Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows
My childhood hopes and dreams are crushed. Lego Worlds had so much potential and lived up to absolutely none of it. This game should have been like Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign - even if it's not a perfect game, there's no way Traveller's Tales should have been able to screw this up. Unfortunately, just as Clinton found a way to lose to a xenophobe who open mocked a disabled man during a campaign event, Traveller's Tales found a way to make a sandbox Lego game kind of suck.
A lot of people have described Lego Worlds as "Minecraft with Legos," but that's not entirely accurate. I would say it's like No Man's Sky crossed with Minecraft but all made out of Legos. The box boasts "infinite worlds," and it's important to note what that means. The worlds are not infinite. On the contrary, the worlds are distressingly finite. The NUMBER of worlds are infinite because they're all procedurally generated. In fairness, some of the worlds are pretty big, but some of them are smaller than the Super Mario 64 level "Bob-omb Battlefield." As with Minecraft, you can build whatever you want, but it very quickly becomes apparent that the focus is more on the exploration than the construction. That's not necessarily a bad thing; especially when you find a huge subterranean cavern, it's a lot of fun to explore. What can make things a bit dull is that, given the size of Lego bricks, construction from scratch takes a LONG time, and the controls for it are extremely finicky. This is one way in which Minecraft's admittedly boring "literally everything is a cube" design is a boon; it makes construction much quicker and much more intuitive.
The reason that I say that Lego Worlds is a bit like No Man's Sky is not just because it's ridiculously disappointing (although that's also true of both games) but because the game turns into a mindless trudge through random worlds that all start to look the same on a hunt for increasingly hard to find objectives. The end goal of the game's Adventure mode is to collect 100 gold bricks and become a "Master Builder." At first, this seems like it shouldn't be too hard because the game throws gold bricks at you left and right for the simplest quests. The problem is that as your collection of gold bricks builds, the game gets stingier and stingier with them to the point where I explored whole worlds and couldn't find a single gold brick. That's not to say that there weren't any in that world, but that does bring me to the next major issue with the game - it's riddled with bugs. I haven't played on PC or the Switch's more powerful companions, there were a lot of instances in which there was a marker on my map - either a green marker for a quest, a blue marker for the shop balloon, or a gold marker for a special chest - but nothing was there. The chests are typically underground, so it makes sense that those aren't always immediately visible, but even after excavating right on top of the marker all the way down to the bottom of the map's Z axis, there would sometimes be no chest. Those instances weren't a majority of the time by any means, but I'd say that happened a good 10% or 15% of the time, and that's just way too much.
I suspect that the mysteriously empty quest and chest makers are rooted in this next issue, but there are a PLETHORA of performance issues in the game, or at the very least, in the Switch version. The frame rate on land is usually pretty fair - a few dips now and then, but nothing major - but the frame rate seems to drop to 10-15 frame per second underwater. When you're using the landscape tool to remove areas of land, the game will lag behind what you're trying to do if you try to remove more than a little bit. I used this method with the largest removal area that I could to dig down for chests, and the game would lag a full second a half behind the bricks I'm removing. Another issue with the caverns (or being underground in general) is that the camera will occasionally clip up above ground on its own, and about half the time, your character will get warped to the ground above. This may not sound like a big deal, but when you've spent the better part of a half hour exploring caverns to hunt for treasure chests in hopes of finding a gold brick or two, it's extraordinarily irksome to be ripped away and have no idea where the entrance to that cavern was or even where in it you were.
One of the GOOD features of the game is the second function of your "discovery tool," the tool with which you discover things. The second function of that is to place any object, person, or animal you've "discovered," but if you've found blueprints for Lego buildings or structures, you can "place" them as well, automatically building them. One of the BAD things about this feature is that no one bothered to spend any time on quality assurance for the Switch port as building these structures causes the game to absolutely CHUG along and - on rare occasion - completely freeze entirely. I was trying to build a big ass castle (because it's like a rule that in any sandbox construction game, you build a big ass castle) after I had found a couple gold bricks in a cavern, and about halfway through auto-building my castle, the castle just sort of quits building itself. The "bricks flying into shape" sound doesn't quit, and the little spinny white loading symbol is still in the middle of the Switch screen, but I can't move more than a few steps in any direction, and it just sits there. After like three minutes, I gave up and just closed the game and restarted. That doesn't happen too terribly often, but in my playthrough, it probably happened to me two or three times.
The one thing that the game does get right is the visuals. The game definitely looks pretty, and there are some really nice light effects on the bricks from which the world is made. The problem (yes, even with the stuff it gets right, the game screws something up) is that the draw distance is ABYSMAL. We're talking legit PlayStation 1 draw distances here, but unlike Silent Hill, Lego Worlds doesn't use any kind of pseudo-fog effect to hide its craptastic draw distance; the world just pops in an out of existence abruptly. This REALLY kills an otherwise pretty good initial presentation. To make matters worse, not only does the world wait until you're basically on top of it to render, but with a lot of the NPCs in the game, they take time to appear even when you're standing right beside where they should be. There were a few instances in which it took legit like 10 seconds for a quest person to appear, begging the question of whether those aforementioned empty quest makers were really empty or just taking their sweet damn time to load into the world.
Six paragraphs in, and I've barely even addressed the actual gameplay. As I mentioned, the game is more about discovery and exploration than anything else, and you've got a "discovery tool" to add stuff to your database. You can then summon anything in your database wherever you want including animals and vehicles to ride (I like the spaceships, personally). You also have a "build tool" that lets you build things from scratch with bricks, and a "copy tool" that lets you save a copy of anything you find in the world within a set three dimensional space and recreate it later with the discovery tool. Next you've got your paint tool that let's you - you guessed it - paint things. The thing that's kind of neat about this is that the color paint you choose can change the bricks' properties in some situations. If, for example, you paint a house with the "River Water" color, that house literally becomes water. Gravity doesn't affect water in Lego Worlds like it does in Minecraft (remember, the world world is made out of bricks), so the house will stand up like normal, but if you walk into a wall, you'll suddenly be swimming underwater. You can also open an inventory to select the various weapons that you've found for the admittedly limited combat in the game as well as a character customizer that lets you customize your character with parts from any of the various Lego characters you've discovered. I've not spent much time playing around with different options, but I do know that some character parts have different effects. For example, with your default character, you have a limited oxygen supply underwater, but if you use the skeleton head once unlocking it, you can breathe underwater (although I guess it would be more accurate to say "not have to breathe anywhere").
Lego Worlds is a functional game, but it stretches that description at times on Switch. I haven't tried multiplayer, either online or local, and I imagine that it would actually be decently fun with a friend, but it gets so monotonous so fast solo. There's some post-game stuff I could do, but honestly, I have zero incentive. If I find someone else who has the game for Switch and wants to play together, I may pick it back up and give it another shot, but really, it made a horrible first impression, middle impression, last impression, and every impression in between. Nothing about this game really impressed me, and because I had SUCH high hopes and hype for it, that made the disappointment sting so much worse. I really can't recommend this game to anyone unless you're a SUPER hardcore Lego fan. Hell, I'm a super hardcore Lego fan, and I still thought the game was pretty much garbage. There's definite potential, but without some No Man's Sky-level content updates, that potential is probably going to remain wasted.
My Rating - 2 Neps
Also available on PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Linux, and OSX
Cosmic Star Heroine is a game I went into knowing nothing about, immediately felt very conflicted about, and then fell absolutely in love with. I started playing it because Colin said he was going to start it, and I like playing single player games alongside someone else and swapping experiences. When I fired it up and saw the 16-bit-esque pixel graphics, I immediately though "Oh Christ, another damn pixel art game..." but I had kept hearing good things about it, and my friend, Aaron, had given me the Steam code for the game a few months ago, so I decided I'd stick with it. Jesus Christ, I'm so glad that I did.
It's immediately evident that Cosmic Star Heroine takes a lot of inspiration from Chrono Trigger, Phantasy Star, and Mass Effect. It's a 2D JRPG like the former two games, but it has lot of playable characters from whom to choose and a save-the-galaxy sci-fi theme like the latter. Although I didn't realize this until I was about a third of the way through the game, it's made by the same folks who made the PHENOMENAL Cthulhu Saves the World and the (supposedly but I haven't played it yet) excellent Breath of Death VII, two other pixel art indie RPGs. While having satirical rather than serious plots, those games are extremely well regarded (as is Cosmic Star Heroine), so made perfect sense to me why I was enjoying this game so much once I realized that it was the same development team. As I later found out, Cthulhu and the protagonist from Breath of Death actually make cameo appearances as optional side quest bosses (as does the Raccoon City Police Department from Resident Evil 2).
The game plays like a fairly standard JRPG with a team of up to four playable characters (out of a total of eleven) and one non-player "support" character who gives certain buffs (+25% damage to organics, +25% healing, +10% exp gain, etc). Rather than a typical MP system, the game uses a "charge" system whereby your characters' abilities each have one use, and to recharge that ability, the character must spend a turn defending. The game is very approachable and doesn't get bogged down in grinding or meticulous item rationing like a lot of JRPGs because your characters' health is always restored after each battle. The game takes place almost entirely on three different planets with an almost-endgame dungeon and the actually-endgame dungeon away from those three planets. Once a certain point is reached, one can travel freely between the three planets and hunt sidequests and fight optional bosses.
The visuals, being pixel art, don't really stand out as WOW! levels of impressive or anything, but they are definitely well done, and the backgrounds and environments definitely have unique character and charm. The game's music is actually fantastic - something that's often neglected in indie RPGs - and it's the sound design along with the writing that really make the game shine. The music is always fitting for the situation or the locale, and the writing is extremely well done with a story that keeps players interested and engaged and characters who never bore and who are, for the most part, pretty well developed throughout the game's progression. The humor in the game is one of the best aspects of the writing in my opinion, and that will come as no surprise to those who've played Cthulhu Saves the World.
Cosmic Star Heroine is definitely an extraordinary indie game. I've become increasingly difficult to impress with indie games over the years, especially those that employ the done-to-death pixel aesthetic, but this game manages to do it. It's well written, brilliantly designed, and more playable than a lot of AAA games with cutting edge graphics and 3D game engines. It's a simple game, but it's an example of simplicity at its finest. With a handful of platforms supported (not to mention Limited Run Games' upcoming physical releases for Vita and PS4), this is a game that all RPG lovers need to play. I can promise you that it won't disappoint in the slightest.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available on PlayStation Portable, Wii, DSi, 3DS, Linux, OSX, and Windows
Cave Story is one of the most well known and prolific indie game success stories. Of course, it's not an indie game anymore - major publishers picked it up for console ports and remasters - but it started life as one dude's project to make a bitchin' freeware game in his spare time. The Switch port, obviously, has had numerous features added, a redone soundtrack, and completely remastered visuals over the freeware PC original, but the heart of what makes the game special is way it tells a fairly unique story with likeable characters and a gameplay style that very much pays homage to the 2D Metroid games.
The back of the Switch box describes Cave Story+ as a "super-challenging shooter platformer," and that's an extremely accurate statement. I played on the lowest difficulty (because I'm a punk ass bitch), and I still found the game to be extremely challenging. You play as a little robot boy who finds himself in a cave full of monsters. You eventually make your way to a village of furries...or something...and some doctor is kidnapping them for some (presumably) nefarious ends. Most of the furries are jerks, but there are a couple who are pretty cool, so you decide to help them. Then the doctor does some more screwed up stuff, so you decide to caress his fleshy, human face with your cold, robot fist. There are a few endings depending on what you do in certain parts of the game, so you could save everyone just in the nick of time and be a big damn hero. You could also choose to let everyone die. They're not the most gratifying different endings, but it does at least add some replay value.
Visually, the game uses the "retro" aesthetic of which I'm extraordinarily sick, but it is done very well here, so I have to give credit where credit is due, and in fairness to the game, it first came out back in 2004, so it was before the torrent of dime-a-dozen "retro" indie games. The soundtrack is what really stands out, though. Obviously both have been dramatically enhanced over the preceding 13 years, but the end result is a good looking game in spite of my prejudice against pixel art and a truly stellar soundtrack. The level design is clever and challenging with secrets to find and death traps to avoid. The only problem I have with the design of the game is the use of set save points. I understand that specific, pre-set save locations are part of the challenge, but it's more an inconvenience to me than anything else, although the portable nature of the Switch does mitigate that somewhat.
Cave Story+ is a hard game for me to score, and I really am almost evenly torn between giving it a 3 or a 4 on my 5 point scale. I, personally, thought it was good but not amazing due to a number of stylistic choices - set save points, pixel art aesthetic, the use of a boss rush, for example - but those are subjective complaints, and it's not really fair to hold that against a game when trying to score it. The visuals are very well done despite being in a style for which I don't care, and the soundtrack more than makes up for that style choice. Save points irritate me, but I know their intended purpose, and while I think boss rushes are bullshit and not fun, there's nothing objective flawed about them, especially if you like the challenge. The game isn't particularly memorable or outstanding to me, but it's easy for me to see why it's so popular and why so many people hold it in such high regard. In terms of design and refinement, it really is an impressive game, and given how accessible it is these days, it's definitely a game I'd recommend everyone play at least once.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows, and arcade
Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara is a home port collection of Capcom's two Dungeons & Dragons arcade games - Tower of Doom (from 1993) and Shadow over Mystara (from 1996). The games play like beat 'em ups in the vein of the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Double Dragon games with some RPG elements thrown in because D&D. I downloaded the game on my Wii U during Capcom's recent sale for like $3, but I'd say this would be a good buy at up to $10 (though, if memory serves, the standard price is $15, and I do think that's a little steep).
The narrative is a riveting tale of a brave band of warriors' struggle to protect the realm from the evils of a dread warlock and his army of terrifying demons. Or something. I didn't really pay attention; as my characters' names, Titzzzz and Anal!!, demonstrate, I didn't take the narrative as seriously as I perhaps could have. They were accompanied by the only-slightly-more-seriously-named Pepsi and TSwift, respectively, since I played online with Colin. The game features your typical Dungeons and Dragons enemies - kobolds, goblins, ogres, beholders, a couple dragons, evil elves, etc. That familiarity can feel a bit stale to some, but it never leaves you feeling out of place since none of the enemies should be alien to those familiar with the fantasy genre.
With regards to visuals, both games show their age, although Shadow over Mystara features DRAMATICALLY improved visuals over Tower of Doom even considering the three year difference between them. Some of the scrolling backgrounds in Shadow of Mystara, especially towards the end, are really impressive. The sound design isn't as noteworthy, though it's perfectly competent. One thing that is worth pointing out, however, that changed from the first game to the second is the selection of playable characters. While the first game featured four playable characters, the second game expands the roster to include six or seven, giving some more options for different gameplay styles and adding some replay value. The single greatest aspect of this whole two-game collection, however, was in Tower of Doom. You're given branching paths a few times, and one of these paths offered the choice of facing a fearsome red dragon on your own to save this village instead of trying to rally allies. This is what Colin and I chose, confident that Pepsi and Titzzzz were a match for the foul beast. We were a little discouraged when it asked us three separate times if we were REALLY sure we wanted to fight this dragon that no one had ever managed to injure on our own, but we were confident! We then proceeded to die approximately seven times each over the course of about thirty seconds without even hurting the dragon enough to trigger its health bar. "Oh shit," we though to ourselves, "we should have listened to the stupid villagers; this thing really is invincible." Eventually, however, we managed to hurt it enough to get a life bar, and after a lot of struggling and a LOT of deaths, we manage to slay the monster. You were a worthy adversary, dragon; fuck you.
Having played both Tower of Doom and Shadow over Mystara within a couple of days of one another, I can compare the two fairly easily; and despite being older, more limited in terms of player character options, and far inferior graphically, Tower of Doom definitely comes out as the superior game in my opinion. That's not to say that Shadow over Mystara is bad by any means, but it made some changes that just didn't go in the right direction. The hit detection felt off - some attacks would look like they definitely should have hit, and some would leave you wondering how you didn't miss - and the way the health and lives were set up felt needlessly difficult. You were a bit sturdier than in Tower of Doom, but you got one life per continue. There's a mode called Vampirism that you can unlock, and activating that will restore a little of your health with each hit on an enemy, but even with that, there are a few bosses that have attacks that will kill you no matter your health with a single hit. That part didn't feel "unfair," per se, but it did feel like it made the game more frustrating than fun.
Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara is a good two-game collection from back in the early 90s' glory days of arcade beat 'em ups. The second one shows the mid-90s roots with its general not-as-fun-itude, but it's still a good game, and the inclusion of online multiplayer on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, and Steam makes it a blast go play through with friends. If you can find it on sale, absolutely give it a download if you're a fan of the genre. I'm not sure I'd suggest paying the full $10, but if you can find it for less than $3 like I did, do NOT pass it up.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on Saturn, PlayStation 3, Windows, and arcade
Daytona USA is the epitome of arcade racing perfection. Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of playing the game in the arcades, and I've only played it a few times on Saturn, but when Colin told me that it was on sale for like a dollar or two on Xbox Live Arcade, I knew I had to download it as soon as I got home.
Daytona USA is a simple game - you drive a fairly standard stock car on one of three tracks and try to win. Its brilliance lies in its simplicity; it doesn't try to throw a million statistics at you to make a "hyper realistic" driving sim but rather perfect the basics of stock car racing. Of course, it's a little more involved than NASCAR - you're doing more than just making 2000 left turns (in two of the three tracks) - but it's very much an "easy to learn, difficult to master" sort of game. There are a handful of little secrets in the tracks, and the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 ports give some extra modes like time trials, various challenges, and even the bizarre karaoke mode. All of that is in addition to the online multiplayer via Xbox Live or PlayStation Network that gamers today have come to expect.
The visuals are fantastic for a 20+ year old arcade game. This port sees a nice bump to 720p and an unbroken 60 frame per second frame rate. The latter especially is a big part of what ensures an unforgettable racing experience. With such a simple game, there's not an enormous amount to say about Daytona USA, but the other side to that simplicity is that the gorgeous visuals and KILLER soundtrack really shine through. Anyone who is even tangentially familiar with Daytona USA will recognize the iconic "DAAAAAAYTOOONAAAAAA, LET'S GO AWAY!" of the intro song. Honestly, hearing that alone is worth the asking price in my opinion.
Daytona USA is not a complex game, but it's a masterful game. It may seem a bit shy in content by today's standards, but if you keep in mind that it first came to the arcade in 1993, it becomes clear just how special this game is. The visuals are a perfect fit, the music and sound effects are fantastic, the frame rate is rock solid, and it's just an all around uncommonly playable game. It's not often that a racing game will really knock my socks off, but this one absolutely did.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Here's a game I never expected to see exist - a Mario x Rabbids crossover game. It's also the only game that made me seriously question whether or not I was going to buy a Mario game. In the end, however, I decided my loathing of Rabbids was overpowered by my love of Mario, and I'm extremely glad that I fell on that side of the debate. I HATE Rabbids. Like, I hate everything about them. I hate the way they look. I hate they way they sound. I hate that their whole gimmick is to be the most annoying things on the planet. I hate them. I love Mario, though, and I love just about any Nintendo console exclusive. Thankfully, the game isn't as bad as it sounds. Just about everything about this game's appearance is deceptive at first - the stupid look of it, kiddy visuals, the notion of a game by Ubisoft that actually gets finished before it ships.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a turn based tactics game à la XCOM. While it's definitely not fair to say "It's just like XCOM!" it wouldn't be inaccurate to call it "XCOM Lite." For those of you who have played Civilizations Revolution, comparing that game to Civilization V is a lot like comparing this game to XCOM in terms of general scope. The gameplay and tactical choices are a lot narrower than in XCOM, the experience doesn't feel as grandiose, and the general presentation feels smaller scale, but the core of the game is the same. If you've played XCOM, then imagine that but smaller, simpler, and with Mario characters and Rabbids. The Rabbids are still insufferably annoying, but at least they're not as bad as they are in their own games for the most part.
If you've played Mario games before (and if you haven't, you've wasted your life up until now), you probably know that narrative isn't really a big factor there. For those interested, however, some science happens and Rabbids appear in this science-y chick's basement, and then some more science stuff happens, and the Rabbids get science-d away to the Mushroom Kingdom, and because Rabbids suck, the Mushroom Kingdom turns to shit, and then Mario is all "Dang, they messed up the kingdom. Guess I gotta do everything to fix it again" cause Peach is being her usual useless self, but then these Rabbids that are dressed like Luigi and Peach show up, and Mario's like "Cool, got myself a squad." So they're going along, shooting Rabbids in atypical totally-not-normal-Mario style, but then Peach is like "Psych, yo, I'm not useless in this game. Go go gadget shotgun!" and start blowing dudes' heads off (okay, so they turn into family-friendly blue science stuff) and being a general BAMF. Then Bowser Jr. is being a little shit like normal so you have to go beat the crap out of him and save the world. Or something like that. The story doesn't really make sense, but I'm pretty sure my version is better than the actual story.
So, stupid story aside (but really, I didn't expect anything different), Ubisoft actually got a LOT right with this game. It's not perfect - it was still developed by Ubisoft, after all - but it's REALLY good. The sound design, especially, stands out as stellar. The World 3 boss battle, in particular, was just stellar with regards to music. Even the overworld and results screen music, though, is extremely well done. Some of the game's soundtrack is original, but some of it - the most impressive parts, in my opinion - are arrangements of classic Mario tunes that long-time fans of the franchise will recognize right away. The visual design is great, too, with the Rabbids' costumes blending their stupid faces with Mario series character designs extremely well; the characters look true to their Mario counterparts while remaining distinctively Rabbid. For the most part, the environments and cut scenes look great, too, although there are certain instances - particularly some of the lava falls in World 4 - where you can see that the textures could have used a little bit more work.
Honestly, my only real gripes with the game are some performance issues and some somewhat uneven difficulty spikes. There were multiple instances throughout the game where the whole thing would freeze or hiccup for a second or two, sometimes during battle, sometimes on the overworld, and sometimes in a cut scene. It would always fix itself after a couple seconds and keep right on going like nothing ever happened, but it seemed far more prevalent in the latter half of the game. All in all, it felt like a little more testing and optimization could have been done, but as far as Ubisoft products go at launch, this is basically platinum tier. With regards to the difficult spikes, they generally weren't too bad, but going from World 2 to World 3 was a marked increase in difficulty, and about a quarter of the way through World 4, things got downright tough. 4-8 and the final boss in 4-9 were absolutely brutal, and I feel zero shame in admitting that I had to use the "Easy Mode" option for those last two fights. This is what I meant earlier when I said that the kiddy visuals are deceptive; I am absolutely confident that very, VERY few kids will be finishing this game on their own. It looks like it's for little kids, but the end of this game is worthy of any hardcore gamer.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was an unlikely game that I expected to find disappointing but ended up absolutely loving. Beneath the childlike and frankly stupid exterior (thanks to the damn Rabbids) lies a legitimate strategy game that is generally approachable but bears its teeth in full towards the end. There are a few minor performance issues as one should expect from Ubisoft, but the game looks good, sounds great, and plays beautifully. With challenges and scores awarded based on one's performance in each mission, there's a good bit of replay value there, and with story DLC - both solo and co-op - coming in the future, this is a game to which I'm sure I'll be returning.
My Rating - 4 Neps
This is a review that I have wanted to write for a long time. It will also likely end up being the least popular opinion I ever express on this blog. I want to dedicate this to my dear high school friend and we're-totally-not-actually-gay-but-maybe-a-little-probably husband, Grant, for inspiring me to replay this shitty gem. Devil's Third is a Wii U exclusive (I don't count the PC port since it's only the online portion and was only made available in Japan) that it universally considered to be one of the worst games ever to see a retail release on the platform. It also happens to be one of my favorite games on the console and probably my absolute favorite action game. Don't get me wrong - the game is straight up garbage. It's the kind of beautiful, testosterone-packed garbage that makes me salivate with irrational glee.
Devil's Third was the brainchild of developer Tomonobu Itagaki of Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden fame and was to be the first game developed by Valhalla Game Studios, a studio formed in 2008 by Itagaki and other former Tecmo employees. Initially beginning life as an Xbox 360 game, Devil's Third went through one development issue after another, at one point being planned as a multiplatform release for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC until THQ backed out. The idea was eventually pitched to Nintendo and, because of their lack of mature, online capable games, they agreed to publish. Originally being envisioned as a trilogy, Devil's Third would unfortunately be pretty much universally slammed by critics, all but ensuring its sequels would never see the light of day. Those of us irrationally enamored by the game's craptasticitude can only hope and pray that, like Shaq Fu, it's infamy will one day allow the shameful game to rise from the ashes and disappoint a new generation of gamers.
The first indication that this game is going to be gloriously awful is its entire premise. You play as Ivan, a former Soviet black ops soldier serving an 850 year sentence in Guantanamo Bay for terrorism but who also secretly works for the US government and therefore has his 2000 square foot prison cell outfitted with a 100" TV, a drum set, massive speakers, a king sized bed, and a stereo system I could never dream of affording. When a mysterious Russo-Japanese ninja terrorist hijacks a satellite and makes every other satellite in orbit explode, disabling every electronic device on Earth except those needed for the game's plot, the American military calls on Ivan to step in and save the world. He does so with a big ass katana, no shirt, and sometimes even a gun or two. There's a pretty big group of American troops to help him with this, but they're really only useful for indicating that there are bad guys around when their heads explode like watermelons. Oh, and there's also a deadly biological weapon, giant mutant creatures that wouldn't be out of place as Resident Evil bosses, nuclear weapons, and ninja. Tons of ninja. You could have a boy in seventh grade write a story, and it would probably be less ridiculous than Devil's Third. And that's exactly why I love this game so much.
This is the part where I would normally talk about the game's sound design. I say normally because I can only halfway do that now since I don't really remember any music from the game. That's not to say that there's no music; I was just so wrapped up in the god awful story and cheese-fest action that I was paying no attention and don't remember if there was or not. What I do remember is the voice acting. It's TERRIBLE, and I mean that in the best way. It's like a high school play - the acting is ALMOST good, but....it's just not. Ivan's voice is the worst about it; rather than sounding like a real Russian accent, it sounds like an American trying to sound like a stereotypical Russian. Like, think Japanese characters in American cartoons in the 1940s and 1950s. That kind of stereotypical accent that doesn't actually sound anything like it's supposed to. I'm not sure if I'd say it's offensive, but it's just bad, which just adds to the B-movie cheese factor.
The visuals show its Xbox 360 roots. By that, I mean that this game could probably run on an Xbox 360 without being especially taxing on the hardware. That's not to say that the game looks bad, but it doesn't use the Wii U's potential. I know that the Wii U isn't exactly a graphical powerhouse by 2015 standards, but even by Wii U standards, Devil's Third doesn't really look particularly impressive. This is especially evident when you kill an enemy with a shotgun or sniper rifle - they explode. Like, the shotgun kind of makes sense under certain circumstances - blasting a guy point blank, I could see - but like, if I shoot a guy in the torso with a sniper rifle from 30 yards away, his entire torso probably isn't going to explode into four or five chunks. They aren't even realistic-ish looking chunks. They're just like generic meat chunks. And when you shoot someone in the head, the head explodes and this thick, goopy fountain of blood spews from the neck (although I think that adds to the ridiculous atmosphere of the game).
So let me explain why I love this game so much because, objectively, it really is a horrible game. If you're familiar with Steven Segal and his movies, imagine that but as a video game. That's Devil's Third. Steven Segal's movies are the most bullshit stupid insults to cinema, but they're so addicting for mindless action. He's a horrible actor, the stories are all complete nonsense, and the fight scenes are INSANELY over the top....and that's exactly what makes them addicting. The same is true of Devil's Third. It's awful but in the best possible way. If you only like compelling stories or rational combat scenes, then this probably isn't for you, but if you're the kind of person who likes explosion and setting shit on fire, then you might get some mindless enjoyment out of Devil's Third. The gameplay is really at the heart of what's enjoyable here; a game can be ridiculous and still be a pain in the ass to play. Devil's Third, while suffering from some occasional slow down, plays really well. It just sucks in every other regard.
Devil's Third, despite being (accurately) dubbed "Devil's Turd" by the internet, holds a spot near and dear to my heart. Sure, part of that is because I adore the Wii U in general, and it's cool to know that I have an extremely rare game, but it's a total guilty pleasure. It's objectively a shitstorm in pretty much every respect, but DAMN is it fun in a mindless violence kind of way. Sprinting across a battlefield with no shirt and killing a guy with a sword while he's shooting at you with a machine gun? AWESOME. It's definitely earned it's negative reputation, but like Sharknado and Tremors, that's exactly why it's awesome. If I were rating this game based exclusively on my personal enjoyment, I'd give it a 5 out of 5 in a heartbeat. Since I do try to be fair and objective (usually), however, I can't rate this one any higher than a 2.
My Rating - 2 Neps
Also available on 3DS, Android, and iOS
This will probably be the shortest review I ever write not because I'm lazy and don't want to write much but because there legitimately isn't much to say. DON'T CRASH is a perfect example of why I have such a hard time respecting mobile games, and I can't imagine for the life of me why Nintendo ever allowed this on the eShops of either the Wii U or the 3DS. The price on Wii U is $1.49, and that's legit like $1.40 too much. I can see charging 9 or 10 cents, but no more than that. It's free on Android, and that's all it's worth - $0.00. The entire game is switching between two lanes as your car drives around in increasingly fast circles while you try not to hit the other car as it randomly changes lanes. That's it. No other obstacles, no levels, no other cars. It's completely and utterly pointless. I'm seriously racking my brain to think of an Atari 2600 game that I've played with less content, and I legitimately can't think of one. Games from 1977 offer more than a game from 2015. That should tell you all you need to know.
DON'T CRASH is complete and utter garbage, and anyone who pays full price for this should feel ashamed of himself. I got it on sale for like $0.49 a year or so ago, and I still feel ashamed of myself. This is the kind of shovelware that makes you wonder why you bother working a legitimate job when shit like this gets sold for money. I thought Chasing Dead and The Letter were bad, and they are truly horrible games, but Jesus Christ, this is legitimately the worst Wii U game I've ever played and possibly the worst game I've ever played period.
My Rating - 1 Nep
Also available on PlayStation 4, Android, Linux, OSX, and Windows
If you've found yourself in need of a good, affordable fix for the mecha space combat shooter monkey on your back, I've got good news. Strike Suit Zero: Director Cut is available on pretty much every platform (except Nintendo's poor, eternally neglected platforms) and, at only $20, is a downright bargain for the amount of pew-pew laser space explosions the game provides. I had actually downloaded this game on my Xbox One who knows how long ago - presumably it was a free Games with Gold offer at some point - but had completely forgotten about it until my buddy Colin mentioned how kick ass it is. Hearing the praise from him, I knew I had to try it. After all, this was the guy who sent me the original Gundam movie trilogy on Bluray; if he says a pew pew laser robot game is good, it's gotta be good.
Strike Suit Zero: Director's Cut is an updated and more polished re-release of the older Strike Suit Zero, and while I never played the original release, from what I've read, the director's cut improves the original in almost every area with the most praise being directed towards the difficulty. According to forum posts and Steam reviews I've read, the original release was crushingly difficult even on Easy whereas I found director's cut to be extremely fair. There are a couple of missions that were tough, but at no point did the difficulty feel like bullshit tier hard. If I had any gripe with the difficulty, it would be a few situations here and there with the checkpoint system; if you reach a checkpoint on a defend mission where the ship you're defending is low on health, you'll restart the checkpoint with it still like two shots from death, making it impossible to finish and completely defeating the purpose of a checkpoint. Other than that, however, every aspect of the game felt pretty fair and well balanced to me.
The story in Strike Suit Zero is that you're a pilot with the United Nations of Earth which finds itself embroiled in a war with a collection of colony worlds that have banded together to seek independence. You discover that the colonial forces have developed some sort of doomsday weapon capable of completely disabling an entire armada and destroying whole planets. Like, not the cities; it legit blows the planet apart. So, naturally, that's not really a good thing for your enemy to have, especially given that the colonial fleet set a course straight for Earth. No more Earth, no more war with United Nations of Earth. The bulk of the game is played in the context of the plucky band of guerillas turned bizarrely lucky war machine trope, but it works for it. The story isn't a breathtaking masterpiece or anything, but does keep the player engaged and interested.
The control for the game is fantastic. You can switch between a first and third person view, and you can set that perspective for your fighter cockpit, your mobile suit cockpit, or have it the same both. I stuck with third person, but the option of going first person is nice. You unlock a variety of ships each with different specialties. Some are faster and more agile whereas others have more plasma weapon energy and better armor. Each ship also has different weapon slots; some give you a little as one machine gun slot and two missile slots whereas others give you as much as two machine gun slots and four missile slots. Picking the right ship and weapon loadout to match your playstyle and the mission at hand is the key to victory.
Visually, the game looks great. It doesn't set a new high for graphical fidelity or anything, but definitely looks good. The laser effects are vibrant, the explosions have enough bloom to pop without looking like the inside of a nuclear reactor, and the ships look sleek and badass. I've really only got two complaints about the visuals. First, the ship wreckage that's left over when you destroy enemy capital ships looks pretty bad for the hardware it's running on. It's not that the texture work is bad, but the ship just kind of breaks into like three or four chunks, leaving the debris looking like what you might expect to find in game from ten or fifteen years ago. My other gripe is that there's some serious slowdown when you've got especially large ships exploding in close proximity to you. The framerate drops from the standard 30 fps to around 10 fps for a few seconds. Like the visuals, the game's audio isn't setting any new industry standards, but it's definitely very well done and pleasing to the ear. The music has a grand, dignified feel without being so in-your-face that it detracts from the action of the game. The voice acting, while nothing special, is competent enough and doesn't stand out like some of the cringe-worthy stuff we got in the 90s.
Strike Suit Zero is broken into 13 missions, and the director's cut includes an addition five missions. All in all, you're looking at probably five or six hours for a full playthrough, maybe a little plus or minus depending on the difficulty you choose. You're scored at the end of each mission based on your kills and time taken with bronze, silver, gold, and platinum medals, so for those who like a challenge for going full completionist, this game has you covered in that regard. The five expansion missions, titled Heroes of the Fleet, aren't particularly fascinating from a story perspective as it all takes place in a simulator, but the missions themselves are a lot of fun. Those five missions are arguably as fun if not more so than the 13 missions in the base game.
All in all, Strike Suit Zero: Director's Cut is a must-have for fans of space combat sims. The price is totally reasonable, coming in at just a hair over $1 per level, and the variety of ships from which you can choose gives it a decent amount of replay value. Whether you game on PlayStation, Xbox, or PC, this game is absolutely worth a purchase. This is the space fighter for which I've been waiting for years. I am so extremely glad that Colin reminded me that I have this game.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Being a huge Uncharted fan and having played the five previous games in the series, I was equal parts excited and nervous - nervocited as Pinkie Pie would say - for this spin-off game because it would mark the first time Nathan Drake has not only not been an Uncharted game's protagonist but completely absent from the game entirely. I saw this as a real make-or-break moment for Naughty Dog; if the game went well, it would prove that Uncharted can exist and thrive without the Nathan Drake character, but if it flopped, it would most likely be the nail in Uncharted's coffin.
At the end of the day, Lost Legacy is less its own game and more standalone DLC for Uncharted 4. As such, the game looks and plays more or less exactly like Uncharted 4. Those who have played the series' most recent main installment, however, will know that such a statement is far from a criticism. I played on PS4 Pro, and the game looks stunning running at 60 frame per second in HDR at a beautiful 2160p resolution (although, in fairness, that resolution is achieved through checkerboarding from a native 1440p). Having played Uncharted 4 back when it first launched on the base PlayStation 4 hardware, the addition of HDR and a higher resolution with the Pro's added horsepower gave a noticeable visual improvement. It's not like jumping from 480i to 1080p, mind you, but the world definitely has more detail and vibrancy with HDR and the added resolution.
In Lost Legacy, you play not as Nathan Drake but as Chloe Frazer who is accompanied on her excursion by Nadine Ross. Those of you who have played the Uncharted series will recognize those names; for those who haven't, they're badass women who can definitely beat the hell out of you blindfolded with both hands tied behind their backs. I, personally, love seeing strong female leads who aren't just hypersexualized eye candy in games, and while some probably say that this just took series from being Tomb Raider with a dude to being an actual Tomb Raider rip-off, I loved seeing the change in protagonist. It gave the game's story a different feel since it's told from a different character's perspective, and while there might be some validity to saying that it's now little more than a Tomb Raider clone, I think there are still enough aspects differing between the two to prevent that from being a real bane.
Without spoiling anything, the story revolves around Chloe's quest to find the Tusk of Ganesh, a relic from an ancient Indian kingdom, and her struggle against an Indian insurgent warlord who seeks the tusk for his own gain. The gameplay is your typical Uncharted fare - abundant platforming, some fairly straightforward puzzle solving, and dozens of dudes to massacre with a variety of weapons. Nothing really breaks the Uncharted mold (aside from the female protagonist), but that's not a bad thing. Naughty Dog has more or less perfect the formula over the various Uncharted releases, and as a result, this latest installment is an exceptionally well polished even if not entirely original product.
Being a standalone expansion to Uncharted 4 rather than entirely new game built from the ground up, The Lost Legacy retailed for $40 vs the standard $60 and comes with full access to Uncharted 4's multiplayer much the way Bungie handled Halo 3 ODST. While I very much doubt many people who picked this up haven't already played Uncharted 4, it is nice that the price matches the nature of the product and that the multiplayer was included. That 33% lower price tag also makes it an easier decision for Uncharted enthusiasts like me who wanted to experience the new story but weren't thrilled about shelling out another $60 for an add-on even if it is a standalone.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is an extremely competent follow-up to the magnificent Uncharted 4 even if it plays it safe and follows in its predecessor's footsteps. It's simply outstanding visually, and the writing and voice acting is every bit as top notch as one would expect from Naughty Dog. It's clear that, despite being an expansion, a great deal of love and care was put into the game. Truthfully, my only complaint is that the textures' rendering lags behind some of the models at times. On a few occasions, I found myself standing on ground or holding an artifact that was a vaguely correctly colored blur with no texture until it popped in a few seconds later. That's seriously pretty mcuh the only real flaw I encountered with the game. If you're a fan of Uncharted, this one's a no-brainer.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
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 history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.