Review: Children of Morta (PS4)

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COM_cover“Outstanding” is the first word that springs to mind in Dead Mage and 11Bit Studios spectacular Children of Morta ($29.99), a game I didn’t want to stop playing. I dragged out the gameplay intentionally, clocking in about 25 hours in because between the lovely visuals, great action-packed gameplay, and often heart-tugging story here, I didn’t want to leave this gorgeous action/RPG’s world. Yes, it’s a slower paced story and some may think it’s heavy use of deliberately paced narrative and the narrator’s Bastion-like delivery slows the game down. But as someone who’s a reader of stories (and sometimes a teller of them when properly prompted) this didn’t bother me one bit. Besides, every game one plays need not be the same as another and the focus on family here is welcome for a change.

This is a game where sentiment is an important plot device, but the action is also well implemented and sometimes very challenging in a product that took five years to craft. Both the art and artistry on display are to be properly commended, so hats off to all involved in this. I got a digital code to review, but I’m surely and sorely tempted to buy this as a physical release just to have if it ever disappears from PSN for any reason. Yeah, I’d play this again even though it’s more or less a “one and done” game to some extent, but a great one worth checking out a few times for its randomly generated levels and some neat side missions (“Who’s a good puppy? You are!” is a hint I’ll give). I was thrilled by most of what’s here to definitely say I’d revisit it like a good novel because it works well as enough of a memorable visual and aural treat with a good story, to boot.

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Pixel perfection, plus the animation is always fantastic.

The Bergsons are a family that discovers a corrupting force has come to their land and fortunately, the spirit of adventure runs in the family. That we’re dealing with a tight-knit family where you can choose to play as a few classes is a fine touch and surprise, much better that the sometimes generic hero types (that too often have some form of amnesia) in RPGs. One fun thing here is the Bergsons have nicely normal names that seem dull, but I say that’s more the player than the game wanting to choose a “McHero” or original sounding name because they think it makes for a better experience. This game, for me works because no one person is the star – they’re all great and necessary characters here. Even the ones that seem a little strange in some areas (Lucy, I’m taking about you and that laughing of yours).

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Review: One Night Stand (PS4)

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“Back up for a sec. I did WHAT last night?”

ONS_boxShort and simple on the surface, Kinmoku and ever busy port-house and publisher Ratalaika Games present a nifty little surprise in the form of One Night Stand, ($4.99) a game practically guaranteed to tee some prudish or easily triggered folks off (such as those expecting the usual trophy hunt from the publisher. Oh, they’re here, but it they come with a bit of baggage some can’t or won’t handle). This one’s a “slice of life” game, a visual novel where the person you’re playing wakes up in bed with a girl he met the night before and has (well, it’s an option here, but who doesn’t like a mystery?) to put the pieces together as he attempts to find out a few things about her.

Yeah, yeah. “Ooh, cooties” and all that dopey nonsense some will chime like broken bells as they whine about this game being the end of the world or bottom of the barrel or whatever. But it’s actually a pretty decent experience overall if you free yourself from any prejudices you may have Like it or not, some people in the real world sleep with each other and they’re not married and pumping out children. You can say this game is a sort of representational reality in a way of some (DEFINITELY not all) of the effects.

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Yeah, Let me choose (carefully, now!)…

Granted, waking up next to a total stranger is quite a change of pace (and how!) from this publisher of budget games, but it’s a risk that pays off big in little ways. As noted, the game is short (about 10 to 15 minutes per outcome), but replaying the scenario you get will extend the story across a few branches and yes, get you those trophies you’re after. As I like to note in my reviews of these games, Trophies are the last thing I think about and games like this are excellent ways to shake thing up.

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Review: Reventure (Switch)

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One switch is an ending trap, one releases a trap (and another ending) and one might have something useful inside. Maybe…

Reventure_boxAnd… here we go! Once again, it’s off to rescue a Princess from a demon’s well-guarded castle, but this time, I’m dying laughing thanks to the game I’m playing tossing many unexpected curve balls my way. Welcome to Reventure ($9.99), Pixellato’s fun and intense side-scrolling homage to among other games, The Legend of Zelda series, but with 100 endings to discover.

Most are abrupt surprises that send your character back to square one within a few minutes of play, but time is weirdly and intentionally presented here, so an outcome may send your hero into the distant future or later the same day. It all depends on the ending you get, and it’s very possible to drop a few hours here just exploring and figuring out the seemingly simple map that holds a lot of secrets (and quite a few traps). While that may sound boring to some, it makes for some downright hilarious moments based on your choices. That said, the game can also be (also intentionally) confusing to those who expect a straightforward speedrun or other type of one-note platformer.

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Review: A Knight’s Quest (PS4)

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“I’m a little Rusty at this!”

AKQ_PS4While it treads familiar ground, it does so with enough winking and nodding to classic action platform and open world games to be quite smile-worthy. Developer Sky9 and Curve Digital present A Knight’s Quest ($24.99) a fun and mostly very pretty looking homage to some greats, Fun as it is, it could use a patch to fix a few issues. That said, it’s quite exciting to see a game reach for the stars like this, but it’s also painful to see a few stumbles that keep it from 100% potential greatness. As noted above, a few fixes will make it the stellar experience it needs to be. Still, Curve Digital has a little sleeper on its hands that old-school platformer fans will find a lot to love.

As Rusty, a hero who’s a bit on the clumsy side, you start out the game finding a wooden sword and shield in a cave you’re exploring before all hell breaks loose a few minutes into things. This sequence shows off some thrilling platforming and a bit of combat as the cave is escaped, and high marks here for a nifty start to things. Plot-wise, it’s a “find the legendary heroes, gain elemental magic from each one than will help you in each area” thing you’d expect, but with a dose of lighthearted humor and Rusty riffing on what he can. The weird mix of styles to the game world (which mixes a sort of medieval fantasy setting with stuff like radios and chain link fences in areas that can’t be accessed right away) seems a bit odd, but it’s worth saying it works after seen enough times while exploring.

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Fire good! Uh, stop, drop, and roll dude.

Additionally, if you like collecting stuff, the game goes out of it’s way to get you to search for secrets in hidden places or heck, almost anywhere you happen to be. From hidden treasure caches to singing slugs to breakables of a few types, it offers quite a few secrets to discover. It all feels like a throwback to another time or a game that means to keep you as busy as possible for as long as you’re playing. An amusing thing here is the game references Sky9’s Flash adventure/RPG from a while back, so some jokes will go right over a few heads unless that game was played. I didn’t see a hidden version of that game here, but I wasn’t looking everywhere thanks to blazing through some later maps to get this post up. It’s too bad Sony considers the Vita a lost cause, as the game looks like it would be a fine diversion on the portable or even better, a bonus for console owners.

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Review: Scheming Through The Zombie Apocalypse: The Beginning (PS4)

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Oh, for now, it does, Larry…

Scehming 1Disclaimer: Zombies as portrayed in the media aren’t a real thing at all and if you’ve been paying attention, apocalypses (other than the cosmic variety) are kinda man-made messes these days.

That said, in Scheming Through The Zombie Apocalypse: The Beginning ($4.99, also on Switch, Xbox One, and PC) some really hilarious and crude content awaits in this game where an old cartoon rabbit called Hank and his younger mutt friend Larry, scam fellow animals to do their supply runs in this really fun and short (because it’s presented episodically) game from the fine folks at Entertainment Forge, GrabTheGames, and Ratalaika Games. The funky cartoon style and limited animation recall something you’d see in an underground comic or during Cartoon Network’s better years, the script is pretty funny, and the game is memorable enough that you’re left wanting more (and more is on the way).

As the game begins, a (or The) zombie apocalypse has started, and buddies Hank and Larry have plans to hole up with Hank’s storage of a year’s worth of food plus some movies to get by (and yes, some drugs). Four months later (oops), they’re out of supplies, the power has been turned off (it’s actually one of the first things that happens) and Hank and Larry have to brave the outside world to get new supplies, starting with the wrecked shop across the street from them. Poor Larry is the first guinea pig, as Hank’s a bit slow (and he’s got the binoculars) and he survives, only to run into a drunken parrot and two easily pissed-off bulls who demand they give up some of their hard-gained loot.

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Review: Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain (PS4)

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Oh, wait ’til you have at least a dozen or so of these big guys to deal with and a few dozen or so ants and other bugs ti deal with (yipes).

EDF_IR BoxWith a new developer, new game engine and new elements to its gameplay, Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain ($59.99, $89.99 for the Ultimate Edition) ends up being kind of a reboot on one hand, but totally new and harder that the other games in the franchise on the other. This is a good thing, although a few elements could use some fixing up. Veteran Japanese developer Yuke’s decided to go with making the game tougher overall even on the easiest mode to the point it’s rough going to solo some missions unless you have very particular weapons or play with other live players in split-screen or online. While yes, you can tackle missions alone if you like, the mix of enemy types combined with less open maps and AI allies who seem to expire too quickly in some of the busier maps make for less mindless fun but more challenge at the end of the day.

It’s also a big game, with new character customization galore and the ability to play any character as any class, swapping out the new PA Gear at will between missions. Though not quite as mission varied or long as the Sandlot-developed games, it’s still a lot of game for the money and if you’re into that, it’s going to be money well spent. Granted, the mighty EDF 5 did suffer from a few repetitive missions and maps and the next to last boss fight dragged a bit because you needed to figure out how to beat that transforming spaceship boss as quickly as possible (and it took a while to do so the first time). A few tweaks here would help make a good game better, though. The appeal to western audiences ends up adding some elements to the game that it really didn’t need, and I’m saying this as someone who liked Earth Defense Force Insect Armageddon because it shook things up back when it was released.

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Review: Neo Cab (PC)

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Here’s a ride worth taking.

Now, this was pretty cool one, and not a “honk” in sight.

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Geez. Well, maybe if they have a lousy attitude like you, they might, lady…

Chance Agency’s excellent “survival adventure” game Neo Cab  (also on Switch and Apple Arcade) feels to me like what would happen if the classic cyberpunk FASA game series Shadowrun got a first-person expansion focusing not on weapons or magic, but a human taxi driver who just took mostly normal and a few tech-enhanced passengers where they needed to go, listening or responding to their mundane stories along the way.  There’s also a smidgen of a more recent game Night Call, minus the murder investigation aspect to contend with (there’s a taxi accident mentioned a few times that occurs off-screen integral to the plot, but the Teen-rated game doesn’t feature any violence). The people you meet as pax (passengers)  here are a pretty interesting (and well-written) sort where if you have time over the game’s six-day period, you’ll want to pick a few up multiple times in order to find out more of their stories.

There’s replay value here because the game’s main story only lasts about four or hours and intentionally limits pickups to three (or four in cases where you decide to take a chance on an extra run) a day. Granted, the plot threads all link up at some point, but it’s impressive to see how it all comes together even if the finale tends to be a bit of an anticlimax on one front when compared to the bulk of the game. It’s not a bad ending, mind you. It just forces a particular choice at you until you pick what seems to be closure for some characters. While there’s no voice acting here, most of the “acting” here is nicely mimed and/or conveyed through what’s seen on-screen.

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Review: SEGA AGES Puyo Puyo (Switch)

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I’m set to be sorry, heh.

Puyo Puyo SwitchWhile it’s a tad barebones when stacked up (heh) against its other ports, the M2 version of SEGA’s classic Puyo Puyo is a pretty addictive gem. I had to put off my review thanks to a friend who wanted to school me being a bit ill, but man, I walked right into her trap because even though she was still a bit under the weather when I dropped by to see if she was up for a surprise gaming visit, I was a smoked duck almost as soon as she started playing, drawing a few hearty laughs out of her husband, who refused to play with a “Well, she’s pretty good, even though she’s sick” mantra he fell back on almost every time I lost a round. No, he’s not a big gamer, but he does know from about 20 years of wedded bliss she’s a total monster at games like this.

Yes, there are the much beefier Puyo Puyo Tetris and more recently, the online-centric (and less beefy) Puyo Puyo Champions to scream at (she has both). But this one’s special to her because it was an arcade staple of her growing up in Japan. Well, there was also the hefty bragging from her and a few humorous warnings not to play her by the hubby every so often.  Those alone were reason enough to get a review code. Well, I also was curious see to how good (or badly) I was going to get beaten. Let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed by the near total routing I received. Or, I was, but too bruised up to say much in my defense, heh. Ow.

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Review: Space Cows (Switch)

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What are you doing to that cow, man? Oh, never mind…

cq5dam.thumbnail.319.319Ha. I remember a little game called  Boogerman: A Pick and Flick Adventure that got a few major censorship issues way back in 1994 on the Sega Genesis because it was deemed too crude until a few odd edits were made. Walkabout Games’ hilarious Space Cows ($12.99) laughs at the very idea of censors as it farts at every chance and is pretty funny and weird for a hardcore twin-stick shooter. Let’s just say expect psychics will come into play somewhat and you’ll need to work within the game’s control scheme if you want to fully enjoy the ride.

As Best Regards, a farmer who’s cows have been swiped by aliens, it’s all up to you to get then back with a handy toilet plunger as your main weapon and a bit of gassy propulsion to keep you aloft. Don’t try to pretend this makes any sort of sense, though. Other than the well-implemented physics system that makes the game tougher, this isn’t exactly rocket science.

Or is it? (roll trailer, please):

That said, between the main game proper and the wealth of short mini-games, there’s a heck of a lot happening here and your sense of humor needs to be tempered with a sense of understanding that the game is doing it’s darndest to offend at every turn (which is a good thing). The 20 levels take a bit of work to complete, but expert players can expect around three or so hours to complete everything. Still, with three play modes, only the best of the best will experience every difficulty level.

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Review: AI: The Somniun Files (PS4)

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Get a clue, Date. Bet a cluuuuuuue.

AIBrilliant. Spike Chunsoft keeps it perfectly weird at all times with AI: The Somnium Files ($59.99), a visual novel/adventure that’s one of the best games of this type to date in terms of accessibility. Granted, it opens with a disturbing crime scene, but that gory mystery to solve (and a few others as the game goes on) becomes the starting point for Kaname Date’s adventures and every investigator needs a good mystery, right? Of course, Date soon realizes this case has ties to his past (you’ll see) and with some assistance from Aiba, his trusted partner who resides in his left eye socket (you’ll see), things get more or less cleared up (the AI’s have it, heh).

The victim, her husband, and whip-smart young daughter all have connections to Date and Date’s oddball (eyeball?) relationship with Aiba is part of the game’s pull. She’s necessary to solve a few puzzles both in the real world and the Sonmium dreamscapes you’ll dip into. Her real form is an oddly cute tiny cyclops bear thing, but in dreamscapes she takes on a more humanoid shape partly because she thinks Date’s tastes lean toward pretty women. His do, but Aiba’s form appearing outside of dreams is too distracting for him at certain points.

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Brainnnns. Expect to see a few odd dreams for Aiba to mess around in.

Gameplay combines a bit of thinking with plus trial and error in the timed Aiba segments, plus traditional point and click sections where Date investigates plot elements and clues. The latter are untimed sections where camera movement is confined to whichever location Date happens to be in while Aiba’s sections are limited to six minutes. Retrying Aiba’s more freeform portions can be done either from auto-saves, from certain spots by adding or subtracting time or by retrying if you get stuck on solutions and time expires.

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