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.

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A Look At Indie Title ‘Obviously Inappropriate Content’

Jack Boyles takes a look at indie title Obviously Inappropriate Content…

“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.”

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Censorship has always been an issue with the game industry; from the days of Mortal Kombat and Night Trap to Grand Theft Auto and South Park: The Stick of Truth. However, it does feel that video games are another convenient scapegoat, and they always will be if we keep shrugging. Pieces of entertainment that change people into the ‘violent, anti-social demons that are here to corrupt your children and loved ones’.

Yet we don’t question society itself not nearly enough on real issues, the fake news phenomenon, proxy wars, news narratives, religion, politics, governments who in reality couldn’t care less, the complete lack of proper workers’ rights and investment, austerity, appalling homelessness; these things that influence our lives and behaviour; people are defined by their experiences.

Appropriate then, that a game is being developed about censorship in video games…

Obviously Inappropriate Content is an Orwellian 2D Shooter Job Simulator. You play a 2D action game which cuts to a desktop mode in which you receive emails. The emails will give you tasks within the 2D game mode, like to screenshot swear words, for example, that you upload in desktop mode.

Think, ‘Metal Slug’ meets ‘Papers Please’. But why, as the player, are we doing this? Well, I’m going to tell you in the next paragraph.

The government is ruled by ‘The Supreme Leader’, who enforces regulations to encourage a positive lifestyle upon the country. You play as a game tester; your job is to censor the videogame in conjunction with the government’s regulations. Throughout the game, the regulations become more frequent, vaguer and longer. However, the company you work for have their own interests at heart that are in opposition to the government. It’s your job to censor enough to keep the government happy, while still maintaining the trust of your company. Your choices will determine the outcome of the game.

The 2D shooter section is the game you are testing called ‘Ural Death Machine’. You run from the left side of the screen to the right, shooting enemies and throwing grenades; dealing with waves of enemies and boss battles such as helicopters. These sections of OIC could be a standalone game. It may lack the finesse of other run and gun games, it still plays fantastically well. Only for that enjoyment to sap when you come across a ‘glitch’ or something you must censor. It really portrays how I imagine game testing is; a mixture of excitement and tedium.

Then you have the desktop mode, in which you receive and respond to emails or messengers from various staff members and government authorities. It’s here you submit your findings, acquire objectives and sustain feedback from either company or government.

Due to the desktop mode, the game (for now) requires the use of a mouse though for the platforming sections you can use either joypad or keyboard. This could be an issue for console porting if an alternative can not be found.

It’s a rarity that we come across games that try and say something worthwhile. Based on the developer – Shuaiying Hou – his own experience of censorship, with the goal of the game to express the effects of censorship within the industry and society.

In my opinion, the triple AAA industry is still making ‘mature’ games that are actually aimed at children. It’s refreshing to see a culture of developers push the medium in a respectable way.

As a fan of dystopian/political satire/social commentary in my video games such as BioShock, the Oddworld series or Deus Ex; it’s great to see a game put you in the shoes of someone who must make that decision.

Someone who asks themselves, is this right? A playable demo can be found here.

Past Blast: Chase The Express – Staying Above 50mph

What to say about the 90’s? Take That, Shell suits, Cassettes, the rave culture, Brit-pop, The X-files, The Outer-Limits, Steps, Strange but True, Sony PlayStation, VHS, Eclipse clothing, tramlines, the ear stud, Pokémon, Nintendo vs. Sega, Eerie Indiana and the Hollywood Blockbuster action movie.

In the 90’s, TV, clothing, music, brands and movies were events; they meant something. One burst out of nowhere, full of high octane action and was all thrill; that movie was the legendary ‘Speed’ starring Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper. An action movie that defined a generation with cheesy dialogue, a simple plot and a 1 hour and 56 minutes adrenaline rush.

I imagine any youth of today may laugh at the above comments on Speed, yet, I’m not kidding. Speed was the must-see movie that even had its own simulator. Speed later influenced one of gaming’s beloved franchises: Metal Gear Solid. With the first Metal Gear Solid soundtrack ripping off the Speed soundtrack (seriously, someone should have been sued) and Metal Gear Solid 2’s Fat Man being inspired by Dennis Hopper’s character.

But there was one game that feels like Speed the game just without the staying above 50mph, being on a bus and Sandra Bullock – that game is Chase the Express.

Covert Ops: Nuclear Dawn (let’s be honest, that title sounds like a prog album) in America, was developed by Sugar and Rockets, and published by Sony Computer Entertainment in Japan/Europe and Activision in America. It was released in the dawn of the new Millennium for the PlayStation.

You play as Jack Morton (maybe I’m reading into it too much but the main character from Speed is called Jack) a NATO officer sent to board the Blue Harvest, a train carrying the Ambassador that’s been hijacked by the KGB who now have access to nuclear bombs.

You are the sole survivor of your team after missiles strike your helicopter, nevertheless, you’ll see many characters on the way, Christina Wayborn – one the ambassador’s special police, Philip Mason – the ambassador’s secretary.  As Jack, your job is to stop the terrorists and ensure none of the nuclear bombs are detonated.

Ok, but what about the gameplay? I hear you say that – I was going to tell you if you calm down and listen. Patience is a good thing.

Chase the Express is a third-person action game with puzzle elements and item management. It features the obligatory tank controls suited for the fixed camera angles you’d expect from a game of the genre and time; however, the environments are modelled in 3D meaning you can slightly alter the camera angle.

The puzzles are your typical ‘find item, and place item in said obvious place’. Firearm combat auto aims at an enemy with a ring that will appear around them – changing to a darker colour, it indicates you can deal more damage and if you run out of ammo you always have your fists.

Stealth mainly consists of you walking to one of the side cabin, waiting for a geezer to walk past, and walking out while his back is turned. Another option is popping out of cover with an action roll or dodging certain attacks; you Souls veterans will feel right at home. The game does it’s best to mix the gameplay up with controlling the speed of a train to match another train, multiple scenarios/endings and a bomb disposal section where the wirecutter is the slowest machine I’ve had the pleasure of enduring.

The highlight of this game is by far the dialogue, writing and voice acting; it’s so terrible in that PlayStation 1 way that it provides the game entertainment and lots of charm. The lines are delivered vacantly with no emotion and are disjointed. The writing – there is a section where you speak to a character about how to disarm some missiles, his reply is just “Screwdriver”. Screwdriver… Genius.

That’s the joy of this game, it doesn’t try to be something spectacular because it knows it isn’t, the gameplay doesn’t try to wow you with some special mechanic because it’s all a poorly done version of something else, the writing and acting isn’t going to blow your mind and they know it.

What the game is, is entertainment, time out of your life for 4-5 hours. In that very 90’s way, it knows what it is and what its goal is, to entertain; not too much, but enough –  it doesn’t swallow your life in the process. If this was a 90’s movie, it would come in a triple VHS with ‘Money Train’ and/or ‘Daylight’; it’s that calibre of video game.

It cost me three pounds. If there is any PlayStation one fans/collectors who haven’t played this game and they want something they can hammer out in a day or two – give it a blast. I’ll be back soon.

A Way Out

A Way Out Review [PS4] – A Criminally Good Co-Op Adventure

As they say, there’s no “I” in “team.” From the man who has believed in this mantra since his previous game Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Josef Fares is the director of the co-op exclusive A Way Out. Made by Hazelight Studios and published by Electronic Arts, this is a game I have been looking forward to ever since it was announced on E3 in 2017.

A Way Out is a textbook action-adventure game, but it’s unique in so many ways. As mentioned, there is no single-player option. You can play either local co-op, with a traditional split-screen style, or you can play online with another player. I chose to play the game in local co-op, so I can’t comment on how the game works online. From my experience with Fares’ previous game, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, I knew local co-op would not be a problem, as Brothers offered an amazing co-op experience.

A Way Out Review

At the beginning of the game, each player has to assign a character, which can be described in these short terms:

  • Meet Vincent Moretti. Smart and strategic, Vincent prefers the stealthy route when it comes to handling situations and is not one to be underestimated. Vincent is convicted of murder, and the game opens with him being lead into prison. Outside the prison, Vincent is in a somewhat rocky place with his very pregnant wife.
  • Meet Leo Caruso. Tough, honest, and never afraid to do things the hard way, Leo is a stubborn man who is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Leo is already an inmate when Vincent entered the prison and was convicted of grand theft. Outside the bars, Leo’s faithful girlfriend and their beloved son are waiting for him.

While the two men have each taken a very different path in life up until this very moment, Leo and Vincent’s unique stories are connected into one fantastic storyline. As they slowly get to know each other, they find out about a common enemy, a con man named Harvey – the sole reason for them being in prison in the first place. Queue revenge-plot!

Prison is a dangerous place to be and escaping it isn’t easy. Leo and Vincent are determined to get out. How else are they going to get their revenge? So, walk around the prison, do your chores, and make discreet conversation with the other inmates to gather information on security, how the prison is built, its weaknesses, etc. Do everything you can to make the prison break more manageable, without letting anyone else know what you’re planning.

A Way Out
Take a break from the “escaped convict” life, and play a round or two of tic-tac-toe with your partner!

There are bound to be some fights in prison and this is no different. The fighting scenes are well-made, and in the very first one Leo and Vincent must work together in a ‘fighting circle’. The fights are badass, smoothly shifting from Leo’s perspective to Vincent’s – and it works really well. The quick-time events are terrific and so much fun. Three words: slow-motion scenes. However, there are also stealth-missions while inside the prison; one is the distraction, the other does the dirty work. The reliance on both of you to do your job is exciting and serves for some very refreshing gameplay.

The question on everyone’s mind is; how did they get there in the first place? The storyline moves back and forth between past and present, giving the player a right amount of story both before and after their escape from prison. And yeah, that is not a spoiler, by the way. The majority of the game does not actually surround itself with after prison; it surrounds itself with what happens after their escape. Leo and Vincent’s reunion with the world is not necessarily easy, as they finally must encounter the problems that have been waiting for them outside the bars.

What I really like is how A Way Out integrates the co-op factor into every single aspect of the game – with masterful success. Upon completing a task, such as opening heavy doors and climbing certain obstacles, you are dependent on your partner to help you. That’s just the minor things. The game is extremely interesting in how it presents a variety of different ways of getting through multiple situations.

The two escaped convicts have their own methods: while Leo prefers brute force, Vincent wants more stealth. Most importantly, the players actually have to agree on the choice. And let me tell you, that can definitely create some tension on each side of the couch. This also creates some great replay value – I would like to find out if the story unfolded differently if I had made other choices.

A Way Out
The nice pacing of the game makes each moment all the more engaging.

When it comes to dialogue and script, there is an excellent synergy between Leo and Vincent and it is well-written, intriguing and thrilling. The voice-acting was good, and the synergy between the voice-actors was just as good as the characters in-game. The emotions change quickly from witty commentary that made both me and my partner laugh out loud, to severe conversations that created a pit in our stomach.

Visually, A Way Out is a stunning action-game with perfect pacing. Like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, the game knows that it has beautiful scenery, and gives the player plenty of chances to slow down and observe, before throwing out a fast-paced challenge. As Leo and Vincent naturally must spend a lot of time outside, the game really gets a chance to show off incredible lighting and with perfect corresponding ambience.

The more I think about it, the more I realize the different nuances implemented within. In different instances of the game, the perspective changes. Some parts use the classic GTA top-down style, others it’s a Tekken/Street Fighter style. Josef Fares has made some bold decisions by adding a lot of variety, but somehow it just works perfectly and feels refreshing.

There is also a distinct change in audio when each character has separate conversations. If the players are exploring on different sides of a scenario, then the one who started to speak first will have the highest audio or the ‘focus‘ of the conversations. When one of the characters encounters a critical discussion, the game will automatically focus more on that. It’s an excellent way to focus on the essential things, and even though it was a bit confusing at first, it worked surprisingly well.

It wasn’t until I played A Way Out that I realized how much I’ve missed classic split-screen co-op. Nothing beats it. Where have all the good ones gone anyway? Because if I had to find a flaw in this game, I would say that I wished it was just a little bit longer… I wanted more, and though I know that wishes like that are often a double-edged sword, A Way Out is so much more than a get-out-of-prison game.

[There’s a huge twist at the end, a true turning point of the story; if you’re playing with someone in the same room, there might or might not be a problem. And that’s all I am going to say about that].

New trailer for Extinction revealed – PS4, Xbox One, and PC

A new Extinction trailer narrated by the Executive Producer of the game, Derek Neal, has been revealed.

That Reminds Me – Shadow of the Colossus?

Neal gives us a look at some of the skills players can equip to quickly eradicate the scary Ravenii. Interestingly, the start of the video declares that “Extinction does not include micro-transactions”. A hot topic indeed.

There are a number of upgrades obtained through the game’s skill tree that aid Avil, giving him an advantage over the many elite Ravenii he will battle.

Action title Extinction will be available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC in Spring of 2018. At the time of the year when the weather becomes a little less bleak.

Figment Review – A Beautiful Exploration Of The Mind [PC]

A music action-adventure set in the recesses of the human mind.

This is how Bedtime Digital Games describe their new game Figment: if you are familiar with Back to Bed, an adorable puzzle game about guiding a sleepwalking man safely back to his bed, you will quickly see the resemblance. (If the title of the game sounded familiar, you probably remember Chris’ preview here).

The first thing that hits you when entering the game is its gorgeous hand-drawn art style, which was one of the most prominent qualities of its predecessor as well. Starting with a pretty little house, we meet our protagonist Dusty, a careless and pessimistic character, who doesn’t care much for anybody or anything. His companion, the bird Piper, works as great opposition to him – cheery, optimistic, and creating bad puns all day long. Well, perhaps some of them are clever, I guess.

Dusty’s scrapbook is stolen by a dark, sullen creature – and we learn later it’s a manifestation of a nightmare. Dusty’s mind is set on getting it back, no matter the cost, and Piper chirps that “something is wrong with the mind,” and that we need to fix it; as a kind of foreboding to what this whole ordeal is about. And so the story begins, as we venture into the imaginations of the mind.

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The puzzles are interesting, and luckily for me, not too hard.

The game uses some interesting terminology; some of which might seem familiar, but on a very different subject than video games; neurology. Collect endorphins so that the “brain will turn back into yourself again in no time,” pulling you out of whatever it is that’s holding you down. Killing nightmares are a way to release these endorphins – which makes perfect sense since endorphins are basically the stuff that makes you happy. One can also collect endurance neurons, which is basically health points. The game also creates new words such as the “remembrane” – which is a ball of light that represents forgotten memories. They can be collected throughout the game and are also a part of restoring your mind.

The terminology is there for a reason; as the game world itself is a manifestation of the brain, Dusty and Piper has to traverse through the different parts of the brain in order to fight the different nightmares. The right side of the brain is the creative side, and the scenery adjusts accordingly, with instruments decorated as flowers, creating an absurd yet playful atmosphere. The logical part of the brain, on the other hand, is filled with cogs and clocks, with darker colours. There are really interesting concepts concerning the brain that make it into the game, such as the “train of thoughts” which is an object used to solve some of the puzzles in the logical part of the brain. Very well done by the developers – very clever indeed!

Reminding me a little bit of Monument Valley in the way the structure is built.png
This specific puzzle… I was stuck on it for quite some time. *sigh*

The puzzles get more extensive as you proceed in the game, meaning you need to look around everywhere, backtracking and so on. Some of the puzzles that look dimensional like this remind me of the indie game Monument Valley. However, the puzzles are not too hard, which I liked. I am a fan of progress in games and appreciate not having to be stuck on a puzzle for a longer period of time.

The majority of the game is about solving puzzles, but there’s also a bit about battling enemies or so-called nightmares. In terms of gameplay, Figment shows how the hack ‘n’ slash element can be implemented into a relaxing game successfully. It is simple and straightforward – and patience is key when it comes to defeating your enemies. The nightmares come in the form of human fears, such as disease, spiders, etc, which is interesting, because they are both rational and irrational fears – applying to both parts of the brain!

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The loading screen is a map of your progress, which is pretty handy. And it is gorgeous-looking too. The universe actually reminds me of the painter Salvador Dali and his painting “The Persistence of Memory.”
Do you see the resemblance?

It is clear that Figment is a game that focuses on its musical prowess. And with good reason, too. I loved the sound design in this title. The music changes depending on where you are in the brain and which nightmare you are fighting. The instruments that play in the soundtrack are blended into the scenery in a very beautiful way, and one can clearly see how essential music is to the ethos of this game. It gets better: during the boss encounters they sing songs to you – about what they are, and why they are frightening. The songs are catchy and fun – I really enjoyed them for this reason alone.

Figment offers a unique soundtrack, with specially designed songs – if there ever exists a vinyl of the music, be sure to send it my way, okay? Just sayin’.

Though the game doesn’t contain that much action, it sure is a fantastic adventure game. The levels are imaginative, and gorgeous in an absurd kind of way. Moreover, the way Figment chooses to deal with the distress of the mind is fascinating, and very well done.

As of this moment, the game is only available on Mac, PC, and Linux. Hopefully, it will be available on Xbox, PS4 and Switch soon, because more people definitely need to play this.