Capsule Reviews, The Third: Some RPGs

Let’s see now. I’m trying to shoehorn a load of stuff into my schedule this year, so I’ve taken to compiling certain games and films into shorter, easier to digest capsule reviews that don’t drag on like my longer boring full meal posts. Don’t worry, those longer reviews aren’t gone at all. I’m just saving up my currently lower than usual energy stores for those more epic length posts. Anyway, let’s get cracking:

 

 

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One More Dungeon (PC/PS4/PS3/Vita/Switch/Xbox One) – Not quite a RPG and more of a cross between a first-person shooter and a perma-death packed randomly generated roguelike, OMD’s in your face pixel art will seem garish to some players, but I liked it quite a lot. The game is a challenging bit of fun that will kill your character off constantly, but somehow keeps you coming back for more. Points earned via playing can be used to unlock assorted modifiers that make playing somewhat easier or a great deal harder, so how tough things get is eventually your call.

There’s a sanity level to consider and the game’s overall vibe reminded me a tiny bit of Eldritch, another retro-style FPS, although that game had a more Lovecraftian vibe going for it. OMD’s low price point and speedy gameplay keep it fun going even if you end up buying the farm a wee bit too much. This is one of those games that you’ll go back to a over and over, provided you like what you see and/or it grows on you. Developer Stately Snail and Ratalaika Games (who handled the port) deserve a tip of the cap for this one.

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Capsule Reviews, Too: Things That Go Boom (And Quite Frequently, At That)

2017 was an incredibly busy year and that doesn’t include me being laid up in the hospital for almost a month and missing out on a load of fun stuff. Anyway, I’m compiling a short list of recommends here if you’re doing some post-holiday gifting for yourself or someone else. Most of what’s here will be indie/small studio focused thanks to too a few of these games getting (intentionally?) overlooked by bigger sites because they’re not going to get a ton of clicks or some other such nonsense.

 

 

JYDGE PS4 JYDGE (PS4) – I’m surprised that this excellent kinda sorta follow up to Neon Chrome didn’t come to Vita as well, but given Sony’s rapidly losing interest in their HD handheld in terms of first party support, I guess it’s no surprise at all (except that Neon Chrome isn’t a first party game). Still, if you like your top-down action games tough and pretty darn fun, going to town with this one for a spell will bring a big grin to your grill.

You are the law in this fun, violent riff on Judge Dredd meets Robocop with a slick neon-lit coating straight out of Blade Runner or some other futuristic flick. Fast-paced and highly replayable missions await if you’re a fan of top-down shooters that aren’t easy and demand precision over panic. There’s a great arcade-like vibe here that has you unlocking weapon and armor upgrades and hopping back in to press forward or go back and try to beat tight times for taking out assorted baddies as quickly as possible while avoiding civilian casualties (an instant mission failure, as it should be in a game such as this). There’s even a solid co-op mode if you want to team up with a friend and Jydge the hell out of some well-armed creeps who’ll get what they deserve but good.

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Review: Hammerwatch (PS4)

Hammerwatch PS4For the record, Hammerwatch isn’t a RPG at all. If anything, calling it one is akin to calling Gauntlet (the arcade classic it pays homage to) a sports game. Granted, you do indeed get the fantasy trappings of classic RPGs in the form of assorted deadly dungeons to navigate, ticked off hordes of enemies trying to do your character in and other familiar touches. But there’s not a shred of story here, no gear to buy, your little character is mute, and the only expository dialog you’ll read comes from a few NPCs in set locations who offer very brief tips or warnings that you’ll want to pay attention to. Oh, and your party kind of kicks you to the curb at the beginning after a bridge breaks and you’re stuck having to go the long way around to catch up to them. What, someone forgot to bring a good length of rope?

This is a actually a good, no, a great thing, as the game excels at letting you have at what it tosses your way you want as you try to survive. Enemy generators, traps galore, invisible walls, area warps and many hidden secrets await the brave ones with ten bucks to spare. Trust me, folks – this is probably going to be the best ten bucks you’ll spend on any game this (or next, if you’re reading this in 2018) year. The main campaign is lengthy, there’s an extra chapter expansion and while online play is coming in a patch (hopefully along with mods that the PC version has had for a while), you can still grab up to three friends and play a good old-fashioned couch co-op session for the time being.

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Review: .hack//G.U. Last Recode (PS4)

dot hack ps4You’ve two choices to deal with as soon as you fire up .hack//G.U. Last Recode on your PS4 or PC. Do you play it as intended and enjoy the story as it spools out across the three remastered games (Rebirth, Reminisce, and Redemption) along with one new shorter chapter (Reconnection)? Or do you activate the Cheat Mode that maxes your party out from the get-go and makes zipping though most of the game a total cakewalk?

I ended up choosing the first option and while the game took a lot longer to play through, I didn’t feel as if I was taking advantage of Bandai Namco or developer CyberConnect 2‘s overly gracious hospitality. As a huge fan of the original four chapters games and later, the G.U. series’ three entries, I wanted to play these as originally presented, carrying my save data over into each game and getting the same thrills I’d gotten way back when the PS2 was going strong with quality JRPGs dropping on a semi-regular basis.

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This remastered trilogy benefits from a higher resolution, better frame rate, somewhat simpler combat and much better looking cut scenes. That said, it also doesn’t go overboard in trying to be a purely visual showpiece far beyond the original games. Lead character Haseo is still very much an angry jerky guy for a good chunk of the experience, but you’ll get used to him as the game progresses. The end result is a reliable buy that will please fans of the old games while maybe making some fans that expected too much or come into this wanting to see every trick in the PS4 book exploited a tad disappointed. Then again, you’re going to be playing this game more for the story and somewhat deep world building that extends into how you interact in the “real” world presented outside the faux MMO game.

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Review: Black Mirror (PS4)

BM_squareThere are two important things to realize straightaway about King Art Games’ Black Mirror. First of all, nope – it’s NOT related to the popular streamed show at all. This is a remake of a PC game that was initially released in 2003 that later got two sequels, all before that Netflix show was a whisper in someone’s mind. The second thing is, those who’ve played the original will likely appreciate this game a good deal more than those going in cold (or thinking of that show) because even with two patches, it’s got a few issues that still render the experience somewhat imperfect. We’ll get to those below, but let’s take a trip in time to a gloomy Scottish castle and its gloomier inhabitants circa 1926.

David Gordon rolls into the moors armed with a cryptic letter and plenty of questions upon learning his father has died rather horribly somewhere in the vicinity. The game actually opens with the events that lead to the fiery demise which seems to be suicidal yet somewhat supernatural. David soon finds that although he’s heir to the castle, there may be some who don’t want him around or perhaps want him to stay, but more or less permanently no longer among the living. Cue up the spooky music and sense of impending dread, ladies and germs. The end results are a pretty decent take on the horror/adventure game with a few modern touches, not all of which work as well as they need to.

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Review: de Blob (PS4)

de Blob PS4_NATalk about oddball (and pain-free) coincidences. I was doing a bit of rearranging of the game library and a my copy of de Blob for the Nintendo Wii fell on my head thanks to me moving one too many games at once. No, I wasn’t injured at all, thanks. However, I did think out loud something along the lines of “Now, this was a really fun game!” and maybe an hour after talking to myself, I get an email from one of THQ/Nordic’s psychic PR team that there’s an HD version of the game with a few enhancements headed to PS4. As the kids say “Who’da thunk it?” or something like that. Hey, I’m out of touch with the modern slang these days, so just keep quiet in the back there (hey, I heard you smirking!) and read the rest of this review.

Anyway, the game is a pretty cool 3D plarformer/puzzle/action game set in Chroma City, sapped of every color but a few shades of grey (less than 50, though) by the evil INKT Corporation. As de Blob, you’re part of a small resistance out to return things to glorious brilliance by laying paint on almost anything and everything you can. It’s a mash-up influences from Jet Set Radio and a few mascot platformers that works well despite some tricky jumping and camera issues. It’s also packing a pretty infectious dynamic score that cues you in to how well or poorly you’re doing, something more games could use (well, in my opinion, at least).

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Holiday Gift Guide 1: Let’s Get Physical!

It’s been quite interesting living in an all-too digital world and seeing how gifting has changed for many folks who go that route with nearly every purchase. Me? I like giving and receiving actual product for the most part unless it’s a case where the only way to get something is via a code voucher of some sort. That said, I feel kind of bad for kids raised in this era where some parents or other tech-savvy adults seem to hate on the very idea of handing a kid something nicely wrapped that’s NOT another gift card that devalues over time if not used up for a place they’ll never visit in person. So, in the interest of getting you out of the house and offline for oh, maybe an hour or two, I’m tossing a few suggestions your way (which are also available in digital form if you like).

Lego Worlds PS4_NALEGO Worlds (PC/PS4/Xbox One/Switch)- Ever-busy developer TT Games pulls out all the stops in this great sandbox game that’s packed with content and a ton of freedom once you get past the tutorial and early story missions. This is one of those great family games that’s so much fun to play you’ll want to sneak in some time alone once that kid is asleep.

On the other hand, you’d very likely want to play this with your kid or at least have a second controller handy as the game supports up to 2 players in either online or offline modes. Hours will zip by when this is on, but at least you won’t need to worry about stepping on loose LEGO pieces or having the family pet making them disappear after they smack part of what you’ve built under the sofa.

 

Crash Bandicoot PS4_NACrash Bandicoot N. Sane Game & Sock Bundle Pack (PS4)- Can’t decide on getting games or socks for the holidays? Got a relative who auto-buys you socks because he or she has zero clue about games? Why not get BOTH with this bundle of completely remastered PS1 classics that include the first three games in the series lovingly reworked by Vicarious Visions with tons of new HD specific features?

Between the redone visuals, the ability to play as Coco Bandicoot in all three games and a bunch of great stuff only those true masters of unlocking will get to see (yes, the games are as challenging as ever)l you get SOCKS you’ll probably actually wear at some point. But don’t try and stuff those stockings on the box with the game, as that would make for weird gift to receive and probably stretch out one of those socks in the process.

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Review: L.A. Noire (PS4)

L.A. Noire PS4Well, wow. Rockstar’s remastered crime noir drama/action game L.A. Noire comes to consoles in pretty fine form and yes, it’s worth a buy. Granted, if you’re a more jaded “gamer” who thinks even looking at an HD version of an older game will somehow make you lose your street cred (*snicker!*), you kind of need a new hobby and should skip the rest of this review. The game has not only gotten more polished looks, its gameplay has been tweaked to use the PS4’s touch pad as an option for object manipulation when poking around crime scenes. There are still a few pesky quirks left over from the PS3 version, but despite those, this is one of those games that’s great to have back and it’ll be a new experience for those who missed out on it the first time.

As Cole Phelps, you’ll rise through the ranks of the LAPD in the post-WWII era from beat cop to nattily-dressed detective using wits and fists with the occasional firearm in your case solving. For the Grand Theft Auto fans out there who are new to this one, although some gameplay elements are very similar, this isn’t a re-skin at all. You get real cars from the period, approximately 90% of the city’s streets mapped out from that era and plenty of references you may need to look up or hey, go ask an older person about. It’s certainly a great way to introduce a grandparent to gaming. And yes, you can indeed play the game in glorious black and white if you like.

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Kickstarters of Note: Some Wizards & Worriers Vying For Prime Pledges

Oh, the puns one thinks up for these sorts of pieces. Okay, it’s a pretty lousy one (yes, I know), but that’s not going to stop you from popping open your wallet and sliding a pledge to one or all of these interesting looking games, right?

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My Uncle Merlin: a Tale of Wizards in Space – Predrag Mladenovic’s and Pocket Mana’s upcoming adventure game with RPG elements has a nicely quirky art style and sense of humor to match the visual fun on display.  Oh, and there’s a flying tower with a dragon that needs to be fed its fuel (which may or may not be people you meet during your travels). There’s a free demo available for Windows that you should check out for yourself, as there’s a nifty Monkey Island meets Discworld vibe going on here that’s worth a look. There’s a solid sense of humor here and that Checky Pointy amulet is somewhat of a bacon saver, ladies and gents. Two weeks to go on this campaign means you’ll want to get in fast and tell a few friends, too.

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Review: Revenant Saga (PS4/Vita)

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RS_PS4Kemco and veteran developer Exe-Create have had a particular formula with their mobile games where they cook up simple, nostalgic stories with casts of the usual JRPG suspects, sticking them in games that reuse some assets and range from OK to pretty darn good. You’ll also get a relatively straightforward game on the surface that’s actually hiding a ton of optional content for those willing to grind up hundreds of levels and gain some incredibly powerful skills.

Initially released on mobile back in 2014 and ported to PS3/PS4 and Vita back in May (and now on Switch) Revenant Saga does a pretty fine job of recapturing some of the glory days of the 16-bit era while adding a few modern twists that reflect the game’s mobile origins. While its mix of nicely done sprite art clashes with the polygonal battle scenes, the game works well overall in delivering a decently nostalgic experience. Granted, you’ll really need to work to get to some of the more challenging content. But if grinding appeals to you, there’s a lot to love here.

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In the game, you’re Albert, a young man who volunteers for an experimental process that is supposed to help cure a plague that’s run rampant. Unfortunately, the mad doctor passing for helpful doing the treatment turns out to be using humans as hosts for Revenants, powerful demons that are part of a few plans (some of which the not so good doctor is totally unaware of).

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