enfrdeitptrues

Shooting

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Ace Banana
    Developed by: Oasis Games
    Published by: Oasis Games
    Release Date: October 13, 2016 
    Available on: PlayStation VR
    Genre: Shooter
    Number of players: Single-player, multiplayer in the works
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you Oasis Games for sending us a review code!

    It’s great to see kid friendly games available on the PlayStation VR platform.  The cute monkeys and premise of shooting them with plunger arrows is bound to attract kids and aspiring archers alike.  No matter what attracts you to this title, be warned that your arms will get a workout even though the move controllers are not that heavy.

    When you first fire up the game you’ll read a comic book style story about how the bananas and monkeys used to live in peace, but those days are long gone.  Now the bananas are in danger and it’s up to you to save them.  Not only do you get to pelt monkeys with various projectiles, you get to raise baby bananas too!  By showering young bananas with water, fertilizer, and sunlight, they’ll grow up and offer a unique attack style to fend off swarms of monkeys and bosses.  The monkeys are pretty sneaky and have different offensive and defensive tactics.  Fortunately, you have some tricks up your sleeve as well!

    In the beginning the monkeys are “au natural” and easy to pick off with your bow and plunger style arrows.  It doesn’t take long for the monkeys to get younger, faster, and tougher, requiring more than one shot to take down. The construction worker themed monkeys need to have their helmets knocked off their heads before they can be shot down.  Other monkeys fight back by flinging paint at you that blocks your vision temporarily.  

    Ace Banana
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Cute concept and aesthetics
    Weak Points: The move controllers constantly need to be re-calibrated; inaccurate aiming makes this game more frustrating than fun
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; one of the male bananas shows off all of his chest muscles

    Some of the monkeys leave behind new ammo which can be collected by shooting at it.  Besides plungers, you get to shoot out badmintons, frogs, fish, garlic, lollipops, fruit wedges and more!  Instead of ammo you may also collect single use attacks like pandas that will roll down every road and knock down monkeys as if they were bowling pins.  

    If you still have bananas left at the end of the wave, you’ll advance to the next one with harder foes.  It doesn’t take long before monkeys will spawn from two different areas and you’ll have to teleport between locations to get to them.  After a few waves, a boss will show up and you’ll have to discover and attack its weakness to progress further.  In total there are sixteen levels to see provided you can survive the poor camera controls.

    Ace Banana isn’t the first PSVR game I have played that has movement tracking issues, so it could be a platform issue.  However, since this game relies on accuracy to succeed, frustration quickly sets in when you cannot hit nearby monkeys due to calibration problems.  Recalibrating is easy to do and only takes a couples of seconds by holding the start button on the side of the move controller.  Having to recalibrate every three minutes is unacceptable and those valuable seconds will quickly end your game when your bananas are surrounded by monkeys or are being sucked up by a giant mechanical boss.  Even my children were getting flustered while playing and they generally have more patience than I do.

    Ace Banana
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 58%
    Gameplay - 11/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 0/5

    Morality Score - 93%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Besides calibration issues, the game interface is a bit confusing.  There’s a book that you can open to see how many types of monkeys and weapons you’ve come across in your adventures.  Opening the book was easy enough, but closing the book was not possible.  We tried pressing the suggested buttons on the regular controller to no avail and had to exit the game entirely to get out of the book screen.  Thankfully none of our progress was lost in the process.

    Hopefully these issues will be addressed before they roll out the multiplayer update.   No release date has been scheduled as of this review.   If nothing improves then up to four players will be able to get frustrated simultaneously!   

    The asking price is $14.99, but given the current tracking issues I’d hold off on buying this game until it gets fixed.  I really hope it does get rectified soon since this is a short but cute game that has potential.

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Aperion Cyberstorm
    Developed by: aPriori Digital
    Published by: aPriori Digital
    Release date: February 8, 2018
    Available on: Switch, Windows
    Genre: Twin-stick Shooter
    Number of players: Up to five
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for fantasy violence
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you aPriori Digital for sending us this game to review!

    Aperion Cyberstorm is a hybrid twin-stick shooter/bullet heck for up to five players. There are plenty of enemies to shoot and avoid and the power-ups are ample. Between the three game modes (campaign, versus, and onslaught) there is plenty to keep players occupied on the go with the Switch version.

    The disadvantage of the Switch version are the controls. Most players will be confined to a single joy-con to play with. The one joystick on is used for movement and the shooting is done via the four buttons along with some diagonal combos. Whoever has the pro controller will have a serious advantage. Playing solo is possible, but like many games, this one is more fun in groups.

    The story is serviceable in the campaign mode, though the dialogue is a bit dry. Enemy factions are closing in on the planet Cadriga, and this is the home of Kate, Sam, and Joseph. Before they can flee, the bombs begin to drop. You must reunite them and take out the faction along the way.

    Aperion Cyberstorm
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Multiplayer gameplay with lots of enemies and power-ups
    Weak Points: Uninteresting dialogue and the gameplay gets repetitive after a while
    Moral Warnings: Spaceship violence

    No matter which game mode you embark on, you get to customize your ship by configuring its model, color, initials, and starting load out. In the beginning of the campaign mode, you only have three ships to choose from, and they have different strengths and weaknesses in matters of offense, defense, and speed. The starting firing modes of rapid fire and spread shot are nice, but you’ll unlock other abilities like cross fire and shield boosts before too long.

    As you blast away enemy ships and harmless crystals, they’ll release energy shards which are used for healing and faster abilities. Sometimes a power-up will appear, which often has a wider blast radius. Sometimes a power-up will appear that can counter incoming swarms in one swoop. The power-ups are typically elemental and affect the enemies in different ways. For example, the ice power-up will temporarily freeze or slowdown the bad guys.

    There are three difficulty levels, and the easiest (explorer) is incredibly boring. Do yourself a favor and start off with the fighter or veteran mode. Naturally, battling against people you know is always the best, so the versus mode is a good place to start if you have trigger happy friends.

    Here’s a breakdown of the versus game modes:

    Deadline – Whoever has the most points when the time runs out, wins.
    Last Stand – Each ship only has one life, and whomever is the last one alive is victorious.
    Titan – The player with the most points is the titan and the target for everyone else.
    Battle Ball – Everyone must hunt the target and receive points for each time they hit it.
    King – Everyone must battle for a key area on the map.
    Control – Whoever holds the most territories and points, wins.
    Salvage – Collect and use all of the abilities that are only good once.
    Free For All – Your typical death match which is determined by who gets the most kills first
    Team Battle – Whichever team kills the most from the opposing team wins
    Hardcore Team Battle – Just like Team Battle but with friendly fire!

    Aperion Cyberstorm
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

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

    The versus game modes can be customized to end by points ranging from 5 to 50. There is also an infinite play mode if that’s appealing to you. Cooperative gameplay is also available in the Onslaught mode, which gets progressively harder after each wave of enemies is cleared. How long can you and your friends survive?

    Visually, Aperion Cyberstorm is pretty simplistic when it comes to the graphics. The ships vary in size and style, but they’re not incredibly detailed. The energy crystals spilling out of them upon defeat are kind of pretty.

    There is no voice acting, but the sound effects get the job done. I liked the electronic background music and found it fitting for this title. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is not available for purchase on Steam or Nintendo’s eShop.

    The asking price of $14.99 is reasonable given the plethora of game modes to play. Since the single-player gameplay can get repetitive at times, I only recommend grabbing this game if you have friends to play along with and a pro controller to fight over.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Astervoid 2000
    Developed By: Mad Capacity, LREVG
    Published By: Mad Capacity, LREVG
    Released: December 1, 2016
    Available On: Linux, macOS, Windows
    Genre: Top-down arcade shooter
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: 1-4 offline
    Price: $9.99

    Thanks to Mad Capacity and LREVG for the review key!

    Once upon a time, buying a game meant you had access to all of its content. Said content may be simple, but ultimately pure in both scope and gameplay. Even now, in the era of loot boxes, micro-transactions, and season passes, it’s the straightforward gameplay-focused games that stand out. It helps, like with Astervoid 2000, if the game is a thoroughly well-built product.

    Astervoid 2000 is uncomplicated in its premise: it’s an amalgamation of Atari games, featuring Asteroid-like environmental obstacles and Combat-esque multiplayer mayhem. Two to four player-controlled spaceships, or one against an ever-increasing number of AI-driven ships, duke it out in a constantly-shifting asteroid belt. The ships, while having six different designs, operate the same: a rapid-fire shot that can be charged for a powerful shorter-range blast, a quick dash, and a melee attack activated by dashing with a full charge. Ships have a shield that slowly recharges that can take one regular shot; a charge shot, a melee attack, or an unshielded attack means destruction. Asteroids drift in and out of the field, and come in four flavors: standard, explosive, reflective, and indestructible. They can’t directly harm your ship, but can push you around and interrupt your shots. A large, neutral battleship can occasionally drift in as well, randomly peppering the field with large green bullets.

    Astervoid 2000
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great game design; tight controls
    Weak Points: Results screen takes a bit too long
    Moral Warnings: Ship-to-ship combat; a heavily abbreviated swear (“f’n”)

    In the single-player survival mode, your only objective is to take out as many enemies before you explode. Every four rounds, the number of enemies increase, and it won’t be long until you’re juggling six ships, a full asteroid belt, and a stray battleship. The multiplayer aspect is as you’d expect: up to four players, up to two teams, up to a certain number of kills. The survival mode comes with an online leaderboard; the multiplayer is, by design, local only.

    This is, in essence, the entirety of Astervoid 2000 – a relatively simple game, but executed masterfully. The controls are tight and responsive, the gameplay is fluid, and the mechanics work in tandem with each other to add a surprising amount of depth. Normal shots cancel each other out, while charged shots blast through just about anything. Your ship slows to a crawl if it’s holding a charge, with the risk offset by the potential for a one-hit kill. Melee attacks make you effectively invulnerable, but wide open upon completion. Firing any shots at all push your ship backwards a little, potentially putting you in a bad position. Rarely, a killing blow will send your ship into self-destruct mode, letting you attempt to pilot your doomed craft to catch foes in the explosion. When it all comes together, it creates a fast-paced, well designed, engaging game.

    It’s hard to pick out a weak spot in such a tightly-knit experience – the results screen lingers a bit too long and can’t be skipped or sped up, but that’s about it. The lack of online multiplayer might be a sticking point as well, but since the game is built around the premise of couch co-op, you can’t really fault it. It’s also rather hard to get four players on one computer at once; this is one game that would actually benefit from a console port. Overall, it’s a game best enjoyed in short bursts and with friends, but it’s always enjoyable and easy to come back to.

    Astervoid 2000
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 19/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    Graphically, the game is rather impressive, making use of both competent pixel art and more modern particle effects. Ships and bullets are colorful and easy to discern from the background, and the different asteroid types are obvious at a glance. There are some nice subtle details to it as well, with some wispy clouds and a neat flashlight effect on the front arc of every ship. The songs made for Astervoid 2000 are good, but tend to fade into the background of the in-game chaos. The sound effects do their jobs well, fitting nicely with their paired actions.

    Morally, the game holds up just fine. Ship-to-ship combat is the focus of the game, though there’s not even any indication that these crafts are manned. In one of the opening splash screens, there’s a heavily-abbreviated swear word, as the game tells you it’s best enjoyed on a “big f’n TV” – otherwise, there's little text to be seen. In every other respect, this game is safe for all ages to enjoy.

    In an environment where too many games chase too many demographics, Astervoid 2000 is refreshing: it knows what it is, and executes near-perfectly. If you enjoy old-school arcade titles and can get a lot of mileage out of short, pick-up-and-play sessions, Astervoid 2000 is certainly worth the price of admission. If you have three like-minded friends – and three wired controllers – it’s a must-buy.

    -Cadogan

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Clay Hunt Pro
    Developed by: Aleksi Rantonen
    Release date: June 21, 2017
    Available on: Android, iOS
    Genre: Simulation, Shooter
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $4.99

    Thank you Aleksi Rantonen for sending us this game to review!

    While I have never gone clay hunting, I have gone to shooting ranges and have fired .22, .38, and .357 caliber guns. I imagine that a shotgun has some significant kickback and expensive ammo which are issues that you won’t have to worry about in Clay Hunt Pro. After playing this title, I’m convinced that I would waste a lot of ammo and money missing flying targets as my hand-eye coordination is not getting any better with age.

    When you first launch the game you have the option of doing a live event via Facebook or going to the virtual shooting range. With my poor scores, I certainly wasn’t going to make a fool of myself by doing a live event. Despite the simplified controls and lack of recoil, the physics seem pretty good for this 3D shooting simulation game. While there are arcade game modes, this title is nothing like the classic Duck Hunt game from the NES era. If you’re looking for a silly shooter, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

    Clay Hunt Pro
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: All of the thrills of missing pigeons while not having to pay for ammo
    Weak Points: Targets are too small and hard to hit; minimal sound and visuals
    Moral Warnings: You can shoot virtual pigeons/birds

    Going through the tutorial is logical and mandatory. In the tutorial you’ll learn the basic controls which are pretty simple. Tapping on the screen raises the shotgun and preps it for shooting. You can move it around and position it by dragging the screen. When you’re ready to fire you have to tap the screen. The aiming and accuracy is on you and after you fire you’ll get a point for hitting the target and be shown the trajectory of your shot versus the target’s path. The results are handy in telling how close or off you were from the target.

    If you don’t like the point of view or point of impact settings, you can change them in the game’s settings menu. To get you acquainted with the controls your first task will be to shoot down targets that pop up from the ground. Your next targets will be moving horizontally and are easy to hit since they’re bigger than the clay and bird pigeons you can fire at later.

    Clay Hunt Pro
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 95%
    Violence - 7.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    After the tutorial is completed you’ll have access to the Arcade Hall which lets you shoot popup targets and non-clay pigeons. The popup targets are the easiest thing to hit in the game and in the arcade mode your goal is to hit as many of them as you can before the timer bar depletes. Whenever you miss, the timer bar shrinks faster. In the pigeon hunt mode you have two and a half minutes to shoot down as many pigeons as possible. While there are a decent amount of pigeons to shoot at, hitting them takes a lot of luck and/or skill. This game keeps track of your highest scores and my best for the pigeon hunt is three.

    The main game has eight Trap levels and six Skeet levels. You cannot advance to the higher level without completing the previous one. In the trap mode you only have one shot to hit the clay pigeon. In the skeet mode you at least know the direction they’re coming from and you have two tries. While both modes are challenging, I did much better in the skeet mode, but not enough to warrant getting even one out of three stars available. As a result I wasn’t able to unlock the rest of the levels.

    Even though I wasn’t good at this game, it’s still fun and challenging. I’m curious of what people who have gone clay hunting will think of this title. The regular version of the game sells for $1.25 and has positive reviews. Any aspiring clay hunters should check their reflexes with these games.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Deathstate: Abyssal Edition
    Developed By: Bread Machine Games
    Published By: Black Shell Media
    Released: October 20, 2015
    Available On: Windows, macOS, PS4
    Genre: Twin-Stick Shooter, Rogue-like
    ESRB Rating: Teen for violence, blood, and crude humor
    Number of Players: Single-player
    Price: $9.99

    Thanks to Black Shell Media for sending over a key for review!

    Deathstate is a twin-stick shooter rogue-like with heavy Lovecraftian themes. Although calling it a twin-stick might be the wrong wording because the core mechanic is that you don’t press any buttons to shoot. With the removal of a focus on shooting, the game is designed around careful maneuvering and positioning.

    As usual with the genre, you’ll be running around in random dungeons collecting loot, killing enemies, and dying repeatedly. There are 12 floors with a boss fight every 4 floors. Each floor is pretty large, chock full of enemies, shops, and other things to mess with. The level generation is varied enough, but nothing special. The enemy variation is good enough; there are usually 3 or 4 enemy types in each zone. The powerups you can pick up are the most interesting part of the game. Runs end up pretty different from each other not in level generation or gameplay loop, but the items you come across.

    In Deathstate, you don’t need to press a button to shoot your weapons. Your character will automatically shoot at enemies within range. With that in mind, the developers were able to ramp up the amount of dodging needing to be done. Most enemies shoot some small bullet pattern, and most of the time there will be some sort of bullet coming towards you. This doesn’t end up being a problem, because you don’t even need to think about shooting back. This can either be seen as something interesting and new, or as a hindrance. Sometimes the character will shoot at an enemy that you aren’t as worried about, and you don’t have control over that. It’s the one thing that Deathstate does that’s a little bit different, but it’s a change that doesn’t do much to innovate and isn’t significant enough to really matter.

    Deathstate: Abyssal Edition
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Run variation is decent; plenty of content
    Weak Points: Too standard for its own good; collision has some issues; pacing can be a little slow; hard on the eyes sometimes
    Moral Warnings: Organs as powerups; Pentagram-esque patterns; demonic-like, undead, and cthulhu-like figures

    Despite not needing to think about aiming, you will have to think about your active items. You can carry two active items which require mana to use. These abilities can be flames that shoot in all directions, temporary invincibility, or even a teleport. On the other hand, there are passive weapons to find. There’s a decent number of new weapons to pick up in the game, and these are really what makes each run a little bit different. Sometimes you will be firing lasers, other times bubbles. You can also find potions all over the place that give random effects until you identify them. Lastly, there are stat upgrades. These are the items you will find the most. Most of them have both positive and negative effects.

    Surprisingly for how many bullets Deathstate expects you to dodge, it isn’t a difficult game by rogue-like standards. Personally, I beat my third attempt at it, which was disappointing. I go into the genre expecting a significant challenge, and Deathstate looked like it would be incredibly difficult, even outside of my territory. I think this title could be a great entry point for someone new to rogue-likes, but for veterans it won’t be tough.

    Deathstate: Abyssal Edition
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 62%
    Violence - 4/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 0/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    The controls are nearly perfect. Everything is responsive and feels good. Maneuvering between bullets feels smooth, and I never felt like I got cheated into taking damage. The soundtrack is a little repetitive, but overall fits the atmosphere perfectly. It has a very eerie tone to it. Sound effects are okay, but not noteworthy. The general art work is fine, but nothing great. The only issue with the graphics is that there are several filters put over everything, so it can hurt the eyes if you get motion sickness. As for bugs, I haven’t found anything significant other than the character has some issues when near walls.

    Deathstate has a lot of moral issues. Enemies will drop items labeled as organs. Weapons are always magical, such as spellbooks. When you use an active ability, it puts a large pentagram-esque pattern on the ground. The whole theme of the game is Lovecraftian, so everything from Cthulhu-like and undead enemies to magical spells. Although there isn’t any blood or cursing that I’ve found, if that’s worth anything. I would say to avoid this one if you aren’t okay with occult usage in every direction.

    This title offers almost nothing new to the genre. It is very standard in execution; from level generation, to items, to enemies. It’s all been done before, and in a lot of ways done better. Deathstate feels polished for the most part, but I’d rather something unique than polished. I do want to mention that I have a lot of fun with the game; I’ve put some time into it and want to put in more. This doesn’t mean it’s a game I would tell others they absolutely need in their library. You can do much better. If anything, if the moral issues don’t worry you, and the game truly looks like a must-have, wait for a sale.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Demon’s Crystals 
    Developed by: Byte4Games, StarCruiser Studio
    Published by: Badland Games
    Available on: Linux, macOS, PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Release date: May 11, 2017
    Genre: Twin Stick Shooter
    Number of players: Up to four locally
    ESRB Rating: Teen for Blood and Violence
    Price: $4.99

    Thank you Badland Games for sending us this game to review!

    Demon’s Crystals is a 3D twin stick shooter that arrived on PC in 2016. Nearly a year later, console players can now enjoy this $5 game. While a story isn't really needed, I’ll share it with you now. Urican demons have been on the top of the food chain until strange beings arrived that changed the peaceful inhabitants into hostile ones. It’s now up to the Urican demons to bring things back to the way they once were.

    The arcade mode can be played solo or cooperatively with friends. In this mode you have to clear several levels before facing off against a boss. In order to complete a level you’ll have to satisfy the requirements of collecting a specified number of crystals or eliminating a certain amount of enemies. Oftentimes you’ll have to do a little bit of both. I like how the progress is saved and that the players can resurrect each other as often as needed. If you die alone or with a friend, you’ll have to restart the current level. You can continue as often as you like, which is nice. If this was genuine arcade game, I would have lost a lot of quarters!

    Like all twin stick shooters, one of the joysticks is used for movement while the other guides a constant stream of bullets. The default firing mode isn’t that powerful, but thankfully there are many fun power-ups that spawn in random locations. Some of the power-ups change the formation of your bullets or create multidirectional streams. One of my favorite power-ups are the huge rockets that are good by themselves and even better when you can shoot three at a time! The invincibility mushrooms are nice too. Health and additional time bonuses are always welcome as they are often in short supply. You have to be careful at what you grab since there are debuffs as well that subtract time or confuse your controls.

    Demon’s Crystals
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun twin stick shooter that’s great to play alone or with friends; low price
    Weak Points: A tad repetitive, but fun in short spurts; no online play
    Moral Warnings: Shooting at zombies, skeletons, and other various monsters; rune/magic use; revealing outfits

    The survival mode is the only one that does not allow for more than one player. As the title suggests, your goal in this mode is to survive as long as possible while trying to earn a high score. Sadly, there is no option for online play so you’ll need to recruit some family or friends to play with or against.

    If you’re the competitive type, there are six multiplayer modes to choose from. Here’s a quick breakdown of them:

    Crystal Quest – Collect as many crystals as possible before the time runs out.
    Deathmatch - The last player standing wins.
    Kill the Enemies - Shoot as many enemies as possible, but don’t kill the gnomes as they’ll reset your score!
    Seize the Large Crystal - Break through the barrier and capture the crystal before your opponent.
    Survival – See if you can withstand more waves of enemies than the others can.
    Versus – Eliminate the opposing team.

    Demon’s Crystals
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

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

    Morality Score - 77%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 3.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    As you can tell, this $5 game has a lot to offer. The game variety is decent, but this title is still best in short spurts since it may get a bit repetitive after a while. My son and I had a lot of fun playing this game together.

    If you don’t mind the Halloween themed monsters and rune magic, this game is pretty family friendly. The violence is mild and the visuals remind me of the Skylanders games. They’re a little bit dated, but they’re colorful and get the job done. The sound effects are decent too.

    If you’re a fan of twin stick shooters, Demon’s Crystals will be a great addition to your PC or console library. The asking price is very reasonable and it’s bound to entertain you and your family/friends for a little while.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Desert Kill 
    Developed By: IO Games
    Published By: IO Games
    Released: April 17, 2019
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Twin-stick shooter
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: Single-player
    Price: $4.99

    Thank you IO Games for the Steam key for review!

    Desert Kill is a twin-stick shooter rogue-lite that’s too standard to the formula for its own good, and fails at almost every corner. I have encountered several weird issues and quirks when playing this game, and had nearly zero fun while doing it.

    Your average Desert Kill run starts with a selection of one of several different characters. Right off the bat you’ll notice that none of the characters seem to have any difference aside from cosmetic. There could be differences, but it isn’t directly stated on the character select screen. Once selecting a character, you can go into the optional tutorial. The tutorial being optional is great, I applaud that, but what isn’t great is that the tutorial breaks when it teaches you the melee attack so you can’t finish. Luckily, I learned most of what I needed to and was able to enter a run shortly after.

    Desert Kill
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Good run variety; fair price point
    Weak Points: Buggy; uninteresting; doesn’t explain things
    Moral Warnings: Lots of blood; human on human violence; one enemy is a suicide bomber

    When you start a run, you are thrown into a massive isometric desert landscape and given a minimap and a couple starting weapons. On the minimap several things are marked. There are shops, mini outposts to raid, and then the main objective areas. Going from objective to objective is a slog. The map is too large without much happening in-between. There are vehicles lying about, but they are far too expensive to use on a consistent basis, and your hard-earned money is better spent elsewhere. To beat a level of Desert Kill, you need to complete two objectives, which there is a decent variety of, and then beat a boss.

    The gameplay loop is terrible. It’s slow and kind of awkward. Enemies’ hitboxes seem off and your guns aren’t accurate. Shop items are incredibly expensive and money drops are sparse. The game tries to have some verticality to it, with enemies standing on top of buildings and whatnot, but this adds nothing but making it even harder to hit an enemy with a weird hitbox. You have a dodge roll, but it’s only essential in boss fights. The dodge roll mechanic isn’t explored otherwise. The gunplay itself is awkward and not very fun. There’s a permanent unlock system, but again, item drops are so rare it’s very hard to earn up the cash to unlock new toys. Moreover, the game doesn’t seem to try anything new or different.

    Desert Kill
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 44%
    Gameplay - 6/20
    Graphics - 4/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 79%
    Violence - 3.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 6/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Desert Kill’s art style looks like a mobile game ported to PC, and actually hinders the gameplay itself. Enemies can hit behind walls and be impossible to see, so instead of adding some sort of transparency option, they decided that you can rotate the camera with right mouse click. The sounds are okay, but they don’t have much of a feeling to them. The soundtrack might be the best part of the game. It isn’t crazy good, but it’s pretty solid western music and fits the game perfectly. There is no gamepad support currently, but the keyboard and mouse controls can be fully rebound to whatever you want. I ran into a few crashes, but these were mostly my fault for left clicking on the screen and being impatient during long loading times.

    Enemies spill significant amounts of blood. All the enemies I encountered were human, and one enemy type was a guy with a bomb strapped to his chest.

    I do not recommend Desert Kill in any way. It fails in every way I can think of, and I truly hope that changes over the rest of its early access development. The price point is a cheap 5 bucks, but that 5 dollars could be spent on a nice coffee.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Dick Wilde 2
    Developed by: Bolverk Games
    Published by: PlayStack
    Available on: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PSVR, Windows Mixed Reality
    Release date: February 19, 2019
    Genre: Shooter
    Number of players: Up to two
    ESRB Rating: Teen
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you PlayStack for sending us this game to review!

    Dick Wilde was released in 2017 and received positive reviews. Regrettably, I haven’t played it, but I did add it to my Steam wishlist as I enjoyed playing the sequel. The story is pretty much the same with the swamp wildlife mutating and becoming vicious. It’s up to you to get rid of them all and their leaders (bosses) too.

    To cleanse the area of mutated creatures you’ll need to hop on your raft and arm yourself with weapons and power-ups. The vertically challenged Dick Wilde isn’t much of a fighter, but he sells a lot of handy equipment to give you a fighting chance! Along with revolvers, shotguns, Uzis, and plasma rifles, you’ll find health extenders, critical attack increasers, as well as health kits.

    In total, there are three worlds with several key gathering and challenge missions within. Many of the levels have several keys which will take multiple runs to collect them all. The keys are needed to unlock the final boss battle. Once the monstrosity of a boss is defeated, you can advance to the next world.

    Dick Wilde 2
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun on-rails shooter with co-op gameplay
    Weak Points: Hard to find people to play online with; no easy way to exit the game
    Moral Warnings: Blood and violence

    Dick Wilde 2 is an on-rails shooter where your raft is on a set path and you get to make a couple of directional choices (left or right) to gather keys that were not accessible earlier. As your raft is floating through a river or tunnels, various debris will pop up from underneath and you’ll have to shoot it apart before it damages your raft. You’ll need to dismantle partially submerged vehicles, refrigerators, wooden fences/crates, metal barrels and so forth. Red barrels are combustible, which comes in handy for quickly taking down groups of enemies or debris.

    Enemies come at you from all directions, underwater, from the side, and even in the air. Crabs and fish will jump out and attack you while other creatures like giant rats, moles, scorpions, and snakes will hurl flaming or poisonous orbs at you. There are some squid/jellyfish like creatures that need to have their protective aura dissolved before you can do any damage to them.

    Along with watching out for enemies, you’ll have to pay attention to your surroundings. Some levels have locked gates that only open if you shoot the numbered buttons in the proper sequence. Many levels have a couple of checkpoints where you can restore your health, buy power-ups, or upgrade weapons if you have the cash to pay for it. Money is earned by clearing out debris. Once a level is completed you’ll get to see various statistics like your accuracy, how much damage had been dealt and received, and how much debris has been cleared.

    Dick Wilde 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 89%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 8.5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Multiplayer is a great feature and fun to play if you can find someone to play alongside. I was able to find an active game during the weekend, but any other time has been unsuccessful. Voice chat would be a nice feature to implement to communicate more effectively than waving and pointing your guns around. On a positive note, I like how progress/keys carry forward in the single-player campaign.

    Graphically, this game is very colorful and there’s a lot of variety when it comes to weapons and enemies. The level design is decent but gets repetitive by having to replay them four times to collect all of the necessary keys. To mix things up you can play them out of order. The menu interface is pretty entertaining as you can shoot the environment as you’re looking around or waiting for a multiplayer match. Unfortunately, exiting the game is not intuitive and I had to rely on my controller buttons to leave the game since there was no menu option to do so gracefully.

    The audio is entertaining with Dick Wilde’s funny comments like “Well butter my buns and call me a biscuit!” and “It’s a me, Dick Wilde!” The sound effects are fitting and the peppy background music is nice when it’s not drowned out by gunfire.

    Dick Wilde 2 is pretty family friendly though it does have a couple of issues worth noting. Living creatures explode when shot and you’ll see red pieces falling and coming out of them. After shooting and destroying hundreds of mutated creatures and floating debris, my fingers hurt after a while. If you’re a middle-aged gamer you might have to take a few breathers to give your hands some rest.

    In the end, Dick Wilde 2 is a fun, but flawed experience. Co-op multiplayer is great, but hard to come by and the levels are fun, but repetitive. If you enjoyed the first game you’ll probably like this one though I hear it’s not as challenging as the previous title. Gamers who like on-rails shooters should check this game out. If you’re looking for co-op play, you may want to look elsewhere unless you have friends who own this title already.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Full Mojo Rampage
    Developed by: Over The Top Games
    Published by: Over The Top Games
    Release date: June 27, 2016
    Available on: PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Twin stick shooter
    Number of players: Up to four online
    ESRB Rating: Teen for Blood, Fantasy Violence, Alcohol and Tobacco References, Mild Language
    Price: $12.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Over The Top Games for sending us this game to review!

    There’s not much of a story in Full Mojo Rampage other than it starting off with your character getting chased in a cemetery and stumbling upon a Voodoo doll (with pins in it) that gives him the power to fight back. Your goal is to complete various objectives while fending away swarms of undead monsters that aim to stop you. Between them and the bosses, you will die, but your experience and medals collected do carry over to your next playthrough. Like other Rogue-like games, each playthough will be different as the maps are generated randomly.

    Medals are used to unlock different masks and Loas (Voodoo spirits) with varying powers and abilities. Just like other twin-stick shooter games, one of the joysticks moves around your character while the other fires projectiles from your equipped wand. Depending on which Loa you are using, you’ll have different attacks or abilities mapped to your left and right triggers. These abilities need to recharge until they are able to be used again.

    Full Mojo Rampage
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun Rogue-like twin stick shooter game
    Weak Points: No local co-op and online multiplayer is dead
    Moral Warnings: Heavy Voodoo implementation; undead monsters; magic and Voodoo doll use; language (bad*ss); alcohol and smoking references 

    Besides enemies, you’ll find treasure chests, piles of bones, and tombstones that have loot inside if you stop to examine them. Many levels have shrines that let you combine items, which is really handy since you only have a handful of inventory slots. Vendors can also be found and they can sell healing potions and powerful wands. Unfortunately, the wands lose their charge so you’ll have to conserve their power or save them for bosses and rely on your infinite default wand as your primary. Some of the wands are pretty cool with multi-shot beams or grenades.

    Passive power-ups are nice to find and equip. Be sure to examine each one and combine them when given an opportunity to do so. Some of the power-ups can increase your speed, attack rate, or even the amount of damage you do. Sadly, the power-ups do not respawn with you if you die. Upon your death, you will be taken back to the beginning of the dungeon where you have to start all over again. If you have leveled up, you can choose which attribute (health, damage, speed, attack rate) to increase at the main menu.

    Pins can be collected as items in the game and you have to use them in order to unlock them for future playthroughs.  The pins can boost your stats, gold collection rate, or even give you starting healing potions.  Some of the pins can be upgraded so be sure to max them out if possible.  

    Full Mojo Rampage
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 70%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 6.5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 2/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Playing solo is fun and I enjoyed my numerous playthroughs. Once I got the hang of the game and controls I tried to find an online game to join. Sadly, there were not any available. It’s a shame since all of the popular game modes are there: co-op, death match, team death match, and capture the flag. Local co-op play would be a nice alternative, but that’s not available. If you’re looking for a multiplayer experience, you may want to look elsewhere.

    Christians should also be wary of this title due to the numerous Voodoo references. Between the Voodoo dolls, pins for them, Loas, and shaman masks, this game is full of Voodoo symbolism. Aside from that, there are many undead monsters, magic, drinking/smoking references as well as language. Full Mojo Rampage definitely earns its Teen rating from the ESRB.

    Aside from the moral issues and lack of multiplayer options, Full Mojo Rampage is a well polished and fun game. As long as you don’t expect any multiplayer action it’s worth checking out or picking up on sale.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Genetic Disaster
    Developer: Team8 Studio
    Published by: Team8 Studio.
    Release Date: December 18, 2017
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Action Top Down Shooter.
    Players: 1-4
    ESRB Rating: unrated.
    Price: $19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Team8 Studio for sending us this game to review!

    It’s rare that I’ll admire a minimalist game. When I say minimalist, I don't mean cheap graphics either. Sometimes a game that just focuses on gameplay comes along and it's ok. While Genetic Disaster has little story, it’s actually a fun game that deserves a look.

    Genetic Disaster is a co-op procedural action game in the same vein of games like Nuclear Throne or Enter the Gungeon. You pick between one of four characters with special abilities and you face multiple enemies until you die. Each character has a special ability such as generating a shield or using a powerful attack. I wish the game had more of a story to it, yet the game doesn't present you with much right now. I'm not sure why I am fighting these robots, and I am not sure why these strange creatures I can play as work together.

    Genetic Disaster
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great gameplay, fun to play with friends.
    Weak Points: While the gameplay is great, some background to story and characters would be nice.
    Moral Warnings:Light slapstick violence.

    Once you start a session, you get one gun at the beginning of a game then you just go room to room and fight. One of the newest updates adds arena rooms which will spawn multiple waves of enemies; survive and you get a treasure chest. Some rooms have health packs, new weapons or gold. Gold you can use to spend on upgrades after every elevator to the next level.

    Playing the game with someone seems to be a lot better than playing solo. While the characters have no backstories yet they all work well together. I had a friend join me in online play and the connection was flawless, no lag. Local co-op was also a reasonable option; my wife and I got to about floor 9. The challenge of the game is balanced around how many players you have with you as well as how many floors you've gone down. While this may be an unpopular opinion I am glad that the challenge remained constant. Maybe I haven't found an awesome upgrade yet before I begin a floor, maybe I haven't found that overpowered gun yet. Yet it's nice to see that this game doesn't have a build that makes the game extremely easy.

    Genetic Disaster
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    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

    Hopefully, any negatives I have with this game will be improved. I would love to see more life brought into the characters, voice lines or even just the backstories would help me love these characters. It seems they have already worked on improving the feel of the guns, yet I think the enemies need to feel a bit more threatening too. It's not a good sign when I don't care about the enemies of a game at all. While a missing story didn’t bug me, it does make it harder to remember the game later down the line.

    On morality you don't have much to worry about. There is no blood or gore, just the shoot em up violence. There is no bad dialogue or any vile imagery either.

    Genetic Disaster has the foundations to be a great experience both for solo players and co-op, it just needs a bit of spit and polish to make it shine. Hopefully this game will become top notch, not a disaster.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Hellfront: Honeymoon
    Developed by: Skygoblin
    Published by: Thunderful
    Release date: December 19, 2018
    Available on: PS4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Twin-stick shooter, strategy
    Number of players: Up to four locally
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for Fantasy violence
    Price: $9.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Thunderful for sending us this game to review!

    Hellfront: Honeymoon is Skygoblin’s second game and we reviewed their first one, The Journey Down. Instead of being a point-and-click adventure game, Hellfront: Honeymoon is an action-packed twin-stick shooter real-time strategy game. There is no story, but your goal is to be the last person standing against aliens and other players on various hostile planets.

    In total, there are ninety levels which you can play by yourself or cooperatively with a friend. Alternatively, up to four players can duke it out in player vs. player skirmishes. No matter which mode you play, the concept remains the same. You can destroy environmental walls that are in your way with your machine gun. On glowing floor tiles, you can deploy a turret or barracks that churns out soldiers every ten seconds. It’s best to have a combination of both. If possible, tuck your barracks behind some turrets for protection. There is no penalty if your character dies and they will respawn near their barracks within a few seconds.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Simple and fun gameplay that’s best enjoyed with others
    Weak Points: Local multiplayer only, no online matches
    Moral Warnings: Shooting soldiers and aliens

    The level is won by destroying all of the opposition's bases and turrets. To keep things interesting, when an enemy’s turret is destroyed, aliens usually come out and attack anyone nearby. Also, remember to move away once deploying turrets or barracks or your character will get squashed from the building process.

    Depending on how long it takes you to conquer a level, you’ll be awarded between one and three stars. Generally speaking, you’ll get three stars for conquering the level in under a minute, two for under two minutes and one star for anything over that. The skirmishes don't last very long, but they're pretty intense-- especially those involving alien pods that are easy to accidentally break open with stray bullets.

    Hellfront: Honeymoon
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 78%
    Violence - 4.5/10
    Language - 7.5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Violence is a given and you’ll have to attack opposing humans and aliens alike. When shot at, the aliens will break apart and leave yellow puddles on the ground. Given how fast-paced this game is, you may not even notice the gibs. The soldiers just disappear when defeated. Last but not least, the game’s title has the word hell in it (in case you haven’t noticed).

    The explosions are very prominent and hard to miss. The rest of the visuals work well, but are nothing too ground-breaking. There is some change of scenery between the different planets.

    The sound effects are fitting and the minimal voice acting is sufficient. The background music is peppy and perfect for the fast-paced action.

    If you enjoy twin-stick shooters and real-time strategy games, Hellfront: Honeymoon is worth checking out. Like many games, this one is best enjoyed with friends. If you’re looking for a deep story and online gameplay you’ll want to look elsewhere.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    High Noon VR
    Developed by: OctoBox Interactive
    Published by: Buka Entertainment
    Released date: November 14, 2017
    Available on: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
    Genre: Shooter
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you Buka Entertainment for sending us this game to review!

    You’re the new sheriff in town and there are plenty of troublemaking cowboys and cowgirls that need to be shot down before they put you six feet under. The enemies come in waves and are worth more money in later waves. If the hordes of enemies don’t pose a challenge to you, the intimidating bosses might.

    There are nine campaign levels that unlock quick play maps as you go through them. The goal in quick play is to survive as long as you can, but the campaign levels have additional objectives that need to be completed in order to advance to the next one. An example of the hardest objectives for me was making it through a wave without losing any health points. Other objectives include getting a specified number of headshots or shooting down a certain number of dynamite sticks hurled in your direction.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun wave shooter game
    Weak Points: Overly chatty narrator; repetitive gameplay
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; language (bad*ss, skank); cowgirls are dressed in one-piece bathing suits

    You can use dynamite too if you purchase it as a weapon option at the wagon. Other weapon upgrades include revolvers, shotguns, harpoons, and a Gatling gun. Weapons can be further enhanced at the workbench if you have the funds available. Unfortunately, it takes a while to save up enough money for the weapons and you have to purchase them twice if you wish to dual wield. Completing objectives gives you a decent pay bonus so they’re worth doing.

    There are different types of cowboys and cowgirls to shoot at and the females are a little bit quicker. A harpoon can slow them down but doesn’t do much damage. Time slows down when you shoot TNT barrels so that may help as well. The environment is destructible so you can break a lot of glass and can even shoot the hats off of the bad guys.

    High Noon VR
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 75%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 5/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    When you shoot the enemies, there will be an orange flash by the area hit but no blood. There’s an overly chatty narrator that swears (bad*ss) and refers to the cowgirls as chicks and skanks. People on the Steam reviews have been annoyed with the narrator and the developer responded with an option to disable the voice. Unfortunately, my review build does not have this option; I can only lower the music and sound effects volumes.

    Visually, this game is pretty good though the models only have a couple of different outfits and you’ll have a bunch of lookalikes in each wave. Though there are not many maps, variety is added by having the shootouts happen at different times during the day/night.

    In the end, if you’re not sick of VR stationary shooters yet, High Noon VR is worth checking out. The gameplay can get repetitive so I would recommend picking it up on sale and I have seen it as low as $4.99 which is a good price. There’s a decent amount of weapon variety to keep things interesting, but you’ll need to spend a lot of time saving up to use most of it. Thirty-seven Steam achievements await you if you enjoy collecting them.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    JASEM – Just Another Shooter with Electronic Music
    Developed by: Stas Shostak
    Published by: Stas Shostak
    Release date: October 19, 2017
    Available on: Linux, macOS, Windows
    Genre: Twin-stick Shooter
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating; Not rated
    Price: $6.99

    Thank you Stas Shostak for sending us this game to review!

    As the title suggests, JASEM is a 3D twin-stick shooter with electronic music. However, I don’t find it a run of the mill game, but fun and challenging. This title claims that it’s hard and I have to agree. Despite not being good at it, I still have fun playing it and take ownership of each and every one of my deaths and don’t find any of them cheap or undeserved.

    Upon beginning one of the five levels (plus a tutorial) your tank will spawn with a randomized loadout. One standard feature is the boost ability, which is required for out running deadly laser beams. Your tank will either have a primary and secondary weapon or have a deployable shield as an option. Some of the weapons at your disposal include bullets, homing missiles, exploding barrels, and a flamethrower.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun gameplay and lots of variety in weaponry and randomized enemy placement upon death
    Weak Points: Only six levels, but they’re challenging; confusing exit menu
    Moral Warnings: Robotic violence

    There are plenty of enemies to take aim at and the laser-aiming device helps out in that department. Each area has a counter indicating how many robotic foes remain before the next section is unlocked. Sometimes there is a barrier in place to continue onward and if there isn't one, you may have to push levers to lower road sections in order to traverse across them.

    The enemies provide a proper challenge with ones that hone in on you as you get nearby while others blast you into oblivion from a distance. If you can survive the onslaught of hostile robots, you’ll get to go toe to toe with a boss at the end of each level. There are Steam achievements available for clearing out all of the enemies in each level, conquering the bosses, and lastly doing so without dying. I easily earned the achievements for dying in the tutorial and menu areas.

    JASEM – Just Another Shooter with Electronic Music
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

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

    Visually this game is simple but adequate. The explosions look good and are quite deadly when you don’t escape from their blast radius fast enough. With that said, it’s still beneficial to take advantage of exploding barrels when available. Getting multiple enemies with one shot is worthwhile.

    The electronic music is nice but not memorable to me. The music is available via DLC for $2.99, but you can buy the game plus soundtrack for a dollar cheaper when combined rather than separate.

    If you enjoy twin-stick shooters, JASEM will definitely fit the bill. The asking price is $6.99 and is very reasonable if you like a challenge. If you’re not a fan of tough games then you’ll want to consider other options.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    John Wick Chronicles
    Developed By: Starbreeze Studios, Grab Games, GamecoStudios, Big Red Button
    Publisher: Starbreeze Studios
    Release Date: February 9, 2017
    Available On: Windows (HTC Vive required)
    Genre: Action/Wave shooter
    Number of Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: M for Violence, blood
    MSRP: $19.99

    Thank you Starbreeze Studios for sending us this game to review!

    John Wick is a rather popular new movie series starring Keanu Reeves that is celebrating its second chapter in 2017. In many ways it is a violent, bloody revenge flick that wears its over the top gun play on its sleeve. Despite this, it does have enough of a plot to keep many viewers interested, and high enough quality cinematography to become a very popular movie series for the many who enjoy intense action. Capitalizing on this popularity, they produced John Wick Chronicles to coincide with the release of John Wick Chapter 2 the day after.

    In John Wick Chronicles, you get to hear the comforting voice of Charon (Lance Reddick) welcome you back to the hotel and offer his concierge services for you. He also accompanies you to your room, as well as the four levels available for you to play in. There is one training room, as well as three other levels that take place on John Wick set pieces. There is the parking garage, the rooftop, and a yacht.

    John Wick Chronicles
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent voice acting; really brings you into the world of John Wick; fun shooting action
    Weak Points: Occasional performance drops; short
    Moral Warnings: Violence, as you shoot many enemy humans trying to kill you; blood in some places; foul language like '*ss', 'd*mn', and God's name in vain (Jesus Christ)

    Charon's voice lets you know when enemies are outside of your field of view, if you run out of ammo, and various other things, like congratulating a good shot. Taking place in first person virtual reality (VR), you have enemies that can appear anywhere around you, though thankfully you get a hint when they are elsewhere based on not only Charon's voice, but also hit directional markers that flash when you are shot.

    Enemies drop health, armor, or weapon upgrades when killed. You can also unlock additional weapons in training mode, which can allow others to show up in the levels you are playing. I really enjoyed it when I had dual machine guns, and was lucky enough to get laser sights for both of them. It does seem like if you put down a gun the upgrades are lost though, so you may want to stick with whatever you like best for the level you are on. On the rooftop level, I would typically grab a sniper rifle in one hand (yes, you need two hands for one of these in real life, but not here) and a machine gun in the other. Once the distant roof was clear, it was dual machine guns all the way. Though I did enjoy the infrared upgrade for the sniper scope; you can peek through that scope, and it makes shots a lot easier with the higher contrast of infrared sights.

    The gunplay is very accurate and works well. It's definitely fun to shoot the many bad guys in a kill or be killed environment. It can be tricky to know how damaged you are, but once the screen starts getting dimly red, you better be careful or grab a health or armor pack, or you will be in big trouble shortly.

    John Wick Chronicles
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 82%
    Violence - 4/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    As you can probably imagine, this game has a ton of violence against human subjects. You basically shoot everything that moves, or they will shoot you first. Enemies can take several bullets to take down, but nothing too obnoxious like bullet sponges. Most enemies don't bleed, but there are exceptions, like boss battles. I noted Charon saying '*ss', 'd*mn', and the Lord's name in vain, in the form of 'Jesus Christ'.

    I have tried this game on two computers, one with an AMD 290X, and another with a NVIDIA 1070. It definitely performed better on the latter, which is not too surprising. Even still, it did have major frame rate drops in places, though nothing that made it unplayable. Otherwise the graphics do look pretty nice, with the enemies easy to spot in the detailed backgrounds. The voice acting is excellent, and the sound effects kept things intense. One complaint is a common one; the game may choose to flip your left and right hands. It's not too difficult to switch them out, but you may need to switch back before playing another VR game.

    John Wick Chronicles is a violent but entertaining shooter, mostly meant for fans of the movies. If you are a fan, then I would look for this game during a sale; I am not sure it is worth full price for something that can be completed in under an hour. I would honor the M rating and keep this from children. If you are an adult and already watch the movies, then the content should not be a surprise at all. I would say that the content here is much less bloody and gory than the way over the top movies that it is based on.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Lethal VR
    Developed By: Three Fields Entertainment
    Publisher: Team17 Digital Ltd.
    Release Date: November 8, 2016
    Available On: Windows (VR Headset HTC Vive required)
    Genre: Shooting gallery
    Number of Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    MSRP: $14.99

    Thank you Team17 for sending us this game to review!

    I have fond memories of playing various light gun games for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) when I was (much) younger.  While I got to enjoy several (who didn't love Duck Hunt?), I also fondly recall Hogan's Alley.  This was a game where you play as a police officer who trains to fire upon gangsters, while avoiding all civilians.  This VR game, Lethal VR, is based on this concept.

    Lethal VR also puts you in the role of a police recruit, where you must improve your sharpshooting and knife throwing skills.  You have to hit the various kinds of enemies, while avoiding all civilians.  There are also other skill tests where you hit non-human targets of several kinds.  A few levels even have you using multiple weapon types, where you have to hit each target with its matching weapon.

    Rather than take place in a simple room with a few targets in front of you, or conversely, a large FBI compound with multiple rooms and hallways, this version of Hogan's Alley has the room adjust itself around you before your eyes. Unfortunately, this is not as neat as it sounds; during each mission the level design is more or less static, but you do get to watch each level set itself up while waiting to get started.

    Lethal VR
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great gun-toting action; nice weapon and target variety; lots of polish
    Weak Points: Fairly short as is, since I saw all of the content in under two hours
    Moral Warnings: Male and female frontal nudity in the form of the statues David and Venus de Milo; you can hit civilian cutouts with your shots/knives accidentally

    Each of the HTC Vive controllers holds a weapon, though sometimes you only get one. A small annoyance I found is that sometimes it would choose my left hand, while other times my right, when I have a clear preference.  A way to switch this would be great, as I ended up switching controllers to get it right.

    I found the gun play to be quite excellent.  The gun looks very realistic in your hand, and feels and sounds really great when you fire.  The Vive controllers have a different angle than real guns, but the in-game ones have you hold it like a real firearm, rather than how the controller might appear without the headset on. Shooting targets feels very accurate, and I never felt like a shot was missed because of anything other than my aiming skill.  As I got used to shooting, my firing and accuracy rate went up dramatically; getting quickdraw bonuses, and seeing the targets shatter quickly, is very satisfying.

    Each level has a point requirement that you need to hit in order to unlock the next level.  There are many factors that influence the score, including shot accuracy, time between shots, time to complete the challenge, and more.  If you hit the wrong targets, or take too long to hit someone who is pointing a gun at you, you lose the mission.

    I am not sure of all of the factors that relate to your score, because the game doesn’t tell you.  But there is a leaderboard, and you can always change your initials so that you can compete with your friends as you switch off with them.  The developers have responded to player feedback, and are going to implement a global leaderboard, which I really look forward to.  Competing to be the best recruit in the world should definitely extend the playtime significantly.  While I’m dreaming a bit, having some way to allow player created levels would be fantastic, and would dramatically improve replayability.  Team17, please make it so!

    Lethal VR
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 88%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The game has about thirty levels, and I certainly enjoyed it.  Each difficulty has six levels, and there are five difficulties.  Each one gets more interesting, and seems to follow a theme.  I really liked the levels that had buildings and moving targets; the building called Hogan’s was a nice touch.  I admit I am not a huge fan of the knife throwing; it does work, but made my arms tired, and my accuracy left a lot to be desired.  But it never felt unfair; it’s just the nature of knife throwing I guess.  I love the gunplay though.

    Lethal VR takes full advantage of the Vive’s room scale capabilities.  There is nothing to dodge, as cardboard cutouts of gangsters don’t shoot back at you, but targets can appear in any direction around you in the full 360 degree cylindrical environment.  As a result, many levels can be completed by just standing still and rotating your body, but not all.  Several have objects or barricades that stand in your way, where moving, leaning, or kneeling can help you hit your target, which is sometimes obstructed from view.

    Given the high resource requirements in general for VR gaming, no VR games I have seen look nearly as photo-realistic as our existing 2D games.  This one is no exception.  Even still, everything looks very clean, clear, and well optimized. Having a high frame rate is king, and Lethal VR had no trouble keeping a steady frame rate on my AMD 290X.  Sound effects, while simple, also sound great as each gunshot has appropriate impact.  The developers also did a great job with spacial awareness for the sound effects.  Sometimes things will appear behind you, and the only way I knew it was because it sounded behind you.  I was very pleased that I could completely rely on audio cues to know where to turn next.  And on top of that, I don’t have to worry about hearing damage (or stray shots!), unlike when handling a real firearm.

    From a moral standpoint, Lethal VR is actually really clean, with a few exceptions. All humans that you may fire upon (or not) are cutouts, very similar to the classic Hogan’s Alley that I mentioned earlier.  If you are not familiar with this, think a top half picture attached to a board that moves around.  It’s simple, but it works.  If you accidentally hit a civilian, you lose the mission, so there is no violent motive there.  I don’t consider shooting a gun to be really very violent in and of itself.  There is one bonus level that has you throwing a secret weapon at statues.  These statues are Michelangelo’s David and the classic Venus de Milo.  They are both nude statues, and are represented as such here as well.  The rest of the game is safe for children, if you don’t mind them shooting a realistic gun or throwing knives at various targets.

    Lethal VR is a somewhat simple and short game, but I really enjoyed my time with it.  Sometimes, you don’t need complex plots or any other excuse to to just have fun and shoot things, especially in VR.  This style of game has been very popular on the HTC Vive for good reason – it’s simple, and a blast to play.  This game is certainly no exception.  It’s really well polished, and does what it sets out to do flawlessly, which is not always a given in the young VR market.  If the developers continue to listen to feedback and implement players' suggestions, I really believe this game can go from very good to great.  I look forward to seeing more improvements in the future!

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Lifeless Vanguard
    Developed By: Vibrant Allegory
    Published By: Vibrant Allegory
    Released: April 4, 2019
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Arcade
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: Single-player
    Price: $5

    Thanks to Vibrant Allegory for the Steam key for review!

    Lifeless Vanguard is a twin-stick shooter arcade game that focuses on tough bullet patterns and careful movement rather than shiny graphics. The goal of the game is to simply get through 9 levels without dying. I was surprised by how polished the game felt and played for the cheap price and mediocre art.

    A core issue with the twin-stick arcade genre is that in most of them all you need to do to succeed is move in large circles around the map holding down the shoot button. Geometry Wars did this while remaining fun to an extent, but the lack of required movement was disappointing. Polychromatic, Waves, Galaxy Champions TV, and several others have the exact same problem. So when an arcade game breaks the formula of nearly mindless movement, to me it’s a huge bonus and boosts my enjoyment of the game significantly. You cannot get away with mindless movement in Lifeless Vanguard. The enemy design and overall game design are done in a way that prevents that.

    Enemy variety is strong and each brings a different threat. Some enemies shoot homing missiles that chase after you for a while. Most enemies shoot bullet patterns that are simple to dodge on their own, but becomes incredibly complex when there are several enemies on screen. When the store page of this game mentions an emphasis on dodging, they aren’t joking. There are boss fights that are surprisingly difficult with tight bullet patterns and large health bars. The final boss caught me off guard with how difficult its patterns were. Luckily, Lifeless Vanguard is designed in a way where everything is easily visible and recognizable. Enemies all look different enough from each other to immediately understand what you’re up against. Bullets are the standard colorful circles, but they never blended into the background. The only thing stopping you here is your own skill level, not some glowing nonsense blocking your view.

    Lifeless Vanguard
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Difficult; tight controls; replayable
    Weak Points: Visually unappealing
    Moral Warnings: Spaceship violence

    There are a couple ways to get better guns. The first way is through rare “superweapon” drops. These are weapons with limited ammo that do significantly more damage than your standard gun. You typically see about one or two superweapon drops per stage. I wish there was a bit more variety in the superweapons though, since there are only 3 types. Secondly, you gain experience points through pickups that drop sometimes when an enemy dies. With each level, your main gun gains more and more of a spread and shoots more bullets, up to 10 levels. Gaining experience is essential to your success and is another mechanic that forces you to think more about your movement.

    Lifeless Vanguard is difficult. Usually arcade games seem to be on the easier side of things, but this game is willing to throw everything it's got at you. It’s not the most casual arcade game out there, and I think for the most part I would only recommend it to those that want a legitimate challenge. That being said, the difficulty is completely fair and the game never cheats against you. I never encountered an impossible situation.

    Visually, Lifeless Vanguard is boring and unappealing. It hinders the overall quality of the game because it looks unpolished and poorly made due to the art. I understand that in some ways this is intentional, (they wanted to make things as visually distinct as possible), but there has to be ways to make the game more interesting to look at without trashing the idea of visibility.

    Lifeless Vanguard
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    The music and sounds have the same issues. They’re standard and boring. They aren’t anything to be in awe over. Mechanically, Lifeless Vanguard is well polished and great fun, but the package it’s wrapped in is unfortunately downright ugly.

    Controls are fantastic. I played on an XBOX One controller for the most part, but I can gladly say that it also played very well on keyboard and mouse. All controls can be rebound to whatever you want. The ship could be a little bit faster, but the game was designed around a slower ship, so it’s fine. I only ever ran into one simple UI bug at the end of a session, but it seems inconsistent and didn’t affect the gameplay itself.

    Morally, I found next to nothing that could cause problems. All you have here is spaceships shooting other spaceships. No gore to be found, no dialogue is spoken at all, and there are no bodies that drop. Just colorful glowing bullets that make ships explode into bits. There is an online leaderboard, so you could come across somebody with a nasty username, but you never have to directly interact with that person.

    Overall, Lifeless Vanguard surprised me. The graphics and music made the game look poorly made and unpolished, but once I played some it ended up being a solid and cheap arcade shooter. I sort of wish there was an endless mode or something after the final boss, but otherwise I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game. Recommended at full price to those that want a challenge!

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Mustache in Hell
    Developed By: IdunaSoft
    Published By: Black Shell Media
    Released: July 28, 2016
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Twin-stick shooter
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: $4.99

    *Advertising disclosure* Though Black Shell Media was a former advertising partner, this review is not influenced by that relationship.

    Thanks to Black Shell Media for the review key!

    Officer John Mustache wakes up one morning to a few strange, out-of-place occurrences. Everything’s wobbling – well, that’s happened plenty of times before, including the previous night. The stairs directly in front of his bed – that’s definitely new. The Grim Reaper at the bottom of said stairs - looks kind of like his old boss, but novel aside from that. The Reaper announces that John’s almost dead but not quite alive, and thus the perfect candidate to lead a one-man attack on Charon, the former Styx boatman who stole five cubes of power and took over Hell. It's a step up from the mean streets, but let’s just say Officer Mustache is a good enough cop and a bad enough dude to storm the underworld alone.

    Mustache in Hell is a fairly standard twin-stick shooter: you fend off hordes of enemies at first with a nigh-useless pistol, with more effective but temporary weapons spawning in at semi-regular intervals. Officer Mustache has access to primary and secondary weapons: the former includes Uzis, shotguns, flamethrowers and machine guns; the latter alternates between grenades and proximity mines. There is a decent variety of enemies, though most charge you and take swings in melee range – a few bigger enemies can dash, a select few spit slow-moving bullets, and mini- and full-fledged bosses have a wider variety of deadlier attacks.

    Mustache in Hell
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Smooth controls and framerate; good music
    Weak Points: Iffy game design; questionable graphics
    Moral Warnings: Demons galore to shoot; enemies leave skeletons and bloodstains on death; language (hell, *ss, d*mn); beer as a recovery item

    Structurally, the game is sound. The controls, though unbindable, are simple and easy to pick up – the only real hiccup is binding Mustache’s quick, short-ranged dodge move to double-clicking on mouse and keyboard controls, but it works naturally once you get used to it. The framerate is a constant sixty frames per second, even with dozens of enemies and bullets on-screen. The controls, both keyboard and gamepad, respond instantly. The levels form somewhat of a maze interspersed with locked doors, with keys, health items, extra lives, and the odd secret area hidden in between combat rooms. This adds a nice pacing to the intense action that makes up the majority of the game, and lets you restock and get your bearings freely.

    Gameplay-wise, however, it’s a mixed bag. The aforementioned weapons and dashing are all you get for the entire game, with the flamethrower and machine gun limited to later levels. The enemies stay mostly the same, but the big demons can charge at you from across the screen and almost always catch you, even if you dash away. Minibosses are equally quick and nasty, especially when paired with the relentless hordes of normal enemies – most rooms have a set number of demons in them, but a few will continuously spawn them until you beat the boss. The end bosses actually have some good design to them, with tricky but avoidable attacks and more limited monster spawns than the minibosses. With Mustache’s dash being rather short and with a second or so of downtime, and with the weapon crates having oddly strict hitboxes, you often do not have the tools necessary to defend yourself. Once the environmental hazards start appearing – retractable spike floors, sawblades, falling rocks, etc. – you’ll find your life bar diminishing rapidly with little you can do.

    What exacerbates the issue is that the game seems to recognize its occasionally-unfair difficulty by throwing extra lives at you – you start each of the five levels with five lives, and can hold up to ten. It’s enough to keep you from facing a game over with competent play, but it’s a shortcut approach to game design: rather than ease up on the enemies or give you more defensive tools, they just toss enough lives at you to finish the game. The biggest example of cut gameplay corners lies at the end of every enemy room, where control is taken from you to display some sort of generic one-liner on-screen for a few moments. When it does give you control back, you could very well find yourself standing inside a trap, which can and will kill you after the fight is over. Traps don’t deactivate until you get the key that spawns after every fight, and even then only when they’re scrolled off-screen. It’s more than a little annoying to survive a fight with next to no health, only for a roaming sawblade to finish you off while you’re stuck in place.

    Mustache in Hell
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 66%
    Gameplay - 10/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 72%
    Violence - 4/10
    Language - 6.5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    The overall presentation is mixed, as well. Mustache himself looks decent, the environments are nice enough, and there’s this subtle but noticeable swaying of the screen that adds atmosphere but doesn’t distract from the game itself. The music is surprisingly good – there’s not much of it, but its tense yet energetic exploration themes and high-energy combat rock are pleasing to listen to. The sound effects do their job, with the weapons having appropriate punch, though the standard irritating warning beep when you’re below half health rears its ugly head here. Most of the art, however, looks iffy, both in the in-game sprites and in the close-up text boxes. The dialogue is written likely by someone for whom English is a second language, but it’s understandable and ultimately unimportant – the broken English and questionable art almost give off a kind of deranged charm. Considering Mustache in Hell was made by one person, outside of the music and promotional art, it deserves some leeway.

    As if the name of the game wasn’t enough of a clue, Mustache in Hell has some moral issues to talk about. There’s demons aplenty to shoot, and they leave behind blood and bones on death – Officer Mustache just sort of dissipates and floats upward as a ghostly angel when he’s killed. Despite being in Hell, there are no occult symbols to find. You’re technically working with the Grim Reaper to get your life back, but it’s stated that Charon would take the fight to Earth and Heaven. There are your stereotypical 1980s police movie quips, containing semi-uncommon PG-13 language, but none of the heavier words. Finally, one of the health items is a mug of beer, and Mustache is a rather heavy smoker and drinker – though the Reaper mentions it’s why he’s in this half-dead state to begin with.

    Mustache in Hell is, ultimately, rather average; while its code is solid, its game design leaves something to be desired. It’s rather short as well: you’ll be able to tour the whole game in just over two hours, though some of the optional achievements – beating levels without dying and defeating bosses without getting hit – will certainly take some time if you’re up for it. The $4.99 asking price is rather steep for what you get, however; outside of a sale or price drop, your twin-stick shooter itch would be better scratched elsewhere.

    -Cadogan

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Overkill VR
    Developed By: Starloop Studios
    Published By: Game Troopers
    Release Date: November 16, 2016
    Available On: Windows (HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, or Windows Mixed Reality VR Headset required)
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Genre: Action/Wave shooter
    Mode: Single Player
    MSRP: $19.99

    Thank you Game Troopers for sending us this game to review!

    Overkill VR is a virtual reality wave shooter where you are in various typically desert-like environments and you have to keep the many enemies that shoot at you from killing you. Unlike many wave shooters, there is a fair amount of cover available, and what is there changes depending on the level. Some parts have a wall, with others a low obstacle you can use for defense. And there are guns. Lots of guns.

    In between the action, you can equip guns, purchase modifications to weapons, upgrade your armor, and more. Much of the game is spent improving yourself; you can choose to replay levels to earn more money to buy better weapons, or add upgrades like laser sights (which definitely come in handy). You can have two guns equipped at any time, and the secondary gun can often be a pistol, which usually has unlimited ammo. This can be really useful, especially when you want to conserve the main weapon’s ammo for times when there are more or stronger enemies around.

    Overkill VR
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Nice looking, detailed environments; good weapon mechanics and variety; weapon and armor customization; lots of levels
    Weak Points: Difficulty ramps up quickly; it’s hard to tell when you are hit; aiming is very picky
    Moral Warnings: Enemies die when shot; red slashes of blood appear when enemies are shot

    There are twenty-two levels to play, and quite a lot of variety. In order to unlock some weapons, you not only have to have the cash, but also you need to have completed certain levels. This is great, and an encouragement to keep going – but it also means that if you are like me, you may hit a difficulty wall and are stuck at around level 4-5 and need either more skill or upgraded weapons to move on. I hit that wall, and I rarely feel comfortable playing VR games for more than an hour or so and a time; I hope that explains why it took me over a year to write this review…

    Despite this, it’s easy to see that Overkill VR is a quality game. The mechanics are good, and the content is much more than many VR games (I have played many where there are only a handful of levels - if you are lucky). Graphically, it’s very well done, and the sound effects are quite convincing. There can be many enemies on screen at once, and the action is always intense. This game is like many where some enemies need several shots to go down; I would prefer it if a VR game would begin to disable enemies after a shot connects so that you know if your shots connected (other than life meter movement), but this is not that game.

    Overkill VR
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 88%
    Violence - 4/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    And while this game is far from the only VR wave shooter with this problem, it’s tricky to know if you have been shot, or from where. I prefer games that give you a visual cue, since current technology prevents you from ‘feeling’ the impact of a virtual bullet. There is a life meter on one of your hands, but you don’t know if you are going to die until you are almost dead.

    Morally, there are gunshots, and lots of them. If you don’t kill your opponents, they will kill you. I don’t recall any foul language, though to be fair it is difficult to take notes on a VR game (and I have only seen the first part of the game because of the difficulty wall).

    Overkill VR is a high quality VR wave shooter that is in many ways better than most of the others that I have reviewed. It has more gameplay depth, much better and more realistic graphics, and tons more content than most VR games. It is not easy, so if you are going to take the plunge, be aware of that and budget your time appropriately. Recommended for fans of VR wave shooters.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Overload
    Developed By: Revival Productions, LLC
    Published By: Revival Productions, LLC
    Release Date: May 31, 2018
    Available On: Windows (HTC Vive/Oculus Rift support available!), macOS, Linux/SteamOS, PS4, Xbox One
    Genre: Action/six degrees of freedom shooter
    Number of Players: 1 (local), up to 8 online
    ESRB Rating: T for Violence, Mild Language
    MSRP: $29.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you UberTri for donating the game to us so we can review it!

    Having been fortunate enough to grow up with the evolution of video games as I have, I got to see many of the more unique experiments hit gaming in context. For example, I remember playing DOOM when it was new, and being blown away by it along with everyone else in the pre-internet era. Another huge genre of the time was space combat, with stalwarts like Wing Commander. Someone at Parallax must have had the brilliant idea of putting the two together: full, six degrees of freedom (6DoF) movement, along with fully three-dimensional corridor-style stages, somewhat reminiscent of DOOM in three dimensions, all from the first-person perspective. The result was brilliant, in a game called Descent.

    Almost anyone who played Descent in the late 1990s has positive memories from it. It was brilliantly designed, with great-feeling movement, engaging combat, and good graphics for the time. The controls were something else, in that you had more axes of control than almost any other game. You had tilting up/down, turning left/right, sliding up/down, sliding left/right, rotation (also known as rolling), and, of course, moving forward/backwards. This meant that you needed a full six axes in order to be able to control all movements. Suffice it to say, you needed a seriously fancy control setup if you wanted to be able to do all of these, using precise, analog controls. Despite this, it was still quite fun even on modest setups, and was popular enough to spawn two sequels.

    One neat thing about Descent is that the community has managed to stay alive because the engine itself was released as open source quite a few years ago. If you would like to see what all the fuss is about over Descent, you can actually try the original demo for free, with a few choices for an updated game engine. The source code was released for Descent 1 and 2 (never for 3) and so several source projects are available for those two games.

    Overload
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent unofficial sequel to the 1990s classic, Descent; made by some of the original Descent developers, so it feels absolutely perfect for veterans; good graphics, sound effects, and music; free level editor; interesting revenue share system for community-made levels; VR looks amazing; great Discord community; PC and console cross-play
    Weak Points: VR mode looks great, but is likely to be difficult for those prone to motion sickness; because of Sony/Microsoft limitations, there is PC and console cross-play, but the consoles cannot be on a server together
    Moral Warnings: Violence against other AI machinery; minor curse words like 'h*ll' and 'b*st*rd'

    Overload is the result of two of the original designers deciding that it was time to make another one. While they were unable to secure the Descent name license (another team got it first), they made what is often called a spiritual sequel to Descent 2. Overload, after having played it for a while, is exactly what I had hoped a Descent sequel would look like: Descent, only newer and better.

    Overload takes place in our solar system, in a future where we are harvesting resources from asteroids, moons, and so on, using mostly AI-controlled robotic machinery to do the hard work. At some point, the AI controlling them goes haywire, and it's up to you to destroy the robots to make each mine safe again. The story is told through a combination of story explanations in between levels, and pickups that tell a pre-recorded story sequence about what happened there in the past. Sometimes, it's hard to hear these stories, because combat is happening while you are trying to hear them. What I paid attention to seemed mildly interesting, but I don't consider the story the focus of Overload.

    What Overload is all about, is being a modern reinterpretation of the Descent formula. And it's got it where it counts. It moves and turns a bit faster than Descent did, which is probably for the best, and there is a limit to turn speed, so if it was too much slower, mouse control would not feel right. Thankfully, it's pretty quick, so I never felt like the mouse was being held back much at all. I also tried it with my classic Microsoft Force Feedback 2 joystick, and it plays great, but I am more accurate with the mouse, so I stuck with that for the most part. I did use a PlayStation Move Navigation controller for my left hand, which is a little-known handy device that lets you use a one-handed gamepad for your left hand rather than being forced to use the keyboard. Overload supports extensive controller and button remapping, so getting a good control config with any combination of controllers or keypresses is very easy to accomplish. I even used joystick and Steam Controller together for a bit just to try it, and it worked just fine.

    When it comes to content, there is a decent-length campaign, of sixteen levels. Each level can take anywhere from a few minutes to twenty or more, depending on how much you end up backtracking and exploring every nook and cranny. The levels themselves are somewhat static, with only secret rooms/doors presenting the challenge during exploration, and of course the enemies livening things up otherwise. Despite that, the levels are quite labyrinthine, and interesting to explore. It helps a lot to have a great spatial memory, especially since you can find yourself upside-down and confused if you don't pay attention to your surroundings. Thankfully, there is a high-quality map available at any time by pressing a button, and a guide bot also available to help you find your next objective if you so choose.

    There are twelve multiplayer maps, as well as a community level pack, with at least one more such level pack planned. The developers cooked up an interesting system here; if you create a level and share it with the developers, if they like it, they can put the level in a level pack, and they will split the revenue with the creator 50/50 for that level. It's a nice incentive for creators to make the best levels possible.

    Other than the main mission mode (where the story is), there is also challenge mode, and online multiplayer. Challenge mode has twelve levels available in it, and in this mode you basically keep playing until you die, taking as many enemy AI bots as possible with you. There are two variants: infinite and countdown, where you have as much time as you can survive, or are given a five-minute timer. There are online leaderboards to compete against to show off your success.

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

    Game Score - 92%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 92%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content -10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Online multiplayer is a blast, with the excellent Discord community of friendly and helpful people who are really fun to play with. Searching for a random game using the in-game interface didn't work out to well, but any time that I had free time to play, there was almost always a private game to connect to via the Discord community. I would highly encourage anyone looking to play this game online to try hitting them up - they are very nice people and the chaos of eight-player Overload is a sight to behold. You are doing well to survive for more than five seconds, but with a two second respawn time, it's great fun!

    This game performs quite well, no doubt in part to the relatively simple (but certainly not ugly) graphics. I played at [email protected] on my desktop without issue (though to be fair, I am running a 2080 Ti). The better test was how it would play on my low-powered GPD Win 2, and if you run the game on all low at 960x544, it looks and runs very well. There are occasional frame drops, sure, but it's quite playable. The music is quite catchy, with electronic beats and synth instruments. The music was created by original Descent musicians also, so it sounds very authentic and lots of fun.

    From an appropriateness standpoint, I found Overload to be quite clean, compared to most modern gaming media. There is killing of AI bots. The main issue is that there are very minor curse words found in the story mode, including 'h*ll' and 'b*st*rd'. A kind modder from the Discord community went so far as to grab the game's text for me and sent it so I could search the entire campaign for curse words, so I am quite confident that those are the only common ones present. Didn't I tell you that the Discord community is awesome there?

    Overload is a game that hits all of the right buttons for this older gamer. The 1990s were arguably the first major golden age of PC gaming, and many incredible gems came out of that period, including Descent, which this game honors with aplomb. If you aren't sure if you'll like a shooter as crazy as this, why don't you give Descent a try? There is free demo data, and with the several source ports available, you should have no trouble running it on virtually any modern (or not so modern) PC. And if you like it, Overload is very similar, but faster and more modern. I really enjoyed my time with it, and I wish I had more time to play it even more. Overload gets an easy recommendation from me.

     

     

     

     

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  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Pixel Gear
    Developed by: Oasis games
    Published by: Oasis Games
    Release date: October 20, 2016
    Available on: PSVR
    Genre: Shooter
    Number of players: Up to four locally
    ESRB Rating: E 10+ for fantasy violence
    Price: $10.99

    Thank you Oasis Games Ltd. for sending us this game to review!

    After not being impressed with the PSVR controls in Ace Banana, I was dreading how it would do in a 3D shooter like Pixel Gear.  Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised at how much better the Move controls work in this title.  Precision is key, as you often have to shoot off the helmets of the zombie knights before you can re-send them to their digital graves.

    There’s no story in Pixel Gear, you just need to shoot every monster you can before they reach you and drain your health.  Unlike many shooter games, you can’t just shoot everything that moves.  At the end of a level and sometimes during it, ghosts and angels may rise up from the ground.  The ghosts are often carrying helpful items like coins, health, bombs, and ammunition.  You definitely want to shoot the ghosts for points and other goodies.  However, if you shoot an angel you’ll get a couple thousand points deducted from your score.

    Pixel Gear
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Reasonably priced; accurate controls
    Weak Points: Only a handful of levels; repetitive gameplay
    Moral Warnings: Violence and Halloween themed enemies

    Six levels unlock as you complete the previous ones.  In order to complete a level you must survive several waves of enemies and defeat the boss in the final wave.  You’ll be shooting down bats, ghosts, skeletons, chaingun wielding Frankenstein momsters, witches, and zombies.  The bosses are several times the size of the typical foes.  They also have much more health that takes dodging several attacks and breaking down defenses before you have a chance to deplete it.  Instead of a standard health bar, they have a constellation that loses stars as you do damage to them.

    Regular enemies typically go down in a couple of hits when using the standard issue pistol with unlimited ammunition.  Even though the ammunition is unlimited, the gun can only hold a set amount before needing to be reloaded.  Every other unlockable weapon requires buying more ammo with coins collected from ghosts.  You can spend coins on weapons like grenade launchers, more health, increased ammunition capacity, and the ability to see ghosts with neat abilities.  I like the ghosts that drop bombs when you shoot them.  

    The single-player levels change the scenery and add new enemies with each new level.  The multiplayer modes allow three non-VR players to join in and try to collect coins while the VR player tries to prevent them from doing so.  Multiplayer was added a couple of month after the game’s release and currently supports local gameplay only.

    Pixel Gear
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 87%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Pixel Gear is relatively short and besides playing with friends, you can add replay value by trying a harder difficulty level.  There are four difficulty modes to choose from.  Other goals could include increasing your score or just your accuracy.  At the end of each level, your stats are shown and my 60 something percent accuracy can use some improvement.

    While Pixel Gear won’t entertain you for hours on end with an epic story and fresh gameplay, it’s still a great pick up and play game that lets you shoot stuff.  The blocky pixel style graphics reminds me of Minecraft and the sound effects are fitting.  

    Overall, this is a cute game that sells for $10.99 and it runs surprisingly well on the PSVR.  The only issue I ran into was that I had a frozen title screen if the camera was not properly configured.  Once it was, this game ran great and I highly recommend checking it out if it goes on sale.

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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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