Omega Labyrinth Z Banned in the West

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Right now I am enjoying the Muv-Luv visual novels that recently got released on PlayStation Vita. The highly acclaimed trilogy came to the system courtesy of a successful 2015 Kickstarter campaign. Muv-Luv starts out as a high school harem rom-com, in the first title, before transitioning into a sci-fi mech adventure in the later sequels. If you are interested in downloading the games be sure to manually search for them in the PSN store. Sony’s inept European staff never bothered to list either VN on their New Release listings. Guess they really hate anything that publisher PQube brings out.

Case in point, earlier this week it was announced on PQube’s website that Omega Labyrinth Z won’t be getting a Western localization after all. A handful of prudish nations (including Australia the kings of censorship) refused to give the dungeon crawler an age rating, thus barring it from being sold in their retail outlets. The rest of the world was however expected to get the game at some point this year. Unfortunately for RPG fans Sony has scuppered those plans at the eleventh hour. A press release from PQube reveals that Sony has effectively banned the game in the US and EU…

“In the case of Omega Labyrinth Z, while PQube has worked with all relevant age rating bodies in their respective territories, PQube must respectfully comply with the wishes of the platform holder and have therefore withdrawn any future plans for Omega Labyrinth Z’s European and North American release.”

When I say Sony I mean their European and America branches, because the game came out last year in Japan without incident. Shame that said Asian version doesn’t carry English subtitles, because that would have allowed prospective buyers to import it. Thank you very much Sony Europe/America for policing what grown adults can buy. You are okay with profiting from games that revel in graphic murder (God of War) but heaven forbid that an eighteen year old gets to play something that features cute cartoon girls. Better not tell them that their Crunchyoll app already allows people to view ecchi content on their machine.

I feel bad for PQube because they must be out of pocket, after going through the expense of translating a game they can no longer sell. Meanwhile the folks at Sony have accelerated the death of their handheld with this decision. Banning games is not going to help the lifespan of a system that is starving for new releases. One thing that concerns me is the signal that Sony has sent out. Game publishers are hesitant to localize niche games because they aren’t big sellers. I suspect in future even fewer quirky titles from Japan will reach our shores. The risk is too great when the threat of a potential Sony ban hangs over their heads.

Review of Batman: The Enemy Within

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I am the son of a chemist and a mathematician. People call me iron fifty-nine. What is my name? Leave your answer in the comments section below. Why am I opening this review with a riddle? Well, it seemed appropriate given that the first villain Bruce Wayne faces in Batman: The Enemy Within is the Riddler. I have to say that the aforementioned Edward Nigma is more bloodthirsty than I remember. This version of the character likes to place victims in death traps one would expect to find in a Saw movie. Fail to answer the criminal’s puzzles and you will get zapped or have your fingers sawn off. Ouch! That would make typing out reviews most difficult.

OVERVIEW

Batman: The Enemy Within is the follow up to 2016’s excellent Batman: The Telltale Series. This five-part adventure sees the Caped Crusader take on a group known as The Pact. Apart from the abovementioned Riddler, the group’s members include Bane, Harley Quinn and Mr Freeze. To this day my favourite take on Mr Freeze has to be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s rendition of the character (due to the delightful ice jokes.) Sadly I can’t think of any ice puns to insert into this post, as they have all “slipped” out of my mind. From the rogue’s gallery of baddies Harley Quinn is the one who gets the most screen time. Interestingly she is an established criminal who the Joker has a crush on, rather than vice versa.

Ah yes, how could I forget the Joker. This game chronicles how a former Arkham inmate named John Doe transformed into the Clown Prince of Crime. John made a brief appearance in the last title – helping Bruce escape from the asylum he had been imprisoned in. The pair formed a friendship during the breakout, which carries over into this instalment. How the relationship develops will depend on the decisions made throughout the game’s five episodes. Play nice with John and he may become a vigilante who aids Batman. Betray him however and you run the risk of turning John into a crazed psychopath. Tread carefully when answering John’s questions… just like when your girlfriend asks if she looks fat.

VERDICT

My rating for Batman: The Enemy Within is a four out of five. When compared to other Telltale superhero projects it is a huge improvement over Guardians of the Galaxy and a worthy successor to their last Batman release. Like with most Telltale offerings the game would best be described as an interactive movie. You influence the outcome of scenes by picking from a list of dialogue options. Battles are resolved via quick time events. Compared to its predecessor there are fewer puzzles to solve. Going off memory, the crime scene investigation segments have been scaled down in this sequel. On the plus side The Enemy Within suffers from fewer bugs and visual glitches. You won’t see a pair of flying eyeballs in this one!

If you enjoyed the first game or are a fan of the Dark Knight in general I can highly recommend Batman: The Enemy Within. Telltale once again delivers a great story that isn’t afraid of playing around with the Batman mythology. Character origins are tweaked and prominent figures get killed, leading to several surprises. My only gripe with the script is that for large portions of the game you play as Bruce Wayne, rather than his cooler masked alter ego. Sadly that can’t be avoided, as obese government agent Amanda Waller blackmails Bruce into going undercover. Grr, I hate her. Waller is so fat that when doctors diagnosed her with a flesh-eating virus they gave her 90 years to live.

Review of Metropolis: Lux Obscura

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Puzzle games sure can be raunchy. First there was the sex filled HuniePop and now we get Metropolis: Lux Obscura. This debut title from indie developer Ktulhu Solutions features images of topless women and comic book panels depicting intercourse. Isn’t it silly how some publishers feel obligated to censor swimsuits in their games? Seems like a gross overreaction to me, given that Ktulhu Solutions can sell their mature wares on consoles without causing any controversy. Perhaps the video game industry has finally grown up, sparing us from Mass Effect style lovemaking where participants do the horizontal mambo whilst fully clothed.

OVERVIEW

In Metropolis: Lux Obscura players follow the exploits of a baseball-wearing chap named Jon Lockhart. The protagonist of this tale has returned to his old stomping grounds, after serving a lengthy prison sentence. Said stomping grounds happen to be a city where crime rates are so high it would make Detroit blush. It’s a place where bikers harass the populace, a homicidal Elvis impersonator roams the streets and corrupt cops beat up the citizenry (even the Caucasian ones). To make ends meet Jon does odd jobs for a Mafioso named Falcone. Most of the earnings he makes end up going towards booze and strippers.

The story is told through stylish graphic novel cut scenes and how it all pans out will depend on the locations you choose to visit. Every now and then Jon gets mixed up in a brawl. Whether he emerges victorious from these altercations will depend on how the player fares in battle sequences that are reminiscent of Puzzle Quest. To avoid a Game Over players need to knock out their foe before their adversary manages to deplete Jon’s health points. Lining up three or more fist icons inflicts damage. Conversely, forming a row of first aid kits replenishes HP. Watch out for the police badges. If you inadvertently match three of those Jon will suffer pain. The Police hurt because Sting has a bad voice.

VERDICT

My rating for Metropolis: Lux Obscura is a three out of five. I enjoyed the game, but was disappointed by the lack of content. Even with four endings to unlock I managed to platinum it all after just a few hours. I wouldn’t describe the game as challenging; even if I lost the occasional fight due to misfortune with the randomly generated tiles. Yes, bad luck is to blame. I didn’t lose because my puny brain struggles with puzzles! What helps counter the potential difficulty are the abilities Jon earns after every encounter. These upgradable perks allow him to increase the effectiveness of health packs, force enemies to skip turns and can even replace the detrimental police badges with anger themed damage boosters.

Anyone who dislikes match three games can safely give Metropolis a miss, because the story by itself isn’t worth the price of admission. The script feels like a poor man’s Sin City. It’s heavy on cliché and grit, but deficient in substance. I think the top-notch graphics and competent voice acting deserved a better plot. Perhaps that’s why the developer resorted to boobs and fornication? Distract the punters with eye candy and they won’t notice the narrative’s weaknesses. Maybe I am being a tad harsh, as puzzle games aren’t renowned for their fiction. At the very least I can say that Metropolis has a better story than Tetris. The strippers are also much hotter than L-block.

Review of Kirby Star Allies

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The only person more gluttonous than myself is Kirby. Nintendo’s pink puffball devours enemies akin to me scarfing down Easter Eggs. The only difference is that Kirby’s overeating is beneficial, as it allows him to mimic the powers of the foe he consumed. I on the other hand only suffer a trip to the loo, whenever chocolate overindulgence takes its toll. Sitting on the can, with indigestion, isn’t so bad though. Thanks to handhelds I can still game whilst in the restroom. Years ago I would play Kirby’s Dreamland on the Gameboy. Nowadays I repeat the stomachache ritual with Kirby Star Allies on the Nintendo Switch.

OVERVIEW

Kirby Star Allies begins with a hooded figure performing an occult ceremony, which causes dark hearts to rain down from the sky. Anyone who comes into contact with these black organs becomes evil… or eviler as is the case when King Dedede and Meta Knight get corrupted by their influence. Kirby, the adorable protector of Pop Star, sets off to free his rivals from the shackles of dark heart possession. Hampering his progress are three generals (Francisca, Flamberge, and Zan Partizanne) who command elemental magic. This wicked trio are stockpiling the hearts, with the aims of using them to resurrect their dark lord.

If you seek respite from hardcore games, which revel in violence and difficulty, Kirby Star Allies is a good choice. The cute graphics and cheerful soundtrack are the antithesis of something like Dark Souls. Its casual gameplay differentiates it from other platformers, such as Super Meat Boy, which punish those who lack superhuman reflexes. Even an inept player such as myself was able to best Star Allies within six hours. I attribute my success to Kirby’s floatation gifts that allow him to soar over pitfalls. By hurling hearts at an opponent, Kirby can also convert adversaries into loyal bodyguards. This significantly lowers the challenge, as your companions can do much of the work when it comes to combat.

VERDICT

My rating for Kirby Star Allies is a three and a half out of five. Although it is far from Kirby’s greatest adventure it is still a lot of fun to play. What most people will criticise Star Allies for is its longevity. Kirby games are known for being short, but even so it is disappointing that developer HAL Laboratory didn’t use the Switch’s beefier hardware to include some more content. Aside from the story mode you can tackle a couple of mini-games. Once the end credits roll a boss rush mode is unlocked. You’ll also get the option of playing through the story again with different characters.

I suspect the game would have been more enjoyable for me had I opted to play co-op with friends, rather than depend on AI partners. Alas, it is awkward to invite friends over for a multiplayer session when I am playing Kirby in the bathroom (curse that painful belly and those delicious Easter treats.) What I liked best about Kirby Star Allies is copying powers to defeat enemies and solve puzzles. There are close to thirty powers on offer and some of them can be combined. Kirby can pretend to be Link with the sword skill, masquerade as Ness with the ESP ability or role-play a woman courtesy of the cook and cleaning powers. I kid! I kid! Please don’t flame me too hard in the comments section 🙂

Review of The Longest Five Minutes

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Let’s start off this review by clearing one thing up. The Longest Five Minutes takes considerably longer than 300 seconds to complete. I estimate that my playthrough, of this retro style RPG, lasted for around ten hours. That’s lengthier than the title suggests, but still shorter than your average JRPG. I’m not complaining though, because these days I just don’t have the time to finish a Witcher sized adventure. My long shifts are partially to blame and my age is a factor too. Once I hit my mid-thirties I lost the energy required to stay up all night playing games. Then again, my ex-girlfriends would argue that I never had much stamina for “night time activities” to begin with.

OVERVIEW

The Longest Five Minutes sees players assume the role of a hero named Flash Back. When the game begins Flash is in the midst of a five-minute tussle versus the tyrannical Demon King. How Flash got into this predicament is a mystery because he is suffering from amnesia (an ailment common amongst RPG heroes and anime characters alike.) In effect TLFM commences at the finale and gradually reveals how the story got to that point via memory fragments, which are essentially short levels chronicling Flash’s journey from his home village to the overlord’s castle. Joining him along for the ride are a bashful cleric, a Kung-Fu tomboy and a spoony mage who aspires to be a bard.

Gameplay wise The Longest Five Minutes feels like a 16-bit title, due to its turn based combat and pixel graphics. Ah, the 16-bit era. Those were the days! Final Fantasy was still fun, Sonic hadn’t lost his coolness and I could stay up past 10pm without feeling sleepy. What distinguishes TLFM from other RPGs is that the story is broken up into bite-sized chunks, which can be completed in a sitting. That’s great for busy folks, but may be less appealing for gamers who like to grind. Every stage is its own self-contained quest, were your party begin at an appropriate level and with suitable gear to best the challenge ahead. There’s no point in farming for gold/EXP because nothing carries over between stages.

VERDICT

My rating for The Longest Five Minutes is a three and a half out of five. It’s a game I would recommend to those seeking a casual JRPG experience. Perfect for anyone who needs a break from the constant game overs in Bloodborne (currently available to download off PSN for free.) The game doesn’t offer much, in the way of challenge, but I didn’t mind as the charming characters and exceptional soundtrack were enough to keep me invested. I dug the unique “reverse order” storytelling structure. The cut scenes are mostly humorous, as one would expect for an NIS America release, although it must be said that some of the endings on offer are surprisingly emotional.

Right now The Longest Five Minutes can be purchased on Vita, Switch and PC. I went with the Vita version, as the short levels make this RPG an ideal portable experience. Buyers who opt for the PC version can acquire the soundtrack, via DLC, which is a nice perk. Despite enjoying the game I think the £35 asking price is steep. The production values don’t justify that cost nor does the campaign’s length. Overall though, I enjoyed the game. The Longest Five Minutes looks like a game from my youth, but its streamline design makes it ideal to play on an adult’s busy schedule. Why does work consume so much time? The true “longest five minutes” is when I glance at my watch, counting down the end of my shift.

Review of Mr Massagy

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How did you beautiful people spend Valentine’s Day? Did a secret admirer confess their feelings to you? Perhaps your significant other invited you to a romantic dinner. In my case, February fourteenth was a solitary experience spent at home. The only love I received came from the virtual women that dated me in Mr Massagy. Developed by Green Lava Studios, this comedic dating sim is currently available to buy on the PlayStation Network and on PC via Valve’s Steam service. Who needs a girlfriend when video games can fill the void in your heart for the price of some Valentine chocolate?

OVERVIEW

Mr Massagy sees players assume the role of a Casanova named Johnny. The aim of the game is to swoon the bachelorettes that you meet on an app named Linger. Getting dates on said Tinder knockoff isn’t too difficult. In most cases the babes will accept your advances, providing that you select a suitable profile pic and accrue enough stars (earned each time you go on a date.) The dates in Mr Massagy are quick affairs were you respond to questions pitched by your love interest. Make a good impression and your date will invite you back to her place for a sensual massage.

To simulate the abovementioned back rubbing players are advised to place the PS4 controller on their shoulders, relax and enjoy the soothing vibrations. Lesbian players may prefer to rest the controller elsewhere… if you catch my drift. What makes Mr Massagy stand out from other games in the genre is the unorthodox roster of ladies available to flirt with. Some of the more colourful characters include a werewolf, an extra-terrestrial, a bovine nudist and a phantom surfer. If you have a fetish for inanimate objects fear not, because it’s also possible to go out with a body pillow and a jar of mayonnaise!

VERDICT

My rating for Mr Massagy is a two out of five. It’s not a great game, but I must admit to having some fun with it. The manner that the romantic rendezvous play out made me chuckle on several occasions, as they are so weird. I also can’t say that I regret my purchase, because the software is available to download for less than a fiver. On the graphical side of things, I would have to say that the artwork lacks polish. I did however like the character designs and must commend the artist for imbuing each girl with tons of personality. They did an eggs-cellent job of showcasing how bashful the mayonnaise is for example.

If I had to recommend Mr Massagy to anyone it would be to achievement hunters, as it offers a platinum trophy that can be acquired in less than two hours. One interesting feature that Mr Massagy boasts is online leader boards. High score tables are not something you normally associate with dating sims. If you are so inclined its possible to compete for the honour of most three star dates or longest massage. At the time of writing there is someone who has clocked 12,679 minutes worth of massage time with the body pillow. Evidently, no matter how lonely I was during Valentines, there are people out there who are even more desperate for affection.

Review of Battle Chef Brigade

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Match three isn’t just confined to puzzle games you know. Years ago, for example, we saw how HuniePop would simulate romantic dates via the mechanic of lining up like-coloured tiles. In a similar vein, cooking dishes in Battle Chef Brigade revolves around match three gameplay. The tastiness of the meals you prepare is dependent on how well one combos the various blue/green/red ingredients. Said ingredients are harvested in 2D fighting stages, where players need to slay beasts to procure their meat and yummy organs. How violent! The chefs in this game rival Gordon Ramsay when it comes to aggression.

OVERVIEW

In Battle Chef Brigade players assume the role of Mina Han, a teenage chef who has left her village in order to compete in a cooking tournament. Think Food Wars, set in a fantasy kingdom, minus the food orgasms. Mina’s participation in the contest is chronicled across six chapters, which will take the average person around ten hours to clear. The story shows how Mina ditched her family restaurant, fought against rivals and investigated a plague that is contaminating the local wildlife. Apart from the main campaign there are also daily challenges to tackle, where players can see how their culinary skills compare to others in the Switch online leader boards.

One of the reasons why I downloaded this title, for my Nintendo handheld, is because of the eye-catching visuals. Although the game’s animation would benefit from some extra frames, one cannot help but admire the gorgeous hand drawn graphics and character designs (that resemble The Legend of Korra.) Indie developer Trinket Studios has done a fine job of combining puzzle segments, which play like Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, with fun 2D combat. Mina hunts for food by using martial arts, casting magic and hurling daggers. I enjoyed the action, even if I cannot comprehend why Mina doesn’t forego bloodshed in favour of buying ingredients at the supermarket.

VERDICT

My rating for Battle Chef Brigade is four Michelin stars out of five. The game isn’t too difficult, but I can’t say that the simplicity ever got repetitive. Every match feels unique, as you can’t rely on churning out the exact same dishes all the time. Different judges oversee each encounter. If you wish to get maximum points, from them, Mina needs to tweak her menu to appeal to their distinct tastes. The game also keeps things fresh by introducing new mechanics on a regular basis, such as poisonous ingredients that explode when stirred. A toxic dinner, that detonates, sounds like something I would make in my kitchen. I suck at cooking, so when it comes to satiating hunger I stick to microwavable meals.

A gastronomic brawler sounds like a weird idea for a game, but somehow Trinket Studios have managed to make it work. My only grievance with Battle Chef Brigade is that the story is a bit short. Sadly there’s no multiplayer mode to extend the title’s shelf life or unlockable characters to encourage additional playthroughs. Perhaps that is something to consider for a potential future sequel? Either way, I can highly recommend Battle Chef Brigade to anyone who owns a Switch. The game is on the Steam store as well, so the PC master (chef) race can play it on their hardware too.