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  1. You membah back in 1999 when The Blair Witch Project was released and everyone kinda went mental over it? Or maybe you don’t, I mean it was a long ass time ago that I barely remember myself but I do remember the share volume of people falling for the premise and of course how it kickstarted the whole Found Footage genre. I didn’t end up seeing Project until I was in High School, I knew of it, knew it was about a tape found by some people who were hunted by a Predator in a jungle Witch in the woods (which is debatable, I think its a movie in which two dudes fake a haunting to murder a chick, but hey you say tomatoes and I say maters.) Then in 2016 a third movie was released and collective minds were blown for what ended up being an average movie and all was quiet on the Blair Witch front, until 2019. During E3 2019 it was announced that a new Blair Witch game would be the first since the trilogy released in the early 00’s for PC. Developed by Blooper Team the creative minds behind Layers of Fear and Observer both received their fare share of praise and had a great sense of atmosphere. A licence put into capable hands right? Well yes, they did a pretty good job overall and made Blair Witch so much better than it had any real right to be. The game is set in 1996 a couple of years after the events of the first movie in which you play the roll of Ellis an army vet and police officer on leave who after hearing of the abduction of a 9 year old boy, who has been taken into the Black Hills Forest, joins in the search effort with his trusty dog Bullet at his side. Blair Witch is a first person horror game in which you make your way through the forest in search of the boy while solving puzzles and fighting monsters, yeah I will get to that one in a bit. Enough of about all this you heard me mention you get a Doggo as a companion and you wanna hear more about that you say, oh alright I’ll allow it. Bullet, your trusty good boy would more often than not be relocated to the possession of gimmick in any other game; yes I’m looking at you Fable 2. However much to Blooper Team’s credit Bullet is an essential to your survival. He will help you fight, find collectibles and lore while scaring off bumps in the night and tracking the scent of the boy you went in there to save. Like I said he is such a good Doggo. The game also encourages you to treat him, well they let you treat him however you like, maybe you are a terrible person and want to scold him all the time, you can do that but it works out much better if you pats him, praise him and give him treats. Much like other ventures in Blair Witch series this game also has a video camera as a key feature, shortly into your journey through the woods you will encounter said video camera which is also the signal for shit to start getting weird…er than they already are. The camera will allow you to view tapes which will fill in some story more importantly however it will allow you to play special red tapes. Red tapes will allow you to change and interact with the world at hand being your key to unlock all of the puzzles the game holds. Can’t open a door? Find a red tape and play it until you find a scene in which the door is open, return to the door and magically it is open. This aspect is probably the most fun the game has to offer, sure there are some other simple puzzles here there, move switch to allow train tracks to change standard things like that. While red tape puzzles aren’t ever mind blowing they are fun to think about and get involved in. Yes, I previously mentioned monsters didn’t I? If you recall a certain being from the 2016 movie then you will know what to expect from these guys… Kind of anyway. Monsters in Blair Witch are fast, so much so you probably wont even see them movie. So in order to track these monsters you have to rely on Bullet (the dog, not the things guns fire, they are in this game so don’t worry about them) he will show you where they are, by pointing them out and barking. Did I mention just how much of a good boy he is? So yeah, the know gun thing, instead you have your handy dandy flashlight. Much like Alan Wake you will aim your flashlight at the monsters in order to dispell them. Much like the red tape puzzles, it’s fun, nothing brilliant or revolutionary but it’s fun to do. The game does have one glaring flaw though that you can’t do a single thing about and is really hard to look over as it follows you as soon as your character takes his first steps into the game; your walk cycle is super slow and 75% of the game feels like a walking sim. But I mean if you wanted a walking in spoopy woods sim you are in luck. Blair Witch does nothing that will blow you away but sometimes that’s ok as what is here is really solid for the most part. It’s a well put together game which shows care for its source material wanting to work in the confines of it while trying to add its own spin in there without it feeling out of place. If you are a super huge fan of the franchise you may find it lacking as to dig into the real story of The Bell Witch you need to go out of your way to find it in this game. If you are looking to kill some time in a horror themed game with some great atmosphere then Blair Witch will easily fill that gap. Zombie Reviewed a retail copy of Blair Witch on an Xbox One S.
  2. Drunk_Monk

    Control Review

    When I first saw a trailer for Control I was immediately intrigued. The mysteriousness from a total lack of information certainly piqued my interest, and knowing it was being made by Remedy, the people behind the extremely weird Quantum Break I was hyped to see what this game was going to be with as little information as possible. My eagerness to go in blind was rewarded. Note: If you want to avoid spoilers then avoid the next two paragraphs, because while I won’t spoil the game, the first couple of hours is way better not knowing what is going on. Control kicks off with the protagonist, Jesse, in the foyer of a mysterious building which is the Federal Bureau of Control under confusing circumstances. She talks to someone you can’t see as she makes her way through this abandoned building looking through offices until she finds herself in the Directors office to find he has committed suicide. Picking up the gun she has some flashes of images, then the plot starts to thicken. The story devolves quickly into a strange supernatural thriller where Jesse, who is now the director for some reason, must try to purge the massive building of the Hiss which is a supernatural energy that is invading the premises. As she clears areas of this mysterious energy, people come out of their bunkers, and she uncovers items which unlock supernatural powers to her. It’s a story that has taken from so many sources but is bizarrely unique in a genre where it’s hard to be unique these days. I won’t touch on the story anymore because it keeps getting better, and if the above intrigues you then I suspect you will enjoy the ride. Gameplay wise the game is a solid and enjoyable shooter. Early on Jesse is armed with only a gun with regenerating ammo which takes time to regenerate once emptied, so it is important to try to manage it carefully as to not run out. Every time it was reloading, I kept hitting a shoulder button to reload, which took a long time for my brain to stop doing. As you advance this is easier to deal with because you unlock supernatural powers which you use interchangeably with your gun to create fluid strings of attacks. I won’t touch on the powers too much because again these are spoilers that you should unlock as the game goes on, but the earliest one is the ability to lift objects up and fling them at enemies. This comes with a cooldown after so many flings, so switching between attacks is crucial, and so damn fun. What’s most impressive is the way the game provides you with stuff to fling. You can fling physical objects, but also chunks of the scenery, and nothing is more satisfying or fascinating to watch than when Jesse rips chunks of concrete out leaving holes in the room around her. The whole game gives a vibe that reminded me of Resident Evil early on. The feeling of being in one big building, defeating the enemy within is so uniquely RE, and Control takes this idea but makes an entirely different game. This game also gives some scary moments which are more about making feel more uncomfortable than scared. The mysterious thing working with you that Jesse talks to, responds by manipulating your vision slightly which is just the right amount of creepy showing that when they are onto something, Remedy can be the best in class. One of my favorite parts of one of the best games in the last few years, Senua’s Sacrifice, is the game’s use of live footage overlaid in the game world which was constantly unnerving, and Remedy has taken this idea for Control, using it to extraordinary effect. This as well as camera angles at certain moments made me so uncomfortable exactly the way I like thriller games to make me feel. It’s unnerving because it’s supposed to be, not because you are waiting for a jump scare, and with its excellent quality aesthetic, it’s a treat in every way. Control is a game that I hope gets a lot of attention because it is truly something special. It borrows from so many other sources but is totally unique in the way it uses them to tell a creative and interesting story that is a lot of fun to play. I even found myself reading documents to unravel the story more which is a rarity for me. Now, go play Control and thank Remedy later.
  3. Drunk_Monk

    Oppo Reno Z Review

    When I reviewed the Oppo Reno 10x Zoom this was my first experience with the Oppo brand, and I was blown away. This premium phone that comes in at half the price of other brands top phones was truly extraordinary, so when given the chance to check out the Oppo Reno Z, their new mid-tier phone, I was keen to see what this brand could do with $700. One of the things I thought was bizarre amd then endearing about the Oppo Reno 10x Zoom was that Shark Fin/Cheese Wedge that rises out of the top of the phone for the front facing camera and flash. This has been axed for the mid-range phone meaning it has the teardrop notch in the bezel, which because of its shape only takes up a teeny bit of screen space. I won’t lie, it had me missing the neat little wedge but when you are looking at mid-range phones, sacrifices must be made. One area that has not had a major sacrifice is with the battery life. The Reno 10x Zoom had a 4065 mAh battery, and the Reno Z has a 4035 mAh battery which is a tiny variance. When I tested the Reno 10x Zoom I intentionally played more power intensive games on it to see how it went but with the Reno Z I thought I would treat it like I normally do a phone, and it surpassed my expectations. Playing hours of podcasts in a day while playing around two to three hours of Fire Emblem: Heroes and Pokémon Masters, I only managed to drop the battery below 70% once. My less than two-year-old phone that I bought for its battery life dies before bedtime every night. The cameras have taken a hit for the price, which is reasonable, but the photos are still surprisingly good. Without the multiple lenses providing the best one for the distance you are capturing, it is limited to digital zoom for those far away snaps. Photos from close range, however, are significantly better than I would have expected for a $700 phone. The screen is a Full HD+, which means videos and games on the phone looks stunning. When using the Reno Z, it never crossed my mind that this was the screen of a lesser phone at all. Even comparing videos with better screens, unless it is side by side with another phone, you would struggle to notice a difference. One thing I had noticed with my not so old phone was with the newly released Pokémon Masters, it struggles a lot. I can play the game, but it chugs way more than a $800 one and a half-year-old phone should, the Oppo Reno Z though runs it like a dream. I didn’t notice chugging animations or overly long load times, which has meant I have played way more of it in the last week than I had days prior. Considering it is sitting in the same price range, albeit newer, I didn’t have high hopes, but I could not have been happier. One thing I have come to expect of mid-tier phones is the sometimes-arbitrary feeling features that get axed. I was not expecting facial unlocking or anything like that, and until I encountered the feature, I didn’t realise how much I love it. No more swiping my pattern every time I want to change a song or podcast at the gym, now I look at it and it unlocks. If that fails because it’s dark, or my son stuck his face in the way too quickly, I stick my thumb on the screen, and if that fails because my thumb is too dirty then I can swipe in my pattern. The latter only happened once in a week. If you are looking for that midrange phone because the $1200 Reno 10x Zoom is out of your price range, you would do well to look at the Oppo Reno Z. It’s a phone that feels and performs like it should be in a higher price bracket, but with some small setback like the cameras only being good as opposed to amazing, you will comfortably get your money’s worth here. Blair as loaned an Oppo Reno Z for review
  4. Katana Zero, what can I say about it? You play as a katana wielding assassin known only as The Dragon as you set about to accomplish each new mission from your employer. There isn’t much to aid you on that task accept for your trusty blade, whatever objects you can find in level to help out and a small set of time bending powers. One life, one target, one blade and a crap load of henchmen in your way. Katana Zero handles like a dream, everything is very responsive once you get the timing down. Your main method of attack is your sword and that will deal with most of your problems, to aid in your dispatching you will come across the occasional bottle or knife which can be thrown and later on explosives can also be added into the mix. Targeting works as well as could be expected with any screw ups purely down to Zombie error. Now I also mentioned you had some spiffy little time bending powers, while they aren’t super original or exciting they are used pretty much exclusively for dodging, puzzles and environmental kills. The time skills are the worst offender in regards to the controls as they can take a level or three to really get a grasp on their time as it is just kind of odd. Judging by these screen shots I am sure by now you have thought to yourself ‘Hey that looks like Hotline Miami!’ and you aren’t wrong. Katana Zero wears its inspirations on it’s sleeve; unabashedly so. What we have here is some developers who took Hotline Miami, The Matrix, Blade Runner, John Wick, that Ryan Gosling movie Drive where he just hung out acting all cool in a jacket, Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino, threw them in a blender on the first setting so the elements still had a nice pulpy feel to them then crafted this game. Before each level begins The Dragon will stop to take a moment and put on headphones before pressing play on his cassette player just so you know its cool and nostalgic. However with that being said these style of games with the retro aesthetics and synth soundtracks are becoming a dime a dozen moreover they are all beginning to blur together with it becoming harder and harder to really tell them apart. Luckily for Katana Zero it still has The Matrix and Blade Runner roots in there to hold up with a strong sense of mind bending story that really drives the game forward giving reasons for everything that happens throughout the game including its cyberpunk setting which not a lot of other games do. Katana Zero isn’t the most original or unique game on the market of 2019 it won’t blow you away nor does it really stand out in the crowded sea of nostalgiabait games but at the same time it isn’t really trying to. Katana Zero is one of those love letters to Sci-Fi to that just gets it right, it knows what it is and the story it wants to tell. Zero is crafted by a love of the genre from hiring Mega Man X and Blade Runner on the weekend and if that was you these are your people and this is a game you will get a kick out of. Zombie reviewed a promo copy of Katana Zero on the Nintendo Switch.
  5. Metroidvania has been a mixed reception term for a genre. Based off the general gist of Metroid and Castlevania, you need to platform through a generally 2D world, gaining abilities or powers so you can move back to earlier sections accessing areas opened thanks to these abilities to advance. I have played several Metroidvanias, but never their namesakes themselves, so when a father of the genre, Koji Igarashi of Catlevania fame, was making a spiritual successor, I was amped to see where he would take the genre. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night kicks off with the protagonist Miriam waking up from a coma to discover she is one of two Shardbinders remaining, the other is the antagonist who is leading the demon invasion on earth. As a Shardbinder she can gain powers from demon’s shards which merge with her. The more shards she fuses with, the less human and more demon she will become. This kicks off a story where she needs to stop him while retaining her humanity. The story, like with most Metroidvanias, was soon lost on me. This was due to the nature of spending hours going back and forth through the same areas leaving substantial amounts of time between plot points. This isn’t a problem, rather what I expected of the genre, but the premise is interesting enough, and it leads to the gameplay. You slash and shoot with weapons like swords, guns, or whips, which is the least fun part of the combat. The magic and abilities that Miriam gets throughout the game are the real meat of combat. When Miriam kills demons there is a chance that they drop shards, which stabs into her with a cool stained-glass effect around the screen. These vary from stat buffs to attacks that Miriam can use by having one of each type equipped. Levelling them up with items and getting multiples of the same shard means that killing the same enemies as you go through a section again doesn’t feel pointless. This was the smartest move that was made in the game. Part of the genius of the genre is the way the same areas open to so many things, but it does mean they can become frustratingly receptive. With Miriam leveling up, along with the opportunity to power up with your shards, at worst backtracking felt valuable for some grinding, and at best netted advancing the game forward. This is how I lost dozens of hours into the game and never felt bored; in fact, train trips every day were ending too quickly for my liking. The combat outside of Miriam’s magical abilities is clunky and far from the best part of the game. Slashes and movement are ever so slightly off, which doesn’t take long to adjust to, but can still be super annoying. Another grave annoyance is when you jump up through a floor to another room, if you take your finger off jump, when the new room loads it would stop jumping and you’d fall back down meaning the room below you would have to load again, before you could try doing it again. I played on Switch, which if you compare the game to other versions in side by side comparisons it doesn’t look as good and has slower load times. When I first played the game, I didn’t do a comparison, so I never faulted the games look at all, in fact I thought it looked fantastic throughout. The load times were impacted by the port’s performance, but that was a minor gripe to deal with for the benefit of playing on the go which is perfect for a game like this. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is not the huge step forward for the genre I hoped that Koji Igarashi may have ushered in. Instead it is as described on the box, a damn good example of how to make a Castlevania that is engaging, entertaining, and as addictive as it is frustrating.
  6. If you are anything like me, then you have watched the prices of high end phone increase wildly out of your price range as you weep into your pillow at night. Watching the top phones hit or get close to 2k was terrifying to someone who not that long ago felt that dropping 1k was a huge investment. Fortunately Huawei and Oppo hit the scene to make their top range phones at the slightly more palatable $1200-1500 mark, so I really wanted to see if the new OPPO Reno 10x Zoom was worth while. Opening the massive box that the Oppo comes in and lifting the device, I immediately knew this was a significant step up from my mid-range Samsung device that is only a year old...which was still a blimmin $800 device. The phone feels and looks premium with its stack of cameras down the back of the phone, and it’s screen taking up the whole front of the phone. It comes with a basic hard case in the box which is handy because a case needs to account for it’s quirky camera features which I will address next. It has a nice slit down the back so it’s rear cameras stacking neatly down the centre are all exposed, as well as the Oppos logo if you want people to know the brand you are sporting. One of the biggest features of the OPPO Reno 10x Zoom, and reason it has it’s weird as hell name is it’s cameras. If you are anything like me then you have seen the premium phones rocking some sweet cameras with multiple lenses to get some absolutely amazing photography that regularly looks like professional shots, all the while your mid range phone rocks one lense that gets an above average photo, but looks like it has been done with a cheap digital camera. Like the more expensive Huawei P30 pro, the OPPO Reno 10x Zoom rocks a series of high quality lenses that even with my time using it produced some amazing family photos. The 10x zoom isn't technically a 10x Zoom, but a combination of 5x zoom and digital zoom. Either way the quality of the photos is well above its price point. The most unique element of the phone is it’s wedge that raises out of the top of the phone with its flash on the rear side and the selfie camera on the front. When you choose either of these options in the software, the phone automatically raises it’s wedge, and puts it away when no longer in use. It’s so clever that when you drop the device, the wedge recognises it and retracts before the phone hits the ground to avoid it damaging the mechanism. I had to hold it a couple of inches above the ground to beat the mechanism, and odds are that is an unlikely scenario when you have the camera or flash out. The advantage of this wedge presents is the screen doesn't need to cut off at the front for the camera to sit above it, or have one of those annoying looking bezels that cuts an odd chunk out of your screen. Instead the whole surface is real estate up for grabs for videos or games, and with the phones gorgeous 1080p screen you want to be using as much of that surface as you can for that sweet sweet content like your games. Over the years my personal stance has gone from total up-turned nose snootiness, to casual enjoyment, to a point now where I play a lot of casual games like Mario Run, and obsessively play a handful like Fire Emblem Heroes. This means that I have really tested a phones ability to hold a battery charge, and this is a major sticking point for a new phone I buy. My Samsung A7 has a beast of a battery, and the OPPO Reno 10x Zoom was able to handle my abusive use of its battery throughout the day better than expected. I regularly still have 15% battery at the end of the day which included gaming on my commute, my lunch break, walks, and any other times being able to game on my phone was convenient. It handled all of my regular games perfectly, and that screen makes games look fantastic. One little annoyance was that Teppen, which is a Capcom card battling game that was just released, wasn't available on the Play Store. The phone has easily enough resources so I hoped sideloading the app would do the trick, but still no luck. Hopefully Capcom increases the selection of devices it works on, and it’s not Oppo’s fault, but if you had been curious about the game and looked forward to checking it out on your new phone, then this is something to keep in mind. One other little note is that it has also done away with the 3.55mm jack as well. Out of the box it has a pair of headphones that connect to the USB-C port, and a USB-C - 3.55 mm cord can be less than $20, so it’s not a big deal these days, but worth considering if you love your 3.5mm jacks. With the OPPO Reno 10x Zoom running in at $1299 so it is sitting well below its competitors prices and with some deals like the one at JB HiFi right now you can get a UE Boom 3 and save more money if you sign up with 2Degrees. So as far as value for money goes, it really feels like a premium device, at a premium price from 5 years ago. Blair was loaned an OPPO Reno 10x Zoom for review
  7. If there is one thing I love about indie games, it’s the ability for someone to turn a personal story into a game so that the world can experience their vision. EA has been funding some smaller games that would otherwise be indies such as Unravel but Sea of Solitude is the first one of their games that isn't simply an indie game, but truly an indie vision at its best. It may not be the biggest hit, but boy is it important. Sea of Solitude has the protagonist Kay waking up in a boat. She is a black and fuzzy monster that for the most part looks like a girl; unlike the monsters she soon discovers. Initially she is tormented by an underwater monster that swims around saying some mean things letting Kay feel worthless. In the early stages of the game she is trying to get to where her trusty glowing orb is guiding her as she tries to avoid being eaten by the monster. As the game progresses, she confronts more monsters who are all representations of her family and friends, who all possess many bigger forms such as a wolf or chameleon. These monsters seem less like they want to eat Kay and far more like they fear her by acting defensively. Each monster has a story to tell and their own burdens. As Kay tries to free these people of their monster forms, she discovers her role in their torment, and in doing so also frees herself from those demons. The game itself is a simple puzzle game. Most of the early game has Kay driving her boat to semi submerged structures and trying to find a way to cross them or swim between them while making sure the monster swimming around her doesn't get close enough to eat her. As the game progresses, she spends more time on her feet trying to get through stages in buildings or around snowy constructs, but the general gist is that she needs to find memories, removing their corruption so she can connect and heal her loved ones. Aside from the trusty ability to jump and swim, Kay is armed with a flare. For the most part firing the flare shows Kay the direction she needs to travel. The flare also kicks in with the closest things to battles where hitting an orb causes a wave to disperse either incapacitating enemies or turning them into blue good ghost like things. The gameplay itself isn’t overly unique, but it is functional and fun enough to keep making your way through the story continues at a reasonable pace. Only two bosses posed a challenge for me, the first it took me a bit to realise what I needed to do, and the other was genuinely challenging enough for a few retries, but not hard enough to be overly frustrating. What the game has done better than most is its aesthetic. The game uses a striking cell shaded style without the cells, like Breath of the Wild’s style. This makes the game an absolute treat to look at while you are dealing with the emotional blows it hits you with regularly. The animations, especially things like the sea foam. On the whole Sea of Solitude is one of the best-case scenarios when it comes to a small indie game. It looks beautiful, plays well, and tells a personal story that deserved to be told, while being short enough to not overstay its welcome. If you can handle being reminded of how you are a failure, then this is an absolute must experience.
  8. One of my early gaming memories was playing Monster Truck Madness on our old PC many years ago which began a short but strong obsession with Monster Trucks that even to this day leaves me remembering Snake Bite’s fangs and Monster Patrol’s massive spoiler. So, when I saw a new Monster Truck game was landing this year, my eyes were fixed squarely on Monster Jam Steel Titans. The game drops you straight into a truck testing out the ropes. You are given a brief overview of how to drive and do some tricks from ramps. From here it is immediately clear that Monster Jam Steel Titans is far less sim, and far more of a tricks game with monster trucks with crazy physics that have you doing flips or rolling around a lot. The game makes no attempt to sneak in a story, instead opting for a campaign that has you making your way through championships of varying lengths consisting of a set of events. Events come in a few shapes and sizes varying from having to get a high score from tricks, to winning standard races, to making your way through a series of beacons. The tricks challenges are made harder where some require you to achieve a two wheel based trick for a combo to count, and the races come in a challenging variation where you have to do multiple laps of a small area to beat an opponent through a small knockout tournament. So far so good right? The game’s biggest flaw is so close to a strength which is its callous disregard for physics. If the game embraced its silliness in the same way that SSX treats snowboarding physics then it would be great, but the campaign has you doing a series of events which can be long. When you are neck in neck on a race and clip a wall which sends you flying off in a barrel roll that lands you in last place it is extraordinarily frustrating when it puts you on the back foot for the whole series standings. The way that Championships are set up is a little annoying as well. Entering one you don’t know if you are going to be doing six events or 20, which is an unnecessary design flaw, as if that info was there, I didn’t easily find it. One night as I battled to hold 3rd place I was praying that every event was my last one, which turned out that I was probably about halfway through when I started itching for it to end. The game consistently felt like it was torn between a silly over the top tricks game, and a serious racing game which causes some unnecessary problems. When my trick would flip out of control or drive on one wheel it regularly wouldn’t register tricks based on those physics, which if it did could easily work in its favour. Instead it winds up breaking a trick multiplier because its time doing a barrel roll killed the time to land another trick. The game is at its most fun when you avoid doing those campaigns and instead tackle single races. This way the consequences of the game’s physics stuffing you up doesn’t sting and it instead becomes a bit of fun. Free roaming around the courses outside of the races is also a lot of fun as you can enjoy the chaos to its fullest. Monster Jam Steel Titans is a tough game to recommend. I had an absolute blast playing the game, unlocking Monster Trucks and then wrecking them on courses, but its championships feel like an important aspect of the experience that makes the chaotic physics feel like a bug instead of a feature.
  9. When I first saw the art for My Friend Pedro starring a banana with a face, I was expecting to be in for a comedy experience along the lines of Rick and Morty. What I didn’t expect was a game that was funny in a twisted and violent way, that made me super uncomfortable to laugh as I smeared the world with my victim’s blood. My Friend Pedro is a side scrolling, hyper violent, shooting game that isn’t a shooter in a classic sense. Instead it is probably better described as a physics tricks game, that has a shooting mechanic at its core. By this I mean your enjoyment of the game isn’t getting through tricky spots without dying, but more trying to get through a stage killing enemies in as creative ways as possible while trying to pull off flips, swing from chains, run on barrels, and all kinds of chaos. The game opens with Pedro the banana waking your character up. After a brief introduction he instructs you to start killing people, and as the game progresses, he gives you more abilities to kill people in more creative ways. That's the extent of the story, and I don’t know why this masked protagonist is masked let alone his life story. With some of the games in Devolver Digitals past, that shouldn't be too surprising. What was surprising was how little this is a side scrolling shooter, and how much it becomes an addictive physics tricks game. You can slow down time, do flips in the air, control each arm so they fire in different directions at the same time, and hit enemies with other stuff that I don’t want to spoil. Things like the multiple arms tricks are hard to get the hang of, and even now I wouldn't say I am good at it, but boy is it bizarrely fun. The game’s aesthetic is the bleak image of a city’s underbelly, which is beautiful…in a well-designed ugly city kind of way. Smashing your way through glass panes, shooting enemies through grates and mass murder has never looked so good, well outside of a John Wick film. It’s hard to put into words how aesthetically pleasing, and jarringly awful the game looks. Again, it’s what you would expect from a hyper violent game published by Devolver Digital. The hardest thing to adjust to is the slow pace of the game. It feels slow and clunky, with controls that feel a little floaty at times. This is part of what makes the game great, as long as you can adjust to it because the game doesn’t focus around fast platforming or action, it’s about trying to do cool things, and its pace will make sure you take the time to do it. The slow pace isn’t always favourable such as times where I didn’t quite know where to go, I would regularly find the solution by jumping at what I thought was a wall, or something like that. Normally this wouldn’t be a big detraction, but the slow game speed made this significantly more annoying. Platforming can be frustrating too as the masked man would regularly miss a platform by what seemed like less than a millimetre, or platforms that you aren’t supposed to access because that isn’t the solution seemed to only not work because of an invisible barrier. Despite some minor annoyances, My Friend Pedro was not the game I expected, but it is the game I am glad I played. Trying to get high scores through excessive bloodshed is as satisfying as it is entertaining, and you will easily lose hours to the game if you let it…. I did.
  10. Most PSVR launch owners will have bought the PSVR worlds game which came with a selection of games and experiences to test out their new toy. It wasn't fantastic value as a full game, but it was a great way to see the variety of what VR could offer, though a couple of gems lay in that collection that were well worth exploring. One of these was the rail shooter narrative heavy The London Heist. Sony heard the calls for that to be expanded with the new game based on that experience, Blood & Truth. The question left is should it have stayed a short novella, or did it warrant the full novel? Blood & Truth kicks in with you sitting at a table in a small room as you begin to be interrogated by Colin Salmon, one of those great actors that I always remember as “Hey, it’s that guy”. As with The London Heist, you get as much in these plot heavy scenes as you want to put into them. You can pick up the file in front of you and instead of putting it down fling it at your interrogator, if you are feeling it pull the fingers, or you can sit back as the scene unfolds in front of you. These stationary scenes aren’t as common as I expected, as the game chooses to put you into the action as much as possible, kicking off with a flashback to when you were in the SAS. Because the game is so plot heavy, I won’t touch on more than this except to say it’s a cliché, over the top, action movie in the best possible ways. The high energy explosions and gun play makes for a fantastic narrative experience that isn’t overly unique across the mediums, but for VR it’s a new way to experience what we already know. The first minor surprise was that they have incorporated in a lot of action scenes where you move around. This is done with the classic point to a circle and you character moves there, which is done with the field of view reduced to obviously fix that getting sick feeling that VR is struggling with. Moving between cover in a flash to shoot at enemies while you are out in the field feels satisfying. One minor annoyance I had, especially early on, was that when you move to stage of the game where you need to pick a lock or interact with something that doesn’t involve shooting it requires putting your gun away. The pistol is fine because you can see in your VR space where the holster is, but with bigger guns you need to sling them on your back and use the same button for firing to put it in place. This meant I regularly sprayed bullets into the ground behind me as I was trying to put it in place. The driving action scenes are the best part of the game by far. They serve as a fast-paced rail shooting game that is as pulp action flicky as they get but they are so damn fun. This was taken from the London Heist and expanded on, making for the most fun action I have experienced in VR since… well The London Heist. The game is made so much better thanks to decent voice and motion capture acting. A silly action flick can have some weight to its characters, and the cast here does the job well. It helps heighten this linear game from an OK VR experience to something special. Blood & Truth isn’t a game I would say buy a VR unit for, but if you have a PSVR unit then I can’t recommend it enough. It starts to flex what can be done within the limitations of the platform to tell a truly entertaining tale, and at around eight hours it feels like the perfect length for a single player VR game.
  11. I am sure we have all had those games that aren’t by a well known developer but there is something about the artwork, thematics, stories or trailers that piques your interest. This happened to me with Fade to Silence, each new thing I saw regarding the game just expanded my curiosity about it so I jumped at the chance to review it. However we all know exactly what curiosity did to the cat right? Fade to Silence was developed by German studio Black Forest Games who previous gave us Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams which I remember had some massive hype to it and was a decent platformer… that they are still pimping out to this day… But hey they also made the Giana Sisters remake for the DS which was a cool way to pass some mindless time. They also had the distinction of bringing back every bodies beloved gaming feline Bubsy with the Woolies Strike Back in 2017 but every dev is allowed one not so great game under their belt right? This wasn’t a sign of things to come, right? So ya boy Zombie downloaded the game, as ya do, sat down excited to dive into this world moreover to satisfy all those curious nudgings running around my noodle about Fade to Silence. The game booted up to greet me with the main screen, normally this doesn’t need to be mentioned in a game but in this instance I was kind of baffled as the games title screen simply had a flashing triangle. I don’t mean like a ‘Press triangle’ on a PS4 controller to open the main menu I mean more like play button on anything kind of triangle. I mean I guess at that screen you do want to press play but no new game, load game, select chapter or anything just play consequently this shocked me as I’m just not used to it I guess. However it can’t be a sign of things to come right… right? Boom we start the game and get presented with the difficulty select screen with Fade to Silence offering the ‘Easy Mode for story focused player’ and the current trend of ‘Git Gud Scrub’. Along with the standard brief of what the the difficulty is really doing you are informed that if you don’t play the Git Gud setting 75% of the game will be locked out to you. By all means have different difficulty settings, sometimes I just wanna sit back and get absorbed into the story while other times I hate myself and need to be tortured by doing a 2 Player run on Battletoads but what is the point of this? I know a few games during the PSX era like Twisted Metal would cut off after the first boss with a pat on the head and a sign saying you are now good enough to try move up in the world. That gives you a sense of accomplishment… along with some slight annoyance not just well this is clearly too hard for you so we need to get rid of most of it for you. Why bother? Then after I finished ranting I got thrown into the story, I think, I’ not really sure as it just throws you knee deep into a chase scene where you die, but you don’t and there is disembodied voices talking to you but not actually explaining anything. This, this is a trend you will need to get used to as anything and everything is explained in a way that just doesn’t make much sense, its a snowpocalypse there are monsters called Rippers and you need to go find survivors but maybe you don’t as you need to look after them all with micromanaging, crafting, feeding and resource gathering. That my friends is one core ingredient to this game, micromanaging induced false morality, yay. The other is combat ripped right out from the SoulsBourne franchises only those games are good with technical skill and thought actually put into them. Combat in Fade resorts to dodging and hitting while paying attention to a stamina bar (sounds familiar right) only your stamina bar here is so small you only really get one action before it depletes. What do you with only one action? Do you dodge and live? Or do you attack while they block (the enemies are either attacking or blocking there is no inbetween)? Maybe you want to wait for that sweet spot where they are open just before attack, good idea only you have used up your stamina attacking so you can’t block or dodge so goodbye health. Not that you could do much with the stamina anyway as the controls are sluggish and just god awful. Sure you could try running away but you get locked into the battles and the camera wont let you focus on much else during these moments… or any moments really. The camera is almost as sluggish as the controls this however doesn’t really matter as there is nothing to see, unless you love the colour white as the games entire colour palette is either white or black. All monsters look alike and you’ve seen that style of monster done plenty of times, black, spiny and a little bit of red mixed in to give it some colour every now and then. There is also a whole magnitude bugs and glitches throughout the game which are supposedly worse on the Xbox version, the devs are aware of these and are apparently working on with a recent patch coming through at 10GB but I didn’t notice much difference. Normally when I review a game I don’t like to focus on the negatives of a game as there is enough people out there who do that as it is. Instead I like to focus on why you should play a game, factors that make a game worth your time or not. I want to let you people know if its something you should grab when you can or wait till its on sale to check out if it looks like something you are into. Fade to Silence on the other hand is just not a good game, it is completely comprised of elements which have been popular as of late but with no real knowledge of why they are or how they work. Fade to Silence is at best a Frankenstein patch work of jigsaw pieces from multiple puzzles crammed together to try and capture the magic of others. Zombie was provided with a promo copy for review.
  12. Now class I would like you all to take your blenders and mix Doom along with Wolfenstein to form the base for our other ingredients. Next you will need to add a healthy cup of The Binding Isaac, measures don’t need to be exact as this is to give the previous additions some form but make sure you mix thoroughly before pouring into a glass.. Lastly you will need to take some Altered Beast and you are going to want to be delicate here as we only want to carve out the exciting transformations so the rest of it you can disregard, now we need to freeze the parts of Altered Beast we want until they are nice and solid, luckily we have some here that I prepared earlier. Nice dose of nostalgia there really brings out the pulpiness of our mix and what we are going to do is grate the frozen Altered Beast over the top giving us Hellmut: The Badass From Hell to truly enjoy at our leisure. Those mix of games are the best way I can describe Hellmut: The Badass From Hell. A top down twin stick shooter that allows you to transform into a varying mix of hellbeasts to run through a set amount of procedurally generated levels fighting demonic bosses and collecting loot, power ups and all kinds of differing transformations. Once you make it to the end you do it all over again there is nothing too new to the formula in that regard but Hellmut isn’t trying to set a new standard instead it is all about doing the formula solidly while giving a distinctive flavour that is all its own. There is nothing overly flashy with the graphics but they work, most of the scenery is full of objects and colours you would expect to find in castle over run with demon hordes; a lot of browns and blacks. Hellmut though casts this aside and it has very little focus as yeah the castle itself is a little bland but everything happening inside of it is as colourful as vomiting a rainbow. Bright neon colours forgo accenting the levels and arenas instead they take on a life of their own filling the screen with greens, blues, pinks, reds, purples and oranges granting life to every area you pass through. The controls are smooth and basic, one stick moves you another stick aims while a shoulder button fires, the other firing a weapons special attack, one more to use any medical supplies you may have and the final button allows you to choose a transformation. It’s simple and it works especially when you are in the midst of a bullet hell like arena with enemy projectiles flying at you from every direction. 98% of my mistakes and deaths were purely player error the controls were never factor into it with that 2% being the odd occasion of too much going on at one time that it becomes difficult to keep track of everything or just dumb bad luck. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time when enemies spawn but it just be like that sometimes. What about those transformations I keep mentioning? Ultimately this games key attraction is the ability to transform into varying creatures through out the game all with their own look, feel, abilities and weapons. You are given two to begin with (though you can only choose one to begin with, a Rat King that can fire a canon filled with rats which have been coated in a rubber gel like substance allowing them to bounce off walls and a hulking stitched together monstrosity wielding a huge hammer that flies about Thor/Kratos style. In most levels you can encounter a diety who will grant you new transformations provided that you can A) afford it and B) prove yourself worthy to obtain. These transformations appear randomly you may get the one you didn’t choose to start with or maybe you’ll end up as a Demon King who shoots multiple homing energy projectiles at a time or an Orc Fairy who can teleport away out of danger. Finding them all is half the fun. If you read the title; Hellmut: Badass From Hell and thought to yourself “Oh my god yes!” then this game is right up your alley. It’s fun, it contains some bullet hell madness and does it all while wearing its pulpy aesthetics unabashedly on its wrists. If these kind of roguelike games are for you this is a must add to the collection and if you have never played one there is a good chance it will win you over. However if you aren’t into run and gun games that are all about dying to retry then Hellmut has nothing new to offer you other than a solid experience in the genre. Zombie was provided with a promo copy of Hellmut: Badass From Hell.
  13. Swords of Ditto: Mormo’s Curse is an action adventure hack ‘n Slash by indie devs onebitbeyond that can be played as a single player or co-op experience. The game has a very bare basic story in that every 100 years the evil witch/sorceress Mormo returns from the grave to try and claim the land for herself and legion of monsters with only he chosen one(s), known only as Sword, to pull the magic sword from the stone and slay her or die trying. It’s very basic and it’s job is only there to give a reason for the gameplay which is where this game tries to shine. The main gimmick behind Swords is in that 100 year cycle which becomes evident during the games tutorial. You play as your first Sword waking up on the beach with no idea whats going on only for a Dung Beetle to appear and tell you of Mormo and the sword and what you expect to learn during a tutorial. You are instructed to face Mormo which you only for her to instantly kill leaving the world to 100 years of her evil tyranny until a new Sword is awoken. This is when the game really begins; this time however you are told a couple more details, here are things you can do to weaken Mormo and as soon as you reach the same level as her time is up and you must face her. Do you succeed in slaying her or fail and level the world to another 100 years of her rule before trying again. From this point on you are left with one of those where do I go and what do I do type of games. You are told what to do but not where it is, what to look for or anything else truly helpful as the character meant to tell you these things in the game has forgotten due to old age. So you can go through the make location by location finding these things to make Mormo weaker or you can just level up and go face her that is entirely up to you. Regardless of what you do and whether or not you beat her the experience is the same as it all builds up to a new 100 year gap, new Sword, slight variation on what you had previously achieved. You don’t have to go it alone though as there are stickers that you can apply to your body and sword for resistances, boosts, elemental damages and the like. Coins to earn, and boy are there a lot of currencies to collect with a main currency to spend at merchants, then different areas will have there own currency to spend on the items therein and a mystical space whale who yet again has their own currency. Upgrades for weapons to find in dungeons. Health stores though I never really needed them as health was dropped all the time by enemies. A few side quests scattered about. The standard fare you expect to find in this type of game is here, it isn’t reinventing he wheel but it is trying to do its own thing with it at times. The combat is fine albeit sluggish, it is very easy to over shoot a monster while swinging a sword resulting in some damage being taken. It tries to inject some strategy into combat by having monsters fight back with unavoidable attacks if you are too close but all you really need to do is walk away to avoid them. Occasionally in dungeons I would get trapped in a room as every entrance and doorway would close in a glitch meaning I’d have to quit out and restart the dungeon. Load times are really inconsistent with one room loading instantly then that same room taking 30 seconds or so to load next, nothing game breaking but it can be long enough to ruin the momentum you have going. The visuals and sounds are perfectly fine, nothing you will remember but they do their job. The biggest gripe I have with visuals, sounds and even with the writing at points is how it is seemingly trying hard to replicate the feel of Adventure Time but with the caveat that it doesn’t quite know what actually made Adventure Time special and work so well. This could be that Adventure Time is willing to just be Adventure Time and use whatever the situation calls for, if it needs a smart joke it puts in a smart joke or if it needs to be slightly more adult it’ll be slightly more adult. Swords of Ditto doesn’t do this and if they are making a joke about the Dung Beetle doing what Dung Beetles do then it breaks it down to the safest age of saying “Poop” and hoping it’s funny. Unfortunately that is all there really is to the game. It’s short with a single cycle being able to be played through in a single sitting. Dialogue is constantly repeated with nothing really changing between areas and cycles. But it is fun while it lasts and completely perfect to play in short bursts on the bus or with some minimal time to kill as it is constantly saving so if you do need to quickly shut it off chances are you are good to go. If you are in need of some Zelda inspired goodness to fit into a gap here and there then you could do worse than picking this up on the cheap but there are better options out there. If however you want to spend some Zelda inspired time with your kid then Swords of Ditto will fill that gap up nicely. Zombie was provided with a promo copy of Swords of Ditto to review.
  14. I feel the need to prefix this review with some slight information about me and the original Resident Evil 2. I didn’t like it. I miss the boat during its original release but eventually went back to play it around the time Nemesis came out and that game I loved. To this day it is my least liked main entry into the series, I know I’m whack. I found more enjoyment in playing 6 than I did with 2, hell I found more enjoyment in 6 than I did with 4, come at me bro! Very little about 2 appealed to me when I played it back in the day, but when I saw the first sights of this years remake I was excited. Now is as good a time as any to jump in and see if it can win me over after 20 years. Back in 2015 Capcom released a Hi def remaster of the Game Cube remake of the first Resident Evil game which was still damn enjoyable as it was on the Game Cube and the original release of the game back in ‘96. But it wasn’t enough, the fans wanted more, the fans were a chorus of a zombie horde chanting for a remake of the franchises most beloved titles. After putting the disc in and letting the patches download I was amped to grab my bombstick and put a stop to the zombie menace. Once the game was loaded I was confronted with my first hurdle, which of the two campaigns to begin with. Leon or Claire? Neither character thrilled me back in the 90’s as I found them bland a trait that one I still feel carries while the other got to branch out in Code Veronica, yes I can’t stand Leon Kennedy. So with that choice easily made I dove in and the game looks really nice, character models are beautifully rendered, environments fit in the rundown Racoon City and the zombies squish nicely when they lose their heads. Capcom really nailed the more cinematic approach to the remake and it shows through the games campaigns feeling bigger than it once did even though it is practically the same game from 20 years ago. The puzzles work as well as they did and zombie slaying is still satisfying thanks to tightened controls allowing you to dispatch the undead at your leisure. The UI is more friendly to use, sound crisper than ever before, I mean all the things you expect from 20 years of technological advances to be there are there and used perfectly to replicate a 20 year old game as a modern contender. Resident Evil 2 (2019) plays well, is a fest for the eyes, carries the torch for franchise solidly and is the closest you can get to that original experience of playing Resident Evil 2 for the first time without acquiring a time machine. Herein lies its problem, it is too faithful. Sure some things have been changed around or have been fleshed out. Characters that were just there to fill in some information or guide the player now have personality but all in all it’s the same game. Not enough has been changed to really make it feel fresh or blow me away. I couldn’t find any tension in the situations even with the big moments like with Mr. X not making me feel any anxiety as they were pretty much scripted the same way only with a coat of fresh paint making it nicer to look at. Did this latest installment win me over and change my mind about the second installment? No, while I can see why it deserves the praise as it plays remarkably well and looks really nice it all fell flat to me lacking tension or anything new making it a struggle to get through. If you are just looking for a good zombie this will easily fit the bill as there is a lot to like. If you are after the next revolutionary Resident Evil game, this isn’t it but there is more than enough to keep the fans foaming at the mouth for more. Zombie was provided a promo copy of Resident Evil 2 for this review.
  15. Drunk_Monk

    Days Gone Review

    From when Days Gone was announced through all the marketing for the game until now, I wasn’t hyped. It looked like someone had grabbed a random popular TV show, with an idea from a random trope generator, Sons of Anarchy meet your new foe, zombies. Even making the zombies seem unique by calling them freakers felt like they had done a worse version of The Last of Us’ fantastic take on the genre. Yet within the first hours I realised there could be something special here, and by the end of the game I was blown away by how wrong I was going into this new pillar in the PS4’s huge library. Days Gone tells the story of Deacon St. John, a biker guy who is separated from his injured wife Sarah as he puts her on a medical evacuation helicopter, choosing to stay with his fellow biker guy Boozer to help him as he is also injured from the freaker apocalypse. you join Deacon and Boozer five years later as they are living their post-freaker lives. Deacon seems to be struggling to let go of the idea of her being dead, as announced to the player by Boozer, and so his journey through the landscape continues. The story is surprisingly decent. It feels like it should be packed into a tight linear game as the emotional beats can be diluted as you get stuck into events in the open world, which will affect players who play one or two hours a night or less. There is some quality cringe worthy content in the flash backs to Sarah and John’s lives, but thanks to some quality voice acting plus animation, even the cringiest stuff still adds value to the characters being built on the screen in front of you. One of my concerns before tackling the game was that Deacon and co. would be gruff angry biker guys feeling more like a generic action guy stereotype. Instead Deacon is a nice guy. His relationship with Boomer had me engaged throughout the game, even as they kill plenty of freakers and people alike. You will be traversing the open world on Deacon’s bike a lot of the time, which I initially struggled with handling, but I soon adjusted. You will spend the game upgrading the bike to be more powerful and badass, but like the plot I don’t want to spoil too much on this front, it is fun unveiling this as the game progresses. The open world itself is detailed enough to be impressive, but I found that there wasn’t too much variety in the landscapes, it was a lot of the same as you explore new areas. What does make your whole time in this landscape interesting is the presence and variety of freakers. The first two you encounter is the classic undead running zombie, and the creepier is the newts which are children zombies. Newts run away from you to high places when they see you, unless you enter their turf or are low on health. It is an interesting dynamic that adds to the game. I won’t touch on too much more of the variety of freakers, but they appear randomly in the wild which makes them feel like dangerous wildlife in any other game. With limited ammo it is a good idea to try to stealth or outrun them in the wild, which makes random encounters with them, even in some relatively open space, tense. These tense moments are excellently mirrored against moments where you are swarmed by masses of freakers that is as much a technical achievement as it is a bombastic action scene that need to be quickly handled to avoid being overwhelmed, usually by hitting them with Molotov Cocktails as you retreat. The gameplay overall feels good. Crafting immediately reminded me of The Last of Us’ with a crafting wheel that uses scraps and items you found to make healing or attacking supplies. On top of this is the ability to modify your melee weapons like a baseball bat, into more awesome melee weapons, like a baseball bat with nails. This adds a little variety, and thanks to melee weapons breaking, you will have ample opportunities to try all out all the variants. Except for general flaws of the open world genre like repetitive missions, Days Gone is a much better game than I could have expected. It’s not perfect, but despite its flaws it is a great game that takes from so many others, and makes its own mark, in a way that only a biker zombie shooter can.
  16. Darksiders was a series I always meant to check out, but it laid dormant in my backlog. Then came the release of Darksiders Warmastered Edition, and yet it didn’t manage to be launched on my PS4, so third time lucky with the Switch release, I have discovered I should have been enjoying this sooner, for all manner of reasons. The Switch port of Darksiders Warmastered Edition is good, I will say that from the outset. The quality of the graphics had been shined up for the bigger consoles, dropping a little for the Switch which still winds up much better than the original, and fantastic for a game on a handheld system. This is what impresses the most, the game looks and plays so well on the Switch that playing it for the first time this way easily makes it feel like a great new Switch game. For those unfamiliar, Darksiders tells the story of three kingdoms, Hell, Heaven and Earth that are preparing for a final battle. The ultimate powers decided that shouldn’t happen, at least while earth is loaded with weaklings, and so the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse are kept in hiding waiting for their seals to be broken. War finds himself awoken landing on earth to see a battle underway between Heaven and Hell. With humans not looking quite prepared and his brother also not present, things start to look fishy. He begins fighting before he is suddenly pulled in front of the Charred Council. War is questioned about why he went there and caused the battle to ensue. Unbelieving of the battle happening before he lands there the Charred Council eventually lets him return to investigate where his brothers are and what happened but with a weird beast The Watcher in tow to guide, reporting on War. Returning to Earth it turns out many years have passed; humans have been slaughtered while the battle between Heaven and Hell continues. The story is overall OK, but the idea of Heaven and Hell being against you, with the setup of the Four Horseman being a separate entity to the lot makes the whole game feel like a unique spin on older formulas. I couldn’t help but feel like I was playing a different version of older God of War titles as it is essentially the protagonist vs everyone as you bring down beasts much bigger than yourself. Well God of War without all the bits that seemed geared towards young male teens anyway. There are some minor things that make the game feel a little clunky like general movement and finicky issues such as doors not presenting the action button unless you are in the right spot. Being too close to a door to be able to open it feels as old as it comes. Fortunately, those minor gripes feel minor as the rest of the game has aged better. The whole aesthetic with the angels and demons’ design, to the Hell infested Earth, to the weapons are still cool looking on the Switch’s screen in handheld mode that is fantastic for a game being played on the train. I would be happy with any new games looking and running like it on Switch. As someone who didn’t beat it the first time, it does feel like a new game for the Switch. Upgrading weapons, the weapon variation and combat in general is all solid. Hacking n’ slashing your way through masses of creatures from Heaven and Hell is so satisfying, even more so when you unleash War’s rage form which turns him into a winged hellish looking monster. The puzzles aren’t overly complicated, but can be time consuming, but exploring the huge areas of the game is interesting and fun. Ultimately if you haven’t played Darksiders yet or wanted to play the remaster but didn’t find the time, the Switch port is a fantastic way to do it. It feels strange playing such a detailed and big game on the go that runs buttery smooth. There isn’t anything more for returning players though, so you need to fall into one of those camps for it to be a strong recommendation.
  17. With the massive slew of Final Fantasy games being ported to the Switch, people will get to jam games like Final Fantasy 12 on the go for the first time. More importantly than this though are the quirky side games that may have evaded some of us, and for me Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy! Is one of them. Now I can say, I am so glad it hasn’t evaded me anymore. For anyone who hasn’t played the game yet, and this may be surprising to Final Fantasy fans, the game is a Final Fantasy Rogue-Like of sorts. Chocobo is a treasure hunter with his companion Cid, who find themselves sucked into a vortex and dropped into a mysterious town. Exploring they discover a lot of people have lost their memories, and a weird baby hatches from an egg that is dropped from the sky. Bear with me because it gets less weird…. Nah it gets even weirder. The baby allows chocobo to enter people’s minds to free their memories, and this is where the rogue like action kicks in. Each of the townsfolk’s minds are a dungeon with an assortment of levels. Chocobo needs to explore each level of the dungeon, to ultimately get to the end to fight a boss and free the persons memories. The stories do get darker and twisted but I’ll leave it there. It’s a bizarre story but if you’re anything like me then that’s not why you are coming to the game, and its weirdness won’t put you off it. The real draw to this game is the iconic Chocobo as the protagonist, and it’s as delightful as it sounds. Chocobo’s vocabulary consists of the classic Kweh and some people for no apparent reason understand him/her. The whole game with its simple design is as cute and charming as Chocobo, even when it gets dark and dingy. Most of your time will be spent in the dungeons, and they get hard fast. Travelling throughout them you encounter loot and monsters. The dungeon is built on a grid so every time you move, monsters have their turn, though it does use different amounts of turns depending on a monster’s speed. You must face and attack a monster on the grid when in range, but they return with their attacks, so careful placement is necessary to make sure you aren’t surrounded then destroyed by a mob of monsters. One flaw is the lack of health bars above monsters so it’s harder to tell when you should get one last hit, or when you should try to run away, which becomes annoying as the game’s difficulty ramps up. Weighing up taking too many health items into a dungeon which will sacrifice bag space for loot is something I spent far too much time worrying about. But you don’t want to find yourself hungry and low on health either, because a lack of food means health depletes with every move. Thanks to a level of randomisation, it’s tough to tell what you do and don’t need for a dungeon. This is made more frustrating by the fact that if you are knocked out, you will lose everything except equipment that Chocobo actively has equipped. Saving regularly is essential because it is so frustrating to lose everything you took into a dungeon in the first place. Chocobo isn’t the only Final Fantasy reference to be had here. It feels like any new game in the series with characters like Cid, to classic monsters like Iron Giant and the terrifying Tonberry, as well as remade versions of classic Final Fantasy tunes. It’s a delightful mash up of Final Fantasy in a new genre. Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy! Is a delightful gem I am so glad to finally experience. A few minor quirks aside like some shonkyness with controls are small hurdles to jump for a delightful side experience that long-time fans shouldn’t miss.
  18. Drunk_Monk

    Ape Out Review

    Games have come so far in their short life from entertaining ways to kill time, to a story telling medium hard to match by many others. It is truly wonderful to experience a story that you beautifully connect to in a way that can only be achieved by the player agency inherent in the medium, but sometimes you want to be an ape that throws armed guards at walls, bring on Ape Out. Ape Out doesn’t waste time. With much more information than you need for its presence, you start as a massive ape in a lab, who breaks out and needs to get through the building. Armed guards are everywhere, constantly rolling in via elevators, and you need to get from one side of each level to the other. Finally freeing the ape from the lab, will then drop you in as a lab in an office building that need sot make its way down the floors. I will leave the other sections for you to discover yourself. The ape has one ability, slam the guards away. If there is a lot of space then they fall over and get back up, if there isn’t then the slam into walls splattering blood everywhere, or into other guards, also splattering bloody everywhere. One annoying part of this is when you’re on the moment and don’t pay attention to the guards you slam into a close wall. As some of them are grenade throwers sometimes they will explode on impact and will kill you if you are too close. This simple gameplay makes the game an unbelievable amount of fun. Overcomplicating it can throw in so many variables but stripping it back can make a game addictive as all hell, because when you die you know you need to approach the situation as fast, but differently. This is helped because when you die it shows the full map with a line showing where you walked, so you can see bizarre times you backtracked, or how you could have gotten there faster. Because the game is top down, the levels become mazes with multiple ways to get from one side to the other with some procedural generation mixing every attempt up a little. Different paths involve different guards, or if you are lucky, less guards, but you can trigger others in the area to come your way if you walk through glass or smash a guard through glass. As guards wander around, it is important to keep moving, and this frantic pace results in a lot of deaths as the ape can’t take many shots. The number of times I would get through 80% of a level, to struggle to get halfway through it the next few times was more than I want to admit. The game is extraordinarily violent with blood splatter everywhere, but thanks to its beautiful design with bold colours, minimal details, and the moving grainy way colours are applied it isn’t graphic. The bold simple colour scheme makes the game an absolute treat to look at, and its relaxed, jazzy soundtrack makes the game bizarrely tense. This is especially so when levels turn out the lights so you can only see black, shadows, and the guard’s flashlights. There isn’t too much more to say about Ape Out, it’s a simple game that is fantastic. It’s as violent as it is beautiful, as fun as it is frustrating, and the exact kind of game you would expect to see Devolver Digital giving the push it deserves.
  19. I love 2D side scrollers. I love silly, cheesy throw backs to my earlier years. So, you would think I would enjoy a 2D side scrolling shooter that is full to the brim with cheesy throwbacks to what I thought cool meant in my youth, and you would be right. Bring on Rad Rodgers Radical Edition! Rad Rodgers found plenty of success on PC. Then the success continued over onto other consoles thanks to the way the game played and tweaked the nostalgic bug in many of us. Now it has landed on the Switch called Rad Rodgers Radical Edition with a few bonuses including co-op, new levels, enemies, and mini games, also released as a free upgrade for anyone who owns the game elsewhere. Rad Rodgers tells the story of Rad who is a boy living the life of many children. One of these children like playing video games but is a slave to his enforced bed time. One night Rad is sucked into his console where he meets Dusty, a version of his console with two arms and a grumpy old action hero persona. This relationship is the game’s biggest hook, for better and worse. Rad is the kid many of us nerds thought we wanted to be as a kid, a bad ass with a gun, and Dusty is a walking cliché. One-liners, swearing, and a sweeping generalization of 80s action heroes all bound up into one, makes for a funny gimmick for a while, but eventually it does get tired. Fortunately, the gameplay is excellent, so the game’s quirkiness isn’t the whole thing stringing you along. The gameplay consists of a classic left to right 2D platforming shooter, where the platforming and shooting has all been crafted to perfection. A lot of throwbacks like this don’t quite get the gameplay right as they spend too much time on the jokes, but Rad Rodgers consistently felt form start to finish like a polished game. Levels are all colourful and beautiful to look at thanks to its bold colours with crisp environmental design. Each stage is filled with collectables and enemies to kill, while naturally in the throwback to old times, giving you high scores to achieve. Another throwback, if you choose to play it that way, is limited lives. Losing all your lives throws you back to the start of the level, which isn’t too punishing, but boy is it frustrating. Rad Rodgers does what it aims to do, well. It is a fun, silly throwback in every way, but with 2019 quality graphics, that is so damn fun to play. Simple gun upgrades and minigames like a pinball table mix things up a bit, but the game does get a little tired by the end. It is easy to recommend for anyone looking to platform and shoot themselves way through an adolescent dream.
  20. OlliOlli delighted many in 2014 as this pixelated side scrolling skateboarding physics game hit the indie scene, followed by OlliOlli 2: Welcome to OlliWood in 2015 doing the same but slightly better. Now six years later it has been released as a package for the Switch as OlliOlli Switch Stance, and it’s as delightful as ever. If you haven’t played the games yet, they are more like physics based endless runners with a skateboarding theme rather than being a pure skateboarding game. Your skater is always moving from left to right, and you need to make sure he has enough speed to clear obstacles, using your timing to jump, trick, then land to make sure he stays upright. Doing tricks nets you more points, and you need to keep the momentum up to get the most points. It’s simple to learn, tough as all hell to master. The toughest part of OlliOlli is making sure you get enough speed on the ground to keep your momentum going to get to the end of a level. Completing challenges is fun and addictive, but the first dozen times I played a level I struggled to get to the end of one thanks to its fast pace, brutal series of obstacles. The obstacles are usually on screen for a split second before you get flung from your skateboard making it frustratingly addictive. The levels are short, set across fun and interesting settings, but the challenges are what makes the game so re-playable. You want to link up tricks and hit collectables to complete each challenge so you can unlock the more extra difficult levels. Doing so makes you take extra gambles resulting in the many fails. Fortunately, the devs at Roll7 like their fans, so if you complete a challenge and don’t beat the level, it still ticks that off for you. It is important to thrash the first game before you tackle OlliOlli 2: Welcome to OlliWood. This is because although the gameplay and look still absolutely holds up, moving back from the second game is way harder thanks to its introduction of the manual. The manual means you land on the ground on two wheels which is a trick that you use to link up your combo with a series of tricks and it’s brutal moving back to not having that in your repertoire. Because the game has such an insane pace, and because you don’t see far past the boarder, you get good at reacting with split second button prompts. This is awesome once you adapt to the game but mobbing back from Welcome to Olliwood to the original is brutally tough. This is because it keeps making you try to land manuals which don’t exist. If you have played the games to death and aren’t interested in replaying them in their original state, then the pack won’t offer you anything. But if revisiting these amazingly addictive games, or seeing them for the first time, then OlliOlli Switch Stance is an easy recommendation. It’s so easy to fall back into the groove and lose many hours as you replay the levels for hours. Blair received a code for review
  21. So many games are about high energy, or frustrating puzzles. They rely on the adrenaline you get from moving fast and hitting hard or being challenged leaving you hooked hoping to overcome challenging puzzles or challenges, Glass Masquerade has gone a different way. Glass Masquerade is a beautiful little jigsaw puzzle game, that removes the classic board-like feel and has instead gone for a unique stain glass style. Every puzzle looks like it could have come straight out of an old building, both in the shape of each puzzle, and the final image. This unique twist on its own is enough to make Glass Masquerade intriguing, but the pace is what makes it truly special. The game is all about relaxing and enjoying yourself, which is epitomized with the game’s timer. There is a timer for those who do need a little hook to motivate them, but it only shows your time at the end of the game. This means that for someone like me who will look at it and feel like you are failing or doing poorly, it removes that stress, and makes the game a lot more relaxing. Puzzle pieces themselves come in some of the weirdest shapes I have seen in any kind of puzzle game, with curved pieces and all manners of shapes sticking off them. This seems like it would make the game way easier, but holes in your puzzles may be filled by three quirky shapes so it’s not always easy to see without experimentation how a piece will fit in. Puzzle pieces which appear on the outside of the ring are always blacked out so you can only guess based on shape, and until you select them, they appear at different angles, making calculated piece selections infinitely harder. This gives the game a trial and error vibe, which is perfect for the relaxed tone of the experience. The beautifully designed stain glass puzzles themselves are based around the world. So, from one puzzle in Portugal showing elegant ships, to Sherlock Holmes in England, to a hieroglyph inspired representation for Egypt. Unpacking the image when all you know is the country is a fun little experience. There isn’t too much more to say about the game than that. It’s a simple and short game, that doesn’t want to do anything but entertain you in the most relaxing way possible. The piece sizes are a little larger than the spots they fit into which can be a little annoying, but aside form that it’s hard to fault this charming little title. Relaxing music and relaxing gameplay making for a wonderful little experience on the Switch that I appreciated.
  22. I love me some Terry Crews but who doesn’t? I am sure you all are pumped for his appearance as Isiah Jaxon as I am. In preparation for Crackdown 3 I Eurotrained my butt off, I had Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles cranked up to 11, sprayed my Old Spice and had a metric tonne of Yogurt ready and waiting. Before I get into the core review let me start by saying two things; the first is that this review is for the campaign aspect of the game and secondly it is being played on an Xbox One S so your mileage may vary on a One X. Crackdown 3 is set 10 years after the events of the original game during which a terrorist attack known as the ‘Blackouts’ kills all power around the world leaving the Agency to clean up the mess on the small island of New Providence which is run by the Terr Nova organization. If you haven’t played a Crackdown title before the best way to describe it is an open world sandbox in which you play a super powered secret agent who shoots stuff and blows shit up. That may have been a broad strokes summary of the core game play but it remains relatively unchanged from it’s predecessors in which you have a variety of different weapon types and skills which can be powered up throughout the game from their use in dispatching enemies and ability orbs. Everything you expect a Crackdown game to have is there, the DNA remains unchanged, you can traverse the city by upgrading your Agility or joyride your way around that element of choice is still entirely up to you. The driving, shooting, jumping around and the actual general game play all works completely fine and as it should. The overall element of the game however is a bit of hot mess. As stated it is pretty much unchanged from Crackdown 2 so the game will have you completing objectives to draw out a bosses LT. to defeat in order to work your way up to the games main boss. Repetition in objectives in a game usually doesn’t bother me as long as they are fun, most games have them in same form whether it be fetch quests to complete other fetch quests or more linear A-B then B-C, usually they don’t get to me in a way others my find trite. Crackdown 3 on the other hand only has about 4 real objectives that you will repeat ad nauseam in which you will either be destroying something or someone or alternatively hacking a system by standing near it and holding LB until it is down… On some occasions you may be required to do both. While playing the game I ran into a fair few bugs or glitches with me often ending up stuck in a wall or somehow under a building, this can be used to make shortcuts up the sides of some buildings to get agility orbs or can leave you stuck unable to leave forcing you to fast drive away… Of course if it happens during combat which it often did as explosions and hits from Mechs can send you flying leaves you with no choice but to quit out of the game as fast travel is offline during combat. Then there is the whole issues with frame rate drops, again something that doesn’t really bug me if I have to wait a second or so of slow down so everything can run smoother that’s fine ya know. Crackdown 3 however constantly drops frame rates when the action picks up slowing down all the time, you get shot with a rocket you flying from impact in stuttering rates and I know this may process better on the Xbox One X but if I can’t pick up an agility orb without it completely stopping something is a miss. So that got me thinking what was all this cloud based destruction that was the games huge selling point and I did some digging. The game contains another mode called Wrecking Zone which is effectively the multiplayer and was developed by Ruffian Games who also made the first two Crackdown games. This third entry’s campaign mode however was developed by Sumo Digital the guys behind the Sonic Racing series and some Forza titles all of which play and look much nicer. Which brings me to the games biggest failing, it has no personality. When starting you are given the choice of 8 different characters each just as bland as the proceeding with more unlocked as you play with no real differences to them at all. Of course Terry Crews is among these individuals so why would you want to be any body else? Now Terry Crews has a big infectious personality so I thought by choosing him there would be a few quips and his loud personality to beam through the character model, he effectively has none of that with most of the voice acting just being grunts while the voice of the Agency continues to narrate and quip (eye rolling at times) for you. If you don’t pick him however he only appears in the game for about 30 seconds in what is a lovely little cut scene with the rest of the events being told in static images. There you have it that is your game of Crackdown 3, just more of the same. Unfortunately the ball has been dropped on the Terry Crews simulator leaving us with a completely average gaming experience. Is it flat out bad? No. If you have Game Pass it wouldn’t hurt to check it out there since it is a free download with the service. Even in this regard it is hard to recommend, not because its bad but why settle for an average game when you have Just Cause 2 and Saints Row 3 & 4 on the same service. Zombie was provided an promo copy of the game to review.
  23. Gather round children for another edition of story time with Zombie. Our tale begins way back in the mid 90’s, it was an unruly time full of boy bands fighting for dominance and Genesis did what Nintendon’t. Zombie was but a youngling in this bizarre society with parents who would spend their Saturday’s playing sports…ball…things. After the game…match…round… We would go back to a cousin’s who played on the same hit…wicket…run…thingie team as my Dad. Now they would occupy the living room and partake in some adult beverages while I was placed in a bedroom and left to my own devices which was awesome! This particular cousin had a bit of a gaming collection for Nintendo and also a big chunk of VHS tapes full of classics, it was my first introduction to the likes of Star Wars, Ghostbusters and the like. I am sure we all have a story like this… Unless you weren’t even born in the 1990’s in that case a VHS tape was like a DVD but came in a huge box and if a movie was much longer than 2 hours it’d be put on multiple tapes. Now I have a sneaky suspicion that the Developers behind Doom & Destiny; Heartbit Interactive, grew up with some similar circumstances. Gaming, movies, D&D and pop culture have a heavy influence in the game which they have dubbed as an IRPG, Italian Role Playing Game. Doom & Destiny, which I shall refer from this point on as Do&De is on its surface a very typical 90’s inspired JRPG particularly those of the 16bit era like Final Fantasy 3-6, Chrono Trigger and Phantasy Star 4. The game was originally made back in 2011 and has appeared on pretty much everything but was released to the Switch in February. Your story starts off very typically, there is crystals, 4 heroes, multiple coloured themes, classes and turn based combat, for most instincts will kick in and you will know exactly what you need to do. Get a quest, complete it, become a hero and that is where I will it for a general overview as there are many quirks that appear to twist the myths on everything you know or have learned over the last 20 years of gaming and finding noticing them is half the fun. The gameplay is fun, it’s smooth, it’s fluid, it’s simple and most importantly it works. Your 4 main characters follow the base classes, Warrior, Mage, Rouge and Cleric/Pirate/Paladin of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, each represents one of the games 4 stats and early one you will choose one who will act as the groups leader and grant bonuses for the party. For example if you pick the Warrior he can grant them extra strength or extra HP. While small there are many slight options for each character to focus on different aspects allowing for a sense of customization for each play through. Depending how you spend points towards powers or stat boosts the game can deliver a fair challenge, always easing you in but never really holding your hand once the ball starts rolling. Do&De’s greatest strength however is it’s sense of humor, it is just a genuinely funny game which is no easy feat to accomplish. Most other games tend to have a wink and a nudge with its humor letting you know it is in on the joke too while Do&De doesn’t care. Here we are given a game from a group friends who like hanging out and making each other laugh and that feeling bleeds through from its core. The characters aren’t the most fleshed or rather fleshed out at all but that’s ok as we learn everything we need about them from their chemistry with each other. One is the resident goofball, another is the more serious older brother, the mage is the immature one, while the last is just having a ball hanging out with his friends and that works perfectly. Nothing seems forced with the jokes and references and there is always a nice counter balance to all the parody so it never feels overwhelming. Yes I have done nothing but gushed about this game because it deserves it, the game is nothing but fantastic and I adored it for all 40 hours. Doom & Destiny is just a good time, its fun, never takes itself too seriously, knows what works, knows how to work it into the game and is pretty damned cheap, though I gladly would have payed double with no regrets. It isn’t going to blow you away and make you rethink your life but with a save anywhere feature it will definitely have you feeling like your commute to work is nothing but hanging out with good friends and defeating Battle Pigs. Zombie reviewed a retail copy of the game and has zero regrets, life well spent.
  24. Drunk_Monk

    GRIS Review

    When I played Journey for the second time, after the first did not click with me, I never thought a game would provide me this experience again. A totally vague story, with visual elements telling you of a history and world around you, and action occurring throughout the game, but never being explicitly told a thing, was so beautifully created. Then I encountered GRIS and realised that this magic can be recaptured in a new way. GRIS is a side scrolling platformer that is beautifully simple, and frustratingly difficult. Mechanically it is basic, with moving, and jumping over obstacles taking up most of your time. It throws in new mechanics like the ability to use the unnamed protagonist’s cape to turn into a square, or eventually double jumping and swimming, but nothing there tends to be overly difficult or unique. But with many great 2D platformers, the mechanics need to work, and in GRIS they work flawlessly. The real reason to be playing this side scroller is for the story. Without dialogue, you take this woman on a journey through a terrifying but beautiful world and fill the story in yourself. It starts with her singing and animations that make it clear that she is scared before she is plopped down into the world. Starting off black and white you venture forth introducing new colour in new stages as you complete the game. There seems to be a perpetual feeling of fear and loss in the world, without it ever explicitly telling you this. One of the best implementations of this is when you start getting stalked by a blackbird whose scream sends you tumbling backwards. This bird torments you for quite a while as a threat that can be occasionally seen, and pops up to provide a puzzle at times, but it’s never about beating this creature, but overcoming its presence. One of the clever frustrations is how the game introduces minor elements, regularly not telling you, or not telling you well enough about something to get past a stage. Usually you get put into an isolated space so you know you need to use something there, and once you do it uses the mechanic more often as you will recognise it after that short intro. The way it introduces these can be annoying, but it fits the feel of the whole game of being overwhelmed and finding your way through. What makes this journey worthwhile is its style and music. The game has beautiful animations with a gorgeous painting style that is as haunting as it is elegant. I never got sick of looking at GRIS and melting into the sad but beautiful world was heightened with headphones to enjoy its sad and beautiful soundtrack. There isn’t much more to say about this beautiful game except it’s mechanically simple and fun, but such a unique experience. You need to help this woman through this dark and gorgeous world, and in that you may feel things you aren’t used to in games. I can’t recommend GRIS enough. A code was provided for review
  25. I absolutely love classic game collections. With a patchy early gaming history, it allows someone like me to play games I hear people talk about, and reliving some of the classics you remember can be as jarring as it is humbling for your inner fanboy or girl. With Sega Mega Drive Classics, I can relive my memories of Sonic, and check out some of the many classics I missed on the Switch. I won’t lie, playing the first two Sonics on the Nintendo Switch felt so comical after you think about the fierce battle between Sega and Nintendo many years ago, but the Switch is the perfect place to check a gem like this out again. The old pixel graphics look gorgeous on a small but powerful screen like the one on the Switch, and that holds up for a lot of these classics. When you boot up the collection you find yourself in a room, with a CRT TV and a Mega Drive plugged in. On the shelf to the side is the collection of 50 games. You scroll through them and choose a title which shows a short animation of the cartridge being put into the machine. At any time you can hold the ‘-‘ button to go back to the bedroom so you can switch games on the fly. The other major feature to the series is the fast forward and rewind features. This means you can increase the pace of cut scenes as you see fit, which sometimes you will see fit because it can be a touch slow, and you can rewind when you die for dumb reasons. How much the rewind feature breaks a game or makes them playable is a dance you need to choose for yourself. I regularly would forget about the rewind feature until way too late, but if you die for a dumb reason like dated gameplay you can undo this unfairness, or if you want to beat a game, you can undo every death and cheat your way to the end. The games themselves are dated, as you would expect, but it’s a nice snapshot to a different time. I was finally able to check out the Streets of Rage series I have heard so much about, and after an hour dabbling between the entries, I’ve played all I needed to of that one. Same went for the Golden Axe games which are also dated but are still important games. If you want to get value out of the collection there is Phantasy Star 2, 3 and 4 which hold up surprisingly well. If you like classic JRPGs like the original Final Fantasy titles, then you will be in for a treat with these ones. The flip side of this is Virtua Fighter 1 and 2, which are both important games, but simple and frustratingly slow. I may have my finger on the fast forward feature as I played to make this one playable. I didn’t get near checking out the whole collection, because there are 50 games and I have other stuff to do in my weeks, but some surprising gems, for better and worse can be uncovered. Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is a solid Puyo Puyo puzzle game which sunk a surprising number of hours. Sonic Spinball on the other hand is a weird version of pinball where you need to fire Sonic around through tables, achieving goals and moving on to new tables without dying. It starts charming but becomes annoying after a while. The diamond I had never heard of was a little game called Flicky. This is a simple puzzle game where you jump around a 2D series of platforms collecting all the chicks while avoiding the cats and lizards that spawn and return them to the Exit. I spent hours jamming this game, hooked on its simple but difficult gameplay loop, until I remembered to use the reverse feature, which kind of broke it. It’s still a gem worthy of your time though. Sega Mega Drive Classics is a great collection worth popping onto your Switch. Whether it’s to reminisce in days gone, or to learn about the past, there are some gems, and some rough but important titles jammed into this huge collection. Blair received a code for SEGA Mega Drive Classics for review.
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