OUTWARD: Here Comes The Harder Working Hero Type

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Nice hat you have there, friend. Er, just don’t go and lose your head in that coming battle.

While it’s not set for a release until March 26, 2019 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, developer Nine Dots Studio and publisher Deep Silver are getting the word out that OUTWARD is going to be quite a special RPG worth playing multiple times. As you’ll see from that trailer right below, the game aims to combine fantasy elements, survival simulation and what looks to be a fairly challenging game world full of many things that want your chosen character pushing up daisies at every opportunity.

 

 

Your character is going to be a standard non-hero type who needs to make their way through the game’s unforgiving sandbox world that continually auto-saves progress (meaning you can’t sneakily replay an old save file when you get waylaid by some big bad whatever). Here’s a very brief rundown on what to expect in the final product:

Key Features

Survive in the wilds as you explore a vast and harsh land
Play solo or cooperatively, split-screen locally or online
Ritualistic, step-by-step approach to spellcasting
Constant auto-saving means you must live with your decisions
Encounter dynamic defeat scenarios
A unique experience with every playthrough

The game will also ship with two-player split-screen or online modes so you can share the pain with a pal on the couch or at a distance. SO far, so good, I say. Of course, the proof will be in that tasty-looking pudding (or: the game does look really nice from what I’ve seen).

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Now that I think about it, March is kind of right around the corner, so getting the good word out now will be a huge key to this game’s success. My fingers are crossed for some hands-on time with this one, as if everything it attempts can be pulled off, genre fans will have a whole new obsession that’s got what could be endless replay value when all is said and done.

-GW

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SEGA AGES Phantasy Star: Pretty Much, Perfection

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And quite well, in this case (Ha and ha-ha).

As soon as I heard that Phantasy Star was making a return as a digital exclusive on the Nintendo eShop, there went that not needing to ask for a review code stuff. Yeah, I  immediately bought it outright (it’s a mere $7.99) because back on the Sega Master System, it was the first JRPG I played and it’s been a game I’ve gone back to a few times, the last being om the Game Boy Advance where we got three of the first four games squeezed onto a single cart (to mixed results). Yes, I still have that one in the library, but I’m not even going to bother comparing it to what’s here (just yet) because once you fall down the Phantasy Star rabbit hole (Rappy hole?), you’re not coming up for air anytime soon.

 

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Capsule Reviews: It’s A Puzzlement!

Not every game needs to go for epic length status or terminally flashy visuals to be enjoyable. I tend to gravitate to puzzle games when I need a break from other genres  and there have been a few really cool ones this year. Here’s a quick look at a some of the ones I liked a lot:

 

solar flux switchSolar Flux (Nintendo Switch, $9.99): Firebrand Games’ great space-themed puzzler may look simple, but it riffs on classic arcade gameplay with homages to Asteroids, Lunar Lander, Puzzle Bobble, a bit of Star Castle and probably a few other titles my brain can’t recall in a really fun, challenging manner. While it’s at heart, a supremely soothing experience, the reliance on touchscreen-only controls combined with limited fuel and the need for precision movement of your very fragile ship means you’ll be getting a game that won’t easily be mastered in one sitting. Yes, the music is ear-pleasing and completely chill, but if you’re easily flustered by even the tiniest of mistakes, the gameplay can get pretty tense if you’re not able to tip-tap-steer your way out of trouble. Practice makes perfect, folks.

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That challenge ramps up geometrically during the 80 missions set across 4 galaxies, but nice looks and all, you’re not here to do any sightseeing. Getting the best times as things get complicated is somewhat tricky (but rewarding). So expect a few retries and perhaps a few times when you’re just putting the game down for a bit and coming back later if you lose that zen-like concentration. Don’t worry, though. Those assorted suns you need to recharge will be there when you return. All is good in this universe, just relax and it’ll be quite the thrill.

Score: A (90%)

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The Textorcist: Somewhat Devilish Bullet Hell Coming in 2019

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“Forget about the check – we’ll get hell to pay!” seems like a fitting caption for this image…

File this under “Now I think I’ve seen everything, I gotta play this one!”  division. Headup Games and developer Morbidware are currently hard at work on a crazy indie called The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia and yep, it’s looking like a hell of a game experience (pun absolutely intended). Check out the rather astoundingly cool trailer below:

(Thanks, Headup Games!)

I’ll admit to laughing so hard with the concept and execution above that it took me a few minutes to realize I’m going to be VERY bad at this game. Thank goodness for that casual mode noted at the end because it’ll at least let me see more of this one than if I tried to play it normally. Oh, I’ll post the hilarious press release below the jump so you can see what you’re in for when you pick this up nest year.

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Review: The Shapeshifting Detective (PS4)

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That’s the lovely and quirky Violet (Aislinn De’Ath). Is she the killer? Maybe? I dunno, but she’s certainly looking like she’s about to be one in this screenshot.

TSD_boxI consider publisher Wales Interactive as the new gatekeepers of the FMV (Full-Motion Video) flame these days simply because they’ve put out a number of memorable modern titles that bring this style of game to players in full HD glory. Yes, the Digital Pictures comeback (Night Trap, Double Switch) is a good thing for those who recall the 1990’s fondly through those older games. But Wales’ modern FMV output stands out with better production values, less gimmicky casting and some decent mature story lines as hooks that make them well worth a look.

Granted, there’s a fair bit of comic relief to be found in D’Avekki Studios The Shapeshifting Detective ($12.99), but it’s a case where if you’re into what’s on display, you’re chuckling with the game rather than at it. A murder most foul has been committed in the sleepy town of August and it’s up to you to help solve the crime. Well, it’s not you, but a character named Sam (which isn’t really his name) who can transform into other characters who’s tasked with discovering the culprit. The game works well on a few levels where thinking outside the box can net some interesting results that will change each time you play based on how you handle those transformations and who you interact with.

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Esmonde Cole is Zak, handsome man with a camera who knows how to use it to get what he wants. You’ll see he makes quite the suspect as well. Killer? Oh, we shall see…

 

Your initial suspects are three tarot card readers holed up in a fancy inn run by a strange woman who’s taking pills that cause partial memory loss. The list grows as the game progresses (a shady photog, the victim’s boyfriend, a potential victim and a few others you meet) and you’ll discover less than perfect alibis all around as well as a few revelations that both help and hinder your efforts.  The intentionally loopy nature of the gameplay will keep you guessing for a bit, but as you start piecing things together, you’ll be dialed in for the long haul each session.

 

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Review: Home Sweet Home (PS4)

home sweet home(Soothing TV announcer voice, circa 1978):Constipated? 9 out of 10 doctors* recommend Home Sweet Home ($29.99) for fast relief. Easy to apply vie handy and discrete PSN download or in a GameStop exclusive retail version, this not at all soothing horror adventure game works within minutes so you can get back to doing the things you love. Remember – for fast relief, Just say Home Sweet Home…

Yes, that’s right. Provided you’re not a too-jaded horror game player who’s seen it all, this one will scare the living crap out of you. Well, given that poop isn’t supposed to be alive when it’s making a hasty retreat, that may be a good thing.  Here’s a funny for you: back about two years ago, I played the demo for this on PC and wrote about it, but kind of forgot all that because, hey, life happens. However, as soon as the game installed and I hit that start button, a sense of déjà vu followed by creeping dread washed over me. Eep. Yeah, this was not going to go well for my heart, folks.

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Oooh, choices!  Do I go left, do I go right, or do I go hide under a blanket after I turn the game off because I’m too freaked out to continue? *Sigh* ONWARD, as I have a review to write!

 

Anyway, to me, this game is SCARY, plus tax. How scary? Well, If Kriss Kross will make you Jump, you’re guaranteed to jump at least five times as much here if you’re easily frightened. You’re unarmed, many rooms are tight, detritus filled death traps where doors open to brick walls or other surprises of the surreal nature and worst of all, you’re often searching for clues to puzzles as the game’s box cutter wielding scary lady and a few other creeps do their level best to make you wet yourself. There’s nothing like being all stealthy and avoiding instant death for a few tense minutes, slipping between rooms and gathering clues to progress, only to finally unlock a door and jump out of your seat when something… nasty pops into view. And there’s a hell of a lot of nasty in this game.

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Gear.Club Unlimited 2: More Real Race Time on Switch

GCU2_2D_ESRBOh, I’m kind of mad at myself as a new-ish Switch owner (well, it’s been a few months already) who had NO idea there was a decent (and huge selling) racer using licensed cars on the system. Of course, I blame ALL those people going on and on about Mario Kart this and Mario Kart that, which is fine and dandy, as yes, it’s a ton of fun for all. But I didn’t realize that one of my favorite racing game developers (Eden Games) had made a mobile to Switch port last year of Gear.Club Unlimited and I still haven’t picked it up. Oops.

I did poke at some reviews that noted it’s not perfect, but I’m on the hunt for a inexpensive copy just to see for myself because Eden’s other racers have been quite good (I’m looking at you, Test Drive Unlimited 1 & 2, V-Rally 3 and a couple of others I still own and occasionally play when I find the time.

 

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Anyway, Switch owners are getting Gear.Club Unlimited 2 this December 4 worldwide from Eden and publisher Microïds and if the trailer is any indication, it looks to be an even better followup. Take a peek:

 

 

Press release with that tasty car info below the jump if you’re up for more reading today.

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Sega Genesis Classics Switch Bound This Winter

Sega Genesis Classics Switch

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Oh, yeah. It’s SO on this Winter on the Switch.

Hot on the heels of the SEGA AGES™ titles announced last week and set to launch during the Tokyo Game Show, SEGA continues a winter of bringing great classics to the portable Switch. Retro fans can now finally play the Genesis Classics collection on their way to school or work, in their lunch break or basically anywhere on the go! SEGA Genesis Classics has over 50 retro favorites to experience across every genre: arcade action, shooters, beat’em ups, puzzlers and hidden gems, with a raft of modern features. Exclusively for the Nintendo Switch players can now compete in same-screen local coop mode and use each Joy-Con individually if desired. Familiar features like online multiplayer, achievements, mirror modes, rewind and save states are all part of the collection for everyone to revisit and enjoy.

The physical edition of SEGA Genesis Classics is now available for pre-order from U.S. retailers. Details of the digital pre-order will soon be announced.

On one hand this was wonderfully inevitable, but on the other, it’s a case where some stubborn Sega or Nintendo-only diehards will need to pipe down and accept what’s going to be a superb deal when all is said and done. Remember, Sega games new and old have popped up on Nintendo’s systems for quite some time after the company got out of the console business.

I’m guessing that “winter” release timeline means before the end of the year, but I’ll err on the side of “sometime between December and next March” just to be on the safe side. Between this and the upcoming Sega Ages collection, it’s certainly going to a great time for Sega and its legion of loyal fans. Yep, I have this set already on other consoles and PC but it’s still a triple or quadruple dip so that nostalgia thing spreads like fresh butter on hot toast.

-GW

Review: 428: Shibuya Scramble (PS4)

429_SS coverThis is probably one of the easiest reviews I’ve ever written and that’s thanks to Spike Chunsoft’s 428: Shibuya Scramble ($49.99, buy it!) being one of the best, most consistently enjoyable adventure game experiences I’ve had this year. Initially released in 2008 to acclaim in Japan, this visual/sound novel/mystery game hybrid manages to still be 100% relevant because the developer nailed everything right the first time and the snappy new English localization (courtesy of the fine folks at Absolution Games) does an excellent job at making everything click exactly where it needs to.

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Trust no one… well except for guys who aren’t anything but pesky sorts just trying to eke out a living. He’s okay (this is very early in the game, so nope, not a spoiler!)

On the other hand, it’s also one of the hardest reviews I’ve written because I don’t want to ruin a single thing about the game other than to say it’s gong to be best if you go in as cold as possible (avoid spoiler-laced video walkthroughs, please!) and enjoy the perfect blend of plot and puzzle elements this one brings to the table. trust me, your curiosity will be very well rewarded, especially if you love a good mystery laced with off-kilter humor, tense drama and some deep, dark secrets.

 

 

It’s pretty spectacular when a game zips from drama to comedy to fear-inducing without missing a beat while keeping your interest in its varied cast of characters and sub-characters. It’s even more special when it’s a game that uses live actors and mostly still images with limited animation and doesn’t come off as cheesy or half-baked. This is clearly due to Spike Chunsoft’s decades of expertise with visual and sound novels and even though it’s a ten-year old game, it feels like a blast of fresh cold air on a hot summer day. Five main characters’ (and a number of minor ones) lives cross paths during a fateful day in and around the busy Shibuya section of Tokyo and it’s up to you to choose how everything plays out. Pressure much? Good. That’s how this is supposed to work and wow, does it work.

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Review: Omensight (PS4)

Omensight_PS4Let me tell you, ladies, gents, and anyone else within read-shot. Despite a very strong start, I was about ready to give up on Omensight ($19.99) a few times as I played it. In fact, after sinking half a day into it when I first got a review code and later, a few more hours over the course of a week, I was torn between loving the game for its gorgeous stylized visuals and interesting murder mystery/action adventure hybrid thing and almost hating it because some key gameplay elements were a bit too broken to make me want to continue.

As I really liked developer Spearhead Games’ award-winning Stories: The Path of Destinies a lot (go get it, I say), I went in knowing the quality of this new game would be at least up to snuff or even better than its predecessor. On the surface, the more impressive visuals, stylish combat and intriguing segmented story structure made for a excellent followup. But a few things marred the experience somewhat.

While the combat was solid, the tendency for off-screen enemies to launch assorted physical, ranged and magic attacks made getting though some sections unscathed quite annoying. Especially as the game offered a score bonus for not taking damage from enemies or accidentally falling off ledges. Which leads to the jumping sections in the game where frustration abounded thanks to areas where clean traversal was nearly impossible partially thanks to the locked down game camera either not being in an optimum spot or me simply missing what should have been a simple jumping sequence thanks to stuff like flying creatures in the way or a platform or three seeming as if they were the place to leap (but weren’t). Sort of like this example (yep, that’s me being very terrible as this game in that clip below). So, I stopped playing and decided to wait until a patch or two dropped to fix things up.

 

 

Thankfully, the game ended up getting those few helpful patches that cleaned things up significantly as well as adding a few unexpected yet very welcome tweaks and yes, I can now heartily recommend it as a very solid sleeper hit worthy of your time.

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