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

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

Marvel’s Spiderman Miles Morales: PS5 Review

Miles Morales has been taking the world by storm as Marvel’s edgy newer hero, who only first made his debut in the comic line Ultimate Fallout in 2011. He follows in Peter Parker’s footsteps as a new, teenage Spiderman after gaining similar abilities, but seems to have far more to offer in terms of sheer power. Marvel’s Spiderman Miles Morales allows us to walk in the footsteps of this green hero in an all-new action-adventure game developed by Insomniac Games and published by Sony Interactive. This story directly follows the events of Marvel’s Spiderman, the previous entry of the series. I loved everything this game had to offer despite it being a shorter tale than the first entry. This game is playable on PlayStation 4, and the 5 for only $49.99, making it way cheaper than most new games that are usually set at $69.99. I will warn new players, though in the game there is a recap of previous events I very much recommend playing the first game. Not only was the first Spiderman a fantastic game, but the story is crucial seeing as there will be more to follow. 

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The story follows Miles in New York after his father’s passing in the previous events that took place in Marvel’s Spiderman. Miles and his mother Rio had just moved to Harlem, where she is running for City Council to fight for her home against a new energy company Roxxan. Peter goes on vacation, allowing Miles to fly solo in New York to find his footing, deeming him ready to fight for his city. Miles soon uncovers a war between this secretly corrupt energy company and the Underground; a terrorist group that is following the Tinkerer in trying to take them out. Compared to the previous game, I found Miles to be a bit more relatable than Peter. Miles shows the struggle of being a child hero and his feelings on trying to fill the shoes of Peter. Throughout the story, he unlocks unknown abilities that he learns to master over time, while also finding himself behind the mask and in real life. Between the mistakes he makes along the way and trying to overcome his self-doubt, the game does well in making Miles feel more human in this game, as well as creating a connection between the player and character. While the previous Spiderman did well to help the players play as Peter Parker, he felt more of a self-sacrificing hero that knew what to do. Miles, on the other hand, went through major character growth from starting as a timid teenager unsure of whether or not he is ready to take on the mask and changing into a full-fledged Spiderman. Insomniac designed this game so well in terms of overall character growth and story progression to the point where I even teared up at the ending of the game in both play-throughs. 

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Marvels’ Spiderman Miles Morales was a plain right personable game that was jam-packed with emotions. Every character made a massive impact on the game in their unique way. I could not get enough of how well designed the side characters and villains were in this game. Ganke was such a fantastic supporting character to Miles and helped bring a more realistic and modern feel to the game. Designing the Friendly Neighborhood app, helping Miles find himself as his person, and assisting on missions by remoting into his suit felt insanely cool and showed how reliable he was as a friend and partner. One could even say his best friend was the Sam to his Frodo. I also absolutely loved that this game brought the Prowler, a.k.a. Uncle Aaron in and designed him as not only a supporting character that contributes to Mile’s growth as a family but also as a man that struggles between right and wrong. Even Rio fought so hard for her family and city against Roxxan and stood to show Miles that their family never backs down no matter how hard the fight is. Miles, like Peter, built such a good support system without even realizing it. Even the citizens of New York in the game felt more realistic compared to before as far as side quests go. Each character in the side quests felt more natural and had a lot more personality such as Teo and Hailey. Most of the characters you help out start off suspicious of the new Spiderman in town and over time warm up to him and deem him their district’s Spiderman.

Though the story of this game was short, it was incredible and filled with fantastic side content. I do wish there was a bit more as far as side quests go, but there were good options outside of the new game plus for playability. All missions that were side quests and main quests can be replayed. In addition, you could trigger crimes over and over again to get activity tokens for unlocking abilities and suits. As far as resources go, there were significantly fewer options compared to the first game, for you only needed activity tokens and research parts to get gadgets, mods, and suits as well as the required level. This made the game far less tedious, but also I felt because of this I would have liked to see more to do. This game did do a good job of keeping you busy for the most part, since with each story progression you essentially got new collectibles or fetch quests unlocked as well as side missions. The side content provided also god a good story with each of them, such as finishing Mile’s father and uncle’s soundtrack, the end game scavenger hunts his father left for him, and even his time capsules he made with Phin. While the content might be lacking in quantity, the game has made up tenfold in quality.

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What I do feel like the game lacked in a bit more was gameplay. While I love the replayability of it, I felt like the new game plus option should have offered more in terms of content. Aside from some new game plus suits and abilities, there was no real reason to add it. You can change the difficulty for NG plus, and there are no new quests for it whatsoever. I felt because of this, new game plus was just a filler to feel like there was more to game content-wise, but there was not. The only real reason outside of suits and abilities for NG plus is for trophy hunters. In addition, the combat was satisfying but also left you feeling a bit too powerful regardless of difficulty because of the bioelectricity abilities, invisibility, and gadgets. Finishers only required combos rather than taking away from your venom attack build-up bars. While you consumed a bar to heal from your bioelectricity bar, it racks up so fast and using them often leaves you in less need to heal. You can combo off of them so easily causing insane damage to enemies. Even on Spectacular while they might not die as fast it still takes a big chunk off of heavy hitters. Gadgets also replenish fast and rack up damage with gravity well, the holo-drones, and remote mines.

While you have fewer options compared to the first game, they do way more damage. I found myself using all of the gadgets, but you could also pick off enemies super easily with gravity well and venom blast. My only other complaint as far as the combat goes is how exploitable camouflage is. Enemies do not counter this until late game, but through the majority of the game you could go in wreak havoc or stealth kill and no matter how you get caught you can go invisible again leaving enemies confused dropping their guard fast. I tore through each base so fast because of this ability alone. I’m not saying the game should be hard, but more so there should be a better balance for each difficulty. Harder modes are for players that want a challenge or players that don’t want to steamroll through the game, but there were no considerably noticeable gaps with each jump. That being said the combat did at least feel satisfyingly cool.

All in all, I loved this game, though some areas are lacking it set a new bar for the series as far as story and quality go. I loved the amount of detail that went into creating the environment and story. I also can not wait to see what happens in the next entry per the end scenes we got in the credits. Miles is an amazingly human character and an incredible Spiderman. This game also played incredibly smooth on the PS5 at 60 frames per second. The Marvel’s Spiderman series offers some of the best superhero games out there, and I expect great things from Insomniac.

DVS Score: 8/10

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

Marvel’s Spiderman PS4 Review

Marvel’s Spiderman is everything you can expect and want out of a video game and more. Between swinging with webs throughout the city, Pete’s clap backs while decimating enemies, and learning new abilities I was thoroughly impressed at how well the game succeeds in making you feel like you are the character. Not only was the story incredible, but it even planted the seeds for Spiderman Miles Morales perfectly. This story has endless content for players and is one of the best open-world action role-playing games I’ve played in a long time. I haven’t had this much fun in playing a superhero game since the Batman Arkham Trilogy, and I can not wait to see what Miles Morales will have to offer. Marvel’s Spiderman was developed by Insomniac Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. This game is purchasable on PlayStation Network for the PS4 and the PS5 normally for 39.99 USD, but right now you can get it on sale for 19.99 thanks to the spring sale. 

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What I loved so much about this game was not only did you just play as Spiderman, but you also got a lot of time to play as Peter Parker and his allies. You get a good amount of time as Peter between assisting Aunt May at FEAST, and even in the lab with Doctor Octavius in creating robotic life-like prosthetics. One thing I have to mention is how well this game presents itself and sets a bar above other superhero games, and that’s the stress that I felt as having a secret identity. The overall impact I felt like Peter in trying to protect the ones he loves but not being able to tell them was overwhelming.

MJ is the only one who knows and honestly was a godsend in helping as a partner in balancing his life and making hard decisions, though she also tended to stress me out with her bold actions and the tension of their romantic feelings. Side character missions were also executed flawlessly and had seamless transitions for the story. Not only did I get to experience character development, but I also found myself having to use my wits to get through stressful situations with MJ and Miles. I felt firsthand the support system that Peter unknowingly built around himself, and I applaud Insomniac for such great storytelling.

Character development was also phenomenal with the villains of the story. Insomniac showed enough restraint, but also laid the seeds perfectly with every action Spiderman committed. I felt myself pondering between the right things to do for each situation. For example, at the beginning of the game, Kingpin advises he is a necessary evil to keep others at bay, and honestly without too many spoilers the consequences that unfold from his removal left not only Peter pondering his choices but for me as the player too.

As the city breaks out into chaos, different groups such as Fisk’s men, the Demons, Prisoners, and even Sable Troop takes apart the city claiming territories throughout New York. The life-like 1:1 scale of New York in the game felt surreal as you see it slowly change over time with each new terrorist group. I also loved watching truths unfold from Mr. Negative’s past and Osbourne’s dirty secrets, as well as feeling the heartbreak after watching Doctor Octavius deteriorate.

The side content was plentiful and was great in not overwhelming or underwhelming players that wanted to 100 percent the game. The side quests had a good mix-up between lengthy dilemmas with bone-chilling twists and small fetch quests to give players a small break for quick experience. Collectibles were abundant and unlocked cool new suits or abilities for players such as the dark suit for doing the Black Cat’s stakeouts or the Homemade Suit for finding every landmark. I also enjoyed that purchasing other suits required tokens from taking down crime bases, stopping petty crimes in the city from criminals and sable, and challenges from the Task Master.

Each challenge or base could be replayed until you completed every tier or bonus challenge to get your rewards, while crimes capped at around 5 per area on average. Early game base takedowns could take a while and feel a bit too tedious, which is why I recommend players wait until late game to grind them out. Bases no matter which faction are 6 waves long with 10 plus enemies each round. The challenges for the base tokens will often consist of webbing enemies to walls, shocking them, or even electrifying them with abilities that are unlocked late game anyway. Tasks were a bit easier but also helped players work on improving with the gameplay. Drone missions helped accuracy in moving around with speed and web-slinging, combat challenges helped to max out their combos, and stealth challenges taught players how to maximize their efficiency between different stealth takedown styles. Overall, as a completionist, I had a field day getting the platinum for this game because despite being easy to get the game did well to make all of the side content not only fun but enticing.

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Marvel’s Spiderman provides endless content leaving players wanting more. This game was a thrilling adventure that I recommend to all types of players. It’s inviting to those newer or not as good with RPGs and satisfying to experienced players as well. The story is action packed and an emotional experience to take part in for players who crave an immersive narration. Not to mention, you play as the iconic web-slinging pun filled hero Spiderman, and get to fight all of the villains we love so much such as Scorpion and Electro. The visuals are breathtaking, the gameplay is satisfying, and I really could not get enough of this title. Despite some of the bugs I would say this is a near perfect masterpiece and I’m really glad that I picked it up.

DVS Score: 9/10

Sturmfront: The Mutant War Ubel Edition review – that old feeling

There are a lot of developers out there being inspired by the classic games of old. And that’s a good thing, considering a majority of AAA developers seem to be ignoring said classics in favor of new AAA-level games. Not that that’s a bad thing, as that creates a balance with these indie folks that caters to a specific audience, while reminding us of the days gone by.

The latest example of this is Andrade Games’ Sturmfront: The Mutant War, a top-down twin-stick shooter where it’s you against the alien world. The game has its quirks, particularly the annoying lack of any kind of co-op (novel for a game like this – just look at Contra), but it’s a thrill ride that’s available for a decent price. Not to mention it’s got the kind of soundtrack that’s got some Doom Eternal-level inspiration behind it.

In the game, you portray Siegfried von Hammerstein, a cyborg that has a current mission in life – lay waste to alien invaders. And considering a big invasion is well underway, he’s hungry to clean house.

Hammerstein will be able to switch between two weapons – a rifle of choice, ideal for laying waste to smaller mutants; and a flamethrower. While it has limited fuel, it’s perfect for destroying alien spawning points (basically large aliens with spewing mouths) before they can do any further damage.

The game’s controls are simple, but effective. Left stick controls movement, right stick controls where you aim, and the right shoulder button is used to shoot. If you prefer, you can also use the face buttons on the right hand side for shooting, for those that prefer to go a little old school.

There’s definitely some Smash TV/Total Carnage-inspired lunacy here, and it’s ideal for fans that love that sort of design. The gameplay doesn’t let up, and there’s something cool about being able to effectively take down enemies while they try to kill you. It would’ve been nice to have a “dodge” feature, like in other games, but it’s not too bad. The only downside is that most of the story is forgettable, as you get bits and pieces of it from survivors as you go along. Albeit it takes a backseat to the action, so whatever.

Though the levels are short, they’re jammed with enemies, and that brings the game’s colorful design into play. It looks wonderful, inspired by the arcade and Amiga classics of old, and doesn’t let up with its world-ending aesthetic. It’s also great to see the weapons at play here, including a spread laser that could easily match up with Contra’s classic gun on a good day. There are also some good boss fights on display here, which will force you to work to survive. Fortunately, you can tone down the difficulty a little bit if it becomes too much.

What really stands out is the soundtrack. The heavy metal-inspired tunes are excellent and blare throughout, making you feel like you should continue laying waste to alien scum. The sound effects are minimal, but work where needed here.

Again, where Sturmfront lets down is the fact it’s just a single player affair. If the developers at Andrade had just added a few more players to the mix – or at least a two-player co-op option at a higher difficulty – it could’ve mixed things up tremendously.

As it stands, though, Sturmfront isn’t too shabby. What it lacks in overall length and features, it more than makes up for with old-school carnage, a ripping soundtrack and delightfully chaotic visuals. You’ll want to dig in and enjoy it in spurts, just to ease that stress away with one of the most metal cyborgs out there. Hopefully we’ll see a sequel with more loaded content down the road. Hammerstein can’t do it all himself, y’know.

RATING: 7.5/10

(Sturmfront is available now for PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PC!)

Narita Boy PlayStation 4 review: more than a game, boy

Team 17 didn’t exactly need to establish itself as a king of 2D platforming games, as it had previously struck gold with its lovely Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. But now it’s gone the extra mile, establishing a Metroidvania-style adventure that’s sure to strike a chord with both fans of the genre and those who live for retro-fueled visuals and tunes.

Narita Boy stemmed from a Kickstarter project created by Studio Koba, with Team 17 picking up the publishing rights. And it’s a hell of an addition to its roster, a game that, despite some minor setbacks, delivers some butt-kicking goodness that puts it near the top of the Metroidvania heap. In fact, it’s worth buying for the music alone, a collection of synth tunes that will have you wondering what kind of magic is behind the keyboards. Seriously.

The game is Tron-esque, in a way, with a teenage boy trapped in a virtual world, forced to attempt to track down The Creator in the hopes of possibly escaping. Along the way, he learns about this person’s essence, and how it ties in with his humble beginnings in Narita – in Japan. That explains the title, for those of you wondering what a Narita is.

There’s a little Star Wars in there as well, as the boy is armed with a Techno Sword. With it, he can fend off attackers and use special techniques to carve them up, including swift uppercuts and combo strikes. These are especially useful against bosses, who definitely pack a punch – something Metroidvania fans should be used to by now. But fortunately, you have some cool defensive techniques, including a slide that’s really handy for avoiding incoming strikes.

The gameplay works remarkably well for Narita Boy, though it’s definitely on the hard side. Still, after exploring a few areas, you should become used to what’s on hand, as well as what you can unlock over the course of the game.

All that really stands in the way is Narita’s need for backtracking. It can get a little old at times, especially as you run across the same area multiple times. But the game as a whole is still very well designed, and a lot of fun to play.

Where its treasure really lies, however, is within its presentation. I’ve already told you about the majesty of the soundtrack, which is really something else when it comes to nailing down its synth core. It sounds great, like something out of a classic 80s sci-fi film of sorts, with a few tunes that match the mood the Creator has set here.

And the visuals are lovely too, with 8-bit style visuals with a CRT TV-esque approach that really emulates the classics of old. We’re talking Out of This World sort of vibes, but obviously with something that’s far smoother. The effect is outrageously cool, especially when it comes to boss battles. They’re just so well done, you’ll be in awe after they wipe you out the first time around.

There are more than enough Metroidvania games to recommend at the moment, but Narita Boy deserves a nod. It doesn’t quite have all the momentum it needs to beat the legends, but it deserves a spot on the list of best games in the genre for sure. The presentation alone is wow-worthy; and the gameplay continues to impress as you go along. Narita-ville definitely feels like a great place to visit.

RATING: 8/10

Bladed Fury review: a sharp nod to Vanillaware

So…why wasn’t Muramasa: The Demon Blade brought to new game systems again? When Vanillaware initially released this stunningly beautiful game for the Wii several years ago, it became a massive underground hit. That prompted the studio to release another version…for the PS Vita. And yet, here we are without a version for current-gen consoles, where it would no doubt shine brightly in 4K.

But at least we have a pretty good fill-in with NExT Studio’s Bladed Fury. While it’s a bit on the short side and has a few slight issues with its gameplay and visuals, it has Muramasa’s spirit completely intact. Not only that, but the story delves deep into Chinese culture, creating a tale that’s as fascinating to watch as it is to play.

The story focuses on an unlikely heroine named Princess Ji, who finds herself on the run after she’s framed by the Tian for the murder of the Duke of the Qi region. But she’s not running away without a fight. She’s gathering weapons and spirits, readying for a showdown with the folks that wronged her.

Yep, it’s a story about revenge. But it sets the stage for Bladed Fury’s action, which is quite satisfying. Though Muramasa is still somewhat preferred, there’s some great combos to take advantage of here, between power and quick strikes. Not only that, but you can also knock enemies into the air; and utilize other special techniques. It’s not entirely original, but it is cool for those of you that missed out on what Vanillaware’s title had to offer.

That, combined with the Princess’ swiftness to get through platforming and challenge bosses, makes the game an overall blast to play. There are moments when you can slip a little bit, due to minor glitches, but the ebb and flow is there enough to satisfy. If you’re a fan of hack-and-slashers, this is worth adding to your list. You can also upgrade abilities, which will help you expand your skill set over the course of your journey.

Not only that, but Bladed Fury also features exquisite visuals that almost reach the level of Vanillaware classics of old. The hand-drawn animation is impressive; the backgrounds are colorful and bring this Chinese world to life; and some of the enemy designs really stand out. There are times that the action slows down a little bit, but not enough to throw off what you see exploding on-screen. I just wish it was longer, as it ends at a fraction of the time that Muramasa concludes in.

Also, the music isn’t quite as good. It has some great tunes here and there, but I miss Muramasa’s mighty soundtrack. Still, it fits the tone of what’s on-screen, so it’s not too shabby.

Overall, Bladed Fury can’t quite match the graciousness of what Muramasa’s team brought before. However, it’s truly inspired by it, feels excellent to play, and offers some fun visuals to watch on-screen, especially in 4K. It may not be the original warrior we asked for, but the Princess is more than ready to deliver on her own accord. Give her a shot.

RATING: 7.5/10