Also available on Wii, 3DS, and PlayStation 4
Art of Balance initially released as a WiiWare game and, after receiving a lot of praise from players and critics alike, was ported to 3DS, Wii U, and PS4. I got it on Wii U when it was offered as a reward for gold coins on My Nintendo a while back, but it wasn't until I was getting ready to move last month and had most of my games and consoles packed up that I decided to play it. I didn't need the TV to play it, so it seemed like the perfect game.
Art of Balance is the epitome of a casual "just chill, man" type of puzzle game. You have a set of blocks, and you have to stack them in such a way that they stay stacked without falling over for thee seconds. That's it. That's the entire game. It does throw you some curve balls along the way - there are blocks that shatter if three blocks are stacked on them, blocks that shatter a few seconds after a block is placed on them, and blocks that shatter if the same kind of block touched it, for example - but the base objective remains the same.
The early levels start off REALLY easy. The first half of the game, really, is nice and relaxing; it's the second half that gets to be pretty challenging, and the last quarter or so can be downright frustrating. It never stops being fun, though, and it's a fantastic game for flexing your spacial reasoning skills. Because it auto-saves after each level, it's perfect to pick up and play if you've only got ten minutes here and there, too. The backgrounds are super zen and tranquil, too, really emphasizing the relaxing nature of the game. All of the block-stacking is done on some kind of platform in a pool of water; if your blocks touch the water, you have to start over. The splash when they hit the water is almost satisfying in a way, though, so not until the later levels when it gets hard does that splash ever get annoying or taunting in any way.
Art of Balance is pretty much the best game if you're looking for a chill way to unwind and exercise your brain a little bit. It definitely gets tough towards the end, but it's never insurmountable if you have some patience, and it's a fantastic game for short bursts. It's $9 on the Wii U eShop (not sure about other platforms, but the Wii Shop Channel is gone, so that part's a moot point), and with eight worlds each consisting of probably 10 or 15 levels, there's definitely $9 worth of content in the game. I definitely recommend this one.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth is basically the result of Atlus execs getting together and saying "How can make a game that embodies fan service for our IPs?" The answer, of course, is to put Persona 3 characters and Persona 4 characters into one game that uses the Etrian Odyssey style of dungeon crawling with a few cameos and references to other Atlus IPs like Catherine thrown in for good measure. Somehow, through what I can describe only as Atlus wizardry, they manage all of that without having the game feel like a haphazard cash grab (looking at you, Project X Zone).
The base story of Persona Q is that the characters of Persona 3 and Persona 4 both find themselves inexplicably pulled into this mysterious world to which a small bubble of the Velvet Room connects. You pick either the P3 protag or the P4 protag to be your "main" character when you start the game, but the choice is almost completely meaningless; the only thing it affects is what party you get for the very first little tutorial dungeon. After that, aside from a couple unimportant lines of dialogue here and there, it really doesn't make any difference. The story is the same, the dungeons are the same, the enemies are the same. Once you get past that tutorial, you can mix and match P3 and P4 characters in your party however you want.
Let's start with what I loved about the game. It has the Persona 3 characters AND the Persona 4 characters. That alone was enough to sell me on the game. As for what I didn't like so much, the dungeon crawling is a big one. It's less that I hated the dungeon crawling and more that the dungeons were too long and, as a result, started feeling monotonous and boring about halfway through each one. I've never played an Etrian Odyssey game, but if they're all like this, I think it's a series I'll continue to avoid. The other issue is a common problem with Persona and, more generally, Shin Megami Tensei games - game fatigue. It's just too long for what it offers. The dungeons get so long and complex that, while fun if viewed in isolation, they just start feeling like padding to lengthen the game. It took me just under 70 hours to finish Persona Q, and while that did include some side stuff, I feel like 40 hours would have been a good length for this game. It just wore out its welcome, so to speak, and I found myself finishing the game not because I was still enjoying it but because I had already invested 50+ hours and wanted to call it done.
Problems with pacing aside, anyone who's had any experience with the Shin Megami Tensei series - ESPECIALLY the Persona sub-series - should know that a killer soundtrack is basically a pre-requisite, and Persona Q is no exception. I personally don't think it quite matches the greatness that was Persona 4's OST, but Persona Q is an absolute auditory delight. The visuals are also quite nice and are stylized to make best use of the 3DS hardware. If Atlus went for the normal relatively proportioned art style in most Persona games, it would have highlighted the relative deficit in hardware power that the 3DS has, but by going for a more chibi style, the characters all had a cute, artistic look while avoiding the perception that they were trying to hide the system's graphical limitations not unlike the use of cel shaded visuals on the Wii. It works brilliantly and really showcases the artistic talent at work in Atlus.
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth is not only the first Persona game to be developed specifically for Nintendo hardware but its also a P3/P4 crossover alongside the two Persona 4 Arena games. As is often the case for Shin Megami Tensei games, it's a big longer than I think it needed to be clocking in between 60 and 70 hours, but it's not quite as extreme in that regard as Persona 3 FES. The first person dungeon crawling breaks from the norm for Persona, but then again, so did a 1v1 fighter and a rhythm game, so I guess it really shouldn't surprise me much. While I got tired of it about 3/4 of the way through, I did get a LOT of enjoyment out of the first half of my time with this game, and I have no problem recommending it for fans of Persona 3 and Persona 4 or fans of first person dungeon crawlers in general. It's not a game for players of low stamina, and the gameplay style wasn't quit suited to my particular tastes, but it's an excellent game in design and execution. It's a very good game, but as is par for Atlus games, I suspect it will hold its value relatively well.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on iOS and Android
Pokemon Quest is the game that no one asked for, no one really wanted, but most of us are enjoying nonetheless. It was a bit of a surprise announcement at Nintendo's E3 conference, and what was more surprising to most of us was that it launched on Switch several weeks before launching on mobile as the game seems to be developed with mobile in mind given its freemium model.
Pokemon Quest is a strategy...ish...game. You can have a party of up to three Pokemon each of which knows one or two special moves in addition to the default attack. You use these Pokemon to battle wild Pokemon on your "expeditions" to explore a bizarrely cube-shaped island. You can buy decorations that have various effects with tickets, and you get an allowance of tickets every 22 hours as well as a new Pokemon friend that wanders into your camp every 22 hours. You can get more tickets by completing some quests, and cooking with ingredients that you find from defeating wild Pokemon can attract new Pokemon to your camp. There's also a paid aspect to the game that can get you some paid DLC decorations that have some REALLY good effects, but those are totally unnecessary to complete the game. They just make it a hell of a lot easier. If you want to go all-in, the combo pack that gives you all of the extra content plus a bonus is $30. A little steep for a F2P game, but if you think of it as a $30 game instead, it seems a bit more reasonable (although still a little overpriced in my opinion).
Inevitably, you'll hit a wall where you just aren't strong enough to progress. It's at this point that some grinding becomes useful, and I don't just mean experience grinding although that's certainly part of it. Each Pokemon can equip up to nine power stones that boost either HP or attack strength, and the number of slots increases as the Pokemon's level goes up with the ninth slot not unlocking until you hit level 100. These power stones are random drops from defeating wild Pokemon and completing expeditions, so that's the second benefit of grinding after experience. The other benefit is grinding to stockpile ingredients that you can use to cook more (and better) recipes to attract stronger Pokemon to your camp. You may find a Pokemon that's a higher level and/or has better moves that you want to put in your team, or you may end up using the new Pokemon as training fodder for the Level Up training which gives the trained Pokemon experience in exchange for sacrificing the Pokemon used to help with the training.
Since grinding will be necessary especially if you plan to dive into the postgame content, it's an absolute godsend that there's an auto function. If you press up on the D pad when you get into an expedition, your Pokemon will act on their own. This can make it EXTREMELY useful for grinding as long as you pick a stage you're a bit overpowered for because you can have your Pokemon pretty much grind on their own while you go do something else be it clean or play another game. One more benefit of grinding for ingredients and cooking to get Pokemon to use in training is that it gives you an opportunity to find an elusive shiny Pokemon. While they're MUCH more common in Pokemon Quest than in the main series game - I played for around 40 hours and found three or four in that time - they're still a pretty special occurrence when one wanders into your base camp.
Pokemon Quest was a huge surprise for me. I wasn't a big fan of the art style at first, and the gameplay took a couple levels to grow on me, but once I was hooked, I was hooked hard. The $0.00 price tag is certainly appealing, but if you really love the game, don't feel bad about buying some of the DLC. It may be a bit steep with regards to price, but for those of us for whom the game just "clicks," it might be a game worth spending a little money on. Either way, if you have a Switch or, once it releases for Android and iOS, a smartphone, it's definitely worth downloading since there's no cost to download.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation Portable
Releasing in the latter half of 2007, Medal of Honor Heroes 2 was the second Medal of Honor game developed for the Wii following Medal of Honor: Vanguard. Set during the Battle of Cherbourg immediately following the D-Day invasions of Operation Overlord, you play as an OSS operative on a mission to investigate secret German projects in the area. The narrative is pretty standard stuff for Medal of Honor, but the gameplay is a ton of fun, and that's really what matters here.
For the most part, the gameplay is extremely similar to Medal of Honor: Vanguard, but there are some key differences that put Heroes 2 a cut above in my opinion. First and foremost, the unnecessarily gimmicky motion gestures are gone. Do you REALLY need a motion gesture to jump or crouch? I'm totally cool with motion gestures for melee attacks and reloading, but Vanguard was just excessive with it. It also gives you a few more customization options for the controls with a WELCOME sensitivity setting. Overall, it plays like Vanguard, but the little changes here and there really give Heroes 2 a much more refined feel. Visually, however, there aren't a lot of changes. It looks like it has a little more polish overall than Vanguard did, but aside from some slightly more detailed textures, it's pretty much on par.
Critics scored Heroes 2 about the same as they did Vanguard for the most part, but Heroes 2 added a lot as far as gameplay is concerned. First and foremost, it went from Vanguard's 0 player online mode to an impressive 32 player online play. That would be a pretty large game in your average first person shooter today let alone more than a decade ago on a console infamous for its "seriously what was Nintendo even thinking?" online framework. More important to me personally was the addition of "Arcade Mode." This allows you play through the single player as an on rails shooter rather than a tradition first person shooter. Not only does this make the Wii version of Heroes 2 stand out among the Medal of Honor franchise but it takes advantage of the Wii's greatest strength - the Wiimote. I've said since the console was first revealed back in my middle school days that the Wii is the supreme home console for rail shooters, and Heroes 2 proves my point. That game mode, while not appealing to some, doesn't get nearly enough credit.
Medal of Honor Heroes 2 still doesn't really exemplify what a great Wii FPS game can be, but it's without a doubt a much more competent endeavor than Medal of Honor: Vanguard was. Pretty much every aspect of the game is an improvement over Vanguard in some degree, and while that varies from the marginally improved visuals to the dramatically improved gameplay options and modes, everything has been improved at least a little. It maintains a general sense of mediocrity, but that doesn't mean that it's not a fun time for those of us who love shooters on the Wii. It's definitely a better game than Vanguard, and if you only get one of the two for your Wii, this is absolutely the Medal of Honor game to go with.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available for PlayStation 2
Given that the news lately has put me in a "shoot at Nazis" sort of mood lately, I figured I'd finally play Medal of Honor: Vanguard. I'm a big fan of pre-modern BS Medal of Honor series, and I'm also a big fan of the Wii, so I was looking forward to this one. While it's not god awful, it's not exactly an exemplar of the first person shooter genre on the Wii.
Both the PS2 and Wii versions of the game received mixed reviews, and after playing it myself, it's not hard to see why. The visuals aren't exactly what I'd call impressive even in the context of the Wii's graphical capabilities, and the AI is even less intelligent than the current presidential administration. Every enemy knows exactly where you are when you come out of cover, totally destroying my suspension of disbelief, and none of them have any sense of tactics; they just stand in the same place and periodically pop out of cover to shoot with no regard for the fact that you're standing there pointing a gun exactly where they're going to appear.
Personally, my biggest complaint is the the controls and the lack of customization options. I normally love shooters on the Wii. Motion controls are my jam. That stops being the case when you don't let me adjust the sensitivity. The options menu lets you tweak the gesture sensitivity, but if you turned off the optional gestures (swipe the nunchuck left to change weapons, swipe it up to jump, swipe it down to crouch, etc), that's a moot point. It didn't let me adjust the aiming sensitivity at all, and that's the single biggest determining factor in how comfortable a Wii shooter is for me to play. I got used to the fixed sensitivity, but that's a big minus in my book.
Fortunately the gameplay itself (once you get used to the aiming sensitivity) does a lot to redeem the game. It's just like every other WWII Medal of Honor game that you've ever played, but that's pretty much exactly what you want. You play Medal of Honor for consistently awesome Nazi killing, not for innovation or variety. It would have been nice for Vanguard to have had online multiplayer back when the Wii still had online capabilities given how robust Heroes 2's 32-player multiplayer was, but that's much less important to me than it is to most folks. The single player is fun, and the characters aren't horribly annoying. That's pretty much all it takes to make me happy.
Medal of Honor: Vanguard isn't one of the best FPS games on the Wii, but it's still a good bit of fun if you're into World War II era games. It doesn't make full use of the Wii's visual capabilities like Conduit 2 or Metroid Prime 3 did, and the control customization is basically non-existent, but all in all, it's still a pretty good time although I'd pay a maximum of $5 if I were to hunt down the game today. It's also not a long game and well divided for bursts of play; the campaign is cut into four operations with two or three levels each. HowLongToBeat suggests roughly four hours to complete, but I took closer to six hours probably. Granted, I suck at shooters, but still, the point is that it's not a long game, so game fatigue isn't a concern here. If you're into Wii shooters, check this one out, but don't go in expecting a masterpiece, and don't overpay.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 4 and Windows
Lost Sphear is the second game produced by Square Enix's newest studio, Tokyo RPG Factory, and it shares a lot of similarities with its predecessor, I am Setsuna. Stylistically, they're identical; if I didn't know the characters and setting in each game, I'd probably not be able to tell screenshots of the two games apart. Despite that, though, Lost Sphear manages to be different enough that you never feel like you're playing the same game with a different coat of paint.
One of the big objectives that Tokyo RPG Factory stated for themselves in Lost Sphear was to fix the flaws that kept I am Setsuna from being rated higher by critics. In that endeavor, they succeeded; a lot of the mechanical and pacing issues that I am Setsuna had were absent in Lost Sphear. Despite that, however, I actually find myself personally preferring I am Setsuna. It just had a little more charm in my opinion. I found the characters in I am Setsuna a little more charming, but that may be because I'm a sucker for female protagonists.
The game's music is the same overall style as I am Setsuna. That's to say that it's really nice but totally generic and unremarkable RPG music. That's not to say that the soundtrack is bad. It's fantastic. It's just generic. If someone said "Imagine the most stereotypical JRPG soundtrack," you'd probably think of Lost Sphear's soundtrack. It's great. It's just exactly what you'd expect.
Lost Sphear is a really great JRPG, and it's an important JRPG for the first year of the Switch's lifespan. It's not a particularly stand-out RPG, but don't let that dissuade you. It's a ton of fun with lovable characters (minus Locke; fuck that guy) and fun Chrono Trigger-style combat. The one thing it does EXCEPTIONALLY well is pacing; with a lot of RPGs, I find myself getting tired of the game before it ends and, as a result, getting sick of it. They wear out their welcome, so to speak. Lost Sphear avoided that. It's pretty much the perfect length; as soon as I first started to feel some game fatigue, the game ended. I couldn't ask for a game with a more perfect length; it's enough to sink your teeth into but not enough to get sick of. Definitely check this one out if you game on Switch, PS4, or PC.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows
Sit down, children, and let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a fighting game called Mortal Kombat that took the world by storm. This story is not about that game. This story is about a game called Shaq Fu, a hilariously cringe-worthy attempt to cash in on both the popularity of the 1v1 arcade fighter, Mortal Kombat, as well as the star power of NBA star, rapper, actor, and occasional professional wrestler Shaquille O'Neal. While receiving mixed reviews at the time - fighting game fans weren't too terribly difficult to please at the time - Shaq Fu has since gone on to be considered one of the worst games of all time. While it does have a cult following (-raises hand-), there's also a group dedicated to finding every Super Nintendo, Genesis, Game Boy, and Game Gear cartridge ever sold and destroying them to rid the world of the game. Gamers everywhere were in for a shock, then, when an Indiegogo campaign appeared to reboot Shaq Fu as a modern and hopefully less craptastic game. Gamers were even more shocked when the game actually got released. The biggest shock of all, perhaps, was that not only did a reboot of a LONG despised game get crowdfunded out of the blue and actually see release, it's also actually a pretty good game.
The original Shaq Fu was a 1v1 fighter, and while that may have been a commercially wise choice back in 1994, things are a bit different in 2018. The fighting game genre's heyday has long come and past, and while there are still popular, successful fighting games, the genre as a whole doesn't have the success it once did. With that in mind, development of Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn shifted the game's genre from the original's 1v1 fighter to a 2.5D beat 'em up similar to 2012's Double Dragon Neon. I pre-ordered this new Shaq Fu as soon as it was up on Amazon because not only am I (mostly ironically) a fan of the original Shaq Fu but I love seeing old, dead IPs from the early and mid 90s get revived with reboots for modern consoles. It was a fantastic surprise, then, when I started playing the game and actually found myself really enjoying it. Like, this wasn't a "Oh, this game sucks less than I expected!" sort of situation; this was a "This game is actually legitimately good" sort of situation, and that's the last thing I expected out of a new Shaq Fu.
Visually, the game's good. Not amazing. Not disappointing. Just kind of "Oh, this is nice." Like watching a high school football team's championship game. Few if any of the players are actually going to make it to the NFL, but they're pretty good. The music is the big surprise win here. While it's VERY 90s in style - it's got a bit of a Will Smith rap vibe - it's actually pretty good if you're cool with somewhat cringey lyrics. The game's title screen song will get stuck in your head EXTREMELY easily. I'm definitely going to be downloading a few of those songs. #NoShame The game's dialogue and humor can be just as cringey as the music's lyrics as the writing breaks the fourth wall a bit too obviously and a bit too frequently, but if you don't take the game seriously, it's good for a chuckle or two.
Although I was EXTREMELY impressed with how not-shitty and actually downright fun the game is, there are some flaws - one of which is pretty major - that I need to address. I played on Switch, so I don't know how this compares to the other three versions, but the frame rate was fine but not great. It seemed to hover between 25 and 30 fps throughout the game although it did stick closer to 30 than to 25 from what I could tell. Still, it would have been nice to see a locked 30 fps or at least variable between 30 and 60. The hit detection and telling where exactly you are on the Z axis isn't the best it could be, but it's nothing that breaks the game. What is a pretty major issue, however, is the loading time. Most of the game, the loading time isn't bad. When you launch the game, however, it takes literally about five minutes to load to the title screen. Once you're at the title screen, you're fine. Loading times in the game aren't amazing, but they're not horrendous like when you launch the game.
Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is likely to be the biggest surprise game of 2018 for me. I seriously went into this game expecting it to be crap, but it truly is legitimately fun. It's not Game of the Year material or anything, but I can't say that it's a waste of money. I had a really good time with it, and I can see myself replaying it every now and then. The visuals look fairly good, the music is extremely catchy, and the gameplay, while extremely repetitive, is a lot of fun in moderate bursts; I played one level per night, for example, and never got tired of it. This rebooted Shaq Fu won't knock your socks off, but if you give it a go, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Okay, so here's a little confession about me; I never really outgrew my four year old "OMG I LOVE DINOSAURS" phase. I just suppressed it. Spinosaurus is the most badass land carnivore of all time FIGHT ME YOU KNOW IT'S TRUE. I also absolutely LOVE pinball. I've got close to $200 worth of Pinball Arcade content on my PS4, and I have probably $20 of Zen Pinball 3 content downloaded on my Switch. When i saw Jurassic Pinball pop up on the Switch eShop, then, I was naturally stoked. Pinball AND dinosaurs? Dude, sign me up.
It was a trap. The cake was a lie. There were four lights. Bigfoot really was in San Andreas. Half-Life 3 exists. Whatever analogy for "I WAS TRICKED" you want to use, do it, because I was lured in like a pandolid shrimp to an anglerfish. Oh, only $1.99? That's about $1.50 more than this game is worth. It's only one single table which, honestly, I wouldn't mind paying $2 for it it were a decent table. There's potential based on the table design, but the physics are all wrong. I get that I've been spoiled by The Pinball Arcade, but nothing about Jurassic Pinball feels like a real pinball table. It's one of those things that's hard to put into words, but the physics just feel all wrong, and it's not just one aspect. Everything feels wrong from the ball's movement, to the flippers reaction, to the bumpers, to the general momentum of the table. It all just feels...off. And that's the last thing you want in a video pinball game.
Visually, the game looks fine - not impressive but not atrocious - and the sound design is...okay...albeit a bit bland. What really suffers with regards to visuals and audio, however, is the overall presentation. The presentation feels almost like a demo. The menu is extremely barebones, and there's hardly any point in having an options menu with how limited it is. If there's only going to be the one table in the download, they could at least have stood to spruce it up a bit. It's just....drab. Distressingly and disappointingly drab. First impressions are important, and this game made a TERRIBLE first impression. The next 40 subsequent impressions were equally terrible.
Jurassic Pinball isn't unplayable. Unfortunately, that's about the best thing I can say for it. If you're not a video pinball enthusiast and just want a quick, cheap game to scratch the occasional pinball itch, then for $1.99, this is probably what you're looking for. If you're seriously into video pinball like I am, though, the wonky physics and lackluster presentation will be a total buzzkill for you. It's not for everyone - actually, it's not for most people - but it IS cheap, so if you're curious or just want to say you tried it (or just want another icon to go on your Switch home screen), then I guess there are worse way to spent $2, but there are definitely better ways to spend that money as well.
My Rating - 2 Neps
Also available for HTC Vive
I love Doom. The 2016 reboot is an incredibly brutal, high adrenaline gore-fest. When I heard that Doom was getting a VR game, I was immediately hyped. There were definitely some aspects of the game that disappointed me, but throw that mess in VR, and the adrenaline is tripled. It's important to know what the game and what it isn't before you strap up and play it because that's where most of your disappointment from this game will originate - expecting it to be something that it's not.
First and foremost - this is not the Doom version of Skyrim VR. This is not a VR version of Doom but rather a VR game in the same setting as Doom. You don't play at the Doom Slayer but rather as some random dead (but also not dead...sort of?) guy who takes control of a robot and uses it to move around and fight. A lot of the locations and enemies from the 2016 Doom show up in Doom VFR, but there's FAR more of the game missing than present; Doom VFR only took me about 8 hours to play through including deaths.
Considering the low resolution of the PS VR headset, the game looks quite good. I was playing on a PS4 Pro, so I'm not sure how much of a boon that was to the game's visual fidelity, but I was impressed. As with the standard Doom, however, the real star of the show is the soundtrack. The music for Doom was KILLER, and it's every bit as dope in Doom VFR.
The biggest disappointment for me was the movement controls. It uses the "teleport" movement that's become fairly common in VR games. I know why devs use that mechanic - it's generally the least likely to make people motion sick - but it would have been nice if it had given players the option of choosing between teleport movement and more traditional movement with an analogue stick like Skyrim VR did. That's a relatively minor gripe, and while it wasn't exactly the smoothest mechanic for a fast paced FPS, it wasn't too bad to get used to it.
Doom VFR might just be the best FPS experience available on PS VR. Farpoint was fantastic and had the smooth control stick movement that I prefer, but it didn't have the intensity that Doom VFR brings to the table. The game looks fantastic for the headset resolution it has to work with, and that music never gets old. If you're looking for a high adrenaline high octane shooter in virtual reality, then this is what you need. It may not be perfect, but for a console virtual reality shooter, it's a damn fine product.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Wii and Wii U via Virtual Console
Pokemon Snap was my entire childhood. It's far from your typical Pokemon game - rather than battling and catching Pokemon like usual, you take pictures of the Pokemon - but it just WORKS. Way more so than one would probably expect. At the time, I remember eating up anything involving 3D Pokemon. It definitely shows its age, but even after 20 years, it definitely holds up.
Being a Nintendo 64 game, the visuals aren't very impressive these days. It does, after all, run in a resolution of 240p. Despite that, though, it looks fantastic when played on a TV designed for low definition signals. Something that doesn't get nearly enough credit is the music in the game. The soundtrack is absolutely fantastic. The fantastic music and the addicting gameplay more than makes up for the fact that Professor Oak is a jerk whose picture ratings are half legitimate and half arbitrary BS.
Pokemon Snap has you go through seven levels and take pictures of 63 featured Pokemon. Granted, that's only around a third of the original 151, but there are still some awesome Pokemon to take pictures of. The various locations in the game have a great variety from an idyllic beachfront to the edge of a smoldering volcano to a cavern deep underground.
The game isn't particularly long - maybe 10 or 12 hours if you're going for completion and high marks on every picture - but it's so worth it. With how readily available it is on Wii U, everyone should be playing Pokemon Snap. Unless you don't have a Wii U. In which case you don't deserve the glory of Pokemon Snap. But seriously though, the game isn't perfect, and I wish there were more Pokemon in it, but it's a TON of fun and absolutely worth playing.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on OSX and Windows
RUSH is a game that stylistically is extremely similar to EDGE but with radically different gameplay. It's another game by Two Tribes who have several games on the Wii U eShop (including EDGE) ranging from pretty good to great. RUSH was originally developed as a PC game that relies heavily on mouse control, but given the use of the touchscreen on the Wii U gamepad, it made the transition to Nintendo's ill-fated console extremely well.
Whereas EDGE was a puzzle platformer that involved getting a cube through various and increasingly difficult obstacles to read a goal point, RUSH flips that formula on its head; you have to place a set number of directional tiles in the right places to make sure that each cube gets to the goal point of its corresponding color without colliding with any other cubes. The game's levels are broken into categories - "Easy," "Medium," "Hard," and some ultra hard levels that you unlock after finish the others that serve as a sort of "boss" set. As you might expect, the Easy levels are extremely easy, the Medium levels take some time, though, and trial-and-error but are totally doable, but the Hard levels can get REALLY convoluted (but in a good way). The super hard levels are just brutal.
Throughout the game, you'll have to learn to use ten different tiles; four change the cube's direction to the four cardinal directions, four slide the cube up/over/down one space while maintaining movement in its original direction afterwards, one makes the cube pause for a moment, and one is a sort of splitter that sends cubes alternating right and left. It's all very straightforward at first, but those last two - the pause and splitter - make things REALLY confusing in the latter levels.
RUSH is a perfect puzzle game for folks who want a casual game that really makes them think logically and that they can just pick up and play for a few minutes here or there without needing a major time commitment. Its visual design is very simplistic, but the use of bright colors against largely white backgrounds keeps things from looking dull, and the use of a 3D puzzle field gives it a depth that a lot of cheap indie puzzle games lack. It certainly gets frustrating in the latter levels, but the game does feature a hint function that shows you what spaces should have a tile of some kind and will show you if a placed tile is in the correct spot or not. I tried to use those as sparingly as I could, but I definitely had to resort to it a couple times in the last dozen or so levels. This is a great game for mental exercise, though.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3, 3DS, iOS, Android, and Windows
Edge is a random little indie game by Two Tribes that I bought on a whim when it was on sale on the Wii U eShop a few years ago, but I never really put a whole lot of time into it before - just a couple levels here, a couple levels there, so on and so forth. As I'm packing up most of my consoles to move, however, my Wii U is one of the few consoles that I still have hooked up, so I figured I'd put some time into this game.
The visual style of the game is extremely simplistic; you play as a a little cube and have to make your way through the levels and avoid increasingly difficult obstacles. There are, thankfully, checkpoints at various points throughout the levels, and they're pretty frequent, but even with that, the latter levels get really tricky. Honestly I don't even remember if there's much audio or music, so if there is, that probably means that it's pretty unimpressive.
The early levels of the game are extremely easy as you learn the basic mechanics of the game, but towards the end, your timing and precision has to be exact with zero room for error. Fortunately, the levels are varied enough and few enough in number - about 50 in total - that it never gets boring or stale. Frustrating? Absolutely. Not boring, though.
Edge is an extremely simple indie game both in gameplay and in presentation. That simplicity does not undermine the addictive puzzle game hiding underneath, however. It's a pretty cheap download on the Wii U eShop, and I can't imagine that it's expensive on other platforms, so if physics based puzzle platformers are your thing, give this one a shot. It's not amazing, but it's definitely a good time.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on Arduboy and OSX
Circuit Dude marked a first for me. This was the first time that I ever had someone reach out to me and ask me to review his game on my blog. Crait, the game's dev, even sent me a Steam code for the game to review it, so first and foremost, I'd like to extend a personal thank you to him as well as an apology for how long it's taken me to get this review written.
Circuit Dude is an extremely simplistic puzzle game that spans 100 levels. You play as Circuit Dude, and you have to navigate the game's puzzles to help him build his new invention. The game starts off ridiculously easy, but by level 40 or so, it gets challenging, and it's just plain hard from there on. Normally having seriously challenging levels in a puzzle game is a good thing, but unfortunately, Circuit Dude's gameplay isn't engaging enough to hold my interest through the increasingly tough puzzles. It's not that the game sucks by any means, but it gets repetitive and monotonous after a couple dozen levels, and I just wasn't enjoying it enough to justify the time commitment to keep progressing through the second half of the game.
The visuals are reminiscent of a later MS-DOS or early Windows 95 game, and while that's not a bad thing, it's probably not going to hold most folks' attention for 100 levels in 2018. The audio is similarly simplistic. They get the job done, and they're not bad, but they are - and I know I'm repeating myself, but I don't know how better to describe it - simple. For a game made by one guy, however, I really can't criticize it too harshly; it's not like I could make anything even remotely decent.
Circuit Dude is a cute albeit extremely simplistic puzzle game. The character it really likable, and the puzzles really are quite clever, but the gameplay is just too repetitive for me to want to power through the increasingly difficult levels. If you really love puzzle games or have a lot of patience, then this one might be up your alley, but while I feel bad saying this since the Steam code was freely given and this review was requested by the dev, it just didn't hold my interest.
My Rating - 2 Neps
Also available on PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Linux, OSX, and Windows
Guacamelee is an indie side scrolling beat 'em up in the Metroidvania style themed around the Mexican celebration of el Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). I got it, if I remember correctly, from a Humble Bundle a couple years ago with a bunch of Wii U and 3DS games.
You play as Juan, an agave farmer, preparing for the Dia de los Muertos festival when an undead charro named Carlos Calaca attacks the president's mansion in an attempt to kidnap his daughter for use in an evil ritual. While trying to save the president's daughter, Juan is killed by Calaca until a magical luchador mask resurrects Juan with the legendary power of a Mexican wrestler. You then dedicate yourself to following Calaca, taking out his minions, and hopefully stopping his evil plans and saving the president's daughter. Whether or not you're successful in that last part depends on your play throughout the game as there are multiple endings to the game.
There are a fair variety of different dungeons and environments in Guacamelee, and there are abilities that are unlocked throughout the game that will allow you to access previously restricted areas. This not only gives the game some more variety but also gives some reason to go back to previously cleared areas to try to access new secrets with powerups and money that can be used to unlock improvements and new costumes. Each costume has its own abilities and detriments, so it's totally worth it to try to farm silver and experiment with the different costumes.
Guacamelee isn't a stunningly revolutionary game, and its theme revolving around a Mexican festival is probably its most unique feature. Despite that, however, the game is a TON of fun with some interesting dungeons and some engaging boss battles. If you find it on sale and are a fan of beat 'em ups, definitely give it a download. It should be getting a release on Switch soon, as well, so if that's your platform of choice, you'll soon be in luck.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Switch, Linux, OSX, and Windows
I saw Detention on sale for like $1 or so on a recent PSN flash sale, so I decided I'd give it a shot. For that little, I figured it was worth the risk especially given my love for horror games. Rather than being developed by a Japanese or American development studio like most games I play, Detention was developed by a team from Taiwan (or, as it's officially called, the Republic of China. There's your history-teacher trivia for the day).
Detention is set in the 1960s, a little over a decade after Mao Zedong's communist forces overthrew China's ruling Kumintang Party and established the People's Republic of China and exiled the deposed nationalist government to the island of Taiwan. Having recently lost a civil war and facing constant threats of a communist invasion, the island of Taiwan is under martial law and executing what is tantamount to a witch hunt against communist sympathizers. You play as a high school student trapped in a mysteriously deserted school during a typhoon. While this in itself is unsettling enough for a high school student, things get creepier when unexplained and seemingly impossible things begin happening as you try to contact the outside world.
The story, while a bit confusing at times since I'm not as well versed in Taoist mythology as I perhaps should be, is really fantastic, and when coupled with the legitimately creepy atmosphere makes for a fantastic horror experience. With that said, I won't say much about the story so as not to spoil anything, but it's a fantastic little mystery with some puzzles to solve that are quite clever but not particularly challenging for the most part.
Detention is a truly fantastic example of indie game design. The mood is eerie, and the journey through the game is filled with mystery as the truth of your situation slowly unravels. The visuals have a very simplistic style, but it gets the job done and fits the mood of the game. Even at full price, it's not terribly expensive and absolutely worth the asking price, but if you see it on sale on Steam, PS4, or Switch, go ahead and let it be an impulse buy. It's a truly fantastic experience.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation Vita and Switch
This is literally my new all-time favorite game. Over the course of three weeks, I sank over 430 hours into this game and added it to the VERY short list of games for which I've gotten every trophy/achievement. This game is (almost) literally everything I could possibly want in a video game - turn based strategy, giant space robots, huge explosions, gargantuan lasers...the only thing keeping it from being a LITERALLY perfect game for me is scantily clad anime girls.
SD Gundam G Generation Genesis is basically what would happen if you had a Fire Emblem/Gundam crossover. The mobile suits themselves are done in an SD (super deformed) style, but it's not so severely SD that it stops looking like actual Gundam mobile suits; they just looks a little shorter and fatter than normal. If you include the DLC - all of which can be acquired for around $15 although you'll need a Singaporean PSN account - there are over 500 mobile suits in the game, and it spans the first 100 years of the Universal Century, all the way from Mobile Suit Gundam to Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn plus Hathaway's Flash DLC. There are dozens of warships to choose from, over a dozen SFS sleds, and hundreds of pilots you can scout to serve on your teams (plus the ability to make your own custom pilots) along with dozens of modifications that you can produce and add to your warships and mobile suits to improve their performance.
For people like me who are still getting into Gundam lore and have only really seen the One Year War (although I did finish watching Zeta Gundam the day after I finished this game), the game's retelling of the stories is a great way to get interested in the series and games I haven't experienced yet. You do get some major plot point spoilers this way, but it only hits the major plot points, so there's still a TON of material that you won't see here. The fact that you get to experience (or, if you've seen a lot of Gundam, re-experience) so many parts of the Universal Century gives the game some fantastic depth and appeal.
The visuals are great, but the real star of the show is the music. It's music from the various games and series, naturally, but it's so freaking great. Gundam has some incredible (and, in certain series, thoroughly and excessively 1980s) music, and that music is preserved gloriously in this game. The voice acting - all the original Japanese - is also top notch. This really is the Gundam fan's Gundam game, and it thankfully got an English version in Southeast Asia for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita (if only Bandai loved us Americans) although the latter is pricey - the average price at the time of writing seems to be about $85. It's also been ported to Switch, although that version has yet to receive a Chinese or English release.
SD Gundam G Generation Genesis is perfection. Pure, unadulterated perfection. Okay, so it's not LITERALLY perfect; there are are some translation issues here and there, but that's really the only issue I noticed. It's NEARLY perfect. 99.99999% perfect. Just like Zeon Zum Deikun and Bright Noa. Literally the two most perfect human beings who have ever existed (albeit in a fictional world). The English version can be a little pricey to import - the average price seems to be around $60 right now although it fluctuates a lot - but it's SOOOO worth it. If you like strategy games OR Gundam, you need this game. Either or. It's a perfect game for fans of either. IT'S PERFECT.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers for Sega CD is one of the cheapest and most shameless cash-grabs I've ever seen out of a video game. Fortunately, this game was never ported to other systems as far as I know (other games titled "Might Morphin' Power Rangers" are totally different games). This is the epitome of how NOT to do an FMV game.
The game consists of pressing the right button at the right time during live action fight scenes pulled straight from the show. That's it. That's the entire game. It's nothing but a constant quick time event. Your performance makes no difference with regards to what happens on screen. If you miss a button, nothing changes except that your "life" meter depletes a little. When that meter is fully depleted, Rita Repulsa appears on the screen to taunt you for getting a game over. This is honestly little more than a low quality VCD. There's zero replay value here, and there's not really any play value in the first place.
Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers on Sega CD is nothing more than one massive quick time event, and it's not even a good one. I like QTEs in games, but I decided that I hated this after about three minutes. It's literally just random episodes' fight scenes with some QTE prompts thrown in to call it a game. Even at the time, you could have gotten a VHS of the show that was higher quality and lower cost. This game is terrible, the people who made it are terrible, and if you actually enjoy it, then your taste in games is terrible.
My Rating - 1 Nep
Also available on PlayStation, Windows, and in arcade
Area 51 was always an arcade favorite of mine, and its Saturn conversion remains a Saturn favorite. Light gun arcade games were pretty big in the mid to late 90s; at least in my area, light gun cabinets and driving cabinets were usually the only machines that you could still find in commercial operation after 2000. It's a shame that Area 51 never got a cleaned up port to Wii or even PlayStation Move, but as long as you held on to your PlayStation or Saturn and a good CRT TV, the glory days of the 90s can still be relived.
Receiving ports on both Saturn and PlayStation, one cannot help but compare the two. I haven't played the PlayStation version, but I've seen enough footage to make some basic comparisons. While I normally consider the Saturn to be the 5th gen's light gun powerhouse, the Saturn port of Area 51 is, honestly, just slightly inferior to the PlayStation port. The Saturn version has a slight cropping on the game area, and while it is a pretty small frame crop, it is worth noting. Other than that, though, the two versions are virtually identical as far as I'm aware. The FMV and digitized actors look the same, they seem to have similar loading times from what I've seen, and the performance of the two are equally stable.
The game's story is that you're part of a special forces team sent in to sanitize the secret US base at Area 51 after an alien contagion spreads through the base and turns the base personnel into alien zombies. In the later stages of this infection, the victim eventually morphs completely into an alien. As you move through the base on the game's rails, you have to shoot any infected personnel to clear the base. Getting shot, obviously, takes away a point of life, and shooting one of your allies takes away a point of life as well. You can use grenades (if you have any) to clear the screen of enemies, and you can find powerups in the environment that can upgrade your weapon to either a shotgun or a machine gun. All in all, it's a pretty standard rail shooter, but it's absolutely expertly crafted.
Area 51 is an absolute cheese-fest, but it's the sci-fi B-movie kind of cheese which I absolutely love. Even if that kind of cinema cheese isn't your cup of tea, the gameplay is so on point here that it more than makes up for the cheese acting. Truthfully, the PlayStation port is the superior of the two, but I'm a Saturn guy, so this is my version of choice, especially considering that the only real difference that I saw was that there's a very slight frame crop on the Saturn version. Either version you play, however, is going to give you an AWESOME rail gun experience.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Sega CD, Sega CD 32X, 3DO, Mac OS, and Windows
Having played through Corpse Killer on Sega CD 32X, I figured I might as well replay it on Saturn to compare the two versions I own. As oone would expect, the two games are almost identical. They are, after all, the same game just on different generations of hardware. There are some major differences between CD 32X and Saturn that are worth noting, however, both good and bad.
The most noticeable difference going from CD 32X to Saturn is the boost to performance. Whereas the Sega CD and Sega CD 32X has noticeable and regular frame stutters (especially the latter), the Saturn version has smooth scrolling that, from what I could tell, rarely if ever breaks from a solid 30 fps. It sounds minute, and you don't realize how much nicer and smoother it is until you compare the two directly, but it really is a big improvement. Much less drastic but still noteworthy are the improvements to video quality. Being a beefier system, the quality of the video clips is improved quite a bit although the boost isn't as immediately noticeable or as significant as the improvement to performance.
There are a handful of other changes that are much more minor. A difficulty setting has been added in case you want to play that's both really bad AND impossible to beat. There are now zombies that pop up right in your face and cover the whole screen in a lame attempt at a jump scare. They also added in English subtitles since the Rastafarian driver's dialogue definitely doesn't count as English in my book. Unfortunately the biggest change made in the jump to Saturn was negative - the control options. Unlike on Sega CD, Sega CD 32X, and 3DO, you can't use a light gun on the Saturn version. Forget the fact that the Saturn has a FANTASTIC light gun and in fact was the best system until the Wii for light gun games. They don't let you use one at all. You're stuck with your frankly useless controller D-pad to aim. Had they allowed you to use a light gun for the game, this would definitely be the definitive console version of the (admittedly crappy even on a good day) game, but they just ruined it with that one change.
Corpse Killer on the Saturn isn't any less terrible than it was on the Sega CD 32X. There are some definite improvements - the visuals are much clearer, the performance is much improved, and the addition of subtitles and difficulty settings are nice bonuses - but the removal of light gun support detracts FAR more than the aforementioned improvements added. Even despite the inferior visuals and lower performance stability, I'd take the Sega CD 32X version over the Saturn version of this game any day. Of course, I'd rather just avoid the game entirely because it's a steaming pile of crap.
My Rating - 1 Nep
Also available on Sega CD, Saturn, 3DO, Mac OS, and Windows
When most people think of 90s full motion video games, they usually think god awful bottom-of-the-barrel tier games, and for those who've played it, Corpse Killer is probably the specific game that first comes to mind. There are four different console version of this game as well as two computer versions, and I only have two of those versions, but from what I can tell, the Sega CD 32X version is decent as far as console releases go.
Corpse Killer is an FMV light gun game that has you play as an unnamed United States Marine who's air dropped (and promptly caught dangling in a tree) onto an also unnamed tropical island to stop the evil Dr. Hellman from using a blend of science and voodoo to create an undead zombie army. Helping you on your quest is a blonde reporter who is definitely one of the most obnoxious companions in gaming history and a Rastafarian driver whose fake Jamaican accent is so thick that he's only technically still speaking English (seriously, I work with like half a dozen Jamaican immigrants, and I can understand all of them just find, but this dude is incoherent).
In between video cut scenes with excruciatingly terrible acting and writing (despite the fact that two of the actors - Rastafarian chauffeur and mad scientist guy - are actually decent actors otherwise), there are gameplay sequences. Unfortunately, unlike most light gun shooters of the era, these sequences aren't on rails going through an area, per se; it's more akin to being in a jeep that's slowly meandering along on a sight-seeing trip as the screen just sort of slowly scrolls from left to right at a constant pace while zombies rush towards you. The backgrounds are all actual digitized images, and the zombies are all digitized real life people in costume which is actually fairly impressive. What's not so impressive is that there's no background embellishment whatsoever - no burning barrels or anything - and the zombies all look more like a drunk old man stumbling towards the bathroom than undead monsters trying to eat your flesh.
Being a Sega CD 32X release, this version is obviously inferior to the versions released on the Saturn and 3DO, but there are some noticeable improvements over the base Sega CD release. First and foremost, the picture quality is a bit better with slightly less fuzzy blurring and a noticeable increase in contrast and saturation. There's a bit of an awkward hiccup every couple frames that's a bit more pronounced on CD 32X than on the regular Sega CD release, but I didn't find that to be too troublesome. To this version's credit, it allows the use of an actual light gun. The Sega CD version also allows this, and I've read that the 3DO version does as well despite making no mention of it anywhere on the packaging although I can't confirm that for myself, but the Saturn version oddly omits this feature leaving you with AWFUL D-pad aiming. I tried the D-pad aiming on the CD 32X version just to try it out, and it's....bad. However bad you imagine it would be, it's worse.
Corpse Killer is not a good game. It's a visual improvement over the Sega CD version, and it has definitely superior controls over the Sega Saturn version, but it falls short of the 3DO version, and even a good version of a bad game is still bad. It's a good example of what, in the early 90s, the FMV and "interactive movie" craze was all about, but it also exemplifies that it's a fad that's worth staying buried in the past. It's a neat piece of gaming history, and it has some definite B-movie cheese charm if that's your cup of tea. Even that, though, wears thin quickly once you realize that the game really just isn't that good. I can't recommend Corpse Killer to anyone unless you just LOVE bad FMV games. It's definitely one of the better versions of the game, but there's just not a lot to love here.
My Rating - 2 Neps
Also available for Sega CD, Sega CD 32X, 3DO, Xbox One, Mac OS, MS-DOS, and Windows
Night Trap is both one of the most recognizable as well as one of the most infamous FMV games of the early 1990s. It was actually originally filmed in 1987 and planned for the Control-Vision, an unreleased game system that used VHS tapes rather than cartridges, but the footage was shelved until 1992 when it was revived for Sega CD. It was ported to 3DO a year later and to MS-DOS, Mac OS, and Sega 32x (still requiring Sega CD) a year after that. In 2017, a 25th Anniversary Edition that no one asked for (or really wanted) was released on Windows and PlayStation 4 with an Xbox One port coming at some point in the future.
The basic premise of Night Trap is that teenagers have started going missing around one particular house, and the SCAT (Sega/Special Control Attack Team) is planning an operation to investigate and bring those responsible to justice. To do this, they take control of the house's suspiciously elaborate camera and trap system and plant one of their own (bizarrely young) agents in with a group of teenagers staying in the house overnight. The player controls the six cameras as well as the traps and must activate the traps at the right time to catch the "Augers" (vampires) and keep the teenagers safe. Missing too many Augers will result in a game over (I think you get a game over at like 20 missed or something like that).
The reason for the game's relative notoriety is not that it's actually all that risque by today's standards but rather that it - along with Mortal Kombat - was the catalyst and major focal point of the Congressional hearings on video game violence spearheaded by Senator Joe Lieberman (CT-D) and Senator Herb Kohl (WI-D). The claim was that the game portrayed extreme violence and promoted sexual aggression against women. If you actually play the game, you'll see that the only "violence" is pretty mild, and the claims that it promotes sexual aggression against women is completely ridiculous (unless, of course, we're implying that pajamas are somehow inherently sexual). Folks today tend to remember the claims that the game was horribly offensive more than anything actually questionable or controversial in the game.
Given that the game uses film from the late 1980s, the video quality is obviously not great, but in my opinion, that's part of what makes it great. It's the most gloriously cheesy 80s thing I've ever played. The hair and outfits are both just dripping with the 80s, and the entire style and premise is the type of experimental "this is probably a bad idea but let's do it anyway" gameplay that games these days just don't attempt anymore. Despite all this, though, the game is actually really fun and addicting. In terms of overall quality, I only have two real complaints. There are times when you have to change the color code to control the traps, and you get the code you need by listening to dialogue between the homeowners' family in the right room at the right time. Unfortunately (as this really breaks my immersion), these code change dialogue clips are significantly lower audio quality than the rest of the recordings. The other issue is that there are major audio bugs usually resulting from pausing the game. Pausing the game several times to pee, get another Coke, answer a text, etc. led to my game's audio and video being a full five or six seconds out of sync by the end of the game. On my attempts where I didn't pause, though, I'd either have less than a second or only a second or two of sync issues by the end. It's not usually a big issue for the actual gameplay, but it's extremely irksome and kills your immersion.
The actual gameplay involves switching between six cameras in six different rooms of the house. There are often different clips with characters in multiple rooms at a single time, so if you really want to see and experience all of the glorious 80s cheese, you'll have to do multiple playthroughs. There are also six endings, so there is a bit of replay value here. You have to switch between the various rooms (this mechanic influenced the vastly inferior Five Nights at Freddy's, I think) and keep an eye out of Augers entering the house. When the Augers walk by a trap, you have to activate it at the right moment to catch them and keep the teenagers safe. There's a color coded bar to help you with your timing; it's green when no one's near the trap, yellow when someone is approaching the trap, and red when you need to activate the trap. There are a few instances when you can catch good guys in the traps accidentally, so you need to be careful with your timing (and, honestly, be willing to put up with a bit of trial and error).
Unfortunately, once you have seen all of the endings and such, there isn't a whole lot of reason to come back to the game. The timing and locations where the Augers appear are all set; the only thing at all random about the game is what color allows control of the traps. There is, however, a wave mode that I haven't personally tried out but seems to give some extra content for those who just can't get enough Night Trap. In addition to that and the main mode, there are some unlockables that you can access by beating the game under various conditions including Scene of the Crime, a prototype that was originally used to pitch the game's concept.
By today's standards, Night Trap is a pretty simple game. At the time, though, it was fairly revolutionary. It's not an amazing game, but it's definitely fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it and plan to revisit it later one (probably while drunk at a party). The various scenes that play throughout the game and trying to keep an eye out of Augers and time their capture right is a lot more fun than it sounds, and I was actually extremely surprised by how much I enjoyed the game. That said, while it's definitely a good game, I can't say that it's a "great" game. It does tend to get rather told relatively quickly, and there's isn't a whole lot of variety with it. While physical copies are a bit pricey - around $50 for PS4, $60 for Sega CD and CD 32X, and $80 for 3DO - you can get it digitally on PS4 or PC for $15, and I'd definitely say it's worth the $15 asking price.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on PlayStation Vita
Bandai Namco has a bad habit of neglecting us Westerners when it comes to Gundam games. We've gotten several, but it seems like for every Gundam game that we get, there's three that we miss. Fortunately, a lot of games that don't make it out of Asia still end up having English subtitles in Chinese or general Asian releases. One such game is Gundam Breaker 3, and if you can get the Breaker Edition, you get all of the DLC on-disc since the PlayStation Store is locked based on your account's region.
The Gundam Breaker sub-series has a unique premise. Instead of flying giant robots in space fighting some war, you play as some random dude who likes to build Gunpla, the plastic Gundam models. These Gunpla models then interface with some VR-type machine and lets you battle other players' Gunplas. It provides, therefore, a much more light-hearted story than most Gundam games, but what it also allows for is much greater customization. Want the head of a Zaku II, the body of a GM, the arms of a Guntank, the legs of a Rick Dias, and the beam saber and beam rifle of a Zeta Gundam? Go for it. Want to attach seven Mega Particle Cannons to your chest and annihilate everything in your path a golden beam of justice? It's all you, man. Want all of that in a hot pink paintjob with black and electric blue accents? You got it. The customization options are nigh infinite, and you can merge plastic or even other components with your equipment to level it up, strengthening it and keeping it on par with increasingly difficult enemies.
The game's main story follows the Gunpla team of a small Japanese shopping arcade that's being pushed into obscurity by the encroaching monopolization of a massive American retail conglomerate. Your team takes part in Gunpla tournament to try to get the shopping arcade's name out there and bring in more customers to revitalize it. You play through the City Cup, the regional tournament, the Japan national tournament, and eventually even the world tournament. Then some plot stuff that I won't spoil happens. It's a fairly light-hearted story, and it's not exactly an exemplar of compelling storytelling, but it serves the purpose well enough. The game is broken into five chapters with roughly 13 missions in each chapter, but there are also online modes, arena battles, and, if you have the Breaker Edition, a good number of DLC missions to play.
Visually, the game looks absolutely fantastic. I'd love to have the Vita version to play and compare, but it looks glorious on PS4. Set your Gunpla's paint to metallic and high gloss, and it's like you're piloting a solid gold robot. If you're as tacky and gaudy as me, anyway. I guess you could give it normal colors, but what's the fun in that? The absolute highlight of the game in my opinion is the customization options. No two players will likely ever have exactly the same mobile suits, and with the merge feature, any mobile suit setup can be good if you put in the effort to craft it into the role you want. It gives the player total agency over his or her Gunpla, and that's EXACTLY what I've always wanted in a Gundam game - the ability to build whatever crazy ass Gundam I want.
Gundam Breaker 3 is an absolute gem of a Gundam game, but it's not perfect. The gameplay does get somewhat repetitive, and it's probably best played either with a friend or in short bursts, but it is still absolutely fantastic. It's not exactly cheap - roughly $60 for the Break Edition with English subtitles - but it's well worth it if your'e a fan of Gundam. I can't recommend this highly enough.
My Rating - 4 Neps
My Nintendo Picross: The Legend of Zelda - Twilight Princess was, as the name implies, a reward exclusive to My Nintendo users on 3DS. It's a basic game - your standard Picross with Twilight Princess themed puzzles - but for my first exposure to Picross, you can't beat free. Even if the price tag weren't $0.00, though, this is far from a bad way to kill some time on a puzzle game.
The game is broken into three parts - Picross, Mega Picross, and Micross. Picross is the most basic game mode, and it's a lot like sudoku crossed with Pictionary. You have a series of numbers atop every column and to the left of every row telling you how many blocks are filled in each row or column and how many are adjacent. From there, you have to figure out what blocks should be filled and what blocks can't be filled to create the picture and complete the puzzle as quickly as possible. As you get into later stage puzzles, the puzzles get bigger, going from something like 10x10 to 20x20. Mega Picross is basically the same but with one major addition; there are some clues that span two columns or rows. You still have your regular single row/column hints, but there may be one section with seven adjacent squares stretching over two columns, for example, adding an extra element of challenge. Micross is like Picross within Picross. The main puzzle is a standard Picross puzzle, but once you finish that, each individual square of THAT puzzle has its own Picross puzzle to solve to add detail to a large overall picture.
The game offers you a "hint roulette" if you need a hand at the start. It scrolls through each row rapidly and, whatever row is highlighted is filled in. It then repeats for the columns. You can opt out of this - it asks you at the start of each puzzle - but it's good for those learning the ropes in Picross (or those like me who just suck at the game). You can also turn on a hint feature that will highlight the numbers atop each column/beside each row if there are moves that you can make for sure although it's still up to you to figure out what you can fill in or rule out. This can easily be toggled on or off at any time during a puzzle. You're scored based on your time, and every time you fill in a square that shouldn't be filled it, the game tells you that you're wrong, Xs out the square, and adds time to your clock as punishment (2 min, 4 min, 8 min, etc), so if you're really bad (i.e. me), at the game, you could spend 10 minutes on a puzzle and have a final time over two hours (true story).
My Nintendo Picross: The Legend of Zelda - Twilight Princess is probably the best free 3DS game I've ever played. It was my first exposure to Picross, so I can't say how it compares to other Picross games, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. The three different puzzle modes gave the game some good variety, and the Micross kept me busy for over two hours start to finish. I'll probably go back to it every now and then and try to get a finish time of under one hour for the puzzles I horribly screwed up on (mainly Mega Picross) as you only get a black and white image if your final time is over an hour, but I think it says a lot about how much fun the game is if I'm planning to go back to it given that I'm notorious for playing a game once and literally never touching it again.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, iOS, OSX, Linux, and Windows
Bit.Trip Runner 2 took everything that was great about Runner - which I had already considered to be a nearly perfect game - and made it even better. Literally everything has been improved over Runner. The presentation is leagues better, the levels are more varied in style, there are multiple playable characters, the music is even better, and freaking Charles Martinet narrates the game. They even fixed the one complaint I had about the original - checkpoints. They added checkpoints, and best yet, they're optional for folks wanting a challenge - jumping over the checkpoint skips it but adds 50,000 points to your score.
Runner 2 takes the foundation set by Runner and stretches it, filling in the gaps with awesome features you never knew you wanted. The game is broken into five worlds each with fourteen regular levels and five bonus levels for a whopping total of 96 levels to run, jump, and slide through. Each of the worlds has a drastically different theme, and while the gameplay remains pretty consistent throughout, the visual style gives each one a VERY different feel. The game's core mechanics remain the same from Runner, though; you have to jump, duck, kick, leap from springs, and raise your shield at the right times to traverse the game's obstacles. The biggest differences in the actual gameplay are the introduction of checkpoints and the overall refinement. Runner 2 feels a lot more responsive and fluid than Runner did, and I didn't even think there was much that really needed improvement in that regard.
There was always a storyline in the still images and storyboards of the first six Bit.Trip games, but it's made a little easier to follow for those of us with short attention spans in Runner 2 with Charles Martinet's truly fantastic narration. It was weird hearing him sound SO different from the voice we're all most used to from him - Mario - but the knowledge that it was him doing the narration gave it a special feel. I don't really know how to describe it, but there's something special about having Mario's voice actor do the narration for such a purely fun game.
Bit.Trip Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien is the perfect game for short bursts of play. It's broken up enough and easy enough to understand that it's got the positive aspects of casual games, but it's got enough challenge and clever level design to hold the attention of core gamers, too. The story if goofy, but the presentation and delivery coupled with Charles Martinet's narration make it an overall product that it's impossible not to love. As good as Bit.Trip Runner and Bit.Trip Fate were, Runner 2 is absolutely the pinnacle of the series. With Runner 3 set to release this year as a Switch console exclusive (also coming to Windows), the bar is set pretty high. Here's to hoping that Runner 3 does what Runner 2 did for Runner - improve things that I didn't think could be improved.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available on 3DS, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, OSX, and Windows
Bit.Trip Flux is the last part of the original six game Bit.Trip series, and it turns the series into a bit of psuedo-Pong sandwich. The first game in the series, Beat, played like a rhythm-Pong with the paddle on the left side of the screen; the last game, Flux, plays like a more refined rhythm-Pong with the paddle on the right side of the screen. While it can seem a bit minimalistic when compared to added visual detail of Runner and Fate, it's a fitting end to the WiiWare series.
Visually, Flux is very similar to Beat. Aurally, Flux is very similar to Beat. Mechanically, Flux is very similar to Beat. The biggest differences between the two other than general refinements are the side of the screen the paddle is on and the way the game is segmented. Whereas Beat was just three extremely long levels with a couple of "checkpoints" that didn't actually serve as checkpoints, Flux is broken up into three similarly long levels, but Flux's levels are broken into eight segments (the last of which is the boss). The biggest improvement in Flux is that the checkpoints between sections actually do serve as checkpoints allowing the player to restart from the last checkpoint rather than the beginning of the level. Granted, your progress through the level is lost if you quit, but it's still a very nice change over Flux.
Bit.Trip Flux is a fitting end to the Bit.Trip series even if a bit anticlimactic depending on your feelings about Beat. It feels like the developers said "What if we had made Beat knowing everything that we know now after five games?" It's basically Beat but better, but that's not quite doing Flux justice. Flux does add a lot to the Beat's foundation, and the game's conclusion does have a good feeling of finality to the Bit.Trip series (except for the Runner sequels). I was a little disappointed, personally, that Flux was the series conclusion after having so thoroughly enjoying Runner and Fate, but that's not to say that Flux is a bad game. It's still a great time and wholly Bit.Trip; it's just not what I would have done for the end of the series.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.