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?