Tag Archives: 2d

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.

Gameplay1

Combat

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.

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Exploration

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

Graphics

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.

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Audio

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

Verdict

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

 

Cave Story+ Special Edition for Nintendo Switch

Cave Story has come a long way since it’s humble beginnings in 2004. A great game indeed that has recently just seen a very limited run of physical copies put into circulation for the Nintendo Switch. Released on June 20th, I picked up my copy alongside a brand new Nintendo Switch. This isn’t going to be a review of the game itself, but more of a showcase of the items included in this special edition release. For returning fans and new players alike, there are some very cool inclusions with this $30 title.

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Cave Story+ and Nintendo Switch

I have to start off by giving credit to Nicalis, the independent publisher responsible for both the Binding of Isaac and now Cave Story+ physical releases for the Nintendo Switch. There was a lot of love put into not only the packaging, but also the included goodies. Also, their website is glorious and I highly suggest you check it out. One of the most original websites I’ve seen in years. Nicalis Website

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Game, Keychain, Full Color Manual, and Soundtrack

Old school gamers should be drooling by now due to the actual inclusion of a full-color manual. A full-color manual! 32 pages of beautiful artwork and full of inspiration from classic NES games. The character artwork on each page just screams nostalgia of cracking open manuals from the late 80s. The small unassuming soundtrack sports some cute vector art of Quote, the main protagonist, as well as 41 tracks from the game. A great piece for collectors of video game soundtracks and Cave Story’s does not disappoint.

Last of all is the inclusion of a random character keychain if bought from GameStop. While these are cool, I’m not a big fan of the fact that not everyone who buys the game gets the same items. I was fortunate enough to know my local GameStop manager and was able to request getting the Quote keychain.  Quote, Curly and Balrog are all available and I’m hoping to pickup the remaining two online over the coming weeks.

Cave-Story-Keychains

For only $30 this special edition of Cave Story+ is a steal for fans, collectors, or even Switch owners looking for a new game. Don’t wait to long to get a copy though, as I expect Cave Story+ to become uncommon before the end of the year and much like its 3DS counterpart, reselling for higher then retail further down the road.

Unformed – Kickstarter Spotlight

Unformed is a Dark Souls and H.P. Lovecraft inspired 2D adventure game who’s Kickstarter campaign is wrapping up on June 22nd, 2017. I’ve recently played through a good amount of the demo available from the campaign page and I’ve got more then a few thoughts that I’d like to share.

Unformed - Save Point

Unformed is a quite beautiful game and gave me flashbacks to my time playing Guacamelee, but with a much more somber tone. It possesses a beautifully colorful art style and if there is one thing I have to give the developers, Blackfire Games, credit for are the environments. The graphics are crisp, clean, and easily the high point.

Unformed - Dark Cave Gameplay

Unfortunately, the rest of the game isn’t quite as polished, or at least not in the demo provided. Inspirations from the Souls series are abundant within both combat and leveling. A stamina gauge is used to enforce careful decision making during combat. All action besides running take some mount of stamina and combat is, for the most part, fast paced and responsive. Jumping, rolling and blocking are all available in the players toolkit. Anyone who has played Salt and Sanctuary will feel right at home with how Unformed weaves these maneuvers into moment-to-moment gameplay. These tools are great, but not overly helpful when enemies have very little in the way startup animations before attacks. Enemies seem to dash forward and assault the player character without warning. This nearly almost always requires players to guess as apposed to respond. Guessing correctly, dodging through an enemy, and backstabbing them is an adrenaline rush, but not overly rewarding as the player isn’t getting better at the game, but simply getting lucky.

Unformed - Boss Battle 1

Offensively, the player feels strangely limited. Having a basic sword and the temporary use of both a two-handed greatsword and daggers seems interesting in theory, but I had a few issues with this system. To gain access to temporary weapons the player must allow a gauge to fill up and then upon use of these weapons it will deplete. That’s reasonable. Actually using these weapons is where everything goes downhill. Activation requires pressing up or down on the d-pad. That’s already bad design as I have to remove my hand from the left joystick and lose the ability to move my character for a moment. I don’t even like it that much in the Souls series, but the pace and feel of combat doesn’t translate here. Why not map this to the left bumper and left trigger? They aren’t used for anything except bringing up the control scheme, which can be accessed just as easily through the menu. These weapons also don’t feel powerful enough to prove useful in most cases. The daggers might be quicker then the basic sword, but don’t afford the player any more substantial damage over the course of a combo or quicker reflexes to avoid enemy assaults. Add either one of these benefits and the daggers could see some solid use during boss battles. The greatsword is slow and actually quite a bit more powerful then the other two weapons, but cleaving an enemy doesn’t even phase the weakest of them. Knocking back opponents or even stunning them would add a bit more weight and usability to this weapon. These are just suggestions though and this system may very well be refined later on in development.

Unformed - Greatsword

Unformed has a plethora of potential and Soulsborne and Salt and Sanctuary fans should take note of it’s inspirations not just in combat, but also in the similarly inspired bonfire, health flasks, and experience systems. Not to even mention the “You Died” game over screen.  There is also plans for implementing a Final Fantasy X inspired sphere grid system for customization. I know I sound down on Unformed. I’m critical because I see potential, not because I want to see the game fail. With a few tweaks to enemy and special weapon mechanics Unformed could be something special that I’m sure Blackfire Games wants to deliver. Unfortunately without the help of the Metroidvania community it doesn’t look promising that Unformed will see the light of day. With a little more then 2 days left in the campaign, only 20% of the $20,000 goal has been raised. I behoove anyone interested to take a trip over to the Kickstarter page and pledge whatever you feel comfortable with over the next 48 hours.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1737913494/unformed/description

I sincerely hope that Blackfire Games, if this first attempt at a campaign fails, doesn’t give up on this project as they have created a solid foundation for what could be something special.

Unformed - You Died

Unformed - Boss Battle 2

Planned platforms for release: PC and eventually consoles

 

 

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.

Gameplay5

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.

Gameplay3

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.

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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.

Gameplay4

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.

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Gameplay

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.

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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.

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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.

Graphics

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

Music/Sound

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.

Verdict

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

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