Review: Golf Peaks (Nintendo Switch)

gp switchThe great thing about Golf Peaks ($4.99) is you don’t have to even like golf or miniature golf to enjoy this game immensely. Indie dev Afterburn Games has taken the popular sport, melded it with a card-based putting system and wrapped it all up neatly in an art style that recalls Marble Madness, a teeny bit of M.C. Escher, and an isometric perspective that has (a much more colorful) De Stijil vibe. Oh, and the pleasant music from Rafal Samborski is as appropriately stress-free as it gets. Eh, don’t worry too much about my brain making those references you may or may not get – the more important thing is how much fun this one is to play.

What’s great about the game is its deceptive initial simplicity from dipping a toe into those initial levels where you’ll learn basic shots and make par without fail until the game slides a tricky level or three under your nose that requires some creative thought in your shot decisions. On each map you get a set of cards that have a number or series of numbers and an arrow or arrows that denote the direction(s) the ball will travel when the card is used. As the maps get more complex, you’ll need to think outside the box and pull off a few shots that might seem impossible because you haven’t figured out that sometimes an obvious looking shot is an incorrect one.

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Modus Operandi: Getting Games Out When They’re Good and Ready

While they’re not a household name yet (but they should be), publisher Modus Games has a number of current and upcoming titles that should please those looking for a bit of variety in their gaming lives. From the return of the Trine series to its side-scrolling origins to three new (or new-ish n one case) IP set to arrive on the scene between this year and 2020, all four games I saw at their press event in NYC were looking great and are well worth waiting for.

ary-logo-colorAry and the Secret of Seasons (in development, PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox One)- My first stop was a game with an intro trailer had me laughing out loud for a few minutes because it hit my particularly oddball sense of humor right in the sweet spot. It turns out the game in question is actually a bit more serious in tone yet looking like quite a blast to play. Co-developed by eXiin and Fishing Cactus using the versatile Unity engine, the game intentionally recalls classic mascot character action games of the 90’s and early 2000’s with what’s looking like a strong emphasis on both story and gameplay.

While the demo wasn’t a hands-on one, watching Ary get put through her paces by eXiin’s Sébastien Le Touze kept me smiling constantly. Her season controlling powers allowed for some great puzzle-solving solutions as well as some thrilling combat moments and yes. those powers sure looked great in motion as they affected the environments around then in real time. The ability to change the weather in an area to rainy meant lightning zapping those pesky hyenas or ice hindering them briefly while Ary’s slingshot and sword skills knocked them for a few loops. Granted, the demo had all her powers unlocked at the start, but that was simply to show how versatile she’ll become as the adventure progresses.

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The aforementioned puzzles can be solved in a few creative ways such as creating a large bubble of water to hop into and swim up to a high spot in order to flip a switch, or temporarily freezing an object or obstacle in order to pass safely before you free it and let it take out some baddies. Combining season powers is also key to some areas and Le Touze certainly did a stellar job in showing off what Ary could do. While it’s not set to launch until 2020, it’s a sure bet to be on quite a few watch and want lists, mine included.  If and when eXiin can get a demo of some sort up for everything this will appear on, I’m betting the game will find quite a few more eager fans ready to explore its pretty game world.

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Switch ‘N’ Shoot: One Button Masterpiece Well Worth Your Two Bucks

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BUY THIS GAME.


 

My inbox gets packed to the gills with requests to review games and with my current massive backlog it usually takes me a week to sift through a few days’ worth of pitches and press kits. However, that bug-eyed alien art from Matt Glanville’s awesome Switch ‘N’ Shoot jumped right out at me and as soon as I clicked on the link and watched that gameplay video above. My wallet was two bucks lighter. Although it’s still in beta, it’s completely playable and addictive as bacon-wrapped bacon with a side of bacon.

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Dirt simple and a great companion piece to Downwell (I guess you can call it Upwell? No? Hey, I tried!), the brilliantly simple gameplay packs a hilarious level of challenge. You get one ship, one button moves AND shoots, you can only move laterally. Have fun. Zen-like reflexes are needed to keep scoring points, but death comes so quickly that you’ll just jam on the button to restart until you get on that leaderboard. My paltry 17 points is up now, but not for long, I bet.


(Thanks, Awesome Movie Clips!)

Anyway, go grab this one on anything it’s on. If you hate DRM, go get it here. I say pay for it if you can – even as an Early Access title, it’s well worth the cost and then some.

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-GW

Cursed West: Arcade Western Looks to Corral Some OK Funding

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While the character animation could be more fluid and that environment draw-in during the 3D horse riding sequences needs a bit of cloud cover, the nostalgic look and overall atmosphere found in Goex Games’ (Roberto Montesano) still in-development Cursed West looks interesting and old school enough to warrant a closer inspection. My eye is set on this project that’s currently up on indiegogo for about the next two months with a somewhat modest goal of $3500. It’ll only cost less than a small lunch to get yourself a code or a bunch of lunches if you want a more personalized experience. The game also has a Steam Greenlight concept page as well as a a facebook page that could use a few more fans and perhaps a seasoned game developer popping in to let Roberto know he’s on the right track.

For a first game, this looks quite promising and it’ll be interesting to see or even play an in-progress build as it comes together and report on it at some point. Hopefully this indie western (straight out of San Luis, Argentina) would be tightened up to a fine shine and laid out on a few console platforms in addition to the already planned PC and Android releases. But we’ll see what happens as the game heads closer down the long road to completion. Hmmm… I wonder if Ennio Morricone is not too busy these days and if not, would he do an indie game soundtrack for not a ton of money? Now, THAT would be a pretty cool stretch goal, I’d say.

Get on the Good Wood, Get Your Tech Some TOAST

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TOAST logo greyIt’s hard to believe a mere ten people work at TOAST hand-making beautiful custom environmentally friendly wood cases and covers for everything from phones to tablets, laptops, game consoles and more, all reasonably priced.

The Portland, Oregon-based company uses sustainable wood and in addition to standard cases also does custom work where buyers submit their own artwork for one of the specific cases they manufacture and within 3-5 days (for single item orders) they turn out a lovely tech keeper/keepsake.

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I wouldn’t be surprised if Sony and Microsoft haven’t bugged these folks to turn out a small amount of custom console cases for special occasions, but maybe they have and I’ve yet to hear about it. If not, someone needs to get on the ball over at Corporate and give he TOAST guys and gals a ring-up. It’s too bad the Wii U isn’t represented here, as Nintendo’s soon to be replaced console could use a bit of classy coverage journalists aren’t giving it (ha and ha). Still, if you’re a PS4 or Xbox One owner looking for a way to show off your consoles and want a finish that’s not only going to be unique even if you order the same one for multiple consoles (that’s the power of wood for you, folks!), it’ll make your gaming pals wanting their own freshly made TOAST, well there you go.

Aliens vs. Pinball: Ripley’s Back; She’s Got Balls Now

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AliensvsPinball_Logo_FDEZenAs a longtime fan of Zen Pinball 2’s creative digital tables, I’m always surprised when I see a new board that tops what I thought was their best work. This brief teaser for the upcoming Aliens vs. Pinball: Aliens Pinball made me grin way too much (in a good way) because it looks as if it’ll be a fun skill shot paradise for silver ball fanatics.

And yes, that art above, logo to the left and screenshots below reveal the other two tables in the pack. Alien Isolation was a terrifying game in its own right, but I’m betting the pinball version will be somewhat less scary (but still a blast to play) just because Zen makes its tables for a wider age range. As for that AvP table? It should be a lot better than the films (sorry, Fox!) if it avoids them entirely and is closer to what the old Dark Horse comics were.

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As usual, we shall see soon enough. Aliens vs. Pinball will be out April 26, 2016 (ALIEN Day!) for PS4, PS3, Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Steam, Windows 10, Mac, as well as in-app purchases for Zen Pinball and as a standalone app on iOS and Android devices.

Second Death Hands-On: Survival of the Bit-test


 

It’s 1958, and Chicago cop David Harris made the tough choice to bring his mobster brother back from Cuba and deliver him to justice, but things get tougher when their home-bound plane crashes on a mysterious island. Now he must save his brother — and learn the truth behind his terrible crimes.

david_artThat mysterious island isn’t something out of a Jules Verne book at all, but a rather interesting PC, Mac, iOS and Android game called Second Death. Created by Evan Wagstaff (design, coding, script) using Game Maker Studio with a small team helping out with art, music and sounds, this retro style “noir Survival RPG” mixes early 16-bit looks, item crafting, JRPG-like combat, a barter system and two game modes (plus a tutorial) to take for a spin. While the game won’t be officially released until January 2016, the demo that’s currently available at that link above (and seems to be titled or subtitled Absolution) seems to be pretty much what the final version will look and play like. Continue reading

Humble Mobile Bundle Brings Kemco RPG’s Galore For Dirt Cheap

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If you’re into a bit of 90’s JRPG nostalgia, own an Android compatible device and have yet to try some of Kemco’s modern but retro games yet, this new Humble Mobile Bundle is going to be right up your alley.  Pay a buck to get three games, but beat the average price of $5.56 and get six titles with a seventh to unlock soon and up to three more games if the total sales reach goals of $100k, $150k, and $200k.

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Here’s a quick look at one of the games in this deal, The Legend of Ixtona, which is a turn-based strategy RPG:

Remember, the more you pay (or get friends in on the cheap deal), the more games come your way down the road. This sale lasts forabout two weeks, so jump on it and spread the good word while you’re at it.

Whispering Willows: A Haunting You Will Go (On Even More Platforms)

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Abstraction Games and Night Light Interactive have a nice and spooky surprise coming soon for Xbox One, Wii U, iOS and Android owners. Although the game is already out for a few platforms (PC, PS4, Vita and OUYA), I’d actually never heard of Whispering Willows until an email about the latest version popped up in my inbox. Initially set for an August 12 launch at $9.99, Xbox One owners will be seeing the game as part of Microsoft’s Deals With Gold promotion starting Friday, August 28th at 30% off ($6.99) for two weeks only (through Friday, September 11).

iOS and Android versions will also be available on the 28th with the Wii U version following shortly thereafter. The horror-themed puzzle adventure has you playing as Elena, a young girl with the ability to use astral projection. The talent comes to good use thanks to her father going missing in a creepy mansion and yes, Elena heads into that haunted palace set on finding out just where he is and what’s happened to him. I’d say more, but I’ll need to play the game and get back to you on how it turned out. I’d gather all those plaudits on the official site mean the game is worth the price and more. A half dozen screens to ogle are below.

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Skyhill: Elevator Inaction In A Descent Through High-Rise Hell


 

Skyhill intrigues me greatly because I missed out on the Indiegogo hype train for it last year when it was a rougher project that showed some major promise and got a lot of attention thanks to a few folks writing it up as a must-play experience. Naturally, Steam came a-calling and after going through the Greenlight process, that old build has since been scrapped and completely redone in Unity with the results seen above. Russian developers Mandragora have made their game a nicer-looking and more polished experience that’s destined to gain even more fans once it’s completed. To me, this looks like the arcade classic Elevator Action meets Silent Hill and Fallout… um, without the elevators, of course.

“What’s it all about?”, you ask. Well, let the official site tell you a bit (with a little rewrite assistance from yours truly):

Three months have passed since the end of World War III. Three months from the end of the world. One of the survivors, hiding in the penthouse in most expensive hotel of the city from from the scourge of biological weapons outside needs to find his way down to salvation. He must search for food and water to survive; find and use better weapons to fight mad mutants and more in the randomly generated world of Skyhill, where each walk-through is unique.

Yep, that sounds like a fine old time to me. In real life, of course. I’d just eat a big meal of whatever is left from that last room service trip, roll over and take a long nap. In Skyhill, you’re in survival mode as soon as you step outside that pricey penthouse. Anyway, this one’s going to be watched here until it’s ready for prime time. In the meantime, I guess it’s a lot of Knitted Deer while I’m waiting. That game needs to come to Steam as well.