Review: Sparklite (PS4)

Sparklite 04

“You bought your key, right?” Good thing it’s something you never drop, as it’s heck of a time to go back to your base.

sparklite ps4Call me crazy, but Sparklite ($24.99) does what it does so well that I thought I was playing an improved sequel to something. Granted, some bits are a tad maddening (such as using the fussy balloon powered bombs, some harsh difficulty spikes, the rogue-like structure can make some bad runs worse, and yes, a few things need patching), but despite these issues, it a fun game that comes recommended. It’s still a joyful game to play even with the flaws, with a chunk of the Legend of Zelda series as its main inspiration. Visually, I saw a tiny bit of a Beyond Oasis aesthetic, and a even little of Digital Sun’s fantastic Moonlighter (even though it’s a very different game, it feels like it shares some elements) but maybe I’m just Ancient (and know so many bad game-related puns most won’t get unless explained).

Anyway, it’s a game where exploring the sometimes daunting maps is really exciting once you upgrade the shops in town. As you acquire and improve better gear (shades of Kemco’s Asdivine Hearts games, item slots and gems of assorted sizes come into play), it’s thrilling to go back to each time. Playing as Ada, you’re tasked with restoring a world called Geodia were things are literally falling apart (thus, the random nature of its maps) when too much Sparklite gathering has put her planet in danger. That said, Sparklite is also the currency that drives the upgrading, as does finding and creating a number of cool tools Ada uses in her adventuring.

Continue reading

Review: ZARVOT (Nintendo Switch)

Zarvot Switch CubeTrying to nail down ZARVOT (A Game About Cubes, by the way) into a specific niche is, in an amusing way, a waste of time because it’s a perfect example of using a less by the book scholarly critical analysis and more of a “shut up and play it!” approach. While you can (and should) snap this up for the solid multiplayer modes, it’s worth the $19.99 alone for the brilliant Story mode and its blend of adventure and puzzle game elements, droll to laugh out loud humor and straight up surreal nature. It’s also a master class in game design as well as showing off the versatility of the Unity engine thanks to Sam Eng (@snowhydra), who put 4 years into making this great looking instant classic. Oh, and the soundtrack? yep, worth paying for as well.

In a nutshell, cube pals Mustard and Charcoal set out to put together the ultimate birthday present for their cube pal, Red, stuff goes wrong and needs to made right. There’s a lot of laser fire involved in this and saying anything more would ruin a hell of a lot of surprises. When you find yourself putting down a controller to either laugh at the absurdity of it all or pause to reflect on an emotional issue a character is facing (for cubes, insects and other assorted creatures, they’re quite… human, warts and all), you kind of get a better sense of game appreciation. I actually wish this were on a physical game card because it’s one of those keepers that might get lost in the well over 1200 games (and counting) filling up the eShop.

But I’m getting all scholarly and critical here, so let me stop that and dip into the fun stuff…

 

Continue reading

The Last Guardian: Almost Here, With A Tear

 

At the very least, The Last Guardian will be remembered as Team ICO’s swan song, long in the making and very likely well worth that long wait. Interestingly enough, there’s an official soundtrack LP (yes, on vinyl!) by Takeshi Furukawa being put out by the fine folks at I Am 8-Bit that looks really lovely.

thelastguardian-vinyl-gatefold2

As I no longer have a record player here, I’ll just settle for a copy of the game I expect to be readily available on its launch date. Hype on the game seems to have quieted down considerably over the years, but I’m expecting a post-review surge of purchases followed by the usual suspects returning the game because they don’t “get” it. Ah well… we shall see soon enough, right?

-GW

Save

Busload of Horror VI: The Neverending Gory…

slain_09 

I’d be lying if I said this series wasn’t fun to do, so I’m going to do something even more fun and continue delivering a busload of horror or horror related games on a weekly or bi-weekly basis based on my workload. This particular series will close for now on a few scary-ish notes starting with one of the best (and hardest) games I’ve played all year which just so happens to win the “Most Improved Via Patching” crown. Okay, I don’t have a crown for that. But you know what I’m talking about.

slain-title-screen 

SLAIN: Back from Hell: Brutally savaged upon its initial release by critics and gamers (many of the latter who never played the game, but merely hopped on the flaming hate wagon because that what the Internet does to people who need to feel as if they’re part of a “thing”), SLAIN seemed destined to die on the vine before it got a fair shake. Thankfully, developer Wolfbrew Games (Andrew Gilmour) picked himself up, shook off the ashes and like Dr. Frankenstein after a few fresh pots of coffee, a ton of classic metal music and a few too many monster movies, set to reviving his baby and making it a better experience overall. Did he succeed? Take a look for yourself:


 

Yep. It’s not only back, it’s brilliant, visually rich and chock full of so many tweaks that it’s definitely worth buying even if you have to pay someone with better reflexes to finish it for you. The game isn’t easy at all, but it’s hard to stop playing thanks to the visuals dropping in something fantastic to look at in every stage. The old school stuff (knockback deaths, enemies spawning at the wrong time, many deathtraps, cheap bosses) may tick off casual gamers or those who never “got Gud” at classic 8 and 16-bit games something fierce. But for those who like it rough, Slain says “Welcome home, now go die!” and you’ll keep coming back for more. Oh, and it’s on PS4 and Xbox One, so you have no excuse not to play this if you own either console.

slain_06
 

Continue reading

Busload of Horror V: Off The Top Of My Head…

butcher_4

Well, a day left before jury duty (BOO! but civic duty is important, folks! That said, who the hell schedules jury duty on friggin’ Halloween?!) and me getting busy doing a ton of other stuff not site related, I’m moving a bunch of stuff into November once this court-ship pulls back into port and I’m a free man again. Anyway, let me wrap this horror game thing up with a bunch of randomness you’ll want to check out. Starting with a new game that’s a hilarious must of you like to laugh more than scream:

slayaway-camp-banner_big

Slayaway Camp: Well, wow. Blue Wizard Digital just dropped one of the most fun and surprisingly funny puzzle games this year and yes, if you’re at all a horror fan, you either need to play it or haunt someone who has a Steam account until they buy it so you can watch them play. The game has you playing a number of different horror movie killers taking out teens in a series of increasingly tricky sliding puzzles. Complete an entire movie’s worth of scenes to unlock more in the game’s Video Store.

slayaway-camp_11

Just check the video below for the gory truth about how awesome this is:

 

 

The blocky graphic style makes those kills go down easy, the music is straight up fantastic, the selection of playable baddies will get genre fans grinning, and there are some pretty sweet bonuses to unlock. Oh, and you NEED to check out the options screen just for the different visual tweaks, some of which make zero sense and parody more graphically intensive titles with way too many options. Clearly, Blue Wizard’s love for 80’s slasher flicks is making a ton of people more than happy, so why not join the happy crowd, I say? Hey, if you don’t… Skullface himself may come a-knockin’ at your door…

Continue reading

Busload of Horror IV: Laugh ‘Til It Hurts… Or Else

Okay, a bit late on this one, but I was busy chopping at my backlogs on assorted stuff and tackling a few fires in other spots. Anyway, here are a few more amusing horror-themed games from the vaults, although they’re not quite vintage having all arrived this year. One technically isn’t a “horror” game at all, but some of you will no doubt get a bit queasy if you think about it in a certain way. For example…

beeftacular_logo Beeftacular: Yuck. Retrific’s squishy, bloody little gem (currently available on Steam) made me stay away from meat for a week when I first played it thanks to… well, just look and see for yourself (IF YOU DARE):

Blech. Maybe it’s the thought of a chunk of raw beef cleansing a map of contaminated beef dipping into my subconsciousness combined with the not so wholesome meat industry pretending things are all fine and Grade A dandy when it’s not. But I couldn’t stomach this for more than an hour before I felt a bit off. Then again, the game’s manic pace and timed stages do get really hectic.

That said, yep, that level editor is mighty excellent, the music is great and if you’re a gamer with a meat fetish as well as a speed running maniac, you won’t need to ask “Where’s the Beef?!” at all. And nope, I never played Super Meat Boy until a few weeks ago – grinning meat is no turn on, either.

beeftacular-screenshot_10  Um, hey… anyone wanna go out for a nice juicy burger? 😛

Continue reading

Busload of Horror III: Laugh ‘Til You Bleed (And Vice Versa)

zp_dead

 

Oooh, I missed yesterday’s posting thanks to stuff going kablooie elsewhere, but here you go. The better news is I found a few more games to add to this list while poking around a hard drive, so consider this scary mission extended a bit starting with tomorrow’s installment where I add FOUR titles instead of three. Or perhaps FIVE if I’m feeling generous? We shall see. Anyway, let’s get cracking with the cracking up over assorted head cracking in these three today:

tom-vs-the-armies-of-hell_big

Tom vs. The Armies of Hell: From Darkmire Entertainment (or Sean Burgoon)  comes this hilarious spin on Diablo, Army of Darkness, a dash of Office Space and maybe a teeny-tiny bit of Half-Life (if you squint while hitting yourself in the head with a hammer at just the riiiiight spot) that’s going to tickle your funny bone as it tests your skills. You’re Tom, a low on the totem pole software engineer having the worst day at work ever (outside of Gordon Freeman’s of course) after all Hell figuratively (or is that literally?) breaks loose and you need to stop things from going further south.

 

 

The isometric view and chase ‘n chop gameplay will be familiar to Diablo or similar ARPG fans, although the game takes a bit more finesse in using skills-based attacks and drawing energy from dead demon spirits to power your weapon. Enemies tend to be fast and cheap, bosses are room-sized and cheaper, but all are bested by the best who remain calm under pressure. The game is still pretty tough on the easiest setting (or was until the last patch that lightened the difficulty up a bit), but it’s a challenge worth accepting if you like your games funny and sliding in winks and nods to all sorts of cool stuff.

tom-vs-the-armies-of-hell_01

As admirable and fun as the game is, even more so is Burgoon’s tweaking and fixing up bugs when players come across them. If only every developer was so responsive and self deprecating as this guy. $12.99 gets you this one on Steam and it’s worth it. I have not a single clue what Darkmire has up it’s collective one-man sleeves as an encore, But if it’s more tongue-in-cheek goofiness such as this, I’m in and smiling already.

 

Continue reading

Busload of Horror II: Time to Kill? Sure, Why Not?

unloved_15

Back for more, are we? Well, then. Let’s amp things up a notch with some scary stuff that has you killing or being killed in gratuitous or thoughtfully gratuitous means. Or something like that. I guess what’s here is kinda NSFW unless you work at some place like your friendly neighborhood abbatoir, morgue, or cemetery and/or have a morbid sense of humor, hee-ho!

 

unloved-headerUNLOVED: Yikes. So, you want to run around in the dark (perhaps with up to three others) equipped with a handgun and flashlight looking for better weapons, armor, and colored keys while trying not to to get keelhauled by some fast-moving, ugly as sin monsters? Good. This game’s got your name, number and full address stamped all over it.

Nope, it’s not 1993 all over again, but UNLOVED sure rocks it like it is. Paul Schneider took his original Doom II mod and completely remade it using Unreal 4 to great, gory effect. As a solo or multiplayer experience, the game is wickedly fast, controls as expected (yes you can have at it with k+m or a controller if you like) and definitely not for the squeamish or easily startled. Or perhaps it IS, as it’ll surely prepare you for anything jumping out at you in the real world.

unloved_11

There’s an interesting rewards system at play as well where you can sell off gathered trinkets for assorted useful goodies. That said, a bit more character customization would be nice, as other than outfit color, EVERY player model is some generic white guy with sunglasses, making playing with others look like a Falco video with assorted guns set in a carnival horror house. But even if you just come for the scares and enjoy the ride (and dying a lot), this is quite a rush worth the $14.99 cost.

Continue reading

Busload of Horror: Or, Way Too Many Scary Games This Month, Part 1

detention-6Ha. You should see my inbox and backlog. You’d scream. A lot. Especially at all the scary games that try to elbow each other in the eyeballs for attention. Some of these end up beign great, some not so great, a few even end up like broken dolls you want to keep because they have promise but need to be taken to the toymaker and fixed up a bit. Anyway, here are (well, three at a time in this series) some quick looks at a bunch of games I liked that you may want to try… if you’re brave enough.

arb_04 

arb_mainA Room Beyond: Currently up to its second of five chapters (the first one is free), René Bühling‘s excellent, distinctly smart psychological horror game does its frights up right, using a superb, intentionally crude yet perfect and gorgeous “2.5D” pixelated visual style that actually amps up the chill factor considerably. The experience is pure classic adventure/exploration game with a Lovecraftian vibe creeping throughout its narrative, but combat against creatures is a necessary and well-implemented evil in the second chapter.

From the opening moments when your character wakes up trapped in a cave and makes his way down that winding hill to a foggy village with some very strange residents, there’s a sense of uneasy dread that something terrible not only will happen, but has happened. Your character is tied into all this somehow, of course. But despite his hardiness and good intentions to help out while trying to solve his own mystery, in a way he seems not quite prepared for what’s coming. In other words, I’m hooked in for the long haul.

The official site notes A Room Beyond is “A novel story of crime, mystery and life-philosophy is told in five episodes which finally reveal into a complete story line,” which sold me right away. You can try out the FREE demo on Steam (highly recommended), but if you’re already a big horror game fan, I say just pay the $6.99 for the current build and play this at night with the lights out and a pair of headphones on for best results.

Continue reading

PLANTERA: Weeding Out One Very Cool Clicker

plantera-banner
 

Let’s get this out of the way: I am NOT a big fan of clicker/tapper games, mobile-based or not. There’s a huge and happy market for them, sure. But my attention span tends to wander elsewhere once my brain realizes it’s been trapped into what amounts to Lucy and Ethel wrapping chocolates on a too-fast moving assembly line. Yep, that’s hilarious to watch, but DOING it? Madness, on a cosmic horror scale. Ninth level of hell meets Sisyphus cloned by Caligula, but with roller skates, a greasy hill and square boulders. Nope, not for me.

plantera_04 

Of course, I then get a random code for VaragtP‘s super-cute endless clicker PLANTERA in my inbox and well… foo. Yeah, it got me sucked in for a while, grinning like a kid as soon as it started up until I forced myself to shut it down, STILL smiling. My reputation as a curmudgeon, shattered by a planting game? Great. grrr. Ah well, one more bias kicked in the teeth, right? For the record, I plant and grow peppers on a windowsill here, so yeah. The game had me at PLANTERA.

Continue reading