Category Archives: Review

REVIEW: Splatoon 2

splatoon 2 banner.jpg

Well, this review took me a lot longer to write than I expected. After completing the single-player portion of Splatoon 2 and leveling up my character past level ten, I was hoping to write my review soon after… But it took me longer than I expected to finish the single-player sections in this game. I ended up spending way more time on turf war and ranked matches, as these game modes are where Splatoon 2 shines, and they are very fun. As of this review, I’m level 23, with a decent number of hours logged in both the competitive game modes as well as salmon run, Splatoon 2’s brand new player versus A.I. game mode. With that said, I’ll now share my thoughts on the overall package that is contained in Splatoon 2. Enjoy!

splatoon 2 weapons

Splatoon 2 is a wonderful game to play, featuring enough maps and weapons to keep players hooked for months to come. The core gameplay loop is the same as it was in the first game; players control ‘inklings’ that utilize a vast array of weaponry to cover the map in their team’s ink. This involves inklings shooting at the floors as well as each other in order to prevent the enemy team from inking the map with their own color, but the focus is still firmly placed on covering the map with your own ink. It may just be me, but the maps in Splatoon 2 feel smaller than those found in the first game. This causes firefights to break out more frequently and matches to end closer than before. It’s a change that I wasn’t expecting, but is welcome. In addition to this, most of the weaponry available in the first game is now available in the sequel. This is in stark contrast to the launch of Splatoon 1, where only a few weapons were available from the start, new blasters and brushes becoming available in the months following the game’s release. This gives Splatoon 2 stronger legs to stand up as a complete package, as opposed to the lack of launch-day content that was found in the first game. Nintendo has said they will be providing free updates to the game over time, similar to the way ARMS is handling it, but even if there were no upcoming updates aside from splatfests (the game’s monthly competition between two teams) I’d still be happy with the overall package.

splatoon 2 salmon run

As I mentioned earlier, the biggest new game mode coming to Splatoon 2 is known as salmon run, and after playing many hours of it, I’m convinced that it’s a blast. In most video games, I prefer player versus A.I. matches as opposed to competitive multiplayer, and to see Splatoon 2 receive this treatment is extremely welcome. Overall, it’s a fun game mode that is marred by a few issues. The most obvious of these issues is the widely reported complaint that many players have; online salmon run is only available during specific days and hours of the week, locking entry from those wanting to play outside of the allotted time slots. It’s a real bummer that Nintendo took this approach, as salmon run is a great way to unlock specific loot, and is very fun to boot. Perhaps they will hear fan criticism and respond to this issue, but as of this writing, there are many people that are upset by the decision to lock salmon run gameplay behind specific days of the week, myself included.

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Salmon run features a simple premise of surviving and collecting stage pickups, masked beneath a layer of surprisingly deep complexity as to how players tackle their foes. There are a number of unique boss characters that must be defeated within each round, and the strategy on how to defeat each one differs from one another. The game’s tutorial teaches the basics on how to take down each boss, but I definitely recommend some outside research, because there are more ways to tackle your foes outside of what the game shares. Players will only be able to survive by combining their efforts and communicating on the battlefield, as each person fulfills a specific role each round, depending on which weapon is given to them.

splatoon 2 logo

This is my first gripe with salmon run. I understand the push to give players pre-selected weaponry, but having a poor set of four weapons makes each round more difficult than I think is necessary. I feel like before a round starts, players should have a choice of which weapon they wish to use during that round, so that nobody has to end up using the splat roller or the ink rifle unless they desire it. However, I understand this is a balance decision that makes sense in the game’s surprisingly high difficulty curve. I just don’t enjoy using the splat roller, ink sniper rifle, or any of the brushes for salmon run! I would appreciate a way to avoid using these weapons.

splatoon 2 salmon run boss

Another issue I would like to touch upon is the abundance of bosses that show up during each round. The last thirty seconds of each round in salmon run is often the most hectic, due to the game ramping up the number of on-screen enemies that pelt ink your way to stop you. I feel that the number of enemies present at one time far exceeds a number that are capable of being dealt with, resulting in many frustrating deaths when the entire team is wiped out. My brain’s first response to this thought is simply “well, get good” but in a majority of the games I have played, it seems as if every player on my team had a great deal of difficulty in simply staying alive against the frankly ridiculous number of enemies that flooded the game mode’s rather small survival arena. Some deaths feel a bit unfair, such as when you are killed by a sudden ink airstrike pelted from above. Combined with the other boss attacks, it is often difficult to survive a round without going down at least one time, which I feel is a bit unbalanced in the game’s favor. Despite these issues, I will keep coming back to play more salmon run, because the frustration I’ve felt for these issues pales in comparison to the satisfaction of surviving a game, collecting as many pick-ups as possible and defeating the enemies swarming a team of inklings.

splatoon 2 roly poly

I admit that I don’t have a whole lot to say about Splatoon 2’s competitive multiplayer portion. As a fan of the first Splatoon, each of the game modes in the sequel offer fun gameplay with a satisfying unlock system of receiving experience and currency, used to purchase new weapons and gear. If you were a fan of the first game, the sequel probably will not disappoint; likewise, if you did not enjoy the first game, the sequel doesn’t do a substantial amount to differ itself from the first game. However, there are a few big points that I would like to mention. The special abilities offered to players are much more satisfying this time around, rewarding timing and skill to pull off. Whereas in the first Splatoon the special skills on display felt a bit all over the place, some being extremely useful while others were lackluster, every special ability in Splatoon 2 has a meaningful use in battle. The tenta rockets are a favorite of mine, especially when playing splat zones, and the drop attack special ability is satisfying every time. The all-new maps are great, although I wish more of the elements featured in the single player portion of the game were also available in online multiplayer. The speed ramps and grind rails feel like they’d make a fine addition to the hectic online battles, but these exciting new interactive objects only make an appearance outside of multiplayer. This feels like a missed opportunity, especially when comparing the differences between Splatoon 1 and 2’s multiplayer. Despite this, online matches are a fun time, and searching for other players is usually a fast process. The lack of an exit button in the matchmaking menu is a bit bizarre, as is the inability to switch weapons and gear in between matches, but the core gameplay loop of inking enemy turf while taking down your foes is just as satisfying as it was in the first game.

splatoon 2 grind rail

Now that I’m finished giving my thoughts on the multiplayer portion of Splatoon 2, I’ll dive right into why I’m slightly disappointed with the single player sections in this game. Overall, the single player levels are better than most campaigns found in other first and third person shooters on the market. Most levels are memorable, each featuring fun and unique interactive objects while providing satisfying shooting and platforming action. The story is rather light, but this is similar to how it was told in the first game, and is not all that surprising. Most of the boss fights are great fun, especially world four’s boss fight, which takes advantage of the game’s smart implementation of vertical space. After the simply awesome final boss battle in the first Splatoon, I was expecting an equally exciting final battle in the sequel; unfortunately I was left disappointed, as the last fight features an all too familiar strategy to beating the game’s boss, similar to the first Splatoon’s final boss. The single player also doesn’t introduce any new supporting characters, like the first Splatoon’s Captain Cuttlefish, instead relying on Marie and Sheldon to tell the story. Each of the new characters are instead featured in Splatoon 2’s plaza, where the player goes to purchase new gear and access the game’s various playable modes. The ending of the single player is still satisfying, if totally unsurprising, and rewarding online multiplayer rewards for completing the single player is a great incentive for playing through it.

 

Splatoon 2 is a great game, complete with a satisfying single player story mode, cooperative survival matches, and the same great online multiplayer action that fans have come to expect from the series. It feels like Nintendo played it a bit safe for this sequel, but the same tight action and some fantastic new music is on offer for a fresh experience. The inclusion of “miiverse 2” also known as the in-game user drawings found in the main plaza is also a great inclusion, providing many laughs and some impressive art (I’ll share a couple of my favorites down below). New abilities and weaponry introduced in the future ensure I’ll be playing Splatoon 2 for many months to come! 

splatoon 2 speeding ticketsplatoon 2 closed mall

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Hey, all. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading my review. If there’s anything in this write-up that you think could use improvement, please feel welcome to share your thoughts! I’m always looking to improve my writing. Have a great week!

 

  • Matt

REVIEW: Spider-Man: Homecoming (Spoilers!)

Spidey relaxing

Hey everyone! Get ready, it’s time for my first movie review in what feels like ages. Back when I used to write for my old university’s newspaper, I wrote a couple of film reviews, in addition to the video game reviews that were published every few weeks. I still prefer writing about video games, as evidenced by my prior posts on here, but I enjoy watching and discussing movies as well. Anyway, here I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the web-slinger’s latest on-screen adventure, Spider-Man: Homecoming.

 

This movie has been a long time coming. I remember being excited about the next solo Spider-Man flick years ago, when Marvel announced their plans to team up with Sony for a new Spidey film. Many fans breathed a sigh of relief upon hearing this news, especially after watching the mostly unsuccessful release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014. I thought it was a decent movie, but like its predecessor, I felt that it was missing the exciting action and human elements that the first two Spider-Man films directed by Sam Raimi contained. Certain scenes stood out to me, such as Gwen Stacy treating Peter’s wounds in her apartment, or Peter discovering the research his parents made before their death, but I felt there was something missing in the movies. At certain points they felt a bit artificial, feeling more like a Hollywood concoction rather than a movie created by a proud filmmaker. It feels good to say, then, that Spider-Man: Homecoming is a more engaging film than what the first two Amazing Spider-Man movies presented, and present some exciting ideas that were not previously explored in other Spidey movies.

spidey suburbs

For instance, there’s always the running gag outside of Spider-Man films asking what does Spidey do when he has to chase a villain in the suburbs? Well, that question is answered in Homecoming, as there is a sizable chunk of screen-time that takes place outside of New York City. In fact, a large majority of the action scenes on display take place either outside of the city, or in areas where tall buildings are nonexistent. The suburbs, a ship at sea, and atop a moving convoy of trucks are battles between Spider-Man and the Vulture that all take place away from the skyscrapers present in every previous film. This change in locale is welcome, because superhero fights in large cities have become rather trite. A change in location is often welcome.

spidey vulture

Speaking of change, it’s worth mentioning that the Vulture is the best villain the Spider-Man films have seen since Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2. The Lizard, AKA Doctor Connors in Amazing Spider-Man 1 was an okay villain, but his motivation for evildoing was weak (turning all of humanity into lizard people? Seriously?) I still hold a soft spot for the Sandman from Spider-Man 3, because his motivations to save his daughter were relatable to the audience, but the character motivations for the Vulture’s evil-doing were also justified. It was refreshing to see a superhero film that did not have the villain plotting for world domination or total destruction; it felt like Homecoming was instead a smaller story that focused on Peter coming to grips with his powers, versus a villain that felt evil yet justified in some way for his actions. Combining alien technology with human weaponry opens up a bunch of possibilities for future films, and I hope they up the ante with its incorporation in other Marvel movies. The introduction of the Shocker is a nice addition, as his appearance never felt cheesy or out of place, and he never occupied an unecessary amount of screentime.

Liz

Seeing Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man 1 and 2 was a nice change-up from Mary Jane’s on-screen appearance, and I think Emma Stone did a fine performance as Gwen Stacy. It’s interesting, then, that Homecoming mostly ditches the Mary Jane or Gwen Stacy female lead that prior Spider-Man movies had previously featured, instead focusing on a new love interest in the form of Liz. I think the scenes of Peter and Liz together were captured well, veering on the side of awkward teenage love but not leaning too far into it so as to be annoying. The reveal of Michelle being called ‘MJ’ toward the end of the film was an interesting nod, as it means Liz is most likely out of the picture, instead to be replaced by Zendaya’s character. Only time will tell if this potential new love interest fills the role that Liz previously occupied. It’s not too common that the main character fails to win over the love interest by the end of the film, but Peter was unsuccessful in bringing himself and Liz together, which I appreciate as it highlights his imperfections. Speaking of imperfections, Peter messes up a bunch during the movie. He’s constantly missing web shots at bad guys, falling through debris, and generally showing a level of incompetence that we aren’t used to with superheroes.

 

How about that surprise reveal a little over halfway through the film, when it is shown that Liz’s father is none other than Adrian Toomes, otherwise known as the Vulture? I was genuinely surprised by this reveal, and surprises in modern superhero films aren’t quite as common as they used to be. After hearing Adrian make a couple of prior references to his family earlier in the film, I was hoping to see a glimpse of the family that he mentioned. To this end, I’m very glad that the movie brought his wife and daughter into the mix in a compelling way. The Vulture’s spiel to Spider-Man as they’re in the car about to leave for the homecoming dance leaves Peter in a state of vulnerability, and gives the Vulture even more weight behind his serious threats. Perhaps my favorite part of the movie is when Spider-Man is crushed underneath the rubble that the Vulture dropped onto him, because it shows a side of superheroes that is interesting to me – their human element. I enjoy high-speed action and engaging fights as much as the next guy, but seeing Spidey struggle to lift the rubble off of his body and convince himself that he can make it out alive gave me legitimate chills.

Spidey boat

I think one of the biggest reasons I enjoy Spider-Man is thanks to his relatable motives, witty humor, and of course, the awesome powers he possesses. However, the emotions he conveys on-screen also make me like him more than any other superhero, because he shows a willingness to do anything to save the lives of those around him, including the villains trying to stop him. There are multiple scenes in Homecoming dedicated entirely to Spider-Man rescuing the lives of innocent civilians, and it reminds the audience that he is a superhero first and foremost, bad guy ass-kicker second. Despite his upgraded suit’s “robot lady” encouraging lethal force to take down his foes, Peter Parker tells her to engage non-lethal means as even he knows most of the people he battles do not deserve to die.

spidey vulture flames

Overall, I quite enjoyed Spider-Man: Homecoming. Peter Parker continues to be an interesting and relatable protagonist, his alter-ego Spider-Man providing the high-stakes thrills that we keep returning to the theater for. Having Peter’s buddy Ned being the first to discover Peter’s secret identity, rather early in the movie, too, was a fun addition that made Peter feel less alone than during previous Spidey films. The movie provides a satisfying conclusion to the plot that made me satisfied in the film’s events, and didn’t give any regret for my ticket purchase. Honestly, I feel rather tempted to give the movie another look next weekend. If you enjoy hero flicks, I highly recommend giving this one a look, although chances are you already have an opinion on this film.

peter face

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading my thoughts on Spider-Man: Homecoming. I’m happy the movie is finally out, and I’m looking forward to reading the Spider-Man comic books that I bought a few weeks back! Have a wonderful week, everyone.

 

  • Matt

Review: Wipeout: Omega Collection – Futuristic Fury Road

wipeout omega collection cover

Since the closing of Studio Liverpool back in 2012, fans of the former developer’s long-running racing series known as Wipeout have expressed doubt on the future of the franchise. Despite at least one Wipeout title appearing on every PlayStation console to date, Sony appeared to care little about the Wipeout games after Wipeout: 2048 on the PlayStation Vita was released. After 2048’s release, there was no sign of a new entry coming anytime soon, to the dismay of fans including myself. To my knowledge, the series was never really known as one of the more popular PlayStation brands, and so a future for the franchise was unknown. After several years of waiting, a new entry in the historic racing series has arrived on Sony’s latest and most powerful hardware in the form of Wipeout: Omega Collection, brought to us by the fine folks at Sony XDev. It’s not exactly the sort of package that fans were asking for, but the game is everything that was promised to us. In this collection, players get access to remastered versions of Wipeout HD, Wipeout HD Fury, and Wipeout 2048. To kick off this review, let’s take a dive into what makes Wipeout special.

 

I’m not a big fan of racing games. I dislike driving in my day to day life, and have felt little joy in driving in the digital space, besides participating in the occasional round of Mario Kart. There are only two games, one of them being a recent addition to the list, that are the exception to this mindset – games in the Wipeout series, and Fast RMX, on the Nintendo Switch. I won’t describe here in detail why I enjoy Fast RMX, but the similarities it shares to Wipeout made my time with the game an enjoyable one. With this in mind, I view Wipeout as the undisputed king of high-speed, futuristic racing action.

wipeout assegai

I have not played every Wipeout game in the long-running PlayStation series. In fact, I’ve only played a total of three of them (four, if we’re counting the Omega Collection). Despite this, I’ve felt a love for the franchise ever since I started playing Wipeout HD on the PS3 some several years ago. I was enamored by the fast ships, tight turns, heart-pounding music, and dazzling visuals that sparked across the screen when I played. My time spent with Wipeout was more exciting to me than any other racing game I had yet played, and that was due in part to the high speed thrills that Wipeout HD provided. I spent many hours in my high school years attempting to earn gold medals on each and every course offered in the game’s single-player mode, which include challenges such as time trials, speed laps, and traditional races. Offering multiple levels of AI difficulty, the game presented players with a fair level of challenge that asked for racing course knowledge and a deep understanding of the game’s core mechanics.

 

Some of the core mechanics that distinguish Wipeout from other racing games include the barrel roll, health system, and unique power-ups that can be used against opponents. Every racer’s ship has a level of health attached to it, totaling at 100 hit points. When a barrel roll is performed, the racer’s ship will spin in mid-air, consuming around 15 points of health, and grants them a speed boost upon landing on the ground. It’s a risk versus reward system that favors players who keep a close eye on their ship’s health, and when combined with the risk of being hit from other players and the ability to regenerate their own health by absorbing collected weapons, is a system that I find works very well. Certain weapons do more damage than others, and knowing when to attack or defend is key to your survival on the race course. Lose all of your 100 health points? You’re eliminated from the race, and you earn zero points in any tournament standings. Wipeout can be a brutal game, especially with pilot assist off, and players have to be mindful of the weapon pickups as well as their health pools if they hope to achieve victory.

wipeout harimau

The game is aware of its steep difficulty curve, and starts the player off with slower races and weaker opponents. Pilot assist, an in-game feature that aids racers in avoiding walls, is also recommended for newcomers. For veterans of the series such as myself, the difficulty level can be tweaked to my satisfaction to provide a satisfying challenge, while still feeling fair. This degree of control is flexed across all three games in the Omega Collection, providing a complete package of gameplay across a variety of stunning courses.

 

One of the best parts about Wipeout: Omega Collection actually isn’t the included Wipeout HD and Fury games, but instead Wipeout 2048 is the most exciting part of this package. 2048 was originally released on the PlayStation Vita, and while it is a visually stunning title on the handheld, those visuals would not translate well onto the living room screen. With this in mind, the folks over at XDev completely remastered the original game’s visuals into a native 4K resolution running at 60FPS, and the result is simply spectacular. The frame rate of all three games in the Omega Collection has suffered no noticeable dips, even with the high-speed action in full force. Pulling off sharp turns on corners has never felt so good. Despite these games being a retread in the franchise, it’s a technical marvel on PS4, and a great addition to any owner of a 4K display. This level of eye-candy can only be found on the PlayStation 4 Pro, of course, but the game also looks stunning on the base PS4 at 1080p resolution. The work that has been put into a full remaster of 2048 is greatly appreciated, as well as the solid ports of Wipeout HD and Fury.

Wipeout EGX

Featuring a solid career mode across three separate games, there is a ton of content to choose from in this collection. When you are finished with the game’s offline content, how does the online portion stack up? Unfortunately, I think it could do with some tweaks under the hood. I’ve played at least a couple dozen online races in Wipeout: Omega Collection, and I have experienced very little lag in any of the races I participated in. So what’s the problem, you ask? Well, the answer is unfortunately the lack of players available to race against. I mentioned earlier that the Wipeout series is not one that I ever knew to be very popular among the PlayStation crowd, and this appears evident the moment you navigate the online multiplayer menu. To find an online race, players scroll through a list of lobbies that are created by other players. There is a high level of customization offered, allowing up to eight people to engage in every sort of multiplayer content on any in-game track, at whichever speed class they desire. The problem arises when you notice the lack of available rooms to play in; the last time I logged in to play Wipeout online multiplayer, about a day ago of this writing, I found only two available rooms to join. I could create my own room for other players to join, of course, but who knows how long it would take to have other racers notice and connect before quitting? Simply put, I think racing games are among the few multiplayer genres that benefit from matchmaking, as opposed to player-created lobbies. I know this is usually disagreed upon in the gaming community, but in the case of Wipeout, there simply aren’t enough players to encourage the effort needed to play online. I love the game enough that I am willing to wait a minute or two for other players to join an online race, but not everyone is that patient. If a matchmaking system were in place, it would be even more simple for players to find each other quickly and effortlessly engage in online races. Perhaps this isn’t an issue that can be fixed by the developers, but is instead a fault of the small player base. This is a shame, because I have found the online experience to be fun and, in regard to online connectivity, reliable.

 

Playing this game again on PS4 has reminded me of the fun that I had all those years ago on PS3, and the Omega Collection continues to provide new thrills each time I sit down and play. If you are someone who enjoys slick, futuristic vehicles that fly at incredible speed on higher difficulties, don’t let this one pass by. Also, the community needs more people playing online, so please help out, if you pick up the game. Just like Titanfall 2, this game is a gem that deserves a large player base, but has instead suffered from a general lack of interest/poor release date.

wipeout zone

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading my review. Feel free to follow my work here on Word Press, or check out my Twitter page. I talk there about anything, usually gaming, but also retweet pictures of adorable animals. Have a great week!

 

  • Matt

Review: ARMS – A Powerful First Punch For Nintendo

arms wallpaper

Hey folks, Matt here with a new review. As you could probably tell from the title, I’ll be writing my thoughts on the recently-released ARMS for Nintendo Switch, Nintendo’s latest attempt at capitalizing on the eSports craze. Does it provide a fun and much-needed addition to the Switch’s growing catalogue of games, or will it be forgotten upon Splatoon 2’s release next month? Well, I am hoping to answer these questions in the following paragraph. Enjoy.

 

Yeah, it’s a fun game. You should play it if you enjoy fighting games. Thanks for reading!

arms twintelle

Anyway, on to the real review.

 

ARMS was an unexpected reveal back in January during the very first live presentation for the Nintendo Switch. The game was revealed alongside a short snippet of gameplay that showed off its premise, and at first, I was not sold. Fighting games are fun, sure, but Nintendo’s history in the genre is not so diverse. The most prolific, exclusive fighting game series that has come from Nintendo is Super Smash Brothers, and… What else? I suppose you can include Pokken Tournament and Tatsunoko vs. Capcom in that list, but these still amount to a rather small catalogue for the genre on Nintendo platforms. These games are mostly well-regarded by fans as great titles. Back in January, seeing a first-party developed fighting game made exclusively for a Nintendo console was exciting, and I was keen to see more on the company’s latest effort. After completing the game’s main single-player mode on multiple difficulties with the ten available fighters, and engaging in at least 10+ hours of the online multiplayer madness, I believe I can provide a fleshed-out piece on my opinion of the game.

arms byte and barq

The level of polish on display in ARMS is simply wonderful. Combat has been a smooth journey, with only a few hiccups along the way. These issues were found entirely in the online multiplayer department; I’ve only had one disconnected game during my time with ARMS, and only one online game with a noticeable level of lag present. Besides these two instances, I have found every match I played online and offline to be a silky-smooth and precise battle between up to four combatants on-screen at a given time. My worries about the game’s motion controls have been mostly alleviated, as I’ve only had a couple of instances where I threw out a punch when I meant to block, but these mistakes were made only a small handful of times. Coming to grips with the game’s unique control scheme takes some getting used to, but I found the game to be an enjoyable experience using either the motion controls or standard controls. Both options offer a similar level of precision when fighting opponents, and I can now say I’m comfortable playing with either control scheme. Despite this, Nintendo’s heavy marketing toward using the game’s motion controls swayed me to attempt playing ARMS using the ‘thumbs-up grip’ as described by the big N, and I’m glad I gave it a shot, as this method of playing offers a precise level of play on-par with the traditional method of using a Switch pro controller.

thumbs up grip

Well, perhaps the word ‘precise’ may be a bit generous when talking about ARMS’ 2v2 game modes. As has been documented by other players, the 2v2 battles can be rather hectic due to the great number of arms flying across the screen at any given time. When a player is thrown by a grab, their teammate is also thrown by that same grab, causing some confusing scenarios where you aren’t aware your teammate is being thrown across the screen, only for yourself to be punished by that attack as well. I find the 2v2 game modes to be the least enjoyable among the game’s ‘party mode’, where players can engage in a solid variety of game types mostly revolving around punching one another.

 

Speaking of punching fighters, did you know that there’s a *spoiler* boss character who uses six arms to fight you? Yep, that’s right, the boss character known as Hedlok makes an appearance in the game’s Grand Prix mode as the player’s final combatant. Utilizing six arms, this hulking metal monstrosity is, to put it bluntly, broken. What do I mean by this? Well, let’s break down the classic fighting game logic of rock, paper, and scissors.

hedlok

A traditional fighting game often features three main ways of attacking. In very simplified terms, there is on-foot combat, mid-air combat, and grabs. The on-foot attacks are often a player’s primary method of attack, but can be negated by a guard block from their opposition. A guard block can be interrupted by a player’s grab, causing damage from the opponent’s throw. Finally, mid-air attacks can be a good way to surprise the enemy, but can be interrupted by an opponent’s anti-air attack if the mid-air attack is too often relied upon.

 

ARMS takes advantage of this traditional rock, paper, and scissors formula, incorporating on-foot punches, mid-air punches, and grabs into the mix. Unlike other fighting games, ARMS allows grabs to be thrown from a large distance, as well as in mid-air, a feature that I’m surprisingly okay with, as it feels well-balanced in most fighter match-ups (barring Ninjara, of course. I think he’s a little too fast for my liking). These punches and grabs are all able to be deflected by a player’s own punches, as long as the appropriate arms are selected for the deflection.

Arms mechanica

This is where the fault in Hedlok’s design comes into play. When Hedlok attacks, he throws out a series of three punches from each side, as opposed to a normal attack from other fighters consisting of one punch. These punches come in fast succession of one another, and are often difficult to deflect by the player’s own punches, and so dodging is always preferred over deflecting these attacks. This would be okay in its own right, however, the cooldown time for Hedlok to throw out another set of punches from that same set of arms is way too short. He is able to dish out a second series of punches right upon the first of the three arms being pulled back in (I know this is difficult to visualize, and perhaps I’m doing a terrible job of explaining this event, but bear with me!) In this regard, I find the fight to feel rather one-sided in favor of Hedlok. Maybe he is not quite as broken in difficulty as Shao-Khan was in Mortal Kombat for the PS3 and Xbox 360, but the battle still feels unfair in more ways than one. Inputs from my punches felt like they were instantly being read by the enemy AI, and super attacks that appeared to have connected with the enemy were dodged and countered with the enemy’s own super-charged attack.

 

Despite these balancing issues, I find the game to be enjoyable, as I stated earlier. On the surface, the game appears to have little content, and I think this claim is justified when you compare it to the likes of juggernauts of in-game content such as Tekken 7 and Super Smash Bros. For Wii U. However, the accessibility of each of the ten fighters and different pairings of arms for each one of them offers hundreds of possibilities for battle, and I think it works in the game’s favor. Would ARMS be an even better game with some more fighters and stages to battle on? Sure, that would be a great addition. Thankfully, Nintendo will be doing just that in the coming months, all of it as free game updates, similar to the way Splatoon was handled on the Wii U.

Arms party

 

I’m sure I missed some other points I wanted to bring up, but overall I’m finding my time with ARMS to be fun and engaging. The motion controls work well, the fighter designs are fantastic offering great variety, and despite an arguably broken final boss fight, the single player and multiplayer game modes are a satisfying venture into Nintendo’s newest IP. If this is the start of Nintendo entering the fighting game space outside of Smash Bros., I’m excited to see where they take the game next.

Thank you for reading! Take care, all.

  • Matt

Review: Enter the Gungeon

gungeon title card

I’ve spent a countless number of hours playing Enter the Gungeon. It’s up there among my favorite rogue-lite games, right next to the Binding of Isaac games and Spelunky. For this reason, I thought it’d be fitting to write my thoughts on one of my favorite games for the PS4. There are still some faults found in the game, but let’s get on with the review!

 

Enter the Gungeon is a downloadable game packed with charm, intelligent design, and satisfying gameplay wrapped up in one (mostly) tight package. As the title implies, players enter a randomly generated dungeon (or as it is known here, a gungeon) utilizing a vast array of guns to overcome enemies and obstacles. Assuming the role of an adventurer with a past they regret, you enter the gungeon hoping to attain a legendary gun that can kill the past. Yes, you read that right, your goal is to kill the past. Specifically, your character’s past. The game’s trailer emphasizes this point, if you’d like to hear it for yourself. I’ll link the gameplay trailer right here.

gungeon entrance

Based on this trailer alone, I was sold on Gungeon’s premise. All that remained to win me over was a solid gameplay loop, and I’m happy to report that the game succeeds on that front. There is a massive variety of guns that can be collected across many hours of gameplay, with a solid number of passive and active items available to spice up each run. The number of weaponry available to players is staggering, and with the game’s free supply drop update that went live a few months ago, there are even more choices available. Collecting these different guns is a joy of its own, thanks to their creative utility and fun design choices. Chests filled with loot are peppered on each floor of the gungeon, ensuring you access to a wide variety of fun weaponry.

 

The game features the expected ensemble of base weaponry, including handguns, shotguns, rifles, machine guns, and other traditional guns that we have come to expect. However, the game’s wacky and inventive munitions is where it truly shines. For example, one of my favorite guns in the game is called the Shell. This is a gun that resembles a shotgun shell, and when fired, it pops out three shotguns, which proceed to fire two bullets from those shotguns. The in-game description of this weapon reads: “This strange gun, shaped like a shotgun shell, fires bullets that are shaped like shotguns. Those shotgun-shaped bullets will fire a spray of rounds upon impact, much like a shotgun would.” Another example of the unique weaponry involves the Witch Pistol, which fires bullets that have a 10% chance of turning the hit enemy into a chicken. Or how about the Magic Lamp, a gun that is a literal lamp which causes a genie to emerge and sucker-punch any enemies that are unfortunate enough to cross his path. This is just a few examples from the list of over 130 guns that are available to collect and use against enemies. The creative ideas at play here are a riot, and I loved discovering new weaponry and items every time I played the game.

gungeon supply drop update card

Similar in fashion to other rogue-lites, killing all of the enemies in a room will unlock the doors stopping the player’s progression, and award them currency that can be used at the in-game shop. Every character and enemy you run across during the journey through the Gungeon has a unique personality that gives a sense of depth to the game’s world, even if the randomly-generated levels have layouts that are recognizable after a dozen or so runs through.

 

Unlocking certain features outside of the Gungeon is accomplished by helping NPC’s during a run, similarly accomplished like in Crypt of the Necrodancer, and gives the game a path of upgradability to the player’s hub world that is satisfying and rewarding. However, I still felt like I was given enough utility to overcome most obstacles, even in the early game or if my gun loadout was lacking compared to previous runs. This is another thing that I think Enter the Gungeon does very well; it balances a level of progression with player skill, avoiding the ever-popular “RNG issue” (RNG stands for random number generator) that affects other rogue-lite games such as The Binding of Isaac. In Isaac, if you play a run of the game that gives you crappy upgrades at the beginning, you feel at a severe disadvantage against the game’s obstacles, and are thus tempted to restart that run from the beginning. In Gungeon, this feeling is nearly absent, because the starting weaponry given to you is quite good, at least for the game’s first two floors. During your time after those two floors, you are pretty much guaranteed to find even better weaponry than your starting guns, helping balance the game’s difficulty without feeling too easy or difficult.

gungeon gatling gull

On the subject of comparisons to other rogue-lite games, I think the boss fights in Gungeon and Isaac should be compared. In Isaac, most of the boss fights can be beaten relatively quickly, even without any damage upgrades. In Enter the Gungeon, this is simply not the case. Even with a better arsenal at your disposal, boss fights are still the most lengthy and difficult challenge you will come across. This should be expected. However, I think the boss fights could stand to be a bit shorter, especially in the early game when your weapons are usually not as strong as during the late game. When fighting bosses with your default guns, which can be normal during the first or second floors, the fights feel like they can take ages to beat. This makes the battle feel like a drag instead of the exciting conclusion to a floor that it should be. Despite this, I found most of the boss fights to feel fair and fun, especially when you learn the boss patterns and effectively dodge their attacks. There’s a couple of bosses that I think are unfairly difficult, namely the Ammoconda (oh yeah, all of the bosses have fun gun-centric names to accompany their unique designs!), but most of the boss fights feel fair, if on the long side.

gungeon bullet king battle

With a cast of memorable characters, a bevy of awesome weaponry to collect, and an engaging gameplay loop that makes you want to play just one more round, Enter the Gungeon is one of my favorite rogue-lite games. The art style is pleasing and the enemy designs all fit within the game’s world. Although the boss fights could stand to be a bit shorter, the entire package provides a wonderful experience that I think is among publisher Devolver Digital’s best games yet. Once Enter the Gungeon releases on Nintendo Switch, I’ll be there day one to play through all of it again!

gungeon switch

Thank you for reading, and have a great weekend.

  • Matt

Nier: Automata – A Leg Up On Its Predecessor (Review)

nier automata carnival

Note: Spoilers ARE present. I played a total of 40 hours, finishing the game three times and experiencing the three main endings of the game (including the two big choices that are made at the very end of the third playthrough). I also completed about 90% of the game’s sidequests, and plan to finish the rest of them soon.

 

Before I start this review, I should note that I have not played the entirety of the first Nier game. I own the PlayStation 3 copy of the game, and have booted it up once, but decided to watch my favorite group of people on YouTube play through the game instead. Why did I do this? I believe it was during a deluge of other game releases that had me preoccupied, and it saddens me that I didn’t play through the first Nier myself. However, after watching the entirety of the first game (yes, multiple endings and all!) I believe I have a good grasp of the story and gameplay. Because of this, I felt prepared to give game director Yoko Taro’s latest installment in the Nier franchise Nier: Automata a shot, especially after hearing the positive press that the game has received.

Nier Automata enemy and 2b

From my understanding, the gameplay systems present in Drakengard and Nier are not usually the reason people are so fond of these niche titles. Instead, it is the beautiful and unique stories told that capture fans’ hearts and keep them wanting to play.

 

When it was announced that the world-renowned Japanese game developers at Platinum Games would be creating a new Nier title with Yoko Taro at the helm, many fans of the first game, myself included, were enthralled. The brilliant storytelling from Yoko Taro’s pen and paper, brought to life with the advanced game systems that Platinum is known for, could combine to create a truly remarkable new entry. Thankfully, these expectations have been met, and dare I say it, surpassed. Nier: Automata is a beautiful game with likeable characters, an unforgettable story, and an engrossing gameplay hook that fans of the action genre have come to expect.

 

The plug-in chip system used to tailor the player’s gameplay style, both in combat and out of combat, is satisfying and flexible. Players collect a variety of skills, called electronic chips, that can be applied to their character to enhance a multitude of abilities. A custom chip set can be crafted, or the game can be told to create a balanced chip set – regardless, the system is well thought out and a fun place to craft your own unique playstyle. Whether you specialize in mid-air combos, ranged attacks, or hacking your opponents, there are a decent variety of choices for the player to take down enemies that keep things from getting stale.

nier automata reverse cover

Do I need to say anything about the game’s soundtrack? It’s phenomenal. I’m listening to it as I write this review, and will probably be listening to it six months from now, as I did with the first Nier game. If nothing else, the soundtrack needs to be heard and appreciated even by those who do not plan to play Nier: Automata. There are a few remixed tracks that crop up in the sequel from the first game, and they are interwoven in a smooth way that I appreciated.

nier automata trees

Actually, I do have one more thing to say about the soundtrack. There is a fair amount of the hacking minigame present in Nier: Automata, and it is almost exclusively present in the game’s second playthrough. Players will probably notice that any background music perfectly transitions into a chip-tune sound when the change from combat to hacking minigame occurs. Every time this musical transition happened, I was impressed. The way this is implemented at any point of gameplay is satisfying, but the way this transition occurs within the game’s final moments during the credits sequence is absolutely amazing. Some of Nier: Automata’s vocal tracks are sung in both English and Japanese, and feature a bit-tune version of these songs as well. The end credits sequence had my jaw hung open when there were transitions between not just the bit-tune and vocal versions of the same song, but also the multiple languages being sung. For example, a few lines of a track were sung in English, and then a few lines would be sung in the Japanese track, all in a seamless transition. To say it is breathtaking would be an understatement. This game has one of my favorite soundtracks not just for games, but to anything. The game features truly marvelous music that should not be missed.

nier automata 2b and 9s

 

Oh, and on that credits sequence – it’s one of my favorites in any game. Wonderful way to wrap up the story and feature an intense battle before the final cutscene.

 

To be completely honest, I’m rather intimidated to write about the story that is present in Nier: Automata. Similar to its predecessor, the story is engaging, complex, and features multiple likeable characters that have plenty of screentime. I am afraid that I cannot give the multiple narratives at play enough credit where the credit is due. With this in mind, I will do my best to provide a short write-up of my favorite bits of the story. Perhaps my favorite moments in the game’s story are the real-world questions that the game asks. What is the meaning of our existence? Do we have desires worth fighting for, and are those goals ultimately worth the sacrifices we make? These questions are addressed by the main characters as well as side quest characters that bring the world in Nier: Automata to life. Both friendly and hostile machines show a startling level of humanity that I did not at first expect from the game’s characters, and the fact that this is accomplished with zero humans present in the story is a remarkable feat in my eyes. For a better look at the themes that I most appreciated in this game’s story, I think George from SuperBunnyHop can provide a more detailed explanation. I’ll link his Nier: Automata video right here.

Nier automata cavalry

Now, I’ve done enough gushing about all of the game’s good. Although I think Nier: Automata is a simply astounding game that should not be missed, I think a lack of intricate combos like those present in other Platinum games like Bayonetta is a missed opportunity. The combat is more than serviceable, but I found it to be on the more simple side. As a big fan of seeing vast button combinations that can be executed in battle, I could see a list of unique combo attacks being a positive addition to the game. Something akin to Bayonetta or Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance’s combo system would add a great deal to the game’s already satisfactory battle system.

Another criticism I can provide is the over-reliance on fetch quests in the game’s side quests. Although most of the side quests provide an interesting narrative to accompany them, some of the quests feel to rest a bit too much on collecting a certain resource for an NPC, or going off to slay the machines they ask you to kill. These issues are not as big a problem as they would be in other games, thanks to Nier: Automata’s satisfying movement, but they are still worth noting.

nier automata emil

To wrap this review up, I think that if you own a PS4, and have either played Nier or are okay with doing research in that game’s story to better understand Nier: Automata’s universe, you owe it to yourself to play this game. Yoko Taro and the wonderful folks at Platinum have crafted an experience that I will not forget anytime soon, featuring extremely engaging characters, a gripping storyline, and some of the best music in today’s modern world. Yes, I just said that. True, it is a bold claim, but I believe that Nier and Nier: Automata’s soundtracks offer music that rivals the best of the best, both within and outside of video games.

 

If you’ve made it this far, thank you greatly for reading my review of Nier: Automata. I had a good deal of fun writing this review, with the game’s soundtrack accompanying my writing. If you’re interested in seeing my other work, feel free to follow me on Twitter or here on WordPress. Have a great Memorial Day, all.

 

  • Matt

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Review

Note: Played on Nintendo Switch.

*No spoilers, besides the mention of enemy types!*

As of April 2nd, I have invested over 105 hours into the latest Zelda game, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. To say that I simply enjoyed my time exploring Hyrule would be an understatement; I found myself immersed in the game world, unable to stop playing for hours at a time. I’ll do my best in this review to describe what I most enjoyed about the game, and also which elements I found to be disappointing during my journey.

playtime

Breath of the Wild encourages exploration and creativity like no other open-world game has before. All of your essential tools and tricks are unlocked near the beginning of the game, after completing just a few short puzzles, and I found this to be a refreshing change of pace from the usual Zelda formula. Keep in mind, I have played a good majority of the games in the Zelda series, so the tried-and-true formula of past adventures has begun to wear thin on me. The changes to the formula that Breath of the Wild provides are much welcome, and while the same sense of progression from collecting unique tools is gone, the feeling of growth from upgrading your life capacity or stamina gauge replaces it in a satisfactory way.

dog

Every player going through the new Zelda is sure to have an opinion on whether they are in favor of the weapon durability system. For me, I think the weapon durability system falls a bit short, and the reasons for its inclusion are lackluster. Many people cite its presence as a way for players to use all of the different weapon types given to them, and while it is a fact that players will constantly need to be utilizing different weapons because of their low durability, I do not think this is a fun method of encouraging variety. I should want to utilize different weapons because of the situation at hand, and the unique properties of that weapon; not because the game has told me that my time with a particular weapon has run out. This becomes less of a problem as the player’s inventory slots for holding weaponry grow larger, because running into a shortage of swords and axes is not as likely, but reaching that point is a slow burn. I believe the durability of weapons should have been tweaked to allow for more hits per weapon before breaking, because as it stands, before battles begin I am often forced to wonder which weapon to use that I least care for so that my better arsenal stays intact.

breath-of-the-wild-weapons1

Enemy variety is also something that I felt lacking in Breath of the Wild. Nearly every enemy type you fight is a bipedal creature wielding a weapon that can be utilized by the player. This is a purposeful design choice, so that the player is given a wide variety of weapons to choose from when they defeat foes standing in their way, and don’t run out of something to use as a weapon. However, I found the lack of previous games’ enemies such as poes, re-deads, tektites, and wallmasters to be disappointing. This is only an issue that sprung up deep in the game, when I had already completed the main story and finished a good majority of the shrine and side quests, so I had seen every enemy type. The inclusion of mini-bosses in the form of Hinox, stone Talus, or Molduga is a very welcome addition, and I wish there were even more types of these mini-bosses peppered around the game world. Perhaps being able to actually defeat the three dragons that fly around Hyrule would remedy this, but I digress.

yep

Speaking of fighting enemies, the combat in Breath of the Wild is the best among the entire series. Performing last-second dodges to trigger bullet time slashing is extremely satisfying, as is parrying a monster’s attack to open them up for more attacks. Fighting guardians is among the most exciting aspects of combat in this game, especially while on horseback, thanks to the game’s very smart inclusion of slow-motion arrow firing while mid-air. This allows players to line up precise shots when falling, while still feeling like a master archer. Whether you’re figuring out the weakness of each enemy and exploiting it to overcome large groups, taking out enemies stealthily one by one, or sneaking past an enemy encampment altogether, every combat engagement is satisfying and feels natural (besides my complaints with the weapon durability). Speaking of natural, I won’t touch on this for long, but interactions with NPC’s in the game world are done extremely well. There are many likable characters that provide interesting dialogue and side quests for the player to explore, and the inclusion of animals roaming the open world make Hyrule feel like a lived-in place. Major props on that front.

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To wrap this up, I’d like to mention the story that Zelda presents. The decision to tell the game’s story largely via flashbacks is an exciting venture that I think pays off. Each of the cutscenes is interesting and well-paced, and while I do think the voice acting is hit-or-miss in some places, it gets the job done well enough. The final encounter fills a satisfying conclusion to the adventure, even if it did not provide much surprise. Overall, I am extremely satisfied with Nintendo’s newest Zelda release, and eagerly await to hear more about the franchise’s future. I know I’ll be waiting day one to replay this entire game on the upcoming hard difficulty.

Zelda BOTW wallpaper 8

 

Thanks for reading!

  • Matt 

    Oh, I almost forgot. I’m finishing up Horizon: Zero Dawn this week, and will probably be writing my impressions of that game in the near future, when I’m not busy with Persona 5 (releasing tomorrow)! Man, it’s an exciting time to be playing video games. Have a great week, everyone.