Saturday, July 4, 2020

Urban Trial Tricky (NSW) Review

It's the Fourth of July, a celebration for the United States, and SuperPhillip Central has some fireworks tonight of its own with a new game review. It's Urban Trial Tricky, specifically the Nintendo Switch version, and here is my review.

A biking game that sticks its landings more than it bails

Imagine a game that crosses the careful, precision, bike-based platforming of Ubisoft's Trials series and mixes it with the score attack style of the Tony Hawk series. That, in a nutshell, is what you get with Tate Multimedia's Urban Trial Tricky. Unlike either series mentioned, however, Urban Trial Tricky doesn't demand nearly as much from the player's skill. That's not to say that the game won't test your skills or be a walk in the park--or in this case, a bike ride in the city.

Urban Trial Tricky features three types of events in its campaign. These are Timed, Tricks, and Competition. Timed are essentially events where you race to the goal, trying to beat a target time. Performing the occasional specified trick will shave some precious seconds off your total time. Tricks events are Tony Hawk-style affairs where you try to beat a high score within the time limit. Finally, Competition events see your rider having to perform trick after specified trick before time runs out. Sprinkled among these events are tutorials that show you how to perform everything from easy-to-hard air and land tricks.

It's a bird, it's a plane... it's a Hot Superman!
Each of the levels and events in Urban Trial Tricky possesses myriad extra challenges to complete apart from just getting the requisite amount of stars needed to unlock the next level or series of events. These extra challenges range from reaching certain point thresholds, making to the end of a Timed level without crashing, collecting all of the snacks in a given level, or beating the developer's amount of stunts performed in a given Competition event. These extra challenges add to the longevity of the game and are worth pursuing to maximize your time with Urban Trial Tricky.

Completing events in Urban Trial Tricky awards up to five stars depending on how well you perform in them. You also obtain cash for clearing challenges as well as collecting bags of money floating throughout environments. This cash money can be used to buy new bikes, new color combinations for your rider and bike, different exhaust trails, and new tricks. There's no worry about spending cash on the wrong things, as by clearing every challenge and collecting every bag of money, you'll have exactly enough of the green stuff to purchase everything in the game.

Performing a Hot Screw trick? "Nailed" it!
To play Urban Trial Tricky is an enjoyable experience for the most part. It's like a more casual Trials game just with Tony Hawk-style tricks added in. Balancing on your bike, for instance, is very easy to do, so the main cause of concern is nailing tricks without bailing or messing up. Tricks come in the form of air or land, with the latter having you perform wheelies (having your bike's front tire in the air) or stoppies (having your bike's back tire in the air). Tricks are easy to memorize the buttons, as it's not about the direction you hold the analog stick, but instead, it's the order of buttons you press--with a maximum of three buttons needed to be pressed in a sequence for the most difficult of tricks to nail. When it concerns Competition events, the button combination necessary to perform the requested trick is clearly shown on the screen. Otherwise, you can just pause the game and quickly enter the trick list to see all of various stunts at your rider's disposal.

To score high in Tricks-based events, you'll need to keep a combo going. The more unique tricks you pull off in your current combo, the higher your multiplier will go and the more time you'll get to continue pulling off new tricks in said combo. When the combo meter runs out, your combo ends and you'll be rewarded with all of your well deserved points. If you bail or otherwise fail to cleanly land, your combo will abruptly end, rewarding you will a small fraction of the large amount of points you'd otherwise earn if you ended the combo cleanly. So, it's a nice risk and reward here, and sometimes it's good to just end a combo early and safely to get a plethora of points.

That's one heck of a combo! Be sure to stick the landing!
I liken Urban Trial Tricky to a more kid-friendly, newcomer-friendly version of Ubisoft's Trials series. I didn't find the game to be particularly challenging, save for a few events that required repeated tries to complete, and it's also not a particularly long game either. I managed to unlock everything and clear all events and extra challenges within about five hours, possibly a little more. That notwithstanding, I found my experience with the game to be a positive one more than it was a frustrating one. Frustration was one of the last things Urban Trial Tricky was for me.

When it regards presentation, Urban Trial Tricky brings with it a colorful, suitably cheery art style, though obviously nothing that really taxes the Nintendo Switch hardware. The lone character model is a bit crude-looking in appearance, but he animates rather well, especially when performing all of the various tricks and stunts within the game. The level environments sports great visual variety and the abundance of unique billboards, signs, and extras showcases just that. On the sound side of Urban Trial Tricky, the music is dynamic, pumping up with a high combo is executed, and on the opposite side of the spectrum, slows down with a record scratch when your rider crashes, bails, or otherwise loses a combo. The voice work is varied, but you'll no doubt come across the same samples of lines enough that they'll get grating on the ears, particularly one line that closely mirrors Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' "All you had to do was follow the damn train, CJ!" Yes, really.

Urban Trial Tricky boasts a bounty of color in its aesthetic. 
Urban Trial Tricky won't send veteran players of games similar to it through too rigorous of paces, but for everyone else, what Tate Multimedia has made here is a pleasant and overall engaging stunt-based bike game for the masses. Between its lovely cartoon art style, generally polished and smooth controls, and straightforward gameplay, there's a lot to like about Urban Trial Tricky--enough to like that I am pleased to recommend it, despite its apparent length issues.

[SPC Says: B-]

Tate Multimedia provided a code for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Review Round-Up - June 2020

A clear copy of the Paper Mario formula with Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling
didn't bug me when the end result was so satisfying!
Hope everyone is staying safe and if you can, staying inside... perhaps while playing some video games? Regardless, it's time for the Review Round-Up, where you and I join forces to look at the games that I reviewed for the previous month. In this case, we'll be talking about June 2020! Let's get to it, gang!

We kicked things off with the boys of summer with Super Mega Baseball 3, which knocked it out of the park in Metalhead's third series outing with a B+. Then, the Saints marched in to aim for the spotlight again with an impressive remaster, suitably titled Saints Row: The Third - Remastered. It, too, received a B+. From there, Nintendo and ND Cube's Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Games presented fun fare for gamers of all ages and skill levels, winning a B+ grade as a prize. Finally, SPC's Game of the Month is Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling, delighting with its excellent take on the Paper Mario formula, and excelling at it as well. So much so that I couldn't help but give the game a highly recommended A- grade.

To conclude this month's Review Round-Up, here are excerpts from each game review from June 2020, and a final reminder to check out the SPC Review Archive for every game review ever posted on SuperPhillip Central.

Super Mega Baseball 3 (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC) - B+
The Super Mega Baseball series is known for both its entertaining and accessible gameplay, and now Super Mega Baseball 3 further hammers this point home like a long, powerful drive over the center field wall. It makes even finagling with team budgets, lineups, and free agency--stuff that I found difficult to wrap my head around in more sim-like games--to be incredibly approachable and dare I say, fun. While the high cost of entry robs the game from being a complete grand slam, as it might be a barrier of entry for some prospective players, the welcoming gameplay and robust lineup of modes gives Super Mega Baseball 3 the walk-off home run all the same.
Saints Row: The Third - Remastered (PS4, XB1, PC) - B+
Saints Row: The Third - Remastered may not have evolved too much in the gameplay department, but what it has done is more than market itself well as a remaster, looking phenomenal at times. Much of the humor is dated and beyond juvenile, but there is some good stuff that gave me a giggle here and there. If you're sick of Steelport and the Saints' adventures therein, this remaster is not going to do anything to sweeten your opinion on the fictional city, but for those who want to jump in for a first, second, or--like me--a third time, then Saints Row: The Third - Remastered is a great game and excellent effort.
Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics (NSW) - B+
Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics is one of those games that I see myself coming back to for the near and also distant future. It's perfect to bring out for parties, family get-togethers, and any not-so-special occasion as well, such as when you're bored and looking to play a quick game of Four-In-A-Row or Dominoes to kill some time. Though online is a ridiculously rough spot, Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics is an otherwise highly competent and well put-together collection of gaming classics. Not all of the 51 games are winners, but the majority of the games brought and continue to bring loads of fun to the SuperPhillip household. I managed to accumulate armfuls of favorites. You certainly will, too.
Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling (PS4, NSW, XB1, PC) - A-
Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling takes the ball that Nintendo and the Paper Mario series dropped and absolutely runs with it to amazing levels. The game is polished well, full of fun secrets to discover in its colorful worlds, complete with a superb script (though one that occasionally drags on during some scenes), and features a sublime take on Paper Mario's heralded battle system. It's easy to dismiss Bug Fables as a mere clone, but the game does so much differently and dare I say sometimes better than its clear inspiration that it's hard to even care. On "paper", Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is a great game inspired by a Nintendo classic. In execution... well, it's still a great game inspired by a Nintendo classic!
What better way to stay in and enjoy some gaming than with a collection of 51 worldwide classics?
That's exactly what the sequel to 2005's Clubhouse Games gave Switch owners.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling (PS4, NSW, XB1, PC) Review

SuperPhillip Central ramps up the reviews even more as we inch(worm) closer to the end of June(bug) with another new review. If you can't tell already by the awful insect-related puns of this opener, I'm reviewing Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling, newly available on the PlayStation 4 (which this review is based off of), the Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One. (Note: Bug Fables launched last year on PC.)

Move over, Paper Mario. The bugs are here to claim your former throne.

Paper Mario and its GameCube sequel, The Thousand-Year Door, are darlings within the Nintendo community, and for good reason--they're funny, charming, and well designed RPGs with a clever gameplay hook. Since Sticker Star, however, the series has gone off the rails in a direction less than satisfying for many fans. Where Nintendo and Intelligent Systems have strayed from their winning formula, developer Moonsprout games has moved in to deliver an original take on the gameplay systems found in the early Paper Mario games with Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling. Thankfully, these bugs and their fables aren't ones you'll need to call an exterminator for, as the game pleasantly ended up being both a refreshing and familiar take on the Paper Mario formula.

Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling sees a trio of unlikely teammates: Vi the Bee, Kabbu the Beetle, and Leif the Moth (aka Team Snakemouth) on a quest to recover three magical and mysterious artifacts for the Queen Ant. The goal of this quest is to use these artifacts to find the location of the titular Everlasting Sapling. The first three chapters show our heroes' hunt for the mystical artifacts while the latter four chapters involve some complications from third parties that make this quest much more difficult, to say the least!

Like its clear inspiration, Bug Fables features charming characters with amusing personalities and occasionally humorous dialogue to go along with all that in spades. Though like Paper Mario as well, sometimes I did find that even with all of the clever lines and funny flourishes given to the dialogue, I wished that the characters would just get to the point. Certain story segments just ran on a touch too long for my personal attention.

Explore lands far and wide in the kingdom of Bugaria.
It's hard not to compare Bug Fables to Paper Mario's first two entries, especially when the developer Moonsprout Games made the intentional decision to make the type of game that Nintendo refuses to nowadays. That said, Bug Fables does bring a lot new to the table when it concerns combat, particularly its battle system. There aren't any partners that join up with our trio of heroes in the game. Instead, the three teammates are what you're ultimately working with the entire game. Battles feature context and timing-sensitive button presses to attack enemies as well as lessen or full-on nullify damage taken from foes.

Vi, Kabbu, and Leif line up one after the other, and this order can be alternated with the press of a button, and it's oftentimes important and strategic to do so. After all, the party member up front will deliver more damage while the character in the back will deal the least. A bonus, however, for being in the back is that they won't be targeted as much as the character leading the lineup. A fun twist on the Paper Mario formula, indeed, as is the ability to perform what the game calls a "Turn Relay". This allows a party member to surrender their turn and essentially donate it to another character who has already taken their turn. While this party member will get a second turn to attack, heal, or whatnot, their damage output will be lessened substantially. Then, there are special moves that require special consumable points to use, which offer devastating attacks and healing moves for Team Snakemouth to use, but also require more complex button combinations, timing, and reflexes to pull off.

Time your inputs correctly to deal the most damage to your target or, in some cases, targets!
All three members of Team Snakemouth have their own positives and negatives in battle. Vi's boomerang is perfect for picking off enemies in the air, and bringing them down to the ground for other members of the team to deal out damage on. Kabbu is great for smacking some sense into shielded enemies, and Leif can deliver more attack damage to plant-based enemies and reach underground foes, as well.

The fact of the matter is that with Bug Fables, you're actively engaged in each battle, regardless of how strong or weak an enemy encounter is. That's because if you don't properly time your button presses, battles will drag out longer than they otherwise would--and you'll take a lot more damage as well, thus resulting in requiring you to heal your team more often. And if a battle becomes too easy that you don't wish to waste the time to battle a particular normal, everyday encounter, equipping a special item called the "Bug Me Not" medal, automatically eliminates a foe you bump into on the field or in a dungeon. This is assuming you're at a high enough level compared to the group of enemies you bump into, of course.

Ooh. Things aren't looking too good for Team Snakemouth.
Speaking of medals, these are the Bug Fables substitute of the Paper Mario series's badges. They're found all around Bugaria--hidden in secret areas, rewarded for completing quests, and found in shops, ripe for purchasing. These bestow unique abilities when equipped to the party or a specific party member. Things like preventing status ailments, strengthening a party member's attack while slightly lowering their defense, or raising their max HP, are just some of the things that medals do when equipped. However, each medal has a point value attached to it, and you can't equip more medals than you have points available to you. Fortunately, when you level up, you can increase this amount as one of the three choices available to you as an upgrade. The other two include increasing the max HP of each party member or upping the amount of move points you have.

Medals are found all over Bugaria. Can you collect them all?
If somehow Bug Fables isn't challenging enough for you, almost immediately when you gain control of your party, you're gifted a hard mode medal, which makes enemy encounters much more difficult. While using items, dodging well, making limited mistakes in battle, and being overall smart in your combat strategy are all important in the base game, in hard mode, the need for all this is increased exponentially. Hard mode can be deselected at any time in the inventory menu by taking off the medal associated with it, and I found myself having to do this as the game gets quite hard! Still, there's a nice, stiff challenge here waiting for players who wish to up the stakes more.

When you're not thorax deep in battle, you're exploring colorful landscapes and vistas, performing plentiful platforming and puzzle solving. The former doesn't have the tightest implementation around, with a fair amount of my jumps resulting in near misses and mild frustration, but overall, it gets the job done. Vi, Kabbu, and Leif possess their combat abilities outside of battle to aid in puzzle solving and exploration, such as using Vi's boomerang to hit far-off switches, Kabbu's ability to dig underground to reach otherwise inaccessible areas, and Leif's ability to freeze foes and use them as platforms to access higher places.

Outside of following along with the main story, Bug Fables features a hefty amount of optional content, whether it be that of side quests (most are throwaway, but some do shine, offering new areas to explore and providing a deeper understanding of Team Snakemouth's individual members) or special bosses to tackle. This brings about one of my main issues with moving around Bugaria, and that's the means of fast travel, which is through various ant tunnels. So many quests require you to move back and forth from location to location through the means of these aforementioned tunnels. It gets rather tedious to backtrack repeatedly ad nauseum, and this was really the main point of contention I have with the game. It made doing multiple side quests more of a chore than something fun and rewarding.

Still, though, Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling takes the ball that Nintendo and the Paper Mario series dropped and absolutely runs with it to amazing levels. The game is polished well, full of fun secrets to discover in its colorful worlds, complete with a superb script (though one that occasionally drags on during some scenes), and features a sublime take on Paper Mario's heralded battle system. It's easy to dismiss Bug Fables as a mere clone, but the game does so much differently and dare I say sometimes better than its clear inspiration that it's hard to even care. On "paper", Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is a great game inspired by a Nintendo classic. In execution... well, it's still a great game inspired by a Nintendo classic!

[SPC Says: A-]

Dangan Entertainment provided a code for the purpose of this review.