Cosmic Star Heroine Review

As a refresher, I didn’t care for Breath of Death VII or Cthulhu Saves the World despite all the praise I’ve seen both receive, and that’s kept me from delving into the Penny Arcade games that developer Zeboyd Games produced after those first two. Every video about Cosmic Star Heroine intrigued me, though, with it seeming to draw inspiration from best-game-ever Chrono Trigger while putting its own spin on things, and so I bought it with the intention of seeing how it stacks up against some of my favorites in the genre. Its opening few hours proved mildly amusing, if a bit underwhelming given my high expectations, but the game soon after won me over in a big way to the point where countless softlocks, bugs, and typos couldn’t stop me from playing. While the way you get into combat is reminiscent of the encounters in Chrono Trigger, its biggest takeaway from that game is instead rock-solid pacing that avoids wasting your time with nonsense padding, and there are a handful of features taken from other games that are equally welcome. All of this coalesces into something that’s simultaneously a brilliant homage to classic jRPGs and strong entry in the genre in its own right. Read more →

Vikings: Wolves of Midgard Review

Vikings is the first game by Games Farm that I’ve actually played through, but I’ve owned Heretic Kingdoms: The Inquisition (alternatively known as Kult: Heretic Kingdoms) and its sequel, Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms, since early 2015. Shadows is a strange story, having been half-released at launch with the second half being promised to come for free to previous owners at some point later on. As such, I was waiting for the game to release fully so that I could run through both games in the series back to back. Then the game’s publisher went bankrupt. That’d be the end of the story for most games, but Games Farm unexpectedly went to bat for Shadows and got the rights so that they could continue developing it on the side while they also worked on Vikings: Wolves of Midgard. Obviously it’s best for this site and my deep, passionate love of harshly critiquing every game’s flaws to avoid being impressed by developer behavior, but we’re talking about the kind of rare post-launch support that’s previously only been seen from the likes of CD Projekt Red. Needless to say, I wanted this game to be good. Before you consider that a disclaimer that I’m going to play softball with Vikings and ignore its flaws, however, please note that I also wanted Dreamfall Chapters to be good. That didn’t stop me from viciously tearing into it, and Vikings certainly has flaws of its own that I’m similarly unwilling to overlook. Overall, Vikings is an enjoyable game with environments that are destructible enough to be weirdly satisfying and gameplay that’s entertaining enough to carry it (provided you have a gamepad), but it lacks any kind of narrative weight and begins to run out of ideas for varied boss fights toward the end. Read more →

ReCore Review

When deciding what to play next, I weighed a bunch of factors and eventually narrowed the pool of possibilities down to either ReCore or Dragon’s Crown. The latter obviously takes many cues from the legendary Tower of Doom/Shadow Over Mystara, which piqued my interest, but I eventually decided to go through ReCore under the assumption that a newer game would make for a more relevant review. After all, it’s been only 6 months since its release as of this writing. It didn’t hurt any that I’d heard comparisons to everything from MegaMan Legends to Metroid Prime (the latter of which was apparently worked on by some of the same people if the box is to be believed)—stellar company to be in—and there was an adorable-looking robot dog on the cover. I went in knowing almost nothing about ReCore except that critics had given it middling scores for whatever reason. Imagine my surprise when I realized that many of them hadn’t gone far enough in describing the train wreck that this game is, even after 6 months of patching. This is a game that’s middling at its best and soul-crushingly tedious at its worst, a prime example of an open world that exists solely for the sake of having one, not to mention a stunning indictment against the Unity engine when in unskilled hands. Playing through this game eventually begins to feel like actual work, a repetitive slog to find X thing so you can unlock Y thing so that you can collect more contrived Z orbs to unlock a contrived game-y door to actually continue the uninteresting story, which despite being an afterthought nevertheless manages to include internal inconsistencies. When I finally got to the credits and saw how many people worked on this game, the only reaction I was capable of having was astonishment that it took so many people to create so little game of such a low quality. Read more →

Torment: Tides of Numenera Review

When I first created this site, the very first review I put up was for Planescape: Torment. The review is horrible (all of the early ones are, really; it took awhile to figure things out), but that nevertheless speaks to how important the game was for me that I wanted to start out with it. Then there’s Torment: Tides of Numenera, a spiritual sequel to Planescape: Torment in the same way Pillars of Eternity was a spiritual sequel to Baldur’s Gate and Wasteland 2 was a spiritual sequel to a bowl of old Jello that’d fallen on the pavement and subsequently been left in the sun by uninterested passersby. In some ways, comparing the two does a disservice to both because of how stark the differences often prove to be. In other ways, however, Tides of Numenera invites and embraces such comparisons by taking elements from Planescape: Torment in ways that are probably a little closer to plagiarism than inspiration. Even the flaws detractors will point to as each game’s Achilles’ heel are nearly identical, which is a nice way of saying that T:ToN’s combat is complete and utter garbage that makes even PS:T’s widely (and wrongly, I’d argue) maligned combat feel wonderful by way of comparison. Then there are the problems so unusual and rare that I can’t remember the last time they actually stood out and distracted me. The clinical/drab UI would definitely fall into this category. Let’s get this out of the way early—Torment: Tides of Numenera doesn’t live up to or supplant Planescape: Torment in any way, shape, or form. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a worthwhile game on its own, however, and even a simulacrum of something as justifiably venerated as PS:T feels like a welcome bulwark against the waves of mindless games that ask nothing of the player and offer nothing in return. This is a game for those who love lore and large chunks of flavor text so overwhelming that one could conceivably drown in them, and while that makes the game impenetrable to those mass-market gamers who require an easily digestible story and lots of visual pizzazz to enjoy a game, it also allows it to be incredibly rewarding and memorable for those willing to put in the time to read through it all. Read more →

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero Review

I picked this up having enjoyed the previous two Shantae games and wanting to start 2017’s reviews off on a positive note before the inevitable parade of mediocrity that typically has to be waded through before finding another genuinely good game. Apparently this was the result of a Kickstarter campaign from back in 2013, which means I was three years too late to get in on any of those backer rewards, but it’s kind of nice to be able to experience one of these games around the same time as everyone else instead of years and years after the fact. Now, reviews generally exist to answer the question of whether something is good or not, but the answer to that question is a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no in this case. In fact, if my notes are any indication, the answer is “yes, then kind of, then yes again, then no no no no why is this happening, then ehhh, then yes again,” which is a roundabout way of saying that the game is worth it overall despite having some pretty glaring issues. Read more →

King Arthur 2: Dead Legions (DLC) Review

The Dead Legions DLC’s store page describes it as “the chronicle of how the greatest adversary of King Arthur came into power.” If one takes that (as I did) to mean an adversary of the character King Arthur, it’s a lie. King Arthur doesn’t play a role in either the base game or DLC, and this supposed adversary doesn’t even get beaten by his son, main character William Pendragon. Instead, Willy P holds off his hordes of undead warriors while Morgana takes him on instead. If one takes “greatest adversary of King Arthur” to mean “the most difficult encounter of the game,” that’s slightly closer to the truth; I certainly found his fight to be the most difficult one up to that point in the game, putting aside the impossible-tier battles that keep you from straying too far off the story’s rails. Even then, though, he’s eventually outclassed by later such encounters. A better description for this game, then, would be: “the surprisingly interesting origin of a middling wannabe quickly swatted out of the way in the main campaign.” I totally understand why that’s not as marketable, but it’s accurate—while Septimus Sulla, who I’ll henceforth refer to as Silly Sully, is mostly just an annoyance thrown into the base game to have a middle-game antagonist, the DLC that covers what made him that way proves to be focused and enjoyable in a way that the base game simply isn’t. Read more →

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