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Game Info:

Pinball FX3 Universal Classics
Developed by: Zen Studios
Published by: Zen Studios
Release date: September 26, 2017
Available on: PS4, Windows, Xbox One
Genre: Pinball
Number of players: Up to four
ESRB Rating: E 10+ for fantasy violence and mild language
Price: $9.99

Thank you Zen Studios for sending us this game to review!

Pinball FX3 is the successor to the previously free and popular FX2. If you haven’t downloaded FX2 on Steam yet, you’re out of luck because it has been pulled along with all of its DLC content. On a positive note, many of the DLC tables are imported into FX3 free of charge. Hot seat mode is still available which allows up to four players to take turns after each ball is lost. Every table now has challenge modes added to them which spruces up single player gameplay quite a bit. Tournaments and matchmaking are easier to set up and there’s a helpful female guide to teach you the basics on how to use Pinball FX3.

The three challenge modes are 1 ball, 5 minutes, and survival mode. The goal in the one ball challenge is to get the highest score possible with only one ball. If you lose the ball while the ball save light is illuminated, that still counts. After the ball is lost for good, your score is added to the global leaderboards and stars are earned depending on how good of a score you received. The 5 minute challenge give you an unlimited number of balls so you have plenty of opportunities to get a high score within the time limit. The survival mode gives you unlimited balls as well; however, if you don’t meet the score requirement in the time limit, your game will end.

Pinball FX3 Universal Classics
Highlights:

Strong Points: New challenge modes and well-designed tables
Weak Points: The musical scores are missing and the voice actors are noticeably different; graphical stuttering
Moral Warnings: You can roll over enemies with your pinball; some language (hell, d*mn)

Pinball FX3 does come with one free table, Sorcerer’s Lair. Launching alongside FX3 is the Universal Classics DLC pack. This DLC has three pinball tables inspired by classic movies like Back to the Future, E.T., and Jaws. Each of these tables is well crafted and provides many mini-games and eye candy to entertain you for quite some time. What is lacking from these tables are the iconic movie scores and the voice actors are noticeably different. Seriously, what is Jaws without the Da-Dum...Da-Dum...Da-Dum-Da-Dum-Da-Dum theme? The voice acting for Marty McFly is good (though he says hell occasionally), but Doc Brown is a bit off. E.T.’s noises are pretty accurate and the kid actors are decent. I like how I’m called “zero charisma” for losing a ball. It’s been such a long time since I’ve seen Jaws that I can’t comment on how accurate the captain’s voice acting is, but both the captain and Doc Brown tend to say d*mn a bit.

The disappointment continues in the visual realm as well as my i7 desktop with 16GB of RAM and a 4GB 290X stuttered occasionally. I’ve seen stuttering in VR pinball, but the regular version of Pinball FX2 ran much smoother. Hopefully Pinball FX3 will get some optimization patches in the near future.

Pinball FX3 Universal Classics
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 84%
Gameplay - 18/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 6/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

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

The tables look great and are a blast to play, especially in the new challenge modes. I like how each of them has a nighttime mode with limited visibility. They all have the coveted multiball mode, which takes some effort to trigger. The minigames are worth activating as they can net millions of points upon completion. The E.T. table has a mini game where you have to roll the ball to collect candy while avoiding the police hats. The Jaws table has the infamous shark swimming around and you can get a couple million points for hitting it with the pinball. The Back to the Future table launches with a random theme based on one of the movies from the trilogy. You get the original, the future, or the western themed table.

Even though the audio and overall performance could have been better, I still enjoyed playing these tables. The asking price of $9.99 is reasonable and worth picking up if you don’t mind the mild language. I look forward to more high quality and family friendly tables for Pinball FX3!

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Game Info:

Fortnite
Developer: Epic Games, People can fly
Published by: Epic Games
Release Date: Early access: July 25, 2017 Full Version: 2018
Available on: Windows, macOS, PS4, Xbox One
Genre: Action, Shooter
Players: 1-4 in PvE, 100 in PvP
ESRB Rating: T for Teen, Violence
Price: $0-$150

Thank you Epic Games for sending us a review code.

Fortnite: great zombie MMO to some and just another quick cash grab to others. I'll want to crystal ball this really fast and say that I want to give the game at least an 80 percent with a gigantic asterisk over that score. Let's not waste anymore time and navigate the storm. This is Fortnite.

In Fortnite you can play as a multitude of different heroes defending against zombies that come from a mysterious lightning storm. I'd like to say that there's more to the story, but that's it. I have no care or interest in this game's world of colorful characters. It tries to have its fun by saying the world's dying yet it gives you objectives like protecting the rock and roll man Lars while he gets ready to fly his truck into the sky. Materials are a valuable resource yet you can get some help from miniature llama pinatas. You can buy them too, so yay for micro-transactions.

In the game's player vs environment (PvE mode you start on a randomly generated map, and you have a chance to mine for resources. The main three resources are wood, brick and metal. You can play as various classes you have gained whether it be soldiers, ninjas, outlanders or constructors. Each of these classes have various abilities that range from making your forts stronger to finding exclusive items and materials. Your goal is to protect an objective; this can include a weather balloon with information about the storm, Lars and his floating van or other various things. Once you locate the goal, you have a chance to build a fort around the objective to make it easier to protect. You can make walls, stairs, roofs, floors and ceilings and you can build various traps within the fort. You only get a limited time before the waves of zombies, known as husks, attack. Once you outlast the horde, you get your quest rewards and you rinse and repeat. Keep in mind that players can join you at random if you go it alone or you can wait for people to join any lobby you create for a mission.

Fortnite
Highlights:

Strong Points: Free to play PvP only mode. $39.99-$149.99 for various PvE early access packages. Fortnite will be completely free to play on full release.
Weak Points: Though it is unfinished as of this preview the PvE is exciting and well rounded. Those who enjoy grinds to a challenging end game will get a lot of fun out of Fortnite.
Moral Warnings: This game is designed for microtransactions. You'll feel the pull to buy buy buy at every point.
Moral warnings: Light slapstick violence. High risk for gambling addiction, this game can hurt those that are easy to fall to addictive habits.

The player vs player mode is a 100 man survival game similar to the game PlayerUnknown’s Battle Grounds. Once you're matched up with 100 people, you take off on the flying party bus, and you choose when you wish to drop onto the map. Your only goal is to find supplies and weapons to stay alive for as long as possible. Don't expect to stay in the same spot for too long, as the match progresses the play area shrinks in size, forcing players to get closer together. While you can still build forts like in the PvE mode, it doesn't matter too much when you'll have to eventually move to a new location anyway.

So the PvE mode is great; you have plenty of enemy varieties, the weapons and classes all feel fun and unique, and the meta game is easy to understand. The game has a lot of currencies and skill trees to balance but it is not complicated at all. Now let me talk about that asterisk mentioned earlier. This game's monetization system is one of the worst on a gameplay basis and a moral one. I've talked about loot boxes on record before yet I don't believe a game has made it more obvious that It's gambling before Fortnite came along. Those llamas you can get have a chance to turn silver or gold, increasing the amount and rarity of loot you get from them. What makes this worse is the game's flaw in XP grinding. You have to retire heroes when you add them to a collection book, you have to evolve survivors and schematics by grinding up XP and you have a chance to recycle the schematics you're not going to use. You'll also have to choose between evolving characters or putting them in the collection book. The Recyling and Collection books aren't explained well in game as of yet. The only reason they encourage you to do these things is to get more XP to level up other schematics or heroes. The rewards in the Collection book are semi randomized as you level it up. Some levels give random prizes and other level's give guaranteed prizes.

A lot of Fortnite's design around leveling up screams “Temptation buy”. Games that are designed around an extreme grind for xp or gear currencies say you don't need to buy the microtransactions but they sure as heck make it tempting. I haven't made it to the end game yet and I have a feeling I'd need to put in at least a few weeks of hardcore nonstop playing to even get to that level with a weapon or a hero. I don't need to buy the microtransactions, but it would sure help increase my power level. The fact that everything has a rarity makes the temptation higher. Uncommon and rare heroes for example can only evolve 3 or 4 times. Epic, legendary and mythic heroes can evolve up to 5 times. If you don't get an epic from your quest rewards or your free mini llamas, you'll only feel that pull to buy a llama even more.

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

Game Score - 84%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 74%
Violence - 8/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 9/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 0/10

The PvP mode is ok but the separation of loot into rarity makes the hunt for PvP gear all the more cruddy. A common level shotgun won't do as much damage as a legendary one. Now in a match I was lucky enough to obtain both an epic and legendary sniper rifle. They seemed to have a small difference in level of power. A competitive gamer will still see that as a luck based advantage and cry unfair. Hopefully the gear system in the PvP mode will be reworked before a full release. While the base building aspect in PvP is unique to its competition, it's still a moot point. Unless you successfully predict where the play area's final space will be you're not going to be camping out the whole game in your awesome fort. Sure you can build a sniper's nest but that's assuming you find a sniper rifle. Firing a pistol or shotgun just won't give you the same results from your pretty nest. Keep in mind you get no rewards for playing the PvP mode as of now. It is strictly for fun.

Sound and graphics are both mediocre at best. You can't really customize your hero; they all look pretty similar to one another accept a few haircuts or skin tones. The music is ok but gets old after a while.

On morality the violence is slapstick; no blood when you're fighting opponents in PvP or the husks. The language is relatively clean and the story doesn't have anything really offensive in it. The gambling aspect however is pretty grotesque; this game is designed to tempt you to buy buy buy or you'll waste so much time doing it the long grindy way. On the gameplay side, it doesn't say a lot about your game if you're encouraging people to skip past portions of it for cash. It also means you're trying to encourage a sinful and addictive habit.

Fortnite is a great game for people that love "defending the objective" style goals and fighting against hordes of monsters. However I'd encourage you to wait on its development right now until it gets closer to a 1.0 state. The game will become free to play once it is complete. Anything you pay for now is for early access and a few in game goodies.

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Game Info:

The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance Episode 3
Developed by: Scarlet City Studios
Published by: Scarlet City Studios
Release date: December 1, 2016
Available on: Android, iOS, Mac, Windows
Genre: MMO
Number of players: Single/Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: Not rated
Price: $9.99

Thank you Scarlet City Studios for sending us a review code for this game!

Episode 3 is the season finale for The Aetherlight Chronicles. Here are links to our reviews for episodes one and two for reference. In this episode, the Snowmoors are melting and it has to be stopped. Fortunately, the intelligent Jefferson is already formulating different theories as to why it’s happening.

Along with the new character based off of Joseph, there are several new enemies introduced and they are much tougher. Thankfully the level cap is raised and you’ll need the extra health and power to defeat them and the new bosses. One of the battles you’re meant to lose and you’ll find yourself imprisoned with Jefferson.

Aetherlight
Highlights:

Strong Points: Great retelling of Biblical stories; safe game for children to play online
Weak Points: Graphical glitches; not many players online
Moral Warnings: Battles against mechanical enemies

Do you know somebody that is annoyingly intelligent and talks down to everyone else? That’s how Jefferson is and it’s no wonder that you find him trapped in a pit presumably from his siblings that had enough of him.

The battles remain the same with a spinning arrow that determines if your weapon of choice will hit, do a super attack, or miss its target. Since all of the enemies are automatons there is no blood or gore to worry about.

Crafting is still essential to complete quests and for modifying your weapons to do more damage. Some nice modifications let you add fire, water, lightning, and oil attacks to your weapons. Fire is strong against the ice mountain automatons. Be warned that as you upgrade the attack power of some weapons, the ability to miss increases along with it.

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

Game Score - 84%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 93%
Violence - 6.5/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

As expected, the voice acting is still well done with the existing and new characters. I like how you can continue to play the game and complete optional quests after the main story is finished.

Most of the time I fought alone, but occasionally I would have the help of an online player. I like how the final boss battle had two characters fighting beside me. I wish the boss would attack them too, but I was always the primary target. There seems to be a handful of players online at any given time, but there is plenty of room for some more. I like how Scarlet City has added the family pass that sells for $19.99 and lets up to five players connect simultaneously.

Overall, The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance is a fun and family friendly series that teaches Biblical stories in a new and exciting way. I hope that more people check it out since there is a way to try it online for free. Check out their website for more details. I look forward to the next season and more offerings from Scarlet City Studios!

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Game Info:

A Hat in Time
Developed by: Gears for Breakfast
Published by: Humble Bundle
Release date: October 5, 2017
Available on: PC, Xbox One
Genre: Platformer
Number of players: Up to two
ESRB Rating: E 10+ for fantasy violence, alcohol and tobacco reference
Price: $29.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Gears for Breakfast for sending us this game to review!

A Hat in Time was successfully Kickstarted in 2013 by raising nearly $300,000 which is substantially more than its original goal of $30,000. Because of the huge fundraising success, many stretch goals are available in the release version including split screen co-op, new game +, and two bonus chapters that will arrive later as free DLC.

The main character in this game is dubbed “Hat Kid” because she really doesn’t say much and she wears hats. Each hat she can equip grants her an ability. For example, the starting top hat will show her where her next objective is. This is handy when looking for someone of importance or locating one of the missing timepieces needed to get Hat Kid’s ship running again. The five worlds currently available are sizable and offer plenty of opportunities for exploration. Why focus on the storyline when there are so many areas to explore and orbs to collect?

Just in case you're wondering, the story is pretty basic. Hat Kid was peacefully flying in space when a mafia thug demanded that her ship pay a toll. When she refused, her ship got damaged and lost its fuel, which comes in the form of shiny hourglasses. These hourglasses landed on various planets and are quickly picked up and cherished by the inhabitants. Hat Kid must go through many obstacles to collect all of her missing timepieces.

A Hat in Time
Highlights:

Strong Points: Charming and fun platformer game
Weak Points: Game didn't launch properly one time
Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence with some blood; gambling; drinking; smoking; ghosts; minor language (sucks)

You’ll find many green orbs scattered around and they are used as currency to buy various badges that grant Hat Kid unique abilities. One of the badges I bought drew in orbs automatically instead of requiring her to make physical contact with them. Because a Kickstarter goal was met, there’s a voice mumble badge available as well. I enjoyed the voice acting and didn’t see a need to change it. The background music is composed by Grant Kirkhop who scored Banjo-Kazooie, one of the games that inspired A Hat in Time.

Other inspirations for this game include Super Mario 64 and Psychonauts. Like these classics, Hat Kid will have to climb, jump, double jump, and perform all sorts of maneuvers to survive the various enemies and bosses. In the beginning, Hat Kid can only jump and then attack while in the air. It doesn’t take long for her to be reunited with her trusty umbrella to whack some sense into mafia thugs and other bad guys. Some enemies require combo attacks and the bosses take many hits before they go down. Other enemies require stealth, so you'll have to stay out of their vision zones.

The boss battles are pretty intense and their attacks get harder to dodge as they get lower on health. Unfortunately, Hat Kid doesn’t have many hit points. Thankfully, health drops occur in the battle if you can get to them fast enough. Health orbs are available throughout the levels as well in case some of the unfriendly inhabitants get the better of you. There are other collectibles like vouchers which are required for opening up safes with goodies inside of them. Treasure chests are easier to open if you can find them.

A Hat in Time
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

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

Morality Score - 79%
Violence - 5/10
Language - 8/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

Each level also has some relics in them. If you combine the related relics in the space ship's hub, you'll unlock some new areas with time pieces to explore. The hub is very colorful and with all of the gadgets, it looks like a child designed it.

Visually, this game is so darn cute. The worlds are both colorful and well designed. The bright visuals are bound to attract the attention of kids and, for the most part, this game is safe for them to play. Like many classic platformers, there is cartoon violence. There is a crime scene that shows a puddle of blood though. One of the levels requires infiltrating a mafia establishment, which serves alcohol and promotes gambling. If Hat Kid has the proper currency, she can gamble too. Some of the characters smoke. Lastly, there is a haunted forest level with ghosts in it.

If you like classic platformer games, A Hat in Time is worth checking out. Don’t let the childish atmosphere fool you, this game provides plenty of challenge and even more opportunities to explore. The co-op mode is great if you have a friend nearby to join in the adventure. The Steam version will have user created content available through the Workshop. The asking price is $29.99 unless you were lucky enough to back it for $10-15 on Kickstarter.

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Game Info:

Starward Rogue
Developed By: Arcen Games LLC
Published By: Arcen Games LLC
Released: January 22, 2016
Available On: Windows, Mac, Linux
ESRB Rating: Not Rated
Number Of Players: SinglePlayer
Price: $11.99
(Humble Store Link)

Starward Rogue is a top down shooter roguelite, which means the classic randomly generated levels and permadeath. But, Starward Rogue adds some slight innovation to this oversaturated genre: it combines the top down elements with shoot 'em ups (shmups), meaning dodging lots of bullets. If you can handle some tough dodging, and love this niche genre, you’re in for a ride.

This game is in a bird's-eye view with twin stick shooter controls, meaning they are your basic WASD movement and mouse to aim and shoot. What Starward does with controls that’s a little different, and really useful, is add sprint (shift) and slow walk (control) buttons. This makes it so you are able to dodge significantly more precisely, which overall leads to more interesting patterns, more bullets, and less complaints about character speed. The minor issue with this is that you end up holding down control for a lot of the game, which can tire whatever finger you are using to hold it down. But aside from that, the developers adding these buttons as options is considerate and helps the game stay fair.

On gamepad the controls are significantly worse in a few ways. You do have the normal twin stick controls; left stick to move, and right stick to shoot. The issue here is the slow-walk button. You press left stick to walk slowly, which doesn't sound too bad until you realize you'll be holding this down while moving a lot. Fortunately, both keyboard and gamepad controls are able to be changed.

Starward Rogue
Highlights:

Strong Points: Replayable; innovative; controls well
Weak Points: Difficult; not for casual players; lack of story
Moral Warnings: Machine violence

Starward’s gameplay is pretty simple: move from room to room in handcrafted areas stacked together in randomly generated layouts, kill everything in it, and move on to the next. Along the way you will buy items from various shops. Then you fight the main boss of each floor, afterwards proceeding to the next. It’s a simple gameplay loop, but Starward does it well. It keeps it from being a grind by having shops near every dead end, and a decent sized variety of enemies to take down. To beat the game, you have to do this for 7 floors, eventually taking on the final boss. This loop never gets old because of the randomly generated floors, items, enemies, and bosses.

There are several types of items in Starward Rogue. Everything from stat upgrades to orbital robots to weapons, and there is a large variety of each of these. Every run you will have a different inventory of items. Somehow, even though there’s this many items, the game never feels luck-based. You never feel like you got dealt the wrong deck, even with such a variety of items to grab each time.

Along with there being over 30 enemy types, there are a lot of bosses to fight. You will be fighting unique bosses nearly every run, each one with different bullet patterns to dodge. These patterns usually consist of 20-30 small, slow bullets, covering most of the screen. All of the bosses have a reasonable amount of health, so the fight isn’t too long nor is it too short. I have not come across a boss fight that has been unfair.

To fight through this ship, you can choose from 7 different mechs, each with slightly different stats and mechanics. You have your basic "average stats with a bit more health", then you also have a mech that has very little defense, but time only moves when you move. Not every mech has something interesting like that, as most of them are just altered stats.

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

Game Score - 72%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 6/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 87%
Violence - 6.5/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 9/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

There are a few issues with this title. For starters, a full completed run through all 7 floors takes an average of 90 minutes to do, which makes these runs a little tiresome later on. Luckily, there is a save and quit option. Then there is the one major “issue” with Starward Rogue: the difficulty. This game is not meant for any sort of casual player. It takes some hefty dedication to beat, as well as skill with games of the same genre from the past. Don’t let that scare you too much though; there are 5 difficulty options to choose from, so if you need a little bit of an easier experience, you can simply choose an easier difficulty. Although, even at the lowest difficulty, the game doesn’t let you through easily.

As for story, there isn’t much of one. The game starts with a robot named “Rodney” asking you to break him out of a ship lodged into the sun, but the story doesn’t progress much further than that. If you are looking for something with a decent lore, you can’t expect much of anything from this game.

The visuals and art style aren't really anything special. It isn't super attractive to look at, but at the same time it does its job. The bullets on the screen are usually very small (less than 16X16 pixels), but it makes up for this by making them colorful and distinct from the environment.

Morally there aren’t any huge issues here. There’s some machines shooting machines with some explosions, but there are no human characters, and no blood or gore. The only thing other than that that may be an issue is that there are health sacrifice shops where you turn in maximum hit points for an item. But these deals are not made with any sort of evil figure, just a robot merchant. Starward Rogue does a lot of what some more controversial games do, so it’s a great alternative, and just a great game anyway.

This is one of my favorite titles. The difficulty and random generation has kept me coming back after hundreds of hours. Although if you cannot handle a tough beast of a game, you might want to stay away.

- Kinix

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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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