Soul Calibur 2 Review

The last time I reviewed a Soul Calibur game was in 2012, just a month or so after I started this site. My reviews for Soul Calibur 4 on the PS3 (because my PS3 could still read discs back then) and the Dreamcast original were awful 400-600 word abominations that completely missed the point—as was the case with so many reviews from those days—but while my opinions and review style have evolved over time, there are certain games that I feel as strongly about as I did back then. Case in point, Soul Calibur 2. Awhile back, someone caught me yelling at the game and asked why I was so frustrated given my love of Soul Calibur, to which I instinctively replied, “I love the original, but this is the sequel and I hate this f***ing game.” The fact that I went into both Soul Calibur 2 and its basically identical HD remaster with a totally open mind and came out hating it more than ever speaks volumes about how bad the game really is, and while I’m sure a large number of nostalgia-fueled apologists would be willing to put on their love goggles and argue that I’m wrong about its quality, this is an objectively worse game than what came before and after. Read more →

Omega Quintet Review

Call it superstition, but I always like my first review of a new year to be somewhat indicative of that year. That’s one of the reasons I had intended Omega Quintet to be that first review—to say that I’m out of my element here is an understatement, as this isn’t only a game heavily inspired by anime (which I’ve never been into outside of the token Cowboy Bebops and Ghost in the Shells), but also one that has heavy visual novel elements. Pushing outside of my comfort zone wasn’t the only reason playing through Omega Quintet was so appealing, though. Actually, I went around looking for reviews to see if it was worth my time, only to discover a vast canyon separating those who enjoy the game and those who hate it. Some people were sanctimoniously finger-wagging, of course, while others more familiar with the niche spoke favorably of it because of course they did. Lost in all of that noise was the answer to the single nagging question I had: is Omega Quintet actually a good game or not? Having now played through it for myself, I can confidently answer that question with a “sometimes yes, sometimes no.” There are truly enjoyable parts to this game, ones that have nothing to do with the unabashed fan service, but the fact that I managed to play through and review a different game as the first of this year because of the sheer amount of busywork standing between prospective players and the real ending makes it difficult to recommend. Still, I walked away from Omega Quintet’s practically unprecedented tedium with a lot of positive feelings intact, and that’s unheard of given how much emphasis I put on pacing. The game is just too adorably lighthearted and unashamed of itself to possibly hold a grudge against it. Read more →

Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China Review

All I knew going into the Xbox One version of Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China was that it was an arcade-style flying game originally released for the PC, and one that Steam’s user reviews were decidedly split on for whatever reason. A significant number of the complaints seemed to be focused on various errors impeding the ability to play, however, or invoked other arcade-style flying games (which is generally code for “I went in expecting something different and this thumbs down doesn’t actually reflect anything but those original expectations”). I always relish the opportunity to drill deep into unfamiliar territory and figure out which criticisms are valid and which aren’t, and right off the bat, the fact that I finished the campaign in something like 3 hours suggests that those centered around Shadows Over China’s length have merit. That is, if you’re the kind of person who requires a certain amount of longevity to their games; if you’re, say, a stressed out games critic prone to foamy-mouthed rage whenever a game comes along and intentionally wastes your time with repetitive filler, then a game like this that gets to the point and avoids outlasting its welcome can be a wonderful experience. Read more →

Madcap Castle Review

Madcap Castle is an action-puzzle-platformer for the PC that masquerades as an old Game Boy game. That retro devotion extends far beyond mere aesthetics, too, as this is the kind of game that embodies the same “what the hell was that”-ery that plagued many of the action-centric games on the system. By the time you reach the final 150th stage, you’ll have died thousands of times, and not all of those deaths will be your fault. Again, this is typical of a Game Boy game, but misleading hit boxes and miscellaneous eccentricities that cause you to instantly die minutes into a tedious level are the type of cheap difficulty best left in the past, and this cheapness has a way of overshadowing all of the good things Madcap Castle does. Read more →

Battle High 2 A+ Review

Let’s get something out of the way immediately: I’m not good at 2D fighting games and usually avoid them for that reason, preferring to stick with their more roomy 3D counterparts. It’s one of those genres that I’ve always looked upon longingly, though, wishing that it was something I could break into. Really, the only reason I looked into Battle High 2 A+ in the first place is that a poorly spelled user review on its Xbox store page accused it of being “to [sic] easy,” and while that was clearly meant to highlight a perceived shortcoming, it instead signaled that this might be a great starting point for someone like me with no talent for the genre. Having now played through arcade mode with most characters, I can definitely state that this is the case, as going through this game with certain characters allows for moments of triumph that other 2D fighters bury beneath their newbie-unfriendly difficulty curves. The downside, however, is that this game also happens to be indie-raw, sporting a small handful of baffling decisions that conspire to undermine the end experience. There are enough positives here that it feels like a few fresh eyes could come in and polish this into an amazing 2D fighting game for beginners, but it’s not there yet. Read more →

Shantae: Friends to the End (DLC) Review

Maybe it’s paranoid, but I’m starting to feel as though Half-Genie Hero and its accompanying DLC (Pirate Queen’s Quest and now Friends to the End) has been designed for the sole purpose of testing how far it can push into uncomfortably bad design before my enjoyment of the series is ruined. I’m certainly giving this DLC stuff far more leeway than I’d ordinarily be willing to give thanks to how brilliant I found Risky’s Revenge and Pirate’s Curse, and in a world where I never played through either of those games, it’s not inconceivable that both this review and the one for Pirate Queen’s Quest would be formatted in my three-column “bad review” format. I suppose that’s a circuitous way of saying that I’m not sure whether I love Friends to the End or hate its guts. Honestly, I think it’s a little of both. The story and characters are on the thin side, but nevertheless a step up from Pirate Queen’s Quest. The mechanics, meanwhile, are interesting, but the usual Shantae endgame difficulty spike (this has become a pun over time as each endgame incorporates more and more literal instant-death spikes) pushes them further than they can comfortably go. Which is to say that the last few levels are really bad. Read more →

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