By: Jeff Cater
During my early days of PC gaming there was a title that I was never allowed to play with the adults. Laughing, frantic yelling and celebratory hoots filled the room. Although I wasn’t old enough to join in on the fun, it was very clear to me that You Don’t Know Jack! was the king of party and trivia games.
And while The Jackbox Party Pack 2 doesn’t contain the classic YDKJ, it does include a bevy of stupendous party games that will test your drawing skills, knowledge and sense of humor.
Our first game in the pack is Fibbage 2, where each player has to construct a believable (but completely false) answer and let the other players decide which is which. Like most games in this pack, the most menacing and deceitful players will likely be on top of the board.
The next game up (one of my favorites in the pack) is a game purely dependent on just how funny you and your fellow players are. Quiplash XL presents somewhat of a joke statement, or basically a setup to a joke, and it’s up to the players to input the funniest answer.
Once the answers are submitted, each other player has to vote on which answer is the funniest one. Playing with my group of friends turned sophomoric rather quickly, as any answer quickly became some variant of “My asshole.”
Earwax is a game somewhat like Quiplash, but rather than answering questions you pick the “best” sound effects as answers. Being that this pack is a party game, it’s sometimes difficult to really pay attention to the sound effects as people are generally chatting up one another during play. As such it’s by far the most difficult game to actually pay attention to.
Up next we have Bidiots, which has players auctioning off poorly drawn pictures to appease a set of art collectors. Bidding on a piece awards the artist player some money that they then use to bid on art on the next player’s turn. Seeing exactly what people can churn out with their cell phones or DualShock 4 in a short amount of time is often hilarious.
Last but definitely not least is Bomb Corp, which presents four players with a bomb to defuse together. The trouble comes when each player is actually presented with their own set of instructions that often contradict another players’ directives. “It says to cut the BLUE one!” “NO! NO NO NO! That’s not even the right wire!”
All of these games work wonderfully with either the DualShock 4, or, get this, your cell phone. As mentioned above, you can use your cell phone in most of these games as an alternative/additional controller. Simply go to the menu in-game that presents a “Room Code,” get your friends to go to the Jackbox website, enter the code and voila, they’re buzzing in and drawing on their own phones that they’re comfortable with.
With the holiday season drawing nearer every moment, you’re likely going to be being visited by friends and family. With The Jackbox Party Pack 2, you can ensure that the seasonal tidings will be an absolute blast this year. Whether you’re ready to punch your mother-in-law in the face because she’s about to cut the wrong wire, or trying to shield younger players’ eyes from grandpa’s racist answers in Quiplash, there’s no way you can go wrong by picking this up.
By: Matthew Striplen
Honestly, who doesn’t dream about going on a magical adventure? Moco Moco Friends puts you in the shoes of Moco, a young girl starting her journey across the land to catch and train creatures to fight at her side. Wait a minute… this all sounds rather familiar.
Moco Moco‘s layout feels very intuitive, especially during combat. The interface is essentially the same as modern Pokémon games, but with a few unique functions. When you’re doing the actual dungeon crawling, Moco handles smoothly and changes directions with ease.
Moco Moco might be the only 3DS game that looks better in 3D than 2D. Although the overworld radiates with color, the details are a little lacking, most notably on poor Moco’s face where her iris and pupil-less gaze clashes with her otherwise cutesy demeanor, but turning on the 3D functionality fixes this issue somehow. The lack of detail becomes a theme, as the large, colorful shapes are rendered beautifully, but small details, such as faces, suffer.
Considering the huge amount of dialogue in the game, it’s disappointing that Moco Moco only has a few lines of Japanese voice acting rather than being fully voiced or even English localization. Its music remains appropriately cheery from start to finish, and the catchy tunes are sure to get stuck in your head pretty fast.
Let’s take care of the donphan in the room, Moco Moco Friends bears a striking resemblance to the Pokémon series. The main premise is pretty much identical: a young protagonist goes on an adventure to catch sentient creatures to train for battle and to be the very best, like no one ever was. *Gotta catch ’em all!*
Sorry about that… However, if you substitute Plushkins for Pokémon and witches for Pokémon Trainers, then you basically have the same concept. The differences lie in the execution.
The biggest difference is that Moco Moco is a traditional dungeon crawler, as opposed to Pokémon‘s open world experience. Each dungeon is filled with items and a handful of wild Plushkins to battle. After working your way through each floor, Moco will usually face off against a boss, though the challenge is never too great.
Unfortunately, each mission Moco undertakes follows a nearly identical formula. 1) Person X asks you to find a McGuffin, 2) Enter dungeon and fight your way to the top, 3) Defeat the boss and return with said McGuffin, and 4) Rinse and repeat. Plus, most dungeons can only be distinguished by color scheme — layouts, items and enemies all appear in similar ways. Since Moco Moco targets young children, its repetitive gameplay may fail to hold their attention.
Instead of having random battles, wild Plushkins can be seen wandering around on the overworld, though the number in the party won’t be revealed until the fight starts. Once Moco enters into battle, another difference becomes clear. Moco can only carry a maximum of four Plushkins at a time, but can deploy three at once.
Each Plushkin’s strength is based on Moco’s ability to supply them with magic. Magical attacks drain one point apiece, and at the end of every turn Moco replenishes a point. However, every Plushkin is capable of a melee attack, which does not require magic. Magic attacks are based on elemental types, which have a strength and resistance system similar to Pokémon.
Another notable feature is the auto-battler. Players can choose one of four auto modes: no skills (no magic), healing first, balance and full power, all of which are pretty self-explanatory. This function might be great for speeding through level grinding, but the auto-battler defeats the purpose of the game. Why bother playing a game when the computer can do it faster and better?
Although Moco Moco says the system is designed for kids who don’t understand battling yet, this still undermines the goal of the game by offering a crutch instead of hints. Additionally, just because someone is young and inexperienced does not mean they are not intelligent. Solving puzzles is fun, hence the genre dedicated to it, and the auto-battler takes away the joy of figuring out something for yourself.
Acquiring more Plushkins happens randomly. After defeating one, it may approach you and ask to join your team. Although the player may accept or deny it, the player cannot actively seek out a desired Plushkin. Sadly, you can’t rename them either, which makes distinguishing between two of the same Plushkin type more difficult. They can be summoned by using special items in the hub world, but the actual type cannot be specified.
Moco Moco also features a relatively intricate crafting and training system. A wide variety of items, including equipment, can be crafted from supplies collected in dungeons. The strength of your Plushkins can be raised by training them, or by spending currency to unlock new abilities, or by evolving them.
One of my biggest pet peeves is loading screens. As someone who grew up on ’90s games, especially disc-based games, loading times were ubiquitous and protracted. Although Moco Moco‘s load times aren’t too hefty, loading screens appear before and after almost everything. Want to talk to an NPC? Just wait a few seconds. Want to enter a battle? Wait. Want to walk into the next room? Wait.
In fact, the main reason the loading screens are so terrible is because they tell the player, “This is a loading screen. You are now waiting and not having fun.” If the developers tried to hide the loading times, there’s a good chance that most gamers wouldn’t even notice them.
Moco Moco Friends is a cutesy RPG aimed at young gamers. However, the similarities to Pokémon cannot be overlooked, as the premises are nearly identical. The battle system holds some promise, but the auto-battler removes the incentive for players to hone their skills. Although the game will provide a few hours of fun for little ones, the overall experience is not a memorable one.
By: Ted Chow
Welcome back to the world of Borgovia, Van Helsing is back yet again to retell not one, but all three of his adventures within a single entity. The main feature of the Final Cut is in the consolidated experience from one game to another — for a more comprehensive look at the gameplay, check out our review of Van Helsing III.
The developers have integrated a streamlined transition in order for chapters to play without having to boot up another game. This is perfect for new players to the series and great for those who already own the three titles as it is free DLC, so what’s not to love?
As far as the game’s content, the majority of the game plays out the same as the original trilogy. There are some new additions to the game such as daily quests, skill changes, increased level cap and a mini tower defense game.
Aside from the small refinements, however, Final Cut feels like a marketing attempt similar to packaging a game as a digital deluxe edition. This is fine as it free for owners of all three games, but it could be rather annoying for those that decided to skip one or two games in the trilogy.
If you enjoy a good action RPG with features similar to Diablo III or Path of Exile, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing: Final Cut will offer the definitive edition for those that haven’t picked up on the series. There is tremendous value to pick up this edition over each game title individually, and the small additions are new content nonetheless.
Ultimately, there are only so many ways to repackage the same series without feeling a bit of fatigue, but if this is truly the end of the trilogy, then it can be safe to pick the series up if you like the hack n’ slash genre.
We’re keeping the episodic giveaway train rolling this week with codes to download Square-Enix’s Life is Strange Season Passes on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Steam! Note the long run time on the contest since next week is Thanksgiving.
And speaking of which, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!
HOW TO ENTER
To enter, simply let us know what your most pleasantly surprising game of 2015 was in the comments section below. Make sure to specify which platform (XB1, PS4, Steam) you want, and, 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 so I can contact you.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
THE FINE PRINT
Winners will be selected on Monday, November 30th. All entries must be submitted by 4 PM EST/1 PM PST on Monday. Please note that although anyone can enter you must either be following me on Twitter or submit a working email address to win.
By: Jeff Cater
Knight Squad, developed by Chainsawesome Games (that’s really hard to type) is an eight-player (!!!) top-down brawler with several different game types to slay and be slayed in.
Knight Squad certainly doesn’t complicate much when it comes to controls; you move and aim with the analog sticks and attack with X. I don’t really know what else to say about this, the game is just easy to pick up and play. It is wort nothing that you cannot run backwards and attack at the same time, which puts every player at the same disadvantage and requires a bit of “push forward!” mentality.
This game is played from a top-down perspective, not unlike Gauntlet or Bomberman, which are two games that this is immediately reminiscent of. Knights waddle around the map comically, and weapon effects like the laser gun leave bright trails of death across the map. The sets of animation, while pretty limited, are well done and bring a wonderful undertone of humor to the mix of knights slaying one another, capturing grails and flags and such.
When it comes to the soundtrack, it’s not spectacular, but it is indeed effective at fulfilling the chaotic nature of the game. Amidst the break-beat tunes, knights will grunt and yelp when attacked. It’s not the richest audio experience, but it serves the purpose well.
Pure and simple, Knight Squad is all about chaotic combat. You and up to seven of your friends (or online enemies) can jump into a game and start kicking the tar out of one another. There are nine modes you can pick from, among them being tried-and-true selections like Capture the Flag, Last Man Standing and Team Deathmatch.
One of the best modes is clearly the Soccer variant, which sets a ball in the middle of the stage and has players hacking away and blasting one another in order to get the ball to the damn goal. Juggernaut mode is also very fun, as instead of a soccer ball in the center of the map there is a minigun. The player who picks up the minigun immediately becomes Public Enemy No. 1, and they then have to fend off the other seven players.
If you don’t happen to have enough players to fill the game, you can either play with AI filling the gaps or you can try one of the several single-player Challenges. While they’re indeed a challenge, fun isn’t really how I would describe them.
If you’re looking for a wonderful party game, Knight Squad can easily fill that void. Whether you’re playing with online friends or a house full of punchable shoulders, Knight Squad has a huge threshold of fun just waiting to be tapped into.
By: Brian Gunn
Norn9: Var Commons in a sci-fi story featuring a cast of people with superhuman abilities traveling on a mysterious ship. It is also filled with hunky young lads to romance. Does it stand out as a compelling sci-fi story or is it mainly going to attract an audience looking for love?
There’s not much to say about the controls in most visual novels, and it’s the same case here. It’s a visual novel, you’re mostly just tapping X to move the scene forward, with the occasional menu-based choice to make. There are some nice quality of life options like quick saving and loading, as well as a backlog in case you went through a scene too fast.
Norn9 feels a bit generic on the visual design front. A lot of the character designs are sort of stock anime characters, complete with school uniforms. The story takes place in a mysterious floating airship that provides for some unique vistas, but I found myself struggling to really picture it as a whole. Some character designs are just silly too, like Ron, who is always baring his chest and wearing sunglasses indoors.
Aside from inner monologues, Norn9 is fully voiced in Japanese. It works well to sell some of the more dramatic and comedic moments over other visual novels that only voice important bits. Music is pleasant if a bit forgettable.
The story starts a bit odd for an otome, with the perspective character not being a beautiful young woman but instead a studious 12-year-old boy named Sorata. He quickly finds himself in a spot of bad luck, somehow having traveled back in time and ending up on the titular Norn ship.
The Norn appears to be some sort of futuristic craft, and here we meet the other part of the title, the 9. Or rather, we should be meeting the 9, but something is up. There’s only supposed to be nine people on the ship, which has provided nine rooms, and yet, including Sorata, they’re a few people over capacity. It is soon revealed that at least one of these extra people is a traitor and working to bring the ship down.
There are a few main beats of the story including figuring out who the traitor is. The majority of the cast are espers, people with superhuman abilities — like being able to control plant life. Finding out the traitor, the nature of these abilities, and what exactly Norn is are the game’s draws outside of romance.
Shortly into the story you’ll switch characters to one of three young women, and then shortly into playing as them you’ll be prompted which romance route you want to take. And so there isn’t a very meaty base game here as it branches off fairly quickly, with the endings sharing some similarities.
Some story beats are resolved in most branches, but in order to get a good picture of the game you’ll need to play through multiple times. Some important people on the ship barely appear depending on who you pick to pursue, which made it hard to remember just who they were when they’d randomly reappear during certain moments.
Playing the various routes will earn you points and unlocks, which can be used for things like concept art and comedic skits. The game is a bit annoyingly locked down at the start, forcing you to play through a route for each lead character before being able to pick further stories.
All in all, the characters aren’t bad, but they do feel a bit familiar, falling into fairly clichéd roles. For example, the stoic leader type that’s closed off to people naturally has the ability to erect literal barriers to keep things safe. That’s the sort of basic, almost eye rolling thematic depth you can expect while playing.
I’d find it hard to really recommend Norn9: Var Commons to anyone that’s not a core part of the target audience; unlike, for instance, Code Realize, which had a lengthy base to the story that drew me in. Norn9 does have a few decent twists toward the end, but it didn’t do too much to stand out.
By: Ted Chow
Invisible Inc. is back and bigger than ever with the new Contingency Plan DLC. Relative to the original release, the Contingency Plan offers more options to the main campaign and custom maps. While not completely game changing to the overall formula Invisible Inc. enacts with its espionage turn-based nature, the DLC operates as the dessert to the main dish by offering more of the same.
Contingency Plan brings forth new agents that the player can bring onto the field. The four new characters are equipped with all new augments, and along with that come new ways to tackle the game in the earlier stages. And you may need the man power as new enemies are also introduced to combat your agents. From pulse drones to new daemons, the DLC provides plenty of new obstacles for your agents to evade.
On top of the fresh faces introduced, the field missions themselves will provide some new side missions and optional tasks with various rewards. Most of the rewards will pull from the new DLC augments, Incognita programs, and equipment. This gives more RNG to the already procedural maps and tasks assigned during the mission for greater the diversity.
The last noticeable feature would be the extended campaign feature that provides another 48 hours on the doomsday clock with escalating difficulty. The difficulty itself is increased from a maximum of 10 to 20 and new challenges will present themselves with the higher difficulty.
Invisible Inc.‘s Contingency Plan provides some solid new content to an already established game. The content itself isn’t standalone, instead sprinkled throughout your playthrough, and those veteran gamers that know the game inside and out should find the content to be more noticeable. Overall, the new additions provide some more variety to the fundamental gameplay, and that’s always welcomed for a game that can be played countless times.