Category: Reviews

January 10, 2021 Off

Super Meat Boy Forever Review – Hardcore Hurdling

By tracy

A decade ago, the original Super Meat Boy released into what almost feels like a different industry. Team Meat’s hardcore platformer was at the forefront of the modern indie renaissance; games like Super Meat Boy helped show that even small teams of dedicated developers could make a big mark on the gaming landscape. A few years later, Team Meat announced the follow up, Super Meat Boy Forever, a pseudo-sequel that would take Meat Boy into the world of autorunners. Naturally, this raises a few questions: can Team Meat distill Meat Boy’s pixel-perfect platforming into a game where players are limited to a single input? And, does Super Meat Boy Forever have any chance of leaving the same kind of cultural mark on the industry as its forerunner? Now that I’ve played the game, the answers are clearly “Surprisingly yes,” and “No chance in hell.”

Because Super Meat Boy Forever is an autorunner, Meat Boy takes off running the second you press start, and you can’t control the direction of his movements or his speed. This might sound like it would simplify the action and neuter Meat Boy’s difficulty, but that isn’t the case. While this is technically a simple game,

January 9, 2021 Off

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure Review – A Good Deed

By tracy

Alba is an adorable young girl who can’t wait to spend a vacation with her grandparents on a scenic Mediterranean island. However, things take a turn for the dastardly when the small town’s mayor partners with a shady building developer to construct a massive resort on the site of a beloved nature preserve. Armed with her trusty smartphone, Alba embarks on an altruistic quest to photograph the island’s wildlife to remind residents of what’s truly at stake and garner enough support to oppose the resort’s development.

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is a wonderfully charming experience from Ustwo Games, the team behind the Monument Valley series. Instead of challenging players with M.C. Escher-style puzzles, it mellows them out with a relaxing, feel-good experience designed to promote conservation in an entertaining manner.

 

You spend much of your crusade taking photos of wildlife, and it’s a lot more fun than it might sound. Alba taps into the Pokémon Snap-like excitement of hunting down a critter, lining up that perfect shot, and filling out her wildlife journal. I found myself anxious to photograph every creature, and dozens of animals await Alba’s camera eye, some rarer than others. My excitement dulled over time, however, because

January 8, 2021 Off

Ratropolis Review – Real-Time Rategy

By tracy

The deckbuilding genre, once relegated to the physical tabletop, has seen explosive growth on the indie PC scene in recent years. Now, skilled developers are mixing, mashing, and combining traditional deckbuilding mechanics with other genres. In Ratropolis, Cassel Games successfully integrates card construction with city-building and defense to create a charming strategy mix. The resulting amalgamation is a satisfying soiree of rodents, robots, and giant ducks that keeps you coming back game after game. Your army of adorable mice and machines must restore the glory of the ratropolis! Yes, that’s like a city for mice.

The goal is simple: You must survive 30 waves of onslaught as you build up a city. To that end, you select a main commander mouse that dictates what cards are available on each run. Each mouse has a variety of strategies to employ, and while you start with basic loadouts like the military-oriented general and the money-laden merchant, later unlockable characters like the scientist, shaman, and naval officer add many timing considerations and more advanced foibles to the game. 

Each run starts simple and fresh, with you defending your fledgling ratropolis from two different lanes. As you begin adding cards to your deck, you

December 27, 2020 Off

Call of the Sea Review – A Puzzling Island Escape

By tracy

Norah knows something is amiss the moment she steps foot on the island. Despite its inviting beauty, an eerie vibe permeates the air. After all, this is the same place that may have claimed the life of her husband, Harry, who never returned from an expedition here to find a cure for Norah’s mysterious illness. This time, though, it’s up to Norah to rescue him. Call of the Sea is the wonderful debut title by Out of the Blue Games and blends a tantalizing mystery that’s matched by equally engaging puzzle-solving and exploration. 

Call of the Sea’s beautiful presentation lured me from the get-go. From the lush jungles to jaw-dropping shipwrecks, this is a beautiful game, and many scenes would look right at home on a postcard. The ancient ruins also wowed me in their haunting beauty and during moments when seemingly impossible machinery comes to life. 

Norah is more Nancy Drew than Lara Croft, so puzzles take precedence over combat, and they succeed with clever design and strong variety. What I love most is how Call of the Sea makes you feel like both an observant detective and a problem-solving genius. It takes advantage of its alluring beauty by

December 23, 2020 Off

Cyberpunk 2077 Last-Gen Review – A Tale Of Two Night Cities

By tracy

Cyberpunk 2077 hosts a massive sandbox filled to the brim with politically charged conflicts catalyzed by powerful people. Protagonist V might grace the game’s box art, but the hero is overshadowed by Night City’s towering skyscrapers and intriguing citizens. From sunny beaches to gloomy landfills, Night City feels alive even when you’re not around to witness every shady transaction or police investigation. At least, it does when you’re not playing Cyberpunk 2077 on last-gen hardware.

On high-end PCs, the allure of interacting with VIPs and coasting down neon-bright boulevards is on full display, despite Cyberpunk 2077’s notorious glitches. Chromatic implants glisten in dark hotel rooms, flickering lightbars boast picture-perfect reflections in rain puddles, and character models are particularly striking. However, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions of Cyberpunk 2077 are marred by several additional bugs and ugly visuals. Overall, my extended stay in Night City was unpleasant, and a far cry from the experience PC players have described.

 

Even after I decluttered my screen by disabling film grain and many of Cyberpunk 2077’s other graphical features (these options don’t noticeably enhance the visuals when kept active), the look of the game remained the same: Drab and dreary. The colors

December 16, 2020 Off

Gears 5: Hivebusters Review – A Quick Blast Of Mayhem

By tracy

Short and bloody sweet, Gears 5: Hivebusters pumps out excitement with the urgency of a rattling lancer, rarely slowing as it hits the mark with its cover-based firefights. The troubled open-world exploration that was introduced in Gears 5 is nowhere to be found, and neither are Kait Diaz or the Fenix Family. We instead see Gears doing what it does best: mulching Locus Horde flesh. Players experience this familiar action through the high-powered mayhem of Scorpio Squad, a band of misfits who have assembled for a suicide mission.

Scorpion Squad is the team that was introduced in Gears 5’s Escape mode, and Hivebusters tells their origin story. They must sacrifice themselves to take out a massive Swarm hive – a selfless act that could save all of Sera. This narrative moves along quickly, but isn’t short in vision. We get plenty of fun and over-the-top banter from the squad’s Leslie Macallister, Lahni Kaliso, and Jeremiah Keegan, who have traveled to the lava-rich and beautifully realized Galangi islands. They move through jungles and caverns as they track down the hive, as well as something else that is big, unexpected, and spewing a toxin. The story and narrative truck along nicely, making