Tag Archives: Spectacle Fighter

Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine Review

Relic has for the better part of a decade, made some really interesting RTS games based off of Games Workshop’s Warhammer franchise. Each of these games has translated much of the tabletop board game to the world of video games. But in 2011, Warhammer would be thrown into the world of action games. Space Marine brought the lore of Warhammer to a slew of players who may have never touched an RTS or a tabletop game.

PROS: Beautiful graphics, and atmosphere. Solid performance. Multiplayer.

CONS: The game can be repetitive. Limited customization options Multiplayer lowly populated.

WHAT?: You have to unlock classes, and customization options.

For the uninitiated, Warhammer 40K is a decades long running tabletop board game. Featuring figurines for players to customize, Warhammer is about strategy. Battles play out with dice rolls while players keep stats of their armies’ strengths, weaknesses, and supplies. This is admittedly a gross oversimplification of a deep strategy game. But it gives you an idea of what one can expect. Warhammer has such a cult following that it actually spawned several computer RTS games. When Relic took the reigns we saw titles that captured the spirit of the board game version with all off the micromanagement computer strategy gamers love. But with Space Marine, Relic attempted to bring the property to action gamers who may have loved the character design, but for whatever reason couldn’t get into strategy games. As well as the Warhammer buff who also happens to like a variety of action games.

Space Marine follows a single player story campaign in which players take on the role of Captain Titus. Titus is on a mission to save a planet from an impending Ork invasion. Throughout the campaign you will fight quite literally hundreds of enemies in huge firefights. Often reminiscent of games like Serious Sam, Painkiller, and Bulletstorm. However, the game also features a melee combat system. As you play through the missions you will find yourself constantly switching between various guns, and hand to hand armaments. Space Marine does this seamlessly, allowing you to dispatch four or five enemies at a time. With swords, knives, axes, or hammers while shooting other enemies. Shootouts also showcase some of the grittiest visuals the Xbox 360, and PS3 can muster.Enemies will lose limbs from taking a chainsword to the shoulder. Or a torso will explode in a shower of gibs in a hail of gunfire.

The game feels like a really well put together cross between aforementioned arcade shooters, and third person action slashers like Devil May Cry. There is also a health system that is neither quite the widely accepted “Hide behind a wall to regain health” or the classic “Find, and manage stimpacks wisely” systems of yesteryear. Instead, while you can hide behind walls for cover (and stop yourself from losing more health), the way you regain it is through killing. Sometimes this means stunning an enemy to perform a gruesome killing blow. Other times it means using the game’s fury meter. Similar to Alice: Madness Returns’ mechanic, Fury is a meter that will fill your health bar, while allowing for less damage to be taken. You fill the meter as you play. Once you activate it you have a limited time of reprieve before you need to start filling it again.

As the game progresses, you will find upgrades for your weapons, and watch in-game theatrics that further the story. I can’t compliment the graphics enough. Space Marine still looks beautiful, and runs at a smooth frame rate. Nowhere is this showcased better than in the real-time cut scenes. These scenes are accompanied by some really impressive performances. The game’s story goes for the same sort of action movie clichés a lot of other action games have over the past decade. But it still manages to engross you into the world of its source material. It manages to give off some background to newcomers without a lot of speeches. It follows the rule of “Show. Not say.” pretty decently. Even if it does use the tired method of finding audio logs to fill in some of the gaps. While the story is predictable at times, it is entertaining, and the final boss battle features just the right amount of challenge. That said, once you beat the campaign there is little reason to go back. The campaign does have a few drawbacks, that a handful of people will absolutely abhor. First off, the maps are VERY LINEAR. Aside from the rare alcove with a recorded message, levels are rife with models of rubble. These are placed in a way that blocks your every incentive to want to explore. This complaint can hardly be levied only at this game. Most of the single player action games over the last decade have gone down this path. But it would have been nice if Space Marine could have been one of the games to buck the trend. Especially since everything looks so good, and does capture the aesthetic of the board games so well.

The other issue some may have is how the game is structured. Most of the levels in the game follow a formula. You’ll find an ammo dump room, which leads to a skirmish room where you will fight hundreds of enemies. Then you will wander into another ammo dump room leading into a cut scene or story exposition. Then you will fight another 400 enemies before exiting the level. Now if you love old school arcade games, horde modes that force you to micromanage your ammunition, or games like Serious Sam you might not see this as a negative thing. But if you don’t, this can become tiresome. Especially since Space Marine’s campaign is 16 stages long. Some of which can take up to an hour to complete. To be fair the game does try to mix it up with an on rails shooter section or a boss segment. But some may find it isn’t enough to keep them wanting to play through it in one sitting.

Thankfully, the one place where Space Marine truly shines is in its multiplayer mode. Which is also sad because it isn’t populated much these days. The main two modes are a Team Deathmatch mode, and a Team Objective mode. But these are done very well. As in many other games there is a class system:

Tactical Marine: This is the most well-rounded class between speed, shooting, and melee.

Assault: This class allows for jump packs (Jet packs you can fly around with) and has an increased melee range for people who love knives, and chainswords.

Devastator: This is the tank class where you have reduced speed, but can take more damage, and have access to the more powerful guns, and explosives.

One novel feature is the ability to copy load outs. This is a great way for new players to close the gap on higher rank players. Because it lets you respawn with the weapons they killed you with. Do well enough with these, and you’ll level up even faster. Speaking of levelling up, the game also doesn’t dole out XP based only on kills. If you used two weapons on someone there’s a bonus. If you assisted someone else, there’s a bonus.

There is one gripe with the multiplayer, and that’s the fact that classes, and character customization have to be unlocked. You have to grind your way to level 3 to use the classes, and to level 4 to tweak your player model. It doesn’t take eons to do, but it is a nuisance. Also, it would have been nice if Orks, Eldar, and other franchise races were playable factions for multiplayer. There is DLC you can still find for the game that adds in a 4 player cooperative mode where you get to be the Chaos Space Marines. But that’s not really the same thing. But even in its basic state, multiplayer can be a fun alternative to the real world themed shooters out there. The major drawback to all of this however is the age of the game, coupled with the ownership of the developer changing hands. Unfortunately the multiplayer isn’t populated with a lot of random players these days. Many people moved on to newer games so you would mainly have to play the multiplayer option with friends. Things fare slightly better on the PC version but not by very much. The game also isn’t getting the support it once had. That’s because after the game came out, publisher THQ folded up, and the studio making the game was acquired by SEGA.

Should you buy Space Marine? That depends on your taste in games. For anyone looking for a frantic “Kill anything that moves” action game, you’ll have a lot of fun playing through the campaign. It certainly hits all of those notes. But if that isn’t your preferred gaming experience you’ll want to play it in bursts. The formula can become repetitive for those who don’t eat, sleep, and breathe spectacle fighters. Even if it does blend that style, with shooting really well. Multiplayer is going to be a crap shoot at this point. It’s one of the better takes on the competitive team shooters to have come out over the last five years. But it’s also old hat at this point, and people have moved onto other games. If you can still find nine people who are willing to play it with you, it is a lot of fun. But that’s probably a big “if” at this point. Still, it can be found fairly inexpensively, and is a great title for those who are curious about the Warhammer universe.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Bayonetta 1&2 Review

Hideki Kayima has a number of traditions present in his games. Viewtiful Joe,  The Wonderful 101, even Devil May Cry share many of them. Bayonetta, and it’s sequel, both recently released on the Wii U continue many of them, and then some.

Bayonetta is probably his most refined series. At least on a technical level. The games run brisk, have very responsive controls (except on the PlayStation 3 which was ported by a completely different set of developers), and look great. Bayonetta, and Bayonetta 2 are action games, through, and through. They celebrate all of action’s subgenre’s and various styles. You’ll spend most of your time in them brawling through hack, and slash gameplay. But you can also expect to have your share of on rails, arcade shooting, and of course, over the top bosses.

Originally , on the Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3, Bayonetta hit the Wii U as a pack in with Bayonetta 2.

PROS: Both games for the price of one. Increased performance/features in the sequel.

CONS: Bayonetta 1 may drag for some.

MUSIC: Someone at Platinum Games has great taste in it. Climax & Moon River anyone?

In the game you play the role of Bayonetta. A powerful witch, she can use her hair to conjure up all sorts of monsters, and other abilities. She befriends a demon named Rodin, who also happens to own a bar called the Gates Of Hell. There is also her comic relief friend Enzo, who is for all intents, and purposes a parody of Joe Pesci’s Mafioso characters. After a group of monstrous looking angels get into a firefight with her, Bayonetta embarks on a long journey when Enzo informs her of an artifact of interest on the other side of the world. She travels to a city called Vigrid, and along her journey encounters a mysterious witch named Jeanne. Who she ends up fighting several times. As more of the story is uncovered we learn of two ancient factions of Witches, the Umbra, who follow a darker path, and the Lumen Sages who are said to follow a light path, are warring over two artifacts called “The eyes of the world”. Bayonetta is caught in the middle of this war as she slowly gets her memory back as the story progresses.

As I’ve said before the game is a sheer action game. Building on features found in Devil May Cry, and Viewtiful Joe, the game runs the gamut of spectacle fighting. Bayonetta has punch, and kick attacks in addition to a jump, a dodge, and the ability to use a gun. As in many other games of its ilk, Bayonetta allows you to do combination attacks. Players can mix up the various attacks to witness some very powerful, and flashy action. Topping off the action are her climax attacks, which can be executed by pressing punch, and kick buttons simultaneously once, one has built up enough of a meter. These allow for some visceral, and gristly finishing moves to be performed via quick time events. She may kick an enemy into a spiked coffin, or crank the wheel of a medieval torture rack, or any other number of gruesome finishers.

The game follows the pattern many of the other spectacle fighters you may have played set up. You’ll go through a small section, talk to an NPC or go mildly off of the beaten path to find a secret chest with an item in it. Walking into the next area will spawn in a bunch of new enemies for you to do battle with.  This is one of the things that sets Bayonetta apart from other action games. The characters not only have a distinct look that really helps set the atmosphere of the game’s world, but their introductions seamlessly flow into the combat.  As you’d expect, there is also a dossier book with entries for each of the enemies, and other characters you come into contact with. Other times, you’ll find pages strewn about the stages, which allow you to add them to the dossier to be read later.

Keeping with the witch theme, the game also allows you to create potions with many of the items you find. Crafting potions results in these lollipops that you can assign to the D pad on your controller. Holding the assigned direction buttons during gameplay will allow you to use them. Some of these restore health, while others boost attack power, or give you temporary invulnerability.

Levels are broken up into sections. Like Viewtiful Joe, and Devil May Cry you will be rated at the end of each depending on how many continues you used, how fast you defeated swarms of enemies, and so on. Around mid way through the stages you will also find circular patterns on the floor that take you to Rodin’s bar which acts as a shop. Here you can add new moves to Bayonetta’s arsenal, buy lollipop spells, new weapons, and upgrades that you can later assign to Bayonetta’s hands, and feet. The game lets you put in two load outs that you can switch between on the fly. There are guns, swords, and more. Some of the weapon upgrades can be unlocked by finding albums in levels that can be then given to Rodin in the shop. In the Wii U version you can also sport Nintendo themed outfits based on Nintendo characters. The most fun being the Samus Aran costume which replaces Bayonetta’s handgun attack with an arm cannon attack that can be charged.

While you don’t need every possible move, or item to beat the game, getting as many as possible is recommended. Especially for boss fights which can be insanely hard at times. It’s also recommended you try to master the game’s witch time mechanic. Right out of Viewtiful Joe, and The Matrix, dodging an attack at just the right time puts everything into a slow motion state, where you can land huge combos on temporarily defenseless bad guys. This comes in especially handy during the boss fights. Bosses will deal huge damage to you if their attacks land, and the higher a difficulty level you select, the harder they are to anticipate.

The game also breaks up the hack, and slash brawler levels with some really fun rail shooter stages. In between the levels there is also a mini game called Angel Attack where you can shoot at bad guys with secret bullets found in levels to win points. The points can be converted into Halos to be spent in Rodin’s store.

Visually Bayonetta is pretty great. Admittedly, the backgrounds don’t quite hold up as well as some of the other games from 2010, but the character models certainly hold their own. The Wii U re-release looks slightly better, certainly nothing that will make you need it if you have already played it before.  Audio is a huge win, as the music, the sound effects, and voice acting come together very well.

There isn’t really much to be upset with in Bayonetta. While some may decry the innuendo it’s actually pretty tame in the grand scheme of things, and the character has a personality of bravado. There’s a sense of cockiness that says ” I kick ass, and look good doing so.” In reality the main problem the game has is that it’s almost too long. Players who easily tire of formulas may find they feel they’re slogging through the last few stages instead of enjoying them. People who enjoy action movie stories in games, might also find that this game’s gets a bit convoluted at times, with blink, and you’ll miss it details that are needed to understand everything. The PlayStation 3 version does have some technical problems that hinder the performance of the game. Slowdown, a lower frame rate, are commonly reported problems with it. Overall though, the game is crafted well, and is a fun ride.

Bayonetta 2 starts off with a bang, as you’ll actually play the game during the opening cinematic. In this scene you even get to pilot a pretty cool looking mech. There’s a grand stage feeling to the whole thing with suspenseful music, imposing enemies, and awesome design. Upon completing this section the game picks up right where the first game leaves off. Time has passed, and we are reunited with our heroine while she is shopping for some new clothes, and some presents. But a few minutes in the angels show up, and the game begins.

Right away you will notice a significant graphical leap from the first game into this sequel. Bayonetta 2 looks beautiful. Improved lighting effects, textures, character models, and nearly everything else look amazing. The game has a much grander sense of scale even though the game play isn’t much of a stretch from the original. You’ll find yourself in the air battling hordes of enemies, then immediately fighting off a huge dragon. This is right out of the proverbial gate.

Once again Bayonetta finds herself caught between light, and dark forces but this time not only are there angelic themed baddies, but demonic themed enemies as well. This time around Bayonetta meets a mysterious boy named Loki, who also has an axe to grind. With a familiar masked character from the first game.  The story fills in a lot of the details you might have possibly missed in the original game, as well as attempts to fill in some holes. By the end of the story things come full circle, and everything is wrapped up pretty nicely.

Hellena Taylor reprises her role as Bayonetta, and once again brings depth to the character, nailing the biting sarcasm, and confidence that makes Bayonetta compelling.  Likewise, most of the rest of the cast returns to play key characters. Some major shifts come into play with the storyline presented here as well. Some enemies become friends, while major events are revealed to the cast, and they have to adapt. All while you go about slashing, slaying, and shooting.

Bayonetta 2 gives you more of what you loved about Bayonetta, while streamlining or repairing things you might not have. Combat is even more fluid, if you can believe it. It runs smooth, with very rare instances of any slowdown. Animations stream into one another near flawlessly, with pretty great hit detection. It’s uncommon to get hit by something in the game, and not know exactly why. Difficulty has been culled a little bit, in that there are three difficulty levels rather than five.

The game’s formula is pretty much untouched here. Brawler stages will have you exploring for a few secrets, and items. You’ll then fight a bunch of enemies, and upon doing so will be graded based upon your speed, and performance. Enter the next section, and so on. Once again, around half way through any given level you’ll find Rodin’s store. Rodin’s store section is pretty much identical to the one found in Bayonetta. The difference other than the slicker textures, and lighting is that some of the stuff you had access to in the first game, now have to be purchased. Most notably the Nintendo themed costumes. Each of these will set you back around a hundred thousand halos. So if you want to don the mantle of Samus Aran, you had better start saving.

Speaking of saving, you will once again be collecting components for magical lollipops, along with some records, and other items. New to the bevy of potential collectibles are pieces of hearts that can extend your life bar, and moon orbs that can extend your magic casting abilities. Eventually you’ll be running into some mid level challenges that task you with collecting a certain number of pieces under a certain amount of time. If you succeed in these endeavors you’ll find super secret chests that have some of the rarer items in the game.

In addition to the brawler sections, the game brings back rail shooting sections. These have also been refined, so already impressive twitch shooting is even more responsive. Again, you’ll have a healthy mix of attack options here, with punch, kick, jump, dodge, and load out buttons ready to go. You can perform all kinds of crazy, over the top attacks, as well as hitting up Rodin’s store for new weapons, new moves, and item upgrades.

Again, you’ll be able to read the journal entries you find throughout the campaign, as well as logs on every kind of enemy, and character in the game. Creating lollipops is also easier, and less of a hassle as now you only need to rotate a thumb stick. Bayonetta 2 also implements two new things. Crows, and cards. These are pretty much what they sound like. Throughout the game, hidden in backgrounds are small crows. If you see one, and you have enough dexterity you can catch them. Catching them opens up stamps you can use for posting messages in the Bayonetta 2 community on Miiverse. It’s not a big deal, but some of the stamp art is pretty impressive, and you may find you enjoy tracking all of it down. Cards are a little bit different. Depending on how well you do, at the end of a level the game will grant them to you. These can be used in the game’s online multiplayer mode which we’ll get to later.

Bayonetta 2 also allows you to use the tilt controls, and touch screen controls in the Game Pad. The first game also does this on Wii U. To be honest, this is about the only thing in the game that isn’t well implemented. It does work, but nowhere near as well as the control stick. If you do choose to use it, it lets you steer Bayonetta around during brawler sections, while during rail sections, you can use the tilt controls to steer her. The problem here is it seems to be a bit too sensitive, like having too high a mouse sensitivity setting in a PC game. So she may run when you want her to walk, or go too far to the left or right in a rail level causing you to hit an obstacle. Unless you’re adamant about using the motion controls, I would stick to the traditional layout for this game.

Once again, bosses are grand affairs. They’re mostly, big, and imposing with huge health bars. Don’t be surprised in the least if you have to use a lot of continues on your first play through. Some of these can feel impossible when you first encounter them. Thankfully, they take the old school approach of having a pattern, so if you can memorize the patterns, and train your reflexes to react with witch time at just the right moment, you can master them. But even if you don’t you can change the difficulty during a play through, so if things seem too hard, you can make things a little easier if need be. Equally grand are Bayonetta’s climax attacks which result in even bigger, eerie, gruesome finishers.

There are a lot of little Easter eggs, and references to other Platinum, Sega, and Nintendo titles peppered throughout the campaign as well.  Star Fox, The Wonderful 101, and more await you if you know where to look, or make the right decisions. Ultimately by the end credits you’ll be glad you played this one.

But when you’ve beaten the game it doesn’t end. Completing the campaign unlocks a really cool bonus content section. Not only does it give you the typical concept art many bonus content sections do, but it lets you listen to the records you’ve collected, and analyze all of the character models a la Batman Arkham City. It’s a really nice touch considering what a throwaway gesture many other games make such modes.

Bayonetta 2 also has cooperative multiplayer. Using the cards you collect during the campaign you can unlock different stages,  characters, and settings for it. Basically there are six stages. Each of them change a little bit depending on which cards you’ve used. For the most part these are horde modes. You go online with a friend, and fight off waves of enemies. Sometimes instead of fighting off grunts it will have you fight a mini boss or a boss. During these rounds you do have the ability to revive one another. So if someone is getting their clock cleaned the other player can help them. You can use a few of the campaign’s side characters in addition to Bayonetta in this mode. Each with his or her own advantages or disadvantages.

It’s not going to be the main reason you play this, but you might want to pop it in for co-op those times when you’re looking for something a little bit different. One of the nice things it does, is let you spend halos you’ve won in the single player mode. So basically, if you trounce your friends, you can spend the points you win on things to make the game easier, or on higher priced items. Wagering more halos will make the enemies more difficult too. But if you can defeat the harder enemies, you’ll actually win even more halos for the shop. So it does try to incentivize the difficulty spikes in an almost gambling sort of fashion.

Bayonetta 2 is certainly worthy of some of the hype, and praise heaped upon it. What could have been a generic hack, and slash ends up being a lot of fun thanks to the insane number of different enemies, potential weapon combinations, and a storyline that is a step above other ones of its type. Combos feel fun, and rewarding. Bosses are soul crushingly difficult, but fair so long as you’re willing to learn their patterns, and how to use your tools. The game will make you cheer, and laugh for the right reasons. The visuals will wow all but the biggest of nitpickers. Plus, at least for now, it includes the original game.

That isn’t to say these games are for everyone. If you prefer more cerebral games, or more competitive ones it isn’t going to tear you away. But if you love action games with an old school flair Bayonetta 2 is a really great game you should add to your Wii U library. Especially if you’re someone who longs for more traditional action experiences on the system. It looks great, it’s challenging, and it’s fun.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Killer Is Dead Review

Suda51 has become one of those popular, yet niche developers over the years. His games have a unique art direction to them. All blending the cel shaded look of an anime with the gritty, dreary look of 1940’s film noir. At the same time his stories are filled with bizarre moments, weird plot points, and over the top characters. Yet somehow he manages to keep many people invested long enough to see the end. He also seems to really love dark humor. Many of his stories, and characters feature jokes that revolve around themes that would otherwise be depressing. There’s also off-color humor thrown into his games.

PROS: Really cool art direction. Responsive controls. Boss fights!

CONS: Terrible, horrible, stupid, insulting, dating simulators.

REALLY?: KFC was founded by an extraterrestrial being.

Killer Is Dead is no exception to this. The first of his games to see release on PC, Killer Is Dead plays almost exactly like No More Heroes, No More Heroes 2, and Lollipop Chainsaw. Stages are linear hack n’ slash fare. You will be taking upon waves, and waves of crazy looking enemies. Slaughtering them by the hundreds as you try to get to the end of the level to face a boss. But Killer Is Dead doesn’t simply end there. It follows the trend set by Suda51’s earlier games by implementing some over the top finishers.

Performing the finishers gives you more currency you can use to upgrade your weapons, and more. You can also find items by smashing crates throughout the stages. The game also gives you two meters to keep tabs on during game play. One is a meter made of diamonds which is essentially your health. The other is a blood meter. This is signified by roses. Killing bad guys keeps this up, which you will need to do. You can sacrifice some of your blood to restore health. The meter also determines how much firepower your arm cannon can use.

Some of the aforementioned finishers also let you determine what rewards you will receive. Based on the Xbox 360 pad layout, you can choose X,Y,B, or A. Each of the four results in a different bonus. Some of the stages also break up the hack n’ slash action with some on-rails moments or turret gun sections. In these sections your character’s allies show up with heavy back up. One of them is a motorcycle chase section, while the others are turret horde mode sections. They aren’t as varied as they could be. But they do work for what they are.

Stages also do give you a pretty nice range of locales. Army bases. Castles. Dungeons. Inner city streets. A mansion. All of them with a really nice aesthetic that fits the game very, very well.  The soundtrack, and audio effects go along with them fairly well. While there aren’t any songs that will thump around in your head, they fit the theme of the stages. Interestingly enough the art style does change during certain cinema screens. These panels are very well done, and look beautiful. Sadly, they seem to clash with the rest of the game’s aesthetic. But that is only a minor nitpick.

Bosses are one of the biggest reasons to play a Suda51 game, and Killer is Dead is no exception. Bosses are as over the top, as ever featuring an American McGee’s Alice inspired monster. A giant monster inspired by the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, along with several others I won’t really ruin for you here. Character designs are decidedly Suda51. Featuring some really cool concepts that are twists on androids, vampires, and even mercenaries. Then there are the hyper-sexualized characters.

This is where I have to address the elephant in the room. The dating games. Running alongside the main game’s quests are dating mini games. Along the storyline you will meet some female characters. In the main game they have character. They have a modicum of personality. In these dating simulators (If you can even call them simulators) all of that is thrown out the window. The object of the gigolo missions is to get the various women to go home with you. There are a number of problems with these missions. First off, the way you win these missions involves using X-ray specs to look at their underwear when they look away from you. Yes, you read that right. You put on X-ray vision sunglasses so that you can look at your date’s underwear. If you can consistently do this you can fill up a meter. If you manage to fill that meter before time runs out you can give your date a present. Give them enough presents before time runs out, and you win.

Now the women don’t just hop into bed with you if you win. You actually have to win several times for that to happen. And while it never gets to the level of a pornographic movie or even an R rated movie, the entire thing feels out of place. Moreover, it ends up sending out a message that women can be bribed into dating or sleeping with somebody.  I am not saying people who play this game, are going to be vapid enough to believe that. But it isn’t a theme many people will be comfortable with. Regardless of their political or ethical leanings.

It also, feels out of place because it doesn’t tie into the storyline at all, save for the rare cell phone voice mail you might hear in a mission. Some might bring up  Travis Touchdown’s attitude in No More Heroes. In that game the attitude made more sense because we were laughing at him. The joke was that Travis was immature, and didn’t have a grasp on reality.  Here, Mondo (Yes that’s the name of the main character) ends up looking like an unfunny jerk who juggles people around.

Not much, if any, of the rest of the game sets this up. In fact, a lot of it tries to make him more of a sympathetic loner. He rescues a kidnapped girl named Mika. He fights a crazed disc jockey because the DJ cut off a woman’s ears. He has flashbacks to witnessing someone drowning, and being unable to save them. There is a moment near the beginning where Mondo has to leave a night with his girlfriend early. But there is little to lead into the gigolo missions.

Fortunately, if you don’t want to play the gigolo missions you don’t have to. They are optional. You can clear the entire main game without playing it a single time. Unfortunately, it makes the game harder because the rewards for winning the mini games enough times are major upgrades for your arm cannon. And while you don’t need them to win the game, there are secrets in stages requiring their use.

Some of those secrets are another character named Scarlett. Dressed in a pin-up nurse costume, finding her unlocks training missions. Again, you don’t need to do these to win the game, but things are easier on you if you do. Completing these missions will give you items, and currency as well.

That isn’t to say I think it should be censored or banned. Games, like everything else should be able to say pretty much what they want. But I also needed to bring this up.  For many people it’s going to be off-putting. Which is a shame because everything else in Killer Is Dead is honestly pretty good. The combat is flashy, play control feels fast, responsive, and fun.

The story while not as memorable as the ones in Suda51’s other games, will likely hold your interest. At least long enough to see it through. Mondo is part of a government agency that works almost like a Private Assassination firm. Clients come to the firm asking them to go after dangerous criminals. Some of these are revenge missions. Some of these are pleas to save a city or town. As the firm sends Mondo on these quests, over time he begins to ponder why he lost his arm, and tries  to remember his past.  Many of the answers are entwined between the different missions. Clues are uncovered. Rivalries answer questions while bringing up new ones. Mondo has to figure out how to beat the threats, and what the moon has to do with all of it. All with the odd stuff you would expect.


There are also a few genuinely funny moments that do show up from time to time. They don’t happen as often as they did in Lollipop Chainsaw or No More Heroes. But when they do happen they tend to hit their target. I did find myself chuckling at a few of these gags. I only wish there could have been a few more effective ones.

Missions are set up in an almost Mega Man fashion. Sometimes the game will let you pick the order of stages as you progress. It also gives you the opportunity to do the aforementioned gigolo missions, training missions, or other bonus sections. You can also exit out of the mission map screen to buy gifts for the gigolo missions (should you decide to play them), put unlockable skins on NPC’s, and upgrade your arsenal. Completing the game also gives you the option to replay missions, and getting whatever you weren’t able to buy or unlock before.

The PC version of Killer Is Dead is branded as a director’s cut called Nightmare Edition. It’s essentially the exact same game that appeared on the PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. The difference is that PC gamers get an extra difficulty mode that allows for only a miniscule number of attacks to take down enemies. It also makes boss fights harder. On top of the extra difficulty level, The Windows release has a couple of PC features included. Do note that they are pretty bare bone though. You can change the resolution of the graphics. You can change your key binds. There is a very limited quality selector for graphics too. But it won’t go into many deep options. Those are about the only additions. It runs on Epic Games’ Unreal Engine. But unfortunately blocks access to the console. So you really can’t do much else to the game for performance. That said, if you meet the requirements for the game it will run fairly brisk, and smooth. It isn’t a very demanding title for most machines built over the last 5 years.

Overall, I would say that Killer Is Dead is certainly worth looking into if you enjoyed previous Suda51 games. It has all of the same hallmarks, and tropes his games generally have. It’s a well made game, and has some of the coolest art direction yet. It’s unfortunate then, that a bad, and out of place dating sim has to bring the package down.  It is also fairly shorter than previous games made by his studio. Hopefully future titles will remedy these issues.

Final Score: 6 out of 10

Marlow Briggs And The Mask Of Death Review

It’s almost guaranteed that if you come up with something wonderful, many will try to copy it, or improve upon it. Sometimes this leads to some really heated, and awesome competition. Other times, we see a laughable attempt at coat-tail surfing, and in the worst cases we end up with flat-out plagiarism. Today’s game really leans toward the former. It takes the base functionality of a modern classic, but changes nearly everything else. It even takes a few of its own chances. It results in something you’ll really want to check out even though it won’t become as memorable as the mold it was born from.

PROS: Controls. Tongue in cheek humour. Variety. Fun!

CONS: Low rent graphics in spots.

WAIT WHAT?: The conversations Marlow has with a mask.

Marlow Briggs, And The Mask Of Death is very much indeed; a God Of War clone. Like the Sony flagship spectacle fighter you go through hacking up thousands of enemies. There are various weapons wholly inspired by those of Kratos. The dual blades are here, the chain whip is here. Even some of the magic spells of doom are here. But that’s really where the similarities end. Because the other 85% of Marlow Briggs is a late 80’s direct to video action film.

Things kick off briskly, as Marlow Briggs meets up with his girlfriend, Eva Torres in a South American jungle. She works for a business doing research on ancient codex wheels, and artifacts. When she feels uneasy about continuing to do translation work for Heng Long,  she tries to quit. This only serves to enrage her boss who has Marlow Briggs killed on the spot.

His girlfriend is then taken hostage, and forced to continue her work. Why? Because her evil employer wants to uncover the steps to an ancient ritual. What is the ritual? A means for him to become a dark godlike creature who can take over the world.

Fortunately for Marlow Briggs, it turns out that the weapon he was killed with was magical. It resurrects him as a super powered warrior.

So like any direct to video action star, he sets out to free his girlfriend, kill the bad guy, and save the world.

When I say direct to video action movie, I mean it too. Marlow Briggs is a game that relishes the bit. It doesn’t hide from the cheesy story, or over the top action at all whatsoever. It lives, and breathes everything from Dolph Lundgren to Jean-Claude Van Damme, and never apologizes for it. It just expects you to go with it, and you will.

Because Marlow Briggs, And The Mask Of Death is fun. A lot of fun. Upon closer examination you may notice that the game is not a visual powerhouse. Characters are lower on the geometry, some of the textures are decidedly lower quality, and models lack some detail. But things also look good enough that it won’t bother you.  There are some nice bloom effects, here, and there. And the game runs at a pretty smooth frame rate, with little to no hiccups along the way.

It really isn’t going to matter to you anyway. Because the game is going to keep you busy with a lot of things going on. You won’t have much time to be counting the number of shadows on a minion’s costume because you’ll have to defeat him, and around ten of his buddies.

Voice acting is full of the wooden dialogue, and cheese in DTV, and made for TV movies. But in the context of this game it is a very good thing. Everything comes together, and the game’s amazing score complements the action really, really well. It truly does feel like the most epic B-movie turned video game.

Unlike most clones of God Of War, Devil May Cry, or other popular hack, and slashers this game gets something right. The play control. Many smaller developers, and even some larger ones tend to make entries in the genre that never seem to get the feel just right. Either there are noticeable breaks in the action, or a combo will feel sluggish. Other times timing or hit detection will be bad, or just off enough to make for slow, plodding, and unfair moments.

Marlow Briggs doesn’t fail here. Combos flow very nicely, with some smooth animations going along with them. Like the recent run of Batman games, there is a large enough enemy variety, and pizzaz during fights to make mashing X worthwhile. As in the games it cribs from, you can also upgrade your attack power, and spell power by collecting yellow orbs for point values. When these become high enough in number you can go into a pause menu to do this.

Pausing the game will bring up a screen where you can spend your yellow orb experience points to perform your upgrades. Often times you will actually be directed to go into this screen the moment you have enough of them. Each weapon, and spell can be upgraded up to three levels. Doing this buffs the damage output in your attacks.

You can also access a trainer from the pause menu. This lets you practice the various combos with each of the game’s weapons. It isn’t something you need to really do if playing on a lower difficulty setting. But if you are playing on one of the harder settings you may want to learn some of them to keep the waves of bad guys from hitting you.

As you go through the game, you will eventually stumble onto the various weapons, and spells by beating stages. Once you have them you can switch between them on the fly. The scythe is two ended, and is the first one you’ll receive. It does medium speed combos, and is the one that gets you started. The dual blades are a lot faster, and work great when you are being mobbed by waves of enemies.

The chain whip is pretty cool, allowing you to get combos that do hundreds of hits. It doesn’t do as much damage, but it has an insane range. There is also a hammer which is slow, but has a fairly high damage output. In my experience I found the dual blades worked out the best, though other players may prefer one of the other weapons more.

Spells include one that brings about meteor showers. One that brings about hurricanes, and tornadoes. Another one blasts the ground hard enough to pull up rock from underneath enemies. The last one does more with water, and ice. All of these can be upgraded, and they all do fairly large damage on the lowest grade enemies. Larger enemies seem to take different damage levels based on the spell.

You can also possess certain enemies after you do enough damage which makes them either help you out as an NPC or turns them into a vehicle you can control. The latter is especially fun as you can control giant scorpions. Enemy variety is also impressive. You will fight everything from mercenaries, to bird people, to wizards, to killer beetles. The list goes on, and on.

Using spells, and throwing knives also costs mana. This is measured by a blue bar on the HUD, while your health is measured by a red bar. There are red, and blue masks you can collect to refill these bars in the field. Game play is broken up between sections, and eventually becomes a formula countless games already use. First you will have a wave section where you have to beat down waves of enemies.

Completing these sections will lead into some platforming areas where you will climb walls, swing from cables, jump from place to place, and so on. These are pretty fun, and challenging sections in their own right. Many times these areas will task you with some puzzle solving. Again, it isn’t something tossed in “Because game X happened to have it.” Most of the puzzles actually take some thought to work through. They tow the seemingly fine line between “Why bother if they’re going to be this easy?”, and “Why is this so impossible?”.

There are also mini boss encounters, and boss encounters near the middle of stages, as well as at the end of stages. As in God Of War there are also some QTEs you will be tasked with. Thankfully, these aren’t over done in the game, used only during boss battles, or gaining entrance to certain areas.

The game also attempts to keep things from devolving into monotony with a variety of time trial sections where you have to get from place to place as fast as possible, while avoiding traps or other dangers.

It attempts to further mix things up with on rails sections. Some of them  involve collecting orbs, as you slide down an obstacle course, while others are turret sections. The turret sections work more in line with games like Sin & Punishment or Star Fox.

There are even two shoot ’em up stages near the third act that while not original, (Think 1942, Sky Shark, or Twin Cobra) are still pretty fun to play. These can also be played independently of the main game once you encounter them during your initial play through. Completing the game also reveals an end credits clone of Gravitar.

Marlow Briggs is also not a very long game either. Which is actually more of a help than a hindrance. Many spectacle fighters, and beat ’em ups can go on far too long for games of their type. In spite of this there is still a surprisingly varied number of settings. Jungles, caverns, industrial foundries, even an icy mountain stage.

A really good player can clear it in a few hours while the rest of us will probably do it in around 8. But what a fun 8 hours it will be. It has cheesy dialogue, one-dimensional villains, and a lot of over the top “Oh come on!” moments. It won’t wow you with its graphics. But it is a lot more fun than you might think it has any right to be. It is every definition of the phrase “Sleeper hit”, and one I highly recommend fans of hack and slash titles look into.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Ben 10 Omniverse Review

You might be wondering why I would choose to feature a game aimed at the younger set on this blog. Or why I would review this one, when it’s sequel just came out. If you must know, it was gifted to me this past holiday season. Having finally completed a bunch of other games, and it being a slow period for game releases I figured I’d play it. Besides, someone has to play these types of games too from time to time.

PROS: Nice visuals. A lot of cool alien forms to use. Can be played with a friend.

CONS: Boring, and very repetitive. Bugs. Glitches.

REALLY: Malware? That’s what they decided to name the bad guy?

Anyway, I’m not a big Ben 10 fan. Most who probably read this blog, or game sites probably aren’t. But I’m willing to bet some of you have children who are. Or were, at some point. Or were when it first came out, then moved on, and are now nostalgic about it.

For those not in the know, I’ve done some research for some context. Ben 10 started out almost 10 years ago on Cartoon Network. It’s gone through a couple of iterations since then. In all of the versions of the show the story focuses on the adventures of Ben Tennyson. A child who is granted a special bracelet called the Omnitrix. With it he can turn into a variety of different extraterrestrial beings, each with its own super powers.

Over the course of each series, different alien threats loom over the Earth, and it’s up to Ben to stop them. In the original series the worst of these was Vilgax a warlord who originally fought Ben’s Grandfather, and wanted to use Ben’s bracelet to create his own army to conquer the universe with.

Despite, some of the craziness  one would expect from a show of its nature, it actually isn’t half bad. It has an interesting cast of characters, and story arcs that have some character development in them.  It was also very popular for a considerable amount of time spawning action figures, comic books, and a number of video games.

But what about this game? Does it measure up to the cartoon it’s based upon? Is it any good? Does it do anything cool with the source material? Is a kid going to stick with it to the very end? These are all questions you might ask yourself if you’re ever looking at the plethora of licensed games on the shelf in your local game store/game section.

Sadly the answers to most of these questions range from “No” to “Sort of. Maybe.” Ben 10 Omniverse is based on the latest run of the franchise, and is a spectacle fighter in the vein of God Of War. Which is a popular blueprint for action games right now. Some games manage to do it very well like God Of War, Warhammer: Space Marine, Devil May Cry, and so on. Other games do it very poorly. Others like this one feel rather middling.

The problems with a lot of these games are that they’ll either get the combat wrong, won’t have enough variety, or have technical problems. Spectacle fighters are all about having fun to play combat that looks, and feels great. The best ones will be so fun to play you won’t even think about formulas. The best ones also have stories you’ll become at least a little bit invested in. Caring about what is going on will keep you captivated long enough to keep playing. Variety can also spice things up. If done right a player can go from beating down 900 bad guys to solving a fun puzzle, to a completely different experience altogether.

Ben 10 Omniverse starts out promising enough. The game’s story centers around a villain named Malware (I know, I know, I rolled my eyes too.) who can assimilate technology. He’s sort of like the Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation. When he assimilates it he gains its most powerful attributes, and begins finding immunities. Malware cons scientists into letting him have access to generators that can merge actual matter with computer software, and hardware in the future. So Ben 10, has to stop him. Because it’s a time travel story you will  bounce back, and forth. Between present, and future.

Rook Blonko is a space cop of sorts who goes forward, and backward through time. Relaying the events of the story to present, and future Ben 10. As you play through the campaign the game slowly unravels Malware’s plot, and it starts to tie everything together in the last two or three stages.

Ben 10 Omniverse can be played by one or two players. The first player being Ben, and the second player being Rook. Stages are set up in the same spectacle fighter formula you’ve played in countless games. First you will fight a wave of enemies, then have a reprieve where you’ll get some more story exposition, maybe a power up or item, and back to brawling. Sometimes Omniverse will toss in a puzzle or two as well. The entire game will run you between six to eight hours to complete.

Unfortunately some of the common problems in other games mentioned earlier rear their ugly heads here. To its credit, Ben 10 Omniverse does try to implement some of its source material into the gameplay. Ben can switch into a huge roster of alien types as he unlocks them in the story. Each with its own special abilities.  Some can throw projectiles, some can see hidden items, or hints. Some can freeze certain objects in place. There are plenty of other examples.

Many of these alien forms actually look pretty good, matching the look of their cartoon counterparts. Many of the moves do indeed showcase cool visuals fans will probably like.  The game also has a leveling system, allowing players to upgrade the various alien forms for more attack power or abilities. Rook can also be leveled up. While he can’t shift into alien forms he can get various weapon upgrades. The problem is in the execution. Much of the time the animations of the combinations don’t flow very well, feeling sluggish.

This leads to the main problem with the game: Monotony. Because of the sluggish combat taking down waves takes a long time. This is compounded when you find out that after using up an alien form’s super power meter you have to revert to being Ben. Ben’s moves do so little damage you will have to wait for his meter to refill so that you can get back to using one of the alien forms. All of this takes you out of the action, and makes what should be a flashy Saturday morning beat ’em up into a bore.

The game does have a few non combat segments in it, but these mostly boil down to some very mundane switch puzzles. These sections almost always require you to switch between a few alien types in order to solve. They are also almost always used to open a door to progress, the few other times being used to hide a special item or a power up.

Other times the game will introduce a platforming section. These are easily the worst parts of this game. Jumps are imprecise, often times leading to an accidental death. Worse yet some of these require certain alien forms to clear out an obstacle before jumping, only to miss, and have to restart from the last checkpoint. It is also here where the fixed camera (You can never adjust it on your own)  becomes a pain, obscuring certain items or even platforms you need to see to be able to progress.

Bosses in this game do in fact, look pretty cool. However, they mostly break down to a single attack pattern. After defeating a boss the game will make you play a Quick Time Event to finish it off. If you fail the QTE, the game then gives the boss  some of its health back, forcing you to re-defeat it, and then re-do the QTE section.

As with the characters mentioned earlier, graphics as a whole, are the one part of the game that actually shines. It goes with a cel shaded look, with colors, textures, and backgrounds that will remind you of Borderlands. Many of the stages take place in caverns, old towns, and installations with a very similar aesthetic.  Enemy variety is honestly pretty respectable here, featuring a decent number of grunts to defeat, along with the recognizable characters the fan base will like.

In the end I really wanted to like Ben 10 Omniverse. The cartoon is one of the better kids shows on TV, it has a nice look to it, and it even has a few nice features. But while it is not as bland, or as bad as so many other TV or Film tie ins, it still isn’t particularly good. The monotonous feeling will probably get to even the most devoted kid who plays it. Its camera problems, and technical hitches (In one instance I was clipped underneath the stage during the final boss fight forcing a restart) certainly won’t help. The terrible ending is also salt on the proverbial wound. Playing with a friend probably makes it slightly less of a chore, but there are far better games one can play with a friend than this one.

Even if you or your child are big fans of the source material I’d skip this one.

Final Score: 4 out of 10

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge Review

The director’s cut of Ninja Gaiden 3 attempts to rectify some of the criticism levied at the original release. Does it succeed? In some ways yes, in others not so much.

PROS: Fluid animation. Takes strides in connecting the series to the NES Trilogy.

CONS: Streamlined gameplay means some will find it repetitive after a while.

WHY: Do the villains send out so many German Shepherds to be slain?

Ninja Gaiden 3 saw a mixed reception upon its release. The director of the first two games left Tecmo after a heated dispute, and the person with the porting duties was given the reigns for part 3. The resulting game had the flashy, animation, and gory fights of the first 2. But it was more linear, and easier. So what is different about Razor’s Edge?

For starters, Razor’s Edge started out as a launch window title for the Wii U. So it features some touch screen functionality like changing weapons on the fly, casting Ninpo arts, or seeing your current unlocked combination attacks. It also tries to rectify the difficulty situation. One of the reasons the game is easier than Ninja Gaiden, or Ninja Gaiden 2 is due to its karma system.

Ninja Gaiden 3’s karma system grants players points for killing enemies. Long chain combos, or flashy executions grant more of these points than base moves. There are also a fair number of weapons one can use throughout the game, and some of these will display even more gruesome deaths. Limbs are torn off, heads are decapitated. Curse words are shouted as the score rolls up. When one gets to a section that isn’t wrought with enemies they can enter an in menu shop to spend the points on upgrades. Some of these extend the life bar, while others give you advanced moves, weapons, or arts (some of which are only in Razor’s Edge) to use in battle.

The problem is that the game doles out points like water, so hoarding points early on makes getting the more powerful moves easier than it should be. This in turn makes many of the lower level enemies a breeze to blow through. Block, dodge, and button mash them to death. The game attempts to remedy this by adding a higher difficulty level that artificially makes the campaign harder. On its highest difficulty setting enemy health, and attack power is doubled or tripled. The number of enemies at any given time is also doubled or tripled. Karma points are also reduced. So instead of being more challenging, it’s simply being a lot less fair.

Razor’s Edge is essentially NG3 as far as the base game goes. The campaign is an 8 stage run with in engine cinema sections. The main storyline is actually a pretty good one as far as Ninja Gaiden games go, and even makes more attempts to bridge the current series with the original trilogy from the NES. Ryu Hayabusa is contacted by the Japanese government to investigate a terrorist event in London. Led by a mysterious man known as The Regent Of The Mask, the Lords Of Alchemy threaten the end of the world to the world’s leaders if they fail to comply in giving them Ryu. When Ryu meets the Regent, a battle ensues, and at the end he is left cursed with a disease that feeds on blood lust. Ryu must then find a way to stop the terrorists, and find a cure before he is killed by the curse that plagues him.

Along the way the plot throws out swerves, double crosses, and surprises in the same vein as the NES games. The reason for this is due to it being written by Masato Kato, the man who wrote the original series’ story. This game also brings along some cameos from Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword Of Chaos, as well as ties to that game’s story.

For some players, the story will be the reason to play through the campaign. Because Ninja Gaiden, or Ninja Gaiden 2 on the Xbox, and Playstation consoles over the last two generations were different experiences. The first two games had a little bit more variety in gameplay. There was a little bit more exploration, or sections you could tackle  a little bit differently. Ninja Gaiden 3 instead opted to go for a purely linear spectacle brawler. Much like Devil May Cry, or God Of War. Ryu will enter a section, kill everything the game throws at him, then go into an area with no enemies or pitfalls. Sometimes the game may throw a platforming area where a wall run or wall jump has to be done. But even those are on a path from A to B.

This is indicative of many single player action games in many genres over the past few years. But here it feels like a departure after having played the first two games. For what it is, and on its own merits it isn’t a bad game. Combat is very smooth, and fast. Animations are brisk, and fluid. Some of the carnage is really fun, yet gristly to see, and the length is about right for a game of its type. Enemy variety for the most part is very good, with several kinds of enemy soldiers, monsters, robots, and even terrorist cult members. Character designs are detailed, with a lot of nice touches. Many of them look flat-out cool.

One odd decision many will notice however (or at least I did) is the abnormally high number of guard dogs that have to be dispatched. This game throws a ton of them at you. Pretty much every game in this, and the original series has had them. But this one really loves to use them. It is definitely a very small thing to obsess over, and it is in the grand scheme of things a game set in a fictional world. But one example of what I’m talking about happens in a lab themed stage. There is a long hallway filled with glass case displays with dogs in each. (Spoiler Alert: all of the dogs are real dogs, and will try to maul you to death.) The ratio of dogs to other enemies seems a little off.

Bosses are most certainly designed with an old school focus, involving patterns that have to be memorized, and then solved like a puzzle. These are also accompanied by Quick Time Events. Again like many, many games over the past seven years, QTEs feel thrown in for the sake of being a modern mechanic. While they do add to some of the visual presentation here, they don’t do much for depth in a game that needs a little more variety. However there are sections where the QTEs are welcome like scaling certain walls, or reversing certain enemy attacks.

The game does try to break things up by adding a rail shooter segment,  and Razor’s Edge even adds a couple of sections where you get to use Ayane from Dead Or Alive. She controls different enough from Ryu where this does work somewhat, but the gameplay follows the same structure. As far as her involvement in the campaign story it’s hinted that she is working for Irene Lew. Completing the entire campaign unlocks  other playable characters, as well as another difficulty setting. This one makes the game down right cruel.

Razor’s Edge also tries to give players an incentive to play on higher difficulty settings through its secret areas. Many stages have small rooms off of the beaten path where one can find skulls that open up battle arenas. Touching one of these on the easiest setting will bring up a message telling players they need to play on a higher difficulty setting to see the arena.

Razor’s Edge also adds in online modes. The primary mode allows players to play a co-operative game where two people work together to clear a level of enemies. It essentially works like the horde mode of many other games. There is also a clan battle mode for several players to face off against each other. This mode works like a variant of team death match. The other options don’t really do anything other than compare your stats against other players. So it’s only going to appeal to a small number of people hopelessly devoted to it.

Team Ninja’s engine for the series also seems to show its age here. While characters look rich, vibrant, with really great assets, backgrounds don’t always hold up. Some of the textures on floors or walls are muddy or grainy. There also doesn’t appear to be much in the way of AA or other filtering as jagged lines can be noticed. Not every stage has this level of contrast between the detailed models, and less detailed environments. But when it happens it can be jarring.

Audio is actually one of the high points in this game. Explosions, clashing swords, and other sounds of combat sound really nice. Voice acting is also superb. The cast features many notable voice actors who give some wonderful performances here. The soundtrack compliments the action rather well. It helps give the game have the interactive action movie feel it shoots for.

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is better than the original release of Ninja Gaiden 3. It has since been ported from the Wii U to the PS3, and Xbox 360 extending the number of potential audience members. The added content is welcome, and the co-operative mode does make for a fun time with a second person. On its own though once you finish it there isn’t much to make one want to go back to it. That is unless, you are a die-hard fan of spectacle fighters. In that case the bonus characters, and unlockable weapons may really cater to you. It also has an enjoyable storyline for long time Ninja Gaiden fans. It’s certainly a fun game, and an improvement over the initial version. But it’s still a little too streamlined for its own good.

Final Score: 6 out of 10 (Good but not great)

The Wonderful 101 Review

Many people thought many different things about this game before it came out. Some people thought to themselves: “It’s by Platinum! They can do no wrong!”. Others thought to themselves: “It’s going to be the killer app for the Wii U.”. Still others thought to themselves: “Wow! A Pikmin clone with superheroes!”.

The wonderful: Fast action, with visual flair. Comic relief done right.

The not so wonderful: Technical hitches. A few cheap enemies in Geathjerk’s ranks.

It looks so viewtiful: Ex-Viewtiful Joe developers built W101 including Hideki Kamiya.

The game is actually none of those things. It isn’t perfect. It is very good. Although certainly not mainstream enough for the average person. The game plays very little like Pikmin. While it has an isometric view, and some interactivity within the stages, this game is not a strategy game whatsoever. This game is an action game through, and through. Not only that, but it brings in all kinds of action subgenres together. Beat ’em up, Shmup, Action Platforming, Rail Shooters, all combine to make a wonderful send-up of the era of arcades, as well as 80’s, and 90’s console games.

The story centers around a group of super heroes known as the Wonderful 100. These people are called together to defend the Earth in perilous times. The Earth is under assault from a race of extraterrestrials known as GeathJerk. As the story progresses you’ll find parodies of action movie tropes, as it introduces more plots, characters,  subplots, and background stories to the main story. It all comes together nicely in the end.

The Wonderful 101 is 25 stages or so long.  Most of these are the isometric action stages you’ve likely seen online if you haven’t played it yet. As you play through the stages, areas will close off, and force you to fight a certain number of enemies. The twist it has over most spectacle fighters like Devil May Cry, or God Of War is that you can recruit civilians to your cause. Using the R stick on the gamepad, or drawing with the touch screen allows you to turn civilians into temporary heroes to help you, as well as find hidden items, and most importantly, morph into different shapes to solve puzzles or fight enemies. Sometimes you’ll need to use a specific shape for a certain enemy. For instance, once you’ve gotten in far enough you’ll encounter spiked enemies that require you to use a whip to break off the spikes to make the enemy vulnerable. As the game goes on, other characters join you, allowing you to draw new morph attacks.

There are also a number of times when you will enter Quick Time Events as in Bayonetta. These can be for cinematic scenes against bosses, opening certain sections of a level, or something else entirely. One especially novel thing the game does with the Gamepad’s tablet, is make certain sections of the game interiors, where you have to guide your team through a ship, building or other location on the pad screen. Meanwhile you still have to pay attention to what is happening outside on your TV screen. To keep the game from getting too monotonous it also throws in some Rail Shooter moments, Shoot ’em Up moments, and even two Punch-Out!! styled bosses. As I mentioned earlier, these are all fairly well crafted sections of the game.

At the end of every stage you are graded on how fast you completed it, how much damage you did, how much damage you took, what items you used, and how many continues you used. During the stages you can also be graded in individual sections on the same criteria. In between stages you can enter a Wonderful Mart, where you can spend collected gears on items. Some of these items will allow you to make new morphs or upgrade current ones. Others replenish health, or your battery meter (which is going to give your morphs more size, and power when you draw them.). While there are also some that will drop smart bombs on enemies, give you a fake member to take damage from (essentially being a 1-Up), or generally ease the game.

Don’t let the cartoony look fool you either. This game is HARD. You do get unlimited continues, but nevertheless it is difficult. Especially some of the later bosses. If you manage to complete it on Normal (already a pretty hard game) you will unlock Hard mode. Making an already pretty challenging game even harder.

The game also has tons of unlockable artwork, player models, and battle arenas that you can find in the main campaign. The battle arenas can actually be played separately as a minigame with other players on the same Wii U. The other unlockable items in the game are collected in the form of books, figurines, and coins. There are also bottle caps you can collect by replaying multiple times, and hitting certain achievements. These range from simply beating a level, to performing a morph at a specific time, or recruiting a certain number of civilians.

Voice acting is pretty superb. It goes along with whatever happens on-screen well, and it really reminds you of the various things the designers are lampooning. This game will make you laugh with its joke delivery, gags, and even music. The very first stage features a song that praises, and insults its protagonists in a very humorous way.  It pokes fun at everything from action films, to anime, to comics, to manga, to other games. Couple it all with some pretty nice visuals, and you have an entertaining action game that can hang with the studios’ previous games.  The cute, yet chiseled, super deformed characters look great. The simplistic pop art design is bright, and colorful.

However, there are some problems with the game I ran into during my play through. The biggest problem was a crash on the third stage. A crash so bad, that I had to reboot the Wii U three times, and reload my save file, each at the same point, before I could continue on. The screen would freeze up, and the console would issue one long, never-ending beep. Researching the internet, and Nintendo’s own MiiVerse I found that it’s a common problem.

The rest of the problems are anywhere from minor to infuriating. Toward the latter end of the scale are some issues getting your morphs drawn when things are frantic. Sometimes the gamepad won’t be able to detect the line, question mark, or circle you are attempting to draw in the heat of battle. This will cause you to be taken down by an enemy, or form the wrong morph. Sometimes entering the little booths to collect items is a problem. The game doesn’t always register when you’ve moved all of your heroes into it to unlock it.

None of these problems are commonplace enough to ruin the game. But they are enough to take you out of the experience. There are smaller things one can harp on like the occasional lower resolution texture. But at that point it becomes almost trivial since almost everything else is so good. One complaint I’ve seen in other reviews is that the reviewers in question thought the game is too short. I have to disagree a bit with this. While a really good player could blow through the game in a weekend, it is still fairly long as far as campaigns go. There is more meat to this than in many other spectacle fighters.

The Wonderful 101 is a great title. It isn’t the killer app some may have wanted it to be as it won’t appeal to everyone. But for anyone who loves action games, especially those who loved Platinum Games’ other titles it’s a solid purchase. It’s just a shame a few technical issues bog it down.

Final Score: 8 out of 10