Review: Mary Skelter: Nightmares

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MSN_bg_pcIdea Factory/Compile Heart games can be hit or miss affairs, but their latest, Mary Skelter: Nightmares is (for my money) one of their best games (and best dungeon crawlers) to date thanks to taking chances with a few tried and true formulas and smacking most them right in their sweet spots. It’s got the turn-based dungeon crawl aspects of the Wizardry series mixed in with real-time chase/combat scenarios, excellent production values and yep, a bit of M-rated fan service lightly sprinkled on top for good measure.

While parts of the plot can be somewhat pedestrian in their usage of familiar anime/manga tropes, things take a few interesting turns as the game goes on. The use of well-known mostly female characters from popular fairy tales works quite well provided your brain properly detaches them from any imagery you might recall (or: you need to re-imagine everyone as anime gals). Of course, the gameplay is where it’s at and what’s here will keep you hooked in to the very end (and then some).  If you’re a fan of the aforementioned Wizardry, Etrian Odyssey, Demon Gaze, and Dungeon Travelers 2 among other dungeon crawlers, this one’s a drop everything and go kiss your Vita if you own one event.

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Project CARS 2 Launch Trailer: Beep Beep Yeah

 

PC2_key-artWait, Project CARS 2 is out already? I still haven’t completed the first game! I guess I really need to pay more attention to this stuff, huh? Actually, I was very likely storing up a stack of free time for .hack//G.U. Last Recode and a few other games coming from Namco Bandai, so this great-looking sequel temporarily slipped my mind. Okay,  the ongoing medical stuff had something to to with my slower than usual posting, but it’s getting a lot better, folks.

Loads of improvements (those weather effects now include snow!), 180 cars (and more to come, I’ll bet), and yes, those lovely visuals all add up to what’s looking like a must-have sequel. I guess retiring that first version for this followup is the sensible thing to do at this point. Me doing something sensible? Well, that’s a welcome change of pace, right?

 

-GW

Raiders of the Broken Planet Beta Hands-On

season1_big-2I’ll admit straight off that I’ve been a big geek for MercurySteam‘s games ever since I got a review copy of American McGee Presents: Scrapland way back in 2005. Their attention for detail grabbed my eye and I’ve followed each game they’re released always looking forwards to what the team can cook up. Currently, they’ve two big games out or on the way, Metroid: Samus Returns (Nintendo 3DS) and Raiders of the Broken Planet, currently in beta on PC, PS4 and Xbox One with a release date set for its first of  four campaigns September 22.

As I’d been slowly killing off my MMO/online gaming phase (not enough time, too many me-too game, no way to enjoy them offline), I initially planned to ignore this one until I found out it had a solo campaign mode as well as a unique “4 vs 1 counter-operative campaign” that lets you play both sides of the conflict if you so choose or team up with friends to tackle some challenging missions against really pesky AI opponents. While the beta had a few matchmaking issues online (hey, it happens!), the gameplay is quite fun and very challenging in terms of solo play.

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Review: Infinite Minigolf (PS4)

IMG_art.jpegAn apt title if there ever was one, Infinite Minigolf ($14.99 on PSN) is yet another successful attempt by Zen Studios to monopolize all your free time. While it’s short on included courses (three variants with scaled difficulty with two more on the way), a fairly easy to use course editor will hook you in and extend the lifespan somewhat, um, infinitely. The pick up and play appeal is high right out of the gate so casual to expert players can hop in and start putting away within a short amount of time.

In fact, the game relies so much on players just diving in that it eschews any sort of tutorials or tips popping up in your face every few seconds. Of course, I’m not sure many gamers groove on announcers blabbing away while they’re trying to sink a 30-yard putt around a spinning radio control 4×4. But this game is almost too calming with the super-clean HD art, relaxing mall muzak score and cheery-looking generic characters. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. This is exactly the sort of game to relax with after a crazy day (or after watching the evening news, ha-ha).

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Review: MAIZE (PS4)

Maize_PS4As a big fan of offbeat games and bizarre humor, Finish Line Games’ first-person 2016 adventure MAIZE was one of those instant must-play titles based on the concept alone. Well okay, I didn’t get to it until it hit PS4 this past week, but it was worth the wait. Sentient (mostly) British-accented corn created by a pair of not right in the head scientists, a cranky Russian-accented talking teddy bear and a silent protagonist out to figure out what’s going on? What’s not to love?

Of course, if you’re going into this game expecting something action-heavy with bouncy platforming and happy tunes to hum along to as you’re bouncing, you’re in the wrong game and should leave immediately before Vladdy finds out. He’ll just call you mean names and not let up until you split. That, and all the corn will ignore you and run off for a nap while you sit there looking for a “Jump” button. Everyone else, listen to Miss Davis below as you line up, single file for what’s to come:

(Thanks, SentimentalSentient!)

That, by the way is both good (the game is a hoot) and not good (some technical issues), but we’ll discuss that below. Huddle!

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Review: ARK: Survival Evolved (PS4)

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ARK_artAt the climax of Billy Wilder’s brilliant 1950 film Sunset Boulevard, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) pumps three slugs into Joe Gillis (William Holden), leaving his body floating in her swimming pool and shortly thereafter gives us a classic line of dialog as well as one of the best endings in movie history.

ARK: Survival Evolved is, in its own quirky manner, a digital Norma Desmond all made up and ready for her close-up and you’ll be playing the part of poor Joe Gillis, but in a remake of Groundhog Day with a hell of a lot more dinosaurs and without the romance angle. Translation: expect to die in this game. A lot. That out of the way, the sheer amount of things to do here makes it somewhat fantastic if you put aside a few nagging “warts and all” issues.  Then again, hell, it’s basically like dumping all the best toys you ever had as a kid onto the floor and making the biggest, craziest “epic” playset you can think of. Except the toys bite back harder and might make you want to bite your controller in half on occasion.

 

 

Based on that last bit alone, Studio Wildcard‘s game is worth the $60 with a few caveats. On the technical side, expect performance highs (great looking creatures and often gorgeous environments) and lows (frame rate dips, assorted glitches, too tiny font text) along with plenty of patch updates (five since release day). Unlike poor Joe Gillis, the game is also bullet-proof (and unlike Norma Desmond’s career, critic-proof) thanks to a very dedicated legion of longtime players since it first appeared on PC as an Early Access game back in 2015 who don’t give a hoot what anyone says. The overall kitchen sink sandbox approach works quite well on one hand as the game is never shy about giving you a ton of choice in most areas. But yes, it’s a case where patience and even more practice is required in order to fully enjoy all the rides in this Jurassic Park meets Minecraft meets sci-fi/action survival hybrid.

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Review: Defenders of Ekron (PS4)

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Like your games of the semi-arcade space shooter variety with assorted adventure elements mixed in to shake things up? Want something that’s pretty cool but tough to play for a nice price? Well, step right up and snag a copy of Defenders of Ekron, currently available on PS4 and PC.

If you’re one of those gamers who won’t keep silent about some games being “too casual” these days, get ready for one that’s ready to get you jumping up and down on your controller if you’re that type of person. Well, PS4 controllers aren’t cheap, so maybe get one of these and keep it handy. Granted, the challenge is a welcome one overall if you’re willing to jump in and explore.

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Mixing single player twin stick “bullet hell” shooting with a top-down view, gear upgrades and a few different styles of play is what keeps the game fresh. Chilean developer In Vitro Games has cooked up a pretty cool sleeper that’s well worth the price point.  Somewhat like DOGOS and to some extent, the top-down levels in Thunder Force II, the ability to explore areas at will makes for a nice change of pace. Add in puzzle-themed missions, some great boss battles and a ton of other surprises and you get a game that’s pretty deep overall.

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No Man’s Sky Atlas Rises Update: That Final Frontier Just Got A Whole Lot Bigger


 

 
I’m one of those folks who totally ignored all the negativity spewed towards Hello Games and No Man’s Sky because I knew something so huge would require at least a year’s worth of patches and content updates. Although I finally broke down and bought a discounted new/sealed copy and installed it a while back, I really didn’t get to play more than about 4 hours before I got really sick and ended up in the hospital for a month back from mid-May to mid-June. Well, it looks as if I’ll need to dive back into outer space soon as the latest update, Atlas Rises, adds a wealth on new content and changes to the game, making it an even better product in the process. PSN users can grab the base game at 60% off ($23.99!) and the update should auto-download once you’re all paid up.

30 hours of new story content brings a new context, quest system and branching narrative to the game, there are mysterious portals to discover that allow interstellar travel, the trading, crafting and other elements have been improved and even space combat has been overhauled to be more challenging. There’s a lot going on here and while I’m dying to try it all out soon, I’m not even picking up that PS4 controller until I knock out a few items from my burgeoning backlog. Yeah, I know me, kids – once I get onto something this huge, I tend to park myself and go in for the long haul. I’m gathering the usual suspects will still be spouting bile about the game’s initial launch woes, but here’s a case where redemption of an evergreen is something worth cheering.

-GW
 

 

 

 

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II PSN-Bound

 
Okay, it’s August 15 for you folks in the USA, but the game has dropped into the European PS Store already. As this PlayStation Blog post points out, a bunch of improvements and changes have been made over the PS original.

The Playstation 4 version of the game comes with a lot of new gameplay features, unique trophies, full DualShock 4 controller support and a completely reworked scenario mode and Tower Defense mini game. On PlayStation 4 Pro players are able to choose from three different settings: Better Performance (1920 x 1080 aiming @ 60fps), Balanced (2880 x 1620 aiming @ 50fps) and Better Quality (native 4K aiming @ 30fps).

– all of which sounds fine to me. Players of the first installment can (and should!) import their save file in order to take a more powerful Van Helsing into the second game, as the first big battle is indeed a tough one if you jump in under-prepared.

Even better, the game is only $14.99, making it a must for action ARPG fans looking for a budget-priced game that promises plenty of action for a fair price point.

-GW

Review: AereA (PS4)


 
 

While it’s not as great as it should have been out of the gate, there’s still time to fix this sleeper up with a decent patch and make it an even better product.

Developer Triangle Studios’ AereA makes for an interesting blend of familiar elements that gamers willing to overlook its flaws should enjoy. Indie publisher Soedesco has released this as a marquee mid-priced ($39.99) retail and digital game and it’s clear they’re wanting it to be a sleeper hit for casual to veteran ARPG fans. Colorful visuals, fast-paced gameplay and a superb score (by Deon van Heerden) are all strong points. Unfortunately, game balance issues, a poor English localization, and the lack of any post-game content hurt the overall experience.

A sort of love child of Diablo, Wild Tangent’s Fate series and Runic’s original Torchlight, the Unity-powered visuals and emphasis on action are initially impressive. Additionally, the ability to play couch co-op with up to three other players is a nice touch (no online play is supported). However, the very straightforward story progression, a total lack of personality in its four mute heroes, and some technical/UI problems made me grimace more than grin through my 22+ hours with the game.

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