Indies of Note (Part Two Billion!)

I can’t even begin to tell you how many small publishers contact me asking to check out their games in assorted forms of completion. No complaints at all on this as one thing I love is seeing how games come together. That said, I’m a wee bit backed up in codes thanks to all the medical stuff I’ve got going on, but I’ve been playing and compiling lists over the last few months on a few games you may want to take for a spin if you’ve a Steam or console account. Some of these are also on gog.com, gamejolt or itch.io, three of many other very awesome spots to get indie games you absolutely should check out even if you want to browse and be amazed at the variety on display. Actually, you can and should support indie games outright by at least playing demos where applicable and/or buying titles you like outright.

 

 

Mercenary Kings_PSMercenary Kings Reloaded Edition (PS4/PS3/Vita, Xbox One, Switch, PC) – Merry, merry, quite Contra-ry, what do we have here? A pretty damn awesome side-scrolling run ‘n gun from Montreal based independent game studio Tribute Games (Flinthook, Curses ‘N Chaos). Actually, it’s more like Metal Slug with a hefty crafting system and a more diverse cast of characters.

If you’ve played this previously, you’ll find the Reloaded edition adds a bunch of improvements that make this a great deal more accessible without lowering the difficulty. In addition to the stellar pixel art and animation, Tribute’s packed this one with tons of fun and challenge throughout, making a game that’s highly replayable and an excellent arcade experience that’s a must-buy no matter what you play it on. Now, if only Tribute would get Wizorb out on PS4, Vita and Switch, I’d be an even happier guy.

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Capsule Reviews, Too: Things That Go Boom (And Quite Frequently, At That)

2017 was an incredibly busy year and that doesn’t include me being laid up in the hospital for almost a month and missing out on a load of fun stuff. Anyway, I’m compiling a short list of recommends here if you’re doing some post-holiday gifting for yourself or someone else. Most of what’s here will be indie/small studio focused thanks to too a few of these games getting (intentionally?) overlooked by bigger sites because they’re not going to get a ton of clicks or some other such nonsense.

 

 

JYDGE PS4 JYDGE (PS4) – I’m surprised that this excellent kinda sorta follow up to Neon Chrome didn’t come to Vita as well, but given Sony’s rapidly losing interest in their HD handheld in terms of first party support, I guess it’s no surprise at all (except that Neon Chrome isn’t a first party game). Still, if you like your top-down action games tough and pretty darn fun, going to town with this one for a spell will bring a big grin to your grill.

You are the law in this fun, violent riff on Judge Dredd meets Robocop with a slick neon-lit coating straight out of Blade Runner or some other futuristic flick. Fast-paced and highly replayable missions await if you’re a fan of top-down shooters that aren’t easy and demand precision over panic. There’s a great arcade-like vibe here that has you unlocking weapon and armor upgrades and hopping back in to press forward or go back and try to beat tight times for taking out assorted baddies as quickly as possible while avoiding civilian casualties (an instant mission failure, as it should be in a game such as this). There’s even a solid co-op mode if you want to team up with a friend and Jydge the hell out of some well-armed creeps who’ll get what they deserve but good.

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Review: .hack//G.U. Last Recode (PS4)

dot hack ps4You’ve two choices to deal with as soon as you fire up .hack//G.U. Last Recode on your PS4 or PC. Do you play it as intended and enjoy the story as it spools out across the three remastered games (Rebirth, Reminisce, and Redemption) along with one new shorter chapter (Reconnection)? Or do you activate the Cheat Mode that maxes your party out from the get-go and makes zipping though most of the game a total cakewalk?

I ended up choosing the first option and while the game took a lot longer to play through, I didn’t feel as if I was taking advantage of Bandai Namco or developer CyberConnect 2‘s overly gracious hospitality. As a huge fan of the original four chapters games and later, the G.U. series’ three entries, I wanted to play these as originally presented, carrying my save data over into each game and getting the same thrills I’d gotten way back when the PS2 was going strong with quality JRPGs dropping on a semi-regular basis.

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This remastered trilogy benefits from a higher resolution, better frame rate, somewhat simpler combat and much better looking cut scenes. That said, it also doesn’t go overboard in trying to be a purely visual showpiece far beyond the original games. Lead character Haseo is still very much an angry jerky guy for a good chunk of the experience, but you’ll get used to him as the game progresses. The end result is a reliable buy that will please fans of the old games while maybe making some fans that expected too much or come into this wanting to see every trick in the PS4 book exploited a tad disappointed. Then again, you’re going to be playing this game more for the story and somewhat deep world building that extends into how you interact in the “real” world presented outside the faux MMO game.

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EDF 5 Truly Bugs Me (But That’s A Good Thing)

 

EDF_5Okay, at this point I’m hoping the planet doesn’t blow up just so I can get my grubby little paws on the three upcoming Earth Defense Force games coming from Japan where the earth is in danger of getting blown up after yet another massive alien invasion by what looks like everything great from a wide range of Japanese sci-fi flicks.

In addition to the absolutely insane-looking Earth Defense Force 5, Original developer Sandlot is teaming up with developers Clouds Inc. and Giga-Rensya for Earth Defense Force 4.1: Wing Diver The Shooter (set for a digital release on PSN) and veteran developer Yuke’s is handling the work on Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain, which is coming sometime in 2018.

Oh, here’s the same trailer but with English subtitles just because you might get why I’m so cuckoo about this long-running series:

 

 

For the record, the series has NOTHING to do with the old Super Nintendo shooter Super E.D.F., so that non-fact needs to disappear off the internet, stat. Anyway, EDF 5 is in Japan on 12/7 and I’m kind of in a mental bind trying to decide on whether or not to take the plunge and buy it soon or wait for the localized North American version. My Japanese is pretty terrible and even though I’ve played through previous games in the series and completed them, I kind of want to experience this entirely in English just so I don’t need to stop playing and look up a weapons guide or other gameplay tips.

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And nope, my decision isn’t at all bound by this gal and her seductive stretching (oh, Japan – you’re too much, but it’s all good):

 

 

Anyway, I’m leaning towards waiting it out, but man, is it going to be rough. I know of a few folks who will get the import, but I’ll avoid discussing anything with the because I want to go in totally cold and get my 100+ hours in and learn what’s what. Actually, I haven’t a clue as to who will be publishing this in North America, but a heads-up from a kindly PR person who wants to keep me calm might help out a little lot.

*Sigh* And so, the wait begins anew…

-GW

 

Review: Far From Noise (PS4)

far from noise posterShort yet very replayble and guaranteed to make you think a bit about life on a few levels, George Batchelor’s brilliant Far From Noise is a compact indie game well worth a buy. If you love your games way on the weird side, this meaningful meditation will capture your attention and keep you on the edge of your seat. Given that in the game you’re trapped in a car perched precariously on the edge of a cliff and have nothing to do but wait as a bit of nature pops in for a visit, it’s one of those experiences where revealing too much spoils the fun.

Let’s just say this visually simple and mostly text-driven affair makes for a great bedtime tale where you encounter a talking deer that more or less helps you see things from a few perspectives. A bit of philosophy, some star gazing, a few guests and even the weather are your main companions as your character addresses his or her fears during a long night where it seems anything can happen. While seemingly simplistic, the visual style hides some nice effects and excellent use of controller vibration and the PS4’s color bar (which emulates the game’s day to night to day cycle as time passes).

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Review: 8-Bit Adventure Anthology – Volume 1 (PS4)

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Yep, this one’s a must-buy alright. I was actually a bit under the weather a few days back when code for this arrived and amusingly enough, a few hours spent dying and retrying in all three games in this set made me feel a whole lot better. That’s good old old school gaming for you, kids. Anyway, here’s the deal: three classic adventure games for a mere eight bucks is a no-brainer, especially if those three games happen to be Shadowgate, The Uninvited, and Deja Vu. Do yourselves a big, fat favor and stay away from walkthroughs, though. Trust me on this one – your brain probably needs the workout.

While fundamentally the same in terms of interface and straightforward pixel art visuals, each game has its certain charms and difficulty that make them quite enjoyable and yes, frustrating if you’re not into trial and error or frequent game saving. Shadowgate has elements of fantasy role-playing, The Uninvited is a straight-up horror/haunted house game, and Deja Vu is a thriller/crime drama. If you’re going in cold or haven’t played these since the Macintosh or NES days, expect your poor main character to die at the drop of a hat. A lot. Your characters in all three games are cursed with the weakest skulls, brittlest bones and other ailments that make them all too easy to fall victim to any hazard these games toss their way. Believe it or else, this is a good thing.

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Review: Spintires: MudRunner

Spintires_MudRunner_logo (Custom)

Spintires_MudRunner_Pack2D_PS4Taking the wheel from original developer Oovee Game Studios, the talented team at Saber Interactive has brought an expanded and even better SPINTIRES experience to consoles and PC with an excellent, highly challenging, and quite rewarding driving game that’s going to baffle some gamers while it pleases a certain bunch of folks who love to play in the mud.

Interestingly enough, Spintires: MudRunner (or MudRunner: A Spintires Game) also works supremely well as a hybrid driving/puzzle game where the environment is your worst and sole enemy as you attempt to simply drive from Point A to Point B or just try to enjoy exploring the massive, gorgeously detailed maps. This isn’t a game about speed at all, folks. It’s more about control and the ensuing chaos when that control is lost.

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MudRunner adds a new (shorter) tutorial, a new sandbox map, a Challenge mode and ups the truck count from 6 to 19. While it has a “casual” mode, this clearly isn’t a game for those who want to hop in and get blazing down a dirt road taking corners with powerslides. Here, you’ll rarely get above 20mph, the paved roads aren’t the widest you’ll drive on, and that mud? It’s practically got a life of its own thanks to an amazing physics engine that’s been tweaked even more from the PC original.

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#TBT: Play A Little With The 8-Bit Adventure Anthology Website

Shadowgate skull

While you’re waiting for this game’s Halloween release date to roll around, why not spend a little time treating yourself to a few tricks here: http://www.8bitaa.com/ where you’ll find a few fun mini-games that unlock demo versions of all three games in this upcoming set of classic adventure games. Hey, you know you want to and yep, it’ll keep you indoors and out of trouble. Your neighbors do NOT need their house TP’d again, so put that ladder back, pal.

-GW

Review: ECHO (PS4)

ECHO_Keyart_Cube_LogoSneaking onto PC last month and out now on PS4, ECHO is one of the smartest games I’ve played this year. Developer Ultra Ultra has created an intentionally initially slow-burning hard sci-fi game that relies heavily on its innovative gameplay that’s bound to keep you on your toes. It’s also got spectacular visuals, brilliant sound design and a pair of excellent voice actors (Rose Leslie and Nick Boulton) bringing their characters to life in what’s basically one character talking to an AI interface as she tries to survive a gilded palace filled with replicas of herself trying to kill her. While it’s got its share of (primarily technical) flaws, it’s a worthy experience that shouldn’t be missed if you like your games to shake you up a bit early and often.

After a century in space asleep, a woman named En is awakened by her computer, London and informed that their ship has reached its destination. The pair has traveled all the way to a strange planet because En wants to bring back to life a friend whose remains are inside a cube-shaped device she wears on her back. The opening is a deliberately paced buildup as En lands on the planet and makes her way into The Palace, an endless ornately designed structure that’s the size of the entire planet. There’s a great deal of exposition during the game with much of of it establishing a backstory for En’s long journey as she explores her initially unlit surroundings. When she locates a spot to place that cube, The Palace reacts by coming to life and over time, producing many copies of En that eventually end up coming after her with murderous intent.

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Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus: Less Is More Or Less Better For Overall Overkill

I’ve been pretty quiet on Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus for a good reason. I’m ignoring the off-balance people with zero (or less) sense of actual history (not to mention actual videogame history) hating on Machine Games and publisher Bethesda Softworks (it’s all white noise to me, pun mostly intended) while also not poking around the internet for every bit of information because I like my games relatively unspoiled. One of the problems with modern game “journalism” is the need (that’s not needed) to ruin a game too early because some can’t not reveal spoilers or keep an embargo correctly.

Me, I want to go in ice cold with the windows open (brrrrr!) and be thrilled and surprised at what’s been cooked up. Nope, I’m not going to tell you that you should go out and grab yourself a copy of the game and a console or high-end PC to play this on (although you probably should if you have that disposable income and want to support the developer and publisher in this crazy year of too many solid games and not enough time to play them all). As always, it’s your move, folks.

-GW