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Found 72 results

  1. Marcus Estrada

    Platformines Screenshot 2

    From the album: Review Images

  2. Marcus Estrada

    Platformines Screenshot 1

    From the album: Review Images

  3. Marcus Estrada

    Mercenary Kings Screenshot 4

    From the album: Review Images

  4. Marcus Estrada

    Mercenary Kings Screenshot 3

    From the album: Review Images

  5. Marcus Estrada

    Mercenary Kings Screenshot 2

    From the album: Review Images

  6. Marcus Estrada

    Mercenary Kings Screenshot 1

    From the album: Review Images

  7. It's an unfortunate truth but delays happen to video games all the time and Shovel Knight's situation is no different. Yacht Club Games revealed in a recent Kickstarter update that the game was delayed a little longer to ensure that it's a world-class experience and so that it can release on all platforms simultaneously. The following is a list of what they're working on in the final push Dialogue and scripted events are being finalized Finishing touches put on level design for the final levels Overall game balancing Platform specific standards so everything runs smoothly on your system of choice! Testing, testing, testing… on all platforms! Also, due to not having a date locked in with Steam and Nintendo just yet, Yacht Club Games mentioned that they will not announce another release date for Shovel Knight until they can lock it in with both publishers for sure. Source: Kickstarter Are you disappointed that Shovel Knight has been delayed?
  8. Marcus Estrada

    Review: Tiny Brains

    Developer: Spearhead Games Publisher: 505 Games Platform: PC (Steam), PS3, PS4 Release Date: December 3, 2013 ESRB: E10+ A PS4 downloadable code was provided by the publisher for this review What has been sorely lacking from the gaming world as of late? It seems that there are fewer and fewer co-op games available. Although there are zillions of online shooters cropping up, being able to play with a friend or two in your own living room has become a much rarer occasion. Spearhead Games must have been aware of this disparity when they created Tiny Brains. This multiplayer-focused puzzle platformer is getting some attention, especially for launching on PS4, but is it worth your time? It seems that if you are playing alone, you'd best skip Tiny Brains entirely. My first playthrough was a completely solo experience. Although it was beatable, it was also very tough with timing at points that would have otherwise been okay. On multiple occasions you realize that the developers really wanted this to be beaten with a few players and not just one person. Still, with enough determination a lone player can make it through. The problem is they probably won“t want to. Tiny Brains focuses on four different animal lab subjects. They've been tampered with by an evil scientist, and of course, wish to escape his control! Each is tiny but highly intelligent thanks to the experiments. Although each creature has a distinctive design, little was done to infuse them with any discernible personality. A different skill is assigned to each of the four and it“s your task to figure out when to use what skills to solve puzzles. Even though there are four abilities, most puzzles don“t end up being complex. Some circumstances will be head-scratching the first time, but simpler once the mechanic has been introduced. But even once you understand how to solve a puzzle, you still might take five or more tries to make it work. This is the case in either solo or co-op play. When one person is playing, the issue comes with timing. There are multiple timed segments in the game which are so tight that any misstep leads right to failure. With other players, the issue then becomes making sure everyone keeps up their task without screwing up. Playing with friends is a nice social experience but is definitely not conducive to careful game playing. When puzzles have to continually be repeated it leads to intense amounts of frustration. Thankfully, checkpoints are frequent and puzzle rooms are usually quite small. They tend to require one main solution rather than a complex set of maneuvers. So, in a way, Tiny Brains is actually very simple, mechanically-speaking. It“s just when you factor in the many failed attempts at certain puzzles that most positive emotions begin to wash off. Tiny Brains is certainly trying, but that doesn“t make it able to provide a very fun experience. A friend stated her opinion as “this game is suck” while listening to my gripes, and that awkwardly-worded jab is not something I usually hear. Frustration was the name of the game more often than not, but at least there were no huge glitches to run into. If anything, it just seems that the developers were playing it too safe with puzzle design. Things are mostly easy to figure out. Having to fight against a puzzle game to beat it is not the way you want a puzzle playing experience to go, and yet, this is exactly what ended up happening. So when it comes right down to it, there is a small audience for Tiny Brains. You have to be someone willing to deal with a game that has little in regards to an interesting story or cast. There is also a need to be accepting of silly mistakes because they“ll happen incredibly often. Finally, you need to be okay with often troublesome play over the course of its three hour campaign. If, for some reason, you“re still desperate for a co-op puzzle game then go forth. Tiny Brains fulfills a niche - in a way that is anything but ideal. Pros: + One of only a few co-op puzzle platformers + Each lab animal has their own unique mechanic + Great music Cons: - Most puzzles challenge patience and fortitude over logic - Characters have practically no personality despite their intriguing appearances - With single player being a more difficult experience, perhaps the game should have been made co-op only Overall Score: 3.0 (out of 10) Poor Playing Tiny Brains reveals there were solid concepts in mind during development. However, the end product feels more like a rough draft than a finished work.
  9. Jordan Haygood

    Super Mario 3D World Box Art

    From the album: Kaptain's Gallery

    © Nintendo

  10. Graham Smith

    Sonic Before the Sequel Review

    Sonic Before the Sequel is a fan made game that aims to fill the story gap between Sonic the Hedgehog and its sequel. It tells the story of how Sonic and Tails came to meet and how they ended up at Emerald Hill Zone together. In the beginning you play as Sonic who has just been warped to a distant land by his recently acquired Chaos Emeralds. This first level is called Hilltop Heights Zone and is heavily reminiscent of Sky Sanctuary Zone from Sonic & Knuckles. Right from the beginning it is clear that this game has been developed with a great love for the series. The gameplay is just as simple as in any other 2D Sonic game and the traits you associate with the originals, such as springs and ring boxes, are all present and correct. Collecting a life plays the same familiar tune but with a mesmerizing orchestral twist. Invincibility boxes also return and strangely seem to last a lot longer than in any other Sonic game. Graphically the game is just as beautiful as the original and the music for the first three Zones are excellent remixes of the theme for Green Hill Zone. Some impressive weather effects have also been thrown in, with a well animated shower of rain just a few minutes into the game. The most interesting level starring Sonic is Titanic Tower Zone. It has an upbeat disco soundtrack and features a night time cityscape. Throughout the level you find switches that turn off most of the lights, meaning you can only see Sonic and a few remaining lights on the platforms. During this time you have to navigate your way around the environment using only these small hints of light until you can find a switch to turn all the lights on again. Fortress Flow Zone is another noteworthy level for Sonic. Here Sonic is constantly stuck in a bubble and blown around all over the place by large fans. Mechanically it almost feels like Labyrinth Zone from the original Sonic the Hedgehog, but instead of being restricted by underwater currents you are pulled around by movement in the air. This is most noticeable during sections that see you trying to bypass spikes as you float inexorably in one direction. Some levels allow you to play as Tails who can fly and swim just the same as ever. Indeed, it“s only when you start to play as Tails, and utilise his flying ability, that you realise just how open ended the game is. There are many alternate routes to take and depending on where you go you will find completely different obstacles and Badniks. Some of the traps are really clever, with my favourite one being in Star Shores Zone. Here you will often come across little floating cotton balls with eyes, and if you touch one the screen will start to ripple and change colour as though Tails had just smoked something that he shouldn“t have. Lost Levels Zone, in which you play as Tails, is perhaps my favourite level, not least because it contains small turtle Badniks that squeal ”Hadoken“ as they fire blue flames at you. This level also features a wonderful soundtrack and contains a wide variety of scenery between it“s three Acts. The first Act is based on Mystic Cave Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the second Act is set in a jungle and the third Act seems to switch sporadically between icy and volcanic rock. The game also has some excellent boss battles. Sonic always fights Robotnik, whereas Tails fights a robotic minion instead. Sonic“s best boss battle has to be his final tussle with Robotnik which has two phases and takes much inspiration from his struggles towards the end of Sonic & Knuckles. The highlight for Tails takes place in a small loop where you have to avoid projectiles, kind of like the battle with Robotnik at the end of Casino Nights Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 2. At the end of every third Act you are given access to a Special Stage. During these stages the screen chases you while you try to collect as many rings as possible in order to gain extra lives. The only complaints I have about the game are that the movement can be a little sluggish at times and there are some obvious glitches. These issues are far from major however, and never really impact on the game“s overall playability. There are an astonishing twelve Zones in total, most of which contain three Acts; this amounts to at least five hours of gameplay. If you are a fan of Sonic the Hedgehog you should definitely give this a try. Download it here: http://sites.google.com/site/sonicbts/
  11. gaiages

    Review: Cloudberry Kingdom

    Developer: Pwnee Studios Publisher: Ubisoft Platform: PlayStation 3 (PSN), Xbox 360 (XBLA), Wii U (eShop), Steam Release Date: Out Now ESRB: T for Teen This review is based on the PlayStation 3 version of the game, in which a download code was provided by the publisher Difficult platformers seem to be all the rage in the indie scene nowadays - so much so that the market seems to be overflowing with them. Sure, there are titles that are easily recognizable, but for every Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV, there are countless more hardcore platformers that fail to really stand out. Cloudberry Kingdom tries to impress with an interesting asthetic (in the cutscenes, at least) and procedurally developed levels, but does it manage to make a name for itself, or will it get lost in the platformer shuffle? In the first few minutes of the game's Story Mode, Cloudberry Kingdom looks very impressive. You're introduced to the washed-up old hero Bob and the wizard-like villian in an appealing paper-craft like style. It really looks great... but it's unfortunate that this style only applies to cutscenes. These scenes don't happen very often, and for the rest of the story adventure you'll be treated to an asthetic style that's honestly rather bland, which is really quite a disappointment. However, for the fan of difficult platformers, graphics and art styles don't really matter as long as you can see the obstacles ahead of you (and they are quite viable in this game), so let's talk more about the gameplay. In Story Mode, the basics are introduced to you very quickly: You learn to run and jump, the game's physics, and not to run into pointy objects very quickly. Cloudberry Kingdom is not one to start in the deep end; the beginning levels aren't too difficult, but they are also not completely holding your hand. This is a welcome relief for those who become tired of these type of games throwing everything at you in the first five minutes. After you just start to get used to Bob's physics, though, something changes. Every 10 levels or so (and it becomes more spread out as the game progresses), Bob unlocks a new form of sorts that you have to get used to. These forms can come in any number of forms, such as a double jumping Bob, a Bob with a Jetpack, or even a gravity swtiching Bob. It's up to you to learn how to survive with these new forms in mind (and sometimes even learn when you've switched forms), and becomes essential to your progression in the Story Mode. But, the Story Mode feels mostly like a tutorial for the main game--the Arcade Mode. It's here that the game and its components really get to shine, with various game modes and ways to play. Arcade Mode starts with only one mode and one version of Bob available, and you have to earn the rest by increasing your Player Level. Getting through one level in an Arcade mode increases your level by one, so it's not difficult to increase the level and unlock new stuff quickly. By doing so, you'll unlock more modes to play through as well as the other versions of Bob you got a taste of in Story Mode. The process makes it pretty rewarding to get better at Cloudberry Kingdom, and try to unlock more new modes. The modes themselves are pretty fun, and range from a typical straight run with limited lives, to a strictly timed run (only 15 seconds per stage!), and are just flat out fun to play through. Finally, there's the Free Play mode, which allow you to plug in certain parameters (such as length, difficulty, and so on) and have the game randomly generate a level for you. This is pretty cool for platformer enthusiasts, but most will find that the Arcade and Story modes will give you plenty of content before they get tired of the game. The final verdict on Cloudberry Kingdom? It's not a bad game, but at the same time it's not particulary great either. The beginning difficulty and some other little touches make the title more user friendly than other games of its ilk, but unfortunately the game doesn't really stand out in any other way. Second Opinion by Jason Clement I'll be honest here - Cloudberry Kingdom looked somewhat underwhelming to me from the get-go, but thank goodness for the old adage - "Don't judge a book by its cover" - because that's almost what I did with this game. Admittedly, games that are super challenging to the point of being impossible (like I Wanna Be The Guy) never held an appeal to me, and that's what I was afraid this game would be, but thankfully I was wrong (at least partially). Cloudberry Kingdom makes use of randomly generated levels that scale and change according to the player's skill level. This isn't new tech, but it is fairly groundbreaking for platformers and enough to give this game an edge to compete with other indie platformers. As a simple run-and-jump game, it's unremarkable yet strangely addictive, especially in later levels when it becomes all about recognizing patterns and executing a path through highly treacherous obstacles to reach the goal. While the game's visuals and aesthetic style won't win any awards, I did enjoy the papercraft look the game's cutscenes take on as you progress through the story; it's a shame that they were far and few between. And the story is an interesting take on the damsel in distress trope with an interesting twist; suffice it to say that the game never takes itself too seriously for its own good. In all, I was pleasantly surprised with Cloudberry Kingdom. Like Gaia mentioned in her review, it isn't a game that I'd necessarily consider to be "great," but I can say it's a fairly good, solid game after spending quite a bit of time with it. I'd especially recommend it if you're interested in unique and challenging platformers. Pros: + The game eases you into the difficulty + Arcade Mode is a lot of fun to play casually Cons: - Story Mode drags on for longer than you would want - Stale visuals are a disappointment compared to the cutscenes - Some versions of Bob are less fun than others to play Overall Score: 6.0 (out of 10) Decent Second Opinion Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good Randomly generated levels or not, Cloudberry Kingdom doesn't do enough different to really help it stand out in the indie platformer crowd.
  12. Sega and Disney Interactive recently revived, remade, and released an HD version of the beloved Genesis classic Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC. Does it hold up to the fan-favorite game everyone knows and loves, or is greatness just an illusion for this high definition Mousecapade? Keep reading to find out! Developer: Sega Studios Australia Publisher: Sega/Disney Interactive Studios Platform(s): Playstation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, PC (via Steam) Released: September 4, 2013 ESRB: E for Everyone This review is based on the PSN version Before I start this review, I need to be honest - I've never played the original Genesis version of Castle of Illusion. Or, more specifically, I have played it, but only the first few levels. There's certainly nothing wrong with the game, but something about it just never captivated me. Still, due to an unhealthy obsession with all things platformer, I knew I had to give the HD remake a shot. Surely, with the graphical prowess of current-gen consoles, they could capture the whimsy and wonder that the original version always should have had but couldn't process? The good news is, yes, they did, very much - this is, through and through, a vibrant, wonderful journey through Disney-inspired lands starring everyone's favorite mouse in red shorts. The journey starts with Mickey and Minnie, having a serene picnic, as one often does in the bright and happy Disney universe. Their picnic, however, is ruined when a witch named Mizrabel snags Minnie away with plans to drain Minnie of her beauty, which will then be transferred to Mizrabel to make her attractive, because apparently there are a lot of warlocks out there that need courting. Anyway, Mickey naturally responds by following Mizrabel to her Castle of Illusion, where he must traverse several distinct areas in and around the castle in search of the Rainbow Gems, which will form a bridge to Mizrabel's tower where his dear Minnie is being held. Mickey's quest takes him to a number of strange locales, aptly demonstrating the "Illusion" part of the castle name. Mickey runs, jumps, and bounces his way through forest trees, crumbling temples, and lands made of candy and sweets in his search for the Rainbow Gems. The mechanics work much like the original game, where enemies are dispatched by bouncing off of them - which has been tweaked to only require a regular jump rather than two button presses - or by throwing items collected through the levels at them. Thrown items are tied to the theme of the level, such as apples in the forest, which is a nice touch. Still, the bounce is the main method of dispatching enemies, mostly because bouncing off enemies is the only way to reach higher ground, resulting in simple level progression or even finding secret areas of the level. One place where the remake really deviates from the original are sections where the camera shifts to allow MIckey full 3D movement throughout a certain area. This is used to great effect in some boss fights, as well as the Castle itself and small sections of other levels. If you have any experience with platformers, none of this will be new or even particularly challenging, at least at first. Some of the secret areas do throw some curveballs at you, but failing to navigate these areas usually just results in getting booted back to the main area of the level. It's not really until the later levels that the challenge ramps up pretty considerably, which is a bit jarring, but admittedly a welcome change for those who found the early stages lacking. Of course, the reason that the change in difficulty is so jarring is because the game is so short - it can be beaten in as little as 2-3 hours, with only the challenging final levels and possibly the quest for secret collectibles (which unlock new costumes and statues depicting enemy characters) adding a little extra playtime. There is also the option of running each level in Time Attack mode with leaderboards, though this will really only appeal to a certain subset of players. But, while the adventure may not last long, it certainly provides a host of great visuals along the way. While the game is rendered in full 3D, it's done in such a way that most everything looks like it's out of a particularly detailed cartoon. Mickey himself appears like he was plucked straight out of a drawing, looking quite like the mouse we all know and love rather than the serviceable but slightly off-putting rendition from the Epic Mickey games. The soundtrack is also wonderfully whimsical as well, with newly re-arranged music by Grant Kirkhope (composer of numerous soundtracks for Rareware games) complementing the visual stimuli with some great tunes. Or, if that doesn't take your fancy, you can always revert back to the original Castle of Illusion soundtrack at any time, to give your adventure a more retro feel. All in all, the game comes together to form a package that is sure to appeal to not only fans of older Mickey Mouse games, but to anyone who has an itch for a light-hearted platformer that needs scratching. While the game is short and offers limited reasons for replayability, this is one of those games that players will want to come back to again and again, whether to challenge themselves to complete the game 100% or just to have another fun romp through the Castle. Where most developers are content to simply port an older game to new systems and call it a day, the developers at Sega Australia have done an amazing job crafting the game with love and reverence to the source material while updating it for a modern audience, and the end result is no mere illusion - it's bona-fide magic. Score: 8/10 TL;DR comments: If you're looking for a fun, whimsical platformer, look no further. The $15 price tag may be a little hard to stomach for such a short game, but it's highly unlikely you'll want to just play the game once and forget about it - you just might find yourself returning to the Castle of Illusion to deliver another bouncing beatdown on Mizrabel, just for the fun of it. The game looks great and plays great, and offers tribute to its past not only in the original Genesis game, but classic platformers in general.
  13. gaiages

    Review: Puppeteer

    Developer: SCE Japan Studio Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Systems: PlayStation 3 Release Date: September 10, 2013 ESRB: E10+ A review copy was provided by the publisher for this review Platformers may have seen a bit of a resurgence in the last couple of years, but this resurgence has been mostly delegated to the indie scene, and most that are made by full-fledged developers are typically portable affairs. The fact that Puppeteer is neither is what makes this game so interesting, and the game's launch time makes it have to stand up against the likes of top-notch triple-A titles. Does Puppeteer deserve the shelf space in this high release time, or is it a mediocre mess that's not worth the space? Puppeteer certainly starts on a very high note--after having a small introduction about how the Moon Bear King stole one of the Moonstones from the Moon Goddess and plunged the Moon into an age of darkness, you're introduced to the main character Kutaro, whom promptly hits his head and has it ripped off and eaten by the tyrant. If that sounds gruesome, it's really not: Kutaro is only a wooden puppet (or more specifically, a child's soul stuffed into a puppet) after all, and it's easy to find him a replacement noggin. Upon doing as such, Kutaro is recruited by the Moon Witch, a woman of questionable morale, to retrieve the magical Calibrus from the Moon Bear King's quarters... and after somehow doing so, unwittingly becomes the hero tasked with bringing down the Moon Bear King and his animal generals. The first thing you'll notice about Puppeteer is its incredible graphical style. This game simply lives and breathes the style of a puppet show, and never stumbles or disappoints. Its style also allows for some interesting flair, with detailed puppets flying about the screen and scenery changing just in the way it would in an old-style puppet stall. The puppet show style also allows for Kutaro to transverse some fantastical environments, and everything about the setting and graphics succeed at impressing the player. However, a nice coat of paint does not mean much if the game itself doesn't play well, especially in the case of a platformer. Thankfully, Puppeteer plays as well as it looks. The title has its fair amount of running, jumping and searching with your flying companion, but you also use your magical pair of scissors to get around. You can cut into the scenery to get higher, or find seams to fast travel through the terrain. While this may seem disjointing to the gameplay, it all flows very well, especially when you get the hang of snipping away to get around. Of course, you'll also have to fight enemies in your quest to overthrow the evil Moon Bear King, and Calibrus is your main form of attack. You can use the scissors to snip and attack at your enemies, and to free the 'soul balloons' from Grubs and Weavers that are the trapped souls or children. Trying to attack with the scissors can be a bit cumbersome at first, but much like traveling around it'll become second nature soon enough. But while Calibrus is your main form of attack, it will not be your only one. Along the way, you'll obtain Hero heads, which give you new abilities, such as bombs or a grappling hook. These are used in battle as well as on the environment to help open up new areas. There aren't any puzzles per se in Puppeteer, but sometimes there are obstacles that'll require you to use some Hero powers to get by, especially later in the game. All of these areas are clearly marked, however, so you're never likely to get stuck. Speaking of heads, Kutaro will collect many different types throughout his adventure. While he is missing his own precious heads, he'll learn to make do with a variety of other heads, ranging from lions to trees to cakes. These heads don't just look different, however; they also each have a unique Head Action to give a reason to find them all. These Head Actions aren't offensive, and only sometimes help in beating a boss, but instead are used in the stages to help find secrets and even bonus levels. The areas to use these Head Actions aren't hard to find (though holding onto the head itself may be), and are clearly marked so that the only reason you'll miss the secret is because you never found the right head for the job. If it wasn't somewhat obvious from the above statements, Puppeteer is not a difficult game in the least. You have up to three heads you can lose before losing a life, and if you do get hit, you have a few seconds to try and grab the loose head before it disappears. Lives are pretty plentiful, and enemies and most of the bosses are not hard after learning their patterns. While this may be cause for disappointment, Puppeteer is more of a title that's trying to tell a story than to challenge the player gameplay-wise, so the lenient difficulty is welcome so that you can easily move through the game's world and explore without frustration starting to creep in. Puppeteer, to sum it up, is a joy to play through. From start to finish the game gives you a world rich with style and substance to traverse, and the game's 21 lengthy levels seem like just the right amount of time to spend on this fantastical Moon. Trying to procure all the heads and secrets may grate on the nerves slightly, but every else about this game is near perfection, and may even be one of the finest 2D-style platformers of this generation. Pros: + Amazing setting and graphical style to immerse yourself in + Exploring and tranversing the enviroment feels like second nature quickly + Twenty-one stages lasting about twenty minutes a piece give a lot of content to run and jump through Cons: - Not being able to choose what heads you keep or can bring with you, even after beating the game, makes it hard to discover all the secrets Overall Score: 9.5 (out of 10) Fantastic Puppeteer manages to stand out as an imaginative and wonderful adventure, and one that should be on everyone's to-buy list.
  14. Developer: Michael Todd Games Publisher: Michael Todd Games Platform: PC Release Date: August 7th, 2013 Having my ears blasted by intense electronic music and the occasional......uh......moan(?) is not what I would call an ideal setup for a first impressions of a game. Adding in some flashing rainbow colors might worsen my experience just a bit. However, upon playing the game that utilizes these three very unique elements, Electronic Super Joy, I can certainly say that it kinda grows on you after a while. ESJ (as I shall call it) is a strange and challenging platformer created by a guy named Michael Todd. Nice job MT, you just secured ESJ into the OPHWG (Official Pixel Hall of Weird Games). Now that's a lot of abbreviations! Anyway, on to the game. There's no end to the pumping electronic music and the flashy visuals, but luckily you can alter the moans to a more "PG" option. Definitely a great added touch right before release (the game was in Early Access for a bit). Well, I should quit babbling about the small stuff and get on to the actual game! There's 4 worlds in it, each with generally ~15-20 levels besides the last world, which only has 5 levels I believe. I managed to get to the boss of world 2 and could barely manage to get very far in the level at all after my time playing. However, I got stuck multiple times like this and after going back and trying something new or honing my reflexes almost always I could pass the levels in a try or two. So thankfully, the game isn't too hard for inexperienced platformer players! Every level is very possible to beat once you understand the weird tricks the level design is trying to throw at you. Now, this leads to the inevitable question- is ESJ really as hard as it claims to be? Well......to be frank, I'd have to say no. There's a few levels that will challenge inexperienced gamers, but for the most part I would say anyone can progress far in this game with some patience. Each level can be cleared just by carefully timing jumps, stomps, and horizontal movement of your character (who by the way, is some guy who lost his butt via the despicable Groove-Wizard, that is literally the plot). With so few levels, you may think this game is nowhere near the price, but considering that you can try and get the hidden star on each level, speedrun them, or unlock some difficult achievements may lessen the price tag. If the game ever goes 50% or more off though, this would be an instant buy if you like platformers! One thing that did manage to keep me entertained was the simple, immature humor this game throws at the player. Things in even the description are kinda funny, such as: "The Evil Groove-Wizard rules the world with an iron fist. Captain Lewis, of the 43rd Queen's Disco Troop, has vowed to resist his tyrannical rule! ...And he stole Little Anni McGee's teddy bear! Can you defeat the Groove-Wizard and end his Tyranny? Can you be a hero?" There's also another instance involving the Pope......that I won't speak of. Overall, I'd say I was fairly pleased with ESJ. It provides some great tunes and colorful visuals while very gently tearing your hair out over the moderate difficulty. It's a nice blend, and if you enjoy platformers this is certainly a game you should consider! I give this game a: 7.5/10 Also, you can win a copy of the game (on Steam of course)! Simply comment below telling me what your ideal technical combo (graphics+music) in terms of style would be for a game! An example would be: "Hardcore Rock music with cutesy graphics" I'll be closing this and choosing my favorite combo as the winner this Friday, August 30th, 2013! So get your entry in! Good luck!
  15. Marcus Estrada

    Review: Do Not Fall

    Developer: XPEC Entertainment Publisher: XPEC Entertainment Platform: PS3: PSN Release Date: July 23, 2013 ESRB: E for Everyone A download code was provided by the publisher for this review. Did you ever play Q*Bert and think that it was far too easy? Unless you“re an arcade maestro the chances are that you instead found the game infuriatingly difficult. By the end, you might have even been swearing like Q*Bert himself. The reason this game is brought up is because Do Not Fall utilizes a similar gaming concept. As you explore environments, the floor disappears under you, leaving many frustrating moments in its wake. Let“s dive right into what makes Do Not Fall an unusual little game. You play the game as an anthropomorphic rabbit dressed up in some clothes who for some reason needs to make drinks. No, he“s not a bartender or an alcoholic, but just really likes sparkling water, milk, green tea, and the like. This oddball setup is basically all you get for a story. Of course, this is primarily a puzzle platformer so there“s no need for a long, drawn out narrative. Gameplay takes place on a 3D plane although the world itself is in a fixed 2.5D perspective. The first thing one notices is that the ground is comprised of floating blocks. For the most part, these blocks will crumble under foot after you stand on them for a few seconds. A few blocks will never break and you can tell these apart by their distinctive designs (grating, stone blocks, etc). Of course, the whole environment isn“t just one big batch of blocks. There are many segmented platforms, some of which are just one or two blocks floating out by themselves. Other times, there are objects and enemies blocking your path to blocks. On these occasions, you“ll need to carefully jump across chasms. With monsters, you have to time yourself to make sure you can weave between them without getting hit. If an enemy bumps into you then the poor bunny will get propelled in the opposite direction - often falling off a platform. These elements combined cause a great deal of strain on the player. Although beginning stages aren“t too tough, things completely change once you proceed to later areas. With blocks disappearing fairly quick, you don“t have time to think about where to go next. Then, with enemies making their rounds in quick, tight patterns you must also hurry along your path. There is also a timer on each stage which furthers this need for speed. Because of this, players are incredibly likely to make many errors while playing. It would be tough enough to deal with the monsters and platform disintegration, but adding time into the equation just drives it over the edge. Another unfortunate aspect is that a player maxes out at two lives. Even if you find new lives during play they won“t get added on. With so much stress to perform perfectly it“s practically impossible to do so on the first few attempts of many stages. That“s not to say the game offers nothing to aid players. It tries to some degree with the likes of checkpoints and the aforementioned extra lives. Checkpoints in particular can be helpful to get you back to a certain part of the stage instead of starting at the very beginning after death. Beyond that though there“s little the game can help with. You just have to be incredibly focused or have stages committed to memory. One reason that the difficulty of Do Not Fall is extra grating is simply because the rest of the game seems like it was designed for children. From the bunny who breakdances for an idle stance to cute ladybugs there is just nothing about this game that screams “frustrating”. It“s only when you sit down to play that it becomes apparent how insidious it is. Though, anyone who makes their way through can then play the game in hard mode. There is nothing inherently wrong with a game being difficult, but there are other reasons that people may choose to ignore it. For one, the visuals don“t really stand up to other PS3 PSN releases. They would appear much more at home on the Vita and it“s a mystery to me why this isn“t a Vita game. Similarly, the writing in this game is fairly odd. This likely has to do with the fact that the developer hails from Taiwan. Although it is not completely broken English text, it is awkward at times. Anyone with a strong desire to get consistently destroyed by a cutesy little game might want to pick up Do Not Fall. But if you“re someone who caught word of this title and though it looked like a nice diversion for a child should definitely think twice. It is not a cute little puzzle romp. It“s a puzzle game with real teeth and underwhelming production values. Pros: + Responsive control + A large amount of stages Cons: - Few methods of help within a stage - Awkward translation Overall Score: 5.0 (out of 10) Average Do Not Fall may be worth it to the keenest puzzle platforming players but turns into an exercise in frustration for most anyone else.
  16. Marcus Estrada

    Review: Ibb & Obb

    Developer: Sparpweed Publisher: Sparpweed Platform: PS3 Release Date: August 6, 2013 ESRB: E for Everyone A download code was provided by the publisher for this review. Note: Similar to the nature of the co-op gameplay in Ibb & Obb, we decided to tackle this review with two people. As such, the body of the review is mostly written by Marcus Estrada, while the blue text added indicates Jason Clement's thoughts on the game as well. It seems there is a new found resurgence in co-op gameplay as of late. First we saw the indie debut of Wyv & Keep and now we“ve got another game by the name of Ibb & Obb. Of course, aside from similar naming and two player co-op functionality, the two games are completely different. So let“s get into what exactly Ibb & Obb is and what makes it a uniquely fun experience! Ibb & Obb is a physics-based puzzle platformer with some real charm. In the game, you play as one of two Pac-Man ghost-like characters (the resemblance is definitely there, though I would also say they are very gumdrop-like as well), and though the game is especially designed for co-op, you can control both if you are alone. The two little characters must traverse through attractively-designed locations and make it through a series of puzzles. These puzzles represent the main unique draw behind the game, in that they play mainly on polarity and gravity while also drawing on the power of teamwork between the two characters. Each of the levels are divided by a playing field line where traveling above it results in a normal, rightside-up plane, and traveling below it results in an opposite, upside down plane. Both characters are able to traverse between the two planes by means of white portals. In the path of Ibb and Obb are often portals which can only be accessed by one or the other. The green or pink beings have associated doorways (that correspond to their color) which only they may enter or exit. Oftentimes you may need to hoist another player up to an area (that is otherwise out of reach), jump off platforms to increase momentum as you speed through a pathway, or even just carefully tread through enemy-infested territory to the other end. Puzzles are clumped up into different areas and offer save points at the end of each level. As players progress further, new concepts are added to the puzzle mechanics. Of course, puzzles increase in complexity as well. Each character is controlled with an analog stick on the PS3 controller. When playing with a friend in either local or online co-op, this is pretty easy to handle. However, if you“re hitting up the adventure solo, then be prepared for some seriously infuriating moments. Honestly, some puzzles require such precision timing for two players that they are even more demanding on a single player. After all, by yourself you have to negotiate and carry out your plans with pinpoint accuracy on two characters instead of just one. I decided to try a few levels on single-player to see just how different the game plays when you're responsible for controlling both characters. While it's definitely playable in solo mode, the learning curve here is steep. Even though I only played through the first two levels this way, I can't imagine playing through some of the later, extremely difficult levels that require precise movements in most cases, as Marcus mentioned. Because of this, the game is best played with another player, whether it's a friend or a random person online. Playing solo is better left as a challenge to complete after you finish the game at least once. Regardless of play mode, all fifteen levels and their puzzles remain the same. One of the hardest things to handle with a single player is taking care of enemies. Monstrous beings such as spiky birds or saws pepper the landscape at times, tempting you to fail a jump or run too slow. You“ll immediately notice that these beings are colored black and white in a 50/50 split. This is due to Ibb & Obb“s playfield including the top world as well as the underside of levels. Yes, sometimes you“ll be playing the game in a standard, upright platformer style while other times you“ll be platforming upside down on the lower half of the screen. Initially, playing on the reverse polarity (or lower half) was incredibly difficult - at least for me! My mind had to work extra hard to work out how exactly to jump and move when my character was hanging out upside down, but it isn“t as hard as you might think. One great design choice was to make sure that, even when upside down, pressing left still moves the character to the left side of the screen and the like. You simply have to get accustomed to experiencing platforming from a different perspective. There“s a good mix of puzzles you“ll fly through as well as ones that will tax the minds of one or both players. One helpful (but not quite helpful enough) feature in co-op is the ability to draw with a continuous line on screen. Need to direct a player to go and jump off a certain platform? Simply draw a line pointing there on the screen to get their attention. Of course, this feature requires both players to be of the same mindset for what various markings might mean. Drawing a series of loops across the level might make perfect sense to you but utterly confound your partner. No voice chat is available so either get good at scribbling on screen or seek out a secondary mode of conversation if it“s not local co-op. This was an interesting aspect of the game, as there were times when we would use the drawing line to direct the other, and for the most part, we did understand what each meant for the other to do, but there were definitely times where one of us just didn't get it. There were also points at which a puzzle was so tough and required so much thinking that one of us had to coordinate with the other by outside means on what to do (unfortunately, this means we did have to resort to instant messaging each other at certain points, much to the chagrin of what the game was likely hoping to achieve with voiceless communication). One other unfortunate aspect of online co-op is the fact that a certain amount of lag is present. This is the downfall of many modern online games and can never be entirely stomped out. Between two fairly good internet connections, I found that my game still showed some lag with syncing my partner“s actions. In some games this may not be a huge deal but it is problematic here when you“re trying to synchronize jumps or a variety of other time-based actions. The lag wasn“t continuous through play but did seem more prevalent in certain areas. I seemed to experience a little bit less lag than Marcus did, but it was still definitely something that happened at certain points. It was never so bad that it prevented us from getting past certain parts, but it did make things more difficult. Fortunately, it wasn't too common. Probably the strangest design misstep in the game occurs during parts where players must jump to great heights to reach the next area. At some points, you can jump high enough where when you change polarity into the opposite plane, you fly out of the visible gameplay screen. This is a huge issue as you do not get enough time to see where your character is as they plummet back down. Usually these massive jumps are followed by a need to land on a specific spot and you“re not going to be able to do that easily when having to guestimate their landing position. Of course, gameplay is not the only aspect of Ibb & Obb; the visual design is quite fantastic as well. It may not look like much in screenshots, but playing through the game on PS3 is quite the experience. The minimalistic design is attractive as are the various worlds to come across throughout. Although enemy designs never get very interesting, level design sure does and feels progressively more epic the further you go. The developers definitely have an excellent grasp on understanding of color and paint levels to appeal to players. Visually, it simply doesn“t look like any other platformer out there. I concur with Marcus on this point as well; the visuals are stunning and a joy to look at it. Ibb & Obb is a great example of the "less is more" adage, opting for a simple look, yet infusing the design with a plethora of gorgeous colors and gradients. One level in particular that really stood out has the entire level turn dark, with Ibb and Obb glowing and providing an aura of light around each of their bodies in order to light the way. The resulting level is like few things I've experienced before. Audio is another high point of the game. Composer Kettel provides a soundtrack which meshes perfectly with the minimalism present in visual design. Often quiet and reserved, players will likely be drawn further into the game without even realizing it thanks to the music. If you take the time to listen to it without focusing all your attention on puzzles then you“ll be able to recognize just how good it is as well. If the soundtrack is made available for purchase it comes highly recommended from me (thankfully, Sparpweed has confirmed to me that the OST is indeed on the way!). Like last year's Journey, the music is a pretty defining aspect of the game; it really does marry well with the gameplay itself. If you're into electronic groups like Boards of Canada, you'll be quite at home with the tunes found here. Ibb & Obb is a primarily good experience marred primarily by technical issues outside of their control. Even though some puzzles are incredibly cruel, they all are defeatable. If anything, the game might just be too difficult for players determined to go it solo. All things considered, Sparpweed probably didn“t even need to create a single player mode considering the game seems defined by its co-op. With that said, if you have a friend willing to go through Ibb & Obb with you then definitely check it out. In this incredibly full genre of puzzle platformers, Sparpweed accomplished the difficult task of making a fun, stylish platformer which stands out. Time is a precious commodity in this day and age, and with many of us being so busy, I don't give my time freely to just any game. This means I'll only play the indie games that really stand out as different. As such, I'm happy to say that Ibb & Obb is absolutely one of those games, and not only that, but it's also one of the most unique and memorable experiences I've had so far this year. It isn't perfect in every regard (and really, what game is?), but if you love platformers, physics-based puzzlers, unique games, or all of the above, you definitely owe it to yourself to check out Ibb & Obb. Pros: + Interesting mix of easy, medium, and difficult puzzles designed for two players + Awesomely simple visuals + Great soundtrack accompanying gameplay Cons: - Not going to be the kind of game you want to play alone - Lag can mess up important puzzle timing - Screen sometimes fails to show both players Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great Ibb & Obb is a fun, if sometimes confounding, puzzle platformer that will easily keep you and a friend entertained as you progress through a multitude of puzzles.
  17. Leah

    Review: Shantae

    Developer: WayForward Technologies Publisher: WayForward Technologies Platform: 3DS eShop Release Date: July 18, 2013 ESRB: E for Everyone A woman“s hair is something that she can be very proud of – so why not use it as a weapon? Okay, that seems a little weird, but Shantae is much more than that and has some history to it. Late in the Game Boy Color“s life, the eponymous half-genie girl made her debut. Unfortunately, it was a quiet one and Shantae did not receive another game until 2010. With Shantae having gained popularity with Risky“s Revenge, fans wanted to play her original game. It took some time, but WayForward finally made it available for download on the 3DS. Was it worth the wait? Has this platformer aged well at all? Trouble starts immediately for Shantae in the little fishing village of Scuttle Town. Risky Boots, the lady-pirate, is tearing the town apart in search of a treasure! It is Shantae“s ultimate goal to catch Risky Boots and get that treasure back before it“s used for nefarious purposes. How“s a simple half-genie supposed to do that? She whips her hair back and forth. Duh. It“s not the best way of destroying enemies, though (you“re better off avoiding enemies and running away from them). Her hair attack has incredibly limited reach. Enemies are also merciless and tend to spawn on top of you. Because of this, an already difficult game becomes even harder. Thankfully, money is easy to make in this game if you abuse the Dance Parlor. Thus, you“re able to buy the equipment that gives you access to special moves sooner rather than later. You can also use your newfound riches to buy health vials and whatnot to make things a little more manageable. Eventually, you“re able to transform into different animals such as a monkey and harpy. It“s a neat concept, and cute to see Shantae in these different forms as well, but it quickly becomes stale and tedious. Dancing to transform every time you need to climb? No, thanks. These animal forms are used, of course, to solve many of Shantae“s puzzles and navigate around dungeons. While challenging in a good way, dungeons can become confusing with the lack of an in-game map. Sure, these areas are no walk in the park. They are truly a test of skill for seasoned platformer enthusiasts, though! Although the gameplay could be a bit better, Shantae is nonetheless wrapped into a nice little package thanks to its graphics and music. As a Game Boy Color game, it“s beautiful, colorful, and high-quality. The animation is also very smooth. The music is just as good with catchy tunes everywhere you go in Shantae. For $5, you can“t go wrong with adding Shantae to your digital download collection on your 3DS. It“s an absolute steal compared to how much you“d have to pay for a physical copy nowadays anyway! Shantae is a great game to play to this day and definitely deserves a chance if you“re interested. Pros: + Some of the best graphics and music you“ll find from the GBC days + Challenging platforming and puzzles Cons: - Enemies are frustrating and unfair - Easy to get lost Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good Shantae is a platformer that has aged pretty well thanks to its graphics and soundtrack, even if the gameplay may need some fixing up.
  18. Developer: a jolly corpse Publisher: a jolly corpse Platform: PC (Desura, Web) Release Date: June 14, 2013 ESRB: N/A (E suggested) A review code was provided by the publisher for this review. Sometimes, I want to play games where your main goal is to destroy everything in your path. Other times, it is to inhabit the shoes of some new, intriguing character and help them save the world. Then there are the times when all I want is to challenge my brain to creative, difficult, or even incomprehensible puzzles. Although puzzle games are often tough they make me feel incredibly smart afterwards. So when it came time to review Wyv and Keep: The Temple of the Lost Idol I was pretty pumped. Thankfully, the game doesn“t disappoint (much). It“s a cute tale of two characters, named Wyv and Keep, who have decided it“s a great idea to search through various tombs, forests, and otherwise very Indiana Jones-esque locations in order to secure more and more treasure for themselves. Of course, if you were promised heaps of treasure just by solving puzzles wouldn“t you do the same? Wyv and Keep is a 2D puzzle platformer with attractive pixel graphics and an equally lovely soundtrack that gets you in the mood for adventuring. Although this sounds like a lot of indie games out there these days, it manages to chart its own course via gameplay mechanics. You see, this game is one that can be played by either one or two players simultaneously. However, even if you play alone, you still must control the two characters because they are both integral to solving each puzzle. Playing with a friend locally is likely the best way to play, although if you“re the type who prefers to have everything perfect then you“re probably going to prefer going it alone. All the same, each puzzle is made to require both of the team members to push blocks, jump to specific areas, light fuses, and a host of other things. It“s basically impossible to have only one of the characters carrying out all actions simply because it wasn“t designed for this. With another person by your side, it“s likely you“ll quickly come up with solutions. Although there is online multiplayer included, I was unable to try it out. This is due to two reasons. For one, there are not a ton of people playing this game. Secondly, many players have documented the fact that multiplayer just plain doesn“t work for them! A fix is on the way, but so far if you want to play with friends then local co-op is the way to go. So far, a jolly corpse have proven themselves they want to fix Wyv and Keep by already providing a handful of patches that went up very quickly after issues arose. Whether you choose to play alone or with a friend you“ll likely find that Wyv and Keep is one tough game. Sure, it might have adorable pixel graphics and animations, but it will leave you scratching your head on a multitude of occasions. Even though things feel as though they should be simple, smart level design helps puzzles need exact accuracy for completion. At times, I found myself searching for the proper solution only to have it finally flash in my mind after repeated failures. Moments like these are great fun and will likely happen a lot over the 60 main game levels. At the end of each level you are ranked on multiple criteria, one of which is speed of completion. In particular, speedrunners may find this a fun new challenge. With just the levels provided Wyv and Keep is still likely to keep you busy for hours. But that“s not all there is thanks to a level creator included with the game. You can do a whole lot with the tools, even going so far as to adding in your own custom sprites. Or, if you“re not the creative type, you can always simply browse and download the maps that others have created online. Although the community is not massive, there are regularly new levels being created thanks in part to the developer hosting level-making contests. Even if the gameplay features weren“t top rate, the visuals and soundtrack most definitely are. This is a game that has been in the works for years and it shows. The sprite characters are bright and lively, backdrops are interesting and detailed, and everything comes together to make it look fantastic. The music is also supremely well done. Luke Thomas, the composer, has put together one great selection of music that is a joy to listen to and to have getting stuck in your head. Wyv and Keep is such a fantastic product that it“s amazing it is not on Steam. In years past it is likely the game would have gotten onto the digital distributor no problem. If you purchase the game right now you will even get a Steam key later if it does get through Greenlight, meaning you might want to upvote the title. In the meantime, definitely get Wyv and Keep: The Temple of the Lost Idol if you dig puzzle platformers and are in the mood for co-op! Pros: + Tons of interesting puzzles + Extremely well done visuals + Soundtrack fits the world perfectly Cons: - Online multiplayer still causing issues for many - Various smaller bugs have plagued the game although most are now patched Overall Score: 9.0 (out of 10) Fantastic Wyv and Keep is just the kind of product that encompasses all that is great about puzzle platformers. If you have a co-op partner it becomes an even more entertaining experience.
  19. If you've been looking for a fiendishly hard game to play then perhaps you're in for a treat with Cloudberry Kingdom. Okay, so the name sounds incredibly sweet, but that is just an attempt to throw you off guard. This platformer is made to be difficult, just like some other infamous platformers out there. Strangely, the game also has randomly generated levels. This sounds incredibly dangerous for a platformer but developer Pwnee Studios assures players that the AI is far more intelligent then we all expect. It is apparently able to judge distance between platforms, what would be considered a good layout for various difficulty settings, and the like. You can download Cloudberry Kingdom right now on PSN (for PS3) for $9.99. A Vita version is likely to launch next month. If you absolutely hate PSN though you can wait until August 2nd to grab the game on Steam. Or you can even wait for the eventual launches on XBLA and Wii U. Cloudberry Kingdom is ready to spread the pain to all types of gamers.
  20. Developer: Size Five Games Publisher: Size Five Games Platform: PC Release Date: June 28th, 2013 Sometimes, when you first hear about a game, you seem to go "Ooh, ooh, ah........AH......." as you read more about it. The premise might sound interesting right off the bat, but your expectations falter the more you think about it or read a few reviews. Gun Monkeys is a game about monkeys vying for cash and power, and really I have no clue why. Apparently, you the player are a CEO of a company in the present and you have to send legions of expendable monkeys into the future to retrieve power cubes because human life has ceased to exist by that time? Seriously, if that premise doesn't either intrigue you or confuse you I don't blame you, you can't really get a neutral sort of reaction out of that kind of description! The game is all about the brisk matches and nerve-wracking gameplay though, I promise. There's a tutorial included, but I skipped it because a friend told me the controls and I was ready to go. As the game is meant for multiplayer, you have some unique options available at your disposal even at the server browsing menu. You have the regular servers, such as US 1 or US 2. However, something that makes this game stand out a bit is its inclusion of private lobbies for any groups you're in on Steam! DEFINITELY a neat feature, even if it's small. We managed to get a few nice GamePodunk games going, though later on we encountered a bug where no group servers popped up so we had to resort to US 1 (I believe this has been fixed by now, it was only for a day or two). Upon playing my first few series of matches, I failed miserably. This is a tough game if you don't know what to do, and I learned that fast! I eventually got the hang of things and went on to achieve an almost 80% win rate from 30+ matches played. Pretty good, huh? The matches themselves consist of quick 1v1 fights between you and another monkey. You can jump around, climb walls, shoot each other, blow each other up with mines, and most importantly, pick up power cubes or mystery cubes. Well, not quite most importantly as your actual objective is to deliver the cubes to your little base. Getting the maximum you can carry at once delivered (three) will net you a nice bonus. Also, when you drop off a cube you gain a bit of power and your opponent loses a bit. However, both of your power levels are constantly dropping steadily (and if the match takes too long, quite fast!). Killing a monkey or dying will also drop or raise both of your power levels. Now, you may be wondering what those mystery cubes I mentioned were, though it's easy to guess. They're powerups! These range from unique weaponry to some annoying effects for your opponent, such as being frozen or being heavily slowed. Probably my favorite part of each match is the randomized stage you fight on. You can fight underwater, on odd tunnels layered with mines right outside your base, with jetpacks (on the extremely rare change you manage to find one, I never did), or perhaps a pleasant snowy mountain.......eventually to be coated with the blood of battle. Speaking of that, this game is fairly bloody, but it gushes out like a pastry oozing with jelly. No, I don't care for those if you're wondering, yuck. Anyway, the blood is all cartoonish, so it fits the game's theme. Graphically, this is a nice game to look at. Nothng spectacular, but the animations are good and the visuals are vibrant and pleasant to look at, not counting when your opponent's mine blows up in your face in slow-motion. The sounds are tolerable and the music is not really noteworthy though I like it. After a match, you either earn or lose some money, which you can spend (or not!) at the shop. The only items there are "perks"- think of these as upgrades. They make the match slightly skewed in your favor if you happen to face a new player, but they make it a-little-less-unfair-for-you if you face a player with hundreds of matches. Some of these are things such as "extra damage to your gun" or "mad hops", so they really can change the way you play, for good or for worse. There's achievements and TRADING CARDS *gasp*, which are nice additions though they aren't anything spectacular. A few of the achievements, particularly one for "breaking the tutorial" seem very amusing, which is a nice touch. Is this game worth your time and money? Well, yes I'd say. You have to have a friend who has it to actually have a fantastic time though, but even with the few random players you meet you can still have a blast. It's more fun with friends, but the solid gameplay and quick matches makes this a game worth checking out if you have the money to spare. Be aware of the bugs, but buy it for the stylized atmosphere and wonderful 1v1 action. I give this game a: 8/10 Want to win a copy of Gun Monkeys on Steam for yourself or a friend? Comment below saying what your favorite color of monkey (you can customize them in the game, you know!) is for a chance to win! The winner will be randomly selected on Wednesday, July 17th, 2013. That's in just a few days! So, make sure to enter before then! Good luck!
  21. Marcus Estrada

    Review: Zack Zero

    Developer: Crocodile Entertainment Publisher: Crocodile Entertainment Platform: PC (Steam), PS3 (PSN) Release Date: April 29, 2013 ESRB: E for Everyone A download code was provided by the publisher for this review This review is based on the PC version of the game Zack Zero is a game which initially landed on PS3 in early 2012. Developer Crocodile Entertainment had created a title that passed Sony certification and was ready to roll. However, between the game being certified and it launching on PSN, a new PS3 update came out. This caused unforeseen bugs with the game and because of this many reviewers were soured by the broken experience. Despite this unfortunate setback, the developers continued to push forward with a PC release. Does the Steam version of Zack Zero fare any better? For the most part, it does. The game is a 2D platformer with 3D graphics that spans a handful of colorful levels. With such a small description, it doesn“t really sound like anything special. There are excellent experiences to be had but many are probably going to gloss over them due to the fairly boring beginning. You“re brought into the world as Zack to save your superhero girlfriend because some reptilian alien is angry at you for killing his brother in the past. You then use your own special powers to travel through locations and get her back. The stories behind platformers don“t need to be Oscar-winning, but this one is downright cheesy at times. This is aided in no way by the English voice actor who isn“t very good. All the same, you can mostly tune it out as the primary aspect of Zack Zero is the 30 levels you“ll traverse through. Levels are grouped into certain “areas” and each area has its own visual style. Sometimes worlds are lush with green wildlife, and other times they are rocky with lava seeping through the cracks. As Zack, you must navigate sometimes perilous landscapes to reach the end of a level. Sometimes you“ll head left to your goal, other times right or even up. Thankfully this is a game which allows for exploratory aspects instead of just scrolling you continuously toward the end. Platforms may rise, crumble, or require buttons to activate. The latter requires solving puzzles but puzzles are routinely pretty simple. Along the way you“ll come across numerous enemies ranging from crabs and frogs to armored lizards. The majority of enemies are simple to take down, although some mini-bosses appear from time to time. Then of course there are the few end level bosses which have their own repeated pattern of movesets. All bosses have the same strategy that needs to be applied to them, though. Survive their onslaught (or jump over them), then fire away. Nothing else is required aside from good timing on jumps and dodges. Zack can make use of his special suit to use fire, ice, and rock powers. Ice can freeze enemies or slow down time, while fire makes him faster as well as able to burn enemies to a crisp. Rock powers offer the ability to break through specific walls and floors to unveil a new path. As interesting as these features are, they remain unnecessary for most of the game. There are times when rock mode needs to be activated to push heavy boulders around, but otherwise there is not much to them. If enemies had been more creative then perhaps using the special skills would have actually been fun. It“s easy to dog on Zack Zero considering it is fairly simplistic and doesn“t make much use of its hallmark superhero aspects. Still, it is a lovely platforming experience. The first few areas aren“t anything special but do show a skill in regards to platform level design. Once you dig deeper, though, you“ll come across some really excellent levels that are far more creative than what some other indie games are coming up with. The caves in particular were fused with magic that caused some cool effects. Only with certain fights does the game hurt its flow. The experience lasts between four and five hours and ends on a cliffhanger. Because this isn“t a story most will be invested in, that“s not a big deal. With each section of the game having different backdrops and enemies it doesn“t feel like the product was quickly made. That said, there“s not much reason to replay the game unless you“re interested in unlocking all achievements or climbing the leaderboard. Despite being fine-tuned before its PC release, there are still some problems to be found. For one, despite the “full” levels which include a foreground and background, sometimes a foreground element will get in your way. This is not a glitch but design choice and, while rare, is still a hindrance when it happens. Enemy hitboxes are a little large too, which can be evidenced when jumping over mini-bosses. Sometimes you“ll end up straddling their heads due to not quite clearing the hitbox even with a double jump. Finally, there are times you“ll get stuck in the environment. Sometimes you can easily get out, but other times, you may be doomed until restarting the level. This happened to me after completing the final boss fight and was distressing as can be. If you love platformers then Zack Zero deserves your time. Those who are not willing to bear a game with repetitive fighting and dull storytelling will not be able to stick with it, though. It“s a shame because there is great platforming to be had with the game but its outward appearance is sure to push players away. Hopefully fans of the genre will soon discover the game and see that it does have something to offer to the world of platforming. Pros: + Attractive and creative visuals + Exciting platforming with neat ideas + Good deal of levels to explore Cons: - Some problematic design choices - Fire/Ice/Stone elements are not useful beyond required segments - Uninspired voice acting would have been best left out Overall Score: 6 (out of 10) Decent Zack Zero is a game that should not be overlooked if you enjoy playing platformers that aren“t stuck using the same design concepts of Super Mario Bros.
  22. Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is one of the most unexpected game revivals of the past few years. The original Great Giana Sisters on Commodore 64 was certainly adored by some, but very much a Super Mario Bros. knock off. Regardless, Twisted Dreams set out to craft a more unique experience than its namesake. Although the game was already available on PC, and later XBLA, the PlayStation Network was left out. A little under a year after the PC launch, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is finally coming to PSN. This announcement was made via Black Forest Games on the PS Blog. No price or exact date were given but at least the game will be out this month! At this time, only a PS3 version has been announced but many have already been begging for a Vita version. Perhaps we'll see Black Forest Games port Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams to the handheld later on.