Friday, October 9, 2020

Sackboy: A Big Adventure (PS5, PS4) Story Trailer

If you're looking for a cute and adorable game to bust out for some local or online multiplayer fun at the PlayStation 5 launch, then look no further than Sackboy: A Big Adventure, the latest in the LittleBigPlanet series. Playing much differently than past games, as it's 3D like Super Mario 3D World and features no Create Mode, Sackboy: A Big Adventure is shaping up to be a stellar game in the series. Check out this story trailer, making an already great looking game look even better! Sackboy: A Big Adventure charms its way onto PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 on November 12th.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Decap Attack (GEN) Retro Review

Being October and all, I think it'd be fun to focus on some Halloween-themed games here and there throughout the month. Not only that, but we have our first Retro Review in quite a while, too. It's SEGA's Decap Attack, a game with an interesting story in how it came to be compared to what it originally was. Here's SuperPhillip Central's review.

A macabre platformer that doesn't push that far a-head of its contemporaries

How do you take a game that is heavily tied to a Japanese anime and rework it for Western audiences? Well, look at SEGA's Decap Attack for the answer. The original Magical Hat's Turbo Flight! Adventure launched in Japan in 1990 and was based on the anime series Magical Hat. In order to bring the game to the west, a wholly unique, slightly macabre theme was given to the game. While the gameplay remained relatively unchanged, everything from the story, to the visuals, to the levels themselves were altered to fit the new approach designed specifically for the Western Genesis and Mega Drive audiences. The end result is a game that nails the fundamentals and makes for a spooky good time.

Decap Attack stars Chuck D. Head, a mummy who is tasked by his creator Dr. Frank N. Stein to stop the evil demon Max D. Cap. (Have enough play-on words with the names yet?) The latter has brought his underworld monster minions topside to conquer the world, as well as split up an island reminiscent of a skeleton into seven pieces. It's up to Chuck D. Head to travel to each island, beat the boss of each, bring the skeletal series of islands back together, and beat down Max D. Cap back into the underworld where he belongs. 

There are 21 levels in Decap Attack, spread out among seven worlds. Each level sees our mummified hero Chuck run and leap his way through enemy and hazard-filled areas (with lava pits being instant death to our bandage-covered friend) as he finds his way to the goal. Some levels are standard left to right affairs, but other times they take you right to left, or straight up vertical, whether going upwards or downwards. 

Chuck doesn't really have a good head on his shoulders; 
It's merely a powerup that goes away as soon as he takes damage!

Levels aren't too lengthy in the game, but exploration is encouraged. Breakable statue idols are scattered throughout levels, hiding all sorts of goods (and the occasional bad thing like an enemy) inside. Such goods include health, potions that when used bestow temporary effects to Chuck, and coins, which are used at the end of each world to participate in a bonus game for extra lives and items alike. 

One of the things I don't particularly care for in Decap Attack is that when you die, the stone idols that you break don't reset. This means their contents don't reset either, making it so if you pillaged all of the health pickups in a level and die, you have to play through the level from the beginning with no means to heal yourself. There are no checkpoints in levels either, and while I said levels aren't lengthy, they are rather difficult with pesky enemies thwarting your progress every step of the way.

Occasionally, Chuck will have to get his bandages wet and do some swimming.

The third level of each island concludes with a boss battle of some sort. These have Chuck taking on foes of all shapes and sizes. He'll encounter a baby frog-spewing bullfrog, a mischievous mole, and an incensed yeti, to name but a few. Each boss's pattern is simple enough to learn and far from complicated, but as they take more damage (and their color and complexion literally changes to show how close they are to their demise), battles with them become more dangerous. 

Mo' levels completed, "mole" problems.

It's not just enough to beat the boss of an island and get the third level's goal. No, that's not good enough in Decap Attack to clear an island completely. You're forced to collect a hidden, special artifact found somewhere in that level. If you failed to pick it up and reach the goal, you're told to go back through the level to find it. Each is hidden in a stone idol statue, and many are in out-of-the-way locations. Thankfully, if you do die after beating a boss as you return through the level to find the necessary artifact to help restore the skeletal isles to their former glory, you need not refight the boss. 

Which is great, because Decap Attack is already a hard game. It by no means reaches the level of something like Contra or something hard because of poor design like various "NES Hard" games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but it will give you a run for your mummy--er--that is to say, a run for your money.

Here's looking at you--up close and personal!

Fortunately, Chuck has a helpful assortment of moves to tackle levels and bosses. For offense, he can jump on normal enemies multiple times to bury them into the ground, utterly defeating them. He can also launch his face forward to attack enemies directly in front of his gaze. You can't just keep Chuck's face out, though, and there's a delay in it retracting back in. Thus, there's some tricky timing to be found in properly attacking foes without taking damage to Chuck himself. There is a powerup that Chuck can discover in levels that places a skeleton head on top of his body that serves a function similar to a boomerang. When launched, it shoots forward and regardless of where it's thrown or where it lands, it will return to Chuck. The only caveat is that once Chuck takes damage, this highly beneficial boost to his attack gets taken away.

Meanwhile, platforming in Decap Attack is responsive, and while it's not necessarily the tightest around, making precision jumps on platforms is helped by Chuck's ability to slow his descent. This is performed by repeatedly pressing the jump button upon Chuck falling. It's a heaven sent maneuver to have due to the fact that without it, Decap Attack would be a much harder--and much more frustrating--game. 

The required platforming in Decap Attack isn't as punishing as it might have been
without Chuck's ability to slow his fall.

Decap Attack is a bit of a looker running on the SEGA Genesis. Environments are pronounced and look suitably dreary for the type of world the game plays out in, but no doubt well detailed. That said, one of the worlds was an assault on the eyes with the painful combination of hot reds and oranges. Regardless of that lone midgame world, when it concerns the character sprites, they look absolutely fantastic. The amount of detail is great on Chuck himself, and the bigger boss sprites are tremendous to gaze upon. Just don't get totally preoccupied staring at them, or you might end up having Chuck die on you! Musically, there are some catchy songs using the Genesis' signature soundfont, though I'll always argue that said soundfont and soundchip does get grating after a while.

It was a thrill (in more ways than one) returning to the macabre world of Decap Attack and once more taking control of Chuck D. Head in his adventure to save the world, defeat Max D. Cap and yes, get the surprise ending of him becoming human as reward for his good deeds. While there isn't too much here that pushes the platforming genre forward--and it would otherwise be lost in a sea of similar platformers without its unique atmosphere and vibe--Decap Attack remains a solid 2D platformer right down to its bones. 

[SPC Says: B-]

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (NSW) "Untold Chronicles From 100 Years Past" Trailer

Edited 10/7/2020 to clarify the new characters as they aren't confirmed to be playable.

A short but--depending on your position on the new possible playable characters introduced--sweet trailer for the upcoming Nintendo Switch game Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is available for view on Nintendo's YouTube channel. Sheikah researchers Robbie and Purah, as well as the King of Hyrule, show up in Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, which by the way releases on November 20th.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Going Under (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Review

Let's start this week with the first review of October. It's for a game that is now available on all major platforms, and it's a developer's first game. It's Aggro Crab's satirical take on corporate work culture, Going Under.

Bashing your way up and down the corporate ladder

The Roguelike is a genre that is no doubt no stranger to indies. In a month where Supergiant Games' Hades has taken up most of the attention (arguably for all the right reasons due to its high quality), it can be hard to differentiate one's game among the countless horde of indie Roguelikes. Newcomer Aggro Crab, however, does just this with Going Under, a game where the dungeons take place in failed startup companies and appropriately satirizes capitalism and startup culture itself with a smart combination of humor and sass. It mostly--and forgive the unforced play-on words--"works" well, offering a fresh take on a well-worn genre of game.

Right as the game clocks in, it delivers the satire in abundance. You play as Jackie Fiasco, an unpaid intern for a flavored soda meal replacement company known as Fizzle. This company is owned by conglomerate Cubicle, which houses multiple startups underneath its corporate umbrella. Tasked by your boss, Marv, Jackie is sent to the underground to defeat literal bosses of failed startups that have also in a literal and figurative sense "gone under". Between the characters, the dialogue, and the setup, Going Under's story almost hits too close to home with its take on unpaid internships, corporations, startup culture, and capitalism, but it does it all mostly in a clever way. I say "mostly" because some of the writing whiffs on the humor with dated references and obnoxious writing.

The face of someone who just realized their internship is unpaid.

Going Under sees players entering three unique main dungeons, fighting their way deeper into each four-floor-deep dungeon using objects and weapons alike to eliminate enemies and clear rooms. Essentially anything and everything that isn't tied down can be used as a weapon in the game. Each object used has its own degradation where it breaks after several uses. While a computer monitor and plastic knife breaks after a couple of attacks, something heartier like a sword or axe will last for a while. You can hold three objects in your inventory at a time, and with the weapon degradation, you'll obviously be switching weapons in and out consistently. That said, combat itself in Going Under is a touch messy and sloppy, not having the kind of tightness or level of precise control I would like, but overall, it works as needed. 

Clear the room of all enemies to move on. Rinse and repeat. An intern's job is never done.

That said, the enemy variety is high, and the numerous different objects used in battle each have their own level of power, depending on what is used. A rolling move gives you a narrow window of invincibility to evade attacks, and your own attacks can be charged to unleash more devastating amounts of damage. Objects can be thrown, as well, when all else fails.

Each procedurally generated dungeon has its own clever theme to it, including enemies inhabiting them and objects found. Each floor features a randomly located shop and other notable rooms, such as one that grants a choice between two Skills and one that rewards several item freebies with the cost of bestowing your character with a curse of some kind. There are also various optional challenges to take on, each different depending on the dungeon. From the Tinder-like company Winkydink, where levels feature the ability to "date" or recruit a fellow enemy as long as you defeat it without taking too much damage, or mining the titular Styxcoin in the startup of the same name, as you rush through the room collecting coins before time runs out, these challenges give worthwhile rewards for completing them. 

These foes look light on their feet, so Jackie is going to have them take a seat.

While there are only three main dungeons that you routinely return to, there is plenty of replay value to be found in this otherwise 5-10 hour adventure. You can assign a Mentor to your character, giving them bonuses inside dungeons, such as entering each floor with helper characters or lowering the cost of items at shops. New Mentor abilities are unlocked by completing in-dungeon tasks, like destroying 15 laptops, setting a certain objects ablaze, or defeating enemies with only your fists. 

The Skills I mentioned briefly come into play when they are discovered in dungeons. They are temporarily equipped to your character as you find them in dungeons, and they bestow varying effects. Some add an extra heart to your health, others can instantly ignite enemies when you target them, and then there are those Skills that increase your attack power briefly at the start of a battle. As you play through the dungeons with these equipped, you earn experience for them that is tallied up at the end of each run. If a Skill reaches 100% experience, you can choose to start with that Skill for use in dungeons. Pick wisely, though, as only one Skill can be equipped for use in dungeons at once. These Skills offer a great chance to experiment and find the one that matches either your play style or the dungeon you're about to enter.

The boss of Joblin is large and in charge, the hyped up Caffiend.

Going Under, like many of the games in its genre, is no pushover. You'll be working overtime to complete it, as it can be quite the difficult game. Fortunately, developer Aggro Crab realized it--heck, they even state the game can be a difficult one in the game itself--and has provided several options to assist players in more easily beating the game. These include adding more hearts to your health at the start of dungeons, making objects heartier so they won't break so easily, and even widening the window of invincibility when Jackie rolls. Many of these options have sliders so you can set the level of help to exactly what you need and desire, and they can be turned on or off each time you resume your save file.

Unlike actual internships, I enjoyed my time at Fizzle. Combat is a bit loose and clunky, lacking a lot of variety that will keep most players from coming to back to the game, but Going Under otherwise keeps an elevated level of quality throughout its relatively short campaign. The optional added accessibility and assist options makes for a game that while still challenging, offers a game that can be custom tailored to a given player's skill level. Thus, anyone with a love for Roguelikes but not necessarily a love for their general difficulty can enjoy this game. Overall, Aggro Crab has done a good job with their first game.

[SPC Says: B-]

A Nintendo Switch code was provided to SPC by the publisher for the purpose of writing this review.

Pikmin 3 Deluxe (NSW) "Meet the Pikmin" Trailer

No doubt most Nintendo fans are familiar with the lovable little creatures known as Pikmin, but for the many out there who have never played a game in the series, this trailer from Nintendo posted today is for them. Pikmin 3 Deluxe will no doubt be a lot of players' first official go-round with Nintendo's series, and it launches on Nintendo Switch on October 30th.