Capsule Reviews Are GO! (Part 3)

Back in 1995_01

Ever have one of THOSE days?

While I won’t be totally going this way in terms of reviewing bigger and longer titles, I’m finding it a nice challenge to play some of these shorter games and write less about them while trying to convey in a few sentences (well, two paragraphs) how well most of then do at delivering sometimes unique, sometimes similar gaming experiences to those that pick them up. Some of the games in this series might seem like just easy ways to earn fast trophies in a few minutes, but often there’s quite a bit of replay value under the hood or you get games that may SEEM simple on the surface unless you take a closer look and see what’s what. Granted, in some cases, a few things work better than others as you’ll see below:

Back in 1995 ps4Back In 1995 (PS4/PS Vita Cross-Buy, $9.99): Very much an intentional visual, aural, and gameplay throwback to the 32-bit era, indie developer Throw the Warped Code Out (Takaaki Ichijo) has recreated a game with both the look and feel of those old days of “tank” controls, fixed camera angles, and oddball “what the hell is that weird blocky thing coming at me?” monsters. While the game has flaws in storytelling and seems more meta exercise than “serious” horror game, the best thing to do here is take away more of the former meta feel than the latter serious horror thing and enjoy it for the nostalgia factor if you remember those not-too far away days. Ratalaika Games handled the console ports and publishing, but this one’s not your average easy Platinum, that’s for sure.

If you don’t remember or even like that era, expect some confusion and likely, frustration here. The game doesn’t break any new ground and isn’t supposed to, and I’ve the feeling that Ichijo was going more for evoking an particular atmosphere and sense of time more than making a game that would be “perfect” at the end of day.  It’s sort of like the scent of something familiar from the past one might recall when walking into a room, but it might end up not being a favorite scent when you stop and remember everything good and bad about it. I got it right away, so I’m scoring it accordingly with the big caveat that it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

Score: C+ (75%)

Continue reading

Super Capsule Reviews: Are GO (Part 2)

XV_02

Well… try not to get hit (too much).

The ever long debate I see over indie games being “as good as” or “better than” AAA content is a bit silly because at the end of the day, both types of games are welcome and necessary for a few reasons some folks would figure out rather quickly if they kind of shut up and played stuff more than they do rolling around in the internet alley fighting about. Me, I just love seeing what a dev team (or single developer in some cases) can whip up because hell, playing a well-made game created with passion that can be seen on screen is a good way to get anyone who loves a wide range of visual and gameplay styles to go spend some of that hard-earned cash on some really fun titles like the ones below.

Xenon Valkyrie+ PS4Xenon Valkyrie+ (PS4/PS Vita Cross-Buy, $9.99): Fabrice Breton (dba COWCAT) has worked on some pretty hardcore pixel art game ports that provide a hefty amount of challenge for the money. Xenon Valkyrie, originally created by Daniel Fernandez Chavez and published by Diabolical Minds for PC, was improved and ported to consoles by Breton, is dripping with retro charm and packs in a mix of rogue-like, light role-playing, platforming, and fast-paced combat action that’s somewhat addictive even after multiple deaths. Part of the thrill comes from surviving the levels and their randomness, part comes from earning new gear as you go and using it to beat maps that seem impossible and impassable until you get that gear.

The cool thing here is you learn as you go what works and what doesn’t and runs will be, thanks to the randomness, a mix of small and large victories against enemies and the destructible maps. You’ll be using every skill and tool in a growing arsenal here, and the way each character plays will make some areas tricky to complete, but you’ll get better with skill and practice. There’s a lot of game here if it hooks you in and you don’t mind the learning process. As with the COWCAT ported game below, there’s some serious replay value here if you’re brave and willing.

Score: B (80%)

Continue reading

Neverwinter Nights Comes to Consoles (And Why You May Never Go Outside Again)

NWN-store_1500x1500

If you only get one game this holiday… you’ll likely still be playing it a year later.

Oh, good gravy, I forgot this was coming out (and guess who’s really happy about that?)

Firmly camped in the “Now, this brings back memories” and “Well, there goes another 180 or so hours!” departments, I have the feeling the console version of Neverwinter Nights ($49.99, PS4, Switch, Xbox One) will be a Game of the Year contender simply for the sheer amount of content it delivers. The press release below the jump will get you grinning if you’re a fan who remembers spending too many hours in these worlds, but I bet a copper that a new generation of players will want to dive into this in single player and co-multiplayer modes.

New, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go move some time around and figure out when I’m going to play this and you need to go read a press release. For the record, I’ve been storing excess time in the closet, but it keeps disappearing, grrrrrr. Must be the monsters in there eating it, I think…

Continue reading

Review: Remothered: Tortured Fathers (Switch)

Switch_Remothered_05

Rosemary needs a rear view mirror, good running shoes, and a portable air tank, too.

remothered switchWhile it’s been out a few months, I held off on my review of Remothered: Tortured Fathers on Nintendo’s console because it had some major issues and I decided to hold out for a patch, of which there have been two released. I’d initially played though the most of the unpatched version, but the game had some awful visual, gameplay and interface issues that made it quite a test of endurance, particularly in docked mode where visually, it was sub-par to the point of looking like an early PS2 port in some areas where detail took some major performance hits. It was still a scary as hell game experience, mind you. But things were definitely in need of fixing and nope, playing undocked didn’t help much either.

Fortunately, Darril Arts and Stormind Games got this some much-needed love on the patch front, as a number of visual and lighting improvements, UI tweaks, and more now make it a lot more palatable. There are still a few smaller issues, but the game is certainly now well worth your time if you’re re a fan of its uncompromising psychological horror. You play as Rosemary Reed, who’s investigating the mysterious disappearance of a young girl some years earlier. Initially, she makes her way into the gloomy Felton mansion, but after a brief time poking around, she’s kicked out when things aren’t as they seem on her front (no spoilers here, but watch the trailer). When she sneaks back inside, she continues her investigation and finds… well, let’s just say, a lot more horror that she’s anticipating, a whole lot more madness on display and plenty of “holy $#!+” surprises. Well, as if having a near naked, apron clad madman coming after her isn’t frightening and surprising enough.

Continue reading

Yaga Calls, So Let’s Follow, Shall We?

Bad poetry for a good game alert (I guess that’s a trigger warning for some):

YAGA 4

What’s a Yaga you ask?
Is a Q fit to task
Here you go,
so you know
what lies under the mask:

It’s here via some Breadcrumbs,
and Versus Evil‘s fine hands
and sure looks like fun
So, there go your plans
(I’ll say that to those who’ve now become fans)

The art is quite lovely,
the music is prime,
that animation is yes, what I’d call sublime
All together, I’d bet it’s a great, super time
(I’ll need to post a review not in rhyme)

So, if you’re in the mood
for great Slavic themes
and want a fine game
That won’t cause bad dreams
Well, this one’s for you- I could call you “dude”
but that’s too exclusive and I’m not that rude!

YAGA 2

(Surviving to the end of my lousy verse gets you more screenshots, by the way):

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

-GW

Super Capsule Reviews Are GO! (Part 1)

JnJDX_01

“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%)

Continue reading

Review: Construction Simulator 2 US – Console Edition (Switch)

Switch_ConstructionSimulator_03

It I could name my trucks here, I might go with Tonka, Tootsie, and Dinky…

cs2 switchI’d been sleeping on these assorted Simulator games for a while because they take quite a while to play, but thanks to a friend asking about them (he’s getting his kid a Switch and happens to be in the construction field). I finally took the plunge and can report that yes, hours will go by with a well-done sim like this. Astragon’s got a solid game in Construction Simulator 2 on Switch ($19.99), and while it’s a highly complex game that requires quite a bit of precision and patience to play, parents into this sort of game might find it educational if their kid is say, about 12 and wants to get into the business at some point in the future.

That said, the game is pretty daunting even for adults even though it has a wealth of tutorials and tips to get players up and starting a little (and soon to be rather large) construction business. You’ll need to constantly make sure whatever equipment you buy or rent is in the PRECISE position when operating on a job or errors will be made and learning where and the game covers so much ground (ha-ha) that you’ll be working up a real sweat from the level of difficulty as you learn a lot in the process. The game is no joke when it comes to the simulation elements, especially with all the settings up.

Switch_ConstructionSimulator_02

You better know how to use that, pal…

Continue reading

Review: Lost Ember (PS4)

Lost Ember_01

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.

Continue reading

Review: Spaceland (Switch)

Switch_Spaceland_03

Dang dry ice everywhere, hiding those aliens! Grrrr…

Spaceland SwitchTortuga Team and Ellada Games’ great little turn-based strategy game Spaceland ($14.99) wants you to play it a few times, so I’ve been very good in my obliging it. The game’s quick 15 minute or less levels (you can take longer if you need to) seem as if they’d be one and done affairs unless you’re trying to unlock all it has to offer. It’s at that point when you see they’re not. Yes, you’ll soon discover that your far too under-powered to do so in some cases and you’ll need to pop back in at some point with better gear and help when you get a few more members on your team (and when the game allows them into certain maps).

I haven’t yet played the fantasy/RPG themed turn-based strategy Braveland Trilogy games from the developer, so I can’t make comparisons other than to say those games were 2D and sprite-based where Spaceland goes for a clean polygon look and slicker animated style. There are also puzzle-like elements here where the game requires completing levels in as few turns as possible, something that takes a few attempts and yes, often missing bonuses in favor of fast and flawless runs. Oh, you’ll be back if you like what’s here, trust me.

Continue reading

Review: Bee Simulator (PS4)

BS_02

You’ll bee a busy bee and like it a lot here if the premise hooks you in.

Bee Simulator coverSneaking in its well-written and simple to grasp science and nature lessons in little bits over time (the loading screen and ever expanding journal are excellent), Vasrav Games Studio and publisher Bigben Interactive have a superb and beautiful game in Bee Simulator ($39.99). It’s not without its flaws, but it’s definitely a game worth a few plays in single and couch co-op modes. Come into this with an open mind and you’ll bee pleasantly surprised and even perhaps learn some important things in the process.

The main story is a bit of fluff where you’re a new honeybee who has to help save her hive’s tree from being chopped down, but here’s a game that gets more mileage out of its basic gameplay than its more basic plot when all is said and done. That loose flight control you’ll discover takes a bit of getting used to (you’ll likely bounce off and into many things at first), but it’s entirely doable once you practice (go watch a few real-life bees do their thing if you’re safely near any and it’s bee season). The attention to detail is phenomenal (well, despite the talking insects and a few other “game-y”elements) and enough to make me think a certain two Japanese developers could make their own insect-filled and far more explosive bug and ‘bot-based series a bit more impressive it they added more realistic giant bug nests to the levels. But I digress (EDF! EDF!)

BS_03

“Hi, those big horns are are meant for playing, right? Oh, they’re not horns, but you’ll play anyway? Cool!”

Back to the game at hand, it starts in and around a honey bee hive with a few tutorials that get you buzzing about and pulling off a few moves, learning to fly and boost, use a bee sight power that allows you to see and locate certain flowers and other items you’ll need to progress. If you’re not in the bee camp because you think they’re somehow awful or terrifying menaces to humanity (you’d be wrong on the honeybee front, at least), the tutorial drops enough info on you to get you curious and the main game will have you beeing so much of a helpful bee that you (and the kids, if you have them play) might bee-come bee cheerleaders each time you boot this up.  I think the bees would like that, by the way.

Continue reading