Friday, April 9, 2021

NEO: The World Ends With You (NSW, PS4, PC) Release Date Announcement Trailer

NEO: The World Ends With You has received a new trailer featuring for the first time the English voice cast and dub. More interestingly, a release date has been revealed. NEO: The World Ends With You will hit Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 on July 27th, 2021. Lastly, the newly announced Epic Games Store PC release is set for Summer 2021.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Toree 3D (NSW) Review

We continue this month of reviews on SuperPhillip Central with another brand-new review. On the eve of its release, we turn our focus to a bite-sized 3D platformer, Toree 3D. For a dollar, can you really go wrong with this game? Let's find out with the SPC review!

A quick and fun 3D platformer you can buy on the "cheep"

With the Nintendo eShop, I've gotten to a point of paranoia when I see games listed at launch at one dollar. Too many times these games that are at this price point turn out to be low effort, less than great games that sell purely on their $1 price, because "hey, if it's bad, I'd only be out a dollar!" Thankfully, for Toree 3D from developer SIACTRO and publisher Diplodocus Games, it may be a dollar game, but it's by no means one that can be described as "low effort" or "less than great". This 3D platformer is a quality speed-running game that deserves any Nintendo Switch platforming fan's attention.

Toree 3D is described as "a bite-sized 3D platformer", and that's an incredibly apt description for it. This platformer is a quick one, as you can run (and jump) through all of its levels in less than 45 minutes. However, there's more to Toree 3D than just playing through its nine levels and calling it a day.

The visual style on display in Toree 3D is reminiscent of old PlayStation games, only touched up and looking clean.

Starting off with Toree 3D, you have eight starting levels to choose from, playing them in any order. Of the eight levels there are four themed locales each that they take place in, from rushing across city rooftops in a colorful metropolis to leaping off moving traffic on a futuristic highway, or slipping and sliding along icy platforms in a snowy winter wonderland, the levels in Toree 3D offer short bursts of entertainment, smart level design, and of course, plenty of motivation to speed run through them.

Levels in Toree 3D offer plenty of obstacles and gimmicks to them. There are moving platforms, boost pads and conveyor belts that increase Toree's running speed in the directions that point, as well as wind gusts that Toree can use to gain height--or be used as obstacles to attempt to push poor Toree off platforms. Enemies are to be avoided, as unlike a traditional 3D platformer, there's no means to defeat these foes. Instead, touching them instantly K.O.s our feathered friend. Fortunately, plenty of checkpoints are available to instantly revive a doomed Toree to their location upon death, so there's little downtime between deaths. Of course, better yet is to not die at all!

There really are three objectives in each level of Toree 3D, though the game doesn't exactly spell it out for you. The first is to simply reach the goal. The second requires you to collect all of the stars in a level. Most of these are in plain sight, and you'll pretty much run into most of them without trying. A select few are hidden and require some mild exploration, but this happens rather rarely. Finally, the last objective is to reach the goal as fast as humanly--or in Toree's case--as chickly possible. 

Collect every one of these stars in all nine levels to make one of the two unlockable characters playable.

Levels aren't too terribly long, with most of my speed running attempts taking anywhere between 1-2 minutes to get through the levels. My beginning speed-running career in Toree 3D saw plenty of "C" ranks, as the times needed to get that much desired "A" rank are pretty tight. However, because levels aren't lengthy affairs, and furthermore, they're just plain fun to run (and jump) through, I found myself with plenty of motivation and enjoyment in repeatedly going through these levels. Each run would see me dare to make even more death-defying jumps and double jumps in my attempt to shave seconds off my run. Usually these attempts would end in failure, but eventually I'd make my way to my coveted trophy, that prized "A" rank.

Included in Toree 3D are three playable characters, though two of these need to be unlocked through collecting all of the stars and what I would assume is clearing all nine levels with an "A" rank. I say "I would assume" because I've got two more levels to somehow figure out the best speed-running strategies for, as well as execute them to actually get the needed "A" ranks. You can bet your beak that I'm not about to give up on that challenge, Toree! The unlockable character earned from collecting every level's amount of stars has unlimited flight, allowing you to flap and fly freely through levels--though their levels are not scored by ranks. Sorry, you'll have to do your speed runs legitimately--a lesson I learned quite quickly.

Overall, Toree 3D is a wonderfully playing 3D platformer, but I do have one slight issue with the game. That involves the camera control. There is currently no way to invert the camera's X and Y axes, which takes a stubborn amount of getting used to, for sure. Many times in levels you need to not only control Toree delicately, but the camera as well. It's not too much of an issue when you're casually running through levels, but when you're trying to speed run, one mistaken camera turn can result in a botched run. It's my hope that the developer adds camera options in a future patch.

Toree dresses for success with this adorable set of earmuffs.

 Toree 3D delivers a delightful low-polygon aesthetic to players. It's like the developer took a PlayStation 1 game and put it in high definition and resolution. It makes sense, too, as SIACTRO and Diplodocus Games' past title, Macbat 64, brought with it a Nintendo 64 visual look to it. Now we just need their next game to feature a Sega Saturn aesthetic, and the circle of major fifth generation console visual styles will be complete! Nevertheless, Toree 3D runs well with nary a major case of slowdown or frame-rate issues in sight. There's some nice touches here visually, too, such as seeing our fine feathered friend don earmuffs in the icy levels, for instance. Additionally, the music of Toree 3D is catchy, and it really got me into the groove to race through levels with my adrenaline pumping. 

Hitch a ride across these moving trucks in this Neo-Tokyo-like level.

Toree 3D more than justifies its dollar price tag, offering well executed 3D platforming and engaging levels that encourage repeated play-throughs to attempt to aim for those coveted "A" ranks (though leaderboards, even offline ones, would have been appreciated). This is a game that is perfect to pick up and play, put down, and then come back to now and again. It's a beauty to look at, it runs well, and it even has some cool, light spooky elements as well, though these seem to clash with the style of the game ultimately. Still, if you're up for a quick, bite-sized 3D platformer, have a dollar or some Gold Points to spare, then you should definitely download Toree 3D.

[SPC Says: B]

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

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC) Review

We continue from last Thursday's Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue HD review with more family-friendly fare, this time with the cast of zany characters from the realm of Nickelodeon with Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix. Ride up to the starting line, racers, and get ready to race with SPC's review.

Slime Time Drive

In 2019, I joined the likes of SpongeBob SquarePants, Tommy Pickles from Rugrats, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to name a few, and sat behind the wheel of Nickelodeon Kart Racers. Between the lack of characters represented, charm, polish, and online play, I decidedly did not enjoy my time with Game Mill Entertainment's freshman kart racing effort starring Nickelodeon's all-stars as evidenced by my review. However, the developer of the game seems to have taken the common criticisms of their first title to heart, as Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix not only adds a wider cast of characters, but online play as well. Sure, the latter is doomed from the get-go due to an inactive player base, but still! It's at least included. Nevertheless, Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix manages to speed across the finish line as a much improved game from its predecessor. Though, not without its own issues.

Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix features a wider net cast on Nickelodeon representation. While voice acting from said characters is still nil, there is a grander array of both playable racers and characters in general. The latter is due to the addition of a new chief and crew member mechanic. Before the racing begins, you select from a crew chief, featuring lesser known or supporting characters from several Nickelodeon properties, and these give your racer a helpful bonus ability to use when their slime meter is full. This is performed by riding through trails of slime and picking up slime coins, which serve another purpose as to make your driver's max speed increase for every slime coin collected. 

Chief skills run the gamut of usefulness and helpfulness. For instance, if you're sick of constantly getting hit by items--something that this game's AI is wont to deliver unto you--then you can have Filburt of Rocko' Modern Life fame to give your racer a temporary shield when your slime gauge is full and you activate the power. Or there's TMNT's April O'Neil's chief skill that grants invisibility when the slime gauge is at its maximum. Perfect for confusing opponents. 

The cast of characters included in Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2 has increased exponentially,
whether as playable racers or crew members.

While chief skills are skills activated manually, crew member skills are passive abilities that are activated automatically under certain conditions. Some activate upon collecting a slime coin, resulting in a boost. Others activate when your racer takes damage, such as Hey Arnold's Eugene providing a boost when your racer gets hit by an item. Of course, crew member skills can't be used one after another; they require a cooldown period of varying times in order to be utilized again. And unlike chief characters, you can have two crew members on your side at any time for a total of three members total to help your cause of securing first place on the podium.

There are over 100 different chief and crew members in Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2, so this already presents plenty of character representation in a way not seen in the original game. It doesn't stop there, though, as there are about 30 playable characters and 30 tracks to enjoy as well, also representing plenty of Nickelodeon properties. New characters alongside old favorites from the original join the playable roster, like Ren and Stimpy, characters from Avatar the Last Airbender as well as its successor series The Legend of Korra, there's characters from Danny Phantom, CatDog, Rocko's Modern Life, and many more.

New to the Nickelodeon Kart Racers lineup, the Avatar the Last Airbender and Legend of Korra series.

Tracks take place in a large variety of locations and locales, some returning from the original game with new alterations. There's everything from racing through SpongeBob SquarePants' Krablantis and the city streets of TMNT's NYC, to speeding through a Double Dare-inspired obstacle course and Rocko's Modern Life's O-Town--complete with familiar sights like Rocko's house and Chokey Chicken. (And if you must ask, yes, that's innuendo that somehow got past the censors in the '90s among many others on that show.) There is some really cool designs on display in the tracks, and if you're not impressed by those or some of the shortcuts featured, you might just get a kick out of the shows and characters represented, you hard-to-please player, you!

The titular Grand Prix mode in Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix features your standard Mario Kart formula of four races one after the other with the top point winners landing on the podium. Also, like Mario Kart 8 and its Deluxe variant, you'll want to aim for first place each race in a cup if you wish to earn three stars. While this is easy enough in the slow and normal speed difficulties, once you reach fast and the insane speeds, you enter Nickelodeon's version of the fifth circle of Hell, though this version trades flames with slime. The eternal damnation persists, however. It's insanely difficult to consistently win races, as the AI loves its rubber-banding, severe item usage, and yes, its Blue Shell equivalent, that damned Jellyfish, which comes up way too often in races--two to three times.

Hurry up and beat that ghost in this tense time trial!

Outside the hell that is Grand Prix's later difficulties, there is a free race mode, a Mario Kart DS-style mission mode known as Challenge mode, time trials, an arena battle mode (though this only has two arenas, unfortunately), and a garage area where players can spend slime coins earned through regular play to purchase new vehicle parts and skins for their various racers' rides. It's a game full of content here, and while not all of it is desirable (again, looking into the eyes of the hellish demon that is Grand Prix's Insane speed), it's mostly fun.

Challenge Mode features six tiers of seven missions each,
ranging from destroying targets to boss races to unlock new playable characters.

That fun is in part due to how much of an improvement the vehicles handle and control in Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix when compared to its predecessor. There's nothing here that hasn't been done before or done better by Mario Kart--such as performing tricks off slime ramps, holding drifts to get a stronger boost, etc.--but hey, it works and is functional. Even the item selection borrows heavily from Mario Kart with every item in Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2 having some kind of Mario Kart 8 equivalent, from M.O.U.S.E.R.S. that steal items from other players much like Mario Kart's Boo item, to its Lightning Bolt equivalent, an obnoxious pig that hitches a ride on the back of your racer's kart and slows it down considerably.

Even the visuals of Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix is an improvement over Game Mill's original outing. While nothing will make your eyes start tearing up because of the immense beauty on display (there is nothing of that sort here), you may just appreciate the level of detail in the racing environments. Meanwhile, while again, no characters have voice acting to speak of (which like with the original game, is a bit disappointing and occasionally off-putting), the sound part of Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2's package isn't overly a failure. The music is pretty good, honestly. I actually found myself humming on the rare occasion to the songs on offer. It's all original stuff with no melodies from the source materials featured, but it's not half bad.

Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix doesn't necessarily finish at first place on the podium, but it also doesn't necessarily limp across the finish line on fumes, either. I appreciated the improved presentation (lack of character voices and familiar music aside) and increased number of shows and characters included in the game, whether they be playable, chief and crew members, or track designs. Better balancing of the harder Grand Prix speeds would have made for a higher level of enjoyment, as I don't know what kind of kid would not rage at the nonsense that happens during these races when a grown adult almost does, but overall, Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix 2 is good slime--er, time. Lack of originality and balancing, notwithstanding.

[SPC Says: C]