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

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

Gameplay: 4/5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visuals: 4/5

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

Sound: 2/5

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

Replay Value: 4/5

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

Overall Score: 14/20 = 7.0 out of 10

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

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

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

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

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The Mummy Demastered Review (Switch/PS4/X1) – “Mummyvania”


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

Overall Score: 8.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall Score: 10 out of 10 = BUY IT!

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

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

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Infinite Minigolf Review (PS4/X1/Switch) – “Minigolf Times Infinity”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall Score: 8.5 out of 10 = BUY IT!

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

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Overcooked: Special Edition Review (Switch) – “An Undercooked Disappointment”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vaccine Review (Switch) – “Survival Horror like it’s 1997”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Snake Pass Review (Switch) – A Ssssssslithering Good Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall Score: 7.5 out of 10 = BUY IT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kai: We started development around 2.5 years ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kai: Yep!

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

Kai: No, just for the menus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kai: Thanks!

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

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