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.

Pros:

+ 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

Cons:

– 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.

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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.

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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Phantom Trigger Review (Switch/PC) – “Worlds Collide”

Phantom Trigger is the latest indie to hit the Nintendo Switch courtesy of TinyBuild and Bread Games. This pixelart, top-down hack-and-slash, or “neon slasher” as the developer calls it, has you slashing, whipping and punching vile creatures through various environments. Is this hack-and-slash worth the experience?

Phantom Trigger has you start off playing as Stan, an ordinary human being who is married and trying to get through life. Things take a turn for the worse very quickly though, as Stan collapses on the kitchen floor in front of his wife. Suddenly, you will play as a different character known as the “Traveler” in a fictitious world that has zero semblance of reality. This distorted world has you meeting outlandish characters, each of which help hint at what is going on. As you progress, the game will instantly switch from gameplay in the distorted world, to seeing what is happening with Stan in the real world. There are times when you will choose the dialogue for both characters to carry a tone and weight to the story. Certain items you collect and how you utilize them will also affect the ending. While it doesn’t take long to realize what is really going on here, the premise is really intriguing. Phantom Trigger’s story is by far its main highlight. It’s a very engaging story that tackles a fairly important struggle in reality.

The game is a hack-and-slash at its core with some RPG elements in place. Playing as the Traveler, you will wield three weapons in hand: an ice sword, energy whip, and fire gauntlets. You can do three-hit combos, and each hit will garner XP for the weapon used. Each weapon is mapped to the face buttons and accessible at all times. As you level up your weapons, you will unlock various mix-and-match combos that will help when dealing with groups of foes. Certain combos may provide an elemental attack that can freeze enemies in place, burn them gradually, or even draw enemies in upon a small blast. Also, the Traveler has the ability to teleport dash, whether for dodging during combat or simply to move around faster. As you progress through the game, enemies will ramp up in numbers and variety. You will feel the combat intensifying the further you progress. If things get too hectic for you, you can always grab a buddy to play local co-op together. There are times when you can breeze past combat, but several segments where the environment will be sealed around you, forcing you to defeat everyone before advancing.

When you’re not fighting for your survival, you will be scouring the environment finding obscure items and solving puzzles. This does help break up the combat a bit. The items collected will seem odd or even out-of-place, but by the end, they are there for a reason. There are occasionally shrines you will come across as well that will boost your XP for specific weapons. Each weapon can reach up to level 7, which is the max. By the end of the game, you will have maxed out all three wielded weapons without any issue or unnecessary grind (unless of course you didn’t mix up your combat). Certain areas will require some minor puzzle-solving to open locked doors. This can consist of playing essentially “Simon Says” by hitting totems in a right order with the right colored ability, or moving a mine cart around a maze of tracks to collect a specific item. It does help break up the pacing of the game. Also, the end of each level has you facing a boss. These boss battles will require your wits and thinking outside the box to solve. The bosses are actually well-done for the most part, but one particular boss will really have you scratching your head that resulted in pure luck to figure out. Upon beating the game, there’s an Arena mode to unlock, which is basically an endurance mode.

Phantom Trigger does have some issues unfortunately that do hurt the overall package. First off, the game’s initial load time takes almost one minute just to get to the main menu. That is a very lengthy loading time, especially where it’s just a single image to look at that would make you think the game froze. Second, there are several times during dialogue sequences where some of the words are misspelled. Third, the framerate takes quite a hit during combat, specifically in the second half of the game where there are significantly more enemies on-screen. Third, there are some collision detection glitches that occurred. There were two times when I was able to run through a wall. There was a combat sequence where I was closed off from escaping, yet I was able to run right through the barrier. This segment I tested a few times and it was always the same spot and barrier I could run through. There’s a segment with a mine-cart that shows the cart continuing off the track and out of the level entirely. What’s strange is if you run in the opposite direction and then run back to where the mine-cart should’ve stopped, it will magically appear there. Thankfully this is a glitch that fixes itself, but happened almost every other time the mine-cart hit a corner it was supposed to stop at. Now the game features four different endings, which means you’ll need to replay the game a few times to see each ending (should you make the right choices). Unfortunately, there is no New Game + mode to make it easier to return to. Combat is neat and all, but it does get repetitive after a short while. Also, the game’s checkpoint system is a bit flawed. I’m all for challenging games, but checkpoints are very easy to bypass here, and dying can set you back upwards to ten minutes of progress. May not sound like a lot, but it adds up when you keep dying in the same spot. Lastly, the level designs can be maze-like, and there is no map system what-so-ever. While checkpoints usually direct you on where to go, it’s very easy to find yourself going in circles or getting lost.

Visually, Phantom Trigger is a nicely detailed pixel-art title. Animations are pretty smooth for all the characters, and the environments all have a specific style to them. The game runs at 60 fps…well, it tries to but ends up dropping closer to 30 fps most of the time. It doesn’t make the game unplayable by any means, but the drops were very noticeable and consistent. Audio wise, the soundtrack that is here accompanies the game decently, but nothing that stood out. Honestly, the music takes a backseat for most of the experience. Sound effects on the other hand do a great job of distinguishing the combat. Each attack from the weapons have a distinct, almost musical, tone to them. Even the audio that plays when you get closed off in an encounter just sounds very cool. I just wish the soundtrack stood out more during the game.

Overall, Phantom Trigger is a neat game that tells a gripping plot. The story alone was the driving factor to see where it was going next. In terms of gameplay, what is here is solid, but certainly repetitive. Couple that with some technical issues and odd game design decisions, and it just feels like a little more time was needed to polish it up. It’s a good game that’s worth your time for its story, but it was hard to return to upon completing it.

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 Phantom Trigger! 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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Retro City Rampage DX Review (Switch) – “Old-School Perfection”

When it comes to gaming, the late 80s and early 90s era was one that many found to be the golden age of gaming. Simplistic, yet addictive and downright fun games where you didn’t focus so much on getting those “cinematic experiences”. Back in 2012, Brian Provinciano released a dream title of his, Retro City Rampage. Single-handledly developed by him over the course of five years, it released to consistent high praise. In early 2014, he released an updated version called Retro City Rampage DX, which tweaked a variety of elements to fine-tune the game even further. Vblank Entertainment has tried to bring this game to virtually every platform possible (it even got an MS-DOS version!). With the studio’s latest game, Shakedown Hawaii, preparing for release, they’ve decided to also bring their predecessor to the Nintendo Switch. How does the title fare on Nintendo’s new platform?

Retro City Rampage DX is a top-down, GTA style game with 8-bit visuals. You’ll take control of Player, who’s looking for some dirty work to make some cash. From here, he’ll partake in a wild adventure that’ll span over a few decades of gaming and pop-culture that influence the city of Theftopolis. Right from the beginning, you’ll be pulling a bank heist that replicates the intro of The Dark Knight, then run into a time machine to evade the cops, teleport back in time, meet up with Doc (Back to the Future reference) and “borrow” his DeLorean. From there, you’ll be working with Doc to get the DeLorean working again and if Player’s journey wasn’t wacky enough already, the events that await him are only more above and beyond. There’s even a mission where you’ll plant bombs underneath the dam, which happens to be the same area as the bomb defusing mission from the original TMNT NES game, electric seaweeds and all. It’s these moments where the game shines at its top.

As I mentioned before, Retro City Rampage is a GTA style game where you have the whole city of Theftopolis to explore at your disposal. When it comes to combat, there are a whole variety of weapons you can utilize. Interestingly, there are two forms of shooting mechanics: standard lock-on and twin-stick shooter. Fans of twin-sticks will really dig this feature and those who feel that locking-on to enemies is easier for them can go that route too. This gives players options so they don’t feel restricted to only one style. You’ll have your standard firearms but also get weapons that pertain to classic franchises such as Ghostbusters, Bionic Commando and Zelda, just to name a few. These mechanics apply not only to firearms, but melee weapons as well. There’s also a cover mechanic in place that works pretty well. Simply pressing the X button near an object will let Player snap to cover and you’ll be able to move around, peek out of cover and take aim at enemies with ease. If you’re evading enemies, you also have an “air stomp” ability so that you can get the drop on foes. Later in the game, you’ll upgrade this ability to the point where enemies go flying away from your stomps (thanks to a “Radioactive Plumber”). Handling vehicles is very accessible and easy to grasp. All the vehicles have their own speed and handling differences but no matter which type it is, they’re incredibly simple to use. Vehicles range from your average cars, to the TMNT van (which has a Ninja Turtle driving it), to bikes and skateboards, and even shopping carts.

Brian Provinciano clearly has a love for the classic gaming era and it shows. The city is superbly crafted, littered with gaming and pop-culture references around every city block. Whether you come across “Bimmy and Jimmy’s” (Double Dragon), Pizza Gaiden (Ninja Gaiden), and billboards that pertain to certain 80s/90s culture, Retro City Rampage DX is littered with a ton to see. You can go to a variety of places to change Player’s hairstyle and overall image, and there are a ton of different styles to choose from (over 200 styles). Should you come across specific guest appearances in the game, you’ll get the ability to play as them. There’s also Nolan’s Arcade, which contains three mini-games based on other particular franchises out there. You’ve got Bit.Trip Runner, Virtual Meat Boy and Epic Meal Time. Bit.Trip Runner is exactly what you’d expect if you’ve played it before. If you’ve never experienced it before, it’s a title where you’ll run along a 2D plane and have to jump and kick your way to the end of the stage while collecting the coins. It starts off simple, but quickly ramps up in difficulty. Virtual Meat Boy plays like a Rad Racer, where you’ll run along a trap-infested street and have to perfectly dodge everything coming at you. As the title insinuates, you’ll view the game with a Virtual Boy filter and should you have red and blue 3D glasses, you can use those to view the game in 3D. Lastly is Epic Meal Time. Here you’re presented with a Mortal Kombat “Test your Might” mechanic in which you must rapidly button press to fill up your meter and press the action button after passing the success line to dig in to that food and survive. These mini-games are a ton of fun to play and found myself coming back to Nolan’s Arcade quite often during my downtime.

Upon completing 62 story missions, you can still free roam the city and raise complete carnage. there are also 40+ additional Arcade mode missions to tackle on the side. All the Arcade missions provide a solid challenge and will keep you occupied for some time if you try to achieve a gold medal in each one. There’s also leaderboard support for all of these missions, as well as for the story mode. For those that like to watch replays of their footage, you can save footage of anything you’ve done in-game as well. After completing the story, you’ll unlock “Retro City Rampage Turbo” mode, which greatly accelerates the game’s speed.

When I last review RCR back in 2012, I had mentioned that my main gripe was the unbalanced difficulty curve. With the DX version, the difficulty has been rebalanced to be much less frustrating. That’s not to say the challenge has been removed, but certain missions were absurdly difficult in the original release. The tweaks made here are very noticeable and make progressing through the story much more enjoyable. Also the HUD and camera have been tweaked. In the original, there was a status bar on the top of the screen. Now the layout is much cleaner, removing the bar entirely for more in-game screen space. However, the original status bar can be turned back on in the Options menu. Additionally, the camera has been adjusted to be zoomed-in a bit, bringing you closer to the action. This truly made the gameplay feel even better than it already was. Like the HUD though, you can adjust the camera zoom from between 1x to 3x.

The visuals in RCR DX are absolutely spot-on. The 8-bit style works perfectly here, full of vibrant and detailed sprites, while running at 60 fps. Everything about it screams retro, between its color palette, sprite designs and animations. To make things even more retro and in-depth, there are a ton of visual filters and frames to mix-and-match to your liking. Want an old-school TV frame with scanlines and NES color imaging? You can do that. Want to play the game with a Game Boy frame and color filtering? You can do that too. You can even make the game have SEGA Genesis, Virtual Boy, Black and White, and MS-DOS color filtering! Just toying around with these settings and seeing the different visual styles appearing on-screen is an absolute blast. In terms of audio, you’ve got over 2 and a half hours of 8-bit composed music from Jake “Virt” Kaufman (Bloodrayne: Betrayal, Double Dragon Neon, Shantae), Freddy DNA (NBA Jam) and Norrin Radd. The soundtrack really fits the game perfectly and I could see myself driving around town listening to this. It’s a retro-style soundtrack that’s very memorable.

Retro City Rampage DX takes everything that made the original awesome, and further refines it to perfection. RCR DX oozes of beloved gaming and pop-culture references that is impossible not to smile or chuckle at. The amount of content and features are staggering, but what makes it stand out even more is that it was all done by a single person, not a 600 person studio. Retro City Rampage DX is an absolute must-own title and Switch owners should not dismiss this title by any means.

Overall Score: 10 out of 10 = BUY IT!

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Retro City Rampage DX! 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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Infinite Minigolf Review (PS4/X1/Switch) – “Minigolf Times Infinity”

Zen Studios has certainly acquired quite the reputation with their excellent Zen Pinball titles, which are available on almost every platform to date. Since then though, the team has only worked on a few titles outside of their big pinball hit, such as Punisher: No Mercy and Planet Minigolf (both of which were PS3 exclusive titles). After some time, they’ve decided to take a break from their pinball roots and return to a familiar field, minigolf. Infinite Minigolf has now released for PC, PS4, X1, and Switch, and is a sequel to Planet Minigolf. Is this minigolf game worth the putt or is it a complete bogey?

Minigolf has always been about varied, fun locales brimming with imaginative set pieces and scenery. With Infinite Minigolf, the wacky locales are here, but as are some unique twists. This isn’t your typical minigolf game, but rather a more fast-paced, over-the-top game of putt-putt. You will enter tournaments across three different locales: Giant Home, Nightmare Mansion, and Santa’s Workshop. Giant Home is kind of like Andy’s Room from Toy Story, with plenty of toys and games that fill up the environment. Nightmare Mansion is your Halloween-themed environment full of bats, spiders, swinging spike pendulums and tombstones. Lastly, Santa’s Workshop is your snow-filled, Christmas-themed environment filled with elves, candy canes, presents and plenty of ice. Each locale feels very unique and provides their own identity (and challenges) to each course.

Infinite Minigolf is not about getting the ball sunk into the hole with the least amount of hits. Well, it is, but the game revolves around who can get the highest amount of points within nine holes. Throughout each of the courses, there are blue orbs littered around to collect, as well as a purple diamond. Getting these will bump up your score quite a bit, especially the purple diamond. Additionally, the real curve ball mechanic are the power-ups that are attainable at each hole. These power-ups range from rocketing a ball forward, getting full control of where the ball rolls (within the momentum the ball has from the hit), stopping a ball in place, blasting items away from your ball, magnetizing the ball into the hole, etc. These really change the dynamic of the game and really help push the fast-paced flow of gameplay. Controls also help with the game’s flow, and are quite simple for anyone to grasp. You can turn the character with the left analog stick, and then control the power of the hit by pulling back on the right analog stick. You can control the power meter by slowly maneuvering the right analog stick from its centered position and all-the-way back, and vice versa. Any other buttons to use are highlighted on the game’s HUD. It’s simple and intuitive, making it accessible for anyone to play.

The game’s core mode is the Tournament mode. You go up against three AI opponents and compete to have the highest score by the end of the nine holes. There are four tournaments in each of the three locales, with three difficulties to work your way up through. However, the game’s highlight is by far its Course Editor mode. The Course Editor mode gives you an unprecedented amount of freedom creating the course that hits all the right notes. You can choose which of the locales you want to build a course on, then cycle through an abundant amount of pieces to put everything together. Straightaways, curves, spiral loops, upside-down loops, speed boosts, interactive pieces, power-ups, orbs, diamonds…the options are tremendous. You can choose the height of the course and even place objects on and off the course to further add life to the course. Now, it should be noted that there is no tutorial in place to learn the Course Editor. However, there’s nothing here that can’t be figured out by spending 10-20 minutes playing around with the tools provided. You can test out your course, and then go back to editing seamlessly, tweaking each element to your liking. Once done, you will have to test the course and finish it to validate that it’s ready for uploading. When all is said and done, you will then name your course and once uploaded, it will be available for all Infinite Minigolf players. So if you make a course on the Switch version, PS4, X1 and PC players will be able to play your course as well. This universal connection for user-created content is outstanding and removes any restrictions of trying courses that all Infinite Minigolf players create.

Infinite Minigolf gives you a range of characters to play as, each with their own personality. Each character reacts differently to how they sink the ball in the hole with unique winning poses and one-liners. However, you can also create your own character. As you win tournaments and also level up throughout the game, you will earn cards pertaining to each set of clothing and gear. You will use these cards to unlock the clothing and gear you’d like equipped for your custom character. Hairstyles, shirts, pants, belts, shoes, clubs and golf balls are all customizable. This method of unlocking content is a bit of a grind though since you get randomized cards for tournament wins. There are even challenges you can complete that will earn your gold coins, which can be used to buy a pack of cards. It’s almost like having currency, to buy currency, to then buy items. Thankfully, there are no micro-transactions for this, otherwise there would be some serious currency-ception.

When not playing solo, Infinite Minigolf features both local and online multiplayer with support for up to eight players. You can take turns passing the controller around or have multiple controllers connected (as much as the console supports). What is really neat is that there are a variety of modifiers to tweak for a match. You can choose to play with Classic minigolf rules, unlimited ball jumping, the number of strokes allowed for per course, etc. You can even make things really wild by changing the ball type as an egg, pyramid, puck, cube, and more! This really makes things interesting, and downright hysterical. When playing online, the game has lobby support. Simply open your friends list, send an invite and they’ll jump right into your lobby. Like local play, you can fully customize your matches (should you play a Private Match) or jump into a public match with others. What’s interesting is that unlike local’s turn-based play style, everyone here putts at the same time. Once sinking the ball in, you can watch the remaining players finish the course. If it’s a custom course, you can even rate the course while waiting. The simultaneous play makes things frenetic, but you can make it more so by turning on the ball collision modifier. The overall online experience was quite smooth, especially on Switch.

There are a few issues to be found in Infinite Minigolf. First off is the grind mentioned above when unlocking gear. Second, when controlling the power meter with the right analog stick, there seems to occasionally be a delay in the meter correlating with the control stick sensitivity. You can adjust the sensitivity in the game’s options, but it seemed to still have a split-second delay somewhat. It’s not game-breaking by any means, but could be just a tad smoother. Third (and this is entirely dependent on user-created courses), there are times when people will place speed boosts next to a ramp. However, if the ball doesn’t go up the ramp fully and rolls back down into the speed boost, it’ll never be enough power to get it up the ramp. This leads to the ball being stuck in limbo and leaving you at the mercy of the game, praying that the ball will move enough to eventually stop and let you putt again. There’s an option to skip the hole, and that seems to be the best solution, but you’re penalized with getting zero points for the course. Now this is more of an issue if it’s an online match, whereas a local match you could easily restart the hole. Fourth, on the Switch, there is no voice chat support at the moment. Here’s hoping Zen Studios provides voice chat support through the Nintendo Online app (despite its choppy start).

Visually, Infinite Minigolf is a very vibrant looking game, with clean texture work. Characters have smooth animations, as do the objects on course and the ball itself. As mentioned earlier, the environments themselves are very well done and are great to look at. The game runs at a locked 30 fps and never dips below that, which is nice. In terms of audio, there is a variety of sound effects. Whether you are using a power-up, simply hitting the ball, collision with the various objects…it’s all fitting for sure. The music also does a great job of capturing the environments you will be putting in, as does the main menu track. The odd thing though is that when creating courses, the music will play once, and then never repeat…just sound effects play at that point. This also seems to occur when playing online and waiting for the player(s) to finish, the song will not loop until you’re back in-game for the next course. It seems to be a glitch that could use some patching. Outside of that though, the audio is very catchy.

Infinite Minigolf is a great minigolf game that should not be overlooked. It’s highly accessible mechanics really make the game an easy to pick up-and-play game of putt-putt. There’s more than enough in-game content here to keep players busy for sure, but the in-depth Course Editor is the main highlight without question. Couple that with the ability to play and share courses that are accessible on all platforms and you really have “infinite minigolf”. Despite some gripes, Infinite Minigolf cannot be recommended enough (especially Switch owners since it’s perfect for on-the-go gaming). It was very difficult to put the game down. Even when taking a break, I wanted to keep returning to play a few more rounds and create more courses.

Overall Score: 8.5 out of 10 = BUY IT!

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Infinite Minigolf! 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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Overcooked: Special Edition Review (Switch) – “An Undercooked Disappointment”

Cooking games have garnered quite the fanbase over the years. Looking back to games like Cooking Mama or Ordered Up, to the now plethora of cooking games available on mobile devices, there’s no shortage in this genre. However, there is something that those games don’t have, multiplayer. The team over at Ghost Town Games have created a cooking game that pushes the concept of co-op play (and competitive), and has been a hit on PC, PS4 and X1. Now the game has reached the Nintendo Switch, but is it the version to get, or is this one dish that would make Chef Ramsey shut it down?

Overcooked’s gameplay has a simple concept: cook the food items customers are requesting. As you scramble through the various kitchens, you will have to fry, boil, grill, chop and plate your items. The game’s story is interesting, as you start off by cooking during the apocalypse and this serves (pun intended) as the tutorial. Afterwards, you are sent back in time (to the year 1993) to improve your cooking skills. It is here where you go mission-to-mission trying to get your bearing as a cook. You always have a partner in the kitchen, whether you play local co-op between 2-4 players, or solo with a partner-switching mechanic. The game’s controls are easy to grasp, with only a few buttons to remember: pickup/drop item, action (chop, clean, etc), dash, and partner-switching (only when playing solo). The Joy-Cons can be separated and used as a single controller, helping push the co-op nature of the game. The HD Rumble also works superbly here, enhancing the cooking experience with clever integration.

Overcooked: Special Edition not only contains the core game, but also two DLC campaigns to tackle (best experienced after beating the main campaign). If co-op isn’t your thing, you can also versus your friends in the kitchen and see who the best cook is. If playing online is your thing though, that’s not an option here. Understandably though, this is a game that works significantly better as a local multiplayer game than it would if there was online multiplayer.

Overcooked is a game that is meant to be easily accessible to players, but nabbing three-star ratings on each mission will require the communication skills of a head chef. In other words, you must communicate with your teammates to truly excel. Each environment is designed to take advantage of the co-op design. One character cannot do everything in the kitchen, otherwise not enough dishes will get sent out to hungry customers. Communication is key, as is precision. The kitchen tables are grid-based, so placing items down will snap to the direction you’re facing. When cooking items, you will have to pay close attention to their completion meter, as once that is done, you only have a 5-10 seconds to get it off the grill/pan before it goes on fire. At first this seems like ample time, but later levels make you feel the time pressure. Should things set ablaze, you will have to use the fire extinguisher to quickly put out the fire before it spreads throughout the kitchen. It’s chaotic for sure, but that’s part of the “fun”. I use the term lightly because that’s the thing, the game can be “fun”…if it weren’t for its performance.

Unfortunately, the game runs very poorly. While the other console ports and PC version run at a steady framerate, the Switch version performs at a disappointing 20+ frames per second. In a game about precision, this is inexcusable and makes playing the game more of an exercise in frustration. The constant framerate issues really hurt the overall experience. Whether playing docked or undocked, the framerate issues are more than present. The visual appearance and art style itself is simple, but certainly colorful and easy on the eyes. Nothing jaw-dropping, but an endearing looking game nonetheless. The various locales all have a unique setting and are well-designed, whether it be a restaurant, pirate ship, icy lake, or food trucks on a highway. In terms of audio, the sound effects all capture the sounds of being in a cooking kitchen. The chopping on the board, the grilling, boiling, and other key sounds really do a great job. The soundtrack is appropriate and hits the right notes for cooking, but is does get repetitive quick.

Overcooked Special Edition is a game that should’ve been a great fit for the Switch. It’s a shame because the core gameplay mechanics are solid and it seems like there’s a fun time to be had here. Unfortunately though, the poor framerate, and inconsistent controls due to frame drops, make this game a chore to play. This is one dish that is fairly undercooked…

Overall Score: 6.0 out of 10 = Wait for a price drop…

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Overcooked: Special Edition! 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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Vaccine Review (Switch) – “Survival Horror like it’s 1997”


In the 90s, gamers were treated with a very welcome new genre in gaming, survival horror. While Alone in the Dark is theoretically the original 3D survival horror game, it was Capcom’s Resident Evil that truly garnered praise and popularity. Over the last two decades, the genre has changed immensely, trying to find immersive new ways to terrify players. However, fans of 90s horror games miss their fixed-camera angles and tank-style controls. Rainy Frog Games has created a survival horror nostalgic throwback to yesteryear, Vaccine. Is this 90s style survival horror game worth the trip back in time?

Vaccine takes place in a constantly changing, procedurally generated mansion. You will choose one of two operatives: Miguel G.P. or Rita O’Connor, both of which look like HUNK from Resident Evil. Upon starting, you are given a very brief plot that your friend is infected and you will need to find the vaccine to administer to them. You have 30 minutes to do this. As you scour the mansion, zombies and other deadly creatures are ready to rip you apart. You have no weapons on-hand, and must find any weapons in the environment to defend yourself with. There’s always a knife to pick up in the starting room, but firearms will be essential to your survival.

As mentioned earlier, tank controls are in full effect. You move forward holding up, backwards holding back, and turning left and right. You must aim your weapon holding one of the shoulder buttons, then pressing the action button to attack. You can aim up and down as well. It’s literally the same control scheme as the very first RE game. However, the movement controls do feel a bit floaty compared to RE’s tighter control.

The game brings some unique ideas to the table that changes the formula up a bit. For starters, the game is procedurally generated (as mentioned earlier). This leads to every single playthrough being an entirely different layout. Whether it’s the rooms connected in the mansion, the enemy placement, or items, no run will ever be the same. Next is the fact that you’re always on a time limit. In your first playthrough, you have 30 minutes. If you succeed, you will repeat the process (in a new layout) with only 20 minutes. Complete it a second time in a row, and you will then have only 10 minutes. Should you beat it three times in a row, the timer will diminish by 30 seconds each successful playthrough. If you die at any run, or run out of time, it’s game over and back to the very beginning. There are no checkpoints or save points.

Also unique is the XP system. For a game of this nature, it’s different to see that your character can upgrade their attributes in one of five areas: Determination, Stamina, Health, Aiming and Luck. Determination helps make picking up items, opening doors and reloading faster. Stamina lets you sprint for an extended period of time. Aiming increases the damage inflicted on enemies. Health increases your defense. And lastly, Luck increases your chances at better items appearing in each room. Each trait can upgrade to level 10 as the max. Every time you attack an enemy or open a door, you get XP. It doesn’t take very long to max out your stats…as long as you can stay alive.

Now the game is initially viewed as an endless survival game, where you keep repeating the scenario over and over. However, if players actually read the files left throughout the mansion, the story unfolds a bit. It’s through here where you realize there’s a deeper objective hidden in the game, rather than just always finding the vaccine and repeating the process. So yes, there is an ending to attain. However, the more you repeat the process, the higher your rank will get, which certainly helps the replay value. Even after beating the game and acquiring the “true” ending, I found myself coming back to better my records and see how far I could go up in rank.

Vaccine is certainly an homage to 90s survival horror, but the game does have some issues. First off, the character controls are a bit floaty and never really felt tight. It takes some getting used to, especially when the original RE’s had tighter character control. The next thing is that it can be a bit difficult to see items in rooms. They can occasionally shine a bit. Unfortunately, there are times the items are far away from the camera, making them minuscule on-screen. The camera also can lead to having a hard time distinguishing how far an enemy is from you (more specifically when having to knife them). You can aim up and down, but there’s no difference in damage dealt. Also, while I understand why there’s no map system in place, a map would’ve been great to have. There is also a puzzle in the game that starts off simple, but as you progress further, becomes a complete guessing game. The menu system can also be a bit confusing due to the actual highlighting of items being barely visible. Lastly, there are some grammatical errors in the game’s dialogue.

Vaccine is such a throwback, that it visually replicates the 32-bit era. While many will find the game “ugly”, it does a great job of showcasing the polygon nature of the visuals. Character models are blocky and jagged…and that’s how it was in that era. Even the font is jaggy. Animations on the other hand could be better and are quite jerky, even by 32-bit standards. It does runs at 60 fps most of the time. However, when playing in handheld mode, there were instances when multiple enemies in a room caused the frame rate to drop, as well as rooms with a fireplace. Playing on TV mode, the framerate dips were less evident. Audio wise, Vaccine has a great, haunting score that really lends to the experience. Audio effects for guns are powerful and knife stabs sound effective. There’s no voice acting, but there’s someone who announces the game’s title once you choose a character. Certainly a nice nod to Resident Evil or Alone in the Dark.

Vaccine is without question, a love letter to 90s survival horror, and that can’t be stressed enough. It’s not the lengthiest game, nor is it a very deep game. Yet despite the gripes I mentioned, what is here for the mere $10 asking price is quite enjoyable once you get past the learning curve. I found myself really enjoying the game the more I kept sticking with it. It’s certainly a niche game for a niche market…and that’s more than fine. It just needed a bit more polish before heading out the door.

Overall Score: 6.5 out of 10 = “Entertaining, but needs refinement/polish”

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

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

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

Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas Review (Switch) – “A Link to the Wind Waker”

There’s no denying the impact that The Legend of Zelda has made in the video game industry. The sense of exploration, discovery, adventure, action…it all culminated in providing a rich gaming experience. Since that series’ conception, many others have tried to replicate that style of gameplay with their own twists. FDG Entertainment and developer Cornfox & Bros have done this with their new IP, Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas. Is this Zelda imitator a journey worth setting sail for?

Oceanhorn is an isometric, action-adventure title that replicates the older Zelda style games. You control a boy, whose father goes missing on an adventure out at sea. It’s not soon after where you set forth on your journey to find him, and go after the monster of the seas, Oceanhorn. When starting the game, you will not have a weapon off the bat. You explore the home island, speaking with the townspeople and reading tutorial signs to help get you acclimated. You start by fending off enemies by throwing objects off the ground at them, until you finally acquire your trusty sword very shortly in.

If you’ve played a Zelda title, you will feel right at home with combat. You can simply slash at enemies with the Y button, and can block with your shield holding ZR. Weapons will not break, but you do have to watch your stamina bar. Blocking attacks will deplete this, which will certainly leave you vulnerable when fully depleted. Also, you can do a charged spin attack by holding down the attack button (which also uses some stamina). As you progress, you will get additional items/weapons such as a bow, bombs, magic, etc. These can be used to fend off enemies, as well as solve puzzles scattered through all the lands. Puzzles play a pivotal element in exploring these islands. There are just the right amount of hints in the environment to assist in these. There will also be boss battles that await. These battles each take advantage of specific items you earn in the area, while also providing a fair challenge.

When exploring the game’s fairly vast world, you will set sail between all the islands. Initially, there are not many locations to access. However, as you speak to NPCs and progress through the story, more islands will appear on the map for you to set sail to. Setting sail to these islands is a matter of simply clicking on the island of your choice when you are on your boat. The game will switch into a third-person view, with you being able to see all of what is ahead of you. You will use your Pumpkin Gun to fire away at any enemies and bombs that appear on your sail path, as well as crates that contain coins to earn. Sailing is handled automatically so you only need to focus on your surroundings. Given the fact that you won’t control the boat yourself, this automatic sailing is handled very well. Even when on course to an island, you can simply change course to a different island mid-sail, and the boat will quickly reroute to your new location.

As you fend off enemies, you will earn gems for XP. Earning enough XP will allow you to level up and acquire a new trait. These can range from holding more arrows and bombs, using less mana for magic, faster sailing, etc. More interestingly are the Challenges implemented for each island. When arriving on an island, you will be introduced to the name of the island when docking, as well as three challenges pertaining to that island. The challenges may occasionally be story-related, while others require certain stipulations to be completed. These may require you to swim a certain distance, use certain objects to kill “x” amount of enemies, etc. Completing these will net you a huge chunk of XP. Thankfully, leveling up never felt like a grind by any means, nor did it negatively affect progressing through the game at all.

Oceanhorn does have a few gripes that are worth mentioning. First, and foremost, the game was originally a mobile title, and it shows a bit here. While the conversion to console is incredibly well done, the game’s menu system feels catered more to a touch-screen than a physical controller. Thankfully, you can quickly select items using the D-Pad in real-time. There’s a map on the corner of the screen showing a segment of the surrounding area, but unfortunately you cannot view a map of the entire island or cave. Also, there are times where certain quests require you to carry an item, but require backtracking at a slower pace due to actually holding the item. While theoretically that’s more realistic than pocketing a bucket of fire (for example), it does make for a slightly tedious process. The dash button is also the same as the interact button, and there were times I wanted to dash but instead ended up picking up an item, talking to someone or opening a door. Given that console controllers have the extra buttons, it would’ve been better suited to map the dash button separate from the interact button. Lastly, there is no HD Rumble support here. All-in-all though, these gripes are far from game breaking and are just minor nuisances.

Visually, Oceanhorn is an immensely nice looking game. The world is incredibly vibrant and vivid, with great art style and nice texture work. Animations are solid for the most part, but it does show its limitations derived from the mobile hardware it was built for originally. I cannot stress enough though how smooth the game runs. Native 1080p and a rock-solid 60 fps really make this game pop on-screen. The lush greens and beautiful waters you will be venturing through really are eye-candy. Even when playing in 720p undocked, it looks terrific and still maintains the locked 60 fps. While the character models up close (during cutscenes) may not be the most detailed aspect, they’re still more than fine during gameplay. Audio wise, Oceanhorn has an adventurous, orchestrated score done by composers Kenji Ito (Secret of Mana series) and Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy series). The tunes here definitely do a great job capturing the game’s setting and tone, with the final boss song being the best of the bunch. Whether exploring the town of Tikarel, or the aquatic Gillfolk’s Drop, each composition fits the game superbly. Sound effects are also well done and hit all the right notes, whether attacking with a sword, exploding bombs, defeating enemies, or collecting items. There’s even voice acting during cutscenes that is pretty solid.

Oceanhorn may be a heavily-inspired Zelda clone, but that’s not a bad thing when executed correctly. The overall package found here is very well polished, with great visuals, interesting lore, superb audio, and addictive gameplay. For only $14.99, there’s plenty of content here to keep you engaged. Oceanhorn effectively works with the classic Zelda style gameplay, taking nods from “A Link to the Past” and “Wind Waker”. They say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, and it clearly shows here. Fans of adventure games should not hesitate to pick this title up for their Switch collection.

Overall Score: 8.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas! Copy reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

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

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

Story: 4/5

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

Gameplay: 5/5

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

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

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

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

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

Graphics: 5/5

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

Sound: 4/5

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

Overall Score: 18/20 = 9.0 out of 10

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

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

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

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

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