Review: WRC 8: FIA World Rally Championship (PS4)

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Out for a Sunday drive, blinking is very optional.

WRC 8In the options menu of WRC 8, ($59.99) there’s a race card screen that tracks your driving in the game, noting everything you do without any judgement. So far, on my time with the game I’ve ran my cars into stuff 3,302 3,477 times (and counting) between small dings to major collisions that had me completely wrecking out of a few races, but this is a good thing (not for my poor garage, though).

The game is quite a massive effort from KT Racing and it’s their best racer to date as well as the sole officially licensed WRC game on the market. The assorted cars, courses and sounds are pretty lifelike and the rides all handle differently under a range of conditions once you get a grip on the controls. But practicing makes the game even better and finding the perfect settings for each car and course is key to getting the most out of the overall experience.

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If you’re going too fast, that simple turn up ahead is a bear, but there’s no bear at the end of that turn, fortunately.

Codemasters’ DiRT franchise might be better looking (the terrain deformation adds to the realism) and better known to some, but the outside a PC mod, the more authentic to the WRC season licenses, courses, drivers, and cars here will be the way to go for fans who enjoy the sport and want the deepest dive into it. Thankfully, those options also include a number of tweaks to make the experience a good deal more flexible to new players. Granted, like the two DiRT Rally games, this is the sort of simulation that’s going to be daunting to novices no matter how many assists they turn on. But that sticking to the real deal thing is for me, what makes a good rally game and WRC 8 makes for the most the best WRC experience since the five great WRC titles by the late Evolution Studios way back on the PlayStation 2. That said, one has to give the still mighty Richard Burns Rally it’s own pedestal for what it brought to the virtual rally game.

Even when set to the easiest mode and with every assist on, the game still requires near flawless or even perfect mastering of its courses and weather conditions. New players to this on Easy can indeed make it around the special stage or a few rallies with some effort. but it’s a literal learning curve taking in the pace notes and reading the track ahead while not hitting something because you’re trying to do it while driving a car at high speed with a co-driver notes near-constant directions at you. Still, the game’s Season and Practice modes will be your friend for a while as you settle in. There are the much harder Weekly challenges to do, but you’ll want some mileage under your belt, as these are pretty difficult events.

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Neverwinter Nights Comes to Consoles (And Why You May Never Go Outside Again)

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If you only get one game this holiday… you’ll likely still be playing it a year later.

Oh, good gravy, I forgot this was coming out (and guess who’s really happy about that?)

Firmly camped in the “Now, this brings back memories” and “Well, there goes another 180 or so hours!” departments, I have the feeling the console version of Neverwinter Nights ($49.99, PS4, Switch, Xbox One) will be a Game of the Year contender simply for the sheer amount of content it delivers. The press release below the jump will get you grinning if you’re a fan who remembers spending too many hours in these worlds, but I bet a copper that a new generation of players will want to dive into this in single player and co-multiplayer modes.

New, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go move some time around and figure out when I’m going to play this and you need to go read a press release. For the record, I’ve been storing excess time in the closet, but it keeps disappearing, grrrrrr. Must be the monsters in there eating it, I think…

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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: 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: Monkey King: Hero Is Back (PS4)

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“Kick, punch, it’s all in the mind…”

Monkey-King-Hero-is-BackTo the point: I really liked the old-school simplicity in Monkey King: Hero is Back ($39.99) because it feels like a bit of late 90’s or early 2000’s era nostalgia and it’s not a game where modernity rears its head with overly complicated “soul-crushing” gameplay and normal (i.e. now crazy tough these days) enemies that take an annoying amount of time and patience to kill. Yes, I found the lack of “git gud” here a and nice oddly refreshing change of pace because you don’t need to break a controller or stress yourself trying to figure things out. You can indeed kick back with this and have at it without cheats or clicking around online for a guide. The game does get a bit funky monkey with a busy boss-packed section, and a bit of repetition and intentional slowness in spots can be pesky if one has a short attention span or dislikes long  exposition. But overall, there’s a feeling of laid-back pure fun here missing from more seriously themed fare.

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What’s big, pink and easy to hit when it gets dizzy from it’s attacks?

More to the point: As a kid’s game (and it IS a kid’s game when all is said and done. Remember those? Or being a kid, for that matter?) or something fun and light to zip through between other, heavier titles, it does a pretty solid job and impresses on that front with it’s pick up and play style and lots of stuff to collect. The sometimes cinematic loading (in areas where camera takes over like when ladders are climbed) throughout will be an issue for some, but it’s not a game killer at all. The fact that it’s a licensed movie game that hearkens back to those days where so many games like it were made that didn’t offer more that a retelling of the film’s plot makes it a game that might not be appreciated even when it’s doing what it does right. For those that haven’t seen the film, the game can be seen a sort of a playable way to do so, if you think about it.

You can get through this in about 5 hours or so (some kids might take a bit longer), but I chuckle at this when I think of an old licensed game like Virgin’s The Terminator, a game that took less time to play that it did to buy for me (I think the bus ride took one hour each way and the game was done in within 45 minutes with a few restarts when it was gotten home!). Anyway, If you want a long, educational read and don’t know the history of the character, feel free to bookmark the pages here and/or here before settling in for the evening with your beverage of choice (well, after reading the rest of this review!).

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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

Stuff I Need to Play 1: Mary Skelter 2

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It’s allllmost here…

Oh, it’s a long list, but let’s discuss what I’m thinking of at the moment. Yes, this will come in a few parts over the month, so bear with me as I go through my overstuffed inbox. I loved the first Mary Skelter enough to play both the PS4 and PC versions. so the inclusion of the first game for free in the Switch-only sequel has me wanting to play it all over again. Well, after the sequel, of course.

From the just released gameplay trailer, the game looks great and the oddball beautiful ugliness of the creatures your party will encounter as friend and foe look great (with the assorted Nightmares shown so far being especially Yeesh-worthy, Yes, the gals are cute here too, but that’s expected in a game like this. I’m moe (ha, I left a typo in because it fits!) thrilled by the dungeon crawling, what’s probably going to be a tougher game and any endgame content that this has. But I fully expect my poor Switch getting a workout from the main story alone.

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Moons of Madness: It’s Not Made From Cheese, That’s for Sure

Funcom’s scary looking treat, Moons of Madness is out on PC for Halloween time (well, October 22nd, a week or so early), and there even a neat contest you can enter here with some frights to be had and awesome prizes to be won. But as good as it looks (and man, it looks really good), my poor backlog is telling me to wait for the console release in February 2020. It’s not that I don’t want to review it, mind you. In an effort to reduce my workload (and yep, stress level), I’ve decided to shift a few games to next year and while it’s a tough choice here, it’s also a good one at the end of the day, I think. I feel that a fresh review down the road gives a game like this a a nice boost if it’s one some console owners may have avoided because they haven’t a computer that can run it and might be keen on how it runs on their system of choice.

There’s also the chance that further optimization and any patches that a game needs will come to consoles that game a good-looking game such as this one even better (in terms of gameplay) as an overall experience. For the record, yes, I know the game might look less “perfect” as a console release. That said, the modern emphasis of graphics over gameplay with some makes no sense when a game manages to run fine and play well as a port (despite what one thinks about things like “perfect” resolution and the need to frequently tweak a PC to run things at optimum settings). “Blame the player AND the game”, as I heard an acquaintance say a few years back when a new PC game he’s bought was giving him grief when his driver-updated 3D card wasn’t capable to run a it without some figuring and fiddling.

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Review: Reventure (Switch)

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One switch is an ending trap, one releases a trap (and another ending) and one might have something useful inside. Maybe…

Reventure_boxAnd… here we go! Once again, it’s off to rescue a Princess from a demon’s well-guarded castle, but this time, I’m dying laughing thanks to the game I’m playing tossing many unexpected curve balls my way. Welcome to Reventure ($9.99), Pixellato’s fun and intense side-scrolling homage to among other games, The Legend of Zelda series, but with 100 endings to discover.

Most are abrupt surprises that send your character back to square one within a few minutes of play, but time is weirdly and intentionally presented here, so an outcome may send your hero into the distant future or later the same day. It all depends on the ending you get, and it’s very possible to drop a few hours here just exploring and figuring out the seemingly simple map that holds a lot of secrets (and quite a few traps). While that may sound boring to some, it makes for some downright hilarious moments based on your choices. That said, the game can also be (also intentionally) confusing to those who expect a straightforward speedrun or other type of one-note platformer.

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Review: A Knight’s Quest (PS4)

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“I’m a little Rusty at this!”

AKQ_PS4While it treads familiar ground, it does so with enough winking and nodding to classic action platform and open world games to be quite smile-worthy. Developer Sky9 and Curve Digital present A Knight’s Quest ($24.99) a fun and mostly very pretty looking homage to some greats, Fun as it is, it could use a patch to fix a few issues. That said, it’s quite exciting to see a game reach for the stars like this, but it’s also painful to see a few stumbles that keep it from 100% potential greatness. As noted above, a few fixes will make it the stellar experience it needs to be. Still, Curve Digital has a little sleeper on its hands that old-school platformer fans will find a lot to love.

As Rusty, a hero who’s a bit on the clumsy side, you start out the game finding a wooden sword and shield in a cave you’re exploring before all hell breaks loose a few minutes into things. This sequence shows off some thrilling platforming and a bit of combat as the cave is escaped, and high marks here for a nifty start to things. Plot-wise, it’s a “find the legendary heroes, gain elemental magic from each one than will help you in each area” thing you’d expect, but with a dose of lighthearted humor and Rusty riffing on what he can. The weird mix of styles to the game world (which mixes a sort of medieval fantasy setting with stuff like radios and chain link fences in areas that can’t be accessed right away) seems a bit odd, but it’s worth saying it works after seen enough times while exploring.

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Fire good! Uh, stop, drop, and roll dude.

Additionally, if you like collecting stuff, the game goes out of it’s way to get you to search for secrets in hidden places or heck, almost anywhere you happen to be. From hidden treasure caches to singing slugs to breakables of a few types, it offers quite a few secrets to discover. It all feels like a throwback to another time or a game that means to keep you as busy as possible for as long as you’re playing. An amusing thing here is the game references Sky9’s Flash adventure/RPG from a while back, so some jokes will go right over a few heads unless that game was played. I didn’t see a hidden version of that game here, but I wasn’t looking everywhere thanks to blazing through some later maps to get this post up. It’s too bad Sony considers the Vita a lost cause, as the game looks like it would be a fine diversion on the portable or even better, a bonus for console owners.

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