Super Capsule Reviews Are GO! (Part 1)

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“Do not adjust your television set…”

Well, between getting sick a few times and kicking myself back into gear (or restarting things when I get better – “Prowler needs a jump!”), quite a lot of smaller games have been filling my backlog over a bit of time. For most of these, I’ve done notes on them and have even a few incomplete drafts, but it’s been a bit of minor hell in sitting down to complete some of them when one gets into “Hmmm, so what’s going to hurt today?” mode when some of the usual aches get a bit fussier. That said, as I’m currently in decent shape  (Whee! Ow.) and sure, you do need to read a bit more on my writing (I guess?), I’ve resorted to a bunch of short form reviews on a bunch of budget-priced games that may interest you if you’re curious and want to expand your horizons.

the tower of beatriceThe Tower of Beatrice: (PS4/PS Vita, $5.99 each) Puzzle-filled point and click adventure, anyone? Developer Fairy Forest and publisher/port house Sometimes You have a pretty basic, short game here where if you’re a fan of these types of games,  you don’t want to look up solutions because the fun comes from figuring out what goes with what as the things you need to do get more obtuse. You play a thief in search of a magic book now trapped in the titular tower by a witch who first tests you, then wants you to work for her. The potion making stuff is nice, but a bit underused for my tastes. Still, it’s nice to see used here in a pretty well-done manner.

If you’re and point and click veteran, much of this will be routine stuff that you can play with one eye closed. On the other hand, if you’re just in it for fast trophies (a lot of folks seem to be into that), the game may fluster you into cheating to net everything in a hurry when things get the tiniest bit confusing (some puzzles in the game can be a bit perplexing when they’re not explained well and are counter-intuitive on purpose). The translation is also a bit jarring, as seems to be the norm with so many imports these days, but I liked a few things about this one. Still, it’s more of a time killer between better titles at the end of the day.

Score: C- (70%)

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Review: Lost Ember (PS4)

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Might as well jump…

Lost EmberFor the record, I’m a Kickstarter backer of this game, but to be perfectly honest, I never review any game and give it an automatic positive score whether I get code for free, buy a game outright, or write it up based on a (very tiny, in this case) pledge or reward as if it would make the game “better” if it turned out not to be. That’s a weird way some look at crowdfunding games (or any funded product, for that matter), especially when there’s NO guarantee the project will be fully funded or even produced. Besides, as it says on its site, Kickstarter is not a store. That said, I found that briefly chatting with someone at developer Mooneye before and I think after I pledged some years back sold me on the game’s concept and freed a loose buck from my wallet. Funded or not, I felt that what they were working on was a nifty idea.

With that said, reviewing Lost Ember on PS4 ($29.99), turned into a fun exercise for the brain as the game is mostly flawless in execution, but is in need of a few technical fixes I found that hamper the experience (a patch is in order to clean up a few things). It’s certainly quite lovely to look at once you get out of the intentionally dull-ish (but very nicely lit) cave the game starts out in. Then it takes cues from a few open-world titles where stepping outside shows off the game world to be a wide, wondrous place worth fully exploring. “Where do I go now?” will be the question many have (I’d skip any walkthroughs posted this early in the game’s release, frankly). But the game points you in the right directions by making where you need to go a map’s focal point, and then leaving it up to you to choose how to get there.

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Death Stranding Launch Trailer: Turn, And Face The Strange

I’ve been wisely avoiding any news and potential spoilers on Kojima Productions new game because I want to go in as cold as possible. So right now, I’m about frozen solid in terms of what I know about the plot and characters. I’ve seen a few trailers over the years while it was in development, but true to form, they were intentionally vague or showed off some impressive tech and packed in the weirdness that was hard to decipher if one decided to go down that rabbit hole. I chose not to, as speculation is the worst thing one could do with what was looking like a strange enough title that was innovating on a few fronts.

For me, Hideo Kojima’s games since the Metal Gear Solid era have been essential because even with trailers, you’re not getting the full story because there’s going to be a ton of context not seen until the full game is experienced. That and the sole time I broke with this tradition of mine was with P.T./Silent Hills, a game that was killed by its publisher and fantastically frightening demo unceremoniously removed from PSN after a nasty breakup that saw Kojima form a standalone studio. That was one game that very likely could have turned that series around, but we’ll never find out. I’d let myself be seduced by the idea of new Silent Hill game with a talented team at the reins (Guillermo del Toro amd Norman Reedus were part of the project), and it was a shock to find out later that the game was canned and its creation halted.

Anyway, Death Stranding arrives a week from now on the PS4, and next summer on PC. I’ll be getting the PS4 version because hell, it arrives first and I hate spending money on any potential PC upgrades that might be needed to run this on my aging laptop.

-GW

Lost Ember Gets a November Release Date

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“All the animals come out at night…” Well, to be fair, in this game they’re out anytime they want to be.

Hamburg-based Mooneye Studios absolutely gorgeous looking game, Lost Ember, now has an official release date (November 22, 2019 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One), a nice new trailer and more lovely art to look at. I’ll just shot up here and let those images and trailer do all the talking:

Some images for you? Okay, then:

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There’s a load of other images to run, but I stopped with these because I was taking too much time poring over the rest. I’ll get the rest up closer to the games release. Oh, a Switch version is in the works, so we’ll see how that turns out at some point.

-GW

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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Review: Injection π23 ‘No name, no number’ (PS4)

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Kid: “Hey, mom What’s for lunch!” Mom: “Why, the corridors of the MIND, child…”

Injection PS4While it’s technically imperfect and a bit unpolished, Abramelin Games has a pretty frightening survival horror game for PS4 owners in Injection π23 ‘No name, no number’ ($9.99). That ten bucks gets you a pure passion project (made over the course of five years) in the form of a multimedia game experience featuring puzzles guaranteed to test your brain cells, unsettling monsters to avoid or fight (in that order) and plenty of horrific nightmare fuel imagery. It’s noted before you start to to wear headphones and play in the dark, but I opted out of the headphone use part after trying this for the first hour and needing to remove them because I was kind of freaking out a wee bit too much (the sound design is pretty damn intense).

You play as a rather troubled man living alone with his dog in Villanueva de Tapia (a village in Málaga, Spain). When his pet runs off, he’s seemingly struck by a truck while giving chase and regains consciousness only to find himself in a twisted variation of the village and yes, still needing to find that dog. In pure survival horror fashion, you get disturbing visuals, locked doors that require opening in one way or another, and as noted, the aforementioned monsters. You’ll also discover a mystery about missing townspeople, murders and torture rituals with a religious angle and more depravity. The mix of Unity engine assets, enhanced live action video clips and appropriately timed jump scares keep things tense throughout where when things do quiet down, there’s still the sense that something’s going to happen. Let’s just say Villanueva de Tapia’s tourism numbers will either rise or decline after this game gets more notice, although my take is it’ll increase if horror fans are curious enough to see how scary a spot it is in real life.

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A little walk in the woods to clear the head isn’t going to help much when you’re too scared to take another step.

Exploration will be the first key to your survival, as the game places all sorts of clues to what needs to be done but doesn’t highlight where you need to search. One of the great things the game does right off the bat is allow for four camera angles to choose from on the fly, similar to Riverhill Soft’s Doctor Hauzer and OverBlood games. This freedom lets you explore how you want from classic Resident Evil style, two different third-person mode and first-person, although you can expect that first-person mode to deliver those creep-tastically ugly monsters in your face as they try to eat your face off. Plan accordingly, but expect to do a bit of jumping in fear on occasion when you’re surprised.

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Earth Defense Force 5 on Steam: Big Bugs You’ll Actually Want to Play With

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Get this game, please. Or: Go bug or go home.

BOOM. A guaranteed blast of a game if there ever was one, Earth Defense Force 5 finally lands on PC with a 20% launch discount ($47.99) and if you’re looking for a game that’s going to elbow itself into your every waking hour, this is one of those ridiculous and necessary time killers you’ll ever play. Four character classes, hundreds of weapons for each class, 110 levels and I haven’t even mentioned the co-op and online play that adds way too many hours to the overall experience. Check out my review of the PS4 version, then close your eyes and imagine an even speedier game with an extra layer of visual polish. Or just open your eyes and peek at this short teaser trailer:

Some nifty screens below, if you want total overkill, plus tax.

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-GW

Another Sight: Kit and Cat in Victoria-Land

As we’re a wee bit swamped today, I’ll go with the official line on this rather interesting looking PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch game from developer Lunar Great Wall Studios and publisher Toplitz before a review code arrives:

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ANOTHER SIGHT is a surreal fantasy adventure with steampunk elements set in London in 1899, towards the end of the Victorian era. With an emphasis on culture and character, ANOTHER SIGHT focuses on the emotional development of the relationship between its two protagonists, Kit, a refreshingly intrepid teenager, and Hodge – a mysterious red-furred cat. They meet in the darkness of a London Underground construction site after Kit loses her sight when the tunnel, she had been exploring collapses.

They team up for an adventure into the unexpected, with Hodge proving himself to be an indispensable companion, upon whom Kit will come to rely. Kit and Hodge explore a surreal fantasy world, both together and separately, each using unique talents to make their way through compelling environments and to solve intriguing puzzles. Beneath London, in a world inspired by Neil Gaiman’s urban fantasy, Neverwhere, Kit and Hodge encounter a hidden society made up of the world’s greatest inventors and finest artistic minds, including Claude Monet, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison and other historical, cultural icons.

Did you want screenshots with that? Well, here are a whopping 45 to peruse:

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It sure looks as if a great deal of work went into this one, so here’s hoping it’s a memorable game experience. I’ll be back in a bit to let you know, of course.

Oh, before you get all “Hey, where’s the Xbox One package?” – there wasn’t an image in the press kit I got (so there!).

-GW

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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Death Stranding Trailer: Lurking With Appreciation

So yeah, I’m not at all obsessing over Hideo Kojima’s new game project at all. Not because I’m not excited about Death Stranding (because I am). But it’s a very quiet excitement from me because I knew from the announcement a few years ago that this was going to something truly special from a few angles. From the stunning visuals to wherever the story will lead, as Kojima’s narratives tend to be entertainingly bizarre but purposefully so (past the offbeat touches some players will focus solely on). Nope, I’m just quietly avoiding news and speculation on everything so I can go in cold and play at my own pace, savoring every moment without relying on the internet to ruin my enjoyment.

Hell, I didn’t even watch that trailer above until I decided to run this post and even then, I just smiled that certain way I tend to when I see a project like this creeping towards its release date with that certain assurance that comes from a creative team that’s in sync on a project they have full control over. I can’t wait to play this, but ssssh… don’t tell Mr. Kojima I sad this. Shhhh!

-GW