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By Jonathan Balofsky On 21 Nov, 2017 At 11:22 PM | Categorized As Featured, News, NINTENDO, Nintendo Switch, Reviews, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

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Shoot em Up games are awesome, there is no denying that. But then there are games that are pushing the genre is new directions. Whether it be through adding story, platform elements, or more ways to interact with the environment, developers are now realizing that there is a lot more that can be done than was previously thought. Enter Two Tribes with Rive Ultimate Edition on Nintendo Switch, the definitive edition of Two Tribes genre bending shooter.

Rive Ultimate Edition is certainly unlike other shoot em ups, and not just because it involves more of a narrative. The game truly gives the shooter genre some new ideas ,by forcing you to think of how you are supposed to progress. This is not to say the game is slow paced in any way, as the action is fast and intense and will keep you coming back for more. It is just that Rive is a different beast altogether. I called this a genre bending shooter above, and I feel that is the best way to describe this game. Rive changes the rules and innovates on the shoot em up genre in ways that have not been considered before. Is this even a shooter? Or has it become something else altogether?

Rive uses the Switch to its full potential, with full HD Rumble support, new modes and more achievements. What new modes? Co-Pilot mode, where two players can play simultaneously with one Joy Con each. Both players control the same ship, and must work together to progress. It sounds awkward but makes for a surprisingly fun time. The HD Rumble is also very well integrated, which makes the experience more immersive and intense.

I feel that Rive: Ultimate Edition is one that Nintendo Switch owners should not pass up. While the Switch has a lot of great shoot em ups, this is one that sets itself apart in a good way. I highly recommend it.

Disclaimer: A review key was provided by Two Tribes.

By Jonathan Balofsky On 21 Nov, 2017 At 08:57 PM | Categorized As News, News, News, NINTENDO, PC Games, PlayStation, ROG News, Xbox 360/Xbox One | With 0 Comments

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Bloodstained: Ritual of The Night will be coming out sometime in 2018. Development seems to be nearing the end, and the developers are now asking for fan input on bonus lines and content they are interested in seeing. This is mainly in terms of Easter Eggs and such and not major changes.

They also noted they are accepting more than one submission, and all they ask is that the submissions be impressive to them.

They sent out the following tweet

Will you submit an idea?

 

We will have a review of Bloodstained: Ritual of The Night when the game launches in 2018 (Disclaimer: This author was a backer of the kickstarter)

 

 

By Jonathan Balofsky On 20 Nov, 2017 At 01:52 PM | Categorized As Editorials, Featured, Old School Otaku, PC Games, Reviews, ROG News, ROG Retro | With 0 Comments

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RPGs are a beloved genre, but when it comes to video games, most of the best RPGs trace their roots to one series and that is Ultima, the series from Lord British himself, Richard Garriot. There is so much that can be said about the Ultima series that I will need to do this in parts. Today we look at Ultima Underworld, the spinoff that inspired so many games.

In this game, you explored things from a first person perspective, but unlike dungeon crawlers at the time, this one not a single flash screen affair. Rather, the game scrolled in real time which allowed a deeper sense of immersion than anything else at the time. This was more than just a dungeon crawler though, as there was a massive world to explore with multiple sidequests. It eschewed typical expectations for RPGs and instead created a new format and style for itself. The best games are not those that try to be the best or try to be the most unique for the sake of being unique. Rather the best games are the ones that set out to do something different because they are doing what is best for the game.

Ultima Underworld was the first indoor, real-time, 3D first-person game to allow the player to look up and down, and to jump. This would influence not only later RPGs but also first person shooters as well. The games also told a real story rather than the generic plots of many other RPGs, by expanding on the worlds introduced in Ultima and giving us a new part of it to explore. The result was a fully realized world that even the main series borrowed from. Ultima has always been a series of firsts and the  Ultima Underworld games continued that. This is the point where games started relying less on imagination and moved from telling you the details, to showing them. Suddenly what was once the norm in gaming, became obsolete very quickly.

I do not hesitate when I say that Ultima Underworld 1 and 2 influenced the creation of almost all first person open world RPGs that came out after. This includes multiple styles of games such as The Elder Scrolls as well as Bioshock and Deus Ex. In fact, Warren Spector himself worked on this game. In addition, the music for Ultima Underworld: The Sygian Abyss was done by George Sanger, the fat man himself, and one of his frequent collaborators David Govett, and they brought their best to this work. The soundtrack was created as a powerful work with  great combat music and the best feeling of immersion, with moments of dread and excitement being conveyed beautifully.

Ultima Underworld 1 and 2 can still be appreciated today. Even with the older style of visuals and game design, the games hold up surprisingly well, which is a testament to how well they were made. I encourage you all to try these games, and see for yourself why they helped make gaming what it is today. If you do check these games out ( available on GOG.com right here), you might also be interested in knowing there is a third game coming. Underworld Ascendant will see Warren Spector return to the director’s role for the game and once more bring his insight. Now is the perfect time to see why these games matter so much.

By Jonathan Balofsky On 17 Nov, 2017 At 07:06 AM | Categorized As Featured, News, NINTENDO, Nintendo Switch, Reviews, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

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The Elder Scrolls is a legendary series and Skyrim, its most recent main entry, has now come to Nintendo Switch. As should be apparently by my many articles, I am a fan of the series and was eagerly awaiting this release. Skyrim has never been available in such a portable fashion before, and that is a game changer, but is it enough to warrant a purchase?

I should begin by noting that while this version lacks mods, some things have been changed. Not major details that many would notice, but some bugs have been fixed, such as invisible wall issues and such and it is a welcome change. In fact there are many subtle improvements that make this a very polished version of the game. This isn’t to say there are no issues, as the first time I played, the game encountered an error and closed, but that only happened once.  It just feels like this version is for lack of a better term, a cleaned and refined version.

But what about how it plays? Very well I must say, as aside from the initial crash and a bug or two ( not unheard of for a game in this series at all), I encountered few problems. The controls were responsive and the motion controls were far more than a mere tacked on gimmick. A big issues for The Elder Scrolls series is that the combat is a bit dated and tends to be clunky. With motion controls though, the combat felt far more immersive than ever, both in terms of weapons and magic abilities. Blocking with the shield, aiming with the bow and wielding the sword all felt very intuitive, and motion controls and spells feel like they were made for each other. I must say that this is one of the best implementation of motion controls I have ever seen, so kudos to Bethesda and Iron Galaxy  for this.

A big deal made about the game was the amiibo support and Zelda content. I must say that I found the Zelda items a little overpowered, but considering they act a s a stand in for mods right now, this is fine. It is neat to see the dragonborn dress like Link and use his equipment to save Skyrim from the dragons. The location the items are in, if you choose not to use amiibo, is also both very lore friendly and a great shoutout to another series as well.

Skyrim performs great on the Switch, which surprised me. There was a mostly solid 30 FPS with only minimal dips, no screen tearing and visually the game actually seemed more colourful somehow. Some visuals were sacrificed to make the game run better, but to be honest, that actually helped give the game is more colourful and vibrant look in a way. In terms of audio and music, the game is still amazing and hearing the Zelda chime is a cool bit, along with Skyrim’s own amazing music.  This is Skyrim like you have never experienced it before and I cannot get enough of it. If you own a Nintendo Switch, you must get this game!

By Jonathan Balofsky On 15 Nov, 2017 At 10:55 PM | Categorized As Featured, PC Games, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

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The first person dungeon crawler genre has fallen by the wayside in recent years. What was once a major genre of PC games that directly led to modern RPGs like The Elder Scrolls and Dragon Age,  hasn’t been used much lately. That is not to say they have been absent, as indie games such as Legend of Grimrock and Heroes of the Monkey Tavern have helped keep the genre alive in peoples’ minds.  But these come off as tributes to the past with modern touches, rather than something that truly adds to the genre.

Enter Hyakki Castle, a game that takes the first person dungeon crawler and transplants it to 18th century Japan. In this game, you will find yourself on a quest to stop an evil sorcerer from destabilizing Japan, and are sent by the Shogun to resolve the matter. It is a simple story but it works well, and helps get you into the game quickly. Hyakki Castle has the character/class select as seen in other dungeon crawlers, but this time you have human, tengu, oni, and nekomata as the species you can be, along with samurai, shinobi, priest and monk as your class options. Selecting the best party is essential due to some of the unique mechanics the game has to offer.

In Hyaaki Castle, you will find yourself journeying through a castle in Edo era Japan and will find monsters at every corner. The enemies are well designed and interestingly enough, use dated visuals that actually help to give the opponents a sense of being truly other. One thing I truly enjoyed was the fact that the game requires you to split your party in two in order to solve puzzles and defeat certain foes. It might sound confusing but it actually works really well and feels like a natural thing. The enemies, based on Japanese folklore, give the game a feeling of horror while still being an RPG. This is not just a reskin of other indie dungeon crawlers, and set in Japan, but instead a game that makes full use of its setting to enhance every detail, both narrative wise and for improving the gameplay.

This isn’t to say the game is perfect though, as while the visuals are used to great effect and enhance the gameplay, the same can not be said of the music. Audio in the game is very minimalistic and this feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity. This could have helped create a more immersive experience but instead it feels lacking.

Control-wise, the game plays beautifully. The different puzzles and combat scenarios all feel easy to get into, with the challenge being from legitimate design and not unfair controls. Considering that the game plays in real time and introduces gameplay mechanics never done before, this is a major achievement. I wasn’t expecting to like Hyaaki Castle as much as I did, as aside from the audio issues I mentioned, the game is amazing. It doesn’t just make due with what is available but makes what is available work to its advantage. Happinet and Asakusa Studios did an amazing job, as ideas like the 2 party system are a great addition to the dungeon crawler RPG genre. It is great to see real innovation and progress, which shows that there is still so much that can be done with first person dungeon crawlers. This is a must play!

 

 

Disclaimer: A review key was provided by Happinet

 

 

By Ramon Rivera On 15 Nov, 2017 At 06:57 AM | Categorized As Featured, Nintendo Switch, Reviews, Reviews | With 0 Comments

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Let me tell you this, when I first started playing Ittle Dew I thought “great another Zelda clone” but boy was I wrong. At first glance the cartoonish characters give the impression that it will be a parody game, that doesn’t take itself seriously and all is fun and games and in a certain way it is. But as you plow through the game, you find yourself in a deep game with some really fun moments and challenging puzzles,not to mention a lot to do in game, which ultimately for me its all in the replay value.

At the beginning of our adventure we find our heroes on a raft on the middle of the sea, no food, no potions, and everything looks dire until they find themselves ashore in a new island (wink wink). When our dynamic duo enters the island, they find the island caretaker, Passel, who tells you that there is nothing to see on the island and that they have to leave it. Then he blurts out about the 8 raft pieces, and noting his mistake, he disappears and thus your adventure begins. Now the game play is what you would expect from a top down Zelda-esque adventure.  You explore each of the dungeons and find the item, beat the boss, etc. However, one of the things Ittle Dew 2 really shines is the freedom you have to explore!  Normally in Zelda, you beat each of the dungeons in order because the item recieved in dungeon #1 will help to get to #2 and so forth.  In Ittle Dew 2, the formula gets changed so that you can beat the dungeons in the order that you want (except for dungeon 8 since you need all items obtained in other dungeons to be able to beat it).

Now the areas that you can explore in the game are varied.  They range from the pillow forest, an art gallery, candy beach (yep, with candy canes), so there is a lot of variety and things to see. The enemies that you find in the over world are funny and fun to beat.  Some range from muscular platypus to muscle builder cactus, and some impossible to beat as Slayer Jenny (haven’t been able to so just run when you see her). The bosses are fun to beat and needless to say they beat the crap out of me until I got the hang of it the first time (yep its part of the inside jokes and everything) as you progress to the game and beat the dungeons you find yourself with them again (albeit in more powerful forms).  They are just challenging enough to keep you in your toes.

Now for the completionist like me, there is a lot A LOT to do on Ittle Dew 2.  In your map, you can see all doors that you have entered and 100% completed dungeons appear with a crown on top.  Besides all of this, there is also optional dungeons in which you can get more powerful versions of your current items.  There are also challenge dungeons that you unlock with Secret Shards.  These are really a test of your mettle and your adventurer skills IMO.  It adds even more value to an already amazing game.

After you have explored everything the island has to offer, there is also the Dream World, which is a set of optional dungeons that are the ultimate test for your adventurer skills.  This is a bonus to the normal story.

Bottom Line, Ittle Dew 2 is a pleasant surprise on the Nintendo Switch, with tons of secrets, challenging puzzles, different outfits and fun areas to explore, and with optional dungeons to please your adventure hunger. Ittle Dew 2 shows how to get inspiration from a popular game franchise, and turn it into something special and unique, with charm and its own identity. Seriously, it is more than recommended if you own a Switch.  You owe it to yourself to play this legendary raft adventure.

By Jonathan Balofsky On 14 Nov, 2017 At 10:30 PM | Categorized As Featured, PC Games, Reviews, ROG News, Uncategorized | With 0 Comments

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Shmups are one of the oldest genres in gaming, with classics like Space Invaders becoming a pop culture phenomenon. However, shmups tend to fall into one of three  categories, namely vertical, Horizontal and 3D view ( ala Star Fox and Panzer Dragoon) and innovation is not typically done. That is until now.

Astebreed: Definitive Edition is a shmup like no other that I have encountered before. It has an anime style to it, combined with a story based narrative to give it a unique identity. But what makes it so unique is the shifting perspective. Astebreed shifts between all 3 styles that shmups usually fall into, and does so in a way that helps create a fourth  hybrid style. It sounds like it would be disorienting but no, it actually plays very well and flows naturally. I don’t know how else to put it, but Astebreed: Definitive Edition honestly feels like a successful reinvention of the shoot em up genre with its hybrid gameplay.

The story itself is not much to talk about, as far as I am concerned anyways, but the visuals are very appealing, especially when the perspectives shift constantly. I also like the music of the game, as it helps keep the gameplay immersive and the player invested. The downside though is that some of the visuals can be a bit overwhelming, mostly due to causing me to lose track of the ship at times. This isn’t a major gripe but it did cause some issues for me. Despite that, Astebreed: Definitive Edition does feel like a great product.

If I had anything else to say, it is that Astebreed: Definitive Edition has a unique charm to itself. This release brings the updates from the console version and helps expand the experience for players, which is great. I really did like Astebreed: Definitive Edition and feel this is a game worth getting. I recommend it highly!

 

Disclaimer: A review key was provided

By Jessica Brown On 13 Nov, 2017 At 02:57 PM | Categorized As NINTENDO, Nintendo Switch, Reviews, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

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VITALS:

  • TITLE: RiME
  • DEVELOPER: Tequila Works
  • PUBLISHER: Grey Box & Six Foot
  • GENRE: Adventure/Indie
  • PLATFORM: Nintendo Switch (also on PS4, XB1, & PC)
  • RELEASE DATE: November 14, 2017 (eShop); November 21, 2017 (physical)
  • PRICE: $29.99 eShop; $39.99 physical

RiME is an indie adventure game from developer Tequila Works that was originally released on the PlayStation 4, XBox One, and PC back in May but which has just been released for the Nintendo Switch. While the Switch version of RiME was originally planned to release at the same time as it did on other platforms, the developer ended up delaying the Switch port because they felt like it didn’t meet their quality standards and wanted a bit more time to work on it. Ultimately, they hoped, the game would present a similar play experience on the Switch as players would have gotten on other platforms. I’ll talk about whether or not this paid off later on in the review, but let’s first jump into what the game itself is like.

At its heart, RiME is a beautiful journey that the player embarks upon that is entirely experiential in nature. The game has no dialogue or written notes to find, but rather it focuses completely on the desire to explore the mysterious island the player wakes up on, solving a few puzzles along the way, in the hopes of unraveling the mystery of why you ended up there in the first place. Within the game’s opening moments it is quite apparent that the main character (an unnamed young boy) has washed ashore on a strange island after a major storm, but the circumstances around it are left up for us to interpret. And, while the young boy may initially feel alone on the island (apart from the various wildlife that happens to call it home), he soon meets a fox that seems eager to aid him on his journey as well as finding himself being watched by a figure in a bright red cloak. The game is non-combative in nature, instead forcing the player to rely on their skills at platforming and their drive to explore the island, finding hidden collectibles and figuring out the path forward. The game does provide some clues about what you should do next or how you should interact with certain items, but ultimately most of it is left for you to discover for yourself.

Although the island is quite big and the game does encourage you to explore its various nooks and crannies for secrets, the game ultimately is fairly linear in nature, driving you to make your way towards a large tower that stands high above the island. Most of the time it’s pretty clear what you ultimately need to do next, but it may take you a bit of time to figure out how you need to accomplish it. Yet, because there are no enemies and the game isn’t time-limited, you are entirely at your own pace to uncover the island’s secrets.

Unfortunately, despite the developer’s delay of the game in order to ensure that it met a similar quality standard to that found in the other releases, I personally found that RiME has fallen considerably short of that goal on the Nintendo Switch. This isn’t, in my opinion, a failure of the Nintendo Switch itself but rather I feel that this version of RiME is merely a poorly-optimized port.

One of my major issues with this port is that the framerate leaves a lot to be desired. In the best of situations the game feels like it is sitting at around 30 FPS (which is quite playable, even if not ideal), but there are plenty of instances where the frame rate seems to choke out. In particularly egregious instances, I’d say it dropped close to 15 FPS or less. Given that the Switch version of RiME, while pretty, doesn’t look like it should be that taxing on the console, this feels like a major failure if the goal was to create a functionally-equivalent port. Beyond the issues with poor and inconsistent performance, there are bugs with textures (odd color patterns here and there), an overall sluggish (and sometimes unresponsive) menu, and random glitches that I’d have hoped would have been fixed (such as the game suddenly transitioning from the middle of the night to midday without any reason at times). In addition to all that, the overall visuals, which still quite beautiful in their own way, feel like they are rendered at fairly low settings, giving this port a look closer in aesthetic to a PlayStation 2 game.

Thankfully, the game controls well with the Switch Joy-cons, so I never had any issues controlling the character and making him do what I needed him to do.

What makes the whole thing frustrating is that RiME, by all accounts, is a beautiful experience and a thought-provoking journey that shouldn’t be held back by such glaring issues with optimization and quality control. The game has the potential to not only look good but to handle well too, yet I feel as if Tequila Works really let us down with this port. I should point out that the game does have a rather wonderful musical score and that does make it through to this version of the game, but unfortunately that alone isn’t able to save this experience. While playing RiME, I did genuinely find myself having fun, but it was rather bittersweet. When the game felt like it was behaving itself I would get lost in wanting to explore the island, find new ways to reach different areas, and looking for various items scattered to and fro, but then the game would get bogged down in poor performance or have some jarring glitch that took me away from the experience.

Thankfully, there is always the hope that the team will roll out an update for the game that fixes some of the issues the game currently has, and if they do that I’d have no problem giving the game a solid recommendation.

As it stands now, though, I think I’d feel more comfortable recommending you pick up RiME on the PlayStation 4, XBox One, or PC.

 

……….

 

Disclaimer: A review key was provided by the publisher

By Ramon Rivera On 13 Nov, 2017 At 10:20 AM | Categorized As Featured, NINTENDO, Nintendo Switch, Reviews, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

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The rhythm genre has evolved since the days of Dance Dance Revolution and Pump It Up (the latter being my first experience in a genre that I have come to love).  We have evolved from being gamers that used our feet to enjoy the game to our whole bodies because–let’s face it–music is in our genes.  Time-immemorial music has become an important part of our different cultures, and there are so many different genres that truly demonstrate music as art.  Now cue in video games: rhythm games are an important staple in the industry.  Since their humble beginnings in the genre with DJ Max, PM Studios has been evolving and delivering more than games has been delivering experiences. After a lot of experience and with that pedigree of great games the latest in the genre has arrived on the Nintendo Switch in the form of  SuperBeat: Xonic.

Superbeat: Xonic is a rhythm game in which your objective is to match the light projectors on the screen with the mapped buttons on your controller. The layout plays really good on the Nintendo Switch and, for me, the Joycons are the way to play the game. Now you might think that this game is only for experienced players in the genre, but let me tell you that good guy Superbeat has you covered!  When you first boot the game, you get access to the opening movie.  It’s really good, and I love the song, though you’ll hate it later.  You get an interactive tutorial that tells you what’s what and how to play and ultimately enjoy the game experience to its fullest.  After that, you may choose to play on the Stages to hone your skills, or if you are like me and like adventure, you can try the World Tour.

The Stage mode is the bread and butter of the game.  There are different game modes: 4Trax for beginners, 6Trax for more advanced players, 6Trax FX for rhythm ninjas, and Free Style in which you can play the songs that you have to unlock thought your play time. There is also a variety of genres from Easy Listening, to K-Pop, R&B, Rock (and even Merengue or Salsa), so there is something that you will like. As you play the songs and get better you level up, the higher your level the better rewards, you unlock more songs and unlock more clubs to visit on the World Tour mission based game. There are also DJ icons to help you in your quest to be a rhythm ninja.  Some of them raise your experience gain, and some give you more HP increase your score.  There are also a lot of customization options such as the speed in which the light projectors appear as well as the sound that will play when you hit the keys.

The mode where your training pays off is the World Tour Mode.  In here, you go to a series of “Clubs” and in each one there is a ClubMaster that gives you a series of challenges, which can vary from achieving a set number of combo hits to completing the mission with the fewer break mistakes as possible.  In World Tour as you level up, you gain access to more clubs and more challenges, hence my advice to train in Stage Mode. As you complete challenges and clubs in Word Tour, you unlock more Key Sounds as well as songs that you can play in stage mode.  You play and beat the songs as they become available in Free Style, so there is a lot of replay value here, not to mention that the higher your needed for accessing each club.  The harder become the challenges.  Some of them use Effector (a handicap you can set yourself on Stage Mode), and some are really hard especially with the song Stargazer. In The Option Mode, you can change your game settings such as the way the music sounds and the difficulty settings (on Hard you gain more Experience)

Bottom Line, SuperBeat: Xonic feels right at home with the Nintendo Switch.  With more than 60 songs, there is a lot of variety, and the hybrid nature of the Nintendo Switch complements SuperBeat: Xonic even more because you can rock it on the go.  I definitely recommend it to fans and newcomers alike.

 

By Jonathan Balofsky On 11 Nov, 2017 At 07:31 PM | Categorized As Featured, NINTENDO, Old School Otaku, PC Games, Reviews, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

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Maniac Mansion, a name that adventure game fans know very well. This game was the first point and click adventure game from LucasArts ( then called LucasFilm Games), and was unlike any other adventure game at the time. It made full use of the mouse as a full point and click game, rather than make use of typing like other adventure games. The game, made by Ron Gilbert, used the SCUMM engine (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion), which became the engine for several LucasArts adventure games including Ron Gilbert’s masterpiece, The Secret of Monkey Island.

Taking the plot of having teens enter a mansion to rescue a cheerleader, the game was a hilarious sendup of clichés and became a sleeper hit the world over, and a pop culture phenomenon in Canada. In fact, the game was such a hit in Canada that a TV show was made by several alumni of SCTV and aired on YTV and the Family Channel in the US. It was ported to several systems including the NES, where despite heavy censorship, the game still retained much of its charm ( and managed to sneak a lot past the radar) and had an amazing soundtrack as well.

It is difficult to stress just how much of an impact Maniac Mansion had on gaming. From the iconic puzzles to the surreal humor, MM innovated on how stories were told in gaming. It was for this game that the term Cutscene was coined, and thus is a pioneer in storytelling. The different characters that were playable all had unique features to them and their own personality, which again was miles ahead of anything else at the time. It managed to mix some intentionally uncomfortable moments with later moments that just were hilarious and wore its surreal nature proudly.

As I stated earlier, Ron Gilbert later went on to create the Monkey Island series where he refined everything he did in Maniac Mansion and raised the bar higher. Maniac Mansion was THE turning point in adventure gaming and it changed things for the better. Everything we love about Telltale Games, for example, comes from the work done on Maniac Mansion. The game also spawned a direct sequel to the equally renowned, Day of the Tentacle, which was recently remade. I encourage any who have not played either game to check them out. These are adventure gaming done right, and you will be amazed how well the games play still!