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.

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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.

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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.

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review (PS4/PS3/360/X1/WiiU): “Losing some of its webbing”

ASM2_Spider-Man

“With great power comes great responsibility”, or in this case, with a new movie comes a new game. Activision and developer Beenox had released a movie tie-in release for the Amazing Spider-Man back in 2012, which not only was a great movie-based game, but a great game in itself. With the sequel to Amazing Spider-Man now in theaters, Beenox put out a sequel to their predecessor, aiming to improve on various elements. Is this installment worth swinging a web at or should your spider-sense be warning you to avoid it?

Story: 3/5

Taking place after the events of the first Amazing Spider-Man game, regarding the cross-species incident, we find Peter Parker reliving his past and witnessing his Uncle Ben’s death. It’s from this point where we fast forward to present day and Peter is trying to make amends for his uncle’s death by tracking down the killer as his priority. Throughout the story, Peter will soon find out that there’s more going on that’s connected to Uncle Ben’s death. Peter will face his greatest threat yet as he comes across Wilson Fisk (aka “The Kingpin)”, Green Goblin, Electro, Shocker, Kraven, Black Cat and Carnage. The story is pretty solid and engaging enough to keep you interested. However, there are times where cutscenes feel rushed, showing Spider-Man in one location and transitioning to gameplay completely elsewhere. There are also moments where you’ll be given dialogue options to choose what Spider-Man can say during cutscenes. Unfortunately, this doesn’t have any alternate effect on the storyline. Ultimately, while the story wasn’t as strong as its predecessor’s, what’s here is still fun, especially for Spider-Man fans to see the villains in place. Oh, and be sure to watch the cutscene after the end credits of the game (much like the Marvel films themselves).

ASM2-PeterParker

Gameplay: 3/5

When playing as Spider-Man, one loves to have the feel of what it would be like to web swing through New York City. The first Amazing Spider-Man game was Beenox’s first attempt at bringing the open-world aspect in and did a great job of doing it. In this sequel, Beenox wanted to bring out a more fleshed out, lively city. Additionally, the main core mechanics they aimed to touch on was the web swinging. In the predecessor, Spidey would stick his webs to anything in the air, no matter where he was. In the sequel, you use the L2 and R2 buttons to swing with the left and right hands respectively as the webs attach to the buildings now. He can even swing faster holding down both the L2 and R2 buttons together once latching a web onto a building. Physics-wise, this changes the swinging mechanic a good amount and actually feels reminiscent to Treyarch’s Spider-Man 2 back in 2003. There’s even a neat slingshot move where Spidey can attach webs between buildings and pull himself back to launch through the city. The web rush mechanic is still in place and has been refined a bit, allowing for a smoother flow and momentum by hold up on the analog stick. The issue with this new web swinging mechanic is that you’ll find yourself swinging into building corners that stick out and you’ll get stuck transitioning to a crawling animation. This tends to get frustrating when Spidey has a bomb he needs to toss in the river and time is of the essence.

ASM2_WallSlinging

Additional in this installment is the Hero or Menace feature. Now there will be a variety of side-missions that appears on the map where civilians or cops are in need of assistance. Choosing to save them will increase your “heroic” meter, with the press and civilians standing up for Spider-Man in the streets. Ignoring the missions over a period of time will decrease your hero meter and continuing to do so will progressively shift over to the “menace” side of the meter. At this point, civilians will trash talk Spider-Man, the Daily Bugle will badger Spidey and the task force around the city will be on you like white-on-rice trying to dispose of you. Beenox also focused on an increase in suits you can switch between. Each suit contains specific traits that pertain to various scenarios, whether it be for defensive purposes, stronger attacks or better stealth. The more you use a suit, the more it will level up (can reach up to level 10 as the max). Also, depending on your hero or menace rank, the attributes will either increase or decrease respectively. This time around, Spider-Man has a health bar again (as opposed to the no HUD, flashing red screen warning you of death). However, to regenerate health, you’ll hold down on the D-Pad and he’ll patch himself up with webbing within 3-5 seconds. Careful though, as enemies will find this opportunity to gang up on you.

Throughout the game’s 14 story missions, Spidey will mix up missions between outdoors and indoors. The first game focused more on indoor locations but this installment tries to flesh out the environment a bit more. Like the predecessor, the game blends a variety of protection, combat and stealth mechanics, while also throwing in a slew of boss battles. Boss battles were a highlight in the first game, in particular with the mammoth-sized mechs or flying mechs that terrorized the city. In this one, epic scale boss battles are completely removed unfortunately and we’re left with more “traditional” battles. Each boss fight tries to change up the method/strategy of approaching it, whether it be trying to sneak up on Black Cat, tricking Kingpin into stunning himself, or webbing Electro so that you can safely attack him. The bosses are pretty well done for what they are, but rarely had a “wow” factor like its predecessor.

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Combat and stealth have been tinkered with a bit as well. Combat is built upon the rhythm formula found in the predecessor that’s akin to the Batman Arkham series. However, it feels like the combat isn’t as polished as it was originally. Dodging multiple attacks is frustrating as you have less than a split-second to dodge those, as opposed to single attacks giving you about half-a-second to react. Also, pulling off signature moves seems less common to do than the predecessor, leaving you pummeling an enemy a bit longer than necessary. Webbing takes more of the front seat now with Ionic Webs and Seismic Blast. Ionic Webs deteriorate heavy armor and metal brittle enough to break, while Seismic Blast lets you charge up your webs and blast people back. Stealth has been tinkered a bit, where you can now rappel from ledges and do a stealth takedown from a distance without enemies noticing as quickly. Enemies will notice if a comrade is webbed on the ground, which can lead to you going in for another takedown as well. Also, Spider-Sense has been enhanced this time around. Now, Spider-Man can see the visibility angle (with the proper upgrade) of an enemy on patrol, as well as highlights all items and objects in an environment.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 has a good amount to do upon completing the story (which takes roughly 4-6 hours). There are races you can take on in the city, photos to be taken, 300 comic book pages to be found, hideouts to sneak into and acquire new suits, and an endless amount of crime to stop. You can even revisit all the missions to go back and find audio logs, or just replay them for fun. Then there’s also the fact that you can replay missions with alternate suits to level those up. You will even play certain segments as Peter Parker himself, which is a nice touch. The game’s pacing felt a bit off though, with the first half of missions being nothing more than “ok”, and then the second half consisting of building on the villains and facing off against each one at the end of a chapter. When it reaches this point, it feels like the enemies are rushed into the story to make an appearance, face off against them and move on. Overall, the gameplay is still solid and enjoyable, but couldn’t help but feel like it was less polished than its predecessor.

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Graphics: 3/5

There’s no question that the team over at Beenox has shown off some impressive visuals throughout their history of handling Spider-Man titles. It’s unfortunate to say though that this installment was barely touched-up for the next-gen platforms. Reviewed on the PS4, the visuals looked exactly the same as its predecessor on the PS3 in 2012. The only difference in the next-gen version is that instead of running at 720p, it runs at 1080p (which is nice). However, aside from that, the visuals were still a bit uneven. Spider-Man himself, as well as all the main villains, are very well detailed (especially Spider-Man who appears very photorealistic). On the flipside, NPCs in the environment look very dated and lack any of the fine details, making conversations between NPCs and Spider-Man look…well, like Spider-Man is from another console generation. Also, textures in the environment tended to load up during action on-screen or during cutscenes. Spider-Man’s animations were mostly fluid and detailed (even when web swinging alongside a building and he runs along it while still in mid-swing) but during cutscenes, some of his movements seemed wonky and awkward. One of the cutscenes early on made me think Spider-Man was the “UPS Guy” from MadTV back in the day (90s reference), just constantly moving around and flailing his arms around while talking.

Hiccups aside, the game’s frame rate ran at 30 fps without issue and occasionally hit a higher rate during indoor scenes. Also, the city has been redesigned to be properly scaled and given more “life”. Buildings are more detailed and less blocky, while there are more cars on the streets as you swing by. However, the draw distance isn’t very strong and objects tend to fade in at a viewable range. The visuals are mixed overall, some things look quite good, with the city more detailed and Spider-Man himself looking impressive, while oddity issues arise that hurt it. It doesn’t help that for the PS4 version of the game, it barely improved the performance of the issues.

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Sound: 3/5

Spider-Man games have genuinely had some strong audio, whether it be the soundtrack, sound effects and voice acting. In terms of voice acting, Sam Riegel returns to reprise his role as Spider-Man and does a great job much like he did in the first game. All the other characters are also brought to life from a mostly solid voice cast. Sound effects are also quite strong, with webbing sounding precisely as it should, combat sounding effective and the ambiance of the city (in particular when swinging at street level with the cars) drawing you into the experience. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is the weakest element here. The music found in the game (aside from maybe one or two tracks) is completely unmemorable. Unlike the first game which had catchy and memorable tracks to swing around the city to, this one’s soundtrack was on the verge of me having to breakdown and use a custom soundtrack. It’s unfortunate because I always look forward to a game’s soundtrack (especially Spider-Man games) and this one was just very underwhelming. Thankfully, the sound effects and voice acting are what redeemed the audio overall.

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Overall Score: 12/20 = 6.0 out of 10

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is far from a bad game, but as a sequel to a great game, it’s nowhere near as impressive as its predecessor. Visuals are a mixed bag, the story (while interesting) feels like it cuts corners a bit, the soundtrack is underwhelming and the mechanics aren’t as polished as they should be. The enhanced swinging mechanic is certainly a highlight here, but it feels like that was the only main element they focused on improving. What is here is still an enjoyable experience for Spider-Man fans, but it’s less imaginative and inventive than the first game.

Pros:

+ Swinging through the city is a lot of fun
+ The roster of villains is solid
+ Some boss fights are pretty cool
+ Story is decent
+ Great voice acting and sound effect

Cons:

– Combat mechanics feel less polished
– Most boss battles lack “wow” factor
– Soundtrack is very unmemorable
– Visuals are completely mixed

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for The Amazing Spider-Man 2! Copy reviewed on PlayStation 4.

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Call of Duty: Ghosts Review (PS4 / Xbox One / PS3 / Xbox 360 / Wii U / PC): “Not Giving Up the Ghost Yet”

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Call of Duty: Ghosts marks the second generation leap in the series’ history, making expectations for the newest iteration even higher than usual. Ghosts was released for the 7th generation consoles ahead of the next-gen versions, with the PS4 version now out and the Xbox One version serving as a launch title. Ghosts takes a trip back to Infinity Ward’s more current-day time period seen in the Modern Warfare series, but with a major twist: playing the losing side. Being a Call of Duty title, a high-budget campaign experience, riveting and addictive competitive multiplayer, and a co-op mode are assumed to be the standard fare. But is Call of Duty: Ghosts an exceptional entry in the series, or just a ghost of its former self?

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Story: 3/5 

The first step to answering that question would be to tackle the game’s single-player campaign mode. Despite its title, Call of Duty: Ghosts has nothing to do with Modern Warfare 2’s Simon “Ghost” Riley or its storyline; instead, Ghosts takes place in an alternate timeline in a similar time period as the Modern Warfare series. The campaign starts out with the Walker family, consisting of Logan (you), his brother David “Hesh” Walker, and their father Elias taking some R&R on the San Diego coast. A series of tremors cause the Walker family to head back home; however, to their horror, they find the streets and homes along the way being torn apart, with the pavement being shifted into rough crags and homes being tossed about like toys. A quick flashback to 15 minutes prior shows that an earthquake wasn’t the cause of the destruction, but rather a hostile takeover of the U.S.’s ODIN Satellite, loaded with deadly tungsten rods designed to level any threat on the ground on a massive scale. A couple of NASA-trained American soldiers are able to call off the attack and destroy the ODIN, but not before several major American cities are utterly destroyed. Back on the ground, Logan and Hesh link back up with Elias and evacuate the town on a truck, but not before seeing the results of the ODIN strike below, leaving several gigantic craters in the ground.

From here, the game skips forward 10 years and involves America’s war with the South American Federation, a coalition of countries responsible for the ODIN attack. American is battered and broken, but not beaten, as you and Hesh work with Elias to commence surgical strikes against the Federation forces occupying the U.S. You’re joined by your Army-trained German Shepard, Riley (likely a homage to Ghost himself), and through a series of circumstances and missions gone sideways, meet up with the titular Ghosts themselves; a cadre of elite, special-forces-trained soldiers, and work to take your place amongst them.

While Ghosts’ story certainly sets a good enough stage within the first 30 minutes of play, there really isn’t the personal connection that was present in previous titles, like Black Ops 2. Raul Menendez is a constant thorn in your side, and makes it clear he has a personal vendetta with the Masons and Frank Woods. His followers play mostly a supporting role; the whole time, your mission is to take Menendez down. That sort of connection is lacking in Ghosts. For the majority of the game, you’ll find yourself facing a faceless enemy in the Federation, pulling off surgical strikes that seemingly lack any sort of overarching goal or reason; it’s just taking what you can, where you can. While this certainly fits the scenario of the game – placing players in the losing position from the get-go – it really has a negative impact on the game’s story and makes it hard to care about the missions you’re carrying out. It’s also jarring that the story simply skips forward 10 years after the first level, with you and Hesh suddenly committing surgical strikes against the Federation occupation forces, along with your dog Riley in tow; it’s all very sudden. When did Logan and Hesh join up? Where did Riley come from? These are simply questions you’ll have to leave on the back burner.

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Call of Duty finally makes its way to space.

Character development is another mixed bag with Ghosts. The Walker brothers – yourself and Hesh – have a constant and unbreakable bond throughout the game, and this really does come through a lot of the time. Whatever happens, you can count on Hesh being there to support you. The father, Elias, is another story – while he talks about his pride in his sons and how much he cares about their training and development, he comes off as a rather cold character in spite of what he tells his sons. It feels odd to have Hesh refer to Elias by rank one minute, then segue immediately to calling him “Dad” when there isn’t any warmth to warrant it. Then there are the Ghosts themselves, Merrick and Keegan being your most constant companions. Early on in the story, they come off as condescending and superior, basically telling you that you can tag along if you do “what I say, when I say it”. Over time, however, they learn to respect you and Hesh, until an eventual camaraderie builds. Other than their titles, however, I didn’t feel particularly moved or awed by their skills or behavior. Ghosts are near-legendary in the game’s universe, but to me, they felt like just any other soldier you’d find in a Call of Duty game. Perhaps that speaks to the strengths of the series’ characters, but I expected a little bit more from them.

The linchpin that brings the squad together is, without a doubt, your dog Riley. You learn to work with him very early on, and he proves an invaluable ally throughout the campaign. More than just an extra soldier in the squad though, it’s clear that he shares an extremely personal bond with you and Hesh. Logan is there with a quick pat on the head for a job well done, and Riley returns this affection by remaining faithful and loyal to you and your squad, ready to attack anyone who poses a threat. Riley’s welfare was constantly in the back of my mind, even when we were separated between missions, and when Riley was in danger, I found myself getting increasingly anxious, even being pushed to anger against his attackers whenever he got wounded. I even found myself emptying entire magazines into his attackers, more than enough to put them down, after Riley was attacked. It really speaks volumes about Riley’s design and integration into the story when you can say that he has a profound emotional reaction on you, and without him, Ghosts would have been a vastly different and shallower experience.

Of course, no modern Call of Duty game would be complete without a face for your enemy, and Ghosts has one in Gabriel Rorke. A former Ghost himself, he now finds himself working with the Federation, and a big part of the story involves you trying to find out why. I know I mentioned before that the Federation is a faceless enemy, and that still holds true – while it’s clear Rorke is meant to be the big bad of the story, he’s not really around enough to reinforce this fact. After encountering him early in the story, you spend a good half of it trying to track him down, and he really doesn’t take a personal stake in the campaign until later, towards the end. Most of the time before this is fighting hordes of nameless, uninteresting Federation soldiers. When he does appear, though, he makes for a stellar antagonist. He’s voiced extremely well, has all the snide confidence of an enemy who always thinks he has one over you, and knows exactly where to hurt his victims the most. If the story had involved him more, it would have made for a more accurate depiction of the situation you find yourself in, with the Federation working for him, not the other way around.

Overall, the game’s story comes up a bit short compared to games of Call of Duty’s past. It starts off sufficiently, and ramps up towards the end, but there’s a large swath of the middle of the campaign that will be an absolute drag, making missions feel hollow and pointless without a gripping story to motivate you. There’s also just too many questions left unanswered.  The campaign should take around 5-6 hours to complete on normal difficulty, making the story small enough to digest while still having some depth to it, but those of us used to the blockbuster thrill rides of Black Ops I & II and Modern Warfare 3 may feel a bit cheated this time around.

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Underwater too.

Gameplay: 4/5 

At this stage of the game – no pun intended – most of us know what to expect from a Call of Duty game. The mechanics have remained largely the same from year to year, and most could say that the series is afraid to take risks, but the mantra Infinity Ward and Treyarch seem to embrace is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Yet again, this stance seems to have been mostly successful in Call of Duty: Ghosts.

Solid, fast-paced gunplay is at the center of the Ghosts experience, as it has been in all Call of Duty games. Aiming down your sights and taking shots at enemies downrange is extremely fast-paced and responsive. Infinity Ward have replaced the “dolphin dive” mechanic – sprinting to prone – with a new sliding maneuver, where your character will slide for a few meters into a crouched position if you go prone while sprinting, or straight to prone if you hold the button down. This feels like a nice change, and makes dashing into cover much easier than in games past. It’s also now possible to lean around corners when aiming down your sights. A yellow arrow will show up on your crosshairs when this is possible. Infinity Ward have expanded our options a bit in terms of weapon variety, now introducing a new weapon category, Marksman Rifles. These weapons aren’t totally new to the series, as many long-range single-shot assault rifles and semi-automatic sniper rifles (such as the M23 EBR) have been present in games before. However, they now get their own category, and perform largely similar to each other, bridging the gap between the balanced performance of Assault Rifles and the long-range per-shot killing power of Sniper Rifles. Each come fitted with a scope and usually fire semi-auto, but other options exist. Players will also find that many weapons feature unique qualities built into the gun, like the Honey Badger’s integrated silencer or the bolt-action Sniper Rifles’ recoil compensators, which reduce kick after each kill.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes to the Multiplayer formula this year is Infinity Ward’s take on the Pick-10 system. However, rather than letting you spend points on every piece of gear and perk in your loadout, players have access to a primary weapon with two attachments, a secondary with a single attachment, a lethal grenade, and a tactical device for free, along with 8 “perk points” by default. This makes sense, as the game is extremely perk-focused this time around – there are 35 to choose from in all, from 7 unique categories. Some are returning favorites, others are weapon attachments seen in Black Ops 2 in perk form, while yet others provide completely new benefits, such as providing extra lethal or tactical grenades or providing a random extra perk at spawn. Each of these perks has a point cost in line with their power, and players can earn extra perk points by removing a secondary weapon, lethal, and/or tactical grenades from their loadout. This new system is an interesting take on the now tried-and-true Pick-10, but it can’t help but feel a little overwhelming at first. 35 perks in all is a lot to choose from, and using squad points – the new unlocking currency present in Ghosts – can feel risky when you’re not sure where to go first. Luckily, the game gives you a strong head-start by letting you pick a pre-set package when you first create a soldier. Whether it’s a weapon-focused Assault or Rush build, a stealthy silencer build, or a long-range Marksman Rifle package that you pick, the game will start you off with a weapon, two attachments, a secondary, lethals and tactical devices, and a selection of perks to compliment the playstyle you choose.

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The game’s new-found complexity really comes through when considering that weapons are no longer unlocked as you rank up anymore; squad points need to be spent to unlock them, but on the plus side, you can unlock them in any order you like, with some weapons costing more than others. You can also elect to use squad points to unlock perks early, otherwise a new one will be unlocked every other level or so. Finally, these squad points can be used to unlock additional members of your Squad – more on this below.  It’s definitely a less accessible system than Pick-10 was, but with some practice, players can come up with interesting loadout choices that make use of a variety of perks and equipment choices. Squad Points are also awarded at a more rapid clip than Black Ops 2’s unlock tokens, given that there are a variety of ways to earn them, including ranking up, completing assignments, and achieving field orders. In this way, it doesn’t hurt so much to drop 6 points into unlocking a new weapon to try when you can easily earn them back in just a couple of games.

Ghosts brings back the “Strike Package” feature present in Modern Warfare 3, allowing players to choose from an Assault or Support strike chain of killstreaks, or the Specialist package to earn more perks as they achieve more kills. Thankfully, taking an objective counts towards earning killstreak rewards, as with Modern Warfare 3’s Hardline Pro perk, but now available to everyone in the baseline. This was a huge plus for me in Black Ops 2; making killstreaks based on score, not number of kills, encouraged more objective play, and bringing this sort of reward system into what was already present in Modern Warfare 3 helped to keep this team-based feel intact. As in Infinity Ward’s last game, Assault streaks are designed to kill or hamper your enemies, while Support streaks are meant to support and strengthen your own team. Newer players who don’t feel confident in their skills may want to stick to the Support streaks at first, since your progress up the strike chain doesn’t reset on death. There are fewer lethal options in Support this time around, though, so players will want to commit to a team-player mindset when choosing this strike chain.

Speaking of strike chains, two very large changes have made their way into Ghosts. First, the fan-favorite  UAV has been replaced by a killstreak called the SAT COM. Rather than launching them in the sky, SAT COMS are placed on the ground, and function a bit differently from their last-gen cousins. SAT COMs provide stronger and better effects the more that are simultaneously deployed on the field at once. With one SAT COM up, enemies will only appear on your team’s mini-map when within line-of-sight of a teammate. With two, your team gets the traditional sweeping UAV scan. With three out at once, the sweeps occur more frequently. Finally, if you can manage to deploy four SAT COMs at once,  the sweeps will occur extremely quickly, and enemies’ directions will be displayed on the map as well. They still last for a limited time like UAVs, so it’s now extremely important to communicate with your team and ensure you’re getting the biggest benefit from your SAT COMs. Additionally, you’ll find that the Care Package is no longer a selectable killstreak; these are instead earned by a new gameplay mechanic called Field Orders. Enemies will sometimes drop light blue briefcases when they die; pick these Field Orders up, and you’ll be given a challenge to complete, such as getting a kill while prone or killing someone from behind, before dying. Achieve this, and you’ll be rewarded with a care package drop marker and a squad point. Fail, and your briefcase drops for anyone else to pick up. It’s an interesting mechanic that adds a new level of complexity to the meta-game.

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Squads mode puts up to 10 AI teammates at your command.

The traditional multiplayer modes – Deathmatch, Demolition, Capture the Flag, etc. – are all present here in Ghosts, along with a few new ones. Cranked is an exciting and fast-paced Deathmatch variant where killing the lead player will earn you multiple speed benefits, like moving and reloading faster, but also start a countdown timer. Keep getting kills to keep this clock alive, but if it hits zero, you explode. Search and Rescue is like Search and Destroy, but players drop dog tags on death. Pick up a teammate’s tags, and they respawn. Pick up an enemy’s tags, and they’re out for the round. Blitz takes the concept of American Football and adapts it for an FPS – a zone activates on each team’s side, and your team needs to reach these zones before the enemy do to score a point. There are many others, including Grind, Hunted, and Infected, and the sheer number of game modes available provides a large variety of game types to play. However, the biggest, and most interesting (in my opinion), addition to Multiplayer in Ghosts is the all-new Squads mode. Players can assemble a squad of up to 10 unique soldiers, customize their appearance and outfit them however they see fit, then go into battle alongside them against other players’ squads in all of the core game types. Each squadmate unlocks gear and ranks up separately, though unlocking and outfitting your squadmates takes from your shared pool of squad points, so it’ll take some time to unlock everything you’ll need for your entire squad. However, once you’ve loaded up your squad to your exact specifications and take them into battle, it’s extremely satisfying to watch them play intelligently with the gear you’ve given them. Assault Rifle characters will play the midfield; SMG and shotgun-toting squadmates will rush into the thick of battle; characters with silenced weapons will try to flank and out-maneuver the enemy; and squadmates wielding sniper and marksman rifles will set up in a good camping spot and pick off enemies in their field of fire. The AI is complete unprecedented in a Call of Duty title, and will provide a pretty stiff challenge. Squads will likely appeal to those players who get a lot of satisfaction out of designing a plan and watching it execute flawlessly; being able to outfit your squad to your specifications makes this possible and rewarding. Your squad will even earn experience while you’re away, fighting against players who challenge them in the mode’s Squad Assault gametype. Several other gametypes exist as well, including Safeguard, a take on Modern Warfare 3’s Survival mode.

Finally, for those of us looking for a different co-op challenge, there’s the new Extinction mode. Rather than fighting the living dead in games past’s Zombies mode, players will be staving off an alien invasion just two weeks after the first ODIN strikes in the story. Like Zombies, Extinction features four unique soldiers to play as, though this time around, players are given a series of objectives to complete, rather than just trying to stay alive; for instance, protecting a drill to destroy several alien hive sites, before staving off an alien attack on your evac chopper. Currency is earned by completing objectives and damaging or destroying enemies, and these can be used not only to buy new weapons, but to activate a pre-selected group of four power-ups, such as an ammo box or a deployable sentry gun. Teamwork and tactics are key in this mode, and having several objectives to complete provides a depth of focus not present in Zombies mode. It’s a fun, fresh-yet-familiar co-op mode that players are sure to love.

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Seriously. In space.

Graphics: 4/5 

We’re entering a new era of gaming with the release of the PS4 and Xbox One, so naturally a game’s graphics quality will be a top concern. Ghosts succeeds in most regards here, but it’s not perfect. Textures have taken a marked step up from the previous generation, with surfaces looking crystal-clear at a distance, while staying sharper up-close than before. Lighting, especially, has been greatly improved on the next-gen consoles, with lighting effects on surfaces and weapons having a more realistic sheen and shadow casting. In fact, there are going to be several times in the campaign where you might actually stop and just take an awe-filled look around. Sniper fans will be especially pleased, as zooming in with your scope no longer obscures your peripheral vision. Instead, the area around the scope will be blurred out, allowing you to barely see your peripheral vision zone while scoping in on a target. When you consider the amount of power this takes – the game essential has to render your view twice – it’s impressive. On the downside, however, there are many points during play where you’ll notice a marked decrease in framerate, especially during some of the game’s larger battles or outdoor areas. This is near-blasphemous for a Call of Duty title, a franchise known for constant 60-FPS performance. I wish I could say it didn’t take away from the experience, but when it happens, it’s not pleasant. There are also several graphical glitches that may creep in – a squadmate’s gun floating in mid-air during the campaign, for instance. These little cracks keep Ghosts from graphical perfection, but it’s still a game that doesn’t take the easy route on next-gen consoles, providing a noticeable step up from the previous generation.

Sound: 4/5 

Ghosts’ soundtrack suffers from the same issue as the story – it’s competent, and the tracks are appropriate to the situations they’re played in, but it’s not the kind of soundtrack you’ll find yourself humming when away from the game. Where Ghosts’ audio direction shines is in the voice acting and weapon sound effects. All of the actors in the campaign do a good job voicing their characters, but Kevin Gage steals the show as Gabriel Rorke. Rorke’s an old soldier with a fearsome reputation and all the snide confidence of a villain who knows he has the upper hand, and Gage delivers Rorke’s dialog like a knife sticking you in the side, bringing an extremely personal touch to your (admittedly few) encounters with the antagonist. This time around, Infinity Ward’s also put some extra effort into providing a more realistic audio experience with weapon design. Guns sound appropriate to their size and what they’re firing, but perhaps the most noticeable – and appreciated – improvement is when firing silenced weapons. Guns don’t let off wimpy pops when shot, but still boast a loud sound profile when suppressed, just like firing a real weapon. Along with louder footsteps in multiplayer, this really helps to break the uselessness of sound-enhancing headphones and perks in Black Ops II and present battles like they should be – loud, dangerous affairs.

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Overall Score: 15/20 = 7.5 out of 10 

Call of Duty: Ghosts may present the weakest showing for a game in its franchise in recent history – not counting Black Ops: Declassified – but Infinity Ward have shown that they’re still capable of producing a competent Call of Duty game. The campaign may be somewhat mediocre, but will draw you in to the game’s Multiplayer, Squad, and Extinction game-types, where most of Ghosts’ longevity will take place. If Black Ops II is staring to feel a bit old, Ghosts will give you the refresher you need.

PROs: 

+ New Create-a-Soldier system provides greater variety than Pick-10

+ Larger variety of multiplayer game types to choose from

+ Squads mode is fun and rewarding

+ Extinction is a fresh take on the tried-and-true Zombies formula

CONs: 

– Flawed, lackluster campaign

– Framerate drops more frequent than they should be

– Excellent antagonist isn’t present enough to be relevant

Call of Duty: Ghosts was purchased by the reviewer for the Playstation 4 system.

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

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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.

Wii-Sports-Club-Tennis-Screenshot

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!

Wipeout: Create & Crash Review (Wii U/Wii/3DS/360): “Not a Total Wipeout”

Wipeout Create & Crash Logo

Wipeout has become quite the reality show on ABC over the past few years. Essentially being an Americanized version of the cult-hit “MXC” on Spike TV years ago, Wipeout brings together contestants to tackle absolutely insane obstacle courses with completely unexpected traps to dodge. Naturally, with a mixture like this, it was only a matter of time before the gaming industry tried to formulate this into game form. Wipeout: Create & Crash is the fourth installment in the Wipeout game series, but is it an obstacle course worth tackling or should you just avoid this “big balls” of a game?

Gameplay: 3/5

Wipeout’s gameplay is simple: you’ll run along a set path on the obstacle course, jumping and sliding past the traps that await you. You’ll take part in 12 episodes all based on specific themes, such as pirates, halloween, wintery scenes, prehistoric times and even your traditional classic Wipeout theme. Each episode has you running the gauntlet in four levels, the first and third being always being a specific course, the second being a mini-game (which I’ll explain in a bit) and the fourth being the Wipeout Zone, where you’ll face the most brutal of obstacles in the biggest spectacle possible. Controls are incredibly simple and straightforward that practically anyone will be able to pickup the controller and play. The camera is fixated behind the character’s back, always facing forward. You’ll move forward by pushing up on the analog stick and can take steps backward pushing the stick down. You never adjust the direction you’ll be facing and only push the stick left and right to change spots on a specific obstacle or when zip-lining to avoid obstacles on the sides. You’ll also be able to jump with the A button, duck with the B button and slide with the Y button.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 4

Before tackling an episode, you’ll be asked if you’d like to partake in a Daily Course Bonus Challenge. Once a day, you can participate in a single run through a randomly generated course for a few extra Ballsy Bucks. During episodes, I mentioned that there are four levels. The first level is a Qualifier Round, where you’ll be sprinting your way through a course as fast as possible. The second level is a mini-game where you’ll either have to shift lanes on the tracks to avoid incoming obstacles, or bounce on angled trampolines while avoiding getting nailed by an airborne obstacle. The third level is just like the Qualifier Round, only with less people in the standings. The fourth and final level of an episode is the Wipeout Zone, which is the grand finale. Here, you’ll be tested with the most challenging obstacles and start by being launched into the water and swimming your way to the start point. The course itself is always over-the-top with fireworks, flames and spectacles around. There are two difficulties you can play the game on: Normal and Black & Blue. Normal mode is basically “easy” mode, where if you fail an obstacle at a certain checkpoint 3 times, it’ll automatically advance you to the next checkpoint (but you do add 10 seconds to your timer every time you fall in the water). Black & Blue mode removes the “3 try” rule and makes you keep repeating an obstacle until you successfully pass it, no matter how much time you accrue on the clock. I highly recommend playing on Black & Blue mode off the bat as it gives the game a bit more challenge. Speaking of challenge, while the game is pretty easy, this year’s edition of Wipeout brings a huge improvement over last year’s “Wipeout 3”. The course designs are more demanding and imaginative than ever before, with some pretty crazy obstacles to dodge. When you get knocked into the water, you can press the B button to see an instant replay of your “wipeout”, with a few cinematic camera angles that try to replicate the feel of the show. These are ok, but often times the camera does a poor job of showing the “pain” of your mistake.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 3

Aside from the main episodes you’ll complete, there are a few more modes to explore. Wipeout Max is new this installment, where you’ll play through an endless amount of randomly generated levels that increase in difficulty. This is basically an endurance of how far you can get before a course becomes too challenging for you to beat. It’s a fun little mode that helps keep things interesting. However, the biggest addition to the game that’s the main selling point is the Course Creation system. For the first time in a Wipeout game, you’ll be able to become the mastermind of some truly devious courses. You’ll use your Ballsy Bucks to purchase themes based on the episodes you complete, at which point you can purchase and choose the layout of your choice to customize. Once selected, you will enter the course creator, where you can select between 6-12 adjustable obstacles depending on the layout you chose. Creating a course is incredibly simple to use that anyone can easily jump into and create something in literally minutes. You’ll use the D-Pad to scroll to each adjustable obstacle, at which point you can cycle through the variety of pieces to place, as well as the difficulty of each set of obstacles. There are 3 difficulties to cycle between, each with their own unique obstacles. Depending on how big the obstacle section is determines the type of obstacle you can place, such as a catapult, a straightaway with 8 wrecking balls, a spiral spinning cylinder, a zip-line trail and more. You can also test out each obstacle at their specific locations or just test run the entire course without any load times at all. The bummer with the obstacles of choice is that no matter which theme you choose, you can’t use the theme specific obstacles. So if you choose to make a course with a snow theme or a pirate theme, the obstacles will always be the same default choices.

Wipeout wouldn’t be Wipeout without a multiplayer mode (which is completely omitted on the 3DS version oddly). I mean, it is based on the TV show where contestants are competing against each other. The game’s multiplayer provides two modes: Party Mode and Trap Attack. Trap Attack gives players with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk the chance to run the gauntlet on the TV screen, while the player with the GamePad will see fixed camera angles of the course from the GamePad screen directly. The GamePad player can launch balls at the opposing player, as well as trigger specific traps to mess up the opponent and make them fall off the course. Party Mode is more the traditional multiplayer where players take turns running the course and competing for the #1 spot for the fastest time and of course, the Wipeout winner. It’s nothing great or overly engaging, but can provide for some solid fun with friends and some laughs as well.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 2

Graphics: 3/5

Wipeout: Create & Crash has a basic, fun art style to it, that’s certainly passable and pleasing on the eyes most of the time. However, there are some seriously wonky physics issues. Whenever your character gets knocked backwards, you’ll see them cycle through a variety of animations stuck in place, hovering over the ground. Get hit by a wrecking ball and you’ll see the character clip completely through the ball in slo-mo, then launch to the side. Then there are the balls being shot at you outside the course…except they literally appear out of nowhere in the distance when shot towards you. Another weird design are the water effects. When swimming in water, there’s almost no effect shown that your character is swimming in the water. Even when you fall in the water, the splash is incredibly minimal and is essentially flat textures layered over each other. Some unpolished issues aside, the level designs are pretty solid, with a decent amount of detail given to the obstacles. It’s not a bad looking game by any means, but an average one that’s hindered a bit by some wonky animations and visual effects.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 1

Sound: 3/5

Wipeout’s audio consists of an entirely appropriate soundtrack that provides the vibe of the TV show and themes of each episode. Commentary is provided by John Anderson and John Henson, with Jill Wagner providing additional lines. While they are the commentators of the show, they’re just not very entertaining or funny to listen to. John Henson’s lines in particular always fall flat and are just plain bad…almost like he’s trying too hard to be comical. Lame jokes aside, the sound effects are exactly what you’d expect of Wipeout nature, with over-the-top effects kicking in when being nailed by an object. The audio isn’t too bad and is solid overall, just don’t expect anything great here.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 6

Replay Value: 4/5

Wipeout: Create & Crash offers a solid amount of replay value, especially compared to the previous installments. While completing all 12 episodes will only take 2-3 hours to complete, there’s plenty of characters and gear to unlock. Additionally, each of the episodes has you aiming for bronze, silver and gold Ballsy Trophies, as well as additional objectives in each level. However, this year’s installment introduces the new Course Creation mode, which is where players will spend most of their time on. Using the Ballsy Bucks you earn in the game, you’ll unlock numerous obstacles and themes to build your own crazy courses with. Add in the new Wipeout Max mode that has you doing an endless endurance run of randomly generated levels until you fail and there’s some really good replay value. There’s no online mode to find here and sharing level creations is done in a very archaic method of swapping 14-digit generating codes.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 5

Overall Score: 13/20 = 6.5 out of 10

Wipeout: Create & Crash is without question, much better than last year’s Wipeout 3. It brings more content, more ideas and more creativity to the table. If you enjoy Wipeout games, you’d do quite well to give Wipeout: Create & Crash a look, especially with the Course Creation system that opens up a solid amount of game time. While it’s nothing great or memorable, what’s here is still an entertaining game.

PROS:

+ Fun gameplay

+ Course Creator is simple to use

+ Interesting course designs

+ Good amount of unlockables

CONS:

– Wonky physics

– Sharing created courses is dealt in an archaic method

– Commentary isn’t funny at all

– Some technical bugs

A special thank you to Activision for providing us a review copy for “Wipeout: Create & Crash”! Copy tested on the Wii U.

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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PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures Review (PS3/360/Wii U): “PAC is Back in 3D”

Pac-Man Ghostly Adventures Gameplay 1

Namco’s iconic character from the past 20+ years returns in a new 3D action/adventure title, PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures. Published and developed by Namco Bandai, is PAC’s return to 3D platforming one worth chomping into?

Story: 3/5

PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures is based on the new animated series that launched in the summer, so the story is like that of a typical Saturday morning cartoon. PAC-MAN, Spiral and Cylindria are all speaking with Sir C until they find out the ghosts of the Netherworld have escaped and are wreaking havoc on the citizens of PacWorld with the aid of their leader, Betrayus. The story is told through in-game cutscenes to help connect the plot with the gameplay a bit. There’s not a lot of storytelling to look forward to here, but it’s solid enough to just carry the gameplay along. Let’s be honest: You’re not playing this game to look for an amazing story, but what’s here is certainly serviceable. It’s a fun, cheery story that’ll you won’t find yourself terribly engaged in, but enjoy it enough to get through the campaign.

Pac-Man Ghostly Adventures Gameplay 4

Gameplay: 4/5

PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures is a 3D platformer that harkens back to the days of classic platforming. For fans of PAC-MAN World 2 from the PS2/GC/Xbox days, you’ll be in for a treat here. If you’ve never played that, then you’re still in for a great game fundamentally. PAC-MAN is away from chomping down the infamous ghostly creatures roaming around mazes and is out in the open environment. The object of each level is to reach the end and collect one of the fruits that we’re accustomed to PAC-MAN eating (cherries, lemons, pineapples, etc). Controls are simple, with movement being controlled with the left analog stick, camera with the right analog stick, jump button (with a double jump incorporated), chomp button and special ability button. PAC-MAN controls very smoothly and platforming is done quite fairly, with a solid amount of challenge incorporated. One of the more satisfying elements in the game lies within the chomping attack. When ghosts are grouped together in a somewhat close radius, PAC will be able to chain together his chomps into quick combos. Simply pushing the analog stick in the direction you want him to go next, he’ll lunge toward the next ghost to chomp before touching the ground. Doing so when there are more than just a few ghosts (4-5+) always feels rewarding and fun to pull off.

Not only will you jump and chomp your way through levels, but also utilize numerous abilities that PAC-MAN can acquire through specific power pellets. Those specific power pellets will give him either an ability to throw fireballs, shoot ice beams, magnetize to objects, swing around with a chameleon’s tongue. roll around as a giant boulder, or even bounce around as a little ball. These all become essential throughout your platforming as each is pertained for specific scenarios and enemies. For example, you’ll come across fire ghosts which can’t be chomped unless you freeze them first. Same goes for ice ghosts but firing them up first before finishing them off. Certain environments have metallic platforms that are the only means of traversing forward, no matter how zany the platforms may look. This is where the magnetism would come into effect, allowing PAC to stick to the platform whether it’s right-side up or upside-down. The combat with these specific abilities adds even more satisfaction, with the fire ability being my personal favorite. Throwing fireballs non-stop as PAC locks on to each target effortlessly just feels tight and rewarding.

PAC-MAN-image106

PAC-MAN will traverse a variety of environments within the six worlds (such as Pacopolis and the Netherworld), each containing roughly 4-7 levels. Within each area, you’ll have to collect the pellets that PAC-MAN is known to collect for over 20+ years, as you’ll have to accrue certain numbers to unlock temples within certain regions. When on the World Map, you’ll notice you can choose paths to reach certain levels, but not all the levels need to be completed to advance. There are bonus levels that you’ll notice veer off the path as a dead end. These levels you’ll find a bit more challenging than the standard levels, mainly to earn some Arcade Tokens. However, if you’re a 100% completionist, you’ll be doing these as well. Occasionally you’ll tackle boss battles within levels, all of which require unique strategies to beat. Whether you’re facing a giant rock golem or a fat ghost chef, each boss will have you utilizing various skills and brings variety to the table. Speaking of which, that’s another thing PAC-MAN has going for it, variety. Throughout levels, there may be times where you’ll shoot PAC out of a cannon to bring down towering obstacles, ride a molten rock down a volcano and ski down icy slopes. These little elements help keep the game’s pacing smoother. Unfortunately, checkpoints aren’t always placed in the best spots, having you go back to some sections where frustration might ensue a bit. This isn’t too often of an issue, but often enough where it’s noticeable. Also, reviewing the game based on the Wii U version, the only feature the GamePad provides is off-TV play at all times. There’s no “special” uses incorporated into the GamePad but better to not force something gimmicky in there, as the off-TV play is always one of the most welcome features for a game on the Wii U.

When you’re not out saving the world from ghosts, you can explore the school PAC-MAN attends. Here you can talk with the NPCs, including the original four ghosts from PAC-MAN (whom are not out to get you anymore but are now friendly), as well as play some arcade games. While the arcade games are not rehashes of classic PAC-MAN games, they’re retro-styled mini-games that you’ll spend your Arcade Tokens to play (which you’ll find hidden within levels). For example, one of the mini-games is like a Defender clone (PAC-MAN style) called Cherry Copter Rescue. Here you’ll have to rescue those that are trapped in slime and escort them to the exit, while being careful of the ghosts trying to take them away. Another would be Lemon Blaster, where you’ll pilot the Lemon Rocket in a 2D side-scrolling shoot-em-up like R-Type or Söldner X.

PAC-MAN-image10

Additionally, there’s a multiplayer mode which puts a spin on the classic PAC-MAN formula where you’ll play as the ghosts and try to hunt PAC-MAN down through 3D renditions of eight mazes that you can choose from. For GameCube owners back in the day, you may recall this as “PAC-MAN Vs.” and is quite similar to that. You can play with up to four players or even solo with bots controlling the other remaining players. You’ll traverse through the maze trying to prevent PAC-MAN from eating all the pellets and put a stop to him and his friends. While you’ll be working together with your friends to put a stop to him, you’ll also be competing for who can nab the most points amongst each other. Here is where things get interesting. You’ll pick up power-ups littered throughout each maze. You can use these to help stop your opponents, with either traps, mines, missiles, etc. One particular power-up called “Ultra Berry” allows you to scare everyone blue except for you, making everyone a vulnerable target. Suddenly, the co-op nature isn’t so team-based friendly anymore. It’s a fun multiplayer mode to play around with for sure but lacks online play, which could’ve really made this a ton of fun to tackle with other live players. Regardless, the overall gameplay in PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures is just great, simple fun that’s accessible to newcomers and fans alike.

PAC-MAN-image013

Graphics: 4/5

PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures isn’t trying to be a graphical powerhouse, and that’s completely fine. What’s here though is certainly a lush, colorful, vibrant world that’s very easy on the eyes and more than suitable. PAC-MAN is animated and detailed very well, as are the ghosts and other characters that litter the game’s world. Environments are nicely detailed, with weather effects going on in the background, as well as ghosts flying rampantly around the areas. The game never dips in framerate at all, staying at a constant 30 fps, and no screen-tearing either. Even the ability effects look pretty good, whether it’s the ice or fire, it just looks smooth and appealing. This is all powered by Vicious Engine 2. Again, it’s not a game to showcase groundbreaking visuals, but it’s a great looking game that’s immensely enjoyable to look at.

PAC-MAN-image134

Sound: 3/5

PAC-MAN’s audio department is precisely what you would expect being based from the show. All the characters’ voice actors return to reprise their roles as PAC-MAN, Spiral, Cylindria, Sir C, and the ghosts. The ghosts all have certain lines they’ll say when they encounter PAC-MAN and they pertain to the certain attributes they are. It’s appropriate and fits the game’s style. The soundtrack fits the game pretty well, even if it’s nothing too memorable (although I was digging one of the songs on the Ice Realm world). Unfortunately, there were some audio glitches where certain songs that were supposed to play wouldn’t kick in until a random point later in the scenario. An example would be the boss battle with the ghost chef. It continued to play the music from the stage itself but about 3/4 of the way through, it randomly cut to the music that was supposed to be playing during the scene. Even during another few scenes this occurred again. The sound effects on the other hand are completely spot-on. All the classic sounds from the PAC-MAN series are in full force here and still sounds as awesome today as it did over two decades ago. The game’s audio sounds just like a Saturday morning cartoon, and that’s a good thing.

PAC-MAN-image129

Overall Score: 14/20 = 7.0 out of 10

PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures doesn’t aim to break any new ground as a platformer, but that doesn’t mean the game isn’t worth playing. What’s here is a downright fun game that any platforming fans would do very well to look into. While the story and audio aren’t anything to write home about, the great gameplay and lush visuals help make this overall package a very good one. For only $39.99, I still recommend platforming fans pick this game up, or at the very least, a rental.

PROS:

+ Great, varied gameplay

+ Nice visuals

+ Rewarding Chain Chomp mechanic

+ Has the vibe of a Saturday morning cartoon

+ Only $39.99

CONs:

– Generic storyline

– Soundtrack isn’t too memorable

– Multiplayer lacks online

A special thank you to Namco Bandai for providing us a review copy for “PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures”! Copy tested on the Wii U.

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

Mighty Switch Force 2 Wii U Wallpaper 1

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.

Mighty Switch Force 2 Wii U Gameplay 1

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.

Mighty Switch Force 2 Wii U Gameplay 3

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”!

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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