Gaming Love

Gaming Your Way To A Soulmate

No matter what anyone says or how adamant they are, no one truly wants to be alone. Sure we like our solitude from time to time, and having the option to go anywhere and do anything we want at a moment’s notice, but that becomes old after a while. Eventually, we realize that being alone is nice, but enjoying life with a partner is even better. The person who wanted to go anywhere and do anything comes to the determination that doing things and going places with a significant other, is a whole lot more enjoyable than experiencing life on one’s own.

Gaming Your Way To A Soulmate

Recently I asked the online community for stories of people meeting their loves through gaming, and the community let me know that gaming has brought people together in amazing ways, and it gave me hope for the future.

According to a 2017 StatisticBrain survey, there are approximately 54.3 million single people in the United States, with about 49.6 million who have tried online dating. The revenue from internet dating services, as of 2017, has reached almost two billion dollars annually. These are pretty incredible numbers if you think about it. We are apparently a very lonely country, and people are doing whatever they can to meet their soulmates.

Gaming Love

Traditionally, before the age of the internet, the main way to meet someone was either through a mutual connection, going to the local pub, or possibly through work, where you and a co-worker hit it off and would live happily ever after. These days, online dating has taken the crown, and what was once a stigma, is now almost universally accepted. As Match.com, OKCupid, Bumble, and the plethora of other sites and apps dominate, there is something less than organic about it all. You create a profile and fill it with truths and half-truths; making yourself look amazing enough to break through the clutter. Once you connect with someone and actually meet (amazing how many people flake), you then have to have awkward small talk until the alcohol lowers inhibitions and you can finally relax, if only a little.

The thing is, it all feels forced at times (ok, most of the time), but meeting people in bars or at work, which I don’t recommend, is increasingly difficult. As you get older, it’s harder to meet people through friends, because most of them are already married and only hang out with other married couples. I hear stories of people who met their partners randomly on the street, subway, grocery store and even waiting in line at the DMV (yes, I actually have a friend who met their future wife while waiting to renew their license). With all that said, what about gaming? Is it possible to comb through the clutter of a billion inappropriate twelve-year-olds who are ecstatic they can use as many derogatory words as humanly possible in a fifteen-second window? Apparently, it is.

Gaming Love

One individual who reached out to me was TM (yes, I am clearly not giving their actual name for privacy sake), who had a lovely story about how she met her husband. Life had thrown TM a curveball, wherein a short period of time, her father passed away and she called off a long-standing engagement with a man she knew wasn’t right for her. Not wanting to be alone, TM regularly hung out at a close friend’s house and watched him play hours worth of World of Warcraft. TM didn’t think she’d actually enjoy playing WoW, so her friend issued a challenge; play just a little, and if she didn’t get hooked, he wouldn’t make her play again. Wouldn’t you know it, TM fell in love with WoW, and like most people who are finding the real world a difficult place to navigate lost herself in the online gaming community.

After meeting several amazing people and making new friends, TM met J, and it was the beginning of the end. First becoming close friends, TM eventually decided (against the advice of others), to fly out to J and meet in person. From there they began a two-year long-distance relationship, and eventually, J moved to be with TM. The happy couple has now been married for six years and together for almost ten. This all happened organically and both individuals took the time they needed to really get to know one another.

Gaming Love

Video gaming is the predominant topic of choice on our site Nitchigamer, but gaming is all-encompassing and includes many different types, genres, and styles. Although we hardly talk about board games in our reviews and articles, we can’t discredit that they were, in fact, the predecessors to the video games we play today. One of the stories I received was from LJ, who met her husband through gaming nights via meetup.com.

LJ didn’t want to go the online dating route, as she felt it was awkward, misleading, risky, and usually unfulfilling. Instead, LJ decided to join a 20s/30s singles board game meetup. She loved games and knew a room full of like-minded people were all there to have fun, enjoy some games, and maybe, just maybe, meet someone.

Having a great experience, LJ went to a few other groups centered around gaming, and eventually asked out one of the guys who she had been friendly with during her repeat visits. It was a singles group, so they knew they were both sans partner, they both loved gaming, and after spending time together in the groups, they definitely realized there was a connection. Now married, LJ and her husband still play games and have made a plethora of friends in the community.

Gaming Love

I am one of the almost fifty million people who use online dating (or at least I did until I decided to take a break a month ago), and it’s extremely difficult to find “The One.” People say one thing, but mean another, they want a real relationship, but then don’t, or they lie about everything for whatever reason they feel that’s necessary. I’ve met people and dated, some for a lengthy period of time, but in the end, none lasted. I can wholeheartedly agree that online dating is awkward. The dates are uncomfortable, the trust levels are non-existent, and the “rules” you’re supposed to follow are ridiculous.

We all look for a partner with similar interests, values, morals, likes and dislikes, and overall compatibility. For those lucky people who had it happen organically via random happenstance, I am overjoyed for you. With online dating, people pretend they’re someone they are not, but with gaming, you’re allowed to be your true self. We all escape into the gaming world because it tends to be a better place than the one we are trying to temporarily shut out. When you meet people who are playing the same game(s) you are, there is already a connection and a starting point of mutual interests. I’m not saying it’s easy to find your soulmate while diving deep into Minecraft, but perhaps if more people got into gaming, we’d all be a little less lonely.

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Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King Review

Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King Review [Nintendo Switch] – A Clone That Holds Its Own

There are those among us who say imitation is the best form of flattery. If something is a hit, whether it be a TV show, movie, literary franchise, or video game, you can bet knockoffs, rip-offs, clones, copies, and different takes on the material will inevitably flood the market. When creative individuals love something from their past, they tend to create a kind of love letter to that very thing. Is this a homage to a great work of art, or a blatant rip-off with no soul of its own?

This is the thought I had to keep at the forefront of my brain, as I played through Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King from FDG Entertainment. There is no doubt that Blossom Tales is a love letter to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past in almost every way, shape, and form. From the very start of the game until the credits roll, Blossom Tales borrows heavily from Zelda, but I am happy to say, also adds its own indelible mark on the adventure-RPG genre.

Blossom Tales is presented in the form of a fable being told as a bedtime story. Young Lily and her little brother Chrys beg their grandfather to tell them the story of Lily (yes, named after the granddaughter), who becomes a Knight of the Rose on the very same day that the evil wizard Crocus puts the king to sleep and takes over the kingdom. Lily the new Knight must now go on an adventure to save the king and vanquish the dark wizard who has taken over the land.

Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King Review

The story narrative is one aspect of Blossom Tales which separates it from Zelda in a significant way. As the grandfather is telling the story, the two kids are always chiming in with questions and alterations. The kids love to change what challenges Lily will face and are constantly asking their grandfather why things are happening. It’s all rather reminiscent of The Princess Bride, but with less Fred Savage and Peter Falk. I found this aspect of the narration to be quite adorable throughout, as items and creatures change or appear/disappear as the grandkids manipulate the story. Occasionally the grandfather reminds them that it’s his story to tell, but he happily makes the changes his two young listeners demand.

Everything in Blossom Tales, from the look, sound, and play mechanics, all feel like they’re taken straight from Link to the Past. Like Zelda, this game starts with our protagonist waking up and embarking on her adventure. Lily starts with a sword and shield but acquires more weapons throughout the journey. Although the weapons in the game aren’t unique, the way they’re used is night and day when compared to Zelda. Once you acquire an item (other than your sword), it’s now attached to a usage meter. Players can use as many bombs, arrows, and other weapons as they want, as long as their usage meter still has juice. Waiting a few seconds will recharge it, so players won’t have to look for potions as they travel. There are concoctions you can drink to give yourself a full meter, but just waiting twenty seconds also does the trick, and is much cheaper. Even your shield uses this play mechanic. Each hit you block depletes the meter, but I used my shield so little, I hardly ever noticed.

Just as in Link’s adventure, Lily can blow holes in boulders and cracks in walls to reveal hidden rooms and chambers. There are treasure chests scattered throughout, along with your typical array of stores, carnival games, and eccentric people populating the land. Lily must also collect pieces of heart in order to increase her life. If you hadn’t guessed by now, you need four pieces to make a whole heart. A part of me wishes the developers could have been slightly more creative with all of this, but at this point, everything’s been done already.

Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King Review

At first, using bombs and arrows willy-nilly is great fun, but after a while, you realize that’s all you really do. I hardly used my sword at all, relying on bombs eighty percent of the time and arrows the rest. It all tends to get monotonous when you can just blast away anything that comes your way.

The lack of needed strategy is also prevalent in the dungeons. There are a total of four in the game, and although the layouts are large and unique, the boss fights are not. In A Link to the Past, you need weapons and items found in the dungeon to defeat that level’s boss and gain access to the next one. In Blossom Tales, I used bombs to defeat every single boss (of which there are two in each dungeon). I never once had to change my strategy, and that got boring after a while. What’s the point in unlocking a slew of items when you really don’t need any of them?

Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King Review

The game is also rather short in my mind. Aside from the monotony, I still rather enjoyed the adventure and really wanted more. In order to wake the king, Lily sets out to three dungeons to collect items needed for a recipe. This reminded me of Link to the Past, and the three pendants Link must find in the beginning of the game. Unlike Zelda, where you then must go on to acquire more items and search more dungeons, Blossom Tales ends soon after Lily visits the third temple. Once the king is awake (sorry, spoiler alert), Lily treks to the evil wizard’s lair (fourth dungeon), defeats him, and returns the land to peace and prosperity.

I was shocked when the credits started to roll soon after the Wizard’s defeat. I thought for sure, there would be more, or perhaps the Wizard escaped death or SOMETHING. If you choose to continue the game after the credits roll, the grandfather simply tells the kids that although Lily saved the kingdom, there are still heroic deeds to be done. From this point on, Blossom Tales becomes entirely about side quests and helping those you’ve met and will meet throughout the kingdom.

Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King Review

There is plenty more game to play, but without the narrative guiding everything along, it just doesn’t feel the same. There are still areas of the map at this point to uncover, and secrets to learn, but without a sense of urgency, I never felt the need to go back and keep playing. I still had several empty slots for items, but I never saw a point in trying to find them.

The best way for me to describe the look and sound of Blossom Tales is as a watered down version of Link to the Past. The game looks good, but not as refined as Zelda. The same goes for the sound, as it’s all rather pleasing to the ears, but there were times I heard things lifted directly from A Link to the Past. The funny thing, they actually make a joke about all this in the game. As the grandfather is telling the story, he nonchalantly suggests that elements of his adventure resemble that of the little elf boy in a far-off land. This and other off-the-cuff remarks actually give the game a sense of credibility as it admits it borrowed heavily from other source material.

Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King Review

There was one annoying thing I couldn’t get over about the game: it doesn’t utilize the Y button! With your sword taking up the A button, you now only have two slots for other items and weapons. With so many to choose from (although, you don’t really need them), it’s mind-boggling that the developers would simply choose to not utilize one of the main buttons. I can understand why they didn’t program anything into the triggers, but it makes no sense that the Y button is unusable. After playing through the main game, I can safely say it would have made the experience much better if they programmed the use of the Y button into the game controls.

There have been a plethora of Zelda clones made over the last thirty years and most of them never hold a candle to the original. Blossom Tales, however, may be a clone, but it most certainly holds its own. This game is the closest I think anyone has come to recreating the tone and whimsy of A Link to the Past but also manages to add a bit of its own personality into the mix. The narration and constant changes as the kids chime in add a fun and unique twist to this overused genre. I wasn’t a fan of the lack of strategy needed, nor the ease at which I could dispatch enemies. The game felt incomplete as the credits rolled, but one could say that is a good thing, as it left me with wanting more.

Azkend 2: The World Beneath Review [Nintendo Switch] – A Refreshing, Fun Match Puzzle Game

It’s no secret that I’m a little tired of mobile games being ported over to the Switch (and every other console). If you missed it, please check out my review for Dustoff Heli Rescue II and read my thoughts on the matter. Once again, I‘m faced with a five-year-old game, previously released for everything from Windows to iOS and Steam, and I have mixed feelings. Azkend 2: The World Beneath by 10tons, is yet another match-three puzzler among a million, but even though it’s ported from a mobile version, I find myself slightly addicted to it. The game isn’t perfect, and a part of me would never have paid for it on mobile, but even I can admit when something is downright fun, polished, and a good time overall.

Azkend 2: The World Beneath
Azkend 2: The World Beneath

I’m going to start by laying out the story as I always do, but why this game needs one at all is beyond me. Mini-rant time! Why do puzzle games have a story? I never understood a developer’s need to justify simple match gameplay by writing a whole convoluted backstory behind it. It’s a PUZZLE GAME, not a swashbuckling adventure. With that said, Azkend 2 actually has a nifty backstory for players, even if it has no point to the actual game.

As the protagonist, you’re sailing from Liverpool to New York, when out of nowhere, your ship is pulled down to the unknown depths of the sea. Turns out, you’ve travelled to the centre of the earth, where ancient civilizations and wonders never before seen by man await you. If this were Tomb Raider or another one of Nathan Drake’s adventures, it would be awesome, but it’s not. It’s a match puzzle game, plain and simple.

Azkend 2: The World Beneath
Azkend 2: The World Beneath

As you navigate this mysterious world via cutscenes, you must seek out and find/fix objects needed to get home. In order to do this, you simply play the game. Each completed level yields a piece of object X, which when put together, can be used to aid in your quest. Each object has some kind of power or trait that can have an effect on the game board. For instance, the binoculars, when matched three or more, will cause random tiles to fall off the board (that’s a good thing), or matching three or more dynamite sticks will cause surrounding tiles to be blown away. Although I feel the story behind finding these objects is unnecessary, the actual usefulness and implementation of them is outstanding. The collectable power-ups add another dimension to the simple match puzzle premise.

Azkend 2: The World Beneath
Azkend 2: The World Beneath

In between rounds, players are treated to beautifully drawn cutscenes that propel the story further. While in these scenes, you get to take part in hidden object minigames. This aspect of Azkend isn’t overly sophisticated but definitely adds another layer to a tired genre. With over 60 levels in story mode alone (plus time trial and medal modes), 10tons has packed a lot into this little game.

Azkend 2: The World Beneath
Azkend 2: The World Beneath

Azkend 2 plays well using the Joy-Cons, but speed and accuracy do suffer slightly (levels are timed). Luckily, this is the Nintendo Switch, and with it, comes a nifty touchscreen. The game works even better in handheld mode, and using your finger on the touchscreen is incredibly more efficient than a controller. The game plays well when docked, but I personally loved the ease at which I could match tiles while using the touchscreen. I should also note, in docked mode, the subtitles (which can be turned off), appeared to stretch beyond the edges of my television. When I played it in handheld mode, the text was normal. Most likely, a port issue, but it has zero effect on the play mechanics.

The soundtrack is described as “cinematic” by the developers, and I actually agree. The incomparable Jonathan Greer (Owlboy OST, Sparkle, etc), recorded music that you’d normally find on an epic adventure game, and I really enjoyed it. There isn’t much in the way of visuals in match puzzle games, so the fact that we get a great original score fees like a treat. It’s a little thing but goes a long way in elevating the experience.

Azkend 2: The World Beneath
Azkend 2: The World Beneath

As I have said countless times with other mobile ports, this is an old game with an even older premise. Although 10tons does offer a slightly fresh take on the genre, players shouldn’t go into it thinking they’re getting anything unique. However, as I have also stated in the past, this is the Switch, so no matter how tired a concept may be, this little wonder console can breathe fresh air into things that have gone stale.

Retro VS Modern Gaming: What We Put Up With Back In The Day

I’ve been playing video games since the early ’80s, ever since I got my very first Colecovision system. Since then, I have owned countless consoles along with a plethora of games. Thinking back to the good ol’ gaming days of yore reminds me of all the things younger kids today will never know about. From getting your NES cartridge to play just right, to waiting for the next issue of Nintendo Power, gamers of this generation can’t begin to fathom what we put up with in the early days. Here are a few of the things from back in the day that the youngins of today will never know the pleasure (or displeasure) of.

In no particular order:

  1. Blowing in the NES cartridge to get it working – We ALL had our own system getting an aging NES game to work. For me, I first had to blow in it, then, I had a specific way of inserting the cartridge that I knew would get the games working every time. Who can say if this actually increased the chances of success, and yet to this day, we all still blow in the cartridge with the hopes that our 30-year-old carts will light up screens once more. There was something special about the way we got our NES games to work over the years, even if it was all for nothing.

Retro VS Modern Gaming

  1. Cleaning kits – Continuing with the NES, who out there remembers that acidic cleaning solution you were supposed to rub on the actual chip of the cart? NES carts could get dusty if stored wrong, causing the game to load improperly. Several cleaning kits were on the market back in the day, but I‘m pretty sure they were doing more harm than good. The one I remember having, consisted of some kind of mystery solution and a flat cotton applicator. You simply soaked the cotton with the mystery solution and wiped it back and forth on the circuit board. Thinking back on it now, that sounds insane. This black gunk would always come off, but I just know I was wiping off something important. To this day, I can’t believe I put some weird chemical on my precious games, even if it got the Nintendo Seal of Approval. That was a thing, look it up!

Retro VS Modern Gaming

  1. Throwing controllers in a fit of rage – Say what you want about ’80s and early ’90s tech, but that stuff was built to last. I can’t tell you how many times I threw my controllers in a fit of rage. Those little plastic enablers bore the brunt of my wrath as I attempted some of the most infuriatingly hard games ever. If I saw someone doing that today, I think I would have an aneurysm on the spot. It costs $70 plus tax for a Switch Pro Controller, so you can better believe that thing is never leaving my hand with any measurable velocity. Come to think of it, it’s a shame, because I always found controller throwing to be rather therapeutic.

Retro VS Modern Gaming

  1. Wired Controllers – Let’s stay on controllers for a moment shall we? Back in my youth, controllers required a wire that connected them to their respective consoles. Cords were never long enough; they significantly hampered the distance we could sit from the television. Wireless adapters eventually came to market, but they were never commonplace, and I’m sure they cost a hefty buck or two. Gamers today have no idea how good they have it with the freedom of movement cutting the cord has wrought. I was actually stunned when I saw third party manufacturers offering up a cheaper, wired pro-controllers for the Switch. I know it’s significantly less money, but I just can’t see myself buying one. Once you’ve tasted the delight of wireless gaming, it’s exceptionally difficult to ever be tethered again.

Retro VS Modern Gaming

  1. The Anticipation of my next issue of Nintendo Power Magazine – Nintendo Power ceased publication a short while ago, but its legacy will last a forever. I adored that magazine and the heavenly content contained within. The covers were beautiful, sometimes containing live action pictures of our favourite animated characters. I think my favourite was this Zelda II cover (shocker), which looked like a modern day cosplayer keeping watch over a sleeping Princess Zelda. This was where we got all our news, tips, tricks, and previews for everything coming out in the near future. I can’t remember when I stopped my subscription (decades ago), but even I was teary eyed when they announced the end of publication back in 2012. It was certainly the end of an era, and gamers who never grew up with it are definitely missing out on a piece of gaming history.

Retro VS Modern Gaming

  1. Crazy peripherals – There’s one thing you can’t deny about the early days of video gaming: companies had no idea what consumers wanted. There were so many different kinds of accessories and peripherals to get people lured in. Nintendo, always the innovator, offered up some choice accessories of their own. Let’s name a few: Zapper, R.O.B, NES Advantage, Power Pad, Game Genie, Super Scope 6, Power Glove, LaserScope, NES Max, and the Joycard Sansui SSS are just a couple of examples of what the Big N released. There are dozens more to choose from, most of which, didn’t really aid in increasing the gaming experience. Sure, we have accessories and peripherals today, but none as whacked out as some of the offerings from over two decades ago.

Retro VS Modern Gaming

  1. Batteries, Batteries, Batteries – Today’s portable devices use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Once the charge is gone, simply plug in your device (or battery pack) into the wall, and boom, you have a fully charged machine in no time. This, as we all know, wasn’t always the case. If I am not mistaken, the original Game Boy needed four batteries, while the Game Gear tipped the scales at a whopping six. I can’t imagine having to keep a healthy stock of double and triple A batteries just to play my favorite games on the go. The bulk of handhelds back then were already oppressive, but with the added weight of a billion batteries, they became more cumbersome than I feel they were worth.

Retro VS Modern Gaming

  1. LAN parties! – Playing your friends online these days is as simple as turning on, logging in, and press start. As long as you pay the monthly PS Plus or Xbox Live subscriptions, you can play people all over the world in an instant, for as long as your bladder will allow. If you wanted to play your friends back in the early ’90s, however, you had to have a LAN party. For those youngsters who have no idea what that is, please allow me to explain. The internet was a fledgeling thing back then, and most companies didn’t have dedicated serves for gamers to use. Instead, if we wanted to play one another, we had to tote our computers to a friend’s house and wire them all up together. Once linked together, we could go to town on some awesome Duke Nukem 3D. I feel it’s important to mention that flat screen monitors weren’t a thing yet, so along with our heavy PC towers, we also had to lug very large and heavy monitors. LAN parties were annoying, frustrating, time-consuming, and tedious, but damn, were they fun as all can be. I love the fact that I can play anyone, at any time, and in any place in today’s gaming world, but I’ll go on record, as saying there was nothing more fun than a whole bunch of my friends coming together and playing some awesome ’90s PC greatness.

Retro VS Modern Gaming

There you have it fellow gaming enthusiasts, just a few items and experiences that this generation missed out on. Wired controllers and buckets of batteries are things I can definitely do without, but sometimes I just want to sit down, play a NES game, and throw the controller while reading a Nintendo Power as I slip on a Power Glove surrounded by my friends at a LAN party nerd-fest galore. I miss those days!

Sparkle Unleashed

Sparkle Unleashed Review [Nintendo Switch] – Holds Its Own

Just over thirteen years ago, I had a job as a tour guide for a large news organization in New York City. During our downtime in between giving tours, my fellow guides and I would play games and watch movies on our respective computers. One particular game I became quite fond of was Zuma, an orb-matching puzzler that was simple, fun, and a great way to pass the time. I played the hell out of that game, always trying to beat my high scores. Since those days, I have discovered that dozens upon dozens of Zuma clones have come out on a multitude of platforms. Some of the clones are identical, while others are simply wearing a shiny new skin but still maintain the basic premise.

It would seem that 10tons have decided it too needed a clone of its own with bringing Sparkle Unleashed to the Nintendo Switch. It might just be me, but there seems to be an ever-increasing amount of game knock-offs and it’s getting old. However, I adored Zuma back in the day, so at the very least, Sparkle is an above average copy that improves on the original and makes good use of the Switch’s touchscreen.

Sparkle Unleashed

If you’ve never played Zuma or any of its billion clones, I’ll give you the two-cent tour to catch up. As I stated above, Sparkle Unleashed is an orb-matching puzzler where players must match like-coloured orbs before they reach the end of the path. Once the orb at the head of the line reaches the abyss, the game is over and you have lost. There’s some skill involved when it comes to aim and placement, but it’s a simplistic game, no matter which version you play. 10tons has added in a background story and a reason for all the orb–matching, but to be honest, it doesn’t add anything to the overall game.

There are fair amounts of useful power-ups that give players a healthy advantage during each round. Acquired via multiple colour match combos, these power-ups can slow down time, blast away orbs, and more. I rather enjoy these quick action items, as they can really help when you’re overwhelmed and about to lose it all.

Sparkle Unleashed

Just as in the source material, Sparkle’s difficulty increases as you advance through over one hundred levels. At first, the orbs move slow and are few in number, but after you’ve played some rounds, they start to come from multiple directions and speed increases exponentially. I can attest to the fact that it can get frustrating if you miss a shot or fail to snag that needed power-up. The way your adrenaline shoots up as the orbs inch closer to the abyss reminds me of the original Tetris and how I was stressed each time my tower of blocks quickly rose to meet the ceiling. In both cases, game over is inevitable and only a miracle placement can save the day.

This port plays much better in handheld mode, as the game takes full advantage of the Switch’s touchscreen. In fact, I find it far easier to play when undocked and on the go. The Joy-Cons do a good job at aiming, but the precision the touch screen offers is far superior. This is especially noticeable as the game speeds up, and you can’t aim or shoot fast enough. In handheld mode, just tap the screen where you want the orb and it instantly heads in that direction. I’m not saying the game is impossible while docked, but players will find a significant disadvantage in playing that way.

Sparkle Unleashed

I want to make sure players don’t go into this thinking 10tons reinvented the wheel or anything else for that matter. Sparkle Unleashed and all the other Zuma clones have been available for over a decade, but that doesn’t mean this iteration doesn’t deserve a little bit of your time and Micro SD card space.

Dustoff Heli Rescue 2 Review [PS4] – Another Mobile Port That Fails To Launch

Like all good New Yorkers, I usually keep my head buried in my phone on the subway as I attempt to ignore the passengers wedged up against me. Luckily for all of us, mobile gaming has revealed itself as a mostly free and simplistic way to waste one’s time on the go.  I personally enjoy mobile games, but only on my mobile devices. There seems to be this trend now of porting every single iPhone and Android game to the big consoles, and I just don’t understand the reasoning. If a game is free for my phone, I am not going to pay for it on a console, and if you have to pay for the mobile version, I can guarantee you I will never play it. Now that you know where I stand, let’s get on with it, shall we? Meet Dustoff Heli Rescue 2.

Dustoff Heli Rescue 2, from Invictus Games, began its digital life as a mobile offering before being ported over to everything you can think of. I have never tried the phone version and can’t speak to how it played, so this review will only contain my thoughts and feelings on this specific port. The popularity of Heli Rescue 2 astounds me, as I found the controls to be sticky, the game slightly buggy, and a nonsensical overuse of the Minecraft pixelated look which I am growing to loathe. The game does have its charms, but it never rose high enough to erase my disdain for mobile game ports.

heli 1

In Heli Rescue 2, players make their way through 35 missions rescuing hostages, destroying enemy combatants, vehicles, and structures, providing air support, and protecting convoys. Players have the option before, during, and after missions of purchasing repairs, upgrades, and rearmaments with gold coins collected from destroyed enemies.  The settings range from the Middle East to more forested areas, and what appears to be random European backdrops.

The main reason this port put me off, was due to what I perceived as poor controls. Instead of the thumbsticks, players must use the shoulder buttons to navigate. Press both together and the copter will lift off into the sky. Press the right shoulder button and the aircraft banks right, press left and it, of course, goes left. The helicopter fires on its own as long as you’re within firing range of the enemy. Be mindful not to fly too high or close or your gunners won’t have a clear shot. In theory, this all works, but I had a lot of trouble with the controls for the majority of the game. Every time I wanted to go right, the flying contraption would keep facing left, and I’d be flying backwards.

heli 4

Navigation and weapons go hand in hand, and if the controls are wonky, so too will be the combat. If you fail to destroy an enemy on the first try, it can be quite difficult to do a quick turnaround to take another pass. I crashed and burned a hundred times because I didn’t get the kill on the first attempt. The game isn’t easy, and with multiple baddies on-screen shooting at once, it can be a challenge completing missions without destroying yourself. I really would have liked the developers to have allowed players to control the weapons themselves.

The environments are also a hazard, as flying into trees, buildings, and mountains are all commonplace. You need to fly low enough to blow up a truck, but if you’re not careful, you could fly right into a wall or another enemy encampment. It honestly wouldn’t be so difficult if the controls were a tad more refined.

heli 3

You may remember I mentioned at the start that I found the game to be slightly buggy. I don’t know if I am the only one who has experienced this, but at one point the selection screen froze, and none of the DualShock buttons would work. Yes, I could press the PS button to get back to my home screen, but upon returning to the game, it was still stuck. Eventually, it just started to work again, as if nothing ever happened. [If anyone has experienced this as well, please let me know in the comments below].

Throughout the game, players will have twelve different helicopters to unlock, each with a multitude of weaponry. This would be great if it didn’t take a while to unlock everything. You start the game out with a simple machine gun, but no options to unlock anything better until the eighth mission. I found the standard gun to be underpowered and a hindrance, especially when attacked on multiple fronts. With poor controls and a lacklustre weapon, I simply couldn’t get the job done.

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Maybe I have no patience, maybe my mobile gaming port bias is causing me to feel ho-hum about this title, or maybe it’s just that this game was amazing on mobile, but doesn’t quite work on the console. Just because a hundred people love something, doesn’t mean everyone should.

The Evil Within: The Interlude

The Evil Within: The Interlude Review [Comic] – A Hauntingly Jarring Bridge Between Games

Note: While we don’t normally review comics, this is a particularly notable one that bridges The Evil Within games together – so it’s worth our time. Meet The Evil Within: The Interlude.

Human beings have always been an inquisitive species. We are never satisfied with the information presented to us and are constantly seeking the unknown and the hidden. As with all of humanity, when I watch a movie, play a game, or read a great book, I too need to know more. I want to learn the story of what happened in the events leading up to and then after the main narrative is finished; it’s the history behind it all that fascinates me the most. I must find out where these characters have been and what will become of them when a writer’s pen has become silent. For fans of The Evil Within, and those whose brains are just as inquisitive, you’re about to get a little more of the story surrounding Detective Sebastian Castellanos and his struggle to maintain his grip on reality.

The Evil Within: The Interlude is a two-part comic continuation of the game that bears its name, bridging the gap between the first and second instalments. Maintaining the same esthetic players are used to, Writer Ryan O’Sullivan and artists Szymon Kudranski and Damien Worm have constructed a continuation to the story at hand, all the while, leaving readers with a deep anticipation for the sequel.

The Evil Within: The Interlude

For those who have never played The Evil Within, I won’t spoil anything, but I highly recommend you give it a shot. It’s only recently that I had an opportunity to try the first in the series; as survival horror goes, it’s fantastic. The game has a way of making the player exceptionally uncomfortable, with grotesque backdrops and Silent Hill inspired manifestations throughout.

Just as in the game, Interlude has a way of jarring the readers with sudden time cuts and brutal imagery, leaving one to ask themselves if what they’re seeing is real. Like our protagonist, Det. Castellanos, I too felt like I was beginning to fall down the rabbit hole of mystery and desperation. Was I, like the detective, going crazy? Is what we see with our own eyes the real thing, or are we trapped inside the Matrix, desperately trying to claw our way out?

The Evil Within: The Interlude

Ryan O’Sullivan’s writing doesn’t reveal too much to the reader and allows you to second-guess everything. Mr. O’Sullivan has a way of luring you in and then warping your sense of reality without warning.  I felt as if the writer was keeping a dark secret, but refused to tell me out of some spiteful pleasure. For those familiar with O’Sullivan’s Turncoat graphic novel, you will notice a similar writing style that hooks the reader without divulging too much too quickly.

The artwork by Kudranski and Worm has a bleakness to it that can be a bit off-putting, in a good way. I felt truly uncomfortable reading this at times; it was as if what I saw was taunting me in a way. To maintain that level of paranoia and fear in comic form, just like in the game that inspired it, is a testament to the skills of those involved in its creation.

The Evil Within: The Interlude

Although I had to read a few spoilers to get a sense of what this comic referenced from the first game, I am now incredibly excited for the sequel and the continuation of this mind-bending story. As the reader, you’re not supposed to know what’s real and what’s not, but Interlude acts as a perfect bridge in which to cross over into the unknown. If The Evil Within and The Evil Within 2 are centred around a twisted world, intricately woven together like a dark and sinister quilt, Interlude is the bloody thread that binds it all together.

If you’ve never played the original game, I highly recommend you do so first, before reading this short but engrossing comic. By the time I finished part 2, there seemed to be more questions than answers, but that’s just how something of this nature should be. Readers will get their appetites teased, but the main course of answers to this Pandora’s Box will come when you close the book and pick up that controller.

Please note, I’ve kept this review spoiler free (both game[s] and comic), and ask that those commenting below please do the same.

Why I Will Never Trade In A Console

Gaming systems tend to be pricey when initially launched. Sure, after a year or so on the market, you might see price drops, but traditionally they’re a hefty investment. You simply can’t walk into the store and buy just the system; you need extra controllers, games, cables, memory cards, online subscriptions, and more. By the time you’ve walked out of GameStop, your wallet is empty, and your checking account wants to take revenge. So with that said, here are my top 7 reasons why I will never trade in a system, no matter how badly I want the newest machine on day one.

Nostalgia – Look at the recent frenzy over the NES and Super NES classic systems. Consumers went ballistic over these things, causing mass shortages and in certain cases, outrage over a lack of supply. Gamers love the past, and these two gems represent all that was great in the video gaming world from the 80’s and 90’s. If I didn’t have my working NES from 1985, I would have run out and bought the NES Classic in a heartbeat. To this day, I pop in games such as Castlevania, Super Mario 2, and Double Dragon, spending hours reconnecting with the games that defined my childhood. Nostalgia is huge right now, probably because it allows us to block out all the terrible things going on in today’s world, if only for a little while.

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Amazing games have great replay value – I am willing to bet there isn’t a single person who reads this who can say they’ve never played through a game more than once. Whether it’s discovering a hidden path not followed before, collecting every trophy and bonus, or noticing things that didn’t stand out in a previous playthrough, great games will always have lasting replay value. Even if I earned a hundred percent on something, I’ll still go back and play it again; knowing the full story and outcome shouldn’t stop players from enjoying a highly entertaining game from the past. I can tell you exactly how Metal Gear Solid ends, but that doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy the hell out of it repeatedly. The roll of the credits doesn’t have to mean you should seal the game in a vault, never to be seen again. We should cherish the industry’s finest achievements and give them the multiple replays they deserve.

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You don’t really get much these days for used systems – Let’s face it, the amount of credit/money you get by trading in games and systems can be insulting at best. By the time you want to trade something in, it’s been out for at least a couple years, and they’ve released a 2.0 version, making your unit even less valuable. It’s simply not worth trading in a beloved console for the pittance stores want to give you; infuriatingly enough, they manage to turn around and sell it for a quite the profit.

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Last gen systems still receive great games at the end of their life – With the release of a new system, the older model gets less appealing in the minds of gamers. By ignoring your old faithful console in favour of its successor, you potentially risk missing out on truly imaginative titles. Let’s take the much maligned and often despised Wii U, a system that didn’t sell very well, and made zero impact in the world. With the release of the Switch, gamers rejoiced at the return to form for Nintendo and its beloved hardware. The killer IP for the new system was, of course, Zelda: Breath of the Wild; a stunning masterpiece that deserves the game of the year title it just received. Problem is, at least for me, I couldn’t afford a Switch at the time. Between the system, the game, pro controller, micro SD card, case, screen protector, and extra Joy-Cons, I was looking at hundreds of dollars I didn’t have. What I did have, however, was a Wii U. I bought the predecessor to the Switch so that I could play the HD versions of Wind Waker and Twilight Princess; it was worth every penny to see those games in full HD glory. When Breath of the Wild was first announced, it was going to be a Wii U exclusive; the game looks and plays great. Though I now have a Switch, I don’t think I’ll ever purchase another copy of BOTW, because the Wii U version is amazing in its own right.

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I spent too much time and effort building up a library of games to simply sell them off – The Xbox 360 had an eleven-year run, selling over eighty-four million units in its lifetime. Over those eleven years, gamers plunked down an unfathomable amount of money on games and peripherals; there is no way you’d get a fraction of what it’s really worth by trading it all in. I can’t speak for our readers, but I know I meticulously curated my systems and games, and after eleven years, I am not going to part with any of it. Don’t forget, the 360 generation pioneered digital downloads, so you don’t even have the option to trade in a bulk of your games as it is.

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They’re like tiny works of art on my shelves – Video game consoles are more than just plastic and metal boxes; they’re works of art, having taken months or even years to design and craft. Love them or hate them, each machine is unique, right down to the placement of the power button. I currently have a select few of my systems set up under my TV, each one meticulously cared for and maintained, ready for use at a moment’s notice. I don’t simply see the entertainment value in them, but rather, the immense aesthetic value as well. I may not actively play all of them, but I still get enjoyment in their mere presence. It’s a goal of mine, once I have more space, to hook up and display all of the systems acquired over the span of my life; each unit will have its own designated space and given the respect that it deserves.

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Unmitigated regret – I started this piece off by saying I would never trade in a system; this was a slight lie. Back in the late 90’s, I decided I wanted a PlayStation but didn’t have the money for it (see my memorable moments feature for more on this). In a rather unprecedented move, I gathered up my Super Nintendo with all of its games, marched over to Electronics Boutique (predecessor to GameStop), and traded it all in for a shiny new PS1. At the time, I was ecstatic to have my next-gen gaming machine; everything about the system wowed me. Years later, I can finally admit I regret doing that with every fibre of my being. I loved my Super Nintendo; along with the original NES, it defined my childhood. To this day, I will never forgive myself for parting with my beloved SNES, and I can only hope that whoever bought it, gave it the good home the system deserved. I did manage to buy another one years later, but it’s not the same.

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Final thoughts

At this very moment, I still have a working NES, SNES, N64, GameCube, Wii, Wii U, Switch, Game Boy Color, 3DS, TurboGrafx-16, PlayStation 1, 2, 3, 4, Vita, Xbox, Xbox 360, and a Dreamcast to keep me busy. Video games are more than just a way to pass the time; they’re a way to explore one’s imagination, to take yourself somewhere that’s not humanly possible. Where else can you explore ancient ruins, navigate a post-apocalyptic world, or travel through space and time trying to save the universe. Just because I beat a game, doesn’t mean it’s now useless. That’s what makes games and gaming so great; you can always go back and re-immerse yourself in a new world, and take on the role of someone or something else for a while. To all our readers, I simply ask that you think about what you’re doing before you go and trade something in. Video games are like old friends; every now and then, you’ll want to get together and catch up for a while.

Star Ghost Review [Nintendo Switch] – A Unique And Challenging Space Shooter

With so many games hitting the Nintendo Switch lately, it’s easy to dismiss a title without giving it much of a chance. I’ll admit, when I first fired up Star Ghost by developer Rainy Frog, I instantly wrote it off as another in a seemingly vast pit of Switch indie games. This action game seemed unplayable and so radically different from your typical side-scrolling shooter, that I turned off the system and left it so for quite some time. Here’s the thing though: As reviewers, we are duty bound to give every title fair treatment, and to ensure we deliver an honest and accurate assessment. I reluctantly picked up my Switch once more, and after opening my eyes, I found myself quickly becoming obsessed with its simple yet unique style of gameplay.

The game starts immediately with an overview of the crisis at hand. The Metagon Empire has arrived and is threatening to annihilate the entire human race, and it’s your job to stop them. Aiding you in this peril-filled task is the “most advanced starfighter ever built!” It’s a simple story told repeatedly, but luckily, that’s where Star Ghost deviates from other titles in the genre.

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The control scheme is excruciatingly simplistic. Your ship is constantly moving forward on its own, only pausing for a split second when taking on damage. Weapons all fire automatically without prompting. The player, which is you, can only control the vertical axis of the ship; by pressing the A button, your craft floats to the top of the screen and releasing it causes the ship to fall to the bottom. This is what threw me off at first; I had almost zero control over any aspect of the ship, and it was very frustrating.

Once I started to play more of the game, I realized that the very thing I found annoying became very freeing. As soon as you cease to worry about navigation and weapons control, you’re free to concentrate on everything else around you. It’s, for this reason, I am hesitant to call Star Ghost a cross-screen shooter. To me, this game has all the makings of an arcade platformer that has been dressed up like a shooter. It’s crucial to know exactly when to raise your ship up or lower it down due to incoming enemy fire and deadly flying objects. There are points in the game where you have to navigate through slim openings between two points, where crashing into a wall is guaranteed if you’re not guiding the ship in the exact right spot.

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As I mentioned, players can’t control their weapons. You start with a single shot, fired off at regular intervals (about 1.5 seconds apart). You can control the angle of the blasts, but it’s very limited in range. As you destroy enemies and objects, your ship can pick up credits as well as ship and gun modifications. Eventually, your ship’s fire rate will increase exponentially, and the single shot can increase to five with instant upgrades. In later missions, my ship also became equipped with rockets, while in others, I acquired a spread of high-powered lasers. Players are also given the option to purchase upgrades at the completion of each mission, based on the number of credits acquired.

The only other thing you can control is a tractor beam, which radiates outward from the centre of the ship, pulling in all surrounding credits and weapon mods. The tractor beam can also be upgraded, increasing in size to allow the ship to pull in more of the good stuff. Players need to be mindful though, because all upgrades have a timer which will run out, causing a downgrade to the previous level; this cycle will continue to occur until you’re either back where you started, or the timer is extended by picking up more power-ups. Players beware; your ship can also pick up floating viruses that temporarily shut down all weapons and tractor beams. Pick this up at the wrong time, and you can find your ship flying through a haze of enemy fire with no way of defending yourself.

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Star Ghost is an arcade game through and through; once you die, that’s it, end of story. As soon the game over sign hits, players must start all over again from the very beginning. This aspect of the game is another example of what I found infuriating and highly frustrating at first. It wasn’t until I collected enough credits that I realized you could in-fact continue from your current mission. It costs 50 credits to continue, which means players must carefully choose how they spend them at the end of each mission. I know some will find this aggravating, but I found it added a greater challenge to the overall game.

Composer David Wise has created all the original music for the game. For those who aren’t familiar, Mr. Wise was the mastermind behind the music from the famed Donkey Kong Country series (among others). Wise has found himself a cult following, and if you’re familiar with his work, it’s clear why people love him.

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The game gives off a simplistic vibe but is actually quite beautifully drawn and animated. There is a myriad of enemies and space fairing debris, all of which utilize rich colours and fluid movements. One of the most interesting aspects of the game is the inclusion of dynamic level generation; every time you play a mission, it will be different. Players will ultimately have a unique experience each time they head into the unknown.

Memorable Gaming Moments From My Past

Have you ever played a game and just sat in absolute awe at something you saw on screen? Has there ever been a video game moment that just stands out in your mind that’s either unforgettable or unbelievable? Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, I have seen an amazing evolution in the games and hardware available to home gamers, and as tech got better, so did developers’ imaginations. Over the years, I’ve collected several moments forever embedded in my mind, and here are just a few, ranging from scary to breathtaking to awe-inspiring.

The first of my memorable moments is a scary one… a very scary one. I first purchased the original Resident Evil way back in 1996, took it home, closed all the lights, and started what would later become an iconic adventure. At the time, I heeded no warning that the game was going to freak me out. There were definitely creepy moments at the start, but nothing overly heart-stopping. This, however, all changed in a matter of minutes. Standing at the start of a long dim hallway, with windows on one side and some display cases on another, I knew it was about to get real. Within seconds, a couple of zombie dogs jumped through the windows and attacked me. My heart went berserk as I jumped twenty feet in the air (well maybe not twenty, but you get the point). I was so startled; I could barely kill them before they killed me. In no other part of the game, nor in any other sequel or Resident Evil rip-off since, have I ever reacted in such a way.  It’s been twenty years since that night, but it was a moment to remember.

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Anyone who has played Zelda: Ocarina of Time knows exactly how beautiful the game really was in its day. Every little detail was breathtaking, and if I weren’t singling out specific instances, I’d say that the entire game was a memorable moment. If I had to pick just one though, it would have to be when Link first takes the Master Sword from the Temple of Time. Examining the sword for a moment, Link moves over and places both hands on the handle. After a short tug, the iconic weapon comes loose from its pedestal and our green-clad hero enters into a whirlwind of light and colour. Emerging as an adult, Link’s adventure was just beginning. I can remember how enthralling it was to travel into the future and marvelled at the changes made to a post-apocalyptic Hyrule. As I finished the game and saw the credits roll by, I realized something often not seen in video games; Miyamoto put his heart and soul into this title. The Time Temple scene was just one of many memorable moments that filled Zelda: Ocarina of Time, a game, which in my opinion is a true work of art.

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Ladies and Gentlemen boys and girls, children of all ages, it’s super nostalgia time and I must now discuss a memorable moment from that old-school favourite, the original Nintendo Entertainment System. One of the most anticipated sequels of that generation (for me anyway), had to be Super Mario Bros. 3. The Mario Brothers series of games had always been hugely popular, and back in 1990, the hype was at a fever pitch. As soon as that cartridge was loaded into the console and the power button lit up, I was in absolute platforming heaven. I can remember thinking nothing could make the game better than what I first saw, that was until I discovered that special brown leaf power-up. Instantly transforming into Raccoon Mario, I flew around the colourful world, uncovering secrets way up in the air; as Mario’s new tail waggled back and forth, my grin reached from ear to ear.  At the time, I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen and to this day is a great gaming moment from my childhood. Let’s also not forget that Mario 3 was at the centre of The Wizard, the greatest Fred Savage film of all time!

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When I was younger, I used to love collecting and reading all of the instruction manuals to my NES games. The intricate drawings of the art were fascinating and exceptionally well-drawn. My favourite (and I am sorry to keep mentioning this series), was the booklet to the original Zelda. Contained in these little manuals of wonder were great drawings of all the enemies and items located within the game. An aspect of the books that I found interesting, was how the drawing done by the artist was placed next to a picture of the way it actually looked in the game. This all may seem like I am going off on a tangent, but I promise there’s a point.

One day when I was in my very early teens, my mother decided it was time to go through my desk and throw away all the “clutter” therewithin. Apparently, all of my NES game booklets were in her cross-hairs, meaning they didn’t have long for this world. She took one look and tossed them all into the garbage, enlisting my brother to help in the process. He knew how much I loved those things and didn’t even think twice before he sacrificed them to the garbage! I almost fainted as I came home to discover my desk draws emptied of their treasured contents. Anger and frustration surrounded me; I didn’t want to talk to either of them. My brother tried to justify it by telling me they kept all my old Nintendo Powers as well as my intricately detailed Map to Zelda; thanks for that bro!

I know they were just dumb instruction manuals, but they were my dumb instruction manuals. It doesn’t really bother me anymore (yes, it does!), but I still carry that devastating memory with me. I know this feature is about memorable moments in video gaming, but this is a very personal memorable moment and I’m sure some of you out there can relate.

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Street Fighter II was my jam back in the day, and I played it non-stop (or at least until my quarters ran out). One day, as we were getting ready to go to the arcade, a friend told me about a new fighting game called Mortal Kombat. I wasn’t aware of its existence at the time, but I became intrigued by his bloody description. We got to the local galleria to find a rather large mob huddled around the MK machine. As I was small at the time, I was able to sneak up close to get a nice view. The very first match I witnessed was between the now iconic fighters Sub-Zero and Kano. I had no clue as to what either character could do or who they were for that matter, but it all looked amazing. I watched as Sub-Zero froze Kano in midair and gave him an uppercut, sending blood everywhere. I didn’t think the game could get any better until I saw a finishing move. As the words “Finish Him” appeared on the screen, I watched in amazement as the older kid moved his fingers across the buttons, like an intricate dance that took months to learn and memorize. Out of nowhere, Sub-Zero reached across, grabbed the defeated Kano and tore his head clear off with spinal cord still attached. As blood spewed everywhere, I knew I would never play Street Fighter again. No matter what direction the developers take the MK series, viewing that first match remains one of my most memorable video game moments.

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As I mentioned earlier, I have always been a devout Nintendo kid. I had every system released from 1985 on, save for Virtual Boy. I wanted nothing to do with Sega, and couldn’t afford the likes of the Atari Jaguar or SNK Corps Neo Geo. Then, one day, everything changed. Back in the mid to late 90’s, there was a big-box electronic store chain called Incredible Universe. Like the Wiz before it, and Best Buy after, Incredible Universe was your premiere big-box superstore. On one fateful visit, I found myself lured in by giant projection TV’s, its gaming music blasting from its speakers like a siren calling me hither. In front of me, on the biggest TV I had ever seen, was Battle Arena Toshinden, one of the first games released for the then new Sony PlayStation. It was bright and beautiful, with amazing fighters, awesome music and sound, and a 3D fighting environment that was like nothing I had witnessed. I instantly bought a PS One and never looked back. Sure, I will always buy Nintendo, even to this day, but seeing Toshinden for the first time felt nothing short of amazing. I have a love/hate relationship with Sony these days, but that particularly memorable moment was truly magical.

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There are countless more memorable moments, too many in fact to mention here. If you don’t mind and are amenable to it, l might just save some for a sequel… In the meantime, I would love to hear which memories are just as near and dear to you. Before I go, however, I’d like to say one last thing. Every time you buy a new game, take it home, unwrap it, and start it up for the first time, how does it make you feel? The anticipation of a new game is something very special, and any true gamer out there knows exactly what I mean.

Crimsonland Review [Nintendo Switch] – A Fun And Bloody Top-Down Shooter Gone Portable

With technology improving at an exponential rate, it seems like a no-brainer that developers would mine their old IP for titles that are deserving of a second chance at gaming life. With the re-release of Crimsonland by 10tons on Steam in 2014, fans of the original and those just discovering it got a chance to play a fun top-down shooter classic with better graphics, higher resolution, and enhanced designs. Now released on the Nintendo Switch, gamers can enjoy this fantastic port on the go.

Crimsonland first hit the PC scene way back in 2003, and like most top-down shooters, the premise is simple; shoot everything that moves before it kills you. With a 360-degree shooting ability, players have to gun down hundreds of little baddies ranging from zombies, aliens, spiders, demons, lizard men, and more. Enemies come at you in all directions, moving rather quickly to box you in and cut off an escape route. Making things even more difficult are nests and other monster dens which pop up randomly, spewing forth countless monsters hell-bent on your demise.

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Aiding you in your quest to annihilate everything on screen is a collection of thirty weapons and fifty-five “perks”, which are unlockable throughout the game. Players can kill their foes with pistols, shotguns, flamethrowers, ion cannons, rocket launchers, mini-guns, rifles, and more. I highly enjoyed the selection and found myself strategizing on which ones would be better for each mission. Weapons randomly pop up after shooting enemies, allowing players to simply walk over them to equip. I recommend you hurry and pick them up though, as they’ll disappear after a few seconds.

Think of perks as special abilities that appear at random times throughout each mission. Players are given four choices, with each option sporting an amusing icon and a brief description. Once a selection is made, it automatically goes into effect, combining with other perks already in use. These abilities can range from shooting poison bullets, reloading faster, running at double the pace, emitting harmful radiation to nearby enemies, and more. There are so many in fact, it can be difficult to choose which ones you want over another at any given moment. Perks add a fantastic dimension to the game, giving players a huge advantage in defeating the hordes of baddies coming for them.

Complimenting the aforementioned guns and abilities, are special power attacks which players can pick up at random. These short burst items allow your protagonist to freeze everything on the screen, blow up nearby monsters instantly, turn your weapon into a temporary super killing machine, health increases, and more. I can’t tell you how many times I was saved at the last second by one of these conveniently timed Hail Marys.

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Unlocked items can be reviewed via the Extras menu located on the main landing page. Players beware, however, as all weapons and perks are not created equal; I found that I actively avoided certain ones because I felt they became a detriment to winning. Case in point, the blow torch. Unlike the flamethrower, players must get insanely close to enemies for this weapon to do any damage, but by doing so, you risk dying at a much faster rate. Certain perks are also a gamble; choosing “Grim Deal” bestows upon players sixty-six percent more experience points, but it kills you instantly. If players choose the “Highlander” perk, you don’t lose any health when attacked, but there is a five percent chance of instant death. Don’t worry, there are way more helpful perks then ones requiring you to make a deal with the devil.

It’s a good thing Crimsonland offers such a wide variety of weapons and perks because there isn’t much variety when it comes to the actual gameplay and missions. The backgrounds are predominantly the same throughout, with only slight variations in colour schemes and the missions are all just running and gunning until everything moving but you is dead. Although the game is insanely fun, I did find myself getting a little bored of doing the same thing over and over for sixty quests. I would have liked a little more variation in level design (ok, any variation at all!), and perhaps some different gameplay thrown into the mix. Don’t get me wrong, Crimsonland is still intense, and it isn’t easy, but something different to look at would have been a nice touch.

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Aside from the sixty-level quest mode, no top-down shooter would be complete without a rock solid survival mode. Players slowly unlock each one, with all five becoming available once the quest missions are completed. Aside from your basic “kill as many as you can before you die” option, each of the other offerings come with their own unique challenges and obstacles. If you’re looking for a challenging survival mode, Crimsonland is your game; I got my butt handed to me on several occasions, shamefully not lasting long at all!

If you’re tired of going at it solo, players have the option of local co-op that can support up to four players. I wasn’t able to try this, but I definitely could have used the help on several occasions. There are so many baddies coming at you, it can get pretty overwhelming at times. The game also has dedicated leaderboards, which give players an option to check global rankings and scores amongst friends. It’s a nice little addition that ups the competitive nature of the game.

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This is all to say, the game isn’t perfect. I mentioned my displeasure on the monotony of the backgrounds and the missions in general, but there are a couple of other gripes I have with this title. For starters, I didn’t like how slow your character moves. The game allows you to speed everything up with an option in the gameplay menu, but it didn’t seem fast enough. I found myself “willing” the speed perk to pop up so I could run around faster. There were times I died because I couldn’t get away from a massive horde fast enough.

Top 5 Video Game To Movie Adaptations

There is a question, which has existed throughout time and space, and an answer that remains one of Earth’s greatest mysteries. No, it’s not THAT question, whose answer is 42, but rather, why can’t Hollywood make a good movie adaptation of popular video games? It doesn’t make any sense to me. The best gaming franchises come gift wrapped with intricately developed characters, storylines, epic set pieces, and established dedicated fan bases. Hollywood has this innate ability to constantly screw things up, but there are a few glimmers of greatness among the pile of failed adaptations. Here is my list of the top five “best” video game adaptations (please note, I’m not saying these movies are perfect…):

Doom

First off, this movie has the Rock, end of story! Ok, the Rock aside, Doom isn’t that bad of a movie. Sure, they changed the story, but that doesn’t really matter; no one ever played Doom for its riveting and salacious story telling. The action was great, the monsters were well-done, and the Rock and Karl Urban were awesome. There was also that twist in the end, which I won’t spoil, that made things fun in the last few minutes. Besides, even if you disagree with all of that, you can’t tell me the first-person camerawork scene, just like in the game, wasn’t awesome to see.

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Resident Evil

Two words – Milla Jovovich! That’s all I need to say. The original Resident Evil wasn’t a cinematic masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a fun movie regardless. You had kick-ass female characters, great enemies, interesting weapons, and a creepy A.I. that gave me nightmares for years. How amazing was that checkerboard laser scene; you know which one I’m talking about! I fell in love with Jovovich the instant I saw her in The Fifth Element, so it wasn’t a tough sell to get me behind this movie. Paul W. S. Anderson isn’t going to bring home any Academy Awards, but he has consistently made entertaining movies throughout his career. I know people bad-mouth this adaptation, but come on, at least it wasn’t one of Uwe Bolls Crap-A-Thons. Or the latest film in the series.

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Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

You can say whatever you want about this movie, but back in 2001, Angelina Jolie was the living embodiment of Lara Croft. Just look at the picture below…I’ll wait. Great, now I dare you to say Jolie doesn’t look like she was born for the role. Unfortunately, the perfect casting (also starring Chris Barrie, Rimmer from Red Dwarf!), didn’t come with a perfect script. The movie felt clunky at times, had some questionable CGI, and didn’t really do much to set up the character for long-term potential. What we did get though, was a decent movie, with an amazing cast, and a chance to see our favourite daring adventurer archaeologist come to life for the first time. Let’s hope the reboot fares a little better.

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Wreck-It Ralph

Please don’t write in the comments “Jordan, this isn’t based off one specific game, but an amalgamation of many iconic gaming characters!” I get that, OK, but this movie rocked, and was exactly how something of this calibre should be. If you want to see how NOT to do it, just put on Adam Sandler’s unwatchable Pixels; that’s a lesson on how you take some of our greatest gaming icons and turn them into a steaming pile of…pixels! Wreck-It Ralph is incredibly well-written, with our main character voiced to perfection by John C. Reilly. Like most animated movies of the like, it plays exceptionally well to kids, while having inside jokes for adults. Some of the nostalgia references alone in this movie were worth the price of admission; I’ve seen it a few times and I still haven’t caught all the references. If you haven’t seen Wreck-It Ralph, I highly recommend you step away from your gaming PC, put down the Mountain Dew, and go watch it now!

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Mortal Kombat

This is MY list, so I get to choose MY favourite video game movie – *dodges incoming axes. I absolutely adore the first Mortal Kombat movie and everything in it. Sure, it was cheesy at times, with some notably bad dialogue coming from Luke Cage especially, but the fight scenes and soundtrack were outstanding. I remember grinning ear to ear when I first saw Scorpion and Sub-Zero on the screen; they looked perfect! The Johnny Cage vs. Scorpion and Liu Kang vs. Reptile fights were insane, with choreography orchestrated to perfection. I would say the only misstep came from the Goro fight (though I chock that up to poor animatronics and CGI). As I mentioned, the music in this movie was amazing. With Tracks form George S. Clinton, KMFDM, Fear Factory, The Immortals, Sister Machine Gun, and more, the album went as high as tenth on Billboard’s Top 200 and placed #1 on Top Tastemakers Albums in 1995.  You can’t tell me you weren’t pumped every time “MORTAL KOMBAT” belted out on the title track. It’s a shame the sequel was so terrible and a clear cash grab to sell albums because we never got the true sequel we deserved. Rumors have circled for years of a reboot, but I won’t hold my breath for that.

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There you have it, folks, those are my favourite video game to movie adaptations. I am sure the rest of you have a few different choices, and I would love to hear what they are. Do you absolutely love Silent Hill or Van Dam’s Street Fighter, let us know in the comments below.