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Recent reviews by pepsimanvsjoe

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6 people found this review helpful
5.4 hrs on record
These days when every other new game release seems to be a first-person shooter or something involving zombies, I’m exceedingly grateful for the independent scene. If you’ve got the talent, some good ideas, and the persistence to make it work, you can release a game. While I appreciate indie games from all corners of the globe, I tend to favor the output from Japan. For the most part, doujin games follow the same mechanics and design found in games by major Japanese companies. What sets the doujin scene apart is that they have more freedom to pursue unique concepts or a combination of existing genres. Fairy Bloom Freesia falls under the latter category; it takes elements from beatemups, fighting games, and single-screen-platformers like Bubble Bobble. Surprisingly enough this mixture of multiple styles works really well.

Freesia is your average fairy of the forest, charged with protecting the woods from dangerous monsters and power-hungry humans. Since she’s a fairy, you’d expect to see her fight off evil with pixie dust and magic wands. Instead she’s basically a ninja that played every fighting game and knows all the moves. She can perform sick combos, air-grabs, throw projectiles, and even just-defend so she can’t get guard-crushed. She can also level-up which leads to more moves and more abilities, such as the regenerating health or increased damage. While the competition isn’t exactly fierce, I can confidently say Freesia is the toughest fairy around.

Too bad she’s stuck in a world filled with some terrible characters. Listine is a creep who gets nosebleeds when girls give him the slightest amount of attention. Plum is just an abomination in terms of character-design, with her TRON-inspired bodysuit and the underwear she wears over it. Shynie is simply there because I have no earthly idea. She moves the plot along but otherwise she’s little more than a boss-fight. That is the upshot when dealing with a pack of losers like this crew. Over the course of the game, all three of them will be mightily thrashed by Freesia.

Until those times come around, this ferocious fairy must spend her days fighting off an array of monsters. There are unfortunately only four types in the game. These blob-like foes strike when Freesia gets close or lob a variety of projectiles. Alone they don’t pose a threat but they can be dangerous in crowds. However this also makes them more susceptible to being knocked into one another. It isn’t unexpected for Freesia to hurl herself into a crowd, treating her foes as mere pinballs in a machine. In some ways, Fairy Bloom is comparable to Smash Brothers, though I believe it can be more satisfying. At least as far as the mechanics behind fighting and defeating enemies is concerned.

Now let me emphasize this point so we nobody gets confused. In my opinion the feel of hitting monsters is better than in the Smash Brothers series. This isn’t about balance or anything else. Fairy Bloom Freesia is strictly a one-player game. Your attention is going to be spent on experimenting with the numerous skills and abilities available to you. Up to four special-attacks can be equipped at a time, so you can focus on projectiles, melee, or a combination of the two. From my experience, I would say that run-away is the most viable tactic in this game. The special-attack “Peacock” fires a spread of homing bullets that can do respectable damage. To add to this, the attack originates from Freesia’s back. So when being chased by a boss, you can perform this skill and they’ll suffer greatly. Sure it lacks the thrill of getting right in their face, countering their every strike through a skilled combination of just-defends and counter-hits, but I tend to play cheap. In any case, this game is very entertaining thanks to its flawless controls.

The biggest setback with this game is its lack of variety. Along with the aforementioned lack of unique enemies, there isn’t much to set the stages apart. Each stage is broken up into five days; some are just defeat all the monsters while others involve protecting vortexes. While each stage is themed after a season, it doesn’t make too much of a difference. You’ll see a slight variation of an enemy and the platforms are moved around. Still, it takes only just over an hour to beat the game. That’s not enough time to get bored, but reason enough to up the difficulty or check out the Guardian mode. This is essentially a Survival challenge. You can go several days, without an opportunity to save or change Freesia’s skills around. Still, if there was ever a sequel, I’d expect several new types of enemies. Hopefully they won’t all look like a ball of sludge with eyes either. Some sort of score-attack mode would also have been huge, if implemented properly.

Aside from the poor characters and writing, there aren’t any reasons I can think of to pass on Fairy Bloom Freesia. The core game is simply that entertaining. The skills are fun to use and the challenge is consistent. Most importantly, the controls give you ample opportunities to pull off incredible combinations of attacks. This makes for a great in-between game. If you want a break from the epic adventures, or the hundreds of multiplayer matches you’ve been grinding out, you can spend a few minutes as a fairy kicking the hell out of everything.
Posted March 9.
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4 people found this review helpful
3.8 hrs on record
As a follow-up to Gladiator Begins, Clan of Champions simply doesn't cut it. It seems that Acquire couldn't be bothered with crafting a compelling storyline and cast of characters. Every mission is a variation of "kill all the baddies", and fights rarely deviate from repetitive 3v3 brawls. There's no real strategy to the combat either. As long as players continually upgrade their equipment and remember to spam special attacks, then there's nothing to worry about. Before long, the entire ordeal devolves into a mindless cacophany of button-mashing. Maybe the hero will decide to a cast a spell, perhaps they'll run away to avoid getting surrounded, and that is the extent of the game's variety.

Still, I'd be remiss to ignore the crowd that actually *wants* a mindless hack & slash adventure game, especially one that's frequently on sale for less than a dollar. Is Clan of Champions capable of delivering at least a couple hours worth of entertainment? I'm afraid to say it, but no, not in the slightest. The controls have a muddy feel to them, and hits never seem to connect in a satisfying manner. It's hard to explain, but whenever I kill an enemy in this game, my immediate thought isn't "I killed another foe!" It's more along the lines of "Oh... They're dead? Oh okay." In the midst of a conflict involving various edged weapons, death is expected. However, I still found myself mildly surprised whenever I killed someone. It's these moments of confusion that keep the game from being enjoyable, even at the most basic level.

Then there's the online mode. I played a few cooperative missions, which were amusing only in how quickly my partners and I were able to stomp the opposition. Thanks to issues such as lag and input delay, this game, which already suffers from an absence of anything resembling nuance, becomes a total joke. As long as buttons are being pressed, then good things will happen. Enemies will bleed out and fall over, and players will bathe in miniscule equipment upgrades, as well as enjoy practically insignificant bonuses to their special skills. If another trip on the hamster wheel sounds at all appealing, then consider downloading one of those F2P MMOs, at least they're guaranteed to be easier on the eyes.

In short, consider investing your money elsewhere, such as on a pack of gum. Get something that'll keep your breath minty fresh, which is far more pleasant a feeling than anything this game could ever provide.
Posted January 2.
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22 people found this review helpful
5.5 hrs on record
Ever since I completed this visual novel, I struggled for weeks to come up with something significant to say about it. You know, something a little more powerful than "I give this game feels out of 10". As a critic, I don't get many opportunities to actually think about a videogame, especially one that I already finished. Usually I'm too concerned with the next game, and trying desperately to stay on schedule. For Lucy - The Eternity She Wished For - to rattle around in the nether reaches of my brain for so long, perhaps it's something truly special.

Lucy Valentine is an android, an artificial being programmed to mimic the behavior and feelings of a human. Her emotions aren't truly legitimate...are they? This question sparks what could be considered a journey towards validation. She's trying to find her purpose, and prove to those around her that she's more than just a tool. How exactly does one do that? After all, she is an android. Whatever she does or says will be immediately countered with "...but you're a robot. This is all part of your programming."

She isn't real. Well, that goes without saying, considering she's a videogame character and all. The thing is, we as a society carry feelings for numerous persons or objects that aren't "real". Perhaps there is a TV or movie character whose death we lament, a piece of music that stirs emotion, an object of sentimental value, or even just words on a page that make us cry. For us to show feelings for anything that is not flesh and blood, but deny Lucy her emotions, it just seems selfish and wrong.

What makes validation such an interesting concept is that it's what we're always in pursuit of. We spend the bulk of our lives trying to find our place in the sun. Sometimes we never actually get there. We become lost in the fog, not knowing who or what to reach for. After spending enough time in the fog, people lose sight of everything. Take this game's protagonist for example, he has never known what it's like for somebody to take care of him, while he's sick. What we (likely) took for granted when were children, is an absolutely incredible event for him. An android is showing him more care and affection than his human parents ever did. It's the simple times like these that cause the boy to question his anti-robot beliefs.

Lucy is more than just "well-built". She has many wonderful qualities. Every moment spent with her, no matter how inane, is just perfect. Granted, there are times in the story that practically force the player to feel sympathy. The protagonist tends to be a miserable jerk to Lucy, which is frustrating to watch. In all honesty, I'm a bit strange. When it comes to visual novels that involve relationships and/or romance, I tend to get more attached to male characters. In other words, even though I'm a straight guy, I'm totally in love with Kent from Amnesia: Memories. Maybe this says more about the VNs that I've played, but I don't know. Lucy is quirky, but not annoying. She's naive, but in a way that's charming and not revolting. She has more depth and agency than her programming lets on.

Some would argue that this visual novel is predictable and manipulative. The story isn't exactly unfamiliar to science-fiction enthusiasts, and certain events are expertly composed for maximum effect. Even with that in mind, I was still completely overwhelmed. For me, this was probably the most emotionally impactful media I've experienced since the movie I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK. This game does so much with a relatively short period of time.

The "Overwhelmingly positive" rating is well-deserved.
Posted July 3, 2017. Last edited July 3, 2017.
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23 people found this review helpful
12 people found this review funny
14.3 hrs on record
Early Access Review
Here's the sales pitch for Uncraft World:

"We put boobs in the background."

I enjoy well-drawn tatas as much as the next guy, but let's call a spade a spade here. If it weren't for breasts and the desire to look at them, this game would not exist. I mean, I'm not trying to be down on the concept. If anything, it's actually an ingenius idea. Perhaps more videogames should have hooters in the background. Bioshock Infinite is an alright game, but all that sky and air is boring as heck. So how about we replace the clouds and the other nonsense with some yum-yums? Maybe then it would have deserved all those Game Of The Year awards.

I'm only slightly kidding.

Seriously though, the problem with background mammaries is that they're distracting. They cause people to stop paying attention. Before they know it, they're wondering why their wallet just got a little bit smaller. Staring for too long causes one's IQ to drop to single digits. If you're like me, you probably bought Uncraft World and then realized "Oh yeah. I hate these freaking rage-inducing platformers."

In this game, you take control of an unholy abomination with a jetpack. Your mission is to avoid traps, grab huge chests, and uncover pictures of barely clothed women. If that doesn't quite get your fire stoked, then you're free to make changes. Thanks to Steam workshop, those pictures can be of whatever you want... Eh... Maybe not WHATEVER you want, you sicko. Anyway, the process of going through levels while collecting hot pix isn't terribly complex. It's pretty goshdamn infuriating though.

What makes a platformer despicable is when it can only be cleared through very specific actions. To put it another way, imagine a game where the carpenter has to stomp on an evil armadillo. Now, let's make it so the armadillo is covered with spikes, except for one tiny spot. Going further, picture the jump itself. It must be done in a very specific and perfect arc. If the carpenter is off by a millimeter, then he is impaled by thousands of spikes inexplicably floating in mid-air. This game is the same way. You must play it to the exact expectations of the developer/level-designer. Any deviation is rewarded with instant death, and a swift kick back to the last checkpoint.

The only time these games are entertaining is when you get to watch somebody else suffer through them. I'll gladly admit to being a masochist. I like the 2D shmups where millions of bullets fall like neon pink raindrops. Still, even I have my limits. Spending several minutes to an hour on one stage, or better yet, one checkpoint? That's some Ninth Circle of Hell garbage right there.

All that said, I stuck with Uncraft World. The game is solidly put-together. There's a decent amount of content, and the controls aren't too bad either. Sometimes ledges can be a little suspect though. I can recall numerous times where I managed to "slide" off a ledge and into oblivion. Also, the level-designers go overboard on the voxel lava. It's one thing if the floors and walls are hot death, but at least make sure everything is clearly indicated. Even if lava in the foreground is harmless, it's still a really bad idea. It's almost as distracting as... you know.

Admittedly, more often than not I was charmed by the background details. Yes, I'm talking about the other background. One of the stages takes place during a war. There are all these paratroopers and they're getting gunned down or exploded. It's pretty neat stuff. I really could have done without the "rage voice" though. When you die, a random guy yells expletives. He can be turned off, but he still butts in with a "YEAHHHHHHHHHH" as soon as you complete a stage. I don't know about everyone else, but I don't like jerkwads stealing my moment of triumph. I worked hard to look at that picture of jugs, dammit!

To be honest, I think I spent more time on this game than classics like Super Meat Boy*. If that isn't a winning argument for background knockers, then I don't know what else to say.

*In all fairness, several of those hours were spent idling for those godawful "find the object in space" achievements.
Posted April 20, 2017. Last edited April 20, 2017.
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18 people found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
3.9 hrs on record
Why did I buy this game?

Well, the answer is pretty obvious...

...I like Qix clones.

It's actually a little strange. I'm not a fan of the 1981 arcade classic, but I'll put some serious time into its many clones. In my opinion, the best of the bunch is Gals Pani X. Not only is it ridiculously deep, but all of the bosses have attacks ripped from various shmups. How cool is that!?

Anyway, Pretty Girls Panic! is modeled after Qix, with a few extra features to appeal to modern audiences, such as online leaderboards. The goal is to draw lines to fill space, while avoiding evil sea creatures. If an enemy touches the player-character while they're drawing a line, then it results in a lost life. The same holds true if an enemy touches the line itself.

It's a simple concept, but what makes it interesting is the strategies players come up with. A plan of attack is necessary to obtain high scores. For example, rather than just randomly draw lines until all of the space is filled, try to "box" enemies in. If you really want to do some damage, consider building a series of thin walls that go across the entirety of the screen. Not only are you relatively safe while doing this, the results tend to be awesome. We're talking "45% of the stage in one fell swoop" awesome. All enemies that get caught in walls are destroyed, and they can be chained for tons of bonus points.

On the downside, the power-ups kinda break the game. If the hero becomes invincible or manages to stop the clock, then they usually have enough time to create a massive wall that crushes several foes at once. Power-ups randomly appear, so sometimes the player will simply luck out. The harder stages really pile on the enemies, but it doesn't make that much of a difference. The RNG's blessing will go a lot further than skill or experience.

While the randomness is a major issue, Pretty Girls Panic! still gets a recommendation. It plays well, the production value is solid, and it's entertaining enough to last a few hours.
Posted April 3, 2017.
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14 people found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
1.5 hrs on record
Redux: Dark Matters pays homage to classic shmups such as R-Type, XEXEX, and Pulstar.
Is it as good as any of them? Not really.
Is it still worth playing? Ehhhh....I guess? Possibly...possibly maybe...maybe possibly...but certainly not definitely.

First off, it's a good-looking game, but it's also not. Everything looks sharp and really clean. The problem is everything also has this bright and cheery aesthetic. In a way, it's a conscious design-decision. The backgrounds are fairly muted, while the player-ship, enemies, and bullets are colourful* and easily distinguishable. While I respect that, I think the artist went a little too far. In stage 2, it seems that half the enemies are firing flowers. Are they trying to kill me with kindness? What's the deal here?

Still, this is merely nitpicking compared to Redux's most glaring issue; it's way too easy. When fully-powered, the player-ship is protected from about 90% of the enemy's arsenal. Sure, lasers and bullets that might hit from behind are worrying, but they don't come up all that often. If that wasn't enough, there are usually 2-3 extra lives in every stage, plus a couple extends from surpassing certain score thresholds. If that wasn't enough, then the player can hit a button. This causes a vortex to swallow up any nearby bullets for several seconds. This special ability is tied to a meter, but it refills fairly quickly.

Now if all of that still(!) wasn't enough, there's also the portions of the game that went overlooked. The fourth boss has laser cannons placed along the top and bottom of the screen, except for a massive space towards the left side. This is the most obvious safe-spot I've ever seen. Instead of forcing the player to weave in-between bullets approaching from above and below, all anyone has to do is sit back, watch, and laugh. I'm guessing that when this game was remade in wide-screen, nobody bothered to account for the additional real estate.

I play a lot of STGs, but I'm a mediocre talent at best. I still cleared this game with 10 lives remaining, on my very first play-through. Granted, this was on the default ship, which is practically invincible. Redux added a ship designed specifically for veteran shmup-players, but it's loaded with oversights. The most obvious and ridiculous of the problems is that the veteran-ship's weaponry OVERLAPS THE ENEMY BULLETS! When I saw this, my jaw hit the floor so hard it drove through the earth, and then I cut my chin on the sharp edge of a dinosaur bone. I can't even remember the last time I saw this happen in a shmup.

Was this an actual idea by the developer? Did they think: "Those guys who play shmups by holding down the fire button all the time annoy me soooooo much. We have to do something about them."? I can't come up with a reasonable explanation, I simply can not. So if you're firing away, there's a good chance that you won't even see most of the bullets that are coming directly at you. That's just great. Veteran-ship also lacks the force-pod/other shields, which causes the game's difficulty to do a complete 180. Situations that were originally exceedingly simple become absurdly improbable.

Dux originally started off as a strict R-Type clone. It employed a checkpoint-system, which kicked players backwards whenever they died, rather than respawning them immediately. Over the next couple re-releases, the game has become considerably more lax, but that isn't enough of an excuse to assume that anyone can reasonably finish it without shields. The amount of bullets on-screen never hits danmaku levels, but it's overkill all the same. On a normal play-through, anyone can sleep-walk through Redux, but they'll hit a brick wall as early as stage 2, with the veteran ship. That isn't balanced, not in the slightest. If it were up to me, I would have made the charge-shot slightly wider, so that hard-to-reach enemies don't get quite as many opportunities to clog the screen with bullets. I also would have lowered the density of certain bullet-patterns.

Or I would have just made a different game, one that's not actually designed around having force-pods or shields just to survive. Redux is an otherwise competently-made shooter held down by a complete lack of challenge. When it tries to break away, it goes too far. In any case, this shmup simply isn't entertaining.
Posted October 30, 2016.
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5 people found this review helpful
7.8 hrs on record
Geometry Wars is a testament to quality game-design. It's a twin-stick shooter where the only goal is to shoot shapes, and yet it's exceedingly entertaining. Why shapes anyway? Besides the fact that this is the Geometry Wars series, I believe the importance of using shapes can't be understated. Speaking in terms of twin-stick shooters: shapes are simple, easy on the eyes, and players are immediately able to recognize the behavioral differences between them.

Why would "Zombie Wars" not work? Zombies, despite their lack of functioning grey matter, are really complicated. They're walking moaning hunks of undying flesh. Let's say you want to have a zombie with a gun in your twin-stick shooter. How will the player know the zombie has a gun? In the middle of chaos, nobody is going to notice the few pixels or couple polygons that's supposed to represent a gun. So here's an idea: Let's give the gun-toting zombies police-hats. Since everything is seen from an overhead perspective, the blue octagon-shape clearly indicates that these zombies have guns. Those fire-breathing zombies? Give them red oval-shaped fireman hats.

And just like that, we're right back where we started. In the time it takes to read that inane scenario, every single enemy shape & color in Geometry Wars can be memorized. The basis of a great arcade game is in presenting everything that is necessary to the player's survival, within seconds of pressing the start button. The sequels to Geometry Wars expand upon its simple concept, but never to the point where they endanger what makes it work. The adventure mode in Geometry Wars 3 is liable to be where most players begin. Each stage has a specific goal, and there's usually a factor to consider such as contracting walls, a boss, or a complete lack of weapons. However, none of these stages ever go as far as to contradict how the game is meant to be played. You survive by dodging shapes and improve your score-multiplier by collecting geoms.

Alongside its classic 2D stages, Dimensions Evolved adds numerous 3D stages. At times these can be interesting, such as the "rainbow" stages that require players to destroy painters. The painters can spawn on the other side of the field, or tucked away into corners just out of sight. However, there are those rare moments where the perspective can be distracting. It's like the designers are running dangerously close to visually overloading the game. Either that, or I'm just prone to looking for excuses when I fail.

This edition also adds load-outs such as drones and mines because... eh. I don't dislike their inclusion, but it's really not something that feels necessary. In these games, strategies are usually come up with "on the fly". As the in-game situation constantly changes, the gears in your head are spinning, and the intent is to always stay one step ahead. Load-outs add pre-game strategizing, so you might find yourself saying "I bet if I used the sweep drone, I would have beat my friend's hi-score." Everything about Geometry Wars is strong enough to stand on its own, it doesn't need load-outs. On the bright side, if you lack the "mad skillz" to succeed, then the load-outs are only a band-aid. Besides, it's not like everyone on the leaderboards isn't using them either.

Also, there is a degree of cleverness to the drones that I have to applaud. The aforementioned sweep drone flies in a full circle around the player, but it can bounce off of walls. During one stage, I discovered this quirk, and then used it to get out of tight-spots.

Geometry Wars 3 features a wealth of content. The adventure mode is 50 stages, and a couple of free expansions tack on even more. These aren't the "play once and forget about them" kind of stages either. Although, there are a few that can be annoying or dull. There's one stage that involves destroying giant snake-shapes. It was so easy I had to destroy myself, just so I could move on. Still, the occasional boring stage is forgivable. There are also a handful of classic modes, which are 3D & load-out free for the purists. Everything you play has a leaderboard attached to it, with solid friend support to boot. There's also a co-op mode. I assume it's nice, but I'll probably never play it.

Thanks to a recent humble bundle, this game has likely recieved a large influx of new owners. My advice is to give this game an immediate look. As a Geometry Wars fan, I'll say that this entry nails everything that it needs to. Some of the new ideas don't click perfectly, but at least I know where they were going with them. All too often, sequels make the mistake of adding something completely different, and it takes away from the core game. Even in the fully 3D stages, Dimensions Evolved's core is still very apparent and fantastic.
Posted September 12, 2016. Last edited September 12, 2016.
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15 people found this review helpful
22.5 hrs on record
Borderlands is an action-RPG / first person shooter. It features cooperative-play, phat loot(tm), and vehicles. This is a game designed to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. In this regard, it's a success.

But what do I think of it? Well... eh. I mean, I like Borderlands well enough... I guess. When it comes to this game, the best statements I can muster come off as half-hearted and wishy-washy. I've always been a fan of loot-driven games, but there has to be some sort of hook beyond the basic qualities. It doesn't have to be something particularly clever, but it has to make the game stand out. I think Borderlands lacks this quality, but it's still an alright way to spend a weekend of four.

Oh wait. You're probably expecting an explanation of what this "quality" is supposed to be aren't you? When it comes to videogames, originality can only go so far. Oft-times, we just have to accept the fact that not every game we play is going to be completely unique and excellent. Sometimes we end up buying games because they look interesting, are in a genre we enjoy, or our friends are playing them. Borderlands is a perfect example.

To me, the words perfect and mediocre, are two sides of the same coin. Today's perfection is tomorrow's mediocrity. What was once the gold-standard, has now become the base-line. Borderlands has everything it needs to accomplish its goal of being a competent FPS Lootemup, and nothing more. The shooting mechanics aren't anything brilliant, the controls are acceptable, and the story/writing serve their purpose. The skill-tree system is neat, but only in a "that makes sense" sort of way. The build you create isn't really important, because the same two or three abilities tend to dominate every encounter.

The guns, the aspect that should set this game apart from the pack, are merely okay. One commonality among loot-based games (especially more recent ones), is that very few character-builds actually use their weapon. By that I mean the sword, polearm, or otherwise is merely a stat-boosting piece of equipment. Usually, the player just uses their skills in order to kill enemies, instead of swinging a large piece of metal around. Practically the sole method of killing in Borderlands is through the usage of guns. Unfortunately, 98% of them are useless. This is especially true of the "gimmick" guns dropped by bosses. More often than not, you're going with the standard weapons, just because they're actually effective. In other words, instead of swinging the boring swords, you have to fire the boring guns. The inability to create an identity through play-style is the #1 reason why this game fails to stand out.

A game like Borderlands could have really benefitted from more intricate level-designs, as well as a greater level of depth in terms of controls. I'm thinking that the developers could have come up with all sorts of crazy manuevers to pull off. Sliding, air-dashes, back-flips, shoulder-charges, some parkour stunts, you get the idea. Not all of these moves would have to be in the game, but even a couple of them would have lended more dynamism to the combat. This would also make the maps more fun to explore, well... if there was more to them besides wide-open spaces to catch a ride(tm) through, or the bog-standard "rooms filled of cover" that's in every other FPS.

The RPG elements, while appreciated, sometimes make the game feel too much like an MMO. I know it's just a guideline, but when everything has a level suggestion next to it, the atmosphere is lost. While I always enjoy the immediate pleasures of leveling up and finding better gear, the world-building gets pushed away. Didn't TellTale make a Borderlands game that addresses this very concern? Hm... Perhaps I should look into it.

When a game makes an attempt to stand out, it can instead become flawed. The developer tried something different, and either it was a bad idea to begin with, or they didn't quite get it right. Borderlands doesn't take these risks. It's a perfectly mediocre product that delivers enough incentivization to keep gamers playing, it doesn't strive to do any more than that. I don't think that makes this game worthy of praise, but I still enjoyed it well enough... I guess.
Posted September 6, 2016. Last edited September 6, 2016.
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14 people found this review helpful
5.0 hrs on record
As Satazius is to Gradius, and Gigantic Army is to Assault Suit Valken, then Wolflame is very much in the spirit of Toaplan. The deal with Toaplan shootemups is that they excel at the fundamentals. When you play one of these classic games, you're not going to be dazzled by fountains of pretty bullets and thousands of shiny gold medals. Every moment of these games is a life or death struggle. The one tank that you miss just might be the one that takes you down. ASTRO PORT delivers yet another thriller that is sure to please any shmup fan.

Like most other shmups, Wolflame has no story to speak of. The goal is to destroy everything, collect a few medals, and try not to get shot down too often. The scoring system is pretty basic. All of the medals you collect in a stage are cashed in at the end for a lot of points, provided you don't die and lose them. Actually, you might as well try not to die at all, because spare lives are worth a ton as well. Unlike most shooters, there's no huge penalty for using bullet-clearing bombs. Even if you manage to collect a full stock, any extras are worth a measly 100 points each.

There are two kinds of bullets in this game, the kind that distract you, and the kind that kill you. The killer bullets are easy to spot. They're purple, thin, and fast. Most of the enemies that fire purple bullets are tanks, turrets, and so on. It's actually pretty sensible, since smaller ships don't have the power to maintain control, while firing such a powerful weapon. Typically, the killer bullets are fired when the enemy has you in their sights, so if you're not constantly moving, then you're probably going to die. As soon as a tank appears on-screen, either destroy it or get out of the way, because they're extremely deadly.

That's not to say there aren't any of the typical bullet-spreads we associate with STGs, but they're only a part of the threat. These slow yet plentiful bullets are there to catch your eye, force you into bad situations, and basically "herd" you into just the right spot. What happens next? If you guessed that a tank would appear practically out of nowhere and snipe you, then congrats! Your prize is a trip back to the last checkpoint.

Yes, Wolflame is a checkpoint-based shooter. That means you don't instantly respawn when you die. Thankfully, there's usually a nearby power-up that restores all of your lost weapons. The checkpoints are also a lot more reasonable than some of the earliest shmups. Still, getting kicked backwards upon death can be very punishing. Having to re-do bosses as well as brutal segments can chew through your spare lives pretty quickly.

One more thing: Like a number of vertical shooters, the screen shifts slightly to the left or right depending on your position. This can be useful, because enemies don't fire when they're off-screen. However, you also want to make a mental note of any enemies that are off-screen, just so you don't move over and suddenly get point-blank blasted by a killer bullet.

It's interesting that Twin Cobra is mentioned in the store-description for this game. Twin Cobra is the game that got me to fear tanks again. After several years of danmaku bullet-hells, where avoiding billions of bullets almost becomes effortless, I was re-introduced to the dreaded tank. Tanks in Twin Cobra only fire one bullet, but one bullet is enough in a shmup. Wolflame understands that same philosophy, and its legions of meticulously placed tanks and turrets are sure to confound and enrage a new generation of gamers.
Posted September 3, 2016. Last edited January 18, 2017.
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39.0 hrs on record
Omega Force's trademark Warriors franchise has developed a sort of immunity to typical criticism.
"Why don't the enemies attack?"
"All you do is press one button repeatedly."
After 20 or 30 games, you'd think the average reviewer would get the hint. This is a franchise very much set in its ways, and as long as it remains appealing to its sizable fanbase, then I see no reason to complain. There isn't a shortage of videogames in the world, so it's not like gamers don't have a choice. Although, it's possible I'm just saying this, because I'm a huge fanboy when it comes to Musou. If I were to list all of the games I played in this genre, the Steam servers would crash harder than during the Winter sales.

Anyway, DW8:XLCE is a ginormous helping of 3rd Century slaughter. In the story mode, you can determine the fates of the Three Kingdoms, follow Jin to conclude the era, or side with the great hero Lu Bu. Each storyline has an optional path, which is unlocked by helping certain "doomed" heroes in their respective stages. Assisting Guo Jia's recovery from his illness, or keeping Sun Jian from taking an arrow in the face, could be keys to accessing these hypothetical stories. These "what-if" routes are pretty entertaining, even if they lack the drama that the Three Kingdoms is well-known for.

The free mode allows players to use any hero on any stage. Yet more stages are unlocked by completing the story mode and its many routes. These stages also have a ranking system. It's a neat idea, but some ranks are determined by completing specific goals. One such goal might be "kill 200 soldiers with EX attacks". EX attacks are charge-attack follow-ups such as X X Y (Y), if the enemy dies before you press Y a second time, then it doesn't count. By the time I got around to this mode, most of my enemies died as soon as I pressed X! While it's not all that well thought-out, at least this addition gives added value to free mode. There's also a challenge mode, which might be worth checking out... once.

When you want to conquer China in the name of the Emperor, then you'll want to play Ambition mode. This is also a fine way to grind out the experience levels of your favorite heroes. At first, your goal is to raise a hamlet into a city fit for an Emperor. This involves a ton of farming missions, and the only real challenge is to not lose your mind. Once that's over and done with, then you get to unify China. By the way, if you managed to recruit all 80+ warriors in part 1 of Ambition mode, then congratulations! In part 2, you get to do it all over again! Better yet, it's a far more painful task! Hurray!

In Ambition mode part deux, in order to win battles, you have to defeat leaders. This involves taking control of nearby bases. It's similarly to DW5, although a bit more repetitive. You also have to account for nearby enemy soldiers, as they will retake bases if given the opportunity. Playing on harder difficulties and capturing more bases before winning battles will allow you conquer lands more quickly, which is great. However, this mode gets very old and extremely dull, if you try to re-recruit everyone. Only the enemy leaders of these battles tend to be playable characters. My advice is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and use a guide to find out where your faves are in each land.

While all of this recruiting, farming, and conquering is going on; you'll also do a little bonding. After every mission, one of the heroes you recruit will have something to say. This can involve everything from "I respect your abilities" to "You're a good friend" to "Please! Wife me this instant!" It's very odd that Dong Zhuo comes off as not the biggest creep in these one-sided conversations. Earlier, Zuo Ci, who must be 300 years old, called me the "epitome of feminity". There's a line I'm going to try the next time I'm at a bar.

The presentation is great, although the voice-acting is still suspect. Overall, it's an improvement over the Playstation 2 days, but some characters sound extremely bored. Then again, I guess if I was stuck voicing a plank of wood like Yue Jin, I wouldn't sound very enthused either. I also still have a soft-spot for DW3's classic "You flaming idiots! Take this!" voice-acting. The cut-scenes are all pretty good, though I tend to skip the in-between story chapters commentary. That's just me, I'm on my fourth reading of the Three Kingdoms novels, I already know the story.

As for the rest of the game, it's altogether very solid. This entry is more dynamic and versatile than DW7, which was already a massive jump over DW5. Almost all of the weapons are fun to use, and the heroes have more interesting EX attacks, which definitely helps in terms of variety. The harder difficulties are fair enough, provided you're a high level, and there are plenty of secrets and awesome items to acquire. Although in standard DW fashion, finding the best weapons pretty much requires a guide. Outfitting these weapons with powerful skills and obliterating hundreds of soldiers in seconds, will never cease to be enjoyable for me.

As far as the port is concerned. I got this game back when it first came out*. At the time, I considered it an okay port. The assets are lower quality than I would have liked, and the lack of online multiplayer is definitely a head-scratcher. On the bright side, at least it runs well on a lower-end PC, the load-times are superior to the console versions, and sweetfx does wonders with the colors. I gave Tecmo/Koei a pass then, because I figured they would deliver improved Omega Force ports in the future.


With that in mind, I still recommend this version... at least when it's on sale. DW8XLCE is overall a fantastic entry. It has a ton of content, and I believe the game-design, controls, and other elements are the best the series has seen to date. There are the issues that I mentioned earlier in the review, but it's not really problematic. If anything, I respect that Omega Force continues to throw around ideas. Despite countless sequels and spin-offs, this is a franchise that I can go back to again and again, because it has so many appealing qualities. These "comfort" games are perfect to come home to after putting myself through the grinder that is 2D shootemups.

*I probably could have gotten this review out *a little* sooner.
Posted September 2, 2016. Last edited September 2, 2016.
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