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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There’s a Dreadful Bond Tech Demo. Go Take it For a Spin, Please

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With its Kickstarter in its final week, developer Clod Studio has released a gorgeously gloomy tech demo for Dario Argento’s Dreadful Bond which makes for an excellent look at the game’s environments as well as some impressive audio design in the form of a haunting piano tune and some appropriately unsettling sound effects. There’s no “action” here to speak of, but I’m betting some of you easily frightened types will feel more than a little creeped out by the strikingly realistic visuals and those assorted ambient sound effects that will have you stop moving your mouse around because it feels as if… well, as if something is watching your every move or worse, is lurking in the same space you are just over your shoulder.

 

 

Wait, that’s just me – I was hungry, poked around in your fridge and made myself a sandwich while I was waiting for you all to download that demo. Er, I hope you don’t mind? Anyway, I’m going to exit, stage left. Go check out that tech demo for Dreadful Bond and pledge towards its completion, I say. Also, you need a new loaf of bread and maybe some Colman’s English Mustard because that boring bright yellow stuff is kinda tame. Okay, Okay, I’m going!

-GW

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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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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Review: Zanki Zero: Last Beginning (PS4)

“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…

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CHARGE COMBO… er, hey? Does that come with fries, or just a large punch? I got jokes, man. Not good ones, but I got jokes…

ZZPS4“Gleefully Apocalyptic” or “Cheerfully Downbeat” may seem like damnable praise for a game, but Spike Chunsoft has made that a winning strategy in a number of its more popular titles such as the “Deathly Amusing” Danganronpa series or those “Wonderfully Grim” Zero Escape games. Veteran developer Lancarse’s Zanki Zero: Last Beginning ($59.99) is in some ways similar, but not 100% quite like those other games, though. It’s a “Non-stop Survival RPG” with a demanding set of gameplay requirements some new to this sort of thing may find a bit tricky to grasp, but it ends up pretty satisfying once you settle in and grow accustomed to what it requires from you. In English, you’ll dig this for what works well more than those who might not “get” it at all. Go try that lengthy PS4 demo out and make your move, I say.

You play as a team of eight survivors of a world-ending event who initially seem to think they’re in a bizarre reality show, but soon find out they’re clones with a 13-day lifespan forced to repeat the cycle of birth to death as they puzzle out the hows and whys of their existence. Their guides? A pair of cartoon show hosts living in a separate reality who pop up on an unplugged vintage televisions to give them missions that will expand or end their lives (or both) as they’re completed. Yes, you get 10XP if you realize there’s some nefariousness going on behind the scenes (or, under the skin, if you prefer). And yes, I thought David Lynch would make a fine directorial choice if there’s ever a live-action version of this one, but as usual… I digress.

 

 

As you can see from that trailer above, you can expect death to come calling frequently (a lot less so if you play on the new to the English version Easy mode). That said, dying here isn’t all bad, as what can kill you will in most cases will make your party members stronger as new resistances and even a bit of lifespan extending can be acquired based on how and when you buy the farm. Buy early, buy often, but try not to buy it too much as your lives are limited. There’s also that parasitic Clione the clones have to deal with – use their powers wisely, or pay the price with a somewhat spectacular death.

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Dario Argento’s “For Bridget” is Just The Thing to Coax A Kickstarter Pledge

dreadful bond logoSo, Dario Argento’s Deadly Bond now has a nicely unsettling Unreal Engine 4-powered short film attached to it and at just over six minutes long, it’s also a nifty means of getting people to pledge to its Kickstarter. It’s a bit of a slow burner of a short, but has a nice payoff and will likely make a few of you want to see more in a playable form.

I’m waiting for a payment to come through for some work I did elsewhere so I can toss a few coins into that particular fountain, but you (yes, YOU) can go on ahead of me with your wallet out if you’re into the man’s work as well as all the effort Clod Studio has put into both the game and short film.Uh, mind the steps leading to that basement, as they’re a bit loose… oops, um… well, that looked painful, ouch.

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While you’re recuperating, I think you could use a little movie to watch… Here you go:

Sometime in 2020, you’ll want to set aside time for a little bit of dread, I’ll bet…

-GW

Capsule Reviews: Ratalaika Ravings (1 of 2)

I’m at that point in my gaming life where I’m really appreciating all the shorter indie games I get codes for simply because most of these titles are a blast to play and have a bit of replay value in cases where you’re hooked in and don’t mind having at it a few more times with a game you’ve enjoyed. Anyway, the fine folks at Ratalaika Games have been really great at dropping some fine budget titles that range from great to surprisingly good, so here are a few you may want to take for a spin:

metagal-squareboxart-01-ps4METAGAL ($4.99, PS4/PS Vita – Cross-Buy, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One): Or, MEGA MA’AM, if you like. Indie developer RETRORevolution’s cool little game is a nicely crafted mash note to Capcom’s classic hard as nails franchise, and while it’s not in the same class as as that long-running series, it makes a good enough impression that I’d love to see some sort of followup down the road.

The game has fun with its references and that titular character has a few amusing lines that keep the experience light and airy through the mildly to major challenges you’ll face. Character design and the overall artwork are stellar stuff, recalling the 16-bit MM titles, while level design is a bit of hit and miss. Well, you’ll be missing a few jumps here and there and taking hits thanks to faith-leaping and some enemy placement that assures you take those hits and like them (slap!), but that’s par for the course in the platforming game, folks.

As with a MM game, you can choose to play in a linear fashion or hop around, taking on the eight stages as you see fit. Sounds and music are also appropriately retro, so expect to get a grin going throughout this one every time you fire it up. I’ll gripe here about not being able to shoot up while climbing and the too easy to nab Trophies, but overall this one is a nicely priced budget gem that deserves a Buster Shot recommendation when all’s said and done.

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(sings) “What goes up, must come down…”

Score: C+ (75%)

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Dario Argento’s Dreadful Bond: When Supporting a Nightmare is a Good Thing

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Oh, it’s real, alright.

Normally, this would likely classify as an April Fool’s gag of the highest order… save for I got this announcement yesterday and it wholly checks out as legitimate. Yep, Dario Argento has given his blessing to and is the Artistic Director for what’s shaping up to be a rather impressive looking Unreal 4-powered psychological horror game that just so happens to be up on Kickstarter as we speak. Let’s go take a look at the work in question as a work in progress, shall we?

The project is far enough in its progression to be worth a look when the game is eventually released next year and I definitely want this to succeed just to see how well the dev team translates Argento’s visions into playable form. Yes, it would also be totally cool if the PS4 goal tier is met and surpassed just to play this on my system of choice. Granted, the PS5 is very likely to be a thing Sony either teases or announces outright within the next year, but I think developer Clod Studio is well on the way to making something quite artful and memorable no matter where it eventually ends up.

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Now, I just need to decide on my pledge: funding a simple name in the credits, or a digital download version of the final g\build, as those are my current budget limitations. There’s also a little something extra coming from Clod, but we’ll discuss that project once I get the clearance to do so.

-GW

Zanki Zero, You’re My (New) Hero

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Keep an eyeball peeled for this one, folks.

While it’s not officially out until April 9th, I’ve been playing a review version of Spike Chunsoft’s new first-person “Non-stop Survival RPG” Zanki Zero: Last Beginning for a few days now and it’s pretty amazing on a few fronts. I’ll save most of that “How amazing is it?” stuff for my review, but I’ll gleefully urge you to go download the demo if you’re a PS4-owning JRPG fan who wants something a wee bit… different yet but quite familiar in its mature tone to Spike Chunsoft’s other quirky titles.

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One of the first people you’ll meet in the game. Expect total strangeness from this point onward.

That trailer below doesn’t even begin to convey the sheer wackiness and brilliance on display, but it sure makes for an interesting watch:

Oh, before you get all “Aw, man… I want to play this on my PC!”… the game will indeed, get a PC version on the same day as the PS4 game ships. Excellent.

Alrighty, then. My work here is done for now, but I’ll be back with a review next week. Expect strangeness.

-GW