Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Review Round-Up - November 2020

SPC was thankful this past Thanksgiving for a cornucopia of entertaining games,
but taking the crown in November was none other than Sackboy: A Big Adventure!
The tail end of November always sees Thanksgiving occur in the United States, but for SuperPhillip Central, the site was feasting and stuffing itself full of game reviews all month long. Seven reviews were published to the site, and like I always enjoy doing, I'd like to recap for everybody what games were reviewed and what grades they received. It's Review Round-Up time, y'all!

Despite a spin-off in The Legend of Zelda series releasing on the Nintendo Switch last month, I actually didn't review several Zelda-style games because of that. It was merely coincidence. Regardless, two Zelda-likes with Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Realm and Beyond Oasis were reviewed to kick the month off. While one game was a mobile port and the other was a cult classic Genesis game, both received the same grade of B-. The Zelda kick continued with an actual Zelda game, albeit a spin-off with Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda (phew, I got winded typing that title out!). It moved to the groove and got an excellent A- for its efforts.

We moved from Zelda to Metroid-like with the gorgeous Ori and the Will of the Wisps, a former Xbox exclusive that wound up on the Nintendo Switch. It captivated this reviewer, and it earned its A- grade. Continuing with Xbox Game Studios, we took a look at Minecraft Dungeons: Hero Edition, which hack and slashed its way to a satisfactory C grade. 

Finally--together--we ran the gamut of review scores with the less-than-sensational Lunch A Palooza--although fitting for Thanksgiving--which got a poor D. However, SPC ended the month with a winner and our Game of the Month with Sackboy: A Big Adventure, which got a fantastic A grade.

It was a busy month of reviews at SuperPhillip Central, but something tells me December is going to be even busier! Closing out this edition of the Review Round-Up is a list of every game, attached grade, and review excerpt from this past month. Last but not least, a reminder to scope out the SPC Review Archive for every review ever published on SPC. We'll see you next year in 2021, Review Round-Up!

Despite its frame-rate issues and problems with combat and bosses, Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm delivers an enchanting adventure filled with clever puzzles, enjoyable exploration, and an astounding level of ambition when compared to its predecessor. This 15-20 hour Zelda-like was one that ultimately gave me more moments of joy and wonder than moments of anger and disappointment, making it a game that I would recommend with the caveat of knowing that it's a $30 game that isn't as polished as a $60 3D Zelda.
As a Zelda-like mixed with some Secret of Mana goodness, Beyond Oasis does its job well enough to be worthy enough of being within earshot of the Zelda series. By no means is this Ancient-developed, Sega-published action-adventure one that surpasses something like A Link to the Past due to its unrefined, clumsy combat and extensive and unenjoyable backtracking, but Beyond Oasis does manage to bring enough to the table to make it a recommended game to play. From the gorgeous visuals to the clever use of Spirits for battles and puzzles, Beyond Oasis may not be timeless, but it is quite the epic adventure regardless.
Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda's retail release offers a lot of bang for one's Rupees. The procedurally generated overworld and dungeons mean you'll get a lot of replayability from the game, and the many modes mean you'll not be short in content to enjoy. As with games of the rogue-lite design, it can be rather deflating to have a good run go bad due to one or two wrong moves--especially in permadeath mode--but other than that small-ish issue, I can't see too much wrong with Nintendo and Brace Yourself Games' effort. 
Ori and the Will of the Wisps suffers from some small technical issues on the Nintendo Switch version, and my issues with the series' chase sequences continues with this sequel. However, building off the strong foundation of the original Ori, Moon Studios has managed to craft an even bigger, better, and bolder sequel with Ori and the Will of the Wisps, telling a touching tale while making a marvelous Metroidvania in the process. 
The argument about whether or not the gameplay loop of Minecraft Dungeons is satisfying enough to be worth that trouble is another story, however. By the end of my Adventure run--the second difficulty mode of the game--I was already having trouble wanting to continue playing the game. Seeing as how much grinding it would take to get good enough gear to even have a chance of getting anywhere close to surviving later levels particularly on the Apocalyptic difficulty didn't seem too enticing to me, personally. This notwithstanding, there is joy to be found in the simple gameplay and basic, blocky boundaries within Minecraft Dungeons' worlds, especially if you're able to play it with a group of friends, family members, or companions locally or online. There's certainly some fun here, but not enough for me to wholeheartedly recommend this otherwise inoffensively adorable dungeon crawler.
Lunch A Palooza fails as a party game with any kind of strategy or more importantly, any semblance of fun. It's just too random, from its inconsistent physics to its yawn-inducing, indecipherable gameplay. It has nice ideas with some clever arena design, but other than that, I cannot recommend this game at all. You might as well take a burger patty out of the freezer as well as take out a banana and start smashing them into one another like they were action figures. At least that would show attacks that actually hit consistently and be less random than suffering through this game.
While it's easy to see the Super Mario 3D World in the DNA of Sackboy: A Big Adventure, the game does without a doubt manage to weave its own path and craft its own identity. The abundance of well executed ideas in the level design, the sheer creativity on display, and the massively improved feel and control of Sackboy make Sackboy: A Big Adventure a seriously thrilling platformer to play. Throw in a sack-full of charm, and you have one of my favorite 3D platformers in a long time and one of the better games I've played this year. It's just a shame that online co-op was not ready for launch. 

The magnificent Metroidvania, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, played as great as it looked.
Needless to say, the game is a visual stunner, so you can probably guess how much of a joy it is to play!

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