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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Clock Simulator: Seconds Count in This Addictive Oddity

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This little piggy’s maybe gonna run out of time… unless you can help out  a little bit.

cs_boxSo, yeah. There’s a new game called Clock Simulator for the Switch, it’s a port of the PC version, that adds two mini-games to the mix, it’s a mere $3.99 and you should give it more than a few minutes of your time because it’s strangely addictive, that being a clock thing. No joke here, this is a pretty impressive variant on the rhythm game where you need to be even more precise with your button pressing than usual. Perfection is not an overrated thing at all, at least as far as this deceptively basic time sink goes.

It’s also a very cool way to learn a specific skill (pressing a button exactly one second at a time) that may not seem as if would come in handy at all, but in fact, is quite helpful if part of your job is clock-watching. Granted, if you work at any job with a clock nearby or are one of the many who constantly check their favorite timekeeping device, this game may either cone in quite handy or make you wince a tad. Either way, just don’t tell your boss about it (unless you’re the boss, of course).

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“Time enough, at last…” but don’t stop pressing that button, pal.

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Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen on Switch: The Fifth Time’s (Still) The Charm

Gransys in the spring is a wondrous place to be – just don’t mind the constant monsters trying to snack on your bones.

So, I’ve played a Dragon’s Dogma game on my PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and PC, so seeing this finally coming to Switch is making my poor wallet tingle. No, scratch that, it’s in the corner setting itself on fire. Eh, no worries, though. I’m just going to sell off some stuff in the library to pick this up as a retail purchase and try to carve out some quality time (which sadly, can’t be bought for all the spare loot in the world). Anyway, Thanks very, very much to Capcom for this seemingly timeless gem I’ll be purchasing once again. I kind of knew it was coming (it’s the closest thing to a Monster Hunter game but with more user-friendly controls and a more unusual “online” element), but this trailer was indeed a thing of wonder to behold.

-GW

OUTWARD: Here Comes The Harder Working Hero Type

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Nice hat you have there, friend. Er, just don’t go and lose your head in that coming battle.

While it’s not set for a release until March 26, 2019 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, developer Nine Dots Studio and publisher Deep Silver are getting the word out that OUTWARD is going to be quite a special RPG worth playing multiple times. As you’ll see from that trailer right below, the game aims to combine fantasy elements, survival simulation and what looks to be a fairly challenging game world full of many things that want your chosen character pushing up daisies at every opportunity.

 

 

Your character is going to be a standard non-hero type who needs to make their way through the game’s unforgiving sandbox world that continually auto-saves progress (meaning you can’t sneakily replay an old save file when you get waylaid by some big bad whatever). Here’s a very brief rundown on what to expect in the final product:

Key Features

Survive in the wilds as you explore a vast and harsh land
Play solo or cooperatively, split-screen locally or online
Ritualistic, step-by-step approach to spellcasting
Constant auto-saving means you must live with your decisions
Encounter dynamic defeat scenarios
A unique experience with every playthrough

The game will also ship with two-player split-screen or online modes so you can share the pain with a pal on the couch or at a distance. SO far, so good, I say. Of course, the proof will be in that tasty-looking pudding (or: the game does look really nice from what I’ve seen).

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Now that I think about it, March is kind of right around the corner, so getting the good word out now will be a huge key to this game’s success. My fingers are crossed for some hands-on time with this one, as if everything it attempts can be pulled off, genre fans will have a whole new obsession that’s got what could be endless replay value when all is said and done.

-GW

Review: Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (Nintendo Switch)

superbrothers switchSuperbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP ($9.99) is pure brilliance in every area, but the game wisely notes in its end credits it’s probably not going to be for every taste. Still, if you’re wanting a nicely droll, somewhat cerebral, amusing and completely hip masterpiece, you’ll just love what’s here. For example: Right after its opening section (which takes between 15 to 30 minutes to complete), a cigarette (or is that a cigar?) smoking character called The Archtype appears and tells you to return later after taking a break as a pair of curtains close and you’re sent back to the title screen. I actually didn’t go back to the game at that point. Instead, I put my Switch back into its dock, turned it off and went to make lunch. When I came back about an hour later, I felt as if that break was indeed justified because the game did such a clever job of getting me hooked in enough that I followed that silly instruction.

That silly instruction turned out to be a lot less so when later on, the game asks you to come back to it when the in-game moon phase is at the right spot to activate a certain task. Again, brilliant. The game is an adventure/puzzle hybrid that pays homage to The Legend of Zelda, a bit of Robert E. Howard, Carl Jung and a bunch of neat other things you may or may not see on the surface. Not to sound overly pompous or anything, but here’s a game that cleverly nods and winks at those who get it, but is totally playable by just about anyone who can use a Switch and is a bit curious about what’s in store for them.

 

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Valfaris Demo: Merry, Merry, Quite Contra-ry (Slight Return)

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You’re going to want this, trust me.

Well, wow. Valfaris has a demo up on Steam as we speak (but only until December 31st) and hell yes, it needs to be played, especially if you love pixel art and animation wizardry, ear blazing metal soundtracks and so far, very tight ganeplay for a demo build. That video below shows off a bit more of the game, but as you’ll hear, things may change between now and the launch window. As with the meaty, mighty, and metal-ly Slain, what’s here is visually and aurally spectacular and will only get better as development continues.

 

(Thanks, Digital Uppercut Productions!)

 

Uh, that’s all I have to say, as I’ve paused the demo only to bang this post out and will now go back to that demo and rock some more. Keep an eye peeled for Valfaris on Steam and consoles sometime in 2019.

-GW

 

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Okay, we DO need another hero, after all.

SEGA AGES Phantasy Star: Pretty Much, Perfection

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And quite well, in this case (Ha and ha-ha).

As soon as I heard that Phantasy Star was making a return as a digital exclusive on the Nintendo eShop, there went that not needing to ask for a review code stuff. Yeah, I  immediately bought it outright (it’s a mere $7.99) because back on the Sega Master System, it was the first JRPG I played and it’s been a game I’ve gone back to a few times, the last being om the Game Boy Advance where we got three of the first four games squeezed onto a single cart (to mixed results). Yes, I still have that one in the library, but I’m not even going to bother comparing it to what’s here (just yet) because once you fall down the Phantasy Star rabbit hole (Rappy hole?), you’re not coming up for air anytime soon.

 

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Capsule Reviews: It’s A Puzzlement!

Not every game needs to go for epic length status or terminally flashy visuals to be enjoyable. I tend to gravitate to puzzle games when I need a break from other genres  and there have been a few really cool ones this year. Here’s a quick look at a some of the ones I liked a lot:

 

solar flux switchSolar Flux (Nintendo Switch, $9.99): Firebrand Games’ great space-themed puzzler may look simple, but it riffs on classic arcade gameplay with homages to Asteroids, Lunar Lander, Puzzle Bobble, a bit of Star Castle and probably a few other titles my brain can’t recall in a really fun, challenging manner. While it’s at heart, a supremely soothing experience, the reliance on touchscreen-only controls combined with limited fuel and the need for precision movement of your very fragile ship means you’ll be getting a game that won’t easily be mastered in one sitting. Yes, the music is ear-pleasing and completely chill, but if you’re easily flustered by even the tiniest of mistakes, the gameplay can get pretty tense if you’re not able to tip-tap-steer your way out of trouble. Practice makes perfect, folks.

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That challenge ramps up geometrically during the 80 missions set across 4 galaxies, but nice looks and all, you’re not here to do any sightseeing. Getting the best times as things get complicated is somewhat tricky (but rewarding). So expect a few retries and perhaps a few times when you’re just putting the game down for a bit and coming back later if you lose that zen-like concentration. Don’t worry, though. Those assorted suns you need to recharge will be there when you return. All is good in this universe, just relax and it’ll be quite the thrill.

Score: A (90%)

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Earth Defense Force 5: Out Now, So Don’t Bug Me!

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It’s boom time for those pesky giant bugs and angry-ass aliens, finally!

 

 

Well, there goes the neighborhood as well as any free time I was thinking of dreaming about. Playing an Earth Defense Force game is a total commitment process if you’re a longtime fan. I actually didn’t import the Japanese version because I wanted to go in totally cold (other than watching a few gameplay videos to see how it ran and if some of the trademark wonkiness was still there), so I’d say after all this time, I’m ready to be overwhelmed by this latest alien invasion from developer Sandlot.

While this one’s a PS4 exclusive, I’d gather a PC version is in the works as Sandlot did a PC port of the last EDF game. Granted, the online mode was rife with cheaters and some players teaming up with them ended up with corrupted save files thanks to hacked weapons and other stuff that made for a less than stellar experience. Hopefully, PC fans will get this at some point, but me? I’ll be perfectly happy posting YouTube videos or doing a bit of rare live streaming just to show off my skills (or lack of them, as I’m betting myself a dollar I’ll be REALLY rusty at least for a quarter of Normal mode.

Back in a bit – I need to get a few other things posted today, so it’ll be sooner than later.

-GW

Iceberg Interactive Sale: Some Cold Comfort For That Tight Wallet

If you’re looking to add an eclectic mix of PC games to your digital library, the fine folks at IndieGala have a nice deal for you in the form of an Iceberg Interactive sale. From some solid horror/mystery adventures, to action games and a classic 4X strategy series, there’s sure to be a few titles that catch your eye and get you to fishhook out that wallet.

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NOT the John Wayne version, thankfully. I’d bet the real Khan would keel over laughing if he ever saw The Conqueror (before having some heads go rolling).

Also of note for you 4X fans is the new expansion to developer Shining Pixel’s deep and challenging Oriental Empires, which just so happens to be called Oriental Empires: Genghis. That expansion (also available on Steam) features a wealth of content that includes a new solo campaign as well as a load of other content:

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KHAAAAAAAAN!!! Before China was eating our lunch, they ate their own for quite some time. Yes, this game is somewhat educational.

Become Genghis Khan in a brand new story campaign
Play as other new factions in the ‘Time of the Mongols’ sandbox campaign
A new map that extends from China in the East across the vast steppes of Mongolia all the way to the Caspian Sea
Stunning new buildings
New roster of Mongol units
New units for the Turkish tribes and the Empire of Khwarazm
Many new resources, technologies and characters

While the base OE game isn’t on sale, it’s still a quite reasonable enough $29.99 which gets you a rather huge amount of content as well as a pretty decent historical strategy sim. If that screenshot below and the gameplay footage at the end of this post makes you yell out “Hex, Yeah!” well, my work here is done.

Oriental Empires Genghis Screenshot (5)

Now, then. I’ll pipe down and let you go and let your fingers do the walking on over to those links above. If you do buy something or a bunch of somethings, feel free to drop a comment below.

 

-GW