Review: Mary Skelter: Nightmares (PC)

Mary Skelter Nightmares PC

GhostLight’s wonderful port of Mary Skelter: Nightmares brings the game to PC in a flawless translation of the Vita version and yes, it’s absolutely worth a buy.  Seeing and playing it on a larger screen reveals sharper enemy and background art, but you won’t be fiddling with anything other than resolution and window size settings if you really need to. In fact, the rather low system requirements makes this one of the more accessible modern dungeon crawlers out there. Even if you’re not into the anime art style and overall offbeat tone here, the game excels on the gameplay front in capturing the spirit of the classic Wizardry games.

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Nope, this isn’t your Granny’s version of Snow White or any of the other gals from those old fairy tales. These girls can take care of themselves pretty well.

That’s not to say at all that the game is an entry level experience. There’s a decent enough difficulty curve and a combination of expansive maps, deadly traps and powerful bosses that will keep you on your toes. The main story involves a living tower-like dungeon called Jail looming over a city in Tokyo it has buried underground and the attempts of a squad of lovely anime ladies and one guy tasked with climbing that tower with intent on defeating the Marchen (monsters) and Nightmares (bosses) that inhabit it. The team’s main purpose is to enter the Jail’s oddball dungeons and defeat the Nightmares, which will grow the tower and allow it to reach the planet’s surface, allowing the citizens of the underground Liberated Zone their true freedom. There’s a bit more (well, a good deal more) to the story, but letting it unfold while playing is the best means of experiencing it.

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Review: Dead Cells (PS4)

Dead_Cells_PS4Bordeaux, France based developer Motion Twin’s absolutely superb Dead Cells ($24.99) is exactly the sort of game that belongs on a disc in a case with a manual you can whip out and peruse as you play. I’m tossing this out there because the game truly feels like one of those instant classics you want to come home from a long workday and unwind with. As in walking through your front door, kicking off your shoes, tossing your bag onto a chair and going through the whole ritual of opening a game case, popping that disc into your system (or game card if you’re a Switch owner) and settling in for a solid play session.  The game blends its influences marvelously and (as much as I despise the term) is indeed one of the finest “Metroidvania” style games to date. Actually, the developer calls it a “RogueVania” which is a bit better, but whatever – this one’s a must buy no matter what you prefer calling it.

(Thanks, PlayStation!)

In a nutshell, you’re playing a rather dead but reanimated (and excellently animated) immortal character who needs to survive a treacherous trip through a sprawling series of randomly laid out themed levels. Before you get all twisted out of shape thinking of games that get this randomization wrong, this is one case where the dev team nails it. When you die (and you will die early and often), the game sends you back to the beginning of the map you bought the farm on and upon restarting, you’ll notice the layout has changed but you’ll face off against the same enemies while retaining learned skills.  It’s a dash of what you’re expecting (Castlevania, Metroid, Demon’s Souls, assorted roguelikes and roguelites) with some nicely implemented dark comic touches that add some great humor to the game. No checkpoints means you’ll need to learn to survive by playing and replaying sections in order to die less (or not at all). But each death ends up meaningful for a few reasons you’ll eventually discover.

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Review: Bud Spencer & Terence Hill: Slaps and Beans

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“Once upon a time in the west…” er, wrong movie, but you know what I mean…

Slaps & Beans - coverYep, it’s here and it’s great. As a fan of old-school arcade beat ’em ups, Trinity Team’s excellent Bud Spencer & Terence Hill: Slaps and Beans ($19.99) does exactly what its meant to do and does it with a ton of love (and many slaps and beans). I’ll give those of you scratching your heads a second to look up some of the duo’s films (here you go) and admit that for some of you, they may not be your to your taste (which means you need to watch a few and become a convert to their brand of international slapstick).

The game is an absurd amount of fun as a solo or co-op experience with a wacky story line, mini-games galore and some really great music that’s worth buying on a disc if you’re a fan of what’s here. While it’s not a terribly long game, it’s one where you’ll replay it either alone or with a buddy because it’s packed with laughs and challenge on the harder difficulties. Personally, I don’t grasp at all people who only play an otherwise solid game one or two times and shelve it away, but such is the current state of gaming where hours seem to mean more than overall quality to some “gamers” out there. It makes me wonder how the deal with heavier entertainment like non-fiction books or serious documentaries. But I digress – here’s some gameplay to ogle from yours truly:

 

(Thanks, Me!)

 

I heard you laughing all the way across the internet with me. This is good. Continue reading

Review: Sega Genesis Classics (PS4)

Sega Genesis Classics PS4Since you’re in a hurry, here’s the short version: Yes, Sega Genesis Classics is worth the $29.99 just for the JRPGs alone, but you’re getting a whole lot of other okay to really decent to superb games for that price. Here’s something to consider before you more jaded gamers turn up your noses at this latest Sega compilation that yes, has most of the same old games you’ve either played to death in the past or just have little to no interest in. Every day there’s likely someone trying out a retro game of some sort and those who’ve never tried anything on the Genesis are going to be very well served here.

Granted, this collection is missing a few titles found on other collections (notably, the PC version which not only has a few more games, it allows users to mod and add other games as an option), there’s online play that’s not quite flawless and a rewind feature that can make certain titles too easy to beat. That said, as an introduction to a classic console, it’s quite the deal at the end of the day.

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Wait. If you leave the phone off the hook, you can’t call your friends over for some couch co-op action! Oh, you need to make more friends? Okay, then.

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Review: Bleed Complete Bundle (PS4)

Bleed Complete Edition PS4Hoo Boy. If they were a pair of cartridge games back in the mid-1990’s for the SNES, Genesis or any other console of that era, I’d bet we’d see Bleed Complete Edition ($27.99) pop up on a few action game of the year charts back to back. That said, both games can absolutely compete with today’s high action games thanks to tried and true great gamplay. Both titles are gloriously over the top, non-stop, throw everything at you and watch you jump insanity with seemingly endless levels, 2-player co-op, boss fights that will whiten your hair and replay value way off the charts.  There’s also a sense of pure unadulterated fun here that keeps things flowing through all the gameplay modes making even the easiest difficulty somewhat challenging for novice players.

Don’t let the simple looks fool you at all, kids. Both games will smack you around, lay down covering fire and drop all sorts of ordinance on your head if you attempt to take it easy. Badass heroine Wryn can take it as well as dish it out, but it’s up to your skills to keep her alive to fight another day.  The gal wants to be a hero and certainly has the chops, as you can see below:

 

 

Developer Ian Campbell (aka Bootdisk Revolution) drew influences from all over the gaming map, tossing elements from classics such as the Contra series, Gunstar Heroes, a few arcade bullet hell shmups and more. The game is also packing a very solid sense of humor right from the get-go. Wryn’s got a kill list full of bosses to take down (a Kill Bill reference) and the game is pretty much her doing just that while trying to blast or avoid all sorts of heinously cute kitties, robots and other very well-armed baddies, sub-bosses and bosses. In between stages, there’s a cartoon news show that drops in some amusing bits that don’t wear out their welcome and yes, give your fingers a chance to cool off before more mayhem begins. Continue reading

Review: Figment (Nintendo Switch)

Figment SwitchFigment ($19.99) is just about as good as it gets on a number of fronts. it’s visually charming yet quite surreal, a bit edgy in tone, perhaps a tad too challenging for younger kids but a total sweet spot game for those who appreciate solid and well designed indies. Did I mention it’s also got a great musical score and songs during some fights? Well, it does (another thing that makes it great stuff).

All its cranky antihero Dusty wants is some ice for his drink, but that rather quickly turns into a quest to rescue a fractured mind in a impressive hybrid of adventure, puzzle, and action game elements liberally sprinkled with wry humor adults will appreciate. There’s also a deeper psychological thing going on that lends the game a Psychonauts-style approach to storytelling as layers are peeled back and you realize the game’s got a serious side that adds to its depth.

 

 

Dusty (who looks like George Herriman’s Krazy Kat as re-imagined by Dali with a dash of Tim Burton) is accompanied by a super cheery companion, Piper, a bird-like creature who’s a fountain of peppiness. The banter between the pair is pretty amusing because at first, Dusty is annoyed by her constant reminders of his past deeds and sunny disposition. he doesn’t want to get to anything but his beverage and is mighty tiffed that his relaxing time is turning into a big deal that has him venturing into places where others recall his old good deeds.

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The artistic influences here are brilliant if you know your art history. Even if you don’t, the game is a total visual treat.

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Review: Moss (PSVR)

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Every tail, er TALE, has a beginning. This one’s a really good one provided you’ve got a PS4 and PSVR setup (or Oculus or Vive and a powerful PC.

Moss PSVRIt’s too bad Polyarc’s fantastic new PSVR game Moss ($29.99) is only playable on a PS4 using Sony’s virtual reality headset (or on PC with a pricier Oculus or Vive setup) because it’s pretty awesome and one of the best VR games on the console. Granted, the developer’s total commitment to making a solid VR experience is part of what makes the game so excellent. But I’m of the mind that really well-made games such as this may actually benefit from “flat” versions that, while missing the VR trickery, are just plain fun to play for those without a VR setup.

As great as any VR game is, one thing that needs to not be forgotten is not every gamer will be sold on the tech, can’t use it, or just wants to play good games without the financial burden of paying a few hundred extra bucks for the privilege. That said, if you’ve a PSVR in the house and want another excellent game to show off that just so happens to be family friendly fun, go grab this one and get ready for a fine storybook adventure that yes, can’t be done on the stock PS4.

The use of VR here is much more than a mere gimmick thanks to the developer going above and beyond the call in having the player multitask in mostly great ways. A cute mouse named Quill is the game’s heroine and your goal as the Reader is to help guide her along the way as she attempts to rescue her uncle. The game’s book-like structure is evident from the start as you flip pages to begin Quill’s tale. Puzzle elements come into play as Quill navigates the lovely environments with you helping her out by manipulating objects in the environments to help her reach new locations. Where this element soars over “flat” games is how wonderfully Polyarc has incorporated the VR experience so fully into things to the point of many smile-worthy moments as Quill’s tale unfolds. Yes, that means my non-VR version point above becomes a bit (okay, VERY) moot, but I’ll make a feeble attempt at a saving throw a bit below.

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Even if you hate mieces to pieces (and +10 if you got a chuckle from that joke), Moss will make your mouse-o-meter calm down. Quill’s quite the cutie pie, *squeak!*

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Review: Super Destronaut DX (PS4/Vita)

(Thanks, Ratalaika Games!)

SD_DXAmusingly enough, in the middle of all the stuff I’m working on, I got distracted by a code for Super Destronaut DX ($4.99, Cross-Buy) and made the “mistake” of downloading and playing it for a bit longer than expected. I use the word “mistake” in the jokiest of manners because the game is not only a ton of fun, it brings back memories of hitting the arcades on the weekends and dropping quarters into way too many now classic shooters and other games. It’s also a Trophy hunter’s dream game, as those rewards drop like rain during a sudden thunderstorm. Even if you’re not into collecting those invisible treats, they appear so frequently that you may think there’s some sort of crazy glitch taking place.

Once again, Ratalaika Games and Petite Games have whipped out a fun retro-inspired blast of greatness that’s seemingly simple on the surface, but packs in the fun for a low enough price point that it’s an instant recommend. As with Inksplosion (also $4.99 and Cross-Buy, so go get this one as well), the game’s not the longest out there on the surface. However, to this former arcade denizen, both of these titles replicate flawlessly the intensity and some of the challenge of those old arcade games (which by the way, were primarily really short experiences that were replayed in order to be mastered).

 

(yep, that’s me being lousy at this game. Hey, I’m old!)

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Review: Omensight (PS4)

Omensight_PS4Let me tell you, ladies, gents, and anyone else within read-shot. Despite a very strong start, I was about ready to give up on Omensight ($19.99) a few times as I played it. In fact, after sinking half a day into it when I first got a review code and later, a few more hours over the course of a week, I was torn between loving the game for its gorgeous stylized visuals and interesting murder mystery/action adventure hybrid thing and almost hating it because some key gameplay elements were a bit too broken to make me want to continue.

As I really liked developer Spearhead Games’ award-winning Stories: The Path of Destinies a lot (go get it, I say), I went in knowing the quality of this new game would be at least up to snuff or even better than its predecessor. On the surface, the more impressive visuals, stylish combat and intriguing segmented story structure made for a excellent followup. But a few things marred the experience somewhat.

While the combat was solid, the tendency for off-screen enemies to launch assorted physical, ranged and magic attacks made getting though some sections unscathed quite annoying. Especially as the game offered a score bonus for not taking damage from enemies or accidentally falling off ledges. Which leads to the jumping sections in the game where frustration abounded thanks to areas where clean traversal was nearly impossible partially thanks to the locked down game camera either not being in an optimum spot or me simply missing what should have been a simple jumping sequence thanks to stuff like flying creatures in the way or a platform or three seeming as if they were the place to leap (but weren’t). Sort of like this example (yep, that’s me being very terrible as this game in that clip below). So, I stopped playing and decided to wait until a patch or two dropped to fix things up.

 

 

Thankfully, the game ended up getting those few helpful patches that cleaned things up significantly as well as adding a few unexpected yet very welcome tweaks and yes, I can now heartily recommend it as a very solid sleeper hit worthy of your time.

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Review: Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered (PS4)

RFRM_PS4While much of its color palette is about as utilitarian as the sledgehammer lead character Alec Mason swings around, Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered ($29.99) still delivers the goods (and how!) when it comes to its core gameplay. Mars may be the big hot spot some look to as our future home (ha!), but in this game, it’s one of the worst places off earth. The game itself is quite solid overall thanks to recent patching that fixed a few flaws, but getting the hang of weapon switching in the heat of battle is still some tricky business.

Developer KAIKO took Volition’s 2009 PS3/Xbox 360/PC game and added some nice modern visual flourishes such as revamped textures, lighting, and shadow effects along with a (mostly) smoother 60fps frame rate. The game also packs in all the DLC, including a side story set years before the main game featuring a badass heroine who uses some cool alien weaponry, so this package is going to be a treat for those who want additional solo and online play modes to pad out an already lengthy game experience.

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Annnnd just when you make that last payment on your ride, here comes Mason to check up on that repair or replacement clause.

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