Wii U/PS4 Review: Chronicles of Teddy: Harmony of Exidus

Me want win game.

Me want win game.

By: Matthew Striplen

You are all alone when suddenly, the power goes out. You search for the fuse box, but instead discover a portal to a gorgeous 8-bit world filled with magic, music and monsters in Chronicles of Teddy: Harmony of Exidus.

CONTROLS (3/5)

Almost everything in Teddy handles very well. Everything feels tight enough to accurately control the character, even when running and jumping across platforms. However, the combat isn’t quite as good. Players can’t move and attack simultaneously, which is one of my personal pet peeves. A lunging strike can be executed when sprinting, but it still cancels any movement commands.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (5/5)

Teddy‘s aesthetic presentation is by far the game’s strongest suit. The breathtaking pixel art never disappoints. Every inch of the screen teems with detail and color. The characters’ animations are fluid and organic looking, or at least as organic as an 8-bit game ever will be. There’s simply not enough praise to be given to Teddy‘s visual performance.

The sound design takes a few more liberties from the 8/16-bit approach, yet still retains its nostalgic charm. Though most sounds still have that distinctive compressed quality, the music features more live sounding instruments. Music even plays a greater role in this game than just a soundtrack, which I’ll discuss later.

GAMEPLAY (3.5/5)

Teddy drops the player into a classic “Metroidvania” style game. For the uninitiated, Metroidvania games draw inspiration from the Metroid/Castlevania franchises, which feature non-linear gameplay and a few RPG elements, among other aspects.

The plot is a little thin. Most of the exposition is laid out in one huge text crawl at the beginning. In a nutshell, King Tarant of Exidus has been overthrown and his spirit now possesses the player’s teddy bear. It’s up to us to restore the good king to power.

Other than the initial chunk of text, not much instruction is given to the player. This harkens back to the original Legend of Zelda, where gamers had to teach themselves how to play through exploration. However, this concept is hit-or-miss in execution, and the player will often feel a lack of direction and momentum in some of the less well designed segments.

When this mechanic works well, the reward of figuring something out on your own is certainly greater than being constantly spoon fed, but feeling stuck and frustrated can be even worse than spoon feeding. Since many modern games tend to hold the player’s hand too much, the lack of instruction is initially refreshing but ultimately works against itself.

Easily the most unique component of Teddy is the Musicom: a musical device used to communicate with the inhabitants of Exidus through tone combinations. Each tone is represented by a rune, though a single tone or rune does not carry a specific meaning. Words are added to your Lexicon by meeting new NPCs and memorizing their speech. However, the words can only be reproduced if the player possesses the correct rune keys.

Initially, the Musicom comes without any runes installed, so it’s up to the player to find them. The Lexicon contains a massive amount of words, almost all of which play a vital role on completing the quest. Unfortunately, the player can’t view the Lexicon and play the Musicom at the same time, so be prepared to do lots of page flipping.

Although much of the action revolves around platforming, be ready for combat at any moment. Fighting reminds me a lot of Zelda II, which is not a good thing. You start with just a trusty sword and shield, which can be thrust in the four cardinal directions. However, you can only strike up and down while airborne, just like in Link.

The sword starts out as a stubby little thing, which means you have to get very close in order to hit anything. Also, enemies do not receive hit-stun but still receive a period of invulnerability. This results in the player constantly taking damage, especially if the foe has a shield of their own.

Speaking of the shield, it’s nearly impossible to use. The shield only held up when standing perfectly still, but even then you can still take damage from enemies walking into you. Having a designated shield button would’ve been much preferred. These issues are remedied slightly by purchasing upgrades in the item shop, but they’re never fully eradicated.

OVERALL (3.75/5)

Visually, Chronicles of Teddy: Harmony of Exidus is flawless, and the Musicom a much needed freshness to a classic genre. That being said, the lack of instruction, while refreshing at first, is the source of much stagnation — especially since players will already be doing lots of backtracking. Still, if you’re looking for a visually stunning adventure, Harmony of Exidus is worth a try.

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XB1/PS4 Review: The Walking Dead: Michonne: What We Deserve

What We Deserve is a bloody, emotional and short conclusion to the mini-series.

What We Deserve is a bloody, emotional and short conclusion to the mini-series.

By: Mike Chen

Episode 2 of The Walking Dead: Michonne ended in a bit of a cliffhanger, with Michonne and company facing imminent danger from Norma’s crew. What We Deserve, the final episode of the mini-series, picks up immediately at this point.

What unfolds next is a short and intense ride that packs many emotional wallops while creating an escalating sense of danger to the already heightened scenario. What We Deserve does an excellent job at closing out the side story crafted by Telltale (which is canonical in the comic universe) while diving deep into Michonne’s psyche at her lingering guilt about her missing children.

This episode runs the two stories in parallel, cutting between present day and hallucination moments that culminate in a final 15-20 minutes that brings everything together. If there’s one shortcoming to What We Deserve — and is representative of the entire mini-series — it’s that it’s really short, even by TellTale standards.

TellTale episodes are usually 2-3 hours. The last two episodes of this mini-series have each clocked in at about an hour. In fact, given the cliffhanger of the second episode, the two could have been combined and saved the consumer a few dollars.

OVERALL (4/5)

What We Deserve is an emotionally packed and intense conclusion to the Michonne mini-series. Fans will find satisfactory closure to both Michonne’s emotional journey and the side story, but they may be disappointed by its short one-hour runtime.

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PS4 Review: Arslan: The Warriors of Legend

Legolas, eat your heart out...

Legolas, eat your heart out…

By: Brian Gunn

Arslan: The Warriors of Legend is one of the latest Musou from Koei-Tecmo, this time based on a moderately popular anime series rather than historical figures. Does it offer anything to audiences that might not know the anime or be among the Musou genre faithful?

CONTROLS (4/5)

Like most Musou, Arslan requires players to drop into large battlefields and beat the tar out of hundreds (if not thousands) of low rank soldiers, and it has a relatively simply control scheme. Combos are short and easy to memorize for the most part, and it’s easy to get into a battlefield clearing rhythm even if you’re just button mashing away.

There’s some mounted combat that feels a bit stiff, so much so that I often bailed off my horse as soon as it wasn’t needed. An ability to switch weapons mid combo is one of the highlights, allowing for some crazy and spectacular looking moves.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (3.5/5)

The art style of the game is taken from the anime, which is from Hiromu Arakawa, the acclaimed artist known mainly for Full Metal Alchemist. This gives the game a unique appearance, especially compared to the many other similar games from Koei-Tecmo. While characters look great, environments are often lackluster and barren. This creates a visual clash when the highly stylized characters interact with level designs that could be in any other game.

Although The Warriors of Legend is a 60 FPS title on next-gen consoles and PC, it tends to dip quite frequently during heavy battles, and some moves are capped at 30 FPS. This can be quite jarring when going back and forth so frequently.

Given the modest popularity of the source anime in the west, it’s not much of a surprise that the title is not dubbed. Voice acting is good and appears to be from the anime, and most of the story elements tend to be lifted directly from that.

It is often surprisingly dialogue heavy, which can be a little hard to focus on when dealing with a 300-hit combo. Sound effects are gloriously over the top as you crush your enemies. Music doesn’t stand out too much except for a great main theme.

GAMEPLAY (3.5/5)

The story of Arslan: The Warriors of Legend thrusts players into the role of Arslan and his various cohorts as his kingdom is usurped when he’s young, and he aims to get it back. While the countries in the game are fictional, the story seems heavily inspired by Persia, dealing with shahs rather than kings. The setting ends up being a decent selling point as it’s not one seen very often, with games often focusing on European or Japanese kingdoms.

There are a few modes to play in, but in order to unlock most things in the self explanatory Free Mode, players will need to venture through the story first. Story mode has you bouncing around between a variety of characters, which can lead to finding ones you like more than expected, but it can also mean spending long stretches stuck with characters you find a little dull.

Each battle takes place on massive fields without much to make them standout, and your objective is often about crossing it to either escape or encounter a boss fight. Along the way paths may be blocked and force you into minor objectives like killing certain officer type enemies nearby.

So, basically, it ends up playing like most Dynasty Warriors games, though often a bit less strict. Others in the genre typically force you to defend something or capture something, but many of the battles in The Warriors of Legend are just about cutting through to points on the map.

The big differences between this game and others like it are the weapon combos and mounted combat. Weapon combos have been around to an extent, but they are worked into the combos themselves now. If you use a unique skill after a power attack, the skill transforms into your second or third weapon briefly and allows a short combo period before switching back to the original weapon. This allows for some incredibly stylish combos.

Mounted combat is fairly simple, allowing for simple sweeping attacks and a charge attack, but it can be useful for clearing an area depending on the character. The main focus of mounted combat, however, is a maneuver called Mardan Rush, which allows players to call a large amount of cavalry to their side and speed around the battlefield. It decimates everything in its way, as well as plowing though certain blockades that hinder progress.

While these two things help set Arslan apart, it’s still the familiar style of simple combat for the most part, and it can quickly get repetitive. There are also some block and evade maneuvers that are almost required on boss fights, but the camera and generally chaotic nature of the game makes using them kind of a chore.

The story isn’t much to write home about, though that’s likely due to attempting to fit a long stretch of anime into a few minutes of time between missions. Twists and turns are often lost on the player when they don’t spend any time with the characters. Still, the setting allows for some unique fighting styles, like one that attacks with painting, and another with a lute.

OVERALL (3.5/5)

Arslan: The Warriors of Legend isn’t likely to win anyone over to the genre or source material, but it has a solid base of mechanics that makes it worth a look for those searching for a colorful world in which to beat up thousands of soldiers.

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Throwback Thursday: Win Day of the Tentacle Remastered on PS4 and Steam!

DOTTRWith Sony’s Launch Party 2016 promotion winding to a close this week with the release of Alienation, we’re going back to the (almost) beginning and joining forces with Double Fine to offer you the chance to win copies of Day of the Tentacle Remastered on either Steam or the PlayStation 4!

HOW TO ENTER
To enter, simply let us know what Dreamcast/PS2/Gamecube era game you’d like to see remastered in the comments section below. Please include your console choice (PS4 or Steam) along with your @Twitter handle as well.

Sample Comment
Skies of Arcadia
@SeriouslyWhyHasThisNotHappened
PlayStation 4

THE FINE PRINT
Winners will be selected on Thursday, May 5th. All entries must be submitted by 4 PM EST/1 PM PST on Thursday. Please note that although anyone can enter you must be following me on Twitter to win.

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DLC Review: Aliens vs. Pinball (Zen Pinball 2)

Ripley stands guard over the Aliens pinball table.

Ripley stands guard over the Aliens pinball table.

By: Mike Chen

There’s been a revival in the Alien franchise over the past few years, first with the pseudo-prequel Prometheus, followed by the excellent Alien: Isolation and most recently talk of a direct sequel from filmmaker Neill Blomkamp. Zen Pinball 2, the master of tie-in DLC, now has released the Alien vs. Pinball pack, a trio of tables from a cross-section of the Alien franchise.

The three tables are:

  • Aliens, based on the James Cameron film (and really, one of the best sci-fi films of all time)
  • Alien vs. Predator, based on a fun crossover idea for a comic book that has gone way too far now.
  • Alien: Isolation, based on the poop-your-pants scary game from Sega.

All three tables feature familiar iconography, with Aliens having an animated Ripley and Alien Queen on the table. Alien vs. Predator has the Predator hanging around and the temple from the movie (Movies? Were there multiple?) as a backdrop. Alien: Isolation‘s table is a little less exotic, as that game was set on a spaceship so your table’s background is essentially the cargo hold.

As always, the requisite Zen mini-games are there, with Isolation‘s being the most detailed by adding in elements from the stealth-horror title. There’s also a ridiculous puzzle mini-game that should have never been incorporated into a pinball design.

Zen Studios usually gets voice actors to recreate dialogue from licensed properties, so it’s cool to see that Aliens features actual dialogue from the film, including the very appropriate “GAME OVER MAN” from Hudson (Bill Paxton).

The tables themselves are all par for Zen, which means they’re busy, visually detailed and fun. Aliens is probably the best of the bunch, but from a pure pinball perspective, you’ll have fun with all three of them. None are so revolutionary that they’re recommended to non-fans, but they’re still solid across the board.

OVERALL (4/5)

There are three fun tables on offer here with a lot of franchise elements involved — while Aliens vs. Pinball won’t break any ground by Zen Pinball 2‘s standards, they’re still casual fun for sci-fi buffs.

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