Review: X-Morph: Defense (Nintendo Switch)

X-morph box switchDeveloper EXOR Studios has done such a phenomenal job in porting X-Morph: Defense ($19.99 Standard Edition, $29.99 Complete Edition) to the Switch that I hope it’s likely going to be a game that will be studied for quite some time students getting into game making or by other devs who want to port a game they’ve made onto the platform. From visuals to performance, it’s a wonderfully complete experience that easily stacks up to the other versions made for more powerful hardware.

The funny thing is, I initially didn’t want to play this because I pretty much stopped cold playing tower defense-type games thanks to to having played so many for so long I became bored with the relative sameness they shared despite thematic differences. Thankfully, the addition of fast-paced arcade-style twin stick shooting blends well with the real-time base expansion elements and yes, the ability to play not as the humans, but the aliens in the process of vanquishing anything the earthlings toss at them as they attempt to mine the planet for its resources.

Hey, if you’re going to wreck the planet, you may as well do it in style and a continent at a time, right?

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Review: Vaporum (Nintendo Switch)

Vaporum_switchAs a well-aged (I prefer the term “vintage”) fan of old school dungeon crawlers, I knew Vaporum ($24.99, worth every penny) was going to be right up my alley. With its dark thematic elements, Dungeon Master meets BioShock vibe and plenty of play and replay value, the very worst thing that I could think of as I sat down to type out this review was simply only being able to get through the game once for this post and having to move onto something else thanks to my stupidly large backlog.

The team at Cypronia has converted developer Fatbot Games’ stellar PC game into a mostly excellent home console version and yes, when I say home console, I kind of mean it. While you can indeed take this on the go as a Switch owner, you’ll have to deal with somewhat smallish onscreen text and controls that can be a bit complex as they’ve been translated from keyboard and mouse to a controller with a lot less buttons to operate. Everything works as it should, but there are a few fiddly moments that require a trip to the options screen to adjust things to your preferences.

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Shocker! Just about everything wants you dead in this game – expect traps and tricks galore as you get deeper into the thick of things.

Personally, though – this is exactly the sort of game you’ll want to play while socked away on a rainy vacation at home in front of the TV in docked mode. That way, you’re all into the visual and aural experience (the game both looks and sounds fantastic) and not having to be interrupted by outside distractions such as some kid walking up to you and asking “Hey, is that a Switch? Can I play, please because my mom won’t let me take mine outside and… blah de blah, blah, blah..” (true story, that). This is the sort of game where concentration, planning and execution are all urgent forces vying for your attentions.

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Review: Feather (Nintendo Switch)

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Because sometimes you really really need to relax, games such as Feather ($12.59, $9.99 on PC) exist and should thrive because they do what they do well enough to recommend to those with more open minds. Melbourne-based Samurai Punk‘s super-chill experience is as much of an art project as it is a highly playable stylized bird flight simulation and it works on a few levels some won’t immediately grasp. Its open world setting couple with the simple to pick up controls allow free exploration of the map which reveals a few nifty secrets for those willing to take the time to dive in and discover.

This is a game where the intentional low-poly look blends seamlessly with its lovely soundtrack that does a great job of transporting you and your brain into a comfortable place for as long as you need that respite. As there are no big goals other than enjoying the ride and locating all nine music tracks (accessible via circular gateways placed in select locations), it’s a case where if you want to end the game, it doesn’t mind when you quit because any “progression” you’ve made isn’t saved. Yes, that seems strange in this era of auto-saves or games recalling your last position before a huge event. Feather itself is the event, and it’s a low-stress one at that. Jump in at any time and fly until you’ve had your fill.

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Oh, the places you’ll go: Just explore everything, as you’ll fly into some odd spots worth seeking out.

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Review: Zanki Zero: Last Beginning (PS4)

“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…

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CHARGE COMBO… er, hey? Does that come with fries, or just a large punch? I got jokes, man. Not good ones, but I got jokes…

ZZPS4“Gleefully Apocalyptic” or “Cheerfully Downbeat” may seem like damnable praise for a game, but Spike Chunsoft has made that a winning strategy in a number of its more popular titles such as the “Deathly Amusing” Danganronpa series or those “Wonderfully Grim” Zero Escape games. Veteran developer Lancarse’s Zanki Zero: Last Beginning ($59.99) is in some ways similar, but not 100% quite like those other games, though. It’s a “Non-stop Survival RPG” with a demanding set of gameplay requirements some new to this sort of thing may find a bit tricky to grasp, but it ends up pretty satisfying once you settle in and grow accustomed to what it requires from you. In English, you’ll dig this for what works well more than those who might not “get” it at all. Go try that lengthy PS4 demo out and make your move, I say.

You play as a team of eight survivors of a world-ending event who initially seem to think they’re in a bizarre reality show, but soon find out they’re clones with a 13-day lifespan forced to repeat the cycle of birth to death as they puzzle out the hows and whys of their existence. Their guides? A pair of cartoon show hosts living in a separate reality who pop up on an unplugged vintage televisions to give them missions that will expand or end their lives (or both) as they’re completed. Yes, you get 10XP if you realize there’s some nefariousness going on behind the scenes (or, under the skin, if you prefer). And yes, I thought David Lynch would make a fine directorial choice if there’s ever a live-action version of this one, but as usual… I digress.

 

 

As you can see from that trailer above, you can expect death to come calling frequently (a lot less so if you play on the new to the English version Easy mode). That said, dying here isn’t all bad, as what can kill you will in most cases will make your party members stronger as new resistances and even a bit of lifespan extending can be acquired based on how and when you buy the farm. Buy early, buy often, but try not to buy it too much as your lives are limited. There’s also that parasitic Clione the clones have to deal with – use their powers wisely, or pay the price with a somewhat spectacular death.

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Review: Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics (Nintendo Switch)

Cthulhu SwitchYeah, there’s a review hidden in here somewhere, but first, a lengthy foreword of sorts before the main event. I blame American International Pictures for my unapologetic appreciation for H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction, but I’ll also blame a particular English class teacher way back in my high school days who assigned the class to write a book report on anything they’d recently read and liked, no matter the medium.

We had to each bring our book of choice in so he could approve it and (eek) everyone had to go up to the front of the class and explain why we chose that particular read, which was mind you, quite a challenge for some of the more socially awkward students (*cough*, ahem!). Of course, one smart-ass decided to be funny and bring in Clifford, the Big Red Dog as his choice and was surprised as hell when his choice was approved… with the caveat that it had to be twice the length of the 500 words the other students were assigned as well as “the BEST damn book report on Clifford, ever!” (eek). So much for that dude trying to get off easy, right?

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Not quite what one thinks of when “Eldritch” is the subject, but it kind of works.

Me? I ended up picking Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space” from a collection of his works thanks to seeing the so-so 1965 film “Die, Monster, Die!” on TV a few times and later finding out via either Famous Monsters of Filmland , The Monster Times, or some other sci-fi/horror flick-related magazine that the film’s story was very loosely based on that well-aged 1927 short story.  I distinctly recall after struggling through my intro speech in front of the class, I ended up getting a note to see the teacher after class (Yipes!). But all he did was complement me on my “mature” selection and note that I’d maybe find out later in life that ol’ H.P. was a tad controversial for a few reasons I didn’t know at the time. Personally, I didn’t care because I wanted to explore the story in question more than I wanted to stumble over info later that would maybe make me not like what I’d read way back when I was in those formative years.

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Review: The Wizards – Enhanced Edition (PSVR)

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Yep, buy it.

BOOM. Carbon Studios has cooked up an absolutely incredible and fun VR experience in The Wizards: Enhanced Edition ($24.99), a game so immensely entertaining it’ll make you want to run out and buy a PS4 and PSVR setup just to play it. If you’ve already got that rig and are ready for the next instant classic… well, here you go.

Granted, there are a nice selection of other exceptional games for PSVR fans (Moss, Astro Bot, BattleZone and many more spring immediately to mind as must-owns). But as a huge fan of action/adventures with a fantasy setting (this isn’t quite a RPG despite having plenty of RPG inspired content), the game’s got that great “Just one more level!” pull to it that keeps you pushing forward with a rather huge grin on your headset-covered face. Well, an hour or so at a time if you’re not able to sit for long VR sessions and need to take breaks (I’m in that category, by the way).

As I haven’t played the PC version, going into the world of Meliora completely cold made for an even more thrilling time right out of the gate. Dual PS Move controllers in hands, the game does quite an excellent job at making you feel like a full on magic-slinging, monster mashing champ. While there’s likely going to be a bit of a learning curve for new players, for PSVR vets, the game excels at making you feel as if you’re in its solidly rendered environments with a level of immersion so great that even those glove-covered hands you’ll be casting and blasting with are pretty flawlessly animated. Once you learn how to time your spells and cast them properly, any initial frustrations will melt away (along with a few waves of weaker foes). Bosses are a challenge on a few fronts, but overall, this one’s a well-made chunk of entertainment. No new ground is broken here, but this comes recommended because it gets what it gets as right as can be every chance it gets.

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“You’ve got the touch… you’ve got the POWER!… ZZZAP!

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Capsule Reviews: You Need That Cute and Busy Stuff These Days

Foo. In addition to hating being ill, I’m kind of really hating on the general level of discourse we’re often forced into on random occasions when one is not even thinking of doing any feather-ruffling and someone you barely nod at gets their feathers quite ruffled. Boo. Anyway, some games are actually quite perfect at boinging away the nonsense thanks to crafty devs who just want to share what they’ve created with anyone and everyone who wants to have a good old time and maybe end a day with a smile. Submitted for your approval are the following indies, all at a nice enough price point to recommend to even the cheapest of cheapskates:

 

 

ihugu boxIHUGU (Nintendo Switch, $3.99): The first time I turned on Kool2Play’s simple and offbeat game, I was greeted with a quote from Ronald Reagan about peace that made me nearly spit out the sip of water I’d just taken. The second time I fired up the game, it was a quote from Jimi Hendrix that was in the same peaceful vein. While more or less a basic memory match game, the concept works well enough thanks to a wacky factor that more than makes up for its repetitive nature. Hug as many different folks as you can in assorted levels set around the globe and try for high scores by not hugging the same person twice. A few brief mini-games of the non-violent sort are dropped in every so often and are the same simplistic fun, but complexity and depth aren’t supposed to be strong points here.

 

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It ain’t rocket science, folks: huggin’, not thuggin’ is the way to do it.

 

Then again, the idea of a simple hug making someone’s day is almost a luxurious thought these days, a pipe dream of sorts if you think about it in this climate. But some of you may be very surprised to know that in real life this action (when done in a non-creepy and pure manner) is actually a great way to greet friends new or old. The game’s positivity and bright, cheerful visuals make it something to dip into if your day has been chick full of gloomy types angst-ing at your ankles with their low attitudes. Besides, you can custom create a bizarre looking character that only a mother would love who gets to spread a bit of joy as it zips from stage to stage spreading the love. What’s to hate about that? Also, the new 2-player mode is pretty neat for what it is even though the game never sets its sights above novelty status.

Score: C+ (75%)

Review code provided by the publisher

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Review: Warplanes: WW2 Dogfight

warplanes switch squareWhile it’s got quite the generic title, don’t pass up the chance to snap up Warplanes: WW2 Dogfight ($9.99) on the eShop, as it’s a stellar, challenging arcade-like flight combat game with a few simulation and light RPG elements. Featuring fast-paced gameplay, solid visuals, tight controls and difficulty that ranges from casual to challenging, it’s quite a nice surprise for a budget-priced digital game.

Each of the three campaigns (UK, Russian, German) can be played in their native language (with English subtitles), an excellent touch that adds authenticity to the overall experience. For the most part, the mission structure is similar across all three campaigns where you’ll hop into an assortment of planes and take on missions ranging from dogfights, bombing runs, and other aerial ace combat. The gameplay can be set to auto-target/autofire for more casual play, standard aiming and firing where you need to learn how to “lead” planes and fire at where they’re headed, or a hardcore mode that loses that auto-targeting and has you rely on sheer skill alone. Dealing with multiple bogeys coming your way from all angles when you’re having to target and fire without aid can be frustrating, but it’s a great way to truly test your nerves.

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Review: Spintires: Mudrunner – American Wilds (Nintendo Switch)

spintires switchAs with the PC and other console versions, Spintires: Mudrunner – American Wilds ($39.99) on the Switch is a pretty outstanding technical achievement, although this latest version isn’t without a few caveats. Packing in all the original game’s content along with the American Wilds expansion, it’s pretty amazing to see this simulation arrive on Nintendo’s hybrid looking and playing so well. Granted, it’s running at half the frame rate of the PC version and you’ll likely enjoy docked mode more than handheld mode if you’re a total visual purist. But it’s still amazing to see the Switch pumping out everything the more powerful consoles can with mostly relative ease.

If you’re new to the game, expect a hefty challenge the simple and quick tutorial deftly dances around because the game is meant to hook you in and have you figure out what you can do at your own pace.  This isn’t some fast-paced arcade monster truck fest with power-ups or turbo boosts galore. Nope, it’s a methodically paced simulation that demands practice and patience galore, but despite the learning curve manages to be incredibly fun and rewarding when all is said and done.

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“Keep on truckin’, baby…. you got to keep on… truckin…”

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Review: Gear.Club Unlimited 2

Yeah, yeah. I’m not a big Mario Kart fan these days. So sue me. Granted, I do like the series a lot and yes, it’s fun as heck and all that. But when it comes to racing games or in this case, pure driving games, I tend to prefer a bit more realism these days or at least something that works as a hybrid of simulation and casual play where you can dip in and enjoy a game that has actual cars to mess around with. On my other consoles, it’s been a wealth of choices for quite some time and I’m more than pleased with the selection I have. On the other hand, we have Nintendo’s last two home consoles (Wii U and Switch) that up until late last year, had a grand total of three GOOD titles that featured licensed cars, one on the Wii U from 2013 and two which came out in 2017 and 2018. That’s just plain nuts.

 

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That versatile Unity engine sure does a car body good in this game.

gcu2_boxartAlthough both have a few issues that keep them from being as great as they should be, I’ll still recommend Microïds and developer Eden Games Gear.Club Unlimited ($44.99) and Gear.Club Unlimited 2 ($59.99) because warts and all, they contain a decent amount of actual licensed cars and are quite lengthy racing experiences when all is said and done. Yes, the load times are somewhat long (grrr!) and the handling can be squirrelly (and more so in the sequel even with the patches). But there’s a certain cool factor when you take a an actual licensed domestic or foreign car out for a test run from the dealership or can afford to add it to your digital garage and full-on race it whenever you feel that need for speed.

Speaking of garages, should there be a third game in this series, Eden should trim and simplify the garage function in order to give players a speedier means of car management between events. Keep the paint and sticker customization, but relegate everything else to a slick menu that’s faster to navigate. Also, adding the ability to drive freely on any unlocked course as a means of learning the handling model would be an excellent addition (as well as bringing back fond memories of the best parts of Eden’s Test Drive Unlimited games from the late 2000’s).

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