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If Found Review - Call Me By My Name

3 hours 30 min ago

A little empathy goes a long way. Especially when it comes to those we seek unconditional love and support from, it can mean the difference between spiralling into a black hole of depression and having the comfort to simply exist free of judgment. It's one of the many themes If Found so vividly represents in sketchbook-style visual novel form. Through expressive minimalist illustrations, ethereal sound design, sharp writing, and thematic coherence, the chaos and serenity of young adulthood jumps out of its pages for a story that's heartbreaking, heartwarming, and wholly affecting.

With a diary and eraser, we recollect and move past the memories of main character Kasio during a pivotal time in her life. It's December 1993 in County Mayo of Ireland, and having come back to her small hometown of Achill from Dublin for the holidays, she's kind of lost. With two higher-education degrees to her name and a lukewarm desire to pursue a Ph.D, she gets the "why don't you get a decent job and start a decent life" spiel from her mom--a conversation that some of us are all too familiar with. But underlying in this early exchange is a hint that a source of pain comes from her own mom seeing right past who Kasio really is.

Tension between Kasio and her mom can paint painful scenes.

In real life, not everyone has a place to go, a network to build off and help spring you into adulthood, or even a loving home to fall back on--such is Kasio's life. As you literally erase each scene on screen with your cursor to move through the day-by-day events, all of her introspections and interactions are laid bare. Erasure is a simple gameplay mechanic, making you peel layers upon layers of vivid memories, and one with powerful implications.

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Minecraft Dungeons Review - A Cuter Looter

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 23:11

Minecraft represented a massive paradigm shift in games, having served as a popular proto-example of both early access releases and unstructured, creation-based gameplay. More than a decade later, Minecraft Dungeons doesn't strive toward revolutionary, but it may just use the now-familiar trappings of its namesake to introduce a new generation of players to old-school tropes. The dungeon-crawler is a light, breezy introduction to the genre for newcomers and a friendly, low-impact callback for veterans.

Those experienced with games like Diablo or Torchlight already know the basic gist. You venture from a hub area into various environments, battle enemy hordes, occasionally fell some larger-than-life boss monster, and then spend time laying out and sorting through your new loot like a kid who just opened a pack of baseball cards. Rinse, repeat.

Within that framework there is some simplification in Minecraft Dungeons, which helps to make it more inviting. You only have six gear slots--melee, bow, armor, and three artifact-based abilities. You won't find specialized classes or complex skill trees here. Everything is tied to your gear, and the level-ups mostly matter in that they determine the quality of your loot drops.

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Maneater Review - See Food And Eat It

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 14:00

Toward the middle of my time with Maneater, my shark, now the size of a sedan and sporting glowing blue fins and whiskers to help it channel bioelectricity into the water around it, leaped out of a canal and onto the cobblestone dais filled with drunken revelers. As the folks enjoying the shoreline of Port Clovis screamed, my shark flopped after them, deterred by neither lack of limbs nor lack of oxygen as it chased down and chomped partier after partier unfortunate enough to think they could enjoy a gathering this close to Dead Horse Lake.

As I gained bloody vengeance against the residents of Port Clovis for their abuse of the marine ecosystem, actor Chris Parnell's voice-over narration filled in some interesting details about the horse monument my prehistoric killing machine was defiling. One year, he explained, a Port Clovis-born horse placed 20th at the Kentucky Derby, creating a new holiday since the local population, known for public drunkenness and petty crime sprees, was eager to celebrate.

Maneater provides a lot of these kinds of moments, mixing ridiculous ichthyological carnage and reality-show absurdity to create something hilarious. It's an uneven experience, due largely to technical glitches, frustrating marine predator combat, and repetitive missions. But the longer it goes on, the more fun Maneater becomes, and its presentation keeps it from getting stale.

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What The Golf Switch Review - Under Par (In A Good Way)

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 01:28

What the Golf, 2019's hilarious anti-golf golf game, is at its best on Switch. Everything that was good in the Apple Arcade and PC versions, which we reviewed last year, remains good here, but the additions and improvements that the Switch version brings make it the definitive What the Golf experience.

The game arrives on Nintendo's hybrid console with a new two-player "Party Mode" that wasn't included in the PC or Apple Arcade releases. This mode, which sees you and another player each picking up a Joy-Con and facing off in a series of competitive levels, is an absolute hoot. Both players are made to compete across 11 random levels, each based on levels from the campaign, to see who can get to the hole first. There's a great diversity across Party Mode's levels, with some levels feeling more like puzzles, some purely based on skill, and others that could only work in multiplayer, like when you're both controlling separate items that are tethered to each other or trying to goad the other into tipping over a tower of boxes that the pin is sitting atop. There are lots of levels here, and I still saw new ones pop up after playing for several hours.

In keeping with What the Golf's style, very few of Party Mode's levels really feel like golf, which is part of the fun. After you've played through 11 stages, you and your opponent compete in one final competitive arena-based game, and the number of lives each of you has depends on how well you did in previous rounds. There are only three types of final competition, but they're all fun, particularly the combat-based game where you fling around in an office chair, trying to pick up and fire explosive beach balls at your opponent. Your victory depends on how you perform in this final game, and how many lives you have--if you won seven of the previous rounds, you can take up to six hits in the final competition, whereas your opponent can only survive three. A full round of games in Party Mode rarely takes more than 10 minutes, and you only ever need the analog stick and the A button. These are less mini-games, more micro-games, often lasting just a few wild, hilarious seconds.

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Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA MegaMix Review - One More Time

Thu, 05/14/2020 - 14:00

The phenomenon around Vocaloid-based music and the anime-inspired mascots that personify these synthetic voices is one that brings tremendous joy to many. It's not just because our beloved blue-haired virtual pop idol has been the face for a subsection of Japanese music that we hold so dear--through the Project DIVA rhythm games, Miku has represented our way of personally connecting with hundreds of songs composed by a number of incredibly talented artists. With Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA MegaMix, we have yet another great collection of genre-defying tunes and all-new bangers that bring the series to Nintendo Switch in familiar, but terrific form.

MegaMix's rhythm gameplay system follows that of previous Project DIVA games; note patterns fly in from off-screen to form a continuous string of button prompts that sync to the beat of each song. When you choose to ramp up the difficulty, the face buttons or directional inputs (or any combination thereof) and shoulder button prompts begin to layer over one another at a rapid pace and challenge you to keep up. And it's a gratifying thrill when you've mastered your favorite songs, as if you're playing some role in the performance of the song itself, especially at Hard or Extreme difficulty when the button patterns begin to accentuate every intricate part of the instrumentation.

"COOL" doesn't even begin to describe the feeling you get from a 340-note combo on Extreme difficulty.

The Switch's portable nature makes it convenient to satisfy the impulse to crank out a few songs or get lost in hours of music, much like the desire to jam out for a while on an instrument you play. It's been quite some time since the PS Vita entries and the heavily modified 3DS versions, so the return to handheld form is a welcome one. Thankfully in MegaMix, you can swap out the Switch's letter-designated face button prompts to instead show up as either the appropriate directional arrows or as PlayStation's face button symbols (which is absolutely necessary since rapidly processing Nintendo's lettered-button prompts can throw you for a loop). Getting the timing right to rack up your score and the highest possible combo is nonetheless fulfilling as a long-time fan even though it very much shares the DNA of the ones I've poured hours into on Sony platforms. It's a tried-and-true foundation, but it's no less joyous here in MegaMix.

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The Wonderful 101 Remastered Review - Mob Mentality

Wed, 05/13/2020 - 16:00

The Wonderful 101 is the latest in a long line of Wii U games to get a second chance at life on the Nintendo Switch. Platinum’s wacky Sentai superhero story was a true-blue made-for-Wii U experience: Using a combination of traditional buttons and hand-drawn symbols, you corral and control a mob of up to 100 characters who fight through beat-'em-up arenas, navigating reaction-based puzzle-platforming challenges and a litany of setpiece minigames. But something feels off about The Wonderful 101 Remastered. The seeds of Platinum’s best games are there--the snappy dodging and parrying, the clever writing and design, the demand that you hone the craft of controlling your characters--but it’s hard to appreciate them in a game that demands mastery over its complex mechanics without taking the time to properly explain how they work. Combined with new technical issues, The Wonderful 101 Remastered doesn’t just fail to make the generational jump, it forces us to question whether it warranted a second look.

The Wonderful 101 tells the story of Earth’s costumed global defense force, the Wonderful 100, who fight off an alien invasion. It’s a light, peppy romp across secret labs and cities under siege by aliens. Though there are 100 members, the narrative focuses on a few core, color-coded characters--trope-borne personas who exchange quips through their adventures.

Though the deeply campy storytelling creates some amusing moments, the story indulges a little too much in Sentai’s penchant for stretching out dramatic moments with sudden but ultimately inconsequential plot twists. Many a boss fight ends with you defeating your opponent and declaring victory, only for them to get up so you can beat them two or three more times. The jokes, good and bad, always overstay their welcome.

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Legends Of Runeterra Review - Much Ado About Nautilus

Mon, 05/11/2020 - 20:44

Runeterra is the world of League of Legends, Riot’s MOBA that has arguably experienced a Golden Age of esports in the past few years. The MOBA has undergone various lore overhauls, but centralized all of its bits and pieces in 2016 to come up with a vision for Runeterra and its competing factions, as well as the backstories of the game’s champions. The latest step in fleshing out this world is Legends of Runeterra, Riot Games’ flagship contribution to the current online card game market--with DNA that’s a highly entertaining splice job between streamlined design sensibilities and touches that harken back to the original card game great, Magic: The Gathering.

The realm of Runeterra feels fully realized here, and part of that is how the game revolves around the various in-universe factions that are currently playable: Piltover & Zaun, Bilgewater, Demacia, Freljord, Ionia, Noxus, and the Shadow Isles. You’re not playing for rounds of ale at a tavern; this feels like a conflict of a uniquely larger scale because of the game’s insistence on you not embodying a hero but instead commanding them.

Each faction has these heroes, though they’re called champions. They’re souped-up cards representative of characters from League of Legends who are somewhere between Legendaries in Hearthstone and Planeswalkers in Magic: The Gathering--game-changing because they’re stronger than your average unit, but not game-breaking. The factions have their own unique playstyles that span the whole spectrum from aggro to control, spell-heavy to flood-dependent, and more. The champions themselves all buy into each faction’s playstyle fantasy, with flashy animations that depict their unique personalities and strengths.

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Predator: Hunting Grounds Review - Muddied Up

Fri, 05/08/2020 - 23:35

Predator, the 1987 film, is defined by its cheesy dialogue, testosterone-filled cast, and tense cat-and-mouse action between its platoon of soldiers and a crafty alien hunter. Predator: Hunting Grounds seems to, at first, hit all of those notes. There are cringe-worthy one-liners that are initially worth a chuckle, a host of customization options to make your gun-toting hero as ridiculous as you like, and streamlined gameplay that lets you play both sides of the hunt with ease. The problem isn't with the initial impression Hunting Grounds makes, but rather how quickly it loses its appeal.

Predator: Hunting Grounds is an asymmetrical multiplayer game, pitting a team of four human soldiers against a single roaming Predator across three almost indistinguishable maps set in dense jungle environments. When you're playing as part of the human fireteam, you have a string of objectives to complete before a timer expires, shuffling you from one AI enemy-filled camp to another. When you're the Predator, your objective is even simpler: Hunt down the fireteam and take them all out before they're able to complete their mission and extract, while avoiding confrontation with AI enemies and using the chaos they create to your advantage.

Playing as the titular Predator is the most appealing part, and while its mechanics often allow for smooth, fun, and engaging moments, Hunting Grounds' framework doesn't adequately support them. The brutish assassin is as fast and nimble as you'd expect, with an easy-to-use parkour system letting you effortlessly navigate the twisting mazes that the canopy of trees create. A single button press sends you scampering up a tree, after which you can automatically move between branches and adjacent trees by moving in any direction. It lets you focus on hunting your prey instead of having to focus on intricate navigation, while also making you feel empowered through the sheer speed at which you're able to traverse the map. The press and release mechanic for the Predator's leap is less elegant, however, and tricky to use when you really need to get some distance between you and your enemies.

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Cloudpunk Review - Time To Fly

Thu, 05/07/2020 - 22:56

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe," begins Roy Batty's dying monologue in Blade Runner. In the nearly 40 years since Ridley Scott's film established a visual aesthetic for what would become known as cyberpunk, we've seen these things many times now. Cloudpunk is a complex and uneven narrative-heavy adventure game that trades heavily in cyberpunk cliche. Familiar tropes are rejuvenated with mostly smart writing and consistently striking art direction, but there are also opportunities missed thanks to undernourished, by-the-numbers design.

Nivalis is the last city, or at least that's what people say. Towering neon spires thrust out of the climate-ravaged ocean and, eventually, emerge through the clouds; at the top live the privileged few, the self-dubbed CEOs secluded in their stratified penthouses, while underneath everybody else ekes out a living in the dense urban sprawl where every city block has a noodle stand, night is permanent and it's almost always raining. You've seen it all before, of course, yet this well-worn set dressing is rendered in such singular fashion it remains striking throughout.

Simply put, Cloudpunk is a stunningly gorgeous game. Nivalis is constructed out of voxels, big chunky bricks of solid colour that give the urban landscape the feel of an enormous, elaborate Lego diorama. Terrific use is made of contrast and lighting. Skyscrapers almost recede into negative space, their facades composed of hundreds of tiny boxes of light, alternating in lurid pinks, yellows and blues. When you're flying through the city in your hover car, each turn delivers a spectacular view, each ascension over a row of high-rises greeted with a dazzling neon-drenched vista. To be honest, this review took longer than it should have because I had to pause every few seconds to snap off another screenshot.

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Streets Of Rage 4 Review - The Beat-'Em-Up Boys Are Back In Town

Tue, 05/05/2020 - 01:23

Everybody has a favorite old game series that they'd like to see make a comeback, but modernizing a long-dormant franchise requires a deft touch. Not only do you have to please the old fans--who see their longtime favorites through rose-tinted nostalgia goggles--but you also have to find a way to make the game appealing to a newer audience. Fortunately for longtime Sega and beat-'em-up fans, Streets of Rage 4 adeptly walks the tightrope of classic and modern appeal while busting some heads in the process.

Taking place a decade after the third game (which released 26 years ago), Streets of Rage 4 reunites Axel and Blaze to unmask an evil plot devised by the children of series uber-antagonist Mr. X. Joining them are two new fighters: Cherry, a hard-rockin' young woman with deft moves and (literal) killer guitar riffs, and Floyd, a cybernetically-enhanced hulk who might not have speed or high jumps, but definitely has a myriad of ways to get his giant metal fists up in somebody's business. As the story unfolds, you meet characters old and new, sometimes in surprising places... but don't expect much from the plot, as it exists simply to take you to new and exciting locales where you pound a rogue's gallery of enemies into the pavement.

And there is a good amount of pavement-pounding to be had. The 12 stages in Streets of Rage 4 offer a lot of variety in scenery, obstacles, and enemies. While the clean, sharp lines of the new art are very different from the low-res, gritty pixel look fans have come to love, the HD hand-drawn characters and backgrounds look spectacular, and are packed with fun details and little Easter eggs that'll take you by surprise. The stages are fairly typical beat-'em-up settings--a dive bar, some sewers, back alleys, Chinatown--but the animations of crowds, steam, critters, and machines make these archetypal stages feel fresh and exciting. Equally excellent is the soundtrack, a techno/dance-inspired collection of hot beats from Eastern and Western game music composers, including veteran Streets of Rage alumni Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima.

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Rainbow Six Siege Review (2020) - Smooth Operator

Mon, 05/04/2020 - 16:00

In Rainbow Six Siege, small tactical choices always lead to big consequences. Every round is a new lesson in what you could have done better, with your mistakes acting as a stern teacher. Taking these lessons to heart and adjusting your team's strategy accordingly keeps each match feeling fresh and exciting, and a drip-feed of new operators, loadouts, and abilities constantly introduces new considerations. The thrill of seeing your plan succeed--whether that's a collection of traps that stops the enemy in their tracks, a well-placed breaching hole that sets the stage for an ambush, or two operators' abilities working together to pull the rug out from the opposing team--is what makes Siege not only a compelling shooter but one of the best examples of teamwork, tactics, and crack shooting out there.

Despite its evolution over the past four years, Rainbow Six Siege has always been a battle between attackers and defenders over a single objective. There are five operators per team, each with their own special gadgets that can be used to slow the attackers' assault or poke holes in the defenders' fortifications. Every round, attackers need to move in on a specific objective; depending on the mode, they'll need to sneak in and extract a hostage, create a pathway to secure a specific room, or strategize carefully to defuse a bomb. Bomb is the quintessential Siege mode, as it makes every operator feel viable and balanced. Pushing the objective, finding an opening to plant the defuser, and then protecting said defuser gives the attacking side a steep, rewarding climb to victory, and it's the defenders' job to knock them down and keep them from reaching that summit.

Playing video games with friends is usually more fun than playing alone, and the benefits of communicating and working together make Siege a more enjoyable experience when playing with people you know. Thankfully, solo-queuing isn't an entirely lost cause, as it's not uncommon to find like-minded players interested in coordinating as a team, but you will inevitably come across players more interested in taking the objective on their own. Siege incentivizes teamwork, and when a group of players executes a coordinated assault on the garage in House or top floor of Kanal, it results in some of the most exciting moments you can experience in a team-based first-person shooter.

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Fallout 76: Wastelanders Review - A Disappointing Return

Wed, 04/29/2020 - 20:19

Since its launch in late 2018, Fallout 76 has lacked one element crucial to the series’ identity. The series' best moments predominantly involved stories of its survivors, the poor souls unfortunate enough to have been exposed to nuclear war and the horrors of its fallout. Fallout 76's latest free expansion, Wastelanders, attempts to inject some of that humanity into the game by introducing human NPCs and their stories to the auburn hills of Appalachia, while also expanding upon available role-playing options. Taken as a separate part, Wastelanders represents some of the best Fallout content since New Vegas, but Fallout 76's flawed structure and mechanics prevent it from shining.

It's been more than a year since I played Fallout 76, and it's likely that I'm not the only one returning from a prolonged absence now that Wastelanders has launched. This made me decide to start a new character in a bid to see just how much Fallout 76 has changed since then. Wastelanders' changes are apparent from the start. After the tutorial, you emerge from Vault 76 to something new: Two human travelers, marking the prominent return of human life to West Virginia wasteland, greet you at the entrance to the vault. They mention a treasure rumored to be buried in the hills of Appalachia, which quickly leads you to a newly established bar under the management of Duchess and her party of ragtag brains and brawn. This alternative start to Fallout 76 is more gripping than the previous audio logs that initially introduced you to its world and serves to illustrate how Wastelanders' content affects the rest of the game.

Initial tutorial quests take you through the broad strokes of Fallout 76's survival elements and base-building, interspersed with contextual dialogue for each action delivered by a character you can actually interact with. The disembodied audio logs and impersonal robots of the original tutorial are still there if you choose a different route, but running through the same lessons while advancing a more captivating story in Wastelanders make Fallout 76's opening hours more akin to a traditional Fallout adventure. It can be easy for brand-new players to miss this pair of human NPCs entirely, but for returning players their mere existence will quickly draw you to their new introduction.

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Sakura Wars Review - All The World's A Stage

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 01:54

Sakura Wars is perhaps the most anime game that I've ever played. There are plenty of games out there based on popular anime, yes, but when it comes to feeling like you're an active part of an ongoing, episodic adventure filled with quirky characters, dramatic action, and satisfying melodrama, Sakura Wars has everything else beat. Its structure, charming cast, and whirlwind story help set it apart from other colorful anime-inspired adventures, and, much like the characters whose stories it tells, it manages to overcome many of its flaws to become a satisfying experience in the end.

For the uninitiated, the entire concept of Sakura Wars is rather offbeat. This particular game is a semi-reboot of a long-running Japanese game series of the same name, set in an alternate 1940s Japan where steam technology quickly surpassed electricity and history took a very different path. The world's nations, rather than fighting each other in World Wars, took arms against demonic invaders with armies of steam-powered fighting robots called Spiricle Strikers. Oh yes, and these armies also operate semi-covertly as theatre troupes whose members consisted mostly of young women.

It's a lot to take in, and it's compounded by the fact that only one other Sakura Wars game has made the voyage Westward, though some related media (like anime and manga adaptations) have seen release here. Still, if you're coming in totally blind to the Sakura Wars concept and mythos, you might find yourself rather confused, particularly when references to previous titles crop up.

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Gears Tactics Review - One Step At A Time

Mon, 04/27/2020 - 14:00

Gears of War, as a series, has always required tactical planning. Understanding how to read a battlefield to find ideal cover and a path to outflanking your opponent is just as essential as your trusty Lancer assault rifle. Still, it's surprising just how well the series translates to a turn-based strategy RPG. Gears Tactics captures the chaotic, gory roller coaster energy generated by the shooters, even as your focus turns from playing a cog to maintaining the machine.

Technically, Tactics is a prequel, as it takes place before the events of the original series, but it really feels like a throwaway story from the expanded canon. Though connections to the overarching Gears saga, particularly Gears 5, abound--your unit is led by Gabe Diaz, Kait's dad--Gears Tactics' story is simple and mostly detached from the larger franchise.

So while the plot takes a back seat, Gears Tactics cleverly twists the formula of the modern strategy RPG, creating scenarios that fit the Gears mold. All the XCOM-inspired mechanics are there: action points that can be used to move or attack, half- and full-cover, defensive "overwatch" positioning. If you've ever so much as thought the word "tactics game," the flow will feel comfortable.

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XCOM: Chimera Squad Review - Hybrid Theory

Sat, 04/25/2020 - 00:51

Combat rarely lasts longer than a handful of rounds in the newest XCOM. In each encounter, XCOM: Chimera Squad kicks in the door, dives headfirst into an intense firefight, then walks out through a pile of bodies a minute or two later, dusting themselves down, a little scarred perhaps but eager to do it all again in the very next mission. XCOM’s turn-based tactical combat now comes in condensed form, relieved of extraneous matter, and for the most part all the better for it.

Assuming the human resistance triumphed in XCOM 2, the eponymous Chimera Squad is a special task force composed of human and alien soldiers that also serves as a symbol of a newfound cooperation between species. Dissidents remain, however, and so when the mayor of City 31 is killed in a terrorist attack, it's up to the Squad to track down those responsible. The stakes feel a lot lower than the global emergencies gripping previous XCOMs, yet the smaller scale of the situation dovetails perfectly with the tight-knit group of characters under your control and intimacy of the tactical maps on which they’re deployed. There’s a focus and clarity of purpose here that stands in sharp relief to the sprawling saga of a typical XCOM campaign.

Indeed, Chimera Squad feels like it spins the Geoscape and puts just one city under the microscope. Nine districts comprise the strategic map, each day highlighting a few of them with new missions to undertake--some advancing the story, others providing valuable resources and gear. Ignoring one mission in favour of another will raise the level of unrest in the neglected district and contribute to a citywide measure of anarchy that spells game over if it tops out. Despite the lower stakes, there’s still an urgency to your mission, especially as the doomsday clock of city anarchy ticks closer to midnight. And the strategic layer does a decent job of forcing decisions over which missions and districts you need to prioritise, even if it’s mostly a dry game of resource allocation that fails to evoke any kind of emotional response to the lives sacrificed along the way.

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Trials Of Mana Review - Mana Enough

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 16:00

Trials of Mana is not a bold reinvention. While it has been given a graphical overhaul and added systems that help flesh out and modernize the combat systems, this remake of a once-obscure RPG is very much rooted in its own history. And by some combination of that history and the modern enhancements, it has a bundle of great ideas that are often hampered by others that are obtuse or confusing.

From the start, Trials of Mana distinguishes itself from other traditional Japanese RPGs by presenting a pool of heroes. The very first thing you do is select three of the six characters to be your party--a swordsman, thief, healer, berserker, offensive magic user, and support/ranged magic user are available--and that decision will last throughout the game. You can swap between any of the characters in the heat of battle, while the other two will manage on their own with some simple preset behaviors, but your primary character is treated as the game's protagonist during major story moments.

It's an inventive idea that adds a layer of personalization and a criss-crossing narrative. The stakes of the overall story remain the same, but by presenting you with a selection of six different prologues, you get to see the various motivations that led your custom-built party to be thrown into this grand adventure. The other characters that you left unchosen appear in brief cameos, and it's implied that their own quest is still happening just off-camera as they go it alone.

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Treachery In Beatdown City Review - A Solid Punchline

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 01:29

Treachery in Beatdown City takes on the style of an over-the-top late-'80s beat-'em-up that you might spot at an arcade, but from the second you start playing you can tell it’s doing much more than just emulating the past. Playing with the standard style of brawler games by utilizing smart humor and classic tactics mechanics, it creates an exciting amalgamation of genres that makes almost every punch fun.

The game opens up with an alternate universe action-movie trailer explaining that the president, Blake Orama, just got kidnapped by ninja dragon terrorists. Everyone is scrambling. The corrupt billionaire mayor of the city doesn’t step up and the police can’t handle it, so the chief calls on the only people he knows can stop this madness: you and your fighting friends! You’re able to rotate between three street fighters, each with their own styles and witty banter. There’s Lisa Santiago, a boxer; Bruce Maxwell, a capoeira fighter; and Brad Steele, an ex-wrestler. They’re all introduced with gorgeous art and theme music showcasing them in awesome fighting stances.

All of the fighters have their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to punching, kicking, and grappling. Before each duel you need to gauge the enemy type to make sure it’s a good matchup. The enemies have support, grappler, striker types as well, and these foes range from gentrifiers, racists and rude tech bros to cops and a biker gang. You have to think about your interactions with them, even in the early levels, because a mismatched fighter might just lose you an otherwise easy fight.

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In Other Waters Review - The Life Aquatic

Mon, 04/13/2020 - 21:23

Beyond the reef, the shelf drops away into the turquoise haze of the open ocean. I find myself surrounded by golden-peaked pillars aglow with the shimmering petals of sunlit life. Bright green webs of twisted tendrils extend from pillar to pillar, forming a writhing network of bridges for the feathery, fern-like creatures who patrol and maintain them. It's a spectacular, awe-inspiring scene. Yet it exists mostly in my imagination, its wonder shaped by a handful of single-sentence descriptions and a simple two-colour contour map. In Other Waters does so much with seemingly so little, emerging as a masterclass in prudent, minimalist storytelling.

Dr. Ellery Vas is a xenobiologist following in the wake of her partner who disappeared while researching extraterrestrial life on the ocean planet Gliese 667Cc. Stationed at her partner's abandoned lab and equipped with an AI-controlled diving suit, Vas explores the depths in search of answers. In a disarming inversion of the typical human-AI relationship, you play the AI; Vas sets the objectives, often conferring with you, but it's your job to plot her course, gather samples, and run tests back in the lab.

The setup allows Vas room to breathe as a character. As you guide her maritime expedition, she provides intermittent narration. She pauses to marvel at new sights, thinks out loud as she works through possible theories, and occasionally confides in you her doubts and fears. Conversation may be sparse, and your ability to respond is limited to the odd yes or no answer, yet it's perhaps all the more affecting because of it. The two of you are strangers at the outset, but Vas' wariness at revealing her innermost thoughts to an AI gradually washes away as she realises, despite your reticence, that you understand her predicament--in the process unearthing a memorably multi-layered character. It's a friendship forged in aquatic isolation, one quiet line at a time.

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Bleeding Edge Review - Teamfight Free-For-All

Thu, 04/09/2020 - 22:28

There's no easing into making a competitive game in 2020. Already inundated with games like Overwatch, Rainbow Six Siege, the battle royales, the MOBAs, and the auto chesses, players have plenty of choices, so if you want to present an alternative, it had better be ready for prime time. Bleeding Edge, the new third-person competitive brawler from DmC developer Ninja Theory, doesn't feel like it's there yet. There's plenty of potential: Its four-on-four scrums blend the mashy feeling of an old school beat-em-up with the tactical considerations of MOBAs and hero shooters, setting it apart from anything you're going to find in popular competitive scenes. However, it suffers from "early days" growing pains that may push players away, rather than draw them in.

Bleeding Edge is a self-described competitive multiplayer "brawler," but what does that actually mean? Depending on your point of reference, you could call it a "boots on the ground-style MOBA" or a "third-person hero shooter." It's an action game where two teams of four fight within the narrative framework of competing in one of two team sports--a King of the Hill-style "Objective Control" scenario and "Power Collection," a resource-hoarding mode where players need to break energy canisters and return their contents to designated points at specific times. Though the two variants have their quirks, both boil down to dynamic point control. Whether you're delivering energy or protecting your "hills," you need to defend a position. If you're trying to block your enemy from scoring in either mode, you need to take a position.

Both of these things require all four players to work as a team. Though some fighters are better suited for one-on-one combat than others, moving and fighting as a squad is mandatory because the team with larger numbers almost always wins, regardless of skill. Inevitably, each match becomes a series of teamfights for control of an area. In the moment, these battles can feel a bit mashy and sloppy as you rapidly jam on the attack button, but there's a good deal of strategy involved around creating favorable matchups, combining skills to maximize damage dealt and minimize damage taken, and positioning yourself to avoid wide-reaching crowd control attacks. On top of that, all of the levels present some kind of environmental hazard around one or more of the key points on the map, which can throw a wrench in the gears of the most pivotal moments in a match.

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Categories: Games

Final Fantasy 7 Remake Review - Count On Cloud

Mon, 04/06/2020 - 11:00

In the opening of Final Fantasy VII, Cloud Strife, a mercenary and former member of an elite private military group called SOLDIER, takes on a job with an eco-terrorist cell named Avalanche. Their mission is to blow up a reactor that siphons Mako, the lifeblood of the planet, and uses it to power the sprawling industrial metropolis Midgar. The group infiltrates, braves resistance from Shinra Electric Company's forces, and sets off an explosion that renders the reactor inoperable.

In the 1997 original, what followed was a hop, skip, and jump through a few sections of the city back to Sector 7, and the safety of Avalanche's hideout. In Final Fantasy VII Remake, having carried out the mission, you're asked to walk the streets in the aftermath and witness the harrowing consequences of your actions. The sector lies in ruin, fires rage, buildings are crumbling, and the heartbreaking human cost is laid bare.

A somber violin plays as you walk Midgar's streets, with each pull of the bow across strings tugging at your conscience and stirring the heart, asking you to question whether you're doing the right thing. The cries of confused children echo, people fall to their knees attempting to grapple with the magnitude of what has happened, and citizens decry this so-called group of freedom fighters you've joined just to make a quick buck.

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Categories: Games

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