Thursday, April 1, 2021

Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue HD (NSW) Review

Continuing this April Fools-free April 1st on SuperPhillip Central comes the very first review of the month. While the original game released way back in 2004, its HD remaster saw a release this week on the Nintendo Switch. It's Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue HD, and here is the SPC review.

Like a boomerang, what goes around, comes around with the return of Ty's second adventure

The sequel to Ty the Tasmanian Tiger, known as Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue, originally launched on the PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox back in 2004. Ty himself has a modest but dedicated following, as evident by both Ty's original game and its sequel's remasters securing quick funding via Kickstarter. With this Kickstarter success sees Ty's second adventure coming back (maybe you could say... like a boomerang?) in 2021 with its first destination on the Nintendo Switch, with PlayStation and Xbox ports occurring later this year. With borderline average critical reception back in 2004, how does Ty the Tasmanian 2: Bush Rescue improve with its HD remaster for 2021? Well, not too terribly much.

Unlike the original Ty the Tasmanian Tiger, in Bush Rescue, the game sees an open world approach to its design, mostly made up of missions instead of single levels to run and jump through and acquire collectables. This change in approach was a bit of a bummer having coming off the first Ty the Tasmanian Tiger when I reviewed the original game in 2015. Bush Rescue often loses its focus and tries to do too many things at once. What Ty ends up being is a Tasmanian tiger of all trades but a master of none. 

Ty the Tasmanian Tiger's second platforming outing is here for a second time.

Starting off in Bush Rescue HD, you begin at Bush Rescue HQ, a wide open area to explore, adjacent to a town area which is home to some beginning platforming and exploration opportunities to get your feet wet and 'rangs spinning, and NPCs who utter the same lines whenever Ty gets within shouting distance of them. The town contains shops to purchase new boomerangs, new health upgrades, keys to various mech suits that are required for several missions, and cosmetic skins for Ty and his buggy-like vehicle.

Armed with his twin boomerangs, Ty is ready for adventure.

Upon leaving the starting town, Ty arrives at the Southern Rivers, a series of roads that connect every point of interest, area, and level on the map. Hopping in Ty's method of traveling the roads is an all-terrain vehicle, perfect for getting around. Now, whether or not the act of getting around Southern Rivers via driving is fun is up to the player's perspective, but for me, it's a tad too tiresome. Between the less than impressive handling of the vehicle to traveling along linear roads from destinations to destinations, I'd prefer if it wasn't there in its current form. It's just tedious to have to travel from point A to point B, especially if it's completely on the other side of the rather large map. Since roads cannot be diverged from in any way, you're stuck to predetermined paths with no hopes for shortcuts or fast travel options.

Driving around Southern Rivers is unfortunately not the most exciting prospect or thing to do in the game.

Fortunately, getting around on Southern Rivers and anywhere else is made easy thanks to a helpful map that shows you various multicolored stars, indicating where missions are. You can access the menu to take a look at what star's color depicts what mission, so you're never stuck wondering. The map is absolutely a godsend for this game, as my enjoyment would have plummeted severely without it. The fact that you receive a map inside the major levels of the game, as well, offers even more convenience.

The missions themselves in Bush Rescue HD run the gamut of tasks, but so many of these at least in the Southern Rivers open world map are repeated too heavily. You'll be controlling helicopters multiple times through short, easy, breezy, but mind-numbing all the same overhead sections or being asked to deliver an item from one part of the map to another with a generous time limit (this happens way too much and like many of the missions in the game, it just seems like busywork). Without question, though, the worst of these missions--and thankfully this was the only one of its kind--was a mission involving a traffic jam caused by five tractor trailers losing their loads. Ty has to pilot a mech, locate, pick up, carry and transport five containers to each trailer. However, the mech moves so painfully slowly that this mission was immensely boring and tedious to do. 

Nor is piloting a helicopter in missions such as this, no matter how brief they can be.

While Southern Rivers' series of missions do less than excite, the missions and objectives within the game's actual levels fare much, much better. They're organic to the gameplay, lending themselves to Ty's true calling: platforming. And this is where Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue HD is at its strongest. There are still some niggling issues here and there, but ultimately, what is here works, is functional, and most importantly, is enjoyable. 

Ty has all of his abilities from the original game. He has is trusty twin boomerangs, which is the optimal way of taking down enemies, as there is some poor hit detection otherwise when it concerns Ty's melee attack, a bite. Ty can jump, gain a small degree of extra height with a second leap in the air, and spin his 'rangs to slow his descent downward as he glides across gaps and other expanses. 

Ty, as expected, is at his best when he's running and jumping.

This Tasmanian Tiger is certainly no Mario with his movement capabilities. This is extraordinarily evident as Ty's range of moves is incredibly limited, even when compared to 2002's Super Mario Sunshine. Even a long jump or means to get around faster would have made a world of difference for Ty, especially with how big some of these levels and areas are (and with how slow Ty seems to move in them). It makes getting around a chore at times, but when levels are more dense and I wasn't in a barren fields or whatnot, I found myself coming around to the endearing Tasmanian Tiger. (Again, perhaps you could say... like a boomerang.)

Unlike Mario, Ty's repertoire of abilities is less tied to his movement utility and more towards his wide range of 'rangs. There are over 15 different boomerangs to collect in Ty 2, and these are acquired through purchasing them with Opals, the currency of the game. Some of the boomerangs return from the original Ty, such as the Flamerang, which can melt ice, or conversely the Freezerang can--like its name suggests--can freeze objects, enemies, and produce frozen platforms on bodies of water. The Lasharang serves as a whip that can strike enemies as well as hook onto special grapple rings for Ty to swing from. Though there is a variety of boomerangs that Ty can use, generally I found myself simply sticking to a select few outside of contextual requirements like needing to cross a chasm with the Lasharang or view hidden objects otherwise undetectable with the Infrarang, for instance. 

The touching up to the visuals is most welcome and looks great in Bush Rescue HD.

Outside of completing story and optional missions (the latter includes several Mario Kart-style races--which is also a separate package in the title screen menu), there is still plenty to do in Ty 2. While the goal of collecting various goodies is less prominent when compared to the original Ty, there remains a good deal to find, collect, and enjoy. From silver cogs to missing Bilbies, a lot of what is hidden in Ty 2 is cleverly done and lots of fun to find, and there is a lot of it to discover. 

Compared to the blurry but functional game from 2004, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue's HD remaster is a welcome sight for the most part. Pretty much everything has been improved visually--whether it be resolution or reflections--though the package isn't entirely remastered to its very finest. Some later levels feature some moderately noticeable moments of the frame-rate turning quite sluggish. I also ran across one crash in my 15 hours with the game when I selected the "Exit Level" option. The latter was an isolated case, but the frame-rate issue occurred multiple times in the same areas of the levels, often with heavy foliage. 

Mecha no mistake. Ty means business in this mech suit.

No doubt riding the GTA-inspired, mission-based, open-world wave that many 3D platformers of the time rode, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue went a touch too ambitious for its own good. Instead of sticking with and further iterating on what really worked in the original game--the enjoyable platforming--the developers and designers opted to extend themselves a bit too far with vehicle-based missions that do less than delight and an open-world design that doesn't really do much to enhance the overall experience. It seems that my thoughts from 2021 line up with those from 2004. 

That said, even as someone who didn't play the original games when they released but has a fond remembrance for games of this era, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue HD serves as a nostalgic trip for me. The platforming and level design are overall solid, as are the touched-up visuals. Everything else involved with the design? Well, that's better left in 2004. Still, I don't regret having Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2 take up 15 hours of my time. It was a worthwhile game to play, despite my many misgivings with Ty's not-so-ripsnorting sequel. 

[SPC Says: C+]

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

Review Round-Up - March 2021

Open your eyes to one of the better open-world action-adventure games released since
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild with SPC's Game of the Month: Immortals: Fenyx Rising!
There's no foolin' around here when it comes to the Review Round-Up! Out with the old month and in with the new, but before we do that, let's take a look back at the month that was March and see the four video game reviews published on SuperPhillip Central during that time.

Things started with an unabashed clone of SEGA's Crazy Taxi, Taxi Chaos, which no doubt was the developer's intention, but what wasn't their intention hopefully was having their game only receiving a below average C- grade. However, we rebounded, in a way, with Pumpkin Jack. Sure, it's a game better suited for Halloween, but any time is a good time for a competent 3D platformer. The game earned a B- grade. 

Following that was March's Game of the Month on SuperPhillip Central, the amazing open-world action-adventure modeled after The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in oh-so-many flattering ways, Immortals: Fenyx Rising. Its wings (and the quality of the game) allowed it to soar high over the rest of the titles reviewed the month, earning a grand A- grade.

Finally, Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville - Complete Edition on the Nintendo Switch took root on SuperPhillip Central, surprising me greatly with its quality and addictiveness, receiving a B+ grade. 

Overall, a good month of reviews on SPC, with even more to come in April! Until then, check out some excerpts from each review from March, and scope the SPC Review Archive for all reviews ever published on this site.

Taxi Chaos (PS4, XB1, NSW) - C-

Taxi Chaos is basically store-brand imitation Crazy Taxi. It has had all of the charm, personality, and originality drained from it. If it were a cereal, Taxi Chaos would be the Fruit Rings to Crazy Taxi's Fruit Loops. The game attempts to throw in its own brand of innovation with quests, but the execution makes it not worth the effort whatsoever and a total chore to seek them out. Between the repetitive dialogue, annoying characters, grating, generic rock music, and basic city, there isn't much to love with Taxi Chaos. Fortunately, the driving mechanics themselves are up to snuff, and it is fun enough to drive around, leap to rooftops, and find shortcuts. Is the $35 price of admission--or in Taxi Chaos' case--"fare" worth it to hop in for a ride? Certainly and unfortunately not, as that price tag absolutely kills any chance of me recommending this game. Stick with Crazy Taxi and its two numbered sequels if you are desperate for a wild ride taxi-style.

Pumpkin Jack (PS4) - B-

[Pumpkin Jack's] just over far too soon, which makes its initial $29.99 MSRP a bit tough to swallow considering you're essentially paying five bucks for each hour of game time. Still, with superb platforming, clever ideas in its levels, and a pleasing presentation--from aesthetics to story, one can celebrate Halloween all year round courtesy of Pumpkin Jack.

Immortals: Fenyx Rising (Multi) - A-

In many ways, Immortals: Fenyx Rising outshines its inspiration of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which was no easy task, for sure. Of course, having a blueprint to work with instead of coming up with a totally new approach like Nintendo had to do helps, but overall, Ubisoft definitely delivered an improved experience for the most part. While Immortals: Fenyx Rising does have an Achilles Heel or two, such as some of the Myth challenges around the Golden Isle bring with them plenty of tedium through repetition, some puzzles in the Vaults of Tartaros are very unfriendly due to occasionally wonky physics, and some of the humor in the game failed to bring me any laughs whatsoever (and usually it was an eyeroll instead), the game is a gift from the Gods as far as I'm concerned. Exploration is a dream, running and soaring across the Golden Isle is a blast, and combat and the better half of puzzles in the game are magnificently done. Fortunately, Immortals: Fenyx Rising rises to the occasion and makes for one super satisfying open world adventure.

Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville - Complete Edition (NSW) - B+

Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville - Complete Edition was my first foray with anything in the Plants vs. Zombies series. Between the nearly endlessly entertaining multiplayer--that with bots means the fun will continue long after what currently is a sizable online community eventually diminishes--and the amazing amount of single player options available, whether free-roaming adventure maps or offline modes, I played a heck of a lot more than I expected I would (and I'm hardly done yet). It's only been out for just under two weeks and already I've put over 50 hours into the game with most of my time being dedicated to offline pursuits. Having a full game available online or off, no microtransactions, and plenty of content to enjoy, EA and Popcap definitely didn't pull the wool over Switch owners' eyes with its "Complete" in Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville's Complete Edition branding.

Plant yourself firmly in your seat and get ready to zombie-lieve the fun
awaiting you with Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville - Complete Edition!

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville - Complete Edition (NSW) Review

Before the month of March escapes us completely, SuperPhillip Central has one more new review to share with everyone on this eve of April. It's for a recent release--at least on the Nintendo Switch--Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville - Complete Edition. Check out why I wholeheartedly recommend this port with the SPC review.

Grow big or go home

The Nintendo Switch isn't any stranger to third-party games releasing later (or late) after their original launches. In fact, it's quite routine. However, occasionally a case presents itself where the wait for a particular game becomes very much worthwhile, either due to functioning well on the Switch or coming packed with a bevy of content. In the case of Electronic Arts and Popcap's Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, it's a combination of both of these attributes, offering one impressive, feature-rich, content-heavy port that may be late to the party, but delivers an incredible amount of fun for all ages.

Part of the reason for Battle for Neighborville being so wonderful on the Switch is that pretty much everything can be access, earned, and played offline. I threw in the "pretty much" part, as only daily, weekly, and character-specific challenges are inaccessible offline without a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. These challenges award Prize Bulbs and costume pieces that the former allows you to unlock Prize Map rewards more quickly, while the latter grants you character costume pieces for completing character-specific challenges. Everything else on offer in Plants vs. Zombies' debut on the Nintendo Switch is all available offline.

Outfit your character your way with a copious abundance of cosmetics, all earned via in-game currency. (No MTXs!)

This includes multiplayer--which includes play against bots. That said, the absence of split-screen multiplayer is a tremendous bummer, but understandable as it was removed from the Switch version to allow the game to run as admirably as it does on Nintendo's hybrid hardware. The Switch port giveth and the Switch port taketh away! Still, playing offline against bots, which allows you to select what character classes are allowed and what difficulty they are set to, makes for an enjoyable time. It also presents a bit of future-proofing to the game for when the online community inevitably dries up. However, at the time of this review (and this review was published two weeks after the initial Switch release), online is thriving with players, and I've seldom--if ever--have had to wait to enter into a match. 

With the Scientist's weapon firing, the juice is loose!

That said, I do have an issue with the online lobbies. Currently, you can group up with up to three other friends for a four friend group. However, you can NOT enter into a private match with them to play against bots. This is more a circumstantial and personal problem on my end, but with a friend of mine who is relatively new and inexperienced with gaming, it would have been nice to be able to play together in a safer setting against casual difficulty bots and thrust him into competitive online against strangers and random players of varying skill levels. A small gripe I have with the game, but I hope it's somehow touched upon by the development team and corrected.

Reach for the sky pard'ner. Sheriff Citron is in town.

The multiplayer, whether offline or on, features a multitude of modes and a series of maps across them. There is a simple team deathmatch-style mode, though named a much more family-friendly Team Vanquish, as well as a mode where teams compete to control three stations. The more stations your team controls, the more points your team earns. Alongside Team Vanquish and this aforementioned area-controlling Suburbination mode, there is an exciting area takeover mode, where one team attempts to strike, controlling one area of a map after another, forcing the other team to take and hopefully make a stand. Then, there's a 4 vs. 4 arena battle where each player gets one life per round. Each character class they select for that round gets crossed out the next round, win or lose, so it's important to not only be comfortable with multiple classes in this mode, but it's also important to accent your teammates' choices of characters as well. Having everyone serve as the healing class is less than a stellar decision, for example!

Outside of multiplayer in a competitive and co-operative sense, Battle for Neighborville brings a solo-focused experience to the fold with four free-roaming maps. One is exclusive to the Plants, one is exclusive to the Zombies, and one is shared between both Plants and Zombies, but they occur at different times of day. Either way, you're going to get upwards of 10 hours with each, as they involve completing story-based quests, battling bosses, discovering and opening treasure chests, uncovering Golden Gnomes and the ultra-rare and usually puzzle or combat-oriented Platinum Gnomes, and completing a variety of achievement-like tasks that reward Medals for accomplishing them. To further add to the fun--and I definitely found a lot of fun with the four campaigns--there are bounty battles to take on, where you engage with themed "gimmick"-based bosses, as well as Ops missions where you guard a position against five waves of increasingly more difficult opposition forces. Some maps are more enjoyable than others, and the lack of a fast travel option means you'll be trekking through familiar sights (and sites) repeatedly. Still, a great amount of content is available in these four maps.

There may be too many encounters while roaming the four maps of Battle for Neighborville's
 campaigns, but when they're this enjoyable, it's a small price to pay.

I've spoken at long length already about the content inside Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville - Complete Edition--and do I have more to cover--but what of the actual Plants and Zombies that are versus-ing one another? (Ew. There wasn't any elegance in THAT wording!) Each member of the Plant and Zombie teams has a main attack as well as three special attacks/abilities. The latter require a cooldown in order to use again with more powerful attacks and useful abilities requiring a longer cooling down period. From Peashooter's ability to turn plant its roots firmly into the ground to become a stationary turret, to All-Star's ability to produce a protective red dome that serves to temporarily shield itself and others from projectiles, it's important to learn each character class' abilities. Fortunately, it's quite enjoyable to do so. 

All-Star's showing everyone that while there is no "I" in "TEAM", 
there is certainly an "I" in "VANQUISH".

Alternately, each character class has its own strengths and weaknesses. The Sunflower on the Plants side and the Scientist on the Zombies side serve as the healing class, perfect for protecting others with added health in a pinch, but their attack capabilities aren't the strongest. Meanwhile, attack-proficient characters like Kernel Corn and 80's Action Hero on the Plant and Zombie sides respectively deal great damage, but their maximum health levels are on the lower side. For the most part, each class of characters seems balanced well enough, and it makes for matches and moment-to-moment gameplay that keeps things fresh--more importantly on a personal note, it kept me coming back for more.

Characters level up with experience earned through a multitude of methods and ways. After every ten levels earned, they stop earning experience and must be promoted. This promotion serves a twofold purpose as to gain new perks as well as allow them to resume leveling up, though starting from level 1 again. It can be a bit of a pain to have to return to the hub to promote a character, as again, they don't earn any more experience once they hit the maximum of level 10. It's pretty much wasted experience on them if you continue to play as that character without giving them a proper promotion. 

If only receiving a promotion was as easy to get in real life! (Sigh...)

The hub itself, Giddy Park, serves as one-stop spot for all kinds of actions and activities. For one, you access the four campaigns and multiplayer from this hub. There is of course the place to promote characters, like I mentioned already, but there is also a shop that stocks different goods like costume pieces, costume sets, character gestures, plaques that are displayed on another player's screen when you vanquish them, and so forth. Additionally, there is a place to spend Prize Bulbs, a capsule machine that you can spend coins earned through regular play to earn various cosmetics at random (unlike the other previously released versions of this game, there are NO microtransactions to speak of), and a central area that separates the Plants and Zombies that allows some practice of vanquishing players or bots. 

By the 80's Action Heroes' rockets' red (technically, orange) glare,
these foes feel pummeling pain with each blast and burst.

Battle for Neighborville is the first Frostbite Engine game (Electronic Arts' own graphical engine framework) to launch on the Nintendo Switch, which is exciting in and of itself for what future support from EA may hold. Regardless, it also serves as exciting because the engine really runs rather well on Nintendo's hardware. Whether docked or in handheld form, the game runs at 30 FPS, though the latter offers a blurrier look to it. Additionally, the frame-rate is not entirely stable with some noticeable drops when the action gets hot and especially heated. Still, it's amazing to see a Frostbite Engine game from EA running on the Switch, and doing so in a mostly impressive way.

Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville - Complete Edition was my first foray with anything in the Plants vs. Zombies series. Between the nearly endlessly entertaining multiplayer--that with bots means the fun will continue long after what currently is a sizable online community eventually diminishes--and the amazing amount of single player options available, whether free-roaming adventure maps or offline modes, I played a heck of a lot more than I expected I would (and I'm hardly done yet). It's only been out for just under two weeks and already I've put over 50 hours into the game with most of my time being dedicated to offline pursuits. Having a full game available online or off, no microtransactions, and plenty of content to enjoy, EA and Popcap definitely didn't pull the wool over Switch owners' eyes with its "Complete" in Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville's Complete Edition branding. It was a question of growing big or going home, and Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville on the Nintendo Switch without question grows big, warts and all.

[SPC Says: B+]