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Arcadegeddon Review - A Dubstep In The Wrong Direction

Sat, 07/09/2022 - 01:45

Arcadegeddon is a fusion of several different genres. Rather than play quite like any other game you may be familiar with, it's more like an amalgamation of some of the trendiest mechanics, meta-games, and genres currently dominating the video game world. It's part co-op loot-shooter, part roguelite, and part fashion show treadmill, borrowing from games such as Destiny, Fortnite, and even Hades in different but individually self-evident ways.

Like a Netflix algorithm that spits out actor and genre pairings based on market research, Arcadegeddon is a bland mish-mash of several games you'd enjoy better separately. It's not that they don't work as a whole; it's that Arcadegeddon feels so focus-tested on what worked before it that it forgets to add its own unique hook.

Immediately, the game's grating sci-fi world gives off strong Steve-Buscemi-with-a-skateboard vibes. Characters named Plug, Label, Juicy, and others exist in a world nearly vibrating from the perpetual dubstep soundtrack leaking out of speakers, and though the color palette is appealing, nothing these characters have to say is.

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F1 22 Review - Hammer Time

Fri, 07/08/2022 - 08:34

With one of the biggest changes to Formula 1 racing in over a decade taking place this season, it's unsurprising that its recreation in Codemaster's F1 22 refocuses on the fundamentals. It's easy to look at this year's entry in the F1 series and see only incremental improvements, with a clear focus on how the rapid cars handle around tight corners and translating the authenticity of the new regulations to players in a tangible way. The focus on small but important adjustments means that, as a whole package, F1 22 feels slightly trimmer than last year's version, but it's still a worthwhile successor because of how well it makes each corner feel in this new era of F1 racing.

If you're unfamiliar with just how broad the changes in real-life Formula 1 racing this season have been, there are just a few points that cover the broad picture. The cars are heavier this year, with the minimum allowable weight being raised to accommodate a slew of aerodynamic changes and rules, many of which put emphasis on empowering closer racing that is affected less by a loss in downforce (that is, the amount of grip you have on a track) experienced when following other cars. Many of these changes are represented on the underside of each car, with a ground effect now sucking cars closer to the track when they're hitting extremely high speeds. This makes fast, swooping turns feel easier to nimbly navigate but also means that more acutely angled corners taken at slower speeds are monumentally more challenging.

In the same way that the changes have made this Formula 1 season enticing to watch as drivers figure out the new limits of these cars around familiar circuits, F1 22 is a reset on your own understanding of racing in the game. Tracks with tight chicanes, such as the street circuit in Baku or the classic in Monte Carlo, are even more treacherous to navigate, with each slow corner feeling like it's demanding far too much steering from the new chassis. Conversely, tracks with long, fast turns, such as the sweeping Maggotts and Becketts corners at Silverstone or the long straights of Monza, feel much easier to manage. The changes are so stark that I often found myself adjusting the difficulty of the opponent AI in-between each of these events to compensate for my wildly varied performances, where I could be whole seconds ahead on one track and then struggle to get out of the first session of qualifying on another.

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Outriders: Worldslayer Review - Pleasantly Altered

Sat, 07/02/2022 - 02:47

Every time I return to Outriders, I'm reminded of how intense and fast-paced its core gameplay is. You play a superpowered killing machine who can create small-scale earthquakes, set enemies on fire, or teleport behind troops hiding in cover and tear them apart with your mind. Worldslayer, the game's first major story expansion, mostly just offers more opportunities to use ridiculous powers and guns to blast more enemies. Though it adds more story, the really meaningful changes are of a smaller scale, adding more loot to chase and endgame content that improves the game overall. It's not the most thrilling of expansions, but it does leave Outriders in a better place, with more to do and more reasons to tectonically shift enemies into oblivion over the long term.

Those endgame improvements were some that Outriders needed. Where the game stumbled to some degree at its release was with extensive loot mechanics in what is otherwise an RPG shooter. Outriders encourages you to replay the game on tougher difficulties with a long tail of chasing down top-tier weapons and armor. But once the story is done, it's tough to stay interested. Though deep adjustable difficulty tiers meant you could challenge yourself and reap better rewards, the most lucrative place to play was in its repeatable endgame activity, Expeditions, which quickly started to feel a bit thin.

Developer People Can Fly has been making adjustments to the game since its launch in order to give fans more to do once the story is over, with those improvements culminating in Worldslayer. The expansion not only brings a few hours of additional story, it also adds significantly to the endgame, with new difficulty tiers, new skill trees to enhance your character, and new gear to earn. In other words, Worldslayer addresses Outriders' initial shortcomings with a bunch of new things to hunt down.

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DNF Duel Review - Here Comes A New Challenger

Fri, 07/01/2022 - 06:57

Throughout the years, the fighting game has proven to be one of the most versatile genres. Much of that versatility comes through guest characters, from The Walking Dead's villain-turned-antihero Negan joining Tekken 7, to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's all-star cast. With DNF Duel, Arc System Works ups the ante on this idea, taking an entire game--Nexon's long-running MMO Dungeon Fighter Online--and building a fresh fighting game with it. The result is a solid brawler that, despite a mediocre story, boasts a varied roster, near-flawless online play, and a fighting system with plenty of options for newcomers and seasoned veterans alike.

DNF Duel is set in the world of Dungeon Fighter Online, sure, but prior knowledge of that game is not required to jump into this one. The source material is mostly referential, serving as a backdrop for the overarching story and characters. Each of these characters is built from one of the MMO's playable classes. Some of the characters look like they were pulled from another fighting game; the Grappler, for instance, is a dark-haired, hand-to-hand fighter wearing a martial-arts uniform, which sounds familiar. Others, like the Ghostblade and the Berserker, stand out thanks to their incredible and intimidating looks. The Berserker's red eyes, spiky blond hair, and scaly red arm make him look like an evil Super Saiyan, while the Ghostblade is doubly scary thanks to the ethereal black beast floating over his body like a Stand from Jojo's Bizarre Adventure.

The fighting system in DNF Duel is the epitome of "easy to learn, hard to master." Moves are performed by combining single directions with attack buttons, akin to the control scheme in Super Smash Bros. Normal attacks can be performed with no restriction, while special moves pull from a finite amount of MP seen in a blue bar below a character's health. MP restores over time, but using a move that requires more MP than is available will put the character into an Exhaustion state, delaying MP regeneration and weakening attacks for a short period. This sounds pretty standard and honestly, that's a good thing; it makes for a low barrier of entry for players new to fighting games. However, that simplicity sits on top of a slew of moving parts that increase the learning curve significantly.

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Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course Review - More Than A Cherry On Top

Thu, 06/30/2022 - 23:00

I've played through Cuphead dozens of times over the past five years, and each time I appreciate its hand-drawn artistry even more. I still find new visual flourishes that I had never noticed before--split-second facial animations and the tiniest of details on the myriad objects and projectiles that fill the stages of frantic boss fights. Somehow, Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course easily surpasses the pure artistic beauty of the base game. The level of detail on display in the DLC's handful of boss fights is simply mind-boggling. More than just visually impressive, though, the new boss fights are more exciting, dynamic, and mechanically diverse. Coupled with a creative new playable character in Ms. Chalice and multiple interesting new weapons/charms, The Delicious Last Course is a triumph that expands on the base game in clever ways while also improving the original campaign itself.

Ms. Chalice is a game-changer in The Delicious Last Course, so it's not too surprising that the DLC's story is centered around her. The Legendary Chalice, a ghost who granted players Super Arts abilities in the main campaign, wants to come back to life. To do that, Ms. Chalice, Cuphead, and Mugman must collect the ingredients for the Wondertart from the bosses scattered across Inkwell Isle IV. In the meantime, there's a temporary fix for her not-being-alive problem: the Astral Cookie, a new charm that can be equipped to play as Ms. Chalice. And playing as Ms. Chalice is a fairly significant departure, especially for someone like me who has played the original campaign so many times.

While Cuphead and Mugman are functionally the same fighter, Ms. Chalice meaningfully changes how it feels to go up against the assortment of larger-than-life bosses. The Astral Cookie charm gives Ms. Chalice three unique abilities: double jump, dash parry, and invincible roll. She also gets an extra hit point. Considering that Cuphead is largely played with three buttons (jump, shoot, dash), altering how any of those operate shakes things up. At first, I found playing as Ms. Chalice a real challenge; it basically felt like I was learning how to play Cuphead again for the first time. I often pressed the jump button again to parry like I would with Cuphead or Mugman and wound up taking damage. But when it clicked, I learned that Ms. Chalice is an extremely versatile and nimble character.

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Neon White Review – Heavenly Sprint

Thu, 06/30/2022 - 05:51

Neon White is a curious amalgamation of Counter-Strike's thrilling surf maps, the time-trial-centric joy of Trackmania, and the anime-infused narrative of a visual novel--all sprinkled with a light dusting of Persona for good measure. It's also a first-person shooter/puzzle-platformer and one of the best games of the year. I've never played anything quite like it, despite being familiar with each of its influences. Not everything coalesces as one might hope, with the story's slow build interrupting the gameplay's rapid pace, but this does little to dampen the sheer, unadulterated glee that comes from traversing each of its 97 immaculately constructed levels.

At its most basic, Neon White is essentially a speedrunning first-person shooter. You play as the eponymous Neon White, a sinner from Hell who's given the chance to enter Heaven if he can rid it of a demon infestation. You'll glide, jump, and shoot your way through numerous celestial arenas, all with the end goal of reaching the finish line as quickly as possible--with the caveat that you also have to kill every demon along the way. Most of the levels are over in less than 30 seconds, but it's this confined sprint that proves so tantalizing. Reaching the end of a level is rarely ever difficult but the crux of Neon White lies in figuring out the best route through each one in order to shave off precious seconds and earn better medals and rewards.

To aid you in this endeavor is an inspired mechanic called Soul Cards. These finite pickups give you access to a range of weapons that can also be discarded to activate one-off abilities. The Fireball card, for example, functions like a shotgun, letting you shoot a powerful blast that's most effective at close range. If you discard it, however--losing the shotgun in the process--you can perform a directional air dash that obliterates any enemies you phase through. Other Soul Cards include long-range rifles, SMGs, and more, with their abilities giving you additional traversal and offensive options, including a double jump, ground pound, and grappling hook. You can only hold two unique Soul Cards at a time so you're never overpowered, but you can stack up to three of the same type, giving you more ammunition and multiple chances to use these secondary abilities.

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Poinpy Review - Moving On Up

Fri, 06/24/2022 - 07:14

To simplify Poinpy, you could call it the opposite of Downwell. The comparison is relevant as both games come from creator Ojiro Fumoto. In Downwell, you make your way down a well shooting enemies and collecting upgrades as you fall. In Poinpy, you make your way up a well and collect fruit to feed the giant Blue Beast that is chasing you upward. In practice, though, Poinpy has mechanics and a style all its own that expertly gamifies an action anyone who has ever used a modern phone is familiar with: the downward swipe.

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Poinpy is the titular bouncy dinosaur-like protagonist creature that wouldn't look out of place in a lineup with Kirby and Yoshi. In the game, you are outrunning a giant Blue Beast who always lingers at the bottom of the screen, demanding specific fruit recipes. To climb, you drag down on the screen to slingshot Poinpy upwards, bouncing them against walls and leaping off enemies while collecting specific fruit that randomly appears. The downward swipe action is the key to Poinpy's fun as it feels great to constantly launch them to progress. The mechanic perfectly encapsulates the video game idiom easy to learn, hard to master. My early runs were enjoyable as I awkwardly careened off the walls while not totally clear on my objective, but by the end of my playtime I felt like an acrobat expertly lining up my jumps to bounce off one enemy to collect the final banana and slamming down to deposit a mountain of juice into the blue beast's mouth below.

All the practice in the world, though, does not overcome the occasional annoyance of making a mistake. Understanding how to gain additional jumps, earned from bouncing off of enemies and pots, is what leads you to success, and the on-screen icons don't do the best job of quickly reminding you how many jumps you have left. On more than one occasion, I would think I was in good shape to grab the last kiwi I needed, only to learn too late that I was out of jumps and came crashing to the ground. At that point, you have to restart the recipe, which is a huge bummer especially during the late-game. This is, of course, the challenge of the game--managing jumps to collect the fruit you need--but sometimes it feels a little too punishing.

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Disney Mirrorverse Review - Shattered Dreams

Fri, 06/24/2022 - 02:00

At first glance, Disney Mirrorverse looks and sounds like a child making up a story on the fly with action figures. Characters from all across Disney's catalog--heroes and villains alike--come together to fight off a malevolent force that threatens all of reality. These characters aren't their usual selves, trading in their children's movie personas for something with a little more edge. It's a bold and interesting choice, something never seen before from this group of characters, and this world's mere existence is an exciting prospect. Unfortunately, the boldness of Mirrorverse comes at a cost, literally, as the idea is buried beneath crystalline loot boxes, microtransactions, and convoluted progression. What could have been a whole new world for Disney is instead just the latest run-of-the-mill mobile game.

Disney Mirrorverse is an action-RPG set in the titular Mirrorverse, where enemies called the Fractured are growing in power. You battle these hordes with teams of three heroes called Guardians, chosen from the 44 characters who make up the roster. Each of the 44 fills one of four archetypes, Melee, Ranged, Support, and Tank, which informs how they fight. These classes are standard fare: Melee Guardians use swords and other handheld weapons, Ranged heroes rely on magic and projectiles, Tanks stay in the enemy's face while soaking up damage, and Supports heal teammates, debuff enemies, and more. You get new Guardians through Crystals--Mirrorverse's version of loot boxes that are both earned through gameplay and purchased with in-game and real-world currencies. Crystals come in multiple forms, some highlighting specific Guardians or guaranteeing specific ranks, and are opened with typical loot box theatrics via the in-game shop.

As a longtime Disney fan, I cannot stress enough how cool it is to see these characters in this new light. Belle from Beauty and the Beast steps out of the library as a powerful mage, wielding a staff powered by the magic rose itself. Her villainous counterpart, Gaston, has gone full Game of Thrones wildling with his massive bow and shoulder-spanning wolf pelt. The lovable bear Baloo dons his Disney Afternoon-era TaleSpin garb and uses a giant plane propeller as a broadsword. Not all characters receive such revolutionary designs--Elsa is an elemental who controls ice, for instance--but even those that don't stray as far from the source have their charm.

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Capcom Fighting Collection Review: Family Feud

Wed, 06/22/2022 - 01:00

Capcom Fighting Collection feels like a family reunion. Ten games reside in this digital banquet, ranging from all-time fighting game favorites to a few relics of the past. They all play exceptionally well, particularly online, and each one is an arcade-perfect port. The main issue with the collection is balance, as half of the offerings are centered around a single series: Darkstalkers. While those games are good--the previously Japan-only titles are particularly appreciated--a little more variety in this collection would have pushed it up a tier or two. As it stands, it's a little too much of a monster mash.

This isn't to say there aren't a few well-known, non-Darkstalkers games in the collection as well, as it showcases the breadth of Capcom's arcade 2D fighting game history. Both Hyper Street Fighter II--the 2003 port of 1994's Super Street Fighter II Turbo--and 1996's Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo are included in Capcom Fighting Collection. While each title has been ported multiple times since its original release--SFII is available pretty much everywhere, and although not as ubiquitous, Puzzle Fighter II Turbo has also appeared on more console generations than you'd think--this collection marks the first time the games have been sold together. Both play exactly as you remember them here: Hyper SFII is the classic one-on-one fighting game starring Ryu, Chun-Li, and more, while Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo replaces fighting with gem-matching in a format similar to Columns from Sega.

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Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix--also known as Pocket Fighter--ups the ante for Street Fighter-themed inclusions. It is one of the goofiest fighting games Capcom has ever made thanks to its chibi-style character design and light-hearted battle animations, and revisiting this particular page of fighting game history was an unexpected blast. I'd forgotten just how wacky this game was until I selected Zangief for the first time and watched him transform through the stages of evolution in a single combo, and revisiting this particular page of fighting game history was an unexpected blast. One of the stages features a giant Capcom-themed toy store in the background, with a child version of Cammy pointing at a toy in the window and tugging on her father M. Bison's coat as he shakes his head in disapproval. It's a silly, irreverent, and wonderful gem of a game and I'm glad Capcom brought it back.

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Sonic Origins – Going Fast, Again

Tue, 06/21/2022 - 23:00

There's no denying the appeal of classic Sonic--the 16-bit Sonic games are some of the most memorable and influential platformers around. No matter what happens with modern-day Sonic, the old games remain as wondrous and as exciting as ever; a sort of gaming comfort food you can keep coming back to for years on end. It's no surprise then that Sega has re-released the classic Sonic games many, many times over in various compiled and standalone forms. Sonic Origins is the latest such compilation, with its main selling point being that the games have been completely rebuilt by many of the staff behind the beloved Sonic Mania. And while the games remain as delightful as ever, the package as a whole feels a little disappointing.

Sonic Origins contains four (technically, five, since Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles were sold separately) classic Sonic games from the 16-bit era: the original Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic CD, Sonic 2, and the combined Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Rather than the emulation most re-releases utilize, each of the games has been rebuilt in a new engine (the Retro Engine) to play almost exactly like their original versions--though with various quality-of-life improvements added. Sonic 1, for example, has a spin dash and fixes the infamous instant-kill spike bug, while Sonic 2 adds a new level (the mythical Hidden Palace Zone), and Sonic 3 & Knuckles has touched-up sprite animation for its cinematics and the Super Sonic transformation, and so on. In addition, characters who might not have been playable in the original releases also are made available, such as Tails in Sonic CD and Knuckles in Sonic 1. (Knuckles still isn't in Sonic CD, likely because his play style really doesn't match the way that game's levels flow.) Most of the original visuals and music remain intact, though some of Sonic 3's music (long theorized to have the involvement of Michael Jackson) has been changed, likely for legal reasons.

All of the games have a new "anniversary mode" that increases the viewing area to 16:9 (as opposed to the original 4:3 aspect ratio) and removes the lives counter. You can still die, of course, but you'll just respawn at the last checkpoint, making the threat of a looming Game Over moot. The lives counter is instead replaced by a coin counter. Coins can be collected within the games from power-up monitors, getting lots of rings, and clearing Special Stages. You can then spend these coins to unlock extras in Sonic Origins' museum, or retry when you fail to get the Chaos Emerald in a Special Stage. It's a great feature for Sonic 1 and Sonic CD, where opportunities to enter and clear a Special Stage are quite limited--less so for Sonic 2 and S3&K where opportunities are more plentiful early on and you can then blaze through the rest of the game as Super Sonic after getting a full emerald set.

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Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes Review – Wars With Friends

Tue, 06/21/2022 - 23:00

With each new release from Dynasty Warriors developer Omega Force, the word "Warriors" gets further away from the word "Dynasty". The Musou action genre it created, where you play as an ultra powerful soldier against an army of hundreds, is borrowing more and more from the franchises it licenses story and characters from. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity looked and even sometimes felt like Breath of the Wild. Persona 5 Strikers (which lacks "Warriors" in the title, but is a Musou game) played like an extension of Persona 5, but with a different combat style. This trend among Omega Force’s games is a positive one, as you can only press the Y button so many times before you want to do something different. Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes offers perhaps the most opportunity to entertain yourself outside of comboing through thousands of enemies that the studio has released yet thanks to its Fire Emblem: Three Houses-inspired content between missions. The result is a better-paced, more interesting experience than previous Omega Force games, but one that is still very much a Musou game.

Where the original Fire Emblem Warriors presented an ultimately unfulfilled opportunity to meet and play with the larger history of Fire Emblem characters, Three Hopes reigns in the focus and is essentially a pseudo-sequel/alternate telling of Three Houses that is an action game instead of a tactics RPG. You won’t run into characters like Roy or Marth, but you do have the choice to join Edelgard’s Black Eagles, Prince Dimitri’s Blue Lions, or--the correct choice--Claude’s Golden Deers. If you’ve played Three Houses, seeing these characters and agonizing over the choice again is nice, but this time you’re playing as a new character named Shez, whose appearance throws the timeline out of sync and forces former Three Houses protagonist Byleth into the antagonist role. The departure gives an illuminating new look at that story, allowing you to interact with familiar characters under new circumstances. This change also made me admire Byleth in a new way, as she destroyed me the first time I met her, and proved to be a worthy challenge on nearly every subsequent rematch.

Before and after combat encounters is where Three Hopes is the closest to Three Houses and doesn’t feel like a typical Musou game. Between pressing Y arguably too much, you visit base camp, where you can upgrade facilities, train, speak with your soldiers, make a meal, or even take care of horses. I enjoyed the reprieve from the repetitive combat and though I didn’t want to hear from every character between battles (and often elected not to), the opportunity to get to know the cast of characters, improve all the interpersonal relationships, and make them stronger during combat, made me eager to return to base camp. I even enjoyed the strangeness of going on the occasional date between slaughtering opposing troops. Base camp doesn’t change visually as a result of upgrades, which is disappointing, but leveling up and improving the facilities is rewarding for the bonuses they provide, like faster training or stores being able to carry more supplies.

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Diablo Immortal Review - Evil On The Go

Sat, 06/18/2022 - 03:56

There is little to question that Diablo Immortal is a big and richly produced Diablo entry. It looks great, it evolves the formula of action role-playing introduced in Diablo III and matches it acutely to the hardware it was originally designed for, and it strikes a good balance of making you feel powerful while also enticing you to continue hunting down better loot. In that sense, Diablo Immortal is just another good Diablo game, but it's also one that can't always be played with the same obsessive cadence as prior titles given the number of barriers that can routinely force some time away from it.

The story takes place between Diablo II and III, with familiar faces popping up to provide some thin context for events that have transpired by the time you arrive in Tristram at the start of the last core title. Deckard Cain is back (why wouldn't he be?) and so is a new evil that is threatening to use shards of the same Worldstone to wreak havoc across the lands. Story conversations are fully voiced, which makes Immortal feel as premium as previous Diablo titles on PC. There's really nothing here that suggests it's anything less than that either, with large open spaces for you to explore and numerous side quests to undertake as you progress the story.

What is different is obviously where you'll be playing. Diablo Immortal was designed for smartphones, and it's unsurprising then that it plays best on them, too. The touch controls employ the familiar digital analog stick on the left side of the screen, while the right features a cluster of buttons for your various abilities. You have a single main attack along with four equippable skills to choose from, with a fifth ultimate ability button appearing once you have access to it. It's simple and well-spaced out, and I never found myself accidentally pressing any skills I didn't want to. You can move and have attacks target enemies automatically, which simplifies your focus further, but also helps you accurately aim certain skills that require it. With my Necromancer, I often need to choose the area in which I want to explode a bunch of corpses, which is easily done by just holding down the skill in question and rotating my finger to position it. In a chaotic fight where I needed to pull this off fast, the accuracy could be a little wonky, but these moments were mostly fleeting.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge Review - Turtle Power!

Thu, 06/16/2022 - 01:00

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge is fueled by the power of nostalgia and (presumably) dozens upon dozens of slices of New York pizza. 1992's Turtles in Time is one of the most beloved Super Nintendo games of all time, arriving at a time when the Heroes in a Half-Shell were at the peak of their popularity. It's clear that the beat-'em-up connoisseurs at developer Tribute Games have a deep reverence for both that game and the Turtles of the late '80s and early '90s, because Shredder's Revenge is essentially a sequel 30 years in the making. It faithfully re-captures what made Turtles in Time such a cherished brawler, all while introducing a few new ideas to freshen up the classic 16-bit gameplay for a modern audience.

If you're a fan of Turtles in Time, you'll feel right at home as soon as Shredder's Revenge begins. The opening cutscene sees the anthropomorphic brothers gathered around an old CRT TV watching a news report that's interrupted when a few of their notorious adversaries attack the Statue of Liberty. It's not exactly the same as Turtles in Time's opening, but it's very close. Once you hop into the first level, this feeling of familiarity doesn't wear off. The level introductions feature the same silhouette of the boss you'll be facing, and if you're playing as either Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, or Michelangelo, you'll notice that their abilities and combos have been faithfully adapted from their adventure in '92. Chaining together attacks is more fluid than it once was, but you can still perform a plethora of recognizable moves, from barreling enemies over with a running shoulder charge to canceling a dodge in order to launch into a slide kick. You can even grab Foot soldiers and toss them right at the camera.

Playing Shredder's Revenge feels like playing Turtles in Time--or, at least, how I remember it in my mind's eye--but there's still fun to be had even if you don't possess any of that potent nostalgia. It's still very much inspired by the beat-'em-ups of the era--including the earlier Turtles games released for the NES--with its fast, arcade-style action seeing enemies arrive on screen just as quickly as they're vanquished. There's a ton of enemy variety, too, which often forces you to diversify your offense to get behind a shielded foe or dispatch a flying nuisance. Defeating most of the bosses is a matter of learning their attack patterns and knowing when to dodge and when to inflict damage. A few of these end-of-level obstacles are more involved, though, such as the Rat King, who will jump out of harm's way and summon swarms of rats for you to evade. It's all relatively simple, but there's some depth beyond the surface with the likes of juggles and ground bounces, and the swift rhythm of the action is particularly satisfying.

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Mario Strikers: Battle League Review

Wed, 06/08/2022 - 23:00

Mario Strikers: Battle League may be the most mechanically dense Mario sports game I've played. The latest Mushroom Kingdom spin on soccer looks to take the sport seriously, allowing you to juggle passes, tackle, dodge, and cancel moves as the situation demands, even before factoring in its uniquely silly Mario twists. That makes for a high skill ceiling that could conceivably give the game a long lifespan, but its potential is held back by the fact that there just isn't all that much to do.

The mechanical complexity of the game is explained back-to-back-to-back in a dizzying set of tutorials. Rather than ease you in with a few basic lessons and then teach you some field skills and then progressively ramp up throughout practical games, Mario Strikers: Battle League asks if you'd like to do the tutorial, and then delivers you all of them in a row. Just as you're getting a handle on tackling and Hyper Shots, you start getting Expert-level lessons that teach advanced techniques like canceling a charged shot or the subtle differences between a free pass and a more powerful free pass. The mechanics themselves are complex so the hefty tutorials are understandable, but it can feel a little overwhelming when it's all dropped in your lap at once.

Once you enter into the game menu, single-player opportunities to test out your newfound soccer skills are sparse. You can take part in a Quick Match, the most basic of all sports game options, or you can play in a series of four-team, double-elimination tournaments called Cup Battles. That's it. There's no distinct career mode, progression ramp, or even alternate rule sets to mix things up. It's a remarkably anemic level of options, which makes the whole affair feel slightly unfinished. Mario Strikers has a great foundation, but there isn't much to do or see inside of it.

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The Quarry Review - Summer Scare Fest

Wed, 06/08/2022 - 23:00

What happens when you take a bunch of teenagers, strand them alone in the middle of the woods, and leave them with naught but a foreboding warning that's just begging to be ignored? "Nothing good," is the answer, but that's exactly why we're here. This is the devilishly appealing setup for The Quarry, Supermassive Games' spiritual successor to Until Dawn. After dabbling in shorter stories with The Dark Pictures Anthology series, The Quarry sees the studio return to its roots with a new 10-hour horror game that sticks closely to the well-received formula that made Until Dawn such a rousing success.

After a mysterious and unsettling prologue, The Quarry's first act begins on the last day of summer camp. With all of the kids sent home, only the counselors and the camp's owner remain. He's anxious for everyone to leave as quickly as possible, which immediately throws up a few red flags, but when their minivan fails to start, the counselors are forced to spend another night together. Being teenagers, they come up with the grand idea to throw one last party before heading home in the morning. No harm, no foul, right? Obviously, things don't quite go to plan--and not just because booze is hard to come by--so you'll spend the evening switching between control of all nine counselors as they attempt to survive the night against numerous unforeseen threats.

Delving into any more detail would infringe on spoiler territory, and part of The Quarry's charm comes from uncovering its enticing mysteries. There are some fairly obvious hints early on that should give you a good idea of what you'll be up against, but things aren't always as they seem, and the revelations keep unfolding right up until its final moments.

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