Cassylvania

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  1. I don't know anything about MGS, so I'll just comment on the new grading system because I like tier lists. First, if I were to ever make a tier list, I would put Dark Souls in a tier of its own. It's actually really interesting to see Mount & Blade in the top tier. I played the original on PC many, many moons ago, and I remember liking the game, but it always came across as too clunky and "indie" to appeal to the masses. I just figured only weirdos like me would consider it a really good game. I kinda felt the same about Kingdom Come: Deliverance (a game you should absolutely play), but that got much more universal recognition. I wonder how much influence Dark Souls had in the successes of those games. Tier two. I like that Skyrim sits below the original Dark Souls. I also like that you don't trash on Dark Souls II. The "weakest" of the Souls games to me is Sekiro (you seem to agree), but I'd probably put Bloodborne in the top tier. Cat Quest was pretty good. I like the placement of Elden Ring and Cuphead, even though I haven't played them yet. I'm in the minority in not loving BioShock. Tier three... That's a lot of games. I think if I were to do this, I'd probably just have two tiers for the top games and two tiers for the worst games. Everything else would just be assumed to be somewhere in between. Interesting to see TLoU on the same tier as Old Man's Journey and Child of Light. Can't say I disagree. Let's see the games with glaring flaws. Oh, dear -- you accidentally put The Wolf Among Us in there. That's OK. I'll move it to the top tier for you. We don't want it associating with the likes of...well, honestly, I haven't played most of these games. You like fighting games a lot more than me. (Or maybe not, since most of them seem to land here?) Games worth skipping... Yup, think I skipped most of them. Whoa, Uncharted makes an appearance. Them's fighting words for some people. (I think it's hilarious.) Messy games... Eh, yeah, Shadow of Mordor is pretty good on PS4. Can't speak to the PS3 version. And the games that make you want to quit... Crash. 😂 Somebody REALLY hates Naughty Dog. Pretty sad to see Catherine end up where it did. I want to play it soon and I'm hoping I'll like it, but that's a big investment for something I've heard more than one person complain about.
  2. Platinum #309 - N.E.R.O. First, a little background. This is one of the oldest games in my backlog. I bought it way back in 2016 when walking sims were a relatively new genre to me. I've done several of them already (e.g. Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, Gone Home, Firewatch, and What Remains of Edith Finch) and probably enjoy them more than the average person. While some people see them as boring, I see them as stories being presented in a unique way. Until now. This game was awful. Let's just break it down. This is a walking sim, so there are really only three aspects of the game we need to cover: the story, the graphics, and the gameplay. You could argue audio too, I suppose, but it's very minimal here. It's not like Firewatch where the majority of the story is revealed through spoken dialogue. Instead, you get floating passages of text (similar to Edith Finch, but nowhere near as immersive) and an occasional voiceover when you reach certain areas or complete certain puzzles. I'm not going to argue whether the story was good or not. It's there, and I'm sure some people will enjoy it, but it was not presented in an interesting or engaging way. The fact I remember more about Edith Finch, despite having played the game almost three YEARS ago, should be telling. Part of the problem is N.E.R.O. is mostly linear, but there are often branching paths, and that can make it hard to find all the text and make sure you're reading it in the proper order (if there is a proper order -- I don't know what the devs intended). The other problem is the story starts out rather vague and expects you to piece things together. For example, many of the passages have a symbol that you eventually associate with a particular character, and you learn more about those characters as the game progresses. This can work, but only if the player cares to do that. It's like watching a movie with subtitles. I can mindlessly watch anything if it requires no extra work on my part, but a movie that requires watching and reading has to hold my interest. N.E.R.O. did not. The graphics are fine. I'm going to give the developers the benefit of the doubt and say making the game too dark to see was a creative decision, but I wasn't "blown away" by them like a lot of reviewers claim. (This is one of the few games I actually had to read reviews about after I finished the game because I wanted to see if other people had the same complaints as me.) The coolest thing was probably the giant jellyfish in the sky. Gameplay is where this game falls flat. You can only do three things: walk, turn, and shoot balls of energy. They're all painfully slow. (I guess you can technically tell your companion where to stand, but it doesn't work half the time, it's only used for a few puzzles, and the jackass is constantly getting in your way.) The "puzzles," by the way, are terrible. Most of them are either stupidly easy or awkward and clunky. Some are both. And much like your companion getting in the way, these puzzles don't really add anything. They're just there to waste your time. This game feels like it's a constant detriment to itself, like a snake eating its own tail. You have a decent story that isn't being told properly, a beautiful world that you can't even see, and a poor attempt at making a "game" out of it getting in the way of it all. This was a disappointment and I wasn't even expecting much. I do not recommend this game to anybody. P.S. The game crashed on me four times.
  3. You could do better (which is painful to say because Harvest Moon is one of my favorite game series and FoMT is one of the best games in that series). The problem here is that you need to get to year 4 to grow the best crops and year 5 to get a trophy, but you're likely to run out of things to do by year 2...especially if you've played the game before or abuse the horse derby. Basically, a typical day in the game for me now is to tend to my animals, throw a flower in the river for the Harvest Goddess, and go to bed. There's no reason to grow crops anymore because I have all the money I need, and there's no reason to go into town because the townspeople already love me. A lot of farming sims suffer from a bottleneck problem and here it's getting animals to like you. If you really want a farming sim, play My Time at Portia, Kitaria Fables, Graveyard Keeper, or Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin, all of which are shorter and have combat/RPG elements that break up the monotony.
  4. Platinum #308 - Songbird Symphony Another game that's for the birds. I first heard about Songbird Symphony from @realm722. I had to go back and re-read his review, which was less positive than I remembered. I guess I bought the game because it's always on sale for dirt cheap. For what it's worth, I actually agree with him on his two major points. I don't have much to add, so I guess I'll just reiterate those points. First, the best part of this game is the story. That should be surprising when you consider the game is 50% platformer and 50% rhythm mini-games. You play as Birb (no, I'm not joking) on a quest to find your real parents. It plays out like a grand adventure where you make friends, take on bullies, and otherwise interact with a variety of colorful characters -- all of which are species of birds. I'd say it's mostly kid-friendly, but there is a bit of a twist that I didn't see coming, if only because it didn't fit the tone of the rest of the game. I have no problem with that. The second major point realm made is that the gameplay is somewhat lacking (I'm paraphrasing here). There are no enemies or fall damage. Your only skills are jumping and gliding. You can't die and you can't lose any of the "boss" fights. This is weird because the boss fights play out like an epic rap battle, but your opponent gets served no matter how poorly you perform. (This is good because I'm absolute trash at rhythm games but bad because there's literally no challenge.) The only time when your skill actually matters is when you're doing basic puzzles in the overworld, but they're all fairly easy (just moving boxes around) and occasionally playing three or four notes in rhythm in order to activate a switch or platform. Far be it from me to ask a rhythm game to be more challenging, but this was like playing Celeste without the option to turn Assist Mode off. The trophies are simple, the music is catchy, and I like the pixelated graphics. It's a cute game, which is usually enough for me to give it a recommendation and I think I will here. I can appreciate a relaxing game every now and then.
  5. Or generic 3D platformers. It's just too mediocre to recommend when I can name several other games just like it that are better. I actually think the first few seasons were great, but modern SpongeBob is a whole lot of stupid and Squidward torture porn. It was much better before the characters became parodies of themselves, which is the downfall of a lot of shows. You might even say SpongeBob is on... Platinum #307 - Death's Door I know we're not rating platinum images, but that may be one of the best ones yet. Someone make that a milestone. Let's get the meme out of the way right now. If you ever find yourself thinking that Dark Souls was not one of the most influential games of the past ten years, realize that games like this would simply not exist if FromSoftware hadn't done their thing back in 2011. Taking a more 3D/isometric approach, this Souls-like has you playing as...Crow (?) on a quest to collect three Giant Souls and open the titular Death's Door. There's a story here that involves you working for the Reaping Commission and interacting with fellow reapers of questionable allegiance, but it's as vague as you'd expect from a game like this. What I didn't expect was the humor, which is so well integrated and timed that I legitimately laughed out loud several times. That's the charm that is missing from a lot of games. Combat is Souls-inspired, with the usual melee attack, ranged attack, and dodge roll. There's a trophy that requires playing the entire game with the weakest melee weapon (the umbrella), so you're probably going to want to focus on ranged attacks. You'll start out with only arrows, but eventually you get fire, bombs, and a grappling hook, which you'll also need to solve basic puzzles and navigate the world. What's unique about the combat is that you regenerate spell points (or whatever they're called) by performing melee attacks, so you can't just stand back and fire projectiles endlessly, nor are you at risk of running out of ammunition without any way to refill mid-battle. I kinda like this system because it forces you into close range combat. You also have no way of regenerating health, so it's surprisingly hard to cheese enemies... I found the game fairly difficult, but only like a 4 out of 10. It would probably be significantly easier with a stronger melee weapon. If you don't want to be Mary Poppins, I guess you could save the umbrella for your second playthrough, but I see no reason to play through the game twice. Your only advantage the second time around would be some advanced knowledge of the bosses, whose patterns you're already going to have memorized after the first three or four deaths. None of them are particularly hard, but the "optional" bosses can be. Lot of collectibles here, but the game has some...convenient ways of tracking them, I guess. You got fast travel, an NPC who gives you hints, and a trowel that glows blue when orcs seeds are nearby. I like the graphics and music. A bit of a short review, but I don't think there's a lot more to say. This is actually a very solid game all around. You can tell a lot of care went into it, it doesn't overstay its welcome, and it's just engaging enough to keep your interest without feeling taxing, which is a balance I'm finding very few games can achieve these days. Very easy recommendation. Now if only I got to make an eating crow joke...
  6. Platinum #306 - SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom As you guys probably already know by now, two of my favorite things in the world are cartoons and marine biology. Those are both career choices I've wanted to pursue, so I've always felt I had a lot in common with Stephen Hillenberg, the creator of SpongeBob. Unfortunately, SpongeBob kinda came out at a time when I felt I was getting too old for cartoons (joke's on me -- I watched them more in college than I ever did as a kid) and I sorta have a love/hate relationship with the show because it really did lead to what I consider the downfall of Nickelodeon. Nowadays, it's all they ever show, and the quality really went downhill after the third season. I hate to be "that guy," but this is the first show I think of when I need an example of something that's way past its prime. (Yes, even moreso than The Simpsons.) Similarly, I don't really have any nostalgia for this game, as the original released at a time when I was probably getting into MMOs. This was my first time playing it, so I can't speak to its status as a remaster, but I know it's generally held in high regard. I'm not sure I fully understand why after playing it... Not because it's a bad game or anything, but because I can name several other 3D platformers that released even a few years before this that were significantly better and more memorable. I'm going to assume it's because this is one of the few licensed games out there that actually seems to have some care put into it. How much? I'm not really sure. From what I could tell, most of the original voice cast is here, but the ones who aren't really stick out like a sore thumb (*cough* Mr. Krabbs). It's more distracting than anything. Also, some of the lines that repeat can get pretty annoying. Every time you turn in 10 socks to Patrick, for example, he and SpongeBob exchange the same lines of dialogue. Since it's set up as a joke, it's kinda funny the first time (I guess?), but after 70 or 80 socks, I got sick of hearing it. That talking fish head that appears during every boss battle is REALLY annoying. Gameplay is...fine. It's a collect-a-thon, like Super Mario 64 or Banjo-Kazooie (both better games), and you can alternate between playing as SpongeBob and Patrick or Sandy, depending on the stage. They each have slightly different skills and movement abilities, with Sandy clearly being the best because of her Dixie Kong-like lasso twirl. Nice to see that function in the third dimension. Graphics are where I think the game excels, which is what I expect in a remaster. It looks pretty good to me for a game originally made in the early 2000s... But without having played the original, I don't know how much of an improvement it is. Overall, I think this was an average experience. Not something I would've wanted to spend money on, but I got it for free on PS+, so that was nice. I appreciated being able to warp to spatula locations. The game would've been a lot more tedious if you had to walk everywhere.
  7. But the fun doesn't stop there! Platinum #305 - Shady Part of Me This whole new-game-every-week thing is really forcing me to dig deep for some shorter indie games. You can find some real gems out there. Here, we have a light puzzle platformer whose main gimmick is...well, light. You alternate playing between a young Linda Blair and her shadow, only being able to control Linda Blair in the dark and her shadow in the light. I got some strong American McGee's Alice vibes, with the girl clearly being mentally unwell and the entire game feeling like a manifestation of her fears. That's not a bad premise. This is one of those puzzle platformers that I would say is 90% puzzle and 10% platformer, much like Typoman. The majority of the puzzles involve having the two characters work together to reach the next checkpoint. This usually involves moving boxes or flipping switches in order to manipulate the light. Linda Blair will freeze if she's caught in the light and her shadow will die if it touches thorns or gets smooshed by moving objects. Instead of being placed back at the checkpoint, though, you can simply rewind time and try again. This is actually a really great mechanic and one that I wish existed in more games. It completely eliminates that, "Oh, shit!" moment when you know you screwed up on a puzzle and have to do it all over again. Some of the puzzles are trickier than I expected. They start out easy enough -- dodge the flickering lights and move boxes for your shadow to jump on -- but eventually they work in some new mechanics that might leave you scratching your head for a while. There are also collectibles and reaching some of these will involve an even more elaborate solution. I think I only once had to use a guide and that was because I had taken a long break from the game and forgotten one of the core mechanics. You should probably just try to finish this in one sitting. It's perfectly doable. Aesthetically, I liked this game. My only gripe is with the voice acting. That's not a knock on Hannah Murray, who I know people love and probably did a fine job for most of the game, but rather how out of place it sounded. I don't know. It's like when they gave that voice to Link in the Zelda cartoon. Some characters are better off being mute. That said, you can change the audio language if you still want to enjoy the music. I played most of the game in French. I think I got this game for $5 on the most recent sale. That's a fair price for what you're getting. Not only is it a good game, but it's a good trophy game. You don't need a guide (except for maybe some post-game cleanup) or multiple playthroughs. You can just enjoy the game and focus on the story and the puzzles. I will say this about the collectibles, though. You need ALL the collectibles in an area and then you have to reach the next checkpoint for them to save. This is something that confused me during the cleanup stage. For example, let's say there are six collectibles in a section. If you grab five of them, they'll ALL respawn when you reenter that area. In order to get credit for the sixth one, you'll need to grab ALL six before reaching the checkpoint, not just the one you missed. Hopefully I saved somebody a few minutes of backtracking. Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta start yet another new game...
  8. Always a good one. I'm in.
  9. Platinum #304 - Planet Coaster I think the first time I ever felt "clever" in a video game was when I was played Sim Theme Park. I remember strategically loading my French fries with salt, jacking up the prices on my soda stands, and putting the restrooms WAY in the back of the park so my guests would suckered in all by the rides on the way. Somehow, it's not as much fun when you realize how close you are to mimicking reality... Anyway, this is another simulation game that I'm sure is ten times better on PC. It actually runs surprisingly well on console, though. I think I only had one crash, and that was with me playing on max speed most of the time and constantly adding and removing objects. Never tried building a very big park, but that's because most of the missions don't require it. For better or worse, most of your time working towards the platinum is going to be in Career Mode, so that's what I'll focus on for the gameplay. Sandbox is probably the more enjoyable feature, but you'll only need it for a few quick miscellaneous trophies. In Career Mode, you're basically given a pre-made park (usually in pathetic shape), some starting funds, and a list of objectives. You need to complete all the easy objectives for a bronze star, all the medium objectives for a silver star, and all the hard objectives for a gold star. I think there are 24 parks like this. Complete all three stars in all 24 parks and you'll basically have the platinum. Now, if I had to compare this to a game I played recently, I'd say it's very similar to Two Point Hospital. It also suffers from the same problem. You constantly have to decide between aesthetics and efficiency. I'd say it's less prominent here than in TPH. In TPH, you're very much limited by space, so maximizing the use of every tile is important. You're better off putting gold star awards on every wall, for example, because they take up less room and give you more prestige than other similar objects. You can put scenery around your rides in Planet Coaster to boost their attractiveness -- and there are definitely some objects that give you better bang for your buck -- but I never felt like I was forced to use a cookie-cutter template in order to complete my objectives more effectively. The same goes with pricing and ride/facility placement. In that sense, I found this game more liberating. (You can also stack decorative objects on top of each other, which is...weird. Just throw down a bunch of daisies by a ride entrance to maximize your attractiveness.) There is some neat micromanagement here. I didn't mess around with it too much. You can kinda just look at what guests and your staff members are complaining about and adjust things accordingly. If there's a lot of trash lying around, hire more janitors or install more bins, etc. There's probably some ratio you could figure out of how many mechanics to have per number of rides or vendors per number of shops, but the objectives are never that demanding. There are just a few that require reaching a certain profit for a consecutive number of months that might drive you crazy. You can usually win anything by just increasing the number of guests. What I didn't like about this game is (*gasp*) the coasters. I did the tutorial for how to build a custom coaster and I hated it. The controls are awkward and the game always seems to be fighting against you, like the camera in Dark Souls. (Hey, I had to get it in sometime during this review.) Fortunately, the game comes with prebuilt coasters and you can download coasters from the Frontier Workshop that work for any of the game's main objectives. I don't think you ever have to build a coaster outside of the tutorial, which is a major positive from me. Though it's also a bit disappointing considering how much work obviously went into making this system work, and how much of a sell it probably is going into the game... Similarly, I think a lot of the animations in this game are going to go unnoticed. If you're like me, you'll often spend most of the game in a zoomed out bird's eye view of park, but sometimes it's fun to get into the mind of a creep and follow people around. There's a real commitment to facial expressions here. I don't have a lot more to add to this one. It was fine. I got it for free, so I don't feel like I wasted my money or anything, but it doesn't take long to "break" the game. Once you have a working strategy, you can basically apply it to every park in Career Mode to win. I'd sometimes just get it so I was making a profit every month, set the speed to max, and leave the game running for an hour or two until I had all the money I needed. In that sense, I guess it was more like Cities: Skylines. 😂 Anyway, I'd like to thank both Cozy Grove and Terraria for dropping new DLCs this week. I really appreciate it when games come back from the dead just when I'm starting to make progress on my ever-growing backlog.
  10. Well, to be honest, this wasn't really my first Tales game. I played a few hours of Vesperia back when I had a 360, and I liked it well enough. I figured Arise would be at least playable and it was. It's just...when you're playing it along a masterpiece like Genshin (spoiler for the weeks ahead), the flaws REALLY become noticeable. It felt like a chore most of the time, which is not good when the story gets progressively worse. I wonder this too. Having played it alongside Genshin -- as well as other JRPGs, like the Atelier series -- was I less enamored by the graphics than I should have been? They were the high point in the game for me, and that's maybe my main concern if I were to go back and try the older games in the series. I dunno. Maybe I'll try a Cold Steel game next. I've been eyeing that series for a while... Platinum #303 - Hitman GO I played this game for two reasons. First, I needed something to do while Alphen and the chipmunks were auto fighting enemies on the other screen. (I have my PS4 and PS5 hooked up to separate TVs in the same room.) Second, for whatever reason, this game isn't available to play on the PS5 and I really wanted to remove it from my backlog before my PS4 explodes, which I honestly thought it was going to do the entire time I was playing. It's pretty bad when it can't even run a simple game like this without sounding like a jet engine that just caught fire. Anyway, I'm assuming a lot of you have already played this since (a) it's a fairly easy/short/cheap game, and (b) the Hitman series is apparently very popular. I wouldn't know about the latter, but I did play Lara's version of this game, so I kinda knew what to expect. It's a basic puzzle game where you guide...uh, Agent 47 (had to look that one up)...around a puzzle board, avoiding or killing enemies in order to reach your destination or kill your target. Other pieces only move when you do, so you can take as much time as you want, making this technically NOT a stealth game. That's a plus for me. And some of the puzzles are actually pretty tricky, which was surprising. I don't remember having this much trouble with Lara Croft GO. I mostly had trouble with the challenges that involved finishing the map under a certain amount of turns. Fortunately, all the answers are online if you really get stuck... This is another series I was thinking of getting into, but the games and the DLCs confuse me. I'm assuming you just start with the first game, but then there are two versions of Hitman 2 (?), and then Hitman 3 also has Hitman 1 and one of the two versions of Hitman 2...? That's the real puzzle there. I'd say this is a fine game if you just want to relax. I mean, I imagine it would be if my PS4 wasn't a ticking time bomb, but I guess I got more of the true Hitman experience that way. In any case, I think I can officially retire my PS4 now. The PS5 plays every other game I already bought, with the exception of some that I still need the PS3 for... I guess I'm going to need to make a list sometime.
  11. "Slightly above mediocre" about sums it up. I remember not really liking it while I was playing it, but when I went to write my review, I realized there wasn't a lot to criticize. It's playable, which is the least I can ask for. Anyway, I haven't posted in a while because I've been busy trying to finish this... Platinum #302 - Tales of Arise This was my first Tales game. I don't know where most Tales fans would rank it, but there's a good chance it'll be my last. Let's just get into it. Arise has you playing as Alphen, a mysterious swordsman with (stop me if you've heard this one before) amnesia. That's the boring part to his character. The more interesting part is that he is unable to feel pain. This pairs well with the female lead, Shionne, who literally electrocutes anybody who touches her. This almost led to a decent story because you could imagine that Shionne would naturally be a cold person and that Alphen would be the only one capable of getting close to her, but the writers went WAY too far in that direction and made Shionne the most unlikable character in existence. "Tsundere" is too nice of a term. It doesn't help that Alphen has the personality of sourdough bread. So, forget the main characters. The side characters are more interesting, which is not a good look on your game. The villains aren't too exciting either. I don't want to give names because saying who joins your team and who you have to fight against goes into spoiler territory, but I will say the story gets progressively worse. Act 1 is tolerable, act 2 is bad, and act 3 was the point where I stopped paying attention, so it may or may not get better. From the bits of dialogue I picked up towards the end, they completely jump the shark. The combat is standard JRPG fare. It's real time action in a small arena setting, where you control one of four characters. I think you have a shared mana pool and you can somehow build up towards using ultimate attacks, but none of that is necessary if you play on the easiest setting. The best thing I can say about the combat is that you can set it to auto battle, which is not a good look on your game either. Other than that, what do you have to look forward to? Collectibles, side quests, grinding, and cutscenes every three steps. I'm not trying to be mean, but there is very little to like here. The graphics are nice but the audio might as well not exist because you're going to mute the game the moment you realize every character shouts their attacks, which means you're constantly listening to four people trying to yell over each other. If I wanted that, I'd have dinner with my grandparents. You can dress up your characters with random accessories and outfits you find, which I guess is a nice touch. I had all my characters walking around in sunglasses and bathing towels. You can also change who you control on the overworld map and in battle, so drop Alphen the moment you get the chance. (I always have this thing against controlling characters who are wearing masks or other facepieces. Is anybody else like that?) The trophy guide says 60 hours to platinum, but I was damn near 100. Subquests are marked on your map. That was nice. Uh... Hootle is cute. If I had to rate this game, I'd probably give it a 6/10, which might be good enough for most people, but that's the same rating I'd give Team Sonic Racing. Take that for what you will.
  12. Gotta agree with your main complaint for Ikenfell. Victory Mode was an unnecessary addition. I think I avoided using it until the final boss, but just knowing it was there made battles seem pointless. I think that was the game where I suggested they add a trophy for using Victory Mode for the first time. At the very least, this would allow you to have some sort of bragging rights if you manage to make that your last trophy. It's the same reason I can't bring myself to play Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs, despite it looking like a really fun game. Just knowing there's an "I win" button if the game gets too hard ruins the experience. Still, glad you enjoyed the game. It didn't win any awards from me last year, but I remember nominating it for a bunch of things, including best soundtrack.
  13. Platinum #301 - Team Sonic Racing This is a first. I played (and finished) a PS Plus game in the month in which it was given away for free. Let's see if that price point affects my feelings on the game. Well, it's a kart racing game. I have limited experience with racing games, but the ones I have played involve karts and item boxes, so at least it has that going for it. Does that mean it's a straight-up Mario Kart clone? Actually, no. It has two things that set it apart from that glorious franchise. First, Team Sonic Racing has a story mode. (Sorry, a "story" mode.) Second, it has a co-op aspect, which I guess was present in Mario Kart: Double Dash, but is a little different here because you're in a team of three and race in separate cars. At the end of the race, you get points based on the cumulative totals of everybody in your team. That means if you come in first but your little sister comes in fifth, you can still lose the race. Now, how the game incorporates co-op is probably the main selling point. First, there are five "teams" in the game. Each team has three predetermined racers, and each racer is one of three types: Speed, Technique, or Power. For example, Team Sonic has Sonic (Speed type), Tails (Technique type), and Knuckles (Power type). Each of those types has special abilities in the race. Power characters can smash through walls and obstacles, Technique characters can drive off-track without slowing down, and Speed characters are...fast, I guess. Conceptually, this is kinda neat. A Power character like Knuckles could clear a path for the rest of your team, while a Technique character could focus on taking shortcuts and collecting item boxes in difficult-to-reach areas. You can also "boost" your teammate by skimming past them if they get slowed down or boost yourself by following your teammate's slipstream. This is neat, but I found I was rarely near my teammates to take advantage of this. The courses have a lot of branching paths, so you'll often find yourself going one way while the AI goes another. Maybe playing this locally or online with voice chat would improve the experience. You can also transfer items to other players on your team, which is probably the most useful co-op mechanic. At least, it WOULD be, but item boxes are spaced pretty evenly apart. By the time you touch an item box, wait for it to scroll through all the possible options, and use it, you're probably almost to the next set of item boxes. And since rubber banding is definitely present in this game, it's likely your teammates are near the same rotation and won't have an item to give to you. I think this could have been incorporated better. The main advantage of helping your teammates out is that it builds up your Ultimate Meter, which is like super speed + invincibility for a few seconds whenever you decide to trigger it. If everybody on your team triggers it at the same time, it probably becomes more powerful or something. I dunno. Because I played with braindead AI, they would use it whenever they felt like, while I, being a savvy Mario Kart player, would save it for the last stretch of the final lap so that I don't get blue shelled at the finish line. (Unless, of course, you feel you can fill it up twice in the same race, which is sometimes doable.) There's no actual blue shell in this game (I think?), but that doesn't make some races feel any less cheap. Despite this, most of the problems I have with Mario Kart are present here. I've already mentioned several of them. The AI is stupid, rubber banding exists, RNG plays a major role, and I often feel the first two laps on the race don't matter. Most races simply come down to using your Ultimate in the last 10 seconds to ensure your victory. (And hoping your teammates perform well.) But this game feels more robotic than Mario Kart, which is hard to explain. Basically, if you actually watch the AI, you can see how synchronized their movements are. When you go off a ramp, you can perform stunts in the air. When you do it in a large group of racers, though, you can see them all performing flips at the same time. I think your teammates are programmed to do it in sync with you, which is even more immersion-breaking. There are even certain sections of some tracks where racers will fail the same way of every time. For example, there's one track where you're racing through the sky and there's a very sharp turn. I would routinely watch the AI fail the drift and fall off the same section of the track every time. It was like that Simpsons episode where Sideshow Bob keeps stepping on a rake and getting hit in the face. Sure, it's funny, but it just reminds me that I'm playing a video game. I have to talk about the "story" mode. It's bad, guys. Like, here's the plot. This mysterious tanuki invites Sonic and his friends to race, Sonic and his friends agree, and then they suspect the tanuki might be up to something nefarious. No, that's not just the first cutscene. That's the entire game. Before every race, Sonic and his friends say they don't trust the tanuki, but then they race anyway. (Actually, Sonic is the only one NOT concerned about the situation. Dude just wants to race, which I respect.) Do I even need to mention how bad the dialogue is? It's a Sonic game. Speaking of dialogue, the characters will actually speak to each other during the race, which is a surprisingly nice touch. They actually have individual lines for each character you can interact with on the course. For example, if you're playing as Sonic and hit Big (yes, they put him in the game for some reason), Sonic will make fun of him for being a "big" target. That's as clever as this game gets. For the most part, you get stuff like Tails hitting a wall and saying, "Take that wall!" It loses its charm after a while, but it's a step up from the grunts and the "Ya-hoos!" in Mario Kart. Course variety is nice. They do the mirrored track thing to make it look like there are more courses than there actually are, but I never got bored. They also have several challenges during the story mode, such as destroying targets or collecting rings. Many of these took me several tries. To get the platinum, you need to get every star in the game, beat every race on the hardest difficulty (fortunately, you don't always have to come in first place), and collect every key, which is probably the hardest because some of the requirements are annoying. The two I struggled with were the one that required collecting 400 rings in a single drift and the one where you had to finish a survival race without anybody on your team getting disqualified. (Again, thanks to AI.) I thought I was going to be harsher on this game than I have been, but it's a competent kart racer. There's a gacha system here that I was kinda excited about, but the upgrades feel minor (there's almost always a tradeoff) and the cosmetics are for your kart only. I was kinda hoping you could change the default karts so the AI would play with whatever you put them in, and I know there is at least one person out there who would like to make their own Sonic OC. Free is a good price for this game. I can't complain. If I had to pay actual money for it... maybe $10 would be fair. This is one of those games that would have benefitted from a simpler trophy because I do feel it overstays its welcome with how many times you'll likely have to complete each course. On the other hand, it offers a decent challenge and scratches that itch for a racing game that I've had for a few years. (By the way, I'd just like to announce I got the last trophy in the game by playing an entire race with three controllers and my feet, so take that for what you will.)
  14. I thought the humor was fine. Honestly, I think I came across too negative in that review. I really need to stop writing these reviews the moment I finish grinding out the last, super annoying trophy... I changed my mind on the art style too. I think it's good. I think it was just the character models I found really unappealing, and only because they're limited to two or three poses each. I actually found Swomp's dialogue text/writing pretty clever. I don't think I've ever seen a game do that before. Well, time to write a review immediately after grinding out a super annoying trophy. Platinum #300 - Little Nightmares II Actually, the only annoying part was having to play through most of the game twice because I was too stubborn to use a collectibles guide during my first playthrough... What can I say? The original was one of my favorite games in the past 10 years and the sequel (technically prequel?) did not disappoint. There's no reason for me to write a review here. The fact I made it a milestone without a second thought should tell you everything you need to know. That said, I very much appreciate this one having a platinum. The original did not and was significantly harder because of the no death speedrun trophy. Fortunately, there's nothing like that here. I am surprised by the 53% platinum rarity, though. The game was easy, but not THAT easy. I actually found the platforming to be more difficult than the original. I always have trouble with depth perception in these games. I don't know if it's because of the wonky camera angles, the poor lighting, or the questionable hit detection, but there were some sections (particularly one involving a lot of hands) that I died on a few dozen times. I think a full no death here would have been a true nightmare. Here's hoping Little Nightmares III is more than just a rumor.
  15. Platinum #299 - Going Under It's no secret by now that @realm722 and I share a similar gaming history. I'm not sure how much of this is coincidental and how much of it is us copying each other, but this is definitely an example of the latter. I only played this game because I saw his review a few months ago and I was looking for something similar to Undermine. This looked perfect, with a much lower time investment. Going Under is a rogue-whatever where you beat the shit out of your co-workers with random objects strewn about the room. It's basically an intern's wet dream. OK, it's a little more than that, but the plot is batshit insane anyway. All you need to know is you just started interning at a company called Fizzle Beverages, there are monsters in the basement, and your boss has tasked you with killing them. That's what I like about video games. None of this has to make any sense. As with most rogue-likes I've played, the game takes place in a central hub area, where you can hang out with your co-workers (the ones who aren't actively trying to kill you). They give you side quests and can also serve as "mentors," which we'll talk about in a bit. From the hub, you can access any of the three "worlds" in the game. Each of these worlds is themed around something you might expect from a corporate environment: an office, an underground mine centered around cryptocurrency, and an S&M dungeon. Now, that might not sound like many, but you'll be playing through these worlds a lot. Each world has three floors, which are randomly-generated (both in terms of the layout and enemy configuration), and a boss. There are also "hard" of each, which you'll unlock about halfway through the game. Combat is fast-paced. As soon as you enter a room, enemies will start attacking. You can pick up most objects in the room and either hit the enemies with it or throw it at them. Both have their merits. In most games, I prefer ranged attacks because they feel safer, but throwing an object in this game means you may be leaving yourself defenseless. It also doesn't deal considerably more damage. You can only hold three objects at a time, but you can carry them into other rooms and even into the boss fight. Because weapons break pretty easily, that means you may find it worthwhile to save the better weapons for more powerful enemies. What weapons are good? Well, I'm partial to spears because they allow you to attack from a distance, but the weapons you swing in an arc (e.g. mace or club) are probably better because it's very easy to get surrounded by enemies. The rooms you fight in are generally pretty small and it's very easy to go from full health to low health in a matter of seconds due to the short invincibility frames you get after being hit. Most other weapons are things you'd typically find in an office (e.g. pencil, wastebasket), mine (e.g. pickaxe, rock), or S&M dungeon (e.g. body pillow, eggplant -- aka best weapon in the game). More than likely, you'll only have to go through each world a few times before you know what weapons you like and which are best used as throwing fodder. "Skills" are what make each run unique. You can think of these like the relics in Undermine -- they give you some advantage, whether in combat or by some other means. For example, She Don't Miss causes your throws to become homing attacks. Very useful. Others can recruit enemies to fight for you (broken), allow you to earn more money during your run, or swing two-handed weapons with one hand. Once you've unlocked a few of these, you'll start to see ways you can combine two or more skills to become really powerful. Since you're often forced to choose between two skills, you'll want to keep an eye out for good synergies. One of my favorite skills was Thick Skin, which causes ALL projectiles to bounce right off you. This renders several enemies and a few boss attacks completely harmless against you. Once you use a skill enough, it becomes "endorsed," which allows you to equip it automatically before you start a run. You can only do this with one skill at a time, though. Mentors also give you bonuses. The more side quests you've done for that character, the more bonuses you get. I didn't experiment too much with these. Swomp is the best mentor as far as I'm concerned because he will steal a random item for you from the shop. Considering you find at least one shop per floor, that means you're getting at least three items every run. Finally, you have the DLC. The DLC is essentially a hard mode for the already existing hard mode. You have to play through all three dungeons at once (bosses include), and then fight a final boss, with no auto-save or save scumming allowed. This gauntlet can take up to a half an hour. After you do it once, you have to do it seven more times, with each run adding an additional challenge, such as taking double damage during boss fights or starting every dungeon cursed. (I didn't talk about curses, but they're the opposite of skills. Basically, they make combat more difficult for the player. These are not very well-balanced, though, but at least they only last for a few rooms.) I do want to say I encountered several glitches while playing through this. Most were harmless, but I had three that impacted my game. First, the game froze on me during a loading screen, which happens between floors. I think this only happened once. Second, I got the worst curse in the game (the one that makes you place in first-person mode -- trust me, it sucks), but the true curse happened when the camera started spazzing out instead of going back into third-person mode. I was really far into my DLC run and suddenly I couldn't see anything. Fortunately, the UI wasn't affected, so I was able to navigate myself through the floor using the mini-map, spammed attack and dodge to kill all the enemies in my way, and somehow made it to the next floor with only getting hit once. The camera fixed itself after that. Can't remember if I won that run or not, but I should've just from that legendary performance. The third glitch was my favorite. This is the trophy you get for beating the DLC boss for the final time. (I don't think this is a spoiler or anything...) As you can see, I clearly lost. We were both at low HP. I had the skill that allows you to revive with 1 heart if you're knocked out. What I think happened is that she hit me with a spinning attack, which killed me, but I instantly revived inside her, which caused both of us to clip out of reality and explode. I say this because the game shows your damage on the screen and I remember seeing the number "60" flash twice very briefly before that screen popped up, which is more damage than I've ever seen in this game. I'm pretty sure I broke it. I can't tell you how happy I am for this glitch. It's not to say that I don't think I could've beat her legitimately (it was my third time getting to her and second getting her to low health), but I really wasn't looking forward to doing another run. There's just too much RNG in the DLC for it to me fun for me. You can see some of the skills I used there, but one of the challenges on the higher difficulties is that you take damage every time you pick up a skill, so you have to be selective. The other annoying thing is that the order you do the dungeons in is random. The boss for the mine is significantly more annoying than the other two (one who be cheesed with the tablet pen and the other who becomes a pushover if you have Thick Skin and Disaster-Proof). I'm not even sure he's programmed correctly. He loves summoning minions repeatedly. You can use the minecarts to hurt him, but sometimes they break right away and sometimes they clip through him and take off half his HP. It's really weird. The other thing I didn't really care for is the art style. You can see it up there. It's colorful and bubbly, which I know is supposed to mimic Corporate Memphis, but there's a reason that term is used so disparagingly. I feel like they could've done something more unique with it. Anyway, these are minor gripes. The game is good. I recommend it. There's actually an Assist Mode, which I suggest playing with, because you'll definitely need it for the DLC. I can't imagine trying to do it without that...