F1 2020 - PS4 Review

F1 2020 by developer and publisher CodemastersSony PlayStation 4 review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

The F1 series has long been about the racing, as well it should be. However, as good as the product has been on the track, I have long felt that it was a bit shallow off of it. Codemasters deserves a ton of credit for the newly implement My Team, which lets you operate as an owner as well as a driver in F1 2020. This plus the numerous options make this not just a deep offering, but an accessible one as well.

I will preface my review by admitting that I tend to have a mixed relationship with accurate, simulation racing games like this. My racing preferences tend to lean towards scraping paint and driving a bit more arcade-like, but the F1 series has often been one of the few exceptions for me because it feels quite different from most racing titles.

It helps that F1 2020 has a ton of options, many of which make racing life a bit easier for those new to the series or just do not want to deal with a lot of the manual options involved with racing an F1 car. There is a ton of skill that goes into racing in this game, and I found myself starting with some of the automations, but graduating to some of the more advanced options. This created more errors on my part, but was decidedly more entertaining as well.

As for the actual racing, the AI is reasonable in its aggressiveness and its reactions to your attempts to pass. Given the incredibly high speeds you attain in F1 racing, turns are tricky and you will slide. Tires matter. In fact, your car development really matters, but more on that later. There is a rewind feature (similar to what we’ve seen popularized in games like Forza) that you can trigger if you feel like using it. I try not to in these games, but sometimes there is a learning situation there that I will tackle a few times just to figure out how to handle it better in the future as well. Still, this is another nice option that helps to make sure that the player can enjoy their time spent racing.

The overall presentation is solid if not always spectacular. It is interesting to me that during the race itself, things look pretty great when the speed of the action makes it challenging to focus on the small details, but when I would watch replay some of the visual rough edges were a little more evident. Sound effects are also does the job – you hear the roar of engines and the chatter on your radio. Probably the most interesting new presentation feature is the addition of a split screen so you can have some local racing fun. Given the nature of teams in F1, this feature just makes too much sense to have waited to long to see it – but it sure is a lot of fun.

Speaking of teams, the My Team mode adds a nice management aspect to the game that has been missing in the career modes of years past. If you want to skip the micromanagement, you can absolutely just stick to the driving, but for people like myself that really dig into the franchise modes in many sports games, these management aspects are engrossing. In prior versions of the game, your racing style had an impact on how your car developed, but with the My Team mode everything is far more intentional.

Things kick off with establishing your driver – because your character is that rare combination of driver and owner. You then select a sponsor (and these have various trade-offs such as money upfront versus earnings and goals to be met), and then hire your AI partner (since it is a team sport, as mentioned above) and then balance hardware that has differing levels of durability and performance – against cost.

You are then interviewed – and will be during different points in the season. The answers you give will have an impact on everything from moral, Research and Development, the experience growth of your AI partner and income. From there, you enter into a continuous balancing act as you fill your calendar with different kinds of meetings and events that all have their own pros and cons to consider. These elements of progression are really interesting and it lends strategy and depth outside of the racing, but actually impact the racing in tangible ways as well. All of this adds a lot of longevity to the game, especially when you consider the tremendous number of ways to spend your money.

For racing fans, F1 2020 is the real deal and the best entry in the series I can recall. Incredible replay value and management depth go a long way towards making this title one I find myself replaying more than previous iterations. Usually a season or two does it for me, but I’ve already surpassed that and intend to go back for more. Add to it the split-screen feature and wealth of accessibility options and there is more broad appeal to be had here than many of the earlier games in the series. So, if you were turned off by the simulation style of the game in years past – go ahead and give this version a go, as you can tweak your experience in numerous ways.

Score: 8.75 / 10


Megadimension Neptunia VII - Switch Review

Megadimension Neptunia VII by developer Compile Heart, Idea Factory and publisher Idea Factory InternationalNintendo Switch review written by Pierre-Yves with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Existing in a subset of reality is this wonderful world known as Gamindustri. Split into four separate masses in which the only important one is that of Leanbox and my lady Vert, our tale brings us back to this land controlled by four CPU Goddesses and their hijinks through various realities and their fights for survival as things have gone very sideways once again for our four heroines.

Megadimention Neptunia VII for the Nintendo Switch is a return to the original that had graced the modern era on both the PS4 and the PC. Not including any of the VR enhancements as the switch doesn't have any form of it, I found it a bit odd that they weren’t adding in anyways as you could still play through without a headset. That said, it was nice to return to a pre-rebirth treatment that I felt more natural with than that of VIIR which changed things up, not in a bad way, but in a way that required pressing more buttons and doing a lot more mental math.

Now for those that may not know this niche, yet popular niche series, Hyperdimension or Megadimension Neptunia is the story of the main “protag” Neptune, aka Nep-Nep and the Goddess Purple Heart of the landmass of Planetune. Accompanied by Noire (the Goddess Black Heart of Lastation), Blanc (the Goddess White Heart of Lowee), and Vert (the Goddess Green Heart of Leanbox (aka the best Goddess)), these four Goddess are both rivals and close friends as they fight to keep their countries safe from those that would disrupt the peace. Basically an anthropomorphic approach to the physical consoles and the console wars, this RPG series spends most of its time making video game references and breaking the fourth wall for some entertaining shenanigans.

Megadimension Neptunia VII is still the latest core entry in the series and in a new approach, had split itself into three unique chapters each with their own title screens, intro videos and almost self contained storylines. Starting off by finding a console that our video game savvy protag had never seen before, Neptune and her sister Nepgear get pulled into another dimension that physically resembles their own yet on the verge of destruction. Having nothing better to do, the sister team up with the resident and only Goddess left Uzume (Orange Heart) in order to fight back the destructive forces closing in to finish the job.

The one thing that hasn’t changed over the years is that this is an awesome story in the Neptunia universe. You get your doom and gloom with plenty of doses of video game related fourth wall breaking nonsense, you get a full chapter where you get to take turns in which each Goddess becomes the protagonist and not simply second fiddle to Neptune,. Finally, you get plenty of good old fashioned RPG goodness with plenty of combat, tough boss fights and re-exploring areas in order to find everything as you unlock upgrades that let you do more to the environments.

What unfortunately doesn’t work so well for this latest re-release is the performance. Even if it came out years after the PlayStation 4, the Nintendo Switch doesn’t quite have the same power under the hood even if it has much more versatility. The reason I’m saying this is because the Zero Dimension chapter took a lot out of the Switch and honestly I was very happy to be able to turn off certain rendering features because otherwise it was almost unplayable with how slow and choppy everything was. Once you leave the Zero Dimension, both in its chapter as well as into the second overall chapter with the Golden Third, everything runs smooth and the rendering features can be turned back on, but it still makes for a good third of the game that was hard on the system to run.

As this is basically our fifth review of the title, I’ll leave it to a past me, Nick and Richard to go over all of the little tidbits from the PS4 and PC versions of both the gameplay and the story between the original VII and the revamped VIIR


Overall though? If you’ve been wanting to return to Gamindustri as it’s been a while or you want a solid RPG for your Switch that you want to bring around with you or play comfortably while out on a balcony during this social distancing time, Compile Heart and Idea Factory’s Megadimension Neptunia VII is a great choice and one that you should really look into.

Score: 7.75 / 10


Maid Of Sker - PS4 Review

Maid Of Sker by developer and publisher Wales InteractiveSony PlayStation 4 review written by Izzy with a purchased copy.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

What do you get when you combine puzzle-solving, crouching, first-person survival, sound-based enemies, more crouching, a haunting score, a spooky hotel setting, lots of crouching, atmospheric horror, stealth based defense (i.e crouching), and a narrative adapted from an old Welsh folklore tale?

A thoroughly unproductive, yet amazing, weekend.

Maid Of Sker, the newest release from Wales Interactive, is insanely playable, wonderfully crafted, masterfully atmospheric, genuinely eerie, and immensely frustrating in the best possible way. You play as Barty Crouch Jr. -er, sorry, Thomas Evans, a musician called to the Sker Hotel by his lover Elizabeth, who is being held captive there by her father. A curse has befallen those on its grounds; a siren’s song holds them all in a trance.

The story follows Thomas’ harrowing trek, a mission entrusted to him by Elizabeth, through the hotel to locate music sheets and cylinders embossed with the counter-melody needed to break the spell. Thomas navigates through to different rooms and storeys by locating objects and solving puzzles that reveal previously hidden or inaccessible areas of the hotel. He must do all this while remaining as silent as possible, as the monsters roaming the halls may have been robbed of their sight but no sound eludes them.

This looks like a cozy place to relax

If only Thomas can collect the cylinders and reach Elizabeth, he can save them all from a terrible fate - but a question arises. Can Elizabeth truly be trusted after her time in confinement or is she also complicit in her family’s sinister machinations? While the general themes for the premise may seem fairly run-of-the-mill, the game’s execution of them is brilliant.

What you get from Maid Of Sker in terms of gameplay is exactly what is promised. The sound-based enemies are infuriatingly sensitive and unrelenting in their chase. (And those are just the generic enemies. Wait until you encounter the terrific beast that is Uncle Abraham). Think you’re safe because you’re crouched down and holding your breath? WRONG. If they come too close, they’ll still attack. Think you’re safe behind a closed door? WRONG. They can open them. Think you’re safe running away? WRONG. Not only will they chase you, they will cry out to every other nearby enemy.

In fact, there are exactly three places (As far as I can confirm) where enemies cannot harm you.

  1. Elevator shafts

  2. When you are crouched in tunnels between walls

  3. In rooms containing phonographs (which also act as your save points)

The only weapon that you'll get, use it wisely

While your survival in the game is overwhelmingly stealth based, you do have one very important piece of defensive equipment in your Phonic Modulator, a cartridge based weapon that emits a sound wave which temporarily paralyzes the enemies in its range. One note about it - use it sparingly. The cartridges are few and far between, and largely unnecessary in most instances. In my playthrough, I used it only twice and I’m terrible at video games. That being said if you’re like me and thinking the smart thing to do is stockpiling the few cartridges you can get in order to use them later in the game when you encounter greater foes, don’t.

No spoilers, but it turns out that was not the smart thing to do.

In addition to acting as save points, the phonographs contain portions of Elizabeth’s recordings which help Thomas slowly unravel the mysteries of her family’s story, and her role in it. Elizabeth also acts as somewhat of a guide through sporadic phone calls you receive from her as she hides in the attic from the terrors that roam the halls.

The game promises the possibility for multiple different endings based on your choices throughout, and offers the enjoyable feature of exploring some of those options without having to play through the entire game again. When the credits have rolled, you’re still given the option to return to your last save point and choose a different path, or forego the ending altogether for the time being and continue exploring the hotel for any collectibles or other items you may have missed.

For the completionists out there, it’s a very nice little bonus feature.

They can't hear me, they can't hear me, that can't... oh oh

Fans of the Amnesia series in particular will feel right at home with what Maid Of Sker offers survival horror fans. I realize this may seem blasphemous to the Dark Descent die-hards out there, but I’ll be honest; Maid Of Sker is everything you loved about Amnesia but with more sophistication. It’s Amnesia without the incessant and clunky flashbacks, with more threatening enemies, more intuitive controls, puzzles that are neither overly convoluted nor overly simplistic, better narrative pacing, a better ambient score, and a superior climax.

Now, of course it needs to be said that the original Dark Descent was released 10 years ago, so I don’t draw these parallels to discredit it because I actually played through it for the first time very recently and absolutely loved it. I’m just saying that Maid Of Sker feels very much like an elevated version of all the things that made Amnesia such an enjoyable gaming experience.

I truly adored this game. The most difficult part of playing it before its official release was not being able to tell anyone who would listen how much I loved it and which is why I’m doubly grateful for the opportunity to tell all of you now. If you’re a survival horror fan, this really is a must play. Even for those of you who don’t generally play horror, I can’t recommend it enough. Once I started, I didn’t want to stop until I’d reached the end.

In short, Wales Interactive really hit it out of the park with Maid Of Sker and if this game is an example of what’s to come, I, for one, absolutely can’t wait to see what they do next.

Score: 8.75 / 10


void tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium - PS4 Review

void tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium by developer Nippon Ichi Software and publisher NIS America Inc.Sony PlayStation 4 review written by Richard with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Once again NISA has brought us a title that is absolutely impossible to pronounce without outside description. void tRrLM();, or "Void Terrarium" as is probably easier, is a hybrid tamagotchi slash roguelike that's 3 parts cute, 1 part frustration, and 1 part pet caretaking.

In Void Terrarium you play as an unnamed robot, roaming a post-apocalyptic world where spores have forced humans to live underground. Due to human nature, however, those humans have gone extinct. Well, our robot protagonist finds one of those humans thought to be extinct. Unfortunately, the human can't go outside, or really fend for herself. As such, it is up to you to provide the human with what she needs: shelter, air filters, food, and medicine when she gets sick.

As the robot, your main goal is to craft the necessary components for the terrarium that the human lives in. In order to do this, you need to go out and collect resources from the dilapidated wasteland that is what the world has become. Here is where the roguelike comes in, as when you venture into an area you start at level 1 on the first layer, and your goal is to defeat enemies to gain levels, collect items, and find the warp pad that brings you to the next layer. In the same vein as games like "Pokemon: Mystery Dungeon" or the mystery dungeon series itself with Shiren, where you will move through the layers of the dungeon on a grid of squares, one square at a time, and where enemies will only move when you move.

In this case, you see a lot more robots than Pokemon, however. Those of you who aren't familiar with the style, you have layers that consist of large rooms, usually with a few items in them on the floor and some enemies, and connecting paths between them. As you move through the rooms looking for the exit, you can pick up as many items as your inventory will allow, usually consisting of food for the human, equipment to help you through the layers, and items for healing health and energy. Energy gets expended as you perform actions, and upon running out will start to drain your health instead. Considering energy is also used to activate special skills, you may want to pay attention to this resource.

As you beat up other robots and sh*tty rats that steal all your items, you will level up. On level, you can choose a level bonus that is provided to you. Normally these will be attack, defence, or health increases, but could also be passives such as adding corrosive damage to your attacks, or increasing your critical hit rate. If you feel that you aren't getting the specific oriented skills you want, there is a crafting option that can help, which I will talk a bit about a little later.

After finishing your trip into an area, any items you have collected that aren't crafting specific items, food, or blueprints will be turned into four different resources. These resources are used for crafting items. So what do these items get you, despite the plot mandatory ones? Well, it depends on what you're crafting. Some items are upgrades to your inventory capacity, and some will allow you to start a delve into the wasteland with certain skills already known. Others will bias your level up bonus towards certain play styles, such as defensive or offensive type abilities. You can also craft cosmetic items for the human's terrarium, which will also give you a bonus the first time you craft them. But be warned, the human is just that: human. She can contract disease and get hungry, so it is up to you to keep the human well fed and disease free.

Finding food is, relatively, easy enough, but the human will still get hungry while you are out, or if you aren't paying attention. It is important to keep your human well fed with food low in corruption value. As the world is overrun by deadly spore puffs, it could make the human sick if she gets exposed to too much negative stimulus. BE SURE TO KEEP YOUR HUMAN HEALTHY AND HER HOME CLEAN. Early on you are given a sort of remote monitoring device to see how the living condition of the human. You can remotely clean the human's living quarters at the expense of a large amount of energy while you are on an expedition, but the cost really hurts.

And now we get back to my point about the "roguelike tamagotchi". Ultimately, you're both caring for a human as well as dungeon delving for items and resources to build a safe home for the human. Void Terrarium is rather cute, with a 2D style to interact with the human in the base camp, and transitioning to a 3D style when out gathering resources. The character interactions with your helpful AI friend and entertaining, and you've picked up a cute human to take care of. If there's any issue with the presentation, I would say it's in the soundtrack. Not because it's bad, far from it. I actually found it super relaxing. Too relaxing, really. I fell asleep about four times while playing, not because I was bored, but just because the music lulled me off.

Overall, I have to say that Void Terrarium is quite the well put together roguelike. The combat is well built, if not a little tough at times, item drop rates aren't abysmal, and apart from a few spots of bad luck and a rat stealing one of my key items and running straight into a monster house, there wasn't much I can complain about. I mean, it did take me an embarrassingly long time to figure out there are different tabs in the crafting menu, but that's just a personal gaffe really.


Ultimately, Void Terrarium can be tough, but reasonable, which even my luck is the most I can ask out of roguelikes anymore. The characters are cute, the styles mesh well together, and honestly? Having a "human tamogatchi" was actually pretty fun. Hopefully Void tRrLM(); appeals to you as much as it did to me.

Score: 9 / 10


DEX - Switch Review

DEX by developer Dreadlocks and publisher QubicGamesNintendo Switch review written by Pierre-Yves with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Coming back to the limelight after five years, Dreadlock Limited's Dex is an RPG platformer that I only wished I had had the chance to experience when it originally released for the PC. On the run for her life, Dex finds herself pulled into events that have her way over her head and she'll need to develop her skills if she plans on surviving. Move aside Adam Jensen as I think I found my new favorite cybernetically enhanced badass in a trenchcoat.

Literally starting off with running away from those trying to kill you, you get a series of brief tutorials into both the system and how you can interact with the world. Set in a cyberpunk future, Dex will find herself running around in a two dimensional cityscape as she searches for clues and the gear she’ll need to stick it to those that would enslave everyone through information if their plan is successful. How fast you go about it or how many detours you take, that, is up to you.

Starting off rather “vanilla”, Dex can run, jump and punch people. As you move around the city talking to people and fighting with others that just want a piece of you for having moved through their turf, Dex will be able to level up and increase her repertoire. Like a lot of more “open-world” RPGs though, there’s going to be the tough choice of if you should put points into being tougher, stronger, more agile (how well you handle guns) or if you should worry about how well you can sweet talk a person or simply hack your way in through the back door. If you level up enough, everything is at your fingertips but starting off? It’s a bit of a hard choice *coughs* lock picking *coughs* as there’s plenty of doors that you’ll probably be wanting to get into.

What impressed me a lot with Dex, the title, is that the city feels alive. You have your rich zones, your comercial zones, your slums and your “entertainment” district and nothing is stopping you from going in and partaking if you want to. It doesn’t even need to be for a quest, you can simply do whatever you want to do. There is a main storyline to drive things forward but the world allows you to do side quests that may or may not help you out and in the worst case? You’ll be leveling up which helps you in the long run anyways.

Only helping out the feeling of the world being alive is that there is a fair amount of voiced dialog adding in emotions to some already charged situations. Wandering into a gang’s turf, walking into a restaurant where the owner is worried about her brother, walking into a “den of sin” and chatting up the owner while picking someone for the evening’s entertainment over to hacking giant super computers with self-destructs about to go off. Each of these have someone voicing how they feel and while Dex herself may only have a voice in certain circumstances, her dialog choices range from funny to downright pure sarcastic. Obviously I had to choose those options!

While the general running around, chatting people up and lockpicking felt normal enough, I did have some issues when it came to combat. Dex never actually gets a weapon past being able to increase her martial arts abilities. She does get guns, but unless you put points into them you’ll never be using more than a basic pistol. Being a two dimensional world, you have left, or you have right. Dex can punch, eventually low kick to trip or high kick for more damage, but often you’re 1v3, 1v6 and making it worse, they have guns that will shred you to pieces. I felt like there was no real way around this especially when “shit hit a fan” where stealth was never an option and you’ve got to find some way to tackle all of the enemies coming for you.

It’s not to say that there aren’t “ways” around it as eventually you can use your hacking abilities on “humans”, but it doesn’t last long and even if you use a takeout move on one, you have to re-hack everyone in sight over and over until everyone is down and the only ones left are those that you actually have to brawl against as they are too tough to be taken out with a chokehold. A bit like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, there’s a false sense that you never have to actually fight and once you’re forced into it, well, it’s do or die.

To help about a bit with this, or with getting away, Dex can have other upgrades loaded into her such as the ability to better deflect bullets, be stronger and hit harder, jump twice as high helping you get around more quickly or simply bypass enemies and finally breathe toxic air which lets you get to exploring much further and faster without having to go the long way around. But these are choices that no two players will really make in the same manner and that’s a big thing that Dex has going for it. You can play it your way. You can go in all guns blazing, you can go in and no one will ever know you were there or you can hack the sentrys to take out whoever is standing guard. It’s brilliant in that way, but like I said above, be prepared for a fight because often you’ll have to even if you didn’t want to.

Dex, the title, finds itself in a bit of a sweet spot that so many titles end up blaring right past. Even if you go about doing everything you can, it’s not overly long and it just about never overstays its welcome until about the very last portion in which you kind of wish you could just get on with it all. With no spoilers as this is an adventure that deserves to be explored on its own, you have control over what and how you do it all the way up until that point and once at that point and dancing to someone else’s strings? That’s where it feels drawn out because you know it’s the end but the end keeps on giving.

Overall, Dex is an awesome 2D Platforming RPG. Between the setting, the voice acting, and the ability to mostly go about the adventure as you see fit, this transition over to the Nintendo Switch from the PC is a great one that both RPG fans and fans of Deus EX should look into if they haven’t already.

Score: 7.75 / 10


West of Dead - XB1 Review

West of Dead by developer Upstream Arcade and publisher Raw FuryMicrosoft Xbox One review written by Pierre-Yves with a subscription to Microsoft’s GamePass.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Currently in it's pre-1.0 state (though still fully released), West of Dead offers an interesting take on the twin-stick shooter style. Dead, and finding yourself in a saloon, there isn't much to do other than pick up a gun or two and head out to find out what's actually keeping you tethered to this realm instead of letting you pass on. Maybe, just maybe, you should take a shot of whisky for good luck before you head out the door though.

Like all trailblazers, West of Dead brings in a new element to a very well established style. Twin sticks have been around for a LONG time and we've seen plenty of different variations from bullethells to shoot 'em ups and loads in between, but moving around in stealth based cover? Now that was something new and to only make things tougher? It's all wrapped up in that wonderfully hardcore Roguelike format.

Starting off with “nothing”, you’ll essentially be level 1 with a standard pistol and rifle as you head out into battle. Working your way through a series of rooms that can either be walked into or kicked open as you melee the boards in your way, you’ll soon find out if you’re all alone or if there are enemies waiting for you in the dark. Not sure if that sparkle is an enemy or not? You can easily fire off one of your guns, or, you can dodge roll for safety over to a lantern that can be lit up stunning those that were lying in wait for you.

That there is about the entire gist of it. You move from room to room until you find the exit for the next skirmish. While that's the basis though, everything in between adds in a fair amount of gameplay challenges and it's honestly fun as this really isn't your typical twin-stick shooter.

For starters, each room that you'll walk, run or dive into have a series of objects that can, and SHOULD, be used for cover. Bullets hurt. Even the undead. So as you're gliding past, you'll want to keep an eye on where you can hide just as much as where your enemies are so you know where to hide and not offer up a free shot. Like reality though, not all cover will last forever and some will last for only a shot or three while others you may be able to hide behind for an entire fire fight if you're lucky.

Also pretty neat with the cover system is that you're not just sliding behind objects to crouch behind but you can also slide across. Not all enemies will be shooting at you as many will instead charge at you to hit you with large objects, bite you if they are a fast four legged variant or just punch you because they have nothing on hand. So being able to slide up and over is very effective to stay alive and even then, if you time it properly, your sliding or your dodging away will slow down time to both better let you know what's in that room for a defensive position and let you know that you avoided damage. Real time speeds? You most likely got hit.

To help you out a bit with all of this, new weapons and gear can be found on the ground. While you start off with a basic pistol and rifle, you can pick up stronger versions of those as well as full or sawed-off barrelled shotguns. Each has an amount of time that it needs to aim properly. Each has a reload time once the chambers are empty. So if you've gone and spammed it all and the fight isn’t over? You'll have to either vault over and kick whoever is left or dodge around until your guns have reloaded themselves.

Before getting into the Roguelike element however, new guns aren't the only thing to help out. There are a ton of shrines around offering you choices of what you want to level up for free. The only catch is that the shrine only allows you to pick one of these choices and then disappears. You want more upgrades? Find more shrines. These upgrades though range from extra health to more damage with ranged weapons. All very useful, if you can last that long and let’s be honest that other than those that are REALLY good at what they do? You’ll find yourself biting the dust fairly early.

So to help with this, as you move through the rooms and take on enemy after enemy and work your ways over to the boss, you’ll be accumulating Sin. Yes, that sin, you are rampaging around and killing people here. This Sin can be used between stages in order to unlock new things such as guns, throwable lanterns and a health flask that can be used whenever you need. Each item on the list requires a certain amount of Sin and things like upgrading the health flask to be able to have a second? It costs upwards of fifty so you’ll want to know what you really want as I felt like I was only ever playing with anything between eight to twelve at a time. A good bonus to this though is that you can put these points in as you have them and don’t need to save up for the full amount so that makes it a bit easier.

Now while West of Dead handles itself pretty well, I did have a few issues with it. The first of these is that your melee attacks for other than breaking down boards between rooms is fairly useless. It doesn’t do much damage and in a pinch? You’ll want to get the hell out of dodge instead of trying to kick the enemy in the face. Also only adding to that, often I found myself not even able to kick the enemy as the melee attacks just didn’t want to “kick in” costing me a good hit to my health bar in the process.

The other issue is that it’s dark. It works for the atmosphere very well and gives it a nice grunge feel but because of the colours, the first stage works but it’s so easy to not notice things when you get into the second because everything is grey and black. You can easily lose yourself, lose the bladed canine like creatures heading at you and somehow miss the giant freaking axe being boomeranged in your direction. There just isn’t enough contrast and it works against you.

Overall though, West of Dead is a really neat Twin-Stick Shooter style and I look forward to hopefully seeing more of it in the future.

Score: 7.75 / 10


Infini - Switch Review

Infini by developer Barnaque Inc. and publisher Nakana.ioNintendo Switch review written by Susan N. with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Infini is a quirky and abstract puzzle game created by Barnaque Inc., a studio based in Montreal, Canada. Players take the form of Hope, a personified representation of the feeling, who embarks on a life long journey of self-discovery. Along the way, players discover the sorts of challenges humans face as they navigate through life.


We are Hope, a genderless personification of the emotion, and from the beginning of the game, we endlessly fall from an odd ship. Although we have no idea what the games' purpose is, the abstract experience makes more sense as time progresses. Hope goes through a series of puzzles with little understanding of why. After making it through the portals to harder levels, players gain access to useful and necessary abilities to continue their journey.

At first, the presentation of the game did not inspire me to play it, but I found that spending some time with Infini left me with a sense of curiosity. See, the objective of this unique puzzle game is to get Hope to the exit. Exit points are represented by a hole in the air that seems to rip the fabric of time and space. The exit points are fairly obvious in the early levels but will be located in less obvious locations, later on, forcing players to use their abilities and think outside the box. While I'm terrible at playing games like this, I found myself fascinated by Infini even after repeatedly failing to complete levels.

The Abilities

Let's briefly talk about some of the abilities present in the game.

  • Slowing yourself down - This ability is used to slow Hope down to avoid obstacles.

  • Speeding yourself up - In a similar fashion to the slowdown, the speeding up ability helps players reach their destination, otherwise, they face impending doom.

  • Zoom Feature - The zoom feature is one that players have struggled with. The idea behind it is not to zoom out completely but to manipulate the screen in such a way that Hope can access new areas.

After completing a few levels, Hope finds other characters like Memory, Peace, Poetry, Time, and Technology, just to name a few. In the interest of keeping the abstract theme, each character is portrayed as different genderless creatures. For example, Poetry appears as a dog, Memory is an elephant, and Peace is a person. However, there is one that appears as a humanoid with a rifle head. I assume that character will turn out to be War. Anyways, these characters are personified as emotions and concepts that we have to deal with in the real world. Because of this, I find the game intriguing, but feel like a lot of people will skip this title.

While I'm all for abstract gameplay, art pieces, or ideas, Infini's downfall is that Hope's abilities aren't explained. Even at that, the dialogue in the game causes more questions than answers. Another issue with the dialogue is that some of the translation is terrible. And even though Infini has over 100 levels and 8+ hours worth of gameplay, it might be too abstract for the average gamer.

Sound and Music

The sound design during dialogue portions of Infini is... distracting. For example, when talking to Poetry, the audio sounds like small clips of a dog's bark spliced together. What's worse is that the audio is often spliced in a manner that is extremely obvious and jarring. Thus, the dialogue audio comes across as irritating, and not charming to the players.

However, the music of Infini is quite well done. The instrumental music that plays during each level changes so that some levels have a mesmerizing sound, while others are gritty and almost retro-sounding. The artist Roche Ovale is known for experimental / electronic music. It's no surprise that Infini's unique sound feels just as abstract as its visual design.

Roche Ovale consists of three members: Marc-Andre Provencher, David Martin (one of the developers), and Etienne Legast. In fact, David Martin has been part of the band for a number of years, which might have contributed to the music being featured in the game. The group is located in Montreal and has several albums available on Soundcloud and Bandcamp. For more information about the group, check out their Facebook page.

Infini Final Thoughts

Before I get into my final thoughts, I will cover a couple of the negative points I found during gameplay. Some of these issues reflect the nature of indie games not having the same resources as triple-A studios. I usually overlook certain issues, but the presentation of the game makes them really stand out.

Here are some of my negative points for Infini:

  • It's easy to forget the controls for the various abilities, which can cause you to fail a level multiple times.

  • The English translation is awful in places.

  • The aesthetic is more likely to drive players away from it.

  • The audio design during dialogue sections is sometimes unpleasant.

Upon seeing the trailer of Infini I admit I wasn't on board with the title. Even as a person that enjoys abstract storytelling, I feel like Infini might be too far off the mark. That said, I found myself pleasantly surprised once I played through some of the levels. It reminds me a bit like Frogger and for as much as I failed various levels, I wasn't raging. I found the game to be an oddly relaxing experience despite its strange presentation and difficulty. In short, the game is worth trying.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I rate Infini at an 8. My experience is positive, which just goes to show that one should not judge a video game by its visual aesthetics. And because I didn't expect much out of this title, I found myself pleasantly surprised by its gameplay. Infini is definitely a game to experience, even if its presentation is abstract and perhaps off-putting. So, don't miss out on this title!

Score: 8 / 10


Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus – PS4 Review

Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus by developer Bulwark Studios and publisher Kasedo GamesSony PlayStation 4 review written by Richard with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus comes to us as a blend of rogue like and turn-based tactics. Explore tombs, fight evil (?) robots, blow yourself up by accident, and purge the planet of the scourge inhabiting it, all from a comfy orbital ship. Now, if you're like me and have very little (read none) knowledge about the warhammer universe, fear not! Mechanicus does a good job of introducing you to what you need to know plot wise.

Essentially, a group who worship technology and "mechanizing" religiously have arrived at a planet following the last known coordinates of a cohort. Upon arriving, they discover that the planet is "inhabited" by Necron, who contrary to their name, appear to be fully robotic being that don't really die, but are warped away upon "death". Cue a sort of religious purging between the two groups, as the Adeptus Mechanicus want to get rid of the Necron, and the Necron view the Adeptus Mechanicus as an affront to their robotic being. The Necron are in a sort of stasis within tombs on the planet, and after the Adeptus Mechanicus investigate a tomb, they begin to wake up.

It is your goal as commander to guide your "tech-priests" into battle in order to stop the Necron from taking over the planet. You do this by investigating tombs at the bequest of your aides and subordinates in the form of missions. But be warned, as the Necron are waking from their stasis, and prolonged time in a tomb just allows them to awaken faster.

You are joined on this expedition by two primary aides: Scaevola and Videx, essentially a researcher and priest respectively. Scaevola has forgone the majority of their human self, now speaking in programming code, and has a very hefty interest in analysis and research into the Necron and their technology. Videx, on the other hand, is fully committed to the religious aspect, opting in favour of a "fire purge" or even ignoring something that could be useful if it has relation to what is viewed as abominable or heresy by their religious standards.

This gives an interesting dynamic, as these two main advisers are more often than not bickering or going against each others plans or ideas, giving the leader, Faustinious, a load of grief. Missions between the two tend to be similar in content, but have very distinctly different narratives. For instance, Videx may have you explore a tomb and bring along an escort able device in order to broadcast their scriptures in binary across the tomb. No, I personally did not believe that would help, but the rewards for the mission were good so I went along with it. Scaevola, on the other hand, basically has you on the cusp of being labeled a heretic purely in terms of what they're willing to do for research. Needless to say, these two don't exactly mesh well, although that just adds more to the story and background information.

So what is this all about in regards to exploring the tombs then? Well, this is where the roguelike element came from. Upon selecting a mission and enetering the tomb, you take a sort of commander role, guiding your troops through rooms on a tomb layout map. Upon entering a room with an event, you are usually requested to make a decision regarding what's in the room. Sometimes this results in nice things, like more resources.

Other times it results in things like losing half your health. Unfortunately, the results are rather arbitrary, so it can be quite detrimental to your cause if things go the shape of the pear. In fact, I lost so much health and time on the Necron awakening counter that I soon just started rushing for the finishing tile, especially since unit health isn't healed between combat.

Which brings me to the point that my rewards were almost never worth the cost of interacting with a room, especially given that the in-tomb counter for awakening level gives bonuses to the enemies, and then that counter gets translated to global awakening level after tomb completion. It also doesn't help that Mechanicus employs quite literally the most awkward method of selecting a destination room I have ever seen.

So how about the combat then? Well, the combat is where we pick back up again a little bit. Combat is done through turn-based play on a grid, where faster units go first in a turn, and slower units go last, with each unit getting an action during the turn. You have a number of tools at your disposal, between physical and energy attacks, as well as how you have outfitted your units will determine your battle strategy. You can run up to enemies to prevent their ranged weapons and hit them, or you can shoot at enemies from a distance.

As you use your weapons, they can gain "machine spirit" that will give them a one-off buff. Also to take note of is "cogitation points", which are required for heavier hitting weapons, and will allow you to deploy extra troops or to move further across the map. The points can be accumulated either by camping out near obelisks, or by defeating enemies and stealing a point off their bodies. Speaking of, Necron are kind of immortal, so you need to attack them after they die to get rid of them, otherwise they will just heal in a few turns and come back to life.

Before beginning a mission, you have access to a few cantrips you can set, as well as the opportunity to augment your units with blackstone, giving them better stats and unlocking new equipment types and abilities. There are multiple "skill trees" you can go through, and you also have the opportunity to go down multiple if you wish to. I chose the minion enhancer and melee specialist when I first started upgrading.

As interesting as Mechanicus is, I have to say it felt super clunky. Menus felt awkward to navigate, some parts of the upgrade system were a little confusing at first, and I didn't even figure out how to use the cantrips for longer than I'd like to admit. The roguelike aspects tend to be more annoying than anything, and I found they offered well more detriments than I had reason to pursue the events in each marked room.

Combat is acceptable, but nothing truly special. Honestly, I found where this game shone wasn't in the gameplay, but instead in the storyline. This felt like more of an interactive book, similar to those Animorphs choose your own adventure books I used to read as a kid, with a decent helping of turn-based tactics to keep you entertained enough to continue. The storytelling was by far the best part, while the combat was fairly average, and the "rogue like" sections more annoying than anything else.

In conclusion, Warhammer: 40,000 Mechanicus feels more like a spiced up novel than a game in many aspects. While the clunky menus and occasional menu interactions may deter newer players or those less patient, you do get used to it after awhile. What I really enjoyed, however, was the banter between characters. Definitely not for everyone, but this just might scratch that turn-based SRPG itch you've been looking to scratch.

Score: 7.5 / 10


Blair Witch - Switch Review

Blair Witch by developer and publisher Bloober TeamNintendo Switch review written by Izzy with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

In the interest of full disclosure, let me begin by saying that I don’t know anything about video games, so I encourage you to take this review with a grain of salt, or a ring of salt, in keeping with the theme. In fact, I’ve barely touched a controller since my older brother begrudgingly allowed me to hop on as Player 2 back in the good ol’ Nintendo 64 days. What I DO know, however, is horror. If it’s scary, bone-chilling, gruesome, eerie, sinister, unnerving, spine-tingling nightmare fuel, there’s a good chance I’ve seen it. So when the opportunity came along to play through a game based in the Blair Witch Project universe, I said “Well, if I was ever going to play a game, it would be THAT game” and play it, I did. Almost obsessively, as I’m sure my video-game-obsessed-boyfriend would smugly tell you.

You play as Ellis, a troubled cop and veteran, who is travelling into the infamous Black Hills forest to join a search party for a young boy named Peter. The first sign of trouble to come is made apparent by a phone call from your seemingly estranged girlfriend, Jess, who questions Ellis’ desire and capability to join in the search. From your subsequent contact with Sheriff Emmett Lanning prior to venturing into the woods, it’s clear Ellis is, for undisclosed reasons, somewhat of a Persona Non Grata presence in this investigation. Armed with nothing but a cellphone, flashlight, and your trusty companion, a dog named Bullet, you venture into the woods where you begin to decipher the mysteries of both Peter’s disappearance, and Ellis’ psyche.

The game is successful in this regard by disclosing that the choices you make, and the way your companion is treated will affect the eventual outcome. This actively contributes to the overall atmosphere of the game, as the self-doubt creeps in seemingly as quickly as the darkness by which you are enveloped. I found myself asking “When was the last time I pet Bullet?”, or “Is this real or is it just a vision?”, or, in a textbook definition of life imitating art, channelling Heather (one of the film’s protagonists) and experiencing the defeating mental anguish that comes with realizing that the log you’ve just come across is in fact the same log you walked by 20 minutes ago, and you are indeed very lost, and Oh God I’ve Doomed Ellis To Wander The Forests Of Burkitsville, Maryland Until His Inevitable Demise. Of all the places to die. Maryland? Really!? I’m sorry Ellis. I’m sorry Bullet.

Bullet! Your companion and Bonafide Best Doggo is your saving grace. Bullet serves not only as your literal guide dog through the forest, but he can also track the scent on items of Peter’s you collect on your journey, as well as search for nearby items that are crucial to the game’s progression. While there is much more to discuss in regards to the storyline, I find horror to be at its most impactful when the element of surprise is maintained. So I will leave you to unravel the remainder of the story (and the ending to which your choices lead) for yourself.

However, I did have some issues with Blair Witch that I feel could potentially put off more seasoned gamers. For one, there is very little to the actual game play (Editor's Note: Very much a walking simulator). Despite the opportunity for multiple endings, the playthrough is fairly linear in nature, which at times leaves you feeling like the illusion of choice is more important than the choices you’re actually making.

Prior to starting the game for the first time, you are prompted to adjust the brightness until a box on the screen is barely visible. This is purported to be for the overall atmosphere of the game, but in my experience, rather than affect the creepy factor, it affected the annoyance factor as I spent a truly ridiculous amount of time squinting at the TV and running into invisible walls by straying off a path I couldn’t make out in the darkness. Of course, this could be easily fixed by just adjusting the slider by a few notches upon replaying, so it’s not really a criticism, more of a suggestion. Turn it up. Eye strain is serious business.

Other than the mechanics that a novice like me occasionally struggled with, and without spoiling the story, I will say that there was nothing particularly interesting or original about Ellis as a protagonist. In fact, the game does a poor job of having any aspect that is anything more than a worn out trope. That’s not to say it’s inherently bad, just that it’s been done. Over and over and over again. By the time I reached the game’s final setting, and had been proven correct about where the overall story was headed, I was a little bored with it. Which is doubly unfortunate because the game’s final chapter is dragged out much longer than it needs to be.

What was supposed to be the culmination of the search for Peter, and Ellis’ slowly dwindling mental well-being ends up being an overproduced, drawn out fore into every haunted house, PTSD, horror cliche in existence. All that being said, I am, and remain, a huge fan of the Blair Witch movie. Even my boyfriend (who gets spooked by a slight breeze, and sleeps with the lights on for three weeks after a pile of clothes flung onto a chair casts a particularly nefarious looking shadow in the middle of the night) enjoyed both it, and the parts of the game he watched me play through his fingers.

What the game does borrow from, and contribute to, the Blair Witch mythos is exactly what made the movie such an effective piece of horror. For the overwhelming majority of it, there are no jump scares or cheap tricks. What you get instead is the terrifying sensation of being very lost, and very hunted in a forest that seemingly gets darker by the second, as you slowly start to question Ellis’ (and your own) sanity. For psychological horror fans like me, that alone is worth the price of admission. For video game fans, well, I’ll leave that to the experts.

Score: 7 / 10


Keen: One Girl Army - Switch Review

Keen: One Girl Army by developer Cat Nigiri and publishers Phoenixx Inc. and 2P GamesNintendo Switch review written by Richard with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Keen: One Girl Army is a weird combination of puzzle game and turn-based combat. A good kind of weird, mind you. A really interesting combination of sliding and fighting that spans multiple screens per stage, Keen certainly lives up to its name.

Raised in a village of warriors with a missing mother and mysteriously absent male figures, Kim, a rather precocious little girl with what appears to be training in the use of a glaive, is the next in line to defend her village from any outside threats or, heaven forbid, EVIL. After some weapons training in the form of a tutorial, Kim goes to prevent an invasion into her village by burning the only connecting bridge. Lo and behold, she ends up on the other side of the bridge. Deciding she wants to try and find out the source of the invasion and cut it off at the source, off she goes to confront EVIL!

Now, puzzle games generally take one of two approaches to gameplay: simple is better or every bell and whistle humanly possible. Keen has decided for the former, but has put all their effort into devising the puzzles for the game. Kim can only move in straight lines in the cardinal directions. I.e. she can only move up, down, left, and right. If she can pass through an enemy, she will deal two damage and stun the enemy. If she hits a wall or is blocked by an enemy, she will stop and attack in all four directions, dealing one damage and also stunning the enemy.

By the way, when I say she can move in four directions, I mean she doesn't STOP moving until she is forced to. You remember those sliding ice puzzles from Pokemon? Or any other games that have you slide in one direction until you hit a wall? Yeah, that's how this works. Your basic goal is to move from room to room, until you reach the end of the stage. There are many a puzzle to be solved, some are simply movement based, figuring out which order of directions will bring you to the room exit, some involve dodging murder lasers while invisible ninjas are trying to attack and pushing a block around so you can reach a breakable block to progress onto the next screen. Yes, I'm slightly bitter about that last one, no, I don't want to talk about it.

Enemies will only move after you've made your move, which is where the "turn-based" combat comes in. Essentially, if you make a move and don't attack an enemy, they will move a tile. If they move within attacking range, they will hit you. While enemies start doing very little damage, later in the game they will do a ridiculous amount of damage, so don't think you can just take the hits all the time. As you progress through Keen, you may come across some hidden temples by exploring the world map, which uses movement in the same way each individual stage does. These temples can give you extra abilities, such as a one hit shield to protect you from a blow, or a cross shaped attack that hits two panels away instead of one. These temples can be opened if you have enough orbs collected.

These orbs can be found either through specific stage rewards, which you will be told about when selecting a stage, or they will be hidden somewhere in the stage, either behind a puzzle or a hidden wall. Sometimes even both. Hidden walls are...reasonable to find, but rather tricky. There will always be an indication that there is a hidden passageway, usually denoted by extra light filtering in, but can be really tough to spot. Thankfully, the game tells you how many bonus orbs are in each stage as well.

As I did get all the orbs before writing this review, I can honestly say that some of the harder hidden wall orbs were in the first few levels, at least for me personally. The bonus objective orbs are generally easier to comply with, such as "collect all orbs" or "Complete the stage", but then there are the challenging ones like "don't take damage". Thankfully every room can be traversed without getting hit, it just takes either careful planning or a lot of trial and error. Extra point go to the devs for letting you restart from checkpoint while keeping the "haven't been hit" state, although you will lose any abilities you've used. A fair tradeoff I think.

The graphics have an animated sort of "cartoony" vibe to them, which rather suits the corny plot line that would be right at home for Saturday morning cartoons. That being said, you meet some rather quirky characters, such as the chief priest of a cult that's basically a scam, and a beaver with nipple rings. Yes, I'm very serious about that second one. His name is Mr. Beaver. He also makes a guest appearance in the credits. The soundtrack is also pretty good as well, giving some nice atmosphere to the different locations, and having a pretty exciting boss fight theme.

While Keen is pretty short, I feel like it's pretty adequate length given the price point. The game is simple, yet requires a lot of strategy and planning, stages are set up really well, and the progression in difficulty is steady and not jarring. Keen also some a few really good lines, such as when Kim mentions a boss has been taken over by EVIL, and their response is "I CAN QUIT WHENEVER I WANT". The "bonus ending" if you collect all the orbs and complete the last temple was also pretty well done. Normally I find gag endings to really fall flat, but Cat Nigiri did a really swell job on that hidden ending. For a group that I'm fairly certain consists of less than ten people, this was done really well.

Overall, Keen: One Girl Army is short, but a lot of fun with some really solid mechanics and well done puzzle building. With some quirky aspects yet simply gameplay, Keen is likely to give you a great puzzle solving, zombie slicing adventure. With plenty of hidden objects and bonus puzzles in the temples, Keen is a really good addition to your puzzle game library.

Score: 8.5 / 10


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