Monday, November 23, 2020

NEO: The World Ends with You (NSW, PS4) Official Announcement Trailer

It's been a long wait and a long time coming, but after 14 years of waiting and wondering if a sequel to the Nintendo DS cult classic The World Ends With You would ever come into fruition, the game is finally going to happen. NEO: The World Ends With You was officially announced this morning by Square Enix, and it's planned to release in Summer 2021 for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. Check out this premiere trailer for this much desired sequel turned reality.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Lunch A Palooza (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC) Review

It's been a while since SuperPhillip Central has been harsh (well, harsh in the site's way) with a game review, as that's not something I take pride in doing. Unfortunately, that time has come once again with the physics-based party brawler Lunch A Palooza. Here is the SPC review.

 Sloppy seconds

My mom used to scold me for playing with my food at the dinner table. But c'mon--I had to do everything I could to make green beans look more appealing, and who as a child could resist the desire to fire and launch some beans across the room? Getting my ear chewed out and having extra chores for doing so was never fun as a punishment, but in hindsight it made me a stronger person. All that welcomed nostalgia aside, in Seashell Studio's Lunch A Palooza, the game is all about playing with your food--well, it's more about fighting with your food, but you get the idea. Unfortunately, this food fight is quite a stale one from the word "go" and one that you definitely won't want leftovers from.

Starting off, Lunch A Palooza looks... presentable. There's a colorful menu set in a kitchen where you select between the four modes the game possesses. All the while your ears get some bouncy and dare I say catchy music to listen to. The four modes include a free-for-all battle, a team-based battle mode, a king of the hill-style mode, and a timed battle mode where each life lost results in you changing characters upon respawning. Okay, good enough so far.

Matches are mercifully short in Lunch A Palooza.

Then, you get to the actual game, and this is where things get rather rough. Lunch A Palooza plays like an arena brawler with the main goal is to knock your opponent or opponents off the playing field to make them lose lives. Be the last food stuff standing and you're the victor. Matches are quick--I'll give the game that, but when it comes down to actually fighting with your food characters, well, this is where the game falls apart like poorly made dough.

Each character in Lunch A Palooza is based off a food item of some sort. There's a burger, a cob of corn, a meatball, a slab of gelatin, etc. Each possesses its own attack, and these are hardly balanced. Now, I'm not saying this game needs to be tournament-ready, as it's meant to be a silly chaotic brawler, but there really is no point in choosing any other character than the gelatin due to its wide area cube-spewing ability.

Chaos is usually welcomed in games like this, but with poor collision detection,
 this isn't quite the case in Lunch A Palooza.

Perhaps if attacks consistently HIT, this wouldn't be so much of an issue, but they don't. Whether it's the corn on the cob's spin move, the pizza slice's leap, or the meatball's roll, these moves do not routinely connect with the impact they should. Sometimes you'll stand right next to your opponent, unleash an attack, and nothing happens. Do the same attack the next time and suddenly your opponent is flung across the screen and out of bounds. It's silly, and not in a good, fun, "This is what the developers were planning" kind of way. 

As for the arenas, there are some neat ideas here. Each arena is based in a restaurant-like setting, such as a classy Italian joint where a ladle, fork, and knife routinely enter into the checkered table arena to cause mischief. There's also a Chuck E. Cheese-like pizza arcade where you battle on an ice hockey table that can flip into a foosball table when a player inserts a coin item into a slot. 

One bright spot is the creative stage ideas on display in the game.

Unfortunately, there's very little meat on this game's bones for the price tag of just over $15. Sure, there are multiple unlockables in the form of new stages, characters, and skins for said characters, but these are timed-based unlocks. You'll have most of the stages and characters unlocked within two hours, and that--believe me--is two mind-numbing hours of utter boredom and mindless button mashing. It's just not worth it.

Lunch A Palooza fails as a party game with any kind of strategy or more importantly, any semblance of fun. It's just too random, from its inconsistent physics to its yawn-inducing, indecipherable gameplay. It has nice ideas with some clever arena design, but other than that, I cannot recommend this game at all. You might as well take a burger patty out of the freezer as well as take out a banana and start smashing them into one another like they were action figures. At least that would show attacks that actually hit consistently and be less random than suffering through this game.

[SPC Says: D-]

A code was provided for this review.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (NSW) Launch Trailer

It's been an exciting month for gaming with two new next gen (now current gen) consoles releasing and several excellent games also launching as well on top of that. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity will be the latest big title to launch this month, and the game finally arrives on the Nintendo Switch on Friday. Check out this cinematic launch trailer for the game, as published by Nintendo on its YouTube channel, and look forward to a full, in-depth review of the game here at SuperPhillip Central in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Minecraft Dungeons: Hero Edition (PS4, NSW, XB1, PC) Review

We move from one Xbox Game Studios title (published this past Friday) to another. It's the Minecraft series's take on the Diablo-style dungeon crawler with Minecraft Dungeons: Hero Edition. Here is the SPC review.

Dungeon Creeper-Crawling

It's no secret that Minecraft is a breakout hit. (Dare I say, it's a blockbuster?) Regardless, when a series breaks records left and right, it makes sense for the the developers to branch out. Interestingly enough, we haven't seen that as much with Minecraft. Instead, the series has further innovated on itself to fantastic results, but now, Minecraft takes on Diablo for a basic dungeon crawler that, while still a pleasure to play, might be too simple for its own good. This is Minecraft Dungeons.

Minecraft Dungeons tells a simple story about an outcast villager who stumbles upon a sacred orb that turns his heart and ambitions into pure evil. Now, the Arch-illager, this baddie is doing everything in his power to get revenge on those that made his own life miserable. As a custom-created hero (the creator creator is really nothing special whatsoever with very little actual customization), your goal is to venture forth into various dungeons under the Arch-illager's control and ultimately defeat the dastardly foe, undoing his damage to the kingdom. 

As is traditional with a dungeon crawler, Minecraft Dungeons isn't just about exploring procedurally generated themed areas, but it's also about getting outfitted with the best gear and loot your possibly can find. The better loot you acquire from defeated foes and from treasure chests, the greater the chances of success you will have for beating later levels on harder difficulties. Unfortunately, also as is traditional with a dungeon crawler, you're at the mercy of the RNG gods for as to how great of gear you get. You'll have better odds for better gear by playing on a level where your gear is below the recommended difficulty. Obviously, the challenge will be much higher, but the rewards will be much greater.

Minecraft Dungeons' "best" way of challenging its players is to overwhelm them with enemies.

Your hero in Minecraft Dungeons has a host of abilities available to them to assist them in overcoming the hordes of overwhelming forces that they will face. To begin, they have a roll maneuver for evading enemy attacks, as well as a potion that can be used to replenish their depleted health. This potion has a cool down period before it can be used again, so it's important to not go too hot and heavy into battle without an exit strategy.

Your hero also has a primary weapon, such as a sword, a spear, a pickaxe, ordinary axe, sickles, or whatnot, for melee damage, and they also have a secondary weapon for ranged attacks, generally given a position to a bow of some sort. Alongside the primary weapons, your hero can equip a piece of armor as well, in addition to three artifacts that bestow various effects. Some give off an aura of healing where anyone inside the temporary field will slowly regenerate health, while others provide an AI sidekick companion with its own health bar to help in the fight. 

Team up in a group of up to four online or off to delightfully dungeon crawl.

Unlike how games like this usually pan out, Minecraft Dungeons doesn't really reward extra strength from gaining experience levels. Instead, you gain strength and power from gear itself. Even the act of earning a level through experience doesn't wield traditional rewards. Instead, you earn Enchantment points that can be spent on earned gear to bestow them with better results and bonuses. For instance, a crossbow can have its arrows pierce through enemies if a certain number of Enchantment points are spent. Of course, the bonuses available through Enchantments are also based on RNG as well. As a plus, if you sell a weapon or piece of armor with Enchantments equipped to them, they will return your pool of points available, allowing you to spend them all over again instead of having to worry about "wasting" them.

Venturing through the harsh lands of Minecraft Dungeons is enjoyable enough. Levels can be a bit long in the tooth, but if you wish to just take the beaten path--a waypoint routinely keeps you on the right path if you wish to follow it to your intended destination--they aren't too terribly lengthy. That said, some of the DLC missions within the Hero Edition of Minecraft Dungeons, taking place in jungle and fjord environments, do make for occasionally time-consuming and tedious adventures that outwear their welcomes. That's even by just eschewing any exploration tendencies for treasure you might want to have.

This player is just show-"boating" now. Get it? 
(These jokes come free with the review, alright!?)

Minecraft Dungeons' gameplay isn't especially deep either. There isn't any sophisticated combat to speak of. It's merely run up to an enemy and smack them into submission while occasionally retreating to catch your breath and potentially heal up. The challenge from the game comes less from the combat and more from the game's penchant for overwhelming you with an endless barrage of enemies usually within narrow confines without much room or hope for escape. Fortunately, you do get several lives to work with, so one death won't result in a completely botched run.

Although there are less than a dozen levels in the story of Minecraft Dungeons, once the initial difficulty has been beaten, a new difficulty level opens up. It presents better gear to obtain, increased aggression from enemies, and even new enemy types popping up in new locations. After THAT difficulty has been cleared, then the Apocalypse difficulty opens up, which requires even better gear to survive the harder foes, but also rewards better gear and loot for the trouble.

One of my favorite locales in the limited selection of Minecraft Dungeons, the Desert Temple.

The argument about whether or not the gameplay loop of Minecraft Dungeons is satisfying enough to be worth that trouble is another story, however. By the end of my Adventure run--the second difficulty mode of the game--I was already having trouble wanting to continue playing the game. Seeing as how much grinding it would take to get good enough gear to even have a chance of getting anywhere close to surviving later levels particularly on the Apocalyptic difficulty didn't seem too enticing to me, personally. This notwithstanding, there is joy to be found in the simple gameplay and basic, blocky boundaries within Minecraft Dungeons' worlds, especially if you're able to play it with a group of friends, family members, or companions locally or online. There's certainly some fun here, but not enough for me to wholeheartedly recommend this otherwise inoffensively adorable dungeon crawler.

[SPC Says: C]

Friday, November 13, 2020

Ori and the Will of the Wisps (NSW) Review

Earlier this year, SPC took a look at the Nintendo Switch version of Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition. Now, we're deeper into the nightmare that is 2020, but we have some brightness shining through in an excellent sequel to the original Ori with Ori and the Will of the Wisps. (Hey, we'll take whatever brightness we can get this year, right?) Here's the SPC review.

When there's a will, there's a wisp 

September 2019 saw a game announcement quite surprising to a lot of the gaming world: An Xbox Game Studios title that wasn't associated with the Minecraft brand was going to launch on the Nintendo Switch. This game title was none other than Ori and the Blind Forest from Moon Studios. Now, a year later, the game's sequel is available on Nintendo's hybrid platform, less than a year after the original Xbox One release. Ori and the Will of the Wisps offers multiple improvements over its predecessor, and is just as much of a worthwhile game to play--perhaps even more so!

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is just as heartfelt and emotional of a journey as its predecessor, Ori and the Blind Forest. The story sees Ori and his family assisting with raising Ku, a baby owl, in its formative years. We see them teaching Ku how to forage for food and things like that throughout the seasons, with Ku's most desired lesson to learn being flight. One day, Ku finally is able to fly, and Ori, riding on Ku's back, take an extended flight over a new land. When a thunderstorm strikes, the two are suddenly separated, and now it's up to Ori to reunite with Ku before anything bad happens. The story is touching, but it's the minute-to-minute moments that truly shine and tug at the heart.

Compared to Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition, the indomitable spirit Ori has plenty of new tools in his bag of tricks on his new adventure in parts unknown. One such trick is a blade of spirit energy that he can use as a sword to attack enemies much more directly than in his previous game. As the game progresses, Ori discovers several new abilities from various spirit trees sprinkled throughout the land that bestow him several powers old and new. 

Ori leaps into action for this spirit's second adventure!

One of the coolest means of traversal in Ori and the Blind Forest that carries over to Ori and the Will of the Wisps is that of the Bash attack. It allows Ori to sling into enemies directly, or to bounce off of their bodies to reach new areas. In addition to enemies, Ori can also bash directly off enemy projectiles, either sending them flying back into foes or using them to reach higher heights and new portions of the map as well. 

Ori has more offensive capabilities this time around in Will of the Wisps.
It's a good thing, too, because Ori will definitely need them to survive!

New to this Ori sequel is that of Shards. Shards serve similarly to the Charms of Hollow Knight, where they can be equipped in one of a handful of slots in Ori's possession, which can be upgraded by visiting and completing Combat Shrines. The latter are short endurance battles with multiple rounds where the goal is to defeat every enemy in sight at your leisure while surviving the onslaught. Regardless, back to Shards, they have numerous effects to them--some grant Ori the ability to collect Spirit Light from half a screen away instead of needing to be nearby to pick them up, while others boost his damage output while also lowering his defense. Unlike the aforementioned Charms of Hollow Knight, however, Shards in Ori and the Will of the Wisps can be upgraded with the game's main currency, bestowing even bigger bonuses when they're equipped.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps features ample opportunities for good old fashioned platforming fun.

Shards aren't the only thing new to Ori and the Will of the Wisps when compared to its predecessor. There are an abundance of side quests to take on in the game, with a major one being restoring a town to not just its former glory, but bigger and better than ever before. This is done by collecting special ore around the game's map, and returning it to an NPC in the town to start construction work. Alongside the town, there is one particularly enjoyable trading sequence a la The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (no, that game didn't hardly invent the trading quest, but it's my go-to game example) that unlocks an incredibly helpful item to assist players who wish to fully complete Will of the Wisps at 100%.

The final new addition to freshen the experience over Ori and the Blind Forest is that of Spirit Trials. These are time trial races against the AI that reward Spirit Light currency for completing them. They demand repetition and multiple attempts usually to master the routes required and complete them fast enough to beat the ghosts in time. After you clear a Spirit Trial, you can upload your own time to a leaderboard and compete against other players this way. The reward of Spirit Light for clearing a trial is very much a nice one, as otherwise the process to grind to upgrade Shards would be a more tedious one. 

So, I've spoken about what is new to Ori and the Will of the Wisps--and these additions to the familiar Metroidvania formula are mostly well executed and welcomed--but there are some parts of the game that followed the old adage "if it ain't broke don't fix it". However, in some cases like Will of the Wisps' chase sequences, a part of the original Ori that I took issue with, this adage doesn't quite hold up.

The chase sequences in Ori and the Blind Forest featured Ori being chased by some kind of environmental danger, whether it was a flood or rising lava. In Will of the Wisps, Ori gets chased by more than just the environment, including huge, hulking bosses. This isn't so bad. What is less than satisfying is that just like Blind Forest, the chase sequences demand split-second precision and timing, little-to-no room for player error, and sometimes it just feels like you need luck to get through them issue-free if you wish to be successful on your first run. These are just as trial-and-error as in the original game, and without checkpoints in many of these sequences, they become quite annoying, despite how epic and amazing they are to play most of the time.

"I spy with my eight eyes, something in my den that doesn't belong."

Ori and the Will of the Wisps had a difficult time running on the Nintendo Switch at launch. It was plagued with reported hard crashes, which put me off from playing the game until they were addressed. Fortunately, they have been addressed and addressed well. In my nearly 15 hours of playing the game, I never encountered a crash at all. (Of course, I'm knocking on wood that I didn't just jinx myself if I were ever to return to the game anytime soon.) That said, I did encounter a loading issue with Will of the Wisps on multiple occasions. It would happen when moving Ori at a speed that was apparently too fast for the game to handle. Ori would get caught on the edge of the screen, and I'd have to wait a few seconds for the game to load the next "screen" of sorts. Very off-putting. Furthermore, speaking of loading, the initial loading time for Ori and the Will of the Wisps is also off-putting, taking at least a minute to load the title screen. I was reminded of the early PlayStation 2 days here, and these were not happy, nostalgic memories for me, either.

The Luma Pools was visually my favorite section of Ori and the Will of the Wisps.

All that notwithstanding, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a gorgeous game with so much vibrant color, insanely detailed backdrops and foregrounds, amazing set pieces, and jaw-dropping destinations and locales that it's easy to forgive a lot of these aforementioned technical problems. Plus, if the Nintendo Switch version's crashes can be properly addressed, then no doubt the issues I encountered will eventually also be ironed out. Then, there's Gareth Coker's sensational symphonic score, somehow surpassing his work in the previous Ori. That's no small task, to be sure, and the music accentuated my joy playing this astounding game.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps suffers from some small technical issues on the Nintendo Switch version, and my issues with the series' chase sequences continues with this sequel. However, building off the strong foundation of the original Ori, Moon Studios has managed to craft an even bigger, better, and bolder sequel with Ori and the Will of the Wisps, telling a touching tale while making a marvelous Metroidvania in the process. 

[SPC Says: A-]