Review: Gear.Club Unlimited 2

Yeah, yeah. I’m not a big Mario Kart fan these days. So sue me. Granted, I do like the series a lot and yes, it’s fun as heck and all that. But when it comes to racing games or in this case, pure driving games, I tend to prefer a bit more realism these days or at least something that works as a hybrid of simulation and casual play where you can dip in and enjoy a game that has actual cars to mess around with. On my other consoles, it’s been a wealth of choices for quite some time and I’m more than pleased with the selection I have. On the other hand, we have Nintendo’s last two home consoles (Wii U and Switch) that up until late last year, had a grand total of three GOOD titles that featured licensed cars, one on the Wii U from 2013 and two which came out in 2017 and 2018. That’s just plain nuts.

 

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That versatile Unity engine sure does a car body good in this game.

gcu2_boxartAlthough both have a few issues that keep them from being as great as they should be, I’ll still recommend Microïds and developer Eden Games Gear.Club Unlimited ($44.99) and Gear.Club Unlimited 2 ($59.99) because warts and all, they contain a decent amount of actual licensed cars and are quite lengthy racing experiences when all is said and done. Yes, the load times are somewhat long (grrr!) and the handling can be squirrelly (and more so in the sequel even with the patches). But there’s a certain cool factor when you take a an actual licensed domestic or foreign car out for a test run from the dealership or can afford to add it to your digital garage and full-on race it whenever you feel that need for speed.

Speaking of garages, should there be a third game in this series, Eden should trim and simplify the garage function in order to give players a speedier means of car management between events. Keep the paint and sticker customization, but relegate everything else to a slick menu that’s faster to navigate. Also, adding the ability to drive freely on any unlocked course as a means of learning the handling model would be an excellent addition (as well as bringing back fond memories of the best parts of Eden’s Test Drive Unlimited games from the late 2000’s).

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OUTWARD: Here Comes The Harder Working Hero Type

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Nice hat you have there, friend. Er, just don’t go and lose your head in that coming battle.

While it’s not set for a release until March 26, 2019 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, developer Nine Dots Studio and publisher Deep Silver are getting the word out that OUTWARD is going to be quite a special RPG worth playing multiple times. As you’ll see from that trailer right below, the game aims to combine fantasy elements, survival simulation and what looks to be a fairly challenging game world full of many things that want your chosen character pushing up daisies at every opportunity.

 

 

Your character is going to be a standard non-hero type who needs to make their way through the game’s unforgiving sandbox world that continually auto-saves progress (meaning you can’t sneakily replay an old save file when you get waylaid by some big bad whatever). Here’s a very brief rundown on what to expect in the final product:

Key Features

Survive in the wilds as you explore a vast and harsh land
Play solo or cooperatively, split-screen locally or online
Ritualistic, step-by-step approach to spellcasting
Constant auto-saving means you must live with your decisions
Encounter dynamic defeat scenarios
A unique experience with every playthrough

The game will also ship with two-player split-screen or online modes so you can share the pain with a pal on the couch or at a distance. SO far, so good, I say. Of course, the proof will be in that tasty-looking pudding (or: the game does look really nice from what I’ve seen).

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Now that I think about it, March is kind of right around the corner, so getting the good word out now will be a huge key to this game’s success. My fingers are crossed for some hands-on time with this one, as if everything it attempts can be pulled off, genre fans will have a whole new obsession that’s got what could be endless replay value when all is said and done.

-GW

Review: Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (Nintendo Switch)

superbrothers switchSuperbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP ($9.99) is pure brilliance in every area, but the game wisely notes in its end credits it’s probably not going to be for every taste. Still, if you’re wanting a nicely droll, somewhat cerebral, amusing and completely hip masterpiece, you’ll just love what’s here. For example: Right after its opening section (which takes between 15 to 30 minutes to complete), a cigarette (or is that a cigar?) smoking character called The Archtype appears and tells you to return later after taking a break as a pair of curtains close and you’re sent back to the title screen. I actually didn’t go back to the game at that point. Instead, I put my Switch back into its dock, turned it off and went to make lunch. When I came back about an hour later, I felt as if that break was indeed justified because the game did such a clever job of getting me hooked in enough that I followed that silly instruction.

That silly instruction turned out to be a lot less so when later on, the game asks you to come back to it when the in-game moon phase is at the right spot to activate a certain task. Again, brilliant. The game is an adventure/puzzle hybrid that pays homage to The Legend of Zelda, a bit of Robert E. Howard, Carl Jung and a bunch of neat other things you may or may not see on the surface. Not to sound overly pompous or anything, but here’s a game that cleverly nods and winks at those who get it, but is totally playable by just about anyone who can use a Switch and is a bit curious about what’s in store for them.

 

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Valfaris Demo: Merry, Merry, Quite Contra-ry (Slight Return)

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You’re going to want this, trust me.

Well, wow. Valfaris has a demo up on Steam as we speak (but only until December 31st) and hell yes, it needs to be played, especially if you love pixel art and animation wizardry, ear blazing metal soundtracks and so far, very tight ganeplay for a demo build. That video below shows off a bit more of the game, but as you’ll hear, things may change between now and the launch window. As with the meaty, mighty, and metal-ly Slain, what’s here is visually and aurally spectacular and will only get better as development continues.

 

(Thanks, Digital Uppercut Productions!)

 

Uh, that’s all I have to say, as I’ve paused the demo only to bang this post out and will now go back to that demo and rock some more. Keep an eye peeled for Valfaris on Steam and consoles sometime in 2019.

-GW

 

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Okay, we DO need another hero, after all.

SEGA AGES Phantasy Star: Pretty Much, Perfection

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And quite well, in this case (Ha and ha-ha).

As soon as I heard that Phantasy Star was making a return as a digital exclusive on the Nintendo eShop, there went that not needing to ask for a review code stuff. Yeah, I  immediately bought it outright (it’s a mere $7.99) because back on the Sega Master System, it was the first JRPG I played and it’s been a game I’ve gone back to a few times, the last being om the Game Boy Advance where we got three of the first four games squeezed onto a single cart (to mixed results). Yes, I still have that one in the library, but I’m not even going to bother comparing it to what’s here (just yet) because once you fall down the Phantasy Star rabbit hole (Rappy hole?), you’re not coming up for air anytime soon.

 

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Capsule Reviews: It’s A Puzzlement!

Not every game needs to go for epic length status or terminally flashy visuals to be enjoyable. I tend to gravitate to puzzle games when I need a break from other genres  and there have been a few really cool ones this year. Here’s a quick look at a some of the ones I liked a lot:

 

solar flux switchSolar Flux (Nintendo Switch, $9.99): Firebrand Games’ great space-themed puzzler may look simple, but it riffs on classic arcade gameplay with homages to Asteroids, Lunar Lander, Puzzle Bobble, a bit of Star Castle and probably a few other titles my brain can’t recall in a really fun, challenging manner. While it’s at heart, a supremely soothing experience, the reliance on touchscreen-only controls combined with limited fuel and the need for precision movement of your very fragile ship means you’ll be getting a game that won’t easily be mastered in one sitting. Yes, the music is ear-pleasing and completely chill, but if you’re easily flustered by even the tiniest of mistakes, the gameplay can get pretty tense if you’re not able to tip-tap-steer your way out of trouble. Practice makes perfect, folks.

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That challenge ramps up geometrically during the 80 missions set across 4 galaxies, but nice looks and all, you’re not here to do any sightseeing. Getting the best times as things get complicated is somewhat tricky (but rewarding). So expect a few retries and perhaps a few times when you’re just putting the game down for a bit and coming back later if you lose that zen-like concentration. Don’t worry, though. Those assorted suns you need to recharge will be there when you return. All is good in this universe, just relax and it’ll be quite the thrill.

Score: A (90%)

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Review: Iris.Fall (PC)

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Do you love challenging puzzle games with a mysterious vibe? Well, Iris.Fall ($14.99) is waiting for you with open arms to tickle your brain for a spell. Developer NEXT Studio had crafted a lovely and often deviously designed game where your brain will get quite the workout and playing at your own pace is welcome. This isn’t any sort of action or platforming game where you’ll need to worry about enemies and assorted hazards. Nope, what you have here is a well crafted gem that plays with some of those conventional elements by adding them to the game as puzzles that need to be solved in order to progress.

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Not a place to lose a contact lens, that’s for sure…

 

After awakening from a dream, Iris follows a black cat into a dilapidated theater, traveling back and forth through a strange labyrinth of light and shadow. As the story unfolds, Iris begins to realize that everything in this theater seems to have some kind of hidden connection to herself.

 

The story is played out wordlessly and is a bit vague at the start, but things fall into place as you play and pay attention to each reveal as well as interact with certain objects. I won’t go into detail because the game’s more of a “play it and see where it goes” deal and it’s also a relatively brief experience that feels like a bedtime with a somewhat unsettling tone. Puzzles start out simple enough, but ramp up to be some pretty solid brain twisters that require a bit of deep thought. Most of them will have you scouring the lovely artwork looking at and for clues to progression, but some are variants on classics found in plenty of point & click adventures. Connecting wires in a circuit box or shifting parts of a puzzle inside a small box, for example, and there’s a multi-part sort of Rubik’s Cube-inspired sequence in one area that’s a cool diversion while it lasts.

 

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Gear.Club Unlimited 2 Launch Trailer: Wheel Impressive

 

Skidding into retail and the eShop today is publisher Microïds and developer Eden Games’ Switch exclusive sequel, which is the sole licensed racing game on the console following the success of the original Gear.Club Unlimited (which has gone on sale on the eShop for a limited time). The sequel offers more than 1800 miles of tracks, over 50 cars, 250 races, including championships, missions and challenges, enhanced upgrade and customization features and more.  A review copy is on the way, so keep an eye peeled for an upcoming post. I did really like the hands-on time I spent with the game, so feel free to check out those impressions here.

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“Key in the ignition, pedal to the floor, open road around the bend, headed down Highway 10…”

-GW

Capsule Reviews: Mega Cats, MagiCats, and Other Critters of Note

Yes, we’re playing a bit of mega-catch up here, but it’s a weird and wild season on a few fronts and staying in an entertaining mood is quite tricky when the walls and floors are moving constantly. Anyway, here’s a few quick takes and hearty Holiday Gift Guide recommendations, kinda retro games division. Buy them all if you’re into what they bring to the table:

little-medusa-sega-box Little Medusa (Sega Genesis/NES/SNES): Mega Cat Studios has been pumping out some truly excellent retro content for those who still own either original hardware or the means to play cart games on those newer retro consoles. Little Medusa is a tough little number that will have fans of the classic puzzler Kickle Cubicle grinning and grimacing in equal measure as they play through this colorful, challenging update to the Irem arcade and later, NES hit.

As Artemiza, a young goddess transformed into a Gorgon by the escaped Titans, you’ll need to turn enemies into stone using her steely (stony?) gaze and quickly push them into place in order to clear five tricky levels of increasing difficulty. This one works best if you’ve a trusty, well-used controller or a new one that’s super responsive. Like plenty of classics from the 8 and 16-bit era, expert players can whip through this in a lazy weekend, but the thrill of a good game is always having it handy no matter how many times you’ve beaten it, so all hail Mega Cat for getting this out in physical form at a few price points so that collector side is satisfied.

Score: B+ (85%)

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The Textorcist: Somewhat Devilish Bullet Hell Coming in 2019

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“Forget about the check – we’ll get hell to pay!” seems like a fitting caption for this image…

File this under “Now I think I’ve seen everything, I gotta play this one!”  division. Headup Games and developer Morbidware are currently hard at work on a crazy indie called The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia and yep, it’s looking like a hell of a game experience (pun absolutely intended). Check out the rather astoundingly cool trailer below:

(Thanks, Headup Games!)

I’ll admit to laughing so hard with the concept and execution above that it took me a few minutes to realize I’m going to be VERY bad at this game. Thank goodness for that casual mode noted at the end because it’ll at least let me see more of this one than if I tried to play it normally. Oh, I’ll post the hilarious press release below the jump so you can see what you’re in for when you pick this up nest year.

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