Review: ZARVOT (Nintendo Switch)

Zarvot Switch CubeTrying to nail down ZARVOT (A Game About Cubes, by the way) into a specific niche is, in an amusing way, a waste of time because it’s a perfect example of using a less by the book scholarly critical analysis and more of a “shut up and play it!” approach. While you can (and should) snap this up for the solid multiplayer modes, it’s worth the $19.99 alone for the brilliant Story mode and its blend of adventure and puzzle game elements, droll to laugh out loud humor and straight up surreal nature. It’s also a master class in game design as well as showing off the versatility of the Unity engine thanks to Sam Eng (@snowhydra), who put 4 years into making this great looking instant classic. Oh, and the soundtrack? yep, worth paying for as well.

In a nutshell, cube pals Mustard and Charcoal set out to put together the ultimate birthday present for their cube pal, Red, stuff goes wrong and needs to made right. There’s a lot of laser fire involved in this and saying anything more would ruin a hell of a lot of surprises. When you find yourself putting down a controller to either laugh at the absurdity of it all or pause to reflect on an emotional issue a character is facing (for cubes, insects and other assorted creatures, they’re quite… human, warts and all), you kind of get a better sense of game appreciation. I actually wish this were on a physical game card because it’s one of those keepers that might get lost in the well over 1200 games (and counting) filling up the eShop.

But I’m getting all scholarly and critical here, so let me stop that and dip into the fun stuff…

 

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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?

Fast Striker 01

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.

fast striiker LE

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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Gear.Club Unlimited 2: More Real Race Time on Switch

GCU2_2D_ESRBOh, I’m kind of mad at myself as a new-ish Switch owner (well, it’s been a few months already) who had NO idea there was a decent (and huge selling) racer using licensed cars on the system. Of course, I blame ALL those people going on and on about Mario Kart this and Mario Kart that, which is fine and dandy, as yes, it’s a ton of fun for all. But I didn’t realize that one of my favorite racing game developers (Eden Games) had made a mobile to Switch port last year of Gear.Club Unlimited and I still haven’t picked it up. Oops.

I did poke at some reviews that noted it’s not perfect, but I’m on the hunt for a inexpensive copy just to see for myself because Eden’s other racers have been quite good (I’m looking at you, Test Drive Unlimited 1 & 2, V-Rally 3 and a couple of others I still own and occasionally play when I find the time.

 

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Anyway, Switch owners are getting Gear.Club Unlimited 2 this December 4 worldwide from Eden and publisher Microïds and if the trailer is any indication, it looks to be an even better followup. Take a peek:

 

 

Press release with that tasty car info below the jump if you’re up for more reading today.

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Pinball FX3 Gets Some Williams In Its Catalog

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Lovely. Now, let’s take this pinball history back even further, I say. Lots of excellent tables deserve this treatment.

 

Nice. Here I was, wondering if I should buy up those import PS4 pinball collections that have gone out of print and *ding!* Zen Studios ends up with the Bally/Williams license. The developer has just published four tables available NOW on PC, (via Steam as well) Mac, PS4, Xbox One and Switch, with the classic 1992 table Fish Tales available for free across all platforms. I recall that one as being a high scorer with even beginners able to rack up tens of millions of points on three balls. The table also had flippers slightly smaller than standard ones, so it was actually easier to lose balls thanks to the super fast action.

 

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Review: Oh My Godheads: Party Edition (Nintendo Switch)

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Prepare to get elbows in your ear from your couch-mates, folks,

 

You know the old saying “You can’t herd cats”, right? Well, one of the ten deities in indie developer Titutitech’s somewhat amusing Oh My Godheads: Party Edition ($14.99) just so happens to be a rather irascible Bastet who will go from a silent stone head to a snarling meanie who messes with your direction as you try to carry her around. While the effect only lasts a scant few seconds, it’s more than enough time for an opponent to KO your character off the map and gain that hissy prize for their own. At least the version of Zeus here is more of a friendly presence, blasting the opposition with occasional bolts of lightning as he’s toted around.

The game is a simple one to pick up and play, but if you’re going in solo, it’s best to run through all the tutorial stages because there’s a bit of complexity to all the mayhem. Timing is crucial to some moves such as the stun that requires precise pressing of buttons, or throwing assorted objects such as pies and bombs where a split second of aim spells the difference between hitting a target or whiffing completely. While you can simply jam on the attack button if you like, you’ll want to at least play those tutorials to keep the game from getting stale because you only know one move. That and you’ll soon see that the game has a few tricks up its sleeve that can keep you from some victories if you play with other skilled players or on some of the trickier maps.

 

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The on;y way to get ahead is to… get a head! Or die trying.

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Review: Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse (Nintendo Switch)

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No it’s not Last Embrace: The Game, but a worthy adventure finally hitting the Switch.

Switch owning adventure game fans, take note: George Stobbard and Nico Collard are back in action for the first time on that console in Revolution’s excellent Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse. In terms of performance, the games looks and plays like the PC and other console versions and the added behind the scenes features split up into extra content are nice additions to an overall solid package that makes for a fine purchase. What starts as a murder in an art gallery switches into George and Nico getting involved in a bit of globe-hopping world-saving thanks to… oh, you’ll see. The game’s got a corker of a plot that takes time to kick in, but it’s got enough twists and turns to keep you playing until the wee hours.

Sticking to the familiar point and click style with inventory-based puzzles and snappy, often humorous dialog, this is a game to savor as it teases the brain with its ever expanding mysteries.Both leads are really great at figuring out (well, with assistance from you) how to cope with everything from trapping a cockroach in a matchbook to having to deal with a few near-death experiences where it seems almost unlikely they’d make it out alive. While somewhat lighthearted in tone throughout, things do get much serious as the threat evolves from what seems like a simple art theft gone wrong to all figurative (or is it literal?) hell breaking loose.

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The Horror of Too Many Scary Games (is a Good Thing to Have), Part 2

You’re either back for more… or you fell asleep reading that first part and just woke up in time for part two. Well, here you go, then. Some of today’s entries are coming out after October, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less frightening. Anyway, here are six more games to look forward to (unless you’re too freaked out to want to try some of the scarier ones, mua-ha-ha-haaaa!):

 

 
Home Sweet Home (PS4/PSVR/Xbox One) – If the trailer is any indication, this could be one of the downright scariest stealth/horror games of the year. I missed out on the PC version of this truly scary-looking Thai horror game from Bangkok-based indie dev Yggdrazil Group Co.,Ltd, but my pals at Mastiff Games seem voraciously intent on putting me under the couch with this upcoming PS4 and Xbox One port. The PS4 version will support VR as an option (I’ll take my scares flat, thank you much) and if you prefer your games on a disc, this one’s going to be a GameStop exclusive in addition to a standard digital download on PSN and Xbox Live. I may have to shell out for the disc version, as this one certainly looks scary enough to be a keeper. That and I want to have the option of maybe loaning that disc to a friend or two who hate horror games but are slowly coming around. Then again, I have the feeling that this might be one of those games that sends them back down the ladder to being too skittish to fire it up.

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Review: Nitro Ball (Nintendo Switch)

Nitro BallFlying Tiger Entertainment has been dropping some awesome Data East arcade hits from the 80’s and 90’s across a few platforms, but thanks to my rather hilariously large backlog, I’m just getting around to playing my first title in the Johnny Turbo’s Arcade series: Nitro Ball ($7.99). This one’s a 1992 oldie that’s an instant classic in the form of a killer mash-up of Smash TV and a crazy pinball game without the flippers full of super busy rapid fire action that’s packing a heap of period pop culture references doctored up a bit but still very recognizable if you know your classic 80’s flicks pretty well.

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I’d make a “Gun Ball Rally” joke here, but almost no one would get it.

I very vaguely recall this machine from my arcade crawling days, so getting the chance to see and play it again got me grinning immediately despite a wee bit too many deaths that followed. Things are quite chaotic right from the start and like any great arcade game, you’ll likely spend the first few minutes learning the ropes and figuring out how to stay alive in order to make it to the next part of a map.  While it’s only got five stages (Strange Football, Combat Field, Ghost Town, Aliens World, Space Station), as you’d expect if you’re an educated fan of these types of games, it’s all about the replay value and the many laughs you’ll have while blasting through those maps multiple times. The difficulty ramps up in spots as enemy goons swarm in from all sides and yes, sub-bosses and bosses can be cheap (hey, they’re just doing their jobs!). But overall, I’d call the game pretty balanced.

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Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle: Hit After Hit (Minus a Few Hits)

Capcom BEUB

Now, you’re playing with POW… er, never mind… wrong company!

At a mere $19.99, the Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle is one pretty solid deal that’s out now on consoles and PC. Check out this hilarious “retro” trailer and get that wallet out, folks:

Yeah, it’s missing Black Tiger and Magic Sword (which have appeared as titles in other Capcom collections on PC and older consoles) and the two Dungeons & Dragons games (which are still available on last generation systems and PC the last time I checked). But these games are made to be replayed and you’re getting two titles (Armored Warriors and Battle Circuit) that are making their debut on game consoles (whee!)

Capcom has certainly been on a roll lately with all these returns to greatness. Now, all we need is a Quackshot remake and more arcade classics, plus some nice HD versions of the Mega Man Legends and Tron Bonne games and we’re even more golden. Hey, a guy has to dream every now and then (well, more often than that, actually).

-GW

Sega Genesis Classics Switch Bound This Winter

Sega Genesis Classics Switch

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Oh, yeah. It’s SO on this Winter on the Switch.

Hot on the heels of the SEGA AGES™ titles announced last week and set to launch during the Tokyo Game Show, SEGA continues a winter of bringing great classics to the portable Switch. Retro fans can now finally play the Genesis Classics collection on their way to school or work, in their lunch break or basically anywhere on the go! SEGA Genesis Classics has over 50 retro favorites to experience across every genre: arcade action, shooters, beat’em ups, puzzlers and hidden gems, with a raft of modern features. Exclusively for the Nintendo Switch players can now compete in same-screen local coop mode and use each Joy-Con individually if desired. Familiar features like online multiplayer, achievements, mirror modes, rewind and save states are all part of the collection for everyone to revisit and enjoy.

The physical edition of SEGA Genesis Classics is now available for pre-order from U.S. retailers. Details of the digital pre-order will soon be announced.

On one hand this was wonderfully inevitable, but on the other, it’s a case where some stubborn Sega or Nintendo-only diehards will need to pipe down and accept what’s going to be a superb deal when all is said and done. Remember, Sega games new and old have popped up on Nintendo’s systems for quite some time after the company got out of the console business.

I’m guessing that “winter” release timeline means before the end of the year, but I’ll err on the side of “sometime between December and next March” just to be on the safe side. Between this and the upcoming Sega Ages collection, it’s certainly going to a great time for Sega and its legion of loyal fans. Yep, I have this set already on other consoles and PC but it’s still a triple or quadruple dip so that nostalgia thing spreads like fresh butter on hot toast.

-GW