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Messages - AdmanAbou

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TalkBack / Re: Pokémon Go Plus + (Review)
« on: July 17, 2023, 08:19:28 PM »
Sleep well!

TalkBack / Pokémon Go Plus + (Review)
« on: July 17, 2023, 03:04:00 PM »

The beautiful new Pokemon Go accessory caught some bugs at launch.

Pokemon Go was designed to be played while doing something else. Niantic’s augmented reality geolocation games are explicitly meant to draw players to areas of interest in their local communities, but parks and outdoor art exhibits are hard to appreciate while staring at a phone. The “Plus” line of companion devices aims to fix that, with some success. The latest device, the Pokemon Go Plus +, might have the hardest-to-Google product name ever but earns all those plusses – alongside one big minus.

Those familiar with the original Pokemon Go Plus or the Poke Ball Plus know the basics: the Plus + connects to Pokemon Go to light up and vibrate when a Pokemon or Poke Stop is nearby. The big button on the front throws a single Poke Ball or spins the Poke Stop to collect items. New here is the option to throw a Great or Ultra Ball for a better chance at catching Pokemon or auto-throw basic Poke Balls without pressing a thing, alongside auto-spin of Poke Stops. Allegedly.

When the Plus + works, it’s incredible. The auto-throw feature bounces quickly between Pokemon with a satisfying buzz, the new Bluetooth Low Energy standard killing all lag. A sleepy Pikachu lives inside and calls out as the Plus + connects, disconnects, or finds a Pokemon the player hasn’t caught yet. However, the auto-throw and auto-spin modes are just plain broken. Only some secret, magical combination of app cache clears, device reconnects, and Bluetooth setting toggles activates the auto modes, and only then for less than an hour. All Plus devices disconnect themselves around the hour mark, but the original Plus and Poke Ball Plus reconnect with no fuss. While the Plus + does reconnect quickly, it almost always defaults to manual mode, prompting the troubleshoot tango outlined above as Pikachu calls out in glee every other step of the way. Pikachu can be silenced via the menu or the device itself, but its surprising number of voice clips are pretty darn cute.

As a tactile device, the Plus + is beautifully crafted. Its soft black plastic back is as smooth as the neatest rock, and the glossy red-and-white front sports a grooved black line down the center perfect to run a thumb across. The large, illuminated center button gives a satisfying click. The vibration is strong enough to feel in a pocket and seems almost organic in the palm, while flashing rainbow lights punctuate successful game actions with a captivating, short-lived glow. To nail the vibration and lights implementation on the Plus + was important as neither feature can be disabled. The Plus + feels great to mindlessly spin around in fidgety hands, but less so with the included wrist strap attached.

This magnetic wrist strap connects to a pillow clip for the Plus +’s most baffling feature: sleep tracking. Pokemon Go and the new Pokemon Sleep let players catch Pokemon and Z’s at the same time by monitoring bedtime movement and noise, and the Plus + can sub in for a player’s phone to track sleep. The Plus + is not at all necessary for Pokemon Sleep (especially not with its bright amber charging LED right next to your face) but it does let sleepy Pikachu join Pokemon Sleep, complete with nightcap. Sleep mode activates after a short hold of the Plus +’s center button, and a lullaby from Pikachu, but only counts after 90 minutes. It activated itself a few times in my pocket throughout the day.

Aside from the unforgivable auto-mode glitch, the Plus + is a solid addition to the Plus device line but fails to address issues with the line itself. A Plus fundamentally changes how Pokemon Go is played but punishes the player for these changes. The Plus line’s quantity-over-quality gameplay style quickly fills players’ Pokemon storage and depletes their Poke Ball supply. Both can be remedied through microtransactions, but that feels like a weird solution to problems created by a device that costs as much as a full, mainline Pokemon title. Pokemon are always prioritized over Poke Stops unless catching Pokemon is completely turned off in the settings.

The Plus + is also just massive. The original Plus was the perfect size to forget at the bottom of a bag or pocket until needed, but pocketing the Plus + feels like an intention. A battery rechargable via USB-C is a welcome addition, but auto-mode and sleep tracking, so far, are harder to recommend.

TalkBack / Splatoon 3 (Switch) Preview
« on: August 24, 2022, 05:00:00 AM »

Splatoon 3 is definitely a third Splatoon.

Splatoon is almost old enough to kick your inksac in an online match, but the third entry aims to help the series stay fresh. At a recent press event, the Squid Research Lab took us through what’s new in Splatoon 3.

A lot feels familiar, even to a more casual player (like me) who never dived into the depths of the first two Splatoons. Turf War is still the main draw: two teams of four shoot, slosh, and spray ink across a battlefield to cover as much of the stage as possible in their team color. While not the focus, “Splatting” opponents with your weapon sends them all the way back to start, which now hovers above the air. It’s a small change, but the new spawn point gives a great view of the game state and lets the player choose which direction to take off in.

We saw two new stages: Scorch Gorge and Eeltail Alley. Both are long and narrow with plenty of nooks and crannies to paint. Scorch Gorge has interesting inclines and a tower in the middle. Grate bridges leave players vulnerable from below but lead right to the tower. Eeltail Alley’s solid bridge over the center of the stage adds depth to the turf war and a second infiltration point into enemy territory. Splatoon 3 will launch with 12 battle maps in total: five of which are new and seven that return from previous games. Maps rotate every two hours.

Multiplayer has some nice additions outside of matches, too. Players now chill in a training room lobby with holograms of other players. Here, competitors can change and test out weapons or watch opponents for insight into their playstyle. Teams traditionally get shuffled between bouts, but if a player groups up with friends before entering the lobby, that team will always stay together.

Wave-based Salmon Run has dropped its weird schedule from Splatoon 2 and is now available anytime. In Salmon Run, a team of four players harvests salmon eggs from the dingiest part of the ocean by splatting waves of enemies accompanied by a miniboss. The tide ebbs and flows between waves, constricting your team’s control or exposing new areas. Weapons are assigned at random, pushing players out of their comfort zone, and difficulty scales with ability. Players can now throw eggs across the stage to their basket if they have enough ink, which felt great in the middle of a firefight.

The final mode we saw was Return of the Mammalians, Splatoon 3’s story mode. Levels start as they did in Splatoon 2’s Octo Expansion DLC, in a little test room with a weapon select screen. Agent 3, the main character, spends points to pass through a turnstile and enter the level. In the first two levels we played, Agent 3’s secondary weapon was replaced by Small Fry, an allegedly important story character that Agent 3 can throw at enemies to slow them down. The story sees Agent 3 and friends investigate a mysterious new fuzzy ooze, but we saw neither cutscenes nor fuzzy ooze in our demo.

During the preview event, we spent time with two new weapons as well. The Tri-stringer is a bow that fires three arrows, horizontally if on the ground or vertically if in the air. It can be charged up to focus the shot and leave small ink bombs on its target. We also tried the Splatana, a windshield wiper full of ink. The Splatana has quick, wide horizontal attacks and a long, narrow vertical charge shot, great for inking and Splatting, respectively. As for new specials, I rode the new Reefslider through a wave of enemies and directly into the ocean. This special summons an inflatable orca that charges in a straight line, then ink-splodes at the press of a button. I dodged the initial dash a few times but was always too slow to avoid enemy ink-splosions. I also tried the weird new Tacticooler special, a vending machine that gives each passing team member an energy drink. The cephalopods get a few new movement options, too: a charged jump up walls and a shielded backflip for quick retreats.

Splatoon 2 veterans will see some benefits from importing their save data, like a way to quickly unlock favorite weapons and matches against players of comparable skill. And of course, the Splatooniverse is all about style, so Splatoon 3 brings new ways to customize characters. Inklings and Octolings are both playable from the start. Players choose an emote for the battle results screen and win medals based on game stats, like area inked. We didn’t get to peek in any shops or the new decoratable lockers, but seasonal catalogs promise to keep a steady stream of new swag flowing into Splatsville for two years after launch.

While not part of our demo, Splatoon 3 introduces new 3-way Splatfest competitions where three teams battle on the same map. The first Splatfest acts as a free demo for all Nintendo Switch Online subscribers August 27 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. PT. Splatoon 3 launches in full September 9.

TalkBack / Re: Hollow Knight (Switch) Review
« on: February 15, 2022, 05:41:23 PM »
I'm glad you liked it, too! I don't actually think I remembered who was that frustrating when I looked back at my notes which is why I put it that way. Funnily enough that part is on the Hollow Knight Wikipedia page lol. When I came back to Hollow Knight I was so rusty I couldn't even navigate the first area anymore, so no, I have not gotten the full ending or done any DLC stuff, but I have seen all of mossbag's videos! I don't *really* love review scores, but I believe the review I wrote was for a 10/10 game and stand by my review

TalkBack / Animal Crossing as a Service
« on: April 14, 2020, 07:42:07 AM »

New Horizons’ modest launch content and promise of updates threatens the surprise.

So, I think I beat Animal Crossing. I paid off my house after my  windfall in the Twitter turnip market, decorated my town, and bought enough inclines and bridges to put San Francisco to shame. I still find myself spending hours wandering my town, bothering neighbors and rearranging trees, but a deep emptiness hides behind my villager's bee-stung eyes. What does it long for?

Perhaps quarantine and the new Dodo Code system broke Animal Crossing's slow pace. New Horizons already set sales records and is partly responsible for a global Switch shortage. Everyone is playing this game, and they're all posting new discoveries online. I can travel across the world in an instant to collect cool furniture and outfits, something my own town seems to be lacking.

My still tiny and unexpanded shop has gone three days without a single new item for sale. Instead, I find new color variations of stuff I already have. New Horizons leans heavily on a new crafting and customization mechanic to let creative folk decorate to their exact tastes, but a bit of excitement is lost when every island I visit has different colors of the same ironwood furniture set.

In past Animal Crossing games, I spent most of my time on the hunt for the modern furniture set. Its black and grey color scheme and sharp corners made me feel like an East-coast bachelor with a job in finance. Dozens of furniture sets gave players tons of options to mix and match. Sets are gone, including the highly coveted Nintendo series full of fun nods to other franchises.

New Horizons' crafting system slowly doles out recipes for new items. Players can find one on the beach each day, learn one from a crafting villager, and potentially find more floating in a balloon above the island. Just three weeks after launch, I have a handful of worthless duplicate recipes. Animal Crossing is a series about finding new things every day, but I feel I'm out of new discoveries.

Nintendo has promised ongoing updates for New Horizons, and its stellar sales all but guarantee years of steady content. I wonder if I'll still be playing. The Bunny Day event for Easter was best experienced through the deluge of memes on Twitter, and I’d seen most of the new content before I’d even booted my Switch for the day. While we don't know how substantial future updates may be, Animal Crossing demands near-daily attention to maintain interest. Will I just pop in to future events for a day or two to maintain my feeling of completion? Will I fall down the slippery slope of using the miss of one event to justify the skip of the next? Will I just see a data dump on Twitter and move on?

Animal Crossing may never recapture that element of surprise. Endless guides detail min-maxing daily routines from how many items hide in trees to how to optimize rock-farming techniques. These series mainstays felt like earned knowledge in earlier games, but I don't know that future updates can maintain their mystery for long.

TalkBack / Animal Crossing: New Economy
« on: April 03, 2020, 04:42:17 AM »

Wildly unstable turnip prices made me a bellionaire.

One might think bells, the fictional currency of Animal Crossing, make the world go 'round. Everything from house upgrades to new outfits cost bells, but a secretive class above us trades turnips. Yes, yes, Tom Nook certainly financed his recent private island acquisition with gains on the stalk market. On one lucky day, I amassed myself a small fortune, too.

On Sunday mornings, New Horizons newcomer Daisy Mae sells turnips for about 100 bells each. Shopkeepers Timmy and Tommy Nook buy turnips every other day of the week for a random price, with a price change at noon. Turnips spoil in one week. I was disappointed to find the Nooks offering 84 bells a turnip after I had poured my savings into 96-bell turnips just days before. I took to Twitter in search of a better price.

Twitter user @PaoloLejano had a price of 618 bells per turnip and let me make a few trips. I sold through my stock and left about half my profits as thanks. In just a few minutes, I had more than 4 million bells in my bank account and had paid off my final house upgrade. I didn't think life on my island could get any better.

I awoke to find my town infested with eggs. The Bunny Day update brought a terrifying Easter bunny and a boring questline, but the cherry blossoms balanced my annoyance. I prepared for a quiet, beautiful day. At noon, I checked my turnip prices out of curiosity: a whopping 544 bells. I shared a screenshot online and dropped my price in the NWR Discord. When one member assumed it was an April Fool's prank, I knew this was a big deal.

I was inundated with requests to visit my island. Most players request tips for their trouble, but I was set on bells, so I just asked for an interesting item. I left “interesting” up to interpretation. I used the new Dodo Code system to quickly invite strangers to my game without the need to swap Friend Codes.

Then, the nightmare began. Each time a visitor lands on your island, all players freeze in place for a load screen. The length varies with internet strength, but it's too long with even a great connection. Users with extremely poor internet would crash the session for all players and deactivate the previous Dodo Code. At times, we'd sit through minutes of back-to-back load screens before anyone could take more than a step.

Nevertheless, everyone I played with was grateful and gracious. I interacted with more than 100 Animal Crossing players in just one day, each more kind than the one before. No one took their frustration with disconnects or load times out on me. No one spammed the in-game chat or trolled. No one stole a thing.

A few players asked to make multiple trips. I assume some of them had set their own clocks to Sunday to create an infinite loop, but they were considerate and always asked before returning. The items I received certainly were interesting, although lots of players still left bells. I now have a wizard's robe, a train set, and enough eggs to feed the whole island.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted, like I had just finished a holiday shift at the mall. I also felt great. Some mix of the stress, accomplishment, and just plain human interaction left me beaming. I don't know that I've ever gotten this much out of an online game before.

I might not have any more turnips to sell this week, but I'm absolutely keeping an eye on the stalk market. Today, my shop is buying turnips for just 54 bells. I'm a bit grateful.

TalkBack / Divinity: Original Sin II Definitive Edition (Switch) Review
« on: October 13, 2019, 02:42:47 AM »

Tabletop ascended.

Divinity: Original Sin II Definitive Edition is a commitment. It’s an open-world RPG with deep, challenging, grueling turn-based strategy battles. Character customization is nearly limitless, but every choice matters, and the complete lack of explanation punished me for dozens of hours. The rich tapestry of lore and subplots is a satisfying reward reserved only for those willing to dig deep into old-school tabletop mechanics.

I started my adventure as Lohse, a cheeky bard with a demon perched on the edge of her psyche. Each of the six provided characters offers a unique backstory and path through the world. Custom characters give even more flexibility. Lohse woke up on a ship with a collar muting her Source, powerful magic rumored to attract dark beasts from the void. I put a bucket on Lohse's head as her first helmet.

Soon enough, Lohse and the others found themselves stranded on Fort Joy, a prison for Sourcers. I was immediately overwhelmed. I teamed up with three other Sourcerers: Beast, a dwarf on a quest to kill his queen; Fane, a skeleton who was locked away when the previous world collapsed; and The Red Prince, a compassionate royal lizard destined to rule the world. We crept into town and accidentally got into a fight with a group of card players. Dialogue options are realistic and varied, but that leaves them unpredictable. We barely scraped through.

I spent the next few hours on quests for townspeople. I was surprised by just how unique each was; I found no fetch quests or random battles. Every encounter in Divinity is handcrafted around its environment, and NPC quests are so entangled that I had to think about who to fight or risk closing other quests early. Some stories have no answer, like the woman looking for her child who isn't even in the game world, adding to the bleakness of the void's destruction.

As I worked to escape Fort Joy, I came across a battle that always started with a fire grenade and ended in my death. I needed a new approach. I found a water barrel outside and dragged it into the dungeon to counter the fire, and an online stranger took control of The Red Prince. She relied heavily on defensive spells, something I never use in other games. Friends and randos can take control of a character and travel the world independently, but any progress is locked to the host’s save file. I turned off multiplayer when my new friend died and tried to take control of Lohse.

I started to understand combat. Characters start each battle with magic armor and physical armor granted by equipment. These protect against devastating status effects like shocked or crippled. The water barrel and fire grenade combined to make a steam cloud, a great place to hide from physical attacks but a terrible place to hide from shock magic. Movement, attacks, and abilities all pull from a super limited pool of Ability Points, so it made sense to place my other characters strategically as Lohse talked to the guard. I used all my resurrection scrolls, a pretty rare item, to revive my characters during and after our encounter. But with that fallen guard’s key, I was free from Fort Joy.

I realized I had a lot to learn, so I adjusted the difficulty and found a few included mods, like faster movement speed outside of battle. I kept exploring Fort Joy and found multiple ways out. Then, I killed everyone. Dead bodies stay in place for seemingly the entire game, and looting shopkeepers is a lot cheaper than buying items. Fort Joy is a terrible place where they experiment on Sourcerers, so it was mercy.

Fort Joy was just a fraction of the first map. Everywhere I looked, I found a new cave to explore or group of adventurers to help. Divinity offered no real direction, and the difference of even a single level can predetermine a battle’s outcome, so I proceeded with caution. I spent over 20 hours save-scumming my way across the island to freedom. Divinity isn’t the most beautiful game, but I appreciated its diversity of environments and astounding fantasy soundtrack. I got lost here in the best way.

Divinity’s strengths truly start to shine on the second map. Reaper's Coast dwarfs Fort Joy in size and content with almost no barriers to exploration. Shops are fully stocked, and every building houses a mystery. A magic mirror even lets characters reallocate stats. This massive undertaking also brings Divinity’s problems to light. I stumbled into unwinnable fights far too often and never knew where the plot wanted me to go. Scores of empty barrels and boxes became cumbersome to loot. Long reload times and impactful actions added up to hours of retries; I spent a full hour on a dialogue tree with a recruitable bird. I gave those hours willingly, though, gladly trading sleep to crawl toward another corner of the map.

Perhaps most egregious is Divinity's deep character sheets. I was overwhelmed with choices each time I leveled up and got to pour points into stats. Each piece of equipment is so unique that optimizing characters can take hours. In fact, when I had nearly explored the entire map and all my characters were over-encumbered with loot, I sat down for four hours to sort through my items and trade everything I didn't need for anything I might. Ready for battle, I teleported to the final area of the map, and my game crashed. My most recent save was two days prior. Oops.

Perhaps the player most suited to Divinity is one with a lot of time. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience but still felt shaky on mechanics nearly 60 hours in. I spent hours scouring vague message boards for a foothold. I didn't find what I assume to be the main plot until I bombed a wall in a dungeon around hour 40. Divinity begs for multiple 100+ hour replays, a quest I’d gladly accept if time allowed. If anyone is looking for what I feel comfortable calling the biggest game on Switch, Divinity: Original Sin II Definitive Edition deserves your attention. To those who can't spare at least their whole selves to a game, sit this one out. Saving the world from the void is a full-time job.

TalkBack / Hori Split Pad Pro Daemon X Machina Edition (Switch) Review
« on: September 19, 2019, 04:30:10 AM »

The Nintendo Switch Heavy is here.

Large-handed Nintendo fans everywhere wept as Nintendo detailed the tiny, detachable Joy-Con controllers included with every Switch. For years, we massaged our cramped palms between Smash sessions and stared with jealousy at children as they joyfully battled Pokémon on trains and planes for hours. The Pro Controller was an answer for many, but we were driven back into our game rooms, denied the promise of a portable Switch experience. Until now.

Hori's new Split Pad Pro for the Nintendo Switch is a massive set of handheld-only controllers – and I mean massive. I laughed at the absurdity of this monstrosity when I first held it, unable to comprehend the width. I was reminded of my parents’ SUV during the 2007 gas crisis: large, unnecessary, and oh so comfortable. The curves of the Split Pad Pro give no thought to portability, only to hands. A few extra features are missing, like rumble and wireless, in exchange for a D-pad and programmable rear paddles.

I turned on my Switch to find myself in a dialogue tree in Divinity: Original Sin II Definitive Edition. The Split Pad Pro is thicker than the Switch, adding a depth to the screen that blocked out my surroundings better than the bright neon of my Joy-Con. I felt like I was peering into a world. I chonked my way through options and took notice of the distance between buttons. Inputs aren't too mushy or clicky, but I wonder if someone with smaller hands might need to reposition the Switch to reach other buttons.

Next, I launched Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I felt like Master Hand on the character select screen, big and menacing. My Young Link darted across the screen well enough, but the big analog stick sometimes took too long to reach the edge of its movement area, leaving me jogging across the stage when I wanted to run. I kept jumping when I meant to attack as my hands adjusted. The travel time between buttons may slow down combos in more traditional fighters, but I didn't have a problem in Smash. The rear ZR trigger seems to go on forever with plenty of room to rest my finger, but the sheer size of the controller put the L and R bumpers just a bit out of reach. Luckily, the rear paddles, just under where a middle or ring finger rests, can mimic any button. I assigned the bumpers to the paddles and could grab with a light squeeze of the controller, quite satisfying in the heat of battle. I hit a side-taunt on the D-pad when I wanted an up-taunt as my opponent flew off the screen.

To better test the D-pad, I moved on to my most played games on Switch: the Japanese demo for Puyo Puyo Tetris. While I initially felt the expansiveness of the D-pad, I quickly got lost in my match. Pieces moved as I willed, either through quick taps or a long press. No piece moved one to the side before I dropped it, a problem I’d had on Nintendo's Pro Controller. For the first time, the Split Pad Pro switched from input method to game-control conduit; everything melted away but Tetris. I'm no twitch-platformer, but this D-pad delivered where I needed it to. The analog stick was a different story. I felt like I was playing Tetris on stilts high above the screen. I lost a few clicks to the stick's big dead zone, and a few of my pieces did move to the side when I asked them to drop. I did get a bit excited by the sound of the stick bouncing back in place after I flicked upward, and I don't like to blame controllers for lost games, but I did lose twice in a row while using the analog stick.

The Split Pad Pro is technically Daemon X Machina-themed but draws little attention. The X button is replaced by the X from Daemon X Machina's logo, and the analog sticks are red to match. The rest of the controller is a black that blends well with the Switch. Two little textured handles dip out to add curves to grip and somewhere for pinkies to rest. The Switch still fits in its dock but won't stand on its kickstand with the controllers attached. Surprisingly, the Split Pad Pro might be lighter than traditional Joy-Con without feeling cheap.

Hori's Split Pad Pro solves a very specific Switch problem well. While I might need a bigger bag when I take my Switch out, I'll probably use the Split Pad Pro in most cases going forward. Finally, we giants can walk among other Switch owners again.

TalkBack / Super Cane Magic Zero (Switch) Review
« on: July 08, 2019, 01:17:33 AM »

I almost had a lot of fun.

Super Cane Magic Zero doesn’t take itself seriously. In this silly action RPG, players must gather scattered wizards to save the world from a magical dog whose barks wreak havoc on the world. My character thought he was a comet, and NPCs responded with mostly nonsense. I really wanted to love Super Cane Magic Zero, but its gameplay just frustrated.

Enemies drop a huge variety of weapons, like battering plungers and magic grenade launcher, each with different strengths, speeds, ranges, and stun ratings, but they were all too slow and weak for me to bother with. Enemies usually pummeled me or knocked me down whenever I got close enough to attack, and my extremely slow movement made it impossible to break out of a dogpile. Instead, I threw the objects scattered throughout the world at enemies. However, enemies moved quickly and throws often missed. Most of those objects were food that heal a tiny amount of health (and leave you open to an attack), forcing me to eat my weapons. Some items hurt to consume instead of heal, making every enemy encounter stressful and unpredictable.

Most puzzles require the player drop an item on a pressure plate to open a door, but if I had eaten all the items in the room, I would haved to trek back through the level until I found something to carry. A lot of items slow the player down even more, and enemies respawn quickly. Pressure plates that require a specific magic rock from elsewhere in the level must be an example of the hellscape the magic barking dog created.

Quests think they’re hilarious. The quest log is full of mostly gibberish locations and character names and little direction. One character sent me across several levels to find and remember the details of an otherwise comically incomprehensible story scrawled on pizza boxes, only to open a portal to a dimension that required I scour other levels for portals into that same dimension in order to unlock doors. A forest gave me a cryptic clue about how to navigate its labyrinth of doors only to spit me back to the entrance of its awful combat gauntlet over and over for hours.

I had some fun, I think, when I skillfully dodged and darted between enemy attacks, but I'm not sure if I was just lying to myself to get through the repetition. The save launch screen practically begs for multiplayer, but with couch co-op only and no online functionality, Super Cane Magic Zero is about a decade removed from any relevancy.

I'm mostly disappointed in Super Cane Magic Zero. The fun, dumb world and deep RPG mechanics could have hooked me, but the punishing repetition and clunky combat kept me angry through almost all of my playtime. An extremely specific group of hardcore goofballs could have fun with Super Cane Magic Zero, but most players can find a better use for a group of friends.

TalkBack / Citizens Of Space (Switch) Review
« on: July 02, 2019, 02:44:47 PM »

It's time to ambass.

Earth disappeared on the new galactic ambassador’s first day in Citizens Of Space on Switch. As he journeys through space to find Earth's missing pieces, he recruits 40 party members, each with a unique role.

The turn-based RPG draws cues from other games with timing-based attacks, including a lighthearted tone and charming characters. The 12 playable characters, 12 equipable partners and 16 summons bring a ton of variety to battles. Three party members take the front line. The ambassador doesn't fight, instead swapping citizens and using items. Attacks either fill or empty an energy bar, and most grant a buff or status effect. Every move comes with its own timing microgame, like stopping a gauge or mashing a button. I quickly fell into a favorite team, but replacements hop in when a character falls, so I was punished in boss fights for not getting a feel for everyone’s attacks. Coupled with enemy weaknesses and ever-changing locations, combat stays fresh for the 30-plus-hour adventure.

The ambassador is a little dim, a fact his assistant often points out. His brainy pessimism reigns in the ambassador's sunny disposition enough to differentiate character worldview from the world. Every character has a lot of personality, from the old sea captain to the southern interior decorator who offers to “rearrange your day.” Citizens don't just sit in your party after recruitment, though; they dot the landscape with witty takes on story events. I was luckily always excited to see them as their jokes carry the scenario.

Most of the plot is an A-to-B tour through somewhat inventive worlds. The ice and fire levels are two halves of the same world, the desert area is a resort with apocalyptic weather, and the moon is a robot Western. The worlds house self-contained stories that don't contribute much to the overall plot and feel a bit like a Saturday morning cartoon. The “corporations are evil, government is good” theme worried me a bit when a light parody of the current president showed up, but things stayed tame. I kind of wish he had just been the villain as the game felt ready to end a few times.

Side quests offer the meat of content. Only a few citizens join you through the story, leaving the rest optional. I was surprised by just how different each character’s unlock conditions were. While many are fetch quests, a few took serious exploration that kept me on the lookout throughout missions, and none felt cheap. Three eluded me until the end game, but I felt dumb when I finally found the solutions. Most citizens' abilities add clever mechanics outside of battle, like a bestiary or fast-travel, so everyone feels worth recruiting.

Aiding my exploration was a robust map and quest list. Every exit on the map has markers for quests in that direction, including quests on other worlds. I was frustrated by almost every exit pointing me back to my ship but grateful that obtuse quests were reduced to “explore this specific room.” Holding Y pulls up a waypoint, but every time a quest updates, Y instead becomes a shortcut to the quest list. Sometimes the waypoint just didn't load.

While the art and dialogue of Citizens of Space are top-notch, the actual game feels held together by rubber bands. My session crashed a few times, but the autosave kicked in. The credits list more voice actors than developers, but voices and sound effects sometimes disappear until a reboot. In long battles, turn order continuously resets, turning bosses into one-on-one slogs. Nothing broke the game for me, but it is a shame to see such care poured into the artistic side and so little into the technical side.

Citizens Of Space offers a ton of worthwhile content for anyone in search of something light. Technical issues keep the adventure from matching its scenario's quality, but the excellent music plays on in my head. The last 9% of Earth still calls. The galaxy may be saved, but this ambassador ambasses on.

TalkBack / Pokemon Sword and Shield Remove Random Encounters
« on: June 05, 2019, 03:32:00 AM »

What you see is what you catch.

Pokémon Sword and Shield will replace random encounters with overworld models and randomized hiding spots, as shown in the new trailer from today’s Direct.

Creatures still hide in tall grass but alert players with an exclamation point. Other Pokémon roam the land and may charge or run away from the player once spotted. At one point in the trailer, the player coaxes a Stufful out from its hiding spot with a whistle.

TalkBack / Pokemon Rumble Rush Debuts on Australian Phones
« on: May 15, 2019, 07:44:11 AM »

The toy Pokémon are at it again.

Pokémon Rumble Rush, the fifth entry in the light RPG brawler series, is live first on the Australian app stores, The Pokémon Company announced today.

The "free-to-start" title sees Pokémon battle through wild hoards to unlock new Pokémon and equipment. The tap-control levels lead to "Super Bosses" on each island.

Pokémon Rumble Rush releases in other regions soon, the company said.

TalkBack / Shakedown: Hawaii (Switch) Review
« on: May 06, 2019, 02:41:19 PM »

Vblank's second Grand Theft Auto throwback lacks focus.

Retro City Rampage DX was a Grand Theft Auto parody full of puns and pop-culture references. Everything about it worked together to support the time-travelling criminal premise. It was my first 10/10 review. I was excited to see that Vblank’s follow-up, Shakedown: Hawaii, returned to the format with an updated art style, new location, and light city-building. But while Rampage's ideas all worked in tandem, Shakedown: Hawaii seems to work against itself.

The player controls a grumpy CEO and author of “My Company Runs Itself: I'm at the Beach” with his company at the brink of bankruptcy. The CEO rises from his recliner to intimidate his competition into corporate takeovers. These missions see him travel across the Hawaiian island to shakedown small businesses through mob-style terrorism. Each store has its own requirements, like scaring off customers or destroying inventory. I'd shaken down the entire island within two hours.

The company makes a daily profit every few in-game minutes. Players can spend this money to buy businesses or exploitative marketing multipliers, like targeted ads and convenience fees. This is Shakedown: Hawaii’s unfinished focus. After a short bathroom break, I returned with enough money to buy almost the entire island. The uncooperative menu fought me after each purchase. I spent enough time on upgrades to memorize the button presses and maxed everything on autopilot. Real thrilling gameplay. I quickly amassed enough cash to clear any upcoming story hurdles hundreds of times over.

Story missions are dull. Most often, the CEO just drives from business to business to undo or react to some business mistake he made in a previous cutscene. While speeding through town and plowing through almost anything is a blast, that feels more like a leftover than a core mechanic. Only a few missions, starring a mysterious Spanish speaker taking over cartel businesses for the company, offer much action or challenge. Thankfully, when I had reached my absolute limit of cutscenes, the story abruptly ends.

Perhaps the shakedown missions were meant to be the meat of the game, sprinkled throughout the city like Hyrulian shrines, but they were far too easy and accessible from the start. Instead, most of my enjoyment came from stealing a car and torching everything in sight with a flamethrower. The CEO’s playable adult son, Scooter (or DJ Jockitch), is an insufferable send-up of “kids these days,” and the CEO is too cynical a parody of X-treme Capitalism. The observational marketing jokes just don’t land. At least the music kicks.

I'm not mad at Shakedown: Hawaii, just disappointed. Vblank demonstrated a deep understanding of mechanics-based story cohesion in its last release, but that seems to be forgotten here. The disconnect between plot and play in Shakedown leave both shallow and underwhelming.

TalkBack / Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (Movie) Review
« on: May 03, 2019, 07:28:21 AM »

“The best video game movie ever” wasn’t a very high bar.

Every Pokémon fan has fantasized about a live-action adaptation. Most of us imagined an aged-up Ash Ketchum against a slightly more menacing Team Rocket. The Pokémon designs we knew so well would shine in stylized CG. That’s why so many were surprised when Pokémon: Detective Pikachu’s trailer hit, full of realistic re-imaginings of once cuddly creatures.

Loosely based on the weird spin-off game of the same name, Detective Pikachu sees Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) travel to Ryme City to clean up his estranged father’s apartment after he disappeared in a fiery car crash. He’s surprised by a talking, amnesiac Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) who’s certain Tim’s father is alive. The two try to find the connections among Ryme City’s utopian leadership, a shady research facility, a compromised media outlet, and a mysterious gas that turns Pokémon feral.

Yes, you’ve seen this movie. No, there are no surprises. But there are a ton of Ryan Reynolds jokes and superficial Pokémon fanservice.

We open with Mewtwo’s escape from a lab, then cut to a quiet town reminiscent of Pallet Town, the first area from the original Pokémon games. Here, the film tries to introduce the concept of a “partner Pokémon” instead of the traditional team of Pokémon for battles. Battles are outlawed in Ryme City, and this scene in Tim’s unnamed hometown features Detective Pikachu’s only Poké Ball. This premise dulls the appeal of a franchise built on spectacular clashes between powerful creatures.

The nod to tradition does lead us into this new world gently, though, and we’re in the city fast. Pokémon seem to dot every inch of the screen. Blink-and-you’ll-miss cameos sell the idea that people and Pokémon work together. Machamp directs traffic around a sleeping Snorlax; Golurk guard the police station; Octillary runs a food stand. If you don’t understand why those are fun, Detective Pikachu does little to help you. Most Pokémon get frames of screentime while only major players get ability rundowns. The realistic Pokémon do look really cool, but I didn't see any not in the trailer.

When Pikachu finally appears on screen, Reynolds demands attention for the rest of the runtime. Smith manages to hold his own against the fuzzy distraction as snappy dialogue zings through scenes. Only Tim can understand Pikachu, so most major scenes have Smith taking in new information while bantering with Reynolds’ snarky Pikachu. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Reynolds delivered lines from the set while crouched behind furniture.

The script is hilarious, and the chemistry between partner and Pokémon is the main draw here. Jokes fly fast enough for laughter from hits to drown out misses. The comedy stays classy with allusions to cheap humor sprinkled in, like an excellent fart joke without a sound effect. I was surprised, too. In fact, the dialogue surprises at every turn as Tim accidentally tells strangers he’s on drugs and Pikachu says he’s not the kind of Pokémon to invite people into his apartment. Reynolds’ trademark comedic timing brings an electricity to Pikachu completely missing from the original game, but he is hard to buy as a “world-class detective.”

These two don’t actually do any detective work. Tim is dragged from plot point to plot point by an aggressive young reporter, Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton), who has most of the plot figured out before the movie starts. Twice, Tim lucks into hologram flashbacks that reshape the narrative. While I’m sure these scenes looked stunning in 3D, I wouldn’t have seen them through my massive eye-rolls.

Tim and Pikachu do, however, do a lot of running. By removing Pokémon battles from the world, every bit of action is reduced to an escape sequence. Even the cool premise of an underground fight club is played for laughs as Detective Pikachu runs scared and can’t remember any of his attacks. When Tim and Pikachu escape some Pokémon guarding secret plot details, they find themselves on the run from even more Pokémon just outside the building. At only an hour and forty-four minutes, Detective Pikachu spends a surprising amount of time on low-stakes action.

Detective Pikachu is a fun kids’ movie, and that’s fine. While Pikachu gets off a few bottom-tier swears and clever Pokémon cameos reward longtime fans, there’s little substance under the Pokémon branding. The nature vs. science subtheme is dropped when the villain goes comically overboard, painting morality as black and white. Mewtwo doesn’t reprise his questions on the meaning of life. This is a fast-paced ride for diehard Pokémon and Reynolds fans only. If that’s you, enjoy it.

3/4 stars

TalkBack / The King’s Bird (Switch) Review
« on: February 12, 2019, 01:00:00 AM »

Momentum-platformer The King’s Bird flies close to greatness but gets burned.

The King's Bird tries to be a great game but, like its momentum-based flight mechanics, too often falls short. All the pieces are there: fluid controls, tight level design, beautiful art, a cryptic story, yet something feels missing.

The player starts in a gorgeous town sealed in by a magic bubble. The silhouetted character leaps and climbs around town until he (or she?) finds a way out with the power of flight. Giant murals tell the story of a great battle as the player floats by. Small murals detail controls. Every world sports its own color pallet and a handful of hubs. Hubs hold four levels, each focused on a specific gameplay hook. Ethereal birds dot the landscapes as challenge collectibles.

Movement initially feels incredible. The player builds momentum through jumps and glides reminiscent of early Sonic physics. You press A to jump, R and A to long jump, R to dart forward or scurry along walls, and L to glide. Spikes and pits are the only obstacles, besides the controls. Frequent checkpoints are smartly placed.

Later levels show a lack of generosity in the physics, though. Glides come just short of long gaps. Tight sections punish anything but perfect inputs. Scurries up walls and across ceilings fail to activate too often.  For a world with such free physics, levels sure have an extremely specific path in mind. At least respawns are almost instantaneous.

While some of these problems may seem like the nitpicks of a player who needs to “Git Gud” at twitch platformers, technical issues illustrate the need for a little extra care. Even with simple art, the framerate dips to nearly unplayable levels—especially in the out-of-nowhere endgame—and a few levels simply didn’t load. The options menu doesn’t have a way to review controls, and I couldn’t even find a way to return to the tutorial world. The game crashed twice when I tried to start a new file (and a few other times). Most of my playtime came after a pre-launch patch.

At times, the problems seemed to melt away. I’d soar through obstacles or pass a section after just enough tries to feel triumphant. A thoughtful Assist Mode softened challenges without dulling their sheen. The art and music often combined to make a world I’d like to live in. I saw moments of brilliance.

Perhaps The King’s Bird’s brilliance shines through on other platforms. Maybe speedrunners will find the level timer an irresistible challenge. I might even Git Gud myself if significant updates round out the edges, but for now, I’d recommend something a bit more polished.

TalkBack / Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu (Switch) Review
« on: November 23, 2018, 02:09:08 AM »

Pokémon Let’s Desecrate the Past Pikachu and Let’s Make You Feel Old Eevee.

I don’t get Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu for Switch, a remake of 1999’s Pokémon Special Pikachu Edition and follow-up to mobile-hit Pokémon Go.

I’ve been riding the Pokémon train since Red and Blue’s launch. I raced my friends to the end of Sun and Moon and argued with staffers over the series’ direction. I’m currently wearing Pokémon Go-themed college apparel from my relatively unknown school, and at that school, professors harp on the importance of audience. From journalism to marketing classes, “The Target Audience” is at the center of almost every lesson.

I can’t figure out who Pokémon Let’s Go tries to target.

At first, I thought Let’s Go was a love letter to me. I’ve long begged for a return to Kanto before a Gen IV remake and have grown tired after a lifetime of random encounters. How, then, could I find myself bored by yet another traipse through what must be my most well-worn game map, this time with a simplified encounter mechanic and simply stunning art? Let’s start at the beginning.


To review Kanto is like evaluating my relationship with my parents. Sure, the flaws are apparent with some distance, but closeness still swaddles me in warm feelings. This is my home.

This new Kanto is beautiful, debuting the most distinct style of any 3D Pokémon adventure. The world of Pokémon at once feels alive as creatures chirp into existence on the map. Only now, I’m irked by the vagueness of Team Rocket’s goals. The critical path is nowhere near as flexible as I remember and too often obtuse. The limited pool of Gen I Pokémon left massive holes in my team.

Like Special Pikachu Edition, I had all three Kanto starters thrust upon me early on. Venusaur, Charizard, and Blastoise often appear on my end-game teams, but here, their move pools seemed lacking. I had little trouble plowing through battles with Pikachu’s new always-critical, electric Quick Attack, Zippy Zap, but feared I may hit a wall as trainer levels creeped up.

I stumbled around the middle of the map for a while. I may have forgotten the order in which I needed the Silph Scope, the Poké Flute, and a drink for the guards, but NPCs put me back on track. The rival, whom I named David after Let’s Go Eevee reviewer and Canadian David Lloyd, is as overly helpful as one might expect a trainer from the North to be. He popped up at key moments to disappoint with his pathetic team and walk me by the hand toward the story. Blue sometimes showed up at the same time to offer guidance and pep talks. Time made him soft.

I did get stuck a few times in the original. So did my neighbor across the street. In fact, everyone at my elementary school had to band together to find the elusive mall vending machine. I wonder if Let’s Go patronizes with its helpfulness. The lack of overt direction in Red gave me an agency never before afforded to 9-year-old me, perhaps the most formative aspect of what felt like my first real adventure.

Some touches added depth to the plot. I wondered who the protagonist was as Pikachu demanded the spotlight. His (or her, in my case) reactions to gym wins and Rocket battles were way stronger than mine. Team Rocket’s Jessie and James seemed to be everywhere, even if their pushover battles replaced a few memorable moments. The Pokémon Mansion now looked like the birthplace of all-powerful Mewtwo.

Two cameos teased a fuller world: I met Brock at the store and Lorelei on the water. Finally, I thought, these characters live in this world. But no, each was only allowed outside once. They featured in a single story beat before standing in place for all eternity. Once again, only my rivals and I seemed bothered by Kanto’s mobster problem.

But the music took me back. The epic score turned strolls between towns into adventures -- even without random battles. Team Rocket takedowns felt badass. Caves filled with mystery, forests with wonder. Vermillion City still promised the future and cherished the past.

By the time I beat the eighth gym, I remembered why I love Kanto. I felt my heart pound in my throat as I chose each attack. That final battle carried a weight matched only by the leader’s hard-to-counter party; it laughed at the weaknesses in my own. We’d come so far, my Pokémon friends and I, and this fight relied heavily on the raw power accumulated over our time together. Returning to the first town for the last gym still closes this story better than any other Pokémon game. I’d gone on an adventure, simple as it was, but the time spent away didn’t hit until I went back home.

The Go in Let’s Go

Yes, Pokémon is evolving. Wild Pokémon are now visible on the overworld, and encounters are a Pokémon Go-style catch game. Thank. God. Gone are the hordes of wild Zubat begging for the swift death of your first Pokémon’s first move. Instead, players can walk around lame Pokémon and only go after favorites.

Catching Pokémon isn’t just for fun, though, as Pokémon reward candy and experience when caught. There’s a candy to raise each stat and candy specific to each Pokémon. Catch a Pokémon multiple times in a row to increase rewards and spawn rarer, stronger, or even shiny Pokémon.

This massive revamp is a welcome addition; the catch game, however, is not. My years of practice in Pokémon Go don’t translate well to the Switch’s motion controls. The target doesn’t follow the same rules in both games, even though they look and function the same way.

In Pokémon Go, the smaller circle stops shrinking a soon as the player releases the ball. Not here, though. Let’s Go’s menus, button presses, text, and animations slow down the time between Poké Ball throws, turning impatience into frustration. Throws often go the wrong direction. Pokémon can run at any time, not just after escaping a Poké Ball, another change from Go. What should have been a familiar experience to the millions of Go players is instead jarring in its subtle, yet major, differences. Maybe I’m just bad at it.

By the end of my journey, as I snuck past the Golbat swarm guarding Mewtwo’s dungeon, I begged one of them to attack me. I don’t mean attack my Poké Ball midair. While I appreciate Let’s Go’s bold new system, the catch mechanics need a bit more time in the oven.

Forward and Backward

Let’s Go has a lot to teach the mainline series but forgets lessons from its predecessors.

Menus clunk on simple tasks like changing your party, and a tiny stutter after each button press adds up when looking for a specific Pokémon. The experimental candy system adds a ton of depth but only lets you feed one candy at a time. I look back at my 30-plus-hour journey and wonder just how much of it I spent picking up an item, listening to the item jingle, then putting the item in a specific part of my bag. How justified is the 20-second intro to a battle ended by a single Pikachu Zippy Zap? Series veterans are well aware of these issues, but Let’s Go does little to mitigate them.

Sun and Moon introduced two solutions to streamline gameplay, but one is oddly missing from Let’s Go. Hidden Moves are replaced by Secret Techniques for Pikachu. Characters go out of their way to explain that these moves are only for people to learn, then teach them to Pikachu anyway. Again, I think Pikachu is the protagonist. Secret Techniques are buried in yet another menu, but talking to, say, water or a boulder prompts a wordy prompt to use one. Missing is any indication of type effectiveness. In Sun and Moon, the battle screen indicated Super Effective attacks, and the Game Boy games included a type-chart in the box. For what hopes to be an on-ramp to the franchise, this omission feels almost like an oversight.

Speaking of oversights, I don’t know why Meltan is here. The adorable Pokémon Go-exclusive isn’t strong, doesn’t fit into the story, and can’t even evolve in Let’s Go. I discovered these facts only after I built my end-game team around him, so I took every opportunity to stomp on him as he followed me, forcing him back into his Poké Ball momentarily.

I had a few Pokémon follow me during my adventure, and ride Pokémon are seriously awesome. I zipped around on Charizard, high above trainers on the old Cycling Road, but again had to fight menus if I wanted to land. I hope this feature never leaves us, but I need a dedicated “put Pokémon away” button. The menu got so cumbersome that I hardly rode Pokémon at all.

Each Pokémon has a slight redesign. Pikachu is more expressive than ever, with giggle fits and more variations on its name than I thought possible. It likes pets, and you can play with its hair or dress it up. Its tail wags when near a secret item. It’s cute. Golbat has leathery wings, and Parasect has a subtle camouflage pattern. Every Pokémon has a realistic shadow, both in and out of battle.

Let’s Go takes advantage of its detailed new look with a cinematic camera. Forgettable story beats like Bill’s Sea Cottage become epic moments. The camera swoops dramatically during battles. Pokémon sometimes jump out of frame during attacks, but I still appreciate the tension brought to important battles.

Co-op is, perhaps, Let’s Go’s oddest inclusion. All controls are mapped to a single, tiny, hand-cramping Joy-Con, so another player can grab the other Joy-Con to drop in at any time. Player 2 doesn’t get a name and can’t interact with anything, but totes steals your whole aesthetic. All battles turn into 2-on-1 slaughterfests, and coordinated Poké Ball throws net a catch bonus. Though clumsy, I played a big chunk as both players, spamming Pikachu’s Pay Day for extra cash. I played a bit with my brother-in-law, but our conflicting, controlling natures kept that short. Co-op is a brilliant inclusion for younger players, though.

Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu justifies its own existence by trying to please every Pokémon fan. It can’t. What it does do is highlight the disparity among its bases; its fierce and loyal competitive scene, its incredibly friendly world, and its simple-to-grasp, hard-to-master systems. Going forward, the Let’s Go series would do well to let go of me. It’s okay to make a game for new and younger players, but it’s not okay to sell that game to stalwarts nearing 30. Let’s Go’s fresh ideas have me excited for the future of Pokémon, but these changes now mar the very experience that had me fall in love with this world.

TalkBack / Transistor (Switch) Review
« on: October 30, 2018, 05:00:00 AM »

This place is beautiful, Red. I just wish we could have spent a little more time together.

Transistor, sometimes action RPG, sometimes strategy, and always beautiful, brings its fantastically mysterious cyberpunk revenge tale to Switch. It's only helped by an equipment system that adapts to playstyle and rewards experimentation.

We're dropped in the middle of a tragedy: singer Red pulls the massive, glowing Transistor sword from a man's chest. We think she might have loved him. Red knows who's to blame; they took her voice. She equips the memories of fallen residents to hack and slash her way through the Process, the fungal robots taking over futuristic Cloudbank. She knows she can't bring him back, but maybe she can save the city. Maybe she can get some revenge, too.

All is not lost, though, as her beau lives on inside the sword, giving advice and near-constant narration. His insane amount of dialogue is usually well-delivered, even if he sometimes sounds like he's auditioning for the gravelliest part in a fan-dub. I’d still cast him in mine. Transistor's story is a bit like a dream about the Matrix and Adobe software, but the likable sword carries the revenge plot well.

Rest assured, the Transistor does more than just talk. Red quickly gains access to a handful of functions, or moves, that can be equipped to one of the four face buttons, used to augment another attack or set as passive abilities. I found my favorite early on, but new ones unlock at almost every level or boss battle. Functions also act as a life meter with each one “overloading” after a certain amount of damage, slowly crippling the player throughout tough battles. They only recover after Red finds a few save points, which kept me experimenting with new builds.

To add a touch more complexity, Red can freeze time to plan out her attacks. Organizing moves and movement to maximize damage and keep Red from harm tickled the chess part of my brain in a way too few games do. Heap on Limiters that make combat harder for more XP and a RAM system that keeps Red from equipping all her best functions at once and you’ve got a game with depth.

Every encounter feels expertly staged. Combat gets a bit overwhelming at times, especially when I forget about or over-rely on the Plan function, but nothing here is unfair. Enemies feel varied even as old ones return with new tricks. The gentle difficulty curve rises to meet the fair XP-gain, so players shouldn’t find plowing through the Process too difficult. Save points sit just beyond each encounter, thankfully, as Red can only change her loadout at save points. The critical path offers few detours other than lore and secret backdoors to the Sandbox.

The Sandbox starts as a series of tutorials but quickly escalates into a punishing challenge mode. Behind each door in the beach area’s treehouse lies a series of tests emphasizing a specific skill, usually with a predetermined loadout. I had a lot of trouble clearing out enemies under a time limit or in a single planning phase. Level doesn’t matter here, so I was forced to actually play better in order to succeed. I’ll return to this area long before messing with New Game +.

Tying the whole experience together are the gorgeous art and haunting soundtrack. Cloudbank looks like the hand-painted cover of a cyberpunk novel from the future. Every screen is exciting and distinct, each area unlike anything I’ve seen before. The music matches as if painted by the same hand, capturing the possibilities of progress and the despair of destruction. The world is a paradise crumbling before your eyes.

But it’s so damn short. Red’s epic lasts just a few hours. New Game + promises to carry over my progress and beef up the Process accordingly, and the Sandbox still hides challenges, so there’s replayability here. Still, I want more time with Red and her endearing sword. Transistor is too good to end so soon.

TalkBack / Pokemon Go Gets Background Mode
« on: October 25, 2018, 05:50:57 AM »

Gotta hatch ‘em all!

Pokémon Go’s new Adventure Sync mode will track distance for hatching eggs and finding buddy candy in the background, Niantic announced today.

Trainers can opt in or out of the new feature and will receive weekly summaries tied to currently unannounced rewards. Adventure Sync connects to Apple Health and Google Fit to integrate with other health and fitness apps.

Players previously looking to track distance outside of the app had to rely on outside accessories, such as the Pokémon Go Plus and Apple Watch.

TalkBack / Switch Physical vs. Digital -- The Great Debate
« on: October 24, 2018, 08:32:16 AM »

With a full release schedule and plummeting microSD prices, we try to decide between physical and digital Switch games.

Every game purchase comes with a choice: do I want a tangible, transferable, displayable physical copy or a convenient digital license that ties my ownership to the whims of corporate overlords? We asked Twitter, but Twitter was split. A lot of users stick to physical Switch games, but most players decide on a per-game basis. The NWR Staff decided to weigh in.

Donald Theriault

My default setting has been digital for a while, as I love the convenience of not having to swap cards. Schlepping a large collection of DS/Wii and back games to a new apartment under a severe time crunch a few years ago, and losing several rare DS and 3DS games (Pokemon Black 2/White 2/Conquest, 999) in early 2017 have only calcified this in my mind.

Generally, I want to go for the best possible price for me in terms of cost. This was physical, until Amazon did away with the 20% - oh wait, 10%, because my local retail scene is a tire fire and Amazon's being hauled before a competition bureau - and suddenly, digital becomes a better price. And if I buy enough digital games, I don't have to actually pay for my Switch Online plan. Just have to spend $75 a month to cover a family plan with gold coins, which given how much good stuff comes out for Switch in a given month isn't hard at all.

Jordan Rudek

Since digital store fronts have become more popular, I've generally being going digital purely when a sale happens. I don't buy many games digitally for their full retail price. I get most of my physical games these days from pre-order deals, like Walmart's E3 deal that saw a selection of upcoming games go from $79.99 to $50.00. I also take advantage of trade-in promotions at EB Games, so it's almost like I'm renting games for a small fee.

In the back of my mind, there's always a nagging feeling about wanting to collect games, but it's hard to justify the yearly expense considering how many games I play and would want to keep. As time goes on, I am more inclined to buy certain Switch titles digitally, and I have gone ahead and pre-loaded Dark Souls and will be doing the same for Smash Bros Ultimate. Multiplayer games that I can return to on a whim seem like really good digital purchases, and I do feel that I will be gradually buying a larger percentage of full-priced retail games digitally as my interest in convenience and amassing a portable library increases.

Zach Miller

I tried to embrace the Shiny Digital Future on Wii U, but that kind of turned sour once I realized I had a lot of games (like Splatoon) that I never played and could have sold. I also didn't love the handicap of dedicating an external hard drive to a single console. The Wii U takes up three electrical plugs now (system, Gamepad, hard drive). Thus, for the Switch, wherever possible, I'm going physical. Yes, it's inconvenient to swap game cards but it's not like I'm not already doing this on 3DS.

I also like the look of Switch game cases, and some publishers (Nicalis) include nice little trinkets in physical copies that I'd be missing out on with digital. I even went through a very brief spat of purchasing physical copies of games I had review codes for (Cave Story+, The End is Nigh), mostly for the bonus swag. I quickly realized that's a dumb idea and stopped. Physical cards also keep full games off my Switch's microSD card, which is already ballooning due to review games. I archive whenever possible but fridge-cleaning will eventually be a necessity.

Casey Gibson

For me it's always been an easy choice to go physical over digital because I'm a sucker who loves to put his collection on display. Bookshelves full of games littered with amiibo look awesome and surrounding myself with them is something I truly enjoy. Combine that with the 20% from programs like Gamer's Club only help the cause of filling my apartment with even more games. However with the end of those programs shortly upon us and the convenience of having all my games on my person at all times, digital becomes a bit more appealing.

I used to have the desire to double dip on games I reviewed where I was fortunate enough to receive a code, wanting that tangible game card in my collection. However I'm slowly embracing the idea that my collection will be mix between the two. While I can undoubtedly see the pros of going digital, I still have serious concerns for the future when digital shops close down rendering my games useless if needed to be redownloaded. Thus I'll continue my semi-regular trek down to the local brick and mortar store on launch days to snag my games and pray there's enough room in my apartment to house them all.

Matthew Zawodniak


Carmine Red

A couple days ago one of my co-workers was looking for a new game to play and so I came in with all the physical Switch games I owned. The entire collection, 88 games plus the little red plastic RDS Industries game cases I keep them in, fits in a single 1 gallon ziploc bag.

I loved that. I felt like a walking talking Switch evangelizer / game lending library. Into indies? Give a try to  Owlboy, Lumo, or Yonder and just give em back to me the next day if they don't click! Looking for something meaty to play after Zelda? Here's Skyrim, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and Mario vs. Rabbids, maybe one of these might float your boat!

Yes, it's possible to share digital games with Nintendo's fledgeling online account system, but that feels fraught with complication. Given the choice I'll almost always go for these tiny new Switch cartridges. Physical isn't just being able to hold something real in your hand, it's about the simple act of being able to put something real in the hands of someone else.

Also, my Switch's 512 GB micro SD card only has about 80 GB left, so.... yeah.

J.P. Corbran

I’ve been all-digital for a long time now. I don’t own a physical game for Switch, Wii U, PS4, or Xbox One, and my only physical 3DS games are from early in the system’s life before retail games were available digitally. I have no desire to ever buy another physical game again.

I love the convenience of having every game I own immediately available whenever I turn on the system, especially with hardware that’s portable like the Switch and 3DS. In addition, having carted a huge DVD collection from place to place over the years, I really don’t want the hassle of making space for the hundreds of games I’d have sitting around here if not for the ability to buy versions that take up no room whatsoever.

The only time I even think about doing things another way is when I run into the limitations of my storage devices. Having to upgrade from a 200 GB Switch microSD card to a 400 GB one was expensive and time consuming, but in the end I’ve come to accept that dealing with that is preferable to the hassles of physical media.

Neal Ronaghan

There are a lot of games. Folders please.

Adam Abou-Nasr

Fire Emblem Awakening was supposed to be the last Fire Emblem game. It certainly wasn’t meant to sell out at launch. And yet, I found myself alone in my first apartment desperately trying to download Awakening over my phone’s hacked mobile hotspot, unable to find a copy anywhere else. I went digital.

I like to pretend I have my entire game collection, but painful holes dot my shelf: my sister had Chrono Trigger in her DS when she moved to New York; my brother lent my Tales of Symphonia to a guy his friend used to know at some point; my Game Boy collection seems truncated and lacking, my foggy memory unsure of the fate of some favorites.

But I do know where my Switch collection is. My review copy of Lego City Undercover is at my fiancé’s house, and my review copy of The Lego Ninjago Movie Videogame rests in my Switch. Every other game, review or not, is with me digitally wherever I go. I’ll never have to worry if I insisted an old coworker borrow my Mario + Rabbids or if I’ll have to rebuy a Zelda for a long flight. I’m not parting with any of these.

Have any physical game horror stories? Overpay for a digital game you wish you could sell?Let us know how you decide between physical and digital in the comments!

TalkBack / Re: Luigi's Mansion (3DS) Review
« on: October 11, 2018, 08:03:51 PM »

I missed the GameCube one. Might have to pick this up.

TalkBack / Pokemon Go Gets Gen 4 and Rebalance
« on: October 09, 2018, 04:55:00 AM »

What do I do with all these Chansey now?

Sinnoh Pokémon and stat balances will come “soon” to Pokémon Go, Niantic announced today.

Gen. IV's Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum introduced 107 Pokémon, some of which expanded evolution lines for previous Pokémon. Electabuzz, Rhydon, Magmar, and Eevee all have Gen. IV evolutions.

Gameplay balances will address player feedback, Niantic said. CP, Defense, Stamina, and HP adjustments aim to lower the gaps between Pokémon.

A greater variety of Pokémon will appear, softening the impacts of weather, habitats, and nests.

TalkBack / Dragalia Lost (Mobile) Review
« on: October 08, 2018, 03:18:08 PM »

Dragalia’s solid gameplay loop makes the experience greater than the sum of its waifus.

I don’t play mobile games. I have nothing against them, and I’ll get drawn into truly unique experiences like Pokemon Go or online board games, but I’ve always steered clear of the freemium gacha games that dominate the App Store’s “Top Grossing” page. I avoided Dragalia Lost’s Direct and marketing campaign for that very reason, but I found myself free on launch day and decided to check it out. I got hooked.

Dragalia’s lengthy download screen excited me with flashy anime cutscenes. Characters and icons bounced in time to DAOKA’s soundtrack in menus. The flick of a switch replaced the American voices with the obviously superior Japanese cast. Bright colors, depth-of-field effects, and a steady framerate impressed on both an Android phone and a basic iPad. Production values were high, and I worried I’d foot the bill.

As the predictable (and skippable!) story unfolded, the combat’s depth grabbed me. Tapping, sliding, and swiping darted my character across the screen. Well-timed specials wreaked havoc on waves of enemies, and a dragon transformation finished them off. Each character’s unique weapon, element, and special combo kept me searching for a favorite and striving for the perfect team of four. I eventually settled on a spry archer as my main and pumped him full of stat-boosting quest rewards.

Story missions and achievements doled out plenty of Wyrmite, the currency for gacha summons and time-skips. A tenfold summon guarantees a rare pull and features (predictably) the rockin’-est jam on the soundtrack. I had enough free currency to perform what felt like a dozen tenfold summons before finishing the story. Repeat character pulls give a currency spendable on promoting a character one rarity level, so even weak favorites are viable team members. Wyrmite rewards definitely slowed as levels got harder, but nothing ever felt insurmountable. While my team may not be top-tier meta or anything, I comfortably completed most of the launch content without the pressure to spend money.

Stamina and co-op are so generous that I’m still not sure how they work. Leveling up refills your stamina bar and co-op-granting “Getherwings.” I think I played for ten hours straight without noticing the stamina system. My levels-up are beginning to slow now, and harder levels require more stamina, so I occasionally see my stamina bar dip below full. Jumping into a co-op room instead uses, like, one or two Getherwings, a seemingly infinite resource I’m sure will dry up eventually.

In co-op, other players replace your three AI team members. Co-op appears to run pretty stable, even on weak internet with other players dropping. My roommate and I played through chunks of the story together and complete revolving side-missions almost daily. A unique code every time someone creates a multiplayer room makes the friends list seem underutilized.

The campaign does reach an end-point, but definitely not an ending. The kingdom remains lost, and the lead character looks to face down his seven siblings, most absent from the story so far, for control of the kingdom. Promised updates should keep players popping in occasionally and together in progression. The second weekend after launch debuted a limited-time event starring an exclusive character, dragon, and equipment, and these new levels quickly dominated the multiplayer rooms. The event introduced raid battles, which pit four teams of four against a massive enemy — and a timer — proving Dragalia Lost still has some post-launch tricks up its sleeve.

I still get lost in Dragalia’s messy menus, but I’m getting there. The tap-and-wait castle town still seems empty, and I’m often worried I’ll accidentally feed an upgraded item to a weaker one. I don’t know which dragons to use, other than my only 5-star. The seemingly endless stream of waifus fawning over the main character is quite tropey (and totally not my style), but side-stories at least attempt to flesh out characters. Those stories don't include any combat but do drop a bit of extra Wyrmite.

I first tried to judge Dragalia Lost on how money-hungry it was but instead grew as a gamer. Dragalia Lost proves free-to-play isn’t the demon I thought it was. With a ton of content, deep, fluid gameplay, and top-notch production, Dragalia Lost is worth every penny a player spends on it. See you in co-op!

TalkBack / Pokémon Go Adds Gen 1 Regionals to Eggs, Mewtwo to Raids
« on: September 10, 2018, 05:18:53 AM »

The end-of-summer Ultra Bonus Event is a celebration of Kanto Pokemon.

Farfetch’d, Kangaskhan, Mr. Mime, and Tauros join the Alolan-form Pokemon in 7km eggs, and Mewtwo will appear in normal raids, Niantic announced today.

Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres will return to raid battles from Sept. 13 to Sept. 20, all with possible shiny encounters. Mewtwo will take over Sept. 20 and stay until Oct. 23. There's no word on Mewtwo's shiny form.

The four regional Pokemon, previously only available by traveling to North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia, can hatch from 7km eggs available through gifts given by friends until Sept. 30. Other Kanto Pokemon will appear more frequently in raids and in the wild through Sept. 30.

Pokemon Go players unlocked the Ultra Bonus Event by completing quests tied to events throughout the summer.

NWR Forums Discord / Re: Meow
« on: August 25, 2018, 07:06:03 PM »
Me owmperer! I have failed! We're running out of lives to give for you!

NWR Forums Discord / Meow
« on: August 25, 2018, 12:53:22 AM »
Meow meow

Meow meow meow meow


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