Alex’s Top 10 Games of 2017

This list comes with a lot of qualifiers.

First, I am writing this down so that I have a reference for the future.

Second, I have not played several of the best games of 2017, so hopefully I can point and laugh at this in the near future (looking at you Yakuza 0).

Third, I feel I should have proper defenses for the games I pushed for our top games of the year, even if this is after we recorded the debates.

So, here we go. Here is my “official” list of my top 10 games for 2017 as of 4/8/2018.

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  1. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Upon completing Hellblade, I continually thought about how special of a game it is.

The game plays brilliantly. Ninja Theory is still at the top of their game after the wonderful DMC, but this time with a heart and soul unlike any other.

I hesitate to say, “gimmick,” but the gimmick or “catch“ of Hellblade is that the main character has some kind of PTSD + schizophrenia. The two mental disorders are not entirely related, but upon experiencing the events of the story and Senua’s past, it appears as though it might just be schizophrenia.

The game deals with this in intelligent, careful, and (perhaps insensitively stated) innovative ways. Sound is weaponized in the game, silence is truly golden in the rare times it is offered to the player. The team consulted numerous psychiatrists with help of how to make the disorder feel authentic, which is perhaps the game’s greatest flaw. The voices in her head sound way too modern for the time period of the game. But I digress, this is not a review, but an exaltation of Hellblade’s virtues.

Admittedly, Hellblade is not for everyone. It is for people who want a taste of something different. The game’s slower, puzzle sections are innovative in sometimes infuriating ways, but overall the combination of gameplay made for one of the most fresh experiences in a wonderful year for gaming.    

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  1. Resident Evil VII

After the dumpster fire of REVI, it is not surprising that my expectations were low for REVII.

What REVII does best is borrow from resurgence of the popularity of survival-horror games (largely in thanks to YouTube) just enough, while getting back to the roots of what made the series popular in the first place.

The game does this masterfully. I was honestly fearful that the game would be too much like the Amnesia and Outlast crowd, but it thankfully isn’t. The catharsis of wrecking those you have been running from for hours after slowly powering up, is certainly what made me enjoy my time with REVII so much.

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  1. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony

Danganronpa V3 is a trip. Plain and simple. If one gained any amount of enjoyment from the first two games in the main series, please play it. Then, please contact me to talk about that ending. I’m not sure it can get more meta than this, but I will surely eat those words in the future.

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  1. Gravity Rush 2

Gravity Rush 2 is art in motion. A gorgeous game to play through. The art alone makes the game a pleasure to experience. Gravity Rush 2 also just so happens to be a sequel to one of my favorite Vita games, making it all the better.

Nothing plays like the Gravity Rush games, which might be why I regard them so highly. Despite the occasional bouts of disorientation, the game handles extremely well considering all the mind-bending physics going on under the hood. Combat has been upgraded (sometimes for the better, sometimes not…).

Admittedly, my greatest joy with the game was seeing its art style getting the power behind it that it deserves. The game is still a blast to play and I strongly recommend it.

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  1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I’ve got my issues with this game. Most of them come from the fact that I like most other Zelda games more. Like the games few dungeons aren’t very good, rain is the worst, hot and cold mechanics are insanely annoying, and perhaps greatest of all: weapon degradation. Even the Master Sword. (insert facepalm meme >here<).

Even all of the these setbacks results in a game that can make my top 10 for the year.

Let’s begin with the look. Personally, Breath of the Wild is the best looking game of the year. I was consistently impressed with the small visual flairs it presents throughout the game.

The game does have an inexplicable addicting quality. I found myself playing long stretches anxiously awaiting what was over the next hill.

The world is also probably the most realized in a Zelda game to date, lore and narratively.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a wonderful game.

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  1. Assassin’s Creed Origins

After being surprised by an excellent Resident Evil game, I was even more surprised by perhaps the best Assassin’s Creed game.

Taking a year off was obviously the right move.

Assassin’s Creed Origins being set in the front of the timeline of the series provided a perfect dropping in or catching up point for gamers. It also completely revamps the combat and the structure of the game doing wonders for a series becoming stale. The result is truly mesmerizing. Egypt is awesome. The breadth of options and gameplay styles is also stunning.

I left my time with ACO seriously impressed and you should give it shot.

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  1. Horizon: Zero Dawn

I hate having games in my top 10 that I have not finished. The last time I did that it was worth it (2015, Yakuza 5), and I am hoping I am also right with Horizon: Zero Dawn. The game is immediately impressive in the way it sets up its post-post-apocalypse, which in and of itself is so incredibly interesting. The gameplay also backs up the setting with good crafting and the numerous ways the player can handle a situation. I can’t wait until I get my own PS4, so that I can finish the game. As of this writing, I am about 6ish hours in. I have loved my time with Horizon, and I am confident that it will continue to get better and better.

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  1. Nier Automata

I played the first several hours of the first Nier game. I was thoroughly unimpressed. It has been on my list to go back to regardless. Even more so now after finishing my first playthrough of Nier Automata.

I knew going in that Nier Automata would be more than it initially is to be perceived as. I have currently finished my first playthrough of the game. It was full of epic boss fights and intense action. However, upon finishing the Square Enix PR team asked me to play it again. That is crazy. I most certainly will later. But that is crazy. Register that, Nier Automata is crazy.

I can’t wait to finish the game at least two more times.

I am secretly hoping that this will ultimately be my favorite game from 2017. After one playthrough, it has not earned that spot. It has been quite good in one playthrough, but earned the top spot, it has not.

So, maybe later… is the mantra exiting this (hopeful) masterpiece.

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  1. Super Mario Odyssey

What’s not to love about Mario? I live in South Korea. Here, the Nintendo Switch was launched with Super Mario Odyssey, not Zelda. Zelda came 2 months later. Mario made for a wonderful introduction to the Switch. I played it mostly in handheld mode on bus trips. It was amazing.

Every second of the game seems to be designed to make me smile. And make me smile it did. Consistently through its short main story run.

Then I went back. Back to get the moons. The moons are everywhere. And that really is the strength of Super Mario Odyssey, the open world and the moon-everywhere nature of the game. It is a constant reward stream, that is highlighted by delightful graphics and satisfying platforming goodness.

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1.Persona 5

Persona 5 is the best game of 2017. I will ignore the dropping of the Shin Megami Tensei, because who needs “roots” or “what’s important.”

The biggest problem with Persona 5 is that it does not do enough different. It is still a full-fledged sequel to two of the best games ever made (Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4). I typically value innovation in a GOTY list. However, this year, I cannot. Persona 5 doesn’t do anything different. It only tries to mainstream a very intense JRPG. I think it largely succeeds, and it should be celebrated as thus. “Casual” is not really a word to be associated with the SMT brand, which is perhaps why they dropped it, but nevertheless Persona 5 is a deep, rewarding, and an amazing experience resulting in one of the longest games I have ever played. So… you should play it too, and know the best 2017 has to offer.

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2017 Game of the Year Awards

twenty-seventeen-1837399_960_720Another year, another set of game awards! 2017 was a wonderful year for video games, here are our thoughts on the best stuff to be found.

Most Innovative/Original

Which games innovate in the most impressive ways? What feels the most new and refreshing in the waves of game releases?

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Winner – Snipperclips: Cut it Out, Together!

Through its unique and impressive puzzling, Snipperclips, captured our interest as the most new and fresh experience of the world.

Runners-Up:

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Best Looking Game

Combining our best technical and artistic categories, we now have the “Best Looking Game.” Which game has the most visual flair in 2017?

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Winner – Cuphead 

Nothing can touch the dedication to their craft like the developers of Cuphead. The attention to detail and style is unbeatable. This was perhaps our easiest choice for this category we have ever had.

Runners-Up:

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Best Story/Writing

In an always increasingly competitive category, games continue to tell better stories. Which one had the best in 2017?

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Winner – Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony    

The sequel to two our top games form 2014, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, delivers just as much crazy as the previous two if not more. With an ending that will be discussed for years in the future, its a game that will stick with you long after the credits roll.

Runners-Up:

Doki Doki Literature Club

Persona 5

Most Surprisingly Good

In this personal category, we say what surprised the most for the year.

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Alex – Assassin’s Creed Origins

Thomas – Gravity Rush 2

Zach – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Derek – Dino Frontier

Drew – Cuphead

Brock – SteamWorld Dig 2

Most Disappointing Game

In another personal category, we ask: Which games broke our hearts and shattered our expectations?

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Derek – Megaton Rainfall

Drew – Star Wars Battlefront 2

Brock – Super Mario Odyssey

Alex – Xenoblade Chronicles 2

Thomas – Destiny 2

Zach – Agents of Mayhem

 Most Memorable Moment

Which events from the games of 2017 stuck with the most throughout the year?

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Drew – Destiny 2 – The Leviathan Raid

Thomas – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Leaving the Resurrection Shrine

Zach – Resident Evil VII – Garage Fight

Derek – Rime – Teamwork on puzzles

Brock – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Assault on Vah Ruta

Alex – Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony – The ending of the game

2017 is the of…

How do we summarize the year that was 2017?

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Winner – The Death of Dedicated Handhelds

There was also a rebirth with the Switch. However, bidding farewell to the 3DS and Vita has taken a toll on our top lists. Our group has always appreciated handheld games and it is so sad to see them go. Here’s to hoping the Switch can continue to carry the banner.

Runners-Up:

The Switch

A Quick Start (great first quarter)

BEST GAME OF 2017

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1 The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
2 Persona 5
3 Super Mario Odyssey
4 Horizon: Zero Dawn
5 Nier: Automata
6 Resident Evil 7
7 Assassin’s Creed: Origins
8 Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
9 Gravity Rush 2
10 Destiny 2
11 Snipperclips: Cut it Out Together!
12 Cuphead
13 Mass Effect: Andromeda
14 The Evil Within 2
15 Sonic Mania
16 Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
17 Danganronpa v3: Killing Harmony
18 Mario & Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
19 Pyre
20 Aaero
21 Splatoon 2
22 SteamWorld Dig 2
23 Injustice 2
24 The Sexy Brutale
25 Puyo Puyo Tetris
26 Flinthook
27 Middle-Earth: Shadow of War
28 Prey
29 Tales of Berseria
30 Star Wars Battlefront 2
31 Shovel Knight: Spectre of Torment
32 For Honor
33 Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds
34 Outlast 2
35 1-2-Switch!
36 Yooka-Laylee
37 Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy
38 Robo Recall
39 Dino Frontier

 

The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series – A New Frontier Review

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The third full season of The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series is subtitled New Frontier. I suppose this was in attempt to appear as a new game, which is strange. Continuity is the greatest strength of story-based games, so why appear to be something new? What also is noticeable is the lack of a “Season 3” in the official title.  This is also a strange choice, because choices from the first two seasons carry over into this “New Frontier.” Whatever the reason, I will be referring to the game as The Walking Dead Season 3 (TWDS3).

Sights and Sounds

The new style of Telltale games have had their signature comic book style and Season 3 continues it, making it easily their best looking game to date. Unfortunately, as has been the problem for their games in the last six years, it is not technically proficient. I actually encountered the worst glitches I have had in a Telltale game thus far with TWDS3. Despite the flaws, it still looks great.

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The soundtrack is noticeably a step up from their past work with the zombie franchise. The voice acting is excellent as always.

The Story is the Game

Narrative is gameplay for the modern Telltale games, and The Walking Dead Season 3 does nothing to change that. In fact, it doesn’t try anything new. That doesn’t have to be a pro or a con, especially if the story is excellent.

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The Walking Dead Season 3 sits firmly in the “good enough” category. There are some great moments to be sure, but Telltale is going to have to try some new things if they want to continue the series that launched them to success. Standing on its own, Season 3, is full of what made the series incredible in the first place. However, in the context of what has come before it, it does not do enough to stand out.

The characters are memorable and the writing is generally fantastic. Clementine steals the show for the third time in a row, and I would definitely play another game featuring her. Hopefully, they will start to break from their tried-and-true formula like they did with The Wolf Among Us and Tales from the Borderlands.

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The Recommendation

If you played the first two seasons of The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series, then you should play the third. If you stopped after the first, I would still strongly recommend playing the second season, and by the that point, the third season might as well be played too. The Walking Dead Season 3 is treading water, good water, but it isn’t taking any risks and that’s okay… for now.        

pay-634908_1920out of 10

 

Assassin’s Creed Origins Review: Back to Business

 

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Wow, it’s amazing what taking a year off can do for a franchise.

Assassin’s Creed Origins is excellent. Extremely excellent. It takes the best the series has had to offer in the past, and it scraps what hasn’t worked in the past. The result is an artistic, enormous, beautiful, and top-tier playing action-adventure video game.

What is Assassin’s Creed Origins?

Perhaps, a better question might be, “What isn’t Assassin’s Creed Origins?” The game has a robust RPG-leveling system full of loot, side-quests, puzzles, climbing things, boat combat, hunting, crafting, stealth, a great story, a new Demon’s Souls-style combat system, and some of the best virtual tourism around.

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Assassin’s Creed Origins follows the character, Baeyek, and his journey through tumultuous times in Egypt. Parts of Egypt are under Roman and Greek occupation, others by corrupt Egyptian officials, and it is up to Baeyek and his wife to get vengeance a rebuild Egyptian (if not, global) society. The story is full of treats for long term fans, without alienating newcomers to the now long-running series. There are some nice twists and turns in the story, all the way up to the final assassination. The side quests also contain some nice writing to boot. I would still rate the first Assassin’s Creed game as the strongest in the series’ narrative department, but Origins would come in at second. I was impressed by nearly every aspect of Assassin’s Creed Origins, and its story was no disappointment.

How Does It Look and Sound?

The main theme and soundtrack are very strong, like most AC ost’s. My African friend assures me that Baeyek’s African accent is terrible, but the rest of the crew deliver strong voice performances. The game is beautiful. There are many impressive sights to see across the game’s massive world. From the character models to the crocodiles, the game is gorgeous.  

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How Does It Play?

The major story here is that the combat has been completely revamped. Those who have experience with a Souls game will feel right at home. The new leveling and quest system is also a big deal. Loot, enemies, and quests are all assigned levels. Facing off with foes 2-3 levels higher than you is certainly not recommended. This, pun intended, is a double-edged sword. The quest system is fantastic and is packed to the gills with content. However, perhaps the game’s biggest failing (not a big one though), is the repetition in the side quests. To repeat, the game is massive; I got credits after around 30 hours. I had not uncovered about one third of the game’s map at that time. The game is sprinkled with side quests everywhere, and there is a surprising variety. However, after the longer run time, they started to run together. Otherwise, on the gameplay front, this game is near perfect.

This is just scratching the surface on all the gameplay mechanics working in symphony throughout the game. Hunting is fun and gives valuable materials to upgrade gear. Ship combat is still a nice gameplay diversion. Exploring tombs and collecting all the viewpoints is a blast. There’s chariot racing. There’s gladiator-ing. There is just so much to do.     

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The Recommendation

When it comes down to it, I was strongly considering giving Assassin’s Creed Origins a 10 out of 10. For that it would have needed a slightly even better story, less crashes and technical issues, and even more variety in the side quests. These are very small complaints, but enough for me to give it the highest possible “9” I can. The game is phenomenal for series veterans and new fans alike. What are you waiting for, now is the time to start exploring Egypt.  

다운로드 out of 10

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review

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What is Xenoblade Chronicles 2?

If tasked with writing a mini-review for the Xenoblade Chronicles 2, then, the result would be the following:

There are some outright terrible design decisions, but it is worth it in the end.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a Japanese Role-Playing Game (JRPG) from developer Monolithsoft and published by Nintendo. Those familiar with their last giant games in the Xeno- series (Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles X) will quickly feel right at home in the sprawling world of Altrest. There are “artes” that make for the special moves in the games, then there are a ton of layers and systems to peel back that make up the bulk of the satisfying gameplay (we’ll get more into that later). Most importantly, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has heart, and that carries it through its more frustrating mechanics.

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Sights and Sounds

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 makes for a long experience. The 54 hours I spent in Altrest were enhanced by the beautiful art and quality of the soundtrack.This will be a very common theme, but, XC and XCX were better in both regards. Where XC2 does outclass its predecessors is in its character models, which are highly detailed and look great. There are few complaints to be had about the game’s visuals, aside from the continued stilted animations of the characters. The music is still rock-infused awesomeness, but less memorable.

Narrative and the Meaning of Life

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 doesn’t really shy away from asking the meaning of life. A major theme of the game is the purpose of the world and the people in it. There are four distinct types of beings in XC2, monsters, titans, blades and drivers. Drivers are “normal” people. Monsters are the things you fight and kill for a large majority of the game.  Titans are an immortal(ish) and varied race that make up the continents that everything else lives on, ships, tools, and even weapons of war. Blades begin as “core crystals” and bond with a driver becoming their weapon. The blades vary in form greatly. When the driver dies, the blade becomes a core crystal again, and loses its previously gained memories.

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The narrative crafted within these bounds is quite interesting and the dynamics and finer points of all the titanic continents and how blades and drivers interact each other keeps one’s interest through to the end. However, the overarching story is not as good as the original Xenoblade Chronicles.

The cast is decent. I was expecting more characters to experiment with, but what we got was good enough. There are some strong characters, however, they are not as good as in Xenoblade Chronicles.

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Driving Blades

The core gameplay of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is essentially the same as the previous two, but with some major twists to the overlaying mechanics. There are still artes. It still takes auto-attacks to fill the artes bars to use them. Things change when each driver can resonate with multiple blades adding a lot of variety to the options available to the player. Comboing with your teammates and dealing a ton of damage is fun and satisfying. Some of the unique blades have fairly interesting personalities, making them fun to be around just to see what they will say. The blade side-quests are also a highlight of the game.The main character, Rex, is salavager, so naturally, there is small salvaging mini-game in the game too.

Now to the bad, there is a mechanic called, “field skills.” Each blade specializes in different kinds of things to help Rex and crew throughout the journey, and it can be a minor annoyance. Seeing a high level “lockpicking”check to open a treasure chest is annoying, but is not hindering the game in any way. It must be mentioned that the upgrade trees for the blades show what needs to be done to upgrade the field skills. Often it is not easy, and requires finding an esoteric food for them to eat. This is all fine and dandy until about 70% of the way through the game, when the game starts viciously hurling field skill checks to advance the story resulting in hours of busy work to continue.

This sucks.

Just flat out sucks.

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Modesty was not a high priority for the character designers.

Otherwise, the blade system is a roaring success. Experimenting with all the differing strategies is really fun. It is a real shame that the field skill checks destroy the pacing of the game and its narrative.

 The Recommendation

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a solid game. I like it, and I would recommend it to those who liked the last two Xeno- games. It could and should have been better. I am coming out of the game fairly bittersweet on it. It is a bummer that it is the worst of the Xenoblade games, but it is still worth playing for fans of the series.          

8-Number-PNGout of 10

Nex Machina: Death Machine Review – Save All Humans

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What is Nex Machina: Death Machine?

Nex Machina: Death Machine is a brilliant twin-stick shooter, and it is a blast with friends. Created by the people who made the PS4 launch title Resogun, Nex Machina is also a spin on a classic arcade-style game. Nex Machina is a twin-stick shooter, and not much else. However, it is unapologetically retro in its design in the best possible way. Things start to make more once you remember the studio has roots in the original Smash TV.

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Left Stick Moves, Right Stick Shoots

If I had to describe the game in 2 words they would be “polished” and “smooth.” When a developer goes after an old genre, normally something new, or some kind of genre twist is present. Playing Nex Machina made me think a lot about 2015’s amazing Assault Android Cactus. AAC had a neat character selection that altered the moveset of the player slightly. It was fun to have a more individualized take on the genre and getting better with the different options. Nex Machina’s greatest addition is a number of people to save per level and having some secrets. This does, in no way, feel groundbreaking. Honestly though, that is perfectly okay.

One doesn’t have to start a revolution when the game feels so good. The upgrade path is satisfying, but like most early Schmups (shoot-em-ups) a la Gradius and Life Force, dying once resets your abilities. This, naturally, puts a lot pressure on the player to survive.

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Sights and Sounds

On the audio front, there isn’t much to say. There are laser sounds and there is some music, so, nothing special.

The game is nice looking. However, it is easy to lose sight of some enemies on screen causing perhaps “unfair” deaths. Of the 5 worlds the game has to offer, they vary in backgrounds, but they run together.

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 The Recommendation

Nex Machina: Death Machine is essentially special in that it is nothing special. It is an incredibly tightly designed game that can test you with its four difficulty settings. The presentation of the game is wonderful and the coop is a must. I can recommend it to anyone who is looking for a solid twin-stick shooter and nothing else. And Nex Machina is okay with that.

8-Number-PNGout of 10

The Sexy Brutale Review: Groundhog Murder

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What is The Sexy Brutale?

The Sexy Brutale is a wonderful game. If Luigi’s Mansion went in a different direction, this could be a nearly perfect sequel to the Nintendo ghostbuster. At its core, The Sexy Brutale is a puzzle game. A puzzle game where the player must prevent murders by studying the environments (from an isometric perspective) and then manipulating time to not allow the gruesome deaths to the continue. The game could also be described as an anti-Hitman.  

Sights and Sounds

The Sexy Brutale is a decent looking game. There are many bright colors and varied environments throughout the mansion/mega-entertainment complex known as The Sexy Brutale. There is a casino, stages for musicians and magicians, and plenty of secrets to be uncovered. The soundtrack is also very fitting thematically and it adds a lot to the overall experience.

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How Does it Play?

The game features fairly traditional adventure/puzzle game mechanics. That is there is plenty of picking up items and finding where to use them to advance the story. There are plenty of twists to the formula however, most notably being a time traveling element.

Players will be locked within the walls of The Sexy Brutale for 12 hours (in the game’s time), and when time is up, the clock restarts and the sequence of terrible events begins anew. The player must only save a victim only once to receive a new power to unlock access to news rooms.  

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The Recommendation

Tequila Works has really knocked it out of the park here. The more of the mansion that you unveil, the more impressive the whole game is. An important addition was that no matter where you are in the mansion, you will hear certain loud sounds at the same time every day. I was always delightfully anticipating when I was going to get to the root of the next sound I have heard dozens of times.

The Sexy Brutale is strongly recommended to those who like puzzle games, adventure games, or an interesting story. This game is the full package and was a quite memorable trip.


다운로드 out of 10

Tacoma Review: Is it still called a “Walking Simulator” if there is no gravity?

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What is Tacoma: Walking Simulator 101

Tacoma is the follow-up to the largely well-received Gone Home by the Fullbright Company.

First came Dear Esther, then Gone Home. Dear Esther did not require a human to play the game. It was a on-rails story game that benefitted very little being a game. Gone Home changed that. Gone Home was more of an exploration, mystery game where the player must piece together various pieces, in an order somewhat determined by the player, to understand what happened in the house. In terms of raw gameplay, there is essentially none, not traditionally. The distinction between Gone Home and Dear Esther is a very important one when it comes to the genre they helped to create.

Dear Esther developer, The Chinese Room, corrected their mistakes with their wonderful follow-up Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. They learned so much from Gone Home, and crafted something substantially better. The exploration/narrative as gameplay was solidified with this entry in the genre, along with some help from delightful games like The Stanley Parable to push the acceptability of the genre to the more “mainstream” gamer.

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A lot of time spent riding elevators in Tacoma.

So, the smashing success of The Chinese Room puts Fullbright in an interesting place. How will they follow up Gone Home, especially in a post-Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture world?

Not well, apparently.   

Tacoma certainly still square in the walking simulator genre. Time is spent exploring a space station in a sadly linear fashion. Gameplay is broken down into reading everything and finding codes to doors, lockers, and drawers. Experiencing the lives of a crew as disaster strikes and how they all deal with it, certainly is an interesting premise, and Tacoma has some merit in its execution.   

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The game looks good, but is nothing that special. Sound design and voice acting are generally acceptable. Nothing noteworthy on the musical front. Overall, visually and auditorily, Tacoma is average at best.

When narrative is gameplay, the story had better be good. Tacoma’s story is fairly average. There are a couple of unexpected twists and turns. The draw of the game is the slow unraveling of information that the player uncovers about the crew members.  

Tacoma’s Philosophy

Tacoma has some contradictory ideas that it presents. First, the crew is intensely pro-union. Despite the numerous union flyers that adorn the ship, this is also demonstrated by a politician’s face being seen on a dartboard; who happens to be pushing for further AI controlled space exploration, resulting in the loss of human job opportunities.

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The same crew (at least several of its six members) also rallies around the idea of “AI Liberation.” In that, each AI should be treated as an individual with the equivalent of human rights. It’s the animal rights activist’s logic applied to AI. So which is it? Are they stealing our jobs, or they are equals and thusly should be treated equally? The writers of Tacoma certainly don’t know.  

Concluding on Tacoma

I left Tacoma with a bad taste in my mouth. The ending was poor. The short journey along the way was good enough. However overall, when I think of Tacoma in the future, it will be cast in the negative light of its ending and its oversimplified and incoherent philosophical musings. There are better offerings in the genre, notably, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. If one greatly enjoys the laxed genre then go ahead and give Tacoma a shot, but only if you have exhausted all other options.

number3_PNG14959out of 10     

Aaero Review: Wub-Dubba-Wub-Wub

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What is Aaero?

Allow me to begin with stating that if you like videogames and electronic music, then Aaero is a pretty safe purchase.

Following in the footsteps of games like Rez, Child of Eden, and Panzer Dragoon, Aaero is a rhythm-infused rail-shooter. The game is split into two clearly separated parts, that eventually overlap. The first part is a fairly basic rail-shooter. Using the right stick, your aircraft can lock on up to eight targets and then fire on them. The second part utilizes the left stick. Portions of the tracks are visualized in the game, and the player must match them with the ship. When the two parts of the game collide, it makes for an intense and thrilling experience.  

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Audio/Visual

Aaero has a very clean aesthetic. The visual style is futuristic and simple. When things heat up, the game gets busy on screen resulting in a brilliant fireworks display. Ultimately, Aaero is its music. Though some may lament the lack of variety in this Kickstarter production, the heavy dubstep/electronica soundtrack matches the intensity of the game perfectly (note: I am a big fan of the genre of music). The songs come alive fully equipped with deadly machinations that require the utmost precision to even pass at times.

How Does it Play?   

To reiterate, Aaero is its music. The songs make up a huge portion of the gameplay regarding the outlining of the melodies. The mish-mash of genres works beautifully and feels quite fresh. It certainly sets itself apart enough from its sources of inspiration. The enemy design requires learning fast and executing even faster. The game can be unforgiving. Like other “pass/fail” rhythm games (Guitar Hero, Rock Band), it can be enormously frustrating to nearly pass a course, just to die near the end. Aaero requires a touch of patience and mountains of persistence and precision. Getting the five starts here is quite satisfying; as it climbing the leaderboards.

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Aaero does a very smart thing in that the leaderboard is visible and easily accessible for every song. This makes the urge to jump back in and do better much stronger than it would be otherwise. Add three different difficulty levels and you can rack up a lot of time in Aaero,despite the short level selection of fifteen.

The Recommendation   

Aaero comes strongly recommended. Fans of rail-shooters, chasing high scores, or electronic music should apply. Personally, the game comes across as very fresh and is an absolute blast to play and interact with the songs that Mad Fellows brought to life. Aaero is an excellent game; one that should be given the attention it deserves.

다운로드 out of 10

Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony Review – Hello Despair

Um… meta…

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Get to love the new gang.

Danganronpa is back in the form of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony. The sequel to two of my top 10 games of 2014 does not disappoint. Though, I imagine some might be quite disappointed. Let’s get into that appearing contradictory pair of sentences.

Audio/Visual – Same Old, Same Old

The soundtrack is still excellent, but it is just another remix of a remix from the first game. Which is both good and bad, familiarity is both a blessing and a curse in the case of Danganronpa V3. Good music is still good music.

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When trolling ascends above an art form.

Visually, the game is sharp and nearly rivals Persona 5 with its style. The class trials are better looking than ever. However, the rest of the game is par for the Danganronpa course. The environments are fairly boring with the exception of the creativity found in the Ultimate labs for each of the contestants.

Gameplay – Hits and Misses

The game is broken down into the same pieces as the previous two games with some fresh flourishes for good measure. You will spend your time wandering around a school, investigating murders, presenting evidence, and playing some silly minigames. The additional courtroom games are more time-consuming and slow down the pace of the game. The driving minigame is particularly annoying. The worst addition, but is thematically crucial to the game, is literal perjury. In addition to the usual “refute” and “agree” bullets, “lie” bullets have been added to your arsenal. Knowing when to lie is easy to spot in the first few instances, but becomes frustrating when nothing makes sense and then you figure out you have to lie.

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Can’t lie about this one. Driving sucks.

Overall, the game plays quite similarly to the first two games, but with a little better flow in the school and investigation phases. However, the trial minigames often get in the way of the greater story the game is telling.  

Story – The Danganronpa Factor

Danganronpa has always been about its story. Even Ultimate Despair Girls came through with an awesome story, despite having to play the game. A lot of the story is going to fall to subjective preferences. I think that V3 has the worst cast of the three games, but it is by no means a bad one. Some characters were quite grating while others were excellent. All three games could not escape some of the immaturity plaguing many anime titles, V3 is not shy about it’s childish vulgarities and might be the worst offender in this department.

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The cases themselves are essentially as good as ever. The first and forth cases sticking out the most for me. One seriously subverting expectations and the other taking place in a VR setting. There are some wonderful mysteries tucked away in Killing Harmony, but nothing will prepare you for the ending of this madhouse of a game.

What separates Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony from its predecessors is its ending. Divisive and mind-bending do not even begin to scratch the surface of describing it. I am still reeling from it and forming my own thoughts and opinions on it (part of the purpose of writing this review). It is certainly frustrating, but it is also brilliant. I did not like the ending at first, but I think I will come to appreciate it a lot in the future. It provides a powerful commentary, some might say with a lack of subtlety, but I found it incredibly interesting and refreshing. I will be thinking about its themes and implications for reality and the Danganronpa universe for some time to be sure.

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Concluding on Harmony

Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is probably the worst of the three main games in the series. Too much of the game feels familiar and it does little to set itself apart. But much like Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, Killing Harmony knows what you think, knows what you expect, and presumably knows what you want (or not want). The writers have no qualms with exploiting this to intensely emotionally manipulative ends. It is a true sequel in every sense of the word. It will mess with your heart, your head, and your expectations. If you liked the first two, you need to play the third installment in this insane series just to see the ending.  

What it comes down to is that the ending to this game is important, and likely will be discussed for years to come (I know I will be).

8-Number-PNGout of 10