Review: Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (Nintendo Switch)

superbrothers switchSuperbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP ($9.99) is pure brilliance in every area, but the game wisely notes in its end credits it’s probably not going to be for every taste. Still, if you’re wanting a nicely droll, somewhat cerebral, amusing and completely hip masterpiece, you’ll just love what’s here. For example: Right after its opening section (which takes between 15 to 30 minutes to complete), a cigarette (or is that a cigar?) smoking character called The Archtype appears and tells you to return later after taking a break as a pair of curtains close and you’re sent back to the title screen. I actually didn’t go back to the game at that point. Instead, I put my Switch back into its dock, turned it off and went to make lunch. When I came back about an hour later, I felt as if that break was indeed justified because the game did such a clever job of getting me hooked in enough that I followed that silly instruction.

That silly instruction turned out to be a lot less so when later on, the game asks you to come back to it when the in-game moon phase is at the right spot to activate a certain task. Again, brilliant. The game is an adventure/puzzle hybrid that pays homage to The Legend of Zelda, a bit of Robert E. Howard, Carl Jung and a bunch of neat other things you may or may not see on the surface. Not to sound overly pompous or anything, but here’s a game that cleverly nods and winks at those who get it, but is totally playable by just about anyone who can use a Switch and is a bit curious about what’s in store for them.

 

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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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PSN Holiday Sale: Your Wallet Just Went Into Witness Protection

Feh. Santa clearly doesn’t exist in my mind because if he did, he’d have read my mind, checked his list twice and GOT ME ALL THE GAMES I WANTED THAT ARE NOW ON SALE ON PSN. Yeah, I’ve been good, too. Better, even. Heck, these aren’t even physical games so it’s not as if there wasn’t room on that sleigh, pal. *Sigh* Anyway, I’m going to go look at a few of this year’s games I can’t afford and go poke at the budget games section because there are a lot of cheaper indies I can afford. My wallet is hiding somewhere making those whimpering sounds (which makes it very easy to find, by the way), and my aching backlog is glaring at me with that “Don’t you DARE” stare, but I’m not listening (falalalalalalalalalalala!)

Hey, there’s no sin in pleasure, that’s for sure. My bills are paid up for the month anyway, so it’s not even close to landing in guilty pleasure territory (that, and this is a hobby that’s quite guilt-free when all is said and done).

-GW

 

Capsule Reviews: Get Me Reroute! (Or: Part 2)

Heh, oops. I had a little router issue not long after posting yesterday that had me a bit flummoxed after several restarts and too much waiting around, but we’re back on the boat and headed somewhat upstream, whee. Anyway, back to more of what you should be playing or at least looking at with a thoughtful gaze:

 

 

forgotton anne boxForgotton Anne (PS4/Switch/PC/Mac, $19.99): No matter what you get this one on, it needs to be bought, played and thoroughly enjoyed. If the words “playable anime” get your ears perked up, you’ll be pleased to know that developer ThroughLine Games has created exactly that, as well as a love letter to the works of Studio Ghibli. A beautiful hybrid of adventure, platform and puzzle game with a bit of detective story for good measure, it’s also (in my opinion) hands down, the absolute best game to date to come out of the Square Enix Collective program which focuses on getting more indie games out to the masses. Go download and play the PC or Switch demo (the latter is on the eShop) and you’ll see this one’s an instant classic.

In addition to a memorable lead character and well-told story, the game’s visuals, voice acting and soundtrack are all phenomenal. The addition of multiple dialog choices makes the game quite replayable because the manner in which you interact with characters or solve problems alters a few plot points or closes off some paths. This isn’t a game about fighting tons of enemies, leveling up or the usual stuff you may expect. It’s a story-driven game where you’ll appreciate the quality of the finished work as you’re drawn into the plot and memorable characters for as long as the experience lasts.  I’ll go as far as to say this one is one of my favorite indies of 2018 and it should be one of yours as well.

FA_Garden

Everywhere you look, there’s something to see that catches your eye in this game.

This is a game I’d even highly recommend non-gamers have a go at, as there’s neither a life bar to worry about nor a true Game Over state. That and with a controller, even the slightly tricky longer jumps that need to be made aren’t a total pain. Just watching Anne’s animation as she gets around is a joy, and yes, the different Forgotlings are equally impressive. While this game probably won’t get a sequel, if ThroughLine wants to do another Ghibli-inspired game, I certainly won’t stop them. Hell, I’ll be cheering them on and hoping it’s as good as or even better than this is.

Also, if this ever gets a physical edition at some point down the road, I say get it just for anything art-related that comes as part of the package. Well, the game, too, but yeah, seeing more of this gorgeousness is a thing that’s necessary in a more physical over digital manner.

FA Wings

To paraphrase ZZ Top: “She’s got wings… and she knows how to use them…”

Score: A (95%)

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Capsule Reviews: Barney’s Got It Right (Again) Part 1

(Thanks, CptNem!)

“Get me rewrite!” Or: Sometimes the Stupidest Things Happen at the Dumbest Possible Times Division (Q Branch). Anyway, last night I was about two hours into writing up this article, I actually sneezed while typing and (get this) accidentally replaced about 8 or 900 words and a few videos with one word. I hit that Undo button and laughed loudly because boy, it’s a good thing that option exists when stuff like this occurs, right? But guess what? That actually didn’t work. Yipes. I then find out that WordPress’ auto-saving function in drafts or works in progress does NOT account for these unhappy accidents and yes, will overwrite even as one is trying to fix an issue. Eep.

After some time messaging with a WP tech support rep who was otherwise helpful but couldn’t solve my particularly stupendously stupid accident, I figured out that yep, I needed to start over. I absolutely HATE rewriting stuff like this, so after pressing the old panic button about a dozen times until it exploded, I decided to go watch a three quarters of a very good Netflix documentary on Orson Welles and call it a night. Hey, it was a long day up to that point and staying up any later trying to fix what was busted would have just made things worse.

Anyway, yep, I’ve been busy playing a bunch of games that I’m going to recommend below, now in slightly shorter form than the original, but I think you’ll get the gist of things. Or at least your wallet will start trying to hide before you can whip it out.

R-Type D EX boxR-Type Dimensions EX (Nintendo Switch, $14.99): Absolutely stellar versions of the 1987 classic arcade shmup and its 1989 sequel offer up a wealth of options that make it accessible to anyone who can hold a controller. Both games feature the ability to switch between 2D and 3D art on the fly (with a number of visual options), super responsive 60fps gameplay at 1080p and even a 2-player co-op mode where friendly fire can be toggled on or off.

There are even slow motion and fast forward options if you want to learn how to play or just make things pure hell on your stress level, although that crazy fast forward mode is survivable if your skills are up to the challenge. Me? I laughed so much while using it because I was thrilled I actually survived a few levels while using it. The game tallies up all the R-9 ships you’ve lost, so completing a stage with as few (or no) deaths is pretty rewarding when it happens.

R-Type 01

Heh. You may need a Geiger counter (or H.R. Giger counter, actually) to tally up this game’s visual references in a few stages.

The game is still as incredible a challenge as it’s ever been, with those Bydo Empire baddies doing their level best to blast you into space dust. Whether you play with unlimited lives or really challenge yourself with the more intense original difficulty, you’re getting a pair of games with a ton of replay value as well as a nice slice of game history. I’m not sure if Tozai Games has the publishing rights to the other entries in this series, but if they do, a nice set of all the games would be more than welcome by fan if they can make it so. This one’s also on Steam if you’re a PC gamer looking to check out what’s here on a PC that will run it, so go take a peek if your interest is piqued.

Score: A (95%)

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Capsule Reviews: Mega Cats, MagiCats, and Other Critters of Note

Yes, we’re playing a bit of mega-catch up here, but it’s a weird and wild season on a few fronts and staying in an entertaining mood is quite tricky when the walls and floors are moving constantly. Anyway, here’s a few quick takes and hearty Holiday Gift Guide recommendations, kinda retro games division. Buy them all if you’re into what they bring to the table:

little-medusa-sega-box Little Medusa (Sega Genesis/NES/SNES): Mega Cat Studios has been pumping out some truly excellent retro content for those who still own either original hardware or the means to play cart games on those newer retro consoles. Little Medusa is a tough little number that will have fans of the classic puzzler Kickle Cubicle grinning and grimacing in equal measure as they play through this colorful, challenging update to the Irem arcade and later, NES hit.

As Artemiza, a young goddess transformed into a Gorgon by the escaped Titans, you’ll need to turn enemies into stone using her steely (stony?) gaze and quickly push them into place in order to clear five tricky levels of increasing difficulty. This one works best if you’ve a trusty, well-used controller or a new one that’s super responsive. Like plenty of classics from the 8 and 16-bit era, expert players can whip through this in a lazy weekend, but the thrill of a good game is always having it handy no matter how many times you’ve beaten it, so all hail Mega Cat for getting this out in physical form at a few price points so that collector side is satisfied.

Score: B+ (85%)

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Smoking Wallet Alert: A Few Black Friday Deals

Yes, it’s going to be total shopping frenzy for some of you out there in internet land and sure, you can go nuts looking for deals and getting elbows to the forehead at the local mall if you like. Me, I’m going to just sit comfortably at home and silently drop a few fine deals in your laps and let you deal with them as you see fit. Feel free to supplement those with other deals you find while poking around and you can pretty much sleepwalk through Black Friday, Cyber Monday, International Empty Wallet Day or whatever other day you want to whip out that credit, debit or gift card. If you’re into constant deals any time of the year, a handy app such as RetailMeNot will help out in tracking all sorts of deals whenever you’ve the urge.

playstation-4-marvels-spider-man-hdr

Does whatever a spider can? Hah! Spiders don’t make anywhere as much moolah as this game has this year, that’s for sure.

PlayStation Deals! Sony’s got a fantastic set of sales happening from now until November 26. Start here for some great deals on a new PS4 Spider-Man bundle, two different PSVR bundles (I’d go with the PSVR+ Moss/Astro Bot deal, but if you prefer Creed: Rise to Glory and Superhot VR, it’s your call) and Dual Shock 4 deals (get a few of those at that price). There’s also a Black Friday Sale on digital games and other downloadable content that should have some of you stocking up on a few titles at temporary bargain prices. Oh, and for those of you with PS Plus or those interested in renewing the service at $20 off the standard price, that $40 deal for a yearly sub is not to be missed.

playstation-vr-astro-bot-rescue-mission-and-moss-bundle-homepage-marqueek-desktop-02-ps4-us-02oct18

If you’re going to go all in with PSVR, go with two of the best titles VR titles on the system.

There are also Black Friday-related game deals on individual digital titles on PSN as well as plenty of in-store retail deals to check out, so feel free to poke around online or even pop into that nearby retailer if you’re so inclined.

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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: Smash Palace

Smash PalaceThanks to a few oddball decisions (some made by people connected with his first film) Roger Donaldson’s second feature film, 1981’s Smash Palace almost didn’t get made. I’ll let you go check out the excellent making of feature on the Arrow Academy disc for the full story, but let’s just say everything worked out in the end and we have a strong followup to Sleeping Dogs to chat about for a spell. Donaldson’s film is a wrenching, raw look at a marriage fallen apart thanks to a lack of communication and what happens when decisions made by the adults in the room spiral past the point of reasonable discourse.

Al Shaw (Bruno Lawrence), a former race car driver looking to restart his career is married to Jacqui (Anna Marie Monticelli), a former nurse he met while recuperating in France after an accident that took him off the track. They eventually wed and moved to a remote spot in New Zealand where Al runs the titular wrecking company. Jacqui despises the run-down location and dull (to her) lifestyle, berating Al for not taking  a solid ongoing offer to sell the business. Despite the tension, love for couple’s daughter, Georgina (Greer Robson), or Georgie, keeps things mostly in check. Unfortunately, Al’s best friend, local cop Ray Foley (Keith Aberdein) catches Jacqui’s eye and ear (Al talks a lot, but tends to ignore his wife because he’s happy in his work) and the two get romantically involved. When Al discovers this, he lashes out (in a hard to watch scene) and yes, Jacqui leaves him for Ray, taking Georgie with her.

 

(Thanks, Arrow Academy!)

 

Things go sideways and downhill from that point on even though Al gets back on the race track with a car he spent a year building. Recklessly, he makes a series of somewhat terrible decisions, some of which where his hand is forced and others where he just reacts out of pure but flawed human instinct.

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Review: Western Digital 2TB Gaming Drive

wdfWDGaming_Drive_img2.jpg.imgw.500.500

Okay, I paid good money for some fanfare music, but it hasn’t arrived yet. Eh, just read the article and have your wallet handy.

One of the more easily solved gamer issues is also something that still seems to stymie some gamers who should already know that a mere 1 terabyte of dedicated storage (which is actually less than 1TB thanks to mandatory system clutter) is far too small once one starts purchasing more content. Demos, DLC, system themes, video footage, screenshots and more all require precious space and yes, that 1TB is very rapidly filled (usually sooner than one thinks). Sure, you can delete content left and right when a new game drops, but this becomes problematic for a few reasons.

Western Digital’s Gaming Drive (available in 2TB ($79.99) and 4TB ($119.99) versions) is a solid, solidly built, supremely easy to use affordable solution to this problem and yes, makes for an excellent purchase for yourself and/or any PS4 gamer on your list.

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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs ArrowBased on the novel Smith’s Dream by C.K. Stead, director Roger Donaldson’s 1977 film Sleeping Dogs is not only a remarkable first feature film, it’s shockingly prescient on a number of fronts. Before I get to the film proper, I’ll note that I chose neither this nor Donaldson’s outstanding second feature, 1981’s Smash Palace because of their implied or direct relevance to some of today’s often depressing news. My movie backlog is just so huge that I decided to grab two films off the top of the stack and these Arrow Academy releases were right on top of that stack. Boo-yah, I guess? Additionally, I’d heard good things about both a while back from a few people who didn’t spoil the stories for me other than to note that both were important films from New Zealand that would be well worth watching. Those people were correct, as these two films are simply superb despite their less than Hollywood budgets.

The government in New Zealand is under chaos after oil talks break down, gas is severely rationed and it seems civil unrest is brewing partly as a result of a rather stubborn prime minister determined to keep the peace (or what he sees as peace) at any cost. Meanwhile, rudderless after breaking up with his wife, a man named Smith (Sam Neill) is driving down a highway when he spies a small island in the distance. At a tiny village’s tinier restaurant, he inquires about the ownership of the island and is given directions to a house owned by two Maori men and is told to bring a bottle of whiskey with him. Smith trades the bottle for the island and run-down house on it, but the motor boat he needs to get there? That costs him his car. Well, at least he gets a free cute dog out of that part of the deal, as it’s forced on him during the trade.

 

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