Spartan (SWITCH)

Spartan – Afbeelding 1This… is… Spartan! A platformer in the truest sense. 500 B.C. is where it’s at, in ye olde country of Greece. You are king Leo. Royally pissed because all weapons, armour and gold have mysteriously vanished. At the same time Greece is riddled with magical portals, which suddenly appeared. It’s up to you to find out who’s behind all of this and to get back the stolen goods. No one messes with a Spartan!

King Leo looks like a chibi God of War. Any further comparisons end here: they both are from Sparta and that’s about it. Spartan is a platformer after all. You’ll run, jump and climb your way through 24 levels spread over 4 worlds with some bosses added to the mix. Meanwhile you collect coins and use your sword to slice and dice enemies before they can make minced meat out of you. Attacks and obstacles can be blocked with your shield or by avoiding them altogether. You’ve got some fancy moves after all. Like the double jump which seems to be a given in platformers.

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You will wonder about the use of the life meter, though. Most close encounters with spears, circular saws and enemies will throw you back to the previous save point. Which will happen a lot. The difficulty curve gradually builds up during the first levels and then suddenly decides to stop holding your hands. You can change the difficulty (Wimp or Spartan) but there’s no reason to do so. Unless you’re keen on easily refilling your life energy. But since the meter immediately runs out once you stumble into a trap… Oh well.

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Bosses are what you can expect from a game like this. Yes, the cyclops and Medusa are both there. Boss encounters seem overwhelming at first but are quite manageable once you get to know their moves.

King Leo controls a bit floaty. You wouldn’t say, going by his bulking chibi build, but he is. Especially during (double) jumps and those often crucial wall jumps. It takes time to get used to. Even after an hour of intense gaming you find yourself wondering how you could have missed that jump or why that enemy got to you. Controls could have been a tad tighter.

Level design leaves a bit to be desired. Levels often look bland or overly complicated. It’s one or the other with nothing in between. Especially during later levels it’s quite noticeable that the difficulty curve doesn’t grow proportionally to your experience. You’ll find yourself dying on things you shouldn’t.

Graphics are rather plain. The game was built using the Unreal Engine, which guarantees a smooth framerate. Not an overly exaggerated advantage since the game depends on your flawless button input for avoiding those pixel perfect hit boxes.

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Spartan is not a bad game. It’s not a good game either. There are other titles on the Nintendo Switch with the same gameplay premise, executing things on a better level. But, the game does what it needs to do when it comes to returning to the roots of old platformers. Spartan promises AND delivers a hard game for die hard gamers.

Marco

Clarence New Season!

You all remember I love Clarence. (In case you don’t, that’s a super handy hyperlink right here…)

Anyway, Cartoon Networks fun-loving, overly enthousiastic kid is back! Starting next week, a new season will air. And leading up to it, there’s non-stop Clarency goodness being aired all month. All episodes are little tidbits of childlike glee. Like this one:

See? That made you smile, didn’t it? I knew it.
Clarence rules.

Jan

Neurovoider (PSVITA)

neurocoverI’m a brain. One of the last intact human brains left, after the total annihilation of mankind by robotkind. Since then, I’ve been floating around in my a tube. Preserved by the droids to experiment on. A hairline crack in the glass seems to be my salvation. The tube breaks, and I hop to my escape. I manage to board my grey matter into a battlebot, and take over its functions. It’s on!

Neurovoider’s plot sounds like that of a cheesy scifi movie I’d gladly watch. Combined with the retro-look and equally retro and cheesy synth-soundtrack, it makes me feel as if I’m back into the eighties. The only thing preventing me from actually believing it, is seeing the PSVita in my hands.

Neurovoider is a twin-stick shooter, with RPG elements. The robot is controlled by moving one stick, aiming is done with the other. At the start of the game, I get to choose from three different types of droid. The defensive type which is more about armor and shields, the offensive type which is all about guns and a third middleground kind of type which favours evasion and guns. Using loot dropped by enemies, robots can be upgraded and adapted.

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This upgrading and modding proves to be critical. As I advance in the twenty or so levels, it becomes clear I won’t make it using the same tactic over and over again. Enemies seem to get better and the occasional bossfight forces me to think and analyse. Finding a pattern in a series of attacks is key in surviving here.

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Levels are randomly generated, so replay value is high up there in the clouds. It’s just a shame that this conversion for Vita lacks the one thing that made other versions so damn enjoyable: 4 player coop.

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A nice shooter that I can keep playing. On my own unfortunately…

Jan

Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut (SWITCH)

saccovA bunch of teenagers sets up camp right next to an eerie lake. They settle in for what should be a carefree summercamp, but Skullface is lurking from the bushes. The deranged serial killer vows not to rest until each one of the teenage nuisances is brutally murdered…
It reads like a plot for a good old slashermovie, but it’s actually the plot of a puzzle game. No action-, shooter-, survival horror- or adventuregame, but a simple puzzler.

Players get to play as one of many serial killers. The killer is then set loose in a small environment, littered with obstacles, but also with potential victims. The goal? Simply move the killer towards a victim, without hitting any traps, and kill without mercy.

There’s a catch though: the killer can only move in straight lines, horizontally or vertically, and runs from side to side only stopping when hitting an object. So there’s a lot of logical thinking involved in planning out a route to the next victim. Luckily enough, there’s a handy rewind button. One simple press and the game rewinds one step, so a stupid mistake can be undone without having to restart from scratch.

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And believe me when I say stupid mistakes are made aplenty. Our intrepid serial killer is far from invincible. Traps that can be used to drive victims into, are just as harmful to players. Some levels are riddled with cops who shoot on sight, and there’s even levels that have to be completed within a set number of moves before SWAT arrives and (you’ve guessed it) shoots on sight.

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There’s tons of content in Slayaway Camp. There’s a number of ‘movies’, each with their own killer star and dozen or so levels. There’s even more killers and bloody finishing moves which can be bought with coins earned by playing. It all adds up to a very high replay value.

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Never thought I’d have this much fun with a ‘basic’ sliding puzzle. I’m sure the setting, content and ingenious levels have to do something with it but still.
Me.
Enjoying sliding puzzles.
Who would’ve thunk it?

Jan

Alteric (SWITCH/PSVITA)

altericnxgThe world is square. Especially if you’re a rectangular thingy.

Alteric offers a challenging platformer with hardcore gameplay. Are you up to the challenge? Great! You’re playing as a white square moving throughout levels while avoiding obstacles. Your goal is to reach a giant triangle so you can advance to the next levels where you can. Well, you know… Wash, rinse, repeat. But of course it gets harder every time, as there are even more bottomless pits, circular saws, deadly spikes and laser beams awaiting you after every corne… uhm, triangle.

The game holds you by the hand for the very first levels and then mercilessly drops you into the frying pan. To the point where reaching the goal is either because you’re getting better every time or just got lucky.

The game uses crispy clear minimalistic graphics. Lame? Not at all! You wouldn’t want to get distracted while you’re focusing on an incoming projectile while trying to avoid a circular saw that’s coming from behind you. Just to reach a series of moving laser beams. And you can forget about that pause button: the action just continues. Are you standing on a slope? Keep moving as not to glide from it. Something coming your way? Keep running! The game doesn’t cut you any slack. It keeps you on your toes the whole time. Whether because you’re being hunted by a mob of angry little squares or because the floor is giving away while you’re trying to reach the end of a room.

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One of the key mechanisms of the gameplay is the ability to switch between worlds. Stumped by a wall? In the other world it’s just a passage way. Can’t double jump your way over a pit? Warp back and find a very temporary safe platform. The difficulty ramps up quickly. You’ll soon find yourself switching between two worlds while trying to double jump from one danger to another.

You would almost forget there’s a story to this game. You’re the soul of someone who died. A piece of light energy trapped in the alien space between two worlds. But forget about the story. You don’t play Alteric for its plot twists.

You won’t play this game for fun either. Actually, you will… At least, as long as you don’t get discouraged easily, just because you tried some level for the umpteenth time before you finally reach the goal or just give up. There are some save points but they are meagerly spread around the deadly rooms. Most levels don’t even have any save points at all and require you to finish them in one go.

The end level bosses are a welcome addition. Call them ingenious, frustrating, murderous or anything you like. After their defeat, they’ll give you lots of satisfaction. And bragging rights!

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The controls demand precision, just like the game expects precision from you. That makes things fair. Except for that one button that changes the environment. That one got mapped unfairly. You move with the control stick or with the buttons below it. You jump with the A button. But why, oh why did they have map the button to change worlds to the Y button? Nothing as frustrating and cramp inducing than trying to coordinate and push four buttons at the same time. But, hey, maybe there will be an update? In that case, I do hope that the shoulder buttons are used too. It would make the game just that slightly easier. And so much better to handle.

Care for a challenge? Can’t go wrong with Alteric if that’s up your alley. Be prepared for a world of hurt, cursing and frustration though! But, after all, that’s why you’re a gamer, isn’t it?

Marco

Tesla vs. lovecraft (XBOXONE)

tvlcovWhen one of Nicola Tesla’s demonstrations on his newly developed tesla-tech is rudely interrupted by a raving madman, demanding it be stopped, Tesla becomes curious. Turns out, the protester goes by the name of H.P. Lovecraft, just a harmless writer of horror-fiction. But when Tesla’s lab is raided and burned later that night by what seems to be two fish-men straight from Lovecraft’s work, Tesla decides to dig deeper to the heart of the matter. He straps on his teleporter, climbs in his mech and sets off on the trail of the Deep Ones.

Thus starts the premise of a messed-up, hilarious twin-stick shooter. We play as Tesla, and blast our way through level after level of onstorming creatures from Lovecraftian fiction. Tesla starts off each level in his superpowered mech, but after a set amount of time, it explodes and the scientist is forced to continue on foot. Fret not however, because the journey on foot proves to be equally fun.

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Because the battlefield is littered with neat weapons and tech upgrades for Tesla to find. Shotguns, railguns, revolvers, tesla lightning guns,… There are tons of different weapons to collect and upgrade. Same goes for Tesla’s second ability. While mostly of a defensive nature, offensive versions can also be found and collected.

Still liking the mech more? No problem! When it explodes, it scatters its pieces all over the battlefield as well. Collect all of them, and you’re granted more time behind its wheel again.

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Through blasting enemies, Tesla also gains XP. Whenever he climbs up a level, players can choose one of two perks that further round out Tesla’s offensive and defensive capabilities.

I started playing this on release, and I’m still having a blast! Shooting deep ones is oddly satisfying and that story is laugh out loud hilariously weird. A real gem!

Jan

Justice League

jlcoverOh boy. I actually had high hopes for this movie. High hopes, that I foolishly clung to, even when people around me started putting the movie down. “Everything will be ok,” I said to myself. “It has Batman in it. It can’t be all bad.” So, when the flu struck me this weekend, I finally had the time to sit down and watch it. And, like I said: Oh boy. No fever could prepare me for the feast of crap I was about to dine on…

Readers with an elephant-like memory might recall I actually liked Batman v Superman. The movie that started all the backlash against Snyder and Batfleck. The one movie seemingly no-one liked.
I liked that.
Me.
But this one… Wow. Totally different league.

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That story, for instance. Steppenwolf coming to earth to claim the motherboxes for himself after a previous alliance of Atlanteans, Man and Amazons robbed him of them?

“That sounds truly epic, go on!”
What do you mean, go on?
“Go on, what terrible things will he do with the motherboxes? Bring on an invading army from beyond the galaxy? Summon Darkseid?”
Nope, none of that. Apparently, all he wants the boxes for is to reshape earth in the image of his homeworld.
“Cool! With flames and stuff?”
Nope. With pink plant tentacles.

And I’m not kidding. That’s really all there is plotwise. Steppenwolf proves to be a giant badass, but is more concerned with bringing pink plantlife to Earth. Yawn.

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The heroes then? Surely they can’t be all that bad? I really like Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot seems a perfect fit for the role, and handles herself with grace. Same goes for Cavill as Superman and Mamoa as Aquaman. Really liked those three. It’s the other three that kinda grinded my gears. Where Batfleck had first won me over in Batman v Superman, here Ben Affleck is doing everything in his power to sway me over to the other side. Lackluster acting, wooden delivery… It’s as if he’s already tired of Batman and threw in the towel even before filming started. I love what they did with the character visually, but Ben, come on man. Put your back into it! And the Flash… I get they wanted to write him as this inexperienced young guy/comic relief, but everyone of his damn lines is a gag! Talk about overstating/overusing something. And the exact opposite award goes to Cyborg. The man/machine with a million uses under the hood, but he’s only using like three of his abilities in this film. Also, CG was just wonky on this one.

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So yes… Giant stinker. Only thing I liked was its running time. Clocking just under 119 minutes, It’s the shortest DC film to boot. And that’s a good thing.

Jan

The 25th Ward – The Silver Case (PS4)

25covernxgJapanese game developer Suda51 isn’t one for simple, straightforward games. Simple plots are way beneath him. What the man does can only be described as Lynchian. With super stylised gameplay and winks to a thousand popculture phenomena at once.

In The 25th Ward – The Silver Case it’s just like that. Players follow 3 main storylines. One about a detective, one about a reporter with amnesia and one with two morally doubtful secret agents.Trying to explain the plot would be a futile undertaking. I was lost about 5 minutes in. It doesn’t help that the storylines are intertwined and there’s tons of characters to remember. Even characters from the first game pop up now and then, albeit without introduction, so players are just supposed to know them and their backstory on sight.
My head is spinning a little…

Even the gameplay is classic Suda51. The 25th Ward plays as a graphic novel adventure for the most part, but there’s randomly inserted levels with a totally different gamestyle. There’s an entire level of RPG-ing in here!

Graphically I’ve no complaint. Everything is superstylish. The graphics, the neat line and pixel animations,… I’m loving it.

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Controlwise though, there’s a lot to be desired. All of the actions available to the player are shown on a little 3D diamond. With the stick, it can be turned around to choose a new action. Quite often, I couldn’t progress through to the next screen, even though I’ve already did all the actions. Turns out I had to hit “talk” again. And again. And again…
Which wouldn’t have been all that bad, if it wasn’t for that annoying typewriter sound that accompanies all text which appears on screen. And did I mention the text is non skippable? Or fastforwardable? The typewriter sound has to be suffered… The entire game…

The 25th Ward – The Silver Case may be from legendary Suda51, but it just isn’t for me. Don’t get me wrong: I like weird. I like different, but when it gets so weird and so different that I get left behind with a headache, that just means it’s not for me. Sorry 25th ward and all of your 100 (one hundred!) different endings.

Jan

 

Where Are My Friends? (XBOXONE)

wamfcovernxgA small, one-wheeled robot awakens from a deep cryoslumber. Its four friends, who were alongside him on this extra-terrestrial reconnaissance mission, have disappeared. Where could they have gone? The wheeled eyeball is gung-ho on finding them.

And just like that, Where Are My Friends? takes off. Players take on the role of, you’ve guessed it, the small robot. First order of business is powering up the ship and the level select through a series of puzzles. This part is a bit tedious and annoying, but after that, a whole new world opens up! Four of them even!

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Because the sheer brilliance of Where Are My Friends? is that the game doesn’t restrict itself to one genre. It has four! It’s as if the developers couldn’t decide, and just threw all of their favourites together. Every one of the friends is hidden in a new world with its own genre. friend one is found by solving a whole point-and-click adventure, friend two awaits at the end of an extremely difficult obstacle course. Number three can only be found by successfully completing a selfscrolling platformer (which switches between top and sideview intermittedly) and the fourth is hidden in a metroidvania-like dungeon.

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i admit, I was a bit hesitant towards Where Are My Friends? at first. I mean, four genres in one, isn’t that a recipe for disaster? And what’s with the supercutesy crayon artwork? ButI soon changed my mind. Each world is so enthralling and addictive, I just couldn’t put down the controller. And the artstyle also grew on me. Check out what these guys did with mere crayons!

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You won’t have to ask yourself where your friends are with Where Are My Friends? in your console. They’ll be right there, surrounding you on the couch. Laughing at your misfortune, cheering you on and being ready to help out with a level you’re stuck in.

A rel gem, this one!

Jan

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 2

legendsThe Legends of Tomorrow are back. After succesfully thwarting the cooperation between Vandal Savage and the Timelords in season 1, the team is faced with new problems. Rip Hunter has disappeared, only to re-appear throughout time as different versions of himself. While the legends are searching for him, they are confronted by the Legion of Doom, a new supervillain team fronted by reverse Flash Eobard Thawne.

 
The Legion of Doom is looking for the Spear of Destiny, of biblical fame. You know, the big toothpick that they used to stab Christ in the ribs with?
That thing.
It is said the spear has reality-changing abilities, and it is also said Rip Hunter has it.

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So we’re back in for some juicy timetravelling adventures, some time paradoxes and lots of action. I’m psyched! Season 2 even ups the ante: there’s episodes set in feudal japan, the wild west, the raving sixties… There’s even an episode where they have to save george Lucas so he can go on and make Star Wars which, in turn, inspires the Atom and Steel to become a scientist and a historian respectively. Which will make them into superheroes later on. It’s all mind-boggingly complex and yet very simple at the same time. I’m loving it!legends3

 

Alas, the gripes I had with season 1, resurface for season 2. The cringeworthy acting for instance. Where I could live with it in season 1, it evolved into something that I can’t overlook. Some, if not most actors, seem as if they’re either trying too hard, or not trying at all. It leads to some very lackluster, stiff deliveries in stark contrast with the overacted ones.

And some of the dialogue is just… bad. When
“What are you doing?”
“Brainsurgery, what does it look like?”
feels like a very funny, and whimsical bit of dialogue, you know the rest has got to be bad…

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I had high hopes for Legends of Tomorrow. Unfortunately, it disappoints on some very basic levels. Here’s to hoping season 3 will pick itself up again…

Jan