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

Review: Golem Gates (PS4)

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Riffing with Glyph-ing: choose your cards wisely, or else suffer the fate of the unprepared.

GG_PS4Laser Guided games mostly excellent Golem Gates ($24.99) made me wish attract screens were still a thing in modern games. While it’s a solid and enjoyable take on the Real-Time Strategy (RTS), card collection and MOBA genres and translates well enough from its keyboard and mouse-centric PC origins to a game controller, it’s also the sort of game where a rolling demonstration mode would just be a cool thing to have happen when the game is booted up if only to get a few more people on the fence about it wanting to give it a shot.  If you’re super-old school and need a sort of reference point, imagine Herzog Zwei, StarCraft and DoTA having a baby and getting it onto PC and now, consoles and you’ve got an idea od what to expect.

Granted, if you’re buying this game for yourself, you know exactly what you’re getting into and likely don’t need any persuasion. Conversely, if a friend drops over and is itching to know what the big deal is, you’ll just have to have them plop down on the couch or wherever and play as they watch, or pick up a controller and join the fun if they’re more than a little curious. Thankfully, other than the rather dry main screen that greets you along with Dalvan King’s stellar music, the gameplay hooks you right in if you’re a fan of this sort of play. Kicking off with a tutorial that explains the basics, your Harbinger uses cards (called Glyphs here) to summon up a small variety of troops and useful goodies to assist in dealing with assorted enemies as you attempt to take out the enemy Harbinger. In Campaign mode, that list of Glyphs gets larger as do the enemy types that need crushing, and yes, decks can be created and customized to your liking as new Glyphs appear.

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Jet Lancer: Get Airborne With this Cool-Looking Retro/Modern Shmup

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Jet Lancer is a frenetic aerial dog-fighting game where you hunt enemy pilots, carve up giant robots, and defy death at supersonic speeds as a daring mercenary in the far future.

 

Armor Games Studios upcoming Jet Lancer looks as if it’s going to be a hell of a blast to play on a few fronts. While currently only set for a PC release on Steam, it’s exactly the sort of game that seems as if would do quite well on consoles  what with its great pixel art and speedy arcade gameplay. While there’s no news on a port yet, my fingers are crossed that developer Vladimir Fedyushkin is at the very least, well within range of a few console development kits, or at least knows someone who can tackle the porting job.

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As usual, we shall see, but go wishlist this game on Steam if you have a Steam account, I say.

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I’m looking forward to taking this one out for a test flight, so expect some sort of aerial report in the not too distant future.

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-GW

Qubic Games’ Anniversary Gets Gamers Great Gifts

So, Qubic Games is 15 years old and to celebrate, it’s been doing some cool things such as dropping prices dramatically (80 to 94%!) on some of its Nintendo Switch lineup as well as giving lovely discounts on new releases to those who own some of their Switch back catalog.

Have a peep at this trailer for four upcoming games and do please sign up for their newsletter if you’re a Switch owner, as they just may give you something nice and free in exchange. Of course, you can sign up even if you’re not a Switch owner, which is a good thing to do if you’re thinking about picking one up, right?

-GW

Gallery: Golem Gates

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Well, this looks quite nice and grim, doesn’t it? This is Golem Gates, coming (very) soon for PC and consoles from developer Laser Guided Games and ever-busy publisher Digerati.  The latest trailer is below, the game’s press release and some gorgeous multi-platform screens are below the jump. Enjoy!

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Review: Elli (Switch)

elli boxBandanaKid’s Elli ($19.99) is a fun, family-friendly game that focuses on precision platforming and simple to moderate puzzle solving over the standard combat-focused action that’s a staple of the genre. This ends up being a good thing for those looking for something a bit different than the usual mascot-themed, enemy-packed games where variations on the butt-bounce and besting big, bad bosses are core gameplay elements. On the other hand, those looking for a deep and direct comparison to certain AAA or other indie games of this type may find what’s here a bit lacking in a few areas.

For example, while the lovely, mostly isometric visuals are lovely to admire, there’s enough of a Breath of the Wild vibe here to prod one into thinking it’s some sort of spin-off gaiden featuring some lesser known NPC’s. Granted there’s a plot here about Elli, a 600-year young elf trying to celebrate her birthday only to have those Crystals of Time she’s guardian of swiped by the not so friendly Ghasti, whereupon it’s off to the races to retrieve them. That’s pretty much all you need to know and the game doesn’t throw any major world-building at you in an attempt to try and make you think it’s any deeper than that.

That by the way, turns out to be a mostly good thing, as the gameplay’s simpler focus is on getting from Point A to Point B and dealing with assorted obstacles just works well without the baggage of perusing copious amounts of whys and hows via lengthy text or cut scenes. On the other hand, between the mostly silent NPCs and Elli’s own somewhat quiet approach, the game at times feels a bit empty outside her general motivation to catch that nasty Ghasti.

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Signs of the Sojourner Headed to PC in 2019

Los Angeles-based Indie developer Echodog Studios has an intriguing game on the way called Signs of the Sojourner that’s well worth a look. Here’s the first trailer:

There’s also a Discord channel up for those interested in taking a free alpha demo of the game for a spin. The concept is certainly quite compelling, as you’ll discover below. Card combat is out – card convo? In like Flint, folks:

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About Signs of the Sojourner

Signs of the Sojourner is a narrative deck-building game about relationships and communication. The ways in which you develop your deck, and thus your character, will determine how well you can communicate and connect with characters from different backgrounds and regions.

As your relationships grow, you’ll become involved in the lives and struggles of characters at home and abroad, all communicated via a unique card game experience.

Features

  • Navigate conversations via a card game

  • Your deck is your character

  • Meet dozens of characters in a variety of locations

  • Build your deck to develop relationships

  • Collect tasty foods to bring home to your shop

While it’s currently set for a PC release only at this point, I’m crossing my fingers this gets a console release at some point, as it’s a unique take on a sub-genre that’s popular and at the very least, adds some fresh ideas to a well-aged formula. We’ll see what’s what soon enough, as the game is set to launch later in 2019, but yes, do go sign up on that Discord page if you want to try out an in-progress version.

-GW

Digital Division Gives Me The Vaporwares

Well, yesterday for a bit, I was visiting this hot place seen below and not in a good mood over what I saw was a digital injustice (yaaaaaa!):

(thanks, Cartridge Magazine!)

Today, I’m still in that mindset as far as digital-only content goes, but ha and ha bloody ha, when I screw up, I go for it 110%, plus tax. PLUS TAX I SAY!!!

So, last night a friend comes over to return some Blu-Rays he’d borrowed and asks if I’d updated my PS3’s firmware so I could retrieve my game that was “lost”, which just about made me drop the cup of coffee I’d prepared a few seconds before. Fortunately, he reached out and tipped the cup upwards and pressed the RESET button on my forehead before things went blank.

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Okay, kids – here’s what happened that afternoon (cue dream sequence harp tune):

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The Digital-Only Future? It Blows, Folks

So, color me somewhat annoyed. Yeah, yeah, I knew when one buys a digital product, be it a song, game, book or other file type, there’s the chance (well, actuality) that that data will expire and yes, *never* be available ever again unless there’s some sort of preservation being taken care of in the form of say, a physical backup or other legally obtainable copy. Anyway, yes, I still own a PS3 and use it on occasion – here’s what happened today when I went to dink around a bit with a game that’s not all that old:

Yep, that’s right. A game I’d downloaded had been “disappeared” from my PS3’s HDD with nothing left but that nice-looking startup screen. *Poof!*

As I was picking up my jaw from off the floor, my brain cycled in one of my favorite bits of dialog from a favorite film (that’s thankfully, still available on a dang disc):

Garry: The generator’s gone.

MacReady: Any way we can we fix it?

Garry: It’s “GONE”, MacReady.

Sure, I read the fine print on that license agreement, but to have a game in one’s library just VANISH is… kind of shocking and stupid at the end of the day. Was Master Reboot a GOOD game? I kind of have no idea other than the about 25 minutes I played sometime last year when it popped up as a free game on PSN and, not having tried it it, I downloaded it so (get this) I could play it any time I wanted to and find out. Yeah, that was a mistake on my part, I guess. My game historian/preservation side is appalled by this, but it isn’t a new thing. Ask anyone who played the superbly scary P.T. or the stupidly fun Scott Pilgrim vs. The World or any of the many other games that have disappeared from digital stores online.

(Thanks, Wales Interactive!)

Well, at least the PC version is still available (but digitally, grrrrrr!), although I prefer playing on my console(s) of choice.

Yes, I completely grasp that licenses expire after a period of time and all that rot, but a game, song, piece of art or other data important to some people shouldn’t at ALL go dinosaur extinct and become a mere memory after such a brief period. Feh. I’d close this with an “oh well” or something similarly aloof, but I think I’m going to hit myself in the head with a rubber hammer and take a nap until the next disappointing episode of Game of Thrones comes on later this evening. Oh, that show has been and will also be on many discs going into the future, you can bet on that… for now.

-GW