April 2015 Video Game Reviews

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April 2015 Video Game Reviews include The Book of Unwritten Tales 2, Monster Hunter 4, Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries, Tales of Hearts R and more!
Well, it’s not made of candy, so that’s a bonus.
April 2015 Video Game Reviews

AERENA: Master’s Edition
Cliffhanger Productions
Reviewed on: Steam
Also on: iOS, Android
Street: 02.10
AERENA is a strategy based game that plays a lot like chess, but without all the pawns. The plot of the game is simple: You want to shoot down your enemy’s sky ship. There is no back story or cut scenes, and the tutorial is pretty short. You and your opponent move characters around on a grid-style map while attacking each other and trying to hit the other person’s ship. You can buy new characters that have specific features with in-game money, and even upgrade your ship. There is a single player quest mode, daily challenges and online play. The game also has a really nice feature which is their online chatroom, where you can converse with other players throughout the game. My main issue with the game is that the tutorial isn’t really thorough, so you are left to figure out the controls on your own. Also, there are a few glitches in AERENA that left me unable to play a few times. Overall, I really enjoy this game, and it’s a steal for $13.99. This game is potentially endless, so you can keep battling opponents online and doing the daily challenges. –Nicole Stephenson

The Book of Unwritten Tales 2
KING Art/Nordic Games
Reviewed on: PC
Also on: Mac, Linux
Street: 02.19
One problem with point-and-click puzzle games like The Book of Unwritten Tales is that they generally take so long to get anywhere that I lose interest pretty quickly. It’s a problem that KING Art has addressed in this series as the game’s bounteous assortment of nerd references and easter eggs is clever enough to keep players engaged. During the opening credits that double as the game’s tutorial—which is a cool spin on both gaming necessities—players are treated to visual references to Game of Thrones and even Mass Effect. The game’s story is an interesting one, since it begins with the post-adventure ennui that the characters from the first installment are dealing with. It’s an interesting place to start as so few sequels explore the reality of life after the quest. While the frustrations that are inherent within the genre are definitely present (how the hell was I supposed to know how to scare the damn Metus bush into giving me green fruit instead of red?), the game is lush, colorful and packed with memorable characters. Fans of the original King’s Quest games who like a little tongue-in-cheek humor with their adventuring will want to pick this title up. –Alex Springer

Cities XXL
Focus Home Interactive
Reviewed on: PC (exclusive)
Street: 02.05
Much of my teenage years were spent watching the rise and fall of SimCity civilizations—creating vast, unsustainable metropolises and watching them crumble like the pillars of ancient Rome—well, except for the fact that Rome wasn’t utterly destroyed by aliens. That said, Cities XXL makes a passable attempt at the city-building simulator—it just feels like all of this has been done before, and with a hell of a lot more charm and style, to boot. The main attraction to Cities XXL is its shallower learning curve, giving you a much stronger indication of what needs doing in your burgeoning burg. Balancing population, employment, crime, satisfaction and the whole realm of other considerations for your tiny populace remains as addictive and satisfying as ever, but XXL feels like it’s a step behind you most of the way. The UI is buggy and unintuitive, but even the hours of frustration spent navigating through featureless grey panels comes nowhere near the game’s intrusive and frankly annoying achievement system. All told, Cities XXL is amusing, but, like a career in city planning, not terribly fun. –Henry Glasheen

Dead Or Alive 5: Last Round
Team Ninja/Koei Tecmo
Reviewed on: PS4
Also on: Xbox One, Steam, PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Street: 02.17
What sets the Dead Or Alive franchise apart from other fighting games are big, bouncing titties. If there were ever a mainstream game to get feminist panties in a bunch, it would be this. Is it pornographic? No, but the way females are portrayed is that of a prepubescent boy’s fantasy. The breasts swing freely, as if gravity doesn’t apply. Tits are a main feature in this game—so much so that there is even a breast option. That’s right: there’s a three-setting option for breast physics. There’s Natural, DOA or none. Basically, physics of real breasts (Natural), swing low, sweet chariot (DOA) and don’t swing at all (None). Oh yeah, there’s fighting too. Dead Or Alive 5 originally came out in 2012 for the PS3 and 360. This is basically a port with some new added features. The graphics have been upgraded to run at 1080p and 60 frames per second on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. I like the game. It’s basically a button masher, but a pretty one to look at. –Kenny Tadrzynski

Double Dragon Trilogy
DotEMU
Reviewed on: PC (Exclusive)
Street: 01.15
This port is exactly what it promises: a flawless migration of the arcade classics from 1987 to your PC. This is a perfect port of a game that stole thousands of my quarters as a wee gamer. Gamepad support is plug-and-play with quick configuration and the menu to select games is quick to navigate. While some of the challenge is missing from the port, as it allows you to continue playing after death (at least in Double Dragon III), it is a great way to kill some time. All of the flaws and bonuses from the original series are present in this port and it delivers nothing more than a chance to relive some retro gaming. If you’re looking for mechanical improvements or soundtrack enhancements, you’re barking up the wrong tree. –Thomas Winkley

Dragon Ball Z: Xenoverse
Dimps/Bandai Namco Games
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Also on: PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Street: 02.24
Dragon Ball Z is one of those ridiculously long-running animes that already has quite a few video game incarnations under its belt—not all of them good. I used to watch the show when I was younger, and this game actually gave me a hankering to binge-watch some old episodes. There’s a time-travelling villain that is going through DBZ history and taking away the heroes ending in major battles. In order to combat this problem, a new warrior is summoned—you create your own character and join the Time Patrol, jumping into the river of time to beat the hell out of anything that messes with the flow. It looks great in the HD graphics, and fighting alongside the heroes was great. They’ll also appear outside of the campaign to “train” you so you can obtain their skills. The fighting was the best part—dashing about in the air to catch up with the opponent you just sent flying, only to send him sky high once again, was immensely satisfying. It felt like playing a version of the anime without all the filler episodes. If you’re a fan of the anime, this is a game worth checking out. –Ashley Lippert

Dying Light
Techland / WarnerBros. Interactive Entertainment
Reviewed on: PC
Also on: PS4, Xbox One
Street: 01.27
Released without a review ahead of time and led by a traditionally subpar developer, I had absolutely zero hopes for Dying Light being a decent game. Fortunately, for my sanity in writing this review, I was dead wrong. Dying Light is fun as hell. It’s basically Dead Island with freerunning, albeit with one major difference—the Dead Island games are the sort of games where you had fun in spite of how horrible they are, but Dying Light is pure fun without having to suffer through a shitty, broken game. You‘ve got your weapon-crafting, your forgettable but entertaining story and your constant side-quests in an open world. Combat is still focused on melee weapons, but firearms make a bit more of an appearance than before. I‘ve only fallen through the world twice, and my character occasionally decided to bounce his face off of a ledge and die instead of grabbing it, but most games with vertical traversal have their issues. The day-and-night mechanics are kinda cool, although I never really had any problems escaping or avoiding the super-powered nighttime zombies. The drop-in and drop-out co-op playability is my favorite detail, especially with how seamless and easy they finally made this survival horror game. Dying Light is exactly the game you‘d expect and hope it be. Techland, you finally have my attention. What else you got? –Matt Brunk

Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires
Omega Force/Koei Tecmo
Reviewed on: PS4
Also on: PS3, XBOX 360, Steam, PC, XBOX One
Street: 02.24
Hack and slash, thy name is Dynasty Warriors.  For those unfamiliar with this long running title (myself included), the story is based on Chinese author Luo Guanzhong’s historical novel, Romance Of The Three Kingdoms, taking place toward the end of the Han Dynasty. Enough of the history lessons. What’s the game like?  At first, it was extremely daunting.  There is a lot of reading to do in Dynasty Warriors 8. Text-heavy screens come and go with consistency, trying their best to explain the mechanics of the game. Once you trudge through all that, this game becomes surprisingly addictive. It’s basically a video game version of the board game Risk. With a map made up of a ton of different provinces, your goal is to conquer it piece-by-piece, by way of hacking and slashing your way through huge armies. I’ll fully admit that having prior knowledge of the game will work better to your advantage, but if you’re new to the series like me and are not put off by the fact that the game takes a lot of learning to master, you will have a fun time. –Kenny Tadrzynski

The Escapists
Mouldy Toof/Team17
Reviewed on: PC
Also on: Xbox One
Street: 02.13
The Escapsits is about prison life, and naturally, trying to escape it. It’s done in old school 8-bit style, which makes everything somewhat simplistic, but it’s still a pain in the ass to break out. Each day has a routine, which only takes one to two run-throughs to get down, but it’s essential to know your free periods so you can hatch your plan. It only gets monotonous if you let it—you can always shake it up. There’s a few different ways you can go about your days—you can bulk up and beat the crap out of all your inmates to steal their stuff (my personal favorite), you can help out your inmates by doing favors to earn cash to buy contraband (tad bit tedious) and of course, break the hell out. With all the accumulated contraband, you can craft things like timber braces to hold up tunnels and weapons like toothbrush shives from crafting recipes you obtain from fellow inmates—it adds a nice layer of complexity to the game. The puzzle of breaking out is an interesting one to solve, there’s six different prisons for you to figure out and it’s fun. –Ashley Lippert

Evolve
Turtle Rock Studios/2K Games
Reviewed on: PC
Also on: Xbox One, PS4
Street: 02.10
Turtle Rock Studios are masters of co-op arena shooters, and their mastery shows through in Evolve. While you will hear sweeping complaints about too much DLC upon release, you should be focusing on the fact that this game is incredibly fun, especially so when you have friends to play with. The character classes are balanced, and each require specific practice to master to play effectively. The original monster available pales in comparison to the epic upgrades available—namely the Wraith, which is absolutely incredible. The bot modes are a touch frustrating with regard to getting a groove together (specifically against more challenging foes), but playing 4 v. 1 with actual people is where the fun can be had. It is worth noting that if your PC doesn’t meet the minimum requirements, an opportunity to scale down is not available as graphics settings are treated very similar to the console builds. If you have friends to play with, you’ll have an absolute blast. –Thomas Winkley

Game of Thrones: Episode Two “The Lost Lords”
Telltale Games
Reviewed on: Steam
Also on: Xbox One, PS4, iOS, Android, PC, Mac, PS3, Xbox 360
Street: 02.03
As much as I enjoyed Episode One, it mainly served to set the stage and get the wheels turning for this installment of the Game of Thrones tale.  After a dramatic ending in One, Episode Two begins in Yunkai, where the exiled Asher Forrester lives the life of a sellsword, hoping to cash in on one last big job. Knowing the Game of Thrones series, you can probably guess how well that works out for him. Meanwhile, Rodrik Forrester, previously assumed to be dead, arrives in Ironrath to act as lord of a near-defeated house. It’s interesting to see how well Telltale has conveyed the ever-present danger surrounding Mira at King’s Landing, especially considering how benign and tame it seemed in Episode One. My one complaint about this series centers on the cameo characters and their weird, uncanny valley similarities to the actors in the HBO series—Jon Snow’s face is downright unsettling at times, looking almost too much like Kit Harrington. Overall, though, Telltale balances essential exposition with just enough action and tension to keep this episode moving at a satisfyingly brisk pace. Episode Three can’t come quickly enough. –Henry Glasheen

Hand of Fate
Defiant Development
Reviewed on: PS4
Also on: Xbox One, PC
Street: 02.17
I remember being disappointed when Brutal Legend shifted from a decent third-person platformer into an awful attempt at real-time strategy. However, when a game tries to incorporate multiple genres into one package and succeeds—like Hand of Fate does—you’re left with the video game equivalent of crack cocaine. Though it combines elements of a card game, a rogue-like dungeon crawler and a third-person action game, Hand of Fate is incredibly balanced. The player is pitted against a crusty old wizard who is bent on using his card game to humiliate those who oppose him. The cards are arranged on the table, and the player can choose the order in which they are revealed. Each time a card gets flipped, the player faces a different encounter. Some of these can be solved simply by making a lucky draw, but others transport the player into a combat scenario with a control scheme similar to the Batman Arkham games. Throughout the journey, the player gains better equipment and different encounters that can be shuffled into the deck. It’s got a few gameplay bugs, and I was dying for some character customization, but Hand of Fate is a tight mix of awesome. –Alex Springer

#IDARB
Other Ocean Interactive
Reviewed on: Xbox One (Exclusive)
Street: 02.01
It is becoming more and more apparent that the Xbox One and Playstation 4 will be inundated by indie games—something that the PC folks are used to by now. I’m not complaining, especially if games of #IDARB’s quality keep being released. A lot of comparison can be made to the zany sports platformer, but this game, in its frenetic pace, tongue-in-cheek humor and its gameplay reminds me of Arch Rivals. The game itself is fantastic, a great deal of fun, with up to eight players being able to play together (if you have eight controllers). The game falls short, however, online. If you’re a loser, like me, who plays most games at home alone, you can only join a game with one other person. Other Ocean has stated that this will change in the future, but until then, I can only dream of the eight-player madness that this game touts. –Blake Leszczynski

iO
Gamious / BluBox Games
Reviewed on: iOS
Also on: PC, Mac
Street: 12.05.14
Puzzle platformers aren’t usually my bag, but add in a healthy bit of physics and I start getting interested. iO puts you into the role of a slick little wheel thing that can grow or shrink at will. Things start getting interesting here, as being large or small has a lot less to do with where you can fit on the level, and actually has bearing on how fast you go, what kinds of trajectories you can achieve and how best to move other objects around the level. At first, the game plays a bit simple, but the levels very quickly turn devious and present some truly thought-provoking challenges to the player. The central mechanic is so simple and easy to control that each level feels intuitive and learnable, and the locomotion in the game is a blast. If I could add one feature to this game, it would be a free-wheeling mode where you can launch yourself off of jumps and enjoy the simple pleasure of scooting around. Nonetheless, iO is a game with a cool concept, great controls and hours of puzzle platforming challenges that will test even the most well-conditioned minds. –Henry Glasheen

JUJU
Flying Wild Hog
Reviewed on: Steam
Also on: XBOX 360, PS3
Street: 12.10.14
JUJU is a classic platformer with colorful graphics that is heavily influenced by the newer Donkey Kong games. It features a co-op and single player mode, and both are a lot of fun. The shaman panda, Juju, and his sidekick Peyo, go on a journey to save Juju’s father and the world from an evil magic. You can play on your own as Juju or with a friend who will play Peyo through side-scrolling levels with hidden gems and other goodies. This platformer is family-friendly and enjoyable for all ages. The co-op works really well, and it’s a lot of fun to play through with a friend. This game isn’t really difficult, but the boss fights and puzzle-solving levels will still keep you busy and entertained. The base game is $19.99 on Steam. There is also a Deluxe Edition for $29.99 that includes an art book and a soundtrack for the game. I enjoyed playing the game myself, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I were younger. It’s basically an easier version of Donkey Kong. If you have younger children who enjoy videogames, then this game would be worth it for $19.99. –Nicole Stephenson

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D
Nintendo EAD, Grezzo/Nintendo
Reviewed on: 3DS (Exclusive)
Street: 02.13
The Nintendo 64 was one of the best systems for The Legend of Zelda. Majora’s Mask was such a deviation from the typical formula that it really sticks out in your mind—the impending doom is constantly visible in the sky, you painfully change form to other species and most importantly, there’s a time limit. You have three in-game days—about 45 minutes real time—to save Termina from a moon that’s falling to earth thanks to a petulant Skull Kid, wearing the stolen Majora’s Mask. You restart the days with the Song of Time, but that means re-doing a lot of things—beating bosses multiple times isn’t unheard of. The game still holds up, the 3D facelift helps tremendously—it looks absolutely gorgeous, and the 3D effects are well done. The save mechanic got a nice update: You don’t save when you restart the days anymore. Instead, you can save at any time at save points littering the world. I felt the additions to the boss battles were unnecessary—a giant eyeball on each boss is a smidge too obvious—but this remake is definitely worth picking up, whether you played the original or not. –Ashley Lippert

Monster Hunter 4
UltimateCapcom
Reviewed on: 3DS (Exclusive)
Street: 02.13
Monster Hunter games have always felt inaccessible, but Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate caught my eye at PAX South, and I enjoyed the demo—especially the part where you mount a monster and ride it like a buckin’ bronco. It makes fighting monsters incredibly satisfying, and once you slog through all the tutorials, the fun really begins. You never hunt alone: A Palico (an adorable cat companion) accompanies you on your forays into the wild. They’re more than cute kitties—they fight alongside you in battles, slaying monsters to get you materials to forge better equipment. You also combine items that you gather from the world, which makes grinding a big part of the game. It’s just a smigdeon tedious, but hunting is challenging, so it feels more like practice than grinding. Multiplayer is the best way to get your hands on high level monster parts—the online connections were smooth with no lag, but MH4U is at its best with a group of friends cursing the monster in the same room. The world is beautiful and looks fantastic in 3D—I felt immersed while on my expeditions. There is a demo available, but it’s worth the full investment. –Ashley Lippert

Pix the Cat
Pastagames
Reviewed on: Steam
Also on: PS Vita, PS4
Street: 10.07.14
Pix the Cat is a super addictive and fast-paced arcade style game that features some colorful and eye-popping graphics that kept me playing for hours. The idea is simple: You collect eggs that hatch into chicks, and the chicks follow you while you place them on designated targets. Seems pretty easy—except that you can’t run into your own line of chicks or start delivering chicks to targets before collecting all the eggs. If you fail to place all of the chicks then your score multiplier goes down and the clock starts rolling at a much faster pace. When you finish a level, you immediately begin the next level. There is no pause or load screen in between. There is also an online multiplayer option that is exciting, but a little limited as far as gameplay goes. If you get tired of the fast thinking game style of the arcade mode, there are two other modes you can play that are more like puzzle solving games. For $9.99, I think that Pix the Cat is worth a shot, especially if you love classic arcade games like Pac-Man and Snake. –Nicole Stephenson

Tales of Hearts R
7th Chord / BandaiNamco Games
Reviewed on: PS Vita
Also on: iOS
Street: 11.11.14
Games in the Tales series set the tone for action RPGs on PSX, and Tales of Hearts R is no different. The combat system is easy to utilize while having enough depth to add to the challenge of gameplay and to encourage leveling and exploration of different skill sets. This is definitely a game for RPG diehards, as it lends little to encourage folks focused on other genres to jump into the fold. The story includes pretty standard,damsel-indistress-style tropes, but the voice acting has a one up on many JRPGs with a cast that doesn’t grate the eardrums. This is truthfully one of my favorite entries into the Tales series thus far, for a genre in which I generally find myself choosy. Battling from the energy stored in your heart may seem a bit weak, but the weapons that Bandai Namco created are epic—from dualwielding crossbows to laser-swords, this is a great RPG for you Vita gamers. –Thomas Winkley

Tempo
Publisher: WarChest
Available on: iOS (played on iPad)
Street: 02.12
The PlayStation 3 title Asura’s Wrath proved there’s a way to build a game around quick-time events (QTEs) and still be entertaining. Tempo is an attempt at QTE gaming on a mobile platform, taking a third-person cover-based shooter and removing any sense of control whatsoever from the player’s hands. Each bite-sized stage consists of completing touch- and tap-based objectives, giving bonus time for each perfectly executed move—and that’s it. That’s literally all players get to do in Tempo, which removes any sense of interactivity from the proceedings, rendering the game’s bland set of characters and bare-bones story weightless and turning the game into a repetitive set of “land here, kill some guys running to there” scenarios. There are a few characters to unlock with improved abilities, but when every stage only consists of a couple taps on screen, does it matter? Without any sort of interesting story or vibrant world to attach its thin gameplay elements to, Tempo severely lacks personality—a premium iOS title that fails to engage on any level. –Randy Dankievitch

Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries
GRIN Gamestudio
Reviewed on: PC
Also on: PS4, Xbox One
Street: 01.27
Early access games are always rather difficult to review, but Woolfe is clearly a game with a mission. In the vein of American McGee’s Alice, Woolfe reinvents the Red Riding Hood legend by casting the heroine as a vengeful, axe-wielding crusader who seeks retribution for the deaths of her parents. Other classic fairy tale characters like the Pied Piper and Pinocchio also make appearances, though they’ve been given a demonic reinvention to fit the game’s dark aesthetic. Even in these early stages, the game’s warped Victorian cityscape and ominous forests have been beautifully rendered, making me nostalgic for old PS1 platformers like MediEvil. The 2.5D perspective feels organic rather than gimmicky, though a few early access bugs can be a burden during those moments when you’re trying to jump over a gulch or meat grinder. Combat is the aspect that needs the most fine-tuning—hacking through the evil denizens of Ulrica with Red’s axe lacks fluidity and accuracy for the time being. Woolfe looks like it’s on a steady track to old-school platforming success. –Alex Springer

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