Review: Archlion Saga (Switch)

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Well, you can’t get lost at all in this game, but you can turn the arrows off if you want a less guided tour of the maps.

archlion sagaShades of the initially underappreciated (and still disliked to this day by some) Final Fantasy Mystic Quest drift through Kemco and developer Hit-Point’s entry level JRPG Archlion Saga ($4.99) and yes indeed, the game will definitely ruffle some feathers among the noisy gamers with unshakeable opinions (too often presented as “facts”) who never seem to think that players new to any genre just might like a welcoming title they can complete without a video walkthrough or wanting to bust controller into pieces against a nearby wall.

That fiver you’re spending gets you a game that can be completed in a few short hours, auto saves whenever you do pretty much anything and is so simple that anyone of any skill level can play it.  It also offers a bit of replay value for those who want to run through it again (you can opt to keep your levels and earned currency). There’s no need to “git gud” here at all unless you overuse the auto-battle option that can actually wipe out your party if you get too careless in the 4th and 5th chapters when and the random battle system decides to slap you with the occasional strong enemy pack. Amusingly enough, if for some reason you feel the urge to grind levels, late in the game there’s a dragon who heals your party at no cost whenever you speak to it. Given that healing herbs drop frequently (you can stock 99 at a time) and you start off with an amulet that restores a few hundred HP in battle, this might not be necessary, but it’s here nevertheless.

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Hmmm… we kinda know how this is going to turn out, but okay, let’s pray along…

“So, it’s a kid’s game, then?” you ask? Sure, you can say that, but it’s one that while colorful and easy on the eyes and ears is a tad gloomy in tone what with the 1000 year return of the evil Serpent and his curse mark dooming the population and you, the Archlion King out to stop that threat with the aid of a few allies. Cue up the handy trailer so you can see what’s what:

One thing the game does that works well is streamlining the story so you meet up with your party members with no aimless wandering about. Your party’s hit points are accumulated into a shared pool with numbers based on equipped gear. Each of the four characters will learn and an use three powerful Skills (the game has no magic points), all with different cooldown times and a few that can only be activated under certain conditions (e.g., after guarding for one turn or after taking certain amounts of damage). Granted, the game is easy enough that you can beat it without any major strategy whatsoever.  That said, it’s just nice to have the option to play with each character’s skills, especially the one that lets you steal items from enemies (which can net you some nifty gear and free healing herbs) or the one that puts most enemies to sleep for a brief period.

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Especially once you start using those Stars to power level, Bram.

While exploring the short maps, you’ll gain Stars needed to unlock doors and chests, but you’ll also earn them by playing the game for a certain period of time without taking a break. Those stars are also used to pull off powerful attacks and double experience gained after battles, so you can pretty much become too overpowered by the game’s final chapter if you like. Of course, NOT using any aids makes the game a bit more challenging. so feel free to experiment. The pixel art here is great overall, particularly the big, colorful monsters and bosses you’ll meet and beat. Sure, the assorted human foes have no facial features, but most of the more mystical beasties do and they’re all excellently rendered. The music is suitably 8-bit sounding bliss that feels just right, but don’t expect a wealth of tunes given the brevity of the experience.

The funniest thing about playing this was I was able to compete it once while waiting for a few downloads to complete (some larger games on PSN and a Windows 10 updates that had me offline for about 4-5 hours). Hit-Point has a few decent ideas here that I think need to be applied to a larger project at some point down the road, but for what it is, this isn’t a bad way to spend a few hours if you’ve got a Switch, five bucks to spend and don’t mind some hand holding in handheld or docked mode. While I won’t call this an “essential” game at all, it’s cheap enough and so user friendly that it feels as if it’s trying too hard to please. But that’s somewhat of a relief in this era of games where you’re forced into that “die, rinse and repeat until you don’t die” loop that can be frustrating for a select few.

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He may be a big scary cartoon jerk, but you can beat the devil out of this devil with relative ease.

Score: C (70%)

-GW

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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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Review: Rise of Insanity (PS4)

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Oh, there’s a whole lot of wrong here and nope, Better Homes and Gardens isn’t making that phone call foe a feature, that’s for sure.

ROI_boxDespite an ending you can see coming a mile away and an English translation riddled with typos, Red Limb Studio has cooked up a pretty decent scare game with Rise of Insanity ($12.99). While it borrows heavily from a few sources (notably, Kubrick’s version of The Shining, bits of The Exorcist and Silent Hill), it’s got a few good unsettling moments and an overall creepy vibe that works well. That said, the game’s short play time works both for and against it in that you want to see and do more when things work, where on the other hand, horror game veterans who’ve seen it all may find the experience underwhelming if they go in with overly lofty expectations or expect some sort of “survival horror” experience with zombies, weapons and a huge body count.

Nope, this one’s another first-person “gather items and clues, read diary entries and such” deal (I despise the denigrating term “walking simulator”, by the way) where puzzles are fairly easy, the scary bits do exactly what they need to (provided you’re not too jaded) and unless you apply too much real-world logic to the experience, ends up being enjoyable at the end of the day. Well, “enjoyable” is a sort of suspect word for a game where your character can die from a few of the more frightening encounters, but I think you know what I mean.

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Someone forgot to bring a dime to have their fortune told, it seems…

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Review: Professor Lupo and his Horrible Pets (Switch)

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Yeah, and here’s Rule #1: NEVER take a job as an intern for a scientist collecting cute and deadly as hell animals to sell to the highest bidder.

lupo switchBefore you fire up BeautiFun’s challenging and amusingly droll puzzle/adventure Professor Lupo and his Horrible Pets ($14.99), do yourself a big favor and let the game run a few minutes on the title screen without touching any buttons. Why? Well, you’ll get a really cool bit of fun narrative text that adds to the game’s plot, a really nice touch you’ll miss out on if you just start the game when prompted.That text actually changes when you go to continue a game, so make sure to see those bits as well when you pop back in after quitting for the day. This is the sort of thing I really like where you see that little bit of extra care that goes into some games which makes them overall a lot more enjoyable.

That same care went into the control options although in my opinion, using the Switch’s touch screen is going to be the best way to play this, followed by a Pro Controller or similar wireless or wired pad. Using the Joy-Cons (particularly ones that aren’t exactly new) is a bit of tricky business what with their tendency to sometimes drift up or down sporadically, which will mean certain death in a game where precision is key to survival. That’s not BeautiFun’s fault at all, mind you  they just had to cater to every possible control scheme and for the most part, it works. I ended up switching between touchscreen and my Ematic controllers and he touchscreen, settling for the tap and move option because it made for less dying overall.

So does the story here, by the way. That Professor Lupo is holding an illegal auction aboard his space station where a number of deadly aliens are up for bid for potential use as biological weapons when the ship is attacked by a justice-minded organization who want to shut him down but good. Unfortunately, your character, simply named “Intern” gets caught up in the chaos and yep, needs to escape over 100 levels of increasing difficulty courtesy of some very excellently designed puzzles. There’s actually a lot of plot under the hood here and it’s in interesting journey our too-generically named hero takes, to say the least. Most assuredly, that Intern will expire quite a lot (in a splash of G-rated green goo) as you seek to survive and discover a few truths. Interestingly enough, with a few tweaks to the plot (and  a bit of M-rated gore), this could be a ALIEN game or that Jurassic Park sequel I only caught part of on cable where deadly dinos were up for bid and things went south once those creatures were set free.

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“It followed me home, can I keep it?” Well, NO. It’ll eat your face off as soon as you go to sleep, pal.

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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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Blow Up Your Monday With A Rolling Gunner Switch Code (US eShop)

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How’s your Monday going? It might get better by Tuesday, if you’re lucky.

Thanks to the fine folks at mebius. and Mastiff Games, I have *ONE* (1) code here for their spectacular arcade shooter Rolling Gunner for the US Switch. It’s a great game, by the way.

Now, while a few of you out there are very likely to want to do something kooky to get it, you actually don’t have to. Put down that fish bowl, duct tape, and roll of heavy duty aluminum foil you were going to use to craft that makeshift space pilot uniform and just reply to this post in the comments below. One entry per person, of course. No need for lengthy or creative responses and nope, don’t go posting your email address (I’ll know how to find you, fear not.)

I’m picking the winner RANDOMLY from the entries received by 1pm on Tuesday, so don’t dally. Yeah, it’s an old school giveaway just to let non-twitter users have a shot, but this post will auto-load to my twitter account anyway, so yep, readers there can try for a win if they read this post.

Anyway, good luck!

Oh, here’s some fine print below if you need to read how this works:

Open to residents of North America with an active Nintendo eShop account. Void where prohibited. Contest ends 7/2/2019 at 12:59 pm EST. There is no entry fee, subscription requirement or purchase necessary to enter. Winner will be chosen at random. Winner will receive ONE code via email. Requests for multiple codes via multiple accounts are grounds for disqualification. By submitting a comment below, you are granting Destroy All Fanboys! permission to contact you via email. The winner will be notified by email within 3 days (or less, most likely). If the winner cannot be contacted/does not claim the prize within seven (7) days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize and choose a replacement winner.

-GW

 

Random Film of the Week: Waterworld

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Uh, hey pal… you’re not gonna DRINK that, are you?

WATERWORLD ArrowMovie memory #1764 (or so): sitting in a packed theater back in 1995 watching the opening sequence to Waterworld as Kevin Costner’s Mariner character urinates into a plastic container, then pours that pee into a dicey-looking filtration system and drinks the results. You’d best believe the bulk of the audience let out a collective “EWWWWWW!” and yes, there was one guy sitting somewhere in the back of the darkened theater who yelled out something about how ice cubes would have made that recycled beverage go down better.

“EWWWWWW!”

Flash forward to me watching the three (!!!) versions of the film in Arrow Video’s packed to the gills (heh) with bonus features triple-disc set and I kind of want one of those funky filter devices just so I don’t need to take breaks when I’m going through my film backlog. For all its expensive sets, Costner’s dedicated performance, some amazing stunt work and a completely and perfectly bonkers performance by Dennis Hopper as its main villain, the film is still flawed in that, “Where’s the beef?” manner when it comes to a few key plot elements. Granted, its ecology past peril theme is a bit more relevant it today’s climate (and yes, that’s a double pun, kids). But there’s no real “science” here if you’re looking for it. Hell,  if the Earth does lose its major land masses underwater as shown here, an overblown big-budget sci-fi action flick isn’t exactly where we’re headed in that watery future, glub, glub.

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Review: Rolling Gunner (Switch)

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RGboxHoly hell, mebius.’ Rolling Gunner ($19.99, buy it!) is completely NUTS, but in the best possible manner. Its very high level of accessibility and four difficulty modes mean you don’t even need to love or be somewhat decent at arcade shooters in order to get the most enjoyment from it.

In fact, the game is programmed to teach you how to play and as a friend who popped by to borrow some movies who also ended watching me play noted, “It’s really hypnotic to watch all that craziness!”, which had me cracking up as I completed the game (on Novice mode with a somewhat low 17,419,459 points) and restarted it as I handed him a controller and let him have a crack at the Training mode. Let’s just say he rather liked the chaos even that short stages offered, but he doesn’t yet own a Switch. Which is okay for now (his kid wants one for his birthday coming up in July, though, so I’m compiling a list of games for his dad).

Anyway, there’s a story here about a big corporation discovering a new element at the bottom of the sea, that element used to create a few initially helpful items and as usual, those items being used for some not so helpful things. Yadda, yadda, yadda, it’s now March 18, 2061 and you’re tasked with rolling out in one of three trusty STORK class warships to destroy the enemy fortress and a few thousand enemy ships, tanks and other robotic doom-throwers along the way. The game of course, notes the following in its helpful digital manual: “This story is fictional. The people, groups, and names that appear are fictional, and have no basis in reality.”

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Review: Riverbond (PS4)

Riverbond boxIn this era of big deal brutal difficulty in games where progress is sometimes measured in thrown controllers, assorted creative swearing and online rage posts (among other negative things) Canadian developer Cocucumber’s simpler, pure fun to play Riverbond ($24.99) is a rare bird indeed. In solo mode, it’s barely mildly tough at times, but the average player should have little trouble getting through its eight nicely-sized maps without blowing a fuse. In co-op, up to four players can have at it in front of the TV and have a total blast beating up enemies and bosses while packed together on the couch or sitting more comfortably on some other furniture. There’s no online mode here, so the game’s old school feel demands you play old school as well.

Which, by the way is a great thing especially if you’re into family friendly entertainment and love super-colorful voxel graphics with a bit of environmental destruction tossed into the mix. Oh, and lots of character skins including eight from a few very cool mostly indie-made games. For all the bloodless hacking, slashing and shooting going on, the game just exudes a completely… nice vibe that’s too charming to pass up. I think there’s also a polite Canadian thing going on (well, all of the Canadians I know are pretty polite), but whatever it is, I do like it quite a lot.

Here’s the tutorial, by the way:

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Review: Golem Gates (PS4)

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Riffing with Glyph-ing: choose your cards wisely, or else suffer the fate of the unprepared.

GG_PS4Laser Guided games mostly excellent Golem Gates ($24.99) made me wish attract screens were still a thing in modern games. While it’s a solid and enjoyable take on the Real-Time Strategy (RTS), card collection and MOBA genres and translates well enough from its keyboard and mouse-centric PC origins to a game controller, it’s also the sort of game where a rolling demonstration mode would just be a cool thing to have happen when the game is booted up if only to get a few more people on the fence about it wanting to give it a shot.  If you’re super-old school and need a sort of reference point, imagine Herzog Zwei, StarCraft and DoTA having a baby and getting it onto PC and now, consoles and you’ve got an idea od what to expect.

Granted, if you’re buying this game for yourself, you know exactly what you’re getting into and likely don’t need any persuasion. Conversely, if a friend drops over and is itching to know what the big deal is, you’ll just have to have them plop down on the couch or wherever and play as they watch, or pick up a controller and join the fun if they’re more than a little curious. Thankfully, other than the rather dry main screen that greets you along with Dalvan King’s stellar music, the gameplay hooks you right in if you’re a fan of this sort of play. Kicking off with a tutorial that explains the basics, your Harbinger uses cards (called Glyphs here) to summon up a small variety of troops and useful goodies to assist in dealing with assorted enemies as you attempt to take out the enemy Harbinger. In Campaign mode, that list of Glyphs gets larger as do the enemy types that need crushing, and yes, decks can be created and customized to your liking as new Glyphs appear.

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