Monthly Archives: June 2018

Rainbow Skies (PS3, PS4, PSVita)

Rainbow Skies takes everything ‘RPG’ stands for and has fun with it: weird in a good way, enjoyable in an even better way. Does the name of the game ring a bell? This tactical RPG marvel comes from the same makers as the fantasy role-playing game Rainbow Moon!

Rainbow Skies promises a colourful and vibrant world, filled to the brim with friends and foes, murky dungeons, turn-based battles, towns, shops and everything else your role-playing heart desires. And the game sure doesn’t underdeliver: characters can be leveled, equipped and customized as you see fit. With side-quests and achievements for the collectionist and for everyone who wants a lot – and we do mean a lot! – of bang for his buck.

The game starts out as almost every RPG does: a spiky-haired hero wakes up in bed. Enter Damion, recovering from one hell of a hangover. Not quite ready for his final exam as a monster tamer. The town he lives in, all up in the sky, is constantly threatened by monster attacks. Of course all hopes are on a new generation of monster tamers. However, Damion manages to botch his exam by accidentally destroying the compound the monsters are held in. While he tries to cover up his mistake with his examiner and friend Layne, things take a turn for the worse. And it doesn’t get any better as he gets tangled up between two rival super powers. His fault: he shouldn’t have gotten up since he knew that is was going to be ‘one of those days’.

This game won’t take you by the hand but isn’t one to abandon you either, as any info about the gameplay is given to you on a need-to-know basis. Which makes for a gentle learning curve with the freedom to get to know the game at your pace. Wether it’s for long gaming sessions or short gaming bursts.

As with almost all games in the genre, gameplay is divided between exploring safe towns, battling your way throughout enemy-ridden areas and tinkering with your characters. You’re probably not even surprised that battles start as soon as your character collides with a monster. Which is when the turn-based fun starts: you get to make your move, the enemy gets to make his move and once you’re close you’ll get singed by a fireball. Bummer. In retaliation you get a bit closer and make the baddie bleed. Of course, it’s only that simple during the first part of the game. Later on, you’ll need to pummel screenfilling crowds. Luckily, your sword-wielding hero is not alone in his quest. He’ll soon be joined by the archer Layne and later on by the spell slinging Ashly.

As a tactical RPG, Rainbow Skies heavily depends on your thinking cap. Heck, you’ll even see those caps during the short and sweet tutorials (which, by the way, can be consulted again afterwards). After the first few fights you won’t survive by just hacking, slashing and burning your way through hordes of enemies. Especially not during boss fights. You’ll need to plan ahead and make smart use of your skills and magic prowess. Not too much use, mind you, as they’ll drain some sort of magic meter. Which, of course, is much better than having your life meter drained. Once a skilled is learned, it can be leveled up by using it during battle. And, oh, did we say they are rather flashy and nifty to look at?

Battles never bore aseach enemy has its own tactic and you often see them in lots of combinations and formations. Stay on your toes lest the enemy tramples them! Speaking of which… The difficulty curve is rather gentle but can be easily adapted to the likings of the experienced gamer. Don’t feel like level grinding? Then don’t. Really! Just customize the game to your liking, whether you’re rushing through the story mission, getting your kicks out of the many side quests or burning through your health recovery potions on the highest difficulty setting.

Rainbow Skies gets big points on running gags. Especially the one on Damion’s spiky hairdo. But the game shows its true colours during hectic battles and even more so with its many side quests. Collectionists will be happy to know that progress and achievements are easily tracked. Heck, there are even awards depending on how many side quests and achievements you completed. The optional content won’t leave you asking for more. There even is a turn-based fishing game. Yes, you read it: turn-based fishing game! Really!

Thinking of upgrading from a PS3™ to a PS4™? Or would you rather play this game on the go? Your money isn’t wasted as the cross-save support has you playing on all systems. Even on PS Vita.

So, what’s the catch? A game this much fun has to have a catch, right? Not exactly. The game’s aesthetics may not exactly be on par with most games, but they are polished nonetheless. And although the humour is quirky and over the top, some jokes may be a bit farfetched or even get stretched out too much after a while. But none of this distracts from the core gaming experience of Rainbow Skies, which is solid, attractive and just plain fun. No level grinding required. The developers sure listened when gamers complained that Rainbow Moon, the predecessing game, was a bit more demanding in that department.

Rainbow Skies is a nice game to start out with if this is your first tactical RPG. Got some or a lot of experience? Ramp up the difficulty and knock yourself out. Even collectionists get their kicks out of this. This is not a question of to buy or not to buy. Rainbow Skies knows how to cater to a wide range of gamers.

Marco

The Last Ship Season 4

tlcs4cJust when you thought “They can’t possibly force another season out of this,” they do. Case in point: The Last Ship. I’ve actually enjoyed the past three-seasons-worth of exploits from Tom Chandler and his crew, fighting antagonists in a virus-ridden world. The plot was well-written and very precisely planned to have all the different plotlines and stories fall together in the last few episodes. Great action, great acting… Just great overall. Season four: not as much.

Having defeated the virus in season 3, the crew of the USS Nathan James now faces a new threat. The virus has mutated and now attacks all plantlife. Crops succumb to the so-called Red Rust, and worldwide famine comes knocking. The intrepid seamen have to save the world once more, this time by saving a container of jurassic seeds, which should be immune to Red Rust. Problem is: they’re not the only ones after the seeds, and Captain Chandler is AWOL.

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I eagerly popped in disc one of the three disc set, and was thrust in the action almost immediately. The crew is already in talks with a thief about getting the seeds, when they are ambushed. Various new crewmembers pop up and help save the day.
Seeds? What seeds? Why is Chandler in Greece? And why is he posing as a fisherman? I glanced over to mrs. NxG, and was relieved to see her looking almost as bewildered as me.
Clearly, we must have skipped over an episode!
I checked.
Thus was not the case.
The season really starts off this confusing. To be fair, the first episode is called “In Medias Res”, but this seems a bit much. Seems more like shoddy writing, really. I can imagine the head writer going: “Prologue? Don’t feel like writing one. Just start off with the action, call it in medias res and be done with it. No, no need to explain where the newcomers are from either. And put Tom Chandler in Greece. With his kids, yeah. And a new girlfriend. Then have him leave them on a whim somewhere in episode 2.”
Honestly, it all feels a bit rushed.

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Same goes for editing and pacing. I get you’d want some fast-paced editing for action sequences, but don’t overdo it. Action sequences are intercut with non-action sequences from Chandler’s superfluous subplot (He’s a gladiator now. Don’t ask.) It just feels messy.

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I’m still watching, though. I’ve invested some sweet time in the first three seasons and things haven’t gotten to a point where I don’t care about these characters anymore.
Yet.
Plus there’s guest star Peter Weller who makes everything enjoyable. So season 4 gets a pass, even though it’s not as good as the three previous seasons. Not even close.
Let’s just hope season 5 picks up again.
Because yes: they can force yet another season out of this.

Jan

The Adventures of Elena Temple (SWITCH)

etcovIt’s publicly known that in the NerdTimesGeek household there’s an undying love for the Game Boy. The brick-sized system was a staple of our youths and has carved itself a special little place in our hearts. So when news hit that developer GrimTalin was making a game that paid homage to said system, me and the spouse were immediately on edge. We simply had to try to play and review this!

Players assume the role of Elena Temple, archeologist/treasure hunter extraordinaire. The poor lass is stuck in a treasurefilled temple, that’s just crawling with creepy critters and deadly traps. She has to find a way to the exit, and in passing, pick up as much treasure as she can carry whilst evading and avoiding all things nasty for her health. Luckily for her, Elena carries a pistol. Which is pretty useless, considering it only carries two rounds. So blasting a way to the exit is not an option. No, Elena will have to call on her (the player’s) wits to reach that exit.

I’ve mentioned it already: Elena Temple looks and feels like a retro-game. Simple graphics, simple (yet catchy) soundtrack and supersimple controls. It really feels as if I’m back in the eighties, sprawled out on the living room floor with my best friend, taking turns playing. The only thing missing is his mom nagging about being holed up inside while the weather outside is great.
The game is filled with hilarious takes on systems of back in the day. Players can find information on all the failed (fictive) systems Elena was ported onto. An even greater addition is being able to play the game on each of these. Who doesn’t like playing on a Some Toy, or a Maple computer or even NS-Bos? We can switch to any of these versions, at any time in the game, without losing progress. it makes the whole experience that much more fun.

A nice little puzzler/platformer, this The Adventures of Elena Temple. The only minor gripe I have is its length. It only takes a few hours to reach the exit… Luckily, there still are tons of coins and diamonds to be found throughout the huge temple, so replay value is pretty high, especially counting the various versions one can switch between.

I’m a fan! It’s been a while since I’ve had this kind of nostalgic fun, made me feel like a spry young lad again. Not to be missed by retrofans!

Jan