Monday, April 8, 2019

Shadow Blade: Reload (NSW) Review

SuperPhillip Central's first review of April sees us delving into the acrobatic life of the ninja--Kuro in Shadow Blade: Reload, to be exact. Actually, to be even MORE exact, we're talking about the recently released Nintendo Switch port of Shadow Blade: Reload. Let's slash and dash our way into the review.

Go, ninja, go, ninja, go!

Plenty of mobile games have seen ports appear on the Nintendo Switch. Some have seen a nice and smooth transition, while others are overpriced and/or unsatisfactory. Dead Mage's Shadow Blade: Reload is of the former category. While the game is by no means on the cutting edge with its gameplay, story, or structure, Shadow Blade: Reload is an engaging 2D action-platformer all the same.

Moving comic book panel cutscenes such as this are numerous with Shadow Blade: Reload.
Shadow Blade: Reload takes place in platforming playgrounds fit for a ninja to show off his mastery of mobility and agility, and that's exactly what the levels allow. Of course, these levels aren't just leisurely romps that our hero Kuro can simply stroll through without any danger. No, there are obstacles, hazards, and enemies aplenty for our ninja hero to overcome and conquer.

A master ninja (not to be confused with that OTHER master ninja) needs to use the environment to his advantage, and Kuro understands this well. From jumping off walls, sliding down walls (which can be performed quickly or slowly depending on which direction the analog stick or D-Pad is held), throwing shurikens from his slowly replenishing supply, dashing through weakened walls, and double jumping are all marks of this ninja. Kuro will need all those skills, as levels feature copious amounts of hazards to dodge and narrowly avoid. There are spike traps, lasers, shooting kunai and daggers, moving platforms, crumbling ceilings, and more to deftly defy death by evading. Still, even if you do wind up on the cutting room floor (literally), checkpoints are generous and seldom require repeating too much of a section of level.

Ample checkpoints like this yellow circled skull means that you'll rarely
find yourself repeating long portions of level.
Each level contains two primary forms of optional collectibles to nab, but if you want to achieve the highest ranking in each level, these become mandatory to find. There are yellow spirits that not only are collectibles, but they serve as Shadow Blade: Reload's means to guide the player on where to go, sort of similar to the coins in Super Mario Bros. or the bananas in Donkey Kong Country. The other collectible, of which there are three per level, are green glowing Kanji. These are generally precariously placed in dangerous, hazard-filled areas or hidden off the beaten path. Getting 100% collection completion in a level earns players 4,000 points, and when most "S" ranks need at a minimum 6,000 or 7,000 points to achieve, it's a sizable sum of points.

Those yellow spirits are like the North Star, they'll guide you home... or at least to the level's goal.
Players of Shadow Blade: Reload are also scored by how quickly they complete a level, how many enemies they defeated, and by how many deaths that occurred. Performing a flawless run earns a hefty 1,000 point bonus, while every death results in 100 points subtracted form their score. It can be a lot of fun to speed through levels, collect all there is to find, and aim for a high score. Although there are no leaderboards, sadly, to be found.

Heights are no match for a master ninja.
Shadow Blade: Reload contains three difficulty modes to it--one of which unlocks after the initial game is beaten. Unlike many games that might just boost the health of enemies, Shadow Blade: Reload alters enemy positions, adds hazards where they once were not, and makes for a genuinely enjoyable challenge when you're on higher difficulties.

Under no false pretenses, Shadow Blade: Reload is a port of a mobile game through and through. But as we've seen in the past with many mobile-to-Switch ports, the Nintendo Switch is a pleasant place to play games such as this, due to its portability and of course analog controls. Shadow Blade: Reload offers great value with a wide array of levels spread out across seven areas with each area having at least five levels to it, responsive controls, minimal frustration to be found, and fast-paced gameplay to make for a mobile port that slices and dices well enough on the Switch.

[SPC Says: C+]

A review code was provided for this game.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Team Sonic Racing (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Team Up Trailer

The most recently released trailer shown for Team Sonic Racing really showed how much the game had improved thanks to its delay. Now, the game is a serious contender for a racer that will really excite and engage. This new trailer shows off some never-before-seen footage of new tracks. Team Sonic Racing tears up the track on May 21st.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Review Round-Up - March 2019

It was a month of good feels with--fittingly enough--Good Feel's Yoshi's Crafted World,
SuperPhillip Central's featured game of the month.
SuperPhillip Central was feeling good for the month of March with eight reviews posted on the site in that time span. Not just feeling good because of the warmer temperatures and arrival of spring, but also because developer Good Feel saw two of its titles featured this past month. Let's explore those games and the other titles reviewed last month with the Review Round-Up for March 2019!

We started out with an edge, though, with Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes (C+) and Hell Warders (C). But then, we turned to more colorful romps with Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, a game that astonished and amazed with its quality (and a game I would have given an SPC Best of 2018 nod if I had played it earlier than this past month). The game received an A-. We continued to get colorful with Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn, Good Feel's first of two featured games this month. It knitted its way to a B.

Two other games received the same B grade, and those were Assault Android Cactus+ and Trials Rising. We then returned to some platforming action of the more typical type (rather than riding on and trying to stay on bikes) with Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (B+) and SPC's featured game of the month, Yoshi's Crafted World. The latter was the other game of Good Feel spotlighted last month.

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

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes (NSW) - C+
Hell Warders (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) - C
Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) - A-
Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn (3DS) - B
Assault Android Cactus+ (NSW) - B
Trials Rising (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) - B
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC, Wii U, Vita) - B+
Yoshi's Crafted World (NSW) - A-

Kirby also gave SPC some warm, happy feelings as well with an updated and upgraded
version of his first Wii romp in the form of Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Yoshi's Crafted World (NSW) Review

SuperPhillip Central closes out the month of March with a review of a recent release, Yoshi's Crafted World for the Nintendo Switch. As someone who adored Yoshi's Woolly World and obviously Yoshi's Island, how does Crafted World fare in comparison? The answer's in the SPC review!

Catching Yoshi on the flip side

Yoshi debuted in North America in 1991's Super Mario World, and ever since, the green dinosaur has been a major part of the Mario universe. His popularity granted him his own line of games, beginning with 1995's Yoshi's Island. Since then, Yoshi's series of games have had more ups and downs than a roller coaster, with some being of considerable quality while others being major disappointments. Depending on who you ask, perhaps all of them since Yoshi's Island have been disappointments. Yoshi's Crafted World is the latest game starring the Yoshi clan, and with it, it brings an exhaustive amount of creativity in its visual style and art direction, but is there more appeal in Yoshi's Crafted World than just on the crafty surface?

Before getting into that, I immediately noticed just how much of a visual delight Yoshi's Crafted World is. The game world is like a child's arts and crafts project--well, a child who's much more gifted than I was at that age (or maybe ever). I enjoyed the slow and methodical pace I had to use in order to find all of a level's collectibles because it allowed me to really appreciate and study the creative crafty concoctions on display. Everything from background hills and mountains being made up of green paper plates and grass crudely created out of construction paper in the first level of the game to the straw bamboo shoots in the Japanese-themed castle display such a clever art design that truly astounds and is a terrific treat.

Yoshi uses some flower power to progress through this early game level.
Levels have a front side and a flipped side, where you run through the same level, but you start at the goal and work your way to the start. You're still going left to right, but this time the camera is facing what was once the foreground of the level. I loved seeing things in the flipped version of levels that I couldn't notice when playing them in their original form. Such things were like Shy Guys napping in alcoves, platforms comprised of empty cereal boxes, complete with legible bar codes, and the child-like scribblings on the back of cardboard walls.

It's in these flipped levels that Yoshi must find and nab three of longtime pooch companion Poochy's three pups which are hiding in the flipped version of the game's 43 main levels. They aren't too terribly tough to find, as the pups not only bark when you're nearby them, but the Switch Joy-Cons or Pro Controller also vibrates as well in the pups' vicinity. The only real difficulty to these missions is gathering all three pups and reaching the goal in the level's time limit to earn a bonus collectible.

Speaking of difficulty, Yoshi's Crafted World isn't going to challenge most seasoned players of platformers... at least for the most part. If you're simply running through levels to reach the goal of each course, you're going to find the game to be a breeze. At the same token, you'll also be depriving yourself of being able to appreciate the level designs, not just with the aforementioned creativity in the arts and crafts design that permeates throughout the courses, but also in appreciating how well hidden secrets are. Lastly, and most importantly, you'll create roadblocks for yourself in advancing in the game.

You'll be sure to get dino-"sore" if you get rammed by that triceratops, Yoshi.
Throughout the world map, there are characters that require a set number of Smiley Flowers, one of the main collectibles within Yoshi's Crafted World. Once you give them their required amount of Flowers, you're able to advance forward in the game. These Flower goals don't require much of a grind at all, just a small amount of exploring levels to acquire the sufficient number necessary to progress on the world map. Thus, these Smiley Flower roadblocks make it so that exploring these deviously and cleverly created levels is encouraged, and not so much so that you have to comb every inch of level for hidden goodies.

Just like your typical Yoshi game hearkening back to the original Yoshi's Island on the Super Nintendo, Yoshi's Crafted World has several collectibles, but it works a little differently than past games. For one, there are a multitude of Smiley Flowers to earn in levels. This isn't just from discovering them in item clouds (rather hidden from sight or not) or placed in precarious locations, but also from achieving certain goals in levels, which are always the same in each level.

Levels also move between the background and foreground, adding even more impressive visual variety to the game.
These goals task you with collecting 100 coins or more, having full health at the end of the level (which is made easier by the unlockable but completely optional cardboard costumes you can earn in-game--as these add extra hits to Yoshi), and finding all 20 red coins. Each goal you complete nets you a Smiley Flower, yet another way to make progress in Yoshi's Crafted World. Unlike Yoshi's Island, you need not get 100% in a level all in one go. Your progress in each level completed is saved, so if you collected 19 of 20 red coins in a level, you'll only need to find that last red coin missing instead of having to collect all 20 all over again.

And it's especially fortunate that you don't have to collect everything in one play-through of a level, as part of the actual challenge in Yoshi's Crafted World comes from merely finding and acquiring these hidden and out-of-the-way collectibles. Some are truly fiendishly placed, requiring keen observation and a little platforming prowess as well to find and collect. It was just another way Yoshi's Crafted World amazed me with its levels.

A new gameplay mechanic in Yoshi's Crafted World allows Yoshi to aim his eggs in the foreground and background. Thus, you have a whole new series of places where items can be placed, and this is particularly notable with Crafted World's series of souvenirs to find.

Characters on the world map will ask of you to find and hit with your eggs certain souvenirs from levels. Thankfully, you don't have to wonder which level houses what souvenir, as these are clearly marked on the level they're present in. What I'm not so thankful about is how many times you have to return to levels just to collect souvenirs. While this isn't at all required to reach the end of the game, souvenir hunting means you enter a level, scour it for the souvenir or series of souvenirs, hit them with eggs, and exit the level to give said souvenirs to the character who asked for them.

Smiley Flowers like this serve as currency to open new areas in Yoshi's Crafted World.
This means entering a level and sometimes having to play through the most of it due to a given souvenir being located near the level's end (a pain for levels that have a set pace such as auto-scrolling levels, where you can't just quickly rush through them), and doing this for each and every souvenir in the game. There are a LOT of these--sometimes up to ten per game area on the world map, and although it's nice you can exit a level once you collect the required souvenirs, it can absolutely bog Yoshi's Crafted World's pace down considerably.

Thus, instead of doing these all at once, I found it less of a hassle to acquire souvenirs as I was doing other goals. So, if I was missing a collectible in a level, I'd kill two Goonie Birds with one egg and search for the missing collectibles while also searching for the souvenirs. I'd do the same thing for the Poochy Pup missions, but I still needed to return to levels multiple times regardless. Most importantly, though, my advice is to not try to get 100% in each area of the world map before moving on to the next. You'll burn yourself out quickly on Crafted World if you do, as no amount of creativity in the level design will make up for having to revisit the same level for the umpteenth time as you search for yet another souvenir. Again, though, thankfully the souvenirs are mostly optional content, and even still, the 100% reward is more about the journey than the destination.

Souvenirs such as these gold ninja stars can hide anywhere, so be on the lookout!
Another thing I appreciate about Yoshi's Crafted World is eschewing the long-running tradition of Yoshi's Island-themed games of having eight levels per world. Instead, Yoshi's Crafted World splits up the levels between a plethora of areas and zones, usually consisting of two to three similar themed levels. Once you beat the first boss of the game and collect its gem, the world map greatly expands, allowing you multiple pathways that branch out considerably as you search for the next three gems.

Furthermore, the levels allow for a type of locale and theme before quickly moving on to the next, meaning no one idea lingers for too long. Sure, you have your typical grasslands, beaches, glaciers, forest, and such which are standard platforming level tropes of Nintendo games, but Yoshi's Crafted World also breaks away from that template. There are haunted houses with one of them that features crazed clowns with "axes" that chase poor Yoshi through them with little time to relax, circuses with literal hoops to jump through, river rides that take place aboard cardboard lilypads that are set in a bathroom interior, and even a level with low gravity in a crafted diorama of outer space. There also atypical levels that forgo platforming for vehicle-based romps, such as riding on a plane, on a solar-powered car, and even in a Yoshi-shaped robot.

Every object in the environment is made up of crafty components, such as these lilypads made of sponge and cardboard.
I previously and initially talked about the low challenge of Yoshi's Crafted World, and how most of the actual difficulty comes from finding everything in a level. However, that's nothing compared to the post-game content that is available upon beating the game. While I won't spoil too much, the levels that unlock upon besting the final boss and acquiring the final gem can be absolutely maddening to complete 100%, and I mean that in a fair and very enjoyable way. You also earn new goals in the boss levels, making it so battling the bosses once again is worthwhile instead of just doing so for the sake of it. Trying to clear bosses under a certain time limit or without taking any damage are especially tough challenges, and let's not even talk about that ONE boss in the post-game...

There's no real reason to re-face these bosses... until you reach the post-game, that is!
If you're looking for a superb-looking Switch game--heck, just a superb-looking game, in general--then Yoshi's Crafted World will definitely delight. Everything from the plush-like softness of Yoshi's character model to the way the background comes into focus when Yoshi aims an egg back in the far distance makes for a stunning display. Performance on the Switch in docked form is fantastic with crisp colors, defined edges, and stellar textures. Things aren't so great in handheld play, but serviceable enough. There's just the issue of the game in handheld play looking awfully blurry in comparison to docked form.

Additionally, on the presentation side of Yoshi's Crafted World, the music is probably the most disappointing feature in the game. While the compositions are well done, the instrumentation uses a classroom instrument-like sound, which is very low energy and not too exciting. Plus, we have a Yoshi's New Island situation where the main theme is used immensely throughout the game, just with different instruments and in different keys here and there.

It's okay that Shy Guys are on this Blarrg's diet--they're Keto-friendly.
Yoshi's Crafted World is the type of game that is like a cozy bed. You just want to put your face into its adorable pillows, feel all warm and fuzzy under its creative covers, and take a relaxing and rejuvenating rest in. Or it's like a cute doll. You just want to hold it and squeeze it until its saccharine sweet cuteness just pours out. Whichever simile you prefer, Yoshi's Crafted World delivers a lovely and endearing game with sensational levels--some of the best Yoshi has ever been able to run and jump in--accessible mechanics for all ages (making it so Yoshi automatically makes an egg when an enemy is tongued up without needing to press down is a much welcome addition), and stunning arts and crafts environments. Although the challenge level isn't high or punishing, there's enough here content-wise to last most players a long time regardless, especially if you're gunning for 100% completion.

[SPC Says: A-]

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Yoshi’s Crafted World (NSW) Launch Trailer

SPC is still in a platforming kind of mood! In just a little while, Yoshi's Crafted World will release digitally in North America on the Nintendo Switch. To commemorate the occasion (well, the launch of the game in general), Nintendo of America has provided this special launch trailer for the game. SuperPhillip Central will have its in-depth review of Yoshi's Crafted World in early April.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC, Wii U, Vita) Review

Most recently released on the Nintendo Switch, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero seemed like a perfect game to review on SuperPhillip Central due to the announcement of Shantae 5. I like to pretend I'm always this clever, but longtime readers have had to withstand some of my truly terrible review taglines for a while now. Regardless, here's the SPC review of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero.

I dream of half-genie.

With the announcement of Shantae 5 (sure, it's just a teaser logo and nothing more, but don't kill my buzz, people!), I felt compelled to try out a game that lingered on the shelf of my family's PlayStation 4 collection for a while now--Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. After taking some time to fully complete the game, I feel ashamed for not giving it my attention sooner. I was looking for an engaging 2D platformer, and it seems my wish for one has been granted with WayForward's latest.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is structured differently from a Metroid-style game. Rather than having an interconnected world to it, Half-Genie Hero has a world map that you select various levels from. As you advance in the story, new areas are unlocked to visit and revisit. Revisiting areas with new abilities that Shantae didn't have before opens up the levels to reach new locations inside them to acquire methods of progressions and various collectibles.

Shantae's long purple locks aren't just for show--they're also good for whipping up on enemies.
It could have been extraordinarily tedious and repetitive to constantly return to past levels to collect this and that when new abilities are earned, but thankfully, Half-Genie Hero has a fast travel option that can be purchased in the in-game shop. This allows Shantae to warp to the next section of level without the need to run through it yourself. That said, it still would have been nice for levels with multiple sections to allow players to simply warp to the section they wanted instead of having to warp to one section after the other.

Half-Genie Hero has Shantae discovering animal transformations to turn into, granting her different powers and abilities, as well as extra mobility to reach areas otherwise inaccessible. For instance, the monkey transformation allows Shantae to climb quickly up walls and fit through narrow passages, whereas the crab transformation grants her the power to explore the underwater depths. There are just under a dozen unique transformations in the game, and of this number, eight of them are required to reach the end of the game.

Monkey see, monkey climb.
The animal transformations have numerous abilities that can be added to their arsenals, allowing even more uses for each. Whether it's the crab's claw that can snip through grass blocks underwater, the elephant's ability to pound the ground to break blocks and uncover buried treasure, or the harpy's ability to fling her talons at enemies as a means to defend herself, the added abilities make already awesome transformations even more interesting and fun to use. Some abilities are more useful than others--for instance, the bat's sonar ability is only used for one room in the game--but most have multiple uses.

Half-Genie Hero possesses a plethora of collectibles to uncover and collect, as well as goods to purchase in the game's shop located in the town. From collectibles that increase Shantae's maximum health and keys that unlock concept art in the gallery, to goods for sale like unique magic moves and equipment that boosts attack, defense, and magic, getting 100% completion in Half-Genie Hero takes some commitment. However, at the same token, even performing this task doesn't take too terribly long. My first run through the game with everything in the game collected took just over five hours.

That's not to say Half-Genie Hero isn't worth the price of admission. Quite the opposite, in fact. Shantae's latest is a game that begs for repeated play-throughs, and is a speed runner's dream. It's a game that doesn't overstay its welcome, and when I was finished with a run through the game, I eagerly yearned for more. I'll take that over a game that lingers too long and I shelve it forever after beating it once.

Shantae's monkey form can also leap incredibly high.
Wayforward took the presentation approach of a previous title in its catalog, DuckTales Remastered, and pepped it up for Half-Genie Hero. There's the same 3D environments with gorgeous 2D spritework, and it looks absolutely sensational. The most astonishing visuals come from sections of the game that wraparound in a tower-like setting and feature bosses that take up the entire screen.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is a visual treat and delight.
Meanwhile, Jake Kaufman delivers yet another fantastic soundtrack that is mix of modern instrumentation with an infectiousness that harks back to the NES classics he's been noted to be inspired by. Voice clips by characters are occasionally uttered by characters both during gameplay and during various scenes, which is a nice touch, though I'd be lying if I didn't wish every line of dialog in cutscenes was fully voiced. Then again, for Kickstarted project, that's probably not overly realistic of me.

"IT'S A GIANT WORM!" ...Sorry. I was having Gears of War 2 flashbacks for a moment there.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is without a doubt my favorite Shantae game yet. It contains a platforming adventure that is just long enough to be satisfying without feeling cheated out of more, and when I did want more, I could sit down and play through the game again due to its relatively short length. Half-Genie Hero is a game many fans wished for, and like a genie, WayForward happily granted their wish. I'm happy the development team did, too, because Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is another terrific entry in a vastly underrated series.

[SPC Says: B+]

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Trials Rising (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Review

Trials Rising or the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC is the next game receiving the SuperPhillip Central review treatment, so let's put on our helmets, hop on our bikes, and get ready to ride with the review! (Coincidentally, I always wear a helmet when writing reviews. Safety first!)

Rising to the challenge

Video games are a fantastic way of performing actions and doing things that you could only possibly dream of doing in real life. For instance, I don't think I'd really like to try riding a bike down a steep roller coaster track, but in Trials Rising from Ubisoft, I easily can and not be terrified by doing it. Of course, there is also the little matter that in real life I can't ride a bike to begin with, so that's another thing Trials Rising lets me do with ease! With over 100 tracks to take on and superb physics, Trials Rising is one heck of a ride, but does the inclusion of a new progression system and loot boxes result in some unnecessary and unwanted bumps in the road?

Trials Rising features over 100 unique courses to challenge yourself with, riding your bike along hills, valleys, over jumps, though loops, and other obstacles with the goal of reaching the end of each track. Depending on how fast you complete tracks, you're rewarded with a medal for completion. Every time you fault and restart from a checkpoint, of which they are generously sprinkled throughout each track, you get five seconds automatically added to your time.

Ridin' dirty. No, really. There's a lot of dirt here!
Now if that sounds easy, let me drop some truth onto you--it's not. Not at all. Starting out with Trials Rising, you'll crash, you'll bail, and you'll find yourself eating an unhealthy amount of dirt (then again, what IS a healthy amount of dirt?). Thankfully, Trials Rising features a training school that slowly teaches you all of the tricks of the trade that you'll need to survive and succeed in each of the tracks within Trials. From learning how to take inclines and declines and performing bunny hops to successfully landing on steep grades without falling off your bike, the lessons in Trials Rising grow more and more challenging, but each is explained well enough with helpful tutorials and visual examples as to not make for a frustrating experience. It's fortunate that you're not just thrust into playing the games and having to learn as you play, as that would make for an aggravating time.

Forgive me ahead of this pun, but this track is a "wheel-y" good time.
It's a literal balancing act in Trials Rising to succeed, and it's all about managing your speed and how you lean on your bike. Simply holding down the pedal will result in a lot of crashes, as it takes a lot of finesse to perform well. Starting off, the game introduces the concept of leaning back when heading downhill and leaning forward when moving uphill. Having your back tire always firmly planted on the ground will result in moving forward, but it can be all too easy to over-correct yourself and find your face planted firmly with the ground. It's a total boon that the physics system is as stellar as ever, so when you do crash, it's never due to wonky physics but instead user error.

Jumping off your back tire performs a bunny hop, perfect for reaching those higher places.
Trials Rising features an atypical progression system compared to past games. Rather than simply completing a series of tracks and moving on to the next more difficult set, you need to reach specific experience levels from finishing races, getting medals, and completing contracts.

Contracts are a new mechanic in the Trials series. These come in various difficulties and task you with completing an objective or series of objectives mid-race. These range from performing a specific number of flips, hitting a certain amount of airtime, performing a wheelie for a set distance, completing a track with minimal faults, using a certain bike with specific rules (like low gravity, your bike or ride being invisible, etc.), among others.

Not exactly my pick for a vacation spot, but it's one hell of an explosive track to race on all the same.
Fortunately, completing all of the contracts is by no means required. It's just that to make enough progress with your rider's level, you need to complete a good amount of them. What isn't so fortunate is that many times you'll find yourself locked out of the next set of tracks because your level isn't high enough to compete in and complete the stadium series of races required to unlock them. This results in some serious grinding at times.

My rider's racing career's so bright, he's gotta wear shades.
The actual tracks of Trials Rising are brilliantly designed and an absolute delight to race on. It's a globetrotting journey across landmarks and settings like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a Hollywood movie set with full digitally produced monsters, a trip through a Saudi war zone complete with minefields and explosives, a race through an amusement park, a break-in to Alcatraz which is complete with electrified fences to leap over or otherwise avoid, and even a race across the back of a moving train. The level of creativity in the tracks is off the charts, and I was always enthused and excited to see where the developers and designers were going to take my Trials journey next.

From the death-defying leaps of the Eiffel Tower...
Something I was less enthused about was the actual track select menu, which is a world map featuring a collection of sprinkled icons all over. Beginning with the game, it isn't too taxing to navigate and find which tracks are which, but as more and more tracks unlock for play, the map becomes all too cluttered and a bit confusing to find and discover what you want. This is even with the ability to press the left shoulder button and custom pick what level icons show up. the steep inclines of the cliffs in Vietnam...
Multiplayer is supported in Trials Rising in both asynchronous and live play. The game pits you against a selection of ghosts from other players in the Trials Rising community. These can be turned off by completing raising the opacity of the ghosts, but it's usually beneficial to leave them on. I saw new ways to tackle tracks that I hadn't thought about--such as being able to chain multiple jumps together in order to have a way to have enough speed to reach a high-up shortcut. Multiplayer is also available for online play where you all race on the same track, attempting to reach the goal first. The first season of Trials Rising is currently going on, offering ranks and unique rewards for stellar performance. It's been fun to rise in the ranks and compete against live players--though this usually results in me being more focused on my competitors' real-time ghosts instead of the actual oncoming obstacles, resulting in some great choke jobs from yours truly!

A cool feature that I enjoyed spending a good deal of time with is the ability to customize your rider's gear with stickers. 200 total can be placed on each piece of your rider's gear to really make your riders yours. I liked seeing the creativity on display with the Rising community--seeing folks dressed up as Spider-Man, Deadpool, Goku, Naruto, and other heroes from comics and anime. I went for more of a preppy approach with mine. You can even put your custom creations on the in-game shop where they can be purchased with Trials Rising currency earned from completing races and contracts. New rider clothing and gear can be bought either from the shop or discovered in randomized loot crates, which you're given each time your rider levels up. Everything in these loot crates is wholly cosmetic to outfit your rider and ride with, so if you don't care about that sort of thing, there's nothing too foul here practice-wise.

...Trials Rising's tour will take you across the globe and to some truly spectacular locations!
While Trials Rising controls superbly on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One due to the analog triggers, allowing you to press down just enough to get the right amount of force to apply to the pedal to gain speed, the Switch version is a little trickier in this regard as the controllers--whether the Joy-Cons or the Pro Controller--do not have analog inputs to them. This means your stuck either gunning down on the pedal or applying no force to the pedal at all. There is no in-between. While this isn't too much of an issue with the first 3/4ths of tracks in the game, the latter tracks of Trials Rising do not lend well to this control issue. Though you can use a GameCube controller if you have the adapter available to you, or you can opt to use the right analog stick of the base Switch controllers for the gas--though this latter option is still not optimal.

No bikes were harmed in the making of these screenshots... (Just the rider.)
Trials Rising is a ridiculously fun riding romp that gives the player enough tutorials and tools to succeed, rather than being thrown into the deep end of the proverbial pool. The track design being the absolute best the Trials franchise has ever seen almost makes the obnoxious world map and level progression system that are necessary to reach all of them bearable. The inclusion of loot crates may put some potential players off, but they're placed in the game in a way that is hardly vindictive or malicious. As is, Trials Rising delivers one heck of a ride that rises to both the challenge and the occasion of a wildly enjoyable game.

[SPC Says: B]

Monday, March 25, 2019

Mortal Kombat 11 (PS4, NSW, XB1, PC) Old Skool Vs. New Skool Trailer

A plot that converges two timelines with characters of the present interacting with their past selves, Mortal Kombat 11's newest story trailer delivers the thrills and the laughs in spades. Mortal Kombat 11 launches on all major gaming platforms next month.

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled (PS4) PS4 Exclusives & CNK Content Reveal Trailer

Revealed during Sony's State of Play inaugural presentation, the PlayStation 4 version of Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled receives retro skins for Crash, Coco, and Cortex (as seen in this video thumbnail), retro karts, and an exclusive retro track. In addition, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled sees the return of tracks from Crash Nitro Kart, the multiplatform follow-up to the original Crash Team Racing. This revitalized and refueled version of Crash Team Racing releases on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch on June 21st.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Assault Android Cactus+ (NSW) Review

We roll into the weekend with a new review for a recently released Nintendo Switch eShop game, Assault Android Cactus+. If you like twin-stick shooters and high-scoring frenzies, this game is for you. See why with the SuperPhillip Central review.

Do androids dream of getting high scores on leaderboards?

Originally released in 2015 on PC, indie developer Witch Beam's Assault Android Cactus eventually made it to home consoles--specifically the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2016 and 2017 respectively. PlayStation Vita and Wii U versions were planned and in development, but those didn't pan out. The cancellation was especially painful for one particular group of gaming fans, as out of the big three console ecosystems, Nintendo players were left out from the game's release.

That is, until now, with Assault Android Cactus+ on the Nintendo Switch. An enhanced port of the original 2015 game, Witch Beam brings their critically acclaimed twin-stick shooter to the Switch with more content and the promising pictures of portable play to be excited about.

Assault Android Cactus+ brings with it top-down perspective, twin-stick shooting action spanning 25 individual levels in its main campaign. The goal of each level is to eliminate all enemies within each arena, which is no easy task when you have squadrons of robotic foes homing in on your position, surrounding and attacking. Fortunately, one of the nine android playable characters available to you (one unlocks per five levels in the campaign completed) has unlimited lives. Once their health meter depletes, it's just a matter of mashing on the fire button to rejuvenate them and get them back in action. Of course, perishing in battle results in a lower rank due to a point penalty for each time you fall in battle.

While this assault android is outnumbered, with her high-powered offense, the odds are on Cactus's side.
The primary cause for concern, however, is that androids use up a lot of energy and juice in these high-powered, high-octane skirmishes. They need batteries to recharge themselves, which drop from defeated enemies. If the battery meter fully depletes, it's game over. When you have battlefields full of frenzied foes frantically firing shots and making attacks at you, it can be difficult to get to a battery in time. It's a balance of eliminating enemies and keeping tabs on your battery gauge in order to save yourself from a ruined run.

Levels in Assault Android Cactus+ transform and evolve as you do battle on them. Static floors turn into running treadmills, walls and barriers rise up and alter the structure of the level, and platforms can appear from the arena sides to expand the size of the battlefield--or in some cases, give you less ground to work with.

The bigger they are... the more bullets they take!
While fighting off the robotic horde of enemies, there are various power-ups that drop from defeated foes. Things like increased firepower that temporarily adds two support drones to stand by your android's side to level enemies into scrap, as well as power-ups like upgraded speed and mobility, and a power-up that short circuits foes for a limited amount of time, allowing your android to pick them off as they're offline--these all give a great advantage in battle. Losing all of your health means you lose these power-ups immediately rather than after they run their course naturally, so it's important to be smart about when you pick up a power-up so you don't die in battle quickly and waste it.

Each of the nine playable androids in Assault Android Cactus+ has a main weapon and a special weapon that usually serves as a great means of crowd control and delivering extra damage to enemies with higher health to them. Our primary android protagonist, Cactus, fires a straight series of shots forward, while her secondary weapon is a flamethrower, fantastic for getting all up close and personal to take out encroaching enemies. Other androids use guns that fire off a spreading shot of bullets, deliver shotgun blasts, and utilize rail gun properties. The stronger the weapon, the more time it takes for it to cool down before you can use it again. The special weapons like firing off cannonballs and Cactus' aforementioned flamethrower take longer to cool off before they can be used once more. Additionally, the special weapon trigger doubly serves as an evade button to give a much needed line of defense for your chosen android.

Not mentioned in the body of this review, but there is co-operative play for up to four players locally.
Each area of the Assault Android Cactus+ campaign is comprised of four standard levels of eliminating all enemies and one final boss fight. These greatly add some freshness to what I consider otherwise rather repetitive gameplay. The boss battles are a nice change of pace from going through the motions of running and gunning through wave after wave of similar looking enemies. The bosses are truly challenging, and they afford little room for error. I felt decently challenged by them, and one was a roadblock for me for about a day before I finally overcame them.

One of the many cool features of the boss fights is how each android
receives their own special dialog to bookend each battle.
Every level in Assault Android Cactus+ utilizes a leaderboard that compares your scores not just with your Switch friends, but it also compares your scores with the entire Assault Android Cactus+ user base. It's incredibly rewarding to improve your own personal scores and letter grade ranks while gaining motivation to best your friends and reach higher and higher on a given level's leaderboard. Leaderboards are also available for the endurance mode, where you face wave after wave of enemies, as well as the daily challenge mode.

Unlockable Campaign+ and Boss Rush modes make themselves available to you upon completion of the base campaign. You also earn credits when completing levels, which can be used to purchase bonus content like concept art, promo art, and even cool features like a first-person perspective to play around with in game.

Assault Android Cactus+ contains enough content to it, fast-paced, wild and hectic arenas to blast away baddies in all the while gunning for high scores, and a stellar presentation to make for a game that one will find hard to not keep coming back for more. While best played in short bursts, as the gameplay does get a tad repetitive a bit after a short while, Assault Android Cactus+ makes its mark on the Nintendo Switch as another fantastic indie title in the system's rich catalog of games. Lock and load, and let loose on your targets with Assault Android Cactus+. Just don't forget to recharge that battery!

[SPC Says: B]

A review code was provided for this game.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn (3DS) Review

SuperPhillip Central's next review takes us back to one of Kirby's past adventures, but this time it's on the Nintendo 3DS as one of the system's final major releases. It's Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn, and SuperPhillip Central has an in-depth review for you.

A game so fun that you'll end up in stitches

2010 saw the release of the original Kirby's Epic Yarn, a game that weaved its charm through each and every one of its threads. While the game was an excellent one, there was a single issue that many more experienced players took issue with--you simply couldn't die. Instead, when Kirby took damage or fell into a bottomless pit, he'd lose beads that would serve as currency for the game--as well as act as the means to earn medals depending on how many beads were collected in a particular level.

It's nine years later and the big home console version of Kirby's Epic Yarn has shrunk down to the small screen--the Nintendo 3DS's small screen, to be exact--with Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn. Taking to heart the complaints that many had with the game's difficulty, a brand-new Devilish Mode has been added. In this optional mode, Kirby is routinely pursued by a flying devil creature who, depending on the level, attempts to attack Kirby in several ways. Whether it's with a thrust of its tail, dropping spiked balls from the air, or drilling across the screen, the devil wishes to take out our pink protagonist. While this pesky creature can be defeated, it's only temporary before it returns to cause more havoc in Kirby's adventure.

"Heeeeeeeere's Johnny!"
In Devilish Mode, Kirby gets five shards of health. For every time the devil successfully damages Kirby, or if Kirby takes damage from standard enemies, hazards, or pits, he loses a shard. Lose all five shards, and you fail the level. Most players will find that finishing a level with at least one shard is still a cakewalk, but proficient players and completionists in general will want to try to hold on to full health when they reach the goal. 

You see, for every five shards of health you collect of the 250 total across the game's levels, you earn a piece of exclusive furniture for Kirby's Pad--a room where you can place furniture and customize its overall appearance. It further goes to getting 100% completion on your save file, which for some will probably be the stronger incentive. 

Be it Waddle Dees or fire-breathing dragons, no foe will put an end to Kirby's appetite for adventure.
Devilish Mode isn't the only new addition to the 3DS version of Kirby's Epic Yarn, as new copy-like abilities have been added. These power-ups found in levels give Kirby various abilities such as a sword to slice through enemies like a pair of scissors through cloth, the power to throw explosive bombs, and the power to roll up balls of yarns out of thin air. 

The inclusion of abilities such as this ball-conjuring one make for an easier go of things.
Ironically, in having these new abilities, Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn is somewhat easier than its Wii counterpart, which is the total opposite of what the developers probably intended. The reason for this is that many of the puzzles within the game can simply be solved through sheer brute force rather than through smart planning and thinking. This is exemplified most apparently in the abundance of solid orange blocks that Kirby comes across in his journey. Generally, these are destroyed by grabbing an enemy with Kirby's lasso and throwing the foe into the block or through environmental means. With the newfound abilities added to this 3DS version of Kirby's Epic Yarn, these become mindless as you can simply break the blocks with them with no puzzle solving skills whatsoever.

Finally, two side games have been included as new additions to Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn, one starring Meta Knight and the other starring King Dedede. Meta Knight's is an auto-scrolling flight-based action game where the goal is to defeat as many enemies as possible while collecting beads and avoiding attacks. King Dedede's mode is essentially a runner-type game with a similar goal of collecting beads while evading hazards. Both consist of four levels each, and while that's on the short side, these encourage multiple runs to achieve that elusive "S" rank for each and every level. Of the two, I had more fun with King Dedede Gogogo, as the levels there didn't outwear their welcome unlike Meta Knight's levels.

Just as the band Rush sang, "Fly by knight."
Kirby's Epic Yarn is as charming and delightful as ever with its transition from the big screen to the small screen. The yarn and fabric aesthetic goes a long way in both presentation and in gameplay as well. For instance, when Kirby dashes, the yarn making up his body unravels into a car, and when he floats slowly down to the ground upon a jump, his body turns into a parachute. That isn't even speaking of the adorable objects Kirby can transform into, such as a tank, a train, a U.F.O., and even a shoot-em-up-like spaceship. 

Turning into a car when Kirby runs? That's like this level--sweet!
Levels are lovingly crafted and show off developer Good Feel's creative designs. The aesthetic on display here shows up in the level and boss design as well, whether Kirby's pulling a shower curtain open to reveal a hidden item or unraveling a boss's head to reveal its weak point. Collectibles in the form of treasures and beads are smartly placed, some being deviously located, either in the challenge of finding them or reaching them. 

Kirby might not have a license for this tank, but he does have a license for fun,
which Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn delivers in spades.
Now, it's hard to say if Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn is the definitive edition of the game or if the Wii original is still at the top of the bead-filled mountain. It really depends on what you value more--do you like a higher resolution and co-op play? Then, go for the Wii original. Do you prefer more content and a challenging new Devilish Mode (while making note that the base adventure is easier than ever)? Then, check out this 3DS port. As someone who adores portable play and loves the majority of new features added to this 3DS version, Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn gives enough extra to not make for a threadbare minimum port.

[SPC Says: B]

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Top Ten Green Video Game Characters

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone. These characters are certainly not going to be pinched for not wearing green today, as SuperPhillip Central is here to count down the top ten video game characters who either wear green or full-blown ARE green with this list. The only major rule being imposed on this list is that each character or series of characters must originate from video games, so, apologies to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles--as much as you're beloved. Take this green-tinted journey with me as I count down some of the most inspired characters in green garb and/or green skin.

10) Jade (Beyond Good & Evil)

We start this countdown of green clad characters with Jade from Beyond Good & Evil, who boasts and impressive resume despite appearing in just one game so far (hopefully soon to be two with the upcoming sequel). Not many video game characters can boast being a photo-journalist, a hero who rescues orphans, and one who exposes the corruption of the government all in the course of one game. What I especially like about Jade is that she's not some piece of eye candy made for the horny 18-35 male demographic--she's an actual person that everyone can relate to and enjoy playing as. She's a strong female character, and it was awesome to see back in the early 2000's, and it's still awesome to see today.

9) Rash and Zitz (Battletoads)

While the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles won't be making an appearance on this list, the characters concocted and created by Rare to serve as rivals to the heroes in a half shell are here (well, except the one that's brown--you don't qualify, Pimple). The Battletoads appeared in their own titular NES game, and as anyone who has played the game will tell you, Battletoads is hard as hell. Is there a level after the Turbo Tunnel? I've seen no evidence that there is, as I've never gotten past it! (Just kidding... about wondering if there are levels after Turbo Tunnel, that is.) The Battletoads series is one that many fans have craved to see a return of, and they got their wish this past E3 with the announcement of a brand new game in the series. Finally, all that teasing and hinting has paid off.

8) Reptile (Mortal Kombat)

Now, a casual onlooker might take one gaze upon Mortal Kombat's Reptile and say, "Okay, this is merely a recolor of Sub-Zero, Scorpion, and so on." Nay, I say! While Reptile started off as a basic palette swap for those characters, Reptile has indeed evolved into his own, even becoming the type of creature he's named after through subsequent sequels. This all culminated with Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance giving Reptile a full reptilian appearance with green talons and snake-like tail. Originally a hidden character in the series, Reptile is now a full fledged mainstay of the roster, appearing in the majority of Mortal Kombat games.

7) Frogger (Frogger)

How can anyone have a list of the top green video game characters without mentioning one of the O.G.s? Frogger, like many long-running video game series and characters, has had several ups and downs. From his arcade origins to the PS2/GameCube/Xbox era reboot that saw the four legged frog turn into a bipedal, fully voiced character, back to his arcade game roots, Frogger is a well known character in gaming. That's of course not to say the character and series are as popular as they once were, but if you make a list of the top arcade titles of the past, Frogger would definitely be up there. The brave little frog that could laughs in the face of danger, triumphantly and courageously crossing traffic-ridden streets, flowing rivers of logs and lilypads, all for his heroic duty of guiding his fellow amphibians home.

6) King K. Rool (Donkey Kong)

The most notorious villain within the Donkey Kong franchise (originating in 1994's Donkey Kong Country, as well as appearing in various spin-offs like Donkey Kong Land, DK King of Swing, and Donkey Kong: Barrel Blast), King K. Rool kommands--er--commands the Kremling army, a roster of reptilian forces that come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Whether he's in the role of a king, a kaptain, a kommander, or even a mad scientist (or is that one of his siblings?), King K. Rool seldom gives up in his plan to destroy the Kongs once and for all. His arrival in the Super Smash Bros. series as a newcomer in the latest game in the series made many fans howl with delight, much like yours truly. A fantastic and long overdue addition for a delightfully entertaining character.

5) Blanka (Street Fighter)

There aren't too many characters in the Street Fighter series that are as beloved as Blanka, who debuted in Street Fighter II. Since that Super Nintendo classic, the human turned mutated beast Blanka has appeared in almost every Street Fighter game since. Always depicted with green skin and orangish-red hair, there's no mistaking Blanka when you see him, and if the appearance wasn't enough of a dead giveaway, his animal-like fighting style, complete with electric-based attacks should hammer the point home. Street Fighter V's third season recently brought Blanka back into the roster after a much derided absence.

4) Master Chief (Halo)

The hero of the Halo franchise, Master Chief is a soldier of few words, but as they say, actions speak much louder than words--as do the high-powered shots that M.C. lets loose from the various weaponry within the Halo franchise. Master Chief always is up for his next mission when duty calls, and whether that's against the Covenant, Flood, or whatever group that stands in his path from his objective. The strong, silent type, this character trait can either be seen as something that makes Master Chief stand out and more bad-ass, or a character without much depth. Whichever the case, there's no denying that Master Chief is lean, mean, and green fighting machine.

3) Yoshi (Yoshi)

With a brand new game hatching on the Nintendo Switch at the end of the month with Yoshi's Crafted World, it's a good time to be Yoshi. The dinosaur debuted in Super Mario World, as a mode of transportation for Mario. Obviously annoyed and frustrated with callously being leaped off from over bottomless pits and chasms, Yoshi went on to star in his own series of games. Starting off with Yoshi's Island and then its followup Yoshi's Story, Yoshi would become a regular member of the Mushroom Kingdom ensemble, also appearing in various Mario spin-offs, from sports titles to party games. This is all the while starring in his own titles, which would lead up to what I consider the game to finally have usurped Yoshi's Island's throne, Yoshi's Woolly World.

2) Link (The Legend of Zelda)

The hero of time, hero of wind, and just plain hero of Hyrule, Link is the legendary character possessing the Triforce of Courage within The Legend of Zelda series. Taking on foes like the beast Ganon, Calamity Ganon, Vaati, Yuga, and more, Link always puts on a brave face whenever Hyrule is in danger. Over 30 years of green tunics will associate such a color with our hero. It wasn't until Breath of the Wild that Link opted for a fashion conscious change of color with a blue tunic. Regardless, coming from one of the longest, most historic and beloved gaming franchises, Link from The Legend of Zelda continues to remain one of the most notable video game characters who adorn the green color.

1) Luigi (Super Mario)

One of the most popular second bananas in gaming, Luigi is often in the shadow of his more celebrated brother Mario--heck, the poor plumber gets such abuse in the Mario & Luigi game, often called "Green Mario", for Petey Piranha's sake! In 2001, his character received a cowardly, scared-y cat trait to distinguish him more from his brother, as seen in Luigi's Mansion. That only makes us want to root for Luigi even harder. Anyone can be brave in the face of danger like Mario, but it takes a true hero to overcome the odds, get courage from inside, and march through one's fear to save the day like Luigi does. Besides, what other video game character can win mini-games in Mario Party by doing absolutely nothing?