Switch Review: The Lion’s Song

  • Developer: Mi’pu’mi Games
  • Publisher: Mi’pu’mi Games
  • Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch, released today July 10th, 2018
  • Also playable on: Google Play, Apple iOS, STEAM/PC

Final Verdict

I very much enjoyed my play through of The Lion’s Tale. At times the story is filled with moments that have impactful resonance and I think many players will find at least one or two themes they can latch onto. The artsy foundation melds well with the sound design, style, and storytelling to provide a mature, thought provoking experience.

80/100

 

Switch Review: Miles & Kilo

Jason has finished his review of Miles and Kilo, out now on Nintendo Switch. Looking for more information? Be sure to listen into this week’s Nintendo Shack episode with N64 Josh to hear more discussion for Miles and Kilo – Shack – N64 Josh

Read More

Telltale Guardians of the Galaxy episode One: Tangled Up in Blue: Quick Impression

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I am a huge Telltale fan. I feel that is something you should know from the start of this. I have played every game they’ve made on the Microsoft console side and have played almost all of them multiple times. I love the stories, the easy cheeves, the awesome characters and decisions, and the cheeves.

The only thing that seems to be the norm for me in the Telltale games is that I buy the physical copy almost exclusively unless there is some really great deal. I don’t replay these games on the same console. I beat the game, trade it back in, and just enjoy the memory of what happened.

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So on May 2nd I picked up Guardians of the Galaxy for my Xbox one and proceeded to play Episode one Tangled Up in Blue. Now this wasn’t the best episode one from Telltale (Minecraft Story Mode and Borderlands) but this was a strong start.

With as little to no spoilers as I can, you start the episode chasing after a huge marvel villain who is laying waste to the Nova corps. You and your team have to infiltrate and old Cree structure, find a way to stop him, and then deal with the aftermath.

What I enjoyed the most about this first episode was the fact that I played as every character in the main fight scene, giving it just this  awesome feeling of a blockbuster movie and the story doing a great job for fans of the franchise and newbies alike. If you had never seen the movie, read the comics, or been exposed to Star Lord and his crew, before the end of this episode you have a great idea of what makes each character tick and I found that to be done in a way that doesn’t drown you (i.e Telltale Batman, did you know his parents were dead?)

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Now I know what some of you are thinking, man this guy loves Telltale so he is probably just has blinders on to all the bugs. To that I will tell you what I tell my friends at PSVG, I have never once had an issue or bug in a Telltale game on my xbox one or 360. Not one. No frame drop, weird voice over issues, nothing. I have had issues playing them on my surface but this thing is old and not meant for gaming I don’t think. So my experience with Guardians episode one, was bug free.

 

Well that’s all for me fam, I hope you enjoyed this quick impressions and if you end up playing it, let me know. Would love to chat openly about this game and my very fun experience playing it.

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Review: Steamworld Heist (3DS)

I know, I know – I’m late to this party. Sue me!

As Jason and Seth can both attest to, Steamworld Heist and I have needed some time to really explore our relationship. Having only just beaten a game that launched back in December of 2015, I realize that this game may be old news for many. I’ll admit, Heist isn’t what I had in mind when developer Image & Form announced the follow up to one of my favorite 3DS games of all-time, Steamworld Dig. Steamworld Dig brought an action based style of gameplay that was addictive & perfect for portable platforms. Many will argue that the Metroid-like formula for upgrading is the hook, but for me the hook was always the relaxing pursuit to travel further and further into the depths of the world. The ability to pull of expert jumps or build a path so perfect that you could escape without the need of fancy upgrades always provided some risk vs. reward. Heist really is a drastic departure from what I had grown so accustomed to with Dig and required some time on my behalf to accept. I’m glad I didn’t allow my dumb connections to the past make me give up on Heist.

Gameplay

As alluded to in my intro – For anyone that has played Steamworld Dig and not Heist, this is a very different game. Dig was an action based game with some platforming set around mining your way deeper and deeper into what lies beneath the surface. If you read any reviews for Steamworld Dig, you’ll undoubtedly see the word(s) – Metroid, Metroidvania, or Metroidvanian listed as a nod that there’s an upgrade progression needed to accomplish throughout the excavation to reach the bottom.

When you boot up Steamworld Heist – Throw those assumptions out the window. Steamworld HEIST is in fact a turn-based tactical/strategy game. As the player you control a party of team-members (as well as their load-outs) in and out of a series of missions connected by an over-world map. Inside of each turn, you have the option to move your respective party members, attack, guard, or use an ability. These tactics can be combined or altered by using objects to take cover or find an advantage – such as the use of a barrel that explodes upon being attacked. This formula is pretty much set in stone but some variety does come in the form of multiple enemy types. Some heavy opponents will need to be flanked, some have projectiles affecting your ability to find cover or move, and you will need to watch out for turrets popping up as well.

Overall the gameplay and mechanics remind me of the Worms series. Both basically use a characters weapon by aiming a target line or estimating it’s arc, that may or not be altered by the terrain in the environment, in multiple rounds attack and defense.

This gameplay loop of beating the mission in front of you is enhanced by acquiring new party-members as well as load-outs and some inventory management. The addition of new characters to the party is most enjoyable as each has their own personality and you can enjoy some friendly small-talk on your ship in between missions. Each character can also be leveled up by gaining experience earned on missions to increase their particular skill sets. Those that really fall in love with this game, will benefit from mixing and matching their party members to get the most out of abilities on the harder difficulty levels of which there are five (casual, regular, experienced, veteran, and elite). As for inventory management, you’ll begin the game with very little space and as you increase your party you’ll need to turn the loot you find into more space by purchasing item slots. During my 11 hours with Steamworld Heist, I had to sell off weapons and upgrades several times as I didn’t have space to carry all of my wares.

While these features do add some decisions to make along your journey, I honestly don’t think the journey would be so interrupted without them. Characters bring new abilities to explore, but I found them more to be a matter of preference than necessity and I would have preferred if each character had a skill tree where some more customization to special abilities were available.

Before I leave gameplay, I will admit that once I got into the groove with Heist I really enjoyed the formula. It’s probably best played on a handheld or mobile device in my opinion, as the ability to jump in and out, play one level here and there is really magnified. I can honestly say it maybe the primary reason I never just moved on to something else and kept playing Heist, it was always a breeze to invest another five minutes.

Presentation

For me, the presentation is where Steamworld Heist truly shines. The game features a Western/Gritty appearance with clashing accents of neon colors that pop and draw your attention. Having played the game on the New 3DS and I can confirm that the 3D slider added depth to the game that also enhanced the overall presentation (esp that over-world map!). While I’m sure the higher resolution and sharper images on the console versions of Heist are gorgeous, Steamworld Heist on 3DS should not be dismissed due to visual quality.

The charm and style of the characters, environments, and the dialog that can be found within, are the cherry on top of a visual showcase. Captain Piper Faraday and his merry crew provide a pirate-like camaraderie out on the open seas of space. As your party grows, each new character provides a small compliment that makes them unique visually instead of looking like another random robot. This attention to detail provided a small piece of attachment to my party members and definitely influenced how I built out my rag-tag bunch.

I’d be an idiot to not mention the bars that will be encountered along your space-adventuring. Without question, these were the highlights of the game for me. Bars represent a hub to gain access to new missions, new party members, or increase your inventory by purchasing new item slots or the items themselves. But all of that pale in comparison to the classic-western movie feel and wonderful music each bar presents. Every time I opened up a new watering hole on the map I was immediately smiling as I raced to see what the next one had in store. These moments, while may not be instrumental to the gameplay itself, set Steamworld Heist apart from many similar games and always brought a smile.

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Value

People usually read reviews because they want to know if a product is worthy of investment. So I’ll save you some reading, Steamworld Heist is worth the purchase, period. You can grab Heist almost anywhere you can think of these days (PC, PS4, Vita, Xbox One, 3DS, Wii U, and iOS) between $10-$15 with it going on sale somewhat regularly. For those that want even more than that 10 or so hours the game provides, there’s also DLC available for the game, but I haven’t play them.

With regards to comparative value, I’d say Steamworld Heist lends itself most to portable play and is probably better on 3DS, Vita, or iOS devices. Immediate games that come to mind for comparison are Worms WMD and XCOM, both of which are more available on consoles than portables and charge twice as much. But even so, those games really aren’t similar once you get away from the core gameplay design.

Judging solely as a 3DS game, this one feels like a must-have due to the high amount of polish and game available for the price. There’s really nothing like it on the 3DS eShop and you’d be hard-pressed to find something as good.

Conclusion

I really wanted this review to just be a short, couple of paragraphs, summary as I know the review appeal for a Steamworld Heist review dried up long ago. Once I began to put each thought down, I kept finding the next one, and the next one, and ultimately felt like I’d be doing the game a disservice to summarize the game in just 2-3 paragraphs. Steamworld Heist simply has a lot more to offer than the first-pitch trailer will let on.

Steamworld Heist is just different. There’s nothing quite like it (especially on 3DS) and for that reason it was easy to keep coming back instead of moving on to the next release. In my time with the game, the affinity for Steamworld Heist grew larger with each mission passed. Whereas I originally felt the game wasn’t living up to Dig and wasn’t hitting that ‘gotta keep playing’ bell in my mind, I ended Steamworld Heist with a fond appreciation of the journey. My only real fault with the game is that I think it is too slow during movement and combat, even when I skipped animations and the game loop grew lightly-repetitive by the end. But even so, I finished the game and remain overly positive on the experience.

Review: A Normal Lost Phone (iOS/Android)

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This is a hard review to write, not because the game is bad or anything…just finding it hard to word my experience with this. Let’s start at the beginning, I stumbled across this title while reading an article on it where someone playing described how it made them feel uncomfortable playing it. All I had known was that the game takes place entirely in a smartphone that you discover, I stopped reading it when I read the reviewers discomfort with it and decided to reach out. I wrote into the developers (Accidental Queen) and told them I would be interested in reviewing for our site, as we know I generally appreciate “different” gaming experiences and this seemed like a fit. They were generous enough to oblige. So let’s get into it!

To understand the story, we need to go back to this past January when a group of friends with complementary skills, Elizabeth, Rafael, Estelle and Diane, participated in the Global Game Jam, an annual and international event of video game creation, in teams, in 48 hours. Combining talents in writing, game design, graphic design and programming, they created “A Normal Lost Phone”, a narrative investigation game, with a simple story but a deep message.

Through the interface of a mobile phone, the player must discover what happened to its owner, Sam. Digging through secrets scattered among apps, text messages and photo galleries, the player-voyeur starts witnessing the emotions of Sam, and behind the apparent light-heartedness of a teenage story, their questioning on coming of age, homophobia, depression and the search of oneself.

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This game can easily be described as a twist on other great story telling games like Gone Home, or Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. It’s clearly designed to tell a story as it’s primary goal, but make you go through some effort to find out the whole story. You can read through the text messages, e-mails, calendar, etc. But certain aspects you are locked out of unless you can piece together the solutions, such as the towns wifi password, or the password for the dating application on the phone. I don’t want to give too much of the story away because I hope some of you experience it for yourself.

The game is available on PC as well as Android/iOS but I can’t imagine playing it on a PC. On mobile the game basically skins your phone so it’s like you are really experiencing the story of having Sams phone in your hand. There is some music playing in the background but after a little while I did turn that off because I found it took away from the experience for myself.

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As you navigate through the story you learn more and more about Sam as he is turning 18 and dealing with life in general. A 3-year relationship with his girlfriend, a group of new found friends, and even some of the sadness you can feel through his interactions with folks on his dating app. You can scroll through his photos on his phone as well as some that he had posted during an event that takes place during our story.

The game is very ballsy in the fact that it tackles some issues we don’t see represented in video games properly very often. LGBTQ storylines, depression, and just general feeling of self-loathing and confusion. It seems the only time the character Sam is ever happy is when he is involved in creating music. I won’t give anything else away as I think it deserves to be highlighted, with the general flood of apps and games we see hit our phones this is a rare gem that I don’t think should be overlooked. While not a terribly long experience, I was able to get through it in about 1hr and a half (depends on how quickly you read and can decipher clues) I think the storytelling is some of the best I’ve seen in these types of games. I cannot wait to see what they can come up with next, as they clearly deserve our attention.

A Normal Lost Phone was reviewed using a Google Play code provided by the publisher. You can read additional information about PSVG’s  review policy on our disclaimer page here.

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Super Mario Run Review (iOS)

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With a different coat of paint, Super Mario Run would probably be seen as an enjoyable one-button runner with a decent amount of depth and a level of polish rarely seen on smartphones. It would also probably be about $7 cheaper or even free-to-play with microtransactions. It would also feel less special.

But this does have that fresh coat of Mario paint — not that Mario Paint — and Nintendo’s signature character makes a fun debut on the iPhone.

The simplest way to describe Super Mario Run is that it’s filled with 2D Mario levels in which Mario automatically runs from left-to-right. The player just touches the screen for Mario and his pals to jump, bounce off walls and float. Mario will vault over ground enemies like Goombas and turtles, but if you press to jump at the right time, you can jump off the bad guys to earn coins and jump higher.

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World Tour is the main mode players will hop into. It’s got six worlds with four levels each and a lot of replay value. Each level contains five pink coins; after you’ve collected those, it will have purple coins and then black coins. With each type of coin, the placements change and some of the level elements also change. Getting through each level isn’t particularly challenging for veteran Mario players, but the colored coins require a lot of thought to find.

Additionally, as you add friends to the game, you will get to see their high scores on each level and try to beat them — PSVG’s Josh pretty much owns me on every level. Even though I beat each of the standard levels on the day of release, I’ve had a ton of fun revisiting the levels to try to find the coins and beat my friends’ scores.

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The other main gameplay mode is the Toad Rally, where you race against the ghosts of other players to collect more coins and impress the five different colors of Toads. Building up your Toad count is how you can unlock items for the game’s third mode, the Mushroom Kingdom. Here, you unlock and place trees, bushes, Toad houses and more to customize your very own Mushroom Kingdom. This is what will keep me playing the game moving forward.

I’ve enjoyed my time with Super Mario Run so far, simply because it’s more Mario. The controls do take some adjustment, especially coming straight off of Super Mario Maker. The timing of jumps is just a little bit different in this iteration of Mario, but you can settle in quickly enough. Even after this adjustment, you will find the characters floating just a tad too much, and this can cost valuable coins or time. Mario Run will never replace traditional Mario games or the ingenuity of Maker, but it is fun in its own way.

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The app store does have a free demo. The first three levels of the World Tour are available, as well as the Toad Rally and Mushroom Kingdom modes. While the $10 price tag may seem steep for an iOS game, it does mean there is a lack of ads and the game doesn’t constantly pester you to spend money on it. You can just play and have fun.

If you decide to jump in, find me by entering the friend code, 1450-2748-1147. Can you build a better Kingdom than me?

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Super Mario Run  is absolutely worth playing if you have an iOS device. It’s absolutely a Mario game, made to be played in small chunks. It’s every bit as addictive as any other great mobile game, and is a blast to try to outdo your friends.

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Severed Review (Wii U)

Ever heard the name DrinkBox Studios? You should have by now. These are the developers of great platforming-action indie hit, Guacamelee, that was released on Wii U 2 years ago. Drinkbox has returned to Wii U today with their newest game titled Severed. Severed is a touch-based, first person dungeon crawler with minor puzzling elements.

You play the role of a girl named Sasha whose right arm has been ‘severed.’ If that wasn’t enough to spark her craving for revenge, Sasha’s family has been taken from her and now it’s up to her to rescue them from the underworld. After a quick conversation with Death nets Sasha a sword, she begins her journey across three distinct areas, and an over-world of sorts, connecting them, called The Wilds. Severed doesn’t force feed you details about what is going on as much as it provides an occasional hint- just enough to dangle the carrot to keep you playing. Overall, the story serves its purpose, but I will admit that I wish there was a much more detailed narrative.

The world itself is full of bright colors: reds rub against deep purples, lime greens connect earthy browns with mild oranges, and it is an impactful and unique palette choice. The art of the characters and the objects themselves is very similar to those found in Guacamelee relying on simple but effective sharp edges mixed with contrasting colors to display the world and characters almost like an animated popup book.

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What’s So Good About Severed?

Gameplay is king and here’s where the best of Severed is discovered: Playing Severed is a fairly simple task. Swiping on your Wii U gamepad using a stylus or your finger produces a sword attack that grows in strength the longer the swipe across the screen. Each enemy poses a challenge to Sasha in the form of a defense that will require you to identify an opening and then swipe in the correct direction to inflict damage or stunt enemy attacks. Severed’s simplicity honestly serves as a testament to DrinkBox studios. They hook you with simple controls and then build on top of that foundation as you play through the rest of the game. It might be the most complex game I have every played that didn’t require buttons.

While many may compare the swipe to attack system to the hit mobile game Fruit Ninja, I would disagree and compare Severed more to the combat found in Zelda: Skyward Sword. In both Skyward Sword and Severed, the player is required to learn the enemies’ defense, attacks, and then respond appropriately. Adding an extra layer of complexity, Severed will quickly have you dealing with up to 4 enemies at a time by the time you complete the first puzzle. Enemies are mapped with icons at that bottom of your screen that when ‘tapped’ will target that enemy. Circling 360 degrees while feverishly swiping your stylus to attack and defend is a solid take on what I’d like to see in more touchscreen based games. I actually rubbed down the pointy tip of my Wii U gamepad stylus from a couple of bosses that left a trail of plastic shavings across my screen. Needless to say, its a little more advanced than ‘swipe at the watermelon.’

Severed offers more than just a touch-based attack system. Each dungeon also presents mazes and puzzles between enemy battles that will need to be solved to obtain a key or switch to access the next floor and/or a hidden room. You will accomplish these tasks over and over until you gain access to the final boss. Along the way, you also gather materials to improve Sasha’s stats by completing a skill tree. I can’t say that I found RPG-lite process rewarding, as it didn’t really offer much in terms of customization outside of stat boosts. Having beaten the game, I presume all players will come close to 100% completing the skill tree possibly in a similar pattern (boost attack power, then health, then special effects). One thing that I did enjoy about the system – no grinding was necessary in my play-through of Severed.

 

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Puzzles provided the a welcomed break from battle and a minor challenge throughout the game. I do wish there were more of them in different varieties. They’re not overly difficult but at times I had no clue what Severed wanted from me. Hints are available along the way if you can find them, but even with them in hand, I was still stumped at moments. 

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What’s Not So Good Then?

Movement is controlled using the left stick to allow the player to move forward and look around 360 degrees. You cannot, however, look to the sky, toward ceilings, or the ground to really investigate your surroundings, which at times makes Severed feel like it is on-rails. It really doesn’t matter which path you take; all players will all be required to visit and navigate the same ares, eventually making one wonder why you even have the ability navigate between dungeons at all. My biggest complaint with Severed on Wii U is the lack of any real character interaction in the over-world and inside dungeons once cleared of enemies. Sure, there’s the occasional experience to be had, but it’s far too-infrequent, making the world feel unfinished. After enemies are dispatched, all you have left are similar looking rooms and hallways with very little incentive to really explore and look around. This ultimately led me to pay more attention to the map in the top-right corner of my screen than the world itself.

Severed’s visuals have a similar style to sibling Guacamelee, and the style is definitely unique to DrinkBox. Unfortunately, outside of each temple’s unique color scheme, the overall style is just repetitive. The Wilds looks the same outside of the day and night cycle and each of the areas inside the dungeons are more or less exactly the same minus a pot, painting, or statue. When I think back to my time with the game over the last 3 days, most of my memories of the dungeons blur together and only the cut-scenes and boss battles stand out.

Finally, though I did just previously say that the combat and puzzling is the best that Severed has to offer, the lack of any world building or gripping narrative puts too much focus on the combat throughout the game. During my last session, I found battling becoming more chore than fun as I raced to get to the end. I think that some variety might have lessened this, to a degree.

 

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Value

Severed costs $15 on the eShop but is available for the next week at the price of $13.49 for the Nindies of Summer promotion. The game is hard to compare as there isn’t quite anything like it on Wii U. There’s nothing wrong with paying $15 for the game though, as its 6-7 hour campaign is mostly an enjoyable experience.

Severed is available on the Wii U, PlayStation Vita & iOS devices. A 3DS version is reportedly still in the works and arriving soon (this fall). Severed was reviewed using an Wii U digital code provided by the publisher. You can read additional information about PSVG’s review policy on our disclaimer page here.

Overall

I have the urge to tell you that Severed is really good. Compared to most indie releases and especially the indies available on Wii U the past six-months, Severed is a great addition to the library. However, Gucamelee wasn’t just a great indie game, Guacamelee was just a great video game. When I compare Severed’s pros and cons to other games on the market that’s when the flaws become a bit more impactful to my score.

Therefore, Severed is well worth the cost of admission and provides a unique experience that’s hard to find. If you’re a Wii U only video gamer, I strongly urge you to pick this title up. Just know that Severed also has flaws that made the experience less enjoyable for me. Most notably the repetitive combat and tedious exploration that wears on you after the first half of game. If the story was deeper, if the world had more life to it, I think these issues wouldn’t have been as memorable. I also think this game is better suited for shorter play sessions than longer home console sessions on the big screen.

I also didn’t enjoy playing on the Wii U gamepad as much I think I would enjoy playing on handheld device. The gamepad is a bit heavy to hold in one hand while swiping with the other hand. The dungeons also lend themselves well to the pick up and play nature found on mobile compared the extended TV sessions at home on the big screen.

If you are interested in Severed’s pros more than the cons, I encourage you to absolutely check out the game, but I recommend grabbing this game when it comes to 3DS or on Vita if you have one over the Wii U version.

 

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Positives:

  • The swipe to attack is a lot of fun.
  • Dungeons provide a rewarding challenge to clear.
  • Music and overall style are both great.

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Negative:

  • I think the game is better suited to smaller screen devices than the Wii U gamepad.
  • The world is repetitive, which lead me to looking at my map more than the environment.
  • Overall gameplay loop grows stale with repetitive enemy combinations.

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Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas (PS4) Review

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The action-adventure genre is, perhaps, the most packed genre in video games. Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas attempts to carve a niche for itself in that genre by pulling at your nostalgic heartstrings. You can see and feel the inspiration from past genre titans in the gameplay, story, and art design. Does Oceanhorn stand on the shoulders of giants to reach new heights or crumble under the pressure of being a relic of the past? Let’s take a look…

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Oceanhorn begins with you taking control of the hero character and getting a brief introduction to the world. You are on an island with a hermit in the middle of the Uncharted Seas. Soon after, you learn your Father has set out to slay the ancient beast Oceanhorn and has not returned. Thus begins your adventure to learn more about your past, the history of the Uncharted Seas, and about the sea creature named Oceanhorn. You find a trusty sword and shield (your Fathers of course) and soon begin to sail island to island to piece together the puzzle of the story. One aspect that surprised me was how much time you spend on your boat in this game, and how valuable that time is. While traveling there is a mini-game of sorts where you utilize a gun to take out sea creatures, mines, and floating boxes all the while earning EXP, coins, and hearts. It is a nice way to recover your character and pass the time as you travel between islands. Additionally, every island you arrive at gives you 3 different challenges to complete. You can complete the challenges on any island to receive credit, but how they are presented almost feels like a “challenge of the day” from a mobile game. I do not see them as bad, as they often gave me ideas of different ways to interact with the game, and they give you EXP to level up, but how the challenges are presented felt unnatural.

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Beyond the initial introduction, the story is straightforward. It does manage to instill a bit of charm, but for the most part, the narrative is a serviceable way to get you from the beginning of the game to the end. There were no huge twists, surprises, or anything unexpected that happened. The Hero character you play is silent, but there is some voice acting in the game for the narration as well as other characters you meet along the way. While I appreciate what the voice acting is trying to do, it is a bit below par when comparing it to voice acting in other games. It may be unfair to compare Oceanhorn to AAA games in the voice acting realm, but they went for it, and I appreciate the gumption; but if they decided to continue with voice acting in Oceanhorn 2, I am hoping for a step up in quality.

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The rest of the sound design for the game is excellent. The songs and theme are memorable enough that I have caught myself humming the theme while I sit at work. Playing the game with headphones is also a treat as you can really pick out the subtly of the pieces, many of which I missed when just playing the game through my soundbar. The soundtrack is dynamic, heartfelt, and poignant. It has not moved me as much as some of the great video game soundtracks, but I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and scope of the score.

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One of the most amazing things about Oceanhorn is the art design. While definitely not a graphical powerhouse, the game still looks solid. This is especially true when you consider the current game is a port of an iOS game that came out in November of 2013. Additional platforms and content has been added between the original release and this console iteration, but it still is impressive to look at. Crisp colors pop off the screen and help make the world feel lived in and exciting. The character models look like something you might find more at home on a Nintendo console rather than the PS4, but they fit the art style of the game. Similarly, the enemies fit their environments well and feel like a naturally occurring part of the world. The islands in the game are well designed and have their own personality and mood that is evident the moment you step foot onto them. Some are teeming with life and activity, others are barren and desolate, while others still are lush and green. While I wish this game was on Vita, the presentation on the PS4, despite a few shortcomings (most notably mouth movement during voice-acted parts) looks good.

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No matter how good the story, sound design, or art direction of a game are, they can be overshadowed by poor gameplay. Luckily, Oceanhorn transitioned seamlessly into the console space. The controls are snappy and intuitive. While picking up and throwing pots or rocks, I consistently hit the enemy I was aiming at, despite there being no lock on (as far as I am aware). Arrows regularly hit their mark, and bomb placement was almost always a breeze. The mechanism for casting magical spells took a minute to get used to as the game slows down and a cursor comes up allowing you to pick almost any item/enemy on screen to target. However, soon I was fluidly transitioning from blocking with my shield, to slashing with my sword, to shooting an arrow, to casting a spell, and back to blocking with my shield without a second thought. My only gripe with controls is that X is your button to interact, and sometimes a few items to interact with were really close to one another. This led to occasional climbing ladders I did not mean to, or opening doors to leave rooms I did not intend to leave yet. The game takes you through all of the familiar tropes of the genre, including puzzle solving, exploring dungeons, chatting with townsfolk, discovering side-quests to pursue, and of course, fishing. Overall, no matter the situation, the gameplay makes your hero feel in control and on top of his game.

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Oceanhorn does most things well (music, overall gameplay, exploring, having a narrative thread to follow), but there are a few things that could use a bit of improvement. I wish the map in the game had been a bit better. Island navigation is not too difficult, but when you are trying to 100% an island, being able to look at the entire island map would likely be helpful. Maybe there is a way to do it in the game, but I did not discover it. Also, leveling up is a bit anti-climactic. You get cool new abilities, especially later, but how you level up is automatic. I wish I had a bit more agency in what skills or abilities I could level up. Finally, there are boss fights in the game, but I found most of them to be pretty easy. I am guessing these would have been far more difficult with touch controls on mobile, but I only ever died to a boss once (that I can recall) and most of the fights were pretty one sided. Overall these nitpicks did not really detract from my enjoyment of the game, but I think they could have helped take my enjoyment to the next level

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Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas is a good first entry into the action-adventure genre. The game is inspired by some of the great games in history, and while there are some chinks in the armor, I am glad I partook in the adventure.

*A copy of Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas was provided to Play Some Video Games by the Publisher for the purpose of this review.*

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Hitman Go: Definitive Edition (Vita) Review

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I had been interested in Hitman GO for some time. I am not much of a mobile game person, but I do enjoy board and puzzle games. As a result, I had looked at Hitman GO a few times, but never made the purchase. Once it was announced for PS4/Vita, I knew I wanted to play this game on my beloved handheld. How did it go? Let’s find out.

Hitman GO, as a game design, is pretty interesting. Each chapter is made up of different levels and each level is a diorama with a movement grid laid on top. Enemies, weapons, and objectives are incorporated into the grid, and your job is to navigate Agent 47 through the diorama and accomplish the stated objective and/or get to the exit. Once you move Agent 47, all the enemies on the board move based on their enemy type. Additional enemy types are introduced over the seven chapters, making some of the later levels pretty complex.

Successfully completing a level unlocks the next, but most will have to be played multiple times to complete all of the objectives (there is usually some combination of kill everyone, kill no one, collect a briefcase, complete the level in xx moves or fewer, etc.). This adds some replay value to the game, as you often need to approach a diorama quite differently to accomplish each objective. The game also has a very snappy restart, which is something I utilized regularly through the 91 levels in the game.

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From visual standpoint, Hitman:Go looks good. It is nothing groundbreaking, but it is easy to tell what type of enemy each piece on the diorama is, and what options you have available to you. I wish I had a bit more control over the camera, but there were only a couple points where I truly felt like I needed additional camera perspectives to navigate a level successfully. The game really does look and feel like you are playing a board game, which I appreciate.

Overall, Hitman Go:Definitive Edition is a fun puzzle game that feels at home on the Vita. Square Enix Montreal refers to it as a turn-based strategy game. I can appreciate that, but I felt like there was always a “right” answer, which feels more puzzle to me. In addition, I am not sure I would want to play it on my PS4. Picking up my Vita and playing a level or two before moving on to another responsibility felt like the “right” way to play the game. There is just enough challenge to keep it interesting, but not so much that my play sessions ended in frustration. If you enjoy board games, puzzle games, or just want a different take on the Hitman franchise, this might be one for you to check out.  

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Overall, Hitman Go:Definitive Edition is a fun puzzle game that feels at home on the Vita. Square Enix Montreal refers to it as a turn-based strategy game. I can appreciate that, but I felt like there was always a “right” answer, which feels more puzzle to me.

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