Review: Detention (PS4)

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Detention BlockWhile thematically similar to The Coma: Recut from Devespresso Games, Red Candle Games‘ excellent Detention ($12.99 on PSN) manages to add a more psychological as well as historical tone to its scary elements. Set in a 1960’s era Taiwan during the horrfic period of martial law known as The White Terror, the game works extremely well as a short but solid game experience that gets as much mileage from its frightening imagery as it does with its somewhat timely political allegory

This isn’t a “survival horror” game in the zombie-packed Resident Evil vein and while it has a more similar vibe to the early, more thoughtful (but weirder) Silent Hill games, there are no weapons to wield here or a need to stock up on healing items for your trip through this virtual hell-space. This one’s a pure side-scrolling horror adventure game where you’ll need to avoid or appease the freakish ghosts you’ll encounter as you try and escape from the nightmare that Greenwood High has become.

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Review: Raiden V: Director’s Cut (PS4)

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How great is UFO Interactive’s Raiden V: Director’s Cut? So great that I went and grabbed the previous installment on the PS3 (which just so happened to be part of this past weekend’s PSN Flash Sale and was $2.99 very well spent), slightly kicking myself (ow!) for missing it a few years back. I’d been cutting back on arcade shooters for a while, but something about this well-aged series has always drawn me to it. It’s probably because it brings back certain good memories, but it also helps that it’s been a consistently entertaining set of games despite some lesser console versions not being as fun.

This newest installment is more polished visually and aurally and thanks to its busy color palette and tons of explosions, it really looks and feels a hell of a lot busier to the eyes and reflexes. There’s so much going on that I found myself laughing out loud (to no one in particular, as usual). Skilled developer MOSS has reworked the traditional vertical arcade game screen so it’s packed with information to the point of distraction should your eyes float to the left or right of where the real action is. But you won’t let that happen, right?

Hey, the future of the planet is at stake, pal – eyes on the prize and all that.

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Review: The Coma: Recut (PS4)

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The Coma Recut PS4Ah, high school days. The loads of homework, Salisbury “steak” and canned veggies for lunch, getting shoved into lockers by bullies, and that curvy teacher you’ve got a secret crush on transforming into a hideous axe-wielding demon-thing who will try really hard to chop you to pieces after hours…

Wait, what?

Okay, that last bit is why you’ll be way up too late on a school (or work) night and all bleary-eyed and freaked out in the morning if you’re playing The Coma: Recut. This remastered version of the Korean survival-horror cult classic, The Coma: Cutting Class manages to be pretty scary stuff from developer Devespresso Games and publisher Digerati. If you’re a fan of games such as Clock Tower (both the Super Famicom original and its first sequel on the original PlayStation), this one’s well worth snapping up.

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Review: The Solus Project (PS4)

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Survival/Crafting games are a dime a dozen these days (or cheaper if you poke around at PC game bundle sites, heh), but a game like Teotl Studios and Grip Games’ The Solus Project manages to rise above the digital ton of games that are less “survival” oriented and more about scampering around shooting at assorted organic life with food and water meters acting like gas and oil tanks in an arcade racing game.

What’s here is a also a fine sci-fi adventure game where the environment on planet Gliese-6143-C is possibly your worst enemy, but other things can also do you in if you’re careless in your roaming. Interestingly enough, the game later dips a toe (okay, its entire being) into horror elements and the unsettling sense of dread the early exploration brings turns into moments where you might be too freaked out to take another step. That the game slides through a few genres along the way ends up being a nice touch because it’s completely unexpected.

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Review: Mary Skelter: Nightmares

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MSN_bg_pcIdea Factory/Compile Heart games can be hit or miss affairs, but their latest, Mary Skelter: Nightmares is (for my money) one of their best games (and best dungeon crawlers) to date thanks to taking chances with a few tried and true formulas and smacking most them right in their sweet spots. It’s got the turn-based dungeon crawl aspects of the Wizardry series mixed in with real-time chase/combat scenarios, excellent production values and yep, a bit of M-rated fan service lightly sprinkled on top for good measure.

While parts of the plot can be somewhat pedestrian in their usage of familiar anime/manga tropes, things take a few interesting turns as the game goes on. The use of well-known mostly female characters from popular fairy tales works quite well provided your brain properly detaches them from any imagery you might recall (or: you need to re-imagine everyone as anime gals). Of course, the gameplay is where it’s at and what’s here will keep you hooked in to the very end (and then some).  If you’re a fan of the aforementioned Wizardry, Etrian Odyssey, Demon Gaze, and Dungeon Travelers 2 among other dungeon crawlers, this one’s a drop everything and go kiss your Vita if you own one event.

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Review: Pankapu (PS4)

Pankapu PS4Last year, the first chapter of Too Kind Games’ gorgeous, excellent and challenging platformer Pankapu made for a pretty captivating experience on PC and now it’s on PS4 as a complete game that’s equally beautiful and a must-play for genre fans. Bold, colorful visuals, blend with with solid, satisfying gameplay and an initially simple story that changes into more than the bedtime tale it starts out as.

Don’t let that stunning color palette and super-cute art here fool you one bit. This is a seriously tough game at times thanks to the dead-on jumping and combat skills you’ll need to succeed. Initially, you’ll play as a sword and shield-bearing warrior type, but Archer and Mage Aegis outfits eventually appear and add more combat variety as well as pros and cons. Swapping between all three Aegis types, often on the fly makes for some pretty fluid navigation when things go right. On the other hand, enemies and assorted traps can ruin a good run if you make too many mistakes. You will, trust me – Pankapu can be quite hard at times. I’m looking at you, Tokatanka (grrr!)

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Review: MAIZE (PS4)

Maize_PS4As a big fan of offbeat games and bizarre humor, Finish Line Games’ first-person 2016 adventure MAIZE was one of those instant must-play titles based on the concept alone. Well okay, I didn’t get to it until it hit PS4 this past week, but it was worth the wait. Sentient (mostly) British-accented corn created by a pair of not right in the head scientists, a cranky Russian-accented talking teddy bear and a silent protagonist out to figure out what’s going on? What’s not to love?

Of course, if you’re going into this game expecting something action-heavy with bouncy platforming and happy tunes to hum along to as you’re bouncing, you’re in the wrong game and should leave immediately before Vladdy finds out. He’ll just call you mean names and not let up until you split. That, and all the corn will ignore you and run off for a nap while you sit there looking for a “Jump” button. Everyone else, listen to Miss Davis below as you line up, single file for what’s to come:

(Thanks, SentimentalSentient!)

That, by the way is both good (the game is a hoot) and not good (some technical issues), but we’ll discuss that below. Huddle!

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Review: ARK: Survival Evolved (PS4)

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ARK_artAt the climax of Billy Wilder’s brilliant 1950 film Sunset Boulevard, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) pumps three slugs into Joe Gillis (William Holden), leaving his body floating in her swimming pool and shortly thereafter gives us a classic line of dialog as well as one of the best endings in movie history.

ARK: Survival Evolved is, in its own quirky manner, a digital Norma Desmond all made up and ready for her close-up and you’ll be playing the part of poor Joe Gillis, but in a remake of Groundhog Day with a hell of a lot more dinosaurs and without the romance angle. Translation: expect to die in this game. A lot. That out of the way, the sheer amount of things to do here makes it somewhat fantastic if you put aside a few nagging “warts and all” issues.  Then again, hell, it’s basically like dumping all the best toys you ever had as a kid onto the floor and making the biggest, craziest “epic” playset you can think of. Except the toys bite back harder and might make you want to bite your controller in half on occasion.

 

 

Based on that last bit alone, Studio Wildcard‘s game is worth the $60 with a few caveats. On the technical side, expect performance highs (great looking creatures and often gorgeous environments) and lows (frame rate dips, assorted glitches, too tiny font text) along with plenty of patch updates (five since release day). Unlike poor Joe Gillis, the game is also bullet-proof (and unlike Norma Desmond’s career, critic-proof) thanks to a very dedicated legion of longtime players since it first appeared on PC as an Early Access game back in 2015 who don’t give a hoot what anyone says. The overall kitchen sink sandbox approach works quite well on one hand as the game is never shy about giving you a ton of choice in most areas. But yes, it’s a case where patience and even more practice is required in order to fully enjoy all the rides in this Jurassic Park meets Minecraft meets sci-fi/action survival hybrid.

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Review: Night Trap: 25th Anniversary Edition

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Good luck finding one of these, folks!

NT_tinyPlaying Night Trap after about 15 or so years away from any version brought back a few sour memories. Not those about the game’s campy/cheesy vibe and still somewhat clunky gameplay that’s better if you don’t use a walkthrough to blow through your purchase within the first hour of the day you buy it.  Nope, I ended up thinking too hard about how a bunch of overly zealous politicians lied their asses off to the public (and themselves) about an intentionally silly videogame being a potential root cause for real-life violence and mayhem.

Just as they did with comic books, Dungeons & Dragons, and Hollywood movies before that (I’d include Prohibition in this as well, but let’s not get too carried away today), Night Trap was made an easy scapegoat back in 1993 along with Mortal Kombat and a few other games deemed inappropriate for kids who very likely knew they weren’t being brainwashed into axe murderers en masse. As a result, it ended up selling out in spots, was briefly taken off the market but eventually reemerged on 3DO, Sega 32X, MS-DOS, and Mac OS, turning absolutely no one into a sex fiend or blood-lusting serial killer (well, the last time I checked, at least). In terms of the remaster/re-release, Screaming Villains has definitely delivered the definitive Night Trap experience, which is kind of like saying you’re getting dented canned tuna for dinner, but it’s the best damn dented canned tuna you can buy.

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Review: Rock of Ages II: Bigger & Boulder (PS4)

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Warning: This review may be full of rock puns or something. Or not, as I’m writing this on the fly between campaign missions. Rock of Ages II: Bigger & Boulder is a must buy right out of the game if you love your games surreal, physics-based and packed with artistic genius that might roll over the heads of some gamers who won’t “get” the all-out insanity here at all. Granted, developer ACE Team has always gone out of its way to lace their games with stylistic influences that are far from the norm when it comes to pegging them with a particular style. But here, you get the kind of mind-bending overkill that’s constantly making you smile or burst out laughing because pulling off humor so well in a game like this makes it a total blast.

There’s a single player mode as well as co-op and online play for up to four. But at heart this is a spin on a few genres from racing to tower defense, to bowling with a dash of puzzle elements thrown in for good measure than can be fully enjoyed solo. Imagine if Rampart, Super Monkey Ball, and Marble Madness had a child raised on a steady diet of Monty Python animation while reading art history books for fun and you’re about a tenth of the way into what’s going on here. The game is also quite challenging and definitely not a cakewalk on the more difficult settings. That said, prepare to let the good times roll as you rock on with Atlas as he engages in rolling combat with assorted foes in not at all historically accurate settings.

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