Tempest 4000 Review (PS4/X1) – “Blast from the Past?”

Tempest 4000 is a 2018 modern remake of an Atari classic that originally released back in 1981. For it’s time, it was a revolutionary take on gaming, introducing 3D vectors to help give the illusion of a three-dimensional space. Controlling the claw-like ship known as Blaster, you move around the outer borders of each level to destroy all the enemies approaching you. Does this remake sound tempting or is it lost in cyberspace?

As mentioned, Tempest 4000 is an arcade-style, tube-shooter. You pilot the Blaster around the outer perimeter of each level, and rapidly fire at enemies coming up each plane. Destroying all the enemies advances you to the next level, and you will repeat this until you either reach the end or run out of lives. Blaster takes only a single hit to lose a life, but losing a life will respawn you right back into the action. Not only can enemies fire at you, but if they reach the top of the level where you pilot your ship, they can grab you and bring you into the abyss, also resulting in a life loss. It becomes an intense game that keeps you on the edge and is all about keeping your reflexes sharp. Luckily, you also have a Superzapper to use when you’re in a pinch. This destroys all the enemies currently spawned in the level and can save your life when surrounded. You get access to this once in each level, so timing the use of it is essential. Destroying enemies will also spawn power-ups that move upward the planes to nab. These power-ups range from increased bullet capacity, jumping ability, and having an AI droid assist. These power-ups are necessities to survival, but only last for each level. Each level does provide for different layouts. Whether it be a round tunnel, oval, L-shaped, etc. There are over 50 levels to complete, each lasting roughly a minute or two.

There are two modes of play in Tempest 4000: Pure and Survival. Pure starts you off with three lives, but should you do Game Over, you can start from the level you left off at. The game does record how many lives you had to start with at the level, so you can go back to a certain level where you may have had more lives to further assist with advancing through the game. Survival mode starts you with eight lives and, as the name implies, once you do Game Over, that’s it. It’s a retro arcade-style game that’s mostly about the score. Luckily, there are online leaderboards to try and work your way up on…but that’s about where it ends with game modes.

Tempest 4000 is a simple pickup-and-play game, but it’s not without its issues. First off, controlling the ship around the plane feels a bit too loose and imprecise initially, and takes some time to get the hang of. The biggest offense are the Bonus Rounds. In between each level, you fly in first-person view through rings and the screen needs to be absolutely centered for it to register success and gain points. Remember back in 2006 when motion controls were forced on games and never really worked (*cough* Lair *cough*)? Well, they’ve forced motion controls for these sequences…and it barely even works properly. The x-axis is inverted, but not the y-axis is not, and the dead zone for the motion is extremely large. It’s completely imprecise and an exercise in frustration. Worse off, there’s a trophy about getting a perfect bonus round…good luck on that with forced motion controls. The Xbox One version on the other hand relies on the traditional left analog stick and makes these sequences immensely more playable. In all honesty, the Xbox One controller’s somewhat taller analog sticks does make movement a bit tighter in general. However, apparently you can’t pause the game on Xbox One, whereas you can on PS4. There are weird inconsistencies between the two versions, but both could be easily patched.

Secondly, there’s no multiplayer to speak of at all. The original didn’t have simultaneously multiplayer either, but did have a two-player mode for alternating turns. This doesn’t have either. Honestly, a co-op mode would’ve added quite a lot of entertainment and replay value, and feels like a completely missed opportunity here. At the very least a local multiplayer component would’ve been great. Third, I get the game’s presentation is supposed to be a bit bare and reflect on the original’s visual style…but it’s so bare bones and not appealing to navigate at all. It doesn’t even feel nostalgic, but rather blah and feels like an amateurish attempt. The last thing is that while the game is fun, it’s fun in only short bursts of 15-20 minutes max, then the repetition kicks in quick. There’s not a whole lot here to keep coming back.

Visually, Tempest 4000 runs a slick 60 FPS, with vibrant visuals. Particle effects, screen effects and backdrop effects all provide for a trippy visual experience. However, while the effects look neat, this can conflict with seeing enemy fire coming towards you and can result in some cheap deaths. The Blaster ship animates like a living organism, but the animations seem to conflict at the exchange of loose controls. On a more positive note, Tempest 4000’s best component relies within the game’s soundtrack. The fantastic techno soundtrack really captures the game’s action perfectly and really helps with the immersion. Honestly, the soundtrack was the main reason I found myself returning. Sound effects also help provide an arcade-like experience, but the sound effects are defaulted to be half the volume of the music, as the music is the star of the show here. You can tweak the audio levels in the options if you choose to do so, but the music here deserves to be cranked up. Here’s hoping they release a soundtrack CD or digital download for this…

Overall, Tempest 4000 is an admirable remake of a 27 year old game. While there have been two sequels in between the original and this installment, the core gameplay remains the same, for better or worse. It’s a fun arcade-like experience, but there’s no denying some of the game’s lacking features and issues that hold it back. What’s here is enjoyable, but unless you’re a die-hard Tempest or Atari fan, it’s difficult to highly recommend this title at it’s $20 digital price point and $30 physical price point.

Overall Score: 6.5 out of 10 = Wait for a price drop…

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Tempest 4000! Copy reviewed on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

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Aqua Moto Racing Utopia Review (Switch) – “A Refreshing Wave Race”

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Extreme sports racing games are a dime a dozen nowadays, but there are some developers trying to rekindle relatable experiences, while also aiming for a new market. Swedish developer Zordix has been establishing themselves with a series that started on the iOS/Android called Aqua Moto Racing. In years to come, they brought their series to the 3DS, and now, they’re bringing the series to home consoles for the first time ever. Aqua Moto Racing Utopia is the latest installment in the series, first released on PS4 and PC, and now on Switch (as well as Wii U and Xbox One). Is this worth braving the waves of the ocean, or is it stuck in open-waters?

Aqua Moto Racing Utopia is essentially a racing game that most closely resembles Nintendo’s “Wave Race” series. You will race through a series of championship events, each with different CC engine speeds, as well as jet-ski types (sit-down and stand-up models). The sit-down jet-skis are much more speed-focused, whereas the stand-up ones excel in stunt flexibility. Before hitting the waters though, you will start off by creating your own character. This is a nice way to kick things off by giving the player a bit of customization. There are a decent amount of options to tinker with to ensure not everyone looks similar out on the waters.

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Races rely on racing alongside the buoys in place on each track. You’ll be bobbing-and-weaving your way on the water to ensure you’re on the right side of the buoy you need to pass. If you miss three of these in a race, you’re disqualified. As you progress, you will earn cash based on your placement (as well as some to earn out on the track). This can be used to purchase newer and better jet-skis, with multiple attributes that are affected. Each jet-ski can be customized with a variety of colors, whether it’s the body or decals.

Each environment has a distinct feel, with multiple variation tracks to tackle throughout the game’s championship mode. Whether it’s the lush jungles, a water filled town in China, the open-ocean around tanker ships and oil rigs, or tropical paradises (to name a few), all of these locales are as fun to ride as they are unique. Another cool aspect is the option to race in first-person mode. The way the camera handles in this really adds to the immersion, whether you’re whipping around turns or doing flips in the air.

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Any game revolving around water is reliant on its physics, and honestly, the physics in place are quite good. The jet-skis handle more or less like they should on both calm and intense waves, with an arcade-style feel to it. It may be a little less interactive than Wave Race’s water physics, but what’s in place here works great. When going off of jumps and high waves, you’ll be able to pull off tricks as well. Doing so will allow you to gain boost. You can also pull off specific tricks while on water. The tricks are fairly simple to pull off, with some more advanced ones that take some time to master. There were some instances though (more evident during trick events) when the trick inputs didn’t respond, or the trick name was displayed but the animation kicked in after releasing the buttons. It worked well enough for the most part, but this particular instance is something that could be patched.

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There are plenty of modes to explore as well. Aside from the game’s core championship mode, there are time trial and free roam modes. Time trial is standard fare, except you’re provided times to beat to go for a gold medal in each track (aside from beating your own times). Free roam has you go around any of the game’s environments, but with a twist. There are “Z Balls” to collect in each environment, as well as a hidden collectible to find. Also, there are interactive events that can be triggered in each area, which is a great little feature to incorporate here. Then there’s the multiplayer modes. The game supports both local and online multiplayer. Local multiplayer has 4-player split-screen action, whether you’re racing against each other or tackling the party games together. The party games are a blast, whether it be Aqua Moto Hockey, King of the Hill, Capture the Flag, or our personal favorite here, Duckling Mama (think Super Rub-a-Dub from the PS3 launch days…if you ever played that). The online multiplayer strangely only consists of racing against others, with no party games to be found. While the party games are tailored more for the couch multiplayer, it would be nice to get friends together online to do this as well. That being said though, we were able to test out the online amongst staff members here and can say it ran quite smooth. While the online mode randomly selects a track and speed class, you can choose your watercraft before a race begins. The Switch version also support local wireless play for up to 8 players (same number as the online player count). Local wireless play does function exactly like the online mode, but is still a shame that it lacks the customization of split-screen multiplayer. Here’s hoping they can simply patch that in…

I think we're going to need a bigger jet-ski...

I think we’re going to need a bigger jet-ski…

Visually, Aqua Moto Racing Utopia is an incredibly clean and vibrant looking game. Environments look great, with some nice texture work and immensely inviting water. The objects and jet-skis are also well-detailed and appropriately scaled. Characters on the other hand are a bit lacking detail-wise, and have some stilted animations. There’s one odd animation too when landing from a trick. If you’re not fully complete with the trick, the animation doesn’t finish and goes right to the rider and his jet-ski being perfectly leveled with the water. Is it immersion-breaking? Not entirely, but it’s noticeable. On the flip-side, the game runs at 60 frames-per-second most of the time. There are a few instances of framerate drops, but nothing drastic by any means. The game does run at 1080p when docked, and 720p undocked. Framerate performance appears to be the same whether docked or undocked. Honestly, the visual fidelity is right on par with the PS4 version, which is a huge feat. The audio in AMRU is also right-on. Each environment has music that matches the locale very well, and the audio effects do a good job capturing the arcade-style feel to the game. The announcer on the other hand sounds mundane and unnecessary. Honestly, just going to the options and shutting him off makes it better.

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All-in-all, Aqua Moto Racing Utopia is a great game that can easily be recommended to fans of arcade-style racers, and more so, fans of Nintendo’s Wave Race series (since Nintendo still has yet to return to the series within the past 17 years). Zordix has really evolved this series since its conception on iOS, and continues to get better each time. It’s certainly a worthy game to add to your collection. Between its vibrant visuals, addictive gameplay, and strong local party games, Aqua Moto Racing Utopia is one wave you’ll want to ride.

Overall Score: 8.0 out of 10 = Buy It!

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Aqua Moto Racing Utopia! Copy reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

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Skee-Ball Review (Switch) – “An Expensive Past-time”

Skee-Ball is an iconic game that has provided a vast amount of entertainment for over 100 years. Whether it be at the arcade, bowling alley, or carnival, this simple, yet addictive game has been a pivotal staple in entertainment. Naturally, there have been translations of this past-time put into a video game format over time. Developer Ocean Media has brought over the iconic game to the Nintendo Switch, offering people the opportunity to play Skee-Ball, both at the comfort of home and on-the-go. So how does Skee-Ball fare for Nintendo’s hybrid console?

If you’ve never played Skee-Ball before, the rules are simple. You roll a ball up a ramp and try to score the ball within the score holes. You get nine chances to score points, and then your final score will determine how many tickets you earn. That’s about it. Controls for Skee-Ball are as simple as it gets. You use the left analog stick to position the ball, the right analog stick to angle it, and holding the ZR button controls the power of the throw until you release it. When playing in handheld mode, the game even allows you to use the touch-screen by simply pressing in the left analog stick. It’s a nice touch (pun intended) for sure, as this does feel a bit better for immersion purposes. Unfortunately, there is no motion control support at all, which feels like wasted potential. The Joy-Cons’ motion controls are vastly improved from the Wiimotes back two generations ago, and implementing this control method would make the game much more intuitive.

For this Switch translation, Ocean Media has made tickets relevant to earn, and has included a Level Progression system as well. Based on how many tickets you earn, you will rank up. Each level will increase the number of tickets you acquire after each game. Tickets can be used to unlock the numerous game modes and cabinets to play on as well. There are seven cabinets total (three available at the start), and eight modes to keep things fresh. Aside from the traditional classic mode, there are also: Call Your Shot, Speed Ball, Horse, Hangman, Ring the Bell, Countdown, and Wipe Out.

Skee-Ball does have several issues that hold it back from being a worthy addition to your Switch library. First off, as mentioned earlier, the lack of motion controls as an option feels like a missed opportunity. Simulating motion controls for throwing the ball would make this more immersive, and easier to entice people to join-in for party sessions. Second is the progression system. Unlocking modes and cabinets will take an insane amount of time to unlock just one thing. Want a new mode? That will cost 750 tickets. You only get between 4-14 tickets a game, depending on how well you played. Sure, Skee-Ball rounds are quick, but this grind just feels like a complete chore. When grinding gets to that point, that’s never rewarding to the player. Granted each time you level up, you earn more tickets, but it all feels relative and doesn’t feel that much faster to earn tickets. Next are the physics. I noticed numerous times that when throwing the ball, and using the same power and angle, the results appeared to be different. What should’ve been perfectly aligned and powered throws provided inconsistent results when done so twice in a row. Sometimes the power of the throw seemed weaker on the second throw than the first, despite being the exact power level. Lastly, the price tag. The game is selling for $19.99. Yes, you read that correctly…$20 for Skee-Ball, for what feels like something that’s worth no more than $10 max (and even that’s stretching it). Sure there’s a good amount of content to unlock, but the unlocks take far too long to acquire. There are even random missions every couple of rounds to earn a bigger batch of tickets, which require either scoring a specific score or hitting a certain point target three times successfully within a round.

Visually, Skee-Ball gets the job done. It runs at a smooth framerate and the cabinets are appropriately detailed…but that’s about it. There are cabinets attached to your main cabinet you play on, but they’re just there for aesthetic purposes. The unfortunate part to this is that it just feels lifeless. In terms of audio, all the sound effects nail the feel of playing Skee-Ball and have authenticity. In terms of music though, there’s only a single song in the game that plays the entire time on repeat…and gets old fast. I found myself shutting the music off after 10 rounds or so. Thankfully, the sound effects do enough to make you forget about the absence of music.

Skee-Ball is a simple pickup-and-play game that’s ideal for the Switch. Unfortunately, the high price tag, inconsistent physics, and absurd progression system truly hold this game back. If the issues mentioned were rectified, and the price tag was lowered substantially, Skee-Ball would be an enjoyable game to play in short bursts. As it stands though, this is very difficult to recommend unless you’re the biggest Skee-Ball fan ever.

Overall Score: 3.5 out of 10 = Don’t Buy It!

A special thank you to Ocean Media for providing us a review copy for Skee-Ball! Review based on Switch version.

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Eternal Edge Review (Switch) – “Eternally Glitched”

Eternal Edge is a title that appeared on the eShop shortly before the game’s release. Prior to this, I had no knowledge or idea the game even existed, and it was puzzling that no press covered this game. Based on just screenshots alone, the game immediately seemed like 3D Zelda-esque experience, utilizing a visual style to that of 3D Dot Game Heroes. So how does this indie fare for Switch owners?

Eternal Edge is a 3D action-adventure RPG where you play as Cross, an apprentice of a group of Royals being trained by the legendary knight, Edge. The world has been overrun by the Skeleton King and his minions, controlling each of the four continents of the region. Edge vows to put a stop to this with the help of his trainees. Unfortunately, things go south and Edge falls in battle with the Skeleton King, and Cross takes a beating as well. Before regaining consciousness, Cross speaks with Edge stating that he’s the chosen one to put an end to the Skeleton King and reunite the kingdoms. It’s a suitable storyline, andenough to keep you engaged to see everything unfold.

Eternal Edge is a 3D action-adventure RPG very much akin to Zelda. Throughout the land, there are four key locations where dungeons await to be conquered, and get you one step closer to facing off against the Skeleton King and restoring peace to the land. Throughout the game, you can either play it solo, or play it in 4-player local co-op (single screen). As Cross, you will have quests to tackle across the land, while looting gear and learning new skills. The first thing to note about leveling up is that this is not your standard “earn XP and level up” system. Instead, it uses a rather unique approach that has you level up by acquiring a Matrix. Each Matrix levels you up and chooses a random attribute to increase your stats in, such as life, magic, attack, defense, etc. Completing both main quests and side-quests will net you a Matrix, as well as some that are hidden in chests across the land. Also, there are hidden dungeons called “8-bit Dungeons” that transform the game into an overhead perspective like the original NES Zelda. It’s a very cool homage, and honestly some of the most entertaining moments in the game.

As you progress, you learn about the four dungeons that need to be conquered to anchor down the floating fortress where the Skeleton King resides. While the game lists all four dungeons as quests at once, you still need to complete them in a proper order. You can tackle the quests in their respective lands leading up to the dungeon, but once you do, you will see that you need a certain number of Matrices to unlock the door. It almost feels like “what’s the point?”, but it does leave things open for the player to try and earn extra Matrices to level up more. While trying to become as powerful as possible is key, learning the game’s inventory and management system is a bit of a chore. The inventory system uses the analog sticks to highlight the item in the selected tab, the d-pad moves along the tabs, and the L/R buttons switch between the Map and Inventory sections. Items fill the slot in the order they’re acquired, but unfortunately, there is no way to sort items. You will be combining duplicates of weapons and gear to level them up, but the lack of any sorting just makes this feel incomplete.

In terms of the games environments, they are a mixed bag. Some locales are enjoyable to explore, while some (like Rage City) are more of a chore to navigate through. In terms of combat, the game has you map out weapons and magic to the face buttons, while the shoulder buttons will lock-on and allow you to jump. Combat is adequate and feels like an old-school 8-bit style, while being a 3D space. I do appreciate the fact they added a camera lock-on. However, camera control can be a bit wonkyand the lack of an invert Y-axis option is a shame. The camera was at its worst when facing off against bosses. I found myself fighting with the camera just to focus on the massive bosses.

Unfortunately, this is a game that certainly needed more time in the oven, and the slight issues mentioned earlier are nothing compared to these. First off, the game’s main menu always highlights “New Game” after pressing start, with a warning message saying the file will be erased if you start a new game. Oddly, the game does not automatically highlight “Load Game” once having a save file created. Seeing that the game only has one save file, it seems like a very easy mistake to make if you’re in a rush to just load your game. Next, the loading times. This is something the developer notified me about, stating that load times are currently a bit long when loading into the open-world area. At first, this wasn’t too bad, but it seemed the farther I got into the game, the longer the load times were when going back into the open-world. There were times I thought my game froze from loading, but eventually would kick in. Now, long load times are one thing…however, load times mid-gameplay are not okay. There were numerous instances where the game would stutter and load mid-gameplay. One particular area was in the Main Street village. When trying to rid the area of enemies, the game was constantly stuttering and loading that it was borderline unplayable. Another instance had me walking into and through a completely void village, then stop and load while running through, and all the NPCs and objects would instantly appear. Another issue is the game’s mini-map. Everything on the mini-map is so far zoomed out, and all the icons are miniscule to even read on there.

What on earth is going on with the texture mapping of that “staircase”?

The next biggest issue I experienced were event bugs. Several times during my playthrough, I experienced glitches that had certain cutscenes or events fail to occur. The first occurrence was in the beginning of the game when escaping a prison cell.There is a cutscene that should occur when running into a group of enemies. Well, the cutscene would start, but no dialogue would appear and the game would be frozen in place. I had to reload my save, and same thing happened again. Then I rebooted the system and loaded it, still same results. By the fourth time reloading my save file, the cutscene then worked out of nowhere. The next instance was a mission where you need to clear the Main Street town from certain creatures. When completing this objective, the cutscene occurred that cleared the town of enemies, but it never adjusted the buildings properly and not a single NPC was populated. I had to reload my game, redo this entire mission, and then afterwards, the town populated and NPCs were in the area to advance the story. There was even another instance where I had to face off against a bone troll out in the land, and there was a time limit to defeat him in. It passed that time limit and I failed, but a simple walk-away and walk-back method had the bone troll reappear with the remaining health it was at and completely frozen in place for me to just hack away at and beat, then changing the mission status from failed to success. The last occurrence I’ll mention is a cutscenethat began mid-boss battle. After the scene ended, Cross was completely stuck on an object and couldn’t move at all, forcing me to restart the game and try again. Overall, it’s just extremely buggy with its event triggers.

Visually, Eternal Edge is boasting a style reminiscent of 3D Dot Game Heroes, with pixel-heavy 3D characters utilizing only a few frames of animation each. The land is made entirely of voxels and the smoothed-out environment shows that. Rock formation of the land seems to have a very odd tendency of shifting colors based on how light hits it. One moment it looks like ice, then it looks like straight-up rough terrain, then it looks like water…it just looks very strange. Thankfully, the grass plains and sandy beach areas look a bit more polished. Framerate is also inconsistent. While hovering in the 30fps mark, it tends to drop and stutter often. The only tendency I noticed the framerate the most stable was in the game’s first dungeon area, as well as the 8-bit dungeons. In terms of audio, the music here is good, accompanies the game quite well, and can be catchy.

Ultimately, Eternal Edge is a game that is incredibly ambitious for the small team over at Righteous Weasel Games, and one that has the makings of a great game. However, there’s no denying the game needed several more months of QA and bug testing. Despite all the game’s issues, I still found myself wanting to continue the game, and that’s usually a good indicator to what’s underneath the game’s issues. Should the game get a proper patch that squashes most of the bugs, this would definitely be a title worth recommending to Switch owners. As it stands in its current state however, it’s hard to recommend spending $20 on a very buggy game.

Overall Score: 5.0 out of 10 = Wait for a price drop…

A special thank you to Righteous Weasel Games for providing us a review copy for Eternal Edge! Review based on Switch version.

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Super Toy Cars Review (Switch eShop) – “RC Pro Am Not”

Remember the days when we were younger, with a room full of toys (unlike today’s era that strictly relies on iPods and iPads), getting creative and using our imagination? A majority of us would love to play with Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars and pretend to race them through an obstacle-filled room. Spanish indie developer Eclipse Games has taken an old-childhood pastime and crafted it into a frantic car-combat racing game. Is this title worth your time or should this stay locked up in the toy box?

Super Toy Cars provides players with a Career mode, consisting of 8 circuits (which are in the shape of a toy block) with 6 events in each. The events are all varied, between your standard Races, to Time Trials, Time Attack, Evade, and Elimination modes. This helps keep events fresh and prevents the career from becoming too repetitious. Throughout events, you will earn credits (based on the position you place) that can be used to either unlock better vehicles or even upgrade them. Upgrading will allow your vehicle to improve its top speed, acceleration, handling, weight, drifting and boost stats. There are 16 vehicles to choose from, ranging from cars that are all about speed to those that are pertained more towards drifting. The AI during the events can be quite challenging, making you work for earning 1st place in each event.

When you’re not going solo, you can gather 3 of your buddies or family members to play some 4-player competitive multiplayer. You’ll be able to choose from any of the game’s 15 tracks (three of which are exclusive to the Switch version) across 4 environments. Multiplayer works just like the single player, adding more fun into the mix knowing that you’re going up against people you know. Also, all the vehicles are already unlocked for multiplayer, which is a nice feature so that no one is restricted to the car of their choice. The game is strictly a local multiplayer affair and has no online mode. However, there is online leaderboard support.

In terms of controls, the game has a traditional control scheme. Much like the Wii U version, there is no option for motion steering (for those who enjoy that). Steering has been tweaked a bit from my experience with the Wii U version and feels a bit tighter than before. I found myself struggling less with the steering during racing, however the physics are still wonky. Vehicles get caught on environmental objects far too easily. Thankfully, the game auto-respawns you the moment that you get caught in an object, but it still becomes frustrating as to how easily and often this occurs. You can even drift in the game, but that rarely feels natural enough to rely on. Most of the time you’ll find yourself really slowing down to a halt or colliding into a wall unintentionally when drifting. On the track, you’ll be able to pick up items to use against opponents. These can range from lock-on missiles, to oil spills and mines, to even shooting an 8-ball to crush your opponents. The weapons are actually all quite useful and balanced well, without anything feeling overly powerful.

One of the more appealing features in the game on the Wii U version was the Track Editor mode. While it was not a perfected feature, it was one they really added to the game’s longevity and content. Sadly, the Switch version has omitted this entirely. When reaching out to the developers on this, they stated that it was removed for technical reasons and due to the minimal use from the Steam version of the game. They also stated that it’s a feature that benefits better when sharing content with others, but the game never supported that prior due to the complexity to get it to work. Frankly, removing content like this is a shame, as creating tracks, whether home or on-the-go, would’ve been a good feature to keep players returning.

Visually, Super Toy Cars is a fairly decent looking game. The environments are littered with household objects and toys that are nicely crafted, with some solid lighting effects as well. The Switch version boasts some slightly enhanced visuals from its Wii U counterpart. Now the game can handle eight racers on-screen during races, as opposed to the previous game’s six. Draw distance seems to be a bit sharper and less blurry than before as well. The framerate seems to run unlocked, but depending on how many racers are on-screen seems to fluctuate the framerate between 30fps and closer to the 50fps range. Time attack events where it’s only you racing on the track seems to approach that higher framerate. Standard races though stick at the 30fps. It is fairly stable throughout a majority of the experience, with only few instances of it dropping, but nothing too major or noticeable. Although, the visuals can be buggy, with cars driving through objects instead of colliding with them at times. Another buggy scenario was when a car respawned on me, it resulted in my car launching high into the air doing flips. While that’s quite comical, that also resulted in losing an Elimination event. Audio wise, the soundtrack is appropriate and accompanies the game pretty well. The car sound effects on the other hand are very mundane. They sound muffled and lifeless.

Issues aside, Super Toy Cars is a fairly decent indie racing game on the Switch, but needs a bit more polish. What’s here is a somewhat enjoyable, yet flawed experience. There’s a good amount of content, but the removal of the track editor is certainly a shame. The car physics are also a bit wonky and need some more fine-tuning (especially drifting). Also, the Switch version is a few bucks more than the previous Wii U version, which is strange considering an entire mode was removed in this version. That being said, for $9.99, it’s not a bad game, but rather one that needed a little more time on the production line. If you’re in the mood for a car-combat racing game and have done everything there is to do in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, maybe give Super Toy Cars a shot. Just be prepared to deal with some cumbersome physics.

Overall Score: 5.5 out of 10 = Wait for a price drop…

A special thank you to Eclipse Games for providing us a review copy for Super Toy Cars! Review based on Switch version.

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Nine Parchments Review (Switch/PS4/X1) – “Spellbinding”

Nine Parchments is a spell-casting adventure where you take on the role of a wizarding student just trying to prove themselves, but often finding that their confidence puts them in a bit of trouble. Set in Frozenbyte’s Trine universe, this story is a little less puzzler, a little more beauty, and plenty of action. Does it succeed in making us feel like an all-powerful sorcerer, or does it cast a spell of grief on us?

Nine Parchments starts with a tragedy that has befallen on a wizarding school. Powerful scrolls containing instructions on how to cast dangerous spells have been stolen and scattered across the world, and it is up to a few unlikely heroes in training to get them back – not that anyone asked them to… or even recommended they should. You start the game with only two choices in characters and their preset spells. At first this seemed a little limiting but it was soon clear that you had to earn your rewards in this game, and it definitely helps with the replayability. Fitting well into the story, your student of choice learns new random spells following the collection of a missing Parchment. This plays off of the story’s premise that you really aren’t equipped to go out into the world on such a quest and the small banter between characters throughout the game offer a nice insight into their thought processes and personalities.

The story was laid out pretty clear and doesn’t attempt to create an emotional connection to the player, but this should be expected from a shorter, adventure-type game as this is. You progress by wandering through single path levels, about 34 in total. At regular intervals enemies will spawn that you must defeat to move on. At the start, enemies are relatively easy; mainly melee-based enemies that might do a small amount of various elemental damage. However as the game advances, you will find that enemies become increasingly (and almost insanely) more difficult. Added resistances and immunities to certain elemental damage types make certain of this, as well as enemy mechanics and simply the sheer number and variety of enemies at once! There were a few times when, based on the spells I had chosen previously, I felt an unfair advantage as some enemies were immune or very resistant to all of the spell types I had – something that was thankfully somewhat remedied by the fact that I was playing co-op with someone who had the countering elemental spells. This in single-player could have made for a few very frustrating instances. You are able to melee with your staff, which is surprisingly effective against solo enemies, but not very useful when you are being bombarded.

There are various difficulties and a healthy variety of options to alter your experience but one thing that seemed to keep coming up during co-op play was the always active friendly fire. On one hand, it makes complete sense. You are a student who has no control over their spells, and well, magic is magic and by nature it is non-discriminatory. On the other hand, the soft lock feature needs a serious tweaking to not favor teammates over enemies (something the developers have verified they are working on). There are some spells that really should be left within single player due to their nature of chaining or area of effect, but this system does add to the strategy of playing, as well as the chaotic nature of it.

Nonetheless the spells were all very exciting and dazzling to see. There is a large variety of spells. While spells given after each boss are at random, by the end I felt I had a decent mix in my arsenal – something that would be improved upon in following playthroughs. That’s where Nine Parchments attempts to hook you in. You can unlock better variants of your characters as well as new, cleverly designed characters with their own variants – all of whom have different starting spells and skill trees that can drastically alter play styles. You can collect various cosmetic hats and powerful new staves to use, and of course playing through enough times to use all of the spells is a must! Honestly, at the end of our first playthrough, despite its difficulty and a few random glitches (stuck in place and some elevator shenanigans), I wanted to play again. The new characters are visually enticing and the spells are unique and devastating! There is plenty of progression to work towards, as well as layered unlocks based on difficulty levels.

Of course none of this would be as enjoyable if the world weren’t…so. Damn. Beautiful. Frozenbyte has expertly captured the world of Nine Parchments in all of its alluring glory. Gorgeously deep and immersive environments ran rampant throughout the entire story and displayed their prowess in developing detailed levels and backdrops. Assisting in this was an impressively locked 30fps despite some of the pandemonium that was going on at times with spells and enemies.

The immersion continued with a subtle soundtrack that played well off of each location, as well as the various events taking place (boss battles, general fights, or the sweet, sweet sound of the main menu music near the end of a level). Spell sound effects were all tailored to each spell type, forcing some natural overlap but still aiding in placing blame on your co-op partner when they clearly used a stunning thunder spell on everyone including you. While somewhat infrequent, the voice acting was surprisingly well done, if not a little cartoony – playing off of the theme of the game.

There are a few minor issues that arose during our playthrough, but Frozenbyte has already been extremely open and recognizes them with details on when they will be patched (very soon). In the end, Nine Parchments hits a lot of great gameplay notes: the spell system is easy to understand but rewarding to master. Even in the end we were still discovering clever spell combinations that can be utilized in co-op play! There is plenty of replay value and the game offers a variably challenging experience. I do recommend playing through the game at least once in co-operative mode, but I can see it getting pretty insane with 4 players trying to juggle friendly fire. I believe to feel like an all powerful sorcerer with no cares, solo play is best for carefree enjoyment.

Overall score: 9.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

Second Opinion: by Marcello Apostolico

During our co-op playthrough, I couldn’t help but feel Frozenbyte had a clear vision for this game. While their earlier efforts with Has Been Heroes this year met with mixed reception (myself enjoying it quite a bit, while Karl not as much), Nine Parchments feels like a return to form for Frozenbyte. The stunning vistas, magical spells, and cleverly crafted gameplay, it all just works superbly.

Returning to their roots of co-op play, Nine Parchments actually hits notes that rekindled playing games like Gauntlet Legends. The game’s does provide a good challenge and scales up quite well difficulty wise. The one thing that just kept coming to mind though was that not only is Nine Parchments a very well made game with passion put into the project, but it’s hands-down a quintessential co-op experience. I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun playing a full campaign in co-op, and wanting to return immediately after finishing the 6-8 hour campaign.

Without repeating much of what Karl stated in the review above, there’s no question that Nine Parchments is a must-own. While the Trine series is what the studio is known for, this is without question Frozenbyte’s best title to date. Here’s hoping we see more of Nine Parchments (Ten Parchments maybe?) in the near future.

Overall Score: 9.0 out of 10



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

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Caveman Warriors Review (Switch) – “Prehistoric Mess”

Caveman Warriors was a Kickstarter title that aims to capture the spirit of 16-bit platformers. Spain-based developer JanduSoft cultivated a game that’s part Joe & Mac, part Trine, and part New Super Mario Bros. Does this prehistoric title deserve your time?

Caveman Warriors is a 2D action-platformer set in prehistoric times. Aliens have captured the tribe’s children and it is up to the four heroes (Jack, Brienne, Moe, and Liliana) to rescue them and prevent aliens from taking over. Each level has a few comic panels before starting to showcase how each area connects to the story. For the type of game Caveman Warriors is, this works out more than fine, as you are not here for a groundbreaking story. Games of this nature are where gameplay is the primary focus. So the gameplay…well, where do I begin…

As mentioned, the game is an action-platforming, side-scroller. You can either play solo, or local co-op with up to four players. Each level provides unique challenges and gameplay changes to help keep it from getting stale. Whether you are platforming a jungle, riding a triceratops manning a barrel cannon, aboard an alien ship, or even time traveling to World War II, there’s no shortage of varied levels. This was probably Caveman Warriors’ best aspect, it’s constant variety. Each of the four characters have different abilities and stats. Each of their health bars vary, but switching between them on the fly will have you maintaining the health across all of them equally. They each have their own weapon, ranged attack and special ability. There are times where you will have to switch to specific characters to further advance in levels. For example, Jack has a running charge that can break through blocks, or Liliana can throw her spear to stick on certain walls to reach higher platforms. This is a nice touch and really allows you to try out all four characters. Playing the game in co-op is definitely the way to go if possible, as that provided for a bit more enjoyment. Unfortunately, that’s about as positive as things get.

The amount of frustration I’ve had fighting with the game’s stiff controls and combat had me jaw-dropped at how stilted it felt. It’s been a long time since I played a game where the controls were so unreliable. All four characters have almost no range with attacks. The hit boxes feel off, leaving enemies to constantly take hits at you. It was almost a guarantee whenever hitting an enemy, that I would still get hit as well. Switching characters occasionally would not register at all upon pressing the applicable button. When it comes to platformers, control is all about precision.

Another infuriating element is knockback damage. Now, I’m not one to complain about getting knocked back a bit from taking a hit. Heck, even with how relentless the NES Ninja Gaiden games were with platforming and getting knocked back from taking a hit, it was fairly reasonable. Caveman warriors has you taking a hit and flying back a large distance, sometimes almost a quarter of the screen itself. I cannot mention the amount of times taking a hit resulted in a cheap shot to knock me into a pit or in the water, taking twice the amount of damage. It just leaves for truly frustrating platforming experience. To further add to the frustration, checkpoints are pretty few and far in between during levels, and you have lives between checkpoints. Also, the last checkpoint of each level before a boss doesn’t start by the boss. Instead, it puts you before enemies and obstacles that almost guarantee not making it to the boss with a full health bar. Lastly, one of the biggest oversights was one of the dialog boxes showcasing which button to press during the triceratops chase. It actually shows programming code, as opposed to the button you’re supposed to press. While it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what button to fire on the triceratops, it’s just poor QA to miss this.

Visually, Caveman Warriors is a very colorful and vibrant game. It has an almost flash-style appearance. Characters are well designed, as are the environments. Each area definitely feels and looks unique. It runs at 30fps and never experienced any framerate drops. However, certain objects in the environments look like objects you can interact with, but are just background. This was apparently in the second level where crystals illuminating the caverns would appear to be something you could break, but was just part of the background. Also, the game is constantly shifting its camera zoom, making many collectibles enemies drop almost impossible to distinguish. Audio wise, characters makes their own unique grunts when attacking or getting attacked, as do all the enemies. Audio effects are serviceable and definitely capture the game’s aesthetic. The music, while unmemorable, matches the game’s tone and works well during gameplay. However, there was a bug where the music in the map select screen never loaded after completing a level. It happened numerous times during our playthrough of it.

Caveman Warriors is an infuriating exercise in gaming. The game does throw a nice amount of variety in each level and has charm, but the unrefined gameplay mechanics, poor controls and stiff combat really make this game an absolute chore to play most of the time. The game’s setting was a much welcome breath of fresh air, but when the game itself just doesn’t play well, it leaves for a missed opportunity. Should the game patch many of its issues, there’s an enjoyable game to be found here. But until then, it’s best to avoid the prehistoric times…

Overall Score:4.5 out of 10 = Don’t buy it!

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

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Gear.Club Unlimited Review (Switch) – “Switching Gears”

Gear.Club was originally a mobile racing title released for iOS and Android devices from Test Drive Unlimited developer Eden Games. The team, alongside publisher Microids, has decided to pursue bringing their sim racer to the Switch as Gear.Club Unlimited, which also graces the console as the first racer of its kind. In bringing what was originally a free-to-play mobile racer to the Switch, they’ve converted this into a more premium product, with all the content available in-game without any micro-transactions. Has this racer shifted into high gear for the Switch platform, or is it stuck in first gear?

Gameplay: 4/5

Gear.Club Unlimited puts you behind the wheel of a variety of cars from the Nissan 370z, Ford Mustang, and BMW M2 to powerhouses like the McLaren P1 and Bugatti Veryon. When you start your career, your crew will put you through a few tutorial events to get acclimated to the game’s mechanics, progression system, and overall layout. As you race through the exotic (fictitious) locales along coastlines, deserts, mountains, and plains, you will earn XP and money to further upgrade your cars, purchase new ones and build the ultimate garage.

You will participate in race events, time attacks, and rally events. Race events have you racing against AI opponents, whether it be a point A to point B race, or laps along a track. Time attack has you racing for the top spot, while ghost AI cars are racing to compete against your time. Rally events are easily the most entertaining events, as these have you driving on wide off-road tracks, providing for plenty of drifting around turns at high speeds. Each event is perfect for pickup-and-play as well, ranging from a minute to three minutes per race (on average). Also, the game has a rewind feature. This lets you rewind the latest 10 seconds in a race should you mess up and need to refine your line. You have unlimited uses of these, but will detract from earned XP at the end of a race.

Whether driving on the tarmac in race events or off-road in rally races, driving feels tight and satisfying. The physics in play here are done quite well, and while never teetering towards full-blown simulation, it has a nice balance of arcade and sim controls. However, the game does provide full customization to tweak driving assistance. Whether it be steering assist, anti-skid assist or braking assist, you can fine tune it to your liking. Turning off all the assists will let you truly harness the raw power of each car. Frankly, I found myself grasping the driving better choosing this route. Unlike sim racers like Gran Turismo and Forza, this nice blend of arcade and sim-style handling works really well here and helps make it accessible to anyone who picks up the game. If anything, it’s more reminiscent of PS4’s Driveclub.

Throughout the game’s career, there are four class types: A, B, C and D. You will start at class A, which will consist of somewhat slower cars (but not actually slow), and each class will unlock faster, more exotic cars. Each class is broken up by three subclasses: 1, 2, and 3 (i.e. A1, B3, etc). Each number provides a set of cars used in particular tournaments, while staying within the confines of that car class. Certain tournaments will have a mix of all three subclasses, letting you choose whichever vehicle of yours in that class will be best.

This is only a small fraction of the expansive world you’ll partake races in.

When you’re not racing, you’ll be focusing your time in the Performance Shop, which is basically your own personal garage. This is interesting, as unlike other games of the genre, this has you personalizing and upgrading your garage and stations to upgrade your cars. You will drag and drop your vehicles around the garage to tune them based on the various parts. As you level up, you will earn access to new stations and items to place in your garage, as well as further upgrading the stations themselves to provide better upgrades for your cars. Placing a tire workshop station lets you improve the tires for handling, as well as the brakes. The wind tunnel station lets you upgrade the aerodynamics of the car, and other stations will provide specific upgrades as well. There are even stations to change the exterior appearance of your car, similar to what Need for Speed Underground. While not as extensive as those, what’s here is still very much in-depth. Another neat feature about the garage is that you can change the theme of it as well. Whether it be a 50’s diner or a modernized garage with laminated wood floors, it certainly adds to the personality of your garage.

Now, the game does stem from being a free-to-play mobile title, but the developers have scrapped the micro-transaction route to provide a full-on experience. Unlike other companies that try to push this controversial element in gaming, every piece of content is unlockable and acquired through in-game money. Better yet, the overall progression never once felt like a grind, but rather fluid and kept the pacing just right. There are also missions and achievements to complete, providing another element to earning more money to further upgrade your garage and vehicles. At the moment, you can only have four cars in your garage, with ten being an option in a patch releasing in January.

When you’re not tackling championships littered throughout the game world, you can partake in Leagues. This unlocks shortly after completing a few races and opens the opportunity to challenge others online. However, this isn’t so much a direct online match, but rather more about getting the fastest time on a daily challenge. Think of it like the way SSX’s 2012 reboot handled online multiplayer. Based on your career progression, this will showcase what league you will be a part of. It’s a neat way to showcase just how far along the career you’ve progressed to others. Another really neat feature is when looking through the leaderboards, you can visit any player’s garage to see what cars they have and how they laid out their garage. Additionally, there is local four-player multiplayer, and I can happily say the game runs smooth when all the action is happening.

In terms of controls, Gear.Club Unlimited utilizes virtually every method possible on the Switch: single Joy-Con, paired Joy-Cons and Pro Controller. Additionally, those who prefer tilt controls instead of an analog stick (or even D-Pad) can also enable Gyroscope controls, as well as auto-accelerate. After playing around with each of the control types, including Gyroscope for each controller type, the game honestly feels great to play on any controller preference. There wasn’t an instance where I felt the Pro controller made me play better versus the Joy-Cons, and even the Gyroscope controls felt great. HD Rumble is also taken advantage of here and has been implemented very well. When driving, you will feel any bumps and collisions, but will vary in strength and vibration location. If you start driving off the left side of the road, the left Joy-Con will start to rumble a bit, and vice-versa. Collide into another car and you’ll feel the rumble kick in different sections of either Joy-Con. It really lends to the overall immersion of the game.

Visuals: 4/5

Visually and aesthetically, Gear.Club Unlimited does scream the look of a mobile title…but one of the more visually enticing mobile titles. Cars are very well detailed here, with some really nice reflection effects being showcased. Lighting within the game’s environments are also nicely done, with smooth shadow effects and lens flares when the sun is setting in front of you. Environments are also well-designed, with plenty of vibrant colors to capture the exotic locales you will be racing through. The game runs in 1080p when docked, and 720p in handheld, all while running at 30 FPS. However, playing it docked, there were instances where a few frames would drop during races that were not happening when playing in handheld mode. It was nothing steady, but rather split-second instances that were noticeable, yet never affected gameplay at all thankfully. On the flip side, during the game’s multiplayer testing, we tried four-player split-screen and the game still maintained 30 FPS without hitches. Overall, it’s a nice looking game with a vibrant art style that’s very appealing to the eyes.

Sound: 2/5

In terms of audio, when you have a fast-paced racing game with no music during races, this affects the immersion substantially. While there is music in the game’s overworld, race intro and results screen, and garage…that’s all there is. When the game boots up, you have to choose between the campaign and multiplayer, and there’s no music or even sound effects there. Even the pause menu has no sound effects when moving through the options, it’s just silence. The sound effects in the game’s overworld when acquiring stars and unlocking content sound good, with a nice arcade-style vibe to it. The music that is here is largely unmemorable. Sound effects for the cars are decent at best, with some cars sounding a bit irritating (Ford Mustang, I’m looking at you). The engine effects do vary depending on the camera, so driving in cockpit view provides stronger engine audio, while the rear camera is slightly lower due to the distance from the camera to the car’s engine. Also, there were times during loading where you’d hear a car engine running randomly at the loading screen, then would stop after a second. It’s not irritating or grating, just odd and could use patching. It’s a shame since audio is such a pivotal component for racing games. While races are very quick, the lack of any race music is a big misfire.

Replay Value: 4/5

Gear.Club Unlimited has an immensely lengthy career mode, with hundreds of races to tackle and achieve three-star ranks in. This alone will keep you busy for quite some time. Also, customizing your garage is very engrossing, trying to make it look sleek and display your modded rides. Additionally there are daily online challenges through the Leagues to partake in and compete with others around the world. While there is no proper online multiplayer mode, there is four-player split-screen action, so that’s always a plus for local gatherings. Ultimately, there’s plenty of content to keep you coming back for quite some time. The only lacking element is that there aren’t too many cars to get and add to your garage compared to other racers out there.

Overall Score: 14/20 = 7.0 out of 10

Gear.Club Unlimited is a well-made, entertaining racer that certainly fills the void of realistic racing titles for the Nintendo Switch. The racing physics are tight and rewarding, the environments are vibrant and fun to race on, the garage building and vehicle customization is engaging, and there’s plenty of content to keep you coming back. If it weren’t for the lack of music while racing, this would be a great package for the Switch, but there’s no denying that hurts the experience. Look past that though, and you really have an entertaining racing title that is a very good first effort on the Switch. Racing enthusiasts have plenty to enjoy here and it’s designed perfectly for pickup-and-play sessions.


+ Vibrant environments
+ Nice car detail and reflection effects
+ Tight driving mechanics
+ Customizing your garage and cars
+ Hundreds of events, all at a pickup-and-play pace


– No proper lobby system to compete with others online
– No music while racing
– Sound effects are a mixed bag
– …did I mention no music while racing?

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Gear.Club Unlimited! 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 Mummy Demastered Review (Switch/PS4/X1) – “Mummyvania”

The days of movie-based games releasing on consoles have certainly become a dime a dozen nowadays. Years ago, almost any movie that could be made into a game was made. Universal has rebooted one of their monster franchises a few months ago, The Mummy. The movie was poorly received, but shockingly there is a game based on the property itself, releasing just in time for Halloween. Thanks to developer WayForward, we have The Mummy Demastered. So does the game succeed at the rare feat of besting it’s movie counterpart?

Let’s get this out of the way now…this is very much superior to its film counterpart. That being said, The Mummy Demastered (cleverly titled) is a 16-bit, 2D-style Metroidvania game, playing much like a mixture of their previous titles like Shantae and even more so like TMNT: Danger of the Ooze. Naturally though, the closest comparison would be Super Metroid more than anything. 

The Mummy Demastered has you playing the role of an elite agent part of the Prodigium Unit, a group specialized in facing supernatural elements. Princess Ahmanet has been resurrected and it’s up to your unit to put a stop to her before she regains full power to transform the world to her liking. You will be in communication with Henry Jekyll as he provides you updates to the whereabouts of Princess Ahmanet, as well as hints to certain equipment in the area.

As mentioned, this is a 2D Metroidvania game, with a twist (more on that soon). You will explore various areas interconnected throughout London: graveyards, sewers, caverns, ravaged city streets, and a clocktower. Naturally at the start of the game, you’re only equipped with a standard automatic rifle, but as you explore the world, you will come across a variety of weapons like flamethrowers, machine guns, harpoon guns, etc. These will certainly give you an edge with more challenging creatures, and each weapon may be more powerful against enemies versus other weapons. Some areas and rooms will be blocked and require backtracking with proper projectile weapons or artifact abilities. Artifacts hidden in the world will grant your agent a special ability, such as phase dashing or running at faster speeds. You will be able to extract to different locations based on areas where helicopters are on standby. This is certainly helpful when backtracking and trying to access areas previously blocked.

Mechanically, there’s a twist that will keep you on your toes throughout the journey: dying. Sure, that sounds obvious to avoid, but if you die, your character will become an undead soldier of Ahmanet and you will play as another agent from your last save point. The catch here is that you will have none of the upgrades or weapons that you acquired with your now undead agent. You will need to hunt down the undead agent (thankfully displayed on your map) and take them down to acquire all the upgrades and equipment earned throughout the game at that moment in time. Oh, and don’t think you can just quit the game and reload your save to avoid this…the game saves automatically the moment you die. 

The game will certainly provide a challenge, as enemies will not drop many health items. As the game does try to push the concept of dying and retrieving your equipment from undead soldiers, health is scarce. Health items dropped will only replenish a minimal amount. Ammo is not as scarce to maintain, but even if you run out, you can always utilize your default rifle which has unlimited ammo. Speaking of weaponry, you can carry up to two additional weapons to swap between. Figuring out which weapons to carry in your loadout is essential to survival, as you will quickly realize that your default rifle is quite weak. Loadouts can be changed at any of the ammo cache locations throughout the areas. 

There are bosses to face in each area as well. Boss battles are large in scale, and gradually get more intense with each battle. The bosses are well designed and really add to the intensity of the game. Whether you face off against a giant scarab, or giant spider, or the other vile creatures that await, the bosses will certainly keep you on your toes. By the final boss, you really need to have as much equipment as possible, as you will truly be tested.

WayForward has Metroidvania platformers under their belt, and The Mummy Demastered is no slouch. Level design is very well done for the most part, aside from a few rooms where platforming could’ve been a bit more refined. There are numerous times where enemies will be an obstacle while carefully jumping, but getting hit will knock you back. Enemies occasionally throw projectiles and seem to do so before they fully appear on-screen, leading to a few cheap shots. Additionally, flying creatures such as birds and bats may have infinite spawning, leading to a bit of frustration trying to climb your way to the top of rooms. Outside of this though, the overall level designs really nail atmosphere and are laid out quite well.

As always, WayForward excels with their ultra-smooth animations and 60 FPS (for the most part). The game really captures the feel of a 16-bit game, with nice pixel art, and nicely layered backdrops with parallaxing. Even the foreground elements of fog add to the game’s overall atmosphere. It’s as smooth as a 16-bit looking game gets, given the HD coating for modern consoles. While the framerate is hitting 60 FPS, there were several instances of framerate drops. While this was tested on the Switch, both docked and undocked experiences saw the frame drops based on the number of enemies on-screen. In terms of music, composer Monomer has provided a truly superb soundtrack that easily stood out throughout the entire experience. Each area has music that hits all the right notes. The atmospheric and upbeat tunes engross you immensely and cannot be praised enough. By far, one of the best gaming soundtracks I’ve heard this year. Yes, it’s that good. Sound effects also pack a punch, with each weapon sounding powerful and creature noises fleshing them out. 

The Mummy Demastered is a 16-bit Metroidvania done very well. While the property it’s based on may not have the best track record, the game itself certainly evades the curse of subpar movie-based games, and provides a rich experience. The superb pixel work, silky-smooth animations, tight gameplay, and sublime soundtrack really round out one of the best movie-based games, let alone an all-around great game, in quite some time.

Overall Score: 8.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for The Mummy Demastered! 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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Forma.8 Review (Switch) – “Explore Your Patience”

Forma.8 is an exploratory puzzler of sorts by indie developer MixedBag. Originally available on Steam and other home consoles, it has finally made its way to the Nintendo Switch. The added availability of portability with the Switch accompanies this game well, but is it enough of an incentive to pick it up?

You’re introduced to the game with a rather short but simple cutscene. You play as a mechanistic droid, one of many, who’s only mission it seems is to explore and gather information on an otherwise uninhabited planet. You soon find out that there is quite a bit of life on this planet, as well as a few secrets. Besides the opening cutscene, there isn’t much the game does to hold your hand. You quickly learn how to “attack” via a short range radial burst of energy and you’re sent on your way to explore.

Forma.8 attempts to seem simple at the beginning, letting you find your own way and discover things for yourself. While in theory this works well, in actuality it may turn away a few players at the beginning. Personally, diving into the unknown is something I do quite a bit in games – I prefer the “true” experience actually. However, Forma.8 might benefit from a little more hand-holding at the beginning. I wandered around for a while with no clear direction or objective, I was just exploring. Taking in the simplistically beautiful environments and letting my mind wander with the underlying musical score. I really enjoyed this. After all, that was my purpose. It wasn’t until I realized what my goal was that I came to the conclusion that I would have to backtrack through everything I had just explored in order to reassess my surroundings, and approach the areas with my new found knowledge. This was far too tedious for even my liking.

The majority of your time in Forma.8 will be driving your small circular metal body around, trying not to crash into walls or get attacked by the fauna and flora. If you get hurt, it’s really not a big deal as there is health, as well as enemies who drop health, everywhere. The game is split into rooms of varying sizes. Some you can spend quite a bit of time in, others are just there for connections. However, all of them seem to have one thing in common: loading times to get in. On the Switch at least, loading into each room would take a few seconds, up to 15 at one point. Followed by frame stuttering upon entering areas, this really drew away from the experience; especially considering none of the rooms, as minimal and pretty as they are, should take any time to load on a modern day system.

Occasionally, you will stumble across a puzzle which can vary in difficulty. Often you’ll find racing puzzles, requiring you to tag glowing spheres before a timer is up, thus opening doors. You’ll also come across slightly more complex puzzles, as well as “boss fights”, which are essentially just stressful puzzles and highlight some of the game’s finer moments. If it weren’t for the small number of actions you’re limited to, in combination with the floaty movement of your little drone, many of these would be fairly easy.

When you solve these puzzles or defeat certain enemies, you are often presented with one of two types of collectibles. One is a nut (hardware… come on) and the other is a key. The nuts are for… well best you find out for yourself. The keys open the multitude of doors strewn throughout the various rooms in the vast world. The first half of my playthrough was severely limited on finding either of these. Sporadically, I would find nuts but only when the game wanted me to would I find a key. This severely limited my exploration and at multiple times became increasingly frustrating. At one instance, it was rage quit inducing upon realizing I had to traverse the entire world back through just to progress again. Some of this could have been avoided if the value of the collectibles were presented a little earlier in the game, but it also would have ruined some of the mystery of it.

Overall, the game plays rather slowly and can be monotonous. The minimalistic, colorful backgrounds and music have a Sound Shapes vibe to them that I thoroughly enjoyed, but it wasn’t enough to keep my playing for long periods of time. In reality, I enjoyed this game much more in the Switch’s handheld mode during travel. The slow pacing was perfect for travelling, when I may need to pause at any moment and pick it back up again. While docked, I constantly found myself thinking I could be playing something else that held my attention a little better. The puzzles are fun and some may take a moment to contemplate, but nothing really held me up and they are spaced somewhat infrequently when they really should have taken precedent, as there isn’t much else to do in the world. The game is only $10, but unless you commute frequently, I would wait for it to drop in price a bit before picking it up. It’s not a game you can pick up and beat in one setting, but that doesn’t mean it’s long either.

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 Forma.8! Copy reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

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