Turning Hollow – Pinwheel Gaming

“Urgh, oh tis a friendly face I see.

“I am Jack Boyles, and I am losing my… my humanity, I am Turning Hollow.

“At what point doth stop? Doth stop when there are not enough souls to be had? Doth stop when there is not enough originality? At what point doth stop?

“The endless amounts of sequels, spin off’s and franchises that occupy the gaming landscape is getting absurd. As the years go by we see less new IPs, instead we see the annual franchise, unnecessary sequels, remasters or remakes. Originality has been loss in the well of greed and like I, these publishers are Turning Hollow. Loosing their purpose from devouring too many souls… Tis all our fault.

“The annual franchises play on our subconsciousness. In age of instant gratification and entitlement, we must hath the new thing despite us knowing in our hearts, tis a reskin, and nothing much has changed we’ll still go and purchase it. ‘But why?’ thou may be thinking. Why are we compelled to purchase this game that’s no different from last year’s edition? Why are we drawn to the same game when we complain that we bored of that experience? The fear of Isolation. Ugh. The fear that thy companion will hath that game and ye missing out, the fear of everyone talking about it and thee being left out, that fear, that fear of thee, not belonging, that fear of isolation; that’s what compels thee.

“So, thou buy the game, everyone else has it, and because thou now feel thee belong, ye are happy, are all together and connecting. Tis that fear of isolation that brought thee all to that place and the sense of belonging feeds the dopamine thy brain needs to keep thou playing and keeps thou buying.

“Success drives industry, I understand that, but success doesn’t mean it needs to produce more. Stories are best left as they are, they are complete and tackle their themes with a satisfying conclusion, therefore no need to hath a sequel. Ohh, ugh. This is taking a level of maturity that most publishers or developers hath not yet understood from the barrage of sequels. For example, The Last of Us released to critical and commercial success, a singular story that deals with it’s theme of parenthood and children developing their independence. But that’s not enough, that’s not enough for publisher, tis not enough for the developer and not enough for those people who just want another one, all because the first one was good and instead of holding on to the original they risk that original being perverted; look at the Matrix.

“I am not saying all Franchises are bad, and there should never be a Franchise again. I am a Nintendo fan and they doth nothing but Franchises but what Nintendo typically doth is add a new mechanic or change the game so tis familiar but fresh. Ahh, haha. The issue is more and more franchises are just churning out what is essentially the same game… tis becoming expectable for that to happen.

“Many other practitioners in other creative industries know when one is enough, they… they know there is no need for a sequel, they close the lid and allow that one piece of art to speak for itself and in the process makes the piece timeless. So why can’t the videogame industry do the same? Is it possible for a game to be a blockbuster and just end there?

“Uh oh, what was I saying, oh yes…

“But tis our fault, we allow these hollow forms to protest for more and more. We doth not say why doth thou want another? What purpose will it serve? Thou should ask one’s self these questions next time they enjoy a new IP and if thou doth not hath a substantial answer to this, ask thou self again; does it need a sequel? Then maybe once great games will not erode in quality by the passing of time.

“Chosen Undead, remember when Halo meant something, I do. Haha.”

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Retimed – It’s Time To Connect Again

Jack Boyles takes a look at Retimed —

We are more connected now as a species than ever before. Technology has made it possible to communicate with people all across the world by the mere tapping of keys; we can video call someone like we are in some ’80s sci-fi movie and we can take photos with instant results viewed by millions in the palm of our hand.

Yet have we never been so isolated, using these devices as our primary source of communication, locked away and pretending to be people we are not.

We need to escape the clutches of our self-imprisonment connect with people face to face.

Team Maniax knows the importance of getting together and having fun with their game ‘Retimed’. It’s a local multiplayer arena shooter up to 2-4 players where you can generate a bubble that slows down time. But is this just a simple mechanic used as a gimmick or is there more to this idea?

Maniax have gone for a great art style here – the sole purpose is to capture the childlike play and fun of the game. It’s the character design here that lends it an attitude and personality without the characters showing their traits. Using character anatomy and clothing as an illusion of characteristic; this of course isn’t a bad thing, it’s a very good and smart thing to do.

Level designs are simple with a few platform areas contained in a relatively small space, though it’s enough to manoeuvre around the map for tactical advantage.

However, it’s the mixture of pace that brings excitement while playing. Your character can slide and dash in the air and that makes traversing the map very fluid. When you mix the element of the time bubble, the game can contrast so quickly it looks you’re in a Zen-like state. Retimed implements its time bubble perfectly, allowing you to focus, use it as a dodging mechanic and as an offensive technique too.

The game feel here is a highlight; it just feels good to play. Combined with the level design, you can quickly feel like you’re a pro when, in fact, you are still a novice.

That’s not to say everything about the game is perfect. Personally, I feel like you don’t get enough bullets, or sometimes, even the opposite, the bullets don’t spawn quickly enough, there was just a sense of emptiness at times.

All in all, this game is a great multiplayer experience to play with friends or family. To rekindle time spent together and to shout, laugh and just enjoy your time spent with someone. Releasing on the Switch (later on PC), it’s a perfect game to sit alongside the family.

So put the social media away.

Five Anticipated Indie Titles From Kinda Funny Game’s 2019 Showcase

Alisa Hail takes a look at some intriguing indies showcased at E3 —

Indie games are becoming a more important part of the gaming industry, certainly, as AAA titles become ever more expensive to make, and as studios have had to trim down staff, and therefore, the number of top tier titles they produce in a given cycle.

E3 has always been a stronghold for the powerhouse players in the industry, with little room for independent developers simply due to the cost of a booth on the show floor.

However, thanks to content creators and presenters such as Kinda Funny Games, indie developers have started breaking into gaming’s biggest and most anticipated show over the past couple of years.

This year Kinda Funny showcased 60 games during their online showcase, with some selected for demonstration on the showroom floor.

You can watch the showcase in its entirety by clicking on the video at the bottom of this article. But here are five we personally anticipate.

UnderMine

Everyone knows the best parts of any action adventure, Zelda-like game is making your way through the dungeons. UnderMine is a roguelike that lets you delve deeper and deeper into the mysteries of the mines all while gathering gold, unlocking secrets, and maybe even meeting a few friends along the way.

You will discover potions, curses, and other relics to assist you in making the perfect run and finally defeating the boss. UnderMine is slated for release this summer on PC and is currently in Steam Early Access.

Stone Shard

Stone Shard is a procedurally-generated turn-based RPG with modern RPG elements. You can combine your hero’s skills to create your individual play style. Align yourself with powerful factions to decide the fate of the kingdom, or gain a god’s favour and with it some of their divine power. Of course, as a leader, you aren’t the only person for which you will be responsible.

Protect yourself and your selected caravan from disease and even the onset of insanity. In the medieval landscapes of Iron Shard, death comes easily. But, no matter. You simply build a new hero and carry on. Stone Shard is slated for release this year for Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and will arrive soon in Steam Early Access.

Lucifer Within Us

As humans spend more and more time in the digital world, one has to question what might happen if the human soul and technology were ever to actually become intertwined. Lucifer Within Us by Kitfox posits this very premise, presenting a tale of A.I. daemons and digital exorcism all housed within an alternative existence wherein the technological is smoothly incorporated into a religious worldview.

As a digital exorcist, it is your job to interview suspects and discover their past or psychological state. Only then can you uncover what form of malicious A.I. is currently sharing their body so it can be cast out. Lucifer Within Us is slated for release this year for PC. You can find out more on the official site.

Superliminal

Nothing is ever as it seems, or so the saying goes. While that certainly applies to many things it life, it is apt advice for playing though developer Pillow Castle’s puzzle game Superliminal. Each challenge will test your perception using optical illusions to create fascinating brainteasers. Check out the video to see exactly what we mean.

Superliminal is slated to launch soon. You can sign up for the mailing list for more info.

Lost Ember

Have you ever imaged finding yourself in a forgotten world wherein you have the freedom to wander as you please learning about its past and taking in all the beauty of its sights and sounds?

Lost Ember allows you to take the form of different animals as you embark on a journey guided by a former resident of the culture that inhabited a now fallen civilization. Uncover the mystery behind the downfall and how your guide played into that unhappy piece of history.

Lost Ember will release on July 19, 2019, on Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One.

Kinda Funny Games shined the limelight on several exciting and unique titles making it difficult to pick only a few.

You can find everything from gravity-defying puzzle platformers like Etherborn to games like After Party wherein you must out drink the devil to escape from Hell. From Metroidvania types to multiplayer battles, you can find something in the showcase for you. This is why we love indie games and why we look forward to seeing more at E3 next year.

My Friend Pedro – Let’s Go Bananas

The Killer, 1989, is probably John Woo’s best film next to Hard Boiled. The scene in the church (the house scene) is action choreography at its best. Action scenes when done right are like a dance, everything unfurls and glides — an artform with style, finesse and grace.

DeadToast Entertainment’s My Friend Pedro is a 2D side-scrolling, run and gun game. Inspired by the movies of John Woo, the goal is to dispatch enemies in extremely cool, inventive ways and to chain them for maximum points. Published by Devolver Digital, this is a highly anticipated indie game.

Starting in a warehouse when a glowing floating banana wakes you up and guides you out, it appears the warehouse is full of henchmen who don’t want you to leave. You must escape and take out these henchmen in the coolest way possible.

My Friend Pedro is all about the gameplay; it’s just pure play and pure fun. You can jump, wall jump, hit, kick, evade (which is a cool little spin), roll and shoot; these mechanics put together to create one of the best game flows I’ve felt in a very long time.

You will jump off a wall, roll, stand up, shoot, then evade; it feels so responsive and innate. Additionally, you can slow down time allowing you to aim with more precision as well as do an awesome spin in the air. Furthermore, if you have two weapons, you can set a lock with one hand while the other has free aim allowing you to clear out sections quickly.

The demo ended with me on a motorbike drinking down a highway, popping wheelies, doing backflips and shooting down cars.

Graphically the game is simplistic with character models being the defining feature. The backgrounds have this noir-esque feel too them, concentrating more on the lighting than the environment itself.

Though, tonally, it fits well with the game providing an ambience to the proceedings. Its strength is that it does not distract from the gameplay, that’s key to the talent of the artist; they knew the gameplay was more important.

So, what do I think? I think this game is fantastic. It’s just so fun! When I put the controller down, I had a grin and knew I’d be buying it.

Everything flows with the game, but most importantly, it just plays well. It reminded me of being a teenager and playing the Tony Hawk games, that enjoyment of just playing. The way you can chain everything together, it’s absorbing and refreshing.

The Switch is the perfect home for this type of title, and for those without a great deal of time, that pick up and play mentality, blast a level here and there, then back to work.

My Friend Pedro is set for a June 2019 release date for Windows and Switch, so grab a banana and go dancing.

Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night

Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night – Going Back To The Castle…

Ritual of the Night, a stark resemblance to its predecessor’s title; for many it will undoubtedly conjure nostalgia and quality.

That predecessor, for many, is a crowning achievement in video gaming, in many lists of the greatest videogames of all time and responsible for coining the term ‘Metroidvania’.

So, this game has some boots to fill, some big ass, sexy, kinky boots that would make some foot fetish person descend into some erotic madness… you know, those kinds of boots.

I have been somewhat hesitant of this title. As a fan of the Metroidvania genre (Super Metroid is my favourite game of all time) and as a lover of the Castlevania games that adopted this playstyle – yes, even the Gameboy Advance and DS bad boys – something felt off.

Watching early demo and gameplay footage, it seemed a bit bare, hollow and clinical. There was no emotion to it; it felt paint by numbers to appease fans.

However, I had faith and was allowed to try out the game. So, does it deserve to reinterpret a beloved title or is it just another Kickstarter corpse?

Readers who may not be aware of what I am talking about: Bloodstained is the spiritual successor to Castlevania and notably Symphony of the Night; the highest rated game in the classic series.

Sharing the same producer, Koji Igarashi, it surpassed its Kickstarter goal and is one of the highest funded products on the platform. Published by 505 Games and with the help of WayForward (who made the criminally underrated The Mummy Demastered), the game has somewhat turned into a cult supergroup.

Bloodstained has you play as Miriam, an Orphan Alchemist who has undergone experiments that allow her to have demonic crystals transplanted into her body.

Now, Miriam must stop another alchemist who had the same experiment, Gebel. Succumbed by the demon crystals, he has lost his humanity. In defeating Gebel, Miriam will end the demon outbreak and retain her humanity.

The gameplay is pretty much what is to be expected from a spiritual successor of the Castlevania series from Koji. A Metroidvania style game where exploration and levelling up is key to your success.

Leveling up is done like a traditional JRPG where experience points are given by defeating enemies and items such as weaponry and clothing provide stat bonuses. Also, you gain abilities by defeating enemies and absorbing their crystals.

Unlike its predecessor, Bloodstained has gone for a 2.5D look that really adds a modern feel to the game; using the dimension to give the world depth and a geographical sense.

A little addition is that the item of clothing selected shows up on your character; it’s something small but really goes a long way. It’s these tweaks that really add a modern touch and make the game look amazing. Moreover, the characters have a cel-shaded aesthetic that keeps it feeling nostalgic.

The demo I played started you on a boat heading to the castle when the demon force ambushes you. You must explore the boat and kill the demons. Though a small area, there was much to find and explore, you can read books to learn more, you can interact with cannons to blow up walls, and the monster types were varied enough to keep it from getting stale.

But how does it play? I hear you scream, calm down, you’ll wake up your children.

I can safely say that it only took a couple of seconds for all my anxiety to fade. It’s fantastic.

It feels slicker, it looks more beautiful and it plays just how you want it to play. Speaking with a representative, 505 games told me that the game’s speed is the same as Symphony of Night.

Hours of gameplay and various playable characters; this is something where you’ll get your money’s worth. This is a game that many have been crying for, and it delivers. Made for the fans but not for their money – for their love.

Bloodstained is set for release June 18th 2019 for Windows, Xbox and PS4. The Switch version hits slightly later on June 25th:

Atom RPG Review

Atom RPG Review [PC] – Welcome To The Soviet Wastelands

Welcome to the Wastelands. No, no. We aren’t talking about Las Vegas or West Virginia. Welcome to the post-nuclear fallout badlands of Russia.

Set in 2005, Atom RPG places you directly in the boots of a Soviet special forces cadet tasked with assisting in the restoration of the Soviet Union after the Cold War ends in mutual nuclear destruction in 1986.

Made by indie developer AtomTeam in the style of Wasteland and Fallout 1 and 2, Atom RPG promises the best of classic RPGs, but is this adventure worth the time?

Much of the game operates similar to your standard classic RPG, and this is not a knock. Though nothing groundbreaking, everything from combat to character creation and the subsequent effect on the gameplay is well-designed.

Combat is grid-based with movement and attacks dictated by how many action points you possess. You will have two forms of attack costing more or less AP depending on which you choose. This can either be bare hand and feet attacks, long or short range weapons, or some combo of either. Thankfully, you will generally have more attack points to begin with than your early opponents.

Unfortunately, as I will explain shortly, you will discover rather quickly just how ill-equipped you are for the realities of the wastes almost immediately.

The best-laid plans of mutants and men often go awry in the wastelands. The skills and stats you choose during character creation will heavily affect your game, especially in the early stages. You can choose from the usual range of stats such as strength, endurance, and intelligence.

Your skill sets include weapons specialties such as Martial Arts for bare-handed knuckle-busting, long and short range weapons, gambling, survival, and lock picking. You also have the option to choose a “Distinction” which will auto-allocate your skill and stats points to create a very specified type of character for you.

These can be both a blessing and a curse. In fact, the downsides that come along with the “perks” of these distinctions might be worth avoiding altogether unless you already have a set strategy for the game.

For instance, you can choose to be a “Savage Hunter” which will drastically increase your damage to animals. However, no one will like you (you lose Personality points) and you will have trouble carrying all those animal skins with a significantly reduced carry weight. Some Distinctions like “Diplomat” which heavily focus on Speechcraft might not be a bad choice, but you have to make certain you deal with the fact your weapons skills will suffer significantly.

I chose to bypass the “Distinctions” and ended up making three separate characters throughout my time with Atom RPG. My third character was lower in Speechcraft and personality than the two previous, and I noticed how helpful being able to smooth talk my way through the world was from the get-go.

People easily volunteered additional information, and in one instance I was allowed through without proper papers. My other two characters were given a much harder time of things. Lockpicking came into handy right off the bat as well. It is amazing just how many locked containers I came across early on. But, I suppose that makes sense in a savage post-apocalyptic landscape.

Intelligence and mechanical skills will also come in handy during the first hour or so.

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Though I prefer a character more heavily skilled in the gift of gab, I gave my final character a heavy focus on Strength and Martial Arts. This is because of how high the difficulty can be during random encounters.

When you leave a specific area such as a town or a bunker, you will appear on the world map. Using map scrolling with WASD you will locate a destination and then click on it, sending your character on their way.

During your journey, you will encounter events that range from meeting a friendly caravan to running into bandits. Even as prepared as you are regarding attack power and resistance to enemy attacks, running into four bandits, two of which are armed, within the first 30 minutes of the game almost guarantees your death. At one point, I admittedly only made it to a nearby bunker on luck. Instead of running into armed bandits that could kill me in a few shots, I ran into some giant ants instead. Giant ants are much more easily dealt with, largely because they cannot carry guns.

The game seems to be designed to push the player to heavily allocate points to only a couple of skills and stats, slowing down later progress in others.

For example, though you get a few guns early on, unless you heavily allocate skill points to their use from the beginning, they won’t do you much good. On my first run, I gave my character high personality and Speechcraft skills, allocating an average or below average amount of points to most of the other skills and stats save for intelligence. Lockpicking, and technology. All was going fairly well until the one time I could not talk my way out of a bandit encounter and then I was dead.

In fact, even with my reasonably high Speechcraft, I didn’t succeed in talking my way out of very many bandit encounters early on, thus leading me to a frustrating familiarity with the death screen.

The storyline might be your standard post-apocalyptic RPG fair, but being in another country is an exciting change. I found the writing to be enjoyable. Though you will have many standard interactions with NPCs in towns and cities and other areas, you will also run into some interesting characters.

I appreciated that the creators did attempt to create unique personalities for the people that populate the world, and you will see that come through, sometimes in fairly amusing ways.

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Aside from the high difficulty, particularly in the beginning where it seems nigh on unfair, Atom RPG is very well designed. Though punishing, it feels satisfying to know your character design choices do make a significant impact on your progress and that playing the game again with different stats and skill selections will significantly change your gameplay experience, even if it does not have a huge impact on the overall story.

Atom RPG demonstrates well precisely why classic RPGs maintain a healthy audience even to this day.

Life Is Strange 2 - Episode 1: Roads Review

Life Is Strange Season 2, Episode 2: “Rules” – Review [PS4]

With the last episode that came out in September, Life is Strange 2 is now back with episode 2, titled “Rules”. I’m happy to return to the brothers Daniel and Sean who, after a tragic incident, got separated from their wolf father and their haven.

However, nobody said life would be easy for the two young wolf cubs. Because even though they are wolves, there are still hunters out there that mean them harm. In their hope to find peace, there are prices to be paid.

Finding themselves in the state of Oregon, the boys have found a temporary safe space in the form of a cottage, where they can practice Daniel’s newfound telekinesis abilities. It’s still winter, and they have not been sheltered much from the cold.

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Being on the run for so long, one learns to appreciate the small things in life.

Daniel has been sick for a while, and he seems to only get worse by the day. They’ve learned the hard way that nature can be as cruel as people – but they have no other option but to move on. Not only do they not have medicine to cure his illness, but they are also running out of supplies. They have reached the bottom line: they cannot stay in the safe confines of the cabin anymore.

The boys decide to visit their grandparents: a decision they would gladly avoid if they could. Not just because they hesitate to ask for help considering their runaway-status, but also because these grandparents are the parents of their lost mother, who left them when they were young – leaving a void in the young boys’ hearts.

As they arrive in Beaver Creek, Oregon, they find their grandparents’ lovely-looking house. If you’ve played The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, you will recognise this place: because they are, in fact, the neighbours of Chris Eriksen’s family. Captain Spirit himself. Finally, this is where the two stories intertwine. They approach the grandparents’ door with scepticism, thinking about how this scenario can go in different directions: they can accept us, or they can banish us from the grounds. Luckily, the former seems to be the case.

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Making new friends.

However, Daniel really wants to get to know his mother, who she was and where she might be now. But we cannot hide the fact that this is a very sensitive subject for the two grandparents. They don’t want to talk about it, and they do not want the boys to sneak around in the house and find any information about her, either. More specifically, they are not allowed to enter her room. So what do two young, curious boys do? The exact opposite of what the grown-ups tell them to, of course!

The grandparents worry about their neighbours, the Eriksen’s, and we are told to keep an eye on them. Therefore, since Christmas is just around the corner, the boys decide to join Chris and his father to attend a Christmas market. The boys do what they can to make each other happy, and it often lies in those little moments where they can pause and just enjoy being boys.

As always with the Life Is Strange universe, this episode is an emotional rollercoaster. With a masterful soundtrack composition, they combine the soundtrack with the songs from Captain Spirit, which really brought back all the emotions I felt then.

Finally, a series of unfortunate events forces the two wolf brothers to leave Beaver Creek altogether. As I said; it’s not easy being these two young cubs. The episode ends as they are forced out into the great unknown. This episode contained so much emotion, and I’m excited to see where this adventure is headed!

The Walking Dead: The Final Season "Broken Toys" Review PS4

The Walking Dead: The Final Season “Broken Toys” Review [PS4] – An Emotional Comeback

Wow. Who would’ve thought in September that we would be back here now?

The shot heard around the world was that Telltale Games had shut down. For good. In the process, we lost a fantastic game company, and games like The Wolf Among Us disappeared with the tide. Perhaps it was a good thing that, at the time, they had already started The Walking Dead: The Final Season. If not, chances are I wouldn’t be here now, writing this review.

Thanks to the creator of The Walking Dead universe himself, Robert Kirkman’s game studio decided to pick up where they left off, bringing people from Telltale in to help give the series the end it deserves. Since it’s been a while, let’s briefly summarise the previous episode, shall we? Reader warning: this review might contain some spoilers. However, I can say that the episode is good, and that you should play it. 

We met a character we haven’t seen since season 1; Lilly. If you don’t remember her, she’s the mean one whom you may or may not have left on the side of the road. She was a bad person then, and she is a bad person now. The difference is that she now has a group of raiders supporting her, treating her as their leader. Things got heated when Clementine, AJ, and their group of rebellious teenagers had to defend the school from Lilly’s invasion. Sacrifices were made, and hope seemed lost.

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We managed to capture Abel, Lilly’s right-hand man. As always, Clem has to do the dirty work and interrogate Abel to find out where the raiders have taken the other kids. We will find out where they are, no matter the cost. Even in a post-apocalyptic world where one would think humans have to work together to survive, they still choose to find reasons to hunt and murder each other.

There is a small war going on, and Lilly’s group of raiders are kidnapping people to fight for them. This ultimately means that their hidden lair is where we need to go to save our friends. Queue “Eye of the Tiger”. In the meantime, figuring out how to infiltrate their base might take some time; and they are going to need help. Who better to turn to than James, our only other friend outside the school? He has a different philosophy towards Walkers than most people, seeing them as innocent people rather than mere monsters; believing their soul still exists inside what deceivingly looks like an empty, broken vessel.

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The night before everything is supposed to go down, Clementine has a dream. A dream which threw all the feels upon The Walking Dead fans who have been following this series since the very beginning. Flashback to the train-scene from Season One – and in comes our sweet, sweet Lee. Clementine’s substitute parent. This scene was one of the most touching since the first season for several reasons: 

  1. The fact that whenever Clementine needs a safe space, it is with Lee, on the train where he taught her everything she needed to know to keep her safe.
  2. Whenever Clementine needs help and feels insecure, Lee is the one to give her advice.
  3. The scene makes an incredibly touching transformation between child Clementine and adolescent Clementine.
  4. This scene is everything.

When I managed to recuperate from this very emotional scene, I took a step back to look at the gameplay. Like I mentioned in the previous review, the combat system is still very unforgiving. One mistake, and you’re dead. But I guess that makes sense when you’re living in a zombie-infested post-apocalyptic world.

Since it was the first episode given out by Skybound Games, players were warned that the episode might contain some bugs. They were already aware of the problem and suggested to players what they could do to fix it. When playing it myself, I didn’t encounter any major bugs, just some audio disruptions, and some bad transitions between scenes. Nothing that ruined the experience, which I’m pleased with.

This was, all in all, a solid comeback for the series, and a worthy continuation of what Telltale started. I was impressed with how the episode was basically an emotional rollercoaster, and I’m excited to see what the final episode of The Final Season will bring. If everything goes according to plan, the last episode will be released on March 26, titled “Take Us Back”. I don’t think I ever will be ready to say goodbye. But all good adventures must eventually come to an end.

Still. Not. Bitten.

Omega Strike Review [Switch] – Bringing Back The ’90s

Jack Boyles reviews Omega Strike…

The ’90s were the golden age of action in popular culture. You had such great action movies, movies like Die Hard 2, T2 or Cliffhanger; movies that made you sit down and thrilled you with its set pieces. But these films know pacing — they knew not to shove you with stuff every two seconds.

Then there were ’90s video games. The arcades, light gun games, beat em ups; games like Final Fight, Metal Slug. You also had the console market boom with Nintendo vs Sega. Titles like Metroid, Earthworm Jim or Robocop vs Terminator; the action was everywhere, and it served one purpose, to entertain.

Nowadays, action movies and video games take themselves seriously, albeit ridiculous in nature. I feel that creators miss an important part of what made the action entertainment from this era great… Charm.

However, the team at Woblyware have reminded us of a simpler time of gaming with their title, Omega Strike.

Omega Strike has you play as three freedom fighters whose mission is to stop Doctor Omega and his mutant army from dominating the world. Playing as three of the freedom fighters, you must explore the world to find treasure and abilities in this Metroidvania game.

As previously stated, you play as three characters, the main character being Sarge, a Rambo inspired rifleman who has slick hair, the bulking muscle man Bear equipped with his grenade launcher and Dex the agility character with a shotgun. Each character has their abilities that help you access previously inaccessible areas.

The very start of the game has you with all three playable characters. Upon your first meeting of Doctor Omega, he captures Dex and Bear in a classic ‘removal of power’ move that is a staple of the Metroidvania genre. From here you must find Bear and Dex as well as the remaining power-ups scattered across the open world design. Exploring the map, you’ll come across treasure that gives you chunks of money. Destroying barrels and enemies also drops coins that can be used to buy weapon upgrades.

Though, exploration is a big part of the game. So is blasting down enemies. Bear’s grenades bounce and dip making it suitable for hitting enemies below you, Dex’s shotgun is powerful but has a small range, and Sarge’s rifle has the best range but medium power. Flicking through the players on the fly makes this an easy task.

It’s how solid the game feels that is one of the joyous parts of Omega Strike. The way the game plays is extremely polished and responsive. Jumping from platform to platform and dispatching enemies is generally satisfying; you easily slip into the game flow. At times, it doesn’t even feel like a Metroidvania title and would be more suited too a run and gun game from the ’90s.

Omega Strike is a love letter to ’90s video games on the SNES and Megadrive. The 2D pixel art graphics just spark nostalgia from that era of gaming, opting for a cartoon/simpler look than gritty details.

Furthermore, the soundtrack sounds like many of the instrumentals from a SNES cartridge. The tunes also are very hummable which is something lost from video games today; again, harking back to that ’90s generation of gaming.

Though, as polished as this game is, this becomes one of its issues; it never excels in any department.

The game offers no mini map, a staple in Metroidvania titles since Super Metroid. Unlocking the powers does no more than opening previously inaccessible areas and doesn’t change the way you play or think about the game.

As fun as shooting enemies is, it’s annoying not being able to shoot diagonally; meaning you must jump and shoot whenever an enemy is above or bounce Bear’s grenades off the walls in an attempt to hit an enemy below you.

Moreover, you can only switch the player in a preset way. So, if you want Sarge and you are Bear, you’ll have to scan through Dex to get to Sarge. I feel the ability to switch back and forth would add more depth.

Despite these issues, Omega Strike is a fun and polished game which makes these hiccups just bizarre. Though I cannot deny that is a good game and is enjoyable from start to finish. It may not execute everything correctly but what it does, it does it well enough to make the whole experience cohesively entertaining and engaging.

Both modern and retro gamers will find something in this indie title, though I feel people from the ’90s will get more out of this game.

So, grab your bucket hat and popper trousers.

Retro Gaming

Top Things I Miss About Retro Gaming

Jordan Zolan talks about gaming’s past…

A friend of mine was recently late to a meet-up we scheduled because he had to reach a save spot in a game. He complained how long it took to save his data, and that he was frustrated about being late as a result.

It all got me thinking about how things used to be back in the day, and that him having to wait a little bit to save is nothing like what we had to go through when I was a kid. We discussed what it was like oh so many years ago, and I started to reminisce about all the other aspects of retro gaming that I miss. Here are just a few things gamers today might not remember, but they were staples of my gaming experience growing up.

Cheat Codes:

Anyone who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s can probably still recite a cheat code or two. Whether it’s “IDDKQ,” “KDFM,” or “Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A B A Start,” these sequences are burned into our memories. With cheat codes, we could act like God’s among men, devilishly manipulating the world around us. We now had the power to grant more lives, unlock unlimited weapons, or bring ourselves back from the dead.

Playing through Doom II was fun but having the ability to equip the BFG from the very start made for a really great ride. Knowing the correct buttons to push or keys to input, made gamers feel like they knew something no one else did. It was a secret that made you feel larger than life. Sure, everyone knew these codes, but in the privacy of your own home, you were the sole wielder of such great power.  To this day, I can’t pop in Contra on my NES without inputting the code for thirty lives. It’s ingrained in my muscle memory for all time.

This all still exists today, but it’s not as prevalent and just doesn’t feel as cool as it did oh so many years ago. What are some of the cheat codes you remember always using as a kid?

Retro Gaming

Save Game Passwords

Gamers today don’t know how easy they have it when it comes to saving a game. Most of the time you can just hit the start button and save your data on the spot. Occasionally, there will be a game that makes you work a little hard for it by having you find a save spot or wait until finishing a level. Either way, saving games in today’s world is a simple affair.

This wasn’t always the case, and I remember the pains of what my generation had to go through. Back in the day, we didn’t have the option of saving willy-nilly. What we had, were things called passwords or save game codes. If a game did allow you to save (which wasn’t always the case), it would give you a long string of randomized characters to input. This would allow the player to start at the most recently completed level, or at the spot where the password was received. I used to have notebooks full of passwords written down as to not lose them. I worked hard at advancing through various games, and those save game codes were of vital importance. I can’t imagine having to do something so archaic today, but back then it was the norm.

Retro Gaming

Instruction Manuals

I don’t remember when exactly it became a thing to get rid of instruction manuals with games. Back in the day, every title came packaged with a detailed booklet for all to read and enjoy. If you go back to the NES days, not only were they informative, but many had fantastic artwork throughout the pages. To see a great example, try to find an original Zelda manual. Each enemy and all the weapons were beautifully drawn with immense detail. Many times, there would be whole backstories written inside to build the world of the game.

I used to collect mine, never throwing any away. One day, all of my manuals were tossed, and it was devastating. Today, assuming you don’t buy a game digitally, all we get is a little insert, possibly a coupon or code, and that’s about it. I’m sure it was a cost-cutting measure to do away with instructions, but they used to add so much to the gaming experience. Even to this day, I think about my tossed books of fun, and I wish I had them to read through.

Retro Gaming

Nintendo Power

Sure, gaming magazines are still released on stands today, but none of them are as iconic or enjoyable as Nintendo Power used to be. When you received a copy of that larger than life magazine in the mail, it was a glorious day, to say the least. The wonders and thrills imprinted on each page always brightened my day. The cover art was always amazing, and the details within continually made me excited for what was to come.

From 1988 to 2012, Nintendo fans were treated to something special within those pages. The magazines released today still inform players of upcoming games and news, but it’s not the same. By the time an issue hits the newsstand, the information it contains is outdated and made irrelevant by the internet. I was given a subscription to Game Informer when I paid for my GameStop PowerUp Rewards, but I didn’t read a single issue. The magic that was Nintendo Power can never be recreated.

Retro Gaming

PS1 Power-Up Theme

This might be silly, but I loved the theme that played when you first turned on an original PlayStation. It gave the PS1 an instant bravado that made it say “I’m Different, and I’m going to kick butt.” When you heard that tone, you knew you were in for an experience. I can remember turning up the volume, controller in hand, and hitting that power button with the biggest grin on my face as that music played.

It truth, not all games lived up to the hype generated by that grandiose tone, but it always made you feel you were strapping in for a great ride none-the-less. Other consoles had their other start music after that, but nothing quite matched the grandeur of the original PS1. I loved the GameCube start-up music as well, but it didn’t have the same adrenaline-inducing magnetism as the PS1.

Retro Gaming

Peripherals

Nintendo was king of the peripherals. From the Power Glove, Super Scope 6, the Power Pad, and the Light Gun to name a few, gamers in the ’80s and early ’90s were inundated with first and third party peripherals.

So many of these add-ons were quite useless, but I’ll be dammed if they didn’t look cool on the shelf. The R.O.B for the original NES was probably the most confusing and nonsensical peripheral of all time, and yet there was something special about it. I still have mine, although it doesn’t work, and I’m missing all of the various attachments.

Steering wheels, flight sticks, brake pedals, and arcade-style lap controls were all a part of what gaming was all about. I know they still sell things like that today, but the newness of it all back in the NES heyday made it all the more special. If you loved playing Afterburn in the arcade, now you could have your very own Jet flight stick at home.

It was kitschy and pretty geeky to have some of these beautiful pieces of plastic, but it just made the who gaming experience so much more visceral. What are some of your favorite peripherals from back in the day? Are there any you always wished you had but never owned?

Retro Gaming

Simple Wired Controllers

I can remember getting so frustrated at games (I’m looking at you Battletoads), that I would throw my controller in a fit of rage. The NES controllers were built like tanks, and since they were wired, they couldn’t go very far.

I can safely say I never broke a single controller back then by throwing it. It was a great way to channel your frustrations and to take a minute to cool down and try again. Jump to today, and I would NEVER throw a controller no matter how blind with rage I’ve become. Aside from the fact that they can easily break, controllers are exceptionally expensive. Having to replace a first party Xbox One, PS4, or Switch Pro Controller will set you back $60 or $70 bucks. The Joy-Cons, as much as I love them are also exorbitant. Throwing your controller today is an expensive form of anger management, one which I highly recommend you do not do.

Makes me yearn for the little square piece of hard plastic with its two buttons and securely wired tether.

Retro Gaming

These have been just a few of the things I miss about retro gaming. Sure, many of the things I listed above aren’t practical today, but that’s not the point.

I realize gaming has evolved to make things easier and more streamlined for players, but that doesn’t mean I can’t reminisce about the days of yore. I wouldn’t want to go back to inputting a long password to start a game where I left off or be forced to use simple wired controllers again.

I enjoy how gaming has evolved, but a part of me misses the simple pleasures of how things used to be. Are there aspects to retro gaming you miss? Write in the comments below and let me know what you think of my list and what I might have left off.

My Big Sister Review [PC] – A Dark Comedy About The Love Between Siblings

Alisa Hail reviews My Big Sister…

Dealing with your siblings is a chore sometimes. More so for some than others. But, what if your sibling was turned into an undead ghoul with a ravenous appetite for raw flesh? Would you still be willing to help them out? More importantly, perhaps, are you still going to argue about those annoying sounds they make when they eat? My Big Sister is a story that explores the more mundane aspects of sibling love and rivalry, juxtaposed against an unsettling atmosphere of death, curses, and the invisible things we suspect late at night stalk us unseen in the dark.

Luzia is not your average little girl. Her jaded personality seems a bit beyond her age. Her regular annoyance with her older sister, Sombria, however, is easily relatable. Following an unplanned and ill-fated trip to a bathhouse, Sombria falls victim to a curse. Her form overly stretched and her skin too pale, she is clearly no longer human. Sombria’s salvation, if possible, lands on the young shoulders of Luzia. Thankfully, Luzia is perfectly suited to the task.

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It is not often I have described a game with plenty of blood, and gore, and a few alarming instances as delightful, but that is the most accurate description I can give My Big Sister. Luzia’s childlike embrace of the strange world around her feels akin to Alice trapped in Wonderland. It is almost as if the dangers always at her heels can never quite touch her due to her innocence. For instance, early on Luzia runs across a demon in need of a face. The demon, surprised by Luzia’s unexpected desire to help, takes a liking to her, even giving her a candy bar as a reward after she delivers. But, therein also lies the persistent feeling of dread. When will her curiosity press her too far and the darkness finally closes in?

But, Luzia never loses her sense of humour despite everything. In fact, it is both Luzia and Sombria’s casual wit juxtaposed against the sinister reality of their plight that makes for most of the humour in the game. For example, Sombria loses herself to her new raging hunger and ends up devouring a deer. When Luzia arrives to find the gruesome scene she makes a Bambi joke. It is this type of banter that kept a smile on my face the whole time.

Gameplay is simple. Exclamation marks appear whenever there is an area that can be explored or an item that can be examined. Inventory requires you to scroll from left to right to look at and select items, but since you are never carrying more than four or five items at a time, this works very well. The developers have added save points throughout, but unfortunately you only have one save file. However, since there is no real combat in the game, so the possibility of death is rare.

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The world of My Big Sister is so well crafted, particularly because the relationship between Sombria and Luzia feels so natural and heartfelt, that it is easy to feel comfortable in the world yourself.

Run across a noodle house for the spirits nestled in the woods? Of course. Why wouldn’t that be there? It is at once absurd, and terrifying, and yet familiar. In some ways, the childlike whimsy mixed with the darkness and danger makes me think of a classic Studio Ghibli film. It is a reminder of the curiosity of the childhood, the fear of the dark, and the relationships that make life worth the journey.

Indie Title Disco Elysium – Deprived Fun

Jack Boyles takes a look at indie game Disco Elysium…

“When did it all change? When did we become so deprived? So feral? I see these streets, these deteriorating streets in denial with itself, desperately holding onto a more prolific time. And its citizens have all aged with it. Staring with their vacant eyes, expressionless, lost in their own refutation. But then there is me, I. What is I? Where do I fit? After all, I am no different from these inhabitants, dumbfounded and alone in an age of irrationality”.

As we know from my previous articles such as Pixel Noir (my first article for Nitchigamer) I’m a big fan of film noir. The pessimistic world view is something I can relate too. Being a working-class male brought up in a town ravaged by pit closures, not evolving and just lying there stagnated. So, to my pleasure, I got my hands on a new detective game that fits nicely in that world view, Disco Elysium.

Disco Elysium is an isometric RPG that is heavily inspired by tabletop RPG’s using a dice/luck mechanic to see if you are successful in your decision and dialogue. Developed by Zaum Studio and published by Humble Bundle, it markets itself as a hardboiled show in a fantasy setting.

You play as Revachol West, a shamed lieutenant detective of a shore town where misfeasance lays around every corner. You must keep your character’s sanity in check while trying to solve cases, interrogate suspects or explore the streets. The game features many open-ended cases leaving player expression to address them.

Glancing at the game, you are instantly drawn in by the visuals. The game looks beautiful, yet it still manages to have this sense of grit. A painted aesthetic gives a very expressionistic feeling to it, how it uses colour and shade to add detail to the environments instead of having each little detailed applied to them. However, this allows the developers to make the settings more nuanced; for example, a rug with a corner overturned or segments of the tiled flooring wear and tear. This is an excellent example of how strong rendered graphics are and how they can add so much personality into environments. Even the skill cards have the Francis Bacon look of body-distorted imagery. It’s these artistic choices that make Disco Elysium standout from most other indie games as well as showing the quality of the game and focus on encapsulating the mood of the world.

If the visuals weren’t enough for you, the gameplay follows suit with its same level of quality. As I previously stated, this game takes the tabletop formula of dice roll/chance gameplay. You’ll be given certain dialogue trees depending on your stats, though you will have a certain chance of this dialogue being successful which is represented by a dice roll. It’s no different to chance/stat based choices in RPG games such as the early Fallout games. Though it’s that dice roll that makes it more engaging and impactful; like the ball spinning on a roulette wheel, it reminds you that odds are just odds. Furthermore, the dialogue options are plentiful, sometimes hitting around seven choices and specialist choices appearing due to your stats; this game has the potential for many watercooler chatting moments.

Though it’s the skill system in Disco Elysium that surprises yet again, instead of going for your typical speech, charism skills; Disco Elysium goes with a more psychological skill base. You have four tiers of skills: Psyche, Intelligence, Physique and Motoric, all with there own attributes such as Empathy, Conceptualization and Composure to name a few. It’s here you craft what type of detective you are but not by the skills they have but by their personality, doubts and instincts.

The demo starts me with choosing a character type. I went with the alcoholic detective because that’s the type of detective I am. The intro had this inner monologue/debate my character was having with himself, the empathy side and the damn crazed one; me keeping them both in check.

Waking up in my apartment with a smashed window, it’s here you start to realise that as much of an RPG the game is, it’s also a point and click adventure game. Collecting and inspecting your environment and items to put in your inventory and/or for clues. Staring into a mirror, you once again have an internal monologue — to which I made my mess of a detective be that delirious he thought he was handsome (like I said, my kind of detective) which then displayed a character icon at the bottom of my screen of a crazed delirious man… Genius.

It’s from your inventory menu you can select items of clothing, and I refused to find my lost shoe, resulting in a detective walking around with one shoe on… Genius.

From here I spoke with many NPC characters to find out what happened and who I am (because of his drunk ways). I tried to hit on my neighbour. I spoke with the landlord who wasn’t my biggest fan and a colleague who I pretended to know what he was going on about. These characters were top notch and believable due to the excellent writing; I expect to see many memorable characters when the full game is released.

I loved this game and from speaking with other people (the lads at Special Moves Podcast when I bumped into them) are also enjoying this game. It’s just brimming with quality from top to bottom, in all aspects of the game – especially the writing; it’s really impressive. The level of choices you get, I walked away from the demo knowing that’s my detective, the alcoholic, one shoe wearing delirious man and because of those choices, it was my story.

It’s the grey choices that make these types of RPGs enthralling and the team at Zaum Studios know this. The choices I made didn’t feel like good or bad, they felt like choices that could go either way; making my decisions are more impactful because I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be. Likewise, the chance mechanic, sometimes that choice might fall flat on its bottom. They are mixing the adventure game genre with RPG elements with stats based on emotions and personality traits. You can see this game going into interesting territory and with the buzz already surrounding this game; so can everyone else.

Disco Elysium is one of the most original, unique and fun RPGs that diehard fans of the genre have been waiting for; this is one game that is going to be a highlight of the indie game scene.