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Updated: 1 hour 11 min ago

Hyper Scape Review In Progress – Virtual Escape

3 hours 59 min ago

"Well, crap," I mutter, as I begin to run. It's far too late of course. My pursuers have seen me and are now riddling my backside with bullets as I try to duck and weave among the environmental cover that's slowly deleting. And then I see it: my salvation. Around another player's corpse is a Hack pick-up with a circle on it. I quickly slide into it and pick it up, cackling with glee as I transform into a giant ball and bounce away from the squad chasing me.

My laughter stops as I turn around and realize, to my horror, that every one of my pursuers has the Ball Hack as well. I continue to flee but I can hear the quiet thumps of their murderous bounces keeping pace with me.

If you've ever played a battle royale game before, then the goal of Hyper Scape is an old song and dance by this point. Players begin each match by dropping onto a battlefield with nothing to their name, forced to survive by any means necessary--whether that's searching for the best weapons, hunting and killing enemy players, or avoiding and hiding from fights. As the match progresses, the battlefield shrinks, increasing the likelihood of firefights breaking out amongst the survivors. You win by being the last one standing.

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Skater XL Review - No Superman Here

Wed, 08/12/2020 - 09:10

The world is full of spots. They invite you, seducing you into skating on them. A great skate spot encourages you to nail a line of tricks on it, pushing you to keep trying after every bail. An expertly placed ramp that leads you to a rail and down a flight of stairs is one of the many Mona Lisas that skaters strive for. The idea of successfully conquering said spot is what drives them to push themselves, learn from their mistakes, and grow. It's all about the location, something some skateboarding games have nailed for over two decades. And while newcomer Skater XL has a good foundation for its trick system, it fails to inspire the practice of those mechanics on its small number of largely lacklustre levels.

Skater XL's trick system is easy to understand and rewarding to learn. Each analog stick is assigned to a foot, and your job is to twist and push those sticks to pull off a cavalcade of tricks. A kickflip requires you to pull the right stick (your right foot) back, snap it up for an ollie and then kick the board with your left stick (left foot) to cause it to flip. It's an engaging way to perform the simplest tricks, and while it may sound complicated, Skater XL's physics give you a lot of room for nailing tricks.

At times, it feels somewhat weightless and more like you're controlling a board with no one on it than an actual person that has to twist their body and manipulate the board with their feet. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as many games have utilized less-than-realistic physics to create great skateboarding power fantasies. Unfortunately, Skater XL's levels aren't the interesting playgrounds for your skateboarding endeavors that they need to be for a compelling experience.

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Risk Of Rain 2 Review - Risk Of Strain

Wed, 08/12/2020 - 01:00

As we prepared to take on Risk of Rain 2's final boss, we took a moment to take stock of our Survivors. My co-op partner had three syringes filled with glowing green slime jutting out of his hip, a sword at his side and a crown on his head. A leech was suctioned onto my head, a teddy bear stuck to my shoulder and John Lennon glasses stretched around the front of my domed helmet. Each of these baubles represented a perk we had acquired over the course of our headlong rush to the final boss. This is the kind of game Risk of Rain 2 is. At the end of a run, you can see every advantage that you have collected, all hanging off of your once-simple character model like fuzzy dice on a car mirror.

And, as it launches into 1.0, Hopoo Games' third-person shooter roguelike has a year-and-a-half of early access in its rearview. I didn't play the game during pre-release, so I can't testify to how much content this version adds to what was already there. But I can say that Risk of Rain 2 is a breakneck experience that builds and builds and builds. This is not a game of peaks and valleys. Risk of Rain 2 is all climb until you reach the summit. That's its greatest strength--and its only real notable weakness.

Each run begins with your Survivor emerging from an escape pod onto a hostile alien world. This landscape is largely empty. Lo-fi music plays. It's generally pretty chill and evocative for the first few seconds. But then you're assaulted by a horde of low-level creatures. At the top right corner of the screen, a meter slowly moves right, upping the difficulty from Easy to Medium to Hard (and up and up and up until the difficulty bar just reads "HAHAHAHAHA") as a run progresses. Each level ends when you find and activate a teleporter, summoning a boss monster, which you must defeat to use the portal. In between entrance and exodus, Risk of Rain 2's world is full of interesting decisions and secrets. You may want to sacrifice half your health at the Altar of Blood for rewards down the line. Or you might summon double the boss monsters for a shot at double rewards. Get lost long enough in your search for the teleporter and you may find an underground passage where you can find a hidden code etched on a tablet, which can be used to access a secret realm. As you explore, the world is gradually filling up with enemies; the music is, smartly, slowly building to an all-out guitar-wailing crescendo.

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Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout Review - Jelly Bean Gladiators

Sat, 08/08/2020 - 12:25

Battle royales have only been around for a handful of years, and for the most part they've strictly stuck within the same genre of games. Whether you're playing Warzone, Fortnite, or Apex Legends, you're always shooting a gun and running from an encroaching circle, with the differences kicking up in the small variations to their established formulas. Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, an extremely colorful and whimsical battle royale, is a great example of the genre growing outside of its roots. It's a far more approachable take on the multiplayer format, with simple controls and a variety of mini-games giving this competitive game show as much charm as they do tension.

Playing as one of 60 multi-colored, jelly bean-shaped contestants, you compete in a joyous and comical race to be crowned the winner of Fall Guys' 15-minute matches. Each one is broken up by various mini-games, with handfuls of players eliminated after each one. These games all take on a variety of themes, from straight-forward obstacle course races to frantic team games where you're hoarding as many eggs as you can into a basket. The mini-games make good use of Fall Guys' easy-to-understand control scheme, which lets you jump, dive, and grab with ease. Combined with the adorably clumsy movement animations, charming game show presentation, and suitably electric (and fantastic) soundtrack, Fall Guys will quickly catch your attention both visually and aurally.

The pickup and play nature of Fall Guys is one of its strongest aspects, along with its quick and entertaining games. It's never unclear when you need to jump over a gap or navigate through the hordes of contestants trying to reach the finish line before you. It's the type of game you can play in groups by passing the controller, with no need for a deep understanding of multiple mechanics to enjoy it. Its approachability lets anyone have fun with it, while its stages bring out glimmers of strategy for seasoned players to take advantage of.

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Skully Review - Feet Of Clay

Sat, 08/08/2020 - 08:37

It's hard to make a platformer stand out in 2020. Skully, a 3D platformer about a reanimated rolling skull imbued with magic clay that can create and control mud golems, can't shake the baggage of its genre's history. Though it has some distinctive details--like a surprisingly cute, bouncing skull-ball for a protagonist--Skully's mild platforming, item collecting, and puzzle-solving often elicits the feeling that you're just going through the motions. While it isn't without charm or challenge, there isn't enough of it to make a profound impression.

Skully the bouncing skull-ball is actually an elemental avatar created by the earth deity of an isolated island. In his natural form, Skully is a small, quick ball that can roll and hop across forest streams, wind-swept mountains, and lava-filled caves. There's a satisfying kinetic feeling to rolling down a path and picking up speed, which makes gracefully jumping through platforming challenges feel good.

Skully isn't always rolling, though. He also has the power to use pools of mud to create humanoid golems that trade speed for additional abilities. Each of the three golem forms has two skills, most of which are used in very specific ways to get past obstacles Skully can't. For example, the big golem has a punch that can be used to break through walls and a steam attack that can temporarily dispel some enemies.

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Umurangi Generation Review - Cyberpunk Snap

Sat, 08/08/2020 - 00:00

In Te Reo (Māori), "umurangi" means red sky--a perpetual sight in this first-person photography game, and a sign of the climate anomaly plaguing the city of Tauranga Aotearoa. You'll see this when raising your camera towards the flock of seagulls gathering at sunset, or a distant view of Mount Mauao amidst the billowing clouds of crimson and orange. Inspired by his personal experiences around the Australian bushfire crisis, Maori developer Naphtali Faulkner envisions a cyberpunk future that's so much more than a neon-soaked dystopia. As a result, Umurangi Generation becomes a shining example of what cyberpunk media should be; it boldly confronts the themes that underpin the genre, from its condemnation of capitalism to rebuking the corporate structures that govern its cities.

Umurangi Generation makes its statements not through dialogue but by letting you explore its themes through the exploratory lens of photography--and its through this framing that the game's message is made all the more resounding. Akin to a bystander, you don't get to interact with the city's inhabitants in Umurangi Generation; you just quietly observe and snap pictures of things you see in your environment.

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Littlewood Review - Big Heart

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 12:00

My wife calls them "chore games." Day-to-day life simulations such as Stardew Valley, Graveyard Keeper, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons celebrate the mundanity of routine, assigning you daily lists of menial tasks to perform and rewarding you for completing them with another day and another to-do list. Littlewood is most certainly another one of these chore games. Rather than weighing it down, Littlewood's daily grind is leavened by a lean, focused approach to its various labors, the swift turnover of its day-night cycle, and a dash of mystery that elevates its charming setting.

Peace has spread across the land of Solemn in the aftermath of the defeat of a dark wizard. Leading the victorious band of adventurers was a great hero who, in classic video game protagonist tradition, is now suffering from amnesia. He or she cannot remember a single thing about the battle, the triumph, or life beforehand. Nonetheless, at the urging of the friends you apparently fought alongside, you are granted the tiny village of Littlewood and tasked with managing its recovery in a post-war world.

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Fight Crab Review - Claws Out

Mon, 08/03/2020 - 02:00

Fight Crab, a game about crustaceans fighting other crustaceans, begins innocently enough. You start as a plucky young snow crab, defending his rock pool from other, invading crabs. The next thing you know, that same snow crab is now kaiju-sized, fighting in city streets against a similarly kaiju-sized lobster wielding a giant knife and revolver pistol. Things, incredibly, only escalate from there.

What if crabs had weapons? That's the ridiculous notion that Fight Crab bases itself on, and it commits to it wholeheartedly with an involved combat system and a variety of scenarios that grow increasingly bizarre. The game often exceeds your expectations of what you might anticipate from a game that pits these hard-shelled creatures against one another. At times the joke can start to wear thin, but it's hard to forget the delightful, laugh-out-loud surprises it continues to throw at you.

A third-person, physics-based fighting game, Fight Crab is reliant on your ability to flip your shelled opponents onto their backs and make sure they don't get up. Damage dealt by striking with your claws, environmental objects, or weapons is tracked by a percentage meter, and higher percentages make it harder for crabs to regain their upright posture--a system that draws from Super Smash Bros., and one that allows for the occasional, unbelievable near-death comeback and matches that come down to the wire.

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Grounded Early Access Review - Little Acorns

Sat, 08/01/2020 - 12:00

Editor's note: This review evaluates Grounded based on its early access state. We plan on reviewing Grounded again once it gets a full release.

Think about your favourite survival games. Think back to how they launched. Think of their initial public showing. If your favourites are like mine, you'll notice a trend: None of them were very good when they first launched to the general public.

Subnautica had me on the edge of my seat at launch, but it ran terribly. Four years later and its 1.0 build was one of my favourite games in a year that included God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2. The Forest, similarly, launched a mere shadow of the terrifying adventure it would eventually become. No Man's Sky was near-universally criticised at launch, but it eventually reached its potential and went beyond. Grounded, from Obsidian Entertainment, is currently in the early part of the aforementioned Early Access phase, and is lacking in many respects. But, like the games mentioned above, it has what feels like the potential to grow into something much, much greater.

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Panzer Paladin Review - Mech It So

Thu, 07/30/2020 - 08:19

Retro throwbacks that take inspiration from classics of a bygone gaming era can be found all over the various download storefronts that exist in today's console landscape. Taking inspiration from past masterpieces is one thing, but doing it well--and making a game that feels fresh and fun in the process--is another. Panzer Paladin borrows ideas and aesthetics from a variety of NES classics ranging from Blaster Master to Zelda II, but it mixes them all (with a dash of mech anime styling for flavor) into a curious new concoction. The result is a fun and engaging adventure that 2D action fans old and new would do well to check out.

Panzer Paladin's premise and visual style feel lifted straight out of a cult-classic retro game from the early '90s. As spunky, jump-suited android lady Flame, you are tasked with piloting your giant sentient mech exosuit buddy Grit in an effort to fight off a massive race of bloodthirsty, war-hungry interstellar monstrosities called the Ravenous. You trek through seventeen stages, some on Earth and some in the Ravenous's stronghold, filled to bursting with enemies, hazards, hidden treasures, and lots of weapons from the aliens' corrupted forge.

And by lots of weapons, I really do mean lots of weapons. Hammers, knives, lances, daggers, swords, staves, hockey sticks, giant bones, ultra-hard frozen ice pops--every level in Panzer Paladin is rich with a variety of implements to cut, poke, and smash with. While Grit's fists pack a mighty punch, weapons are the way to go for any serious combat, adding range and power to the mech's strikes. However, the intensity of battle wears weapons down, and all of them will eventually break--but that's okay, because there are always plenty of new and unique armaments to be found from defeated enemies and hidden away in walls and crevices that you can stockpile.

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Maid Of Sker Review - Inn For A Frustrating Time

Tue, 07/28/2020 - 23:00

Maid of Sker begins in earnest as you walk under a burgundy banner advertising the Sker Hotel's grand reopening. The ivy-covered building looks more castle than inn, with gray stone walls and a central spire flanked by turrets. It's an imposing piece of architecture, starkly distinct from the sun-bleached wilderness that surrounds it. Passing under that banner and into the dark and secluded inn is the playable version of that moment in a horror flick when things in idyllic suburbia go sideways, or when a shark shows up to wreck a perfectly nice day at the beach. The banner is the dividing line between Maid of Sker's "before" and "after." Unfortunately, much of the evocative promise of the before disappears the moment you enter the after.

We move through this story as Thomas Evans, a composer who has traveled to Sker Point, a rocky peninsula on the southern coast of Wales, to rescue his lover Elisabeth. She grew up here, the daughter of renowned singer Prudence Williams--the titular Maid of Sker. Her father, owner of the reopening hotel on the Point, intends for Elisabeth to take up the mantle now that her famous mother has passed and to become the star attraction, drawing visitors to the isolated land. She tells Thomas that she has refused and that, as a result, her father has locked her up until she acquiesces.

But as Thomas arrives at Sker's abandoned train station, it becomes clear that Sker Point has descended into supernatural chaos. Elisabeth has sent Thomas her mother's locket and asked him to compose a song that serves as a musical counterpart to the melody within. This will, in some way that remains unclear for much of the game, help defeat the "darkness gathering here." In his quest, Thomas needs to explore the hotel and surrounding grounds to collect four brass cylinders scattered throughout, then plug them into her father's harmonium, a massive pipe organ that dominates the hotel's central hall.

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Destroy All Humans Review - A Close Encounter Of The Fun Kind

Tue, 07/28/2020 - 01:00

I love two types of sci-fi stories: the ones that are very dark and heavy with themes about humanity's failures, and the ones that are corny and feel like the product of someone who thinks space is a playground for fun. Destroy All Humans is firmly in the second category, embracing its cheesy story and dialogue, creating an entertaining sandbox for destruction that's still satisfying 15 years after its first release, even if it's bogged down by poor audio quality and shallow stealth mechanics.

The story plays out as a B-grade sci-fi movie set in the late '50s/early '60s. Over the six hours of campaign missions you'll laugh (or groan) at the majority of jokes and bad one-liners, making for an overall enjoyable experience. The premise of two aliens completely taking over America because humans are wildly incompetent is too ridiculous to take seriously, and the game embraces the absurdity well.

The voice work from the original release helps up the camp level, but the reused dialogue raises a few issues. The audio quality is flat-out bad by modern standards; its low-fidelity really sticks out when paired with the updated graphics. The characters don't have very many lines, either, resulting in annoying repetition very early on. Be prepared to hear about communists hundreds of times before you're done.

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Carrion Review - My Wayward Son

Sat, 07/25/2020 - 09:11

As you're slinking around air ducts and planning a surprise attack on a helpless scientist, it's difficult not to feel empowered by Carrion's approach to horror. Here you aren't the one slowly peeking around each corner to make sure you're safe--you're the one doing the hunting, leaving a gory trail of devastation as you pick apart an underground laboratory one department at a time. When Carrion gives you the tools to be the best betentacled killing machine you can be, it's a satisfying monster simulator with engaging puzzles and clever combat, but it falters in moments where you don't feel as in control as you should be.

Carrion's star is undoubtedly the gooey red monster you play as. Simply moving around is immensely satisfying. It feels as though you're constantly floating, with extending appendages latching onto surfaces around you to feed into the illusion of chaotic but calculated traversal. By making movement effortless, Carrion lets you appreciate how good it looks in motion, from squeezing your red mass into a narrow air duct to transforming into a school of parasitic worms to swim through grates. There are a handful of instances where your size makes orienting yourself slightly challenging, but they're small teething issues as you learn to navigate around.

When you consume humans, you gain life and grow, while the reverse happens when you take damage. As you progress through each level, you unlock new abilities which are directly tied to your current size. When you're at your largest, you can cause devastating damage by sending a flurry of tentacles forward and viciously pulling anything in their way towards you. At a medium size, you can encase yourself in spikes and roll around a room dealing damage in all directions, while your smallest sizes offer more utility-style abilities like stealth and a handy stun attack. Tying abilities to your size makes combat dynamic, where you're constantly watching the damage you take and adjusting your strategy as you go. It takes a bit to get comfortable with the sudden ability shifts in the heat of the moment, but getting access to movesets that let you dominate or flee a fight when you need them feels great.

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Rock Of Ages 3: Make Or Break Review

Fri, 07/24/2020 - 17:00

Rock of Ages 3: Make or Break is a carefree hop, skip, and jump through world history, art, and absurdist meme culture. One moment it's 800 BC and the set is dressed in the myths of ancient Greece, the next it's 1500 AD and the sun god gazes down on Tenochtitlan, then a bit later it's the very beginning of time and everything is spaghetti and meatballs. It never dwells, never stops to make sense of it all. Historical figures pop their cartoonish heads into view for a brief visual gag before disappearing, bit players tossed aside in a bygone round of whack-a-mole.

Fittingly, Rock of Ages 3 is best enjoyed with the same restless approach in mind. Structured as a series of discrete challenges, each hectic bout of arcade action lasting no more than a couple of frantic minutes, it feels designed to be experienced in short, sharp bursts. Don't linger. Dip in and, when you feel the frustration levels rising, dip out, move on to a new challenge, or simply come back later.

The core conceit revolves around the idea that all war, throughout all history, is essentially fought by lobbing rocks at each other. The Rock of Ages series has so far focused on one very specific interpretation of this idea: You have to roll a rock through a trap-laden obstacle course to attack the enemy castle at the end. Controlling the roll takes some adjustment. The initial temptation is to embrace the top speed of your chosen boulder and should be resisted. Move too fast and you won't have the handling to steer through the crowded tracks, let alone slow down in time to make the next corner. Rocks don't have brakes as such, and it took me some time to get used to easing off the accelerator when required and knowing when my built-up momentum was optimal to negotiate what lay ahead.

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Rocket Arena Review - Up In The Air

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 07:33

The rocket launcher is one of the most recognizable weapons in multiplayer shooters. From Quake to Team Fortress, its function as a weapon morphed into an alternative means of traversal, with the risk of a self-inflicted death and the reward of superior map positioning enticing players to become proficient at rocket jumping. In Rocket Arena, both the rocket launcher and rocket jumping are core to the action. But without suitably satisfying shooting and the mitigation of all the rewards associated with its core mechanic, Rocket Arena lacks a compelling and lasting appeal.

Rocket Arena features a roster of 10 playable characters, each equipped with their own version of a rocket launcher and some auxiliary abilities. The variations go from basic, such as Jayto's straight-shooting launcher and multi-missile secondary attack, to complicated, like Kayi's ability to speed up friendly rockets and slow down enemy ones. Whether you settle on the lobbed rockets of space pirate Blastbeard or the trickster abilities of mage Mysteen, Rocket Arena's characters all feature enough mechanical variety to make them stand out from each other despite all featuring the same type of main weapon. Their cartoonish designs and bursting costume colors look great, but their uninteresting backstories and few voice-lines limit the extent of their personalities.

These weapon and ability differences feed into the 3v3 team play in each of Rocket Arena's competitive modes. A team cannot feature duplicates of a character, so you're encouraged to work around the selections of your teammates. Although the very brief and basic tutorial doesn't teach you about it, attacks can be combined between characters to form more powerful combos. Ability effects can be transferred onto rockets fired by teammates, for example, but attempting to coordinate both the timing and positioning for such a move is often not worth the payoff.

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Necrobarista Review - Pour One Out

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 00:00

Death positivity--a movement that encourages people to openly acknowledge and normalize the traditionally taboo topics of dying and grief--is a relatively new subject for video game narratives, though it has been popularized through indie titles like A Mortician's Tale and What Remains of Edith Finch. Necrobarista joins that conversation but with a more hands-off approach, telling the player a story that revolves around the themes of death as opposed to letting players be a part of the narrative. Ultimately, this is to the game's detriment, but Necrobarista still manages to deliver a genuinely moving character-driven narrative about coming to terms with death, whether it's that of a loved one or our own.

As it's a visual novel, there's not much in terms of gameplay when it comes to Necrobarista. Your primary means of understanding its world is by reading its story, which is told in a slice-of-life format that provides a quick snippet of the daily goings-on inside a Melbourne-based cafe called Terminal over the course of several days. Terminal exists on an in-between plane (it's technically a part of the living world but it exists as a potential stopping point before the afterlife), allowing both the living and the dead to wander through its doors. The dead are only permitted to stay 24 hours before Terminal staff must encourage them to move on to the afterlife--whether that's heaven, hell, or something else entirely is unknown as no one has ever come back from it. The dead who stay longer than 24 hours begin upsetting the balance of the universe, which runs up a tab that the cafe has to then pay off. At the start of Necrobarista, the cafe has recently been passed down from immortal necromancer Chay to his protege, Maddy, along with several centuries' worth of debt.

An assertive, sarcastic, and loud-mouthed necromancer with no patience for customers who want extravagant coffee orders, Maddy is the immediate star of Necrobarista's story. Necrobarista ditches the traditional 2D-style of most visual novels for a 3D cinematic presentation with clear anime aesthetics, allowing the visual novel to instill a great deal of nuance into each character's movements and facial expressions. Even without any spoken dialogue, you get a good sense of who a person is and how they would sound within seconds of meeting them, and Maddy is the best example--she pulls off a variety of expressions that convey a mixture of snark, disdain, and coy playfulness. This is clearly a young woman who's very intelligent and driven and doesn't enjoy suffering some of the idiots she's forced to serve.

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Beyond A Steel Sky Review - The Sky Is Falling

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 02:00

In the 26 years since Revolution Software released Beneath A Steel Sky, the adventure game has come full circle. After the genre struggled to adapt into 3D and was briefly declared dead by pundits, the genre's resurgence occurred on two main fronts--the simplified, story-driven 3D games of Telltale, which focused on choice and consequence over puzzles, and retro-styled 2D games released like Unavowed, Kathy Rain, and Broken Age, which included a lot of the esoteric puzzle-solving the genre used to be known for. Beyond A Steel Sky, the long-awaited sequel to the 1994 original, is an attempt to bridge the gap between those two styles--but unfortunately, it ends up feeling like some of the messier 3D adventure games from 20 years ago rather than another classic like its predecessor.

Beyond A Steel Sky brings back Robert Foster, the protagonist of the first game, and picks up 10 years after his escape from Union City and LINC, the half-mechanical, half-organic being that runs it. Robert has returned to the "gaplands" surrounding the city, where he lives a happy, earnest life within a small society. However, he's soon forced to return to Union City after a young friend, Milo, is kidnapped by a huge robot and taken somewhere in the sprawling metropolis. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic Australia, but references to the country are unfortunately fleeting, despite the game's aesthetic invocation of the British colonization of the country--the gaplanders are largely people of colour, and Union City is predominantly white.

At first, it's great to be back in the world of Steel Sky. The nods to the first game start flowing in from the first moments--like the original game, the opening is made up of comic panels drawn by Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons, whose most famous work receives a few fun nods and Easter eggs throughout the game. Joey, Robert's robotic sidekick, also returns, and seeing these two characters reunited is one of the game's highlights. The city, which is rendered in glorious 3D is lovely, too--the skyline stretches far into the background, and the cel-shaded aesthetic suits it.

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Ooblets Early Access Review - They're Breakdance Fighting

Sat, 07/18/2020 - 08:51

Editor's note: This review evaluates Ooblets based on its early access state. We plan on reviewing Ooblets again once it gets a full release.

Ooblets is a charming little game, which is immediately apparent upon booting it up. You're greeted with a loading screen that lets you know the game is taking the time to "delete negative reviews" and "make you wait" before getting blasted with an onslaught of bright colors and an adorable soundtrack that you can really groove to. I've seen firsthand what this game can do to people: My roommate sashays to the beat whenever he walks by my door while I'm playing. I'd make fun of him for it if I didn't catch myself doing the exact same thing.

Ooblets maintains its cutesy tongue-in-cheek humor and visuals all throughout. The catchy soundtrack never lets up either, firmly establishing Ooblets as another one of those relaxing life simulator games that will assuredly take an embarrassing amount of hours from my life by the time it's done with me. It's not locked up inside during quarantine with me; I'm very much locked up inside with it. Which isn't to say the game doesn't have its problems--I've run into more than a few throughout my 15 hours with it--but there's definitely an enjoyable gameplay loop here.

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Bloodstained: Curse Of The Moon 2 Review - Twice In A Blue Moon

Fri, 07/17/2020 - 04:56

The first thing you should know about Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 is that it features a playable corgi named Hachi who pilots an enchanted mecha-tank. The second thing you should know is that the classic Castlevania homage is in every way a marked improvement over the first Curse of the Moon. In fact, silly and meme-able as it is, the corgi represents a more playful spirit in this sequel that makes the whole experience richer.

The first Curse of the Moon was a short and sweet diversion, a little treat for Bloodstained backers and a neat idea to contextualize the new franchise venture from Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi. It essentially presented an alternative history, where Bloodstained was a known retro franchise and the then-upcoming Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was a bold reinvention a la Symphony of the Night.

For all its charms, though, Curse of the Moon played it pretty straight with its influences. The tone was moody and gothic and the heroes were stoic slabs of granite. Then Ritual of the Night came out and mixed its macabre and demonic imagery with elements that were self-consciously goofy, like giant kitten heads peeking through the castle windows. In that context, Hachi the corgi feels like developer Inti Creates embracing the cheeky oddball quality of the Bloodstained universe, now that it has been more well-defined. If you happen to die as Hachi--and how dare you, you monster--the game is sure to show a blink-and-you'll-miss-it animation of the little dog bailing out just before his mech explodes.

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Superliminal Review - We Live Inside A Dream

Thu, 07/16/2020 - 12:35

In 2020, it's been harder than ever to have a truly good night's sleep. With the world in disarray as a pandemic threatens our safety and wellbeing, I know that I am not alone in seeing a heavy uptick in nightmares, including dreams about death, disease, and general distress. Superliminal is about dreams and dream-logic, and represents a sort of nightmare itself, but it's a different kind from the ones I've experienced. For all its confusing geometry, strange logic, and growing unease, it's ultimately an optimistic and satisfying experience. Superliminal offers a short, enjoyable run through a subconscious in crisis, and it's a consistently clever and pleasantly challenging game with a lot on its virtual mind.

You play as a patient of Dr. Glenn Pierce, one who is undergoing the Somnasculpta sleep therapy program. The whole game is set within your medically induced dream as the program probes your subconscious, asking you to complete a series of challenges to find peace of mind and overcome feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Things go wrong fast, though; you take a wrong turn and stumble deeper into a dream state than was intended, and the deeper you go, the further your surroundings shift from a recognizable reality. It's like Portal's puzzle chambers crossed with the dream spaces of Inception (and a hint of Alice in Wonderland too), but despite those clear influences Superliminal feels like its own thing.

To get through the game, you're told to view things from a different perspective--although it might be more accurate to say that the game is about taking your existing perspectives and reconceptualizing them. The puzzles in Superliminal all revolve around your first-person viewpoint, and you have to figure out what elements of each environment you can manipulate. A lot of this involves resizing objects through an extremely satisfying mechanic--if you hold up a small square block in a hallway and position the reticule so that the block looks like it's far in the distance, you can drop it… and it'll now be much larger and located down at the other end of the hall. Similarly, if you grab something large in the distance and then look straight down, you can drop what is now a tiny object on the ground in front of you.

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