Show Posts

This section allows you to view all posts made by this member. Note that you can only see posts made in areas you currently have access to.

Messages - polemos

Pages: [1]
TalkBack / The First Tree (Switch) Review
« on: December 06, 2018, 06:26:54 PM »

The First Tree is the definition of an indie, but we should still expect more.

Before I begin it’s worth mentioning that this game was essentially a one-man production and for that I admire and respect the great care and effort that went into The First Tree. It is David Wehle’s singular vision, though he did license assets from other developers in order to speed up production. All that aside, his eye for color and mind for narrative are what allow The First Tree to stand out as more than just a walking sim.

The game opens on a mother fox awakening alone in her den and you are tasked with locating her pups across varied landscapes. She can walk, run, double jump, and even dig in certain activation areas. Bits of starlight are available to collect as you are led along the dream but become just meaningless collectibles the farther you go on your journey. Voiceover narration between a husband and wife accompanies your quest, telling of a man’s relationship with his estranged father and the memories you uncover of their lives while digging up clues for your missing pups. The juxtaposition of the two stories is unpolished, but it adds life to a mostly barren dreamscape as you search across different seasons and terrain.

The First Tree is incredible to look at and listen to, thanks in large part to the beautiful score by Josh Kramer, but it’s just not very much fun to play, even when touted as an exploration game or walking sim. While the landscape appears boundless, the distance between goals is too far without enough activity existing between. The narration and writing leaves much to be desired as well, and while the story does have its moments, it lacks polish. Admittedly, it’s endearing that the two actors playing the narrative husband and wife are voiced by David Wehle and his wife, Elise. However, while I’m sure it was done from a cost-saving standpoint, there are enough awkward deliveries to cause one to wonder how improved the game would be had they hired actors with a bit more experience.

The First Tree only lasts about 2 hours and is essentially a walking sim through a handful of gorgeous settings with bits of narrative threaded throughout. That being said, the ending truly is something special, and if you choose to get this game in the future, I’d recommend enduring through the rough narration and reaching the finale. The finale is worth it.

TalkBack / Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition (Switch) Review
« on: October 16, 2018, 06:35:26 AM »

Still well worth taking a dip.

Deep down, we all want to be luchadores, right? Masked identity, unbelievable high-flying moves, highly dramatized soap opera solemnity…what’s not to love? Mix in some Dia De Los Muertos cultural aesthetic and you’ve got Guacamelee from DrinkBox Studios. This Mexican metroidvania was first released in 2013, and it’s been an indie journeyman ever since. It has been worthy of its enduring popularity, so much so that you’ll be able to play the sequel, Guacamelee 2 on Switch as well in December.

Guacamelee is a standard tale of a means-well agave farmer attempting to save his love from undead forces bent on world domination (there are some excellent bad guys that I’d rather not spoil, but, in two words: Flame Face), and only in death does he find his true power. Ultimately, it doesn’t even matter because while most of the writing lands (some outdated jokes are duds), the real magic here lies in the platforming and battle mechanics.

As the story progresses, so too does your arsenal of abilities, and while enemies become more complex, new talents and powers surface to match them. Fortunately, it all stands the test of time. The animation and action still look and feel great and there’s a pure pleasure in racking up high combo scores while beating back onslaughts of boney brigades. In fact, the platforming is surprisingly forgiving. A few platforming challenges require some razor-sharp timing, but the majority of falls (everything except lava) allow for a quick warp back to where you originally leaped from instead of instant death. So, would-be headaches are greatly limited and certain struggles become far more easy to overcome due to the friendly system. Couple this with a near constant ability to save at checkpoint shops littered all across the world and the entire adventure winds up being nicely structured and paced.

This version is the “Super Turbo Championship Edition” so it contains a great deal of content right off the bat, so you can relish the opportunity to try on several different costumes if playing as the beefy luchador, Juan, isn’t quite your cup of tea. And, with the possibility of 4-player drop-in co-op, the varied costumes allow everyone to have their own specific likeness (not just alt-colored Juans running around). That being said, at its core, this is best-played solo and while the multiplayer aspect is a nice addition, I wouldn’t place its co-op element as a defining feature.

The only shortcoming? You can wipe out the whole campaign in about five or so hours, and while there’s plenty of extra content to take care of afterward (a “good” ending, for example, should you nail all the requirements), not much is there to revisit after game completion. But, while it’s a short journey, it’s one very worth playing. Oh, and did I mention the game is littered with pop culture (especially video game) references? I won’t spoil them for you, but never thought I’d see a Super Mario RPG reference ever again.

TalkBack / Muddledash (Switch) Review
« on: August 03, 2018, 07:56:14 AM »

Muddledash may lack solo play, but if you’ve got a group, there’s legs for days.

Have you ever wanted to attend an octopus birthday party? Frankly, I never did until I played Muddledash on Switch. Right from the get-go, it’s charming and simple, with a fun and goofy look, sound, and feel. Bright pastels, upbeat jams, and loosely swinging tentacles abound. But, above all, this is a party game. Seriously, you can’t play it alone.

Sadly, no AI bots are available to play against and you cannot play Muddledash online. If this bothers you, be forewarned. That being said, I haven’t had more fun playing a bonkers party game with friends like this in a long, long time. If you intend to ever play video games with people who enjoy simple mechanics, clear competition, and clean, pure fun – this game is for you.

Muddledash is a weird multiplayer racing game that contains procedurally generated levels, so you’ll technically never play the same course twice. Although, the variation isn’t substantial, and the true differences are mostly be in track coloring and course length. Sometimes a race will be surprisingly short, which can throw a wrench into the plans of any players hoping to play the long game and strike for the gift right before the end. At first it may be a bit jarring to go straight from the character lobby directly into a match, but it actually allows for a constant, flurry of games, making for an even better pick-up-and-play dynamic.

Now, how does one complete a race? Well, you all start out in a green room of sorts, and once everyone jumps up from the ground a present appears in the middle. Once a player snags the gift, the room’s door opens and the characters begin their race out and down the pathway that will wind every which way, sloping down and racing upward, much like the courses in the old Super Nintendo classic, Uniracers.

Along the way, you can slap one another and a successful hit will cause a player to drop their present, allowing another to grab it. And, as players race toward the finish line, they’ll run into different obstacles such as high grass, which slows them down, or grease puddles, which cause quick boosts. There is also a timed dash move in your arsenal, which can be employed to leap over obstacles. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult to see for certain when the dash is fully replenished (an energy bar of some sort would be a welcome addition). You can also trigger little plants, causing them to shoot glue balls that encase an octopus competitor in a bubble for a few seconds. A direct hit will cause them to drop the present if they’re lucky enough to be holding it.

The finish line is an octopus house party, guarded by a sunglasses-wearing octopus bouncer. The only way to gain access is to run past the bouncer with the present in hand. Once you breach the goal, your little octopus will appear on a pedestal, while the party celebrates and showers you with confetti. Reaching the goal line and struggling to finally slip past the bouncer with the gift is one of the most fun moments I’ve experienced playing video games.

The lack of AI (and online) for solo play is a bummer, but I can’t stress how much fun this game is with friends. The ease with which one can pick it up only adds to its use as a casual game for anybody too. I’m hopeful for a future update that add in some post-game statistics so one can record victory streaks or the completion time of a race, but I could also see how that might hamper the speed of firing up a new match.

Muddledash is what a party game should be. Just beware, you’ll need more than eight tentacles to play.

TalkBack / INSIDE (Switch eShop) Review Mini
« on: June 29, 2018, 08:52:04 AM »

Don't miss this brilliant, story-driven platformer that's as much art as game.

Whether you’re into simple platformers with excellent physics engines, puzzles requiring multi-layered thinking, or perhaps just a mysterious story which peels back layer after layer as you progress (with numerous, excellent scares throughout)— INSIDE is a must-play title. Developer Playdead managed to combine a monochromatic 2.5D platforming engine with a stunningly engaging atmosphere, so while there’s a feast for your eyes and ears at every turn, there’s always a great deal of anxiety churning in your nerves.

Since this title is a port which originally came out in the summer of 2016, you’ve likely heard of it before. Playdead is already well known for the excellent LIMBO. If you enjoyed LIMBO, you will love INSIDE. INSIDE is best played knowing as little as possible about it, so hopefully you’ve managed to stay in the dark. You play as a young boy trekking through dark woods, and after sliding down a slight slope, begin a long and perilous quest.

You will run, jump, dodge, sneak in shadows, climb (and swing from) chains, and even pilot a submersible. You will die. Death will come from falls, electricity, trampling, drowning, dog bites, bullets, security drone nets, and more. But, the spawning is so wonderfully efficient, and there’s no need to worry about a health bar or lives. If you die, you simply try again. INSIDE also features a convenient checkpoint framework, so you can revisit major milestones throughout the game if you want to relive them (or show off a specific set piece to a friend). It’s worth mentioning that the controls are phenomenal, and while the grave will be your constant companion, it’s rarely (if ever) due to a control issue. In fact, there are several puzzles that may frustrate you at first because you believe the simplistic controls are holding you back. However, it’s likely that you’ve simply missed a layer to the puzzle and might try a different solution (which proves to be very satisfying every time).

There are secrets to be found throughout the journey in order to unlock an alternate ending, so don’t be afraid to fight the constant urge to move right toward the end. Sometimes, it’s wise to try going left. Every so often you come across a game worthy of adding to the endless argument, “Are video games art?” INSIDE is one such game.

TalkBack / Songbringer (Switch eShop) Review Mini
« on: June 22, 2018, 09:35:04 AM »

Songbringer is a retro love letter, but ink can be messy.

If old school with a new degree is your jam, Songbringer could be something to sing about. It harkens back to the early days of desperate searching, when you had nothing other than your own thoughts (and maybe the game manual or a strange 1-800 hint line) to help you progress through a game. The kicker? It’s a procedurally-generated action game. So, depending on the six-letter word you submit at the start of a new file, you’ll find a unique map populated with your chosen word (somewhat) influencing the world. In theory, there are millions of possible variations for map layout and certain challenges within the quest.

The story opens with a spaceship crashing on the planet, Ekzera, piloted by a galactic warrior named Roq Epimetheos and his trusty skybot, Jib. Once you find the nanosword (and awaken evil) in a nearby cave, the adventure starts rolling, and from there you battle through a Zelda-like overworld with hidden caves and dungeons spread throughout. Along the way you’ll discover shops with power-ups and chests with all variety of items (even psychedelic mushrooms that occasionally reveal hidden doors). Many of the items you collect will later be used in puzzles of varying difficulty, though, and you should expect to just find plenty of rooms full of hack-and-slash fights.

Your little drone buddy, Jib, occasionally offers assistance and shares cutscenes with Roq, tossing up new story elements and histories that help ferry along the quest. However, the comedy is a bit forced and the dialogue isn’t as charming or great as it clearly believes itself to be. As you proceed, other planet inhabitants offer pieces of information which chip away at the plot, so you eventually concern yourself with the world around you.

But in the grand scheme of things you’ll feel all alone, just left to explore. It’s an exciting and fresh challenge at first, but the map can be a bit tricky to traverse because some boxed regions start to bleed into others. Since each area of the map is clipped and loads separately instead of a clean scroll, you’ll organize the map into specific quadrants, but it becomes clear why games have moved away from this map style. The same could be said for the music, which at first sounds lovely and refreshingly retro, but eventually includes tracks featuring awful jarring noises that sound something like car alarms from hell.

As for the ability to create a whole new world from a different 6-letter word when starting a new game file, well, it’s still a very cool idea. The look and feel of the world changes quite a bit depending on your word, but the wonder had already worn very thin long before the end of the first play-through, so a second run didn’t hold my interest for very long.

Songbringer is the game that fans of the original Zelda have longed for, spiced up with a slick Hyper Light Drifter aesthetic. It might not, however, strike a chord with anyone else.

TalkBack / The Fall (Switch) Review
« on: May 21, 2018, 06:13:07 AM »

The Fall’s story still holds up, but there’s rust in its gameplay.

The Fall begins with a literal fall. You are thrust into the story by way of an alien planet’s atmosphere and what seems to be a forlorn android repair facility. It’s a standard Metroidvania at first glance, just another side-scroller featuring a futuristic battle suit. But, this time around, you control ARID, a state-of-the-art AI in control of a space marine’s suit. While the unfortunate soldier, Colonel Joseph, is unconscious and in critical condition, ARID takes control. Your mission, it appears, is to figure out how to get the good colonel the aid he needs, while simultaneously fighting your way through an eerie factory with a great many puzzles, scares, and battles ahead.

Originally released back in 2014 to modest acclaim, this port works nicely for the Switch’s portable play. On one hand, it’s a short trip, you could tackle the whole adventure in a few short hours, but that entirely depends on how long you find yourself grappling with the game’s challenges. As far as the battle system goes, it’s fairly dated, with simple cover & fire mechanics. But, frankly, this game shines with its story and its many solid puzzles, so taking the action sequences as a fine way to mix up the pacing works fairly well. Just be prepared for the controls to feel a bit clunky at times, especially when changing direction or first adjusting to the aiming mechanic. The slight control issues seem to be due to the fact that this title was originally designed with PC in mind. Controls aside, if you’re looking for a true Metroidvania experience, you should look elsewhere. This game shares more in line with Limbo than it does with its more action-oriented cousins.

However, what The Fall may lack in stirring battle sequences, it does bring some very excellent writing (and surprisingly proficient voice acting) to the table in its stead. Descriptions and clues can be found in every area with your flashlight, and ARID has plenty to say as she progresses deeper into the increasingly perilous facility. Throughout, you come across other AIs with which to interact, and many offer dialogue options with a surprising level of humor. For a game replete with darkness and some surprising gore, it also contains a great deal of comedic writing to balance out the experience.

Ultimately, The Fall feels like you’re playing your way through a movie. Aside from a few control hiccups, it’s a playable movie in a genuinely good way.

TalkBack / Bridge Constructor Portal (Switch) Review
« on: March 07, 2018, 03:27:49 PM »

Bridge Constructor Portal will turn your brain’s valve with some physics fun, but it’s little more than a collection of challenges coated in a familiar cake frosting.

In Bridge Constructor Portal, you are tasked with completing a series of challenges in which you lead a forklift (driven automatically by stick figures) toward a designated exit. Sounds simple enough, right? The kicker is that each level continually dials up the trial, and in time, acid water, locked gates, and turrets join the party to harsh your buzz. That’s where bridges and reinforcing cables come in. As the learning curve grows, so too will the complexity of the strategies you employ. When I built my first bridge (after trying to just Evil Knievel it with a flying forklift ramp), I found myself excited for the next challenge and wondered if my career would have been better off as an engineer. By the 10th trial, and countless stick figure deaths, I knew these early dreams were way off the mark.

The opening tutorial, laid out in the first handful of trials, is a bit clunky — you need to play through the whole thing in one sitting (an hour or so once you get your bearings) and strangely even just pausing the game or accessing the menu isn’t possible for long stretches. I had an inkling of a feeling this may have been a design glitch because during these segments the entire scope of the screen wouldn’t populate and the command options weren’t fully populating for me. However, the physics are surprisingly tight once the basics are understood, and as the difficulty increases, so too does satisfaction in the gameplay.

One important frustration to lay out is that as you run tests on your creations, fast-forwarding isn’t possible. This proves time-consuming for the longer trials when you’ve mastered 95% of the level, only to have a slight design hiccup at the end. So, instead of making a quick tweak and resuming the test from this point, you must restart the entire test and watch the steady forklifts mosey on down the line. It’s not a game-breaker, but by the later levels you’ll wonder why this option isn’t present.

Now, for the paintjob. Yes, this is another Bridge Constructor game, but this time around everyone’s favorite (endearingly murderous) AI, GLaDOS, is back to lead you through test chambers reminiscent of the Portal series. Familiar references are peppered throughout, but ultimately the crossover layer feels thin and does little more than string a collection of challenges together.

Ultimately, Bridge Constructor Portal feels like a solid little collection of architectural challenges that will keep puzzle-hungry physics-lovers with plenty to do. But, anyone looking for a heavy dose of story or a treasure trove of Portal-related content shouldn’t expect much.

TalkBack / Typoman (Switch) Review
« on: February 26, 2018, 06:02:29 AM »

Typoman: Revised is a puzzle-packed love letter to letters undercut by slightly scrambled platforming mechanics.

From the moment Typoman: Revised begins, it’s clear this world is one of wily wordplay. Featuring a hero built literally from the letters H, E, R, and O, and situational challenges requiring creative letter arrangement (such as combining O and N to turn on a switch), there’s plenty of brain-busting charm in the presentation. With each new puzzle solved, you’ll progress further through an increasingly dangerous world, where monsters built of words like DOOM and GREED loom.

Typoman works best when it demands you dust off special areas of creative thinking rarely required in platformers. Solving these puzzles keeps the journey satisfying and undoubtedly leaves you hungry for more. Sadly, the platforming mechanics are far from tight, and frustrating deaths from a simple timed jump happen all too often. Respawning is relatively quick and fortunately, redoing an entire puzzle isn’t necessary. In other words, a degree of much-appreciated forgiveness is built into the slightly loose controls.

If pushing around or tossing letters feels a bit too time-consuming, a nifty Wordscrambler mode is included. So, once you slap a bunch of letters together, you can quickly open a menu with the Y button and manually rearrange the letters. Frankly, it’s an ingenious solution because in some spaces it’d be otherwise impossible to physically spell a new word.

Along the way you’ll be able to collect glowing quotation marks, which will reveal more to Typoman’s tale, line-by-line. The slowly revealed story is easily accessed from the pause menu, which makes for an interesting progression map as you can see how far you’ve come (or if you’ve missed any pesky quotation marks in the past).

From the get-go, it’s clear Typoman: Revised has a graphical presentation and soundtrack worth praise. Even though it’s a relatively quick playthrough, a great deal is present for the eyes and ears to enjoy. And while it certainly takes cues from the phenomenal game, Limbo, the word mechanic gives it enough unique charm for it to stand alone with its own individual spirit.

If you’re after a game that marries clever word puzzling and platforming, you may find an unexpected gem. Just be prepared to have your platforming patience tested far more than it ought to be.

Quick disclaimer: Typoman was originally released on the Wii U, but sadly its intuitive touch screen function is no longer supported.

TalkBack / Shiftlings (Switch) Review
« on: February 10, 2018, 09:23:21 AM »

Shiftlings wastes too much effort on story elements, without first creating a lasting gameplay experience.

I feel the need to open this with a quick disclaimer. As a local co-op game, Shiftlings is a worthy investment. But, if you’ll simply be playing this solo, stay away.

Shiftlings tries really hard for you to like it. Frankly, that’s my main gripe. From the opening cinematic, the humor is on display, revealing if it lands as funny or cringe-worthy quickly. Sadly, I sat steadily in the cringe camp throughout, but I’ll give Rock Pocket Games a bit of a nod for their effort. The voice actors are committed and the material gallantly tries to build out a game world, but, much like the primary puzzle mechanic, it always feels half-bloated, half-deflated. Unfortunately, this does not make for balanced gameplay.

The heroes are two cosmic custodians tasked with solving their way through a galactic game show. Tied together with an air hose, the duo progresses through each puzzle by switching size and weight. As far as game mechanics go, you can bounce on your bud’s head, weigh down buttons, pull levers, float up jet streams, make use of trap doors and seesaws, and plenty more. However, before long, the puzzles lose their freshness faster than the backgrounds and sounds in each level.

Solo play proves tiresome because while you can move both characters simultaneously by holding the L button, certain puzzles can only be solved by switching rapidly between the pair. So, while these puzzles can be fun and exhilarating with two players working in tandem, they come off as frustratingly time-consuming alone. Plus, if you mess up and die, expect to hear the same, lame lines over-and-over again from the nagging narrator until you can best it.

With over 50 levels (plus time trials) to complete, each of which include collectible cola bottles for unlocking later levels, Shiftlings appears to have a great deal of content. The problem is that these levels are spread across five regions, and while each region has its own unique charm and puzzle mechanics, the settings feel bland (especially by the seventh or eighth level within a specific area). Many of the puzzles become repetitive, and in turn, make certain levels feel like a sluggish slog. To the point where weighing the value of unlocking the next region becomes a debate.

Shiftlings’ size-swapping mechanic serves as a perfect metaphor for the game itself. Simply put, it lacks balance. The cute art style would make for a perfect parent-child co-op experience, but the skill required for certain platformer-specific puzzles makes it a bit too difficult for a younger child to master (and/or have fun). The story elements that are fleshed out don’t really amount to much. It would have been better served without the bloat of the story. It harkens back to the oldest of game truths; as gamers, we ultimately don’t care how or why Bowser kidnapped Peach (possibly something cake-related?), we only care how we’re going to save her, and the playable journey ahead.

Pages: [1]