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Rogue Legacy Review

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I’m really late to the party with this one, as it’s been in the backlog for quite some time. But after seeing fellow blogger Esperdreams (whose stuff you should also check out) live stream the PlayStation 4 version a while ago, I fired it up. I’m pretty glad I did. Rogue Legacy is another game that mixes Rogue elements with bits of other genres.

PROS: Great character designs. Humor.

CONS: Minor hit detection issues.

WOW: Some of the randomness is worth checking out alone.

In the case of Rogue Legacy, the Rogue elements are blended with Metroidvania game play. But beyond that, there is a very creative twist that sets the game apart from other Rogue like/lite style titles. In pretty much every game of this style, if your character dies, even once, for any reason the game is over. You’ll get to keep some of the items you ground for. But you’ll be starting the game over again.

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In Rogue Legacy this is still the case. However, upon your next play through, you’ll get to play as one of that characters next of kin. So that means, a son or daughter of the previous combatant. It gets better though, because there are pros, and cons each child inherits. Some children will have vision problems. Some children will be easily confused. Or see everything in a mirrored perspective. There are a lot of these traits, and each one of them effects how the game is played.

Another common trait among this style of game is procedural generated stages. This idea is used in Rogue Legacy as well. Like Rogue Stormers, this game rearranges pre-designed rooms in new patterns to create new maps. One pretty cool thing the game does with this is self-referential humor. Often times you’ll find journal entries where the fighters will get information about the current castle layout from their ancestors. There is also a room with a jukebox you’ll randomly find where you can change the background music. Kind of like the record room you see in VVVVVV.

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There are other cool in-jokes like the clown target test. The obituaries when you lose. There are many, moments that will make you laugh. In spite of the fact that this game shares many of the same tropes seen in the trilogy of NES Castlevania games. Or the original three Metroid games. As you go throughout the map each time, you’ll find new areas upon every play through. Dark, demonic cavern areas. Giant haunted forest sections. Haunted towers. You name it.

Of course, once you die, the castle will look completely different. But you can use the gold you’ve earned during the last play through on upgrades for your progeny. You can upgrade your life bar, the amount of mana for using special weapons (a la Castlevania), as well as getting other things. You can unlock a bunch of possible classes for your future generations. Ninjas, Miners, and more. You can also upgrade the damage level you dish out, the amount of gold you can collect, and even get shops that come up before you go to the castle.

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These shops will let you bulk up your armor,  and add new abilities like dash attacks to your characters. Eventually you’ll find a third shop where you can exchange your gold collecting percentage for the option to lock the castle map in place so it repeats the exact same layout. Every time you explore the castle not only can you collect gold, but you can find chests with blueprints that can be used in shops for more armor, and weapon types. Some chests will only open if you complete a small mission like clearing the room of enemies, or getting to the chest without getting hurt. And while these aren’t long affairs, many of them can be quite the challenge. Others can’t be done until you have the right item or power ups.

Of course once you start getting the hang of the game, you’ll find boss rooms. These fights can be insanely hard. Not so much because of the bosses themselves. Though they are a challenge. But getting to them with a full bar of health, and a full bar of mana is a challenge in of itself.  Over time you’ll figure out that combat is mastered through timing. Timing not only when it’s safe to swing, but when to jump to avoid something. When to back away. The time in between any given enemy’s attack.

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But even when you learn this it isn’t a cinch to win. Because any given random layout can place you in a room with 50 different bad guys. Plus death-traps, spike pits, and other nefarious things in the environment. This is the kind of game that relishes high difficulty, and requires the patience to learn how everything works. Some have compared it to Dark Souls in that regard. And that’s fair. Mind you they’re two completely different games, with different rules. But both do require some patience to learn those rules.

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Over time, of keeping with it, you’ll begin to improve, and find yourself enjoying  yourself more. Even when you lose, there is enough humor, and charm to keep you coming back. Plus you’ll spend your gold, bulk up some stats, and items making enemies easier to slay. There is a point though, where the game decides just how easy might be too easy. So after a while you’ll notice beefier versions of enemies, or even find harder enemies showing up in the castle sooner. So most players will not be blowing through this one in a few minutes. It can be a grind. But the game obsfucates it pretty well most of the time. It also doesn’t feel like a carbon copy of the base formula. There is a wide variety of enemies, and the jokes can be really funny at times.

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The only big issue I have is that in some spots the collision detection is off just enough to make those sections feel cheap. You’ll take spike pit damage, but your character might not look like they actually touched the spikes. Some times you’ll swear you did a downward stab on a switch in time, but it doesn’t count as so. So these few moments can be a bit frustrating. The rest of the challenge comes from having the right tools for the right job, and the right amount of hand, eye coordination. Which is fine, this is a game that is about a challenge after all. When you do accomplish something in it, it just feels wonderful. You’ll scream “I FINALLY DID IT!” only to then realize you’ve got a long way to go yet. But it’s still satisfying.

Also satisfying are the chip tunes throughout the game. Each area has its own background song. Like I mentioned before, if you’re lucky you can find the jukebox room to change the current song, but each sector does have its own theme. Which gives it some of that Metroid vibe. It isn’t quite the same, since almost every time you play, the layout is different. But it does at least help make each background feel different from the last.

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Rogue Legacy also has a very crisp look reminiscent of old flash animation. Sprites have some bright colors, and nice details. There are cool visual touches on everything as well. The game even has an element of Paper Mario, as you watch your character flip over like a card whenever you turn them around.

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Overall, this is a really inventive take on a popular idea. If you enjoy challenging adventure games, or you can’t get enough of games with rogue elements Rogue Legacy should be on your list. Just make sure you pay close attention around switches, and spikes.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

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Kero Blaster Review

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I had a birthday a couple of weeks ago. It was an inconvenient time to hang out or grab a few beers with anyone. I was working, everyone I know was busy with their own work, and life stuff going on. Plus as you get older birthdays tend to become less, and less of a big deal anyway. But one of my friends from an old job was kind enough to send me a couple of games on Steam anyhow. One of these was Kero Blaster.

PROS: Great music, pixel art, and mechanics.

CONS: Minor technical hitches.

MASH UPS: It feels both very NES, and C64. That’s a winning combination.

I’d never heard of Kero Blaster. Despite the fact that it’s made by the creator of Cave Story. The little Steam tile didn’t look so hot when I opened my email. But I installed it, and after a title screen crash, the game started working properly. Fortunately, once I got my Steam Controller working I was pleasantly surprised. Kero Blaster does an ingenious thing by showing you controls right on the Title Screen. You have to clear the little blobs off of the screen, and you then answer a phone to start the game.

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From here you choose the save file you want to load, and the game starts. Upon playing for the first time, you’ll see a cut scene where a cat calls you into the office to bark at you. After the reprimand you go to an elevator where two scientist cats send you on missions. As you play through the game, you’ll get more cut scenes between stages that explain more of the storyline.

Honestly, the storyline is pretty good. It doesn’t make much sense at first, but over time the pieces are filled in, and you’ll find it’s quite funny. You play a frog who works at a company called the Cat, and Frog Company. Where the owner, a cat, progressively gets less, and less healthy looking. There is a bunch of workplace humor peppered in there over the game’s several missions. There aren’t too many games that make me legitimately laugh out loud. But this game has its moments. I think fans of comedic anime, and manga will laugh a few times playing this as well.

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Once the initial cut scene ends, you’re sent off on your action platform adventuring. The game seems to take influences from games that made the NES, and Commodore 64 platforms famous. Kero Blaster’s jumping mechanics remind me very much of Turrican. Jumping has a similar slow, yet precise feel to it. Also like Turrican, is the jet pack you’ll eventually get, allowing you to do double jumps to get to higher ledges. However the stages themselves are structured more like the ones in a lauded NES action game. Some stages have a Mega Man feel, others seem like something out of Castlevania. On paper, these are three series that have little in common. Yet the elements of each that were borrowed, and tweaked work really well together.

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Much like Mega Man, and Turrican, you’ll be doing a lot of shooting. Killing low-level enemies, medium enemies, and then fighting a giant boss monster at the end of every stage. Boss fights usually result in you finding a new weapon to use. Each of these is handy in specific situations, but they can all be used on the overwhelming majority of enemies. Unlike the Mega Man games, you play the game in a linear fashion, and there’s no real boss order as a result. But the boss fights do involve looking for patterns to mitigate damage taken. Again, it hearkens back to many C64, NES, and SMS games. Like a lot of other platformers out there, there are mid level shops in every level. Here you can spend coins dropped by defeated enemies. Doing so lets you level up your weapons, health meter, and buy help items. Kero Blaster has a pretty high level of challenge. But to make things a bit easier you get to keep your upgrades when you run out of lives. You also have unlimited continues, so if you persevere, you can eventually beat the campaign. When you do finish it, you’ll unlock a hard mode. So if you’re the type who loves old school difficulty, there’s something more for you to shoot for.

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The game has a wonderful aesthetic, that again, reminds me of Commodore 64 platformers. It’s displayed in a letterbox aspect ratio, with a limited color palette. Sprites are large, and backgrounds feature some nice detailing. I also really love the character designs in this game. There is a lot of variety in the enemy types here. Some are hilarious references to other games like crabs that behave like the Sidesteppers in Mario Bros. Then there are the aforementioned blob creatures which begin showing up in a number of ways. There are even Mega Man X style mid bosses here. While the graphics remind me of the C64, the audio very clearly hearkens back memories of NES soundtracks. The NES APU had a pretty distinct sound, and Kero Blaster does a pretty good job emulating it. Many indie games do so as well, but the compositions here are what set it apart from the pack. Many of the songs in this game are on par with those in titles like Shovel Knight. They are quite honestly that good. Very addictive, catchy songs that fit the action nicely. In addition to those though, there are some lilting, atmospheric chip tunes for accompanying environments too.

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That isn’t to say I didn’t have any issues with Kero Blaster. The .exe randomly crashes on my set up. Rarely when I’m playing the game, it usually happens when launching or exiting. Still, it has been often enough that it’s worth bringing up. Playing the PC version I have no idea if this is the case on IOS, or PlayStation 4. But at least on PC, expect to see a crash to the desktop once in a while.

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The default button layout is also not ideal. I was constantly pulling up the menu when I didn’t want to, or pressing shoot, when I meant to press jump. Fortunately the game does let you remap buttons on your controller, and keyboard. So you’ll certainly want to do that. Once you’ve done that, there isn’t much to complain about. Of course, some may be fine with the default controls. This may be different on the other releases too, as I have not played either of those versions.

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There are also a couple of areas I felt the collision detection could have been just a tiny bit better, as certain projectiles wouldn’t seem to hit the character, and would still net damage. It never felt the game was too hampered by this, but you may feel some of your deaths are cheap. These moments were rare in my play through, but still felt annoying when they did occur.

Finally, the game does not allow you to move your character’s stance while firing. If you’re walking right, mowing down waves of baddies, and suddenly get attacked from above you have to stop firing, then aim up, and begin firing. Again, not something that breaks the game, but if you don’t know this going in, you’re going to be upset.

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Ultimately though, I really do recommend this one. It isn’t drawn out with padding, nor is it something you’ll likely blow through in an hour. At least not on the first play through for most. The problems it does have aren’t so bad that they make things feel unplayable. It has likable characters, a fun story, and some genuinely good stage design. It’s a fun to play action platformer for your computer, IOS device, or PS4. And you get to torch monsters with a flamethrower as a frog. Slippy wishes he could be even one tenth of that level of bad ass.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Mighty No. 9 Review

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Released last year under a mountain of controversy, Comcept’s, and Inti Creates’ spiritual successor to Mega Man was met with reactions from reviled to merely tepid. Suffice it to say, people didn’t like it. This didn’t come without good reason. But now that the dust has begun to settle, there’s a question left over. Is Mighty No. 9 really that bad?

PROS: Voice acting, character designs, a few inventive moments.

CONS: Unbalanced stages, poor graphics, technical issues, dash mechanic.

LUCK: You’ll need a lot of it in key areas.

In some ways, yes Mighty No. 9 is that bad. I listed many of the reasons under the cons. Graphics are the first thing we notice when firing up any game. In this game your first thought is going to be “Oh no.” Remember the later Mega Man X games on the PlayStation 2? Mighty No. 9 has a very similar look. 2.5D with low quality textures, and simple geometry. In this game everything renders at 1080 p so it looks a lot sharper. But it also makes many of the games sprites look grainy, as they don’t appear to have been made in HD. So the higher resolution actually makes some parts look worse.

This is especially true of explosions, bullets from your arm cannon, menu items, and background touches. This results in some really jarring moments. On the plus side, the character designs are pretty cool. Especially when you meet the other bosses. These are the moments that remind you of classic Mega Man games, fighting robot masters in confined spaces.

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Gameplay is about what you’d expect. Like the Mega Man, and Mega Man X series you choose the order of stages in the hopes of finding the best route through the game. Every boss has a weapon you can assimilate, and you have to figure out which weapon defeats which boss. Unfortunately, even this aspect of the game isn’t nearly as good as it is in the games it borrows from.

There are several reasons for this. The most obvious being technical issues. For whatever reason, Mighty No. 9 suffers from terrible slowdown in certain spots. Reportedly, some versions are far worse than others. I played the PC version, so I can’t comment on any of the console versions. But I think it’s safe to say no matter what version you play, you’re going to get frustrated. There doesn’t seem to be any particular reason why the slowdown occurs. I tried lowering the settings to rock bottom, it still happens. And there are a fair number of options you can change in the PC version. You can also play it with a keyboard, but you really do want to use a game pad. Especially with some of the problems here.

These issues don’t make the game impossible, but they immediately begin to sour you on things. Lowering the fun factor further is the unbalanced nature of stages. When playing any given level you’ll often find a spot that has over the top difficulty in it. Usually involving enemies that swarm you, a pixel perfect jumping section surrounded by traps that kill you instantly, or both.

Now, the Mega Man series has sections filled with death traps that require pixel perfect jumps, and maneuvers. The differences are that 1.) in most cases they don’t come out of nowhere, and 2.) the controls are tighter. In Mega Man, these areas often come up after you’ve been eased in. A room will introduce you to something new to learn. You’ll use that in subsequent rooms, each gradually adding onto the challenge until you learn well enough to feel comfortable taking on that giant trap. Case in point, the infamous death beams way back in the Quick Man stage in Mega Man 2. You got a taste early, but after figuring it out quickly, you played through the stage, and when it brought it up again, only harder, it was a challenge. But it didn’t feel insurmountable. You got a feeling of persistence.

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In Mighty No. 9 these sections seem to just come out of the blue. Moreover, you don’t have quite the same level of control. So you’ll get into an area, have no idea what to do, and just be plunged into it. No teaser, no taste, no feeling of “Oh THAT’S what I need to do.” When you finally do figure it out, it won’t be a sense of discovery, it will be a sense of dismay. “Are you kidding me?” is probably the most common question you’ll scream aloud. Your fun will be decreased even more when you discover that instead of refining things, the game brute forces you through by giving you random power ups as you near the end of your lives. As if to say “Here, take a lot of damage, but scrape by with some beefed up power, and E-Tanks.” That doesn’t make it more fun, that just cements the fact that the designers realized they’ve created a chore rather than a challenge. There are also a few gameplay moments that get repeated throughout stages, the biggest being what I call swarm rooms, where you have to clear a wave of enemies before you can continue.

Another difference between this, and Mega Man are how you find replenishments. In the Mega Man games, you gain health, and ammunition two ways. Finding them drop out of robots when you kill them, or else in the play field. Sometimes you might have to solve a puzzle or have a certain robot master’s weapon to get them. But pretty straightforward. In Mighty No. 9 you have to use the game’s dash mechanic. This works like the one in Mega Man X. You can press the shoulder button, or double tap. When you shoot low-level bad guys enough times, they’ll glow blue, red, green, or yellow. Then you have to dash into them. The blue ones fill your E-Tank (of which you can have two), the green ones speed you up, and the red ones make your arm cannon more potent. Yellow reduces the damage you take from getting hit. You’ll also have to use the dash to get over a lot of the game’s pitfalls.  The thing is, the dash is also a tad bit slippery here. So you’ll sometimes hit spikes you wouldn’t have in Mega Man X, or fall into pits you wouldn’t have in Mega Man. This makes those aforementioned death sections all the more infuriating. So again, it’s no wonder this game has the bad reputation it does.

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But I will say it isn’t all bad. The bosses, and subsequent fights are generally pretty cool. These are the parts of the game where it starts to feel a little bit more like a good Mega Man game again. There are some interesting patterns to learn, and the designs of the bosses are honestly pretty awesome. They also make some of the death sections moot if you play them in the correct order. This is because they come back to help you in the story, which clears out some of the hazards. In these moments, Mighty No. 9 becomes pretty fun, and entertaining. This is in part because of some wonderful performances from the actors. All of the characters have personality, and flair because of them. Even Steven Blum shows up in it, as a boss!  That boss fight is also interesting because they do something original with it. You have to explore the level, and find him three times before it unlocks the boss room for you to face him. It’s a genuinely fun moment. Of course, the discovery of boss order is also ruined when you realize that the correct stage to play adds a second advice tab on its description. If you click said tab, you’ll hear the boss you defeated last, give dialogue. At this point, you just look for whichever level has the extra audio log displayed before entering.

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Another fun moment, (aside from an infuriating death trap section) is when you get to take control of the Roll stand-in, and infiltrate a base. It’s a Metal Gear themed stealth mission. But it’s done well, and shows off a completely different play style rather than just slap Mighty No. 9’s mechanics onto a different model. Even the boss in the level takes advantage of that. The final stage is a hodgepodge of everything you force yourself to learn throughout the game, and without giving too much away, the final encounter both requires you to know the mechanics, as well as getting lucky with item drops. At least in an initial play through. I will also give the soundtrack a nod in that the end credits feature a really cool performance from Mega Ran, as well as a chip tune OST you can turn on in the options. None of them are as memorable as the ones in early Mega Man games, but they aren’t half bad, and fit the action well.

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Mighty No. 9’s story isn’t too much different from the original Mega Man’s either. All of the robots in America go haywire, and Mighty No. 9 has to go save the day. The alterations here are that the enemy robots aren’t destroyed. Instead, their defeat somehow removes the computer virus making them go awry, and they grant Mighty No. 9 their weapon program afterwards. There’s even a Dr. Wily stand-in, although they throw in a twist you can see coming from a mile away.

If you do happen to become a super fan somehow, Mighty No.9 does have other modes that unlock as you play. These are a combination of timed challenges, co-operative challenges, and then some competitive internet speed runs. The trouble is, that with the lack of online players you’ll likely never play the speed runs, or co-op challenges.

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Mighty No. 9 made a lot of Worst Of 2016 lists. Really, the game itself probably isn’t the worst released last year. It has numerous problems, no doubt. But it’s still functional enough to play through. There are bright spots in it where it becomes fun as well. If not for the technical issues, and design flaws, this could have been above average. And you can see while playing where whatever happened behind the scenes during development killed potential. If the game looked as good in those early teasers, and played as well as the NES Mega Man games like it was supposed to, we’d be looking at a really good game. Instead, we’re looking at a barely average game marred further by a controversial development cycle. We’ll probably never learn what went wrong, or why it took so much money to give us something this ugly, unbalanced, and hobbled. If you’re morbidly curious about it, you could do worse. But you should probably invest in that Mega Man 2 Game Pak  for your NES instead. Or any of the Mega Man collections. Really any Classic Mega Man game will do.

Final Score: 5 out of 10

Undertale Review

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Last year a game came out of the underground gaming scene. A game that scored a lot of points with critics, and spawned a vast fandom in a short amount of time. Like an up, and coming alternative band it quickly caught the attention of mainstream audiences. Undertale is a big hit with a lot of folks. So as we enter a new year, I start it out by seeing just what all of the fuss is all about.

PROS: A well crafted adventure with elements of many genres.

CONS: Some areas have an insane level of difficulty.

PRANKS: They will certainly be played on you.

Undertale tells the story of an unnamed protagonist. A small child falls down a chasm, and wakes up in a series of caverns. After you name the small child, and create a save file, you are off to go spelunking. Early on in the game you begin to meet characters, and interact with them beginning a theme of consequences. Undertale’s hook, is that it has a multiple number of endings depending on what you choose to do. Do you help someone, or do you decide to let someone else take care of them? Do you take those items, or do you decide that they don’t belong to you? Do you kill an attacker, or do you let them go free?

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Throughout your journey the game will give you many, many choices, and most of them do impact the story as it goes along. You can pretty much make whatever decisions you want at your leisure, through the overwhelming majority of the game. At its heart, Undertale is an adventure game. But it has a lot of elements from RPGs, Shmups, and classic arcade games. This is especially true in its battles, where even here, choices are impactful on what you’ll do next. The game does spend the first act introducing you to not only some important characters, but the mechanics as well. Navigating the early corridors, you’re put into some situations that boil down to tutorials. The upside is that they don’t come off as tutorials, and they don’t come off as mundane. You’ll play a few puzzles, do some interaction, and even use the battle system.

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Undertale’s battle system looks like an old NES JRPG. You’ll have options under an attack, action, item, and mercy tabs. Attacking pulls up a timing mini game that feels like a free throw mini game from an old 16-bit EA Basketball game. You have to line up your attack in the center of a bar. The closer you get, the more damage you’ll do. The action tab, will have a number of options for diplomacy, depending on the enemy. You can try your hand at these in order to open up some emotional walls in an opponent. If you play your cards right, you can use these to win fights without injuring or killing anyone. The item tab lets you go through weapons, health, and object items, while the final tab lets you either try to flee a fight, (sometimes you can’t.) or let the opponent go. In some cases you can’t let them go until you’ve succeeded in your diplomatic tasks.

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During these turn-based sequences, when an enemy attacks you, you’re thrust into a mini-game. Some of them are shmups. Some of them are puzzles, but you’ll need to become proficient at either in order to survive. Some of the bosses do an insane amount of damage, so you’re also going to want to horde a lot of health items throughout the game.

The rest of the game is typical adventure, and RPG fare. You’ll explore towns, talk to characters, buy items from shops, and sleep in hotels. There are also some puzzles to solve in order to progress, along with some secrets if you’re willing to go exploring. These secrets can be a great benefit. Some of them will make certain boss fights a lot easier, or uncover some backstory for you.

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Visually, the game goes for a combination of old art styles. Some will certainly see inspiration from the Nintendo Entertainment System. But the battles will evoke memories of early CRPGs being played on a CGA monitor. Other times I was reminded of systems like the Atari 2600, or the Commodore 64. Undertale doesn’t stick to a single retro inspiration, it tries to display a number of them. The writing isn’t half bad either. So often games try to tell jokes, or have a dramatic moment, and it feels like a plead to love the characters.

Undertale genuinely made me laugh a couple of times, and frequently introduced characters I felt like I could get behind. This isn’t to say that it is the best game at doing these things. But I can give it some credit for a job well done. There are also a number of moments where the game will outright try to mess with you. Some of these attempts are feeble. But there are others that are pretty great. A few of which took me back to playing Eternal Darkness on the Gamecube.

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Be that as it may, I think a handful of fans might be a little bit blinded. Undertale is good. In fact, it’s very good. But it isn’t the first game to do what it does. Nor will it be the last. Many games have tried to show the importance of choices, and their consequences over the years. Ultima, System Shock, Bioshock, Epic Mickey are but a handful of them. Some of these games did it better. Others as well. Yes, some may have even done a far worse job.

However, when you take the choice system away, what you’re left with isn’t much. You have a pretty good story in this RPG adventure. But the world is smaller than some of those old 8-bit JRPGs, and CRPGs the game is inspired by. There are also long periods where you aren’t doing much of anything if you’re not exploring something or reading dialogue. I also ran into a technical problem where every so often my character would automatically veer left. I tried several controllers on the off chance I had broken my Xbox 360 controller, but the same thing continually happened. The game also isn’t configured to take screenshots in Steam. I had a difficult time trying to get some shots for this review, frequently juggling between applications.

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Pointing these things out doesn’t mean I didn’t like the game, or that it wasn’t fun. The multiple choices, and endings do give players a lot of incentive to replay the game a few times. There are certainly enough likable characters, and moments that make it a story worth experiencing. Undertale definitely has the potential to become a pretty big franchise because of those things. But the game could also stand to let the player do more, through a bigger world to explore. It could use some more meaningful interactivity in that world. It doesn’t have to be Earth shattering stuff. But more than choosing to be good or bad in a random battle, or a sparse puzzle. There are hints of that very early on. It would have been nice to see some more of it explored in the middle areas of the game, and the final leg of the journey. Some players might be turned off by a very sharp difficulty spike near the end of the game as well.

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These complaints aside, I did enjoy my time with Undertale. I can see why it has quickly become so beloved by so many. Hopefully if, and when a sequel arrives it addresses some of the technical issues, and adds just a tad bit more to do without feeling like padding. In the meantime go ahead, and pick up Undertale. It may not be the flawless game some insist it is, but it is a very, enjoyable one. One you will likely become very invested in.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Turbo Pug Review

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I love this time of year. I’m always reminded of the gifts of love, forgiveness, along with the people in my life. I can’t get them out of debt, or solve their complex problems, but I can try to give them a few moments of joy. So seeing how we’re mostly fans of gaming, I nab a bunch of stuff during Valve’s annual sales for my gift giving inventory. Often times I’ll use Steam Wallet cards to do this, since I’m not a big fan of interest fees.

Anyway, often times those cards leave nickels, dimes, and pennies in the wallet at the end. “What to do with forty-one cents?” I ask myself. Usually the answer is to just leave it there, until I want to buy something else. But this year, sorting the game list from cheapest game to highest price game revealed a really fun, and interesting title. One trading card sale later, I had enough coins to dive in.

PROS: Probably the best endless runner this side of Robot Unicorn Attack.

CONS: Intrusive Unity pop ups need to be toggled off.

WHAT?: There is an unlockable penguin who is seemingly useless.

On its surface Turbo Pug is little more than a cobbled together Robot Unicorn Attack clone. Since Adult Swim’s flash game, there have been countless endless runners. Some, like Bit Trip Runner, have been great, adding their own spin to the formula. Others like Meme Run have had mixed reaction to say the least.

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But Turbo Pug is actually one of the best endless runners you’ll probably ever play. Not only is it as addictive as Robot Unicorn Attack. Not only is it as fun as the Bit Trip series. It is oozing with charm. Turbo Pug puts you in the role of a pet pug running through randomized environments for points. There is a jump button, and that is pretty much it. All you need to do is time your jumps accordingly to avoid pits, lava, and more.

The longer you go, the more dangerous the traps become. By the time you get around 2,000 points or more you’ll begin to see spikes, buzz saws, and other nefarious plots to kill you. You can also find spinning pug coins that will give you 50 or 100 points depending on what axis they are on when you land on them.

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But Turbo Pug goes even farther than that. It has a real time, day, and night cycle. Over the course of a few minutes you will see the sun set, the moon rise, and the sun come up again. It also has weather cycles. At any given time the game will decide to rain or snow. When it rains, there is also the odd chance that your pug will be struck by lightning. If this happens you won’t be able to jump for a few seconds. But you also won’t fall from your current height until the sting is over.

“Wow!” you might exclaim.”That sounds pretty deep for what could pass for a cell phone time waster.” But at the risk of sounding like a game show announcer, that isn’t all. Turbo Pug also has a multitude of unlockable characters. Each character has its own properties, that may or may not help you in your quest for a high score. Super pug has a cape, and a double jump. Pumpkin pug has a light that comes on during night cycles. The penguin is slow, and will probably fall to his doom rather quickly.

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Turbo Pug also scratches your retro itch with its Amiga like sprites. The game looks like a 16-bit computer game through, and through. It has a great color palette, and the sprite art has a lot of great detail. The end result is beyond cute, and adorable. The audio really only features two songs, and some small sound effects. But the two songs are very catchy compositions that combine the soft rock sound of lite-FM, and Atari 2600 era chip tunes.

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The only real problems with Turbo Pug, are the intrusive Unity tool tips that come up the first time you play. You’ll want to disable them right away. Aside from that, while the game does engage in Valve’s Steam Trading Card program pretty well, it doesn’t have achievements. It seems like a game that would take advantage of achievements well, but they’re nowhere to be seen. There is a high score leaderboard though to motivate you to keep shooting for the stars.

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I highly recommend Turbo Pug. It could have easily indeed been a quickly churned out piece of shovelware. But it isn’t. There is a lot of effort on display for such a simple game. It’s engaging too. It will easily make you lose an afternoon to its cute protagonist, challenging jumping puzzles, and soft music if you allow it to. Let your actual pug have a well deserved nap, and fire up some Turbo Pug.

Final Score: 8 out of 10