Review: Far From Noise (PS4)

far from noise posterShort yet very replayble and guaranteed to make you think a bit about life on a few levels, George Batchelor’s brilliant Far From Noise is a compact indie game well worth a buy. If you love your games way on the weird side, this meaningful meditation will capture your attention and keep you on the edge of your seat. Given that in the game you’re trapped in a car perched precariously on the edge of a cliff and have nothing to do but wait as a bit of nature pops in for a visit, it’s one of those experiences where revealing too much spoils the fun.

Let’s just say this visually simple and mostly text-driven affair makes for a great bedtime tale where you encounter a talking deer that more or less helps you see things from a few perspectives. A bit of philosophy, some star gazing, a few guests and even the weather are your main companions as your character addresses his or her fears during a long night where it seems anything can happen. While seemingly simplistic, the visual style hides some nice effects and excellent use of controller vibration and the PS4’s color bar (which emulates the game’s day to night to day cycle as time passes).

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Review: Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back (PS4)

Bubsy Box“Wait. Accolade is still around?”  That’s the first thing that popped into my head as I fired up Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back on my PS4. About ten minutes in, the second thing I thought was that Accolade was not only alive and well, they’d somehow created some sort of time vortex where mid-level mascot character Bubsy came back to the gaming scene with newly polished visuals but the same old gameplay that’s guaranteed to frustrate some players while entertaining a handful of others.

In other words, veteran speedrunners or kids who like a challenge will very likely love this latest “2.5D” entry in the series. However, those who expect something along the lines of the superbly sublime retro-ness of Sonic Mania or Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap may find this a tough ball of yarn to swallow. While it’s got its share of issues, it’s not a terrible game by any means. just one that needs some fixing up. Yep. it’s another one of those gems where patience is key, practice helps out a great deal, and it’s probably another case where a post-release patch or two will help things out greatly.

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Review: 8-Bit Adventure Anthology – Volume 1 (PS4)

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Yep, this one’s a must-buy alright. I was actually a bit under the weather a few days back when code for this arrived and amusingly enough, a few hours spent dying and retrying in all three games in this set made me feel a whole lot better. That’s good old old school gaming for you, kids. Anyway, here’s the deal: three classic adventure games for a mere eight bucks is a no-brainer, especially if those three games happen to be Shadowgate, The Uninvited, and Deja Vu. Do yourselves a big, fat favor and stay away from walkthroughs, though. Trust me on this one – your brain probably needs the workout.

While fundamentally the same in terms of interface and straightforward pixel art visuals, each game has its certain charms and difficulty that make them quite enjoyable and yes, frustrating if you’re not into trial and error or frequent game saving. Shadowgate has elements of fantasy role-playing, The Uninvited is a straight-up horror/haunted house game, and Deja Vu is a thriller/crime drama. If you’re going in cold or haven’t played these since the Macintosh or NES days, expect your poor main character to die at the drop of a hat. A lot. Your characters in all three games are cursed with the weakest skulls, brittlest bones and other ailments that make them all too easy to fall victim to any hazard these games toss their way. Believe it or else, this is a good thing.

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Review: theHunter: Call of the Wild (PS4)

For a hunting game, Avalanche Studios and Expansive World’s fantastic, deep simulation theHunter: Call of the Wild makes for a pretty meditative game experience that’s also become one of my favorite games of a busy with favorite games kind of year. While it’s not for everyone, it’s a game almost everyone can play because of the sense of freedom the two massive maps allow. Want to go for a miles-long hike in the woods snapping photos of wildlife? Go for it. Want to just take a few deer down for experience and cash for better gear? That’s the point of the game (if you couldn’t tell from the title).

That said, this isn’t a hopped up Duck Hunt or a blazing fast-paced arcade experience with bucks popping up like brainless buckshot fodder. You’ll be trying to be as quiet as possible as you work your way around to your target only to have it scamper away after you’ve made too much noise or committed some other faux pas. Amazing visuals and sound design aside, this one’s going to be a niche game for some players who simply don’t like the sport. On the flip side (and as noted for a second time), those looking for a game where easy to kill woodland creatures are a “thing” will probably tap out from the laid-back (yet paradoxically tense) art of tracking, trailing and taking down a target.

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.hack//G.U. Last Recode – Launch Trailer: Time to Deep Dive Back In

 

Good gravy, veteran developer CyberConnect2 is made of of some incredibly busy and possibly crazy (in the best possible manner) people. Those power-packed Naruto games they’ve been doing great work on have set and raised a few bars in the anime to games scene and now, it’s .hack//G.U. Last Recode getting a superb-looking and super-polished remaster, now available on PS4 and PC.  I’ll need to grab this one when I have actual free time as I’ve been a big (but silent) fan of the .hack series since the PS2 days and while I was hoping the originals would get full remakes with new assets and features, this update of the second series will do more than nicely.  So, yeah – go add this one to your want list as it sure is coming in hot and pack to the gills with new stuff.

 

-GW

Review: Spintires: MudRunner

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Spintires_MudRunner_Pack2D_PS4Taking the wheel from original developer Oovee Game Studios, the talented team at Saber Interactive has brought an expanded and even better SPINTIRES experience to consoles and PC with an excellent, highly challenging, and quite rewarding driving game that’s going to baffle some gamers while it pleases a certain bunch of folks who love to play in the mud.

Interestingly enough, Spintires: MudRunner (or MudRunner: A Spintires Game) also works supremely well as a hybrid driving/puzzle game where the environment is your worst and sole enemy as you attempt to simply drive from Point A to Point B or just try to enjoy exploring the massive, gorgeously detailed maps. This isn’t a game about speed at all, folks. It’s more about control and the ensuing chaos when that control is lost.

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MudRunner adds a new (shorter) tutorial, a new sandbox map, a Challenge mode and ups the truck count from 6 to 19. While it has a “casual” mode, this clearly isn’t a game for those who want to hop in and get blazing down a dirt road taking corners with powerslides. Here, you’ll rarely get above 20mph, the paved roads aren’t the widest you’ll drive on, and that mud? It’s practically got a life of its own thanks to an amazing physics engine that’s been tweaked even more from the PC original.

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#TBT: Play A Little With The 8-Bit Adventure Anthology Website

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While you’re waiting for this game’s Halloween release date to roll around, why not spend a little time treating yourself to a few tricks here: http://www.8bitaa.com/ where you’ll find a few fun mini-games that unlock demo versions of all three games in this upcoming set of classic adventure games. Hey, you know you want to and yep, it’ll keep you indoors and out of trouble. Your neighbors do NOT need their house TP’d again, so put that ladder back, pal.

-GW

Review: ECHO (PS4)

ECHO_Keyart_Cube_LogoSneaking onto PC last month and out now on PS4, ECHO is one of the smartest games I’ve played this year. Developer Ultra Ultra has created an intentionally initially slow-burning hard sci-fi game that relies heavily on its innovative gameplay that’s bound to keep you on your toes. It’s also got spectacular visuals, brilliant sound design and a pair of excellent voice actors (Rose Leslie and Nick Boulton) bringing their characters to life in what’s basically one character talking to an AI interface as she tries to survive a gilded palace filled with replicas of herself trying to kill her. While it’s got its share of (primarily technical) flaws, it’s a worthy experience that shouldn’t be missed if you like your games to shake you up a bit early and often.

After a century in space asleep, a woman named En is awakened by her computer, London and informed that their ship has reached its destination. The pair has traveled all the way to a strange planet because En wants to bring back to life a friend whose remains are inside a cube-shaped device she wears on her back. The opening is a deliberately paced buildup as En lands on the planet and makes her way into The Palace, an endless ornately designed structure that’s the size of the entire planet. There’s a great deal of exposition during the game with much of of it establishing a backstory for En’s long journey as she explores her initially unlit surroundings. When she locates a spot to place that cube, The Palace reacts by coming to life and over time, producing many copies of En that eventually end up coming after her with murderous intent.

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Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus: Less Is More Or Less Better For Overall Overkill

I’ve been pretty quiet on Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus for a good reason. I’m ignoring the off-balance people with zero (or less) sense of actual history (not to mention actual videogame history) hating on Machine Games and publisher Bethesda Softworks (it’s all white noise to me, pun mostly intended) while also not poking around the internet for every bit of information because I like my games relatively unspoiled. One of the problems with modern game “journalism” is the need (that’s not needed) to ruin a game too early because some can’t not reveal spoilers or keep an embargo correctly.

Me, I want to go in ice cold with the windows open (brrrrr!) and be thrilled and surprised at what’s been cooked up. Nope, I’m not going to tell you that you should go out and grab yourself a copy of the game and a console or high-end PC to play this on (although you probably should if you have that disposable income and want to support the developer and publisher in this crazy year of too many solid games and not enough time to play them all). As always, it’s your move, folks.

-GW

Review: Detention (PS4)

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Detention BlockWhile thematically similar to The Coma: Recut from Devespresso Games, Red Candle Games‘ excellent Detention ($12.99 on PSN) manages to add a more psychological as well as historical tone to its scary elements. Set in a 1960’s era Taiwan during the horrfic period of martial law known as The White Terror, the game works extremely well as a short but solid game experience that gets as much mileage from its frightening imagery as it does with its somewhat timely political allegory

This isn’t a “survival horror” game in the zombie-packed Resident Evil vein and while it has a more similar vibe to the early, more thoughtful (but weirder) Silent Hill games, there are no weapons to wield here or a need to stock up on healing items for your trip through this virtual hell-space. This one’s a pure side-scrolling horror adventure game where you’ll need to avoid or appease the freakish ghosts you’ll encounter as you try and escape from the nightmare that Greenwood High has become.

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