Flowing Lights Xbox One review: go with the flow

Sometimes all you need to make a shooter work is a neat gimmick. Something that stands out from the norm. I like to think that Tempest is innovative in the field because of its neat “hanging outside and shooting inward” concept, something unheard of in the early 80s. For that matter, Defender also stood out because of its challenging rhetoric and unique gameplay set-up, with so many buttons.

But Flowing Lights, a new indie shooter available for consoles and PC, innovates in its own neat way. That’s not to say it’s an instant classic like the aforementioned games, as it’s more of an acquired taste. However, it takes the concept of shooters and turns it on its head, making it more about solving puzzles than simply blasting from start to finish. And in its own neat little way, it works.

In the game, you’ll work your way through a number of stages, shooting at enemies. But this isn’t a simple “blast and move on” thing. Instead, the stages are intricately designed, with gunfire consistently being shot, or coming at you in streams. You’ll have to weave your way past this, using the terrain to your advantage. But, sometimes, you just need to hit the enemy before you progress.

Where Flowing Lights wins points is with its design. See, you can just shoot enemies, but with hills and contours on each stage, you’ll need to be strategic about it. You’ll need to curve your gunfire in the right way to hit them, while avoiding being hit yourself. For good measure, you have a secondary charge shot, which you can adjust utilizing the analog stick. It fires off one shot at a time, but goes further than your traditional gunfire. So it pays off, provided you can get your shot off at the proper angle.

In turn, you can create combos, which will help build up a high score. There are also power-ups that can give you a temporary boost as well. Combining these – and racking up the points – can help you achieve greatness on the leaderboards. It’s a cool process that works very well, for those that get into the game.

And that’s probably where Flowing Lights comes up short – it’s such an original idea for shooters that not everyone will get into it. This isn’t Deathsmiles here. Flowing Lights is built around the concept of taking your time and figuring out viable solutions for each stage. And, yes, sometimes you will get stuck, as it’s really thought provoking. But its execution is well done, for the most part, and those that stick with its rhythm will find a lot to like.

That leads us to the presentation. Flowing Lights does have innovation in its stage design. But the general aesthetic – neon-lit hills and minimally designed enemies – may not appeal to all. It definitely has a Tron-like approach to it that I enjoyed, but it’s pretty narrow when it comes to its design scope overall. Still, some of you may enjoy it as I did. The music’s awesome too, with some fun little synth scores that play over the course of the game. You’ll be right at home if you’re a fan of the genre.

How much you get into Flowing Lights really depends on what you’re looking for in a shooter. If you seek deep strategy, problem solving and a smart way to build up scores, this is the game for you. But if you’re out to save the universe, R-Type Final 2 may be more your speed. If you do choose this, however, you’re likely to enjoy your stay – well, until you get stuck, anyway. Then you’ll rack your brain, go “DUH!” when you find the solution, and move on. Not bad for a small little indie favorite for a mere ten bucks.

RATING: 8/10

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning Review

Turning back the clock 9 years ago, a solid action RPG, known as Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, came out on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. The game was developed by Big Huge Games and 38 Studios, and published with the help of EA. The game had a very successful launch with reviews that landed the game a big 9/10 from IGN and an 81 on Meta, but for whatever reason, we did not see anything more from the franchise. IGN speculated that reports advised massive layoffs which resulted in the sequel to be canceled, and things stayed silent until the year 2020, in which the remastered version of the game released with updated stunning visuals and refined gameplay. This remaster was refreshing in bringing back the MMO-like gameplay that we all loved so much in our single-player title. You can buy this masterpiece on all current generation and last generation platforms for only $39.99, and it’s worth every penny. 

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For players that never experienced the original game, the remastered version is the best place to start. Kingdoms of Amalur is set in the Faelands, a kingdom that is home to the immortal Fae of the Summer and Winter Courts. Essentially rather than passing on, souls are reborn in a new body. Players get to embark on their journey as a customizable character that becomes the “Fateless One”, who was supposed to have died but was successfully revived in an experiment led by Foromous Hugues, a gnome scientist. The kingdoms are torn in a war between the mortals and Winter Fae that players are dropped right in the middle of, literally. Because of the main character’s lack of fate, they decide to journey to find Hugues in hopes of uncovering the mystery of your death and also aid in the war along the way.

This game is fantastic for those that love old-school action RPGs like the Elder Scrolls series, and those who love MMOs like classic WoW. Once players enter the open-world part of the game, there is no clear path for the game, because players get to decide if they want to continue on the main quest or complete tasks, faction quests, or side quests. Every region is huge and loaded with endless adventures, and the main character is not tied down to any specific path. Players also get to choose “their fate” meaning their class. One can change and customize as they go, unlocking different advanced tiers from basic classes. For example when players cross between a rogue and a sorcerer disciple or even a tier 3 arcanist. This game is designed where there is no intended set class, and players can choose how they want to play without being locked into one role.

The remaster does not change much to the game, aside from some smaller or underlying changes like most remasters do. Many complain that the game is the same, but that is the difference between a remaster and a remake. So for players that were looking for major changes, this is not the game for you. The graphics are a lot sharper compared to the original game, and a lot more contrast and detail were added making the game look crisper than the first. Level lock no longer exists like the first game and the experience reward system has been changed to further balance the game. Loot is also now more catered to your designed character instead of randomly generated so players will find use in most of what they pick up. Load times are one complaint I found often from other players, but that is more based on the platform gamers are playing on. I played on my PS5 and honestly found no issues.

The only changes I would have liked to see are in the number of overwhelming fetch quests. I loved side content when it comes to any RPG, especially open-world RPGS. However, this game is filled to the brim with side quests and tasks, especially fetch quests. When players visit towns, they are immediately bombarded with on average 4 to 5 quests that are split between menial tasks (slaying monsters or gathering items), and helping out NPCs with missing persons or aiding in their troubles. This would not be a problem with there were not like 10 towns in the immediate area and players also have their faction quests. As some players might overlook this and skip some quests, completionists like myself end up pulling their hair out. It also can end up extremely overbearing for new players. Trimming down on some of this redundant quests would have been a better balance for this remastered version.

To revisit the visuals and performance, the game can be a bit buggy. For example, I got major Oblivion vibes when an NPC randomly glitched in front of me and I saw nothing but this head and arms in the sky. Overall though the performance is solid, and the animations look clear and crisp. The music creates an even better calm atmosphere, immersing players into what can be described as the ultimate fantasy experience. I also have had no framerate issues with the game which is oddly something I was expecting.

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In conclusion, I loved this remastered version of the game. Kingdoms of Amalur was already a fantastic ARPG for its time, and to be able to revisit this title was not only nostalgic but also very enjoyable. The subtle changes greatly improve players’ experiences with the game while also keeping its classic playstyle that was popular for that period of time. Though the game can be a bit buggy like many RPGs can be, and there were not many changes as far as visuals go, this was a great remaster and I can’t get enough from it. 

DVS Score: 8/10

The Protagonist EX-1 Review

The Protagonist: EX-1 was published by 3Mind Games in October 2020 and is still in beta. Available on PC, Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox it is a turn-based action-adventure role-playing strategy game.

The game takes place in the year 2113E on the planet Terra. A utopia with a totalitarian society under military control. There is only one government called Council that controls the world in secrecy.  For the first time in known history, the government has an enemy that they tried to hide from society but, now they are at war with them. The government has issued an EX-1 order to eliminate all hostiles at all costs. You are a part of the team sanctioned to carry out the order. Not long after you get your papers to fly out, your team is captured and killed. You have to survive, find the rest of your teammates, and get off their ship. 

The gameplay is pretty linear. You have a guide leading you from one task to the next and you pretty much have free range to explore but, early on there isn’t much to find. The first task is to find your teammate Radical and you have no weapons so combat is melee … with a twist. You have abilities because you and your team are cyborgs or super-engineered humans. It’s not explained much early in the game. You get into your first fight pretty quick and it explains the different ways you can fight but not how to execute them so it’s pretty much trying different things and see what works. Fighting is turn-based, not my favorite kind of gameplay but it has its perks.  So right off the bat, your choices are movement, melee fighting (called MACS), putting up a shield/healing, sabotage, and hacking the enemy. So it seems the enemy is also a synthetic being. As you play through the game you gain access to more weapons like knives, grenades, handguns, and more. Sometimes you can even use the environment in your fight to your advantage.  The fighting was a little stale for me but it wasn’t hard to pick up once you figured it out. Enemies usually go down in one or two hits so fighting is pretty quick until there are multiples or the kinda miniboss you fight after meeting up with your comrade but that’s for later.

The graphics for the game were beautiful to me. The cutscenes were well placed and the commentary amongst the characters was great if not a little stereotypical. The way the characters moved was very realistic and well planned down to the hand gestures. The main characters that I got to meet while playing Angel, the captain and main protagonist the characters follow, Radical, a Scottish Knife-wielding member of the crew, and Buddy, a dog that seems to have enhancements due to experimentation. Together you fight to get yourself off this ship and back to Pilot, the voice of your savior and teammate in space. 

There is also a crafting element to the game to create weapons and enhance them to add a little more to the game and I greatly enjoyed playing with it. As you collect scrap and crafting recipes you gain more items to create in your arsenal. Of course, the item you create can only be used by the characters with that affinity. The higher your skill with the proposed weapon the better as well. Increasing your base stats gives you an edge in battle as well. The more you play the more enemies you encounter which makes you have to add strategy in more to ensure you and your team survive. So play wisely and use the strength of your team to the fullest. 

After spending time playing the game I enjoyed it but it can get better. I can’t wait to see how the game grows as it moves through its beta testing and on to the world.

DVS Game Rating 7.5/ 10 

Stitchy in Tooki Trouble Nintendo Switch review: as the (scare)crow flies

It’s great to see up and coming developers attempt to cut their teeth on a classic platforming formula, even if the finished product isn’t quite as well put together as the games that preceded it. That’s the case with Stitchy in Tooki Trouble, a game from Polygoat that’s got its heart in the right place, but doesn’t quite live up to the legend of what inspired it – in this case, Donkey Kong Country.

The game puts you in control of Stitchy, a scarecrow brought to life by magic. Why, you ask? Well, some bothersome animal natives called the Tooki have gone and snatched up all his corn, putting the farm he was built to protect at risk. With the help of this magic, he’ll pounce on the enemies, collect the corn and then go back to his resting spot. Why he’s been summoned to rescue an island-like paradise is beyond us, but, hey, scarecrow’s gotta work.

Polygoat has all the gameplay elements in place for Stitchy, right down to the double jump and the foot pounce. This allows him to reach out-of-place areas to discover idols, in which there are three hidden on each level. The more you collect, the more bonus levels you can unlock over the course of the game. And they’re fairly easy to find, though sometimes it doesn’t hurt to explore in hidden floorboards a little.

The gameplay works well for a game of this nature, as it’s fairly easy to use foot stomps and double jumps to get where you need to go. Enemies go down rather easily as well; and the bosses put up quite a fight. There’s even a classic mine cart level or two, in case you’re feeling nostalgic for that sort of thing.

Where Stitchy comes up short – literally – is with its challenge. In fact, there’s barely any challenge at all. We cleaned up everything that the game had to offer within a matter of hours. Even a 90’s produced game like Donkey Kong Country offers more content in comparison. However, that makes it an excellent title for the younger set, as well as nostalgic platforming fans not seeking out a challenge. For that matter, there are time goals on each stage, and the faster you beat each one, the more stars you earn – and that means bonus levels. Not a bad incentive considering the content at hand.

Stitchy doesn’t look like a bad game at all. The visuals are well done for a platformer, with a 2.5-D approach and some neat designs, including lava and island-themed stages. The enemies, however, aren’t that original, with the exception of the cool-looking bosses. The music is alright, with a mixture of adventure and tropical themes that will remind you of good ol’ DKC. The sound effects, however, are minimal. Polygoat could’ve, at the very least, given Stitchy some kind of personality.

Though Polygoat’s Stitchy in Tooki Trouble’s journey is over far too soon, it’s a suitable platformer that’s sure to please the target audience of kids and fans of the genre. It lacks in some of its design, particularly with enemies, but makes up for it with pretty good gameplay and lots of stars and idols to collect. You could spend time with better platformers on the system, but Stitchy definitely isn’t a waste of it. This adventure holds together well enough to please youngens.

RATING: 7/10

DARQ: Complete Edition

A Feardemic Production subsidiary of The Bloober Team

Welcome to the DARQ

Begin your journey into the darkness with Lloyd, a young boy with a special talent. Lloyd has realized that he is dreaming, astral projecting himself into the deepest and darkest parts of his subconscious. To Lloyd’s misfortune, his dreams turn to nightmares… The more Lloyd tries to make sense of where he is the less everything makes sense. Try as he might Lloyd cannot wake himself from this nightmare.

Crawl through the chapters one at a time, slowly getting deeper into Lloyd’s consciousness. Things start out slow for Lloyd as he ventures forth through the tunnels of his mind. This game prominently leads with physical puzzles that you must sort out before you can move forward in the game. The dashes of horror make the puzzles more deadly and time-consuming, which could be the defining line of restarting the level.

Not only does this game contain a multitude of different puzzles, but it also reveals enemies that become a reoccurring theme within Lloyd’s mind. Turn your back for too long, and the ‘Mother’ type creature could sneak up behind you and consume you. Walk too quickly and step into the light, you’ll be shot at viciously from the dark. This game is what I would categorize as a psychological horror puzzle game. Personally, it’s one of my more favorite genres of Indie games, which are more often on PC than consoles. It truly helps DARQ stick out from the crowd, Nintendo Switch seems to be a secondary favorite outlet to Indie Developers.

This game is pretty short, maybe 4 or 5 hours of main story game play. The time has nothing on the story itself, which is both compelling and addicting. A lot of it doesn’t make sense until you’re about midway into the game, but it is very grasping.
I felt almost empty after finishing this lovely little story, as it made me want more. Surprisingly there is DLC for this game, two chapters to add on to the over all game. Joy!

DLC

In this chapter of DLC, you start off in a slender tall tower standing on an elevator platform. Unlike the main game where you had a bed to start your adventure, this chapter throws you in as soon as you hit start. Venture through the tower, unscrambling locks with heads. That’s right, heads that rock and roll. Separate from yourself, to truly find yourself. Body and mind must work together to figure these tricks out, or in DARQness you will stay. Come to terms with yourself, only then can you reach the light.
This chapter was quite short, but it was the first DLC to be added to DARQ. Hopefully, the next chapter adds a bit more content to the game as it’s still an under 5-hour game.

DLC

The Crypt. Wow. What a chapter. The second part of DLC for DARQ, this chapter adds so many more puzzles and questions. In The Crypt, the puzzles are harder than what we’ve seen so far from this game. It’s like this game went from easy mode to EXPERT in a fade to black screen. Separated from your head, you must find your way through the crypt. This chapter is heavily reliant on the ant-gravity skills you’ve acquired over your travels, as well as a keen eye. This chapter delves deep into what we’ve seen from some of Lloyd’s mysterious followers. Hide in the light from the Mannequins once again as you find your way through the DARQness.

This was an amazing Indie Dev Puzzle Horror Game. One of the best I’ve played on the Nintendo Switch.
7.5/10

New Pokémon Snap

Pokémon Snap back from the 90s! (Spoilers Ahead!)

Welcome avid photographers and Pokémon fans, we have something fun and refreshing!
New Pokémon Snap!
Come take an adventure across the Lental Region and explore the surprises of Pokémon big and small!

As a child from the 90s, when the N64 was the big new game console with it’s weird and wacky controller, I was full tilt hyped for New Pokémon Snap. This game was boasting some of the best graphics to come to the Pokémon franchise yet, as well as new stories. With the original Pokémon Snap, in it’s time, was not only one of the best graphic games out at that time, it was also exciting for the generation growing up beside Pokémon. We all thought the graphics were absolutely amazing as well as the Pokémon in it!

The New Pokémon Snap game did not disappoint as the game started up with the soft tease of music. The lull’s of Pokémon chatter mixing in with the environment. With the Nintendo Switch docked, receiving visuals in 1080p, the game was bright and colorful. The beautiful aspects of Pokémon are the colors and the vibrancy of those colors, so if your in docked mode or in handheld mode, the colors are fantastic.

Nostalgia comes into play with New Pokémon Snap, very heavily. As the music chimes up and the story progresses, you are reminded of the days when Pokémon Snap was new and fresh to everyone. Discovering where Pokémon ran and hid, or would play surprises on your character (Todd at the time). Reporting back to Professor Oak and showing him the discoveries in 64 bit that you had made, impressing or not.
As the game proceeded and you are introduced to the Pokémon Professor Mirror, the memories of Professor Oak washing in. Experience all the excitement that Todd Snap had when he first met the new world of Pokémon.

It’s Todd!

When your done learning the ‘ropes’ of Snap, you’ll be able to go out for your ”first” Safari! Grab your camera and your wits and get ready to SNAP SNAP SNAP!


Make your way through the green hills of the fields and lakes, be quick or you’ll miss your legendary!
Low lands where Pokémon come to make a home for their babies, or tuck away for a peaceful sleep. Find your common normal and grass types playing in the fields!

Venture through the jungle, fighting off Aipoms and Airados.


Experience different seasons of the year as your make your way through the enchanted forest. Find a Pokémon as enchanted as the Forest hidden within!


Catch a ride on a Lapras along the reef and catch a sneak peek of someone surfing!

Try to stay cool while the Charmanders get HOT HOT HOT!

What’s that feather?


Fight your way through Swinubs to stay warm! Or steal the presents from the DeliBird!

Be quiet and observant as you make your way through the Cave Ruins and try to pet the puppy!

Put together the mystery of the meteor attack, and try to find the last Illumina Pokémon! After you’ve tracked your way through these amazing zones and found new routes to new faces, face your own truth in what and who you are.
Pokémon. They can just tell when your a good person with good intentions.

All in all, New Pokémon Snap is an amazing game, as always from the creators of Pokémon. This was a nostalgic game to play, and had some of the most beautiful legendary surprises. Besides that, New Pokémon Snap teaches us that all Pokémon are special, and not just the Legendaries and Mythical types.
I had such an amazing time playing this game on and off stream, I highly recommend to anyone who loves to look at cute things! This game is full of all the cuteness!

Buh-Bye for now!





HarleChan Review for New Pokémon Snap 10/10

Star Wars Episode I Racer Nintendo Switch review – credit will do fine

While Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace hasn’t quite stood the test of time like many executives were hoping, it still holds a place in the hearts of fans of the series. And it also led to the creation of a number of licensed video games, with some faring better than others.

Among those titles was Star Wars Episode I: Racer, which released for the Nintendo 64 and Sega Dreamcast and struck a chord with fans that wanted to relive the exciting race sequence from the film. It’s a well-done racing experience and continues to be fun to this very day. But what can gamers do if they don’t have classic hardware to play it on?

Well, that’s simple, thanks to Aspyr. The game is available now on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch for a reasonable price ($15 at last glance!), and packs all the racing action of the original. Only a few minor tweaks have been made in its transition to new systems, but it continues to be a timeless thrill ride for those looking for something to play in these special Star Wars days. Hey, it beats working with Jar Jar Binks in a Jiffy Lube, tell you what.

In Episode I: Racer, you’ll choose from a fine variant of alien racers as you attempt to conquer each race, using your wits and speed boosters to keep ahead of them. There’s no Mario Kart style power-ups, just the skillful need for speed. And that’s fine by us, since this isn’t really Super Bombad Racing. This is a more serious racer, and one that pays off in dividends.

The gameplay is fantastic still, with capable handling of your hovering vehicle across turns and straightaways. For good measure, the neat system where you can earn speed boosts and repair damaged engines on the fly is awesome, simple to use and master over a course of a few runs. It’s really convenient, provided you don’t crash your vehicle going over 400 MPH. Oh, yeah, you’re going Mach speed here.

The game has little going for it in terms of options, with mainly a general story mode (introducing some of the planets and the competition), as well as a two-player split-screen mode. There’s no sign of online multiplayer, sadly, but here, the racing is the thing. And with the price and the quality of the title, that’s not a bad thing.

Speaking of quality, Episode I: Racer really delivers on this front when it comes to presentation. While the visuals are about the same as before, with just the right amount of classic game grain, it does feature a nice speed boost, running at a beautiful 60 frames per second. That’s on all platforms, so no one’s going to miss out if they’re playing on a PS5 or anything. The vehicles look great, and the track design is elegant yet tricky enough to keep you coming back for more. And all this is accompanied by John Williams’ excellent music score, which still holds up after all these years.

While Star Wars Episode I: Racer has its quirks when it comes to lack of features, it more than makes up for it with classic racing fun. The presentation is the best it’s ever been; the gameplay still holds up; and the two-player races are still highly enjoyable. So if you’re down for turning racing opponents into Bantha Fodder, you shouldn’t hesitate to hit the throttle.

RATING: 8.5/10

Against the Moon: PC Review

Turn-Based Strategy is one of my favorite genres in gaming due to the fact that you can do so much with the gameplay. Against the Moon is a tactical turn-based strategy game developed by Code Heretic and published by Code Heretic LLC and Black Tower Entertainment. While this game shows so much potential I found it not only lacking in content but overall it’s just not well designed. It looks incredible as far as the art design goes, but the gameplay itself ended up being the downfall. This game is available on all current platforms for $19.99.

My biggest issue lies with the gameplay. I loved the concept, but honestly, the way the game works you have little to no control over your hand and there is no way to set up your deck to help with balanced curves. I mean this as in the game plays almost like a TCG game like Magic or Pokemon. The game was designed to bring deck building to a rogue-like turn-based strategy game. You get 3 lanes set up with 3 Ultori that all have a unique ability, such as stunning random enemies or throwing your hand away for new cards. The cards all come with a cost and are divided between monster cards with special abilities and spells that can allow you to fight the enemy and their set of cards. Depending on the card cost players will average early game around 2 to 3 actions.

Often I felt like my hand would be unbalanced for what I really needed to defeat tougher opponents. Sometimes my hands would even be all mid-cost monsters and no sorceries to draw more cards or damage enemies. Another issue I take with the game is the huge jump in difficulty, for while I like a challenge after the prologue your desk is not suited for what comes after. You are mostly given low-cost monsters that do an average of 3 attack against enemies that jump up to 8 hit points on average. It feels as if the game sets you up for failure. You do get to customize some cards under your heroes which helps a bit while you play, but even then the draw is not stacked well. On top of that, it is a game where you do have to unlock cards as you progress and evolve them, but it’s a slow progression. There is no curve or balancing element to the random draw you’re given which is purely poor design. On top of that, it is a game where you do have to unlock cards as you progress and evolve them, but it’s a slow progression.

On top of the balancing issues, the performance issues nearly kill the want to play for me. Even on my high-end computer the game had insane load times, crazy frame rate drops, and sometimes would just not run at all. Redownloading the game with a fresh install does not help. The performance issues with this game are insane considering it’s not demanding at all. Over the Moon is just another case of wasted potential. The concept was great, but the delivery was just pure disappointment. The game is full of performance issues and poor gameplay, and I sadly do not recommend it to anyone. I do hope the developers take the concept and make good on it in the future.

DVS Score: 2.5/10

R-Type Final 2 review: a By-do gone era returns

There was a point in time that hardcore shooters were making a dent in the mainstream gaming market. Alas, many thought that time has passed in the face of the AAA stream that we’re seeing nowadays, but, surprise, you can’t keep a good “shmup” down thanks to entries like Rolling Gunner and Crimzon Clover.

Now, following the success of Tozai Games’ amazing R-Type Dimensions, we’re seeing the return of Irem’s legendary series with R-Type Final 2, based on a Kickstarter success launched by the team at Granzella. It’s a hefty gamble, considering that the original Final for PlayStation 2 made everything so, um, finalized. (Yep, another gaming franchise that proves the word “final” isn’t exactly final.) But it’s mostly paid off, with a frantic, exciting shooter that offers some fun old-school thrills, even if it’s not entirely the best-looking game out there. Hey, any chance we get to blast the Bydo Empire to smithereens, we’ll happily take it.

The game once again has you facing off against dangerous alien enemies using whatever power-ups you can get your hands on. These include lock-on missiles and firing techniques that range from coordinated circle lasers to bouncing beams that make it relatively easy to blast enemies around corners. You can power-up however you choose, and the game even lets you customize your loadout, as well as select from unlocked ship models. Some vary in terms of what firepower they deliver, but the general goal is the same. Still, neat idea.

What’s important here, however, is the general nature of R-Type – and I’m happy to report that’s still very much intact. Final 2 is a lot of fun to play, and quite challenging if you turn up the difficulty. However, if you’re a newbie, you can also find quite a bit of mileage from the “practice” and “kids” difficulty settings, though you’ll still have your work cut out for you when it comes to dodging dangerous plasma beams and incoming fire.

What makes R-Type stand out is the utilization of your capsule, which helps you maintain your strong firepower, or can also be jettisoned loose to fire in out-of-reach places. It reattaches and disattaches with ease, and also shields you from smaller bullets – something that’s a saving grace if you try to keep your run going. You’ll embrace its techniques as you continue onward, and become that much of a better R-Type player.

Visually, R-Type Final 2 mimics the original PlayStation 2 game to an extent. There are 3D backgrounds and some well drawn enemies, but the design is hardly what you’d call revolutionary. In fact, on the Nintendo Switch, it’s about on the same level as R-Type Deltawhen it comes to graininess. On the PlayStation 4, however, it’s much smoother, with a 60 frames per second framerate. Both versions look good, though, and depending how you want to play – at home or on the go – they make for a strong addition to your “shmup” library.

For good measure, the music is good. Not amazing like the original R-Type soundtrack, mind you, but still well composed with some great synths playing throughout each battle. It matches the tone of what R-Type is all about for the most part, so little to complain about there.

How much mileage you get out of Final 2 truly depends on your fandom of the series. There are a lot of ships to unlock here; and the game is a meaty challenge if you go all the way up on the difficulty scale. Otherwise, just keep in mind that it’s a shmup, and you’ll likely get through the meat of its content after a few runs. That may make the $40 price tag a bit hard for some to justify.

But I digress. R-Type is back and that is what really matters. The team at Granzella have done a great job capturing the nature of what makes the series click with Final 2, as it’s a blast to play and keeps most of its fundamentals intact. And it may not look the best at times, but it’s still a decent example of how to make a “shmup” appear in these modern times. It’s a game that delivers on its Kickstarter hype, especially for those that have been dying to see the series make a return.

Now then…about that Gradius revival…

RATING: 8/10

Battle Axe Xbox One review: Worth the Grind

You’d be surprised what kind of retro-inspired experience you can put together with the right people. In this case, pixel artist Henk Nieborg, who’s been working on a number of games since the 90s, including various Shantae games.

Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, he’s been able to team up with Mega Man composer Manami Matsumae on a 16-bit inspired project called Battle Axe, which arrived on some consoles last week and will debut on Nintendo Switch later this week. And it’s good stuff for those of you who like this sort of thing, despite some noticeable quirks – namely the price.

Published by Numskull Games, the top-down adventure has you choosing between three different characters – a Viking warrior with a helpful little cannon, a dark elf with a pair of twin blades, and an elderly wizard with a penchant for spells. Each character has up-close strikes, as well as distance shots that are ideal for blasting an enemy from afar – though it’s somewhat limited based on a charge meter, shown in your character stats. Once you have them, you can also activate super spells to clear the screen, and digest food to get back some of your lost health.

The game’s general Arcade Mode has you battling through different enemies and rescuing oddly named citizens before coming face-to-face with a boss that requires a bit of strategy, including a large crab creature, an oversized dragon and more. Once you figure out a proper pattern, just like the old-school games, you can beat them and continue on your merry little way.

What’s excellent about Battle Axe is that it’s a fairly easy game to grasp, though there’s a good challenge level that will have you conserving as much energy as you can. After all, once you’re out of lives, it’s game over, just like in some arcade games. Fortunately, there’s only a handful of stages here, so getting to the end should be just a matter of timing your attacks and fighting through to the end.

Battle Axe fully supports local co-op as well, which is outstanding. You can team up with a friend and clean house in a fun two-player session. Online’s not in the cards, sadly, but it’s a great game to play with friends. It wouldn’t have been a bad idea to have more characters tho. But at least the gameplay is responsive and tight, and the difficulty is right there on the old-school level.

Where Battle Axe truly wins is with its presentation. The 16-bit style graphics are excellent throughout, and the animations are razor sharp, right down to the large bosses. The game also runs smoothly, especially on the Xbox One, where it feels right at home. Not to mention that Matsumae’s soundtrack, though on a loop, is superb and really allows the stretching of composer talent. Well done.

That said, Battle Axe has some hitches. It only has two modes – Arcade and Infinite – and while they’re a lot of fun, they can get old over time. Infinite does have some great exploring to do for players that are up for it, but a New Game + would’ve been an ideal addition, particularly with some new stages.

For that matter, the game’s price is a bit too high for its own good. Battle Axe would’ve been a novel investment for around $15 or $20. At $30, some might balk at jumping into this adventure, though it’s still worth its weight in gold. It just depends how much you appreciate some old-school flavor from Henk’s camp.

If you’re on board, though, Battle Axe doesn’t disappoint. It’s got retro appeal throughout, even with its lack of modes and stages; and the visuals and music really pop to life. And it’s a joy to play in local co-op, if you’ve got a friend that has an axe to grind with you. If you can handle the deep price point, Battle Axe is a worthy weapon.

RATING: 8/10