Review: Pankapu (PS4)

Pankapu PS4Last year, the first chapter of Too Kind Games’ gorgeous, excellent and challenging platformer Pankapu made for a pretty captivating experience on PC and now it’s on PS4 as a complete game that’s equally beautiful and a must-play for genre fans. Bold, colorful visuals, blend with with solid, satisfying gameplay and an initially simple story that changes into more than the bedtime tale it starts out as.

Don’t let that stunning color palette and super-cute art here fool you one bit. This is a seriously tough game at times thanks to the dead-on jumping and combat skills you’ll need to succeed. Initially, you’ll play as a sword and shield-bearing warrior type, but Archer and Mage Aegis outfits eventually appear and add more combat variety as well as pros and cons. Swapping between all three Aegis types, often on the fly makes for some pretty fluid navigation when things go right. On the other hand, enemies and assorted traps can ruin a good run if you make too many mistakes. You will, trust me – Pankapu can be quite hard at times. I’m looking at you, Tokatanka (grrr!)

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Raiders of the Broken Planet Beta Hands-On

season1_big-2I’ll admit straight off that I’ve been a big geek for MercurySteam‘s games ever since I got a review copy of American McGee Presents: Scrapland way back in 2005. Their attention for detail grabbed my eye and I’ve followed each game they’re released always looking forwards to what the team can cook up. Currently, they’ve two big games out or on the way, Metroid: Samus Returns (Nintendo 3DS) and Raiders of the Broken Planet, currently in beta on PC, PS4 and Xbox One with a release date set for its first of  four campaigns September 22.

As I’d been slowly killing off my MMO/online gaming phase (not enough time, too many me-too game, no way to enjoy them offline), I initially planned to ignore this one until I found out it had a solo campaign mode as well as a unique “4 vs 1 counter-operative campaign” that lets you play both sides of the conflict if you so choose or team up with friends to tackle some challenging missions against really pesky AI opponents. While the beta had a few matchmaking issues online (hey, it happens!), the gameplay is quite fun and very challenging in terms of solo play.

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Review: ARK: Survival Evolved (PS4)

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ARK_artAt the climax of Billy Wilder’s brilliant 1950 film Sunset Boulevard, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) pumps three slugs into Joe Gillis (William Holden), leaving his body floating in her swimming pool and shortly thereafter gives us a classic line of dialog as well as one of the best endings in movie history.

ARK: Survival Evolved is, in its own quirky manner, a digital Norma Desmond all made up and ready for her close-up and you’ll be playing the part of poor Joe Gillis, but in a remake of Groundhog Day with a hell of a lot more dinosaurs and without the romance angle. Translation: expect to die in this game. A lot. That out of the way, the sheer amount of things to do here makes it somewhat fantastic if you put aside a few nagging “warts and all” issues.  Then again, hell, it’s basically like dumping all the best toys you ever had as a kid onto the floor and making the biggest, craziest “epic” playset you can think of. Except the toys bite back harder and might make you want to bite your controller in half on occasion.

 

 

Based on that last bit alone, Studio Wildcard‘s game is worth the $60 with a few caveats. On the technical side, expect performance highs (great looking creatures and often gorgeous environments) and lows (frame rate dips, assorted glitches, too tiny font text) along with plenty of patch updates (five since release day). Unlike poor Joe Gillis, the game is also bullet-proof (and unlike Norma Desmond’s career, critic-proof) thanks to a very dedicated legion of longtime players since it first appeared on PC as an Early Access game back in 2015 who don’t give a hoot what anyone says. The overall kitchen sink sandbox approach works quite well on one hand as the game is never shy about giving you a ton of choice in most areas. But yes, it’s a case where patience and even more practice is required in order to fully enjoy all the rides in this Jurassic Park meets Minecraft meets sci-fi/action survival hybrid.

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Review: Perception (PS4)

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Your perception of Perception as a horror game will go a long way towards fully enjoying the experience it offers. It’s more a first-person adventure game with horror elements where developer The Deep End Games uses lead character Cassie Thornton’s blindness as a means of both physical and mental exploration.

Cassie is drawn by recurring nightmares to abandoned mansion Echo Bluff and as she’s completely blind, her own perceptions are being challenged. The unconventional visual presentation, use of echolocation, and mix of mystery and time travel are all plus points here. There are flaws as well, but for the most part the 5 to 6 hours you’ll spend as Cassie should please the more open-minded horror/mystery adventure game fans out there.

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Cassie’s trip through the seemingly empty mansion is hampered by the presence of The Presence, not so nice angry spirits (who don’t bring presents, by the way) that change up the initially tap-happy caning she does into memorizing rooms and whacking objects as little as possible. While this adds tension to the experience, some parts of the game end up being learning experiences thanks to an auto-save system that forces slight to moderate backtracking and replaying areas if you end up getting Presenced to death.

In other words, you’ll likely need to unlearn your first half hour or so of gameplay and rely on memory and/or using an optional guidance system that points you in the proper direction while still allowing exploration. That said, some of the game’s scares are somewhat avoidable by popping into assorted hiding spaces until trouble passes while others may make you jump a bit based on your level of immersion. Of course, if you’re not easily frightened, the game may seem light on scares unless you want to encounter them.

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A Little Victor Vran Does A Body Good

 

VVOE_PS4As I’m still in recovery mode after my hospitalization, I’ll be brief with this review/recommendation. In short, Haemimont Games has done an absolutely spectacular job in bringing over its action/RPG Victor Vran to consoles and yes, you should pick this one up if you’re a like-minded chase & chop fanatic. The game’s enhanced content gets it re-titled Victor Vran: Overkill Edition with good reason.

Between the lengthy main quest to save the cursed city of Zagoravia, the randomly generated Fractured Worlds and quirky as hell Motörhead Through the Ages expansions, there’s a LOT of game here for a mere $40. And that doesn’t include the 2-player local co-op, 4-player online co-op, PvP mode or (optional) daily challenges that extend the fun for those who want to dive into a bit of competitive action.

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Earth Defense Forces 5 Presents: His and Her-strionics

 

Oh, these are hilarious. If you know someone who speaks Japanese, have them sit down and watch these crazy YouTube videos for Earth Defense Forces 5 and try to keep a straight face. Set for a summer 2017 launch exclusively on PS4, D3Publisher and busy developer Sandlot are making the biggest and most bizarre EDF game to date.If you don’t know anyone who speaks the language, the subtitled version of the first trailer is here.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the usual horde of giant ants and spiders are all in as they should be, but the skyscraper tall alien frogs and soldiers are a total freak-out that are going to make a tough game a heck of a lot tougher. I have questions for the dev team about this and many oher things, of course. But I prefer to just play the game and see how it turned out as that sort of time spent usually answers most questions in the most fun manner.

 

That said, the only truly pressing question I have as I write this is whether to import or wait for a localized version. I should hold off until a western publisher and date are revealed, but previous EDF games take so long to get localized that I may end up biting the bullet early. Hey, I need to practice for the actual invasion force coming soon and knowing the enemy is the best strategy, right? Right. I knew you’d see it my way.

-GW

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Switch-ing: With Reservations (And Some Ironing), Yes.

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Not surprisingly, actually getting out and about to lay eyes on and try out something for oneself is a hell of a lot better than sitting on one’s rump in front of a computing device babbling nonsense about what one thinks they know about something they haven’t touched yet. Be it food, books, movies, or in this case, Nintendo’s upcoming Switch game system, you really aren’t doing anything other than heavy guessing and heavier petting of your own negativity until you try the darn thing out.

Spending about three hours with the system and way too many games for one event revealed at its recent NYC showcase reveals it’s a solid bit of kit with a few big to little issues around things like software/peripheral pricing and a to be announced (imperfect) online service that sounds as if will need some major tweaking if it’s going to compete with the (less imperfect) services Sony and Microsoft offer for their game hardware.

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Let’s get the first point out of the way: that live press conference from Japan was somewhat awful if judged by western perspectives. The droning English narration, the greatness of Goichi Suda trying to work the room off-script and failing spectacularly as he revealed work not yet started on the return of Travis Touchdown, the too-sedate responses to every announcement – none of these made for good optics.

Couple that with too many YouTubers and a few games journalists putting out quickie bash pieces so quickly that by the time a bunch of post-conference trailers that weren’t shown dropped online, many complaints about the small software lineup were rendered invalid and worse, the short attention span theater antics didn’t take into consideration that early announcements change into more concrete plans that make better sense as launch windows open.

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But let’s talk games from this point onward until I get to the problem stuff I see that needs ironing out. Continue reading

Time To Switch. But Not Tonight, I’m Pooped

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I just got back from the Nintendo Switch event here in NYC, but I’m wiped out from being awake since 4am. My hands-on will go up tomorrow, but I did like much of what I saw and played. Back in a bit, Zzzzzzzz…

– GW

Nintendo Switch: Waited, Dated – Sated? We Shall See


So, as you can probably guess from the general lack of Nintendo Switch posts until now, I’ve been wholly avoiding the nonsense rumors, speculation and generally pointless gossip about Nintendo’s new console until this official reveal event just so what remained of my sanity stayed intact. This quickie post will actually be a preview to my hands-on later in the week where I form actual news based on what I see and play during my three hour time slot on Saturday. Tonight’s event was what I’d call entertainingly sedated with some expected releases, a few surprises and at least one must-buy launch title that should have been a pack-in. EDIT Of course, with only an hour to show off stuff, the event seemed… lacking in thrills to some extent. However, post-show, a small flood of reveal trailers for other games have dropped online, making the Switch a lot more impressive.

March 3, 2017 is the official mostly worldwide street date for the console which will launch with a $299.99 price tag in North America. The package will include a system, dock, two Joy Con controllers, HDMI and charging cables plus an AC adapter. A new Pro Controller is a separate purchase (and yes, third party peripherals are coming from a few companies. More on those in a separate post). A full list of features is here. The Switch will also be the first Nintendo system to require a fee for online play (Wii U and 3DS are unaffected), but there will be a free trial period at launch with some features disabled and the full paid version with a few perks to follow later this year. There’s also going to me mobile device implementation so players can communicate far better than possible on Miiverse.

As for games, well… it was a mix of oddball new stuff, the return of a few classic characters, a few sequels and… not much else for the moment. Some 80 games were said to be in the works, but the event revealed a mere 15 including a number of works in progress and very brief non-gameplay teases, trailers for a few below the jump. Oh, by the way… the Switch seems to be region-free. Huzzah! But this doesn’t mean the Asian territory e-Shops will be accessible if you can’t read the languages on them. Continue reading

If You Want That NES Classic, Just Remember This One Handy Trick…


 

While these two absolutely hilarious spec ads by director Ryan Prows aren’t official Nintendo issue, I’d be more than happy to see them pop up on TV during Adult Swim or some other not-quite for the kiddies channel that the 18-35+ crowd checks out from time to time. Yeah, yeah, they’re kind of “fan-made” in their own way. But there’s a great enough difference in the means to an end between a spec ad and a game project that it’s easy to make the distinction between an IP being reworked into a free game and an example of a director putting out work that can get him more work and not necessarily at Nintendo.


 

So yeah, I heard through the grapevine that some retailers are restocking those NES Classic Minis one more time before Christmas. Feel free to take emergency measures as seen in these vids as a means to your own end of obtaining one, I say. Who knows? With luck (and a few onions or fresh mint depending on your own naughty or nice quotient), you just may walk away with your prize after all.

-GW