Review: Omensight (PS4)

Omensight_PS4Let me tell you, ladies, gents, and anyone else within read-shot. Despite a very strong start, I was about ready to give up on Omensight ($19.99) a few times as I played it. In fact, after sinking half a day into it when I first got a review code and later, a few more hours over the course of a week, I was torn between loving the game for its gorgeous stylized visuals and interesting murder mystery/action adventure hybrid thing and almost hating it because some key gameplay elements were a bit too broken to make me want to continue.

As I really liked developer Spearhead Games’ award-winning Stories: The Path of Destinies a lot (go get it, I say), I went in knowing the quality of this new game would be at least up to snuff or even better than its predecessor. On the surface, the more impressive visuals, stylish combat and intriguing segmented story structure made for a excellent followup. But a few things marred the experience somewhat.

While the combat was solid, the tendency for off-screen enemies to launch assorted physical, ranged and magic attacks made getting though some sections unscathed quite annoying. Especially as the game offered a score bonus for not taking damage from enemies or accidentally falling off ledges. Which leads to the jumping sections in the game where frustration abounded thanks to areas where clean traversal was nearly impossible partially thanks to the locked down game camera either not being in an optimum spot or me simply missing what should have been a simple jumping sequence thanks to stuff like flying creatures in the way or a platform or three seeming as if they were the place to leap (but weren’t). Sort of like this example (yep, that’s me being very terrible as this game in that clip below). So, I stopped playing and decided to wait until a patch or two dropped to fix things up.

 

 

Thankfully, the game ended up getting those few helpful patches that cleaned things up significantly as well as adding a few unexpected yet very welcome tweaks and yes, I can now heartily recommend it as a very solid sleeper hit worthy of your time.

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Review: Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered (PS4)

RFRM_PS4While much of its color palette is about as utilitarian as the sledgehammer lead character Alec Mason swings around, Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered ($29.99) still delivers the goods (and how!) when it comes to its core gameplay. Mars may be the big hot spot some look to as our future home (ha!), but in this game, it’s one of the worst places off earth. The game itself is quite solid overall thanks to recent patching that fixed a few flaws, but getting the hang of weapon switching in the heat of battle is still some tricky business.

Developer KAIKO took Volition’s 2009 PS3/Xbox 360/PC game and added some nice modern visual flourishes such as revamped textures, lighting, and shadow effects along with a (mostly) smoother 60fps frame rate. The game also packs in all the DLC, including a side story set years before the main game featuring a badass heroine who uses some cool alien weaponry, so this package is going to be a treat for those who want additional solo and online play modes to pad out an already lengthy game experience.

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Annnnd just when you make that last payment on your ride, here comes Mason to check up on that repair or replacement clause.

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Review: Shining Resonance Refrain (PS4)

SFRR_PS4 coverAs a longtime fan of Sega’s Shining series (the import version of Shining in the Darkness was the first JRPG I completed way back in 1992), it’s been quite interesting (to say the least) watching the series evolve over time. While the first game, the assorted Shining Force entries, Shining Wisdom, Shining the Holy Ark and the portable Shining Soul have been the most engaging, some of the games localized after that point fall into the hit or miss category.  The last three I played, Shining Tears, Shining Force Neo and Shining Force EXA traded in the first person dungeon crawling found in SitD and Shining The Holy Ark and the more strategic play in the Shining Force games with seemingly simpler hack and slash action against some very powerful enemies that made combat quite challenging. While there was some enjoyment to be found in these despite a few flaws, the bloom was definitely not on the Shining rose during the PS2 era.

Shining Resonance Refrain ($49.99) isn’t quite the return to glory the series needs, but this enhanced port of the 2014 PlayStation 3 import manages to be quite enjoyable overall. Developer O-Two took the Media Vision original PS3 game and added an all new “Refrain Mode” that allows players to experience the game with two of its main foes as playable characters along with what seems to be a nice load of included  (on disc or as part of the digital download) DLC content added at no cost across all platforms. Yes, it’s best to explore Refrain Mode after you’ve played the main game, as plenty of spoilers abound. But if that’s your thing, you do you, I say. It’s also the first time a new game in the Shining series has appeared on current-gen consoles and PC and hopefully, it will do well among JRPG fans on those platforms.

 

 

The game hits all the expected notes many JRPGs take these days from lengthy expository scenes, a cast filled with familiar likable to annoying characters, a decent combat system, and more than enough strangeness that might knock the wind out of the sails of those new to these types of games when they see some of the game’s kookier moments. When your party members or enemies break out into song as part of an attack, it’s more than clear you’re not in Kansas anymore. But if you surrender, Dorothy, it’s all in good fun at the end of the day.

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(Not So) Random Film(s) of The Week: The Thing (1982)

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With his trusty bottle of J&B to keep warm, R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Vance Norris (Charles Hallahan) try quite unsuccessfully to make snow angels.

THE THING sfSo, what did YOU do during last week’s too damn hot weather? Me, I dragged my slightly sickly self out in that nasty, unbearable heat to go sit in a nice, well-chilled home with seven other people with the express purpose of making some of them scream. No, I didn’t do my *legendary* crowd-pleasing Chippendale’s act, people (wait, I have a Chippendale’s act?). I simply put a very old plan into action I’d successfully executed a few times in the distant past in introducing a fine horror film to some friends who had either never seen it previously, have only seen a heavily edited for TV version or yes, just disliked scary movies.

Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed that I’ve actually previously reviewed an older DVD version of the 1982 John Carpenter film and I’ve also deconstructed the 2011 prequel which I found okay, but lacking in some respects (I think the studio meddled a bit too much with the film, turning it into less than what director Matthijs van Heijningen intended to be a more solid horror experience). Now, I didn’t just show up unannounced, tie seven people to assorted furniture and force them to watch the movie, so there. Nope, as a matter of fact, I was actually asked to host a little screening party by a friend who borrows movies from me on a semi-regular basis.

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Figment: Dilly Dali Puzzler Slides Onto Switch

As someone who loves quirky games. seeing Figment arrive on the Switch pleases me to no end. I mean just look at it:

 

 

As a new Switch owner (yeah,I know, FINALLY), it’s just 100% great to see well-crafted indie titles like this that poke at the imagination and reveal strange new worlds to explore and enjoy. That and hey, we all could use fun games that make us think as we try and solve the puzzles it lays out. Plus, it’s got great voice acting and music, which should make it a treat for the ears as well as eyes.

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That lovely art is like Krazy Kat with a Tim Burton twist!

The game is also set to arrive on PS4 and Xbox One at some point, so you fine folks won’t be out of the loop on this gem. Keep an eye peeled and a grin ready, I say.

-GW

Just Doing Some Moonlighter-ing

While I’ve been a bit (too) busy with some side projects but have done some (well a LOT of) gaming and yes, reviews are slowly but surely getting done. Oh, that’s 11 bit studios and Digital Sun’s really excellent Moonlighter above, which is one of the newer games on the playlist (reviews are embargoed until the 28th, but keep an eye peeled on this one). There are a bunch of other games I’ve played, but I’ll keep you all in suspense for a bit. Hokay, back to the stack of urgent stuff I need to complete over the weekend.

-GW

Review: Shin Megami Tensei Strange Journey Redux (Nintendo 3DS)

SMTSJ_boxI’ve been a big fan of Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei games for a while now (okay, close to 25 years – yes, I’m old) but I’d say one of my favorite portable entries in the series was Shin Megami Tensei Strange Journey, released back on the Nintendo DS in 2010. Like the other SMT games, the first person dungeon crawling (like some of Atlus’ early Persona games, was inspired by Sir-Tech’s classic Wizardry series), the mix of sci-fi, horror, and mature dialog all made for a pretty compelling experience. Remade and expanded for the 3DS, Shin Megami Tensei Strange Journey Redux ($39.99) still manages to be an excellent game well worth a replay or even a first experience for those new to the long running series.

New to the game are a new character with her own side story, a new multi-floor dungeon and new side missions, a great new animated intro and optional DLC (which is one reason this review is a few days later than expected). Additionally, 20 save slots (the DS game had a mere two!) allow for a bit of experimentation with the game’s demon fusing mechanic as well as let you tackle certain tough sections and deal with the potential outcomes or just mess around trying to cause demon fusion accidents, some of which can be rewarding in the long run. Oh, and for those who’ve played the DS version, yes, some of those old demon passwords still work.

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Review: Conan Exiles (PS4)

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Survival games come in a few flavors these days and Funcom’s mostly solid Conan Exiles ($49.99) has that interestingly coppery taste of blood, a bit of crunch from a handful of insects and a grassy finish, all wrapped in a hide of some sort that’s been smoked thoroughly. Or something like that. The game is a rough and tumble chunk of violent fun, complex crafting (that *really* needs streamlining), endless exploration and thankfully, offline play when those too packed servers are busy.

As with ARK: Survival Evolved, the massive open world sandbox element tosses you into things nearly naked and needing to gather resources quickly or die trying. Conan pops up at the beginning to free your user-created crucified character and wish you well before you’re left to your own devices. The game prompts you onward with small to large milestones and some fast level gains for small to large accomplishments. Drinking water, finding space for and creating that first shelter, crafting your first basic armor, figuring out the ridiculously complex cooking system and more all help you get a feel for the game right away. Or at least, you’ll realize that this is a game where you’ll need to pay constant attention to even the smallest thing lest you want to punt that Dual Shock 4 through your TV.

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Review: Dragon’s Crown Pro (PS4)

DCP_PS4An instant classic on both artistic and pure gameplay levels, Dragon’s Crown Pro ($49.99) has finally arrived on PS4 with buffed up 4K visuals and cross-platform play/save compatibility with the PS3 and Vita versions. It’s a game that also hopefully going to be one of those true evergreens that new players will want to add to their libraries because it offers enough replay value to keep you dialed in each time you pick up that controller.

The game’s original notoriety to some for its mildly bawdy artwork for some of the female characters (but you get a half naked muscular dwarf as a counter to that) ends up being much ado about nothing. If you’ve a working brain in your skull, you’ll know the difference between gorgeous stylized artwork and solid animation and somehow deeming the game “controversial” because one doesn’t appreciate the very intentionally over-exaggerated art. That and hell, it’s a Vanillaware game, so assorted forms of pulchritude are a necessary non-evil.

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“Waiter, there’s a fly in m… oh, never mind (ogle!)

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RAGE 2 Trailer: Mad Maximum, Coming in 2019

I really liked RAGE a lot despite it hogging up a load of space on my PS3’s hard drive and having a few slow moments here and there. With the upcoming Spring 2018 release of RAGE 2 teaming up original developer id Software and veteran developer Avalanche Studios, it’s clear that Bethesda is going for a sort of new gold standard that combines id’s FPS expertise and Avalanche’s penchant for massive and massively entertaining open world games with that post apocalyptic vibe that’s guaranteed to sell a few million copies right out of the gate.

I’ll say no more on this unless Bethsoft is planning a press stop here in NYC post-E3 so I can get some hands-on time and write about the experience. That said, I’m thinking I’ll like this a lot more than I liked that first game.

-GW