Wulverblade Review

Wulverblade is a challenging and hyper-violent beat-em-up in the style of Golden Axe that originally released for the Nintendo Switch, but is now making its way to the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC with an improved frame rate and online leaderboards. Of course, I bring up Golden Axe because it’s one of the most prominent examples of a beat-em-up featuring weapons, but Wulverblade doesn’t actually play much like it if we’re being perfectly honest. Given all of the dodging around, valuables lying around on the ground, and midair enemy juggling, it actually feels much more like Dragon’s Crown minus the token RPG elements. That means how well you do is dictated almost entirely by your skill (though a little luck can certainly make things much easier), and while the controls and general mechanics take a little getting used to at first and lend themselves to moments so frustrating that the thought of throwing a controller through a window suddenly doesn’t seem so crazy anymore, it doesn’t take long before your muscle memory adapts. Wulverblade is a gem, then, though one occasionally marred by some questionable design decisions that seem to prioritize style at the expense of the gameplay. Read more →

Candleman: The Complete Journey Review

Puzzle-platformers are one of those things that can go either incredibly well or incredibly badly. Designed well enough, playing through their levels feels like a breeze, even when you’re technically being challenged. Designed poorly, however, they become unbearable slogs consisting of thinly-veiled busywork designed solely to waste your time. Candleman: The Complete Journey belongs to the former category almost exclusively, creating a magical world of briskly paced levels and genuinely creative gameplay mechanics so endearing that it was often a sad experience moving on to a new set of mechanics (though almost every time, I came to love the new mechanics even more than those that came before). That’s not to say that there aren’t a few rare missteps here as far as the mechanics and level design are concerned, but Candleman goes out of its way to make up for them with some of the greatest final levels I can recall in a game. At the end of the day, this is a brilliant game that will win you over if given the chance. 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 →

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 →

The Surge: A Walk in the Park Review

One of the best things about gaming is that so much work invariably goes into each release that developers sometimes get burned out and start coming up with crazy ideas to switch things up, and setting a Souls-y game like The Surge in a theme park gone horribly awry is definitely a crazy idea. After all, the base game is grim and serious, and the few friendly characters you meet are slowly corrupted as the story progresses to further add to the uncomfortable feeling of being totally alone. Fighting a bunch of theme park mascots who shoot lasers out of their eyes while being directed over the radio by a refreshingly uncorrupted ally, then, is about as far as you can get from the tone of the base game. Granted, you’re still wandering around a lot of vents and dark underground areas while crazy people in exoskeletons jump out, but there’s also a significant portion of the game that takes place in and around outdoor theme park rides and attractions. A Walk in the Park is a slightly hesitant but undeniably enjoyable step in a direction the burgeoning genre has yet to explore, and one that hopefully sends a message that games like this don’t need to be crushingly dark (tonally and visually) to be enjoyable. Read more →

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