Tag Archives: Devolver Digital

GATO ROBOTO Review

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Like the term or not, Metroidvania games have seen something of a resurgence in the world of independently made games. Large maps where you have to slowly discover and uncover areas through exploration have been around for years. But the best games with this design philosophy have had their own little hooks that make them stand out from the crowd. Axiom Verge, VVVVVV, and The Messenger all had unique takes on the idea. And Gato Roboto also has its own things it brings to the table.

PROS: It’s Metroid, The Nodes Of Yesod, Blaster Master, and Mega Man. With KITTIES!

CONS: Short. Veterans may find their way through even faster.

HUMOR: This game will get some laughs out of you.

Let’s get this out of the way. Gato Roboto is an excellent game. I think most people who buy it will enjoy it immensely. You’ll enjoy the gameplay, laugh at the jokes, and the Undertale inspired character designs are pretty good too. Aesthetically, Gato Roboto also wears the clothes of games played on our IBM PC Compatibles, Apple II’s, Commodore 64’s, Atari 800’s, and ZX Spectrums back in 1984. Outside of a handful of other mentions, most games that take the retro look take inspiration from the NES. So Gato Roboto stands out from the crowd a tad bit more in this regard.

It also helps that everything about this game is so darn cute. It’s like the folks at Doinksoft pretty much knew this was going to have to resonate with the Hallmark Card crowd, and it really does. You play the role of a cat who is on a military vessel with its owner. You, being a seemingly oblivious pet step on a keyboard which causes the navigation system to go off course. This results in a crash getting you and your owner marooned on an alien world. Your owner can’t escape the wrecked ship, so you agree to go do the job they cannot. Fortunately, they know a little bit about the planet and give you some clues.

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Before long, you’ll discover a lab that looks suspiciously like the save stations in Super Metroid. You’ll also find a vehicle that looks suspiciously like the vehicle from Blaster Master. And like the latter, throughout your adventure, there will be times you’ll need to get out of it. The difference is in Gato Roboto you’re entirely defenseless when roaming on foot. These moments have an element of stealth gameplay, where you have to sneak around or approach a situation like a puzzle. When riding around in your vehicle you convert into a tiny kitten themed mech. And much like the Metroid games, you’ll have to find items to give you more powerful weapons, longer health bars, and the ability to go places you previously could not.

It also has a bit of the pre-Metroid exploration games like The Nodes Of Yesod, and The Arc Of Yesod. Those games also had you rolling around a large map for items. But they didn’t scroll. Gato Roboto has some areas like this, where the screen just flips to the next one. And with the art style used, it really fits the motif. Even if it can be jarring with the spots that do have four-way scrolling.

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If Undertale made you laugh, it will be apparent to you that Toby Fox was an inspiration here. There is a lot of similar humor here. Characters balk at certain interactions. They’ll make references that are just vague enough that the intended audience gets them. And there are a few spots where they go the opposite direction with reference humor to make sure everyone gets the gag. They also throw in some stuff that only pet owners or the friends or relatives of pet owners will get.

Through it all, everything feels pretty tight. There aren’t too many moments where you’ll die and wonder why. That said, things do feel different when exploring the world on foot than they do when you’re piloting a vehicle. You have a little bit more momentum when scrambling around on four legs. You have a different arc and sense of gravity when jumping. There are also places you can go on foot that you can’t when piloting your mech. It all feels really good.

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Boss fights usually feel right out of the Metroid games. Though there are a few that will hearken back to the NES Mega Man games. One fight, in particular, reminded me of a very specific Sonic The Hedgehog fight. While another reminded me of playing Super R-Type. So there are a number of old-school references geezers like me can enjoy along with the contemporary ones those I have a decade on will love as well.

Throughout it all, the audio soundtrack complements it well. If I had any complaints about it, there isn’t any particular tune that really stood out to me. Nothing that I know will make me go “I know this was from Gato Roboto!” years from now. But there’s nothing here that will feel out of place.

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The only thing I feel that some people won’t like is just how short it can feel. My first playthrough was done in less than four hours. I found nearly 75% of all of the items in the process. By contrast, I probably put a good 20 hours into The Messenger, and Axiom Verge each. Be that as it may, Gato Roboto’s vehicle mechanic and collectibles do feel unique from other exploration games. It’s also a good candidate for speed running. In fact, one of its achievements on Steam is centered around it. As for the collectibles, you can find up to 14 hidden cartridges in the game’s map. If you manage to get them, they’ll allow you to change the color scheme from black and white graphics to other two-toned visual solutions. But more importantly, finding them all will allow an NPC to give you better equipment. If you go for a 100% completion run this might extend that playtime a bit. Especially if you decide to do that before trying to speed run the game or getting through it without going for the better items.

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In conclusion, Gato Roboto does do enough to set itself apart from other Metroidvania style games. It’s very funny, has some challenging bosses, and some of the items can be pretty tough to get. I just wish it could have been just a little bit longer. On the other hand, a good game should leave you wanting more. Gato Roboto is a good game. One you ought to check out. Especially if you’ve already played some of its acclaimed contemporaries. And even if you haven’t, you’ll still likely enjoy it a lot. Especially if you like to get legitimate moments of comic relief in your games. Gato Roboto is one stray worth taking in.

Final Score: 8 out of 10.

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Things that most intrigued me from E3 this year.

Well, another year, another E3. Per usual there has been a slew of major announcements, directs, and panels. There’s a lot of talk about the Nintendo, and Square Enix presentations being the highlights of the year. While there’s no question there were a lot of major revelations and surprises that came from these two juggernauts, there was a lot of stuff overall. And while it’s true that some of the major panels turned out to be duds, there were some big titles that came out of the least hyped pressers.

E3 may not be as exciting as it used to be, but it still remains one of the biggest game-themed conventions around thanks to its long-standing relationship with being an industry, and press themed show. In recent years they’ve allowed fans to attend, but it is still geared far more toward showing off products than it is toward fandom.

In any case, every year I find myself more interested in some of the more obscure games than many of the popular ones. This year seemed to follow that trend for me, though there were still a couple of huge hits that squeaked their way in. In any event, read on. Maybe some of these will pique your interest too.

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10.) AMD Ryzen 9 3900X

A lot of folks were probably way more hyped about Final Fantasy than a computer component. But for those who tuned into the AMD conference this year, this was a major revelation. At $499 it’s price competitive with as well as comparable to the Intel i9 9920k.  They also showed off the benefit of extra cores when showing off the 8 core Intel i9 9900k, and 12 core AMD 3900X chips running Division 2, with OBS, on maxed settings. While the game itself ran comparably, the stream quality was night and day. If you’re a streamer who is going to be in the market for a new build in July, this may very well be worth your consideration. Especially when considering the current 12 core Intel solution is $1200 as of this writing.

 

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09.) No More Heroes III

While Travis Strikes Again wasn’t fantastic, it wasn’t bad enough to sour me on the franchise. No More Heroes 1, had a great story, fun characters, and dark humor. Bogged down by a barren overworld. No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle was streamlined and a terrific hack n’ slash game as a result. All we really got was a trailer with a glimpse of familiar gesture moves. But it was well put together. It veered toward the stuff we loved about the first two entries on the Wii. So I’m cautiously optimistic that Suda51 will deliver.

 

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08.) ASTRAL CHAIN

We previously only had a glimpse of this one, but the expanded footage made this game look even cooler. Giant robot monsters. Robot Police Officers. Fast-paced combat that Platinum Games is known for. The aesthetics are bombastic. The visual presentation is something that gets a resounding “Yes.”. Hopefully, this game continues Platinum Games’ tradition of quality action games.

 

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07.) Daemon X Machina

Last year Nintendo showed off a quick trailer of this one which looked amazing. Then they put out a short playable demo that gave us the basic concept. We know there will be a customizable character you can play as and that the system for doing so is deep. We know that you’ll be piloting giant mechs and that during missions you can even get out of them to fight on foot. The controls needed some fine tuning but other than that it felt like it would be a solid action game. This year’s trailer showed off a lot more. It looks even more expansive and the action looks even more hectic than before. Here’s hoping the extra time made everything that much better across the board.

 

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06.) Enter The Gungeon: House Of The GunDead

Devolver Digital always seems to have a great conference every year as they’re able to find a way to tell people what they’re releasing candidly while lampooning current trends the entire time. They showed off a few cool looking indie games but then they dropped a bombshell. The company is bringing out an actual arcade cabinet based on Enter The Gungeon. This game is a rail shooter in the vein of Operation Wolf, but with full-on light guns. It looks awesome. While I don’t have space to house it or the budget to buy one, I am interested to see one in action. Hopefully, a convention like RetroWorldExpo or Portland Retro Gaming Expo may have one on display someday.

 

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05.) The Messenger: Picnic Panic

The Messenger was one of the coolest takes on the Metroidvania in a while. It had fantastic action, a great story and terrific time-travel themed feature that was used very well. If you still haven’t played it, you should. It’s awesome. For those who have played through the game and were left wanting more Devolver also revealed that the expansion pack to the game will be coming soon. Plus it will be free! The trailer shows off a new beach themed area, new enemies and even a cool octopus boss fight. Any excuse to fire up more of The Messenger is a good one. Let’s see what Sabotage has in store.

 

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04.) Cyberpunk 2077

While RPGs aren’t my go-to genre, I can appreciate a good one and CD Projekt Red‘s next outing looks like it could be as big as their Witcher franchise. The expanded footage they showed off during Microsoft’s conference gave some nice details on the storyline where we’ll be playing the role of a mercenary in a dystopian future. The facial animations were quite impressive and the action looked great. This one may veer toward the Action RPG than the Witcher games did but even if that turns out to be true it will hopefully have enough to sate fans of the slower methodical pace of traditional RPGs too.

 

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03.) Outriders

While it’s hard to say how this is going to turn out as Square’s segment on it showed very little outside of a prerendered trailer, I am intrigued. For a couple of reasons. First, People Can Fly is a studio that has always made fast-paced First-Person Shooters of a very high caliber. Painkiller was an amazing FPS with a Smash T.V. feel. It was like a darker version of Croteam’s Serious Sam. Years later they would find themselves working with Epic and EA where they made Bulletstorm. This was another high-quality game that felt like Half-Life 2’s linear style of action game in one sense. You played through different set pieces as the story demanded. But on the other hand, the action felt a lot like Platinum Games’ MadWorld. You had to find creative ways in the environment to dispatch your enemies for big rewards. Oddly enough, Steven Blum voiced the protagonists of both Bulletstorm and MadWorld. Outriders will be a completely different kind of experience. It already seems like there will be some sort of hero or class system. But the character design looks really cool. Especially the monsters you’ll fight which remind me of the old Inhumanoids toys. Couple those toys with People Can Fly’s track record and we may see something special.

 

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02.) The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild Part II

Yeah, I know everyone is pretty much excited for this one. But seeing how great the first one turned out coupled with the imagery from the teaser, you can bet I’ll keep an eye on this one. There was a lot of Zelda shown off this year between the reboot of Link’s Awakening (which looks adorable by the way. I love the claymation art style going on), and Caydence Of Hyrule. But this one already looks pretty amazing. It’s probably a good two years out, but it looks great.

 

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01.) Chivalry II.

I’m going to preface this by saying that no, the original game wasn’t perfect. It had its share of bugs. When you made it to the highest level of play there were ways to exploit the movement system to do things the developers didn’t think possible. And while the expansion pack was fun, the lack of a true Team Objective mode meant many fans merely dabbled in it whereas in the base game they poured scores of hours into it. But in the grand scheme of things Chivalry was, and still is one of the most enjoyable competitive First-Person action games of recent memory. It did something few other games thought of at the time: Take the objective focus of a Modern Military Shooter like Battlefield and change the setting to the Medieval period. And while the game really veers into the Hollywood action side of things by portraying everything similarly to old time castle siege movies, there is some realism. The weapons in it existed. The missions take liberties with some of the dark war practices of that part of history.

So the original game was a blast in spite of all of its faults. This game looks to build upon the original’s solid foundation by adding new features. You’ll get to ride horses bringing essentially vehicular combat to the game. You’ll have newer objectives apparently. And they claim that the slashing action is being completely overhauled so some of the cheap looking stuff that could be done in the first game won’t be replicated here. I loved the original game so much that I put hundreds of hours into it. But as much as I love Chivalry I am tempering expectations a bit. The 1-year exclusivity with the Epic Games storefront is going to be a turn off for some. And while Mirage: Arcane Warfare was a fantastic take on the Hero shooter, it was a commercial failure. One can only hope that didn’t leave too bad a taste in the mouths of some buyers. All of those caveats aside, I really do hope Chivalry II lives up to Torn Banner Studios‘ advertised features. The trailer looked fantastic and something fans of the original 2012 release have wanted for a long time. It’s due out next year so hopefully, it shows up ready for primetime.

 

So there you go. Ten of the things that I was really invested in seeing. By no means is this complete, but these are the ones that stayed the freshest in my mind. But how about you folks out there? Feel free to comment below! Perhaps there’s something I missed or overlooked!

The Messenger Review

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Sometimes a game comes out with a ton of fanfare, but ultimately lets everybody down. This is not one of those games. The Messenger earns every ounce of excitement, and praise preemptively thrown its way. Nearly everything about this one is so on point you can stop reading, and buy the game. In the words of Triple H, it is “That damn good.”

PROS: Sprite work. Controls. Music. Story. Humor. Nearly everything really.

CONS: A bug that makes a certain section of the game nearly impossible to solve.

NINJA GAIDEN: The original NES designers were invited to play it, and loved it.

The Messenger was largely advertised as a love letter to the trilogy of NES Ninja Gaiden games. Upon booting up the game it’s easy to see why. The action, cinema screens, wall climbing, and secondary weapon throwing are obviously influenced by those classics. Devolver Digital even had the two lead designers of Ninja Gaiden play their demo before release as they couldn’t wait to see their reaction.

But while The Messenger would have likely done well enough as a mere homage, that wasn’t good enough for the team at Sabotage. The Messenger does so much more than mimic one of gaming’s best action platform games. It uses that formula as one small piece in a much, much larger puzzle. A puzzle that will likely take you hours to solve.

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The Messenger centers around a Ninja clan that gets attacked by monsters. As one of the Ninjas, you’re chastised by your sensei for not taking your training seriously. You’re told a super warrior is supposed to save the day, but unfortunately for everyone this person doesn’t show up in time. The monsters wipe out the village, and you’re about to be destroyed when they show up just in time. The enemies retreat, and this warrior gives you a scroll. You’re told to deliver the scroll to the top of a mountain, and so you go on your way.

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I won’t go into the rest of the surprisingly deep, and convoluted storyline here. But rest assured it is quite good. Filled with twists, turns, and even a lot of sardonic humor. I laughed a lot at the various jokes throughout my time with the campaign. But at the same time, I was pleasantly surprised at just how invested in the overall story I became. Plus the gameplay ties into everything very nicely. When the game begins, it truly will remind you of the NES Ninja Gaiden games. You have a similar run speed. You have similar jumping physics. You’ll even have a sense of familiarity as you can climb certain walls.

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But The Messenger throws in its own entirely new mechanics that set it decidedly apart from Ninja Gaiden. Most notably the extra jump you can get by killing enemies, or hitting specific targets. If you get the timing right, you can jump, hit a target, and jump immediately after to get extra air. You can also gain momentum by repeating the process on subsequent targets. This allows you to kind of hop distances between targets, and get through areas faster.  As you progress, the game makes mastering this technique essential, as it begins throwing in jumping puzzles, as well as highly challenging platforming sections where you’re surrounded by bottomless pits, spikes, or other death traps.

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The game goes along much like those old NES action games. You’ll battle your way through a stage, then fight a boss, watch some dialogue boxes, or cinema screens, and move on. However each stage has a few checkpoints after every few gauntlets. Some of these gauntlets are shops, where you can spend the diamond shards you find on upgrades for your ninja. Some of these give you more resistance to damage. Some of these give you more attack power.

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Over time you’ll also acquire new abilities like a wind suit, and grappling hook. And later in the game you’ll need them because stages are built around their use. It’s crafted so well, and so engrossing you’ll want to keep playing until you get to the final showdown with the demon army, and win the day. Throughout it all, you’ll be blown away at the NES inspired sprite work, and Famicom-esque chip tunes. It’s nothing short of amazing, and you’ll love every minute of it.

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Another interesting mechanic is that while old school, this is another game that ditches lives. Instead of dying a set number of times, or having a limited set of continues, you simply keep playing. Now the original first two Ninja Gaiden games on the NES had unlimited continues. However this game does something a bit different. When you die, a little red bookie monster shows up. He steals any money you make until his debt for respawning you is paid. So while the game becomes more forgiving, at the same time you do well for not dying. Because not dying means more money, and more money means getting all of the items, and upgrades sooner.

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When you finally defeat the Demon army’s second in command you’ll probably do what I did. Think there’s one last stage where your endurance, and cunning are pushed to the proverbial limit. Then one grandiose boss fight, and a satisfying finish. Well this is one part of the game I have to spoil in order to talk about the entire package. I’m not giving away details, just know that nothing could be further from the truth. The game basically comes out, and yells “Surprise! Now you’re going to play a Metroid clone!” The game really opens up at this point, and connects every stage you’ve played together. This makes one overarching world, and you’ll be sent throughout it.

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However, The Messenger does not go sending you on power up fetch quests, in order access the new areas. Rather, you have to go find items that act as keys, and find NPCs to further the story. You can buy map markers in the shops, but even then, getting to those places is going to be very intimidating when you first attempt it. These new areas are filled with new traps, and puzzles. There are also challenge rooms where you can try to get these green tokens. If you find every one of them in the game there’s a surprise waiting for you. But that’s not even the best part.

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The Messenger also adds a dash of stage morphing. It may just remind you of Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams, although it isn’t done in the same way. The storyline adds an element of time travel, where you go through portals that send you 500 years into the future. And then other ones send you back. When you go into the future, the 8-bit NES aesthetics change to 16-bit Super NES aesthetics! The music also goes from sounding like the Famicom, to sounding like the Super Famicom, and Mega Drive decided to go on tour together. The soundtrack in this game immediately skyrockets from a pretty great one, to an absolutely stellar one. Not only that, but the game uses the time travel mechanic in some pretty intricate ways. Like Metroid Prime 2: Echoes did, The Messenger will make you go to one area of the map in the present, go through a portal to the future, so that you’ll come out in the right place in a different section of the map. Then you’ll go through a portal there to come back in the present where you’ll meet an NPC, or find a room with a green token challenge. Or something else entirely.

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The story also begins to get both more interesting, and more cryptic when you discover a hub section, and you’re discovering entirely new areas that were never part of a previous linear stage from the first act of the game. They’ve done a terrific job with all of this, and that’s before you even get to the impressive boss encounters that follow. They make the early bosses you may have found difficult seem like you were lifting feathers before. But it does this by easing you over time without you even realizing it. It’s an action game, that becomes an adventure game, that implements a feeling you get when playing an RPG.

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And I think that’s probably the best thing about The Messenger. It’s like you’re playing two completely different games back to back. You played Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword Of Chaos. But instead of credits, a dying Jaquio goes “It’s not over. You have to defeat Mother Brain now, or the world will end! Ha. Ha. Ha.” The fact that it makes you feel elated, rather than angry is quite the feat.

So with all of that said, is this a 10 out of 10 game that will forever be the title future indie games are held to as a standard? Not quite. Though it is very impressive, and should be something you should buy I had one major problem with it. At one point in the game there is a section where you have to navigate an area by listening for sound. Well for whatever reason, the game would not play the sound properly. It made finding my way through a complete crapshoot. I had to guess my way through as if I were playing the final stage of Super Mario Bros. And while this isn’t something that breaks the game, as you can still get through it. It does ruin the intended experience of hearing what you need to hear in the place you need to hear it in order to follow the right path. I’m sure in time they may fix it with a patch. But as it stands it’s just enough to keep me from calling it near flawless.

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Still, if you were hoping for a wonderful homage to Ninja Gaiden, you’ll get it. If you were hoping for something more than a wonderful homage to Ninja Gaiden you’ll get it. The Messenger truly is one of the best games to come out this year, and is something you really ought to check out. It’s one of the most engrossing games you’ll play this year. As impressive as the trailers may be, it’s still the kind of game you have to see to believe. Go buy The Messenger now. Even if you’re just stumbling upon this review 500 years from now.

Final Score: 9.5 out of 10

Broforce Review

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Way back when The Expendables 3 was coming out in theatres, I reviewed a freeware game based on the film. That game was built upon today’s game as a spinoff. Why didn’t I talk about Broforce then? Well it was in Early Access back then. Which meant that the game wasn’t finished. Obviously I can’t review something that is incomplete. But, an exit from Early Access at the end of 2015, and a generous Christmas gift later, Broforce is technically done. Is it better than the free game from awhile ago? Yes it is.

PROS: Over 50 years of action movie nostalgia. Hilarious. Fluid controls.

CONS: Some may find it too repetitive. Insanely difficult bosses.

MISSING: A few noteworthy names.

Broforce is another in a long line of independent action platformers. You’ll be moving your characters from A to B, mowing down enemies, and fighting bosses. Initially you may come to the conclusion that it’s yet another budget title inspired by Contra, Ikari Warriors, and Commando. In some ways, that is a fair assumption. But stick with it for more than ten minutes. Before long you’ll find that it differentiates itself in a variety of ways.

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Right out of the proverbial box, the game tells you all you need to know. Broforce is a parody, and celebration of action hero movies. There are references to over 50 years worth of films. Of both the big budget blockbuster, and low budget, direct-to-video B movie variety. The game even references action themed television. Rambo, Robocop, Universal Soldier, and 007 films, are but a mere handful of the properties that see themselves lampooned.

Broforce has a pretty hearty selection of modes considering the kind of game it is. The primary mode is its campaign mode. Here, you will go on 15 missions, each with several stages. Earlier stages give you a handle on the basics, but they quickly ramp up the difficulty. In each stage you’ll also see captives. Freeing the captives is your ticket to unlocking each of the many playable action heroes the game has to offer. This is also the way to score 1-ups. When you lose a life, your next life will be a different character. You’ll never get the same character to show up twice in a row.

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After running through a number of stages you’ll face a boss character. These can range from beefier enemies you’ll face regularly in subsequent levels to over the top finales. Unfortunately boss fights are one of the few things in Broforce that might sour some players. That is because a number of them are just brutal. While they do have patterns you’ll eventually figure out, they aren’t intuitive. The first several times you attempt these fights, you’ll find the clues to victory are almost cryptic. You’ll feel very trial, and error at least initially. Once you finally do realize what you must do to win, these fights are still going to be pretty tough.

Beating a mission will take you back to a globe that looks like something out of Minecraft. You move a helicopter around it to go to the various missions. You can do some of these in whatever order you wish, but not all of them. There are also optional missions that crop up from time to time. You really should play through these for two reasons. First, you’ll get gear that can make things a little bit easier for you. Second, these stages require you to learn some of the more advanced movement techniques that game has to offer.

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These techniques are almost a necessity when you get to the final leg of the campaign, where dexterity is a must. You’ll need to be able to speed jump, wall jump, and shoot with expert timing. All combined with the basics you’ll learn early on. Each of the characters has three basic moves, and a special. You can jump, shoot, or use a melee attack. Special moves are tied to things they’ve done in, TV or film. Sometimes they’ll be of a better use in combat. Other times in movement. In either situation it’s going to pay to not only master them, but to plan on when to unleash them since each has a limited number of uses.

When you finally do beat the campaign, you’ll find you won’t be done. Because there are a host of multiplayer options, as well as a harder version of the campaign to play through. Ironbro mode allows you one life for each of the action stars you rescue. No continues. No mulligans. If Rambo falls off of a cliff, he’s gone forever. Considering how difficult the boss fights are, you can’t afford to lose a single hero in the normal stages.  But that’s not all. Aside from the two campaigns, you have an arcade mode that eschews the storyline. You also have multiplayer, both online, and offline for up to four players. You can play the campaign together, or play competitive modes. The game also includes the level editor used by the developers themselves! There are already countless maps up on the Broforce Community Workshop.

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Multiplayer is a lot of fun. Playing locally is especially fun, as it brings back the feeling of gaming with friends. As great as the online options are here, it was nice to see local couch or desk multiplayer included. Playing the game with friends is as frantic as playing Contra or Battletoads with a friend. Everyone will have to try spectacularly hard to stay together, and communicate strategies together, on the fly. The game also lets you drop in or out on the fly.

Playing online means you can either set up a private game that friends can join, or you can hop onto a public game, or host one. Playing privately is probably the best option short of couch play. But you never know who might play with you publicly. In the few games I joined, I found a lot of really skilled players, that made things a lot more cohesive. But being the weakest player in a few of those games, I’m not sure how much I contributed. Either way, it made an already fun game more entertaining. Though I must admit if you get into a group of fairly unforgiving people it could be less so. Fortunately, it’s easy to drop out if you find yourself paired up with anyone you don’t get along with.

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Versus modes come in two varieties. The first is a race mode that plays a lot like Giana Sisters Dream Runners. In the sense that you have to make the opponent fall so far behind they’re off screen. Doing this results in a win. But you’re also granted access to your weapons. So you’ll be killing enemies, and trying to avoid calamities the entire time. Some of these rounds can become pretty heated, so you might just want to play the race mode.

The second is a death match mode. Think of it like a combination of Joust, and Duck Game. You’ll run about an on rails scrolling stage, trying to kill each other. There isn’t much else to mention here. It’s nowhere near the depth of the aforementioned games, and you probably won’t get a lot of play time out of it as a result. Community maps help this a bit, but it still isn’t as fun as the campaign. Really, playing co-operatively is the best kind of multiplayer for the game, and it shows.

 

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The aspiring designers out there will also want to stay for the level building tools. Which is surprisingly intricate. You can use any of the game’s built in assets to make stages as simple or as complicated as you wish. You can also upload them to the Steam community. Again, there are hundreds of levels made by fans you can download, and install. So even if you don’t feel compelled to create your own stages, you’ll probably find a lot of ones you enjoy playing through.

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Broforce is a wonderful game, through, and through. While the campaign can get a little bit repetitive if you blow through it in a marathon session, it is still a blast. It makes a great party game when you have friends or relatives over. It even manages to be a lot of fun online with very few connectivity issues. It might not look quite as nice as other indie platformers in its league. But it has plenty of charm, and humor. It’s such a good time you probably won’t be bothered all that much.  It’s well worth the asking price. If you’re still on the fence you can always check out the Expendabros game. It will give you a good idea of what you’re in for, and costs you nothing. But for anyone who loves action games, and action films, Broforce is a entertaining ride worth taking.

Final Score:8.5 out of 10

The Talos Principle Review

Croteam. A company that has given us a series inspired by Robotron 2084, Doom, and Duke Nukem 3D over the past decade. They’ve branched out, and given us a first person puzzle game. The Talos Principle has had a lot of praise heaped upon it since its release at the tail end of last year. Yet many people still haven’t heard of the game, let alone played it. Is it worth the critical acclaim? Yes. Is it as grand as claimed? Not entirely, but once you play it, it’s easy to see why it is so highly regarded.

PROS: Engaging story. Crafty puzzles. Some clever writing.

CONS: Begins to drag near the end. Subject matter won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

EASTER EGGS: Many, many, MANY Easter Eggs.

The Talos Principle is a big surprise considering the sorts of games Croteam has made. But it is not an action game. Instead, the game follows the path of Valve’s Portal, and the Namco published Deadcore. Very much like those games you’ll be solving logic puzzles in first person. The game tries to follow a similar path too. Easing you into each mechanic, at least until the half way point. You’ll find some puzzles involve moving boxes onto levers to open doors. Or bridging lines of light with crystal connectors to open doors, or turn on another contraption. By the last leg of puzzles, you’ll even have to use security cameras, that use an in-game playback of your actions to solve puzzles. These, along with others can be very difficult to finish.

Sometimes the game likes to mess with you, by adding doors, switches or items you don’t need to use at all whatsoever. Other times it isn’t always obvious what to do, which is fine. But sometimes you’ll have a puzzle that is VERY particular about how it needs to be solved. Moments like these can take you a good hour or more to figure out, and even then might require a level of dexterity you need practice to reach.

When you first start the game you’re cast into an initial puzzle that not only tries to ease you into the mechanics, but the story as well. Talos Principle is about an Artificial Intelligence construct who is in a simulation. As that construct you’ll hear a voice from a being called Elohim. He guides you through the first half of the game, telling you to solve these logic puzzles before you can reach the highest level of consciousness. But once you begin exploring these levels you begin tor realize not is all what it seems. Throughout the game are audio logs from a woman who talks a lot about philosophical, theological, scientific topics, and theories. You also begin to find these very old IBM XT styled computer terminals. Many of these have similarly themed documents, along with emails, blog entries, articles, and so forth. Eventually these terminals begin to even debate these topics with you, and you’ll eventually discover that this is much more than a simulation. This part of the review might let off a couple of minor spoilers. So if you don’t want the story leaked out to you, skip ahead a couple of paragraphs.

It turns out the human race is wiped extinct from a cataclysmic event, and that the entire world you explore is an attempt to put all of the species’ knowledge into one machine. The one glaring flaw in this is that it is never explained exactly how logic puzzles do this, but the rest of what you are given is pretty captivating. What is really nice is the game doesn’t get too pretentious, or authoritative about anything. There are certainly allegorical elements to the story, and one might be able to infer some of the writer’s viewpoint. But at the same time it doesn’t beat you over the head screaming “This is how it is.” For the most part it throws things out there, and doesn’t try to change your mind. Rather it throws out a lot of different viewpoints, and lets you digest them. It certainly takes some influence from other works of fiction. I was reminded of stories like Dark City, and Do Robots Dream Of Electric Sheep/Blade Runner, among others.

While the story isn’t the most original one, it is a nice take on the idea of worlds within worlds, and the aftermath of the apocalypse. It also lends itself well to the actual gameplay, as everything in the game is centered around puzzles. So even the story bringing up the big philosophical questions of life can be seen as yet another puzzle.  The puzzles themselves do follow a structure. When you complete the first  puzzle you’ll find your rewards for solving puzzles are pieces out of Tetris the game calls Sigils. The goal is to earn enough of these sigils to open a barrier with them which takes you into the next leg of your journey. Eventually you’ll find yourself in a hub world. The hub world leads to 8 worlds. Each with so many sigils locked behind puzzles. Defeat enough of these, and you can use the sigils to solve a puzzle, and escape.

But your escape leads you to yet another hub world. Which has other hub worlds. One of which is a giant tower, while another leads to an underground church hub level. A third takes you to a hub level based on ancient Egypt. Which shouldn’t surprise you as much of Serious Sam’s stages went with that theme. The voice of Elohim warns you not to go into the tower which leads to the fact the game has a number of endings. If you can beat all of the puzzles you can either get a good or bad ending depending on which exit you take. There is one in the tower, and of course one in the church hub.

But there is also a third finish which is tied to one of the most grueling, and difficult aspects of the game. Star sigils. Each hub world has a number of super secret sigils shaped like stars in its puzzle stages. If you can manage to collect all of them, you then have access to more secret puzzles, that upon defeat lead you to a third super secret ending. The Talos Principle has almost too much content as a result. Even those who want the base level experience, and the least satisfying finish can put many, many hours into it. The last leg of normal puzzles can be very challenging, and have a negative side effect of dragging on.

The game does have a hint system, but it’s obfuscated by more puzzles. Throughout the game you’ll find QR codes, much like the ones on products you scan with a cell phone. In this you can find shrines where you can place one, and the game will answer you with a hint. On the stipulation you’ve found these super secret hub worlds, and solved enough puzzles in them to awaken a helper. The helper also answers you with a cryptic hint as to beating any given level. Moreover, you only get so many hints before your answered with “Figure it out on your own”.

Of course being a game by Croteam this is powered by the Serious engine. The Talos Principle looks beautiful. Skyboxes look amazing, the game makes excellent use of its color palette, and the lighting effects never feel overdone. The bloom effects are beautiful, the lighting flares are used at just the right moments. Shadows, and shades are used to great effect here. Going along with those pretty graphics, are some excellent voice work, and background music. When you listen to a very well acted voice sample, the wistful, and somber music amplifies the emotion in the performance. The soundtrack fits the imagery constantly. Even the cathedral hub’s Gregorian styled hymnal music echoes the overall vibe of its setting. There’s a serenity to all of it, that can even be eerie at times.

Thankfully, the game controls very well most of the time. Occasionally you might find the line of sight a connector displays isn’t accurate when you place it down. Sometimes you might slip off of a surface even though you should have stopped on it. But these instances don’t happen nearly often enough to ruin anything. Although you may become a little frustrated when they do happen. Generally though, everything works the way it is supposed to. Brisk, and usually spot on. Which is good because, toward the end you’ll run into a number of puzzles that require precision, and timing.

Overall, Talos Principle is really good. It has some nice puzzles. It has an engaging story arc. It’s really hampered by going on a little bit too long. Which is a strange criticism as these days everyone asks for more, and more content in their games. Nevertheless, the long length will drag on for some. If you’re one of them you’ll have to take a couple of days away from it here, and there to avoid burning out on it. There are also a lot of Easter eggs for anybody who loves finding secrets in their video games.  If Croteam ever follows up with a sequel, one can only hope a little bit more puzzle variety is included to keep things from becoming monotonous at the end. But don’t let that dissuade you from trying the game out. It is still very enjoyable, has a science fiction story that is engaging, and is generally a really good game. Just make sure you don’t  try to power through it in a weekend.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Shadow Warrior (Reboot) Review

 

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Many times as fans we have to cringe whenever one of our favorite movies, or games is remade. In many of those cases we find our worst fears come to pass, the story might be so far removed from the original it might as well have been its own franchise entirely. Other times they may get the core concept right, but little else. It’s rare when something fires on all cylinders, and meets or surpasses our lofty expectations.

PROS: An entertaining single player campaign. Flying Wild Hog does it again.

CONS: Some cheap enemies. Some players won’t like the lack of MP.

HOLY REFERENCES BATMAN: Including Monty Python, Star Wars, and Stan Bush.

Movies often have a worse track record than games, but there have still been a large number of misfires over the last thirty years. Last year however there were a couple of pretty good ones. Rise Of The Triad was a pretty great remake that essentially put new tech on an old game, without really changing too much of what made it awesome originally. Shadow Warrior takes a different approach, and oddly enough manages to pull that off without too many missteps along the way.

 

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The original Shadow Warrior was both a good, and bad game. Built off of the Build engine that Duke Nukem 3D used, it had a long campaign, huge maps to explore, and a plethora of secrets. In theory, fans of Duke 3D should have loved it as it carried over much of what was liked. There were two big problems with it. The storyline wasn’t very memorable, and the humor in it started to cross the line of trying to be edgy, and veer into “This isn’t funny it’s just stupid, and mean” territory. While it never got as horrid as the stuff that showed up in the Postal series it certainly got a lot of ire, and faded away pretty quickly once Quake came out.

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Many fans were perplexed when this new Shadow Warrior was teased leading up to release. Would it throw in a lot of pointless cultural jokes? Would it retain the open maps of the old 2.5D era, or would it be a linear modern design? With Hard Reset behind them, Flying Wild Hog set out to reboot the franchise as a modern game that doesn’t forget about the 3D Realms game it came from.  They succeeded.

 

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Shadow Warrior runs on the same custom engine that Hard Reset was made in. It shares some elements with Hard Reset, but is certainly not the “Hard Reset with a Shadow Warrior paint job” some of the fans of the original feared. In the game you play a reimagined Lo Wang who is now a prominent crime family member sent on a quest to find a mysterious sword. When a rival crime boss refuses to sell it, and you take it by force, all hell breaks loose as a demonic race of monsters begins invading the Earth. While you fought them in the original game, here the story gives it more of a purpose. As Lo Wang tries to figure out why the monsters are here, what the sword has to do with them, and how to survive, he meets a demon named Hoji. Hoji explains about a secret plot involving Whisperers, these robot like beings that hold demon’s memories away. This leads the two on a quest to track down these beings so Hoji can remember what is going on, and how it involves Lo Wang’s master.

 

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Shadow Warrior is a single player campaign that goes on for around 16 stages, most of which clip along at a decent length. It follows a contemporary design used by many of today’s shooters like BioShock Infinite. You will enter an area, explore it getting more back story along with secrets, and hidden items. Then you’ll enter another section, and engage in a shooting gallery area. Sometimes there will be an in-game engine cinematic thrown in between. On paper it may seem like an also-ran but it does a number of things to differentiate it from other games in the genre.

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The stages, while having a very linear path, do reward, and encourage exploration. Instead of only having the clichéd “Hallway, and two tiny alcoves” layout, they are instead one massive environment with barriers over the path. Stages feel less like a line, and more like a fun house instead. You will find in a number of stages you’ve backtracked without even realizing it, and then still be able to go back to other spots to look for secrets.

 

There are A LOT of secrets too. Going off of the beaten path will lead you to secret items, or retro themed rooms based upon the original Shadow Warrior. Some of these even reference the anime girls hidden in the old game. The game also tosses in its own Easter eggs. Not only referencing Hard Reset, but games Devolver Digital published including Serious Sam 3, and Hotline Miami.

 

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Weapons, and gunplay feel really spot on as well. Guns have the heft, and loud explosions you would expect. Many are updates from the old game including favorites like the crossbow, rocket launcher and the Uzi. All of the weapons can be upgraded through Shadow Warrior’s store system. As you play the game you can collect Karma points from blood altars, as well as killing enemies. Get enough of them , and you can unlock special abilities. You can also power up your sword attacks by collecting crystals. These allow you to recover health, use different stances, or swings with your sword. You can also use the money you find ransacking drawers, and cabinets throughout the game to beef up your various guns.

 

There is a really wide variety of enemies to attack too. Some of your favorites from the original are here, along with a lot of new ones. Many of whom take special patterns, or have a special weakness to take down. Boss fights are especially satisfying. While they are all taken down in a similar fashion their designs are really cool. Each fitting the environments of their respective stages, and the mythos of the storyline being presented.

 

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The game also has a lot of truly funny moments, a lot of which takes a more subtle comic relief approach rather than the low brow gags the old game went for. There are certainly a few cheap laughs too, such as the fortune cookie messages you can find, or in some of the dialogue. But it’s done well without pushing the envelope for the sake of doing so.

Hard Reset was a pretty nice looking first effort for Flying Wild Hog, and Shadow Warrior continues the trend. There are a fairly diverse number of environments throughout the game. The game is colorful, from mountainous Japanese villages, to industrialized factories, to some really dark, volcanic caverns Shadow Warrior looks great. This is an indie developer showing the world that B games can certainly sate fans of AAA visuals even if they aren’t pushing the same number of triangles, and light bloom.

 

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The game ran fairly brisk on my aging hardware on high settings, dropping the frame rate only during the final wave of enemies before the final stage. Shadow Warrior is fairly scalable, allowing you to change texture quality, resolution, V-sync options, AA, and all of the features you’ve come to expect.

Beating the game will unlock a gallery, and the ability to re watch the comic book inspired scenes shown between certain levels. There are already some nice add-ons for this game like the Viscera Clean Up Detail add-on that puts you in the role of a janitor who has to clean up Lo Wang’s messes.

 

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Shadow Warrior is one of the rare times a remake can go in an opposite direction, and still turn out to be a great game that doesn’t disregard the core fans who loved the original. While those who may have wanted a multiplayer mode tackled on might be disappointed, anyone looking for a truly good single player campaign should pick this up. Whether or not you enjoyed the original game, the reboot should entertain you in either case.

Final Score: 8 out of 10