Quick Takes: Some Good Games To Catch Up On (In A Year Of Too Many Great Ones), Part 1


 

Yep, the backlog has been officially backloggier thanks to stuff being stuff in the real world. But things are getting played bit by bit here despite incessantly annoying diversions. Hey, one needs something FUN to do between bouts of eyebrow lifts, sighing into adult beverages and trying not to trip over the assorted stacks of THINGS TO GET DONE lined carefully in strategic spots around the office. Okay, it’s not anywhere near that terrible, but I love to melodrama my issues a bit much. Anyway, here’s part one of a series of capsule reviews, or a brief rundown on things that have been tackled, games division.
 


 

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing Extended Edition (PS4): If you’re a big Diablo III or other isometric ARPG fan and want another game of the chase and chop variety, a mere $20 will be well spent on NeoCore Games’ more amusing and in some areas, harder game. While it goes for a more Steampunk Victorian visual aesthetic and uses a good deal more in the way of humor in its storytelling, the quest and side-quest 1-2 punch holds things together quite nicely. Granted, you have fewer classes to play around with, but the skills system for your Van Helsing and his ghostly aide Katerina ends up being pretty complex with many passive skills that boost combat to some often grand destructive levels. There’s no defensive roll like the console versions of DIII, but you’ll get used to dealing with huge packs of foes by taking it slower and picking off smaller groups one by one.

The game is generally solid overall and features online co-op play (no split-screen here, sorry!), a very fun “tower defense” mode that pops up a few times as a diversion from the main plot, and about 30 or so hours of gameplay if you’re determined to get everywhere you can on one run. The ending is somewhat of a ‘To Be Continued’ deal, but having played the other parts on PC, it’s worth the wait for the sequel to hit PS4 at some point. In fact, as this is only the first of three chapters, it would be great to see the other two arrive on PSN as soon as humanly possible and perhaps later, the entire trilogy out on a disc via a small print publisher like Limited Run Games or SOEDESCO. As always, we shall see. But for the money there’s a load of great fun to be had and had again.
 


 

Mantis Burn Racing (PC/PS4/Xbox One): While it’s initially short on tracks and content compared to other arcade racers, the difficulty curve in developer VooFoo Studios racer makes the game supremely challenging right from the get-go. A blazing fast proprietary engine showcases gorgeous 60fps racing where the slightest mistake will leave you in back of the pack and eating the digital dust of your opponents blowing past you. Practice makes perfect, but expect the game to not let you breathe much against AI that gets better as you do. Against live players the competition is far fiercer with expert players constantly making short work of anyone popping online for the friendliest of matches. You’re going to get smoked like a country ham if you’re not ready for the tracks in this one for sure.

That said, once you get the handling and have matches where you’re in the zone and nail those tricky turns, not bashing into other cars and generally having a zen-like experience racking up wins, the game is so hard to put down that you may need an alarm set to remind you to do important stuff. I haven’t tried out the new Snowbound DLC yet, but if this video is any indication, this 100% FREE update is going to suck me in all over again to the point where I’ll need to get a dog or cat or some other pet to remind me with a paw to the face to get up and go for a stroll, play with or feed them. A service animal for gamers? Who knew!
 

More quickies below he jump!


 

Rogue Stormers (PS4): Insanely tough in single player and just plain tough in co-op, this side-scrolling rogue-like ARPG will chew up and spit out those expecting an easy time. While playing in co-op lets your fellow player(s) revive you, in solo play, once you die, it’s restart time. Thankfully, you keep any accrued skills, but you’ll need to stay alive long enough to gain them. Yeah, this one is that brutal. Still, developer Black Forest Games knows how to throw a party. Everything is trying to kill you so hard here that it’s like playing Contra, Metal Slug, and Gunstar Heroes all at once. Of course, that’s both good and bad there, as the game is efficiently relentless at doing its best to sap your avatar’s life bar. The game’s main problem though is you’ll need a massive HD set because save for some gigantic bosses, everything is kind of tiny on a TV 32″ or under.

Still, this is one of those addictive, highly challenging game experiences you’ll buy and keep on heavy rotation because it’s non-stop craziness each and every randomized stage. While I can’t imagine this sliding onto the Vita at all as a retail or digital game, it’s probably not impossible for Black Forest to fit this on the Switch, although I’m not sure I’d play this undocked on that small screen. My poor old eyeballs would start attacking me more than the game!
 


 

The Bug Butcher (PS4): Awfully Nice Studios made an awfully awesome arcade-style throwback with this great Super Pang meets Centipede with a touch of Touhou shooter homage that’s great fun whether you play solo or with a buddy. As expected, it starts out simple enough but soon becomes wave after wave of bug-popping bullet hell with a dash of bug-avoiding ridiculousness. Don’t let the HD cartoon visuals and great slapsticky animation fool you for one second. This game will break you big time and you’ll break a controller if you’re easily ticked off by difficulty spikes.

Of course, that’s just how it should be with a game like this. If there’s a gripe here, it’s the looks will make the kids gleeful, but they might find it gets too tough unless they’re well-seasoned in the art of the well-timed shot, shield, or dodge. As for you expert gamers, you’ll play and stay for a while solo or in co-op, the loads of upgrades allow you to tailor the game to your liking (want to make it even harder? Be your own guest!) and those leaderboards will let you know what’s what even if you’re not the competitive type.
 


 

NeuroVoider (PS4, Xbox One, PC): Twin-stick shooters are one of the sub-genres on heavy rotation here at DAF (there are far too many these days, but that’s all good) and Flying Oak Games has made one of the better ones you’ll want to grab ASAP. Elements of randomness abound here with procedural levels, loads of customization elements and some solid humor throughout. 1-4 players can have at it in this sci-fi run ‘n gun and as you survive the levels set on mangle, the game opens up more and more as your chosen robot gets more powerful. Well, given that you start the game as a bouncing brain looking for a shell, a tin can with sticks would be a better and less squishy weapon.

Fortunately, you get a couple of excellent robots to choose from, each with particular strengths and weaknesses. Levels are always tricky and thrilling as you need to decide between going all out and hoping your energy doesn’t drain too fast, or going slow and steady before things get too busy. Of course, things get too busy frequently and sometimes unexpectedly. Kind of like life, although in reality you generally have a great deal more options than shooting up a room full of cranky machines out to do you in.

Part 1 ends here, but pop in tomorrow for the next installment.

-GW

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2 thoughts on “Quick Takes: Some Good Games To Catch Up On (In A Year Of Too Many Great Ones), Part 1

    • It’s definitely a nice surprise, as I thought it would be simpler for longer than the tutorial stage. Nope. Things get nice and frantic pretty quickly, but that makes it really fun. Also, keep an eye peeled in May for Laser Disco Defenders as a freebie on PS Plus. That’s another really deceptive one – cool cartoon look, hardcore “pay attention!” gameplay.

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