Super Capsule Reviews: Are GO (Part 2)

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Well… try not to get hit (too much).

The ever long debate I see over indie games being “as good as” or “better than” AAA content is a bit silly because at the end of the day, both types of games are welcome and necessary for a few reasons some folks would figure out rather quickly if they kind of shut up and played stuff more than they do rolling around in the internet alley fighting about. Me, I just love seeing what a dev team (or single developer in some cases) can whip up because hell, playing a well-made game created with passion that can be seen on screen is a good way to get anyone who loves a wide range of visual and gameplay styles to go spend some of that hard-earned cash on some really fun titles like the ones below.

Xenon Valkyrie+ PS4Xenon Valkyrie+ (PS4/PS Vita Cross-Buy, $9.99): Fabrice Breton (dba COWCAT) has worked on some pretty hardcore pixel art game ports that provide a hefty amount of challenge for the money. Xenon Valkyrie, originally created by Daniel Fernandez Chavez and published by Diabolical Minds for PC, was improved and ported to consoles by Breton, is dripping with retro charm and packs in a mix of rogue-like, light role-playing, platforming, and fast-paced combat action that’s somewhat addictive even after multiple deaths. Part of the thrill comes from surviving the levels and their randomness, part comes from earning new gear as you go and using it to beat maps that seem impossible and impassable until you get that gear.

The cool thing here is you learn as you go what works and what doesn’t and runs will be, thanks to the randomness, a mix of small and large victories against enemies and the destructible maps. You’ll be using every skill and tool in a growing arsenal here, and the way each character plays will make some areas tricky to complete, but you’ll get better with skill and practice. There’s a lot of game here if it hooks you in and you don’t mind the learning process. As with the COWCAT ported game below, there’s some serious replay value here if you’re brave and willing.

Score: B (80%)

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Review: Remothered: Tortured Fathers (Switch)

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Rosemary needs a rear view mirror, good running shoes, and a portable air tank, too.

remothered switchWhile it’s been out a few months, I held off on my review of Remothered: Tortured Fathers on Nintendo’s console because it had some major issues and I decided to hold out for a patch, of which there have been two released. I’d initially played though the most of the unpatched version, but the game had some awful visual, gameplay and interface issues that made it quite a test of endurance, particularly in docked mode where visually, it was sub-par to the point of looking like an early PS2 port in some areas where detail took some major performance hits. It was still a scary as hell game experience, mind you. But things were definitely in need of fixing and nope, playing undocked didn’t help much either.

Fortunately, Darril Arts and Stormind Games got this some much-needed love on the patch front, as a number of visual and lighting improvements, UI tweaks, and more now make it a lot more palatable. There are still a few smaller issues, but the game is certainly now well worth your time if you’re re a fan of its uncompromising psychological horror. You play as Rosemary Reed, who’s investigating the mysterious disappearance of a young girl some years earlier. Initially, she makes her way into the gloomy Felton mansion, but after a brief time poking around, she’s kicked out when things aren’t as they seem on her front (no spoilers here, but watch the trailer). When she sneaks back inside, she continues her investigation and finds… well, let’s just say, a lot more horror that she’s anticipating, a whole lot more madness on display and plenty of “holy $#!+” surprises. Well, as if having a near naked, apron clad madman coming after her isn’t frightening and surprising enough.

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Yaga Calls, So Let’s Follow, Shall We?

Bad poetry for a good game alert (I guess that’s a trigger warning for some):

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What’s a Yaga you ask?
Is a Q fit to task
Here you go,
so you know
what lies under the mask:

It’s here via some Breadcrumbs,
and Versus Evil‘s fine hands
and sure looks like fun
So, there go your plans
(I’ll say that to those who’ve now become fans)

The art is quite lovely,
the music is prime,
that animation is yes, what I’d call sublime
All together, I’d bet it’s a great, super time
(I’ll need to post a review not in rhyme)

So, if you’re in the mood
for great Slavic themes
and want a fine game
That won’t cause bad dreams
Well, this one’s for you- I could call you “dude”
but that’s too exclusive and I’m not that rude!

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(Surviving to the end of my lousy verse gets you more screenshots, by the way):

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-GW

Super Capsule Reviews Are GO! (Part 1)

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“Do not adjust your television set…”

Well, between getting sick a few times and kicking myself back into gear (or restarting things when I get better – “Prowler needs a jump!”), quite a lot of smaller games have been filling my backlog over a bit of time. For most of these, I’ve done notes on them and have even a few incomplete drafts, but it’s been a bit of minor hell in sitting down to complete some of them when one gets into “Hmmm, so what’s going to hurt today?” mode when some of the usual aches get a bit fussier. That said, as I’m currently in decent shape  (Whee! Ow.) and sure, you do need to read a bit more on my writing (I guess?), I’ve resorted to a bunch of short form reviews on a bunch of budget-priced games that may interest you if you’re curious and want to expand your horizons.

the tower of beatriceThe Tower of Beatrice: (PS4/PS Vita, $5.99 each) Puzzle-filled point and click adventure, anyone? Developer Fairy Forest and publisher/port house Sometimes You have a pretty basic, short game here where if you’re a fan of these types of games,  you don’t want to look up solutions because the fun comes from figuring out what goes with what as the things you need to do get more obtuse. You play a thief in search of a magic book now trapped in the titular tower by a witch who first tests you, then wants you to work for her. The potion making stuff is nice, but a bit underused for my tastes. Still, it’s nice to see used here in a pretty well-done manner.

If you’re and point and click veteran, much of this will be routine stuff that you can play with one eye closed. On the other hand, if you’re just in it for fast trophies (a lot of folks seem to be into that), the game may fluster you into cheating to net everything in a hurry when things get the tiniest bit confusing (some puzzles in the game can be a bit perplexing when they’re not explained well and are counter-intuitive on purpose). The translation is also a bit jarring, as seems to be the norm with so many imports these days, but I liked a few things about this one. Still, it’s more of a time killer between better titles at the end of the day.

Score: C- (70%)

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Review: Construction Simulator 2 US – Console Edition (Switch)

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It I could name my trucks here, I might go with Tonka, Tootsie, and Dinky…

cs2 switchI’d been sleeping on these assorted Simulator games for a while because they take quite a while to play, but thanks to a friend asking about them (he’s getting his kid a Switch and happens to be in the construction field). I finally took the plunge and can report that yes, hours will go by with a well-done sim like this. Astragon’s got a solid game in Construction Simulator 2 on Switch ($19.99), and while it’s a highly complex game that requires quite a bit of precision and patience to play, parents into this sort of game might find it educational if their kid is say, about 12 and wants to get into the business at some point in the future.

That said, the game is pretty daunting even for adults even though it has a wealth of tutorials and tips to get players up and starting a little (and soon to be rather large) construction business. You’ll need to constantly make sure whatever equipment you buy or rent is in the PRECISE position when operating on a job or errors will be made and learning where and the game covers so much ground (ha-ha) that you’ll be working up a real sweat from the level of difficulty as you learn a lot in the process. The game is no joke when it comes to the simulation elements, especially with all the settings up.

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You better know how to use that, pal…

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Review: Lost Ember (PS4)

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Might as well jump…

Lost EmberFor the record, I’m a Kickstarter backer of this game, but to be perfectly honest, I never review any game and give it an automatic positive score whether I get code for free, buy a game outright, or write it up based on a (very tiny, in this case) pledge or reward as if it would make the game “better” if it turned out not to be. That’s a weird way some look at crowdfunding games (or any funded product, for that matter), especially when there’s NO guarantee the project will be fully funded or even produced. Besides, as it says on its site, Kickstarter is not a store. That said, I found that briefly chatting with someone at developer Mooneye before and I think after I pledged some years back sold me on the game’s concept and freed a loose buck from my wallet. Funded or not, I felt that what they were working on was a nifty idea.

With that said, reviewing Lost Ember on PS4 ($29.99), turned into a fun exercise for the brain as the game is mostly flawless in execution, but is in need of a few technical fixes I found that hamper the experience (a patch is in order to clean up a few things). It’s certainly quite lovely to look at once you get out of the intentionally dull-ish (but very nicely lit) cave the game starts out in. Then it takes cues from a few open-world titles where stepping outside shows off the game world to be a wide, wondrous place worth fully exploring. “Where do I go now?” will be the question many have (I’d skip any walkthroughs posted this early in the game’s release, frankly). But the game points you in the right directions by making where you need to go a map’s focal point, and then leaving it up to you to choose how to get there.

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Review: Spaceland (Switch)

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Dang dry ice everywhere, hiding those aliens! Grrrr…

Spaceland SwitchTortuga Team and Ellada Games’ great little turn-based strategy game Spaceland ($14.99) wants you to play it a few times, so I’ve been very good in my obliging it. The game’s quick 15 minute or less levels (you can take longer if you need to) seem as if they’d be one and done affairs unless you’re trying to unlock all it has to offer. It’s at that point when you see they’re not. Yes, you’ll soon discover that your far too under-powered to do so in some cases and you’ll need to pop back in at some point with better gear and help when you get a few more members on your team (and when the game allows them into certain maps).

I haven’t yet played the fantasy/RPG themed turn-based strategy Braveland Trilogy games from the developer, so I can’t make comparisons other than to say those games were 2D and sprite-based where Spaceland goes for a clean polygon look and slicker animated style. There are also puzzle-like elements here where the game requires completing levels in as few turns as possible, something that takes a few attempts and yes, often missing bonuses in favor of fast and flawless runs. Oh, you’ll be back if you like what’s here, trust me.

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Review: Sparklite (PS4)

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“You bought your key, right?” Good thing it’s something you never drop, as it’s heck of a time to go back to your base.

sparklite ps4Call me crazy, but Sparklite ($24.99) does what it does so well that I thought I was playing an improved sequel to something. Granted, some bits are a tad maddening (such as using the fussy balloon powered bombs, some harsh difficulty spikes, the rogue-like structure can make some bad runs worse, and yes, a few things need patching), but despite these issues, it a fun game that comes recommended. It’s still a joyful game to play even with the flaws, with a chunk of the Legend of Zelda series as its main inspiration. Visually, I saw a tiny bit of a Beyond Oasis aesthetic, and a even little of Digital Sun’s fantastic Moonlighter (even though it’s a very different game, it feels like it shares some elements) but maybe I’m just Ancient (and know so many bad game-related puns most won’t get unless explained).

Anyway, it’s a game where exploring the sometimes daunting maps is really exciting once you upgrade the shops in town. As you acquire and improve better gear (shades of Kemco’s Asdivine Hearts games, item slots and gems of assorted sizes come into play), it’s thrilling to go back to each time. Playing as Ada, you’re tasked with restoring a world called Geodia were things are literally falling apart (thus, the random nature of its maps) when too much Sparklite gathering has put her planet in danger. That said, Sparklite is also the currency that drives the upgrading, as does finding and creating a number of cool tools Ada uses in her adventuring.

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Spaceland: Tough Turn-Based Strategy To Switch Things Up

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Tortuga Team’s new game Spaceland looks quite good and as a Switch and PC exclusive (so far), has my interest piqued. That said, I got a review code I’m finally getting to play and wow, it’s hard as heck at the start if you try going too far too quickly. Granted, I’m playing on Normal mode (the game has as Easy and Normal settings) and creatures popping from the floor are mopping that floor with my characters because they’re a bit vicious (Ow, Ouch, Wow). But this is less a complaint than it is an acknowledgment of the game’s welcome challenge. That said, I’ll crank the difficulty down and play some more because so far, it’s not bad and there are some puzzle elements to it that I like along with the clean visuals.

I’ll have a review up probably later this week or around the weekend. I was sick fir a week plus and got temporarily stuck in two other games I’m working on (one needs patching, the other is just at the point where a difficulty spike is making it a pain to play), but I think both games are getting fixes soon, I hear. Anyway, this one’s fun and needs to be done, so I’ll get back to the bug bashing and deliver a verdict soon.

-GW

Review: Lornsword Winter Chronicle (PS4)

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Just out for a little cardio…

lornsword box“RUN!” Amusingly, I was thinking of the late Richard Pryor (I think it was from Live On The Sunset Strip) as I played this game because running like your character’s life depends on it (it does) is a big part of Lornsword Winter Chronicle, ($24.99) developer Tower Five’s pretty solid real time strategy/action game hybrid. My review’s a little late thanks to some illness, getting stuck in an area late in the game (I was having trouble in one busy area) and waiting for a patch that fixed some visual issues, but I rather liked the game overall. It does start out slowly, as tutorials tackle the basics and get you through the early parts before setting you free to experience things in its solo or co-op modes.

Story-wise, it’s pretty well written and straightforward with dramatic elements and a touch of wry humor every so often. As Corun Lan Ka, Lornknight turned general (sort of), you’re tasked with leading quite a number of disposable troops into battle as the story recounts your efforts. The game allows for offline co-op play (which works quite well), offering the ability for a friend or anyone otherwise interested to jump in and assist at any time. Given how hectic some battles are, that help sure comes in handy when its needed. Maps are both small enough to get you to targets quickly, but large enough that you can’t run continuously because you’ll be out of stamina. Corun is a capable fighter only when the enemies have been thinned out, so keeping him alive is key here. Running away to your base with a few enemies giving chase is both funny and frightening at times.

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