Capsule Reviews: It’s A Puzzlement!

Not every game needs to go for epic length status or terminally flashy visuals to be enjoyable. I tend to gravitate to puzzle games when I need a break from other genres  and there have been a few really cool ones this year. Here’s a quick look at a some of the ones I liked a lot:

 

solar flux switchSolar Flux (Nintendo Switch, $9.99): Firebrand Games’ great space-themed puzzler may look simple, but it riffs on classic arcade gameplay with homages to Asteroids, Lunar Lander, Puzzle Bobble, a bit of Star Castle and probably a few other titles my brain can’t recall in a really fun, challenging manner. While it’s at heart, a supremely soothing experience, the reliance on touchscreen-only controls combined with limited fuel and the need for precision movement of your very fragile ship means you’ll be getting a game that won’t easily be mastered in one sitting. Yes, the music is ear-pleasing and completely chill, but if you’re easily flustered by even the tiniest of mistakes, the gameplay can get pretty tense if you’re not able to tip-tap-steer your way out of trouble. Practice makes perfect, folks.

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That challenge ramps up geometrically during the 80 missions set across 4 galaxies, but nice looks and all, you’re not here to do any sightseeing. Getting the best times as things get complicated is somewhat tricky (but rewarding). So expect a few retries and perhaps a few times when you’re just putting the game down for a bit and coming back later if you lose that zen-like concentration. Don’t worry, though. Those assorted suns you need to recharge will be there when you return. All is good in this universe, just relax and it’ll be quite the thrill.

Score: A (90%)

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Earth Defense Force 5: Out Now, So Don’t Bug Me!

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It’s boom time for those pesky giant bugs and angry-ass aliens, finally!

 

 

Well, there goes the neighborhood as well as any free time I was thinking of dreaming about. Playing an Earth Defense Force game is a total commitment process if you’re a longtime fan. I actually didn’t import the Japanese version because I wanted to go in totally cold (other than watching a few gameplay videos to see how it ran and if some of the trademark wonkiness was still there), so I’d say after all this time, I’m ready to be overwhelmed by this latest alien invasion from developer Sandlot.

While this one’s a PS4 exclusive, I’d gather a PC version is in the works as Sandlot did a PC port of the last EDF game. Granted, the online mode was rife with cheaters and some players teaming up with them ended up with corrupted save files thanks to hacked weapons and other stuff that made for a less than stellar experience. Hopefully, PC fans will get this at some point, but me? I’ll be perfectly happy posting YouTube videos or doing a bit of rare live streaming just to show off my skills (or lack of them, as I’m betting myself a dollar I’ll be REALLY rusty at least for a quarter of Normal mode.

Back in a bit – I need to get a few other things posted today, so it’ll be sooner than later.

-GW

Capsule Reviews: Get Me Reroute! (Or: Part 2)

Heh, oops. I had a little router issue not long after posting yesterday that had me a bit flummoxed after several restarts and too much waiting around, but we’re back on the boat and headed somewhat upstream, whee. Anyway, back to more of what you should be playing or at least looking at with a thoughtful gaze:

 

 

forgotton anne boxForgotton Anne (PS4/Switch/PC/Mac, $19.99): No matter what you get this one on, it needs to be bought, played and thoroughly enjoyed. If the words “playable anime” get your ears perked up, you’ll be pleased to know that developer ThroughLine Games has created exactly that, as well as a love letter to the works of Studio Ghibli. A beautiful hybrid of adventure, platform and puzzle game with a bit of detective story for good measure, it’s also (in my opinion) hands down, the absolute best game to date to come out of the Square Enix Collective program which focuses on getting more indie games out to the masses. Go download and play the PC or Switch demo (the latter is on the eShop) and you’ll see this one’s an instant classic.

In addition to a memorable lead character and well-told story, the game’s visuals, voice acting and soundtrack are all phenomenal. The addition of multiple dialog choices makes the game quite replayable because the manner in which you interact with characters or solve problems alters a few plot points or closes off some paths. This isn’t a game about fighting tons of enemies, leveling up or the usual stuff you may expect. It’s a story-driven game where you’ll appreciate the quality of the finished work as you’re drawn into the plot and memorable characters for as long as the experience lasts.  I’ll go as far as to say this one is one of my favorite indies of 2018 and it should be one of yours as well.

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Everywhere you look, there’s something to see that catches your eye in this game.

This is a game I’d even highly recommend non-gamers have a go at, as there’s neither a life bar to worry about nor a true Game Over state. That and with a controller, even the slightly tricky longer jumps that need to be made aren’t a total pain. Just watching Anne’s animation as she gets around is a joy, and yes, the different Forgotlings are equally impressive. While this game probably won’t get a sequel, if ThroughLine wants to do another Ghibli-inspired game, I certainly won’t stop them. Hell, I’ll be cheering them on and hoping it’s as good as or even better than this is.

Also, if this ever gets a physical edition at some point down the road, I say get it just for anything art-related that comes as part of the package. Well, the game, too, but yeah, seeing more of this gorgeousness is a thing that’s necessary in a more physical over digital manner.

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To paraphrase ZZ Top: “She’s got wings… and she knows how to use them…”

Score: A (95%)

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Smoking Wallet Alert: A Few Black Friday Deals

Yes, it’s going to be total shopping frenzy for some of you out there in internet land and sure, you can go nuts looking for deals and getting elbows to the forehead at the local mall if you like. Me, I’m going to just sit comfortably at home and silently drop a few fine deals in your laps and let you deal with them as you see fit. Feel free to supplement those with other deals you find while poking around and you can pretty much sleepwalk through Black Friday, Cyber Monday, International Empty Wallet Day or whatever other day you want to whip out that credit, debit or gift card. If you’re into constant deals any time of the year, a handy app such as RetailMeNot will help out in tracking all sorts of deals whenever you’ve the urge.

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Does whatever a spider can? Hah! Spiders don’t make anywhere as much moolah as this game has this year, that’s for sure.

PlayStation Deals! Sony’s got a fantastic set of sales happening from now until November 26. Start here for some great deals on a new PS4 Spider-Man bundle, two different PSVR bundles (I’d go with the PSVR+ Moss/Astro Bot deal, but if you prefer Creed: Rise to Glory and Superhot VR, it’s your call) and Dual Shock 4 deals (get a few of those at that price). There’s also a Black Friday Sale on digital games and other downloadable content that should have some of you stocking up on a few titles at temporary bargain prices. Oh, and for those of you with PS Plus or those interested in renewing the service at $20 off the standard price, that $40 deal for a yearly sub is not to be missed.

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If you’re going to go all in with PSVR, go with two of the best titles VR titles on the system.

There are also Black Friday-related game deals on individual digital titles on PSN as well as plenty of in-store retail deals to check out, so feel free to poke around online or even pop into that nearby retailer if you’re so inclined.

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Review: The Shapeshifting Detective (PS4)

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That’s the lovely and quirky Violet (Aislinn De’Ath). Is she the killer? Maybe? I dunno, but she’s certainly looking like she’s about to be one in this screenshot.

TSD_boxI consider publisher Wales Interactive as the new gatekeepers of the FMV (Full-Motion Video) flame these days simply because they’ve put out a number of memorable modern titles that bring this style of game to players in full HD glory. Yes, the Digital Pictures comeback (Night Trap, Double Switch) is a good thing for those who recall the 1990’s fondly through those older games. But Wales’ modern FMV output stands out with better production values, less gimmicky casting and some decent mature story lines as hooks that make them well worth a look.

Granted, there’s a fair bit of comic relief to be found in D’Avekki Studios The Shapeshifting Detective ($12.99), but it’s a case where if you’re into what’s on display, you’re chuckling with the game rather than at it. A murder most foul has been committed in the sleepy town of August and it’s up to you to help solve the crime. Well, it’s not you, but a character named Sam (which isn’t really his name) who can transform into other characters who’s tasked with discovering the culprit. The game works well on a few levels where thinking outside the box can net some interesting results that will change each time you play based on how you handle those transformations and who you interact with.

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Esmonde Cole is Zak, handsome man with a camera who knows how to use it to get what he wants. You’ll see he makes quite the suspect as well. Killer? Oh, we shall see…

 

Your initial suspects are three tarot card readers holed up in a fancy inn run by a strange woman who’s taking pills that cause partial memory loss. The list grows as the game progresses (a shady photog, the victim’s boyfriend, a potential victim and a few others you meet) and you’ll discover less than perfect alibis all around as well as a few revelations that both help and hinder your efforts.  The intentionally loopy nature of the gameplay will keep you guessing for a bit, but as you start piecing things together, you’ll be dialed in for the long haul each session.

 

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Review: Heavy Fire: Red Shadow (PS4)

Heavy Fire RSWhile previous games in the Heavy Fire series have been on-rails shooters a tiny bit (but not exactly) like a non-gun controller version of Time Crisis with a whiff of modern military shooters set in fictional locations based on real word military hot zones, Heavy Fire: Red Shadow ($19.99) is more than a little reminiscent of the arcade version of Beach Head 2000. For those with short memories (or those who’ve never played that older game), it was a fixed turret shooter where you mowed down enemy troops and vehicles, blasted planes out of the sky and pretty much laid waste to as much as you could in a 360 degree radius until you were overrun (or just ran out of credits). While a bit on the shallow side in terms of gameplay depth, this latest installment packs in enough stress relieving bang for the buck that keeps it replayable.

Well, provided you don’t mind dealing with a few troubling bugs that really need patching.

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“Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…”  Ha. Ha. (BOOM!), Now you have quite a few too many guns.

 

That said, I’d gather that some fans of the series from its beginnings as digital titles on the Nintendo 3DS may be disappointed in this because of the lack of co-op play, which a game such as this kind of needs to spread the fun past one’s home. You do get PSVR support in the retail packaged version that adds some “in your face” moments (usually in those moments when you’re yelling exactly that to some enemies on the receiving end of whatever ordinance you’re blasting or calling down on them). But those plain-ish visuals tend to get a bit mushy in VR compared to other games using the format. Granted, it’s not supposed to be a “great” game in that way some games become “instant classics” these days. But, if you just love all sorts of digital pyrotechnics and can bear the bugs, step on up and have a seat – it’s your turn at the turret.

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Review: Home Sweet Home (PS4)

home sweet home(Soothing TV announcer voice, circa 1978):Constipated? 9 out of 10 doctors* recommend Home Sweet Home ($29.99) for fast relief. Easy to apply vie handy and discrete PSN download or in a GameStop exclusive retail version, this not at all soothing horror adventure game works within minutes so you can get back to doing the things you love. Remember – for fast relief, Just say Home Sweet Home…

Yes, that’s right. Provided you’re not a too-jaded horror game player who’s seen it all, this one will scare the living crap out of you. Well, given that poop isn’t supposed to be alive when it’s making a hasty retreat, that may be a good thing.  Here’s a funny for you: back about two years ago, I played the demo for this on PC and wrote about it, but kind of forgot all that because, hey, life happens. However, as soon as the game installed and I hit that start button, a sense of déjà vu followed by creeping dread washed over me. Eep. Yeah, this was not going to go well for my heart, folks.

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Oooh, choices!  Do I go left, do I go right, or do I go hide under a blanket after I turn the game off because I’m too freaked out to continue? *Sigh* ONWARD, as I have a review to write!

 

Anyway, to me, this game is SCARY, plus tax. How scary? Well, If Kriss Kross will make you Jump, you’re guaranteed to jump at least five times as much here if you’re easily frightened. You’re unarmed, many rooms are tight, detritus filled death traps where doors open to brick walls or other surprises of the surreal nature and worst of all, you’re often searching for clues to puzzles as the game’s box cutter wielding scary lady and a few other creeps do their level best to make you wet yourself. There’s nothing like being all stealthy and avoiding instant death for a few tense minutes, slipping between rooms and gathering clues to progress, only to finally unlock a door and jump out of your seat when something… nasty pops into view. And there’s a hell of a lot of nasty in this game.

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Mail Call: The Dogs of War and Other Scary Stuff

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Well, I thought I had a small buy very busy weekend of not much but That Western Game, but more diversions have arrived.

 

You have to love it when the weather is 100% dreary out with rain and wind keeping you indoors with some entertainment and MORE entertainment shows up. Thanks to Mastiff Games (Hi, Bill!, Hi Mika! Hi David!), I have a some stuff to tackle outside of playing cowboy. I took an hour or so off the big deal game to take both titles shown for a spin and one made me smile a lot and the other… well, let’s just say it made me creeped out enough to write up a review opening that’s going to raise an eyebrow or two (in a good way, I guess). Well, it’ll be partially funny with a chance of showers (at the very least).

Oh, and that old Silent Hill guide? That’s from the always amazing David Bruno who packed it along with the games shown. I’m going to do a Halloween play through of that classic I’ve gone through about a dozen times previously, but it’s been a while since my last run. The guide is kind of my safety net on one hand, but I also want to see if one particular puzzle is correct because I recall from my days in game retail that one guide has the incorrect solution to a puzzle that had dozens of customers calling up to say they were stuck on that one problem area (oops).

 

-GW

Red Dead Redemption II Says: Go West, or Just Stay In (and Still Go West)

RDR II out now

To quote the the late, great Tom Petty: “The waiting is the hardest part…”

“People call me lazy. I’m not lazy. Just don’t like working. There’s a difference”
-Uncle, That Western Game

So yeah, this is funny. I woke up late and had to run out for an appointment, but I’d put in a request for a review code of That Western Game before I rushed out. I also put in a request for a game that wasn’t That Western Game as well, shut down the laptop and scooted along on my merry way. On the way to that appointment, I ran into four people I knew in one way or another who either asked why I wasn’t home playing That Western Game or noting the sole reason they were outside NOT playing That Western Game was because they were also waiting for it to download or install an update or they were stocking up on supplies for the weekend plus so they could play That Western Game totally undisturbed.

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Review: Ninjin: Clash of Carrots (Nintendo Switch)

ninjin switch cubeHa. less than thirty seconds into developer Pocket Trap’s excellent Ninjin: Clash of Carrots ($14.99) and I’m cackling like Renfield because while it’s being marketed as a “beat ’em up” style endless runner game, it’s more of an arcade shooter/brawler hybrid and a damn good one at that. Of course, you may need to adjust your brain past the clever marketing stuff and your play style from “runner-based slug-fest” to “arcade shmup/beat ’em up”, but trust me, it makes a pretty cool game all the more cooler once you do.

The story is pretty simple, but comic timing courtesy some well-placed jokes and visual gags at every opportunity keep things fresh and funny.  Your character of choice (Ninjin the rabbit or Akai the fox) is tasked with zipping through the game’s super-colorful levels collecting a village’s stolen carrots while taking down waves of enemies and a series of increasingly challenging sub-bosses and bosses. Yes, you can see it as a sort of brawler based on the many weapons and upgrades you’ll recover from downed baddies or in the two shops you’ll discover.  However, switch to playing this as a coin drop arcade shooter and you’ll see those items in a new light.

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It’s either R(abbit)-Type in disguise, a more hallucinogenic Fantasy Zone, or some other old arcade shmup retooled for today’s gamers. At least that what I get from this auto-scrolling and shooting/slicing stuff.

 

Firstly, the constantly scrolling levels and enemy waves are pure shmup, as are things such as recognizing enemy patterns and the necessity of upgrading to better weapons as you go. Granted, the need to tap out moves constantly is more of an old school shmup and fighter/brawler thing , but you also get screen clearing moves, ranged weapons that feel lifted from shooters and an overall sense of fun that’s addictive enough to make one crave more when the experience is over. Yes, you have swords, spears, axes, meat (!) and other weapons to swing away at baddies with. But the non-stop pacing is made to keep you on your toes as enemy speed and ferocity varies from simple to nightmarish, fluctuating a few times as the game progresses.

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