It would be tempting to begin every sentence of this review with "you." But EightyEight Games, Ltd., already did that in their promotional material. However, I'm sure you would like to learn more about this game – otherwise, why did you seek this review out?
There's all sorts of treasure out there along the river! But in order to travel the river, you must build a boat. Your character, which looks a little bit like Indiana Jones, begins in a desert area and travels through pyramids in order to collect enough treasure to change his humble raft into a decent boat. Once the boat is large enough, you sail on to the next area and repeat the process until you have a boat worthy of respect!
Exploring the areas, collecting treasures and battling creatures are the substance of the game. This is done through a match-three style game. In the large grid that dominates the majority of the screen are a variety of squares, each with an icon. By sliding the columns or rows, you can line up three, four or five of a kind. If you match swords or staves, you can damage a monster. Lining up shields provides a defense against damage for a brief time. Matching up keys allows you to unlock chests. Matching crates can occasionally grant you items that can be used against enemies. Finally, matching power and mind squares earns you power and mind points respectively, which can be used to purchase monstrous crew members for your boat.
With each run, you must choose at least one quest to accomplish. These can range from defeating a certain creature, making a certain number of matches, enduring for a set length of time, or other types of quests you might expect from an RPG-lite game. Each quest earns you a prize of some sort – often a new crew member or creature that you can recruit. Once you complete all the quests in an area, you sail on to the next.
There is no way to die or lose in the game. Your character moves to the right through the areas you're exploring. Running into a chest or a creature will halt the forward progress and that portion slides to the left. Taking damage from creatures or traps moves it faster to the left. If your character is forced off the screen, then the run is over. If you've completed at least one quest, you collect the rewards and return to your boat. If you don't complete any quests, you can try again, or return to the boat empty-handed.
At the boat, you can consult with your crew members to increase the strength of your attacks or defenses, recruit some of the monsters you've captured, or sell some of the items you've discovered. Recruiting monsters can add to your overall statistics, and make it a bit easier to explore for treasure in the area you're in. While these do add a few role-playing game elements to the match-three game, you don't have a lot of control over your stats. As long as they go up, you'll do better.
The controls are nice and responsive, and only require the mouse. While I haven't played this on a touch screen, I would imagine that those with mobile devices would have an even easier time with the game mechanics. This game is apparently a sequel to 10000000, which has been reviewed on this site here. Since that review focuses on the Android version, the controls for the portable version of You Must Build A Boat will be very similar to the one in that review.
The graphics and music are distinctly 8-bit retro in style. In fact, my wife even commented that it sounded like early Mario games. Although the creatures lack detail, it's easy enough to tell what's happening on the screen, and the sounds clue you in as to what's happening as well. The lack of detail of the creatures actually works out to be a good thing – your first companions appear to be a zombie and a skeleton, and there are many undead you'll encounter, as well as have the opportunity to recruit to your team. The music is very catchy and changes with each area, so there's a decent amount of variety to the tunes as well.
In addition to the presence of undead, there is violence as well. However, there isn't any blood, and defeated creatures simply collapse into a vague pile of pixels. The main character can use magic spells and attacks on the foes. Late in the game, the player adds a priest or cleric to the ship's crew, and can offer sacrifices of gold, strength or mind points to "gods." In addition, one of the levels takes place in Hell, complete with demons and rivers of fire, but there wasn't any Satanic imagery that I found. I didn't come across any other language issues to be worried about, either.
All in all, You Must Build A Boat is an entertaining title and a fun time waster. Although it can get frustrating to complete the more difficult quests, they aren't impossible, and it's quite satisfying to move on to the next area. The game also includes several achievements to obtain, including a couple secret ones, so the replay value is high. If you enjoy puzzle games and a retro feel, then it's time for you to follow the advice of the game's title: You Must Build A Boat.
Thank you Telltale Games for sending us this game to review!
While I haven’t watched the TV series that Telltale’s adventure games are based off of, I have played and enjoyed the previous two games. It was quite a ride watching Clementine grow up in a world overrun with zombies. In these two episodes, she’s grown up quite a bit and is still quite clever. Sadly, she’s developed a sassy attitude with a foul mouth to go along with it. Granted life is bleak in in this dire world, and bad attitudes are commonplace. It was a pleasant surprise to find some characters who appeared to be Christian and offered to keep my character’s family in their thoughts and prayers.
Clementine isn’t the main character in The Walking Dead: A New Frontier; that position is filled by Javier, whose life was forever changed after the death of his father. While Javier was late to his father’s passing, he arrived in time to see his resurrection as a walker and turning some of his family members into zombies after biting them. Since then Javier has been on the run with his niece, nephew, and his brother’s wife.
Javier and his family are barely getting by, but they are survivors and they are sticking together despite some personality conflicts. His sister-in-law Kate is not the best stepmother as she openly smokes marijuana and offers to share it with Javier while the teenage kids are in the back of the van. On a van ride to scrounge for supplies, Kate and Javier openly talk about the difficulties of raising teenagers and how “boners and bloody underwear” changes them. When it comes to parenting, Kate tends to be the strict one while Javier is the laid back and cool uncle/father figure.
Javier is a good negotiator, but sometimes violence is necessary, especially when running into territorial and trigger happy humans. Like many other Telltale adventure games, you'll have to quickly press the Q and E buttons to dodge and land attacks. Episode one mostly deals with Javier getting separated from his family and trying to desperately reunite with them. During his time apart, he runs into Clementine who isn’t very trusting, but at least she’s not too quick to pull the trigger.
Besides walkers, many characters die in this episode including some from previous seasons who are offed quickly in Clementine’s flashbacks. Everything is rather fast paced in these two episodes that only last about an hour apiece. The character deaths in this episode give revenge as the only reason for living for a couple of the characters. Not only is this attitude not ideal, it is not Biblical either.
Given the amount of blaspheming in this title, chances are high that the characters in this game are not regularly reading their Bibles. Other issues worth noting is the amount of blood and gore. There’s a scene where you must help in the process of removing a bullet and it’s pretty intense. I had to look away from my screen a bit. The groaning and screams from the patient were believable. As always, the voice acting is top-notch.
Like other Telltale adventure games, the choices you make impact how the story progresses. Many of the responses have a time limit and if you do not answer in time, your response will intentionally be silence. There is a point in the game where you are a hostage and are told to keep quiet, and even if you do remain silent, you will still be scolded for talking.
While the writing isn’t as good as the previous two seasons, I still enjoyed it. Since the episodes are only an hour in length apiece, I cannot recommend paying full price for a shorter game that does not uphold the quality of its predecessors. Please consider the violence, gore, sexual references, drug use, and intense language before picking up this game.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thank you Black Shell Media for sending us this game to review!
Every now and then, a video game comes along that tries something new. While most of the biggest and best-advertised games tend to play it safe nowadays, you can still find something that tries to break the mold if you look hard enough. What you might find could be rough around the edges, but packed with great ideas that are certainly worth a look – and Close Order certainly fits that bill.
Close Order is a 3D space shooter game programmed in Unity, and Raconteur Games’ first showing. As a space shooter, it lies somewhere in between Tyrian and Rogue Squadron: though you’re limited to a 2D plane, you’re fighting in a fully three-dimensional environment. Unlike both of those games, however, Close Order does not give you a single ship, or throw small groups of ships at you a few at a time – your enemies are great in number, as are your allies. While your freighter is lacking in firepower, what it does have is minions.
The meat of the game comes from its minion system: defeating an enemy awards you with one of three currencies, which you then spend to create some form of robotic helper craft that will fly alongside the main freighter. These minions come in offensive, defensive, and hybrid forms – for instance, one ship shoots a volley of slow-moving bullets that cover a wide area, while another has a sturdy energy shield to soak up attacks. You can buy, sell, repair, and rearrange your minions on the fly, and the game offers three different formation patterns to set up your squad. With no restrictions other than currency and minion limits, you can dynamically change your fleet to adapt to different situations. As you play, you’ll steadily unlock more minion slots and types. It’s a fresh, possibly unique take on the shooter genre that is executed well – at least, at its core.
The tragedy of the system is that Close Order offers very little with which to truly test its limits. There are only a handful of enemy ship types, and while they behave differently – some might try to flank you, while others will bunch up for a focused assault – only the dedicated kamikaze ships do anything other than shoot at you. Every enemy in the game can be outgunned by simply circle-strafing, up to and including the few bosses you’ll fight (save for one in an enclosed space). Likewise, there was little reason to switch up the minion setup at any time; a simple diamond formation with defensive units up front and shotgun-type fighters behind cleared the whole game with little trouble. Since there’s a dedicated minion repair button, and since repair costs are so low compared to how much money you rake in, there’s nothing stopping you from mashing the R button to become effectively invincible, as long as you keep your unfixable freighter safe.
The game offers eight story missions and two survival maps; none will take you much more than ten minutes to complete. Survival mode involves fending off increasingly difficult waves of enemies, rewarding you with a new minion type at the end; you can also slightly customize the maps, though you’re limited to enemy density and difficulty. The story missions vary the gameplay slightly, occasionally making you chase down fleeing enemies or traverse an obstacle course with mortars shooting at you. All in all, though, the content is a little lacking; survival mode could offer some more longevity to the game, but since circle-strafing trivializes every enemy, it’s just an exercise of holding down A or D, shift (to boost), and left mouse while sometimes hitting R to repair.
The story in Close Order exists; that’s about as much as one can say. Set in the future where Earth was destroyed in a planet-wide nuclear accident, and with the survivors populating the stars, three companions set out to make their way back to the ruins of Earth to track the remnants of humanity. Each mission has the three main characters of Mary, Abe, and Chakor talking about the current situation, and the first hub of five missions give a small narrated slideshow of the background of the events. These give the universe some appreciated character, but every new element is immediately and permanently discarded once the level is complete. Only the last three levels have some form of continuity, in the sense that the team is working to build a warp drive, but each level still punts you back to the hub world with no real sense of conclusion. What little flashes of story you get are rather interesting, but they remain just that: flashes.
Outside of the gameplay, Close Order is mostly stable. The controls are simple and intuitive, with one exception: right clicking sends you to the minion purchase screen, but also sells a minion if you’re on the formation menu, meaning that moving from the latter to the former will always remove one minion. Also, there’s a big “repair all minions” button on the formation menu that simply doesn’t do anything at all, so hitting R is the only way to repair. In-game, however, every motion and command is accurate and responsive, with the above issues being minor annoyances at best.
The graphics look quite nice even on the lowest setting, and are also stable enough that frame drops, if any, went unnoticed. The music is fitting and nice to listen to, if not particularly memorable, though it would drop out for a few seconds at seemingly random times while playing. The sound effects are clear and varied, adding a forceful punch each time you fire. The 2D art is simple but stylish, which fits the feel of the slideshow-style intro movies – though these slideshows get unexplainably choppy at times. The enemy ships vary according to their capabilities, making it easy to discern opponent types; in particular, the dangerous kamikaze ships leave a bright orange trail as they fly, making it impossible to lose them in the chaos. There’s not much to fault Close Order on style-wise.
Morally, the obvious issue is the combat the game is based around: it’s limited to exploding ships that you’re told are piloted by mercenaries, but they’re never shown. There are a few rare instances of mild swears, with the most egregious being the hardest survival mode difficulty being called “bad*ss.” Perhaps the biggest issue lies in a single level, where you’re tasked with destroying escape pods fleeing a viral outbreak on a space station, even though it’s implied that they’re all filled with the people that started the infection. It’s complicated by the fact that the characters talk about rescuing them, and seem to come to the conclusion that it’s worth it to try to jam them into quarantine aboard their freighter, but your only option is to shoot them all anyway.
In the end, Close Order is a game full of potential that simply goes unused. A solid core combined with an innovative mechanic make it enjoyable to play, but the lack of content and challenge leaves much to be desired. Still, as a new developer working under the restrictions of Unity, it’s an impressive first outing; should they revisit this game in the future, they could pull off something truly amazing. Sitting at $4.99, and with a runtime under Steam’s refund time limit, it might be worth checking out – and consider letting Raconteur Games keep that five bucks if you do.
Thank you XSEED Games for sending us this game to review!
XSEED Games seems determined to plow the depths of Falcom’s excellent back catalog, and bring it over for our consumption and enjoyment. Xanadu: Dragon Slayer II was among Falcom’s first ever action RPGs, and indeed among the first ever action RPGs period, with a release date in 1985. Xanadu Next was released in 2005 in Japan as a celebration of Xanadu’s 20th anniversary. They release a new Xanadu each decade in recent years, with the 30th celebration being Tokyo Xanadu, which the West is due to get in 2017 via Aksys Games.
Hardcore Falcom fans have long known Xanadu Next is a fantastic game; so much so that they released a fan translation patch several years ago. XSEED has worked with fan communities before on translations, and they did it again for this one. Here, we have a professionally edited, tweaked and modified version of the game optimized for modern computers. It shows that the fine folks at XSEED are very clearly hardcore Falcom fans themselves, as they so lovingly bring these games over for a larger worldwide audience.
Xanadu Next takes place on the island of Harlech, where passersby often see an image of Castle Strangerock in the fog. Charlotte, a scholar trying to make a name for herself, recruits one of her childhood friends, a knight, to join her in her quest to determine the secrets of the island and this castle. What starts out as leisurely exploration, soon becomes something much more.
As one of the last knights alive in this era where knights are no more, our hero (you name him) explores his first set of ruins. Here, he finds a powerful treasure, and his life is very nearly stolen from him, as is what he found. This near death injury leads to our gravely injured knight being kept alive by magic and powerful spirits called Guardians. These Guardians are like deities that grant powers to those who are bound to them. The people in this town baptize their children, and give them a Guardian that sticks with them their entire life, and grants them unusual power or skills in a specific area. Well, it is one of these Guardians that keeps our hero’s life in the balance. It is only the legendary Dragon Slayer sword and its incredible power that can help him live a normal life now.
Every time I start up a new Falcom game, I am forced to reckon with why I have come to love their games so much. First, the soundtrack hits you like a ton of bricks with excellence galore. Then the world building, art style, loving polish, and fantastically crafted action keeps on drawing me in. And such is how it goes. This game is no exception.
The soundtrack, to put it simply, is absolutely fantastic. All Falcom games I have played are something special in that regard, and this is an excellent example of that. Unlike many of their other games, there is no anime or feel good here. Each song is ambient, moody, and appropriate, and brings about proper levels of brood, peace, or tension. The Harlech town theme is one of my favorite town themes in quite some time.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Xanadu Next is an isometric, 3D third person action RPG where you explore the island with its many interconnected passageways, while attacking the many monsters that get in your way. As you explore, you find various treasures as well as pieces of lore that Charlotte (often abbreviated Char) can translate for you. There are weapons to both buy and find, as well as various artifacts which can help you traverse through the world by granting you a new skill or act as a key for new areas. There are also Guardian cards which give you special bonuses when activated.
The Guardian cards are an important part of the strategy in Xanadu Next. Each card gives some kind of bonus, from improved item effects, to bonus hit points, to extra experience, and more. Some of them, like the one which grants improved buying and selling prices, or the one which improves skill learning speed, are very handy. Of course some of the end game Guardians are extremely powerful as well.
There are three major things that require leveling: you, your Guardians, and your weapons. Each Guardian becomes more effective as they level, until they hit a maximum. Each and every weapon can also be leveled. Here, it’s called proficiency. As you get better with a weapon, you both do more damage, and start to learn the skill embedded within. Some skills have active effects, while others are passive. But in order to collect all of the skills, you will have to wield each of the thirty weapons to at least 100% proficiency, while optionally going up to 200% if you continue to use it.
You can equip up to four skills at once, as well as up to four items. Equipped items, like skills, can have either active or passive effects. If you choose something like a potion, it can then be activated with a hotkey; otherwise, you have to go to the item screen during combat, which must be managed in real time. It’s a tricky balance, but I found that if I didn’t wait until near death, I could get away with using the inventory.
The game world and dungeons are fully interconnected. There is a clear loop around from the first few dungeons, and even through the last one there is more than one way to get there. There are always monsters awaiting your sword, and the game world intersperses combat and puzzle challenges throughout. There are many secrets waiting for you, and there are also reasons to backtrack to earlier areas.
Among those secrets are tablets and memoirs, which is how the world building and story lore is exposited. The quality of the translation is very well done, and feel appropriate for the dark and foreboding setting. I found myself drawn to the setting and genuinely looked forward to having the next piece translated. They are of decent length and interesting.
At the end of each major segment, as is often the case, there are bosses. They are appropriately challenging and fun to play, though nowhere near Ys difficulty. Once I figured out how to hurt them, it always felt fair and reasonable to beat them. And it’s usually not too difficult to add an extra level or two, if needs be. Worst case, it is very easy to add a stack of potions to your item bar and have at it.
Graphically, the game is clearly from 2005. They (not sure if added by XSEED or not) did a good job with the graphics options by allowing you to choose the internal resolution, which is a form of upscaling/antialiasing. So it probably looks as good as you can expect from a game of this age. It’s also a shame that Microsoft’s DirectX 8 support in Windows 10 is imperfect as well; there is frame rate stuttering that is apparently common with most or all games from that era. I found a useful workaround though; if you increase your pre-rendered frames (4 was the value I tried) it makes it a lot smoother. You can also try various DirectX 8 wrappers which make a big difference, but they introduced crashes for me. I also experienced an odd bug near the end of the game with a certain character flickering wildly. It was humorous, but not game breaking.
I prefer the gamepad controls over keyboard and mouse, though both have pluses and minuses. I think the Steam Controller is the best of both worlds, though. Inventory management is much better with the mouse, and combat and platforming (with one exception) is more fun with the gamepad. Unfortunately, inventory management is done using a gamepad with a virtual pointer controlled by the sticks, which is hardly ideal. The Steam Controller seems to be the best because you can do all combat with the sticks and buttons, while assigning the mouse pointer and buttons to the touchpad and triggers. This way you can maneuver through your inventory much faster than a normal gamepad. On the other hand, having skills activate with a button press is also quite handy on the mouse + keyboard, though the Steam Controller can emulate that, also. The only gamepad gotcha is that some platforming that requires long distance floating with the wing boots works much better with the mouse. The Steam Controller can help with that, too.
When it comes to appropriateness, there are a few marks off. There is violence, as is expected. The enemies splat blood when they die, but it does not pool; it dissipates in the air. Enemies include goblins, wizards, humans, and undead like skeletons and others. There is magic used, both by the player and enemies. There is an evil dragon, and a ‘black bride’ that is his wife. There are Guardian spirits, and the people make idols to them. Children are baptized to a specific Guardian when they are young. The main character can change Guardians often. I noticed a hexagram used in several spots, and other ‘mystical’ symbols, though not any that I recognized. One character is often drunk at the bar. Some female characters wear obnoxiously skimpy outfits, but the 3D models themselves are laughably low polygon, so while it’s obvious they are wearing skimpy outfits, I think few would find them alluring. Words like ‘hell’, ‘d*mn’ and ‘b*st*rd’ are used.
Xanadu Next, despite its age, is a fantastic action RPG that is worth checking out even in this modern age. Good games don’t stop being good, even if the presentation isn’t. The graphics are decent, the story and world are very interesting, and the music is phenomenal. The action itself is lots of fun, even if it’s a bit slower paced and easier than a typical Ys game. And yet, it’s different enough to be its own thing. Please consider the appropriateness issues before buying, but beyond that, Xanadu Next is an easy recommendation.