Monday, March 1, 2021

Review Round-Up - February 2021

Two adventures for the price of one, one familiar and one entirely new, equal SuperPhillip Central's
Game of the Month for February 2021: Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury!

It's the end of another month, so that can mean only one thing on SuperPhillip Central--well, technically, it could mean many things, but let's not argue semantics here! The point being... it's time for the Review Round-Up for February 2021!

It was a wild month of some fantastic platforming action of all types--and we even got a Zelda-like roguelite thrown in there for good measure, too. Things started strong for our review coverage with Blue Fire for the Nintendo Switch and Steam. The game was the sum of all of its inspired parts, earning a B+ for its efforts! Following that was another 3D platformer, though more of a pure platformer rather than the action mix seen in Blue Fire. Glyph was a ball of fun--literally--and it rolled up a satisfying B grade.

We then took a brief detour from all our platforming month with some Zelda roguelite action with Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos, which surprised me with how impressed I was with the game. It's an absolute joy to play both solo and with friends, and that's why I gave it a B+ grade. Following up that game was a masochistic 2D platformer from 2019 that finally launched on the Nintendo Switch this past month, Cathedral. I adored the game and its steep challenge, giving the game a B+ as well. 

Finally, it was a return of a battle of former mascot rivals with Mario and Crash Bandicoot. Mario fared much better with his adventures in the Sprixie Kingdom and Lake Lapcat--aka Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury--jumping to an A grade and SPC's Game of the Month honors. Meanwhile, Crash Bandicoot settled for a B- grade due to Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time possessing lots of frustrating moments sprinkled in with its fun and enjoyable time-traveling journey. 

As we like to do at the end of every Review Round-Up for the past year now, here are some excerpts from and links to every game review published this past month on SPC. Lastly, check out the SPC Review Archive for EVERY game review ever published on our 12-year+ website!

Blue Fire (NSW, PC) - B+

Blue Fire essentially takes some of the best elements of each of its inspirations to create a cohesive and ultimately delightful-to-play whole. There are certainly some rough spots that are apparent--occasional bugs, occasional glitches here and there--but overall, Blue Fire remains a terrifically challenging and mighty exciting adventure from beginning to end. This flame certainly burns bright.

At the end of the day, I had a "ball" with Glyph, both literally and figuratively. The initial, decidedly steep learning curve will alienate quite a few players at the get-go, but for those who stick with the game, they'll eventually be whirling about levels like a pro--or at least a much more capable and confident player--and have fun doing it. While the difficulty all around is not the smoothest, having some levels that are a breeze followed immediately by those that will make you want to yell out in utter frustration, Glyph is all around a successful outing from Bolverk Games.
Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos succeeds in making a unique roguelite that blends the tried and true gameplay of games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and mixes it in a way that makes this particular roguelite actually enjoyable. That's not to say that I don't care for roguelites in general, but after seeing an onslaught of the genre and their roguelike cousins in general from indies and larger devs alike, it's great to see one in Rogue Heroes that doesn't just adhere to the genre's template so stringently. There's plenty of time to breathe when exploring the overworld of Tasos, the dungeons are filled with brain-bending puzzles and engrossing battles, and the penalty for death won't overly diminish your joy or demotivate you too easily. Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos is a great marriage between A Link to the Past gameplay and roguelite design, tremendously fun and polished, making it a recommended title whether you enjoy it alone or with others in co-op play.
Cathedral maintains its high level of difficulty shortly from the beginning of the game to the very end. It's not Ghost 'n Goblins-level hard, but it's difficult all the same. That said, if you can withstand the challenge, you'll be rewarded with a stellar Metroidvania that may not reinvent the wheel or contribute a lot of new ideas, but is an incredibly polished, well executed game. With plenty of content in the form of story and side quests, marvelous level design, and wonderful sprite and background work, Cathedral is thankfully a blessing of a game rather than a curse.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury is definitely a must-own if you've never experienced the original 3D World on the Wii U, which happens to be a whole heck of a lot of Nintendo Switch owners. It becomes tougher to recommend if you're only interested in the Bowser's Fury portion of the package. If that's the case, it really depends on how fiercely and furiously you want to play a new 3D Mario adventure, especially since it's basically a $60 price of admission to Lake Lapcat. For me, as a lover of Super Mario 3D World and all of its new features (particularly the ability to play online and the increased playing speed), Bowser's Fury was just gravy on top of an already super satisfying game.
Despite an intense difficulty and level of challenge, constant trial and error gameplay with the game's lengthy levels, obnoxious crate placements, and questionable completion requirements, I ultimately enjoyed my time with Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time. But, to be honest, the reason it took me so long to even review this game was that I definitely needed some breaks from it. Crash's latest--with its difficulty, with its myriad "gotcha" moments, and such--just wore on me way too much. Levels are just way lengthier than they should be, and no matter how great they look, how well designed some aspects of them are, and how interesting the obstacles present themselves, it just got exhausting to play through them for any prolonged stretch of time. While Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time was, for me, an enjoyable game with some great design here and there, its overall difficulty makes me question who this game is actually for other than diehard Crash fans and those with a severe masochistic side. Still, it's hard to ignore the quality on display here. 
It was about time Crash returned with a new game,
much like it was about time SPC covered Crash Bandicoot 4 in review form!

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