Review: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 (Switch)

 

mario and sonicSega, on a roll, II: While its appeal might seem to be more towards super-fans and younger gamers, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 ($59.99) is quite a fun game overall for all ages. That said, you’d better have a few Switch controllers in tip-top shape and prepare to do a bit of of a workout with your fingers in some of the trickier events. 24 zippy mini-games are here with bright and colorful visuals and a soundtrack that’s suitably Olympic-sounding.

Nostalgic fans who may be a bit older or keen on old-school visuals will very likely love the retro 2D goodness found in the time traveling (via oddball game console trap) Tokyo 1964 storyline and its additional 10 events. The nice thing is the game lets you play through its story modes in order and also lets you have at it in any mini-games here if you just want to grab a few friends and family members (up to 8) and play together. Online play and cloud saves are of course, all aboard if you want to play with a few folks online. That said, it’s good to see the game supports couch play (something more games need).

While it’s kid-friendly, and only supports the less fancier means of control (well, Joy-Cons, motion controls, and some first and third-party game pads), the game doesn’t skimp on the challenge for new players in some events where every bit of precision counts. The 2D retro mode’s games are far easier, bit everything here is well done any guaranteed to get you grinning. You can stay on the couch, too in either mode, but prepare to work those controllers in some events where a bit of precise button pressing, some rapid jamming and other moves need to be pulled off. Notably, there are no voices for the characters outside some generic grunts, but there’s enough of a plot that ties things together if you’re into it and prefer not to skip through short cut scenes and dialog segments.

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Featuring… a cast of DOZENS!

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Kings of Lorn: The Fall of Ebris Gets A Wonderfully Depressing New Trailer

 

Geez. Take my time and money, already department, deluxe edition: Teamkill Media’s upcoming game, Kings of Lorn: The Fall of Ebris makes Demon’s Souls classic and mighty downbeat intro seem as if it’s unicorns and rainbows, but with a bit more winning on the part of of the lead here. I like it for that. That said, it’s hard to get a gauge on enemy difficulty in the newer game, as some enemies seem to go down too fast. Then again, this is likely the developer wisely hiding the challenge level until the masses get their hands around a controller when the PC version is released on November 22 2019.

This almost looks too frightening to finish (and no, that fantastically dour music isn’t helping one bit). If that’s going to be the aural force that’s coming, the already mind-blowing visuals will have some stiff competition as far as what’s going to keep me freaked out the most. I can’t wait, but I also want to see how the console versions stack up (PS4 is my preferred way to play, thank you).  Oh, here’s the earlier E3 trailer (in case you haven’t seen it yet). Go wishlist this now… or it’s coming to get you.

-GW

MARS: PDP Brings Lightgun Arcade Fun Back For PS4 And Xbox One Players

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Talk about a vacation from hell…

I’m smiling too much while playing a detective on holiday (and on a few replays, a cheery British gal pyromaniac) aboard a huge cruise liner that’s suddenly become filled with zombies. A few comically big-headed biters go down with ease, M-rated blood splashing and splattering when they’re hit, but I’m soon jumping out of my skin when I spend too long on a large pack of undead that suddenly appear to my left (oops), and I get waylaid by some swarming in from the right (double oops, and GAME OVER). Ah well. A few shots to the menu later, I’m trying again and yes, having a blast. Yeah, some pleasure cruise vacation this is turning out to be, huh?

The game is called:

voyage-of-the-dead_logo_600pxIt’s an Unreal engine-based rail shooter downloadable PS4 or Xbox One title from developer Gaming Corps Studios, one of three games currently available for PDP’s new MARS LIGHTCON (lightgun) peripheral and IR STATION camera setup ($99.99, game included).  The wireless LIGHTCON is sturdily built and came with 2 AA batteries installed that gave it a nice heft, but it’s light enough to be comfortable for long play sessions. It’s not cheap feeling at all, mind you, but something that’s very well-made and made to work precisely for the games that come out for it. I did replace the alkaline batteries with rechargeable ones because that’s how I roll these days.

Oddly, you need to have a wired or wireless controller handy to initialize or pause the games and definitely a wireless one if you happen to have an external hard drive plugged into a USB like I do. The IR STATION requires one port, your main controller another if it’s not wireless. PDP also sent over a nice controller charger set (I’ll review that in a separate article), but the PS4 has always suffered from a lack of USB ports. Personally, I think the console should have shipped with an extra side port and/or one on the rear because of peripherals like this and the fact that heavy users like myself need a larger storage.

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The Orangesicle color scheme is familiar, but the tech is modern.

Back to the game, it’s quite fun overall and offers up enough zombie types to keep things interesting (aliens, voodoo, and magic using undead pop in as the missions go on). The PS4 version generally runs smoothly, but there are a few areas with hiccups in the frame rate, and some scene transitions aren’t as smooth as they could be. That said, it’s got a certain charm and makes a good first impression.

The game also packs in eight characters to play as (some unlocked via mini-games), a single-player mode, a versus mode, six mini-games for up to four players (I’m especially fond of the quirky pinball , UFO, and “golf” games here). Overall, it’s worth a look if you like all things zombie-related. While it’s not rated for kids, given that there are a great deal of wee ones that find zombies awesome and kind of hilarious, if you’ve got them (kids, not zombies!) and you’re OK with the gory stuff, they might find this pretty cool.

While the campy voice acting gets repetitive, the audio design and soundtrack are quite excellent overall. You can expect about 2 hours or so in Story mode (well, experts will probably blow through in less time and nope, I’m no expert). unlocking everything in every mode depends on a player’s dedication to seeing it all as soon as possible or on their own time. While you need to restart the game each time (like most arcade games, there’s no save system in place), the game does track all your stats so you can see that progression if you’re curious.

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The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature – Arte For The Masses

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This one’s special, folks.

Publisher and co-producer ARTE and indie game studio La Belle Games have a really surprising treat for gamers and non-gamers who just might be intrigued by a wonderful take on a literary classic. The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature ($15.99) is out now on PC and Mac on Steam and coming soon to mobile platforms in November. In addition, ARTE is bringing the Nintendo Switch version of the adventure in Q1 2020. There’s a playable prologue here (click, scroll, enjoy) that does a wonderful job of giving you a taste of the experience as well as introducing the writer and a few important acquaintances on one fateful night where a few terrifying tales were told.

Here’s a trailer to peruse – screens and game info are are below the jump.

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Ghost Parade: If Ever There Was a Game Made for Halloween, It’s This One

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As soon as I saw Aksys Games‘ gorgeous looking game Ghost Parade (created by the fine folks at Indonesia’s Lentera Studio), I knew it was going to be something extremely cool and very Halloween themed with its mix of Tim Burton meets Vanillaware style artwork at the forefront. It’s also a peek into another culture, as Indonesian ghosts are the subject and yes, it’s a great thing to see some more of what’s scary overseas coming to US audiences. Granted, I’ve played a few games with some of that countries’ terrifying spirits or horror themes in them (DreadOut and My Lovely Daughter being the standouts), so this game is going to be right up my dark alley once I get to playing it.

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Love the art style here.

Here’s a look at the trailer. The game is out NOW for PC, PS4 and Switch and Aksys has run a nice digital comic on the game’s official site.

I hope this gets a wide enough audience, as I’d love to see Lentera become a household name among gamers here. As usual, we shall see.

-GW

Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle Gets Some Fun, Free Updates

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Get this… OR ELSE.

Well, eight episodes of the game have been FREE for a while now on STEAM, but having a subscription to developer Blue Wizard Games’ email newsletter was pretty rewarding today, as there’s some nice content they’ve added to the game as well as a couple of fun freebies for email subscribers.

In addition to getting Episode 9 and the Baghead Jason DLC skin for free, the email also included a package of neat HD Blue Wizard Digital desktop wallpapers, Slayaway Camp toy paper-craft templates, and the official theme songs (MP3) for both Slayaway Camp and Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle (woo-hoo!). Very cool, Blue Wizard, very cool, indeed.

Here’s a little teaser for the game. It’s kind of cute, really hilarious and yes, you can choose to play without the blood (but why would you?):

Even better, if you have a STEAM account, there’s a sale on the developer’s other titles, so yes, you can try a few of their games for a lot mess money. Sounds like a deal to me.

-GW

 

FAITH: The Unholy Trinity – A Reflex Test For The Senses

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Creepy is coming a third time (and to consoles at some point, too).

I was jumping under the furniture a while back when I first played indie developer Airdorf Games’ Faith, a very frightening game that blended old-school visuals and the sheer shock of horror and jump scares plus some clever use of synthesized voices, all in the service of terrifying the player. Let’s just say it worked, as I’ve had the second game here for a while on my laptop, but haven’t touched it since I downloaded it. My excuse of having too many games to play in my backlog keeps me hiding from that sequel, but it’s now the case where there’s a third game in the series coming soon that’s probably goijg to get me to play all three in one shot.

Or, say hell-o to FAITH: The Unholy Trinity, coming to PC and eventually, consoles:

As you can see, it’s pretty unsettling stuff when you get hit with the blending of old and new here. There’s a nice layer of crazy here when the game comes at you and you don’t know what to expect next, but this is good in a game that’s a mix of horror, adventure and a few abstract elements that will have you hooked in and trying to run away simultaneously. Go wishlist this this one if you’re into the horror stuff – it should run on most Windows 7 and up (64-bit) PC’s with zero issues. I’m going to hold my breath until I turn blue that this is coming to consoles sooner than later (starts holding breath).

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Appropriately Halloween color scheme? CHECK.

-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

Mega Cat Brings The Halloween Freaks Out, Retro Style

Want some classic-inspired Halloween fun? Mega Cat Studios has you covered like a freshly found corpse with these two games that look and play like NES classics of yore, but are available on Switch (and NES of you happen to own one or a compatible system). Fist to face combat, pixel pushing goodness and fun time await with this pair of titles:

 

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First up, is Creepy Brawlers ($4.99, eShop), an homage to the classic Punch-Out!! with a horror theme, monster and alien fighters and quite familiar (albeit very tough) fun. While it’s a single player only game, it’s cool enough that you’ll be passing around a controllers so everyone can get a turn. There’s a physical cart version for the NES if you have access to one and can run it without issues here.

 

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Next up, is HAUNTED: Halloween ’86 ($9.99), a side-scrolling platforming, beat-em-up adventure that’s kind of like the classic River City Ransom (Downtown – Nekketsu Monogatari) but with a horror vibe. Also single players, the game recalls the look and feel of classic NES games and is pretty much guaranteed to have you burning with nostalgia throughout. This one is only currently available digitally (it was initially released in 2016 as a cart version), so get it now if you like what you see.

Oh, and make sure to check out Mega Cat’s recent blog post on scary retro games and their free ebooks selection, as they’re more than just some folks who cook up a witch’s cauldron of retro games.

-GW

Review: Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD (Switch)

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You better have those banana grabbing skills down, folks.

SMB_SwitchSega, on a roll (Part I): Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD ($39.99) is a pretty fun time on the Switch, but you better have steady hands and steadier nerves if you want any chance of completing this game. Yes, the multiplayer is a ton of crazy fun here (that could have used a few more games) and that’s a reason some will jump all over this with a few friends. But this is a game where the solo play can be as hair-raising as it gets because it’s too easy to fail (and multiple times at that) some courses if you’re susceptible to anything from an itchy body part or any sort of issues with your controller.

If you’re new to this, it’s a game that will have you cracking up and pulling out hairs in equal measures. There’s a goofy plot here, but all you need to know is you’re a monkey in a big plastic ball and you need to roll, jump and quickly grab bananas as a clock is ticking down, fighting bosses a few times along the way.  You probably won’t be good at this initially, but practice makes perfect, as they say. Paradoxically, both Zen-like calm and lightning reflexes are absolutely necessary in this game where courses are tightly timed, bosses require super-quick pattern recognition and you need to play and replay stages to nab those bananas without falling off some deviously designed courses.

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“This is bananas, and bananas is good!”

Well, you do have to fall off some courses, but onto a lower part of a level, or to shave seconds off a course time, missing a few bunches of bananas in the process (until you figure out how to get them later in a different run). Developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio (yes, the folks behind the excellent Yakuza games as well as a few others) took the 2006 Wii-only game and have tweaked it into a multi-console game that’s quite good and yes, maddening when it needs to be. In addition to reworking the interface and adding online functionality, 40 of the Wii-specific mini-games are gone (well, 50 was overkill way back then and the Wii remote was a pain to use for some of them), cut down to a mere 10 that keep multiplayer games a faster-paced chunk of mayhem for up to four players.

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