18 Exclusive Video Game Reviews
SLUG Reviews 18 exclusive video games including: Bound by Flame, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, Full Bore, Full Mojo Rampage, Hakuoki: Stories of the Shinsengumi, Kirby: Triple Deluxe, and More!
BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma
ARC System Works
Reviewed on: PlayStation 3
Also on: PlayStation Vita
BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma is the newest installment in the fighting franchise from Arc System Works, and it does not disappoint. This game brings plenty to the table for returning fans of the series as well as players new to the world of BlazBlue. Immediately, the beautiful high definition character design and hand-drawn backgrounds set this game apart from others of its genre.
The over-the-top action of this series may appear intimidating, but Chrono Phantasma’s tutorial modes do an amazing job of putting you in control, covering everything from the basics to character-specific tactics. Each character in BlazBlue has his/her very own play style, which gives players the option of multiple playthroughs. There is a slight lack in storyline compared to previous games in the series, but I didn’t mind at all because this title has plenty more to offer.
Outside of story mode is BlazBlue’s Abyss Mode, an alternative take on survival mode, and a finely crafted online experience with an impressive matchmaking service. Chrono Phantasma is an impressive installment in the BlazBlue series, and I highly suggest it to any fan of the genre. –Nate Abbott
Bound by Flame
Spiders/Focus Home Interactive
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also on: PS4, PS3, PC
Like many modern RPG’s, Bound by Flame has scaled back on storyline in favor of a punishing combat system. If you’re into that kind of thing, Bound by Flame is not a bad investment. In a given combat situation, the player can switch between a hardy, damage-heavy fighter stance and a quick, sneaky ranger stance.
After mastering the basics, it becomes fun to critically assess each enemy and decide which stance is going to be most effective. The combat system is not without its frustrations, however. For example, if your player manages to get knocked over and you’re up against more than one enemy, it often spells certain death. The story is told through jarringly inorganic voice acting and dialogue, complete with M-rated language that felt shoehorned into the cinematic cutscenes.
Add that to a flimsy storyline, and it gets hard to give a damn about investing the necessary time to master the game’s sophisticated combat mechanics. It’s definitely not for everyone, but the enthusiasm with which Bound by Flame sticks to its guns—er, daggers—is commendable.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Reviewed On: PS4
Also On: PC
Final Fantasy XIV is a beautiful way to kill hours of what could otherwise be a productive afternoon through relentless grinding and the exploring of beautiful environments. Luckily, MMO players are able to easily settle into the system, since it follows many of the predefined MMO norms. While this did offer an occasional stale feeling, it also allowed experienced gamers to fall in quickly. There is also enough focus on story, combined with side quests, to keep the player enthralled.
The travel system built by the Aetheryte network in cities makes jumping through massive towns easy, and Chocobo rides are always a blast. Exploration is made more interesting by Fates that are strewn throughout the world: These real-world incidents allow you to finish events that provide you with additional cash and experience. They also give you an opportunity to work with other players for mutual gain.
While a keyboard and mouse is generally preferred, the PS4 controller lends itself to the genre very well, utilizing the touch pad and D-pad to navigate your huge tree of abilities. This game is addicting for one and all, and definitely worthy to live beside the MMO greats. –Thomas Winkley
Whole Hog/Nkidu Games
Reviewed on: PC (exclusive)
Based on my initial gameplay of Whole Hog’s Full Bore, I found that my neural pathways were struggling to shoehorn the game into the genre of an exploration-centric platformer like Spelunky. As I continued my journey into the forgotten, underground world of Boarkind however, it became clear that each new area I discovered actually housed a mind-bending puzzle that needed to be solved before I could continue my exploration.
It was a fascinating experience, to say the least. Though Full Bore has been compared to games in the Metroid-vania subgenre, I feel like that is a forced parallel that has been slapped on the game in order to offer a bit of unnecessary context. While I did notice influences from several other games, it’s unfair to try and pigeonhole a game that is so obviously trying not to be pigeonholed. Though I found the control scheme to be frustrating, it does force the player to approach each puzzle with a very critical eye. Oh, and the soundtrack is amazing. Miguel Acuña, who puts a bluesy spin on the old-school chiptune, provided the perfect backdrop for this little maverick of a game. –Alex Springer
Full Mojo Rampage
Over the Top Games
Reviewed on: PC (exclusive)
The rogue-like genre consists of a fragile balance. On one hand, the game should be transparent enough to provide a momentary escape into a virtual world. On the other hand, the game should be complex enough to make the player want to come back for more. Full Mojo Rampage veers too close to upsetting this balance, which makes for a slightly lopsided gaming experience. For a rogue-like game, asking players to complete six to eight levels with two boss battles is a tall order—a flaw that could be amended if the levels were less repetitive.
Though the character gets tougher with each playthrough, I found it difficult to psych myself up for each subsequent run. That being said, the game manages to gain ground with its multiplayer capability. When planning a run with some buddies, the amount of levels seems less daunting and the onslaught of enemies is more manageable. In addition to the solid multiplayer, the game’s voodoo aesthetic evokes a goth-Caribbean atmosphere that provides a unique world to interact with. As a single-player game, Full Mojo Rampage falls a bit short of the mark, but, when playing with some friends, it’s easy to feel the mojo. –Alex Springer
Hakuoki: Stories of the Shinsengumi
Idea Factory / Aksys Games
Reviewed on: PS3 (exclusive)
Thirty minutes into my first playthrough of Hakuoki, my girlfriend had to turn it off to silence my screams of agony. This game may be targeted at 15 year old girls who wear silly hats and have long, important-sounding discussions about which anime characters they want to bone, but I doubt even they would want to play it. Hakuoki’s story centers around a young girl named Chizuru. She is searching for her missing father when she inexplicably gets kidnapped by a group of rōnin called the Shinsengumi.
They imprison her and threaten multiple times to kill her, but this team of dead-eyed, psychopathic prettyboys turn out to be her potential love interests. The plot unfolds with all the excitement of white paint drying on cold molasses, and the writing reads like a c-rate anime script. In a game that is ostensibly one long text-box conversation, this fundamental failure poisons the whole experience. I have read my fair share of lengthy RPG exposition text, and I won’t pretend it was all great literature, but at least the badness was interesting or completely ignorable.
Scrolling through pages and pages of cringe-inducing dialogue between creepily animated bishounen filled me with a mixture of mind-numbing apathy and existential dread. Hakuoki is not so much a game as it is an exercise in self-flagellation, with player participation limited to dully pressing the X button once every 10 seconds. For every few hours you spend reading, the game will give you two or three meaningless choices that have no effect on the plot, but instead determine which of your murderous kidnappers “takes a shine” to you in that scene. I would rather read a Sonic the Hedgehog fanfiction written by a 10-year-old on Ritalin than endure another moment of Hakuoki’s banal horribleness. –Henry Glasheen
Kirby: Triple Deluxe
Reviewed on: 3DS (exclusive)
Kirby: Triple Deluxe is an absolute blast, and a great way to enjoy everything you loved about the original Kirby titles on a more advanced handheld. Chase King Dedede and his mysterious kidnapper through Floralia. The boss for each section requires a certain number of sun stones to be discovered in the world’s levels, and you—of course—have the opportunity to collect ‘em all if you desire that 100% mark.
The single player alone is chock full of content with the key chain hunting, sun stone discovery and the Dedede Tour mode which allows you to play through it again as King Dedede with more challenging enemies. The levels are visually stunning, and the 3D is done tastefully in a way that makes playing in the background and foreground enjoyable while avoiding feeling gimmicky. The story is also told in an interesting way, as most of the detail is withheld until close to the end.
On top of single player you are able to play the incredibly fun Kirby Fighters, which has you battling CPU or human opponents with specific Kirby abilities on multi-tiered levels reminiscent of Super Smash Bros. Don’t miss a killer Nintendo franchise—3DS owners have to add this to their collection. –Thomas Winkley
Lego: The Hobbit
TT Games/Warner Bros. Interactive
Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Also On: DS, 3DS, PC, Vita, PS3, Wii U, PC, PS4, Xbox One
You had to know that, once The Hobbit was out in theaters, TT Games would be hard at work to give fans an interactive experience in the Lego universe. After already succeeding with a version of The Lord Of The Rings back in 2012, the developers took the same elements, made minor improvements and orchestrated them into the series of adventures spanning all three films.
What really makes this game special is having the audio from the films guide you, so spoiler alerts aside (for those of you who haven’t read the book), you’re getting a roughly cut-together version of all three movies in a fun and interactive experience. An added bonus is being able to explore all of Middle Earth at the time of the second film, so not everything has been destroyed or put under Orc control. The downside is that this is a MASSIVE map.
With over 100 characters, it almost puts the recent Marvel version to shame, so completing this game at 100-percent means you’re going to be spending weeks completing challenges. But would you expect anything less from a game based on movies that stretched a single book’s content across three films? –Gavin Sheehan
Mario Golf: World Tour
Camelot Software/ Nintendo
Reviewed on: 3DS (exclusive)
The Nintendo 64 was one of my favorite systems of all time—one reason was Mario Golf 64. I played the hell out of that game and I enjoyed every minute of it—even when I missed a putt by f*&%ing inches. The next few incarnations didn’t quite capture the wonderful balance of love and hate—but World Tour brought me back to being 12 again. Even if you don’t know a thing about golf, Toad can teach you all you need to know in order to win some championship trophies.
The courses are beautiful, and they ramp up in difficulty gradually—it doesn’t let you rest on your laurels for long. There are some mini-games to improve your golf game so you stop swearing at your 3DS every five minutes as your putt veers to the effing left. There’s a ton of different items you can get to customize your Mii as well: clubs, visors, gloves, cleats, all that good golf stuff and each thing helps an aspect of your golf shot. With 10 different courses and great multiplayer, World Tour has great replay value that will keep you working until you’re a pro. –Ashley Lippert
Memento Mori 2: Guardians of Immortality
Centauri Production/DTP (Digital Entertainment Pool)
Reviewed on: PC (Exclusive)
It’s difficult to narrow down the pain and frustration I encountered with Memento Mori 2. I was promised suspense. I was promised complex puzzles and detailed 3D scenes. Instead, I was given subpar animation, endless tedium and bad background music. The idea behind Memento Mori 2 is you can play as three characters, gathering clues to solve a mystery that alludes to being scary and awesome.
Your actions lead to alternate endings, but at what cost? How much clicking do I have to sit through for no payoff? It’s point-and-click, but annoyingly so. Options to click things that don’t add to the story are everywhere, and it is up to you to weed them out. The music doesn’t quite match the tone of the story, it’s light instead of foreboding. The animation is stuck a few years in the past and the voice work is weak. The plot aspires to be something darker when it grows up, but instead chooses to reign it in and not be too exciting. I wished that this was a diamond in the rough but alas, it’s boring, tedious coal. –Rebecca Frost
Mugen Souls Z
Compile Heart/ NIS America
Reviewed on: PS3 (exclusive)
Mugen Souls Z is a Japanese RPG and the anime elements are pretty strong—the story’s odd, the characters are mostly insane and there’s worlds to conquer. You start off as the undisputed god of the universe, Chou-Chou, who has grown bored of ruling the seven worlds she conquered in the previous installment.
She discovers another universe with twelve worlds, ripe for the conquering. These new worlds won’t be as easy to subjugate as she thinks—she’ll have to defeat gods on each world to be crowned undisputed god of the new universe. Sadly, her powers get zapped by the first god she encounters. The god, Syrma, is “persuaded” by Chou-Chou’s peons to help her regain her powers and wackiness ensues. The combat is turn-based with crystals on the field that help and hinder, and there are plenty of skills to learn with differing ranges.
There’s also space battles with your ship that turns into a mech. My favorite part is something trivial—the item descriptions are hilarious. “Toy Sword: It seriously doesn’t cut anything. Use your imagination!” The graphics aren’t that impressive—they’re pretty standard. It’s fun, but it feels a tad overstuffed with anime clichés.
NES Remix 2
Reviewed On: Wii U (exclusive)
NES Remix 2 is a great way to reminisce about the good, ole 8-bit days of gaming. The games aren’t simply re-hashed—they’re reduced to their building blocks and slowly built back up until you’re running through entire levels. A challenge can be something as easy as collecting coins to as tough as killing off bosses from the respective worlds.
The challenges start off really easy and then get harder and more maddening as you try to score the illustrious rainbow stars on every level. I mean that in a good way—once the challenges get going, some are remarkably intense. The more stars you earn, the more worlds and challenges you unlock. There are many different worlds to visit: Super Mario Bros. 3, Kid Icarus, Kirby’s Adventure and even some mash-ups of the worlds.
One of my favorite mash-ups is Kirby thrown into Mario’s world, sucking in blocks and collecting coins. In addition to all the challenges (159 in total) there’s a full version of Super Luigi Bros. included. Think Super Mario Bros., but backward and with a brother who can actually jump. NES Remix 2 brings some new life to our favorite old games. –Ashley Lippert
The Game Bakers/ The Game Bakers
Reviewed on: Wii U (exclusive)
Squids Odyssey is an odd, action strategy RPG. You play as a group of squids trying to save their home from the Black Ooze by flinging themselves at their enemies. As you progress through the levels, the difficulty jumps up pretty quick and you recruit new, stronger team members.
These squids are tougher than their adorable appearance would have you believe. There are a few different types: scouts, shooters, healers and troopers. Scouts get extra dashes after they’re flung, which can get you some bonuses against your enemies. Troopers have an awesome ability to attack all enemies within a circle around them and it also projects them away from you. The other two are pretty self-explanatory and you need to be able to use all four efficiently to complete the missions.
The story is pretty standard with some occasionally funny dialogue and the graphics aren’t top-notch—but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game. The gameplay is the best part—it’s a similar addiction to the one most of us have had with Angry Birds. It’s got some decent replay value with all the stars and extras you can get. It’s a great, different RPG for a good price. –Ashley Lippert
Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure
Big Finish Games/ Atlus
Reviewed on: PC (exclusive)
Tex Murphy got his start in 1989, and his series ran until 1998—right about the time adventure games were starting to die off. It’s the typical who-dun-it, except the victim is Tex’s memory. You start off with the Tex from the old games, but as you talk to the people, you realize that the last seven years of Tex’s life have been wiped clean.
The game pays homage to the previous entries in the series by showing flashbacks when you interact with certain items. The game is all about nostalgia for adventure games and Tex Murphy—except with updated graphics that bring it into the millennium, and the full-motion video looks great with only a few hiccups. There’s a fine line between nostalgia and stale, however, and Tex doesn’t walk that line too well.
The point-and-click mechanics haven’t changed much and it feels like you’re putting literal pieces together as you combine items to solve puzzles—even the dialogue feels outdated. You do have choices for your dialogue, but only vague suggestions. It’s still a fun adventure worth taking; Tex is well loved for a reason. He’s not afraid to look stupid in his pursuit of the truth. –Ashley Lippert
The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 3: In Harm’s Way
Reviewed on: PC
Also on: Xbox 360, PS3, iOS, Plastation Vita
Telltale games is slowly but surely corrupting their mass audience into thinking the way the world of Walking Dead would effect anyone in humanity. This alone is the simple beauty of this series. After completing my play-through, I checked my decision history and clearly saw the trend of brutality and “hard choices” being made by the players growing exponentially.
This is the beauty of what Telltale has done—not only is this series absolutely gripping with its characters, plots and twists, it is also helping you believe that you are indeed in the same shoes as those on the screen in front of you. Episode 3 puts the group in a terrible situation surrounded by walkers and, of course, the worst of humanity. Locked away in a warehouse with a new “community” they have to find a way to escape a crazed leader with all members of the group intact.
Start to finish this is by far the most intense and troubling episode they have brought before us to date, and again Clementine shocks you at just how far she will go to keep her friends kicking. –Thomas Winkley
The Witch and the Hundred Knight
Reviewed on: PlayStation 3 (Exclusive)
The Witch and the Hundred Knight is a loot-collecting action RPG from NIS, the company behind the popular strategy RPG series, Disgaea. The story revolves around a swamp witch Metallia and her “pet,” the Hundred Knight. Metallia, confined to her swamp, wishes to expand her territory and leaves it up to you, the Hundred Knight. Being a fan of action RPGs as well as the Disgaea series, I was excited to play this game.
Unfortunately NIS should have stuck with what made them popular. The Witch and the Hundred Knight is fun, but had a hard time keeping my attention for extended periods of time. NIS also incorporated plenty of things that make their strategy RPG a success, but I felt didn’t necessarily work too well with an action RPG. Extensive text cut-scenes may flow well with a slower-paced RPG, but it did not with this combat-heavy action RPG.
There are also plenty of gameplay ideas to experiment with, yet most are barely explained and some are all-together pointless. NIS took everything that made their Disgaea series a success, and tried to implement it all into a completely different genre. Unfortunately, this did not work in their favor. –Nate Abbott
The Wolf Among Us: Episode Three – A Crooked Mile
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also on: PC, PS3, Vita, iOS, OS X
Telltale has been doing an awesome job with these modern takes of choose-your-own-adventure type of storytelling, and the Fables universe has been getting some of the best of it through the Wolf Among Us series. The third chapter kicks off with you as town sheriff Bigby forced to manage several situations in the game, starting with a murdered prostitute, Ichabod Crane missing and Bluebeard demanding to take charge of the investigation.
While the first two chapters have been setting up the universe and how characters react to the decisions you now make, this chapter forces you to make ones that may leave you out of the loop on information and decide the fate of individuals ahead of time. Aside from familiar faces you’ve already been working with, you’re introduced to humble janitor Flycatcher and the sadistic cutthroat right-arm gal of The Cooked Man, Bloody Mary, both venturing into the comic’s familiar universe and expanding on it in a very creative tone. Ultimately, no matter what decision you make, you’ll be playing it through at least two more times to get every bit of knowledge and achievement, as well as best decide how to best proceed down the crooked miles yet to come. –Gavin Sheehan
Viscera Cleanup Detail
Reviewed on: PC (Exclusive)
For all of the messes that I’ve made as the protagonist in a sci-fi splatterfest of a video game, I never once stopped to think about the poor saps that had to clean up all of the blood and severed limbs that I left behind. Thanks to Runestorm’s Viscera Cleanup Detail, I now have some sympathy for the space janitors that have the noble task of making all of those blood-soaked science installations look nice and sparkly again. The game is still in early development, so there are a few issues with the graphics and controls, but the concept is original—and disgusting.
Using a meager arsenal of a mop and blacklight, the task of cleaning up after a space rampage is actually pretty challenging. There are bloody pieces of corpses that need to be gathered and incinerated, mop buckets that need to be changed out after too many visits from your slimy mop and let’s not forget those pesky footprints that follow you around after walking through a heap of severed limbs. The game is multiplayer-ready, and it’s definitely a bit more fun to tackle this demented game with some buddies—just make sure they’ve got strong stomachs. –Alex Springer
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