enfrdeitptrues

Platformer

  • Rise & Shine (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

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

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

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

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

    Rise & Shine
    Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

  • RIVE: Wreck, Hack, Die, Retry (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

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

     

    Thank you Two Tribes for the review code.

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

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

    Rive
    Highlights:

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

  • Rogue Stache (PC) (Preview)

    boxart
    Game Info:

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

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

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

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

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

    Rogue Stache
    Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Runbow Deluxe Edition (Wii U)

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    Game Info:

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

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

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

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

    Runbow Deluxe Edition
    Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Runner3 (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

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

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

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

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

    Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Rynn's Adventure: Trouble in the Enchanted Forest (PC)

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    Game Info:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Seasons after Fall (Xbox One)

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    Game Info:

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

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

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

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

    Seasons after Fall
    Highlights:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Sega Ages: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Switch)

     

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    Game Info:

    Sega Ages: Sonic the Hedgehog 2
    Developed By: M2
    Published By: Sega
    Released: February 20, 2020
    Available On: Switch
    Genre: Action, Platformer
    ESRB Rating: Everyone, Mild Fantasy Violence
    Number of Players: up to 2 players
    Price: $7.99

    I would like to thank Sega for sending us a review code for Sega Ages: Sonic the Hedgehog 2. You guys rock!

    Sonic the Hedgehog has been on fire lately. With a recently released box office smash hit movie, to the successful throwback title called Sonic Mania, the little blue hedgehog has made up for the years of obscurity and mediocre games. It appears that the culture as a whole loves the classic Sonic of the bygone 16-bit era, and it appears that Sega loves it too. That is why they have systematically released many of their old Mega Drive/Genesis titles for everyone to enjoy in a collection called Sega Ages. Sure, Sega is finished making game consoles and peripheral hardware, but their classic titles are still considered to be a hallmark and gold standard of the industry. This especially proves to be true in Sonic’s sophomore debut on the Genesis in 1992, Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

    Being a part of the Sega Ages Collection, Sonic 2 brings back everything that we remember from the original platform and then some. For one, the game is not exclusively limited to being played by Sonic and Tails. The blue blur’s “frenemy” from Sonic 3, Knuckles the Echidna, is also available for play. It is interesting that Sega would add this feature because it was actually something that players could do on the Genesis itself. When Sonic and Knuckles was released in 1994, the cartridge had “lock-on technology,” which allowed players to connect another cartridge on top of the Sonic and Knuckles hardware. When Sonic 2 was connected to the cartridge, it unlocked Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, which is a completely separate game that can now be accessed in the Sega Ages title. So, in essence, you are getting two games in one!

    Sega Ages: Sonic the Hedgehog 2
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Maintains original Sonic 2 experience; pixel-perfect graphics; plenty of new features for fans
    Weak Points: Short gameplay; port carries over the glitches
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence with smashing robots

    There are no major differences to the core gameplay of this newest release to that of the original. The visuals have been cleaned up for a “pixel-perfect” finish which looks nice on any screen. The game has not been formatted to fit the widescreen view, however, and a colorful border now wraps around the screen to give the game its original dimensions. I found this to be a little restricting while playing it on the Switch in handheld mode. It honestly reminded me of playing on a Game Gear, so you can take that for what it is worth.

    Just like the original, this newest version of Sonic 2 features races through levels that two players can compete in. This “combative coop” mode is probably one of the most underrated parts of this game, considering that it adds quite a bit of replay value to the title, especially for families. My son had never played this game before, so I was pleased to show him all the twists and turns of the Chemical Plant Zone and also to show him just how fast I could complete it. Parents can use this mode to prove to their kids that they still have skills behind the controller.

    On a more technical note, I tried using some classic speedrunning glitches to see if the game can be broken. It’s a little harder to do in this newest title, but yes, the Switch port can be broken just like the original to beat the game in under 17 minutes. There are times when the title will glitch out a little, as well as the transition between the levels, but that is the way the original game was, so if anything, the Sega Ages title is holding true to the original title, software issues and all.

    Sega Ages: Sonic the Hedgehog 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls – 4/5

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

    Sonic the Hedgehog 2, much like all the first generation Sonic games, keeps the violence to a “robot bashing” minimum. All the enemies are mechanical, so there is no blood or gore. The theme of an alien blue hedgehog speeding around a fictitious world may be too silly for some players, but chances are that kids will love it! The movements on the screen can get quite fast, and some players have actually gotten motion sick through playing this, so that is important to note.

    Overall, Sega Ages: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 can easily be considered the definitive version of the original title. It has all the features that players remember from the golden age of the Sonic franchise, and then some! Beating the game will unlock the “Super Sonic Mode” which allows players to fly through the game as the golden Super Sonic (or Super Knuckles) without collecting all the Chaos Emeralds. It’s these little additions that make this Switch exclusive a great purchase for any fan of the franchise.

  • Semblance (Switch)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

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

    Thank you to Good Shepherd Entertainment for the review copy!

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

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

    Semblance
    Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (PC)

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    Game Info:

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

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

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

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

    Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
    Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Snoopy’s Grand Adventure (3DS)

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    Game Info:

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

    Thank you Activision for sending us this game to review!

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

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

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

     

    Snoopy’s Grand Adventure
    Highlights:

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

     

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

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

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

     

    Snoopy’s Grand Adventure
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

  • SolSeraph (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

    SolSeraph
    Developed By: ACE Team
    Published By: SEGA
    Release Date: July 10, 2019
    Available On: Windows, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
    Genre: Action Platformer, Tower Defense
    Number of Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: E for Mild Fantasy Violence
    MSRP: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you SEGA for sending us this game to review!

    Many classic games from the 8-bit and 16-bit eras have spawned spiritual sequels or even entire genres based on their gameplay, stories, and more. There are hundreds if not thousands of games that mimic critical aspects of Metroid, Mario, Final Fantasy, and more. Surprisingly enough, ActRaiser, which was even for the time an unusual combination of simulation and action platformer, has had few imitators. And while they don't come right out and say it, it's extremely clear that ActRaiser was the inspiration for SolSeraph - right down the main character being a god.

    I wrote our ActRaiser review all the way back in 2007 if you are curious about this game's inspiration. (That review is not very good compared to our modern standards, but hopefully it's still helpful.) In SolSeraph, you are the god Helios, an 'older god' of the sun. The local people of each area cry out to you because of the local god's oppression. Your people are being enslaved by the 'newer gods', who are each tormenting the people of their local areas, using the unique powers they have. For example, the King of Floods floods the people whose area he controls, and it's up to you to defeat him, restoring your rightful place as their god. It's like this in each of the five regions you have to free from their oppression. When you defeat them, they also give you a power that you can use in future confrontations, somewhat like the Mega Man series does. While all of the gained abilities are useful, I found myself sticking with the starting bow and arrow, and the King of Trees' healing power most of the time.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Good graphics; nice soundtrack; decent action gameplay; good to see someone try a variation on the ActRaiser formula after all these years; plays perfectly in Steam's Proton compatibility layer for Linux
    Weak Points: Good game, but could be better; some levels are poorly balanced; tower defense section isn't really my favorite, and could be better balanced
    Moral Warnings: You play as a sun god, Helios, who is older and kinder than the newer gods that have invaded each region to hurt your people; people pray to you; world was created by no longer present Sky Father and Earth Mother; you fight enemies with your sword, bow and arrow, or various magical attacks; enemies include goblin-like creatures, exploding monsters, skeletons, dragons, wizards, and other mythical creatures including a multi-faced enemy that looks somewhat like a Hindu god; one character seems to have a problem with drinking too much

    As mentioned, you are a god. You enter a lair and wield a large sword. As you go through the 2.5D side-scrolling levels, you defeat enemies (or not - many can be skipped over), and you reach and eventually defeat the boss. One thing that bothered me about this is that if you lose to a boss, you don't get to retry just that section - you have to play the whole level over again. A very small number of levels have a midway point marker that restarts you there, but I wish this feature was more commonly used.

    Once you defeat the initial lair of a region, you then can more directly guide the people by telling them what buildings to create, and where to place them. One significant difference between SolSeraph and ActRaiser is that rather than just growing the town for the sake it (and any unlocked abilities), you have a tower defense style section where you build up your town with defensive structures that keep enemies away from the town center. Each of the enemies' spawn points is another lair (sometimes large, sometimes small) that you can eventually enter once you instruct your townspeople to build an altar there. Once you defeat this mini-lair via a side-scrolling section not unlike the main level ones, it removes the dark clouds in that area of the overhead map in the city-building view. There are typically several of these areas per map (about five to six).

    Strangely, defeating just the mini-lair doesn't stop the invasion from that area - you need to defeat them all and complete the level by winning your fight with the god of the region before the tower defence attacks finally stop. They pretty much never slow down until that point, so rushing to deploy altars is not only the best way to get past this slog of a section, it's pretty much the only way, as resources like wood are far too scarce in order to be able to defeat the enemies more directly. I like how you can overhear the townspeople talk amongst themselves, and sometimes they talk about you, the other gods, or just banter about. The writing is pretty well done, but I found the actual tower defending itself somewhat hit and miss. It's not super well-balanced, and in order to deal with this, the developers make it so that each time you fail defending, it makes the next wave easier. As a result, all but the worst players will eventually make it through the waves. I personally am not a huge fan of tower-defence gameplay, but this gameplay choice is somewhat of a head-scratcher.

    From what I have been able to tell, the side-scrolling action sections do not do this. If you aren't skilled in a section of the map, your best choice is paradoxically to run - if you can avoid damage, you have a better chance at the boss. But if you don't beat the boss, as mentioned before, the game forces you to start the stage from the beginning - unless you are lucky enough to be on one of the few stages with a middle continue point, which is honestly just a few areas. These are far too rare in this game. What does help, is to use that block button liberally. Is the boss changing its motion? Block. About to land after a jump? Block. And so on. If you learn when to block, the bosses are much, much, easier.

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

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 82%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 910

    SolSeraph uses Unreal Engine 4, and it looks very pretty as a result. It also scales up and down quite well, though on Intel integrated graphics you'll need to use very low settings to get decent frame rates. On my GPD Win 2, the game gets okay frame rates, but frequent stutter makes is a less than ideal way to play. On a proper gaming rig, it works without issues. The music is also very good, which really helps a lot. If you are a fan of Linux, it works flawlessly on Steam's Proton compatibility layer.

    From an appropriateness standpoint, it's rated E, so while it has violence, there is no blood. There is no foul language present, nor sexual content. As mentioned already, the main character is a god, as are his primary enemies. Other monsters are mythical and mystical creatures, including goblins, exploding monsters, skeletons, dragons, giant bats, wizards, and other mythical creatures including a multi-faced enemy that looks somewhat like a Hindu god. The world seemingly was created by a Sky Father and an Earth Mother. One character in one of the towns confesses to drinking too much sometimes.

    SolSeraph is an interesting game, based on an unqualified classic, that doesn't quite reach the heights of its inspiration. It's not a bad game, but it's also flawed. I feel like the level designs could be better, and the game balance has room for improvement. It also sticks almost too close to the source material in some ways, and doesn't innovate enough in others. It's neither bad nor good; neither terrible nor great. While at first I found it more frustrating than fun, it did grow on me a bit as I got used to its quirks. If you're a huge fan of ActRaiser, it might be worth a look if the price is right.

  • Splasher (Xbox One)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Splasher
    Developed by: Splashteam
    Published by: Plug In Digital
    Release date: September 26, 2017
    Available on: Linux, macOS, PS4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen for fantasy violence, blood, language, tobacco use
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you Splashteam for sending us this game to review!

    When I first saw this game I assumed that it was a Splatoon knockoff. I’m happy to report that I was really wrong and in a good way. Splasher is a 2D platformer that is challenging and encourages speedrunning. You can play this game in standard or time attack mode.

    The premise is unique, where your character works at a shady company called Inkorp. The nameless hero uncovers inhumane experimentation on his fellow co-workers and determines to free them and put an end to Inkorp’s heinous acts. In total, there are one hundred and fifty four employees to save and one evil boss, Le Docteur, to stop.

    Splasher
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun and challenging platformer game
    Weak Points: Many of the levels will have to be replayed to collect items missed the first time around, which may annoy people with OCD
    Moral Warnings: There are many circular saw blades and characters bleed when encountering them; your character gets flipped off by his nemesis

    Like many platformer games there will be a lot of jumping and avoiding deadly enemies and slime. There are various moving platforms and many deadly circular saws and laser beams to avoid. Not only do you have to save yourself, but there are seven other coworkers per level that need to be rescued as well. Each coworker is holding a letter in order that spells out SPLASHER!. There are some forks in the road and this game encourages searching every nook and cranny as coworkers are easy to miss on accident.

    All of the levels have some paint messes, but many of them can work in your favor. The pink paint is sticky and allows you to climb up walls. It does slow down your movement significantly due to its stickiness though. The yellow paint is very bouncy and helps you reach new heights that you wouldn’t be able to access otherwise. Pale yellow gunk can be cleaned up with your water gun and doing so helps you earn liquid required for freeing the last employee on each level. Seven hundred drops are required to free the caged employee. Points are earned by defeating enemies, rescuing other employees, and by spraying down certain gears with your water gun.

    A perfect run involves collecting seven hundred or more droplets and rescuing all trapped employees per level. Some of your co-workers are stuck in paint while others are inside of wormholes you’ll have to go into and survive an onslaught of randomly appearing enemies. Once the enemies are dealt with, the employee is freed and an exit from the wormhole will appear. Skipping employees is possible, but future levels are unlocked by the total number of co-workers rescued. Some levels took me multiple runs to save everyone.

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

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 87%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Many of the rescues are quite challenging and I earned Xbox achievements for trying multiple times and another for accidentally letting a coworker fall to a bloody death by a spinning circular saw. Besides the blood, there are some rude gestures as your nemesis gives your character "the bird." Gibberish is mostly used outside in the dialogue boxes. The funky looking receptionist will kindly tell you the percentage of the game completed if you talk to it. The electronic dance background music wasn’t that memorable to me, but the soundtrack is available on Steam for $3.99 if you like it.

    The visuals in this game are very colorful and I like the art style. The paint/water spraying physics are well done and challenging to master at times. The level design is solid and the multiple checkpoints are very much appreciated.

    If you don’t mind some violence and challenge, Splasher is a fun speedrunning platformer worth picking up. The $14.99 price tag is very reasonable. While this game is available on all popular gaming platformers, the PC version is the only one with a downloadable demo to try.

  • SpongeBob SquarePants Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    SpongeBob SquarePants Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated
    Developed By: Purple Lamp Studios
    Published By: THQ Nordic
    Released: Jun 23, 2020
    Available On: PlayStation 4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Action-Adventure, Platformer
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10+: Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief
    Number of Players: single player; up to two players offline and online
    Price: $29.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you, THQ Nordic, for sending us a review code!

    SpongeBob SquarePants needs no introduction. I’m sure that anyone above the age of two knows who the yellow sea sponge is. However, Battle for Bikini Bottom does. Back around 2003 (and even earlier), licensed video games were rampant. Pretty much any cartoon, movie, book or whatever that even had middling success would get a video game adaptation. Most of them were pretty terrible, meant to take advantage of impressionable kids and gullible adults that didn’t know any better. Not every licensed game was bad. Some of them were good, a few being downright amazing. SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, developed by, Heavy Iron Studios, originally released for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube (as well as Windows, but we don’t talk about that one) managed to surprise many people by not sucking, especially when the earlier entries did.

    17 years later, many more SpongeBob games were released in that time, but none of them managed to gain the cult status or quality that Battle for Bikini Bottom received. With the sixth generation of video games arguably reaching retro status, this means that all those games out there are becoming harder and harder to obtain, and why remakes and remasters are the hot commodity. Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated is of the former and instead of being a complete reimagining like how Final Fantasy 7 Remake is, Purple Lamp Studios attempts to faithfully recreate the original as much as it possibly can. (For simplicity, I will refer to the original release as “Original” while the remake will be referred to as “Rehydrated.”)

    So for the people who’ve never touched the Original, this and Rehydrated are 3D collectathon platformers. Plankton decides he wants to take over Bikini Bottom and creates a robot army. Unfortunately for him, he forgot to switch the lever from “don’t obey” to “obey” meaning his own robots kicked him out of the Chum Bucket and took over Bikini Bottom. Now it’s up to SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy to fix this mess. You have a hub world which you use to access sub-worlds to collect Golden Spatulas. Golden Spatulas are used to unlock progress through the game. Other things that can be collected are shiny objects, which act as Rehydrated’s currency as well as a bargaining chip to obtain spatulas from Mr. Krabs, and Patrick’s socks scattered throughout the various worlds. In total, there are 100 Golden Spatulas to collect, but you only need 75 to complete the game. With clever collection of spatulas, you can actually complete the game while skipping an entire world of your choosing.

    Each level is based upon a set piece that is featured in the show. The overworld (Bikini Bottom) is faithfully recreated from the show, but with some added extras to accommodate the fact that it is a video game. Even SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward, and Sandy’s houses are what you would expect both inside and outside. Even pieces that were featured briefly in episodes like Kelp Forest and Rock Bottom have an entire world structured around them. The amount of effort that Heavy Iron Studios had to put in to take what were basically single screens and make them explorable shows that they were definitely better developers than most back then. Purple Lamp Studios adds their own flair to these set pieces and do a fantastic job themselves recreating them from the ground up. Just like the Original, there are many jokes scattered throughout that make reference to the first three seasons. Purple Lamp even adds a few memes from the later seasons in parts of the worlds too.

    A rare thing at the time, the Original has most of the voice actors reprising their roles. It’s a very impressive act to do and made it stand out from its competition. The only characters who weren’t voiced by their original actors were Mr. Krabs and Mermaid Man. Rehydrated reuses the dialogue from the Original, and unfortunately, this means Mr. Krabs is still not voiced by Clancy Brown. Even though “Imitation Krabs” (Joe Whyte) does a decent job as Mr. Krabs (as well as Mermaid Man), he’s no Clancy Brown. Interestingly enough, THQ Nordic and Purple Lamp wanted Brown to reprise his role, but thanks to voice actor unions, if they wanted him, it would mean they would have to recast everyone else.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Faithful remake in a completely different engine; controls are smoother making platforming segments less frustrating; attack animations and bosses are greatly sped up; the great season 1 through 3 SpongeBob humor everyone loves
    Weak Points: A little too faithful in some cases; the shiny object grind is worse than before; the last 1/3rd of the game is of lower quality than the rest of it; bosses for some reason can’t be re-fought even though they could in the original release; the multiplayer is nothing special
    Moral Warnings: Instances of cartoon violence, with lots of robot destruction and the fish citizens often used for slapstick; crude humor such as a fish citizen peeing on themselves in terror, a game mechanic where SpongeBob has “the ultimate wedgie experience” and you can see his buttcrack, and many jokes based on SpongeBob's underwear/Patrick’s socks

    But yeah, the voice acting is superb since it has nearly all of the original VAs. They know their characters since they had been voicing them for about 3 years at that point, and the script makes the whole experience sound like a long SpongeBob episode. Purple Lamp even managed to implement a couple of unused voice lines too. The humor and dialogue are on point. Each character says and does things that wouldn’t be out of place in an episode.

    The music is also good as well, even if it is unchanged. Almost every world has its own unique music but a few levels share tracks. The Mermalair has music that sounds just like the Batman and Robin parody that Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy are based on. Goo Lagoon is arguably my favorite track in the game, having these guitar riffs and drum beats that wouldn’t sound out of place in any beach film. The way the soundtrack captures each theme of each level is amazing and it almost sounds like it can come directly from an episode itself (with a few minor adjustments for some of them). It can get a teeny bit repetitive at times because the music, outside of some elements, plays throughout the entire level and that some pieces are reused for later levels or segments.

    SpongeBob, of course, is the main character and the one you’ll be playing as mostly. Two other characters, being Patrick and Sandy are also playable, but they can only be played inside specific worlds. They all play and control very similar but each of them have special abilities such as Patrick being able to pick up objects, (ironically making him more suited for puzzle elements), and Sandy being able to use her lasso to glide which means her sections are more platform-focused. SpongeBob uses bubbles for his arsenal and gains new abilities as he progresses through the game. Each character has lively animations and a few of them are dynamic as well. Whenever robots attack, Spongebob and Patrick become fearful while running in terror. Sandy, in contrast, shows a bit more bravado. I remember from the Original that the controls had a bit of stiffness to them. Rehydrated makes the controls a bit more floaty and fluid. A few segments I remember being rather infamous in the original were now a breeze for me. I did use console controls for the majority of my time, but for a game that was developed for consoles in mind, the PC controls aren't too shabby at all. They're perfectly usable for anyone lacking a controller, but they can't be remapped. The PC version of Rehydrated also runs at a consistent 60+ FPS (just like the Original), and loading times are quick even on a hard disk drive. I would assume they're nearly non-existent on a solid state drive.

    Something that wasn’t in the Original at all is multiplayer. Supposedly, it was a cut featured from the Original remade. Purple Lamp managed to utilize the unused Robo Squidward model for this multiplayer mode. Besides SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy, you also get to play as Gary, Squidward, Mr. Krabs, and Robo Plankton. It is a horde mode where you fight waves of robot enemies in a top-down perspective. It has online multiplayer, although I wasn’t able to get into a match so I had to settle for couch multiplayer. It’s pretty simple and I guess it’s nice to have, but it’s not anything noteworthy. I do appreciate them implementing Robo Squidward in some capacity.

    Many complaints that were in the original were fixed. Although the voice acting is great, there were instances of dialogue repeating itself a lot. Certain collectibles in worlds in the Original had SpongeBob say “Number 1 of the Bikini Bottom scavenger hunt—three years running. Thank you.” It’s a great line, but when he said it for every collectible he grabbed, you can see how it gets annoying very quickly. The quotes were greatly toned down for Rehydrated. Another complaint was that the three major bosses, although they can present a decent challenge, were very slow to actually complete. Purple Lamp greatly streamlined their attacks and their animations so that the fights don’t feel like a slog, and now they’re actually fun to fight.

    SpongeBob SquarePants Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

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

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

    Some complaints, in a strange way, were made even worse. Shiny objects aren’t exactly the most engaging thing, and one thing that no one liked doing in the Original was paying Mr. Krabs shiny objects in exchange for Golden Spatulas. So in the Original, you needed around 40,000 shiny objects in total to obtain 8 spatulas from Mr. Krabs. Even if you busted every robot you saw and collected every strand shiny object in the levels, you would never have enough by the time you get to the final boss as you’re constantly spending shiny objects to obtain other spatulas or socks within the worlds. So what did Purple Lamp do for this? They increased the amount Mr. Krabs wants by more than double, meaning you need around 108,000 shiny objects to get his spatulas. I barely had enough to get two spatulas from him. I understand Mr. Krabs is cheap and greedy but this is ridiculous!

    The latter half of the levels lack polish compared to the earlier parts in terms of how some parts of the late stages look, as well as the cutscenes and animations of the final 1/3rd of the game. I understand why this is. This whole COVID-19 situation has affected the whole world and Purple Lamp is not an exception. It’s pretty clear that the pandemic has affected Purple Lamp negatively, to the point where they had to release a day 1 patch for Rehydrated. Hopefully, THQ Nordic will allow Purple Lamp to release a patch that lets them fix these issues. It’s very interesting that we’re in a time that would allow fixes like this to happen as if this was released in the early 2000s like the Original was, these flaws would stick with the game forever.

    Rehydrated does have some moral concerns out there. It is SpongeBob so it's not all too bad. There is the typical cartoon violence that would be featured. Almost all of the enemies faced are robots, but there are a handful of enemies that are characters in the show too. The fish citizens are subjected to lots of slapstick as whenever a new enemy is introduced, the robot demonstrates their abilities on the poor fish people. There is some crude humor present such as a fish peeing on themselves in fear during one robot introduction, and there is a mechanic where SpongeBob goes wedgie jumping for “the ultimate wedgie experience” to collect spatulas or socks. With SpongeBob’s underwear acting as the life system and Patrick’s socks being a collectible, there are a few jokes surrounded by them, typically mentioning how they smell or how awkward they are to wear.

    Purple Lamp, even with many odds stacked against them, managed to nearly faithfully recreate Battle of Bikini Bottom with the resources they have. Even though in my opinion it is a bit too faithful as they could have fixed more issues that are still retained in Rehydrated, introduced problems absent in the Original (why can't I rematch bosses even though I could in the original?), and even made a few existing problems even worse, it was still nice to go back to experience something when I was a kid as an adult. There’s a good reason why this game manages to be so beloved nearly two decades later, and it’s not just because it has the SpongeBob IP attached to it (just don't go in expecting something of the quality of Super Mario 64 or Spyro the Dragon). Rehydrated is a very solid platformer at an acceptable price point (I remember the Original being $50) that is an easy recommendation for a current or former SpongeBob fan, kids of all shades and sizes, or for people who played the original and don’t have access to it anymore. It’s also nice that the PC platform finally has the good version of Battle for Bikini Bottom to play without resorting to convoluted or illegal methods.

  • Spunk and Moxie (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Spunk and Moxie 
    Developed by: Tilt Studios, Chocolate Homunculus
    Published by: Chocolate Homunculus
    Released: May 6, 2016
    Number of Players: Single player
    Available on: Android, Windows
    Genre: Platformer
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Price: $3.99 on Steam; Free on Android

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

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

    Spunk and Moxie is a platformer game available on Android and Windows. Though Spunk and Moxie is the only game made by this company, it has a lot of character. There is a story involved, and it states that at one point, a mad scientist tried to create a formula to give him “Atlantic powers." It didn’t work out, so the formula was left alone until it came to life. It broke free to become “Spunk” and “Moxie." The green ooze is Spunk and the pink ooze is Moxie. Their goal is to break out of the facility, which consists of the warehouse, factory, and the laboratory, and you progress through the facility in levels. The whole game consists of thirty levels.

    You must complete each level within two minutes and thirty seconds. As each second ticks by, you lose health. Once all of your health is gone, you die, and your ooze kind of separates. If your ooze bounces on spikes, you lose even more health. Your main objective in each level is to reach the end tube that takes you to the next level in the time given, and in order to do that, there are obstacles you must clear.

    Spunk and Moxie
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: No in-app purchases
    Weak Points: Repeating soundtrack of one song 
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence

    Some of these obstacles include spikes and gears, which will take away some of your health. There are certain levels that have areas where you can fall off of the map, which will make you restart the level. But I have noticed that when this happens, the game will not reset your health, which is rather annoying. Often your ooze will encounter walls, and walls will not reduce your health at all. When your ooze touches a wall, it will bounce back in the opposite direction, which may be necessary to go farther in the level. However it may also bring you closer to where you started, meaning you must bounce on a different wall to get back on track.

    The controls are rather simple: Your character never stops moving, so the only thing you can do is jump. Left- click to jump, hold left- click to jump higher, and continue holding to do a wall jump. On Android, you simply tap and hold your finger to the screen instead of left -clicking.

    Spunk and Moxie
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 70%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 5/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    The graphics were not exceptionally detailed, however, and neither are they super colorful excluding your ooze. The sound effects weren’t that great, but the main thing I noticed regarding sound was that every level had the same song playing, which repeated constantly.

    In this title there are also worldwide leaderboards featured, which show who online is the farthest in the game. There is also a store in which you can buy useful items such as nitrogen via the game currency, crystals. Nitrogen allows you to break through weak wooden blocks for a short time. You obtain crystals by earning achievements, such as completing a level within a certain amount of time.

    Overall, the game is pretty fun, and somewhat addicting (until you reach the more difficult levels). Spunk and Moxie is a cute game that I can recommend to anyone who wants to enjoy a short platformer game with lots of cool features and secret characters.

  • Stick It to the Man (Switch)

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    Game Info:

    Stick It to the Man
    Developed by: Zoink Games
    Published by: Zoink Games
    Release date: November 23, 2017
    Available on: Nintendo Switch, iOS, PC, Ps4, Xbox One, PS Vita
    Genre: Puzzle, Platformer, adventure
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone for Alcohol Reference, Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Use of Tobacco
    Price: $11.99

    Thanks to Zoink Games for the review copy of this game!

    The acclaimed puzzle platformer, Stick it to the Man, has finally made it’s journey to the Nintendo Switch. This game has gathered several positive reviews and has been released on many other consoles, including even a mobile port. The game released on Thanksgiving and I couldn’t help but be thankful that this game has come to the Nintendo Switch eShop. The genre of this game is a puzzle platformer. The game is outstanding in its writing, graphics, unique gameplay, and is a high-quality port.

    Stick it to the Man has ten chapters and each chapter has its own distinct level. Your main goal is to exit the level, which is easier said than done. In the second chapter, something happens to Ray, the main protagonist, that grants him a hand that grows out of his head. Crazy right? You then learn to use this hand to grab pins and tear things down to see what is in buildings. A level later and you learn you can use your hand to read people’s minds and this is the key to successfully exiting a level and progressing the story. The gameplay hook here is platforming, solving puzzles, and light combat. After you read people’s mind, which are hilarious at times, often a sticker will pop up above their head that you can grab. Other times it will reveal that that character or thing needs a sticker. Your job is to match the stickers to the proper people or things. This is the puzzle part of the game. The way I handled it was by exploring each level and reading every person’s mind, then backtracking to match the stickers to the needs of the people or things. Once you place the stickers in their proper place, you will complete the level and move on.

    Stick It to the Man
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great cartoon cut out graphics, unique gameplay with your “spaghetti hand”
    Weak Points: Dialogue can be overwhelming and grabbing things with your hand can be inaccurate. 
    Moral Warnings: Minor language, A fortune teller brings a ghost back, cartoon violence, little blood, sexual dialogue.

    There is even light combat, agents are sent to kill you because of the power of your pink hand. Most levels will have them, and you must either avoid them, or read their minds, to get a combat sticker. When you read an enemies mind, sometimes you will get a sticker that helps get around them. One is a sleeping sticker and when placed on an enemy he will fall asleep for a few seconds. Another combat sticker is your face that you can place on an enemy. The other agents will then follow that enemy with Ray’s face on him, letting you sneak around them. If you run into an agent you will die and be sent back to the last check point you activated.

    Each level is polished and looks fantastic. The graphics are sharp and have a cardboard box or paper cut out look to them. Some levels have a darker tone to them than others. Ray and all the characters look different and unique. Cardboard cut outs of lights will have a nice light glow that comes off them. Your hand that comes out of your head has a neon pink look to it and reminds me of this sticky hand you would get as a kid. You know they are stretchy and you could throw the hand to stick to things. The background is all varied and a lot of work into setting the scene for each chapter.

    Stick It to the Man
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 19/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 62%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 2.5/10
    Sexual Content - 8/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The writing is top notch and is no surprise as Ryan North from Adventure Time wrote the story. I found myself laughing out loud often. The game opens with Ray at his job as a hard hat tester. Later, you find out why he as such a passion for hard hats. Different things get dropped on him as he tests different hard hats. Of course, on his way home from his long day at work, something drops out of the sky and knocks him in the head and gives him the power of the pink neon hand! Of course, no one can see it but you, so people think you’re crazy! The main villain, called The Man, and henchmen know what it is that gave you that power. You will run into many wacky and funny characters on your journey. The music is worth mentioning as it has a jazzy feel to it especially when being chased by bad guys.

    My criticisms are small. Even though the writing is top notch, some of the dialogue of the characters would go on for a bit and I fast forwarded it at times just to move things along. Another thing is that sometimes moving your hand with the right stick wasn’t as accurate as you would like it to be. Sometimes I would read another person’s mind when I was aiming for the character right next to them.

    As far as morality content goes alcohol is mentioned and some characters smoke a cigar I think. There is mild language like crap and hell. There are times when you deal with ghosts and even a fortune teller that summons the ghost. There is cartoon violence and a little blood. God's name is used in vain.

    This game is a fantastic puzzle, platforming adventure. The writing, graphics, and unique gameplay with that neon hand set this above other puzzle platforming games that just sticks. If you are in the market for an awesome puzzle platformer, look no further than, Stick it to the Man.

  • Stikir (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Stikir
    Developed By: Bilge Kaan
    Published By: Bilge Kaan
    Released: October 23, 2019
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Platformer, Adventure
    ESRB Rating: N/A (There's no rating on Steam)
    Number of Players: 1 offline
    Price: $2.99 Digital

    Thank you Bilge Kaan for providing us with a review code!

    Bilge Kaan’s second game Stikir was released on Steam last year, and it was on my radar for a few months. I’ve heard talk that it’s like his previous game, Indecision, so I decided to check it out around the same time. Personally, while I don’t think Indecision is worth your time, Stikir is a great experience worth the $2.99.

    Stikir, on the Steam page, is “a game about making a game”. Meta commentary aside, it’s mainly a platformer with some other minigame elements sprinkled within. You control a character avatar and need to focus on releasing a game in 6 months; however, a bunch of distractions prevent you from doing this, and you’ll need to fight bosses and find out what’s going on in this world of bug-ridden nonsense.

    Stikir
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun soundtrack; interesting premise and presentation
    Weak Points: Some sections are a bit frustrating; game’s length is a bit too short
    Moral Warnings: Cartoony violence

    To say Stikir is incomprehensible is an understatement; however, that’s also what’s charming about the game. It feels like the developer put a lot of time and effort in programming these random events, and the absurdist presentation is charming. Mechanics switch around frequently as you do everything from racing to shoot-em-ups and even a Mega Man-esque boss battle with a gun. These sequences are all pretty entertaining to play, and the music is perhaps some of the best I’ve heard in an indie game recently. It goes from playful, exciting tunes to bombastic jazzy numbers, and I wish there was a way to buy the soundtrack separately; it’s that good.

    One main issue I have with the game is that it’s pretty short; the experience can be completed within an hour, and while that isn’t much of an issue, there are tons of gameplay concepts that are underutilized. I can see how this is a commentary about how a developer’s ideas can go about unused, but it would be neat to see these implemented and fleshed out. In addition, there were some frustrating segments that are exacerbated by the fact that mechanics aren’t explored, such as a boss battle with a dragon that has an unpredictable arc of movement. Getting hit once will normally bring you back to the beginning of a level or fight, which is annoying when the battle is lengthy, and you have to start all over. This only happens a handful of times, and the rest of the game is enjoyable otherwise.

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

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay – 14/20
    Graphics – 8/10
    Sound – 10/10
    Stability – 5/5
    Controls – 3/5

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

    In terms of moral content, while it does seem a bit creepy due to a lot of random elements in place, the game is mostly devoid of objectionable content. However, there are instances of goofy and cartoony violence, including a scene where a hand gets bitten off and you end up fighting the arm with a bone sticking out of it in a later battle. You’ll have to defeat some enemies using a gun as well, though nothing explicit occurs in these fights.

    Stikir is only $2.99, and it’s a bite-sized experience that’s fun and sometimes frustrating, but something that you should check out if you want a little break from longer games.

  • Stone Tales (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Stone Tales
    Developed by: Yellow Worm Studios
    Published by: Black Shell Media
    Release Date: December 11, 2015
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Platformer
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $5.99

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

    Uga and Buga from the Ukelele tribe wish to become great warriors and seek out to prove as much to their tribe.  They must fight and survive against various wild animals and enemy tribesmen.  Many only take one hit to go down, but not all of them do.  Both brothers must use their skills effectively to survive and become legends.

    Buga is stronger and built heavier than his brother.  While he doesn’t carry a weapon, he does have a shield that can be used to protect from enemy attacks or bash down trees to create a bridge between platforms.  Buga can jump using the W button on the keyboard.

    Uga is agile and fast.  He wields a spear that can be thrown at varying distances depending on how long you hold down the left mouse button.  To make Uga jump you have to press down the space bar.  

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Challenging platformer game that requires you to control two characters simultaneously; real cavemen artwork is used in the game
    Weak Points: No controller support; never enough check points; interface is not intuitive 
    Moral Warnings: Hunting and self-defense violence; anatomically correct stick figures of cavemen

    Both brothers can be moved using the A and D keys.  Double jumping is also possible for each of them.  The trick is keeping them close by each other, especially in boss battles.  Unfortunately, this game has no controller support or the ability to change their formation/order.  Perhaps a Steam controller will work in this game, but an Xbox 360/One controller is not supported.  

    While there are checkpoints in each of the six levels, there are no hit points for the brothers and one missed jump or hit from an enemy and you’ll be transported to the latest checkpoint or the beginning of the level if you haven’t reached one yet.  Though there are a few check points in each level, I was hoping for more of them with some of the tricky and sometimes cheap jumps that took several attempts before I either mastered it or rage quit out of frustration.

    The boss battles are tricky as well and they take several successful attacks before they go down.  Most of the enemies like wolves, cattle, rabbits, birds, and bats only require one hit to kill/hunt. Besides animals and tricky jumps to worry about, you’ll also have to contend with fire and opposing tribesmen.  You can tell the enemy fighters by their lack of clothing.  They’re male by the way.

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

    Game Score - 68%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 2/5

    Morality Score - 82%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The artwork is rather unique and this game boasts of authentic cavemen drawings being used in it. The main characters and animals are stick figures, but they’re detailed enough to figure out what they all are.  The game’s menu interface isn’t as intuitive though.  To exit the game, you have to locate the hand-drawn X to click on to leave the game.  An exit menu option would have been easier to find and navigate in my opinion.  

    The background music is tribal in style and adds to the game’s aesthetics and atmosphere nicely.  There is no voice acting to speak of, nor is it needed. 

    In the end, Stone Tales is a challenging platformer that’s a bit rough around the edges, but still enjoyable.  It’s relatively short with six levels that can be beaten within a couple of hours if you’re good at platformer style games.  If you’re not, this game may frustrate you more than entertain you.  The price is a reasonable $5.99, but it is probably best waiting for a sale before picking it up.

     

  • Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)

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    Super Mario Odyssey is one of those games that just quickly invites you in and lets you take in its full glory. Being the first true sequel to Super Mario 64 and Sunshine in nearly two decades, this game does little to not disappoint you. Super Mario Odyssey is one of those games that is easy to pick up, but hard to put down.

    The story is pretty basic again, but this game does add a new twist to the story. I will keep the story very brief in order to not get into too many spoilers. Bowser once again kidnaps Princess Peach. Bowser and Mario fight but the latter is easily defeated by former. Bowser reveals his intentions to forcibly marry Peach, in which Peach calls for Mario. Bowser then crushes Mario’s hat and leaves it to be shredded to pieces by one of the propellers on Bowser’s airship.

    Mario crash-lands in a strange hat kingdom. A mysterious hat-ghost creature by the name of Cappy finds Mario, and after Mario chases after a scared Cappy a little bit, the two team up to save both Peach and Cappy’s sister, Tiara.

    Game Info: 

    Super Mario Odyssey
    Developed By: Nintendo EPD
    Published By: Nintendo
    Released: October 27, 2017
    Available On: Nintendo Switch
    Genre: 3D Platformer, Action-Adventure
    Number of Players: 1-2
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10 and Older (Cartoon Violence)
    Price: $54.88

    Super Mario Odyssey quickly invites you to be very versatile and use your moves in all sorts of ways.  All of Mario’s classic jump moves are present.  Cappy also lends his powers to Mario, in which Mario can perform many moves such as throwing Cappy, controlling enemies, and jumping on Cappy when he is out in the field.  All of these moves can be difficult to keep straight, but allow Mario to become very versatile.  For example when a ledge or a gap seems too large to cross even with a long jump or triple jump, chances are if you combine those moves with a couple of Cappy’s moves you will be able to actually make it across.  The only move that seemed off to me was the dive move.  It just feels more “unreal” to me when compared to the dive move from the original Super Mario 64 (I actually only played Super Mario 64 DS, but the dive move is the same or almost the same in both games).

    Just in general Mario controls very well in this game, and there weren’t many times where the controller would mess up. What I didn’t like about the controls is the game’s encouragement of motion controls. Every single move can be done without motion controls but you can do all of the moves either faster or better when you use motion controls with it. In fact there are some power moons in which you are required to use motion controls in order to get them. I also really liked the “capture” mechanic and thought they used it quite well throughout the game. Mario does gain different abilities for each type of enemy he captures. My favorite thing to capture was a T-Rex. I just loved running around wreaking havoc on blocks and enemies.

    Super Mario Odyssey

     
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Beautiful game; tons of available moves; lots of nostalgia
    Weak Points: Some annoying Power Moons; co-op isn’t super great; encourages motion controls too much
    Moral Warnings:Cartoon Violence; Cappy has the ability to possess enemies; some NPC’s and enemies are undead

    The music in the game was alright to me. Nothing outstanding but there were a few tracks that I genuinely liked. However the sound effects were top-notch and sounded great! A nice feature is that in the post-game you can actually access nearly all the music that was played throughout the game and play any track at any time. However I didn’t really use this feature as I was just fine with the natural music that plays in any given area.

    Collecting things is a huge part of the gameplay of Super Mario Odyssey. There are four main things to collect: power moons, coins, regional coins, and costumes. Power Moons are the main thing you want to collect, as they are the source of fuel for the Odyssey, which is a ship you travel on in order to get to different kingdoms. There are over 1000 moons to be collected in the game, but the Odyssey can only store 999 of them.

    Coins and regional coins are another collectable out there that you can get. Both types of coins are used to pay for items in Crazy Cap shops. There is a yellow shop and purple shop that you can visit, and they are usually both right next to each other. The yellow Crazy Cap shop allows you to spend the classic gold coins for a variety of costumes, a life-up heart (which grants you three extra pieces of health), and a Power Moon. As you collect more Power Moons more items will be added to the yellow shop. After you beat the game a lot more power moons will be available to get in each yellow shop. The purple Crazy Cap shop allows you to spend regional coins for items. Regional coins are different than regular coins as regional coins are only good in the kingdom they are collected in. In other words regional coins you collect in one kingdom cannot be spent in Crazy Cap shops in any other kingdom.

    The last main collectible items you can get are costumes. Costumes are exactly what they sound like, costumes that you can dress Mario up in. Costumes are mostly just used for aesthetic purposes, but a few power moons require you to be dressed in a certain costume. Also some NPC’s won’t let you in someplace without wearing the right costume. There are many different costumes, some completely brand new, some that reference older Mario games, and some that are worn by different characters in the Mario universe. There is even a costume that dresses Mario up in his classic polygonal look from Super Mario 64. I rarely stray away from Mario’s classic red hat and blue overalls look, but that doesn’t mean I won't put on some weird costume for him every once in a while.

    Unless you really want to just get through the story as quickly as possible with the fewest amount of power moons required, the game will most likely take several hours to beat. Most of that time will probably be spent looking around for the dozens of Power Moons lying about, waiting for you to collect them. Collecting Power Moons is a satisfying feeling and I love collecting most of them. There are a few Power Moons that are quite annoying and require more time than others.

    Super Mario Odyssey
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 18/20 
    Graphics - 9/10 
    Sound - 7/10 
    Stability - 4/5 
    Controls - 5/5 

    Morality Score - 83%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    There are a few minigames that are fun to play and don’t take up much of your time. There are races, a jump-rope challenge, and you can play Picture Match. Picture Match is where you have to line up different parts of a character’s face (eyes, eyebrows, mouth, etc.) correctly from memory. I found Picture Match to be more of a nuisance than enjoyable, as getting the second Power Moon from the challenge is quite hard as you need a lot of points, and I just can’t seem to get that many points. I still haven’t been able to get the second Power Moon from Picture Match yet.

    There is multiplayer in the game, but it isn’t super great. One player controls as Mario and the other player controls Cappy. The issue with this is that the player who controls Mario gets to do a lot more than the player who controls Cappy can. Mario can still control Cappy, but only when Cappy is floating on his head (yes, Cappy will be floating on Mario’s head in multiplayer).

    There are a decent number of glitches in the game, but they will most likely not be ran into unless you try to execute them on purpose. There is one where if you throw your cap and then talk to Talkatoo (a talking parrot that gives you hints on finding moons) right when the cap hits the bird the camera will softlock, and you have to enter another area in order to fix the glitch. There are also some places where you can clip into walls and go out of bounds (though normally you can't travel far).

    Morality wise there is a bit more stuff to think about than in previous Mario games. There is the usual cartoon violence and undead NPC’s and enemies. This game also makes heavy use of the “capture” mechanic, which basically allows you to possess and take control of enemies. You can also capture some non-living objects, a couple of plants, and even a human at one point. There are two cut-scenes that involve Mario traveling through a creature's body in order to possess them. The cut-scenes show some various memories of the creature Mario is capturing. One of Mario’s costumes does allow him to wear Peach’s wedding dress. Cappy himself, along with Tiara and other characters that look similar to Cappy and Tiara, seem to be ghosts. Peach in the post-game does wear a bikini and skirt in a couple of the kingdoms.

    Overall Super Mario Odyssey is a great game and definitely considered one of my favorite Mario games I've played in recent years. This game has so much to offer and putting all of this onto one tiny cartridge is amazing. This is definitely a must-buy game if you own a Nintendo Switch and you don't mind Mario capturing different enemies and objects and cartoon violence.

  • Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD (Switch)

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    Game Info:

    Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD
    Developed By: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
    Published By: Sega
    Released On: October 29th, 2019
    Available On: Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows
    Genre: Action-Platformer
    ESRB Rating: E 10+, Mild Cartoon Violence, Suggestive Themes
    Number of Players: 1-Player Story Mode, 1-4 Player Multiplayer
    Price: $39.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    We at CCG want to thank Sega for sending us the game code for Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD on the Nintendo Switch! Thank you very much!

    Unique game titles are beginning to saturate the industry as developers branch out to try something new. Whether it be fan-made titles created by using the best engines or 3D reboots of classic games, the recoating of the old with a shiny new veneer seems to be in vogue in 2019. It is no wonder, then, that Sega has begun to reach into its deep duffle bag of IPs and pull out some of their best to remaster. Sonic the Hedgehog has come back into the scene with Sonic Mania and a…not-so well-received movie adaption. What other games can Sega remaster for its rabid fanbase? Crazy Taxi? No. Nights into Dreams? Nope. Altered Beast? Of course not! How about Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz in HD? There you go!

    Though not my first choice for an HD remake, but certainly not my last, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz was originally a flagship title released for the Nintendo Wii in 2006. That version highlighted the use of the “Wiimote,” a feature that is not carried over onto the Switch with the Joy-Cons. Regardless, the port is being added to multiple platforms, including the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, so the motion controls won’t be needed for this version. I was able to spend some time playing the game prior to its release, and it brought back some fond, and not-so-fond memories of the original game.

    The story of Banana Blitz is rather ambiguous, but the charm of the game is seen through the non-verbal storytelling and cutscenes. Our hero, AiAi, and his crew of monkey friends are enjoying an afternoon banana picnic when the evil alien-robot-space pirate, Captain Crabuchin, crashes the party and steals their coveted Golden Banana Bunch. The various pieces are scattered around the globe, and AiAi and his motley crew of simian companions must brave treacherous obstacles and overcome fearsome bosses to get them back. With a story that simple, you would think that the story mode would be a simple playthrough, but you would be wrong about that!

    Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Family-friendly game with a childlike aesthetic; fast-paced and challenging gameplay; multiplayer games provide some fun mini-games
    Weak Points: Very steep difficulty spike; the camera is hard to negotiate; the controls are often too sensitive for precision play
    Moral Warnings: Very light cartoon violence and a busty lounge singer boss

    You see, before Dark Souls and Sekiro, there was Monkey Ball. The first game in the series was released in 2001 on the GameCube, and most players came to find that title exceptionally challenging. Banana Blitz follows in these footsteps by presenting a game that leads players on to thinking that they are great; that is, up until the 5th world. It's at that point where the difficulty spikes and the platforming gets much more difficult.

    This game is considered to be a “platforming adventure,” but I think of it as something far rarer. Banana Blitz is a “precision platformer,” one in which the player must not only jump from platform to platform but also use the analog stick to balance the ball in which the monkey sits. This creates a double-whammy of difficulty, forcing the player to practice going through the levels more than actually clearing them. So it goes without saying that this game has a high frustration factor.

    Despite the game’s difficulty, the level and obstacle designs are some of the best I have ever seen in any platforming title. There is a clear connection to the game design of Sonic the Hedgehog in Banana Blitz. There are rolling hills with plenty of platforms and speed boosts. The world is also very colorful, bringing a childlike aesthetic to this game that many younger players will find very appealing. The green plains shine with sunlight while the gems on the walls of the dark cavern shimmer and shine with brilliance. Each course is suspended high above the world, giving the player a heightened sense of danger as they balance their monkey over a certain “FALLOUT.” When you do fall, the announcer certainly lets you know.

    The two parts of this game that both make and break the title are the controls and the camera, both of which can not be altered in any way. The monkey is the central focus of the camera, and it does not move from its position in the center of the screen. It is the environments around the monkey that actually moves, tilting back and forth as the player uses the analog stick. This helps to make the precision moves needed to complete the game. The camera will always stay fixed on the back of the monkey unless sharp turns are made or the ball gets turned around, which happens often. That is when the camera becomes absolutely useless, and the player must find a way to navigate the monkey ball to a place where he can see where he is going. Though the camera sensitivity can be tweaked, it does very little to help the awkward movements of the screen.

    Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 2/5

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

    Though the single-player story mode is the core experience of the game, Banana Blitz also offers multiplayer fun for the entire family. Up to four players can join in on a local match of various minigames, including races, snowboarding, para-gliding, and yes, even whack-a-mole. You can even play a single-player decathlon of every party game available for points on the online leaderboard. The time-attacks are the same way; rushing through previously completed courses for bragging rights among the online community. All of these extra minigames are fun in the beginning, but they soon become stale as you realize that these little diversions do not capture the essence of Monkey Ball, the fast-paced balancing action. 

    If you are looking for a wholesome gaming experience to share with the little ones in your home, then Banana Blitz can certainly provide that. In a market saturated with questionable material, this game is as harmless as a dove. The childlike atmosphere looks like it was directly taken from a nursery; even the sponge-like terrain looks soft enough to teethe on. The monkeys do run into enemies they must combat, but they mostly just bounce harmlessly on their heads or weak points. The boss of the 6th world is a busty lounge singer-like monster that might show a little too much “cartoony bosom” for some individuals’ liking, but that is the extent of the inappropriate content in this game. You don’t have to worry about what the kids are witnessing if they are playing Banana Blitz

    Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is a good remake of a very challenging cult-classic. The high definition details make the graphics pop out in a way they didn’t on the Wii, but the core gameplay is still the same, camera problems and all. I will admit that I miss the motion controls of the original, but the new interface does not affect gameplay much. If you are looking for a challenging game that will test both your reflexes and patience, Banana Blitz is a great title to add to your collection. If you want a fun game for the family to enjoy, this game is also for you.  Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD brings a little something for everyone to enjoy, just watch out for those bumpers, they will absolutely destroy your run!

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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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