of islands and a specter, along with his troublesome friends, ran off with some of the plane’s pieces. If Miles & Kilo want to go back home they’ll need to explore these islands and get their parts back from the fiends that took them.

    While challenging, Miles & Kilo isn’t as brutal as Four Horses’ previous game, Kid Tripp. Though I still died a lot, and wished for checkpoints, this retro themed 2D platformer and sometimes runner game is quite fun and worth sticking it out.

    Miles & Kilo
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun and challenging platformer with a wide variety of levels and obstacles
    Weak Points: No checkpoints; can’t hide how many times you have died; can be beaten in a couple of hours if you’re good at it; if you’re bad at it you’ll get annoyed
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; some of the enemies are undead creatures like mummies or ghosts

    There are two play modes depending on which character you’re controlling. Some of the levels have just Miles and play like your typical platformer where you’ll have to time your jumps and attacks with precision. Miles can throw fruit at enemies; however, he can only carry a few pieces on him at a time. Many foes can be stomped on or even avoided altogether. Only hurl fruit at the enemies that are unavoidable. Thankfully, there are plenty of pieces of fruit scattered in the levels to replenish Miles' inventory. Along with throwing fruit, Miles can also bust through some crumbling rocks.

    The levels with Miles' dog are much faster paced since Kilo does not stop running. Both Miles and Kilo have two different kinds of jumps and you’ll have to master both to succeed in this game. While holding onto Kilo’s leash, Miles will sometimes have to duck under obstacles to clear them. When enemies are present, Kilo will have to lock onto them and then attack them. This locking on process is essential for reaching otherwise inaccessible areas.

    In total, there are thirty-six levels and five boss battles. You have to complete the levels in order and you cannot advance to the next island without taking down the boss of the previous one. Though the levels are short, they are equally fun and challenging. I was impressed by the variety of levels and fresh gameplay techniques. Along with your typical running, jumping, and bouncing off of floating balloons, Miles will spend some of the levels surfing or riding in mine carts.

    Miles & Kilo
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    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

    At the end of each level you’ll be graded on several factors. Depending on how long it took you to complete a level, how many coins you collected, and how much unused fruit you have, you’ll get a letter grade based on your performance. If you’re unhappy with your score you can improve upon it, but the death counter will not reset. In fact, you can see how much you have died in total in the stats menu. The stats section will also show you how many coins and how much fruit you have collected as well as how long you’ve been playing the game. I like how it also shows the distance traveled in both miles and kilometers.

    If you’re good at speed runner games you’ll beat this game in less than three hours. The only replayability is improving upon your score or completion time. I was happy enough to complete some of the more challenging levels and had no desire to revisit them.

    If you like retro style platform and/or runner games you’ll definitely want to keep an eye out for Miles & Kilo. If you enjoy brutally difficult titles you should also consider picking up Kid Tripp. The only moral concerns in this title are the cartoon violence and undead/Halloween themed characters. I look forward to more family friendly games from Four Horses.

  • Ministry of Broadcast (Switch)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Ministry of Broadcast
    Developed By: Ministry of Broadcast Studios
    Published By: Hitcents
    Release Date: April 30, 2020
    Available On: Switch, PC
    ESRB Rating: M for Mature: Blood, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence
    Genre: Platformer, Action, Adventure, Puzzle
    Mode: Single Player
    MSRP: $14.99

    I would like to thank Hitcents for sending us a review code for Ministry of Broadcast on the Nintendo Switch!

    In 1949 the English novelist George Orwell gave the world a taste of what it would look like to live in a world where the freedoms of privacy and choice were completely stripped from the people of a proud nation. Simply entitled 1984, the novel would spark an interest in what the future would hold when it came to surveillance and control. Nearly 75 years later, we are now in the year 2020, and Orwell’s synopsis on a Big Brother government doesn’t just sound like science fiction anymore, but the near future for many present-day regimes. It is the perfect inspiration for video games and television shows, and that is exactly the case here.

    Ministry of Broadcast Studios had a game in mind, a puzzle platformer about a man who makes his way through an Orwellian dystopia in order to return to the family he so loves. It is a simple plot with an incredibly deep and rich narrative. Over the last few years, I have personally watched the growth of this game as the studio posted updates on Twitter. Seeing the simple, yet strikingly detailed pixel art of the game reminded me of such great titles as Flashback (1993), Prince of Persia, and Oddworld. I was delighted when Hitcents gave me a key to a game that I invested quite a bit of interest in, and from the very start of the title, I was reminded of why I love the puzzle-platformer genre so much.

    Ministry of Broadcast
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Good retro-style puzzle-platformer; phenomenal audio mixing; reasonable challenge; simple yet detailed pixel art 
    Weak Points: Platforming is not always precise; dialogue can be hard to read 
    Moral Warnings: Lots of pixelated gore; dark humor; some suggestive themes; strong language 

    After a great war, the people of the nation are separated by a massive construct known as The Wall, which was hastily erected by the new regime. Those who wish to cross through The Wall to see their families must compete in a grueling reality show where all of their movements are scrutinized by scientists and other authorities. Our hero, an unnamed protagonist with red hair, is one of those contestants who wish to beat The Wall and return to his family. Every day the contestants are brought to “The Arena” where they figure out puzzles for survival. Of course “The Ginger,” as our character is often called, rarely plays by the rules and causes more destruction than actual harmony with his fellow contestants.

    This game is a “cinematic platformer,” which means that the story moves forward around the player as he moves through the environment. All the dialogue comes on the screen as word bubbles over the characters who speak, so if the characters are running, the words follow those sprites. I found a lot of the action difficult to follow because the words were not easy to read. The text is quite small on the handheld mode, and it does move rather fast for many people to read. However, the player is given the option to skip the longer dialogue scenes, so that provides an opportunity for speedrunners to cut to the quick.

    Honestly, the dialogue itself becomes one of the most endearing parts of this game. Ministry of Broadcast is full of dark humor and sarcasm as the story goes from being a simple contest to something much darker. Our protagonist is a breath of fresh air among those with murderous intent, always seeing the bright side of every situation as if he is completely oblivious to the fact that he is in a convoluted Running Man tournament. And if he does die, which will happen a lot, a smart-aleck crow is always there to rub the failure of the players in their faces.

    Ministry of Broadcast
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay 15/20
    Graphics 7/10
    Sound 10/10
    Stability 3/5
    Controls 4/5

    Morality Score - 64%
    Violence 2/10
    Language 6/10
    Sexual Content 8/10
    Occult/Supernatural 9/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical 7/10

    As is the case with any puzzle game, the challenges increase in difficulty as the action moves forward. Ministry of Broadcast does not give the players a HUD or health bar to help guide them through the levels, rather it presents a more “organic” approach to puzzle navigation. The clues to complete each level are found in environments themselves, whether they be posters on the wall or something the guards say. Figuring out the puzzles is just part challenge, however, navigating them is another feat altogether.

    Something I noticed very early on through my playthrough is that the developers took a great deal of care with their audio mixing. As simple as the game’s graphics may look, it sounds incredible. Every little detail from the boots tromping through the snow to the guard dogs licking their lips is heard with clarity. Most of the game is played without music, however, tense and ambient music will play during the more chaotic scenes.

    The controls in Ministry of Broadcast are truly a blast from the past. Our red-haired hero does not run and jump like Mario but is more limited in his moves to promote the puzzle format of the game. It is similar to the movements of Abe in Oddworld, where he can only jump vertically when he is standing still and must run to hop over long gaps. It takes a little getting used to for players who are new to the genre, but luckily there is an Easy mode that slows down the action a little and gives players more grace in the platforming sections. Grace, it would seem, is something that is in short supply in the Normal mode, as the difficulty can get quite “sharp.”

    The whimsy and humor of this game are apparent from the very beginning, but it doesn’t hold an M rating for no reason. To credit the dark humor of this title, the Ministry believes the best television comes from the most over-the-top displays of violence and gore one can witness. Throughout the game, our hero must overcome the odds or face an incredibly brutal death. He can be shot, mauled, impaled, crushed, eaten, irradiated, and yes, even blown up. Even though the violence is pixilated, it doesn’t take much imagination to know what is going on.

    If I were to honestly approach this title, I’d say that I really enjoyed playing through it. Sure, it is a game based around the concept of a vicious totalitarian regime, but I found the heart and drive of the hero to be not only endearing but almost empowering. This game does play host to very violent content and even features some strong language, though I did not find the F word at all in my initial playthrough. There was no sexual content outright, but there are suggestive themes laced within the dialogue, especially among contestants. Keeping that in mind, those players who have sensitivities against this type of content might want to steer clear from this game. However, if you do choose to pick this game up, I think you will be drawn in by the powerful story and challenging gameplay. Just ignore the crow, it’s not like he’s part of the story, right?

  • Momentum (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Momentum
    Developed By: Projectile Entertainment
    Published By: Projectile Entertainment
    Released: August 11, 2016
    Available On: Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Physics puzzle platformer
    ESRB Rating: E
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: $.99
    (Kinguin Affiliate Link)

    Thanks to Projectile Entertainment for the review key!

    Are you annoyed with how well life has been going? Has constant success plagued you every step of the way? Have you ever stopped and thought that today would be much better if you were faced with nigh-impossible tasks and lengthy, repeated failure? Or do you simply like rolling balls through obstacle courses? If you answered “yes” to any of these, Momentum is the game for you.

    Momentum’s premise is simple: get the ball to the goal by rotating the stage around in any and every direction, with bronze, silver, and gold medals awarded based on the time you take to do so. This should be recognizable to those familiar with Super Monkey Ball or the infamous Rollgoal minigame from the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, though Momentum doesn’t limit your rotational ability – you get a full 360 degree playing field. While tilting the stage is the primary method of moving your ball, you can also make it jump as well as use the “brake” button to slow it down and give you greater control. Expect to keep that brake on most, if not all, of the time, as it’s your only hope against the suspiciously frictionless floors.

    The ninety levels in the game are separated into three worlds, each with their own obstacle focus. The first world is standard, with only complicated, stationary structures impeding your progress. These stages tend to have the goal on the other side of the platform you start in, essentially making you traverse the stage twice; it makes the stages longer, but isn’t exactly engaging. The second world introduces moving platforms and laser beams, with the stages laid out more creatively than the first world. The final set adds blue fields that modify your ball, either by pushing you in a direction or removing your jump and/or brake.

    Momentum
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Varied, lengthy gameplay; good presentation
    Weak Points: Excruciatingly, frustratingly difficult; some quality-of-life issues
    Moral Warnings: A stage named “Escalator to Hell”

    What this all adds up to is an extremely complicated, horrifically difficult game. The courses are already designed to be as hard as possible, but the addition of moving platforms and especially the control-altering fields make some stages nearly insurmountable. Longer stages contain periodic checkpoints, with some giving you freely-placeable ones you can put anywhere you can stand still at for a moment, but every fall or laser-based incineration adds two seconds to your final time. Expect to fail dozens of times on the later stages, and don’t be surprised to only get a bronze time at best when – if – you finally succeed. It’s telling when the game, which unlocks new balls for use as you gain medals, only requires you to get sixty bronze, thirty silver, and twenty-one gold medals out of the possible ninety. Momentum’s Steam description often talks about its “Zen” atmosphere, but the only enlightenment you’ll reach is becoming one with your frustration.

    For what it’s worth, the game controls as well as it needs to, considering the challenge mostly derives from fighting said controls. The stage and camera movements are customizable, both in terms of mirroring directions and sensitivity. The physics make sense, and the ball never acts in an unrealistic way. The ball’s handling will certainly feel anywhere from slippery to uncontrollable, but it’s by design, not technical flaw. It is worth mentioning, however, that the keyboard and mouse controls are rather clumsy. The mouse controls stage rotation when holding down the left button and the camera when pressing the right, making manipulating both at the same time nearly impossible. The keyboard has re-bindable controls, but limits you to rather imprecise command over both stage and camera. You can finagle a workable control scheme out of both mouse and keyboard together, but they still don't quite reach the level of control a gamepad does. To put it simply, there's a reason the screen after the developer logo shows an outline of an Xbox One controller.

    The main flaws in Momentum lie not in its gameplay but in a few quality-of-life issues. There’s no way to check the medal times in-game; you have to quit out to the menu to see them. Some of the later stages get very convoluted, but outside of a wide-angle shot of the whole stage when you first load it up, you’re unable to move the camera away from your ball to look at where you need to go. When you fall, you’re treated to three seconds of watching your ball plunge away, followed by three more seconds of watching it respawn, potentially followed by even more waiting if there are moving platforms that need to line up again. It’s almost as if the game is reveling in your failure, and forcing you to savor it as well.

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

    Game Score - 79%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4.5/5

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

    Momentum does try to keep it calm with its proficient presentation. Each stage is set to a soothing backdrop – a city at dusk for the first world, a skyscape the second, and a sprawling library for the third. You’ll be staring at your ball and its immediate surroundings for the most part, but both the various ball types and the ground are textured well and won’t strain the eyes; the metallic balls also have a slight reflection to them. The music is gentle and pleasant, though there aren’t a whole lot of songs; at the very least, it’s easy to tune out when you need to focus. The sound effects are realistic and aren’t very loud or distracting – the sound of your ball rolling along, clacking on the ground, and blipping out of existence are fitting and easily ignored when necessary. In short, there’s nothing in the game’s graphics or sound that you can blame when you fail for the fiftieth time in a twenty-second stage.

    With no dialogue, plot, or characters to find, there’s next to nothing to worry about morally. The only exception is a stage titled “Escalator to Hell” – which is ironically one of the easier stages. If anything, the game is a solid test of patience and persistence.

    If you don’t mind the brutal difficulty, Momentum is a competent, long-lived game that’s more substantial than it lets on at first. For the $9.99 it asks for, you’ll get over a dozen hours of gameplay just trying to complete each stage, let alone achieve gold medals on every one. Should you choose to undertake that impossible challenge, know that you’ll come out the other side with either the patience of a saint or the temperament of the Incredible Hulk.

    -Cadogan

  • Octahedron (Xbox One)

     

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    Game Info:

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

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

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

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

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

    Octahedron
    Highlights:

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

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

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

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

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

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

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

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

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

  • Okinawa Rush Preview (PC)

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    Game Info:

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

     

    Thank you Sokaikan for sending us a prerelease build!

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

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

    Okinawa Rush
    Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Organic Panic (PS4)

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    Game Info:

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

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

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

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

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

    Organic Panic
    Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Overcome (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

    Overcome
    Developed By: Overcome Studios
    Published By: Overcome Studios
    Released: February 28, 2019
    Available On: macOS, Windows
    Genre: Platformer
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: Single-player
    Price: $8.99

    Thank you, Overcome Studios, for sending us a review code!

    People create video games for many different reasons. Some may simply want people to be entertained while others want to spread a message. Overcome is of the latter. It is a 2D pixel action platformer “in which you beat your inner demons without fighting them. It displays how grief changes a person’s perception of the world around.” With that kind of description, it’s evident that this is a pretty serious game.

    Your player character is a simple heart with eyes. Overcome starts in a cheery setting with nice upbeat music. The colors are what you would see in nature—lots of green and brown to represent the trees, grass, rocks, and ground. This color palette won’t stick around for long as this giant ominous heart suddenly envelops the entire setting with grays, blacks, and a moonlit sky. It will process into a fiery landscape, a cold tundra, and wrap right back to a colorful sunny field. There are only four levels total in this game, but each level will likely take you a while to complete. Overcome is a rather difficult platformer where you are expected to die a lot before you progress. (There are even achievements for dying hundreds of times.)

    Overcome
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great imagery; the difficulty is enough that it makes you want to keep going
    Weak Points: No replay value; some segments take way too much precision for how the controls are set up
    Moral Warnings: Some violence depicted with the heart characters shattering or exploding; a few enemies have devil horns and at one point the player character is enveloped in flames that form the shape of a demon

    The controls are very simple and can be changed to your liking. The arrow keys or WASD are your methods of movement. Jumping only requires the Z key and reflecting uses the X key. Gamepads are supported with the control stick moving the character while A/Cross or B/Circle are your jump and reflect. While progressing through the game, the heart will gain a shield that can block attacks. Later on, that shield also gains the ability to reflect attacks and act as a parachute. Checkpoints (which are also save points) in the shape of pillars are scattered throughout the levels so when your character dies or you quit out of the game, you’ll start right at that point.

    The controls also lead to the majority of its difficulty. Some segments do require precision, almost pixel-perfect accuracy for a few of them and when your character is unable to stop or start on a dime, many deaths will come from barely missing a platform. Nearly every enemy in the game also have methods of taking control away either from shooting little projectiles that push your character back or enemies that shake the ground. The combination of shooting enemies, charging enemies, and jumping enemies that shake the ground in the later segments push this simple game to its limits when it comes to difficulty.

    Now since the game is called Overcome, what is it that you’re overcoming in the first place? Although the game never states within, Overcome is about the experience of heartbreak—more specifically cancer. I have never experienced cancer (and I hope I never will) but I know what heartbreak feels like. Kabir Lal, the sole creator of Overcome Studios and Overcome attempts to express this, and I feel that he does it well. The music, combined with the scenery for each stage sets the feeling of what you are supposed to feel. The dark colors and the confusing beats of the first stage represent confusion and dread—the feeling when you’re told something bad or life-threatening mentioned to you about someone you love. Then come the anger and rage, represented by the fires and hellish landscape of stage 2, with the music becoming tense and incorporating percussion instruments. Stage 3 is covered in snow and the sorrow notes of the piano give off an empty and cold feeling. Finally, with stage 4, things get better and you’re able to see life how you used to before the bad times happened.

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

    Game Score - 72%
    Gameplay 12/20
    Graphics 8/10
    Sound 7/10
    Stability 5/5
    Controls 4/5


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

    There are not a whole lot of morality issues or concerns with Overcome, considering how simple it is. There is some violence with your heart character either cracking in two or exploding. Enemies can crack in half as well when you turn their attacks against them. The charging enemy has devil horns and in stage 2, your heart character is covered in flames that take the shape of some sort of demon or devil.

    Overcome was made in the span of six months and for better and worse, it shows. The journey will last anywhere between one and three hours depending on how often you die and unfortunately, unless you hunt achievements, there is zero replay value. Even with the short run time, it is a different experience than most because of how personal it is. In both a figurative and literal sense, Overcome is a heartfelt experience. The music and visuals match the tone and it proves to be difficult with the bar set high and it never lowering. (Casual players will probably want to stay away, however.) Overcome represents in many ways the perseverance of the human spirit—from the message and tone of the game, the struggles that Kabir Lal faced before and during his development of Overcome, and even the player themselves. If you have $9 to spare, it’s worth checking out, as long as you are aware of what Overcome is about.

  • Pankapu (Switch)

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    Game Info:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Pankapu
    Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Poncho (PC)

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    Game Info:

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

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

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

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

     

    Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • PuzzGun (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

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

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

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

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

    PuzzGun
    Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Rainbow Dash (Android)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

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

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

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

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

    Rainbow Dash
    Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Ratchet & Clank (PS4)

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    Game Info:

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

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

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

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

    Ratchet & Clank
    Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Ravva and the Cyclops Curse (PC)

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    Game Info:

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

    Thank you Galope for sending us a review code!

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

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

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

    Ravva and the Cyclops Curse
    Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Reed 2 (Switch)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Reed 2 
    Developed by: PXLink
    Published by: Ratalaika Games
    Released: May 8, 2020
    Available on: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
    Number of Players: Single player
    Genre: Platformer
    ESRB Rating: E for everyone
    Price: $4.99

    Thank you Ratalaika for sending us this game to review!

    Reed 2 is a platformer game developed by PXLink and Ratalaika Games. The player plays as a cute creature named Reed, and apparently, his world is in great danger. The supercomputer who was acquainted with Reed failed to complete a vital reboot operation that could have saved them all, so the hope is that Reed will be able to deliver a backup flash drive to the “developer” so he can restore the world. Upon giving him that message, the supercomputer burst into flames. A door on the other side of the room then opens, and the first level begins.

    There are 50 levels in the game, each and every one frustratingly irritating in its own way. The levels are separated by brown doors that can only be passed through if the player collects all three golden cubes that are scattered in the level. Each spinning golden cube is usually surrounded by either spikes, turrets, sawblades, or all three, making completion of the level very difficult. Basically, in order to complete each level, the player must collect each golden cube in the level and reach the door safely. If he or she makes contact with any spikes or sawblades, all progress in that level is lost, and the golden cubes must all be collected again, because it only takes one mistake to kill Reed.

    Reed 2
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Enjoyable; simple controls; challenging
    Weak Points: Not much music involved; challenging
    Moral Warnings: Mild fantasy violence

    The controls are rather simple: You can use either the left or right stick or the d-pad on the device to move left or right in the level. B is used to jump, and you can press it again while in the air to jump again in the air, making a double-jump. The plus on the Nintendo Switch is used to pause the game and/or access the menu, from which you can adjust the background noise and how loud it is compared to the sound effects as Reed walks and jumps.

    The visuals in this game are not particularly special, but neither are they notably low-quality. You could say they are mediocre, I suppose. One thing I did notice, though, besides the obvious fact that the graphics are all pixelated to an extent, is that the developer implemented effects in the game so that sometimes it appears as though a glitch occurred, which, of course, was intended, and even contributes to the notion that Reed’s world needs repairing, further emphasizing the importance of delivering the flash drive to the developer figure in the game.

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

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

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

    As for the sound in the game, I can’t compliment it as much. I would like to talk about the music in this game, but unfortunately there is none. In its place are ambient eerie sounds that play as the player completes the levels. I do suppose it contributes to the theme of the game, and, as I said earlier, the notion that the world Reed lives in is desperately in need of redemption. Other than that, though, I can’t really say much about the sounds in the game besides the fact that the sound effects are okay.

    With all that said, I do hope you have a good idea of what Reed 2 is like. Since no significant moral issues exist in this title, I can safely recommend it to anyone looking for a challenging platformer – with the warning that “rage-quits” may occur as a common side effect. Other than that, though, I think it’s safe to say I liked this game and have enjoyed (to an extent) all of the forty-nine out of fifty levels I experienced of Reed 2.

  • RiME (Switch)

    boxart
    Game Info:

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

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

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

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

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

    RiME
    Highlights:

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

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

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

    RiME

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

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 4/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

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

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

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

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

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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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