Author: Sandi Shaktar

Review: de Blob

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Though it may be a distant memory for some, the Nintendo Wii was a huge system in its day, with a fair number of exclusive and engaging titles that still stand strong to this day (Mario Galaxy). But while many may automatically remember the first party games, the 3rd party contributions were still quite spectacular, if not remembered as readily. Thus, the recent port of THQ’s de Blob to Steam was a pleasant surprise, and I was excited to see if memories hold up as well in the cold light of today.

If you’re not familiar, de Blob is a fascinating game about a world where a corrupt mega corporation has taken a stranglehold on the world and drained it of all color, leaving it gray and bland. You, the titular Blog, have the ability to absorb paint into your person and act as a massive sponge roller to re-color and bring back the world to what it used to be. Along the way, you can run missions, colorize things in different hues, and generally play the game at your own pace. Yes, there is a timer for each level and there are certain constraints (it’s not a free-roaming world, after all) but there are many ways to approach each stage and no wrong way to enjoy things.

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For what it’s worth, the game still looks and sounds pretty fantastic. I’ve always admired games that attempt to blaze a new trail in-game direction, and de Blob succeeds on a few levels. Sure, the general idea is a great combination of Jet Set Radio and Katamari Damacy, but it doesn’t pull from either of those two games to be called an homage, and neither is slipped in somewhere in bold-faced tribute. But when I see a rolling protagonist bringing back color and funk to a drab land, those are the parents that I attribute to this love child. And, since the game was made for the Wii, it’s full of colors that pop and shapes that grab your attention at any age. The landscapes always remind me of a three-dimensional coloring book, and you can really appreciate the detail that went into creation when colors start getting added in. Not to mention that, as you color more and more of the world, the soundtrack, which is a groovy sort of ambiance, seems to pick up the further along you get and the more people you help liberate and colorize.

The game also has a huge amount of replay value if you find yourself enamored with the play style. Beside the free painting option and having a multiplayer “Blob Party, the levels themselves are enormous. You only have to ink a certain amount before the next gate unlocks and grants you passage: the true artist inside, however, will compel you to try and color every single square inch you can reach. Not just buildings: trees, rocks and the mountains themselves cry out for a fresh coat, and you can oblige in most cases. You might need to get handy at mastering the camera angles so you can truly check if everything’s pretty in purple (or whichever other color you desire), but it’s very fulfilling for a canvas to get completely covered. And, as far as non-violent games go, this one gives a lot of satisfaction in squishing the bad guys and making sure the sad, colorless folk get to party and live in technicolor once again.

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The huge levels can be a drawback, however. Blue Tongue Entertainment originally meant this game for the Wii and for iOS, respectively. The iOS was a pick-up-and-play situation with far less detail, but still gave a fair amount of save opportunities. The Wii version was much more robust, but the save points came after completing each stage in it’s entirety, which might require upwards of 30 minutes at a time. For the Wii, no problem: nothing had the potential to interfere within the console, as background activities were pretty minimal. For the modern PC gamer, however, there’s a lot going on at any given time, and you may need more opportunities to save, even save-state, when you’re on a colorful rampage. I lost quite a bit of time needing to redo entire stages again from the beginning because my computer isn’t the best and sometimes had some issues that required Steam to be closed. The Steam Cloud does exist, however, and de Blob at least makes sure your high scores and accomplishments are saved away should anything happen.

Another small nit I have to pick is the lack of Steam achievements. Make no mistake: this port by Blit Software (who also did the Jet Set Radio port) is fantastic and looks better on my computer than it ever did on my Wii. As far as issues or complaints go, this one is seriously insignificant. But de Blob is a game where players strive hard to do their best in time, score and completion percentage, and the Steam achievements almost seem to be right-over the plate as far as something to bake in. I won’t let this be the currant that spoils my cake, but it did just bother me a little that, with everything else going on, this small thing was absent.

This is a great port through and through. The graphics have been improved from the ground-up and the videos have even been up-scaled from the limited 480p that was the Wii. de Blob handles like a dream and I had no problems zipping around and getting my green on at every opportunity. There’s even Wiimote support to really experience the original play of the game, which…well, it’s novel. If you have the tools at your disposal, I say go for it and enjoy, but don’t run out and pick up a Wiimote otherwise. The 360 controller works pretty great, I had zero issues.

If you were a fan of this classic from recent history, or are absolutely tickled by the idea of fighting the man one paint can at a time, you really can’t go wrong with de Blob. It’s fun, it’s original, and it got the porting it deserved, minus a small detail that doesn’t affect the game itself at all. The success has already lead to de Blob 2 getting ported, and who knows? Maybe even more Wii exclusives are in the pipeline.

Review: A Butterfly in the District of Dreams

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Visual novels, while popular in Japan, have a small die-hard fandom here in the United States. If you were to list game genres, most people would have never heard of Visual Novels being one of them, but they are, like A Butterfly in The District of Dreams, a strong and growing genre that is seeing more attention in the Western World. It’s important, however, to note that only certain people really get into Visual Novels, and are fine completing it from start to finish while others would just give up halfway and just call it a “Story” not a “Game”. A Butterfly in The District of Dreams would most likely fall under the first category by many standards.

The story starts off in Tokyo, where you play as a young college student named Haruki, who has become withdrawn ever since his sister, Anzu, ended up in the hospital. Since then, he has done nothing but wander around instead of going to school, lie to his sister about being happy, and cooking late at night for his parents who come home even later. It’s clear from the start that Haruki is suffering from minor depression due to the current state of things, and is really worried about his sister who, the game hits, is possibly dying. His only friend, Ai, tries to help him out by getting him to come to school again, but when they try to return home they take a strange train that bring them to a mysterious shopping district in another world that seems to go on forever. Taking residence at a local coffee shop run by Yurika, (Who looks a lot like Anzu) the two live there in a slice of life setting while trying to figure out a way home.

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The story, at first, was very slow yet interesting as you come to see the mindset of Haruki, who you quickly learn to sympathize, and the obvious romantic interests his friend Ai has for him.  When you arrive at the shopping district, you learn a few interesting facts such as this is another world that goes on forever, people don’t age, nobody is born or dies, and it has a living god that watches over them. The place is built by the dreams of people, and at first it sounds like you’ll be investigating the town itself to discover who the dreamer is and how you can return home. However, the truth is that this game is a slice of life scenario, featuring the main character interact with others in situations that range from hilarious to heartwarming. The problem is that most of these characters and situations have been done to death before. The game pretty much stops standing out after the first chapter, and from there it’s just like watching a standard happy sitcom.

The characters themselves are designed and written well, but the problem is we’ve seen their types before. You have Haruki, the average joe hero who every girl seems to like, Ai, the shy genius who loves Haruki but doesn’t know how to express it, Yukira, the owner of the coffee shop who is perky, brave, and motherly, Rentarou, a jerk with a heart of gold, and Riko, a young little girl who acts cute but annoying. The only character that I personally like is Sakuya, the goddess of the district who pretty much acts like a jerk to everyone because she is a god and doesn’t care. Everyone else is pretty much a bread and butter type character that you can claim to see a hundred different times. You can write as good of a story as you can, but unless the characters are interesting enough it won’t be as engaging as it can be.

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Just like with most visual novels, there is less focus on gameplay and more on art and story. The main “mechanic” of any visual novel is making choices that affect the story or your standing with the characters. It takes over three chapters alone just to get to the first choice. I find visual novel games that offer a lot of choices, right from the start to the end, tend to be the most engaging as it keeps the story fresh and flowing. Having very few makes the visual novel less of a game and more of an actual novel. The art is okay, pretty much average in both backgrounds and character design. The music fits the tone too, having a good up beat to fit with the slice of life moments.

I wouldn’t say that A Butterfly in the District of Dreams is a bad game, but it’s just nothing that hasn’t been seen before. It’s very average at certain parts, and cliché in others. If there was more to solving the mystery of the district, more choices to make in the game overall, and better written characters I’d say it would be a better game.

Review: Endless Space 2

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Endless Space 2 is the latest game by Amplitude Studios, the team behind the famous Endless series, all games which I thoroughly enjoyed despite its flaws. The game has officially launched on Steam on the 19th of May, after being on Steam’s Early Access program since early October in 2016.

Like its predecessor, and very much like its brother Endless Legend, Endless Space 2 is a turn-based 4X strategy game with a strong sci-fi theme to it. The game improves on pretty much every single aspect of the original, adding not only a lot more depth to it but also by adding a lot more variety. The game consists of you, playing as one of the eight different empires, trying to become the dominant one in the galaxy by emerging victorious through one of the six different victory conditions. These range from simple conquest of enemy homeworlds to building wonders or becoming an economic powerhouse. There is a vast range of possible ways that you can use to achieve one of these victory conditions, especially when you take into account the different playstyles that each different empire can develop, thus providing a suitable experience for people with different playstyles.

Usually, story and narrative aren’t the strongest suit of a strategy game but, like other games in the Endless series, Endless Space 2 world building manages to be superb and it’s one of the main reasons why I find the game to be so compelling. Very much unlike the original game, but more in the veins of Endless Legend, Endless Space 2 features a quest and event system. These two not only give the player some sense of purpose, especially to those who tend to get lost in these kinds of games that can go on for dozens of hours, but it also provides some sort of narrative which is partially unique to the empire you’re playing as. With that said, the detail that has been put behind each construction and research options, in their own descriptions, is really staggering. Just a single paragraph, like the ones used as descriptions,add so much to the already vast and intriguing lore of the Endless universe that, at times, it doesn’t even seem that you’re playing a 4X game but, instead, that you’re playing a much more narrative focused game.

It has been a few years since I played the first game but, if my doesn’t fail me, this sequel is clearly an improvement all across the board in terms of gameplay. You’ll be expanding your empire while increasing your pool of the many resources in the game, from the main ones such as food, industry, dust, science, influence and manpower, to rarer ones like luxury and strategic resources. The production of the former group of resources is dependant on the size of the population living on the planet where you have these resources. However, you can construct system improvements in order to increase your production even further. With that said, resources like food and industry are exclusive to the star system they’re produced, while other resources like science and dust are shared throughout your entire empire. This is done so that the cumulative amount of science you produce per turn helps increase the speed of technology research, for example, while food increases a star system population growth and while industry decreases the amount of turns it takes in order to construct something.

Like other games in the genre, in Endless Space 2 researching new technologies is imperative to your success. The research tree is divided into four different sections, military, empire development, economy & trade and science & exploration. In turn, each one of these sections is subdivided into different tiers, and in order to access a higher tier you’ll have to research a certain amount of technologies on the highest tier you can access at any given moment. As far as dust and influence go, these can be used to instantly complete production and research queues or to build specific things. Still, influence is vital in the development of relationships with minor factions and in influencing the political sphere of your own empire. Minor factions can be approached via peaceful means, which gives you specific bonuses while you’re in good terms, or via a more militaristic approach. In any case, you’ll be able to assimilate them into your empire sooner or later, which gives you even more bonuses and also gives you more population diversity. Not only the game has a diplomacy element to it, but it also has a strong political side to every action you take. Your actions can affect the six political parties stances and, every 20 turns there will be elections, where you’ll be able to show your official support to one of the parties, and the winners will get to occupy the senate. On that note, you’ll be able to pass laws, depending on the parties that have a seat in the senate, which provide massive bonuses to your empire but which are subject to your influence and the influence of specific political parties. Going back to the population types, there is quite a fair amount of depth put into it, which is worth delving into. Your population is also divided into the several different political parties with each reacting differently to specific political outputs and choices that you make, which will affect the popularity of these parties in each election. Besides that, there’s also an element of happiness to each star system’s population which directly affects your research production.

In terms of actual map layout, the game is mostly played either from the galaxy map or the star system screen. From the galaxy map you can see different constellations, which are composed by star systems. You can interact with them by zooming in and inspecting individual planets. In the same sense, you also command fleets through the galaxy view, which can be composed of one or multiple ships. On that note, exploration and travelling is initially done via star lanes, which connect the various star systems, or, once you discover that technology, via warp drives when you want to reach another star constellation. Still, fleets can only be issued new orders once they arrive at their destination, you can’t issue them new orders while they’re in the middle of a star lane. In regards to planet variety, which was a key feature in the first game, that’s even better in this one, with planets of all sorts, providing a lot more room for discovery and replayability. Some have unique luxury resources, strategic resources, moons, ruins or special characteristics that allow you to develop a certain specialization. They can also contain certain anomalies which you can investigate, either by sending a probe with a ship from orbit, or by creating an expedition if you have colonized a planet on that given star system.

Now, one other big part of the game are the spaceships themselves, because what would be a space themed game without those, right? Each ship hull in the game fits a specific role, so individual ship design plays a huge role. You can design your own ships from scratch upon selecting one of various hull types, provided that you’ve researched them. During the design process you’ll be able to give your ship a name and select individual modules for it, which come in three different variants, weapon, defense and support modules. This resumes to choosing between a wide range of energy and projectile weapons, plating and shields, as well as a series of support modules that grant you bonuses or certain abilities. In turn, different kinds of these modules work better with specific hull types designed for certain tasks, such as, exploration, attacking or tanking. Besides that you’ll also get to choose a series of tactics cards which you’ll be able to use at the beginning of a battle. The game does give you room to customize things to your liking, and to use both a combination of different ship designs with different tactics to turn the tide of battle in your favour but, ultimately, like the first game, I feel like the combat, despite having improved, is still one of the weakest parts of the game.

Combat is really basic and you have no real way to affect the outcome besides choosing a tactic and employing your fleet before battle. While you do get to watch the fleets battle each other, you have no direct control over your ships. This results in you having to plan and take a wild guess on the enemies weapons systems, their defenses and effective range before battle, while also checking out the odds, in order to engage with a specific type of ships and tactics. I’m pretty sure the combat was one of the weakest and most criticized elements of the first game, and so, the fact that they decided to stick with the same combat system really boggles my mind. The game also features ground combat but this is even more basic than space combat, since it consists only of three different unit types, infantry, armour and air. In any case, each have their own stats and effective range of combat. The game also features a unique set of units called Heroes. These are unique on their own and have their own role, personal back story and their own set of skills that you can develop as they level up. These units can be assigned either to fleets or systems, in order to boost their overall effectiveness. Besides that, they also have their own unique ship that you can customize and assign to a fleet.

One thing that really benefits the game in terms of longevity and replayability is the fact that it supports Steam Workshop, which has already allowed many users to share their creations, that not only add new things to the game, but also optimize or balance out several aspects of the game’s mechanics. For those who like to customize things to your liking, you’ll be glad to know that the game allows you to rebind keys. There are also separate audio sliders for music, sound effects, interface and master volume. However, one thing that did disappoint me was the graphics menu, which is rather minimalistic. It only allows you to choose one from six presets. Still, the game does provide a description as to what each one of these has activated or not, as in, the amount of anti-aliasing, pixel light count, amongst others features.

Alongside the combat, the other main complaint that most people seem to have with the game right now is that it has a fair share amount of bugs. One issue that I have encountered repeatedly consists in the game crashing during the initial loading screen every now and then, which is kind of a nuisance. I also came across another bug, which was the game freezing whenever I selected a newly found star system. Luckily, I was able to bypass this by disabling the cutscenes in the game’s options menu. One other bug which I haven’t encountered yet, but that I’ve seen some people complaining about in the forums is that the game can stop responding, whenever there’s an election, and that happens every 20 turns, which I think forces you to start a whole new game.

One small caveat I have with the game are the sound effects, most notably during combat, because they sound rather dull. On the other hand, the soundtrack is a masterpiece on its own. The battle themes and the main theme are extremely enjoyable to listen to, and I often found myself just idling while listening to these tracks. In any case, where the game’s music and the work of FlybyNo really shines is in the individual factions themes. These are exceptionally unique on their own, and give you a sense of overwhelming discovery and the dawn of a new empire, which is more than enough to give you goosebumps. In the same sense, the game’s visuals and art direction is breathtaking. From the splash art to the individual ship design from different empires look and the unique planet designs that change slightly as you colonize them, everything looks top-notch.

In terms of UI the game has a very clean look to it, and small icons and other little details really help in performing simultaneous and different actions more smoothly. In the end this helps new players quite a lot since everything feels fairly intuitive. With that said, the game has many surprises in store for you, that you’ll unravel as you play, and this is one of the main reasons as to why this game is so engaging and addictive at first. The game is so much better in every possible way when compared to the original. The attention to detail is spot on. Each building and research has its own tiny bit of lore that makes even the slightest thing sound so much more interesting. Still, no matter how much fun and how good I think the game is, and the potential it still has to become a lot more, bugs need to be taken care of because, as of right now, they seem to detract from the experience quite a lot. If the bugs were eliminated and the combat was more engaging, giving you direct control of individual ships, this would probably be one of the best 4X games I had ever played. As it stands, it’s a very good game on its own and I’m looking forward to see how it will evolve.

Review: TumbleSeed

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If you found yourself faced with a noble quest, but knew you would most likely fail, would you try anyway? Isn’t that impulse to do good deeds for strangers despite the overwhelming odds what draws us to embark on so many video game adventures and ultimately prevail? Would you continue if success were not guaranteed?

Aeiowu’s new rolly rougelike, TumbleSeed, will test not only your skill and heroic conviction, but perhaps even your very sanity. You will have fun, but you will also suffer.

The sole objective is to move a little seed to the top of a mountain. This seed simply wakes up one morning and decides to leave the comfort and safety of its village to roll upward and plant itself at the summit. You alter the seed’s speed and direction by balancing it on a vine controlled at either end by your joysticks. The path is beset by numerous obstacles ranging from holes you can simply fall into, to enemies actively trying to kill you.

The seed has a range of powers to aid its journey, like the ability to plant a new checkpoint, or to grow defensive spikes. It is also possible to unlock other fantastic powers, but gaining these abilities will cost you in-game resources and precious real-world time.

You might be thinking, so what? An objective, with challenges in the way, is the basic premise of every game, and indeed, any good story. How hard could this game actually be? So hard!

For one thing, the entire landscape of the mountain changes every time you attempt to climb. The size and location of the holes, the number and severity of the enemies, is different every single time. There’s no way to develop a rhythm for speeding through the beginning and getting better with every following attempt because the terrain is always changing.

For another thing, the enemies do not damage you consistently. You, little seed, start your journey with three hearts, and falling in a hole or tangling with the wrong foe will cost you one. But some enemies will wipe out all of your hit points in one go. And, while you are able to grow spikes that kill some enemies, those spikes won’t kill all of the things chasing after you. To make it more frustrating, those enemies are also faster than you, and will often seek you out deliberately.

And for one more thing, even if you make it from one section of the mountain up to another biome, saving your progress is not guaranteed. If you make it to the jungle after (literally) fifty attempts through the forest, but die ten seconds in, you must start from the very bottom. Again.

To exacerbate your despair, the game records careful statistics of how many times you’ve attempted the climb and displays your current tally after every death. Too bad, little seed. Better luck next time.

Despite the frustrating nature of this game, I did find myself strangely invested in this seed’s world. The different sizes and shapes of seeds elicit sympathy despite only having one tiny eye to express themselves. And even the most deadly enemies are still somewhat cute. The 2D artwork, minimalist but adorably compelling, reminds me of a children’s picture book where the protagonist is victorious as long as they refuse to give up hope… even though my every experience with this game has proven otherwise. The soundtrack, rather than being repetitive with so many failed attempts, is almost soothing.

As my death toll reached the high double digits I found myself wondering if perhaps instead of a quest with a goal, this game is actually a meditation exercise. The little seed is met on all sides with death and failure, but succumbing to anger and frustration only makes the task ahead more difficult. To achieve any progress, you must steady your mind and stay calm, and even then, imminent failure is still baked into the programming. Perhaps after enough attempts to climb this mountain, I could transcend my desire for success and achieve some sort of spiritual enlightenment. Or maybe I’m just very, very bad at this stunning, ridiculously difficult game.

Review: Rosenkreuzstilette

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Rosenkreuzstilette is a Japanese indie title that was originally released back in 2007 on the 31st of December. That means that this game is almost a decade now that it has been officially localized. Back in 2007, there were nowhere near as many Mega Man clones on the market as there are now. Granted, Megamari already did the “Mega Man with anime girls” but the difference is that Rosenkreuzstilette doesn’t just ramp up the difficulty to absurd degrees and call it a day. Rosenkreuzstilette posses a hard but fair challenge and is actually really fun to play.

Before I explain why though, there are a few technical issues with the game that occurred as a result of being ported to Steam. The most jarring is that, when using a controller, movement is mapped to the analog stick and not the D-pad. Given that Rosenkreuzstilette is a reflex heavy action game, using the analog stick will feel unnatural and will make actions like sliding more difficult. What is even worse is that the original release of this game had the arrow keys mapped to the control stick, and that this is only in the Steam version. According to a thread on the game’s Steam page, the developers are working on it, but considering that it has been three months since it was released, I don’t have much confidence it will be fixed any time soon.

The second problem is that the game had a habit of glitching up when I tried to switch to full screen via the window icon.  The screenshot below is what the screen looked like when this bug occurred. It froze on the current in-game screen and pushed the current screen into the corner instead of stretching. What makes this worse is that after exciting out of the game, the game audio continues to play and when I press any buttons that the game uses, the sound effects play as if the game is still turned on. As a result, I end up needing to reset my computer several times.  I technically did experience the latter part in a few other Steam games, but I have not had it occur anywhere near as frequently as in this game.

If one is responding to this observation with “well then just use the in-game menu to change the screen size,” then that is where another problem comes in. For some baffling reason, this game’s developer thought that this Mega Man clone was not similar enough to Mega Man and did not include a save function. Instead, we have the same password system that the NES Mega Man games used. This is a long outdated system that had no place in a game released in 2017 OR 2007. No one was asking for this game to use a password system, and no one would have said Rosenkreuzstilette was not a proper Mega Man successor if it didn’t use a password system.  Not even Mega Man 9 and not even the Mega Man Anniversary Collection rerelease retained the password system.

“Oh but it’s not a big deal, you can just use screen caps and you won‘t have to write it down” one may say in this game’s defense. The problem with that defense is that you cannot look at screenshots while in full screen mode, and no one is going to want to play a game like this on a shrunken down screen.  This is where the issue with using the in-game menu to change the window comes in; you can only do it from the main menu. The options menu is not available during gameplay, so you cannot do things like change the volume or exit full screen. If you are playing in window mode, you can enter full screen mode by clicking the icon, but you risk the game glitching up if you do that. Thankfully, you can fix this by exiting to the main menu and switching back to window mode in the options menu and trying again. So the only options are to either A: write down the password like in the old days, B: keep trying to enter full screen using the above process until it works, or C: play the entire game in window mode. Naturally, none of these are appealing options.

One last gripe I have had with the game’s interface comes from when you try to customize the keyboard control layout. It works in the “press the button on the keyboard to represent this action” process. This means that you can’t cancel this action if you made a mistake or selected the option by accident, and you will just end up mapping backspace to a random action, which in turn results to you needing to use the new messed up control scheme to reselect the option.

So, now that I got all of that out of the way, it’s about time I finally talk about the game itself. Despite being a Mega Man clone, Rosenkreuzstilette has a surprisingly involved story that is far more compelling than the cartoonish plot of the Mega Man series. Our main character is Spiritia Rosenberg, a member of a special military branch of magic users (otherwise known as magi) that is known as Rosenkreuzstilette (Rose Cross Stilettos), or RKS for short. This branch was formed as the result of the Holy Empire being defeated lead by a powerful mage know as Rosenkreuz and his eight disciples, who lead a rebellion against them for freedom from persecution.

Things were going well for a while until RKS commander Graf Michael Zeppelin (or Sepperin in the fan translation) ordered a strike against the empire. Spiritia missed the announcement so she was not in on the strike when it occurred, so now she is torn between whether to support her fellow magi or loyalty to the empire. Of course, it is not much of a spoiler to say that she ends up fighting each of her friends despite never taking a stand with the empire simply so they can serve as this game’s equivalent to robot masters. The story and characters are surprisingly well thought out for a game in a genre that typically has story as an afterthought. In fact, this is a game that could have used a bit more story and character development given how much personality ever character is given in the brief moments you see them.

The graphics use a small chibi artstyle that is similar to the NES Mega Man games, but they thankfully did not go in the “use authenticity as an excuse to use overly simplistic and pixilated graphics and instead at least look like a modern title. They are also very well animated and drawn and it helps make this game feel like more than a Mega Man re-skin; the same can also be said for the sound effects. The music, however, had a remarkable amount of effort put into it; almost to the point where I would consider it overkill even for a game influenced by a series known for its music.

Rosenkreuzstilette has close to 50 unique songs, according to the first playlist that comes up on Youtube, and this is coming from a game that is roughly the same length as the classic Mega Man titles. For comparison, Mega Man 2 had about 14 songs that aren’t 10 second loops or jingles. I was actually surprised to find this because I did not even know what they could have been used for. It turns out that most of these songs only play at one point in the game, and for a short period of time. For example, all eight RKS members have a unique song in the cutscene that plays before fighting them, one that often last longer than the cutscenes themselves. Additionally, three of the Fortress stage bosses have unique music that plays in the cutscene before them, every fortress stage has unique music, and a lot of the bosses have unique music as well.

This is not even a case of quantity over quality either; all of the music is great. It shows that there was a serious amount of effort put into this area when the amount of names in the section for music in the ending credits reaches double digits. It nicely combines elements of both Baroque and rock music that sounds like a cross of the music from the Mega Man X titles and the Castlevania series. The music is soft when it needs to be, ominous and atmospheric when it needs to be, and it kicks ass when it needs to.

Gameplay wise, Rosenkreuzstilette is very similar to Mega Man, almost too similar. At a lot of points in this game felt like it was turning into a game of “guess the reference.” For example, every weapon ability is lifted directly from one of the NES Mega Man games as opposed to any new weapons, every stage has an aesthetic that is taken from a Mega Man game, just about every gameplay mechanic is take from a Mega Man game, and there were even some screens that were identical to the classic Mega Man games. As fun as Rosenkrezstilette was, it would likely have been better if it did not rely so heavily on referencing other games and tried to be more of its own thing.

While the mechanics and level designs are not winning any points for originality, they are still very well designed and fun to play. I have heard plenty of people claim that this game is easier than the NES Mega Man games, but I found it harder than I remember Mega Man one through six being, although it has been a long time since I played them so I would not know for sure.  Hell, it feels like the game specifically made certain mechanics from the originals harder. For instance,  the lasers on Freudia’s stage are a lot harder to dodge than the ones on Quick man’s stage,  and the Die geplante Zukunft cannot be used as much as the time stopper so you will need to actually learn those laser patterns. Additionally, the game’s equivalent of the yellow devil will be fought partially with upside down gravity.

Thankfully, Rosenkreuzstilette remembers to keep the levels relatively short if it insists on retaining the lives system, so that way it doesn’t take too long to regain lost progress. This is especially noteworthy when one considers that this was a major issue with both Mega Man 8 and Mighty No.9. Also unlike the aforementioned games, Rosenkreuzstilette rarely felt unfair with its challenge. Even in the exponentially more difficult playthrough as Grolla, the challenge is still fair as long as you can adapt to the new play style and controls.

The strength of Rosenkreuzstilette is mostly in its presentation. The graphics and sound are especially noteworthy, and the story is definitely interesting. All of those are reason enough to check out this game, but it would be nice if the gameplay itself were a bit more unique. Yes it is fun, but so are the originals, so are Mega Man 9 & 10, and so are a lot of other Mega Man inspired games.  There is, of course, a rather tragic irony in that Rosenkreuzstilette a lot of competition from Mega Man clones these days, but when put against the successor to the franchise that inspired it, there is no competition.  Rosenkreuzstilette is leaps and bounds better than Mighty No.9  or Mega Man 8 for that matter. $10.00 is more than a fair price for this game, but I am hesitant to recommend the Steam version simply due to the bugs and the lack of D pad support. As a result, I am taking a point off of what the final score would be otherwise, leaving this game with a 7/10. Hopefully these issues get fixed in the future.

Star Wars Battlefront II may not have a season pass

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According to DICE, Star Wars Battlefront 2 may not have a DLC season pass.

Creative director Bernd Diemer told Mashable that the game will not have the season pass, and that EA is working on “something different” going on to that “I cannot talk about the specifics of this, but we have something different in mind that will allow you to play longer, be more invested in the game without having a fragmented community.”

The last instalment of the revitalised series that was released in 2015 to costs which ran up to £95 ($120) with all the different editions, except for the standard edition which cost £50 ($60), coming with the season pass which allowed people to save money on the £12 ($15) map packs that were released sporadically throughout the first year of its release. This created a problem as players found themselves finding matches difficult if they did not have the DLC, this being a problem as the game was mainly online only.

However, Mashable went on to write that EA themselves told them to withhold the information about the no season pass that Mr Diemer alluded to in his interview with Mashable because they “couldn’t definitively say whether that would be the case, despite what Diemer said and expounded upon.”

Mashable published the statement that was sent over to them in regards to the issue, saying that

While we’re not ready to confirm any live service plans just yet, what we can say is we heard the feedback from our Battlefront community loud and clear. We know they want more depth, more progression, and more content. So we’re focused on delivering that in every dimension of Star Wars Battlefront II. We’ll have more to share about our plans soon.

The release trailer for the game shows that the game will contain a single-player campaign, a game mode which was widely desired by fans. EA and DICE have addressed this complaint with the inclusion of single player, only time will tell whether the season pass will be scrapped when the game is released.

The game is scheduled for release on November 17 2017.

Review: Job Simulator (PSVR)

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Job simulator is probably not the first game you would consider for the new PlayStation VR. It isn’t an action, horror, or even a puzzle game, however unlike most of the other launch titles this one is actually good.

In my opinion the graphics are quite good. Everything has a cartoony 90’s feel to it. It all looks simplistic but works and when you add that to the immersion of the VR it really comes off looking great. When playing the game you really “feel” like you’re in an office or a convenience store. This is mostly due to the fact that you can interact with most of the objects in the environment.

There is a story but it is REALLY light. The general plot involves bots showcasing the player what it was like for humans to work. Each Job also has its own subplot, for instance, the office worker shows the growth of your character in the business eventually leading to you becoming the boss.

The overall sound design is good. For each job you will hear the familiar sounds that should accompany the job based on their location. For instance In the office you will hear phones ring, copy machines running, ect. This is for all the included jobs. It’s a nice touch to the immersion of the experience, it helps make you feel like you’re actually there.

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This is where Job Simulator succeeds the most. When you first start the game you will have a choice of four different jobs to take on; Mechanic, Chef, Office worker, and convenience store clerk. To start a job you select the cartridge of the job you want, put it in the “console” and pull the lever.

The store clerk has you run a local convenience store. You will do tasks such as; opening the store, taking care of customers, cleaning spills, ect. Before you begin each task you must pull a ticket to start the next “level”. When you begin a task you will hear a robot narrate the purpose of the task. This is often one of the most amusing parts of the game. Hearing the robots take on the day to day tasks that are to be done makes the experience so much better. To perform these tasks you need to use the move controllers to reach around in different environments, and grab various objects. The game will have you interact with various stereotypes of customers albeit in a fun way. The types of customers you will encounter play on tropes such as rude people, underage sales, all with their own gags to make the experience interesting. When playing the game you have a certain amount of freedom as to how you will handle each situation. You can give the bots the wrong type of product on certain occasions , you can overcharge them, and even miss treat them. This is a feature that carries over to the other job types as well.

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The office worker job has you create documents, power point presentations, and even hire and fire bots. Like the other jobs you will interact with various objects to get your “job” done. This sequence of tasks can be started by pulling a time card. Some of the in-game gags include things like; gossip by the water cooler , office pranks, ect. This set of jobs is really great especially if you don’t take the game serious. Try throwing different objects at bots in other cubicles and witness their reaction.

The mechanic has you tamper and/or fix various cars. This job can be a lot of fun to screw around in. Like for instance “fixing” a car by removing all the tires and returning it to the customer can be a joy to watch.

The Chef has one of the longer tasks lists but it can be fun too. You will prepare various orders for customers, some of which you are free to do what ever you want with. The highlight of this job is towards the end of the sequence. At the end of this job you will become a tv star chef and you will need to prepare orders for a knockoff Gordon Ramsay, which can be really funny.

While I really enjoyed this game, it can get repetitive and it is linear. Overall this game can be completed in about 4 hours and that’s doing everything including getting the platinum trophy. So there is not much of a reason to keep coming back to this.

I really enjoyed this game. It was personally one of the better VR experiences I have had. It is fun and provides a few laughs along the way. My only gripes with this game would be its replay value and its price. Even though it does have those drawbacks I would still recommend this game especially if you’re new to VR. It is a great way to get used to the effects of VR before jumping into more demanding games.

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX Out Now in NA

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Square Enix and Disney are celebrating 15 years of magical Kingdom Hearts adventures with today’s release of Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX. The new HD collection is the first time six chapters from the beloved series will be available for the PlayStation 4 computer entertainment system.

In Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX, fans will join Sora, Donald, Goofy and other familiar Disney characters as they voyage through Disney worlds to stop the Heartless invasion and save the Kingdom Hearts universe from darkness. Keyblade wielders will befriend and enlist beloved Disney and Final Fantasy characters to help light overcome the darkness.

A new trailer showcasing the timeless characters, unforgettable villains and the colorful Disney worlds was released today. The “Familiar Faces and Places” trailer is available on YouTube.

The compilation includes the following games:

• Kingdom Hearts FINAL MIX
• Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories
• Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (HD Remastered Cinematics)
• Kingdom Hearts II FINAL MIX
• Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final MIX
• Kingdom Hearts Re:coded (HD Remastered Cinematics)

As a refresher, a new story focused trailer was also released, where fans new and old can follow the adventure of Sora as he battles darkness with the power of friendship.

Fans can prepare for the highly anticipated release of Kingdom Hearts III by experiencing the entire series with Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX and the recently released Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue on the PlayStation 4 system. Fans can also uncover the mysteries on how the series began with the upcoming release of Kingdom Hearts Union χ [Cross] for iOS and Android devices. Kingdom Hearts Union χ [Cross] is the relaunch of the critically acclaimed mobile RPG formerly known as Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ.

Review: Tethered (VR)

Floating in the sky, broken and alone, the islands of the world need your help. It is up to you to free your fellow Spirit Guardians entombed inside ancient collapsed Totems, overgrown with thorny plant life. Wielding your elemental powers, you must garner help from the local inhabitants of these islands; The Peeps. Devoted to a fault, they will follow your every command, but without guidance, they will lose hope and suffer from despair before taking the ultimate plunge off the sides of the islands.

Across the 13 different islands in Tethered, you must start with nothing but the remnants of civilization with the goal of gathering enough Spirit Energy to awaken and set the Guardians free. As you collect additional energy, life will begin to flourish on the island, transforming the drab brown islands to bright green full of life. It becomes quite clear that your involvement on these islands is the only chance for the locals to survive. During the day, hungry and lack of motivation are all you have to worry about, but come nightfall, foul slug-like creatures will traverse the islands, attacking your Peeps and stealing previous resources.

As you alter your view on the current island landscape by teleporting between the clouds surrounding the islands, you can also use the weather to your advantage. I already mentioned the sunshine could hatch eggs, but I didn’t mention that if you fail to hatch eggs before they turn brown, a monster will pop out of them instead, even in the day time. As each of the weather types have multiple uses, the sunshine can also help you replenish your farm and even give a Peep a throwable grenade attack. Each of the other weather elements can replenish the other resources, as well as have secondary effects. Combining two different weather types together can also create a rainbow or a devastating thunderstorm. Rainbows are the only way to cure Peeps suffering from despair, and storms can kill monsters in a single impressive lightning strike. Be careful what you select, as you may end up selecting your Peeps by mistake.

Tethered focuses on using head movements as the main control mechanic in the game. After focusing on the Peep you want to give an order to, you use the control to lock in your choice and let go when you point at what you want them to do. It’s quite similar to using a standard drag and drop control scheme, except you are using your head to point at each of the objects. The 3D space provides some great uses of depth and allows you to lean around certain objects in the environment to locate hidden crystals, and more.

Conclusion:

Tethered is a magical strategy game, with cute characters, and enjoyable gameplay mechanics. It’s been quite some time since I had fun with a God-like strategy game, and Tethered is one of the best PlayStation VR games currently available. It’s a shame there isn’t any way to continue a level after meeting the goal requirements, but each of the thirteen islands is quite lengthy.