Tag Archives: game reviews

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim Review – Wow, Cool Robot!

Despite what the box and blurbs might tell you, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim isn’t really a game about piloting giant robots. I mean, sure, you do fight off massive swarms of building-sized creatures hellbent on total destruction in an alternate-universe 1980s Japan at some points. But these seemingly model-kit-ready metal combat suits are just a plot device, a cog in the story. In actuality, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a character drama: a twisting, turning sci-fi epic jumping through time and dimensions as it follows the lives of its numerous teen protagonists. Missiles, Gatling guns, and armor-crushing metal fistcuffs are merely a side event to the everyday drama of highschoolers who find themselves unwilling pawns in a bigger game with the fate of the world at stake. And you know what? That’s great. Once the narrative of 13 Sentinels sinks its hooks into you, you want nothing more than to go along for the ride up until the very climax.

13 Sentinels is a unique, genre-mixing experiment. It takes elements of point-and-click adventure games, visual novels, real-time strategy games, and tower defense games, mixing them together to create an experience that’s quite unlike anything else out there. Things get rolling when young Japanese highschooler Juro Kurabe is called upon to fight a horde of alien invaders in 1985, only for the story to flash back to earlier that year, then over to young soldiers in 1945 wartime-era Japan, then to two schoolgirls witnessing a crisis in the year 2025. You immediately meet a huge cast of characters across different eras, learning that there is one constant: the existence of Sentinels, massive human-piloted robot weapons who exist to protect the world from otherworldly monsters.

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The game is split into three parts: a Remembrance mode where you uncover the story piece by piece, a Destruction mode where you use giant Sentinel mechs to protect the city from invasion, and an Analysis mode that collects all of the information and story scenes you have discovered through gameplay. Remembrance is presented as an episodic series where you explore and interact with various environments and characters to advance the plot. Destruction, in contrast, is an overhead-view strategy segment where you use the Sentinels to defend a critical underground access point from invading forces.

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Source: GameSpot.com

Hades Review – However Long It Takes

The first time I beat the final boss in Hades, I felt an enormous sense of relief. I’d been fighting to see this ending for hours (months, technically, if you count my time in early access), and in roguelikes, it feels better than usual to see an ending. But while I was definitely a little too proud of putting together a set of abilities and perks that shredded the boss after they wrecked me just a few tries ago, that wasn’t why I felt tears welling up. I’d gotten so caught up in the story of my character, Zagreus, and the heroes, villains, and gods that had helped him get here that I was elated to have finally gotten him to the end of his journey. What sets Hades apart isn’t just that it’s a great roguelike with the kind of repeatable depth that makes it engrossing to play for hours, but also how it uses its structure to tell an ongoing story about family, secrets, and resolution.

That Hades’ narrative is so entwined with its combat is nothing new for the developers at Supergiant Games, who’ve established themselves as masters of putting your actions in sync with the stories they tell. In a roguelike such as Hades, it means playing as Zagreus, a god of rebirth. Tired of living under his father Hades’ thumb and seeking answers about where he comes from, he sets out to escape to the world of the living, battling various undead monsters, living creatures, and mythological figures on his way out.

Hades captured on Nintendo Switch
Hades captured on Nintendo Switch

Your godliness justifies the endless runs through the depths of the underworld, since dying and coming back to life is par for the course in Greek myth. One of the best parts of Hades, in fact, is returning to the House of Hades time and again after you die. It’s not just a pit stop on the way to the next run–it’s the centerpiece Hades hinges on. There, figures such as Achilles, Hypnos, and Nyx console you after your deaths, praise you for making progress, and confide in you about one another. You chat with them, undertake side quests, and exchange gifts to deepen your relationships. Eventually, they become vital allies on your quest, even if they’re not in the thick of combat with you.

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Source: GameSpot.com

Hades Review – The Long, Hard Road Out of Hell

The first time I beat the final boss in Hades, I felt an enormous sense of relief. I’d been fighting to see this ending for hours (months, technically, if you count my time in early access), and in roguelikes, it feels better than usual to see an ending. But while I was definitely a little too proud of putting together a set of abilities and perks that shredded the boss after they wrecked me just a few tries ago, that wasn’t why I felt tears welling up. I’d gotten so caught up in the story of my character, Zagreus, and the heroes, villains, and gods that had helped him get here that I was elated to have finally gotten him to the end of his journey. What sets Hades apart isn’t just that it’s a great roguelike with the kind of repeatable depth that makes it engrossing to play for hours, but also how it uses its structure to tell an ongoing story about family, secrets, and resolution.

That Hades’ narrative is so entwined with its combat is nothing new for the developers at Supergiant Games, who’ve established themselves as masters of putting your actions in sync with the stories they tell. In a roguelike such as Hades, it means playing as Zagreus, a god of rebirth. Tired of living under his father Hades’ thumb and seeking answers about where he comes from, he sets out to escape to the world of the living, battling various undead monsters, living creatures, and mythological figures on his way out.

Your godliness justifies the endless runs through the depths of the underworld, since dying and coming back to life is par for the course in Greek myth. One of the best parts of Hades, in fact, is returning to the House of Hades time and again after you die. It’s not just a pit stop on the way to the next run–it’s the centerpiece Hades hinges on. There, figures such as Achilles, Hypnos, and Nyx console you after your deaths, praise you for making progress, and confide in you about one another. You chat with them, undertake side quests, and exchange gifts to deepen your relationships. Eventually, they become vital allies on your quest, even if they’re not in the thick of combat with you.

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Source: GameSpot.com

Spelunky 2 Review – Shoot For The Moon

In Spelunky 2, the turkey’s fate is in your hands.

You could hop on the bird’s back, making use of its double jump and Yoshi-like glide to flap your way through your run. For a solid payout, you could return it and the other birds scattered throughout a stage to the turkey farmer who oversees their pen. You could whip it unconscious, throw a bomb next to its body, and eat the resulting Thanksgiving platter for one heart–or you could do that last one in the farmer’s line of sight, prompting him to take up arms against you, “you monster.”

This is the mode that Spelunky 2 constantly operates in. There are always risk-reward choices to make, and death is nearly instantaneous if you choose poorly. Like its acclaimed predecessor, Spelunky 2 is the rare platformer that demands to be played as much like a tactics game as it does like a Mario game. As you learn (or relearn) how to survive, success requires a willingness to think three moves ahead. Some tiles are booby-trapped to shoot arrows as you leap through their line of sight. Some vases summon a relentless ghost when smashed. Some pottery hides snakes and tarantulas. Some spiders hang from the cavern ceilings, hoping you pass by unaware. You really shouldn’t even move from your initial spawn point without pausing for a moment to pore over every treacherous inch of the screen. That is, unless you spawn near a bat, which will swoop down at you–hope you’re quick with your whip.

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Source: GameSpot.com

Spelunky 2 Review – Snakes On A 2D Plane

In Spelunky 2, the turkey’s fate is in your hands.

You could hop on the bird’s back, making use of its double jump and Yoshi-like glide to flap your way through your run. For a solid payout, you could return it and the other birds scattered throughout a stage to the turkey farmer who oversees their pen. You could whip it unconscious, throw a bomb next to its body, and eat the resulting Thanksgiving platter for one heart–or you could do that last one in the farmer’s line of sight, prompting him to take up arms against you, “you monster.”

This is the mode that Spelunky 2 constantly operates in. There are always risk-reward choices to make, and death is nearly instantaneous if you choose poorly. Like its acclaimed predecessor, Spelunky 2 is the rare platformer that demands to be played as much like a tactics game as it does like a Mario game. As you learn (or relearn) how to survive, success requires a willingness to think three moves ahead. Some tiles are booby-trapped to shoot arrows as you leap through their line of sight. Some vases summon a relentless ghost when smashed. Some pottery hides snakes and tarantulas. Some spiders hang from the cavern ceilings, hoping you pass by unaware. You really shouldn’t even move from your initial spawn point without pausing for a moment to pore over every treacherous inch of the screen. That is, unless you spawn near a bat, which will swoop down at you–hope you’re quick with your whip.

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Source: GameSpot.com

Super Mario 3D All-Stars Review – Hey Now, You’re An All-Star

Mario’s never been one to turn down a shindig–one need only look at the numerous Mario Parties he’s thrown over the years for proof of that–but his anniversary is one occasion that is rarely celebrated. His 25th anniversary was marked with a Wii re-release of Super Mario All-Stars, of all things–hardly the most auspicious way to commemorate such a remarkable milestone. This year, however, Nintendo is giving Mario a more fitting anniversary tribute, headlining the festivities with Super Mario 3D All-Stars, a Switch compilation featuring a trio of the plumber’s most influential adventures: N64’s Super Mario 64, GameCube’s Super Mario Sunshine, and Wii’s Super Mario Galaxy.

But while Mario 3D All-Stars is ostensibly a celebration of Mario’s history, a chance to revisit the plumber’s genre-defining leap into the third dimension, it’s still lacking in some regards. For one, you won’t find anything in the way of supplemental material here: just Mario’s first three 3D adventures, modestly touched up for high-definition displays, and their accompanying soundtracks. The presentation is minimal but handsomely designed, and the soundtracks are a nice bonus, but the package on the whole hardly feels like a celebration of the series in the way that, say, Kirby’s Dream Collection or even the original Super Mario All-Stars did.

Still, the games that are included here are some of Mario’s most memorable, and they’ve all been given an HD sheen. Mario 64 runs in 720p whether you’re playing on the television or in handheld mode, while Sunshine and Galaxy both run in 1080p docked and 720p in handheld. Sunshine’s aspect ratio has also been increased to 16:9. Thanks to the improved resolution, the games all look more vibrant and colorful than ever, which helps mask their otherwise aging visuals; Galaxy in particular has benefited greatly from the HD touchup and is often stunning. The UI elements in each game look much crisper as well, and the in-game text has been updated to reflect the tweaked controls (and in Mario 64’s case, the fuzzy font has been smoothed over, making it much easier to read).

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Source: GameSpot.com

Super Mario 3D All-Stars Review – Shoot For The Stars

Super Mario 3D All-Stars is now available on Nintendo Switch. The collection is a limited-time release; physical and digital editions will only be on sale until March 31, 2021, after which point it will no longer be available from retailers or the Nintendo eShop. However, those who purchase the collection digitally will still be able to redownload it after that date. Our full review of Super Mario 3D All-Stars follows.

Mario’s never been one to turn down a shindig–one need only look at the numerous Mario Parties he’s thrown over the years for proof of that–but his anniversary is one occasion that is rarely celebrated. His 25th anniversary was marked with a Wii re-release of Super Mario All-Stars, of all things–hardly the most auspicious way to commemorate such a remarkable milestone. This year, however, Nintendo is giving Mario a more fitting anniversary tribute, headlining the festivities with Super Mario 3D All-Stars, a Switch compilation featuring a trio of the plumber’s most influential adventures: N64’s Super Mario 64, GameCube’s Super Mario Sunshine, and Wii’s Super Mario Galaxy.

But while Mario 3D All-Stars is ostensibly a celebration of Mario’s history, a chance to revisit the plumber’s genre-defining leap into the third dimension, it’s still lacking in some regards. For one, you won’t find anything in the way of supplemental material here: just Mario’s first three 3D adventures, modestly touched up for high-definition displays, and their accompanying soundtracks. The presentation is minimal but handsomely designed, and the soundtracks are a nice bonus, but the package on the whole hardly feels like a celebration of the series in the way that, say, Kirby’s Dream Collection or even the original Super Mario All-Stars did.

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Source: GameSpot.com

Road To Guangdong Review – Journey To Nowhere

There are only two radio channels in the slice-of-life driving simulator, Road to Guangdong–one plays some blend of milquetoast “oriental” music, while the other broadcasts more upbeat and decidedly modern synthwave-inspired melodies. It’s this gulf between the two genres that also seems to inspire one of the few highlights behind Road to Guangdong: the light-hearted ribbing between you and your Guu Ma–the Chinese honorific for aunts–as you embark on a road trip together. The elderly Guu Ma’s disdain for the pulsating grooves of electronic music means she will always try to change the radio channel back to the vaguely Guangdong-esque music she’s more familiar with, after much grumbling about the unrefined state of modern music. You can, of course, flip the channel back again, if only to annoy her–and cackle at her exasperation as she reaches out to change the music once again.

While this small interaction is mildly amusing, it doesn’t sustain the game’s novelty for long. Road to Guangdong is a long-winding, exhausting ride–and I don’t mean in terms of hours. Not only is its pacing extremely sluggish, its characters’ minimalist expressions are also overly mechanical and too limited in their range to convey any emotion–an unfortunate design choice that only brings more attention to the game’s flat, lacklustre dialogues. This is made more apparent when Guu Ma occasionally sprinkles some canned advice over the course of your endless drives, one of which is a recurring suggestion to change your radio channel. But why would you suggest that, Guu Ma, if the only other option is these trance-like bangers you hate so much?

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Source: GameSpot.com

Road To Guangdong Review – Are We There Yet?

There are only two radio channels in the slice-of-life driving simulator, Road to Guangdong–one plays some blend of milquetoast “oriental” music, while the other broadcasts more upbeat and decidedly modern synthwave-inspired melodies. It’s this gulf between the two genres that also seems to inspire one of the few highlights behind Road to Guangdong: the light-hearted ribbing between you and your Guu Ma–the Chinese honorific for aunts–as you embark on a road trip together. The elderly Guu Ma’s disdain for the pulsating grooves of electronic music means she will always try to change the radio channel back to the vaguely Guangdong-esque music she’s more familiar with, after much grumbling about the unrefined state of modern music. You can, of course, flip the channel back again, if only to annoy her–and cackle at her exasperation as she reaches out to change the music once again.

While this small interaction is mildly amusing, it doesn’t sustain the game’s novelty for long. Road to Guangdong is a long-winding, exhausting ride–and I don’t mean in terms of hours. Not only is its pacing extremely sluggish, its characters’ minimalist expressions are also overly mechanical and too limited in their range to convey any emotion–an unfortunate design choice that only brings more attention to the game’s flat, lacklustre dialogues. This is made more apparent when Guu Ma occasionally sprinkles some canned advice over the course of your endless drives, one of which is a recurring suggestion to change your radio channel. But why would you suggest that, Guu Ma, if the only other option is these trance-like bangers you hate so much?

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Source: GameSpot.com

Vampire: The Masquerade – Shadows Of New York Review

The set-up for Vampire: The Masquerade – Shadows of New York, the second V:TM visual novel following last year’s Coteries of New York, is irresistible. The protagonist, Julia, is a newly turned vampire whose life as a struggling freelance investigative journalist is now thankfully behind her. But instead of living a glamorous, exciting vampire existence, she essentially becomes a glorified immigration officer, overseeing vampire movement in and out of New York. It’s a rather drab existence until her background as a journalist gifts her an opportunity to head up an investigation concerning the locked-room murder of a high-profile vampire, and her future within New York’s vampiric society will depend on whether she’s able to solve the crime.

In practice, Shadows of New York is less exciting than this premise indicates. There’s a murder, yes, and Julia has to solve it. But you, the player, are barely involved. This is a five-hour visual novel that’s very low on meaningful choice and consequence, and while there will be some differences and unique elements to different playthroughs, your impact on the investigation is negligible. But even though it’s light on player input, Shadows of New York is an entertaining visual novel for the most part, with an interesting central character, solid script, and strong presentation.

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Shadows of New York is somewhere between a self-contained spin-off and a direct sequel to Coteries of New York. Julia and a few other characters are new, but most of the main cast carries over directly from that first game, including the murder victim. The main thrust of Shadows of New York’s story involves meeting with the four characters who you could choose to serve in the first game’s titular coterie, all of whom have some insight into the case and what happened… kind of. In truth, the investigation into the murder never really coheres into a satisfying whodunnit–you spend most of your time reading text that’s projected over animated backgrounds and character portraits, and occasionally you get to make a choice about what Julie says or does next. However, these don’t lead to meaningful consequences, with most of the major reveals happening right near the end. None of them are particularly surprising either.

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Source: GameSpot.com