Heroes of Hammerwatch review – pixel battle madness

Considering that the indie market is rife with games right now, you might have missed out on a 2017 gem called Hammerwatch. This retro-styled adventure game hit all the right notes with its initial release, and found a pretty strong following within the indie community. Well, if that one didn’t get your attention, then its follow-up, Heroes of Hammerwatch, certainly should.

Like the original game, Heroes attains the same pixelated art style that makes it work so well with retro gamers and newcomers alike. However, at the same time, it also has you taking on waves of enemies in the hopes of scoring loot, while working alongside three friends in online co-op. It expands its universe really well, and is worth playing as you begin to settle into the dog days of fall.

It’s All About the Looting

Heroes of Hammerwatch begins on the most basic of principles, with general weapons to use and a little bit of progression as you carry along. However, as you get your hands on more loot (relax, there’s more than enough to go around), you’ll be able to unlock new gear and progress even further. However, as you get stronger, so do your enemies. And you’ll need to work closely with your allies in order to survive the next wave.

It looks tiny, but Heroes of Hammerwatch packs on a whole bunch of content.

The game can be played solo, in case you don’t really have friends to depend on. However, it’s a bit of a struggle doing so, as this was built with co-op in mind. It does do great for practice, though, so it doesn’t help to get a headstart there.

Once you do, though, inviting friends into the fray and taking on adversaries is a ton of fun. It’s great to work together and clean house while looting up and becoming more and more powerful. What’s more, you can make your way through the game to get New Game +, where a true challenge awaits. And there’s DLC on the way, which should add further to the adventure. (No word on whether it’s free or paid content yet, but it’s likely worth it either way for fans of the series.)

The game plays really well, with a battle system that’s easy to adapt to and gameplay options galore, with more than one way to progress. That really opens up the personable customization, making your character feel more like your own. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The Visuals Pop To Life

Along with a solid gameplay system, huge progression options and replay value, Heroes of Hammerwatch expands upon the presentation of the original. The pixel-based graphics are wonderful, popping to life while never really stretching beyond their means with slowdown or anything like that. The developers at Crackshell really did a fundamental job capturing the old-school nature of the game, while at the same time giving a fresh approach that works really well here.

Needless to say, things get explosive in this game.

The sound is equally nice, with great sound effects and music that play along with each battle you get into. Pop on a pair of headphones and soak in that soundtrack!

The real question some players might have is, “Can I enjoy Heroes of Hammerwatch even if I didn’t play the original?” The answer is yes. It’s a highly adaptive game that works for fans and newcomers alike, although, again, it’s best if you have a battle group in tow alongside you. Single player is good for practice, though.

A Battle Worth Enduring

With a solid presentation, fun progressive gameplay and lots of replay value with options and New Game +, Heroes of Hammerwatch is worth sinking your teeth into. All that’s left to wonder is what the developers will do with the franchise next.

RATING: 8/10

Heroes of Hammerwatch proves to be a worthy successor to the 2017 indie fave.

Hotshot Racing PlayStation 4 review: did someone say throwback?

Arcade racers aren’t really that common nowadays – probably because we don’t have arcades at the moment. (Damn it COVID!) But, fortunately, there are some developers out there that are trying to give us that classic “throwback” feeling, back in the days when we were more concerned about getting first place instead of getting a lofty update filled with racing stats.

Hotshot Racing is the latest attempt to bring back the “good ol’ days,” from the team at Lucky Mountain Games (with some help from Sumo Digital). It’s all about that old-school rush, with polygonal racing cars and models, and tracks that look like something out of the Virtua Racing school. It’s a little on the short side when it comes to content, but it has mileage to spare – perfect for a game of this nature.

Taking It For a Spin

You start the game by choosing your racing circuit, in this case from various Grand Prix championships. You’ll start at the beginning, where you can get accustomed to the control of your car, and also choose your driver of choice, who provides commentary throughout. At first, it can seem a little annoying, but it actually adds personality to each race, and you’ll soon develop favorites as you go on. They have back stories that provide a little more detail as well.

Ah, the good ol’ days.

Then you get into the racing action itself, which is pretty good. The drift system does take a little bit of getting used to, as it’s far different from the drift-happy days of, say, Ridge Racer. But it’s a concise system, and one that can actually net you power as you continue. You’ll be able to use that for boosts, which are crucial when it comes to scoring a first place victory.

As you go on, the competition gets a bit tougher, with more aggressive AI that has no reservations when it comes to knocking you off the track. You’ll see some hints of this rage in the beginning, which may force a restart if you feel up to it.

There’s a lot to do outside of Grand Prix, though. There’s also a fun Cops and Robbers mode, where pursuit is the name of the game. We haven’t had this much fun with a mode like this since Need For Speed: Most Wanted. Also interesting is the Drive Or Explode mode, where you have to keep going fast or your car blows up. Hmmmm, sounds like a particular Keanu Reeves film out there. (No, not Constantine, you doofs.)

Get some friends together and have some laughs!

And then there’s multiplayer, jam packed with up to eight players. The best way to go with a game like this, however, is splitscreen. It’s great going up against friends in various modes and seeing what you can do in each circuit. There are other options as well, however, if you feel like competing a different way. Just be prepared for some real road hogs out there.

The Look’s The Thing

Another magical element to Hotshot Racing is how wonderful it looks. I mean, it’s simple compared to some of today’s other racers, but it’s a wondrous throwback to the 90’s style of design. The polygonal look of the cars and drivers is just about perfect, and there’s a hint of customization where you can make it feel more like your genuine ride. On top of that, it’s great to see various tracks in different locations, adding some variety to the proceedings. The track count overall is a bit on the short side, but, again, the game is loaded with replayability thanks to multiplayer options and modes.

Call the cops!

The sound is good too, with cheesy rock music playing in the background and some good voiceovers by the characters, though some are better than others. The sound effects are good too, right out of the Daytona rulebook, it seems.

Get Ready To Race

Arcade racers don’t really come along too often anymore, so Hotshot Racing’s arrival is a gem. It’s reasonably priced at around $20; and though the track offering is on the limited side, there’s so much to dig into here when it comes to drifting arcade bliss, character selection, modes and multiplayer. You’ll have a ball – and then, like us, get on the phone and bug Sega about releasing another Sega Rally. We need our very long easy right, baby.

RATING: 8.5/10

An arcade racer that checks out in every category, Hotshot Racing more than deserves your money.

Bite the Bullet Xbox One review: bon appetit

With games like Contra and Metal Slug setting such a standard (lest we forget about the brilliant Gunstar Heroeseither), a side-scrolling shoot-em-up needs something to help it stand out in this day and age. Fortunately, that’s just what Mega Cat Studios does with Bite the Bullet, a unique adventure where digesting your enemies is just as vital as taking them down. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s a gorefest and a gorge fest.

There are some unique power-ups you’ll discover along the way, and sometimes a little food can go a long way. But it also keeps the game from reaching its (ahem) fullest potential. As a result, it’s definitely got its joyous moments, but just narrowly avoids being the stuff of legend. Still, if you’re a fan of the genre, it’s worth a shot.

Getting Your Belly Full

What’s interesting about the food digestion dynamic in Bite the Bullet is that it serves as both a necessity and maybe even a curse. You need to eat food in order to keep your health bar from dwindling. However, you might end up stuffing yourself a bit too full, and as a result, your performance may suffer a bit. There’s a fine balance to find here, and it kind of throws off the hectic action that the game has in store otherwise.

Finally, heroes that aren’t afraid to pack on a few pounds.

That said, it’s a great idea, and mostly executed about fine. Plus, there’s some cool things that happen to your character depending what you eat. See, the food you digest actually has an effect on your DNA. As a result, you can do different abilities, or even make some of them permanent if you choose. Just remember, taking one path doesn’t always guarantee success, so you’ll want to experiment.

Other than that, the power-ups are cool enough; and there is some notable action, though it does slow down a bit at times.

A Yummy Presentation

Backing up the game’s acceptable amount of action is a presentation that can’t be beat for fans of the genre. First off, despite some slowdown issues, the visuals in Bite the Bullet look very good, between some sharp animations, great background detail and even some neat lighting effects. It’s old-school taken to the next level, and it suits the game well.

Not to mention the soundtrack, which is absolutely excellent. It’s fun to listen to, especially if you pop on a set of headphones and bop along to your own beat. We couldn’t get enough of this.

“A salad bar? No thanks.”

Finally, you can go through a few customized touches within the game. Not only with your soldiers’ DNA, mind you, but also their appearance. You can create the hero of your dreams with a fairly easy-to-use system. Just remember, it’s the actual DNA components that change how they play, not necessarily how they look.

A Good Treat

No, Bite the Bullet won’t change the shoot-em-up world, due to some slight problems with its gameplay and having to actually balance your meals. But it’s based around a solid idea, and it’s good fun. Plus the presentation is among the best in this genre, as you’ll like what you see and hear. Grab your silverware – or controller, I suppose – and dig in.

RATING: 7.5/10

Not the best the shoot-em-up genre has to offer, but Bite the Bullet is a delectable treat.

Double Kick Heroes Xbox One review: shine on, you crazy demon

There are lots of rhythm/music games that you can delve into right now, even if the genre isn’t exactly hustling and bustling like it was in the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games. There’s all sorts of classics to dive into, like the memorable Gitaroo Man; and, of course, you can’t go wrong with Cadence of Hyrule on the Switch.

But it’s been ages since we’ve had a pretty good title that’s resorted to “headbanging,” or blasting along to the likes of classic heavy metal with a good head of hair. (Yes, that includes mullets.) And this is where Headbang Club comes in with Double Kick Heroes, a game that relives those glory days the best it can, complete with a fun story mode and an array of pretty good tunes.

Get Down With Your Bad Selves

Does it have the same quality line-up as, say, Rock Band 4? No, and that’s mostly due to budget. But the developer does a good job anyway, with an assortment of tunes and challenges that will keep you on your toes. When you’re not banging your head, that is.

In the game, you take control of a band that’s all gathered together in a little cruiser, hitting the open road while zombies, demons and other monsters pursue you from behind. Your job is to hit beats that appear on the bottom of the screen to keep attacking them, so they don’t catch up to you.

The show must go on.

On easier difficulty settings, Double Kick Heroes is a cinch and will get you accustomed to the controls. However, bump it up a notch and you’ll see two rhythm tracks to match up instead of the one, as well as having to steer the car on the road to avoid obstacles. It can be a little challenging at first, but Headbang managed to create a suitably balanced game here, once you get used to it.

What’s more, there’s a lot included with the game. Arcade lets you play any song you unlock right off the bat; and Adventure mode has a great story to tell, revolving around the band that you’re playing as. Then there’s Hellgate mode, for those that really want to bump up their rock skills. How hardcore is it? Well, there’s a Gojira song. So that about sums it up.

Overall, the gameplay works, though harder settings might be a bit weary for newcomers. But it’s got its own appeal to it, something that works in a genre that’s seen all sorts of examples in how to master music. Double Kick fits nicely right in there, and should suit fans to a tee.

A Good Retro Style, and a Decent Soundtrack

For Double Kick Heroes’ visuals, Headbang sticks with the old-school, with an 8-bit style that really works for a game like this. The multi-scrolling apocalyptic settings are excellent, and it’s fun to watch the characters rock out while the world ends around them. The screen is also conveniently set up, with the action on the top screen and the beats conveniently scrolling by on the bottom. Again, it might be a bit much for some, but it’s easy to follow after a couple of rounds.

A mutant tank? Seems like a good time to unleash some firepower.

As for the soundtrack, it’s mostly indie tunes, although it is great to see Yann Ligher and Carpenter Brut (look them up, seriously) provide some contributions. I just wish some songs weren’t simply in one mode, like that Gojira challenge exclusively in Hellgate. And there’s no word on DLC, so it would be nice to hear about some kind of expansion.

Rock On With This Indie Fave

Also, the monster noises are great, albeit a little brief. But you came here for the rock, not the suffering, right? Unless you’re down with both, that is.

While Double Kick Heroes’ lack of AAA bands and somewhat questionable difficulty may not do it for some, Headbang has made an appealing game that caters to the wannabe rock gods out there. It’s a music/rhythm game that nails its chords properly, and is good fun to play, especially for those up for a challenge. And its visuals are appealing, right at home that want to take in an old-school presentation. Turn off the Nickelback for a moment and enjoy the good ol’ days of monster rock, because this game is worth it.

A game that rocks out with its schlock out, Double Kick Heroes is a good time.

RATING: 8/10

Neon Abyss Xbox One review: go ahead and dive in

We’ve seen enough roguelike shooters make their way onto digital shops over the past few months, it can be easy to miss out on certain ones. Neon Abyss is one of them, a game with an interesting name – can you really light up an entire abyss with neon signs? – and a lot of fun under the hood. The real question is finding that hook that makes you stick with it in the long run. Fortunately, I did.

The game doesn’t have much story to speak of, and most of its elements seem borrowed from other games, particularly Enter the Gungeon (with its teleport system) and even a hint of The Binding of Isaac (with finding “followers” that provide enhancements). But Team 17 and its developer, VEEWO Games, pack enough goodness to overcome some of the “borrowing” from other games and make this one feel like its own. Especially as you begin discovering the hidden stuff while digging deeper.

There’s an Abyss of Danger Here

The first thing you’ll notice is just how well structured Neon Abyss is. At first, looks can be deceiving, as it can take a while to get going. But then you start to discover hidden rooms, themed goodies, and those wondrous eggs, and you really get to see how it all comes together.

One of the more engaging boss battles in the game.

Not to mention it’s fun as heck clearing out a room of enemies. The game utilizes a classic shooting system that works really well here, even though there are times your bullets might hit an object instead of an enemy. (It’s not an accuracy thing, just an occasional slip o’ the stick.) It’s good fun, and the challenge definitely picks up as you start running into bosses that won’t hesitate to mow you down with patterened attacks.

Not to mention the enhancements from those eggs you find. They aren’t entirely game changing, but you can feel the differences that they make, so they aren’t a waste of time. And the other weapons you find, while not over-the-top creative like Gungeon, are worthwhile, so stock up when you can.

Overall, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but Neon Abyss offers solid gameplay for hours on end, and you can’t go wrong with that.

A Good Looking Game

While some may think Neon Abyss doesn’t go over the top with its visuals (it’s definitely an older style, akin to Gungeon), VEEWO has added some nice touches here and there to keep the dungeon hunting from going all “same ol’ same ol’” on us. A few of the themed rooms are spectacular, and you can even engage in a dance party before you jump in for the fight of your life, if you please. The game also features solid old-school animations, and some downright haunting boss designs. (Not quite Carrion haunting, but pretty close.)

This dungeon has a damn bar!

The music is also pretty cool, a nice mix of classic tunes that play in the background while you shred everything. The enemy effects could use a bit more variety, but not bad. And it sounds really cool when you’re taking the game on the go with your Nintendo Switch.

It Doesn’t Change the Genre, But Neon Abyss Makes a Solid Dent

This likely won’t replace Enter the Gungeon as an all-out classic on the gaming front; but Neon Abyss has a surprising amount of goodness to offer if you stick with it long enough. The game design is a lot larger than we expected, and the cool “neon-esque” vibe it gives off can be felt within its visuals and sound. It’s a solid game, but it’s missing that certain spark to push it to the next level.

RATING: 7.5/10

Ah, well, if you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll find this Abyss well worth jumping into.

It doesn’t revolutionize roguelike games, but Neon Abyss is a fine entry nevertheless.

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.

Mega Modz PlayStation 4 controller review: perks make all the difference

When it comes to owning a controller, people usually like the default options provided by first-party companies, mainly because they’re both dependable and affordable. But there are also companies out there that offer modified third-party models, featuring modifications to improve performance in a number of other areas, such as remappable buttons and even additional buttons for extra functionality.

This is where Mega Modz comes in. It’s a company that provides modified controllers for some additional cost but makes up for it with extra built-in features. For instance, the PlayStation 4 controller they sent us for review includes two rear buttons, so that you can save your thumbs the wear and tear on the face buttons – or maybe even as additional triggers, in case you want to give your fingers a break. But is the extra cost worth it…?

Building your own controller

The first step to making your own controller is setting up your design on the Mega Modz page. The company already offers a number of pre-made ones, including the outer space-themed one we chose to review. From there, you can add extra custom parts, including colored D-pad and face buttons, along with other features. The control sticks can’t be changed completely in color, but the insides can match up with whatever design you wish, to add that extra flourish for a few dollars more.

Yes, we got funky with our design.

From there, you can decide which mods you want to be put into the controller. These include trigger locks for more refined handling of fire and aim buttons with first-person shooters; or the aforementioned remappable buttons, in case you want to put a certain move somewhere than originally intended. You can also ask for the additional buttons to be installed, right alongside the grips on the rear of the controller. They’re actually handier than you might think, especially if you want to give those worn down trigger fingers a break.

Some functions are easier to put onto the PS4 controller than the Xbox One, if only because of Microsoft’s somewhat stern build designs for its devices. Still, the features available here are pretty nice, no matter which console you want to go for. Hopefully, we’ll see the team expand into Switch Pro Controller territory fairly soon, as we know a few fans that would love those.

Handles like a charm

For the most part, Mega Modz’ take on the custom controller handles just as nicely as the routine PlayStation 4 pad. The analog sticks had no trouble when it came to making our character perform their actions on-screen; and the buttons, even with the changed-out color design, were just as smooth as the previous ones. The only real difference with the parts is that the D-pad is slightly “mushier” than the regular edition, though it still performs reasonably well.

As far as the mods go, they’re up to par. The rapid-fire mod should be ideal for those that want to get some additional firepower going within their games (if it’s not already an option available by default); and the rear buttons work admirably, though there are times that the button fell off a couple of times during some rough-and-tumble sessions. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to re-apply and get back into the game.

As for the build itself, it’s solid, with the designed shell holding together on the controller very nicely. And with the different designs available, you should have no trouble finding something your speed.

The rear buttons are small but very effective.

Regarding cost, the Mega Modz PS4 controller can set you back somewhere around $150 or so, depending on the model and the mods you choose to install into it. That may be somewhat steep for some, but Mega Modz backs their controllers with top-notch performance and service, so you’ll have no trouble staying on top of your game.

We haven’t had a chance to see the Xbox One model in action just yet. However, judging by what others say, the new analog sticks put onto the Xbox One Elite pads are somewhat strong. We’ll have to see what’s offered down the road.

Mega Modz is a mega improvement

While there are other controllers on the market to choose from, Mega Modz’ PS4 pad is a good choice for those looking to get the most out of their games. The addition of mods is rather cool, particularly when it comes to the rear buttons; and a good portion of the build is strong and sturdy, backed by customer service as needed. Plus, the designs are really cool, as you can see on the company’s main page.

If you’ve got a few extra bucks set aside and want a controller that really gives you your money’s worth, this is a Mega choice for your peripheral collection.

RATING: 8/10

A tad high on price, but Mega Modz includes enough features in its controllers to make it worthwhile.

Outbuddies DX Xbox One review: a little too Out there

With the success of games like Axiom Verge and Hollow Knight, Metroidvania games – a blend of open-world exploration and combat – are better than ever. And ever developer is trying to get a turn at making one, just to see what uniqueness they bring to the table. But just because everyone thinks that they have a good idea doesn’t mean it always translates well.

Case in point – Outbuddies DX. There are some blueprints in place for Headup Games’ latest release, but it doesn’t quite come together as it should. That’s because the gameplay and general design often conflict with one another. You can see the classic intentions the developers had in mind, but it can’t quite get to where it wants to go.

Meet Your Buddy

In the game, you’re a scientist, sent to a deep underground area to do a little bit of exploration. Joining you in the game is a secondary robot friend, who can assist in dragging items around.

Outbuddies definitely shows its Metroid inspiration in some way.

What’s neat about introducing this character is that a second player can jump in and take control of him. Having a co-op aspect in a Metroidvania-style game is a rare feat, to be sure. And pulled off well, it can make for hours of fun. Pulled off well.

The problem is, the robot doesn’t really have the same general gameplay as the main character. Most of the time, you’re in assist mode and don’t get to do anything really cool. As such, your friend or whoever’s playing along with you may be entertained, but it’s only for a short while.

But the gameplay in general just feels like it drags when it should be getting better. The combat, for example, doesn’t feel gratifying when you defeat enemies. Instead, because of the game’s tedious control scheme, it can actually feel like a struggle mixing it up with others. What’s more, needing to scan each room you step into becomes rather boring, instead of, well, actually exploring it yourself.

The secondary tools aren’t much help either. The map is pretty much useless, as it can take a good while just to even pinpoint where you need to go. You’re usually needing to turn to it as a quick resource. But that’s just not the case here.

It Almost Has That Retro Appeal, Almost

Headup did do some decent stuff when it came to Outbuddies’ aesthetic with its presentation. On the one hand, the sound is excellent, with fun retro tunes that sound like they fit into classic games of yore. The effects are great too, right down to the individual sounds of things happening in-game.

Even the boss fights can’t make the game that enjoyable.

And yet, the graphics throw us off a little bit. Sure, they’ve got a retro-style motif, but they’re also not as clean as they should be. It’s like you’re running through some kind of muddy filter instead of seeing everything for what it is. What’s more, the level design is tedious. Instead of getting excited about new areas to explore, you just feel the tedium as you go, “Not this again.” Throw the need to scan pretty much everywhere you step and, well, it just gets old.

These Buddies Aren’t Exactly Friendly

I know the developers meant well when it came to creating a sweet experience with Outbuddies DX. But it just can’t get the job done. The muddy visuals, frustrating gameplay, fractured design, and tedious secondary items just don’t do enough to merit its existence. Maybe the team can patch everything up and show us the game that this was meant to be. As it stands, however, you’re probably better off digging into Axiom Verge instead, especially since it’s about the same price.

RATING: 5.5/10

Outbuddies DX has some good ideas, but can’t take advantage of them enough to procure a memorable game experience.

Skelattack Xbox One review: no bones about it

Who knew? All this time, I always thought Konami was invested in so many of its franchises that it wouldn’t try something new. But, alas, here we are with its first “indie” title in quite some time, the charming if somewhat difficult Skelattack. And those of you that are in the market for a challenging platformer shouldn’t have a bone to pick with it.

Those Pesky Humans!

I won’t divulge too much of the story because it kind of goes into spoiler territory. But Skully, aided by a friendly bat, Imber, decides to take them on, sword in hand, for the sake of his kind. What follows is a Metroidvania-style adventure where you take on a variety of humans while overcoming platforming challenges. If you’re familiar with games like Dead Cells and Guacamelee!, this should be just your speed.

Now this is a party.

What’s more, the game has a unique approach with its visuals, almost looking like something akin to the Cuphead style of design. It’s got these great hand-drawn images that bring a Tim Burton-esque world to life, even if some of the level design is put into question. This ran very smoothly with the Xbox One version we tested, and it didn’t let up over the course of the adventure.

That, combined with the somewhat sweet music score and interesting sound effects, create an experience that’s not usually with the Konami fold. I kind of like that, if only because they aren’t afraid to diversify and try new things. Hell, it’d be great to see what other fun platformers and experiences they cook up.

Be Ready For a Challenge

That said, Skelattack does take some getting used to, mainly with its challenge level. While there are more than enough checkpoints to go around, it can take a bit of adjusting to get into the gameplay, particularly with wall jumps. They’re a bit messy at first, but as you get into the rhythm, it becomes fairly easier to get to higher areas. But only slightly.

What’s more, it doesn’t help that some of the traps mean instantaneous death, and you have to venture back to the checkpoint and attempt the perilous spot again to try and get your gems back. This could’ve been a little easier in terms of design, to go along with the game’s charming visuals. Alas, it may throw a few people off in the long run.

Someone isn’t a fan of Harry Potter.

But if you can get into it, you’ll find a game worth your time. It’s hardly on the same level of Dead Cells, but, really, what is? And it’s just the summertime game you might just need if you’re in the mood for something Halloween-y.

Hardly Bone Dry

Besides, supporting something of this level will push Konami to keep trying out the indie waters. Imagine a Castlevania-style adventure with hand-drawn graphics as well. Shivers.

RATING: 7/10

A flawed but enjoyable platforming adventure, Skelattack is worth the time of Metroidvania fans.

Rigid Force Redux Xbox One review: another shmup for your collection

Know what series I miss? R-Type. Since its introduction in the late ’80s, Irem has continued to pump out quality sequels in this series, supposedly wrapping up with R-Type Final on the PlayStation 2 years ago. But since then, it’s continued to live on to some extent, thanks to the awesome remake of R-Type Dimensions and the in-production sequel of R-Type Final 2.

In the meantime, however, Headup Games and the devs at Com8com1 have created a spiritual successor that fans should love, even though it’s not entirely the same experience. Rigid Force Redux channels that fun, manic R-Type energy, but into a game that players of all ages and skillsets can enjoy. It’ll definitely hold you over as you wait for the next great shmup to arrive – and its $17.99 price point makes it more affordable than most.

Time To Save the Galaxy, Again

Two years after the game’s initial debut on Steam (as Rigid Force Alpha), the game has arrived in its final form on consoles and is better than ever. It’s got the typical storyline, as you venture out into a galaxy filled with trouble, tasked with saving it. But the way it tells this story is actually quite good, with stylish sequences and voice acting that lend some character to the overall package. You can skip past them if you wish, but the dev really went a good route here.

That’s a crapton of firepower.

It’s obviously the shooting that matters here tho; and Redux delivers it in spades. It’s a lot of fun to play, with a design akin to the newer R-Type games, featuring 3D visuals paired with 2D gameplay. It’s a formula that really works, especially when it comes to the intense boss encounters against all sorts of freakish aliens.

You’ll want to take in the tutorial if you can because the control system is rather neat once you learn what all it can do. This includes utilizing a firing system to its maximum intent, using some for shielding, and shifting your bullets where they’re needed the most. It’s R-Type-ish, but with its own creative approach. 

In addition, you can also suck up energy gems to activate a special supercharged blast that can help you during the aforementioned boss fights. You can also use a Radiant Silvergun-style energy sword in case some enemies get a little too close. You’ll have to keep everything properly balanced, but it’s a real surprise how well it all comes together.

A Great Presentation, But the Length’s a Little Short

Com8com1 nails what makes a good presentation with Redux. The 3D visuals look dazzling on both the Xbox One X and the Nintendo Switch, even in portable form; and the explosive action doesn’t let up that often. What’s more, the power-ups are colorful and really pack a punch; and some of the later boss battles show great creativity.

All the visuals are nicely backed by a great soundtrack, performed by the team at Dreamtime. They really know how to put together a terrific set of “shmup tunes,” as it were, and you can hear the results throughout. Coupled with the great voice acting and effects, it’s a classic shooter experience.

It’s not Tattooine, but there’s still a lot of trouble in this sand.

Alas, the ride comes to a close all too soon, as Redux runs a little short on levels. There’s only six in all, which means you can pretty much beat this game in one sitting. All that’s left is trying to tackle it at a faster pace, as well as taking on extra modes like Boss Rush. But I would’ve liked this adventure to continue a little bit longer. Maybe that’s something we could ask for in a potential sequel.

It’s Just Our Type

If you’re a “shmup” fan or, better yet, someone who’s been aching to get some side-scrolling shoot-em-up action going along the lines of R-Type Dimensions, then you’ll love what Rigid Force Redux brings your way. It’s exciting to play, with innovative gameplay that tips its hat to the past and a presentation that can’t be beaten. It’s also got surprisingly big production value, despite being a second-tier title to the classic R-Type series. The ride ends all too soon, and there’s very little in replay value outside of bonus modes, but we suppose that’s just a reflection of shooters from the past. Don’t forget. With games like these, it’s more about the journey rather than the destination. And this is a great journey.

RATING: 8/10

Rigid Force Redux packs a punch as a full-on tribute to R-Type, complete with innovative gameplay and presentation.