Iris.Fall Takes A Slight Release Date Spill

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December 7, 2018 is the new release date for indie developer NEXT Studio and publisher Zodiac Interactive’s Iris.Fall. While you’re waiting for this gorgeous and atmospheric puzzler, here’s a new trailer that’s still more of a tease but still manages to be too tantalizing:

While the delay is slightly disappointing, any time spent adding more polish to a game that already looks spectacular is more than welcome. Keep an eye peeled for this one next month.

-GW

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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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Review: Ninjin: Clash of Carrots (Nintendo Switch)

ninjin switch cubeHa. less than thirty seconds into developer Pocket Trap’s excellent Ninjin: Clash of Carrots ($14.99) and I’m cackling like Renfield because while it’s being marketed as a “beat ’em up” style endless runner game, it’s more of an arcade shooter/brawler hybrid and a damn good one at that. Of course, you may need to adjust your brain past the clever marketing stuff and your play style from “runner-based slug-fest” to “arcade shmup/beat ’em up”, but trust me, it makes a pretty cool game all the more cooler once you do.

The story is pretty simple, but comic timing courtesy some well-placed jokes and visual gags at every opportunity keep things fresh and funny.  Your character of choice (Ninjin the rabbit or Akai the fox) is tasked with zipping through the game’s super-colorful levels collecting a village’s stolen carrots while taking down waves of enemies and a series of increasingly challenging sub-bosses and bosses. Yes, you can see it as a sort of brawler based on the many weapons and upgrades you’ll recover from downed baddies or in the two shops you’ll discover.  However, switch to playing this as a coin drop arcade shooter and you’ll see those items in a new light.

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It’s either R(abbit)-Type in disguise, a more hallucinogenic Fantasy Zone, or some other old arcade shmup retooled for today’s gamers. At least that what I get from this auto-scrolling and shooting/slicing stuff.

 

Firstly, the constantly scrolling levels and enemy waves are pure shmup, as are things such as recognizing enemy patterns and the necessity of upgrading to better weapons as you go. Granted, the need to tap out moves constantly is more of an old school shmup and fighter/brawler thing , but you also get screen clearing moves, ranged weapons that feel lifted from shooters and an overall sense of fun that’s addictive enough to make one crave more when the experience is over. Yes, you have swords, spears, axes, meat (!) and other weapons to swing away at baddies with. But the non-stop pacing is made to keep you on your toes as enemy speed and ferocity varies from simple to nightmarish, fluctuating a few times as the game progresses.

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Head to Head (Sort Of): Fast Striker vs. FullBlast (PS4/Vita)

I can recall a few years back reading in more than one place that the arcade shooter was dead as last week’s formerly fresh fish, but this was really never true. Between numerous indie developers and fans keeping the genre alive through making and publishing and distributing games via digital and retail formats, the good ol’ shmup lives on pretty much anything that can play them. Two of the more recent ones go for the gold and succeed when by being well-made games with excellent price points destined to hang out in your game library for a spell. Let’s take a peek at both, shall we?

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Pretty, isn’t it? well, it’s also PRETTY FREAKIN’ HARD to an old gleep like me, but I keep playing these shmups because I used to be better at them back in the day.

fast striker PS4First up is Fast Striker ($6.99), a 2010 NEO·GEO MVS/AES vertical shooter getting a new life on current gen systems thanks to German developer NGDEV and publisher Eastasiasoft. Six levels of frantic, gorgeous bullet hell bliss await with four difficulty settings to challenge. Yes, six levels may seem short to some of you out there, but this game makes you earn those high scores and like a solid shmup, you’re going to keep coming back to beat your previous runs or die trying.

There are some basic screen resizing and wallpaper options, but I personally prefer sticking to the more arcade accurate default window than going full screen. Er, not that it helps much given my awful reflexes when the going gets too tough (or okay, a little tough. Hey, I’m getting old!). For example (yipes):

 

 

Yes, I’m THAT bad at this game, but I managed to get through the Novice difficulty and messed with the others (Omake mode is SUPER nuts). I’ll be a saint here and link you to the official trailer just so you can see how a far better player does:

 

 

In addition to the digital release, Online retailer Play-Asia has a very limited edition physical version ($34.99) for both the PS4 and Vita set for a November release. Each is limited to 2200 copies worldwide and will include the region free game, a manual, collector’s box, soundtrack CD and a numbered certificate you can show off if you please. The price difference is yes, because of all that stuff inside the box, but if you’re into packaged games and have the shelf space, it’s a fair enough price point.

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You’ll want to be a Fast Striker if you need this nifty Limited Edition exclusive from Play-Asia. Better pre-order this now before the scalpers snap them up to resell at ebay prices (ugh).

 

Overall, a pretty solid shmup that’s a trip down memory lane to my former glory days and perhaps yours as well (but I hope you can play better than I can).

Score: B (80%)

-Review code provided by the publisher

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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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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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Blu-Ray Review: Deep Red

Deep Red ArrowI clearly wasn’t ready for Dario Argento’s Deep Red way back when I saw it on a somewhat beat-up rented VHS tape back around 1990 or ’91. While the 1975 film had some primo scares (such as that freaky clockwork dummy scene and the genuinely gory brilliance in its stylized murders), the story seemed to be a bit chopped up to the point of distracting me a wee bit too much. Hey, I often tend to pay attention to the plot more than the violence in most horror films, so sue me. Flash forward to Arrow’s 2016 UK restoration (finally getting a North American release) which adds back in scenes that were cut and makes one of Argento’s best early films even better. Granted, it’s not going to be for everyone (yes, it’s quite violent), but as with many gialli, you more or less know what you’re getting and you’re going to get it but good (and in both eyes, at that).

David Hemmings plays Marcus Daly, a British jazz pianist who ends up being the target of a killer after he sees said killer killing the hell out of some hapless victim. During the initial police investigation, Daly’s photo is snapped by snippy, snoopy reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi), who inadvertently puts Marcus in grave danger after posting his handsome mug in the newspaper. As in his earlier The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and The Cat O’ Nine Tails, you get leading men who get in well over their heads once they try to do a bit of extracurricular detective work and yes indeed, Daly gets put through the wringer but good. This is also another Argento film where a woman saves the lead from certain death, with Nicolodi’s Brezzi making a strong impression as a gal who’s no screaming wallflower at all.

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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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Review: Dead Cells (PS4)

Dead_Cells_PS4Bordeaux, France based developer Motion Twin’s absolutely superb Dead Cells ($24.99) is exactly the sort of game that belongs on a disc in a case with a manual you can whip out and peruse as you play. I’m tossing this out there because the game truly feels like one of those instant classics you want to come home from a long workday and unwind with. As in walking through your front door, kicking off your shoes, tossing your bag onto a chair and going through the whole ritual of opening a game case, popping that disc into your system (or game card if you’re a Switch owner) and settling in for a solid play session.  The game blends its influences marvelously and (as much as I despise the term) is indeed one of the finest “Metroidvania” style games to date. Actually, the developer calls it a “RogueVania” which is a bit better, but whatever – this one’s a must buy no matter what you prefer calling it.

(Thanks, PlayStation!)

In a nutshell, you’re playing a rather dead but reanimated (and excellently animated) immortal character who needs to survive a treacherous trip through a sprawling series of randomly laid out themed levels. Before you get all twisted out of shape thinking of games that get this randomization wrong, this is one case where the dev team nails it. When you die (and you will die early and often), the game sends you back to the beginning of the map you bought the farm on and upon restarting, you’ll notice the layout has changed but you’ll face off against the same enemies while retaining learned skills.  It’s a dash of what you’re expecting (Castlevania, Metroid, Demon’s Souls, assorted roguelikes and roguelites) with some nicely implemented dark comic touches that add some great humor to the game. No checkpoints means you’ll need to learn to survive by playing and replaying sections in order to die less (or not at all). But each death ends up meaningful for a few reasons you’ll eventually discover.

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Review: Bud Spencer & Terence Hill: Slaps and Beans

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“Once upon a time in the west…” er, wrong movie, but you know what I mean…

Slaps & Beans - coverYep, it’s here and it’s great. As a fan of old-school arcade beat ’em ups, Trinity Team’s excellent Bud Spencer & Terence Hill: Slaps and Beans ($19.99) does exactly what its meant to do and does it with a ton of love (and many slaps and beans). I’ll give those of you scratching your heads a second to look up some of the duo’s films (here you go) and admit that for some of you, they may not be your to your taste (which means you need to watch a few and become a convert to their brand of international slapstick).

The game is an absurd amount of fun as a solo or co-op experience with a wacky story line, mini-games galore and some really great music that’s worth buying on a disc if you’re a fan of what’s here. While it’s not a terribly long game, it’s one where you’ll replay it either alone or with a buddy because it’s packed with laughs and challenge on the harder difficulties. Personally, I don’t grasp at all people who only play an otherwise solid game one or two times and shelve it away, but such is the current state of gaming where hours seem to mean more than overall quality to some “gamers” out there. It makes me wonder how the deal with heavier entertainment like non-fiction books or serious documentaries. But I digress – here’s some gameplay to ogle from yours truly:

 

(Thanks, Me!)

 

I heard you laughing all the way across the internet with me. This is good. Continue reading