PSN Review: Rogue Legacy

August 1, 2014 1 comment
That kids, is what happens when you watch too much TV.

That kids, is what happens when you watch too much TV.

By: Casey Curran

Rogue Legacy is a game that should not work. Its entire concept is based around taking two conflicting methods of game design and combining them into one. Yet, thanks to some smart design choices, the game not only feels both fresh and addicting, but it also proves to be one of the best indie titles available. Maybe even the best.

CONTROLS (5/5)

Rogue Legacy offers very tight, smooth controls. “X” is used to jump, square attacks, circle conjures (Castlevania inspired) magical attacks and triangle unleashes the character’s special ability. The shoulder buttons, meanwhile, are used for a dodging ability that is purchasable on the upgrade tree. Character classes, perks and abilities offer different senses of speed, making most new characters actually feel different from the last one. This adds a new level of variety as characters will each have just enough differences to feel different from the last.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (4.25/5)

While many retro-inspired indie titles attempt to emulate 8-bit games, Rogue Legacy looks more like an SNES game. Backgrounds are both busy and gorgeous while character and enemy models are inspired and well animated. Bosses, however, lack creativity as they are merely larger versions of common enemies. This is especially disappointing since the normal enemies are so diverse and numerous; as such, one would think the bosses would be especially fun.

Music and sound effects are both heavily inspired by Castlevania. Both of these capture the spirit of the franchise very well, offering some catchy beats and noises, which both sound creepy and fun.

GAMEPLAY (5/5)

Rogue Legacy combines roguelike and “Metroidvania” level design. The game is based around entering a castle and gathering as much money and loot as you can until you are powerful enough to face the four bosses scattered around, which unlocks the door to the final boss. Dying in the castle means starting with a new character and spending whatever money you have before losing it all to start a new, randomly generated castle.

The combination of these two styles of level design should contradict one another. After all, roguelikes are about the game creating something new itself so the player will be unprepared while Metroidvanias are based around a carefully constructed level the player must find abilities in to access new areas. Rogue Legacy, however, makes the new powers used mostly for Fairy Chests, which hold new armor and abilities.

With this hurdle out of the way, Rogue Legacy is able to create sizable castles while also constantly offering a new one, letting the game feel fresh and fun. The areas are mostly randomly generated, yet there is a large amount of variety between different area types so that the game rarely creates a sense of déjà vu.

The game offers literally hundreds of upgrades, always giving you something new to strive for. These range from extra health and attacks to new classes and double jumping. I was stunned by how many upgrades the developers thought of for this game. Getting new ones proves incredibly addicting, as I always had a sense of motivation whenever I would enter the castle again.

Plus, upgrading never felt like grinding as entering the castle again costs the player any remaining money. Rather than chugging away at enemies until you can afford something shiny and new, every upgrade acquired feels like something you earned, especially the expensive ones. The choice might seem like a small one, but it makes Rogue Legacy all the more satisfying and fun because it prevented any way to grind.

This goes hand in hand with how unforgiving the combat is. Most combat encounters will prove perfectly manageable without losing health, yet they require much caution and smart use of your abilities to do so. The large enemy variety also keeps combat fresh, as each requires a unique plan to overcome, which needs to be rethought in the presence of other enemies.

The character classes also help keep the game fresh. These can have simple differences such as higher attack, magic or health, or creative ones like a low health character who acquires more maximum health with each kill. Characters also have their individual quirks, some of which help, some hinder, some don’t do anything or only offer aesthetic changes. These quirks are rarely spelled out, instead offering an explanation and letting the player figure out what that means on their own. This was a nice touch, as it had a fun new sense of discovery.

The only issue worth noting was that occasionally entering a new area would immediately be met with unavoidable damage. Granted, this was a very rare scenario, but it’s still worth mentioning since the game is so unforgiving.

OVERALL (5/5)

Rogue Legacy is an absolute must play, especially for Castlevania fans. The combination of mostly fair but unforgiving gameplay, a fun sense of humor and a deep, addicting upgrade tree create an incredibly compelling game. Whether played for five minutes or five hours, Rogue Legacy just works.

XBLA/PSN Review: Abyss Odyssey

Cup check!

Cup check!

By: Jeff Cater

Developer ACE has sought to step into the recent roguelike craze with Abyss Odyssey, which draws inspiration from many games in its wheelhouse but doesn’t break ground in any one area. Instead, we have a highly accessible but technical romp into the depths of a literal nightmare.

CONTROLS (3.5/5)

Navigating the limited menus is a very clumsy ordeal, with placement of your skill tree constantly sending you mixed signals as to what button to push as well as unclear descriptions of what the action may actually do, so you’re largely left to experiment.

When not in the menus, the controls are generally pretty responsive and easy to use. The left stick moves your character while the face buttons take care of the attacking — square unleashes basic attacks modified by directional input, while triangle unleashes an array of special moves.

Occasionally, during hectic combat, you’ll find that sometimes your character will not turn the direction you want resulting in extra health lost due to a hit or a miffed jump. That’s because all attacking animations cannot be cancelled to do a different action. This is in place to prevent button mashing and promote careful and technical gameplay, but it can be an annoyance while dealing with lava pits, swinging blades and enemies cartwheeling around the stage simultaneously.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (4/5)

Abyss Odyssey provides a very unique visual presentation. The cut scene sequences are done in an old-school, portrait-dialogue exchange, so even though the characters are drawn extremely well, the animation is kept strictly to the gameplay. Getting good at the game means being familiar with your chosen characters set of moves and knowing how long each swing is, so almost half the game is paying attention to the animations of your character to maximize your lethality.

Getting back to the graphics, the gameplay portions look great but suffer from slowdown during some of the more intense fights and also during some of the levels. The environments your voyage drags you through are often beautiful and deadly at the same time, with several environmental hazards and enemy variants blending perfectly with the scenery.

Unfortunately, even though the level design is randomly generated, you will see familiar set pieces repeat quite often so you’ll quickly be able to predict where to jump, where a chest or enemy may be, etc. The inhabitants of this nightmarish world are all lively, well animated and very creative in design, my favorite being a Monk that consists of the souls of fallen soldiers who dawns a brown cloak that shrouds his corporeal figure.

In support of the great character design is the absolute top-notch voice work. Not one character sounds out of place or cheesy, and the interaction between characters is deepened by the delivery of dialogue. The score that accompanies your journey is also epic and well-constructed, and it fits the pacing of the exploration and combat perfectly.

GAMEPLAY (3.25/5)

Deep below the surface of our world rests a supremely powerful warlock, who has fallen into a slumber so deep and twisted that his very nightmares are manifesting themselves into our world, bringing terror and death to all his mind can engulf. Fortunately for us, a set of heroes are also manifested from his nightmares, but they wish for balance and peace, stopping at nothing to put a cease to the horrors from the deep.

After playing a short introductory chapter, the game lets you start exploring the depths. Each stage consists of short engagements with small groups of enemies, death traps, treasure and journal pages to collect that add depth to the story.

The game is pretty much a thinking player’s hack n’ slash, with light rogue elements such as equipment loss upon death and having to restart at the beginning of a level. Even still, it’s a very forgiving entry to the genre; if you happen to bite the dust you will spawn as a Soldier at the place of your death.

At this point you must finish off the enemies that killed your hero, grab his weapon and haul ass to the nearest camp in order to resurrect the fallen. The most roguelike part of the game is probably playing as that damn Soldier, because his move set completely pales in comparison to the three playable main characters.

Multiplayer is solid, offering a Versus mode with several selectable characters and a co-pp mode, but it’s an experience best played solo in my opinion. It is a very easy roguelike as well, taking about two hours until your first victory. After that, you just start over. There’s not really any equipment to yearn after, and skills can only be upgraded three times by three different modifiers, so just once through you’ll see just about as much as there is to offer here.

OVERALL (3.5/5)

Damn if Abyss Odyssey isn’t a cool concept for a game; a psychotically powerful warlock having bad dreams and ruining all of our days with it. It could just use a bit more content to entice players into spending more time with it.

Throwback Thursday: Win Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark

July 31, 2014 33 comments

TFROTDSYou’ve got the touch… you’ve got the powwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwer… YEAH! If I’m quoting Stan Bush lyrics you best believe we’re giving away Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark on Steam this week. Now, it’s up to you to enter the contest… no matter the cost.

HOW TO ENTER

To enter simply let us know who your favorite Transformer is in the comments section below. Also, if you’re on Twitter please include your @handle as well. If not, just make sure the email address you use when entering is valid.

Sample Comment
Starscream
@G1Rulez

THE FINE PRINT

Winners will be selected on Wednesday, August 6th. All entries must be submitted by 8 PM EDT/5 PM PDT on Wednesday. Please note that although anyone can enter you must either be following me on Twitter or submit a working email address to win.

Good luck!

PC Review: Infinity Runner

And the beast keeps runnin, runnin, and runnin...

And the beast keeps runnin, runnin, and runnin…

By: Justin Redmon

Wales Interactive doesn’t really waste much time getting the main point of their game across, spelling it out blatantly in the name itself, Infinity Runner, an infinite runner if you couldn’t quite guess. Infinite runners tend to get a bad rap, as most seem to be nothing more than halfhearted timewasters, but that doesn’t stop them from being enjoyable experiences.

That’s something Infinity Runner thankfully achieves, combining its running feats with a space aesthetic as well as werewolves of all things, but its main problems sadly lie with its adherence to its chosen genre and little variety to make it different from the rest.

Being an infinite runner, quick controls are an absolute necessity for finesse, but Infinity Runner does a few things oddly to say the least. Needless to say, all the genre staples you’d expect from any other runner are here as well with sliding, jumping and the odd wall run making an appearance within your repertoire. Really, Infinity Runner wouldn’t seem all that different if not for one major difference: it’s completely first person.

This change actually ends up hurting it a bit in some areas, as turning corners is controlled by mouse movement, which sort of jerks you around turns instead of transitioning smooth. After turning your view doesn’t return to center either, so you’re stuck staring at a wall instead of directly ahead, and since you’ll be moving quite quickly, this can cause time between obstacles to all but disappear as you rush to reposition your view.

In looks, Infinity Runner is a mixed bag. The game takes place exclusively on the spaceship Infinity, the largest ship ever built, which coincidentally seems to be made up largely of hallways. Now while running around hallways leaves a lot to be desired, Infinity Runner occasionally impresses with set piece moments where you’ll have to slide or dodge somewhat spectacularly, or other moments where the ship opens up giving you a view of the Earth. Overall though, textures are somewhat bland, and even though you move between different sections of the ship, things don’t really change enough to keep the game feeling fresh.

Things are decidedly better in regards to its soundtrack, which, although lacking on some fronts, boasts pumping tracks that definitely fuel the runner gameplay. That, when taken in conjunction with some of the more explosive set pieces, definitely make for an enjoyable experience. There’s voice acting as well, and although lines can sometimes be pretty odd, it’s adequate for the experience at hand, and ends up being surprisingly solid all around.

Now most wouldn’t expect an infinite runner to try and have a story beside its gameplay, but Infinity Runner stands somewhat alone in this regard. Unfortunately, while it could have been an interesting bit to the game if handled better it ends up being nothing to really write home about, even going so far as to end rather unceremoniously.

At least the story mode itself serves as a good starting ground for the game, slowly introducing obstacles and game mechanics, with each level setting you up with three lives to conquer it before moving on to the next section.

That being said, you’ve probably experienced a lot of what Infinity Runner has to offer in other places besides small fight sections where the games slows down and throws up some QTEs to have you take down a group of enemies. These sections are thankfully brief and quite easy. There are also other sections where you turn into a werewolf, making you mostly invincible while also granting the ability to absorb collectables without having to really try to collect them — there are even wall running segments that pop up during these moments. It’s sad to say, though, that even turning into a werewolf is somewhat of a triviality and would have been great as a larger part of the game instead of what amounts to a glorified power up.

Beyond story, there’s the expected Arcade mode, which lets you do high score runs against friends or speed run story levels. This is probably where you’ll get the most enjoyment out of Infinity Runner, and when everything clicks it’s definitely fun. The two other interesting bits of Infinity Runner are something that I sadly couldn’t experience, mainly the multiplayer and Oculus Rift support. The multiplayer boasts up to 32-player matches, but I just was unable to find others looking for a match.

As far as Oculus Rift support goes, I honestly wouldn’t recommend it, as the speed of the game combined with the constant head bobbing of your view doesn’t seem like it would make for anything other than an extremely disorienting experience. Then again, it also ends up being one of the only real reasons to try this over other runners on the market, so for those lucky enough to actually own one, maybe it’ll be worth it to try out. Ultimately, though, it just doesn’t offer up enough gameplay wise to stand out from its nearly endless crowd of competitors.

OVERALL (2.5/5)

As a runner, Infinity Runner is an enjoyable experience, but nothing past Oculus Rift support really warrants mention. Unfortunately, it ends up being something that’s probably not worth your time otherwise.

PC Review: Cloudbuilt

All of Cloudbuilt's levels take place in floating worlds like this one.

All of Cloudbuilt’s levels take place in floating worlds like this one.

By: David Tavernier

Cloudbuilt is the first offering from indie developer Coilworks. It’s a futuristic game that was specifically developed to emulate parkour, much like in Mirror’s Edge and other games. Does Cloudbuilt succeed in this endeavor? Read on to find out.

CONTROLS (3.5/5)

The controls in Cloudbuilt are good, but not great. They work well enough, but there are times where you will fall to your death off of a platform or while wall-running, and it feels like the controls are at fault. Sometimes you will be running across a wall and will have to jump to another wall, and instead of continuing along that wall that you jumped to you will simply stay stuck in place and doomed to fall to your death.

Getting hit by enemies can also be annoying as oft times when you get hit you will perform kind of a back flip and often fall to your doom as well. This isn’t to say that the controls are bad. Often they work fine. Still, there are moments where you will feel cheated by the game, and it really isn’t your fault.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (3/5)

Cloudbuilt has a very unique, cel shaded look. The reason it looks different than other cel shaded games that have come before it is because it uses a stylized cross hatching technique that makes every part of the game look like a shaded, moving sketch. Don’t get me wrong, the game’s visuals will not knock your socks off. My gaming PC is about four years old, and it has no problem running Cloudbuilt at all. So the visuals seem kind of dated. However, the game’s frame rate is high enough and its visuals are unique enough that Cloudbuilt‘s graphics are still serviceable.

Cloudbuilt‘s music and sound effects also seem appropriate to the game, fitting well within the bounds of the sci-fi genre. The sounds produced by your jetpack and gun sound realistic enough, and so do those uttered by your robotic enemies. Also, the music never really seems repetitive and serves as a decent backdrop to the action.

One caveat with the game’s sound design is its narrator. Between each round you get to listen to a female narrator (the main character) who gives background information about herself and her trials and tribulations. She seems to be currently injured and in a coma, and the game’s primary gameplay must be taking place in her dreams. The problem with her narration is that it often doesn’t make any sense at all, talking in overly complicated sentences that don’t really go anywhere. So, in Cloudbuilt the voice acting really fails to capture and deliver the game’s story; a failure that made it impossible for me to become immersed in the game.

GAMEPLAY (3.5/5)

In a word, Cloudbuilt‘s gameplay is “difficult.” If you’ve played games like Super Meat Boy or Guacamelee! on its highest setting, then you probably know just how tough a game can be. The point of Cloudbuilt is not to defeat rounds and rounds of enemies and bosses, though, as instead you’re forced to navigate more and more complex maps that rely on your ability to do futuristic parkour. If you are up for a challenge, then the game is fun. However, if you are used to breezing through games in 10 hours or less with minimal difficulty Cloudbuilt will be quite a change from what you are used to.

Most maps require you to run along walls, using your boost ability to move up and down them to avoid traps and enemies. You will also have to run up walls and jump from each wall’s top onto other ledges and platforms. There will be instances where you simply have to jump from platform to platform as well, but these are made difficult by the inclusion of enemies walking across each platform or by turrets that shoot at you while you are trying to traverse them.

Many times these enemies and turrets are indestructible, so you can only try to avoid them by moving around them. Another frustrating part of the gameplay is that each level gives you limited continues, and checkpoints are few and far between. This means that even after you spend a good effort getting to the next checkpoint, if you die enough times you will have to restart the level. This makes it feel like all your blood, sweat and tears to get to a checkpoint count for nothing in the end.

This isn’t to say that the game’s gameplay always feels cheesy. When you finally get through all of the obstacles and beat a stage you will get a great rush of adrenaline and satisfaction. The game’s challenging aspects make it so that completing each stage is much more gratifying than in less demanding titles.

OVERALL (3.5/5)

A tough-as-nails release, Cloudbuilt offers considerable replay value if you want to achieve a high ranking on each of its stages. So, what it really comes down to is whether or not you are up for a real challenge. If you are, $19.99 is a good price for those that like doing speed runs and want to get the top ranking for each stage. If, instead, you are interested in a good story or simply want to complete the game, then you may want to look elsewhere for a good time.

PS4 Review: Crimsonland

Run. Shoot. Kill. Repeat.

Run. Shoot. Kill. Repeat.

While I can certainly appreciate all the artistic, stylized games to hit the PlayStation Network since the launch of the PlayStation 4, there’s still plenty of room for an old fashioned, hard hitting twin-stick shooter that’s all about one thing: turning various bloodthirsty creatures into corpses. In that vein I decided to take the plunge and check out 10tons’ Crimsonland, a game that first hit PC back in 2003, to see how it found life on consoles. Let’s go to the tape.

CONTROLS (4.5/5)

Move with the left stick, aim with the right and pull the trigger to shoot. Toss in a manual reload (right bumper) and you’re good to go. The game does support using the PS4’s touchpad, but it felt woefully out of place. For the most part the controls are tight, and displaying the remaining ammo in your clip alongside the aiming reticule was a good decision. The reticule feels a bit close to you, however, while a superior version is hidden away amid the game’s perks (and they only work on certain modes).

GRAPHICS/SOUND (1.5/5)

To say that presentation is not Crimsonland‘s selling point would be an understatement. The game is incredibly simplistic, offering a top-down perspective of barren worlds — the only difference from one location to another is the color of the ground — with a basic looking array of stereotypical cannon fodder (bugs, aliens, zombies). The persistent saturation of the ground in fiend blood is a cool touch and makes for quite a picture at the end of a level, but it’s pretty much the only redeeming quality.

About the only thing I can say for the audio side was that it wasn’t annoying. In fact, even after hours of playing I can’t recall what the music sounds like. The sound effects don’t move the needle, either.

GAMEPLAY (3.75/5)

If you’re looking for a story or even a loose plot, there isn’t one. This is you, standing alone and then getting swarmed by angry creatures. Your job is to kill them all without getting dead yourself; a task that is most definitely easier said than done.

Quest mode is the primary offering, tasking you with completing six 10-level worlds. Each level has a definitive start and end point, and clearing them unlocks weapons, perks and new modes. Once you finish them all you unlock hardcore, which challenges you to run the 60-level gauntlet again against a more imposing deployment of enemies. Do that, and it’s on to Grim.

As noted, beating levels on Quest gives you access to more content. What’s odd about it is that none of those unlocks help with the actual Quest mode. Weapon drops remain random, and the dizzying array of perks only comes into play in Survival and Blitz modes.

And therein lies the biggest problem with Crimsonland. Success or failure has more to do with what weapons get dropped than your own skill; after playing for a couple hours I could almost instantly diagnose whether it was worth pressing on beyond the opening moments based on what fell from the first few enemies. Sure, there were times where my tactics played into how I fared on a level — such as making an ill-advised run for a power-up — but it largely came down to my arsenal.

Beyond just weapon drops, the frequency and type of power-ups is also paramount to success. There aren’t a ton of them, but they feel well thought out and can alter the landscape in a flash. Among the more effective ones are a speed boost, a cube that freezes all enemies and the crowd pleasing flame ammo. Knowing when to grab them (or if you should even try for them) is something that comes with practice, and the game gets more fun as you get the rhythm.

In addition to Quest, Crimsonland also features five variants: Survival, Blitz, Rush, Weapon Pick and Nukefism. Of that group, three are destined for afterthought status. Rush covers the screen in enemies and gives you only an assault rifle with which to fight them. Weapon Pick scatters guns around the map that can be picked up but not reloaded, and Nukefism takes away your guns and leaves you with power-ups as your only means of defense. All three are gimmicky and limited.

That leaves Survival and Blitz, which is essentially Survival with the speed turned up. It’s here that the perks come into play as each time you fill a meter a random grouping of four perks appears, allowing you to pick one. There are literally dozens of options, though you rarely get the exact one you were hoping for. It’s an enjoyable setup, and odds are this is where you’ll spend most of your time.

Crimsonland supports up to four players locally, and it’s when teaming with another person that the game gets exponentially more enjoyable. It’s a great multiplayer game in that it requires almost no instruction, is fast paced and can hold up for short or longer gameplay sessions. If you have friends that like to come over and play co-op, there’s fun to be had.

OVERALL (3.5/5)

Although Crimsonland isn’t much to look at and scarcely deviates from its core experience, it’s still a fun game to play, and one that’s surprisingly addictive. If you’ve got any love for twin-stick shooters you’d do well to pick this up.

PS3 Review: GRID Autosport

The fins? Totally about maxing horse-power.

The fins? Totally about maxing horse-power.

By: Jeff Cater

GRID Autosport has been released by Codemasters, the guys and gals famous for creating some of the more tense and detailed racers in gaming history. While GRID Autosport has a few questionable omissions, there is still a solid race experience to partake in this year.

CONTROLS (4/5)

It doesn’t break the mold or anything, but GRID Autosport is immediately accessible to anyone. It controls in the same ways many racers do; the triggers handle gas and braking while the left stick steers your car. Keeping their racing experience constant throughout titles is a specialty of Codemasters, and GRID Autosport is another great example of a racer you can pick right up and play. Each of the selectable vehicles handles a bit differently and has its own little nuances, with only a few of them that are difficult to handle even given the super friendly controls.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (4/5)

GRID Autosport looks pretty damn slick where it really counts, and truly the only gripes I had about the visuals is the lackluster crowd (which is usually where racing titles suffer) and the in-car camera where you can see all your gauges and meter in their full, non-functional glory. Other than that, the frame rate is consistent throughout the various weather effects, and the cars look gorgeous and feature great amounts of detail. You can’t really ask for more than pretty cars moving cleanly and quickly.

The co-drivers and announcers are also believable, and they don’t have the cut-up feel that some racing games try to get away with. The soundtrack sounds like a mix of James Bond themes and Darude tracks, and the races are full of “BRRRRRRAPS” and squealing tires so it can be a pretty excitable aural experience during heated laps.

GAMEPLAY (4/5)

GRID Autosport lets you perform any of five activities at any time during your career, letting you decide when to partake in an event that you maybe aren’t particularly fond of, or if you like to save the best for last. Of the five selectable, Touring is the most fun. Touring races are generally a very claustrophobic experience; the tracks are very tight and filled with “OH SHIT” braking moments.

Amongst the other modes like Tuner, Open Wheel and Street mode, Endurance is the other stand out. Mostly due to the very questionable decision to leave out pit crews, so on any given Endurance race you can flatten a tire early or bend up an axle, but you’re screwed at that point because there is literally no way fix your vehicle. The tracks found in each mode are well thought out and warrant the play through of each in order to progress to Grand Slam Events which is basically a set of races spanning the five modes.

On the multiplayer side of things, you can race up to 11 real life opponents, but you may fill in the gaps with computer drivers if you don’t find or want a full match. You get to have your very own garage this time around, and get to fill it with any assortment of cars you can acquire.

OVERALL (4/5)

GRID Autosport is a damn fine racer that should not be overlooked by any casual or hardcore racing fan. There’s something for everyone here, and it’s so easy to get started and pulled into its universe.

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