Marcello is the founder, creator and editor-in-chief of GamersXtreme. His dedication and passion shows as he keeps gamers informed with daily news articles and provides truthful, honest opinions on all gaming related news. Having experience with video game design, as well as over 20 years of gaming under his belt, Marcello has always had a massive interest in the gaming society. Originally, he created GamersXtreme in the style of a magazine back in middle school. Today, he has taken what was created as a basic premise and has evolved it into the site it is today.

Danger Zone Review (PS4): “It’s Crashin’ Time”

Cars, explosions and mayhem are a recipe for disaster in the best way possible when it comes to entertainment. Danger Zone, a spiritual successor to Burnout’s Crash Mode, has just released for the PS4 courtesy of Three Fields Entertainment (comprised of creators from the Burnout series). This downloadable title is a return to what they know how to do best: Create a game about causing the most amount of destruction possible with your car. Is this downloadable spiritual successor a worthy return?

Danger Zone is designed to heavily resemble Burnout’s Crash Mode. For those who never experienced this phenomenal mode in the racing series, Crash Mode was about driving into a heavily congested traffic environment to cause the biggest accident possible. Danger Zone literally creates the same premise for the new generation. However, opposed to driving in living environments and cityscapes, you are driving in a virtually simulated environment.

When starting an event, you will see an overview of the simulated roads and traffic to give you an idea of how to plan your big crash. Taking control of the car, fans of Burnout will be right at home, with the tight controls and physics. Once ramming into another car, you can still control your totaled vehicle with the left analog stick and sway it in the desired direction. However, you can only do this for as long as there is momentum in the wrecked vehicle. This is essential to trying to nudge a car into another lane, or even trying to collect items like bonus cash and Smashbreakers. Smashbreakers are exactly like Burnout’s Crashbreakers. This will allow you to explode your vehicle and any other cars within the radius, while giving you control again to push your vehicle elsewhere. Trying to grab Smashbreaker icons along the course is key to stringing together some crazy combos. Also, you need to try and be careful not to fall off the track. Falling off will derezz your car and your run will be over immediately. You will have to earn a certain amount of money in an event to score either a bronze, silver, gold, or platinum medal for the run. You can simply progress to the next event by at least obtaining a bronze. Gradually, the game’s events will become more intricate. This will require further creative ways to cause mayhem in order to advance. Each run though takes no more than a minute or two to see fully unfold, which makes this great for pickup-and-play aspects. 

Now as fun as this all is, Danger Zone comes with some issues. First off, the biggest issue is the lack of personality. While the game is supposed to have a “test facility” setting, it just feels devoid of personality. The fact that this is the only environment you will see in the game is lackluster. Also, you only get to use the one test car the whole game. There are no local or online multiplayer modes what-so-ever either. It does have leaderboard support, but a game like this would certainly gather friends together to try and compete to who can cause the craziest crash. Lastly, not that this affects the overall score, but the lack of a platinum trophy is a bit of a bummer.

Danger Zone runs on Unreal Engine 4, and everything looks very well detailed. Cars have details to them when crashing, whether some scrapes on the side or the cars themselves actually charred up from fire. There’s nice shading and lighting, as well as sharp texture work. The animations and physics are very appropriate and have a good weight to the carnage happening on-screen. Interestingly, the game runs at 30 fps, while the game’s main menu runs at 60 fps. While it’s intense seeing all the crashing occur, the Burnout games were able to maintain 60 fps during gameplay, with more happening in the environment. This has a lifeless environment with not much happening to prevent 60 fps. Does it affect the overall gameplay? Not necessarily…but it’s noticeable. The audio effects are crisp, with the engine echoing in the opening tunnels, cars crunching into each other, tires screeching, car alarms going off, and explosions going on. The audio is great without question…but there’s not an ounce of music to be found in the game. I can understand no music playing during the crash event itself, but zero music for the main menu or results screen feels lacking.

Danger Zone is a fun title that brings back Burnout’s glorious Crash Mode, but isn’t without its shortcomings. The gameplay is crazy fun and it’s great for pickup-and-play sessions. Unfortunately, the issues mentioned do detract from the overall package, with the worst being the game’s lifeless simulated environment. Despite its shortcomings though, Danger Zone is a title that still is worth a shot and very reasonable for $12, especially if you’re a big fan of Burnout’s Crash Mode.

Overall Score: 7.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Danger Zone! Copy reviewed on PlayStation 4.

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

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Cave Story + Review (Switch): “A Story Worth Telling”

Cave Story + is the latest hit indie to get a full retail release on the Switch by publisher Nicalis. Cave Story first released as a PC freeware project back in 2004. Creator Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya single-handedly crafted every detail in the game back in its initial release. Since then, the game has received various enhanced ports over the years, whether it be for the WiiWare, DSiWare, 3DS, Steam, and now Nintendo Switch. Is this story worth visiting?

Story: 4/5

Right from the start, you control a character named Quote, an amnesiac with no idea as to who or where you are, nor what’s going on. You find yourself in a mysterious cave without any weapons to start with. As you progress, you come across creatures known as Mimigas, a bunny-like civilization that seems to be dwindling in numbers. In speaking with them, you will start to hear bits and pieces as to what is going on, and just how pivotal your character’s role prior to his amnesia played. There are a cast of characters that really help flesh out the game’s plot, with several twists and turns that keep you constantly wondering and wanting to see more unravel. What are the red flowers? Who is Sue? What are the massive eggs in the Egg Chamber? Who is the Doctor? These are but a few questions that kick things off early on. Also, certain actions and choices you make in the game will affect your ending. It’s difficult to really get further into the story without ruining the surprises ahead, but what’s here is truly great and enticing. The main gripe here is that you cannot immediately skip cutscenes after at least watching them once (more on that later on).

Gameplay: 5/5

Cave Story + is, for all intents and purposes, an enhanced version of the original game. However, there are still many who may not have experienced Cave Story to this day, so lets cover the game’s framework and mechanics first. Cave Story is a 2D homage, action-adventure platformer, akin to Metroid where exploration is rewarded. It plays very much like an 8-bit game, with all the mystery and intrigue of discovering elements on your own, but providing just enough knowledge to get you going. You will traverse the various locations within the cave, finding health capsules to increase your health, weapons to further defend yourself, and useful items that will help you progress through the environment.

Controlling Quote feels incredibly responsive and simple. You have your jump and shoot buttons, with the shoulder buttons letting you cycle through weapons on the fly. If you do not have the Pro controller, no worries. The Joy-Cons felt just as great (and dare I say I preferred this control method). Platforming itself feels tight and fair. If you miss a platform, it’s not the game’s fault, but rather your miscalculation. Quote can wield a variety of weapons to defend himself. You will first acquire the Polar Star, a pistol-like weapon. Throughout the journey, Quote will wield missile launchers, blades, machine guns, flamethrowers, and a few others. Enemies drop gold gems, that when collected will fill up that currently equipped weapon’s level gauge. Each weapon can be leveled up to three times. Each level radically changes the way the weapon fires. Even their uses may change. For example, the machine gun not only gets more powerful, but by it’s third level, can be used as a jetpack of sorts. Each of the game’s weapons are a blast to use and quite creatively designed. While some weapons have ammo for them, you will rarely have to worry about collecting ammo. Ammunition regenerates at a rapid rate (except for the missile launcher, the only weapon with ammo to collect for). Careful though, as taking damage will begin to diminish the equipped weapon’s level meter, so it can drop down level.

Cave Story is a challenging game that screams old-school. While the game does offer multiple difficulty settings, you will be challenged even on the easy setting. Whether the boss battles test your skills, or the clever level design’s platforming does, it really nails that 8-bit, old-school feel. There are no checkpoints at all as well. The only means of a checkpoint are finding floppy disks to save your game. If you die, you will reload at the last save point. Thankfully, save points are not too few and far in between. The most impressive element that truly harkens back to the old-school gaming days is how your adventure unfolds. Certain character interactions and item swapping can affect the weapons and items you will carry to the end of the game, as well as alter the game’s ending. Holding onto one weapon, may benefit you in the end game, as opposed to trading it in for someone else’s weapon. Picking up certain items that seem useless may actually help in a way you didn’t expect. NPC interaction is a massive element to the game. You need to initiate the conversations with NPCs to see if that will provide a choice factor, or provide hints to assist in your adventure. The game’s pacing is also sublime. Never at any single moment did the game feel like it dragged or had filler just to extend the game’s length.

Upon completing Cave Story with the “best” ending or with certain elements completed in the story, there are a variety of extra modes and content unlocked. First off, you can unlock an additional story mode called Curly Story. This lets you experience the game as Curly Brace, who will have more dialogue in place where Quote never spoke. Additionally, there are Challenges to access in the main menu and even an unlockable Boss Attack mode. These challenges have leaderboard support as well. For this Switch version, two-player co-op is being added later this summer.

As superb as Cave Story’s gameplay is, there were two things that stood out as minor irritants. The first was the lack of being able to skip cutscenes. When you watch a cutscene, then start a boss battle, die, and then reload your game, to only have to keep pressing A to somewhat speed up the dialogue…well, that can be a bit tedious. The second is that while there is a map system, it’s absolutely minuscule to understand, whether playing on the TV or the Switch itself. While I rarely ever resorted to it, the times I pulled it up I couldn’t help but wonder why it was so tiny. Despite these two elements though, that doesn’t hinder Cave Story from being an absolutely addictive game that’s immensely difficult to put down. Upon completing the game the first time, I immediately started up a second file to replay the game and try to acquire a different ending and make different decisions to change up the game. Not many games achieve that nature.

Graphics: 5/5

Cave Story + is a beautifully vibrant and clean upgrade from the original Cave Story. Everything looks crisp and smooth, whether in 1080p on the TV or 720p undocked on the Switch. All characters have nice animations and better detail than ever before. Environments are also incredibly well designed, with each area having great detail and variety to help each locale look and feel unique. Even the water reacts smoothly to when Quote submerges and surfaces. All this, while also running at a locked 60 fps, really makes the game look stunning. The only aspect that would’ve been a nice additional option would be if you were able to change the graphical styles to that of the previous versions (even the 3DS’s polygonal look).

Sound: 4/5

The game’s chiptune soundtrack accompanies the action on-screen very well. Whether it be upbeat or somber tunes, each track fits well for the most-part in the areas and scenarios presented. While not every song stood out, what’s here is still very good. Sound effects also fit just right, with each weapon sounding unique and pertaining to the style weapon it is, the explosions, and the selection tones. A really nice touch is being able to choose from four versions of the game’s soundtrack: Cave Story +, Remastered, Famitracks, or Organya. Personally, I enjoyed Remastered the most of the four. You can even listen to the game’s Jukebox and hear each track’s version.

Overall Score: 18/20 = 9.0 out of 10

Cave Story + is a fantastic game that still holds up all these years since it’s original release. The gameplay is addictive and downright superb, the visuals are stunning, and the story is very engaging. The game’s constant mystery and sense of discovery replicates that of the golden days in gaming. If you’ve never experienced Cave Story before, there’s never been a better time. If you’ve played through the game already, investing in the awesome physical copy (which includes CD soundtrack and full-color instruction booklet) is certainly worth the $30 price tag.

Pros:

+ Sublime gameplay
+ Engaging story
+ Various soundtrack versions to choose
+ Free future DLC
+ Excellent physical copy packaging to outweigh digital version

Cons:

– Unskippable cutscenes (when replaying sections)
– Map system is minuscule
– We have to still wait for two-player co-op mode

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Cave Story +! Copy reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

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NBA Playgrounds Review (Switch/PS4/X1): “Frazzle Dazzle”

NBA Playgrounds is an homage to the basketball games of yesteryear. In a time where games were not aiming to be ultra-realistic simulations, we had awesome arcade-style basketball games like NBA Jam, NBA Hang Time, and NBA Street (the second game being this reviewer’s favorite). Saber Interactive has now decided to revitalize this lost take on the genre with their latest title, NBA Playgrounds. Is this title a “razzle dazzle”?

NBA Playgrounds is a 2v2 style basketball game that aims for the pickup-and-play zaniness of NBA Jam, but with its own modern twists. You start off the game opening up card packs. Each card pack contains five basketball players to add to your accessible roster. You get a few packs to start with and can earn more by playing through the game’s Tournament mode. You get to mix and match your players to form the dynamic duo team of your liking, and can mix this up any time before a matchup begins. The tournament will take you to varied locales like New York City, Paris, Shanghai and Hong Kong to name a few. Each of the outdoor courts do a very good job of capturing the locale you’re playing at. There are six locations around the world where you will partake in tournaments, each with four matches. Each match even has a bonus objective to tackle to help net you more XP for your active players (more on that later).

The game’s mechanics are fairly easy to pickup-and-play, much like that of NBA Jam. You’ve got your simple pass, shoot, steal, block, and turbo buttons in place. Even each of the players have stats that resemble the style of NBA Jam, whether it be the 3-point, Dunk, Block, Steal, and Rebound skills to name a few. When holding the turbo button, you can move the right analog stick to pull off tricks. The more tricks you pull off while connecting it with a dunk, the more your special meter will fill up. This system is interesting, as it runs a lottery pick for a power up that could help change the odds of a match. For example, you may be able to get double points for dunks for a short time, get a single 100% accurate shot no matter where on the court you are, unlimited turbo, etc. Each time you complete a locale in the Tournament mode, you also earn a new lottery pick powerup.

At the end of each match, you will get XP for both your player profile and the players on your team. You will earn new card packs to unlock more players each time you level up, and your players will level up from bronze, to silver, to then gold status the more you use them. It’s also very commendable that the developers didn’t fall into the microtransaction route with unlocking more players or “buying” card packs. You will get duplicates in the packs occasionally, but this converts into XP for that particular player should you have them already. Also, you can earn Epic and Legend cards, which consist of classic basketball players.

Sounds promising so far, right? However, this is unfortunately where things get a bit dicey. Unlike NBA Jam or NBA Street, the mechanics here never feel fluid, and a lot of that has to do with the useless teammate AI. So let’s get this out of the way, if you’re planning on playing this solo, you are going to have a frustrating time due to your teammate AI. Unfortunately, there’s no way to play the Tournament mode with a friend, which is the main method of unlocking content. Your teammate will literally do nothing but run around following an opposing teammate, but that’s it. He will not try to block shots. He will not try to steal the ball. He will not go for rebounds. He will not even listen to your command to set up an alley-oop when you press the button for it. Additionally, taking shots at the basket also feels very inconsistent. You have to time your button press and let go of the shot button at a certain animation frame to better your accuracy. The problem is that the animation is in such a precise window that is almost impossible to master, or even pull off on a regular basis. Even the dunks require letting go of the shot button…and good luck even figuring out what animation frame point to let go on this one. There is apparently an update in the works to provide a shot meter which should help dramatically, but in the meantime, this is what we have.

Lastly, the game does have its Exhibition and Online modes. Exhibition allows you to fully customize the rules, as well as even change the ball being used for the match. This is definitely where the game will shine, in particular when playing with a friend here. However, the Online mode is interesting. The developers stated that the Switch version would have online running shortly after launch and it’s been roughly three weeks since launch…still nothing. So unfortunately, there’s not much to report on this end and frankly, this could’ve helped the overall score considering the dumb AI in Tournament mode makes for a frustrating single-player experience.

Visually, NBA Playgrounds has a neat art style that nails the over-the-top nature of the game, giving an arcade-like feel to it. Dunk animations look great, and characters animate fairly smooth. The environments have character to them and it’s great seeing outdoor locations that take place around the world. On the flipside, the big problem that rear its ugly head quick is when you see the game running on the Switch docked, and then you undock it. While the game looks solid on the TV, the undocked mode has the game running well below the 720p capabilities, giving the players a very blurry and practically standard-definition appearance. Hopefully this gets patched as well. It makes playing it on-the-go fairly ugly. The game does run at 60 fps most of the time, but the start of each match has the framerate running erratically for about five seconds or so. It’s not game-breaking, but it is jarring and happens regardless if it’s docked or undocked. In terms of audio, the announcers are entertaining to listen to. While nowhere near the classic nature of NBA Jam’s announcer, they do provide some chuckle worthy commentary. The soundtrack is comprised of hip-hop beats, and it fits the game pretty well. Sound effects also do a good job capturing the powerful dunks, dribbling and squeaks of the sneakers on the street courts.

NBA Playgrounds is game that screams pickup-and-play. The problems here though lie within its poor teammate AI, sub-HD undocked visuals, inconsistent shot mechanics, and lack of functional online mode (despite the option being in the main menu, sitting there locked). Even despite all these gripes, I did find myself coming back more and more for a round here and there. What is here is still playable and somewhat enjoyable playing solo. However, there’s no denying the game needs some updating, as it needed a bit more time for a “boomshaklaka”.

Overall Score: 6.0 out of 10 = Wait for a Price Drop (or Patch Update)

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for NBA Playgrounds! Copy reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

Curious to how our review system works? Check out the About section.

Interview with Duck Block Games on “Forsaken Castle” – A 16-Bit Metroidvania Homage Kickstarter

This weekend, we had the opportunity to interview the fine folks over at Duck Block Games. The developers are currently working on a Kickstarter title called Forsaken Castle, which is heavily influenced on Metroidvania-style gameplay. Brothers Lance and Clint Trahan took the time to provide us some background on the game’s development and history, as well as what the studio has in store.

Marcello: First off, thank you for taking the time for us to interview you guys about Forsaken Castle. So first off, congratulations on Forsaken Castle getting funded! I’m sure that it is a very surreal moment for you guys to see this project coming to fruition.

Lance: Thanks so much for the interview Marcello and yes, it’s been pretty surreal. We couldn’t be happier at the progress we’ve made with the Kickstarter campaign.

Clint: Hello.

Marcello: So tell us a bit about your studio, Duck Block Games?

Lance: We are made up of just myself and my brother Clint. He is the lead designer and artist, while I handle the programming and all the general operations of the company, both online and offline.

Marcello: Forsaken Castle is a Kickstarter project that’s inspired by Metroidvania style. How did the game first come about?

Lance: We’ve played a lot of Castlevania and Metroid games over the years, so we have no shortage of desire to see games from those years come back. We wanted our first project to be something we could faithfully execute on while still giving us some room to do our own thing.

Clint: It was originally planned as a short game for mobile devices with linear levels and limited controls.  We decided last November to expand the project and target a PC/Console release with a focus on the Metroidvania genre.  I’ve always enjoyed the gameplay and setting of the Castlevania series but prefered the level design and upgrade system of Metroid.  We want to create a fun game that combines these ideas in a way that truly fits the “Metroidvania” name.

Marcello: How long has Forsaken Castle been in development for?

Lance: We had our first very basic build of the game that we showed a handful of people on a phone back in September of 2016, with rough prototypes about 3-4 months before that, so probably a little over a year of part-time effort.

Marcello: What engine is currently being used to build Forsaken Castle?

Lance: We are using the Unity3D engine to make the game. It has a bit of a learning curve, but gives us some great flexibility once we started getting the hang of it.

Marcello: Since Forsaken Castle is heavily inspired by Metroid and Castlevania, which installments in those two series are your favorite? Also, were there any other games that helped inspire this project?

Lance: I would have to say Super Metroid for the hauntingly ambient music and level design and Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow for the characters and fun yet sometimes frustrating “Magic Seal” system. Though people may give Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest some flack, I’ll never forget the dread I felt whenever these words came up on the screen: “WHAT A HORRIBLE NIGHT TO HAVE A CURSE.”

Clint: My favorites are Super Metroid and Symphony of the Night.  Also some inspiration from Zelda: Link to the Past and Ys III: Wanderers from Ys.

Marcello: Oh man, that “Magic Seal” system was certainly frustrating in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. Moving onward, tell us a bit about the main protagonist, Lily. How did you guys come up with her design?

Lance: She’s a fledgling paladin in her order. When she was sent to investigate reports of monsters and undead plaguing a small village within the kingdom. She’s excited to do her part and prove that she can be a positive force in the world. Her investigation leads her to a once dormant castle where there is more going on under the surface than she at first realizes. She may be in over her head, but she is undeterred in trying to solve the castle’s mysteries and stop the looming danger with her own hands.

Clint: Lily’s design has evolved from previous project ideas we started developing over the last few years, but never saw public release.  At first she was a knight, used a sword, and didn’t even have a name.  When we moved away from the plan for mobile we changed her story to a paladin, gave her the flail/whip, but she doesn’t have shiny paladin armor (yet).  Then Lance thought of the name Lily, he may have been watching Harry Potter at the time.

Marcello: Will players be able to use different weapons with Lily, or is the whip her defining weapon like that of the Belmont Clan in Castlevania? Also, will there be any upgrading system?

Lance: Her primary weapon will be the whip, though I guess it’s more of a ball and chain flail to be a little more specific. As you progress, Lily will gain access to new sub-weapons and abilities. Her weapons, abilities, armor, as well as her health and mana pools will be upgraded throughout the game.

Marcello: How big is this castle players will be exploring? Is there variety in the castle itself?

Lance: It will be fairly large with roughly 10 unique areas to access. There may also be a way to see the castle from a completely different angle.

Marcello: Being a massive 16-bit fan, it’s really cool to see this game sporting that visual style. How did you guys decide on the game’s pixel art style?

Lance: This one is all Clint, so I’ll let him speak to that.

Clint: This is our first game using pixel art and was mostly done to avoid performance issues for mobile.  I’ve always loved pixel art and for this type of game it just seems to fit.  I want the art to be kind of Anime/JRPG style, but there still a lot to improve on my color selection and detail.  While I’m not limiting the art to a 16-bit palette, I am limiting the number of colors per tile or sprite to be similar to SNES/GBA games.

Marcello: In terms of music, the game is sounding great so far. How did you guys come across Zack Parrish as your composer?

Lance: When we first showed our demo at PAX South back in January, we had cards coming out our ears from composers interested in working on the project. It was truly a humbling process. I was aware of Zack because I was a backer of Valdis Story: Abyssal City, for which he had won an award. He has a really great sound that was already in the vain of what we wanted, so I was excited to hear that he was interested in joining the already in-progress audition we were having. We auditioned a number of composers, but ultimately decided to go with Zack when he swiftly produced a rough cut of the “Lower Castle” theme you hear in the demo and official trailer.

Marcello: Now the Kickstarter goal has been reached, but naturally there are more rewarding tiers as funding increases; In particular, bringing the game to PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Now the PlayStation 4 version has been achieved (congrats on that!) and the Switch version is still a bit away from securing tier-wise. If the funds don’t reach that tier, is there still a chance the game will release on the Switch?

Lance: Absolutely! We want people to experience Forsaken Castle on whatever platform works best for them, so we will definitely be pursuing that. Though it just may take us longer to make those ports happen.

Marcello: There’s no question the game is looking really cool and I personally am very excited for this title to release. Is there any exclusive information you could provide to the readers, backers, and fans?

Lance: Thanks! The greatest reward for me has been to see people excited to enjoy our work. All I can say for now is, you haven’t seen anything yet! We have plenty of surprises planned that we can’t wait to share with everyone!

Marcello: Lance and Clint, thank you so much again for your time. Forsaken Castle is shaping up to be a very cool title that Metroidvania fans should definitely keep on their radar. We cannot wait to see more of what this title has to offer. We wish you guys the best of luck with the remainder of the project’s Kickstarter, as well as the rest of the development cycle.

Lance: Thanks so much for having us!

Clint: Thanks!

At the time of writing, the Kickstarter campaign has achieved over $20,000, double what was initially needed to get the game funded. Additionally, you can even download a demo of the game before even backing it directly from their Kickstarter campaign page. Definitely give the game a look and if it interests you, certainly back this project. The campaign ends on May 24th, 2017 at 11:49 AM EST. Forsaken Castle is targeting a release for October 2017.

A special thank you to Duck Block Games again for taking the time to provide this interview.

Has-Been Heroes Review (Switch/PS4/X1/PC): “Still-Are Heroes”

Has-Been Heroes is the latest title from developer Frozenbyte, known for their Trine series. This new title is a unique strategy RPG in the market with rogue-like elements. Are these heroes worth joining?

Gameplay: 3/5

Has-Been Heroes is unlike any other game in the genre. You start off the game with a bit of exposition, laying out the ground work of who these heroes are, and what has become of them. These old, tired heroes are tasked with one last quest: to escort the king’s daughters to school…and man, what a treacherous path it is to this school! That’s as much exposition as you’ll get, and that’s honestly fine since it’s enough to get the game going.

Has-Been Heroes is not your typical RPG, and thankfully provides you with a proper tutorial to have you understand the intricate mechanics. When starting an area, you will use the right analog stick to choose a location to go to from the map. Highlighting the area next to you will show if it contains a battle, has a merchant to buy things from, has treasure chests, or may be empty so you can just safely pass by.

Battle mechanics are very engaging. When in battle, your characters are always moving, as are the enemies. You will have to press the button that corresponds with the character you’d like to attack with (X, Y, or B), and once chosen, you will attack with the A button. Each character will have to wait before attacking again, and they each vary with cooldown timers. More integral to survival is understanding the stamina mechanics. Enemies not only have health (indicated by the red bar next to them), but stamina boxes as well (indicated as green boxes next to their health). Stamina basically works as a shield before you can chip away at their health bar. If you chip away their stamina enough to stun them, and then give them a quick attack afterwards, you will knock down their stamina capacity, making it easier to stun them the next time you attack them. Stamina does build back for enemies after attacking them, so knocking down their stamina gauge is absolutely pivotal to victory.

The same applies for your characters as well. They each have a specific amount of stamina and health that you’ll need to keep an eye on. Naturally, the knight is like a tank and can withstand the most damage. The elder monk is fairly weak, but is utilized more as a knockback character. The young rogue character has speed in her attacks and can dish out more hits in a combo. On top of this, each character has a spell that can be summoned. Spells all vary on whether they’re elemental or not, passive or aggressive, and ultimately can change the course of battle if utilized right. Combat can (and will) get very overwhelming and thankfully you can pause the time so you can carefully plot your attacks across the three lanes of battle.

So here is the thing about Has-Been Heroes: It’s difficult…insanely difficult actually. Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Nioh…you’ve heard of those games by now for their high difficulty (all of which I’ve beaten for the record). Has-Been Heroes’ difficulty is a whole new breed though. This is where gameplay experiences will vary among players. If you like your games to be easy and a walk-in-the-park, well this may not be your cup of tea. If you welcome a challenge, then Has-Been Heroes will certainly do so. All it takes is for you to get frazzled and overwhelmed in combat to quickly fall to your demise. If a single hero dies, it’s game over. No continues, no checkpoints. After all, this is a rogue-like game.

Now, Has-Been Heroes has some issues that hurt the gameplay a bit. First off, the game has a feature where the camera zooms in with certain attacks. This is nice and all, but the problem I had was that the game would glitch and the zoomed-in camera would be stuck, leaving me with no view of the battle. This happened twice during boss battles and resorted to my characters dying. Thankfully, this camera feature can be shut off in the options menu, but it’s still something that needs to be addressed. Secondly, the game’s difficulty, while more than welcome for this reviewer, feels unbalanced at times. There were times where I was able to blast through both regular battles and boss battles, and there were other times where I would falter at the first regular battle due to an absurd amount of enemies randomly generated. Boss battles are also an exercise in frustration, as some of them throw far too many enemies into the mix, making it inevitable for your characters to meet their doom. Also, it would’ve been a great feature to be able to choose a spell loadout based on the spells acquired in each playthrough. Instead, you will have to randomly come across spells at each merchant and hope for the best. Ultimately, it just feels like there are numerous times where the game relies on luck, regardless of how skilled you are at it.

Issues aside though, there’s no denying the amount of enjoyment I had playing this game. The gameplay was addictive, and no matter how many times I died, I always found myself coming back for more.

Graphics: 4/5

Visually, Has-Been Heroes is a more simplistic approach from the developer’s previous Trine series. At first glance it may appear like a mobile title, but don’t let that dismiss you. What we are treated with here are nicely drawn environments and characters, each with their own unique animations. The game does run at a solid 60 fps and the overall aesthetic is very crisp. The main gripe is the text font when playing on the TV. While on the Switch screen it’s easy to read, it’s pretty tiny on the TV. Despite that though, the overall game is easy on the eyes and quite vibrant (which is expected from the team that made the visually stunning Trine games).

Sound: 4/5

The audio design is incredibly well done in Has-Been Heroes. Outside of the narrator, characters have minimal voice acting, but what is here is completely fine. Sound effects are strong and capture the intensity of battles. When entering a level, the narrator actually sounds almost reminiscent of that from the Gauntlet games. The majestic score is great here as well. Whether advancing through the land, in combat, at merchants, or the spell gambler, the tunes all fit the setting superbly. I found myself really getting into the soundtrack and humming it outside of playing the game.

Replay Value: 5/5

For the $20 price tag, there is an insane amount of content and unlockables to be found here. Has-Been Heroes contains 10 different endings, a ton of additional characters to unlock and play as, and countless spells and enemies to discover. As mentioned in the gameplay segment, this is a game that was very addictive no matter how difficult it was. The Switch version in particular really shines in this department, as it is a perfectly suited game to have on-the-go. There’s a lot of bang for your buck here and it will keep you coming back for a long time.

Overall Score: 16/20 = 8.0 out of 10

Has-Been Heroes may seem like a simple, mobile style game from first glance, but what’s here is an incredibly difficult, yet very rewarding game. The engaging combat system, crisp visual art style, strong audio and plethora of content makes Has-Been Heroes a great package for the asking price. Again, this game may not be for everyone. Even with its unbalanced difficulty curves, it never discouraged me from trying again repeatedly. For those who do appreciate the challenge and invest the time into it, there’s a very deep game overall that will have you coming back for quite some time.

Second Opinion
Written By Karl Upman

From the developers of the Trine series comes a very different, very new experience. Has-Been Heroes tells the tale of old, retired heroes who really shouldn’t be put in charge of guarding anything but their own front lawns. But nonetheless here we are, guiding our time-worn travelers through treacherous terrains. Accompanied by a third member of the group, an aspiring heroine, the unlikely lot set out to deliver the king’s two daughters to…school. If that doesn’t set the precedent for the game, I don’t know what will. Has-Been Heroes is set up to be funny, and in many cases it succeeds! However, the amount of laughter quickly died out for me because I kept…well…dying.

Has-Been Heroes is a rouge-like, strategy, dark souls-esque game where you have a starting and end point, and in between are procedurally generated pathways and “rooms”. I tend to like this set up; give me a dungeon with areas to explore and I’ll be content for hours. But this is a different formula and the key to enjoying it comes down to one thing – luck. In my first two hours of the game, I couldn’t beat a single enemy encounter. It was only after playing for a bit longer and really understanding the mechanics that I realized I had been totally getting screwed over! I was getting loads of enemies thrown at me when I had no clue what was going on and I was expected to just learn. After a few frustrating attempts at making progress, I finally faced a relatively easy mob, only two handfuls of enemies compared to the waves upon waves I had faced before. This allowed me to finally learn the mechanics and progress… until of course I was overwhelmed time-after-time again.

I don’t mind the mechanics of battling in Has-Been Heroes, it’s unique, clever and requires a lot of planning – which the developers clearly recognized since you can pause the game to think of your next move at almost any time. What it comes down to is the consistent “enjoy-ability” of it. From the start, you’re incredibly overwhelmed with just the system alone, but you’re treated as though you’ve been playing it for weeks right when you jump in! It also would have been nice to get some recognition for making any progress at all, but the unlocks you get are seemingly useless other than to learn what you may or may not pick up in a future adventure. This was partially beneficial however, because the text is incredibly small and smooshed together, I could barely read anything during a playthrough. I did manage to defeat the first world boss once, and naturally was thrown into an impossibly difficult first battle in the next playthrough – so back to square one! Personally, I don’t get much out of games where your only goal is to see how well you can make it through an ever-changing labyrinth of suffering and frustration, only to walk it out with some new text to read.

That being said, I did take a few things away from Has-Been Heroes. The art style was playful and stimulating, and the music was a great balance of intense and out-of-the-way, allowing you to really focus on what was going on. When I could read the dialogue (playing in handheld mode on the Switch), I found the humor quite enjoyable. Although after dying so many times, it did tend to get repetitive.

I think some people will find satisfaction in Has-Been Heroes, but it’s definitely not just a game you can jump into and expect to enjoy – you’ll need to work at it and appreciate it for what it is: a rouge-like dungeon crawler that hands out dull consolation prizes and wants you to die…a lot.

Second Opinion Final Score: 6.5/10

 

 

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Has-Been Heroes! Copy reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

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Mr. Shifty Review (Switch/PC) – “Shiftastic”

Mr. Shifty is a unique indie that’s part Hotline Miami, part Matrix, and part the opening scene of the X2 movie with Nightcrawler. Developed by Team Shifty and published by tinyBuild, Mr. Shifty has hit both Steam and Switch. Should Mr. Shifty shift his way to your library, or is it best to shift away?

During my time with Mr. Shifty, I can easily say that this is one immensely engaging game that was extremely difficult to put down. The game is played from a top-down view and is reminiscent to Hotline Miami (as I mentioned earlier). Mr. Shifty is a thief trying to break into Olympus Tower that contains the powerful Mega Plutonium being weaponized. His handler, Nyx, provides updates via comms (all text-based) with intel on where to go, as well as some background info. The main antagonist, Chairman Stone, becomes aware of Mr. Shifty’s presence and will stop at nothing to ensure his demise. The story in place here is just the right amount for the type of game it is. There’s enough dialogue exchange and never too much to bog down the pacing.

Gameplay wise, think Hotline Miami but without the dual-stick control or gratuitous amounts of blood. Instead, Mr. Shifty relies on his unique teleportation ability. Simply pressing the B button, you can teleport a few feet in front of you. Whether it be open area, through objects, or through walls, this mechanic is absolutely essential to survival. All it takes is a single hit for Mr. Shifty to meet his doom. This actually helps make the game so much more intense, and keeps you sitting at the edge-of-your-seat when caught in battles. You do need to be careful on your teleporting though, as Mr. Shifty can exhaust the ability. On the HUD, there are blue boxes that serve as your teleport stamina. You can teleport up to five times consecutively until you have to wait for him to cool down. However, if you space out the teleporting, you shouldn’t have this issue, as simply teleporting and waiting a second will replenish the stamina. Use it all up and it’ll take him much longer to regenerate (and this will definitely leave you vulnerable in battles).

Mr. Shifty does not resort to guns as a way to deal with his foes. Instead, he has his trusty fists, and can also utilize melee weapons in the environment. Make no mistakes, his fists pack a punch and will send enemies flying across the screen. When fists aren’t enough though, he can wield sticks, brooms, keyboards, wads of money, swords, shields, proximity mines, and much more. The weapons are all immensely gratifying to use, especially when you take out multiple enemies with a single swipe. However, it’s truly the game’s masterful design that makes combat clever. You can go into an area and take enemies out head on, teleporting between them and evading gunfire. However, if you go the more creative route, the game allows you to mess with the AI and trick them a bit. For example, there were times when enemies were chasing me and I’d teleport into a room, grab an active proximity mine, teleport back out, throw it and stick it on an enemy, and teleport into another room to watch the group of guards explode. Another time would be picking up a shield and throwing it like Captain America, taking out all the enemies in direct line of sight. You can even punch doors completely off their hinges into enemies, killing them instantly. When you take out enough enemies in a quick timeframe, you fill up a meter. Once the meter is full, you will have the ability to slow down time that automatically initiates before a bullet hits you. This gives you a few seconds to clear away from the bullet and get the upper hand on some enemies. The overall combat is creative and superb, and cannot stress enough how gratifying it is.

While doors will usually be locked until you take out the enemies in each area, the game has its share of environmental puzzles. You may need to find switches that shutdown lasers in an area, or you may need to find a way to get through a room with a switch that is in a field that doesn’t allow you to teleport (just to name a few examples). This sounds rudimentary, but I assure you, it’s done in very clever ways. The thing with Mr. Shifty is that throughout the game’s campaign, each level provides something unique to the mix, whether it be new enemies, new obstacles, or new traps. It really makes the game flow very smoothly and gives you that “just one more level” feel.

The main thing that hurts Mr. Shifty is that once you beat it (which took me just under three hours), there’s not much left to do. You can do a stage select to better your times and number of deaths, but that’s about it. There are no unlockables to be found. It would’ve been nice if there was a ranking system in place so that each level would grade you on performance. This would’ve definitely added longevity to keep replaying levels. Again, you can go for faster times and try to go for as little deaths as possible, so it is something.

Visually, Mr. Shifty is a cel-shaded game that uses the style brilliantly. Nice lighting effects and spectacular animations make this a game that’s very appealing to the eyes. Enemies all have equal attention to animation detail, and deaths are all handled with rag-doll physics that look great. Also, the environments are quite destructible, whether it be walls you break down, windows that shatter, statues that crumble, or desks that break. Almost everything is breakable and animates very well. The framerate stays at 30 fps, but there were times when too many enemies on-screen caused it to drop. There were even instances where the game would freeze for a split-second during heavy action sequences. The crazy part is that while this can certainly be fixed with a patch, the slow-down and split-second frame freeze actually helped me breathe for a second to carefully teleport out of harm’s way. 

Audio wise, Mr. Shifty has excellent sound effects that really draw you into the experience. Enemy guns sound crisp and powerful, melee attacks sound like they pack a punch, and explosions are nice and loud. Knocking enemies into walls sounds painful, and knocking them out of window to hear them yell to their doom are great touches. Music fits the game really well and keeps the game’s pace moving nicely. It has that right amount of heist tone to it, and then elevates to very fast-paced tunes when either escaping or caught in a trap full of enemies to combat. While I do wish there were more songs, the tunes were really catchy and I found myself thinking about the music outside of gameplay. Even the stage complete tune is incredibly catchy.

Mr. Shifty is a great game that was almost impossible to put down once started. Each of the 18 levels provide something new to tackle, and keeps you wanting to see what’s next. The sleek visuals, strong audio, and enticing gameplay make Mr. Shifty a game that cannot be recommended enough. While the game’s short length, framerate drops and lack of replay value hurt it a bit, the overall experience is a heart-pounding, adrenaline-fueled great time.

Overall Score: 8.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Mr. Shifty! Copy reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

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Snow Moto Racing Freedom Review (PS4/PC) – “Stuck on Ice”

Zordix certainly has a labor of love when it comes to jet-ski and snowmobile games. Known for their Aqua Moto Racing and Snow Moto Racing series, Zordix has released the latest in their snowmobile series, Snow Moto Racing Freedom. When their previous title released a few months ago (Aqua Moto Racing Utopia), we found it to be a great title that was easy to get into. Does Snow Moto Racing Freedom have an equivalent hook that Aqua Moto Racing Utopia had, or is this snowmobile racer stuck on ice?

Snow Moto Racing Freedom is, as the title insinuates, a snowmobile racing game at its heart. There are three types of Championships to partake in: Sprint League, Snocross, and Freedom League. Sprint League has you racing opponents in vast open environments to hit checkpoints that link to the finish line. Snocross is a more traditional method of racing, doing laps on actual tracks. Freedom League is a mix of both Sprint League and Snocross races together in a Championship. Each league has about eight championships to tackle, each containing three to five races roughly.

Sprint League is an open-ended race style, approaching checkpoints that is reminiscent to something like Smuggler’s Run or Midnight Club. Checkpoints need to be approached in specific directions. However, the checkpoints are handled a bit poorly. Each checkpoint is a fairly large object that requires you to turn into it just right, and go through the gate. Worse yet, certain checkpoints have you approaching it head on, and require you to have to do 180 degree turns into these cumbersome gates. It wouldn’t be so bad if the checkpoint design was more liberating or didn’t have this massive object to maneuver around just to get into the gate. It honestly just ruins the flow of races. Some of the game’s physics are also wonky (more on that below), so colliding into the object once inside can lead to easily flipping over. When respawning on the track, the game automatically points you in the right direction to the gate. However, if you pass the gate, you may as well restart the race, because there’s no way you’ll be able to turn around, go through the gate, and catch back up to the AI. There’s no manual respawn button to get you back on track quicker either, which could’ve rectified this issue. Snocross races are more straightforward, but to be honest were definitely not as enjoyable as Sprint League races. The biggest issue here is the lack of memorable tracks to race on. Each one here feels appropriate, yet generic.

Snow Moto Racing Freedom’s physics engine works decently enough, but there are some odd instances that are hard to avoid. First off, rocks serve more as a ramp than actually colliding with them. It’s a bit comical and while I wouldn’t normally complain about something that doesn’t ruin the flow of gameplay, it actually does mess you up more than help. There were also numerous times I’d land upside-down off a jump, but I’d still drive for a second upside-down and the rider would shoot out of the ground. Again, comical but wonky. Also, the game’s control are a tad on the sensitive side. This is more noticeable during Snocross than Sprint League races, but it makes for some very difficult times with Snocross events. There were even times when the snowmobile would do an almost 180 degree turn when landing from a jump because the vehicle’s tracks were slightly off-center (and I mean slightly). It just felt like if I lost a race that I was holding the lead in, it was usually due to inconsistent physics.

Aside from the game’s Championship events, there are also Single Events you can do like Time Trials, Freestyle, and Leisure events. Time Trials have you going for either a bronze, silver, or gold medal to get the fastest track times. Freestyle has you competing for medals by pulling off as many tricks as possible on specifically designed levels. Tricks are handled exactly like the developer’s previous game, Aqua Moto Racing Utopia. You pull off tricks using the right analog stick, and can use the L1 button as a modifier for more complex tricks. Leisure lets you ride on three of the game’s open-environments: Scandinavia, Rocky Mountains, and the Alps. You have plenty of terrain to freely ride around and explore. However, unlike AMRU where there were easter eggs and items to collect while free roaming, this game has zero of that. Nothing to collect, nothing hidden to find. It’s just a basic free roam in environments devoid of personality. It wouldn’t be so dull if there was more to the environment, but there’s ultimately not much.

The game does have both local and online multiplayer. While we were not able to test out the online multiplayer due to servers being empty at the time of review, we did test the local multiplayer. Similar to Aqua Moto Racing Utopia, the game supports four-player split-screen multiplayer. You can do any of the race types, freestyle events and even free roam in Leisure mode. Unfortunately, you cannot choose your vehicle, nor can your buddies customize their character. You just drop right into the game. That’s the thing too. You can customize your character…but only their gear color. There’s only one outfit and one helmet, so the only difference from everyone is color variation. Lastly, the game is lacking any mini-game modes that Aqua Moto Racing Utopia had. Overall, it just lacks the personality and identity that AMRU had.

Visually, the game looks pretty solid for the most part. The most impressive thing visually is that it runs at 60 fps, which is always a huge plus. Riders animate pretty well, as do the vehicles. The cool feature that returns from AMR Utopia is the first-person view, and the detail put into that to really simulate the feeling of riding these beasts. The sense of speed is also very well done. On the flip side though, there is a good amount of screen-tearing happening. It’s not immensely distracting, but it’s certainly very noticeable. Weather effects are in play and all looks good, including the lighting for night races. It would’ve been nice to see some wind effects though. This would’ve helped breathe some life into the environments in an otherwise lifeless world. The other issue was the gamma in the visuals. Many times I found determining the depth and level formation to be difficult due to washed out snow detail. Funny enough, if you pause the game, the screen dims slightly and then I can actually see the snow terrain better. There’s no gamma option to tweak either so this just made some races difficult to determine the terrain. In terms of audio, snowmobiles sound as they should and the music here, if a bit generic, accompanies the game pretty well. Nothing overly memorable, but gets the job done.

There may be a lot of comparisons made here with the developer’s previous game, Aqua Moto Racing Utopia, but it was very difficult not to compare the two. While AMRU was a game we rather enjoyed, Snow Moto Racing Freedom feels devoid of what made AMRU great. The gameplay is mediocre, the environments are lifeless and the game just lacks personality. The overall package doesn’t seem as energetic and creative as AMRU. If you’re looking for a snowmobile game, there’s some enjoyment to be had here, but not enough to fully recommend it.

Overall Score: 5.5 out of 10 = Wait for a Price Drop…

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Snow Moto Racing Freedom! Copy reviewed on PlayStation 4.

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Snake Pass Review (Switch) – A Ssssssslithering Good Time

Sumo Digital is no stranger to the gaming industry. Their highly prolific releases like Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast, Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing (as well as its sequel, Sonic All-Star Racing Transformed), and LittleBigPlanet 3 are just a few to mention. This time around, they’ve decided to create a brand new IP of theirs called Snake Pass. Is this new IP a slithering good time, or an exercise in frustration?

Snake Pass is a puzzle-platformer that has you controlling a snake named Noodle. Noodle’s bird companion, Doodle, notices the land suddenly shifting and breaking apart, and wakes up Noodle from his nap to warn him that they must do something about it. Here is where you will begin to get your bearings on the game’s control scheme. The catch here is that Noodle moves and handles like that of a real snake. You will not be simply moving freely and jumping across as you do in other platformers. You must move Noodle by holding a button to move forward, and using the analog stick to slither left and right to gain speed. If you just move straight, Noodle will eventually be unable to move since snakes can’t actually move straight. When climbing up surfaces, you will need to coil up with the left trigger. This allows Noodle to tighten his grip and gain more traction to further work your way around poles. If the bottom of your tail starts to add more weight, you can also press a button to have Doodle pick it up and assist with your weight distribution. It’s a very interesting premise and something that’s never been done before.

Throughout the game’s four worlds, Noodle will have to collect three gate keys to advance to the next level. Aside from those, he can also collect the 20 blue orbs scattered throughout the level, as well as five secret coins. These are not mandatory to collect, but allow completionists to be fully tested on the game’s challenges. That’s the thing about Snake Pass; The challenge is in figuring out how to collect everything in each level. The game starts out relatively approachable, and continues to ramp up in difficulty based on each world’s environmental hazards. Whether it be spikes, fire or wind, the environment will pose as Noodle’s main obstacle. There are no enemies that actually attack you or vice versa. This is a pure collect-a-thon platformer with a heavy emphasis on snake-like physics.

Slithering your way through environments will take some time to adjust to. The game’s controls are done well and if you rush your way through some areas, failure will certainly take hold. There are checkpoints scattered, but some levels have them few and far in between. I found myself occasionally getting frustrated after spending minutes carefully coiling Noodle around a pole mid-air to get a key or coin, to only then fall to my demise shortly after succeeding and have to repeat getting to the area over-and-over again. While the challenge in place is fine, it’s the repetition of getting to areas to only tackle the trial-and-error gameplay that got a bit tedious at times. Also, the biggest issue during my playthrough was fighting with the camera. While you can control the camera with the right analog stick, it is stiff and slow to maneuver. A camera sensitivity option would have greatly helped here as it somewhat slowed down the flow of gameplay.

Despite some gripes, there is an undeniable sense of charm to be found in Snake Pass. Noodle and Doodle are incredibly likeable characters, and seeing Noodle’s facial expressions (which you can change ala LittleBigPlanet with the D-Pad) will certainly bring a smile to your face . Even hearing his expressions are quite funny. Level design is also very well done, with nice amounts of variety to each level.

Visually, Snake Pass is a very nice looking game that’s easy on the eyes and vibrant. Powered by Unreal Engine 4, Sumo Digital has showcased that a game built originally for PS4 and X1 in mind can look incredibly similar on Nintendo Switch. While the resolution takes a bit of a hit, the game does have some nice anti-aliasing happening to help smooth out the edges. Noodle animates sssssssmooothly (sorry, had to do it) and texture detail is very well done. There are a ton of grass blades on-screen throughout levels as well, and really help flourish the lively environment. The main visual hit would have to be the inconsistent framerate. While the game does aim for 30 fps, it tends to drop to about 25 fps in areas. This does happen quite often and while the game is at the visual level of a PS4/X1 game, it could use just a bit more optimizing for smoother gameplay. That being said though, don’t have this issue turn you away from playing the game, as it still is totally playable regardless of the frame drops.

In terms of audio, Donkey Kong Country composer, David Wise, takes the helm and provides a great soundtrack that hits all the right notes for the type of game Snake Pass is. There’s an atmospheric tone to the tunes, each fitting the world you’re in. It really helps engage you into the game and does a superb job of accompanying the platforming. Sound effects are also well done, with some subtle voice work (mostly reaction noises) from Noodle and Doodle, as well as nice audio cues when collecting certain items. When swimming underwater, music also gets subdued a bit which is a nice effect. All in all, the audio package is very well done and the soundtrack is very catchy.

Snake Pass is a game that takes a risk in a generation that needs more risk-taking. Cultivating the ideas of a platformer and incorporating a control scheme that fully coordinates with the character itself is bold and unique. While it will certainly take time for players to master Noodle’s control, it’s still simple enough for anyone to pickup and play. It does have a few issues that are hard to ignore, but what’s here is a very endearing game, full of charm and complexity. If you’re looking for a unique, vibrant platformer that provides something new to the table, definitely give Snake Pass a look. Hopefully we see more of Noodle in the near future.

Overall Score: 7.5 out of 10 = BUY IT!

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Snake Pass! Copy reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review (Switch): “A True Legend”

For over three decades, The Legend of Zelda series has given players a sense of exploration that many games have been inspired by. Nintendo has been in long development for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which was first shown off at E3 2014. While initially shown as a Wii U exclusive, the game’s delays eventually pushed it back to launch simultaneously on Nintendo’s new console, the Nintendo Switch, as a launch day title. Is this new Zelda one that was worth the long wait?

Story: 5/5

Link awakens after a 100-year slumber, unaware of what has happened in the land of Hyrule. Leaving the Shrine of Resurrection, he eventually crosses paths with an elderly man who helps guide him on the right starting path. Calamity Ganon has taken control of the land of Hyrule and it is up to Link to stop him from destroying the world. While that may sound a bit cliché, it is how Breath of the Wild’s story unfolds that is remarkable.

Link suffers from memory loss, so he doesn’t recall anything of what’s happening in the land of Hyrule. Throughout his journey, he will have to venture through the massive land to acquire his strength back, as well as his memories. Unlike many other games (or even prior installments in this series) where heavy exposition is provided in the opening act of the game, the game throws you in control mere minutes upon starting up. There is not even a main menu upon startup. The story opens up to the grand sense of mystery, providing numerous questions to the player. While there is a natural story progression, recalling all of Link’s memories (which is optional) is how the story is further fleshed out. It’s through here that we find out exactly what happened 100 years ago.

The amount of detail that is put into the lore of this universe is astounding to say the least. All of the NPCs provide plenty of personality and help bring out life in this massive world. Even the historical Sheikah language actually has meaning to the world when translated. There is a ton of lore to be discovered and learned, and everything connects to make this world truly flourish.

Gameplay: 5/5

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has a sense of scale and exploration in a way that no other game has achieved to date. For starters, this isn’t a Zelda game that follows the same conventions we’ve seen over the past 30 years. This is a new way to experience Zelda; a way which feels similar to what we first experienced on the NES, and the way we first experienced Ocarina of Time. In short, this is a Zelda that provides a truly unique experience that elevates the series to new heights.

Unlike earlier entries, we are thrown right into the gameplay with very little exposition. You will be granted a Sheikah Slate and some clothing to set off on your journey. After leaving the Shrine of Resurrection, it is here where the game opens up to how you want to set forth on your quest. This is a true open-world experience to witness. There are many games nowadays where open-world is a somewhat monotonous style, with a checklist of things the player can do. Breath of the Wild reinvigorates this tiresome style by not throwing filler into the world just for the sake of having something to do. Everything placed in this massive land of Hyrule is meant to be there and has purpose. You have the utmost freedom to tackle this game in any way you’d like. You can literally spend countless hours venturing the land, finding shrines to tackle, side quests to partake in, and hunting for resources.

For those wanting to focus on seeing the story unfold, there’s a quest log system in place to show you where to go. On your way to main missions, you will be easily distracted from your path, as seeing Shrines and Towers to unlock will certainly pull you off the beaten path. As mentioned, these are not filler content. Towers will unlock regions of the land to appear on your map, as well as fast travel points. Shrines are mini-dungeons with specific puzzles and challenges to complete that award you Spirit Orbs. Acquiring four of these Orbs will allow you to visit a Praying Statue that lets you either upgrade your health or stamina meter. Choosing between the two is actually quite difficult since both are so integral to your survival. Honestly, I haven’t been this conflicted making decisions upgrading since Resident Evil 4, where every upgrade is a necessity. There are 120 shrines across the entire map. Finding these Shrines across Hyrule is both exciting and addictive. The only minor gripe I have is that some shrines have the occasional motion controls implemented for certain puzzles that proved to be a bit imprecise. Luckily, there weren’t many of these and didn’t hurt the overall experience. Also, it’s worth noting that shrines act as fast travel points as well.

Combat handled differently than other Zelda installments. No longer are you attached to a single sword as your main weapon. Instead, you are capable of wielding practically anything as a weapon; tree branches, axes, swords, spears, boomerangs, and bows all behave as weapons. While boomerangs and bows are common in the series, all the weapons mentioned have a ton of various types. Weapons’ materials are also a factor;or example, during lightning storms, having metal weapons (or clothing) equipped will attract lightning to strike you. However, throwing a metal weapon towards enemies will attract lightning to them, providing a clever method to utilize the environment in combat. Weapons do break quite easily, so you’ll be scavenging weapons constantly. It’s not until you find better-made weapons where they are more durable.

Aside from weapons, acquiring specific clothing is absolutely essential to your survival. Not only do these affect your defense attributes, but they have specific perks as well. Breath of the Wild’s environments are not static. Climbing a snowy mountain will make Link freeze to death if he’s not wearing the proper clothing. Venturing into the desert in the daytime will make Link grow weary of the heat, but he’ll also freeze at night. Going into a volcano will even set Link on fire unless he has the proper equipment. It’s this level of care and authenticity that changes the way you explore in Zelda. Thankfully, you’re not restricted to having only specific clothing and gear to get through these extreme temperatures. You can also hunt animals and resources to cook food or brew elixirs that will provide you resistance to certain climates. Speaking of cooking, it’s your main means of recovering health. Gone are the days of cutting through grass or objects to find hearts to acquire. You will need to hunt and cook if you are going to survive.

The game’s four main dungeons are also some of the best level designs I’ve seen in a Zelda game. Taking a page from Shadow of the Colossus, the Divine Beasts serve as the main dungeons in the game. Each Divine Beast will have to be approached differently, consisting of unique action experiences as Link tries to make his entrance. Once inside the beast, the puzzles truly flourish and require you to really think about how to advance. The development team have really shown their puzzle design mastery here. Additionally, boss battles are both engaging and challenging. You will have to really experiment with everything you have at your disposal to defeat these bosses.

The most remarkable achievement is how much detail the land of Hyrule has. The wildlife, the environment, the towns, the weather…they all have this sublime detail that sets an entire new standard for open-world games. Many open-world games feel like a drag to venture through, full of filler content just to get to the next point of the game’s story. Instead, Breath of the Wild achieves an open-world that has substance. It’s so easy to lose countless hours exploring before even tackling the game’s main story. This game is truly a revolution.

Graphics: 5/5

The Legend of Zelda series always had vibrant, lush visuals, with each installment using unique art styles. BotW approaches a more watercolor-like style and provides a truly breathtaking visual experience. In the opening moments where you view the land of Hyrule, you will be introduced to an immense draw distance. You can literally see everything in the distance: Shrines, Towers, towns, mountains, and more. It really is a sight to behold. Grass blades react to your movements and glisten based on the lighting from the sun’s position. Heat haze effects appear in desert and volcanic environments. Lightning strikes cause fields and trees to light on fire. These detailed visual effects are truly jaw-dropping. Texture work is quite sharp as well.

The game is also built heavily on a full-fledged, interactive physics system. Moving boulders will react precisely to the environment’s geometry, trees can be cut down, logs can be chopped, grass set ablaze will cause an updraft you can ride with your paraglider, and more. Every little thing in the game is interactive and has purpose. Character animations are fluid and react believably to the environment. Link has a plethora of animations that truly reacts to anything and everything in the world: how he climbs, mounts horses, surfs, glides, attacks, takes damage, and so on. While the framerate can occasionally drop here and there, it rarely posed an issue that hinders the grand scale of everything happening on-screen here during the 40+ hours played. It truly is a beautifully-stunning game.

Sound: 5/5

The sound design team over at Nintendo have certainly gone with a different approach with Breath of the Wild. Instead of constant overworld tunes, the game relies more on subtle music that capture the sense of mystery and exploration at the right moments. It is more low-key than previous installments, but its piano tunes really work perfectly in exploring the land. More constant music is played in towns, shrines, dungeons, and boss battles. Town music makes you feel calm, giving you a reprieve from the dangers that lurk out in the fields. Shrines have a mysterious theme, taking inspiration from the cave music from Link’s Awakening. Music played in dungeons is interesting, as it starts very low-key, but once you complete certain objectives, the music picks up in a more dramatic style. Boss battle tracks are much more intense as it captures the moment of a one-on-one battle. While the musical style is different, it’s done so in a masterful way.

Sound effect quality is also superb. There are a ton of ambient effects to be heard, whether it be the sound of Link’s gear swaying back and forth, the creatures roaming Hyrule, the powerful lightning strikes, the volcanic lava, or leaves and trees moving with the wind, there is an unbelievable amount of audio being played. Combat sounds powerful and visceral with weapons clashing, striking and breaking. Naturally, the iconic Zelda sound fanfares are in place when finding/collecting items.

Breath of the Wild features full voice acting, a series first. While not everyone speaks, there are times when cutscenes take place with actual voiceover work for various key characters. While Link is still mute, Zelda and the Divine Guardians all have voices and are admirably effective at bringing these characters to life in a way the series hasn’t done before. There’s no question that the sound design was given the same intricate attention as the rest of the game, because what’s here truly immerses you further.

Overall Score: 20/20 = 10 out of 10

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is not only an experience that matches the caliber of Ocarina of Time, it’s an experience that will forever remain in my thoughts. Nintendo has taken the Zelda franchise in a new direction, and that risk has more than succeeded. In an era where gaming has an oversaturation of open-world games, Breath of the Wild revolutionizes this genre and sets the bar to a whole new high. No other game provides a world as engaging and mystifying to explore. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is very well one of the finest achievements in gaming, and one of the most striking launch titles since Super Mario 64.

Pros:

+ Immersive, substance-filled world

+ Visual style and unparalleled draw distance

+ Challenging combat

+ Fantastic sound design

+ Open-ended nature of the entire game; Giving full freedom to the player

Cons:

– Occasional frame drops

– Motion-based shrines

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Has-Been Heroes Interview: Switch Development “a lot smoother” than Wii U

We had the opportunity to interview Kai over at Frozenbyte about their upcoming release, Has-Been Heroes. In this interview, Kai was able to share their experiences developing for the Switch, what kind of game Has-Been Heroes is, some tips about the game, if the Trine characters would appear, and much more.

Marcello: First off, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about Has-Been Heroes! Let’s begin with the game’s origins. How did you guys first think of the idea for this game?

Kai: We went with a team-based approach for this, so we initially had a small group that we put together who just wanted to make something totally different from our other games. They had a challenging game in mind, and the roguelike elements started fitting into place very early on. At one point after a few prototypes we really had something click and the gameplay started feeling really addictive.

The story and characters were pretty similar throughout the development, but naturally evolved a bit to the current humoristic setting as we refined the concept. So now we have the old, retired Has-Been Heroes that are sent to take the king’s daughters to school!

Marcello: How long has the game been in development for?

Kai: We started development around 2.5 years ago.

Marcello: Now this game is releasing on multiple platforms, but clearly the Switch version is the one most are intrigued about seeing since it’s in the console’s launch window. What has it been like developing for the Nintendo Switch? Any comparisons to the Wii U when you guys brought Trine to that platform?

Kai: Switch has been a real pleasure to work with, no complaints at all. Nintendo has really learned a lot from the Wii U times and developing for the Switch has been a lot smoother. They’ve changed around a lot of things, and really thought of the whole process from a developer standpoint. Our programmers have loved it.

Marcello: Does this game have any form of co-op multiplayer? It seems like it can get really intense!

Kai: No multiplayer, Has-Been Heroes is single-player only. But with a game like this where every move and decision with items/spells matters, there’s a lot of room for people to shout instructions from the back 🙂

Marcello: The game’s art-style is certainly a departure from that of the Trine series, but it certainly has a clean, smooth art-style nonetheless. How did you guys decide on the game’s art direction?

Kai: The drawn 2D style was something we had in mind from the beginning for Has-Been Heroes. It’s there to give you some comical relief to soften the blow from dying a lot in the game 😉

Marcello: Does the game run at 60 frames-per-second?

Kai: Yep!

Marcello: Can you use the Switch’s touch-screen for any gameplay when playing off-the-dock?

Kai: No, just for the menus.

Marcello: Will the Trine characters make a surprise cameo appearance in the game? Maybe we’ll be able to play as that team in-game?

Kai: No, they are busy fighting evil in another dimension!

Marcello: The Trine games had a very serine soundtrack from composer Ari Pulkkinen. Did he return to compose the soundtrack to Has-Been Heroes?

Kai: Ari will make some tracks for our other game Nine Parchments (which is set in the Trine universe by the way!), but the soundtrack for Has-Been Heroes was composed by our in-house audio team consisting of Sauli Lehtinen and Jori Kemppi.

Marcello: Any tips players should be aware of when starting this game?

Kai: You can pause the game (and you should) at any time with the left bumper on your controller. Use it to your advantage to plan your moves and cast spells when they’re off cooldown. Also try to match your heroes’ melee attacks with enemy stamina counts in order to stun them.

Marcello: Anything you would like to add to the readers of this interview?

Kai: We’re just a couple of weeks away from the launch of Has-Been Heroes, so if you’re into roguelikes and enjoy a challenge, look out for it!  It’s a rare game for Frozenbyte since it becomes so challenging that only a handful of people here have actually beaten the game, but that’s really what makes it so addictive and fresh for a long time 🙂

Marcello: Thank you so much again for your time! We’re excited to get our hands on Has-Been Heroes!

Kai: Thanks!

Has-Been Heroes releases on Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and Steam on March 28th for $19.99. It will release both physically and digitally, with the physical copy being available exclusively at Gamestop for $19.99.

Are you looking forward to this title? Sound off in the comments below!