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Slave Zero X review – choose violence
8:43 pm | February 22, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Consoles & PC Gadgets Gaming | Comments: Off
Review info

Platform reviewed: PC
Available on: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and PC
Release date: February 21, 2024

Blood, guts, and grime cover the streets in the dystopian world of the new 2.5D action game from Poppy Works, Slave Zero X. Taking place in the Megacity S1-9, this metropolis has succumbed to the tyrannical rule of the Sovereign Khan (SovKhan) with poverty and death rife in the streets. You play as Shou, a freedom fighter and member of The Guardians, who puts his life on the line to take down the unjust rulers.

Slave Zero X takes place four years before the events of the 1999 game Slave Zero, where we see a similar struggle for power take place as the protagonist steals the most sophisticated biomechanical weapon in existence and uses it to win a brutal civil war. The premise is very similar in Slave Zero X as Shou, a revolutionary, merges with a stolen Slave unit prototype (a biomecha weapon) to take the fight to the ruling class and start his journey to killing a false god and his top followers. 

Traversing the world of S1-9 is thrilling. You’ll find bad guys and grunts lying in wait for you around every corner as you progress through the various layers of this dingy city in your pursuit of the five commanders and the Sovereign Khan. There are holy communes, dimly lit streets, and even fights atop speeding trains for you to experience and - hopefully - survive. 

The atmosphere in Slave Zero X is incredibly cool. The 90s-style sprites and visuals, coupled with an advanced lighting system and stylized 3D environments, opens up the abandoned city streets as you watch the world shift on its axis when you turn corners.  

Taking matters into your own hands 

Shou fighting an enemy

(Image credit: Ziggurat Interactive)

Sweeping through enemies masked as a red devil armed with a simple sword and explosive attacks is great fun as long as you can get a grip on timing and combo attacks. Slave Zero X is best experienced with a controller, but as I was playing on PC and my controller was in the other room, I decided to give the keyboard a go. It quickly became clear that using a keyboard can be finicky if you don’t put some serious elbow grease into rebinding keys, however, so if you do have a controller on hand, it’s best to stick with that. 

After rebinding every key and doing a couple of practice runs to make sure everything was working as it should, I took to the streets of S1-9. At first, juggling the hordes of grunts that blocked your path every couple of seconds was quite tricky. Luckily, after plenty of trial and error, I finally managed to master the timing needed to keep these bad guys airborne almost permanently, juggling them until they were no more. Using these new skills alongside dashes and wall jumps meant that most encounters ended with me as the victor. 

The shifting axis of the 2.5D world can also be used to your advantage during fights; as the world turns, you have a bit more space, meaning you can handle more enemies at once. You can use the shifting axis to your advantage when climbing towering apartment buildings or navigating derelict railroads. 

Best bit

Shou fighting enemies

(Image credit: Ziggurat Interactive)

Maneuvering through buildings and fighting against enemies while being hunted down by a boss and dodging her sniper rifle’s scope, which always pulls towards your location like a magnet, was incredibly thrilling.  

The various kinds of enemy soldiers and morbidly deformed grunts that you encounter on your journey have a great variety of skills that keep most fights interesting. Some perish in a single hit and do very little damage, while others wield fiery spears dealing damage from afar or occupy armored mech suits that can grab and throw you to the ground. 

These enemies are fun in bite-sized chunks; however, there are a few times, usually before you take on a mini-boss, in which you find yourself swarmed by them. At these moments, it felt almost impossible to locate yourself among the hordes of bad guys, let alone fight back. There were also times in which I got stuck in a cycle of pain as bombs from above, long-distance enemies, and close-combat soldiers attacked me in specific instances, preventing me from getting even one hit in. These fights get old quickly, and it’s something that happens often.

On the other hand, the one-on-one encounters with the bosses and the ultimate villain were surprisingly digestible. You probably won’t beat every one of them on your first go. However, it does mean that after some engaging practice runs and a little self-reflection, you can prevail against the immoral followers of the SovKhan. 

One of the said followers, Uriel, was an interesting foe to go up against as you have to destroy infusers and kill off grotesque creatures with enlarged limbs and bulbous sacks of fluid that attack you. Once the final infuser is broken, you must run from a mutated Uriel traversing difficult terrain and killing off smaller enemies on your way. It was a nice change from the usual one-on-one fights in Slave X Zero.  

A tough ride 

Shou screaming as enemies fall

(Image credit: Ziggurat Interactive)

Slave Zero X is not for the faint of heart, often demanding pinpoint accuracy, perfect timing, and the patience to replay fights over and over again. There were a couple of encounters with bosses, which did catch me off-guard. Enyo Beloved by the Bullet and Wuguan were both challenging adversaries to go up against, thanks to their rapid attacks and the constant need to stay out of reach during much of the fight. 

Accessibility features

Slave Zero X accessibility screenshot

(Image credit: Ziggurat Interactive)

There are a few accessibility features in Slave Zero X, such as turning on/off screen shake, violence, flashing effects, or changing the background color of subtitles. 

If you manage to make it all the way through, even past the impossibly fast and violent Atavaka The Final Triumph, then you'll be up against the final god-defying boss. It will require you to use everything you’ve learned. This could be perfect dashes, restraint so you have time to dodge incoming attacks, or the ability to juggle your enemy so you can get enough hits in before they get back up and take their own turn dishing out attacks. 

Slave Zero X also boasts a fantastic soundtrack that beautifully pairs 90s-inspired drum and bass music with the bloody retro aesthetic. It makes sweeping through the SovKhan’s soldiers even more thrilling. 

Coupled with the fantastic art style and cool 2.5D world, there’s plenty to enjoy here. It's just a shame that the crowded and ruthless group fights and the unforgiving boss battles make getting through Slave Zero X a bit of a slog occasionally.  

If you’re looking for more excellent games, be sure to check out the best roguelike games as well as the best indie games available to play right now. 

Pacific Drive review – Tokyo drift up in this rift
6:01 pm | February 20, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Consoles & PC Gadgets Gaming | Tags: | Comments: Off
Review info

Platform reviewed: PC
Available on: PC and PlayStation 5
Release date: February 22, 2024 

Driving through the wilds of the Olympic Exclusion Zone in Ironwood Studios’ newest survival game, Pacific Drive, can be a peaceful and beautiful experience. But when it rains, it pours, and the once tranquil pine forests can quickly shift to a chaotic hellscape.

Being aware of everything that poses a threat to you and your vehicle can be overwhelming at first; there are Angry Abductors. They can fly up to you, hook onto your car, and lead you astray. There are also Bolt Bunnies, small balls of scrap and flowing electricity that hop around and can latch onto and damage your car. 

Thanks to these threats, you'll want to make sure you open a gateway - a rift that'll lead you out of the Exclusion Zone to the safety of Oppy’s Garage, your base of operations.

There’s a radius when it comes to gateway exits, meaning you can’t open one when you’re already right next to one of these points. However, if you’re smart, you’ll place yourself right at the edge of said radius to give yourself the best chance to make it to the exit. Or, you can do what I did, which is panic when an Angry Abductor drags you off into the woods, scream a bit, and then open a gateway when you're on the other side of the map; the choice is yours. 

Pillar of light seen from inside a car

(Image credit: Kepler Interactive)

There are no take-backsies in Pacific Drive when it comes to opening a gateway, as, once activated, it will bring forth an instability that will slowly close in a radius around the gateway, destroying everything that's caught up in it (similar to the Storm in Fortnite). This feature meant that I wasn’t just racing against the anomalies that were trying to obstruct me, but I was also racing a killer atmosphere that moved way faster than me. 

Using the standard engine, only capable of a maximum of 45mph (miles per hour), with some Summer tires, which have never graced a dirt road, much less the side of a cliff, I drove in a straight line over rocks and through woods, screaming “zero to 60!” as I slowly deforested half the map, all while trying my best to escape the oncoming wave of instability and destruction. 

Against all the odds, I made it to the gateway and back to the safety of Oppy’s Garage with two doors, three flat tires, and a lesson well learned. All that was left now was to fix up my station wagon and head back into the zone, whether that be to explore the mysterious Mid-Zone location or simply collect more parts and scrap to help fix up my car. 

A bit of a fixer-upper

Garage workshop

(Image credit: Kepler Interactive)

Generally, I’ve never understood the appeal of cars. I get the premise of how getting from A to B quickly is helpful, but people obsessing over fixing up old cars or religiously switching out components always felt alien to me. However, thanks to the crafting and upgrading systems in Pacific Drive, I finally get it - I’m now a car person, which may mean I have to finally start watching Top Gear

Initially, I went into Pacific Drive looking forward to the thrilling action sequences, beautiful landscapes of golden fields of wheat and mountainous pine forests, and intriguing stories. To me, the car seemed incidental - a mere way of getting to those vistas, stories, and action setpieces. However, to my surprise, I spent a significant chunk of time sitting in Oppy’s Garage, changing out car parts, building new additions for the station wagon, and fixing issues with the car at the Tinker Station, a workshop found in the garage. 

As a resident of the Olympic Exclusion Zone and researcher of all things anomalous, Oppy gives you one of her many garages to use as a home base. Here, you have everything you possibly need to make your time in the Zone easier.

Best bit

Car in a garage

(Image credit: Kepler Interactive)

Completing my first clean run in The Olympic Exclusion Zone with no close calls. Coming out with a tank full of gas and a ton of supplies made me feel like a real professional.  

There’s the trusty workbench, which allows you to craft various car parts like doors, lights, health kits for yourself, additional storage, and much more. You also have access to the highly coveted Fabrication Station, which players can use to unlock upgrades to their car like offroad tires, lead-lined or steel doors and panels, and side or roof racks for even more storage. In order to unlock these upgrades, you’ll just need resources found in the Zone and some information on the strange anomalies that traverse it. You can do this by walking up to said anomalies and scanning them; just try to keep a safe distance. 

One of my favorite tools is the Tinker Station. At first, I didn’t pay this much attention; however, after losing three doors to the Zone, I found myself having to give the station a try since, every time I shifted my vehicle into park, it would open the front right door. I decided to try and come up with a fix. 

Once accessed, the Tinker Station will show you a diagnosis screen, allowing you to enter any problem in the form of what you are doing and what the causes are. For example, if you were in my shoes, you might declare that putting your gearshift in park causes the front right door to open. If you manage to put in the correct diagnosis, then the Tinker Station will provide you with a fix. Usually, you need a mechanics kit in your inventory to complete said repair, but if you don’t have one, you can always craft it at the workbench.

The Tinker Station is tremendous and added a puzzling twist to making repairs on my car. I subsequently used it to fix my horn honking every time I shut the trunk of my car, a problem that was slowly driving me off the deep end during my expeditions in the Zone. 

The gift that keeps on driven

Foggy green forest

(Image credit: Kepler Interactive)
Accessibility features

Pacific Drive accessibility features

(Image credit: Kepler Interactive)

Pacific Drive has an impressive range of accessibility features. There are various motion sensitivity options, such as reducing flickering visuals or an in-car assistive camera, as well as three color deficiency modes (Deuteranope, Protanope, Tritanope) and a brighter nights option, which makes a world of difference when driving through the nighttime. There’s plenty of flexibility and customization here, so the game can easily be tailored to specific needs and preferences.

Pacific Drive can really be what you want it to be. There are options to turn off damage, the need to refill fuel, and the penalty of losing most items in your storage if you die while traveling through the Zone. There’s no hard and fast rule as to how you’re meant to experience this survival game, making it accessible to a wide range of players. Whether you want an unforgiving experience that punishes you for pushing your station wagon too far, or if you just want to have a fun time exploring the zone and upgrading your car, you’ll find plenty of mileage here.

These options can go a long way to offsetting the at-times overwhelming experience of surviving in the Zone. If all the lightning strikes, thick fog, or relentless damage gets too much, you can easily switch up the experience without taking away from the gripping struggles of finding enough resources or the thrilling nature of navigating the strange anomalies. 

Pacific Drive is easily one of the best survival games out there now; with so much to love, explore, and probably die from, there’s never a dull moment and always something to discover.

For more thrilling games that you can play right now, check out the best horror games and the best story games

Mario vs. Donkey Kong review: can we skip to the good part?
4:02 pm | February 14, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Consoles & PC Gadgets Gaming Nintendo | Tags: | Comments: Off
Review info

Platform reviewed: Nintendo Switch
Available on: Nintendo Switch
Release date:
February 16, 2024

Mario vs. Donkey Kong is full of charm and head-scratching puzzles that are oh-so-satisfying to solve, but it struggles to cement itself as a must-play Nintendo Switch release. Nintendo’s latest puzzle-platformer is an expanded remake of the Game Boy Advance title which was released back in 2004, and, while it certainly looks much brighter for a fresh coat of paint (and significantly more pixels to play with), frustrations and clunkiness hold it back from reaching its full potential. 

The short-but-sweet puzzler has a simple premise. Donkey Kong becomes enamored with Mini Marios - cute, seemingly sentient wind-up toys based on everyone’s favorite red-hatted plumber - and, in a fit of desperation, ends up breaking into the toy production factory to take the lot for himself. Mario, set on getting his own in-universe merch back on the shelves, embarks on a chase to catch Donkey Kong and take the Mini Marios back from him. God forbid a gorilla have hobbies, I suppose. 

The opening cutscenes depicting all this look fantastic on the Nintendo Switch OLED model, with gorgeous colors and details (such as Donkey Kong’s soft fur texture) that make me genuinely want to see some kind of short animated series created in the same style. While not quite as spectacular, the in-game visuals are also delightful, and with smooth, reorchestrated music to seal the deal, the entire package looks and sounds significantly more polished than ever before.

Big brain moments

Mario vs. Donkey Kong jungle level.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

At the heart of Mario vs. Donkey Kong is its puzzle-platforming action, which consists of a series of bite-size levels to navigate Mario through, with the goal generally being to collect three presents (collectibles) and a Mini Mario from each. Players are introduced to a wide variety of different elements - from colored switches which activate certain platforms, to climbable ropes, throwable springs, and more - all of which you’ll have to master to ‘perfect’ each level.

Best bit

Mario leading a group of Mini Mario toys in a Mario vs. Donkey Kong level.

(Image credit: Nintendo / Future)

Levels where players lead a troop of Mini Marios into a toy box before taking on a boss fight were my personal favorite, largely because they add some variety to the puzzling action which can, at times, feel samey. The lil’ fellas also make really cute noises, which adds to their charm. 

The way these elements work in tandem is a joy - there’s little more rewarding than working out innovative ways to utilize all the different tools on offer to progress, especially when the solution is not immediately obvious. At the same time, it doesn’t feel like every puzzle has a set method that you have to follow to grab all the presents and get to the goal. Mario is equipped with some particularly nimble special moves, including a backflip, handstand, and handstand jump, which can be executed to launch him to taller platforms and collectibles. Bouncing around in this way feels brilliant, and just about offsets the fact that Mario’s regular jump is much less impressive than usual in this game. 

These regular puzzles are broken up into a handful of slightly different levels. You can expect to take on shorter challenges to chase down a key to unlock a chest full of 1-Ups, boss fights against Donkey Kong (which involve throwing objects at him repeatedly), and also stages in which you have to lead a line of Mini Marios safely into a toy box. These add some much-needed novelty to the overall experience, and I really wish that Mario vs. Donkey Kong leaned more into this variety.

Trials and tribulations 

A Fire Mountain level in Mario vs. Donkey Kong.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Unfortunately, despite the game’s relatively short runtime (I perfected every level in around 11 hours), things take far longer than you’d hope to become challenging enough to be interesting. Most of my first five hours with the game felt like a drag. Of course, some level of difficulty curve is to be expected, and I’m sure no one would expect the stages to be extremely challenging from the get-go. However, this was the case throughout the majority of the game’s initial worlds - I was only really hooked on it once I unlocked the extra ‘plus’ worlds, which are only available after a significant number of levels are completed.

Even though the early puzzles weren’t particularly mind-boggling, you can still expect to lose your fair share of lives on them just due to the general clunkiness of the game. Players are taught early on that they can pick up and throw enemies around to use as extra platforms and knock other foes off the screen entirely. To do this, you’ve first got to jump on top of their heads, which is very simple in theory, but, in practice, this isn’t always the case. 

A combination of Mario’s generally heavy feel in this game (his regular jump doesn’t go nearly as high as it does in the regular platforming games) and awkward enemy hitboxes mean that, at some point or another, you’re very likely going to end up taking damage from them when it appears you were perfectly lined up to land safely on their head. I noticed this was particularly prevalent with the explosive Bob-ombs. Perhaps it’s their rounded shape, but it seems far easier than it should be to catch your foot on the corner of them and, assuming that you’re playing on the ‘classic’ difficulty mode, be forced to restart the entire level as a result. 

Diamonds in the rough

A Merry Mini-Land level in Mario vs. Donkey Kong.

(Image credit: Nintendo / Future)

Levels typically aren’t long, so losing lives in this way will never set you back too far. However, the frustration comes from knowing exactly what you need to do to complete the level, yet still being made to redo it all because the controls and mechanics let you down. The game’s emphasis is placed on puzzles rather than platforming, meaning you’re never really meant to pull off any particularly difficult jumps. However, it feels that poor execution in this area bloats out the whole experience with annoyance. 

If you’re able to push through these grievances, however, there’s still plenty to enjoy. There are two new world themes to enjoy that weren’t included in the original GBA version - the amusement park-themed Merry Mini-Land, and the icy Slippery Summit. Both of these also have additional ‘plus’ versions, adding a generous handful of new levels that are totally fresh. 

Accessibility features

Other than the choice of two difficulty modes which can be switched between whenever you want, there are no dedicated accessibility features in Mario vs. Donkey Kong, nor are there any options to change the game’s controls from the default settings. 

The easier ‘casual’ difficulty setting allows you to take five extra hits from hazards like enemies or spikes before you lose a life, and utilize additional checkpoints in levels to respawn from when you do take damage. Casual mode also turns off the time limit for each level entirely.

As well as two-player local co-op, which changes levels up slightly and offers an alternative way to play, you’re able to unlock a Time Attack mode, which challenges you to beat everything as fast as you possibly can. Doing so will earn you a shiny medal on the level’s icon on the menu. It may be a relatively small incentive, but it certainly helps add a bit more replayability, since there’s otherwise little point in diving straight back in as you already know all the puzzle solutions. 

All in all, Mario vs. Donkey Kong is a mixed bag. Once the extra ‘plus’ worlds were unlocked, I couldn’t put the game down, but the thanks to the boredom I’d faced up to that point as well; as the hitbox-related frustrations, perfecting every level didn’t come with the sense of fulfillment I’d hoped for. There’s plenty of fun to be had here, no doubt, but it’s perhaps best enjoyed in smaller chunks, and only for those who have the patience to retrace their steps even when they feel they shouldn’t need to.

Looking for more games to play? You can find some excellent recommendations on our list of the best Nintendo Switch games. You can also check out what’s releasing soon with our roundup of upcoming Switch games. 

Ultros review – reap what you sow
11:02 am | February 12, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Consoles & PC Gadgets Gaming | Comments: Off
Review info

Platform reviewed: PlayStation 5
Available on: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PC
Release date: February 13, 2024 

In some faraway sector of the cosmos lies a strange spaceship, emanating colorful clouds of light and encircled by projections of swimming fish. There is a mystery surrounding this odd relic, and your job in the bright metroidvania game of Ultros, developed by Hadoque, is to uncover it and find a way out of the beautiful cycle in which the ship has you and all its inhabitants trapped. 

After crash landing onto this strange ship, you soon find out that it isn’t really a ship but a giant cosmic uterus named The Sarcophagus that is holding an ancient, demonic being known as ULTROS. The only way to prevent this evil being from being unleashed on the universe is to relive a cycle over and over again, each time killing off one of the slumbering ancient beings that are found in The Sarcophagus, which gives the demon power. 

Inside the spacecraft, you’ll find a vibrant ecosystem home to various strange beasts and flora. You can harvest fruit that is scattered around the multiple levels of the ship and use it to replenish health and acquire new skills. You’ll also come across various kinds of seeds that you can plant in fertile patches across the map. These will provide more food to consume and can give you a helping hand in all kinds of ways. For example, during my time navigating the maze-like levels in Ultros, I have found myself using berries to remove walls of mechanical cogs and give me a platform to access higher levels. Both are incredibly useful means to unlock new areas of the map to explore. 

It’ll take you quite a while to explore everything Ultros has to offer with its expansive levels and sprawling tunnels - many of which hide secrets; there’s always more to find and plenty to do in this metroidvania. There are also distinctive sections that vary slightly in their appearance. For example, there’s the Geggamoja Refinery, which is full of sharp spinning blades, rivers of orange liquid, and industrial architecture. Then, there’s the Temple of Motherhood, which resembles a peaceful garden full of maternal statues and ancient relics. 

Exploring everything that lies in Ultros is a joy; the art style is breathtaking, and the map design encourages you to make your own way around the ship, completing the main story and finding plenty of hidden secrets as you go.

Food or foe 

Character fighting a massive creature

(Image credit: Kepler Interactive)

While it is lovely to wander around the levels in Ultros, it isn’t always easy. Almost every room is home to some kind of creature, and at the end of the day, these beasts are wild animals, so taming them isn’t simple. But killing them isn’t always the only way forward. 

Equipped with only a small hunting blade, the ‘Unrest Tanto’, you have only a few ways to defend yourself. Early on, you are taught the basics of quick and heavy attacks, as well as how to dodge and strike in a combo move; these basics will see you through most of the fights. However, you can also access new combos like ground-pounds or jump kicks via the game’s skill web. Luckily, the controls are smooth and easy to master. 

Best Bit

a conversation between two main characters

(Image credit: Kepler Interactive)

The lady in red, a huntress known as Vasa, is an integral part of you honing your abilities as a player. It took longer than I’d like to admit to defeat her, but once I did, I was proud of myself. 

Oftentimes, it's easy to ignore using combo attacks in games, opting for button mashing as a substitute. But, instead of allowing players to take the easy way out, Ultros encourages combos for the sake of the animals that you kill. Killing creatures with the same attack over and over will poison them, making their death more painful. But if you can mix up your attacks using different combos, it will prevent the creature from becoming poisoned.

Sometimes, you are forced to kill animals to progress to the next room, to attain food and health, or just because if you let them be, they’ll kill you. The deeper you venture into Ultros, the more aggressive and powerful the creatures become. This also means that some of the weaker animals at the first stages become less of a threat, so you can leave them be. There’s even a skill you can acquire that masks your scent, meaning you can pass through hordes of low-level creatures unnoticed unless you begin attacking them.

Most of the creatures in Ultros aren’t too dangerous to handle; however, before you can enter the chamber of a sleeping ancient, the beings that power Ultos, you’ll have to defeat an enraged beast. These act like bosses in Ultros and boast their own special abilities. They'll often require new skills to be defeated. Maybe you’ll have to master quick and successive combo attacks, dodge incoming projectiles, or simply climb on the beast's back to access a weak point. Every time I encountered one of these animals, it took me a couple of body hits to figure out which patterns and strategies I could use to get the kill. After doing this, defeating the beasts became relatively straightforward.  

The moral of the story 

Character with red eyes

(Image credit: Kepler Interactive)

It’s easy to see the overarching theme of environmentalism in Ultros. Be it the respect that each creature demands or the fact that players are encouraged to sow seeds and not just take and devour resources, you can’t help but feel like you’re working with the ecosystem rather than against it. 

Accessibility features

accesibility features

(Image credit: Kepler Interactive)

Developer Hadoque has ensured Ultros has a fantastic range of accessibility features. There are ways to blur the background or decrease the saturation of the vivid and bright colors, making it easier to focus on the character. There is also an option to change the subtitle font from cursive. 

Ultros isn’t without fault. One of the tools you access towards the beginning of the game is an extractor. This item gives you the power to double jump and can have extensions added to it, which will help you traverse The Sarcophagus, whether that be cutting down plants or propelling you through the air. Unfortunately, the extractors felt finicky to use at times, especially when using a controller. 

Some of the fights also felt relatively simple thanks to the heavy reliance on a small number of set pieces, which became predictable. However, it is still a fantastic metroidvania and a real credit to the imagination of the developers at Hadoque. 

My time in Ultros was thrilling; it was immensely enjoyable to immerse myself in this mysterious and psychedelic world. Even after spending hours exploring The Sarcophagus, I’m ready to head back in, knowing that in some long-lost corner of the map, I’ve left a rock unturned.

For more games that will test your abilities, check out the best roguelike games and the best FPS games

Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League review – friendship isn’t so magic
6:24 pm | February 6, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Consoles & PC Gadgets Gaming | Tags: | Comments: Off
Review info

Platform reviewed: PS5
Available on:
PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Release date:
February 2, 2024

Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League has a confusing opening. The superhero shooter’s tutorial starts you in medias res, leaping around with a full suite of abilities. It’s disorientating, and I found myself wondering if I’d accidentally been thrown further into the game by some sort of glitch. 

Finish that tutorial, which gives you the basics on how each character controls as you guide them through the half-destroyed city of Metropolis, and you’ll be sent back to the actual start of the game, with your antiheroes stuck in prison and recruited for a secret mission. Brainiac has taken control of Metropolis, and you guys are the advance team, set to pave the way for a shadowy government agency to roll in and save the day. 

The kicker? Brainiac has subverted the Justice League itself. And your collection of unpowered dweebs is going to have to go toe to toe with the biggest and best in the DC Comics universe to try and survive.

What follows is several hours of live service nonsense, punctuated with flashes of brilliance that don’t quite justify the investment. The end result is that Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League is a dissatisfying experience, but, not to get too “release the Ayer cut” about it, will also make you wish that developer Rocksteady Studios had just been able to make the game they clearly wanted to make, rather than the slightly messy game that exists.  

Jumping the (King) Shark 

King shark in a hovercraft

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Interactive )

The primary problem with Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League is that most of the time is spent in an undercooked but overstimulating open world. At several points while playing co-op with another player, neither of us was entirely sure whether what we were doing was a main mission, a side activity, or just battling some of the Brainiac’s uninspiring purple minions hanging out in the open world.

The shooting itself is fine, but if you’re playing any character that isn’t my beloved King Shark, movement feels frustrating. Every character that isn’t King Shark also has a tiny health pool too, making the chaotic fights that much harder to survive.

Best Bit

Suicide Squad standing together

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Interactive )

Your first encounter with Batman plays out like a horror segment. Each of your characters gets picked off one by one as Batman strikes from the shadows or tricks you. If this is how all of the criminals feel when they encounter The Dark Knight, I’m pro-crime now, poor guys.  

The problem is that every character genuinely is completely different: the four heroes lift a collection of gadgets from the Justice League’s Hall of Justice headquarters in the prologue giving them different travel abilities. Harley can swing around using Batman’s suite of traversal tools, Captain Boomerang can teleport using some knockoff Flash tech, Deadshot has a jetpack and King Shark can… just jump really high. However, he can jump higher than the man with a literal jetpack, travel further than the person who can teleport, and just all around he has a much easier time getting from place to place than the other characters. 

The characters also have their own strengths and weaknesses. Deadshot is a marksman, King Shark is happy leathering people with a pair of giant cleavers and a shotgun. There’s some variance in the game’s loot which is doled out after each mission and, like everything else in the game, is full to bursting with numbers that will overwhelm most players. However, there’s a good chance you’ll find a weapon class that works for you and just plug away with that.  

In the storyline the characters also feel well-sketched out. King Shark gets a lot of the best lines, channeling James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad movie and just being wonderfully earnest even as the entire DC universe comes apart around him. The rest of the characters also get great lines (an early moment where Amanda Waller, wonderfully portrayed by Debra Wilson, declares that she’s the daddy now should get a Golden Joystick of some description), and the moment-to-moment beats are genuinely excellent, even if I’m not really into the rest of the story. 

In blackest night 

King Shark standing next to frozen people

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Interactive )

I wince a little at the somewhat complicated canon, as Rocksteady and Warner Bros. have both been clear that Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League sits within the timeline established by Arkham Asylum and its sequels. This means that the Batman lots of us bought into in those games is the same Batman that’s here massacring the innocent people of Metropolis. It’s a bold choice, but one that leaves me feeling a little uneasy. I wouldn’t be surprised if a late story addition introduced as part of the game’s live service roadmap rolls things back a bit, but I also recognize it’s just that I liked the Arkham games so much it’s a shame to watch them do Batman dirty like this. 

Accessibility features

Accessibility features for suicide squad kill the justice league

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Interactive )

There’s a host of different controller options that include sensitivity adjustments, aim assists, input settings to allow you to auto-run, toggle aiming, and other tweaks. Three colour blind options and a custom option for you to tweak colours as you see fit and options to alter fullscreen effects make this a fairly comprehensive package on the graphics side, while detailed audio sliders allow you to alter things there too. Subtitles can be adjusted and there are text-to-speech options, too.  

This is just me being a bit squeamish of characters that I have some affection for though, because this is the sort of superheroic deconstruction that we’ve seen with The Boys and even unsuccessfully in Jupiter’s Legacy Ascending. Here it’s done fairly well and the tentpole moments sing. An early encounter with Batman is legitimately terrifying, while seeing a lot of the heroes descend into unhinged madness is a treat with some inventive use of powers. However, outside of these moments, the game is done a disservice by the need to have a big open world filled with things to do. It feels like there are two different games squabbling here: the tightly scripted Suicide Squad; and the open-world live service Suicide Squad, and a lot of the friction comes from the games crashing into each other awkwardly. 

You’re dragged from a tense situation where you try to remove the bombs jabbed into your neck and chucked into a quick section where you pilot a flying car around to try and blow up some of Brainiac’s crystals or something. Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League is consistently overwhelming, whether that’s the on screen UI, the loot you’re constantly faffing with or the byzantine skill trees. 

It’s exhausting and hard to recommend when the flashes of brilliance in the game are so well obscured by everything else. So, in a way Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League’s disjointed opening is emblematic of the whole game: an overstimulating exercise in confusion that has solid ideas you’ll have to dive deep to find. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it’s worth the trouble.  

If you're still searching for some thrilling games, check out the best multiplayer PC games as well as the best FPS games, which are available to play now. 

Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior review – let’s do the time warp again
6:00 pm | February 5, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Consoles & PC Gadgets Gaming PC Gaming | Comments: Off
Review info

Platform reviewed: PC
Available on:
PC
Release date:
February 13, 2024

Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior is an impressive debut from Sand Door Studio and offers an interesting time-altering twist to the traditional hack’n’slash roguelike cross that has been popularized since the release of Supergiant’s Hades. Though the roguelike’s core loop does offer plenty of interesting tactical moments throughout the games eight to 10-hour run, the overall package lands short of the lofty heights reached by games of a similar ilk. 

In Lysfanga, you take on the role of Imë, a mysterious warrior known as the “Lysfanga” who is sworn to protect the New Kingdom. However, when you are drawn to investigate rumors in the ancient Cities of Mayura, an old and evil enemy known as the Raxes re-emerges.  

Hold your horses

Character getting struck by lightning

(Image credit: Spotlight by Quantic Dream)

The game starts with an opening exposition dump to set the scene. While credit should be given to the Sand Door team for attempting to develop the lore and history of the mystical land of Mayura, it can be a little much.

Best Bit

Character walking up stairs

(Image credit: Spotlight by Quantic Dream)

The time-loop feature is by far the most exciting aspect of combat. It allows the player to pull off impressive combos alongside getting visibly annoyed with their own past actions (at least in this reviewer's experience).  

The names of people, cities, and enemies are thrown at you in a five-minute opening section to admittedly very pretty still images; unfortunately, in exposing so much early on in a bid to establish the world, the agency to then discover these stories is lost. 

This apathy is condensed further by a story that has its twists and turns but never does enough to hook its claws in entirely. This problem, in part, is down to vocal performances that feel flat, with each line of dialogue carelessly shuffling to the next. But even if the performances were top-notch, the story serves only to get the player through to the next combat set piece - an excuse to move you forward rather than a compelling reason to. This lack of character is a shame, considering the craft and care that has gone into designing what is often a gorgeously detailed environment.

Battle-hardened 

Character fighting enemies

(Image credit: Spotlight by Quantic Dream)

Thankfully, the core experience in Lysfanga is still incredibly solid, bordering great. When Imë arrives at a combat encounter, the game pauses and the top-down isometric view allows the player time to survey the scene. 

This mechanic gives you time to spot where the enemies are, how to get to them, and what hazards might scupper them. This feature felt very similar to XCOM in that you have as much time as desired before the combat begins to work out your moves, which in turn helps add a healthy dose of control to hack’n’slash action that can feel chaotic and random in other games. 

With each attempt, you have a specific time limit before you reset, and the attempt you just made is replayed via your Remnant; think time-trial ghost from a Mario Kart game but with more violence. Your previous Remnant’s actions carry across all corresponding runs. So if you took your first run up the left side, you can run up the right on your second, and all the Raxes previously slain will remain dead.  

Accessibility features

town market

(Image credit: Spotlight by Quantic Dream)

Subtitles accompany the game’s fully voice-acted dialogue. The controls can be re-mapped to suit different controller configurations.  

As the game progresses, levels play around with this more. Certain gates open and close when passed through. While some Raxes are psychologically linked, meaning they need to be destroyed simultaneously, and so on. 

These compact battles, with increasingly exciting twists on the formula, are often brilliant. On top of this, there are recommended time challenges on each encounter. After the second act of the story, there's a whole new game mode that allows you to add modifiers to increase the challenge further and retry previous battles. For those players who are gripped by trying to find the optimal paths and quickest times, this will be the perfect hook and offers impressive replayability beyond the story. 

There are some issues here also, however. Though the game as a whole runs wonderfully, some enemies feel twitchy, such as a Raxes that, when defeated, fires in a straight line and explodes. The level design clearly wants you to deploy this on the enemy, but getting this beast going in the correct trajectory often feels random. On top of this, the core fighting styles of standard, light, and heavy weapons don’t feel dramatically different from one another, and unlocked spells and runes do somewhat change the feel of the game but never really alter the encounters in any meaningful way. 

Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior scratches the hack’n’slash itch successfully. The game is tight, the combat is slick, and it feels good to play. However, there isn’t enough content here, particularly in character build or within its story, that makes Lysfanga genuinely unmissable. Overall, Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior is fun and snappy; you just won’t be using your Remnants to replay it over and over. 

For more thrilling games, check out the best roguelike games and the best indie games available to enjoy right now.

Persona 3 Reload review – it doesn’t miss
4:02 pm | January 30, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Consoles & PC Gadgets Gaming | Comments: Off
Review info

Platform reviewed: PlayStation 5
Available on: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
Release date: February 2, 2024

Whether you’re wandering around the vibrant Iwatodai Strip Mall to grab a beef bowl, hanging out with quirky characters, or fighting fierce battles in the dead of night, it’s hard not to get fully absorbed into Persona 3 Reload. Atlus’ remake of its 2006 turn-based role-playing game is a triumph that successfully updates a slightly dated adventure into something that fans new and old won’t want to miss. 

Persona 3 Reload puts players into the shoes of a quiet high schooler who moves to Tatsumi Port Island’s Gekkoukan High School as a transfer student. Upon arriving on the island, he becomes aware of the Dark Hour, an extra hour of the day that the majority of the population is blissfully unaware of. During this time, monsters called Shadows appear in the world, and only those who awaken to the power of Persona can fight and defeat them by summoning manifestations of their personality. Luckily for us, the protagonist is one of these people, and, alongside his fellow Persona-wielding friends, sets out on a quest to defeat the Shadows and uncover the mysteries of the Dark Hour.

At the heart of Persona 3 Reload is Tartarus - a sprawling, tower-like dungeon that emerges from Gekkoukan High School during the Dark Hour. More and more floors open up throughout the game’s lengthy runtime, which are filled with increasingly challenging foes and bosses to fight. Given that the floor structure randomizes each time you enter, revisiting old floors will never be quite the same. Don’t worry though; there are plenty of checkpoints, which you can transport to by using teleporters found throughout the dungeon (including the entrance). 

Dangerous nightlife

Mitsuru Kirijo attacking an enemy in Persona 3 Reload.

(Image credit: Future / Sega)

Within Tartarus, players are able to use new consumable items known as Twilight Fragments. These shiny-looking objects can be obtained in Tartarus itself, as well as out in the world, as a reward for certain quests. You can use these to unlock special treasure chests containing particularly rare items, which are definitely worth cracking open whenever you can.

Using clock-like structures in Tartarus, players can spend seven Twilight Fragments to fully restore their party’s health and Spirit Points (SP), which is very handy for longer dungeon crawls. On top of that, spending Twilight Fragments can randomly spawn a special location which allows the user to select two allies to strengthen, instantly bringing them to the same level as the protagonist in the next battle they win. I can’t understate what a fantastic quality-of-life feature this is - it completely removes the need to grind EXP for any party members who’ve been keeping the bench warm, meaning you can comfortably switch the team around without any extra fuss.

Best bit

Koromaru's All Out Attack victory screen in Persona 3 Reload.

(Image credit: Future / Sega)

The fact that you can have an actual Persona-wielding dog on your team was incredible in 2006, and it still is today. Koromaru is the best boy. The fact that he runs around with a knife makes me laugh every time I see it, and yes, you can pet the dog. 

The battle system itself has also been updated, perhaps most notably with the addition of the ‘Shift’ option, which is comparable to the Baton Pass mechanic from Persona 5. When one of the party knocks down an enemy (either by hitting them with something they’re weak to or landing a critical hit), they trigger ‘One More,’ giving them another action, which can be repeated by knocking down another enemy. Using the Shift mechanic, the attacking party member can provide this extra turn to a different ally, which is perfect for striking more weaknesses and building towards a powerful All-Out Attack, which can be initiated when all enemies are on the ground. 

Also new to Persona 3 Reload’s combat is the Theurgy mechanic. Theurgy moves are unique to each character and boast various effects depending on the user. Junpei, for example, can unleash a powerful Slash attack on one foe, which ignores any resistances, while Akihiko can hit every enemy on the screen with a substantial Electric attack. In order to pull them off, you’ll need to fill a character’s Theurgy Gauge by landing attacks, knocking down foes, and performing ally-specific actions. For example, Yukari’s is boosted when she heals her allies. They’re instrumental in more challenging fights and look delightfully flashy, too.

Forging bonds

The protagonist speaking to Bebe in a social link in Persona 3 Reload.

(Image credit: Future / Sega)

Outside of Tartarus, your protagonist is tasked with keeping up a normal school and social life, attending lessons, completing exams, and hanging out with friends to boost your ‘social links.’ These power up the Personas you create and also provide a fantastic way to learn more about the people around you, such as those on your team and at your school - and they’re all fully voiced. Within your team, you can only complete social links with your female allies (more on that later), but special ‘Link Events’ have been added as a way to bond with your male friends. They’re time-limited, so it’s advisable to view them as they become available, and without spoiling anything, they’re well worth exploring for the extra background they can provide on Reload’s characters.

I’d also like to give a special shoutout to the new ‘Rewind’ feature, which has come in handy for me more times than I’d like to admit. Essentially, the game automatically creates a list of save states from throughout your in-game days, and you can reload the most recent few via your options menu, even if you’ve been playing a bit gung-ho and haven’t saved in a while. This feature is perfect for advancing social links effectively, as you can redo conversations as many times as you like until you choose all of the dialogue options that provide the most points. My only gripe here is that you can’t open up this menu in the middle of a conversation, so I’ve often had to fast-forward through the text until I’m finally given control again, knowing the whole time that I’ll be going through it all again in a couple of minutes. 

Missed opportunities

Yukari Takeba holding an Evoker in Persona 3 Reload.

(Image credit: Future / Sega)
Accessibility features

A screenshot showing some of the accessibility features in Persona 3 Reload.

(Image credit: Future / Sega)

Persona 3 Reload includes relatively standard accessibility options, with sliders to adjust the volume of background music, sound effects, and voices independently. Vibration can be switched off, subtitles can be toggled on or off for animated cutscenes, and the controls for the camera and mini map can be inverted. 

Camera speed can be adjusted with a slider and set to center automatically behind the player as they move. The mini map can also be tied to the camera so that it rotates automatically depending on where you’re looking. Background brightness can be altered, too. 

As a faithful remake of the original Persona 3, it’s challenging to find fault with Reload. However, it’s hard not to look at the female protagonist included in Persona 3 Portable and be disappointed that she’s not included here. Sure, this isn’t a remake of Portable, but, given that the protagonist is meant to be a self-insert, having a female character should never have been considered a bonus feature in the first place. It should have been the standard back in 2006, never mind in 2024. 

Although not included in any of the previous iterations of Persona 3, it’s also a pity that the protagonist has no male romance options. While the mainline Persona series hasn’t included any same-sex romances since Persona 2: Innocent Sin, one scene in 2023’s Persona 5 Tactica allowed protagonist Joker to imagine his dream wedding with any of the main cast, including Ryuji and Yusuke, which was a promising sign of more to come. Unfortunately, Reload doesn’t follow in these footsteps, which is a real shame as it could have offered a meaningful improvement on the original. Moving forward in the series, I sincerely hope that this is something Atlus addresses.

These missed opportunities aside, Persona 3 Reload is a delight. Each area is a joy to wander around, battles are engaging, and exploring Tartarus never gets tiresome. You'll soon find yourself playing for ‘one more day’ to unlock a new social link, progress the story, or just go to your favorite eatery and live vicariously through your protagonist’s hectic social diary. The soundtrack is also fantastic, and players will potentially never hear the words ‘disturbing the peace’ without mentally bursting into song ever again.

For more games like Persona 3 Reload, be sure to check out our lists of the best RPGs, as well as the best story games.

Phantom Abyss review – when the fun stops, stop
7:07 pm | January 25, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Consoles & PC Gadgets Gaming PC Gaming | Comments: Off
Review info

Platform reviewed: PC
Available on: Xbox Series X|S and PC
Release date: January 25, 2024 

Phantom Abyss is a new action roguelike 3D platformer from Team WIBY. The premise of this platformer is relatively simple; you’re trapped in an ancient temple and are forced to gather sacred relics in order to release yourself, along with the God of the Abyss, who sends you on your journey to freedom armed with nothing but the right attitude and a grappling hook/whip. With asynchronous multiplayer available, you can enjoy the trials of these dungeons alone, with friends, or with complete strangers. 

There are four main levels, each based around an element like fire or water. At each main stage, there are six temple runs to choose from, and only three of them need to be completed to progress to the next zone. There are also extra levels that you can access by collecting keys from chests, which are scattered throughout each map. 

However, various restrictions in each dungeon go beyond simple obstacles like traps and spikes. These could be limited health, one-hit kills, or a temple Guardian: an ancient deity that chases you across the map trying to kill you. These restrictions are what keep you on your toes.

Rage against the temple 

Floating green head shooting purple orbs

(Image credit: Devolver Digital)

The action-adventure parkour game has been in Early Access for over two years, with the developers slowly polishing up rough edges and adding new features in correspondence with community feedback. Unfortunately, right now, ahead of its official release on January 25, more refining is needed until Phantom Abyss can join the ranks of the best roguelike games. This game has more than a few issues that need resolving, all of which make an already complicated game more frustrating. 

My biggest gripes with this action platformer concern the temperamental physics, repetitive maps, and lengthy load times. While perfection is often impossible in game development, roguelikes demand a higher baseline thanks to their inherently irritating premise of starting all over again after each death. Unfortunately, Phantom Abyss misses the mark, and its problems make an annoying game even worse. 

For example, while flying through the mossy ancient tombs, I often found myself scrambling at walls and ledges after my flow was interrupted by my grappling hook/whip falling short of its target. Despite all my efforts to line it up in the right way, it would only occasionally work. This meant almost instant death every time, which was especially frustrating when I was trying to outrun a Guardian. 

Best bit

Players running through obstacles

(Image credit: Devolver Digital)

Watching fellow players die in front of me. Not only did this clue me into how to approach problems, but sometimes, their corpses even gave me half a heart of health. 

Such strange physics also made Phantom Abyss feel like a retro platformer. While these can be great fun, it did mean that your whip swings in a very disjointed way. In addition to this, each level feels very basic and somewhat familiar. However, this was mostly down to the fact that they are. Despite levels being procedurally generated, each map has similar layouts and obstacles, with most of the changes being small, like adding poison gas or dangerous enemies. This repetition means that exploring the ancient tombs gets old pretty quickly. 

It’s common for roguelikes to corner a player into punching a hole in their monitor. However, they need to get the balance between rage and reward just right in order to be enjoyable. Every death should always be your fault, something that you learn from and fix before the next run. And, while there is some training involved in how you navigate dangerous obstacles in Phantom Abyss, sometimes you are left wondering what, if anything, you could have done differently to avoid death and having to completely restart. 

At one point, I was being chased down a narrow corridor by a flaming head Guardian who was trying to eat me. After falling through the cracks right by the doorway, I restarted at the other end of the corridor. Unfortunately, this meant that the Guardian lay between me and the next checkpoint. I couldn’t go back, or around the gigantic flaming monster, so I was quickly gobbled up and sent back to the very beginning to try it all over again. These untimely restarts, combined with the lengthy load times, made completing Phantom Abyss feel like slogging through wet clay despite its fast-paced premise.

It’s dangerous to go alone 

Floating red head chasing players

(Image credit: Devolver Digital)

The best part of Phantom Abyss is the asynchronous multiplayer, which means that you don’t have to wait for players to join; it’s instant. This feature also means that you can play alongside others without strangers impacting too much of your run. While you can rely on others to open doors for you, a feature which I did take full advantage of, these gateways are timed and mean that you can’t just sit back and wait for someone else to do the grunt work for you.

Accessibility features

Options screenshot

(Image credit: Devolver Digital)

There's a great range of accessibility options in Phantom Abyss. With ways to enable or disable various HUD features like timers or scores you can clear up your screen as much or as little as you want. There are also various video options such as changing motion blur, camera bob, and landing camera rotation. 

This form of multiplayer also means that you can travel into the dangerous dungeons with friends and try to complete the runs with support rather than entirely alone. Even though this will probably make the experience slightly more bearable, that’s not something to be praised in the grand scheme of things, as any game can be made better if you add your friends into the mix. 

So, as a whole, Phantom Abyss is a pretty nondescript roguelike and 3D platformer compared to some of the giants like Spelunky 2 or Ghostrunner 2, which checks all the boxes concerning creative level design, fluid traversal, and rewarding challenges. Still, the concept does show promise, such as its fun capacity for multiplayer and somewhat challenging maps, and it could potentially be refined with a few tweaks to the dungeon layout, Guardian behavior, and loading times. If you’re a fan of retro platformers, then this action-adventure game may still be worth checking out, but, unless you have a burning desire to play, it’s hard to fully recommend

If you’re a fan of games that push you to the limit, then check out the best survival games and the best FPS games that are available to play right now. 

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy Review – No objections!
6:00 pm | January 22, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Consoles & PC Gadgets Gaming | Comments: Off
Review info

Platform reviewed: PC
Available on: PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4
Release date: 26th January 

The Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy is, in many ways, a fresh chance at stardom for its titular character. For all the Ace Attorney has endured with audiences for over two decades, Phoenix Wright and its initial cast remain the face of the franchise, taking the limelight from any newcomers wishing to usurp the beloved star.

 Following the critical and commercial success of the original trilogy of legal drama-esque visual novels headlined by the beloved icon, Shu Takumi and his team took the bold decision to set the character aside for a fourth mainline entry in the series in 2007, centering the action on all-new plucky upstart Apollo Justice.

Pushing aside your beloved headliner for someone new runs the risk of alienating a fanbase, and it’s difficult to determine whether this decision was a successful one. While this new entry was certainly a critical and commercial success upon release, many clamored for the return of Phoenix Wright and co. beyond the supporting roles they’re given here, by the time the fifth entry was finally released six years later, Wright was back on the cover and in the driving seat for proceedings in future titles. Apollo was now being overshadowed in what was supposed to be his own trilogy.

Phoenix Wright remained the franchise star, and Apollo was overlooked. It didn’t help that, until now, it was far more difficult to play these games compared to the seemingly endless releases offered to the original trilogy in the following years. By comparison, the Apollo Justice trilogy received just a single port to mobile devices in the mid-2010s, with the games otherwise stuck on the now-obsolete DS and 3DS.

However, good things come to those who wait, and the long-awaited remaster of the Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy provides a platform for these characters and stories to be reintroduced to audiences and judged on their own merits. Importantly, without the pressure of following up a beloved trilogy for a fervent fanbase. And with a remaster like this, Mr Justice should have no problem making new friends with modern audiences!

Same old attorney 

Woman frowning

(Image credit: Capcom)

On the surface, not much has changed with this new release. The Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy brings all three entries in the trilogy together in a single collection, remastered with all-new visuals to cater to modern HD and 4K displays. To accommodate for the loss of the second screen from Nintendo’s former handhelds, gameplay when examining evidence or interrogating witnesses has been adjusted to work with just a single screen. Beyond that, the experience and story remain largely unchanged, and there are no new storylines or cases included either.

Best Bit

objection speech bubble

(Image credit: Capcom)

No matter how many times you play an Ace Attorney game, finding the right moment to shoot an objection in the heat of a court trial never gets old. Doing so at one particular moment towards the end of the final episode of Apollo Justice is one particularly strong example. 

The 14 cases (plus two what-if scenarios previously released as DLC) included in this collection across three games chart the story of Apollo Justice, an up-and-coming attorney who eventually trains under the guidance of Phoenix Wright at the Wright Anything Agency during an era of wavering trust in the courts. Mr Wright lost his attorney’s badge for seven years for his use of falsified evidence, leaving him to make a living as an underground gambler while his young daughter put on magic shows to make ends meet. Apollo’s judicial debut marks the start of his search for Justice and a chance for Wright to turn his life around, while they work with other defense attorneys and detectives to drag their clients out of ever-more-precarious mysteries and legal jeopardy.

Even compared to the original trilogy, already known for its at-times larger-than-life storylines involving spirit mediums, the interrogation of a parrot, and the rather eccentric prosecutors you come to face, be prepared for ever-more outlandish mysteries this time round. Without diving too far into spoilers, by the end of this trilogy, you’re performing seances in ancient kingdoms (and that’s just the start!) as Apollo seeks his reason for defending and pursuing the life of a public defender.

 Fresh coat of paint

Woman dressed up

(Image credit: Capcom)

Even at its most outlandish, this legal drama-but-anime approach to storytelling provides some of the tightest character-driven writing you can find. The story is constantly twisting and turning while keeping the player involved as you investigate crime scenes and use evidence to turn the tide of the case in the courtroom and save your client from life in prison. Picking out contradictions in testimony remains as tricky and satisfying as ever. Taking advantage of new techniques to pick apart testimony keeps things fresh, even if it is at times frustrating to work out, which is the statement to hurl the correct piece of evidence you need to progress the case toward the solution you’ve already begun to piece together.

If this offered nothing more than a chance to enjoy the humorous, engrossing writing of this tightly-packed trio of visual novel classics that’s barely aged a day since its original release, this would be an easy recommendation. What’s most impressive is the effort made by Capcom to enhance the experience and give these games the greatest chance of success.

Compared to the remaster of the first trilogy, this is a stark visual upgrade over the original release of these games. The first game in this collection, Apollo Justice, first made its debut on the Nintendo DS, with this remaster retaining its sprite-based look. These have been cleaned up to an even higher standard than what we saw for Wright’s trilogy, with sprites redrawn and backgrounds enhanced to ensure they hold up on modern displays. The result is a joy whether experienced on a crisp portable display or blown up on a large TV or monitor.

Later entries, originally released on Nintendo 3DS, saw a shift in style where animated 3D models replaced flat character sprites. These have also been given some love for the remaster and look great, offering a greater degree of expression without looking out-of-place juxtaposed against the game’s still-2D backgrounds. For all three titles, you have the option of playing these titles in order or revisiting a favorite episode or scene via the episode selection menu.

Case closed

Person shouting

(Image credit: Capcom)

Although there’s nothing new in terms of story for long-term fans revisiting the games, there’s plenty of bonus content fans will appreciate. The Orchestra Hall is a music player collecting over 170 tracks, not just from the trio of games included in this collection but also from special orchestra concerts performed across Japan in celebration of the series. You even have chibi renderings of the characters performing along to the music. A special art gallery filled with concept art for all three games is another welcome inclusion.

Accessibility features

Characters on stage

(Image credit: Capcom)

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy offers an autoplay feature that should ease strain from repeatedly pressing buttons in order to advance text, as well as to disable bright screen flashes. There’s also a story mode for those who don’t wish to participate in cross-examinations and investigations and only wish to experience the story of these games. 

Perhaps most exciting of all is the Animation Studio. Through the likes of the sadly defunct Twitter bot @AceCourtBot and other glorious recreations, fans have had plenty of fun over the years creating original goofy courtroom shenanigans starring these beloved characters. This suite of tools provides the character models and animations, background music, and vocal shouts of objection necessary for this fervent set of fans to go wild with crafty shenanigans at the character’s expense. Expect many all-new high-quality fan edits in the coming months.

It all comes together for a collection crafted with care for a forgotten protagonist in a beloved series. While you can make the argument, that there’s nothing new being offered here for long-term fans, this is easily the best way to play an oft-overlooked trio of games from one of the most consistently-inventive visual novel franchises around.

For more stellar titles like this, check out the best single-player games and the best story games available to play right now. 

Howl review – If you go into the woods today
7:46 pm | January 19, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Consoles & PC Gadgets Gaming | Comments: Off
Review info

Platform reviewed: PS5
Available on: PS5, Xbox Series, PC, Nintendo Switch
Release date: January 23, 2024

As kids, we were taught to fear what lurks in the forest: strange sounds, silent shadows, and dense trees blocking out the Sun’s warm, illuminating rays. Any manner of horrors could lurk within the thickets. All it takes is the howl of a wild beast to set your mind racing. This fear is capitalized on in Howl, an indie, tactical, turn-based folktale about a girl wandering the woods searching for her lost brother.

The monsters in this folktale are real. Twisted wolf-like beasts lurk within, turning all who hear their howls into monsters. But our protagonist, the Prophet, is deaf, so she’s unaffected by their wailing. This part of her being is a strength, not a weakness. It reflects developer Mi'pu'mi Games’ commitment to diverse characters, as seen in its previous title, The Flower Collectors, which featured a wheelchair-bound protagonist.

Though the woods are dangerous, they’re also beautiful. The “living ink” art style perfectly captures that folktale feeling; it gives Howl the appearance of a children’s pop-up book, one made to warn them about wandering too far from home. It reminds me of the backgrounds in Disney’s animated 101 Dalmatians. There’s also a rich soundscape on offer in Howl; the narrator’s soft voice and the discordant, folksy guitar melody simultaneously soothe and unnerve as the Prophet makes her way through levels, one tile at a time. 

Read the room

A forest path

(Image credit: astragon Entertainment)

The Prophet starts with four action points per round. She can walk, attack, wait, or end rounds early, a system well explained by in-game hints and prompts. After each of her actions, the enemies take one; if they land an attack on her, the queue gets cleared, and the round ends. Fortunately, they’re very predictable, always walking toward the Prophet in the most direct route possible, but favoring horizontal moves over vertical. It’s a lot like Into the Breach, especially when you turn on Howl’s assistance mode. It clearly marks out where your foes will go after each of your moves, so you don’t have to keep track of everything in your head.

Each round becomes a series of decisions that have to be painstakingly thought out. The Prophet’s only got two hit points and three arrows, so her options are severely limited—prepare to die, a lot. Fortunately, there’s a rewind ability that lets her redo a round, and restarting the bite-sized levels is quick and easy, meaning the difficulty never gets frustrating.

Best Bit:

Group of wolves in the woods

(Image credit: astragon Entertainment)

Planning and executing the perfect strategy to lay waste to a pack of wolves is a thrilling experience. It feels like I genuinely outsmarted them.

Of course, she powers up as Howl progresses. You can spend the skulls you collect by killing monsters to unlock new paths on the overworld map that lead to new abilities. These are powered up with confidence, which is gained by beating levels in a set number of rounds and saving people. This system encourages you to go back and perfect earlier levels that once proved too tough, adding a fair bit of replayability to Howl. I loved giving the beasts a spanking with my overpowered Prophet once I’d gotten an exploding arrow or a smoke bomb that damages and confuses enemies caught in its radius.

Interestingly, you can only use these abilities on certain turns during each round. The stealthy smoke bomb and shawdowstep on turn two, force and vault on turn four, and exploding or piercing arrows on turn six. The Prophet can’t just unleash hell whenever she likes; she sometimes has to bide her time to strike the deadliest blow at the most opportune moment. Or, sometimes, she has to put down her bow and move out of harm’s way rather than going for the kill.

New enemy types are also added, each with different abilities, attack styles, and hit points. New hazards come into the environment, too. There are fires that damage anything still on them at the end of a round, destructible barbs you can blast enemies into, and holes in the floor you can jump over to make a quick escape. Through Howl continuously expanding upon a relatively simple tactical combat system, layers of complexity build alongside your skill, making for a perfect difficulty curve that remains challenging yet rewarding. 

A complex journey

The sunsetting over a forest

(Image credit: astragon Entertainment)

As the Prophet ventures deeper into the woods, she stumbles upon ruined towns and eventually the source of the Howl. The narrator paints a nostalgic picture of the idyllic life people lived before this plague, creating an emotional attachment to the strangers that can be saved along the way. Her words also make you feel as though you’re currently living in a folktale being told, perhaps to children listening intently, fretfully pulling their covers tighter around themselves whenever the Prophet gets into danger.

Accessibility features

Chapter 2 map of the world

(Image credit: astragon Entertainment)

Howl has a narrator and subtitles that cannot be turned off. There’s also an assist mode that displays the moves the enemies will make, but things can get jumbled when there are lots of foes in a small space. 

The writing is sparring yet paints a complete picture of old characters and the mythos of the world of Howl. Folklore and spirituality go hand in hand, be it some sort of paganism or more mainstream religions, and there’s an undertone that permeates everything in Howl, from the title of Prophet to the source of the plague itself; something transformative spreading via sound, passed on from person to person, turning them into mindless beasts, can be read as a critique on the way many organized religions preach their views and impose them on others.

What complicates reading Howl as a criticism is the Prophet’s very existence. She’s the hero of the story, saving townsfolk and slaying beasts, ultimately fulfilling the role of savior promised in many religions. While an interesting theme, I can’t help but feel it and the mystery of the plague could have been explored or interrogated more thoroughly—this is exacerbated by the fourth and final chapter being relatively short compared to the first three, making the ending seem abrupt.

Despite concluding a little too rapidly for my liking, Howl is a wonderfully crafted game. There’s no bloating or wasted material; every system compliments another and forms a surprisingly complex series of combat puzzles. That, combined with the gorgeous art, wistful writing, and thought-provoking, if slightly undercooked ideas, make Howl a delightful experience. 

For more incredible games that will let you explore fantastic lands check out the best indie games and the best single-player games that are available right now. 

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