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Found 760 results

  1. 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.
  2. Cats and dogs working together? It's not mass hysteria, it's Cat Quest II, another light action-RPG from developer The Gentlebros. You once again play as a cat hero in the kingdom of Felingard, but this time your journeys will take you to the dog kingdom of Lupus as well. Most importantly, you can also play as a dog in this adventure, and even join up with a friend for local co-op action. Cat Quest II isn't much of a departure from its predecessor, but the simple, snappy action-RPG mechanics still make for a satisfying experience. You play as both a cat and a dog in this game—if you're playing solo you can swap between the two at any time—who are the displaced rulers of Felingard and Lupus. In order to reclaim your thrones, you'll have to adventure, gather strength, and reforge the legendary Kingsblade. The plot itself is decent enough, even if it feels a little basic at times, but the writing can be quite charming thanks to the ridiculous amount of puns found throughout Cat Quest II. This game is littered with every kind of cat- or dog-based pun you can think of, to the point where it's kind of distracting. Still, it's pretty cute, and will at least make you smile when you're taking on one quest after another. The gameplay is largely unchanged from the first game. You explore an overworld map which now includes both the cat and dog kingdoms, and you battle creatures using melee weapons and magic spells. In addition to the main quest you can pick up side quests that might reward you with new equipment, and will always award you with a healthy bit of EXP and gold. There are also caves and temples scattered across the map which are filled with monsters and more treasures. A big part of the appeal of these Cat Quest games lies in their simplicity. There aren't any elaborate RPG mechanics to learn here, you're just exploring, fighting, and improving your characters. It makes them incredibly easy to pick up, and ideal for quick play sessions. Cat Quest II isn't a demanding action-RPG, and having a friend along for the ride now makes the experience feel even more like a relaxed afternoon kind of game. If you're playing solo, the other character will be AI controlled, but you can swap between them at any time. The AI leaves something to be desired—it'll attack enemies, though not always in the most intelligent ways—but the real benefit is that the second character basically acts as a spare life for you. If your main character goes down you'll instantly swap to the other one and can revive the first. Even if the AI isn't the best fighter it still ends up being a handy assistant. The downside is that the game's simplicity does make it rather repetitive. There's a little bit of strategy and dexterity necessary, since you'll need to dodge out of the way of enemy attacks and may want to coordinate your spells to hit elemental weaknesses. For the most part though the game is easy to breeze through, and the enemies you fight and caves you explore are pretty much the same over and over. You can try to spice up the experience for yourself by swapping weapons, armor, and spells, though the cost of upgrading your equipment can discourage doing so too frequently. And in the end you're not going to have a wildly different experience no matter what kind of weapon you're favoring. Cat Quest II's simplicity is its charm, but it can also make it a bit shallow. It should only take you eight or nine hours to complete the whole adventure, which ends up feeling like a good length given how repetitive the gameplay can be. There is a bit of post-game content in the form of high-difficulty caves and temples, plus there is a new game+ feature to carry over some of your progress into a second playthrough. An update to the game has also added "Mew Game" and "Mew Game+" which allow you to play with various modifiers on to make the game a bit more challenging, such as limiting the equipment you can wear or causing everything to move faster. Players hoping for a bit more challenge will certainly want to check out these game modes. The presentation hasn't changed much from the first game either, and it's still overwhelmingly cute. The visuals are bright and colorful, and seeing the anthropomorphic cats and dogs running around is awfully adorable. There's less variety in environments in Cat Quest II, but the scale of the world still manages to feel a bit bigger and more grand. The music is a lot of fun as well. It's bubbly and heroic and really adds to the sense of adventure. Cat Quest II doesn't do too much to distinguish itself from its predecessor. Co-op is a fun addition, but otherwise the gameplay formula is nearly identical, including foibles like the repetitive caves and unambitious combat system. In the end though, those issues don't matter too much. Cat Quest II is still a charming little action-RPG, perfect for introducing young players to the genre, and now co-op makes that even easier to do. It's not the kind of game that's likely to capture your attention for hours on end, but as a quick, light adventure into a kingdom of cats and dogs, it's not a bad way to relax a bit and enjoy an undemanding game. Rating: 7 out of 10 Cats
  3. 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
  4. Release Date: October 1st (Playable until 3/31/2021) Price: FREE (Nintendo Switch Online Exclusive) Site: https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/super-mario-bros-35-switch/ You’ve never played a Super Mario Bros. game like this before. Super Mario Bros. with a 35-player twist Race against time, defeat enemies, and sabotage your opponents in an online* battle to be the last Mario standing! Classic Super Mario Bros. gameplay gets an adrenaline boost! Each player is given the same timed stage, but you must defeat enemies to earn extra time and attack your opponents. Don’t forget to pick up some coins on your way—they can be used to get in-game items like power-ups. With speed, skill, and strategy, you could be the last Mario standing. Only on Nintendo Switch Online! Super Mario Bros. 35 is a free-to-download software that’s exclusive to Nintendo Switch Online members. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- This looks like a ton of fun! Though, I find it odd this is will only be playable until the end of March next year. I wonder if they will do events like in Tetris 99? It'd be cool if every now and then they'd change things up and have SMB2, SMB USA, SMB3, SMW.
  5. Over the past decade, developer Supergiant Games has seemingly gone out of their way to produce particularly unique games, covering a variety of gameplay features but retaining a certain impeccable sense of style in each. To be honest I wasn't thrilled to hear that their latest, Hades, was a roguelike, a genre that has never fully landed with me, even if I have enjoyed a few games that use its death loop mechanics. Leave it to Supergiant, though, to make me a believer. I suppose it shouldn't have been a surprise given their previous games so perfectly combine disparate gameplay aspects into a brilliant and unique whole, but even as a fan of the developer I wasn't prepared for how fully Hades would capture my attention. In Hades you play as Zagreus, prince of the Underworld, who has grown tired of living in a world of shades and darkness and has decided to leave his father's realm to be with his extended family on Mount Olympus. Leaving the land of the dead isn't exactly a simple task though, and he'll need to battle his way through shifting hazards and guardians from Tartarus to the River Styx before he can escape the afterlife. Roguelikes don't generally have a lot of storytelling; the gameplay loop of restarting the entire adventure every time you die tends to downplay the story, or at least push it into small corners of the game's world. That's not the case with Hades. One of the best aspects of this game is the fact that it's not just the gameplay that compels you to keep playing and make another attempt but the story as well. You get little pieces of backstory and character development with every playthrough that will make you eager to push a little further and uncover more. It also helps that the developers have done an amazing job of bringing these Greek mythological figures to life (in a manner of speaking). Zagreus himself is a charming combination of moody and flippant without being obnoxious, and every other character—whether it's an underworld denizen or Olympic god—is just as wonderfully developed and charming. The short break between escape attempts might have been a dull housekeeping period in a lesser developer's hands, but in Hades it's an opportunity to talk with side characters and further immerse yourself in the game's setting. Like all roguelikes, the gameplay of Hades is based around repeatedly playing through the game with a random assortment of hazards and upgrades. Zagreus is able to choose one of six weapons to use in his escape attempt, but beyond that there's an element of chance to everything that happens. Different enemies will pop up, different room layouts will impede your progress, and different gods will grant you boons which act as powerful upgrades. For example, Zeus will give your attacks additional lightning damage, while Athena grants defensive buffs that can deflect enemy projectiles. You may also see improved versions of their boons (rare, epic, heroic) as well as boons that reinforce the ones you already have. Which gods you see on your playthrough and even which boons they grant are randomly generated so every attempt is going to feel a little different, which keeps the gameplay feeling fresh and forces you to think strategically with the tools you're given. What makes a good roguelike is essentially how much fun the core gameplay is, regardless of what boons/upgrades you're using and regardless of whether you're actually successful in your playthrough. Hades nails this aspect, ensuring that not only does each playthrough feel unique, but that the combat mechanics and combination of boons is always engaging. Even without boons the combat of Hades feels great. Each weapon has distinct advantages and disadvantages, from better range to defensive capabilities, and learning how to master each one's features is a blast (and tearing through enemies is super satisfying). Your attacks are sharp and responsive and you have a great amount of control over Zagreus's movements and dodges. Even basic sword swings just have a satisfying weight to them. Then there are the boons that add so much variety and depth to the combat system. Mixing and matching them allows for incredibly varied approaches to both normal fights and boss fights, and learning how to best use each boon is another fantastic layer of depth and strategy in Hades. There were plenty of boons that, starting out, I didn't like at all and couldn't find a good use for. But after a few playthroughs and some experimentation I found that they could be just as powerful as any other, and testing out new combinations became something to look forward to. Early on you'll just be experimenting to see what each boon can do, but soon enough you'll be experimenting with different combos, weapons, and playstyles, and Hades has a fantastic amount of variety in this department. Even after dozens of playthroughs there are still surprising and exciting aspects of the gameplay to uncover. Hades also allows you to make some permanent upgrades outside of the randomly generated boons, which is a huge help in making each playthrough feel useful and valuable even if you didn't make it all the way to the end. You're able to pick up a few different forms of currency which unlock permanent boosts to make you slightly stronger in your next attempt, and early on these incremental upgrades are a huge part of keeping you engaged for each playthrough. Then there's the flipside where, once you've finished the game once, you can choose to inflict additional challenges on yourself to make the game harder, like increasing enemies' health, damage, or attack speed. This will also net you additional materials for upgrades so it's not just designed to punish yourself, though by that point you'll likely be skilled enough that a little extra challenge is welcome. There's also God Mode which is an assist mode that will reduce the damage you take, perfect for players that need a helping hand or just want to see more of the story progress. Regardless of what upgrades or punishments you're using, Hades is a brilliantly addictive game that will leave you with that "one more try" feeling each and every time you finish a run, successful or not. Even across different genres and gameplay styles, one thing that has never never changed for Supergiant is the absolutely stunning presentation of their games. Hades is gorgeous, from the atmospheric scenery that captures a subtle sense of foreboding underworld vibes to the beautifully designed character portraits that do an incredible job of interpreting the classic Greek pantheon that we all know. The hand-painted environments are so richly detailed that for your first few playthroughs you'll likely just be distracted drinking in the scenery. And although the game's isometric perspective doesn't allow for much close-up detail the game is beautifully animated as well. Even after your fiftieth playthrough it's worth taking a little pause to appreciate the amazing visual design of Hades. Then there's the soundtrack which is once again masterfully composed by Darren Korb. There's a very fine line to walk here for a game where you're going to hear the same songs over and over, but Korb's soundtrack is the perfect blend of catchy and action-packed without feeling tiresome even by the hundredth time you've heard it. And finally, the voice work in Hades deserves special mention too for the way it captures each character's personality so well in a subtle, magnetic way that pulls you even further into the impeccable writing and storytelling. Hades is everything a roguelike should be. The controls and combat are so finely polished that even basic battles have a satisfying, addictive flourish to them. The gameplay is challenging without being discouraging, and always feels worthwhile whether you've made it to the end, collected valuable materials, or simply tested out new strategies based on what the game gave you. The writing is wonderfully engaging and uncovering bits of the story across each playthrough is another perfect incentive to keep playing over and over. Add onto all of this Supergiant's impeccable art and music design and you easily have one of the best Switch releases this year. Even if you're not a fan of roguelikes, there's something about Hades that will pull you in and won't let you go. Rating: 10 out of 10 Boons
  6. It seems like Level-5 games may no longer be releasing outside of Japan , as they have quietly shut down their NA branch... I really hope this isn't because Yo-Kai Watch didn't really take off in the west like they wanted it to. Also, there was they new Layton game with Layton's daughter that didn't do as well as the other Layton games. This is really said to hear and I really hope this isn't the case, because Level-5 makes some great games. PLZ... 🙏 ...Hopefully they can still find publishers like NIntendo to release games in the west.
  7. With a combination of veteran experience and start-up ambition, indie developer Metronomik's debut game throws players into a futuristic world of music and rhythmic action. No Straight Roads stars an indie rock duo trying to make it big in a city that values EDM over any other genre, leading to clashes with the ruling musical elites and a rising swell of underground rock. Ultimately though this blend of action-platforming and stylish design is a bit out of tune. Our protagonists, Mayday and Zuke, perform as the rock duo Bunk Bed Junction in Vinyl City, where music literally provides power to the electrical grid. However, the record label No Straight Roads decides that rock music is passé and only EDM should be allowed, spurring our heroes to fight back in the name of musical freedom. It's a fun setting with larger-than-life characters that are a little goofy but also undeniably charming. However, the story never feels like it reaches its potential. Maybe it's just because the game is relatively short, but the inventive setting is rife with possibilities that aren't fully explored by the game. The gameplay of No Straight Roads focuses around big, creative boss fights with third-person action-adventure mechanics. You can play as either Mayday or Zuke with two-player co-op or you can play solo and swap between the two at any time (though if one dies it's game over when playing alone). Mayday has slightly slower but more powerful attacks with her guitar, while Zuke has weaker but faster, combo-driven attacks with his drumsticks. They also have special attacks and can transform objects in the environment with the power of music. Mayday's abilities tend to focus on offense while Zuke's are built for defense. You're able to upgrade their abilities via skill trees that unlock as you gain a fan following, as well as augment their stats with stickers slapped on their instruments. They make a solid team and even when playing alone the ability to swap between them helps cover their weaknesses. Between boss fights you can explore a small hub area of Vinyl City then dive into each boss's district by fighting your way through a short level of minor enemies and barriers. It really feels like these boss lead-ups were an underdeveloped idea thrown in late in development. You only ever fight against a couple of different enemy types in these stages, they're incredibly linear, and are all structured in the same exact way which doesn't feel thematically appropriate for each boss. They at least give you an opportunity to practice your attacking and dodging skills, but overall they feel like busywork. The real stars of the game are the boss fights which throw you into some insane and inventive duels that really test your dodging skills and endurance. These battles are over the top in a great way and show off some incredible arena and combat design. They're also pretty tedious at times, thanks to the unrelenting difficulty. You might not expect it from the game's colorful art style, but these boss fights can be downright cruel, whether it's from a barrage of attacks that forces you to do nothing but dodge or from the massive amount of damage you can take from a single hit. Early on the game gives you infrequent opportunities to rest or restore health through random item drops, though eventually both characters learn skills to recover health. Even then, boss fights really test the limit of your skills since every boss has multiple forms and there are no checkpoints, so dying restarts the entire fight. The controls aren't doing much to help with the uneven sense of difficulty either. Your movements are pretty loose, which doesn't feel great for the precision dodging you need to do at times. The camera is a huge pain since it is either too sensitive when you have full control over it, or it's fixed during boss fights, oftentimes at an angle that makes it hard to dodge or land your own attacks. The Switch version of No Straight Roads also seems to have a handful of small technical issues as well, none of which were game-breaking in my experience but they were annoying. For one thing the framerate is a little inconsistent and the hub world has a lot of visual pop-in. I also ran into several small glitches like not being able to jump unless I swapped characters, or the health bar displaying the wrong character. At minimum the game clearly could have used a bit more polish. No Straight Roads is also a fairly short game. The adventure is structured around the big boss fights, and there are only six in total—most players will finish in about six hours. There is a bit of variety to the game depending on what skills you pick from the skill tree or what sticker upgrades you use, plus there's a focus on replaying boss fights at higher difficulty levels to earn more fans, which allows you to unlock more skills. It's obviously repetitive to do that though, and some of these bosses are annoying enough to fight once. The Switch version of the game also has some unique features, including a touch mode and a three player assist mode which can help alleviate some of the boss battle frustration. The game's presentation is obviously the highlight here—how could it not be, when the focus of the story is on music-based battles? The soundtrack is pretty fantastic, whether you favor rock or EDM, as both are represented with tons of great songs that you can't help but bob your head to, even if you're getting destroyed in the boss fights. The music is incredibly catchy and shows a lot of range even within the two main genres on display here. The voice acting deserves some recognition as well for bringing these wild characters to life, including in songs and rap battles. The visuals of No Straight Roads is also super stylish, with an exaggerated cartoonish design that is colorful and chaotic and somehow perfect for these characters and this setting. Even if the technical aspect of the visuals is a little lacking on the Switch, the art design is just plain fun and is at its full power during the massive, intense boss fights. No Straight Roads' only real fault is being overambitious. Unfortunately that means a lot of gameplay elements feel unpolished or unfocused, and too much of the game plays like a rough draft rather than a fully realized experience. And although the Switch version comes with some fun extra features not found in other versions, it also comes with some technical issues as well. The game still oozes style and personality though, and for some players the rocking soundtrack and colorful, cartoonish visual design will be enough to justify giving No Straight Roads a shot on the main stage. Rating: 7 out of 10 Bands
  8. Take the Metroidvania formula for 2D exploration, sprinkle in some Dark Souls influence, and wrap it all up in a twisted, macabre world of Christian lore and Spanish art and you get Blasphemous, a dark and striking action-platformer from developer The Game Kitchen. Originally Kickstarted in 2017, the game drew attention for its haunting sense of style and classic gameplay elements. The final result is a game that leans a little too far toward punishment rather than penitence, but Metroidvania fans looking for a challenge should be pleased regardless. You play as the Penitent One, a nameless, voiceless, masked figure set on a pilgrimage to find the Cradle of Affliction and potentially break the cycle of death and rebirth that binds the Brotherhood of the Silent Sorrow and seemingly all the world of Cvstodia. Blasphemous draws heavily from Christian iconography and Spanish art to create a world of dark, twisted repentance and punishment that is fascinating to explore though feels a bit disjointed at times. The game throws a lot of information at you initially and then only brings it up again sparingly which makes it a little hard to follow at times when you hear names of individuals and groups mentioned casually. There's clearly some great lore and world-building happening behind the scenes here, it just doesn't come through well enough while you're playing. Still, even if the narrative feels a bit unpolished, the atmosphere of the game is undeniable. Blasphemous is a classic 2D Metroidvania game—leaning a little more toward the Castlevania side of things thanks to its religious symbolism—with some light Souls elements. That means you've got a massive, interconnected map to explore with tons of secrets to uncover, including equippable upgrades and opportunities to raise your health, magic, or strength. Save points are scattered around at fairly regular intervals which act as respawn points if—or rather when—you die, and using a save point also causes all defeated enemies to respawn. The Souls influence comes from the fact that, when you die, you lose a little piece of yourself. Your maximum mana (or Fervor as it is called in the game) is lowered and you'll earn less EXP (aka Tears of Atonement, which is also currency) until you return to the place you died and recover what you lost. Essentially, Blasphemous provides a classic Metroidvania experience with the difficulty tuned a little higher to the kind of tense challenge that Souls games are known for, but thankfully not overwhelmingly difficult. The cycle of dying and retrying isn't as punishing as in Souls games, and the combat system has a decent amount of fluidity and action to it. You can easily get your attacks in and dodge away with some lithe movements. That said, the combat system still expects a lot out of the player. Even basic enemies can do a lot of damage so any hits you take will hurt a lot, which means the only real strategy oftentimes is a very basic cycle of attack, dodge, repeat. This can make your first couple hours with the game particularly frustrating while you're still learning enemy attack patterns and don't have a lot of health to spare, and makes combat feel pretty repetitive even against different types of enemies. The game instead builds tension out of the need to reach the next save point where you can recover health and refill your healing potions. It definitely makes progress feel satisfying when you reach the next checkpoint, though it can be a bit too formulaic as well. Thorough exploration is a must in a Metroidvania game since you may be rewarded with various upgrades or side quests. In Blasphemous, you can customize your abilities with various upgrades or magic spells. There's a decent amount of variety that helps make your approach feel a bit unique even though the focus of combat is always on sword attacks. Side quests will reward you with some particularly useful items, including abilities that help you explore every inch of Cvstodia, but actually finding and completing side quests is frustratingly obtuse in Blasphemous. There's no kind of quest log so it's hard to remember what exactly you need to bring where, and that's when the game gives you any kind of clue at all. Oftentimes you'll find an item with no explanation for what it is meant to do and can only hope that you'll stumble upon its use at some point. Maybe the developers just want you to earn these rewards on your own, but a little more direction would have gone a long way. Surprisingly though, the biggest threat in Blasphemous is the platforming. It is absurdly easy to die by falling or being knocked into a bottomless pit or a spike trap, which is instant death no matter your health. The game really pushes the edge of your character's jumping range at times, and of course some enemies are just perfectly positioned to knock you off of a cliff's edge. You don't quite have the kind of fluid platformer movement to justify such punishing hazards. These kinds of instant death traps pose just as much danger even when you're far into the game and have plenty of upgrades, and are really just an obnoxious obstacle to exploration. The visual design of Blasphemous is easily the first thing that is going to stand out for you when you start playing. The world of Cvstodia is haunting, filled with grotesque religious iconography twisted into a bleak and hostile environment. This is all accomplished with some high quality sprite work which kind of makes it all the more impressive. The animation is smooth and fluid and the design is foreboding, perfect for the atmosphere that Blasphemous is creating. The music is a bit less striking since much of it is aimed more toward a low, background atmosphere vibe. It's not as in-your-face as the visual design is, and can be rather forgettable at times. Still, it's a decent soundtrack, even if it's not outstanding. The game also, surprisingly, features some voice acting, though the quality is a bit inconsistent. Blasphemous takes players on a harrowing adventure through a twisted world of penitence and punishment that may lean toward the latter a little too often. The combat can be challenging but manageable with some patience, but the platforming is downright cruel when it comes to instant death traps. Exploration can prove a bit too aimless when it comes to side quests, and even for the main quest it can be hard to know what to do thanks to opaque item descriptions. However, players willing to overlook some of the rougher edges of the game will find a stylish Metroidvania in Blasphemous, one that truly makes you earn every inch of progress you make toward redemption. Rating: 7 out of 10 Blasphemies
  9. A presentation on PKMN SW/SH expansion pt 2 will be shown off tomorrow morning. The release will most likely be revealed along with expanded look at the features we know will be Crown Tundra.
  10. The long-running rumors proved true and Nintendo celebrated 35 years of Mario platforming with a new All-Stars collection. Super Mario 3D All-Stars repackages Mario's first three 3D platforming adventures into one convenient Switch title, bringing with it some visual upgrades and controller adjustments to make each of Mario's landmark games more playable in 2020. It's easy to have wished for more out of this re-release collection, but in the end it still brings together not just wonderful pieces of Mario's history but three fantastic games to boot. Super Mario 64 Starting off with the original 3D Mario platformer, Super Mario 64 has the most significant visual upgrade in this collection—the game is 24 years old at this point after all. Smoothing out the original 64 graphics into crisp HD looks great, though obviously the game is still block and polygonal. Plus the simplicity of a lot of the textures is more glaring in full 720p. Technical looks aside, the visual style of Super Mario 64 is still absolutely charming. Blocky Goombas and Koopa Troopas may be simple but they have a delightful quality all their own. The gameplay also holds up in a lot of ways as a fantastically engaging transition to 3D platforming. The variety of challenges the game throws at you is excellent. There are plenty of stars that are simple to acquire, but there are just as many that provide unique challenges or clever ways of using 3D space, which was pretty novel in 1996. The level design is inventive, and oftentimes it's just fun to run around or try to explore with ridiculous chains of jumps. That said, there are some notable weak points in the game as well. The camera is the most obvious offender. It probably would have been asking too much to completely revamp the camera controls since it would impact how you collect a lot of stars as well, but it's a real adjustment trying to handle this camera in 2020. Mario's movements also have a bit too much slipperiness to them, which makes the simple act of turning around more awkward than it should be. New players, especially anyone that started with Odyssey and is now working backwards through Mario's history, might struggle. Overall though, I don't think it's just the rose-tinted glasses talking when I say Super Mario 64 is still a wonderfully constructed 3D platformer, not to mention an invaluable piece of gaming history. Super Mario Sunshine Super Mario Sunshine has the benefit of a more polished, detailed art style compared to 64, but there are still some nice enhancements at work here, including widescreen support and a reformatted HUD. What's really surprising is how great the game looks with just a few adjustments. The art direction of Sunshine is still excellent and just exudes vacation fun (even if Mario is stuck battling monsters), and the paint/pollution effects look great. The controls also work well on the Switch, even without the pressure-sensitive GameCube triggers (now ZR allows Mario to spray water and move while R keeps him stationary). The only negative is that you can't customize the controls, so anyone that prefers inverted camera controls—as in the original game—is out of luck. Like a lot of GameCube games, Sunshine was a bit of an oddball experiment for Nintendo. Using the F.L.U.D.D. to clean up the environment, attack enemies, and propel Mario around each world provides for undeniably unique challenges, and some of the most difficult parts of the game are when Mario doesn't have his water jetpack available. There are some pretty unforgiving challenges as well due to how vertical a lot of the environments are in Sunshine. Parts of the game also feel oddly padded out, including the huge number of blue coins to collect and the repeated tasks of fighting bosses multiple times. Still, Mario's tropical adventure really is a fun break from some of the typical gameplay elements of the franchise. Sunshine is unusual in the Mario canon which also makes it rather memorable, and helps its strengths shine a little brighter. There's also a clear evolution from 64's first tentative steps into 3D platforming to Sunshine's more elaborate and tricky challenges, and it's particularly rewarding to play them back to back and see that development so clearly. Super Mario Galaxy Finally there's Super Mario Galaxy, which has the easiest transition to HD—largely thanks to the already gorgeous visual design that brought these colorful planetoids and striking lighting effects to life in 2007—and yet also has the trickiest controller adjustment. Motion and pointer controls were inextricably built into the controls of the game on the Wii, and it's hard to properly replicate that on the Switch, even with multiple controller options, including touch controls for collecting and shooting star bits when playing in handheld mode. Even with Joy-Cons the controls just don't feel quite right, but after a bit of time to adjust it's not a huge problem. It doesn't feel like the ideal way to play the game, but it's still playable. And once you get into the absolute joy of leaping around all of the planets and wild shapes of Galaxy, controller quirks will be the last thing on your mind. Granted Galaxy is the youngest of these three games but it holds up incredibly well, from the beautiful visuals and stunning soundtrack to the pure delight of flying through space and playing with gravity. Though it is also the most linear, it still exudes the kind of inventive design that has kept the Super Mario series as one of the most consistently fantastic game franchises ever made. The level design is dizzying—oftentimes literally—and simply full of wonder and excitement. The other major feature of the 3D All-Stars collection is the music player, which allows you to revisit the soundtrack of all three games and potentially even play it in handheld mode and just enjoy the brilliant music compositions (especially if they're filled with nostalgia for you). The music player is a fun addition and it is great to see the soundtracks highlighted, but one can't help but wish there was a little more to make this feel like more of a full celebration of 3D Mario. The most glaring omission is Super Mario Galaxy 2 of course, but even a bit more like a concept art gallery would have been nice. Super Mario 3D All-Stars doesn't fully remake these classic Mario titles, the games really show their age in some respects, and the collection manages to miss out on the plumber's second trip out to space. When you're immersed in a Super Mario adventure though, those complaints end up feeling small. These three games are still an absolute blast to play, and playing them back to back really highlights the progression of 3D platforming design and Nintendo's seemingly endless ability to create inventive, charming worlds that leave the player amazed. New players may need a bit of time to adjust to some of the dated aspects of each game, but the visual upgrades are more the reason enough to revisit some of Mario's best adventures. Rating: 9 out of 10 Power Stars
  11. Breakpoint puts a new twist on the classic twin-stick shooter formula by giving you melee weapons instead of guns to survive wave after wave of geometric enemies. From developer Studio Aesthesia and publisher Quantum Astrophysicists Guild, Breakpoint creates a fresh arcade score-chasing experience out of one novel concept. Breakpoint relies on a straight up classic arcade game formula: your only goal is to rack up a high score by surviving for as long as possible. In fact, the game doesn't even have any other game modes or options, it's all about the core experience and comparing your scores on the online leaderboard. The game plays like any other twin-stick shooter except for the fact that your attacks are all melee weapons instead of guns or lasers. You start off with an axe but it's also possible to pick up a sword, hammer, spear, or daggers from defeated enemies. The fundamentals are the same as any other twin-stick game—destroy all enemies and survive by outmaneuvering them—but obviously you have to stay in melee range the whole time, which does make things feel a little more dangerous. Sharp evasion skills are more important than ever with Breakpoint. Of course, just melee weapons sounds like it really limits your attack options, so there's another key aspect at play here: after a few hits your weapon breaks, causing a huge explosion that demolishes any nearby enemies. Planning your strategy around the weapon break is crucial since it's a massively powerful area attack and oftentimes the difference between survival and becoming overwhelmed by enemies. The broken weapon also isn't much of an issue because you can repair/recharge it by collecting the energy dots that enemies drop when defeated. Collect enough energy and your weapon will be upgraded to be stronger and/or have more reach, though breaking eventually is inevitable. The weapon break system is a fun way of adding some strategic elements to the familiar twin-stick gameplay formula. Instead of just shooting wildly (or swinging wildly, in this case) you need to plan your approach a bit more to ensure the break happens at the most opportune moment. It helps keep the arcade gameplay a little less mindless, plus getting a huge explosion that wipes out all of the troublesome enemies nearby is pretty satisfying. In that sense, the most important aspect of Breakpoint is setting up these moments where you can cause a huge explosion and reap the points that it provides. The downside is that there really isn't much else to Breakpoint. There's only one game mode and there aren't any options to customize it to create new challenges. There's a small handful of weapon types you can experiment with but these are beholden to enemy drops so there's no guarantee what weapon you'll see available at any given time. You can compare your score on the leaderboard and even check out replays of other players to pick up their strategies, which is a neat feature. Granted, Breakpoint only costs $4.99, but it would have been nice to see a bit more variety in modes or features. The presentation of the game is decidedly minimalist, evoking the neon arcade vibe of the 80s with colorful geometric enemies set against a stark black background. The music is also a pretty light touch, and you shouldn't expect too much variety here either. In the end the presentation is fine for what the game is, and the neon style has a hypnotic quality perfect for zoning out from the world around you and focusing entirely on the game. Breakpoint is a fun twist on a classic game genre, one that will certainly scratch an itch for any old-school arcade fans that love zoning out with an engaging high score chaser. The lack of other game modes does make the experience feel a bit one note, but at such a modest price point it's hardly a stretch to give Breakpoint a chance and pick it up every now and then for another attempt at unseating the online leaderboard. Rating: 7 out of 10 Breaks Review copy provided by publisher Breakpoint will be available on the Switch eShop on September 24 for $4.99.
  12. Catherine: Full Body brings back the 2011 cult hit with brand new content in the story and gameplay, providing even more relationship complications for protagonist Vincent to puzzle over and towers to climb. With a mix of stylish visual novel storytelling and challenging block tower puzzle gameplay, the original Catherine provided a wholly unique experience. Now this updated version adds even more content, perfect for either returning or new players. Vincent Brooks is in a steady if routine relationship with his long-time girlfriend Katherine, but a chance encounter with an enigmatic young woman (named Catherine) at a bar throws his fidelity into question. To make matters worse, throughout the city unfaithful men are being haunted by strange nightmares which have deadly consequences in the waking world. Full Body adds yet another romantic entanglement into the mix, the amnesic Rin whom Vincent rescues from a dark alleyway one night and helps land a job at his favorite bar. Torn between these women, Vincent is perpetually on edge and forced to examine what he wants out of a relationship. Sure it's a bizarre setting for it, but Catherine: Full Body actually tells a pretty engaging story about confronting one's own indecisiveness about commitment. The downside is that the game does lean heavily on cliche, ham-fisted portrayals of gender roles (men=casual infidelity, women=nagging marriage) which makes for some clunky dialogue that honestly must have felt dated even in 2011, much less now. The game also gets into a, granted, believable portrayal of sensitive topics, but is still a bit uncomfortable and a bit callous. Rin's inclusion in particular feels a bit awkwardly inserted into the existing narrative. Despite all of that, the underlying exploration of relationships is still an engaging one, and the characters do see some growth over the course of the game by confronting the doubts that are preventing them from forging meaningful relationships. And with multiple endings possible as well as the new side story revolving around Rin, Catherine: Full Body tells a story that will easily pull you in, like a slow-moving relationship train wreck in a TV show where you can't help but want to see the final impact. A significant part of the gameplay revolves around just following the story—you spend half of your time in the Stray Sheep bar with Vincent and his friends, talking to fellow patrons and stressing out over what to say to Katherine or Catherine—but the more core gameplay features play out in Vincent's nightmares. In this dream realm, dressed only in his boxers and surrounded by sheep, Vincent must navigate a tower of blocks to reach the top. By pulling or pushing blocks you can create paths upward, though of course the obstacles in your way get more and more elaborate as the game progresses, from exploding blocks to antagonistic sheep that try to push you back down. You're challenged to think through how to create a viable path upward, but you can't spend too long thinking since the blocks at the bottom are gradually falling away into the abyss, prompting you to move quickly. It's a relatively simple puzzle-game system that Catherine: Full Body gets some great mileage out of, thanks to the wealth of possibilities that arise from just moving blocks to climb higher. There's a lot more depth at work than you might initially expect, and the game gradually explains some more advanced techniques to you that highlight just how flexible the system can be. It also requires a good amount of forethought and planning and, paired with the constant threat of falling into the abyss, the gameplay can be just as intense and stressful as Vincent's panicked expression every time he's talking to the women in his life. But as challenging as the game can be it also never feels terribly unfair. You can actually undo your last few moves if you realize you've made a mistake, or you could always restart from the last checkpoint you hit. Even with the constant time limit pressed upon you, there are opportunities to experiment at your own pace. Plus, finally reaching the top always feels like a satisfying accomplishment. The only aspect that does feel a bit lacking is in the controls. Your view of the block tower is essentially a 3D isometric display, but sometimes remembering exactly what left/right/up/down correspond to on the control stick is a bit awkward. A control stick in general doesn't feel like an ideal input method for the game's cubic level design, and it's easy to grab the wrong block or move in the wrong direction. It can lead to some foolish mistakes, which also means wasting time as the blocks below you continue to crumble. Thankfully though, the undo action means small missteps aren't a big deal, and this is all just a minor inconvenience in the control scheme. The presentation in Catherine: Full Body is pretty stylish, which shouldn't be too surprising considering some of the creators of the Persona games also worked on this. The fully animated cutscenes—and there are a lot of them—are beautiful, and really help to fully characterize Vincent and his love interests. The in-game graphics are less stand-out but still strong, and more importantly the excellent voice work helps bring the characters to life in a more realistic way. The soundtrack is excellent as well with a number of catchy, jazzy tunes and piano pieces that just feel right for a character in a near constant state of relationship crisis, punctuated by brief moments of respite. Just one playthrough of Catherine: Full Body lasts a good fourteen hours or so, maybe longer if you get particularly stuck on climbing the blocks, but this game is also packed with additional content. For one thing, there are multiple endings you can pursue, which also develop Vincent's character in different ways. It might be a little tedious to replay the whole game just to see these differences, but players looking to get the most out of the game should enjoy taking the time to do so. This edition of the game also comes with tons of additional challenges you can tackle outside of the story, including co-op and online competitive modes. If you enjoy the block puzzle gameplay, you're in for a real treat here. Catherine: Full Body provides a wealth of puzzle-solving gameplay thanks to the significant additions this version of the game provides. Throughout all of that, the core story of a romantically indecisive man haunted by his own hesitance is an engaging story, though the writing dips into some disappointing portrayals of gender norms and marginalized groups. Still, it's an engaging story like any romance triangle in a movie or show, and even if you're here just for the gameplay there's enough content and depth to keep you plenty busy. Switch owners looking for something unique will find Catherine: Full Body worth checking out. Rating: 8 out of 10 Sheep
  13. The party killer, determined to silence every noisy gathering he can find, is back again in Party Hard 2 from developer Pinokl Games and publisher tinyBuild Games. As before you're able to systematically dismantle each raucous party by killing everyone in attendance through a variety of traps, explosives, and your trusty knife. But instead of simply massacring every stage, you're also now given specific tasks to complete, including dispatching key targets at the party, finding valuables, or destroying valuable items. The new mission system is a welcome shake up to the original game's format, though doesn't fundamentally change the tedious nature of the gameplay. What little story there was in the first game is continued here with short cutscenes narrated by the killer's psychiatrist, explaining the murderer's actions and path of bloody destruction. Even though the cutscenes are pretty brief they manage to be a little difficult to follow—it may also just be that they are, frankly, rather boring and put mostly unnecessary context on the killer's actions. This isn't the kind of game that needs a detailed story, especially if it's done in a rather clumsy manner like this. The wooden voice acting also doesn't help sell the writing, and really just makes the whole attempt at a narrative feel a bit sloppy. In the first game, your goal was to simply murder every person at each party, which often meant taking out over fifty people through various traps, items, and weapons. If you're seen in the act the witness will call the cops on you and it's game over, so your strategy has to focus around stealth and finding ways to kill that don't draw too much attention (which can be somewhat nonsensical at times—no one reacts when you throw a grenade from a short distance away? Really?). That's more or less the same MO in Party Hard 2, but this time the game provides a variety of optional objectives (some of which are hidden until you stumble upon them) that provide a bit more guidance and nuance. For example, in one stage you might be tasked with killing all eighty party people or instead you could find the hidden target list somewhere in the level and then kill only the people on that list. Having actual objectives is a big improvement for Party Hard 2. The first game's formula was okay but quickly felt repetitive, especially when you were stuck just waiting for people to peel off into small groups so you could strike. Now there's much more incentive to fully explore the stage and really consider your approach. And the fact that you can still just murder everyone in sight should satisfy any bloodthirsty players as well. The only downside is that some objectives can be annoyingly vague which, paired with the game's habit of not fully explaining what different items actually do, can leave you at a complete loss as to how you're actually supposed to complete the objective. At least you can always fall back on wanton murder if pursuing the objectives isn't working out for you. The objectives can make the game progress a little more easily, but to compensate Party Hard 2 makes things harder for you by adding aggressive guards that will attack you on sight. These guards can be a huge pain since you don't need to be caught in the act for them to attack you—your very presence is enough to draw their ire. As a new obstacle to your murder sprees, the guards make sense, but oftentimes dealing with them just isn't very satisfying. They're more like a chore that you have to deal with before getting back into the actual interesting part of the game. It certainly doesn't help that they are just one more way of ruining your plans, and restarting a stage has the added annoyance of sitting through a long load screen every time. For a game where retrying repeatedly seems totally natural, it's a real shame that reloading isn't snappier. Finally, Party Hard 2 also shakes things up by adding boss fights. Kudos to the developers for trying to add some new flavor to the game but these battles are horribly misguided. The stealth and strategy gameplay doesn't translate well to boss fights in small arenas at all, and the final boss in particular feels more like an awkward, stilted battle from an action-adventure game rather than something that suits Party Hard 2. Like the first game you simply don't move very fast so trying to dodge attacks and strike back in turn feels terribly clumsy. With just fourteen levels, the game could potentially last you only a few hours, but more realistically it'll take plenty of deaths, retries, and some frustration to make it through the whole adventure. However, Party Hard 2 is also packed with replayable features, including co-op, alternate playable characters with different abilities, and of course replaying each level to complete every challenge. If you don't mind the game's repetitive nature there are plenty of incentives to redo each level over and over again. The presentation of Party Hard 2 upgrades the original's retro pixel art style with a mix of 2D and 3D effects. Characters are still 2D pixel art images, but they now move around in a 3D environment, like paper cutouts in a diorama. The effect is a bit underwhelming. It's striking at first, but it also makes details rather hard to make out. The game thankfully introduces a Party Vision ability that highlights objects of interest, but if the graphics were a little more clear you wouldn't need to be constantly scanning the environment with it in the first place. The soundtrack also certainly captures the repetitive dance party tracks you might expect to hear at a rave, but none of the tracks actually stand out well. Party Hard 2 makes some welcome improvements over the first game, though it also doesn't feel like it improves everything it should have. The core concept of using inventive traps and items to pick off party goers one by one is still charmingly macabre, but in execution it leads to some pretty repetitive gameplay, even with the addition of optional objectives. Still, if you enjoy the challenge of stealth games and don't mind the grisly concept, Party Hard 2 is a decent continuation of this indie series. Rating: 7 out of 10 Parties Review copy provided by publisher Party Hard 2 is available now on the Switch eShop for $19.99.
  14. Six years ago, developer Mografi Kickstarted their mystery adventure game, Jenny LeClue - Detectivu. Last year the game released on PC and mobile devices, and now Switch owners have the opportunity to experience the mystery as well. Was the game worth the wait? The clues in this case are impeccable writing filled with humor and heart, stylish presentation, and engaging mystery gameplay, leading to only one logical deduction. Our protagonist, Jenny LeClue, is a confident, precocious young girl determined to follow in the detective footsteps of her mother. But Arthurton, their sleepy hometown, is a seemingly quiet, hohum place lacking in the kinds of mysteries and adventures that Jenny craves. That is, until a murder most foul occurs right under Jenny's nose, providing the perfect opportunity to flex her detective muscles and uncover Arthurton's unknown secrets. As a mystery story, Jenny LeClue is a complete success. The writing will easily draw you in to learn more about Arthurton and its inhabitants, as well as the mysterious goings-on under the surface. There are plenty of enticing, dangling threads to pull that will easily hook anyone that enjoys a good mystery. The game is also filled with quirky characters that are a lot of fun to interact with, including Jenny herself and her plucky, determined attitude. Be forewarned though: the title of the game doesn't make it clear but this is only part one of a planned series of games, which means the ending is a bit abrupt and leaves a lot unanswered. It's still an intriguing story and well worth exploring, but the inconclusive finale may bother some. I should also mention that the entire game is encapsulated as a story within a story. Within the game, "Jenny LeClue" is actually a series of children's mystery novels, formerly successful but recent waning sales have put the author, Arthur Finklestein, into the uncomfortable predicament of needing to shake up his story formula. Chapters of the game are punctuated by interludes where we see Arthur's writing process and his struggle to create an engaging mystery for his publisher without betraying his writing principles. It's an interesting way of framing the story and leads to some fun scenes where Arthur's narration seems to push against Jenny's own thoughts and behavior. The gameplay blends some light adventure elements with investigation and puzzle-solving, all in a side-scrolling 2D environment. The game's world is divided into small areas where Jenny can explore, examine objects and clues, and interrogate townsfolk. Interrogations play out as mini-investigations: Jenny will examine a person to pick up clues about their actions, then put those clues together for a logical conclusion. Outside of these character interactions, the gameplay is largely classic adventure game content, i.e. you're presented with a locked door, so you examine the surrounding area to find some way of opening it. The gameplay overall is solid though a lot of the puzzles are a bit too easy. For an adventure game—and particularly a mystery game—you'd expect the puzzles to require some serious thought, but that's rarely the case in Jenny LeClue. That's not all bad, since it does mean the game is quite comfortably paced, but there was definitely room for some more complex gameplay elements, especially for a future ace detective. You can expect to spend around eight or nine hours with Jenny LeClue, even when you take the time to really examine everything in any given area. There are small rewards for doing so, including stickers you can use to decorate Jenny's trusty detective's journal, and postcard scraps that you can put together to reveal fun little messages. You may also want to replay the game just to test out different conversation branches. You can sometimes choose Jenny's response during conversations, which doesn't seem to change the story on a fundamental level but can lead to some different dialogue that might be fun to see if you just can't get enough of Jenny LeClue. The game's visual style is striking, sporting sharp cartoonish designs and some beautiful color palettes, all animated with a puppeted style that is a lot of fun to see. It really helps to bring these quirky characters to life and make them particularly endearing, from the pot-bellied, jovial college dean to the lanky and good-natured best friend. The music does a fine job of setting an engaging mystery atmosphere, but it's the voice acting that is the real star of the show in the audio department. There's a lot of great voice work throughout the game that perfectly completes the charm of these characters. Jenny LeClue - Detectivu spins an intriguing mystery story set in an utterly charming little town filled with fun, engaging characters. Though the gameplay perhaps doesn't live up to its potential, the brisk pace of puzzle solving ensures you're always moving one step close to cracking the case. Even if there aren't head-scratching puzzles around every corner, Arthurton is still a joy to explore. The fact that the overarching mystery isn't fully resolved may also disappoint some, but it'll also leave you excited to see what new mysteries Jenny will solve in the next chapter of her story. Rating: 9 out of 10 Clues
  15. How do you move around in a platformer that doesn't allow you to jump? In Deleveled, from developer ToasterFuel and publisher the Quantum Astrophysicists Guild, it's a matter of momentum. In this unusual puzzle-platformer you control two simple squares that gravitate to each other from the top and bottom of the screen, but when one bumps into the platform that the other is resting on, the momentum carries through to propel the square to new heights. Once you get your head wrapped around the concept, you're treated to a wealth of challenging, mind-bending puzzles. By all appearances, Deleveled looks like a pretty simple game, but its modest presentation belies an impressively complex puzzle system. The goal of each stage is to hit all switches to activate the glowing goal points, then navigate the squares into these points. On paper, a seemingly simple task. In reality, Deleveled will twist your brain into knots as you try to work out exactly how to reach remote switches without leaving behind the other square. When you have essentially two "characters" to manipulate on screen at all times, you have to start thinking carefully about how to move throughout each stage. Each square's movement is linked to the other's, so you have to be wary of stranding one with no means of moving. It's the mark of a great puzzle game to take a simple concept and work it into dozens of inventive challenges, and that's exactly what Deleveled does. Over the course of the game the stages get more and more complex by adding things like moving platforms or the ability to rotate the stage, but from start to finish the core gameplay is fiendishly clever and often takes lateral thinking, as well as a bit of platforming dexterity. It's also important to note that you can re-use switches, which is hugely helpful when dealing with asymmetric switches. It also means you can easily correct minor mistakes and aren't beholden to hitting each switch in a specific order. The only additional challenge in each level is completing the stage without dying or retrying, which will earn you a star. Collect enough stars and you'll unlock additional levels. Unfortunately that's pretty much it when it comes to additional frills in Deleveled, and earning stars sometimes feel like more of an exercise in tedium than real challenge since one false move will render your attempt wasted. You also won't be able to rely on any hints to help you progress, though you can play levels somewhat out of order if you find yourself completely stumped by one. The game feels a bit bare-boned, but then again a puzzle game like this doesn't need many extra features. The game's presentation is also extremely simple, which suits the puzzle gameplay but can't help but leave something to be desired. The totally basic visuals do ensure that the squares' movements on screen are always perfectly clear, but it still would have been nice to have something with a little more personality. The music is also a bit too bland, though again it's not surprising since the focus here is on puzzle-solving. Deleveled puts its core concept to excellent use across over one hundred challenging puzzle stages. The simple premise easily unfolds into a wide variety of inventive puzzles, and even once you have the basics down the game will surprise you with new twists that will have you pulling your hair out. A bit more on the presentation front might have rounded out the experience better, but puzzle fans should enjoy the clever challenges that Deleveled offers. Rating: 8 out of 10 Delevels Review copy provided by publisher Deleveled will be available on the Switch eShop on September 10 for $9.99.
  16. It's been over twenty-five years since the last game in the series but now Streets of Rage 4 is bringing back the franchise in the only way it possibly could: with a ton of side-scrolling beat 'em up action. Rather than reinvent the formula, Streets of Rage 4 feels like it could have been made back in the heyday of the genre, notwithstanding its modern stylish graphics and sound. Fans of the series will love having a new entry, though the way the game clings to the past leaves something to be desired. The story takes place ten years after the events of Streets of Rage 3. The villainous Mr. X and his crime syndicate has been defeated, but now his children, the Y twins, have built their own crime organization, prompting our returning heroes, Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding, to once again crack some heads on the mean streets to put an end to their nefarious deeds. I really doubt anyone is playing the Streets of Rage games for their storytelling, so it shouldn't be much of a surprise that the plot is really just a bare-boned facilitator for beatdown action. And that's not really a slight against the game—the writing in a beat 'em up like this doesn't need to be more than that. Streets of Rage 4 is classic side-scrolling beat 'em up action. You choose one of four characters and walk through levels packed with thugs to punch, kick, and throw. In addition to basic attacks, you can charge up a hit for extra damage, perform a quick rush attack by double tapping forward, and, most importantly, sacrifice some of your health to use special attacks. Not only are these specials more powerful, they can provide a small period of invincibility, which makes them even more valuable when you're surrounded. Streets of Rage 4 also takes some pity on the player by allowing you to recover the health spent on a special if you can quickly execute some basic hits on an enemy. If you're hit during this window of opportunity though, you'll lose that health. Finally there are star moves which are massive special attacks that cost stars to use (on normal difficulty you start the stage with one star and can find more scattered throughout the level). Knowing when to use and how to combo together your basic, special, and star attacks is the key to success. And that's basically it. The gameplay really doesn't get much more complicated than that, outside of the ability to pick up weapons and a small variety of enemies that provide different challenges—some enemies will counter attack you if you hit them at the wrong time, some throw grenades, some have shields, etc. Streets of Rage 4's formula is virtually unchanged from the kinds of beat 'em ups you could find in arcades in the 80s and 90s, which is great if you already love the satisfying simplicity of such games. It really is a blast from the past and there's a great sense of authenticity to the game design that will surely transport you back to those halcyon days. However, it does feel like more could have been done to modernize the experience, even if it's just to throw in some unique stages more often. There's a small variety of environmental hazards that occasionally pop up, but otherwise the experience really feels the same from one level to the next. And again that doesn't make any of the stages poorly designed or not fun to play, but it feels like there were so many other opportunities for more inventive game design. The game also has the somewhat sluggish feel of a lot of beat 'em up games. Aside from Cherry Hunter, who is the designated fast character in the game, the playable characters feel slow, to the point where bosses can literally walk circles around you. Moving up and down on the screen feels a bit imprecise, which again is something a lot of beat 'em up games deal with, but it can be a little frustrating at times. On one hand it's great that Streets of Rage 4 can preserve the kind of experience found in the original games, but on the other hand there's a lot more that could have been done with the gameplay. A quick three hours or so will see you through the story mode, but a big strength of a game like this is its replay value. Not only are there multiple playable characters, each with slight differences in how they attack and move, there are also plenty of difficulty options, an arcade mode (which challenges you to complete the game without using continues), boss rush, multiplayer versus mode, and multiplayer co-op. You can even play co-op online which works pretty smoothly. You might have trouble finding other players these days but it's worth taking the effort to coordinate with a friend and team up on some of these overwhelming waves of enemies and bosses. Being able to play with a friend definitely adds to the experience. The game's presentation is the one aspect that feels truly modernized, and the result is beautiful. Hand-drawn graphics are stunningly animated to give the game a gorgeously vivid sense of color and style. The music is impeccable as well. It's the perfect kind of heart-pumping beat you want to accompany a game all about beating up enemies over and over. The presentation finds a perfect balance of evoking the classic tone and feel of the franchise while bringing in some modern style as well. Streets of Rage 4 is a stylish throwback to a cult classic franchise and a genre that has seen less and less attention over the years. The game is a little too beholden to the old school formula, perhaps just out of a sense of preserving the original experience, but fans of the series will love having a chance to dish out some beatdowns on the side-scrolling streets again anyway. Grab a friend for the classic co-op experience and enjoy a window into the gaming of yesteryear, now with stylish modern graphics and sound. Rating: 7 out of 10 Streets
  17. Among last week's Indie World announcements and surprise drops was Evergate, a colorful puzzle-platformer set in the afterlife from developer Stone Lantern Games and publisher PQube. The game seems to draw inspiration from the best of the indie game scene while centering its gameplay around the Soulflame mechanic that allows for inventive platforming challenges and puzzle scenarios. Evergate may seem like a familiar kind of platformer at first, but its unique mechanics and heartfelt story help it stand out. Evergate takes place in the afterlife where you play as the spirit Ki, who is awaiting reincarnation. But the afterlife is beset by a terrible storm that threatens to destroy everything, so Ki journeys into the memories of her past lives to find the source of the storm and the solution to dispelling it. It's hard to say much more about the story without spoiling too much, especially since the early parts of the game keep things fairly vague. The end of the game however brings together the story's loose ends quite neatly for a truly heartfelt final few scenes that highlight the bonds that transcend lifetimes. It's definitely a bit of a tearjerker in the end, one that can't help but make you reflect on your own personal connections. The gameplay is divided into short puzzle-platformer stages, set in different lifetimes. Your aim is to reach the goal of each stage by using crystals and the Soulflame to move about. Pressing ZR activates the Soulflame and lets you aim with the control stick to align the flame with a crystal; you then press Y to activate the crystal. Each crystal has different effects, for example the first one you use propels you in the opposite direction, so you might need to jump over a crystal, aim the Soulflame down, then activate the crystal to push yourself up and reach a higher platform. It's an unusual movement system and does take a bit of getting used to, especially since the controls feel a bit unintuitive at first. After a few levels though you should get the hang of things, and from there the inventive possibilities of the Soulflame system shine. For one thing, each chapter of the game introduces new crystals with different effects, which end up getting pretty wild, such as the crystal that creates an anti-gravity field around you so you can float in air, or one that turns you into a fireball that can break through weak walls. Multiple types of crystals can appear on one stage, which is what makes Evergate as much of a puzzle game as it is a platformer. You'll have to work out a viable path to the goal with the tools (i.e. crystals) provided to you, and it can get challenging when there's no obvious path. However the difficulty never feels overwhelming. Since there are only a certain number and type of crystals in a stage, you know in general what kinds of actions you'll need to use to reach the goal. You likely won't get too stuck as long as you focus on what crystals are available to you, and it is rather fun to go through a couple of trial and error attempts as you work out a successful path. That said, the platforming aspects of Evergate can be rather tricky. Even when you've worked out the solution to the puzzle, actually executing on that solution can be challenging, especially when you're quickly bounding through the level and using your Soulflame in mid-air. As mentioned the controls can take a bit of getting used to, and even with the game's auto-aim system enabled it's sometimes hard to hit a crystal in the exact spot you want. Thankfully though each level is very short, and you can restart almost instantly, so even when you do miss a tricky jump you're not losing tons of time. There are also three bonus objectives available in each stage: collect all three essence petals, use every crystal, and reach the goal within the time limit. Each bonus objective earns you an essence, which are used to unlock artifacts that you can equip. Artifacts are hugely powerful and can make the game significantly easier, whether it's a simple boost like jumping higher or something more specific like protection from falling rocks, which appear on certain stages and can kill you. Regardless, you definitely want to be unlocking artifacts, plus these bonus objectives make each stage much more engaging (and thankfully you don't have to complete all bonus objectives at once, since the time limit ones are usually so strict that you really have to fly through the level with every shortcut you can muster). Collecting a lot of essence will also unlock bonus levels for a little extra incentive. The game's stages are thoughtfully constructed as compact and challenging platformer puzzles, and collecting every essence helps highlight that fact. The game's presentation is pretty delightful, both in the visual and music departments. The hand-drawn artwork is colorful and vivid, though it can feel a bit repetitive at times, partially because the core visuals—platforms, crystals, etc.—aren't going to deviate too much. Still, there's a lot to be said for the colors and emotion found in the backgrounds. The music is also doing a lot of the heavy lifting of giving Evergate its ethereal, otherworldly atmosphere. The orchestral soundtrack is incredibly emotive and really helps bring the story to its emotional climax. Evergate weaves an emotional story, brought to life with colorful graphics and a moving soundtrack, into an inventive and challenging puzzle-platformer experience. It takes a bit of time to build up steam, but the later levels of the game showcase some sharp level design that require not just thoughtful approaches but quick reactions as well. Though it won't take too long to make it through the whole game once, the challenge of collecting every essence is a worthwhile pursuit, and speedrunners should enjoy finding new ways to fly through each level. Even if you take it slow, Evergate is a worthwhile puzzle-platformer on the Switch. Rating: 8 out of 10 Essences Review copy provided by publisher Evergate is available now on the Switch eShop for $19.99. On sale until 8/30 for $16.99.
  18. Up is down, left is right, and sometimes up is left and down is right depending on where you're standing in Manifold Garden, a mind-warping puzzle game all about changing gravity to see solutions from new angles. Developed by William Chyr, this first-person trip into an MC Escher print challenges you with simple gameplay mechanics that are put to wild effects as you navigate a world of repeating patterns and surreal landscapes. And it's a landscape that is a joy to explore. There's no text or voice over to guide you in Manifold Garden, you're simply left to explore this surreal world that seems to have no beginning or end, just endlessly repeating structures. What the game does have is an incredibly sharp sense of atmosphere, brought out by the visual and audio design, as well as the fact that you are wandering alone through unreal structures. There's something a little haunting about that, especially when the music—normally kept at a moody minimum—swells as you uncover a new area to explore. Conversely, the game is also quite calming and meditative. Just like an MC Escher print, you'll get lost in Manifold Garden as you observe how the unreal scenery interlinks. There's a real sense of wonder and awe to the experience, which is only heightened by the minimalist art style that allows your mind to just roam and revel in the landscape. The art style serves the gameplay as well. The puzzles would likely be far more confusing and complicated if there was too much detail in the environments—the endless white scenery and strong linework of Manifold Garden does have a way of keeping you focused on the puzzles. Throughout the game your goal is essentially just to move forward, open new paths, and continue exploring this world. You do this by manipulating gravity and moving colored cubes around to activate switches. The gravity effects are trippy, and yet ultimately quite easy to grasp. When facing a wall, you press ZR, and what was once the wall is now the floor (I use terms like "walls" and "floors" to convey how you move about but these are honestly rather meaningless in this game). This allows you to climb up every side of a room or explore each facet of a structure floating in the endless white abyss. To make things a little easier to follow, each surface is color-coded, so you can quickly tell which direction is currently "down." The cubes are also color-coded so you can conveniently see that you'll need to be on the red surface to use the red cube. Most areas of the game are also endlessly repeating, so for example if you jump off a cliff you'll eventually land back in the same spot. Not only does this mean you can't really get "stuck" anywhere, it allows for some truly inventive puzzle solutions. This all feels very strange to explain in text, but rest assured that the gameplay is shockingly easy to understand once you've had a few moments with the game. One of Manifold Garden's great strengths is in making the complex seem simple, and the simple seem complex. Initially the game might seem daunting, but it doesn't take long at all for the seemingly complicated mechanics to click in your brain. It also allows for some delightfully mind-bending puzzle solutions, which most often strike you in an "of course, why didn't I see this sooner" sort of way. And once you have those basic mechanics down, Manifold Garden is an absolute delight to explore. The scenery is endlessly surprising, and there are always interesting new quirks to puzzle over in each new area that you uncover. The puzzles themselves are also engaging without being frustrating. Manipulating the 3D space can get a little confusing but there wasn't a single puzzle solution that I found to be obtuse or annoying. It helps that, since you have so few tools or actions at your disposal, you'll never be bogged down with options. Instead you just need to examine the area and consider the puzzle from a new angle—literally. It's a game that you can very easily lose yourself in, and not just because the environments are so surreal. One of the few downsides to Manifold Garden is that it simply isn't longer. You can pretty comfortably get through the game in just five hours or so, though that number can vary depending on how quick you are at solving 3D spatial puzzles. Like most puzzle games there's not a ton of incentive to replay it once you already know the answers, though the solutions in the game so often come out of pure experimentation that I might not be able to replicate most of them right away. There's also something to be said for the journey of Manifold Garden, not the destination. Wandering through the beautiful and trippy scenery of the game may well warrant a replay or two. It feels cliche to say of games like this, but Manifold Garden is an experience, one that treats players to a surreal, breathtaking journey and challenges them with inventive and mind-bending puzzles. It's a clever puzzle game without being tedious, with stunning art and music that knows exactly how much or how little to use. It's so easy to be drawn into this endlessly repeating world, and it's a tranquil, delightful experience to discover the surprising puzzles and solutions that wait within. Rating: 9 out of 10 Cubes Review copy provided by developer Manifold Garden is available now on the Switch eShop for $19.99, currently on sale until 8/30 for $17.99.
  19. Release Date: June 24th Site: https://ninjalathegame.com/en/ Price: FREE (In-App Purchases) Online Manual An online action battle game featuring ninja and gum! Assume the role of a modern-day ninja and take part in the Ninjala tournament! Ninja-Gum Use Ninja-Gum to blow bubbles that can be tossed at your foes, craft all sorts of weapons, and dash across stages. The appearance and variety of your weapon will vary depending on the type of Ninja-Gum you use. Competitive Player Take part in Battle Royale-style matches of up to 8 players and vie for supremacy with ninja around the world. The player who earns the most points over the course of the match will be declared the winner. Score points by defeating your opponents, obtaining items, destroying drones positioned across the stage, and more. Earn extra points by taking down your opponents with an IPPON—impressive finishing techniques. Cooperative Play Join up with friends and take part in a 4-on-4 team battle. Cooperate with your teammates and earn more points than the opposing team to be declared the winner. Avatar A colorful variety of costumes and accessories from an array of unique fashion brands are available. Choose from a wide variety of avatar items which can be combined as you see fit. You can stick to one brand for a consistent look, or mix and match to create a style all your own! -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Did anyone download this and/or participate in any of the betas? I'm still kind of on the fence about this and wondering if it's any good. I love how heavily inspired by Splatoon this is and this looks like it could be a ton of fun, but IDK. Maybe I just need to download it and give it a shot?
  20. [Information] Title: Ion Fury Release Date: May 14th, 2020 (Switch, PS4, Xbox One) August 15th, 2019 (PC) Price: 24.99 Review Code Provided By: 3D Realms Disappointing. It's a word that kept coming up during my time with Ion Fury on Nintendo Switch. While the game is a fantastic, fast and frenetic shooter on PC the Switch port is a mess with multiple problems including bugs, glitches and a less than stable framerate bringing any enjoyment this title has to an almost complete stop. This Bombshell is a Dud Ion Fury is a classic 90's shooter inspired by games like Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior and Blood. It runs on the Build Engine which actually powered the three previous titles mentioned. It's a throwback in a similar vein to Doom (2016). That means a focus on fast combat with a heavy emphasis on strafing, keycards to find, and large explorable levels full of secrets and of course no regenerating health or weapon limit. Ion Fury has a story putting you in control of Shelly "Bombshell" Harrison a foul-mouthed, Duke Nukem-esque female badass as she attempts to the stop the evil Dr. Heskel (played by Duke himself John St. John) from taking over the city of Neo D.C. but it's a story so insubstantial that you're better off just ignoring it. The voice acting from John St. John and Valerie Arem as Shelly are excellent and it's clear that each actor is having a blast. Shelly delivers quips (which can be turned off) during certain actions and while they do repeat a bit it's still entertaining due to the delivery. The music is also a highlight as it fits the cyberpunk aesthetic and each tracks fits in perfectly with the action. Ion Fury consists of 7 zone comprising about 30 levels (including some secret levels) through the campaign you will explore buildings, discover secret hideouts, explore sewers (because every 90's shooter had to have sewer levels) and more. Each zone will probably take most people about an 1-2 hours to complete especially if you are looking for secrets. The levels themselves are extremely enjoyable even if a few of them do feel a bit too big and maze like. Each zone is then capped off with an epic boss fight that will definitely test some skills even on the default normal difficulty. A Broken Switch The port of Ion Fury was handled by General Arcade and to say it has issues is an understatement. Ion Fury targets 30 Frames Per Second and it rarely holds it. The game chugs anytime there are multiple enemies on screen and even worse when explosions are involved. There is one boss fight that has so many explosions it brings the framerate down to almost single digits and that was after the game received an alleged performance patch. The game also crashed during said boss fight no less than 5 times forcing a restart of the level. I also encountered a bug in a level where a switch didn't activate properly forcing a restart as well. The game also suffers from textures glitching out and for some unexplained reason the game randomly faced me in a different direction during combat leading to a lot of unnecessary deaths. The game also has no way to customize controls and while you can get used to the controls fairly quickly it is still a bit unfortunate. Verdict Ion Fury on Switch is a poor version of an excellent game. The excellent level design, great weapons and fantastic music is sadly tarnished by the numerous technical problems. If you are wanting to play Ion Fury check either the other console versions out or go for the original PC version. Score: 2 Out Of 5 (Rough)
  21. Watch the presentation here: With indie game announcements, 20 minutes could showcase a lot of games (especially if they do those quick sizzle reel announcements). Most of the already announced indies I'm waiting for already have release dates, but it'd be nice to see from Jenny LeClue or Later Alligator. Press release:
  22. Six years ago, Phoenotopia debuted on Newgrounds as a Flash game. Not content with the dated capabilities of that platform, developer Cape Cosmic fully revamped the game to give it a new life with updated graphics, script, and an all-around bigger scope. Phoenotopia: Awakening is a far cry from its original Flash incarnation, and now takes players on a massive side-scrolling action/adventure packed with side quests, challenging boss fights, and secrets to uncover. Rest assured this is not your typical indie pixel art adventure, particularly due to its charming presentation and fiendishly difficult combat system. You play as Gail, a young girl living a quiet life in a small country village, until a mysterious flying object kidnaps all of the adults. As the oldest member of the community, Gail leaves the children in the safety of the village and sets out on a quest to rescue the adults and uncover the source of the strange ship. Soon enough the scope of the adventure grows massive, with a number of twists and turns in the narrative that will certainly keep you guessing as to what could possibly happen next. In fact, the story gets a little wild by the end, resulting in a finale that feels a bit rushed given the events leading up to it. Still, there's a lot to love about the game's writing thanks to an abundance of humor and heart. This is clearly a fully fleshed out world and every single person you meet has a few lines of dialogue that are cute, funny, or some combination of the two. You'll absolutely want to take the time to talk to everyone when you enter a new town. The gameplay has some clear similarities to Zelda II, even down to the overworld map with roaming random monster encounters. In terms of adventure and exploration, Phoenotopia: Awakening is a wonderfully rich experience. Each area of the game is packed with things to uncover, both inside and outside of the main dungeons, and you'll be well rewarded for treading off the beaten path. You'll find both health expansions and stamina expansions, both vital to your survival, as well as other key items such as Moonstones that can be spent on other upgrades. It is incredibly easy to get caught up in exploring every nook and cranny you can find, to the point where you can spend hours and hours just poking around the game's hidden areas or working through side quests/mini-games. It's definitely the kind of game where you'll feel compelled to re-explore everything you can when you find a new item, in the hopes of uncovering more secrets. The lack of an in-game map does make it difficult to keep yourself oriented at times, but it's not so bad that you'll be constantly lost. Just finishing the main quest will likely take you at least thirty hours or so, and doing everything the game has to offer could easily double that number. Frankly, the amount of content in Phoenotopia: Awakening would be impressive for a AAA game, so coming from an indie developer it's pretty astounding. The complexity and design of the game's puzzles is also what makes Phoenotopia: Awakening such a compelling experience. You'll encounter some standard adventure game puzzles or obstacles—hit the switch to open a new path, utilize all of your items to progress, etc.—but there are also some fairly intricate puzzles that are a lot of fun to work through. These are the kinds of puzzles you'll need a pencil and paper to properly work out and visualize, and that old school puzzle mentality fits perfectly with the game's retro aesthetic. Phoenotopia: Awakening's combat system is no less intricate but the challenge is a bit more punishing and a bit less fun. This game doesn't hold much back when it comes to battling even basic monsters. For one thing, all attacks and item use are tied to your stamina meter, so you can't just swing wildly. Requiring a thoughtful approach is fine, but the game also pairs this with relatively little in terms of dodging or blocking (you can sprint away but that also drains stamina). Gail's main weapon is a short range club that actually gets weaker upon multiple hits, so you have to back off and "recharge" a bit between swings. None of Gail's attacks or items are particularly fast either, which gives you narrow windows for striking. You can recover health by eating food, but much like Monster Hunter or Dark Souls there's an animation period while eating which can leave you vulnerable. And the biggest frustration is the lack of invincibility frames when you're hit, which means you can easily be juggled by multiple enemy attacks in a row (which actually happens quite often, whether due to multiple enemies or rapid-fire attacks). All of this isn't to say that the combat system in Phoenotopia: Awakening is bad, but it is extremely challenging, much more so than you might expect given the otherwise friendly appearance of the game. You really have to time your moments to strike, and boss fights will likely take numerous attempts as you learn their patterns. It can also be rather discouraging, especially since there's no immediate retry option—you'll have to go back to your last save point—which can be tedious when you're out exploring and just plain time consuming when you're in a boss fight and just want to jump in again for another attempt. The difficulty of the combat system might blindside a lot of players and put them off, which is a shame since the exploration side of the game is certainly worth pursuing. The game's presentation puts pixel art graphics to excellent use, and pairs them with a stellar soundtrack. At a glance this might look like yet another pixel art indie game on the Switch, but the environments are wonderfully detailed and the characters' relatively simple designs actually allows for some outstanding animation—Gail rising out of bed with a yawn and a stretch is absolutely charming every time you see it. Just like the writing, there's a lot of hidden depth to the visual design to enjoy. The music is also phenomenal, featuring a wide array of songs that are lively, engaging, and perfect for both exploration and combat. The soundtrack sets a perfect tone for adventure and mystery, whether in dark caverns or bustling towns. Phoenotopia: Awakening is a stunning achievement from such a small indie team. Clearly the developers have spent the past few years fleshing out everything they could from the original Flash game, and the result is an incredibly rich action/adventure packed with intriguing and compelling scenery to explore, townsfolk to meet, and monsters to slay. The combat does feel perhaps overtuned toward experienced fighters and the unforgiving difficulty might easily dissuade more casual players from giving the game a chance, but if you stick with Phoenotopia: Awakening its addictive exploration gameplay and charming presentation make it an adventure worth taking. Rating: 8 out of 10 Moonstones Review copy provided by publisher Phoenotopia: Awakening will be available on the Switch eShop on August 20 for $19.99.
  23. The original Deadly Premonition, released in 2010, achieved cult classic status not because it was a good game but because it was a confoundingly bizarre one. It was riddled with technical issues and just plain mediocre design, particularly with its clunky combat mechanics, but the utterly unusual writing—particularly the quirks of its protagonist, FBI agent Francis York Morgan—endeared it to tons of players. But how do you make a sequel to a game like that? One that was loved both because of and in spite of its flaws? It puts Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise in a precarious position, resulting in a game that feels just as plagued with problems but without the accidental charm of the original. If the first game wore its Twin Peaks influences on its sleeve, A Blessing in Disguise does the same with True Detective. The game opens with two FBI agents interrogating an aged York in 2019 before flashing back to 2005, where the majority of the game takes place. Back then, York was swept up in a murder investigation in the small town of Le Carré, Louisiana, where a teenage girl was completely dismembered and propped up on an altar for display. York teams up with the local sheriff and his precocious daughter to investigate the matter, which weaves into bizarre ritual and metaphysical territory, all while involving the quirky town locals. The writing is verbose and seemingly aimless at times, capturing an almost stream-of-consciousness style as characters dip into random pop culture references and oddball behavior seamlessly. It's undeniably fascinating to watch the story unfold, though it's not quite satisfying. It feels like there's too much weirdness for weirdness sake here, particularly in the game's climax which throws a little too much at you all at once. The quirky cast of side characters isn't quite as charming as the first game, and is too often pushed to the sidelines or rushed past. It's still an intriguing mystery story, but with so many ungrounded elements it's hard to be fully invested in it from start to finish. Like the first game, the gameplay in A Blessing in Disguise is a melting pot of game genre influences. Most of all it's an open-world exploration game—you travel the town of Le Carré via skateboard to investigate the murder, pick up side quests from the colorful locals, or engage in other mini-games and odd jobs. It also has third-person shooter mechanics as you battle both local wildlife (including wild dogs and alligators) and supernatural, ghostly creatures. There are survival mechanics since you have to eat and sleep semi-regularly, and of course this all comes wrapped up in a horror/mystery setting. All of these varied elements feel somehow appropriate for this oddball game, but the problem is none of them feel particularly well thought out or designed. For example, you're repeatedly given tasks that can only be completed at certain times of day or on certain days of the week, but waiting for the clock to move is either ridiculously time-consuming or costly since the best way to kill time is sleeping in York's hotel room, which gives you a bill every time you do. The game is also filled with obtuse fetch quests, some of which give you a general idea of where to go while others are frustratingly vague. The shooting mechanics are basic and bland, plus there are only a couple different enemy types throughout the entire game, making every battle encounter incredibly repetitive. You do eventually unlock a fast-travel system, but otherwise traveling via skateboard is not just slow but frankly uninteresting—the joke of it all wears itself out in mere minutes. On top of all this the controls are always a little awkward. They aren't terrible, but they also aren't as smooth as they really ought to be—aiming is quite stiff and moving or riding on the skateboard just has a rather clumsy, dated feel to it. In all of this, there's something reminiscent of the original game, but is purposefully designing a game with clunky flaws mean it's quirky, or is it just bad game design? On top of all of this A Blessing in Disguise has some plain technical issues. The frame rate has been patched since its initial launch but it's still noticeably poor, especially when riding the skateboard around town. It's not unplayable but it's incredibly distracting, and makes an already dull travel experience feel that much more obnoxious. The load times are also pretty rough, especially when you exit a building and enter the open world of Le Carré. Granted, there are no loading screens once you're outside, but given the frame rate it might have been better to divide the town into sections that could load separately. The game's presentation also leaves a lot to be desired. More than any of the game's other issues, the dated look of the graphics may be chalked up to a stylistic choice. The original game, after all, had dated graphics for its time as well. The effect just doesn't come together though—the choppy anti-aliasing and jittery animations add nothing to the tone or style of the game, they only detract from the experience. The audio half of the presentation manages its over-the-top quirkiness a bit better. The soundtrack isn't actually half bad, though the songs you hear most often—such as while skateboarding—end up being a bit grating. The voice work though is largely oddball and at times ridiculous, but it actually feels like it suits the bizarre tone that the game is going for more than the dated visual design. It's possible to zip through the main story (even with the time spent just killing time) in about fifteen or twenty hours, but A Blessing in Disguise also has a lot of additional content. There are tons of side quests you can tackle, though most of them lack depth—instead you're stuck doing things like "kill X amount of enemies" or fetch quests. There are also upgrades you can craft by collecting materials, though they're hardly needed to complete the main story. You can also replay the game with a new game plus to wrap up any side quests you didn't finish or to see the story again and hope it makes more sense the second time around. If, for some reason, you just can't get enough of Deadly Premonition, there are a decent number of things to do in this game, but none of them alleviate the gameplay's flaws. I'll say this for the first game and Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise: you're not going to find any other games like them. That's as much of an insult as it is a compliment, but if Deadly Premonition's specific brand of weird pulled you in, you'll be satisfied with this sequel. Anyone else, however, will likely turn away after one look at the janky graphics, or the clumsy controls, or the repetitive and time-wasting tasks the game throws at you. The quirky writing and bizarre mystery at the heart of the story are definitely intriguing, but they might not be good enough to suffer through all the other aspects of the game. Rating: 5 out of 10 Premonitions
  24. Who says twin-stick shooters have to be sci-fi? The Ambassador: Fractured Timelines from developer tinyDino Games and publisher Quantum Astrophysicists Guild brings the twin-stick gameplay formula to a fantasy setting. Instead of shooting bullets, you're tossing swords, firing magic bolts, and of course dodging barrages of enemy attacks as well. Throw on a time manipulation mechanic and you've got a fairly unique action game. You play as Gregor, newly appointed member of the Eternal Fellowship and an Ambassador of Time. However, shortly after your induction, the order's capital city is destroyed, and you're the only hope for setting things right. It's a decent setting for the gameplay but not much more—beyond your initial introduction to side characters and regions it's hard to feel too invested in the story. However, if you do want to get into all of the backstory available, there are hidden lore books scattered throughout the game which add some context and storytelling. The fractured nature of finding these books still makes the writing a bit dry, but there's at least more to the story if you're willing to work for it. The Ambassador features some non-linear progression. After the initial tutorial level you're allowed to tackle the three main worlds in the game in any order. Each world is made up of a variety of levels, but they're all fairly short—in fact there's a time attack challenge for every level with a time limit generally under a minute. Additionally, you can pursue other bonus challenges in each level, such as not taking any damage, not using recovery items, or finding all of the aforementioned lore books. So even though a single playthrough of The Ambassador won't last longer than a few hours, completing everything that the game has to offer by replaying it repeatedly will certainly fill your timeline. The gameplay itself mostly has the twitchy action that you'd expect from a twin-stick shooter, but there are a few important wrinkles. For one thing, you can't spam attacks wildly—when you throw your weapon, you have to wait for it to return to your hand whether you've hit something or not. You need to be a little more thoughtful in your approach, especially if you miss and are left weaponless for several seconds. You can, however, also swap to your magic weapon, most of which are a little more rapid-fire, but at the expense of mana (mana gradually regenerates). This ammo-focused approach can make the gameplay feel a bit slow at times, but it's a unique change of pace from the typical twin-stick shooter and provides its own engaging challenges. Aim is paramount so as not to leave yourself exposed and weaponless, so instead of prioritizing speed, the game focuses on precision, which forces you to approach enemies more thoughtfully. You'll also unlock a number of weapons, magical weapons, and armor as you progress through the game, allowing you to customize your approach a bit. There's a good amount of variety available here and sometimes changing your weapon loadout is the best way to handle new or powerful enemies. The other key aspect of the game has to do with Gregor's time manipulation abilities. You're able to temporarily slow down time around you, making it easy to avoid incoming attacks or perfectly line up your own. The effect will only last for a couple seconds and needs to recharge after it's used, so you can't go crazy spamming it. Just like the "ammo" system you need to plan your moment to use your time abilities well, since it's also your only real defense (no blocking or dodging for Gregor, unfortunately). It's a clever way of wrapping up offense and defense capabilities into one effect, though the timing can be a little tricky at times—some enemy attacks happen so quickly that you'll need to anticipate the attack to actually get away in time. It makes the combat a somewhat more thoughtful dance of attacks and dodging rather than just barrages of bullets like many twin-stick shooters. All that said, The Ambassador can feel rather repetitive at times. There isn't a huge variety of enemies or environments, and if you're not pursuing the speed or no-hit challenges the levels can feel somewhat rote pretty quickly. Even if there are some unique concepts in the gameplay structure, the game doesn't inject enough unique challenges into the action itself to make individual stages feel distinct. If the gameplay does click for you though there's also the BloodHenge mode available after you beat the game once, which is a survival mode that pits you against waves of enemies. It's perfect for score-chasers but for anyone else it only highlights how repetitive the gameplay can feel after a while. The game's retro presentation is solid, though there's not much more to say about it. The pixel graphics are decent but there's not much in the art design that stands out, and the soundtrack is much the same: the music isn't bad but there's not much you're going to remember about it. The bigger enemies and boss creatures are a little more impressive at least, though obviously those are rare to see. The Ambassador: Fractured Timelines mashes together its own timeline of influences—twin-stick shooter, fantasy setting, time manipulation mechancs—into a unique but underwhelming package. This isn't one that you'll likely play for the presentation or story, but the gameplay has some fun ideas, even if its repetitive nature drags. Players looking for a new take on the twin-stick formula that is slightly less frantic might enjoy seeing what The Ambassador has to offer. Rating: 6 out of 10 Timelines Review copy provided by publisher The Ambassador: Fractured Timelines will be available on the Switch eShop on August 13 for $14.99.