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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Path of Exile (Finally) PS4-Bound

POE PS4

 

Ever hold a secret in for so long that you forget about it until you find out it’s no longer a secret, yet you still clutch that secret in a death grip? Well, that’s me and this news item on Grinding Gear Games’ great Path of Exile popping up on PS4 before the end of the year.

Lovely trailer alert below:

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/gZD8HWCDV2U

Earlier this year I’d gotten a hint of a whisper of a whiff it was on the way, but at some point after the ecently released Xbox One version and I filed that tease away until an actual confirmation was announced. Excellent. Now, all I need to to is figure out what game to drop off my MMO list. I really have less time to play online stuff and am supposed to dislike these types of games (allegedly). But I find myself interested in a few and will try them out for a spell. PoE is a free to play (NOT pay to win) game that I messed around a bit with on Steam and liked a lot but had to stop playing because I got busy trying to put a dent in my backlog. Anyway, it looks as If I’ll need to hop into this in December and see how well the PS4 handles the game.

Path of Exile Key Features Include:

Download and play for free, but never pay-to-win
A dark and deep action RPG
Unlimited character combinations with the game’s gigantic skill tree
Combine skill gems to create unique combat strategies
Explore a dark and gritty world rendered from a fixed 3D perspective
Explore randomly generated levels for nearly infinite replayability
Craft weapons, magic items and even end-game maps to become more powerful
Cooperate or compete with thousands of other Exiles in a persistent online world
Ascend online ladders in every game mode

Back in a bit. I was awake all last night concerned about voting, but did it early, came back and passed out for a few hours (oops). Going to put on some coffee and try to work while NOT watching any election coverage so I don’t keel over from the stress.

-GW

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

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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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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Pinball FX3 Gets Some Williams In Its Catalog

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Lovely. Now, let’s take this pinball history back even further, I say. Lots of excellent tables deserve this treatment.

 

Nice. Here I was, wondering if I should buy up those import PS4 pinball collections that have gone out of print and *ding!* Zen Studios ends up with the Bally/Williams license. The developer has just published four tables available NOW on PC, (via Steam as well) Mac, PS4, Xbox One and Switch, with the classic 1992 table Fish Tales available for free across all platforms. I recall that one as being a high scorer with even beginners able to rack up tens of millions of points on three balls. The table also had flippers slightly smaller than standard ones, so it was actually easier to lose balls thanks to the super fast action.

 

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Review: V-Rally 4 (PS4)

V-Rally 4Sliding sideways onto retail and digital stores for consoles and PC some 16 years (!) after the previous installment, V-Rally 4 ($59.99) attempts to capture the spirit of the series’ somewhat floaty control system while adding modern HD visuals and online play. While everything didn’t quite work out as well as it should at launch (the reason this review is later than usual), some recent patching has fixed a number of the game’s issues. That said, expect to do a good deal of car tweaking for the optimal experience.  Rally fans who want a game that demands constant fiddling with settings and plenty of pre-race practice just may find a decent to acceptable experience comes with that high level of patience the game asks for.

Developer KT Racing has made a tough off-road game that packs in a ton of content in its single player and online modes using real life cars on fictional tracks set in some very pretty locales across the globe. If you go in expecting a total pick up and play experience out f the gate, the mix of arcade and simulation elements may not quite jibe thanks to the default controls being a bit too loose (requiring the aforementioned fiddling) and the solo mode forcing you to pay to enter some races and then pay your in-game manager and crew for their efforts at keeping your small but growing garage of rides in racing shape.

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“Slide, Charlie Brown, SLIDE!” A super-light touch is key to playing this game (or else).

That said, as with the still mighty V-Rally 3, and the still surprising Dreamcast version of V-Rally 2, at some point the more dedicated players who stick with the game will indeed snap into that zen-like state, get into the game’s squirrely handling and very likely enjoy the ride. Amusingly enough, it seems the developer knew the game would frustrate some players and yep, there’s DLC out that allows a career mode boost as well as a digital guidebook to its cars and tracks. Granted, the former is completely optional and the latter should have been included as part of the price (and seems to  have been in a newer update), but these days optional buy-ins seem pretty much unavoidable in some games.

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The Horror of Too Many Scary Games (is a Good Thing to Have), Part 2

You’re either back for more… or you fell asleep reading that first part and just woke up in time for part two. Well, here you go, then. Some of today’s entries are coming out after October, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less frightening. Anyway, here are six more games to look forward to (unless you’re too freaked out to want to try some of the scarier ones, mua-ha-ha-haaaa!):

 

 
Home Sweet Home (PS4/PSVR/Xbox One) – If the trailer is any indication, this could be one of the downright scariest stealth/horror games of the year. I missed out on the PC version of this truly scary-looking Thai horror game from Bangkok-based indie dev Yggdrazil Group Co.,Ltd, but my pals at Mastiff Games seem voraciously intent on putting me under the couch with this upcoming PS4 and Xbox One port. The PS4 version will support VR as an option (I’ll take my scares flat, thank you much) and if you prefer your games on a disc, this one’s going to be a GameStop exclusive in addition to a standard digital download on PSN and Xbox Live. I may have to shell out for the disc version, as this one certainly looks scary enough to be a keeper. That and I want to have the option of maybe loaning that disc to a friend or two who hate horror games but are slowly coming around. Then again, I have the feeling that this might be one of those games that sends them back down the ladder to being too skittish to fire it up.

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The Horror of Too Many Scary Games (is A Good Thing to Have), Part 1

Although horror-themed games are released all year long from developers and publishers of all sizes, the number definitely increases as the Halloween season approaches. I’m currently playing a few quite interesting to downright too damn creepy titles that should keep you up at night if you’re into that sort of thing. I’ll divide this into a few parts because my inbox is a bit loaded with what’s looking like some really fun games of varying degrees of scariness. Let’s start with five for now:

The Conjuring House (PC) – Holy #@*+. Well played, Morocco-based RYM Games, well played. Here’s a game that knows what it wants to do (make you too scared to keep playing) and it gets right to it with the scary stuff after an extended opening cinematic sequence that gets your heart pumping before handing you control in the middle of a chase sequence. Gee, thanks. So far, the game is absolutely dripping with atmosphere and the Unreal 4-powered visuals definitely get the job done. That said, the English translation needs a bit of tweaking as some awkward text mars the experience when it doesn’t match the spoken dialog. Still, this is going to be one of those games that sucks players in and should keep them jumping long after they’re done. It’s out September 25 on Steam, so keep an eye peeled (or else). I’ve got my fingers crossed for solid console port (PS4, please) if only to keep further away from the screen. Or: playing this on my laptop has been pretty damn frightening with those blasted creeps right up in my face, yahhhh!

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