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Eliwood8

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  1. Tiny Barbarian DX Review

    Tiny Barbarian DX brings players back to a simpler time, when action games were two-dimensional (literally) and the hero only had a few attacks to deal with hordes of enemies and massive bosses. It's a love letter to classic NES action games like Ninja Gaiden or Castlevania, from the pixel-art graphics to the tough-as-nails gameplay that will have you dying and retrying over and over as you slowly master the game's challenges. In some ways the game is a little too retro though; a few more modern touches could have made the game less repetitive. In true NES game fashion the storytelling in Tiny Barbarian DX is pretty minimal. The game doesn't begin with any elaborate cutscenes. Instead it pretty much gets right into the action of slashing enemies with your barbarian blade. However, in a rather clever nod to classic games, the developers have created a digital manual that outlines the backstory as a short comic. The whole manual feels like it could have been pulled right out of an 80s game case, but the comic is a particularly fun touch. There still isn't a ton of storytelling going on in Tiny Barbarian DX—and the later episodes only get crazier and have less explanation of what's going on—but to be fair this is all definitely true to the game's retro style. That retro style begins to get less endearing when it comes to the gameplay though. Tiny Barbarian DX is classic 2D action-platforming, meaning you'll have to fight a variety of enemies with only a handful of different sword skills and you'll jump across hazards that require pixel-perfect timing. The developers have certainly done a fine job of recreating this kind of classic gameplay, but they've also recreated many of its annoying aspects as well with things like knockback on hit which can make it extremely easy to die, especially since you only have a sword with limited range. Thankfully there is one important modern feature in Tiny Barbarian DX: there are no lives or continues. If you die you just restart from the beginning of the area. Granted some areas can be pretty big but it certainly beats restarting the entire level, or restarting the entire game. The game is still very much founded upon the cycle of dying and retrying as you slowly learn where enemies are and what hazards lay before you, which can be a pretty tiresome cycle and can leave you stuck on a single level for hours on end, but at least it isn't quite as tedious as it could be. The combat, however, is regrettably mired in the past. Tiny Barbarian DX only uses two buttons—jump and attack—so there isn't any room for anything like blocking, dodging, or special attacks. It is possible to perform three-hit combos which can also be directional—i.e. a forward dash, an upward slice, or a spinning attack midair—but enemies rarely give you the opportunity to do much more than mash the attack button. Oftentimes combat is simply getting a few quick swipes in and then retreating to safety. This is especially true in boss battles where preserving your life is so important. Cautious gameplay in and of itself isn't necessarily bad, but in Tiny Barbarian DX it makes the combat feel slow and a little boring. There is definitely room to make the combat feel more rewarding in this game. In another nod to classic games like Double Dragon, Tiny Barbarian DX offers co-op in each of its four levels. There isn't anything fancy added with another player—player 2 is simply another barbarian, this time with a blue loincloth—but a bit of old fashioned couch co-op is still fun to see, and a helping hand can make some of the combat challenges a little easier. Player 2 is tethered to player 1 so he can't actually move around that much (moving off-screen when player 1 isn't moving means instant death for player 2) so you do have to be a little careful while coordinating, but since player 2 will just respawn on the next screen anyway it's a pretty minor hazard. And yes, Tiny Barbarian DX is technically only has four levels (plus a short bonus level post-game). But the catch here is that each level is quite long. Each level follows a long map that basically looks like an entire playthrough of Castlevania. Even if you play well each level will last at least an hour or so, and it's more likely that you'll spend a lot more time with the game from dying over and over. There is also a score system in the game so you're encouraged to replay levels to get the best score you can in the shortest amount of time, though just finishing the game once may be exhausting enough for many players. The real highlight of the game is its presentation though. The classic pixel art style looks great. Even if you aren't nostalgic for this kind of retro artwork the game's charming animation and stylish backgrounds will easily win you over. Across the four levels of the game there is quite a variety of environments, some of which also pay clear homage to classic games with effects like a spinning tower, and all of it looks great on the Switch. And the music perfectly captures the style of 80s action games. The chiptune soundtrack positively explodes out of your TV while playing, driving the action on screen with pounding rhythms. Tiny Barbarian DX tries to capture a certain style of retro action game, and it absolutely succeeds when it comes to the visuals and audio. As a whole, Tiny Barbarian DX is a little hard to recommend though. The game pays such heavy homage to a classic game format that it kind of forgets to add anything new to the mix, outside of a more convenient retry system. Even with the variety of locations and platforming challenges in the game there is an underlying, frustrating aspect of repetition that makes the game more draining to play than truly fun. Tiny Barbarian DX may fit the bill if you're in the mood for an old school action game, but there's just not a lot of enjoyable depth here. Rating: 6 out of 10 Barbarians
  2. Nintendo working on a walking robot?

    Nintendo building their own Metal Gear confirmed.
  3. Nintendo Download: Gungeon Crawler

    Onto the wish list Yooka-Laylee goes, for whenever I don't have a full backlog of long RPGs to play.
  4. N4A Secret Santa 2017 (Sign-Ups Closed)

    Chiming in to say I also own Code Name S.T.E.A.M.! There are dozens of us!
  5. Good for Nintendo. The Switch is a great piece of hardware but more importantly they've delivered some outstanding software in just nine months. I'm really looking forward to what they'll do next year if/when they maintain this momentum. I was on the fence about getting a Switch right away, mostly because of what happened with the Wii U, but after getting some hands-on time at that Club Nintendo preview event they did I was right there waiting in line for the midnight launch.
  6. N4A Secret Santa 2017 (Sign-Ups Closed)

    You're welcome ace, I'm so glad I could help brighten your holiday! And it seems she arrived just in time for the return of Overwatch's winter events tomorrow!
  7. DLC Pack 2 Champions Ballad goes live tonight and...

    At first I was a little disappointed that the new content is mostly new shrines; for some reason I was expecting something completely different when the DLC was initially announced earlier this year. But the shrines were fun and in the end I really enjoyed the new memories.
  8. Nine Parchments Review

    Nine Parchments from developer Frozenbyte brings all the fun of classic co-op to the Switch: battling hordes of monsters together, overcoming massive bosses together, and occasionally blasting each other apart with fireballs. This Gauntlet-style action-RPG puts every player in the role of wizard, but the catch here is the wide assortment of spells to choose from, along with equipment you can find throughout the game, skill trees that you can customize as you level up, and unlockable characters for subsequent playthroughs. Nine Parchments has a few rough edges but at its core it's a fun and frantic take on classic co-op gameplay. In Nine Parchments you play as a group of student wizards eager to prove their magical capabilities. When an explosion at the academy sends nine valuable pieces of the academy's spell book flying out into the world you take it upon yourself to retrieve them and prove your worth. But aside from that prologue the story takes a bit of a backseat in Nine Parchments. There's some scattered narration and your characters occasionally engage in banter during a level but for the most part the plot isn't a significant part of this game, which feels like a missed opportunity. When you're in the middle of blasting away enemies alongside your friends though, you won't really mind the light story. Nine Parchments is an action-RPG that is essentially controlled like a twin-stick shooter. In each level you'll come across groups of enemies and you'll use the right stick to carefully but quickly aim your selection of spells. You can't just blast away willy nilly for a couple of reasons. One, there are different elemental types in the game, and monsters are immune to their own type, i.e. an ice spell used on an ice monster deals no damage. Perhaps more importantly though is the friendly fire aspect of Nine Parchments. It's very easy to hit allies accidentally, and whether you just graze them with a fireball or temporarily stun them with a lightning blast it's poor form to bewitch a fellow wizard. At first the friendly fire mechanic may seem chaotic but it actually helps rein in some of the chaos of Nine Parchments. When you need to pick your shots a little more carefully battles are more engaging, and require some coordination—going into every fight with full force would probably get stale pretty quickly. You can even combine your spells with another player to dish up a more powerful combo, if you can aim it properly. Ultimately the friendly fire aspect of the game promote a more rewarding sense of co-op gameplay. The game can still be fairly difficult at times though, even when you aren't getting shot in the back by a friend. Thankfully these wizards are well equipped to deal with all manner of monster. There is a decent variety of spells in the game, even with some repetition since the same spell type can have different elemental affinities. After each boss encounter when you retrieve one of the eponymous nine parchments you'll add a new spell to your repertoire, which helps make each playthrough somewhat unique in addition to increasing your power. It can be fun just seeing how the different spells work, though it's always best to try to keep a variety of elemental types on hand—you don't want to be caught with only ice spells against all ice monsters. You may have to resort to just whacking enemies with your staff, which somehow feels undignified for a wizard-in-training. The gameplay, then, is about aiming your shots thoughtfully, sticking to the right elemental affinity as necessary, and most importantly managing your spells' mana. Each of your spells has a separate mana pool, and each spell has a different rate of mana regeneration, so your more powerful spells may take more time to reload but you can blast away with the weaker but more frequent spells. Battles can really be a juggling act as you manage your mana, which again gives Nine Parchments a layer of strategy—you can't expect to just walk through every enemy encounter in this game. And here's an invaluable tip you might not notice at first: you can aim area-of-effect spells that you lob out by hitting ZR a second time while the spell is in mid-air, causing the spell to drop down and land. I went a few too many levels without realizing that's how you're really supposed to use those spells. Although Nine Parchments can be played solo it's definitely a game meant for multiplayer, and local multiplayer at that. You can jump into an online game with strangers or try to join a friend's game but since there are no communication options on the Switch the experience just isn't the same as when you're in the same room as the other players and can quickly call out strategies or requests for healing spells. And however many players you have the game scales in difficulty, so you won't be completely overwhelmed by enemies if you tried to play alone (though it still is pretty difficult to play solo). Despite the option to play solo, locally, or online Nine Parchments runs into one rather confounding problem: there's only one save file, meaning that if you play a few levels with some friends then want to play solo, you'd start over at the beginning (or continue playing new levels, just without your friends). On one hand this all sort of makes sense since there are unlockables which you might miss by jumping around and playing levels out of order, but it is a rather obnoxious limitation all the same. One full playthrough of Nine Parchments can last a good eight hours or so, which isn't quite short enough to justify restarting over and over when you just want to try out a new character. However, the good news is that the developers have already announced that they are working on a patch which would allow you to keep separate save files for your different playthroughs, which should make it much more convenient to start up a game with friends but also experiment in solo play on the side. Much like Frozenbyte's Trine series the graphics in Nine Parchments are almost absurdly rich and vivid, full of bright colors and gorgeously detailed backgrounds. It's hard not to get caught up in the scenery at times—just be careful you don't fall off any cliffs! There are only a handful of different monster types in the game but the scenery from one level to another more than makes up for a bit of repetition in the enemy designs. The soundtrack is just as engaging in its own way, and is also distinctly reminiscent of Trine. The music style is somewhat airy, which is kind of perfect for a game focused on fantasy and magic. Nine Parchments fully delivers on the promise of good old fashioned frantic co-op multiplayer with a variety of spells, characters, and opportunities to "accidentally" freeze your friend in the heat of battle. Juggling your spells' mana and their elemental effects gives the game a satisfying degree of depth and challenge, especially once you have several spells at your fingertips. The game's emphasis on multiplayer means solo games can be a lot more difficult and a lot less rewarding, but if you can't wrangle together some friends for couch co-op there's always the option of online multiplayer. No matter how you team up, Nine Parchments is a satisfyingly chaotic action game, perfect for scratching the co-op itch. Rating: 8 out of 10 Parchments Review copy provided by the developer Nine Parchments is available now on the Switch eShop for $19.99.
  9. N4A Secret Santa 2017 (Sign-Ups Closed)

    Just realized I never confirmed that I sent my gift. It should be arriving to my giftee very soon!
  10. DLC Pack 2 Champions Ballad goes live tonight and...

    I feel like I'm never going to make progress in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 with all of these great indie games coming out to distract me, and now Nintendo drops the Zelda DLC right in our laps. Well, I guess I can put off XC2 just a little longer…
  11. You wouldn't think Nintendo could maintain the Switch's hype after dropping Zelda and Mario in the first eight months, but then they go and announce games like Metroid Prime 4 and Bayonetta 3. I probably won't buy 1+2 again but I'm all in for 3.
  12. I can barely keep up with all of these eShop releases. I've posted two reviews for new games this week (plus one for a previously released game), and although I was disappointed by Slain: Back from Hell I really liked The Sexy Brutale. Check it out if you like mystery stories.
  13. The Sexy Brutale Review

    In a lavishly decorated mansion-turned-casino, guests enjoy an endlessly-looping day of decadence and gambling—right up until the point where every guest is brutally murdered each night. The Sexy Brutale, co-developed by Tequila Works and Cavalier Game Studios, takes the time-looping concept of Groundhog's Day and compacts it into an intricately designed casino full of fatal hazards and supernatural dangers. You'll need to sneak from one room to another to gather information on each character's looping path and find a way to prevent their grisly deaths, and ultimately find a way to escape the deadly mansion. This delightfully macabre backdrop sets the stage for a unique murder mystery that you'll find hard to put down. In The Sexy Brutale you play as Lafcadio Boone, one of the hapless guests of the masquerade party doomed to relive the nightmarish twelve hours over and over. But a mysterious figure grants you the power to retain your memories with each winding back of the clock, which gives you a chance to find a way to prevent each murder. With further powers gained by rescuing the other guests Lafcadio is able to explore the mansion and rescue each of the other victims, but always within the twelve hour time limit—when the clock strikes midnight everything is reset once again. Like any good mystery the fun of The Sexy Brutale is learning the why—learning about the characters, their histories with one another, and ultimately why they have all been gathered together to be murdered in one fateful day. From the first tick of the clock The Sexy Brutale paints a compelling setting that will easily pull in player's imagination, culminating in a satisfying, emotional climax. The characters' backstories aren't required to solve the puzzles surrounding their murders but it is well worth the effort to seek out all of the details hidden in the game. Some of it can be quite tricky to find but the developers have created such a unique, vivid environment that you'll enjoy sifting through every bit of information available. The gameplay is a mix of stealth and adventure-game-puzzle-solving, i.e. you'll need to find a way to prevent a guest's murder by collecting a necessary item or hitting a switch while avoiding the casino's staff as well as the guests themselves. Lafcadio's unique power allows him to skirt the boundaries of time itself, but the other characters will notice that he is out of place and will react violently if you're in the same room. Hence, an important part of the game is spying upon the other characters and tracking their movements across the twelve hours of the game's time frame. Don't worry though, the game is actually quite lenient on the player. If you're caught in the same room as another character you have ample time to flee, so although you have to be stealthy to a degree—by peeking through keyholes, listening through doors, and even hiding inside wardrobes—the game doesn't punish you for any little slip up. Once you've tracked a character's movements their path will even be outlined on your map in the pause menu for a handy reference. The real challenge of The Sexy Brutale is just making sure you have enough time to do what you need to in order to rescue someone, so there's no time for dawdling. Twelve hours may sound generous at first, but there's a lot to see in this game and you'll need more than a few rewinds to take it all in. That may be why the game makes it easy to spot what objects you can interact with in any room. This isn't the kind of adventure game where you have to click on everything or go pixel hunting: anything you can pick up or examine is clearly highlighted, so you won't waste any time while exploring (though again it is very much worth the effort to examine everything that is highlighted to better understand the setting, and you may even find a clever pop culture reference or two). It's nice to see the game doesn't beat you over the head with a specific order of operations either. With a little luck you can actually stumble over some solutions or interact with objects without necessarily knowing what the effect will be, so you don't have to slowly gather clues and proceed step by step to the puzzle's conclusion. Of course, you'll miss out on some of the storytelling going on in the mansion by not listening in on every conversation you can, but it does help the game move at a brisk pace. The downside is that this can all make the game a bit too easy at times. Some puzzles are so straight forward that it's really just a matter of checking each room at least once and the solution will be clear. There are few true head-scratchers in The Sexy Brutale, and even the time-sensitive solutions are fairly generous with the actual timing needed to solve the puzzle. Though to be fair, a game based around replaying the same day over and over could easily have been tediously repetitive rather than a touch too easy, so at least the developers erred on the more enjoyable side. In fact, that may be one of the more impressive aspects of The Sexy Brutale: for a game founded upon replaying sequences repeatedly, the game never actually feels repetitive. The game moves quickly enough that it never feels like a chore. If there is one problem with The Sexy Brutale though, it's load times, or more specifically, the buffering that happens when transitioning from one room to the next. There is noticeable frame rate stuttering when moving between some rooms, particularly between different sections of the mansion where the game has a whole new set of rooms to load, such as when you're moving between floors. Even when you're just spying through a keyhole the game will stutter for a few seconds as it struggles to properly load the scene. Thankfully, despite the time-sensitive nature of some of the puzzles, these hiccups never really interfere with the gameplay and are more of a cosmetic annoyance, but an annoyance all the same. And it would be a shame to portray either the visuals or the audio in a poor light, because both are stunning in The Sexy Brutale. This game has style in spades, from the infectiously upbeat main theme that plays in the casino to the eerie but opulent rooms that seem to hide some sinister secret in every corner. The art design hits a perfect balance between its charming character designs, flamboyant scenery that simply screams wealth, and the macabre details that shine through when you look closer. The fixed camera angle in each room allows each to be set up as a specific tableau, but it still would have been fun to have a zoom function to really examine the details that give The Sexy Brutale it's unique cartoonish, opulent, and ominous style. And even beyond the main theme—which really will get stuck in your head as soon as you start up the game—there are some great songs to enjoy, all of which add to the game's dichotomy of jazzy party atmosphere and deadly traps. Given its stealth, adventure, and puzzle elements the length of The Sexy Brutale can vary quite a bit depending on how carefully you comb through each area, but you can expect around six hours to finish the game. Not particularly long, and the desire to see the entire mystery unfold will keep you glued to the game anyway. As mentioned there is quite a lot of optional text that fleshes out the backstory of the characters and the history of the casino itself, and finding all of it can be a little tricky, so there's good reason to be thorough. There are also 52 playing cards scattered throughout the game—a bonus collectible that might yield something interesting if you can find them all—though without a convenient way of tracking which ones you already have it can be difficult to gather all of them. Other than that, like many adventure-puzzle games, there's little replay incentive besides watching the story unfold once again. Time-looping stories in video games may not be a new concept, but few are executed with the unique panache of The Sexy Brutale. The developers have built a fascinating little world within the confines of this sprawling casino. Just exploring it would be entertaining on its own, but preventing one murder after another and inching closer to the root cause of the mansion's sinister machinations will leave you transfixed to your Switch. Despite some technical hiccups the compelling writing and intriguing setting set The Sexy Brutale apart in a year already filled with fantastic games. Mystery fans will love uncovering the secrets that the gilded casino hides, from the first shocking revelation to the last. Rating: 8 out of 10 Playing Cards Review copy provided by the developer The Sexy Brutale is available now on the Switch eShop for $19.99.
  14. After a rocky initial launch last year, Slain: Back from Hell from developers Andrew Gilmour and Thomas Jenns and publisher Digerati Distribution was, much like its protagonist, given a new life when significant overhauls patched up the gameplay for a more rounded and enjoyable experience. However, it wasn't a complete 180 in terms of quality. Despite some significant improvements Slain: Back from Hell on the Switch eShop still seems hellbent on trying the player's patience, with only meager rewards in return. Extra challenging, old school game design can be fun when handled well, but when it turns into a repetitive slog you end up with a game like this. In terms of story, visual design, and music, Slain takes all of its cues from heavy metal. You play as Bathoryn, a fallen warrior who is brought back to life in order to fight the evil Vroll and his minions of death. You travel through forsaken landscapes battling witches, wolves, and skeletal warriors—the art design in this game is like a metal album come to life, and put through a pixel filter. The writing isn't exactly top notch as the characters talk in overly dramatic, stilted sentences and ultimately the game ends with a confusing cliffhanger clearly meant to set up another game, but the graphics are pretty fantastic. Slain puts pixel art to great use, creating vivid, bloody landscapes with just the right touches. And the music is, naturally, one heart pounding metal song after another. It's the perfect soundtrack to pump you up while you battle waves of undead monsters inside a bloody castle littered with bones. The rest of the game may have some significant problems but the presentation at least is both unique and wonderfully realized. Slain's pixel art design is a little more advanced than the kind of stuff you'd see on the NES, but the gameplay feels right out of that era. This is classic 2D action game fare—sidescrolling environments, some platformer elements, waves of enemies, etc. Slain also retains many of the annoying quirks of those old school games, like knockback on hit, precise platforming despite meager movement controls, stiff combat, and one hit kills. You're going to die in Slain. A lot. But the truly frustrating thing is that, unlike other games where you may die repeatedly but still feel compelled to keep trying, Slain's appeal fizzles out pretty quickly. The main problem here is how stiff and ultimately unsatisfying the combat is. You swing your sword pretty slowly and it doesn't have much range so it can easily by interrupted by enemy attacks. You have to time your strikes carefully, especially when there are multiple enemies around and you can easily end up being juggled by their attacks. It's not necessarily such a bad structure on its own since it's meant to force you to be careful, but in Slain you have so few combat options and even basic enemies can take several attacks to bring down, so pretty much every encounter with an enemy devolves into a super repetitive game of waiting for the enemy to attack and then counterattacking. Action games don't necessarily have to have flashy, elaborate attacks to be appealing but there should at least be some sense of fluidity to the combat. Enemies that attack from a distance are even worse since your only ranged attack—magic bolts—are extremely limited and also not very powerful, so you often have to slowly approach, jumping over or reflecting enemy projectiles. At the very least, Slain doesn't leave you completely defenseless. You can dodge, though it's pretty short and only backwards. You can block, but you'll still take some chip damage (and there's no option to increase your health throughout the game). You can also perfect block, and this is essentially your go-to move for just about every enemy encounter. When you time you block just right you'll execute a perfect block, take no damage, and the enemy is open to a counterattack. It can be tricky to time it right and admittedly it's satisfying to do, but no so much the thousandth time you do it. Slain is in dire need of more viable combat options, especially something to deal with aerial enemies, since perfect blocking isn't all that useful on these highly mobile targets. A better designed combat system would even make the high frequency of instant death traps more tolerable (though in the one concession the game gives to the player there are frequent checkpoints, so you'll restart relatively nearby). Slain isn't actually that long of a game. If you were somehow able to complete it without constantly dying and retrying, it would really only be a couple hours long. As it is you'll probably spend at least six hours with the game to finish it, though again this heavily depends on your skill with old school action-platforming. And once you finally reach the end and watch the credits roll, there isn't anything left to do in the game. No difficulty options, no replay incentives—the only reason to even try to explore the game's linear levels is to find all five pieces of a special talisman which makes you a little stronger for the final boss fight. Not that I was eager to jump back into the game immediately after completing it, but still, the game is quite short. Slain: Back from Hell may be an improvement over its initial release, but it still has some serious problems with the core structure of the gameplay, which ultimately pigeonholes the player into repetitive attacks against enemy after enemy. A game can be super challenging but still satisfying. Slain is super challenging, but the tactics you need to use to get through the game are just not fun. Oftentimes it feels like sheer persistence rather than skill, which makes each victory less of a satisfying accomplishment and more like a trial you were forced to sit through. Slain manages to capture the extra difficult style of old school action games but fails to deliver it in an engaging way. Rating: 5 out of 10 Headbanging Skeletons Review copy provided by publisher Slain: Back from Hell will be available on the Switch eShop on 12/7 for $19.99.
  15. N4A Secret Santa 2017 (Sign-Ups Closed)

    As is Crystal Bearers, in my opinion. They may be pretty unconventional Final Fantasy games but I enjoyed both. Looks like a pretty great gift combo, K! Side note: I still remember when Crystal Bearers came out in 2009 it was on December 26th for some reason, so for Christmas that year my brother gave me an IOU for the game.
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