Author: Amanda Kimmerly

Review: The Franz Kafka Videogame

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The Point-&-Click genre is known for its liberal blending of Adventure themes and challenging puzzles. Often, those “puzzles” consist of figuring out where to use certain items, how to combine objects in your inventory, and deciphering dialog options or characters’ needs. The Franz Kafka Videogame sets itself apart by eschewing a lot of the usual Point-&-Click tropes in favor of a vast assortment of satisfying puzzles. Flagged on Steam as a Noir, 2D Puzzle Adventure title, perhaps Franz shouldn’t be labeled as a Point-&-Click at all, though it shares many similar themes with other successful titles in the genre.

Based on the musing of writer Franz Kafka, the historical figure, The Franz Kafka Videogame is an eccentric, chaotic peek into the life and mind of a psychologist circa 1920s. Our protagonist is referred to only as “K.,” whose quest for new employment takes him on a journey into the absurd and surprising. With pieces of intriguing — if dated — psychological theories, this title invites players to explore the complex mental workings of not only K. himself but also his patients and other characters he meets along the way. He is joined by his canine companion, a clever and composed fellow I lovingly nicknamed “Railroad” for the duration of my play-through. Imagine my joy when, just a few challenges into the game, I was met with a train and railroad-themed puzzle.

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Without a doubt, this title excels in the puzzle department. I was shocked at the variety displayed within even the first hour of play time. Challenges involving words, railroad switches, alphabetical conversions to numerical amounts, and even an incredibly challenging slider puzzle were all included. Often, the interactions between K. and the rest of the cast in this game are downright bizarre; it certainly challenged the norm, and I enjoyed delving into this acid-trip-worthy world. Given the surrealism that is prevalent in The Franz Kafka Videogame, I found myself far less concerned about the underlying storyline and trying to get it to make sense. Instead, I eagerly awaited the next challenge, hungry for another deeply satisfying puzzle.

The art style and soundtrack are both keenly suited to the general ambiance of the world. I would have enjoyed a separate slider bar for the musical score and sound effects in general, but ultimately it was a minor annoyance. The music feels appropriate for the 1920s, bizarre dreamscapes, and surrealism in general; the cartoon graphics, both for the landscape and the characters themselves, was equally satisfying. It’s a cute combination without seeming too comical; given the 2D, somewhat side-scrolling dynamic it’s no surprise that the graphics aren’t demanding, nor full of special effects.

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The Franz Kafka Videogame manages to blend an Adventure genre decent storyline with rich, elaborate puzzles. These challenges offer a degree of variety that is rarely captured in even the most ambitious of Point-&-Click titles. K. comes across as an intriguing if an unusual type of personality, which seems to do justice to his historical legacy. The writings and ideas that Franz Kafka left behind make for perfect surrealism fodder and the Devs at Denis Galanin (mif2000) did a fantastic job of weaving the sometimes madman-worthy musing into a riveting story. The graphics and soundtrack blend to create a compelling, original atmosphere, and I didn’t encounter any bugs or glitches during my gameplay.

Ultimately, if you’re looking for a challenging Puzzle game with some story as well, look no further than this title. Although it shies away from some of the standard Point-&-Click mechanics and themes, The Franz Kafka Videogame more than makes up for that subdued quality with high-quality challenges. And while the replay value is minimal, since a second or third run through the game can’t recapture the novelty and excitement of the first puzzle resolutions, Franz is certainly a can’t-miss sort of title for fans of mind benders, psychology theories, and abstract thinking.

Review: Acaratus

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Acaratus details the story of Adina, a young woman with a muddle past, and her slave, Bolt. You’re thrown immediately into the action as the duo are on the run and upon their successful escape, they turn to rally an uprising against their pursuer, the tyrannical Emperor Helios? In building her forces, Adina discovers some startling things about her past – particularly her parents, who she had never known, and the man  who raised her in their stead. The story is interesting and told in un-voiced cutscenes by chapter as you encounter story nodes on the map.

Alongside them you’ll encounter nodes where you’ll find battles, towns, points of interest like campfires, where you can recuperate dungeons, and watchtowers, which push back the fog of war, and various merchants.

Traveling to a node takes time and at the top of the screen, you can see the total number of days your campaign has been running. Time effects enemies, so if you spend too much time wandering around an area, they’ll move their position. Time also affects merchants, who will restock their wares after enough time has passed.

Combat is a turn-based affair on a grid. You start at one end of the map, which are quite small in size, and the enemy at the other and both teams move their units, use cards, and launch attacks. Most require you to destroy all units, though a few simply require you to make your way to an  exit point.

Attacks do two types of damage: HP and unit. A single mech is actually a pack comprised of x-amount of people, indicated by rank. You can raise the rank of your mechs in towns via a blacksmith. Your mechs can be destroyed if their unit number hits zero, but units can be replenished at towns and campfires. If an attack only does damage, a single bar of HP will fall–but keep in mind that there is one HP bar per unit in a pack of mechs.

Cards are the game’s way of handling abilities. You have 4 CP at you disposal and it regenerates at the end of every turn. Cards are a consumable object so after using one, it is lost forever. They can easily change the tides of battles, so using them wisely can be the difference between a loss and a victory. You can purchase cards from card vendors, though you’ll receive a pack containing at least one of every available card simply by playing through the story.

Winning battles nets you gold and experience. As Adina levels up, you can select perks that power up your mechs or make exploration more fruitful. Parts only drop after you’ve completed story missions or quests and you typically only get to choose one of three options.

You can manage your cards–a total of 6 at a time–anywhere on the map, but you can only edit your mechs in towns. The bay where you do so allows you to piece together a working suit of armor from parts bought or salvaged from main story missions. The base part for a robot, the core, decides how many extra doodads you can attach and also what weapon proficiencies your mech will have. Additionally, you can attach arms and legs and – core allowing – front, back, and top pieces.

Every part has its own pros and cons, so it’s up to you what will suit your play style. Because there aren’t a large pool of parts to choose from, however, your mechs tend to look the same or similar throughout your playthrough and this feels like a lost opportunity. You can test your various weapons and mech configurations on the training dummies.

Towns offer Blacksmith services, which increase the rank of your units. Rank changes the amount of units you take into battle, which acts as your mech’s hardiness in combat.

You can also visit the Arena in towns. The Arena allows you to complete difficult challenges with a hefty gold reward if you successfully complete the objective.

Dealers are the final amenity offered by towns. These employ an interesting slots-style mini game in which you pay for three spins and then pull the lever. The equipment that you spin can be bought by the gold amount shown, but you can also spin various special effects like “plus rank” or “30% discount” which makes it so that you can pay less or get more bang for your buck. Clicking an item or effect locks it in place, so you can test your luck and try to get that cheap, high level part so long as you have the money for more spins.

The campaign will take you around 8-10 hours to complete depending on skill and whether or not you explore every node or simply bum-rush the story. There are some decisions to be made, but ultimately it’s linear.

There’s also a Skirmish mode. In this mode you choose a play style from one of three, a portrait for your commander from a handful of preset ones, and are given free reign to choose from all of the parts available in the game in order to make your team of up to four mechs and challenge a human or AI opponent on one of 8 possible maps.

The online was down when I tried to access it with the promise that the issue would be fixed soon.

Pros:

  • Giant mechs!
  • Challenging turn-based combat on a grid.
  • Cards and mech customization add a layer of depth to gameplay, allowing you to adapt different approaches.
  • Adina’s perks for levelling up also tailors gameplay.
  • The story is a good read, though some of the character exchanges are a bit stilted.
  • Skirmishes both online and offline offer increased game time.
  • The vendor mini game is an interesting change of pace from the typical vendor NPC exchange.

Cons:

  • Limited pool of parts for mech customization.
  • Graphics seem dated.
  • The maps are small and there’s little variation in backdrop.

Bottom Line:

A very solid attempt at an RPG that could have been fantastic given more funds and polish. It’s worth your support and here’s to hoping the developer continues to add to what’s already here. Mech building is in-depth, but limited by a rather small pool of possible parts and the graphics aren’t the most beautiful, but combat is fun and challenging and the story is intriguing.

Review: Castle of Shikigami

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Bullet hell fans have been really excited for the Degica release of Castle of Shikigami onto Steam, and it’s clear why. The game itself is a big piece of bullet hell history and, more importantly, the first is the only one to not receive a proper release in the West. Degica promised a re-translated storyline and character bios, as well as all the standard Steam bells and whistles (cards, achievements, etc.). Unfortunately, for all the wonders that Castle of Shikigami brings, it’s still not quite where it could be.

Firstly, the storyline. Castle of Shikigami has an absolutely eerie and addicting framework that revolves around a massive string of murders happening in Tokyo. After a 32nd victim is discovered, everyone springs into action in their own way, quickly revealing that the deaths of these young women are connected to a dark occult undertone. Besides having different shooting abilities, each of the six characters also has a unique perspective on the ongoing case and you get a real sense of storytelling by doing multiple playthroughs. What’s really cool is that the bosses and stages don’t change whatsoever, so you can potentially unlock the story faster and faster the more you play. If you get dragged in like I did, I recommend simply going from the furthest left to the right in order, as it unfolds the story in a way that feels very natural and consistently surprising.

The mechanics themselves are still pretty spiffy by today’s standards. The genre is true to it’s name, as even the “very easy” setting still requires tight controls and reflexes. You can constantly fire your primary weapon, charge up a mystical attack that varies from character to character, or unleash a bomb to hopefully clear the screen (which you have a limited number of). Shikigami uses a “tension meter” which increases the strength of your shot as long as you’re in too-close-for-comfort proximity to enemy bullets. A dangerous situation, but sometimes necessary to get out those last shots before the boss gets you. Get hit once and it looks like a scene out of Sonic as a ton of coins scatter. Three hits and it’s game over. You have an unlimited number of continues to use, but it will reset your score back to zero. There are online leaderboards baked into the game for each of the difficulty settings, which gives pros incentives to absolutely decimate the easy settings and gloat over everyone on a global scale.

The main problem comes in the game itself. Now, difficulty wise, I get it, bullet hell games are meant to fray your nerves and force you to blink sweat out of your eyes as you navigate in pixel-perfect safety. But Castle of Shikigami doesn’t look like a game from this decade or even the last. The super creepy monsters and character profiles look to be distinctly 1980’s anime (I got a Demon City Shinjuku vibe). This was all well and good when the game first came out back in 2001, and even held water for the PS2 release of 2003. But the game looks blurry and stretched out on today’s screens, even with some frames in place to try and center your attention. The constant motion of the city beneath didn’t feel fluid and actually brought up some motion sickness. As much as I wanted to focus on the story and the game itself, I was constantly snapped out of the experience by noticing how dated it all felt.

Another thing is the sound system behind the game. Music gets a pass because I imagine that people would have felt slighted if the soundtrack was redone, and I get that. But the voices are a serious problem. When you encounter a boss or when you die, your character/their character tends to utter some phrases in Japanese that fit the moment and atmosphere. Yet the sound bites were not touched up or re-recorded, probably to preserve the original actors. As a result, it sounds broken and crackly, like someone is piping in a cassette recording of these voices during the stage. It is actually so starkly different that I thought one of my speakers had gotten damaged and I was only now noticing.

Lastly, I hope you’re happy with the keyboard controls or have an old control pad lying around. Castle of Shikigami was designed before the digital joystick revolution and, as such, is mapped for keyboard keys or an old d-pad. Thankfully I have my trusty FC30 Pro, which has the d-pad in a comfortable position and made for very successful runs. But the initial test with a 360 controller required a pretty gnarly grip and was quite unpleasant. And no, it can’t be remapped, I definitely tried.

If this review feels short, it’s because it is. Castle of Shikigami is a classic and inspired a whole slew of modern bullet hell games. It deserves to be recognized and praised for what it was, but not necessarily what it is now. Digica wanted to capture exactly what players felt back in the day and I suppose they succeeded. Fans who worship the genre will pick it up and swear it’s fantastic and they can be right in their own way. But this isn’t going to turn on new players and may even frustrate people who were hoping for more than a quick and dirty Steam port. If you must have a piece of shmup history in your Steam library, then by all means, pick it up and support future releases and possible ports. Otherwise I give this a hard pass for anyone looking for something fresh.

Review: Thea: The Awakening

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Thea: The Awakening focuses on a fantasy setting based on Slavic mythology and a tale about the dying embers of the human race. The player is a God, but not in your usual video game sense. There are no world altering powers to play with and no lightning bolts to thwart enemies with in Thea, just an omnipresent micro-manager charged with the survival of the last human settlement.

It’s a bleak, foreboding setting, but it fits the setting perfectly. Western European and American players will feels instantly as if they have fallen into a story that is as close to being an offshoot of The Witcher as it could possibly be, but in this world, there is no Geralt of Rivia to save them. Character names, weapons and even the dark ink on papyrus art style are all similar to CD Project Red’s game, and Thea even features it’s own unique card based minigame.

Each interpretation of the world of Thea is randomly generated at launch, so variety between plays is assured, but the starting settlement of Ostoya is ever present. A downside for me is that it’s not possible to build additional settlements, nor to support more than ten buildings. I suspect this is to maintain the feeling of desperation and prevent power creep, but it’s also at odds with the core theme of preserving the human race.

From the outset, players have a lot of options to customize the game. There are many difficulty levels, each of which provide preset conditions for the world such as size and so on. Each variable can be tweaked, and for the masochistic among you, creating a truly punishing experience is entirely possible. In an interesting twist, players are given a choice of only two of the games available (and unlocked Gods) when they begin a new game, which is a nice way to force variety. Whilst my earlier comment about the lack of direct ability to influence the world with spells is true, each God does have a number of skills (such as better smiths or warriors among their followers) and a number that can be unlocked through experience. In a roguelike touch, skills are retained by Gods after each game, so leveling them up does allow the player to tackle higher difficulties incrementally.

There are also several ways to complete the game, including via completion of the interesting and branching narrative. Clearly, Thea is designed to encourage replayability, which is a feat that it undoubtedly achieves.

What players actually do is more difficult to explain, which is a problem that the game itself shares. Broadly speaking, Ostoya is home to a handful of named humans, each with individual skills and strengths and weaknesses. The player must balance the need for basic survival (gathering food and wood) with the desire to expand the settlement, obtain better equipment and complete the many quests and encounters that occur throughout the game. Residents can be split out to form expeditions to undertake these tasks, but doing so will mean removing vital skills, equipment and supplies, so it can be a tough decision.

Micromanagement of the settlement and any expeditions is explained reasonably well by a tutorial that is woven nicely into the plot, but advanced explanation of the user interface and some of its features is left to an in game help section. Some things are tricky and unintuitive regardless of how you learn about them (such as assigning people to jobs) but there’s a lot going on and it is far from disastrous. Having gathered tons of loot and items over an hour or two of pay, my first pass at inventory management took so long that it taught me never to leave it so long again!

Once an expedition sets out from Ostoya, it becomes more susceptible to both roaming (visible) enemies and those occur as a result of unseen encounters. There hundreds of unique encounters in Thea, and although you’ll begin to see them recur after repeated plays, each individual game remains a unique and interesting feeling. Encounters can vary from very terrestrial issues such as an earthquake, to small quests that feature multiple layers and outcomes. The latter are undoubtedly more interesting, and act perfectly to help forge an experience that is specific to each Thea.

These encounters, coupled with the desperation of the survivors in Thea is what makes the game. Each character is named, and because your village will likely have ten to twenty of them in the earliest stages, each of them will matter. Having two children eaten by a dragon will be a bitter blow, whilst liberating a desperate survivor from a spider web can seem like a boon, even if it dies mean another mouth to feed.

When an encounter does result in a fight (or anytime a challenge occurs) the player will test his party via a decent card based minigame. These tests are not always fights – they can simply be physical, mental, hunting or sneaking challenges – but the method of resolution is always the same. Players are dealt two decks of cards based on their party members and equipment, and must play them in sequence against those played by the challenge or enemy.  One deck is used for direct action, whilst the other in support, to influence the battlefield or take power from the opponent by tampering with their deck. The minigame isn’t perfect (and it can be long winded) but it’s enjoyable and relevant when handling important tests. For mundane encounters of those with a certain outcome, players can also auto-resolve them, but that’s not wise for high risk situations.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed Thea and I’m delighted to see it make an appearance on consoles. The world it depicts is violent and desperate, but it is capable of creating organic, human tales of heroism, survival and sadness. It is in itself quite unique overall, but within it is also a complete mini game that is as credible as Gwent or any other. It looks good, with lovely hand drawn art and it features a beautiful soundtrack that further enhances an already enjoyable escape into the unusual narrative. There may only be one current-gen game of this kind to recommend, but it is a bloody good one, and it will take some beating.

Review: EVENT[0]

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The Nautilus is a luxurious area yacht drifting somewhere near Europa. The crew is missing, the ship is falling apart, and the AI that governs it is severely damaged. It’s a hell of a situation to seek out yourself, but right here you’re, 350 million miles from house, alone, and on the mercy of a desktop affected by severe mood swings.

Event[0] is a primary-individual science fiction game set in another history the place humanity developed developed area travel in the Eighties. This is mirrored in its well-realised retro-futuristic aesthetic, above all the chunky laptop terminals you use to have interaction with Kaizen, the ship’s emotionally unstable AI.You talk to Kaizen by means of typing, and it responds in a garbled computer-generated voice. You could ask it about the Nautilus and what occurred to the crew. Which you can ask it if it’s having a high-quality day, if it has any friends, and the way it feels. Or, extra just about, to open doorways, cycle airlocks, and switch on lights. However the answers will fluctuate.

Sometimes Kaizen is friendly. It’ll call you ‘buddy’ and open a door when you ask it to. But sometimes it’ll refuse. Which it did, in one instance, when I was floating outside the ship in an EVA suit with a rapidly dwindling air supply. It’s dangerously unpredictable like that, which makes for an interesting relationship. I had to apologise for being rude in an earlier conversation so it would let me in, which was a strange feeling. You may regret pissing Kaizen off.

Sometimes it doesn’t respond to what you’re saying at all. You’ll ask it something and it’ll ramble about what your next objective is, or say some scripted, unrelated line. Because, of course, it’s not really an advanced artificial intelligence. It’s an elaborate chatbot that, occasionally, does a surprisingly good job of convincing you that it’s a thinking thing with a personality. It often fails to respond convincingly, or at all, to completely basic questions. But, again, this is an indie sci-fi game, not an actual AI.
Typing messages into the terminals and receiving responses feels wonderfully intimate, more so than if you were just selecting responses from a dialogue wheel. When it’s not trying to kill you, it reveals a vulnerable, needy side. You almost feel sorry for it. And sometimes, in the crew lounge, it’ll play the piano for you, which is strangely comforting. And slightly eerie.

It’s through interacting with Kaizen that you unlock parts of the Nautilus and journey deeper into it. Along the way you learn about what happened to the crew, but Kaizen is vague, almost as if it’s trying to hide something from you. You have to piece the story together yourself by reading logs stored in terminals, studying the detailed environments, and interpreting what it says.

There are just a few puzzles too, one among which entails leaving the ship. This part is brilliantly atmospheric, silent besides for the rhythmic sound of your respiration, recalling 2001: an area Odyssey: a movie whose presence is felt for the period of occasion[0]. The lonely, isolated surroundings is among the recreation’s finest strengths, and i really like how small the looming bulk of Jupiter makes you think. The fuel huge is a constant presence, in general glimpsed through home windows, which reinforces just how some distance away you’re from house.

But just as I was once quite coming into it, and setting up an exciting relationship with Kaizen, it was over. It’s a so much shorter recreation than I hoped it might be. There are a couple of endings, and not obligatory logs to learn, however most persons will get about 2-3 hours out of it. Brief video games are exceptional, but I felt like there used to be a lot extra to explore right here, as if this was once a proof of proposal for some thing much greater. This and Kaizen’s hit-and-leave out responses to the matters I typed stopped me from relatively loving the game. But it surely’s a wholly particular experience and a quality piece of wise, good-crafted sci-fi. If developer Ocelot Society takes the interplay method it’s designed and transplants it into a longer, more ambitious sport, it would have something outstanding on its hands. As it stands, though, occasion[0] is a fab indie curio with some nice recommendations that don’t invariably hit the mark.

Review: CARMAGEDDON: MAX DAMAGE

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Starting Carmageddon: Max Damage for the primary time and delving into its profession mode, you initially solely have the selection of two automobiles. It doesn’t actually matter which you select, as your first foray into Carmageddon’s insanity is little greater than a short tutorial included right into a breezy occasion, coercing you to brutalise the gamers on a soccer pitch earlier than letting you determine how precisely you need to play. You see, while the vast majority of Carmageddon: Max Damage’s occasions all through its 16 tier profession do have a set objective, similar to be the primary to kill a set variety of designated pedestrians or full the required variety of laps round a observe, wrecking your opponents and stealing their progress is a simply as viable an possibility.

It’s in every tier’s Classic Carma occasion the place true freedom is granted to you nonetheless, permitting you to decide on whether or not to destroy all of your opponents, end the required variety of laps round a observe or eradicate all of the pedestrians on the map to realize completion. These occasions are the place the center of Carmageddon: Max Damage’s enjoyable resides, letting you run riot within the game’s open environments with a time restrict that’s simply prolonged, solely coming to a climax if you determine to complete your chosen objective. It is unlucky although, that finishing these Classic Carma occasions by eradicating all pedestrians is almost not possible to do.

With many lots of of unlucky fleshy targets to maim inside every Classic Carma occasion, it’s commonplace for all however one competing automobile to be wrecked earlier than you’ve even made a dent on their numbers. Then, together with your single remaining opponent turning their malicious consideration to you, additional care is required to not destroy your typically irritatingly persistent aggressor by chance, lest the occasion be accomplished within the course of. Chances are although, that by the point this situation has occurred, you gained’t truly thoughts the reprieve given to you on a platter; working over senseless pedestrians by the lots of does get fairly tiresome, surprisingly.Although it’s extra acceptable to discover every of Carmageddons: Max Damage’s sprawling environments throughout Classic Carma occasions the place issues are much less urgent, surely you’re free to roam to your coronary heart’s content material throughout any occasion sort; you’re simply extra prone to fail in case you achieve this. Aside from being enjoyable to research each nook and cranny of the soiled and principally industrial locales, if you wish to improve your automobiles to stay aggressive all through the profession you’ll have to find and gather improve tokens which might be strewn throughout them. Ideally although, you’ll somewhat need to improve your assortment of automobiles out there, unlocking larger and badder monstrosities that make decimating your foes a hell of loads simpler. To add these fearsome automobiles to your storage although, you’re going to need to work for them, wrecking whichever one is highlighted as stealworthy in any given occasion to assert possession. It’s by no means an excessive amount of of an arduous process with slightly persistence, however generally, you could have to sacrifice profitable an occasion with a view to develop your storage.

Trying to gather the entire fantastically assorted vehicular instruments of destruction typically highlights how irritating Carmageddon: Max Damage’s fight can generally be, nonetheless. Ramming and buying and selling paint with rivals all too typically appears like a fruitless process; an issue exasperated by your opponents regularly hounding you, bringing the circulate of the game to a snail’s tempo. Your best choice in most conditions then, is to utilize the pick-ups that litter the surroundings. Unfortunately although, while they’re colour-coded as to what they comprise, be it factors, a passive power-up or a weapon, for instance, you by no means know precisely what you’re going to get.The randomness of pick-ups is not an issue in itself because it provides to the game’s dynamism, nevertheless it generally appears like there’s a scarcity of first rate weapon pick-ups, forcing you to desert the heated fracas’ you end up in to seek for these which might be helpful, or, keep it up with the somewhat drawn-out ballets of violence till you’ve painstakingly expended your opponents’ mechanical life-force. I ought to level out that there’s the choice to purchase whichever power-up or weapon you need with the contact of a button, however they principally come on the grave price of your hard-earned factors obtained throughout the occasion you’re during which drive your profession development, making it an uneconomical course of.

In all honesty, the usually laborious fight irked me slightly, nevertheless it didn’t cease me from wholeheartedly having fun with what Carmageddon: Max Damage has to supply. Neither did its different niggling points similar to inconsistent opponent A.I., lengthy load occasions, and fewer than spectacular audio and visuals. The dealing with can also be what can solely be described as “attention-grabbing”, with automobiles feeling satisfyingly weighty however demandingly unruly. Small, exact actions to run over pedestrians and gather pick-ups can show to be extraordinarily fiddly, and turning at pace can generally lead to uncontrollable skids that will be infuriating in the event that they weren’t so maniacally amusing.  In the top although, the sleek framerate and pleasingly old fashioned gameplay helps you to see previous the shortcomings to simply get on the market and have some enjoyable.If you do ever get bored with Carmageddon: Max Damage’s profession mode, which is prone to take you round 20 hours to finish and can nonetheless show to be interesting after that, there’s additionally a Freeplay mode in which you’ll create your personal occasions, and a Multiplayer mode which unsurprisingly helps you to tackle human opponents on-line. Disappointingly although, while enjoying in multiplayer is pretty gratifying, the absence of pedestrians littering the environments takes one thing away from the expertise; the essence of Carmageddon stripped away like a rug from below somebody’s ft. Still, in case you want a diversion from the principle attraction or need to present your pals who’s the boss, multiplayer does the trick.

To me, Carmageddon: Max Damage is the reimagining of a traditional completed proper. Whilst some remakes or new entries in bygone sequence’ are up to now indifferent from their unique supply that they’re now not recognisable, Carmageddon: Max Damage feels and performs similar to Carmageddon. Sure it’s acquired some new bells and whistles, however there’s nothing that feels misplaced or extraneous to the expertise, and that makes a refreshing change. Violent, vulgar and crude, Carmageddon: Max Damage is downright offensive and all the higher for it. And with a extremely entertaining gameplay loop that offers you a fantastic diploma of freedom, it’s a blast from the previous that sometimes places a foot mistaken however is definitely forgiven.

PlayStation Plus Games for April Announced

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The PlayStation Plus lineup for April is here and we’re very excited for this special month of great multiplayer games. Whether you’re looking for couch co-op or online PVP action, we’ve got some great candidates for you this month.

We couldn’t contain our excitement for Drawn To Death, so we let the news out early that this will be a launch title for PS Plus in April. From the acclaimed developer David Jaffe, Drawn To Death challenges the shooter genre with unconventional gameplay mechanics that bring this third-person shooter/brawler to life. The game takes place entirely inside the pages of a high school kid’s notebook where hand-drawn characters and levels come to life.

We’ve also got the excellent couch co-op title Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime. Pilot a neon battleship through a colorful galaxy by yourself or with up to three others. Through teamwork, triumph over the evil forces of Anti-Love, rescue kidnapped space-bunnies, and avoid a vacuumy demise. Protip: you can also play this game online with others through PS4’s Share Play feature.

Full lineup:

Drawn To Death, PS4
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, PS4
Invizimals: the Lost Kingdom, PS3
Alien Rage – Extended Edition, PS3
10 Second Ninja, PS Vita (crossbuy with PS4)
Curses ‘n Chaos, PS Vita (crossbuy on PS4)

Enjoy April’s lineup, and we’ll see you online!

Review: ROM: Extraction

Firinga gun in Virtual Reality is a pretty powerful experience, and the feeling of being able to aim down the sights and blast away the baddies with a well-aimed bullet is pretty amazing to say the least. With games like Space Pirate Trainer (2016) and Raw Data (2016) at the forefront of the HTC Vive’s commercial release though, the ‘shoot the robot’ trope is pretty well-trodden territory by now, so what does VR’s newest wave shooter ROM: Extraction do that other games don’t? The answer: exploding grenades and tactical ‘bullet time’.

In the near future, humanity has started mining the Moon for resources. To our surprise, we find a cache of mysterious orbs containing a highly volatile energy source that—in true human fashion—we instantly want to weaponize. Continuing our mining operations throughout the solar system, we happen upon a sort of security system made up of hostile robotic drones. Perfect targets for our bouncy balls of death.

This is where the game’s explosive orb grenades take the center stage, offering a standard explosive variety (infinite) and a number of limited use power-ups that can lock-on to enemies, or cover increasingly large areas of effect.

The game offers three game modes: Normal and Hard modes, which last 3 minutes long, and an endless Survival mode—all of which have online leaderboards. Online multiplayer, although shown in the main menu as an option, is currently not yet available. First Contact has told us that ROM “has a bunch of content in store for 2017 with multiplayer being a big part it.”

Combined with the game’s bullet time function, which recharges periodically and can be activated by holding the grip button on either Vive controller or Touch, you’re effectively able to toss orbs into the air and detonate them above a group of alien drones by shooting the orb directly in slowmo—something that takes practice (and a little luck) to achieve, but is really satisfying when you do. If you think you can toss orbs wildly at normal speeds and get a good result, you’re almost guaranteed to fail, so precision is important.

Tossing orbs isn’t always easy or consistent though, because throwing things in VR doesn’t give you the same physical feedback cues like in real life. Releasing a controller trigger while whipping an orb into any given direction isn’t as straight forward as looking down the sights of a pistol and firing, so you’ll definitely need practice to get the sort of results you’d expect to have throwing a real world ball.

For better or for worse, ROM: Extraction is missing some variety you might find in other, more gun-centric wave shooters. While there are several classes of orbs to chuck around, only one semi-automatic pistol is available in the game and only one enemy type. Again, if you’re not great at tossing the game’s orbs, you’re pretty much screwed, because a drone requires multiple headshots to take down, making the pistol pretty useless by itself.

As for ROM: Extraction’s sci-fi backdrop, I’m honestly conflicted whether brush-off or actually admonish the game for its lack of multiple environments, as you’ll only be able to shoot down robot aliens in a single sci-fi spaceship area. I keep telling myself that Space Pirate Trainer (SPT), arguably the most popular VR wave shooter, only has a single gameplay environment too, but then again, SPT hasn’t attempted to weave a story around its shooting gallery either.

My point is this: ROM is dripping with style, has a cool premise, competent voice overs, a well-polished environment and real heart-pumping action—what I’d consider the beginnings of a multi-hour AAA shooting odyssey. I can’t help but shake the feeling that the scope of the game was drastically reduced somewhere along the way though, and what we ended up with amounts to an extremely good-looking, albeit single-level wave shooter. To its credit, it’s currently on sale for $16.99 on Steam.

Review: Unearthing Mars – PS4 VR

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Mars. The big red thing that sits in the sky. The planet that has been the focus of our attention for hundreds of years. I’m a bit of a star-gazer myself (when I’m having a smoke on my balcony…) so I was definitely interested in Unearthing Mars due to its intriguing premise: Explore the Red Planet and find out what’s been going down.

Unfortunately my hype died down almost immediately after getting into the game. The reason? It isn’t a pretty one, that’s for sure. To be fair, it’s not a terribly ugly-looking game, but it’s just nothing to write home about either. It was noticeable from the get-go as I stood in the control room of our space station that was heading towards Mars. What was also noticeable was the laughable voice acting, too, and it didn’t get any better as the game progressed.

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Ok, enough with the negatives for the moment, let me tell you a bit about the game. Unearthing Mars is, at its core, a puzzle/exploration game with a tiny bit of first-person gunplay. I really want to make a point of saying that the gunplay is incredibly tiny and is just a small section of the game, just in case there are some who’re thinking of buying this just to blast space aliens to pieces. The game starts with you in the aforementioned control room before sticking you in the co-pilot seat of the craft that will descend to Mars. The opening act was actually pretty tense as one of the engines failed and it was a bit touch and go. Your input in the situation is minimal to say the least; it’s a matter of pressing/pulling the highlighted object in a timely manner, but it was still pretty intense thanks to the big, dramatic, operatic music that bellowed throughout the rough landing.

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Once on the planet, you’ll have a bit of a mooch around with your commander. Movement isn’t free, unfortunately, and you’ll need to ‘warp’ to set locations spread short distances apart. No freedom here, folks. It worked well enough, mind, but it did feel a little restrictive and it was a shame I couldn’t really go in all the nooks and crannies the game teased me with.

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From here on out it’s a simple case of follow instructions, solve a few light puzzles, and even drive the buggy car. Don’t get too excited about the latter; it was a chore and a half. Instead of just letting you drive from the inside, or maybe just leave you in the vehicle to play around with the bits and bobs, you’re tasked with controlling it with the PS Move wands. You’ll pull the right trigger to go forward and the left trigger to reverse. Turning is done by tilting the PS Move wand. It works pretty well but there’s one major problem: The bloody camera. Instead of the camera following your vehicle as you accelerate, the camera remains stationary. Yes, you can just sit there and hold accelerate and watch the buggy roam off into the distance. To stop this happening you need to press one of the face buttons on the left PS Move, and this brings you back behind the buggy, but you’ll be doing this every 10 seconds if you want to have a passing chance of staying in control of the bloody thing.