Category Archives: Game Reviews

Ninjala Review – Stylish Stealth

In a landscape already oversaturated with live games, differentiation is vital. Ninjala attempts to forge its own path through a combination of bubbly style and unique melee mechanics. And though it’s light on content and heavy on microtransactions at launch, those two qualities are enough to make it stand out, and could give it the necessary staying power to live on long-term.

The mechanical differentiation comes from eschewing the usual shooter tropes of competitive online games. Instead, Ninjala is a multiplayer game focused primarily around melee combat, forcing tight confrontations between kid-ninjas with limited range. That gives it a feeling akin to a game like Devil May Cry, as you may see an opponent from a distance and charge in to do battle and then dash off quickly. The attack button is mapped to the shoulder like a traditional shooter by default, but I found a different control preset that set it to a face button much more natural to the character-action feel.

The weapons are limited to only three types–balanced katana, powerful hammers, and ranged yo-yos–but they produce a surprising amount of variety. The weapon types come with a handful of design variants, each with their own special properties and powerful ultimate ability. Finding your preferred playstyle is a matter of narrowing down the options, first by toying with the weapon classes themselves and then diving into the next layer to find which combination of special abilities suits you. None of the weapons feel obviously overpowered compared to the rest, so it really comes down to personal preference.

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Source: GameSpot.com

Mr. Driller Drill Land Review – Digging Up A Classic

In the late ’90s and early aughts, a little fellow named Mr. Driller burrowed his way into the hearts of puzzle game fans worldwide. The years that followed saw several Mr. Driller releases across multiple platforms, but after a while, Namco seemed content to entomb the series and focus on other things. Now, a little over a decade later, Bandai-Namco has decided to unearth one of the most beloved Mr. Driller games, the formerly Japan-and-Europe-exclusive Mr. Driller Drill Land, to release on Switch and PC for a new generation of fans to enjoy.

Mr. Driller Drill Land focuses on the titular Mr. Driller, aka Susumu Hori, and his extended gang of excavator friends and family (including his dad Taizo, who you might remember from Dig Dug). They’re off to visit a new underground amusement park called Drill Land, filled with attractions that very coincidentally are based around the colored-block-drilling gameplay that defines the Mr. Driller series–with some notable twists. Challenges, cards, and plenty of collectibles abound in Drill Land, and you’ll have to see if you have the chops to conquer each of the park’s different attractions for high scores and goodies. (And you might just save the world, too.)

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The core Mr. Driller gameplay is a neat twist on the “falling colored blocks” idea. You control Susumu (or one of his companions), using your drill to break up colored blocks and dig deeper and deeper into the earth. As you destroy blocks and work your way into the earth, you’ll free up other blocks, which will fall and join up with (and also break) others of the same color. Your goal is to reach a certain depth, but that’s easier said than done–you have a limited air supply that acts as a timer, and some poor drilling choices could lead to your driller getting smooshed under a landslide. This makes the game a tense, careful balancing act–while air pickups are frequently available, being too hasty with your drilling decisions when oxygen is limited could lead to disaster. It might sound intimidating, but it’s much easier to understand once you play a few sessions and see for yourself how loose blocks fall, combine, and break. After you grasp the basics, you’ll grow into a groove and skillfully obtain pickups, create chains to eliminate lots of blocks at once, and find safe spots among a cascade of falling earth.

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West Of Dead Review – Run And Cover

There are a lot of reasons to take a look at West of Dead. Cowboys and Wild West aesthetics are hot in games right now, in the wake of Red Dead Redemption 2. Run-based games are, likewise, very much a structure du jour. It’s dusted with voiceover narration from Ron Perlman, who you might know from Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy films or the FX TV Show Sons of Anarchy. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that its core mechanical conceit, as a cover-based twin-stick shooter, helps Frankenstein it to original and, dare I say, innovative gameplay. Unfortunately, West of Dead is a textbook case of a half-baked concept: Though its big sweeping ideas work well, the minutiae, from scaling the difficulty of encounters to unrefined enemies and plain old technical issues, threaten to undo the experience at any time.

West of Dead’s conceit builds up a simple but interesting little tale. In Purgatory–which is apparently in Wyoming–the dead have stopped filtering “east” to heaven or “west” to hell. You play an undead cowboy called the Marshall who’s lost his memory, save for his mission to kill the evil preacher holding up the afterlife. Though it’s more narrative glue than captivating storytelling, the Marshall’s inner monologue, in subdued performance from Perlman, keeps the story in mind, evoking a world that you might not see in its generic, monotonous Wild West-themed levels.

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Like so many of today’s Rogue-inspired games, the story naturally falls away at a certain point, as you play and replay the game over and over, attempting to reach your goal. West of Dead retains many of the tropes established by the many, many rogue-lites that have launched in the last few years, and it cribs its structure specifically from 2018’s wildly successful version, Dead Cells. West of Dead procedurally generates long levels, which are punctuated with a store where you must spend Sin points to permanently expand your arsenal of weapons. In each run, you find upgrades to your specs and more powerful gear–two weapons, two accessories, and a passive charm. By defeating optional bosses, you gain access to branching paths with harder levels. You carry an upgradable healing flask, which you refill between levels. There’s even a hall at the start of each run where you can see all the weapons and upgrades you’ve bought. Though it comes dangerously close to getting branded as a “Dead Cells clone,” using familiar structure makes it easy to focus on West of Dead’s combat, where its real innovations lie.

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Source: GameSpot.com

Pokemon Sword And Shield – The Isle Of Armor DLC Review

One of the best parts of Pokemon Sword and Shield was exploring the Wild Area, an expanse of rolling hills, sand dunes, and lakes that made collecting the games’ 400 Pokemon especially enticing. The first DLC for the games, The Isle of Armor, improves upon the original Wild Area–in fact, the island is all Wild Area, with far more variety and much more interesting locales to explore. While it doesn’t alter the game much, The Isle of Armor recaptures the joy of exploration and catching new Pokemon, and it makes me especially eager to see where the next DLC takes us.

In my original Pokemon Sword and Shield review, I said that “the Wild Area is the show-stopping feature of this generation. Pokemon roam the fields and lakes, changing with the day’s weather. They pop up as you walk by, and you can even identify Pokemon out of your direct line of vision by their cries. It’s all too easy to set out for one destination only to be distracted by a Pokemon you haven’t caught yet, an item glittering on the ground in the distance, or even an evolved form of a Pokemon that you didn’t realize you could catch in the wild. There’s constantly something new to do or discover, and it’s there to engage you right out of the gate.”

Me and Kubfu enjoying the sights.
Me and Kubfu enjoying the sights.
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The Isle of Armor doubles down on this. The island is bigger and better than the regular Wild Area, and its various biomes all feed into each other more naturally. Open fields transition to wetlands, which border a beach and a forest. Rivers flow out to the ocean, and following a river can sometimes lead you to a cave. Changing weather patterns make more sense than they do in the Galar region’s main Wild Area, too, where weather shifts seemingly at random as you bike through similar-looking fields. Instead, because most areas on the Isle of Armor are separated by rivers or caves, the transition from rain to sunshine to fog isn’t so abrupt. It’s overall an even more satisfying place to explore.

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SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated Review – Expired Nostalgia

Nearing the end of SpongeBob’s journey under the sea, you’re tasked with guiding a ball through a giant Rube Goldberg machine in Mermaid Man’s Lair. Once you activate the machine you have to match the ball’s painstakingly slow speed while using SpongeBob’s arsenal of bubble abilities to make sure it doesn’t fall over. It’s a simple task in concept, but trying to execute it is some of the most unfun and Sisyphean gameplay in recent memory. In one section of the puzzle, all you need to do is stand on a button, and that button opens a gate for you to bowl a bubble into so you can progress. The only problem is that during SpongeBob’s wind-up animation for bowling, he walks forward. That means you fall off of the button, which closes the gate and prevents you from bowling the bubble where you intended, when you intended. These kinds of gameplay barricades are common, and force you to restart and face your demons again, and again, and again.

SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is rarely amusing or challenging, and completing it is an entirely dry experience. It looks nice, and brings back fond memories of a classic cartoon through iconic set pieces and tight voice acting, but its uncomfortable and outdated mechanics make you feel frustratingly trapped and are ultimately outclassed by countless other modern and classic platformers.

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SpongeBob is a show built on rapid-fire humour and good pacing, but this game misses that mark. The game is a remake of the 2003 cult classic 3D collect-a-thon platformer of the same name. There were three versions of the original: a 2D platformer, a 3D platformer, and one full of minigames. This version took me around 20 hours to play through the main story and get a bunch of bonus collectibles, and from the movement to the jokes, the whole thing feels slow, with none of the comedic timing that makes the show so beloved.

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Source: GameSpot.com

The Last Of Us Part 2 Review (Spoilers)

Editor’s note: You may have seen our spoiler-free The Last of Us Part II review, originally published on June 12, 2020. Due to a strict embargo, we were limited in what aspects of the game we could touch on in that review. While I critiqued the game in full for that embargo, there may be some parts of the review that could use more explanation. Now that the embargo has lifted, I’ve expanded on my thoughts here; this review has the same arguments and score as the first one and is simply more detailed in my analysis. Note that this review contains spoilers, including one major character death.

The Last of Us Part II begins with serious tonal whiplash. One moment, Ellie and her close friend Dina are becoming more than friends in a basement filled with weed plants and Naughty Dog porn puns; the next, Joel is being savagely beaten to death with a golf club. It’s the first of many, many gruesome deaths. Some happen whether you want them to or not, in intimate cutscenes that are hard to watch, while others happen just because an NPC got in between you and your objective and killing them was the easiest thing to do. Either way, that brief glimpse of happiness at the beginning is left very much in the dust.

But while the scale and severity of death and loss in this game is incredibly high, The Last of Us Part II is more a character study than a musing on the nature of violence. On that front, the story of Ellie, her playable foil Abby, and their quests for revenge and redemption is a gripping and harrowing one, and I found myself deeply emotionally entangled with each woman and her strengths and flaws. The bloodshed is very much a part of that story, but it’s far from the most effective one, and it’s where the game stumbles a bit.

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Source: GameSpot.com

The Last Of Us Part 2 Review (Spoiler Version)

Editor’s note: You may have seen our spoiler-free The Last of Us Part II review, originally published on June 12, 2020. Due to a strict embargo, we were limited in what aspects of the game we could touch on in that review. While I critiqued the game in full for that embargo, there may be some parts of the review that could use more explanation. Now that the embargo has lifted and the game is now available, I’ve expanded on my thoughts here; this review has the same arguments and score as the first one and is simply more detailed in my analysis. Note that this review contains spoilers, including one major character death.

The Last of Us Part II begins with serious tonal whiplash. One moment, Ellie and her close friend Dina are becoming more than friends in a basement filled with weed plants and Naughty Dog porn puns; the next, Joel is being savagely beaten to death with a golf club. It’s the first of many, many gruesome deaths. Some happen whether you want them to or not, in intimate cutscenes that are hard to watch, while others happen just because an NPC got in between you and your objective and killing them was the easiest thing to do. Either way, that brief glimpse of happiness at the beginning is left very much in the dust.

But while the scale and severity of death and loss in this game is incredibly high, The Last of Us Part II is more a character study than a musing on the nature of violence. On that front, the story of Ellie, her playable foil Abby, and their quests for revenge and redemption is a gripping and harrowing one, and I found myself deeply emotionally entangled with each woman and her strengths and flaws. The bloodshed is very much a part of that story, but it’s far from the most effective one, and it’s where the game stumbles a bit.

Continue Reading at GameSpot
Source: GameSpot.com

The Last Of Us Part 2 Spoiler Review – Bleak And Beautiful

Editor’s note: You may have seen our spoiler-free The Last of Us Part II review, originally published on June 12, 2020. Due to a strict embargo, we were limited in what aspects of the game we could touch on in that review. While I critiqued the game in full for that embargo, there may be some parts of the review that could use more explanation. Now that the embargo has lifted and the game is now available, I’ve expanded on my thoughts here; this review has the same arguments and score as the first one and is simply more detailed in my analysis. Note that this review contains spoilers, including one major character death.

The Last of Us Part II begins with serious tonal whiplash. One moment, Ellie and her close friend Dina are becoming more than friends in a basement filled with weed plants and Naughty Dog porn puns; the next, Joel is being savagely beaten to death with a golf club. It’s the first of many, many gruesome deaths. Some happen whether you want them to or not, in intimate cutscenes that are hard to watch, while others happen just because an NPC got in between you and your objective and killing them was the easiest thing to do. Either way, that brief glimpse of happiness at the beginning is left very much in the dust.

But while the scale and severity of death and loss in this game is incredibly high, The Last of Us Part II is more a character study than a musing on the nature of violence. On that front, the story of Ellie, her playable foil Abby, and their quests for revenge and redemption is a gripping and harrowing one, and I found myself deeply emotionally entangled with each woman and her strengths and flaws. The bloodshed is very much a part of that story, but it’s far from the most effective one, and it’s where the game stumbles a bit.

Continue Reading at GameSpot
Source: GameSpot.com

The Last Of Us Part 2 Spoiler Review – Love And War

Editor’s note: You may have seen our spoiler-free The Last of Us Part II review, originally published on June 12, 2020. Due to a strict embargo, we were limited in what aspects of the game we could touch on in that review. While I critiqued the game in full for that embargo, there may be some parts of the review that could use more explanation. Now that the embargo has lifted and the game is now available, I’ve expanded on my thoughts here; this review has the same arguments and score as the first one and is simply more detailed in my analysis. Note that this review contains spoilers, including one major character death.

The Last of Us Part II begins with serious tonal whiplash. One moment, Ellie and her close friend Dina are becoming more than friends in a basement filled with weed plants and Naughty Dog porn puns; the next, Joel is being savagely beaten to death with a golf club. It’s the first of many, many gruesome deaths. Some happen whether you want them to or not, in intimate cutscenes that are hard to watch, while others happen just because an NPC got in between you and your objective and killing them was the easiest thing to do. Either way, that brief glimpse of happiness at the beginning is left very much in the dust.

But while the scale and severity of death and loss in this game is incredibly high, The Last of Us Part II is more a character study than a musing on the nature of violence. On that front, the story of Ellie, her playable foil Abby, and their quests for revenge and redemption is a gripping and harrowing one, and I found myself deeply emotionally entangled with each woman and her strengths and flaws. The bloodshed is very much a part of that story, but it’s far from the most effective one, and it’s where the game stumbles a bit.

Continue Reading at GameSpot
Source: GameSpot.com

The Last Of Us Part 2 Spoiler Review – Dog Eat Dog

Editor’s note: You may have seen our spoiler-free The Last of Us Part II review, originally published on June 12, 2020. Due to a strict embargo, we were limited in what aspects of the game we could touch on in that review. Now that the embargo has lifted and the game is now available, I’ve expanded on my thoughts here; this review has the same arguments and score as the first one and is simply more detailed in my analysis. Note that this review contains spoilers, including one major character death. We also have a full spoiler chat covering every story beat in the game if you’re looking for even more in-depth analysis of the story.

The Last of Us Part II begins with serious tonal whiplash. One moment, Ellie and her close friend Dina are becoming more than friends in a basement filled with weed plants and Naughty Dog porn puns; the next, Joel is being savagely beaten to death with a golf club. It’s the first of many, many gruesome deaths. Some happen whether you want them to or not, in intimate cutscenes that are hard to watch, while others happen just because an NPC got in between you and your objective and killing them was the easiest thing to do. Either way, that brief glimpse of happiness at the beginning is left very much in the dust.

But while the scale and severity of death and loss in this game is incredibly high, The Last of Us Part II is more a character study than a musing on the nature of violence. On that front, the story of Ellie, her playable foil Abby, and their quests for revenge and redemption is a gripping and harrowing one, and I found myself deeply emotionally entangled with each woman and her strengths and flaws. The bloodshed is very much a part of that story, but it’s far from the most effective one, and it’s where the game stumbles a bit.

Continue Reading at GameSpot
Source: GameSpot.com