Cubemen 2 Review (Wii U eShop): “Ready, Willing, and Able”

Cubemen 2 is slowly bringing its unique brand of tower defense gameplay to various platforms, first beginning on the PC/Mac through the Steam distribution service and later coming to mobile platforms. In each iteration, developer 3 Sprockets has done a fantastic job of not only breaking into the TD genre with their own unique twists, but also providing an extremely fun game with a ton of replay value, thanks in equal parts to its Multiplayer offerings and its robust yet easy-to-use level editor, allowing players to share their creations with others. Late last year, we reported that Cubemen 2 was slated to come to the Wii U. Now, it’s finally arrived, thanks to Sydney-based developer Nnooo, and promises to be fully optimized for Nintendo’s unique platform. However, after a several-year’s run, is this enough to keep interest, or is Cubemen 2 finally hitting a wall?

Cubemen 2’s gameplay doesn’t deviate terribly from the first when it comes down to it – you and your opponents have a base from which you can spend credits – called “cubes” – to spawn soldiers to attack your enemy’s units. Depending on the game type you’re playing, you may also spawn AI-controlled mobs from your base, making their way to your enemies and taking off a life if they reach their base. Cubemen set itself apart from other TD games in several ways; first, instead of planting static towers, you purchase and deploy units with unique weapons, with the option of moving them to different locations as the situation changes. Players battle it out in fully-3D environments, and weapons obey full line of sight physics, opening up new strategies, like placing flamethrowers behind corners and perching snipers on high ground for superior offensive and defensive positioning.

All of the core gameplay has made its way into Cubemen 2, with some added tweaks and improvements. First and foremost, the list of units has been modified to replace some under-used or under-powered soldiers with more useful ones. Both games feature Grill, a speedy pistolero with low health, Flint, a short-ranged flamethrower, Moty, a fire-support unit with a long-ranged AoE attack, Ricky, armed with a heat-seeking rocket launcher, Lazlo, a laser-firing death machine, and Sid, a sniper armed with a powerful long-ranged rifle, perfect for picking off units at a distance. Two units from the original were removed – Fred, an ice-based version of Flint who deals less damage but slows units hit by its attack, and Mike, a medic who can restore the health of your units. Fred was replaced with Larry, a low-cost unit that can slow enemies in an area around him with ice lightning. Mike is no longer a unit in Cubemen 2, but his function was brought over as regen squares present on the map, which players on either side can move their units onto to heal. Cubemen 2 also sees the introduction of three new units that completely change the gameplay dynamic. Milo turns into a mine when he reaches his destination, exploding for huge damage when an enemy passes near it. Waly brings a traditional TD element to Cubemen 2, turning into an impassable wall when he reaches his destination to close off paths or create choke points. A later patch has also added another unit which can counter Waly and Milo, re-opening paths and safely disarming mines. All of these units can be upgraded for a variable Cube cost, upping their damage, range, and fire rate, as well as fully restoring their health. 3 Sprockets has done a great job of streamlining the unit selection in Cubemen 2, making every purchase purposeful and allowing for a lot of strategic options. The unique qualities of the Wii U’s controller add a bit of extra functionality to the game as well, allowing players to simultaneously cast the screen to their TV and game pad. Not only does it make the game great for showing off to friends and family, but also has off-screen play built in without any extra user intervention. The game doesn’t look half bad on the tiny Game Pad screen, but it looks absolutely gorgeous on a big-screen TV. All of the controls can be manipulated from the touch screen as well, which makes for a nice control scheme where you can control the camera with the left thumb stick while making tactical decisions with your right hand (and optional stylus).

Finally, the long-standing feud between Knights and Luchadors is settled.

Players can get acclimated to the game through the included Defensive Campaign, which sees the player go through traditional tower defense scenarios on 15 unique maps. Each stage records your score on a playthrough, allowing you to go back and play the campaign again if you want to try to improve on your score. However, there’s plenty of alternative content included in Cubemen 2 to keep you busy. The game comes with an additional pack of maps which can be played on a multitude of game modes. The single-player offerings include Defense (your traditional TD game type) and Rescue, which has your AI mobs trying to rescue allied NPCs from enemy bases, requiring you to build units to protect them. Three additional modes can be played single-player against bots, in multi-player against other human players, or any mix of the two, and include: Skirmish, which is similar to Defense mode but requires players to attack as well as defend, sending out units to destroy their enemies and guard their mobs toward their bases; Territories, a spin on King of the Hill which requires players to send out units to capture most of the stage for their side; and a traditional Capture the Flag mode. Skirmish and CTF are tons of fun, but Territories is definitely the most exciting addition to the game with a ton of depth. The winner is only declared once the timer runs down, so players can either expand outward early and blitz the board, or bide their time, build up their forces, and steamroll their opponents closer to the timer. All game modes are highly configurable with options such as time limit, number of waves and opponents, solo or team options, and more.

The game’s AI is certainly competent and will put up a fair fight, but even on the highest difficulty, players will eventually find their skills are no longer up to snuff, so eventually you’ll want to spend more time in Cubemen 2’s multiplayer mode. Up to six players can face off solo or in teams on any of the 3 multiplayer modes. This is truly the way the game is meant to be played, and other players will put up a nice challenge and use tactics that the AI simply can’t do. Impressively, Cubemen 2 is cross-platform compatible with its sister versions on Steam and mobile platforms. Latency wasn’t an issue and matches ran smooth as butter, even with six players throwing down in intense battles with cubes flying everywhere.

Just like in the original, Cubemen 2 features a simple yet robust level editor, though this time it’s included out of the box at launch. The editor gives players a lot of freedom to design the level of their dreams, allowing for multiple cube heights, walls, free-floating tiles, base location, and teleporter and regenerator placement. I feel like the Wii U’s gamepad and stylus are particularly well-suited to this purpose, allowing for greater precision and control in creating levels, but this could just be the undeniably-similar feel of using a tablet and stylus with a CAD program. There are some constraints that the player needs to follow, such as a maximum of 1,500 tiles, placing all six bases on the map with at least 10 spaces between each other, as well as ensuring there is a path to and from each base. There’s still a lot of flexibility to be had while playing by these rules, and once finished, maps can be saved privately for testing or published to the internet on 3 Sprockets’ user map directory, where other players can download, play, and rate your map. Every map needs to be run through a rigorous test before publishing, so you can be sure that it will play in every game mode with any amount of human and bot participants. It’s pretty hard to get bored of Cubemen 2 with an endless supply of maps to play on, and you’d be surprised by some of the crazy ideas that can be had when the editor is fully-utilized. Players on the Wii U platform, in particular, seem to have taken heavy inspiration from Nintendo’s main franchises. If you hit the map repository, you’re sure to easily find a Block Fort remake from Mario Kart 64, as well as pixelated Link holding up the Triforce.

The level editor offers a lot of freedom to design the battlefield of your dreams, like this N64 classic.

Cubemen 2 has taken cues from the original in terms of visual and sound design, and while there haven’t been any major leaps forward in the game’s engine, it still runs at a brisk pace while presenting plenty of pleasing, voxel-based visual effects, including ambient lighting around players’ bases and light flashes when weapons are fired which help to spice up the action a bit. 3 Sprockets has greatly expanded on the options presented to the user to customize the game their way as well; while players could originally choose a color for the levels and Cubemen, as well as a basic skin for the latter, Cubemen 2 has greatly expanded on this, offering all of the classic color options as well as full-fledged skins for units and levels. There’s a pretty expansive offering here – from soldiers, orcs, and ninjas for Cubemen, to Minecraft, lunar, Egyptian, and a Tron Grid-like look for levels (just to name a few), it’s easy to customize the look of the game to your liking. There’s even a more expanded list of skins than in previous iterations, allowing players to get some of the previously DLC-only skin and map texture packs for free. The game also features a more varied soundtrack compared to the original score, sporting a different theme for the title screen and most of your units. These songs are essentially different takes on the same basic melody, but with different tonality and feel to suit each character they’re named after. Ricky’s Theme is a personal favorite of mine, but you may choose not to use it everywhere like I did and instead take advantage of the game’s sound options, letting you play a separate theme for the title screen and each gameplay mode. These songs have taken a step up since the first game too, sounding a bit more grand and dramatic, which really helps the immersion factor during a game. It’s nice to see 3 Sprockets listening to their fans and incorporating some of their suggestions into Cubemen 2’s initial release.

So, is there anywhere Cubemen 2 falls flat? Honestly, not in a lot of places. You can’t pick campaign stages to play on, requiring you to replay the whole thing if you want to get to a specific stage. It would have also been nice to be able to re-name or delete maps you’ve published online. There’s also no voice-based chat in multiplayer, which is only really an issue in team-based games. Otherwise, though, it’s very hard to find any flaws.

A friendly game of Territory in the medieval countryside.

Cubemen 2 is an excellent downloadable title for the Wii U, and Nnooo has done a great job of maintaining the fun and feel of the game’s other incarnations. Cubemen 2 doesn’t do anything radical to change the formula, but instead makes the game fresh through a tweak in the gameplay dynamics, improvements to user customization, and by featuring an excellent online mode and level editor. With plenty of updates and patches in the pipe, Cubemen 2 will only get better over time, and is sure to be a long-standing member of your Steam Library’s Favorites section.

Cubemen 2 is currently available for PC on the Steam platform for $7.99, with Mac and iPad apps on the way.

Final Score: 9.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

Special thanks to Nnooo for providing us with a review copy of Cubemen 2 for the Wii U!

Jett Tailfin Review (Wii U): “Giving Your Wii U a Fishy Smell”

Jett Tailfin Logo

When the Wii U was approximately 5 months away from releasing, there was an article I covered showing the potential possibility of how the Wii U game box arts would appear. While the box arts ended up not becoming that design (which was awfully too similar to Wii box arts anyway), the game that was shown for the box art was Jett Tailfin. At the time, there was little to no information about the title, other than the possibility of the game being a launch title. Approximately 21 months after the system’s launch, developer Hoplite Research’s title is now on Nintendo’s latest console as a digital-only game, no longer releasing in retail. Is this fish worth biting into or is it best left as shark food?

Jett Tailfin is a family-friendly underwater racing game akin to Mario Kart, where you race along coral reefs, pirate ships and Atlantis, using items against opponents as you go for the gold. The story to Jett Tailfin is simple, but there to carry the reason for the races and introduce some of the characters. Basically, Jett is challenged to showing off if he has what it takes to be the fastest fish around. Apparently, there’s a rival that Jett’s friends aren’t fond of, so it’s up to Jett to show off that he can beat him in races. It is clichéd but it’s still an effort to bringing together some semblance of a story. Regardless, it does fall flat and feels incredibly tacky. Realistically though, you’re not playing this to experience an intricate story…you’re here to race.

Jett Tailfin Gameplay 1

Jett Tailfin is a racing game at heart, and the concept of underwater racing (as fish) definitely sets it apart from a majority of racing titles out there. Unfortunately, what sounds good on paper isn’t executed as well in this game. The first main issue resides within the controls. Racing games need a specific precision to them, and while Jett Tailfin doesn’t overly demand precise movement, it feels like you’re maneuvering a tank underwater as opposed to a nimble fish. You’ll collect items to fire away at other racing fish, whether it’s electric eels, blowfish or octopus. Using the items feels absolutely pointless and has barely any indication of whether you’ve hit someone or not, other than the emotionless taunt your character says. When an item is fired at you, you can press either left or right on the D-Pad (which is displayed on-screen) to “dodge” the attack. I use the term loosely because this mechanic is tremendously finicky and feels very cheaply utilized. For example, every time you’re about to be attacked and the dodge button appears, you’ll press it and it’ll turn green to show you succeeded in pressing it. However, there will be absolutely no animation to indicate a dodge, making you take the hit without the hit actually affecting you. There’s no satisfaction or “feel” to dodging attacks or incoming obstacles. During races, there will be other sea creatures to avoid, such as jellyfish, stingrays and sharks that can eat you (giving opponents a few seconds to pass you). The sense of speed is pretty decent, especially when going through jet streams. Jet streams will make you boost at insane speeds and you’ll get a solid feel of that. You can even fill up your own boost meter by swimming through air bubble vents. The problem with how this is handled though is that the camera attempts to zoom in a bit much and actually becomes nauseating to follow. However, even when not boosting, the camera can get really out of whack and obstructed. Several occasions it’s either too close up the fish’s rear end, while there are other times the camera gets caught on objects.

"Under the sea"...lies this overpriced game.

“Under the sea”…lies this overpriced game.

When you’re not tackling the game’s campaign, you can either do single races playing as a variety of Jett’s friends on any of the 16 courses, or you can bring your friends in for some 4-player multiplayer action. There’s nothing out of the ordinary here, and quite frankly, since the game is quite a chore to control, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want them to endure the exercise in frustration. You can use the GamePad and the Wiimote, but there’s no Wii U Pro Controller, Wiimote with Nunchuk combo, or Wii Pro Controller support at all. With the GamePad, the game is entirely playable with Off-TV support. The button layout on the other hand is far from comfortable or ergonomic. Generally, racing games use the left and right triggers to accelerate and brake (on the Wii U, it would be ZL and ZR buttons). Instead, the developers have mapped the accelerate button to R and the brake button to L. This forces you to place your fingers at the very top of the GamePad as opposed to comfortably (and logically) resting them on the back triggers (ZL and ZR). The speed boost and item use buttons rest on the triggers instead, which would feel more suitable as either face buttons or even the L and R buttons. Interestingly, navigating the main menus require input on the touch screen with the GamePad, yet the manual states you can use the buttons and D-Pad/Analog Stick to navigate which isn’t the case.

Visually, Jett Tailfin looks like an early Wii game with an HD coating of paint on it. Originally released for iOS devices, the visuals have transitioned to a bigger screen. Environments look somewhat decent honestly, with water reflecting from the surface to the bottom, as well as other underwater objects (such as pirate ships and coral reefs) within the tracks. Texturing seems to be a mixed bag, with some being ok, while others being washed out. All the sea creatures on the other hand look amateurishly designed, with modeling that looks like an early PS2 era game. Animations are also sluggish and stiff, with the fish turning sometimes with zero animation. Framerate tends to be erratic, going from occasionally smooth to commonly rough. It’s playable, but shifts in framerate far too often that it becomes annoying to deal with. Also, if you’re looking to post screenshots on the Miiverse, here’s the kicker: you can barely do so once during every play session. If you hit the Home button, the screen usually freezes at the moment in time in case you’d like to screenshot it. In Jett Tailfin, if you hit the Home button once, that’s the only time you can post the screenshot. Even if you didn’t post your screenshot, went back to gameplay, then hit the Home button again cause you had a better screenshot to capture, you will not be able to post it. This aspect is incredibly broken. Audio wise, the soundtrack is awfully generic and unmemorable, doing absolutely nothing to enhance the experience. Voice acting is also atrocious, with Jett shouting the same annoying thing over-and-over when boosting through tracks. Even all the other characters deliver zero emotion in their lines and sound like bored drones. The sound effects are kept to a bare minimum and feel like stock effects, with no ambiance effects either. While being underwater is normally quiet, you’d hear the water moving around you or muffled moving objects. In here, you’ll never hear that. You’ll only hear the bubbles that appear in the area or when turning occasionally. There’s nothing in the audio department that enriches the experience by any means.

Cluttered HUD on GamePad with the map overlapping the position and lap...not to mention the in-your-face camera.

Cluttered HUD on GamePad with the map overlapping the position and lap…not to mention the in-your-face camera.

After being announced for the Wii U approximately 2 years ago and making its way to the console, it’s a shame to say that the development cycle has not been kind to it. The worst offender is the fact that while the iOS version is only $1.99, the Wii U version is going for a whopping $34.95 on the eShop. This is borderline nonsense and looks like a game that should cost no more than $10 (and even that’s a bit much). There’s not even a physical copy for the game so the rationality to even charging this much makes no sense. Mediocre visuals, dull audio, grating voice acting, horrendous controls, and subpar, glitchy gameplay result in Jett Tailfin to be an overpriced fishy title that’ll stink up your Wii U. Want to go to a lobster dinner or maybe some all-you-can eat sushi? Use the $35 for that instead.

Overall Score: 3.0 out of 10 = DON’T BUY IT!

A special thank you to Hoplite Research for providing us a review copy for Jett Tailfin!

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The Letter Review (Wii U eShop): “Return to Sender”

The Letter Gameplay 5

When it comes to the Wii U, there’s no doubt that Nintendo has been very open to indie developers bringing their titles to the platform. There are numerous occasions where indies stand out more than AAA titles, bringing unique experiences to players. Developer Treefall Studios has brought us The Letter, a first-person horror adventure title, for the Wii U eShop. Is this a letter worth opening or should it remain sealed?

The Letter has you controlling Michael Kennedy, a young boy who finds himself in a dark room with no one in sight. He is left letters by his father, whom appears to have been murdered. The object of the game is to find all the hidden clues and letters so that Michael can discover the truth about his father. However, by the time you reach the game’s finale, the plot takes the ultimate “are you freakin’ kidding me?!” twist that should never ever be used in any form of storytelling. While I won’t spoil it for those that actually want to see it for themselves, it’s going to infuriate you beyond belief.

Why is the letter on the left unaffected by the darkness and lit up perfectly bright?

Why is the letter on the left unaffected by the darkness and lit up perfectly bright?

Gameplay is incredibly simplistic in The Letter. You’ll be using the analog sticks to move and look around with the flashlight, while you’ll jump with the B button and interact/collect items in the environment with the A button. If you want to, you can shut off the flashlight…but there’s really no purpose to doing that at all. The look controls are automatically inverted (which many have complained about but I’ve personally always played with inverted y-axis) and there’s no way to change it for those who don’t prefer invert. You’ll explore 5 areas containing clues as to the whereabouts of Michael’s father, but there’s not a whole lot to explore. As a matter of fact, you’ll be exploring this game for a matter of 10-15 minutes…and then it’s over. Yep, that’s all. There’s zero horror, zero action, and zero intensity. There are no enemies in the game and there’s nothing even coming after you to keep you a bit on your toes. You’re just wandering around each area, finding the objects and then moving on. Once the game is over, it’s over. There’s no replay value and nothing to go back for. If you go back to replaying it, it’s actually to try to get a bit more out of your two bucks (or 50 cents if you got it on sale recently), to see how fast you can speed-run it, and/or to show it to your friends and see their reaction(s) when playing through it. A horror game has to have an atmosphere that sends the player chills or even someone/something coming after you to add a bit of tension, but instead you’re left mindlessly exploring dead areas.

Speed Limit 33? Voting for elected officials based on their first names? Oh boy...

Speed Limit 33? Voting for elected officials based on their first names? Oh boy…

Visually, the game looks like something we’d see from a Windows ’95 game, and that’s clearly not a compliment. Objects are poorly designed with some serious scaling issues. In the first room, there’s a hidden letter that is massive on the floor and the best part, is purely visible in a pitch black room with your flashlight off. The teddy bear that’s littered around in the game doesn’t even look like a teddy bear, with what looks like a black sensor bar for its mouth and eyes. Toward’s the game’s finale, you’ll come across lounge chairs with fruit on it…the chair looks like it would be too big for even Bigfoot while the fruit and the plate it’s on itself are absurdly small. Even the texturing looks a bit uneven, with a roughness to it that when attached to a corner of an object, you’ll clearly see wasn’t polished. The text that appears on-screen even looks beyond dull. The main menu looks incredibly generic and boring, with an immensely low-res image of an envelope. I guess the one thing going for the visuals is that it runs without an issue. Oh, and if you’re looking for off-TV play, scratch that off the list, it’s not available for use here at all. As a matter of fact, there’s no GamePad use what-so-ever, other than it being a black screen.

Audio wise, The Letter has a soundtrack that really does not fit the game at all. For a horror game, atmospheric tracks really do a game wonders. In The Letter, we are provided music tracks in MIDI form that really do nothing but entirely detract from the game’s experience. Aside from the atmospheric, ominous track played in the second area, the tracks either have you scratching your head as to whether it’s supposed to scare you or grate you. Even the game’s title screen theme sounds too calming to get you into the spirit of what awaits. Sound effects are minimal as well, with nothing heard other than an occasional voice to try and creep you out (never does though) and the tone played when you collect an object.

This lounge chair would be too big for even Bigfoot himself...it's outrageously scaled.

This lounge chair would be too big for even Bigfoot himself…it’s outrageously scaled.

Nintendo has been very welcoming with open-arms to indie developers to bring their games to the Wii U, but something went very wrong in their quality assurance department to let this project release in the eShop at the state it’s in. What we’re left with is a “finished” product that’s a slap in the face to gamers. The scariest part about The Letter is how it was even accepted to be released on the eShop. Short, boring, monotonous, dull, and the biggest middle-finger ending to the player, The Letter should remain unopened.

Overall Score: 1.5 out of 10 = Don’t buy it!

A special thank you to Treefall Studios for providing us a review copy for The Letter! Review based on version 1.0.

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Super Toy Cars Review (Wii U eShop): “RC Pro Am Not”

capsule_616x353

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.

Screenshot05

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 12 tracks across 4 environments or any of your custom created tracks (more on that below). Multiplayer works just like the single player, adding more fun into the mix knowing that you’re going up against people you know. In particular, it’s more of a highlight when playing your own tracks in multiplayer to show off your creativity skills and see how other people like the track. 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. Leaderboards are on their way via patch update but was not available at the time of this review.

When it comes to racing games, the Wii U has a plethora of options to use. Whether it be the Wiimote, Wii U Pro Controller or GamePad, you have options to choose from. However, the strangest omission for a racing game on the Wii U is the lack of any motion-steering. Not even the Wiimote has motion steering and oddly controls holding the remote vertically instead of horizontally. Also, steering in general feels wonky due to the physics. It’s a bit loose turning vehicles and they’ll get caught on an object 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.

Screenshot04

One of the more appealing features in the game is the Track Editor mode. In this mode, you’ll be able to fully create a track to your liking. The default track always starts as an oval, and you’ll be able to use the GamePad screen with the stylus to move track points around, creating curves and zig-zags on the track. You can scale the track as well, making it wider or narrower depending on what you’re aiming for. Then you can litter your track with household objects and toys as obstacles or as walls along your track. You can even change the track background to be either the streets, a baby’s room or the kitchen. It’s a great feature to have in the game that will certainly add replay value. On the flip side, there are 3 main gripes with the track editor: lack of sharing tracks online, the text was incredibly tiny to read on the GamePad, and the lack of a tutorial. There’s not even any info on what the tools are in the game’s digital instruction manual. It will culminate to players just testing out what everything does.

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 backgrounds to the environments however look far less detailed and are quite blurry. The framerate is fairly stable throughout a majority of the experience, with only few instances of it dropping but nothing major or too noticeable. Although, the visuals can be buggy, with cars driving through objects instead of colliding with them at times. Also, when testing out a track in Track Editor mode, if you drive off the edge of the map, your vehicle will just free fall into the grey oblivion of nothingness. 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. If you’re looking to use Off-TV play with the GamePad, I’m sorry to disappoint you but that won’t be an option at the moment. In single player, the GamePad screen shows the action happening on the TV, just without a HUD (except for the map) and zero audio. In multiplayer, the GamePad is strictly a black screen, displaying absolutely nothing. At the time of this review, the developers have stated they’re most likely adding that feature in the near future, so there’s still hope. 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. There was even a few times where the game’s sound effects vanished mid-race and then reappeared again.

Screenshot17

Issues aside, Super Toy Cars is a fairly decent indie racing game on the Wii U but needed a bit more polish. What’s here is a somewhat enjoyable, yet flawed experience. There’s a good amount of content and the track editor is certainly a highlight, but the car physics are wonky and need some more fine-tuning (especially drifting). That being said, for $6.99, 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, or really want to get creative creating tracks to versus your friends on, give Super Toy Cars a shot. Just be prepared to deal with some cumbersome physics.

Overall Score: 6.0 out of 10 

A special thank you to Eclipse Games for providing us a review copy for Super Toy Cars! Review based on version 1.0.

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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Wii Sports Club: Tennis Review (Wii U eShop) – “Ace”

wiisportsclub

The “#1 best-selling Wii game of all time”, Wii Sports, was a selling point for many to spring to Nintendo’s innovative console. With motion controls being at the heart of the Wii’s experience, Wii Sports enabled a fairly-accurate simulation of a selection of physical activities, including Bowling, Tennis, Baseball, Boxing, and Golf. It was a real hit, and encouraged a lot of gamers to get off the couch and get active. No doubt many were clamoring to have this experience on the Wii U, and after long last, Nintendo have delivered. Dubbed “Wii Sports Club”, the original Wii title’s revival features HD graphics, integrated social features, and online play. Players can even try it free for 24 hours before committing. The question is, is Wii Sports Club worth your time (and money)?

At the time of writing, Wii Sports Club currently features access to Tennis and Bowling. This review will cover Tennis exclusively. Downloading the game will grant you a one-time 24 hour pass for free, allowing you to experience both games for a full day without restriction. After this trial period, players can purchase another 24-hour pass whenever they’re in the mood to play, or can acquire permanent access to any one sport for a more premium fee (about $10). It’s interesting to see Nintendo take this approach, and does provide gamers an option based on how often they plan to play.

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So what do you get for your money? On the whole, Wii Sports Club’s rendition of Tennis doesn’t leave anything behind. Players can choose to play singles or doubles, by themselves or with a friend, and will duke it out on the court until one team reaches 7 points. Wii Sports provided a simple presentation that belied the incredible depth of play, but Wii Sports Club takes this all to the next level. Controls are as slick and responsive as ever, and still allow for ball control and rapid spikes when performed correctly. However, there were times when my WiiMote was just a tad too responsive – my Mii would sometimes take a flying leap and swing at the air when I slowly raised my WiiMote to prepare for a return volley. A quick calibration will fix this though – just place the WiiMote face-down on a flat surface for a few seconds.

Players can now learn the ropes of the game without the trial-and-error approach of the original Wii Sports. A new training mode allows players to practice maneuvers and hone their skills in pre-set scenarios. There’s even a multi-player version of this, allowing you and a few friends or family members to improve your skills together. And once you feel your skills are up to the task, you can choose to undertake a series of trials that will really have you proving your tennis prowess.

One welcome addition is the inclusion of multiplayer. Players can choose to join a “club”, a sort of social team tied to their home region (or any they choose). From here, players can socialize with others and join games against players from any region they choose. The game chooses a random club to be the “rival of the day”, which keeps things fresh. As for entering a match, wait times are extremely short. The game lets you practice hitting tennis balls at targets while you wait, but matchmaking is so quick that I barely had any time to take part in it before being thrust into a game. This is hardly a bad thing, though.

In-game, matches are generally lag-free and perform excellently. Players can choose 3 pre-set messages to assign to the D-Pad, which allows for limited chatting in-game. There’s also the option to choose your greeting at the start of a game, either as text or a hand-drawn image using the Wii U’s GamePad. Players are given 20 seconds to serve when it’s their turn to do so, and letting this timer expire will disqualify the offender. This was a nice forethought, but I got into several matches where the other player would purposely let the clock run down before hitting the ball. Some would argue it’s a legitimate strategy, but I believe a shorter serve timer would have been a good idea. Otherwise, playing online is identical to the Tennis experience present in the original Wii Sports. WiiMote movements are generally very responsive, and the ball will go where you expect it to if you hit it right. Hitting the serve at just the right moment will send the ball blazing towards your opponent, and switching up your serve speed can do a lot to throw your opponent off their game.

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Wii Sports Club: Tennis is more than just a faithful revival of the Wii Sports fave; updated graphics and gameplay features are certainly welcome, but it’s the additional social features and multiplayer options that make the game well worth its price tag. Those looking to relive their Wii glory days, scratch a casual tennis itch, or get into better shape with motion control gaming will find a lot to love in Wii Sports Club: Tennis.

 

Overall Score: 9.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

Mighty Switch Force! 2 Review (Wii U): “A Fiery Good Time”

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WayForward has had quite the relationship with Nintendo. Whether it be the 3DS, Wii or Wii U, they have always been fond of bringing their titles to Nintendo’s market. At the Wii U’s launch, WayForward remastered the predecessor in full HD, all hand-drawn, and provided a few extras to the HD edition. Earlier this year, the 3DS was graced with the sequel to the cult hit, “Mighty Switch Force! 2”. However, after much demand, WayForward has brought the game over to the Wii U. Does the sequel come blazing in hot or completely washed out?

Mighty Switch Force 2 is a 2D action/puzzle-platformer at heart; One which starts off with a simple, yet unique premise. If you’ve played the original Mighty Switch Force, whether for the 3DS or Wii U edition, the gameplay remains essentially the same. You’ll control Patricia Wagon again, who’s now part of the Galactic Fire Brigade and equipped with an Infinity Dousing Apparatus (I.D.A.) that lets you spray water to no end, trying to capture the Hooligan Sisters. Much like its predecessor, you’ll have to platform your way through 16 incidents. Gameplay wise, you’ll traverse the levels capturing five Hooligan Sisters scattered around the area and then escape with your robot cop sidekick (or as I still call him since the first game, Robocop). New in the sequel are the hidden crying babies in each incident. Find them and you’ll pull off a South Park by “kicking the baby” out of the screen. It’s hilarious when you see it actually happen as you wouldn’t expect Ms. Wagon to punt the baby. While platforming, you’ll notice blocks that are faded into the background. With the simple press of a button, you can switch the blocks to appear in the foreground and utilize them to make your way through the area. However, this simple concept will soon become a real test of your platforming skills, as you’ll have to master switching the blocks from foreground to background on the fly. Sometimes you’ll have to be mid-jump when transitioning this. Later on, you’ll need to be absolutely precise in timing the button pressing so that the background block doesn’t smash your character against the screen when transitioning to the foreground. Since the sequel revolves around the fire element, expect fiery obstacles to block your path. This is where your I.D.A. will come in handy most. You’ll have to extinguish fires that block your path, with small flames dousing almost instantly to larger flames that need more water to douse. If you don’t douse it all the way, it will rise again. In later stages you’ll have to platform on furnaces that you must douse to traverse, but must move quick as they’ll reignite.

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It wouldn’t be a WayForward game if their platforming and overall gameplay didn’t ramp up dramatically in difficulty as you advance and their testament still stands here. You’ll get three hearts to get through an area, of which enemies, spikes, or accidentally smashing yourself against the screen when switching a block can take a heart away. There are heart discs that enemies can drop or are laying around the area so there’s a chance to revitalize yourself when needed. There are also checkpoints in each area but that’s only if you get smashed on screen or touch the spikes where they actually come into effect. If you lose all three hearts, you’ll have to repeat the level from the beginning. Luckily, a majority of the incidents are only a few minutes long, with the exception of the final levels. These ones are much more intensive and provide more of an endurance in terms of how much longer you’ll need to survive the insane platforming. Like the first game, there’s a final boss to tackle at the end of the last incident, and it’s pretty intense (also thanks to the music playing). Upon beating it, I wished WayForward would incorporate even more boss battles, as this was definitely a highlight during my playthrough.

Thanks for flying "Air Wagon"! We hope you fly again with us soon!

Thanks for flying “Air Wagon”! We hope you fly again with us soon!

Throughout the game, platforming won’t be your only enemy. Many of the same enemies return from the predecessor, varying from little flying creatures to lock-on to you as you approach them, to walking rocks lit on fire, to robotic dinosaur-type enemies that charge at you, to heavily armored spiky-shelled creatures. However, every enemy won’t be dealt with directly with your water blaster. While the flying creatures can be shot at easily, the robotic dinosaur-type enemies will require you to either shoot them from behind or trick them into running into a switch block and then launch them into the screen. Same goes for the spiky-shelled creatures. They can only be defeated by tricking them into falling on spikes or smashing them against the screen.  A new enemy introduced here are these bloated purple creatures with a big mouth to boot. To take them down, you’ll have to fill it up with enough water to make it explode. To make enemies even more interesting, WayForward made enemies essential into advancing your way through an area. For example, you may need to have fire rocks walk up to a large wooden block so they can set it on fire, opening a passage for you. You may need to utilize launching switch blocks to guide enemies to a certain area to clear a path or smash them against a screen to open a locked door. It’s these moments that really provide a grand sense of satisfaction and open up your mind into more creative ways to advance through a level. However, a new puzzle element are the switch blocks with piping in them. When you see these, you’ll shoot your water blaster into them so that water travels through the pathway and out the other end. This will help wash mud away that was blocking your path or one of the damsels. The puzzles involving these really provide even more satisfaction to the already fine tuned gameplay.

Visually, WayForward has always been known for having a mastery with 2D sprites. When we saw “Mighty Switch Force! Hyper Drive Edition” on the Wii U last November, the game looked absolutely crisp and stunning in HD. Unfortunately, Mighty Switch Force! 2 is a straight port of the 3DS version that released earlier this year. If you’re expecting to see the lush, hand-drawn HD crisp visuals from Mighty Switch Force! Hyper Drive Edition, you’ll be let down here. Instead, we get the game in pixelated form, which still looks great honestly! If it wasn’t for the fact that I was blown away with WayForward’s hand-drawn sprites (like Double Dragon Neon, Bloodrayne: Betrayal, and naturally, Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition), I wouldn’t be deducting points off the visuals department. The game still runs as rock solid as you’d expect from the developer’s previous efforts. Jake Kaufman returns to provide yet another great soundtrack for a WayForward title. Providing a little bit of techno, dubstep and retro sounding tracks, Mighty Switch Force! 2 has a catchy soundtrack that does a very good job of nailing the game’s setting. “Flame broiled” and “Safe and sound” may sound cheesy when Patricia delivers the line, but it’s so campy, it’s good.

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While the game doesn’t take a terribly long time to beat, hardcore players can attempt to tackle the “Par” times for every incident. These will take the utmost perfection and memorization to complete and if you do, you should be very proud of yourself. These are not for the feint of heart. Unlike it’s HD predecessor, once you beat the game, there are no bonus levels or hyper blaster to replay the game with. As a side-note, I really do appreciate that WayForward is still the only developer to choose a more unique name for their community on the Miiverse. Instead of just calling it “Mighty Switch Force! 2 Community”, they’ve opted to call it “Mighty Switch Force! 2 Command Center”. I love the fact that WayForward tries to make the Miiverse community more “fun”.

KICK THE BABY!!

KICK THE BABY!!

Mighty Switch Force! 2 may not be the HD remaster that it’s predecessor got on the Wii U’s launch day, but that still doesn’t stop it from being a great game by any means. WayForward knows their 2D games and continues to excel in this department. While this edition may not exactly add any content to warrant a new purchase for those who own the 3DS version, Wii U owners would still do very well to grab this for a low $5.99 asking price. If you’ve never played the 3DS version and like your 2D platformers, then by all means pick this up now. It may be a short game, but it’s also just so gratifying to play thanks to the excellent level designs, additional new “switch” mechanics, beautiful visuals and an energetic soundtrack.

Overall Score: 8.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

A special thank you to WayForward for providing us a review copy for “Mighty Switch Force! 2”!

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Cloudberry Kingdom Review (PS3/360/Wii U): “The Most Sadistically Awesome Platformer”

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Over the course of gaming history, 2D platformers have really become a staple genre that gamers of all kinds can enjoy. Ever since the days of Super Mario Bros. gracing the NES and Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Genesis, we’ve seen a plethora of platformers impact the industry. Within the last half-decade, we’ve seen some stellar 2D platformers made by indie developers, such as Braid, Limbo and Outland. Pwnee Studios, an indie developer created by childhood friends Jordan Fisher and TJ Lutz, have worked together to bring about a 2D platformer that’s for the masochist called Cloudberry Kingdom. Is this a kingdom worth venturing?

When you start off the game’s story, you’ll be treated to a cutscene of the hero, Bob, trying to rescue the princess (where have we heard this before). However, instead of the cheery tone we’re accustomed to in Super Mario, we’re seeing that Bob is a tired, frustrated hero and that the Princess could care less that she’s being rescued from the evil king. Naturally, things aren’t so simple for Bob, as he’s thrown off a cliff by the evil king and forced to continue his tireless journey of rescuing the princess. From here, the game’s story mode begins. Cloudberry Kingdom plays precisely like you would expect a 2D platformer, with a few twists. You’ll have to traverse your way through deadly obstacles to reach the next level, with each ramping up in difficulty obstacle-wise, and each level takes only 15-40 seconds to complete. Controls are standard fare and nothing complicated by any means, with the A button used for jumping and Y button to use the exit door at the end of a level. Sounds pretty simple and straightforward enough, right? Well, here’s the thing. Bob dies in a single hit and has no weaponry to defend himself. If any obstacle or enemy hits Bob, he’s dead and it’s either back to the beginning or checkpoint. Levels are all cleverly designed to have a specific line that you can do that avoids death entirely, but I’ll touch more on that in a bit.

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Over the game’s eight chapters, there will be 40 levels of hardcore platforming action in each chapter (320 levels total). The obstacles all range from spinning fireballs, swinging spike balls, spikes that pop from the ground, lasers, etc. You’ll start off simple, just acclimating to the controls and feel of the game. However, things will quickly spin out of control when you play as various phases of Bob that change the mechanics and physics entirely. Every set of 10 levels, you’ll play as a new phase of Bob, such as Wheelie, Double Jump, Jetpack, Phase Bob, Tiny Bob, Fat Bob, Gravity Bob or even a Spaceship! For example, playing as Wheelie has Bob strapped to a stone wheel and will have the physics of a heavy wheel. Tiny Bob will make Bob gain more height, while Fat Bob makes him get less height than normal and is more prone to getting hit by an obstacle. Phase Bob will actually have Bob constantly morphing from Fat to Tiny, making traversing through levels a true challenge of timing. Playing as a Spaceship is really cool too, bringing back that feeling of playing something like R-Type or Gradius (granted you can’t shoot anything, but maneuvering it is fun).

As you traverse each level, you’ll notice there are blue crystals that can be collected. If you collect all of them in a level, you’ll get a “Perfect” status and earn an additional 10 crystals on top of what you collected. So what are the purpose of crystals you ask? Well, by pressing the X button, you’ll open up a Powerup Menu, which allows you to purchase a specific item to help you out with completing a level. The first item, which looks like “Terminator” Bob has you watch a video of the level to see the perfect path and timing you need to complete the level. The second item (which costs the most amount of crystals) will actually show you the exact path you need to take, as well as a dark object that goes along it to show you the exact timing of the path you should take. This item proved to be immensely helpful, especially with the precision required in later levels. The last item is a time clock that enables slow-motion, making everything except Bob move at a crawl. These items definitely help in their own respects and I never felt the need to be stingy with cashing in crystals for them since you keep collecting them.

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Aside from the game’s Story Mode, you will have access to Arcade and Free Play modes as well. In Arcade, you can choose between four different modes: Escalation, Time Crisis, Hero Rush, and Hybrid Rush. Escalation is essentially endurance, where you’re given 15 lives to start with and must get through as many levels as possible. You can get extra lives by collecting set amounts of crystals during the run. Time Crisis starts you off with 15 seconds to last before Bob explodes. As you race to the exit of each level (which are much shorter than usual), you must collect crystals to add precious time to the clock. Hero Rush and Hybrid Rush are much like Time Crisis mode, but both with distinct ways to play. Hero Rush has Bob changing his phase type in every level, while Hybrid Rush has Bob shifting into a combination of phases per level (such as being Wheelie and Phase Bob at the same time).

Free Play has a more customizable aspect to it. You’ll be able to choose a location, game type, hero style, difficulty, length of the level and how many checkpoints you’d like. The difficulty can not only be adjusted for players of any level, but can be completely customized to your liking. Want an incredibly simple level that has not a single obstacle? You can do it. Want a level that has more objects on screen that seems like there’s almost no room to move through? You can most certainly have that as well. The game’s AI has been designed to randomly generate a level that’s 100% beatable, which is incredibly impressive. Another customizable feature that’s really fun to play around with is Hero Factory. Here, you will actually customize the base, jump type and shape of Bob, while also tweaking every attribute to a tee, such as the acceleration, max speed, size, gravity, falling speed, jump length, number of jumps, etc. You can even fine tune your settings by testing it before going into the actual level. The options are simply endless.

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Cloudberry Kingdom is a vicious game in terms of difficulty, but why play it alone? You can have up to 4 people playing at once, all racing their way to the exit of these challenging stages. Each player can even customize Bob the way they want him to look. Whether they change the color of his suit, what kind of beard he has, his cape color (or no cape at all), and even the lining of his cape, there’s a solid amount to customize. I came across someone’s screenshot on the Miiverse where they practically replicated the look of Dr. Robotnik (sorry, his name is not Dr. Eggman in my book) from Sonic the Hedgehog. Playing in multiplayer makes this already chaotic game even more chaotic, but is an absolute blast. There’s even a co-op mode in Free Play where all the players are tethered together and must coordinate with each other to reach the end of the level. This alone will provide plenty of good laughs amongst friends.

Visually, Cloudberry Kingdom has a “flash” look to it, with very clean and vivid colors, as well as fluid animations. Environments and characters are nicely designed and the game itself runs incredibly smooth, never dropping the frame rate at all. The only odd animation that seems unpolished was Bob’s double jump, which had zero animation to it and was simply a “standing” animation while moving up. Cutscenes have a different visual style, representing a paper mache look. It’s actually pretty cool and works quite well for the visual aesthetic. Audio wise, this game has a bumpin’ soundtrack that’ll definitely engage the player further into the game. The soundtrack was composed by Blind Digital and Peacemaker…and damn is it a sweet soundtrack. They provide techno tunes that really get you pumped for wanting to complete a level. As I type this review, I’m listening to “Evidence” by Blind Digital (my favorite track in the game)…it’s that’s good. Although, I wish there was a way to change the song with a simple button press. On the flipside, the sound effects are pretty generic, but nothing bad by any means. Oh, and voice acting wise, Kevin Sorbo plays Bob…yes, the dude from the live-action Hercules TV show back from the 90s.

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Cloudberry Kingdom is an excellent 2D platformer that’s so sadistic, it makes the hacked Mario games look easy at points. However, the game’s stages are all designed to be 100% beatable thanks to the AI designed for the game. It’s an endless platformer alright, and one that you’ll be endlessly returning to, whether by yourself or with friends. The clean visuals, bumpin’ soundtrack and just downright addictive gameplay make Cloudberry Kingdom a must-own for any platformer fan.

Overall Score: 9.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

Copy purchased by author for review purposes. Game tested on the Wii U.

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Mutant Mudds Deluxe Review (Wii U): “Getting Muddy Shouldn’t Be This Fun”

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Mutant Mudds was a 2D platformer that released for the 3DS back in 2012 by developer Renegade Kid. Over time, the game has seen a rendition for the iOS and Steam. Renegade Kid has now brought the game to Nintendo’s new console, which is also their first title for the Wii U. While the game was intended for play on the 3DS due to its foreground and background transitioning, how does it handle on the Wii U?

Upon booting up the game, you’re quickly introduced to your main character Max relaxing at his house with Grannie, until all of a sudden, a meteor crashes onto the planet. A newscast then appears on the TV that there’s an invasion of mud-like creatures running rampant. From here, you’ll run out and do what you can to put a stop to this infestation. If you’ve never played Mutant Mudds, the mechanics are simple to pickup-and-play. You’ll wield a water cannon and H20-powered jetpack (which shoots out bubbles to propel Max) to help you along your journey. You’ll use the D-Pad or Analog Stick to move Max in the 2D environment, while the Y button will shoot the water gun and the B button will let you jump. Double-tapping the B button will trigger your jetpack to let you hover your way to distant platforms. Careful though, as the jetpack only lasts for a few short seconds and must recharge (which is instant) when you touch the ground. Controls are incredibly simple, responsive and just plain old-school. To provide more comfortability, you can play the game with literally any combination of controllers that the Wii U can read. The Wii U GamePad, Wii U Pro Controller, Wii Remote, Wii Remote with Nunchuk, and Wii Classic Controller are all options for you to play with.

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In the game, there are four levels within five environments: plains, cave, volcanic castle, mountains and outer space. You will have a time limit during each stage, but that never really becomes much of an issue. Throughout the levels, you’ll platform your way to the exit collecting the 100 water sprites littered around and taking out the Mudds. Platforming will take place between three different panes: foreground, mid-ground, and background. You’ll switch between them with the jump pads placed around levels as you try and nab all the water sprites. Your health consists of three hearts…and only three hearts. There are no health items to collect, so being cautious is a must. Thankfully, new to the Wii U version (compared to the 3DS version) is the ability to reach checkpoints in a level. While these might not seem as necessary in the earlier levels, the latter half has you thanking the game for having these implemented. Of course, for the masochist gamers, you can turn checkpoints off when pausing the game while roaming the HUB, basically making the game return to its original 3DS state. Enemies are scattered throughout levels and there are quite a variety to encounter. The game starts off by throwing ground mudds at you that simply move back and forth. As you progress, you’ll take on bigger mudds that shoot eyeballs at you, flying eyeball mudds, flying mudds that drop bombs, micro-sized mudds and warrior mudds (which wield swords and shields).

As you collect water sprites, you can visit Grannie’s Attic in the HUB to acquire a new upgrade for Max to utilize. There are three upgrades you can acquire: a powerup for your water cannon, an extended jetpack meter and a hi-jump ability. You can only choose one of these at a time for use in levels but you’ll unlock them in the order where they’ll become most useful. For example, the extended jetpack meter will become available if you’ve collected all 100 water sprites in the first two worlds, in time for the third world where it’ll be very handy. Some powerups will become more handy in certain levels and makes experimenting with them an interesting component. To make things more adventurous, each level contains a secret area that can be unlocked. However, to unlock these, you’ll need a certain upgrade equipped. Certain paths may be blocked off by a wall, which would require you to have the upgraded water cannon to shoot it down. Others may either be at a higher to reach altitude or farther distance to reach that can only be reached with a specific upgrade.

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Warrior mudds are one of the most difficult enemies to deal with due to their shield and thrust attacks.

If all this wasn’t enough, there’s a mirror in the HUB that when walked through will take Max to an alternate universe. This alternate universe is basically a ghost world of the original areas, where enemies will become transparent and platforms will move, making you have to be on edge to avoid getting crushed between walls. Since the enemies are ghosts, you’ll have to collect a specific gun found in levels that provides you 10 shots to take them out. However, each ghost mudd takes a few shots to go down, so being strategic with your shots and what you shoot is an absolute must. The mirrored world is dramatically harder than the main world’s levels, and will demand the utmost skill to successfully complete. Also, you can unlock Grannie as a playable character, who has her own set of levels and can utilize all three powerups at once. Only the best of the best will be able to unlock her, bringing about an old-school sense of accomplishment that few games bring to the table.

Visually, Mutant Mudds Deluxe replicates everything an old-school gamer will crack a smile to. From its vibrant, colorful sprites, to great animations and a high frame rate, Mutant Mudds Deluxe is an incredibly crisp looking game. All the environments have a distinct look to them, as do the enemies Max will face. The game’s overall visual aesthetic is very engrossing to get into. However, there’s one particular feature that I was curious about when hearing the game was coming from the 3DS to the Wii U, the 3D element. For the 3DS, the 3D slider really helped the player gain a better perspective as to which part of the background the action was taking place in. Whether it was the foreground, background or in-between, you could easily tell where to distinguish the action. Well, I’m glad to state that Renegade Kid has nailed the transition from 3DS to Wii U by making the 3D element handled with the GamePad and TV screen. To explain it better, the game will be more zoomed out on the TV, while the GamePad will be a bit closer. When in the middle, the TV or GamePad are completely suitable for play. However, if you go into the background areas, the GamePad will be much easier to distinguish objects due to the zoomed-in camera. If you’re in the foreground, the TV will become the better suit of screen to play on so that you have more distance to view up-close. It’s much better to witness in action than explain, but it works remarkably well. As far as audio goes, the sound effects are cheery and do a very good job conveying what pertains to which object. The soundtrack in particular is very catchy, with its retro style tunes that’ll be sticking with you.

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Ghost mudds, lava and spikes…oh my!

Mutant Mudds Deluxe is an enhanced version of a great 3DS game. However, seeing the additions and slight changes put into the core game, this is by far the superior version to get. From the vibrant retro visuals, great audio and addictive gameplay, Mutant Mudds Deluxe is an absolute must own for the Wii U. The game is meant to be as old-school as possible, and that’s what I absolutely loved about it. If you’re a fan of platformers, and more importantly retro games in general, do not let Mutant Mudds Deluxe go past you. It’s a terrific game that nails the term “old-school” and we need more games like this.

Overall Score: 9.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

A special thank you to Renegade Kid for providing us the review copy for Mutant Mudds Deluxe!

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Kung Fu Rabbit Review (Wii U eShop): “A Charmingly Addictive 2D Platformer”

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The indie title trend continues on the Wii U, this time with an enhancement to a mobile device game. Kung Fu Rabbit is a 2D platformer that was originally released by developers CTools, Cazap and Bulkypix for the iOS and Android devices last year. Developer Neko Entertainment liked the game so much, that they worked with the original developers to get the appropriate access to bring the game over to the Wii U eShop. In an interview I conducted with them, Neko Entertainment stated that they thought it was something great, but the touch controls didn’t provide it the precision that it needed. While Europe has had the game for a few weeks, North Americans finally get the opportunity to try out the game for themselves. The game certainly has a very charming, cutesy style to it, but how well does it play?

Kung Fu Rabbit starts off with a comic-book style story panel being displayed, showing your fellow rabbits being kidnapped. However, abductors left one rabbit behind…you. It’s up to you to platform your way through 80 levels to save all the abducted rabbits. While the story isn’t much to write home about, it’s there to give you the basic reason as to why you’re navigating the levels. Plus, while there may not be much story, the character designs are very appealing.

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The gameplay is very reminiscent of old-school 2D platformers, as well as some recent indie ones such as Super Meat Boy. Each level has you running, jumping, wall jumping, collecting carrots and slashing enemies as you reach the goal to rescue a kidnapped rabbit. The game takes place within three worlds, each containing 20 levels to tackle. The controls are incredibly simple and responsive, as any 2D platformer should be. You’ll use the control stick or D-Pad to move, the A button to jump and B button to use items. Neko Entertainment wasn’t kidding when they said they wanted to provide proper controls, so you can use the GamePad, Wii U Pro Controller, Wii Remote and Wii Pro Controller…and they all feel right for the game. Since this is a platformer, jumping is a tremendous element to the game, so precision is a must. Thankfully, controlling Rabbit is a charm, as his running speed and jumping feels just right. Even jumping off walls works the way it should with the right amount of physics applied. Rabbit can attack enemies, however in a non-traditional method. Instead of being given an attack button, Rabbit will be able to slash an enemy automatically by simply approaching it where their “Achilles Heel” is. Enemies will have a certain spot where they’ll have a glowing blue design, and it is here where you can attack them. If it’s behind them, then you’re going to have to run into them from behind. If it’s on their head, then you can give them the good ol’ “goomba stomp” that we’ve grown accustom to since the days of Mario. In each level, you’ll come across carrots. There are three regular carrots in every level, alongside a gold carrot that gives you extra. The carrots are used to purchase items for you to use, whether it be single-use, artifacts or unlockables (such as the Mexican Avenger costume). The single-use items vary from cleansing the area of enemies, activating checkpoints, deflecting projectiles, etc. Artifacts are essentially perks, which will enhance Rabbit’s abilities: “Carrot Juice” will let you run faster and jump higher, while “Death from the Sky” allows you to defeat any enemy by simply jumping on them (regardless of their weak spot), “Feet of Ice” will freeze breakable platforms so that you can pinpoint your jump better, “Claws” lets you slide down walls slower, “Feather” decreases your falling speed, and lastly, “Master of Arms” lets you run into any enemy and defeat them instantly (basically making you invincible against them). The catch with the Artifacts? You can only equip one at a time. If a level is giving you a hard time, you’ll want to figure out which Artifact to bring with you.

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Kung Fu Rabbit’s platforming starts off very simple, allowing anyone to be able to dive into the game. However, as you progress, expect the difficulty to certainly ramp up, demanding for some spot-on platforming skills. Aside from the enemies, Rabbit will have to worry about the “dark goo” that fills some of the platforms. Whether you’re jumping over dark goo, or wall jumping precisely to avoid it on walls, it’s a big obstacle throughout the game. As a matter of fact, almost everything poses a threat to Rabbit, as he dies instantly when coming in contact with an enemy directly or the dark goo. Thankfully, levels are very short and the game rarely leads to frustration. The overall difficulty curve is actually nicely handled and never feels like it spikes dramatically. Aside from the 60 main levels, there’s also a bonus world with 20 additional levels. These will test your skills further and if you wanted more of a challenge, you can unlock the game’s hard mode called “Hardcore Rabbit”. Basically, this will have you revisit levels but they’ll have a plethora of extra obstacles and enemies placed around. This mode alone will double the game’s length and keep you coming back for more.

Kung Fu Rabbit’s visuals are really appealing to the eye. The art direction for the game is very charming, with nice color palettes and a smooth frame rate. The character animations are a bit simplistic but that doesn’t detract from the overall experience. The environments definitely have that “asian” feel to them, whether you’re in the forest, cave or indoor dojos. It may not be anything overly complex, but that’s fine, as the game’s aesthetic is certainly done right. Even playing on the GamePad looks great, with barely any loss of visual quality. Audio wise, there are a few music tracks here and while they capture the setting appropriately, they become a little repetitive. Also, there is some “voice-work” done for the characters. I use the term “voice-work” lightly because there’s no dialogue, mainly just chants from the creatures and Rabbit. However, hearing Rabbit cheer when he rescues a kidnapped rabbit is very catchy. Funny enough, when Rabbit would die, his shout reminded me a bit of the Rabbids from “Rayman Raving Rabbids”. One of the main issues I had with Kung Fu Rabbit was it’s menu design. There are images for each icon to give you an idea of what part of the menu you’ll be accessing, but it just feels somewhat off when navigating them. It’s nothing detrimental that severely hurts the game, but something that stuck out immediately and never really adjusted to. On the plus side, the menus provide for full touch-screen navigation or through regular buttons, so you have either option.

Kung Fu Rabbit Gameplay 4

Kung Fu Rabbit is a game that’s simple to pickup-and-play, yet challenging enough for gamers of all types. Don’t let the game’s cutesy appearance turn you away. This is no doubt a fun and addictive game that you’ll find yourself coming back to. For the $4.99 asking price, there’s a good amount of content to be found here and is almost impossible not to recommend. If you’re a fan of platformers, don’t think, just buy this game.

Overall Score: 8.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

A special thank you to Neko Entertainment for providing us a review copy for Kung Fu Rabbit!

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

Toki Tori 2 Review (Wii U): “The Wii U’s Answer to ‘Braid’ and ‘Limbo'”

Toki Tori 2 whistle

Indie titles have become a pivotal element this gaming generation, with numerous exceptional ones that set new ground for both developers and gamers alike. With ingenious indies such as Braid, Limbo, and Journey (just to name a few), it’s hard not to pay attention to unique and fresh titles. In 2001, developer Two Tribes released a puzzle-platformer called “Toki Tori” for the Game Boy Color. It was a well received title for the GBC and was also, one of the last to grace the portable console. Over the years, Toki Tori has received enhanced versions available via Steam, iOS devices and WiiWare. Fast forward to 2013 and Two Tribes has delivered their sequel, Toki Tori 2, to the Wii U. After many years, has Two Tribes delivered the next indie hit?

Toki Tori 2 underwaterUpon starting up Toki Tori 2, there’s no story, no HUD and no tutorial to what the game is about. All you’ll realize is that black smoke seems to be affecting the land. Other than that, you’re literally thrown into the game knowing nothing else. While this may sound a bit odd, it slightly felt like Limbo…which is a good thing. Toki Tori 2 is still the puzzle-platformer the original was, yet it’s scale has been significantly increased. Gone is the “level” format and in is the “adventure, open-world” aspect. While the world is broken up into areas, they’re all connected through gateways along the path. The closest thing to relate this to is a “Metroidvania” type of game, which is always a very welcome style. The controls are as simple as they can get. You’ll control Toki Tori with the GamePad’s analog stick or D-Pad, stomp the ground with the B button and whistle with the A button. However, it’s figuring out what stomping and whistling near another creature will cause that’s part of the fun. For example, a crab may be sleeping in a movable platform and you’ll need to have him move it toward you. Whistling at him will cause him to wake up and make his way toward you so you can advance forward. However, if you stomp next to him, you can push the platform away from you. Basically, whistling will attract attention while stomping will scare them. Another example are certain little bug creatures that may need to move along a ceiling since they can’t jump platforms, so stomping right next to them will make them jump up and attach to the short ceiling. When in dark caves, there will be fireflies that can illuminate the area. Whistling will lure them toward you as the sound attracts them. However, there may be skulls that live in the dark, ready to stop you in your tracks, but having the fireflies near you by whistling will make this obstacle go away. Toki Tori can’t “fight” anything that poses a threat to him, but rather, can rely on using his whistling and stomping to aid in his defense. If Toki Tori gets hit once, he’s done for and it’s back to the nearest checkpoint (which are very close together).

Dangling in the sky, overlooking the world map.

Dangling in the sky, overlooking the world map.

Now I mention the “whistling” as one of the abilities…and honestly, it’s not just a simple button press. Instead, the closest aspect to relate it to is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time when you would have to play a song on your ocarina with certain notes. Toki Tori can whistle short, long, low and high notes. Depending on when and how long you press the A button affects the notes whistled out. When exploring the land, you’ll come across a white bird occasionally. The white bird will teach you a certain “tune” to whistle that will have various effects. Should you be caught in a bind with no means out, whistling a “short, short, long, long” tune will teleport you back to the nearest checkpoint you activated. Another tune will let you use the GamePad and snap photos of creatures in the environment. Doing so will add a picture to your Photo Lab collection (or as the developers put it, “Tokidex”). As you venture the land, you’ll come across gold fragments that you can collect. However, finding all of them will take time and since there’s no HUD, keeping track of which areas you completely collected them from may be difficult. Thankfully, another tune points arrows in all the directions of the area you’re in to find the remaining pieces. Lastly, a few hours into the game, you’ll learn one of the most handy tunes which allows you to fast travel to “teleport stones” you’ve found/activated around the world. A bird will snatch you and you’ll then see the whole land through Toki Tori’s eyes as you dangle in the sky. I won’t spoil anything but you’ll need this to fulfill the rest of your adventure. Should you ever need to refer to your song list, it will be displayed on your GamePad. Speaking of the GamePad, when viewing the world map, you’ll be able to drag “yellow balloons” as markers for important areas you know need to be revisited. Since there’s no text in the game (other than the title), that means the locations won’t have names either. Additionally, when in areas, you’ll see a meter at the bottom of the GamePad showing where you are, as well as where the exit gates are and the direction they’re in. It’s a handy addition to have on the GamePad when playing on the TV.

Toki Tori 2 is a game that demands you pull out your thinking cap…and be prepared because some of the puzzles are real mind-benders. Everything in the environment is there for a reason, so pay very close attention to your surroundings. Honestly, some of the puzzles had me completely stumped where I had to walk away from the game, then come back to it with a fresh mind and realize the solution. The puzzles in this game are very clever and immensely rewarding upon solving them. With the Wii U, players have access to the Miiverse, so naturally people will be posting screenshots and asking for a little bit of help…and that’s very much encouraged. Honestly, this is one of the few games on the Wii U where talking to each other will help people advance through the game if a puzzle may seem too difficult. While there’s no in-game Miiverse connectivity like New Super Mario Bros. U or Need for Speed: Most Wanted U, the community will surely be a great one to be a part of. In the near future, Two Tribes is looking to add the “Level Editor” feature to the game, which will surely add a ton of longevity to an already lengthy game.

Toki Tori 2 lavacave

Visually, Toki Tori 2 looks absolutely beautiful on both the TV and GamePad. The lush colors of the environment, whether it be the trees, water, rocks, or the creatures that inhabit the world, Toki Tori 2 is one of the most stunning looking games available on the Wii U. Every environment is ultra-detailed, with excellent backdrops and foreground that show a superb level of design, while all running in 60 fps. Toki Tori, as well as the other inhabitants, are rendered and animated astonishingly well. Little details such as pollen in the background of the forest and seeing Toki Tori’s feet when dangling from the sky are nice touches. When switching the game from the TV to the GamePad, you’ll see Toki Tori on the TV leaning over the top of a Wii U GamePad on the screen while you’re playing on your actual GamePad. You’ll see a fraction of the GamePad’s screen on the TV and impressively, this isn’t a static image. It’s a replication of your GamePad’s screen and while it’s a very tiny portion of it, it’s clear that the developers wanted to show that it wasn’t a simple image. Toki Tori 2’s audio is equally as impressive as the visuals. The whimsical and charming music that accompanies the game is very catchy and goes hand-in-hand with the setting. The sound effects are also cheery and effective, whether you’re hearing Toki Tori whistle, other creatures make sounds or other environmental ambiance, it’s all done quite well. Two Tribes cut no corners in the game’s visuals, audio and presentation.

There are a few minor complaints that slightly hurt the game’s overall score that should be mentioned. The first was that some of the puzzles’ solutions required very precise object placement. When coming across some of these, frustration started to kick in a bit. Second, as integral as whistling is, there were times that I was trying to keep signaling fireflies to follow me and as I was doing that, I’d end up teleporting back to the nearest checkpoint. Apparently, I kept whistling the tune to go back to a checkpoint by accident. It just seemed a bit easy to accidentally whistle a specific tune when you’re only trying to get the attention of a creature. Aside from these, it’s hard to find anything at fault.

Toki Tori 2 blacklavacave

Simply put, Toki Tori 2 is one of the most refreshing, unique experiences of 2013. Two Tribes has delivered a superbly crafted world to explore, with astounding visuals, charming audio and clever gameplay mechanics. The Wii U has become a prime console for developers to bring indie titles to and Toki Tori 2 is a stellar example of originality and creativity at its finest. Two Tribes deserves a round of applause, as Toki Tori 2 ranks up there amongst Braid, Limbo, and Journey. If you own a Wii U, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t pick up Toki Tori 2.

Overall Score: 9.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

A special thank you to Two Tribes Games for providing us an early review copy for Toki Tori 2! Be sure to follow us on FaceBook and Twitter for all the latest news and reviews: @GamersXTREME