Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Most Overlooked Current Gen Games - Part Seven

It's been a bit of a homecoming of sorts here at SuperPhillip Central. We had a new edition of a longtime SuperPhillip Central favorite series of articles with Best Boss Battles in Gaming History's 20th outing, and now we have one of the longest running article series with "Most Overlooked" getting another entry. These upcoming Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo 3DS games flew under the radar for most system owners, but here's hoping that I can spark some interest in these otherwise enjoyable games.

Take a glimpse at all six past parts with the following links, and then get ready for Part Seven to follow!

Current Gen - Part One
Current Gen - Part Two
Current Gen - Part Three
Current Gen - Part Four
Current Gen - Part Five
Current Gen - Part Six

The Crew 2 (PS4, XB1, PC)

We begin this installment with a duo of Ubisoft games. The first of which is The Crew 2. The original game had an open-world United States where you could drive anywhere you wanted. Of course, this version of the States wasn't 1:1 compared to the real thing, but it was an exciting playground all the same. The Crew 2 expanded upon the driving of the original game while offering brand new flight and boat options. A multitude of event types were available for proficient players to pass and master, and the story took itself far less seriously than the rather irksome tone of the original. One possible bump in the road for The Crew 2--much like the original Crew--was its need for players to always be online in order to play the game. This brings up the concern of how useless will your copy of the game be when the servers finally go offline whenever they do? Still, driving cross-country with your own crew of friends and randoms online was a rush of a ride that I hope more players try out.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC)

Ubisoft was rather late to the party on the whole toys-to-life game genre. In fact, the genre is pretty much dead aside from Nintendo's amiibo line, and that's more for collection purposes anyhow. Even the Nintendo Switch exclusive addition of Star Fox to Starlink: Battle for Atlas couldn't do much to stop the game and its bundle from approaching bargain pin pricing mere months after launch. Better pricing means it's all the more easier to dive into the galaxy of Starlink, visit and explore mysterious planets, soar through the stars, and tackle engaging missions--all the while progressing through the  overarching story. The toys that come with Starlink aren't even required to enjoy the game, much less even play it. They're merely optional and are there more for the young'ins out there. The Nintendo Switch version of Starlink receives even more Star Fox-related content this April, so for Switch owners, there's no better time to enter the cockpit and brave the stars than now. For every other platform, the low price for the games in both physical and digital make for a worthwhile purchase today as well.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

The strategy RPG series Valkyria Chronicles returned to the battlefield this past fall, but it certainly didn't receive a hero's welcome. In fact, it didn't receive much of a welcome at all. Though critics and fans who played this tactical game enjoyed it and it reviewed well, Valkyria Chronicles 4 got lost in the shuffle and the hustle and bustle of the packed holiday gaming season. Unfortunate, for sure, as the new and refined gameplay systems in Valkyria Chronicles 4 make it one of the best entries in the franchise. The new "Brave" system, for instance, added a fresh spin on the series, and the return to a more serious tone in nature made for a game in VC4 that had some intensity and high stakes to it. Whether we'll see a Valkyria Chronicles 5 is up in the air, but if we don't, at least the series will have ended (or at least put on hiatus) on a remarkably high note.

The World Ends With You: Final Remix (NSW)

From a tactical RPG to an action RPG, we gaze upon an overlooked high-definition remaster of a cult favorite Nintendo DS game with The World Ends With You: Final Remix. No doubt the gaming world is insanely focused on Kingdom Hearts III, but director Tetsuya Nomura also had a hand in creating this DS-born series. Containing an additional, long-teased story chapter, new gameplay elements, touch screen or Joy-Con-based controls, and other updates to the game, The World Ends With You: Final Remix was a Switch exclusive that didn't gain much traction with the audience. No doubt the October release date didn't do this remaster any favors, nor did the bad press regarding the control scheme gameplay changes in comparison to the Nintendo DS original. Still, if you've never played The World Ends With You and are looking for a new Switch game to play (if the releases will let up, that is), then Final Remix is a great entry point.

Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido (NSW, 3DS)

A June 2018 release that was simply overlooked completely by the Nintendo Switch and 3DS audiences--including Nintendo itself by the understandable lack of promotion--Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido is a fast-paced puzzle game where rows of different color sushi dishes roll across the various conveyor belts. As you link similarly colored sushi dishes together, you create combos. The higher the combo you obtain, the more plates you get in your arsenal to throw your opponent's way, causing damage. Beware, however, as if you get greedy and hold your combo chain for too long, it'll break and you'll get nothing for your efforts. A myriad amount of rules and variables are introduced in Sushi Striker's rather lengthy campaign, offering things like Sushi Spirits to add to your arsenal, items, and much more. The anime cutscenes and lovingly done voicework make for a puzzle package that is heavy on charm and humor. It doesn't matter which version of Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido one chooses, as it's guaranteed to find a cozy place in one's palette--if you can overcome the incredibly crazy concept that is matching and then flinging sushi plates at opponents.

Trine 2: Complete Story (NSW) Review

We go from one puzzle platformer to another, though now we enter a game with combat and in two-dimensions as opposed to three. It's Trine 2: Complete Story on the Nintendo Switch, and SuperPhillip Central has this full review for you.

A game that sometimes was "Trine" my patience, but is an overall gem.

My first encounter with the Trine series was on the Wii U with--funnily enough--Trine 2: Director's Cut. Now, many years later I return to Trine 2 with Trine 2: Complete Story, which is essentially the same game as the Wii U version but without the aid of the Wii U GamePad's multiple uses such as the touch screen.

What you get with Trine 2: Complete Story is 20 levels spread out across two unique stories--the original Trine 2 game that encompasses 13 levels, and The Goblin Menace--formerly DLC to the base game--that contains 7 unique levels, one of which is hidden and requires you to find secret maps in treasure chests to unlock it.

The gang's all here... again!
Trine 2 stars a trio of protagonists that can be switched and cycled through with the shoulder buttons. You have Amadeus the Wizard, who can conjure boxes and later planks out of thin air. These boxes can hold down pressure plates, be used as platforms to reach higher up destinations, and a multitude of various other uses.

Amadeus the Wizard can not only summon boxes by drawing a box shape with the right analog stick,
but he can also use his powers to manipulate and move other objects within the environment. 
Then, there's Pontius the Knight, who is the muscle and brawn of the group of heroes. He is best suited for combat, equipped with a sword and shield--the latter of which can reflect enemy projectiles and block attacks. Also equipped with a hammer that can be thrown at will, this hammer can break open otherwise impenetrable walls and chambers.

What is Pontius' favorite Peter Gabriel song? "Sledgehammer", of course.
Finally, Zoya the Thief is probably my favorite of the three to play as--but don't get me wrong, each of the trio has their own uses and completing the game with just one hero is pretty much impossible. Zoya can attach a grappling hook to wooden surfaces and swing across chasms and gaps. The attached line can allow Zoya to lower and raise herself as the situation calls. For her offensive capabilities, she has equipped a bow and arrow, able to pick off and snipe enemies from far away.

Zoya leaps into action as the most mobile and agile of our three heroes.
As stated, each of the three heroes depends on one another. While many puzzles have more than way of solving them--that is, with a little ingenuity, patience, and otherwise occasional stubbornness--sometimes a specific character is necessary to make progress. Thankfully, Trine 2's checkpoint system has it where not does your progress in the level save upon reaching them so you can quit and come back to the game later to pick up right where you left off (levels are quite long, so this is a godsend), but your characters and their health are fully restored when you reach a checkpoint. Well, unless you play the Hardcore Mode, where once a character is dead, they're dead for good until you beat the level. This is not for the weak, for sure--which is why I didn't play it!

In the majority of levels in Trine 2, there are experience orbs that are carefully placed and hidden throughout the levels. Many of these are housed in some devious locations that require either some clever sleuthing to discover them and/or tricky platforming to reach them. When enough experience orbs are collected (the exact number is fifty), players earn a skill point. These points can then be used in the skill tree menu to earn new abilities for our three heroes.

These abilities range from allowing Amadeus to have the power to have more conjured boxes and planks on screen at the same time, to giving Pontius a charge attack, and to granting Zoya explosive arrows that serve a similar use to Pontius' hammer throw, albeit a much quicker form of attack. So, not only is there impetus to seek out and collect experience orbs, but it's usually just plain fun to do so. You really get to appreciate the level and puzzle design on display in Trine 2.

Pontius holds up his shield, ready to guard against this goblin's arrow.
Trine 2 does suffer some slight and small issues. One of these pertains to this Switch port. I noticed some artifacts appearing on the very bottom 1% of the screen at some portions of levels. This came rarely, so it wasn't really annoying--just noticeable. What is pretty much a standard problem with the Trine series in general is that platforming can be a bit on the finicky side. When trying to land on very narrow platforms, I tended to overcompensate because I couldn't tell if my character was actually staying put, often resulting in unwanted falls and even deaths.

Platforming can be a little tricky in the Trine series, and that continues with Trine 2: Complete Story.
With the bad out of the way, Trine 2: Complete Story looks absolutely sensational visually. The game features so many breathtaking vistas and environments that it's just a joy to sit back and gaze upon the backgrounds and levels. There might be a bit more bloom in the game than I would have liked, sometimes making it difficult to see certain objects in the environment, but overall, Trine 2 remains a gorgeous game after all of this time. The voicework is charming, well acted and performed, and the music evokes the fantasy world feel Trine 2 portrays.

Unlike Zoya, you don't even have to be on 'shrooms to enjoy the visuals on offer in this game.
Trine 2: Complete Story is just as great as it was when the original game initially released. Whether playing alone, locally or online with friends (good luck finding any randoms to play with online, though), Trine 2: Complete Story is a worthwhile adventure featuring smart and crafty puzzles, superb level design, a stellar physics system, and a glorious presentation.

[SPC Says: B]

Review copy provided by the developer.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Elli (NSW) Review

Elli is a Nintendo Switch exclusive that is a pleasant mix of platforming and puzzle-solving. However, that "pleasant" combination is over far too soon. See SuperPhillip Central's full thoughts on Elli with this review.

Elli Enchanted

When Elli's sister steals the five crystals that keep the world from falling apart, Elli must go after her, recover the crystals, and do this before the end of her birthday. Along the way, Elli encounters all types of Mandragora creatures that inhabit the world, providing assistance when they can. The most helpful Mandragora sit by gongs, ringing them when Elli passes by them, serving as checkpoints.

Elli's adventure has our titular heroine pursuing her crystal-stealing sister.
Elli is a puzzle platformer set in a 3D world with an isometric camera view. There is no combat to speak of at all within the game, but Elli herself can take damage and even die from fireballs, electric panels, missed jumps into bottomless pits, and so forth. Being a puzzle platformer, Elli has you carefully leaping across chasms, timing your jumps for successful landings across moving, mechanized platforms, and evading hazards with deft precision. This is all the while solving environmental puzzles of a rather nice variety.

With platforms that crumble when stepped on and fire jets, this platforming sequence is all about timing.
The puzzles start out simple enough, but by the end of the game, you'll be taking pause and scratching your head at some of the devious challenges put ahead of you. Whether you're flipping a switch to open a door (whether permanently or needing to rush to get through the passage before it closes), putting a block on a button to hold it down in place, collecting keys, gathering gears to fix a machine, or solving color-coded door puzzles, Elli introduces each concept well before further expanding on them with more challenging versions of the base puzzles. Many times you'll be faced with multiple puzzle types in one overarching puzzle.

Another chamber of platforms and puzzles for Elli to solve.
At five points in Elli's journey, she'll enter a rift area that takes the platforming and puts it into two-dimensions. In these rifts, Elli gets empowered with the ability to double jump as well as perform a "blink" maneuver--that is, a midair rush in which she instantly transports a few feet ahead of her. The goal of these rifts to retrieve one of the crystals stolen and clumsily dropped by Elli's sister. These segments do a nice job of breaking up the game and freshening things up.

Elli has a strict linear approach to its structure, even blocking you off from backtracking to previous rooms. While it would be nice to return to past areas, there's no real design reason to in the game. The only collectibles are currency and Hat Coins, and while the latter is the most limited to discover in the game, there are more than enough to purchase everything in the game's shop without needing to find and collect each and every Hat Coin.

Thank goodness Elli did her carb-loading before this strenuous adventure!
Still, there's little longevity to be found in Elli's five-or-so hour adventure. Sure, I wish to replay the game in the future due to enjoying my time platforming and puzzle-solving, but there really isn't much else to offer. Perhaps something as simple as a death count with online leaderboards that tally up how many times Elli perished in my run through the game would give me more motivation to return to developer Bandana Kid's offering. Heck, even achievements would fit the bill. Just something to make playing through Elli more than once more worthwhile other than "just because".

Why don't you take a picture? It'll last longer, especially since
you can't return to this area after you leave it.
To compare Elli to a 3D platformer such as the likes of Mario would be a fallacy. We'd be comparing budgets of an indie studio to the biggest game maker in the industry. Thus, I'm more forgiving toward the lesser polish and graphical glitches that Elli possesses. The frame-rate does stutter here and there, and there are platforms and areas that look like you should be able to jump on them, but instead, Elli simply falls through them. That's slightly more of an issue that I can't really pardon as easily. Meanwhile, the music is suitable for each area of the game, and it never gets obnoxious or grating.

Elli is an adventure that I thoroughly enjoyed from beginning to end. I just wish there was more to it, especially considering its $20 price tag. Some form of extra or piece of longevity like achievements, unlockables, or leaderboards would make for a more replay-able game, but as it is, Elli is a game with clever ideas and puzzle design, but not enough meat to it to satisfy those who decide to bite on its current price.

[SPC Says: C+]

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Best Levels in Gaming History - Volume Twenty

Best Levels in Gaming History, like SuperPhillip Central, took a bit of a hiatus, but now it's back for a historic volume number twenty! This time around this long-running segment of SuperPhillip Central returns with some blockbuster games like God of War, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, and more.

Take a look at all 19 past entries of Best Levels in Gaming History with these helpful links:

Volume One
Volume Two
Volume Three
Volume Four
Volume Five
Volume Six
Volume Seven
Volume Eight
Volume Nine
Volume Ten
Volume Eleven
Volume Twelve
Volume Thirteen
Volume Fourteen
Volume Fifteen
Volume Sixteen
Volume Seventeen
Volume Eighteen
Volume Nineteen

Lake of Nine - God of War (PS4)

SuperPhillip Central's Game of 2018, God of War features some truly impressive level design (well, technically, area design), but nothing most fascinated and impressed me than the area positioned right smack dab in the middle of the game's map, the Lake of Nine.

Other than the tremendous scope of the Lake of Nine--which to itself is a monumental and mind-blowing feat--the aspect of this aquatic area that I love the most is how it evolves over the course of Kratos and Atreus's adventure. This is seen as the water level drops more and more throughout the game, revealing not only new locations to explore on the lake, but also new entrances to previously accessed areas.

The Lake of Nine itself is littered with appealing points of interest, places to scour for treasure, areas to uncover and complete side quests, and so much more. Just how astonishingly expansive the Lake of Nine grows from its already amazing size and scope when Kratos and Atreus first arrive at the location to the end of the game makes for superb execution of smart, well planned out level design. That makes the Lake of Nine a tremendous location in one of the best games of this generation of gaming platforms.

Hyrule Castle - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (NSW, Wii U)

Going from SuperPhillip Central's Game of 2018 to SuperPhillip Central's Game of 2017, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has too much greatness in it to mention just one section of the game, but if I had to choose my personal favorite, it would have to be infiltrating Hyrule Castle in order to defeat Calamity Ganon.

Hyrule Castle can famously be visited at any point in Link's adventure--even after getting off the tutorial area of Breath of the Wild, the Great Plateau. Of course, reaching the throne room where Calamity Ganon resides is considerably no easy task, much more even surviving the several boss battles foolhardy players would encounter if they went directly to Hyrule Castle. Nonetheless, it is very much possible (though incredibly difficult) to beat the game as soon as Link exits the Great Plateau.

And that's what makes The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild so great--the freedom of the game. Much like the overall structure of Breath of the Wild, Hyrule Castle is completely open to explore, and you can reach the throne room a myriad of ways--whether it's meandering around the perimeter, around the outside and indoors of the castle, to simply calling upon Revali's Gale a couple of times to reach the castle's top and do battle with Calamity Ganon immediately. The tense music only further drives home how absolutely dire the situation at the castle is and how much is at stake.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild's Hyrule Castle is a complex and sensational final destination for players, and the many ways one can go about taking it on is in the sensational spirit of freedom within the overall game.

New Donk City Festival - Super Mario Odyssey (NSW)

After all of the hubbub from Bowser's unwelcome arrival and subsequent assault on Super Mario Odyssey's New Donk City, Mayor Pauline asks of Mario to round up the members of her band for a special performance. This performance is a cherry on top of one of the best levels within Super Mario Odyssey, and creates a magical Super Mario experience all in one. It's the New Donk City Festival.

Here, fireworks explode in the bright, festive nighttime background of New Donk City as Mario takes a nostalgic trip back in time to his Donkey Kong-defeating days, as the citizens he saved in the city cheer him on. This is all the while the super-catchy "Jump Up, Super Star!" plays, the main theme of Super Mario Odyssey.

In a delightful display, Mario enters a warp pipe and finds him from his three-dimensional self into his old 2D form. The goal of this level is to make it through each 2D room--some of which wrap around the sides of New Donk City's skyscrapers--and reach Pauline at the very top to be rewarded with a Grand Moon for all of Mario's efforts. It's a perfect presentation and display of just how special Super Mario Odyssey can be. Even after multiple play-throughs of this specific section of Super Mario Odyssey, I find myself smiling from ear to ear while platforming through the New Donk City Festival.

Tomb Wader - Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

We go to a game series that was once a bitter rival to Mario, and that's Crash Bandicoot. It's just absolutely wild that the original PlayStation trilogy's remakes were brought to the Switch for Nintendo fans to play. I absolutely could not imagine that growing up during the "Listen up, plumber boy" days of Nintendo vs. PlayStation.

Regardless, coming from Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped within the Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy is the Tomb Wader level, a clever pun on Lara Croft's series. Speaking of things that are clever, Tomb Wader as a level itself presents Crash with a temple trial with rising and lowering water at specific intervals at specific parts of the level, requiring Crash to stay safely above the water or else drown. There are also doors to be opened by performing a spin maneuver into wooden wheels, enemies with shields that must be defeated with a slide or else they're otherwise impenetrable, and even possesses a Death Path for those who survive until the halfway point of the level.

Tomb Wader is an exceptionally fun and creative level within Crash Bandicoot 3 that brings a clever mechanic that doesn't overstay its welcome. While a punishing level for those who wish to rush through it, Tomb Wader makes for a wild and wet ride from beginning to end.

Fly Me to the Moon - LEGO City Undercover (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC, Wii U)

The final mission of LEGO City Undercover, the game I easily place on my list of best LEGO games, Fly Me to the Moon is an interstellar missions that takes place in outer space--more specifically, the moon and a space base.

What can you say about a level that has you platforming and solving puzzles in low gravity, doing battle in Aliens-style mech suits against Rex Fury, facing off against said boss on top of a gigantic piece of falling space debris that slowly rips asunder as it approaches the earth, and ending in an epic free-fall towards Earth with haunting choir music playing? Is this a LEGO game or Mass Effect here!? Anyhoo--I know what you can say about a level that has all of this awesomeness in it--it's absolutely astounding.

Fly Me to the Moon is a memorable mission that hyped me from beginning to end, and it was a exciting exclamation point to a solid open world game in LEGO City Undercover. If you're looking for a great, original LEGO game, LEGO City Undercover is such a game--and is at the top of its heap.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (NSW) Announcement Trailer

My favorite Game Boy classic makes a reappearance over 25 years later with The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening for the Switch, a modern remake with what seems to be quite the divisive art style. It's like "Celda" arguments all over again! To me, I love the look after initially being put off by it, but I'm interested in knowing SPC readers' opinions. What do you think about the announcement and the look of the game?



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