Monthly Archives: March 2018

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.

tvl3

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.

tvl1

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.

jl3

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.

jl1

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.

jl2

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.

252

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!

wamf3

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.

wamf2

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!

wamf1

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.

legends2

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…

legends1

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

Turtle Pop Journey to Freedom (SWITCH)

cover_largeI’m always happy when I can review a game by a relatively new publisher. So when Singaporian studio Zengami released Turtle Pop on Switch, I was there. At breakneck speed, completely unlike a turtle. In Turtle Pop, players get to play as adorable turtle Bebo and his equally adorable pals. They’re on a quest to rescue all hidden turtles scattered throughout the various islands that make up their habitat.

The game is essentially a puzzle platformer. Each of the turtle friends has abilities that can help players. At the touch of a button, Bebo can make the Turtle Genie appear. A floating turtle, that can switch certain blocks to clear a path, or throw bombs and food. The bombs are fairly self-explanatory: they go boom. Useful for clearing a path. The food grants special bonuses, like higher jumps for a set amount of time. It also has healing capabilities.

tp3

Collecting the lost turtles isn’t quite as easy as it seems though. As long as they are visible on screen, I can switch between each of them individually. I can also link them up to Bebo, provided they are close enough. The turtles then mimic each of the main turtle’s movements. Which can be really helpful, but also a real bother sometimes. Dangerous crevasses and cliffs have to be jumped and bombs have to be avoided. All in all, it’s a sometimes nail-biting, mad-driving experience to get all the little brainless reptiles to the goal.

tp2

Turtle Pop really stands out with everything going on in between levels though. The more you play, the more collectible cards you earn. These cards can be used to upgrade the Genie, or to expand the bomb and food capacity. There are also cards that farm coins, which can be used to upgrade the cards themselves. Confused? Don’t be. It’s quite simple, and you won’t have to bother with the card mechanic in-game.

tp1

While Turtle Pop may seem ‘for kids’ with its cutesy look, adults will also find this a quite fun and challenging puzzler. I certainly did, and I’m eagerly awaiting new stuff from Zengami…

Jan

 

Q.U.B.E. 2 (XBOXONE)

q2covernxgAmelia Cross wakes up in a strange environment. She has no recollection of how and why she got there. Luckily, her radio springs to life with the voice of commander Emma. The commander is there to help Amelia to the exit. She lets slip that the strange environment is actually an alien planet. Amelia will have to use her wits to find a way home.

And so, I, playing as Amelia, start wandering through the pristine white corridors on the planet. Which proves to be a tad more challenging than expected. In almost every room, there’s a puzzle waiting. One that needs to be solved, before I can progress to the next room. Behold: the gimmick of Q.U.B.E. 2!

The game is entirely in first-person, a POV which is usually reserved for shooters. But in Q.U.B.E. 2 there aren’t any guns to be found. Amelia’s suit has the ability to change the color of certain ‘interactive’ panels of the rooms with a simple hand-gesture. Three colors are available. Green makes a cube appear. Blue acts as a springboard and red brings forth long beams. Combined, these three abilities help us past hazards and hurdles. Reaching higher ground, avoiding huge fans and laserfences or activating pressurepads  suddenly becomes child’s play.

q21

Which is exactly what makes Q.U.B.E. 2 so brilliant. The gameplay is just simple enough to pick up right away. There wasn’t a moment I felt frustrated at the difficulty of a particular puzzle, because, using an ounce of common sense, solutions are as clear as the light of day.

q22

Which is, regrettably, also a minor gripe of mine… The puzzles seem a tad too simple. It feels as if Amelia’s running from room to room, without ever facing a real challenge or threat. The puzzles also start feeling repetitive in the long haul, because of that.

q23

Luckily, there’s still the well-penned story, the excellent voiceacting and the stylish design of the planet, tickling my minimalism-loving brain just the right way. If you ever feel like picking up a nice looking, none-too-challenging puzzler, then Q.U.B.E. 2 is the way to go.

Jan

The Final Station (SWITCH)

fscoverA long time ago, humankind was attacked by a malevolent alien invasion force in an event that came to be known as the First Visitation. Large areas of the planet were destroyed and contaminated, and humans were forced to relocate to different areas under new leadership. This Council of new leaders vowed to be prepared for the Second Visitation and started construction of a giant battlebot: the Guardian. Just as the Guardian nears completion, the Second Visitation occurs. One dashing trainoperator is tasked to pick up the remaining parts of the Guardian and to bring them to their final station.

And with that, my grand train adventure is off to a start! I play as the traindriver, and on my way to the final station, my train is stopped at every station along the way. Every time I pull into one, the train is immediately clamped down with a lock, and I need to find the code that opens it. So off I go, on foot. And let me tell you, finding a piece of paper with some numbers scribbled on it, is not as easy as it seems. Especially when it’s hidden somewhere in an urban wasteland crawling with infected people that want to drink my blood. Fortunately, there’s weapons to be found, but often a more stealthily approach is advised…

fs3

Looking for the code, I come across a bunch of other stuff too. Food, ammunition, first aid kits or scrap to build those three things from scratch. And sometimes, even other survivors pop up and they’re aching for a seat on the train.

fs2

One an area is cleared,and the code is found, the train can move on. During the ride, passengers will speak with one another, revealing parts of the plot. But the traindriver can’t just sit around and listen to them, because they and the train require constant attention. The passengers go hungry, or need medical attention. It’s up to players to feed them and heal them otherwise they die. When that happens, the bonusses they carry with them can’t be collected… Same goes for the train. it has some key components that need constant cooling, or voltage distribution. In short: the driver has his work cut out for him.

fs1

The Final Station is 2D, 8-bit and linear. Really retro in other words. But longtime readers know I like nothing more! Add to that mix an exciting, mysterious story set in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic world, and an extra DLC episode and you know I’m sold!

Jan

Little Triangle (SWITCH)

ltcovJust when I thought I was through with breaking controllers in half and rage-quitting, they throw Little Triangle in my lap. And it’s back to square one.
In Little Triangle, players control one of many delightfully cute triangle-shaped people. Their world was just invaded by alien evildoers, and many of their kind were kidnapped. It’s up to players to rescue hostages and beat evil robots armed with only their quick reflexes.

Throughout a wide array of increasingly difficult levels, all I need to do, is guide my little pyramid shape to the exit. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong! These levels are riddled with deadly spikes, acid pools, relentless enemies, spinning sawblades, deadly laserbeams… And here I’m stuck with a little dude who’s only notable skill is jumping.

lt3

Yet playing is oddly fun. Trying to overcome obstacles, succeeding only to meet a gruesome end right after succeeding and trying again has never been more entertaining. I soon find myself leaping from checkpoint to checkpoint, rescuing the odd hostage along the way and collecting diamonds strewn about. Just by skillfully jumping around.

lt2

Visually, the game is stunning. Sure, animation is just basic, and the triangles and their world are drawn in an almost childlike way, but I still like the simplistic style a whole lot. Somehow any other style wouldn’t seem to fit the little triangular creatures.

lt1

I had just one minor gripe during my playthrough. The controls seem a bit too fiddly. You know what I mean? That ‘I need to make this timed jump extra precise, but my character won’t stand still after landing’-feeling you sometimes get when steering a digital character? Yep, precisely that. Either that or I’m in need of a new controller after rage-throwing it around the office…

Jan

Dragon Sinker (SWITCH)

DraSin – afbeelding 1A good RPG is always a reason to celebrate. Especially when it comes to JRPGs. Dragon Sinker blends the best elements from tried games, gives them an extra twist and puts a giant cherry on top.

The folks at KEMCO and Exe-Create know what they’re doing. Just a few minutes in this game prove that an 8-bit retro-adventure is still as exciting as it was yesteryear. The look and feel of the very first Dragon Quest, a story which reminds of Lufia and a gameplay not unlike the job system from Final Fantasy V. Still interested? Read on!

A long time ago humans, elves and dwarves united forces and defeated the evil dragon Wyrmvarg. He wasn’t very keen on taking things lying down. So after many years he stood up again, demanding sacrifices. Now a new generation of heroes rises in search of the legendary weapons to put a definite end to His Scaly Evilness.

DraSin – afbeelding 2

Expect to lead a colorful cast on a journey throughout all corners of the world. Grassy plains, dark caves, high mountain tops and other exotic locations await you. You’ll fight turn-based battles against monsters and bosses, stay at inns and raise the troops morale and their stats with new weapons and shiny equipment. Speaking of your allies: each and every one of them has its very own job class. Warrior, thief, priest, baker… Don’t care for a particular job or mastered it completely? Why not have your mage transform into a bard?

And here ends the well-trodden path. Dragon Sinker adds depth to the genre by forcing you to compose several teams. Control up to three parties of max four characters each and exchange them when needed. Even during battles, you’ll need every skill set you’ve got! Some enemies are particularly vulnerable against certain attacks and character types. Not unlike Pokémon: you don’t take a Pikachu to a ground-type fight. That’s common logic. And it runs even deeper than this: the more dwarves in your team, the less chance one of your allies succumbs to paralysis, blindness or a poison attack. Elves protect against status debuffs. Combine this knowledge with more than 16 different jobs and you’ll soon realize that Dragon Sinker brings a lot of interesting strategic options to your battles.

As the silent protagonist you even have a say when it comes to dialogue choices. The phrases you pick don’t change the outcome of the game. However, they do get funny reactions from your allies.

DraSin – afbeelding 3

Don’t be fooled by the retro-animation, nor by anything you may have picked up from other RPGs: Dragon Sinker throws mean adversaries at you. The game constantly lulls you into a false sense of security. Even when you have been training your characters. Gamers who don’t pay attention, see their party pay the ultimate price. There are no save points to be found, but progression is saved whenever you like. Your allies are so considerate as to point out a nearing boss fight. Still lost a battle? Even one that didn’t look like quite a big deal until a small fry used a mass attack spell against your party? Don’t fret: the game lets you start over the battle. As long as you don’t give up, nothing is lost.

Once a while you will need a bit of level grinding before tackling the next area. This never feels like a chore. The many sub quests on offer in towns and cities, have you backtracking just a bit. Ideal for getting those extra needed experience points. Don’t miss out on the rewards for completing these quests: powerful weapons, rare potions and new characters/jobs!

DraSin – afbeelding 4

It’s not hard to get hooked on Dragon Sinker. If unforeseen circumstances do force you away for a while, it’s easily to get into the game again: controls are intuitive, the map always points to the next main goal and a story summary retells your previous adventures.

Even now RPGs from yesteryear celebrate their golden era, like it never passed away. KEMCO successfully translated their formula to current gameplay standards. Rest assured: Dragon Sinker is a valuable addition to your game collection.

Marco