Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 Nintendo Switch review: once bitten, twice sly

We would’ve been content enough with the masterful Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night from Igarashi-san and company when it released last year, if only because we’ve been waiting for ages for our Symphony of the Night itch to be scratched. But Inti Creates launched a surprise from left field with the 8-bit style Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, a thrilling throwback title that fit right in with the short but sweet legacy of the series. And now, while we wait to see what Igarashi has planned next, that team has already returned with a sequel.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 pretty much picks up where the first game left off, with a handful of characters battling evil forces with an array of weapons. Like before, you can switch between these heroes with ease, using their abilities to access new areas and uncover secret goodies. But is the adventure worth it the second time around? We’d definitely say yes.

Some New Faces To Join the Old

The only returning character from the first game is Zangetsu, the warrior who’s relentlessly hunting down enemies. He’s joined by a number of favorites, particularly Dominique, an exorcist who knows a thing or two about using her spear; as well as Robert, who can nail enemies from afar with his rifle; and Hachi, a dog that can summon a demon tank. Yes, you read that right. You might’ve seen him in Ritual of the Night; and now he’s on full display here.

That’s one way to make an entrance.

You can balance between characters to find all the goodies within the game, and use them against some of the mega-bosses here, which are better designed than the original game. They require a lot of damage and a bit of strategy, including a weird pseudo-train boss with a hero embedded on the front, complete with shield. It’s just…odd. But fun in its own Bloodstained sort of way.

What’s great is how Curse of the Moon 2 lets you revisit completed stages. This is ideal when you unlock all the characters, as you can explore unreachable areas and even take on new strategies for bosses to wipe them out much more quickly. And each one has something special, though, honestly, Hachi is likely to be your real favorite here. Let’s be honest.

The gameplay is exquisite and just as solid as the original game, if not a little more refined. Death can still come cheap in certain areas, just like the Castlevanias of old; but it’s about what we’d expect with the territory, so that’s not entirely a bad thing.

And what’s more, collecting everything in the game unlocks an ending that really wraps up the adventure nicely. It’s worth the effort.

A Presentation To Be Proud Of

Inti Creates once again pays full-on tribute to the classic Castlevania games with Curse of the Moon 2. Its 8-bit heritage shines in every aspect of the game, from the multi-scrolling backgrounds that are reminiscent of Dracula’s Curse past to the neat little animations. And what’s more, the level design is stunning, even if it’s not an open world like Ritual of the Night. Its point A-to-point B method works just as well as the first game.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 is a hot time.

I also liked the mid-stage sequences, which not only get you acquainted with each character’s abilities but also lets them interact with each other in humorous ways. They’re short but definitely sweet.

And the music is awesome, dare I say. It sounds like something you’d hear from the Castlevania games of old, taking advantage of 8-bit processing like a champ. Not to mention the sound effects resemble something from the NES era as well. It all sounds wonderful, especially on a headset. There are no character voices, but they aren’t really needed here.

Accept This Curse As Your Own

I’d like to think that Curse of the Moon 2 continues to move the Bloodstained series along in its own special way. It improves upon components from the first game, while at the same time introducing effective and memorable characters (HACHI!) that really add something. Some more stuff to do after collecting everything would’ve been ideal, but overall, this is one Curse that’s well worth the acceptance.

RATING: 8.5/10

A sequel that continues to carry the Bloodstained name with pride, Curse of the Moon 2 is worth partaking.

Liberated Nintendo Switch review: Big Brother is watching

These days, it’s a little tough to see where our government is going. Not to get all political here, but needless to say, it’s scary times right now. That’s kind of why games like Liberated stand out. Sure, it’s in a far distant future with far more controlling rules at stake, but you can feel the desperation of the characters that you are in charge of.

For a few hours, the game presents a unique side-scrolling adventure, backed by a beautiful (if imperfect) black and white comic book style that brings out the best of classic noir. It does have its setbacks, but those of you interested in an engrossing thrill ride – especially with themes that resonate with some of what’s happening today – may be interested in giving this a go.

In the Not-Too-Distant Future?

In the future, an event takes place that forces the government to keep a closer eye on people. But it’s not just a matter of surveillance, as balancing also comes into play. For instance, if someone’s spending a little more money than they actually make, they’re put into question.

Liberated’s visual style goes a long way — even on the Switch.

That’s where the game’s first character, Barry, fits in. As the story goes on, we see other perspectives as well, but it’s interesting how everything unfolds with comic book panels and scenes that piece everything together. It’ll draw people more into it, compared to the usual side-scrolling adventures we see these days.

However, sometimes glitches just get in the way.

The game reminded me of an awful lot of U.S. Gold’s classic Flashback. There are high stakes that force you to act quickly. However, your characters have more tools of the trade, including a drone that occasionally comes in handy for plotting ahead. The action’s also very well-paced, though the game does slog across a Quick-Time Event sequence every once in a while. It’s not like they suck, but, honestly, we would’ve preferred straightforward action.

The stealth sequences are done very well, too, but they can be a bit difficult for those that aren’t prepared for a challenge. But the more you play Liberated, the better idea of what kind of experience you’re in for. This is one that definitely teaches you a thing or two as you go along.

A Solid Presentation Marred By Technical Issues

When I played Liberated on Steam a little while back, I was mesmerized by how beautiful it was, especially when it came to how seamlessly comic panels blended with the action. Most of that came over to the Switch as well, but there are some technical hiccups.

For instance, a few bugs enter the picture, as if the game came out with some untested things. That’s not to say it’s broken, but they’re easy to notice in both handheld and docked mode.

That aside, however, the game’s still a beaut to look at, with its mesmerizing black-and-white style and stunning animations. You’ll be right at home if you can get over the technical hitches.

That, and the audio is good as well. The music, when it kicks in, is atmospheric enough; and the sound effects fit right in with the visuals. It’s not a tour-de-force that will make you put on a headset, but it fits with the theme of the game.

Is It Worth Liberating On Your Switch?

Liberated does have its setbacks, namely with the lame QTE’s and the visual problems. But at its core, its adventure is still very worthwhile, thanks to a timely story and gameplay that combines the better parts of action and stealth. And there’s something to be said about its comic book noir style, which you just don’t see in games anymore. If you can look past its imperfections, you’ll find a troublesome future that’s worth embracing. I just hope they patch up some of the problems sooner rather than later.

RATING: 7.5/10

If you can get over some glitch issues and the Quick Time Events, Liberated fits right in with your Switch library.

Golf With Your Friends Nintendo Switch review: par for the course?

These days, golf games aren’t quite as common as many would prefer. We’ve seen no sign of a Mario Golf entry in this generation just yet (it’s coming though, right, Nintendo?); and EA Sports gave up its pro game, forcing 2K Sports to step up with its PGA Tour 2K21, arriving this August. So what are players to do in the meantime? Well, you can putt balls around with Golf With Your Friends.

Originally released on Steam a while back, the casual-friendly golf hit has finally made its way to consoles. It’s not without its caveats – namely with the lack of a course editor that extends the replay value. However, it does have positives as well, especially if you have a group of friends looking to become king or queen of the putts.

It’s All In The Hips

General gameplay for Golf With Your Friends works on a basic level. You can aim your shot with relative ease, then set up the power with the analog stick and press the button to launch. There are secondary things you can apply as well, including spin, which is quite useful when it comes to getting around certain obstacles on each course. And, boy, are there obstacles.

Yes, the course design is a bit ridiculous.

The first course alone has some holes that will test your patience, particularly one with rolling logs that may force you to start over entirely since you never really get a proper chance to reset the ball. But then come later courses, including ones set in a space station, a museum, and even one based on the Worms franchise. They’re deviant, to say the least, but they might be too complex for their own good.

That’s not to say the game is bad, because it’s not. It’s just certain things that get in the way of getting full enjoyment out of it. For instance, the “free cam” feature, which gives you 15 seconds of looking over the course before playing it, actually does very little good because it ties in with the regular controls. That means you can accidentally pull off a shot, even though you’re just looking over the course.

If some tweaks were made to the game’s controls – particularly with speed and having a “reset” option in case your ball just doesn’t stop rolling – it’d fare a lot better. As it stands, Golf With Your Friends has decent gameplay, but never really anything that goes above and beyond.

Course Design Aside, This One Doesn’t Look Bad

Despite the developers going a bit mad on the over-the-top course design, Golf With Your Friends doesn’t look half bad. It’s not an extremely polished game like, say, Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, but it captures the general appearance of what mini golf should be. And there’s some charm here too, particularly with some bonus power-ups on the course.

As for the music, it’s okay. There’s nothing here that’s extraordinary or even somewhat licensed, but it’s a soothing collection of tunes that fit right in with your golf game. Take it for what it is.

Good On Your Own, But, Surprise, Better With Friends

Golf With Your Friends does let you get practice going solo on each of the 11 courses. But obviously, it’s built with multiplayer in mind; and if you get the right group going, you’ll have a blast.

All that’s missing is GLADoS.

Not only can you set up matches with others and play in realtime as you dominate the course, but you can also pick different options. Party Mode provides a nice twist on things with assorted power-ups to either help or harm your performance; and there are Basketball and Hockey modes that change up the rules slightly, forcing you to “dunk” the ball instead of just sinking it. These are worth trying out, provided you’ve got the right group willing to experiment with you. (Some people, surprisingly enough, just want to play a simple game of golf.)

Online performance is excellent with this game, as we had no problem getting into a match and enjoying it with others. The only downside is when you miss certain highlights. There’s no replay option of what the other players did. Again, fingers crossed we see something like this with a patch down the road.

And, yeah, we would’ve liked that course creator. It would’ve opened a lot of community doors with a game such as this. Hopefully, Team17 will give it consideration, as it’ll really open up the magic of what Golf is all about.

Hardly a Birdie, But It Gets Away With Par

While Golf With Your Friends isn’t quite the total package it is over on Steam, its arrival on consoles isn’t half bad. It really depends if you have friends that you’re willing to play with, hence the name. Single-player is okay, but the course design might be a bit much on you, especially in certain spots. But get some buddies together, and it’s easier to shrug off the shortcomings and just get your putts in. Besides, it’s not like we have many other golf games to play this summer, and you really can’t afford that golf cart rental fee, now can you?

RATING: 7/10

It has its issues, but Golf With Your Friends scores a solid par, especially in multiplayer.

Holmgang: Memories of the Forgotten First Look: The Gang’s All Here For Hack and Slash

Can Holmgang breathe life into hack-and-slash fare?

Hack-and-slash games have a lot to offer these days, even though it may seem like, in some of them, they’re doing the same old thing. But it’s when you add an extra little ingredient – like, say, role-playing elements – that the process can be taken for a surprising turn.

That’s exactly what the team at Zerouno Games has in store with its hack-and-slash adventure Holmgang: Memories of the Forgotten, which is currently underway in its funding phase over on Kickstarter. In essence, the game promises to be a spiritual successor to the classic Castlevania: Lords of Shadow games, with 3D combat combined with neat role-playing techniques to make it stand out in the crowd.

Even in its early state, Holmgang looks great.

Here, We Hack and Slash

With a development team that features a number of veterans in the industry (including some from MercurySteam, the developers behind the Lords games), Zerouno looks to make a name for itself with its first original IP. Though funding is slow thus far, the team is confident that it will generate a large enough audience that will want to see this inspired adventure come to fruition.

The game takes place in the land of Dracorum, where all is at peace. However, following the death of its emperor, Hazulem, it falls into darkness, with monsters creating havoc all over the place. It’s up to three key heroes to step up and try to bring the light back to the world.

Each character brings something unique to the table with their general attacks. However, players will also be able to customize their attacks with buildable combos, as well as the ability to roam the land, as well as the water beneath it. What’s more, they won’t go it alone, as they’ll have several sidekicks to choose from. 

And just imagine how the finished game will look…

These secondary aides can lend you a hand when the going gets tough, or should your character be slightly overwhelmed by enemies that might get in your way. And that’ll happen often; but with your hero and sidekick working together, you’ll be able to overcome the odds.

Something New For the Genre

The combat style in Holmgang will be quite familiar to Lords fans, with a number of chainable combos and other techniques to master. There will also be Finishers, in which you can take down an opponent with the right amount of style. You’ll also need to solve the occasional puzzle, such as moving around blocks or trying to get something activated so you can continue to move forward.

But along with a customizable combat technique for each character and a variety of moves at your arsenal, Zerouno also wants to make the world itself a brilliant part of Holmgang. This includes making the freedom of choice over the course of the game, such as possibly staying behind with someone, or continuing forward into another area. And with the game’s “multi-path” approach, you don’t have to necessarily go the same way twice. That’s how Holmgang will differ from other hack-and-slash games, as it’ll offer something new each time you play, either with the combat system itself or with where you want to go next.

This Art Style’s Going Places

Holmgang will also feature a mixture of 3D and 2D side-scrolling segments, like other games of its type. It’s a pretty cool effect that works kind of seamlessly, creating an immersive world with different perspectives that should keep players intrigued. Not to mention the various enemies you’ll face off against, ranging from large, armed behemoths to more spiritual types that could pose a challenge. (Looking at you, Dark Cabal.)

Thus far, Zerouno has a lot of innovation going into the game’s design. It’s still a bit on the light side considering the game’s early Kickstarter days, but the final effect should create something that fans of this sort of game will be proud of. Not to mention the innovative combat, the three different warriors and the ability to explore a huge part of the world. That’s hard to turn away from.

The combat promises to be very…enlightening.

You can learn more about the Kickstarter project here and see if Holmgang: Memoires of the Forgotten is your speed or not. If it’s successfully funded, the team hopes to bring it to Steam as well as consoles, including Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. If not, they do have back-up plans in place, though the crowdfunding route is the best bet at this point. We’ll see how this adventure unfurls in the months ahead. But if that sort of thing is in your blood, you may want to give this “choose your own adventure” style game a good look.

Layers Of Fear 2

DVS Gaming Video Game Review

Layers Of Fear, horror, and suspense wrapped into a dingy dark video game. If you had played the first Layers Of Fear game, that was released in 2016, then you have no clue what’s about to crawl out of the corners of the second installment in the series. Unlike most horror game series that tend to follow the same story through-out the multi-game series, Layers of Fear brings you story upon story without looking back. There are very few things similar to LoF2 to its predecessor. Both games brought to you by Bloober Gaming, which sets an example for how far they’ve come from the original planning and testing of Layers Of Fear. Thanks to GunMedia, the second installment of Layers Of Fear is polished and curated to make the experience even more indulging. As Layers Of Fear started as an ”Indie Game” in 2016, their studio has grown and made possible this amazing horror.

Darkness Wrapped in a Mystery

As is with most horror, music and atmosphere truly make the game. If one is lacking, then surprise and deceit can be seen from chapters away. Yet if it’s drenched in mystery and soaked with fear, the smallest of shadows can send one spiraling into fear. Layers Of Fear 2 truly built upon their strongest points. Between the lighting in the game, the music and the sense of never-ending mystery, this game offered more within its first chapter than most horror movies do in their entirety. Shadows played against the light in perfect tandem to the madness building in your mind, making you second guess what you thought was real. What you thought was your story, has changed again and again into a dark hallway with the stories of those who have been trapped on board…

The Candyman Comes To Play…

Welcome onboard the ship…this is where actors come to play, to cry, to die. The 1930s style suite you landed in offers no help to your confusion. You were told to come for a play, yet you’ve found no stage nor any scripts. Just the lone phonograph taunting you with a steel cylinder used to record sound. You’ll find yourself enthralled with the amount of history in the suite; the art, the photos, the music… The Voice. As you move through the game, exploring more of the ship, finding out that the play is to be conducted as realistically as possible. With no interruptions from the crew or any other passengers, you have full right of the ship. As the evening goes on, and you have finally come to find that you are alone in this play, a voice can be heard. First quietly, almost taunting you into the next chapter of the game. A familiar, immediately frightening voice peers through the crashing waves against the ship. CandyMan… Otherwise known as Tony Todd, is the voice narrator of this game which only adds to the intense darkness of ‘Layers of Fear 2’.

Welcome to The Show

This Ship Is Not For The Weak

Tony Todd’s voice lulls you into a false sense of darkness, as Tony does, slowly making you comfortable with the horror you are about to experience. Tony does well introducing the story to you, leaving you alone in silence just as the ship starts to turn. Chapter after chapter, the stories being written scratch at the back of your mind. Shadows play in the halls, dancing in and out of rooms causing you to follow them as curiosity is one of mankind’s weaknesses. Layers of Fear uses your own inability to quell the curiosity, to lure you further into the story. The ship continues to toss and buoy in the oceans drift, this being shown by small glimpses to the deck, or through portholes along the hallways. As you move through the chapters, the darkness starts to illuminate more than just some monsters waiting to pop out of the dark.

The ship, previously thought to be empty had signs of children and crew on the levels where you were told to explore. Stories unfold, sadness and evil coming together binding upon the ship, trapping all those who enter its chambers. The food you had walked by, has now become rotten with time. Spiderwebs stretch across the halls and rooms as far as the eye can see. Parts of the ceiling had collapsed, giving the actor a clear sense of madness as the rooms continued to change. To escape your own madness, you’ll have to piece together clues that surround you with every step, every word of the stories told to you.

The Calming Seas

Can you tell the difference between reality and make-believe?

Choices to be made…yet with no discernible proof for either choice, with nothing more than a perfectly poised question during your darkest moment…the choice will be yours to make. Good or bad…a choice is a choice that has to be made. Will your fear make you choose? Or will you be in control of your fear? Strength has no meaning in a destitute place like the Ship. Only the darkness can show you the way to the light. Has it been a day? A week? More? The Ship is control of what you will experience and there is but one ‘man’ whose been freed of the Ship, but at a cost. You hear more and more of this man, but every photo you come across with him has his face scratched out for none to see. The Actor and The Painter, again and again, these men haunt your vision. You learn more about them through the slides and photos you find scattered about the ship in its many rooms.

The humanity…what’s left of it…can be more frightening than the monsters in the dark.

As you scavenge for clues and anything that can help your protagonist make his way through the story, don’t forget to enjoy the scenery. Layers of Fear is drenched in horror. Keep your eyes wide when you explore, as you’ll find hidden references to Horror Movies and Monsters of the past. Some will be more apparent than others, but there are over 30 references in the stretch of Layers Of Fear 2. If you’re lucky, you might just figure out what the link between Layers of Fear and Layers of Fear 2 is….

Careful in the darkness, it can make you go mad…

Layers of Fear is exactly what the title says, layers of your fears. One upon the other, forced into tandem as you experience the darkness that surrounds and expels from your soul. Layers has a unique feature, that you can choose the pivotal points in the story. You, the ‘Actor’ will have to choose between your morals or your gain. Will you save yourself, reach the deck and feel sunlight against your skin again? Will you succumb to the cries of children? Your choices are important and can impact your gameplay, heavily. Will you refuse the beautiful darkness that Tony Todd speaks softly to you? Layers of Fear 2 is an amazing psychological thriller game that takes you in-depth of horror history and it’s building blocks. From the visuals to the story, to the sound, Layers of Fear 2 has encompassed that of which makes a horror game, a horror game.