Review: Gleylancer (PS4/PS5)

probably the sole good use of the word “Pow-Wow” these days.

While the SEGA logo is nowhere to be found (they only published the game way back in 1992), Advanced Busterhawk Gleylancer looks, feels and plays like it’s 1992 and that’s a great thing. Ever busy publisher Ratalaika Games and veteran developer Shinyuden go above and beyond the call here with a flawless English translation plus a slew of gameplay improvements that range from a horde of video customization options to some all-new game modes that make this an instant buy at its low $6.99 price point (the original Mega Drive version will set you back about $200, and yes it’s solely in Japanese).

The game is pretty story driven with a lengthy opening movie, but in s nutshell: The story follows Lucia, a 16-year-old star fighter pilot in the Earth Federation. A war breaks out between humans and an unknown alien race in the year 2025. Lucia’s father, Ken, a high-ranking admiral in the Federation Navy, is captured after his ship is warped out of the combat zone with 4 alien modules which have the ability of teleportation.  Lucia, heart-broken after hearing of her father’s disappearance, decides to hijack the prototype fighter CSH-01-XA “GleyLancer” with the help of her friend Teim and go after her father.

Like any decent classic shmup, a good player will complete the game in under an hour, but a smart player will deep dive this and go back for more and unlock every trophy. The fast but methodical gameplay is also customizable to the point of letting players cheat right off the bat if they so desire. There’s also a handy rewind function that’s excellently implemented and like the cheat mode, optional. The really amusing thing here is very likely, a good deal of modern gamers may not have heard of this until this release and may automatically snap it up for the quick trophies Ratalaika games are known for. My bet is they’ll be surprised at the challenge the game presents on its standard mode.

Just another day at the office…

I have no idea what Shinyuden has planned for the future, but there are a ton of other shooters for the Genesis out there that can use this sort of very proper localization. I can name way too many here, but let’s not go over the moon with wishful, wistful thinking just yet. Recommended!

-GW

BlendJet 2: Smoothie Operator, Plus

Basic black goes with everything.

Small wonder the BlendJet 2 has thousands of positive consumer reviews as it’s indeed a small wonder of a product. From the new larger size, 5x faster blend speed over its predecessor, water resistant design and self-cleaning at the touch of a button feature, you can create everything from smoothies, shakes, and even a number of adult beverages plus loads more. The company sent over a Blendjet 2 and some very nifty accessories to review and I can safely say this is one of the easiest recommendations I’ve ever had to make. For some, the hardest thing will be choosing a color or pattern design, as there are 21 (currently).

For the record, up until about a month ago. I owned a 30-plus year old big name blender that needed disassembly and cleaning between blends, which was a bit of a pain. When the motor finally gave out after all those years of service, I was in the market for a new model. After one blend with the BlendJet 2 ($49.99), I stopped searching and now use mine on a daily basis. The portability makes the unit perfect for busy users on the go and the one-press lock feature means you can blend and drink your concoction of choice without the need to tote a second container along. That said, the insulated Jetsetter Sleeve ($14.95) and Jetsetter Tote ($29.99) make for excellent ways to bring your blending skills to friends and family. The unit charges in an hour via it’s USB-C port, which gets you 15 or so blends per charge and yes, the cable is included.

“But, does it come in Naugahyde?”

Operation is a simple as it gets, thanks to the excellent design. One press of a button gets you a 20-second blend, while a double press turns the BlendJet 2 into a food processor that allows you to do some heavy duty chopping with dry or wet ingredients. Want to make your own salad dressings, guacamole, dips, or hummus? There’s a very helpful 120-page recipe book available called Next-Gen Blending ($19.95) that features 50 recipes, all easy to prepare and yes, many more appear on the company’s YouTube channel. Also included in the box was a selection of Jetpack smoothies ($3.99 each), which were all gluten and GMO-free, vegan-friendly, a good source of fiber and made with no artificial sugar or flavors. Oh. that $3.99 drops a buck if you subscribe to getting your smoothies delivered monthly.

As for my own recipe ideas, among many other things, I found out the Blendjet 2 is perfect for a traditional New York beverage. Or yes, you can make a proper Egg Cream with it, provided you do a tiny bit of prep work:

10oz whole milk or a mixture of milk ice cubes and milk

2-3 tbsp Fox’s U-bet Chocolate Syrup

Chilled Seltzer for mixing (warning: DON’T use carbonated beverages in a BlendJet!!!).

Add milk and U-bet to Blendjet 2, run for one cycle. Pour mix into tall glass, then add about 4oz of seltzer and stir vigorously. Part of the fun of an egg cream is the mixing part, so this drink should be made fresh each time. You can feel free to use your milk of choice, but I like the old traditional ingredients and as I recall some guy who worked in a delicatessen I used to drop by once saying about U-bet: “THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE.”

A new convert to the Blendjet 2 way of life…

Speaking of milkshakes and such, the Blendjet 2 does it all from shakes, malteds and pretty much anything you can toss into it. For example, I ended up buying a giant can of Ovaltine from a shop here and I haven’t touched that stuff in over 40 years! I’ve also found that if you have freezer space, making coffee ice cubes comes in handy as well as reserving coffee for the fridge so you can make excellent iced coffee the next morning. Also, if you use fruit juice for your smoothies. try adding customized ice cubes of your choice along with that juice for a slushie-like texture along with a chance of brain freeze. A frozen margarita with lime juice and mint ice cubes? I don’t have a proper name for it, but I made one the other night.

There’s nothing negative to say here other than you’ll need to inform some overly eager folks that they can get their very own Blendjet 2 so they can stop making excuses to pop by and nicely ask for a cold drink. I say let them mix their own drinks and tell you about it, of course.

-GW

Catch Me If You Can…

So yeah, folks. After some arm pain, a stretch of extreme tiredness and general blah-ness. I’m finally feeling a lot better. I was warned that second shot would probably knock me for a loop and it did. Masks are still required at the supermarkets around here, so even though I’ve had both shots, I comply, just in case. Hey, I’ve heard a few customers note that either they, a relative or someone close had gotten sick and nope, for the moment, I’m Ieaving nothing to chance, at least for the next two weeks while the vaccine does its stuff.

I was starting to think I was getting a wee bit paranoid, but a few days ago when I got the mail, I rode up in the elevator with a guy who started coughing and sneezing through his mask (ewww). I actually wasn’t wearing a mask, as I figured I was only going downstairs for maybe 50 seconds and hell. what could possibly happen? So much for that now derailed bit of experimentation. At this point. I may just break out that old army surplus gas mask I’ve owned since the 90’s because the ONLY thing I want to catch these days is this:

shut up and dance!

-GW

Double Shot, No Chaser

Oh. I’m doing fine, (mostly), thanks.

So, I got my second vaccine dose last Thursday and feel pretty good overall, but I think I was a wee bit too tired the last few days. I actually slept most of Monday and part of Tuesday away, which was bad for a few reasons – I was so out of it that I missed the primary election (oops), which I thought wasn’t happening this week, but my sense of time has been off with all this self-quarantining stuff. Oh well. Been playing quite a few games of late, so expect some reviews. All I’ll say is Disco Elysium-The Final Cut may be one of the best-written and consistently surprising games I’ve ever played, but it needs a less expensive physical version and I don’t think I can do a game this great much justice in a brief post, but I’ll try.

-GW

Review: Dark Nights With Poe and Munroe (PS4)

They’re baaaaack. Full motion games developer D’avekki Studios has made the big leap to self-publishing with the digital release of Dark Nights With Poe and Munroe,($12.99) which is now available on the PS4, Xbox and soon, Switch. The game comprised of six episodic tales of a somewhat supernatural nature, with ghosts, a werewolf, a hungry painting demon, a bizarre love triangle and more. Although the game features a few toe-dips into light horror, it’s more of a creepy dark comedy where a bit of previous homework with Davekki’s earlier titles goes a long way in explaining some of the quirkier aspects found here.

Poe (Klemings Koehring) and Munro (Leah Cunard) first appeared in 2018’s great little gem The Shapeshifting Detective and they return in this standalone set where we get to know their characters a bit more, but yes, there’s even more mystery going on in the small village of August, which seems to be a magnet for offbeat supernatural occurrences. In “Frankie” the pair need to deal with a persistent stalker with surprising results. Let’s just say Poe has a way with a knife but we haven’t heard the last of Frankie in this game.

“In Bed with Poe and Monroe” is next, and it’s about a 24-hour radiothon where the two characters need to raise funds to keep the station afloat by staying in bed together (not THAT together) while broadcasting live. Well, it’s about so much more, as a sleepy Munro discovers a few times. Poe also makes a few discoveries that are equally revealing as a jealous ghost (Ayvianna Snow) appears to make his love life even more complicated. This episode has a few scenes like the first where shocks drop in and affect the outcomes of paths to wonderfully different results. More of this strangeness will come.

In Episode Three, “Green With Envy”, the pair are racing against time to find a kidnapped and drugged student (Warrick Simon) before his time runs out. Time is of the essence as the duo’s decisions in this chapter affect the ending and all depends on how you choose to investigate the case. There’s a pair of laugh out loud innuendo bits here when Munro visits guest house owner Violet (Aislinn De’Ath) and a little De’ath goes a long way when Munro misinterprets some simple queries before asking her own. Poe gets his way (sort of) with a pretty teacher (Ashleigh Cole) who may be a suspect, but who’s the mysterious Yvette who calls into the show to say she’s the kidnapper?

Episode Four, “Everybody Changes” brings a hypnotist into the studio, Madame Baratsky (Lara Lemon), who puts Munro into a trance where she relives a past life and tells a disturbing tale of murder. As mentioned above, playing that chapter made me go see the Doctor up close and personal (I bought the game last year on the PS4), an experience I highly recommend. In any event, this episode made me want some sort of Doctor Dekker followup, or at least the desire to replay that game again a few more times.

In Episode Five, “Many Happy Returns”, it’s the day before Munro’s birthday, there’s a full moon and a caller rings in to note he may have almost run over a werewolf. Guess where out two intrepid adventurers are headed? If you guessed “Why, to find out if that’s true, but not before a possible time traveler named Kaspar (Vincent Gould) calls, then shows up to the studio!” Well, you need to be in your own game, as you’re psychic. Like all the episodes, there’s a set-up of events and situations here that definitely hints at more. This give players a hint that the sleepy town of August is quite the nexus for bizarre happenings (like the sudden rock, paper, scissors game in this chapter).

Finally, Episode Six gets truly freaky with “It Started with a Wish” where we get a soul-eating canvas demon named Rose (Rachel Cowles) who lives inside a painting. She grants Poe a wish, which he has to pay for by having Munro hide nine capsules as prizes for ‘lucky’ listeners to find. Those capsules are supposed to have museum tickets inside, but (surprise!), they have a less pleasant gift awaiting. You’ll see. Poe’s wish has very huge consequences both he and Munro have to deal with and there’s a sort of David Lynch meets Night Gallery thing here when the characters have to deal with the results.

As noted, the game teases very much that there are many more August takes to be told, and I like that Poe and Munro’s relationship goes where it does in different ways depending on your choices. In terms of production, this one’s pretty solid. Without fancy effects makeup or gore, the game still conveys an eerie, scary vibe when it needs to, But it’s also funny, sexy and mature where it matters. Some may feel the vignette nature of the episodes might be better served as a single story arc. But I found that a game where time travel seems a quiet reality, dryads may actually exist and so many possible outcomes from charming to deadly are at one’s fingers that I’m all aboard for more. Recommended.

-GW

VERTIGO As A Game Has My Head Spinning

So this one’s got me divided upstairs but here goes. Microids and veteran adventure game developer Pendulo Studios (Runaway, Yesterday Origins, Blacksad: Under the Skin…) are in the midst of making Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo, which is set to launch at the end of the year on PC (Steam), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One consoles and Nintendo Switch. Here’s the first teaser trailer below. No actual gameplay footage is shown, so I take it the developer is taking the whole “master of suspense” thing to a whole new level, ha and ha:


While the plot is completely different, the game will, according to the developer stay close to its source material:

Of course, Alfred Hitchcock’s movie was a major inspiration source, whether it’s about the game’s themes, its narration, or even the visual techniques we used that clearly mirror Hitchcock’s recurrent cinematographic techniques” explains Josué Monchan, Narrative Designer at Pendulo Studios. “Vertigo is not our only frame of reference. For instance, the fact that therapy is at the core of the narrative echoes Spellbound, and some characters resemble protagonists from Rebecca, Psycho, and many more.”

As for the story, Writer Ed Miller came out unscathed from his car crash down into Brody Canyon, California. Even though no one was found inside the car wreckage, Ed insists that he was traveling with his wife and daughter. Traumatized by this event, he begins to suffer from severe vertigo. As he starts therapy, he will try to uncover what really happened on that tragic day.

Game features

  • An exclusive, original story about obsession, memory, manipulation and madness, freely inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Vertigo
  • Live a powerful narrative experience paying tribute to the visual and storytelling techniques of the thriller genre
  • Investigate through the vision of three characters: everyone has a different story to tell
  • Explore several timelines to cross-check the events and separate reality from deceptive memories

Prepare yourself for a disturbing investigation inside the human mind: the truth is sometimes worse than madness…

Of course, as a longtime Hitchcock Hitchcock fan, I want this to work on every level. So I’ll wait for the final version to ship and not get all Psycho or go into a Frenzy over what little info we have so far. Fingers crossed. -GW

Review: Ord. (PS4)

From ever-busy publisher Ratalaika games and indie developer Mujo Games comes Ord.($4.99), a minimalist adventure game that tells its short stories three words at a time. Split into five tales with a bit of replay value in each (Quest, Dimensions, World, Foul Things and Heist), the game will also have you brain filling in most of its visuals. It’s also part memory test in that there’s a Groundhog Day-like loop to overcome where choosing certain answers won’t advance the story, but instead, send you back to choose differently.

zzzzzzzz

That said, there are no “wrong” answers here. In fact, choosing every option will lead to some surprises and abrupt (sometimes fatal) endings. The minimalist thing in taken to extremes here on both the visual and aural fronts. Other than the title screen, visuals are just text on a black background with some stylistic touches like thunder, lightning, rain, a bit of fog and yes, you’ll want to have a drink in the tavern just to see the blurred result. For me, the sole flaw here in there’s no story tracker, so on a replay, you may get temporarily stuck (a notepad will come in handy here). Playing the game through once won’t take long and those trophies drop pretty quickly once you get rolling.

Overall, Ord. is a pretty decent and nicely experimental bit of fun. Ratalaika’s been on a roll lately with more hits than misses of late. So I’ll have to get to covering more on their interesting titles from it’s rather intriguing lineup shortly.

-GW

Review: Cosmic Top Secret (PS4)

this one’s something else…

Indie publisher nakana io’s latest, Cosmic Top Secret ($9.99, multiplatform) just might be one of the best surprises of 2021.Part historical document, part adventure with a detour into a bit of mystery, the game tells the gripping tale of Trine Laier, or “T” as she goes by in the game as she tries to uncover just what her parents did during the Cold War. Fascinating and supremely surreal, the game is compelling from start to finish and would even make a pretty good true spy film, intentionally goggle-eyed protagonist and all. But don’t take my word for it- take a look at this gameplay:

There are puzzles to solve, loads of clues to gather and enough intrigue here to keep your brain and fingers busy. T navigates the environments by transforming into a paper ball and rolling about. You’ll also need to master a bit of jumping,. which comes in handy when you get stuck and later on you can transform into a plane, which has it’s own uses you’ll discover. The game also had you collect all sorts of specific secrets T needs to unlock other secrets, all while trying her best to get her dad to tell her about the past. Have another trailer, folks:

The visual style is both striking and genius, especially the more humorous aspects found in the work. Early on, you’re told how to skip text using a very lengthy explanation on the Cold War. The game helps out here by cutting off the lengthy text with something like a “Blah, blah, you can find this stuff on the internet” quote. Dossiers and a few machines are used to break codes but a few of the puzzles and some of the trickier movement areas may stump players temporarily. T can also toss grenades and later smoke bombs to find certain secrets, but that can be a bit imprecise until you nail that task perfectly. Also, that sequence with the angry buzzard in one level can be irksome if you roll off the path and fall a few times. Progress is auto-saved at certain points, but you’ll want to manually save from time to time (just in case…). Th game can be completed in around eight hours or so and it’s time well spent because you’ll come away quite impressed at what you learned. I know I certainly was.

Yes, indeed it is!

The really cool thing here is you don’t need a pricey console to play this on as the game is also available on Google Play and the App Store, so you can enjoy this on your even more overpriced phone or tablet, ha and ha. As a exercise in storytelling, the game excels on a few fronts and the overall experience is one that will stick with you for a while. Highly recommended, of course.

-GW

Mail Call, Part 2077…

so far, it’s better than I thought. Ask me again in a week.

So, it was on sale, it was my birthday and I couldn’t resist. Yeah, yeah- I’ve seen some grumpy commentary on the game, but running on the PS5, I’m having quite a load of fun with Cyberpunk 2077, well, so far. I’m only about an hour in, but there’s so much to do (the character creator alone is pretty extensive and that time spent isn’t part of that hour played) that an actual review will be a few weeks away. We shall see where this goes and yes, I’m expecting technical issues galore as the game continues. But I never bought into the pre-release hype train at any point and who knows when (or if) there will be a PS5 port in the future.

-GW

Review: Loot Hero DX (PS4/PS5)

“Surely you joust”, the knight notes, setting off for adventure…

(Or, The Wonders of Dirt Simplicity These Days)

As a well-aged gamer, Ratalaika and Swedish developer VaragtP‘s fun little game. Loot Hero DX ($4.99) really hit a sweet spot here at the home office. I’ll tell youright now, the game won’t be for all tastes. There’s no penalty in place for dying, you earn endless piles of gold to spend even when you’re not playing (more on this later) and like some of the developer’s other casual games, it practically bends over backwards to make sure you’re having a good time. In other words, this ain’t no Demon’s Souls in terms of difficulty, that’s for sure. Take a peek at the game trailer below:

In a nutshell, you’re a knight tasked with dispatching quite a massive number of monsters and a few bosses on your way to the big dragon awaiting you on the final level. Gameplay couldn’t be simpler. Initially, you’ll run back and forth in a stage, leveling up and earning gold to spend in the shops found in each stage on upgrades needed to survive more than a few hits from enemies. Attacking is as simple as colliding with an enemy and surviving, but as levels are gained and you raise your stats, power and speed improve somewhat drastically. Stages that took maybe a minute or two to complete will blaze by in well under ten seconds at higher levels My personal record was about four seconds, but the game really got to me and I ended up playing well past level 100. While it can be completed in maybe 45 minutes or less, the appeal here comes from replaying and getting that knight even stronger and faster in those replays.

only 88+ levels to go…..

And, therein lies the game’s main flaw- it’s far too repetitive. Despite some nice pixel art and some pretty dynamic music, the first level plays exactly the same as the last, but killing the big dragon at the end doesn’t end the game at all. Each time you clear that last boss, you also rescue a miner that automatically throws itself into mining up more gold for you, making subsequent plays even more ridiculously easy. You can blow through the game, come back in an hour and have maxed gold which will be more than enough to boost you stats to incredible levels. At some point, you’ll be laughing at how fast the game becomes, perhaps even cranking the speed down so you can see what sort of damage you’re doing.

Overall, it’s not in the running for any Game of The Year awards, but for $5, you’re getting a fun little throwback that won’t burst your brain cells and tosses rewards your way constantly while doing that bending over backward thing it does so well. Now, about the potential possibility of a Cooking Witch console port, Ratalaika and VaragtP? Lets get on that, please – Halloween is coming up soon an that game would be a perfect fit.

-GW

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