Super Capsule Reviews: Are GO (Part 2)

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Well… try not to get hit (too much).

The ever long debate I see over indie games being “as good as” or “better than” AAA content is a bit silly because at the end of the day, both types of games are welcome and necessary for a few reasons some folks would figure out rather quickly if they kind of shut up and played stuff more than they do rolling around in the internet alley fighting about. Me, I just love seeing what a dev team (or single developer in some cases) can whip up because hell, playing a well-made game created with passion that can be seen on screen is a good way to get anyone who loves a wide range of visual and gameplay styles to go spend some of that hard-earned cash on some really fun titles like the ones below.

Xenon Valkyrie+ PS4Xenon Valkyrie+ (PS4/PS Vita Cross-Buy, $9.99): Fabrice Breton (dba COWCAT) has worked on some pretty hardcore pixel art game ports that provide a hefty amount of challenge for the money. Xenon Valkyrie, originally created by Daniel Fernandez Chavez and published by Diabolical Minds for PC, was improved and ported to consoles by Breton, is dripping with retro charm and packs in a mix of rogue-like, light role-playing, platforming, and fast-paced combat action that’s somewhat addictive even after multiple deaths. Part of the thrill comes from surviving the levels and their randomness, part comes from earning new gear as you go and using it to beat maps that seem impossible and impassable until you get that gear.

The cool thing here is you learn as you go what works and what doesn’t and runs will be, thanks to the randomness, a mix of small and large victories against enemies and the destructible maps. You’ll be using every skill and tool in a growing arsenal here, and the way each character plays will make some areas tricky to complete, but you’ll get better with skill and practice. There’s a lot of game here if it hooks you in and you don’t mind the learning process. As with the COWCAT ported game below, there’s some serious replay value here if you’re brave and willing.

Score: B (80%)

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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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Mary Skelter 2: Switch-Bound in September

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Excellent. One of my favorite Idea Factory RPGs is getting a very nice looking digital-only sequel that expands on what made it a solid game in the first place. While there are only four screens to share (so far), I’m gathering Mary Skelter 2 will get fans of the first game quite psyched for its September launch, but new players should also be in the same boat, as the upcoming Switch version also has the first entry included as a BONUS (woo and hoo!).

Read more on what’s in store below the jump.

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Capsule Reviews: Rooms of Gloom and Doom and Such

Hey, I’m still here plinking away at a few health issues, but here’s something to read while I’m in recovery mode.

There’s a certain type of gamer I call “Trophy Hunters” who seem to rely solely on video and/or text walkthroughs of certain games in order to snag easy rewards in the form of digital Trophies or Achievements. Yes, this style of play kind of saps the fun factor out of games by breaking them down to into easy to digest “how to” posts. But there’s an odd benefit to this in the net effect of selling quite a few budget to fully priced indie to AAA titles that might normally not even get a sideways glance.

That said, when played as they “should” be, there are a number of these inexpensive titles that are really worth the effort it takes to complete them using one’s brainpower and maybe a pen and notepad for some of the trickier puzzles. Anyway, without further adieu, Here are a few indies that kept my old grey matter cooking that are worth a look:

 

 

PRIX_13Planet RIX-13 (PC/PS4/Vita/Switch): Indie developer 9 Eyes Game Studio (with a big assist from Sometimes You for the console ports) takes it back to the good old adventure game days with this simple-looking and somewhat straightforward sci-fi yarn about a space pilot who crashes on an alien planet and needs to find a way off… or else. Without a walkthrough, the game can be a bit of a mind-bender when you come up against situations where your character is killed and your brain is not wanting those deaths to transpire. The amusing thing here is dying in all the possible ways allowed by the game is a big part of netting those Trophies, so get used to expiring in a few ways as your adventure progresses.

While the game isn’t lengthy at all, it’s replayable if you decide you want to see every choice via playing in a linear manner. As noted, a few of the trickier puzzles may stump those who tend to think to literally or who don’t quite grasp that this isn’t a conventional narrative when it comes to how certain sections play out. For the record, I did cheat on one puzzle because it involved going in and out of a certain doorway in a certain order and yes, I ended up face-palming myself when I looked up the solution and discovered that a number of players had also gotten waylaid by that one spot. Hmmm… I guess there’s something to this trophy hound stuff after all?

Score: B (80%)

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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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Head to Head (Sort Of): Fast Striker vs. FullBlast (PS4/Vita)

I can recall a few years back reading in more than one place that the arcade shooter was dead as last week’s formerly fresh fish, but this was really never true. Between numerous indie developers and fans keeping the genre alive through making and publishing and distributing games via digital and retail formats, the good ol’ shmup lives on pretty much anything that can play them. Two of the more recent ones go for the gold and succeed when by being well-made games with excellent price points destined to hang out in your game library for a spell. Let’s take a peek at both, shall we?

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Pretty, isn’t it? well, it’s also PRETTY FREAKIN’ HARD to an old gleep like me, but I keep playing these shmups because I used to be better at them back in the day.

fast striker PS4First up is Fast Striker ($6.99), a 2010 NEO·GEO MVS/AES vertical shooter getting a new life on current gen systems thanks to German developer NGDEV and publisher Eastasiasoft. Six levels of frantic, gorgeous bullet hell bliss await with four difficulty settings to challenge. Yes, six levels may seem short to some of you out there, but this game makes you earn those high scores and like a solid shmup, you’re going to keep coming back to beat your previous runs or die trying.

There are some basic screen resizing and wallpaper options, but I personally prefer sticking to the more arcade accurate default window than going full screen. Er, not that it helps much given my awful reflexes when the going gets too tough (or okay, a little tough. Hey, I’m getting old!). For example (yipes):

 

 

Yes, I’m THAT bad at this game, but I managed to get through the Novice difficulty and messed with the others (Omake mode is SUPER nuts). I’ll be a saint here and link you to the official trailer just so you can see how a far better player does:

 

 

In addition to the digital release, Online retailer Play-Asia has a very limited edition physical version ($34.99) for both the PS4 and Vita set for a November release. Each is limited to 2200 copies worldwide and will include the region free game, a manual, collector’s box, soundtrack CD and a numbered certificate you can show off if you please. The price difference is yes, because of all that stuff inside the box, but if you’re into packaged games and have the shelf space, it’s a fair enough price point.

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You’ll want to be a Fast Striker if you need this nifty Limited Edition exclusive from Play-Asia. Better pre-order this now before the scalpers snap them up to resell at ebay prices (ugh).

 

Overall, a pretty solid shmup that’s a trip down memory lane to my former glory days and perhaps yours as well (but I hope you can play better than I can).

Score: B (80%)

-Review code provided by the publisher

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Review: Mary Skelter: Nightmares (PC)

Mary Skelter Nightmares PC

GhostLight’s wonderful port of Mary Skelter: Nightmares brings the game to PC in a flawless translation of the Vita version and yes, it’s absolutely worth a buy.  Seeing and playing it on a larger screen reveals sharper enemy and background art, but you won’t be fiddling with anything other than resolution and window size settings if you really need to. In fact, the rather low system requirements makes this one of the more accessible modern dungeon crawlers out there. Even if you’re not into the anime art style and overall offbeat tone here, the game excels on the gameplay front in capturing the spirit of the classic Wizardry games.

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Nope, this isn’t your Granny’s version of Snow White or any of the other gals from those old fairy tales. These girls can take care of themselves pretty well.

That’s not to say at all that the game is an entry level experience. There’s a decent enough difficulty curve and a combination of expansive maps, deadly traps and powerful bosses that will keep you on your toes. The main story involves a living tower-like dungeon called Jail looming over a city in Tokyo it has buried underground and the attempts of a squad of lovely anime ladies and one guy tasked with climbing that tower with intent on defeating the Marchen (monsters) and Nightmares (bosses) that inhabit it. The team’s main purpose is to enter the Jail’s oddball dungeons and defeat the Nightmares, which will grow the tower and allow it to reach the planet’s surface, allowing the citizens of the underground Liberated Zone their true freedom. There’s a bit more (well, a good deal more) to the story, but letting it unfold while playing is the best means of experiencing it.

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Review: Super Destronaut DX (PS4/Vita)

(Thanks, Ratalaika Games!)

SD_DXAmusingly enough, in the middle of all the stuff I’m working on, I got distracted by a code for Super Destronaut DX ($4.99, Cross-Buy) and made the “mistake” of downloading and playing it for a bit longer than expected. I use the word “mistake” in the jokiest of manners because the game is not only a ton of fun, it brings back memories of hitting the arcades on the weekends and dropping quarters into way too many now classic shooters and other games. It’s also a Trophy hunter’s dream game, as those rewards drop like rain during a sudden thunderstorm. Even if you’re not into collecting those invisible treats, they appear so frequently that you may think there’s some sort of crazy glitch taking place.

Once again, Ratalaika Games and Petite Games have whipped out a fun retro-inspired blast of greatness that’s seemingly simple on the surface, but packs in the fun for a low enough price point that it’s an instant recommend. As with Inksplosion (also $4.99 and Cross-Buy, so go get this one as well), the game’s not the longest out there on the surface. However, to this former arcade denizen, both of these titles replicate flawlessly the intensity and some of the challenge of those old arcade games (which by the way, were primarily really short experiences that were replayed in order to be mastered).

 

(yep, that’s me being lousy at this game. Hey, I’m old!)

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Review: Devious Dungeon (PS4/Vita)

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Devious Dungeon PS4_VitaSometimes a review writes itself before you even get a chance to take a single note. That can be both good and not so good, but let’s see where this automatic type-fest leads now, shall we? Devious Dungeon ($7.99, Cross-Buy) is great fun because of its solid combination of easy to grasp gameplay, crafty, challenging randomized levels, and single-minded enemies set on “kill”.  There’s a very reliable straightforwardness to the game in that, as a port of a mobile game from a few years ago, it’s not focusing on gimmicks and boxing you in with arcane rules and overly complex gameplay. This is more or less, side-scrolling dungeon 101 and because it works so well, that’s all it needs to be.

There’s no character creator here – you’re just a musclebound chap sent in to clear out an ever-changing dungeon other adventures have fallen prey to. You start out with an old sworn and crappy armor and yep, killing monsters nets you gold and experience. The gold is for buying better gear, the experience levels you up. You’ll also need to find a key to unlock the sealed doorway somewhere on a level. Sometimes you’ll find the door before you find the key, sometimes it’s the other way around. Either way, death lurks everywhere thanks to monsters, traps and other hazards. Combat is simple, but you’ll need to time your attacks carefully lest a foe or foes do you in with their own well-timed hits. Ranged weapons or spells are especially painful, by the way.

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Review: League of Evil (PS4/Vita)

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League of Evil PS4_VitaGood evening, ladies and gentlemen. I’m here to inform you that Woblyware and Rataliaka Games’ excellent, tough as heck  League of Evil ($4.99, Cross-Buy) is not messing around at all. This high action speedrun focused action/platform/puzzle hybrid has one goal: to crush the weak players and reward the flawless and strong. Okay, well… it’s not that serious, but if you love a challenge, you’ll certainly get more game out of that measly five bucks this costs right from the start.

Here’s the deal: you’re a bionic super agent who needs to simply reach the evil scientist at the end of each level and dispatch him with a single punch from your big metal fist. Simple, no? Nope, it’s not. One shot kills from armed guards protecting him, one hit kills from spikes, lasers, swinging axes and other hazards will stop your progress countless times, forcing you to replay many of the sort, deadly stages. At least the retro visuals, excellent music and general sense of “don’t even try to take this seriously” all keep the game fun.

And yes, once again, I had to call in my ringer.

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