Review: Solo: Islands of the Heart (PS4)

solo ps4Gotham Games new jam Solo: Islands of the Heart ($19.99) is an intriguing and lovely to look at mix of exploration and puzzle solving that just so happens to get you thinking about your love life from the past into whatever possibilities the future holds. While the prospect of ruminating over old romances as well as any potential future ones may seem a wee bit too personal to some, that’s one of the funnier things about the project if you think about it. Sure, you can take the questions too personally and maybe get uncomfortable about a few. That’s human nature at work. Or hell, you can just decide right off the bat to go full tilt and lie away (also human nature) just to see what sort of responses the game gives back.

As you make your way through the game, you’re tasked with solving simple to slightly more complex multi-part puzzles that involve a bit of box pushing with some flipping and rotating necessary to gain access to higher areas. There are also odd animals to meet and treat to certain foods, pet, or otherwise attend to. The game doesn’t explain a lot other than some basic steps needed to progress, but this works out well when you’re forced to think through a few steps that are keeping you from accessing a new part of the map. That said, there’s a very relaxing tone here that makes for a very chill experience when all is said and done. If you want to just take selfies or nice pics of the different islands, play a guitar and aimlessly wander about, that’s your call entirely. But dip a toe into the game proper, please. You’ll likely learn a few things or at least get a new outlook on a relationship you hadn’t considered. Or maybe have, but need a poke in the noggin to jog a good or bad memory.

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Ce n’est pas un pont, to get all Magritte on you.

Er, except the trailer kicks off with a rather useless rating for “Sexual Themes” when the game is about as or sexual as a box of laundry detergent. Well, unless boxes of laundry detergent is a turn on for you. Clearly, the ESRB needs to redefine its ratings descriptors. Perhaps something like “Mature Themes” would have been more applicable here. Of course, a penny says someone at the board would likely note that using the word “Mature” may lead some to think the game should be “M” rated or some such nonsense. Eh, go look at all the sexual in this trailer:

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WRC 8: Rallying for A Chance at Besting DiRT Is a Good Thing For the Series

 

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Reflex check: “100, Easy right, care rocks inside – don’t cut” Or something like that. You’ll know what to do as that turn comes up.

As a longtime fan of the World Rally Championship series since the PlayStation 2 days when developer Evolution Studios created five of that system’s best rally games, it’s been a series of up and down yumps as the franchise has changed hands over the years. The team at KT Racing (aka Kylotonn ) has held the WRC game license since 2015 and have improved the overall quality with each release, offering rally fans on PC and consoles the opportunity to test their skills on a wide variety of courses with a wide range of world-class rally cars.  The upcoming WRC 8, published by Bigben Interactive certainly looks to be the best game in the series to date, as the dev team is looking to reach fans who crave even more realism to the virtual version of the sport.

As impressive as that trailer is, the game’s Career Mode is going the extra mile in terms of delivering the goods on a few fronts. Check out the details in the video below:

Want more? Okay, then – there are a few pre-order incentives below the yump (ha and ha, but yeah, go look at them).

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Earth Defense Force 5 on Steam: Big Bugs You’ll Actually Want to Play With

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Get this game, please. Or: Go bug or go home.

BOOM. A guaranteed blast of a game if there ever was one, Earth Defense Force 5 finally lands on PC with a 20% launch discount ($47.99) and if you’re looking for a game that’s going to elbow itself into your every waking hour, this is one of those ridiculous and necessary time killers you’ll ever play. Four character classes, hundreds of weapons for each class, 110 levels and I haven’t even mentioned the co-op and online play that adds way too many hours to the overall experience. Check out my review of the PS4 version, then close your eyes and imagine an even speedier game with an extra layer of visual polish. Or just open your eyes and peek at this short teaser trailer:

Some nifty screens below, if you want total overkill, plus tax.

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-GW

Review: Red Faction Guerilla Re-Mars-tered (Switch)

Switch_RedFaction_boxIf you’re a Nintendo-only fan who missed out on Red Faction Guerilla in one of its previous competing console or PC incarnations, it’s finally arrived on the Switch in pretty solid form as Red Faction Guerilla Re-Mars-tered ($29.99)  If you’re also a huge fan of open world games packed with plenty of content and a ridiculous amount of destruction, you’ll be very pleased with this one despite a few technical hiccups.

Developer KAIKO has ported original developer Volition’s 2009 classic to Nintendo’s hybrid system with all the DLC and game modes intact and while things can get a wee bit iffy when the frame rate gets bumpy in the busiest moments, it’s an amazing port for what’s working perfectly right out of the gate. For starters, the game looks great despite the seemingly limited color palette. Characters are smoothly animated, there are some great visual flourishes and hell, even the rolling skies will make you stop and stare once in a while (well, provided you’re in a safe zone).  Hopping into your vehicle of choice or hoofing it to a destination whereupon you unleash all sorts of ordinance as you attempt to survive whatever the EDF troops throw back is just pure fun on a stick with the results being lots of leveled structures and a bunch less pesky pissed-off troops to deal with. The AI certainly puts up a decent fight, calling in support that can and will escalate things in a tearing hurry.

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“Damn, those alien bastards destroyed my ride!” Oops, wrong game.

The destruction, thanks to the Geo-Mod 2.0 engine, looks and feels darn near perfect as those assorted enemy bases and other structures crumble and tumble with a particular sense of weight that can be hazardous to your character’s health if he or she is too close to something exploding or collapsing. While both the Campaign and DLC content have stories to follow, you’re pretty much going to be rolling out with intent on doing as much damage to enemies and enemy buildings as you can while trying not to get space-dusted yourself. Even on the easiest difficulty it’s all too common here to barely survive some of the tougher missions. But persistence and perhaps a better loadout pay off big. As you get better at fending off the enemies, when you do buy the space farm, it’s likely going to be from going in too hot and not being prepared for EDF retaliation. Or: you may want to have an escape route planned or at least enough explosives to blast your way out of trouble when necessary.

(Thanks, EurogamerGermany!)

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Metal Wolf Chaos XD: August 6 is Boom Time on Consoles and PC

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Who’da thunk a game made way back in 2004 would be so damn… timely?

Hooooo, boy. Some people at Devolver Digital and very likely famed Japanese developer FromSoftware have quite the wry sense of humor. Metal Wolf Chaos XD is finally arriving for PS4, Xbox One, and PC (via gog.com and STEAM) for $24.99 on August 6, 2019 and I’ll let the more history-oriented types get the eye-pop on that date’s significance. Pre-orders are open now and each version has a nifty little bonus exclusive to them (which will frustrate some completist types, but so it goes).

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Nope, this photo is NOT from the future. I didn’t realize the date was incorrect on my camera until I uploaded this pic. Oops.

Anyway, this remastered gem also seems to be a digital-only release, which is a shame for those who prefer physical over digital games. That said, although I still have my original modded Xbox as well as a Japanese Xbox and an import copy of the game, I’ll still be more than happy to jump on this updated version of the 2004 classic, which was (and still is) pretty outrageous as well as so intentionally jingoistic that some players who don’t get the humor on display may not get the joke. Then again, you can’t take at all seriously the premise of a mech-suited President of the United States of America taking on his rogue (and also mech-suited) Vice-President after a coup attempt leaves the country at war. Well a few places at war, actually.

Here’s the latest trailer:

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Skybound Games Has Me Talking to Myself (Again)

“And it goes like this.”

Me: Uh, hey, man.
Me: What?
Me: I need $200. Plus shipping, I think.
Me: For what?
Me: This (look down):

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Me: HOLY $#!+!
Me: Well, SOLD, huh?
Me: Um, hold on a sec.
Me: Awwwww, come onnnn…
Me: Look, we made a deal, remember? We’ve no more room for those big collector’s editions. That, and we DO have a big backlog of other games…
Me: (pouts, gives me the sad puppy dog eyes)..
Me: Oh, that’s SO not going to work, pal. We’re also on a budget, remember?
Me: Well. you COULD sell off some of those older games you aren’t playing like you did that one time…
Me: Yeah, right. That was kind of an emergency and this, well… it’s really damn cool and all, but it’s not super-urgent.
Me: Booooooo!
Me: Okay, knock it off. I need to get a post up and get back to those other reviews in progress.
Me: Bill
Me: Oh, don’t get cranky with me, buddy…

Me: Grrrrrrrr! (thinks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQnToZYGAoY)

Me: Um, I know what you’re thinking, you know.
Me: Hmph. Well IF you did, then you’d also know that big ol’ box ends up costing not too much more than the regular editions IF you think about it…
Me: Be that as it may, the chances of me buying that set are like the chances Skybound will send me one to review.
Me: Well. it COULD happen!
Me: Yeah, sure. Well, I’ll let you go handle that and see what the results are. Good luck, pal.
Me: Well, first, let me go make some wall space for that bo setx…
Me: What?
Me: (pulls out big ACME rubber sledgehammer):Hey, you DID say we needed more wall space once, so I’m gonna go make some…
Me: Wait a minute!
Me: Too late! (swings hammer at wall, whereupon is bounces off and knocks me out cold.
Me: Well, that’ll learn ya. Again. Good thing that store only sells rubber hammers.

And so it goes…

-GW

 

Super Neptunia RPG: Cool Canadians Bakin’ Up A Hot JRPG? Yep, Nep!

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Out on PC via Steam last week and coming to PS2 and Switch June 25 in North America (the 28th in EU territories), Super Neptunia RPG is coming from an interesting combination of forces. Japan’s Idea Factory and Compile Heart worked with Canada’s Artisan Studios to bring Nep fans an all-new game in the long-running series and the very first side-scrolling entry, to boot. As a fan of the series since the PS3 days, I’m quite intrigued by this one and the opening movie has sealed the deal that this *must* be played:

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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

Gallery: Kings of Lorn – The Fall of Ebris

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Keep an eye on this one…

E3 isn’t for a few more days and while I won’t be attending this year, I’ve already found a game I’m dying to play. Wyoming-based TeamKill Media‘s “first-person dark-fantasy survival-horror” game Kings of Lorn – The Fall of Ebris is headed to PC. PS4, and Xbox One in September, and as soon as I saw those screenshots and more importantly, some gameplay footage and the E3 trailer, this jumped way up into Games to Watch status. If you’re ancient enough to recall FromSoftware’s classic King’s Field games, prepare to be floored as this new Kings will set your spines to shivering – take a look at a ton of screens and see for yourselves:

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Here’s the game’s E3 trailer in all its bleak Unreal-powered glory:

As far as gameplay goes, while this footage is from almost a year ago, if the final build sticks to some what’s here in terms of gameplay, there’s going to be a a nice level of accessibility that opens the game up to more players. That said, I’d also gather that difficulty will either be player chosen via options or something that allows for those with lower skill levels to at least hop in and learn the ropes early on and not fall prey to low level enemies turning them into kibble less than three minutes in.

As usual, we shall see how TeamKill tackles that important part of their game, but no matter which rouet they choose, this game looks depressingly grand and ambitions enough that I’ll be seeing it through to the very end. I’m absolutely not expecting a sunny finale at all, but a few shocks and surprises along the demons, dragons and other foes as the game progresses? Yeah, that’s going to make this a game that will get a prime spot in the play stack and a few replays while it’s there.

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-GW