Pathfinder
Adventures
Nov 17
Posted by Mark at 16:28

Asmodee Games has been making its name porting board games to the digital format, and one of their more recent is an adaptation of the RPG card game Pathfinder.

You start by selecting a handful of characters and building decks for them given certain restrictions. Then, after a short visual novel-style cutscene, you drop each of them into one of a choice of locations. Each of these locations has their own deck of cards, featuring a mix of monsters to defeat, weapons to collect and allies to recruit- and one location's will contain the Big Bad for this scenario.

Each turn you pick the top card from the location's deck, and then you react to it by rolling dice and picking cards from your Hand to make your dice rolls more likely to succeed.

Hands tend to be in the region of five or six cards and represent both your toolset and your health. Weapons, by example, allow you to add an extra die to your combat roll- if you roll a number higher than that on the card you drew from the Location deck, you defeat the monster, and if it's lower, you take damage to the value of the difference between the dice roll and the card. Or, in other words, discard that number of cards from your hand.

At the end of each turn you draw cards from your Deck to fill your hand and if you cannot hold a full hand you die, this means you die with cards left which can feel unfair, especially if one of your characters has a larger hand, which can make up about a third of the deck.

Play cycles through each of the characters in turn until the location they're in can be 'closed', either by working all the way through the location deck or fulfilling some other criteria specific to that place.

If you encounter the Big Bad, it is fought in the same way as all the other monsters- although when defeated, it will attempt to run away. If it is encountered prematurely, locations can also be temporarily closed if a character is already there at the time- this means it they can only escape to open locations, giving you an idea of where it's hiding.

This, coupled with the 'Blessings' deck, which acts as a de facto time limit, adds elements of strategy to your character and location choices- fewer characters mean that you can focus and use time more efficiently, but more means you're better able to corner the Big Bad sooner.

There is a lot you can do with your deck to improve your chances, with more powerful cards having more powerful effects and more tweaks that help to mitigate the fiddlier effects of the enemies you will face, although it's this stage where the game starts to fall apart.

The PC version of Pathfinder Adventures is, if you like, an adaptation of an adaptation- the game swapped cardboard for pixels once already, being released on mobile before being ported to Windows. The mobile version is Free-To-Play, while the PC version is a paid game, with paid DLC expansions.

While the microtransactions are happily left behind, there has been no meaningful change to the gameplay in transit- outside of the campaign scenarios, Pathfinder Adventures is very much a currency-based affair, which means grinding and loot boxes.

Playing through a normal scenario will see your deck both gain and lose cards, and the end of each scenario will see you having to rebalance your deck, removing cards of a type which you have too many of, and replacing cards lost of types that you have too few of. You draw these from a 'stash' of cards, shared between your characters- although this itself comes with limitations. The stash can only hold twenty cards, and all the rest must be thrown away and exchanged for currency- as such it's difficult to build a decent selection of cards, limiting the scope for experimentation.

The game is decidedly stingy when it comes to handing out currency, and even though cards which fall out of the loot box go into a seperate stash which doesn't need to be regularly emptied, once they're in your deck they're up to be lost, something that can really start to grate when the dice decide that they're not on your side.

There are also other problems that have arisen from the conversion from one platform to the other, notably that we had trouble getting the game to run at a decent frame rate on a few PCs unless the resolution and a lot of the graphical effects were turned down, and some aspects of the touch-based UI translate badly to mouse control- something that is pleasingly tactile on mobile becomes admin with a mouse.

There's a solid game at the base of this, but it's perhaps not entirely compatible with videogame business models, at least not without serious rebalancing. The paper version might well be a better choice.
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The Norwood
Suite
Oct 02
Posted by Ben at 15:23

I have to admit to an ignorance of who Cosmo D is, I never encountered Off-Peak, a free, and seemingly memorable game Cosmo D put out a year or so back. Hearing the synopsis for The Norwood Suite, your night in a strange remote hotel, full of odd-ball characters; I was expecting Twin Peaks, what I got was a fever dream Jazzpunk

I guess the comparisons with Jazzpunk are inevitable but truth is The Norwood Suite is its own thing. Jazzpunk was thick with gags and laughs, The Norwood Suite, while not lacking in humour, itís just odd. Itís not wacky, thereís a coherence to everything, it just looks a bit off kilter. The plot is fairly simple, you arrive at the hotel with the intention of getting in to the DJ set in the basement, to do this you have to help the various guests with their problems. A lot of the conversations are fairly normal too, believable even, certainly my reservations that the game might be a bit of a hack job were laid to rest by the interactions being so well handled. The more I played the more I looked past the garish visuals and odd models and started to be reminded more of Flower, Sun, and Rain (the Suda51 adventure game).



To give The Norwood Suite some context, rather than just bang on about how odd it can be, itís actually a fairly straight forward 3D adventure game. Before I even got inside the hotel I met a couple in the carpark, we talked a while, then they asked me to get them a 6-pack of energy drink. To get it for them I had to solve maybe 3 or 4 other tasks, certainly because of the order I was picking stuff up in it was towards the end of the game I got it for them. Thereís not too many out and out puzzles, itís mainly hunting for objects, which usually have some indication that theyíre important, but there are a couple of moments that require some brain power



The look and sound of The Norwood Suite are certainly itís own. All conversations take place next to a music source, the game focuses on music for its story, and the soundtrack is available on Bandcamp. The game world has a look; bright, garish, neon colours, characters made entirely of clashes. Objects exist in the world in places they shouldn't, statue heads inside drawers, that sort of thing. Itís a bit of a mixed blessing, one one hand the game has its own feel, yes everyone who reviews it is going to scrabble around for the same couple of games to liken it to, but that really says more about how we review things, it bears repeating, The Norwood Suite is definitely its own thing

The flip side is that it set me on edge. Not in a horror sense, thereís nothing especially creepy going on, more that itís hard to look at, a bit too much for the senses. Itís that feeling when youíre still hours away from the end of a night thatís taken a turn, like you've been in a club too long and the air is making you nauseous. Donít take that to mean I didn't enjoy The Norwood Suite, but itís probably more accurate to say I ďenjoyedĒ it.

As clichťd as it is, I've got to finish this review by saying The Norwood Suite isn't for everyone. The tone, look and feel to the game is enough to put some off, I liked it, but itís painfully easy to see how many wouldn't. Itís a shame its not funnier, at least that would give people a bit of a hook to latch on to. The gameplay is fine, nothing to write home about, but it works, it gets you to explore the hotel and experience the characters. If you go in knowing what to expect, if youíre the kind of person who likes an experience as much as a game, The Norwood Suite is worth a look

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Fate/EXTELLA
The Umbral Star
Jul 21
Posted by James at 04:19

We donít usually review ports, but the Switch is so energising for even the most familiar of games, and what could be more familiar than a Warriors-style action game? Indeed, Marvelous has served up a Switch port of Fate/Extella, throwing in all previously released DLC to boot. Itís also landing on PC via Steam within the same week.

First things first: Mark has already reviewed the original PS4 release, so head over here for a detailed rundown regarding the gameís narrative and how it fits in following on from PSP game Fate/Extra.

Done? Okay, well, the gist of how Fate/Extella plays is simple: Think of it like a Fate-flavoured take on Omega Forceís own Warriors games, where it uses its disassociation with that series to do enough to take it beyond its setting within the Fate universe.

Beyond the expectedly rhythmic but button mashing combat, Extella is a Warriors game that focuses more on territorial control. Each battlefield is divided into sectors: Claim enough land before your enemy does and you get a stab at battling their Servant commander.

Itís within these higher-level proceedings that the real battles are waged, as you constantly need to ensure that youíre not putting all your eggs in one basket and attacking one sector for too long.

Reclaiming a sector takes time Ė to claim back land you must wipe out a few Aggressors first, who are basically big baddies that happen to also be damage sponges. Meanwhile in faraway sectors youíll often notice that ďPlantsĒ Ė enemies with the capability of spawning more Aggressors Ė constantly try and undo your progress, sending the foes to sectors youíve reclaimed, and those where your own fighters are struggling.



Do you spend a few more minutes reclaiming this one sector or should you drop everything to rush to a sector where a Plant is sending more enemies elsewhere?

Itís in moments like these, when Extella constantly ups the anxiety and throws you into situations where you never feel quite so comfortable taking on cannon fodder, where the game is at its best. Youíll often need to adapt and find an optimal route to travel around the map too, as later stages pile on the pressure by introducing enemy ambushes in some sectors, leaving you with no choice but to waste a few minutes cleaning up before youíre allowed to advance.

Despite placing a large emphasis on territorial control and continuous travel, itís hard not to feel disappointed by Extellaís rather safe and uninspired level designs that reside within each battleground. While thereís a pleasing amount of variety and scale to the backdrops, each sector feels disconnected from surrounding ones.

As a result you almost have to depend on the minimap just to get simple bearings, as scenery and structures are repeated so often that everything quickly looks the same. While the game is still playable like this itís evident that something has been lost. Youíre almost too disconnected from the action that youíre orchestrating, and the battles themselves would certainly come off as more engaging and memorable if each map was designed to feel like an actual place, rather than a series of small, identikit areas.

Still, the way Fate/Extellaís fights flow from a higher level provides enough fun in spite of the gameís shallow combat, and it does a lot to compensate for its shallow combat. Each playable Servant has an ever-expanding combo tree, but new attacks rarely feel like substantial game-changers compared with their level and equipped skills. Specials, while satisfying to use, reveal all their tricks far too quickly. It bears to be repeated: The lower-level proceedings lack depth.



The technical chops behind the Switch port lie somewhere between what Marvelous originally delivered for Vita and what was upgraded for PS4. When the Switch is docked, instead of opting for a significantly higher rendering resolution over the handheld's display, the differences are more subtle: Characters gain cel-shaded outlines and thereís noticeably better edge smoothing (antialiasing). There is, however, a drop in framerate from the game's PS4 cousin to a locked 30 frames per second. While the Switch has no trouble hitting this target consistently, making everything more than playable, it's hard to shake the feeling that the gameís fast-paced combat isnít as deliciously fluid as it could have been.

Meanwhile, Marvelousí inclusion of all DLC (plus one exclusive item) grants access to a few dozen character costumes, each with their own accompanying character portraits. As with the lore-heavy narrative and story, Fate fans will probably find a lot more to appreciate there. The PC version does not include any DLC but itís worth noting itís slightly cheaper to compensate.

Fate/Extella is a game of two halves. On one side it plays a rather satisfying game of territorial control Ė if this is what you like about Warriors-style games youíll probably get a lot out of it, even if youíre not well versed in all things Fate. On the other hand, the combat is shallow, and the gameís ties with the Fate universe are more entrenched than they were with the PSPís Fate/Extra. While Fate/Extella can easily seen as a love letter to Fate fans, itís also more inviting to the uninitiated than you might expect.

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Slime-San:
Blackbird's Kraken
Jul 20
Posted by Mark at 16:08

There's a lot to be said for the Expandalone.

It's a format that ticks a lot of boxes that the business side of gaming likes, but in a way that doesn't put players off. It lets the publisher make a Service Game and recieve the longer-term revenue stream associated with it, but by being more than simple DLC players feel so much like they're getting exploited, but less than a sequel meaning you avoid coming down with the relevant '-itis' and fatiguing the series.

On top of that, because the Expandalone isn't reliant on the presence of the original it can reach a new audience- a new entry point for people, rather than limiting yourself to people who already bought the main game. A good example would be Death of the Outsider, the expansion for Dishonored 2.

This is where Blackbird's Kraken comes in. An expansion to the now only two-and-a-half-month-old Slime-San, a precision platformer, much the same as Super Meat Boy. The objective is to fling your fragile protagonist from one end of the level to another, bouncing off walls and avoiding sawblades and projectiles as you go. In each of these levels, there's a bunch of bananas hidden somewhere, and if you can pick it up, you can use it to buy new characters with their own physics.

The gimmick Slime-San brings to the table is tied into its limited colour pallete. Everything is either white (and therefore just a platform), red (which kills you on contact) or the same colour as the protagonist, green- and by holding the left shoulder button, you can pass through these objects as if they weren't there- time even slows when you use it.

This is all paired with a double jump, as well as a mid-air dash.

If this sounds complicated, it is. The precision platformer really lives on its simplicity, and giving you two tools to use in the air, both of which are functionally very similar, overcomplicates things. If you couple this with inconsistent-feeling rules on how they can be used in tandem (sometimes you can use your second jump after you've dashed, sometimes you can't. Even then, if you'll pardon the pun, that can be all up in the air if you've walljumped) it can be challenging for the wrong reasons to traverse even relatively simple levels.

These abilities and the level design try to push together the speed of Meat Boy, but the puzzles of something closer to Switch- or die trying, and these things don't necessarily go together. Very often the reaction to landing a jump is a case of OHGODWHATDOIDONOW, rather than more instinctively feeling the character's intertia and rolling straight into the next one, and that's on the rare occasion that you don't feel like you've succeeded by accident.

Bafflingly, all the levels are bundled into batches of four, but your progress doesn't save until you've beaten them all. While the four levels tend to share some common theme, this save structure means that once you've bluffed the third one, if the fourth frustrates you into quitting out, you've got to do the first three again later. If you do subsequently bluff the fourth one, but miss the bananas in the second, then you have to go through all four again to have another go.

A short tutorial aside, Blackbird's Kraken drops you in at the deep end, and doesn't really give you a lot of time to get used to the mechanics. When the DLC was announced, much was made of the quirky way it's being released- as an Expandalone for a nominal fee, or as a free addition to people who already have the main game.

So unlike the Dishonored DLCs, which dial back a little bit and start you from zero again with a new storry and a new lead character- effectively a new, short game. Blackbird's Kraken is simply Slime-San's next hundred levels, and as such it's harder to see this as an Expandalone- if you've got the original game and you're prepared to overlook its flaws it's more and it's free and that's wonderful- alone, it's very hard to see the point.
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Toby
The Secret Mine
Jul 05
Posted by Mark at 17:15

A situation involving monsters, it seems, when combined with small, out-of-the-way villages, only really ever go one way. Towards the former kidnapping and hiding the residents of the latter- and that's exactly what's happened in Toby: The Secret Mine.

Toby, of course, decides he's not going to stand for this, and sets off to rescue his friends- following the paths of previous would-be rescuers, he heads into the nearby forest, where he discovers many of his neighbours are a long way from home.

We're in puzzle-platformer territory here, much the same as Limbo or Braid, but with slightly fewer pretentions of telling some ground-breaking, medium-redefining story- just getting straight into the platforming and the puzzling.

The platforming is quite simple, and early on, so are many of the puzzles, mostly equating to rubbing up against something that prevents your progession, then tracking back to find the hidden crate you'd walked past and then pushing it forwards, but it's not long before that changes, with later levels not only pushing your platforming skill but also creating increasingly complex puzzles.

In fact, Toby isn't shy about changing up its gameplay as you progress- discarding one type of puzzle for another well before you get bored of it.

The decision to stick to an art style where almost everything is flat black- as if the entire scene is being lit from behind, casting the foreground into shadow- allows the backgrounds to shine. Although, it can make it difficult to see different types of terrain or other traps before you're on top of them and on occasion it can be difficult to tell the difference between a usable platform and an object in the extreme foreground, which can lead to a lot of cheap deaths.

(Tellingly, there's a trophy for dying 100 times, but none for completing the game with a minimal number of deaths)

It also means that the game can over-rely on hiding objects and routes in blacked-out areas that only become visible when you enter them, which works for the hidden Friends you rescue as you go along (Just the 26 of them, which is a pleasing number of collectables for a game of this length), but can annoy when an important area is hidden this way.

These are minor issues, though- Toby keeps its gameplay varied, and doesn't outstay its welcome.
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Hidden Folks

Jul 03
Posted by Ben at 15:20

Hidden Folks has actually been out for a few months, I canít say that Iíve seen a lot of talk about it, I guess you wouldnít for a hidden object game. For whatever reason Hidden Folk has repeatedly cropped up on my Steam suggestions during the summer sale, so finally I caved in and gave it a whirl.

The easy comparison is Whereís Wally (or Whereís Waldo depending where youíre reading this), Hidden Folks gives you a sizable image, busy and bustling with lots of distractions, characters and objects move, itís all animated in some way. Youíve got a list of characters or objects at the bottom of the screen and you need to hunt them down to check them off. For some youíll be able to just spot them, matching the image at the bottom to the character placed somewhere in the picture, for others youíll need to use the attached description to work out where theyíre hidden.



In the early stages Hidden Folks features fairly small Ďmapsí, zooming out will let you see most of whatís there, and zooming in will give you the detail. This is probably Hidden Folks at its most fun, itís charming and the game gets a chance to show that. The inventive puzzles, characters hidden behind, under, or in things, they can be showcased here and be fun, later on thatís not the case. The maps eventually become huge, ultra busy, with needle in a haystack levels of detail. Itís impressive, I wouldnít say no to a screensaver or a wallpaper, but it can tip the balance from fun to frustrating. If you compare the desert level to the later factory level, the factory is set out in compartments, if one of the hidden folk is obsessed with tyres, it probably means theyíre hidden near some tyres, so scout around the map for some. Compare that to the desert, with its almost featureless landscape, finding everyone can be a bit of a chore

That being said, itís probably for the best you donít have to find everyone. Find enough folks and you can move on to the next map, so there is an argument that a lot of the frustration I felt playing Hidden Folks was my own doing for not moving on until Iíd found everyone. Itís also probably worth mentioning that while Hidden Folks isnít a multi-player game as such, itís the kind of game that lends itself to a few people working together, certainly I hit a wall a 2nd pair of eyes helped me get past.



All this being said, Hidden Folks didnít take me that long, and returning to a map after being stuck for a while meant I solved it. It took me around 4 hours to find everything, but I suspect binging like that isnít the best way to experience Hidden Folks. At £6, less in the sale, itís not exactly bank breaking, and there is a level of charm and humour to it. Once you complete the game thereís the promise of more content to come. So, while itís hard to get too excited about a hidden object game, Hidden Folks is certainly worth a look if youíre after a change of pace

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Guilty Gear Xrd
Revelator 2
Jun 12
Posted by Ben at 16:41

The thing that always strikes me about Guilty Gear, and I guess Arc System Worksí fighters in general (even Battle Fantasia), is how idiosyncratic they are. For the most part, anyone with a passing knowledge of fighting games could sit down with a Street Fighter or a King of Fighters and do something, Guilty Gear takes a bit more time. Itís testament to the work put in by Arc that it doesnít seem insurmountable, in fact a lot of Guilty Gearís systems quickly start to make sense.

Guilty Gear does things differently, in terms of attacks thereís Slash and Hard Slash, but then punch, kick, and now ĎDustí. Youíll sometimes find specials do work across buttons, but not often. In short, each character has to be learnt, even on a basic level. Go beyond the basic level and the characters reveal themselves to be even more unique. Thereís characters whose attacks have to be set up, characters who can teleport, characters who counter, getting the best out of them is something you need to learn to do, itís not simply a matter of practice, you arenít always going to stumble on to these techniques. It does though mean that when you take the game online you arenít facing the same character over and over. The wealth of depth to the characters means that thereís no Ďflow-chart Kení, youíll see a variety, and every character will have someone who has learned exactly how to wipe the floor with you. Whether by luck or design, itís an impressive feat

Itís why the tutorials are always going to be a big part of any modern Guilty Gear review. They arenít perfect, but they do a good job of showing off the systems. You start with the absolute basics, moving and jumping to pop balloons, then quickly progress to not just attacking, but effectively attacking by comboing attacks together. These are simple chains, but then itís the next step, bursting so you can can land an extra hit or two, or dashing so you can keep a combo going. From there you can learn specific character moves, learning how to chain specials, even how to defend effectively. Itís here where I wish theyíd gone one small step further and had the option of a demo to show whatís expected of you, as thereís some I just wasnít sure where I was going wrong.

Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator 2 has a few modes outside of training, maybe a couple less than youíd hope, but enough. Thereís more periphery stuff like the gallery and figurine mode, nice little bonuses but not where youíre going to spend serious time. Thereís also the arcade mode, which has character specific stories and sets up the actual Story mode, which is like an in-engine anime, free from combat but quite well done. The online is handled fairly well, and I really like the lobby system. Itís a world you enter, and while thereís not a lot to do there, and itís a shame you canít spectate, I do like that you can sit at an arcade machine and wait for an opponent. They might need to broaden the servers sooner rather than later to keep them populated, although I didnít have too many problems finding a match. Not true of Ďrankedí, where I did struggle to find a match, but you can queue a ranked match up and get on with other things. I guess the real shame is that the PC version doesnít have cross-play with the PS4.

I had a few fights where there was a strange sense of dropped frames online. Itís not lag, and itís not dropped frames as youíd (potentially) see if the game was struggling, but it felt like inputs were being ignored. I had plenty of good fights, but I could see people who take online more seriously really cursing it.

I guess the only real criticism I have of Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 is that I just donít really like playing as a lot of the Guilty Gear characters, and the ones I do like Iím familiar with, exasperating the feeling that Revelator 2 is an incremental change, even over the 2 game predecessor Xrd Sign (my last Guilty Gear). Itís a good game, as good as itís ever been, but Iím not sure Guilty Gear has the luxury of being able to just throw more characters in to the roster and calling it a day, theyíre all too idiosyncratic for that. If youíre a die-hard then more of the same is probably enough, but know thatís what it is going in, if youíre new then itís as good a place to start as any.
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Akiba's Beat

May 16
Posted by Mark at 13:45

Following on from the provocatively-titled Akiba's Trip, Akiba's Beat brings us back to Japan's nerd-Vegas Akihabara, where, on a random Sunday, some massive speakers have appeared on the side of the train station. Nobody, mind you, seems to have noticed, save for Asahi Tachinaba- protagonist and inevitable NEET- and one other person who seems far too happy about the matter.

It's in front of the speakers where he meets Saki Hoshino, another one who is able to see the speakers, and her familiar Pinkun, the most annoying thing in the world. She explains that the speakers are the manifestation of the delusion of someone nearby- specifically, the overexcited man from earlier, who is pining for the earlier days of Akihabara, when it was a hub for audiophiles to pick up equipment, rather than the videogames and anime place it is now.


When the source of a Delusion is found, a door to their Delusionscape appears- a dungeon, if you like, to the overworld of Akihabara- and at the end of the Delusionscape is a boss which must be defeated in order to snap the individual (or "Deluser") out of their Delusion, and return Akihabara to its proper state.

With that Delusion cleared up, the day comes to an end, and everybody goes back home. The next day, however, is Sunday again, and there's another Delusion on the other side of town. Asahi and Saki team up again to get to the bottom of the appearances of the Delusions, and see if that's got anything to do with the days repeating.

The design of the Delusionscapes are closer to those found in dungeon crawlers- boxes full of enemies connected by corridors- and don't really offer a great deal to explore or even experience, something which is made all the more obvious by them being simply platforms floating in space, making the limited scope of the dungeons very clear.

Combat is action-focused, with the players' party transporting to a closed arena to fight an arbitrary number of monsters. Standard attacks clock up Skill Points which are spent on more powerful Skills, unlocked by levelling up and triggered by a flick of an analogue stick and tapping the Skill button. A limited number of Action Points also limit you to four actions before having to step out of the way for a short period. While it's hardly going to give Souls or any 'proper' fighting games any sleepless nights, it does make it a little bit more involved than just bash-bash-bash.

Blows that land fill the Imagine Meter, which can be deployed when complete for a short period of hightened attack power- a song can be selected to replace the background music, and hits made in time with the music during the verse increase the damage done when the chorus comes around.

There's also missed potential in the game not supporting multiplayer, as the Action Points could lead to some fun couch co-op teamwork situations, especially as more Skills unlock.

The questlines which take you from Delusionscape to Delusionscape are less interesting, however. These tend to involve little more than running from one end of Akihabara to the other to hear a small amount of dialogue, before running back to hear a bit more, then somewhere else for a tiny bit more, before the game relents and lets you access the next Delusionscape- this is exacerbated by the time loop narrative meaning that often the same thing has to be cycled through a few times in order to unlock the associated Delusionscape.

Sidequests which pop up in between milestones in the main quests don't fare any better, being the same but without the relief of a Delusionscape, or at least no new ones of their own.


The Akihabara of Akiba's Beat is an incredibly small number of anonymous, built up streets, lacking in any meaningful landmarks beyond two large empty spaces, one of which makes up nearly half the overworld. The area is too small to be Grand Theft Auto's Liberty City, and each area- seperated by loading screens- isn't differentiated enough to be The World Ends With You's Shibuya. It might be faithful to the real location, but in practice it just means you spend all your time getting very lost and abusing fast travel to get from place to place- this makes it even more like an exercise in admin than an adventure.

(Acquire also weren't able to licence the shops and adverts in the town, which you probably won't notice unless you're really invested, with only one name really relating to a company you'd have heard of in the West)

The plot, which takes you from Delusionscape to Delusionscape, also takes in the many subcultures Akihabara has played host to from its current love for idol singers, to less recent maid cafes and gothic lolita fashion trends, spending some time with each individual Deluser and showcasing what gives each of the subcultures its appeal- while still being able to take a friendly pop at them, even if it does tend to think it's a lot funnier than it is.

As such, each different Delusionscape brings its own thing to the table- not only does each one have a new setting, the change in art style reflecting the current Delusion, but also adds a new mechanic, even if these are things as simple as 'dead ends' and 'doors'. The wider game is also good at adding new things as you go along, introducing sidequests and later a trading card system to boost your stats. Even if those things aren't as original as they could be, there's always something new around the corner.

Ultimately a lot of Akiba's Beat is going to pass straight by a lot of people- what you're going to get out of this really relates to how into your otakudom you are, and even then how much you want to go around an off-brand version of Akihabara. If you do, it's certainly a perfectly enjoyable game, and you'll get a lot out of the setting, but it's a tougher sell to anybody who's not into the virtual tourism.

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What Remains of
Edith Finch
May 02
Posted by Ben at 14:18

What Remains of Edith Finch is by Giant Sparrow, the people behind The Unfinished Swan, which was inventive and clever. What Remains of Edith finch is shorter, denser, and feels less like a collection of chapters bundled together, and more like a cohesive narrative

It's a narrative game, not a huge amount in the way of gameplay other than finding which objects you can interact with. You've returned to the family house, which is almost like a Tim Burton bit of architecture, all your family has died off, often in tragic or strange circumstances, and so your mother took Edith and abandoned the house hoping to leave whatever "curse" has beset your family. You wander through the house, discovering the stories of your ancestor's lives, and sometimes deaths

All your ancestorís rooms are locked, so you have to find a way in, itís usually fairly simple and one room generally leads to another, and each room has its own vignette or story. The vignettes are brilliant. Some are shorter than others, but some really are fantastic, or fantastical, inventive, joyous, and every so often, heartbreaking. You can see the legacy of Unfinished Swan in there, but I was also reminded of That Dragon Cancer, and while it's a horrible thing to say about a game that's as raw and honest as That Dragon Cancer, but Edith Finch does it better, even if it doesn't have the same weight behind it

Thereís a brightness and charm to What Remains of Edith Finch, one I wasnít expecting given the tone. Itís a love letter rather than a suicide note. It really does feel as though the characterís lives are being remembered rather than their deaths, itís whimsical at points. It looks great too, at points I was genuinely surprised by how good it looked. There's some moments where it's just that the fidelity is amazing, maybe it's running at a higher resolution on the Pro, but there's other moments, an underwater section in particular, that just have superb art design. There are a few rough edges, repeated objects, the game loading in on the periphery of your vision, and some pop in when zooming in to distances, but on the whole itís a very well put together game.

As always with this sort of game, itís incredibly subjective. Whether you like What Remains of Edith Finch will depend on if the story grabs you, if youíre fine with minimal gameplay, and, of course, if you think the price tag is worth the brief experience. What I can say though is that I thoroughly enjoyed What remains of Edith Finch, more than I expected to after the first vignette, and while itís not a sure thing for everyone, itís a game that will stay with me
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Hue

Apr 08
Posted by Ben at 14:50

We could have reviewed Hue a while back, back on its PC release we were offered it, but we didnít have the time unfortunately. Itís nice then that going back to it, buying it with my own money, and playing it because I wanted to, has revealed Hue to be a fantastic little game.

Hue is a puzzle platformer, a 2d indie puzzle platformer if you can imagine such a thing. It tells the story of a young boy named Hue, his mum is a brilliant scientist who has discovered a colour beyond the visible spectrum, and has unfortunately lost herself within it. The story is told through letters that sheís left for Hue, and act pretty much as the beginning of chapters. The story is centred on her struggles as a scientist, her regrets, and her realisations. Itís a strange one, thanks to the superb soundtrack (itís really is a standout), the first half of the game feels morose, and I spent that period waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the tragedy to reveal itself. It never really happens, Hue is actually a charming game, relatively philosophical, but itís not as heavy as it initially appeared.

The gameplay is whatís important in Hue, and fortunately it more than stands up. As you progress through the world you systematically pick up colours. Hue can use these colours to change the world around him, meaning things hidden in a blue background will show up in another colour, obstacles or traps or one colour can be made to vanish if you match their colour. In simple terms, expect moments where you have to make a jump and while in midair switch the colour to provide you with a platform to land on. As you progress youíll encounter elements that alter the colour of objects, meaning you have to start thinking on multiple levels rather than just simple timing or block moving puzzles

And thatís Hueís strength, it keeps providing you with something new to think about. ITís very easy initially, instead forcing you to get to grips with switching colours on the move, but it doesnít dwell on a puzzle set for too long, nor does it repeat ideas all that often. The difficulty is pitched almost perfectly too. Thereís definitely a slightly turbulent feel to your progress, youíll be stuck on a taxing puzzle for a while, then race through the next few. Generally though very little of it seems unsolvable. Thereís no hint system, but, and maybe I got lucky, I never really needed it, playing about with the mechanics, trying and failing, would invariably reveal the next step.

It is a criticism I would level at Hue, up until fairly close to the end itís almost immaculately balanced, then it throws a couple of puzzles at you that involve mechanics that havenít been the focus up until then. Iím sure some people will race through the levels that had me stumped without a problem, then get stuck on the ones I tore through, everyoneís different after all, but it was a moment where I could have done with a hint within the game. Thereís a slight feeling that Hue outstays its welcome, actually maybe thatís unfair, more that the structured pacing of the game is discarded towards the end. Up until then youíve picked up a colour, then done a chunk of levels, before picking up another. It feels like the game should end 1 set of levels after picking up the final colour, but it continues well beyond that.

Not that Hue is a long game, maybe 4 hours or so, plus thereís some hidden items to find if thatís the sort of thing that motivates you. For the most part though I loved Hue, I wish the emotional connection I felt I should be having and the gameís narrative had managed to connect somewhere along the way, but aside from that Hue is a masterfully put together game, a real standout amongst itís indie-puzzle-platformer peers.
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