Category Archives: Reviews

Inexistence Review

Inexistence is proof that even a mostly average and almost completely derivative game can still provide an enjoyable if not particularly memorable experience. I had a great time with this title, but for the life of me I can’t describe the vast majority of levels, bosses, or events that drive the gameplay along.



Sword and sorcery is the name of the game here. Combat has a brisk pace and a good amount of weight to it, but never is the player required to show much finesse to overcome any foe. Most boss encounters boil down to jumping and attacking their upper body while dodging a few very simple attacks. Regular enemies are much better designed and prove quite deadly by the end of the game.

Magic seems like a huge missed opportunity. Unfortunately the developers have only provided players the bare minimum requirements to allow for ranged combat. A single “magic bullet” esque attack that the player receives early in the game is as exciting as it sounds and didn’t prove much use in combat or exploration. Magic is only useful if the player heavily invests in the magic stat upon level up and even then MP regenerates too slowly to allow for a mage-like playstyle. It’s much more efficient to simply dump points into strength, life and defense, but it’s still nice to have the option.



My biggest gripe with Inexistance is with it being labeled a Metroidvania. In it’s current form it really isn’t. The game is split among several stages and exploration doesn’t become important until the final act, which is a generically designed castle that requires a few items to fully explore. Outside of collecting a few hidden puzzle pieces or weapons, Inexistence gives little incentive to the player to return to any previously visited stage upon completion. It seems that the designer may not have meant for this title to include exploration until much later into development. This becomes even more apparent during gameplay when special traversal skills are required only a handful of times.

Map of Levels


Visually Inexistence looks pretty decent. The visual diversity of the environments and enemies is one of the more compelling elements of the game, but excluding the final area, very little detail is put into the design of each level. Prepare to run through corridor after corridor  of enemies on a regular basis. Still, what is here on display is pretty high quality pixel art.



Inexistence has an excellent, high tempo score that might trick the player into thinking the game is more exciting then it actually is. Surprisingly I found myself humming the castle stage’s theme long after I put the game down. From swinging a sword, to picking up coins, the sound effects do the job, but one very basic sound is inexcusable. Jumping sounds like the hero is taking off with exploding sneakers. The sound is obnoxious and much louder then it has any right to be.

Boss Fight


If you are looking for a short Metroidvania romp to get you through an hour or two, Inexistence fits the bill, but at six dollars I’d suggest waiting for a sale. I managed to pick up mine on Steam for 75% off. Fast paced gameplay, well designed pixel art, and a catchy soundtrack make this title worth a play, but it’s understandable if the short length, repetitive level design, and lack of exploration until the final act would put off more then a few players. The one-man-team behind Inexistence should applauded for their hard work and as of May 24th of this year they announced on Steam that they would be recoding the game from scratch and adding a plethora of new features. I’ll be interested to see what ultimately comes of the update, but the changes being advertised will certainly fix many of the issues that I might have with the game and I will provide an updated review upon delivery.

+Quick, responsive controls
+Customizable leveling system
+Well paced
+Interesting final story beat (No spoilers)
+Well designed enemies
+Engaging gameplay

-Equipment isn’t visible, nor is there very many pieces (only 12 pieces)
-Very short. ~2 hours
-Little pricey for 5.99
-Not particularly replayable. Hard and Time Attack modes are available.
-Very easy
-Only one spell
-Only 6 locations
-Collected abilities are underutilized

Game: Inexistence
Release Date: February 17, 2016
Platforms: Steam
Developer and Publisher: Jonathan Brassaud
Pick up Inexistence on Steam



Xeodrifter Review

Quality Metroid clones don’t come around everyday and Xeodrifter, even for it’s flaws, is one of the most fun I’ve experienced. For some the 10 dollar price tag and relatively short 3-4 hours worth of gameplay might be off putting, but Xeodrifter provides an unoriginal, but enjoyable few hours of exploring various alien worlds while it lasts.

Xeodrifter is light on story and that’s okay. Our hero’s ship gets damaged during flight and it’s up to the player to help them recover their ships lost hyper drive. Simple enough, but the challenge comes from exploring the nearby planets, fending off each one’s fauna, and collecting many power-ups and abilities along the way. It doesn’t get more Metroid esque then that, but that’s where the majority of the similarities stop and Xeodrifter offers up a few of it’s own original ideas.


Xeodrifter’s ace in the hole is it’s customizable weapon loadouts. While checking each nook and cranny along your adventure, players are sure to stumble upon a few weapon power-up nodes. These can be used on the inventory/map screen to customize the fire pattern, speed, and power of your main weapon. This system really isn’t that deep as you only have one weapon to actually upgrade throughout the entire game and most players will quickly come to find out that simply upgrading power and rate of fire is easily the best choice for any situation. Still, it’s fun to mess around with and the ability to save up to three different loadouts is a nice touch. I do want to give the designers credit for designing the weapon power-ups in such a way as the player does feel truly empowered throughout the game if they search high and low for most or all of the upgrades.


This is important due to Xenodrifter being difficult in the beginning stages. Probably too difficult actually. Enemies don’t do a ton of damage, but with such a low life pool starting out and very few opportunities to refill during stages, most players will die a few times starting out. I appreciate the concept of making the player feel somewhat helpless. Enemies and platforming are not particularly challenging, but I wasted a lot of time within the first hour of playing simply losing all of my progress and restarting the level due to either a couple of mistakes or not knowing what to expect around the next corner. This will turn some players away and I can’t blame them.


Xeodrifter’s four different planets are a cool idea on paper. Each is vibrant accompanied with unique assets and color schemes, but it turns out that exploring isn’t quite as exciting as it should be. Creative level and enemy design is severally lacking. Most rooms aren’t even rooms, but linear horizontal or vertical hallways. Poorly designed map layouts force players to retread old ground for new power-up, but unlike well designed exploration based games, shortcuts aren’t sprinkled throughout each area. Backtracking is part of the genre, but never make the player navigate back through a level multiple times the exact same way. In theory the developers probably thought dividing the world up into four different, smaller areas would alleviate the need, but it isn’t fun or interesting to navigate a level and then immediately have to retrace the exact same steps in reverse just to go to another level. You’ll be doing this a lot in Xenodrifter and that’s a shame, especially for a game this short.

Status Screen

That all aside, Xeodrifter does have it’s merits. Gameplay is quick and frenetic throughout, more akin to Mega Man then Metroid. This helps exploration feel more engaging as it’s fun to zip around levels as fast as possible and many of the new abilities earned, such as a rocket jump and speed dash, help somewhat alleviate the poor level design and unlock new areas and power boosts. One of the more interesting abilities allows for players to jump in and out of certain background layers. Some of the more dastardly areas of the game will have the player taxed to speed across treacherous terrain while simultaneously hopping from background to foreground at a moments notice. It’s a novel idea that the developers of Xeodrifter first implemented in an earlier title, Mutant Mudds.


Early game difficulty and poor map design hold Xeodrifter back from being a top-tier 2D adventure game. These issues aside, I still had a fun first playthrough. I even found myself oddly drawn toward going for 100% completion afterwards. So why is that? It comes down to the polished, fast paced run-and-gun gameplay combined with great empowerment of the player character as you explore each planet discovering that previously dangerous foes now kneel to your power. I’ll even defend the games recycled bosses as I found it interesting to see what new attacks I’d have to deal with in the next encounter. Xeodrifter may not be a must play at the full retail price of $10, but if you are looking to fill the void until Metroid: Samus Returns for an afternoon or a good sale comes around, you could do a lot worse.

+Polished, fast paced run-and-gun gameplay
+Great player empowerment
+Short gameplay time might appeal to some players
-Uninspired level design, too much forced backtracking
-Difficulty not well balanced toward the beginning
-Only 3-4 hours of gameplay

Game: Xeodrifter
Release Date: Decemeber 11th, 2014
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Steam
Developer and Publisher: Renegade Kid

Mega Man X (SNES) Review


An Action Packed Game That Proves That Mega Man Has More To Offer Even After 6 Classic Titles! 

The Mega Man series is one that needs no introduction and it’s a shame that the legacy has come to standstill in the past years with no end in sight, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the copious amounts of titles that have existed since the days of the NES. Up until 1994 the NES saw Mega Man 1-6 and while all good games, the series was losing steam due to the release of the SNES  in 1991. Due to this Capcom decided to revitalize the series with a re-imagining of a new Mega Man. Mega Man X came out of the gate with everything that series fans had grown to love, but just bigger, better, and with everything we could have hoped for.

ZSNESW 2014-07-18 19-35-24-08


Starting with the controls Mega Man X just built upon the foundation of the originals with responsive movement and pixel perfect level and enemy design. X feels like an extension of yourself …the controls are that solid! As far as the actions that X can perform only two have really been added, but they change gameplay in ways you can’t imagine until you experience it for yourself. The first is a boosted jump. Early on in the game you will get an upgrade to your suit that will allow X to dash, much like Mega Man’s classic slide from the older games. This also allows you to hit the slide and jump button simultaneously for a longer jump. This allows for many more options during platforming and boss battles. On top of this you can also slide down and jump up or off walls. This adds an amazing new dimension to enemy encounters and the bosses have been given clever arsenals of attacks to promote use of these new functions.


You will also have access to the old staple of running, jumping and shooting your buster, X’s arm mounted weapon. This weapon can be shot rapid fire or charged up for a couple of seconds to unleash a much more powerful shot. For everything that Mega Man X changes it still keeps true to its roots and has you facing off against 8 robot masters, except this time they are called Mavericks and they are all inspired by animals. At the end of each level you will face off against the Maverick leader of that area and if defeated you will gain a new weapon from them, generally inspired by one of their own attacks. Each has a limited number of uses, but can be charged with power-ups found throughout each level or dropped from an enemy. Each one if fun to use, many allow you to collect power-ups that were otherwise inaccessible and if used wisely can really make certain parts of the game quite a bit easier. Each boss also has a weakness to one of these weapons. If you use the correct one you can make some of the more challenging boss fights much more manageable. While these bosses aren’t the toughest of the franchise they do pose a fair challenge, but more importantly each is well crafted with unique movesets, personality, and gimmicks

Gameplay 2

To add to the replayability and sense of character growth there are power-ups hidden in each level. These can range from heart tanks that permanently increase X’s health bar, energy tanks that can be charged and used to refill health during battle, and even different upgrades to X’s body armor. One in particular really adds a spice of depth to your weaponry and allows you to charge up not only your buster even further than before, but also your special weapons giving them great new effects and even completely different uses. It’s one of my favorite parts of the game and I really enjoyed replaying levels and experimenting with these options.

Level design in Mega Man X is nothing short of extraordinary. No two levels are similar and you will navigating levels via mine carts, flying platforms, conveyor belts, and water cyclones all while being assaulted from all sides by well crafted enemies that truly compliment the level layouts. Honestly I can’t think of a single point where the action lets up and I felt bored. Levels aren’t drug out and are short and to the point. Levels should be fun and interesting to navigate and Mega Man X does not disappoint.

I do have one complaint about this game and that’s with the last couple of levels after eliminating the 8 original Mavericks. These levels are not bad by any means, but they don’t have the same love and creativity put into them that is so apparent with the previous ones and they just use rehashes of previous enemies. It simply feels like the later levels were rushed. It’s a shame really as it’s the only blemish on what could be considered a perfect game.


The character designs and attention to detail in each level really show off what the SNES was truly capable of and that’s lush, detailed pixel art. From the color palette, crisp animation, and sense of speed Mega Man X’s visuals will grab you and hold you till the end. One thing that I can’t credit Capcom enough for is the creativity in altering levels based upon your progress in the game. For example: if you finish Chill Penguin’s stage first before venturing to the Flame Mammoth stage the dangerous lava flow below each platform and conveyor belt is frozen over allowing for safe passage. Another great example is Spark Mandrills stage. After returning to this level after completing it and Storm Eagle’s stage the level will be much darker as if there has been a loss of power to the factory and at the beginning you can see the remnants of Storm Eagle’s airship strewn about. This detail really show just how much Capcom understood video games and what it took to make them great back in the 16-bit era.

Chameleon Stage 6


The opening theme to the intro stage is still one of the most iconic music tracks in gaming. Very few games can capture the excitement of how action packed and fun your journey is going to be 10 seconds into a level with such a well arranged, adrenaline pumping tune. While not all the songs live up to this same quality they are all very well done and set you in the mood to run and gun a few hundred robots. Each weapon, enemy, explosion and jump sounds perfect and feels awesome.


Mega Man X was one of the very first games I played for my SNES and it completely blew me away and the fact that it still can to this day really says something about it. It’s a classic in every sense of the word and every gamer and non-gamer alike should play it at least once and appreciate it for what it really is: a damn fun game!

Score: 95/100

Release:  1994
Platform(s): Super Nintendo
Players: 1


Mega Man X Box ArtMegaMan-X-Box-ArtBack


Castlevania (NES) Review

A Grand Romp Amongst the Undead and Dracula’s Other Ghoulish Minions!

Back in 1987 a little known game called Castlevania was published by Konami for the Nintendo Entertainments System. From the opening theme to the gothic tapestry of environments you will be exploring, Castlevania just screams fun.


Like most games of the 8-bit era, Castlevania is a pretty short and to the point experience. 6 levels comprise your adventure to hunt down the Dark Lord himself and can be finished in the course of a couple hours. Gameplay consists of basic platforming and using your trusty whip to send all enemies back to hell where they belong. You also have access to 5 subweapons; knife, holy water, stopwatch, cross, and axe. Each subweapon is useful in different situations. For example: the axe is great at taking out airborne enemies such as crows and flying medusa heads. The cross and holy water are amazing for dealing with tough bosses due to their ability to hit them multiple times per use. Subweapons require a certain number of hearts to use so you can’t rely on them most of the time. Hearts can be dropped from enemies, but in general are found in candles scattered throughout each level which can be destroyed using your whip.



The haunting and blood pumping tunes are absolutely incredible when you consider that they are created from simple “blips” and “bloops” that were simply limitations of the hardware. Konami deserves the utmost credit for composing what could argueably be considered the greatest soundtrack of the 8-bit era. The music and sound design matches each and every level, boss, and action perfectly resulting in audio bliss.


I mentioned earlier that the game’s 6 levels could be completed in the matter of a couple of hours, but let’s get real. This game is tough. Real tough! Levels 1-4 are hard but very doable with 1 or 2 continues by a seasoned gamer. Once you hit level 5 get ready to have your skills questioned. Running a gauntlet of the games most difficult enemies and then finish off with a battle to the death with Death himself. Every attempt and every continue used will test your patience to the limit until you become so acclimated to the level that you actually make it to the end boss without getting hit. Unfortunately that isn’t enough to save you because death is rather difficult in his own right flying across the play area and sending sickles from all directions. This wouldn’t be so bad if the control of your character wasn’t so stiff. Jumping is the biggest culprit here. You had better be sure you want to jump when you hit the A button because you are now completely committed for the next few seconds. You can’t redirect midair and this can be a real pain when there are several flying enemies out for your head.



So while the levels are fairly short and sweet, there is a lot of replay value due to the difficulty at hand here. Don’t let that fact scare you away from a truly classic and quality experience though. The music and gameplay will keep you wanting to come back time and again even after completion.

Score: 90/100

Release Date: May 1987
Systems: Nintendo Entertainment System, Gameboy Advance, PC
Players: 1

Indivisible Prototype Review

Indivisible Prototype is actually an alpha build of an upcoming, fully funded IndieGoGo campaign for the game Indivisible. Indivisible looks to be a game to keep on our radars as it advertises itself to bring together gameplay elements from Metroid and Valkyrie Profile. An interesting hybrid indeed. One thing to note when looking at the following screenshots is the art style. If you followed the campaign for Skullgirls several years ago, it should come as no surprise that Indivisible’s character designs, while considerably less silly, would fit right at home in that title with it’s gorgeous and large sprites. That’s because the development studio, Lab Zero, is bringing Indivisible to life with a little help from 505 games.


But an alpha is a showcase of the gameplay and concept and how does Indivisible fair thus far? Surprisingly well actually. While the systems are a bit limited at the moment, I can’t help but see loads of potential in this interesting mash-up.


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As the main character Ajna, the player will be be navigating a few small temples as one would in any other 2D platformer, but with the twist of also finding tools/weapons that will allow for further world traversal much like a standard metroidvania title. During my 40 minute play session with the prototype I only ran across an axe, which served not only as a great weapon upgrade, but also as a means to destroy vines and scale walls. This made exploration much more varied, rewarding, and I can just imagine all the clever puzzles the developers could devise to require the player to use multiple tools on the fly.


Ajna can use these items, as well as her fists, to attack enemies throughout each level, but enemies aren’t thwarted so easily. Think of attacking an enemy as gaining the first strike on an unsuspecting victim. Wack an enemy and watch as Indivisible fluidly morphs from a 2D platformer to a real-time rpg combat scenario. It’s great that gameplay isn’t bogged down by a transitional period.


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From here the player must manage each character’s action bars and battle commands. During the prototype, Ajna will gather three companions and each is mapped to one of the four main buttons on a controller. If you want a particular character to attack press their corresponding button. This gives the player the ability to attack with multiple characters at a time for big damage. Combine that with directional inputs that can alter attacks, a party shared stamina gauge that can be used to guard and perform especially powerful moves, and it’s obvious that Lab Zero put a lot of thought into combat. While it starts dreadfully simple, I started to have a lot of fun timing attacks and my defenses against some of the more nasty encounters.


Indivisible has a lot going for it and I’m hopeful that the gaming community will hear more about it’s development life cycle throughout 2016. The prototype can be downloaded for free on the Playstation 4 andI highly consider it worth a look. Also, check out the IndieGoGo page at:




Salt and Sanctuary Review

2-D Dark Souls….Yeah I’m On Board With That

SnS - Death Screen

As you create your character and emerge into gameplay on an old ship dripping with despair it’s no surprise that SKA Studios has perfectly melded their classic hand drawn art style with engrossing Dark Souls and Metroidvania esque gameplay as promised. What might be seen as a cash in toward the popularity of the Souls series by outsiders, it doesn’t take more then a handful of minutes of gameplay to understand what makes Salt and Sanctuary more of a tribute and excellent time killer while fans wait so maddeningly for Dark Souls 3. That’s not to say SnS should simply be cast aside, because it  holds up on all of it’s own merits and true fans will be revisiting this title for months, if not years, to come.

Salt and Sanctuaries world is cleverly designed and intricately detailed throughout each of it’s dark corners, which incidentally are all very much worth exploring during my 20 hour long quest. The dark and gritty art style that SKA Studios is known for sets a somber tone, but also goes leaps and bounds above the studios previously excellent works such as; Vampire Kiss and The Dishwasher. With great detail put into every environment and enemy taking up inhabitants, each locations in this cohesive world has it’s own story and unique aesthetics. While most music is simply ambient noise, it certainly helps amplify the importance of audio cues while platforming, but most importantly during combat.

SnS - Mage

But how does a 2-D Dark Souls game play exactly?  While the combat certainly isn’t as deep as a Souls game. One can’t argue that thought and consideration was put into trying to capture as much of the visceral combat flow within SnS as possible. Movement and attacks are all still dependent upon your equipment choices and of course stat allocation. If your character is a magic flinging wizard don’t expect them to be able to don heavy armor right out of the gate without clear and obvious negative side affects to basic movement. Each weapon class has different combos and damage potential, but where SnS falls a little flat is in the individuality of the weapons. Each feels the same, for the most part, and all the new interesting weapons created from bosses or found in the world are no more then a bigger damage number and a new aesthetic. Thankfully all of the usual weapons classes one would expect are here and represented well. If you want to be a quick and nimble assassin go ahead and use a dagger or short sword. Decked out in heavy armor and want to pack a slow, melodic punch? Go for a mace or greatsword. There are off-hand weapons aplenty to compliment any playstyle. Magic, crossbows and shields all add deeper customization to your loadout and add tactical advantages during various encounters. With my time in SnS I played a greatsword wielding mage and a classic whip wielding hunter. Both felt unique and I can see tons of different options of skills and weapons that players can tailor their dream character with.

SnS - Dex 2

Character development is treated somewhat like Dark Souls in that when defeating enemies they drop currency for the player to use. Instead of souls, it’s salt this time around. Yeah I know. Who would have guessed? Salt is used to level up and to purchase boss material crafted weapons. This makes it super valuable, but don’t go around hording it for long periods of time because upon death you will lose your salt. You can regain it by getting back to where you died and eliminating a specific enemy near your death location, but if you die before recovery it will be gone forever. It can be quite disheartening to lose your first couple of stashes of salt, but quickly you become less and less attached as you find that death will be common and find that salt is easier to come by as you progress. Unlike the Souls series, SnS also has gold which drops much like salt, but is used to purchase consumables and basic equipment. It’s puzzling why both currencies were included as gold seemed to become redundant as I came to the end of my first playthrough.

SnS - Level Grid

Spending salt to level up rewards the player with dark pearls. These are used to progress your character by purchasing nodes on a grid that will feel quite familiar to players of either Final Fantasy X or Path of Exile. Depending upon the class you choose at the beginingin of the game you will have a pre-determined position on the grid, but are free to move about as you see fit. Each sector of the grid is tailored to different playstyles and dipping into several can create some interesting hybrid classes. It’s a cool freedom, but isn’t quite as interesting as the previous two mentioned games. 95% of the nodes are simple stat increases and the other 5% govern your ablility to use certain equipment, magic, and healing items. There’s nothing particularly flashy to build toward, but all the elements are here and well thought out to allow for relatively deep character development through several play sessions.

SnS - Item Shop

Traversing Salt and Sanctuaries deeply interconnected world and discovering the bevvy of secrets along the way will keep players invested just as much as the quick and satisfying combat. You will find shortcuts back to other environments regularly and while this isn’t nearly as rewarding as it was in Dark Souls, it does cohesively bring the world together and doesn’t create the idea that each area is just another ‘zone’ to explore. Progression will often lead to new acrobatic feats that will have the player defying gravity and dashing through the air with ease. These abilities open up new paths and little goodies hidden in previously explored areas, but I often found myself disappointed in how few of these extra areas there were in comparison to other games of the Metroidvania genre. Even more important then finding new areas and loot, is finding safe havens known as sanctuaries. This whole game title is coming together nicely now! Treat these havens much like bonfires or continue points that the player can use to level up and restock on supplies. A unique feature is the ability to customize these sanctuaries with with helpful NPCs. Throughout your journey you will find stones that will allow you a finite ability to summon permanent characters to your sanctuary of choice. This can be a huge boon as you can setup important shops and fast travel features within frequently visited sanctuaries. A certain stone will even allow you to play cooperatively with a friend in local multiplayer. This isn’t necessarily the most easily interpreted, but it’s a cool touch and the games difficulty will change to compensate for the extra help.

Characters can also align with creeds found throughout the world. These act much like covenants or factions, but with far less interesting features. When players are aligned with different creeds they are asked to seek certain items dropped from various monsters. These items are in turn traded in to level your devotion with said creed. Increasing your devotion can increase the amount of healing items your character can tote and at certain levels vendors may add new wares. Extra healing items are certainly worthy rewards and mages will find several of the most powerful spells in the game this way, but outside of these rewards there isn’t much incentive for players to experiment with various creeds. It feels like a missed opportunity. Fortunately farming most of these items is not difficult, but some creeds will take some serious exploring on the players part to locate.

SnS - Sanctuary

There are a bewildering amount of similarities between Dark Souls and Salt and Sanctuary that SKA Studios managed to fit in without making it feel ultimately forced. Gameplay mechanics, character customization, visual and audio inspired atmosphere, and even character created messages strewn about the world. It’s all here and the removal of a dimension does not take away from the experience in most cases. Combat and item nuances aren’t quite as deep as the Souls series, but Salt and Sanctuary hit all the right chords for me and while the difficulty and learning curve is certainly present, fans of the genre should feel good knowing that the game is fair and an even better adaptation of a 2-D Dark Souls then I could have hoped for.

SnS Inventory
+Rock solid action and gameplay
+Difficult, but fair
+Great atmosphere and level design
+$20 dollars for a quality 20+ hour experience is a steal
-Creeds left a lot to be desired
-Not as many hidden secrets in previously explored areas was dissappointing

Game: Salt And Sanctuary
Release Date: March 15, 2016
Platforms: Playstation 4, Vita, and soon to be PC
Developer and Publisher: SKA Studios

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