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Game Info:

Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition
Developed by: Beamdog
Published by: Beamdog
Released: April 11, 2017
Available on: Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, Windows
Genre: Role-playing game
ESRB rating: T for Teen: blood, suggestive themes and violence
Number of players: 1
Price: $19.99 (Linux, macOS, Windows); $9.99 (Android, iOS)

Over the years, many game review sites have compiled lists of the best computer role-playing games ever created. Although these lists vary widely, the original Planescape: Torment consistently made it into the top ten, often as the number one spot. When Beamdog started converting the Black Isle games to modern systems, many people eagerly awaited the time when Planescape would also receive the “Enhanced Edition” treatment. Now, the wait is over.

Planescape: Torment is based on the 2nd Edition Dungeons and Dragons rules, and indeed came about towards the end of that edition's run. That is about all Planescape has in common with those rules, though – from the start, players face a lot of differences from the tabletop system they may be familiar with. At character creation, the player can allocate points to the familiar attributes of strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom and charisma. But that is all they are permitted to do – they can't choose their character portrait, they can't pick an alignment, gender or class. They can't even give this character a name! Their only choice is to play a hulking, ugly brute with scarred, grey skin. In terms of character creation, this D&D game is the worst.

That sense of disappointment may be short-lived. Your character wakes up in a morgue with no memory of his past, including his name. His only companion is a sarcastic floating skull named Morte. Right away, the storyline grabs you and doesn't let up. You'll be drawn into this bizarre universe of steampunk and clockwork, explore the massive City of Doors, meet new and unusual beings from multiple universes, and try to solve the many mysteries in your character's life. Who are you? Where did you come from? And most importantly, why can't you die?

This game was groundbreaking in 1999 because of the way character development was handled. The people and environment changed as the player made decisions. If you acted in an evil fashion, the Nameless One's alignment would shift accordingly, along with the attitudes of those around him. Likewise with good actions, which led to a good alignment and different companionships. A central morality system had only previously been handled by another RPG classic, Ultima IV, but has been duplicated and improved on many times because of the influence of these games. Although combat is a factor of the game, it takes a backseat to the conversation and role-playing portions. Your interaction with the NPCs is what drives the gameplay, and most of the experience points you gain will be through dialogue and retrieving the lost memories of the Nameless One.

Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition
Highlights:

Strong Points: Long gameplay; powerful storyline; game environment strongly affected by player's choices; excellent voice acting and music
Weak Points: Cumbersome combat system; dated graphics
Moral Warnings: Blood and gore; language; demons and hellish landscapes; innuendo and revealing outfits; strong undead presence; players can choose evil routes to complete the game

One of the other deviations that Planescape: Torment took from the tabletop roots – and even the prior computerized D&D games – is an abandonment from the turn-based system. Instead, it's a real-time combat style that can be a muddled, confusing mess. While it is possible to pause the game in order to issue orders to your characters, it can be a bit of a crap shoot to see if they stick with your orders, or resume doing their own thing. Fortunately, as I mentioned before, combat is a secondary aspect to the game. In fact, it's possible to attempt a “pacifist run” with the game – with the right stats and choices, you can finish the game and only experience a handful of combat encounters. Most fights can quickly be resolved without too much trouble – and if you do find your characters outgunned, it can be simple to reload from a previous save point and find a different approach to take. In any case, if the Nameless One falls in battle, he will merely wake up after a time, ready to continue his forays. In fact, there are a few instances where the Nameless One actually needs to die in order to advance the plot.

The game is displayed from an isometric, top-down perspective, with an intriguing user interface that has a distinct clockwork feel. Harsh, rusty metal comprises a good portion of the decorations, giving an alien atmosphere; not quite something you may expect from the high fantasy approach of most D&D adventures. Planescape: Torment is strange in its feel and look, but attractive at the same time. The music also reflects the game, with haunting melodies and an occasional, industrial-rock feel to it. Combine that with skilled voice acting – including famous voice actors like Dan Castellanetta, Rob Paulsen and Michael T. Weiss - and it's easy to see how this Black Isle title is considered a masterpiece. One playthrough is estimated to take around 50 hours, and even then it can be replayed, with different answers to conversation trees, to unlock different portions of the game and different characters. 

The Enhanced Edition provides some updates and bug fixes, but does nothing to the cutscenes. They may have been impressive in 1999, but nowadays the figures appear plastic and the graphics crude. The game portion features enhancements to make the sprites stand out (which can be turned off), and you can zoom in or out of the scene. However, zooming in doesn't adjust the resolution accordingly, so the scene will show pixillated graphics. Steam achievements and trading cards are available for the Steam version, as well as the ability to save your games to Steam's cloud. So the Enhanced Edition does offer some additional functionality not found in the original version... but if you own the original discs or the version that used to be available on GoG.com, it may not be as much of an incentive to shell out the money for these minor tweaks.

Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 84%
Gameplay - 18/20
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 56%
Violence - 4.5/10
Language - 3/10
Sexual Content - 6/10
Occult/Supernatural - 6.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

On the moral scene, there are many aspects that parents and Christians should consider. First of all, since the start of the game is set in a morgue, there is quite a bit of blood and gore to be found. At one point, you can even use your own petrified arm as a club (obviously, it grew back). Undead feature prominently, as zombies are used as servants by one of the factions of the city. In fact, there is a portion of the city where the undead are attempting to forge their own nation, to throw off the shackles of their living masters in order to be free. 

It's possible to solicit the services of prostitutes – nothing is shown, though. Many of the journal entries do indicate that most of the female residents of Sigil are quite voluptuous, and members of both genders wear rather revealing clothing. (Oddly enough, one of the characters with the most clothing on is a succubus – a type of demon known for seducing mortals – but this one has taken a vow of chastity, and can join your party.) In one location there is a massive statue of a nude female, but it has “Barbie doll anatomy” and no actual “naughty bits” are shown. One of your companions, Morte, peppers his conversation with innuendoes and lascivious comments. However, he also is a floating skull, so the biological questions that arise serve as more humor than anything.

Your character can become a mage and cast spells, or become a thief. You also can choose to become evil and act like a terrible person. There are some language issues, and d**n is often spoken in the game (including as an exclamation whenever the Nameless One fails to hit his opponent in combat). The Planescape setting was created to give the players the option to visit the outer planes, and this is present in this computer game as well. The Nameless One and his companions can travel to hellish planes, confront demons and devils – or even ally with them – in their attempts to solve the mysteries they face. However, even in the face of such adversity, the player can maintain a strong moral standard, and this is reflected in the game as well. The Nameless One's life is however the player plays him, and it's brilliant in how the game responds accordingly. There is a theme of forgiveness, redemption and eternal punishment at play, but getting into too much detail about these elements would veer sharply into spoiling the plot, so I will leave it at that.

Despite the moral troubles in the game and the flaws in the combat system, Planescape: Torment is a true masterpiece, and a must-have for fans of the role-playing game genre. It is easy to see why the game is so highly regarded, and the “Enhanced Edition” helps to clean up the earlier flaws and bugs. The Steam edition includes trading cards and achievements. For those who loved the original and still own it, the new features may not be enough to merit purchasing it again. For those new to the game, there's adventures to be found among the planes, and perhaps you can answer the timeless question, “what can change the nature of a man?”

 

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Game Info:

Heroes of Loot 2
Developed by: Orangepixel
Published by: Orangepixel
Release date: June 7, 2016
Available on: Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, Windows
Genre: Action
Number of players: Up to two
ESRB Rating: Not rated 
Price: $3.99 on mobile, $9.99 on computer
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Orangepixel for sending us a review code for this game!

While I haven’t played the original Heroes of Loot game, I have enjoyed other titles from this one-man development studio.  The 2D pixel art-style in this title is consistent with the other Orangepixel games we have reviewed.  Heroes of Loot 2 takes place after the first one and the characters are bored and looking for more work.  With the promise of adventure and loot they venture into this dungeon in hopes of conquering it.  

When you first launch the game, your only options are the normal and local co-op modes. Until you get enough experience to become a level five dungeon master, you won’t be able to enjoy the survival game mode.  In the normal game mode you get to control two heroes and in the local co-op mode each player gets to control two adventurers.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Fun dungeon crawling game with random dungeons and a different experience each time you play it
Weak Points: Experienced a glitch that made a level unfinishable 
Moral Warnings: Fantasy violence and some bloodshed; magic and runes are used throughout the game

The pair of heroes consists of one long range and one melee fighter.  In the beginning, the long range characters include an arrow shooting elf or a magic casting wizard.  The melee characters can be either a warrior or a Valkyrie. If you collect enough hero cards, you can unlock a barbarian, mage, paladin, and a thief.  The melee classes are strong enough to move statues onto pressure plates when the need arises.  These characters can also uncover secret areas that their long-range counterparts won’t notice.  Since the characters share the same health gauge, they’ll have to deal with each other’s strengths and weaknesses as their lives depend on it!

The dungeons are randomly generated so you never know what you’re walking into and each playthrough will be different.  In the beginning the enemies are relatively easy and consist of slimes, bats, skulls, flames, and fire throwing, demon-like creatures.  The pixel style graphics make it hard to make out what some of the monsters are.  What I can tell you is that they get harder as you venture deeper into the dungeon.  

You’ll come across shops where you can buy shields, health potions, and other useful trinkets.  Some NPCs will sell you magic shards which can permanently unlock magic spells that are available in future playthroughs.  Other NPCs will grant you access to a warp zone or shortcut that will advance you multiple levels if you can afford to take them.  Be sure to collect all of the gold coins and gems you come across.  Sometimes you’ll stumble into treasure rooms and other times you’ll wander into a battle challenge.  Be prepared for anything and don’t pass up buying a healing potion if your health isn’t maxed out.

Heroes of Loot 2
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 78%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 78%
Violence - 5.5/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 3.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

Other than the occasional warp opportunity, there is generally one exit and once you enter a level, you cannot turn back.  You can save and resume your game from that point though. The level’s exit is usually behind a locked gate which has a key hidden somewhere around there.  Besides keys, you’ll occasionally need to collect runes to place onto a circle to unlock the path to the exit. On my first playthrough one of the runes was inaccessible and inside of a statue that I could not interact with.  Despite that one glitch, I have not experienced any other issues playing this game.

Each hero has their own inventory.  Keep that in mind when you collect keys and runes as you’ll have to switch characters in order to use them.  Some levels require you to use bombs to blast through thick stone doors.  Throwing the bombs seemed to be hit or miss for me.  It seems that you can only throw them at a certain location. Other than the bomb throwing, the controls were pretty intuitive.

Between collecting loot, solving puzzles, and trying to stay alive as long as possible, I’ve been thoroughly entertained and enjoyed my time exploring the dungeons in Heroes of Loot 2.  While this title hasn’t been rated by the ESRB, the original game was rated Everyone. Other than some blood splatter, this game is relatively tame.  Given the randomly generated dungeons and fun gameplay, the $9.99 asking price is justified.  If you prefer playing this game on a mobile platform, it’s an even more reasonable $3.99.

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Game Info:

Grand Theft Auto V
Developed By: Rockstar North
Published By: Take-Two Interactive Software
Released: September 17, 2013 Available On: PS3, PS4, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Action-Adventure
ESRB Rating: Mature for Intense Violence, Blood, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Partial Nudity, Use of Drugs and Alcohol
Number of Players: 1 offline, 32 online
Price: $59.99
(Humble Store Link)

If you have even a passing interest in video games, chances are you’ve heard of Grand Theft Auto 5. It’s very likely that you’ve played it, or know someone that has, considering the number of copies this title has moved since initial launch. Take-Two Interactive, the game’s publisher, recently (as of April 4, 2017) reported that the game shipped more than 75 million copies. Knowing all that, chances are you don’t really need an introduction to this game.

However, the ever-increasing sales figures indicate that new players are drawn to GTA 5 despite its age, meaning plenty of new potential customers would like to read up on the game before taking the plunge. However, most reviews don’t really discuss the subject of morality.

Before we get to that though, let’s look at the game itself. Grand Theft Auto 5 is a sandbox action-adventure title with an emphasis on player freedom. While the single player campaign does feature a mostly linear main storyline with standard plot progression for a set of recurring characters, players are let loose in a vast and vibrant open world with a host of features to play with, and given the freedom to explore it at their own pace, in their own way.

The first thing any player will notice about the game, even before the gameplay itself, is the stunning level of graphical fidelity on display, regardless of platform. Comparatively, this is one of the best looking games to grace the 7th generation consoles, while it also makes great use of the upgraded capabilities of the 8th gen systems. Players with high-end PCs will get the best experience though, but be warned – at the time of this writing there literally does not exist a consumer system capable of outputting a stable 60 FPS at 4K ultra settings. 

GTA 5 sidesteps many of the inherently negative trends seen in AAA games regarding visual language. Instead of dulling colors and using a muted palette, the world of GTA 5 is lively and powerful. We’ve used the word vibrant before, but it really is the best descriptor of Rockstar Games’ rendition of fictional California. The browns and grey prevalent in some other highly popular game franchises take a backseat in this title, which won’t ever come across as bleak or dreary.

When it comes to actually playing the thing, those last two descriptors still don’t hold up. The majority of GTA 5’s gameplay is divided between playing on foot and sitting behind the wheel, though the game offers a staggering measure of variety regarding what manner of vehicle it is you’re driving. In fact, “staggering variety” was probably emblazoned on the wallpaper of every workstation in Rockstar North’s offices, since GTA 5 offers everything in bulk. There is an immense amount of varied and diverse side-missions to complete, NPCs to meet, collectibles to hunt down, Easter eggs to discover, activities to partake in and locations to explore.

Grand Theft Auto V
Highlights:

Strong Points: Extremely polished gaming experience that can last hundreds of hours
Weak Points: Hackers and loading times can ruin the online experience; no new single player DLC has been released
Moral Warnings: Lots of intense violence; strong language including every word and blaspheming; explicit sex scenes and nudity; aliens; mystic religions/yoga; drug, tobacco, and alcohol use  

When it comes down to value-to-cost, GTA 5 is one of the best bets you have. This isn’t a cookie cutter military shooter with a campaign that barely lasts six hours. In fact, you’ll likely go well over 100 hours of playtime before you finish half of what the game has to offer. And even if you do somehow make it to 100% completion, you can always augment your gameplay with the vast array of cheats available in GTA 5, or the community made mods (provided you’re on PC).

The production quality doesn’t lapse with the audio either. The game offers a wealthy soundtrack full of songs from many different genre archetypes on the radio stations, and the OST tracks are filled with personality as well. The voice acting is superb in terms of quality, and it’s clear the actors really put their heart and soul into these performances. One weak aspect, however, is the sound of the weapons. Audio feedback is crucial in this sort of thing, but each gun in the game feels like a peashooter. Instead of delivering thundering bangs, they sort of just "poot poot" while the enemy’s health bar decreases.

Now, there might be a ton of things to do in this grand, lively, open world, but the nature of these things, plus that of the story Rockstar wanted to tell, is where it might get a bit uncomfortable for some folk.

If the name wasn’t a dead giveaway, Grand Theft Auto is about crime, and lots of it. Combat is a major aspect of the game, and you’ll be gunning down a lot of virtual people on your road to 100% completion. Violence is an absolute must when playing this game, as the progression criteria for most missions in the game requires that you kill a number of opponents.

While there are some tame activities – like yoga, for example – to ones which are significantly less objectionable – racing, hunting and solving a murder – usually anything you’ll be doing will involve using various projectile or melee weapons to snuff out the life of your fellow man. Gameplay also involves an obligatory, interactive torture scene in a single mission of the game, where players must use waterboarding, electrocution, or the forcible removal of teeth to compel an NPC to divulge sensitive information. The player is fully in control during these sections, and every method is shown without censorship. Players may also visit strip clubs with fully modeled nude characters present. What’s more, the game offers a toggle-able first person view, which coupled with the interactive lap dances given by nude NPCs is responsible for highly explicit content.

Grand Theft Auto V
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 94%
Gameplay - 19/20
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 17%
Violence - 1.5/10
Language - 0/10
Sexual Content - 0/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 0/10

The storyline of the game reflects these aspects as well. The vast majority of the characters are amoral, dysfunctional, drug using, adulterous, sociopathic, selfish, greedy, mass-murdering criminals, and the plot expects us to identify or even sympathize with them and their issues.

The plot itself revolves around a trio of criminals whose lives are in different stages of disarray banding together to pull off a string of heists while navigating the intricacies of a corrupt federal agency and their own personal agendas at the same time. While undoubtedly an interesting topic, it would be impossible to explore without treading upon controversial themes – not that Rockstar particularly has a care for tact. 

The developers have a track record of reveling in controversy and purposefully seeding their games with offensive content which acts both as a challenge to those they consider too stuck-up, and a way to pander to their sizable audience which would consider holding back to be ‘selling out’ at this point in the franchise’s history.

In terms of immoral content, this game has it all. Violence in droves, inappropriate language, explicit sexual content, gore, the promotion of drug use, criminal activity, and crass humor. Pretty much the only field into which GTA 5 doesn’t tread is the occult, but even this is questionable. The game features a fictional cult built around some made-up religion which on its own might be problematic. However, the game paints this cult as entirely deplorable and evil, with its members only ever appearing as enemies in the game. There is another church in GTA V, but you cannot enter nor do you ever see a priest or anyone going in or out.

That said, the game’s multiplayer mode, GTA Online, features a scene upon the player’s first death showing a stylized afterlife wherein the leader of the game’s fictional cult resurrects the player. On the one hand, this is explanation for the respawning game mechanic, however it also indicates that the cult’s beliefs are true within the continuity of the game, presenting a troubling scenario. 

At the end of the day, GTA 5 is a technically impressive and marvelous game into which immense amount of effort was put by the developers. This is an extremely polished gaming experience which doesn’t cease to awe on the practical front. However, a deeply rooted and inherent immorality that permeates the very fabric of Grand Theft Auto 5 could make it inaccessible to those potential players to whom this sort of thing is a deal breaker. 

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Game Info:

MXGP2
MXGP2 – The Official Motocross Video Game
Developed By: Milestone S.r.l.
Published By: Milestone S.r.l.
Released: April 7, 2016
Available On: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Windows
Genre: Racing
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1 offline, 12 online
Price: $22.00
(Kinguin Affiliate Link)

Thanks to Milestone S.r.l. for the review key!

Racing games, through all the various sub-genres, revolve around a simple, universal goal: get your vehicle under control. Whether it’s Mario Kart or Gran Turismo, getting a handle on your ride is paramount to high speeds, fast laps, and good times all around. Not all vehicles are created equal, however; cars on smooth pavement, after all, will go in the direction they’re pointed, drifting notwithstanding. Wrangling a motorbike on beat-up dirt is a different beast altogether. If you’re looking for a little wrestling in your racing, look no further than MXGP2.

Billing itself as “The Official Motocross Video Game,” MXGP2 certainly doesn’t disappoint in that regard. The game features the entire roster of the 2015 MXGP season in both tracks and riders, and even includes the “minor league” MX2 racers. The official racing teams, such as Monster Energy Kawasaki or Red Bull KTM, all make an appearance with their representatives – and are fully joinable in the Career mode. The seven major bike manufacturers are all represented, with options for both MXGP and lower-class MX2 vehicles. The league’s official sponsors are all over the place as well but never a distraction, in what might be the only generally accepted form of in-game advertising. Suffice it to say that fans of MXGP will find everything comfortably familiar.

As far as the racing goes, MXGP2 has no shortage of options. The lengthy career mode is likely the main draw, allowing you to create a custom racer and team, pick a bike, and work your way up from an unknown MX2 racer to MXGP world champion. The credits you earn from competing go toward bike upgrades and rider gear – you’ll get a lot of credits rather quickly, but you’ll rarely be starved for options. There’s also the Motocross of Nations competition, where you control one of a country’s three racers in a three-race competition split between MXGP and MX2 bikes and riders. The Stadium Series offers four indoor, technical tracks to race on, and the Real Events put you in the shoes of a real-life racer in an actual event, depicted before the race via video clip, and have you either repeat an impressive feat or change history and recover from an extreme disadvantage. With a wide-open test track, the necessary single race option, and online multiplayer, there’s certainly plenty to do.

MXGP2
Highlights:

Strong Points: Technical, involved, satisfying racing; lots of content; good visuals
Weak Points: Poor sound design and music; graphically demanding; potentially unable to access multiplayer
Moral Warnings: Women in vaguely revealing clothing

What will make or break the game for you, however, is the actual racing. Split somewhere between arcade and simulation, MXGP2 pulls no punches with how difficult a motorbike can handle. While record times in a game like Need for Speed might come down to better lines and exploited shortcuts, MXGP2 all but requires you to pay attention to every aspect of your bike. With controls for both the direction of the bike and the weight distribution of the rider – the two thumbsticks on a controller, WASD and arrow keys on keyboard – every turn and jump requires thought on every lap. For instance, coming up on a series of jumps necessitates gauging your bike’s current speed, when to lay off the accelerator and therefore set your trajectory in the air, and whether to pull your bike and/or rider forward or backward. Do it right, you’ll land on the backside of a hill and keep your speed; misjudge anything, and you’ll land on the upslope, kill your pace, and look like a doofus as your competition flies by. It’s never a complete simulation – crashing or going too far (read: a foot or two) off course will just teleport you back to the track – but it’s much more technical than your average arcade racer.

To help you master your bike, MXGP2 has a wealth of gameplay-changing options. Along with four difficulty modes, you’re able to set whether the game helps you with braking (there are both front wheel and back wheel brakes to consider), weight distribution, and gear shifting. You can also change the physics of the bike, from the lenient “base” option to realistic “pro” physics – the latter makes the brakes and gas affect your bike both on the ground and in the air, and hitting the accelerator at the wrong time can make your ride buck backwards and toss you off. Not only that, but you can tweak your bike’s suspension and gear ratios to offer more or less stability or responsiveness, fix under- or over-steering, and generally adjust to each of the game’s three track types. Racing on the highest difficulty with everything on manual is an extremely involved experience, but oh-so-satisfying when you can pull it off.

Within the races themselves, you have a few more options, at least within the career mode. Each race weekend is set up in four parts: practice, qualifying, and two races – you can choose to participate in all of them, skip practice, or jump straight to the races. Of course, skipping qualifying means you’ll be unable to pick which gate to start from, immediately putting you at the disadvantaged dead-last 22nd spot. Each lap of the actual race features the game’s dirt deformation mechanic: the turns in the track get beat up with each lap, making it harder to cruise through them, though the gorges can actually help turn your bike if you hit them right. If you crash, the game has a built-in rewind mechanic, letting you reverse time roughly ten seconds and set up again – though this has a roughly twelve second recharge, so if you beef it again you’re out of luck. If this seems like cheating, that’s because it basically is. You can set the number of rewinds per race in the options, from nine all the way down to none if you’re brave enough.

The visuals of the game are of mostly high quality throughout, with each track having a distinct look and feel to them. There aren’t any weather effects to speak of, but the lighting and environments make each track recognizable from a distance. Your bike and rider get covered in mud and dirt as you ride, either steadily throughout the race or immediately if you faceplant. The sizable crowds are all 3D models, if not particularly detailed, and a few even have a flag-waving animation – impressive even now, with some modern racers sticking to 2D crowds only. It’s not all pleasant, however, as the particle effects are lacking: the bikes don’t kick up nearly as much dust as they should. It’s also rather demanding on the hardware, and if your graphics card isn’t up to snuff (like a certain reviewer’s GTX 960M) be prepared for some hefty slowdowns and even a crash or two. Luckily, the game still looks nice enough on low settings.

MXGP2
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 78%
Gameplay - 18/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 5/10
Stability - 3/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 97%
Violence - 10/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 8.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

The weakest point of MXGP2 has to be in its sound. The bike engines do sound different based on their manufacturer, and the effects while rewinding time are pretty neat, but there’s not much more to be said. The bikes make some strange noises if you land too hard or hit something, and are loud enough to easily clear the roar of the engines, which do an effective job of blocking out everything else. Not like there’s much else to block out: the songs as generic as they come, with only a handful of rather low-energy tracks that you won’t miss once the racing starts. You’re better off muting it and putting on your own driving music.

One more thing to mention, though it may not affect you, involves the multiplayer. Attempting to access it gives a consistent, baffling “invalid profile” error, and the game kicks back to the main menu. Some searching online details continued issues of that sort, though with no solutions to be found. It seems to mainly, or perhaps only, affect PC users, and even then not all of them. While there’s plenty of single-player content to be had, if you want to race other human beings, you should take note.

As a standard racing game, there’s little to concern morality-minded customers. Some of the ragdolls from crashes can look pretty nasty, but no injuries are possible. Before every race, a model with a midriff-revealing outfit holds up a card announcing the time until the gates drop, but it’s rather tame and you’re likely to skip the whole scene after you’ve seen it a few times. The game may be dirty, but thankfully it’s the kind that washes off with water.

With its wealth of options and engaging racing action, MXGP2 is a rather different but quite enthralling racing game. While obviously tailored to fans of the actual sport, even novices can find a solid, satisfying experience - and who knows, might even make a fan out of you. While there’s plenty to be found within the $49.99 price, at the time of writing MXGP3 is just over a month from release, and the cost is likely to fall. It’s certainly worth a look, even if it’s just for a test drive before the new game.

-Cadogan

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Game Info:

Narcissu
Developed by: stage-nana
Published by: Sekai Project
Release date: January 27, 2016
Available on: Windows
Genre: Visual Novel
Number of players: Single-player
ESRB Rating: Not rated
Price: $2.99 (includes the free stories and an epilogue) each additional story is $9.99 or you can get the season pass for $29.99

Thank you Sekai Project for sending us a review code for the series!

Narcissu 10th Anniversary Anthology Project was successfully Kickstarted by Sekai Project in November of 2015.  The $75,000 goal was exceeded and went towards licensing, artwork, voice work, and programming.  Before the crowdfunding campaign, Sekai Project had already invested localizing this popular Japanese series.  The voice work in this collection is still in Japanese, but it is well done and filled with emotion.  Despite a couple of typos, the English translation is pretty good as well.

For twenty dollars, backers were able to get the digital version of the game and an extra $10 included the music soundtrack which is also pleasant to listen to.  Currently, the first couple of chapters are free and the remainder of the stories are purchasable via a season pass for $29.99 or individually for $9.99 each.  If you’re new to kinetic visual novels, this is a good series to look into trying for free!

Kinetic visual novels don’t have you interact with the story whatsoever; you just get the pleasure of experiencing it.  Since there are no choices to mess up the game’s ending, I was surprised to see the generous number of save slots provided.  I typically saved at the beginning of each new chapter within each of the stories.  I should have saved more often as I lost progress from my system running out of battery power and by pressing the F12 key in an attempt to taking a screenshot and having it exit out of the game instead.  The first couple of stories support Steam’s F12 screenshot taking ability, but the later DLC stories use a different game engine that does not.

Narcissu
Highlights:

Strong Points: Interesting and thought provoking stories about characters with terminal illness and their quest to be remembered, and to live life to the fullest before leaving this world
Weak Points: The stories sometimes switch narrators and it’s hard to keep track of who's talking at times
Moral Warnings: Suicide is heavily pondered and prevalent in this series; there are violent and bloody deaths in the A Little Iris story; stealing; drinking; smoking; gambling; mild language (d*mn, hell, *sshole); various religious beliefs, and some of the characters are practicing or inactive Catholics; spiritual possession  

Most of these stories revolve around terminally ill patients residing on the 7th  (hospice) floor of the hospital. There’s a set of rules/advice verbally passed down to each new patient as a form of initiation so to speak.  The rules describe the best way to escape from the hospital in case you don’t want to die there, or burden your family with it.  The incoming patients are also warned that they will get up to three temporary leaves, but never a fourth. If a patient wants to end their life sooner, the fastest route there is to stop eating since the roof is fenced in and the windows don’t open past 15cm.  

Suicide is explored in depth in this series and some of the patients want to end their life on their terms and stop being a burden on their families.  These patients also want to live life to its fullest before checking out of this world.  Many of the stories have fun car rides with stops at the ocean, Mt. Fuji, and at various restaurants or convenience stores along the way.   One of the road trips takes place in a stolen car and when money runs tight the patient goes to a Pachinko parlor to steal some winnings from unsuspecting gamblers.  On this trip they also stop at a laundromat to steal some clothes and run off with prescriptions from the pharmacy without paying for them.  Given their dire circumstances, I empathized with them, but stealing is still wrong regardless of how much time you have left on Earth.

One of the characters has a bucket list that they want completed before they die.  An item on the list is having a drink, and their underage friend accompanying them partakes in this event as well.   In a different story, a couple of the characters smoke and the hospice patient tries it for the first time and coughs from doing it wrong.  While sex doesn't make it on any bucket lists, some of the artwork shows the characters in revealing clothing. 

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

Game Score - 74%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 60%
Violence - 4.5/10
Language - 7/10
Sexual Content - 8/10
Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 5.5/10

Most of the stories are non-violent with the exception of A Little Iris.  This story takes place in Medieval Europe and tells the tale of a young princess who was locked away in her room for safe keeping.  The only time she left her room was when she was traveling to the neighboring country to get married to a man she did not know.  When that marriage didn’t happen, her usefulness vanished and she had to learn to kill or be killed in order to survive.  In her years in prison, she befriends a mercenary and they travel in search of safety and a new life.  Can a girl who only knows how to kill be redeemed and start a new life?

The last moral issue worth noting takes place in the most recent installment, Sumire.   In this story, the characters can possess people as a form of immortality.  When their host is no longer of use, they can kill them off and take over another unsuspecting human.    Immortality has its drawbacks and there are some severe limitations to this ability.

Until the possessions came into play, this series was pretty tame with the exception of some mild language and violence.  I still recommend checking out the first couple of chapters on Steam since they are free to enjoy.  Narcissu provides you with an interesting perspective on coming to grips with your morality and making sure you leave behind a legacy that you’re proud of.

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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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