Angels of Death Review

angelsofdeath

A more organized blogger would have posted this Switch review a week ago and called it a Halloween special. I am however not known for planning out site content in advance. Opportunity missed! Instead of reviewing a horror game, on the 31st of October, I ended up writing about a horror-ible Fantastic Four movie instead. Angels of Death has a handicap, when it comes to instilling terror, as it was developed on RPG Maker. Scaring people is far easier with realistic graphics, rather than sixteen-bit pixels. With the right atmosphere it is still possible though, as Corpse Party has proven in the past. To be honest I am a coward at heart, so a horror game that is low on frights is fine with me. Heck, the only reason I braved this six-hour adventure was because some folks, who I follow, have praised the anime adaptation that recently aired.

OVERVIEW

Rachel Gardner is an emotionless thirteen-year old who has been sent to counselling after the death of her parents. When the game begins she awakens in a mysterious building with no knowledge of how she got there. Ray explores her surroundings and soon encounters a bandaged man who wields a scythe. Said mummy look-alike is a serial killer who answers to the name Zack Foster. He chases after Rachel, with the intentions of adding her to his murder tally. The pursuit doesn’t go as planned however. Rather than culminating in homicide, the pair’s meeting ends with them forming a temporary truce. With the aims of escaping the skyscraper that holds them prisoner, Rachel and Zack elect to team up. Can the partnership’s mix of brains and brawn overcome the dangers that await them? Probably. The game isn’t very hard.

Over the course of four episodes Rachel and Zack descend down the edifice. Each floor is littered with traps and is guarded by bloodthirsty lunatics. Despite being coded in a role-playing-game engine, Angels of Death features no turn based combat. Players cannot fight off their assailants and must instead flee from attackers. Getting caught will result in an instant game over, which can be frustrating. Thankfully the game auto saves whenever Rachel is in immediate peril. No significant progress is therefore lost should the heroine perish. Bypassing traps on the other hand requires some basic puzzle solving. Like adventure games of yore, the brainteasers involve using an item in the right location. The inventory Rachel carries is never large so sussing out what object needs to be picked is usually pretty obvious.

VERDICT

My rating for Angels of Death is three stars. The game doesn’t make a good first impression. I was underwhelmed by the rough looking artwork and the early gameplay. Episode one started with me dying multiple times, during a sequence were you are given seconds to evade a fast moving enemy. I suck when put under pressure and fare even worse when a game hasn’t explained that it’s possible to dash by pressing B. Thankfully things improved after that. As the story progressed I got more invested in the game. I dug the colourful cast of characters that Rachel meets and the mystery, of the building she’s trapped in, piqued my interest. Binding it all together is her relationship with Zack. Prior to buying the game who would have known that I would end up shipping a thirteen-year old girl with a guy who slices up people with bladed weapons?

Those seeking horror may leave Angels of Death feeling a tad disappointed. It lacks the creepiness of Corpse Party and is devoid of jump scares. Players, like myself, who appreciate dark humour should however enjoy their time with the game. The cartoon visuals and silly dialogue counterbalance the plot’s more disturbing moments. Episode four’s reveal, in particular, is not for the faint of heart. Speaking of dialogue, keep an “eye” out for a character named Danny should you decide to purchase the game. I challenge anyone to take a sip of their favourite alcoholic beverage whenever he utters the word “peepers.” I guarantee you won’t reach the end credits before your liver gives out. Maybe I’ll give said drinking game a “shot” whenever I get round to watching the anime.

Review of Valkyria Chronicles 4

valkchron4

It’s been ages since the west was able to enjoy a proper Valkyria Chronicles game. The third instalment was never localized and the recently released Valkyria Revolution was an unpopular spin-off, which abandoned the franchise’s trademark tactical elements. Valkyria Chronicles 4 thankfully returns to its roots. Both the combat system and setting are identical to the first game. For those unacquainted with the series, Valkyria Chronicles takes place on a continent that suspiciously resembles World War II Europe. Players lead a squad of Federation soldiers who are battling against Empire invaders. The Empire started the conflict to secure stockpiles of Ragnite – a magical mineral that can power machinery, heal the sick and turn well-endowed babes into super humans.

CHARCTERS

Valkyria Chronicles 4 recounts the adventures of Squad E, throughout a 35-hour campaign that sees the battalion venture deep into Empire territory. The plot is both straightforward and well written. Players experience first hand the brutal tragedies of war. Balancing out the drama are moments of romance and comedy that wouldn’t look out of place in an anime. There’s even a hot springs episode and DLC that takes place at the beach. Claude Wallace is the game’s protagonist. He begins the story with a reputation of being a coward, but as events unfold he develops into a courageous commander. His subordinates include childhood sweetheart Riley, a reckless trooper named Raz and Deadeye Kai. The latter is a sniper who possesses an irresistible heinie. Did you know that German soldiers, who the Empire’s conscripts are modelled after, were once nicknamed heinie? Perhaps Kai’s ass is a reference to that. Nah, it’s just eye candy.

Apart from the main cast there are over fifty unique characters to command. Picking whom to take on a mission is akin to assembling an army in Fire Emblem. There’s even a private named Odin who acts like his Fire Emblem namesake! When selecting a team I suspect most players will choose soldiers based on looks/personalities they find appealing. The supporting cast don’t play a major part in story cut scenes, but they do at least feature in optional chapters that flesh out their origins

COMBAT

Gameplay wise Valkyria Chronicles is a hybrid of strategy and action. Each level has an objective to complete. The missions range from capturing a base, to defeating all the enemies or protecting a zone for a specified number of rounds. Levels are laid out on a map, where players spend command points to issue orders and move their troops. If this was a fantasy game orders would be magic. By issuing an order it’s possible to heal allies, apply buffs and replenish ammo. Hey rookie I command you to stop being poisoned and um… cease being dead. What distinguishes Valkyria Chronicles from other strategy games is that when repositioning a soldier the action switches to a third person view. From this vantage point players assume direct control of the soldier in real time. To keep things tactical, characters can only attack once during their movement phase.

A character’s stamina limits how much terrain they can cover during a turn. Different classes have varying amounts of stamina. A nimble scout can therefore take more steps than a heavily armoured Lancer. I love Valkyria Chronicles’ battles, as they are more interactive than simply moving pieces on a chessboard. Possessing a soldier means you have to dodge bullets yourself and watch where they go, due to the ever-present danger of landmines. Mercifully, the enemies will seize fire whenever you line up a shot. Great news for me, as I have terrible aim when under pressure. Maybe instead of the Federation I should be fighting for the Empire. I do after all hit targets less often than a Storm Trooper.

CONCLUSION

My rating for Valkyria Chronicles 4 is five stars. Easily one of the best games I have played in 2018. Valkyria Chronicles 4 might be too similar to the original, for some folks, but I personally didn’t mind. It’s been almost a decade since the west got a mainline VC title, so the combat system still feels fresh to me. One new addition to Valkyria Chronicles 4 is the introduction of grenadiers. These soldiers can blast foes from afar with a mortar. I thought the grenadiers were overpowered during the early missions, but used them less in the later chapters. Sega might have added the class to benefit the enemy AI forces, more than the player. Their inclusion, on certain maps, does somewhat discourage players from making a beeline for the objective. You have to plan out movements or else Squad E will get an unwelcome explosive surprise when navigating choke points. Stop pelting me with grenades – that’s “bang” out of order.

I highly recommend Valkyria Chronicles 4. The game is fun and very pretty to look at. I like how the cell shaded graphics have a watercolour tinge to them. Anyone who was frustrated by the original’s difficulty spikes will be pleased to learn that Valkyria Chronicles 4 is much less challenging. The only level that took me a while to clear was the final showdown. It wasn’t hard per say, but a bit ponderous due to the amount of damage the last boss could soak up. Then again that was due to my bad planning rather than poor level design. After besting Valkyria Chronicles 4 I looked online and found clips of people beating that mission quickly, via the creative use of orders. Man, I really suck at making orders. Perhaps that is why it takes me so long to pick a main course.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Red Metal’s extensive coverage of the Zelda series has convinced me to give Breath of the Wild another chance. It will be nice to go on another adventure with Link, after all these years. Back in the day I had a grand time completing Link’s Awakening, Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker. In recent years however I have shunned the series due to its use of clunky stylus/motion controls.

Breath of the Wild is very different to the Zelda titles of yore. It’s a big open world with a big emphasis on survival. Gone are the days when money would literally grow on trees (um bushes.) Foraging is required to make an income and health restorative meals. Wish me luck guys. I don’t have a good track record of finishing open world games. Often I’ll neglect the story in favour of exploration… something I am sure Grand Theft Auto and Skyrim fans can relate to.

Extra Life

Introduction

Though Skyward Sword was released to a positive reception, certain players voiced their displeasure over the sheer amount of filler present and the hand-holding nature of the game. The latter aspect was especially ironic given the challenging nature of Skyward Sword. Series producer Eiji Aonuma, though mostly satisfied with what he and his team created, ended up agreeing with these reservations. The series’ next installment, A Link Between Worlds, seemed to openly defy the design choices behind Skyward Sword, featuring a terse narrative and a largely non-linear design. In an era when gaming placed a great emphasis on storytelling, A Link Between Worlds would have been a sleeper hit had not been part of a famous franchise. Emboldened by this installment’s success, he and his team sought to “rethink the conventions of Zelda” for the series’ next console installment. He made their intent known at…

View original post 11,119 more words

Review of Harvest Moon: Light of Hope

harvestmoonloh

Harvest Moon: Light of Hope is technically not a Harvest Moon game. The team responsible for producing the classic Harvest Moon games of yore is currently releasing titles under the Story of Seasons banner. Natsume, the publisher who holds the rights to the Harvest Moon name, has meanwhile decided to continue the franchise by hiring lesser skilled developers to make new sequels. The situation reminds me of the time when Eidos and Sports Interactive parted ways. After the split, developer Sports Interactive lost ownership of the Championship Manager brand. This forced them to release new games under the guise of Football Manager. Eidos went off to make Championship Manager games in house and ultimately run the series into the ground.

OVERVIEW

When I say that Harvest Moon is now in the hands of less talented developers I am not kidding. Just look at this game’s graphics. The characters may look cute, but there is no disputing that these visuals are below the standard one would expect from a PS4 release. In particular the low-res buildings look especially bad on a big screen. Gameplay wise things aren’t much better. The farming on offer hasn’t advanced much from the rather basic Harvest Moon GBA game I enjoyed many moons ago. In order to grow crops one simply needs to plant seeds and water the soil on a daily basis. Fertilizer is only required if you elect to grow something out of season. Seems easy enough. I wonder why Zimbabwe had so much trouble with farming when Mugabe kicked out all of the white farmers.

Still, who cares about farming? In this game I didn’t find agriculture to be particularly profitable. Rather than sell produce I just gifted my veggies to the local townsfolk or cooked them into stamina replenishing meals. If you seek riches I would recommend foraging for seashells at the beach. Those things sell for a surprisingly high price. I also hear that mining for ore can be lucrative, although that venture requires some investment. To crack open the rocks that house gems one needs to first upgrade their trusty hammer. Later in the game you can also trade eggs, wool and milk by populating your barn with livestock. I like how you can name the animals you buy. My cow, lamb and chicken were christened Mooris, Baary and Hen-Tai.

VERDICT

My rating for Harvest Moon: Light of Hope is a three out of five. The game is inferior to rivals Stardew Valley and Story of Seasons in terms of content. Without too much trouble I was able to complete the four-chapter story within a couple of in-game months. Despite its faults I must however say that I appreciate the relaxing experience it offers. Rather than start the morning with fifteen minutes of meditation, I can instead turn off my brain by doing chores for quarter of an hour on Harvest Moon’s virtual island. Even if I have already saved the land, by repairing the isle’s mystical lighthouse, I still intend to continue playing the game for the foreseeable future in short bursts. There are plenty of trophies yet to earn and a mailbox worth of villager requests to complete.

Other activities I can look forward to are the monthly festivals. These events allow the player to partake in various mini-games, which include fishing contests and dog races. Thus far my pooch has managed to scoop the top prize, but I have fared less well in the angling tournaments. Most important of all I cannot conclude my Harvest Moon adventure without first getting hitched. From the five available bachelorettes I have my eyes set on the bespectacled doctor. She may not be the most attractive of the bunch, but she won my heart during the tutorial by generously gifting me tons of free cabbage seeds. When it comes to romance the ladies don’t have to do much to make me swoon. I’ll settle for any girl, providing that she doesn’t carry much emotional cabbage… um baggage.

Review of The Lost Child

thelostchild

I love the Persona role-playing games. Shame then that it takes so long for new instalments to come out. How I wish the franchise would release new stuff on an annual basis. Then again, I suppose that the series would feel far less special if it appeared in stores with the regularity of an Assassin’s Creed sequel. Rarity builds anticipation and shorter development cycles tend to harm a title’s quality. Some people have suggested that I play the other Shin Megami offerings, whilst I wait for a new Persona. The problem is that those RPGs are bloody hard. I’ll try The Lost Child instead. This game may be a shameless Megami clone, but at least it caters to my lack of skill by providing an easy mode.

OVERVIEW

Hayato Ibuki is a reporter for one of those trashy occult magazines. Not a glamorous career, but hey it could be worse. Writing for a tabloid publication is still more respectable than being a games journalist! When the story begins Hayato acquires a weapon that is capable of bending demons to his will. A big-breasted angel named Lua (who dresses like a witch for some reason) informs Hayato that he must use the gun to defeat Cthulhu, who is presently plotting to take over Heaven. A weird and somewhat blasphemous plot… although that should be expected given that the game is affiliated to the equally bizarre El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron.

The Lost Child is broken up into eight chapters. Each level has you battling through puzzle filled dungeons that are made up of multiple floors. Players explore the stages through a first person view. Every step you take has the potential of triggering a random turn based battle. When in combat, Hayato and Lua are accompanied by a party made up of previously captured demons. Like in most RPGs the heroes grow stronger by accruing experience points. The demonic entities they recruit are meanwhile strengthened via karma. Killing creatures is the main source of karma, although it is also possible to acquire it by making dialogue choices during certain story events.

VERDICT

My rating for The Lost Child is a three out of five. The game is a decent, albeit unoriginal, dungeon crawler. I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the genre. The story may be forgettable but I didn’t mind, as the thrill of navigating labyrinths was enough to keep my interest for the forty hours it lasted. Compared to other RPGs, there isn’t much in the way of character customisation. You can however tweak Hayato and Lua’s attributes by distributing stat points upon levelling up. Ally demons meanwhile can be taught new skills and evolved, akin to a Pokémon. Just be aware that instead of cute critters, in this game, you evolve fallen angels and topless Succubi.

Overall I had fun with The Lost Child. I must however say that I have some grievances with the game. First up was a glitch that prevented me from earning one of the optional characters. Another complaint is that some of the puzzles can be annoying. Examples include invisible walls, sandy currents that drag you back to a dungeon’s entrance and pitfalls that drop you to a lower floor. The latter especially blows, as transferring to a new zone is preceded by lengthy load times. Not sure what causes the Vita to process for so long. The floors aren’t huge and the graphics comprise of still pictures. Oh well, no matter how slow the loading is the wait for them to finish is still shorter than waiting for a new Persona.

Omega Labyrinth Z Banned in the West

omegalabz2

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

batmanenemywithin

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.