Monday, November 19, 2018

Crayola Scoot (PS4, NSW, XB1, PC) Review

We go from one family-friendly game to another, but this time it's for a game that's not over a year old! In fact, Crayola Scoot is barely a month old now, and SuperPhillip Central has this review, based off the PlayStation 4 version.

Get Ready, Get Set... Scoot!

At first glance, you might think that Crayola Scoot is a mix between Splatoon and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. That's because that is pretty much what Crayola Scoot is all about--just substituting scooters for skateboards and squid kids for... non-squid kids. What Crayola Scoot adds up to is a family-friendly game that allows for an enjoyable experience for any age and any skill level.

Crayola Scoot starts out with you selecting your fully customized avatar--detailing things like gender, skin color, and also the paint color that your scooter will leave behind in his or her wake. Once that's taken care of, it's off to make your way to the top of the Color Cup leaderboard. This is done by completing two-minute timed event as you compete against AI opponents. Each event you complete earns you points. Earn enough points, and you meet the requirements to advance to the next rank. However, before you can do that you have to take on that rank's champion in a trick-based game of H-O-R-S-E, similarly titled S-C-O-O-T.

As cliche of an observation as it is, Crayola Scoot is one part extreme sports game and one part Splatoon.
In an effort to make progression to new ranks as stress-free as possible, players can essentially compete in the same event over and over again, gaining the necessary points to move forward in rank. While that is an option--and a welcomed one at that--as you can imagine, it's not the most recommended way of playing through Crayola Scoot's campaign.

The main hub of Crayola Scoot is an open-ended skate park where you're free to practice the controls and tricks of the game, move to multiplayer, purchase scooter parts and clothing options within the shop, and access events. There are three islands in Crayola Scoot, and these hold the various events in the campaign. As you progress in rank, new events open up within the islands to challenge.

There are 48 events in total, and each one offers three difficulty settings to choose from, ranging from easy to hard. Completing an event on the hardest difficulty earns three stars, and the main challenge of Crayola Scoot's campaign comes from trying to obtain as many stars as possible. Going from the normal difficulty to hard made me question my sanity at times. The AI beat me to a pulp without much effort when I started off and even when I progressed further into the campaign. An overly easy game Crayola Scoot is not, which is nice to see, as it allows players of all skill levels and ages to enjoy the game.

From a golden knight to a member of the undead, the campaign's cast of characters ready to challenge your character at each new rank are varied.
Crayola Scoot's events follow one of a handful of match types. These aforementioned match types can be played in the Arcade, which is essentially a free play mode for up to four players locally via split-screen. There is a Splatoon-like mode where you play either alone against other players or on a team as you try to paint as much of the level as possible in your scooter or team's color. You spread your paint at a greater pace by successfully performing tricks, as well as controlling points on the map which automatically spray areas of level in your team's color.

All maps have three special control points that when taken over launch a "Mega Wonder". When a Mega Wonder is under a player or team's control, different happenings occur, such as an airship that circles the map, dropping paint bombs in their color. These color skirmishes require a great amount of strategy to achieve victory in. Do you scoot around taking over control points--which can be easily taken over by your opponent--or do you perform massive amounts of tricks to paint as much of the map in your color as possible?

Paint has more of a purpose than just for the Splatoon-like mode within Crayola Scoot. It has various applications to it, such as refilling your boost energy if you scoot in paint of your color--or even slowing you down if you're scooting in another opponent's colored paint.

Other modes include a high score trick competition, a mode where you play a game of cops and robbers where one person is splatted and tries to tag other players until everyone is tagged, and also a mode where you scoot around making a mad dash for crayons that pop up all over the map. The player who collects five crayons first is the winner. No mode in Crayola Scoot's bunch really wears out its welcome, as they're all a ton of fun to play.

It's a mad rush to each Crayola crayon in this particular mode.
But, here's where Crayola Scoot dulls a bit--the controls. While trying to offer a simplistic trick system, what the designers have done with Crayola Scoot is make for a control scheme that is heavily problematic. For one, jumping is initiated by either flicking up the right analog stick for a light jump or holding down the right stick and flicking upwards for a higher jump. Seeing as the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch controllers all have more than enough buttons to serve as jumps, it's bewildering to me that jumping is set to the right analog stick--especially when tricks are set to the same input!

Yes, you read that right. In the designers' infinite wisdom (this is total sarcasm--just to clarify ahead of time), not only is jumping and pulling off tricks assigned to the same analog stick, but movement and flips/spins are tied to the left analog stick as well. This--as you can imagine--results in a great deal of frustration when you find yourself accidentally bailing... more times than you would ever like.

The relatively brief loading menus of the PlayStation 4 version show off tips on how to perform specific tricks such as moving the right analog stick in different directions and positions from where you start. However, since there's no penalty for using the same tricks and there's just as little reason to perform tricks with any sort of finesse, I basically just wiggled both analog sticks while in midair to let loose tricks.

The cel-shaded visual style of Crayola Scoot is very reminiscent of Jet Set Radio, meaning I'm in love.
Score multipliers are a part of Crayola Scoot, and instead of continuing a combo through a manual like you would in a Tony Hawk's Pro Skater game, you continue a combo through boosting. You have a limited amount of boost available to you, and if it runs out while you're on the ground, your combo ends. That said, this--in addition to the ease of grinding (where bailing happens soon after your scooter makes a complete stop, boosting makes you grind faster)--are how you chain a multitude of tricks together to score huge amounts of points, something extremely necessary to do to tackle the later ranked opponents in the campaign. I say this because the last couple challengers in Crayola Scoot are hard as nails, pulling off insanely high combos, which makes me question if this game is actually intended for kids or not!

If it's 8:00 a.m., does it mean this is the morning grind?
Crayola Scoot may not color inside the lines all of the time with regards to some of its design choices, but those who stick with it with find a family-friendly game that's a lot of fun to fool around and engage with. While the questionable control scheme (including the lack of the ability to customize said controls at all) lends itself to the game's sometimes strenuous challenge considering its intended audience, Crayola Scoot will, for the most part, have young ones and the young at heart scooting and hooting with glee.

[SPC Says: C+]

Review Round-Up - October 2018

Mega Man 11 got... a good score... and Game of the Month accolades!
We're rather deep into the month to do one of these Review Round-Ups, but we're going to get it done anyway! October 2018 saw three new reviews posted on SuperPhillip Central, and Max: The Curse of Brotherhood led the way, drawing on the original Max and the Magic Marker for a higher budgeted and more improved experience. It earned a C+ score. Then, our Game of the Month saw the return of the Blue Bomber with Mega Man 11, powering up with a B+ score. Finally, we partied until the end of October with Super Mario Party, deservedly celebrating its B score.

Check out every review ever posted on SuperPhillip Central with the SPC Review Archive!

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC, 360) - C+
Mega Man 11 (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) - B+
Super Mario Party (NSW) - B

Sure, there were plenty of Halloween parties going on at the end of October,
 but at SuperPhillip Central there was no party like a Mario Party!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Knack 2 (PS4) Review

Though the game's over a year old now, I returned to Knack 2 after a long hiatus. I must say--I did not expect to like Knack 2 as much as I did. Dare I say, I loved it? Let's see what's so enjoyable about Knack 2 with my review.

Knack - Take 2

Oh, Knack. You whiffed your debut with a less than spectacular launch title for the PlayStation 4. Though you sold well (again, since you were a launch title and all), enough people got burned by you that they didn't bother checking out your much improved sequel. It's a darn shame, too, because Knack 2 improves on the original Knack in every way. And, just to make it clear since being better than the first Knack might not be a huge bar to clear for most PS4 owners out there, I can safely and unequivocally say that Knack 2 on its own is a terrific game worthy of playing.

Knack 2 begins in media res with a city being overrun and invaded by a nasty onslaught of robots. Who or what is behind it is uncertain, but just as things begin to look seriously bad for our hero, we get a flashback to show off the events leading up to the city's invasion. Knack 2 features the story of Lucas and his companion, the size-shifting hero of the first game, Knack. Surrounded by several supporting characters--many from the original game--the two tangle with a whole host of villains, high goblin mythology, robots, and much more. Knack 2's story interested me enough that I looked forward to see how each chapter would play out, but the humor didn't do much for me. I imagine it would be more welcomed by a younger audience than I, but I'd be lying if I said if I didn't chuckle or smile here and there.

Knack, Lucas, and friends will explore ancient ruins, snowy mountains, chaotic
city streets, and dense jungles alike throughout the enjoyable journey that is Knack 2.
Knack himself has the special ability to accumulate relic shards sprinkled throughout the game in order to grow to a larger size. Many levels in Knack 2 will require our protagonist to get to a certain weight or a specific height by nabbing enough of these shards in order to progress. The game features multiple puzzles where Knack must switch between his larger form and his small form voluntarily. Whether it's to fit inside a hole that only small Knack can fit through, walk along an incredibly narrow beam or ledge, or make his way through an otherwise claustrophobic crevasse, Knack needs his smaller self as well as his larger, much more brawny form to survive the perilous adventure.

For some reason, I don't think a 16-foot Knack would fit inside this passage here.
Additionally, some particularly clever platforming moments in Knack 2 require Knack to switch between sizes on the fly, and you'll be doing that a lot throughout the game's 10 hour time span. Such an example early in the game had me using Knack to leap on a moving platform and quickly needing to shrink down to small size to avoid getting Knack smashed to death by a spinning row of spikes as the platform passes below them. Not below enough for big Knack to pass by unscathed, but perfect for small Knack to get by.

Platforming is well integrated into levels, making for some truly fun and occasionally tricky challenges.
In Knack's journey he'll come across different materials to attach to his body at specific points during the game. For instance, coming in contact with ice shards will make our hero Ice Knack, able to freeze enemies with breath, as well as freeze gears and switches solid to hold open doors and platforms. Metal Knack can weigh down switches in addition to linking electric floor panels together to turn on machinery in levels. Finally, Stealth Knack can leisurely stroll through otherwise deadly lasers to reach otherwise impossible to visit areas.

"Ice is nice," says Ice Knack. "Oh, God..." groans Phil.
While these forms of Knack never show up in conjunction with one another, they do split up the standard platforming gameplay and combat (which I'll focus on soon), and make for some of the smartest puzzles within the game. A handful of times I sat confused at what to do with a particular puzzle, but once the solution presented itself to me (by my own intuition or the optional "hint" system included), I smiled at how clever the puzzle and level design I just saw was.

Would you say it's "time" to traverse up this clock tower?
"Oh, God..." groans all of you.
Meanwhile, Knack 2's combat serves its game well, allowing an "easy to pick up" fighting system that revolves around punches, kicks, guards, dodges, and parries in unison with one another against everything from solo encounters to group engagements--usually the latter. As you move forward during the game, you'll come across steadily more challenging enemies with different means to dispatch them, such as holding down the punch button to smash through an enemy's block, or chucking a boomerang to temporarily shut off electrified enemies for safe beat-downs.

For the most part, although what you'll be taking on in Knack 2 amounts to mainly two types of enemies: robots and goblins--there are such a multitude of varieties and fighting styles and tactics for each that combating these foes seldom gets tiring or repetitive. It also helps that just mashing buttons didn't do me much good even on the easiest difficulty. I had to learn when to attack, when to dodge, when to parry, and when all else failed, when to hightail it and retreat for a few moments while my damaged Knack eventually replenished his size.

And a third type of enemy revealed early enough in the game: living relics just like Knack.
You see, as Knack takes damage, the relic shards attached to him break apart. When Knack is at his smallest size, one hit from an enemy will result in death. When it came to the harder difficulty settings, I had to pick my shots, time my guards and evasions well, and sometimes just get a little lucky to survive. Ample amounts of checkpoints throughout Knack 2 made it, however, that I never had to redo sizable sections of the game at all.

Knack is about to teach this attacking foe that turnabout is fair play.
Knack earns experience for defeating foes as well from discovering treasure chests strewn about the Knack 2's levels that can be used on a skill tree of sorts. Each point on the skill tree filled unlocks new moves as well as a new combat bonuses, such as faster cooldown times per moves, higher attack or defense, and wider fields of attack for attacks. There are four sections of the skill tree total, and these unlock as previous trees are completed. It's really worthwhile to explore each level for treasure chests and to defeat enemies, as upgrading Knack with these aforementioned truly helpful moves and stat bonuses make Knack 2 much more manageable to beat. Plus, the treasures are hidden so cleverly and the level design is so well done that it's simply a joy to explore.

A well timed parry will launch this foe's laser right back at it.
When Knack 2 isn't have you take on some platforming, puzzle-solving, and fighting gameplay, the game mixes things up nicely with some alternate ways of play. One section has you aiming a turret at enemies (rest easy, forlorn Dead Space players--it's not as hard as that game), controlling a tank through an outdoor fortress, and even entering the cockpit of a gigantic robot. Furthermore, quick time events lend themselves nicely to game levels when they appear and readily telegraph themselves to not sneak up on unassuming players.

Knack 2 doesn't have to end after the initial campaign is beaten once. Almost every level in the game has well hidden treasures to find, and these special chests unlock beneficial gadgets for use in game. These range from a gadget that teleports Knack to safety if he falls into a pit, to new skins for Knack to wear (which also have bonus abilities).

Moreover, each level has three stars to earn for completing specific objectives. These can range from beating a level within a specific time limit, opening all treasure chests in a given level, defeating a set number of enemies as small Knack, and so forth. Levels can be selected from the world map at any time--even if you've not beaten the game yet.

Co-op is also a feature in Knack 2. Two players can team up together, and I do mean it quite literally. One player can charge up while the other player punches their back to let loose a barrage of spiky shards at enemies in front. Two Knacks are indeed better than one, and co-op is a perfect mode for those less experienced with Knack 2 or gaming in general to partner with a more skilled player. The latter player can take the lead while the second player is free to help. If they get too far behind, they will automatically warp close to the player who's up front.

These teeny, tiny goblins defeating Knack will definitely be a "tall" order.
Knack 2 is--without any semblance of irony--a very good game. It routinely introduces new enemy types, platforming challenges, and story scenarios to make for an engaging game from beginning to end. While the story and characters won't win over everyone--and definitely not folks in my bitter age bracket--Knack 2's tale kept me interested and continuing to play. And even if it didn't--certainly the well done level design, platforming, puzzles, and combat did the trick regardless. After a rough debut, Knack is back and he stars in one excellent action-platforming adventure.

[SPC Says: B+]

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Luigi's Mansion (3DS) Review

I might have missed out on posting this on Halloween, but that's quite alright! Luigi's Mansion was a fun game to revisit when I did several years ago with the GameCube original version. How does it hold up on the Nintendo 3DS? Well, come see for yourself with the SuperPhillip Central review.

Bustin' doesn't make me feel too good

In 2001, my mom and I waited outside Toys 'R Us on a dreary, rainy morning to stand in line for the Nintendo GameCube. Upon being let inside after about three hours of waiting, we were let in, and I grabbed slips for three games--back when you took slips up to customer service to exchange for the actual games... and, y'know, when Toys 'R Us was still a thing in business. Nevertheless, we picked up three games: one of these was Luigi's Mansion. Now, it's 17 years later (dang, that makes me feel really old!), and now the gigantic mansion that I explored back in 2001 is available for tiptoeing through in the palm of my hand with this Nintendo 3DS remake of the game.

The premise of Luigi's Mansion has our green clad hero winning a mansion from a contest that suspiciously enough he never entered. His brother Mario went ahead to check the place out, but has yet to return. Thus, with the help of Professor E. Gadd, Luigi equips a trusty and dusty Poltergust ghost-busting device to enter into the mansion--reluctantly, of course--and find out what happened to his brother. It's the same story and setup as it ever was way back in 2001.

Luigi's Mansion has you patrolling the halls and rooms of the mysterious mansion, solving puzzles and battling ghosts to receive keys that open up new rooms throughout the mansion. Every once in a while you'll take on a major boss battle which unlocks access to an entirely new wing of the mansion, such as the second floor or attic, for instance. While navigating through the innards and outdoors of the mansion, an optional but rewarding objective to keep in mind is to find as much money as possible. The amount you earn from defeating portrait ghosts, discovering treasure, and sucking up coins from various objects sprinkled throughout the environments go a long way to determining what type of ending to the game you get.

In fact, that brings me to one of the new features of the 3DS remake of Luigi's Mansion--achievements. These add some longevity and replay value to an otherwise relatively short adventure. (I'm talking about a four hour playtime for one's first go through the mansion.) These achievements reveal themselves in tiers, starting with the Beginner difficulty. Complete all of the relatively simple achievements in this category, and the next batch opens up to try. Though if you've already finished off some of the achievements in future categories, then those are automatically checked off ahead of time. Achievements give players different ways to go about playing Luigi's Mansion in ways they might not have thought of before. For instance, it could be a less than three-hour speed run through the game or not having Luigi's HP fall below 50 at any time throughout his ghastly adventure.

There are other new touches and additions to Luigi's Mansion on the Nintendo 3DS compared to the GameCube original. For one, there is now a Gallery where you can take on any defeated portrait ghost you've already battled in the main game. These are essentially time trials to attempt to get as great a time as possible while also gunning for fast captures of ghosts--for this gives you a better frame around each portrait ghost you capture.

For those unaware, portrait ghosts are special ghosts within Luigi's Mansion that take different tricks to capture, much less make vulnerable in order to suck them up. An early portrait ghost requires you to blow the nearby curtain open, so the broken window it reveals sends a gust of wind at the ghost, causing her to become vulnerable when she gets up to close the curtain once more.

The Gallery mode can be played with a second player who simply needs a Nintendo 3DS to join up with you. The process takes a little while for Download Play to connect both players, but it makes taking down ghosts and bosses all the easier. Though, it doesn't necessarily make it more fun, as the connection between systems lends itself to a lot of lag. Still, it's a nice option to have. If both players have a copy of the game, both can play the main campaign cooperatively with one another. I did not get to try out co-op in this form, as the cost of buying two copies of the same game didn't really entice too terribly much.

No doubt you're wondering how Luigi's Mansion on the 3DS plays on the system compared to the GameCube. After all, the 3DS system lacks the analog triggers and second stick of the GameCube controller. Despite having a multitude of control options available, I never found one that really impressed me. In fact, most of the time it was quite the opposite.

While fighting ghosts, I found myself also fighting with the controls. Sure, with the New Nintendo 3DS XL I was playing with, I could move with the Circle Pad while aiming with the analog nub, but it's just that--a nub. It's no substitute for a second stick. Seeing the nub wasn't getting me anywhere fast (except incredibly frustrated), I turned to the D-Pad for aiming. Of course, having both the Circle Pad for movement and the D-Pad for aiming on the same side of the 3DS meant I couldn't use and do both at the same time. Well, unless I wanted to go old school Monster Hunter and do "the claw", but I'm SO over doing that.

The B button is used to sidestep when Luigi is facing the target he wants to keep an eye on. Unfortunately, most of the time I found that Luigi when using his vacuum would use the suction power on everything but my intended target. This is in part of the perspective of the camera, which is a serious pain when trying to judge depth and where enemies are in relation to Luigi. Even the 3D effect of the Nintendo 3DS does not help here. Instead, it merely causes all of the colors to bleed over on to dark parts of the screen for a "ghosting" effect, and not even the kind that Luigi can suck up with his Poltergust.

While the controls and camera positioning leave a lot to be desired, the presentation of Luigi's Mansion is a combination of improvement and being a downgrade. In some parts of the visuals, things are better off, such as the more detailed models and textures within the environments. On the other hand, several of the cooler visual effects of the GameCube original are less pronounced in the 3DS version, and most evident are the dust particle and lighting effects.

Luigi's Mansion on the 3DS is by no means a game I regret purchasing, but at the same time, I would have rather seen it as an appetizer for Switch owners to play as we get ready for Luigi's Mansion 3. Not because I'm starving for games on the Switch, but just because Nintendo's hybrid has more options with regards to controls. I'm certain I wouldn't have had anywhere near as much of a headache with Luigi's Mansion on the Switch compared to the 3DS. Regardless, I should be talking about what is and not what should have been. Luigi's Mansion's remake downgrades more than it improves, but the base game is still a solid one. By virtue on being on the Nintendo 3DS, though, Luigi's Mansion's remake never stood a ghost of a chance of being truly fantastic.

[SPC Says: C]

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Spyro: Reignited Trilogy (PS4, XB1) Launch Trailer

Spyro the Dragon returns to the world of gaming, and it's not in grotesque Skylanders form either! Don't be fooled by the title of this trailer--Spyro: Reignited Trilogy, a collection of all-new HD remakes of Spyro the Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage, and Spyro: Year of the Dragon, actually launches in three weeks. However, that isn't stopping the marketing gears at Activision from shifting. Check out the high definition transformation yourself with this trailer.


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