June 2015 Video Game Reviews

Share this:Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0

Bunnybox, bunnybox—does whatever a bunnybox can.

Battlefield Hardline
Visceral Games / Electronic Arts
Reviewed on: PS4
Also on: Xbox One, PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Street: 03.17

Similarly to the Call of Duty series, the Battlefield games have turned into a parody of the worst sort of jingoism. It only seems fitting that one of them would end up trying to change course by pointing their rifles at the homeland, and unfortunately that’s exactly what Battlefield Hardline decided to do with a modern version of cops and robbers—poorly timed in the face of today’s overt police brutality. It’s even more unfortunate that Battlefield Hardline is a mechanically great game. Taking its cue from old-school cop shows like Miami Vice, your character sneaks around to arrest gangsters and make drug busts instead of contributing to more useless warfare in the desert. It’s interesting how much of a difference that makes to the overall gameplay, and I’ve had more fun playing Hardline than any Battlefield game in awhile. Unfortunately, it doesn’t change the fact that a storyline about crooked cops and scenes of police brutality really leave a bad taste in my mouth, and the whole thing feels uncomfortable. I just can’t recommend this one based off of that alone despite this being a fantastically well-made game. Sorry, Visceral. It’s not your fault that bad cops ruin everything. –Matt Brunk

Borderlands: The Handsome Collection
2K Games
Reviewed on: PS4
Also on: Xbox One
Street: 03.24

The Handsome Collection includes both Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! from the Borderlands series. The graphics have been remastered for your viewing pleasure, maxing out the processing power and pixel resolution of both Xbox One and PS4. This collection is a really great deal if you have a hard time paying $60 for just one game. Both of the games in this collection are great, and you really don’t need to have played the first Borderlands to get the storyline behind either game. I will recommend that you play the Pre-Sequel before playing the second game just because I think the second Borderlands is the best game in the series. You really don’t want to follow it up with any disappointment, should you choose to play it first. If you aren’t familiar with the Borderlands series, all you need to know is that it is a fantastic role-playing first-person shooter with a space/Western/science/fantasy theme. I know that seems like a whole bunch of mixed themes thrown together, but the storyline is strong, and the writing in the game is just brilliant. You get to choose from a variety of different characters with varying skills and personalities, each with their own hilarious catchphrases and oneliners. The NPCs are just as entertaining and hilarious, if not more so than the playable characters. If all of that awesomeness wasn’t enough, the series also has a unique comic book art style that really just makes this series one of a kind. I absolutely recommend The Handsome Collection to anyone who is new to or familiar with the Borderlands series. –Nicole Stephenson

BOXBOY!
Hal Laboratory, Inc / Nintendo
Reviewed on: 3DS (exclusive)
Street: 04.02

Go buy this game right now—it’s probably the best 5 dollars you’ll ever spend on a game. It may have a simple look, but it’s not a simple game by any means. You control a small box with eyes and legs named Qbby who is trying to save his boxy world. Being able to create more boxes around himself lends itself to some interesting solutions to the teasers in each level. There are over 20 worlds, each with five to seven levels, each with a new gimmick or skill to master. Learning each new mechanic is cake, and each level reinforces that new skill until you’ve mastered it. If you get stuck, there’s a hint button—it’ll cost a play coin, and it only shows you what the end result should be, not how to get there. As you progress, you can get costumes for your box, some of which actually help you out—the adorable bunny ears help you jump higher, and the ninja costume helps you speed through levels. The levels are quick, making the game feel short, but it’s amazingly addictive. You may blast through the game in a few hours, but you’ll love every minute of it. –Ashley Lippert

 

Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin
FromSoftware/Banda Namco Games
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Also on: PS4, PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Street: 04.07

When people say a game is hard, I tend to think they’re over-exaggerating—not so with Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin. If you’re bored with open-world games that are just easy, this is your game. The whole game is you obtaining souls through some difficult-yet-satisfying combat, which you’ll use to level up, buy items and upgrade weapons. There’s not much in the way of tutorials—there are a few stones spaced out in the beginning which give you the basic controls, but you’re on your own after that. No NPCs to tell you what to do, no nagging quests, just pure exploration that you don’t survive all that often. The world is ridiculously bleak—everyone assumes you’re going to fail—but it is god damned gorgeous, which helps when you have to re-live several sections because some enemies simply murder you. Nothing beats the feeling of finally murdering them back, though. It’s the only thing that keeps you coming back. Scholar of the First Sin is a re-release with a beautiful graphics update, combining all of the DLC into one, tidy package that is worth going through again, even if you have the old version. –Ashley Lippert

Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today
Fictiorama Studios/Daedalic Entertainment
Reviewed on: PC
Also on: Mac
Street: 04.10

While the point-and-click genre is still going strong in today’s indie scene, they rarely take advantage of the genre’s ability to engage a player in a mature storyline. Dead Synchronicity, for example, captures the player’s attention with an amnesiac protagonist named Michael as he journeys through a wasteland that used to be the regular world. At first glance, it feels like just another story about everyday folks trying to make do in a dystopian nightmare. As the story progresses, however, things just keep getting weirder. It’s the premise and consistent delivery of these bizarre plot developments that make Dead Synchronicity hard to put down. My tolerance for traditional point-and-click mechanics is low, but I found myself enduring many of the game’s environmental challenges just so I could see what would happen next. The game’s graphics are definitely part of its overall allure. The cartoon-like character animations work well against the grainy, washed-out background, and the cutscenes play out like a psychedelic mashup between the brains of David Lynch and Saul Bass. While I’m still a little pissed that Dead Synchronicity stole the name of the Grateful Dead/Police tribute band I was going to assemble, it’s a must-have for point-and-click fans. –Alex Springer

Etherium
Tindalos Interactive/ Focus Home Interactive
Reviewed on: PC
Street: 03.25

If you are one for Starcraft or any other sci-fi RTS, this game will scratch an itch that may have resurfaced with the extended release window between Starcraft Expansions. This game has a great mix of Command and Conquer and Starcraft, with fun building mechanics, easy resource management and creative units. The control interface can feel complex at times, as the wheel-like system for buildings is very different. Once you have adjusted to that, the fast-paced gameplay and planetary maps are intensely fun. This game has a steeper learning curve than the casual gamer would expect, but if you can get past that, it is an absolute blast with stellar music and a fun story. You RTS people will find a unique treasure inside this one. –Thomas Winkley

 

Final Fantasy Record Keeper
Square Enix/ DeNA
Reviewed on: Android
Also on: iOS
Street: 03.26

Why play one Final Fantasy game when you can play them all? Record Keeper puts you in the role of Tyro who has been tasked with restoring and maintaining the history of Final Fantasy. As Tyro, you will battle through key scenes from the various FF games, unlocking characters and artwork as you go. This game perfectly personifies mobile games by allowing you to lazily tap your way through various worlds. It does add layers of depth as using characters from the correct game increases your damage, and the classes are important to match up to enemy weaknesses. This game is also backed by phenomenal assets from one of the most memorable series in gaming, so you are guaranteed to enjoy something about it whether it be the soundtrack, the characters or the simple nostalgia factor. If you’ve even enjoyed one piece of the Final Fantasy universe, this game will become part of your daily routine. Social life beware. –Thomas Winkley

Fire
Daedalic Entertainment/EuroVideo Medien
Reviewed on: PC
Also on: Mac
Street: 04.09

Going in, I had no expectations of Fire. The most I knew was the main character, Ungh, was adorably dopey. Poor Ungh gets kicked out of his village for falling asleep on fire watch and letting the fire go out. Outside the village is a tree that releases some fireflies to guide you on your quest for fire. The tricky part is actually getting the fireflies—this is where the puzzle solving comes in. You point and click your way around a few screens, and you can hit spacebar to see all the things Ungh can interact with, looking for gold coins and ways to get to the firefies. It’s not just a boring walk through a prehistoric jungle—you run into some pretty crazy things on your quest: a time-travel chair and furry creatures that make music, and you’ll even get to change into a mouse. The whole journey takes about five hours, so it’s a quick game, and there’s very little replay value—getting all the gold coins and achievements is the only reason to go back. $10 is a little much for what you’ll get, but if it’s on sale, it’s a quirky quest worth going on. – Ashley Lippert

Game of Thrones: Episode Three
Telltale Games
Reviewed on: Steam
Also on: Xbox One, PS4, iOS, Android, PC, Mac, PS3, Xbox 360
Street: 03.24

For two whole episodes, it seems like everything might turn out ok for the Forresters. This sense of optimism kind of feels unsettling, given the source material, but have no fear—Episode Three will remind all you summer children that winter is indeed coming. As Rodrik continues his recovery, the situation in Ironrath grows grimmer each day. Every heroic option seems to merely tighten the noose around the necks of House Forrester, but the other option—to stand by and watch the suffering of Ironrath—only seems to stall the inevitable. Meanwhile, Mira continues walking a razor-sharp edge in King’s Landing, caught up in the power struggle between Margaery, Cersei and Tyrion. As she does so, she starts to feel the consequences of past actions catching up with her. The only little rays of sunshine in this wintry world seems to be Asher and Gared, but as the latter finally takes the black and makes his oath to join the Night’s Watch, Asher realizes he must choose between his only friend and the family that exiled him. Things are coming to a head in Episode Three, while hopelessness, fear and betrayal abound—yep, we’re in Westeros, all right. –Henry Glasheen

 

Gunpowder
Rogue Rocket Games
Reviewed on: iOS (exclusive)
Street: 03.31

There are so many free apps on the app store nowadays that it is incredibly difficult to bring yourself to spend any kind of money on anything for your iDevice. Gunpowder is one of the select few games that is worth your time and money. Your goal is to blow up Boss Grimshaw’s safes and piggy banks to get at the money within to give back to the poor, just like good ol’ Robin Hood would do. You use your finger to trace gunpowder from a fire source to powder kegs—it’s simple at first—you start off with an ever-blazing campfire with no obstacles in your way. You’ll slowly build up to some intricate levels that involve more than just the powder kegs—you use Gatling guns and cannons in your pursuit of the stolen loot. The design in some of the later levels is amazing—there are some mine cart puzzles that were immensely satisfying to solve. There’s over a hundred different levels to play, and getting all the piggy banks therein can be tough, so there’s decent replay value. I know it’s hard to open that virtual wallet, but Gunpowder is worth it. – Ashley Lippert

Guns, Gore & Cannoli
Crazy Monkey Studios
Reviewed on: PC
Also on: Mac
Street: 04.30

Ever since I first read Eric Powell’s zombie-noir comic The Goon, I realized that the undead and prohibition-era mobsters fit pretty damn well together. It’s a realization that was further emphasized while blasting my way through Guns, Gore, & Cannoli. It’s a side-scrolling platformer in the vein of Metal Slug in which the player takes control of a trenchcoat-clad Mafioso who is trying to earn an honest living as a mob enforcer in the midst of a zombie outbreak. While it’s not as fluid as other games in the genre, it makes up for the lack of polish with hand-drawn graphics and gameplay that promotes environmental destruction. There’s a nice variety to the legions of undead that seek to make a snack out of your brain, and that’s all before the rival gangsters show up. The game offers a cooperative option if you want to play with a buddy, and all of the carnage unravels a decently constructed story. It’s not a perfect game, but it’s worth a spin to see how many zombies you can take out with a tommy gun. –Alex Springer

Huck It
Developer: Mystic Media
Reviewwed on: iOS & Android
Street: 02.07

There’s a distinct lack of “extreme” sports games – as the ‘90s always referred to them – in the App Store. Skateboarding, snowboarding, rollerblading, surfing … many of these titles are severely under-represented on iOS devices, especially when removing the arcade-y endless runner types from consideration. Huck It, a downhill skiing game developed by Utah-based company Mystic Media, does a great job filling in a specific void—that is, downhill skiing—capturing the difficulty and intricacies of high-speed slaloming and backflipping in ways that only leave players wanting more from the fairly bare bones game. What the game really needs is more of its challenging, speedy courses—more environmental effects to bring the world to life—and more modes and challenges to engage players beyond the high-score chasing elements of its single player mode. Designed to be a simulation game with arcade elements—like when players careen through the air in quasi slo-mo—Huck It’s intricate controls and dedication to realism are dissonant with the game’s presence as a high-score only game. With a campaign and some more added objectives to keep players engaged, Huck It. –Randy Dankievitch

 

Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker
Magic Notion
Reviewed on: PC
Also on: iOS and Android
Street: 04.22

Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker has finally made its way to PC. You help clients of your new dating agency on their dates by whispering into their ears like a secret Cyrano, but the best part about this game is trying to pick a suitable date based on different variables—clothes, interests, whether they prefer the couch or a hike, etc. There’s small mini-games throughout the date, but they’re more annoying than anything else. You can match two perfectly compatible people together, but if you screw up one of the silly dating games, you lose the match forever, leaving you stuck with less suitable matches from that point on. It’s not like the dating games are hard—playing Memory to recall a story, memorizing the dessert trolley as it goes by, stuff like that—so I’m more irritated at myself for not winning. There’s also the obligatory test of your observational skills and whether you were listening to your date by ordering what they ask for and guessing what they changed in the bathroom. It’s relatively fun. Powers adds some charm to it with her one-liners, and some of the dialogue is hilarious—but unless you love matchmaking, you can pass on this one. –Ashley Lippert

Legends of Eisenwald
Aterdux Entertainment
Reviewed on: Steam
Street: 10.09.13

As someone who plays a lot of RPGs, I have to say that this game is pretty … typical. It’s your standard point-and-click RPG set in a medieval time period, with knights and castles and everything you would expect. The gameplay is a little hard to figure out, the map is difficult to navigate and there isn’t much of a storyline or plot. I’ve heard it described as a tactical combat game (when you enter into combat with other characters), but I have not witnessed any combat that requires tactics or strategy—mostly just stabbing your enemies with pointy things and hoping for the best. I feel like this game has the potential to be good if they put more work into it, but overall I wasn’t super impressed. What I can say about this game is that the graphics and artwork are stunning, and the music is very appropriate for the time period they’re going for. I don’t feel like the graphics and music are enough to make up for the difficult gameplay or the muddled storyline, but I did like the attention to detail. –Nicole Stephenson

Mayan Death Robots
Sileni Studios
Reviewed on: PC
Also on: Mac
Street: 02.07

At first glance, Mayan Death Robots looks like a mod for one of the games from the Worms franchise. However, upon playing a few rounds with a buddy (as of right now, there is no single-player mode), I soon realized that there was something else going on here. The idea of the game is that rival Mayan tribes have summoned gigantic death robots to battle for supremacy across a fully destructible landscape. The goal of each player is to use their respective robots and unique arsenals to destroy their opponent’s disembodied heart. It’s a straightforward idea, but there are a few twists that keep things interesting throughout. My favorite aspect of the game was the occasional appearance of a Mayan god that forces players to put aside their conflicts and cooperatively ensure the gods destruction. Having players fire their weapons at the same time also added another level of strategy as the player is rushed into making a decision between attack and defense based on their position on the battlefield. Graphically, Death Robots has created a roster of vibrant robots, and the tiny Mayan tribespeople running around during battle made me a little nostalgic for my Primal Rage days. –Alex Springer

 

Spirits of Xanadu
Allen Trivette & Lee Williams/Night Dive Studios
Reviewed on: PC
Also on: Mac
Street: 03.26

Disclaimer: Spirits of Xanadu has nothing to do with the awesomely bad 1980 musical starring Olivia Newton-John. It’s a bit of a shame, since the idea of a game that featured a Greek muse and her quest to create the ultimate roller-disco became a comforting thought after a few hours into this indie FPS. It’s not because of the game’s atmosphere—Spirits manages to capture a vibe akin to Bioshock with its scattered audiologs and cryptic notes. And it has nothing to do with the game’s retro graphics, which use monochromatic color tones and surprisingly detailed lighting to create an environment that begs to be explored further. No, the game’s biggest problems reveal themselves during combat. While it appears as though enemies arrive and attack with a normal rate of fire, the game’s controls make it nigh impossible to survive each encounter. Regardless of how much you tweak the game’s settings, aiming your weapon requires an amount of precision that the game’s sensitivity just doesn’t allow for. As I found myself dying and resurrecting quite often, I noticed an element of procedural generation in the level design which was a nice touch. All the same, Spirits feels like an incomplete gaming experience. –Alex Springer

State Of Decay: One Year Survival Edition
Undead Labs / Microsoft
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Also on: Xbox 360
Street 04.28

State of Decay: One Year Survival Edition is a heart pounding strategic zombie survival game. Held up in a small compound, the decisions of what to build—whether it be a garden for food or bunks for more people—are weighed within limited available space for expansion. Tasks like helping neighbors, rescuing stranded civilians and assisting the government keeps the player busy. However, the opportunity for these tasks does not remain for an indefinite period of time, and, if missed can cause morale to fall and people to die. The most nerve-wracking aspect of the game is that once a character dies, there is no restarting or going back to previously saved checkpoints—the character is gone for good. All these factors contribute to creating individualized strategies in order to ensure a constant supply of ammo and food, all while keeping morale high and staying alive. This mixture of strategy and zombie brain bashing leads to countless hours of glued-to-your-seat/what-the-fuck fun.  –Barnabas

Story of Seasons
Marvelous/XSeed games
Reviewed on: 3DS (Exclusive)
Street: 03.31

Farming is something that doesn’t seem like it would lend itself well to the gaming world, but it’s become incredibly popular over the last few years. If our ancestors could see us playing a game about their hard, toiling-in-the-field lives, they’d probably haunt the hell out of us. Story of Seasons is a shining example of farming/life sims and starts with you being tired of the city and wanting to live and work down on the farm. You’ll sow crops, brush and milk cows, ride around on horses and everything that comes with small-town farm life. It starts off boring, as most sim tutorials do, but once you’re allowed to run around on your own, it’s fun. Tending to your crops takes almost no time, which means you’re exploring for most of the day—you can collect materials to upgrade your farm and your tools, you can talk and help out your neighbors, you can catch bugs and fish—everything you’d expect in a simulation game like this. The world is well polished, and the water was absolutely beautiful to swim in. It’s not groundbreaking, but it is worth a look if sims are your thing.  –Ashley Lippert

 

Tales From the Borderlands (Episode 1 & 2)
Telltale Games
Reviewed on: PS3
Also on: PS4, Xbox One, Android, iOS, Windows, OS X, Xbox 360
Street: 03.17

Tales From the Borderlands is like an interactive movie in which you choose the decisions that your character (the protagonist) makes and how your so-called movie will end. Telltale Games is known for these episodic games based off of popular videogame titles or television series, and Tales From the Borderlands is no different. You’d be better off understanding the plot of the story if you have previous experience playing any of the games from the Borderlands series, but if you aren’t familiar with it, you could still catch on to the story in Tales From the Borderlands. While you are usually watching cut scenes that progress the episode, you also get some time to do some shooting and quick reaction moves, which is part of my gripe with this game—it doesn’t give you a whole lot of time to react. Also, it may just be that I’m playing this graphic, intense game on a PS3, but it really had quite a few glitches that interrupted my gameplay or made me miss small pieces of the story. Overall though, I have to say that I enjoyed the game and the quirky game style that is unique to Telltale Games. I’d recommend it to anyone who is a huge Borderlands fan or someone who is just looking for something different than a movie or a typical videogame. –Nicole Stephenson

Total War: Attila
Reviewed on: Steam
Street: 02.17

Attila was developed around bug fixes from Sega’s award winning Rome II, and is full of new features. However, the added features of choosing an heir, engaging in in-depth political disputes and erecting new buildings/units do not warrant the purchase. The game feels slow, all and all, and is full of old ideas paired with new playable content rather than overall quality. Putting family/clan members in roles of governor and various different political offices can be quite confusing. Securing loyalty from generals is possibly one of the most difficult and pivotal points of the game—civil war constantly erupts as empires expand. Battle sequences are more expansive and the ability to attack a city simultaneously by sea and land breeds new strategy. To some degree, the game is fun, but not a genre definer nor a standout. Only adamant Total War fans should purchase Attila—others looking for expansive, in-depth, turn-based strategy should stick with Total War headliners. –Barnabas

Toukiden: Kiwami
Koei Tecmo
Reviewed on: PS4
Also on: PS Vita
Street: 03.31

In Toukiden: Kiwami, an innumerable, soul-devouring army of Oni has come into existence. They’ve ravaged the land using their miasmatic pollutant to create the Otherworld throughout the Midlands, devouring souls of fallen warriors in their wake. The outnumbered Slayers are equipped with numerous upgradeable weaponry, armor and ethereal Mitama (weapon amplifiers), and have been forced to defend and eradicate the Oni threatening their last stronghold, Atakata village. Akin to Monster Hunter, you and your NPC companions—or player-controlled friends—are sent on various missions to deal with the supernatural threat and take out massive bosses. Every mission has a generous time limit, as most missions take about 10 to 15 minutes, but as you progress further into the lore-ridden story, the enemies and bosses become progressively more difficult to defeat, demanding more strategy and patience. The combat is a great mix between action and JRPG mechanics, making for a fun, satisfying experience. As a re-release of the PS Vita exclusive (Toukiden: The Age of Demons), Koei Tecmo has updated the graphics, packed it with more missions, characters, weapons, Mitama and a more refined co-op mechanic. Although it’s a solid game, you should probably hold off for an imminent price drop. –Trey Sanders

 

Warlocks vs Shadows
Frozen District/ONE MORE LEVEL
Reviewed on: Steam
Street: 03.17

While this game certainly has solid mechanics and a neat theme, there’s just something that feels incomplete about the experience. The concept is pretty simple—you play as one of a small selection of warlocks, and as you may have guessed from the title, the warlocks have a few important disagreements with the entities called shadows. It’s easy to understand why—they’re jerks—but the game seems to pretty much start and end with that premise. The warlock runs, jumps and slings spells across an arena-style level while assailed by wave after wave of malicious shadows. The game plays pretty rough—most playthroughs will end in the middle of the first level—but the experience feels somewhat monotonous due to a pretty slow progression of new enemies and the claustrophobic size of each level. The warlocks seem fairly balanced, but playing Rainer is essentially easy mode. Instead of having to meticulously line up attacks and projectiles to hit enemies, he just charges directly at them like an angry red missile with a quarterstaff. That said, the game is addictively fun despite its shortcomings. However, I can’t help but think this game could have been an incredible action-platformer rather than a mediocre arena-style beat-em-up. –Henry Glasheen

Will Fight For Food: Super Actual Sellout: Game of the Hour
Pyrodactyl
Reviewed on: Steam
Also on: iOS
Street: 04.22

It’s unclear what Will Fight For Food is trying to accomplish. Plotwise, it involves a disgraced, homeless wrestler named Jared Dent who wanders around town looking for something to do—or, at the very least, someone to wrestle. The clever writing and dialogue provide some entertaining cutscenes, but the bulk of the game appears to be in the midst of an identity crisis. On one hand, it makes sense to call the game a parody—the absurd dialogue customization and ridiculous side-quests poke fun at RPGs, and bestowing Dent with the ability to slap on his old wrestling mask and beat the hell out of anyone who happens to be onscreen offers a nihilistic take on what it means to be a video game protagonist. That being said, it’s tough to tell whether this game is a decent piece of absurdist art or simply a low-budget brawler with some snarky writing. This dilemma is largely based on the game’s production value—if the controls were a bit tighter and the graphics a bit less sloppy, Will Fight For Food might be something worth an evening of debating video game semantics. –Alex Springer

Worlds of Magic
Wastelands Interactive
Reviewed on: Steam
Also on: iOS
Street: 03.19

Worlds of Magic takes on its own life through battlehardened heroes, exploration of different dimensions and gaining prestige for sorcerer lords. The large, sprawling maps are littered with abandoned camps, temples and libraries—all guarded by knights, owlbears and spirits. Each race, from high men to elves, possesses their own strengths, weaknesses and unique troops and buildings. These malleable options allow for completely different gameplay—dwarves build fast but take longer to replenish while high men are generically good but lack specialty and ranged characters. Wasteland Interactive has created a worthwhile game that is fun and simple, yet complex and detailed. Once you get over the learning curve of casting the proper spells, summoning demons and supplying armies with enough food and gold to prevent desertion, magical multi-dimensional domination becomes a truly realistic thing. –Barnabas

 

Photos: