May was largely a quiet month for new game releases. Despite what felt like a slower schedule, especially coming off of a rather absurd April, here on Destructoid we did have a pair of 10s with the portable Donkey Kong Country Returns 3Dand captivating, clay-fueled puzzler The Swapper. Quantity isn't everything!
One thing is for sure, May presented us with an eclectic group of titles. Take a look at some of the genres represented in this breakdown of everything we covered.
Zeno Clash II (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
The world of the original Zeno Clash was genuinely interesting, and certainly an example of less is more, but this time around it merely seems interesting, before revealing itself to be a bit shallow under the veneer of zaniness, though the veneer is certainly impressive and did succeed in keeping me eager for more.
Zeno Clash II might be bigger than its predecessor, but it fails to be truly better. It's worth experiencing for those who loved the original, because it still contains a lot of what made that title unique, and the combat -- when not descending into huge brawls -- is wonderful. But in an attempt to spin a meaty, almost Argonautica-style epic, ACE Team might have gotten a wee bit lost, just as I did when I tried to use that good-for-nothing, half-arsed map.
Haunted Hollow (iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5], iPad)
Haunted Hollow is a surprising little game. It manages to rise above the status of a throwaway mictoransaction-begging App by providing a deep and compelling system at the core of the experience. With a few more tweaks, it would be worth spending more time with, but as it stands, depending on your ability to play with others it may be a more fleeting experience.
Anodyne’s weaknesses would’ve been greatly justified by a solid narrative. Instead, we’re left with a semi-decent dungeon crawler featuring some rather attractive sprite art and great soundtrack. So while Anodyne’s minimalistic riff on Zelda is definitely unique enough to warrant a purchase, it unfortunately never comes close to inheriting the legacy of its father, too lost in its odd pretentiousness to ever arrive at the point.
The foundation of Deadly Premonition, the stuff that matters, is still absolutely perfect as far as I am concerned. It is true, of course, that this perfection has been scarred somewhat by the faults found in The Director's Cut, and there's no denying that longtime fans may not be getting what they hoped for in this package. To newcomers or the severely dedicated, however, this is still a bloody great time, and remains one of those games that truly, desperately, must be experienced to be believed.
Way of the Dogg (Android, iOS, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])
Way of the Dogg is a wasted opportunity. As someone who consumes pretty much all the media on offer in this game it doesn't even appeal to me, which should tell you that something's wrong. It's a shame, because with an "M" rating and a little more plot tweaking, this could have been something special. Someone call the popo -- this game just did a 187 on your wallet, foo.
Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo is just what it advertises itself to be: a fun little portable game experience built for quick play sessions. It's not overly difficult, but does add challenging goals for those who wish to have them. There's a decent amount of content for such a little game, and I defy you to not have fun with it. Simple, addictive, and easy-to-control gameplay, coupled with the goofy looking cartoon-y characters make for great bite-sized fun.
All in all, Jack Lumber is pretty straight-forward with what it's offering you. While it could have stood to include a bit more content with the PC re-release and a few enhanced tweaks, it's still an incredibly fun time-waster that happens to challenge you from time to time. You'll cut wood, you'll freeze time, repeat, and somehow it remains compelling.
Poker Night at the Inventory 2 (Mac, PC (reviewed), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
If you are looking for a good poker game, then this is a no-brainer, but even if you aren't a huge poker player don't overlook this. The witty conversations and fleshed-out characters make this a fantastic little game, with very little holding it back. While it would be nice to not hear repetitive dialog, minor faults don't ruin Poker Night 2 as a whole. For five bucks (on PC) I highly recommend this gathering of fictional celebrities -- and I'm not bluffing.
Mars: War Logs is the kind of experience one can only call serviceable. It exists, it does what it does, and it performs its job suitably. It doesn't do anything terrible, but it never once goes above a basic standard of acceptability. It's very clear that it wants to ape the best action-RPGs of the genre, but its too basal and hurried to pull off a single remarkable thing. It's a shame because Spiders' last attempt -- Of Orcs and Men -- was genuinely great, a game that similarly failed to be all it wanted to be, but at least had an interesting story and some wonderful presentation.
Star Command (Android, iPad, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5])
Star Command is an addictive sci-fi simulation experience, provided you're willing to stick it out until the second playthrough to get to the real meat of the game. There just isn't enough there the first time around to captivate the majority of potential buyers, as most of the initial gameplay boils down to a few repetitive, shallow actions. Still, good things come to those who wait, and if you're looking for a fun, cheap sci-fi game on the go, this is it. If you go in expecting a more zen garden-like experience than a real space sim, you shouldn't come out disappointed.
Gears of War: Judgment Call to Arms DLC (Xbox 360)
Even with the VIP Pass, what you get is only total of six maps and two game modes, and the ability to play for double XP. For a game that is already light on multiplayer content, this really feels like a lazy, half-hearted effort to generate a quick buck from the fans of a dedicated franchise. While the Master at Arms game mode is fun and injects a certain level of enjoyable chaos to your standard free-for-all game type, and Blood Drive is a nice throwback to Gears of War 2, three maps and one new game type simply isn't enough for the price.
Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move (3DS eShop)
A part of me misses the classic arcade action that seemed poised to make a comeback at the start of the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, but I'm still glad Nintendo decided to explore new avenues for the Minis. Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move retains some of the Lemming-like quality of the more recent MvsDK titles, but the drastic changes to the gameplay have resulted in a faster, more free-form experience. It can be as simple or as mind-bending as you want it to be; either way, you'll be satisfied for many hours on end.
When Game Dev Story introduced the idea of a game development sim to Japan in '97 and then the West in 2010, it was a novel concept that made overlooking its flaws easier. While Game Dev Tycoon is a superior experience with a better interface for its platform, it still suffers from the same pitfalls of monotony and lack of player feedback that Game Dev Story suffered from.
While I appreciate the perspective Game Dev Tycoon has given me on game development, from indie studios in debt to huge studios juggling multiple projects, it was never the game's sim elements that had me returning. It offers a pleasant walk down memory lane of past consoles and technology, but that's about it.
Heart of Darkness still contains many of the issues that hampered the core game, with the frequency of rebellions making the late game frustrating, as populations become extremely liberal and demanding, and the tutorials are still insufficient when it comes to explaining the game beyond the most basic principles.
Put in the work, however, and Heart of Darkness will reward you for the effort. It's still huge and uncompromising, but there's no better way to experience Victoria II. The improved combat and naval mechanics were oft-requested, and Paradox followed through, while the new features make the studio's vision of Victorian war, politics, and economics all the more believable and grand.
Color Commando has initial shades of fun, but it's basically over before it starts. Despite the cheap-looking enemy designs, there is a decent amount of charm here -- the game just doesn't get an opportunity to develop it. If you're itching for a platform puzzle title and have exhausted all of your choices on both the DS and 3DS, Color Commando is a decent way to spend a couple of bucks, but otherwise, it's skippable beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Read the full Color Commando review
Metro: Last Light (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Metro: Last Light is a disappointment in several respects. That simply has to be said. Its design painstakingly addresses criticisms of Metro 2033 to such an overzealous degree that it actually undoes many of the things 2033 was praised for. The fact you have to pre-order or pay to access a game closer to the original's heart is also damn near inexcusable, and again I emphasize that I will not review a mode that has been tacked on in such a fashion.
However -- and it's a big however -- Last Light is also a fine game on its own, and if we're to judge it without the shadow of 2033 looming overhead, we can say it's a game packed with structurally sound combat, a rewardingly fluid narrative, and an atmosphere that runs the gamut from intriguing to chilling.
Reef Shot could have been much, much more than what is offered. As a first-person adventure game, it does little to stimulate the player to keep pressing on, except perhaps to hopefully see more fish variety. If you're like me and want to just meander about the ocean floor and take some photographs of virtual fish to relax and enjoy yourself, Reef Shot offers very little.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance: Blade Wolf (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])
Blade Wolf rides on the coattails of an interesting character, but suffers from some of the same issues as the Jetstream DLC in that it doesn't do enough. With all new environments and maybe some more of the aforementioned old-school VR mission action, this would be a must-buy. As it stands, only the most hardcore should apply here, but at least it offers up some good old-fashioned robotic chainsaw-hacking fun.
Anomaly 2 builds upon the original in every way, leaving me to wonder if this is as good as the concept of a deconstructed tower defense game can get. Anomaly 2 is an immediate and exciting strategy game unlike any other, but over time the repetition and lack of depth leaves something to be desired. It’s a welcome distraction on a phone or tablet, but the limits of the game are quickly noticed when played in long bursts on PC. For fans of the first that looked past these shortcomings, Anomaly 2 is a bigger, smarter, and better looking game.
Eador: Masters of the Broken World is laden with good ideas and myriad reasons for strategy nuts to go... well, nuts, but for every compliment I could pay it, there's a caveat. Strange design choices and a serious lack of polish mars the things it does so very well. For a while, I couldn't even play the damn thing it was so unstable. Crashes every few minutes, and a bug around every corner made it not worth my time.
After a few patches, I finally managed to play it without fearing that I'd be dealing with a freeze or a crash every time I moved my hero, and I'm glad I stuck it out. It manages to capture what makes titles like HoMM or Kings Bounty so gripping without simply treading the same old ground. Yet it's still really quite flawed.
Truthfully, as a retro gamer, while I never found the core game to be that challenging, attempting to get everything (including the extra mirror mode that restricts you to one heart and no power-ups) is one of the hardest quests you can ever embark upon in gaming. While I gave up in the original due to some motion frustration, I'm well on my way to utterly completing the 3DS version (I only have mirror mode left), and I'm loving every minute.
If you missed out on Donkey Kong Country Returns the first time around, or you disliked the motion-heavy controls of the original, pick up this version. With solid tactile feedback, the 3DS edition of the game has cemented itself as one of my favorite platformers of all time without question.
Dust 514 has promises of greatness. It reaches high and attempts to accomplish something not many games have even tried to this day, which should be commended. But right now, it needs a few more major updates before it gets there. With a hefty amount of microtransactions that border on offensive, there is a very ambitious, competitive game underneath the sloppy veneer.
Despite being entertaining in its own way, The Starship Damrey ultimately fails to provide a hardcore, old-school adventure as promised. There's potential for an even more expansive campaign, which I hope Level-5 explores one day -- if Liberation Maiden can get a sequel, so can this! For now, rein in your expectations.
Resident Evil Revelations (PC, PlayStation 3, Wii U [reviewed], Xbox 360)
Resident Evil Revelations isn't as good on consoles as it is on the 3DS. It clearly wasn't designed for larger machines, and the somewhat clunky, rudimentary controls indicate that it would need to be rebuilt from the ground up to prove a superior alternative. However, it's still a fine game and still the best Resident Evil game available right now, and if you've not played it already, you truly ought to. If you've already tried it on 3DS, there's not a lot to bring you back, but any other Resident Evil fan would be best served giving it a go.
Plants vs. Zombies Adventures is fairly inoffensive fun, and serves as the appetizer to PvZ 2's main course. The implementation of sprays makes combat a bit more interactive, and there's a decent variety of plants to keep your strategy liquid. It could stand to implement a more forgiving energy mechanic, but unlike many other social games, it at least gives you something to do while you wait.
The pace of Reus, starting players off with tutorials and then short games, ultimately growing into two hour sessions where all of human history plays out, off-sets the game's complexity. Its simple controls and clean interface also makes something that could have been an obstinate chore pleasant to get to grips with. At first I bemoaned the lack of more detailed menus and alternative control options, but I miss them not at all now.
Reus is a game of logical, organic systems presented as simply as possible. It's a delight to play at every turn, and it strikes the perfect balance between providing new content and not overloading players. Beneath its unassuming appearance exists a challenging experience that will last a good long time. Maybe not as long as it took for humanity to grow from nomadic tribes to city-dwelling go-getters, but who the hell has time for that?
As a whole, Sanctum 2 feels confused. It isn't quite as much tower defense as fans of the first game would probably hope for, since more of the emphasis this time around is placed on the first-person shooting element. It also hides way too much information from the player, leading to a lot of guess-and-check strategies. The game remains a refreshing hybrid of genres, however, and many of the frustrations temporarily wash away as you lay witness to the last enemy in the last wave die, proving that your strategic planning and accurate shooting have paid off.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (PC [reviewed], PSN, XBLA)
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a funny game and a satisfying romp, with clearly influenced ideas that all have their own unique little spins. I'll fully admit that I went into it expecting another damp squib, but came away thoroughly impressed. While it sadly won't get much attention, given the fact it launched quieter than a church mouse with its mouth stapled shut, I wholly recommend it to fans, newcomers, and those who felt burned by the last awful game in the series.
Not only is Gunslinger the best Call of Juarez game, it's a damn fine and worthy shooter in its own right.
There are many games that will only appeal to "fans of the genre," but this goes farther than that and becomes a game that appeals to "fans of the series." It's not really a terrible thing, but it's not a great thing, either. If you like Might & Magic, you should definitely play Shades of Darkness. It's a solid expansion with an insane amount of new content; you'll be giddy for dozens of hours. If you don't play the series, however, this doesn't provide a great reason to check it out. There need to be more tool-tips with information and an introduction to the factions, lore, units, and abilities -- none of that happens here.
Leviathan: Warships (Android, iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed])
Leviathan is best enjoyed if you already have friends playing. It's a game that offers little to the solo player, despite the single-player campaign. With pals, it's an entirely different, much more entertaining experience. If you do have a tablet, then I recommend picking it up for that rather than PC, purely because of the much lower price. All versions are completely identical, so you won't be missing out unless you desperately want to play it on a larger screen.
Best Park In the Universe - Regular Show (iPad, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5])
Best Park is spread over 15 levels, all of which feel roughly the same. Once again, the repetition begins to set in mostly as you face similar foes across levels that actually are quite different looking. More updates are planned for the game which will add extra levels, but for now, you'll have to deal with the ones you've got.
It's a better attempt than prior efforts but Best Park in the Universe doesn't really aim all that high. As long as you're not expecting much, it's a decent beat-'em-up that somehow manages to produce a solid control scheme. If you're a diehard Regular Show fan, you may enjoy it.
For a one-man effort, StarDrive is impressive. It's huge, looks great, and it has a nice balance between automation and micromanagement. Lamentably it's also buggy, with crashes and glitches raising their head frequently -- though admittedly less now, since it's been out for almost a month -- explains its systems poorly, and it becomes extremely boring only a couple of hours into a game.
It doesn't add anything drastically new to the genre, and thus there isn't much reason why you should get it when titles like Galactic Civilization II are better and cheaper, or the contemporary Endless Space -- for all its flaws -- offers a more unique take on the 4X experience.
The most troubling thing about this review is that I am possessed of self awareness enough to know it's going to look like a punishment. It's going to look like I'm one of the many disappointed gamers who saw the changes from Overstrike to Fuse and was prepared, from the outset, to hate it. I cannot disprove such a perception, if that is the perception you wish to have. All I can say is that I, a fan of Insomniac, had faith when I was assured Fuse would be just as good as Overstrike promised to be, and I was looking forward to playing it. To have my residual doubts about the game brought miserably to light was not pleasant, and certainly not desired.
Whether it's true or not, Fuse does feel every bit like another victim of the heavily focus-tested, leader following, perpetually terrified mainstream game industry. It's every cloying and desperate element of the retail console market, brought together -- fused, if you will -- to create a factory standard example of a game that tries to be everything the hypothetical mainstream consumer drools over, and ends up as nothing remarkable.
Dragon Fantasy Book 1 (PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita [reviewed])
In staying true to its roots, Dragon Fantasy Book 1 is a bit of a drag. I like the main characters well enough, but I'm not particularly interested in the glibly presented story or world, and some of the retro JRPG systems are super aggravating or simply mind-numbing. That being said, the game did grow on me in the last three sections, and I think the bridging of storylines -- and mechanics -- in Book 2 could prove a bit more fruitful.
What got me through those instances was the menagerie of woodland critters (and an Alan Moore-inspired forest guardian), the sumptuous art, and the mystery that is slowly teased, but ultimately unravels in a quickly wrapped-up, anti-climactic ending that I could definitely have done without. Yet for all its flaws, The Night of the Rabbit may still be Daedalic's best adventure game. The issues are numerous, but the significant size of the game also offers up a lot of opportunities for it to redeem itself, which it does manage.
The Night of the Rabbit still contains all of those classic "ah ha!" moments when you, at long last, cease to be dumbfounded, and the novelty of the magic spells surprisingly doesn't wear off, continuing to be implemented cleverly throughout the long experience. With a lot of patience, you could find yourself having a bloody good time.
I came away from The Swapper with nothing but amazement. From the first time you see the literally hand-crafted visuals until the final moment in the game, which is sure to give you pause for thought, you will be in complete awe. Brilliant puzzles with even more brilliant solutions compliment the philosophical plotline, leaving an unforgettable experience unlike any other.
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