Hollow Knight (Nintendo Switch) | Review


Posted on October 8, 2018 by Meghan Kass

Version Played: Nintendo Switch

Ever since Hollow Knight had come out on the PC last year by developer Team Cherry, I had heard rave reviews about it. I heard about it fondly from friends and fellow reviewers alike and since I am not as much a PC gamer, it made me immensely happy to see there were plans to bring it to my favorite console, the Switch. Now with the game out on Nintendo Switch it is time to take a look at Hollow Kniogt as I am a huge fan of dark, Gothic aesthetic and I also enjoy very much enjoy Metroidvania style games.

For the uninitiated, Metroidvania style games are a sub genre of action adventure games that combine mechanics of both Metroid and Castlevania games. Some key features are large maps to explore that have some parts blocked by obstacles that need to be overcome usually through the process of obtaining special items or skills. They are typically sidescrolling platformers with very careful attention to character and level design.  Story, level design and character progression need to be tightly woven together to successfully pull off a Metroidvania game – for a classic example of this done right think Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.  An engaging metroidvania needs to encourage exploration and experimentation to get the player immersed in the world and characters. With all of this in mind, Hollow Knight had a lot to pack in such a small package of sidescrolling platforming, map exploration, upgrades and engaging lore. I was certainly hoping the game could live up to the hype surrounding it.

The first immediate thing I noticed with Hollow Knight is the atmosphere and aesthetic.  Now, This may be the horror fan in me desensitized to a lot of horrific imagery, but I found the atmosphere to be almost whimsical along with Gothic. Yes, there are skulls, spikes, insects and a dark, bleak color palate, but there is also a charming fairy tale like feeling to the game – bold hand drawn animation combined with post-processing effects and smart lighting lighting choices gives the world of Hallow Nest an otherworldly feel . The Knight as a character, as well as others, are certainly designed in a very cute illustrative way and this helps with the fairy tale feeling.

The plot also inspires thoughts of old fairy tales as well. The story of a Knight fighting against the evil deity like creature ruling as Queen of the bug-kind and meeting all sorts of monster and friend alike along the way. Much like Bandai Namco’s Dark Souls series – the large calamity has already occurred. Rather than being “the chosen one” or an anointed savior, The Knight is learning about the environment and picking up the pieces alongside the player. Even with that said there are great battles, deception and a hero’s inner conflict as well for good measure to be found within. All of this combined makes everything very dream like, surreal, and it all just won me over and showed me why so many others have fell in love with Hallow Knight.

As with many Metroidvania games, this game has many difficulty spikes to be found within the exploitable caverns, lush forests and other environments. I am not usually turned off by games that are designed to be challenging – but there were times with my time with Hallow Knight that I had wished there was a few changes to make the game easier. I understand many people were satisfied with the games difficulty level, but other difficulty modes might have been welcome and something for Team Cherry to maybe consider when creating future games. Hallow Knight doesn’t provide a lot of modern quality of life mechanics that have become common place – things like completely visible maps and even way-markers that lead the way are present when the Knight begins their journey. Potential players will need to pay attention to areas of the map that are impassable as they likely will become paths to new areas with just a single upgrade.

Overall, Hollow Knight is a very pleasant game that provides an old school challenge and some very challenging optional content for those looking for a real trial. Its a great addition to the Switch and great to curl up in bed with on a dark and stormy night. If you desire another challenging side-scrolling Metroidvania game with a beautiful Gothic aesthetic and enchanting story / setting, this is definitely a title to pick up, especially for the Switch. Get yourself immersed in this beautiful world that was so carefully designed with intricate detail and nuance. The developers clearly are passionate about their project and made something very special in a genre that has nearly saturated the market with both good and bad games. This game is anything but hollow and deserves the attention it gets.

 


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Detroit: Become Human | Review


Posted on July 9, 2018 by Meghan Kass

David Cage is a name that doesn’t sit will with many Players, especially after allegations of a toxic work environment and workplace harassment that has occurred at Quantic Dream. To say his games are for a particular niche is an understatement. Critics have not panned his games, in fact many have praised them for their rich story and environment, but the average consumer might go as far as to say his games barely qualify as games. I was recently asked how to sell someone on a David Cage game, and my answer was simple:

“Have you ever watched a movie and wish you could do something different? Have you ever thought if you were in a particular scenario you could make better choices than the characters? Then a David Cage game could be worth a try”

Detroit: Become Human is definitely a David Cage game. The gameplay doesn’t differ much other Cage games. You go through a story, make your choices that will affect the story and characters and perform in quicktime events at pee-determined times.

I found navigating within Detroit’s world be a little cumbersome. There are some issues controlling the character and getting them to move in the exact direction I wanted to and I found they moved a little slow for my taste. The quick time events were standard for a Cage game. For the most part they worked for the story, felt fluid and didn’t ruin the immersion – in fact, some QTEs fit in really well with android perspective technology.

The real star of the show is the story and characters and is the probable reason anyone is going to play a David Cage game. Detroit: Become Human takes a stab at the age old sci-fi story of robots gaining sentience.As many have pointed out post-release, Detroit: Become Human‘s are an analogy for real world racism – right down to the game’s sentient machines being placed at the back of a train and being forced to stand, no sitting for robots in the world. Oh, and apparently the world of Detroit Become Human is one where racism doesn’t exist because machines have gained sentience.

The main story is that of androids beginning to gain self awareness and humanity. Now androids want the same rights as every other person and the player follows three particular characters and what they will do to make a better life for themselves and even others around them who are suffering as well and how the world reacts to such a change and events that occur.

Your first playable character and storyline is “Connor, the android sent from Cyberlife”. He is an android cop who’s one goal is to finish his investigation into an outbreak of rogue androids and murders caused by them.Partnered with the salty cop Hank Anderson, you can choose how to approach the investigation, if you let perpetrators go, if you build a relationship with Hank and what you will do about the rogue androids and your own inner conflict. I found his story offers some wonderful character moments, fun action sequences and interesting choices that drastically change the outcome of his story-line

The second you meet is Kara, an android purchased by a questionable man who is meant to be a maid for the house and child care taker of sorts to his neglected daughter. Kara simply wants to get the little girl to safety and to start a new life free of what is essentially slavery. I very much enjoyed Kara’s heartwarming love for the girl Alice and their journey was genuinely interesting with some moments I definitely did not predict, one involving a robot bear. If you’ve paid attention to Quantic Dream’s PlayStation tech demos over the years you might remember the 2012 “Kara” tech demo which asked a lot of interesting questions about what it would mean for machines to gain sentience. That 2012 demo formed as the inspiration for Detroit: Become Human but it is hard to say that it laid the foundation for the game.

Overall, Detroit: Become Human plays like a choose your own adventure Sci-Fi TV season with some gameplay elements throughout. If you are in the mood for somewhat cliche sci fi story with decent world building, interesting and enjoyable characters and aren’t turned off by David Cage games, definitely give it a try; if you aren’t a fan of his games though, this most likely won’t change your mind about them.

For further reading on the on-going issues with Quantic Dream as a developer and the problematic content found within Detroit: Become Human the following articles are recommended:

The Profound Quandary of Blackness In Detroit: Become Human [Via The Root]
Quantic Dream Accused of Being A Toxic Workplace [Via Kotaku]

Sony Computer Entertainment Canada provided a review copy to BrokenJoysticks for our consideration.


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Monster Prom (PC) | Review


Posted on June 19, 2018 by Meghan Kass

Ah, prom; its a time for excitement, a time for bonding with your fellow classmates and a time for anxiety. This can be especially true if you happen to be a monster! What is a monster to do about finding a date for the big event? Well, that is where you, the player, come in. Monster Prom, brought to you by Those Awesome Guys and Beautiful Glitch, puts you, and if desired, your friends in the position of a young monster looking for their last minute date for prom! Can you whoo the monster of your dreams? or will your future be bleak and horrific? Which one of your friends can be successful at finding love?

As stated above, Monster Prom is both a single player dating sim and a multiplayer competitive dating sim. How did Beautiful Glitch make a dating sim competitive you may ask? Well that is one of the things that make this game one of a kind. First, let’s go over the general gameplay

There are three times you perform actions in the game per day. In the morning you choose a class to attend (or maybe you choose to party or skip class if you’re really a rebel); at noon you decide where to sit at lunch and in the evening once again you choose a class or to goof off. Depending on the classes you pick in the morning and evening, you can raise one of your character’s stats. You can also choose to go to the shop and buy an item to help increase a stat. These stats include Smarts, Charm, Money, Fun, Boldness and Creativity. These will help you be desirable to one of the games wonderful bachelors or bachelorettes. Some events will also help you bond with certain monsters, but if you make the wrong choices interacting with them, it could drive them away from you.  Over the course of a number of weeks, depending on if you want to play the short or long version of the game, you must increase the right stats and make the right choices to get your dream date.

Multiplayer comes into play by allowing opposing players to affect certain players standings with certain monsters. You can also block opposing players from going to classes that you see will raise a stat they are trying to raise. You also have a chance to steal first player by playing a short debate game where you are asked to name something like an object, movie or even brand and then are asked a question such as “which object would be the strangest to use as a sex toy?” and the winner of the debate would take first player. If no conclusion can be reached, you can also click the “random” button to randomly select a first player.

After some time of going back and forth, you then each decide who to ask on a date. The winner is the one who successfully gets the date or its a tie if both or neither do.

 

So, the most important part of any dating sim are the eligible dates. So, how are the options? Well, its best if you don’t take these characters too seriously. The dates are played in a very tongue and cheek manner. You have Liam, the hipster vampire for instance, who is a very hyperbolic example of the hipster trope and only cares about irony, art and food photography. You also have Polly, the ghost who is the “afterlife” of the party and does copious amounts of drugs and only wants to have fun. Miranda is a Princess with a slightly sadistic streak to her when it concerns her enemies and commoners who is a clear play on Disney princesses. There is the werewolf Scott who is a real puppy of a sweetheart and the dumb athlete stereotype which was meant to be a joke on the movie Teen Wolf. You can chose Damien LeVay, the touch anti authority demon who pulls no punches and always ready to fight. Vera is the eligible gorgon who is all about good business and money.

None of these characters is particularly more than their tropes. This game is very light hearted and silly and really, I suggest playing through all the characters just to enjoy all the writing and humor. I did not feel connected strongly to any of the characters, but the banter and situations kept me interested. I actually found myself more interested in the outcast characters (the ones who you can not chose to date until you meet certain conditions) like the witch coven, the shopkeeper or the slayer than my first potential dates.

Overall, Monster Prom is a very fun time with cute art, fun gameplay, amusing writing and just over all a silly short game to enjoy by yourself or with friends. If you’re looking for something different, pick this up and enjoy the monster mash.

 


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Wizard of Legend (Nintendo Switch) | Review


Posted on June 8, 2018 by Meghan Kass

When I first saw images of Wizard of Legend, I will be completely honest and say I rolled my eyes and groaned a bit. To me it seemed like yet another indie game using pixel art to try and cash in on nostalgic value and save some money by using a less involved art direction. I couldn’t see how the developer and publisher, Contingent99 could sell me on this game at all. I’ve played dungeon crawlers, I’ve played “8 bit” pixel style games and overall I just had a “been there, done that” attitude about it all. After I watched the trailer though, my feelings began to change and I became more excited to play it. I can say, playing it definitely was not the experience I first expected.

To say this game is some groundbreaking experience that completely changes the genre would be a bit hyperbolic. This game is very enjoyable, though. This game became so enjoyable for me, I even took my switch with my to my work and played it through my break while playing coffee.

This game is a great one to get on the Switch for the portability and the option to put it on a bigger screen if you want to play with a friend. The main idea of the game is simple; are a wizard going through a gauntlet to prove yourself.

You will first need to get yourself some equipment and weapons and spells from the main market  or you will be pummeled almost immediately. As soon as you feel sufficiently prepared for the dungeons, you transport yourself down and begin your challenge.

The dungeons are proceduraly generated along with its enemies.  What’s interesting about this particular game is the bosses you need to face are also procedurally generated and the environment is as well. If you are going to face the ice boss for instance, the floors you go through in the dungeon will also be ice themed. Every time you die, everything refreshes, but you keep your money earned which means you can make upgrades.

Be prepared to die a lot, because you will. These dungeons are difficult, especially if you are flying solo. This game goes much smoother if you are playing with a friend. It took me many deaths and collecting coins to get the right gear to get through dungeons. I will give the game credit though, it doesn’t feel like a slog. Yes, it can be frustrating when you are almost through and then die at the last stretch of a dungeon, but the levels generally go quickly so you it won’t take long to get back to where you were and if you upgraded, it might go even quicker, some of my favorite upgrades was the relic antiquated tabi which gave you a chance to evade and the Arcana Mentis Imperium which charms enemies into fighting each other. This game will give you a lot to collect and try out and play with. The controls on the Switch are smooth and easy to pick up.

The pixel art is standard and pleasing enough. The colors are very vibrant, which is what stood out to me the most, but other than that its all pretty standard design. That doesn’t mean its bad, it just means its fine.

Overall, this is an enjoyable game for someone craving a dungeon crawler that is good on the go or with a friend. I recommend this for the Switch over Steam personally for the portability alone, unless you only have friends with PCs you want to play with, in that case, choose Steam. Try it out and enjoy some good old fashioned dungeoneering.


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Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom | Review


Posted on May 30, 2018 by Meghan Kass

In 2011, developer Level- 5 along with Studio Ghibli created something beautiful and unique; it was the game Ni No Kuni. With all the charm of a Studio Ghibli film and a unique gameplay, it was no wonder why a sequel would happen. This time around, Level-5 is on its own without the help of Ghibli. This could have either meant a recipe for disaster or a way for Level-5 to prove itself a champion among RPG developers. Could Level-5 continue the charm of the first Ni No Kuni? Let’s take a closer look at Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom.

This time around, we connect our world and the “other world” via main character from (presumably) our world. The character this time around is name Roland. He is the president of some unnamed country and due to a bomb going off, he is transported to the other world of Ding Dong Dell. Roland is then thrown into the position of assisting a young  and enthusiastic king, Evan, to save his life and kingdom from a usurper and even starting a new kingdom to promote the uniting of all kingdoms and end all war instead of seeking revenge on the usurper who threatened Evan and more. That is the basic bare bones of the story, but of course there is much more story to discover in this story and many more characters to meet. Overall, this story is not some dark and gritty tale but one that promotes more optimism and child like wonder.  Some might be turned off and call the story saccharine and too sweet, but I for one enjoy a happy story once in a while. Some might also be turned off the personalities of the main characters. Roland isn’t  a terrible character, but can be bland and Evan might be seen as annoying and insufferable. While Evan was not as appealing to me as Oliver from the first game, I didn’t find him to be a deal breaker for the game for me.

The gameplay is significantly improved, in my opinion from the first game. Revenant Kingdom has done away with the familiar system and the combination of real time and turn based combat. This time the gameplay is all real time and you don’t have familiars, but creatures called Higgledys that assist you. You can command them to perform tasks or you can let them do their own attacks and movements.  This is a much more simple, but effective gameplay system that definitely makes the game flow better and fluidly. It feels less cumbersome and leaves room for another fun game mechanic.

The second change to Revenant Kingdom is the addition of the kingdom building system. Part way through the game, you will be introduced to a kingdom building system in which you will employ people to run various shops or services and recruit others to become one of your citizens. While this is almost optional, I quickly became very enamored with improving and building up my little kingdom to give me very helpful tools and bonuses.

Of course, you must also have defense for your kingdom. Ni No Kuni II also introduces an army mechanic of sorts. There are times you will need to fight off hordes of enemies, for example, bandits. You will control your forces and lead them by commanding them, to take on your enemies. There are special attacks and special units to employ. You will have to keep track of your military might and budget your special attacks. Hopefully, they are strong enough and plentiful enough to fend them off and defend or claim your territory.

 

Overall, Ni No Kuni II is a sweet game with addicting gameplay. You can easily invest 40+ hours into the game and not feel like you are just padding time.  The story may be too sweet and simplistic for some, but if you have a love for child like wonder and adventure, solid gameplay and JRPGs, this game is not to be missed. I haven’t found myself in love with a new JRPG like this for some time and didn’t think I would love it almost as much as the original. To me, it was worth the full price to play, but maybe wait for a sale if the story concept or characters don’t seem to appeal to you.

 


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God of War (2018) | Review


Posted on May 8, 2018 by Meghan Kass

Games like God of War are becoming something of a dying breed. Many major AAA games are trying to be increasingly open with their worlds, with games becoming more of a sandbox and less about story and developing characters. That is not to say there are zero story driven more linear games to play, but it appears AAA publishers are finding those games less appealing to back than more open / only only experiences. It is refreshing then, that Sony has seen fit to help bring us a brand new entry in the God of War franchise.  This new era for the series not only brings us back to the hack and slash gameplay we know and love from the series, but also improves upon it along with its puzzles and story.

God of War brings us into the world of Norse mythology and out of Kratos’ comfort zone of Greek mythology. After successfully taking vengeance on the Olympian Gods, Kratos has decided to settle down in Midgard with his son. Atreus is the son of Kratos’ second wife, Faye. After her death, Atreus and Kratos begin to journey to the top of the highest peak in the nine realms to spread her ashes at her request. It is then that we truly begin our hero’s journey as Kratos and Atreus must deal with monsters, angry Norse gods as well as their own personal issues that could either bring them closer together or tear them apart.

The story is some of the strongest in the series, if not the overall strongest in the franchise’s 13 year history. Kratos’ tale has never been more emotional and heart warming as he only desires safety and normality for himself and his son. He does what he can to prepare his son for the world, while protecting him when he can. Their relationship has its ups and downs throughout the main story and you feel each peak and valley the entire way. While I wish Atreus had been written better as a character, a part of me still desired to see the boy safe and unharmed throughout the game. Even at Atreus’ worst prepubescent arrogance, I still wanted both him and Kratos to succeed in their journey and come through stronger as characters.

God of War brings back the hack and slash gameplay  of the previous seven games and even improves on it with major changes, almost as if the systems had been rebuilt from the ground up. No longer is Kratos wielding the Blades of Chaos, but now carries a battle axe called the Leviathan Axe. This axe not only returns to you in the style of Thor’s Hammer, Mjolnir (appropriate for the setting of the game) but assists you in puzzles with the added element of freezing certain objects in place. You will need this if you want to get past certain puzzles in the game or certain challenging enemy encounterss.  You can also obtain new abilities and skills for yourself and Atreus by using a currency called Hacksilver to for the duo’s forward progression.

You also get the addition of runes that can upgrade your axe with. This allows you to customize gameplay to your liking more than previous games depending on your play style. You can go for faster, light attacks or heavy and slower ones if you prefer. You also have a new shiny shield in this game as well to mix things up with. You can use it to defend and parry much like the Golden Fleece in previous games. One of the series staples, quick time events, are still present but they play out slightly differently than previous games with two meters, stun and health, that will change during events.

Overall, 2018’s reboot is a top notch entry in the long running the God of War series. This game shows maturity, improvement in game-play, as well as introducing a set of a relatable characters and it all still remains, most importantly,  fun. It is refreshing to see a narrative driven, more linear game like God of War, released during the glut of AAA open world sandboxes that fill have filled up the release calendar lately. I highly recommend this game and hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

 


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Kirby Star Allies | Nintendo Switch Review


Posted on May 3, 2018 by Meghan Kass

I have followed the Kirby franchise since I was but a wee lass. Since about the age of five years old, Kirby has been in my life. I remember playing through Kirby’s Dreamland with my older sibling and being mesmerized by the environments, enemies and of course the little pink guy himself, Kirby. I always have been a fan of platformers, and Kirby’s particular style of gameplay has always resonated with me. In my experience, it has been a bit of a slower pace, but much more relaxing than other platformers, even at the hardest bosses. Even though Kirby has gone through many interesting experiments over the years with style and difficulty, they have for the most part been at least pleasant to play and look at. Does the new entry, Kirby Star Allies fall among the best of the franchise? Or is it just another average platforming starring everyone’s favorite pink puff ball?

For the most part, Kirby Star Allies is much like classic Kirby entries such as Kirby’s Adventure or Kirby’s Dreamland. You go through various levels and platform your way to the end. You inhale enemies to either use them as projectiles or absorb their powers for fun new abilities. At the end of each level is the classic bonus jump game, which to this day, I am still bad at.

The plot revolves around and evil entity from a distant world that has possessed the likes of Meta Knight, Dedede and many other characters. Kirby was also hit, but instead of being possessed he has gained the ability to befriend his enemies and gain help to find and defeat the evil that is engulfing the universe.  

One notable difference is the fact that yes, this can be a local co op experience. You can recruit either enemy AI or your real life friends to help you in your fight to save the world, and even other worlds, from evil. You can have various forms of help like those who can assist you with fire, ice, water, rock or even sweeping! Each has their use and sometimes you need them to access specific parts of the level with a particular power. It won’t be hard to tell which ability you will need to use, but sometimes you will just be the bad luck of not having the right power at the right time.

Another difference is the combined ability feature. You can have yourself and your allies combine to work together to make a bridge for a mischievous key carrying waddle dee to open new doors for you, a friend circle to plow through enemies, a friend star to fly through levels and shoot enemies mid air and more! These are fun to initiate and fun to make use of when prompted.

But what you really want to hear about is the abilities, after all, that is what Kirby is most known for.  I am happy to say, there are quite a few new abilities to be found in Star Allies. My personal favorite is the artist copy ability, which allows you to splatter paint at enemies and also paint masterpieces that give you health boosts which helps if you’re fighting a boss. You also have new abilities like spider to trap enemies and festival which destroys enemies on the screen. There are more, but I won’t give them away as part of the fun is discovering them for yourself.

Among new abilities are also new mini games that you can play with friends.One is a tree cutting contest using the joy con motion controls, the other is a home run contest hitting meteors with your charged bat while avoiding things such as spiders and bugs.

 

Overall, this is another strong entry for Kirby and if you have been a fan of the platforming part of the franchise, you will love this game’s charm and game play as well. I recommend purchasing this game and experiencing the joy of Kirby by yourself or with a good friend and sharing the love.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odLyNTlLbZ4


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Fear Effect Sedna | Nintendo Switch Review


Posted on April 5, 2018 by Meghan Kass

There is a saying that goes “jack of all trades, master of none”. This was what came to mind while I was playing Square Enix’s newly licensed game Fear Effect Sedna. While this in no way means Fear Effect Sedna is a terrible game, it does suffer from trying to accomplish t0 many things at once while not particularly achieving greatness in anything.

Fear Effect Sedna was brought to life via Kickstarter campaign from developer Sushee and is the third installment in the Fear Effect franchise. The original Fear Effect was a PlayStation 1 era game and this new addition to the franchise seems like it picks off right where the last two entries left off – straight out of the late 90s to early 2000s.

You got your sexy mercenaries, cyber punk / neo noir aesthetic and of course a dose of hacking and terrorism to boot. I have not experienced the past two games in this series, but I did pick up on things fairly quickly as far as the characters go. I enjoy Hana and her posse as they lurk in the shadows, take on missions and even share a sexy moment or two between each other. I enjoy the nostalgic feel of the game even with its silly early 00’s “post The Matrix” feel.

The plot of this game is similar to many heist movies. Our protagonists get in over their head when what was supposed to be a simple art theft turns into something much bigger than they imagined. The difference is, this game involves inuit magic along with this heist. From what I understand, this is not the first time this group has gotten into some mystical shenanigans. (Editor’s note: Video games have a long and troubling history appropriating aboriginal culture. For more on the subject, Dia Lacina’s Medium Post “What We Talk About, When We Talk About Natives” , is good reading material on this subject.)

The plot may be passable and interesting, but the script I feel is where this game falls flat, with dialogue that can be stilted and cliche, enough so at times it even made me cringe. The game could have done with another pass by an editor to take care of some of the lines. Overall, passable in story, characters and dialogue, but nothing impressive.

The gameplay is an isometric top down shooter with some puzzles added in as well. There is a distinct lack of challenge in these missions and puzzles. It is fairly simply to mow down enemies with your weapon as long as you start with some stealth to get your target in the optimal position. It’s not to say I didn’t enjoy feeling powerful against my enemies or finding my way through levels, it just seemed somewhat repetitive after a bit and less thrilling which I feel was the actual intent of the creators. I did enjoy the combat system though and the whole fear effect which involves an on-screen fear meter rising and the effect being more damage output, but your characters are weaker against enemy attacks.

I also felt a lack of challenge from the puzzles as well. A couple had me stumped for a bit, but for the most part I found them pretty easy and sometimes even just stumbled upon the answer by accident. I will admit, I enjoyed the variety of types of puzzles at least. From disarming a bomb, to hacking computers, the puzzles offered a breath of fresh air in the game..

Overall, this game is about quantity over quality. There is a lot this game is trying to add and include in this game, but little that impresses. There is a variety in the type of game it is whether it is a strategy game, a shooter game or a puzzle game, but none stand out. The game has passable art style, passable plot and passable dialogue. The characters are fun, but a tad cliche. Overall, this is an average game that only fans of the series would want to check out for the $17.99 price.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKUzZFQSBsc


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Celeste (Nintendo Switch) | Review


Posted on March 23, 2018 by Meghan Kass

Version Reviewed: Nintendo Switch

Another Example of Why Games Matter

Everyone has a mountain to climb, sometimes symbolically, sometimes literally. Everyone has their own journey they need to go on and their own life goals. It is in this way, I believe everyone can relate at least a little to the game Celeste.  

Celeste was brought to you by the Canadian team, “Matt Makes Games”, who also brought us Towerfall back in 2013 for PS Vita, PS4, Xbox One, PC and other platforms. Celeste is a 2-D platformer that makes full use of Microsoft’s now defunct XNA framework. The platforming is challenging, but fluid and when you perform a move, it seems to work with little to no problems. Celeste is a tight game with great controls and little in the way of annoying bugs or omissions.

In Celeste, you start out slow, doing basic moves and jumps. You eventually learn more maneuvers across a number of levels – mastering moves like double jumps and mid air dashes that will assist you with problem solving; be clever however, because you can only hold onto walls for a limited amount of time and can only mid air dash once before needing a cool down or regeneration item.

Throughout this game, there are also puzzles to solve as well. Some involve pattern recognition, some involve timing and others involve careful maneuvering. The puzzles are challenging, especially those that involve gathering collectibles or special items. Puzzles also get more challenging as you climb the mountain, but that is nothing out of the ordinary.

Celeste’s graphics are simple, but the pixel art is a work of beauty. There are scenes when the use of shading and clever lighting look like mosaic paintings. My only wish would be that the character designs were a little more detailed in terms of overall design. They are perfectly serviceable, I just wish the sprites had a little more expression. This one area that could have been just a little better doesn’t take away from this game in the slightest. This game may have a simplistic visual design, but don’t underestimate the art that Amora Bettany and Pedro Medeiros created for Celeste.

Celeste has a beautiful story to tell on top of having beautiful pixel art and wonderfully executed gameplay. You play as Madeline and her desire to climb to the top of the titular mountain, Celeste. This mountain is unlike any other, in that is can turn one’s “inner turmoil” and “true self” into reality. She meets many other characters along the way and goes through many trials and tribulations leading to her main hurdle, her mental health. She starts to come face to face with her depression and anxiety and her many inner demons. I am not ashamed to say this was extremely relateable and had me teary eyed at many moments.

Celeste is a beautiful allegory for those fighting their own inner demons and climbing their own mountain. Madeline is the type of hero we don’t see nearly often enough in the video game medium. The only other recent example of something similar was Senua from Hellblade. Madeline may be troubled, but she’s a fighter. She is brave and even when faced with the scariest in her life, she keeps climbing that mountain. This game is the perfect opportunity to set an example for those dealing with similar issues feel that they are not alone and that they too can overcome. Seeing as this game is also rated E for everyone, this game can also reach younger players who are still figuring themselves out at a vulnerable time in their lives.

Celeste is not only a well designed and executed game, but the type of important game that brings the industry to a higher level. It is always my pleasure to come across a game like this and contribute to the attention it deserves. I am happy to see others review it, feature it and show it to a wide audience. Play it for yourself and support Matt Makes Games so they continue their work and surprise us with their future creations.


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Dandara Review | Nintendo Switch Review


Posted on March 14, 2018 by Meghan Kass

Publisher Raw Fury and developer Long Hat House have come together to give us quite the indie game. Dandara is a Metroidvania style game with focus on exploration and 2D action-adventure gameplay and while this may seem a bit commonplace and trendy, Dandara caught my attention in a big way with its concept, character development and world building. Originally released for the iphone in December of last year, this metroidvania inspired game makes the leap on to the Nintendo Switch.

Dandara’s concept is loosely based on the story of an Afro-Brazilian warrior who fought aside men against slavery during the colonial period of Brazil’s history. This makes sense considering the developers are from that country and considering such little known this tale may be in North America, a game is an excellent medium to spread what is known about her story and inspire others to try and learn about this little known historical figure. Even though the game is abstract, Dandara as a character definitely displays the strength and cunning of a true heroic warrior and her interactions with the characters definitely help build her legend throughout the game.

The game takes a more futuristic dystopian atmosphere with fantastical elements to this warrior’s story than relying on a historical period for its setting.. You are Dandara, and it is up to you to explore this world of Salt and to save it from the brink of destruction. Along the way you will come across beautifully colorful and equally as beautiful dark areas of this nearly ruined world to find items, currency and characters that can help you on your mission.  

The way you explore this world is through a series of platform jumping, dodging attacks and landing strikes and the right moment – critical skills for most games in its genre. Throughout the world there are these areas you can jump to by bending gravity as well. Dandara will seem to blink to your target as you continue working your way around the world, finding new ways to unlock areas and finding ever more powerful enemies to conquer.

Combat is also fairly straight forward. Dandara has a gun that she can aim at enemies. Much like the platforming, you aim and press a button or tap the screen to where you want the shot to hit. Since this game is made for both touch screens and console games, it can make the controls a little funny when compared to its contemporaries that only have one style of control. There were times I felt the aiming was slightly difficult to maneuver, especially trying to make my way around corners or through tight areas with the analog sticks of the Switch joy-con. I also found combat to be a bit frustrating as aiming and shooting can sometimes be a bit slow and therefore you have to be more methodical with your shots – planning them out with precision. Perhaps that was the point the developers were going through though.

This game is less of a run and gun, rapid paced adventure and more of a strategic platformer. You need to plot out where you want to go to best avoid being hit by enemies, the timing of your jumps and learn the movement pattern of the enemies before aiming so you can hit them accurately. You can also improve your longevity and gameplay by obtaining the games currency, called salt, and using it to increase your health or weapon effectiveness.

This game may get frustrating at times, but its unique concept and beautiful pixel art make it all worth it to explore and experience this game. It is also notable to add that this game has a beautiful soundtrack to accompany it which really makes the experience all the more rich.

Overall, I found this game deeply enthralling and unique. For the price of $15 USD for the Switch version of the game, I would say it is definitely worth supporting this developer and see what they will come up with next. I learned something about Brazilian history and got a beautiful experience thanks to Long Hat House. The gaming industry needs more like this when the market is flooded by asset flippers and loot box abuse. We need to get back to passion and fun and creators who simply want to create art, tell a story or just make a fun game.

 


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Worms WMD | Review


Posted on February 22, 2018 by Meghan Kass

Worms W.M.D, developed and published by Team 17 is a turn-based artillery tactics game released for the Nintendo Switch. While very similar to another game in the Worms series, such as Worms Armageddon, the question becomes “will this game stand out enough on its own?” and “how well would a Worms title do on the Switch?”. With a large selection of missions and a new multiplayer mode, let’s take a deeper look at this game and see if it is truly explosive as its marketing made it out to be.

While I was never the biggest fan of the series, I did know about past Worms games and after playing Worms WMD I definitely plan on playing some of the past games in my free time. I am a huge fan of tactics games of all sorts and I want to know exactly what I have missed over the years with this series. One of my favorite things is discovering what seems to be a whole world that I hadn’t explored before and Worms WMD certainly opened me up to the series

The gameplay is pretty easy to learn and intuitive even after all of these years and iterations. You have your army of worms, and the enemy has theirs. You use whatever means are at your disposal to crush your enemy and be the last worm standing. You can use tanks, bazookas, grenades and even helicopters to strike down your enemies. A wide selection of cartoonish and sometimes invention weaponry has been a long running staple of the Worms franchise.  This may sound old hat and unimpressive at first, but once you see that the terrain is also fully destructible and learn that the environment and weather conditions affect movement and can be used to your advantage, you’;ll see there is more nuance to this game than at first glance.

The customization available available in Worms WMD is also quite impressive. You can customize the worms voices, outfits, dances, music and even their headstones. I am not ashamed to admit I spent more than my fair share of time playing around with this aspect of the game.

Multiplayer, however, is probably how most will spend their time with this game; at least that’s what you’d would think. The problem is, it was fairly hard to find a match for casual multiplayer over the course of this review. I am not much of a competitive multiplayer person so I tend to avoid ranked competitive modes in games if it can be helped. Being on possibly the most portable friendly home console available, local multiplayer is also featured predominately in Worms WMD on Nintendo Switch. Two players can go head to head using a set of Joy-Cons each, a single Joy-Con for each player, a mix & match of Pro Controllers or even GameCube controllers as well. By taking advantage of the diverse set of input options the Switch provides, Worms WMD multiplayer can be enjoyed with friends in handheld mode, tabletop mode or while docked.

I imagine the appeal of this game on the Switch would be the ability to visit a friend and quickly set up a couch co-op or local competitive game. I was still a tad disappointed that there were very few instances where I could actually find a casual match online for this game, but I suppose that comes with the territory of being a somewhat smaller release. I feel the Worms WMD makes up for this by making it a great example of how to do local multiplayer within the limits of the Switch’s joycon controls. Because of the simpler graphics, simpler controls and easy to pick up nature of this game, this is a great game to pick up for a fun evening with a good friend and should be appealing to a wide variety of wolks.

Overall, this is a solid title to download from the Nintendo eShop. If you are a fan of tactical games and want something humorous to get into or something simple to get into with a friend, this is one to pick up. The price of $30 USD might seem excessive when compared to other strategy offerings, but there is a whole lot to this game that makes it well worth it if this franchise or genre suits you. If you have played Worms games in the past, I can’t imagine why this wouldn’t appeal to you because it certainly has made me interested in the past games of this fun and funny series

 

 

A copy of Worms W.M.D was provided by the publisher for our consideration. It was valued at $29.99 USD as of the writing of this review.


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Xenoblade Chronicles 2 | Review


Posted on January 23, 2018 by Meghan Kass

The original Xenoblade Chronicles was released for the Wii back in 2010 and then surprisingly re-released for the 3DS in 2015. A side game in the franchise, Xenoblade Chronicles X (prounouced Cross, not X) was released for the Wii-U also in 2015.  Now, in 2017, a sequel to the first title has been released and thus we have Xenoblade Chronicles 2 for the Nintendo Switch. Developed by series creators Monolith Soft and published of course, by Nintendo.

For longtime fans this game may have a whole new cast of characters to get acquainted with but what matters is how well those characters are developed and how well written the story is, as well as presented. Does this sequel give us a satisfying return to this world of Alrest or does it leave the player disappointed?

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 takes us back to the Xenoblade world of Alrest, full of titans and god like creatures, only with a fresh set of characters. Shulk is replaced by Rex – a scavenger turned Driver – this go around. As a driver, he is accompanied by his blade, Prya. Prya is very similar to Shulk’s blade Monado, only with a lot more personality, given that she is a fully realized character and not just a weapon. Still, both Pyra’s weapon from and the Monado contain extraordinary power and also grant their drivers the ability to wield extraordinary abilities.

The major difference between the two is that  Prya becomes a character with an artificial human appearance and goes through her own story arc, while the Monado was more a standard weapon. I feel this adds an interesting layer to the game and makes the game more immersive. Prya’s journey to find Elysium with Rex is interesting because finding Elysium is essential to saving humanity from extinction. The Titans who have protected humanity are dying off and Elysium, or Paradise, is their last hope. It’s more than just Prya wanting to “go home”.

The only fault I find with Xenoblade Chronicles II is a slight repetition that happens throughout Rex/Pyra’s journey. I say journey, because saying “story” doesn’t seem right. There isn’t much more story than Rex and Prya exploring the world, searching for Elysium, meeting people along the way and saving the world from various evils. There is a pattern of you continuing on your journey, a roadblock stopping you from continuing and you needing to get past it and usually fight a boss battle. While this normally would bore me, I found the gameplay quite addicting and the characters enchanting and fun to get to know. There is also an interesting history to the world and blades you get to learn along the way which became some of my favorite story moments for me. Exploring the world also helps when everything looks as pretty as this game does – this game has stunning scenery and beautiful character / monster animation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even though there are interesting story elements, it really was the gameplay that impressed me the most with Xenoblade Chronicles 2. I enjoyed finding out which blades (weapons) were best against which enemy ty[es, which skills I should use at which time and what items I need to collect to unlock an upgrade for my blade. Blade upgrades are obtained using an item called an aux core. You can also provide buffs to individual party members such as ATK Up or DEF up by equipping certain items in their personal pouch, to help out during fights.

I couldn’t wait to level up and see what my blades would learn next  – I loved finding new chips and aux cores and seeing what skills or buffs they gave my blades. While other JRPGs have similar elements, there is something a bit different about Xenoblade Chronicles 2 in its execution of character progression. It seemed more than just upgrading my weapon, it felt like I was helping to develop a character. Because I was invested in the characters, I had much more of a desire to see them grow and become stronger. It also helped that everything seemed very fluid and easy to figure out.

Now that I had these powerful characters, it was time to dive right into Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s vast combat system. Similar to the original Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii, Rex & Co will automatically perform a basic auto-attack at a set interval. Players are able to equip up to four special arts to augment their damage, provide healing or do massive amounts of damage by partnering up with their blade. Basic arts will only require an individual charge and can be woven into auto attacks seamlessly. As your character progress through their Arts tree they are able to unlock ‘special arts’ which require a bit more time to build via auto-attack. These devastating moves have the Driver and Blade combine their abilities by asking players to perform a quick time event. Successfully pull off the QTE and you’ll be treated to a special arts animation. If one of your A.I party members uses a special art, Rex can follow it up with a supplementary special art based upon one of the elements displayed on the HUD. Chain together 3 complimentary special arts together and you’ve got yourself a Blade Combo, one of the most powerful but complicated maneuvers in Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

Overall, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a satisfying contribution to the series. While the story I don’t feel is as strong as the first one, the characters are fun and interesting and the game is stunning to explore and look at and has well executed gameplay. If you liked the first game and have a Switch, give it a try to get immersed in this world again.

 


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The Best Games We Played 2017: Nier Automata


Posted on January 1, 2018 by Meghan Kass

As 2017 comes to a close, it is a time to reflect on the year, both the good and the bad. While there were many downs and it can be easy to focus on the negatives in a year, especially one as rough as this, we need to remind ourselves of the positive things that came out in a year and how they affected us. There were so many great video games that came out this year that all deserved to be recognized, but one that really stuck out to me in many ways was Nier: Automata from Platinum Games and Square Enix.

Nier: Automata, to me, was more than just a game, it was an experience and work of art. All the beautiful surroundings of the world, the characters, the fluid and fun gameplay, and the story suck you in and leave you begging for more, which made its multiple endings all the more desirable to get to and see, it all just sucked me in.

What really affected me though, was the message and that message was stated beautifully in the game with one quote:

“What is it that separates machines from androids like us? The machine has gained emotion…Consciousness. The final screams they summon on the edge of death…They still echo within me”.

What makes something alive? What makes something different from being human? What does it take to have a soul? I love and media that makes me question what makes us different from other beings and where the line is between using a tool and abusing a being with feeling and sentience that deserves dignity and respect and even love. Even more, is war, pain and causing hurt really the right thing in the end? Do the ends really justify the means? Your enemy might be more like you than you think.

We need as humans to take a step back and reflect on messages like this. We need to see how we affect one another, how we affect the world and how we need to show respect, tolerance and even love more. What a better time to do this than as the year comes to a close? Maybe we could all use the message of this game and make 2018 just a little less painful and be just a little more mindful of how we treat others, even those we may not be able to relate to.

That is why Nier: Automata is one of my favorite games of the year. Cool, fun to play and most of all, poignant. It is really the type of game that really shows how games have evolved from simple “toys” to works of important art and made me think just a little harder of my effect on others.


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Superbeat: Xonic Ex | Nintendo Switch Review


Posted on December 15, 2017 by Meghan Kass

Superbeat: Xonic Ex is a rhythm game, developed by Nurijoy and PM Studios and published by Sony Music (Available on the PS4, Xbox One  and the Nintendo Switch. With all the numerous rhythm game options to choose from on these various platforms, is there a place for this game?  is it worth the $40.00 USD price tag? and most importantly (for this review) is it a good fit for the Switch console? After spending some time with this game on the Switch console, I believe I have the answers to these questions.

The problem with Superbeat: Xonic EX is that it really doesn’t much more than the average for a rhythm game in any category. It is fine – It has decent music, average gameplay and an average anime aethestic to it. It does not have the uniqueness or cult classic appeal that the Hatsune Miku games have had. For anyone who plays rhythm games regularly, you probably already have similar games on other platforms that were cheaper. There are games, for instance, on the IOS such as Cytus, Voez and Deemo that are $1.99 or lower that can satisfy a rhythm game craving as opposed to the $40.00 that Superbeat asks for. (Editor’s Note: Voez and its DLC are also available on Nintendo Switch)

As a matter of fact, Superbeat: Xonic EX can play very much like a mobile tapping rhythm game. You have the choice to either follow the songs using the Switch JoyCon buttons or just using the touch screen to tap the correct area with your finger, if you are playing with the portable mode of the Switch. I recommended playing with the touch screen option for the best accuracy. The buttons on the Switch are a little awkward for a fast paced rhythm game, especially when you need to use the joysticks as well. Once you get used to it, the JoyCons are tolerable, but not optimal.

There are other modes you can play with depending on how difficult you want to make the game. The “4 trak” focuses on only 4 areas of the screen that notes will flock to and the 6 trak has 6 areas. You can also choose more difficult songs that will send you more cues and beats to follow and you can tweak the speed of the songs and even change the sound you make when you hit a beat. The harder the song, the faster the notes fly out at you. There are also unlockable DJs and icons you can collect to extend your game experience with giving you some bonuses as you play.

Really what this game offers is a slightly different genre of songs than other popular rhythm games. The soundtrack is heavy in the EDM (electronic dance music) genre, which is not the norm for most rhythm games. There is also some pop and even a few classical songs  mixed in.  My favorite song in the collection was Miami Style, which reminded me of some old Katy Perry songs. It is definitely a little different and if you are tired of the normal J-Pop filled rhythm games or want some options that aren’t from a mainstream selection of songs like Guitar Hero or Rock Band, this may be worth your time.

Overall, this is there is just not enough substance here, especially for the asking price. The controls are fairly basic and at times awkward, especially when using the JoyCons. The theme and aesthetic are not the most inspired, but still colorful, beautiful and everything about the game is just feels average. If you want a soundtrack that is a bit unusual for a rhythm game or you just need a new rhythm game in your life, maybe wait until this game goes on sale. It is not a waste of time or a bad game, just not worth the asking price. I wanted to enjoy this game a lot more, but maybe this game will tickle another player’s fancy.


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Super Mario Odyssey | Review


Posted on November 16, 2017 by Meghan Kass

Mario has been a staple of the gaming industry since the very early arcade days when he was just a humble sprite named Jump Man who wanted nothing more than to save a poor woman he loved named Pauline from a beast, barrel throwing ape named Donkey Kong. Since those early days, things have changed immensely for our humble protagonist and he has since been on many adventures through many lands and beyond even to the galaxy. After Super Mario Galaxy however, a question entered the minds of me and my friends and that question was “Where could Mario possibly go exploring the entire galaxy?” and we joked and theorized, but we could not have possibly guessed the answer in store for us; that answer was possession. Yes, Mario and his new friend Cappy can possess various beings in the world in order to help him, of course, save Princess Peach; some things will never change. This time, however, there is a forced marriage to Bowser that needs to be foiled.

There are two main differences in this game. The first difference is the scale of the world and the second is the gameplay. Regarding the former, the world is simply put, huge. You may think the world is large during the story campaign, but once you complete the story you will see just how big in scale this game is. There are large areas to explore in this world and even beyond the world to the moon at one point. Each area is filled with so many nooks and crannies and secrets it took many hours to fully explore some places. Aside from just the aesthetic value, your main incentive for exploring and discovering each area’s secrets is to find Power Moons that give you moon power. What does moon power do for you? Well, it fuels and repairs your titular ship, The Odyssey and also gives completionist a nice long scavenger hunt challenge to find all the moons. Once you have the necessary moon power to fuel or repair your ship, you’re off to the next land. While in these lands, you will see how different the gameplay is to other Mario games.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instead of just hopping on Goombas or swatting an enemy with a tanooki tail, you now have your friend Cappy who replaces your signature cap after Bowser destroys the original. Cappy can be thrown by Mario to kill enemies or even more fun, possess enemies to perform various tasks to either get past puzzles or get from platform to platform to get to particular parts in the world. You may need to possess a Goomba and jump on other Goombas to create a stack of them to reach high points or you may need to become a Hammerhead brother and knock down walls. The end of the game has a particularly special possession that really was a satisfying conclusion along with the end to the story campaign. You also can not ignore the joy of literally becoming a T-rex in a Mario game and smashing everything in your way. If you want to play along with a friend or partner or family member, there is a multiplayer mode similar to that of Mario Galaxy that allows for someone to control Cappy. Along with Cappy being able to change forms into various styles of hats, Mario too can purchase new outfits and styles in each level’s store with a special unique currency exclusive to that world. Each store different theme of clothes associated with the area you’re in.

Mario Odyssey is one of the most satisfying Mario games that I have experienced since Mario 64, way back in 1996. With many touching tributes to Mario past, exciting new gameplay and plenty of gorgeous lands to explore and all the hours of exploring and challenges, even if you are not a fan of Mario games, this is highly recommended. If you need a reason to get yourself a Nintendo Switch, this is it. I foresee this game making plenty of critic top 10 lists for the year, and it isn’t without reason. Mario Oddsey is truly a special experience and shouldn’t be missed.

 


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