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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Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid Punches Way Onto Consoles, PC

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Eep. Just looking at this image had that original main theme song popping into my head. Where’s my Geritol?

Man, I Feel Really Old, Volume XVIII: Developer nWay, coming off its success with the mobile game Power Rangers: Legacy Wars is doing it up again for fans of the long-running series with an all-new game, Power Rangers: Battle For The Grid ($19.99, Standard Edition, $39.99, Digital Collector’s Edition), out now for PC, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch with a PS4 version dropping shortly. Take a look at the trailer and sure, go get the kids and gather around the screen if you like. I think if they’re fans, they’ll be quite pleased:

So, what’s in that download, you ask? Well, look below the jump and find out, I say.

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Super Phantom Cat: Or, Meow-Rio World, Switch Bound

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Currently available on Steam, and in the App Store, Veewo’s colorful, super-cute Super Phantom Cat will make the big leap to Nintendo Switch around March 21. This retro-inspired platformer with is super-colorful visuals seems geared for more casual play, but this isn’t a bad thing at all given the more or less “Try and die!” fervor some of these old school themed games go for on a regular basis.

Now, there’s nothing really wrong with these more difficult experiences that hearken to those days when checkpoints and auto-saves weren’t a thing and you had to replay maps from the start each time you lost a life. On the flip side, both kids and adults who aren’t as fast on the jump buttons these days deserve games they don’t need a walkthrough for because they’re nigh on impossible to complete sans some sort of online assistance. Granted, there are indeed walkthroughs for this game out there, but I think most of you who want to can complete this gem of a game with no help at all. This is a good thing, I say.

-GW

Review: Ninjin: Clash of Carrots (Nintendo Switch)

ninjin switch cubeHa. less than thirty seconds into developer Pocket Trap’s excellent Ninjin: Clash of Carrots ($14.99) and I’m cackling like Renfield because while it’s being marketed as a “beat ’em up” style endless runner game, it’s more of an arcade shooter/brawler hybrid and a damn good one at that. Of course, you may need to adjust your brain past the clever marketing stuff and your play style from “runner-based slug-fest” to “arcade shmup/beat ’em up”, but trust me, it makes a pretty cool game all the more cooler once you do.

The story is pretty simple, but comic timing courtesy some well-placed jokes and visual gags at every opportunity keep things fresh and funny.  Your character of choice (Ninjin the rabbit or Akai the fox) is tasked with zipping through the game’s super-colorful levels collecting a village’s stolen carrots while taking down waves of enemies and a series of increasingly challenging sub-bosses and bosses. Yes, you can see it as a sort of brawler based on the many weapons and upgrades you’ll recover from downed baddies or in the two shops you’ll discover.  However, switch to playing this as a coin drop arcade shooter and you’ll see those items in a new light.

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It’s either R(abbit)-Type in disguise, a more hallucinogenic Fantasy Zone, or some other old arcade shmup retooled for today’s gamers. At least that what I get from this auto-scrolling and shooting/slicing stuff.

 

Firstly, the constantly scrolling levels and enemy waves are pure shmup, as are things such as recognizing enemy patterns and the necessity of upgrading to better weapons as you go. Granted, the need to tap out moves constantly is more of an old school shmup and fighter/brawler thing , but you also get screen clearing moves, ranged weapons that feel lifted from shooters and an overall sense of fun that’s addictive enough to make one crave more when the experience is over. Yes, you have swords, spears, axes, meat (!) and other weapons to swing away at baddies with. But the non-stop pacing is made to keep you on your toes as enemy speed and ferocity varies from simple to nightmarish, fluctuating a few times as the game progresses.

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Review: Oh My Godheads: Party Edition (Nintendo Switch)

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Prepare to get elbows in your ear from your couch-mates, folks,

 

You know the old saying “You can’t herd cats”, right? Well, one of the ten deities in indie developer Titutitech’s somewhat amusing Oh My Godheads: Party Edition ($14.99) just so happens to be a rather irascible Bastet who will go from a silent stone head to a snarling meanie who messes with your direction as you try to carry her around. While the effect only lasts a scant few seconds, it’s more than enough time for an opponent to KO your character off the map and gain that hissy prize for their own. At least the version of Zeus here is more of a friendly presence, blasting the opposition with occasional bolts of lightning as he’s toted around.

The game is a simple one to pick up and play, but if you’re going in solo, it’s best to run through all the tutorial stages because there’s a bit of complexity to all the mayhem. Timing is crucial to some moves such as the stun that requires precise pressing of buttons, or throwing assorted objects such as pies and bombs where a split second of aim spells the difference between hitting a target or whiffing completely. While you can simply jam on the attack button if you like, you’ll want to at least play those tutorials to keep the game from getting stale because you only know one move. That and you’ll soon see that the game has a few tricks up its sleeve that can keep you from some victories if you play with other skilled players or on some of the trickier maps.

 

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The on;y way to get ahead is to… get a head! Or die trying.

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Review: Moss (PSVR)

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Every tail, er TALE, has a beginning. This one’s a really good one provided you’ve got a PS4 and PSVR setup (or Oculus or Vive and a powerful PC.

Moss PSVRIt’s too bad Polyarc’s fantastic new PSVR game Moss ($29.99) is only playable on a PS4 using Sony’s virtual reality headset (or on PC with a pricier Oculus or Vive setup) because it’s pretty awesome and one of the best VR games on the console. Granted, the developer’s total commitment to making a solid VR experience is part of what makes the game so excellent. But I’m of the mind that really well-made games such as this may actually benefit from “flat” versions that, while missing the VR trickery, are just plain fun to play for those without a VR setup.

As great as any VR game is, one thing that needs to not be forgotten is not every gamer will be sold on the tech, can’t use it, or just wants to play good games without the financial burden of paying a few hundred extra bucks for the privilege. That said, if you’ve a PSVR in the house and want another excellent game to show off that just so happens to be family friendly fun, go grab this one and get ready for a fine storybook adventure that yes, can’t be done on the stock PS4.

The use of VR here is much more than a mere gimmick thanks to the developer going above and beyond the call in having the player multitask in mostly great ways. A cute mouse named Quill is the game’s heroine and your goal as the Reader is to help guide her along the way as she attempts to rescue her uncle. The game’s book-like structure is evident from the start as you flip pages to begin Quill’s tale. Puzzle elements come into play as Quill navigates the lovely environments with you helping her out by manipulating objects in the environments to help her reach new locations. Where this element soars over “flat” games is how wonderfully Polyarc has incorporated the VR experience so fully into things to the point of many smile-worthy moments as Quill’s tale unfolds. Yes, that means my non-VR version point above becomes a bit (okay, VERY) moot, but I’ll make a feeble attempt at a saving throw a bit below.

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Even if you hate mieces to pieces (and +10 if you got a chuckle from that joke), Moss will make your mouse-o-meter calm down. Quill’s quite the cutie pie, *squeak!*

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Moss Coming to PS4 as a Physical Edition in June

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Moss2DBlackNormally, if someone said “Hey! Look at that mouse!” I’d be up on a chair with a shoe ready to throw at the first thing that moved because I’d not want some rodent running up my pant leg followed by a ticked off cat like something out of a a Tom and Jerry cartoon. In the case of Polyarc’s lovely action/platform/puzzle game Moss, however, I’m all “D’awwww! SO CUTE!” and then some.

The critically acclaimed and formerly digital only PSN release is getting a retail version next month and it’s looking like one of those PS VR enabled games that’s going to be worth grabbing for your physical library.  Take a peek at the trailer below of Quill’s big virtual adventure and see for yourself, (squeak, squeak):

 

 

Yep, SOLD. June 12 is when this scampers into stores, so go do that pre-order thing or just pop on in to pick up your copy. Save the cheese, though. The person selling you the game might be lactose intolerant or might rather want a pricey Camembert and not the Velveeta chunk you were planning on bringing.

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-GW

Trailblazers – The Future Comes At You Fast on PC, PS4, & Xbox One

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Futuristic racers are starting to repopulate the gaming landscape once again as a welcome subgenre, but developer Supergonk’s Trailblazers has a few fun things going for it that may set it ahead of the pack. Take a little F-Zero, a dash of WipEout, a splash of Splatoon and shake well, then release onto PC, PS4 (May 8) and Xbox One (May 9). The game’s got a more colorful look all over the place (it’s nice to see some of these newer games not go the industrial drab route) and those rides rock a solid retro sci-fi design with appropriately quirky drivers to boot.

 

 

Painting the track as you blaze along allows your tide to gain a speed boost when you drive on your own color. Naturally, you can paint over your opponent’s color (and yes, they can paint over yours), but you’ll very likely be doing your best to win at all costs when you’ve got friends over elbowing each other in the ribs because your couch is too small. Family friendly seems the way this one’s going (a great thing) and the game is set to pack in 10 tracks set over 3 wolds, couch co-op play (split screen is in!) and yes, online modes are also on board.

 

 

While it indeed looks like Supergonk and Publisher Rising Star do indeed have a solid hit here, that’s actually up to you folks to hop in and take this one for a spin. Go on, kick those tires and do the test drive thing. You know you want to. Heck, I certainly want to zip around a funky, colorful race course laying down bright colors and hoping for a supreme booth that blasts me past the opposition to a clean finish. Or a not so clean one – a win is a win (as long as you’re not cheating, right?).

-GW

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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Holiday Gift Guide 1: Let’s Get Physical!

It’s been quite interesting living in an all-too digital world and seeing how gifting has changed for many folks who go that route with nearly every purchase. Me? I like giving and receiving actual product for the most part unless it’s a case where the only way to get something is via a code voucher of some sort. That said, I feel kind of bad for kids raised in this era where some parents or other tech-savvy adults seem to hate on the very idea of handing a kid something nicely wrapped that’s NOT another gift card that devalues over time if not used up for a place they’ll never visit in person. So, in the interest of getting you out of the house and offline for oh, maybe an hour or two, I’m tossing a few suggestions your way (which are also available in digital form if you like).

Lego Worlds PS4_NALEGO Worlds (PC/PS4/Xbox One/Switch)- Ever-busy developer TT Games pulls out all the stops in this great sandbox game that’s packed with content and a ton of freedom once you get past the tutorial and early story missions. This is one of those great family games that’s so much fun to play you’ll want to sneak in some time alone once that kid is asleep.

On the other hand, you’d very likely want to play this with your kid or at least have a second controller handy as the game supports up to 2 players in either online or offline modes. Hours will zip by when this is on, but at least you won’t need to worry about stepping on loose LEGO pieces or having the family pet making them disappear after they smack part of what you’ve built under the sofa.

 

Crash Bandicoot PS4_NACrash Bandicoot N. Sane Game & Sock Bundle Pack (PS4)- Can’t decide on getting games or socks for the holidays? Got a relative who auto-buys you socks because he or she has zero clue about games? Why not get BOTH with this bundle of completely remastered PS1 classics that include the first three games in the series lovingly reworked by Vicarious Visions with tons of new HD specific features?

Between the redone visuals, the ability to play as Coco Bandicoot in all three games and a bunch of great stuff only those true masters of unlocking will get to see (yes, the games are as challenging as ever)l you get SOCKS you’ll probably actually wear at some point. But don’t try and stuff those stockings on the box with the game, as that would make for weird gift to receive and probably stretch out one of those socks in the process.

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