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: de Blob (PS4)

de Blob PS4_NATalk about oddball (and pain-free) coincidences. I was doing a bit of rearranging of the game library and a my copy of de Blob for the Nintendo Wii fell on my head thanks to me moving one too many games at once. No, I wasn’t injured at all, thanks. However, I did think out loud something along the lines of “Now, this was a really fun game!” and maybe an hour after talking to myself, I get an email from one of THQ/Nordic’s psychic PR team that there’s an HD version of the game with a few enhancements headed to PS4. As the kids say “Who’da thunk it?” or something like that. Hey, I’m out of touch with the modern slang these days, so just keep quiet in the back there (hey, I heard you smirking!) and read the rest of this review.

Anyway, the game is a pretty cool 3D plarformer/puzzle/action game set in Chroma City, sapped of every color but a few shades of grey (less than 50, though) by the evil INKT Corporation. As de Blob, you’re part of a small resistance out to return things to glorious brilliance by laying paint on almost anything and everything you can. It’s a mash-up influences from Jet Set Radio and a few mascot platformers that works well despite some tricky jumping and camera issues. It’s also packing a pretty infectious dynamic score that cues you in to how well or poorly you’re doing, something more games could use (well, in my opinion, at least).

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EDF 5 Truly Bugs Me (But That’s A Good Thing)

 

EDF_5Okay, at this point I’m hoping the planet doesn’t blow up just so I can get my grubby little paws on the three upcoming Earth Defense Force games coming from Japan where the earth is in danger of getting blown up after yet another massive alien invasion by what looks like everything great from a wide range of Japanese sci-fi flicks.

In addition to the absolutely insane-looking Earth Defense Force 5, Original developer Sandlot is teaming up with developers Clouds Inc. and Giga-Rensya for Earth Defense Force 4.1: Wing Diver The Shooter (set for a digital release on PSN) and veteran developer Yuke’s is handling the work on Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain, which is coming sometime in 2018.

Oh, here’s the same trailer but with English subtitles just because you might get why I’m so cuckoo about this long-running series:

 

 

For the record, the series has NOTHING to do with the old Super Nintendo shooter Super E.D.F., so that non-fact needs to disappear off the internet, stat. Anyway, EDF 5 is in Japan on 12/7 and I’m kind of in a mental bind trying to decide on whether or not to take the plunge and buy it soon or wait for the localized North American version. My Japanese is pretty terrible and even though I’ve played through previous games in the series and completed them, I kind of want to experience this entirely in English just so I don’t need to stop playing and look up a weapons guide or other gameplay tips.

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And nope, my decision isn’t at all bound by this gal and her seductive stretching (oh, Japan – you’re too much, but it’s all good):

 

 

Anyway, I’m leaning towards waiting it out, but man, is it going to be rough. I know of a few folks who will get the import, but I’ll avoid discussing anything with the because I want to go in totally cold and get my 100+ hours in and learn what’s what. Actually, I haven’t a clue as to who will be publishing this in North America, but a heads-up from a kindly PR person who wants to keep me calm might help out a little lot.

*Sigh* And so, the wait begins anew…

-GW

 

Review: L.A. Noire (PS4)

L.A. Noire PS4Well, wow. Rockstar’s remastered crime noir drama/action game L.A. Noire comes to consoles in pretty fine form and yes, it’s worth a buy. Granted, if you’re a more jaded “gamer” who thinks even looking at an HD version of an older game will somehow make you lose your street cred (*snicker!*), you kind of need a new hobby and should skip the rest of this review. The game has not only gotten more polished looks, its gameplay has been tweaked to use the PS4’s touch pad as an option for object manipulation when poking around crime scenes. There are still a few pesky quirks left over from the PS3 version, but despite those, this is one of those games that’s great to have back and it’ll be a new experience for those who missed out on it the first time.

As Cole Phelps, you’ll rise through the ranks of the LAPD in the post-WWII era from beat cop to nattily-dressed detective using wits and fists with the occasional firearm in your case solving. For the Grand Theft Auto fans out there who are new to this one, although some gameplay elements are very similar, this isn’t a re-skin at all. You get real cars from the period, approximately 90% of the city’s streets mapped out from that era and plenty of references you may need to look up or hey, go ask an older person about. It’s certainly a great way to introduce a grandparent to gaming. And yes, you can indeed play the game in glorious black and white if you like.

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Kickstarters of Note: Some Wizards & Worriers Vying For Prime Pledges

Oh, the puns one thinks up for these sorts of pieces. Okay, it’s a pretty lousy one (yes, I know), but that’s not going to stop you from popping open your wallet and sliding a pledge to one or all of these interesting looking games, right?

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My Uncle Merlin: a Tale of Wizards in Space – Predrag Mladenovic’s and Pocket Mana’s upcoming adventure game with RPG elements has a nicely quirky art style and sense of humor to match the visual fun on display.  Oh, and there’s a flying tower with a dragon that needs to be fed its fuel (which may or may not be people you meet during your travels). There’s a free demo available for Windows that you should check out for yourself, as there’s a nifty Monkey Island meets Discworld vibe going on here that’s worth a look. There’s a solid sense of humor here and that Checky Pointy amulet is somewhat of a bacon saver, ladies and gents. Two weeks to go on this campaign means you’ll want to get in fast and tell a few friends, too.

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Review: Revenant Saga (PS4/Vita)

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RS_PS4Kemco and veteran developer Exe-Create have had a particular formula with their mobile games where they cook up simple, nostalgic stories with casts of the usual JRPG suspects, sticking them in games that reuse some assets and range from OK to pretty darn good. You’ll also get a relatively straightforward game on the surface that’s actually hiding a ton of optional content for those willing to grind up hundreds of levels and gain some incredibly powerful skills.

Initially released on mobile back in 2014 and ported to PS3/PS4 and Vita back in May (and now on Switch) Revenant Saga does a pretty fine job of recapturing some of the glory days of the 16-bit era while adding a few modern twists that reflect the game’s mobile origins. While its mix of nicely done sprite art clashes with the polygonal battle scenes, the game works well overall in delivering a decently nostalgic experience. Granted, you’ll really need to work to get to some of the more challenging content. But if grinding appeals to you, there’s a lot to love here.

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In the game, you’re Albert, a young man who volunteers for an experimental process that is supposed to help cure a plague that’s run rampant. Unfortunately, the mad doctor passing for helpful doing the treatment turns out to be using humans as hosts for Revenants, powerful demons that are part of a few plans (some of which the not so good doctor is totally unaware of).

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Review: Symphony of Eternity (3DS)

SOEtitleFor the record, I was so tempted to write this review in 6-point type just to vent a little at Kemco and World Wide Software for this port of their otherwise decent mobile game, Symphony of Eternity. But I kind of like having regular readers so that plan died a merciful death and you get something a lot more readable. Anyway, the game, taken on its merits is a fine and dandy revisit to the nostalgic days of 8-bit console RPGs and there’s a decent amount of content for that low price point of $7.99 (yes, it’s worth a buy).

The big caveat is the playing the game on either the standard 3DS or worse, a 2DS will subject your eyeballs to some pretty darn tiny visuals on the main screen and a tinier map on the second screen. Worse, the game uses a few different camera positions and only one allows you to see what you’ve paid for with a full screen. Amusingly enough, that viewpoint is a standard overworld view… but you actually only use that map for getting from one point to another as the game has no overworld combat. Every fight takes place in dungeons of assorted size where that larger screen would have been very welcome, thank you much.

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