DLC Review: Rogue One (Star Wars Pinball)

There's just not much going on in Rogue One pinball.

There’s just not much going on in Rogue One pinball.

By: Mike Chen

Star Wars: Rogue One was the biggest film of 2016 and in many ways, the Star Wars film some fans always wanted to see. Tie-in pinball tables can only go so far in terms of representing a license, but Zen Pinball’s Rogue One table doesn’t do much with its source material, and instead feels like a generic Star Wars table without much to do.

The table’s general aesthetic is based around the film’s climatic battle of Skariff, but unlike that chaotic beach battle, there’s surprisingly little going on. Zen tables usually have a secondary platform or space, along with a dense number of theme-specific secondary activities.

Here, Rogue One has two primary ramps and then a bumper area, and that’s primarily it. The extra flippers don’t do much, and other than the occasional “hit the target” mini-game, there’s not a lot of variety.

Astute Star Wars fans will also notice that the music is taken all from the original film rather than Rogue One, which also lends itself to a sense of quick and generic design.

Voice actors are similarly generic, though the only one who comes close to the film’s characters is the man who mimics K2SO (AKA the snarky droid). Otherwise, the bland script and lifeless delivery could have been pulled from any action film.

OVERALL (2.5/5)

Rogue One is one of Zen‘s weaker efforts, both in terms of physical design and use of licensed assets. Try the other Star Wars tables, you’ll get more mileage out of those.

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Throwback Thursday: Win Tales of Berseria on PS4 or Steam!

tobAfter digging in the vault last week, this week we’re teaming up with the good people over at Bandai-Namco to give you a chance to win their brand new title, Tales of Berseria, on either the PlayStation 4 or Steam!

To enter, simply let us know what your most anticipated title of 2017 is in the comments section below. Please include your platform of choice (PS4 or Steam) along with your @Twitter handle as well.

Sample Comment
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Winners will be selected on Thursday, February 9th. 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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Throwback Thursday: Win Metal Gear Solid V: The Definitive Experience on XB1 or PS4!

mgsvdeYou know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men… well, such has been my January, a month that has been largely spent combating the stomach flu (whether in myself or my kids). I’m ready to get rolling again, however, and we’re kicking off 2017 with codes for Konami’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Definitive Experience on XB1 and PS4!

To enter, simply let us know what your favorite Metal Gear title is in the comments section below. Please include your platform of choice (PS4 or XB1) along with your @Twitter handle as well.

Sample Comment
MGS 3: Snake Eater

Winners will be selected on Thursday, February 2nd. 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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XB1 Review: Kingdom: New Lands

Ah, the early days of House Slytherin…

Initially released on Steam in late 2015, Kingdom marked Raw Fury’s initial foray into the world of publishing. The game was well received, spawning the expanded version Kingdom: New Lands, which not only added new content but also had its reach increased by being ported to the Xbox One.

Upon booting up I was struck by how little the game offered in terms of direction. A tutorial that’s equal parts brief and sparse represents the totality of the instruction you’re provided, ending with the message to “build, expand, defend,” and leaving you to your own devices. How you feel about that type of ambiguity is sure to color your early impressions.

In truth, Kingdom never offers much clarity, instead providing a simple interface and tasking you with figuring it out from there — you’re literally limited to riding back and forth, collecting coins and then spending them to purchase items (hammers, bow and arrow, etc.), recruit citizens and build or improve structures. That’s the game.

Everything revolves around money, and being flush with coinage isn’t in the cards so you’ll need to carefully consider what to invest in. There’s a trader that’ll make a daily run for a good return, and eventually you’ll be able to farm, but beyond that it’s typically sparse income from hunters taking down rabbits and deer.

You’ll need to venture out to locate people wandering around. Give them a token and they’ll head to your settlement. Buy them a tool and they’ll pick it up to fill a specific role (archer, builder, etc.). Once that’s done your control over them has essentially ended. Sure, they’ll typically move to complete the task they’re suited for, but that isn’t a given.

And therein lays one of Kingdom‘s biggest flaws: your success largely relies on the competence of your A.I. subjects, and competence isn’t always their forte.

At night, enemies known as “the greed” will frequently attack your encampment. At first you’ll repel them with ease, but before long they’ll be banging down walls and waylaying your people, which is due in large to the incompetence of your archers. They’ll routinely miss as enemies bash the walls, and once they move past them they’ll continue staring ahead rather than turning to fire.

That’s just one example of the problems you’ll encounter minus the ability to give direct commands, though rest assured there are others. Under that same umbrella, it seems like actions don’t always lead to the same result when it comes to farming and hunting, two key sources of income.

While checking out some posts and videos online helped considerably, they also exposed that a game that offers almost no direction wants you to progress a very specific way. Could it be done via trial and error alone? I suppose so, but the time investment would be substantial, and given how limited your interaction with the world is it’s hard to imagine that the repetition wouldn’t beat you down.

Assuming you can fend off your enemies long enough you can rebuild a boat and use it to travel to a new island where you start anew, each designed to provide a stiffer challenge than the last. The game introduces new structures and enemy types as you progress, and it feels undeniably rewarding when you set sail.

That being said, I keep circling back to a feeling of helplessness that’s made more acute by the frequent stupidity of the A.I. It made for a rare roller-coaster ride where I initially didn’t “get” the game, started to really enjoy it and then watched my enthusiasm erode each time one of my people did something inexplicably dumb to scrub my efforts and send me back to the beginning.

OVERALL (3.25/5)

Kingdom: New Lands has its virtues. The game’s old-school presentation is very pleasant and its simplicity has a certain inherent charm. Unfortunately, its lack of direction and clumsy A.I. led to an ever-growing list of features I wanted to see added (starting with a non-asthmatic horse).

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PS4 Review: Bard’s Gold

That slug on the left is on his 18th retry.

That slug on the left is on his 18th retry.

By: Jeff Cater

Bard’s Gold is an infuriating side-scroller where you play as a bard wandering around a castle in an attempt to keep an evil spirit locked away. Developed by Pixel Lantern, Bard’s Gold looks and feels just like a classic ’90s platformer, which works both for and against the game. While the nostalgia it brings is charming, the gameplay feels utterly dated and archaic.

First of all, even though you can upgrade the speed of your character, he just moves too slowly, and it often results in frustrating deaths. On numerous occasions you’ll receive a piece of treasure that pauses the game around you, but at the same time it also stops rendering enemies and projectiles…

…except in the background, so you might think you have a second to snap back into the run of things after you pick up an item but are immediately worked over by an enemy that didn’t lose any momentum during the pause.

So as you wander through the castle waiting for arrows to be shot by nonexistent enemies off-screen (nineties, woo!), you will also have to contend with spikes on walls that don’t move, spikes on the ceiling that fall down when you least expect it, spikes that pop out of the ground, books that come to life, enemies that blaze directly across the screen… and each thing kills you in one hit.

I did buy an item from the shop called a Sphere Barrier, which has a descriptor that reads “Glass may shatter… in return, you survive.” I was promptly killed by one hit yet again after purchasing it, and unless it was a glitch, it made me pretty upset and discouraged.

Shops can be found every so often throughout the castle, and it does indeed house some very useful items like a spell that enhances your basic attack to throw three daggers rather than just one, extra lives, new weapons, and many more.

In order to stay well equipped you’ll use your Magic Glasses (generously given to you in the first level) that produce a small twinkle effect where hidden gems and treasures may be. Sometimes you will get a bonus treasure for finding it all, and sometimes you’ll summon an angry spirit that quickly needs to be dealt with.

In terms of presentation, the visuals are a spot on callback to the heyday of early platformers, and I really did enjoy the chill soundtrack even though it tended to get a bit repetitive with all of the dying.

OVERALL (2.75/5)

Bard’s Gold could have retained the retro feel while also pushing the genre forward, but it tries too hard to be difficult, and as it stands right now the game is something I may have rented on my NES and then quickly pushed aside for more hours with The Legend of Zelda.

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