Posts Tagged ‘3.5’

Stranger of Sword City Review

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Stranger of Sword City Boxart

Developer: Experience Inc.
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: PlayStation Vita

You awake among the rubble of a plane crash, seemingly the sole survivor, and find yourself lost within unfamiliar ruins. As you make your way out, you learn that you were transported to an unknown location known as Escario, the Sword City – a city beset by monsters. Facing a deadly wyvern, you are saved by a strange young woman. She, too, has been warped to this land, and takes you to meet others that have experienced the same thing. So begins your journey in Stranger of Sword City. Read more »

Life is Strange Episode 2 – Out of Time Review

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Developer: DONTNOD Entertainment
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PC – Steam PSN – PS3, PS4 Xbox 360, Xbox One

Life is Strange Episode 1 managed to hook me quite well. Despite a super dramatic, and not particularly “realistic,” reality it worked. I wanted to see what was in store for Max next, and with Episode 2 – Out of Time we get another sampling of this world. But, because we’ve already visited it once, some of the initial charm has worn off.

At first it felt like the episode dragged. Interpersonal teenage angst is something I’d rather leave behind, of course, DONTNOD Entertainment manage to infuse it with enough attention that you care about certain characters – and absolutely loathe others. Despite mostly solid writing, some aspects did bother me, though.

Life is Strange Episode 2 Featured

It seems weird that right after the ending of Episode 1 that Max and her old buddy Chloe are super-duper buddies again. Sure, real life friendships might resume perfectly after a long pause, but the ham-fisted nature of their BFF-dom is a little eye-rolling. With that said, I’d much rather Max end up with Chloe rather than dating her needy guy friend. Please don’t go that route, Life is Strange!

There’s a lot of down to Earth sequences in Episode 2 but a few also drive home the impending disaster that Max continues to see. A few choices really stressed me and at least one part may have huge ramifications on the story. If you dug Life is Strange’s look into the life of an unsuspecting teenage hero then keep playing – things are slowly amping up.


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Shovel Knight Review

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Developer: Yacht Club Games
Publisher: Yacht Club Games
Platform:  3DS, Wii U PC – GOG*, Steam

In one of the cuter moments in Kickstarter gaming history, a goofy 2D pixelated platformer by the name of Shovel Knight saw itself funded to 415% of its $75,000 goal. I’d believed the “retro craze” was all over – but gamers proved me wrong! In 2014 Shovel Knight launched and made its way onto many Game of the Year lists. But really, how good could it really be? On the eve of release onto PlayStation platforms I decided it was finally time to give the game a go.

Now, before we get all into this, I do not feel particularly nostalgic about the NES. Instead, my tastes fall more in line with the Atari 2600 – but few folks are capitalizing on that! In any case, Shovel Knight still looks quite a bit like a NES classic and captures much of that same appeal. The platformer is immediately simple to grasp. You’re a blue knight who jumps and hits things with a shovel.

Of course, the game quickly ramps up the difficulty (and ways to play it). After accumulating enough gold you can buy new items and abilities. Or, you can boost the health and magic meters. Gold itself isn’t a scare commodity but upon each death some scatters off in floating money bags. Even so, be careful about reclaiming them the next run as greed can be deadly. For about the first half of the game I found Shovel Knight ridiculously enjoyable.

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Once things really started to ramp up in difficulty I noticed some issues (either with the game or myself!). My Xbox 360 controller didn’t seem to register inputs upon every button press. Sometimes skill usage simply wouldn’t fire off when needed, or Shovel Knight wouldn’t stop his shovel jumping despite me trying to get out of the maneuver. Every so often I couldn’t even get out a swing with a shovel despite having a perfect shot at a boss. Whey’re they’re “authentic” or not, precise controls should have been implemented by Yacht Club Games.

I appreciate what Shovel Knight is going for and wholeheartedly believe they achieved it. From the awesome chiptune soundtrack to lovely pixelated graphics this looks just like a retro game. Then there’s that simplicity of play which helps to emphasize its excellent platforming. The biggest issue simply appears to be controls which were acting up for me on PC. Given perfect control I’d still probably be awful, but at least feel that every death was entirely my fault!


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Willy Bear Beach Episode 1 Review

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Developer: Artdecade
Publisher: Artdecade
Platform: PC – itch.io

As a fan of visual novels, I’m more than pleased to see how they’ve gained so much acceptance in the past few years. Even so, eroge titles tend to continue slipping under the radar instead of getting much recognition. However, it appears itch.io may become a method for indies to distribute them! The first I’ve seen on the platform is Willy Bear Beach Episode 1 by Artdecade. It’s cute, furry, and a nice bit of fluff between the more dramatic or dull visual novels out there.

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16 Bit Rally Review

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Developer: Proton Creations
Publisher: Proton Creations
Platform: Mobile – iOS PC – itch.io

So, maybe this is abnormal, but I have a serious reverence for arcade-style racing games. Cruisin’ World and Daytona USA are some of my favorites, although there are others on the list as well. 16 Bit Rally doesn’t quite pull from the same deck (it’s pixelated rather than polygonal) but it enthralled in much the same ways.

The best aspect of 16 Bit Rally is the sense of speed and movement it provides. Thanks to a super cool “3D” effect going on with the ground it really feels like you’re moving through the world. This sense of speed is only increased as you continue to play and upgrade car stats. Eventually, vehicles seem impossibly fast but still remain controllable.

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Racing against 20 other cars typically means you won’t get last place. Of course, netting a top three result is best as you’ll nab the most points and cash. Points simply tally toward an overall leaderboard while money is used to upgrade or buy new cars. I would have liked to see a few more cars, as the third and final is great until all your teammates finally purchase one as well.

For as fun as 16 Bit Rally is there are a few iffy bits. When you’re in the lead there’s no way to tell how far (or close) opponents are! There’s also a lack of controller support which is a tad annoying but not a game breaker. In any case, I was immensely surprised by how much fun the title was. I worked to complete most of the world racing rally in one multi-hour sitting and that’s saying something when my average gameplay session is an hour or less.


Score: 3.5
3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers Review

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Developer: Pinkerton Road Studio, Phoenix Online Studios
Publisher: Pinkerton Road Studio
Platform: PC – Direct, GOG*, Steam

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers arrived on PC back in 1993 courtesy of Sierra On-Line. It hit the scene as a more serious point and click adventure game than most. Although I never played it way back when, I did eventually play and adore it. Now, a (little late) 20th Anniversary Edition of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers is out and leaves me feeling quite perplexed. Did this classic game truly need a remake?

As far as I’m concerned, the storyline is still as intriguing as it was back in the 90s. It stars Gabriel Knight, a writer with a trashy series as his best work. He runs a book store in New Orleans along with Grace Nakimura but even that endeavor flounders. This dull, cash-strapped life takes a turn when a series of “Voodoo Murders” occur. Do the crimes actually have any relation to Voodoo at all or is something else at play? As curious authors are apparently wont to do, Gabriel sticks his nose into the mystery and gets far more than he bargained for.

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Gabriel is definitely an odd protagonist. Early on he acts incredibly sleazy and is full of eye-rolling comments, especially when contrasted against excellent characters such as Grace. Thankfully, he loses most of his revolting nature once things get serious. This is important considering how much dialogue Sins of the Fathers has. There’s a ton. The vast majority is also voiced by a new cast. The most blessed change is Tim Curry’s awkward New Orleans accent finally being put to rest.

As for gameplay, much of the game remains the same as it ever was. This is still a point and click adventure with a hefty inventory and loads of puzzles. A robust hint feature proves to be the best change. Unfortunately, much of inventory management and item usage continues being problematic. For example, many items suggest players “take”, “look at”, and “operate” them even when some options are impossible. It is funny to hear the narrator chide Gabriel if he considers taking a gigantic object, but this will also prove annoying to modern adventure game players. It’s surprising item and inventory usage weren’t redesigned.

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Outside of new voice actors the biggest change comes from completely revamped visuals. Now things have a hand-drawn, painterly look instead of pixel art. Personally, I continue to adore the original Sins of the Fathers’ for its gorgeous aesthetic. I don’t feel that the new 3D models will stand up to the test of time, although backdrops and cutscenes look lovely. Despite the tweaks, one facet that remains between both versions is its intriguing tale which hooks players.

I don’t feel there was a need for this remake, but on the other hand, it serves as a way to introduce new players to the world of Gabriel Knight. If they won’t pick up an “ancient” PC game perhaps they’ll give this gussied-up version a go. All in all, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers is as good as it ever was even if nothing can quite ever replace the original.


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Monster Bash Review

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Developer: Apogee Software
Publisher: Apogee Software
Platformer: PC – Direct, DOS, GOG*

Monster Bash is an early 90s platformer featuring a protagonist who fits right into the time period. Johnny Dash is a cool kid (you can tell because he wears a baseball cap backwards). Along with his trusty slingshot he delves into the world of monsters. An overall theme might be that these are just dreams, as little Johnny wanders through dangerous stages in polka-dotted pajamas. In any case, the goal is to save caged animals without letting him meet an untimely end.

With a child protagonist and cute goal of saving cats and dogs you might think Monster Bash is effectively a kid’s game. And maybe it is, but it’s also an incredibly violent one. Your slingshot fires rocks (primarily) and when these hit enemies they bleed. Yep, it’s red blood too, not some fanciful alien goop color. Locations are definitely creepy too with hanged skeletons, hearts suspended via hooks, and other nastiness. In comparison to Apogee’s earlier works it has a more detailed, less garish visual aesthetic.

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Platforming itself is pretty precise and challenging. Even in the first episode there are stages with a huge amount of animals to free – some of which are difficult to reach. Along the way you must always watch for enemies, enemy projectiles, and other dangers. For example, if you shoot light fixtures the glass will fall down and pose a brand new threat. Staying alive is tough even though you have five lives to start. Thankfully, checkpoints are liberally dispersed and extra lives are available as well.

Still, Monster Bash is quite the relentless platformer. My attempts to reach beyond Episode 2 were a tragedy. Those who love hard platformers should definitely find this one appealing. After all, it offers large levels and many secrets which seem to draw the attention of genre fans. Here’s hoping Apogee games continue to see modern releases even if they’re all likely a bit too much for me!


3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Z Review

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Developer: The Bitmap Brothers, TickTock Games
Publisher: KISS ltd, Kavcom
Platform: PC – GOG*, Steam

I got my first taste of real-time strategy gaming early in life. Since then I’ve sampled a great many titles in the genre but somehow never played Z by The Bitmap Brothers. This re-release changes things. After finally playing it I’m sad to have missed it back in 1996.

Z is an odd game where two factions of robots (red and blue) fight for supremacy and control of a planet. The odd factor comes in thanks to the storyline depicting the main robots as Wayne’s World-style goofballs. It definitely feels a bit dated, but a bit charming as well.

Gameplay also feels unique when compared to other RTSes. For one, you don’t create new buildings. Instead you must reach and control the existing buildings across each map. Of course, the enemy can take them from you if you’re not careful. The same holds true for vehicles which sit unmanned until someone claims them. The concept takes a while to get used to but works well. My history with Command & Conquer games also made the control scheme a bit difficult to grasp at first. It seems this is a holdover from the iOS release.

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Each stage introduces new facets of gameplay depth to players. For one there are a great variety of deployable robots (grunts, snipers, etc) who all have advantages and disadvantages. Then there are little things like blowing up bridges for strategic purposes. Of course, there’s also just a lot of fun nuance to tipping the odds in your favor. Z is pretty tough though, even on easy.

One thing The Bitmap Brothers have always gotten just right are the graphics. All of their titles have incredibly good-looking pixel art. Z’s battlefields look far nicer than many modern pixelated games. It appears that the remake has not tampered with the graphics much beyond the GUI to accommodate HD monitors (unfortunately there are no resolution options!). The music is another high point, although the voice samples show their age.

Its rare that games nearly 20 years old hold up so well without a heavy dose of nostalgia to go with them. I hold no fond memories of Z and yet it proves to be an astonishingly good RTS title in 2014 save for its unusual control scheme. It’s a shame there’s no multiplayer because this seems perfect for playing against friends.


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Dengeki Stryker Review

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Developer: OVERDRIVE
Publisher: MangaGamer
Platform: PC – MangaGamer*

Like many of my age group, I was in love with the Power Rangers as a child. There was something about these “super sentai” heroes that enigmatic, yet entirely alluring about them. Perhaps it was their total and complete coolness that sucked many children into their world. For a while, I probably even wished to become a Japanese-style superhero. Unlike those who let those dreams fade as they grow, Yuuki Yamato was unwilling to relinquish his dream. One day he comes upon a mysterious Memory Collector who will grant him any wish at the price of every memory he has. Yamato agrees and becomes Stryker Zero and thus begins Dengeki Stryker.

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Blackwell Convergence Review

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Blackwell Convergence Boxart

Developer: Wadjet Eye Games
Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
Platform: PC – Direct, GOG*, Steam

Blackwell Unbound was an odd change of pace to the Blackwell series, which is why I’m glad to report that everything shifts back to the present with Blackwell Convergence. This time around, we’re back with Rosa and Joey as they help free various restless souls. Unfortunately, it seems that this time there’s far more danger afoot.

Strangely, it didn’t feel like the previous games had many moments of urgency. This changes with Blackwell Convergence somewhat, as there is now a greater mystery that must be solved, instead of just solving the cases of a few spirits. Even so, this chapter failed to leave as strong an impression as the original game did.

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Perhaps that has to do with the fact that, after playing the three games in a row, the concept has lost its freshness. I still have hope for what comes next, but it seems that there is often a lull in the middle of episodic series. Something larger might be forming under the surface, but as of right now, the plot isn’t ready to delve headfirst into it.

Something that I forgot to praise previously was the music for the Blackwell series. It is quite good and I find myself routinely considering checking if the albums are for sale. There’s definitely a great vibe from the music to match the noir-ish vibe. Of course, the visuals are fitting too although I can’t help noticing the subtle art styles from game to game. As a whole, Blackwell Convergence is still better than Blackwell Unbound, but not quite as good as I was hoping for. Well, onto Blackwell Deception!


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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