Super Blood Hockey - Switch Review

Super Blood Hockey by developer and publisher Loren LemckeSony PlayStation 4 review written by Izzy with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Do you like hockey but wish there weren’t so many pesky rules? Do you like the idea of watching a player seize and hemorrhage on the ice? Have you ever been watching a game and found yourself wishing everything was pixelated? Do you wish you were a hockey GM but know deep down in your heart that you would surrender yourself to shady business practices and would like to avoid any real-world consequences? Well then you’re in luck, friend, because Super Blood Hockey offers all this and more!

Like any good Canadian, I love hockey. I cried when my team (The Ottawa Senators) made it to the Stanley Cup finals in 2007. I cried when they lost. I cried again when they made it to the conference finals 10 years later. I cried when they lost there too. And if you know anything about the franchise itself, you’ll know I basically haven’t stopped crying since then.

I grew up watching the height of the Battle of Ontario between my beloved Sens, and the ragtag bunch of villainous miscreant meatheads known as the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Suck it, Leafs fans. I said what I said). Does the name Tie Domi sound familiar to any of you? If so, imagine icing a team that is nothing but Tie Domi types, and you’ll understand what SBH is all about. Despite how much I hated Domi back in the day, and despite talks around the league in recent years about concussion protocols and scaling back on violence, I must admit that I’m a gal that enjoys a good ‘ol fashioned hockey fight. Sorry not sorry. It’s precisely why I enjoyed this game so much.

In case the name of the game didn’t tip you off, Super Blood Hockey isn’t here to be taken seriously. It delivers exactly what is promised; Super, Bloody, Hockey. You can bloody up your opponents in exhibition, tournament, challenge, or franchise modes, all of which are quite frankly hilarious. My boyfriend, who is a bad Canadian, graciously accepted to play alongside me for the purposes of this review despite the fact that his eyes glaze over like someone on the receiving end of a Ryan Reaves punch every time I so much as mention anything hockey related.

We immediately entered into a tournament, stupidly skipping the tutorial mode available in the main menu, and while what followed may not have been hockey, it was an absolute barrel of laughs and herein lies Super Blood Hockey’s biggest asset. If you’re hanging out with some friends, cracking open a beer, and looking for something that will challenge and entertain, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find something that does that better than SBH at a similar price point. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I subsequently purchased it on PS4, despite having received the code to review it on the Switch.

While the multiplayer is insanely fun and sure to provide hours of entertainment for hockey fans and arcade style game fans alike, it is unfortunately a game that is harder to enjoy for long periods of time when you’re flying solo.

SBH offers a franchise mode, where you control the aforementioned shady GM as he attempts to fill, train, manage, and keep alive a roster full of convicted felons you select from a prisoner catalogue (Did I mention this game is not for children?). Looking through the catalogue, it’s difficult to argue that the price of admission for this game isn’t damn near worth it just for the player names alone. I, of course, elected to represent team Canada and received a prisoner catalogue full of names that would look incredible on an Olympic roster such as Philippe Toboggan, Etienne Cornichons, Mathias Beavertail, Enzo Toonie, Laurent Sorry, and Caleb Garburator (For you non-Canadians out there, a garburator is what you likely call a garbage disposal). We spent quite a bit of time just going through the list and pointing out the ridiculously Canadian names.

Unfortunately, my players also needed to be fed and trained and assessed, and it was time to get back to business. The Franchise Mode is fun when it’s game day and you’re back in action, otherwise it sadly starts to get tedious and repetitive rather quickly. It’s like taking care of a Tamagotchi except your Tamagotchi is a bunch of convicted criminals who apparently need to be told when to hit the treadmill.

The game also offers a Challenge Mode, which gives you the opportunity to unlock new content as you win more challenges. While trying your hand at different challenges is a nice change of pace from both Franchise Mode or just the 4-on-4 hockey offered in Tournament mode, it too could only hold my attention for a short time.

Mechanically, the game handled very smoothly for me on both consoles, and the controls were simple enough for anyone to pick up rather quickly; Skate, pass, check, shoot, switch players. It’s all fairly straightforward, as you’d expect an arcade style game to be.

Prior to each game, you’re prompted to select your players and this might be the only thing SBH has in common with, you know, ACTUAL hockey. The players you have on the ice each play an important role in the overall structure, strengths, and weaknesses of your team. A team full of enforcers? Don’t expect to be able to match your opponent’s speed. A team full of snipers? Sure, sounds great until a brawl breaks out and your snipers are brutalized by your opponent’s enforcers. A team full of playmakers? Who do you think you are, the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks? My personal recommendation (a team is 4 players) is a sniper, two playmakers, and an enforcer, although it should be noted that my win/lose ratio is shockingly bad so what the hell do I know?

It is worth noting that while this title has been out for some time, it is receiving a special packaged edition from Premium Edition Games in December. However, it can be pre-ordered here for those who want the full-color manual, collectable, trading card and more.

Invite some friends over, choose your geographical allegiance, create a bracket system and make an evening of it. I promise you’ll laugh so hard, you won’t even care when one of your players dies mid-game of a ruptured spleen right on the ice. Or, you can appreciate the single player modes for what they are, but this is definitely something you’re going to want to play with others to really enjoy to its fullest.


If you’re a hockey fan and you’re looking to fill that deep, deep void in your soul left by the weird half-season-24-team-Stanley-Cup-playoff-format we had this year, or if you’re a fan of ridiculous injuries and senseless violence, or if you’re a fan of arcade style games, I genuinely recommend you give Super Blood Hockey a (slap)shot. See what I did there?

Score: 7 / 10


Darksburg - PC Review

Darksburg by developer and publisher Shiro GamesPC (Steam) review written by Pierre-Yves with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Having launched into Early Access back in March, ShiroGames’ Darksburg took the concept of a four player survival like Valve’s Left 4 Dead or Fatshark’s Vermintide and turned it into a top down Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) like experience. Unlike a lot of other titles that go through the Early Access process and continue to refine themselves over time, ShiroGames have instead taken what they had, threw it under a legacy banner and re-worked everything else into a two player cooperation roguelike.

Of anything that I’ve had the chance to cover over the years, this is the first time that I’ve had an experience change so completely that it’s actually kind of neat to be able to cover it as such. At its core, Darksburg is still a dark adventure going through a zombie infested city while trying to escape in one piece. Where things have changed though, and not all for the better unfortunately, is that instead of now leveling up a hero of your choice to become more powerful the more amount of times that you play as them, you’ll instead as per the rules of a Roguelike be starting over from level 1 with nothing every time that you play.

With all characters still available to be chosen from, you and a cohort (or an AI), will set out on a path to escape Darksburg together. What’s really interesting is that while each character no longer levels up on their own to become more powerful over time, instead there’s now a team experience counter that has both players level up at the same time. In probably one of the better “no person left behind” scenarios, it doesn’t matter who does more damage, who kills more specials, or who picks up more gold or crystals, it’s all shared because you need to make it through together.

The purpose of Darksburg is simple. Both players have to cross through five stages together and hopefully make it to the end. With four difficulties to choose from, the first few runs will probably want to be done on normal in order to get a feeling for what can be expected. While the end goals will always remain the same such as waiting for a ferry, repairing a cathedral door or running for your lives in a wheat field, everything in between has become a bit random so you’ll always have a bit of wonder as to what you’ll be facing. Walls that need to be blown open with a cannon or gates that have to be snuck into will randomly pop up in front of you making you have to work together that much harder as you need to get through together.

To get through the stages though, the controls are rather simple (which is a good thing) and can also be modified to suit your needs. By default you move with the left mouse click, attack with the right and use QWER for your abilities. Shift keeps you in place to attack without moving and CTRL shows you what your current abilities do. From there, it’s mow down enemies, pick up loot, and level up which gives you the choice from one of three abilities. Be warned to pick carefully though as you can only level so many times per district AND there is a total level that will cap you out forcing you to finish the adventure with what you have.

In the area of aspects that work very well, Darksburg will adjust itself depending on if you’re playing alone / with an AI, or, if you’re playing with someone else. Taking it for a spin with an AI the first time just to grasp how different things were, it allowed me to settle in rather easily. Once my brother was ready to join up after I had a session or three in though, and what greeted us out of the gate were enemies that I had grown accustomed to only seeing by the third stage. Because the AI can only be so good, I was glad to see that they adjusted the difficulty to reflect that as you can’t strategize with an AI, you can only hope for the best.

Having this kind of scale was awesome as while it was easier to play it with a human player and clear it the first time we went in, I’m still working at clearing it with an AI. That’s what works really well. What didn’t work so well though is that there are a few features that come from being a Roguelike that took away from some of the charm that the Legacy Mode has. Designed to run straight through, you always have to do stages, 1-2-3-4-5 unlike before where you could just load up whichever stage you wanted regardless of the order that it was supposed to be in. Now, you have to do them all instead of being able to just dabble if you really just want a quick match as the later stages are designed with you having already accumulated the levels and the skills to survive it.

The other part that doesn’t work so well, at least not to me, is the unlocking of “items” to help you out. As you are no longer leveling your character, you now have access to a three tier item system that can be unlocked with the crystals that you pick up over the course of your escape. The base tier cost about fifty crystals each so you won’t be seeing any unlocked item until about the third stage as it’ll take two stages to get that amount. Further to that, and I didn’t mind having to unlock new slots, was that you were never sure what you would be unlocking. Split into categories, you have to basically hope for the best that the item you decide to purchase actually works well, or at least works well for your character and play style. It adds some replayability but without a fair amount of items, you’re going to have a much harder time tackling the harder difficulties.

Finally, there’s the total amount of content. Darksburg for Marc and I at the beginning held a lot of promise as we already had five stages and several characters to pick from. Things since then however have moved to basically keeping those five stages but randomizing how they are showcased. Also now, since they are all in a row, there’s just 1-2-3-4-5, Victory Screen, Results Screen, and then play a new match. There’s no chance to keep on running through and just making it harder while keeping the abilities that you currently have. There’s no survival for however long you can with rewards for time or zombies taken out. It just ends and then restarts. The randomness of the levels help spice things up, but, they are the same five levels.

I had really hoped by release to see more in the terms of places to explore. Like does your party take the route A or B from this location. At least something more than the same five locations especially now that you have to do them in the same order every time. The difficulties are there for a challenge, but without new visuals, it just becomes more of the same as you unlock new items to hopefully make the run that much easier the next time.


So overall, while Darksburg has come a long way from its original version, the final version feels a bit empty once you’ve finished it once or twice. I do hope to see more content and new stages in order to give players more to do. Having kept the original version through a Legacy Mode is great, but it’s going to need more if it plans to be around for a while.

Score: 7 / 10


WWE 2K Battlegrounds - XB1 Review

WWE 2K Battlegrounds by developer Saber Interactive and publisher 2K GamesMicrosoft Xbox One Review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

WWE 2K Battlegrounds does exactly what it sets out to do: provide some quick, easy wrestling fun. While clearly lacking the depth and production values of the core WWE series, Battlegrounds is accessible and entertaining – and I am generally good with that, despite a handful of shortcomings.

I’ve been a big fan of the mains WWE series for years now. I thought 2K17 and 18 were both a good deal of fun, even if they were at times frustrating and unapproachable (seriously, those Royal Rumble storyline missions just got on my every… last… nerve…). Then 2k19 came out, and it was an unmitigated disaster. The bugs were numerous, the polish was missing and the series lost a ton of goodwill with its fans last year. That change in developers went poorly, to say the least.

When I heard that 2K Games would be bringing on Sabre Interactive to take the NBA 2k Playgrounds approach to the WWE universe, I was curious to see how it would go – but the potential was evident to me immediately. The development team took a very similar approach to WWE in cartoony, yet recognizable characters with over-the-top antics in unusual venues. Just like Playgrounds is a spiritual callback to arcade basketball titles like NBA Jam, WWE 2K Battlegrounds struck similar notes for me as the old Midway Wrestling titles I played back in the arcade years ago.

The mainline WWE games have for years been getting a bit more cumbersome in their control schemes as they try to do a bit too much of everything. There are so many different wrestlers and combat styles that trying to merge punching, grappling, weapons and high-flying acrobatics in a single system made the series very unfriendly for newcomers. Here the opposite is true. While there are a handful of different wrestling styles to be had here, from powerhouses to brawlers to technicians and more, they are all functionally pretty similar. Their move sets have variety from one another, but the general way of pulling them off is the same from wrestler to wrestler. Sure, a powerhouse is going to have an easier time picking someone up and chucking them, but your acrobatic little guys can do that too. I will say that I felt as though the gameplay favored the big bruisers by and large. I just had an easier time with them when the bodies started colliding.

The WWE is known for having some pretty out-there stories and over-the-top characters, but Battlegrounds definitely takes that a step or ten further. You can throw your opponents up into the air and deliver completely unrealistic but visually exciting double uppercuts to your opponent’s body. You can pick them up and toss them into the waiting mouth of a nearby alligator to be chewed on. You can take control of a ram and use it to enter the ring and attack your opponents (yup, you read that right). Even the weapons range from typical WWE fare (kendo sticks and metal folding chairs) to slightly more ridiculous (motorcycles that you pull out from under the apron, or large inflatable hammers that make squeaky sounds when they strike someone). Gone are the fully voice acted motion cutscenes the primary series has used in recent years, and instead we have a comic book style storyboard at certain points in the campaign mode.

This zany style is evident in the brightly colored visuals and squat, chunky character models. Similar to NBA Playgrounds, I am amazed how easily recognizable stars from the WWE are here, because of the overly exaggerated cartoon appearance they have here. If anything, I think they’re easier to recognize here than in NBA Playgrounds, in part because in the NBA players are generally wearing the same thing – shorts and shirts that are somewhat uniform. Here you have everything from distinctive hairstyles to masks and costumes that reflect the wrestlers’ real-life counterparts. While the characters look okay, the animations can get a bit weird at times, especially with weapons (I got motorcycles hung up oddly on the ropes a couple of times, and there were times collisions didn’t actually look like they were… well, colliding). The action is hard-hitting and fast, and the visuals and sound effects support that. Even Jerry Lawler’s familiar voice is part of the commentary - though many of his quick remarks get repetitive somewhat quickly, which is always a problem in sports games but even more evident in something like this where there is a lot less diversity in the action than simulation titles.

That is where we get into the crux of where Battlegrounds largely comes in lacking. There are several modes of play, which certainly helps. We have caged matches, versus computer, versus human, tag team, gauntlet, Royal Rumble and more – and in the exhibition modes we have numerous dials we can play with such as ring out rules, number of times weapons can be used, difficulty, things of that nature. These are all great, especially if you’re looking to do some quick sessions with some buddies that just want to share in some arcade styled throwdowns. However, it doesn’t really take long for the shallowness of the overall offering to start to show through.

The campaign mode deserves credit for actually being pretty lengthy. I sunk some good time in during the first night, several hours, and got through about a third of what it has to offer. I think it took me about two fairly solid days of playing to get through it all. It is smartly designed, with different types of matches and changing up which wrestlers you use along the way at regular intervals to change up the pacing a bit. You unlock new power-ups (more on that in a minute) that you can equip along the way as well, which helps keep things somewhat fresher. However, with all of that being said, I really found myself doing largely the same thing in match one hundred as I was doing in match three.

There is a bit of depth to the wrestling, but with the accessibility comes some tradeoff as over time everything begins to feel somewhat same-y. Progression also is not nearly as interesting with the lack of a true career mode, and while the story told in campaign is fine, it’s not going to be remembered as a great one either. You earn some currency as you play, which is nice because you have the option to unlock additional wrestlers. It’s great to see so many classics such as Jake the Snake or Andre the Giant or Undertaker hitting the mat with current wrestlers – and as long as you have the patience to grind for the currency, you can unlock the ones you want. With a roster of more than seventy available overall, that is probably the biggest carrot being dangled in terms of progression. This adds a major amount of grinding if you plan to unlock all of them, but if you only have your heart set on some specific ones? That happened pretty organically for me. Still, given the $40 price of the game, the microtransactions as an option will likely still rub people the wrong way. I appreciate that the game is discounted compared to the usual sixty dollar price tag we see for a main WWe title, but it still feels like it could be about ten dollars cheaper on launch given the compromises made along the way.

There are options for creating characters and battlegrounds, but neither one really seemed all that robust. They get the job done, but there are just not a ton of options out there. It probably is more than enough for the quick pick-up-and-play mentality, compared to the more robust character creations found in mainline WWE titles that see your created character through a lengthy career mode.


WWE 2K Battlegrounds deserves credit for being the most fun a WWE game has been in a couple of years, but for better and for worse, it is clearly a budget title that cuts corners on depth as it attempts to provide a more arcade-like experience. It generally works, as Battlegrounds is fun in bursts of quick play – especially with friends, but for those with a career mode / progression itch, there’s a good chance that this title will leave you wanting for more. If you have expectations set appropriately, WWE 2K Battlegrounds is entertaining, though it may not have a lot of staying power beyond the first few weeks you get it.

Score: 7 / 10


Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars - XB1 Review

Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars by developer Palindrome Interactive and publisher Kalypso MediaMicrosoft Xbox One Review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Will a complex strategy game become unwieldy when brought from PC to console? That is often the question I find myself wondering when I get a chance to delve into the genre with a controller instead of a mouse and keyboard. Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars has long been a title I’ve eyed picking up on Steam, due to its intriguing blend of card game, strategy and RPG elements – all genres I gravitate towards. Seeing it get a more recent release on console however, I was excited to finally give it a go and am happy to say that the transition seems to have gone very smoothly and the end result is a deep and entertaining hybrid of gaming genres.

I cannot imagine playing this title without going through the tutorial, so that is where I will begin. This vampire-themed strategy game feels very dense to start. You get a mostly-overhead view of an army squatting in a province and you’re told to click this, that and the other to advance. At first it all looked pretty – but also pretty overwhelming. Thankfully as I worked through the step-by-step tutorial, I not only because to understand the controls and the buttons mapped to specific things on the map, but also the concepts behind Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars. My confuse soon gave way to the realization that despite its numerous menu items and detailed maps, the interface is actually quite well streamlined.

This is more of a combat tactics than simulation / strategy game. You’re not managing resources the way you might in the 4X genre, but you do have some currency-like resources that you gather and use to purchase / recruit troops along the way. Each map sees you starting in a home base that has a relatively limited number of options for constructing your army, but as you move outward into the various provinces within the map, you can claim them and the resources within. There might be villages or caves that can be used to recruit humanoid or beastly soldiers, other manors to forge noble lords from, libraries and plenty of other important landmarks that yield a variety of benefits along the way. You have action points that dictate how much your units can move or do in any given turn, and then you end that turn and time passes.

With the passage of time, other events can occur that yield new choices and benefits along the way. You may gain cards that make it easier to recruit units, or perhaps give you other kinds of bonuses. These enhancement cards don’t come into play very heavily during the earlier stages, but in later maps the right play of cards at the proper time can make for huge advantages when push comes to shove and it becomes time for combat.

Here you slide in nice and close, away from the more zoomed out world map view into a more intimate setting that has a turn-based system similar to games like King’s Bounty or Fire Emblem. You take turns moving your troops in a square / grid-based map, looking for advantages along the way. Sometimes there are bonuses on the map that give you additional perks or bonuses, other times it’s just a matter of putting the right units in the proper places to become successful (put your tank-like soldiers in front while your archers let loose from range, for example). There are also flanking mechanics that you can take advantage of – but also have to protect against as they can significantly impact unit casualties. While most of the combat will be managed by your units, shown in health / strength by the number of people in it, you will also have your lords who are singular dealers of death as well. The overall tactics aren’t the deepest in the world, but they’re satisfying enough and reward thoughtful decisions made both in combat and also in the world map outside of battles.

Content comes in the usual flavors of sandbox and campaign. The former is great if you’re looking to craft some unique scenarios but the latter is probably the most rewarding as there are different narratives to be experienced. Visually the combat stages are pretty simplistic but it’s easy to differentiate between units and varying types of terrain, so it did the job. I actually really enjoyed the overworld maps, tinged with movement, dripping with dark gothic visuals and a suitably well-matched soundtrack that complimented the theme of the campaign stories quite nicely.

I will say that once I got the hang of the controller, navigation, but it did take me a bit longer than I would have liked. Even when I had gotten through the tutorial, it was not always clear to me what I was supposed to be doing when. Clicking on units is easy enough, and most meaningful tasks are assigned to the X button, but navigating some of the menus early on was something of an adventure as it wasn’t always clear to me how I was supposed to be accessing what. Maybe it would have been easier with a mouse because I could simply move to what I wanted and clicked on it, but as it stands there were just times where I felt like I was locked into the wrong menu item and found myself flailing a bit to get back out of it and to what I intended.

The overall pacing can be somewhat problematic as well at times. Earlier chapters move along briskly, but later in the game when you’re dealing with larger maps with more provinces and units, things definitely slow down quite a bit and it is not always easy to tell which units of yours have action points left to spend or not. Thankfully one area of the design I appreciated was the end of turn mechanics, which checks and reminds you (and will jump you right to) a unit with actions left that you might not have meant to skip. I found this very helpful. In combat the battlefields could have been a bit more spacious, and the enemy AI is pretty simplistic. There’s still plenty of challenge to be had, but by the later stages I had gotten pretty good at baiting the enemy into poor decisions because they had become rather predictable.


Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars presents a very satisfying mix of different genres and aside from some UI quibbles along the way, does a good job of porting over from PC to console. The presentation works well with the vampiric theme, and while the narrative itself is nothing all that unique, the different campaigns are fun to venture through all the same. Fans of single player strategy games with some RPG and card game mechanics should enjoy this offering despite some of its flaws.

Score: 7.5 / 10


Vampire's Fall: Origins - XB1 Review

Vampire's Fall: Origins by developer and publisher Early Morning StudioMicrosoft Xbox One Review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Having been ported over from mobile to PC and now consoles, I really didn’t know what to expect out of Vampire's Fall: Origins. That being said, if you’re an RPG fan interested in a vampire tale, don’t let its modest roots and price tag scare you away as there is some good fun to be had here.

Some games are difficult to pick up and play, while others are pretty straight forward. Vampire's Fall: Origins is among the latter, and that’s a good thing. While it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table in terms of game mechanics or general storyline, Vampire's Fall: Origins has plenty of solidly entertaining moments.

Things begin inauspiciously enough, as these types of RPG tales tend to do. There’s a great darkness sweeping the land and you’re a freshly recruited soldier looking to make a name for himself. The dialog is often pretty cheeky, poking fun at things right out of the gates when your commander gives you a bit of grief for being a wet-behind-the-ears new soldier who doesn’t even have real gear to speak of. You can almost feel his disdain as your newly minted warrior gets bitten by a rat and needs a healer to cure your wounds. This all serves as the introductory tutorial to the greater game that still manages to elicit some grins along the way.

You run around, getting a handful of simple tasks completed when the army of darkness shows up on your village’s footsteps. The Big Bad in this situation then says to have the village send someone to face him in 1-on-1 combat for the future of its people. In a matter of moments the authority figures who had only minutes before been picking on your inability to protect yourself are now volunteering you as tribute to be their new champion. Of course, since the game can’t end fifteen minutes in, you get your butt whipped and the village is slaughtered. Except… you wake up, a vampire and thus your tail of revenge begins in earnest.

It’s all a bit campy, but at the same time still deals in plenty of dark themes along the way. In terms of the gameplay, it’s touted as tactical turn-based, but it’s really less about tactics and more about making sure you grind. That’s not really a bad thing as I tend to be a grinder in my RPGs anyways, but if you don’t take your time and grab every piece of gear and battle at every given opportunity, you will run face first into some pretty severe difficulty spikes that seem entirely unfair. Enemies can hit hard and new equipment that’s worthwhile tends to cost quite a bit of money. This all became evident in the training campaign where I stumbled onto the world that’s your primary narrative objective early on and got walloped in a couple of rounds. So I ran around doing odds and ends and gaining levels and gear and then went back and handled him easily.

These imbalance issues can be a little frustrating, as it tends to discourage risky exploration, because odds are if you stray too far too quickly, you’ll get your ass handed to you. The actual combat is pretty simple as you pick the type of attack you want, using focus / special points to pull off / combo attacks that will give you the upper-hand in combat certainly help, but I had to be careful not to get careless because Vampire's Fall: Origins can be pretty unforgiving if you are. It’s not an impossible game by any means, just one that requires some patience / grinding like the old dungeon crawlers of old that rewarded persistence with incremental progress.

The primary ways in which your character improves is through equipment and gaining levels – and thereby selecting items off of some branching talent trees. There are tons of quests to be done and a surprisingly robust world to explore for having been a mobile game. Truth be told, the quality of Vampire's Fall: Origins is surprisingly high given its rather humble origins. The visuals are not going to blow you away by any means. It’s sort of a dark, dingy, gray game which reflects its gothic theme nicely. Buildings really don’t look all that different from one location to most of the others, but the burning lanterns that punctuate the darkness somehow manage to be eye-catching and almost comforting when you find a new settlement. The character you customize as well as your opponents in combat are pretty stiff in their movements. They almost look and feel like paper cutouts just going through the limited set of motions.

The actual controls were a bit weird at times, especially in combat or making decisions. Hardly a deal-breaker as it relies in pressing in a direction on the pad instead of the usual pressing of face buttons or moving through menus. I suspect this was an intentional design choice to keep things as close to the mobile origins where everything was a tap and you didn't have to slide back and forth and around via menus to choose things (though you still do that when you're selecting new skills or pieces of gear to wear, so it's sort of inconsistent).


Vampire's Fall: Origins is not going to blow RPG fans away, but given its relatively modest price tag, there is actually a good deal to enjoy here. The dialog and setting are high points and the combat has that old-school grind to it that classic RPG gamers will feel right at home with.

Score: 7.5 / 10


Moero Crystal H - Nintendo Switch Review

Moero Crystal H by developer Compile Heart and publisher EastAsiaSoftNintendo Switch Review written by Richard with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Well, we're back again with another Genkai Tokki game, and once again we're taking a look at something full of dungeon crawler goodness. Learning from its predecessor and making improvements to the formula, Moero Crystal H is definitely a nice, and niche, little dungeon crawler, provided you don't mind the boing.

In Moero Crystal H, you play the role of a young human man, Zenox, who has ventured to the city from his countryside home in order to search for his father. In this world he lives in, populated by both humans and monster girls, he comes upon the temple of the goddess, who has gifted the world with the "Bra of Darkness" and the "Panties of Light", and should they ever be separated, the world shall face judgment. Lo and behold, as Zenox is visiting the temple, the Bra of Darkness is stolen, and so Zenox offers his aid in searching out the criminal. But, as it turns out, the criminal has been throwing the bra on unsuspecting monster girls, which brings out the darkness in their hearts making them aggressive. But it's ok, because Zenox can help heal them by...rubbing them? Ok, fine, it doesn't make a lot of sense really, but it's better than the previous title at least, and it does get sort of explained at least. And no, I'm never repeating that description again.

Let's ignore the blatant fan service and multitude of sex puns for the moment and take a look at what Moero Crystal has to offer us from a dungeon crawler perspective. I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit this, but it's actually a really well built dungeon crawler. While you do have your standard fare of walking around an unmapped region, filling in spots on the map and getting into random battles, throwing switches etc., there are plenty of gimmick style floors that are built quite well and generally not overused, barring one particular outlier. There are some areas that you have to traverse floors using pits and stairs, some have zones where you can't see the map, some have sliding floor puzzles, and Area 6 has a 75 point warp puzzle room that may as well be the bane of my existence. Basically I'm saying that apart from one specific room, I had a decent amount of fun traversing the areas. More specifically, I enjoyed searching out new monster girls to add to the party, because this game takes "defeat means friendship" to the limit. As you wander a map, you may notice some symbols on the screen. These can be collect points, a hidden shop, a job class change item, or a battle, to name a few. Some special symbols are pink and purple "soul" icons that move around the map when you move. These are fights against monster girls, and winning will add them to your roster of potential allies. Pink are the easier ones, and purple tend to slap you upside the head and laugh at your broken body.

So how is the combat, since you'll be seeing a lot of it? Pretty good actually, and surprisingly well balanced for the most part. Fights are turn based, with higher AGI stats meaning faster turn order, and you do have a gauge with character icons indicating who goes next. When monster girls have an action turn, one of your five members have a few options: attack, skill, guard, charm. While most of these are self explanatory, skill and charm take special mention. Skill is of note for two reasons: it is your primary method of elemental damage, and you can perform skill chains. If you played Moero Chronicle, you may be familiar with the elemental chain system: attack a weak point, or article of clothing, with an element that is good against it, and you start building a chain. Higher chains means better bonus money and exp, and better item drop chances. For skill chains, if you use a skill that is compatible with another members skill, and that other member has the next turn, you can do a combo attack after the normal skill, or one of the "48 errotic methods". These can be additional damage, healing, or buffs. While this takes care of the monster girls, Zenox also plays a roll in battle. He can charge desire, release desire, and insert. Basically, as long as the desire meter is 30% or higher, Zenox can grant a one-off buff with release desire to a single monster girl, or using insert he can alter the turn order. It's a really nice improvement over the previous title for the battle system as a whole.

Well, all you men, and women, of "culture" can rejoice, for battle scratching, and just general "scratching" is back. Basically, a fight against a monster girl primarily consists of stripping parts of them by attacking individual parts, each with their own elemental properties, and filling your mascot character's, Otton's, desire gauge. When it gets full, you enter a mini game where you have a set amount of time to find at rapidly tap three "darkness points" (read erotic locations) and then rub the monster girl vigorously to make her pass out so that you can put the Panties of Light on her. Yup, not sketchy at all. Good news for those that suck at this game or are playing in the Switch dock (because I don't see how you can win if you aren't using the touch screen), if you lose the rubbing battle, you don't have to fight the monster girl again, upon reencountering you go straight to the mini game. Thank you Valkyrie for helping me confirm this about 9 times. Pro tip, some of the key locations are rather small and specific, like the neck, or a very small area of the armpit (Valkyrie, I'm looking at you for that last one). This right here is the reason you won't want to play in public.

There are a number of interesting new functions introduced in Moero Crystal, but returning players of Chronicle may notice some returning monster girls. Yes, there's a lot of those. No, the character models aren't any different. Yes, it feels a little cheap. No, it didn't affect my enjoyment any less. Actually, I might even be pleased since you can get Satan early game. I'm pretty sure Chronicle players just twitched at that. Most of the gameplay type changes can be found through the town menu, and while the shop hasn't changed any, or is different from any other RPG shop really, you also have new areas like the training arena, where you can go to fight against monster girls you've beaten before, or to challenge the DLC monsters. Another pro tip: Tiamat is tough. In addition, you've also got the "rest space", which totally isn't based off a Japanese love hotel. Nuh-uh-uh, not at all. What it does do, is allow you to drop some cash in order to boost stats on monster girls during your next dungeon run, or until the girl in question faints. Pretty handy actually.

Also introduced is the "Soul Temple", where you can go to enhance your equipment, release a "seal" from a monster girl, or apply a seal on a piece of gear. Essentially, you earn souls by defeating enemies, and you can use these souls as fuel for upgrades, or to obtain a character specific "add-on" from a monster girl. These add-on effects can only be assigned to one piece of equipment, but are also transferrable, and don't cost anything after the initial release, and also can't "disappear" when the item they are attached to gets sold. The last point of interest is the Inn. This is where you assign your party, support characters for both offence and defence support, chat with the girls through events, assign different costumes/job changes, and perform a shooting type mini game. You can also "scratch" the girls to increase you favourability with them. Before I talk about the job changes, I'm actually going to mention the shooting mini game first. Essentially, you take a very phallic looking ship, at you drop white bombs or fire off a white stream laser that dissolves the clothes of the monster girl in order to find: a heart crystal, skill crystal, or separate crystal. After finding a crystal, you can complete a short one-off one floor mini dungeon in the "depths of the girl's hearts" in order to receive the effect of the crystal. This means unlocking: and extra affinity level, a new skill that applies to all classes for the specific monster girl, or the ability to choose different bras and panties for the monster girl.

Now you're probably wondering "what's that last one good for"? Well, Bras and Panties divide learnable skills and stats. Basically, each monster girl has four "job classes" that can be changed by swapping clothing sets. This changes the girls' stat distribution as well as learnable skills. By separating Bras and Panties, you can mix and match skills with different outfit stat levels. Unfortunately you can't mix and match with the default outfit, but you still have a lot more customization than you did previously. The job change panties can be found in the dungeon associated with the monster girl: one in a chest, one from a special random encounter, and one from harvesting special harvest points that have a chance on floor entry to be panties instead of generic items.

Now, what would a fan service based dungeon crawler be without art? Well, the monster girls are all drawn rather pretty, the monster girls are cute, then half naked, then in your party. Environments are well designed, but don't tend to have much variation inside the dungeon, and the enemy monsters that are TOTALLY not dirty jokes are fairly standard. There are a lot of recruitable party members though, so you've got a pretty big dart board to choose your fetish from. What really surprises me with this franchise so far is the music. The music is far better than it has any right to be for a fan service based game. That being said, I suppose MGQ also had a stellar soundtrack, and that was literally an eroge. The battle themes, stage themes, and boss themes are all super catchy, and the music crew really did a good job matching area ambience to musical style.

So, let's be honest here: Moero Crystal H is one big self contained sex joke with a dungeon crawling delivery method. Does it do it well? Oh, surprisingly quite well. Is it rife with fan service? Definitely. Is it an oddly charming dungeon crawler? Also yes. Moero Crystal does a lot right on the dungeon crawler front, and while admitting to anyone that you actually play the game may be tough, you'll probably be able to hook them on the gameplay soon enough.

Overall, Moero Crystal H is an incredibly solid dungeon crawler with a couple of interesting gimmick mini games and a well implemented battle system. While there may be some consternation over the gratuitous fan service and sex appeal for the game, it certainly has more than enough to hold up with gameplay alone as well. If you don't have an issue with the high amount of fan service, at its core Moero Crystal H is a really enjoyable dungeon crawler with a wide cast of usable party members, interesting dungeon design, and a good soundtrack to complement it.


Score: 8 / 10


Tennis World Tour 2 - XB1 Review

Tennis World Tour 2 by developer Big Ant Studios and publisher NaconMicrosoft Xbox One Review written by Pierre-Yves with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Very early this year I got the chance to get back into a more serious style of digital Tennis with Big Ant Studios and Nacon’s AO Tennis 2 for the Xbox One. Moving to the end of the summer and into the fall, the studio and the publisher are back and taking Tennis action to the world stage with Tennis World Tour 2.

As AO Tennis 2 had been my first time back onto a more realistic court in quite some time, there was a lot that had to be learned from the ground up. How were drop shots being handled? Top spins, slices or lobs? It took some time under a rather rough career mode before finally caving and getting some training done because it was clear that I was missing something. Not to pull off the same mistake a second time within the same year, I went straight for the training sessions and I’m glad that I did because Tennis World Tour 2 is not the same beast as AOT2 was back in February.

Sporting a new interface and a lot of simplified modules, players can select from:

  • Exhibition Matches;

  • A Career Mode;
  • Official or Custom Tournaments;
  • Online Matches against others; or
  • Several Tutorial Challenges to get you familiar with everything.

While playing an Exhibition Match or a Tournament are fun on their own, it’s really the Career Mode that keeps drawing me back in. A beginner and a no one, you get to create yourself from the ground up in order to hopefully find yourself as somewhat of a match for the greats over the course of time of your career.

Like a lot of other menu features, even the career mode felt a bit simplified but in a good way as there wasn’t any fluff to get in the way. From a main menu of five items, you can either go into a tournament, play an exhibition game, train, meet your coach or agent (and hire new ones), or finally take the day off to rest as you’ll need to from time to time to keep in tip top shape. Everything has been re-designed to go straight to the point and with the shorter load times? Unlike AOT2, I didn’t feel like I had the time to get up and do a bunch of chores before my match was ready. Now, if you want to play, you play.

While looking and feeling rather similar as I played both back and forth to make sure of a few things, Tennis World Tour 2 has had several adjustments and a lot of them were for the better. The other major change is to the gameplay that now feels a lot more natural as you don’t have a cursor to glide across the court for where you want your ball to go. Instead, you simply “feel it in your gut” and shoot. It makes the overall experience feel more immersive, as you simply adjust the tension on the thumbstick for about where you want to go and then make sure to hit the ball right. Perfect, too soon, too late, each of these will affect where and how far your ball goes.

Without the target though, and this probably my only complaint, some challenges are just stupid hard as while I can pull off drop shots in a match, while I can ace through the tutorial for them, I can’t for the life of me pull it off in a challenge. Even now, that challenge remains unfinished in both the Tutorials and for my poor Career player’s training which is a fair amount of experience points to help them level up. Instead, I’ve had to rely on gaining experience solely through matches. Otherwise, Tennis World Tour 2 provided a fairly decent Tennis experience.

Finally, in a bit of an in-game “loot crate” style, you can use prize money in order to buy new packs of ability cards that can be used during a match. Does this help make things more realistic? No. Can it help you win? Very much so! Coming in a few types and grades, ability cards allow for you to either increase your potential or decrease your opponent’s. Better accuracy, more power, or more stamina to dash back and forth as you’re sent running after the ball after losing control of the rally. Likewise, you can also decrease your opponent’s everything and like your own abilities, and depending on the strength of the card, if can be for one hit or the next several hits. Starting Tennis World Tour 2 up for the first time, you’ll be treated to several packs but after that? You’re on your own!

Otherwise, if you’ve been looking for a new Tennis game to challenge yourselves and have already been through Big Ant Studios’ AO Tennis 2, Tennis World Tour 2 is a great place to look with hours of gameplay at the ready between the various modes and your potential golden career.


Score: 7 / 10


RPG Maker MV - PS4 Review

RPG Maker MV by developer Kadakowa and publisher NIS AmericaSony PlayStation 4 Review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

As a longtime fan of RPG Maker titles, any release is big news for me personally. I have been hacking my way around projects since before the series had a proper introduction to America and have had hands-on time with literally every release since that time. RPG Maker MV is a perfectly good port of a program that is about five years old now, giving console gamers a fun way to flex their creative muscles. That being said, those familiar with the PC versions of the game will no doubt be acutely aware of the console limitations to be had here as well.

We covered RPG Maker MV when it first released on PC back in October of 2015 (you can read the review here), and we loved the software for a variety of reasons. Many of those same reasons still resonate today, despite half a decade having gone by. You do not have to know a stitch of programming to put together a reasonably simple RPG. It’s a great way for people to tell a story that they can share in a unique way with friends, family or just the RPG Maker community in general.

Things kick off with a pretty solid set of training wheels in the tutorial that comes with RPG Maker MV (though I did have some weird issues getting the trophy for completing it to pop, for those of you who are trophy hunters. I had to delete my data twice to get the tutorial trophy to track, and I have no idea why. Also, it is worth noting for trophy hunters that this game does come with a full platinum – despite not being a traditional ‘game’ in and of itself). The tutorial was helpful for me because I was familiar with MV but it helped me to navigate how to use the controller for this software. I am much more used to the mouse and keyboard approach on the PC. This is a PS4 review, and I have to imagine that the touch screen of the Switch would add some extra quality of life (similar to how RPG Maker Fes did on the 3DS a few years back), but with the PlayStation 4, I had to make use of the controller. That took a bit of wrapping my head around using buttons to jump from one window to another so I could select my desired tools or map.

Thankfully, there is keyboard support here. I tried it with a few different ones – a generic Logitech USB, a Microsoft Bluetooth one and a Tesoro USB and all of them were recognized by the PlayStation and worked just fine with this software. This is the first time I’ve actually used a keyboard with my PS4, so I wasn’t sure how well they would work, but it was all plug and play for me and a huge win in trying to add dialog to my projects. I can’t honestly imagine trying to put together a typical RPG project using the virtual keyboard – it would just be too slow I think.

Generally speaking, the controller works as well as one could hope. It was not super intuitive to me right out of the gates, but once I got through the tutorial, I was able to figure it out. Obviously compared to a mouse, the workflow is not quite as smooth, but it gets the job done. To that end, the framework is all there with mapping, events and all of the logic one needs to move from one map to another, to open and close doors, raid treasure chests and of course fight monsters, gain experience and level up characters. The engine itself translates very well in this port and leaves the creator a robust set of options to work with. There’s nothing else quite like it on current gen consoles and that alone deserves recognition.

Where veteran RPG Maker fans will start to see the limitations is in the flexibility to personalize the games a bit further. Obviously you can’t go adding plugins, or writing custom code scripts or importing original art and assets the way you can on the PC version. There just is not that level of flexibility to be had here. One of the greatest aspects of the RPG Maker community are the scripts and asset resources provided for free (or for purchase) that allow for a wider range of presentation. The RTP (default) art and tile sets have a nice variety and work well with one another, but as this software ages, most game releases will start to look and sound very similar to one another, relying heavily on concepts, event use and narratives to differentiate completed titles.

Thankfully there is an in-game forum of sorts that serves as a sort of creative hub where people can share projects and even some new DLC artwork that has become available. As of the time of this review, with this being relatively new software, there is not a ton of content out there, but I have no doubt that it will begin to populate more fully over time. One sort of strange compromise made is that you can only have one uploaded game at a time (outside of ‘submissions’ – which is looking as though it will be used for time / theme events to keep the community engaged, which is a very cool idea that I hope resonates and encourages plenty of sharing). My guess is you will be able to purchase extra uploads if you want them (there was something similar to Fes if I recall correctly – it has been a few years now since I used that software).

There’s some quality of life items that were introduced in the lasted PC version of RPG Maker MZ (we reviewed it here), that I did not expect to find in this console release but would have liked to have seen. So everything you are getting here is based on the five year old MV. One thing that works well on this console version that I appreciate is how it tries to track memory usage. With PlayStation 4 consoles being pretty standard (versus the wild west that is PC configuration), it’s nice to see that information as I’m designing my maps.


RPG Maker MV is not the latest and greatest in this series, and it is sometimes an awkward fit due to using a controller over a mouse. Additionally, there is a lack of flexibility in the system due to the nature of console versus computer, but all of these things were expected on my part. RPG Maker MV delivers an experience unlike anything else on the PlayStation 4 that JRPG enthusiasts such as myself should find hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of fun with.

Score: 7 / 10


Necromunda: Underhive Wars - XB1 Review

Necromunda: Underhive Wars by developer Rogue Factor and publisher Focus Home InteractiveMicrosoft Xbox One review written by Pierre-Yves with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Just when you think you've seen it all, something comes along showing you otherwise. From Rogue Factor and Focus Home Interactive, Necromunda: Underhive Wars is the latest Games Workshop Warhammer IP to hit both the consoles and the PC. Having just released, this turned based, third person "action" shooter is one that while not entirely accessible to start off is a fair amount of fun.

Like a lot of Warhammer IPs, there’s often a lot to take in from both the lore to the gameplay mechanics if you really want to know what’s going on. In the case of Necromunda, you’ll get a rough idea of what’s going on and as for the why? It’s clear. Everything has to be fought for and if it means killing your own faction’s people? It’ll be done. It's “the how” that's going to take a good deal of time to get accustomed to and honestly? Even hours in you’ll often be wondering if what you did was the right move.

Necromunda has several main modes. The first is a story based campaign that will see a story evolve through the points of views of different people and factions. The second mode allows you to create your own clan to play a series of missions with loads of objectives to make them more fearsome and help in their customization from the ground up. Finally, the third allows you to go online and either fight with or against other real life players. In each case, the action is brutal, the choices are not easy, and if you’re not prepared or paying attention to damned near everything, you’re going to both die and lose the match(es). Repeatedly.

Like any good strategy title, there’s things you need to know from the beginning and then there are things you need to learn quickly enough. Finally, there are things that make you wonder about your own place in the universe as you see another player or the CPU pull off some fairly illegal moves, or so you thought until you figure out how to do them yourself. Necromunda at its core is a turned based strategy that will see two groups facing off against each other. Suggesting that you play through the campaign first, it quickly becomes clear as to why as there’s a fair amount to learn and the learning curve is high. This is not a newbie friendly strategy title and I’ll be honest that even I had a hard time with it having to restart what seemed to be an easy mission several times over just because I really didn’t see something coming.

Broken into teams, Necromunda will have you select a unit to play out a turn not unlike most XCOM like or Valkyria Chronicles like strategies. Once you’ve selected your unit, you can then start to move about the field. Where things are vastly different, is that in Necromunda when you select a unit to play, so does your opponent. Breaking this down into initiative, the unit with the higher initiative goes first and then can move about the field as they see fit. If you were about to get the killing blow and then run away, you just had to revamp your entire strategy. If you were just short of dead and they go first? You lose your turn. They can also go about wrecking havoc and destruction on the rest of your team or regroup with their own and building barricades or placing traps to make your life that much harder.

This is really what makes Necromunda hard. There’s only so much you can prepare for until control is finally back in your hands. Enemy units will be moving all over the place and what seems like a good idea one second becomes a horrible one on the next. When on your turn, more in the vein of XCOM, only units prepared to fire under Overwatch or Ambush will attack while you run around. This can obviously put a damper on your plans as not only do you lose health on an overwatch attack, but if the ambush happens, you become locked into combat which is really where things can get “spicy”.

All units, regardless of their class, have both Action and Movement Points. Movement Points allow you to move around or to use special abilities like Entrench to give you more Action Points. Action Points are what you’re going to need to use to attack other units with guns, swords or other warhammery weapons (ex: chainsaw swords), set up for Overwatch or an Ambush. More than this though, Necromunda sets up an interactive environment that can be toyed and messed with in multiple different fashions making all the rest of your actions that much more potent, or rendering them absolutely useless.

Set on a field with levels, units can jump down to other available spaces, use ziplines to make their way up, use elevators or use their own personal device if they have one to Elevate a few levels up for safety to to perform a potential dirty move like Death From Above. Each of these has an Action Point cost and while not many, maybe 5AP to call an elevator, 5AP to jump down, 5AP to use a zipline, most attacks depending on the weapon type are 15AP for one hand, 25-30AP for two and with generally 50/60AP to play with, without entrenching if you haven’t move too far, you’ll only be attacking once that turn. Doubling down on the hardcoreness, you’ll also have to worry about ammo count / reloading as well as having to fix your weapon because it’s jammed or overheated and can’t be used without another 5-15AP to get it into working condition.

There’s so much to worry about and that’s before having to check where each enemy is either with the overlay not unlike the one found in Gears of War, or the giant map that shows you all of the floors, walls and troops placements emulating a table top look. Being caught in an Overwatch, being caught in an ambush, setting off traps or trying to use something that has been sabotaged. Each of these will only help to kill your unit faster and sometimes, you won’t notice a few of these while running by because the cost looked clear, unfortunately, there was a sharpshooter just waiting for you to pass that one little area.

Now, as brutal as everything else, certain features just make the experience itself more brutal but in an agonizing way. Loads times, at least on the XB1 are long. Cutscenes can only be skipped once they are about halfway through, not entirely. Finally the gameplay itself? It cannot be sped up meaning that if you were re-doing a mission or just REALLY wanted to get to the point? It’s not going to happen anytime soon especially when playing against a CPU where you can actually see it think before it moves and sometimes? That can take upwards of a minute for it to play its turn because it always has the need from the looks of things to use ALL its available points even if it meant running all over the place just to return to where it was originally standing without actually having done anything.


So overall, Necromunda: Underhive Wars will not be for everyone. The price of entry is high and the cost may be too much for budding strategists while veterans should find plenty to challenge them through the three modes. Otherwise? The hardcore strategy and the addition of a 1v1 initiative factor really changes the playing field making a lot of well known and used turned based strategies useless and this the perfect ground to test your mettle if everything else has been seeming too easy for you.

Score: 7.25 / 10


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