Thank you Sekai Project for sending us this game to review!
As a fan of anime, I’m intrigued by Japanese culture and would love to visit Japan someday. Through the various high school themed animes I’ve learned about many of Japan’s pastimes. I’ve realized that there’s much more to learn after playing Japanese School Life.
Japenese School Life is a 2D visual novel that gives you a glimpse into the life of typical high school kids. You’ll learn about etiquette and various customs that take place throughout the year. This three-and-a-half-hour visual novel features multiple endings and a nekomimi mode if you want everyone to wear cat ears.
The main character is Brian, a self-proclaimed otaku (obsessed fan) that becomes a foreign exchange student. He is permitted to stay in Japan for one school year which is broken up into three trimesters. Brian wants to absorb as much of Japan’s culture as possible and desires to visit several locations that are on his “bucket list.”
On his first day he meets and exchanges cell phone numbers with two girls who are polar opposites, personality wise. Chiyoko is the studious class representative who is soft spoken and very courteous. Arisa is very outspoken and competitive when it comes to sports. Both Brian and Arisa freak out when it comes to test taking and get together with Chiyoko for study sessions.
There’s more than studying as the students enjoy singing karaoke and going to arcades to play crane games. In the summertime the girls wear revealing bikinis and take part in suikawari which involves swatting a watermelon with a stick piñata style until it cracks.
Since Brain loves anime and manga, he visits Akihabara which is a mecca for those hobbies along with gaming. He also attends Comic Market, or Comiket for short, and he discovers a secret about one of the girls there. There is a school trip that takes place in the more traditional Kyoto and much is revealed about Japan’s history there.
Depending on the choices made throughout the game Brian can fall in love with Chiyoko or Arisa. There are six Steam achievements and two of them are for each of the endings. Another achievement can be unlocked for playing the game in Japanese. While the voice acting is in Japanese you can have English subtitles. Unfortunately, there are a few instances of minor cussing with the word d*mmit appearing a few times and hell used a couple of times. The voice acting was well done, but I wish there was more variety in the background music.
Visually there’s a fair amount of variety in Japanese School Life. Throughout the year the girl’s uniforms will change along with the climate. For example, in the wintertime they’ll be bundled up in coats. There are a few holiday parties where the girls wear Halloween costumes or Santa outfits. Some of the cutscenes switch visual styles to a cute chibi cartoon mode as opposed to the anime appearance.
Though the premise and characters are cute, I wasn’t as drawn into this visual novel in comparison to others I have played. It certainly is educational and more fun than some “edutainment” style games though. The price is a reasonable $9.99 and there’s a free demo to check it out before purchasing it.
Thank you Black Shell Media for sending us this game to review!
When I was growing up I owned an Atari 2600 and one of my favorite games on it was Choplifter. In Choplifter you had to fly a helicopter and rescue stranded soldiers in a desert battlefield. Dustoff Heli Rescue has a similar premise but with better 3D Minecraft style graphics and a jungle backdrop.
In total there are twenty-five missions and they range from rescuing soldiers to picking up cargo. The soldiers are usually easy to find with their red flare smoke, but sometimes they are in cages you'll have to break beforehand. In other missions the hostages are in an enemy convoy that you’ll have to shoot down first. The convoy rarely travels alone so you’ll have to take out its escorts as well.
By default, the helicopter auto-fires, but you can set it to manual if you really want a challenge. In total there are three different helicopters and guns that you can unlock throughout the game. Each helicopter has different attributes when it comes to capacity and maneuverability. Carrying more soldiers is helpful, but are you willing to deal with a harder to control helicopter?
Whenever you land on the helipad your helicopter’s health and ammunition will refill. Try not to let either get too low as it takes time to recharge. Depending on your completion time, you’ll earn a gold, silver, or a bronze medal for the completing the level.
The levels have plenty of variety. Some of them take place in sunny weather with plenty of open space to fly through. Others have you steering through caverns which takes a lot of precision. There are no checkpoints so if you crash you’ll have to restart from the beginning. More challenging levels take place in severe weather conditions that cripple the simple control scheme. When you’re close to half-way through the game, the difficulty ramps up significantly and can be very frustrating.
By default, the game uses only the left and right arrow keys. You can bind them to the shoulder buttons of a gamepad if you desire. To lift off you simply press both buttons and then use the arrow or shoulder button for the direction you wish to go. Sometimes you’ll have to press the opposite button to stabilize your helicopter. Delicate landings are a must and you’ll have to tap both buttons to slow down your descent. If you choose to manually fire your gun, you'll have to click on your mouse to do so.
I’ve learned the hard way that tipping over your helicopter or landing in water will cause your helicopter to explode. Other than accidentally killing your passengers, this game is pretty tame when it comes to violence. Enemy vehicles still explode, but you don’t see any blood or gore. In fact, the enemy soldiers are seen running away when your helicopter approaches their encampments.
The soldiers in this game are blocky in nature and look very similar to the characters in Minecraft. The graphics are decent and don’t require high end systems to run smoothly. The audio is well done and the static laden radio chatter is a nice touch.
Overall this is a cute game that gets a little frustrating when you’re half-way though completing it. There is plenty of replay-ability with the option of besting your previous score and trying to find the five hidden dog tags in each of the levels. The price is a reasonable $3.99 and is worth picking up if it goes on sale.
Thank you Triger Mountain for sending us this game to review!
There’s not much of a story in Demon Truck other than you glorifying Satan by dispatching any obstacle or vehicle that gets between your fearsome truck and the Next Hell. To make things interesting, your truck has a mind of its own and steers itself. All you can do is ram into objects with temporary invincibility and shoot down enemies and bosses that get in your way. Both your boost and ammunition gauges are limited and need time to recharge.
While enemies can be avoided instead of shot down, you do get score bonuses for taking them all out in a perfect run. If you miss just one enemy, you’ll get a mediocre rating. After a wave is completed you’ll get to choose one out of two randomly selected power-ups.
You can equip your hellish rig with guided missiles, flame throwers, laser beams, and other options like the ability to hurl exploding clowns at your enemies. The power-ups are stackable so showering your opponents with clowns is totally possible and rewarding. There’s a Steam achievement for equipping three clowns at a time. Other power-ups increase your ammo, health, and boost amount. "Demon's danglies" increase your score multiplier which comes in handy if you’re looking to etch your name on the global leaderboards.
In the beginning you start off with three health hearts (that are shaped like actual anatomical hearts). Each time you collide with an obstacle or enemy attack you’ll lose one. Replenishing your health is often a choice as a possible power-up after completing a wave. Of course the game taunts you for choosing it by naming it “Heart of Cowardice.”
The bosses are intimidating and require you to expertly time your attack and defensive maneuvers. Once they are defeated you’ll earn an additional health heart. Like the enemies and level layouts, the bosses are randomly selected.
The 2D visuals have a 16-bit look to them, but they look and run great on lower-end systems. The explosions and fire particle effects look nice, especially after clearing a menacing boss!
Zircon composed the music in Demon Truck along with other games like Soulcalibur V, Monkey Island 2 SE, and Phineas & Ferb: AT2D. While he wasn’t the lead composer, he did assist in other popular titles like Street Fighter II THDR, and Crypt of the Necrodancer. The sound effects are good too.
The $4.99 price tag is very reasonable for this well polished and fun game. If it wasn’t for the hellish theme and demonic premise I would wholeheartedly recommend this title. If you don’t mind glorifying Satan with your devious rig, then you’ll want to check out Demon Truck.
Thanks to Kickbomb Entertainment for sending us a review copy!
The Elder Star at the center of the universe has died. A mob of countless synthetics known as the Infinite Legion has ripped out its heart and split it into four, looking to end the organic life the star supports. However, even in death, the Elder Star is not defenseless. As the universe faces its greatest threat, the long-slumbering Cosmonaut awakens, set to wage a one-robot war on the Infinite Legion to re-forge the Elder Star’s core and save all that lives.
Legacy of the Elder Star is a side-scrolling shooter that sets itself apart through its control scheme and difficulty style. The player character, Cosmonaut, is controlled entirely through the mouse: moving the mouse moves Cosmonaut; left clicking activates your primary attack; right clicking uses your secondary attack, which uses a limited but constantly recharging ammunition meter; and clicking both at once fires your special attack, which charges as you defeat enemies. In addition, the Z, X, and space bar keys can be used in lieu of left, right, and double clicking. Perhaps best of all, the mouse wheel changes the sensitivity of your mouse, speeding up and slowing down Cosmonaut on the fly to suit your preferences. The control you have over Cosmonaut is extensive, and is central to making the game work as well as it does.
The difficulty of Legacy of the Elder Star, rather than prepackaged modes or scaling enemies to your performance, is entirely score-based. Cosmonaut can take five hits before exploding, with extra hits granted every 20 million points, but you always continue where you left off; death only resets your score multiplier, which constantly raises the longer you stay alive. In essence, this allows you to limp through the whole story the first few times, showing you each of the five stages’ enemy layout and boss attacks – the former is randomly generated each time you play, but somewhat limited to a few sets per level. While this sets up a base that’s a bit more repetitive than other shooting games, it gives a clear focus on offense rather than defense.
As you get more familiar with the game, the true risk-reward system shines through. You gain bonuses for defeating enemies up close, for grazing or capturing bullets, and for fulfilling special conditions like destroying 90% of all enemies or never burning out your secondary weapon. Once you get familiar with the stages and enemy types, you’ll naturally start pushing the envelope, disregarding safety in search of higher scores. Combined with the responsive controls, your score is tied to your skill and experience, and serves as a rewarding memento to your progress.
All three attacks come in three varieties, unlocked as you play through the story mode, and have significantly different properties. You can freely mix-and-match between the weapons you have, but are locked into your choice once the game starts. While no weapon is useless, there is always one per set that is noticeably more powerful and is all but required for high scores. The third primary weapon can be charged before firing, which not only gives you the close-range bonus but captures all enemy bullets it hits. Likewise, while all secondary attacks award bonuses on kills, the final one simply has much more potential than the other two, though at the cost of being harder to master and giving no invincibility while in use. The second special weapon, a giant laser beam, seems much more useful than the other two due to its speed, uptime, and areal coverage. That’s not to say that the other weapons aren’t effective or fun to use, but don’t expect to put up huge scores with them.
Along with the weapons, three additional game modes are unlocked as you beat the story: Practice, Challenge, and Gauntlet. Practice mode lets you choose a single story mode stage to play through. Challenge gives you a new randomly-generated level per day and limits you to a specific weapon loadout; you can play as many times as you want to put up the best score you can before the day is out. Gauntlet is a boss rush; you must destroy every boss in the game on a single life, with bonus points awarded based on how fast you beat each enemy. Both Challenge and Gauntlet offer an enjoyable break from the main story mode, and Challenge specifically tests your skill and relieves the aforementioned balance issues through its strict weapon choices.
The game’s presentation could hardly be better. The story is functionally a footnote, but the opening and closing cutscenes lend themselves well to the game's overall style. The load times are snappy, and in-game slowdown is non-existent. The art direction is top notch, being both pleasing to look at and informative to the player: the characters stand out against the backgrounds, and important elements, such as bullets or Cosmonaut’s hitbox, are bright reds and blues that stand out against everything else. The music is very well done, with most tracks sampling the surprisingly-catchy main theme, and is one of the highlights of the whole game.
The only flaw lies in the sound effects, and even then only a subset of them: while the rest of the game is retro-styled but undeniably modern, the explosions and bonus point sound effects are NES-type 8-bit boops and bleeps that clash against the established aesthetic. Even then, however, they convey important messages to the player by standing out, mainly acknowledging when you’ve obtained a bonus or when a boss has moved on to its next stage, so even its only real fault is barely a problem.
The game syncs your scores to its online leaderboards, encouraging some amount of competition. Unfortunately, there are only a few dozen other scores at most at the time of writing, and hardly anyone plays the daily Challenge mode, so most of your opposition will have to be yourself. It’s worth mentioning that there was one instance of the game not taking my score – which, of course, happened to be the best score I ever achieved – but it only happened once, and could very well have been a Steam or general internet issue.
As a shooting game, violence is the main attraction. However, the only living beings in the game are some background foliage; all the action is contained to robots shooting robots. There is little morally objectionable in the game at all, and is safe for all ages to play.
If you’re looking for a score attack shooting game to play, Legacy of the Elder Star is certainly worth a look. Tight controls, great design, and fantastic presentation make it worth the price of admission, even before considering the nigh-endless replayability. Accessible to both beginners and experts, and good for a quick story mode run or a longer session, Legacy of the Elder Star is a solid addition to any library.
Thank you Black Shell Media for sending us this game to review!
Are you tired of eating crappy pizza? Do you have an awesome idea for a delicious pizza? Do you want to run your own pizzeria? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, then you’ll probably enjoy Pizza Express. In this retro themed 2D game you get to help your friend Gastone open up a pizza restaurant. While his bank pays out a good interest rate every ten days, there is no credit. In other words, if you go bankrupt, the game is over and you’ll have to try again.
In the beginning there are a handful of pizza recipes to choose from and some of them don’t even use cheese! While eating cheese-free pizza is unorthodox, it does make the dairy intolerant customers happy. At first there are not many ingredients to work with in regards to designing your pizzas, but as you progress in the thirty-day story campaign you’ll unlock them. There are one-hundred and sixty Steam achievements and many of them are based on how many pizzas you make and how many calories you have delivered.
Making the pizzas is pretty straightforward and mostly involves dragging and dropping the proper ingredients into place. If you hover over the ordered item, it will display the icons for the necessary ingredients. Due to the pixilated graphics design, it’s not very obvious what the ingredients actually are. When a pizza is completed you simply left click on it to send it to the oven or right click on it to scrap it if you messed up. Speed and accuracy are key to higher grades for the works and the restaurant itself.
Since your goal is to be a successful pizzeria, you must be profitable and recognizable. Throughout the story you’ll be visited by several food critics and inspectors. If you can make them happy your restaurant will be off to a good start. Be sure to implement their feedback about menu choices and food quality.
Not only are you responsible for making the pizzas, you’re also in charge of all aspects of running this restaurant. You’ll be handling the operating hours, décor, food vendors, and marketing. There are good and bad forms of marketing. Some of the cheaper methods like spamming people’s e-mail may get the word out, but not in a good way.
Like many restaurants there are busy and slow periods of time. While it’s slow you can speed up the clock by pressing the 1-4 number keys. As you’re making pizzas you’ll have to watch your inventory count and right click on items to re-stock them. There’s a limit of three deliveries at a time so be sure to pace yourself accordingly. The cost and arrival time of the deliveries depends on which vendor you are using. The faster service has a higher cost.
If you just like making pizzas, there are endurance and arcade modes to try. The story mode is fun and has some silly characters and scenarios. There are various scandals and choices that you make that alter your relationships with various people in the game. There is some name calling and casual use of the word hell.
While I can appreciate some retro themed games, some titles like this one can overdo it. I think better graphics would have made this game easier to use. The chiptune music is catchy at times and has gotten stuck in my head. I enjoyed some of the electronica styled tracks more than others.
In the end, Pizza Express is a cute game that is intentionally rough around the edges. The gameplay is solid and enjoyable and I highly recommend it for those who really like pizza or restaurant manager type games.