PLANTERA: Weeding Out One Very Cool Clicker

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Let’s get this out of the way: I am NOT a big fan of clicker/tapper games, mobile-based or not. There’s a huge and happy market for them, sure. But my attention span tends to wander elsewhere once my brain realizes it’s been trapped into what amounts to Lucy and Ethel wrapping chocolates on a too-fast moving assembly line. Yep, that’s hilarious to watch, but DOING it? Madness, on a cosmic horror scale. Ninth level of hell meets Sisyphus cloned by Caligula, but with roller skates, a greasy hill and square boulders. Nope, not for me.

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Of course, I then get a random code for VaragtP‘s super-cute endless clicker PLANTERA in my inbox and well… foo. Yeah, it got me sucked in for a while, grinning like a kid as soon as it started up until I forced myself to shut it down, STILL smiling. My reputation as a curmudgeon, shattered by a planting game? Great. grrr. Ah well, one more bias kicked in the teeth, right? For the record, I plant and grow peppers on a windowsill here, so yeah. The game had me at PLANTERA.

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Review: Pankapu (Episode One)

Too Kind Studios’ absolutely beautiful, absolutely fun platformer brings lovely visuals along with tried and true platforming is a game made for both classic to current run + jump action/adventure fans.

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In a way, Pankapu (only $4.99!) strongly echoes Michel Ancel’s wonderful Rayman, n a few key areas, but that’s a very good thing indeed. Both games have unique looking lead characters, fun, intuitive gameplay for all ages, and a dark thematic undertone that’s in direct opposite of the super-bright, stellar art direction that makes them so wondrous and eye-catching. The game presents itself as a bedtime storybook tale read by a father to his young son, which is a great way of making the fantastic seem real:

To help his child fall asleep, a father tells him the story of Pankapu, a tiny warrior created by Iketomi the God of dreams. His mission is to fight the hordes of Nightmares who are trying to invade his world. During his quest, he will meet many characters, such as Chii, a magical spider who will become his friend and guide him all along this great adventure in Omnia.

During this events, he will also be confronted with Gangreyn, a dark and viscous opponent who will challenge him to go see Yne’Ska, the Mother of Nightmares. Then, the tiny hero will decide to not just save his world but also to go in the center of the nightmares land, to restrain the problem at its source.

 

What follows is a mostly excellent mix of pure fun in some lush environments that’s going to be somewhat easy to old-school platform experts, but challenging for those players looking for a cool new world to bounce around in and discover.

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Review: Overcooked (PC)

“There’s gonna be a hot time in the old town tonight…”

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Platform: PC
Developer: Ghost Town Games Ltd.
Publisher: Team17 Digital Ltd.
Release Date: Aug 3, 2016
# of Players: 1-4
MSRP: $16.99
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
Official Site
Score: A- (90%)
Overcooked_CharactersJust what the doctor chef ordered in this era of “social” videogaming being primarily online, Ghost Town Games’ brilliant, peppy Overcooked is also a great family-friendly breath of fresh air as well as a perfect party game for up to four players. The game is a fun hybrid of elements from the classic PS1 import Ore No Ryouri (or it’s Americanized “remake” Cook, Serve, Delicious!), with a dash of Diner Dash for good measure.

Everything clicks right off the bat with that humorous tutorial that teaches you the basics, to the charming, colorful and cute visual style, bouncy tunes and yes, that fast-paced gameplay. There’s a story about feeding an ultimate demon meals that will keep it from chomping the kingdom you’re in, but it’s just gravy on the tasty as heck cake here. The assorted kitchens you cook in under all sorts of hilariously hellish conditions and the rotating cast of chefs you’ll meet make this one a game that will make you laugh a lot even when things are collapsing on the cooking front.

Yep, things get pretty heated pretty quickly in this instant classic, folks…

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Review: ABZÛ

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Platform: PC (Steam) / Playstation 4 (PSN)

Developer: Giant Squid Studios

Publisher: 505 Games

# of Players: 1

MSRP: $19.99

ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

Official Site

ABZU logoWith so many indie games flooding the market these days worth checking out, a few of them have either dropped off my radar, are already on it but not out yet, or never landed there in the first place because keeping track of them all is a Herculean task with me as Sisyphus filling in for the duration. Giant Squid’s absolutely stunning ABZÛ fell into the first category partially thanks to me seeing who was behind it last year and thinking “Eh, it’s in good hands, so it doesn’t need me pushing it at all.”

Amusingly enough, that intentional ignorance worked out in my favor when I finally got to play the game last week when 505 Games bought it to NYC. I went in with no expectations other than thinking I’d get maybe an hour’s playtime in and enough impressions to write up a dandy hands-on post. A few hours later, I had to *force* myself to stop playing the game and make a graceful exit with my head filled with too many gorgeous images and a desire to see what the final two levels I’d left untouched held in store. Echoes of that Ecco the Dolphin on the Dreamcast and the underappreciated PS1 and PS3 Aquanaut’s Holiday games floated in my brain all the way back home, lasting until I got an email with review codes. Then, it was time to take a trip back under the sea and dream out loud again.

 

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An incredibly beautiful, masterfully crafted and about as great as it gets game experience, ABZÛ soars to some impressive visual and aural heights as it takes you to deep places you’d never thought you’d go outside watching a nature program. You can call it a “spiritual successor” to thatgamecompany’s Journey if you like, but the single player focus and grander sense of scale makes this even more personal. This ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the “See”‘ has to me, a more grounded and pure emotional impact because of its blend of realism and fantastic elements grab you right from the start as the game takes you on a thrilling yet paradoxically mostly relaxing ride that changes in tone a few times before it ends.

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As with Journey, it’s also a game that’s just great to watch someone play. Controls are simple, fluid and intuitive enough for anyone that can hold a controller (or use a keyboard and mouse on PC) can hop in and fully enjoy the entire game from start to finish. The replay value is also more than there as this is one of those games where you can hop into a map and actually have your character meditate serenely as assorted sea life does its circle of life thing all around you.

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Portal Knights Goes BIG So You Can Go Home

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…and stay inside playing a lot longer. 505 Games and developer Keen Games have announced a huge new update to their popular family friendly crafting/action/RPG, Portal Knights that includes many requested features such as voice and text chat for online play, remappable controls, and a ton of tweaks and fixes. The new larger islands make the overall game world even more fun to run around in, and my logging in to check out the changes also revealed the game’s visuals have gotten nicely upgraded as well. 

Check out the new trailer and screenshot slideshow below.


 


 

-GW

PC Review: Portal Knights

Portal_Knights_LogoHDPlatform: PC

PK_cropDeveloper: Keen Games
Publisher: 505 Games
# of Players: 1 – ?
MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+)
Official Site
Score: A- 90%

Even though it’s still in Early Access on Steam, Portal Knights has become something of a phenomenon among its growing user base. According to 505 Games, to date players have:

– Looted more than 232 million items

– Mined more than 103 million blocks

– Killed more than 23 million enemies

– Crafted more than 19 million items

and yes indeed, I’m one of those players having a blast with the title. While it does start out a wee bit slowly, some literal digging around in that first (and later, every) area will have you soon seeing that there’s a great deal under the pretty surface that really goes a long way in making things even more entertaining. While geared towards younger players (note that E10+ rating above), the RPG elements, often challenging combat, crafting and exploration elements have a very wide appeal for novices as well as hardcore gamers looking for the next big deal.


 

Things kick of simply enough with a character creation screen where you choose your gender and select one of three classes (Warrior, Archer, Mage) before warping into the first randomly generated world. There’s a set of basic tutorial pop-ups that cover a few things and Minecraft fans will probably get wise to what to do a wee bit faster than anyone who’s not played that game. That said, there are enough differences from that game (and the side-scrolling Terraria) that set it apart. For one thing, other than the simplistic character faces and baggy starter outfits, the visuals (which run at a zippy 60fps) are much more appealing and lively here. Rich colors and nifty visual effects abound in each area, making exploration always fun when you make it to new worlds. Monster types are nicely varied as well, changing at night to deadlier varieties once you unlock your first portal. Continue reading

Portal Knights Early Access: Fun As Heck (But Fixable)


 

While I’ve only sunk about an hour in so far to the Early Access Steam build, Portal Knights is so far, pretty darn good. It’s not quite the Minecraft-like game some think (which is a good thing), but a pretty new action/RPG with (so far) smallish worlds and a light crafting element that doesn’t get in the way of players who just want to whack as wee beasties and level their avatar up. Again, I haven’t played enough to write up a decent review or even and solid impressions other than most everything works quite well. My archer seems to have an issue dodging when I hit the correct keys, but she hasn’t died a horrible death by slime or other low-level monster just yet. The game looks and sounds great so far, but it would have been nice to have a few more character customization options out of the gate.

Still, it’s early and bugs will be squashed, feedback will be listened to and when it’s really ready to shine, I’m predicting Portal Knights will be the go-to game for players looking to try something new and hopefully get few friends to give it a go as well. Okay, stopping here for now. I think I hear a level up calling me.

Portal Knights: Mine and Craft Your Way Through This Keen-Looking ARPG

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PortalKnights_AnnounceScreens_35_Knight505 Games and veteran developer Keen Games have something cool cooking up that’s going to probably be pretty hot soon. Portal Knights is headed to PC via Steam Early Access on February 25 and based on the trailer and screens, should make fans of games like Minecraft and Fight the Dragon quite giddy.

Confession time: other than watching a few friends play and taking over for one when he had to take a phone call (I got to beat up on some Creepers and do a bit of building for maybe half an hour), I haven’t really played enough of Minecraft to have a decent impression of what it’s all about (whaaaaat?!). But I’ve sunk too many hours into many of  Fight the Dragon’s short user-created maps and appreciate much of what that game has brought to the table in terms of customization and how easy it is to get into while being incredibly challenging and rewarding.

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Portal Knights looks like a ton of fun based on the trailer alone that shows it’s got a bit of backstory to it. The art style is slicker and more appealing than the two aforementioned games, but as usual, graphics are subjective and gameplay is absolute. So it’s in the “What happens when I pick up a controller or mouse and keyboard” stuff where my main interest lies. An adjustable camera view is hopefully in the options mix, as the trailer’s combat sequences are a tad too close in for my tastes. Okay, I hate getting jumped by off screen enemies or not knowing how much room I have to run away screaming when trouble gets too close. Your mileage may vary, as usual.

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Mining and crafting aside, if the fantasy elements of the game can grab players from the outset and keep them hooked in for the long haul while getting regular content updates and fixes, Portal Knights could be a contender to the throne. We’ll see soon enough, though.

Tall Tales: No Plug, Just Infinite Play

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While New York Toy Fair 2016 isn’t rolling around until mid-February, for months leading up to the event my inbox has been packed to the gills with new product info I’m still sifting through. One of the press releases that caught my eye (ow.) was for an upcoming family game from SCS Direct called Tall Tales: The Game of Infinite Storytelling, which as you can see from that photo above, is packed with possibilities for yep, infinite fun (and not just for the kiddies). Hey, I do love my many videogames to death. But a good board game, party game or something social (not “social”) where anyone can join in and PLAY (gaming’s decline into a paid spectator “sport” baffles me considerably) makes for a more robust experience.

Anyway, playing the game is dirt simple, according to the press release:

Playing Tall Tales is simple- players choose a story card for their setting, draw random story elements from the bag and twist their best tale… just like the world used to do before the technology revolution. Some of the 24 story card settings include: a quirky game show, a colorful ocean, a fun theme park and a crazy circus. The story bag contains a wide range of 3-D pieces, including: a treasure chest, a baby, a unicorn and a rocketship.

 

Now, I don’t know about YOU, but I thought up a few ideas based on those settings and pieces in the time it took to read that paragraph. Then again, I’m a bit nuts, so I can make an epic novella from the ingredients on a cereal box (it sure beats eating what’s inside, that’s for sure). The game’s release date will be revealed at the show in February and I just may need to check it out on the show floor because it sure looks like a winner. Keep an eye (and an egg) peeled for some sort of update. Your family game nights may never be the same again.

-GW

Review: Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 PS3 CAPlatform: PlayStation 3

Developer: Monkey Bar Games

Publisher: Bandai Namco Games

# of Players: 1

ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+)

Official Site

Score: B (80%)

Pac-Man atGA2 banner If you’re one of those gamers who demands innovation in your sequels, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 isn’t going to be that game you’ll reach for in your library when you want to play something drastically different from the original. On the other hand, if you’re a kid (or have a kid) who’s a fan of the show or like me, someone who appreciates a solid entry in what could be a yearly or so series that’s fun where it needs to be, then this sequel gets the job done as it should. Of course, there’s room for improvement if this would-be franchise want to have a wider appeal outside the ages 5-8 set (don’t let that E10+ rating fool you one bit), but I’ll touch on what I think is required below…

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