Monthly Archives: May 2018

Save The Ninja Clan (SWITCH)

stnclcovI should’ve written this review a while now. But it was so hard to get up from the floor, where I was curled up in fetal position. Crying over my failed trillionth attempt at a level. And when I ded get up, I had to look allover for the Switch, which I’d foolishly thrown away. And when I finally found it, I had to get help to dislodge it from the wall it was embedded in.
Yes. Save The Ninja Clan is that frustratingly difficult.
And no, apparently I can’t handle that.

I’m in control of a cute little ninja, and, in order to have his clan survive, I need to guide him through a plethora of levels, each bursting with deadly enemies and boobytraps. Piece of cake I can hear you think, but nothing is farther from the truth. Save the Ninja Clan is a platformer of the kind where every jump has to be extremely precise, and where every millisecond counts.

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Ninja-ing on one’s own is never fun, so players can switch between three types of cute ninjas. Each of these have their own special abilities, that should help overcome certain obstacles. But frankly, I didn’t see the use of them. Just keep trying over and over with one type of ninja works just as well.

Underneath all that frustratingly difficult leveldesign, there’s a nice layer of humor hidden. Ninja’s tend to venture into places where they shouldn’t come, and when they do, the game tries to dissuade them with a funny error message, warning them away. Should they continue and stumble into the obvious trap, the game is quick in laughing at them via the same error-popup.

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With it’s nice 8-bit look, cool soundtrack and extremely hard difficulty level, the game should be enticing enough forplayers to come back to and give it one more try. If not, there’s always collectibles to be found.

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Save The Ninja Clan is one heck of a nice little platformer. Its difficulty level means it’s not for the easily giving up type of gamer though.

Jan

Shantae Half Genie Hero Deluxe Edition (PS4)

shantae half genie heroShantae, half-genie half-human girl, is having a bad day. The calm coastal town she’s the assigned guardian of, is under attack from a menacing pirate fleet. Assigned guardians are not supposed to sit idly around when danger looms, so she jumps in her best skimpy outfit. Armed only with her hair and her best bellydancing moves, she marches into battle.

I’ve been a fan of Shantae for a while now. Not just because every game guarantees a great platforming experience, but also because developer WayForward always has a way of finding the perfect balance between humour, looks and playvalue. With this installment they’ve once again hit the mark.

‘Cause have a look for yourself: those graphics, that cartoonish drawing style… It’s as if I’m in control of an animated feature! I sometimes catch myself forgetting to play, staring at the wonderful backgrounds.

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And that script! Hilarious and well-written. The fine line between gags and the seriousness (if one can call it that) of platforming is never crossed. Not even when subtle references to other games are made, or when characters gently break the fourth wall.

Fans of platformers are in for a treat with Shantae: Half Genie Hero. The game is pure feast. Shantae fights through 5 levels and one endboss, using only her hair. She’s also a mean bellydancer, with new moves to be discovered throughout the levels.  Each move transforms her into some creature. As that creature, Shantae can explore more of the levels and find more secrets, upgrades and unlockables.

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Tons of unlockables are waiting to be found, by the way. The deluxe edition already has more content and some DLC, but zealous players, wanting to complete Shantae 100 percent will have to put in some effort. Fortunately, the map screen shows where and how many extra’s are still to be found.

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Yep, Shantae is back! And because I’m overly enthousiastic, I’ve already had my hair dyed purple, and I’ve enrolled in a bellydancing class.
Damn my enthousiasm.

Jan

Super Daryl Deluxe (SWITCH)

super daryl deluxeDespite this game’s title, Daryl is far from super. Or deluxe. He’s an ordinary, somewhat nerdy teenager. The only things that make him stick out from the crowd are his bell bottom jeans, sweet cowboy boots, sweatband and that little bit of fuzz on his lip some might call a moustache. Other than that: average cakes. Daryl floats carelessly through life, and judging by the look on his face, also mostly thoughtlessly. He’s recently transferred to an interdimensionary high school where nothing is as it seems…

And we’re off! I’m left with Daryl, and it’s up to me to explore the school hallways and to try and make friends. The making-friends bit is harder than it seems, though, as everyone needs something done. It’s your standard “get me this and I’ll get you that” RPG routine, but weirder.

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Because everything in Super Daryl Deluxe is off the rails. I mentioned the interdimensionary school, right? Well, it looks like a regular place of learning, but behind classroom doors lurk portals to other dimensions and beings. The chemistry lab, for instance, is crowded with hostile antropomorphic beakers and flasks. And don’t even get me started on the Arts room. It’s rare enough to find Beethoven and Mozart in the same room, let alone having Andy Warhol and Frida Kahlo joining them. Deliciously absurd and funny!

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Daryl is left to his own devices for combat. He has a basic couple of moves that can be upgraded or expanded, and when he’s earned enough, new, more powerful moves can be bought. Every move can be mapped to a button of the player’s choice, leading to a very short learning curve. Battling is in the style of good old fashion beat-em-ups, but some moves have a bit of a lead-in, which makes combat cumbersome at times.

While the combatstyle would lead you to think that Super Daryl Deluxe is a mere beat-em-up, there’s so much more to the game. Often, players will find themselves exploring the hallways, looking for items much in the style of a point-and-click adventure. The upgrading of abilities, equipping of items and clothing and questing are very much like traditional RPG’s and the exploration sometimes handles like a platformer. To label Daryl with a single genre, would be like using mustard as ice cream topping: you just don’t.

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Next to the off the wall humour and overall odballness, the art is what made Super Daryl Deluxe stand out for me. It has this wonderful hand drawn style of animation I just can’t get enough of. And the amount of hours I’ve sunk into the game while I should’ve been reviewing it, just proves my point.

Jan

Death Road To canada (SWITCH)

drtccovHow long would you hold up against a horde of zombies? In Death Road to Canada you get the chance to prove yourself. All the way from Florida to -you guessed it- Canada, the only zombie proof place in the ’hood. On the road you get to deal with robbers, food shortage, wild mooses, heartbreaking choices, cranky allies… Oh, and zombies. Let’s not forget about the zombies!

Death Road to Canada is a randomly generated road trip action-RPG. Every time you play, everything’s randomized: the places you get to choose or are forced to visit, the people you meet on the road, events… The challenge is to try and get your hands on weapons, food and other stuff while keeping yourself and your allies alive. The only thing that all of those gaming sessions have in common? Canada is hard to reach. Very hard.

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After a short and sweet tutorial, you’re off on your own. Or not. That’s up to you after you have chosen your lead character: a randomly generated avatar or a custom built persona. Opting for the latter gives you a plethora of possibilities. From the usual suspects like name, eye colour and clothing to perks and (personality) traits. Only these perks and traits have any influence on how the game plays out. A character with medical skills doesn’t need that many medkits to heal others, while one with an athletic build is prone to deal more damage. Personality, on the other hand, influences group dynamics and how party members get along with one another.

You get to choose a buddy from the start of your game. On the road you’ll meet other people (and dogs!) who would like to join your quest to Canada. It’s up to you to fool them into the lulling embrace of safety by numbers or to leave them to die as zombie bait. But, please: be picky! A good perk is hard to justify with a nasty trait. You’ll soon discover that the opposite holds truth too. If tough choices need to be made or if group morale declines to a point beyond salvation, then these are things to go by.

After you have chosen team members, you’ll hit the road. Driving around in your car, stopping to stock up on fuel, food, medkits, weapons and ammunition. Or not… The game is peculiarly unpredictable. Even though most of the choices are made by you. Opting to skip a place to scavenge? You’ll lose the fuel and food you would have consumed anyways, but save on medkits because there was no risk on getting bite marks. Did the car break down? Nothing a good mechanic can’t easily take care of. No such person or skills in your team? Then you need to continue on foot. Quite a hassle, but the game will soon throw you a car to use. Car keys? Sorry, you’ll need to find these by yourself.

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The fun part of this road trip is sitting behind the wheel. It’s up to you to choose where to go and how to solve problems. Even between two scavenger hunts. After all, your party often argues and looks up to you to decide on matters. Will you raise morale by singing songs by a camp fire (with the risk of luring zombies) or by throwing out a team member (so there’s more food for the rest of you)? Have you even thought about the toll-demanding robbers on the bridge? Or the wounded moose? Choices a plenty, but you will need to make the right ones. You’d almost forget there are zombies shambling about.

The game is so chock-full of humour, memes and pretty little details that you’d almost forget that there’s a zombie horde out there. Luckily, you’ve got quite an arsenal at your disposal: nearly anything you can get your hands on. Throw furniture at the undead, hit them with umbrella’s or behead them with an electric hedge trimmer. The possibilities are as surprising as they are endless. And funny without getting into the gore of most zombie games. This game is all about tongue in cheek comedy anyway and strays from the cheap scary tricks most other zombies games divulge on.

The pixels in this game are huge. It’s a retro-looking game after all, as are more games nowadays. But the animation is anything but old-looking. Count on fluent animation without being too graphic or gory. Rather funny. You wouldn’t say by the graphical choice of the developers, but the game sports rather contemporary tunes. Not the stuff that will stick in your ears for days. Just your good old non-intrusive background music.

 

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Let’s not mince meat, brains or words… The game ain’t easy. The difficulty curve peaks fast. To get through the game, you’ll need three things: skills, luck and upgrades. The latter one can be bought with so-called zombiepoints which can be earned in-game. No exaggerated luxury, even for veteran players.

Are we there yet? Death Road to Canada will make you think, say and repeat that question more than once. The game feels unfair and overwhelming at times. And still, it’s too good to give it a rest. Every death is just a reason to start over again. Because it’s different and surprising every time you play. Which brings lots of replay value. Did I mention the unlockables once you reach Canada safe and sound? What are you waiting for? Get in that car! Death Road to Canada is no doubt and hands down the only zombie-apocalyps game in history where zombies are the least of your troubles.

Marco

Octahedron (XBOXONE)

octahedron_logo_trailer_soft_edges (1)When platforming gets though, it turns neon. Brightly coloured neon.

No, I’m not stuck in a fancy discothèque, dancing my legs off on trippy rave music (perish the thought), I just played through a bunch of levels in Octahedron. This visually odd little platformer starts off with an equally bizarre plot. Our protagonist is sitting in a desolate cabin in the woods, a sound outside catches his attention. He steps outside and finds the sound emanating from a weird shape. Against better judgement he touches the shape and is instantly transformed into a neon man with an octagon for a head. He drops in another dimension and from there on it’s all us. Platforming our way through odd levels, without so much of a hint what’s going on.

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Neon dude has one power though: he can summon levitating platforms for a brief time. He can use these to reach higher areas, or to bridge gaps surfing on them. There’s a catch though. The platforms last for a couple of seconds only, and only two can be summoned at the same time. Every step taken needs careful planning and thought, or neon dude will perish bumping into an even brighter neon obstacle or enemy.

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To call the levels ingenious and devious and slightly irritating would be an understatement. I could tell that each level took as much planning to make as it took to cross. And only after failing one for the umpteenth time does one know the true meaning of irritating.

But for all the brightness and the fun platforming and the novel concept scored with an ubercool synth soundtrack, there’s also a darker side. Octahedron might seem fun the first time, but the longer I played, the more bored I got. There’s just something about forever trying to get to an exit, only to be dropped in another level to find the exit again. Repetition is just as dull when it’s brightly lit by neon lights… And there’s no amount of collectibles and medals that’s going to convince me to do another playthrough.

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While the concept is novel and fun, underneath there’s a core of repetitiveness that puts a huge, red neon stop sign all over the game.

Jan