Review: Dragon Sinker – Descendants of Legend (PS4/Vita)

Dragon Sinker PS4KEMCO and ever-busy developer EXE-CREATE along with a few other studios have been whipping out dozens of mobile JRPGs for years and fortunately, a bunch of them have been slowly but surely arriving on home consoles, a great thing if you happen to be a fan of “old-school” dungeon dives. Dragon Sinker – Descendants of Legend is one of their latest and it’s a wonderfully, intentionally rustic style of gameplay that recalls the early Final Fantasy series as well as bits of Dragon Quest and a few other well-aged classics.

Granted, the game is going for more of a very solid homage to 8-bit JRPGs than it goes for the gold standard in terms of its familiar plot points. But between the clever use of the Unity engine to deliver appropriately chunky sprites and the developer implementing elements of its other role-playing games to great effect, this one’s a time-sink worthy of your time.

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© KEMCO/EXE-CREATE

While deceptively short if you follow the main quest and stick to it like glue, as with other EXE-CREATE games, the true depth lies in players seeking out side quests and late to post-game content. Sure, you can blow through the game in about a dozen or so hours, but you very likely won’t see everything or find some fun secrets that require more time leveling up for some fairly tough battles. This is one of those rainy or snowy weekend games where you plop down on something comfortable and only come up for air and food when required. Continue reading

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Indies of Note (Part Two Billion!)

I can’t even begin to tell you how many small publishers contact me asking to check out their games in assorted forms of completion. No complaints at all on this as one thing I love is seeing how games come together. That said, I’m a wee bit backed up in codes thanks to all the medical stuff I’ve got going on, but I’ve been playing and compiling lists over the last few months on a few games you may want to take for a spin if you’ve a Steam or console account. Some of these are also on gog.com, gamejolt or itch.io, three of many other very awesome spots to get indie games you absolutely should check out even if you want to browse and be amazed at the variety on display. Actually, you can and should support indie games outright by at least playing demos where applicable and/or buying titles you like outright.

 

 

Mercenary Kings_PSMercenary Kings Reloaded Edition (PS4/PS3/Vita, Xbox One, Switch, PC) – Merry, merry, quite Contra-ry, what do we have here? A pretty damn awesome side-scrolling run ‘n gun from Montreal based independent game studio Tribute Games (Flinthook, Curses ‘N Chaos). Actually, it’s more like Metal Slug with a hefty crafting system and a more diverse cast of characters.

If you’ve played this previously, you’ll find the Reloaded edition adds a bunch of improvements that make this a great deal more accessible without lowering the difficulty. In addition to the stellar pixel art and animation, Tribute’s packed this one with tons of fun and challenge throughout, making a game that’s highly replayable and an excellent arcade experience that’s a must-buy no matter what you play it on. Now, if only Tribute would get Wizorb out on PS4, Vita and Switch, I’d be an even happier guy.

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Review: Mutant Football League (PS4)

MFL_PS4Okay, confession time (again), For the record, I really don’t care for most professional or what’s positioned as “professional” sports these days. Now, I’m not  completely against your own sports or sports entertainment choices, mind you (if you love what you watch, I’m not stopping you at all). I actually used to be a lot more physically active and have played a bunch of team sports over the years and yes indeed, even had a few favorite pro teams for a number of decades. That said, as I’ve grown older I’ve found myself not caring about overblown, over-hyped event sports as bread and circus spectaculars in the grand scheme of things partly because it only takes a few crazed fans acting up to kill interest in what should be a less mentally stressful entertainment experience.

That said, I could play Digital Dreams’ killer Mutant Football League (MFL) all day and not grow tired of it. This one’s a “Shut up and buy it!” game if there ever was one and if you’re a fan of more arcade-like games in the NFL Blitz vein or recall playing the well-aged but still hilarious Mutant League Football back on the Sega Genesis, this one’s going to be right up your dark alley and waiting to club you on the head and swipe $20 from your wallet before skipping away whistling. Since your cell phone wasn’t lifted, when you’re back to a conscious state, do call up a friends and invite them over for some solid co-op action, online play or hell, even just to spectate and cheer at the mayhem on screen.

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Review: The Aquatic Adventure of The Last Human (PS4)

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TAAotLH.jpegWhile I suspect the “melancholic exploration adventure/arcade-style twitch shooter” isn’t going to be the next big thing anytime soon, if you want a game that fits that bill exactly, you’ll really want to snap up developer YCJY’s The Aquatic Adventure of The Last Human on PS4 (or Steam) at some point. It’s a great and intentionally gloomy game with solid controls and some pretty (and pretty colorful to pretty dark) underwater environments where exploration is somewhat languid until you accidentally or with intent pilot your little gray submarine into brutal boss fights that give you a run for your money.

The game is a somewhat thoughtful and dour (but overall excellent) look at the last survivor of the human race crashing back on earth after an extended space flight only to find the planet covered in water and ice with dead cities full of clues under the sea and assorted sea life. As you explore the non-linear map you’ll discover most of the creatures are harmless, but as noted, you’ll be in for a more than a few jolts when you get into those tough boss battles. It’s more or less a depressing version of Darius done in the versatile Gamemaker engine with some solid pixel art that recalls a nice hybrid of 8 and 16-bit art styles with some modern lighting effects.

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Review: Energy Invasion (PS4)

Energy Invasion PS4I could be a really sneaky bum of a guy and start this short review with the following blurb-friendly pull quote: “Energy Invasion is the first Breakout game of 2018!” and actually be completely correct. Well, the game is a sort of clone/homage to the classic arcade game with a bit of Arkanoid and a teeny-tiny dash of Space Invaders wrapped into a twin-stick shooter for good measure.  While not flawless, overall, it’s a pretty decent game from the ever busy developer Sometimes You (Evgeniy Kolpakov) that should appeal to fans of those older games looking for something new to hop into for a spell.

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You get three game modes (Invasion, Linear, Endless), online leaderboards if you want to chart your score, and a surprisingly cool soundtrack from someone named Nick R 61 who packs the game with some pretty solid cuts. While the game isn’t the most impressive visually, you do get some neat background effects and a mix of retro and modern visual touches courtesy of the Unity engine. Gameplay is a bit more complex than Breakout as your ball can shoot at enemy blocks rather than the paddle at the bottom of the screen like in some Breakout/Arkanoid clones. It’s a bit tricky to get the hang of at first as you end up having to watch the ball as it ricochets around the screen while trying not to get distracted by the shots. On the easiest mode, you don’t need to worry about enemy shots at all. But crank up the challenge and it’s time to play Artful Dodger as the enemy shoots back.

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Capsule Reviews, The Third: Some RPGs

Let’s see now. I’m trying to shoehorn a load of stuff into my schedule this year, so I’ve taken to compiling certain games and films into shorter, easier to digest capsule reviews that don’t drag on like my longer boring full meal posts. Don’t worry, those longer reviews aren’t gone at all. I’m just saving up my currently lower than usual energy stores for those more epic length posts. Anyway, let’s get cracking:

 

 

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One More Dungeon (PC/PS4/PS3/Vita/Switch/Xbox One) – Not quite a RPG and more of a cross between a first-person shooter and a perma-death packed randomly generated roguelike, OMD’s in your face pixel art will seem garish to some players, but I liked it quite a lot. The game is a challenging bit of fun that will kill your character off constantly, but somehow keeps you coming back for more. Points earned via playing can be used to unlock assorted modifiers that make playing somewhat easier or a great deal harder, so how tough things get is eventually your call.

There’s a sanity level to consider and the game’s overall vibe reminded me a tiny bit of Eldritch, another retro-style FPS, although that game had a more Lovecraftian vibe going for it. OMD’s low price point and speedy gameplay keep it fun going even if you end up buying the farm a wee bit too much. This is one of those games that you’ll go back to a over and over, provided you like what you see and/or it grows on you. Developer Stately Snail and Ratalaika Games (who handled the port) deserve a tip of the cap for this one.

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Capsule Reviews, Too: Things That Go Boom (And Quite Frequently, At That)

2017 was an incredibly busy year and that doesn’t include me being laid up in the hospital for almost a month and missing out on a load of fun stuff. Anyway, I’m compiling a short list of recommends here if you’re doing some post-holiday gifting for yourself or someone else. Most of what’s here will be indie/small studio focused thanks to too a few of these games getting (intentionally?) overlooked by bigger sites because they’re not going to get a ton of clicks or some other such nonsense.

 

 

JYDGE PS4 JYDGE (PS4) – I’m surprised that this excellent kinda sorta follow up to Neon Chrome didn’t come to Vita as well, but given Sony’s rapidly losing interest in their HD handheld in terms of first party support, I guess it’s no surprise at all (except that Neon Chrome isn’t a first party game). Still, if you like your top-down action games tough and pretty darn fun, going to town with this one for a spell will bring a big grin to your grill.

You are the law in this fun, violent riff on Judge Dredd meets Robocop with a slick neon-lit coating straight out of Blade Runner or some other futuristic flick. Fast-paced and highly replayable missions await if you’re a fan of top-down shooters that aren’t easy and demand precision over panic. There’s a great arcade-like vibe here that has you unlocking weapon and armor upgrades and hopping back in to press forward or go back and try to beat tight times for taking out assorted baddies as quickly as possible while avoiding civilian casualties (an instant mission failure, as it should be in a game such as this). There’s even a solid co-op mode if you want to team up with a friend and Jydge the hell out of some well-armed creeps who’ll get what they deserve but good.

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Review: Hammerwatch (PS4)

Hammerwatch PS4For the record, Hammerwatch isn’t a RPG at all. If anything, calling it one is akin to calling Gauntlet (the arcade classic it pays homage to) a sports game. Granted, you do indeed get the fantasy trappings of classic RPGs in the form of assorted deadly dungeons to navigate, ticked off hordes of enemies trying to do your character in and other familiar touches. But there’s not a shred of story here, no gear to buy, your little character is mute, and the only expository dialog you’ll read comes from a few NPCs in set locations who offer very brief tips or warnings that you’ll want to pay attention to. Oh, and your party kind of kicks you to the curb at the beginning after a bridge breaks and you’re stuck having to go the long way around to catch up to them. What, someone forgot to bring a good length of rope?

This is a actually a good, no, a great thing, as the game excels at letting you have at what it tosses your way you want as you try to survive. Enemy generators, traps galore, invisible walls, area warps and many hidden secrets await the brave ones with ten bucks to spare. Trust me, folks – this is probably going to be the best ten bucks you’ll spend on any game this (or next, if you’re reading this in 2018) year. The main campaign is lengthy, there’s an extra chapter expansion and while online play is coming in a patch (hopefully along with mods that the PC version has had for a while), you can still grab up to three friends and play a good old-fashioned couch co-op session for the time being.

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Review: .hack//G.U. Last Recode (PS4)

dot hack ps4You’ve two choices to deal with as soon as you fire up .hack//G.U. Last Recode on your PS4 or PC. Do you play it as intended and enjoy the story as it spools out across the three remastered games (Rebirth, Reminisce, and Redemption) along with one new shorter chapter (Reconnection)? Or do you activate the Cheat Mode that maxes your party out from the get-go and makes zipping though most of the game a total cakewalk?

I ended up choosing the first option and while the game took a lot longer to play through, I didn’t feel as if I was taking advantage of Bandai Namco or developer CyberConnect 2‘s overly gracious hospitality. As a huge fan of the original four chapters games and later, the G.U. series’ three entries, I wanted to play these as originally presented, carrying my save data over into each game and getting the same thrills I’d gotten way back when the PS2 was going strong with quality JRPGs dropping on a semi-regular basis.

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This remastered trilogy benefits from a higher resolution, better frame rate, somewhat simpler combat and much better looking cut scenes. That said, it also doesn’t go overboard in trying to be a purely visual showpiece far beyond the original games. Lead character Haseo is still very much an angry jerky guy for a good chunk of the experience, but you’ll get used to him as the game progresses. The end result is a reliable buy that will please fans of the old games while maybe making some fans that expected too much or come into this wanting to see every trick in the PS4 book exploited a tad disappointed. Then again, you’re going to be playing this game more for the story and somewhat deep world building that extends into how you interact in the “real” world presented outside the faux MMO game.

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Review: Black Mirror (PS4)

BM_squareThere are two important things to realize straightaway about King Art Games’ Black Mirror. First of all, nope – it’s NOT related to the popular streamed show at all. This is a remake of a PC game that was initially released in 2003 that later got two sequels, all before that Netflix show was a whisper in someone’s mind. The second thing is, those who’ve played the original will likely appreciate this game a good deal more than those going in cold (or thinking of that show) because even with two patches, it’s got a few issues that still render the experience somewhat imperfect. We’ll get to those below, but let’s take a trip in time to a gloomy Scottish castle and its gloomier inhabitants circa 1926.

David Gordon rolls into the moors armed with a cryptic letter and plenty of questions upon learning his father has died rather horribly somewhere in the vicinity. The game actually opens with the events that lead to the fiery demise which seems to be suicidal yet somewhat supernatural. David soon finds that although he’s heir to the castle, there may be some who don’t want him around or perhaps want him to stay, but more or less permanently no longer among the living. Cue up the spooky music and sense of impending dread, ladies and germs. The end results are a pretty decent take on the horror/adventure game with a few modern touches, not all of which work as well as they need to.

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