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Bravely Default 2 Review

Thu, 02/25/2021 - 13:00

The Bravely series has always excelled at evoking the feeling of playing classic Final Fantasy-style RPGs, while sanding off some of the rough edges that may make those classic games less approachable to modern audiences. Bravely Default II, confusingly enough the third game in the franchise, maintains much of its predecessors' retro charm--but it actually removes some of the quality-of-life features that made the first two such breezy nostalgic throwbacks. Instead of simply reminding you of the satisfaction of playing a classic RPG, Bravely Default II demands that you relive the entire experience, faults and all.

For the uninitiated, Bravely Default gets its namesake from its innovative risk-reward combat system. Along with your typical health and magic meters, you have Brave Points (BP). And rather than a standard Defend command, you can choose to Default, which both defends and banks BP for later use. You can spend up to four actions using Brave command, but if you don't have enough BP banked you go into debt and skip future turns undefended.

This has always been key to Bravely Default's battle system, and it remains essentially untouched here. The approach is a little less novel the third time around, but it still creates a unique wrinkle of strategic RPG battle planning. Do you go into debt to unleash a flurry of attacks or do some emergency healing? Do you bank first and take the damage for a few turns? Bravely veterans will fall right back into the habit, but nothing about it feels too complex that it should give newcomers trouble. And newcomers will be able to jump in here because, like Final Fantasy, Bravely Default II's story is disconnected from any continuity. Four strangers come together as the selfless Heroes of Light to stave off certain doom--you know the drill.

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Categories: Games

30XX Early Access Review

Wed, 02/24/2021 - 20:41

When you die in 30XX, thus bringing your run to a premature and perhaps permanent end, there's a good chance you will receive a message from the Bureau of Encouragement. In a roguelike platformer where death can feel like a crushing setback or at best wasted time, you would be forgiven for expecting to find comfort in such a message. A consoling pat on the back, some inspiring words, or at least a sliver of hope. You would be wrong. "Ooooh! So close…" says the Bureau of Encouragement. "Just kidding. That was terrible!"

I received a lot of messages from the Bureau of Encouragement because I died a lot in 30XX. But the Bureau was not the only regulatory agency to contact me in the aftermath of my demise. The Failure Board and the Department of Aggravation also got in touch to register their contempt at my performance. "Remember, you can stop whenever you have given up hope," they laughed.

Despite their derision, I pressed on. Much like the classic action platformers from which it draws heavy inspiration, 30XX is a game in which defeat is never an ending but rather an opportunity to start over and try again. A roguelike structure is a smart complement to this life-death cycle and positions 30XX--even in its Early Access state--as an accomplished title, worthy of comparison to its 8- and 16-bit forerunners.

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Categories: Games

Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection Review

Tue, 02/23/2021 - 15:00

Capcom's Ghost 'n Goblins franchise has a very specific reputation. Whether you played the Arcade or NES version of Ghosts 'n Goblins, Ghouls 'n Ghosts on the Genesis, or Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts on the SNES, working through these games felt like pushing a boulder up a mountain or pulling teeth. A little over 35 years later, Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection remixes and revives those games into a platformer that looks new but, perhaps unsurprisingly, embodies that same boulder-pushing, teeth-pulling gameplay. Its modern flourishes soften the blow a bit from time to time, but Resurrection is still defined by punishing, borderline cruel tactics that game designers have long-since outgrown.

Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection is a new game, but it functionally retells the Ghosts 'n Goblins story. The basic mechanical structure of the series remains intact, too: You run and jump from left to right, throwing javelins, knives, flaming potions, and other weapons at a seemingly endless onslaught of zombies, scythe-wielding skeletons, and winged demons. Famously, you begin the level clad in armor but lose some of it every time you take a hit until you're inevitably hopping around in heart-adorned boxers.

Resurrection derives large chunks--level themes, sequences, and bosses--from previous games, most notably Ghouls 'n Ghosts. Some of the series' distinctive bosses and sequences are reimagined in Resurrection's pencil-style art, which smartly breathes a lot more color and whimsy into a series that's always felt more cheeky than spooky. Not every reference to the old games is pulled literally from an older game; some, like the now-towering gray cyclops from Ghosts 'n Goblins, are more liberal reinterpretations. Even the enemies and sequences you can trace back to a specific point in a previous game are not identical to their predecessors, and it doesn't feel like replaying a portion of another game, but it's a potent dose of nostalgia.

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Categories: Games

Blue Fire Review

Fri, 02/19/2021 - 19:09

It's easy to identify many of Blue Fire's potential inspirations. Its platforming, combat, and overall structure harken back to the sprawling maps and challenges of Hollow Knight, its handful of dungeons could pass for shorter versions of those in most Legend of Zelda titles, and its progression mixes many elements synonymous with From Software's Souls series. But developer ROBI Studios struggles to bring all of these elements together in a cohesive fashion, and the addition of the studio's own ideas to the mix weighs down Blue Fire's otherwise exceptional platforming.

Blue Fire's most prominent focus is its platforming, which permeates every action you take across its 12-hour adventure. You start with just a jump and a dash, and Blue Fire immediately makes great use of these limited mechanics by giving you a satisfying amount of control over your movements. The length of each jump or dash is tied to the length of a respective button press, which means you can easily cancel either action in mid-air and have greater control over your aerial movements. This in and of itself isn't unique to Blue Fire, but the fine-tuned feel of movement makes leaping around each varied biome in its world a treat.

Blue Fire captured on PC

These basic movements are coupled with a growing repertoire of moves that you acquire as you progress, including movement speed boosts, wall-running, and double jumps. Blue Fire introduces these new mechanics gracefully; you have plenty of time to get to grips with one before being tasked to learn another. Eventually, stringing them all together feels like you're conducting an elegant ballet in mid-air, accurately timing and weighing each button press with care to make sure you're making pin-point jumps around areas designed to challenge these skills.

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Categories: Games

Little Nightmares 2 Review

Thu, 02/18/2021 - 21:04

About an hour into Little Nightmares II, I found a toy duck resting on a hardwood floor. It was the kind of carved, wooden plaything that kids drag around on a piece of twine, with wheels where the real waterfowl's webbed feet would be. A dim spotlight from somewhere above shone on its reflective wings. Behind it, there was an oaky barrier, formed from leaning one table against another--too tall for my character, a tiny child named Mono, to climb. When I approached, the floorboard the duck was sitting on sunk into the floor. I turned to run just as a metal light fixture swung down from the ceiling, smashing me into the barrier and killing me.

Once the checkpoint reset, I tried again, attempting to quickly run away from the floorboard before the pendulum fell. No dice. Again, it smashed me against the wall.

"I wonder if I can..." I thought, eyeing the nearby toy, "...duck."

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Categories: Games

Destruction AllStars Review

Wed, 02/10/2021 - 22:21

With its bright energy, colorful characters, and wacky-powered cars, Destruction AllStars takes many of the aesthetic and mechanical trends from the last five years of multiplayer-focused live games and applies them to the long-dormant car combat genre. Speeding around beautifully detailed and cartoonishly articulated demolition derby courses, looking for your chance to rev your engine and hit another player so hard their ride explodes. When your own car inevitably gets busted up beyond recognition, you can hop out of your car and climb into another: A novel idea, but one that keeps you out of the action. Despite its striking visuals and solid driving fundamentals, Destruction AllStars' demolition derby-style car smashing is inconsistent and unpredictable. Every multiplayer game has highs and lows, but Destruction AllStars' best bits are few and fleeting.

You have one job to do in Destruction AllStars: Get into a car and crash it into other players. At the start of each match, 16 players start out on foot and race to grab one of a handful of empty cars, which come in many recognizable shapes like slick sports cars, burly SUVs, and tough trucks. Unlike in most car games, though, you are not tied to your car forever. You can eject from a vehicle at any time to trade for a new model or because the car's health is low and you don't want to wipe out.

Whether you crash or get crashed into, at least you're going to look good doing it. Destruction AllStars' large arenas are incredibly well-detailed and drenched in bright, colorful lights are a visual feast. The characters, from Fuego the masked-metal head to Ratu, a teal-haired boxer in an orange jumpsuit, are all drawn in a familiar Overwatch-esque style but have very specific looks that pop and draw you to them all the same. Even the little flourishes, like how a character jumps into an empty white car which instantaneously takes on their color scheme, look cool every time.

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Categories: Games

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury Review

Wed, 02/10/2021 - 14:00

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury is a candy confection of fine-tuned platforming that marries some of the best elements of 2D and 3D Mario in two very different ways. The package is mostly a re-release of a Wii U game, but this version upgrades the original with a faster pace and online play, and then adds the experimental and gloriously strange Bowser's Fury on top of it.

The two experiences are bifurcated to the point where you need to quit out of one completely to start the other. This makes sense--the two share some superficial traits but are otherwise very different design philosophies and platforming approaches. Because of this very split design, though, it only makes sense to examine them as separate games.

Super Mario 3D World

It's easier to see Super Mario 3D World's place in Mario canon with the benefit of hindsight. It's a successor to Mario Galaxy, not in direct mechanics but in a broader design philosophy. The stages are relatively small, self-contained bouts of creative platforming, often with their own theme or mechanics at the forefront. Each stage is presented as a diorama slice and usually include a limited degree of Z-axis depth, but the core idea between them is the same: Get in, see a clever application of Mario mechanics, then get out before the concept overstays its welcome.

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Categories: Games

Persona 5 Strikers Review - The Hands That Thieve

Tue, 02/09/2021 - 15:00

It's always nice to see your friends again, even if your time together doesn't always live up to the highest highs you've experienced in the past. Persona 5 Strikers is a lot like that--it comes with some special moments that foster a deeper appreciation for what Persona 5 is and what it represents. From the wild action-RPG combat to the summer road-trip premise, characters we know and love get to show off how much they've grown and prove they can still kick ass in style. Strikers does trip over a few clumsy tropes along the way, and sometimes tries a little too hard to recapture Persona 5's magic, but when it's all said and done, I'm glad this reunion happened to begin with.

It's the summer after the events of the original game, and the Phantom Thieves have a little free time. With Joker being back in town, why not enjoy the break? Before they can even make plans, they're caught in another round of beating down the metaphysical evils of the Metaverse and changing hearts. This time, the phenomenon is happening all across Japan. Although you follow similar patterns established in Persona 5--fighting through surreal dungeons and living life in the real world--the context is quite different both narratively and gameplay-wise.

What's Worth Fighting For

Your first few targets have been manipulating people's desires in order to feed their ambitions for fame and fortune, but there's a bigger mystery as to how and why there's strange behavior en masse. You begin to unveil that tragic pasts have led them down a dark path of exploiting the Metaverse. The broader message isn't to excuse behavior or to say that trauma will surely corrupt its victims--rather, that our circumstances and the people around us (or lack thereof) have significant influence over how we internalize and process pain, and eventually who we become.

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Categories: Games

Nuts Review

Thu, 02/04/2021 - 00:41

Nuts makes a strong start. Its quirky concept and bold art direction are enticing, while its novel yet easily understood core mechanics and hints of mystery offer further encouragement. Unfortunately, Nuts doesn't deliver on its early promise as it struggles to develop its best ideas. Despite a lean playing time, repetition sets in. Nuts opens brightly, but fades all too quickly.

Much of your time in Nuts is spent looking for a squirrel and, once found, predicting its next move. The Melmoth Basin Wildlife Reserve is your hunting ground, though as a field researcher you're here only to observe the squirrels, record their movements and file your report. Equipped with a GPS, each day you venture out into the forest to place a few cameras in strategic positions before returning to your tiny caravan to play back the recorded footage and hopefully catch a glimpse of a squirrel or two.

It's a delightful premise and the squirrels themselves are adorable, bounding down gullies, clambering up trees, or just perched on a rock, noshing on a nut. Getting footage of these antics is a matter of method and patience rather than any kind of ingenuity. Your handler will first direct you to a specific spot to set up the first camera. When you play back the recording, you need to make a mental note of where the squirrel entered or exited the frame, and then on the next day you return to reposition the cameras and track the preceding or subsequent stage of the squirrel's journey.

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Categories: Games

Cyber Shadow Review

Wed, 02/03/2021 - 19:56

What do you associate with the term "ninja game"? Perhaps you think of speedy action and superhuman agility, crazy character maneuvers, intense swordplay, or sneaky stealth. Odds are, however, that you also associate video game ninjas with games that are really, really hard. You wouldn't be wrong; in the long history of ninja-themed games, a lot of the standout titles are known for the formidable challenges they present. Knowing that, you'd likely expect a retro-throwback 2D platformer starring a cyborg ninja to be a tough test of your skills. Enter Cyber Shadow, a game that delivers everything above, especially the difficulty.

Cyber Shadow puts you in the role of the titular Shadow, a cyborg ninja awakened from stasis in the ruins of a massive city. A mad scientist is on the rampage, having fashioned an army of robotic supersoldiers in a crazed quest to revive the dead, and it's up to you to foil his ambitions. It's a simple premise, but Cyber Shadow's story has a complexity that reveals itself as you progress. As you find the souls of your fallen comrades and discover records of the city's destruction and the lunatic doctor's experiments, you learn of a backstory far more interesting and tragic than a simple “mad scientist gone rogue” yarn.

Shadow starts the game quite weak, having simple jumping, slashing, and running capabilities. Thankfully, the first level is a merciful introduction, with plentiful health drops, relatively weak enemies, and lots of checkpoints. But it's not long before things start to ramp up considerably, with early bosses and their bullet-spewing, fast-moving patterns giving you a taste of what's to come very soon. By the second area, you start to feel the pressure--quite literally, as crushing factory debris and instant-kill compactors make it clear that your mission is not going to be a walk in the park.

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Categories: Games

Immortals Fenyx Rising: A New God Review

Fri, 01/29/2021 - 21:34

Immortals Fenyx Rising's first major DLC, A New God, feels like it's calling a bluff. Ubisoft's open-world template has gotten flack over the years for turning its sprawling worlds into a sea of icons that push you to beeline it to the next objective. If that's gotten stale, why not cut out the "open world" part? That's more or less what A New God does: It abandons any pretense about these games being about discovery and traversal in favor of a set checklist of challenges. The idea works in concept; the self-contained puzzles were some of my favorite parts of Immortals, so this DLC is in some ways exactly what I wanted. It, unfortunately, doesn't work as well in practice. Although it introduces some clever ideas to tease your brain, the way these ideas are implemented are extremely hit-or-miss, as agonizingly inconsistent and frustrating as it is clever.

A New God doesn't spend much time getting you up to speed with its story or gameplay, so you should probably finish the base game before you jump in. After the events of Immortals, Fenyx is ready to ascend into the pantheon of gods they'd helped free from Typhon--as soon as they prove themselves worthy by completing a number of puzzle and combat trials designed by said gods in Olympos.

I'm surprised by how little I miss the parts of Immortals that A New God trims. You don't explore Olympos much, since it's more of a hub than a world. Immortals' eye-rolling humor (which still can't land a punchline most of the time) is also thankfully easier to ignore than it is in the base game, as it's delivered almost entirely through quips from the gods trying to amuse you or impart advice as you play.

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Categories: Games

Olija Review

Thu, 01/28/2021 - 14:00

Like all great short stories, Olija manages to do more with less. Its characters are roughly drawn and very pixelated, but they build strong bonds that resonate and create real stakes. The caves, ruins, and dark corners of the world exude an ominous, foreboding mood that permeates every turn. And the action, a mix of quick-moving combat and light puzzle-platforming, steadily and consistently finds new ways to keep you on your toes. Olija takes exactly as much time as it needs to tell its story and show you everything in its bag of tricks.

Olija follows Faraday, a shipwrecked lord trapped on a hostile chain of islands called Terraphage. Facing all sorts of magic, dark oozing blobs, and people who want him dead, the lost lord seems doomed, but he quickly finds a weapon to turn his fortune: a legendary magic harpoon that he can throw and either teleport to its location or summon back to him. To get home and, optionally, save his crew, Faraday explores the islands of Terraphage, defeats a hidden evil, saves a queen--you know, hero stuff.

Though it boils down to a clichéd hero's quest at the most essential level, Olija teases a lot of narrative out of a small amount of exposition. Faraday has a small retinue of recurring companions and acquaintances he meets on his journey, including a ferryman who brings him from island to island and shipwrecked sailors of Oaktide, a floating shantytown. While Faraday is silent, his companions speak to him, and you can sense the bond that forms between them. Their spoken tone softens and they grow more familiar as Faraday integrates into their lives. Those connections anchor Faraday's journey with a human connection that resonates beyond the plot, and gives you a reason to see things through.

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Categories: Games

The Medium Review

Wed, 01/27/2021 - 14:00

The world of The Medium begs to be closely examined, to be parsed for small details that begin to paint monsters as something not too dissimilar to humans. Recognizing these similarities, at times, can be even more terrifying than facing an actual grotesque creature. There's something disturbing about being forced to confront the evils that humans can inflict on one another, and recognize how horrific acts of sexual abuse, ethnoreligious discrimination, and physical violence rarely, if ever, result in a singular trauma. The aftereffects of such actions can fester in the heart and mind of victims for years, an unsettling truth that is often glossed over. It's here that The Medium finds the basis for its story, one that leaves a lasting impression

In The Medium, you play as Marianne (voiced by Kelly Burke, who does a fabulous job), a powerful clairvoyant who travels to the Niwa Resort. She goes there in search of Thomas, a man who leaves her a strange message telling her to find and help him, promising that he'll give her the answers she seeks about her past in return. As a medium, Marianne is able to commune with spirits and help them pass on to the afterlife, a skill she's developed working in her foster father's funeral home. To that end, The Medium plays out on two planes of existence: the normal world and the spirit world, the latter of which acts as a twisted reflection of the former.

The spirit world--inspired by the surreal dystopia portrayed in the paintings of Zdzisław Beksiński--is a nightmarish hellscape, one where the doors are made of human skin that you have to slowly carve open with a rusty knife, and the inhabitants are either monstrous creatures or creepy mask-wearing spirits. Even Marianne takes on a new appearance when navigating the spirit world, the sleeve of her kickass jacket (she's so stylishly put together, I'm jealous as hell) and pant leg becoming frayed, as if this version of her is an incomplete, less-human being. But these two depictions of the world are not black and white opposites. Instead, the game posits that they exist as mirrors of one another--one manifesting literally what the other only hints at figuratively. And via this shared window into both perspectives, The Medium is able to explore the trauma of its characters through puzzle-solving and riddles.

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Categories: Games

Hitman 3 Review — Perfect Execution

Tue, 01/19/2021 - 13:00

Since it rebooted its Hitman franchise in 2016, IO Interactive has been putting on a level design masterclass. Each of the missions the developer rolled out in what it calls its World of Assassination series has contained a huge, intricate collection of scripted and free-form systems that create harrowing moments, presented elaborate puzzles to solve, and allowed the player to orchestrate ludicrous and often hilarious situations. Levels are designed to be played over and over so you can explore, understand, and eventually master all their moving parts, and it's impossible to see everything one has to offer in a single playthrough (or in most cases, even two or three).

At first blush, Hitman 3 appears to be more of the same. It makes no drastic changes to the underlying formula, instead adding a few graphical upgrades and quality-of-life improvements to the existing Hitman framework. But Hitman 3 improves on the World of Assassination through consistently excellent level design--which is saying something, given how strong all the previous missions are. Hitman 3 is full of fun and fascinating ideas, many of which play with the concepts underpinning the last four years of Hitman levels.

Presumably knowing that players have spent all sorts of time mastering its many settings and systems, IO throws in some brilliant curve balls that require you to use your assassin skills and knowledge in clever, challenging new ways.

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Categories: Games

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game - Complete Edition Review

Fri, 01/15/2021 - 19:03

When people think of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, they'll likely gravitate to either the comics from Bryan Lee O'Malley or the live-action film from Edgar Wright. However, one of the lesser-known strands of the Scott Pilgrim brand was the film's licensed game tie-in. Like the film, it was not only a faithful adaptation of the comics' tribute to geek culture and retro games, but it also happened to be a fun co-op brawler in its own right. After a sudden delisting from digital video game stores in 2014, the once-lost licensed game has scored a second life with the Complete Edition, and it hasn't lost its exuberant style. The game's passion for a bygone era can often be a bit overwhelming, yet it still offers a satisfying time brawling through the streets with friends.

Like its comic and film counterpart, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game sticks with the same video game-inspired conceit, but interprets it into an actual video game. After the titular character meets the girl of his dreams in Ramona Flowers, Scott and his bandmates Kim and Stephen, along with Ramona, have to fight a rogue's gallery of evil exes seeking to disrupt the relationship. In the vein of a classic arcade brawler, the game keeps its story light to put all its energy into showing off the stunning 2D visuals of its side-scrolling beat-'em-up gameplay, which leans heavily into the splendor of the retro era.

The original game wore its inspirations--classic games like River City Ransom, Final Fight, and Final Fantasy--on its sleeve, and the Complete Edition keeps its aesthetic and core gameplay intact. What you get in this enhanced package is the full game, the four bonus modes involving zombies and dodgeball, and the extra DLC characters--which include Wallace Wells, Knives Chau, and hidden character Nega-Scott. The Complete Edition also comes with Network Mode for online play, which was a late addition in the final DLC for the original game.

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Categories: Games

Super Meat Boy Forever Review -- Can't Stop, Won't Stop

Wed, 01/06/2021 - 19:04

Every aspect of Super Meat Boy Forever is frustrating in some way or another. It's a runner, so you have to time your jumps and don't have the liberty of setting yourself up perfectly before taking on a puzzle. And despite putting you on a treadmill, its levels demand incredible nuance and precision, which you'll hone through failure after failure after failure. Super Meat Boy Forever will kick you in the teeth and expect you to stand back up, flash a bloody grin, and go after it again. And that's exactly what happens. Though the jumps may be challenging, Forever's incredibly precise controls give you all the tools you need to stick the landing. The runner format is different, but it opens the door for new and interesting types of complex puzzles that spawn new, captivating varieties of spectacular yell-and-throw-your-controller platforming.

Like in the real world, time has passed in the Meat Boy universe. Meat Boy and Bandage Girl, whom he saved in the original, have settled down and had a baby, Nugget. In Forever, Nugget is kidnapped, so Meat Boy and Bandage Girl go after her. (You can play as either one from the very beginning.) The story has no material effect on your gameplay, but the short cartoon cutscenes find ways to grab your attention all the same with a webtoony out-of-left-field story chock-full of references to video game canon, adorable woodland creatures, cuddly animals, and the adorable little Nugget, who often proves too adorable for even her captor to ignore.

Super Meat Boy Forever captured on PC

The cutscenes are thus an entertaining reward for hard-earned progress. Following in the original Super Meat Boy's footsteps, Forever lays out levels sprinkled with bottomless pits and buzzsaws that require quick thinking and quicker reflexes to escape. At the same time, it's a very different game. Meat Boy or Bandage Girl constantly runs forward, and you simply control when they jump, slide, or punch. By necessity, the levels take on longer, more horizontally oriented shapes to accommodate the new system. Despite those changes, Forever still retains the essence of Super Meat Boy. Though automated movement theoretically seems like it would make the platforming less satisfying, since you aren't in complete control, Forever's challenge is just as captivating.

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Categories: Games

Calico Review

Wed, 12/23/2020 - 23:18

I was quite a young girl when I first got interested in video games. It was something of an awkward transition. At the time, games were largely considered "boy toys," so moving from typical "girly" things like princess dolls and My Little Ponies into gaming was jarring at times, especially since not a lot of games catered to the cute, colorful things I’d been enjoying at playtime to that point. Sure, I loved the fantasy worlds of Mario and Sonic, but I also wished there was a fun gaming playspace for me that echoed the fluffy-cats-and-rainbow-unicorns aesthetic of my Lisa Frank Trapper Keepers.

Had my third-grade self seen Calico, an open-world animal cafe and social interaction game, she would have lost her mind. Calico embraces an aesthetic and theme that is shamelessly, unabashedly girly in the best ways--a world of happy magical girls living in pastel-colored lands with fluffy, cotton-candy trees where all kinds of lovable animals roam freely. But while Calico's concept and visuals are a delight, the simplistic, bug-ridden gameplay dragged me kicking and screaming out of the childhood fantasy world I so wanted to exist in.

Calico is very cute (screenshots captured on PC).

Calico starts off with your created player character inheriting a cat cafe in a faraway world where magic is very real and a part of everyday living. Your job is to fill your little cafe with animals, decorations, and cute kitty-themed pastries while exploring the world and helping your new friends with various errands. It’s a very laid-back, play-as-you-please experience in the vein of other life-sim games, but with an air of play and fairy magic baked in: You can buy potions with funny effects to use on yourself and your animal friends, like shrinking down to mini-size to cook, zooming around while riding on giant red pandas and bunnies, decorating your house with clouds, flowers, and cat paws, and collecting basically any animal in the game (that isn’t already someone else's pet) to be a part of your cafe or your traveling posse.

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Categories: Games

Medal Of Honor: Above And Beyond Review

Thu, 12/17/2020 - 23:56

Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond marks a return to the series' historical roots as well as its first foray into virtual reality. It's been a long time since we've stormed the beaches of Normandy or liberated Nazi-occupied France in a Medal of Honor game, but Above and Beyond strives to bring us back to that familiar WWII experience within the new technology. Being asked to answer the call of duty and return to the battlefield in a new Medal of Honor is an exciting prospect, but Above and Beyond is far too simple a shooter and far too restrictive to ever feel engaging like the series once was.

Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond's campaign is composed of six major missions, each of which is broken into smaller sections, moving you from location to location as you make your way through the story. Each moment of gameplay has you moving through a small area and using a variety of WWII weaponry to take out Nazis. These moments can feature you walking around on foot or, at times, in the back of a vehicle.

Some of the action sequences can be a little too intense, including a sequence where my character was in the back of a moving truck and shooting enemies in the opposite direction, which made me especially motion sick. That said, Above and Beyond offers some great comfort options to help alleviate motion sickness. These include settings that let you tweak turning increments, turn on tunnel vision when sprinting, or even let you skip more intense action sequences entirely and continue through the story. These were enough to alleviate my own issues with motion sickness and made it possible for me to make it through every section without skipping through them. Starting up a new VR game without knowing how your mind and body will react to its movement can be intimidating, but Above and Beyond's options help mitigate discomfort you may experience throughout its duration.

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Categories: Games

Myst Oculus Quest Review

Wed, 12/16/2020 - 20:29

If you've enjoyed having your brain teased by a video game in the last 20 years, or enjoyed the layered mechanical riddles of an IRL escape room, you have Myst to thank. Wildly popular when it launched in 1993, the narrative adventure was a pivotal moment for puzzle-solving in games. Now, 27 years later, the classic is reborn in virtual reality--rebuilt, but almost completely unchanged. Myst is and will always be a treasure. Even after all these years, its puzzles will still test, and maybe even stump, you. For returning fans, seeing it in VR for the first time is a powerful nostalgia trip. Being inside a world you’ve only seen through a screen before feels like diving into your own memory. When you get over that initial sense of wonder--or if you don't have the nostalgia that conjures it--Myst can’t hide its age, and its VR makeover exacerbates its blemishes.

Myst is a small uninhabited island dotted with odd buildings and unintuitive, free-standing switches. When you arrive, you have no idea why you're there or what you should be doing. As you poke around--opening every door, pressing all the switches, reading the books and notes you find--your situation starts to take shape. Trapped on Myst, you will need to unravel its puzzles to uncover its secrets and escape.

The content of Myst's places and puzzles do not follow any kind of unifying aesthetic--they are united in service of creating perplexing challenges that require you to be mindful of your surroundings and think creatively. At a glance, each puzzle seems completely obtuse, a hodge-podge of interactive puzzle pieces that don't easily fit together. More often than not, you'll need to take a good long look at your surroundings and figure out how the puzzle works before you can solve it.

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Categories: Games

Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 Review

Sat, 12/12/2020 - 00:50

Fans of competitive, block-dropping puzzle games had it pretty rough for most of the last decade. Creativity in the Tetris space was being stifled by a strict set of game-rules guidelines imposed by The Tetris Company, while Puyo Puyo was mostly trapped in Japan, playable only by those international fans fervent enough to tread import waters. Thankfully, things have changed somewhat on both fronts, bringing us the unusual mashup title Puyo Puyo Tetris in 2017 to critical and fan success. Three years later, we now have a follow-up in the form of Puyo Puyo Tetris 2. While it keeps much of what made the original game a success, it offers a few new game modes and online enhancements--but as a sequel, it lacks the same punch as the original.

Like in the original game, Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 is built around an engine combining these two competitive puzzle titans into a singular game entity. Players pick either Puyo Puyo or Tetris gameplay and go up against an opponent, with rules adjusted according to which style they're using--or they can play a mode that switches between Puyo Puyo and Tetris gameplay at set intervals. If you're feeling especially brave, you can attempt Fusion mode, which puts Puyo blobs and Tetromino blocks on the same board in a complex rules mashup that will put your puzzling skills to the true test.

But that's just the beginning. There's a lot on offer in Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 for both solo and multiplayer play. The Adventure mode offers an all-new story, complete with a pleasant new overworld interface and featuring a cast of colorful weirdos--mostly from the expanded Puyo Puyo universe--who solve all of their problems and disagreements by tossing colored blobs and blocks at each other. The game modes change in every chapter, so Adventure Mode serves as a way to practice and learn the various styles of gameplay available while also unlocking characters, in-game shop credits, and various embellishments for your profile. While the rainbow-colored characters and their jokey personalities are certainly cute, the nonsensical nature of the narrative will either charm you to bits or leave you mashing the skip button to get to the dropping faster. This mode takes a few hours to finish, and future DLC expansions have been teased.

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