Tetra’s Escape

Tetra’s Escapeis a pretty harmless family-friendly puzzle platformer after all: well-made, but nothing mind-boggling.  The “changing who you are” referring to the ability of converting your puzzle pieces into tetris-shaped terrain for Grey-Blob McNopowers (made up: again gotta spice things up somehow) to step over to get to the exit.  Let’s get into the details.

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There are 6 worlds to explore that very organically expand the transformations your pieces can make, the level layouts themselves (lava, ice, fall dmg), and trickier paths to 100% a level.  All you need to do to be a completionist in this game is collect the three stars scattered throughout your pathway towards the goal portal.  After collecting the last, you just need to backtrack a bit to pick up a trophy and you’re home free (btw later levels can prove challenging because you can inadvertently lock yourself out of picking up the trophy after picking up the 3 stars, so be careful!).  The visual aesthetics of the game are very cutesy and basic 3D models: after all, we are dealing with cubes and tetriminos.  The music; ok real talk, I was about to throw shade about the repetitive nature of the quirky stock music throughout the first few worlds.  However, the music does come to its own and throws in some decent chiptune and piano jams that impressed me; so just keep playing.

Other than that, I really don’t have too many gripes with the game: I do think if you are in the mood for a calming, casual play session, Tetra’s Escape is perfect just to knock out a few levels.  The one detail I was a bit irked about was that there is no way to step back and undo one action: it’s either you finish the stage, or you start all over.  The levels themselves are short enough for me to forgive it, but this is a simple quality-of-life change that I would love to see.  I think the Switch might be the best option for this sort of game, mainly because there’s no concern for graphical fidelity or framerate issues, and portability enables that pick-up-and-play life.

 

The Seal

Tetra’s Escape: Steam, Xbox One, Switch, PS4, PS Vita ($3.99-$4.99)

https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/tetras-escape-switch

Review copy provided to me.

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Guacamelee 2

I know a few reviewers aren’t always satisfied with a sequel giving you a very similar experience to the original, but my god even with the similar pacing, I adore this game.  It takes off straight after the original (even starting you off with an abridged version of the final boss from the first game!).  The game feels like it was designed to catch you up and give you access to nearly all the powers from the original game at a breakneck pace.  It gives the devs ample time to start adding twists to the original moves, and really flex their level design chops.  So even though I recognized the few special moves you unlock early on as carbon copies of the previous game, I always felt like the game’s interest curve was steadily climbing, and did not get bored.  But anyways that’s enough of explaining my basic impressions: let’s get to the meat and potatoes.

Guacamelee 2 is a metroidvania inspired by beat-em-ups such as streets of rage or even Devil May Cry.  It is very tongue-in-cheek with its plethora of references it showers upon the player, which can be seen as overtly pandering in nature.  But I never really minded too much: the game honestly has its moments where it satirizes the meme culture these days.  The game also revels in following tried and true gameplay beats, only to quickly subvert them with a quick and dirty gag.  One of my favorite gags from the original game, which I am glad they expanded upon in this game, is the chicken form.  The game very clearly emulates the feeling of Samus regaining her ability to use the morph ball ability, only to slap you in the face with “Hey guess what?  You’re a fucking chicken now, and you’re gonna love it”.  And my god did I love the Pollo form in this game for a few reasons.  The devs essentially differentiated the pollo form as a separate character from Juan, the luchador.  Well, perhaps I should make an apt comparison to the Echo Fighters from the new Smash Bros Ultimate: sharing many of the same basic attacks, dodges, and grapples, but with the smaller stature and different special powers.  Guacamelee 2 also includes a new tech tree that allows you to enhance your favorite aspects of the combat: stronger special moves? more Health and energy to spam special moves?  More power the higher the combo chain?  Lucha Libre grabs? Becoming the chicken you always wanted to?  Shout outs to my co-op bro, Devin, for convincing me to max out the Pollo Powers first – not a single regret all the way to the end of the game.

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Once you fill out a lot of these skill trees, you will start feeling overpowered, but the game still finds ways to keep challenging you.  In particular, there are so many challenge rooms scattered throughout the world (almost feel like Breath of the Wild Shrines), with 4 of those rooms being some of the toughest platforming sequences to bear for 100% completionists.

One of my favorite parts about Guacamelee 2’s level design is how it presents enemy layouts: the game will stop you at points and create very calculated spawn rates with a variety of enemies with certain shields.  These shields are colored a certain way, and force you to use your other special moves to take out the enemy: which helps the player stay away from spamming the b key over and over.  They even mix things up with combo puzzles involving manipulating the environment in such a way that enemies are forced to plunge themselves into spikes, and the like.  One thing I will say, is that the bosses in this game are a bit lackluster: they’re fun, but after a few cycles, they are pretty tame.  I do applaud the devs for making the bosses have very different approaches and weaknesses, but just relish in the hectic nature of the bosses’ last phase and soak it in.

I really don’t want to spoil any more of the game, because there’s something beautiful about allowing you all to appreciate the finely-tuned pacing that DrinkBox studios has crafted.  There is so much love put into the game: from the colorful and vibrant hand-painted look of the backgrounds, to the way the game seamlessly integrates platforming and combat abilities.  The game really forces you to be mindful of your entire moveset towards the latter half of the game, as you begin to string together special moves and precise jumps.  As I alluded to previously, the game now boasts for the first time up to 4-player co-op insanity!  I could sing the praises of this game for hours, but I still have a challenge room I need to tackle, so if you’d excuse me….

The Seal

Title: Guacamelee 2:

Multiplatform

Price: $19.99.

Publisher: Drinkbox Studios

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Moonlighter

For the past few months I’ve been moonlighting as someone who doesn’t write game reviews. Hell, to be more accurate for the past few months I’ve been moonlighting as someone who doesn’t even play games. Man, having a day job really sucks the fun out of everything, doesn’t it? Now that I’m back let’s talk about Moonlighter: a game where a day job sucks all the fun out of everything.

The core idea of Moonlighter is that on top of the typical dungeon crawling, you also have to run a shop, selling off items you collected. It’s not a bad little gimmick, and one that’s been pulled off well in the past. The issue here is that at the games best Moonlighter doesn’t make up for how grindy it swiftly becomes.

You can expand you’re shop, but you’re never given a good reason too.

You have limited Inventory space when entering a dungeon, and that fills up pretty fast. So while dungeons have three or four floors, I never really found it to be worth the effort to go past the first or second, then leave and sell whatever I had collected. The game does try to make up for this by making certain items necessary for upgrading your equipment and creating potions. But even with that I was still flooded with junk to sale. The sad thing is, there is a really simple solution to all this: add some pressure. There are 4 dungeons and one that’s just a boss fight, so why not add a Swindle like countdown to having to clear them all before the world blows up or some shit. Or, how about making the player have to pay rent and wages each month, forcing you to HAVE to make a certain amount of money each month? Or both? As the game is now I just went into a dungeon, filled up my pack, left and sold my stuff until I had the money and items to upgrade my weapons and armor, fought the boss, the did it all over again. There is no pressure on the player. There’s none of the “big risk, big reword” kind of motivation that is supposed to make entrepreneurship so tantalizing.

The shop keeping itself is also kind of dull. There are 4 price ranges for all items: “Holy Shit What A Deal”, “The Right Price”, “I Guess I’ll Pay This But I’m Not Happy About It”, and “Fuck This Noise”. So long as you get each item at “The Right Price”, it will get sold. A costumer who thinks $5 is too much for something will still happily pay nearly $1 million for another item, so long as the price point for each unit is right. And they will always buy every until. You can’t over saturate a market with a product and drive down the price or withhold it to raise the price. If the product is out, and the price-pre-each is right, it will get sold. This is entrepreneurship by way of people who don’t know much about entrepreneurship. And look, I’m not exactly an authority on the subject either; I’ve got two semesters of college level economics classes under my belt, that’s it. But even with that I couldn’t help but feel like the game missed a lot of opportunities.

You want to know how board i was of Moonlighter by the end? It was too much to ask for me to go back and take my own screen shots. I took these off the web cuz i just could not be bothered.

The dungeon crawling doesn’t fair much better. There are five or six types of weapons, each with their own upgrade trees, and three types or armor with their own three branches. While it is important to upgrade your equipment to increase your damage output and max life, once you find what your play style everything is pretty much stagnant for the rest of the game. Your move-set doesn’t change when you upgrade, so the only real difference is the number of hits it takes to kill each enemy. As my preferred weapon was the sword and shield, this meant I spent the entire game hitting one attack button and the dodge every now and again (the shield itself was pretty much useless).

I think the point of all of this was to “streamline” the experience. But what ended up happening was the game was stripped of of everything that made it interesting. I do hope developer Digital Sun takes another stab at this at this kind of dungeon crawling/entrepreneur simulator but expands on it, because I do see a lot of potential here. The art style is great and the enemy verity was impressive. Plus the boss fights were genuinely enjoyable even if the combat could have used a bit more verity. As is, I don’t think I can really recommend Moonlighter. I never hated the experience, but there was so much more that I wanted out of the game. Maybe pick this up if you’re looking to see just how invested your kid is in going to business school, but other than that, I don’t see much profit to be gained from playing this.

 Moonlighter was developed by Digital Sun

Point of Sale: Steam, PS4Xbox One

$19.99: Sorry guys, the Opportunity Cost of buying this one is just too high

A Review Copy of Moonlighter was Provided for this Review

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Starlight Vega

Starlight Vega open.jpgStarlight Vega is a lesbian action Visual Novel game. For those of you unfamiliar with VNs, an Action VN has choices you make in the game which put you down different routes, leading to different types of endings. It’s akin to a choose your own adventure book in game format. Most of time VNs like this get labeled as a Dating Sim since you can romance various characters in the game. There is a difference but that’s a conversation for anther time. Playing through action VNs numerous times is normal, the reason for this is because each route you can take leads to good and bad ends with different characters it also tends to display new information in the story with each route you take. In order to get the full story and really understand each character you need to play through every single route. Starlight Vega focuses on you, Aria, and your interactions with your cute friend Melody, a red hot demon Lyria, and a book of spells.

In Starlight Vega you have the typical good and bad routes for each character, a harem route, and a no love route. The characters in this VN mostly fill out the general character archetypes you find in games like this. There’s the shy nerdy girl, the bubbly one, and the cold bitchy one. However thankfully, they’re not just that. The worst character in was Melody who was the shy nerdy childhood friend tropes, she doesn’t have a great deal of development, thankfully the others have significantly more development. The best example of this was Lyria, at first she’s shown as just a really bubbly air-headed bimbo. But later on, it’s explained that that was a feint to try and make you like her, and instead she fairly smart and has a plethora of emotions, ranging from depression about her life, to anger over how her sister treats her, to unbridled rage and those who fuck with her.

Starlight Vega Choice.jpgEach route tells you more about not just the character you’re trying to romance but also about the world, specifically it explains more about the ‘demon’ world and how it interacts with our world, it also explains different chunks of the overall story. The routes shine whole new lights on the characters, especially Scherza. Each route even the bad ones give you new unique information and views. In games like this, that’s what it’s all about. I really enjoy learning about characters’ worlds, and this VN has a lot of that.

Starlight Vega often has various characters talking together, and thankfully uses nameplates. Nameplates are when a character’s name shows up when they talk so you know who is talking. Many VNs use this because it makes it really easy to follow the conversation and doesn’t require a constant use of ‘x character said’. This VN is focused on character conversation rather than environmental narration. In other words there’s not a lot of the narrator talking about where someone is, if that’s brought up it’s very small or a character is asking another character about the area they’re in. It would rather have conversations between characters to further the plot.

Starlight Vega Scherza.jpgThe game’s main motif’s are love, betrayal, and vengeance. It talks about how far some people will go to punish those who have wronged them and how it can spiral out of control because of anger. It also talks about how far some people will go to right the wrongs that have been done to them and their people, and how they can commit terrible deeds themselves, because of their mistrust, in their search to right those wrongs.

This game does allude to sex a few times in it and even has a few sex scenes in it, but most of the time it doesn’t feel forced. There was a scene or two that felt a bit weird, but most of them felt fluid and right for the story at the time they happened. The only real issue I had with anything in the game was Lyria, she’s a bit, what’s the word, molest-y maybe. At first when you meet her she’s all about trying to sleep with you and that’s all she’s really interested in and she’s excessively touchy feely about it. I would state she’s trying to seduce you, but she’s not really that seductive. It’s more “I have big tits let’s have sex and you be my slave forever what do ya say?” All while half humping your leg. As the story develops you see why she was acting like that and see other sides of her that actually make her a real character instead of… well like the garbage she seems to be at first. I personally started off hating Lyria, I thought she was despicable and disgusting but I ended up loving her later on, and at first I loved Melody but ended up not much caring about her in the end.

I think game is worth the $15 it asks for. It’ll probably take 15-20 hours to beat without help to get every major scene viewed. There’s a nice gallery that fills up with the major picture moments in the game as you find them. The game had a few moments that made me tear up, most of it made me feel fairly happy, and a bunch of parts made me laugh rather heartily. There’s also a demo if you’d like to try it before making that glorious purchase that you will end up making. You could save yourself some time and just buy the game, but go ahead and give that demo a try if you want.

Starlight Vega banner.jpgStarlight Vega was developed by: Razzart Visual

Point of Sale: Steam

$15.00: Would you go to hell for the one you loved?

 

 

The Seal.png

darkmikasonfire bought this game.

darkmikasonfire has awarded Starlight Vega The Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval

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