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  1. The idea of combining Picross puzzles with another gameplay genre seems so obvious now that I'm surprised there aren't more examples of it. Organizing the satisfying repetition of solving nonogram puzzles into a 2D exploration adventure adds a nice touch of personality and pizazz to the experience, and in the case of Piczle Cross Adventure from developer Score Studios and publisher Plug In Digital, a good deal of humor as well. Make no mistake though, this is still first and foremost a puzzle game, and a perfect one for fans of Picross. Piczle Cross Adventure stars Score-chan and her animal(?) companion Gig as they solve one puzzle after another to rescue the world from being pixelated by Dr. Mona Chromatic as she attempts to turn the entire world into black and white pixels. It's a charming, goofy premise and as you might expect the game doesn't take itself too seriously. This is a light, bubbly adventure story that is oftentimes keenly self-aware of video game tropes. Even if it's not too deep, the writing is fun, and it's hard not to smile at the quirky humor. Plus, for Picross game fans, it's a nice change of pace to contextualize the puzzle-solving process into a story with an actual goal. Even given the genre mash-up of Piczle Cross Adventure, the core gameplay is still very much a Picross or nonogram puzzle game. You'll explore the map to find objects that have been pixelated, and then solve a puzzle to restore it to its glorious full color form. For those that don't know, Picross is a portmanteau of "picture" and "crossword," which succinctly describes what these puzzles are: by following clues on a grid (like a crossword puzzle) you create a picture. These can range from fairly simple 5x5 grids to much bigger, more complex challenges. Seasoned Picross players will find that Piczle Cross Adventure is rarely mind-bendingly challenging, but it's also nice to enjoy a puzzle game with a comfortable pace of progression. And novice players may enjoy using helpful features like the hint roulette, at least while learning the ropes of this puzzle format. Unlike most other Picross games, you're not just given a long list of puzzles to solve, you have to go out and find them. For the most part this means just exploring the environment—ranging from dark caves to sprawling deserts, all conveniently within walking distance—but Piczle Cross Adventure also takes a page from traditional adventure games. Sometimes you'll need to find an item to progress, such as finding a way to move a fallen tree blocking your path. The game doesn't throw anything too complex at you but just having a reason to explore and find items is a nice change of pace for a puzzle game. There's also a small amount of freedom as you can tackle regions in slightly different orders (until you run into an obstacle that you need a specific item for) and it's cool to have the opportunity to tackle puzzles in whatever order you like. Plus it is awfully satisfying to enter a new area of the map, see all of the blank, pixelated spots in the environment, and then restore the area piece by piece. If there's one area the gameplay feels slightly lacking, it's in one small aspect of the controls. You actually have a great deal of customization options with the controls, which is great, but one feature I was missing compared to other Picross games is a "maybe" option to fill in squares when you're not sure if a square should be filled in or not but you want to make a note of where it might be. It is perhaps slightly unfair to compare Piczle Cross Adventure's features directly to other Picross games, but it's a valuable feature for puzzle-solving and it's a shame it isn't available here as well. Like any puzzle game your time with Piczle Cross Adventure can vary quite a bit depending on how quick you are at solving nonograms, but you can expect at least ten hours or so. There are also a few optional objectives that aren't needed to complete the story, but are great for completionists. You don't need to finish every puzzle to complete the story (although there are some checkpoints where you need a minimum experience level to progress, so you do still have to finish most puzzles to progress). It's hard to imagine playing a Picross game and not hunting down every puzzle available though, and you'll likely end up addicted enough to explore every puzzle the game has to offer. Piczle Cross Adventure leans hard into the retro look with not just an old-school pixel look but even CRT scan lines (these can be turned off if you're not feeling the retro vibe though). The visual design is cartoony and cute, and honestly having even a bit of visual flair in a Picross puzzle game is a welcome change of pace. The soundtrack is pretty catchy, but also a bit too repetitive. A bit more variety in background tunes, especially given the wide variety of environments, would have helped shake things up a bit. Piczle Cross Adventure offers a fun, fresh twist on the typical puzzle game format without actually changing the familiar puzzle gameplay. A cute story and simple adventure game elements provide a charming frame for puzzle-hunting and puzzle-solving, one that gives you a bit more incentive to keep playing. For Picross fans, this is another great selection of nonograms, while new players will appreciate having a story/adventure to focus on while completing puzzles. Rating: 8 out of 10 Puzzles Review copy provided by developer Piczle Cross Adventure is available now on the Switch eShop for $9.99.
  2. Special thanks to ArmoredFrog for the banner! Hello once again, Ninfora members! This is Lt. Surge, host of the widely popular and retired Mario Kart 7 and Mario Kart Wii game nights! Every Thursday night, I am willing to host a night of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe! All the craziness of the new eighth installment of Mario Kart in what I am hoping to be a successful night of fun, laughter, and nail-biting races! Joining is pretty straight forward: RSVP your spot by indicating your interest in participating and use our tourney code to enter the weekly tournament! Also, the last Thursday of every month will see the speed class in the tournament change from 150cc to 200cc for a night of high speed and crazy item shenanigans to say farewell to the current month and start anew with the following month. For those that wish to be in contact during the races, there is the forum's Discord server and the MK8 channel that was built on the server. There, we can chat via text and even join the voice chat channel in the same app. With that said, I hope to see plenty of racers every Thursday! See you on the flip side! For those interested, you can find all of the tournament highlights and streams in the following playlists, straight from The Krazy One's YouTube channel Tournament Playlist (Edited Videos) Streams (In original format ~Unlisted) Battles
  3. Update: Lawsuit officially filed. https://ninfora.com/forums/index.php?/topic/3325-switch-joy-con-drift-class-action-lawsuit... If you don't know about this whole deal with the Switch Joy-Con drift, watch the video in the spoiler bellow first. Luckily I haven't experienced this, yet. Though, I know there are a lot that have. I really hope this goes somewhere, because this is a major design flaw and Nintendo hasn't said a world. Joy-Con aren't cheap, ya' know ...Even for a single one. If you haven't experienced this yet, you will eventually. This really makes me wonder about the Switch Lite. Hopefully they didn't use the same control sicks as in the Joy-Con, because you'd be screwed if you start getting drift. You can't just buy new Joy-Con. I know you can just replace the sticks on the Joy-Con yourself, but most people are comfortable doing that and on the Lite, It would probably be more of a pain. In an all perfect world, Nintendo would fix this flaw and replace everyone's Joy-Con sticks for FREE.
  4. It would probably surprise most Western gamers to learn just how expansive and long-lived the Kunio-Kun series is—it certainly surprised me. Over thirty years of history and dozens upon dozens of games—though, granted, most being Japan-only releases—makes it a legacy series in the world of video games, despite limited acclaim outside of Japan. A new game developed by one of the biggest names in indie game development might help spread the word, though. River City Girls from developer WayForward takes the classic side-scrolling beat 'em up gameplay of the River City Ransom games and gives it a fresh facelift, perfect for a new generation of gamers, though the antiquated gameplay makes the experience a bit of a slog at times. The original River City Ransom follows two high school guys on a quest to rescue one of their girlfriends, so naturally River City Girls flips the script with two female protagonists fighting to rescue their boyfriends. It's a simple, straightforward plot buoyed by the larger-than-life personalities of all of the characters and the absurdity of punching, kicking, and otherwise beating up endless waves of thugs and gang members all over town. The developers are well aware of the humor of the situation and slip plenty of tongue-in-cheek jokes, and even if not all of them land perfectly, there's still a lot of charm in the writing. The gameplay is straight up classic brawler action: you have quick or heavy attacks at your disposal, plus a small variety of other attacks—grappling dazed enemies, picking up items to bash with or throw, special attacks that drain your special meter, etc. You'll also earn experience points and level up throughout the game, adding more attacks to your repertoire and allowing you to buy new attacks from dojos scattered across the city. The game follows a pretty constant, basic formula: enter a new area, fight or dodge a few minor enemies, then eventually hit a locked screen where you have to defeat all enemies before progressing. Beat 'em ups tend to be highly repetitive, and that's not too different for River City Girls either. Your enjoyment of the game hinges entirely on how much satisfaction you glean from beating down the same handful of enemy types over and over again. It feels clear that the developers sought to preserve the classic brawler formula as closely as possible, even if it comes off as a bit dry for a modern game. It seems like a missed opportunity not to add some more variety to the experience or even jazz up the combat with more interesting combo varieties. And it certainly doesn't help that there are only so many different types of enemies that you'll see over and over who seem to level up with you, so you never really get noticeably better at beating them up, you just have a few more combo options. Most significantly, River City Girls is beholden to the somewhat slow, slightly awkward controls of classic beat 'em ups, meaning you have to be on the same plane as an enemy to actually hit them, and adjusting up or down the screen can feel finnicky, or at least not fast and snappy. Obnoxiously it often feels like enemies don't have to be lined up as perfectly as you in order to hit you with a stunning combo. Ultimately this is a game for brawler fans, one that doesn't so much modernize the gameplay experience as preserve it, warts and all. If the game does click with you though there's a decent amount of content to enjoy. Finishing the game once can take as little as seven or eight hours, but there are also side quests to pursue, co-op mode, and additional features that are unlocked after beating the game once. The gameplay never fundamentally changes but completionists will enjoy maxing out all of these slight variations. You can also purchase and equip up to two pieces of gear which grant small buffs, such as regenerating health or increased attack power against certain enemy types. Again, these don't wildly change the experience but they add some welcome customization. The purchasing process can be rather annoying though because you can't see what effect items will have until after you buy them, which sometimes makes it feel like you've wasted your hard-earned money. It should be no surprise for a WayForward game, but River City Girls looks great. The in-game graphics feature smooth pixel artwork and slick animation for all of the various attacks you'll be dishing out, while the fully animated cutscenes look beautiful. There are also stylish black-and-white manga-style cutscenes that feel right at home in the game's universe. The synth-pop soundtrack is also excellent and adds some valuable pep and energy to beating down opponents over and over. There's also some solid voice acting, though at times I did wish I could simply speed up the text to move things along a little more quickly. River City Girls faithfully recreates the RCR experience, but perhaps could have done more to improve upon it instead. Even with WayForward's stylish visual design and catchy soundtrack, the simple repetitive nature of the beat 'em up genre can be draining, especially when little aspects like the controls feel like they haven't changed in decades. Still, River City Girls offers a fun co-op adventure tailor-made for the fans that long for the days of NES or arcade brawlers. Rating: 7 out of 10 Punches
  5. Site: https://tetris99.nintendo.com/ Price: Free for Nintendo Switch Online Members (Exclusive) The free to download online software, Tetris® 99, is available as a special offer for Nintendo Switch Online members. In large-scale, 99-player battles, it'll take speed, skill, and strategy to knock out the competition and become the last player standing. You can target opponents by sending them Garbage Blocks, but be careful…your rivals can target you back! Defeat opponents to acquire KO badges that may give you the advantage on future attacks. Survive the onslaught and look forward to upcoming online events! (FREE with NSO membership) (Big Block DLC* : Block DLC 1 - $9.99) (Big Block DLC* : Block DLC 1 - $9.99) *Big Block DLC "Season Pass" ($9.99) includes 2 modes, with more to be announced at a later date. NEW Modes Now Available!: UPCOMING EVENTS: 🏆 4th Maximus Cup - 6/21 to 6/23 (Win Gold My Nintendo points!)... PAST EVENTS: ---------------------------------------------------------------- Did anyone download this yet? I played a few rounds and the highest I placed so far was 20th and most KOs I had in one match was 5. I'm still trying to wrap my head around this with being able to have multiple people attack you at once and being able to switch who you're attacking on-the-fly. So far this game seems very bare-bones right now. No tutorial/how to play, only one mode. can't play with friends, no offline practice, no unlockables, etc. It seems like Nintendo just ripped a smaller online mode out of a larger Tetris game and gave it to NSO members for free. However, there is an EXP meter witch will increase your level as you play, but IDK if your lvl even matters. Can others even see your level? I noticed it says Ver. 1.0.0 on the main menu, so it seems like Nintendo plans to regularly update this. I'd really like to see some of the things mentioned above add to the game, because I'm really digging battle royale Tetris...As crazy of a concept as that is.
  6. In the game's opening scene, the protagonist learns that he is, emphatically, not the hero. But just because he can't swing a sword doesn't mean he can't go on a globe-trotting adventure to save the world. Wandersong puts you not in the role of a dashing swordsman, but a humble and almost ridiculously friendly bard, whose gift of song may be the key to saving everything and everyone. Not surprisingly this makes for an utterly charming adventure, one with simple but fun side-scrolling puzzle platforming and a lot of heart. As you might expect for a game about helping people through the power of music, Wandersong is extremely cute, extremely silly, and extremely heartwarming. There is a lot of goofy humor here, not just in the way the bard interacts with people but in the odd little lives of the villagers you meet throughout the adventure. There's a lot of tongue-in-cheek jokes to discover, and also a lot of text to read through (but it's worth talking to everyone as much as possible). The game balances out this happy-go-lucky vibe with some affecting, heartfelt moments as well and isn't afraid to get a bit serious at times, which makes it easy to care about these characters and their silly little lives. Wandersong nails the "child's game that adults can enjoy" aesthetic, and most players would be hard pressed not to get misty-eyed at the game's climax. The gameplay is essentially a side-scrolling puzzle platformer, but instead of using items or gaining magic abilities, the bard uses his voice to move through the environment and overcome obstacles. For example, there might be a high ledge that you can't jump to, but by singing the same song as a nearby bird, the bird will help carry you up to the ledge. There's a decent variety of puzzles and obstacles that you'll face, enough to keep the gameplay engaging throughout. You can sing different notes by hitting one of eight directions with the right control stick, and these notes are also color-coded for clarity. Using the right stick to hit notes can be a little imprecise at times but thankfully the game never really requires fast, precise songs, so a bit of looseness in the controls isn't a big deal. Wandersong isn't really a difficult game in any sense, but its casual, breezy pacing still makes for an enjoyable adventure. Plus there's a button dedicated to dancing, so you can literally dance your way through the game, and that has to count for something. You might expect the game to be incredibly short given its low sense of difficulty and relatively straight-forward story, but you can expect a good eight or ten hours with Wandersong, and a captivating eight or ten hours at that. Depending on how much you talk with villagers and other side characters throughout the game your experience might be even longer. And although the game is quite linear there's a sort of side quest in that you can learn new dance moves in each act of the game. It's not much but it's worth seeking out to see the bard bust a new move. The game's paper cutout art style may immediately bring to mind comparisons to Paper Mario, but Wandersong's aesthetic is hardly derivative. The colorful, simple, and charming visuals are the perfect match for the bubbly and breezy tone of the story and gameplay, and even if the shapes are rather simple the colors are beautiful and striking. On the Switch the edges of objects can get rather jagged though, and it's a shame that these stylish graphics aren't at their best on the system, but it's not too disruptive. And of course the music is fantastic—this is a game all about singing after all. The soundtrack is broad and varied with plenty of catchy, soothing, and touching songs for the bard's journey, culminating in a particularly harmonious final number. Wandersong's musical take on side-scrolling platforming is absolutely charming, and honestly a great break from typical sword and shield combat gameplay. The singing mechanics are simple but make for a fun variety of puzzle-solving challenges, even if the game is never truly difficult. Wandersong is an uplifting, feel-good adventure, and perhaps now more than ever that's what we want and need from video games. Rating: 8 out of 10 Songs
  7. I really hadn't intended to play and write a review about a game set during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 while we're all facing another deadly virus pandemic, but, well, here we are. Vampyr takes an unconventional approach to vampire mythos, framing it not around the allure of immortal power (or around glittering teenagers) but around temptation and morality in the midst of a crisis. It's a breath of fresh air for a vampire story, but trying to balance a morality narrative with vampire-powered combat results in a clumsy action/adventure game. You play as Jonathan Reid, a doctor who specializes in blood transfusions but is turned into a vampire as the game begins. Thrust into the undead underworld of London society, Reid struggles to understand how he became a vampire, what is the cause of the recent rash of vampirism in London, and how to stop the Spanish flu epidemic, all while fighting against his own urges to drink blood. Vampyr sets up a fantastic setting for a moral conundrum of a game, one that promises a wonderfully unique approach to essentially a monster story. The actual execution of the story leaves a lot to be desired though. The characters, including Reid, are a bit dull and lackluster—more importantly, the relationships they build and foster are so terribly rushed that it's hard to actually feel invested in any of them. Long-winded dialogue saps a lot of the energy from cutscenes and doesn't allow for much chemistry between characters. Given more space to breathe and time to develop naturally, there could have been a great story here. As is, the narrative is disappointing at best. The gameplay in Vampyr is action-RPG in a semi-open world environment: you'll explore London to complete quests, battle vampire hunters and feral vampires, and interact with NPCs to either heal them by crafting medicine or luring them into a dark corner to feed on their blood. Here's where the moral question of the game comes into play: feeding on NPCs provides you with a huge boost of EXP, far more than you get by fighting enemies, but killing too many NPCs plunges London into chaos, not to mention the toll it takes on Reid's own code of ethics. Even a small bump in EXP can be a game-changer though, so essentially the "good" path of not killing makes the game significantly harder, while the "evil" path makes it much easier (and also makes it easier to experiment with abilities). Good/evil paths in a video game aren't new but Vampyr makes the contrast particularly stark—playing the good doctor can be exceedingly difficult since being even a few levels below your enemies makes a serious difference. It's a bit frustrating that there aren't more tangible rewards for suppressing your vampire urges, but ultimately it's the player's choice whether to feed or not. It is awfully tempting to feed though since the combat system is so frustratingly clumsy, and being killed in two hits because you're underpowered makes the game incredibly tedious. There are also frequent difficulty spikes clearly pushing you to indulge your vampire needs. Combat ends up being something of a chore throughout the game, something that you feel forced to do rather than get to enjoy doing. You have a small variety of weapons and vampire skills at your disposal but the floaty, weightless movements of Reid and enemies isn't terribly satisfying—the game doesn't have that satisfying sense of physicality that makes dodging and attacking feel rewarding. It doesn't help that enemies can so easily interrupt your attacks with their own, which almost seem magnetized to you even as you dodge repeatedly. These battles definitely require an element of strategy, which can be engaging, but for the most part they're so mindlessly repetitive that they just aren't enjoyable. Vampyr's semi-open world system can be rather frustrating as well. I say semi-open world, because everywhere you go you'll run into locked gates that require taking a circuitous path around to open, and these paths are often tied to story progression. The game's wayfinding system also leaves a lot to be desired. There's a compass at the top of the screen pointing you in the right direction, but this vague arrow is woefully inadequate when you're facing locked gates or inaccessible buildings. The game's restrictions can also be rather disappointing, such as Reid's ability to teleport short distances. This could have been a lot of fun in an open world environment, but you're actually only able to teleport at specific times (often to a high ledge, but the game doesn't always make this clear). Vampyr has too many conflicting ideas like this, which one might argue reinforces the doctor/vampire conflict, but in reality just makes for a poor gameplay experience. The game's dark, dreary visuals are perfectly suited to the story's setting, though the drab environments can be rather uninteresting after a while. The music is suitably somber and rather forgettable, while the voice acting has some serious ups and downs. To be fair, the low points seem to have more to do with the script than the acting, but even undead characters don't need to sound so lifeless. More problematic is the game's performance on the Switch, which leads to rather muddy visuals and some persistent technical issues. It's not uncommon to see the frame rate stutter, and the slight delay when you open the inventory menu is a constant reminder that this game is not running as smoothly as it should be on the Switch. This is all paired with some tedious load times, including random little buffering scenes when you're running around London. It makes it hard to ignore the fact that this simply isn't the best system on which to play the game. The story will take you a good fifteen hours to finish, though Vampyr offers a whole host of side quests to complete that revolve around the NPC population. You might want to tackle these out of the goodness of your heart or to make NPCs more valuable feeding targets, but either way there's a good amount of side content to explore. The game also naturally lends itself to at least two playthroughs so you can experience both the good and evil paths, plus there are actually four different endings that vary slightly based on your choices throughout the game. These are really just slightly altered ending cutscenes, but it's something to consider for completionists. Vampyr has a lot of interesting ideas that fail to come together into a cohesive, enjoyable game. The story, like the difficulty level, is all over the place, and a study of vampire morality might have worked better if this were a purely narrative driven game and the player didn't have to contend with a clunky combat system that awkwardly encourages killing NPCs. Just the contrast of being both a doctor and a vampire would have made for an engaging story if the characters had more time to develop instead of being forced into an action-RPG system. The game's performance on the Switch is the final nail in the coffin—this port is best left buried. Review: 5 out of 10 Fangs
  8. The "kusoge" game, Hoshi wo Miru Hito (translated as "People Who Watches Stars" or "Stargazer"), is coming to Switch. I don't know what made City Connection decide to port this buggy and confusing title. But it is getting a release in Japan this summer, and they might also be planning on a western release as well, so we all can experience this. Not sure if they are going to fix a lot of the problems this game has for this port, but I hope they'll have an original "unpatched" mode if they do. What are some of the problems? The first town is invisible, you cannot beat the most basic of enemies alone, equipping early weapons will make you WEAKER, etc. Though in fairness, it is also made by one guy with a very limited budget. And to check out how bad it is, this runner at ADGQ ran this during the Awful Games Done Quick block, and also explains the game throughout.
  9. Just last year fans of the Mana series finally had the chance to experience an official release of Seiken Densetsu 3, now dubbed Trials of Mana. The port included in the Collection of Mana preserved the original SNES experience, but now this fully 3D remake provides a new dimension of action-RPG gameplay. This remake provides more than a mere facelift, but rest assured the spirit of the original game is preserved, even if some features have been left behind. Possibly the most unique aspect of Trials of Mana happens right as you boot up the game. You're able to choose which three characters you want to play as from a selection of six, and your choice of main character has an impact on how the story progresses. Each character has a unique prologue that explains why they are on this quest to save the Mana Tree from the forces of darkness, and one of the nice additions in this remake is the option to play through the prologue of all three of your characters (you can also choose to skip them). It's a small change but it's great to get to see the full backstory of each character and further cement the sense of scale and world building that the game does surprisingly well. It's not presented in the cleanest, most "readable" way at times, especially since the early parts of the game have you bouncing between cities so much that it can be hard to keep them straight in your head, but fleshing out this world with multiple kingdoms with their own stories and struggles is fun to see, and if nothing else further encourages you to replay the game to see the story from a different character's perspective. Like the original game and Secret of Mana, this is an action-RPG with real-time combat. Unlike the original game, you have several attack options at your disposal. You have both light and heavy attacks and can string them together into various combos, including aerial attacks to hit flying foes, and can also unleash powerful Class Strikes by building up your blue strike meter with basic attacks. And of course there are magic spells as well, though most characters don't unlock these until changing class partway through the game. Dodging enemy attacks is also vital, and fairly easy thanks to the telegraphed red damage zones that appear when enemies are preparing particularly powerful strikes. All of this means combat is fast-paced and engaging as you time your attacks to knock down enemies and dodge away from their deadly blows. You might not have as many attack options as other, more elaborate fighting games, but combat remains satisfying throughout the adventure. That said, there are also some somewhat annoying elements. Aerial attacks, for example, could be handled better. Jumping up to take one or two swipes at an enemy is rather tedious and hampers the flow of combat a bit. Being able to dodge enemy attacks can almost make combat feel too easy at times, although the flipside of this is that your AI companions are pretty bad about dodging. They will avoid attacks sometimes, but not nearly as efficiently as a human player (and sadly this remake removes the co-op multiplayer of the original game). You can somewhat customize your companions' attack style in the pause menu, but unfortunately you can't change this during battle, so you can't rely on them to do anything too tactical or intelligent while fighting. And finally the camera during combat can be uncooperative at times, particularly when you're near a wall, which makes fighting in small spaces like caves more difficult than it should be. Even locking onto an enemy target doesn't feel quite ideal during the heat of combat. None of these issues completely spoil the experience, but there's definite room for improvement. This remake also introduces some valuable new features, including some minor quality of life improvements. You're now given a clear marker on the map to tell you where to go next, which can be hugely helpful when you have to run back and forth between cities. Having an ever-present marker does make the game rather easy—there's no way of getting lost—but you can also turn it off if you want. In the original Trials of Mana you would be given skill points when you leveled up to upgrade your strength, stamina, magic attack, etc. Now you're given Training Points, which can be used to upgrade stats but will also unlock passive abilities. These add a welcome bit of depth to the game and provide for plenty of customization options. For example, you might give Kevin, the heavy hitting brawler, passive bonuses to his attack and defense when his health drops below a certain amount, adding a risk/reward system to his combat style. There's a decent variety to passive abilities without being overwhelmingly elaborate so it's fun to play around with them to test what works well for you. The only other major addition to the game comes after you've defeated the villains and restored the Mana Tree. There is an entirely new post-game dungeon that adds particularly challenging battles and the opportunity to change classes a third time to new, even more powerful classes. The new content is a welcome addition, especially for a game that is fairly linear and lacking in side quest options. With the new post-game additions and the ever present incentive to replay the game to test out different party compositions and see the three different story variations, the roughly twenty-five hour length of the game ends up being quite a bit more. The game's visuals have been nicely translated to 3D, even when compared to the richly detailed sprites of the original. The graphics in this remake are bright and colorful, and seeing familiar Mana series monsters in 3D is a treat. It also runs fairly smoothly on the Switch, and although there is noticeable pop-in at times it never really affects the gameplay. The soundtrack has also been beautifully remastered, preserving the exact tone and style of the original but updated to be smoother and richer. If you're a purist though you'll be happy to hear that the original soundtrack is available as well. And finally there's the voice acting which is a real mixed bag of quality. Many characters sound fine and some of them are, unfortunately, quite true to the character (namely, Charlotte's odd baby voice), but there are also some that sound terribly flat and awkward. And these are main characters, voices you'll be hearing from over and over throughout the game. If the voice work proves too awkward though you can always switch to the Japanese voice actors instead. Trials of Mana provides an excellent remake and remastering of a lost RPG classic, one that has eluded Western shores for far too long. This version takes a careful approach of updating without completely rewriting the features and style of the original, and in that regard it's an overwhelming success. There are still some minor points that could and probably should have been revised, but overall the remake preserves the unique experience of the game and presents it for a new audience on the Switch. Even with the original available in the Collection of Mana, RPG fans should have no hesitation about diving into this charming entry in the Mana series. Rating: 8 out of 10 Mana Stones
  10. What are your thoughts and feelings on Luigi's Mansion 3? I can't wait to play once I am off work. I enjoyed Dark Moon, but the first game was probably the fastest returned game ever.
  11. Here is the link for 2-step verification when signing into your Nintendo account. https://en-americas-support.nintendo.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/27496 It's pretty straight forward, all you need to complete it is a smartphone and the Authy 2-factor Authentication. I had trouble typing the code manually so when setting up the code like the the Google Authenticator scan the QR code and Authy will accept that code and new code will be provided, along with back-up ones as well. This app will be the 2nd step in signing into your Nintendo account when you are on web browser and also when you are signing into eShop on Nintendo Switch. The app will generate a couple backup codes for you to sign in with in addition to your password when you sign into Nintendo account on a browser or on the eShop. This just another security layer to you from unauthorized access to your Nintendo account. EDIT: Nintendo have now officially reported that 160,000 Nintendo accounts may be compromised so not only set yourself up with the 2-step verification but change your password as well as suggested by Pichi. Emails will be sent out to those who have been compromised, regardless still set your Nintendo account up with this 2nd step. They also say credit card information is still secure but those who are worry of that, should take that off of their account, only your nickname, D.O.B., email address, country and regions is affected. NOTE: The edit above applies if your Nintendo account with the Switch is linked with your NNID from Wii U and 3DS. So to see if your linked go here: https://accounts.nintendo.com/ When you login, you are already in 'user info' area and at the bottom of that page under 'Linked accounts' you can see where your NNID is linked with your Nintendo account with Switch. Also, before or after the 2FA, under 'Sign-in history', you can see if any unauthorized sign-ins have occurred. That is a good way to know if someone other than your own have signed, incase Nintendo have not emailed you as one of the compromised accounts. Under that you can see the my '2-Step Verification settings' is set up. Thanks @purple_beard & @alienboyva for these updates. I hope this can gives those with this sort of worry, a peace of mind about their security.
  12. The Super Monkey Ball series has always seemed to have trouble matching the heights of its first two entries on the GameCube. Maybe the oddball gaming environment of the early 2000s was just the ideal place for a game concept as strange and endearing as this, but later entries in the franchise never seemed to roll as smoothly. That was also the case for Banana Blitz, originally a launch title for the Wii, and sadly the same seems to hold true for this remake. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD trades motion controls for a standard controller, but it's not enough to make the gameplay more engaging. AiAi and his primate pals are just hanging around when a villainous character steals their Golden Bananas, so our monkey heroes have no choice but to saddle up in their plastic balls and recover their fruit. Yeah, that's all you get as far as storytelling in this game, but what else do you need? It's a bunch of cute monkeys rolling around in balls, just dive into the gameplay. The main levels have been adjusted to accommodate a normal controller setup instead of the Wii's motion controls, and for the most part the transition works. There are definitely moments where you can tell that the delicate adjustments of motion controls would make more sense than a control stick, but the developers have revamped the level design with this in mind, so this version of Banana Blitz is still playable. Playable, but still somewhat mediocre. The level design is challenging but rarely inventive, even with the ability to jump which offers a slightly different twist on the Monkey Ball formula. Banana Blitz HD is a decent experience, but nothing about the game offers much of a reason for remaking the game. The mini-games, however, did not survive the transition from motion control to control stick very well. For the ten mini-games in this HD version (cut down from 50 in the original game), it's painfully clear that motion controls would make them, at the very least, more novel and interesting, if not outright easier to play. Whack-a-mole, for example, would benefit greatly by the speed that motion control provides. As is, the mini-games feel like even less interesting side features than usual, and even gathering a few friends to join in fails to liven things up. If, however, you want to show off your skills online, there's an online leaderboard feature for a time attack mode and a Decathlon mode where you play through every mini-game in pursuit of an overall high score. It's a pretty underwhelming online feature, but score chasers might enjoy measuring up to players online. There's also one aspect that is just atrocious and likely would not have been aided by motion controls: boss fights. The only thing these battles have going for them is the cute critter designs of the various bosses. Beyond that, these fights are tedious, repetitive, and frustratingly difficult because of the game's awkward camera angles. The camera automatically locks onto the boss, which makes sense since it will help you keep track of them while moving, but because the camera angle is so low to the stage you end up having almost no depth perception and very little peripheral range. While you struggle to judge distance and monitor nearby hazards, you have to contend with an exceedingly simple and drawn out battle where you hit the boss's obvious weak point over and over. The very concept of boss fights in a Super Monkey Ball game might be a mistake because they offer none of the charm or inventive design that characterizes the series. The addition of "HD" to the game's subtitle almost feels tongue-in-cheek since this is not a franchise that benefits from high definition graphics at all. Still, the monkeys are cute and the levels are colorful, even if there's nothing in particular that will blow your socks off. The soundtrack is also comfortably average with little that stands out. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD may seem like an odd choice for a remake, and, well, it is. Updating the game with higher def graphics is almost pointless for the franchise's aesthetic, and swapping motion controls for a standard controller doesn't make the level design any more interesting. Worse yet, removing motion controls actually hurts the appeal of the mini-games. Add in some truly atrocious boss fights and you've got a remake that simply didn't need to exist. Rating: 5 out of 10 Bananas
  13. Time travel mechanics, Metroidvania gameplay, pixel art design—nothing that hasn't been seen in games before, but put them together and you get Timespinner, an engaging adventure game that draws many of the best ideas from its influences into one entertaining package. At the same time the game's most unique features ultimately feel a bit drab, but there's no denying the appeal of a solid Metroidvania adventure. You play as Lunais, a young woman trained to be a Time Messenger—a person who, as a sort of emergency resort, will travel through time to the past in order to warn her people of a coming catastrophe. Not surprisingly Lunais is forced to do just this in the opening moments of the game, but things become more complicated when the evil Emperor Nuvius himself attacks during the time travel process. Now Lunais will need to use her time travel abilities to get revenge on the emperor, though she may uncover a greater threat along the way. The game isn't afraid to throw a great deal of lore at you quite quickly, which is a little overwhelming but ultimately worth taking the trouble to understand. Timespinner's story of revenge hides a compellingly twisted narrative that takes an intriguing approach to the idea that history is written by the victors—and now Lunais is able to rewrite that history with time travel. Some plot threads seem to get lost along the way, perhaps due to the story being a little too ambitious for the relatively short length of the game, but it's an engrossing tale nevertheless. The gameplay is pure Metroidvania, though leans a little more toward the Castlevania side of things. Timespinner offers classic side-scrolling exploration with plenty of secrets and locked doors that you'll need to come back to once you've found the appropriate power-up. There's also a bit of time travel shenanigans at work here: changing things in the past might have an impact on the future, so by swapping between the two you'll be able to progress in the adventure. The dual nature of the past and present settings feels, if anything, a little underused, but the few times it comes up make for clever exploration mechanics. The combat revolves around the two orbs that Lunais is able to equip which grant her different melee abilities. For example, a blade orb creates a sword, a fire orb launches fireballs, etc. You'll gradually unlock more and more orbs throughout the game and by the end there's a ton of variety possible, giving players a lot of room for experimentation. The only downside is that orbs gain experience points to power up, so it often feels like a downgrade to swap to a new orb rather than sticking with your tried and true current equipment, but there are always extra playthroughs to experiment with everything. Equipment aside, the combat itself in Timespinner is a bit of a mixed bag. Lunais can't move and attack at the same time, so attacking always brings you to a halt. This means you have to be a little more strategic about finding an opening to attack safely, but it also makes combat feel rather stiff, especially early in the game when your attack options are so limited. Gradually you'll gain more movement abilities that help to loosen things up a bit, but the combat never felt quite as fluid as I would have liked. Thankfully the game is pretty lax about punishing mistakes. You'll end up taking your share of damage throughout the game, but save points refill your health completely and healing items are plentiful. Finally, Timespinner features one last unique feature: an hourglass that stops time. At any time you're able to freeze all of the action on screen and move freely, which means you can't hit enemies but they can't hit you either. This provides some unique approaches to dodging and platforming but is definitely underused for such a unique feature. Using it to dodge is only useful during boss fights since normal enemies are generally too quick and will immediately attack you once time starts again anyway, and using it for exploring by creating stepping stones out of hazardous enemies is clever but a little annoying since the amount of time you can freeze is limited (you can find upgrades to the hourglass's capacity though). Freezing time just should have been a more central component of Timespinner. Timespinner's presentation delivers a beautifully crafted pixel art world that wouldn't feel out of place on the SNES or PSX. The retro look is nothing new, but this game does a particularly excellent job of creating polished character sprites and environments that look retro but don't feel dated. The only downside is that there isn't more variety in scenery, but that's also understandable from a storytelling perspective since you're time-traveling between the same locations. The soundtrack is equally great at invoking a classic vibe while still feeling fresh, and it provides plenty of solid, atmospheric songs to enjoy while exploring. Like a lot of Metroidvanias, Timespinner can be pretty quickly blazed through or you can end up spending a lot of time exploring everything available. Overall the game leans toward the easy side so collectibles aren't too difficult to uncover, and finishing just the story can last as little as five hours or so, but trying to complete the game 100% can stretch that number closer to ten. Plus there is the wealth of weapon orb options that can make replaying the game worthwhile, and enterprising players might even uncover extra bosses or endings. It's still not the longest adventure around, but you get your money's worth, especially for Metroidvania fans. Timespinner wears its influences on its sleeve, but you won't find many other games that so thoroughly capture the style of Metroidvania or feature such polished pixel art design. Although its most defining time-bending features end up feeling rather underused, the overall adventure is plenty engaging. Metroidvania fans will certainly want to take note of this one. Rating: 7 out of 10 Orbs
  14. Switch firmware 10.0.0 is now available... 🔗https://en-americas-support.nintendo.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/22525/kw/system updates/p/989
  15. Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout, the latest in the long-running Atelier series, follows the franchise's formula of crafting and creation, combined with some RPG mechanics. As someone new to the series I didn't quite know what I was getting myself into with this game, though some people more familiar with the franchise describe Atelier Ryza as being a more accessible entry point. Maybe that's true, but for a newcomer the experience was fairly overwhelming at first and yet underwhelming in the end. You play as Ryza, a restless girl who dreams of going on adventures beyond the confines of her family's farm and their small island home. She soon gets her wish when an alchemist visits her village and opens her eyes to the world of alchemy and the ability to craft items. Soon enough a grave danger to the island rears its head, and Ryza and her friends must band together to save the village. Broadly, it's a typically generic RPG storyline, one where our protagonists grow and learn to trust their own strength, though the developers have also slipped in some rather heavy topics as well. The end result feels somewhat unbalanced. The handful of heavy-hitting moments feel like they come out of nowhere when the rest of the game is so saccharine sweet, which really makes them lose their impact. Instead the characters and story come off as a bit trite and dull—cute, but a little too breezy to actually be interesting or memorable. Atelier Ryza is all about crafting through alchemy. At her home and base of operations, Ryza is able to use an alchemy pot to craft items from raw materials. The majority of the game revolves around gathering these materials by exploring the surrounding wilderness, then crafting items through the game's interactive crafting system. Items' quality and traits can vary wildly depending on the quality and traits of the materials you've gathered, so there's a real emphasis on gathering as much as you can over and over to hopefully find the best quality ingredients for your alchemy. Although you can get by on simply throwing the necessary materials into the pot to craft an item, there is an incredibly detailed system under the surface that allows you to get extremely nitpicky about crafting the best possible items with bonus traits. It feels almost needlessly complicated at first but if you're really struggling to grasp everything there is an option to auto-craft items based on the materials you have. It's a handy feature but it kind of feels at odds with the whole focus of the game, so it's probably not a great option to rely upon too much. This crafting system should appeal to a certain type of gamer, but it can also feel overwhelming when you first start. Which is actually surprising since the game eases you into the experience with an incredibly slow and drawn out series of tutorials—the game really doesn't begin in earnest until several hours in. Things get better once you unlock a proper fast travel system but these opening hours can feel ridiculously slow with a ton of just back and forth walking between cutscenes and tutorial explanations. The pacing of the game is a real drag for far too long. Once you get into the swing of things though you'll find Atelier Ryza follows the typical satisfying gameplay loop of crafting and exploring. Explore to gather new materials, craft items with said materials, explore a little further, repeat. Atelier Ryza puts far more emphasis on crafting the best possible materials though rather than simply crafting new items. There are definitely a ton of recipes to discover, but the bulk of the game's replay value comes from gathering the same materials over and over in order to find the best possible quality of materials. It's not quite as satisfying as crafting entirely new items and is a bit monotonous even for this kind of crafting-focused game. Atelier Ryza also features turn-based battles with real-time elements where you control one character and the AI controls your two partners. The crux of combat is in building up Action Points. You generate AP by using basic attacks, and then spend AP on special skills. You can also spend AP to increase your Tactics level which allows you to perform more hits per basic attack and gives other benefits to special skills. Aside from simply wearing down the enemy's health bar, you'll also want to try to crack their break gauge which leaves them stunned and open to attack for a short time. The combat system is surprisingly complex. Since everything happens in real-time (no pausing while you're selecting attacks, unfortunately) you might feel like you're scrambling to keep up at first as a cacophony of numbers, levels, and attack prompts appear on screen. It's a bit of a mess of information but once you get the hang of it combat is pretty fun, if highly repetitive, even for an RPG. Typical battles aren't too challenging but they can be rather drawn out, so it's just a lot of the same process of building up AP and unleashing special skills when you can. Boss fights are more engaging and challenging, but can still fall into a pit of repetition. Atelier Ryza isn't a short game, but your time with it can vary quite a bit depending on how deep you get into the alchemy system. Just finishing the story can be done in about twenty hours, but finding every recipe, some of which involves completing chains of side quests, can last much longer. And of course perfecting your creations with the best possible ingredients can add hours and hours to the length of the game. If you prefer an additional challenge though there's a New Game Plus option as well as adjustable difficulty levels. The visual design of Atelier Ryza hits all the checkmarks you'd expect of a JRPG, and hits them well: sweeping environments filled colorful creature designs. It's rather disappointing how quickly the game resorts to reusing monster models though (it happens in every RPG, just particularly quickly here). The character designs are also a bit hit and miss, with some frankly overdesigned characters. The soundtrack is solid though and is impressively varied, providing a great atmosphere to the adventure. Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout takes too long to hook the player fully, but once you have a handle on things you'll find a wealth of crafting-based gameplay to lose yourself in for hours and hours. Whether you'll fully enjoy the experience depends on your interest in perfecting your alchemy skills through repetitive tasks and combat. But players looking to kill some time can do a lot worse than the light-hearted adventure of Atelier Ryza. Rating: 7 out of 10 Alchemists
  16. Developer Level-5 continues their penchant for unusual, wacky RPGs with Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl - Gold, a dungeon exploration RPG in a world packed with food puns. Either solo or in multiplayer you'll run through randomly generated dungeons in search of treasure, defeat monsters, collect crafting materials, create new equipment, and do it all over again. Snack World's simple, cyclical nature makes it a decent game to zone out with, but its shallow combat and exploration leave a lot to be desired. In the Kingdom of Tutti-Frutti, your customizable character is found injured and alone. Taken in by King Papaya and his daughter Melonia, you repay their kindness by becoming an adventurer, taking on quests for anyone in need. Along the way you'll make friends, battle a big bad villain, and save the kingdom. It's an adventure story aimed squarely at children, which doesn't make it bad so much as just predictable and a bit uninspired. Snack World does show off Level-5's undying love of puns though, and there's quite a range on display here, from clever food-based wordplay to some truly groan-worthy jokes (as well as a number of jokes that are frankly questionable for a children's game). The game's puns and sense of humor is rarely laugh-out-loud funny, and you may often be tempted to simply fast forward through cutscenes, but there are still some amusing moments. Snack World is a mission-based dungeon crawler RPG. Some missions take you to small sections of the game's world, generally for quick, simple missions like defeat 30 of X enemy, but the meat of the game is in exploring the randomly generated dungeons. Even here though the game is fairly snack-sized: dungeons are always only two floors plus a boss fight. Granted, since the floor layouts are randomly generated you might end up spending a lot of time exploring before you find the stairs to progress, but still, the game is clearly built around quick missions to get in and get out of dungeons. That's probably for the best since, even in bite-sized chunks, Snack World is an incredibly grindy and repetitive game. It's kind of the nature of this type of game to be a bit repetitive, but Snack World isn't doing itself any favors with its basic dungeon design and boring combat system. First I'll say there is one unique, compelling aspect to combat: you can bring up to six weapons (called Jaras) into any mission, which allows you to target a variety of enemy weaknesses. For example, you might have a sword that is effective against beast-type monsters, and a spear that's effective against aquatic monsters. Bringing both allows you to quickly swap on the fly and deal with any threat you may encounter. In fact, all you have to do is press ZR to instantly swap Jaras to whatever is most effective against the monster you're currently targeting. It's a handy system that encourages you to find/purchase a wide variety of weapons and get a lot of use out of all of them instead of crafting a single powerful weapon to carry you through the whole game. That said, the actual combat system is just kind of boring. You only have a basic attack or a special attack with each Jara, and special attacks operate on a cooldown. Even with that cooldown though special attacks are far more useful than basic ones, so you'll probably end up just dodging until the special is available again. You also have Jara Points (JP) for each Jara, and overusing a Jara will cause it to break until its JP is naturally refilled. What this means is that combat quickly devolves into a boringly simple pattern of using a special, waiting, and using it again, repeat ad naseum. There really isn't much strategy involved since you can instantly swap to the most effective weapon, and using any other weapon is so wildly ineffective that there's no incentive to even try. Combat in Snack World ends up feeling rote and monotonous. Boss fights up the ante a bit with more challenging battles, but these can be tedious in their own way. Since bosses won't go down in just a hit or two you'll need to be more conscious of your JP and timing your specials well, which makes the fight a bit more interesting. What's frustrating about bosses though is how ridiculously mobile many bosses are. You don't move fast in Snack World—even dodging and dashing will increase you speed only so much—and too many bosses will warp around the battlefield or dash from one end to the other rapidly. It makes boss fights more difficult in the worst way. Lastly, Snack World has a bit of a creature-collection aspect as well. The monsters you fight, called Snacks, can be recruited to fight alongside you. The AI isn't particularly smart so you'll still be the one doing most of the damage, but party Snacks can be invaluable for healing or just for distracting monsters. The one downside to having several Snacks with you is that they can clutter up the screen a bit when there's a lot happening during combat. It's obnoxiously easy to lose track of whom you're targeting, which is often crucial since every monster you're currently battling may have a different weakness. This is also largely to blame on the needlessly restrictive camera controls though. You can only rotate the camera 90 degrees in dungeons, which means you'll often be either moving forward without seeing exactly where you're going or your view will be obstructed by walls or dungeon decorations. It leads to some atrocious camera angles at times and really seems unnecessary. The game's visuals are bright and colorful and cartoony—exactly what you'd expect from a game that is clearly marketing itself as a TV show and merchandise line simultaneously. It doesn't feel particularly inspired for the most part, though at least the monster designs have some room to be creative and unique. For the most part though, Snack World's presentation plays it safe, which also extends to its decent but forgettable soundtrack. The game's story can be finished in about 20 hours or so, but the bulk of the game is really about repeating missions, taking on side quests, and otherwise grinding for weapons and armor. The post-game includes a ton of additional content, but all of it has the same sense of grind and monotonous repetition that characterizes the main game. On the bright side Snack World does have a multiplayer mode, and dungeon crawling can be a bit more exciting when you have a friend along for the adventure. Not every mission is available in co-op but it can still liven things up a bit to hop online with a friend. Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl - Gold is an admirable attempt at making a dungeon crawling RPG more accessible to a young target audience, but the final result is a bit too lopsided. For a game clearly aimed at kids the humor is weirdly inconsistent, the battle system is initially new-player-friendly but far too quickly devolves into mindless repetition, and the dungeon design is simple enough for young players to grasp but that also makes it rather dull. The grindy nature of the game also feels like perhaps asking too much of young or inexperienced players. Ultimately Snack World feels like a handful of good ideas stretched to their breaking point. Rating: 6 out of 10 Snacks
  17. This week’s Nintendo Download includes the following featured content: Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch Good Job! – As the clumsy child of a CEO, you must climb the corporate ladder, one wacky puzzle at a time. Complete tasks in multiple ways as you experiment with interactive environments – a projector can be wheeled gently through an electric door … unless, of course, you want to catapult it through a wall. You may knock over a priceless item or two in the process, but as long as you get the job done, you’re one step closer to reaching the executive suite! Solve challenging puzzles, alone or in two-player mode, in this hilarious new game from Nintendo. MARVEL ULTIMATE ALLIANCE 3: The Black Order Expansion Pass – Pack 3: Fantastic Four: Shadow of Doom – It’s Doctor Doom vs. Marvel’s first family. This new pack* lets you assemble your Ultimate Team with the addition of Mister Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch and The Thing as playable characters. Fight through a new story campaign that takes your team of Marvel Super Heroes through the kingdom of Latveria for a showdown with Doctor Doom. Will Doom prevail by unleashing cosmic forces the likes of which have never been seen? The Fantastic Four may be the only ones who hold the key to victory. Nintendo eShop sales: Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch, Nintendo 3DS and Wii U April showers bring spring sales! Nintendo eShop is blooming with deals! Pick up some great Nintendo Switch games that are on sale now! For a limited time only, learn more at https://www.nintendo.com/games/sales-and-deals. Also new this week in Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch: Cat Girl Without Salad: Amuse-Bouche Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike – Available April 8 Curious Expedition Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories – Available April 7 Drift Zone Arcade – Available April 3 Galaxy of Pen & Paper +1 Edition – Available April 8 Grimvalor – Available April 7 Horror Bundle Vol. 1 HyperParasite – Available April 3 In Other Waters – Available April 3 Junk Jack Lost Artifacts MazM: Jekyll and Hyde Pen and Paper Games Bundle – Available April 8 Pocket Harvest Random Heroes: Gold Edition – Available April 3 Rascal Fight Snakeybus The Otterman Empire Towertale – Available April 8 Ubongo – Available April 8 WordHerd
  18. Well this came out of nowhere didn't it? I'm actually still watching it right now! Press release:
  19. Step into the world of a pulp adventure novel with Curious Expedition from developer Maschinen-Mensch and publisher Thunderful Games, where you'll travel to distant lands, discover ancient ruins, hunt exotic game, and run afoul of mystic curses. With procedurally generated maps and a wide variety of characters to play as, there's nigh endless replay potential as you struggle to survive and make a name for yourself in dangerous climates. As with many roguelikes there's a punishing learning curve to overcome, but soon enough the call of adventure will keep you enthralled. According to the game's brief intro you are a member of the UK's Royal Society who is given the chance to immortalize themselves as the greatest explorer of the age. To win this honor you'll have to compete against four other explorers to build as much fame as possible across a series of expeditions. You can choose from a variety of historic figures of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and not just famed explorers but scientists like Marie Curie or whatever title you want to give Grigori Rasputin. Sadly the game's writing doesn't really change depending on which character you're playing as, and a lot of the dialogue in the game will start to seem pretty repetitive after a couple of playthroughs, but if nothing else the list of historic figures is a nice encouragement to read up on their real-life exploits. Curious Expedition is all about resource management as you cope with randomly generated environments and hazards. Every step you take while exploring costs you some sanity, and letting your sanity get too low can have adverse affects on you and your crew, potentially even triggering some dark scenarios where one crewmember goes missing and the rest are suddenly eating well on a supply of mysterious meat. You can recover sanity with various food items or by sleeping at rest points like healing springs, native villages, or missions. Reaching these safe havens is rarely a simple task though. You're in uncharted territory so you literally can't see what's ahead of you too far, which may cause you wander into some bad dead ends, or be attacked by predatory animals. Terrain can also affect your progress, since something like thick jungles can be more time-consuming to traverse (and more sanity-consuming). You'll also have to worry about injuries since you'll encounter plenty of hostile beasts, supernatural creatures, or even natives if you manage to annoy them too much. Combat in Curious Expedition is handled by a pretty interesting dice system. Each member of your expedition crew contributes dice that you roll during combat, and you can combine the results into unique attacks. For example, rolling a sword symbol on its own can be used for a basic attack, but combining it with a shield symbol will turn it into a more powerful combo that deals damage and gives you a shield for defense. Even though you have to cope with the randomness of the rolls, there's still a good amount of strategy involved in how you combine and use the results of your rolls. The whole combat system almost feels like an entire mini-game or side game system within the broader exploration adventure, and it's one that can be richly rewarding (though no less stressful when your luck turns). And just surviving is really only part of the game. The goal of each exploration is to discover the golden pyramid hidden in each map, and also to discover it before your rivals so that you can reap the most renown. Along the way you'll contend with plenty of other obstacles, hazards, and moral dilemmas—for example, raiding a native's temple for valuables my increase your renown when you make it back to London, but it will turn the locals hostile, potentially costing you trade and shelter. Like any good roguelike, Curious Expedition is all about maintaining a juggling act of all of these randomly generated challenges while coping with whatever resources you have on hand. And like a lot of roguelikes it'll be really difficult the first time you play, even on the easiest difficulty, but the joy of Curious Expedition is in dusting yourself off and starting the adventure all over again. There's tons of replay value here and it helps that one full playthrough is fairly short—earning that coveted statue at the Royal Society can take only a couple of hours, so failing doesn't feel like a waste of too much time and success just spurs you on to try again with a new character and a new strategy. Players that enjoy testing out all possible paths that a game can offer will love discovering every hidden item, character, and stratagem in Curious Expedition, and then pushing themselves to handle any possible combination. Not only is the premise of the game a throw back to late 19th century exploration and adventure, but the art style are just as much of a blast from the past. Okay not quite that old-fashioned, but the retro pixel art graphics does lend the game a bit of an 80s PC adventure game vibe, which really works for the atmosphere of the game even if it does feel maybe a little too simple at times. The music isn't half bad either, though the soundtrack mostly lays down some atmospheric beats—good for zoning out and exploring, but not particularly memorable either. Disappointingly though, the game can get somewhat laggy and choppy when there's a lot happening on screen, and the issue is only worse when playing in handheld mode. Thankfully it's not the type of game that requires quick reaction time so some frame rate jitters doesn't really affect the gameplay, but it's disappointing to see. Curious Expedition leverages its unique setting and style into a charming and addictive roguelike adventure. Dropping players into procedurally generated maps with random hazards under the guise of a 19th century explorer is, it turns out, a pretty solid combination, one that proves plenty engaging when survival is so precariously balanced around your forethought and strategy before the expedition begins and your on-the-spot decision-making while you're in the heart of the jungle. Roguelike fans will be satisfied by the variety of possibilities the game offers, and even players who aren't already fans of the genre may be drawn in by the game's curious trappings. Rating: 7 out of 10 Expeditions Review copy provided by publisher Curious Expedition will be available on the Switch eShop on April 2 for $14.99.
  20. It's a story we've seen a thousand times: you're chilling at home scrolling through your social media feed when some alien lady bursts through your wall and kidnaps your cat, which leaves you no other option but to fight your way through her robot army to rescue your precious pet. That old tale. Insane premise aside, Super Crush KO leverages all of the experience that developer Vertex Pop gathered from Graceful Explosion Machine to create another delightfully engaging score-chasing action game. There's not a lot of storytelling happening in Super Crush KO—my summary up above pretty much covers everything—but there's still a lot of style and flair packed into the game's brief cutscenes as our protagonist, Karen, pursues her cat, Chubbz, and the space-traveling cat-napper. The end of each level also treats you to a short bit of text that highlights what the characters are thinking, including Chubbz (spoiler alert: it's meowing). The game happily leans into its absurd premise to be utterly charming, cute, and, in the end, rather heartfelt. Super Crush KO is a stage-based side-scrolling action game: each level features a handful of combat scenes where you fight off waves of robots, and these scenes are connected by light platforming sequences and more robot butt-kickin'. The basic goal is to reach the end of the level, but the real heart of the game revolves around racking up a high score by stringing together combos and all of Karen's abilities. In addition to basic punches and a fancy space gun picked up from the alien cat-napper, Karen gradually unlocks a handful of special attacks that deal extra damage and smoothly combo into one another. After Graceful Explosion Machine, the developers seem to have this formula down pat, and the fluidity of Super Crush KO is an absolute blast. Rather than inundating players with dozens of special attacks, the game keeps things simple with just a few, but the effect is still the same: you'll feel like a one-woman robot-wrecking crew when you effortlessly flow from punching one robot, dodging another before uppercutting it, kicking the robot while in mid-air, then shooting a distant robot before it can fire at you. The combat system is immensely satisfying thanks to this snappy combo system that isn't too demanding but still rewards quick reflexes and careful monitoring of the stage as robots spawn in around you. Most importantly, Super Crush KO is about earning a high score, which means stringing together your attacks without taking damage yourself. This is, as you might expect, much more challenging, but it's also what makes the game so wonderfully addictive. The flow of combat is smooth and fairly easy to grasp, so perfecting it can become an obsession as you try your best to maintain a high combo streak from one fight to the next. You're able to share your high scores on an online leaderboard to see how you stack up to other players, which only further incentivizes you to perfect your skills. It's a good thing the game has this incentive too since just running through the game once is a very short experience. There are only twenty levels in the game (four of which are boss fights) and levels are rarely longer than a few minutes. The stage length itself actually feels great—long enough to be challenging to maintain a high score, but not tediously long—it's just a shame that there aren't more levels. The game's formula absolutely does not get old and I easily could have played through another two dozen levels, especially since the game continuously challenges you with new robot enemies with more dangerous attacks and bigger health bars. Bright and colorful with bold shapes but ultimately few details, the look and sound of Super Crush KO is an excellent match for the fast-paced arcade-style gameplay. You don't want any uncertainty about what type of robot you're fighting or whether an incoming attack can be interrupted or needs to be dodged, and the game's clean, bubbly, and relatively minimalist style ensures that you're never confused about what is happening on screen. It's also a really gorgeous color palette, one that gives the game a unique pastel vibe, which is oddly calming despite the action-packed nature of the gameplay. The music is excellent as well; its mellow, groovy style is almost at odds with the gameplay as well, but ultimately the synth sound, punctuated by Karen's punches and kicks, creates a great background for a robot beatdown. Super Crush KO does one thing and does it exceedingly well. The simple goal of score-chasing can be wonderfully engaging, and developer Vertex Pop has once again captured that simple joy, this time in a beautiful pastel package that encourages combos with fast, fluid gameplay. It's a shame the experience isn't longer, but when you take the time to perfect your skills and your score in every level, Super Crush KO is a delightful addition to the Switch library. Rating: 8 out of 10 Cats
  21. This week’s Nintendo Download includes the following featured content: Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch ONE PIECE: PIRATE WARRIORS 4– ONE PIECE: PIRATE WARRIORS 4 is the latest evolution of PIRATE WARRIORS action! Choose from a range of popular characters and take on large numbers of enemies while fighting through the legendary world of ONE PIECE. Based on the concept of “experiencing a real ONE PIECE battlefield,” buildings will come crashing down during the action and attacks will throw up smoke and dust, placing you in the thick of the ONE PIECE world. By injecting fresh elements that couldn’t be achieved in previous entries, an even more thrilling brand of PIRATE WARRIORS action can now be experienced. ONE PIECE: PIRATE WARRIORS 4 will be available on March 27. Nintendo eShop sales: Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch, Nintendo 3DS and Wii U Great deals this week! Check out the full list of deals available this week at https://www.nintendo.com/games/sales-and-deals. Also new this week in Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch: Ara Fell: Enhanced Edition Arcade Archives IKARI III -THE RESCUE- Bohemian Killing Bubble Bobble 4 Friends – Available March 31 Card Game Bundle Vol. 1 CHAOS CODE -NEW SIGN OF CATASTROPHE- Chapeau – Available March 31 Children of Zodiarcs – Available March 27 CopperBell – Available March 27 Dogurai DreamGallery Duck Souls+ – Available March 27 Gigantosaurus The Game – Available March 27 Grand Guilds Indie Darling Bundle Vol 2 JigSaw Abundance Mekorama Miles & Kilo NecroWorm One Step From Eden Operencia: The Stolen Sun – Available March 31 Repressed – Available March 27 Sin Slayers: Enhanced Edition Slot Stones of the Revenant – Available March 31 The Complex – Available March 31 Totally Reliable Delivery Service – Available April 1 Trailer Trashers Wanba Warriors Wenjia What the Box? – Available March 30 Wurroom – Available April 1 Zombie Army Trilogy – Available March 31
  22. Who says work has to be the same ol' same ol' boring stuff every day? It helps to put a little pep and verve into the process, and for Felix the Reaper that means dancing and shimmying his way through the mortal realm, sowing death one person at a time. Part black comedy, part puzzle game, and part love story, Felix the Reaper is a curious collection of seemingly incongruous elements. If every piece of the puzzle fit perfectly it might have been a sleeper hit for the Switch, but the final product actually leaves much to be desired. Felix is a hard-working reaper with the Ministry of Death who is completely smitten by Betty the Maiden from the Ministry of Life. In the hopes of meeting her while on the job, Felix takes on field work to manipulate the mortal world and reap souls, all the while pining for his lady love. The game is unabashedly silly, and putting the grim reaper into a star-crossed lovers story is as odd and entertaining as you might expect. Felix the Reaper also doesn't shy away from dark humor—oftentimes your goal in each level is to manipulate events into an absurd Rube Goldberg machine of death. What's particularly impressive about the writing though is the amount of research that went into exploring the figure of Death in Western culture and art. On the main menu you can read some lengthy articles on the subject, and although it would have been better to frame this research into something a bit more easily digestible (especially for a video game), they're still interesting reads and a neat inclusion. Each puzzle involves navigating a grid-based map while keeping to the shadows (reapers, it seems, can't handle daylight). By moving barrels, crates, and other objects around, you're able to create a path for Felix to move about the map and place the correct object on the indicated square. You may need to move a deer into the path of a hunter's spear for example, or move a barrel of ale close to the same hunter to ensure he isn't too careful about what happens next. You're also able to adjust the position of the sun, so you need to consider where the shadows currently are and will be when the sun is moved in order to create paths. It's an engaging puzzle system that requires a lot of forethought as you plan out each move, and seeing a plan fall into place can be awfully satisfying. That said, not all of the puzzles in Felix the Reaper feel particularly inspired. The core gameplay formula doesn't change much over the short length of the game, which is a little disappointing. The difficulty of each puzzle can vary pretty significantly too. Sometimes there are so few options at your disposal that it's not difficult at all to figure out what to do, and other times there are so many possibilities (but only one correct path) that you can feel totally lost. Thankfully there's a built-in hint system in the game so if you do need a nudge in the right direction you can easily see what steps to take next. One feature that does feel like it's missing though is a quick "rewind" button to undo your most recent actions—at the very least it would save a lot of time when you realize your current plan is leading nowhere. In fact, the controls in general could use a bit of an overhaul. Clearly the game's controls are built for a PC's mouse and keyboard because instead of moving Felix directly you just aim a cursor and click on which square to send him. With a controller this can feel a bit clumsy, and it's only made more difficult by the somewhat slippery camera rotation system that doesn't quite let you pan the camera over the entire stage but instead just rotate around it. When you first start up the game you'll likely be quite thrown by these controls, and it takes several levels to get used to them. Even by the end of the game I'd occasionally find myself annoyed by the tiny white dot of a cursor or the rotation that doesn't quite let me see the angle I want. The awkward controls are only emphasized by the game's focus on speed. You can take however long you need to finish a puzzle, but to earn all three bonus skulls you'll need to finish as quickly as possible with as few actions as possible. It's nice to have something to stretch out the game's length a bit, but really all you're doing is memorizing the correct actions after one or two trial runs and then executing them as quickly as possible—not the most interesting use of your time in a puzzle game. There are also harder versions of each level which can add a lot of play time to Felix the Reaper since these levels can be incredibly tricky (and you don't even get any hints). They can be so difficult, in fact, that they'll probably only appeal to the most dedicated players, but the challenge is there if you want it. And on a more technical note, the game has a real problem with load times. Sure loading screens are simply a reality of modern gaming but they're a bit of a drag here, especially if you finish a puzzle in just a minute or two and then sit through twenty seconds of loading. If there's one thing you can say about Felix the Reaper, it's that it has character. Felix himself is an oddly lovable representation of death, trading a dark cloak and scythe for a tie and a pair of headphones, all on a rather adorably pudgy body. A body that, surprisingly, is capable of stylish dance moves as Felix flits from shadow to shadow. The humans you're reaping are similarly unusual and yet charming—their simple, somewhat grotesque faces can be surprisingly emotive. The soundtrack though, is a bit of a mixed bag. Considering dancing is a major aspect of Felix's character, it's surprising that a lot of the music leans toward light, atmospheric sounds rather than, say, a dance club vibe. It might be suited to solving puzzles but it doesn't seem to fit with Felix himself. However, the soundtrack is actually composed by several musicians and you're able to change songs at any time, so once you find one you like you can stick with it the whole game. Felix the Reaper promises a great deal with its quirky sense of style and humor, but ultimately the pieces don't quite come together for this macabre rom com. The puzzles are clever and certainly challenging at times, but they never quite manage to evolve into more complex or engaging formats. The controls leave a lot to be desired, which can easily wear on your patience during more difficult puzzles, and even the charm of the presentation and dark humor of the writing fail to liven up the atmosphere. In the end it's hard to love Felix's quest for romance. Rating: 6 out of 10 Deaths
  23. This week’s Nintendo Download includes the following featured content: Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch Animal Crossing: New Horizons– Escape to a deserted island and create your own paradise as you explore, create and customize in the Animal Crossing: New Horizons game. Your island getaway has a wealth of natural resources that can be used to craft everything from tools to creature comforts. You can hunt down insects at the crack of dawn, decorate your paradise throughout the day or enjoy sunset on the beach while fishing in the ocean. The time of day and season match real life, so each day on your island is a chance to check in and find new surprises all year round. The Animal Crossing: New Horizons game will be available on March 20. Exit the Gungeon – Exit the Gungeon is a bullet-hell dungeon climber immediately following the events of Enter the Gungeon. Armed with an ever-changing weapon, an insatiable need to loot and the trusty dodge roll, each of our heroes must ascend and escape via their own unique route of increasingly perilous elevators. Sky Racket – Flying over whimsical worlds filled with vivid colors, it’s just you, a stylish scarf, a laser tennis racket and a horde of fluffy enemies trying to blow you back to the ground. Mixing the classic genres of shoot-’em-ups and block breakers, Sky Racket is the world’s first “Shmup Breaker!” DOOM 64 – Celebrate DOOM’s 25th anniversary with DOOM 64, originally released on the Nintendo 64 system in 1997. Take the fight to Hell with DOOM 64 on the Nintendo Switch system, available on March 20. Nintendo eShop sales: Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch, Nintendo 3DS and Wii U Great deals this week! Check out the full list of deals available this week at https://www.nintendo.com/games/sales-and-deals. Also new this week in Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch: Arcade Archives FORMATION Z Beyond Enemy Lines: Essentials Breakfast Bar Tycoon – Available March 20 Bug Academy – Available March 23 Colorgrid – Available March 24 Deep Sky Derelicts: Definitive Edition – Available March 24 Dezatopia Diabolic – Available March 20 Epic Word Search Collection Factotum 90 Frosty Jump Ghost Sweeper Hyperspace Delivery Service – Available March 24 Indie Puzzle Bundle Vol 1 Ittle Dew 2+ Lust for Darkness: Dawn Edition – Available March 20 Mist Hunter – Available March 20 Nerdook Bundle Vol. 1 Pocket Mini Golf – Available March 20 Pooplers – Available March 20 Quell Memento – Available March 20 Red Death Rhythm of the Gods – Available March 23 SeaBed Silent World Tennis Open 2020 The Secret Order: Shadow Breach Thunder Paw – Available March 20 Travel Mosaics 2: Roman Holiday Ultimate Ski Jumping 2020 Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York – Available March 24
  24. At this point it feels like it'd be faster to count the number of Wii U games that haven't been ported to the Switch, though to be fair, few deserve a second chance in the spotlight as much as Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE. This Encore performance adds a few new features—as well as including the DLC released for the original game—but just giving Switch owners a chance to experience the engaging RPG mechanics of the game is treat enough. TMS♯FE takes place in modern day Tokyo and the story revolves around the idol industry of teenagers becoming pop star singers and actors. However, the city is also beset by phantom creatures called Mirages who are attacking people to steal their performance energy. Our heroes, a scrappy group of mostly novice idols, teams up with friendly Mirages to fight back. It's probably not surprising that TMS♯FE leans heavily on anime tropes and such—each character almost feels like a walking cliché, which can make the game's story beats a little tedious. The main protagonist, Itsuki, is particularly disappointing since he's really just a blank slate character to facilitate other characters' development. Still, the characters can be charming at times as well, and if you just let yourself go along for the ride on a light-hearted, campy, save-the-world story, the writing's lack of substance won't matter much. Besides, TMS♯FE makes up for any storytelling faults with a wonderfully engaging battle system and inventive dungeon designs. Scattered throughout Tokyo you'll enter Idolaspheres (dungeons, essentially) in order to battle Mirages, and these Idolaspheres feature some clever and unusual designs. Exploring them is a lot more engaging that simply walking to the exit and battling creatures along the way. The battle system, however, is arguably the star of the show in TMS♯FE. The key feature here is activating Sessions by targeting an enemy's weakpoint with a combat skill, either an elemental weakness or weapon weakness. Each character has a limited selection of skills (Itsuki, for example, uses swords and lightning magic), so you'll need to select your party carefully to effectively deal with the Mirages in the current Idolasphere—don't worry though, you can also swap characters from your reserves to your active party mid-battle if you need to switch things up. Hitting an enemy with a skill they're vulnerable to activates a Session, where every available party member jumps in with their own attack, creating a satisfying chain of damage that can also leap to other enemies in battle as well. Eventually you'll also get the chance to further augment Sessions with special skills called ad-libs and duo attacks, which can lead to some satisfying damage combos. On one hand these massive Session chains can make normal battles a little too easy, but they're still awfully satisfying to pull off. Plus there are always boss fights for the truly challenging moments, and when enemies aren't killed by a single session you'll realize there's more to the battle system and it requires a typical RPG's strategy and planning to survive (and a little luck). Boss fights can be pretty challenging in fact, but thankfully you can save at any time in the game (outside of battle) so as long as you remember to save frequently, a defeat won't result in much lost progress. The other major aspect of TMS♯FE's gameplay revolves around learning skills, which comes from crafting new weapons and using them in battle. Weapons can be crafted from items dropped from Mirages, so it's a nicely cyclical system—fight some Mirages, gather resources, craft new weapons, repeat. The crafting system is rather tedious in TMS♯FE though because you have to leave the Idolasphere and return to your base of operations to craft, and you'll probably want to do this several times in just a single dungeon, so there's a lot of running back and forth that easily could have been streamlined. Speaking of streamlining though, the Encore edition of the game does speed up one aspect of the game. You're now able to speed through Sessions, which is a huge time saver. As mentioned you're going to be triggering Sessions in every battle, multiple times, and by the end of the game Sessions can get ridiculously long. As nice as the animations are, being able to speed through them is a welcome change. Beyond that though, the other new features for the Encore edition are kind of underwhelming. Some of the side characters are able to jump into battle during a Session, and the interface for the game's message system has changed (since you don't have the Wii U Gamepad in hand anymore), but the main new feature is the EX Story, a short dungeon focused on two of the characters. It's great to have a new area to explore but it's ultimately a simple, brief side story that doesn't add too much either story- or gameplay-wise. It's probably not enough to convince you to play through the entire game again if you're on the fence, but fans of the game might enjoy having a bit extra to do. Not that the game's length really needs extending anyway—this is a full-length RPG, so you can expect at least 40 hours or so to finish the game. There are also several side quests with each of the game's main characters, and even though these are technically optional you really shouldn't skip them as they'll give you valuable bonuses and combat abilities. There are still some optional side missions to tackle though, and if you can't get enough of TMS♯FE you can try out New Game+ to keep the performance going even longer. Focused as it is on the Japanese idol industry, the look and sound of TMS♯FE is distinctly poppy: bright, flashy, and arguably overdone at times, but there's still a certain appeal to it all. Each character has multiple costumes you can use (including some from the game's original DLC as well as new ones for this Encore edition) so you can always experiment to find the look you like. Music is, naturally, a big part of a game focused on pop music idols, and there are some catching songs (including entire music videos) but again your enjoyment will largely hinge on your interest in the Japanese idol industry. The game is also fully voiced but only in Japanese which is, to be fair, appropriate for the game's style and setting. Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore isn't much of an overhaul or upgrade from the original Wii U title, but for anyone that missed its first performance this is a great opportunity to find new fans with a second showing. The core RPG elements remain wonderfully satisfying when you pull off long Session chains, and crafting weapons to unlock new skills is completely addictive, even if the crafting process is slower than it ought to be. Switch owners should be pleased to find yet another solid RPG port on Nintendo's hybrid system. Rating: 8 out of 10 Sessions
  25. Back when the original Crash Bandicoot game released in 1996 for the PlayStation, it was at a unique nexus point. The 90s were rife with platformers, but with the PlayStation/Nintendo 64 generation came the advent of 3D visuals and gameplay, and games like Super Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot represented the bridge between one of the classic gameplay genres and a new dimension of gaming. But while Super Mario 64 set the standard for a lot of 3D platforming mechanics and remains a pretty solid entry in the Mario series, time hasn't been quite so kind to the early Crash Bandicoot games. Although an iconic gaming mascot of the late 90s, Crash feels incredibly dated in 2018, even in the remastered Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. Let's start with the first game which introduces us to Crash, a bandicoot that has been mutated by the evil Dr. Neo Cortex using his Evolvo-Ray. Although Cortex wanted to make Crash into a powerful animal soldier, Crash escapes the lab, only to start a quest across the Wumpa islands to rescue the other animal captives. Despite its sleek polygonal looks the original Crash Bandicoot was more of a combination of 2D platformer gameplay with 3D visuals. Some levels are viewed from the side like classic 2D platformers but many have Crash running into the foreground or background. Amidst all this there are boss fights and collectibles—all the basic building blocks of an adventure/platformer. Now I'll say here that I never played these games when they were first released, and while I'm sure this sort of gameplay twist was impressive at the time it is kind of a mess now. In fact, the original Crash Bandicoot feels like a crash course in bad 3D game design. You have very little depth perception in these fore-/background running levels, with only Crash's shadow to tell you where you'll land during a jump. And there are some insanely difficult jumps in some of these levels. Crash's movements are also incredibly stiff since, when the game was first released, the PlayStation didn't have analog sticks, so players used a D-pad to control Crash in these semi-3D levels, and Crash's movements remain awkward. And finally, your main attack is spinning into enemies, which requires getting up close and personal with enemies who can kill you just by touching you. All of this makes the original Crash Bandicoot obnoxiously difficult. Stiff controls with an awkward camera angle and unforgiving level design means it's easy to die pretty much constantly. Although there are some clever level designs it's hard to get past how frustratingly clunky and outdated the game feels today. To be fair, some of the clumsy gameplay might be due to this remastering which required rebuilding the gameplay from scratch, so some elements might not have translated well, but anyone that is first playing Crash Bandicoot in 2018 is most likely going to feel like this game is simply a relic that doesn't quite belong on a modern game system. Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back is a marked improvement over the original game. Once again Crash is combating Dr. Cortex (though Cortex pretends to be asking Crash for help to collect powerful crystals) which leads Crash to a wide variety of different levels. There's much better stage variety in Crash 2, though Naughty Dog still loves the format of running into the foreground while something huge chases Crash. Still, Crash's movements are much smoother so it doesn't feel like you're fighting the controls throughout the whole game, and he also has a new attack: sliding. While playing these games back to back it's clear how much of an improvement it is to add even one new mechanic to Crash's repertoire. On the other hand Crash 2 also introduces some jetpack levels which, much like the entire first game, feel like an experiment in 3D game design that comes across as awkward and stiff today. But overall Crash 2 offers a more satisfying and diverse platformer adventure compared to the first game. The third game, Crash Bandicoot: Warped, is when Crash really hits his stride. The basic gameplay premise is the same as the first two (linear platformer levels that often have Crash running into the foreground or background) but the gameplay feels much more polished and, frankly, easier. But the lower difficulty is in part due to improvements to the game's mechanics. Crash moves more fluidly so it's easier to dodge obstacles. The level design is more varied and engaging, including race levels and flying levels. Over the course of the game Crash gains several new abilities, not all of which are always useful (and one of which, the gun, actually makes the game much, much easier) but the variety makes the gameplay feel more exciting from start to finish. There are fewer challenges that require super precise jumps and a lot more enemies that just stand around as obstacles rather than actively attack you, but even if the difficulty is toned down the gameplay is much more enjoyable. Each game contains around 25 levels, but to complete the games fully there's actually a lot of bonus material to cover. In each level of each game there are a number of crates you can break and, if you break all of the crates in a level, you'll be rewarded with a gem. You can also earn a gem from completing alternate paths within levels, which are unlocked by collecting gems in previous levels. In short, there's more replay value here than just blazing through each level once, and collecting every gem unlocks the true ending in each game—a fine reward for completionists. Gathering gems can be pretty tedious, especially in the first game, but it does give you more of a goal than just completing each game once. And finally there is a time trial mode to further pad out the games. There may only be a little over two dozen levels in each game but if you try to do everything you'll have plenty of Crash action here. Naturally this remastered trilogy comes with updated graphics and music, including cutscenes with voice actors from the more recent Crash games. Some of the level design still looks quite dated, which is more a product of the linear structure of each level, but overall the graphics look great on the Switch. The unique style of the Crash games is perfectly preserved while updating the artwork to something that feels more at home on a modern system. The updated music is well done as well, and has the right blend of atmospheric melodies and upbeat action. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is a bit of a mixed bag. With the remaster of the first game, this trilogy proves that some games are better off left in the past, when repetitive level design and clunky controls might have been less noticeable thanks to the purely new appeal of 3D platformers. The other two games, however, are far less dated, and even if some of their mechanics still feel notably old-fashioned they're still enjoyable platformers today, particularly Warped. Nostalgic fans may love all three equally but new players might only enjoy the third game, making even the budget price on this trilogy a bit of a stretch. Rating: 7 out of 10 Wumpa Fruits