Mary Skelter 2: Switch-Bound in September

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Excellent. One of my favorite Idea Factory RPGs is getting a very nice looking digital-only sequel that expands on what made it a solid game in the first place. While there are only four screens to share (so far), I’m gathering Mary Skelter 2 will get fans of the first game quite psyched for its September launch, but new players should also be in the same boat, as the upcoming Switch version also has the first entry included as a BONUS (woo and hoo!).

Read more on what’s in store below the jump.

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Review: Elli (Switch)

elli boxBandanaKid’s Elli ($19.99) is a fun, family-friendly game that focuses on precision platforming and simple to moderate puzzle solving over the standard combat-focused action that’s a staple of the genre. This ends up being a good thing for those looking for something a bit different than the usual mascot-themed, enemy-packed games where variations on the butt-bounce and besting big, bad bosses are core gameplay elements. On the other hand, those looking for a deep and direct comparison to certain AAA or other indie games of this type may find what’s here a bit lacking in a few areas.

For example, while the lovely, mostly isometric visuals are lovely to admire, there’s enough of a Breath of the Wild vibe here to prod one into thinking it’s some sort of spin-off gaiden featuring some lesser known NPC’s. Granted there’s a plot here about Elli, a 600-year young elf trying to celebrate her birthday only to have those Crystals of Time she’s guardian of swiped by the not so friendly Ghasti, whereupon it’s off to the races to retrieve them. That’s pretty much all you need to know and the game doesn’t throw any major world-building at you in an attempt to try and make you think it’s any deeper than that.

That by the way, turns out to be a mostly good thing, as the gameplay’s simpler focus is on getting from Point A to Point B and dealing with assorted obstacles just works well without the baggage of perusing copious amounts of whys and hows via lengthy text or cut scenes. On the other hand, between the mostly silent NPCs and Elli’s own somewhat quiet approach, the game at times feels a bit empty outside her general motivation to catch that nasty Ghasti.

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Now Playing: Project Nimbus: Complete Edition

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Wow. So, Project Nimbus: Complete Edition is out NOW for the Switch and so far, it’s pretty spectacular for that $19.99 price point. While not as visually sharp its PS4 older sibling, it’s still a great-looking game, there’s extra content in this version and the fact that it’s an Unreal-4 powered game running so well on the hardware makes it a must-buy for fans of mecha games in the Gundam/Macross vein. There’s also a solid Ace Combat element in the speedy air-based gameplay and even a dash of Armored Core in some of the customization elements.

Is there a thrilling trailer? Oh, you bet there is, folks:

So far, the game’s quite a blast to play in each mode I’ve sampled. in Campaign, a quick tutorial gives you the basics as a playable mini-mission before the festivities truly begin. The game is meant to get you playing as quickly as possible, so there’s little downtime during missions unless you deliberately hold back or are wanting to do a bit of exploring as enemies are targeting your mecha with all sorts of ordinance. In English: don’t dally too much here or you’re getting turned into scrap metal in rapid time.

Survival mode is as you’d expect, fly ’til you die fun for kicks and yes, it’s also solid as well as a good way to test your growing arsenal. Finally, Warfront mode is an excellent sort of rogue-like experience that randomizes missions and awards resources to spend on mecha upgrades. There’s an addictive RPG loop at work here as even a loss counts as a gain as any gear and rewards earned are kept. I fully expect to spend more time here than in the 26 campaign missions. Amusingly enough, I currently have the game paused as I type this out, so I’m going to sign off here, get this posted, get back to the game and get to knocking out a review over the weekend. So far, I’m finding very little to gripe about.

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Uh… those aren’t fireworks, pal. A celebration IS in order, but you’re gonna have pigeons littering the landscape when those homing missiles find a target.

Back in a bit.

-GW

Review: Earth Defense Force 5 (PS4)

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Well, that took a while, didn’t it?

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There guys are new and quite a pain in the butt to fight. You’ll see (and how!)…

For me, an Earth Defense Force game is a particularly tricky review because despite the many similarities in each entry, the series has actually evolved over 16 years (yes, evolved!) into a game where you can choose a single character and dive in deep to uncover their rather massive set of weapons as you play through the different difficulties. While on the surface, Earth Defense Force 5 is a thrilling yet simplistic chunk of game to sink into, there’s a nice level of complexity in regards to how to approach missions in either single player, co-op, or online modes that makes if a fresh experience through multiple replays.

For many players, the easy to use all-rounder Ranger will be their initial pick, but I strongly suggest using Wing Diver for her air superiority and ability to snag more pickups than any other class. Or, you can play as each hero in any order, learning their unique skills (the Fencer and Air Raider require a bit of patience to master) as you challenge those aliens out to overrun the planet for the umpteenth time. It’s your call, and with 110 missions to tackle (not including DLC content), this isn’t a short game by any means.

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Going in solo? Expect to learn a lot about how your chosen class plays and put it into practice, or you’ll be in for a world of hurt.

It’s also the first EDF game with a proper (albeit awkward) tutorial for all four classes. It’s unskippable on your first play with any character even if you’re an EDF veteran, but it’s nice to see developer Sandlot make the game a lot more welcoming to new EDF recruits. For those new players, I’d recommend playing through each character’s tutorial just to see which one fits your play style and mess with “farming” a few missions to increase your arsenal. Of course, you can swap between characters between missions if you like, or stick with one for the entire campaign. Couch co-op play is supported via split screen in case you have an extra controller and a pal willing to dive in and get some bug and ‘bot blasting on.

Here’s a look at the Wing Diver intro level (all the EDF 5 videos in this review save for the official trailer are of me playing and there are quite a lot more of them on my YouTube channel, if you’re interested).

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Now Playing: Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark

packshot_1500x2200As I’m still playing this one, this isn’t an “official” review at all, but more of a solid recommendation based on time spent with the game to date. Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark ($29.99) feels like a cross between Final Fantasy Tactics, the Tactics Ogre games and the original Vandal Hearts with more customization options, a gorgeous hand-drawn look, geat music and gameplay guaranteed to please SRPG fans who want a so far very entertaining experience. 6 Eyes Studio and publisher 1C Entertainment have a real winner here that’s even running better after a recent patch fixed a few issues.

This is the sort of game that will bring back more than a few memories of those aforementioned classics to fans who remember while giving those new to it an excellent new epic to go through at their leisure. What’s nice about the game so far is how well its story builds up dramatic moments from the first battle and leads you into certain points where you’re rethinking your opinions of certain main players. Eh, no spoilers here, but let me distract you instead with how the game opens and some early character edit stuff:

Okay, I’d actually recorded close to three hours of gameplay spread over a few more videos, but decided to use this shorter clip because I was thinking I was giving away too much of the story not too long into the game proper. Granted, a good chunk of that time was me messing with the wonderfully deep character creation system and adding a few more troops to my roster, so perhaps I’ll run those clips in a bit once I complete the main story, which so far, is quite good indeed.

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I’ll shut up here and get back to the game for a bit so I can have a more informative review in a few more days. That said, I think SRPG fans will absolutely love what’s here. Hell, if this were on a disc or game card in a retail package, I’d likely end up with two copies just to sock one away for the future. Oh, never mind my oddball collecting proclivities – go give this great game a try whether it be on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. I’ve no idea about a Switch port, but I guess that’s for 1C to decide on if the other versions do well enough and 6 Eyes can get Switch dev kits at some point. Should this occur, guess who’ll be playing this all over again?

-GW

Review: Dark Quest II (PS4)

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Nostalgia alert: This one’s great stuff.

You’d best believe I uttered out loud (to no one in particular) “Wait, there’s a Dark Quest I out there somewhere?” as soon as that email I recently received about Dark Quest II ($14.99) landed in my inbox. I took a look at the brief trailer on YouTube and yes indeed, put in a code request because all sorts of nostalgic switches were flipping in my brain.  A few days of playing this later and I’m very pleased developer Brain Seal Ltd took the time to craft this hard to put down throwback of a keeper.

If you’ve been around the RPG block for any decent length of time, you know the drill: Evil sorcerer doing evil things socked away in his castle, a hero strolls up to the gates, yadda, yadda, yadda – you’re in deep dungeon doo-doo, make new allies along the way and it’s a fight to the finish against that mad magician and his kill-crazy minions. Granted, this game will be a hard sell to some stubborn ones out there who think console or PC RPGs started sometime in the 90’s or early 2000’s, or who’ve never played either classic Dungeons and Dragons, the old board game HeroQuest, or Hero Quest II: Legacy of Sorasil on the Amiga.  DQII wraps these three influences together, adds in some lovely artwork and ties everything together with an appropriately nifty audio experience that seals the deal.  The stripped-down to the basics gameplay here had me grinning through surviving encounters by a hair and even relishing a defeat or three just so I could retry a quest and try new strategies to win.

For players new to this particular style of game, you’ll need to be aware of a few things such as despite the isometric viewpoint this isn’t a “Diablo-style” chase ‘n chop nor any sort of action/RPG in that vein. Combat is turn-based and there’s an invisible sort of dice roll happening where you and your enemies will hit or miss attacks based on a few factors such as active or passive skills and potion use. You can take your time while playing this, as enemies will patiently wait for you to act and yes, this also means when you’re in a room packed full of them, you’ll likely be attacked one by one as their turns roll up.

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Warhammer Chaosbane Hands-On: Eko’s of the Past Bode Well for the Future

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I’d hate to be that guy who has to clean those stained glass windows every other day…

WC_cover PS4Way back in 2013, I recall going to a 505 Games press event to play Eko Software’s impressive How to Survive and noting to a PR rep that the developer needed to make an isometric RPG at some point because that game had all the makings of an instant classic despite the overdone zombie theme and copious survival elements. Two years and a new 505 press event later, I’m playing How to Survive 2 and noting to another rep that Eko really, really needed to do an iso RPG just to get it out of their system and how I’d love to see them do something original or even revive a more fantasy-themed game like a Champions of Norrath or some other similarly beefy (and long forgotten) IP.

Four years later and I’m playing through the closed beta version of Warhammer Chaosbane on my PS4 with a huge grin plastered on my face. Although it’s a beta, it’s a mighty fine one full of promise once the dev team adds and tweaks some elements.

In its current state, it’s certainly got some excellent visuals, gameplay that’s immediately fun and what’s looking to be a fairly lengthy campaign just based on looking at the overworld map in the second of two playable chapters. But a bit more polish in a few areas will help put this game into that rarefied air a certain few other isometric games are floating around in. One great thing about the beta is Eko’s willingness to take into account every bit of reasonable feedback from those who’ve pre-ordered the game and have sunk some time into the builds they’ve made available.

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Review: X-Morph: Defense (Nintendo Switch)

X-morph box switchDeveloper EXOR Studios has done such a phenomenal job in porting X-Morph: Defense ($19.99 Standard Edition, $29.99 Complete Edition) to the Switch that I hope it’s likely going to be a game that will be studied for quite some time students getting into game making or by other devs who want to port a game they’ve made onto the platform. From visuals to performance, it’s a wonderfully complete experience that easily stacks up to the other versions made for more powerful hardware.

The funny thing is, I initially didn’t want to play this because I pretty much stopped cold playing tower defense-type games thanks to to having played so many for so long I became bored with the relative sameness they shared despite thematic differences. Thankfully, the addition of fast-paced arcade-style twin stick shooting blends well with the real-time base expansion elements and yes, the ability to play not as the humans, but the aliens in the process of vanquishing anything the earthlings toss at them as they attempt to mine the planet for its resources.

Hey, if you’re going to wreck the planet, you may as well do it in style and a continent at a time, right?

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Review: Vaporum (Nintendo Switch)

Vaporum_switchAs a well-aged (I prefer the term “vintage”) fan of old school dungeon crawlers, I knew Vaporum ($24.99, worth every penny) was going to be right up my alley. With its dark thematic elements, Dungeon Master meets BioShock vibe and plenty of play and replay value, the very worst thing that I could think of as I sat down to type out this review was simply only being able to get through the game once for this post and having to move onto something else thanks to my stupidly large backlog.

The team at Cypronia has converted developer Fatbot Games’ stellar PC game into a mostly excellent home console version and yes, when I say home console, I kind of mean it. While you can indeed take this on the go as a Switch owner, you’ll have to deal with somewhat smallish onscreen text and controls that can be a bit complex as they’ve been translated from keyboard and mouse to a controller with a lot less buttons to operate. Everything works as it should, but there are a few fiddly moments that require a trip to the options screen to adjust things to your preferences.

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Shocker! Just about everything wants you dead in this game – expect traps and tricks galore as you get deeper into the thick of things.

Personally, though – this is exactly the sort of game you’ll want to play while socked away on a rainy vacation at home in front of the TV in docked mode. That way, you’re all into the visual and aural experience (the game both looks and sounds fantastic) and not having to be interrupted by outside distractions such as some kid walking up to you and asking “Hey, is that a Switch? Can I play, please because my mom won’t let me take mine outside and… blah de blah, blah, blah..” (true story, that). This is the sort of game where concentration, planning and execution are all urgent forces vying for your attentions.

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Review: Feather (Nintendo Switch)

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Because sometimes you really really need to relax, games such as Feather ($12.59, $9.99 on PC) exist and should thrive because they do what they do well enough to recommend to those with more open minds. Melbourne-based Samurai Punk‘s super-chill experience is as much of an art project as it is a highly playable stylized bird flight simulation and it works on a few levels some won’t immediately grasp. Its open world setting couple with the simple to pick up controls allow free exploration of the map which reveals a few nifty secrets for those willing to take the time to dive in and discover.

This is a game where the intentional low-poly look blends seamlessly with its lovely soundtrack that does a great job of transporting you and your brain into a comfortable place for as long as you need that respite. As there are no big goals other than enjoying the ride and locating all nine music tracks (accessible via circular gateways placed in select locations), it’s a case where if you want to end the game, it doesn’t mind when you quit because any “progression” you’ve made isn’t saved. Yes, that seems strange in this era of auto-saves or games recalling your last position before a huge event. Feather itself is the event, and it’s a low-stress one at that. Jump in at any time and fly until you’ve had your fill.

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Oh, the places you’ll go: Just explore everything, as you’ll fly into some odd spots worth seeking out.

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