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If you spend enough time on Steam (and you do, because you found this review), you’re going to run across more and more games clearly inspired by others. It’s completely understandable, as most game developers are inspired to take up their art by deeply effecting games. Some devs forge their own paths, while others build on and iterate with the concepts that first inspired them. I get the impression that it’s easy for a lot of players to get hung up on “copies” and “rip-offs”, but I don’t ask much of a game inspired by others to stand on its own. This is a lot of words to say that yes, this is a game that closely follows in the footsteps of Hollow Knight, but brings enough of its own magic to absolutely be worth your time.

The land of Arcadia has surely seen better days, overrun as it is with decaying machinery and corrupted robots. Something has infected the mechanical denizens of this place, and there are few left with clear enough minds to remain peaceful. It’s into this conflict that our hero is dropped, a rotund little robot with a sharp blade and silent bearing. On the course of his adventure, he’ll explore different regions of this forgotten facility, uncover the history of a ruined world, and reveal the identity of the corrupting force behind the chaos. Of course, that also involves turning up a bunch of useful new powers for scooting around and bopping foes, as well as meeting some new and often mysterious friends tucked away in the corners of Arcadia.

“Unknown hero exploring a ruined land” is not exactly an original hook, especially for a metroidvania, but the presentation of Arcadia helps push thoughts of Dark Souls and Hollow Knight from the mind. The warm, detailed pixel art does a lot to lend Haiku its own appeal, and it suits the mechanical shapes and debris that make up the world. Everything from the enemies to the backgrounds are lovingly animated, too, so it feels like a place genuinely inhabited by its electronic denizens. I will say, though, that the further you get into the game, the more similarities you will find between this and Hollow Knight. There are two areas that feel just short of direct lifts, and while I don’t think that should really bother anyone, I know it will, so this is me warning you up front.

Combat and the power progression are sure to be familiar as well, but again they have their own quirks that help the game stand on its own. Your robot has a great big circuit board with super sharp edges, and swings it in a wonderfully complete arc that can sometimes hit enemies behind you. You’ll get a few other upgrades that can do damage, but this isn’t really a game about builds; you’re going to be doing the majority of your work with that improvised sword, and fortunately its enormous swing makes that pretty fun. Upgrade chips can be slotted into…you, I guess, that modify the way your blade and other abilities work. And those other abilities, while not packing any real surprises, are a logical and satisfying progression that will have you feeling far more mobile and capable by the end of the game.

The only other really notable element of Haiku is its difficulty, or lack thereof. A lot of modern metroidvanias lean hard on brutal balance or combat and end up being very Soulsian struggles to get through. Haiku is pretty much the opposite, a chill, undemanding adventure that leaves you plenty of room to make mistakes. That’s not to say there’s no challenge, as a few of the bosses around the end of the game definitely put me through some paces. But for the most part, you’ll be first-trying bosses and platforming all over Arcadia without much fuss. This does bring me to maybe my one real complaint about the game, which is that the fast travel system, incredibly charming as it is, isn’t laid out very conveniently for getting around the world. It’s a minor complaint, to be sure, but it’ll be more relevant if you’re particularly interested in 100%ing this one.

For me, Haiku ends up being a satisfying, low-key platformer that fits in well between more demanding games. The story is solid, with a few neat twists to throw your way as you work out more and more secrets. Even without that, though, it’s a compelling little world to explore and map out. The pixel art really does so much to make this one inviting, so if the art style really isn’t doing it for you, you might not get hooked quite as strongly as I was. Hopefully the similarities to Hollow Knight and other games won’t be a hang-up either, because there really is a lot of charm to be found here. Haiku doesn’t break any new ground for metroidvanias, but it treads a comfortable, satisfying path that I’m certainly glad I took.



Did you enjoy this review? I certainly hope so, and I certainly hope you'll check out more of them at https://goldplatedgames.com/ or on my curation page!
Publisert 20. juli.
Var denne anmeldelsen nyttig? Ja Nei Morsom Utmerkelse
7 personer syntes denne anmeldelsen var nyttig
3.2 timer totalt
I can’t really imagine trying to balance a roguelike. More than any other genre, roguelikes live and die on the razor’s edge of difficulty. Too easy, and people blow through it in a few runs. Too hard, and frustration claims most of your would-be player base. It took me awhile to come around to the balance struck in Serious Sam: Tormental. There are some choices here that I wouldn’t have made, and some mechanics that weren’t immediately apparent despite how important they were. Still, it’s solid enough to take more than a few hours from me, and I will admit that every time I came close to frustration, I discovered something that kept me going. If you’re down for that kind of rollercoaster, read on.

I’ll give Tormental credit for somehow having one of the more unique premises for a Serious Sam game. Somehow, Sam “Serious” Stone has been transported into the mind of the mighty Mental himself, and must fight his way through the memories and imaginings of his arch-nemesis to reach the secrets locked away in his vile psyche. All sorts of nightmare beasts roam the imagined halls, along with strange new weapons and powers for Sam to claim as his own. But there are also unexpected allies to find here, other figments of twisted imagination that will provide guidance, clues, or challenges that will help our boy gain the power and knowledge he needs to beat Mental from the inside out.

There are certainly clever elements to the presentation that bear out from the concept. Everything has a cartoonish, dreamlike quality to it, especially the enemies which feel more like simple ideas of enemies rather than direct pulls from the other games in the series. Mental has “moods”, which translate into unique difficulty modifiers for each area that you can manipulate to get the challenge you want. The meta-progression also takes on a new dimension as you hunt keys to clear the big mental block at the center of Mental’s psyche, and this is done by far more than just beating runs. You even get some clever twists on existing characters, like the strange robotic presence that Mental envisions Netrisca as being.

Beyond that, Tormental is exactly the kind of run-and-gun top-down romp popularized by Nuclear Throne and Enter the Gungeon. Sam enters a dungeon that is a short, linear sequence of randomized rooms, he kills all the monsters, hoovers up all the loot, beats the boss, and moves on to the next. “Linear” is an important factor here, as there is none of the exploration or multiple routes that you might expect from a game in this style. You’ll find loot, keys, chests, shops, and some unique rewards behind locked doors, but it’s still very much a straight shot through to the boss. Weapons are another departure from both top-down roguelikes and other Serious Samses. Your main gun is a pea-shooter with unlimited ammo (unless you opt for a mood that changes that), and you earn modifiers to it like rapid fire or ricochets by beating the bosses. Other weapons like shotguns and grenade launchers are secondary weapons, which you can have many of but only equip one at a time, and their ammo is very limited.

It’s the mechanics where this game really sets itself apart, and as I’ve already illustrated it does so in mixed ways. Bombs are a big part of the game though you cannot place them yourself. They appear in almost every room, and they can be swatted around with your melee weapon to blow up enemies. Even some of the perks you pick up affect bombs directly. Your dodge roll is HUGELY important, as dodge rolling through weakened enemies is a “brutal” kill that nets you bonus items. It’s never really emphasized just how important it is, but the economy of the entire game is balanced around you brutal killing most of your foes for extra health and keys. This is also where I can mention the less forgiving aspects of the design, like the absolutely absurd amount of damage many of the most common attacks do, and the fact that pickups vanish a few seconds after they appear. I particularly hate that last one, because it means not only do you have to do a careful dance of death to survive each room, you have to do it as close to the foes you’re killing as possible, and ALSO be near the exit when the last one dies, because bonus items will spawn there for only a few moments.

In the end, I definitely enjoy Serious Sam: Tormental, but every run I have to question some of the decisions that went into it. The vanishing rewards are the most common one, but I’ve also lost too many runs only because I tried to Brutal kill everything and the chaos of battle meant I took contact damage and died while doing so. Outside of spotty mechanics, though, it’s a perfectly solid roguelike shooter, and I do appreciate the unique hook and meta-progression. It looks and sounds great as well, even if some fights get a little cluttered with bulky enemies and bullet-hell-style attacks. If you’re ready for a steep learning curve and need something different from the current crop of roguelikes, I’d say give this one a serious try.



Did you enjoy this review? I certainly hope so, and I certainly hope you'll check out more of them at https://goldplatedgames.com/ or on my curation page!
Publisert 20. juni.
Var denne anmeldelsen nyttig? Ja Nei Morsom Utmerkelse
12 personer syntes denne anmeldelsen var nyttig
7.9 timer totalt
What makes a perfect sequel? If you ask me (and you implicitly did because you’re reading this), I consider a perfect sequel one that takes everything the previous game did and builds on it in some way. It doesn’t miss any of what made the original good, whether that be in game design, balance, aesthetic, or feel, and only adds more on top of that rock-solid base. There are great sequels that don’t do this, of course, and instead choose to go far afield and make something bold and new that still relates to its roots. But we’re not talking about those games, because SteamWorld Dig 2 is what I call a perfect sequel. Everything that the first SteamWorld Dig did, this one does bigger and better, and then goes on to do even more that I never would have expected.

It’s been a spell since trusty ol’ Rusty disappeared down in the mines, last seen locked in combat with the deadly Vectron. Dorothy, the local shopkeep’s daughter, knows he’s still ticking out there somewhere, and has embarked on a rugged quest to find our wayward hero. The trail leads to an old trading town, perched atop another mine full of beasts and secrets, and we all know what our new heroine has to do there. Digging down through the layers of history, Dorothy discovers forgotten realms and ruins that hold the key to finding Rusty and understanding the strange earthquakes rattling the town. Along the way she’ll find plenty of valuable ores and gems, exactly what she needs to trade for upgrades to keep her tunneling ever further down. But this journey will take her beyond the confines of mine shafts and caverns, and into the clutches of some unexpected foes.

The premise of SteamWorld Dig 2 is definitely similar to the first, with a vast underground world to mine goodies from for the upgrades to mine even deeper. However, the scope of this one is so much greater than the three discrete zones you had to explore in the original. In fact, the tutorial area in 2 already promises a game that will stretch far and wide, with how unexpected it is and also the bits of lore it sprinkles in up front. This is a far more open game, with more creative areas to explore and more to do in each of them, with loads of optional caves and secret alcoves to reveal through clever use of your powers. Even when I made it to the endgame, there were still a load of collectibles and upgrades tucked away in places I never would have suspected.

Your powers and upgrades are a huge part of why this open design works so well. Honestly, this is one of the most fun and transformative arsenals I’ve ever seen in a metroidvania. The difference in capabilities between the start of the game and the end is monumental, and there were no less than three points where I was absolutely gobsmacked that the developers saw fit to give me a certain upgrade. You end up with so much more mobility and so many more options for pathfinding in SteamWorld Dig 2 compared to the first, yet every upgrade feels like a logical progression and fits perfectly into the game’s pacing. The addition of a fully parallel trait system on top of the powers and upgrades from the first is huge, allowing you to swap in new conveniences and capabilities for each of the abilities that you get. And the challenges are designed to push your understanding of these gifts, making them more challenging than before even as your character becomes far more powerful than in the original game.

The gameplay systems aren’t the only parts that got massive upgrades, either. SteamWorld Dig 2 is a gorgeous game, with wonderfully hand-drawn characters, lush environments brimming with color, superb visual effects, and rich sound design. Just running around the world and poking at things is a warm, inviting experience, and makes scouring for secrets more fun that you would ever expect. The story, unsurprisingly, is also a big step up from the first game, with a lot more twists and turns and an ending that I absolutely did not see coming. It’s also a significantly longer game, easily twice as big if not more, and they’ve packed every bit of the experience with something to see, do, or collect.

It’s the easiest recommendation in the world to say that, if you enjoyed the first SteamWorld Dig, then you’re guaranteed to love SteamWorld Dig 2. But even if you skipped the first one, this is a masterpiece of game design. The balance of mining, upgrading, exploring, and progressing is just about perfect, with no low points or frustrations. The new powers and traits flesh out the core gameplay in fantastic ways, and the improved presentation makes this one a joy to play through. I’m a big metroidvania fan to begin with, but SteamWorld Dig 2 has quickly become one of my favorites in the genre, with a sense of depth and freedom that few can match.



Did you enjoy this review? I certainly hope so, and I certainly hope you'll check out more of them at https://goldplatedgames.com/ or on my curation page!
Publisert 17. juni.
Var denne anmeldelsen nyttig? Ja Nei Morsom Utmerkelse
9 personer syntes denne anmeldelsen var nyttig
10.9 timer totalt
I’m old enough to remember the purported death of point-and-click adventures, and full-motion video games in particular, so it’s been a real joy to see their resurgence in the 21st century. FMV games have made a surprising comeback, no doubt buoyed by cult hits like Contradiction and Her Story. But before these, in fact, there was another return to FMV glory happening. The old Tex Murphy saga had been left hanging back in the 90s, but through the magic of Kickstarter, everyone’s favorite hard-boiled post-apocalyptic gumshoe would be brought back for one last case. That’s Tesla Effect, and while it captures so much of the charm and character that made these games classics in the first place, it also stumbles hard in some of its efforts to modernize and innovate.

Tex Murphy is our eponymous private investigator, holed up in a historic district of post-war San Francisco in the 2050s. He’s got a heart of gold but his head’s seen better days, because he can’t quite recall the last seven years of his life. Familiar faces in the neighborhood recall him turning dark and callous, a far sight from the classic quippy, charming Tex that’s just come around. It turns out that Tex’s amnesia is wrapped up in a century-old mystery, encompassing Nikola Tesla, secret societies, a lost treasure, and more than a few figures from past games. With help from the locals (at varying levels of enthusiasm), some eagle-eyed searching, and some real leaps of logic, Tex might just unravel a conspiracy that threatens the entire world.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: this is, first and foremost, a game for Tex Murphy fans. Right from Tex’s office, there are conspicuous references to previous games and cases, going so far as to play actual clips from the original games when you examine them. The actors who played the original characters reprise their roles here, and immediately become the stars of the show through some genuinely funny writing and a massive amount of charm. Even without having the background of the previous games, I fell in love with all of these characters, Tex chief among them. He’s an incredibly earnest main character, snarking constantly but doing so with plenty of heart so as to never become too tedious or sour about it. The dialogue and cutscene-heavy portions of the game are absolutely the highlights, and the introduction of new characters is always a thrill.

Where Tesla Effect goes wrong is in how it wanders away from the strength of its characters. The main gameplay here is not traditional pointing and clicking as you might expect, but rather a first-person adventure. Tex has the run of his neighborhood and a few supporting locations, wandering around freely to examine anything that falls within his cursor’s purview. Most characters do not appear as 3D models in the game, and their dialogue scenes are triggered by activating doors or entering rooms. Early on, you’re mostly running around from one establishment to the next, testing dialogue options on characters and following up on leads and lines of inquiry. Between these FMV scenes, you’ll go hunting for items hidden around the environment and do some old-school item combining and using to solve mostly simple puzzles. Later in the game, though, the dialogue scenes become fewer and further between, and the first-person scavenger hunts start to take up the bulk of your time.

It was honestly dramatic to me how quickly Tesla Effect fell from my graces. I was 100% on board with this one for the first two-thirds or so, cackling madly at the high-quality yet cheesy FMVs and wracking my brain to turn up the items I needed. Things take a bit of a turn around the halfway mark, as you head off to a puzzle and item-hunt-heavy building with very little dialogue to break things up, but the payoff is worth it. From Night 8, though, the game swerves hard into that puzzling and item hunting, and never really recovers. The tone of the game goes from goofy noir to this weird solitary horror, Tex stops quipping so much, and lots of things start showing up to randomly kill you. I don’t know if the budget for the actors ran out, or if the ending was rushed, or what could have happened, but the last third of the game becomes a tedious slog, culminating in a finale that doesn’t really wrap much up and has some truly perplexing elements.

I don’t think Tesla Effect is a bad game, per se. I also don’t think it’s one that’s only for Tex Murphy fans, because I came in cold and had a grand old time, at least at first. But it’s a game that falls off hard by the end, and your enjoyment of it is going to hinge mightily on how much issue you take with that. For me, I’m still happy with the time I spent with the characters, and the old-school puzzling that got me to that break point near the end. I’d be lying if I said I was satisfied with the ending, but I’d also be lying if I said it ruined the game for me. Really, FMV games are such a precious, charming commodity that it’s hard to fault one even if it is as uneven as this. As long as you know what you’re getting into, I think you’ll come around to our good buddy Tex.



Did you enjoy this review? I certainly hope so, and I certainly hope you'll check out more of them at https://goldplatedgames.com/ or on my curation page!
Publisert 8. juni.
Var denne anmeldelsen nyttig? Ja Nei Morsom Utmerkelse
13 personer syntes denne anmeldelsen var nyttig
6.2 timer totalt
There’s a genre I love that maybe exists, where you mine minerals and gems and sell them to get upgrades to mine deeper and greedier until you uncover some terrible secret. This might be a little too specific for a proper genre, but the original Flash game Motherload and its Steam sequel Super Motherload are enough to give this style of game a special place in my heart. Despite this, I slept on SteamWorld Dig for the longest time, even after enjoying the charming tactics of SteamWorld Quest. But I’ve corrected this oversight, and I can say that the dusty caves and lost laboratories of this robotic world are a fine cornerstone of whatever this kind of game is called.

Rusty has inherited his uncle Joe’s mine, a hole in the middle of the desert with a ramshackle robot town clustered around it. Strange things have been happening here as of late, with all manner of unexplained noises and unpleasant beasts rising up from the winding shafts. With the backing of the townsfolk, Rusty must plumb the depths of the mine, uncovering powers and secrets that lead him ever further into the dark underbelly of the world. But expeditions like this are not cheap to mount, and he’ll need to bring back whatever precious materials he finds underground to sell for the upgrades that let him venture further. As the mine gives way to ruins and stranger places, Rusty will close in on the great secret his uncle uncovered, something he’ll have to face head-on.

The core of SteamWorld Dig is essentially that of Motherload, descending into the mine, mining out minerals, and bringing them to the surface to sell. That coin you earn goes into upgrading your pickaxe, lamp, and other powers to open the way deeper underground. As you descend, you’ll have tactical concerns like how to approach dormant enemies, how to mine around crushing rocks and other hazards, and how to reach valuables in awkward places. Charting a clear path down that you can take back up is important, especially since fall damage is something you’ll need to look out for. On the bright side, Steamworld Dig is generous with shortcuts back up to the surface, so it’s unlikely you’ll ever be very far from a way back home.

This would probably be enough for me, but Steamworld Dig takes the formula one step further by introducing entirely new tools and powers as you progress. Tied into the story of the mystery mine are upgrade stations that offer you new capabilities for mining and maneuvering. New powers are put to the test in clever challenges for bonus resources, making them feel more like rewards than simple keys to access the next step of your journey. I won’t spoil any of them but there were a few that opened up the mine in ways I didn’t expect, and really made a difference in how I approached the later areas. You’ll be able to upgrade these as well, using a mix of money from selling mineral findings and orbs obtained from the trickier challenges tucked away on the fringes of your descent.

Above ground, the town expands as you dig ever deeper, and the colorful, steam-powered denizens will offer helpful lore to fill in some of the gaps of the tale. It’s easy to get into a comfortable cycle of mining, selling, upgrading, and exploring, and before the simple formula has a chance to wear out its welcome, it ends. Steamworld Dig is only about 3-4 hours long, depending on how quick you can descend through the mine, and for me that’s a fine length for what this game offers you. The bright, colorful graphics and solid sound design make it a pleasant journey the whole way through, and there are no unexpected difficulty spikes or pain points in the design at all. If you want a dash of metroidvania with your mining, this charming, compact game will absolutely fit the bill.



Did you enjoy this review? I certainly hope so, and I certainly hope you'll check out more of them at https://goldplatedgames.com/ or on my curation page!
Publisert 3. juni.
Var denne anmeldelsen nyttig? Ja Nei Morsom Utmerkelse
7 personer syntes denne anmeldelsen var nyttig
1 person syntes denne anmeldelsen var morsom
1.6 timer totalt
If you’re keeping count, this is the fourth version of The First and Second Encounters you can get on Steam, after HD, Classic, and Fusion. I’ve talked about the quality of the HD versions, the improvements they got from being included in Fusion, and the interesting differences between them and Classic which keep the originals relevant. So where does that leave Revolution, a fan-touchup of Classic? Well, if you absolutely must play the originals, this is a fine way to do it. You get a few graphical and system improvements, on top of some extra fan-made content. I wouldn’t really consider that last bit much of a draw, honestly, but whether or not you appreciate the new maps and weapons, it’s more of the classic Serious Sam action you know and love.

To be specific, Revolution is a 64-bit sourceport of Serious Engine 1, combining TFE and TSE in one neat little package (and without the reprehensible Legend of the Beast DLC). It seems the aim here was to modernize the original Serious Sam adventures without giving them the full HD makeover, so these versions look and play very similar to Classic, but with modern graphical options and a cleaner UI. After playing the opening bits of both Encounters, I can definitely say this is an improvement over the Classic releases in subtle ways. The most apparent fixes are properly-scaling UI and better textures, of course, but the whole package runs notably better, too. All the strangely-moody atmosphere of TFE and cluttered landscapes of TSE are recreated here in an engine better suited to modern gaming.

However, there are some key differences here from the Classic and also HD versions. You get a whole new fan-made episode called Bright Island to play through, wherein Sam has been Timelocked out of time itself, and landed on some appropriately fanciful islands. These maps have a great deal of style and variety to them, but also tend to be overly massive, to the point of sometimes hitching the game. I also saw a fair bit of lighting weirdness, usually with full-bright or full-dark surfaces, that I didn’t see in the base game so I assume they’re map-making errors. And while the battles have some welcome variety to them, some are just not very well-designed. These devs like to surround the player but don’t always give enough space for that to work, so be prepared for Kleer or kamikazes to spawn in right on top of you at times. I even had a few moments of confusion and frustration when enemies would spawn inside the floor or walls, making them impossible to cross of my kill list.

Revolution doesn’t stop there, though. There are a few new weapons like a plasma gun, which is a lot like the laser cannon except the shots explode and it has a brutal shotgun alt-fire. I found these to be welcome additions in the Bright Island episode, but they also got worked into the original games as secrets. It’s not bad or anything, but if you’re a stickler for the unchanged original experience, this isn’t the version for you. You’ve also got a new survival mode to try out if you just need walls of enemies to mow down, and who doesn’t need that in their Serious Sam? Ultimately though, if you’re not here for the fan episode (and I am not), there’s not much reason to recommend this one. HD is still the best way to experience The First and Second Encounters, and aside from quality-of-life improvements and some random new guns, this isn’t so different from the perfectly okay Classics. But hey, you get this free with the Classics anyway, so why not, right?



Did you enjoy this review? I certainly hope so, and I certainly hope you'll check out more of them at https://goldplatedgames.com/ or on my curation page!
Publisert 1. juni.
Var denne anmeldelsen nyttig? Ja Nei Morsom Utmerkelse
5 personer syntes denne anmeldelsen var nyttig
1.5 timer totalt
Okay, I will admit, I did not expect a Serious Sam spin-off like this. Top-down shooter? Natural fit. Platformer? Easy peasy. But an infinite runner? And you don’t even play as Sam? Now that’s unexpected, and after screaming and exploding my way through it, I can say it’s not unwelcome, either. Kamikaze Attack makes the most of its unusual premise, and offers you enough ways to run around and blow things up to keep you occupied for a few hours. It’s mostly the goofy style and the high-speed action that sell this one, and I’m here to tell you that both are extremely solid for what you’re getting here.

The exploding cat’s already out of the bag; you don’t play as our boy Sam in this one, you play as a headless kamikaze! Each of the 40 levels has you chasing after Sam, dodging or kicking obstacles and ordnance on your way to give him a nice, big, incendiary hug. Your double jump is the most obvious way to avoid danger but you can also kick, and continue to kick as you hold the button, which destroys or knocks away stuff in your path. This will very quickly build a rage meter though, and if it maxes out, you explode in a shower of untamed fury and meat. The gameplay, then, is balancing out kicking and dodging to survive the level and hopefully complete the bonus objective, which is usually smashing barriers or juggling bombs or the like.

Infinite runners live and die on their controls, and the two-button system in Kamikaze Attack is more than up to the challenge. Kicking resets your double jump, so you have a ridiculous amount of freedom to sail through the air on your way to explode Serious Sam. This translates into some awesome combo potential when you can chain kick a dozen missiles away or keep four bombs going from the start of the level to the end. It’s also a very loose game in terms of challenge. You have multiple lives to get through each short stage, and any time you lose one, a random 1-up pickup will almost surely appear ahead. I didn’t have to retry a single level to beat it, and in the endless mode, I almost had to try to die after approaching a million points banked. I don’t know if the difficulty scales so gradually that I didn’t notice, or if there’s just no difficulty scaling at all, but this is not a game you’re ever bound to get frustrated with.

You can pick some different heads for your headless kamikaze (sacrilege, I know), and they confer different bonuses that can help you manage your rage or speed, but I never really bothered with them. The 40 stages spread across two areas were fine as they were, getting longer and more complex with their obstacles as I went. It’s almost a shame that slowing down is considered a bonus or power-up, because you can get up to absolutely absurd speeds and that’s when the game is the most fun. Again, this isn’t going to be a huge diversion or time sink for anyone, Serious Sam fans included, but it has just the right amount of charm and the right balance of challenge and chaos to entertain for as long as you want to explode people.



Did you enjoy this review? I certainly hope so, and I certainly hope you'll check out more of them at https://goldplatedgames.com/ or on my curation page!
Publisert 27. mai.
Var denne anmeldelsen nyttig? Ja Nei Morsom Utmerkelse
14 personer syntes denne anmeldelsen var nyttig
14.8 timer totalt
There are truly few things as gratifying as a well put-together metroidvania. The persistent popularity of the ancient Metroids and Castlevanias from which this awkward moniker was taken should be testament to that, but so many recent indie attempts have been just as captivating, if not moreso. Astalon definitely deserves a place among these modern adventures, with its gorgeous, detailed pixel art and creative upgrades. It’s got plenty of interesting design decisions that set it apart from others of its ilk, too, though not all of them may have been the best ideas. Still, there’s so much good about Astalon that I couldn’t help but dip into its bonus modes, even after taking the time to 100% the main game, and that’s something I don’t normally do.

Astalon Episode II (it’s doing a Star Wars thing, you didn’t miss anything) chronicles the adventures of Algus the mage, Kyuli the archer, and Arias the knight. In their post-apocalyptic world, the ancient ruins of those that came before are re-emerging, and a nearby tower has poisoned the water of our plucky party’s village. Together, these would-be heroes climb the tower to uncover the secrets of this blight. Inside they’ll find all manner of grim creatures serving the gorgons, great stone beasts sealed within. They’ll need a host of powers to overcome the challenges before them, and not all of these powers will come from mortal sources.

One immediate draw of this game is the many unique hooks it has for its story and structure. I had to mention the gorgons because they’re a new and creative adversarial force for a game like this, rather than vampires or demons or evil AIs. The continue and upgrade systems are also tied into a neat story element that gets introduced almost immediately; your buddy Algus has a deal with Epimetheus, the Titan of Death, who refuses to let the party die until the bargain is complete. He’ll even grant you new powers in exchange for the souls you hoover up while exploring the tower, what a guy! But really, it’s these elements along with the exciting discoveries you make as you ascend that helps Astalon stand out from other metroidvanias.

If you’ve played more than a few metroidvanias, I’m sure you’ve had that moment where you got a new power and it changed your very perception of the game world. Games like Hollow Knight and Axiom Verge do this, and I was pleased to see Astalon do it several times to great effect. There’s one particular power I got that I was not expecting at all, and it felt like it opened up the game in so many ways. It also helps that there are a vast array of secrets to find as you ascend the tower, none of them particularly torturous to find but some of them impressively expansive. This is a game that’s a pleasure to explore, especially if you’re keeping up with your character upgrades to ensure you can dispatch enemies quickly and efficiently. The combat in Astalon is thankfully quite good, and offers you several approaches to battle that are sure to include something that you’ll find fun.

I will say there are parts of this game that don’t quite live up to the others, and the big one for me is the map. Metroidvanias live and die on their map designs, because if you hate trying to get around the world, you’re going to run out of steam real fast. Astalon doesn’t have a bad map, and like I said, some of the secrets are really quite interesting to uncover. However, this is one of those games where the map might show three exits out of a room, but only two of those are connected. The tower is intensely maze-like, and several sections of it don’t connect like you’d expect they would. If you’ve ever played the middle child of Castlevania on the Gameboy Advance, Harmony of Dissonance, Astalon has a lot in common with the twisting castle there.

It’s also worth mentioning that the health system is a bit unusual, and while I won’t spoil it, I will say that it can be hard to recover from heavy losses. Coupled with the proliferation of traps like spikes in this game, I can see health being a frustration for some, though ultimately it never was for me. I was having too much fun teasing out the tower’s secrets for any of these complaints to really bother me, and I think that’ll be the case for most people who give Astalon a chance. It took me about a dozen hours to 100% complete a normal playthrough, and that opened up a whole host of bonus modes, included a New Game + that actually mixes up the map a little. With solid gameplay, unique hooks, and a gorgeous presentation, I can definitely recommend Astalon to anyone needing a new cursed tower to explore.



Did you enjoy this review? I certainly hope so, and I certainly hope you'll check out more of them at https://goldplatedgames.com/ or on my curation page!
Publisert 23. mai.
Var denne anmeldelsen nyttig? Ja Nei Morsom Utmerkelse
17 personer syntes denne anmeldelsen var nyttig
13.8 timer totalt
What a long and winding road it’s been to get here! The Serious Sam series started with The First and Second Encounters, two games that knew what they wanted to be: goofy, over-the-top FPSes helmed by a parody of the badass action heroes of the time. From there, the franchise stumbled through the awkward cartoonishness of Serious Sam 2, fell into the brown military shooter trap of Serious Sam 3, and finally emerged here. I’m happy to say that, of the main Serious Sam games, this one comes the closest to capturing the magic of the originals. In some ways it even tops them, though the myriad of technical issues and other design choices keep it from being a new high for the franchise. Nevertheless, if you want more of that Second Encounter goodness (and you’ve already played Siberian Mayhem), this is the sequel you’re looking for.

Not content with only having one prequel in the series, Serious Sam 4 is a prequel to the prequel. Before Sirius, before ancient Egypt, before Timelocks, we get Sam in his peak Earth Defense Force days. Teamed up with a rag-tag band of quippy soldiers, Sam is on the hunt for the Holy Grail, said to hold the key to turning back Mental’s forces which have all but conquered the planet. Starting in Italy, he winds a bloody path through Rome before heading out to the French countryside, and eventually finding himself in a climactic battle in Tunguska. Along the way, Sam will make new allies, lose some close friends, uncover some secrets of history, and suffer a shocking (maybe) betrayal. Also, he will shoot approximately ten thousand aliens, sometimes with rocket-propelled chainsaws.

Does that sound like a Serious Sam game? I know that last line does, but the rest? Serious Sam 4 is absolutely thick with cutscenes and dialog, way more than 2 or 3 ever aspired for, and it made something about this series abundantly clear to me. Sam is written better here than ever before, with witty one-liners, some self-aware humor, and also moments of drama and almost character growth. And honestly, I don’t need any of that. I do not need pathos in my Serious Sam game. I don’t need to meet a charming NPC and then watch them die and Sam be sad and angry a few missions later. I didn’t need that from Duke Nukem, or the Doom Slayer, or Caleb, or Dusk Dude, or anyone who’s game was there to let you blast aliens or demons or whatever. I can appreciate that Sam and his cohorts are written pretty well for the most part, but I also know now that I don’t want or need good writing in these games.

That goes double when you consider the quality of the cutscenes. Serious Engine 4 can pull off some impressive feats, but if it can make people not look like stiff, dead-eyed mannequins, this game doesn’t show it. Worse still is how textures are slow to load into scenes, often leaving characters delivering monologues looking like they were hosed down with Vaseline. This carries over to the gameplay, where textures will constantly be popping in and out of focus at all times, no matter how much or little is going on on the screen. When everything is loaded, Serious Sam 4 is a gorgeous-looking game, but the moment you turn your head, something is going to go all blurry. There’s also the matter of the maps, which are absolutely massive for some reason, and contribute to heavy load times between missions and cutscenes.

I will say, on the subject of maps, that the scope of some of the game’s levels is incredibly impressive. Not so much in the Italy and Rome sections, because there you’re mostly scooting around ruins and war-torn cities. But once you get to France, the game opens up in an incredible way. The ninth level of the game, A Breakfast in France, is something like 140 square kilometers of satellite-imaged landscape, which you can explore on foot or by motorcycle. There are certainly secrets to discover if you ride off into the countryside, and this space is used to great effect for some truly massive battles. Still, it’s not utilized as fully as it could be, and show off one of the chief flaws in SS4’s level design. You’ll find nooks, crannies, corners, and buildings everywhere in this game, so many that look like they should be hiding something, and yet, they aren’t. There are some hilarious secrets in this game, some of the best of the series, in fact, but finding them always ends up being far more tedious than it needs to be.

This probably doesn’t sound like a very glowing review at this point, but we haven’t talked about the action yet. Serious Sam has always had a bit of an issue with impact, I think. The battles have always been huge and the action has been hectic, but the guns often seemed to lack that extra oomph that weapons in, say, Doom or F.E.A.R. had in spades. Not so here. For the first time, Serious Sam is toting guns that feel powerful enough to take on armies. Bullets have impact and visual flare, explosions are huge and fiery, and enemies come apart in messy chunks at the slightest provocation. I want to take a moment to really appreciate the minigun in this one, which feels like you are unleashing a hail of divine judgment upon your foes. Spinning that thing up and sweeping a huge crowd of enemies kicks up so much dirt and blood, you would think you had just dropped them into a wood chipper.

Sam’s whole arsenal feels so much more powerful here, and it’s expanded with some recent and new additions like the rapid-fire explosive Devastator, a brutal auto-shotgun, and some more exotic fare like a rocket-powered chainsaw launcher. There are also gadgets, filling in for power-ups like Serious Damage, which you take with you and activate when you need an extra boost. These can be hilariously powerful, like time-slowing grenades and portable black holes, and are often earned from doing optional side missions on each level. These are clearly marked and offer some welcome additional action, usually with some kind of twist and clever dialog. Oh, Sam even gets a skill system that unlocks abilities like dual wielding and melee attacks on huge foes, though as I noted in my Siberian Mayhem review, dual wielding is so fun and feels so important to combat that I don’t see why it wasn’t just part of Sam’s normal repertoire.

If you’re seeking out secrets and side missions, Serious Sam 4 will take you over a dozen hours to complete, and for me, it was pretty much a blast the whole way through. The fights in this one are some of the best the series has ever seen (Siberian Mayhem aside), with some really clever mixes of foes and challenges. The levels look great (when the textures load), and the story is good, even if I would prefer the game without the drama. What’s really important here is that Serious Sam 4 represents a real move towards the action that made this series memorable. There’s a lot of The Second Encounter here, from the fights to the power-up gadgets, even to the three-act structure of the levels. I hope this means that Croteam has finally rediscovered how to make Serious Sam games like they used to, and their next entry will be more akin to a Third Encounter than another confuse sequel. Until then, though, this is about as good as the main Serious Sam games get past the originals, and if you can get past its issues, there are thousands of aliens here that blow up real good.



Did you enjoy this review? I certainly hope so, and I certainly hope you'll check out more of them at https://goldplatedgames.com/ or on my curation page!
Publisert 14. mai.
Var denne anmeldelsen nyttig? Ja Nei Morsom Utmerkelse
5 personer syntes denne anmeldelsen var nyttig
0.8 timer totalt
One of the biggest questions I had when embarking on my runback of the Serious Sam series was, which versions of all these games do I play? There are no fewer than four releases of The First and Second Encounters on Steam, split between Classic and HD renditions and different wrappers. I spent most of my time with the stand-alone HD releases, but I was intent on seeing what all these other versions had going for them. Ultimately, I’m glad I did, because I would not have otherwise discovered that Fusion is your best bet for replaying the original Serious Sams. Besides being a moderate step up in quality over the HD versions, the wealth of gameplay, graphics, and accessibility options offered by Fusion, as well as centralized access to content and mods, makes this the preferred experience for the titles contained therein.

For context, Serious Sam Fusion was a project launched by Croteam in 2017 to unify all of the Serious Sam games on one platform. With the HD remakes of TFE and TSE made on the same engine as Serious Sam 3, it made sense to get them all under a single roof so that continued patching and modding would benefit all of them. However, development of the Fusion platform ended in 2018 as the team moved to focus on Serious Sam 4 as its own title. Additionally, there was never any effort to bring Serious Sam 2 under the same umbrella, though whether you’d actually hold that against Fusion is really a matter of taste. Despite the end of development for Fusion, though, these versions of TFE, TSE, SS3, and their associated DLC are the most stable and feature-rich versions you can find, having been continuously worked on long past their individual releases.

I’m not the guy to ask about the crunchy, techy details of games, but there’s a handy bullet-point list of features on the store page that breaks all that down for you. Fusion’s main benefit is a host of modern amenities and performance improvements, ranging from split-screen and controller support to 64-bit executables and texture streaming. The performance features in particular have a very tangible effect on the games, making them run smoother, look cleaner, and play better, all in subtle ways. Even Serious Sam 3, my least favorite of the main games, feels more appealing when running in Fusion. Textures load faster, quicksaving is seamless, and the movement has a more natural pace.

Add to this a workshop full of hundreds of mods, maps, and other content, and the value of Fusion as a platform should be quite clear. Just from the most basic user experience perspective, it’s really nice to load into one game and be able to jump straight to any point in TFE, TSE, SS3, or their DLC. I don’t have to unify my control or graphics settings across different versions, because it’s all right there. I’ve said before that I consider The Second Encounter to be the pinnacle of the Serious Sam series, and now I’m ready to say that this is the way that you should experience it.



Did you enjoy this review? I certainly hope so, and I certainly hope you'll check out more of them at https://goldplatedgames.com/ or on my curation page!
Publisert 11. mai.
Var denne anmeldelsen nyttig? Ja Nei Morsom Utmerkelse
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