Review: VIRGINIA

A must for those who love cinematic game experiences, unique visuals and jigsaw-piecing together a compelling narrative that holds a few surprises and life-sized curve balls for its cast of characters. Short attention span types, those who think some/all games are “art” that require no commentary, and those who want everything explained at the finale need not apply, though.

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Platform: PC (also on PS4/Xbox One)
Developer: Variable State
Publisher: 505 Games
# of Players: 1
Release Date: 9/22/2016
MSRP: $9.99
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Official Site
Score: A- (90%) BUY IT!

 

 

Variable State’s first game, VIRGINIA, is more of a work of interactive fiction presented in the language of videogames, but it’s also an impressive debut that works brilliantly. The catch is, in hoping players “get” the tricky mix of disjointed narrative and timed exploration sequences, the developer has unintentionally created a game that’s too damned smart for much of today’s gamer audience that craves explanation and arbitrary rules of realism apply to everything they play who also refuse to open their minds to something different that’s actually worth playing and replaying.

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In a nutshell, the story is about an FBI agent sent on a missing child case with another agent who needs a close eye kept on as there’s an ongoing investigation into unorthodox methods being used. That both agents are female, minorities and have some usual human flaws seems to rankle a few skulls. But reversing the sexes of the agents wouldn’t make a dent in the plot, as anything presented could happen no matter the gender of the main character or agent under the magnifying glass. Continue reading

2016: A Package Odyssey (Days 3-4*): Spin Cycle, For The Moment

Well, I figured this would happen at some point, but yep, it happened. Step back from your viewing screen and hold onto your butts, folks… this post is going to suck. Up to a point.

(Thanks, virgilio72!) 

I didn’t post yesterday because I decided to try and work a bit and I was in a crappy mood because I decided chronicling this ongoing nonsense wasn’t all that therapeutic after all. I was just getting more annoyed at every person involved in this mess I’m (still) a victim of not being very helpful. USPS was giving me a slow runaround, the seller is kind of lost and asking me what to do (I’ve been passing along as much help as I can), and despite being a longtime fan, I’m about to go postal and recommend anyone I know just NOT use their local post office for anything but whatever passport services they offer. But let’s not pull that rabbit out of the hat just yet, folks.

Anyway, after a suggestion from a message board that I call the number on the USPS web site and another user comment that

The postal service is very serious about employee mail theft. They will get to the bottom of it.

Well, I would hope the hell so. I decided to pick up the phone this morning and try my luck. That turned out to be both a terrifically terrible and (very) good thing to do. Well, maybe on the “(very) good” part.

Continue reading

2016: A Package Odyssey (Day Two*)

Annnnd, the saga continues…

(thanks, David Luckie!)

Tuesday. It’s the same as Monday, but a day later. I actually had to go back to the post office this morning to send out a package (some new Mac power cables I had no use for as I don’t own a Mac), and ha, bloody ha-ha, the same guy at the inquiry window yesterday just so happened to be working the regular window I ended up at. Of course, he recognized me right away and as I step up to the counter with my little box of cables, I get a “Hey, how’s it going?” followed by a “Did the package arrive yet?”

PAUSE.

(Remember folks, this is the same guy who tells me yesterday that my package had been sent or was in the process of being sent BACK to where it came from. Now, unless the return trip was via TARDIS and my box whipped its way back from its original location to my doorstep within 24 hours (and it hasn’t, dear reader)… That would be a NO).

PLAY.

(Thanks, The Thing Legacy!)

I tell him “No, it hasn’t”, thinking maybe he’ll realize that’s a rather dumb question to ask. Let’s just say I was so annoyed that I didn’t realize I paid $7.05 to send a package Priority Mail instead of the under $4 it should have cost for First Class. Ugh. Well, dammit… GRRRRR!

Feh, at least it’ll get there faster. No wait, I just checked out of curiosity. It’ll be the same three days. Well, just… damn it all.

Okay, I think I need a drink now:

(Thanks, sambosez!)

I was too worn out from being up too late worrying about my backlog and other stuff to have my head explode like yesterday, but fair warning: Day 3 may be that day you all want to duck and cover into your bunkers with those old Civil Defense helmets on and a week’s supply of hardtack, beans and plenty of fresh drinking water.

Back in a bit…

*It’s actually day NINE of this nonsense, as the box hit the routing hub on the 11th.

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.

Continue reading

TGS 2016: BERSERK + Musou Stars Make Up For An Ongoing Crappy Year


 

So. This week? LOUSY. I’m still trying to get my busted PlayStation 3 back from the jerk in Brooklyn who I sent it to for repair but neither did the work nor sent back the console, but can’t seem to get the legal wheels I set in motion to move faster after over four months. I finally went and bought my own new PS4 last week, but just found out it was shipped and allegedly arrived on the 12th, but was REFUSED, which is somewhat IMPOSSIBLE. I was here waiting for it all damn week and, hell, I don’t REFUSE any packages with my name on them. I suspect something fishy happened with the USPS driver and my purchase, as the standard procedure is to leave a slip in the mailbox if a recipient isn’t home. To me, REFUSED means someone figured out what was in the box and decided to give him or herself an early holiday gift at my expense.

I’ve contacted the seller to see if that return has indeed been returned and am waiting for a response. USPS is NO help at all, as all I got from them in an email saying the package was REFUSED and sent back, but I need to find out if it was received before proceeding further. If that PS4 is unaccounted for, I’ll be quite (well, even MORE) annoyed. Losing my old PS3 with ten years of save data is bad enough, considering I ended up having to replace that console with the same model, which wasn’t cheap. Losing $300 more on that new PS4 is going to make me want to kick something off the planet. Amusingly enough, I’d forgotten Tokyo Game Show is happening and Koei Tecmo gave my stressed out brain two games I really want to play… even though I currently have nothing to play them on.


 

Yeah, I hate people sometimes. Particularly the ones that cost me time and money on nonsense like this. FEH. Well… first world problems, I guess? Somebody have a good weekend out there, as I sure as hell won’t. I have NO idea with is up with me and tech and a few other things this year, but this song is now my life’s main title theme:

(Thanks, JORGE HITS OFFICIAL!)

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

Free Stuff Friday: Assault Suits Leynos on Steam, Anyone?

LEYNOS logo 1024x416Hokay, Ember still isn’t up and running on Steam yet, so I’m going to plan B, thanks to the fine folks at Rising Star Games! BOOM! ONE lucky person with a Steam account will win ONE absolutely FREE code for the the hard as heck Assault Suits Leynos. Post here and I’ll pick a winner tomorrow at noon!

Rules and such below the jump.

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

Review: Laser Disco Defenders (Vita)

And I thought Assault Suits Leynos was tough. HA!

LDD art

Platform: PlayStation Vita (PSN)
Developer: Out of Bounds Games
Publisher: Excalibur Games
# of Players: 1
MSRP: $9.99
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+)
Official Site
Score: A (90%)

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Don’t let the cute art style and funky tunes fool you one bit, folks. Laser Disco Defenders is a tough cookie of a shooter that will test the skills and patience of the most hardcore gamers out there. Ten bucks is a bargain for a game that takes a while to complete and will keep the best coming back for more. That trailer makes it look like a simple “pew-pew-pew!” casual bit of fluff, but make no mistake – the game will eat your lunch before you make it to the first boss and it only gets tougher as you progress. At some point the more impatient out there will possibly want to jump up and down on their poor Vitas simply because stomping on both hands will only result with some nurse feeding them applesauce for a few weeks.

That said, I love this game quite a lot. Continue reading

Worms W.M.D Winners Get Theirs (BOOM!)

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Hokay, it’s done! My random winner picker popped by a half hour early because of an appointment getting shifted around, so we had to act fast. He didn’t know I randomly picked him to draw winners until he walked in the door, so it’s karma in action, I guess. Anyway, congratulations go out via airdropped crates to Zero (PSN), Grenadier (Steam), Bob (PS4 retail version), and leemangrum (Steam)! Thanks to all for entering and enjoy the game!

Today’s giveaway has actually been moved to September 7, but if you’re a big RPG fan, you’ll want to pop back in because the prize will be worth the wait.