Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Mario Party Superstars (NSW) Overview Trailer

Halloween is fast approaching, and I can't think of a better "treat" than Mario Party Superstars, launching on the Nintendo Switch on October 29th. Party hardy with Mario and the gang with five classic, remade boards from the Nintendo 64 era of Mario Party games, over 100 mini-games, and online play for essentially every mode available in the game. Check out all that is in store for prospective partygoers with this three-minute-long Mario Party Superstars overview trailer.

 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Review Round-Up - September 2021

Sonic the Hedgehog reached for the stars with this remake of Sonic Colors,
earning a B+ grade and top honors as SPC's Featured Game of the Month!

The month of September brought autumn to SuperPhillip Central as well as four new reviews published to the site. Let's dive into them like a pile of freshly fallen and newly raked leaves with the Review Round-Up!

We started the month of reviews early with an impressive, classic shoot-em-up known as DariusBurst: Another Chronicle EX+, which blasted its way to a B- grade. Following that was another game receiving a satisfying B- grade, Kitaria Fables, though this was an adorable but grind-heavy action-RPG.

Wrapping up the month were two stellar titles. SPC's Featured Game of the Month was Sonic Colors: Ultimate, bringing back of the Blue Blur's best 3D outings and making it marginally better in some ways, worse in others. It got a B+. Finally, we blasted off in more ways than one with the high-octane rides of Cruis'n Blast, which got a solid B.

As you can see, it was a month of satisfying games, all within the B range for September! If you want to see something else, check out the SPC Review Archive for every review ever published on SuperPhillip Central. Let's wrap up with a link to each review and a concluding excerpt from each, as we is customary to do on the old Review Round-Up! See you near the beginning of next month, all!

DariusBurst: Another Chronicle EX+ (NSW) - B-

DariusBurst: Another Chronicle EX+ is another shoot-em-up to add to the pile of stellar games within the genre on the Nintendo Switch. There is a ton of content to be found for those who enjoy partaking in the genre, and plenty of challenge to be discovered as well. The limited field of view and screen real estate utilized for the Switch version is a bummer, but ultimately, DariusBurst: Another Chronicle EX+'s mission to be an entertaining Switch home port of an older arcade game is a success.

Kitaria Fables (Multi) - B-

At the end of my 20 hours with Kitaria Fables, I found myself having played some marathon sessions of over five hours at times. There's certainly a "let's do one more day" or "let's do one more quest" type feeling I got from this game. There is definitely no shortage of things to do to preoccupy yourself in Kitaria's whimsical world, whether that be monsters to slay, materials to craft, treasure chests to open, bosses to battle, dungeon-like areas to explore, and quests to complete. You'll be doing all of this with a hefty focus on grinding and backtracking, too, so if you're not of the right mind for an experience like this, you need not accept your invite to Paw Village. Sure, you'll probably be put on the Empire's bad side, but at least you won't have to do busywork--whether enjoyable (like it was for me) or not.

Sonic Colors: Ultimate (Multi) - B+

Sonic Colors: Ultimate takes a great 3D Sonic game from the Wii and makes it marginally better. Not so much better that it makes the Wii version obsolete by any stretch of the imagination--which I could see as a bit disappointing for many--but marginally all the same. With glorious new graphics, mostly lovely new remixes alongside the original musical themes, new additions like Rival Rush, Tails' rescues from bottomless pits, and unlockable cosmetics, Sonic Colors: Ultimate makes a great impression. I loved the Wii original in 2010, and in 2021, I enjoyed revisiting this wonderful Sonic game. 

Cruis'n Blast (NSW) - B

Cruis'n Blast was a game that as soon as I saw videos of it being played in arcades, I felt the urge and definite desire to play it. It has taken a few years of patience, but now that I got to experience the game on the Nintendo Switch thanks to this home console port, I am pleased to say that my patience indeed paid off. Cruis'n Blast is ridiculous and crazy in all the right ways. How can you not love speeding through tracks where you witness UFOs whiz by, blowing up a dam, all the while you drift into your opponent, causing them to crash in a burning blaze of glory!? I defy you to not love that! Despite lacking online, longevity, and track variety, Cruis'n Blast delivers an action-packed arcade racer that will most likely make you laugh and smile with how outrageous its racing scenarios can get and how fun the overall package truly is.

We also went cruisin' with Cruis'n Blast on the Nintendo Switch, which is very much a "must-play" arcade racer!

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (NSW) "The Last Key" Trailer

This morning, Nintendo and Masahiro Sakurai revealed the final fighter to be added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It's been a long, lengthy, but enjoyable journey. It's almost impossible to imagine what the gaming world will be like without the sound of hype trains chugging for unannounced DLC fighters for Smash, but all good things must eventually come to an end! With this final character announcement revealed in this super special trailer (and that final shot in said trailer--my goodness!), a chapter closes on Super Smash Bros. and gaming history itself. 

Watch this trailer to find out the identity of the final Smash character, and then let the SPC community know what you think in the comments below!

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania (Multi) Launch Trailer

To commemorate today's launch of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania, SEGA has put together this gorgeously drawn animated launch trailer for the game, celebrating the Super Monkey Ball franchise's 20th anniversary. See the animated hijinks of Aiai and the monkey crew mesh wonderfully with lovely gameplay footage. Stay tuned to SuperPhillip Central for a full review of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania in the coming weeks!

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Cruis'n Blast (NSW) Review

Wrapping up the month of reviews here at SuperPhillip Central for September is Cruis'n Blast from Raw Thrills. Originally published in arcades by Nintendo, it's great to finally see this arcade racer make its debut on the Nintendo Switch. Let's get behind the wheel with some Cruis'n Blast!

There're no Sunday drivers here!

At first glance, I remember thinking Cruis'n Blast was a high-octane, wild, wacky, and wonderful arcade racing game. I also knew I had to play it, but with the pandemic and a lack of access to arcades in my city, I was out of luck. Fortunately, thanks in part to Raw Thrills, Cruis'n Blast has rocketed out of the arcades and onto the Nintendo Switch for a home console port. Not going to lie here--this was one of my most anticipated announcements from Nintendo's E3 showing, and now that the game is in my hands, I can happily and excitedly say that Cruis'n Blast is indeed a thrilling ride from beginning to end.

Cruis'n Blast puts you behind the wheel (or in other cases, in control) of several supercars as you race from one point to another, witnessing utter chaos, havoc, and unbridled destruction on your way to the finish line. It's all just for spectacle, though, no matter how cool it is to see a gigantic rampaging donut roll through downtown Los Angeles, see a T-Rex take on another dinosaur in a fight, or see a tornado tear its way through a trailer park, for instance. Even when you think you're in danger, you merely clip through obstacles and other obstructions with no harm or penalty to be had.

Now might not be the best time to think about this, but I sure hope my car has good shock absorbers!

That's just fine, though, as the spectacle and almost sensory overload of the tracks are something to behold for sure. Plus, it allows you to just worry about the turns of each track and your nine other opponents instead of contending with them and any hazards you may have encountered. MotorStorm: Apocalypse this ain't. It's pure spectacle rather than something you need to worry about.

There are almost 30 tracks in Cruis'n Blast, and most of these are spread between a series of tours. Now, the 29 tracks is somewhat misleading because a lot of the tracks are just remixes of other tracks in the game. For example, one trip through a track features yetis, and one of which breaks the ice quite literally with racers, revealing a gigantic drop to fall through. A similar track features a dinosaur instead of yeti who pulls the same stunt and breaks the ice, also revealing that familiar fall for racers. So, really, of the 29 tracks, maybe 9 or 10 are wholly original. That doesn't make them any less entertaining or exciting, however. Again, this is where that spectacle of the tracks comes shining through. 

A Ferris Wheel rolling through the streets of downtown London?
Just another ordinary day in the world of Cruis'n Blast.

All tours have a set of four themed tracks. Some take place at night, some feature cop cars and vehicles that try to impede your progress, others are purely spectacle, such as having helicopters that fire missiles onto the track or UFOs that soar by, serving more as cool distractions than anything that can ruin a race for you.

There are four difficulties in Cruis'n Blast: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Extreme. The latter two difficulties need unlocking by completing Normal difficulty with a certain threshold of medals earned, and these two difficulties will put players through their paces most definitely. It's not just about taking turns well, it's also about performing as many stunts as possible to get boosts, as well as rationing your nitrous--though to be fair, with the rubber-band AI, it's more about saving up at least two nitrous boosts until the home stretch of the race. 

Yes, there is rubber-band AI for sure in Cruis'n Blast, but this isn't always against you. It oftentimes goes in your favor. You'll never reach first place after the first turn. Typically, it's always down to the final stretch where you can see and surpass your rivals and hopefully win the race. In Easy and Normal difficulties, passing first place and securing the win are relatively easy to do and can be done earlier in the race, than say Hard and Extreme, where it's usually always down to the wire and a well executed and timed nitrous boost is needed to win. Fortunately, even if you fail to secure the win in a race or do relatively poorly, you can simply retry the race instead of having to restart the entire tour. I can say that this feature makes for a major convenience and lowers the frustration level considerably.

Now, I REALLY hope my ride has good shock absorbers!

Even still, I seldom, if ever, found myself frustrated with Cruis'n Blast, even if I failed to place in the top three of a given race. Not only was I making money, used to purchase new vehicles and upgrades for said vehicles, but more importantly, I was having a freaking blast playing the game. It's so wild, it's so wacky, and it's so off-the-wall that it's hard NOT to smile while racing.

You start out in Cruis'n Blast with a handful of vehicles at your disposal, mostly supercars like the powerful Chevy Corvette. However, as you complete tours on different difficulties and find keys on tracks (there are three on each), new vehicles become available for purchase with in-game money earned by participating in and/or winning races, performing tricks and stunts, and taking out rival racers--something that never got old for me due to the Burnout-style slow-cam when you wreck a rival. Sure, the supercars are nice and all, but it's especially cool when you unlock and are able to race as a English-style Double Decker bus, a UFO, a hammerhead shark, a triceratops, a stealth chopper, a tank, and my favorite of the bunch, a unicorn. Each vehicle can level up by gaining experience from placing well in races. When a vehicle levels up (the max is level 5), you can purchase a new upgrade for them--things like neon skins, decals, accessories, and more. You can also customize your ride with a cavalcade of color choices, too. 

Majestic and magical, the unicorn is my preferred ride of choice in Cruis'n Blast.

Getting behind the wheel of your chosen vehicle, or in control of in the case of a triceratops or unicorn, is an absolute blast in Raw Thrills' racer. There's little to complain about when racing as your selected vehicle. Beginning players can opt to use an auto-acceleration function a la Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and there is also an option for tilt controls for those that want a wilder way to play. 

Steering feels nice enough, though a tad bit loose. However, this isn't too much of an issue due to the penalty for running into railings and walls being negligible enough (though you will lose on harder difficulties by continuously slamming into walls). The right shoulder button serves as a trick button. A double tap of the R or ZR button allows your vehicle to trick off ramps and jumps, as well as other vehicles (pretty much a required skill for winning harder difficulty tours). You can also drift to build up boost energy, which is separate from your nitrous, which is used by tapping the L or ZL button. The latter gives you three nitrous to work with per race, and they're generally best to use near the tail end of a given track. 

Though full of cars and other vehicles to fully level up, tours to complete on four difficulties, and keys to obtain on each track to unlock even more vehicles, Cruis'n Blast isn't a wholly complete package. One giant exclusion is that of online play. Now, local multiplayer which allows for split-screen for up to four players works well, but online play would definitely have extended the life of the game and put it into first gear for sure. Further, I wish races gave you a general idea on how much progress you've made on them. On so many tracks I'd be racing thinking I still had time to catch up with first place, when all of a sudden it was the home stretch and the finish line was mere yards away--way too late to realistically have a fighting chance for first place. A progress bar for each track would have done wonders. 

With so much going on during a given track, it can be difficult to concentrate at times!
Keep your focus and aim for first place!

Cruis'n Blast was a game that as soon as I saw videos of it being played in arcades, I felt the urge and definite desire to play it. It has taken a few years of patience, but now that I got to experience the game on the Nintendo Switch thanks to this home console port, I am pleased to say that my patience indeed paid off. Cruis'n Blast is ridiculous and crazy in all the right ways. How can you not love speeding through tracks where you witness UFOs whiz by, blowing up a dam, all the while you drift into your opponent, causing them to crash in a burning blaze of glory!? I defy you to not love that! Despite lacking online, longevity, and track variety, Cruis'n Blast delivers an action-packed arcade racer that will most likely make you laugh and smile with how outrageous its racing scenarios can get and how fun the overall package truly is.

[SPC Says: B]

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Sonic Colors: Ultimate (Multi) Review

Sonic Colors: Ultimate recently released on all major platforms. That notwithstanding, not all ports of Sonic Colors: Ultimate were created equally. The Nintendo Switch version suffered the worst with long load times and various undesirable (sometimes seizure-inducing) bugs and glitches. Regardless, SPC's review of Sonic Colors: Ultimate covers the Xbox version of the game, running on the Series S. Let's check it out.

Color me impressed... all over again!

One of my favorite 3D Sonic games--and yes, smart alecks, there have been good 3D Sonic games (ugh)--has been Sonic Colors. There was a time where Sonic Team showed promise with the Sonic formula, putting out the brilliant Sonic Colors on the Wii and then Sonic Generations on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. As we know, that stretch of great Sonic games turned sour rather fast with future releases, but fortunately, Sonic Team has decided to bring back one of the better modern entries in the Sonic series with Sonic Colors: Ultimate. With a new engine and new upgrades, is this Sonic Colors remake worthy of its "Ultimate" subtitle and moniker?

Sonic Colors' story involves Dr. Eggman who builds an interstellar amusement park to atone for his past sins, plans, and otherwise shenanigans. Sonic arrives at the amusement park believing that Eggman is instead up to no good yet again. As you can expect, Sonic's hunch is correct, as we quickly learn that Eggman has imprisoned colorful creatures known as Wisps to power his amusement park to soon control the entire universe. The story is told through cutscenes, but unlike the rest of Sonic Colors: Ultimate, these have not been remade in the new engine. Instead, what you get is the old Wii cutscenes stretched to fit the screen. Also disappointing is the dialogue, which fails often at its attempts at humor, offering somewhat lame quips by our hero and even lamer "jokes". The humor seems to talk down to players, even the younger audience this particular story seems intended for.

That said, Sonic Colors: Ultimate fares much better when you're actually playing the game. I enjoyed the Wii original over a decade ago as shown in my review from 2010, and Sonic Colors: Ultimate, at least on the Xbox Series S, plays wonderfully all things considered. I did encounter one soft-lock during my 15+ hours of time with the game, but nothing that overly annoyed; just a minor inconvenience instead.

Sonic always likes to start a level on the right foot. On this occasion, he's starting it on his left.

Sonic Colors is comprised of six major areas each with six platforming levels and one boss level. Sonic starts out in the first area, Tropical Resort--welcoming players immediately into Sonic Colors: Ultimate with its first act as soon as the New Game option is pressed. From the introductory but enjoyable all the same Tropical Resort unlocks two new worlds after, Sweet Mountain--containing giant donuts and hamburger towers--and Starlight Carnival--a parade of neon ships in space. From there, the final main three planets open up, Planet Wisp, Aquarium Park, and Asteroid Coaster. 

Mmm.. donuts! But there's no time to stand and stare, Sonic--there are Wisps to save!

Acts or levels within Sonic Colors range from lengthy affairs that can last upwards of 5-10 minutes to much more bite-sized levels, some of these can be completed quite quickly, maybe a minute or two at that. Generally, there are two or three acts in a given zone of Sonic Colors that are these lengthier, more traditional 3D Sonic affairs, while the other acts are the shorter experiences. This makes for a game that isn't too terribly long to beat when it all comes down to it. However, that's only if you consider running through acts and worlds from start to finish with no plan to return to levels to pick up missed collectables and score those elusive S-Ranks. 

Really, if you're just planning to rush through Sonic Colors: Ultimate's levels and be done with the game, you probably won't find that great of an appreciation for the game. Don't get me wrong--the level design is some of the best seen in a 3D Sonic game (I know that's a low bar to some, but it's good in general), and the gameplay is overall tight, especially with the ability to course correct with Sonic's double jump. However, rushing through the game will make you feel like you wasted your money since this is a game you can blow through within five hours. 

Don't be confused. This isn't Star Fox just because Sonic is currently having an on-rails experience.

Assuming you enjoy what you play in that initial playthrough, you might be enticed to return to levels and find each act's five Red Rings, which collecting these unlocks new levels in a Sonic Simulator (which in turn is how you unlock Super Sonic within the game by collecting each Simulator zone's Chaos Emeralds), and getting S-Ranks on each level. Finding and collecting the Red Rings can be quite a challenge, as the level design offers plenty of optional paths and ways to diverge from the main one quite often. 

Like the best 2D Sonic games, each level in Sonic Colors: Ultimate demands you to find the best route to not only collect each Red Ring but also perform well enough to get a high score. If you're the type that loves chasing high scores, you'll love going after S-Ranks in levels. This is all about playing your best, playing with style, doing it fast, and collecting enough rings (and holding them all by the end of the level) to get the best rank. It's a lot of fun to get into a groove and play well enough to master the mechanics found in Sonic Colors: Ultimate. 

One way to score big and a mechanic not yet talked about in this review (save for a cursory mention) is that of Wisps. As Sonic enters new levels, he'll come across one of eight or so different Wisp capsules. Breaking these open grants Sonic special temporary powers when activated. For instance, the Drill Wisp allows Sonic to burrow inside soft ground, discovering new underground passages and pathways, while something like the Spike Wisp grants Sonic the ability to turn into a ball of spikes, rolling around on floors, ceilings, walls, and more with an impressive and indestructible spin dash. 

The Purple Wisp activates the invincible Frenzy power,
allowing Sonic to stampede and chomp through obstacles and enemies with ease.

Using Wisps not only opens up new paths in levels for Sonic to explore that he'd otherwise be unable to reach, but it also gives him valuable point bonuses for performing Wisp-related reactions while in that temporary form. Since certain colored Wisps unlock by playing certain levels, it's mandatory to return to past levels to reach new areas and collectables that Sonic previously couldn't access with these Wisp abilities.

For the most part, Sonic Colors: Ultimate plays really well. The 3D sections generally have Sonic on some kind of strict path with a behind-the-back camera view, where Sonic can quick step his way to avoid objects and enemies, grab rings, or boost his way through these corridors. The 2D sections of Sonic Colors: Ultimate are more prominent, but the game cleverly transitions between the two types of sections often during a given act. 

Either way, Sonic controls nicely, but there is an issue with the homing attack, where Sonic can target a foe automatically, roll up into a ball, and slam into an enemy. Now, it works like intended, but because the homing attack button is mapped to the same button as the jump, I had it happen multiple times where I wanted to perform a double jump but instead accidentally locked onto an enemy at the last moment, thus performing a homing attack, and messing me up considerably in the process. Still, it was nothing that overly detracted from my experience with the game despite being a bit annoying to have happen.

Disneyworld, eat your heart out.

Sonic Colors: Ultimate introduces some new things to the game outside of the HD, touched up visuals, new graphics engine, and just beautiful appearance of the game. For one, and definitely a way to make the game less frustrating is that of Tails' assistance in the game. When Sonic falls in a pit that would otherwise make him lose a life, Tails comes to rescue him, dropping Sonic at a point of safety before his point of falling. This only works, however, if Sonic collects icons in the shape of Tails' adorable face. That said, it's quite easy to accumulate a large number of these. What's great about this safety net is that when Sonic falls into a pit and is rescued by Tails, he won't lose his current count of rings. 

Outside of Tails icons to nab, there are park tokens that can be collected in levels as well. These are used as a currency to purchase cosmetics for Sonic in the in-game shop--things like glove and shoe colors, different trails like fire or light, and auras that glow around Sonic. All of these are optional, of course. Finally, there is a new Rival Rush challenge in each world that unlocks after collecting at least 15 Red Rings in a world. Doing this allows Sonic to challenge Metal Sonic in a race through a designated act of the world. Completing these not only rewards the player with park tokens, but it also counts for 100% completion this time around.

Finally, outside of the visual presentation differences, the soundtrack in Sonic Colors: Ultimate has seen a remix as well. There are now six songs in each world of the game: three originals from the Wii game and three remixes. However, there is no option to select between just hearing the original or remixed versions of the music. Instead, each act is a different song, whether that be an original song or a remixed version. That notwithstanding, the remixes sound pretty good, though some are a bit questionable in their execution, particularly the ending credits theme, Speak With Your Heart. That's at least in this listener's opinion.

Some parts of levels play themselves, but it's still a rather nice spectacle all the same.

Sonic Colors: Ultimate takes a great 3D Sonic game from the Wii and makes it marginally better. Not so much better that it makes the Wii version obsolete by any stretch of the imagination--which I could see as a bit disappointing for many--but marginally all the same. With glorious new graphics, mostly lovely new remixes alongside the original musical themes, new additions like Rival Rush, Tails' rescues from bottomless pits, and unlockable cosmetics, Sonic Colors: Ultimate makes a great impression. I loved the Wii original in 2010, and in 2021, I enjoyed revisiting this wonderful Sonic game. 

[SPC Says: B+]

Monday, September 13, 2021

Kitaria Fables (Multi) Review

SPC enters the mid-stretch of September with a new review. Check out Kitaria Fables from developer Twin Hearts and publisher PQube. 

Not a cat-astrophe of a game, but you might not be feline fine with all of the grinding involved.

Kitaria Fables combines two tasty flavors--hack and slash combat with farming and crafting gameplay--to create one meaty adventure, though one not without an excess of grinding and backtracking. These two negatives, however, did not outweigh the fun I had with Kitaria Fables, but they will deter a sizable chunk of potential players from diving into the game.

There once was an event known as the Calamity that occurred in the world of Kitaria. Animals and monsters alike grew ravenous and aggressive, and now, in a more peaceful time in Kitaria, the Calamity threatens to reawaken. You play as a cat soldier who is sent to Paw Village by the Empire for a dual purpose: protect Paw Village's denizens and undergo an investigation as to what is causing the current aggression in surrounding animals.

The animal denizens of Paw Village welcome you with open arms,
hooves, paws, and whatever else they might have!

Kitaria Fables is a game of two parts. One is more enjoyable than the other, and that would be trekking and gallivanting around Kitaria, exploring areas, defeating enemies, and picking up their drops and loot. The other is taking care of a laundry list of tasks and quests that mostly require crafting to complete. 

Your character doesn't level up or gain experience from defeating enemies. Instead, your only reward is craftable materials and goods dropped by defeated foes. You use these materials to craft a litany of items, such as equipment like swords and bows as well as armor and accessories to boost your kitty's attack and defense respectively, and quest goods. Whether it's new equipment or quest-related goods, you're going to be doing a ton of combat to take down enemies, take their loot, and then make the appropriate goods to make any kind of headway in Kitaria Fables.

From colorful forests to grassy plains, oh, the places your cat will go!

For some, this will be an enjoyable process, even with the insane grind in play. For others (and I suspect most potential players), they will be easily and quickly put off by how much of the aforementioned grind is necessary just to make progress. This is compounded by there being no universal item storage. Instead, each chest you store goods in is separate from the rest. With multiple chests around the world of Kitaria, that means a lot of traveling. Forget where you put an item you need? Well, then you unfortunately have to do even more traveling just to remember which chest has the item in it that you want. 

You're also given very limited pocket space to carry around items with you. Just two rows with two more that are unlockable through a nighttime seller in Paw Village. Therefore, storage becomes dicey relatively quickly in the game. 

You can also farm in Kitaria Fables, and this is incredibly simplistic. You till the soil, you plant crops, you remember to water daily, and in a few in-game days, the crops are ready to be harvested, either to be sold for money or delivered to complete the conditions of a given quest. Really, farming is nice as an option to have as an alternate way to earn money, but by an early point in the game I was better served to simply sell the loot I received from monsters rather than farm at all. It quickly became redundant and pointless to bother farming at all, unlike in a game like Rune Factory that blends combat, gathering materials, and farming in a much better way.

You have plenty of room to farm, but whether you'll actually need to use it is another thing.

Combat is a strong suit for Kitaria Fables, and is indeed my favorite part of the game. You start out with a simple sword, but you can eventually acquire a bow to use instead. I stuck with my trusty blade and upgraded it to the point where I would cleave enemies into submission quite quickly, save for boss-type foes. Enemies have tells, and this is similar to the Trials of Mana remake, where a red zone will appear to show where an enemy's attack will land. It's as simple as moving out of the red zone or better yet, rolling out of the way (since the invincibility frames for this evasion maneuver is tremendously generous), to avoid the attack.

You can set a special move or magical ability to each of the shoulder buttons,
 and a consumable dish or item to each direction on the D-Pad.

Still, that's not to say Kitaria Fables is an easy game. It's quite difficult starting out. As you grind money and materials to make better equipment, the game becomes much easier. Understandably so, of course! I eventually earned a pair of wings that granted me a 10% lifesteal ability, meaning that for every physical attack I did, I got 10% of whatever damage I delivered to a foe restored to me. This made me borderline invincible, rolling or not! 

I enjoyed how equipping weapons and armor didn't just serve as a noticeable upgrade to my cat's stats, but it was also noticeable in appearance. Equipping a new sword, wearing a new piece of armor, headgear, or accessory would show on my cat soldier as being worn in all of its lovely glory. I adore touches like that, and that certainly made the grind more worth it for me, other than utterly decimating enemies by the endgame. 

Be extra careful around enemies with an aura like this one. They're quite powerful foes,
but the rewards for beating them are rather worth the effort!

Kitaria Fables is a bit of a lengthy adventure, taking me around 20 hours to fully complete, or at least earning all of the achievements from completing every quest within the game. That understandably took a lot of grinding, crafting, backtracking (and unfortunately, the fast travel mechanic still leaves a lot of running around to be found), and countless hours beating down the same enemy over and over hoping for enough drops of what I needed. Many will call this busywork or just work in general, but I found it oddly therapeutic and enjoyable. 

"Snow" time like the present to make your way through this frosty mountain!

At the end of my 20 hours with Kitaria Fables, I found myself having played some marathon sessions of over five hours at times. There's certainly a "let's do one more day" or "let's do one more quest" type feeling I got from this game. There is definitely no shortage of things to do to preoccupy yourself in Kitaria's whimsical world, whether that be monsters to slay, materials to craft, treasure chests to open, bosses to battle, dungeon-like areas to explore, and quests to complete. You'll be doing all of this with a hefty focus on grinding and backtracking, too, so if you're not of the right mind for an experience like this, you need not accept your invite to Paw Village. Sure, you'll probably be put on the Empire's bad side, but at least you won't have to do busywork--whether enjoyable (like it was for me) or not.

[SPC Says: B-]

A code was received by SPC from the publisher for the purpose of writing this review.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain (NSW) Announcement Trailer

Returning from the DS and Wii era of Nintendo's illustrious history is the Big Brain Academy franchise. The latest in the series, Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain, has officially been announced this morning with a release date of December 3rd, 2021. Look forward to solo challenges, a 4-player Party Mode, and online play, as shown in this tantalizing announcement trailer.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

DariusBurst: Another Chronicle EX+ (NSW) Rapid Review

Let's not waste any time starting the rollout of reviews for this month. SuperPhillip Central dives right in with a review of DariusBurst: Another Chronicle EX+. It's a mouthful of a game name, for sure, but one seriously fun shoot-em-up. Here is the rapid review of the game.

Bursting from the seams with side-scrolling shooting action

Shoot-em-ups (or shmups, if you'd prefer) are no stranger to the Nintendo Switch. In fact, there have been plenty of popular genres from yesteryear that are receiving a second (or third) lease on life on the Switch. Taito's DariusBurst: Another Chronicle EX+ is another of these side-scrolling shooters, offering intense space combat, requiring deft dodging, precision-based movement, and apt shooting to survive waves upon waves of enemy forces.

DariusBurst's main campaign features a total of 24 stages (12 in the regular mode and 12 in the original mode) of side-scrolling shooting action for perspective pilots to encounter. However, only three of these are played in a given playthrough. You start out by choosing one of three stages, and after completion of that stage, you get to decide between a choice of two stages to play next. The stage selection is basically a branch where the lower you go on the tree of stages, the harder and more difficult the stage will be for your ship to endure. 

You get a selection of a multitude of ships to choose from as well in DariusBurst, each possessing their own primary and secondary weapons. Regardless of which vessel you pilot, you're in for a thumping good and wild space ride. The controls are solid, delivering pitch perfect movement, firing bullets and missiles with the B and Y buttons, firing your special attack from your companion ship with the L button, while the R button pivots your ship in the opposite direction for foes that try to take you on from behind. Meanwhile, ZL or ZR zooms the camera in and out to a close degree. Too close for that matter.

The latter isn't very helpful in most situations, as it often left me getting hit by stray bullets that I couldn't see coming at me. It was also worthless when encountering the game's many bosses, which despite their behemoth sizes meant that I couldn't get a glimpse of what I was firing at or alternatively what was firing at ME. The field of view is rather awkward, as it's authentic to the original arcade version to a fault, presenting a narrow horizontal view of the action with a ton of wasted negative space. This makes seeing things like bullets, particularly in undocked mode incredibly challenging to see for a game that already demands high, skillful play.

Fortunately, there is an unlimited lives mode available to you if you don't particularly care about setting high scores or worrying about getting to the top of the leaderboards. Other modes include an Event mode that presents a series of premade loadouts and challenges that you can complete to squeeze out plenty of extra playtime with the game. There are a plethora of missions to take on, though some of these aren't able to be completed without multiple players (some requiring up to four).

On the Nintendo Switch, DariusBurst runs ravishingly on the Switch. It's a great looking game, though I did encounter times where elements of what I perceived to be the background were actually enemies or hazards I could crash my ship into. I'm not proud to admit, but I did lose more ships than I would have liked that way. This is on top of the already mentioned limited screen space afforded by the game, which makes playing in handheld mode quite difficult in an already difficult game. Musically, I really enjoyed the themes, whether they were themes with soothing female vocals or more bombastic pieces, either with a symphonic sound or a rock angle to them.

DariusBurst: Another Chronicle EX+ is another shoot-em-up to add to the pile of stellar games within the genre on the Nintendo Switch. There is a ton of content to be found for those who enjoy partaking in the genre, and plenty of challenge to be discovered as well. The limited field of view and screen real estate utilized for the Switch version is a bummer, but ultimately, DariusBurst: Another Chronicle EX+'s mission to be an entertaining Switch home port of an older arcade game is a success.

[SPC Says: B-]

A code was received by SPC from the publisher for the purpose of writing this review.

Review Round-Up - July / August 2021

After a lengthy 16-year wait, Psychonauts 2 finally saw the light of day, and the wait was most definitely worth it judging by the amazing quality of the game, which is SPC's Featured Game of the Month.

Combining two months into one, it's the Review Round-Up for the hot and heated summer months of July and August! A total of seven reviews were published on SuperPhillip Central during this time, so let's take a trip down memory lane to see which games got the SPC review treatment and their respective grades.

We started out in early July with a journey to the links with the Mushroom Kingdom cast in Mario Golf: Super Rush. A lack of meaty content was made up for by enjoyable golfing gameplay, giving the game a B grade. We rounded out the month of July with two more games: a cute and charming shmup Cotton Reboot!, which soared and shot its way to a B, and the less than satisfying Mega Man-like Fallen Knight, which got a C-.

Following July was of course August and the arrival of SuperPhillip Central's Death Door review. The game delighted in a multitude of ways, earning a stellar A- grade. We then took a trip to the skies with The Falconeer: Warrior Edition (C) and then clowned around with the adorable 2.5D platformer Ayo the Clown (B-).

Finally, Psychonauts 2 ended this rare two-month coverage period of reviews for the Review Round-Up. This 3D platformer was a mix of marvelous platforming design with an often humorous and sometimes tender tale. The game received an A- grade.

Last but not least, check out an excerpt from each game review shared on SPC these past two months, and be sure to take a look at every review ever published on SuperPhillip Central with the SPC Review Archive. See you next month, Review Round-Up!

Mario Golf: Super Rush (NSW) - B

Mario Golf: Super Rush seems like a bittersweet time on the links. The golfing gameplay is as stellar and solid as it's ever been, but everything surrounding the game doesn't quite seem par for the course, especially when compared to other entries in the Mario Golf series and even other contemporary golf games. There is a lack of Ring Shot, unlockables other than star and superstar club versions of characters (though, this is fun to use different characters to earn points to upgrade them), online tournaments and leaderboards, and even basic stuff like taunting, post-hole celebrations, and replays. Mario Golf: Super Rush could have been so much more, and perhaps like Mario Tennis Aces, in a year we will see the game we should have gotten at launch. As is, unless you're devoted to improving upon your scores and replaying courses and hopping online like I am, you should give this particular golf game a pass for the time being.

The type of player who wishes to play through one or both versions of Cotton--whether it be the X68000 or the Arrange version--die a bunch, plow through lives, and then consider the game "done" when the credits roll, probably won't find much value from Cotton Reboot. However, those who appreciate arcade games, especially in the shoot-em-up style of yesteryear, will find loads to enjoy about the game. While the X68000 original offers a calmer, more focused and simpler approach compared to the more complex and eye-popping approach of the Arrange version, I personally loved both versions, feeling there are pros and cons with each. Either way, you're in for a wild and exciting ride with both versions and all of the modes featured within Cotton Reboot.
At the end of the day, and after Lancelot's sword had been put back into its sheathe, I came away from Fallen Knight disappointed. Well, actually I was frustrated and disappointed. The timing of parrying needs just a little bit more adjusting to be reasonable. As is, it's just too darn narrow. I don't want to effortlessly parry and defeat foes, but I also want some consistency here. Lackluster level design, clumsy controls, and occasionally troublesome framerate problems, round out my issues with Fallen Knight. This Mega Man-like has plenty of potential, for sure, but it hasn't yet been met. Thus (and unfortunately), I must decree that I hereby dub thee, Fallen Knight, a disappointing game. 
What Acid Nerve crafted with Death's Door is nothing short of phenomenal. This Zelda-like game with an isometric perspective and bleaker, harsher world is one that I wholeheartedly recommend. Exploration is enjoyable, combat is challenging and rewarding, and the presentation is a sight (and sound) to behold. Prepare yourself for a fantastic adventure, as that's exactly what you'll receive with Death's Door.
While certainly not every aspect of the game is boring or tedious - far from it - there are aspects like the gameplay loop, the repetitive mission design, and the rather unappealing story (at least to me) that made me bored with the game. I can definitely admit that The Falconeer is a well-crafted game otherwise; it's just one that did not soar to amazing heights for me, personally.
Ayo the Clown has clever level design, creative ideas permeating throughout the adventure, and some well-conceived (but not always well-executed) ideas. If you are a platforming fan looking for an adorable and delightful new run and jump for your Nintendo Switch or PC, have an open mind, and want a game that can be as challenging as it is cute, then get ready to clown around with Ayo--Ayo the Clown, that is! 
Few games lately have made me want to put forth the effort to complete them 100%, but Psychonauts 2 was certainly one of those games. Outside of battles, occasional obnoxious invisible walls, and platforming pitfalls due to some depth perception issues, Psychonauts 2 offers a plentifully polished game. It's hilarious one moment, tender and poignant the next. It's the type of game that gave me a bittersweet feeling upon completing it. On one hand, I got to experience a (doubly) finely crafted game. On the other, I just hope it won't take another 16 years to see a sequel! 
Not to be overlooked, Death's Door from publisher Devolver Digital and developer Acid Nerve
ended up being another top title in this past round of reviews!

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Psychonauts 2 (XBS, XB1, PS4, PC) Review

Let's wrap up the month here with one final review. It's for the long-awaited sequel to one of developer Double Fine's most beloved games, Psychonauts. Considering how many of Double Fine's games are beloved, that's quite the title to achieve! It's Psychonauts 2, and SPC has its review live on the site for you tonight!

One fine--ahem, double fine--platformer


It's been a 16 year journey, but finally, FINALLY fans of the original Psychonauts have the next full-length chapter in Razputin's psychic saga. For those like myself who never got to partake in the original game, Psychonauts 2 is just as inviting to new players as it is to veterans of Double Fine and Tim Schafer's 3D platformer magnum opus. Of course, those who have played the first Psychonauts will discover a deeper appreciation for the characters and world than those who have not.

Either way, with Psychonauts 2 and with Xbox bankrolling part of the development of the game, Double Fine's latest title is not only one of the developer's better games in its multi-decade history, but it's also one of the finest games released this year.

Psychonauts 2 picks up where the original Psychonauts and the VR-only follow-up Rhombus of Ruin left off story-wise. Fortunately, if you haven't played either of these games, the opening cutscene is essentially a colorful and comical summary of the events from those two titles. It serves as a wonderful primer that eases newcomers into the Psychonauts world. 

The Psychonauts enter the mind of Dr. Loboto in order to discover the true identity of the person or persons who tasked Loboto with kidnapping Truman Zanotto, the Grand Head of the Psychonauts. Probing around and investigating inside Loboto's mind reveals a shadowy figure, whom one of the Psychonauts agents notes is the terrifying Maligula. A group called the Deluginists wants to revive her. Not just that, but in Loboto's mind, Raz discovers that there is a double agent within the Psychonauts. It's up to the Psychonauts to prevent Maligula's revival as well as find out who the double agent is before it's too late.

As one might expect from a Double Fine-developed game, Psychonauts 2's story is full of whimsical, eccentric characters that are a delight to interact with. The dialogue is full of punchy humor and witty writing, routinely making this particular player and review writer laugh more than he expected to. Conversely, Psychonauts 2 also goes into some deep and occasionally dark territory, too. There are some tender, poignant moments that were pleasant surprises to experience as well.

It's a big world out there, Raz. Feel free to take it all in and explore!
Psychonauts 2 starts out relatively linearly with set levels done in a specific order and one main hub. However, after a couple of levels or so in the rearview mirror, the game opens up considerably. There is an unexpected amount of freedom available to players, offering a duo of new, expansive hubs, the ability to tackle the main quest in any order, and plenty of content to sink one's teeth into. It's never overwhelming, however.

The "eyes" have it in this truly trippy (but wonderful) world.
In Psychonauts 2, Raz enters into the minds of various characters in order to sort out their thoughts as a means to help them get back on track. Well, that's except for one early case within the game, of course. The worlds in Psychonauts 2 were always exciting to see. I never knew what to expect when Raz would pull out that door into a character's mind and then leap inside, and the surprise was always a welcomed and riveting one. Whether entering a hospital turned casino for high rollers, delving into a world based off a hellish, nightmare version of a cooking competition, or traveling through a literal tour of the five senses complete with trippy, far-out visuals, Psychonauts 2 delighted with every new world that myself and Raz were introduced to. Every new world was a new opportunity for Double Fine's level designers to wow and amaze, and they seldom, if ever, missed the mark.

Out of the way, ladies and germs, Raz is coming through!
Each world sports its own series of collectables to acquire, all optional. There are Half-A-Minds to find (understandably when two halves are collected to form a full mind, Raz's health increases by one brain), Memory Vaults that regale players with lore regarding the character whose mind Raz is in, Nuggets of Wisdom that level up Raz's psychic rank, Emotional Baggage that requires Raz to find the corresponding tag for each piece of literal baggage, and Figments, which are the most plentiful collectable to find in worlds. Some Figments are just maddening to find when there are 200+ scattered throughout a world that is split up between various parts. I would have liked--nay, loved--to have seen a "Figment Finder" of sorts that beeps when Raz is near one, for example.

Though with the Psychonauts he starts as a modest intern, Raz is quite the capable psychic. In the beginning of the game, he's equipped with a small amount of abilities, such as Telekinesis, allowing him to interact with or pick up and throw objects. As his adventure progresses, he obtains a whole slew of psychic abilities that are great in a pinch in and out of battle. There is the PSI Blast, which shoots fireballs out at enemies and can hit faraway objects in order to activate them. There is the Levitation ability, allowing Raz extra height and distance in midair after jumps, or allowing him to ride on a ball of mental energy. Later abilities are even cooler, particularly one late-game psychic maneuver that is as equally fun as it is comical to use. I won't spoil it, however.

While Censors love to literally stamp out threats, some foes love to bully poor Raz from afar.
As Raz finds collectables in worlds, his psychic rank increases. With each level increase he earns skill points that can be spent to upgrade his psychic abilities. For instance, with Pyrokinesis' initial version, it erupts in a small sphere. As Raz upgrades this power, not only does the range grow but so does the effectiveness, burning enemies for much longer, damaging them over time. In order to fully upgrade every psychic power in Raz's repertoire, players will have to essentially collect everything in the game's worlds. Seeing as how enjoyable the platforming is and how clever the level designs are in Psychonauts 2's worlds, offering an abundance of clever, fresh ideas and obstacles to interact with, that's not exactly a bad thing. 

Mental Connection allows Raz to move from one stray thought to another
to reach new heights and otherwise inaccessible destinations.
These psychic moves work in battle just as well as they do outside. Raz can use his Telekinesis to pluck weapons like hammers or bombs right out of an enemy's grasp and chuck it back at them, while his Mental Connection ability can grab foes and either bring Raz closer to them or them closer to Raz. Raz can roll to evade enemy attacks, and then let loose a flurry of kicks and punches to slowly whittle them down in health. 

If battles get too boring or frustrating (and they just might),
there's no shame in turning on an accessibility feature or two.
Though, it is safe to say that while the platforming in Psychonauts 2 is of a stellar enough quality, combat is where the game is at its weakest. There is a lack of visual feedback for enemies taking damage. They simply stand there and take hits with your only visual cue being their teeny-tiny, depleting health bars. Further, the combat controls feel a bit slow and laggy, inelegant, and at times downright frustrating. Fortunately, if battles prove to be too much of a nuisance, you can turn on an accessibility feature to make fights more fun, enabling enemies to take more damage and output less onto Raz. Otherwise, whenever a battle scenario started, I would occasionally let out an audible sigh. By far my least favorite part of this otherwise excellent game. 

While regular battles are nothing to make a positive note of, it's the boss battles, that like the platforming worlds, are insanely clever and well done. This is one part of Psychonauts 2 that would not have been possible or included without Microsoft's backing. Whether you're dealing with the oversized neon Luctopus who has death in the cards for poor Raz, or battling a trio of judges hellbent on making Raz fail their cooking show with one last ditch boss battle, these fights are fun, massive, and marvelous. 

There's nothing lucky about Raz being in the Luctopus' sights,
but it sure does make for an entertaining boss battle.
Psychonauts 2 looks absolutely wonderful on the Xbox Series S version of the game. The game's performance is stellar running on the S, and technical issues were at a minimum. Load times were insanely impressive, seldom taking more than five seconds to switch between worlds or hubs. The latter offers fast travel between underground tunnels to get around Psychonauts 2's hubs quickly. The voice work feels suitably Saturday morning cartoon-like, and it's masterfully done. Masterfully done as well is the soundtrack, which brings whimsical orchestral sounds that were reminiscent of Rare's composers' works, rock-based anthems, and simple but truly effective bops. 

Psychonauts 2 is quite the looker running on Xbox.
Few games lately have made me want to put forth the effort to complete them 100%, but Psychonauts 2 was certainly one of those games. Outside of battles, occasional obnoxious invisible walls, and platforming pitfalls due to some depth perception issues, Psychonauts 2 offers a plentifully polished game. It's hilarious one moment, tender and poignant the next. It's the type of game that gave me a bittersweet feeling upon completing it. On one hand, I got to experience a (doubly) finely crafted game. On the other, I just hope it won't take another 16 years to see a sequel! 

[SPC Says: A-] 

Friday, August 27, 2021

No More Heroes 3 (NSW) Launch Trailer

Who better to take on an alien invasion than Travis Touchdown? No More Heroes 3 is finally here after years of waiting with bated breath for Suda 51's latest eccentric (and in a good way) title. The game launched today, and now Nintendo Switch owners can wield their beam katana and start mercilessly hacking and slashing their way through the alien menace as none other than Travis Touchdown. Make your way to the top of the rankings once more with No More Heroes 3.

Metroid Dread (NSW) Trailer 2

Caution: If you're wanting to go into Metroid Dread, the fifth and final part of this chapter of Samus Aran's story spoiler-free, then you might not want to watch this rather intense second trailer for the game. For everyone else, take a glimpse at some new story elements, new abilities, and the return of a familiar foe (no, not THAT one) in this action-packed trailer. Metroid Dread launches on Nintendo Switch on October 8th.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Ayo the Clown (NSW, PC) Review

Two reviews in one night? Is SPC daffy? Well, I'd like to think of the site as more of a Bugs Bunny-type character, but that's irrelevant as we have a second review to share! This one is a 2.5D platformer that also released this month. It's Ayo the Clown.

There's no clowning around with this statement: This is one fun platformer.

Clowns--they're generally associated with childhood nightmares and other horrors, whether that be justified or not. However, indie developer Cloud M1 is looking to right the wrong of clowns past with an adorable game starring a cute, precocious clown named Ayo. Fittingly enough, this 2.5D platformer is called Ayo the Clown, and it just so happens to also be a relatively well done game that succeeds in being an enjoyable romp.

Ayo the Clown's journey begins when he wakes up during a thunderstorm to discover that his dog Bo has disappeared. Ayo rushes out from his home to go on an eight-world adventure in search of Bo, aka clown's best friend. The story is a simple one but has plenty of charm to it thanks to being told through lovingly narrated storybook-style cutscenes. 

Lovingly drawn and narrated, these storybook-style scenes are great inclusions to the game.

If I had to compare any style of platformer to Ayo the Clown, the most obvious pick would have to be the Yoshi series. Like Yoshi, Ayo has similar abilities, a simple enough difficulty that gets more challenging if you try to 100% each level (although Ayo's boss fights might make stretch that a bit--more on those later), and a cutesy, colorful, cartoon-y visual style and presentation. 

However, unlike Yoshi, starting off in Ayo the Clown, our hero forgot something in his rush to find his dog: He's totally lacking in abilities! Yes, in the beginning of the game Ayo can only move left and right; he can't even jump. Instead, in the first level of the game, he interacts with bounce pads that catapult the clown upwards in lieu of a jump. 

Thankfully, Ayo soon learns a jump ability the very next level, and then a lot of other moves quite consistently. He's able to blow up a balloon after each jump that gives him a little extra height and distance. He learns the ability to ground pound Yoshi-style. There are also a slide, a pushing ability, and even a wall jump that becomes unlocked through normal play. The latter, though, is a bit unwieldly to say the least. It requires the player to wait a second for Ayo to start sliding down the wall before they can initiate that signature move. On too many occasions I found myself doing it too early or too late, resulting in Ayo either falling back down or worse, falling to this doom in precarious situations where wall jumps need to be performed over pits.

Need some extra height and distance, Ayo? Then bring out that balloon of yours!

The platforming in Ayo the Clown feels adequate enough, though there were times where I felt I either died or took damage unfairly. First and foremost, the hitboxes of enemies in order to defeat them by jumping on their heads is way too strict. You either have to jump on them dead in the center or you'll find Ayo taking damage instead. This actually made the very first level of the game one of the most challenging for me for my entire play-through just because you have to take out enemies by jumping on them. Later levels lowered the need for this due to being able to jump manually, practice with knowing how strict the hitboxes were, and the ability to occasionally use clown-inspired weapons like a water balloon, a balloon sword, and a toy hammer. 

These weapons are power-ups in the same way that the Fire Flower is a power-up for Mario. One hit and the power-up--or in this case, weapon--is gone. Since some levels of the game require these weapons in order to access hidden areas containing collectables, it was important I hung on to the weapons as much as I could. Thankfully, there seemed to be plenty of power-ups placed throughout levels, so I was never in short supply. If I took damage, I knew I could either wait a little bit for the next power-up in the level or simply go back a short way to pick up a power-up I purposefully neglected to nab in case I did take damage.

(To the tune of Old MacDonald Had a Farm) Ayo the Clown had a dog: L-O-S-T, LOST!

Like any platformer worth its weight, Ayo the Clown features collectables to grab in each level to add some longevity to the game. There are six to collect in each level: three teddy bears and three lollipops. Some are hidden more cleverly than others, and the ones that are hidden well will require intrepid exploring to discover. There are also gems to grab, which serve as the in-game currency of Ayo the Clown, though these simply allow you to purchase one of three items as the game progresses: an upgraded balloon, an extra heart, and a key to an extra world in the game, featuring two truly tricky levels.

There are also ten toys to collect, which don't really serve a purpose other than being for completionists. That said, these are acquired by completing little side quests in levels that are offered by characters within the game's town. 

The levels themselves in Ayo the Clown run the gamut of easy and breezy to rough and tough. They all can be rather lengthy affairs if you plan to 100% a given level. It was common for some levels to last upwards of 15-20 minutes, though these were the ones that featured bosses. Levels feature abundant gimmicks and obstacles, such as conveyor belts, rotating circular platforms, vines to climb, pinball tables, and even altered gravity that puts Ayo on the ceiling.

Jaws, this shark ain't, but it'll still put a pretty painful bite into Ayo!

Additionally, there are many segments in the game's levels where Ayo briefly takes charge of a vehicle, whether that be a tank or helicopter. These sections break up the platforming well, and are a nice change of pace from jumping and clowning around through typical sections of levels.

I mentioned bosses earlier, and in a strange design decision, the developer decided to not make bosses their own stages. Instead, they come at the tail end of traditional platforming levels. Seeing as, again, levels are lengthy enough, the addition of bosses at the end of some of them makes already long levels even longer experiences. If you were to fail a boss and lose all of your lives, that means you have to begin at the level from the very beginning. That's 15 minutes or more wasted--easily. 

Bosses are the final challenge of each world's already lengthy last levels.
It's quite an endurance run, for sure!

The bosses of Ayo the Clown are the most challenging aspect within the game. All bosses have multiple phases, meaning new attacks to learn and avoid, or worse yet, meaning new attacks to learn and get hit by. The latter is more common due to many of the attacks not being telegraphed well ahead of time. Battles can feel cheap by feeling like they're trial and error, and many times your feeling would be correct. Still, the bosses are enjoyable, and you get a real sense of accomplishment for defeating them.

If I had to call the graphics of Ayo the Clown anything, it would be something between colorful and sterile. The 3D models don't really have too much going for them, but the environments are cheery and lively enough. Simple things like the way checkpoints will slam a pie into poor Ayo's face upon passing them didn't go unnoticed by yours truly. However, where Ayo the Clown truly impresses is with the aforementioned storybook cutscenes as well as the soundtrack, delivering several bops that I couldn't help humming along to as I played. Overall, the presentation is pretty nice and appealing.

There's plenty to look at in both the background and foreground in many of Ayo the Clown's levels.
Sometimes hazards will pop in to and from either!

Ayo the Clown won't take veterans of the platforming genre too terribly long. Maybe 5-7 hours to 100%. However, at the same time, the cutesy charm and clown hero might not appeal to many older players. That leaves kids, which Ayo the Clown might be too difficult for due to those dastardly bosses stuck at the end of already lengthy levels. 

Still, Ayo the Clown has clever level design, creative ideas permeating throughout the adventure, and some well-conceived (but not always well-executed) ideas. If you are a platforming fan looking for an adorable and delightful new run and jump for your Nintendo Switch or PC, have an open mind, and want a game that can be as challenging as it is cute, then get ready to clown around with Ayo--Ayo the Clown, that is! 

[SPC Says: B-]

A code was received by SPC from the publisher for the purpose of writing this review.