Category Archives: Games

Lego DC Super-Villains (PS4)

lego dc supervillainsJust when you thought the Lego-craze is about to end, the Danish brickmerchant finds a new franchise to blockify. Batman’s universe has been bricked multiple times before, but in Lego DC Super-Villains the spotlight is now turned on to the many enemies of Batman and his allies.

When Commissioner Gordon arrests a peculiar new supervillain, he realizes he’s lacking the expertise to deal with this. He turns to Lex Luthor, now safely locked away in Metropolis prison, but he fails to see all was planned by Luthor. The villain manages to break out (releasing a bunch of other crooks in the process) but an alternate Justice League appears, setting in motion a whole multiverse of events…

Naysayers insist this is yet another Lego-game, made with the same mold already used to make the previous games, only in a different setting. On some level, I can understand that criticism. There are indeed once more lengthy levels to brawl through. Most puzzles are solved easily by breaking own something and building it up again in a different form. The familiar lego-puns are back in abundance and yes, there are tons of playable figures to use in (yet another) version of freeplay… But what’s often forgotten or overlooked, is the starring role of the new super-villain. One players can build and customize entirely to their liking!

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At the start of the game I’m tasked with building this character. I could opt to pick a randomly generated one, but where’s the fun in that? I start with a blank figure and change it to my heart’s content. Torso’s, prints, colors, legs, arms, heads, hair, hoods, powers, weapons, voice,… There are millions of things to customize, some of them only unlocked through playing! Just building a character already makes me giggle uncontrollably, and I haven’t even started playing yet. Once I do start playing, the ‘more of the same’ thing does indeed kick in.

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But I ask you, dear reader: does that really bother you? The Lego formula has proven its effectiveness time and again. The story is solid, the voice-acting great. I find myself playing the freeplay mode just to find that elusive extra brick or character and try for that 100 percent rating.

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No, you won’t hear me saying Lego DC Super-Villains is ‘just’ more of the same!

 

Jan

Soul Calibur 6 (XBOXONE)

soul calibur 6Yes, the rumours are real. Soul Calibur just released the sixth installment in the series! I immediately jumped up on the couch, then pounced the battleworn XBOX One controller, thirsting for a quick match of bloody fighting to the death!

Per tradition, fighting games don’t have much of a plot going for them. Plot is second to combat, gore and crazy martial arts. Most games know this all too well, and treat gamers with lovely, hilarious tongue-in-cheeck nuggets of story. Not Soul Calibur 6 though. I get the impression that the game wants to compete with plotheavy games of other genres, and takes itself way too seriously. It treats me to a contrived, multi-perspectived polished turd of a plot, that was so contrived, I gave up after a mere two minutes. Trying to remember all the character’s names, trying to keep up with the perspective-shifting madness and tons of dialogue was a little too headache-inducing. Clicking away all plot never seemed more inviting…

Behind the plot, hides a brilliant game though. One with loads of playable characters, with unique moves, techniques and weapons. Fighting goes smoothly, and the controls react quickly and accurately, just as they should. I’m having a blast.

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The heaps of plot I skip so vigorously also hide that the singleplayer campaign is completed rather quickly. The end credits start rolling before you can frustratedly throw your controller at the final boss. Before I started crying, I noticed I could now replay the campaign with each of the playable characters. What I’d just completed was only the overarching storyline, each character also has its own playable plot that fits into that overarching plot. Suddenly, the game got so much more content.

Players not satisfied with that, can also start building a custom character and play a whole new campaign with that creation. And creating goes really deep. Not only can gender or race be picked, but also dress, weapons and even the character’s voice! One can even increase or decrease bust size of a female character, should one be so inclined (I swear I only did it as a test for this review, I swear!).

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Fans of the genre will undoubtedly love this. Fans of Soul Calibur should cancel all plans for the rest of the year, as they’ll be up into their necks in content. Me, I’m still trying to decide if the nonsensical heaps of plot and loading times warrant a quick punching match…

Jan

Vertical Drop Heroes (Switch)

vdhcovVertical Drop Heroes dropped onto Switch recently. What once began as an in-game Flash minigame, now got upgraded and extended for consoles. But who was rooting for that to happen?

 In Vertical Drop Heroes players, take on the role of a randomly generated hero, with randomly generated stats. His nobel goal: heroically fight his way through ten monster-filled dungeons and pick up some treasure along the way. Each level is a deep dark pit. At the bottom there’s a portal, leading to the next level. Contrary to what the game’s name might want to make you think, letting yourself drop freefall to the bottom isn’t the way to go. There are simply too many goodies, sidequests, keys and captured heroes to be missed on the way down.

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Vertical Drop Heroes’ greatest feat is its randomness. Yes, there are ten levels, but they are randomly generated every time players replay them. The same goes for the heroes: once you die, it’s permadeath, but a choice of three new randomly generated heroes is eagerly awaiting to carry on. Theoretically, this benefits the replay value hugely! Alas, practice proves to be something else entirely.

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 I had a ball playing through the first level. Jumping from ledge to ledge, trying to solve all sidequests and free all captured heroes. From the second level on, however, boredom struck once I realized I don’t have to play it safe. Sure, I die, but I don’t have to start over from the first level. And while my hero is perma-dead, there’s a new one ready and waiting. And quite frankly: starting with a new hero doesn’t really bother me, seeing as the different classes don’t differ much playing-wise.

While ten levels seemed short at first, I now think they’re more than enough. They may be in different settings and populated with different baddies, they still look and feel alike.

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I wouldn’t recommend this really. I’d call it a nice time-waster for about ten minutes at a time, tops. Despite the makeover and the upgrade, Vertical Drop Heroes can’t really shake its roots as mini web-based Flash game…

Jan

Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk (SWITCH)

lorcodpack‘Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk’ finally gets an international release. Are you the proud owner of a Nintendo Switch and/or a PlayStation4? Then read on and discover why this is important to you!

From Nippon Ichi Software – known for the Disgaea-series – comes a dungeon crawler RPG, not unlike Etrian Odyssey. As a matter of fact, this game could have been their love child. Ultimately though, it’s clear that the grotesque comic relief, the gorgeous art style and the ever clever gameplay clearly comes from the developers of Disgaea.

In Labyrinth of Refrain the Dusk Witch Dronya (a.k.a. Baba Yaga) is summoned to the town of Refrain, which rests upon an unexplored underground maze. It’s not known who built the elaborate labyrinth, nor for which purpose; although there are rumours about a slumbering demon king whose awakening could end the world. What is known is that the labyrinth is filled with clouds of miasma, a substance that kills any human it touches. Dronya isn’t in the least fazed by this. As a matter of fact, the busty and bewitching beauty seems to have come to the quaint little town with here very own agenda. And, of course, with her apprentice Luca and a cursed tome, said to have been written by the only man to explore the labyrinth and survive…

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As the player, your soul has been sealed within the ‘Tractatus de Monstrum’, the fabled cursed book. Dronya has no qualms sending you off to the maze because A.) you can withstand the deadly miasma and B.) you’re relying on puppet soldiers to explore and fight.

Create unique puppets slash fighters by assigning them a job or class (called Facet in this game) and by tweaking a whole lot of interesting gameplay-influencing parameters such as preferred stat growth.

Once created, puppets are ready to be arranged in groups or so-called Covens. A single Coven may contain multiple soldiers. It’s your job to direct and steer multiple Covens during battles. These fights are, by the way, comparable to those of other RPGs, with a few added extras. But no big surprises there.

The fun is, of course, in exploring the vast labyrinth. A handy map will assist you to do just so. More maze levels become available while you progress during story mode by finding story-related items, defeating bosses or reaching certain places. The labyrinth is a 3D dungeon which is explored from a first-person perspective. Enemies are represented by symbols and – if necessary and possible – can often be avoided. Just keep in mind: for every move you do, the enemy gets one too.

Between missions or when you need a breather, Dronya’s caravan is yours. Create new puppets, synthesize equipment at the alchemy pot or spend your hard-earned mana to open up extra gaming options like renaming puppets, easier/harder difficulty settings, risky ways to earn experience…

 

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The game never gets dull as story and gameplay interchange at a pleasant pace. The fascinating story unfolds slowly and intricately – leaving you with you with many more questions – but truly shines through its dialogues and comic relief.

The learning curve is fair albeit just a tad slow. You’ll be taken by the hand for quite some time. Which is, all by all, not an unnecessary luxury as there is a lot of ground to cover to truly grasp all gaming aspects. Luckily, tutorials can be reviewed.

Though some gaming options as tweaking various character parameters won’t be necessary for novices, veterans are sure to get their kicks out of it as they set the game to their liking.

 

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The story, the gameplay and the many gaming options will keep you pinned for quite some time. Especially since content is sporadically being unlocked as you progress, easing you into the game. The many side quests will have you returning to the maze. If not, you’ll do so for the many characters you can’t help loving.

‘Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk’ is a dungeon crawler RPG to marvel at and cherish.

Marco

Guns, Gore And Cannoli (SWITCH)

ggccovGuns, Gore and Cannoli had players assume the role of Vinnie Cannoli, an infamous mobster kneedeep in a zombie outbreak sometime during the thirties. Thanks to Vinnie’s fighting talents and survival instincts they could cut a bloody path straight through the zombie hordes, using a braod variety of bloody weaponry.
I was hooked.
And now there’s part 2! Which promises to be bloodier, gorier, funnier than before. Just what I wanted!

In guns, Gore and Cannolli 2 the main part is once again played by Vinnie Cannoli. The maffioso with a mouth has been taken captive by goons of the Dark Don. This shady character is a new mob boss, who is out for Vinnie’s blood. Literally! When Vinnie learns this Dark Don also has a deal going on with the Nazis, his already simmering blood starts to boil, and he goes berserk. He goes on a bloody rampage, using an updated array of guns, and violences his way through hordes of mobsters, monsters and Nazis, all the way up to the Dark Don.

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I had a great time! Blood is dripping from the screen, enemies run around bleeding, on fire, de-limbed! Explosions! Nazis! Mutants! Crazy weapons! It’s as if developer Crazy Monkey Studio stook every bit of enjoyable pulp literature and combine dit to make this encredibly entertaining shoot-em-up!

Vinnie is controlled with the left stick and aims using the right. Aiming is done in a 360 degree circle around Vinnie. He jumps like magic Johnson and kicks like mr. Miyagi. I’m flying through the levels like crazy, all the while grinning like an idiot. Dark Bavarian castles, bunkers, the landing in Normandy… Vinnie blasts enemy scum everywhere. And the fun only increases in multiplayer. Three extra players can join Vinnie in a co-op battle against the enemy hordes. Fun guaranteed!

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Grapics are also very satisfying. Guns, Gore and Cannoli maintains the same handdrawn visual style of its predecessor. The cartoonesque violence  works well in tandem with the buckets of handdrawn blood. Voiceacting and soundtrack are on the same level of quality, and I’m regularly laughing out loud at the many popculture references.

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Guns, Gore and Cannoli 2 just makes me smile. In a good way. And I bet it’d make you do the same thing. Go now, young padawan, and buy it!

Jan

Escape Room: The Game

ercovI’ve just spent the better part of two hours trying to find the antidote to a deadly poison first, then escaping from a jail cell. It’s been a nerve-wrecking two hours, I can tell you. And all because of a board game. That’s right, a board game.

Those of you thinking I’d let myself be locked into an escape room, which are all the rage these days, are only half wrong. What I (and mrs. NxG alongside me) did, was play two of the four scenarios included in the board game version of Escape Room: The Game. And it plays like an actual escape room. At the start of every scenario, players are handed an envelope. On it, is the plot for said scenario, and upon opening it, an hour-long timer is started. Inside the envelope are a number of things. This ranges from riddles, clues or evidence to floor plans, photos, etc. All these things should help players to find a specific set of four keys, that can be inserted into the special chrono decoder. When correct, the second envelope containing new hints, can be opened and the whole key-searching experience can start over again.

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Each scenario is divided into three parts, each with its own set of envelopes. The hints are divided into visual things and things you actually have to do something with, like fold or write on. Luckily, these can be downloaded and printed from the games website, so that they’re brand new when one has forgotten all about this game and wants to go again. Players that want to add to the atmosphere, can download the free app of the game. All it does, is add scenario-specific music and ambience, but man, it does the trick! The amount of tension it add… Wow!

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At the start of a scenario, before the envelope is handed out, we already get the chrono decoder. This black, battery-operated box serves as the countdown clock. It signals after certain amounts of time, which is when we’re allowed to pick one of eight hint cards. It also acts as decryption device. The four keys we need, have to be inserted into the machine. When correct, a fanfare sounds. When false, the clock drops a whole minute. Upon closer inspection, there are also keys to certain riddles on the device, like the morse code, an alphabet wheel and so on. These can be used in certain adventures, in combination with certain enveloped clues.

 

Defeated, we finished our bowl of snacks, and decided to keep the remaining two adventures for another time. There’ll be no Nuclear Countdown or Temple of the Aztec before we’ve recovered from the heavy emotional blow of having to spend a lifetime in jail.

Which is like…  24 hours?  More or less?

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Escape Room: The Game is a highly addictive and fun, yet nerve-wrecking way of passing time. Each adventure has the hour-long time limit, so it’s perfect for some time-killing with your brainy, nerdy, geeky friends. Or by yourself, when you’re the geeky, brainy, nerdy one without friends.

Jan

Aces of the Luftwaffe – Squadron (PS4)

aotlboxI simply adore bullet hell shooters. I’m not exceptionally good at them, just mediocre, but boy do I like my shooters with a load of bullets. So imagine my joy when I was told I could review Aces of the Luftwaffe – Squadron. A bullet-hell shooter, set in an alternate post WWII universe, one of my most beloved historical times (although not actually historically correct –ed.) I was over the moon!

The first thing that sets Aces of The Luftwaffe aside from other games in the genre, is the ability to play with 3 friends in co-op. Each player picks a character and plane, and the squadron then takes off, ready to battle airborne nazis. No friends? No problem: a single player can play just as well. All four planes are controlled at the same time, following the squadron leader.

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At various points in the game, players are awarded with skill points. These points can be spent in the customization screen, where each member of the squadron has a massive skill tree to unlock. Ranging from special abilities to new skills or health upgrades, players have to pick very wisely where to spend the points if they want a perfect loadout. Skill tress are reset easily though, and by replaying earlier levels, extra skill points can be unlocked, so the possibility of having a fully unlocked skill tree is there.

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Also new to the genre, are the character’s flaws. Each of the four characters has a specific flaw, that serves as a setback, temporarily rendering them more or less useless. There’s the character that can’t control his temper, shooting at everything, including squad mates. Then there’s the poisoned one, reacting slower than usual. There’s also the pilot with fear of heights, occasionally leaving the squad behind while she regains her composure at a lower altitude. And finally the narcoleptic, who falls asleep and needs protecting. While these flaws are fun and new, they seem to come into play only at scripted times, never at random.

The gameplay is just a joy. I’m flying around, dodging bullets, laserblasts, rockets and fireballs, all the while dishing out insane damage with equally insane powered-up weapons. I’m loving every bit of it. The visuals, the sound design, the story, the action, the supercrazy villains. Every zany second of it.

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The only major gripe I more than once shook my head at, is the voiceacting. The actors are clearly doing their best, but all too often, it shines through that English is not their first language. What you get is 4 American pilots, and their all talking with a Germanic accent… It’s a bit bizarre to say the least. But again, that’s just this nit-picking OCD reviewer delving deep to find even a single flaw.

Aces of the Luftwaffe – Squadron is a most enjoyable shooter, which I’d recommend to everyone. Even if you don’t like shooters: this game will make you like them.

Jan

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 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

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