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GORSD Review – Garth Offered Red Slippers, Dope

GORSD Review – Garth Offered Red Slippers, Dope

“I hate that clown, but not as much as Mr. Far. I think I’ll go smoke a cigar.”

 

When it comes to learning a new skill, being thrown into the deep end is probably not the best strategy, especially if it involves teaching kids how to swim. A lack of context or a rudimentary understanding of the task at hand isn’t the best place to start, but when it’s an act of deliberation? Who knows, maybe it’s knowledge to a higher power, which is certainly what something like GORSD implies.

 

This is the latest title from Singapore studio Springloaded, a small team whose small catalog covers a lot of bases already. Whether it’s a casual auto-clicker, chiptune rhythm-action, or an RTS/Tower Defense-hybrid, you certainly can’t accuse Springloaded for sticking to one comfort zone. That thought goes tenfold when you see something like GORSD, and almost immediately, you’ll see what I mean.

 

An in-game screenshot of GORSD, showcasing three of the spherical dragons sticking their tongues out.

 

You play as a rather charming, little, squid-like creature who awakens in a forest that doesn’t seem hostile at first. Soon after, you’re subjected to an indecipherable language before the serene nature is immediately interrupted by abrasive gods taking the form of spherically-lined dragons with twisted faces. It’s quite clear they’re not impressed by your presence, and you’re going to have to work to either co-exist or defeat them.

 

Immediately, the game’s quite reminiscent of Anodyne; Analgesic’s dreamscape looks into a young being’s psyche, but the comparisons go beyond a similar aesthetic. That calming score that seems to pleasantly overthrow the atmosphere, the way your character is spoken to in potentially deserving condescension. It’s a coincidence, a stretch of the imagination, which is everything this game aspires to be.

 

There’s certainly a vibe that GORSD immediately wants to jump for, and that’s “weird”. With the spherical dragons screaming at you, the visual design being blared at full volume, and how the game plays— It’s clear that they’re trying to tickle the synapse we possess that powers curiosity. Whether it’s ParanoiascapeTamashii, or even the classic LSD Dream Emulator, there’s a market for oddities, especially if they’re trying on all fronts like GORSD is.

 

An in-game screenshot of GORSD, showcasing a upward spiral lined with red faces.

 

Does it extend past gameplay? Well, kind of. It’s a mixture of the Light-Cycle game from Tron, and the general objective of Splatoon. You and your adversaries are placed onto a lined grid, with the goal being to color in the entirety of the level with your color only. If the entire level is your color? You win, and curry more favor with these malevolent gods!

 

It’s not all Jeff Bridges meets schoolgirl squids, however, as trapping someone in your line of color doesn’t destroy them. You’re given a bullet you can fire only once until it hits an objective, whether it’s an enemy or a far-away piece of uncolored land you can’t reach. This bullet can also go around corners, should you press the direction of the upcoming corner as you fire it, which sounds strategic, but in execution, falls flat.

 

Considering this all relates to right angles and squares within squares, the arena design tends to become more and more complicated, with tactics taking a backseat to luck. Sometimes, the predictive nature of the bullet will work in your favor, but a lot of the time, you’re at the mercy of a bullet that won’t listen to you. In fact, if you don’t pay attention, it can also kill you, which is another decision that adds a degree of unnecessary challenge.

 

An in-game screenshot of GORSD, showcasing gameplay between four different colors.

 

Unless you hold a specific button before you’re about to be hit by your own bullet, you won’t be able to recollect and reuse it, instead committing to a respawn. This wouldn’t be an issue if, say, all bullets fired had their team colors on them, instead of white crosses that blaze across the map. It also wouldn’t be an issue if the game speed wasn’t so lightning fast.

 

This might be more of a preference than an objective issue, but the game speed of GORSD is insanely quick. The characters and their projectiles dart around the arena with phenomenal speed, and even on early arenas, you tend to find yourself catching your bullet the wrong way. Even if the game speed was tweaked just slightly, you also have the issue of playing a game that’s zoomed out way too far.

 

What is this, a battlefield for ants? The colors are even harder to determine from this angle as well, with your only insight being a vague colored outline above your character. Yes, you can visibly see the trail your squid will make, but the bullets also make trails, and the AI isn’t exactly blessed with tactics, spamming bullets whenever they can. That being said, it’s the game mode without the AI that shines the best.

 

An in-game screenshot of GORSD, showcasing dialogue from the dragon Probus.

 

Time Puzzles are dripping in fun and intuitive ways to solve them, even when Springloaded takes a Jackson Pollack approach to how the string of straight lines play out. There is a method to the madness, however, and the mere act of using the bullet to color off the beaten path is smart — Smarter here than it is in a competitive environment, at least.

 

GORSD doesn’t make sense, both in how it approaches its own gameplay, and in general. The Adventure mode promises a seven-hour stroll through some of its most meticulous maps, but that’s only if you decide to let the game torture you with egregious spawn times. Should you be humiliated enough to tune down the difficulty, the journey is sliced in half, maybe even down to two hours. 

 

An in-game screenshot of GORSD, showcasing indecipherable dialogue from the ringleader dragon.

 

After the adventure, you only have more AI fights to follow, in repetitive endless modes involving the same AI. It’s only now that you realize how boring a lot of GORSD is; as unflinching as the pacing may be, it still lacks that certain punch, that variety in how you approach a match, beyond randomly spamming bullets. It seems to talk a big game about strategy, but that strategy simply isn’t there.

 

At its core, GORSD isn’t bad, there’s no inherent traits that specifically mark it down, but it’s the way Springloaded executed how it would be a multiplayer experience that falls flat. What should be an alluring jaunt through aesthetically foreign lands, can’t keep up with its own odd presentation to be consistently interesting. It doesn’t matter how innovative this dish may be, the plate it’s on doesn’t look clean.

 

This review of GORSD was based on the Xbox One version of the game. A review code was provided for this purpose.

Summer in Mara Review – Go Fetch

Summer in Mara Review – Go Fetch

It’s tough to properly review a video game when you aren’t able to finish it due to a game-breaking bug. If I’m going to be honest, I’m relieved that Summer in Mara broke. I can tell that developer Chibig poured a lot of love into it, but the game is a mess of bizarre design choices and poorly implemented ideas. It’s a shame that this Kickstarted game didn’t receive the polish it deserved.

 

I can’t recommend this game to anyone, even without taking the game-breaking bug into account. Let’s get into what went wrong with Summer in Mara and the few things that did work well.

 

All About Execution

 

Summer in Mara Review

 

You start the game as Koa, a little girl who’s never known a life outside of her home island. Koa was adopted and raised by Haku, a Qüido whose in-game model is kind of terrifying. The story is simple and told through excessive, uninspired dialogue. It doesn’t take long to realize that Koa is a spoiled brat who constantly tells every person she meets that she’s… not a child? I understand that children can be irrational and immature, but Koa is literally a child.

 

The game’s story starts out fine but quickly becomes obnoxious to the point of being intolerable. Almost every character Koa runs into lectures her on being polite and having manners; most of those same characters don’t even follow their own advice and are incredibly rude. At first glance, it may seem like the game is trying to teach children the importance of treating others well. But is this game even aimed at children?

 

It’s okay for a story to repeat ideas, especially if it’s trying to make a point. The problem with Summer in Mara‘s approach is how little this actually benefits the narrative. Everyone repeats the same information, and if not for the art, I’d think most of the side characters are one person placed in different locations.

 

Summer in Mara Review

 

Another weak point in Summer in Mara is the lackluster farming mechanics. Farming is central to the game, but its implementation becomes a huge burden for the player. Koa’s home island is the only location I ran into where you can plant and harvest. This means you have to travel by boat and through a couple of loading screens to reach it when you’re off on other islands. You aren’t required to do this just a few times⁠. The game forces you to make dozens of these trips to get anything done.  had to travel back to Koa’s home island too many times just to grow one or two vegetables, just to complete a mission, come back, and repeat the process over and over.

 

Traveling by boat isn’t very satisfying. You don’t really do anything other than move in one of several directions. Opening your map to see where you need to go is inconvenient considering how often you may need to look at it. You can dive from your boat later on in the game, but the controls are a mess and you sort of have to figure it out while Koa drowns.

 

“Fetch, girl!”

 

Summer in Mara Review

 

My biggest gripe with Summer in Mara is the game’s quest structure. ⁠Every single action you take as Koa is in service of a series of fetch quests that make up the entire game. Some of these quests aren’t necessary to progress the main story, but even the main story feels like a fetch quest. Sometimes you’re rewarded with money or cool items, but it’s all so you can do more tedious quests. Every character in this game believes the universe revolves around their needs and that Koa is there to help for no reason. Characters’ stories connect to one another through this web of fetch quests and Koa gets almost nothing in return.

 

When it comes down to it, it’s a bunch of adults manipulating a girl who isn’t even 10 years old. It’d be easy to let it slip if it was part of the story, but that’s the whole narrative in summary.

 

Tying Up Loose Ends

 

Summer in Mara Review

 

Music and art direction are Summer in Mara’s two strengths… or they would be if the music triggered properly. For some reason, music isn’t implemented well in this game. A song will start playing when talking to a character and then suddenly stop for no apparent reason. There are moments when a song only played for about 10 seconds before it was cut off by an event or by nothing. The soundtrack for this game is actually pretty relaxing and just overall great. It’s a shame the player won’t get to hear it that often, since most of the game is spent without it.

 

I would say that the highlight of this entire experience is the animated, hand-drawn scenes. They’re done with a level of love and attention that I wish the main game received. They’re quirky, cute, and they have a unique personality that the game fails to capture.

 

Summer in Mara

 

Let’s get back to talking about the game-breaking bug. I don’t know how long a typical playthrough of Summer in Mara is, but I only got to experience eight hours of the game. Three of those hours were spent trying to figure out if the game was actually broken or if I was overlooking something. Sadly, it was the former. One of the main quests required that I return to the main island by boat; the thing is that the game wouldn’t let me board the boat, which was the only way I could advance the story. I tried finishing up the side quests but it didn’t fix anything. After a couple weeks of booting up and hoping the problem went away, I gave up on the game. I wasn’t about to start a new game save only to arrive at the same point.

 

Summer in Mara doesn’t have anything to offer that other games haven’t done better. Ultimately, it’s a muddled mess of design choices that don’t weave together well. Skip this game. It’s not worth your or anyone else’s time.

 

This review of Summer in Mara is based on the Nintendo Switch version. A review code was provided by the publisher.

 

The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes Review – Meet Joe Blech

The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes Review – Meet Joe Blech

Tabletop and video games take on many different distinctions that make it difficult to transition between the two, and The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes exemplifies this in every possible way. They rely heavily on the complexities of the tabletop game The Dark Eye, yet the entirety of the game offers a simplified, automated take on these complexities. You’re left with a hollow experience that doesn’t even keep your attention through the end. This game will serve as a shining piece of evidence of why tabletop systems and mechanics don’t engage a player when translated into video game form.

 

Stat and character sheets are integral parts of tabletop games because you’re constantly referencing it to determine strategy, outcomes, and role-playing moments. However, when these things are automated for you, all of these stats become cumbersome and virtually meaningless to the player. The developers at Random Potion Oy fundamentally miss this. Sitting back and watching as virtual rolls are made for you and algorithms calculate the outcomes encompasses the entirety of this game. The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes gives you few actions to actually take, all of which are made by simply clicking on a spot or an enemy. While point-and-click adventures have a place in gaming, there’s no saving a game that resorts to this and gives no mental stimulation whatsoever.

 

The Dark Eye Book of Heroes Character Sheet

 

Point-and-click games need to have some sort of stakes or tension in order to keep your attention. You can see this in a game as old as Grim Fandango, where you have an engaging story giving context to unique and interesting puzzles. You also find it in a game like Desperados III, which released just one week after The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes, where the constant threat of alerting enemies and being spotted keeps you on the edge of your seat. Somehow, The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes misses all of this in favor of automated gameplay and puzzles that aren’t even puzzles. Finding different stones lying around a particular area and putting them where the game tells you they belong is not a puzzle.

 

Naturally, this game is largely meant to be a multiplayer game in which you can adventure with your friends and clear dungeons much like in a tabletop RPG, but three other players by my side wouldn’t give the game the purpose and stakes that it needs. That needs to come from the designers, and unfortunately, they fell asleep at the wheel with this one. It’s hard to imagine that through all of the meetings they must’ve had in pre-production, nobody stood up and pointed out that the player isn’t actually doing anything throughout the game. The most entertaining part of the game is sifting through the vast number of options you can choose for your character. However, this is all rendered pointless by the inability to truly play your role. No matter what, your job is to click on an enemy until they’re dead, move onto the next room, and repeat that cycle until you find what you need to end the level.

 

The Dark Eye Book of Heroes Combat2

 

As you do this, AI companions that supposedly have “their own personalities” wander around and do nothing but search areas for loot and attack enemies. They never say anything, they’re generic, they get bugged and end up standing in one place for long periods of time (unless this is part of what the developers call “personality”), and they don’t do much in combat beyond hitting the enemy, so few notable special abilities. Enemy AI isn’t really much better. I imagine AI in general took the least amount of work out of everything in this game, except maybe the ability checks.

 

Ability checks in a tabletop RPG give another sense of randomness and tension because you never know what you’re going to get. This sets you up to think on your feet in order to follow up on whatever your dice roll is. Even this feels intentionally unsatisfying and disgustingly bland. Just like everything else, ability checks happen automatically and have nothing to do with your decisions. Furthermore, the few decisions you can make for ability checks, such as trying to hear what’s on the other side of a door, mean nothing because if you fail, you can just continue to try again as many times as you like until it works. When these checks do work, it’s often presented to you in the lamest, most boring way possible. In the case of the example of listening through a door, either you hear something on the other side, or you don’t. That’s it. No clanking of metal. No heavy breathing. No cries for help. No detail at all whatsoever. In a game like this the game is essentially the dungeon master, but if my DM treated ability checks like this, I wouldn’t play.

 

I’d also frown upon a DM giving us a long mission with no point to it. A story should give context to your missions in just about any RPG. The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes throws that out the window as well by only giving you some missions that relate to the overarching story. All other missions are pointless and yield nothing but loot and reward cards that supposedly improve your player. Of course, the loot is repetitive, stale, and boring in every sense, and reward cards are a frail attempt at showing character progression.

 

The Dark Eye Book of Heroes Carrying a Crate

 

I wish I could say that there’s at least something to be had from visual and technical standpoints, but anyone who has never heard of the game would look at it and tell you it’s from 2005. While an isometric view isn’t necessarily indicative of an older game, it certainly doesn’t help. The recommended specs speak to its technical and visual issues. Simply put, nobody bothered to optimize it. Models have no details, the thing looks archaic, and you can’t see other parts of the map that you’re not in, yet the developers want you to have a current-gen processor and 12 GB of RAM. 12 GB! Insanity! DOOM Eternal is one of the most hardware-intensive games ever created, and it only recommends having 8 GB. GTA V is 8 GB. You know what else recommends 12 GB? Red Dead Redemption 2! How could this sad excuse for a game possibly need 12 GB of RAM? Load times are ridiculously long on modern hardware considering how the game teleports you back fifteen years. I play Skyrim on the same PC I used to review The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes, and while Skyrim’s load times are nearly instantaneous, this game will spend thirty seconds loading.

 

Okay, hardware rant over. Based on what’s there, it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that this game even made it into production when it did. I’ve never seen so much hard work by developers completely wasted before. I can’t think of a single redeeming quality about this experience. Take a look at the date this review was released. As of that date, this is easily the worst game I’ve ever played. Not one time did I have fun, smile, chuckle, or even say, “huh, interesting.” It’s these types of games that remind you of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the game that nearly took down the entire industry when it was still in its infancy. This one needs to be avoided at all costs.

 

This review is based on the PC version of the game. A review code was provided by the publisher.

The Innsmouth Case Review – The Definition of Insanity

The Innsmouth Case Review – The Definition of Insanity

Einstein once said, ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.’ An oddly applicable statement when discussing The Innsmouth Case, a H. P. Lovecraft-themed, choose-your-own-adventure game. It’s a genre that’s often criticized for its obtuse logic and how it makes the player retread a lot of familiar ground as they hope for a favourable outcome of events. But does The Innsmouth Case manage to do enough to shake the trappings of its genre to make for an entertaining and compelling game?

 

  1. Nope.
  2. No.
  3. Not really.
  4. All of the above.

 

Dead End Case

 

In a self-aware nod to film noir, things kick off just like any detective story does. A femme fatale walks into a PI’s office and offers him a job he can’t refuse. The case? A young girl called Tabitha has gone missing, suspected of being kidnapped in the enigmatic coastal town of Innsmouth. Upon arrival, it’s immediately clear that the town isn’t what it seems. Your detective does everything to suppress the Wicker Man vibes of the situation and soldiers on to solve the case.

 

The Innsmouth Case Opening

 

It’s worth mentioning that The Innsmouth Case doesn’t play like a ‘whodunit’ detective game. There are no clues to collect, no witnesses to badger into confessions, and no revelatory leaps of logic. This is a classic choose-your-own-adventure game, meaning the gameplay largely consists of clicking through numerous dialogue trees and seeing where that takes you. It’s an antiquated approach to gameplay that’s initially charming, but that good will dissipates once the trial and error nature of the genre rears its head.

Locating the kidnapped girl turns out to be a McGuffin for the true gameplay objective: seeing all of the game’s endings. Not to be one-upped by Nier: Automata’s 26 endings, The Innsmouth Case boasts 27 unique conclusions, which is about a dozen too many. Your choices inevitably result in your detective getting shot, mauled by ferrets, or transformed into an eldritch horror. When any of those things happen, the game ends, prompting you to reload the journey from a previous checkpoint to hunt for alternative outcomes. While this is standard within the genre, The Innsmouth Case doesn’t do anything to expedite this process. The provided list of rewind time checkpoints are placed way too far back in the story, forcing you to replay lengthy sections before you can return to remake pivotal decisions. To make matters worse, if you unwittingly start wandering towards an ending you’ve already experienced, there’s no quick way to backpedal to a previous dialogue tree. Instead, you have to endure the ending playing out for what may be the upteenth time before you get the chance to turn back the clock and try again. As a result, working the case inadvertently becomes a test of patience that’d decidedly play quicker and easier if it were a book, not a game.

 

The Innsmouth Case Text gameplay

 

To combat this somewhat, the game wisely treats endings like ‘collectible dead ends’ – there’s even an in-game achievement menu that showcases all the conclusions you’ve discovered. However, the unfortunate side effect of having so many endings is how it trivializes your journey through the story. It’s difficult to stay emotionally invested in the case when whatever choices you make could result in a wacky outcome. Some of which don’t even constitute endings! I earned a ‘Game Over’ screen after simply attending a wellness spa treatment. I didn’t escape Innsmouth or die a gruesome death, but the game still unceremoniously plopped me back to the rewind screen once the scene concluded. The game wants you to enjoy hunting for every ending, but your motivation to do so will likely wane after finding only a handful, since the process is inherently unfulfilling.

 

A Way With Words

 

Choose your own adventure games typically live or die on the quality of their writing, and thankfully, the writing here is admittedly decent. Detailed location descriptions immediately give players a great sense of place while liberal use of short sentences during life and death sequences heighten the tension effectively. Similarly, your self-deprecating detective’s internal monologues fit the modern-day film noir tone. Though he’s not an especially unique character, it’s sometimes entertaining to see his inner voice conflict with his actions. The prose occasionally has a tendency to get a bit carried away with itself, so some brevity would help, especially since you’ll be re-reading or skipping so much of it just to get back onto your desired progression path.

 

The Innsmouth Case Cultest

 

The game’s sense of humour consistently falls flat, though, since the writer repeatedly selects the lowest hanging fruits as avenues for comedy. There are gags about veganism, mormons, and fat, obnoxious tourists. For a game that so readily pokes fun at film noir cliches, it’s hypocritical when the writing then indulges in stereotypes for a cheap laugh. Characters with joke names like ‘Muriel Poopingplace’ only serve to lower the game’s tone even further, and it made interacting with this world occasionally feel like rifling through a Cards Against Humanity deck written by tittering teenagers. When ‘9/11 was an inside job’ was prompted as a dialogue option after a murderous cultist asked my detective if he had any last words, I let out an audible groan. While the writing shows genuine signs of craft, the authors at Robot Pumpkin Games consistently let themselves down with a lack of maturity.

 

Pretty as a Picture Book

 

An appreciable effort has gone into giving this text-heavy game some visual flair. The presentation as a whole is reminiscent of board game box art. The town of Innsmouth glistens like fool’s gold during the day, but skulking shadows darken the streets at night as if to say, ‘you’re not welcome here.’ Many citizens of Innsmouth even have lightly animated character portraits that bob up and down during conversations. It ain’t exactly Pixar, but their designs help you fill in the blanks when your imagination fails.

 

The Innsmouth Case Tourist

 

Sound design is serviceable, if a little boring. The same piece of piano-led elevator music plays in the harbour, the town center, and the police station, which makes exploring feel a bit stale. Though some scenes, like the beach, use soundscapes effectively. Some more bespoke hustle and bustle in other areas would give them a greater sense of identity.

 

The Lowdown

 

Playing The Innsmouth Case is a stark reminder why choose-your-own-adventure games never really caught on. Though the writing valiantly attempts to honour H. P. Lovecraft’s Innsmouth, few will ultimately have the patience to whittle through the game’s labyrinthe of narrative choices while labouring through repeated chunks of text and juvenile jokes. If you’re an honest, die-hard fan of the genre, there may be some fun to be had here, but for everyone else, it’s best to leave this case closed.

 

This review was based upon the PC version of the game. A review code was provided for this purpose.

 

Infinite – Beyond The Mind Review – Hack ‘n Sigh

Infinite – Beyond The Mind Review – Hack ‘n Sigh

Remember Strider? How about Shinobi or Metal Slug? These are all well-loved games from the side-scrolling action genre which, until the rise of indie gaming, was an exclusive resident of the 8 & 16-bit era. Emilie COYO recalls these titles fondly, and their debut game, Infinite – Beyond The Mind, attempts to pay homage to this classic genre. Heading into Infinite – Beyond The Mind, you might expect a nostalgia-driven experience with some fun, retro action and a dorky but endearing plot. Sadly, the final product manages to be anything but.

 

Damsels In Distress 

 

The story begins in that eventful year of 20XX with Tanya and Olga, two women with special powers. At the game’s start, you’ll choose one of these characters to play as while the other is kidnapped by Queen Evangelyn, the dictator who helms the militaristic Beljantaur Kingdom. From there, it’s your job to take down the Queen’s forces and rescue your spiritual sister before her powers are used for evil.

 

Infinite - Beyond the mind upgrades

 

Anyone hoping to get wrapped up in an evolving narrative throughout the game, though, will be sorely disappointed. Zero context is provided as you flit between jungles and army bases, so you’ll emotionally check out well before you reach the game’s obligatory ice level. The only cutscene occurs moments before the final boss, which proceeds to dump a sudden and underwhelming backstory on the player. More uncomfortably, it then attempts to ‘do an Undertale’ by calling into question how many people you’ve killed along the way in an effort to make the player feel the pangs of cognitive dissonance. It rings hollow, especially when campaign progression is frequently gated until you’ve murdered waves of bad guys. It’s a contrived and unfulfilling story which is all the more aggravating to endure because the actual game leading up to this conclusion is deeply frustrating.

 

A Long Way Down

 

It is, however, fair to mention that the game’s boilerplate, hack-‘n-slash gameplay is perfectly adequate. Combat is a little weightless, and enemy quantity typically stands in for quality encounters, but overall, the game is bug free and the controls function to an acceptable standard. There’s even some fun to be had during the shmup-style levels that’re interspersed throughout the campaign. It’s a shame, then, that the missions themselves are unexciting to conquer and full of maddening design choices. Stages feel endless due to lengthy stretches of empty space and mandatory mid-level wave combat encounters that always manage to overstay their welcome. The sides of spikes hurt you, and some vehicles smash into you from off-screen, resulting in undeserved damage. Before you’ve even pressed ‘Play,’ you can automatically attribute 80% of your total deaths to the numerous insta-kill bottomless pits that litter the game’s second half. Restarting a stage after falling to your death is a demoralising prospect, especially when the slog to regain your progress is lengthy and fraught with unengaging combat. When you factor in the game is a whopping 16 chapters long, that feeling of miserable exhaustion after you die may determine if you actually have the patience to see the game through to the end. Then there are the compulsory turret sequences…

 

Infinite - Beyond the mind enemies

 

Turret sections have long been the subject of ridicule in gaming, but at least they serve some purpose. Even during their most shallow incarnations, they cleanse the gameplay palette and offer a fleeting power trip to the player. The first turret you see in Infinite – Beyond The Mind evokes fond memories of piloting the mechs in Metal Slug, but once you jump inside and start shooting, all those happy thoughts disappear faster than a speeding bullet. Aiming the guns is achieved through a wide and lazy turning circle, so it’s a struggle to take out incoming threats. If the turret takes a hit, an eternity passes as you wait for the stun animation to end. After it does, more foes are ready to attack, thus freezing you in a lengthy cycle of stun locks which is only broken once the gun is destroyed. Turrets can be a fun reprieve, but here, the sight of one elicits thoughts of dread.

By far, though, the game’s most egregious issue is its inconsistent difficulty. You’ll breeze through the game’s opening levels only to get trapped in a stage that suddenly expects far too much from the player. Unless you played the optional tutorial, at no point does the game try to layer in or teach its wall jumping mechanic. As a result, it leaves players ill-equipped to deal with the later stages where, in a brazenly misguided attempt to replicate Half Life’s Xen levels, the game suddenly decides its strong suit was always its platforming. One late-game boss even has the gall to engage you in a room where a pair of climbable walls are the only thing separating you from an insta-death pit of rising toxic gas. This is officially where the game hits rock bottom, and I can personally say that it’s one of the most infuriating and misconceived boss fights I’ve ever had the displeasure of experiencing.

 

Game Over, Man

 

Character design is also oddly unappealing. The look of sub bosses appears to be lifted from the depths of DeviantArt and the overall visual tone never knows if it wants to be cute, sexy, or scary. An early indicator of this arrives in the form of the game’s first boss:, two shirtless dudes strangely introduced as ‘Royal Guards’. In almost any other game, this would establish a jovial, tongue-in-cheek tone, but here it sets a lewd precedent that uncomfortably lingers in the mind like an embarrassing memory.

 

Infinite - Beyond the mind Boss

 

The one thing Infinite – Beyond The Mind has going for it is some genuinely decent pixel art, particularly the game’s backgrounds. Detailed mountain ranges and cityscapes briefly catch the eye when starting a new stage, and they follow the action smoothly, thanks to multiple layers of parallax scrolling. On a technical level, the graphics are of a high standard, but the art direction really lets the side down. Virtually every level uses the same military aesthetic to the point where stages begin to blur into one.

More damning is the unoriginal turn the visuals take in the game’s final act, which is entirely derivative of Aliens. The penultimate level is a Facehugger hatchery, its boss is literally a Xenomorph, and the final encounter is fought in front of a (say it with me) giant air-lock. It’s immeasurably disheartening to see the weight of the game’s finale so shamelessly rely on nostalgic goodwill rather than try to establish its own identity.

 

The Lowdown

 

There’s an underlying sense throughout Infinite – Beyond The Mind that the developer has a technical, but not an emotional, understanding of what makes a compelling game. Thankless gameplay and an undernourished plot make this an adventure that’s near-impossible to recommend. The game would earn some favour if it at least tried to show off a new idea, provide a creative wrinkle in the gameplay, present an original moment in the storytelling, or offer some spark that says, ‘Look at me and pay attention!’ Instead, it’s an indie game with some OK pixel art, and in 2020, they’re a dime a dozen.

 

This review was based upon the PC version of the game. A review code was provided for this purpose.

Shovel Knight: King of Cards Review: Fit for a King

Shovel Knight: King of Cards Review: Fit for a King

Unfurl the banners and ready the feast!

After almost two years in development, King Knight is ready to make his grand appearance. Shovel Knight: King of Cards has spent a long time in the oven, but after spending just a few moments with the game you’ll understand why. It features the longest character campaign, a fully featured card game and even a couch competitive multiplayer mode. It’s a genuine juggling act, but do any of these new additions drop the ball?

 

Long Live the King

 

King Knight’s story acts as a prequel to Shovel of Hope, chronicling King Knight’s rise to glory to become the coveted ‘King of Cards’. This final campaign doesn’t act like a last farewell to the Shovel Knight saga and it’s all the better for it. Instead it keeps the focus purely on King Knight’s journey from a mother’s basement-dwelling cosplayer to a self-absorbed monarch. Even though he’s an anti-hero, King Knight’s witty dialogue keeps you invested in his character… even if his ruling tactic is brutish and all style, no substance.

King Knight bickers with his Mom

Pig-headed and flashy is also the best way to describe King Knight’s play-style. In lieu of traditional weapons, King Knight uses a speeding shoulder bash to charge into enemies. Once a blow lands, King Knight is propelled into the air in a spinning frenzy, from here you can continue attacking by bouncing on foes until something breaks your combo. This one-two punch is also the basis of the game’s platforming, ramming into walls effectively lets you double jump and when in ‘twirl mode’ King Knight can pogo over hazards with ease. His moves are fun to use because the level design takes full advantage of his moveset, providing varied and rewarding challenges for those looking to master the game’s platforming.

 

No Meager Feast

 

Individual levels are significantly shorter than classic Shovel Knight stages which is initially disappointing, but once you notice just how tightly designed each bite-sized level is you may end up preferring this new mission structure. Three Merit Medals are begging to be collected in each stage and they can be spent on new moves to further bolster King Knight’s arsenal. Some stages even sport secret exits that lead to some of the best boss fights and chance encounters the game has to offer – seek them out if you want to get the very most out of your play-through.

There’s a lot to see and do in this expansion and even familiar worlds have been given new creative spins, plus all new stages like the Troupple Pond and Birder Bluffs offer yet unseen enemies, world designs and music tracks. In between platforming jaunts, you can rest up in your trusty airship, the Glidewing. Throughout your adventure you amass followers who live on the airship, seeing the decks fill up with friendly faces lends a real sense of connection to the world and it makes your goal seem all the more personable. You can chat with your subjects, buy upgrades from shopkeepers or even unwind and play a game of cards with them.

 

Ace in the Hole

 

New to King of Cards is Joustus, the latest card game craze to sweep over the kingdom and King Knight has his eyes on winning the tournament. Fundamentally, Joustus is about building your deck and controlling the field of play as contenders vie for individual tiles. Like learning to control King Knight, there’s a learning curve to this minigame but the tutorial does a great job in getting you up to speed. It’s easy to steamroll through the first wave of players, chuckling manically as you steal their best cards and their riches, but some late game matches will really test your mettle. If card based minigames aren’t your thing then you’ll be pleased to hear that Joustus is entirely optional, but you’ll be doing yourself a disservice by ignoring it. A truly challenging foe lies between you and the Joustus crown, not to mention the minigame is legitimately enjoyable, serving as a welcome reprieve from the platforming.

King of Cards Joustus Gameplay

The last hefty chunk of content in this new update is Shovel Knight Showdown, a four player battle mode that’s surprisingly rich in content. 20 playable fighters populate the roster, each one sports a totally unique playstyle. Characters like Black Knight have a wealth of offensive options, while mobility is the calling card of other fighters like the ever-floating Enchantress. While you can play a standard deathmatch, Gem Clash is Showdown’s best mode, seeing a mountain of players scramble for collectable gemstones is chaotic bliss. The multiplayer value you’ll get out of Showdown will be somewhat dependent on how many friends you have that are versed in Shovel Knight’s gameplay and physics, but there’s plenty to do solo too. The enemy AI can occasionally counter your attacks with the foresight of a mind-reader and battles in larger stages can get a bit too frantic, but Showdown offers a great excuse for players to return to Shovel Knight long after the main campaigns are done and dusted.

Shovel Knight Showdown VS

 

Pretty as a Portrait

 

King Knight himself may be a decadent dandy, but there’s so much more to oggle at in this package. Yacht Club Games flex their pixel prowess with detailed environments and adorable characters. Areas like the Glidewing and the various Joustus hideouts are brought to life with densely populated backgrounds and bustling animations. Parallax layers not only give every scene depth, but also a sweeping theatrical feeling that pulls you into the experience. There’s always an impressive vista or classy transition to see around every corner and drinking in the various sights is rewarding unto itself.

King Knight in the Glidewing

This final 3-in-1 content update for Shovel Knight is a real juggling act, yet the most remarkable thing is how fully featured and enjoyable every aspect feels. Showdown is bombastic, Joustus is addictive and King Knight’s story maintains the gold standard that Yacht Club Games is known for. King of Cards was well worth the wait, providing the perfect closing act for the Treasure Trove. Let it be known far and wide that by royal decree, this final content update is fit for a king.

 

This review of Shovel Knight: King of Cards is based on the PC version of the game. A review code was provided by the publisher.

Shovel Knight: King of Cards Review – Fit for a King

Shovel Knight: King of Cards Review – Fit for a King

Unfurl the banners and ready the feast!

After almost two years in development, King Knight is ready to make his grand appearance. Shovel Knight: King of Cards has spent a long time in the oven, but after spending just a few moments with the game you’ll understand why. It features the longest character campaign, a fully featured card game and even a couch competitive multiplayer mode. It’s a genuine juggling act, but do any of these new additions drop the ball?

 

Long Live the King

 

King Knight’s story acts as a prequel to Shovel of Hope, chronicling King Knight’s rise to glory to become the coveted ‘King of Cards’. This final campaign doesn’t act like a last farewell to the Shovel Knight saga and it’s all the better for it. Instead it keeps the focus purely on King Knight’s journey from a mother’s basement-dwelling cosplayer to a self-absorbed monarch. Even though he’s an anti-hero, King Knight’s witty dialogue keeps you invested in his character… even if his ruling tactic is brutish and all style, no substance.

 

King Knight bickers with his Mom

 

Pig-headed and flashy is also the best way to describe King Knight’s play-style. In lieu of traditional weapons, King Knight uses a speeding shoulder bash to charge into enemies. Once a blow lands, King Knight is propelled into the air in a spinning frenzy, from here you can continue attacking by bouncing on foes until something breaks your combo. This one-two punch is also the basis of the game’s platforming, ramming into walls effectively lets you double jump and when in ‘twirl mode’ King Knight can pogo over hazards with ease. His moves are fun to use because the level design takes full advantage of his moveset, providing varied and rewarding challenges for those looking to master the game’s platforming.

 

No Meager Feast

 

Individual levels are significantly shorter than classic Shovel Knight stages which is initially disappointing, but once you notice just how tightly designed each bite-sized level is you may end up preferring this new mission structure. Three Merit Medals are begging to be collected in each stage and they can be spent on new moves to further bolster King Knight’s arsenal. Some stages even sport secret exits that lead to some of the best boss fights and chance encounters the game has to offer – seek them out if you want to get the very most out of your play-through.

 

 

There’s a lot to see and do in this expansion and even familiar worlds have been given new creative spins, plus all new stages like the Troupple Pond and Birder Bluffs offer yet unseen enemies, world designs and music tracks. In between platforming jaunts, you can rest up in your trusty airship, the Glidewing. Throughout your adventure you amass followers who live on the airship, seeing the decks fill up with friendly faces lends a real sense of connection to the world and it makes your goal seem all the more personable. You can chat with your subjects, buy upgrades from shopkeepers or even unwind and play a game of cards with them.

 

Ace in the Hole

 

New to King of Cards is Joustus, the latest card game craze to sweep over the kingdom and King Knight has his eyes on winning the tournament. Fundamentally, Joustus is about building your deck and controlling the field of play as contenders vie for individual tiles. Like learning to control King Knight, there’s a learning curve to this minigame but the tutorial does a great job in getting you up to speed. It’s easy to steamroll through the first wave of players, chuckling manically as you steal their best cards and their riches, but some late game matches will really test your mettle. If card based minigames aren’t your thing then you’ll be pleased to hear that Joustus is entirely optional, but you’ll be doing yourself a disservice by ignoring it. A truly challenging foe lies between you and the Joustus crown, not to mention the minigame is legitimately enjoyable, serving as a welcome reprieve from the platforming.

 

King of Cards Joustus Gameplay

 

The last hefty chunk of content in this new update is Shovel Knight Showdown, a four player battle mode that’s surprisingly rich in content. 20 playable fighters populate the roster, each one sports a totally unique playstyle. Characters like Black Knight have a wealth of offensive options, while mobility is the calling card of other fighters like the ever-floating Enchantress. While you can play a standard deathmatch, Gem Clash is Showdown’s best mode, seeing a mountain of players scramble for collectable gemstones is chaotic bliss. The multiplayer value you’ll get out of Showdown will be somewhat dependent on how many friends you have that are versed in Shovel Knight’s gameplay and physics, but there’s plenty to do solo too. The enemy AI can occasionally counter your attacks with the foresight of a mind-reader and battles in larger stages can get a bit too frantic, but Showdown offers a great excuse for players to return to Shovel Knight long after the main campaigns are done and dusted.

 

Shovel Knight Showdown VS

 

Pretty as a Portrait

 

King Knight himself may be a decadent dandy, but there’s so much more to oggle at in this package. Yacht Club Games flex their pixel prowess with detailed environments and adorable characters. Areas like the Glidewing and the various Joustus hideouts are brought to life with densely populated backgrounds and bustling animations. Parallax layers not only give every scene depth, but also a sweeping theatrical feeling that pulls you into the experience. There’s always an impressive vista or classy transition to see around every corner and drinking in the various sights is rewarding unto itself.

 

King Knight in the Glidewing

 

This final 3-in-1 content update for Shovel Knight is a real juggling act, yet the most remarkable thing is how fully featured and enjoyable every aspect feels. Showdown is bombastic, Joustus is addictive and King Knight’s story maintains the gold standard that Yacht Club Games is known for. King of Cards was well worth the wait, providing the perfect closing act for the Treasure Trove. Let it be known far and wide that by royal decree, this final content update is fit for a king.

 

This review of Shovel Knight: King of Cards is based on the PC version of the game. A review code was provided by the publisher.