Friday, February 12, 2016

Deadpool (XB1) Review

The Deadpool game has a kind of strange history.  It was released and had low sales, then was eventually de-listed from the digital marketplaces after Activision's Marvel license ran out.  It then was re-released for the current consoles, likely because of the movie in February.

The premise and tone of the game are cool and unmistakenly modern Deadpool.  He wants to make his own video game, and High Moon studios agrees to it...after some "convincing".  After being sent the script, Deadpool decides on some re-writes before doing much reading, and sets out to make the game (as a nice touch, they do list him in the credits a few times).  There are plenty of fourth wall breaks and humor to the game.  I liked many of the jokes, but some were complete misses.  I can easily see each joke polarizing the audience for or against it.  There is a lot of swearing, innuendo and other things, and a near constant barrage of humor, whether you like it or not.

Deadpool is an action game, but splits its time between hack and slash and third person shooter.  Those two elements come together pretty well all things considered, but it could have been a bit more polished.  The melee attacks have three different weapons and a few different combos, and it was pretty fun to slash and smash up the enemies.  Deadpool also gets a counter move, similar to Ninja Gaiden or the Batman Arkham games.  The counter window is a little generous, but it doesn't seem open for as long as the button is displayed on the screen.  The same button also teleports Deadpool to avoid damage.  This is kind of nice, but I would probably prefer them to be different buttons.  The teleport could work better as well.  If you teleport through an attack, you can avoid all the damage from it, but you usually have to teleport through the enemy to the other side.  If you teleport backwards or to the side, still outside of the attack's range, you will likely still get hit.  It doesn't make much sense.

The shooting didn't feel as good as the melee to me.  Aiming itself was smooth enough, but the enemies tended to move very quickly, making actually keeping the aim on them frustrating.  There is a lock-on mechanic, but it is very fickle in actually starting and staying on the target.  It was the easiest way to shoot enemies, but it still left much to be desired.  You do get four different gun types, but some (SMGs) just felt better than others (shotgun).  It also felt like the guns would do inconsistent damage, and not just because of headshots.  The first pistol round would do almost 50%, then the next would do 25% or so.  Considering the aiming and shooting in the Cybertron games (which the studio also did) was so much better, I have no idea what happened in Deadpool.

The game's difficulty level also doesn't feel very balanced.  Enemies will get stronger as the game progresses, so at least that part works.  They will also get stronger, which is fine...except you can only get 1 increase to your max health.  Plus, throughout the game, enemies with rapid fire weapons (either machine guns or the whirlwind enemies that have rapid blasts) just eat through your health.  There's no block and you can't counter it.  The teleport might let you get away, but it can be really spotty in doing so.  Plus, shots like that don't make Deadpool react, so you might be down 50% in two seconds and not even realize your were being hit.  Also, I was unashamedly playing on the easiest setting, and the rapid fire still cut through him in seconds.  That's not balanced and I would dread playing this on the hardest setting, even with all the upgrades.

Besides action, there are many times you are jumping around from ledge to ledge, platform to platform.  Deadpool's jumping is pretty good, if a bit hard to precisely control at times.  He does have a double jump ("physics be damned!"), which I always like to have.  His teleport doesn't really do anything for these sections, save for a few bits later in the game where you can directly go to another ledge.  Having that as a mechanic throughout the game might have made these parts better.  The character model does a great job of getting caught on the level's geometry, though.  This affects moving, fighting, and platforming.  The jumping in and of itself is fine, but sometimes you hit the edge of the platform or something else goes wrong and you just...miss.  Here it will prompt you for the teleport, which puts you back at an earlier platform.  It's still annoying though.

However, the biggest problem the game has to be its very frequent hang-ups.  Every 30 seconds or so, the game will lock up for a second or two.  This is very detrimental to gameplay in all areas.  It will de-sync the audio when it happens during a cut-scene.  While jumping or fighting, it doesn't stop you from being able to react, but it does throw off your timing since you won't know exactly how long it will be stuck.  There is a solution, and it is to disconnect your system from the internet while playing.  I did that and the game started working just fine.  Even so, it really shouldn't be an issue in a released game.  It just smacks of shoddy work, and it is present on both Xbox One and PS4.

The game is pretty short, too, clocking in at about 7 hours.  That's probably on the higher end of it, depending on your skill at the game, and how many parts you have to do over.  There are some challenge levels unlocked by going through the game to give you a little more to do, but a bulk of the replay and extended play is going for the achievements and trophies.  The game does get much harder by the end, especially the last stage.  This is mostly because it is an extended platforming part that then culminates with several waves of many enemies and two boss fights against multiple people.

Deadpool has some great moments, like Cable's introduction song and some of the jokes, but the action is a bit of a letdown.  There's not much unique about it and it feels unbalanced and unpolished in a lot of ways.  If you like the character of Deadpool, the game is definitely worth a rental.  Since it is so short with not much replay value, you can finish it in a day or two easy (I did).  I would not recommend a purchase, but it might be worth a try for comic book fans.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Saturday Morning RPG (PS4) Review

When I first heard about Saturday Morning RPG, it sounded like the game I would make.  Take lots of references to 80s and 90s culture, sprinkle in some video game stuff, and pour it all over an RPG frame.  While that recipe doesn't always turn out, in Saturday Morning RPG, it is delicious.

The characters and enemies in the game are all cool sprites that, besides invoking the feeling of great 90s gaming, also look cool.  The backgrounds are in 3D, but they blend together really well.  The sprites are simpler on the map, and become much better during battles.  The music is also really catchy and fits the game.  I really dig how the game looks and sounds.

Before any battle starts, you can scratch your stickers and get some nice effects for that battle.  These vary wildly, from a specific stat buff, to an enemy debuff, to more money, or even ones that don't seem to do anything.  Even though you are doing it every time, I tended to forget that I had to scratch when a battle started.  Each sticker has a different rarity and scratch difficulty, so there is some tactical thought you can put into your choices.  It's a fun thing to make battles more unique.  However, it's only one of several things that will wear our your hand...or controller...while playing.

Battles are turn based.  The current order is shown at the top of the screen and it is determined by your speed stat and the speed of what you are doing.  There is a normal attack, that has a sliding bar mini-game to give critical damage.  However, this attack is rarely used for damage as it restores MP.  MP isn't used for abilities, like just about every other RPG, but for the unique charge mechanic in the game.

There are three charge abilities to increase the damage multiplier on your next attack.  There is a quick one that will take some MP to add an amount of charge of around 2x.  The second is a timing mini-game where you try to stop the meter closer to the end as it speeds up.  The third is mashing the button to gain the bonus.  The third was easily the most powerful, but it really wears out your arm (and maybe the controller).  The second didn't seem much more powerful than the first, so I rarely used it.  For longer play sessions, I stuck with the quick charge, mostly to save my poor mashing muscles.  A turbo controller would absolutely be a great option to use, though.

You can also get some MP and extra charge multipliers from guarding attacks.  If you press the button when an attack is going to hit you, you can reduce its damage.  Early on the difference is negligible, but it becomes more significant later on, especially in boss and mid-boss fights.  Thankfully it isn't too hard to at least get some damage reduction, but the timing for the best guard is tricky for some attacks.  The only small issue I had with the guarding is a few attacks (notably the flamethrower) would cover up my character and block rating so I couldn't tell how close I was, since the text isn't readable through some effects.

Your special attacks are the items that you equip.  Each one has a set number of uses per battle.  Some require no additional imputs, but many require either mashing the button or a timing mini-game of some sort.  It's pretty cool and there are a lot of great references in the numerous equips you can find.  The only problem is the use count.  For most fights it is fine, but any lengthy ones it can be very easy to run out.  If you do, you are stuck with the weak normal attack and trying to get enough MP to charge it to do something resembling decent damage.  This also makes the Endless fights really hard as you press through them.

Plus, attacks seem to miss more than I would think they should.  Even with extra accuracy and a weapon skill that has high accuracy, I've missed too much.  With limited uses, this really is a bummer.  Even more so if you sank some MP to charge it, which is then also wasted.  I'm not sure what the hard numbers are on accuracy, but I felt like I missed too many attacks.  Granted, I'm a huge accuracy nut in RPGs, so anything more than a rare miss bothers me.

Another great reference to 80s/90s kids is the menu.  Your menu is one of those old trapper keeper folders.  The front shows the battle stickers that you are currently using.  These can be replaced anytime you aren't in battle.  The cover of the folder also can grant stat bonuses to help in battle.  Inside you set your abilities and can check your quests.  Just about everything in the game is a nod to something, and I think it works really well.

Right now the game has five episodes.  You can do them in any order, especially if you use the settings to scale the enemies.  However, the game makes the most sense if you go in the proper order.  It took me almost 10 hours to go through all of them.  Since many of the quests have alternate solutions, there is a good reason to replay the chapters if you so choose.  Plus, you keep your stats and items, so it is also an excuse to get them all.  The episodic format also works really well for Saturday Morning RPG.  It feels more legit, like an old cartoon show (that is the point), plus gives easy ways to add more to the game.

If you like RPGs, you should try Saturday Morning RPG.  If you are in your late 20s or older and like RPGs, you should absolutely get this game.  It's not perfect, but it is very fun and should give you a great nostalgia kick.  I "marked out" several times in the game.  Even if it is short, the playtime seems perfect for the cost.  I really enjoyed the game and would recommend it, just be careful not to wear out your controller or yourself.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Shooting Stars! (PC) Review

What happens when you mix shmup gameplay with pixel art and the internet?  Shooting Stars!

No, really.  Shooting Stars! is a shoot-em-up (or shmup for short) game where you and your laser-eyed cat take on memes, celebrities, and internet personalities of all sorts.  I think just about everything in the game is a pop culture reference to something.  Enemies, attacks, name it.

As a shmup, you move your character around and shoot...everything.  You start off with a basic laser (from your cat) that can upgrade when you pick up food items.  These items are randomly given during the game when an enemy is killed.  Being just food items, it isn't readily apparent what each upgrade will do, and some are either very specific (the clone super move will copy your powerups) or not very useful.  So try to remember at least which ones you don't want to pickup.  The only one I really avoid outright is the really big hamburger, since it upgrades your shot to include missiles.  While this does up your damage, each missile explosion will shake the screen.  When you are trying to delicately dodge around a lot of small shots, shaking the screen is a huge detriment.

Besides your normal shot, you can also have one type of super move equipped.  These are also randomly dropped from slain enemies.  Like the food power-ups, each super varies in usefulness and effect.  Most are big attacks that can clear out multiple enemies, but there is also one that gives you temporary clones on the side to widen your attacks, and a shield that makes you invincible for a set amount of time.  Thankfully, these super moves are on a cooldown timer instead of a use count, so fire away!  You can only have one on at a time, so you have to hover over another for a few seconds to pick it up.  That is super useful so you don't accidentally pick one up that you don't want.  Also like the fruit, each might not be so obvious as to what it does, so try to remember the ones you like and skip the rest after you have tried them all.

Once you start the game, there are six stages, the first five of which are random.  There are many different bosses, and each one has a different stage that must be completed before you fight them.  They also each have unique attacks and shot patterns, which I honestly didn't expect.  It's also nice that the order is pretty random, leading to a different experience each time you go through the game.  The sixth stage is set, and will always be the final boss.  After besting him, you then continue through the game again, each run getting harder and harder, until you die.

There are three ways to control the game.  You can use a keyboard, mouse or controller.  For me, the keyboard was easily the weakest of the three, and mostly because moving isn't as precise with the arrow keys.  The mouse offered really quick and precise movements, but you have to hold the shoot button to move, meaning you are constantly shooting.  This isn't a huge problem, but you will just constantly hear the laser noises.  Plus, it tends to cramp my hand after 10 minutes or so.  The controller was the most comfortable to me.  Moving isn't quite as fast, but it was much more comfortable and natural.  Either way, they all worked, but I would recommend using a controller or just the mouse.

It only takes about 10-15 minutes to get through each cycle.  However, because the goal of the game really is getting a high score, you are meant to replay it a lot.  The random nature of the bosses and powerups makes this much more palatable than some other shmups.  Your high score will also get posted to the leaderboards.  Bosses sometimes drop cards to collect, adding another element to extend playtime if you desire.  The game itself isn't too hard.  You get several hits before you die, but only one life.  Occasionally there are drops to restore health or armor, so there is some leniency.

Overall, Shooting Stars! is a very competent shmup.  I enjoyed playing it, and it seems like a good "pick up and play for 10-20 minutes at a time" sort of game.  If you aren't super into pop culture, the game might not click with you.  Although I didn't know everyone referenced, I still found the game enjoyable as a shoot-em-up, which is a genre I really like.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Rebel Galaxy (Xbox One) Review

Rebel Galaxy has headed to home consoles after its recent PC release.  The game gives you a bit of story, then quickly drops you into the action.  There is a little explanation of what to do, but not much.  The game mostly leaves you to your own devices.

I'm ok with a game not holding your hand, but I'd like some information available in the game.  Over and under tutorializing are a frequent problem in games, and Rebel Galaxy is the latter.  The basic buttons are displayed fine on the screen, but figuring out navigation, mining and other things is trial and error.  It has a very old school mentality in that regard.

The best part of the game is just how much freedom they give you.  There is a story, but you don't really have to follow it.  You can run around and fight pirates, get bounty money and do side missions.  If you are more peaceful-minded (or greedy), go mining or become a trader, buying low and selling high.  Want to run afoul of the law?  Then do missions for the pirates and attack traders.  The game does a great job of letting you earn money for upgrades in as many or few ways as you want.

At first, I didn't realize that was the point of the game.  I was trying to do the story missions, and they quickly shot up in difficulty.  I was supposed to do extra stuff to make money, and slowly upgrade my ship and weapons and tackle the story missions as I did so.  It's fine for the game to do that, I just wish I had known earlier.  While you can do many things to earn money, you will likely be doing several of them to get ahead faster.  The side missions are randomized and repeatable, so there is no way to run out.  Plus each station has several each time you visit.  In fact, each new game randomizes the galaxy names and layouts.  It's nice that each player will have a lot of unique experiences while playing, or replaying, the game.

While traveling from station to station and job to job, you will be watching your ship fly.  A lot.  It's not the most interesting thing, but you do have to pay attention.  Fights can come at almost any point, so you should be ready for combat.  The bigger threat of not paying attention is flying too close to a planet or moon, and dying.  There are things to discover floating around, so there is stuff out there.  The game almost feels too realistic, since most times you are driving/flying somewhere, there isn't too much interesting going on, and the kind of interesting you would encounter is not the kind you want to encounter.

Combat is an important part of the game, since no matter what you will be involved in some fisticuffs.  Even if you are an item runner, you will need to know some fighting to know how to get the heck out of there when trouble comes knocking.  Though it is a vital part of the game, there is little instruction on it, as mentioned in part earlier.  Each ship is outfitted with a broadside weapon.  The number of shots of each (and hence its damage) is determined by the number of ports the ship has.  The same applies to the secondary weapons, although these are sometimes less direct weapons.  You can aim turrets manually, but I only really needed that for mining.  Otherwise, they shoot fine on their own.

There is a flak cannon you can equip to deal with enemy missiles, and deal with them you will.  I didn't realize that you have to fire them yourself, so I thought they were useless.  Turns out I didn't see that there is a button for them, so they are not actually useless.  Unfortunately, they are only useful if you aren't going too fast and try to vaguely aim them at the missiles, but they do work.  You do need some way to deal with enemy artillery, since as the game progresses, large enemy ship have a ton of missiles and torpedoes that they will not hesitate to shoot at you.  A lot.

Fights can vary in difficulty pretty wildly.  Since there are no levels of enemies, it can be hard to tell if you are capable of taking out some foes until midway through the fight.  Even if a job is labelled as easier doesn't necessarily mean it is.  Once you go through a few systems, the fights become much harder.  Enemies are numerous and outfitted with arms that eat through your shields and hull.  While you can hire a mercenary, two ships versus ten requires more power or good tactics.  Unless you are really good at destroying enemies, you will likely have to run a lot of jobs to build up money to go and buy better weapons and armor to withstand each new area.

As our moon has its dark side, and there are things I don't like in Rebel Galaxy.  More than there should be.  First off, you can't resize the screen, so the edges are cut off on my TV.  Second, the game starts off pretty loud, and I'm really not a fan of the music choices.  It isn't terrible, but it's some space western-y tunes that remind me of Firefly.  I can and do turn down the music and turn off the vibration, but it has to wait until I actually load up my game to do so.  Plus, with the vibration set to 0%, I have to go in again and change it up then back to get it to recognize that it is supposed to be off any time I boot up the game.  They might be minor, but they do get annoying.

There are still a few other problems I have with the game.  The game saves whenever you leave a station.  It only tells you this if you haven't saved in a while.  There is no on-screen indicator to know that you are saving or have saved.  While you can have multiple games, each has its own solitary save file.  That I can deal with, even if I don't like it.  The freedom the game gives has its downside too.  If you aren't committed to choosing a path or pushing yourself to do things, the game can be very aimless, like all open world/sandbox games.  While the problems aren't a huge deal, they are mostly ones that could easily be fixed.  Again, these problems may be bigger or smaller to you based off your own gaming preferences.

Rebel Galaxy can be very fun.  It might look and sound boring, since between fights there is a lot of flying through space and just staring at the screen.  When you actually play it, it is oddly engaging and easy to get caught up in.  It's one of those games you can sit down and start playing, then look up at the clock and realize you've been playing it for hours.  There are a fair amount of small issues that add up to make Rebel Galaxy good instead of great.  If the game sounds or looks at all interesting to you, definitely try it out for a few hours.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC (PSP) Review

Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC is the second part of an RPG trilogy for the PSP.  While it may seem odd to release a PSP game now, players can carry over some progress from the first chapter, and PSP games are fully playable on the Vita, so it does make sense.

It also looks fairly good on the small screen.  Graphics-wise, the game seems reminds me of one of those great 90s JRPGs.  The backgrounds are 3D and the camera can be rotated in many areas, allowing you to look around.  The characters look more like rendered 3D models than the straight-up polygons of the scenery.  This makes them stand out in a good way.  Being a fan of older games, and considering the limitations of the base system (PSP), the graphics look nice.  There is also a PC version on Steam, if you want it to look as good as it can.

The game quickly gets going when Josh, the main character's childhood friend/"brother"/secret crush takes off... and it is revealed he was actually working for a secret, evil group of people.  Yeah, so I really should have played the first game, as this probably spoiled some big events in it.  Our main hero, Estelle, is off to find and save Josh.  You can import a save from the previous game or just make a new one.  It obviously won't transfer everything, but you get some items and Estelle's level is the same if it was between 35-40 (otherwise it will be bumped up or down accordingly).  Since I haven't played enough of the first for it to matter, I didn't transfer anything.  Just be aware that this review is written with that in mind.

The game's story is really good.  Estelle's personal goal of finding her friend intertwines well with her professional goal of stopping an evil organization.  The characters are well fleshed out and believable, and you can easily get attached to some of them.  The dialogue and localization is top-notch, which gives extra marks to any RPG.  My only real issue is the lack of refresher of the previous story.  Given the time between the games, and the fact that you can play this without the first, some kind of optional recap would have been really nice.  As it stands, there is a chunk of stuff in the beginning that was tricky to figure out.  Like the battle difficulty (discussed later), this drops off as the game progresses, but considering much shorter and closely released games beat you over the head with a recap, it is disappointing to not have one in a game with such a great story.

Second Chapter is an RPG, so you will be fighting many battles.  Battles take place on a grid, but it's not a strategy RPG.  You can choose to move on the grid if you want, but if you select an enemy to attack and it's within your range, you will just run up and hit it.  If it's not in range, you will move as close as you can to it.  Since normal attacks send most monsters back a bit, it can be a problem hitting them out of range of the rest of your characters.  You can also cast magic, called "arts", but they will not cast instantly.  The turn order in the top left of the screen shows when the spell will take effect, so plan accordingly.  There are a good number of monsters that are much more affected by magic, so you can't just gomp stomp your way through every fight.  At least since enemies show up on the map, you can often times avoid the fight if you need to.

Each character also has unique abilities called Crafts.  These take a resource known as Craft Points (CP for short) to use, and tend to be pretty powerful or useful.  CP is unlike AP (Art Points) in that it is gained from taking or receiving damage.  If the CP meter is filled to at least 100, then a character can cash it all in to use an S-Craft, which is effectively a super move.  These can also be cast when not your turn to jump into the turn order.  Since some turns have effects like healing some HP or a guaranteed critical, it can be very useful to cut in line and take that for an enemy.  I really like the Craft system, since CP are a fairly renewable resource to use when you need it.  Using it with a beneficial turn effect has really helped on some of the harder fights in the game.

Your characters will get a special piece of equipment called an orbment that allows them to equip quartzes.  These crystals affect your stats, but also grant magic spells based off the element(s) it grants.  Each orbment has the same number of slots, but arranged in different lines.  Elements in the same line are added together to grant bigger and costlier spells.  I really like this system, as it allows you some refinements in your character.  Granted, I'm not a fan of the crystals that both increase and decrease stats (attack goes up 6% but defense goes down 3% for example), but most are good.  It's really easy to switch them around to make sure elemental spells are covered, too.  This is also a way to get a chance to apply status ailments on your attacks, which can turn the tide of battle quickly in your favor.

The difficulty in battle feels a bit unbalanced at times.  Fighting enemies on equal footing will likely result in you taking a lot of unnecessary damage.  If I got a preemptive strike, on the other hand, the battles were almost too easy.  There are also plenty of enemies with status ailments on their normal attacks.  These can be ridiculously deadly, so any advantage you can get is a plus.  Normal fights did get slightly easier with time, so the initial hurdle may have been because I didn't transfer a save into the game, as the starting difference would peter out over time.  Special fights against quest monsters and chest enemies can be tricky though, since you cannot get a preemptive strike.  Enemies are pretty powerful, so smart use of items and abilities will get you through them.  Strangely, boss fights were not as hard as I would have though.  Maybe they were easier since I did a lot of fighting while doing all of the side quests, or maybe they are more balanced than others.

While the world Estelle and company run around in is nice, I do have a slight problem with it.  I'm not the best with directions, and I'm thankful that towns have a mini-map so I don't get (as) lost.  Dungeons do not usually have maps for them, making it much harder to navigate.  I can eventually make my way through them, but I like to make sure that I've hit all the side paths and gathered all the treasure lying around.  The lack of a mini-map makes that much harder.  Since you can rotate the screen, I would have to remember cardinal directions rather than "I took the right path first".  Again, this might not be a problem for other people, but I would have really liked mini-maps for the dungeons.  You can save anywhere in dungeons (and towns), though, and you have plenty of save slots, which is always great in my book.

The game is also really long.  Remember RPGs about a decade ago when they ran 80 hours instead of 20-30?  Trails in the Sky SC is closer to the former.  There are 8 numbered chapters, a prologue and a finale.  The prologue itself took me 4 hours, which is crazy long for what in most games is a cut scene or two and a tutorial battle.  Other chapters ran me about 8 hours on average.  I am a completionist, so I pretty much did every side quest I could.  Unfortunately, it is easy to miss some by progressing the main story too far.  You could cut down on playtime if you ignore most of the side quests, but you might need to do some grinding to compensate.  Either way, just going through the game will take a long time.

Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC reminds me a lot of the PS1 era RPGs.  It has a good story with good characters, but could do more to introduce them to new players or those that don't remember the entire first game.  Otherwise, it is a fun RPG with unique battles.  I like the craft/art system, and the super moves are useful and fun to watch.  The game is really long, too, so you easily get your money's worth.  Fans of JRPGs, especially ones from the turn-based golden age, should definitely check it out.  If possible, I'd recommend playing the previous game first, then jump straight into the Second Chapter.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Slice It! (3DS) Review

Slice It! has made its way to the 3DS E-shop after being available on mobile devices.  It is an interesting puzzle game that tasks you with drawing lines to slice an object into a set number of equally sized sections in order to complete a stage.

The game has two different ways to play, either one of the episodes, or Slice It! Quick.  The two episodes each have 100 puzzles divided evenly over 5 pages.  For each of the puzzles, you have a set number of lines to use and set number of pieces the object has to be divided into.  At first it's pretty simple.  After a few puzzles, it gets harder.  You can't cut the pieces too small, otherwise you will fail.  You also have to use each line, even if the puzzle can be done in less.  It gets pretty challenging as you progress through the game.  Hints are helpful, but they are not per puzzle, so you can quickly run out of them.  You can earn more by playing Slice It! Quick (see below), but that can take awhile as well, especially if you need multiple for one puzzle (don't judge me!).  If you use a hint, do your best to complete the puzzle, since if you exit out, the hint will not show back up, but will have been used.

The second episode is similar to the first, but adds some twists including areas that you cannot draw lines through and ones that reflect the drawn line.  These are pretty interesting ways to add something unique to the mix instead of just harder puzzles.  It is possible to skip any puzzles that you are struggling with, but you do have to complete one full page (by getting at least one star on a puzzle) to move on to the next.  Once you finish the first episode, the other unlocks.  There is also a gift area with 40 more puzzles.

Slice It! Quick is just that: trying to solve a puzzle quickly.  You start with 30 seconds and try to complete as many randomly sequenced puzzles as you can in the time frame.  Thankfully, they puzzles aren't hard in this version, since the emphasis is on speed.  If you fail a puzzle, you lose 3 seconds from your time, but a perfect will give you 3 more.  There are sometimes "challenge" puzzles that stop the clock, but are a little more complicated than the standard ones in this mode.  For every 20 that you are able to do, you are also rewarded with a hint for the episodes.

This mode is a great alternative to the main one.  While I'm not the speediest of people, it's nice to bounce between the two.  After doing some puzzles from the episodes, I like to do a round of Slice It! Quick to kind of cleanse the pallet.  Or if I need to get a hint or two back.  That's probably how it will mostly be used, but I like the dichotomy of one set for thinking and the other for speed.  Just make sure to take the extra quarter second to make sure your are lined up correctly...the penalty is not worth the carelessness!

Slice It! is a pretty fun and quick puzzle game.  Some of the stages were pretty hard for me, but being a puzzle game, that experience will differ from person to person.  It's a bit more linear that I would like, since being stuck on a puzzle can halt your progress to the next page or unlock.  There are a lot of puzzles to solve, so it's easy to get your money's worth.  It's also a good pick up and play game for when you have a few minutes to solve some puzzles.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Deadly Tower of Monsters (PS4) Review

The Deadly Tower of Monsters is an attempt to recreate a cheesy, low-budget sci-fi movie from the 70s and make a video game around the director's commentary on the re-release of the movie.  It's a great idea, and it's pulled off well, which makes the whole thing work.

One of the reasons it works so well is because the developers committed to the idea of the game.  There are times when you can see the strings attached to flying things.  When the heroes die, they become stunt dummies.  The weapons you pick up are clearly mundane objects that the prop department added things to in order to make it more sci-fi.  Enemies are guys in suits or even stop motion monsters, and they look like it.  There's even a grainy filter on the game that simulates a VHS tape (this can be turned off if you are not cool enough).  Putting the VHS filter on the audio makes it kind of warped in a few places.

The other good part of the presentation is the director's commentary itself.  He's kind of a stereotypical chauvinistic ass, but that's the point.  He boasts about the terrible working conditions he put people through.  He tries to explain away the inconsistencies of the movie.  He stumbles over $30 words while trying to sound smart.  To top it off, he'll even throw in a few chauvinistic remarks.  Even though all the actors do good work, the director is easily the star of the game.

Primary, Deadly Tower is a 3D action game.  Your characters run around the different areas, ascending the tower.  You get a melee attack and a ranged attack, and two weapons to swap between for each.  There are over 20 weapons in the game, split between the two attack types.  Each weapon is also upgradeable with cogs you pick up.  The ranged weapons have an energy meter that depletes when you fire them, and it refills over time.  It's fairly standard for the genre, but I really do like the upgraded weapons, since they tend to have some silly comment on them related to what it is, or how silly and sci-fi they look.  The melee upgrades in particular tend to make the weapons a little more goofy to fit with the theme of the game.

The best defensive maneuver the heroes have is a dodge roll.  However, if you use it right when an enemy attack would hit you, it will instead be a parry that will knock the enemy back and cause some damage.  Doing it to a projectile attack will send it back at the attacker.  Thankfully it is not necessary to master it.  While you will get hit a lot, especially in melee combat, you don't usually take a lot of damage.  Enemies will frequently drop cubes that restore a little health and larger health pickups are scattered around the map, so I rarely ran low on health.

Each of the playable heroes will get some powers that help with either combat or exploration.  They all share a force push to knock enemies away and one other that I won't spoil.  Dick's unique skills are a landmine that can clear out certain rocks and a dash.  Scarlett gets a electric barrier and a speedy run.  Robot gets a time slow field and a chain lightning bolt.  The way the powers are used to open up other areas and get some of the collectibles is well done.  Even if you need to switch to a particular hero for a certain part, there are many handy "sleep chambers" that let you do so.

While there isn't a ton of it, there is some platforming in the game.  It's not too taxing, save for one part later in the game.  If you happen to fall in the water at the bottom, a fish will eat you and you return to the nearest shore, with some commentary from the director.  Falling off of a ledge would be slightly more problematic, but you soon get an air teleport that will warp you back up to the ledge you fell from.  That comes in really handy when grabbing a few collectibles or falling through the rings.  It's actually a really nice feature that I now wish was in other games.  You also get a rocket pack that will allow you to hover for a short amount of time, or help break your fall so you don't die.  It has no upward thrust, so it can't be used as a double jump unfortunately.  I have used it to skirt around a few obstructions.  I'm not sure if that's intended, or just a happy coincidence.

The game isn't too long, taking about 4-5 hours to beat.  If you go looking for the collectibles or the trophies, then it's closer to 8-10 hours.  The touch pad is a convenient teleport to jump around the map to gather up anything you missed.  There isn't much replay value after that, since none of the trophies are missable.  The game isn't too hard, either.  The only times I died were from falling too far and the jetpack not saving me.  Once or twice I was low on health during a fight, but I never actually ran out.

The Deadly Tower of Monsters is a great idea for a game that the developers went full in on.  As a result, I think it was pulled of pretty well.  I laughed at several parts, even though my 8 year old had no idea why I was laughing.  The action of the game is fairly standard and the only real problem I had was the weird collision near many of the obstacles.  When in tight quarters, the player model tended to get stuck in a jump animation and it can be tricky to get out.  It's only about a 5-10 hour game, depending on if you are going for the platinum trophy or collectibles.  Fans of cheesy sci-fi movies should check the game out for some laughs, as I was pleasantly surprised at how fun the game was.