May 2015 Video Game Reviews

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I’m so sticking this sword in your face!

AG Drive
ZORG
Reviewed on: iOS (exclusive)
Street: 02.19
Remember Wipeout and F-Zero? These racing games took the idea of “speed” and cranked it to infinity, setting breakneck races between futuristic ships on courses straight out of an EDM-enhanced sci-fi setting, accented with neon and the industrial designs of a potential future. They were awesome games, part of a genre forgotten among the “realism” trend of modern racing games—which is what makes AG Drive such a breath of fresh air, even if it’s not really introducing anything new to the genre as a whole. Featuring some awesome tilt controls—but disappointingly, no MFi controller support—and some gorgeous visuals, AG Drive is the mobile Wipeout gamers have clamored for, and the rare iOS title without game-breaking in-app purchases littered about. Just grab one of the game’s upgradeable ships and go across multiple (and expanding) tiers of events and race against a handful of worthy AI opponents. Is this the deepest, most rewarding racing game available on iOS? Probably not, but there aren’t many games that create such a vivid sense of speed—to the point that finishing a play session is akin to having virtual whiplash. It’s a feeling far too forgotten in the modern age of gaming, and one I’m glad AG Drive fully embraces. –Randy Dankievitch

Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea
Gust / Koei Tecmo
Reviewed on: PS3 (exclusive)
Street: 06.26.14
Japanese RPGs sometimes get a little crazy, but Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is a fairly mellow JRPG that I really enjoyed. Despite not having played the other two Dusk games, I didn’t feel lost. You start off as Shallistera, a young girl who’s trying to save her village as she adventures across the Dusk Sea. She journeys to Stellard, where another young girl, Shallotte, is trying to figure out what to do with her life. You follow one of the girls for the rest of the game, each with different goals they need to accomplish. Either way you go about your story is the same—you gather items in the world, synthesize them into shiny new things and battle monsters with your allies. The battles run on your typical turn-based system with a burst mode that kicks in to let you do some serious damage. There’s a new “life task” system that lets you progress in the story doing what you like best—battling monsters, synthesizing items, etc. The graphics are great and the characters look amazing, and they aren’t boring stereotypes. It has some endearing moments and there’s a lot to explore within the game. –Ashley Lippert

The Awakened Fate: Ultimatum
NIS America
Reviewed on: PS3 (exclusive)
Street: 03.17
When it comes to games from Nippon Ichi, I usually expect something utterly abysmal or truly extraordinary, but The Awakened Fate: Ultimatum finds a rare balance of forgettable mediocrity. Enter Shin Kamikaze, a sulky teenager who likes to sleep on the roof of his school and think about how nobody understands him. This little charmer gets ambushed by demons and, after a brush with death, gets rescued by a couple of angels and taken to Celestia, where he becomes a god. While the characters spout out cringeworthy dialogue and the story takes itself way too seriously, the game itself isn’t bad. Kamikaze trundles step by step through randomly-generated levels of a dungeon, picking up whatever odds and ends pop out of the creatures he destroys. Throughout each level, he can switch back and forth between angel and devil forms, granting him different abilities and an advantage against creatures of the opposite alignment. All told, the gameplay in Ultimatum compares unfavorably to previous roguelikes in the NIS stable, which have all managed to add a new take to the genre. It says a lot when I’d rather be stuck gazing at ASCII graphics than endure Kamikaze’s ceaseless navel-gazing. –Henry Glasheen

Bladestorm: Nightmare
Omega Force / Koei Tecmo Games
Reviewed on: PS4
Also on: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Street: 03.17
When I first started the real-time-action-strategy game Bladestorm: Nightmare, I was immediately reminded of Dynasty Warriors. Everything from that franchise carried over: simple, unsatisfying combat, atrocious voice acting, robotic animations and laughable graphics. In The Hundred Years’ War, you play as a mercenary commanding squads affiliated with England or France. Questionably, you’re limited to your immediate squad. To command others, you must find them standing around and manually switch to them, a completely unintuitive feature for an RTS. The most interesting aspects took place in the tavern, where you are able to purchase new equipment, use skill points to improve your squads, recruit soldiers, accept new contracts and listen to daily gossip, as well as a diary that moves the story along—something that could have been done through cut scenes. Bladestorm: Nightmare is a re-release/sequel to the original game from 2007, complete with an online feature nobody uses, and a new 20–25–hour fantastical campaign with Joan of Arc as the villainess. For reasons beyond my comprehension, Koei Tecmo thought we needed to revisit a game that in no way improves on any previous effort they’ve made and have ultimately re-released a game that was never enjoyable. –Trey Sanders

Code Name S.T.E.A.M.
Intelligent Systems / Nintendo
Reviewed on: 3DS (exclusive)
Street: 03.13
Aliens have invaded Earth—and, naturally, it’s up to you and your fellow S.T.E.A.M. cohorts to take them down. Code Name S.T.E.A.M. is a challenging, turn-based strategy game with some sweet, steampunk style. There’s comic book love in here too: Cutscenes go from panel to panel, complete with word bubbles and sound effects. S.T.E.A.M. agents are all literary characters from history—not-so-cowardly Lion, Tom Sawyer, John Henry, etc. and they’re all led by Abe Lincoln. The Fire Emblem amiibos can also join the fight if you managed to snag one. Everybody has abilities and weapons that they bring to the fight—Queequeg, for instance, has a penguin lobber that lobs mechanical penguins that explode on impact. Everything relies on how much steam you’re packing—movement, attacks, and leftover steam lets you attack on the enemy’s turn. You have to pick and equip a squad before each fight, so preparation is a key component. The only irritating thing was not being able to fast forward through the enemy movements—it’s especially annoying when you can’t even see the enemy moving, you’re just watching a bar on the bottom of your screen. It’s the only complaint for an otherwise great strategy game. –Ashley Lippert

DmC: Devil May Cry Definitive Edition
Ninja Theory / Capcom
Reviewed on: PS4
Also on: Xbox One, PC
Street: 03.17
If you didn’t get a chance to play this controversial release from 2014, now is an absolutely great opportunity to do so. DmC Definitive Edition not only comes complete with all DLC, but it is a gorgeous 1080p 60 fps twist on an underrated game from last year. If you look past the not-as-cool-looking Dante, you get a game with a stellar combat system, sassy humor and awesome boss fights. At its core level, you’re simply trying to save the world from being mind-controlled by energy drinks made like Futurama’s Slurm. This is a great addition to the Devil May Cry franchise, and a gorgeous way to experience the series. I wouldn’t recommend it for the faint of heart, as the language and graphic imagery can unsettle the children, but action enthusiasts are sure to fall in love with this release. –Thomas Winkley

Evil Within: The Assignment DLC
Tango Gameworks / Bethesda Softworks
Reviewed on: PS4
Also on: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Street: 03.10
The end of The Evil Within leaves a lot of unanswered questions. The Assignment DLC gives key insight into Julie Kidman, who was the mysterious partner hunting Leslie in the main title. This DLC pack also takes the opportunity to introduce new terrifying threats (I’ve never been afraid of a spotlight before today). Access to the back end of the game (Kidman’s “employee” status gives her easier paths through the world) allows the developer to enhance the backstory without forcing you to replay massive segments of the original title. The Assignment does a great job of leaving one feeling powerless—which is one of the key strengths of the main title—while the world is still gross and enthralling. It is hard to feel for or against the first part, as the cliffhanger ending leaves one waiting for the next portion. Fans of the game will find this to be a must-have. –Thomas Winkley

Homeworld Remastered Collection
Gearbox Software
Reviewed on: PC (Exclusive)
Street: 02.25
Originally released in 1999 and developed by Relic Entertainment, Homeworld has long been a favorite of old-school PC gamers. After an expansion in 2000 and a sequel in 2003, the future of the series lapsed into a never-ending stream of hope and disappointment until the franchise rights finally landed in the hands of Gearbox Software. The series tells the story of the Kushan who find an ancient buried starship on their planet. They decide to build a great Mothership, traveling the stars to find the titular “homeworld.” During a test of the Mothership’s hyperdrive, the Mothership discovers that their planet has been destroyed by a hostile alien race. Now the only thing left for the Kushan to do is to complete their mission as planned as the lone survivors of their entire people. While there are plenty of sci-fi themed games, the Homeworld series is truly unique among PC strategy games, thanks to its 360-degree gameplay and unprecedented fleet combat. It feels like you’re controlling a true space fleet, in a way that very few games try to emulate and even fewer manage to succeed. For a sci-fi nerd, it’s the damn near holy grail. The Remastered Collection is the perfect way for new and old gamers to get back into space, containing both the original game and its sequel, as well as the remastered (and beautiful!) versions of both. –Matt Brunk

htol#NiQ: The Firefly Diary
Nippon Ichi Software / NIS America
Reviewed on: PS Vita (Exclusive)
Street: 02.24
This game is nothing like what you could assume from the title. Immediately upon reading the cover, one would assume standard JRPG and attack the game from there. I’m warning you now, this is a dark, twisted, creative puzzler that guides you through a strange world. Controls are set with the two opposing touch screens on your vita—the rear touch pad controls the shadow version of yourself and a fairy to manipulate things in the background while the front touch screen manipulates the foreground. While the game has a storybook look and feel, the sudden gushes of gore with your character’s death definitely offset the fairytale potential. This game is not for those hunting for heavy-handed, fast-paced adventure. Rather, this is a game for someone looking for calming puzzles with creepy/cute environments. Fans of Tim Burton will be greatly pleased. –Thomas Winkley

Lucius II
Shiver Games
Reviewed on: PC (Exclusive)
Street: 02.13
I honestly wanted to like Lucius II. The game casts the player in the role of a young boy who, by some cosmic accident of birth, descends from the Prince of Lies himself. You’d think that playing as an evil little boy with demonic powers would provide endless hours of fun, but the sad fact is that Lucius II is an infernal mess. I felt like oftentimes I was setting traps for people who never came, and when I did encounter an enemy, they all seemed to be stuck in these weird A.I. loops that were hilariously exploitable. I kept throwing a can of soda at one janitor’s head. He would see my levitating can, start going into alert mode, then wilt away as the can hit his head. He then seemed to forget I was a threat, allowing me to repeat ad nauseam. Sadly, these bugs were the highlight of my time playing Lucius II, as the game is tragically linear and most of the death traps are rather predictable. The game’s too loose to be a good puzzle game, and just too damn silly to pass for survival horror. It’s good for a few laughs, but not much more. –Henry Glasheen

Mario Party 10
Nintendo
Reviewed on: Wii U (Exclusive)
Street: 03.20
I have very mixed feelings about this game. Overall, I found it mostly entertaining, but there are some big flaws that are a little difficult to overlook. Nintendo got us all excited about the Amiibo figures, how they can be used for many different Nintendo games and how freaking cool they look—but not so fast! Almost all of those Amiibos you’ve already purchased are not compatible with this game. Who the hell knows why? According to Nintendo, the only Amiibos that are fully compatible with this game are Mario, Golden Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Rosalina and Bowser. Any other Amiibos, such as Marth or Villager are read only Amiibos, meaning that they will give you shitty bonus content that adds absolutely nothing to the game. Needless to say, I was extremely disappointed with Nintendo’s promise that the Amiibos I’ve invested so much money into are in fact not compatible with all of their games. Douche move, Nintendo. I really hope that in the future Nintendo will stop making false promises with their Amiibos and will again introduce competition amongst individual players, while still keeping the new feature of playing as bad guy Bowser. If you are a dedicated Mario Partier like I am, then you will also notice the steady stream of competition that Nintendo continues to take out of this beloved series. There have been a lot less curse words and thrown controllers when playing Mario Party 10 as opposed to any of its GameCube predecessors. The actual games are a lot shorter than in previous Mario Party games, running anywhere from 15-30 minutes per game. Also, a lot of the advancement in the game really just comes down to pure dumb luck, as they have removed mini-games as a deciding factor in whether you get to move a few spaces further on the board or receive any more hearts. My favorite part of Mario Party 10 is the new feature that allows you to play as Bowser, meaning that you can play against all of your friends—and that is fantastic. Crush your friend’s hope of reaching the star at the end of the board in the privacy of your own screen via the Wii U Gamepad. You can also play Mario Party 10 as a single player, either as Bowser or a member of the Mario party. As always, this game also allows you to skip the game board entirely and play the mini-games on their own, either by yourself or with friends. This is a fun party game for people of any experience when it comes to gaming, but I feel like it’s just shy of being worth $60. –Nicole Stephenson

Mushroom Men: Truffle Trouble
Red Fly Studio
Reviewed on: PC (Exclusive)
Street: 03.10
Back in 2008, Red Fly Studio developed Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars, a platformer that was released on the Nintendo Wii—yeah, I hadn’t heard of it either. Regardless of the game’s apparent ignominy, Red Fly is back with a successful Steam release of Mushroom Men: Truffle Trouble, which is kind of a sequel—but not really. In Truffle Trouble, the player takes control of Pax, the fungoid hero of the first game, but instead of guiding him through a third-person platformer, the player is tasked with navigating through a series of rapidly materializing dreamscapes. In said dreamscapes, Pax is fleeing the bloated and over-amorous Truffle Princess, a creature that resembles an unholy union between Divine from Pink Flamingos and Jabba the Hutt. Evading the greasy clutches of such a terrible creature definitely injects a sense of urgency into the game, which requires some quick puzzle-solving skills to successfully traverse Pax’s nightmares. I was a little disappointed with the stark contrast in the game’s cutscene and gameplay graphics—the cutscenes are beautiful, but the gameplay is left with jagged pixels and rough animations. The 12 people that liked Spore Wars will probably dig it, though. –Alex Springer

Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas
Cornfox & Bros.
Reviewed on: PC
Also on: iOS
Street: 03.17
It takes a lot of guts to pull so liberally from a beloved franchise like The Legend of Zelda, but Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas does it artfully and with evident love for the source material. The graphical aesthetics borrow heavily from the bright color palettes and whimsical designs of Zelda—even the opening sequence has a heavy A Link to the Past vibe. Oceanhorn feels more like an action title than its predecessors, favoring combat sequences over puzzles and trading chains. It’s also much better at letting you know where to go to progress, a problem that plagued many of the early Zelda titles. However, as much as Oceanhorn struggles to distinguish itself from the past, it’s hard to improve meaningfully on a winning formula. As such, this game feels like a carefully crafted PC port rather than a whole new kind of adventure. I doubt too many people will mind, though, as Oceanhorn delivers the goods without relying on nostalgia to carry all the weight. –Henry Glasheen

Ori and the Blind Forest
Moon Studios GmbH / Microsoft Studios
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Also on: Xbox 360, PC
Street: 03.11
When you see Ori and the Blind Forest, the first thing you’ll notice is that it’s beautiful. It’s more than just a pretty face, and it’ll hit you right in the feels. The music does a lot to set the tone of the game, and there are some interesting mechanics to make exploring that gorgeous forest fun and challenging. I died—a lot. Ori isn’t going to take it easy on you—sometimes you’ll do the same section 20 times before you finally get it down. My death counter got ridiculously high, but I didn’t really mind, as I wanted to get better, faster. As you traverse the blind forest, you learn skills like wall jumping, double jumping and my favorite move: shooting through enemies and catapulting yourself away from them. You have to go through the entire forest anytime you need to go somewhere, so you can make use of your new abilities in places you missed before. It gets a little tedious, but discovering all the little nooks and crannies lessens the tedium a bit. It’s a beautiful tribute to the 2D platformers of yesteryear, and it is definitely worth picking up. –Ashley Lippert

Over 9,000 Zombies!
Loren Lemcke / Mastertronic
Reviewed on: PC (Exclusive)
Street: 02.25
I’m not sure whether the title of this game is referring to the amount of zombies that appear onscreen at the same time, or if you beat the game by killing over 9,000 of them. Regardless, Loren Lemcke’s hybrid between a top-down platformer and a tower defense game makes no grand assumptions for what it is. The objective is to survive increasingly intense waves of zombie attacks while bolstering your defenses with walls and machine guns—that’s the long and short of it. The first few days are relatively easy to get through without even building defenses, but come days four and five, your infrastructure better be solid. Despite its bare-bones approach to game development—which is respectable—it does tend to get overly repetitive. There are some nice changes like giant, floating zombie eyeballs or random zombie crabs that break up the monotony, but it’s a bit of a grind to maintain interest over the course of an in-game week. The game does offer a multiplayer component, which is good enough to stave off the cyclical gameplay for a few rounds, but it doesn’t take long for you and your buddies to move on to want to something else.  –Alex Springer

Republique Remastered
Camouflaj
Reviewed on: PC
Also on: iOS, Android, OS X
Street: 02.26
Originally released on iOS after a successful Kickstarter campaign, Republique Remastered is a stealth-based adventure game wherein you play a hacker guiding the main character, Hope, through a mysterious facility where she has been trapped by mysterious captors. Being the hacker/guide instead of the main character is still a fairly novel idea that I’ve only seen in a couple of games before, where one watches through conveniently placed cameras and hacks past all the traditional obstacles (doors, computers, laser beams, etc). I’m always down for dystopian/totalitarian societies and the story of their inevitable collapse, but I’m generally not a fan of tedious stealth games. It’s extremely hard to get into a game that is entirely stealth and nothing but stealth. Sure, occasionally you get tasers and pepper spray to use against guards, but most of your time is spent hiding and dodging patrol paths. There are the occasional puzzles to spice things up, and uncovering the backstory and conspiracy keeps the game interesting if you’re patient enough. So far, three episodes have been released with two more on the way, so the story isn’t quite finished yet, but I do recommend it for the quality. End of line.  –Matt Brunk

Resident Evil: Revelations 2
Capcom
Reviewed on: PS4
Also on: Xbox One, PS3, PS Vita, Xbox 360, PC
Street: 03.18
In 2012, Capcom released the episodic Resident Evil: Revelations, taking the series back to its survival-horror roots. It re-introduced old mechanics like limited mobility, conservative ammo drops, fragile health, constricted inventory space and—most importantly—tension. With those ingredients, a more modern control scheme and a focus on co-op, the franchise was back on the right track. In February, Revelations 2 was released, keeping with the formula of its predecessor. Clair Redfield and Moira Burton are kidnapped by “The Overseer” and put on a remote island inhabited by “The Afflicted.” Barry Burton (Moira’s father) receives their distress signal months later. Upon arrival he meets the tiny-magical-brick-locator, Natalia Korda. Over the course of four episodes, you switch between both duos, but a strange design choice renders your partner useless in a fight. They can’t use firearms, but can instead reveal hidden items, blind assailants with a flashlight, toss bricks and open specific chests—leaving the other player with nothing to contribute. With that said, it’s nice to see the franchise return to what made it so great in the first place, despite its co-operative design flaw. Capcom has laid down a solid foundation and I remain optimistic for future installments. –Trey Sanders

Super Galaxy Squadron
Psyche Studios / New Blood Interactive
Reviewed on: PC (Exclusive)
Street: 01.23
For those unfamiliar with the concept of the hybrid genre of “bullet hell shmup,” here’s an idea: imagine a thousand knives in careful formation flying at one’s face, with only a thin line of safety existing between each sharp blade. That’s the experience of playing a game like Super Galaxy Squadron, a game that certainly brings a lot of challenge to the table, but not always in a fun way. Using one of 14 different ships, players are tasked with surviving six campaign stages and their ridiculously hard bosses. Across infinite mode, players compete for the highest score on the game’s leader board. While the varied ships and initial adrenaline of Super Galaxy Squadron was great—along with the game’s solid, if unspectacular visual palette—there’s not a lot of unique qualities or replay value outside of leader board chasing, or attempting the game’s insanely difficult Hardcore mode. Super Galaxy Squadron does a lot of things well, which fans of the genre will appreciate, but there’s not a lot here to invite casual fans or non-shooter players in general. –Randy Dankievitch

There Came an Echo
Iridium Studios
Reviewed on: PC (Exclusive)
Street: 02.24
There Came an Echo attempts to conquer voice-driven gameplay, a feature which has been largely unsuccessful in the past. TCAE has the player guiding a rag-tag team of combatants against military forces while you try to figure out who is really after your open-source encryption algorithm. For the most part the voice controls work great, and only a few times did I find myself loudly repeating commands in a desperate attempt to keep my crew alive. Just as the shock and awe of running missions with your voice wears off, you are given time to realize Wil Wheaton and others are guiding you through this adventure. If you don’t have a decent gaming headset or microphone, you will get more enjoyment playing the game with a mouse and keyboard. Gamers looking for a new way to experience a standard sci-fi story should definitely give this a go. –Thomas Winkley

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters
Aksys Games / NIS America
Reviewed on: PS3 Also on: Vita Street: 03.10
This is a typical, novel-type RPG that is more concerned with looking pretty than with its game mechanics. In the game, you play a Japanese high school student who is transferring schools. In the middle of the campus tour, you are attacked by an evil spirit, and two ghost hunters intervene to save you. You eventually join in the fight during your time at the new school—banishing all types of spirits. This game is strongly icon-based during combat, and the combat itself it a little confusing. You get a brief introduction to the combat style, and since you never really know where your opponent is attacking from, you have to guess. The game itself is visually stunning, and comes off as more of a visual novel. If you are more into storyline than action, this game would be a good fit for you. I found myself trying to skip through the majority of the cut scenes (because I’m impatient), then becoming even more confused when it came to actually playing the game. If you have the patience and the desire to play through a manga, then this game would be a perfect fit for you. –Nicole Stephenson

Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late
Aksys Games / Sega
Reviewed on: PS3 (Exclusive)
Street: 02.24
UNIEL is a great example of why anime fighting games are an all-out riot. This game banks on the fact that you don’t want to learn incredibly challenging combos but instead learn how to set up your opponent to take a hit. Even the basic gamer can perform 10–15 hit combos with a few easy button presses and with any of UNIEL’s incredibly colorful cast. The selection of vampires, hunters and demons offers something for everybody in a game built to let you simply bash on your friends. Advanced players will find solace in using air combos, option-selects and finishing your opponent with massive finishing moves. You may not be a fighting game wizard, but if you find anime and massive combos at all interesting, this is a game for you. –Thomas Winkley

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