Review: Wheels of Aurelia

Bravo, Santa Ragione and Brava, Lella! This driving sim/adventure hybrid’s a definite Game of the Year contender that will make those who “get” it want to crack open a few books and do some heavy reading and/or thinking.

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Platform: PC (also on Mac/Linux/PS4/Xbox One)
Developer: Santa Ragione
Publisher: Santa Ragione
Release Date: 9/20/2016
# of Players: 1
MSRP: $9.99
ESRB Rating: N/A
Official Site
Score: A (95%) BUY IT!

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Calling Santa Ragione’s outstanding Wheels of Aurelia a simple “driving simulation” is REALLY selling it short. This brilliantly conceived hybrid game is more of a mature “choose your own path conversation-based adventure that just so happens to take place in a almost constantly moving car” with 16 possible outcomes and more than that many ways to reach them. From the beautiful stylized simplicity of the art, the great soundtrack (buy it!) that captures the spirit of late 70’s Italian radio tracks, and the mature script that may rankle a few overly sensitive types while striking others as flat out fantastic and thought-provoking.


Save for the ride you choose, the game’s opening is exactly the same each time. In 1978, Lella and Olga, two young Italian ladies who met the previous evening at a disco, set out on a road trip to France on the Via Aurelia along the western coast of Italy. Along the way, the pair talk about life, pick up a hitchhiker or two (or none – it’s up to you) and based on the path both the conversation and car takes, the game reaches a conclusion in all of 15 minutes or so. 16 endings at 15 minutes each ends up at 4 hours total playtime IF you’re silly enough to think you’ll see every conversation and character variant possible. The combination of period-era history, frankly spoken dialogue and some VERY interesting hitchhikers make this very replayable as well as a great exercise in storytelling.

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Gurumin 3D: Priced, Themed – Now It Just Needs A Hot Date

gurumin-logoMore happy news for you 3DS owners out there: Mastiff has announced a release date, price point and bonus downloadable themes for Gurumin 3D. You may commence with the happy dancing if you so desire:

During PAX West we let press in on a couple of exclusive secrets that we are now ready to share with you. First, the price. We are happy to let you know that Gurumin 3D will be released on the Nintendo 3DS eShop for the shortcake-sweet price of $14.99. And second, at launch we will also be releasing multiple themes to decorate your 3DS with. One of these themes will be free with purchase! We’re still undecided which theme we’re including, but rest assured you’ll be getting one theme for free ninety-nine! ;D

As for those themes, I like this one the best:

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But Mastiff wants to hear from YOU about which of these others you prefer, preferably on their Facebook and Twitter pages:

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What? Did you say you wanted a handy video screenshot/art gallery combo? Okay. Here you go:

I think that’s it… well, that actual release date is still incoming, so that will be the next big news on the plate to watch for.

-GW

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Seraph: Demons Die Faster On A Lead Diet

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Pretty much what would happen if a side-scrolling version of Diablo had its way with The Matrix. This is, yes, a good thing.

Two things almost stopped me from trying out developer Dreadbit’s super fun and challenging Seraph ($12.99). One was the claim of not needing to aim in a side-scrolling shooter (What?!), and the other was the use of the words ‘Gun Fu’ (Geshundheit!) in the game description.

As in:

Seraph is a super-slick, skill-based, acrobatic shooter. Take the role of an angel who’s mastered the art of ‘Gun Fu’ as she battles her way through hordes of twisted demons.

Ugh. That reminded me of sitting through the 2002 action flick Equilibrium, one of those movies where you have to throw both your suspension of disbelief (some of those plot points!) and sense of wonder (the film’s dreary tone overwhelms the solid stunts) under a truck before buying a ticket. Thankfully, unlike that Bale-jumping flick, Seraph has style to spare, the screens and trailers showed tons of promise and yes, the game does deliver the goods every chance it gets.

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You play as the titular female angel, a death-dealer trapped in two places: a demon-packed prison and the fragile frame of a human. If that body perishes, so does our agile heroine. Equipped with Olympic-style acrobatic moves and two different weapons from an increasingly powerful selection, the game task players with surviving some pretty hellish enemy types who want that angel pushing up daisies.

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Strike Vector EX: When Console Beats PC, Heads Explode

RageQuit Corporation blasts out a powerful killer PS4 “port” full of needed enhancements, but will it make enough noise to get the attention it deserves?

Usually (okay, most, if not all of the time), a console port of a PC game will be deemed inferior by those nose in the air die-hard PC-ONLY flag-wavers who deem the very idea of a game console and those who use them as something best swept under a rug. Me, I don’t play that crap. I do however, play what I like on anything I like and as long as it runs fine and I’m happy? Well, that’s fine and yep, I’m happy. It’s recently come to my attention that the newly enhanced PlayStation 4 version of the PC game Strike Vector adds content not found in the original and those additions make for a better game overall game experience.

BOOM.

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Yeah, I said it and other than the highly tweakable visuals and adjustable frame rate quality PC gaming offers, it’s actually true here. The PC version was/is an online-only MP focused shooter with transformable and player customized ships zipping around in some VERY solid dogfights spread across some very nicely designed maps. Unfortunately, it’s only been just over 2.5 years since it launched and the player base is very nearly dead. Strike Vector EX on PS4 ($14.99) adds a 15-mission solo campaign, AI bots for those needing to practice on opponents before hopping online, and a few other very welcome changes. Continue reading

What The .dll? Or: Hot Ember Code Giveaway, Back On Track!

ember-riddle-me-thisOh. Brother. And so, it took me three days or so to figure out that the registry cleaning and other maintenance I did on the laptop and/or Microsoft’s fiddly ding-crack wizzle Windows 10 being an unhelpful junk pile of coding somehow removed the .dll file certain games use to start up. Guess which game in particular WOULD NOT RUN at all and made me think it missed its launch day? Yep. Sure, I popped onto Steam to finally find people playing and commenting away. But I figured my early build was having issues of some sort.

Well, that actually wasn’t the case… Continue reading

Review: Worms W.M.D All-Stars

Team 17’s very disposable heroes are back in another great game guaranteed to never leave your playlist.

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Platform: PC
Developer: Team 17
Publisher: Team 17
Release Date: Aug 23, 2016
# of Players: 1 – 4
MSRP: $29.99
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+)
Official Site
Score: B+ (85%)

I never even thought I’d ebe a Worms player until back around 1997 when I got conned into joining a game a few folks were in that needed one more willing victim clueless about was was coming. I was new, but wanting to learn the (ninja) ropes and figured things would go pretty easy for my team. Nope. After some initial wriggling about, the other players proceeded to fry my poor worms up like bacon and I think it took about half a dozen or so more attempts to realize the bums I was playing with were just looking for someone less skilled to gang up on. Feh, but I was now hooked into the game and have continued to enjoy most of them since. Flash forward a bunch of years and with Worms W.M.D on the scene, Team 17 has both gone back to basics on a few fronts while expanding the game into current play trends. That very handy once mastered Ninja Rope is back, but you also get on the fly crafting that allows anyone to tinker with item drops to create game-changing goodies.

Of course, this means the more mean-spirited gamers out there will be ganging up on newbies as well as veterans to deliver some awful beat downs that aren’t exactly “tactical” in nature. However, the game packs in more than enough option tweaking and so much content that you can find a happy medium of polite players who merely want to even more politely destroy your little worm army into polite little pieces. Continue reading

Ember: Waiting For My New Flame (And Yours) To Return…

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“Hey! There’s supposed to be an Ember review up already!”

Well, there would be, but the game isn’t back up Steam after getting carted away for some tweaking and having its release date shifted to sometime today. Amusingly enough, I got about five or six hours in over the last weekend and before the game’s temporary removal, but for some reason the game clock kept running. When I checked in at some point Monday to pop back into the game with my notes, it not only wasn’t running, I saw my time was a whopping 27 hours. Eek. I could have sworn I shut my laptop down a few times over the weekend, so I’ve no clue as to what happened.

Oh, look! The launch trailer!

Anyway, from what I’ve played so far… I say it’s a buy AND a bargain at $9.99 Or: YES, you should buy this if you’re an old school CRPG fan or a new fan who want a gorgeous game world to explore full of life and depth (as in the game world is lively and the books here are great little lore reads). My full review is going to be up once the game is back up and I sink some more time into it. I kind of left things at a crucial moment and I hope my save files are intact. Back in a bit. I had Eventbrite plans for today, but just tossed them out a window here. Hey, it takes a lot to get me to pass up free alcohol. This game’s one of those things.

Back in a bit. Funny, it’s Free Stuff Friday, too. I have two Ember codes here to give out, but not until the game goes live. Drop a VERY short note in the comments if you’re interested, and I’ll pick two of you later today. Er, once the game is back up. Yes, you need a STEAM account if you don’t have one yet.

Review: Monsters & Monocles (PC)

A smashing, jolly good time in a cartoon steampunk Victorian run ‘n gun that’s a total blast. Grab your friends or go make a few new online ones!

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Platform: PC
Developer: Retro Dreamer
Publisher: Retro Dreamer
Release Date: Aug 16, 2016
# of Players: 1 – 4
MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: NA
Official Site
Score: A (95%)
 

gif_town Yeah, yeah. Run ‘n Gun games are RAMPANT on Steam these days, but exactly how many have you playing as a tea-sipping dog in a smoking jacket named Baron von Dogface? One. SOLD! Well, in Retro Dreamer’s spectacular Monsters & Monocles, you can also play as the sharp-dressed Lady Cannonhail, mustachioed Rupert Killingsworth, or the monocle and top hat-sporting Monobot, all solid cartoony killing machines worth taking through this tough twin-sticker.

Snazzy pixel art, bouncy animation and some great tunes drive the action here, and this isn’t a cakewalk you can one-hand through with a cucumber sandwich with the crust cut off in the other. In fact, the tough difficulty makes this a great game to solo and even better with like-minded friends. Local and online co-op keep thinngs rolling along, so if you’re having trouble with a boss or some of the monster packed rooms here, just recruit a pal (well, after you extol the virtues of this gem and they buy it, of course). Fans of the Alien Shooter games and the oldie but goodie toughie Soldiers of Fortune (or The Chaos Engine, for those of you who prefer the better original name) shoul eat this one up, as it packs in the non-stop action while being quite rewarding like a great arcade run ‘n gun should.


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Review: Overcooked (PC)

“There’s gonna be a hot time in the old town tonight…”

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Platform: PC
Developer: Ghost Town Games Ltd.
Publisher: Team17 Digital Ltd.
Release Date: Aug 3, 2016
# of Players: 1-4
MSRP: $16.99
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
Official Site
Score: A- (90%)
Overcooked_CharactersJust what the doctor chef ordered in this era of “social” videogaming being primarily online, Ghost Town Games’ brilliant, peppy Overcooked is also a great family-friendly breath of fresh air as well as a perfect party game for up to four players. The game is a fun hybrid of elements from the classic PS1 import Ore No Ryouri (or it’s Americanized “remake” Cook, Serve, Delicious!), with a dash of Diner Dash for good measure.

Everything clicks right off the bat with that humorous tutorial that teaches you the basics, to the charming, colorful and cute visual style, bouncy tunes and yes, that fast-paced gameplay. There’s a story about feeding an ultimate demon meals that will keep it from chomping the kingdom you’re in, but it’s just gravy on the tasty as heck cake here. The assorted kitchens you cook in under all sorts of hilariously hellish conditions and the rotating cast of chefs you’ll meet make this one a game that will make you laugh a lot even when things are collapsing on the cooking front.

Yep, things get pretty heated pretty quickly in this instant classic, folks…

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Review: REFUNCT

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Ladies and gentlemen, this is quite possibly the shortest review I’ve written about a game I like a lot, so let’s see if you can all hold a breath in and read this in one shot. Ready? GO!:


I wasn’t expecting much from REFUNCT when a code invite popped into my inbox, but I wisely looked up (and downloaded) the developer’s previous game, REFUNKTION and saw that this simple but gorgeous Unreal 4-powered sequel was a response to some saying that first game was too difficult. REFUNCT didn’t take long to complete and while incredibly easy, manages to be brilliantly conceived and executed.

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No instructions needed here, just intuitive controls using k+m or a controller, some surprising jumping (that should be adopted into other first-person games) and a payoff that brought a smile to my face (and a bigger one after that when I was able to get 100% after completing the game when I tried to better the 98% I ended with). Telling more would be spoiling things, but there’s no “story” to speak of and in fact, the whole thing seems more like a lovely test for a far larger project down the road. It took about 45 minutes to complete at a leisurely pace, but I took it slow and even quit out to go have lunch at one point. Some players have made it to the end in half an hour or less, but your mileage may vary, as the saying goes.

If anything, creator Dominique Grieshofer should expand the game into an entire series of puzzles on the same map and keep the same enemy-free, death-less approach. The feeling of finally playing wall-climb sequences in a game that aren’t frustrating series of trial and error runs was exhilarating to say the least. The feeling of finally playing wall-climb sequences in a game that aren’t frustrating series of trial and error runs was exhilarating to say the least. Now, I want more. You will too. Go get this and have a blast.

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REFUNCT is a mere $2.99 on Steam. REFUNKTION is free on indieDB, but it’s hard as hell in a great way. You may as well get both.

Score: A- (90%)

-GW

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