Gear.Club Unlimited 2 Hands-On: Eden’s Zippy Switch Racer’s a Winner

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GCU2_boxFor whatever reasons, games with licensed cars have been a bit (okay, REALLY) underrepresented on Nintendo’s home consoles for far too many years. The sole good game with licensed cars during the last generation was 2013’s Need For Speed Most Wanted U, a stellar conversion/update that got overall excellent reviews but didn’t sell as well as it should have. I won’t even mention that Fast & Furious game from the same year because it was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

With the Switch doing so exceptionally well since its launch as a home/away hybrid system, you’d think that at over 1230 or so games in we’d see more and better licensed racers filling up retail and the eShop, but nope. Other than the still delayed rally-focused V-Rally 4, and the upcoming truck sim Spintires: MudRunner – American Wilds, pickings are slim for those who want a more authentic racing experience with branded foreign and domestic cars.

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Only a tiny portion of the map is revealed here. All those other courses unlock as you go.

 

Thankfully, last year, veteran developer Eden Games stepped to the plate with Gear.Club Unlimited, an enhanced upgrade of their popular mobile game that removed the mobile-friendly microtransactions and added more cars and game modes. While well received by racing fans and some critics, there was some negativity about shorter than expected race sessions and some elements that seemed too close to the mobile game’s roots. Still, the game did well enough (and is still moving units at full price) that Eden set out to make a sequel that addressed the issues in the first game while adding improvements guaranteed to make the sequel even more impressive.

Let’s just say they have (and how):

 

 

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Shortest Trip to Earth: Early Access Sim’s a Tough, Tasty Nut to Crack Into

(Thanks, Iceberg Interactive!)

I tend to sway between not playing too many Early Access games and playing too many at once, but while a bit of a daft thing to do in practice, in theory, the best games rise above that “Oh, it’s ANOTHER incomplete beta” to “Hey, hey… this one’s pretty darn solid!” Into the latter category goes Shortest Trip to Earth, developer Interactive Fate and publisher Iceberg Interactive’s new game now available on Steam Early Access for $19.99. Described as “a roguelike spaceship simulator focused on exploration, ship management and tactical battles”, it’s indeed all that as well as providing a decent level of challenge, some unusual ship designs and what’s looking to be plenty of replay value.

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Pick one… and try not to break it this time, pal!

The opening tutorial is fairly simple as you learn the ins and outs of your starter ship. This isn’t an easy game if you attempt to play outside the tight rule set you’re given, so paying attention and following directions as closely as possible. From putting together the propulsion system, firing up the engines and right down to picking the proper crew members to man the weapons, pilot the ship and other tasks, the game packs in a ton of pre-exploration setup that’s going to appeal primarily to simulation fans. I guess you can call it a somewhat more fussy version of a Star Trek episode if you like. But I don’t think you’ll be Kirk-ing green skinned alien babes much here unless that situation pops up in one of the procedural maps.

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“Um… B-7…” HIT! Well, it’s a lot more complex than Battleship, so expect the enemies here to always fight the good fight.

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Lost in Vivo: The Walls, Close-in For Catastrophic Claustrophobia

(Thanks, Akuma Kira!)

 

Back in 2016, I pledged a few bucks to Akuma Kira’s Kickstarter for a new game he was working on called Lost in Vivo all because of the free and superbly devious Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion (Formerly Spooky’s House of Jump Scares), a game I recommend to anyone into horror because it will creep up on them in a surprising manner. In other words, don’t let the initially quite stupidly cute visuals and the rather simplistic but twisty corridors found in the first chunk of floors lull you into a false sense of security. Things get quite bizarre and eventually quite horrific as you descend into the darker, more hellish maps.

Anyway, fast forward to earlier Saturday morning when I got a download link to he completed build of Lost in Vivo from the developer via Game Jolt (an excellent indie site I VERY highly recommend along with itch.io  (the game can be found here) if you love to pore over dozens and dozens of great indies of all genres, many free or quite affordable). You’ll also see this one pop up on Steam soon (well, November 5th, thanks to Steam’s verification process taking longer), but if you need this faster, feel free to grab it from one of the other sites noted above for a measly ten bucks.

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Iris.Fall Hands-On: Shadow Play Works Quite Well in Kinda Goth-Land

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Based on a short demo was only supposed to be about ten minutes long (I was told ten, but I lingered about half an hour or so just to check out every nook and cranny because the level of detail is remarkable), Iris.Fall is shaping up to be a lovely little indie sleeper worth a buy. Developer NEXT Studio has cooked up a charmingly creepy puzzle adventure with beautiful visuals and an intriguing light/dark gameplay element fans of the somewhat forgotten (but memorable) Wii game Lost in Shadow will appreciate.  The demo features an early taste of the full game’s mix of environmental and other puzzles that revolve around Iris’ ability to manipulate light and shadow to progress through areas.

 

 

While simple to pick up, solving puzzles here makes for some fun brain work right from the beginning. Careful scouring of each room for areas where Iris’ powers to be used also reveals objects that can be manipulated or collected to be used with other elements. Foe example, in one room, a pair of marionettes is required to unlock a certain door, but you’ll need to dip into the shadows and light areas, moving things around to create a ramp on one side and then the other to nab each figure. Once they’re acquired, placing  them in the correct spots, then rotating their parts will form a “key” of sorts that allows passage into a new location.

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“I was the puppet, I was the puppet!” A puzzle, in progress (and five points if you get the song reference I made).

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428: Shibuya Scramble Hands-On: Flawless Detection, On the Case

428 SS_smallA little game history goes a long way, folks. Chunsoft pioneered the visual novel game way back in 1983 with Yuji Hori’s The Portopia Serial Murder Incident and over the decades since, the company, now known as Spike Chunsoft has released a number of quality visual and sound novel titles primarily for Japanese audiences. Visual novel fans here in the west probably know them best for some solid titles that have managed to make the trip overseas such as the Danganronpa, and Zero Escape games on consoles and handhelds, along with the upcoming Steins;Gate, AI, YU-NO, and Zanki Zero games set to arrive soon on a few platforms. Yes, they’ve also done a bunch of other (and better known) non-adventure game classics. But as you’ve gone and clicked that link above, you can do that extra bit of homework yourself. Me, I’m here to chat up this spectacular new but old number you’ll absolutely want to check out.

 

(Thanks, Spike Chunsoft!)

 

Another game on the way is the stellar formerly Japan-only visual novel from 2008, 428: Shibuya Scramble, finally headed stateside for PS4 and PC on September 4. There’s a great demo out now on PSN that pulled me in right from its 70’s-sounding opening theme and had me playing through to both endings with a huge smile on my face. While it’s only a taste of what’s to come, the blend of text adventure, still photos and brief full-motion video clips makes this a quite impressive achievement even ten years after its release. It’s more or less a “choose your own adventure” game, but one where a failure state doesn’t necessarily end the game at all, but unlocks new story elements.

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Preview: Dragon’s Crown Pro – That Golden Ask Is Going To Be So Worth It

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DCP_PS4There will be three types of people who’ll be interested in Atlus and Vanillaware’s Dragon’s Crown Pro ($49.99) on the PS4. Those completely new to the game looking for a very solid side-scrolling arcade action/RPG will find an excellent single player, 4-player co-op offline/online game that’s a gorgeous homage to a number of great arcade games from Golden Axe to Capcom’s two Dungeons and Dragons titles.

Those who’ve played the original Dragon’s Crown back in 2013 on the PS3 or Vita (or both platforms) and want to know what’s new will find  much sharper visuals (if they own 4K TV’s) , a new orchestral soundtrack (the original is also selectable) and thanks to a recent patch, cross-platform multiplayer and save data with Dragon’s Crown Pro. Or you can just be like me and dive into a new game just to experience everything fresh.

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The third category are those who went completely bonkers complaining about the stylized artwork and may want to poke at the game anew for its sexy Sorceress and Amazon characters, but I’m gathering that loud crowd will get drowned out by players who want a fun and solidly built couch co-op experience who won’t mind the art style one bit. Truth be told, I’m a big fan of George Kamitani’s art style since I picked up a copy of the lovely but flawed Princess Crown through a Japanese friend about 20 years ago. Kamitani also worked on those two D & D games (which just so happen to be available on the PS3)

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The Good Life: Holy Cats (and Dogs), We Need this Game!

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Click that banner and the demo is all yours!


If I had a few hundred thousand dollars lying around (I just checked under the mattress and sadly, I don’t), I’d be the first one to up my pledge to The Good Life, the new PC and PS4 game co-developed by SWERY (Deadly Premonition) and Yukio Futatsugi (Panzer Dragoon, Phantom Dust), along with their development teams at White Owls and G-rounding. The Kickstarter has less than three days to go and it’s about $122,000 short of its goal. There’s an excellent short Protptype Demo you can and should try if you’re curious, and while it’s merely an unfinished slice of a game still in the development, you’ll really get the sense that something unique and intriguing is shaping up over in Osaka.

 

 

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Raiders of the Broken Planet Beta Hands-On

season1_big-2I’ll admit straight off that I’ve been a big geek for MercurySteam‘s games ever since I got a review copy of American McGee Presents: Scrapland way back in 2005. Their attention for detail grabbed my eye and I’ve followed each game they’re released always looking forwards to what the team can cook up. Currently, they’ve two big games out or on the way, Metroid: Samus Returns (Nintendo 3DS) and Raiders of the Broken Planet, currently in beta on PC, PS4 and Xbox One with a release date set for its first of  four campaigns September 22.

As I’d been slowly killing off my MMO/online gaming phase (not enough time, too many me-too game, no way to enjoy them offline), I initially planned to ignore this one until I found out it had a solo campaign mode as well as a unique “4 vs 1 counter-operative campaign” that lets you play both sides of the conflict if you so choose or team up with friends to tackle some challenging missions against really pesky AI opponents. While the beta had a few matchmaking issues online (hey, it happens!), the gameplay is quite fun and very challenging in terms of solo play.

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Monster Hunter Stories Hands-On: Sweet Spot Central

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MHS_3DSWell, Monster Hunter Stories will very likely be a big ol’ very well deserved smash hit for Nintendo, Capcom and developer Marvelous! when it lands at retail and on the eShop September 8, but it really needs to be on a more powerful system that would allow it to be even better visually.

Yeah, I said it – the well-aged 3DS hardware just can’t handle all the game wants to show off and that’s too bad in this day and age.  So you get NPC’s popping in, occasional frame rate drops, some nice-looking (but would be nicer looking on an HD system or handheld) cinemas and a few other issues. That said, the game is fun as heck and absolutely the most accessible Monster Hunter game to date.
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Granted, I’m someone who has a huge love/hate thing going with this franchise for over a decade. The character and enemy designs are great, but up until this turn-based installment, the combat has always been what left me annoyed. The funny thing is, MHS grabbing at the brass ring cash cow Pokemon has been for decades makes for a game that’s hard to dislike unless you’re not a fan at all of “Gotta catch ’em all!” styled play.

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Bevontule Update: Going Greenlight (With Some Help From You)

So, yep. Bevontule is still going strong as a work in progress and as you can see above, looking even better than before. Thanks to feedback on the multiple demo builds they’ve posted for about a year as well as a wealth of general improvements made over time, Multithreaded Games LLC (or the dynamic duo of Derek Bradley and Andy Fenton) is on target to make quite a memorable first game certain to garner a loyal fan base. Nitpick time! If you want to get really picky, calling it a “JRPG” is a *tiny* bit misleading. Both Derek and Andy hail from Portsmouth, Ohio here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Still, as the game does take some of its inspiration from a few classic turn-based strategy JRPGs, I’ll gracefully let them slide on that. The new typeface, even more polished visuals and what’s so far tighter gameplay makes this one a game to keep an eye on and hope it gets enough attention to get ported to consoles at some point.

(Cue Derek and Andy screaming in unison and calling up a local hit man to get me for wishing port work on them before the PC version of game is actually completed… Heh, sorry, guys!)

What’s clear about the outstanding visuals (that draw distance is amazing, isn’t it?) is the boys know how to make the Unity engine sing. Of course, the usual “Unity sucks!” naysayers will never be convinced, but I think Multithreaded isn’t listening to those know-littles (none of whom knows how to make a game, I’d wager). One of the more amusing things about the game going Greenlight is the comments section on the Greenlight page.  It would seem (in proper internet commentary fashion) that SOME so-called gamers don’t even know the game has not one, not two, not three, not four… but FIVE different demo builds to try out, all from different periods in development and all worth a play. You’d think someone would go as far as to post those links in something like a blog post so people can take the older builds for a spin, but noooooo… (heh).

Oh, that video above is me sneaking up on some hapless cranky Steam user on the way home to NOT play a game, but negatively comment on games they’ll never play because they’d rather be THAT guy stinking up an otherwise decent community with stinky s#!tposting galore. What happens next? Well… you’ve got those links above, correct? Go find out, you (all those builds are FREE, by the way!). Bevontule isn’t due until sometime in 2018, so you have PLENTY of time to see what’s what. That said, go vote it up on Greenlight while you’re waiting, please.

 

-GW