Capsule Reviews: Get Me Reroute! (Or: Part 2)

Heh, oops. I had a little router issue not long after posting yesterday that had me a bit flummoxed after several restarts and too much waiting around, but we’re back on the boat and headed somewhat upstream, whee. Anyway, back to more of what you should be playing or at least looking at with a thoughtful gaze:

 

 

forgotton anne boxForgotton Anne (PS4/Switch/PC/Mac, $19.99): No matter what you get this one on, it needs to be bought, played and thoroughly enjoyed. If the words “playable anime” get your ears perked up, you’ll be pleased to know that developer ThroughLine Games has created exactly that, as well as a love letter to the works of Studio Ghibli. A beautiful hybrid of adventure, platform and puzzle game with a bit of detective story for good measure, it’s also (in my opinion) hands down, the absolute best game to date to come out of the Square Enix Collective program which focuses on getting more indie games out to the masses. Go download and play the PC or Switch demo (the latter is on the eShop) and you’ll see this one’s an instant classic.

In addition to a memorable lead character and well-told story, the game’s visuals, voice acting and soundtrack are all phenomenal. The addition of multiple dialog choices makes the game quite replayable because the manner in which you interact with characters or solve problems alters a few plot points or closes off some paths. This isn’t a game about fighting tons of enemies, leveling up or the usual stuff you may expect. It’s a story-driven game where you’ll appreciate the quality of the finished work as you’re drawn into the plot and memorable characters for as long as the experience lasts.  I’ll go as far as to say this one is one of my favorite indies of 2018 and it should be one of yours as well.

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Everywhere you look, there’s something to see that catches your eye in this game.

This is a game I’d even highly recommend non-gamers have a go at, as there’s neither a life bar to worry about nor a true Game Over state. That and with a controller, even the slightly tricky longer jumps that need to be made aren’t a total pain. Just watching Anne’s animation as she gets around is a joy, and yes, the different Forgotlings are equally impressive. While this game probably won’t get a sequel, if ThroughLine wants to do another Ghibli-inspired game, I certainly won’t stop them. Hell, I’ll be cheering them on and hoping it’s as good as or even better than this is.

Also, if this ever gets a physical edition at some point down the road, I say get it just for anything art-related that comes as part of the package. Well, the game, too, but yeah, seeing more of this gorgeousness is a thing that’s necessary in a more physical over digital manner.

FA Wings

To paraphrase ZZ Top: “She’s got wings… and she knows how to use them…”

Score: A (95%)

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What’s Cookin’?: (Almost) Everything in Moderation…


 

Yep, I’m still alive. My brain has been percolating a lot these past two weeks on stuff galore, so it’s been tough to focus on being too entertained. That said, I do like what Nintendo is up to on a few fronts despite me not even being interested in Super Mario Run because I don’t own an Apple device (yuk!), have zero plans to buy it on Android and even it it rears its cute run ‘n jump head on Switch, it’ll be a “meh!” as far as making a dent on my playlist. While a decent platformer gets played here and there by yours truly, I just don’t get that same thrill I used to back in the arcade to 32-bit era. A new Mario game gets the same sigh and pass as a AAA first-person shooter from me, Miyamoto magic or not.

Yeah, it’s cool and all, but I just can’t. The good here (it’s only ten bucks! – take THAT, $99.99 mobile game DLC!) is counterbalanced with the need for an always online connection to play. But given that ALL mobile games need to connect online at some point during play and Nintendo’s strict requirement is to prevent piracy and cheating, it comes off as a necessary evil more than a draconian law being laid down.

Well, to me at least.

On the other hand… The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? Yep, sold. I’ve even gone and bought a few Amiibo to use in order to take advantage of the freebies that drop if you’re smart enough to have a few lying around. Hell, I was Amiibo-resistant until Hyrule Warriors revealed you can get five random gifts per day just by tapping figures on the Gamepad.

Anyway, let me close here for now and get back to cooking my actual dinner. My mind clears up a lot when I cook, so this post is a result of a meat sauce with ground turkey playing the part of beef. That’s going with some linguini that…(taste!) just turned al dente. Back in a bit, a trip to planet Nom awaits.

-GW

The Elder Scrolls Online Goes Free Temporarily

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Well. As an Elder Scrolls purist, I’ve resisted the lure of paying for this online only experience for a few core reasons. But thanks to Bethsoft and Zenimax Online’s plans to reel more of us in, I’m going to finally put a few days in and see if I like what’s here. This free trial lasts until 11/20 and is open to PC, Mac and PS4 users. Even more tempting: until 11/29, the cost of the full game drops 67% to $9.89, so it seems this plan may work for both companies after all. Still, my backlog is massive and my time is limited, so I don’t expect to do much over this trial period other than create a character and kick a few tires. We shall see. You Xbox One users griping, fear not. Your very own free weekend is coming soon.

Another incentive to play if you’re over 18 and have a valid passport is this awesome contest with some great travel prizes. granted, you don’t have to play in order to enter. But I’m sure that gesture would be appreciated.

-GW

World of Darkness Wants You to Enjoy Some Earplay For Halloween

light-desktop-wwearplay-logo-ww-bgBefore horror books and movies, the spoken word was where it was at when you needed your spine chilled but good. The just announced partnership between Earplay and White Wolf Publishing to bring World of Darkness to iOS and Alexa enabled devices (such has Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot) sounds like a very cool interactive endeavor horror fiction fans may want to take a peek at and a listen to soon.

So, exactly what is this and why should you keep an ear peeled for it? Well, you have some reading to do, sir or madam. You like to read, right? Good. Here you go: Um, well… below the jump. Hey, I didn’t lie! Go look!

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Review: Ember

N-Fusion’s nostalgic, gorgeous love letter to classic CRPGs hits most of its notes perfectly and is one of the nicest surprises this year in terms of value for the money and how well the team has pulled off much of what it intended. 

Ember-752x430 Platform: PC (also on iOS)
Developer: N-Fusion Interactive
Publisher: 505 Games
# of Players: 1
Release Date: 9/9/2016
MSRP: $9.99
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Official Site
Score: A (90%) BUY IT!

 

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Back in the earliest days, there was no sun and the world was dark. The heavens opened up and stars fell like beacons into the pitch black world, and they were known as “Embers”. Powerful and wise druids of a primordial race, “the Lightbringers,” roamed the land searching for this luminous matter. They performed a ritual of awakening to call the “Embers” out of their deep sleep. Suddenly the world became bright, and the veil of darkness was lifted. The Embers were the embodiment of magical flame, light, and life, but as word spread about the sheer power of the Embers, they came to be hunted and captured…and so the War for Ember began…

 

Given this site’s moniker I’m probably the last person who should be reviewing Ember, as I fell head over heels for the game after first seeing it just over two years ago at a 505 Games media event. Back then, it was an iOS exclusive and after spending time chatting with N-Fusion’s Jeff Birns and seeing the game in action, I was all set to drop my non-Apple stance and throw good money into taking the iPlunge. Fortunately, my brain started slapping itself in the face, which got me to ask if the game was coming to other platforms. Flash forward to the game hitting Steam first, followed by iOS a few days later and yours truly sinking a few dozen hours into the PC version, loving every nostalgic minute.

You play as a freshly revived Lightbringer, brought back to life after a lengthy period of interment in order to save a pretty troubled land called Domus from destruction. Yes, the game deliberately checks off a long list of CRPG tropes with slight amnesia, bantering siblings, a bad pirate gone good and others swirling through the plot. But this is exactly the sort of game that’s been made by a team who knows what it’s doing and it’s been done so well that everything’s more than acceptable once you get it. Or get over it, if you’re one of the wags who goes into every game expecting “innovation” from everything you touch. That said, the game works excellently as a casual to hardcore play because you get to control how easy to difficult your own experience will be.

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Cathedral: Decemberborn’s 8-Bit Take, An Instant Classic In The Making

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In the works since 2014, Cathedral instantly evokes the look, sounds and gameplay of classic Nintendo Entertainment System games to the point that you’d almost think someone went and discovered a hitherto unseen prototype circa 1987 or so. That title screen below looks exactly as it should and I’m betting a nickel you’re all smiling as that music from the talented Aron Kramer plays out.


 

Helsingborg, Sweden-based Decemberborn Interactive (lead by Lead Programmer Eric Lavesson) has been hard at work making sure their baby arrives on Windows, Linux, and Mac OSX based computers in as perfect form as can be. But it’s also a hopeful note from this writer that the game reaches consoles at some point. More specifically, anything with the Nintendo brand stamped across it. That would probably big a huge honor for a team striving to recreate a classic style of game and doing such a stellar job at it. Oh, you’d love to see some GAMEPLAY? Okay, that’s covered:


 

Yeah, that hit the spot, huh? More below the jump, so… JUMP!
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Gallery: DARQ

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Be afraid. Be very afraid.

With indie and AAA horror games being a dime a dozen these days, it’s going to take something really different to get some gamers jumping out of their seats and diving under their beds. Unfold Games has taken up the scare you halfway to death challenge with DARQ, their upcoming PC/Mac/Linux game that as you can see, certainly seems to have it going on in terms of delivering the frights.

So, what’s this stylistic and creepy psychological horror game about, you ask? Well, here’s what the official site says:

DARQ tells the story of Lloyd, a boy who becomes aware of the fact that he is dreaming. To Lloyd’s misfortune, the dream quickly turns into a nightmare and all attempts to wake up end in failure. While exploring the darkest corners of his subconscious, Lloyd learns how to survive the nightmare by bending the laws of physics and manipulating the fluid fabric of the dream world.

In DARQ, sound plays a very important role. There are sections of the game that take place in absolute darkness and in order to navigate the environment, Lloyd has to rely on the location of sounds.

 

Yep. If you’ve ever had those nightmares where you know you’re sleeping, but wake up all sweaty looking around the room only to have something bizarre take place as you realize you’re having a nightmare inside that nightmare, DARQ will be right up that dark alley you don’t want to travel through. Of course, you’ll be going thataway because that thing chasing you is keeping you from going backward. Oops.

Some imagery to keep you awake nights. As if that trailer didn’t get all crawly under your skin enough:

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While the game is still in development and doesn’t yet have a set release date other than TBA 2016, it sure is worth keeping an eyeballed peeled for. Let that image stick with you for the day (eww!). I’d say “have a good night”, but it’s early on a Friday morning. Still, you have to go home and sleep at some point, correct? My work here is done, then.

RIVE: Two Tribes’ Final Title Looks Like a True Treasure


 

15 years in the game development business is a long enough time to do a lot of different things and Two Tribes has indeed done just that and then some. The indie developer has decided to pack it (at least as far as making new games) in after a decade and a half of console and PC titles with what looks like a dangerously fun arcade-style romp called RIVE. The game has the look and feel of a classic Treasure game but with that even more notorious European difficulty scale that makes for a supremely challenging and highly replayable slice of nostalgia. If there’s a ‘Metal Wrecking, Robot Hacking Shooter’ sub-genre, my money is on RIVE being among the best of the best.


 

These guys at TT are going to be missed, but at least RIVE is coming out on multiple platforms so console and computer gamers who need their big meal bang-boom-boom fix can get in on the fun at a glorious 60fps soon-ish. PC/Mac/Linux (via Steam), PlayStation 4, Wii U and Xbox One are all supported here, but I’m betting Vita owners are hoping for some Cross Play action because this looks as if would be perfect on the road. Then again, the game also looks as if one would need to have at least one extra controller handy just in case one “accidentally” busted their main gamepad. Hard walls and game controllers are a poor mix. Padded walls on the other hand – those get the DAF seal of approval every single time.

Enter The Gungeon: Take Your Best Shots Soon In This Pixel Perfect Dungeon Crawler

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So, I’m hitting myself in the cranium with a day old baguette (ow!) because I’ve been ignoring Devolver Digital and all those great games they’ve been putting out for some time. Let’s see if we can remedy that with a nice post on Enter the Gungeon, which is set to land on Steam and (so far, one) selected console at some point this year. “April” seems like logical time frame if you watch the entirety of that rather amusing gameplay video below. PC, PS4, Mac, SteamOS, and Linux (sorry other platforms, although a Vita version would have been REALLY appreciated. By me, at least).


Anyway, the game takes the lovely pixel graphic dungeon crawler I’m a huge fan of, adds 2000% more guns, couch co-op fun and so far, looks like yet another crowd pleaser from those guys I should have bugged a while ago about getting preview code (bats eyelashes at Devolver Digital). Developer Dodge Roll Games (or is it Dodgeroll Games? It’s hard to tell on the internet how things are properly spelled, isn’t it?) has got a winner here that’s guaranteed to eat up even more of your free time and yep, you probably need this game in your library just because it will keep you indoors and out of trouble.

Of course, if you’re getting into THAT kind of trouble, you probably shouldn’t be playing many video games. The other kind of trouble? That’s okay. Another one for the want list? Yes indeed.

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PC Review: MOVE OR DIE

MOD_Thumb3Platform: PC (also on Mac/Linux)

Developer: Those Awesome Guys

Publisher: Those Awesome Guys

# of Players: 1 – 4

MSRP: $ 14.99

ESRB Rating: N/A

Official Site

Score: A- (90%)

Can’t type… playing…

Okay, I had to drag my tired self away from my ongoing battle with MOVE OR DIE just to drag myself back to the computer and bang out a quick review. This game is a total blast and pretty much everything it’s cracked up to be in one package. Simple enough for the kids to pick up, but only the best and most clever and cheap players will survive… that is until they get bested by someone or some random element that’s smarter or faster. The name of the game says it all. If you don’t MOVE, your little avatar will DIE, period. If that wasn’t impetus enough, you’re tasked with a number of randomly rotating mini-games, all of which last a mere twenty seconds each and consist of trying to stay alive longer than the other players whether AI or live.

Between the chainsaws, falling block walls, time bombs and other hazards, this is a game where everyone dies at some point and the key to survival is dying less than anyone else you’re playing against. This simplicity plus the intense speed of each round keeps the game fresh even if the currently limited number of game modes randomly loops back on itself multiple times. The greatest thing about the game is it allows anyone who can hold a controller and keep moving to play and win (and lose).

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This one’s a game where the cute factor of those avatars only vaguely mask the title’s dedication to keeping players in a constant state of tension and/or hilarity. You can win a match with a split second remaining and lose the next one in the same manner. That “friendship destroying” element the trailer promises isn’t really a good selling point because the players you’ve beaten are going to not want to quit playing until they get some payback. Continue reading