Sunday, January 26, 2020

MediEvil (PS4) Review

To start the week of content on SuperPhillip Central early, a new review is here. It's for a remake of a game from PS1 era: MediEvil. No worries--the skeleton puns and other associated humor in this review is no charge.

Make no bones about it--this remake's beauty is only skin deep.

Legends tell of the tale of Sir Daniel Fortesque, a hero who bravely led the charge of an army against the evil sorcerer Zarok and his minions. What the legends leave out, however, is that said hero quickly exited the battle from a stray arrow to the eye. A select number of people are aware of this, though, and many happen to be part of the prestigious Hall of Heroes, who shun Sir Daniel. Now, Zarok is back and causing all sorts of trouble in the kingdom of Gallowmere, and a hero shall rise from the grave to take on Zarok and his forces once more. Hopefully, this time around, he won't be defeated by a stray arrow, and will instead more than prove himself to all those who doubt him.

MediEvil is the latest relic from the original PlayStation that receives a full fledged remake, and while the game sees a gorgeous graphical improvement, the gameplay sticks a little too close to the original for my liking.

Let's begin with the tremendous graphical upgrade in this PlayStation 4 revival of MediEvil. Areas are now brimming with color and amazing detail, giving each level and area a more unique personality and character. The lighting on display in MediEvil shows off these levels in... and forgive the play-on words here... such a new light that many seem indistinguishable from the originals, aside from their basic designs. Sir Dan and the rest of the cast look sensational and animate well, too. The orchestrated score, centered on a whimsical Gothic, Medieval fantasy sound, never failed to amuse my ears.

The moon shines bright for the start of Sir Dan's adventure.
So, yes, the most obvious thing here is that the graphics when compared to the original MediEvil have been vastly improved in this remake. But, what of the gameplay? Well, unfortunately, not many tweaks at all were made here, and it's somewhat mystifying as to why considering all of the faults that the original MediEvil had.

In Sir Dan's journey, he starts out relatively weak, armed only with a sword and shield (and a literal arm as well, which can be used as a weapon). Along his multiple level journey, he picks up several new weapons to take down Zarok's plentiful amount of pesky enemies, such as zombies, imps, shadow demons, and more. Weapons like clubs, serve more than just for offensive purposes--they can be used to break boulders and walls to reveal new paths, and can be set on fire to light torches to solve puzzles. Apart from melee weapons like swords, clubs, and hammers, Sir Dan acquires plenty of long-range weaponry in the form of throwing knives, bows, spears, and even magic.

Exquisite graphics? Yes. Highly capable combat? No.
Levels in MediEvil have Sir Dan moving through them, collecting rune stones to unlock doors and gates to new areas, and sometimes performing the necessary occasionally-awkward platforming challenge. That said, most of the time MediEvil is all about light combat, exploration, and puzzle-solving. The former isn't too spectacular. In fact, I'd call it rather clumsy and ungraceful overall. More times than not when it concerned melee combat, I'd find myself running around like a chicken with its head cut off, flailing Sir Dan's sword around while hoping I wouldn't take too much collision damage from enemies in the process. Sadly, that seemed to be the best strategy starting out with the game.

Even the simple act of pushing blocks can be more difficult than it needs to be in MediEvil.
Defeating enemies is a major part of unlocking even better weapons for Sir Dan to use, as when an enemy is slain, a percentage of a level's chalice fills up. When the percentage reaches a full 100%, Sir Dan can scour the level to pick up the chalice. The chalice is usually hidden in an out-of-the-way location, but observant players can see that slain enemies have their spirits fly away in the direction of where the chalice is, which helps in discovering each chalice's location. What is a bit obnoxious is when the chalice location is back near the beginning of the level, so that means a relatively tedious trip back to collect it, just to have to make another trip back to where you turned around at originally in order to make the original trip to the chalice.

Without a long-range weapon, this battle would be a pain in the glass.
Thankfully, Sir Dan isn't unarmed!
Upon clearing the level with said chalice filled and collected, he gains access to the Hall of Heroes where he can earn a reward from one of the heroes waiting inside. These are pretty much required to obtain to have a fighting chance in later levels, as enemies can otherwise take a pretty good licking before they stop ticking. Rewards include upgraded and improved weapons like longbows, bows with flaming arrows, bows with magical arrows, hammers that serve as stronger clubs without the ability to break after repeated use, axes that can also be thrown, and Life Potions that give Sir Dan extra health to work with. Life Potions can also be found hidden in some levels themselves.

Sir Dan will need all the help he can get because MediEvil is old school challenging in its difficulty. While nowhere near so-called "NES hard", MediEvil will put you through your paces quite easily, and part of that is because of its design which is deeply rooted in older gaming. For one, losing all of your health in a level results in a game over, which means you must restart a level from the beginning again. Some levels are quite involved and can be a particular pain in Sir Dan's bony butt. One mid-game level that takes place in a garden maze is rather long due to its puzzles placed in the form of riddles, and dying so close to the end of the level--one that can easily go on for a half-hour--can be a serious gut punch and motivation-killer to continue the game. A checkpoint here and there would have been a terrific addition to MediEvil. As is, the game skews too closely towards cheap and unfair.

Further, the camera isn't always generous in giving you the best angles to work with, and the platforming leaves some things to be desired as it's hardly a game with the tightest jumping controls available. Seeing as missed jumps into bottomless pits, pools of water, or lava, results in an instant loss of a full bar of health, you can quickly breeze through what seemed like a safe amount of health to work with and end up with a frustrating "game over."

A level surrounded by pools of water makes this particular player a wee bit uneasy!
MediEvil does add a new feature to the game, which is that of lost souls. When you open a particular chest in a late-game level, lost souls appear in each of the game's main levels, and each give you a riddle to be solved in another level. These generally task you with opening up your inventory at a specific spot in a level, and then summoning the soul you collected based on the given riddle's clue. Upon finding all of the lost souls and solving their riddles, you unlock a rather cool bonus that rewards you with MediEvil in its original PS1 form.

Overall, MediEvil is an enjoyable enough romp, but one that I wish the developers had given an equal amount of time to improving the game's design and gameplay rather than obviously merely focusing on upgrading the visuals--as impressive and delightful as they are. As is, MediEvil has the appearance of current-gen game, but underneath its HD flesh is a skeleton filled with occasionally cheap design, frustrating deaths, and lackluster combat and platforming.

[SPC Says: C-]

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Five Best Mascot Racers of the Past Decade

Start your engines, as SuperPhillip Central is set to explore five of the finest forays in mascot racers from the past decade! These games sped ahead from the rest of the competition and delivered some of the most high-octane racing entertainment imaginable and in video game form. After you've perused the picks here, give a shout out to which of these mascot-led racers are your favorites.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (NSW)

The face of gaming, Mario, hops into the driver's seat once again for the eighth mainline installment of the ever-thriving Mario Kart franchise. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe takes all of the content from the Wii U version, including all of its DLC tracks, and adds to it new mechanics, modes, and playable characters to race as. With this deluxe package of the Wii U original, you get 48 tracks and over 30 characters total. In addition to that, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe saw the return of the traditional rules of Battle Mode with real arenas as opposed to the unappealing "full scale tracks turned makeshift battle courses" of the original Mario Kart 8.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a sensational kart racer to be enjoyed by players of all skill levels, and one that's perfect to be picked up and played. New mechanics like a third level of drift boost, as well as accessibility settings in the form of steer assist and auto-acceleration ensure that everyone can have a good time regardless of their mastery of Mario Kart.

Then, there are the actual tracks of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which are, in my opinion, the absolute best set of tracks in any kart racer, much more any Mario Kart, with their anti-gravity sections having players drive up cliff sides, speed down waterfalls, and steer through out of this world twists and turns. While Mario Kart 8 Deluxe may lack in single player content, it more than makes up for in stellar and solid multiplayer mayhem and fun that will keep most players coming back for more again and again.

Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled (PS4, XB1, NSW)

If you're looking for a multitude of content, especially of the ongoing kind, then does Beenox have a game for you with Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled, a remake of Naughty Dog's original PlayStation kart racer starring the crazed bandicoot. The developer could have easily bumped up the visuals and called it a day, but the amount of TLC put into CTR is truly outstanding. Familiar courses were given total face lifts and makeover, sometimes indistinguishable from the originals.

With Nitro-Fueled, players are greeted with semi-monthly Grand Prix events, where in each a new track is added, as are new characters, karts, and cosmetics. Players compete for Nitro Points to earn these wares. This is on top of the immense assortment of content already in the game, such as the Diddy Kong Racing-inspired Adventure Mode, the various Cups that players can compete in, the 30+ tracks from both CTR and its sequel, Crash Nitro Kart, and a multitude of characters to play as.

Unlike Mario Kart, CTR takes on a much more skillful approach to its racing, but this is a double-edged sword in a way. The skill ceiling is so high that Nitro-Fueled isn't necessary the easiest game to learn and get into. It takes quite a bit of practice to learn the ins and outs of drifting, boosting, performing turbos, and an even deeper understanding of how to perform more expert-level skills like unleashing turbos for entire laps at a time. To say that Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled is a pick-up-and-play game is folly, but otherwise, it's a fantastic kart racer, filled to the brim with continuously updated content and things to do.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (Multi)

Hot off the heels (or should I say "wheels"?) of Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing comes a much more complete and content-rich racing game with the game's sequel, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. The last word in the title refers to the ability to transform between vehicle types on the fly at specific sections of track: by car, by speedboat, and by aircraft. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed's transformations didn't just end with the aforementioned vehicles, either, as entire tracks would evolve and change between laps. One lap you could be racing via cars, and then the next, the track crumbles underneath your wheels, turning into a high-flying finale to the finish line.

The roster was a veritable who's who of SEGA's most memorable characters, featuring characters from Sonic the Hedgehog, Space Channel 5, Samba de Amigo, Super Monkey Ball, Jet Set Radio, Crazy Taxi, NiGHTS, and even deeper cuts like characters from Skies of Arcadia, Golden Axe, and Shinobi. The PC version of the game would receive several exclusive characters, such as those from series such as Football Manager and Total War. All in all, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed delivered fast-paced arcade-style racing that offered something for everybody.

ModNation Racers (PS3, PSP)

Just on the edge of being within the past decade, having released in 2010, United Front Games' ModNation Racers was the first console kart racer that allowed for an incredibly ambitious means to create one's own courses, characters, and karts. The amount of creation options was at the time unheard of for a game of its type on consoles, and the actual racing was terrific and solid as well. By performing drifts and other tricks, racers could generate energy in a gauge, allowing them to boost as long as there was energy remaining in the gauge.

Alongside the user-generated content that could be made for the game, ModNation Racers featured a full-fledged single-player story campaign. Each track in the game was made using the same easy-to-use and accessible tools that were available to players in the creation modes. Sadly, ModNation Racers' online functionality has since been shut down as of 2018. Still, the racing remains as enjoyable as ever, and I hope that Sony will return to this franchise sometime in the future, perhaps eventually on the PlayStation 5.

LittleBigPlanet Karting (PS3)

While ModNation Racers got into the starting gate first with user-generated content in a kart racer on Sony's third home console, it was the LittleBigPlanet series from Media Molecule that took the whole concept of "Play, Create, Share" and made it popular on the PS3 in the first place. It only seemed fitting that the then-popular LittleBigPlanet series would take on the kart racing genre and attempt to take the creation crown back. Boy, did it ever.

ModNation Racers had an extraordinarily accessible track creation system. LittleBigPlanet Karting was simple to plant down a track, but the amount of options and features that one could add to a track was astounding. We're talking essentially programming here, with the ability to alter the track and customize it to obsessive degrees. Everything from the AI to the intro camera sequence could be customized and crafted to a creator's liking. Unfortunately, LittleBigPlanet Karting's online servers were shut down alongside ModNation Racers.

Regardless, racing was but part of the LittleBigPlanet Karting experience, as apart from breakneck racing with the AI in the abundant circuit races of the story mode, there were battle modes, mini-games, and other activities all pertaining to driving of which to partake. The clever incorporation of gadgets like the grappling hook to utilize mid-races to cross over chasms in a dazzling display also added to the charm of the game. While LittleBigPlanet Karting failed to be competitive with the top of the heap in the kart racing genre, it was still an amusing and enjoyable romp all the same.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot (PS4, XB1, PC) "Vegeta" Trailer

With Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot releasing today on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, Bandai Namco Entertainment has provided what is essentially a launch trailer for the game. You can bet that after all of the trailers shared on SPC that the site will have a full review of DBZ: Kakarot shortly enough. In the meantime, check out this new trailer!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC) Review

There's magic in the air and a potential for puzzle-solving, so that must mean only one thing--it's time to review a new Trine game! Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince launched on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Steam late last year, and now SuperPhillip Central conjures up this review for the game.

A game that plays more like a dream than a nightmare

The Trine games are a series of puzzle-platformers with some light combat involved. That said, the main focus is on solving environmental puzzles--getting from point A to point B while attempting to stay alive in the process. The first two Trine games were 2.5D titles and were fairly well received. Trine 3 came along and introduced 3D, and while the effort was of a high quality, the overall game was not, featuring plenty of bugs and glitches as well as an abrupt and disappointing cliffhanger ending. Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince returns to the series' 2.5D roots while not completely forgoing features found in its 3D predecessor. What the game ends up being is one of the best entries in the Trine series yet.

Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince tells the tale of an eponymous prince who against the wishes of the Astral Academy, dabbles into some dark magic via a spellbook. This book preys upon the Prince's nightmares and turns them into reality, causing massive damage to his home castle, and resulting in the Prince running away from home. The heroes of the Trine--Amadeus, Pontius, and Zoya--reunite for the sole purpose of tracking down the Prince along his trail of nightmares and returning him to the Astral Academy. Most of the story is told through spoken dialog during gameplay, but the 3D engine from Trine 3 is also used to implement some engaging and entertaining cutscenes to share bits of the story as well. The voice acting is rather pleasant, using English accents for each character, and it's all quite natural sounding.

If you've played a Trine game previously, then you'll feel right at home with Trine 4. If not, then this game is still a perfect jumping in point, not just for gameplay reasons but the aforementioned story is self-contained anyhow. You start playing as each of the three Trine heroes individually in their own levels, and these serve as tutorials.

Amadeus the Wizard can use his powers of levitation to make platforms in a pinch.
Beginning with Amadeus the Wizard, you learn how to move objects around such as boxes and wooden planks and also how to conjure your own boxes to use as platforms and to hold down buttons. With Pontius the Knight, you learn how to roll on spherical objects, stomp downward, reflect projectiles with Pontinus' shield, and engage in basic combat against a puzzle-themed boss. Finally, with Zoya the Thief, you learn how to swing from hooks, tie a rope to two grappling points to build a makeshift bridge, and fire arrows at various targets. These three tutorial levels show off a host of methods to complete the puzzles and challenges that await when the heroes rejoin forces in the fourth level of the game.

Whereas Zoya the Thief can connect two grappling points with ropes to serve as a bridge of sorts.
Trine 4 plays out across over 15 unique levels that progressively get more devious and challenging with what the game asks of you to solve in the puzzle department. Boxes must be moved to hold down switches and reach higher platforms, spikes and other types of hazardous chasms must somehow be crossed, and doors must be opened via various means and methods.

Meanwhile, Pontius the Knight can use his shield to deflect flaming fireballs such as these.
As the three heroes of the Trine progress in their adventure, new skills and abilities are learned. Oddly, these don't come naturally. Instead, they just appear seemingly out of nowhere as the game requires it with no story or lore reason for new abilities popping up. It's weird to suddenly get the ability to conjure two boxes at a time in the middle of the adventure with no rhyme or reason when that ability would have helped previously in the journey. Still, it's understandable why these abilities unlock slowly and not all at once--I just would have liked to have a valid story reason for them to be locked instead of just being available seemingly at random otherwise.

Apart from being able to conjure more boxes, Amadeus learns the ability to conjure steel balls, allowing him to cross spike-filled chasms unharmed by rolling on these summoned spheres. Meanwhile, Zoya gains various elemental arrows, perfect for freezing and unfreezing things like moving platforms and other machinery in place. Then, there's Pontius, who can learn an ability that allows him to summon a glowing shield to be held in place, great for being a second point to reflect light or water off of to solve puzzles.

Zoya's favorite genre of music? Rock and roll, of course!
Aside from the tutorial levels, each level possesses three unique collectibles in the form of letters, treasures, and knickknacks. These all require some involved investigation and exploration in levels to find them, and the latter two are generally locked behind room-contained puzzles that must be solved with some smart thinking to overcome them. Finding these rooms is a challenge all to itself, and really, that's a theme of Trine 4--and just the whole Trine series in general. The designers are great at hiding things, and while sometimes it's because it's difficult to see things in the occasionally garish environments, most of the time it's due to the fact that they're well placed.

Trine is a series that tests players' mental mettle, and Trine 4 is no different here.
When you're not solving puzzles and performing platforming, there are set spots in levels where you do quick combat with a room full of nightmare enemies. This is a part of the Trine series that is generally weak, and it's no different with Trine 4. Combat is clunky, ungraceful, and inelegant as ever, and it's disappointing that nothing has really changed here. Attacks have no weight to them, hit detection isn't perfect, and combat just feels shoehorned in like usual.

On the more positive side, Trine 4 implements many of the quality of life features found in its predecessor, Trine 3, such as for instance having players conjure up boxes and planks as Amadeus via the press of a button rather than the slower process of drawing out shapes like in Trine 1 and 2. Additionally, no longer do players of the completionist variety have to scour entire levels to see where missed experience bottles are located. Instead, experience bottles are listed by checkpoint, so if you missed any, you'll get a general idea of where they are. Of course, they're still hidden in some tricky spots even with this knowledge! These experience bottles or vials can then be spent on upgrading the Trine heroes' abilities. Zoya's arrows can cause more damage, Pontius' stomp can freeze enemies, and Amadeus can levitate enemies when enough experience is earned.

Zoya's arrows have a multitude of uses aside from attacking and assaulting foes.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the Trine game is being to play with friends either locally or online, and this multiplayer trend continues with Trine 4. Puzzles change their makeup depending on how many players are active in the game. As one can imagine, it takes some serious communication to solve puzzles together, as everyone needs to do their part. Players can switch between characters on the fly, just like when playing solo, and just like solo play, it's required to get through each level. Many times you'll find yourself having to switch between characters quickly just to solve a given puzzle in a level. While more players makes puzzles more difficult, it also makes traversing levels easier. Though I'm not sure if the way my brother and I levitated boxes and planks, repeatedly grabbing them once they stated falling, and raising them higher to reach inaccessible platforms was the intended way the designers had of completing some of the puzzles in the game. Probably not.

Depending on the amount of players, puzzles need to be solved in slightly altered ways.
Trine 4 is a gorgeous game, much like all past entries in the series, so this also keeps another series tradition going. Some environments are a bit too radiant, making it hard to distinguish between platforms as well as safe and hazardous locations in levels, but overall, the game looks stunning. The environments range from glorious to breathtaking in their detail and beauty. There is some clipping problems to be found, and the occasional glitch did happen, especially backgrounds flickering, but all in all, Trine 4 is a competent technical package.
If you needed any further proof of Trine 4's gorgeousness, here you are.
While Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince does not really revolutionize the series in any measurable way, it does succeed in bringing the series back to a comfortable place--back to 2.5D and back to its normal, high quality. The QOL improvements brought over from Trine 3 make for a more enjoyable, less stressful and tedious experience, and overall makes for a puzzle-platforming adventure that is in many ways the best that the Trine series has ever been.

[SPC Says: B+]

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Toughest Tasks in Gaming History - Volume Five

Gaming can be a very rewarding hobby when you challenge yourself to tackle a truly tricky task and overcome it, becoming victorious. The Toughest Tasks in Gaming History series of articles on SuperPhillip Central was started because I wanted to check out some deviously difficult achievements, trophies, and just plain old challenges in gaming that many deem--including myself--to be some of the hardest to complete within our shared hobby. If you've completed any of these, you can claim to be a more superior gamer than most.

Check out past installments of the Toughest Tasks in Gaming History with these links:

Volume One
Volume Two
Volume Three
Volume Four

Now, let's get to the five newest tasks added to this ever-growing list!

Earning the Unlimited Ammo Rocket Launcher and Minigun - Resident Evil 2 (PS4, XB1, PC)

With Resident Evil 3 releasing on April 3rd, and the immense hype behind that game, why not take the opportunity to look back at the remake that proceeds it with Resident Evil 2? That's exactly what we're going to do to kick off this edition of Toughest Tasks in Gaming History.

Now, to get this immediately out of the way, getting the Unlimited Ammo Rocket Launcher for Leon and Unlimited Ammo Minigun for Claire is simple enough by purchasing an unlock code. However, I'm talking purely about earning them through standard play without a code. In order to do so, you have to get an S+ rank in Hardcore Mode, the most difficult and intense mode in Resident Evil 2, in both Leon and Claire's campaigns. This means clearing the game within a couple of hours with a maximum of three saves, and doing so without using any other unlimited ammo weapon save for the Combat Knife.

In a mode where death is all too easy with deadlier enemies that can withstand more damage, a faster and more powerful Mr. X, and less storage space, trying to just beat the game on Hardcore is difficult enough--much less trying to do so with just being able to save three times at most, where any death can send you stumbling back to a previous save from a while back. The timid need not apply with attempting to unlock these powerful, ultimate unlimited ammo weapons legitimately.

Become "Worthy of Legend" - Devil May Cry 5 (PS4, XB1, PC)

As the old adage goes, "Patience is a virtue", and you'll definitely need all of the patience you can muster when attempting this particular challenge. The "Worthy of Legend" achievement requires players of Capcom's Devil May Cry 5 to achieve an S-Rank on all 21 missions in the game. Not just that, but this has to be done on all difficulties in the game, save for the ultra-hard Heaven or Hell mode.

What makes this achievement so challenging is that: 1) It's an extreme time-sink of a task, and 2) You have to get S-Ranks on all 21 missions of Hell and Hell mode, too, where enemies have tank-like durability, requiring masterful play to take down. This is in stark contrast to your character who dies by one hit. "Worthy of Legend" is more than just a moniker for this particular achievement--it's a testament to one's ability as the ultimate Devil May Cry 5 player. Learn enemy patterns, practice as much as you can, and then face your demons (both figurative and literal game-wise).

Acquire All Rainbow V's - Viewtiful Joe (PS2, GCN) 

Continuing and ending our streak of Capcom titles, we go back in the past for a more retro pick this time around with the fantastic--no, better yet--VIEWTIFUL, Viewtiful Joe for the Nintendo GameCube and PlayStation 2. Like Devil May Cry 5, with the task of acquiring all Rainbow V's, you're essentially trying to S-Rank each and every section of level in all seven chapters of Viewtiful Joe. However, to be rewarded with unlimited VFX powers--the abilities that allow our hero Joe to perform insane combos, enter mach speed, slow motion, and other awesomely viewtiful abilities--you simply have to get all Rainbow V's on one difficulty as opposed to several.

The most difficult part about this is that you only get checkpoints between whole chapters and at midpoints of chapters--meaning that you otherwise are required to have completely perfect runs. You need to keep your combo going, you need to earn enough points, and you can't take damage, as one hit or one less-than-perfect grade in a scoring category will ruin your Rainbow V run. Throw in bosses that must be defeated quickly and efficiently--also without damage--and you have one seriously tough task ahead of you!

Getting the "Golden Try" Tonic - Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

There are over 60 tonics in Playtonic Games' Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, and these unlock new abilities for Yooka and Laylee, as well as in-game bonuses such as screen effects. To earn the Platinum trophy in the PlayStation 4 version of the game, or all of the achievements in the Steam and Xbox One releases of the game, you have to collect all of the tonics in the game. Well, except for one, which is saved for purely the most dedicated of the dedicated of Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair players.

This "Golden Try" tonic is unlocked by playing through the eponymous Impossible Lair. This final level of Yooka-Laylee's sophomore adventure can be played at any time, but the more Bees you collect throughout the game, the more "hits" you get. Simply clearing the 20+ minute lair with every Bee in the game is already a bit of a herculean task, but try doing so without any Bees AT ALL. In order to earn the "Golden Try" tonic, which turns Yooka and Laylee golden, you must clear the Impossible Lair by doing just this. No Bees to help you whatsoever. As I stated, the Impossible Lair is tough enough as it is, but giving it the old college try for the "Golden Try" tonic? Save that for a player more patient than I!

Become "The People's Chimpion" - Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

We move on to our final game and challenge spotlighted on this fifth volume of Toughest Tasks in Gaming History. It's from a game that I skewered quite a bit in my review, but the challenge still remains. It's earning "The People's Chimpion" achievement/trophy in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD.

In order to accomplish this task, a player must successfully clear each and every world within the game without using a continue. While you can play from the very beginning of the game and rack up a comfortable amount of lives, once you start hitting the latter half of the game, stages go from pleasant and fun to a pain and an annoyance. The bosses at the end of each world get a special shout-out for being able to ruin otherwise perfect runs due to their poor cameras and dodgy hit detection. Still, if you can somewhat overcome this seemingly insurmountable challenge, then you aren't just a Monkey Ball Master, but you might just be a bit bananas for being up to doing so!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Resident Evil 3 (PS4, XB1, PC) Nemesis Trailer

It turned out to be quite the macabre morning today! With the earlier post of DOOM Eternal's new trailer, we also have this new trailer featuring Nemesis from Capcom's Resident Evil 3 remake. If you thought Mr. X from Resident Evil 2 was scary, you ain't seen nothing yet! Resident Evil 3 releases on April 3, 2020.

DOOM Eternal (PS4, XB1, PC) Official Trailer 2

A new trailer for DOOM Eternal was revealed this morning, and it shows off some story aspects of the game as well as lots of titillating footage of its single-player campaign, which is sure to please. DOOM Eternal launches on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on March 20, 2020 with a Switch version coming down the pipeline as well in the future.


Monday, January 13, 2020

Concrete Genie (PS4) Review

Let's start this new week of content on SuperPhillip Central on the right foot with a brand-new review. Concrete Genie came out this past October, and SPC finally gets around to reviewing the game. Check out my thoughts on Concrete Genie with this full review.

Your wish for a unique and touching game is Pixelopus' command.

Some games are short, but are more than worth their price of admission by virtue of just being amazing and unique experiences. Pixelopus' Concrete Genie is one of those games. Like the murals and creatures that our hero can masterfully and magically paint onto the walls of the town of Denska, Concrete Genie is a work of art, exuding a high level of polish and quality.

In Concrete Genie you play as a bullied teen named Ash, an artist that favors to draw in his sketchbook and who yearns for the days where his hometown of Denska was a happening, beautiful place instead of the dilapidated, empty, and scummy eyesore that it is currently. Taken over by darkness and negative energy, Denska seems doomed to its fate, as does Ash who constantly gets teased and picked on by a group of misfits. In one encounter they tear up his sketchbook in a scuffle, sending the pages flying to all corners of Denska. While Ash's short term happiness is ruined, when he stumbles across a magical paintbrush, able to create living mural-like creatures, it appears that in the long term that Ash and Denska's futures as a whole look brighter than ever before.

Concrete Genie is a terrific journey and a heartfelt one at that-that gives each character in it more dimensions than the creatures that Ash can summon with his paintbrush. This is particularly important for the batch of bullies that Ash continuously contends with throughout the game, and the adventure all ends for everyone on an especially poignant, feelgood note.

Behold--the power of creativity!
Ash's paintbrush has plenty of uses to it, as it can conjure art by pointing at walls, holding down the R2 button when doing so, and utilizing the PlayStation 4's motion controls to aim while drawing. If you have an issue with using motion controls, then an alternate right analog stick control setup is available instead. Most walls can be littered with colorful and gorgeous graffiti, but you're limited only by being able to use a set series of patterns when painting as opposed to freestyle. Each main area of the game, which there are four, has a set of landscape patterns to use. With a stroke of the magical paintbrush, hanging lights of mushrooms jingle downward, trees rise up from the ground, an aurora illuminates the wall, and glistening stars light up what were once barren walls.

Denska begins as a dull, drab and desolate place in Concrete Genie,
 so seeing its revitalization throughout the game is glorious.
Really, there is fantastic fun to be found in covering every conceivable wall you can in various patterns to create your own enchanted landscape murals which brighten the once dull city streets. Of course, though, there is a goal to be found in Concrete Genie as well, as and the main one is finding walls containing hanging strands of non-functioning lights on them. With a stroke of the brush on these walls, the lights change from off to on. When all of the walls with light strands on them have been painted, that building is officially finished. Paint all of the walls with light strands on them in a particular zone to complete that zone. Finish all zones in an area to complete that area.

I wish I may, I wish I might, to paint these walls to turn on these lights.
It is completely possible to do a limited amount of work in Concrete Genie by just painting each required wall with light strands with any old pattern and moving on. But, as I said, it's enjoyable and worthwhile to channel your inner Michelangelo and paint the town to create lush, vivid, and colorful landscapes all over to make Denska even more breathtaking than it'd otherwise be. (Well, Michelangelo is known best for a work of art on a ceiling and not a wall, but you get my drift.) Concrete Genie is a tool for expression despite it being covered up under the guise of an adventure game.

The creativity you can channel also works when creating creatures from set locations in Denska. Like with painting walls, you're limited to a set amount of features for creature creation, but even so, there is a wide assortment of tails, wings, horns, and such to create some truly brilliant creatures. Depending on the color of the creature you make, they have different powers and abilities. Red creatures conjure flames, yellow creatures can conduct electricity, and blue creatures blast out wind. All of these abilities are used to solve simple environmental puzzles around Denska. Creatures can be called by holding the L1 button which calls on them, but they must have a means to reach Ash. Creatures cannot jump between walls, so they need a route that is full of interconnected walls. Several of the puzzles in Concrete Genie have you moving blocks and boxes to create new pathways for your created creature companions in some crafty and creative ways.

Thanks for your help, buddy! You've earned your paycheck for this week, for sure!
That said, even though there is some worth to making some art out of painting up and illuminating the walls of Denska and putting forth care into creature creation, there is no real reward for doing so other than purely personal satisfaction. You aren't judged or scored by your artwork, which is a nice thing for a more relaxing experience, of course, but for an already short game of only seven hours, it's quite easy to just feel the need to rush through. I'm sure plenty of players will do just that, especially as the Platinum trophy is quite easy to achieve.

A late-game ability allows Ash to skate around on paint. Totally radical, dude!
Regardless, when you're not creating creatures or painting the town with all sorts of dazzling displays, you're engaging in some other types of gameplay, such as Uncharted-like climbing and platforming, as well as stealth-like gameplay in actively avoiding pursuing bullies. Even then, there is no penalty for falling from too high of a spot or entering the muddy murk that is Denska's waters, as you're merely placed back to where you fell off or in. Being caught by the bullies just results in getting Ash tossed in a dumpster to simply continue his quest of artistry.

It's a brave new Denska, but there's more to do!
Aside from that, there is plenty of exploration to be found in Concrete Genie. Missing pages from Ash's sketchbook need to be chased down and caught, special paintings need life brought back into them, and special genie memories to solve. The latter two require a specific combination of landscape graffiti to complete them, and it just works out that because of this, they're completely optional to do within the game.

While there's a canvas--if you will--full of painting gameplay to enjoy, the late game of Concrete Genie introduces combat where Ash must take on Dark Genies. While the stakes are high story-wise (which I won't spoil why in this review), they aren't so much when it concerns gameplay. Instead, they're rather tedious, as they require you to chase down each enemy, unleash a flurry of paint attacks, and then slowly creep up to the Dark Genie to calm them down and restore them to their former spunky and sweet selves. The combat overall seems nice on paper, but it's executed in a less than exciting way, despite its attempt to keep the game feeling fresh.

Battling Dark Genies in unfortunately the weakest part of Concrete Genie.
Despite its budget price and retail presence, Concrete Genie is a game that flew under the radar of many PlayStation 4 owners. As you can see from my review, that's a darn shame--for those who missed out on the game. As is, Concrete Genie is another jewel in Sony's first-party crown and only further enhances the quality of the roster of exclusives the PS4 possesses. That said, Pixelopus' showing isn't a total success with some forced combat that doesn't engage as much as I would have liked, and its brevity may turn off a lot of potential players. Nevertheless, for those looking for an abundantly creative, bold, and special title for their PlayStation 4, you don't need to rub a lamp to encounter this genie. You just need to pick up Concrete Genie instead.

[SPC Says: B]

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Trials of Mana (PS4, NSW) Character Spotlight Trailer: Charlotte & Kevin (2/3)

Square Enix provides a second character spotlight trailer featuring two new heroes included in the upcoming Trials of Mana, Charlotte and Kevin. Among the two protagonists featured, there is a lot of gameplay and story footage provided as well. Trials of Mana releases on the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch on April 24th, 2020.

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot (PS4, XB1, PC) Character Progression Trailer

There are an abundance of ways to boost Goku and friends' power in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot as evident by this new character progression trailer for the game. Check out all the means and methods to do so with this trailer and be on the lookout for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot when it launches on January 17th.

Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield (NSW) Expansion Pass Announcement Trailer

New areas, new Pokemon, and new content are coming to Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield via a $29.99 Expansion Pass. With two major pieces of DLC set to arrive in June and Fall of 2020 respectively, Pokemon trainers who might have seen all there is to see currently in the Galar region (which seems hard to believe) will have even more content to sink their Pokemon-catching and training teeth in to!

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX (NSW) Announcement Trailer

In 2006, the original Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team and Blue Rescue Team released for the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS. Fourteen years later, and the games see a DX version being released with wholly revamped visuals and brand new content. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX launches on Nintendo Switch on March 6th, and a demo is available today to try out the game ahead of time.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

A Hat in Time (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Review

For the first review of 2020, SuperPhillip Central takes a look at A Hat in Time, recently released on the Switch after months of online clamoring for the game from owners and fans alike of Nintendo's hybrid console. Check out the full review of A Hat in Time below.

A Neat Hat Trick

I cannot get enough 3D platformers, and perhaps part of that is growing up with the Nintendo 64, a console with an abundance of games in the genre. Heck, the whole generation was a love letter to the genre Super Mario 64 made popular. Nowadays, the genre is much more underrepresented, but the occasional gem does pop up and shine every now and then. One of these is Gears for Breakfast's A Hat in Time, which finally made its way to the Nintendo Switch as of this past fall. What a time for a review, then! While offering plenty of appeal, this promising 3D platformer does run into some problems that many games of the 3D platform genre suffer from, unfortunately. 

A Hat in Time begins with our heroine Hat Kid traveling in the stars aboard her spaceship. Suddenly, a member of the Mafia pulls alongside her, demanding a toll for passage. When Hat Kid declines, the Mafia man damages the window of the spaceship, thus sucking out Hat Kid and more importantly, the Time Pieces her ship uses as fuel. In order to return to her course to reach her intended destination, she'll have to retrieve as many Time Pieces as possible while interacting with the wacky characters of A Hat in Time's handful of worlds. 

The characters in A Hat in Time are suitably wacky and whimsical, each with their own charming personalities and eccentricities. Each line of dialogue is spoken, and the voice acting is rather nice and well done. I grew fond of plenty of the characters in the game, such as a menacing and foreboding specter that loves to make shadowy and sinister soul-stealing deals via contracts and a loudmouth director with a Scottish accent that never failed to make me smile. 

Hat Kid walks on tightropes like a regular circus star.
A Hat in Time's story plays out over the course of five worlds or chapters. These chapters are split up into acts, which greatly changes not only the objective of the level but also sometimes the geography of the world as well. While most of the levels in the game occur in open, completely nonlinear areas, sometimes you're in much more scripted levels. For instance, the second chapter, Dead Bird Studio's first act has Hat Kid stealthily making her way through various movies being filmed, all the while trying to remain undetected. Subsequent acts in this chapter don't take place in the same setting. Some take place aboard a train in a whodunnit mystery scenario while another places you in a small city set where you perform various actions to raise your publicity for a movie being shot. 

Shh! Make sure to stay quiet on set, Hat Kid!
Apart from completing the main objective in each act of A Hat in Time, there is a wide assortment of activities to be performed. From collecting Balls of Yarn to craft new hats that bestow Hat Kid with new powers (and there are more than enough of these Balls of Yarn so that you need not find every single one in the game to make progress) to discovering locations of Time Rifts, there is plenty to see and do in each level. One aspect that I greatly enjoyed in A Hat in Time is just discovering all of the little secrets found through proficient exploration. The motivation was there because I always knew that my wandering about a level and finding a distinct platforming challenge meant I would be properly rewarded for it.

"Catch me if you can!"
That said, on many occasions in A Hat in Time I would find myself getting easily lost due to the size and scope of some of the levels. Particularly, the Subcon Forest, which is the third chapter in the game, has an extremely large, expansive size and scope, and a lot of the time there aren't too many well defined points of interest. Things simply seem to blur together, making it difficult to navigate, something that would have been remedied with an in-game map. Though perhaps this would have taken away from the mystery and rewards for exploring, but even still, it would have made wandering across these large areas more enjoyable. Many times I'd lose track of where I needed to go or where I had found a collectible I couldn't get right away. I'd spend over ten minutes trying to remember where its location was and attempt to track it down. A map system would have been helpful here.

Some of the areas of A Hat in Time are a little too large for their own good without the assistance of a map.
There are bonus Time Pieces to earn when Time Rifts become detected in levels. These present you with a snapshot of the Time Rift's location, and challenge you to find them based on your knowledge of the scenery surrounding the rift in the snapshot. When you discover the rift's location, you're taken into a platforming challenge room, not unlike those seen in Super Mario Sunshine's bonus areas. These Time Rifts take a lot of platforming prowess to complete, and are pure, unadulterated, and enjoyable in their run and jump action.

Hat Kid has a host of abilities she can learn, and many of these come from the hats she can equip through acquiring the aforementioned assortments of Balls of Yarn. Different hats bestow different abilities, such as the Sprint Cap allowing Hat Kid to speed across levels with a high level of agility, the Brewing Hat grants the ability to chuck explosives that can destroy certain objects in Hat Kid's way, and the Dweller's Mask temporarily turns transparent platforms completely solid for our heroine to jump safely on. Those are but half of the available hats in the game, and each has alternate skins--or flairs, as the game calls them--that are unlocked through discovered coins found hidden in some truly crafty locations in levels. The various variants of hat varieties presents some entertainment in tricking out Hat Kid, as well as the color schemes you can also unlock to customize Hat Kid even further.

Forget explosive potions; Right now it looks like trouble is the only thing brewing here.
Apart from the hat abilities, Hat Kid can purchase badges and eventually equip up to three at once. These grant helpful bonus abilities like automatically picking up collectibles in close proximity to Hat Kid, like a magnet, and even one that points out locations of hidden collectibles. Though, the latter simply points an arrow in the general vicinity and doesn't straight up give away where these collectibles are. At the same token, I wish A Hat in Time was set up to show what acts of chapters have been completely ransacked of collectibles. As is, you have to enter each act of each chapter and equip the badge in question to see if you have everything in a given act or not. Very obnoxious and not really that intuitive design-wise for a completionist like myself.

The Windmill is a platforming challenge featured in A Hat in Time's
fourth chapter, a much more wide open world to explore.
Hat Kid controls splendidly in A Hat in Time. There is a certain finesse and tightness on display here, that is really nice to see and makes for a game that is fun to control. The elephant in the room, however, is the camera, which has been a thorn in the side of many 3D platformers, and it's present here as a problem in A Hat in Time. While in open areas, the camera behaves itself, it's when you enter narrower, more cramped and claustrophobic areas where you'll start seriously cursing at the camera as it causes you unintentional deaths from repeated missed jumps. There aren't too many scenarios like this in the base game, but the bonus chapter that unlocks after beating A Hat in Time is full of these. There is one particular act that features an iceberg-struck ship that has since capsized. You have to navigate through narrow chambers of freezing water that is quickly damaging with prolonged exposure to it, and the camera is as much of an enemy as anything else inside. It's by far one of the worst levels I've played in an otherwise strong 3D platformer in a long time.

Careful, Hat Kid, or you might stumble straight into a shocking development.
Performance-wise, it's a mixed bag regardless of what platform you're playing on. The screens provided in this review that I took are from the Nintendo Switch version. As you can see, anti-aliasing is something the team didn't implement in the game and it shows in a rather unappealing way. There are also frame-rate hitches--up to a second of pure stuttering sometimes--and lengthy load times, especially the initial one when starting up the game. The other console versions deal with various glitches as well, making A Hat in Time a game best played in its original PC form, if you have access to it. As I had a preference for portable play, the Switch version was my preferred platform.

A Hat in Time is generally a good time from beginning to end. It's just that the camera can be a real nuisance when it concerns tight and narrow areas, and technical performance problems in the form of glitches and frame-rate issues result in the game having a less than polished feel to it. That notwithstanding, A Hat in Time is otherwise a resounding success in my book. It offers satisfying worlds to explore, pleasing platforming, amusing characters, and I can't help but tip my own hat to the game.

[SPC Says: B]