enfrdeitptrues

RPG

  • I Of The Dragon (Preview)

    System Requirements
    OS: Windows 98/Me/2000/XP CPU: Pentium 600Mhz RAM: 128MB HDD: 350MB VIDEO: 16MB Direct 3D Compatible SOUND: 16 bit Direct X 8.1 compatible Age: Mature

    Here, my gentle reader, you come to the scene. With all the towns demolished by Scharborr's monsters, last few Unkh-Agorites hiding in their secret monasteries and no power to start with - could you save everything? Could you? Well, at least you can try. Survive as the young dragon and develop your magic and strength. Destroy the invading monsters and rebuild the human civilization, make people understand their mistakes and correct them. Make life better for everyone (except Scharborr, of course). The rest is up to you.*

    How do I play?

    Not many Role Playing Games allow you to play as a dragon. This one does! You can choose between three dragons to play. Arroth is a fire breathing dragon that is strong and does not use magic. Barroth is a magician who breathes liquid ice. Finally there\'s Morrogh a necromancer that can command the undead. Arroth is the only dragon available in this demo.

    What is the game objective?

    The main goal is to control each geographical area in the game. To do this you must destroy all monster lairs and help build towns. The humans will help you fight the monsters and in return you\'ll help them build towns. Sound like fair trade?

    How do I destroy these monsters?

    There are many different monsters in this game. You will fight alien looking critters, spiders and slug like creatures as well. They all have a lair that will keep spawning them until you destroy it. When you destroy a monster or it\'s lair you will get experience. Some monster liars hide gems that you need to collect so keep an eye out for them. When you level you get 25 points to allocate to different attributes. Some attributes include magic, life, flying speed, fire power etc.

    Appropriate?

    This game has fighting and destroying of monsters. There isn\'t any blood or gore. Magic can be used in this game. There is even some necromancy and summoning of creatures. It is not required an there is a magic less dragon available. (Arroth)

    Overall experienceEase of use

    This game is easy to install and play. For controls all you need is the mouse. Left click to point where you want to go, and right click to attack. The interface is decent, I found it difficult to set the vertical position of the dragon. This made it difficult to collect the gems in mid air. The graphics are 3D rendered. Primal Soft claims they use skeletal animation and the dragon\'s movement does look nice. The scenery is nice and you can see it chance from day to night etc. The background music is nice, it\'s super Nintendo sounding. The voice acting is pretty computerized and hard to understand. Thank goodness they have subtitles. This is a single player only game, so there is no multiplayer. Overall this is a unique idea, and it looks interesting. There is room for improvement, but it\'s not finished yet.

    Final Ratings

    Graphics B Game play B- Sound C+ Interface B- Stability A- Offensive Content B-

    Overall 80% B-

    *taken from http://www.primal-soft.com
  • Infinite Adventures (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Infinite Adventures
    Developed By: Stormseeker Games
    Published By: Stormseeker Games
    Released: October 29, 2018
    Available On: Microsoft Windows
    Genre: Dungeon Crawler RPG
    ESRB Rating: Teen (Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes)
    Number of Players: Singleplayer
    Price: $24.99

    First, my gratitude goes to Stormseeker Games for the review key for this game.

    If you grew up with a computer in the '80s and '90s and loved RPG's, chances were you played games like Ultima, Might and Magic, and Wizardry. While they were punishing, required doing a lot of notetaking and map drawing and often fraught with difficulty spikes, they were the go-to games for anyone who wanted to do old-school dungeon crawls. Most of these series have ended, but their legacy has colored many games all over the world, with many Western and Eastern RPGs proudly claiming heritage from these timeless classics.

    Infinite Adventures promises to be a worthy successor to their legacies, though it attempts to have modern production values while embracing the nostalgia of the first-person dungeon crawler past, hoping to provide classic fun and modern design techniques to the genre.

    The gameplay is a amalgamation of many of the most classic features of many of its spiritual predecessors. Combat follows the Wizardry model, with a front and back row, though has the Might and Magic option of changing up between ranged and melee attacks depending on your situation. An Ultima-style morality choice system at the start determines the Kessens (unique special attacks) your characters can use. The starting town hub is highly reminiscent of the Etrian Odyssey games, which provided a wealth of services for adventurers between spelunking into the labyrinth, a feature which this game emulates. The dungeons are procedurally generated, with 24 unique levels, though every four floors add side levels that are totally random based on the existing floors previously beaten, extending gameplay time for those who choose to explore them. An "infinite dungeon" modification for pure dungeon exploring that is truly random on every floor is also in the works for later updates at the time of this writing.

    Infinite Adventures
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Good modern day throwback to the classic dungeon crawler games of the past
    Weak Points: Some minor control and voice acting flubs and screwups
    Moral Warnings: Some profane language like b**t**d; references to alcohol consumption; some scantily clad characters; RPG violence; some occult-like magic references; in-game Gnostic beliefs and references in the in-game religion and backstory; and some ethically questionable character creation options 

    However, many modern conveniences are available. An automap with a handy guide is accessible at any time to keep track of your progress, an in-game help system is available via the player menu to review basic gameplay information, and tutorials are frequently provided early on to ease you into the game. The difficulty of the encounter rate can also be adjusted at any time, even to the point of disabling random (though not scripted) encounters completely.

    Graphically, this game draws on a somewhat anime, somewhat western art style, blending anime-style character art with Western-based scenery archetypes, generally resembling the art style used by foreign remakes of the Wizardry series, where the Japanese ports retouched the characters to be more eastern-flavored while leaving most of the background art largely western-flavored. This clash of styles works well and gives the game a modern look with some retro nostalgia for fans of old-time dungeon crawlers.

    Sounds and music in this title are quite good, with the soundtrack being quite appropriate to a modern-day dungeon crawler, utilizing a lot of fantasy medieval-style musical stylings with some orchestral music for the more intense themes, like the battle music. Sound effects are generally pleasant on the ear, but the voice acting is a bit uneven. Most sound very good, but some of the voice actors sound flat and stilted as if they were unaware of the context the lines were to be said in. Some of this comes off as pretty jarring sometimes.

    Controls are a mixed bag. While certainly quite playable with controllers, the keyboard/mouse configuration has some issues, with the mouse cursor not showing up in many menus, which can lead to confusion when ping-ponging in-between the menus that do show it; Further, there is some input lag on some menus and the controls are overly sensitive in others. Overall stability is quite good as well, though load screens can suffer some minor hiccups even on computers with high specifications. Some occasional gameplay bugs have also surfaced, but the developer is actively willing to address them as they are reported.

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

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 58%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 7.5/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 4/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 5/10

    Morally, Infinite Adventures is definitely on the checkered-at-best side of the equation. Violence is of the RPG variety, and while this is not explicit and gore and blood are not depicted (save some blood drops on enemy models for aesthetics), there are voice-overs that do include confirmable sounds of deaths and enough auditory clues are given where it's clear when characters are attacked and by what. Language is generally on the PG-13 level at worst, with some words simply being used that sound profane but are used in innocent contexts. (B**t***d is used to refer to them and their sibling as illegitimate children, as was said word's original meaning).

    Sexual content is tame in terms of not showing sexual activity, but some character art is somewhat scantily clad (like somewhat skimpy breastplates and abbreviated top armor), and some monster art is on the sexually questionable side by the same measure of scanty outfits. Actual crude sexual innuendo is thankfully absent, however, and humor generally stays out of the gutter. Succubi and related beings are mentioned but are generally regarded as evil, though at least one succubus-like being can be a summonable ally if you pick the less moral options at character creation.

    Occult and supernatural content is a bit concerning. While no worse than most other fantasy games in some regards, the in-game religion does have some occult-like magical skills available to players (though none are obviously derived from real-world occult practices). Said religion has a mostly Catholic tone, with a God and Virgin Mary stand-in (and the former is even explicitly referred to as "The Ancient of Days") and some associated saints and angels, some of which are summonable as attacks by the player. Unfortunately, said in-game faith also has some Gnostic overtones, such as how light and dark can balance one another. There are also some summonable demons if you pick the less moral character virtues, though it is easy to avoid this if one so chooses. Finally, some of the symbology in the game includes magic circles and pentagrams, and while some are neutral in tone (merely being aesthetic decor), they are quite prevalent in appearance.

    On the cultural and ethical side, this game is mostly well off, with an emphasis on doing good deeds and moral actions being encouraged. However, there is also a chance to select some ethical choices of dubious moral consequence at best during character creation when determining your character (like choosing to either comfort a dying man or put him out of his misery by killing him on the spot), though this appears limited to determining your preferred skill set and summonable allies. There are some references to prejudices against fantasy races in-game, and while some are based on utterly understandable reasons (giblings and ogres tend to attack innocents by default, and demons and many species of dragon are explicitly hostile to everyone else in the setting), some are not (hobgoblins were formerly discriminated against, though have mostly overcome this prejudice by the start of the game).

    If you are a fan of old-school dungeon-crawling games like Wizardry, Might and Magic, and Ultima, this game will definitely deliver a great experience, some minor issues with controls and voice acting aside. On the moral side, it's got some red flags as mentioned earlier, and if you were made morally uncomfortable by the games that inspired this one, then this will not change your mind, but if you can live with or ignore the moral problems, then a teenager or older would be more than mature enough to handle this game.

  • Justice Chronicles (3DS)

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    Game Info:

    Justice Chronicles
    Developed by: Hit-Point Co. Ltd
    Published by: KEMCO
    Release date: March 31, 2016 
    Available on: 3DS, Android, iOS
    Genre: RPG
    Number of Players: Single-Player
    ESRB Rating: T for Teen (Suggestive Themes, Language, and Fantasy Violence)
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you Kemco for sending us this game to review.

    There is no shortage of RPGs on the eShop. There is, however, a lack of titles that are worthy of your time. Kemco has steadily been porting over its large collection of smartphone games to the 3DS, and some have been better than others. Justice Chronicles promises dozens of hours of game time filled with charming music and a rather nostalgic art style. 

    The story begins with the introduction of the main character of the game, a young man named Kline. As a new recruit of the Grinsil Special Operations Brigade, his first mission will be to investigate what is happening in Laft. Kline and company live on the planet's surface, which is known as Illumica. Hidden below the surface, Laft is home to warring tribes and is thought to be the cause of the current problems facing the planet. As the mission goes awry Kline is forced to make a decision that could cost him everything. In an attempt to save a woman from an ambush, Kline defeats a monster known as a "Vasist." Unfortunately for Kline and the girl, they fall into a hole and Kline, desperate to save her life, is met by a devilish creature. Promising to save the girl in exchange for Kline's soul, we're introduced to the God of Death, Rooselevy. From here on it's a struggle to save Illumica and discover the secrets locked away by the stars.

    Justice Chronicles
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: 40 hours of content; The story is engrossing; Music is crisp and well made; The ability to instantly leave any area just by tapping Leave from the menu.
    Weak Points: The crafting system is slightly convoluted; Some translation errors; Battles can become repetitive.
    Moral Warnings: Justice Chronicles portrays demons as God-like creatures; Occult symbols are seen at points in the game; Some instances of sexual innuendos; Minor swearing.

    Kline quickly finds more party members to join up with him and Alia. She explains who she is after she recovers from the fall. They meet a witch named Paola and a soldier without a voice named Fred. His High Beast partner does most of the communicating, acting as a medium between Fred and the rest of the team. This is probably the low point of the game as it becomes incredibly annoying having his High Beast constantly saying "These are his words." In Justice Chronicles, creatures known as High Beasts accompany the Grinsil Brigade and are housed in objects known as Shells. Each character can equip a Shell and form a bond with that beast. These creatures aid in battle and will make things slightly easier. They cannot be manually controlled and will attack on their own accord. They can also unleash attacks that deal huge amounts of damage when they are low on health. 

    The battle system itself is fairly normal as it's your typical turn-based combat. Skills are learned through leveling up, but are also obtained by equipping magic meteorites. These skills can only be used as long as the corresponding meteor is equipped. This can be a bit of a frustration as you can't switch meteors in a battle. On the bright side, there are a lot of different meteors to experiment with for their damaging and status inducing properties. At the bottom of each of the character portraits is a bar. This is known as the Action Bar and it fills as each character attacks and is attacked. When it is at a value of 100% Linked Skills become performable in battles. There are two types of Linked Skills: 2-person link and a 3-person link. These moves are used immediately at the beginning of a turn and are extremely powerful.

    Surprisingly, weapons and armor aren't dropped by enemies nor are they obtained from treasure chests. Instead, a crafting system allows basic weapons and armor to be upgraded. Materials can be found throughout the game, and certain materials will be needed to progress the evolution of your gear. Once you reach a new stage in the gear, shops will begin selling them. Each weapon will have multiple branching paths, and it's a daunting task unlocking each new weapon.

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

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

    Morality Score - 77%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 6/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Visually, character and enemy models are designed very well. The backgrounds used in battles are all gorgeous. Environments on the other hand come off as bland and forgettable. There is also no 3D, which shouldn't be a surprise as this was a smartphone game originally. This isn't to say that 3D shouldn't have been implemented in some way, even if it's just the title screen. The music in the game is what sets it apart from many other 3DS eShop RPGs. The title screen has an incredibly upbeat song that really lets the player know there was some actual effort put into producing the game. The in-game music is arranged nicely and is a joy to listen to.

    Morally, there are a few scenes that reveal Kline's past and how his parents were sacrificed when he was a child. These help to explain why Kline is intent on killing the High Beast Lord. Not to spoil the story too much, but this is indeed a game about revenge. Another moral issue is the usage of occult-like symbolism which is found throughout some of the game. These aren't depicted frequently, but they are used at times. Though witches are in the game, there isn't much witchcraft and spells being performed outside of battles. 

    Justice Chronicles is a surprisingly deep and rich game. Character interactions are filled with ranges of emotions. The light-hearted nature of Kline keeps things humorous and cheerful, but that's not to say there aren't plenty of moments when things become serious. If you're craving a well written RPG and want to grind hours away crafting gear, then Justice Chronicles will suit you perfectly. Some may find that the game is too long or even graphically underwhelming, but for the 10 dollar price tag I do recommend it. 

    -Kyuremu

     

  • Kingdom Come: Deliverance (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Kingdom Come: Deliverance
    Developed by: Warhorse Studios
    Published by: Warhorse Studios
    Release date: February 13, 2018
    Available on: PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: RPG
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Alcohol
    Price: $41.85 
    (Kinguin Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Kinguin for sending us this game to review!

    Kingdom Come: Deliverance takes place in Bohemia shortly after the death of the great emperor Charles IV. His son, Wenceslas, took his place and was an idle and self-indulgent leader who divided the country on being fit to rule or not. Sigismund, Wencelas’ half-brother and king of Hungary kidnapped him and raided Bohemia in his absence.

    One of the first towns to be razed is Skalitz where Henry, the blacksmith’s son, resides. Prior to the brutal massacre of his town, Henry enjoyed his time at the pub with his friends and was pretty serious with a tavern girl named Bianca. The game starts with Henry waking up with a hangover and being tasked to help get the finishing pieces for his father’s finest sword. One of the quests involves getting money or items back from the town drunk. After getting my butt handed to me, I quickly learned that the battle system in this game is not very forgiving. Unlike in Dynasty Warriors 9 I recently reviewed, Henry does not start off very strong at all and it’s in his best interest to talk his way out of trouble instead of using his fists. With practice, Henry will improve on his speech, warfare, and horse riding techniques.

    Since I was not able to convince or beat any money out of this drunkard, I resorted to having my friends help. They agreed as long as I aided them in chucking manure at some bloke’s house who was talking bad about King Wenceslas. As funny as that task was, I didn’t like having to do it twice due to the quest being broken. Apparently, “taking back” one of the unpaid-for tools too soon renders Henry’s friends immovable from the drunk man’s house and unable to assist. When I left the axe alone and did the quest again it worked as it should have. Unfortunately, this was not the only broken quest I experienced. The other glitch was when I was learning how to pickpocket. After failing too many times, the quest failed and I got in trouble with the law despite still being in a training setting. If you get caught by the guards, you can pay a steep fine or do some time.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Challenging battles and excellent story; beautiful visuals and wonderful voice acting
    Weak Points: Lame saving system that requires you to drink a specific alcoholic beverage to save your game outside of the auto-saves; game crashes/stops responding at times; broken quests
    Moral Warnings: Intense violence and lots of gore and gruesome murder scenes; drunkenness and vomiting; witchcraft/paganism represented along with Christianity and hypocrisy within; gambling; people seen having sex with nudity (breasts/backsides shown); strong language with every word in the book used and blasphemy

    Money isn’t terribly easy to come by in the beginning of the game. There are some side-jobs that will throw you some coin, but a majority of it can be found after looting bodies of Cuman soldiers or bandits. Almost everything in Henry’s inventory deteriorates over time. Non-dried food will slowly spoil and you can die from food poisoning if you ingest bad food. Antidotes are available if you can make it in time. Surprisingly, you can sell spoiled food to traders though.

    Weapons and armor get dirty and deteriorate over time and with use. The more battles you do, the more ragged your clothes will get. Also, be sure to stop by and wash in every basin you pass by or the townsfolk will complain about your stench.

    No matter how bad Henry smells, it won’t deter ladies from letting him have his way with them. Henry can solicit a prostitute at a bathhouse and there’s a love interest that he can pursue a relationship with that ends in lots skin being shown. Breasts and backsides are also shown in a night of debauchery spent with a town priest. Not only do the priest and Henry get drunk and fornicate with harlots, the priest bargains with Henry to do the sermon in exchange of revealing information from the confessional. The sermon ironically talks about the financial corruption of the church, fornication, and drunkenness.

    Witchcraft is also seen and there’s an incident revolving around divination and hallucination as a result of a powerful concoction made by the town herbalist. Most of the townsfolk are God-fearing people and many of the conversations started or ended with “God be with you” but the rest of the dialogue would be riddled with all sorts of cussing and blaspheming. Pretty much every word in the book is used along with some other colorful metaphors to describe unsavory people.

    Given that this game takes place during the Crusades of the Holy Roman Empire, you can expect lots and lots of violence. Along with the puddles of blood you will find both human and animal corpses sliced open. Raping of women is also seen and alluded to. After Henry sees loved ones killed in front of him, he has to flee on horseback quickly to the next town and warn them. While stealing a horse he can save a woman from being raped. Given that I got my butt kicked by the town drunk, I wasn’t about to take on four armored men. Henry and I both felt bad about leaving that women behind but I don’t think he would have survived assisting her.

    Kingdom Come: Deliverance
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

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

    Morality Score - 10%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language -0/10
    Sexual Content - 0/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 0/10

    While fleeing the town, this game gave me quite the adrenaline rush knowing that soldiers were quickly riding after me and had I not pushed my horse to its limits, I would have been filled with arrows and killed. I died a few times before seeing the opening credits. Death isn’t fun, but what makes it worse in this game is the saving system. While this game auto-saves at key points, manually saving requires consumption of a specific alcoholic beverage. Many hours of gameplay were lost to this “feature” before discovering one of many game mods that bypass it.

    Visually, this game is breathtaking and the open world is a pleasure to explore. The quick travel markers are handy, but they won’t stop random bandits or Cuman soldiers from attacking you. The NPCs look unique and there’s a lot of variety in their appearances and personalities. Some characters are more likable than others.

    Each line in this game is voice acted and done so superbly. The background music is pleasant to listen to and is available on Steam for purchase along with a digital art book. The background chatter and sounds of nature are all fitting as well.

    As wonderful as this game looks and sounds, it requires hefty computer specs to run well. Thankfully, I’m blessed with a powerful enough PC to run the game smoothly though not at 60FPS. I did experience one infinite loading screen which cost me about an hour and a half of game time being lost before discovering the game save mod. As convenient as the mod is, it does bring on some new issues so your mileage may vary.

    Despite some frustrations with the saving mechanisms and broken quests, I still enjoyed the story and gameplay in Kingdom Come: Deliverance. There is plenty to do and the story changes depending on Henry’s choices. Even with good intentions, Henry won’t be able to escape the horrors of war and many other sins are easy to become ensnared in with the opportunities available to him. This game definitely earns its Mature rating and should not be played near young ones. If the moral issues don’t bother you, it’s worth holding out for a patch or two before picking up this title. I personally find the moral issues too much to continue playing with a clean conscience.


    (Kinguin Affiliate Link)

  • Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX (PS3)

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    Game Info:

    Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX
    Developed by: Square Enix 1st Production Department
    Published by: Square Enix
    Release date: October 2, 2014
    Available on: PlayStation 3
    Genre: Action-role playing
    Number of players: Single-Player
    ESRB Rating: E 10+
    Price: $15.59
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Following the release of Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX, Square Enix released a second HD remaster collection for the PS3 titled Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX. This collection contains Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, Birth by Sleep Final Mix, and Re:coded. With similar improvements to noticeably better games, 2.5 ReMIX is a step up over its predecessor.

    The Kingdom Hearts franchise features action-RPG gameplay. Unlike most JRPGs, Kingdom Hearts does not have a turn-based combat system. Rather, fights are in real time. Think of it like The Legend of Zelda, except with RPG elements (such as leveling up) and more linear worlds. This concept might be more common today, but was very rare when the series initially released. While the first HD collection featured two games with starkly different gameplay styles, the second collection features two game that are fairly similar in gameplay.

    Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix is a sort of director’s cut of the original 2005 title. As with the other Final Mixes, this one was never released in North America prior to the HD remasters. I was a bit skeptical regarding whether it would be able to improve upon KH II to the same degree as the first game’s Final Mix did, but I was pleasantly surprised. The game is a bit more difficult, the textures on the characters are better, and the story is added to in interesting ways.

    Before I get into the details regarding the improvements, I want to take a moment to give a brief review of the game as a whole. Honestly, I consider Kingdom Hearts II to be one of the greatest games ever made. Its story is fantastic, its gameplay is cinematic, and its soundtrack is beautiful. Kingdom Hearts II was, in my opinion, the best title on the PlayStation 2 and remains a classic to millions of people. Few games have had as big of an impact on my childhood as Kingdom Hearts II. While the overall game was easier than the first, its numerous enhancements to the original’s gameplay are worth the lack of difficulty. 

    That being said, the Final Mix version surprisingly fixes some of the key issues typically noted about the game. No, the 2-hour prologue isn’t shorter. However, the game is more difficult, and there is even an added difficulty called Critical Mode for those who want a greater challenge. Another notable improvement involves the storytelling. Quite a few new cinematics have been added to the original story, helping clarify parts that the original was more silent on. While the first game’s Final Mix did this too, there is a major difference between the two: voice acting. When the original game received a Final Mix, the voice actors’ voices had changed. Because of this, they could not dub the new lines without making it sound weird. However, in Kingdom Hearts II, the actors’ voices had already matured. Because of this, there were no conflicts adding new recordings to the English dub.

    Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Two great games in one collection; major improvements to gameplay; polished last-gen graphics; beautiful music; improved film
    Weak Points: Some frame rate issues; Re:coded’s story is rather unnecessary
    Moral Warnings: Fantasy violence; blood and alcohol in one world; mild suggestive clothing

    Other smaller improvements include a new Drive form (called “Limit form”), new weapons, abilities, boss fights, Heartless, mini games, and a new area of Hollow Bastion called the Cavern of Remembrance. Again, I was surprised at how much could be added to what is considered one of the PlayStation 2’s greatest classics. These would not be too surprising given the PlayStation 3’s hardware, but most, if not all, of these changes were made in Japan for the PlayStation 2.

    The second game in the collection is Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix. This game was originally released on the PlayStation Portable (PSP) and takes place before the events of the first Kingdom Hearts game. The story follows three Keyblade wielders: Terra, Aqua, and Ventus (often called “Ven”). Birth by Sleep was notable for introducing a new combat system that differed from the numbered titles, while still being more traditional than games such as Chain of Memories. 

    I never beat Birth by Sleep on the PSP, but played enough of it to verify that the core gameplay is essentially the same. Instead of having multiple menus for attacks, magic, and summons, you are given one customizable system that allows you to scroll through attacks and magic quickly. Like the other Final Mixes, this game adds new mini games, attacks, bonus features, and a new difficulty mode. The story is exactly the same, aside from an added secret ending. 

    Regarding the overall quality of the game, Birth by Sleep is one of the better spin-off titles. While Kingdom Hearts II is probably the only one that truly holds up well to this day, Birth by Sleep also does a good job staying fun despite its age. The story is quite interesting and the new characters are likable, especially Aqua who has become a fan favorite. The gameplay, while not as deep as the numbered titles, is very fun, even on the PlayStation 3. However, the level design is a bit bland for a console title. Birth by Sleep features easily the weakest-looking worlds, aside from titles that simply reuse worlds from other games. While they might have looked fine on the PSP, some of them look particularly boring on the PlayStation 3. It should also be mentioned that Birth by Sleep has occasional frame rate drops. 

    The final title in the collection is Kingdom Hearts Re:coded. The original Re:coded was released on the Nintendo DS and was one of the least necessary parts of the story. It takes place after KH II, but doesn’t add too much to the overall plot. Similar to Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days on the first HD collection, Re:coded is a movie instead of a game.

    Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 90%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 9/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

    If you’ve read my review to the first collection, you would know that I was not too fond of the 358/2 Days film. I loved the original game, but was not a fan of how it translated into a movie. For the most part, it was because it was treated more as a collection of random cutscenes rather than a Kingdom Hearts movie. This is what makes the Re:coded movie interesting. While the story isn’t all that interesting, the film is much more coherent than the last one. There are a few times where some gaps in the plot are filled in through text (written in second person for some reason), but otherwise, the film works notably better. I would recommend watching the movie over playing the game, in order to understand the plot a bit better.

    If you played the first HD collection, you would have a pretty good idea of what the presentation is like. The graphics have been notably buffed up from their original versions, mostly due to the Final Mix upgrades. The results are not perfect, but they hold up unusually well for sixth-generation game graphics. Regarding sound, Kingdom Hearts is known for having amazing music, and the titles in this collection help verify that. Voice acting is a bit inconsistent. Kingdom Hearts II has pretty great voice acting, but the other two titles are more hit-or-miss. 

    This collection is rated E10+ for fantasy violence, mild blood, and use of alcohol. Fans of the series will know that the mild blood and the use of alcohol come from the world based on Pirates of the Caribbean. The violence is pretty much the same as it is in the other games. However, there are a couple of moral concerns in Birth by Sleep. The first is the character design of Aqua. Her outfit exposes quite a bit of her back. In the original version, the game received a rating for “mild suggestive themes” because of the way she dresses. As to why this was not included in the rating for the collection, I am not sure. The other concern regards violence. A character loses an eye in a fight. However, it is only implied; not shown. Finally, it should be noted that the entirety of the series promotes the idea of "following your heart," which is a rather common moral for Disney movies. However, the Bible describes the heart as "deceitfully wicked." When letting kids play these games, it is important to make sure they understand this.

    In almost every possible way, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX is an improvement over the last collection. While the enhancements themselves are essentially the same, the games included are overall better. Kingdom Hearts II is, in my opinion, better than Kingdom Hearts; and Birth by Sleep is better than Re:Chain of Memories. While I consider 358/2 Days a better game than Re:coded, the movie does a better job of capturing the cinematic qualities of the series. Even if you have already experienced the games before, the collection provides plenty of reason to experience them again. Overall, this is a wonderful collection that should be experienced by every fan of the franchise. 

  • Kingdom Hearts III (PS4)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Kingdom Hearts III
    Developed by: Square Enix
    Release Date: January 29, 2019
    Available on: PlayStation 4 (reviewed) and Xbox One
    Number of Players: Single-Player
    Genre: Action RPG
    ESRB Rating: E10+
    Price: $59.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    After waiting over thirteen years, Square Enix has finally given us the third major chapter in the mega-popular Kingdom Hearts series. Technically the thirteenth entry in the series’ seventeen-year run, Kingdom Hearts III serves as the epic conclusion to what series director Tetsuya Nomura refers to as the “Xehanort saga.” But was the game worth the wait?

    To put this into perspective, I was eight years old when Kingdom Hearts II came out. I have waited over half my lifetime for this title, playing all the spin-off titles hoping to have all the necessary knowledge required for the third numbered title. It was a good thing I did too, because the story has become far too complex to jump into a game like this without any prior knowledge. Playing this after only playing Kingdom Hearts II will leave you utterly confused.

    The story picks up after the events of Dream Drop Distance and the recently released 0.2: A Fragmentary Passage (which was included in the 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue bundle for PS4). Sora and friends are determined to rescue the fallen Keyblade wielders Terra, Aqua, and Ventus to prepare for the inevitable “Keyblade War” against Xehanort and his newly-formed Organization XIII. But because Sora nearly fell into darkness during the events of Dream Drop Distance, he needs to learn the “power of waking,” which will allow him to resist darkness and revive the people who have lost their hearts. Until then, his friend Riku, accompanied by King Mickey, will continue the search for the three on their own.

    If the above paragraph did not make any sense to you, it is probably safe to say that you need to catch up on the story before starting this title. Though most of the games have been spin-offs, they have all featured major contributions to the story. Square Enix has tried to address this by re-releasing all the games on PlayStation 4, but this unfortunately means Xbox owners are pretty much left in the dark. Even if you have played all the games, though, the story can be very confusing. Kingdom Hearts III provides simple explanations to many of the series’ more ponderous plot points, but it still manages to add new story elements that are difficult to understand.

    Kingdom Hearts III
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Satisfying story that wraps up most of the plots set up over seventeen years, featuring several epic and character-based moments; gameplay takes the best elements of each title and combines them for a great gameplay experience; music and voice acting is among the series' best; world selection is almost entirely original and now features Pixar worlds; graphics are updated and are now comparable to the films the worlds are based on
    Weak Points: Almost entirely incomprehensible without playing the other games; in order to set up more stories, some plot points are left open; mild frame rate lag; some of the new gameplay features are forgettable; Game & Watch-style LCD minigames are an entirely pointless inclusion; almost no Final Fantasy characters return
    Moral Warnings: Non-graphic violence; some mildly revealing outfits; magic use; alcohol consumption

    Which brings me to another important thing that must be noted: Kingdom Hearts III is NOT the end of the franchise. I feel that I can say this without giving anything away, as Nomura has stated that a number of times before. In spite of this, I was surprised at how forward the game is about the story not being over. I assumed that Kingdom Hearts III would wrap up everything so that you could basically end here if you wanted to, even though I knew more games would come out later. Though the main story received the conclusion it needed, the game features a couple of side plots that are intentionally left open for the next game.

    Still, as far as the story is concerned, Kingdom Hearts III is a deeply satisfying conclusion to the story that had been building over the past seventeen years. There are several great character moments and interactions that many of us fans have been waiting years for. Almost all of the fan favorites get their moments, though a couple of characters unfortunately don’t get as much time as they probably should. Even so, Kingdom Hearts III most of the time delivers its story with flying colors.

    Most of the big story details occur during the final act, however. Through the majority of the game, Sora, Donald, and Goofy travel through various worlds inspired by popular Disney movies. This time around, almost all the worlds are new to the series and are much bigger than the worlds in previous entries. The worlds are, for the most part, based on Disney’s CGI movies. These include modern films such as Tangled, Big Hero 6, and Frozen, as well as Pixar films Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. I’ll say this: it’s absolutely fantastic seeing my childhood dream of Sora teaming up with Buzz and Woody come true! I also really appreciate how the Disney characters are much more involved in their own plots, as opposed to the other titles, where they feel more like extras. Sometimes, the Disney worlds are actually relevant to the overarching story, which makes them feel more relevant than their appearances in many of the other games.

    Throughout these worlds, you will experience the traditional Kingdom Hearts gameplay found in the other two numbered titles, but with some major refinements. Like A Fragmentary Passage, the gameplay seems to take all of the best elements of each spin-off title and combine them to make the ultimate Kingdom Hearts experience. One of the biggest improvements is the use of "Situation Commands," which was introduced in Birth by Sleep. By getting enough combos, Sora will unlock a finisher move that is based on the types of attacks he used to obtain it. For example, if you cast Fire enough times, you will obtain a Firaza finisher that does massive damage.

    Another type of finisher involves Keyblade transformations. Depending on what Key you are using, it will be able to turn into different types of weapons if you get enough combos. Some weapons include a shield, a hammer, a drill, and dual pistols. Not all of them are as fun as they sound, but they still present a good amount of variety.

    There are other additions to the gameplay borrowed from other titles. Shotlock also makes a pleasant return from Birth by Sleep, while Flowmotion makes a comeback from Dream Drop Distance. However, Flowmotion has been dumbed down a bit since then, making it not as useful for fast travel (the game makes up for this by allowing you to warp between save points). As you level up, you can develop your Flowmotion abilities so that it resembles Dream Drop Distance more, but it takes a while before it becomes nearly as useful.

    Kingdom Hearts III
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 91%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4.5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 86%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 9/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    There are a few other additions to the gameplay, though they have varying degrees of success. My personal favorite is the fact you can upgrade your Keyblades. I always found it frustrating that my favorite weapons were sometimes the least effective because you get them earlier in the game. Now this isn’t really an issue. Another addition is Attraction Flow, which consists of a number of attacks based on various Disney theme park attractions. To be honest, this is one of the least interesting additions to the game. Though the attacks can be very effective at times, they tend to slow the pace down a bit too much for my liking.

    Kingdom Hearts III also has a few extras to it outside of the main story. There is a photo mode that allows you to take pictures and selfies. Between Breath of the Wild and the recent Spider-Man game, I’m starting to think photo modes are becoming a standard for video games. There are missions you can complete with your camera, such as find hidden Mickeys or take pictures of iconic locations for a Moogle. Outside of the camera missions, there are also optional minigames based on the old LCD Game & Watch titles. These are entirely superfluous and could have easily been excluded.

    In regards to presentation, Kingdom Hearts III is a masterpiece of graphics and music. The soundtrack is easily one of the franchise’s best, featuring a mixture of new music and spectacular renditions of the series’ themes. Graphically, the game truly stands out from the other entries. The new graphic style might take a bit of getting used to, but proves to be a fine change for the series’ first major title designed specifically for current-gen consoles. Though the graphics are not as good as the films they are based on, they are actually surprisingly close in terms of quality. That being said, I experienced some frame rate lag during the first couple of hours of my playthrough (though the lags seemed to minimize after a patch). I played this on a standard PS4, so this might not be an issue on the PS4 Pro.

    The voice acting is some of the series’ best. All of the main characters’ actors return with the exception of Kairi, who is now voiced by Alyson Stoner. All of the actors deliver their lines well, featuring some of the best performances since Kingdom Hearts II. The voices of the Disney characters are also very good. A surprising number of actors return, including Zachary Levi, Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, John Ratzenberger, Wallace Shawn, and a plethora of others. The replacement voices do a fine job as well. Though some characters clearly have replacements, all of them do a good job sounding decently like the original voices.

    In spite of its excellent delivery, Kingdom Hearts III is not without its faults. As I mentioned earlier, there are a few important story points that are difficult to understand even if you’ve played all the games before it. I have very mixed feelings regarding the setup for the next series of games, though it’s difficult to discuss my feelings without giving away major spoilers (be sure to watch the secret ending, though!). The game felt a little short to me, but after looking at my battle report at the end of the game, I realized that it’s the same length as the other titles. I think for me it felt short because the cinematics take up more of the game’s time than the others. The only other complaint I feel is worth mentioning is that the Final Fantasy characters are completely absent from this game. Though Kingdom Hearts has certainly become large enough to go on without them, it feels odd that many of the characters who were important in the other two numbered titles never show up.

    In terms of morality, Kingdom Hearts III is not really any different from the other titles. I appreciate this, as there was some speculation over the years that the game would end up being T-rated. Instead, Kingdom Hearts III maintains the usual E10+ rating. Violence is about as dark as the other games. You kill several magical creatures in non-gory ways. The Kingdom Hearts universe features many sorts of magic, though none of it is related to demonic forces in any sense. A couple of character dress somewhat immodestly, with Aqua exposing much of her back. However, this game is pretty modest when compared to other RPGs. Like many of the other titles, the game is very emotionally stirring. Main characters do die in the game, including one who is actually killed by being sliced in the back (the character sort of disappears with no blood involved). It’s worth noting, though, that hardly anyone ever stays truly dead in these games. If you’ve been able to emotionally endure all the other entries, you should be able to handle this one. I only feel like I should mention this in case young children are planning on playing this. The only other thing I think is worth mentioning is that there is a world based on Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. Unlike the Pirates world in Kingdom Hearts II, it doesn’t feature any blood, and you don’t fight any undead humans. Still, there is some alcohol consumption and the story involves one of the characters stabbing a beating heart in order to kill the main villain (the heart is never shown, though).

    I couldn’t believe the day had finally arrived when Kingdom Hearts III was released. I had never anticipated a game this much before, and I can thankfully say that Kingdom Hearts III delivers in almost every way. There are a few disappointing elements, but it would be hard not to be disappointed in some things related to a game you have waited over thirteen years for. The story, gameplay, graphics, and sound have all taken the necessary steps to make this the biggest Kingdom Hearts game yet. Hopefully, Kingdom Hearts IV will not take nearly as long to develop, as there are still plot points that need to be resolved. Overall, though, Kingdom Hearts III is a fantastic experience that gives fans the resolutions they have been waiting for.

     

  • Kingdom's Item Shop (3DS)

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    Game Info:

    Kingdom's Item Shop
    Developed By: ASOBOX Co., Pumo Co.
    Published By: Circle Entertainment
    Released: August 18, 2016
    Available On: 3DS
    Genre: Simulation, RPG
    ESRB Rating: E for Everyone (Mild Fantasy Violence)
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: $5.00

    Thank you Circle Entertainment for sending us a copy of the game to review!

    In most RPGs you will find an item shop. Typically this is where you would buy new gear and stock up on potions. Rarely do we ever get to see how these item shops keep their doors open. Kingdom's Item Shop fully explores this concept of being a shopkeeper, while at the same time still letting our main character see combat on the battlefield.

    The story is quite simple, but charming nonetheless. Far, far out in the corner of the world lies the Kingdom of Anglais. We play as the son of the best merchant in all of Anglais. He has always dreamed of owning his own shop, and after years of saving up, he now has his chance to. With perseverance and courage, one day his item shop will be known as the "Kingdom's Item Shop." 

    After naming our main character we're immediately introduced to "Mr. Butler." As his name would suggest he is indeed a butler. He serves to narrate the tutorial and teach us the basics to the game. After selling our first item we're tasked with going on a quest to collect items from a dungeon. Now rather than suiting up ourselves for battle, we instead have to hire soldiers to fight for us. Hiring their services will obviously cost money, so keep that in mind. 

    Kingdom's Item Shop
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Addictive gameplay; Challenging quests; Hours of content.
    Weak Points: Grinding is a must; Some grammatical errors.
    Moral Warnings: Moderate amount of fantasy violence in battles.

    Battles take place in a typical turn-based RPG fashion, but actions play out in real-time. The soldiers can switch between attack and defense positions, and this is integral to completing quests. Allies will take more damage from enemies whilst in attack position, but simply pressing the 'Y' button will switch them to defense position. Hitting the 'A' button will allow them to continue attacking. Pressing the 'X' button when their bar on the bottom screen is filled unleashes a powerful skill. These skills deal lots of damage, and come in handy when in a bind. Mastering the timing between when an ally's attack is actually performed, and then switching to defense to lessen the damage received is crucial. Once an ally's health bar has been emptied that ally will flee the battle. If all of your allies flee, you will be returned to the shop with all of the items collected to that point still in your possession.

    As battles take place we still have control of the main character on the battlefield. As an enemy is attacked, items will shower out of it. At this point we must quickly move over the items to collect them before they disappear. You can dash to get around faster, but that will drain the "dash meter." It's best to use it sparingly, allowing it to refill faster. However, should an enemy inflict enough damage to drain our hero's health bar, Mr. Butler will appear from nowhere and return us safely back to the shop. It can seem like there's a lot going on, but truth be told it's a lot simpler than it sounds. 

    The items that are found can then be sold, or synthesized into better items. The Kingdom of Anglais is home to many outlets such as a blacksmith, a bakery, and a tailor. By visiting these other shops we can learn recipes that come in the form of a riddle. The riddles themselves are merely descriptions of two or three items that need to be combined in order to create a new item. There's also the ability to experiment freely, but if you fail you waste the items that were used. 

    As you sell things your gold amount will increase, and at different monetary milestones Mr. Butler will inform us that our shop has reached a new title. Earning lots of money will also increase our reputation, helping to garner the title of "Kingdom's Item Shop," which is the main goal of the game. One of the most convenient features is that items will sell even when you're not in the shop. When returning from quests or other shops you'll usually come back to find large piles of coins on the floor. Items will still sell even when the game is in sleep mode, or completely turned off. I wasn't expecting this, and it was a great addition to the game.

    Kingdom's Item Shop
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

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

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

    A neat feature to selling items are the sales bonuses you can receive after selling specific amounts of things. These can increase your soldier's attack and health points, and they can also increase your own health and how long you can dash for. These bonuses will steadily increase the ease of quests, but don't expect things to be a cakewalk. In order to get past a quest it may be necessary to grind on earlier dungeons to gain some levels. Eventually you begin to see your allies deal more damage and take less in return, but at times progression felt very slow.

    Visually, the game looks great. Sprites are crisp and the 3D effect is used well to add depth. Battlefields can come off as a bit bland, but the enemy designs were interesting enough that I didn't mind the landscapes. The music within the shops is nice and relaxing, whereas the battle music is much more intense. Sound effects are punchy and distinct, letting you know you have picked something up or have been attacked.

    As for any moral warnings, since your allies will be slaying monsters, there's a moderate amount of fantasy violence to be witnessed. One of your allies is a witch that uses magic, but that's a pretty minimal aspect of the game. Besides these minor offenses, Kingdom's Item Shop is pretty much harmless.

    Anyone expecting a deep, narrative-driven RPG will most likely be turned off by the simplistic battle system and lack of story. But those looking for a simple RPG with a heavy focus on item crafting will surely enjoy the hours of content in this one. As with many Circle titles lately, the $5 price tag is an extreme bargain for Kingdom's Item Shop. Which is why it comes highly recommended.

    -Kyuremu

  • KryptCrawler (Oculus Rift)

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    Game Info:

    KryptCrawler
    Developed by: Headup Games
    Published by: Headup Games
    Available on: Gear VR, Oculus Rift
    Release date: July 20, 2017
    Genre: Dungeon Crawler
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen for blood and violence
    Price: $9.99 Rift $4.99 Gear VR

    Thank you Headup Games for sending us this title to review!

    I have played many different game genres in VR and KryptCrawler is the first virtual reality dungeon crawler I’ve played. The concept is great and there is potential, however the execution is poorly done and I’m wondering if the endless dungeon mode will ever be completed or if the developers have abandoned this title.

    You begin the game in a dark pit. The ground is muddy and the atmosphere is black. A voice is calling out to you asking to be saved and promising to grant your wish if you rescue them. Since there is nothing better to do, you may as well see what the fuss is about and enter into the foreboding crypt. There are many skeletons of those who have gone in before you and warnings of ignoring the whispers.

    In the beginning, you’ll be unarmed. Thankfully, the first of twelve dungeons has a sword and shield for you to locate. Later in the game, you’ll get to equip a bow and arrow. At first, the giant spiders you come across will scurry away, but their fear of you is short lived. There isn’t much room for exploration since there is only one correct path as others have temporary obstacles blocking them. After you find the sword, you can go back and break all of the giant pottery and strike down the thick spider webs that were in your way previously. The shield will come in handy for blocking fire and acid hurled in your general direction.

    KryptCrawler
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Low price; fun if you can get used to the controls and not get nauseous
    Weak Points: Clunky controls make it frustratingly hard to do a simple act like drinking a nearby health potion
    Moral Warnings: Undead warriors and violence

    Attacking is pretty straightforward and you can continue to do so as long as you have enough stamina and health. Stamina is replenished by standing still but health can only be restored by drinking nearby health potions or by visiting a save spot. The second option will fully heal you and is a lot easier to activate than the healing potion unfortunately.

    The biggest downfall of the game is the controls. It’s pretty frustrating to stare at a needed health potion and struggle to simply pick it up. You have to move the Touch controller to the correct pixel to activate the pickup icon. Pushing buttons and grabbing other objects like keys is much easier than healing potions for some odd reason.

    You’ll come across many locked doors that can be opened with keys or by pushing a nearby wall button that’s a pain to see or hidden by a slightly protruding tile. Like any good dungeon crawler, there are plenty of pressure plates to step on that activate traps or necessary unlocking mechanisms.

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

    The enemies range from big spiders and scorpions to undead skeletons. Even bigger versions are available as boss fights. Like many boss battles, they have an attack pattern that you’ll need to work around and strike them when their guard is down. When resuming the game, you can start at the last dungeon left off at. There’s a menu option for an endless dungeon, but it’s not available yet with no estimated delivery date.

    Currently, KryptCrawler is only available for Oculus devices like the Rift and Gear VR. The mobile version is half the price of the PC one. Unfortunately, both versions have complaints regarding the game’s control system. While I didn’t get nauseous while playing the game, I definitely felt woozy afterwards and had to enjoy this title in short spurts.

    For a $5-$10 game, I can’t complain too much about it. The visuals are decent and the enemies are pretty creepy, especially if you’re not a fan of spiders. Perhaps this title can help people overcome arachnophobia? Like many fantasy tittles, there are skeletons and undead creatures to contend with.

    If you enjoy dungeon crawlers, KryptCrawler is worth checking out. Just don’t expect a lot of options for exploration or the endless dungeon mode to ever be completed at this rate. It would be great if the complaints about the controls were addressed too. I’m not aware of any plans to bring this game to Vive so it may be abandoned and left in its current state. If KryptCrawler goes on sale it may be worth picking up, but I wouldn’t recommend paying full price for it.

  • Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk (Switch)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk
    Developed By: Nippon Ichi Software
    Published By: NIS America
    Released: June 18, 2016 (In Japan for the PSVita) September 18, 2018 (In North America for Switch)
    Available On: PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch
    Genre: RPG, Strategy
    ESRB Rating: M for Mature: Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence
    Number of Players: 1 offline
    Price: $49.50 new, $42.29 used

    Thanks to NIS America for sending us this digital copy to review.

    Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is a very interesting game. Never before have I played a game that I loved the story as much as I did here while simultaneously disliking a big portion of it. My split emotions go perfectly with the game’s split content. The biggest part of your playtime will be spent exploring a series of dungeons with a team of puppets in classic dungeon crawling fashion. The rest of your time will be spent sitting through voice-acted visual novel (VN) segments. It’s this combination that leads to the very long, and perhaps satisfying, experience that Coven of Dusk has to offer.

    I have in the past played a few different dungeon crawlers; I’m by far no expert in them, but Coven of Dusk is by far the best one I have played. There were a lot of things introduced over the course of the game that I find very interesting, such as being able to break walls and that not everything was laid out vertically, that really made the gameplay stand out and above other similar games. Combat was also a bit more unique than some others I’ve played. When it starts you have your somewhat standard role-playing game (RPG) combat system where you enter commands and watch the combat play out afterwards, but each unit of yours could be made up of up to three individual units. Each spot in your party is a coven which grants different skills and abilities to the units (puppets) you place into them. This allows a bit more flexibility with the puppets since nobody was a set mage or healer. Instead, you have units with stats that allow them to cast more of the skills that the coven pocesses which lets you the opportunity to move them around between offense and support based off of your needs.

    Your other main part of play is the VN segments. After reaching a certain point in the dungeons or completing a specific objective a new bit of story would unlock. When you leave the dungeon and return to your cart (your hub for this game) you could then select to play the next VN segment that unlocked. These bits of story are very well-made and excellently translated and dubbed. It is through this mode mainly that the story is given to you and the length of these could change from being really long to rather short. Depending on some of the conditions to unlock these you could even get a few to unlock all at once, but some could take a good while to unlock the next portion of story; sometimes five minutes after returning to the dungeon again. It’s this bit that would really frustrate me while playing. Sometimes I was in the mode to go and explore a dungeon and had to constantly leave so I could watch the next piece of story so I could advance while others I wanted to see the next part of the story and it took me three play sessions to unlock it. One other thing the game did with the story was have a few smaller story interactions happen while out in the dungeon, though sadly none of these were voiced like the main VN segments are.

    Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Really solid gameplay; solid English dub and sound design; interesting main story; lots to explore and collect
    Weak Points: A weak love story plot; it can require a bit of grinding to level up; lots of unique elements that can make some parts of the game hard to understand; game is split into two parts and can make you spend quite a while in one while you want to be in the other
    Moral Warnings: There’s a lesbian love story; rape comes up fairly often in the story; there is strong language in the story; lots of dark themes; takes place in a place where magic, in various forms, exists; sexual content including skimpily clad women; fair bit of killing

    It felt like to me while playing through this the developers really set out to try and make something unique here. There was not very many things I encountered that felt all too similar to other games including the classes for your puppet soldiers. Each of the classes have their own style to them with some specialized in attacking using lamps, other shields, and even others foe attacking the enemies multiple times. When creating them, you could also change some attributes such as how they’d level-up their skills and give them some unique abilities. I gave one of my puppets an ability that with a single digit percent chance would attack ten times in a row. I had it trigger once on a low health, very dodge prone boss. It made me feel great, but I’m honestly not sure if it was the best ability to choose. That is one problem I had with the game. There was just so much unique stuff it was hard to know what you should really do. I enjoyed that they tried to do their own thing, but sometimes it could be confusing to remember what all each class was supposed to specialize in and what all the unique stats did. On the plus side, I’m normally terrible at these types of games so maybe everything seeming a bit foreign helped to balance the scales out. There was also the kind addition of an easy mode, but you had to reach a certain point in the story to be able to change it to easy.

    The story starts off a bit weird. You arrive in a city called Refrain, get introduced to Madam Dronya and little Luca, and go through a little tutorial quest. That ends with you losing and then your soul winds up in some weird dimension. While there, you enter in your information for a sort of custom character setup. I say sort of because once you leave that area, you appear at the beginning of the game as a book that was previously used to explore a dungeon. Somehow, your soul is now inside that book and you discover that those characters you meet earlier are not the ones you play as; you play as the book that is in charge of guiding the puppets on their journey through the varied dungeons you must transverse. Upon your arrival though, you are at the beginning of the game again, but you experience events that you didn’t get to see the first time, but you wind up in the same dungeon you failed at last time. This time however, Dronya has a solution to what got you last time and you are able to continue progressing. Progressing here unlocks the VN story segments and through these you get introduced to the different residents of Refrain and a load of different story threads that, truthfully, won’t make much sense until you complete the game. As you progress through the story you start to follow two main story threads: one being a lesbian love story and the other is figuring out what is going on on the surface and down in the dungeons. Obviously, I found the second of these more engaging with my beliefs, but I also just found the love story to not be that good of one. Now, I don’t want to go into too many more details because I don’t want to spoil anything because this game does, if you disregard that whole terribly done love story, have a great story. It can get dark, emotional, happy, and shows some of the best growth of a character that I’ve seen in a long time. The excellent voice acting only helps to amplify this. The end of the story, which felt a bit abrupt, almost had me at tears. There was a lot of curveballs thrown throughout the story and bits of information not given to you, but when it all came out, my mind was blown.

    As I’ve mentioned before, the game comes mostly voice acted and in full English. There are even some accents present which help to give the game the feel that it was made in English and not a Japanese game that was translated. My only real complaint with the voices is that the selection of voices for your puppets is a bit small. It also sounds like they reused some of the same voice actors multiple times for these different voices. It’s not the biggest issue, but I would prefer them to sound more different from each other then they wound up being. Aside from that, the background music was all pretty good and the sound effects from combat all had some decent weight to them. When you land a critical hit, you know you just landed a critical hit. The art all looks good, but the art used for the VN segments certainly are of a higher quality than that of the dungeons. A lot of the enemies have a lot going on in their designs and I had a bit of a hard time telling what all I was looking at. Some of the dungeons also seem to have some funky graphical things going on, but the further I progressed, the more I realized a lot of the weird bits were a part of some stylistic choices. For example, the second dungeon you go into has a muted sky with some not very great looking objects in it. As I progressed there, I discovered this area was supposed to be based off of a fairy tale storybook. Controls are okay, but I wished some things would have required less button presses than they did. I also never had the game crash on me.

    Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - -810
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 48%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 1.5/10
    Sexual Content - 2/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 4.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 5.5/10

    Morally, there is a lot going on in this game. The biggest put off for myself is that a lot of the plot revolves around a lesbian love story. With that said there is an occasion where the lesbian nun does admit that her feelings aren’t right. Now, that doesn’t really make up for the love story, but it did make me feel a bit better about the game. There are also things you find out about characters’ pasts that have a lot of moral problems and might be really off putting such as rape, possible necrophilia, and murder, though none of those is treated as good. Rape is a somewhat common theme with one of the main characters getting raped a few times and having been attempted to be raped a fair number of times. One thing I did find interesting was that due to one of the things going on in the story, you see a few instances of a character making some bad decisions and suffering dire consequences, but you see those scenes repeat where better decisions were made and having better outcomes. The setting is a magical world where other dimensions exist with a wide manor of magical abilities, most seem to be either original or based off of some fairy tale magic, but a few are very dark and there is magic dealing with souls and bringing back the dead. Purgatory is a place that exists in this world.

    There is quite a bit of sexual content with a lot of dialogue discussing things such as rape, pedophilia, and BDSM. There is a decent number of scantily clad women and women looking beings, most of which are enemies. There is one topless looking female, but they are referred to as a male even though they look like a female and have breasts without nipples. All forms of cursing are present including one instance of derogatory terms towards lesbians. Interestingly, even though they do use the Lord’s name in vain, when they mention God regularly, they capitalize the G. There are gross bits with some of the items required for your magical crafting being things such as feces. There is a decent bit of violence present. Main gameplay is exploring dungeons and fighting creatures, but this is done in a typical dungeon-crawling style. It is during the story that most of the violence happens. There is quite a few people that die during the story and there are some options that allow you to do violent things such as destroying a village to unlock a shortcut or feed some people to some giants so you can get some feces from them.

    While there was a lot wrong with this game I did find it to be an enjoyable experience if you can stomach all of the moral issues. It is certainly the best dungeon-crawler that I have played and it does have some very high production value. I’m quite looking forward to the kind of sequel they are planning to release and hope that it will have less moral problems with its key story elements.

    -Paul Barnard (Betuor)

  • Lapis x Labyrinth (PS4)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Lapis x Labyrinth
    Developed by: Nippon Ichi Software, Inc.
    Published by: NIS America, Inc.
    Release date: May 28, 2019
    Available on: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
    Genre: RPG Platformer
    Number of players: Single player
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence
    Price: $29.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you, NIS America, for sending us a review key!

    Lapis x Labyrinth surprised me several times. An anglerfish dragon was shockingly deadly, as were poisonous trap plants. A fire boss required careful maneuvering, and the last boss forced me to rework my weapon loadout for elemental damage. I don’t take the distinct memories of these moments as a great commendation of the game. From moment to moment, the game demands doing the same actions all the way through, with upgrades to break up the monotony. And yet, Lapis x Labyrinth didn’t feel tedious. Whether that’s because it is fun or numbing, I’m not sure. Probably a bit of each.

    On the one hand, it must have been fun. I completed the game’s ten worlds, each a collection of stages in the Labyrinth below a small town. I beat the final boss and looked into the extra, post-game stages. Once or twice I whooped at the screen upon beating a particularly difficult foe. The gameplay which I have and will continue to describe as monotonous was engaging while I was taking part in it. It’s satisfying to watch the small party of adventurers tear through enemies, hopping from spring to falling platform while swinging any number of weapons and tossing allies at enemies to do coordinated alternative attacks. The joy of watching the combat take place is probably Lapis x Labyrinth’s greatest strength. The party of up to four adventurers are stacked on top of each other’s shoulders. This odd tower of oversized heads tears through most enemies with ease as the player hits the two main attack buttons. Swiping monsters away continues to feel satisfying for the entire game.

    Someone watching could easily (and did, while I was playing) describe the combat as button mashing. It’s an unfair description, because attacks and movement depend on directional input, and as the pile of adventurers darted and spun across the screen I felt completely in control. My chosen leader was a mobile dagger-wielder who could slash up for an extra jump and spin down through a cloud of enemies with ease. When I switched to a heavily-armored knight, I knew his heavy swings would wipe out monsters and blocks with an efficiency appropriate to his weightier movements. Enemy attacks can quickly kill the party, necessitating constant vigilance to dodge incoming attacks. Lapis x Labyrinth is, when it comes to character control, very good at conveying the information needed. For example, the stack of adventurers is also the double-jump count. The adventurers leap off of each others’ shoulders with their extra jumps, sometimes leaving the leader stranded without friends for a moment when reaching a new ledge. As characters are knocked off the tower, stunned, or killed, movement becomes more limited.

    Lapis x Labyrinth
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Charming and varied art style; variety of upgrade paths and character types; maze platforming can be rewarding and tense
    Weak Points: Monotonous gameplay; gaudy particle effects and music; constant voice exclamations
    Moral Warnings: Revealing clothes on some character models; ghost and demon enemies

    “Labyrinth” isn’t just a name. Each of the 80 main stages is composed of roughly one to four levels plus a miniboss. The last stage in each world has a stronger boss tied to the thin lore of the area. The bosses are usually far too straightforward, but the stages themselves can provide a decent challenge. The party must collect a number of crystals in each level to warp to the next. There are more crystals available than are required to succeed, and collecting extra is rewarded with better equipment and stat growth. Each stage has a five-minute timer, after which a dark specter appears who causes instant death if he touches the party. Pushing your luck against the threat of death for crystals and treasure chests is a rush when the level layouts are always uncertain. Most stages take less than ten minutes, and the timer ensures that almost none take more than twenty. Level mazes and enemy types recycle, but there are enough that I could not memorize them.

    There are more character classes than I needed. The game encourages the player to experiment early on to find a team composition that suits a preferred play style, and I quickly fell into a mobile melee composition. A defensive shield character did more for my group than a gunslinger or ranged caster. I found a use for the maid (who, of course, is magical) and her abilities to boost party attack and charm enemies into temporarily not fighting. The party must be outfitted with weapons, armor, and other stat-boosting gear. If you have the space left over, members can be given reusable candy that heals, revives, and otherwise helps the party between levels in a stage. The game’s gear costs limit the party’s power level harshly, and spending gold to equip more and stronger gear did not feel satisfying.

    There is more customization available within the town above the labyrinth. Enhancements for countless special effects including extra attacks, shielding, reflection, life steal, and more can be crafted and improved at the forge. A restaurant sells single-use lunches next to the store which sells equipment, crafting materials, and base stat upgrades. Individual character’s stats can be trained as well. I focused on training to keep up with monster strength, and I can imagine someone else focusing on a variety of weapon enhancements that provide bonuses against the enemy types particular to each world.

    Lapis x Labyrinth
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay -13/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    So Lapis x Labyrinth has engaging customization, controls, and platforming. It’s just that I was performing the same actions with almost no variation for the entire game. As stated at the beginning, a few moments demanded that I mix up my strategy. Those were few and far between. Mostly I roared through levels on autopilot. The vast majority of the minibosses fell in under ten seconds to a combination attack plus a little manual slicing. Even the final stage of the last boss, after killing me until I brought a type-effective weapon, died in seconds, almost without me noticing, once I did. I thought I’d seen everything Lapis x Labyrinth had to offer after the second world, and aside from unlocking upgrade options and some devious traps, I was not wrong.

    That I could go so long without mentioning the grating aesthetic choices is evidence of how numb they made me. The game’s only voice acting is short snippets of Japanese exclamations of the “Thanks” and “Here we go” variety. These lines play when talking to shopkeepers in town and constantly while in the Labyrinth. I was not bothered. Others might not overlook the constant cries so easily. The game’s powerup graphics have the subtlety of Pavlov running a penny-ante slot machine. When Fever mode is activated (and I honestly don’t know how it’s activated), the music kicks into generic swelling tones as boxes flash and killed enemies explode into gems. And I mean, a lot of gems. Gems that hide the action on-screen. Gems that don’t fit the art style. Gems that would look comfortable in the original Bejeweled. During Fever mode, a spinner in the corner flashes through icons, occasionally announcing that I have been granted a Map or a Potion. Each icon corresponds to a buff, but since I had no control of the spinner and little care in that moment for the numerical peculiarities of how enemy health bars disappeared, I never remembered what the buffs were. I got used to the jarring particles, just as I got used to the voice acting.

    In general, the art style is pleasant and cute. Some characters have revealing outfits on their menu models. Fortunately, most of the game is spent in big-headed chibi style where it’s hard to notice the clothes. There are a wide variety of well-designed monsters. The demon and ghost enemies are, like the others, stylized past the point of great concern. Violence is omnipresent in the dungeons in the cute art style of everything else. Music is forgettable but appropriate when not in fever mode.

    As I've gathered my thoughts, I’ve been struck by how positive I am about this game considering how pleased I was to be finished with it. It was so repetitive. The best parts of the game enabled me to get through the monotony faster and with more style. Cynically, one might say that is true of action games at their best. At least this action game has consistent and generous content, all digestible in short or long play sessions. For as much as I finished playing the game the same way that I began it, Lapis x Labyrinth has enough moving parts to make the long journey from world one to ten more exciting than it might feel in worlds two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, or, come to think of it, one and ten. If a screenshot of the four adventurers teetering on their companions’ shoulders looks amusing, I would not talk you out of trying the game out. If you have a Switch to play on the go, I might try to talk you into it.

  • Learn Japanese to Survive! Hiragana Battle (Mac)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Learn Japanese to Survive! Hiragana Battle
    Developed by: Sleepy Duck Educational Games
    Published by: Sleepy Duck Educational Games
    Released: February 16, 2016
    Available on: Windows, Mac
    Genre: RPG, Edutainment
    Number of players: 1
    Price: $6.99 (digital download, Steam); $19.99 (disc, from developer's Web site)

    Claire's village is under attack! A sinister sorcerer has invaded, and his magical army consists of oddly-shaped inky warriors that seem impervious to any known weapon! Fortunately, a tutor from Japan can help Claire and her friends. The warriors are letters of the Hiragana alphabet. In order to win, Claire and her friends must... Learn Japanese to Survive!

    It's a somewhat silly premise, but this is surprisingly effective in its approach. Learn Japanese to Survive! Hiragana Battle is apparently the debut game from Sleepy Duck Educational Games, but the name of the company doesn't even appear on the opening menu of the game. It seems like a game made from the RPG Maker line of game development software, but is one of the more interesting ones I've come across.

    As mentioned, you guide Claire and her three friends through the world, navigating the different areas to battle the Hiragana warriors and trying to find a way to free their small island from the sorcerer Noburo's clutches. The game plays out a lot like most other JRPGs – navigation is done through an overhead map and the arrow keys. When a battle takes place – which for the most part are random encounters – the screen changes to a scene where Claire and her friends stand at the right side of the screen, and the enemies are on the left. "Attacks" are chosen from a menu. In order to damage the Hiragana warrior, the player must choose the English equivalent from the list. The player also can choose to use items or spells for other effects, such as healing or combat boosts. There's certainly not a lot new or noteworthy with this approach.

    Learn Japanese to Survive! Hiragana Battle
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Strong Points: Fun way to learn a new language; familiar interface; cute graphics; nice music
    Weak Points: Not a fully immersive language experience
    Moral Warnings: Minor alcohol references; cartoon violence

    But the familiar interface works, since the main focus of the game is, of course, learning Japanese. In between exploring the different areas are lessons in the Hiragana alphabet, with vocabulary lessons thrown in for good measure. Each area is blocked until the player completes the lesson that precedes it, so in order to complete the game, all the lessons must be learned at least once. There is some element of grinding involved, in order to gain the experience and money to survive the newly-unlocked areas. But this also serves as a review of prior lessons, so it actually works out in the end. It's actually one of the more effective ways – and reasons – I've seen to extend the life of an RPG by having the player go through prior areas repeatedly.

    The music and graphics are catchy, and reminiscent of the late SNES-era. As a result, the atmosphere of the game tends to be fun and light-hearted, even if the subject matter can be a bit dark. It's cute to see the chibi-style characters bounce happily after winning a battle. 

    As more lessons are unlocked, the number of attacks that a player can choose from becomes almost overwhelming. This is perfectly understandable, though – not only is this a new language that the player is learning, it's an entirely different alphabet than the Roman style the Western world is familiar with! During the first lesson, the instructor breaks the fourth wall to implore the player to take physical notes as well. Personally, I found it best to write down the lessons in a notebook, and referred to it often while playing the game. It may be a fun game, but it's also educational, so at times it does feel a bit like schoolwork.

    Learn Japanese to Survive! Hiragana Battle
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

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

    Morality Score - 91%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    As for my own children, my youngest two (ages 6 and 8) quickly became bored with the game. My oldest daughter, 12, tried to follow along, but became overwhelmed with trying to copy the Hiragana letters in her own notebook. I can see how some children (or adults) can use this as a fun way to introduce themselves to the language, though. The game also delves into aspects of Japanese culture, including Japanese greetings, food and drinks. Later portions of the game even take place in an abbreviated copy of Japan. 

    On the moral front, there is little to be concerned about here. Portions of the game do take place in an "inn" and there are a few alcohol references, but it is ambiguous whether the main characters are actually drinking alcohol. Hiragana warriors – which look like letters of the Hiragana alphabet – disappear when defeated, and the party members simply slump to the ground if they fall in battle. There isn't even any offensive magic to worry about in the game. Some of the player's characters can cast healing spells or other magic to increase defenses or strength, but the source of this magic is never explained, so it's questionable whether it's divine or arcane. Certainly there are no religious references that I came across. 

    While a great introduction to Japanese, it should be noted that this is no Rosetta Stone. It can be helpful to learning how to read Japanese, and perhaps write it. But despite the pronunciation of the words and letters, the game makes a poor substitute to actual, face-to-face dialogue. If someone wanted to learn how to speak Japanese by playing this game, then they would be disappointed. It's a great introduction to the Japanese language, though. 

    Also, the developer has started a new project called Learn Japanese to Survive! Katakana War. This doesn't appear to be a sequel to this game, but rather a separate RPG that focuses on a different Japanese alphabet, Katakana. It's a promising start for the company, and an interesting way to learn the basics of a new language. For those that enjoy role-playing games, learning new languages, or Japanese culture, Learn Japanese to Survive! would be a very welcome addition to their game libraries. 

  • Little King's Story (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Little King's Story
    Developed by: Marvelous. Inc.
    Published by: XSEED Games, Marvelous USA, Inc., Cing, Town Factory
    Release Date: Aug 5, 2016
    Available on: Windows, Wii, PS Vita 
    Genre: RPG, Strategy
    Number of Players: Single Player game
    ESRB Rating: T for Teen for suggestive themes, crude humor, mild cartoon violence, use of alcohol.
    Price: $24.99
    (Humble Store Link)

     

    Thank you XSEED for sending this review code!

    "Armchair general" is a term in gaming used in strategy games where you're controlling armies from the comfort of your gaming chair. It can be fun and we have plenty of games that explore such an idea in multiple ways. XCOM 2 or Starcraft 2 are great examples of this genre; leading units against enemies in waves and commanding and positioning them can be great fun. Sadly, while Little King's Story is a decent game, its reputation is marred by a poor PC port.

    Little King's Story follows the adventures of a king that you name whatever you like on his quest to make the kingdom wider and unify the land. You grow your land by collecting treasures to fund houses, schools and various upgrades to your kingdom. Schools allow you to change your citizens from ordinary carefree adults to carpenters, farmers, soldiers, and more. You lead the charge against Unidentified Mysterious Animals, which consist of living veggies, Oni and more.

    Little King's Story
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Strong strategy game with plenty of content in a fun world.
    Weak Points: PC port is extremely weak and may be hard to make work. For the best experience you'll want to find the Wii version.
    Moral Warnings: Very crude humor and some slight fetishising of the different princesses.

     

    Defeating bosses unlocks new upgrades for your kingdom. The land slowly becomes free of monsters as you defeat bosses which makes it easier to explore for treasures and other collectibles to increase your funds. As the story progresses you will meet other NPCs that present new quests. Eventually you'll also choose a princess to marry.

    Gameplay is simple, but mostly satisfying. Citizens can fall in love and start families which gives you more citizens to work with. You only use two buttons to have your citizens charge at enemies and objects you can interact with. The artstyle has a cute chibi feel that makes you want to pinch the character's cheek. Though it's a simple look, the game's world has so much detail in the art and animation. If the game was more stable it would be a great port of a gaming gem.

    Little King's Story
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 66%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 0/5
    Controls - 2/5

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

    Sadly, the PC port is still filled with problems; while it has supposedly been improved after launch the game has several notable issues.  For reference know that I am using a NVIDIA GeForce GT 640 with a AMD FX(tm)-6300 six-core processor for this game. At launch the game gives you the option to switch to 60 frames per second, but it is not recommended according to the launcher. Once I left the castle at sixty frames the game slowed to a near crawl. At 30 frames, the game seemed stable enough yet every now and then some quick graphical slow downs seemed to occur. Controls on the keyboard are very haphazard as well. If you want reasonable controls and camera turn you'll want to use a controller. Some players also seem to get random crashes on the PC version. These crashes can happen anywhere between minutes and hours of gameplay. The game crashed on me once after a second play session 3 hours in. Be warned the game has no auto-save so you can lose progress if it happens to you. For the best experience with this game you may want to find the Wii version. I hope XSEED does not give up on the PC world because of one bad port. They usually deliver high quality experiences regardless.  **After this review was published, many of these issues have now been fixed!**

    Morality wise there is no notable gore or violence to the game except for mild cartoon violence. The princesses you choose from are all slightly sexualized to particular tastes. The priest that you build a church for uses words like Ramen instead of Amen. Some might consider this a jab at Christianity. 

    Little King's Story is a decent game yet the PC version will fight you to get it to work properly. For certain systems it may work, but that will be a roll of the dice for some people.

     

  • Lost Dimension (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Lost Dimension
    Developed by: Lancarse/FURYU Corporation
    Published by: Atlus (PS platforms), Ghostlight (Windows)
    Release Date: July 2015 (PS), October 30, 2017 (Windows)
    Available on: Windows, PS3, Vita
    Genre: Tactical RPG
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen for language, mild blood, suggestive themes, violence
    Price: $39.99

    Thank you Atlus and Ghostlight for sending us this game to review on PS Vita and Windows!

    An evil villain aptly named "The End" is threatening to nuke the planet in thirteen days unless the uniquely gifted SEALED team can stop him in time. Each member of the team has a special ability that can make them a force to be reckoned with in battle. Some members can wield elements like fire, ice, and lightning while others can teleport, mimic, heal, or use deadly magnetic energy. It's great to have such powerful people on your team. The catch is that several of them are traitors who will eventually turn against you. Can you identify and eliminate them in time?

    The SEALED team has been trapped in a mysterious tower with no memory of how they got there. Their common goal is to reach the top and take out The End. In order to ascend the tower, a member of their team has to be erased (an in-game term for killed). Sadly, there is no other way. On the bright side, their abilities are not lost and can be given to another person in the group. This process of gaining skills and passing them along to other teammates on erasure is not only interesting, but plays a large part in the strategy of building characters up for battle.

    Like many turn-based tactical RPGs, the characters have a skill tree and inventory slots to augment their abilities and boost attributes such as health, movement, vitality, and so on. Instead of mana and magic, each character can use their gift if they have enough gift points and sanity to spare. A character temporarily loses some of their sanity when they are hit, use a gift, or defer their turn to another team member. If a character's sanity is depleted, they will go berserk and strike friends and foes with tremendous power. This condition will last a couple of turns, but the remaining teammates will be put into a fear state that negatively affects their stats.

    Lost Dimension
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Good character development and interesting concept
    Weak Points: Partial voice acting; game crashes; difficulty spikes
    Moral Warnings: Violence; language and blaspheming; some suggestive dialog; skimpy outfits

    Teamwork is crucial for survival, even if there may be a randomly picked traitor close by. When allies and enemies are near each other when making a turn-based attack, the nearby ally (or enemy) will get to attack as well. Attacks from behind are more powerful. Some area attacks can harm allies as well so this must be taken into consideration when performing these skills. As the levels increase in difficulty the enemies get more hit points and deadlier foes are introduced in battle. If you find yourself getting your butt kicked in a mission, you can replay cleared ones to power up and earn more money to buy equipment upgrades.

    Another reason to replay missions is to determine if a traitor is in your group. After a successful battle, the character you play, Sho, has the ability to hear the thoughts of his teammates. If thoughts appear in red, then someone in the group may be a traitor. Sometimes there will be multiple potential traitors and you have to replay battles with a slightly different configuration to weed out the turncoat. When you return to base a teammate or two will approach you to see if you know who the traitor may be. If it is the traitor themselves asking, you may want to say you don't know or reveal the identity of another traitor instead. The team relies on your feedback as well as how much time they spend together when casting votes to kill off a traitor to ascend the tower. Allies that contribute the most in battle get two votes in the process. Once you know who the traitor is for that floor it’s best to leave them out of battle enough to get the other teammates to vote against them.

    I did experience a few game crashes in the Vita version while I was at the base talking to my comrades. It wasn't a particular conversation that triggered it; it happened randomly. I had a few crashes on the PC version as well. Fortunately, saving the game can be done at any time outside of battles, though there is a forced save before entering the room of judgment to eliminate a teammate. As a result, I never lost much progress.

    Keeping track of battle configurations and potential traitors can be a daunting task. Fortunately, there is a vision management area that shows you the battle/traitor results and the estimated judgment vote outcome. In this area, you also have the ability to flag and mark potential turn coats for your own record keeping.

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

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

    Morality Score - 40%
    Violence - 3.5/10
    Language - 1.5/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - -7.5/10

    Once you discover the identities of the traitors, you can focus more on building stronger bonds with your true allies. As you converse with and establish friendships with your teammates, character specific missions may become available. You may also find out weird facts like the color of a teammate's underwear and that one of them is a virgin. Another character said she wouldn’t “mind you using [her] body and heart as you wish.”

    The levels and enemies offer a fair amount of variety and the difficulty significantly ramps up about half way through the game. Each level is ranked between one and eight stars. At the end of the battle a letter grade is assigned depending on the number of turns taken and the battle performance of the team. I tried to have all of the levels ranked at S or A. That became harder to do around the five star mark where I was happy to scrape by with a D. Thankfully, you can go back and replay old levels at any time, with the exception of the character stories. I was able to go back and get S-rank on every level except one, where I had an A. It should be noted that unused teammates will still earn experience (though a bit less) even when they are not deployed on the battlefield.

    The levels will not blow you away aesthetically, but they do change things up a bit. Some of the gift moves provide some eye candy though. The character's facial expressions change and convey a lot of emotion in their dialogue boxes.

    Unfortunately, only key story sequences are fully voice acted. In these instances, the voice acting is extremely well done. However it is overshadowed by the generic phrases used throughout the majority of the game. Some the phrases used are laced with profanity (d*mn, sh*t, b*stard) and taking our Lord's name in vain. I also really liked the intro song.

    The Windows PC version has slightly improved textures, and greatly improved resolution and frame rate. It’s a pretty good port overall, and runs pretty well, with some caveats. The first one is that vsync was off out of the box, which leads to visible tearing. With no way to change that, I was forced to use the NVIDIA/AMD control panel to force vsync on outside of the game. Another issue was that the game seems to stutter right when entering a level and controlling your character the first time, but it gets better after that. I’m guessing that textures are loaded on demand, which is very efficient, but can lead to the observed stutters on first use. Overall I really enjoyed the PC version, and played it to completion on my first playthrough.

    There is new game+ available, and in order to see the true ending, you need to play through at least twice (possibly more, depending on your luck). The reason is that the true ending is locked behind maxing out your relationships with all characters, which isn’t possible in one playthrough because of the traitor mechanic. If you are lucky, you can do it in two. Thankfully, each playthrough is fairly quick, at around twenty hours.

    There's much to like about Lost Dimension; the battle system is fun and the turncoat aspect adds a nice twist as well. The characters are interesting and I was sad to see some of them go. I found the combination of characters, combat, and building out your skill trees, and of course rooting out the traitors quite engaging, and it was hard to put down. Even with some of the rough edges, I really enjoyed my time in this twisted tower.

  • Maneater (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Maneater
    Developed By: Tripwire Interactive
    Published By: Tripwire Interactive, Deep Silver
    Released: May 22, 2020
    Available On: Playstation 4, Windows, Switch, Xbox One
    Genre: Action, Role-Playing
    ESRB Rating: M for Mature: Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Mature Humor, Mild Language
    Number of Players: single player
    Price: $39.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you, Deep Silver, for sending us a review code!

    Humanity has always had a fascination with sharks; the bloodthirsty carnivorous fish either mesmerize or terrify people. There is a constant torrent of shark-related media released such as the long-running Shark Week event on television, the equally terrifying (although in a different way) Baby Shark song, or the classic movie/novel, Jaws. Video games are no exception to portraying sharks but in terms of actually playing as one is something rarely explored.

    This is where Maneater comes in, an action RPG (or SkaRkPG as the developers like to dub it) where instead of hunting sharks, YOU are the shark. As far as I know, outside of video game adaptations of Jaws, this is the first game of its caliber that the player character is a shark. There are smaller games where you play as a shark but of course, most of them either act as a small distraction on a phone or flash website or are just plain bad games, Tripwire Interactive is the one company daring enough to give us what we’ve been asking for decades.

    Maneater is of the 3D open-world variety that starts with an interesting tutorial. You’re an adult Bull Shark and the game slowly explains the mechanics. After getting used to the controls, you’re now tasked with killing a bunch of humans on the beach. Of course, since humankind isn’t so understanding of sharks committing slaughter, they send out hunters to take out the menace. After taking care of the hunters, the shark is then captured by Scaly Pete, a veteran shark hunter, and star of the reality series, Maneater. And then… you die.

    Well, I guess that was a pretty quick game—or it would have been, but not only is the Bull Shark a female shark, it's also a mama! Scaly Pete guts the pregnant shark and rips the female baby right out of the body all while taunting and boasting about how good he is, marking the baby shark in anticipation of when he later hunts it as it gets older. Karma is quick to bite back, however, as the baby shark bites off Scaly Pete's hand and escapes into the bayou!

    The true game begins here as a baby Bull Shark. Now the opportunity to explore the various bodies of water is open. For my playthrough, I stuck with the default controller setup. Left stick moves your shark, while the left bumper is to tailwhip which can either be used as a secondary attack to knock away objects or animals locked in your jaws, and the left trigger is to lunge forwards. The right stick acts as your camera control, click and it lets you lock-on to certain targets, and moving the right stick rapidly has the shark thrash around anything in your mouth. It is a little awkward at first as you can accidentally thrash, and consume something you were attempting to hold on to, and the lock-on system works unlike any action game as it only puts them in vision instead of having the camera constantly pan on the specific enemy. This also leads to missing out on attacks. The right trigger is to bite and holding the trigger down lets you sink your teeth into anything smaller than you, and the right bumper is to evade attacks. The face buttons (X, Y, A, and B) are to submerge, activate your evolution trait (which you get later in the game), jumpi out of the water, and use sonar to briefly map things in your vision respectively. The D-pad acts as a shortcut to your map and objective menus. In terms of keyboard usage, any key can be remapped to your liking but there are only three layout options for the controller users.

    Maneater
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Progression is great; beautiful set pieces; you get to play as a shark, and the shark feels powerful and menacing 
    Weak Points: Repetitive, especially in its mission structure; lock-on system is pretty bad; tying the thrashing mechanic to the same control as the camera movement is a strange choice; ends before you know it as the pacing accelerates quickly in the later half
    Moral Warnings: Ridiculously violent with blood everywhere and limbs being ripped off; some mild language such as "a*s" can be heard from the hunters; although most stronger language is self-censored, there are a few swears in Cajun French that get by such as ‘p*c k*e toi’ and ‘m*rde’ which more or less translates to ‘f**k you” and ‘sh*t’; drugs are mentioned in dialogue such as heroin, cocaine, and marijuana; some crude humor such as referring to a vagina as a “little man in a canoe”; some statues based on mythological gods can be seen in the overworld;  some human characters can be seen in swimwear

    Five evolution levels for the shark exist and they go from baby, teen, adult, elder, and mega, ranging from levels 1 through 30. Gaining levels is easy as it only consists of killing other wildlife, completing story/side missions, and collecting the various crates, signs, and license plates scattered throughout the world. Doing all of the above also grants you protein, fat, minerals, and mutagen in which you spend on upgrades that are either earned from increasing your infamy rank (which consist of killing humans and then killing the special hunters that come after you), eliminating the apex predator of the area, discovering all the landmarks in a section, or other miscellaneous actions. The upgrades are a means to spice up the gameplay. Although Maneater starts semi-realistically, once body part upgrades are obtained, all sense of realism is thrown out the window as the shark can now emit poisonous gas, electrocute enemies, or become a spiraling torpedo made out of exterior bone appendages.

    Sharks might be the most well-known predators of the sea, but they are not the only predators. You’ll face against alligators, other sharks, and predatory fish, and even whales and they are all incredibly hostile towards you. Humans are another enemy to watch out for but are not hostile towards you unless you attack first. Humans are by far the most dangerous enemies as they are highly aggressive when agitated, have boats and weapons that do a lot of damage, and the only way for them to stop is to evade them long enough or if they take your dead carcass with them. Humans are also the most fun to fight as they test your skills. Seeing the shark fly through the air and dispatch the humans is a sight to behold.

    Story missions are divided into chapters. There are a lot of them and they progress and flow quickly and nearly seamlessly. Although the problem with story missions, and missions in general, is that they can get on the repetitive side. A huge chunk of them simply consists of swimming in one area and then eating a bunch of animals or humans. Then after doing this enough times, you hunt down specific targets of predators—special variants that are labeled “Hunted” and are typically a higher level. After you take down enough of these targets, you now have to take out the apex predator, which is higher leveled and more aggressive than their Hunted counterparts. Once the chapter is over, you get to see how Scaly Pete is doing.

    The approach of showing Scaly Pete is interesting because as Maneater in the game’s universe is a reality TV series, it portrays itself as such. Scaly Pete is of course the main antagonist, and he ends up being a decent one at that too. You learn as much about him as you do the playable Bull Shark. Pete might be a crazy individual, and it's no surprise that you know from the beginning that he is going to die, you learn that Pete is simply a flawed human being like the rest of us and you somewhat sympathize with him. In contrast, while playing as the Bull Shark, some parts are portrayed in a documentary-like manner with a narrator commenting on the shark’s actions, mostly when she finds the various collectibles or landmarks around the area.

    In the graphics department, even though Maneater does not have amazing graphical fidelity outside of the playable Bull Shark, it more than makes up for it in the scenery. The set pieces are great to look at, and each area looks distinctly different from each other. The starting area, the bayou, is green and murky, just like a real marsh. This extends to the other areas such as the more residential areas that are simply fantastic to look at at night. The cities in the background light up and are pure eye candy as well as the shark dens that are decorated and lit up similarly. When the shark obtains upgrades and achieves new evolution levels, it shows on the shark as she becomes larger with each stage, and the upgrades when upgraded become more and more detailed with each tier unlocked. The music and sound, however, doesn’t stand out that much. It’s mostly just generic thriller music that wouldn’t be out of place in a shark film. It fits the setting, but that’s all it's meant to do.

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

    Game Score - 70%
    Gameplay 13/20
    Graphics 8/10
    Sound 6/10
    Stability 4/5
    Controls 4/5

    Morality Score - 60%
    Violence 1/10
    Language 3/10
    Sexual Content 7.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical 8.5/10

    Tripwire Interactive is a company that's only been around for 14 years. I’ve played many of their games throughout the years and one thing that is notable about each of their products is that each of their game series is very violent, with the developers at points even using the violent nature of their games as a marketing point. Maneater is no exception to this rule. The violence is pretty insane, with the bodies of water being filled with blood and limbs easily being torn off. Humans scream in pain and agony as they are being consumed by the shark and damaged wildlife at times swim away in fear as they are missing body parts. In terms of language, pretty much all of it comes from Scaly Pete, but a few mild ones such as "a*s" come from the generic hunter enemies. Most of it is censored to keep up with the TV show setting, but as a few cutscenes do not take place during the show, a few swears do get by. However, most of it is in Cajun French, being ‘p*c k*e toi’ and ‘m*rde’ respectively, which more or less translates to ‘f**k you” and ‘sh*t. When finding certain landmarks, the narrator will reference drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. A few statues of mythological gods act as landmarks with the commentator mentioning that people worship the deity. Crude humor is to be expected, with the most notable quote being that a man referred to a vagina as “a little man in a canoe”. And of course, with Maneater taking place near various bodies of water, there are bound to be people seen in their swimwear such as two pieces.

    I get why shark games aren’t made as often as other types of games. There is only so much that one can do with sharks without going in a completely unrealistic manner. Maneater is a video game with plenty of flaws, but I will admit that I am forgiving of most of them as the gameplay loop is fun and rewarding. The sense of progression is wonderful and seeing the shark physically change as the game goes on is something very few do well with their characters, let alone correctly. The controls aren’t the best and take some time getting used to but playing as a shark feels good. Maneater is an entry to the action RPG genre that is best played in short bursts as the repetitive nature may get to people if played for an extended amount of time, especially since it ends before you know it, as it only took me just under 9 hours to complete it and the majority of the sidequests. A variety of missions would make the gameplay flow better such as having one mission that you have to take out specific human targets while avoiding the constantly hostile hunters. Then that mission can directly lead to a mission where you hide from the humans, but find yourself in a hostile shark den and have to fight your way out.

    Now with its insanely violent nature, language, and crude humor this isn’t an entry for everyone. People who aren’t fans of gratuitous violence should possibly stay as far away as possible. Its asking price of $40 may seem like too much for anyone who isn’t a shark enthusiast and the only reason to come back is to collect on what you missed, but if you have the option to rent it or are willing to wait until it drops down to below $30, I would recommend checking it out. If a Maneater 2 (or DLC) is ever made, I’d love to see them go completely off the deep end. Have us fight the terrors that lurk below like giant squids. Maybe have something like Cthulhu be the main antagonist. Your shark can already turn into electricity so it's not a completely outlandish idea.

  • Mary Skelter: Nightmares (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Mary Skelter: Nightmares
    Developed By: Idea Factory / Compile Heart
    Published By: Ghostlight LTD (Idea Factory on Vita)
    Release Date: July 19, 2018 (September 19, 2017 on Vita)
    Available On: Windows, PS Vita
    Genre: Role-Playing Game, Dungeon Crawler
    Number of Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: M for Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Violence
    MSRP: $24.99 (Windows), $29.99 (PS Vita)
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Ghostlight for sending us this game to review!

    Everyone is being held against their will in a strange living organism called the 'jail.' This existence is punctuated by nearly daily torture regiments where they are abused physically to within an inch of their life (but rarely killed), inflicted pain such that they scream and wail or, oddly enough, asked to lick the walls for hours on end. This seemingly endless abuse is done to satisfy the carnal desires of the jail - which seems to both enjoy and gain power from the suffering of its occupants. Marchens are the creatures that are native to the jail, and humans are their victims.

    Jack and Alice are two such torture subjects, who have known each other since they were very young. They share a cell together, which helps keep them as strong and sane as they can be. Sometimes, after a rigorous torture session, Alice's eyes turn pink, after which she can also become quite agitated. Strangely enough, by licking a bit of Jack's blood, she returns back to her normal self instantly, and feels much better. Since they discovered this, Jack has been supporting her literally with himself as the torture continues day in and day out.

    One day, they hear a strange commotion outside of their cell - it sounds like Marchen screams! Not long thereafter, a girl who calls herself Red Riding Hood bursts through the cell door, tosses some Marchen blood (which is pink) on Alice, sees the pink eyes, and frees them from their cell, after proclaiming that she is a Blood Maiden, as is Alice. On their way out to escape, Alice starts to lose it again, after which Jack gets in her way to stop her from injuring anyone else, getting gashed in the process. Here is where it's discovered that Jack's blood can heal the state known as Blood Skelter – where a Blood Maiden loses control of her powers and attacks anyone nearby.

    When Jack and the girls make it to the Liberated District where Marchens are not in control, they quickly join the Dawn, which is the group that Red works with who are trying to work together to escape the jail.  They fashion a Mary Gun for Jack to use, which can help Blood Maidens keep control by spraying blood onto them directly from his veins, which purges their corruption.  Of course, the more he does this the weaker he gets, until he finally passes out from the blood loss.  This system of balance between allowing the girls to gain power through Marchen blood but avoiding losing control through Blood Skelter is constantly at play throughout Mary Skelter.

    Mary Skelter: Nightmares
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Interesting story and characters; excellent dungeon crawling; classes and character customizations are interesting and engaging; tons of content; fantastic art, music and voice acting; performs great on almost any modern PC (even with an integrated GPU!)
    Weak Points: Some dungeons carry on almost past their welcome; there seems little incentive to fully map out everything (though I did it anyway); there is room for interface improvements, like knowing what effects a class change would have on stats; certain kinds of grinding (like for blood crystals) can be needlessly annoying; a few notable bugs on PC, and I had the game hang once
    Moral Warnings: Blood is a central theme to the game, as everything from licking to spraying it occurs on a regular basis; quite a bit of violence, as characters are tortured as part of the story, and your party (and others) gladly kills the enemy Marchens, after which pink blood splatters everywhere; minor curse words like "d*mn" and "h*ll" used; topics like death and reincarnation discussed; lots of very dark and haunting environments and creatures, including ghosts, demons, and other undead; some excessive outfits on the girls, leaving almost nothing to the imagination; a 'purge' mini-game is present where you rub the blood and clothes off of the girls, and they moan and make suggestive noises, with only strips where their genitals and nipples would be remain; certain cutscenes are quite suggestive, though nothing sexual actually happens; the main hero, Jack, is a gentleman, but sure finds himself in a lot of compromising situations

    Their team is joined by several other Blood Maidens throughout their adventure, to include others like Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Thumbelina, Gretel, Rapunzel, and more. Each character is one of five fixed class types, and can change to one of six subclasses. They all have different passive and active skills, stats, and weapon selection. There are physical melee attackers, ranged fighters, healers and offensive magic users, and jacks-of-all-trades. The first two types, the melee and ranged attackers, are by far the most powerful from a damage perspective.

    There are two main modes to the game: the various conversations that can happen in the Liberated District, and the dungeon crawling itself. The Liberated District section is a series of menus of places to go, along with visual novel-like conversations that happen therein. You can upgrade your equipment, change your classes, and buy and sell your things here. You can also talk to everyone and accept sidequests as well. This is also where an activity called ‘purging’ can take place. This is an incredibly erotic rub down of the girls where you can clean them of blood to give them a bonus on the next dungeon run. It’s not the only erotic thing in this game, but probably the worst. More on that later.

    Most of the game time will be spent crawling dungeons. There are a ton of dungeons, and each level can be expanded, and there are also several hidden levels once an area is completed. Like many dungeon crawlers, this one has a first-person 3D view, with an auto-populating map and turn-based battles. Some of them are random, where walking is interrupted with a battle screen, while others are visible before you walk up to them. The graphics and art style are actually quite engaging, for the levels, characters, and enemies. The music and sound effects are also excellent, as they really set the mood appropriately, and when a nightmare threatens you, it’s legitimately spooky. The voice acting is absolutely top-notch and extremely well done.

    Each of the regions has a core that you are trying to destroy, which, once all are removed, should lead to you being able to eventually escape the jail. There is a nightmare in each one that can’t be killed without removing the core first. Hearing that nightmare growl is quite unnerving; they did a great job setting the atmosphere, though the lightheartedness of the characters and relative ease of the game itself prevents it from being truly nerve-wracking.

    I played the game on normal, and other than a few bosses, I rarely got a strong challenge from the game. Though I suppose if you avoid abusing multi-hit attacks, it would be a different experience. By the end of the game, I was clearing random battles in less than a round (usually no more than 1-2 character attacks) and most bosses in no more than three rounds. (Rage Rush, and skills like that, are just boss against bosses.) If you want a challenge, choose the hardest difficulty. Despite that, this is quite a long game; I spent well over sixty hours on it, and didn’t even go back and clear out all of the dungeons or check out much of the post-game content.

    Overall, I enjoyed my time with it, and I would say it’s a solidly built dungeon crawler, with a few minor quirks that I could easily overlook. For example, when you want to change classes, you have no idea what skills you would be gaining, or how your stats (or portrait!) will change. Thankfully, all active skills can be brought with you, and switching back is possible eventually. There is also a character reset feature at the cost of levels, but I never found the game difficult enough that I actually had to do that.

    But where this game really falls down is in its appropriateness. There is a huge reliance on blood, both as a game mechanic and its presence on the battlefield. Of course there is violence to go with that, and descriptions of past tortures and such, though you don’t see much there; it’s mostly written descriptions along with some sound effects. There is a small amount of curse words, like ‘d*mn’ and ‘h*ll’. It’s honestly not that bad, and pretty rare. Most of the issues revolve around sexual titillation.

    It has to be said that most, if not all of the girls, are between, say, eight to sixteen years old. The game never comes right out and says their ages, but it hints at it. That’s relevant because everyone has at least one outfit that is in some way sexy or revealing. When a girl enters Blood Skelter, they are shown completely nude except for lines of pink blood or energy covering them where it is required. And of course there is the aforementioned ‘purge’ process, where you can rub them down and rub their clothes away.

    Mary Skelter: Nightmares
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 56%
    Violence - 4/10
    Language - 4/10
    Sexual Content - 5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    You can get to know each girl better by giving them gifts, and when you max them out, some of them make suggestive statements when you check their affection levels, saying things like ‘I want to be with you.’ Jack is generally innocent, but gets himself into inappropriate situations, like a girl wearing just a shirt licking the blood off of his finger, or finding his face buried into a girl’s bosom or bottom. In other cases he helped a girl change clothes or slept in the same bed with her (innocently). One girl says she wants to grow up and make babies with him.

    There is a generally creepy and dark atmosphere, with dungeons having themes like a carnival or a graveyard. Enemies are often similarly dark, with ghosts, demons, undead and various other things as enemies. They match the areas they are in well. There is a cult that worships the sun. There is also discussion about death and reincarnation.

    The PC port is really solid, especially in performance, but it has a few major bugs in my experience. For one, dungeon icons, which show things like treasure chests and planned battles, can either disappear entirely, or never disappear after they are activated. It completely locked up on me once. Another persistent issue I ran into is that it always tries to launch fullscreen on the left monitor first, even if the right one is configured as primary in Windows. I had to press Alt+Enter three times each time I launched the game, as I would change it to windowed mode, then borderless fullscreen (which still shows a white border on top, sadly) to finally fullscreen again, which worked fine. On the other hand, it performs brilliantly, even on the Intel integrated GPU on my GPD Win 2.

    Mary Skelter: Nightmares is a generally very solid dungeon crawler with some equally serious appropriateness concerns. I enjoyed my time with it, and feel it’s a solid offering in the genre, despite some of the dungeons winding a bit too long for my tastes. Nevertheless, the girls’ lack of clothing in many cases, and the overdone titillation and sexually charged situations make this a tougher recommendation. Regardless, stick with the M (17+) rating at the very least.

  • Mass Effect: Andromeda (PS4)

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    Game Info:

    Mass Effect: Andromeda
    Published by: Electronic Arts
    Developed by: Bioware
    ESRB Rating: M for Blood, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Violence
    Available on: Windows PC, PlayStation 4, XBox One
    Release Date: March 21, 2017
    Genre: Action/RPG
    Number of Players: 1+
    Price: $19.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Mass Effect: Andromeda is the latest title in the Mass Effect franchise, with an entirely new setting, new characters and story. The story begins in the time between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, but the bulk of the story and all of the gameplay takes place six hundred years later in the Andromeda Galaxy.

    Let's just get this out of the way first: yes, the game feels a bit unfinished. Yes, there are problems with facial animations. Yes, some bugs remain and yes, the story seems a little disjointed. There is no shortage of articles and videos on the Internet going into minute detail about the company's production issues, management issues, schedule issues, directorial changes, etc. If you're interested in those things just use your favorite search engine and you can look up all the information you like. I'd rather focus on the resulting product here in this review, and whether or not those problems mean the game isn't worth playing.

    The real question is: Is it a fun game? Is it worth buying and playing? Let's talk about that.

    Mass Effect: Andromeda is the story of an effort to colonize the Andromeda Galaxy by sending out four massive colony starships called Arks, each carrying 250,000 colonists in cryogenic freeze. Each Ark represents one of four races from the Mass Effect universe: Human, Turian, Salarian and Asari. The journey takes six hundred years and the Arks are meant to arrive in Andromeda and link up with the Nexus, a massive space station that was pre-built on site to support colonization efforts. There is a number of Krogan who came with the crew constructing the Nexus, which is how we have them in the story.

    Things... do not go as planned. A mysterious dark energy cloud wends its way through the Helius cluster and the "Golden Worlds," planets that had been selected for colonization, are no longer habitable. The Ark Hyperion collides with this dark energy and is damaged, but still manages to reach the Nexus. Scott or Sara Ryder (whichever one the player does not choose to play the game as) is badly injured in the collision. To make matters worse, of the four Arks, only the Ark Hyperion (the Human Ark) has reached the Nexus which is itself in a terrible state after a mutiny had all but halted progress in construction. The Nexus is undermanned, underpowered and on the verge of losing hope.

    Mass Effect: Andromeda
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Plenty of good characters, beautiful environments, solid gameplay 
    Weak Points: Could have used more QA testing, lack of support
    Moral Warnings: Language, violence, nudity

    The player takes the role of the Pathfinder, whose job it is to scout out new worlds for colonization, defend the colonies and perform miscellaneous missions. The main villains are a race of beings called the Ket, who have a terrifying story of their own. All of the classic Mass Effect elements are here, just reworked for the new environment and story. The Nexus (totally not the Citadel) is the home base for the Pathfinder (totally not the Spectre) team. Transportation between worlds is provided by the Tempest (totally not the Normandy) and land transportation is in the Nomad (totally not the Mako). The biggest difference in terms of the feel of the universe is that there are no Mass Relays in the Andromeda galaxy, so the physical scope of the game is shrunk down. Instead of playing on a galactic scale, the story is kept in the Helius Cluster, a group of star systems around a massive black hole. The Tempest (and other spacecraft) are capable of faster-than-light travel between these worlds which, being relatively close together, doesn't break the fluff too badly. It is weird not to have the Mass Relays and hurts the feel of the setting a little even though it does make sense in the story.

    Essentially the game is a story where you have to work your way up to defeating the Big Bad and save the colonists. At the same time, you have to oversee the terraforming and colonization of five particular worlds in the Helius Cluster. In four out of the five the program is pretty much the same: the planet is not very habitable due to extreme cold, radiation, heat or poisonous water. (The fifth is different in terms of the steps but the idea is still the same.) An ancient alien civilization has placed structures and machinery on each world that can be unlocked and used to terraform the planet to greatly reduce the environmental problems, and each of the planets has a quest to activate it. In addition, the player has to perform missions that increase the habitability of the world and complete specific mission threads, which unlocks the ability to establish an outpost on the planet. Oddly, it's possible to raise the planet's habitability enough to establish an outpost before terraforming, but terraforming is still a necessary step for the planet to count as being colonized.

    What really took me by surprise is that it is not necessary to colonize all five worlds before unlocking the final quest chain and defeating the Big Bad. I was actually on the final mission before I realized this, because I had assumed that having all five worlds completed was a necessary step. As a Mass Effect veteran I should have realized this from the love scene, which traditionally comes right before the final push in this franchise, but what can I say? I thought they were changing that too. After beating the final boss it is possible to keep playing, doing quests and colonizing any remaining planets, but by that point the story felt complete and I wasn't really interested in doing so.

    In terms of gameplay, Andromeda feels like an effort to take the best elements of all of the previous Mass effect titles and roll them into one game. There's the ability to drive around planetary surfaces in a vehicle (like in Mass Effect), but there's also a feature for sending probes to gather resources and data (like in Mass Effect 2 and 3). Online multiplayer is handled through missions that contribute experience, loot and materials to the player's campaign (like Mass Effect 3). The list goes on but the net effect is that instead of all of these great elements coming together to form a coherent and excellent gameplay experience, they tend to feel like a series of disjointed features. That isn't to say that it makes the game bad, it's just that it feels like the gameplay struggles with its own identity.

    That said, I did enjoy the gameplay. Combat is basically what one would expect in other Mass Effect titles in terms of overall flow and strategy. Ammo is a concern but there are ammo crates scattered around battlefields and merely getting close to one fully replenishes your supply. You can direct your team mates (2 of them) to different positions on the field but no longer have the ability to tell them which powers to use, though you can have them attack the same target you have selected. Shields and health work the same way as previous titles, with shields replenishing after a few moments behind cover. Similar to ammo crates, there are crates around battlefields that can also replenish shields and health in the same way. Ryder automatically takes cover whenever you move behind an item that can be used for that purpose, which is useful and annoying all at the same time. Sometimes I would want to vault over an obstacle and Ryder would take cover instead.

    A new feature is a jetpack which allows Ryder to jump very high or hover briefly. I never really used the hover feature but the jumping was incredibly useful.

    Mass Effect: Andromeda
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 58%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 5/10
    Sexual Content - 3/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 9/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6/10

    Driving the Nomad is vastly easier than it was to drive the Mako in Mass Effect, and with multiple locations on each planet, it makes sense to have such a vehicle in the game. I do wish the Nomad had some kind of weapon though. It has nothing to defend itself with and the only way to deal with external threats, even minor ones, is to stop, disembark, fight and then jump back in and drive away. The Nomad is essential when traversing the planets before they've been terraformed, by protecting the occupants from exposure to the outside elements. This protection isn't indefinite, and the more hostile the environment, the shorter the protection lasts.

    The non-action gameplay is just like every other console based Mass Effect title, with the player running around the various environments and interacting with equipment and other characters. For roleplay, there is no longer an alignment system. Instead, Ryder can choose conversation options based on the tone desired. For example, one can choose a joking tone or a technical tone, depending on player preference and personality. This feels more flexible than the simple paragon/renegade/neutral system of choices, and focuses the consequences of a conversation on the future of the story with that individual instead of keeping a running tally on the player's attitude up to that point. You can choose to be sarcastic and cold toward one character, but warm and helpful to another without future encounters with different characters being affected by it.

    The roleplaying is definitely one of the stronger aspects of Andromeda and is as robust and complex as any Mass Effect title. I got into the characters and their stories. I enjoyed the voice acting and the writing. It did get a bit corny at times but I didn't mind it. The atmosphere created by the diverse crew of the Tempest was actually laugh out loud funny sometimes (in a good way) and I found myself actually interested in the results of the crew's occasional poker games or whether or not borrowed equipment on board the ship got back to its owner. I really liked the characters on the Tempest especially, and found some of the characters in leadership posts on the Nexus to be abrasive and irritating. This is where I loved that I could be nice to some people and nasty to others.

    There is also a romance mechanic, like previous titles in the series. There is a fixed set of characters in the game who can be romanced, and a player can always attempt to flirt with any of them, though the results vary. Some characters only respond to flirting by one sex or the other (and all combinations exist) while some will respond to either sex. Some characters can be romanced aside from the main "committed" relationship the player can ultimately choose while others will expect a commitment and don't share. More on that below.

    Mass Effect Andromeda has a very robust and interesting system for crafting weapons and armor. By using a scanner, Ryder can gather data on the various flora, fauna, minerals and technology encountered in the Helius cluster. This data can be used to research weapons, armor and equipment upgrades for later crafting. By gathering materials on missions, sending out probes, salvaging equipment or purchasing from vendors, Ryder can use recipes that were researched to craft better and better gear. It's a great system in theory, and I wish it wasn't competing in the game with looted gear and vendor gear. For players who love to devote a lot of time to comparing gear to maximize their equipment loadout, this is Wonderland. The flaw there is that the interface doesn't allow the player to compare items before investing in researching the recipes, so it's hard to know whether to bother. Also, most gear comes in one of three categories: Helius tech, Ket tech and Milky Way tech. To me, this added an additional layer of complexity that wasn't really necessary. I just picked Milky Way tech and stuck with it. Another reason not to bother too much with it is the interface felt wonky at times and I had to keep relearning how to add attachments to weapons and armor.

    The other way to customize one's character is by purchasing skills. With each level the player is awarded skill points which can be used to by abilities in categories like soldier, biotic and engineer. This allows a huge amount of flexibility and the player isn't limited to a rigid class system. Want to specialize in assault rifles and biotic powers? Go for it. Prefer heavy weapons and demolitions? By all means. Crew members level with Ryder and can have their skills allocated in a similar way, or the game can auto assign skill points if the player prefers. Team members also use the same equipment Ryder has, so there's no system for assigning different weapons to different characters.

    Mass Effect: Andromeda

    The game also includes a profile system where the player can allocate skill points in different configurations, then choose which profile to use on a mission. For example, one profile might have most of their skill points in various biotic powers while another focuses on weapons and damage. The player can then select which profile to use when heading out on a mission, or even switch profiles during the mission. It's a great idea, but I never bothered using it. The game just wasn't difficult enough that I felt the need to put that much effort into that kind of fine tuning.

    The thing is, as good as the crafting and the profile systems are overall, they're not crucial to playing the game. I went through most of the game using just equipment I got through looting and I never bothered to set up separate profiles. I also didn't bother to put much thought into which companions to take with me even though they had different skills and abilities. (I tended to choose my companions for story reasons rather than tactical ones.) To be honest, I didn't find the encounters to be particularly difficult even when I'd leveled several times without upgrading my gear or allocating skill points. So a particular foe wasn't more difficult to kill at level 30 than it was at level 10... And that with my skills and gear lagging by 5 or more levels. I speculate that the intent was to make these elements have a much bigger impact, but that takes a lot of time and tuning which just wasn't available to the game developers. I suspect the system was only in the game to begin with because veteran Mass Effect players expected it. Of course better gear does help, but you can get by just fine on looted gear. I hardly bought anything at all from vendors and ended the game with almost all of the money I'd accumulated selling loot.

    I did upgrade the Nomad with a snappy blue coat of paint, though.

    All of these options do make the gameplay feel more individualized if not less difficult, and to be fair, in a roleplaying game that means something. I just didn't feel like it would be worth spending much time min-maxing because the difference just wasn't that noticeable. To be honest, the whole game felt much easier than in other Mass Effect games I've played (normal difficulty set). Getting killed incurs no penalty other than having to repeat whatever was done since the last autosave, but autosaves are frequent and this was never a hardship.

    Minigames are another staple of Mass Effect titles and this game did have one. To interface with an ancient alien technology, the player gets to play a little mini-game that is basically Sudoku with alien runes. If you like Sudoku, you will have absolutely no problems here. If you can't stand Sudoku... Well, I have bad news for you.

    Multiplayer is completely optional. The advantage to it is a gain in experience, gear and crafting materials. You essentially join a strike team to complete a mission on behalf of the Nexus. If you can't stand multiplayer or don't want to shell out for a premium subscription, not to worry... Strike teams can be sent out on most missions with no player involvement at all. The benefits aren't as good, but they run in the background while you play the game anyway.

    So let's talk about the bugs and graphics.

    I played the original Mass Effect trilogy on an XBox 360 and I played this on a PlayStation 4. I can't honestly say there's a huge graphics improvement. Yes, the shadows render better and fluids look great, but everything else looks only slightly different to me. The characters' facial expressions is one of the features that gets heavy criticism from the community and there's a fantastic video by the Extra Credits folks on YouTube that explains what happened there. I strongly recommend watching it. That said, I think I'd rather have less expression than weird expression, and in this, I actually prefer Andromeda. The other Mass effect titles sometimes had some bizarre faces, especially on Shepherd, and I don't miss that. Full disclosure though, I'm old enough to have had a Pong console when I was a kid so it isn't hard to impress me. Still, environmental elements like rocks, plants, buildings, etc. sometimes floated in the air rather than rested on the ground and clipping was a problem at times.

    Mass Effect: Andromeda

    The sound was good and immersive but none of the effects were that memorable. The voice acting quality was okay, not spectacular. I liked the engine hum of the Nomad and the banter between characters during long drives was entertaining, though frequent glitches left me hanging on how a conversation was going to end. It's worth it to bring different combinations of companions on surface missions just to listen to how they talk to each other.

    The music was good but not as memorable or beautiful as the original Mass Effect trilogy. The haunting tune of Ilos or the soothing notes of the Galactic display are so memorable, and their Andromeda counterparts just don't live up to them. Still, it does the job and suffers more from a very high initial standard than from any real problems of its own.

    The bugs weren't as bad as I was expecting, though there were a couple worth mentioning. At one point on the newly established outpost on the planet Eos, I wanted to enter the Tempest but the button to do so didn't work. Even saving and then reloading didn't fix it. The ultimate solution was to commit suicide by jumping into a nearby lake which reset the game control elements and I was able to enter the ship.

    The really annoying bug was on an ice planet where I was attacking the main Ket base. Approaching the base was incredibly difficult due to terrain and I must have managed to reach it using an unintended path, and completed one of the steps to the quest out of order. This seemed to paralyze the quest and I was unable to complete it. Fortunately it wasn't critical to the main quest line so skipping it didn't stop me from finishing the game, but it felt like unfinished business. I could have rolled back to an earlier save point and tried again but by the time I understood what had happened, I had no desire to repeat all the work on it I'd done to that point. Since I knew I would probably do a second playthrough anyway to try different story options, I decided to just enjoy that part of the story next time.

    When the first Mass Effect game was released, there was some controversy over the sexual content in game. Most of that controversy was exaggerated with the love scenes being much tamer than what some believed. That being said, Andromeda has pushed the envelope. The love scenes in this game are considerably longer and more graphic than previous Mass Effect console titles. Is it porn? No, I wouldn't call it that... it isn't THAT explicit, but it definitely goes farther than before. The length of the scenes seemed unnecessary to me, and felt like they lasted longer than the endgame victory cutscene.

    Romance options are available with members of both sexes, though the specific range of options varies depending on whether the player chooses Sara or Scott Ryder. Some characters will only respond to flirting by Scott, others by Sara and some by either one. Both homosexual and heterosexual relationships can be pursued.

    It's become common for roleplaying games to have the option to choose both gay or straight romances these days. As long as the player isn't steered toward any particular relationship I don't have a problem with those options existing. The player doesn't have to choose them, or any relationship at all for that matter. There's no advantage or disadvantage either way. That being said, this is why parental guidance is so critical in any roleplaying game. Mind you, I do not recommend this game to the kiddies due to the nudity and language issues anyway, but if you choose to allow your adolescent or teenage child to play this game be available to them and give them frank answers to their questions.

    Unusually for a game of this genre, there is a small amount of discussion concerning God and His existence. The science officer on the Tempest expresses openly her belief in God. The player has the opportunity to use dialogue options to either agree with her, respectfully disagree or mock her faith. As I said above if the game is trying to be realistic, it makes sense for all options to exist so that a player can express themselves in their decisions here. I chose to take the "agree" route, but that choice only means something if I could just as easily have mocked the character for her belief. The discussion between the characters is actually intriguing given the way she reconciles her career as a scientist with her faith. What bugged me a little was that later on, when an in-game event shakes everyone's understanding of the origin of life, her faith is still strong, but in explaining how that can be, she more or less states that faith is believing something even if it isn't really true. I think maybe whoever wrote that line was making an honest effort to be fair, but missed the mark in terms of explaining what faith really is.

    One other thing that I found interesting about this character is that while she is the only human character in the game to express a belief in God, (except for Ryder, if the player chooses) she is also only available to romance if you're playing as Sara, which makes her both religious and gay. It's an intriguing narrative choice because it feels like an effort to avoid a stereotype, in that the writers were clearly trying to do something interesting here by avoiding common tropes. Certainly there are plenty of people in real life who are both actively religious and gay, but very often in entertainment media religious characters are portrayed as hostile toward homosexuals or a gay character often expresses contempt for religion if the subject comes up at all. I am grateful that at least faith does have a place in this game and its story and is portrayed positively and not according to any insulting stereotype.

    The language in this game is solidly in 'R' rated territory with F bombs being dropped freely. It's not like watching The Big Lebowski or anything but still frequent enough that I wouldn't recommend playing with the kids around even during action scenes.

    The violence is on par with the Mass Effect series, with plenty of killing. Not too much in the way of blood and gore but the body count is incredibly high.

    There really isn't any occultism in this story as such. There are plenty of alien races who have their own spirituality, but nothing I would describe as troubling. Where spirituality is portrayed, it's peaceful and noble. One might describe the biotic powers (a sort of psychic ability) as occult but it's treated as just another tool to be used to fight evil, and doesn't come into conflict with any morality or spirituality.

    Since this game lacks an alignment system every interaction is more or less isolated, and it's possible to be nice to some and mean to others. Mass Effect has always been a game of choices, and one reaps what one sows. One thing I did find a bit uncomfortable is a romance option available on the Nexus, who is perfectly happy to be in a relationship with Ryder "on the side" regardless of any other romantic connection the player is pursuing. There do not appear to be any negative consequences for doing this. That said, the storyline doesn't seem to go anywhere and feels unfinished. We can only speculate about where that thread might have gone. Like other romances, this is entirely optional and the player is free to avoid that aspect without losing anything in the overall story.

    So the overall verdict? Well for me, the verdict is that Andromeda is a fun game and worth picking up a copy if you're a fan of Mass Effect already. It doesn't succeed in everything it set out to do, but it has a lot of great elements that make it more fun than one might expect because of all the bad press and word of mouth it gets. It's a true Mass effect game, and if you're a fan of the franchise, it does scratch the itch. Just beware of the content, don't play with the kiddies around and you'll be fine.

  • Moero Chronicle (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Moero Chronicle
    Developed by: Compile Heart
    Published by: Idea Factory
    Release date: August 16, 2017
    Available on: Vita (Asia and Japan), Windows
    Genre: RPG
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

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

    Monsters and humans used to live peacefully until recently. Io’s town is one of the only remaining ones that has not succumbed to the hostility of monster girls. The village elder has talked with Io’s parents and they are sending him off to figure out what is going on with the world and to fix it before he is welcome back. Thankfully, he has his childhood friend, a monster girl named Lilia, by his side. She is the only girl he can talk to, as he is shy around females in fear of them discovering his impure thoughts and desires.

    In town, Io can stop at the shop to buy healing potions, status removers, presents, and power-ups for his party members. Io doesn’t do any fighting, but he can store up magic and strengthen the attacks of the girls as well as use items on their behalf. Be sure to stock up on door crystals, which allow you to leave the dungeons at any time. Since save spots are rare, I recommend exiting to save after adding a new monster girl to your party/collection. I have lost multiple hours of progress with game crashes and lockups despite the recent 1.0.0.8 patch.

    The first dungeon you get to explore is a mushroom forest. Some of the mushrooms in the background look like a little bit more than mushrooms if you know what I’m saying. Like other dungeon crawlers, the map starts off blank and it will only get filled in as you traverse it. Expect to get jumped and attacked by groups of monsters every few steps along the way. The monsters are rather interesting in design as well. There’s a UFO one that has a breast shaped top and another monster is covered in inflated condoms.

    Moero Chronicle
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Nice artwork when it’s not pervy; great Japanese voice acting and battle music
    Weak Points: Unresponsive controls; not enough save points and too many desktop crashes resulting in hours of lost progress
    Moral Warnings: Fighting monster girls involves stripping off their clothing piece by piece and once they are down to their bare minimum you have to rub them in the right spots to win them over; a few of the monsters have or are shaped like breasts; others have condoms on them; Otton is a pink “seal” who looks and acts like male genitalia; same sex attraction and sex outside of marriage is encouraged; some language and blaspheming; magic use; prejudice

    One of the first characters to join Io and Lilia’s party is a pink “seal” named Otton. He is kind enough to prevent a fight with a corrupted monster girl and offers to tag along as he hopes to acquire panties along the way. Otton is quite the pervert and is the embodiment of male genitalia in many ways. While battling female monsters his libido meter will rise as the monster girl’s clothing is removed piece by piece. If the clothing is not removed fast enough he will get angry and will start attacking. Once filled, Otton will spew out coins and the rubbing mini-game will begin. To win over a monster girl you have to find their weak spots and fill up their pleasure meter before time runs out. Some of the spots to rub are tame like their ears or their hands. Most of the time you’ll have to interact with more intimate areas though. If you struggle to find the right spots Otton will get frustrated and will go limp.

    If you fail to win over a monster girl they’ll reappear on the map and you can try again. There are helpful guides online which will tell you the right places to rub. Up to five monster girls can be in your party at any time and any extras will be sent to the inn where they can slowly earn some experience. Girls in your party get experience and intimacy with Io.

    Besides fighting alongside Io, girls can become more intimate with him through presents, story sequences, or through the rubbing mini-game which requires bump points to perform on them. There is a bumping scratch mode that doesn’t require points to play, but you won’t increase intimacy afterwards. If you touch the right way you can trigger a nude mode which will show the girls sans clothes but they’ll have strategically placed hearts. Since many of the outfits are skimpy regardless, I fail to see the point of this feature.

    Once a couple of the intimacy hearts are filled in, the girls will unleash their full power to Io and will have the option to change their outfits. Many of the replacement outfits are string bikinis. Each of the girls can have a pet monster which can heal them or attack enemies in battle. If you give a girl a monster and some clothing (usually panties) they can lay an egg which can produce some unique items and building materials. With the building materials you can upgrade the girls’ rooms so they can earn more experience and intimacy points per gift. If all of the intimacy hearts are filled in, Io may get propositioned by the girl to have his way with her. While most of the girls are attracted to Io, one of them joins the party because of the attractive girls already in it.

    Besides the blatant sexual overtones, there is some mild language and blaspheming in this game.  I’m not the target audience so this title didn’t appeal to me on many levels.  As a dungeon crawler it’s alright but I’m currently playing Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy, which is better in every aspect.  The story in Moero Chronicles is serviceable, but not memorable.  

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

    Game Score - 64%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 1/5
    Controls - 2/5

    Morality Score - 47%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 2/10
    Sexual Content - 0/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

    One praise I will give this game is the excellent voice acting and battle music. The music got stuck in my head outside of the game. Sadly, there isn’t a soundtrack available for this title, but there is an artwork/wallpaper DLC available if you enjoy the eye candy.

    Initially I played this game using the keyboard and the mouse. While the mouse is easier for the rubbing mini-game, they keyboard controls are unresponsive and moving requires pushing the keys several times to take effect. In the rare cases it is responsive in the game’s dialogue, there is no option to back track. I accidentally triggered a skip option and couldn’t figure out how to go back or undo it. The back to title and quit menu options are a bit unintuitive too. I mostly played using an Xbox One controller which was better for navigating, though the unresponsiveness was still a problem as I had to press the buttons several times to advance the dialogue or move in general. The twin joysticks are serviceable, but not ideal for the rubbing mini-game. The Vita’s touch screen is probably the best way to play the rubbing mini-game but it’s not available in the West.

    Compared to the clunky controls, the stability issue is far more infuriating. The dungeons consist of several levels with enemies that get stronger in each one. Until you explore every nook and cranny, you won’t know where the save spots are. You have no way of saving your progress outside of exiting the dungeon to save in town. You’ll still need to come back to the dungeon and start it over from the beginning, but at least it will be mapped out the second time around. Save spots only appear every two or three levels and a lot can happen in between them. I have lost progress of collecting multiple monster girls by this game crashing to the desktop or having it just stop responding altogether.

    Due to the stability issues, bad controls, and lackluster gameplay I can’t recommend Moero Chronicles to anyone who is looking for anything more than soft porn. There’s plenty of reasons why Christians shouldn’t play this game, but I’m struggling to find a reason why anyone should play it in the first place. In the end, Moero Chronicles’ gameplay is as shallow as its target audience.

  • Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists ~Ateliers of the New World~ (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists ~Ateliers of the New World~
    Developed By: Gust/Koei Tecmo Games
    Published By: Koei Tecmo Games
    Release Date: March 26, 2019
    Available On: Windows, PS4, Switch
    Genre: Role Playing Game/City Building Simulator
    Number of Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Alcohol Reference
    MSRP: $59.99
    (Humble Store Link)

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

    Gust, a wholly-owned division of Koei Tecmo, has been making a new Atelier game pretty much every year since Atelier Marie was released only in Japan in 1997. Honestly it’s pretty amazing that they continue to release about one game each year even to this day! The last two years have been far busier than in the previous decades, as they have been releasing both new and re-releases at an incredibly fast pace. I have had the honor of reviewing several of them, and this is my fifth Atelier game review. But that being the case, it’s also why my reviews are sometimes a bit later than I would prefer; these games are not short!

    Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists ~Ateliers of the New World~ is a spin-off of the main Atelier series that is meant to celebrate the first twenty years of the series. Every main protagonist character, along with some major secondary ones, are present in this game, often in playable form. Rather than the more typical alchemist trying to make a name for herself, Nelke is not an alchemist – she’s a town administrator for the rural Westbald. Her father, the ruling lord, has some specific goals in mind for her; if she accomplishes them, she gets to stay. If not, she gets recalled, and it’s game over.

    Nelke Von Lestamm, and her very close friend and maid Misty, come to the tiny town with the goal of starting up the local economy. She is also personally interested in the rumors of ancient relics from the powerful sage that lived there who knows how long ago, as well as the mysterious Granzweit tree that’s supposed to be nearby. No one knows much about it, other than it occasionally drops fruit that is supposed to be the tastiest thing imaginable. Luckily for Nelke, the alchemist Marie somehow finds herself lost, where she stumbles upon this town and an administrator that just so happens to need her help! Not long after, others from other worlds, like Elie, Iris, Rorona, Ayesha, Sophie, and many more start showing up – and Nelke is able to recruit them all to help out Westbald. Given that the ancient sage’s relics she is looking for are also alchemical in nature, she hopes that by teaming up with them all, she can not only build up her village, but also uncover the mysteries of the region, while also getting them a way to return home. A win-win situation for everyone!

    Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists ~Ateliers of the New World~
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A whole bunch of great characters that Atelier fans have come to love; wonderful art style and music; unique gameplay that is both familiar and quite different for existing Atelier players; great voice acting (Japanese); it's great to see alchemists from all of the different eras and worlds interacting together
    Weak Points: Turns can take a long time; several steep difficulty spikes; offers a lot less to newcomers; a lot of DLC available; PC version all but requires a controller, as it lacks mouse support
    Moral Warnings: Fantasy violence against natural(ish) and mystical creatures, including punis (gelatin blobs), squirrel-like beasts, creatures in cauldrons, and dragons; very minor curse words, like 'd*mn' and h*ll'; alcohol references like creating a giant liquor barrel, and discussion about drinking contests; several females wear outfits that show extensive skin and cleavage, while others are perfectly modest; occasionally some dialog is suggestive, including like how anatomically accurate a Nelke statue is or how her maid would like to wash her back; alchemy can have magic-like effects, and there is mention of witches and flying on brooms

    Rather than the more typical turn-based RPG with crafting elements, this title is actually a city-building simulator with economy, production, crafting, gathering, and even turn-based RPG battling all into one. Honestly, at times it can be overwhelming, as there is always a ton to manage.

    The game is divided up into weeks, with the weekdays being one set, and the weekend, or holiday, being another. All of the work gets done during the week – production (farming), synthesis (alchemists crafting items), gathering in fields (which you’ve already discovered during the weekends), and selling the items you already have in stock. Once sold, they make you money, which makes the economy continue to grow. You also are trying to encourage population growth, by investing in each district, expanding the population limits as you go. This is the main simulation aspect to the game, and there is simply a ton to manage at once.

    You need money to build several different kinds of fields, which are used to produce everything from wheat to vegetables, to flowers and orchards. There is also a ranch, to round out the means of production. You also need money to create the rest of the supply chain; this includes ateliers, so you can combine the ingredients to make more expensive items that the villagers want to buy, and you need to create places where they can buy them from. There are several different kinds of shops, including grocery, general stores, weapon shops, boutiques, and drug stores. Each sells something different, and you need them all if you want to be able to sell everything an alchemist can create. They also need you to assign staff to them if you want to be able to get the most out of your shops. Whom you assign to each shop also makes a difference, so managing personnel is an important part of this game.

    Each atelier is run by a single alchemist, and there are dozens to choose from by the end of the game. As a result, you end up with potentially dozens of ateliers to manage independently. You have to specify what each atelier manufactures, while making sure that both prerequisites for synthesis, as well as appropriate quantities are always available. Since more complex items require simpler items that are also synthesized, managing the whole supply chain is no small task. This is in addition to the crazy amount of raw materials that you can get not only from farming, but gathering.

    In order to gather, which you dispatch a character to do during the week (but you do yourself on weekends), you need to first discover the area through investigations. You are given pie slices worth of time to spend however you like during a single holiday (or weekend as I like to call it). You can spend time talking to your townspeople, which can increase your reputation with them, or you can investigate the nearby areas, which is always the last thing to do – once you investigate, the day is over. So it’s important to balance out keeping your relationships strong, and expanding access to various new materials only available through gathering.

    When you talk to someone while on holiday, you spend two slices of the twelve-slice time pie, and in exchange, you get to see a nice visual novel-style cutscene where you get to see several of your characters interact. This is a great way to get to know all of the characters, and it’s a lot of fun for long-time fans of the series. I loved getting to see the Arland characters interact with the Mysterious series’ characters I got to know and love through countless hours playing their respective games. This game also takes place after everyone has accomplished everything in each of their games, so you get to see occasional callbacks to how they grew and the experiences they had during their time back home. Because of this game, I am looking forward to the Dusk trilogy re-releases – in large part because I’ve come to love Ayesha, Escha, Logy, and to a lesser extent Stera and Lotte.

    The graphics are fairly similar to other recent entries, and while not excessively detailed, has a nice 3D art style that will likely please anime fans. The 2D art and portraits are excellent. The PC version supports the full 4K resolution that I have on my monitor. You can choose to run it fullscreen or in a window, select the resolution, choose the language, and specify which keyboard keys maps to which controller buttons. The control limitation is rather significant for most PC users who are not comfortable with controllers. I would highly recommend treating this like a console game on PC, and use a controller. I do that with quite a few games, so it doesn't bother me at all, but I know it bothers some, so be aware of it. The PS4 version ran fine on my PS4 Pro, though it appears to be an upscaled resolution that was a bit less than 4K native like I was able to enjoy on my PC.

    (In case you were wondering, we were sent the PS4 release, but because of time constraints, I ended up purchasing the PC version when it had a good sale so I could get this review out more quickly.)

    The voice acting is all well done, but only in Japanese. It's a shame that the lovely English voice acting of previous localizations is no longer something we can hope for, but what can you do. The sound and music is very nice and catchy; I had several bits stuck in my head for a while, and getting one of the themes I heard several times from Lydie & Suelle stuck in my head once again caught me by surprise (though I do love the music from that game). The Atelier series has always had great music from what I can tell, and this game is no exception.

    Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists ~Ateliers of the New World~
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

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

    From an appropriateness standpoint, it's probably not as bad as other Atelier games, but it still has some issues. It has fantasy violence against various creature-like things, including magical creatures. These include gelatin blobs, squirrel-like beasts, creatures in cauldrons, and dragons. Alchemy can have magic-like effects, and there is mention of witches and flying on brooms. There are some very minor curse words; I only caught 'd*mn' and 'h*ll'. Alcohol is referenced a few times, with a giant liquor barrel being something you can create, as well as some references to adult characters drinking.

    While many characters wear perfectly modest clothing, there are some rather notable exceptions. Marie wears basically a leather bra, and exposes her abdomen as well. Others, including Nelke herself, expose some cleavage and wear a fairly short dress. Some rare dialog is suggestive, including an anatomically correct statue of Nelke, as well as a reference to how her maid would like to wash her back. The vast majority is just fine.

    Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists ~Ateliers of the New World~ is an enjoyable city-building RPG simulation, but it's not without flaws. For one thing, with so much going on, and so many things to keep track of, it can get overwhelming quickly. There are also several difficulty spikes as well. Thankfully, I had a rare moment of showing my skillz and I was actually able to beat the game and get the true ending on my first playthrough. This is apparently uncommon, from what I read online. So yay me! (I did read some forum posts with strategies at one point though.) It took me around fifty hours to complete my playthrough. The game does allow you to continue past the ending, and you can also load a clear save and replay with significant bonuses to make the next time through much easier.

    The characters are interesting and lovable, and the gameplay is engaging, especially if you hit the many goals given to you. The turn-based RPG battles are fairly basic, but have just enough depth to keep things interesting. I would say that if you love the characters in the Atelier series, and are looking for interesting shake-ups in the gameplay style, then I would highly recommend this title. For those new to Atelier, it's probably not the best starting point.

  • Next Up Hero (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Next Up Hero
    Developed By: Digital Continue
    Published By: Aspyr
    Released: Jun 28, 2018
    Available On: macOS, PlayStation 4, Windows, Switch, Xbox One
    Genre: Action, RPG
    ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+: Fantasy Violence
    Number of Players: Up to two players online
    Price: $19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Aspyr/Digital Continue for sending us this game to review.

    Heroes summoned through the power of song. In the world of Next Up Hero, your voice has more of an impact than you’d realize. The premise is intriguing as I’ve played few games that dabbled with the concept.

    Next Up Hero is a dungeon crawler action RPG where you have a choice of 11 ranged-based or melee-based characters to tackle dungeons called Ventures. Each Venture has four difficulties to choose from with four locations ranging from a tundra to a lava land. Levels inside the Ventures contain special gimmicks tied to them such as “defeat a certain amount of enemies” or “watch out for falling rocks.” At the end of every Venture is a boss, and once defeated, you can choose to end the Venture and collect your rewards or push onward to collect more rewards.

    The gameplay of Next Up Hero is presented in a top-down view, similar to games like Bastion and Transistor. The controls are fairly simple, with the standard WASD movement, mouse to aim around, left mouse button for primary attack, right mouse button to use the secondary ability, space bar to dodge, and the R key for the third unlockable ability. A unique feature to this game is the ability to summon fallen heroes, or in this case, AI controlled players to assist you called Echoes. Every time a real player perishes in combat, their Echo is left in that exact spot for a passing player to summon using the Q key. These Echoes can assist you in combat, or be “consumed” with the E key to summon an Ancient to aid you. Ancients can either attack enemies or grant you boosted stats to even the playing field in particularly tricky moments. The PC version has native controller support for both the Xbox controller and PlayStation controller and it controls more like a twin-stick shooter. The dodge is mapped to the right stick which is a bit awkward and can take some time getting used to it. Keep in mind that controls cannot be remapped so left-handed players may struggle with the controls.

    Next Up Hero
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Cute hand-drawn art; Echo system is a rather interesting concept.
    Weak Points: Everything requires some type of grind to obtain; server-based, even when playing solo; very simplistic design, from the gameplay, to the level layout; bosses are huge damage sponges and there are only a few in the game.
    Moral Warnings: The Echoes resemble ghosts or spirits.

    The entire concept of Echoes is compelling for a game such as this, and even when you’re alone, you’re never truly “alone.” Even your untimely demise can help a player reach further in their objective. There even is a co-op option to play the game with a friend, and streamer integration from Mixer or Twitch for the viewers to help or harm your journey. There further is the option to play “player-created Ventures” which are more or less player-enabled modifiers and custom Ventures to challenge the player, with an incentive for both the creator and the participants. If the player makes a Venture, and no one is able to complete it within a certain amount of time, the creator is rewarded with rare and powerful equipment, and vice versa for the player.

    Characters are all hand drawn, and I have a really soft spot for hand-drawn art. The hero design reminds me of the Mighty Beanz toys, but with a bit more detail, such as actual limbs and a head. The style is rather cute and did invoke nostalgic feelings from me. Music is also rather good, although fairly low in volume, even when the music settings are set to max in the options. When you first start getting into the game with your character of choice and tackle these dungeons and summon many fallen heroes, the combination of it all is quite fun to partake in.

    At least, for first hour or two that is. Woefully, the problems of Next Up Hero really start to show after this point. I understand the game is a RPG, but I’ve played free to play games and MMOs that didn’t feel as needlessly grindy as Next Up Hero. Everything in this game is a grind, from earning characters, to leveling them up, to gaining abilities, equipment, and even participating in the endgame content itself is a grind, as that requires a special currency that can only be obtained sometimes through chests or from leveling up. Not only do you have to grind to even equip the equipment, you also need to grind for passive abilities on top of that, in which you need to grind for to even equip said abilities.

    Enemies sometimes drop tokens that are used to level up your passive abilities, and there are also rare variants of these enemies that also drop tokens to unlock rare versions of these abilities. These rare enemies only pop up occasionally, but can be manipulated to appear in a slightly higher frequency by spending currency to spawn more of them in the Venture. Some of these rare abilities can take up to 80 tokens to fully level up, but you’re lucky to see maybe three of the same type of rare enemy in a single Venture. And this only consists of one of the many cases of grinding in the game.

    Next Up Hero
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 60%
    Gameplay - 9/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 92%
    Violence - 7.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    It doesn’t help that even though each level has a gimmick tied to it, most gimmicks feel the same because with most of them, you still have to kill a certain amount of enemies to unlock the gate that will lead you to the next level. Only a few objectives don’t require a certain number of enemies such as the “bounty hunt” or “community checkpoint” which is an optional objective in that if you beat the miniboss in the area, the community will be able to start the Venture at that point. Levels are also way too spacious and rather bland design-wise. They really should have downsized the levels. There is also one rather annoying gimmick called “don’t get greedy” in that if you collect money, it harms you. Money is integral to the game, and having something that punishes you for something as necessary as currency is very poor game design. It also slows the game down and heavily punishes melee-based players as there is a vacuum effect when collecting money.

    Getting to the bosses, they are also very annoying and boring. They end up being huge damage sponges with most of them only having brief moments of vulnerability. Even if you push the boss further down, the boss doesn't gain any special attributes or attacks when encountered once again. They’re just the same damage sponge with nothing new to show for it. All in all, you’ll see what Next Up Hero has to offer in only a few hours of playtime, and it makes the game feel very repetitive, as the depth of the game is as shallow as a puddle of water.

    I didn’t find much morally concerning with the game. There is a story contained within Next Up Hero about something with these Spoken Voice Houses who use the power of song to summon heroes and how these Houses combat the Ceaseless Dirge, and two people from the opposing Houses named Ovalia and Quinn find themselves stranded in the world that the Ceaseless Dirge comes from. Frankly, I remember very little about the story, but nothing stuck out for me, including the story itself. The entire concept of the Echoes does resemble spirits or ghosts, which add a supernatural aspect.

    I would only recommend Next Up Hero if you have a friend to play with, an active streaming community, or just really like grinding, as it is too simplistic for a RPG, too much grind for a paid game, and too repetitive for a solo experience. From my experience, the PC community isn’t all that active either as I was barely able to take advantage of the Echo mechanics to summon Ancients. One may have more luck playing on the consoles as there is potential for a more active base for Echoes. Next Up Hero is not a terrible game, as I do enjoy the art style, the music/sound effects are good (when I could hear them), and the game is rather stable for an always-online game as I only experienced two server-related issues that simply kicked me back to the main menu, but I personally feel there are much better alternatives to spend your $20 on as it failed to appeal to me on any other level.

  • NieR: Automata (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    NieR: Automata
    Developed by: PlatinumGames
    Published by: Square Enix
    Released date: March 17 2017
    Available on: PS4, Windows
    Genre: Action RPG
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Violence
    Price: $52.24 on Kinguin.net
    (Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Kinguin.net for supplying us with a review code for this game!

    NieR: Automata is the sequel to 2010’s  Nier which is part of the Drakengard series.  Sadly, I haven’t played the other games so I can’t tell you how much better or worse it is compared to others in the series.  The story in this title is quite intriguing and the characters are well developed and likable.  While there's plenty of action in this game, there's a lot of mysteries to solve within it as well.  Your job is to find out the source of the alien robots and why they have taken on a life of their own.  Not all of the robots are hostile either - should you wipe them all out or let the peaceful ones survive?  The choice is yours.

    The main character is a female looking android named 2B and early on in the game she’s accompanied by a young male appearing android named 9S.  2B is very mission focused and straight to the point while 9S is more talkative and tries earn the respect and approval of 2B. Their mission is to eliminate the alien machines that have populated the planet and have caused the remaining humans to flee to the moon.   These human designed androids are humanity’s last chance for survival and repelling the alien threat once and for all.  

    2B is a fighting class android and is quite powerful if given the right weapons and software to use.  9S is a good support unit and can be programmed to be offensive, supportive, defensive, or balanced in combat.  Hacking plays a role in some of the boss battles and 9S excels at hacking and thinking outside of the box in tough battle situations.  

    Both 2B and 9S have pod devices that provide support fire and powerful attacks that require some time to recharge after use.  Besides the pod you start off with, two more can be located in the game if you’re diligent in looking for them.  Sadly, you can only have one pod activated at a time.  Switching between pods and weapon sets is easy to do and the menu system is extremely well designed by offering automated tweaking or customizing things on your own (with risks and warnings).

    NieR: Automata
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun action RPG where you get to slice and dice alien robots into shrapnel; 26 possible endings; excellent graphics, music, characters, and story telling
    Weak Points: Game crashed to my desktop a couple of times
    Moral Warnings: Strong language; blaspheming; blood and violence; partial nudity

    The battles are quite fun and there’s something special about converting evil robots into scrap metal.  The bosses are massive and extremely intimidating. Many of them have multiple phases to beat before they finally go down.  Sadly, given the game’s limited saving functionality I lost significant progress when the game crashed to the desktop after beating a tough boss.   

    Some of the androids you’ll be fight against are very humanlike in appearance and even bleed when attacked.  Androids can apparently be choked to death too which doesn’t make much sense to me.  If you’re connected to the internet when playing, you’ll be able to loot or revive corpses of fallen players to aide you in your journey.  Like the pods, you can only have one revived ally at a time.  

    Fallen players and some of the android characters in the games have some partial nudity going on.  When you get down to it, they’re not much different than a naked Barbie or Ken doll.  There’s no details on the chest other than muscles and contours.  Nothing differentiates the males and females below the navel, but some rear ends are shown.

    The outside world is nicely detailed with the lush vegetation and limited wildlife encompassing the planet.  You’ll see birds in the air, you can catch fish in the waters, and you're able to ride the boars and moose wandering around the city ruins.  You’ll have to give the animals some bait in exchange for an opportunity to ride them.      

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

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

    Morality Score - 56%
    Violence - 3.5/10
    Language - 1.5/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The audio in this game is superb.  The background music and voice acting are both exceptional and pleasant to listen to.  You can definitely tell which robots have evolved and express their emotions when talking to them.  

    In the beginning you’re restricted on where you can go, but you’ll be free to wander and play this game as you see fit early on.  There are lots of side-quests to accept from fellow androids, defectors, and even friendly alien robots if you decide to let them live.  Depending on your actions you’ll get to experience multiple endings.  I witnessed the A ending and if I’m not mistaken, there are twenty-five more to see if I want to continue playing this game and unlock even more of its unique story.  Needless to say, there is plenty of replay value in this title.

    Aside from the violence and Barbie doll nudity, there is a fair amount of language.  The Lord’s name is taken in vain and other cuss words are used throughout the game.  Not surprisingly, some of the excluded words were found in the names of some of the fallen players.  Throughout my journey I did not find the F-bomb, but I saw every other word.    

    Religion is not particularly shown in a good light in this game and that’s all I’ll say without giving away any spoilers.  In her opening monologue, 2B expresses her intent to kill God if He existed.  (While 2B kicks butt in battle, God would totally win BTW).  As a regular churchgoer I often sing worship songs to God and give Him all the glory.  The motto in this game is “For the glory of mankind.”  

    Despite the many moral issues, NieR: Automata is a very fun and thought provoking game.  The battle system is fun and challenging with various game difficulties and endings to extend total gameplay time.   My only complaint is the number of crashes I have experienced while playing.  Hopefully the game gets patched and runs smoother for others.   

    Kinguin NieR: Automata - 728x90

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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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