Category: Reviews

September 25, 2020 Off

Mafia: Definitive Edition Review – Loyal To A Fault

By tracy

Mafia: Definitive Edition is an interesting time capsule that not only lets players experience Tommy Angelo’s rise in an ersatz ‘30s-era Chicago dubbed Lost Heaven, but will likely inspire greater appreciation for how far the industry has come since 2002. Hangar 13 has rebuilt the nearly 20-year-old game, bringing the visuals up to contemporary standards and adding a few quality-of-life enhancements while ultimately respecting the original’s core design. It’s an admirable approach, but then you have to actually play the damned thing.

The early Mafia games used their open worlds differently than their competitors, with cities that aren’t really interactive playgrounds, but are more similar to film soundstages. You’re free to peel off from the next story beat and explore side streets and back roads, but don’t expect to find much in the way of optional activities or interesting secrets. Instead, the narrative relentlessly drives you forward, with the end of one chapter propelling you right into the start of the next. Need to catch your breath? Too bad! It’s an interesting approach, and one that I’d probably enjoy more if the story was more engaging. Unfortunately, Angelo’s tale is disjointed and boring, with time skips that undermine how you’re

September 19, 2020 Off

Hades Review – The Highs And Lows Of Repetition

By tracy

Developer Supergiant Games is known for creating titles with rich narratives and sophisticated themes, and one of the great triumphs of Hades is how those elements are seamlessly integrated into a roguelite structure. Through a seemingly limitless array of character interactions and plot progression, Hades seeds its storytelling over many hours of repeated runs, as you lead your character along one attempted escape from hell to the next. In addition to weapon and character upgrades, new story insights are among the most satisfying rewards. But that also means that you’ll be eager to see those plot threads resolve, and to do that, you should prepare for an especially long road.

Zagreus is the son of mighty Hades, who rules the realm of the dead with a barely controlled anger only matched by his insistence on total control. He’s the definition of an overbearing father, and Zagreus’ desire to strike out on his own feels as much like a family drama as the retelling of a familiar mythology. His quest to find a mother he’s never known brings him into contact with a who’s who of Olympus and the Greek ancient world, including Zeus, Athena, Achilles, and Medusa. The constantly shifting

September 18, 2020 Off

NBA 2K21 Review – Living Off The Legacy

By tracy

Just like the star athletes that adorn its cover every year, NBA 2K has created a strong legacy, launching it to the top of this generation’s sports games. The series has maintained solid gameplay while never forgetting about innovation, and I appreciate the risks Visual Concepts takes even when they don’t completely pay off. NBA 2K has advanced sports storytelling, character customization, and the level of detail we expect from overall presentation. However, once you’re on top, you have to fight to stay there, and a bad season or two can haunt you. The current-gen version of NBA 2K21 is not a bad game, but it does not live up to the legacy Visual Concepts built. 

While this iteration lacks improvement in most off-the-court situations, the classic gameplay on the court remains a keystone of this entry. I love how players of all different levels can play the NBA 2K series and get as deep into the mechanics as they want and still have success. Every possession becomes about finding the best path to the basket, knowing the right window to pull off the perfect pass, or setting that screen to free up your point guard to drive to the

September 16, 2020 Off

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim Review – A Future Drawn From The Past

By tracy

As a narrative genre, sci-fi has limitless possibilities. It encompasses far-flung concepts like time travel, rampaging monsters, android assassins, and more. Even with all of that within reach, most sci-fi stories limit their scope to exploring just a few big ideas. However, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim shows no such restraint. It’s an all-inclusive, pulpy feast that draws inspiration from every corner of the sci-fi kingdom; it’s The War of the Worlds plus The Terminator plus Neon Genesis Evangelion plus several other well-known media that would spoil important plot points if I mentioned them. But here’s the most amazing part: It all works together.

The bonkers story and gorgeous art are the main attractions in 13 Sentinels. It also has some tactical combat, but the game is primarily a visual novel about a group of teenagers who pilot giant armored suits called sentinels. They do this to save the world from an invasion of seemingly alien beasts, but the characters also deal with own personal drama along the way, navigating their relationships and desires in the midst of the looming crisis. I like how the tale gradually shifts its focus, starting with a familiar school-life setup before layering in the more

September 15, 2020 Off

Star Renegades Review – Pixel Paradise Lost

By tracy

In Star Renegades, only you can save the future from an evil empire. However, your scrappy crew of futuristic space raiders is destined to face insurmountable odds. The solution to staring down endless deaths in the face of super soldiers and murderous mechs? Travel from dimension to dimension to find the reality where you can finally set things right. 

Star Renegades is a turn-based, roguelike, sci-fi experience where your goal is to liberate planets and eventually take the battle to an enemy mothership. You deal with party wipes often and get sent back to the start, but you can keep some powerful unlocks and new characters to bring along on the journey. A new run often feels like a fresh start, pushing closer to a classical roguelike instead of the permanent boosts and comfort of the new-age roguelite. Star Renegades is tough, and can even seem blatantly unfair at times with surprise bosses and one-shot kills, but the pixelated and picturesque jaunts are worth taking again and again, even in the face of your inevitable demise. 

Crafting your crew for each adventure is fun. Pick from an assortment of deadly but vulnerable backline shooters and snipers, frontline tanks and brawlers,

September 14, 2020 Off

Spelunky 2 Review – Enthralling Entropy

By tracy

“This is the run where I make real progress,” I tell myself. “Last time I got careless, but this time will be different.” With that self-assurance, I descend into the caves of Spelunky 2 for the umpteenth time. Masterfully dodging booby traps and whipping bats, spiders, and snakes before they can steal my health, I make it through the first level with ease. My confidence rises as I pick up a crossbow from the shopkeep. Everything is going according to plan, when suddenly a horned lizard rolls into me, knocking me back and setting off a glorious chain reaction featuring skeletons, arrow traps, and eventually, a spike pit that triggers my demise. I’m frustrated my best-laid plans fell apart so fast, but as soon as the option to start a new appears, I can’t select it fast enough.

Despite the many times I’ve yelled as my character’s body bounces around like a pinball from scenarios such as that, Spelunky 2 is unceasingly fun. Maintaining the same formula as its predecessor, the engaging roguelike action-platformer drops you into a procedurally generated cave system and dares you to get further than you did last time. The engrossing difficulty and randomization of the