enfrdeitptrues

Arcade

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    Atari Flashback Classics
    Developed by: Code Mystics
    Published by: Atari
    Release date: December 19, 2018
    Available on: PS TV, Switch, Vita
    Genre: Arcade
    Number of Players: Up to four online
    ESRB Rating: Everyone with mild violence and use of tobacco
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you Atari for sending us this collection to review!

    The Atari 2600 was released in 1977 and was the first console I've owned. The graphics were pretty basic, but the games on it were pretty fun. Sadly, my favorites like Frogger and Summer Games are not in this collection. The 5200 was released in 1982 and only had a two year lifespan. I never owned a 5200, but our family did get the 7800 in 1987. I hope there is a Flashbacks collection with 7800 games someday, but until then, this is a solid collection of 2600 and 5200 offerings.

    As of this review, there have been three Atari Flashback Classic volumes that retail for $19.99 apiece. Each of the volumes has fifty games from the 2600, 5200, and arcade eras. The recently released Atari Flashback Classics for the Switch and Vita systems includes 150 titles of which most of them are from the three volumes mentioned earlier. The best part is that this bundle is only $19.99. I recently reviewed volume 3 on the Xbox and the controller issues are solved on the touch screen enabled consoles. The only downside to the Vita version is that the multiplayer is a little trickier, but not impossible.

    Atari Flashback Classics
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: 150 classic games in one bundle
    Weak Points: Multiplayer is difficult on the Vita
    Moral Warnings: Some games have violence, magic, tobacco use, gambling

    Many classics in this bundle include 2600 and 5200 versions of Asteroids, Centipede, Millipede, Missile Command, and Super Breakout. Granted the visuals are not stellar in either version but in some cases like Missile Command, I preferred the 2600 version for the controls.

    If you enjoy sports games there are plenty in this bundle including Atari Baseball (Arcade), Atari Basketball (Arcade), Atari Football (Arcade), Atari Soccer (Arcade), Miniature Golf (5200), Realsports Baseball (5200), Realsports Basketball (5200), Realsports Football (5200), Realsports Tennis (5200), Realsports Volleyball (5200), Super Challenge Baseball (2600), Super Challenge Football (2600), Super Baseball (2600), and Super Football (2600). The Pool Shark (Arcade) game is very simplistic, not realistic, but it is still fun regardless.

    Some games support two players and others require it. Games like Sword Fight (2600) and Xari Arena (2600) work well with two players on the Vita. Each player gets to control their avatar with the joystick on their side. Sea Battle will launch, but requires two players. Like many titles, this one’s objectives are a bit confusing and it’s worth reading the manual for it from the main menu. Thankfully, you can enlarge the manual since the Vita’s screen is rather small for reading it.

    Atari Flashback Classics
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 70%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 4/10
    Sound - 5/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 86%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    Destroyer (Arcade) is fun where you have to drop missiles timed with the ships below and at the proper detonation depth. Dominos (Arcade) is very similar to the classic Snakes game where your ever-growing line of dominoes cannot touch the walls, itself, or the opponent’s dominoes. Maze Invaders (Arcade) is probably one of the best-looking games in this bundle. In Maze Invaders you have to collect all of the fruits in the changing mazes while avoiding enemies and their attacks.

    Some of the games have magic like Wizard (2600). Other games like Black Jack (2600), Casino (2600), and Slot Machine (2600) are clearly gambling oriented. Thankfully, the currency is virtual. There are other titles with accidental or intentional violence. In either of these scenarios, there is no blood and very little detail. This collection is family friendly and can be enjoyed by anyone not put off by the poor visuals and audio limitations of games from this era. On a positive note, Basic Math is a helpful math flashcard game that’s good for learning arithmetic.

    Overall, this collection is a pretty good bargain considering that it has most of the titles from all three bundles at the price of one of them. Granted there are lots of sports games and duplicates, but there are many other gems that I am enjoying. The nostalgia is great, but probably won’t hold the attention of younger gamers who are spoiled by the detailed visuals of modern titles.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 3
    Developed by: Code Mystics
    Published by: Atari
    Release date: December 13, 2018
    Available on: PS4, Xbox One
    Genre: Arcade
    Number of Players: Up to two
    ESRB Rating: Everyone with mild violence and use of tobacco
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you Atari for sending us this collection to review!

    While I haven’t played the first two Flashback Classics bundles, my first gaming console was an Atari 2600 and I moved up to a 7800 from there. I never got to see or play a 5200 with its numeric and paddle controllers. There are even a few arcade era games with better visuals than the pixelated 2600 and 5200 offerings. The gameplay surpasses the visuals in many of these games and if you’re looking for eye candy, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

    There are fifty titles in this collection and a couple of the classics that I recognize include Asteroids (5200), Centipede (5200), Millipede (5200), Missile Command (5200), and Super Breakout (5200). Due to licensing, none of my favorite games have made it into any of the Flashback Collections yet and those include Pac-Man, Ms.Pac-Man, Frogger, and Summer Games. I’m hoping E.T. never makes the cut because that game was horrible. I just remember constantly falling into holes in that stupid game.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Lots of sports games and classic 2600 titles in this bundle
    Weak Points: A couple of the titles are unplayable due to poor controls
    Moral Warnings: Some games have violence, magic, tobacco use

    If you enjoy sports games there are plenty in this bundle including Atari Baseball (Arcade), Atari Basketball (Arcade), Atari Football (Arcade), Atari Soccer (Arcade), Miniature Golf (5200), Realsports Baseball (5200), Realsports Basketball(5200), Realsports Football (5200), Realsports Tennis (5200), and Realsports Volleyball (5200). The Pool Shark (Arcade) game is very simplistic, not realistic, but it is still fun regardless.

    Some games support two players and others require it. What fun is a Sword Fight (2600) with just one person? Fire Truck/Smokey Joe (Arcade) is a racing game that has two players controlling both parts of the same vehicle. It can be played solo, but is clearly intended for two players. Sky Diver (Arcade) is competitive, but can be enjoyed solo. Sea Battle (2600) requires two players.

    Destroyer (Arcade) is fun where you have to drop missiles timed with the ships below and at the proper detonation depth. Dominos (Arcade) is very similar to the classic Snakes game where your ever-growing line of dominoes cannot touch the walls, itself, or the opponent’s dominoes. Maze Invaders (Arcade) is probably one of the best-looking games in this bundle. In Maze Invaders you have to collect all of the fruits in the changing mazes while avoiding enemies and their attacks.

    Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 3
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 62%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 4/10
    Sound - 5/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 90%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    While I enjoyed the majority of the games I’ve played, I must admit that many of them are confusing and I had no idea what my objectives were. Built-in manuals are available from the main menu for the 2600 and 5200 titles, but not for the arcade games. My other (and bigger) complaint is that a couple of the games are unplayable since they are designed for a paddle and the Xbox controller does not work properly for Super Breakout (5200). Missile Command (5200) is a little challenging with a cursor, but doable. The side number pad for Holey Moley (2600) works well with the controller for this whack-a-mole style game.

    Some of the games have magic like Wizard (2600), but this is one of the games where I really didn’t know what I was doing. There are other titles with accidental or intentional violence. In either of these scenarios, there is no blood and very little detail. This collection is family friendly and can be enjoyed by anyone not put off by the poor visuals and audio limitations of games from this era.

    I have seen Atari Flashback console bundles at Walmart and they sell for under $19 there. For $19.99 you can play all of the same games and not have another plastic device laying around your house. While some of the games in this collection didn’t interest or utterly confused me, I did enjoy a few of them. I’m not sure I would pay $20 for this collection, but it’s worth considering if it goes on sale.

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    Boom Ball: Boost Edition
    Developed by: Virtual Air Guitar Company
    Published by: Virtual Air Guitar Company
    Release date: October 11, 2018
    Available on: Switch
    Genre: Arcade
    Number of players: Up to two players
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $12.99

    Thank you Virtual Air Guitar Company for sending us this game to review!

    Boom Ball: Boost Edition is a fun 3D version of Breakout. Your goal is to hit and remove all of the blocks using your ball and keeping it in play. Though you start off with one ball, you can wind up with up to twenty-four in play! As long as you can keep track of one of them, you won’t lose any of your lives.

    There are fifty levels on the main map with ten more that can be unlocked with medals earned by completing a level. Each stage can earn you up to four medals if you can clear it, beat the gold time, not lose a ball, and complete it in turbo mode. In turbo mode you only have three balls instead of five.

    Along with adding more levels, you can unlock various paddle designs with medals as well. There are lots of colors and avatars available. If you use the touch screen controls, you don’t get to see the paddles though. While the motion controls are a neat concept, I found them finicky and struggled to complete the tutorial using them. The touch screen worked well for the most part except for the time where I could not trigger the last block explosion without switching to the motion controls. Thankfully, you can toggle between controller modes mid-game, but doing so costs you precious seconds if you’re aiming to beat the gold medal time.

    Boom Ball: Boost Edition
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Lots of variety in levels and balls available
    Weak Points: The controls can be unresponsive at times
    Moral Warnings: Some levels have witches, skeletons, and other creepy Halloween-like themes

    With each block you take out, the boom meter will fill up. When the boom meter is full, you can hurl explosive balls at the remaining auto-targeted blocks. The boom mode makes finishing a level with only a few blocks left much quicker. Besides exploding balls, there are bigger ones, heavier ones, and multiple ones available in many of the levels. The different ball types and level themes keep this game fresh and exciting.

    Each level has multiple themed waves. Some of the levels are in the daytime while others take place in the evening or in outer space! In the beginning, the shaped blocks are stationary but eventually they start to move around. Both stationary and moving obstacles are introduced later on in the game.

    Boom Ball: Boost Edition
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 94%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The visuals are colorful, detailed and nicely animated. I like how the doodles on the map’s background animate when you hover over them. The background music is pleasant, but not memorable. I like the breaking glass sound for when a ball is lost.

    Boom Ball: Boost Edition is a family friendly game that can be enjoyed by gamers of all ages. There’s little to complain about morally. With that said, it should be noted that a few of the blocks are shaped as witches or skeletons as some of the levels have a creepy/Halloween feel to them.

    By sharing the Joy-Cons, two players can play simultaneously. The touchscreen experience is better suited for single-player though. I’ve been spoiled by the accuracy of Virtual Reality to appreciate the motion controls that this game offers. The rumble support is a nice touch if you prefer to play with controllers. In the end, the asking price of $12.99 is reasonable with the amount of content and replay-ability this title offers. If you’re a fan of Breakout, you’ll enjoy Boom Ball: Boost Edition.

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    HEIANKYO ALIEN / 平安京エイリアン 
    Developed By: Mindware Co., Ltd.
    Published By: Mindware Co., Ltd.
    Released: October 13, 2017
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Action, Maze, Puzzle
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: 1 to 2 players
    Price: $13.99

    Thank you Mindware Co.,Ltd. for sending us this game to review.

    A long time ago, if someone wanted to play video games, one would have to walk to a place such as an arcade, a laundromat, or some other facility like a pizza shop. People didn’t have the luxury of a massive library of genres right at their fingertips and play with or against people across the world in seconds. Consoles back then were also mostly seen as a luxury item that belonged to the rich and wealthy, so poor people were typically at the mercy of arcade machines and a fistful of quarters if they wanted to get their game on. Heiankyo Alien was originally released in Japan in 1979 as a computer game by the University of Tokyo’s Theoretical Science Group, and then as an arcade cabinet in 1980. Heiankyo Alien managed to be a fairly influential game of the genre, but is fairly obscure to international audiences.

    HEIANKYO ALIEN manages to both be a remake and a remaster, as it includes two games: the original “Heiankyo Alien” and the arranged version “Heiankyo Alien 3671.” Both games have a simple premise: run around a maze while avoiding aliens. Dig holes around the area to trap aliens in them and then fill the holes to eliminate the aliens. It feels similar to other maze games such as Pac-Man and Bomberman, but still has many differences to make it feel unique. In 3671, there are a wider variety of options for the player such as power-ups that can help you dig faster, run faster and multipliers that increase your score. Control options include both gamepad and keyboard, and both are responsive, smooth, and easy to use. 

    HEIANKYO ALIEN / 平安京エイリアン
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A large amount of settings that can be changed to your liking; The original game is included with this package.
    Weak Points: The original game is basically there for novelty purposes; No high score tracking or leaderboards.
    Moral Warnings: Killing aliens; Your character turns into an angel when you die.

    Different from the original, 3671 also lets you score points if you make an outline with the boxes by running alongside them. Since 3671 puts more of an emphasis on scoring, the game is played in 5 minute increments with infinite lives. The aliens move in an erratic manner, but there are methods to influence the paths they take. Digging holes in certain spots can potentially move them where you want them, and there is candy you can pick up that attracts the aliens. You can use these strategies to set up a trap. Be wary, as even if an alien is trapped they can be freed after five instances of alien cries or about 8 seconds. This does apply when you are in the process of burying them too. Alien allies can instantly free their brothers and sisters if they happen to bump into a trapped alien. As the levels increase, more aliens appear on the screen, but your digging/burying and movement become faster too, to give an edge against the increasing horde.

    3671 is a very colorful and bombastic game. There are lots of effects going on such as blur effects from the character and the enemies, particle effects that pop out when the levels increase, everything changing color as the time ticks down, and lots of words being displayed on the screen. The psychedelic visuals, combined with the groovy music and clear sound effects, make the game feel like a constant party. As the levels increase and more and more aliens are displayed on the screen, all of this can be pretty overwhelming and it can be very easy to lose yourself in the madness. Fortunately, there are option settings that let you tweak all of these effects to your liking; you can even turn them all off if you choose to do so.

    In the options menu, not only can particle effects be adjusted, game settings can be adjusted as well, such as what level you begin the game on, the layout of the maze, the position of where you character spawns, and an interesting setting called Glitch Encore Alien. This setting doesn't seem like much at first, but is actually a key component to obtaining a very large score. The setting is tied to the mechanic of the alien eating candy, and if you happen to build a hole on an alien eating candy, it will create a special type of hole that can amass a ton of points.

    HEIANKYO ALIEN / 平安京エイリアン
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 68%
    Gameplay - 11/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 93%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    I did come across some issues with 3671. For a game that makes an emphasis on getting as big of a high score as possible, it doesn’t keep track of high scores at all. If one wants to save their high score, they would have to take a screenshot once the game is over. It’s also very strange that when 3671 starts, it lets you either open up the program or the manual in a PDF file. Only one of these options can run at once so unfortunately you cannot have both running at the same time.

    The original Heiankyo Alien game, while it is nice that it is included, is definitely a product of its time, and is pretty hard to play today. Your character moves much slower than in 3671 and the aliens move a bit faster. There are no power-ups for you to use, the aliens can get out of the holes faster, and your character only has three to five lives. The controls feel very stiff and digging/burying is excruciatingly slow. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get the co-op function to work either, but even if I did, the game was originally meant to be played with the players facing each other. In a way, the inclusion of the original feels more like a novelty than for someone to actually enjoy. It reminds me of what Vanillaware did for Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, and even though (in both cases) the original pales in comparison to the remake, it’s always nice to include things like that to observe a part of video game history.

    In terms of moral issues and warnings, there are a few. The concept of a premature burial is your only way of defense against the aliens, and when your character touches a competent alien, the alien proceeds to eat the player and they turn into an angel and float away. The 8-bit style graphics make it impossible to show anything graphic, but the implications of the whole thing is pretty gruesome (or maybe I just think too much about silly things such as this).

    HEIANKYO ALIEN can be a good time for the right person, but it’s not meant for everyone. People who love arcade style games, or grew up during the times where arcades were plentiful, will most likely get a lot of enjoyment out of this package, but the style of the game may have little appeal to a newer generation. It does have some potentially addicting properties, but for me, without leaderboards or score tracking, I feel I got everything I wanted from the few hours I played it. In the menu I noticed some grayed out modes such as "Idol Mode" and "Mod Play," even though almost a year has passed since the release, so I’m not sure if they will ever be implemented. I would potentially like to see HEIYANKO ALIEN released for the Switch in the future, as the quick play nature of the game really complements a portable system.

    -Cinque Pierre

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    Match Point
    Developed by: Jolly Crouton Media, Ltd.
    Published by: Jolly Crouton Media, Ltd.
    Released: October 9, 2018
    Available on: Windows
    Number of Players: 2-4 players
    Genre: Arcade
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you Jolly Crouton Media, Ltd. For sending us this game to review!

    Match Point is an arcade-style local-multiplayer-only PC game. To play, the game requires a Xbox-style controller/gamepad for each player. Once all of the players join the match, they choose which team they would like to play on and move to their side of the map. Upon the game’s start, the players move around the map and use various moves to get the ball into the other team’s goal. The team has two minutes to play and score more points than the opposing team, and then a “last chance” is issued, where each team can score as many points as they can until the ball touches the ground (which is coated in red during a “last chance”), when the “last chance” ends. Then, once the game is over, each player’s results will be shown. The goal has a guard that is decently quick to regenerate, so players must first break the shield and then hit the ball into the goal shortly afterward.

    The controls in the game are plenty easy to adapt to, but are still worth going over. Use the left stick to move around on-screen, A to jump (and double-jump when pressed twice), and use the right trigger to kick the ball. The left trigger is for tethering the ball, and more moves can be executed in combinations: to do a super kick, one must hold the right trigger until fully charged, and then release to perform the super kick. In order to execute a super tether, hold the right trigger to charge it, and then press the left trigger to perform a super tether. These moves all contribute to scoring points against the opposing team.

    In this title, there are seven different game modes and eight different maps to play them in. The default mode – Standard Mode – is where all of the controls listed above are permitted for use in-game. Other modes, however, are less complicated; modes like Simple Mode. In Simple Mode, all of the moves except the super kick and the super tether are able to be used during a match.

    Tennis Mode is a lot different to both of these game modes: Players can only stay on their side of the map (where their team’s goal is), and no tethering is allowed, along with the fact that there aren’t any guards on the goals, so points are earned a lot quicker in Tennis Mode. Moonball Mode is quite distinct as well. In it, players are unable to kick or tether the ball, so they must bump themselves into the ball to make it move. Also, the effect of gravity is lessened, hence the name Moonball Mode.

    Match Point
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Multiplayer, fun gameplay, good rumble on gamepad/controller
    Weak Points: No single player mode, no online multiplayer 
    Moral Warnings:None!

    Magnet Mode, along with a few of the other game modes, is quite interesting. Once a player touches the ball, it becomes attracted to members of the opposing team. This makes it much more difficult to score points for your team. Momentum is key in Magnet Mode. Another mode that is interesting in this same aspect is Twitchy Mode. In Twitchy Mode, no moves are restricted, as in Magnet Mode. However, all players – along with the ball – become noticeably smaller and more sensitive to motion. Momentum isn’t as vital to score points in Twitchy Mode.

    The last game mode available on the list is Mayhem Mode. It is as it sounds: a disaster. There are three balls that players must pay attention to, and each player is shown as white, no matter what their team color is (in every other game mode, players are shown as whatever their team color is), making it much more difficult to keep track of one’s location on the map.

    The eight different maps that matches can take place in include standard, pro, volley, hoops, uneven, high, hockey, and shift. The Standard map shows the goals stretching along the walls, occupying the entire wall. In the Pro map, the goals are in the same spots, except they do not fully occupy the walls. Instead, they only cover the middle portion, making it more difficult to score points.

    The Volley map mimics the way a Volleyball game functions, whereas the goals are of equal length occupying the perimeter of the floor. Because of this, it is easier to score a point, yet harder to defend your own goal. Ensuring that the ball doesn’t make contact with the ground is quite difficult. The Hoops map is similar to this, yet different in other areas. Two-thirds of each side of the map (on the floor) consists of the elevated goals. The other one-third is the space where players can stand that isn’t goal territory. Players can stand on the goal, but they don’t always need to.

    Match Point
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 100%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The Uneven map has little purpose in my opinion. Both goals are on the wall, but the goal on the left is three times the size of the right side goal. In every other map, the goals are the exact same size, but this map serves as a good map for matches with an uneven amount of players. High is a map where both goals are on the ceiling, with a small space in between them. Tethering isn’t as useful in this map, however kicking the ball is extremely helpful.

    In the Hockey map, the goals are about the same size as they are in the Pro map, but the goals are closer to the middle of the map, leaving space where players can move behind the goals if need be. They cannot score from behind the goals, however, which helps replicate a hockey game even better. The last map that can be played in is the Shift map, where goals are the same size that they are in the Pro map, yet they both are constantly moving vertically along the walls in a synchronized fashion. This makes it an abundance more challenging to break the goal shield, let alone score a point.

    The graphics of Match Point are as basic as they can get when it comes to their detail, however they are very colorful. Since players are shown on-screen as vertical rectangles, this is something the Atari 2600 could replicate, but when they score, the effects are really neat. Match Point’s main menu has a color scheme of yellow and orange, and I find that combination very attractive.

    Sound and music heard in Match Point is very appropriate for what is going on. During a match, players will hear sort of intense, upbeat music that very much fits the situation and compliments the style of game that Match Point is. Its quality is neither exceptional nor noticeably inadequate.

    As for moral warnings, there is nothing wrong with this title. It is morally perfect; people of all ages can play it. In fact, I found that playing this game with my family was quite enjoyable; it was very fun. I would recommend this game to anyone who has friends to play it with, and to conclude this review, I will say that Match Point is well worth the price.

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    Pig Eat Ball
    Developed by: Mommy’s Best Games
    Published by: Mommy’s Best Games
    Released: September 26, 2018
    Available on: Windows, PS4, Xbox One
    Number of Players: Up to four players with Party Mode, but Adventure mode is Single-player
    Genre: Arcade-style 3D-Platformer
    ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Mommy's Best Games for sending us this game to review!

    Pig Eat Ball is an action-packed arcade-style 3D-platformer game that is available on Windows/Steam, PS4, and Xbox One. You play as Princess Bow, and your father tells you that you should be getting married soon, however, you have other plans, which consist of exploring the galaxy. He has devised “The Royal Games” for men to participate in, and the winner of these games is to marry Princess Bow. You do not want this to proceed, so you disguise yourself so that you can play the games with the hope that you will win, and not be forced to marry.

    In each minigame (which you can’t quit in between), your goal is often to eat all of the “yummies”, which look like yellow tennis balls that are rolling around the screen waiting to be eaten. Sometimes, you are timed to devour a certain amount. This task is difficult because enemies will often inhabit the environment and disturb your objective, and sometimes even make you throw up your food. Barfing the yummies you have eaten so far is common, and often necessary to get through tight spaces, because you get slower and fatter the more yummies you consume, thus making it more difficult to maneuver in the level’s environment.

    That is not the only minigame featured, however. In some minigames, the game-mode is different. Different game-modes include trying to break the most blocks (some of which alternate from breakable to non-breakable), collect the most stars, and in multiplayer mode (playing the same competitive challenges except with up to four players using connected controllers), game-modes can vary from these to challenges like eating the most ice cream cones, staying inside the circle for the longest amount of time as it moves around the screen, or making the most sandwiches by retrieving all of the materials first.

    Pig Eat Ball
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun gameplay, eccentric art, multiplayer  
    Weak Points: No online multiplayer
    Moral Warnings: Fantasy Violence, Crude Humor, and Use of Alcohol and Tobacco 

    Once you complete a level, you will get a rating of multiple medals. This rating will depend on how well you did in the level, how much time it took to complete it, and a few other factors. If you earn all of the possible medals you could get, you will receive a pearl. The space station you live in runs on the power of pearls. Pearls can be viewed by pressing Tab, and they are much like achievements of perfection because they show you how many levels you have completed without flaw.

    In order to retrieve all of the pearls, you must travel all throughout the space station to play all of the minigames and win all of the medals. The space station is divided into four main sections: there’s the Main Hub, the Alpha Module, the Beta Module, and the Gamma Module. You will go through the game in that order.

    Before you start each level, you are given the option to customize your character‘s looks, accessories, and power-ups. You can change your character’s disguise and/or abilities. Power-ups help a lot, but once you use a power-up, you can’t use it again. Power-ups are one use only.

    The controls are pretty simple and easy to adapt to. The direction your character is facing is that of the mouse cursor, and you can use WASD to move around. Left-click to boost your character to your mouse cursor’s current location, and right-click to zoom in on your character’s spot on the map.

    Pig Eat Ball
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 88%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6/10

    Since this title supports gamepad as well, the controls for that are worth explaining. Use the left-stick to move around, A to boost forward into the direction you are facing, B to barf up the yummies you have eaten so far (may be necessary to fit into tight spaces), X to zoom in on your character’s spot, and Y to zoom away from it. You can also use the D-pad to maneuver across the map, if it is preferred.

    The somewhat pixel-like art style is semi-detailed, with unique portrayal of the characters. This look is an interesting one, not something I would think to be desired by some people, but still not repulsive at all. These eccentric graphics are very colorful and quite fitting for the kind of game Pig Eat Ball is.

    The audio is something else. It is quite descriptive, with the barfing noises especially, and I found that somewhat uncomfortable. Not that I couldn’t endure it, but I still found it to be somewhat disturbing. Otherwise the audio is fine though. The music is alright, and the style of the music changes when you go through certain areas of the game. To illustrate, in the minigame rounds, the music seemed more intense, yet fitting for the environment. After the games were over, once I went back into the space station I was in at the time, the music seemed to get calmer. I think it’s supposed to compliment whatever atmosphere your character is residing in, and it does a good job doing that.

    As far as moral warnings go, Pig Eat Ball is rated E for everyone 10+. It earns this rating for the crude humor it has (the way it portrays barfing and stuff), the fantasy violence, and the use of alcohol and tobacco in this game. I think this rating is appropriate, but if anything, maybe it should be T. That’s just my opinion though. I would recommend keeping this in mind, however, that it has use of tobacco and alcohol.

    The game itself is pretty fun, though! Don’t let the title fool you, this game is really fun. With the multiplayer option, I think that makes it even more worth the purchase. For those wishing for an eccentric, interesting title with an outlandish story, I do recommend the title Pig Eat Ball.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Snake vs. Snake
    Developed By: CasualGames.nu
    Published By: Casual Games
    Released: Sep 26, 2018
    Available On: Android, macOS, Windows, Switch, Xbox One
    Genre: Arcade, Party
    ESRB Rating: E for everyone.
    Number of Players: up to four players (six on other platforms)
    Price: $3.99

    Thank you Casual Games for sending us a review code!

    Harking back to a simpler time, Snake vs. Snake takes the very basic concept that originated from 1976’s Blockade where you take control of a square, rectangle, or dot that must collect spawning objects as your character leaves behind a trail. The main goal is to last as long as possible in the area while each collected item extends your body so space becomes quite limited. The concept has been ported and re-imagined to pretty much anything that can play video games, from phones, to web browsers, and even TI-86 calculators! As snake games are available everywhere, even for free, let's see if Casual Games have done anything to make their take on the genre worth a purchase.

    As evident of the title, Snake vs. Snake’s centerpiece is the multiplayer mode where snakes are forced to battle against other snakes to please their abusive master (I’m only joking about the master part). The way Casual Games takes this party game concept is with the use of items, like Mario Kart. On the Switch version, up to fours sneaky snakes can stylishly slither across five player vs. player game modes: Battle Mode, Battle Mode Arena, Tail Runner, Pew Pew, and Pew Pew Tailless. Battle Mode and Arena are the game modes where the snakes take part in tail-to-tail combat, but with fun and wholesome items such as bombs, shots, and otherworldly abilities such as being able to slow all other snakes, or grant yourself temporary invincibility. To defeat other snakes, you either have to tag ‘em with your items, or have them run into your extended body (or their own). The main difference between Battle Mode and Arena are the design of the respective maps. While the standard Battle Mode is open-spaced, the Arena version has fixtures in the middle of the map—making the latter even more chaotic as that is where all the items spawn.

    Snake vs. Snake
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Inexpensive; interesting multiplayer component
    Weak Points: Not enough map variety in the versus mode; jarring shaking effects
    Moral Warnings: The snakes can be shot at with the weapons used in the multiplayer modes

    Tail Runner is similar to the Light Cycle game that is mostly associated with the 1982 Tron arcade game, even though the very concept originated from Blockade. If you’ve played or are familiar with that game, then you know exactly what Tail Runner is about. For those unfamiliar, the concept is that your snake extends, but the trail is permanent, so the goal is to trap the other snakes while making sure you don’t mess up yourself. Pew Pew and Pew Pew Tailless is similar to the Battle Mode, but the only item you can get is the shot item. Tailless is both what you would expect, and not at the same time. Since you don’t have a tail, that means you can actually make a full 180 degree turn. This alone makes the Tailless mode worth playing, as it add an extra layer of depth to something I wasn’t expecting much from.

    All of the multiplayer modes are quite interesting, and even if you don’t have enough friends on deck, you can add AI opponents to the fun. However, I do wish there was more map variety. I actually happened to play the single-player mode first and seeing all of the variety in the single-player levels but not the multiplayer left me a bit disappointed. There is also a screen shaking effect that I personally am not fond of when certain items are used. You can decrease the intensity of the shaking, but even on low settings, it’s still a bit of an annoyance.

    Speaking of single-player, that mode has three different modes to choose from. You have your standard snake mode. Collect the apples until you fail. Very standard and self-explanatory. The other two game modes (at least from what I’ve experienced from the genre) are fairly unique. They go by Speedrun Mode and Hardcore Mode. Speedrun Mode has you go through 18 levels with wild designs, collecting all of the apples in the level. Like Tail Runner, your snake’s body does extend, but never shrinks. The concept gives off a puzzle vibe as you have to think about where you go and make sure you don’t block off an apple you need to collect. Hardcore is identical to Speedrun with slight differences. In Hardcore, you only have 3 lives to get through the levels, and instead of your score being by time, it is by units traveled. I happened to get the number 1 ranking on Speedrun Mode, though I’m positive that anyone can beat my time if they really wanted to (and I know myself I can shave off at least three minutes).

    Snake vs. Snake
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 98%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The graphics are simple. As mentioned before, apples take the place of the dots that are normally seen in these types of games. The color pallete is nice (changes with every level or retry), and the snake characters are kinda cute, in a goofy googly-eye kind of way. The music is better than I thought it would be. It’s nothing soundtrack worthy, but the person who composed this did a good job mixing in digital, retro, and modern sounds into the piece. It’s pretty hard to screw up controls in a snake game so they didn’t manage to do that. Either analog or directional controls can be used. There is this one thing that if the snake runs into a wall, there is a slight pause—giving a bit extra time to make a turn. Not too sure if this was made intentional or not.

    If this was a standard snake game, there would be no moral concerns to speak of, but this is not your ordinary snake game! In all seriousness, the only concern is of some of the items used in the multiplayer modes, and some levels in the single-player have these turrets that can shoot at you. It’s the absolute bare minimum of violence that not even the ESRB took note of.

    Snake vs. Snake is another snake game of the snake genre where snakes do their snake things. If you have an active group of friends or family, I’d say the game is worth a purchase as its simple premise and cheap price make it easy for anyone, whether they are a kid or an adult, to play and get entertainment out of. Even if you don’t have friends or family visit often, I could also vouch for the portable versions for on-the-go fun.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    SNK 40th Anniversary Collection
    Developed By: SNK
    Published By: NIS America
    Release Date: November 13, 2018 (Switch)
    Available On: Nintendo Switch
    Genre: Arcade Compilation (with one Action RPG)
    Number of Players: 1-2
    ESRB Rating: Teen for Mild Blood, Mild Violence, Suggestive Themes
    MSRP: $39.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you NIS America for sending us this game to review!

    SNK is one of Japan’s earliest video game companies, apparently with a birthdate in the same year as myself. To celebrate those 40 years, they released this hand-picked (though not quite exhaustive) collection of games from their first 12 years in business, on the Nintendo Switch. After the games celebrated in this collection, SNK went on to make the Neo Geo – the very advanced, but also very expensive, arcade/home system platform for the time. Those games were also highly regarded – but are from a different, later era than what is covered here.

    On the cartridge, there are 13 games, which I will try to summarize, below. If you count NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) versions of the arcade games as separate, the list is actually 19 games. In most cases, the Arcade versions are much, much better than their NES counterparts. Nevertheless, it’s still great that both are included. If that wasn't enough, they also include both the English and Japanese versions of every game in this collection, which is fantastic. As for our summaries below, they are listed in alphabetical order, like the game does. Also listed is the title, year of release, what platforms are covered in this collection, and a short description of the game that I noticed while playtesting it. I did not complete any of the games in this collection (except for Crystalis, which I finished close to 30 years ago).

    Alpha Mission – Released 1987 – Arcade & NES - A classic vertical shoot 'em up, where you shoot enemies, and you can also use bombs to destroy enemy platforms and turrets, which can expose power-ups for you to collect. It’s pretty fun.

    SNK 40th Anniversary Collection
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent collection of classic games, both arcade and NES where applicable, in the pre-Neo Geo era; includes 13 games out of the box, with 11 more coming free via DLC; watch and rewind features are really great, as they allow you to jump in any time to get past where you may be stuck; it’s neat to see the progression of video games, especially arcade vs. console during the fast-changing 1980s; includes Crystalis, one of the best action RPGs on the NES
    Weak Points: Lots of twin-stick shooters, several of which are very similar
    Moral Warnings: Animated violence, with some games having blood; one game has a girl start the game in her underwear, and she gains armor as she goes through it

    Athena – Released 1986 – Arcade & NES – It’s a 2D side-scrolling platformer, with the female protagonist Athena. She drops down in a dress (which flies off of her like an inverted umbrella), and proceeds to start the game in her underwear. In order to gain offense and defense, she must find armor and weapons as she goes, which also dresses her as well. Depending on which weapon she picked up last, she can do more damage, have better range, or other differences. Seems pretty interesting.

    Crystalis – Released 1990 - NES – It’s a top-down action RPG, and one of the only RPGs of any kind released by SNK ever. There is a lot of magic use by both the player and enemies in this game, though it actually takes place in a sci-fi universe. This is truly an excellent game, and one of my favorite NES games of all time. This collection is almost worth it to me for Crystalis alone; I truly love this game. Certainly one of the very best action RPGs on NES, hands down. It was very technically advanced for a NES game as well. It's too bad SNK never decided to make another RPG; their first offering sure was great.

    Guerrilla War – Released 1987 – Arcade & NES – It’s a top-down twin-stick shooter, one of many they released in that era. It takes place in Vietnam, or another similar jungle, as lots of games did in that era. You can also get in tanks, which can be quite handy. The controls are a little clunky, but that is not that unusual, as the twin sticks used in that time were not analog, but digital 8-way arcade sticks. It plays a whole lot like Ikari Warriors; so much so that I felt like a better title might have been Ikari Warriors 2.5. It supports two players simultaneously.

    Ikari Warriors – Released 1986 – Arcade & NES – Classic top-down twin-stick shooter, that was quite popular when I was young. Though it took a back seat to the Contras of the world, it was still quite memorable. It takes place in jungle, you can get in tanks, and it supports two players simultaneously.

    Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road – Released 1986 – Arcade & NES – This one has slightly better graphics, and some weapons are melee instead of almost all of them being guns in Ikari Warriors. Still plays fairly similarly to Ikari Warriors outside of the melee weapons.

    Ikari III: The Rescue – Released 1989 – Arcade & NES – This one is a bit different, as it takes the melee weapons from Ikari Warriors II, and doubles down on them to be the main method of combat. I would call it a top-down quasi-twin-stick fighter, with the melee combat resembling a beat 'em up.

    Iron Tank: The Invasion of Normandy – Released 1988 - NES – This is a NES-only top-down tank shooter, that is more complex, has a map screen, and has an upgrade system for the tank. I didn’t get a chance to play too much of this one, but it looks very promising. You can also rescue friendly hostages, which is a nice touch.

    P.O.W. - Released 1988 – Arcade & NES – This is a pure side-scrolling beat 'em up, which has quite a bit in common with games like Final Fight (Capcom) or Double Dragon (Tecmo). You can kick, punch, backpunch, headbutt, jump, or shoot (if you grab a weapon) to escape the enemy prisoner camp. It supports simultaneous multiplayer on the Arcade version only; the NES version is single player. Lots of fun.

    Prehistoric Isle – Released 1989 - Arcade – This is a prehistoric-themed side-scrolling shooter, somewhat similar to Gradius. You fight dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes in a biplane. You can pick up speed and weapon boosters, including a pod that shoots with you. You die after one hit. I really liked this one.

    SNK 40th Anniversary Collection
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 86%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 8/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Psycho Soldier – Released 1986 - Arcade – This one is a side-scrolling shooter/platformer, with a bit of a unique mechanic in that you can jump from level to level on screen. The screen constantly scrolls right to left, so you have to keep moving and keep yourself from getting stuck, as well as kill any bad guys in your way. Attacks include Shock Wave and Psycho Ball, and you can grab upgrades as you go. I was surprised to hear that the background music has a really low resolution woman singing in English! PCM voices were not common at that time. I believe this character is related to the girl in Athena from the titular game in some way.

    Street Smart – Released 1989 - Arcade – This is a really nice 2D fighting game, where you kick, punch, jump, and somersault your way to victory in a fighting tournament in one-on-one battles. To put things in perspective, this game was released before Street Fighter II, where most genre conventions were defined. It seems like an answer to Street Fighter (not two!) at first, but it’s not in that the playing area has depth, so you can move out of the way of hits; it’s more like a beat 'em up in that way. It’s also miles better than SF1 anyway, despite being more brawl-ish rather than a technical fighter. Two players play cooperatively, where the second player gets their own bad guy to beat up. Between levels, you do fight each other to see who gets the girl in the end. This is a really neat fighter.

    TNK III – Released 1985 - Arcade - (Sound effects seem messed up; hopefully this gets patched out soon.) This is a very early top-down twin-stick shooter, which likely was inspiration for Ikari Warriors, except here you are always in a tank, rather than getting in and out of tanks.

    Vanguard – Released 1981 - Arcade – Last but not least, this is a side-scrolling shooter, kind of like Defender, which was one of the first of the side-scrolling shooter genre. I was shocked to hear a PCM voice - 'bon voyage' – on such an old game platform. The ship can shoot in all 4 directions, though sometimes you don’t need to, since you can grab the energy power-up and run into enemies to kill them, and even destroy the environment. Fun.

    And if that was not enough, NIS America has announced that 11(!) more games are coming shortly after launch, for free to all game owners:

    Munch Mobile
    Chopper
    Fantasy
    Time Soldiers
    Sasuke Vs. Commander
    Bermuda Triangle
    Beast Busters
    Paddle Mania
    SAR: Search and Rescue
    Ozma Wars
    World Wars

    I can’t summarize what I haven’t played, but I’m sure they will be great also.

    If that wasn’t enough, there are retrospectives on all SNK games from 1978-1990, bonus features like concept art, and full built-in game soundtracks for everything included in the collection.

    I kind of wish that was it, as this is quite a long review already – but alas, it was not meant to be so. Lots of collections merely emulate classic games. Here, they went beyond just that. They have a ‘watch’ mode, where you can watch another (presumably a professional) gamer play these games. And the best part? You can jump in at any time to literally control the game by taking over for the computer. It’s really amazing, actually. You can also save games in progress, which is a standard feature at this point. Another, perhaps unintended bonus for games like Crystalis, is that if you are stuck in your own save, you can use the watch feature, along with fast forward and rewind, to see where you might be stuck to overcome it.

    I already pointed out most of the appropriateness issues, but there is lots of animated violence, a small amount of blood, and a few girls in bikinis/underwear. Magic use is also present. Nothing is shown in great detail; after all, these were mostly 8-bit games.

    I am incredibly impressed with the technical and presentation aspects of this SNK 40th Anniversary Collection. While they are not my favorite games from that era (apart from Crystalis), they are certainly respectably good, and worth experiencing if you enjoy classics. There are a few small issues that SNK/NISA are working on that they hope to fully address via a day-one patch. I look forward to it.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Spheria
    Developed By: Daydream Software
    Published By: Black Shell Games
    Released: April 1, 2016
    Available On: Nothing (formerly Windows)
    Genre: Arcade
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: N/A

    Thanks to Black Shell Games for the review code!

    As video gaming continues its forceful push into the digital realm, one big flaw has begun to rear its ugly head. In the past, games came on physical media exclusively, and thus will always exist barring an intentionally targeted destruction (see: Too Human). A working Commodore 64 will still play working Commodore 64 games, no matter how rare they are nowadays. As games become a purely online media, however, the risk exists that something will happen, whether accidental or purposeful, to erase a game from existence. This review will cover one of these unfortunate casualties of the digital age: Spheria.

    Spheria was a physics-based arcade game wherein you roll a ball through an obstacle course, powering up engines by lingering long enough on their squares in order to unlock the exit. Hampering your progress were varying obstacles, such as conveyor belts, ice tiles, and black smoke that obscured your vision. Each of the game’s levels had two main objectives: beat a time limit for gold, silver, bronze, or no medals; and smash most or all of the stage’s destructible walls; these could, and occasionally had to, be done in separate runs.

    With most of your barriers coming from control-altering tiles, it’s a good thing that the game had solid controls. The ball rolls about as well as you’d expect: a little tough to get going and harder to stop, but otherwise responsive to directional changes. You had a choice between three balls: a standard one, a “bug ball” that went significantly faster (and thus was significantly harder to stop), and a wrecking ball that was slow but smashed walls in one hit. Obviously, the bug ball was for putting up quick times and the wrecking ball was for breaking stuff; sadly, the standard ball, with no special abilities or benefits, was mostly useless.

    Spheria
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Solid physics-based gameplay; very replayable despite limited content; tough but fair
    Weak Points: The standard ball is pointless; you can’t fully complete one level due to missing objects; you can’t play this game anymore
    Moral Warnings: None

    Despite the low number of levels – twenty-six, including the six tutorial ones – Spheria made it last by being quite difficult. Though it seems like a paradox, the ball being hard to control made for a fair challenge: the tiles all acted the same in every level, so you knew what to expect outside of a level’s layout and optimal path. Reaching the gold medal times required quite a few restarts for many stages, but there was always a sense of improvement. In addition, the game encouraged its players to replay each level for better times through an online leaderboard. Later, the developers released “surviviball” mode, which tasked you with beating the twenty main levels in one life, but with infinite boost and free in-level ball switching. The personal progression of skill, along with the at times brutal but always fair difficulty, gave the game more longevity that it seemed at first.

    Even so, the game could get old the more you play it. With only a half-dozen or so obstacles, there were limited surprises to change up the gameplay, even your first time through the stages. There was little reason to use anything but the bug ball after you completed the wall smashing task in each level, as neither the standard nor wrecking balls offered much to help you speed through the game. The worst example came from one of the mid-game levels, which had an objective to destroy seven walls – but only five in the stage were breakable, rendering the challenge impossible.

    The art style was decent enough, with competent if visually uninteresting graphics. The music consisted of two tracks, neither of which were memorable. In a vacuum, the sound effects did their roles well, but in-game they tended to get repetitive; the conveyor tiles were especially guilty, as they played a constant “wub” noise while you were on them – and some stages were comprised of almost nothing but conveyors. Also, every so often an object would completely vanish from sight after a level restart, only to pop back into existence upon contact. Still, it’s hard to fault any of this, as they all did their basic job of being respectable without being distracting; you were coming for the gameplay, or you weren’t coming at all.

    Spheria
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 73%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4.5/5

    Morality Score - 100%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The biggest, most egregious flaw, however, is the only one able to be talked about in the present tense: the game doesn’t exist anymore. The news tab on Steam has its final entry in November of 2016, but going to the store page redirects you to Steam’s homepage. There’s barely any information to be found online, either, outside of some basic details on the developer's Spanish website. Whatever the reason, Spheria is gone, and potentially for good.

    In the end, the only conclusion to draw on Spheria is one of abject finality: good or bad, the game cannot be played without having bought or been gifted it beforehand. Perhaps in the future, the game will return, either through the developers themselves or by someone grabbing the assets, launching Unity, and recreating it themselves. For now, though, we have no choice to but keep rolling along without it.

    Remember to support your local game stores and their physical media, and always ask for the source code of online-only games just in case.

    -Cadogan

     

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Titan Attacks
    Developed by: Puppy Games
    Published by: Puppy Games
    Released: February 3, 2012
    Available on: Android, Linux, macOS, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Windows
    Genre: Arcade, shooter
    Number of players: 1
    Price: Free (Google Play), $9.99 (PlayStation Store, Steam)

    Take note – this game is not to be confused with the similarly-named “Attack on Titan.” That anime series and game tie-in may come up if you attempt to do an Internet search for Titan Attacks, including on this very site. No, this game by Puppy Games is completely different in multiple ways.

    Titan Attacks, which is from the same company that made Revenge of the Titans, is a homage to one of the earliest video games ever made, Space Invaders. The premise is largely the same, too. Earth is being invaded by aliens, and you need to pilot a ship back and forth along the bottom of the screen to shoot them down. The invaders proceed back and forth near the top of the screen, and descend a line at a time until they reach the bottom – or you manage to destroy them all. The aliens do fire the occasional shot in your direction, and being hit by one of their bullets, or touching an alien, will cause you to lose one point of your shields. If your ship gets hit when your shields are down, it's game over. There really isn't an “endgame” in this game. Just like Space Invaders, your ship is limited to having one shot on the screen at a time. If you miss your target, you need to wait for your bullet to leave the screen entirely before you can fire again.

    Titan Attacks
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Faithful tribute to Space Invaders; variety of enemies; challenging
    Weak Points: Could prove to be too difficult
    Moral Warnings: Aliens get killed

    However, Titan Attacks deviates from its origins in a variety of ways to give it a more modern spin. There are a wide variety of aliens that move in different patterns, including a bouncing zigzag across the screen. The player can obtain power-ups that provide bonuses such as more powerful weapons. Between levels, players can use money obtained from shooting down aliens (or capturing little aliens that sometimes fall when you destroy a ship) to obtain special bonuses to the piloted ship, or replenish your shields. There may even be a way to finally win the game, but this reviewer had never gotten to that point.

    The graphics are “pixelish.” Even though they are simplistic and blocky, they have rounded corners and other little details to give them a more modern edge. There isn't any voice acting in the game, but there are hardly any words, anyway. The controls are sharp and responsive. When playing on an Android device, the player can choose to play with one hand, sliding their finger and tapping to fire, or two hands on marked controls on the screen. On the computer, the ship can be controlled either with the mouse or keyboard.

    Titan Attacks
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 96%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    There are not many moral issues to worry about in Titan Attacks. Enemies – or your own ship – explode in a shower of sparks when destroyed. This game is as clean as the original Space Invaders in terms of morality.

    For those who enjoy classic video games with a modern twist, Titan Attacks will fit the need perfectly. It's a fun game that can be enjoyed in short bursts. While it doesn't have much of a plot, this simple shooter doesn't really need one to be entertaining. Although the Steam price might be a bit steep for some, those playing on Android devices may find it an extremely attractive addition to their library.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Toki
    Developed By: Microids
    Published By: Microids
    Released: Dec 4, 2018
    Available On: Switch
    Genre: Arcade, Platformer, Shoot ‘em up
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for everyone 10 and up: Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood
    Number of Players: Single-player
    Price: $29.99

    Thank you Microids for sending us a review code!

    The days of the arcade are long past us. With consoles and handhelds in general being more affordable to the average consumer, this means that many games will not have certain arcadic, quarter-crunching features and opt in for microtransactions to make a profit instead. Toki, developed and published by Microids, is of the former statement, reminiscent of what some may say are “the good ol’ days.”

    Some of you older readers might be familiar with the name Toki, as this Toki is a remake of the 1989 game of the same name (also known as Juju Densetsu in Japan). I personally wasn’t familiar with Toki at all before reviewing this game, so I simply thought it was an indie game that took inspiration from the crazy hard arcade games of the past. For those unfamiliar with Toki, the game stars the titular character, a tribesman who is turned into an ape creature by the evil sorcerer Vookimedlo. The demon Bashtar, working alongside Vookimedlo, kidnaps Miho, Toki’s beloved. That’s the general premise of the story. Arcade games did not, or simply could not have the expansive narratives of games today—as it is just an excuse to get the ball rolling. Don’t expect an award-winning plot—it did originally come out in 1989, after all.

    Toki immediately starts off with no tutorial, but teaches you from experience, with the very first enemy taking cues from the most famous goomba of our time—walking very slowly towards you. For people who have played platformers before, your first instinct will be to jump on the enemy, and thus would be rewarded with a defeated enemy. Others may try and press all the buttons to see what they do, and will also be rewarded with a projectile shot out of Toki’s mouth in a rather exaggerated fashion. Now for the reasons why Donkey Kong’s estranged cousin can shoot Contra bullets out of his mouth… Your guess is as good as mine; It is what it is after all. Controls are rather simple, with B and X to shoot, and A and Y to jump. The control stick and directional buttons are to aim horizontally or diagonally. Be aware, as Toki has not mastered the ability to shoot and run at the same time. Fortunately, Toki can shoot as fast as you can mash the button.

    Throughout the levels, there are various powerups that can be collected, such as a football helmet that protects your front from damage, sneakers that give you higher jump, and a wide variety of different patterns, such as a spreader, wave-like shots, bigger bullets, and a flame breath. These powerups only last for a limited time. Let's go back to the football helmet and sneakers for a moment. The setting is all over the place and doesn’t take itself seriously, as there is an almost nonsensical blend of ancient and modern set pieces all throughout the game. As Toki is an arcade game, every action earns points, and earning enough points gets you an extra life.

    Toki
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fluid hand-drawn graphical style; simple to play, and responsive; very faithful to the original 1989 classic
    Weak Points: A bit too faithful, especially for its price range and short length; the majority of the challenge comes from trial and error situations
    Moral Warnings: The damsel in distress is immodestly dressed, showing off excess cleavage and midriff; the penultimate and final bosses have hearts that can be attacked, which also bleed and explode; the sorcerer Vookimedlo uses magic to transform our main character into an ape man; a demon by the name of Bashtar works for Vookimedlo

    Like most shoot ‘em up games, Toki tends to die in one hit from basically everything. Of course dying in one hit isn’t a feature exclusive to games of this genre, but current games give you infinite lives if they so happen to be on the more challenging side. Toki, however, is pretty generous with checkpoints, though in some cases, there are a few checkpoints that could be better placed as an enemy will immediately attack at some of them. Four difficulties are available for Toki, ranging from Easy (which gives you 9 lives and 9 credits) all the way to Hardest (which gives you 2 lives, 3 credits, and makes enemies withstand more damage). Even on the easiest difficulty, Toki can present quite the challenge and my first playthrough had me use almost all of my credits to beat the game. A lot of the game is a genuine challenge, but like most arcade games of that time, Toki suffers from trial and effort that can result from cheap deaths (and would be another quarter or quarters spent back in the day).

    Toki went through quite the troubled development cycle. This remake was originally announced way back in 2009 by Golgoth Studio, and was suppose to come out for the consoles of that era, as well as the Steam platform in 2011. It just so happened to miss that period by a long shot. It would go through moments where it would be mentioned here and there to let people know that the game wasn’t canceled. In 2018, it would the be picked up by the French developer Microids and announced to come out exclusively for the Switch for a late 2018 release. I’m assuming it came out only for the Switch because of how well-received and successful indie games have been doing on the platform. I can also make another guess as to why Toki took so long to come out in the first place.

    Everything in Toki is hand-drawn. I’m a huge sucker for anything hand-drawn, as animation can express thoughts, feelings, and ideas in a way that words cannot. The hand-drawn animation style seems to become less popular as the years go by over digital animation as digital animation takes less effort to do well in, and is way less time consuming. Digital animation does have its upsides, but compared to hand-drawn, it lacks the fluidity that the latter tends to possess. In a way I am glad that France hasn’t forgotten about the wonders of hand-drawn animation. They also seem to be one of the last bastions to hold on to the tried-and-true pen and paper, as mostly everyone either traded in the old fashioned weapons for a Cintiq and slap it in your choice of Flash, Toon Boom—or outsources their animation to Korea.

    Toki
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 84%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Anyways, Toki’s graphics are a sight to behold, as each enemy is expressive and all have their own unique walking, attacking, and death animations. This even applies to our hero himself. Backgrounds and scenery are quite the sight to behold, with areas going from jungles, ice tundras, volcanic caverns, and a rather modern-looking palace. Each level is very unique from each other, and aesthetics-wise looks far superior to its 1989 counterpart. The orchestrated music complements the bouncy art style of the game. For someone who has to save their beloved from the clutches of evil, he does have a rather chill expression and walking animation. It’s almost like he doesn’t have a care in in the world, with his head bobbing and arms dangling so nonchalantly.

    The 1989 version didn’t have much in the way of moral concerns and warnings, besides the usage of magic by the sorcerer Vookimedo who turns Toki into the ape man you are playing as. Interestingly enough, the remake does have a few more concerns at hand. As expected of a French developer, both Toki and Miho show off more skin, with Miho in particular showing off her midriff and cleavage. There is one zombie-like ape enemy encountered many times throughout the game. Bashtar is a demon, and also exists as the fifth levels' boss. You attack his heart, while his appendages show off the bone of where an arm or leg would be attached. Vookimedlo, when accepting his untimely death (for him) is rather explosive, as his heart bleeds in a striking fashion. Not sure what the ESRB meant by “mild.”

    I have played and beaten Toki a few times—though I have yet to beat it on Hardest. As I grew up in the days of the arcade and like a game that presents a challenge, I have personally enjoyed my half dozen or so attempts. I assumed that at first, it was a $10-$15 game, and would be able to recommend it to most people, but even with spectacular animation, and being faithful to the original, a 30 dollar price range might be asking too much for the average game player. I understand that animation is not a cheap endeavor if you want it to look good, but 2018’s Toki is a bit too faithful for its own good to the 1989 counterpart—where the only real difference is the graphical approach and musical style. For most players, they will play the game once or twice, which will take an hour and a half at the very most to complete, and then forget about it. Even if the game is mostly safe for children, the children of today may not like the dated mechanics or the gut-punching difficulty so it’s hard to recommend for them. There is a very valid reason to why video games have mostly moved on from the archaic approach of artificially lengthening of a game in favor for the dozens to hundreds of hours of grind that many modern games use. Unless you really love arcade shoot 'em ups, it would be best to wait for a sale.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Yumori Forest
    Developed By: terakorp
    Published By: terakorp
    Released: September 14, 2018
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Twin-stick; arcade
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: Single-player
    Price: $9.99

    Yumori Forest is a melee combat game where you play as a boy that goes around lighting up lanterns. As you go through the forest, all sorts of different foes will try to stop you from reaching the end of the game. It has most of the elements of a roguelite but falls short with almost nonexistent random level generation. You will be killed over and over, starting from the beginning every time, but maybe you’ll have some extra upgrades to bring with you. It’s very basic in most of its execution, but it does it all so well that it’s a game worth noting.

    The core gameplay is set in a large square level filled with trees. The goal for each level is to simply activate all the lanterns, of which there are about 3-4. In between each level you get to upgrade four different stats: health, stamina, damage, and movement speed. You have a sword to attack with, and much of the combat will be done up close. Along with the usual variety of enemies you will face, there are 3 bosses in the game; each is unique in design and offers a tough challenge. All of this adds up to a simple but satisfying gameplay loop of slashing, lantern activating, and the occasional boss fight.

    While combat may sound simple and easy, the game is pretty punishing towards mistakes. Each enemy needs to be approached a bit differently. The basic swordsman will dodge and roll out of the way, archers shouldn’t be approached too aggressively, and some enemies will make an explosion if you’re close to them for too long. It makes for more methodical gameplay than similar titles. You can’t just slash and slash without a bit of thought. The bosses will punish you for playing too aggressively. Their patterns are designed in a way that you don’t want to be close to them for too long at once. None of these effect the fast pace of the game, and all feels very fluid. Hitting things feels great, and everything feels balanced and fair while remaining difficult.

    Yumori Forest
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Satisfying melee combat; unique and gorgeous art style
    Weak Points: Repetitive level generation
    Moral Warnings: Blood, although it can be changed color; minor occult references

    In between runs, you can purchase several things from the shop, including the ability to carry more potions or even a gun. These upgrades carry over between attempts and can make you quite powerful. I take issue with this because they make a difficult game much easier. On my save file I have all of the upgrades unlocked, and the game has become pretty easy compared to not having any of these. It impacts the gameplay significantly, but if you want it to be more casual, it helps your ability to survive a lot. If you want the game to remain tough as nails like I do, I recommend either using the upgrades sparsely, or just completely avoiding the shop.

    There are 3 different modes to play in Yumori Forest. Normal mode is the basic experience, endless mode removes the bosses but has you fight waves of enemies to survive as long as possible, and hard mode makes all of the enemies more powerful, and removes the permanent upgrades you have. Normal mode feels like the most polished experience, while hard mode is done in a way that feels tacked on, and endless can become boring because you can overpower the game.

    Controls are the usual WASD to move, left-click to attack, right-click to dash, and space to throw your weapon. At first, movement can feel a little slippery, but this seems intentional. There’s no option to change controls in the menus. Controller support feels unfinished and downright terrible, with D-pad to move, and no button to let you aim your cursor. Yumori Forest is best played with keyboard and mouse. I’ve never experienced any bugs or any crashes.

    Yumori Forest
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 79%
    Violence - 4/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The art is simplistic and gorgeous. Everything is done in whites, greys, blacks, and pinks. It’s a unique look and is very appealing to the eyes. Everything is discernible, enemy health is shown clearly under them, the UI is nice and big, and things are easy to understand. The sounds in the game are all pleasing to hear. Hitting with your sword makes a "whack" sound, and some enemies’ bullets make an almost musical sound. There is not a lot of music, but when it is played, it is perfectly done. It fits the atmosphere and the theme and is almost relaxing. Yumori Forest looks and sounds beautiful.

    There are some moral issues with Yumori Forest. There are lots of bright pink blotches of blood, but the color of this can be changed. There's lots of occult stuff going on, although it isn't really screamed at you. There are spellbooks and enemies shoot magic bullets at you. When you exit a level you "meditate" on a pattern on the ground. (It's worth noting that it isn't a pentagram or anything blatant like that. It's just a circle with a square in the middle.) When you die, you respawn on a similarly simple larger pattern in the center of the level.

    I love this game. When it launched it got no visibility, likely due to its simple nature. Yumori Forest is a hidden gem among hidden gems and is well worth a purchase. 10 dollars might be a little steep, but if it really looks like your kind of game, there’s not much reason to delay buying it.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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