Review: Solo: Islands of the Heart (PS4)

solo ps4Gotham Games new jam Solo: Islands of the Heart ($19.99) is an intriguing and lovely to look at mix of exploration and puzzle solving that just so happens to get you thinking about your love life from the past into whatever possibilities the future holds. While the prospect of ruminating over old romances as well as any potential future ones may seem a wee bit too personal to some, that’s one of the funnier things about the project if you think about it. Sure, you can take the questions too personally and maybe get uncomfortable about a few. That’s human nature at work. Or hell, you can just decide right off the bat to go full tilt and lie away (also human nature) just to see what sort of responses the game gives back.

As you make your way through the game, you’re tasked with solving simple to slightly more complex multi-part puzzles that involve a bit of box pushing with some flipping and rotating necessary to gain access to higher areas. There are also odd animals to meet and treat to certain foods, pet, or otherwise attend to. The game doesn’t explain a lot other than some basic steps needed to progress, but this works out well when you’re forced to think through a few steps that are keeping you from accessing a new part of the map. That said, there’s a very relaxing tone here that makes for a very chill experience when all is said and done. If you want to just take selfies or nice pics of the different islands, play a guitar and aimlessly wander about, that’s your call entirely. But dip a toe into the game proper, please. You’ll likely learn a few things or at least get a new outlook on a relationship you hadn’t considered. Or maybe have, but need a poke in the noggin to jog a good or bad memory.

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Ce n’est pas un pont, to get all Magritte on you.

Er, except the trailer kicks off with a rather useless rating for “Sexual Themes” when the game is about as or sexual as a box of laundry detergent. Well, unless boxes of laundry detergent is a turn on for you. Clearly, the ESRB needs to redefine its ratings descriptors. Perhaps something like “Mature Themes” would have been more applicable here. Of course, a penny says someone at the board would likely note that using the word “Mature” may lead some to think the game should be “M” rated or some such nonsense. Eh, go look at all the sexual in this trailer:

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Review: Rise of Insanity (PS4)

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Oh, there’s a whole lot of wrong here and nope, Better Homes and Gardens isn’t making that phone call foe a feature, that’s for sure.

ROI_boxDespite an ending you can see coming a mile away and an English translation riddled with typos, Red Limb Studio has cooked up a pretty decent scare game with Rise of Insanity ($12.99). While it borrows heavily from a few sources (notably, Kubrick’s version of The Shining, bits of The Exorcist and Silent Hill), it’s got a few good unsettling moments and an overall creepy vibe that works well. That said, the game’s short play time works both for and against it in that you want to see and do more when things work, where on the other hand, horror game veterans who’ve seen it all may find the experience underwhelming if they go in with overly lofty expectations or expect some sort of “survival horror” experience with zombies, weapons and a huge body count.

Nope, this one’s another first-person “gather items and clues, read diary entries and such” deal (I despise the denigrating term “walking simulator”, by the way) where puzzles are fairly easy, the scary bits do exactly what they need to (provided you’re not too jaded) and unless you apply too much real-world logic to the experience, ends up being enjoyable at the end of the day. Well, “enjoyable” is a sort of suspect word for a game where your character can die from a few of the more frightening encounters, but I think you know what I mean.

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Someone forgot to bring a dime to have their fortune told, it seems…

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Review: Professor Lupo and his Horrible Pets (Switch)

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Yeah, and here’s Rule #1: NEVER take a job as an intern for a scientist collecting cute and deadly as hell animals to sell to the highest bidder.

lupo switchBefore you fire up BeautiFun’s challenging and amusingly droll puzzle/adventure Professor Lupo and his Horrible Pets ($14.99), do yourself a big favor and let the game run a few minutes on the title screen without touching any buttons. Why? Well, you’ll get a really cool bit of fun narrative text that adds to the game’s plot, a really nice touch you’ll miss out on if you just start the game when prompted.That text actually changes when you go to continue a game, so make sure to see those bits as well when you pop back in after quitting for the day. This is the sort of thing I really like where you see that little bit of extra care that goes into some games which makes them overall a lot more enjoyable.

That same care went into the control options although in my opinion, using the Switch’s touch screen is going to be the best way to play this, followed by a Pro Controller or similar wireless or wired pad. Using the Joy-Cons (particularly ones that aren’t exactly new) is a bit of tricky business what with their tendency to sometimes drift up or down sporadically, which will mean certain death in a game where precision is key to survival. That’s not BeautiFun’s fault at all, mind you  they just had to cater to every possible control scheme and for the most part, it works. I ended up switching between touchscreen and my Ematic controllers and he touchscreen, settling for the tap and move option because it made for less dying overall.

So does the story here, by the way. That Professor Lupo is holding an illegal auction aboard his space station where a number of deadly aliens are up for bid for potential use as biological weapons when the ship is attacked by a justice-minded organization who want to shut him down but good. Unfortunately, your character, simply named “Intern” gets caught up in the chaos and yep, needs to escape over 100 levels of increasing difficulty courtesy of some very excellently designed puzzles. There’s actually a lot of plot under the hood here and it’s in interesting journey our too-generically named hero takes, to say the least. Most assuredly, that Intern will expire quite a lot (in a splash of G-rated green goo) as you seek to survive and discover a few truths. Interestingly enough, with a few tweaks to the plot (and  a bit of M-rated gore), this could be a ALIEN game or that Jurassic Park sequel I only caught part of on cable where deadly dinos were up for bid and things went south once those creatures were set free.

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“It followed me home, can I keep it?” Well, NO. It’ll eat your face off as soon as you go to sleep, pal.

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Review: Red Faction Guerilla Re-Mars-tered (Switch)

Switch_RedFaction_boxIf you’re a Nintendo-only fan who missed out on Red Faction Guerilla in one of its previous competing console or PC incarnations, it’s finally arrived on the Switch in pretty solid form as Red Faction Guerilla Re-Mars-tered ($29.99)  If you’re also a huge fan of open world games packed with plenty of content and a ridiculous amount of destruction, you’ll be very pleased with this one despite a few technical hiccups.

Developer KAIKO has ported original developer Volition’s 2009 classic to Nintendo’s hybrid system with all the DLC and game modes intact and while things can get a wee bit iffy when the frame rate gets bumpy in the busiest moments, it’s an amazing port for what’s working perfectly right out of the gate. For starters, the game looks great despite the seemingly limited color palette. Characters are smoothly animated, there are some great visual flourishes and hell, even the rolling skies will make you stop and stare once in a while (well, provided you’re in a safe zone).  Hopping into your vehicle of choice or hoofing it to a destination whereupon you unleash all sorts of ordinance as you attempt to survive whatever the EDF troops throw back is just pure fun on a stick with the results being lots of leveled structures and a bunch less pesky pissed-off troops to deal with. The AI certainly puts up a decent fight, calling in support that can and will escalate things in a tearing hurry.

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“Damn, those alien bastards destroyed my ride!” Oops, wrong game.

The destruction, thanks to the Geo-Mod 2.0 engine, looks and feels darn near perfect as those assorted enemy bases and other structures crumble and tumble with a particular sense of weight that can be hazardous to your character’s health if he or she is too close to something exploding or collapsing. While both the Campaign and DLC content have stories to follow, you’re pretty much going to be rolling out with intent on doing as much damage to enemies and enemy buildings as you can while trying not to get space-dusted yourself. Even on the easiest difficulty it’s all too common here to barely survive some of the tougher missions. But persistence and perhaps a better loadout pay off big. As you get better at fending off the enemies, when you do buy the space farm, it’s likely going to be from going in too hot and not being prepared for EDF retaliation. Or: you may want to have an escape route planned or at least enough explosives to blast your way out of trouble when necessary.

(Thanks, EurogamerGermany!)

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Blow Up Your Monday With A Rolling Gunner Switch Code (US eShop)

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How’s your Monday going? It might get better by Tuesday, if you’re lucky.

Thanks to the fine folks at mebius. and Mastiff Games, I have *ONE* (1) code here for their spectacular arcade shooter Rolling Gunner for the US Switch. It’s a great game, by the way.

Now, while a few of you out there are very likely to want to do something kooky to get it, you actually don’t have to. Put down that fish bowl, duct tape, and roll of heavy duty aluminum foil you were going to use to craft that makeshift space pilot uniform and just reply to this post in the comments below. One entry per person, of course. No need for lengthy or creative responses and nope, don’t go posting your email address (I’ll know how to find you, fear not.)

I’m picking the winner RANDOMLY from the entries received by 1pm on Tuesday, so don’t dally. Yeah, it’s an old school giveaway just to let non-twitter users have a shot, but this post will auto-load to my twitter account anyway, so yep, readers there can try for a win if they read this post.

Anyway, good luck!

Oh, here’s some fine print below if you need to read how this works:

Open to residents of North America with an active Nintendo eShop account. Void where prohibited. Contest ends 7/2/2019 at 12:59 pm EST. There is no entry fee, subscription requirement or purchase necessary to enter. Winner will be chosen at random. Winner will receive ONE code via email. Requests for multiple codes via multiple accounts are grounds for disqualification. By submitting a comment below, you are granting Destroy All Fanboys! permission to contact you via email. The winner will be notified by email within 3 days (or less, most likely). If the winner cannot be contacted/does not claim the prize within seven (7) days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize and choose a replacement winner.

-GW

 

Review: Rolling Gunner (Switch)

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RGboxHoly hell, mebius.’ Rolling Gunner ($19.99, buy it!) is completely NUTS, but in the best possible manner. Its very high level of accessibility and four difficulty modes mean you don’t even need to love or be somewhat decent at arcade shooters in order to get the most enjoyment from it.

In fact, the game is programmed to teach you how to play and as a friend who popped by to borrow some movies who also ended watching me play noted, “It’s really hypnotic to watch all that craziness!”, which had me cracking up as I completed the game (on Novice mode with a somewhat low 17,419,459 points) and restarted it as I handed him a controller and let him have a crack at the Training mode. Let’s just say he rather liked the chaos even that short stages offered, but he doesn’t yet own a Switch. Which is okay for now (his kid wants one for his birthday coming up in July, though, so I’m compiling a list of games for his dad).

Anyway, there’s a story here about a big corporation discovering a new element at the bottom of the sea, that element used to create a few initially helpful items and as usual, those items being used for some not so helpful things. Yadda, yadda, yadda, it’s now March 18, 2061 and you’re tasked with rolling out in one of three trusty STORK class warships to destroy the enemy fortress and a few thousand enemy ships, tanks and other robotic doom-throwers along the way. The game of course, notes the following in its helpful digital manual: “This story is fictional. The people, groups, and names that appear are fictional, and have no basis in reality.”

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Review: Riverbond (PS4)

Riverbond boxIn this era of big deal brutal difficulty in games where progress is sometimes measured in thrown controllers, assorted creative swearing and online rage posts (among other negative things) Canadian developer Cocucumber’s simpler, pure fun to play Riverbond ($24.99) is a rare bird indeed. In solo mode, it’s barely mildly tough at times, but the average player should have little trouble getting through its eight nicely-sized maps without blowing a fuse. In co-op, up to four players can have at it in front of the TV and have a total blast beating up enemies and bosses while packed together on the couch or sitting more comfortably on some other furniture. There’s no online mode here, so the game’s old school feel demands you play old school as well.

Which, by the way is a great thing especially if you’re into family friendly entertainment and love super-colorful voxel graphics with a bit of environmental destruction tossed into the mix. Oh, and lots of character skins including eight from a few very cool mostly indie-made games. For all the bloodless hacking, slashing and shooting going on, the game just exudes a completely… nice vibe that’s too charming to pass up. I think there’s also a polite Canadian thing going on (well, all of the Canadians I know are pretty polite), but whatever it is, I do like it quite a lot.

Here’s the tutorial, by the way:

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Riverbond: A Little Big E3 Surprise For You

Brand new games dropping as surprise releases during E3 isn’t anything new, but Cococucumber’s immediately charming Riverbond ($24.99, PS4/PC/Xbox One – OUT NOW!) made me smile a lot and post that trailer on Twitter with the words CUTE. and WANT because it just jumped right out and bit me on the knee with what looks like a really fun dungeon crawler with nifty voxel-based visuals, destuctible environments, and what sounds like a killer soundtrack. Oh, and it has Raz from Psychonauts and Psychonauts 2 in it as a character skin (along with a few other indie fan fave guest stars), so there’s that to consider. Guess who’s not at E3 this year (but still has a busy week ahead) and would just love to get his paws on this game? No, not that person over there (Hwy, put your hand down, pal!). ME.

Well a request has been put in and we shall see what happens.  This sure looks like a ton of fun, right? Back in a bit – Yeah, yeah, there’s a LOT of news coming out of LA about cool games, but I’m rolling stuff out as I see fit because my stress level is already bubbling up about other (non-game) things.

-GW

Gallery: Kings of Lorn – The Fall of Ebris

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Keep an eye on this one…

E3 isn’t for a few more days and while I won’t be attending this year, I’ve already found a game I’m dying to play. Wyoming-based TeamKill Media‘s “first-person dark-fantasy survival-horror” game Kings of Lorn – The Fall of Ebris is headed to PC. PS4, and Xbox One in September, and as soon as I saw those screenshots and more importantly, some gameplay footage and the E3 trailer, this jumped way up into Games to Watch status. If you’re ancient enough to recall FromSoftware’s classic King’s Field games, prepare to be floored as this new Kings will set your spines to shivering – take a look at a ton of screens and see for yourselves:

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Here’s the game’s E3 trailer in all its bleak Unreal-powered glory:

As far as gameplay goes, while this footage is from almost a year ago, if the final build sticks to some what’s here in terms of gameplay, there’s going to be a a nice level of accessibility that opens the game up to more players. That said, I’d also gather that difficulty will either be player chosen via options or something that allows for those with lower skill levels to at least hop in and learn the ropes early on and not fall prey to low level enemies turning them into kibble less than three minutes in.

As usual, we shall see how TeamKill tackles that important part of their game, but no matter which rouet they choose, this game looks depressingly grand and ambitions enough that I’ll be seeing it through to the very end. I’m absolutely not expecting a sunny finale at all, but a few shocks and surprises along the demons, dragons and other foes as the game progresses? Yeah, that’s going to make this a game that will get a prime spot in the play stack and a few replays while it’s there.

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-GW

 

 

198X: Hit-Bit Looks to Score Big With Its Nostalgic Retro Game Hybrid

Headed to PC and PS4 on June 20, and with Xbox One and Switch versions set to follow, Stockholm-based Hit-Bit Studios’ 198X is an incredible looking game that mashes up five types of arcade games and bundles them up in a young person’s coming of age storyline. That trailer is pretty impressive and yes indeed, my old arcade denizen days kind of popped into my head while watching it. I’m going to keep an eye peeled for the PS4 version, as it’s the console of choice these days (the Switch is a close second), but I have the feeling that this is going to be one of those games that will do quite well on anything it appears on.

Here are a few more screens for you – go poke at the official website and keep an eye peeled for this modern time capsule on a platform near you soon.

-GW