Review: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 (Switch)

 

mario and sonicSega, on a roll, II: While its appeal might seem to be more towards super-fans and younger gamers, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 ($59.99) is quite a fun game overall for all ages. That said, you’d better have a few Switch controllers in tip-top shape and prepare to do a bit of of a workout with your fingers in some of the trickier events. 24 zippy mini-games are here with bright and colorful visuals and a soundtrack that’s suitably Olympic-sounding.

Nostalgic fans who may be a bit older or keen on old-school visuals will very likely love the retro 2D goodness found in the time traveling (via oddball game console trap) Tokyo 1964 storyline and its additional 10 events. The nice thing is the game lets you play through its story modes in order and also lets you have at it in any mini-games here if you just want to grab a few friends and family members (up to 8) and play together. Online play and cloud saves are of course, all aboard if you want to play with a few folks online. That said, it’s good to see the game supports couch play (something more games need).

While it’s kid-friendly, and only supports the less fancier means of control (well, Joy-Cons, motion controls, and some first and third-party game pads), the game doesn’t skimp on the challenge for new players in some events where every bit of precision counts. The 2D retro mode’s games are far easier, bit everything here is well done any guaranteed to get you grinning. You can stay on the couch, too in either mode, but prepare to work those controllers in some events where a bit of precise button pressing, some rapid jamming and other moves need to be pulled off. Notably, there are no voices for the characters outside some generic grunts, but there’s enough of a plot that ties things together if you’re into it and prefer not to skip through short cut scenes and dialog segments.

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Featuring… a cast of DOZENS!

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The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature – Arte For The Masses

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This one’s special, folks.

Publisher and co-producer ARTE and indie game studio La Belle Games have a really surprising treat for gamers and non-gamers who just might be intrigued by a wonderful take on a literary classic. The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature ($15.99) is out now on PC and Mac on Steam and coming soon to mobile platforms in November. In addition, ARTE is bringing the Nintendo Switch version of the adventure in Q1 2020. There’s a playable prologue here (click, scroll, enjoy) that does a wonderful job of giving you a taste of the experience as well as introducing the writer and a few important acquaintances on one fateful night where a few terrifying tales were told.

Here’s a trailer to peruse – screens and game info are are below the jump.

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Ghost Parade: If Ever There Was a Game Made for Halloween, It’s This One

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As soon as I saw Aksys Games‘ gorgeous looking game Ghost Parade (created by the fine folks at Indonesia’s Lentera Studio), I knew it was going to be something extremely cool and very Halloween themed with its mix of Tim Burton meets Vanillaware style artwork at the forefront. It’s also a peek into another culture, as Indonesian ghosts are the subject and yes, it’s a great thing to see some more of what’s scary overseas coming to US audiences. Granted, I’ve played a few games with some of that countries’ terrifying spirits or horror themes in them (DreadOut and My Lovely Daughter being the standouts), so this game is going to be right up my dark alley once I get to playing it.

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Love the art style here.

Here’s a look at the trailer. The game is out NOW for PC, PS4 and Switch and Aksys has run a nice digital comic on the game’s official site.

I hope this gets a wide enough audience, as I’d love to see Lentera become a household name among gamers here. As usual, we shall see.

-GW

Lost Ember Gets a November Release Date

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“All the animals come out at night…” Well, to be fair, in this game they’re out anytime they want to be.

Hamburg-based Mooneye Studios absolutely gorgeous looking game, Lost Ember, now has an official release date (November 22, 2019 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One), a nice new trailer and more lovely art to look at. I’ll just shot up here and let those images and trailer do all the talking:

Some images for you? Okay, then:

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There’s a load of other images to run, but I stopped with these because I was taking too much time poring over the rest. I’ll get the rest up closer to the games release. Oh, a Switch version is in the works, so we’ll see how that turns out at some point.

-GW

Mega Cat Brings The Halloween Freaks Out, Retro Style

Want some classic-inspired Halloween fun? Mega Cat Studios has you covered like a freshly found corpse with these two games that look and play like NES classics of yore, but are available on Switch (and NES of you happen to own one or a compatible system). Fist to face combat, pixel pushing goodness and fun time await with this pair of titles:

 

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First up, is Creepy Brawlers ($4.99, eShop), an homage to the classic Punch-Out!! with a horror theme, monster and alien fighters and quite familiar (albeit very tough) fun. While it’s a single player only game, it’s cool enough that you’ll be passing around a controllers so everyone can get a turn. There’s a physical cart version for the NES if you have access to one and can run it without issues here.

 

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Next up, is HAUNTED: Halloween ’86 ($9.99), a side-scrolling platforming, beat-em-up adventure that’s kind of like the classic River City Ransom (Downtown – Nekketsu Monogatari) but with a horror vibe. Also single players, the game recalls the look and feel of classic NES games and is pretty much guaranteed to have you burning with nostalgia throughout. This one is only currently available digitally (it was initially released in 2016 as a cart version), so get it now if you like what you see.

Oh, and make sure to check out Mega Cat’s recent blog post on scary retro games and their free ebooks selection, as they’re more than just some folks who cook up a witch’s cauldron of retro games.

-GW

Review: Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD (Switch)

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You better have those banana grabbing skills down, folks.

SMB_SwitchSega, on a roll (Part I): Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD ($39.99) is a pretty fun time on the Switch, but you better have steady hands and steadier nerves if you want any chance of completing this game. Yes, the multiplayer is a ton of crazy fun here (that could have used a few more games) and that’s a reason some will jump all over this with a few friends. But this is a game where the solo play can be as hair-raising as it gets because it’s too easy to fail (and multiple times at that) some courses if you’re susceptible to anything from an itchy body part or any sort of issues with your controller.

If you’re new to this, it’s a game that will have you cracking up and pulling out hairs in equal measures. There’s a goofy plot here, but all you need to know is you’re a monkey in a big plastic ball and you need to roll, jump and quickly grab bananas as a clock is ticking down, fighting bosses a few times along the way.  You probably won’t be good at this initially, but practice makes perfect, as they say. Paradoxically, both Zen-like calm and lightning reflexes are absolutely necessary in this game where courses are tightly timed, bosses require super-quick pattern recognition and you need to play and replay stages to nab those bananas without falling off some deviously designed courses.

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“This is bananas, and bananas is good!”

Well, you do have to fall off some courses, but onto a lower part of a level, or to shave seconds off a course time, missing a few bunches of bananas in the process (until you figure out how to get them later in a different run). Developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio (yes, the folks behind the excellent Yakuza games as well as a few others) took the 2006 Wii-only game and have tweaked it into a multi-console game that’s quite good and yes, maddening when it needs to be. In addition to reworking the interface and adding online functionality, 40 of the Wii-specific mini-games are gone (well, 50 was overkill way back then and the Wii remote was a pain to use for some of them), cut down to a mere 10 that keep multiplayer games a faster-paced chunk of mayhem for up to four players.

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Games I Need to Play 2: Beamdog’s Classics Come to Consoles

 

Good gravy, Skybound and Beamdog, you’re going to kill me thanks to my withering away indoors with your ports of the two Baldur’s Gate games, Neverwinter Nights, Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment games. One definitely can’t gripe about the cost, as each game and their expansions (plus new content that was missing in the PC versions) cram in more that enough play and replay value to justify the price ($49.99 each). Pretty much, each one may will take a few weeks or months to play and hell, you can’t say that about many games outside the genre that don’t require an online connection or double-dip you (or more) with fees and micro-transactions.

As I noted in my preview a few months ago, there goes my free time forever. Amusingly, I’ve not requested a review code yet because from experience, games like these games are professional time eaters (I’ve played them all before on PC years back), and well, as I sand, my free time (and hell, all of my work time) would necessitate a format change to an all-Beamdog, all the time blog. That, and yeah, I’ll likely support both companies with a purchase because I have the feeling some wags out there will feel these enhanced ports won’t be worth full price because of the dated looks and other biases against things like the length and maybe the mobile ports (which cost less, but the console versions have a number of changes that make then worth playing and then some).

(Thanks, Warner Bros.!)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to figure out when I’ll play these and work on my time machine so I can play them. At least Neverwinter Nights isn’t out until December on consoles, so that gives me time to play the other games.

-GW

Review: Into the Dead 2 (Switch)

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Well, it’s a good thing that forklift isn’t a zombie. Uh, that’s a Killdozer reference, sort of.

ITD2Confession time (again!): I’d never heard of the mobile game or its sequel here until I fired up the review code I got for Into the Dead 2 ($34.99 digitally, base game), but that really made a difference when it came to my overall enjoyment of what’s here. Developer PikPok and publisher Versus Evil’s game is a pretty good one overall, with simple to grasp mechanics, great looks, plenty of levels and a few modes to kick back with for endless zombie-killing fun. The removal of the F2P elements is also a big key here because despite the cost, it’s actually a case where one is getting a better value on the Switch once you whip out a calculator and tally things up.

Yes, on mobile, it’s a free to play experience… at least if you want to play wthin the limits imposed on you and buy in for more weapons and content with cash. From a few spins with the mobile version this week thanks to a friend who’s got it on his phone, that mobile game jumps on your face with ads and offers for new content (as mobile games do to get you to spend more than that “free” you didn’t spend). Argh, but so goes some mobile gaming on devices.

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“Hold up a sec, pal! I’m NOT a zombie – I just spilled my coffee before I could even take a sip!”

The Switch port drops this in favor of unlocking content as you go with no payment needed (outside the 2 DLC packs) and you can play all 60 story missions and 36 side missions as as the previous areas are cleared, In Arcade mode, 21 levels await getting a set number of kills per mission to proceed. The two spends for digital users are the optional Night of the Living Dead and Ghostbusters-themed missions ($4.99 each), but those come in the physical version as part of the package for $39.99. You can actually save $5 by not buying the extra content separately and buy the $39.99 Bundle that has both the game and extra DLC as a digital or physical version, if you like.

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Review: SEGA AGES Ichidant-R (Switch)

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“It’s a puzzlement…” (but a good one!)

ichidant_R coverAh, so that’s what it is – an arcade game that’s neat to play whether online on off, but playing with a friend is better overall when you share the fun. I actually have the Mega Drive import version of SEGA AGES: Ichidant-R ($7.99) here in the collection, but the Japanese was daunting and I’ve not touched it in a few years (Well, I know a little of the language since, but I need to practice more). Thankfully, finally getting the chance to play this (thanks, SEGA!) has made for quite the appreciation for its inclusion in the ongoing SEGA AGES lineup. In a great touch, there’s a Japanese Mega Drive port included in the price, so now I’ve been playing it and having a blast thanks to getting a handle on how to proceed flipping back to the new English arcade version when I run into a mini-game I have trouble with if the language barrier stops progress.

Some will think of the US Sega Genesis and Bonanza Bros., but that was a more  a straightforward side-scrolling shooter with the same quirky art style here (and some major story changes from the Japanese version that changed the main characters from criminals to detectives).

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It’s the 90’s again (time travel works!).

Anyway, Ichidant-R is an arcade game where the same two characters get a medieval makeover and the setting is now changes to a castle where there’s a princess to be rescued. The gameplay also changes into a mini-game filled fun-fest that, thanks to it’s timed nature, keeps the pressure up throughout. While it’s a great game, having a friend to face off with makes this all the more enjoyable. M2 keeps it as the original arcade version, but adds the usual choices of scan lines and screen fit scaling if you want them as well as a few backgrounds to choose from. I played with then off because the game looks better without them, I think – but it’s your call if you like them.

Every mini-game requires quickness and most are fun to play, but the tense time limit sometimes makes figuring out what to do in a few seconds pretty tricky until you calm down and zen out a bit. Here’s a little sample of that to expect. The game rolls out and mixes up quite a few games randomly, but I want to save the fun for you to discover. For newbies, think of it as a Warioware or similar game, bit released long before. Yes, one caveat is the puzzles will get old for those who get too jaded to this stuff, but to me, the fun here never gets old with a game you can go to for some quick fun in short bits. I’d write more, but this one’s a no-brainer because the games adds some cool cleverness to the genre and is a more than recommended buy if you like these these types of games.

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Ray Milland would probably have hated this mini-game (ha-ha)

Score: B+ (85%)

-Review code provided by the publisher

The Witcher 3 on Switch: Some Sort of Demon Magic at Work Here

Floored. I am totally floored at how the heck CD Projekt Red and Saber Interactive got The Witcher 3 squeezed onto Switch. Yes, it’s 30fps (mostly, but expect a few drops here and there) and yes, docked mode looks like the best way to play, but wow. While there are flaws to it, its simply amazing to see in action AND it has every drop of DLC content whether you get it physical or digital.This proves a few things about the hardware and ports, but as usual, some folks won’t see them because they’ll be busy kmcking this port instead of being knocked out by what went into getting the experience down on the system as intact as they could.

I’ll defer to the masters of over-analyzing, who give to you straight. Here are a handful of screens to look at:

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-GW