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Found 1,130 results

  1. Zelda-like games are a dime dozen these days but Sparklite (from indie developer Merge Games and publisher Red Blue Games) looks to be a cut above the rest with a few things that make it stand out. Part Zelda-like adventure, part rogue-like, and part... crafting-like (?), Sparklite is set in a world where its natural resource (or life force) goes by the same name. Its story focuses on a young heroine named Ada, whose quest is to save the world from an antagonistic, self-named 'Baron' that is seeking to exploit the resource in order to further his own nefarious goals. To do so, you'll explore five procedurally-generated biomes, invent different gadgets and weapons to solve puzzles and defeat enemies, battle giant bosses, and help the local population rebuild The Refuge. Last but not least, all of this will be set to a soundtrack composed by Dale North (of Wizard of Legend fame). If mixing Zelda gameplay, crafting, and a procedurally-generated world sound right up your alley, you can check out Sparklite on the Nintendo Switch eShop, Playstation Store on PlayStation 4, Xbox Games Store on Xbox One, and Steam starting today. The game is also on sale for 15% off on each platform until November 20. Check out the game's launch trailer below! Source: Press Release
  2. Jason Clement

    Review: A Knight's Quest

    Developer: Sky 9 Games Publisher: Curve Digital Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (via Epic Games Store) Release Date: October 10, 2019 ESRB: T for Teen Note: This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game It’s always a bit surprising to me that we don’t see more games use 3D Zelda titles as a base, given the series’ immense popularity. Sky 9 Games' A Knight’s Quest is one of the first indie titles I’ve seen recently that attempts this and actually gets much closer to replicating the experience (especially the adventure aspect) than most other games have. Unfortunately, there are also a number of aspects that hinder it from living up to its potential. In A Knight’s Quest, you play as Rusty – a clumsy adventurer who unwittingly unleashes an unknown, presumably malevolent force that has been sealed away. In order to fight this evil, Rusty is tasked with seeking out four spirit heroes and their powers, which in turn means going on a journey to find each one in their own dungeon. The story isn’t necessarily the most original ever, but it works for setting the game in motion. Likewise, the dialogue often aims for funny and nonsensical, but is hit and miss. This is mostly due to just about every character being written with a combination of snarky/sarcastic wit and internet meme culture; kind of like that awkward friend who tries to be funny by repeating outdated internet memes and jokes. In the end, the character dialogue comes off as more of a first draft and could use a bit more refinement. The game takes a good half hour to really get going, but once it does, its world shows off impressive potential. Though it isn’t the open-ended, interconnected wilderness featured in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it’s apparent the developers took a lot of inspiration from it. There are many large, detailed areas for you to explore with treasure chests and other loot off the beaten path, skeletons at campfires, different enemies littering the landscape, and sidequests you can undertake from certain characters you come across in your travels. In fact, the design of the world and its various areas is perhaps the most impressive and compelling aspect of the game. Not only is it appealing from a visual standpoint, many of the areas are massive in size and can take 20+ minutes or more to traverse for first-time players, adding to the feeling that you’re on a long journey. There is also an oddly satisfying ‘Zelda meets Mario’ aspect to the gameplay, where it incorporates a lot of 3D platforming and vertical exploration in certain areas, giving the game a bit more of a unique flavor in contrast to typical adventure games. Likewise, the soundtrack composed by Will Bedford is excellent and evokes a real sense of adventure and wonder. The overworld theme has a heroic melody reminiscent of the Hyrule Field theme from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and the Desert Proving Grounds theme is a real symphonic highlight, featuring an eclectic mix of strings, horns, flutes, and different kinds of unique percussion (such as bells). Unfortunately, that’s just about where the games’ good qualities stop. While the world is expansive and looks great, the actual characters look rather bland and mediocre. The enemy design is much more miss than hit, consisting of such things as generic, one-eyed snake creatures, generic skeletons with swords, scorpions, and other creatures that just aren’t that original or interesting. Making matters even worse is that they all use the same two or three sound effects, making them even more irritating. Perhaps the biggest issue of all is the combat and controls. For the most part, combat works just enough that you can get through the game, but it’s uneven and loose at best. Where it gets a bit dicey is when you face multiple enemies at once. There’s at least one major instance in the story where you’ll be faced with this scenario; however, you’ll realize that the battle system is largely designed around you fighting one enemy at a time. So while you’re attacking one, the rest are still doing (sometimes major) damage to you, and it’s impossible to dodge every attack. There are certain items (such as bombs) designed to attack large groups, but they’re not terribly effective, and the few multi-enemy attacks you have are not super viable because of how long they take to perform (you must wait and charge a few seconds before unleashing them). The flow of battle also simply isn’t fast enough for you to fight large groups of enemies evenly, leading Rusty to slowly fight one enemy and clumsily move to the next. Beyond that, a number of standard quality of life features that are generally present in games like this are either simply missing in this one, or not implemented as effectively as they should be. One major issue is there are no maps of each area beyond a simple, illustrated overworld map in your sub-menu. There’s a compass at the top of the screen that will show you which direction your objective is in, but it’s not 100% foolproof and can sometimes misguide you. Also, fast travel is something that’s implemented fairly early on in many games, yet you don’t even get access to it in the first half of this game even though you pass by many fast-travel stations (that you can't yet access) in your travels, forcing you to sometimes retrace your steps through long, winding areas. There’s also no way to sell off any loot you acquire early on, as well as no meaningful way to buy items (especially health-recovering ones) until the second major area you get to. This leads to another issue in that you simply don’t have enough inventory storage slots in the beginning, and thus no way to store some of the more valuable items you come across when you run out of room. And last but not least, there were a number of clipping issues I faced. In one area, my character simply stopped responding to any control input and I had to restart the game entirely to continue, and in yet other areas I would clip through the wall or floor and die instantly. Despite the negatives, I still had fun throughout the game, and there’s a lot to admire about A Knight’s Quest. Its world is one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen created by an indie team. The soundtrack is also exceptional and could easily be mistaken for a AAA title's score. Even much of the gameplay (especially dungeons) and main quest itself is pretty fun and compelling. There’s arguably a good game beneath a rough exterior here; if the game had another half a year or more of polish, I might’ve been able to call this a pretty good game. As it currently is, the negative aspects drag a good experience down to just a decent one at best. Pros + Large, impressive world with lots of sidequests and ripe for exploration + Soundtrack is great + Dungeons are surprisingly fun and capture a bit of the Zelda magic Cons - Issues with the fluidity of combat; fighting large groups is incredibly difficult and not really fair for players - Lack of standard quality of life features (especially early on) that would make the game much better and a lot more pleasant to play - Character and enemy models are a bit bland in design - Infrequent clipping issues at various points Overall Score: 6.5 (out of 10) Decent An impressive world (both visually and in design) and epic musical score are undermined by a number of issues plaguing gameplay as well as a lack of standard quality of life features, causing this Zelda-like title to be just a decent adventure at best for those brave enough to overcome its problems. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Switch code provided by the publisher.
  3. I was looking at my purchase history on Steam earlier and noticed that basically everything I've bought in the last several months has been discounted to some degree, which is no surprise - we all know Steam does constant deals, what with weeklong sales, daily deals, midweek, and weekenders. Then of course there's the numerous other sites that sell Steam keys, which of course have their own discounts and deals going on all the time too. And with so many games having launch discounts and going on sale regularly within months, you almost have to TRY to pay the MSRP for a Steam game. So with that in mind, I thought I'd ask - how often do you pay full price for Steam games? And I mean full full price, because even a paltry 10% off is still a discount. For me, it's almost never. As I said I was looking at my recent-ish purchase history, and the only ones I paid full price for were Tales of Zestiria and Mighty Switch Force! Hose it Down (which is like $3 anyway). Both of them were worth it I think (even if the Tales of Symphonia port I got for pre-ordering Zestiria was a disaster) though I still need to finish Zesty Tales, haha. Literally everything else I went through was discounted to some degree, even if it was just a little 10-20% launch discount. There have been several games I've jumped on at launch, but always found some way to get them cheaper, since it's really not that hard to find some kind of sale/coupon/whatever I can use on various sites. Anyway, how about you all? Remember any games you paid the full price for? Was it worth it, or did you regret it later?
  4. Developer: Spike Chunsoft/Lancarse Publisher: Spike Chunsoft Platform: PS4 and PC Release Date: April 9, 2019 ESRB: M for Mature After the many memorable twists and turns of the iconic Danganronpa series one would guess that the next project by many of its former key staff would strike at a similar gaming vein. And yet, that sort of assumption could not have been further off the mark. Spike Chunsoft's newest title, Zanki Zero: Last Beginning, explores and experiments with much more uncharted territory by combining first-person dungeon crawling gameplay, survival systems, and the perpetual death and rebirth of its lead cast. To say it is a departure from their previous visual novel work would honestly be putting it lightly. As cliche as this turn of phrase likely winds up being it is still more than tempting to say there is not really anything quite like Zanki Zero: Last Beginning as a game. Or, at the very least, it is the most unique first-person dungeon crawler in recent memory within a world where it is all too easy to compare to the highly-acclaimed Etrian Odyssey series, for better or for worse. The most immediate way Zanki Zero establishes its distinct take on the subgenre is through its inherent story/premise. Despite its initial Danganronpa-esque setup, in which several adults find themselves with trapped on an abandoned island (with clear gaps in the memory in how they got there), the title quickly veers into much stranger territory. After the prologue sequence the lead cast of characters not only learns that they can be revived after even the goriest of deaths via an arcade-like "extend machine" to a literal child-like state once more, but also that they are all clones that age an accelerated rate to the point where they will die of old age in roughly two weeks time. This odd narrative pretense is creatively implemented into nearly every facet of the game. Story scenes vary based on each character's current physical age, down to appearance and voice pitch, leading to many odd interactions throughout between the cast throughout as they try and figure out their current bizarre predicament. On a gameplay front, however, the aging mechanic becomes very much a variable to take into account as it directly affects combat prowess such as how quickly characters can attack to the ever-present worry of when one of them may simply die of old age while exploring. Perhaps more morbid than frequently dying of old age as a gameplay mechanic (if one can even live that long) is that dying in different ways, known in-game as "Shigabane", is highly encouraged as it is the primary means of strengthening your characters. For example, dying while being poisoned permanently increases one's resistance to toxin, and kicking the bucket as an old geezer permanently slows down the aging process entirely, and biting the dust while over encumbered permanently increases how much a character can carry at any one time. It is an intriguing system but admittedly becomes somewhat annoying on higher difficulties because so many enemies and environmental obstacles can more or less one-hit KO characters if one does not deliberately grind for different Shigabane in advance, despite being negligible on the lowest difficulties otherwise. While a good majority of Zanki Zero's gameplay mechanics are in its addictive dungeon expeditions (and some creative environmental puzzles) in each story chapter, there are a few noteworthy systems outside of it. For instance, in the main island, hub players can build new facilities such as crafting benches for equipable gear, housing (which has a whole affinity system if certain characters share rooms enough), or even a creating working toilet. Still, it is a shame that, either due to wildly varying drop rates between the different difficulties or item information being obfuscated altogether at times (how was I supposed to know that "monkey adhesive" does not actually drop from the monkey enemies?), a lot of it is unlikely to be underutilized by the end. Regardless, the most disappointing aspects of the entire game are simply the gameplay or story elements that get underdeveloped in spite of the often engaging dungeon crawling. Like, players eventually get access to parasitic implants called "Cilione" that give characters unique skills for healing, attacking, or the ability to open new parts of the terrain, but are never really encouraged to be used that much due to the harsh penalty they inflict on overuse. It is a similar deal with a lot of other gameplay mechanics such as targeting/breaking enemy limbs or keeping up with aspects like the hunger/bladder meters as the necessity of either are nearly entirely decided upon if one is playing on the highest difficulties or not (which thankfully can be toggled between mid-playthrough). Yet, the storytelling itself has even more unrealized potential. Despite having some intriguing character-focused vignettes each chapter that delve into some rather dark subject matter, the main story itself almost serves to contrast by unfortunately meandering a lot. Every other story chapter forces some shallow attempt at shock value and play upon the seven deadly sins motif, but is easily undermined by the fact the characters are, well, clones that can be revived upon death. Plus, it really does not help that even the interesting flashbacks are setup by some truly awful mascot characters that put showcase's the games writing at its absolute worst with juvenile and tone deaf potty humor that thinks it is amusing. It is a shame that, regardless of the developer's Danganronpa pedigree, the storytelling of Zanki Zero is barely a noteworthy footnote in stark contrast to the much more engaging dungeon crawling. Zanki Zero: Last Beginning frequently bounces between both refreshingly unique to incredibly flawed all in the same breath. It plays with a lot of different gameplay systems going from surprisingly addictive dungeon crawling and level puzzles to survival mechanics that do not quite stand out as much as the game wants them to be. If anything, the title should be played more so due to its zany take on dungeon crawling RPGs than going in with preconceived notions of expecting something similar at all story-wise to the developer's prior work in Danganronpa, and that is perfectly fine. Pros + Genuinely unique take on the DRPG mold that is a welcome contrast from the developer's previous work + Varied level motifs and puzzles prevent it from getting tedious like many in the subgenre + Aging mechanic helps present both cutscenes as well as the dungeon crawling in an intriguing light + Quirky overall personality and characters that have twisted backstories Cons - Those expecting it to be particularly similar to Danganronpa, or only care about the main storytelling, are likely to be disappointed - Frequent inventory management or attempting to get different "Shigabane" can get tedious on higher difficulties - Really juvenile writing at times that is especially annoying when the two mascot characters are on-screen (which is too often) - Some underutilized gameplay systems like the base building or Cilione abilities Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good Zanki Zero: Last Beginning is a refreshingly unique take on dungeon crawlers that is only really held back by it not going quite far enough with certain gameplay systems or, more disappointing, its underutilized storytelling Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  5. Knights and Bikes, London-based Foam Sword Games' first game, has officially gone gold and is coming to a PlayStation 4 or PC near you soon. Dubbed a "Goonies-inspired adventure," Knights and Bikes is a co-op, story-based adventure game that centers on two girls who are searching for the legendary cursed treasure of Penfurzy Island. Across the course of six days you'll explore the island, solve puzzles, talk to different people, and fight off the ancient curse that protects the treasure using such items as frisbees, water balloons, toilet plungers, a game gauntlet, and more. Also central to the gameplay are bikes, which you'll need to upgrade in order to visit certain areas of the island. If the game's painterly, cartoon-like aesthetic seems familiar to you, there's good reason for it: the game's central creators, Rex Crowle and Moo Yu, previously worked at Media Molecule on award-winning games such as LittleBigPlanet and Tearaway. Further bolstering the pedigree on the title is Kenny Young, another Media Molecule alum who also most recently worked on 2018's breakout VR hit Astro Bot Rescue Mission; and Daniel Pemberton, who composed much of the music for LittleBigPlanet 1 and 2, and was the composer for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Originally launching as a successful Kickstarter project in 2016, it's been a long ride for Knights and Bikes through its 3+ year development but you'll finally be able to play this whimsical adventure when it comes digitally to PlayStation 4 and PC on August 7. Check out the game's E3 2018 trailer below. Source: Foam Sword Games
  6. Developer: âge Publisher: PQube Platform: PS Vita and PC Release Date: June 12, 2018 ESRB: M for Mature It is hardly an overstatement to say that the success of Muv-Luv's Kickstarter is a testament to just how much people adore Muv-Luv Alternative. Being the final act of a visual novel trilogy, Muv-Luv Alternative firmly plays upon the expectations of its once lighthearted roots in the original Muv-Luv to present a far more mature sci-fi tale in which the stakes have never been higher. Does it provide an exciting, satisfying conclusion or will it leave the player traumatized by the end of the whole ordeal? ...That was a trick question, actually, because Muv-Luv Alternative has no shortage of excitement and trauma. As the the trilogy finale, Muv-Luv Alternative expects a strong familiarity of the original Muv-Luv because it takes nearly every route, character, and story element from them into account. Because of this, some amount of narrative spoilers of the previous titles are pretty much unavoidable when talking about Alternative to any serious degree even though there will be an effort to minimize them. With that disclaimer out of the way, Muv-Luv Alternative brings players back in the past, quite literally, as the lead character Takeru Shirogane's consciousness returns to an all too familiar October date yet again in a Groundhog Day fashion. After witnessing the end of mankind during its last ditch effort plan called "Alternative V" within Muv-Luv Unlimited's finale, Takeru is now driven to do whatever it takes to steer mankind's chance at survival back on its course and prevent it from happening once again. With this pretense, Alternative has the really intriguing setup of both the player and lead character being on the page regarding events of games past. As such, most of the in-game dialogue choices have the player/Takeru armed with the knowledge they should not have at this point, yet also the anxiety of the consequences when attempting to change too much to the point where he can not predict events going forward. It is by playing upon this expectation that the storytelling is quite willing to teach players that change may not necessarily be for the better. The previous title, Muv-Luv Unlimited, frequently tip-toed around its darker story elements yet rarely committed to anything to a frustrating degree. Muv-Luv Alternative, however, has an immense sense of foreboding throughout and one can not really overstate just how grim the narrative can shift at any time. For instance, there was certain gut punch sequence in particular that left me so disheartened that I literally could not play the game the following day. Not because I was not engaged I while playing it, but because of how effective the game was at delivering its narrative cruelty. Little did I know that I was not even halfway through the game yet and had so much more (gripping) heartbreak in store. To say that Muv-Luv Alternative is an emotional roller-coaster is putting it lightly, but there is a slow introductory ramp before reaching those immense narratives highs. It is not exactly due to its deliberate Groundhog Day nature of seeing familiar events in a different light either but mostly because of how Takeru himself has a few too many redundant flashbacks and goofy anime antics that it makes the early narrative pacing move to a near crawl in addition to revisiting what should be familiar events. Plus, well, the game itself is massive for visual novel standards and will easily take fifty hours for slower readers to get through. So it is quite demanding to ask players to trudge through noticeably less compelling initial story instances when it goes on for more than a few hours. But still, in spite of its pacing issues, Muv Luv Alternative wisely utilizes a lot of it to work towards some straight up expertly-handled character development for its lead protagonist in particular. Frankly speaking, Takeru was rather obnoxious in the previous games (heck, the start of this game too) to the point it was difficult to believe that any woman would fall head over heels for him in games past and to see him evolve so thoroughly as a person in a very believable way is nothing short of impressive. The many key heroines do certainly have their time in the limelight as well too, of course, like the incredibly strong-willed Meiya to the fascinating yet also so very morally ambiguous scientist Yuuko, but few of them see nearly as much change as Takeru does during Alternative's tale. Going back to the main story, however, in addition to it being very emotionally charged it also far more complex from a world-building perspective than prior Muv-Luv titles.Themes that were vaguely touched upon in Unlimited this game more than delves into like from a political intrigue standpoint, to the inner-workings of their mech suits as well as battle tactics, and, for better or worse, the true horrors of war from both a human perspective and also a very not human one when the alien race called the BETA makes it abundantly clear why mankind is on the brink of extinction in this timeline. It is a highly involved grand finale and after seeing first hand just the lengths it goes to tell it there is no doubt in my mind it is regarded as a classic for a reason. It is easy to put an unreasonable level of expectations upon Muv-Luv Alternative. It demands so much out out of the player upfront with two basically mandatory visual novel predecessors, as well as to be able to put up with Alternative's own fairly plodding early goings from a time-commitment perspective to fully appreciate its massive narrative. But, that is just it, while there are most certainly a few glaring shortcomings Muv-Luv Alternative's narrative high points are incredibly high. Whether it be through the course of its grim but compelling sci-fi tale to its phenomenal lead character development it is easy to see why the fandom is so passionate towards this trilogy finale. Those that are in-fact patient enough to go through the demanding legwork will likely confidently see why Muv-Luv Alternative earns its title as a classic among visual novels. Pros + Stellar character development + Immensely grim, but very compelling storytelling Cons - A few too many flashback moments (and silly anime antics) lead to some really slow early exposition in particular - Context from the previous two Muv-Luv games is basically required Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great By being just as grim as it is poignant Muv-Luv Alternative ends up being a thrilling conclusion to the trilogy for those patient enough to put up with its many slower early pacing moments Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS Vita code provided by the publisher.
  7. PQube's and JoySteak Studio's Songbird Symphony is out on digital shops this week, and it stars a cute little bird named 'Birb' that sets off on an adventure to discover his heritage. As Birb, you'll move the environment around you by tapping in sync with background beats, solve different puzzles to add new sound queues to the background music, collect feathers to learn more about different birds, and explore interconnected levels with many different passages. Oh, and you'll participate in rhythm battles as well, and with its combination of platforming, rhythm, and puzzles, it definitely looks to be one of the more unique indie titles out this year. If that all sounds good to you, you can check out Songbird Symphony on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC (via Steam) for $16.99. And be sure to check out the trailer below! Source: Press Release
  8. Team17 is no stranger to games based on cooking thanks to publishing Ghost Town Game's mega smash Overcooked! series in recent years, and this week they're introducing a new game from Hermes Interactive that puts a bit of a different spin on the genre called Automachef. Instead of directly controlling the chefs like in the Overcooked! games, Automachef is all about automating the process via machinery. Essentially, it's one part puzzle game and one part resource management, in which you create the ideal layout for your culinary creations. There are three modes to play through: Campaign, Contracts, and Sandbox. Campaign focuses on having the player create efficient kitchens while keeping in mind spatial, energy, and resource management challenges. Contracts mode puts you in the role of a business owner in which you'll manage funds and expand your business. Lastly, Sandbox mode is exactly what it sounds like, letting you roam free and experiment with creating any type of kitchen you'd like. Oh, and if you play the game on PC, you'll have the option to use Steam Workshop to create your own recipes, ingredients, and levels. Automachef is available to buy digitally right now on Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam for £10.99/14,99€/$14.99. Check out the launch trailer for the game below! Source: Press Release
  9. Over the weekend, Bandai Namco announced at Anime Expo that a pair of Digimon titles would be heading to the Nintendo Switch later this year -- namely, Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, and its sequel, Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth -- Hacker's Memory. Both will be included in one collection called Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: Complete Edition. The announcement comes as good news for fans of the series since the PlayStation 4 version of Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth (the English version of which originally released in 2016) is now out of print physically and was removed from the PlayStation Store in December 2018. While Bandai Namco's official response as to why it was removed is a bit cagey, it's largely assumed that it was due to the license (which Saban currently owns) ending for that particular title. In any case, fans can look forward to playing Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: Complete Edition when it lands on Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam later this year on October 18. Source: Press Release
  10. Developer: WindThunder Publisher: Winking Entertainment Corp. Platform: Switch, PS4, PC, iOS Release Date: May 23, 2019 ESRB: T Note: This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game The episodic game format is not without its risks. While it can potentially ease the cost of development in creating smaller games released in sequence over a span of time, a lot hinges on the ability to keep the player’s interest for the duration of the full series. If the first episode doesn’t hook the player, they’re not likely to return for the rest. Such is one of the hurdles faced by the action RPG, Heroine Anthem Zero. Heroine Anthem Zero: Episode 1, or Heroine Anthem Zero: Sacrifice, is the first chapter of a prequel to the original Heroine Anthem: The Elect of Wassernixe and Heroine Anthem II: The Angel of Sarem, which released back in 2002 and 2003, respectively. As both of those games are rather old and obscure, it’s fortunate that Heroine Anthem Zero is set thousands of years prior, and thus requires no knowledge of the originals. Episode 1 features the story of Wanin, a young warrior of the Norse-inspired Uzato tribe that works as a Forest Keeper, patrolling the forest near his hometown for danger. He’s accompanied for the duration of the game by the fairy, Mormolia, who assists him in his duties. Most of the game follows the perspective of this pair, who are entertaining, if simplistic, in their writing. Wanin is a brave, capable warrior that cares for his sister, Naire, who has been chosen to serve as the maiden of an important ceremony in a neighboring land, though he’s also somewhat oblivious and foolhardy. The more perceptive Mormolia, on the other hand, is quick to anger, often insults Wanin for his obliviousness, and loves to drink. Unfortunately, there’s not much else to say about the story, as the main plot beats serve as apparent set-up for what comes, I presume, in Episode 2. And despite the short length, it does not feel particularly well-paced. Large amounts of story and exposition take precedence in the first few hours before turning the focus almost exclusively to gameplay broken up with smaller, lighter story beats for the remainder of the experience. To its credit, the game has some interesting lore. Story sequences are enhanced with great character art, as well as painterly illustrations put on display when characters speak of the myths, legends, and history of their land. The characters are all voiced in Japanese, and their acting boosts the experience as well. The bigger faults with Heroine Anthem Zero lie with its gameplay. As a side-scrolling action RPG, it generally controls well. Wanin can swing his sword in a basic combo as well as dash, double-jump, and scale vertical walls. But the combat overall is very basic and generally lacking in challenge, even on the standard difficulty. There are some enemies that can only be damaged by charging Wanin’s sword attack, and enemies can be stunned by sending Mormolia at them. Even the final boss, the most challenging encounter in the game, was little more than a battle of attrition. In fact, I didn’t die to any of the bosses in the game. What killed me far more often, and with far more frustration, was the game’s platforming. Relatively early on, the game introduces spiked vines that stretch across sections of the ground, walls, and ceilings. At that point, these vines are the single most damaging thing in the game and will knock off huge chunks of life every time you collide with one. The game also features instant-death bottomless pits, and while some are clearly obvious, such as when hopping across a rickety bridge stretched across a chasm, others very much aren’t. More than once, I hopped down a hole, thinking it might lead down to an underground cave, only to be met with the 'Game Over' screen. And if you die, you’re forced to retry from the last save point you accessed. Another issue comes from the game’s map and fast travel system. The map itself is of little use and does nothing to illustrate the actual landscapes. It simply indicates how sections in the zone you’re currently in are linked together. Once fast travel is unlocked, most save points will feature a character that will freely take you to most any other save point, but only within the same zone that you’re currently in. This means, for example, that it’s not possible to jump straight back to town from the western woods. But even then, there’s no real incentive to actually make use of the fast travel, as the fast travel character also doubles as the shop with all the best healing items and weapons necessary to beat the game. Possibly the most annoying moment in the game came during a dungeon that serves as the home of the few simplistic-but-required puzzles. In a large chamber, there are four switches that need to be pressed in order to open the way forward. Each of these switches are in turn blocked by gates that open via other switches, and these timed gates will close after a few seconds. After clearing all four gates, hitting the switches, and opening the door ahead, I backtracked to the previous chamber and used the save point, only to find on my return that the switches had all reset and the door ahead had closed, forcing me to redo the entire sequence. Having only played the game on the Switch, I have no idea how its technical performance compares to that of other platforms. Originally released in 2016, Episode 1 was published on the PC, PS4, and iOS before it made its way to Nintendo’s console this year. Aspects of some of the game’s menus feel tuned more for touch, though playing on a TV is just fine. The only real hiccup comes in the equipment menu, where there’s a strangely long, noticeable lag while scrolling through weapons or clothing in the inventory. The game also occasionally encounters odd hitches during cutscenes, and even during the end credits as different images are swapped in and out. For the most part, these graphic hitches aren’t that bothersome, but on rarer occasions, I’ve had similar hitching occur during gameplay. I’ve had to abort more than a couple of jump attempts because of an odd pause in the animation, though I can’t blame any of my deaths on this. On a more positive note, the music in Heroine Anthem Zero is a genuine highlight. The soundtrack, composed by Joe Chou, is comprised of some great music that fits the tone of the world and characters. Tonally, it reminded me at points of games like Valkyrie Profile, and even in the game’s most annoying moments, the music was one element that I always appreciated. Heroine Anthem Zero: Episode 1 feels like a mixed bag. I like the characters, the music, the world, and the general sense of the gameplay. But the pacing, platforming, and technical oddities frequently pulled me out of the experience. I can’t say that I didn’t have any fun, but had there been more polish and fewer annoyances, I could have had a lot more. Based on my experience, I wouldn’t rule out playing Episode 2, but I’d hope that it’s an improvement. Pros + Fun artwork and interesting, if simple characters + Great music and entertaining voice acting + Attractive and colorful artwork and graphics + Combat is in general lightweight and not stressful Cons + Odd pacing of story and gameplay + Annoying platforming with high-damage hazards and instant-death pits + Lack of responsiveness in some menus, and the map is near useless + Odd animation hitches occur every once in a while that can throw timing off while platforming Overall Score: 5 (out of 10) Average Heroine Anthem Zero: Episode 1 is a mixed bag with likeable characters, music, world, and general gameplay but is brought down by its pacing, platforming, and technical oddities. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
  11. Nearly a year after the final release of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero – Ultimate Edition, WayForward has announced that Shantae 5 is officially in development and expected to release later this year. No details have been revealed about Shantae's fifth outing just yet – apparently, even the name isn't set in stone yet according to WayForward's official Twitter account. However, the developer did reveal a piece of art and a tentative logo, which can be seen above. Shantae 5 will be released later in 2019 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, and the recently announced Apple Arcade. Speaking of which, WayForward also revealed that a new title called Spidersaurs being developed exclusively for Apple Arcade. Not much is known about this title either aside from the fact that it is an action game being developed by the team that made Contra 4. One of the titular Spidersaurs can be seen in the first piece of art that was released with the logo as well. Spidersaurs is set to launch later this year on Apple Arcade. Source: WayForward (via Twitter - 1, 2)
  12. The classic Data East game Windjammers has had a massive resurgence in popularity in recent years, thanks to Giant Bomb raising awareness of the title during their many gameplay livestreams (you can check out the story behind that in this Waypoint article). So much so, in fact, that publisher DotEmu decided to grab the rights to re-release the original game and even produce a full-blown sequel. And while Windjammers 2 was originally announced in August of last year, we're only just getting our first official look at the gameplay in today's new trailer. Featuring some fast-paced, frenzied disc-flying action, the footage also provides a glimpse at the new players, abilities, and the game's gorgeous, hand-drawn visuals and animations. Check out the new trailer below. Windjammers 2 doesn't have a release date just yet but the game is expected to release in 2019 on Nintendo Switch and PC. Source: Press Release
  13. Though Yacht Club Games originally were planning to release their final Shovel Knight campaign, King of Cards, along with Shovel Knight: Showdown (the multiplayer competitive mode), an amiibo 3-pack (featuring King Knight, Plague Knight, and Specter Knight), and a physical version of Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove (the complete collection of every piece of Shovel Knight content in one package) on April 18, the indie developer has now announced one last delay for all of the content. The reason for this is because the team needs more time to polish off the gameplay and make sure everything is in tip-top shape before they're satisfied with the final result. As for the amiibo, Yacht Club Games mentioned that their functionality is tied to the launch of King of Cards, which means it only makes sense to release them when that campaign is ready to go. Due to all of this, Yacht Club Games is not announcing a new release date until they're certain of it, but insist that the delay should only push the release back several months. Here are a few other interesting tidbits that the team revealed: A new screenshot showcasing King of Cards reveals a brand new side-character named 'Traitorus,' who happens to be King Pridemoor's former advisor. Another King of Cards screen reveals what the world map looks like; quite a bit different from Shovel of Hope's. A new story screenshot shows Specter Knight rushing off to confront The Enchantress. King of Card's levels are shorter than previous Shovel Knight levels but are more numerous (with more than 30). At one point, Yacht Club wasn't sure if King Knight would fit on the 3DS due to his size, but that problem has since been solved. Words of Magic and 8-4 Games have helped translate the game into 9 languages now. In the meantime, stay tuned for a final release date for the rest of Shovel Knight's upcoming content. Source: Yacht Club Games
  14. Developer: The Bearded Ladies Consulting Publisher: Funcom Platform: PS4, Xbox One, and PC Release Date: December 4, 2018 ESRB: M for Mature Note: This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game It does not take too much effort to find a game that's heavily inspired by the challenging turn-based tactical title X-COM: Enemy Unknown nowadays. But there is something to be said about encountering one that's well-made and reminds you why the X-COM formula is often so compelling. Based on a fairly old Swedish pen-and-paper RPG, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden intends to do just that by taking its source material to the strategic, turn-based video game realm. It is a title that has some fresh ideas, even if its road to paradise is anything but neatly paved. As one would guess from something strongly influenced by the late XCOM titles, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden boasts gun-centric turn-based tactical combat as well as plenty of oppressive difficulty options, such as permadeath or autosaving after every turn for those masochistic enough. But, beyond that obvious parallel, Mutant Year Zero revels in its post-apocalyptic world-building far more than X-COM. One of the primary distinctions is that the units the player has control over are mutants (referred to as "stalkers"), such as the on-the-nose titled "Dux," who as one likely guessed is an anthropomorphic duck, to the less obvious ones like the human-like Selma who can do stuff like bind enemies to the ground with tree roots despite looking relatively normal otherwise. The more inspired aspects of the game come into play rather quickly as there is a heavy emphasis on stealth and gathering resources throughout the various zones. Most enemies have bright red vision cones and it is up to the player to wisely, or not, attempt to thin down enemy numbers before they can attempt to call reinforcements and likely start up a prolonged and difficult turn-based combat scenario. It creates an intriguing blend of real-time and turn-based elements while also encouraging thorough exploration for a new gun, piece of armor, or maybe even an old "relic" to bring back to the home base, referred to as the Ark, for various permanent upgrades. While the player feels woefully equipped for most things early in, including stealth (with only one member able to use a silent weapon at the start), the game eventually starts to balance out as one garners new levels, skills, and equipment. There is a fair amount of flexibility in tactical options such as lopping a grenade to destroy enemy cover to the more supernatural mutant-specific skills like sprouting wings and taking potshots at foes at higher ground. Despite there being a small amount of playable characters there is enough flexibility in their skill trees to encourage a diverse approach to each confrontation in addition to attempting to wisely utilize stealth options or gathered resources when one is able to do so. The least inspired aspect of all is likely the storytelling itself, unfortunately. While the post-apocalyptic title most certainly has a heavy emphasis on atmosphere (and is generally better for it), the narrative plot twists are not only signposted long in advance but also leave one feeling like so little happened by the end journey with its shallow sequel tease. At the very least, however, it is somewhat amusing that the lead cast like to treat "ancients" throughout (or rather those akin to modern civilization in our world), by poking fun at the impracticality of many pieces of their technology or outright misinterpreting the usage of much of it. More important than story qualms, though, and perhaps the biggest problem I had with playing the game at launch was its various technical issues. The biggest issue had to do with enemies being called in as reinforcements yet being unable to reach me (...or some taunted by one of the skills that I enjoyed using) and, conversely, I was unable to reach them, which left the title in a game-breaking state that made exiting combat impossible beyond being forced to reload an old save. Thankfully, despite happening a couple of times near the beginning, it was mostly patched out in recent updates. A few other technical quirks did consistently surface elsewhere, such as awkward load times and frequent visual stutters on PS4, which can distract from the experience. As a first debut Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden gets a fair amount right with its rewarding tactical gameplay and generally well-implemented stealth/gathering systems. Where it stumbles, unfortunately, is in its technical implementation (especially at launch with some game-breaking bugs) and a narrative/cast that is not all that compelling. There is still enjoyment to be had in this adventure despite its rough edges, however, and for those looking for a solid X-COM-like that tries its hand at some new ideas, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden should certainly fit the bill. Pros + Creative take on turn-based tactical gameplay that also includes stealth/gathering gameplay systems + Unit variety, as well as weapons/gear, lend themselves to many strategic options + Characters that amusingly treat "ancients" with the amount of respect they deserve: none Cons - Occasional technical performance hiccups that are really jarring - Stealthily picking off foes one by one can get somewhat tedious in the latter half - Storytelling/cast are quite predictable and does not do much with either by the end Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a rewarding, turn-based tactical title that gets plenty right in its first debut, but it has just enough rough edges, and narrative teasing, that one may find themselves wondering if a sequel could turn the brand into something truly special Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  15. Steam has been king of the hill for more than a decade when it comes to being the number one digital distribution platform. But recently, the Valve-owned platform's dominance has been threatened by the slow withdraw of the industry's biggest AAA publishers as they moved to create their own digital platforms. Now things are about to get even more difficult for Valve as Epic Games has announced plans to create their own digital distribution platform, with an interesting twist that could disrupt the former's stranglehold on the industry. Dubbed 'The Epic Games Store', Epic's digital platform will split the revenue with developers in an 88/12 ratio, with 88% of the revenue going to the developer. This is a huge shakeup from the more traditional 70/30 model that Steam had been using, and could see developers favoring The Epic Games Store over Steam going forward. But how is this possible? In an interview with Game Informer, Epic co-founder Tim Sweeney stated that when they looked at the expenses of developing and running a digital store, they were negligible at a large-scale. Sweeney also noted that stores taking in 30% of the revenue were, in effect, marking up their costs by 300-400%, leading to an opportunity for Epic to lower that threshold so developers could take in more revenue. Also interesting to note: Epic will be waiving all fees that it would normally take in through its storefront for any developers that use the company's own Unreal Engine to develop their games, instead relying on revenue share from a small percentage of the games' profits due to the usage of Epic's engine. The store will also offer a free game every two weeks (funded by Epic themselves), perhaps taking a cue from what Humble Bundle and EA's Origin have done in the past. The Epic Games Store is slated to launch soon on PC and Mac with a number of curated titles, though the company does plan to open up the store to more titles and platforms over the course of 2019. And like Steam, it will also feature free-to-play games, support mods, and non-commercial games. Source: Gamesindustry.biz What are your thoughts on Epic launching their own digital storefront?
  16. Harrison Lee

    Review: Flipping Death

    Developer: Zoink Games Publisher: Zoink Games Platform: Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One Release Date: August 7, 2018 ESRB: T for Teen Note: This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game Flipping Death is developer Zoink’s newest foray into side-scrolling cartoon adventure games. Those who recall Stick It to the Man! are likely aware of the studio’s penchant for oddball humor and situational comedy. Flipping Death follows in its spiritual predecessor’s footsteps, adopting a similar tone and art-style. Does it do enough to stand out from Zoink’s growing library, or will you be left flipping Death off? Players inhabit the mind of Penny Doewood, a recently-deceased young woman with a love of the macabre and all things Halloween. Death, however, is not the end for our dear protagonist. The scene literally flips to a place called the Otherside, where ghosts, restless souls, and all manner of strange creatures exist. Penny awakens in this alien, yet familiar, parallel world and immediately earns a job from Death himself. It seems the Grim Reaper is tired of constantly taking lives, and craves a quiet vacation to the Moon where there’s nothing but blissful, peaceful solitude. Flipping Death tasks Penny with solving the various crises of restless souls all across the Otherside. From a ship captain who got caught cheating because of his boat’s name to vivisected superhumans craving revenge, the offbeat cast of quirky characters provides much of Flipping Death’s charm. To help the ghosts reach a satisfying rest, Penny must possess the bodies of the living on the other side of her new world. While inhabiting a living host, Penny gains access to whatever abilities that person has. Each of these abilities is crucial to solving Flipping Death’s bevy of environmental puzzles, but can also be used to complete side objectives that reward character art cards. The perspective shift can be a bit jarring at first, but you’ll grow accustomed to it as time goes on. What you may struggle to come to grips with are the platforming mechanics, which feel a bit loose at the best of times. The Switch’s small controller nubs only make the lack of precision all the more noticeable, though it likely won’t impede your progress that much. Using ghost Penny’s scythe to teleport and capture souls in order to possess the living takes some getting used to, but the controls eventually become second-nature. Flipping Death isn’t terribly difficult, but a few of the environmental clues and the sequence of characters needed to complete the puzzles may stump you once or twice. The game encourages a trial-and-error approach, though you may find yourself possessing characters out of order. Unfortunately, I did run into a bug that did not let one of the characters I possessed leave his office-space, forcing me to reload the level. The rest of the experience was largely error-free and enjoyable. Like Stick It to the Man!, Flipping Death’s visual presentation is wholly unique and engrossing. The cartoon-esque world is vibrant and full of teeming, creepy things scuttling in the backgrounds. Character models are well-designed and fully-voiced, lending a good deal of strong production value to the whole experience. The Switch port does seem to suffer some minor input lag and dropped frames every now and then, but it’s to be expected given the hardware. This is, by and large, a well-executed version of the game that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. I missed out on Stick It to the Man!, but Flipping Death is a great introduction to Zoink’s zany brand of humor. The writing is consistently strong, even featuring some genuine warmth amid the gut laughs. A few odd bugs here and there and some occasionally frustrating platforming mechanics mar an otherwise-strong game, but that shouldn’t deter you from wearing Death’s mantle once again. With the Halloween season nearly upon us, there’s no better time to get spooky and take a trip to the Otherside. Pros + Well-written and genuinely funny + Beautiful art style and great audio production + Fun puzzles and a vibrant game-world Cons - A little buggy at points - Platforming on the Switch can be hit or miss Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good Flipping Death is a brief, but very enjoyable journey through the spirit world. Its puzzles, artistic vision, and sense of humor are all on point. You’d do well to give this macabre world a look. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
  17. Another day off from work means another long stream! Let's start the day off with some #speedrun record attempts at #DotHackMUTATION. Later I'll continue my first ever playthrough of #FinalFantasy7! Be sure so swing by and bring the ranger hype! https://www.twitch.tv/royzoga123
  18. Surprise long stream! Starting off the day with some more #speedrun attempts in #DotHackMUTATION, then later continuing my first playthrough of #FinalFantasy7. Come swing by the #Twitch stream and hang out, it's gonna be a morphenomenal day. ROYZAYBOY! https://www.twitch.tv/royzoga123
  19. Another night of #FinalFantasy7 is here! Come swing by the #Twitch stream and have a morphenomenal night! ROYZYABOY! https://www.twitch.tv/royzoga123
  20. Tonight I'm starting #FinalFantasy7 for the first time! Come swing by the #Twitch stream and have a morphenomenal night as I play through one of the most highly regarded JRPG's ever! ROYZYABOY! https://www.twitch.tv/royzoga123
  21. Harrison Lee

    Review: The Lion's Song

    Developer: Mi'pu'mi Games Publisher: Mi'pu'mi Games Platform: Switch, PC, iOS, Android Release Date: July 10, 2018 ESRB: T for Teen Note: This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game When I played The Lion’s Song, I felt one thing: warmth. The diminutive point-and-click adventure, set in early-20th century Vienna, is a sepia-toned love letter to the creative process. If you’re a fan of art, or an artist yourself, The Lion’s Song may resonate with you more than most. The game is divided into four chapters, with the first three focusing on the lives of several European musicians, painters, and mathematicians. If you enjoy your games with a healthy dose of atmospheric presence and history, then stop reading and snag The Lion’s Song on Switch or PC right now. The first chapter focuses on musician Wilma, who struggles with anxiety and dissatisfaction with her work. Wilma also happens to long for her mentor, a composer who seems to be blissfully unaware of her attraction to him. To get away from the hustle and bustle of Vienna, the mentor sends Wilma to a secluded cabin in the mountains in order to help her compose a masterpiece worthy of her talents. The process is not without conflict, and Wilma spends much of her time in the cabin seeking inspiration and grappling with her inner demons. Unlike most point-and-click adventure titles, The Lion’s Song is restrained with its use of interactive elements. Wilma’s cabin, for instance, only features a few useful objects or sights to select. The more important aspect is the outcome of the cabin stay, and the success of Wilma’s trials is conveyed through the small snippets of music that play when she feels inspired by something. Quietly, there are several narrative decision points that occur, but none that feel obtrusive or have obvious consequences. The plot seems to chug along, regardless of the decisions you make. The other chapters intertwine with Wilma’s story, and with each other. The plot threads that come together feel natural and expected, though I won’t spoil them for you. Suffice it to say that Vienna feels a bit smaller and more intimate, despite its obvious urban sprawl. The final chapter reveals what happened to each character over time and closes out the personal stories nicely. If players so choose, they can also change the decisions they made in the other chapters and see the resulting dialogue outcomes. It’s a nice option to have, though I opted to stick with the plot decisions I’d made previously. Vienna is as much a character as the artists and feels vibrantly alive despite the limitations of the environmental art. Through clever sound design, a well-composed soundtrack, and a pseudo “slice of life” depiction of each artist, Vienna is colored between the narrative margins. It allows the scenes to feel expansive and full, even if the screen only shows a small grouping of characters at any single time. You get a small sense of what it might have felt like to be in a Viennese ballroom, sipping tea with Gustav Klimt and schmoozing amongst the local avant-garde art critics, or attending a massive concert hall during a violin performance. The Lion’s Song is a joy to look at, with the beautiful sepia hues adding a vintage feel to the scenes. Much like the artists and thinkers depicted within, the game’s art is expressive and well-crafted. It made me want more of it, and I wish The Lion’s Song had more chapters. Your time with Vienna will be all too brief, but it’s a pleasure while it lasts. You’ll feel the pain of failed innovation and the triumph of a creative vision realized. The Lion’s Song is a beautiful game, and the time required to experience Vienna’s atmosphere is minimal. It’ll leave you longing for a European art expedition, even for those who aren’t dedicated art fans. The creative struggles each character endures are humanized and relatable, especially for anyone who’s tried to innovate or create. If you’re the creative type, The Lion’s Song is a must-play experience. Pros + A charming, beautiful adventure filled with warmth + Relatable, well-realized characters + Great sound design and music + Vienna is well-realized in small snippets Cons - It ends too quickly! Overall Score: 9 (out of 10) Fantastic If you’re a fan of classic point-and-click adventures, art, well-written stories, or all of the above, you owe it to yourself to see what The Lion’s Song has to offer you. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
  22. barrel

    Review: Dead Cells

    Developer: Motion Twin Publisher: Motion Twin Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC Release Date: August 7, 2018 ESRB: T for Teen Note: This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game By being clearly inspired by numerous rogue-lite and Metroidvania titles, or to use its own preferred nomenclature of 'RogueVania', it can certainly be tempting to write Dead Cells off as just another one of those. However, Dead Cells is not content with simply paying tribute to iconic titles. There is an impressive sheen to nearly every facet of its gameplay that not only separates itself from its various contemporaries but also makes it so easy to get lost in the experience, even when it was in an Early Access state last year. After being constantly iterated upon, such as adding new levels, weapons, abilities, and plenty more, Dead Cells is now confident enough to consider itself a full product while also finally letting console owners in on the action as well -- and for great reason. The game quickly drops the player right in, quite literally, as an amorphous green sludge falls from the ceiling and reanimates a fallen humanoid vessel. This eerie landscape becomes one of the closest things to a home, especially after a failed run. Players will soon enough find themselves scrounging whatever tools they can to hopefully overcome their fierce enemy and environmental opposition as they uncover the mysterious depths of Dead Cells' world. Regardless of its moody world-building and sparse bits of lore (like a certain From Software series), however, Dead Cells absolutely thrives on its stellar combat-focused 2D gameplay above all else. Whether one is swinging a bulky axe, firing a crossbow, setting up a bear trap, or using hardly subtle nods to other gaming properties (like "Valmont's" whip), the underlying theme is that its huge offensive toolkit has a satisfying power behind it in the right hands. Little details like being able to roll-cancel or shield parry (if it's equipped) out of nearly every animation makes combat feel rather fair too, even though a specific run may not be generous in yielding one's favorite weapons or skills of choice and thus forces them to try out different ones. To help makes its multitude of weaponry and skills more digestible, Dead Cells divides them into the three in-game stat categories of Brutality, Tactics, and Survival, each of which can be strengthened by obtaining scrolls that are scattered across different levels. Despite the categorization simplification, there is a surprising nuance to each style like when picking 'mutation' passive abilities after completing each level. For example, Brutality can take the most advantage of a mutation that increases damage against an enemy suffering from a status ailment while someone specializing in Survival can regain more life per enemy kill. It is very enjoyable to watch once terrifying bosses/enemies quickly melt due to utilizing a smart synergy of mutations/weapons in addition to getting better and better at the game. For as thoroughly entertaining as Dead Cells is with its raw combat, the main reason why its addictive gameplay pull is so strong is because of how it wisely borrows and improves upon Rogue Legacy's overall structure. Rogue Legacy's most welcome contribution to "RogueVanias" was rewarding a player gradually in the form of unlocked blueprints for new abilities or various other conveniences after a failed run. Dead Cells technically does the same thing (while adding many new weapons too), yet the feedback loop is far more consistent by doing so after each completed level. This constant dopamine fix, in spite of the harsh difficulty at many times, also extends to its many branching level paths where thorough exploration can unveil some invaluable permanent upgrades like a quick wall run or a destructive ground pound that opens up the experience that much more. Amidst such incredibly tight gameplay and level design, Dead Cells' greatest blemish actually resides in its technical performance, which still often holds up rather well. Generally speaking, Dead Cells evokes a 2D sprite art feel with chunky pixels (mainly regarding enemy dismemberment) and smooth animations despite technically being rendered with 3D assets. Unfortunately, its key technical slight on PS4 happens mid-level where there is a brief stutter that seems to outright skip frames of animations before going back to the normally buttery smooth gameplay performance and this happens every few minutes. While I never encountered this problem during the mean boss fights, even after a successful hard mode run, I could see the visual hiccups being distracting enough to cause an untimely demise in more chaotic combat moments, so hopefully it can be cleaned up via patch soon. Dead Cells has the uncanny ability of being able to cherry-pick aspects from so many other games and have one be totally fine with it. Because, instead of instilling fatigue, Dead Cells far more often impresses the player by how masterfully realized just about every facet of its core design ends up being. Everything from the skill-based combat that is a total bliss to control, a highly-rewarding structure that accommodates a wealth of different player styles, and plenty of secrets to uncover creates a fiendishly addictive game experience that players will more than struggle to break from the "...just one more run" mentality it so actively encourages. Pros + Fiendishly addictive structure that encapsulates the 'just one more run' mindset + Incredibly tight, responsive combat that accommodates a huge wealth of different playstyles + Branching paths, many unlockables, and the improvisational nature easily makes no one playthrough the same + Stylish aesthetic with moody environmental backdrops Cons - Weird occasional visual stutters mid-level can be distracting Overall Score: 9 (out of 10) Fantastic Dead Cells does not shy away from a familiar "RogueVania" template, but rather chooses to do it so well that players will be hard-pressed to justify dividing their time when Dead Cells is that much more satisfying and rewarding to actually play Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  23. Developer: Sega/Media Vision Publisher: Sega Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC Release Date: July 10, 2018 ESRB: T for Teen Note: This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game The phrase "Shining" holds a very different connotation in the gaming space depending on who you ask. Ask an old school RPG fan what it means to them and they would likely mention its previous, tactical role-playing game form of the beloved Shining Force titles. If you were to ask developer Sega themselves, they would likely phrase it in a way that could be just about anything resembling an RPG, especially given the many games they have churned out under its banner. That said, the Shining series has most often shifted toward a more typical action-RPG template in Japan these past couple decades. Though it may be an enhanced release of a formerly Japanese-exclusive PlayStation 3 title, Shining Resonance Refrain should radiate as a curious new direction for the series after a long absence from English speakers specifically. Above nearly all else, Shining Resonance Refrain takes a keen interest in both dragons and music while very rarely separating either element. Everything from the usage of musical armaments (...called "Armonics") to the main character, Yuma, who bears the latent power of a powerful dragon, play pivotal roles in the overarching narrative. That said, ultimately, the story itself rarely boils down to being more than a handful of good guys fighting against an evil empire despite however much jargon it tries to throw at the player like "Diva Magica" or many phrases straight out of Norse mythology. The main story remains predictable to a fault and can be rather hokey in more than a few instances because of it. Gameplay-wise, Shining Resonance: Refrain takes more than a few notes from its action-RPG contemporaries (such as Namco's Tales of- series) but with a couple of minor twists. You have your real-time combat system in which normal attacks use a stamina gauge and it quickly becomes encouraged to use special MP skills right before one runs out of stamina to maintain a constant offense. To not so subtlety chime a reminder of the musical setup, there is also a BPM gauge that steadily builds up mid-battle which will provide a variety of buffs upon use depending on the song. Admittedly, battles are rather button-mashy, and quickly become routine, but are also easy to get into. The game also does a decent job at making each party member feel unique, such as the ranged grenadier, Marion, who can use support spells, and even the main character, Yuma, who quickly goes from using a standard longsword to transforming into the Shining Dragon mid-battle. There are more than a few battle system foibles than the simplicity of it, however. Some are amusing like the main character becoming overpowered to the point of trivializing most other attackers by literally only needing to mash the circle button from the halfway point and on. Less amusing, however, are the frequent slowdown for flashier spells and, what can be even more annoying, the sleepy ally AI especially in regards to healing/suicidal positioning. Unlike the frequent slowdown hiccups, thankfully some of the AI problems can get straightened out over time if one messes with 'traits' within the Bond Diagram mechanic, which affects AI tendencies like their increased inclination towards using healing or buffs/debuffs mid-fight. In sharp contrast to their unreliable combat usage, one of the surprising strengths of Shining Resonance Refrain's main playable cast is their likability in a story context. One the most obvious ways to see this is within the primary town, which features numerous interpersonal scenes as well as the opportunity to go on dates with party members (yes, guys included). It is clear that these affinity systems were mostly developed with the pretty lady characters in mind but the actual implementation comes across as far more wholesome than one would expect. In addition, there is a pretty earnest friendship that develops between everyone, and not just Yuma despite, well, the story having more than a few over-the-top anime antics moments in-between. Perhaps the biggest problem with the entire game (yes, even more than the very cliched main story) are the huge discrepancies caused by the level-up progression. Main story bosses spike in level at an absurd rate each chapter, and the means of gaining the experience to close the gap in a reasonable amount of time is quite limited. I had to go out of my way to look into items that made it so inactive party members would gain experience, and to increase the rate of seeing the in-game equivalent to Dragon Quest's Metal Slimes (called eggs) in specific, randomly generated Grimoire dungeons, because the experience obtained from normal enemies in regular environments was way too low (... just like in Dragon Quest). In spite of such glaring gameplay flaws, Shining Resonance Refrain still somehow manages to be better than the sum of its parts in charm alone. One of the key ways it does is in the sharp localization which makes an often predictable script somehow still entertaining to read, especially regarding character specific scenes in the central town. The underlying care also transfers to the audio, like how the instrumentation of BPM songs will change based on which character performs it; a nice touch to an already good soundtrack. Heck, even the English dub is solid as well, though I admit I gravitated towards the Japanese voices due to some top-notch talent and it having a more natural transition towards the Japanese-only vocal songs. Shining Resonance Resonance is one of those strange titles that is significantly flawed in both its gameplay progression and main storytelling yet manages to stumble onto the path of being enjoyable regardless. Its key flaws are quite difficult to ignore, especially if one has a low tolerance towards cliche storytelling (which it is dense with), and it requires a willingness to accept the genre stereotypes it so frequently leans on to see a more sincere, lighthearted underside. If one wants an easy to approach action-RPG that is as charming as it is predictable, Shining Resonance Refrain is a solid option. But those expecting anything deeper in their RPG experience would be much better served looking elsewhere than it. Pros + Easy to approach combat system that manages to make each playable character feel distinct + Likable main cast of characters with surprisingly wholesome vibe between them + Pleasant aesthetic from the sharp soundtrack to well-realized character models Cons - Very predictable storytelling that can be quite hokey with its anime tropes - Balancing party experience becomes cumbersome due to huge enemy level spikes between each main story chapter -Occasional slowdown and dumb ally AI unfortunately bog down combat - A bit too much backtracking between zones Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good Shining Resonance Refrain does very little to veer from the course of many Japanese RPG stereotypes but for those willing to accept its often predictable nature can still find an earnest hidden charm underneath it all Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  24. After a successful Kickstarter run while supporting the game for nearly 2 years after its release, the long road for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is finally winding down, but not before some final surprises. Today, WayForward revealed that all versions of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (both the base and Ultimate edition) will receive a free content update that will include Jammies Mode and a brand new transformation. Jammies Mode will let you play through the campaign in Shantae's pajamas as well as pillow fight enemies, float on a dream-like cloud, and use sleepy sheep as projectiles. As for the new transformation, Shantae will be able to transform into Sophia III from Blaster Master Zero and blast enemies away. Interestingly enough, this isn't Shantae's first crossover with Blaster Master Zero. Last year, developer Inti Creates added Shantae as a playable DLC character in Blaster Master Zero, so it looks like WayForward is repaying the favor with the appearance of the latter title's Sophie III vehicle in Half-Genie Hero this time around. Check out both new additions in the trailer for the new update below! Source: Press Release Will you be checking out Jammies Mode or the Blaster Master transformation in Shantae: Half-Genie Hero?
  25. Up until earlier this year, you could get the occasional free Origin game through Electronic Arts' "On the House" program, such as Peggle, Battlefield 3, and even Mass Effect 2. The program has given away a whopping 35 games for free (both from its own published library as well as indie titles) over the last 10 years, but it appears the free ride is finally over as the webpage promoting it has been taken down. Polygon has confirmed this news from an EA spokesperson, who said that Origin On The House is, in fact, being discontinued and games will no longer be offered through it. However, they did also say that anyone who had gotten free games through the program in the past will still be able to keep and play them. The removal of the program could possibly be due to the impending launch of Origin Access Premier, an expanded version of Origin Access which is due to go live on July 30. Origin Access Premier offers all of the previous perks of Origin Access (such as an instant collection of 123 PC games to play and a discount of 10% on any game you buy through Origin) as well as the benefit of having unlimited access to each new EA game on PC five days before it releases. Essentially, this means that as long as you pay for the subscription - which costs $14.99/month or $99/year -- you won't have to buy each new game EA releases. In the meantime, don't expect to see any more freebies from EA anytime soon. Source: Polygon What are your thoughts on EA discontinuing Origin On the House's free games?
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