Review: SEGA AGES Shinobi (Switch)

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Hey, that’s NOT a ninja weapon!

Switch Shinobi boxAnother flawless and essential port by M2 with a few excellent modern options, the 1987 arcade classic Shinobi ($7.99) sneaks onto the Switch, and it’s just as hard as ever. There’s an easier AGES mode that changes lead Joe Musashi’s garb to white and lets you take more that a single hit (as in the Genesis and Mega Drive follow-up Revenge of Shinobi) and you can choose to use the new rewind function if you like to make things a bit easier. I’ll admit that I didn’t touch it for a few days until it was tested for review purposes and yep, it helped a lot in a few areas. But it’s not necessary to clear the game if you’re averse to it and want to do it the old-fashioned way. Well, minus the feeding the machine part.

 

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Review: Turbo: Super Stunt Squad

via GIPHY

TESTING, TESTING: For some reason, WordPress isn’t auto-saving drafts (again), which for me, is a problem of the very large variety as I may need to pre-load some future posts if I need to get some medical stuff taken care of.  So, I dug up an old post from my older extinct blog and converted it over to see if I can see what’s going on.  Hmmm. I see that I’m still experiencing failed draft saving, but let’s go post this using manual saves every few minutes try to figure out a few things. Time machine, activate!

TSSS_Wii_UPlatform: PS3/Xbox 360, Wii U

Developer: Monkey Bar Games

Publisher: D3Publisher of America

# of Players: 1 – 2

ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

Official Site

Score: B (80%)

Just like the DreamWorks film, Turbo on consoles is a nice surprise of a game that’s not bad at all for its target audience. Rather than retell the movie plot or do some sort of follow up to the films events, Turbo: Super Stunt Squad is a cross between a racer and and extreme sports game (more specifically, the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series). This oddball mix actually makes the game quite enjoyable and thanks to optional tutorials, a slice of shell customization and some interesting course layouts. It’s certainly not a bad bit of diversion for adults who shell out for this one expecting the usual too-short licensed experience, only to find a game with a few tricks up its sleeves.

Monkey Bar Games has cooked up a pretty nice-looking game with a fair bit of content and some definite replay value for those looking to see everything. Granted, it’s not the hardest game in the world for expert players or even novices. But again, this game’s made for the kids who saw and loved the movie. The 3DS version isn’t as successful, but that one will get its own review when I can get to it.

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Review: Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls (PC)

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“Adventure… the new fragrance by Cloven Hind…”

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Prepare to get schooled skulled if you’re not ready.

For a while, from the 1980’s into the 1990’s, it seemed that the original Wizardry series was destined to last forever. But by 2001 that wasn’t the case as developer of what would be the final game in the series, Sir-Tech Canada went down for the count after the mostly excellent but flawed foray into the fully polygon arena with Wizardry 8. The company still supported the game until they finally vanished in 2003, and was never able to do a proper followup before they left the scene. There have been quite a large amount of games since then that have taken many elements the series pioneered, polished up the visuals and are basically Wizardry games with different titles as the end of the day.

Other titles in the series had danced on the edge with polygonal environments but 8’s was the first with both characters and maps presented this way. In the US, the series was slowly being forgotten despite some excellent ports to the Nintendo and Super Nintendo consoles, but in Japan, the series flourished on PC and consoles as a number of different developers tried their hands at making dozens of Wizardry games from console ports and original games to mobile and online-only titles with mostly good results. Which brings us to the game in question, which is quite good especially if you’re a fan of the classics. It’s got a few issues the keep it squarely in the past, but we’ll get to them below.

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Review: Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard (PC)

 

Got five bucks and about an hour to spare? Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard (also available here) will have you letting out a few much needed laughs as you solve the aforementioned case but good. It’s the first game I’ve played from Worm Club (@gracebruxner and @thomasbowker) and it won’t be the last, as I see Grace has an itch.io page and this is a good thing. Anyway, the game is short and simple, charming and droll, two tastes that taste great together, as it were. Oh, and it has LOBSTER COP in it, but don’t tell the Detective this, as he’s the real star. Don’t tell him that either (he’ll figure it out, as he’s a detective).

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Review: WRC 8: FIA World Rally Championship (PS4)

WRC 8_01a

Out for a Sunday drive, blinking is very optional.

WRC 8In the options menu of WRC 8, ($59.99) there’s a race card screen that tracks your driving in the game, noting everything you do without any judgement. So far, on my time with the game I’ve ran my cars into stuff 3,302 3,477 times (and counting) between small dings to major collisions that had me completely wrecking out of a few races, but this is a good thing (not for my poor garage, though).

The game is quite a massive effort from KT Racing and it’s their best racer to date as well as the sole officially licensed WRC game on the market. The assorted cars, courses and sounds are pretty lifelike and the rides all handle differently under a range of conditions once you get a grip on the controls. But practicing makes the game even better and finding the perfect settings for each car and course is key to getting the most out of the overall experience.

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If you’re going too fast, that simple turn up ahead is a bear, but there’s no bear at the end of that turn, fortunately.

Codemasters’ DiRT franchise might be better looking (the terrain deformation adds to the realism) and better known to some, but the outside a PC mod, the more authentic to the WRC season licenses, courses, drivers, and cars here will be the way to go for fans who enjoy the sport and want the deepest dive into it. Thankfully, those options also include a number of tweaks to make the experience a good deal more flexible to new players. Granted, like the two DiRT Rally games, this is the sort of simulation that’s going to be daunting to novices no matter how many assists they turn on. But that sticking to the real deal thing is for me, what makes a good rally game and WRC 8 makes for the most the best WRC experience since the five great WRC titles by the late Evolution Studios way back on the PlayStation 2. That said, one has to give the still mighty Richard Burns Rally it’s own pedestal for what it brought to the virtual rally game.

Even when set to the easiest mode and with every assist on, the game still requires near flawless or even perfect mastering of its courses and weather conditions. New players to this on Easy can indeed make it around the special stage or a few rallies with some effort. but it’s a literal learning curve taking in the pace notes and reading the track ahead while not hitting something because you’re trying to do it while driving a car at high speed with a co-driver notes near-constant directions at you. Still, the game’s Season and Practice modes will be your friend for a while as you settle in. There are the much harder Weekly challenges to do, but you’ll want some mileage under your belt, as these are pretty difficult events.

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Review: Yaga (PS4)

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For all that balalaika ringing out, this beastie just wants to keep you warm inside its stomach…

So, I wrote a poem as a game review again, or a game review as a poem. Cover your ears or something:

It took a while, oh yes, it did.
But this review’s now just un-hid
It’s for a game named Yaga ($24.99), see,
in some ways, it’s a victory.

Delivered in verse, the story is.
A nice choice, but it’s not for kids
Some blood’s here (you can turn it off)
Plus dark content might make some cough.

The brilliant writing and voices match
the music here, your ears will catch.
Painterly graphics wrap up this show
where myths from Slavic lands will flow.

You play a blacksmith with such bad luck
he’s one-armed ’cause he didn’t duck
and now is cursed to walk the land.
Problems he’ll solve with one good hand.

He’s fated to spend his bad time here
with witches binding moves so clear.
You pick a fate to trouble him
and then you set off with that whim.

That random nature hurts, but helps
you beat the foes, rescue the whelps.
It surely keeps you on your toes
wherever that cursed blacksmith goes.

While fixing things, he’s also tasked
With his Grandma’s most constant ask:
“Go find a wife to share your life”
(As if the Tzar’s decrees aren’t strife).

A black-bird will tell you to craft
So listen well, now – don’t be daft
You’ll make some gear to turn the tide
or be in for a tougher ride

But, weapons break via bad luck curse
Sometimes it seems, the timing’s worse.
Until you see that fate is tied.
All magic makes that meter slide

Now, even with less magic use
That bar will fill, and cook you goose.
Your carried weapon will just break
(and swapping it won’t make it fake).

You learn to deal (well, you’d better fast)
Escape that curse? Nope, that won’t last.
Get Yaga her gifts, aid folks you meet
Or else, it’s doom, right on the street.

Four times, you’ll play this game at least
Four paths to choose, from man to beast.
All these are based on choices made
so pick the path you’ve not yet played.

While levels could be better here
And combat seems to have less flair
The things I liked made this stand out
So buy this game! Oh, yes, I’ll shout.

-GW

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Capsule Reviews Are GO! (Part 3)

Back in 1995_01

Ever have one of THOSE days?

While I won’t be totally going this way in terms of reviewing bigger and longer titles, I’m finding it a nice challenge to play some of these shorter games and write less about them while trying to convey in a few sentences (well, two paragraphs) how well most of then do at delivering sometimes unique, sometimes similar gaming experiences to those that pick them up. Some of the games in this series might seem like just easy ways to earn fast trophies in a few minutes, but often there’s quite a bit of replay value under the hood or you get games that may SEEM simple on the surface unless you take a closer look and see what’s what. Granted, in some cases, a few things work better than others as you’ll see below:

Back in 1995 ps4Back In 1995 (PS4/PS Vita Cross-Buy, $9.99): Very much an intentional visual, aural, and gameplay throwback to the 32-bit era, indie developer Throw the Warped Code Out (Takaaki Ichijo) has recreated a game with both the look and feel of those old days of “tank” controls, fixed camera angles, and oddball “what the hell is that weird blocky thing coming at me?” monsters. While the game has flaws in storytelling and seems more meta exercise than “serious” horror game, the best thing to do here is take away more of the former meta feel than the latter serious horror thing and enjoy it for the nostalgia factor if you remember those not-too far away days. Ratalaika Games handled the console ports and publishing, but this one’s not your average easy Platinum, that’s for sure.

If you don’t remember or even like that era, expect some confusion and likely, frustration here. The game doesn’t break any new ground and isn’t supposed to, and I’ve the feeling that Ichijo was going more for evoking an particular atmosphere and sense of time more than making a game that would be “perfect” at the end of day.  It’s sort of like the scent of something familiar from the past one might recall when walking into a room, but it might end up not being a favorite scent when you stop and remember everything good and bad about it. I got it right away, so I’m scoring it accordingly with the big caveat that it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

Score: C+ (75%)

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Super Capsule Reviews: Are GO (Part 2)

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Well… try not to get hit (too much).

The ever long debate I see over indie games being “as good as” or “better than” AAA content is a bit silly because at the end of the day, both types of games are welcome and necessary for a few reasons some folks would figure out rather quickly if they kind of shut up and played stuff more than they do rolling around in the internet alley fighting about. Me, I just love seeing what a dev team (or single developer in some cases) can whip up because hell, playing a well-made game created with passion that can be seen on screen is a good way to get anyone who loves a wide range of visual and gameplay styles to go spend some of that hard-earned cash on some really fun titles like the ones below.

Xenon Valkyrie+ PS4Xenon Valkyrie+ (PS4/PS Vita Cross-Buy, $9.99): Fabrice Breton (dba COWCAT) has worked on some pretty hardcore pixel art game ports that provide a hefty amount of challenge for the money. Xenon Valkyrie, originally created by Daniel Fernandez Chavez and published by Diabolical Minds for PC, was improved and ported to consoles by Breton, is dripping with retro charm and packs in a mix of rogue-like, light role-playing, platforming, and fast-paced combat action that’s somewhat addictive even after multiple deaths. Part of the thrill comes from surviving the levels and their randomness, part comes from earning new gear as you go and using it to beat maps that seem impossible and impassable until you get that gear.

The cool thing here is you learn as you go what works and what doesn’t and runs will be, thanks to the randomness, a mix of small and large victories against enemies and the destructible maps. You’ll be using every skill and tool in a growing arsenal here, and the way each character plays will make some areas tricky to complete, but you’ll get better with skill and practice. There’s a lot of game here if it hooks you in and you don’t mind the learning process. As with the COWCAT ported game below, there’s some serious replay value here if you’re brave and willing.

Score: B (80%)

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Review: Remothered: Tortured Fathers (Switch)

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Rosemary needs a rear view mirror, good running shoes, and a portable air tank, too.

remothered switchWhile it’s been out a few months, I held off on my review of Remothered: Tortured Fathers on Nintendo’s console because it had some major issues and I decided to hold out for a patch, of which there have been two released. I’d initially played though the most of the unpatched version, but the game had some awful visual, gameplay and interface issues that made it quite a test of endurance, particularly in docked mode where visually, it was sub-par to the point of looking like an early PS2 port in some areas where detail took some major performance hits. It was still a scary as hell game experience, mind you. But things were definitely in need of fixing and nope, playing undocked didn’t help much either.

Fortunately, Darril Arts and Stormind Games got this some much-needed love on the patch front, as a number of visual and lighting improvements, UI tweaks, and more now make it a lot more palatable. There are still a few smaller issues, but the game is certainly now well worth your time if you’re re a fan of its uncompromising psychological horror. You play as Rosemary Reed, who’s investigating the mysterious disappearance of a young girl some years earlier. Initially, she makes her way into the gloomy Felton mansion, but after a brief time poking around, she’s kicked out when things aren’t as they seem on her front (no spoilers here, but watch the trailer). When she sneaks back inside, she continues her investigation and finds… well, let’s just say, a lot more horror that she’s anticipating, a whole lot more madness on display and plenty of “holy $#!+” surprises. Well, as if having a near naked, apron clad madman coming after her isn’t frightening and surprising enough.

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Review: Construction Simulator 2 US – Console Edition (Switch)

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It I could name my trucks here, I might go with Tonka, Tootsie, and Dinky…

cs2 switchI’d been sleeping on these assorted Simulator games for a while because they take quite a while to play, but thanks to a friend asking about them (he’s getting his kid a Switch and happens to be in the construction field). I finally took the plunge and can report that yes, hours will go by with a well-done sim like this. Astragon’s got a solid game in Construction Simulator 2 on Switch ($19.99), and while it’s a highly complex game that requires quite a bit of precision and patience to play, parents into this sort of game might find it educational if their kid is say, about 12 and wants to get into the business at some point in the future.

That said, the game is pretty daunting even for adults even though it has a wealth of tutorials and tips to get players up and starting a little (and soon to be rather large) construction business. You’ll need to constantly make sure whatever equipment you buy or rent is in the PRECISE position when operating on a job or errors will be made and learning where and the game covers so much ground (ha-ha) that you’ll be working up a real sweat from the level of difficulty as you learn a lot in the process. The game is no joke when it comes to the simulation elements, especially with all the settings up.

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You better know how to use that, pal…

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