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 - John Rairdin

Pages: 1 [2] 3 4
TalkBack / Vote on the NWR 2021 Hype Meter
« on: December 29, 2020, 09:57:43 AM »

We want to know what your most anticipated games of 2021 are!

The NWR Hype Meter is back!

For those who may have missed it in the past, the feature is called the the NWR Hype Meter. It's meant to bring back those feelings many of us used to get when looking over Nintendo Power's most wanted games list. Like Nintendo Power, we need your help in figuring out what Nintendo games are the most wanted. This edition of the Hype Meter will also help serve as a preview for what's to come (hopefully) in 2021.

So what do you need to do? Fill out this form with your most wanted Nintendo things. This can include both first and third party games. You can also include games, such as indie titles, that haven't officially been announced for Switch but are likely to come to the platform. The list should be between five and ten titles in length with your most hyped game being ranked one, and the least hyped at ten.

You will have until January 7th to send in your list.

TalkBack / Doom Eternal (Switch) Review
« on: December 14, 2020, 02:05:24 PM »

"Nothing's impossible, Mario. Improbable, Unlikely, but never impossible." - Luigi on Doom ports

After an extended delay that led many to question its existence, Doom Eternal has arrived on Switch. For the gaming community as a whole, Doom Eternal was up against tough competition as the sequel to one of the best shooters of all time in Doom 2016. For Switch owners in particular though, Doom Eternal carries with it extra significance. It is not just a follow up to Doom 2016 but to the original impossible Switch port. Panic Button’s Doom 2016 port catapulted the studio to instant recognition among Nintendo fans, and opened the way for more seemingly impossible ports. However, Doom Eternal is an entirely new beast, featuring a new engine built with next generation hardware in mind, the Switch is up against stiffer competition than ever before. And of course beyond all of that, how does Doom Eternal stand against the pantheon of legendary games that is the Doom franchise?

Doom Eternal picks up where the last game left off. Demons let loose by the occult UAC organization on Mars have spread to Earth and made very short work of taking it over. You, the Doom Slayer, arrive in your flying space church to save your people from Hell’s onslaught and impart some double-barreled justice on an assortment of mortally challenged individuals. That’s about as much of the story as you need to know, but there’s a lot more dense lore in Doom Eternal than in the previous entry. In fact, the story as a whole is a much stronger focus and an area in which it struggles. I, and many others, praised Doom 2016’s very intentional disregard for long cutscenes and deep storytelling. Plenty of lore was there if you wanted to dig, but it was entirely optional to understand the plot. Doom Eternal places a greater focus on cutscenes, particularly in an effort to flesh out the Doom Slayer himself. However, just watching those cutscenes left me very confused as to what exactly was going on. I found that I needed to dig into codex entries and read up on characters to understand their relevance as the cutscenes never really tell you. It is as if Doom Eternal is caught in a struggle between wanting to tell a more compelling story while also understanding that the simplicity of its story is part of what made the previous game so endearing. All that being said, if you take the time to delve deep, there is a very cool story being told. However, if all you do is watch the cutscenes as they’re presented, you’ll find yourself more than a little lost at multiple points. Then again if you’re just here for the ripping and tearing, there is a handy skip button for those cutscenes.

The bread and butter of Doom Eternal’s gameplay is largely the same as Doom 2016. You move fast, you never reload, and you need to get in close to regain health. No hiding behind cover waiting for health to recharge. It is just as brilliant now as it was back in 2016. It forces an aggressive gameplay style out of the most timid player and forcibly aligns your actions with the mentality of the Doom Slayer. Rarely has a game’s design manipulated the psyche of the player with this degree of success, and it is what makes the modern Doom titles stand out from other shooters. New to Doom Eternal is a grapple system that allows the Slayer to swing, dash, and climb around the environment. It is a more freeform style of gameplay that works excellently in combat. It heightens the verticality of combat encounters providing both a means of escape when things go south, and a fresh avenue of attack on unsuspecting demons. These mechanics also come into play in general world exploration. Because of this, Doom Eternal features a heavier focus on platforming challenges than the previous entry or most first-person shooters in general. Overall, this works quite well, though I did find that movement when climbing is very stiff, and spotting the various grappling points when playing in handheld can be a little difficult due to the resolution.

Between each level, you return to the USS Spooky Church in orbit around earth. Here you can spend power cells hidden throughout levels to unlock more and more of the ship. The rooms unlocked generally lead to weapon or armor upgrades or even cosmetic changes for your armor. For myself, I set aside all other cosmetics once I saw the room containing the armor from the very first Doom. You can also unlock the first two Doom games from here which run hilariously poorly compared to the ports already available on Switch. Somebody tell the Doom Slayer to get an Nintendo 64. Overall, it is an implementation similar to what we saw in Wolfenstein 2. However its presence in Doom Eternal largely serves to slow down pacing with little of significance taking place. It often just felt like an extra loading screen to get through and I wished I could simply opt to skip it in favor of moving on with the game.

While I disagree with certain changes made to the single-player experience, the end result remains a fantastic game. For every change that flies in the face of the original game design, there is another that heightens it. While the net shift in quality is minor, it is already working from a place of excellence, meaning Doom Eternal’s game design is different but still incredible.

Multiplayer doesn’t fare quite as well. Gone are the multiple game modes of the original which brought a Quake-like experience to the franchise. Instead, a single game mode is present, in which two players take control of demons that can spawn additional demons to try and take down another player who controls the Doom Slayer. It is asymmetric for the sake of being asymmetric and ultimately serves as a sad replacement for the original’s excellent multiplayer. The mode itself makes for a fine distraction, but I can’t see myself putting the same amount of time into it that I did into Doom 2016’s multiplayer.

But of course the moment of truth for all of this comes down to the port itself. Doom Eternal is a much more expansive, visually impressive, and technically demanding game than the prior entry. Environments are more varied, more open, and traveled faster than anything in the original. Remarkably, to my eyes the Doom Eternal port on Switch actually runs better than the original despite this, and certainly well beyond Wolfenstein 2. Our old friend variable resolution is here of course, but performance is remarkably steady. I never noticed the more significant slow down that was visible in the original. I also never felt like the handheld resolution dropped as low as Wolfenstein 2, which was at times debilitating. Yes, the resolution is lower, and yes the framerate is capped at 30 frames per second, but what results might just be Panic Button’s finest work to date. It also includes gyro controls at launch unlike the original which did not receive them until later. This is without a doubt the way to play and works great in both handheld and portable modes. It is unfortunate that this release is relegated to being digital only as I believe it is truly the most impressive port I’ve ever played from Panic Button.

As a solo experience, Doom Eternal is simultaneously better and worse than its predecessor. It makes a lot of small changes that generally work, but also speak to a misunderstanding of the original. While changes to movement via the grapple system are largely excellent and improve the already fantastic combat system, changes to progression and story presentation just slow down what had previously been an incredibly fast-paced thrill ride. When Doom Eternal gets past its secondary elements and just allows itself to be Doom, it outdoes Doom 2016 without question. Multiplayer is, however, a significant disappointment for anyone like me who greatly enjoyed the original’s implementation. All that being said, from a port perspective, Doom Eternal is a downright miracle. It somehow presents a much more complex game even better than it presented the original.

TalkBack / Chronos: Before the Ashes (Switch) Review
« on: December 08, 2020, 08:06:00 AM »

A souls-like for those afraid of souls-likes?

I was interested in Chronos: Before the Ashes for two reasons. Firstly, it is an award winning VR game turned more traditional third-person adventure game. Secondly, it was developed by Gunfire Games, a studio consisting of many of the old Darksiders developers and who developed Darksiders III. That being said, I had no idea what to expect going in. I knew of Chronos and its sequel Remnant: From the Ashes but had not played either. While it took a moment to get its claws in, once they were, I stayed hooked.

Chronos tells the story of a young hero who makes use of an object called a World Stone. This mysterious crystal-like object allows them to leave their post apocalyptic home and travel into a world of medieval fantasy. Their ultimate goal is to hunt down a legendary dragon responsible for the desolation of their home. The juxtaposition is a little jarring at first. The ragged though still recognizably modern clothing of the hero stands out somewhat against their more traditional sword and shield. I quickly became accustomed, however, and while Chronos: Before the Ashes isn’t the most visually impressive game on Switch, the solid chunky art design that Gunfire is known for gives the game their distinctive flavor.

Chronos: Before the Ashes is in simplest terms, a Souls-like: A roguelite that takes heavy influence from the work of From Software’s Souls series. This isn’t in itself surprising as Gunfire’s own Darksiders III also takes on this format. What makes Chronos special is the way it takes arguably the most famously daunting genre in gaming and makes it accessible. This is not to say Chronos is easy, but the way in which it focuses its difficulty creates a much more tuned experience than I’ve previously had in this genre. Adding to this is a unique aging mechanic that turns death itself into a tangible though somewhat ominous sense of progress.

As you weave your way through the labyrinthian, interconnected world, you’ll encounter a wide variety of monsters and characters across its different realms. Every so often, you’ll come across new World Stones that serve as both checkpoints and fast travel points once activated. If you fall in battle, you’ll be returned to the last World Stone you passed. Unlike in many other games of this type, you cannot rest at a checkpoint to regain health in exchange for all enemies respawning. Healing items are also limited to a set amount per life, and while you can find opportunities to expand the number of them you carry, you cannot refill them in any way other than dying. Outside of leveling up or using one of these finite healing items, your health cannot be replenished. This means that you are always working your way slowly towards death and will eventually run out of ways to stave it off. When you respawn you’ll not only return to the last checkpoint, but your character will have aged one year. As they age their attributes will slowly change. The agility of youth will gradually make way for a knowledge of arcane magic gained over the years. Leveling up by defeating enemies will also grant you skill points that can be put into different categories. Some of these will become unavailable once you get beyond a certain age while others will open up. It is in this way that dying represents a unique form of progress.

As mentioned prior, Chronos: Before the Ashes is a more focused experience than many of its type. It accomplishes this by cutting down significantly on the loot and armor systems one would usually expect to find. Rather than picking up individual weapons, armor, and items, enemies instead will occasionally drop shards used to upgrade your weapons. Weapons are only found in specific locations or by completing certain quests; there are no random drops. While at first this may sound like a simplification of the formula, I found myself very quickly drawn in by it. So often in similar games I arrive at a boss only to find that they’re not weak to the specific way I’ve built up my character, or I’ve missed out on a weapon because I didn’t get that random loot drop. In Chronos, I could focus on my weapons and that’s it. Each weapon feels different, and any of them can be upgraded to continue to be viable weapons even into the late game. Chronos: Before the Ashes also has a stronger focus on puzzle solving than most games of this type. Throughout the journey you’ll pick up key items and come across clues to solve varied and interesting puzzles. In fact this is the first game of its ilk where I can remember getting stuck on a puzzle more often than a tough enemy.

All of this is great, and I thoroughly enjoyed most of my time with Chronos, but unfortunately, performance and some underlying bugginess dull what ought to be quite a solid experience. Docked mode holds up quite well, actually. Once again this isn’t the most visually impressive game on any platform so the Switch version is passable. Handheld mode, conversely, runs into very real framerate issues even when only fighting a single enemy. Given how much combat relies on careful timing this can become a serious problem. It is also incredibly dark when playing portably, regardless of environmental conditions. That being said if you plan to play on the TV, these issues shouldn’t affect you as much. What will, though, is some occasionally strange collision detection between your character and the environment and a rough camera. At multiple points, I found my character stuck on what appeared to be an ornamental detail on the floor. It was clear that this wasn’t supposed to stop my character from moving, but for some reason it was reading as a collision. Pair this with a camera that too easily loses its lock on an enemy or gets trapped in scene geometry and specific encounters can get frustrating. Given that the original presentation of Chronos was as a VR game with a camera placed in fixed position, it makes sense that the dynamic camera may still have some issues to work out.  

I’ve been tempted to describe Chronos: Before the Ashes as “baby’s first souls-like” but that would imply an easiness that isn’t there. Combat is brutal, and the puzzles demand you fully explore the world around you. However, it does all this in a way that is much more player friendly than one might expect. Its simplification of the loot and character customization systems does wonders for approachability. Add to this a genuinely unique aging mechanic and Chronos: Before the Ashes manages to stand out from the crowd in a genre that seems bent on enraging its player base. While I wish the Switch version, particularly handheld mode, was more robust, I still greatly enjoyed my time with it. There is a very satisfying adventure here, but on Switch you may need to dig a little deeper to find it.

TalkBack / The History of Wing Commander and Nintendo
« on: November 02, 2020, 05:21:01 AM »

Ambitious ports and a lost game.

Wing Commander and Nintendo aren't exactly synonymous but the two do share a fascinating history. From ambitious ports spanning two systems and a finished game that was never released, join us to explore the history of this relationship.

TalkBack / Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm (Switch) Review
« on: October 28, 2020, 08:00:00 AM »

An RPG for Zelda fans or a Zelda game for RPG fans?

Fresh off its exclusivity to Apple Arcade, Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm, has arrived on Nintendo Switch. It is equal parts classic JRPG and The Legend of Zelda, landing not too far off from something like the Mana series. But can this expansive indie adventure live up to the titles it has been compared to?

While I don’t usually start my reviews with graphics and technical performance, I myself was caught off guard by them so immediately, they need to be given a moment here at the beginning. Oceanhorn 2, whether playing docked or handheld, is incredibly good looking. In fact I’d feel perfectly comfortable calling it one of the best looking games I’ve played on Switch all year. Add to that its very short loading times and you have a game that is set to stun right from the get go.

Oceanhorn 2 sees you playing as a nameless hero. After retrieving a mysterious lockbox and completing your training as a knight, you quickly find yourself on an epic quest against a mysterious evil force. Along the way you’ll pick up a tropey though charming cast of party members including a princess who refuses to act like a princess and wants to fight, along with a robot who seems technologically more advanced than the world around him. This is where we immediately see a contrast between the clearly Zelda influenced progression and more JRPG inspired elements. This is essentially a 3D Zelda game that you play with a party. This opens up a lot of interesting possibilities for dungeons and puzzle solving. Depending on a party member's weapons they’ll have different uses throughout the adventure. For example a ranged party member may be able to flip a distant, unreachable switch. But more realistically you’ll be using them to do the jobs of heavy rocks and hold down buttons. They also serve to smooth over one of Oceanhorn 2’s greater failings, the combat.

Combat in Oceanhorn 2 fluctuates between, “I can live with this,” and “why oh Lord hast thou forsaken me?” On the surface it looks to operate much like modern 3D Zelda. You have an attack button, a dodge roll, and a shield. Hitting the shield at the right time will even parry and knock the enemy off balance. The problem is there is no targeting system unless you are actively blocking, which prevents you from using other abilities. On top of this there is a degree of input latency between pressing the block and when your character actually performs the action, making nailing the timing of blocks very difficult. As you build up your party they’ll help take some of the pressure off you which makes things a bit more manageable. New abilities and items you find along the way also help to give you options that work a bit better. Regardless, combat is easily the weakest part of Oceanhorn 2.

The rest of the experience fares much better. The world itself is a joy to explore. While not entirely open right away, the world opens up in stages. The progression of the story is quite linear but you’re regularly given opportunities to stray from the primary storyline and explore optional areas. I even found instances where I was able to get a key item a little earlier than it was required. I appreciated that despite some minor sequence breaking it didn’t seem to trip up the game design. In fact I was able to immediately interact with things I was likely intended to have returned for later. When you dive into a cave expecting some extra cash and come out with a grappling hook, you know you’re in for a good day. I did find that some of the secondary uses of various items were a little vague and unexplained. For example, an electricity spell can be used to bridge electrical connections between various points. I was able to find some text that told me I could do that but nothing to tell me how. Frustratingly, charges on these spells have to be built up by gathering materials in the environment, so every time I’d try and fail I’d have to gather resources before I could try again. For the record I had to hold down the aim button, fire the spell, continue to hold down the aim button, and remain looking at the target until the spell had hit. Then while still holding down the aim button I could look around to drag the electric current to another point. Look away too soon or pull your hand off the aim button and the charge will dissipate. Maybe I simply missed a tutorial somewhere but it was a lot to figure out through trial and error. This was however the greatest offender, and other abilities were much clearer. I appreciated that each could be used both in puzzles and in combat.

As you progress you’ll gain experience points that will strengthen your character. You’ll also find shards that can be slotted into any of your items to enhance them. It is up to you what you upgrade and when. You can also remove upgrades at any point allowing for some experimentation. Overall I enjoyed the simplicity of Oceanhorn 2’s RPG elements. They open the door for greater customization of the player character than one would expect to find in a Zelda like, without being overwhelming. As a result I can’t help but think that Oceanhorn 2 could make a great gateway RPG for Zelda fans whose experience with the genre is minimal.

Oceanhorn 2 has one or two glaring weaknesses. I certainly had moments of real frustration, but upon overcoming them I’d once again be presented with a world I couldn’t help but explore. The story is fun, if a little predictable. Dungeons and puzzles in the world are varied and just the right degree of challenging. It also certainly doesn’t hurt that it is a gorgeous game that holds its own as one of the prettier on Switch. The genre blending mechanics that Oceanhorn 2 brings to the table help to elevate it above the failings it has. Some bumps along the way can’t prevent this from being a journey worth taking.

TalkBack / Supraland (Switch) Review
« on: October 25, 2020, 11:27:29 AM »

A gorgeous world to stumble through.

Supraland is built from a lot of pieces I enjoy. It is a sandbox, both figuratively and literally. It allows you to play in a real world environment on a micro scale. It gives the player freedom and is constantly evolving. On top of that it looks great too. Unfortunately Supraland too often trips on its own ambition, and the result is oftentimes confusing games.

Supraland’s story set up is quite simple. Your village of little red guys has been attacked by the village of little blue guys, and you’re on a quest to find out why. Oh, and the entire thing takes place in a child’s sandbox. Gameplay takes place across an ever growing open world. Areas of the world are separated by gates and challenges. Exploring an area yields abilities and upgrades that will allow you to explore more areas, get more upgrades, and so on. This would all be well and good as this is essentially 3D Metroid, unfortunately the world is frustrating to explore. There is no map in Supraland, which becomes more and more of a problem as the often samey looking environment opens up more and more. It can also be unclear exactly where you are and aren’t supposed to go. You can regularly cheese your way up cliff faces and reach areas early. Alternatively I’d find myself struggling to climb to a spot I was sure must be important, only to come to the realization that the designers had never intended for me to reach it in the first place. I spent an incredible amount of my time with Supraland wandering aimlessly hoping I wandered into the right corner of the map to find the ability I needed to push the story forward. Occasionally everything would click. I’d get that classic metroidvania surge of excitement as I realized an ability could open an area I’d passed earlier. But these moments were rare and ultimately decayed back into the same old monotony.

Supraland controls reasonably well. This is good as puzzles often require adept first-person platforming. Combat early on is entirely melee based and relatively easy. You can essentially spam the attack button as quickly as possible and become an unstoppable death machine. A little later on you’ll get a gun. It opens up a lot of nice possibilities for puzzle solving and exploration, but the aim isn’t quite fine enough to make it particularly effective in combat.  

If nothing else Supraland carries with it a fair amount of charm. Visually it looks quite impressive, and character dialogue is often quite funny. I especially enjoyed the religious zealots who are convinced you’re living in a sandbox, much to the confusion of everyone around them. I’ve long been a fan of exploring the world on a small scale. Supraland pulls this off very well with most of the environment being made of recognizable objects that appear huge to your tiny hero. The characters themselves don’t quite pull this off as well. The red and blue people look more like gummy restroom signs than any recognizable toys. Likewise the enemies just seem like cartoony fantasy enemies rather than something one might find in a sandbox.

Supraland is an eye-catching game with some great ideas behind it. Unfortunately its world design flounders so incredibly that it manages to drag everything else down with it. If you’re patient enough, there are fun moments to be had here. But they’re constantly bookended by confused wandering through what ought to be a much more interesting world.

TalkBack / What's Next for Star Fox
« on: October 23, 2020, 09:38:03 AM »

TalkBack / Pumpkin Jack (Switch) Review
« on: October 23, 2020, 09:35:00 AM »

A fun spook for any season.

Holiday themed games don’t exactly have an illustrious history in terms of quality. More often than not they’re a quick cash grab to lure in those looking for some cheap seasonally appropriate entertainment to blow through then throw away. I assumed such would be the case with Pumpkin Jack, releasing just in time for Halloween. But the trailer left me wondering if maybe there might be a little more here than expected.

Pumpkin Jack is an action platformer. You play as the titular Jack who is summoned by the Devil himself to help defeat mankind’s hero, the wizard. Unfortunately, the armies of Hell aren’t particularly bright and will wind up getting in your way just as often as the desperate humans. Jack isn’t too discerning either however and you’ll find yourself simply mowing down whatever gets in your way.

Levels play out mostly linearly, featuring a combination of fast hack and slash combat, platforming, and the occasional haunted horse ride or runaway minecart. Combat is simple. Jack only has one attack button but he also has a crow friend who can attack enemies at range. At the end of each stage you fight a large boss. Each one is built on a similar concept of a circular arena and a clear attack pattern, but individual fights still vary greatly. After these fights Jack will pick up a new weapon which has new moves. While you can always Switch weapons whenever you want, it is generally the case that each weapon is better than the last. They each handle differently and add some nice variety, but there is rarely a reason to revisit an old weapon once you’ve got a new one. Combat feels a little loose but it’s also never too punishing. The same cannot be said of the platforming.

Platforming in Pumpkin Jack can be very demanding, especially when seeking out any of the collectable crow skulls hidden throughout each stage. These can be used to purchase alternate outfits for Jack but can also be a real challenge to get to. Jack has a bit of an odd sense of momentum to him that takes some real getting used to. It is consistent so get used to it you will, but oftentimes a failed jump leads to a death pit. Reloading from death takes around twenty seconds. It is not an obscenely long time but it is long enough that platforming mistakes quickly become unduly punishing. However, once you get a feel for the platforming it is a very satisfying challenge.

What truly elevates Pumpkin Jack is its variety. While yes the core of the game is running, jumping, and slashing, each level also has its own unique mechanics. One will see you riding a Donkey Kong style minecart as you lean from side to side to stay on the track and jump obstacles. Another sees you racing in a cart atop the battlements of a castle, taking out human soldiers on your way. Still another sees you dragged by the head by a gargoyle as you desperately weave through graves. At times Jack may remove his head entirely to enter more puzzle focused environments. These rarely repeat as well and offer just as much variety as the rest of the game. I did have some brief technical issues in some of these stages in which Jack's head would become lodged beneath the scene geometry. In most instances I was able to simply jump and regain my footing (heading?), however at one point I wound up having to reload after Jack’s head fell straight through into the void.

Pumpkin Jack’s whole presentation is just delightful. It strives for and achieves its Halloween theme in every conceivable way. And I don’t just mean they put pumpkins everywhere and made it dark. Each level has its own look while fitting into the overall aesthetic. It does definitely look better docked than it does in handheld. While docked it looks sharp despite its sub 1080 resolution, handheld mode tends to look somewhat muddy. It isn’t bad, but it doesn’t do the art design justice. Even the soundtrack is downright perfect. I could easily enjoy this soundtrack entirely independent of the game itself. The whole thing feels a bit like if late 90’s Rareware had taken a spin at Nightmare Before Christmas. There’s something a little nostalgic about it despite it feeling entirely its own. You will notice some slowdown, especially in areas with lots of effects and enemies floating around the screen. For me it never got too bad at the wrong time, but it would be easy for the perfect storm of slowdown to hit during a platforming challenge and cause some real frustration.

Pumpkin Jack is only a few hours long, but it feels very complete. It lasts exactly as long as it should without ever really getting repetitive. Combat can start to feel a little ridiculous towards the end as it throws huge amounts of enemies at you in a desperate attempt to provide a challenge against your evermore powerful weapons. But platforming and other gameplay elements keep things from getting stale. Pumpkin Jack is a surprisingly charming package that is worth playing through in this or any season.

TalkBack / Mario Kart Live Can Be Played Docked And On Carpet
« on: October 06, 2020, 02:28:00 PM »

Not quite all terrain but more than one.

We've confirmed with Nintendo today that as was briefly glimpsed in a recent trailer, you can indeed play Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit while the Switch is docked. Marketing for the augmented reality kart racer has focused almost exclusively on a handheld experience. However a brief glimpse in a recent trailer lead us to question Nintendo directly, who confirmed for us that it can be played on a television as well.

In addition to this, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit can also be played on carpet, though the height of the carpet will no doubt have an impact. Nintendo assures us however that it will run just fine on low pile carpet or on a rug. Rest assured we'll be testing out the full versatility of Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit when it releases on October 16th.

TalkBack / Rebel Galaxy Outlaw (Switch) Review
« on: September 28, 2020, 06:06:59 AM »

An incredible modern take on classic space sims.

I first encountered Rebel Galaxy Outlaw while browsing Twitter for space games years ago. What I saw was a game that clearly took inspiration from one of my favorite series growing up. Following the game’s development and seeing posts from its developers confirmed this initial suspicion. Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is a modern take on Wing Commander, in particular the more open ended Wing Commander Privateer spinoffs. It exudes the rustic charm of those 90’s classics while feeling totally its own in its modernization of these mechanics. That being said the history of Wing Commander and Nintendo was always more ambitious than it was successful, with the systems never quite being able to hold up to the scope of those games. So how will Rebel Galaxy Outlaw convert its complex space-sim gameplay, onto Nintendo’s latest system?

In Rebel Galaxy Outlaw you play as Juno Markev, a woman on a quest to hunt down her husband's killer. At the start of the game your ship has been destroyed and you find yourself flying what is essentially a space dump truck. It is pretty bare bones at first, but by taking on jobs and exploring the vastness of space, you’ll slowly earn credits to upgrade it. The story unfolds slowly, as you’ll likely spend much of your time doing side quests. The difficulty of the primary quest line increases very quickly, and it won’t take long before you’re completely outclassed by the objectives thrown at you. It took me a moment to realize just how much side questing I needed to be doing. Luckily there is plenty of variety, but it's important to go into Rebel Galaxy Outlaw understanding that it is much more interested in being a space-sim than it is in telling a story. But if you’re the type like me who enjoys slowly upgrading and eventually swapping out ships as you take on harder and harder challenges, there is a lot to like here.

Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is completely open almost from the start. You’ll need to save up to buy a jump drive, but once you do space is open to you. The map is broken up into systems connected by jump gates. Each system will have a combination of stations, planets, and outposts, each with their own alliance. While on stations or planets you can buy weapons, defenses, and other gear for your ship, trade out your ship entirely, trade goods, or just go to the bar and play pool. In fact, the pool minigame is remarkably full featured and incredibly distracting. Once you pull yourself away from the tables you can also accept missions. The types of missions you take on will affect how you’re perceived in regards to lawfulness. This perception affects how NPCs react to your presence. A lawful player who avoids hauling stolen goods will be able to move freely through jump gates and stations but won’t have access to pirate controlled stations and jump gates. It isn’t just quests either, how you react to distress signals and other events you encounter will factor into this as well. In general, Rebel Galaxy Outlaw offers the player a lot of freedom. You can join merchant or mercenary guilds to get higher paying jobs of specific types. Want to go after bounties and play this as a straight up shooter, go for it. Prefer to be a space trucker hauling goods across the sector, have at it.

Like any good space-sim, your ship controls are robust. The challenge for any console port is getting a keyboard’s worth of controls onto a traditional controller. Rebel Galaxy Outlaw manages this quite well. Most actions are mapped to a single button with only a few more advanced techniques requiring button combos to pull off. Much of this is thanks to a radial menu that can be brought up to manage several non-flight related functionalities. Here you’ll find basic things like maps and a scanner, along with power distribution. At any time you can divert power between shields, engines, and weapons to prioritize recharges to specific systems. Whenever using any function from the radial menu or your coms, the game slows down to a crawl allowing you to navigate the menus even during intense combat.

The Switch holds up surprisingly well under some substantial demands. Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is a beautiful game with bright contrasting colors and stylized explosions. I was surprised to see just how visually complete the Switch version was. Yes the resolution is lower, though not to a disabling degree, and some textures are a little blurry, but it is still gorgeous. I did notice some slowdown when I wound up engaged in combat in heavily populated areas such as the space around planets and near stations. It was never debilitating however, and cleared up quickly. Early on I worried that loading times seemed a bit lengthy, but they cleared up as I preceded. I’m not sure if this was simply more of an issue in early areas, or if perhaps elements were being cached in some way to speed up future loading. Either way it ultimately seemed to have resolved itself after my first half hour or so of gameplay. Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is undoubtedly one of the prettier games of this type on the system. Likewise the soundtrack is excellent featuring a combination of original music which skews towards southern rock and country, along with a huge library of licensed music. The licensed music is spread across several radio stations, each with their own genre. Stations also have DJs and commercials. Juno will even comment if you change the station as soon as a commercial comes on. It is an incredibly complete package and I’ve even found myself making note of some of the bands featured to go listen to later.

Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is a game that knows its audience very well. It is unapologetic in its targeting of a specific and abandoned fanbase. If the idea of hitting the autopilot button and watching your ship fly past the camera dramatically, or opening up a com to tell your wingmates to break and attack sounds nostalgic, congratulations you’re it. Surprisingly this doesn’t make it unapproachable to the inexperienced. Despite its complexity its systems are laid out clearly. Its controls, while deep, are easy to manage. This is a sprawling space-sim RPG that builds excellently on the path tread by its predecessors. The Switch version, while not without some hiccups, is highly impressive. While yes the sharp uptick in difficulty found in the primary questline is a bit jarring, so long as you’re willing to put in the time it can be overcome.

TalkBack / Hyrule Warriors Age of Calamity Gets a New Trailer and Gameplay
« on: September 26, 2020, 07:15:00 AM »

A closer look at each of our champions

As part of their TGS Presentation this morning, Nintendo and Koei Tecmo showed off a new trailer and gameplay for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. The trailer gives us a quick look at each of the four champions and shows off a bit more of the world. The trailer can be found below. Beyond this Nintendo also confirmed that Impa will be a playable character. This makes her the first character beyond Link, Zelda, and the Champions, to be confirmed as playable.

At the beginning of the trailer we also see Akkala Citadel in flames, an event referenced in dialogue during Breath of the Wild but never seen. This was something we predicted after watching the original trailers for Age of Calamity. The full original trailer analysis can be found below.

TalkBack / Embracelet (Switch) Review
« on: September 23, 2020, 05:28:38 AM »

Brace yourself for the feels.

Arguably the best part of reviewing games is stumbling into something magical when you weren’t expecting it. Such is the case with Embracelet, a game that’s low poly art style first caught my eye when it was initially revealed. But what started as an affinity for simplistic 3D graphics resulted in playing through Embracelet in a single sitting, experiencing a range of emotions, and coming to the realization that I had just played one of the best narrative-driven games of my life.

Embracelet tells a coming of age story of Jesper, a 17-year-old boy looking to find out more about his grandfather. Jesper was given a magical bracelet by his grandfather that allows him to manipulate the world around him. A series of events early on lead Jesper to travel alone to a small island called Slepp, where his grandfather grew up. Slepp is in a state of economic decline as local fishermen have been outdone by larger companies. Few people remain on the island, and there is a pervasive tone of sadness and loneliness as you wander across it.

Jesper’s week on the island is spent exploring, helping the residents, and befriending the only other two kids living there. Dialogue options allow the story to deviate somewhat in how Jesper relates to these characters, and all of these relationships are incredibly well written. It is hard to convey just how engrossing the world of Embracelet is without digging into spoilers. The characters, especially Jesper and his two friends, Karoline and Hermod, are excellently written. Your relationship with these characters can deepen as much or as little as the player desires, and their interactions are genuinely charming.

There is very little in the way of traditional gameplay in Embracelet. This is a game about experiencing the relationships and world that Jesper is exploring. Most of Embracelet’s gameplay comes in the form of wandering around the island, talking to its residents, and solving some light puzzles. Jesper’s bracelet allows him to move objects in the environment and ultimately feeds into a much more complex underlying plot that I won’t get into for spoiler reasons. Suffice it to say that Embracelet carries with it a strong sense of mystery that plays out behind the otherwise slice-of-life style adventure. Using the bracelet brings up two rings that move towards each other. You have to push a button as they overlap to successfully use the bracelet. However, there is no punishment for failing other than having to try again. You can even go into the options and slow the rings down if you want it to be easier. You can’t die, and while the journey can ultimately take different forms, there isn’t really a bad ending. All that being said, the absence of traditional gameplay challenges was not missed here. For as simple as Embracelet is, I couldn’t stop playing.

The visuals, which once again were what initially peaked my interest, are sublime, as is the music. Both visually and auditorily one could describe Embracelet as quiet. This is not to say the visuals are without beauty or that music is absent, but that both are present in a calm, peaceful way. I could listen to the soundtrack all day, and very likely will. Take a screenshot of any moment and you’re left more with a work of wonderful low-poly art than a still of a game. Embracelet is in every way beautiful.

Reviewing a game like Embracelet is difficult. It can be hard to convey the allure of something so simple, or the emotional impact of such a calm, quiet game. I think the only way to truly explain it is to describe the moment of watching the credits roll by. I felt honest joy for the characters. After four hours, I cared about them. I felt a deep sense of sadness that my time with them was over. I wanted to stay in this world. Not because there was some grand adventure to be had, but because I wanted to keep spending time with these characters. I wanted to see where their lives would take them. Embracelet is a brief glimpse into a beautiful world, and while I’m sad it's over, I’m glad I was able to be part of it while I could.

TalkBack / Super Punch Patrol (Switch) Review
« on: September 17, 2020, 05:05:42 AM »

There sure is a lot of rage on these streets.

Super Punch Patrol is simultaneously a bold new genre for Gunman Clive and Mechstermination Force creator, Bertil Horberg, as well as exactly what you’d expect from one of his games. Super Punch Patrol knows exactly what it wants to be, a 16-bit era beat-’em-up, and executes on that goal perfectly. While it brings with it some of the dated elements of its inspiration, it is hard to ignore just how perfectly it encapsulates its source.

As one would expect from a brawler that could grace the Super Nintendo or the Sega Genesis, Super Punch Patrol follows three police officers in a town run by crime. Jorts, leather, suspenders, and skateboards permeate the character designs in a delightfully accurate satire of games like Streets of Rage. Even the playable characters themselves follow the traditional beat-’em-up trinity: the middle of the road dude, the fast acrobatic lady, and the giant strong guy. Outside of its use of polygonal graphics, everything about Super Punch Patrol feels like it was ripped straight from the classics. The best part is it isn’t just impersonating them; it nails the mechanics perfectly. It honestly might feel more like Streets of Rage than the recent Streets of Rage 4 does.

Levels are multi-phased, with the player passing through a couple environments before reaching a boss, and levels are extremely varied. One early stage had me skateboarding across a bridge, fighting other guys on skateboards, and knocking yet more guys off of motorcycles. I had to pause to laugh when the stage started as it was so ridiculous but so perfect. I did occasionally find that the time limits placed on the levels were sometimes very harsh, and that I needed to rush to get through them in time. One level in particular forced me to brute force the boss rather than waiting through his pattern in order to clear the level. Fortunately multiple difficulties are available as the base difficulty is also very accurate to the classics. You have limited lives and continues, with no saves. While I appreciate the “get good” attitude, a slightly more modern friendly mode might have made for a nice addition. You can play the entire game with a friend, which helps a bit with difficulty, but it’s still no walk in the park.

Super Punch Patrol sports what I suppose I would call Horberg’s signature art style. Everything looks like a living sketchbook. It looked great in Gunman Clive, but Super Punch Patrol absolutely takes it to the next level. Every stage, character, and item is beautifully rendered, and the game looks fantastic in docked or handheld. The music and sound are likewise excellent. In particular, the death cries of enemies are heavily bit-crunched, making them sound just like something I’d expect to come out of my Sega Genesis.

Super Punch Patrol is very clearly a painstakingly accurate love letter to classic beat-’em-ups. What's fascinating is it manages to invoke this without the need for a throwback art style. It draws on its inspiration in gameplay rather than presentation, which is very refreshing. Of course the difficulty will scare some off, but fans of the genre will absolutely want to give Super Punch Patrol a shot. Grab a friend, and fight your way through these crime filled streets as you punch your way to justice.

"The Perfectly Subtle Remaster..."

It's not a remaster. It's literally just an N64 rom running in a Switch emulator. That's been confirmed in pre-release coverage. The emulator may be applying some filters to make it look nicer, but Nintendo didn't do **** when it came to remastering the game

... That's not how filters work. The manner of getting a game to run is less important than the final results. If we throw out anything that emulates old code I have horrible news about a lot of remasters.

TalkBack / The Perfectly Subtle Remaster of Super Mario 64 in 3D All-Stars
« on: September 16, 2020, 09:00:22 AM »

It may not be a full on remake, but Super Mario 3D All-Stars version of Mario 64 is hiding quite a few upgrades

TalkBack / Super Mario Bros. 35 Brings Battle Royal Action to Classic Mario
« on: September 03, 2020, 05:45:15 AM »

Player 35 has entered the game.

Super Mario Bros. 35 is coming to Switch as an exclusive for Nintendo Switch Online Subscribers. It is essentially a battle royal set in the original Super Mario Bros. Thirty-five players compete to be the last one standing. Defeating enemies will send them to the screens of your enemies. It will release on October 1, 2020 and according to the Direct it will be available to play until March 31, 2021.


We're down to like, Star Fox Zero, Xenoblade X, and Devil's Third.

The Wii U's well received 3D Mario title, Super Mario 3D World is coming to Nintendo Switch with brand new content. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury appears to include a new world of some sort not seen in the original game. The trailer showed Mario in a dark rainy environment but beyond that we didn't get much for details. The game will also support online co-op for the first time in series history. Finally, Nintendo also briefly mentioned in a press release that two new amiibo figures would be available on the same day as the game's release: Cat Mario and Cat Peach.

Super Mario 3D World + Bowsers Fury, along with the two new amiibo figures, is set to release on Nintendo Switch on February 12, 2021.

TalkBack / Ary and the Secret of Seasons (Switch) Review
« on: September 01, 2020, 05:22:12 AM »

A promising Zelda-like that struggles on Switch.

Ary and the Secret of Seasons is a game that promises a lot in its Zelda: Oracle-influenced season manipulation. On many platforms I suspect it is largely equipped to deliver on those concepts. Unfortunately, the Nintendo Switch struggles severely making its highs middling and its lows craterous.

Ary is the daughter of one of the four guardians of the seasons. When her brother goes missing and her father falls into grief, Ary must take up the torch of being a guardian herself. The world has fallen into chaos the seasonally locked areas of the land have had their seasons all mixed up. Desert beaches are covered in snow, and the mountains of Ary’s home bake under a hot sun. As the guardian of winter Ary can create spheres of winter around her. As she progresses she gains the ability to manipulate the other seasons as well. The story of Ary and the Secret of Seasons is told through excellently animated cutscenes and fun, self-aware dialogue. Likewise the soundtrack by Marcus Hedges is wonderful.

Gameplay follows a fairly straight forward 3D Zelda structure. Ary traverses the world which, while fairly open, is separated into multiple zones that load in separately. Along her travels she’ll encounter towns, sidequests, and dungeons. She’ll gain new abilities and can upgrade her combat strengths using gold she finds in hidden treasure chests throughout the world. The world is littered with enemies as well but as killing them doesn’t give you anything it's hard to justify fighting them rather than walking around them. Especially since walking around them is so easy thanks to the huge world map. Combat in general is a weak point as the parry system is extremely easy to exploit. There is no cooldown on the parry ability meaning that for the vast majority of enemies, you can simply stand around mashing the parry button until they attack and then get in a powerful attack while they’re stunned.

You’ll rarely hear me say this but the world of Ary and the Secret of Seasons is just too big. Whether exploring the overworld or in a dungeon, there is an incredible amount of empty space between points of interest. Normally I’d be in support of this as I feel it adds scale. Unfortunately there just isn’t much to do or find. Given the combat is largely optional with no real reward and sidequests focus mostly on running around within towns, exploration winds up feeling boring. It doesn’t help that the Switch version greatly reduces the draw distance on environments meaning you’re always just wandering through a fog with no real sense of place.

Ary’s season changing abilities are without a doubt Ary and the Secret of Season’s strongest quality. Each one affects not only the environment but enemies and friendly characters as well. For example early on you’ll use the winter ability to freeze a waterfall in order to gain entry to a dungeon. Inversely, the summer ability can melt ice and thaw lakes. Weirdly the spring ability can actually completely remove water. I’m not sure why but it makes for a very interesting water dungeon. These abilities are legitimately fun to use and are employed in a large variety of interesting puzzles and scenarios. Unfortunately they also highlight major performance issues in the Switch version.

When playing docked Ary and the Secret of Seasons is a consistently choppy experience. Get some season swapping going on and the whole game just falls to pieces. Whether that’s frame drops or the game just struggling to understand what season it's in, playing Ary and the Secret of Seasons on your TV is oftentimes infuriating. This is particularly true of most boss fights which can cause some very real frustration. But that is not to say it is impossible to play on Switch. When playing handheld Ary and the Secret of Seasons actually runs fairly well. There is still slowdown and some glitches remain, but it is playable. The only obvious change I see between the two modes is a drop in resolution which makes me wonder if changing the resolution of the docked mode might make a significant difference. Regardless of how you play you’ll still be dealing with glitches and some very long load times, but the difference is between a rough experience and an unplayable one.

Ary and the Secret of Seasons is a flawed game in any form, but the Switch version’s particular failings will likely push it over the edge for many. There is a fascinating and fun concept at its core that is executed well, however its surrounding elements just aren’t all there. The world isn’t fun to explore and large gaps of emptiness can be found throughout. Glitches and performance problems abound, especially when playing docked. All that being said, I can’t completely write it off in general. There are the bones of a fun and inventive game here. I had a blast playing an earlier demo on PC but the Switch just isn’t able to deliver that. While I can’t recommend the Switch version, this may still be worth checking out in some other form.

TalkBack / The Last Campfire (Switch) Review
« on: August 30, 2020, 11:29:00 AM »

Combat-free Zelda from the creators of No Man's Sky

When picturing what No Man’s Sky developer Hello Games might choose as their next title, I don’t think any of us could have pegged The Last Campfire: A compact, mesmerizing, and story-focused puzzle/adventure game that stands in stark contrast to their previous work. However, it is precisely The Last Campfire’s place as an unknown that immediately drew me in. And once I was in, it was bittersweet saying goodbye.

The Last Campfire tells the story of a lost ember in a strange place, just trying to find their way out. Ember, a name that seemingly refers both to the individual and their kind, will encounter “forlorn” along their way. These are other embers who have been overcome and lost their hope along the path out of this mysterious place. By making contact with them, Ember can hear their anxieties and help them work through a puzzle to bring back a literal spark of hope. Once revitalized, these embers can return to one of several campfires, which act as a sort of path leading the embers forward. Gameplay in general feels a bit like one giant Zelda dungeon. Each room presents new puzzles as you search for the forlorn embers and new campfires. A ghost is present at each campfire who will tell you how many forlorn remain in the area, as well as give you clues to finding them. All forlorn must be helped before you can proceed. In addition to the forlorn embers, you’ll also meet other inhabitants of this world. They can be helped as well and will aid Ember with items needed to solve puzzles.

Ember’s abilities are fairly limited, especially at first. They cannot jump and merely interact with items by pushing or picking things up. Eventually, Ember gains a horn that they can use to manipulate metal objects from afar. This ability is used to great effect for a variety of puzzle elements. For example, early puzzles will have you rolling cubes onto switches. Later, these cubes will need to be stacked by dropping them off of platforms. Further in, they’ll have a torch on one side that needs to be protected from the wind. Some are only solid on one side and will require careful consideration in order to get them right side up so they can be used as a bridge. There are many more elements than these cubes, and each is used in a startling variety of scenarios that seem to never repeat themselves in quite the same way. Every puzzle is something new and never overstays its welcome.

A narrator carries the entire story of the Last Campfire. Each character is voiced by her, in addition to every action and scene description. There is a storybook quality to the presentation that for the most part works excellently. I did notice towards the end of the game that the narrator would occasionally cut herself off during cutscenes. It was as if the timing allowed for the voiceover wasn’t quite right. The only other significant hiccup I encountered was a moment towards the very end where some characters and environments loaded up where they shouldn’t have been. It didn’t actually affect my gameplay at all but did cause some momentary confusion.

The music is wonderful and varied while never getting repetitive. It knows exactly when to hang back and when to come to the forefront. Each area seemed to have its own auditory theme as well, so I almost never heard the same piece twice. Visually, The Last Campfire holds up superbly on Switch. In handheld mode, it appears to run at the Switch’s native 720p resolution and looks perfect. The resolution is similar when docked and holds up well enough depending on your TV size. There are definitely some minor performance issues throughout; most of these are centered around interacting with the forlorn. When doing so, Ember transitions to an entirely new map and quickly loading in this new environment seems to cause some stutters. However at various points throughout the map I’d also encounter a brief pause, presumably tied to loading as well. As there is no combat nor strict timed events in The Last Campfire, neither of these were much of a problem in the grand scheme of things.

The Last Campfire carries with it heavy undertones of sadness and loneliness. The exact details of its world and characters, and even the nature of its ending, are somewhat left to player interpretation. Undeniably, however, there is a theme of dealing with depression and isolation. There is a common trait among the forlorn of becoming lost when they were alone, and just needing Ember to listen. The current real world conditions of pandemic, quarantine, and separation will no doubt cause these themes to land even harder. The Last Campfire’s themes of being willing not only to ask for help but to listen to those who have are incredibly important.  

I wanted to play The Last Campfire because I was curious what Hello Games could do with this type of game. What I found was a story I needed, and a game I didn’t want to put down. You’ll likely pull some of your own meaning out of The Last Campfire’s world and characters, but it is a meaning worth looking for. Beyond its narrative value is an excellently designed puzzle adventure that manipulates a few simple mechanics in an incredible variety of ways. The Switch version does have some performance issues and wasn’t without an odd glitch or two, but these were momentary setbacks in a wonderful journey. While the entirety of the Last Campfire only lasts around five hours, it is an adventure you’re unlikely to forget anytime soon.

TalkBack / Darkestville Castle (Switch) Review
« on: August 27, 2020, 06:24:23 AM »

Monkey Island without the monkeys... or the island.

Darkestville Castle is a point and click adventure inspired by Lucas Arts classics such as Monkey Island. And when I say inspired by, I mean that Darkestville feels like it could honestly be a lost Lucas Arts game. From its sense of humor and world design, right down to its inherent flaws, Darkestville knows what it is and doesn't shy away from it. But how does this ‘90s style game design hold up in 2020?

You play as a demon named Cid who lives in Darkestville, a rundown town full of humans who are very tired of your antics. Cid spends his days pranking the innocent villagers, as any good demon would. As a result, he finds himself prey to a band of demon hunters who mistakenly capture his pet fish instead of him. Your quest to save your fish spirals further and further out of control with each new scenario being more ridiculous than the last. The story is excellently told with each character being uniquely lovable in their own way. Working my way through expansive dialogue trees was not only nostalgic but legitimately entertaining.

Darkestville Castle is structured similarly to many point and clicks from the ‘90s. Cid will walk around the environment going to wherever you click. Individual objects can be interacted with and occasionally picked up and added to your inventory. Inventory items can then be used at other interaction points or combined together to form new items. Items are usually discarded when no longer useful, but that doesn't stop your inventory from getting pretty full on occasion. This is where Darkestville Castle's authenticity comes back to bite it. While the majority of the puzzles and their solutions make sense, you'll inevitably find yourself stuck trying every item on an interaction point for the more esoteric solutions. It doesn't crop up too often, but when it does it is just as frustrating now as it was three decades ago. The story is separated into multiple chapters with each changing the environment to a certain degree. Some chapters you'll simply have access to a new area and characters will be located in different places, while others will see you exploring an entirely new map. Each chapter's environments can be navigated quickly from an overworld map, which keeps backtracking woes to a minimum.

Darkestville Castle's interface is excellently adapted to Switch. It can be played either with traditional controls or the touch screen. When playing with a controller, your cursor will change when on an interaction point. When using the touch screen, a press of the d-pad will highlight all interaction points on screen. I wound up playing through most of the game with a drifting left Joycon so the touch screen implementation was greatly appreciated.

On an audio-visual front, Darkestville Castle mostly holds up well. All of the voice acting is appropriately cheesy with only a few characters being a little grating. The music is all solid and matches the tone of the story. Art on the other hand is a bit more hit and miss. Environments are excellent, but character designs are all over the place. Cid himself looks great, while other characters look like they were drawn in a hurry. There is no consistent style from character to character, which makes the world feel somewhat slapped together. That being said, there are more winners than losers when it comes to character design. Ultimately, the writing is usually enough to pull the weak characters through.

Darkestville Castle is a love letter to classic point and clicks in the purest sense possible. While it brings with it some of their flaws, it is absolutely dripping with charm. Some of the corners are a little rough when it comes to character design and world building, but the story had me brushing past these inconsistencies without a second thought, not to mention that the Switch port itself is excellently done. If you're craving something in the vein of Monkey Island on your Nintendo Switch, I can't think of anything better than Darkestville Castle. Just brace yourself for the occasional esoteric puzzle solution.

TalkBack / Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time (Switch) Review
« on: August 21, 2020, 07:00:00 AM »


Samurai Jack was a staple of my childhood. Originally premiering on Cartoon Network in 2001, it has since become one of the most celebrated animated children's shows of its time. Part of what made Samurai Jack such a lasting legend was its blend of masterful storytelling, often with little to no dialogue, relative child friendliness, and incredible art. The series would return years later, with a darker tone, aimed at the now adults who had grown up with it. Now, Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time seeks to revisit classic Samurai Jack locations, two decades after they were first seen, and potentially introduce the series to a new audience.

Jack has been sent to a strange interconnected world between time. Within it, old enemies return, as do familiar allies. Jack must fight his way through this twisted version of his adventures in order to get to Aku (his perpetual enemy). While most of the game is presented in 3D with full range of movement, segments occasionally play out in 2D as well. Friendly characters are scattered throughout each level to give you tips and items, with plenty of hidden areas and treasures to reward the curious. Each level ends with a boss fight, before grading you on your performance.

At its most basic level, Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time is a hack and slash. Three branching skill trees and a diverse loot system involving multiple weapon types build on that experience, but the core of the gameplay is simple. Y for a quick attack, X for a heavy attack, dodge with A, and parry with L. Plenty of additional complexity is piled on top, but unfortunately those core elements just aren't as fleshed out as they ought to be. Jack's movement is stiff, timing on parries is awkward, and it never feels like there's much of a difference between quick and heavy attacks. These issues can be adapted to over time and developing your skill tree can help to mitigate some issues, but Battle Through Time never feels as good as it should because these core mechanics are honestly a little rough. That being said, if you can look past these concerns, there is more to see.

The sheer number of options for upgrading Jack’s abilities, leveling up his skills with certain weapon types, and the myriad of weapons you can collect are all pretty incredible. While you'll always have your trusty sword and a remarkable ability to punch the crap out of robots with your bare hands, varied weapons, like spears, scyths, maces, bows, guns, and shurikens spice up your arsenal and each come with their own strengths and weaknesses. Each weapon type can also be leveled up individually and comes with its own skills in the skill tree.

While the gameplay is simple, it can be approached from a variety of angles. What surprised me most about it, however, is how challenging it can be. Early on enemies are remarkably easy and seem morally opposed to harming you in any way. But as soon as you reach the first boss fight, things begin to take a turn. A few levels in, I had gone from mindlessly pressing the Y button to having to carefully dodge and block every attack. The difficulty curve can be sharp at times, and it does cast a spotlight on the awkwardness of the base mechanics. It doesn't help that as things get more hectic, so too does the framerate. Large fights with lots of enemies tend to drag the framerate down significantly, making well-timed counters even more challenging.

Where Battle Through Time truly excels is in an area the original show aced as well: its art and animation. While not cell shaded, Jack’s expressions and movements line up excellently with his cartoon counterpart. Those who watched the show will know that Jack's most epic battles often ended with his close torn and his hair falling out of his top knot. The same happens here with Jack getting more and more disheveled as he takes damage. The attention to detail is wonderful. While some early environments can at times look a little drab, later ones truly shine with bright colors and high contrast. While many of the side characters are relegated to text boxes only, Jack and other key characters are all portrayed well, and Jack is just as I remember him.

While Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time could ultimately do with some more focus on its core elements rather than its extensive side system, there is enough here to be enjoyable. For fans of the series revisiting these classic locations and characters years later can help push through the rough spots. It may not win over any new converts, but longtime fans shouldn't have too much trouble looking past some faults purely for the joy of seeing Jack once again.

TalkBack / Six New Indie Games Just Shadowdropped on Switch
« on: August 18, 2020, 08:41:00 AM »

Better get downloading

Today's Indie World stream had no shortage of games releasing today. Here's a complete list to help you decide what to download and play right away.

Spiritfarer: A beautiful management sim about ferrying souls to the afterlife.

Takeshi and Hiroshi: Design a not too difficult RPG for your younger brother in this game within a game.

Raji: An Ancient Epic: an isometric action adventure game inspired by Indian tradition and history.

A Short Hike: An open-air 2D adventure game about a bird featuring sublime low poly art.

Manifold Garden: Literally the most confusing looking puzzle game I've ever looked at. Bring it on.

Evergate: A 2D puzzle platformer about a spirit navigating the afterlife.

Pages: 1 [2] 3 4