Review: AI: The Somniun Files (PS4)

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Get a clue, Date. Bet a cluuuuuuue.

AIBrilliant. Spike Chunsoft keeps it perfectly weird at all times with AI: The Somnium Files ($59.99), a visual novel/adventure that’s one of the best games of this type to date in terms of accessibility. Granted, it opens with a disturbing crime scene, but that gory mystery to solve (and a few others as the game goes on) becomes the starting point for Kaname Date’s adventures and every investigator needs a good mystery, right? Of course, Date soon realizes this case has ties to his past (you’ll see) and with some assistance from Aiba, his trusted partner who resides in his left eye socket (you’ll see), things get more or less cleared up (the AI’s have it, heh).

The victim, her husband, and whip-smart young daughter all have connections to Date and Date’s oddball (eyeball?) relationship with Aiba is part of the game’s pull. She’s necessary to solve a few puzzles both in the real world and the Sonmium dreamscapes you’ll dip into. Her real form is an oddly cute tiny cyclops bear thing, but in dreamscapes she takes on a more humanoid shape partly because she thinks Date’s tastes lean toward pretty women. His do, but Aiba’s form appearing outside of dreams is too distracting for him at certain points.

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Brainnnns. Expect to see a few odd dreams for Aiba to mess around in.

Gameplay combines a bit of thinking with plus trial and error in the timed Aiba segments, plus traditional point and click sections where Date investigates plot elements and clues. The latter are untimed sections where camera movement is confined to whichever location Date happens to be in while Aiba’s sections are limited to six minutes. Retrying Aiba’s more freeform portions can be done either from auto-saves, from certain spots by adding or subtracting time or by retrying if you get stuck on solutions and time expires.

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Review: Injection π23 ‘No name, no number’ (PS4)

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Kid: “Hey, mom What’s for lunch!” Mom: “Why, the corridors of the MIND, child…”

Injection PS4While it’s technically imperfect and a bit unpolished, Abramelin Games has a pretty frightening survival horror game for PS4 owners in Injection π23 ‘No name, no number’ ($9.99). That ten bucks gets you a pure passion project (made over the course of five years) in the form of a multimedia game experience featuring puzzles guaranteed to test your brain cells, unsettling monsters to avoid or fight (in that order) and plenty of horrific nightmare fuel imagery. It’s noted before you start to to wear headphones and play in the dark, but I opted out of the headphone use part after trying this for the first hour and needing to remove them because I was kind of freaking out a wee bit too much (the sound design is pretty damn intense).

You play as a rather troubled man living alone with his dog in Villanueva de Tapia (a village in Málaga, Spain). When his pet runs off, he’s seemingly struck by a truck while giving chase and regains consciousness only to find himself in a twisted variation of the village and yes, still needing to find that dog. In pure survival horror fashion, you get disturbing visuals, locked doors that require opening in one way or another, and as noted, the aforementioned monsters. You’ll also discover a mystery about missing townspeople, murders and torture rituals with a religious angle and more depravity. The mix of Unity engine assets, enhanced live action video clips and appropriately timed jump scares keep things tense throughout where when things do quiet down, there’s still the sense that something’s going to happen. Let’s just say Villanueva de Tapia’s tourism numbers will either rise or decline after this game gets more notice, although my take is it’ll increase if horror fans are curious enough to see how scary a spot it is in real life.

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A little walk in the woods to clear the head isn’t going to help much when you’re too scared to take another step.

Exploration will be the first key to your survival, as the game places all sorts of clues to what needs to be done but doesn’t highlight where you need to search. One of the great things the game does right off the bat is allow for four camera angles to choose from on the fly, similar to Riverhill Soft’s Doctor Hauzer and OverBlood games. This freedom lets you explore how you want from classic Resident Evil style, two different third-person mode and first-person, although you can expect that first-person mode to deliver those creep-tastically ugly monsters in your face as they try to eat your face off. Plan accordingly, but expect to do a bit of jumping in fear on occasion when you’re surprised.

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Review: CRYSTAR (PS4)

Crystar PS4“Brilliantly depressing” is how I’d describe CRYSTAR ($59.99), Gemdrops Inc. and FURYU Corporation’s new Action/RPG published by Spike Chunsoft, but let’s not get too far ahead of things.

Rei Hatada and her little sister Mirai are pulled by a strange being into an odd dimension called Purgatory where violent creatures soon appear to attack the two. Rei manages to unleash a hidden power that gives her a powerful weapon and fancy costume, but she accidentally kills her kid sister during one battle. As she cries at losing her sibling, two oddly garbed female demon twins appear and make her an offer she can’t refuse. Become an Executor for the twins and kill enough demons in Purgatory in order to gather enough Idea (tears) to save Mirai’s soul before it descends too deep and gets reborn as a completely different person. You get one guess as to Rei’s decision.

Thus, the downward spiral begins in a game that will hit home hard for some players thanks to its assorted mostly gloomy thematic elements and a story that has a few surprises tucked into its narrative. Thankfully, while a tad (okay, very) downbeat at times, the game is gorgeous to look at. Illustrator RIUICHI’s work was lovingly translated into 3D characters by Character Designer & Modeling Lead ntny and the game also features an outstanding score from composer Sakuzyo that’s worth a listen.

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Wake up, time to cry. And you thought you had issues. Rei’s literally surrounded by her and her slain foes mental status, even during dungeon diving.

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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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