Ollie-Oop Early Access Preview (PC)

You play as a skateboarding dog. Need I say more?

A compelling way to advertise a video game on social media is to make an elevator pitch catchy enough to make you stop scrolling and pique your interest. This is exactly what happened in the case of Ollie-Oop when it appeared on my Twitter feed; I had to investigate the cute pup on a skateboard and knew I had to get it on my screen ASAP. The prospect of a quirky collectathon is always something I’m excited to try out, so how does this skating dog fare?

Ollie Oop Skateboarding Dog Cute Hat
Tons of cosmetics and they’re not microtransactions? Who would have thought of that?

Visuals

Ollie-Oop opts for that classic fifth-generation presentation chock-full of polygons and colorful landscapes. Levels are decently-sized and collectibles levitate/spin, begging you to pick each and every one of them up. You can trick out Ollie with a wide variety of hats each with their own cute audio cue when you swap, and can switch it up at any point in a level. Animations are pretty well-crafted for an Early Access phase of the game, but there’s a little bit of jank here and there – nothing that can’t be ironed out in the coming months.

Ollie Oop Skateboarding Dog Cute Hat Yip Bark
There’s a dedicated “bark” button that you can spam to your heart’s content, a la Duck Game.

Gameplay

Anyone familiar with a Tony Hawk game will transition into Ollie-Oop with little hassle. Movement is a breeze as Ollie traverses levels with ample opportunities for ramps, races, and pumpkin-smashes. You’ll take tasks from the other dogs out and about, whether it be scaring some birds or clearing a mineshaft with dynamite. It’s a blast whittling down these requests and collecting pupcakes as you watch the completion meter get closer and closer. There was only one mission I struggled with: gathering tumbleweeds within a brief time limit, which hopefully gets higher as the game keeps getting worked on.

Ollie Oop Skateboarding Dog Cute Hat Soccer Football
Ollie-Oop still has kinks to work out in Early Access, like this soccer minigame I dominated thanks to spamming a key.

Audio

The cutesy delivery in Ollie-Oop is compounded by a relaxing soundtrack from Robert Frost III and adorable sound effects. If you happen to not land on your wheels, a squeak will play when Ollie’s body bounces on the ground. Ollie’s barks are a hoot when you mash the designated bark button. The appropriate sound effects when equipping a specific hat are just the cherry on top.

So, why should you play it?

  • You want to support an indie dev’s great idea and see the game grow within a respectable timeline.
  • You want to skateboard as a dog.
  • You can’t get enough of collectathon classics such as Super Mario 64, Banjo Kazooie, etc.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Bugs are too much of a distraction to you.
  • You’d prefer a completed game (which will be priced higher upon completion).

A press key for Ollie-Oop was provided courtesy of the developer.

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Review (PC)

Marvel’s Avengers has been avenged.

It’s safe to say that a lot of people were burned in the aftermath of Marvel’s Avengers release. Years of hype, a respected developer/publisher, and a huge budget all culminated into a catastrophic flop that never truly recovered. So when a Guardians of the Galaxy game was announced, skepticism was at an all-time high. A lot of people were under the assumption that Crystal Dynamics was also responsible for this game just a year after Avengers, but Eidos Montreal, responsible for the Deus Ex revival, took the reigns for this outing. As such, I held cautious optimism towards this new Guardians outing. So, how did it turn out?

Guardians of the Galaxy PC Review Visuals Key Art Team

Gameplay

A big point of contention for prospective players of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was that you could only control Starlord throughout the game. A contrast from Marvel’s Avengers where you had the choice of any Avenger, this seemed a bit restrictive. Thanks to a nuanced story and robust mechanics, though, I felt the power of each Guardian within the game’s squad-control system during combat. With just a few button presses, I could have Drax careen through baddies, Gamora slice-and-dice all nearby foes, Rocket throw a gravity grenade, and Groot tie enemies down all within the span of a few seconds. Finding the right combination of abilities in unison is worthwhile and makes every character feel like a valuable member of the team. It is a bit weird that their actions are instantaneous, meaning they’ll teleport where you desire to make the game feel a bit janky, but it’s to your benefit and never truly broke my immersion.

Guardians of the Galaxy PC Review Visuals Enemy Combat
It’s the five of you vs. droves of devious baddies or colossal bosses. Good luck.

When you aren’t battling it out, there’s a lot of story to absorb as you traverse the massive levels. The scope of each level results in hour-plus expeditions, and there’s dialogue almost literally every step of the way. I noticed a content creator get a bit flustered that there was so much dialogue, but anyone who’s familiar with the source material knows that the Guardians of the Galaxy love to run their mouth, and dialogue will constantly interrupt if you walk to the next in-game cutscene too quickly, so you’ll have to stand still and let everyone finish their verbiage if you want the full experience.

Guardians of the Galaxy PC Review Visuals Starlord Room
You can press F to get out of Starlord’s bed, but why would you ever want to leave an 80’s kid’s paradise?

In addition, a choice-driven narrative is vital for how the game plays out. Choices really do matter, as certain dialogue options will influence details on how the story plays out, both to your benefit and detriment. It’s been a while since this was implemented into a AAA game to this level of importance, but it was executed quite well and made me question the weight of my actions for more than a few seconds at some points.

Visuals

On the more demanding side for a PC venture, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy needed to be a visual knockout to stay faithful to the comics and films. Thankfully, Eidos Montreal knocked it out of the park in this department. Vibrancy is a staple as every level is chock-full of every color on the spectrum. Plus, one of the villain’s appearance is so obtrusive to the eyes that it’s a technical feat. As the game is no slouch on visuals, one would question how it would perform. Thankfully, a strong level of optimization saw framerates never dip too far to impact the frenetic combat even with the graphics turned up.

Guardians of the Galaxy PC Review Visuals Team Groot Rocket
You got this. Probably.

Audio

Quite possibly the best thing about Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is its mind-blowing soundtrack of 70s and 80s greats. Just about every hit rock song from these decades graces Starlord’s cassette player and the Milano’s speakers. Additionally, these songs will take center stage after “Huddles”, an ultimate that turns the tide of tough battles. Getting to see all of these legendary tracks with their album art makes one wonder how much was spent on the licensing of this killer soundtrack alone, but it serves as a faithful Guardians callback.

Dialogue is a heavy part of this game, as the voice actors of Gamora, Rocket, and Drax reprise their roles from the Guardians of the Galaxy show. Starlord’s voice is handled by Jon McLaren, a relative unknown, that delivers an emphatic surfer vibe with gravitas. Guns, swords, and punches all carry their weight, while the Milano entering hyperspace sends players into galactic bliss. Keep your ears attentive for this spectacle of a game.

Guardians of the Galaxy PC Review Visuals Rick Astley Never Gonna Give You Up
Playing during this screenshot: “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley. In space, no one can hear you get Rickrolled.

Plot

I saw someone refer to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy as “an interactive movie” and perhaps that isn’t far from the truth, if you like your movies lasting more than 15 hours. You’ll see flashbacks from your youth as Peter Quill, a metal-loving teen taken from Earth and sent into space. Fully-interactive environments and choices-matter is reminiscent of Telltale/Life is Strange, whereas the squad-centric combat is akin to Final Fantasy XV, so as to appeal to those who enjoy both. You have the option to contribute to the dialogue with two vastly-different choices mid-conversation, and the Guardians’ opinion of you may get influenced by what you say. Without spoilers, I’d recommend engaging every chance you get for the most fulfilling ending possible.

An AAA game that’s a blast at launch? It’s still possible!

Time and time again last decade, I’ve gotten excited for a game only to dive in and be greeted with a rough experience. Star Wars Battlefront II, Marvel’s Avengers, and even Eidos Montreal’s own Deux Ex: Mankind Divided had cataclysmic launches, but that’s not something you have to worry about with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. A lot of doubt was cast over a single-player, narrative-driven, linear game still being worth the risk in a multiplayer, shared-world climate of gaming, but this game hearkens back to a time where you paid full price for a full experience. Nothing held back behind future DLC, no lack of polish due to a rushed schedule, no need for a persistent online connection. It’s a relief to have this much fun with no strings attached, and for that, the game gets my full endorsement.

So, why should you play it?

  • A fully-fleshed, well-polished, engaging single-player experience with no catches.
  • A soundtrack that will capture the heart of anyone keen on 70s/80s music.
  • To support the notion that this type of game is still desired by gamers at this point in time.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • You’re not a fan of an overwhelming abundance of dialogue.
  • You’re streaming and watchers will unfortunately miss out on the soundtrack, the best part of the game.

A press copy of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy on PC was provided courtesy of the publisher.

Klang 2 Review (PC)

A rhythm game where timing is a fraction of the action.

I’ve been plugging away at rhythm games since I first picked up Dance Dance Revolution in 2006. With a stint as #1 on the leaderboards on Guitar Hero III and regularly playing still to this day, it’s easily my favorite genre and one I’m always looking for new games to explore within. When I came across Klang 2, I figured it had an interesting spin as the player’s performance took place within a battle. With little else to go on and no experience with the previous Klang, I dove right in and immersed myself into the electronic soundscapes the game provides.

Klang 2 indie rhythm game review visuals
Klang 2’s visuals are a spectacle, but your eyes will be hyper-focused on the rhythm indicators.

Visuals

Any weathered rhythm gamer will tell you that the background of a song doesn’t matter. With differing input requirements and precision being a factor, Klang 2 demands you zone in to the corresponding visual indicators to max out their score. Players will pay the utmost attention to these indicators to ensure their hitboxes are perfectly mashed, slid across, and held. Upon hitting these, you’ll receive a “Perfect”, “Very Good”, or an idea of if you approached the note too early or late. With the charts incorporating eighth notes, third notes, and other off-beat indicators, precision is needed not only from rhythm, but locational accuracy, as notes will pop up on every side of the screen.

Klang 2 indie rhythm game review visuals combat gif

Gameplay

Klang 2‘s aforementioned hit markers are akin to games like Elite Beat Agents, Project Diva, and OSU. Not only will you be hitting notes, you’ll have to swipe in designated directions and hold notes when their shapes appear. You’ll have an understanding of when to hit these notes based on the shapes closing in on the outline of the note. As such, it gets tricky when you have to move to different sides of the screen rapidly. Thankfully, the mapping of the rhythms was meticulous and they always completely make sense within the context of each song. Within the realm of PC, clicking/dragging with the mouse was optimal, but there’s also a keyboard option for the arrow keys if one should wish to play the game that way. Even with frantic visuals, the maxed out graphics never saw my framerate drop and I never missed a note due to game performance, nor did my PC fans ever have to kick in to cool the GPU. As a rhythm game savant, I still found myself challenged, especially in later levels, so Klang 2 gets the seal of approval for difficulty and execution.

Klang 2 indie rhythm game review visuals gameplay
Klang 2 is no pushover for beginners, but seasoned rhythm veterans will have no trouble breezing through.

Audio

There’s a wide variety of artists that contribute to the soundtrack of Klang 2, all with their distinct electronic sound. My haptic-feedback headphones rumbled with the bass and the sound effects tied to hitting notes never overpowered the songs themselves. Even if their default settings are too much, you have the option to turn them down so all you can hear is the song, too. I thoroughly appreciate that the game includes a music offset modifier, so that no matter what monitor/TV is being used to play Klang 2, you’ll have the chance to fix the timing and avoid missing them due to hardware. No word on if the songs are stream-friendly, as DMCA continues to be rhythm gamer’s worst enemy.

Plot

So, yes, there’s a plot to Klang 2 – but you have the option to completely bypass it. One may feel as if that’s an indication that it’s completely throwaway and/or low-effort, but that’s not the case here. While a lot of it goes over my head due to not playing the original Klang, I followed along to the game’s story which saw the eponymous protagonist dispatch foes with his trusty soundblade. There’s dialogue between Klang and a devious eye dubbed A-Eye, which provides some lore in-between boss battles. I did like that during hold notes of later boss battles, some exposition took place to give the player some provoking thoughts mid-song. The plot didn’t necessarily serve as a driving force to succeed as it would in another genre’s game, but it wasn’t too rough, all things considered.

So, why should you play it?

  • You’re a rhythm gamer of any sort looking for a new challenge at a low price.
  • You’re new to rhythm games and want something accessible yet difficult.
  • You enjoyed the previous Klang and want more action.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • A plot is essential to you in a game.
  • You struggle with frenetic, fast-paced video games.

A press copy of Klang 2 was provided courtesy of the publisher.

ozgameshop FOR THE GAMERS

Dreamscaper Review (PC/Steam)

DREAM. DIE. WAKE. REPEAT.

Roguelites are a familiar breed here at Qualbert – several of us are big fans of the genre and that was shown in my previous review of Orbital Bullet – a 360-degree spin on this type of game. There’s no shortage of roguelite games to play after a decade+ of popularity, so it takes a lot for one to stand out. Dreamscaper hopes to do that, spending a good year in Early Access before being prepared for a 1.0 release in August. So, how does it fare alongside its roguelite counterparts, with a higher standard set after 2020’s massive hit in Hades?

Dreamscaper PC visuals review
Once you hit New Game, you’re greeted with this screen – no background, no text, just a need to move forward.

Plot

Relying on contextual clues and flashbacks, regards for plot in Dreamscaper are few and far between. With the majority of the game spent in a dream state, there’s only a few environmental interactions to gleam through to earn some plot details. The main character, Cassidy, is new to Redhaven, and will slowly venture out into it as she unlocks segments within her dreams, where the dungeon-crawling takes place. After bosses are vanquished, a vague flashback plays, revealing bits and pieces of what transpired to bring Cassidy to this point in her life. As the majority of the game is spent in her dreams and it could take hours for players to progress, it’s a struggle to see what you’re fighting for at points.

Visuals

The environments within Cassidy’s dreams differ based on which section she’s in – from a wintery wilderness, to cityscape streets, to a Redwood forest, it’s fascinating to see a dungeon-crawler where the dungeon emulates real life settings. When you compare that to the dark, dank recesses of Binding of Isaac or Enter the Gungeon’s fantasy surroundings, it’s a novel take on level design in this genre. The lack of face on characters is also a compelling design choice that gives the game a unique flair.

Dreamscaper PC visuals review environment
This is technically a dungeon within Dreamscaper. Environmental design is quite the looker in your dreams.

Gameplay

Anyone who’s cut their teeth on the combat of a roguelite will have a headstart in Dreamscaper. With the ever-present threat of losing your life in just a few hits, your moves are calculated and careful – you’re put to the test with scaling baddies between each level and you’re bound to die. This is where my favorite part of roguelite comes in – you can manage some upgrades to make subsequent runs a bit more do-able. Titles like Rogue Legacy and Hades capitalize on this, and I find these titles more accessible thanks to it. One can only get so lucky with pickups/loadouts and once you get into that sweet spot, you’ll ascend the gauntlet significantly further than you could before. While Dreamscaper doesn’t do much to forward the genre, it manages to do everything right and has the replayability factor down pat.

Dreamscaper PC visuals descend
Take a breath after you vanquish a boss – every section is considerably tougher than the last.

Sound

With a soothing accompaniment in the music department, Dreamscaper continues the trend of indie games having triumphant soundtracks. Fitting every occasion with ease, it’s no wonder the 53-track OST, composed by Dale North, is available alongside the game on Steam. As far as sound design within the action, every whomp, wallop, and whack with your weapons feels like it has weight. Snow crumbles on the ground with every step. Monstrous bosses intimidate with massive roars. The care given to this aspect of the game deserves plenty of praise.

One of the game’s more relaxing tracks, “Hometown (Exploration)”.

So, why should you play it?

  • You crave a good roguelite that rewards you with every run.
  • A challenge doesn’t phase you and you don’t mind multiple runs.
  • Skill-based gameplay gets your adrenaline pumping.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • You dread a plot moving at a snail’s pace.
  • You’re discouraged by dying easily/at a moment’s notice.
  • You don’t have time to grind a bit for progression’s sake.

A press copy of Dreamscaper was provided courtesy of the publisher.

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Life is Strange: True Colors Review (PC/Steam)

When emotions take control of you, take control of your emotions.

It’s weird to have been with a game series from its very start and to experience all of its twists and turns over the course of six years. DONTNOD’s Life is Strange captivated gamers that asked more of TellTale, those that wanted a non-franchise story told in an engaging, choice-driven fashion. I recall the terrifying wait of each chapter releasing with a few months in between with agonizing cliffhangers that kept my mind racing. Then, Deck Nine Games handled a prequel in Before the Storm, crafting exposition and building off the first game’s memorable characters to expand the LiS universe. Now, Deck Nine can deliver a full-sized game in the vein of True Colors, bringing back a fan-favorite from Before the Storm and exploring small-town Colorado in detail.

Haven Springs, Colorado, is an extravagant setting that is enhanced by Moments of Zen letting the player take in the view.

Visuals

After a brief cutscene establishing the main character, Alex lands in Haven Springs, Colorado by bus. With several cuts to the scenery and a slow walk speed, the player gets to immerse themselves in the breath-taking sights the town has to offer. A flowing river passes under a bridge adorned with several flower arrangements. You then get the chance to take a gander at the river in the first of the game’s Moments of Zen: a cutscene where the character reflects on their journey and current thoughts as the camera cuts to their surroundings. Some of my own tears flowed along with the river as I felt like I was right there in an idyllic Haven Springs thanks to picture-perfect immersion 5 minutes after starting the game.

Golden hour in Haven Springs looks as gorgeous as it would in real life.

Aside from the standout environment, the graphics and visual performance are a big enhancement from previous iterations in the series. My biggest gripe with these entries was the motion-capture being janky and not how a human would naturally move, but this was completely remedied in True Colors. In conversation, characters are more expressive here, as well – eyebrows furl in anger and raise in delight, dimples show after a hearty laugh, and it complements the auditory side quite well in doing so. This is the best Life is Strange has ever looked, so much so that I’d love to lose myself in this small town in a free roam mode.

A sombre song sung by the talented mxmtoon at a tense moment is enough to break even the strongest wills.

Audio

The audio design in Life is Strange: True Colors is masterful in just about every aspect. When we call it an indie soundtrack, it’s actually bands you’ve never heard of, while still being perfectly in-context with the game’s themes and tone. These accompany the fantastic sights in the Moments of Zen, and while the player has the option to bring them to an early halt, it’s worth hearing the whole song in almost every instance.

The game’s title track, “Love Song”, by Australian folk/indie duo, Angus & Julia Stone.

Voice acting is on point and makes characters feel like genuine people with a full gamut of emotions. You can hear the rage, the despair, the nervousness of characters whose minds are in disrepair. Wholesome characters have a homely vocal presentation, whereas suspicious individuals sound conniving and serve as a frustration point when they get smug with you. It’s thanks to precise vocal direction meeting talented voice actors/actresses that these characters come to life.

In addition, the sound design of the world is prime. There were a few moments where I confused the game with real life thanks to this attention to detail, such as a frantic knocking on the door sounded seriously realistic. Whether it was creaking floorboards, a purring kitten, or a gas-lit lantern running out of fuel, I was zoned in at every step. The only issue was that Alex’s dialogue trigger whenever she entered a certain area would result in me hearing her say the same thing 2-3 times once I moved to a specific spot – otherwise, the sound in the game is mechanically strong.

Steph from Life is Strange: Before the Storm returns in a big way and is a fan-favorite through and through with her spunky, spontaneous nature.

Plot

Gone are the days of waiting for the next episode of Life is Strange to release – True Colors has its full story available upon launch. Alex’s time in Haven Springs has enough suspense riding on each scene that when the game took a break to become a LARP (Live Action RolePlay) complete with a turn-based system, I felt the needed break somehow kept me even more immersed into the story. Choices really do culminate in the last scene as you’ll truly see who’s with you and who’s against you. With a tentative runtime of 10-12 hours, the game doesn’t overstay its welcome and provides enough of an experience to stick in your head long past the rolling credits.

Gameplay

Like the rest of the titles, Life is Strange is an adventure/point-and-click with the quirk that you can move around freely. Inspecting the environment is a must, as you can unlock interactions and new dialogue if you keep a keen eye out for what’s around you – for example, a birdwatcher struggling to locate an adverse aviary can do so once you find it and coax it in the right direction. These little interactions are summed up at the end of each chapter and compared against other players, so you can see the choices they made, too. I couldn’t imagine playing this game without viewing every possible thing around me – it’s excellent for attention-to-detail gamers that love exhausting their surroundings.

The best Life is Strange yet?

Life is Strange: True Colors gets everything right that the previous games got wrong. The voice acting is superior, the motion-capture is finally spot-on, the length of the title maintains a fast pace from start to finish, and the few bugs are getting squashed with post-launch support (none of which I experienced in my playthough save for the audio). After suffering a loss in the family soon before my playthrough, I knew I’d resonate with the grim moments to come – the cry count hit 5 before all was said and done thanks to gripping voice acting, cathartic payoffs, and a setting that I’d love to retire to. This is indeed the best Life is Strange game to come, and an easy GOTY candidate.

So, why should you play it?

  • You love a knockout soundtrack, sound design, and voice acting backing edge-of-your-seat climactic moments.
  • You crave characters that you will effortlessly love/hate with ample opportunity to help/hinder them.
  • You love a story that rewards going off the beaten path, trying new things to get different outcomes in subsequent playthroughs.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • You can’t be bothered to explore what’s around you in a game, and desire instant gratification instead of a slow burn payoff.
  • The $60 price tag may feel like too much for a 10-hour experience.

A press copy of Life is Strange: True Colors was provided courtesy of the publisher.

ozgameshop FOR THE GAMERS

Quake Enhanced Review (PC)

The iconic FPS that simultaneously holds up for old players and ushers new players into a brutal experience.

There are a handful of household names in the FPS genre from the decade the genre materialized: Duke Nukem, DOOM, Wolfenstein, Half-Life, and Quake. Ever since I entered the world of PC gaming in 2012, I’ve gotten my hands dirty with the first four, but haven’t gotten to tackle Quake – then, at QuakeCon 2021, it was announced that the titular gem would receive a remaster and release the very same day on every platform. Developed by a team I trust in NightDive Studios, who have spearheaded the retro revival with excellent results, I was immediately hyped and I saw this as the perfect time to enter this echelon of ancient FPS lore in the best format available.

NightDive’s approach in preserving old visuals will peak the nostalgia of Quake fans, saddled with smooth-as-silk performance.

Visuals

The approach to NightDive’s Quake, as mentioned, takes the graphics the older gamers grew up with and smooths out the edges while optimizing the performance. While even a potato laptop can breeze through the graphics, there’s support for the optimal resolution: 4K. As the newest consoles on the block, the Series S/X and PS5, have the capability of this demanding viewpoint, the title will simultaneously dazzle the eyes as well as surge the feelings from decades back that may have been felt on some gamers’ first playthroughs.

Audio

Where DOOM had groaning, snarling demons and Duke Nukem had a one-liner every minute, Quake opts for a more grounded, visceral aim with its audio. The music is still heavy in an industrial extreme kind of fashion, and that’s compounded by the recent performance from Code Orange on the Quake theme, which was originally composed by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor. Reznor was also responsible for the sound effects in-game, which sound crisp as could be in this remaster. The pounding of each shotgun blast rippled through my haptic headphones and kept me fully-immersed throughout my run of the game.

Gameplay

As someone who “grew up” with FPS games 2 decades after their heyday, I have a profound appreciation for the genre’s roots. Unfortunately, I never got to experience Quake in its original form during that period, which is a bit of a blessing in disguise with this new revamp. Getting straight into the action after starting the game, it took no time at all to find my bearings and comprehend the power of each new weapon and when to utilize it. Even after all these years, the creative weaponry, including the Nailgun, the Rocket Launcher, and the Thunderbolt, make for some gory gibs and ample variation between fights. With secrets strewn about, replayability is also high for gamers looking to search every nook and cranny of each level.

Plot

Quake is light on plot, but tells its story through the violent scenery within its gameplay. As you traverse through each level, unsightly horrors await you to be blasted to bits. Enemies such as Ogres, Shamblers, and Scrags are abhorrent in appearance and would likely terrify younger gamers back in the day; they pose their own threat in both short and long-distance and are formidable foes in higher difficulties. Health and ammo are plentiful, and you’ll need them to get through the dozens of oppositions in each level.

Secrets are truly well-hidden in Quake, so get your adventure hat on if you want to find them all.

So, why should you buy it?

  • Memorable, engaging action in its best format to date.
  • The price tag hasn’t changed even after the overhaul.
  • A worthy challenge at each difficulty level.

But why shouldn’t you buy it?

  • Virtually no plot, just mind-numbing violence.
  • Currently included in Xbox Game Pass along with Quake II and 3.

A press copy of Quake Enhanced was provided courtesy of the publisher.

World for Two Review (PC)

A beautiful, empty world down to one human and a robot that can create more life.

The pixel aesthetic has shined through in indie games for the better part of a decade – titles like Stardew Valley, Shovel Knight, Celeste, and tons others are fan favorites thanks to their gorgeous presentation accompanying the other elements to make a memorable video game. When all the moving parts are in perfect harmony, it’s a formula for a 10/10 experience. World for Two, the newest offering from developer Seventh Rank, aims for that level with a life-creation game in this style.

World for Two Steam Indie PC Review Environment Graphics Pixel Art
There’s no two ways about it – World for Two is a looker.

Gameplay

The official genre title for World for Two is “life-creation”. If you have experience with titles like Monster Rancher, Spore, and other titles where life/death is at the forefront, you’ll have a vague idea of what’s going on here. Your task is to create new organisms, thanks to the DNA/genealogy of previous organisms. With death, comes life; you will harvest the DNA from your creations, and after three DNA pulls, they disappear. Once you create a new organism, you can experiment with DNA/gene combinations to keep discovering more and more new organisms. An area of opportunity here is showing what the outcome is after an attempt, as some combinations yield nothing – it’s guesswork unless you really want to personally note every combination. There was one moment where I tried four different combinations and got nothing out of it, only creating frustration for me.

World for Two Steam Indie PC Review Environment Graphics Family Tree Gameplay
You’re in charge of the family tree – and it gets pretty complicated.

Another big pain point is the fact that you have a lot of waiting around to do in the early game – to create more genes, you’ll need an item that spawns from the blue flame outside the lab. This item has a spawn rate of one every 30 or so seconds, and upgrades to the machines in the lab require 10 of the same currency you utilize for the genes. As such, World for Two basically becomes an idle game – except you have to be tabbed in for the items to come about. With what little time I have to game, this really hurt my view of the game and I wish there was some way to expedite the tedious process, as I could have spent that time finding new combinations.

World for Two Steam Indie PC Review Environment Graphics Gif Flames
There’s a LOT of standing around waiting for flames in World for Two.

Audio

Worthy of note in World for Two is its prime background music. The stellar compositions are the only sound you’ll hear – there’s absolutely no audio in the game otherwise, whether it be speech, item activation, or anything else, so the music carries the weight of the auditory presentation. Coupled with the visuals, its presentation is nailed and will definitely be what hooks in gamers that are easily swayed by the familiar campy aesthetic.

One of the relaxing piano tracks from the game.

Visuals

As you can already see, what steals the show in World for Two is a killer visual experience. Always adorned with a picture-perfect reflection on the bottom of the screen and painstakingly-crafted environments, any moment of the gameplay could be screenshot and used as a wallpaper. Meshed with a silky-smooth 60fps and a day-night shift, this game gets high marks for mastering the hook of pixel-based shots.

World for Two Steam Indie PC Review Environment Graphics Gif

Plot

There’s not too much exposition given in World for Two – because not much is needed. As far as you can tell as the newly-built android, you’re the errand runner for the last human on Earth, a scientist who has crafted a laboratory perfect for building new life forms. Equipped with a Gene Printer, an Item Printer, and an Incubator, you have the tools for the task, but the ingredients are a different story. You can gather bits and pieces of what may have happened as you traverse each of the four areas which unlock after upgrades. For a title with its plot established within the first few minutes, there’s not much suspense to build after the fact.

So, why should you play it?

  • Unbelievable pixel visuals that will stun even weathered fans of the aesthetic.
  • A novel concept that a lot of people haven’t experienced.
  • Great for fans of experimentation and a stress-free game.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Inevitability of waiting around to progress.
  • Repetitive nature.
  • Likelihood of making the same mistakes in creation with no guidance.

A press copy of World for Two was provided courtesy of the publisher.

Samurai Warriors 5 (PC) Review

It’s you vs. the world, and the world doesn’t stand a chance.

In fighting games, you typically fight someone one-on-one. In shooters, you typically fight a team. But in the genre of musou, you’re expected to fight thousands – all at once. Popularized (and trademarked) by the Dynasty Warriors franchise, publisher Koei Tecmo housed this franchise, as well as the Samurai Warriors franchise, for going on its third decade. It’s seen spinoffs incorporating franchises like Zelda and Gundam, proving ultimately most popular in the East, but still having a market in the West. The Samurai Warriors franchise has reached its fifth entry, and is looking to keep the genre relevant after all these years.

Samurai Warriors 5 Review Nobunaga
The presentation of Samurai Warriors 5 is pristine – gorgeous watercolored backdrops accompany in-game cutscenes with emphatic voice acting.

Plot

The storytelling within Samurai Warriors 5 is stellar, and will be a great time for those compelled by the feudal history and warring culture of 15th Century Japan. There are plenty of cutscenes that extend to several minutes to give the player a good idea of each character’s personality – there’s no shortage of characters, as you’ll encounter several named allies and foes on each March. While the main character is presented with plenty of options on how to move forward, though, there’s zero input from the player – a disappointment, as branching paths would make a lot of sense in several situations. Nevertheless, as tedious as the gameplay may be, at least there’s ample story to back it up.

Samurai Warriors 5 Review Nobunaga Combo
In this photo: tons of bodies strewn about, a 326 combo, and a tutorial. Par for the course for a musou!

Gameplay

It’s time to break down how Samurai Warriors 5 and musou’s in general play: it’s you vs. the world, and the world doesn’t stand a chance. One look across the battlefield and you’ll see dozens or even hundreds of enemies at any given point. Consider yourself a god amongst men, as your battle-trained enemies will perish in one or two hits as you carve a path to your next commander. Even then, these baddies will succumb to well-placed combos as you juggle and stun-lock them into submission. It’s an irrefutable fact that no game genre will make you feel more powerful than a musou.

So, having the power to crush everything in your path with little to no resistance – how does that pan out? Well, to some, it’s welcome to feel fully in-control and to let off steam, but with no challenge means a fraction of the reward of falling an enemy in any other game. As such, I had to play Samurai Warriors 5 in bursts, as it almost felt like a chore navigating a large battlefield with nothing standing in my way. It didn’t help that the convoluted menus with tons of systems and no depth felt like more work than it was worth.

Samurai Warriors 5 Review Nobunaga Horse
You’ll be seeing your equine a lot to expedite moving from point A to B.

Visuals

The visuals of Samurai Warriors 5 are a mixed bag. While the gameplay/combat is as smooth as silk, the graphics were sacrificed to make that happen. Cel-shaded/muddy characters aren’t anything to write home about, but I did enjoy seeing a wealth of expression and emotion in their faces during cutscenes. All things considered, I’d prefer the game not experiencing any slowdowns or stutters like it does now than it being too graphically-intensive to run well.

Audio

The sounds of Samurai Warriors 5 fare better than its visuals. Sword slashes are succinct, characters are voice-acted by experts, and the music is appropriate for the time period involved. Whatever weapon you have equipped, you can expect a mighty whack, thomp, thud, etc. to follow after your swing. Characters will laugh, shout, cry, and groan with some oomph to their performance. I usually put my own music over action games, but opted not to with the fitting soundtrack to the battles. This is an area where the game shines.

So, why should you play it?

  • You want to devastate hundreds of enemies on-screen (with little/no fear of failure) after a long day.
  • You’re compelled by feudal Japan and love a good storyline.
  • You’re already familiar with the musou genre and have been waiting seven years for a new Samurai Warriors title.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • You want any semblance of a challenge in your video game.
  • You get bored of always having the upper hand.
  • You don’t have a controller – it’s troublesome on mouse/keyboard.

A press copy of Samurai Warriors 5 was provided courtesy of the publisher.

Orbital Bullet (PC) Review

I’ve been frequenting roguelite games ever since I first ran Rogue Legacy on my crappy laptop in 2013. The prospect of coming back to a game time and time again and getting something new out of it is the ultimate sign of replayability. With every impending death comes a gameplay tactic or two learned, increasing your chances of success in future runs. The genre is currently in a renaissance as Hades captured the hearts of thousands last year, earning the top spot of many GOTY lists. I have dozens of roguelites wishlisted on Steam that I’ll eventually get to, but for now, I’m keen to take a look at Orbital Bullet – one with a clever gimmick and a heap of polish despite it being in Early Access.

Dubbed “The 360° Roguelite,” it’s easy to grasp and hard to master this circular concept.

Gameplay

Getting into a roguelite is a bit of a challenge. There’s always a learning curve, a necessitation to figure out how the game operates, and how to make the most of a run before you’ll almost certainly perish – typically in the early-goings. Orbital Bullet gives you quite a bit of health to work with, but is home to blistering-fast enemies that are merciless. You’ll have to learn patterns and remind yourself to dodge just as much as shoot/pounce. There’s a welcome variety in enemy types, weapons, and skill trees, in addition to randomized perks, level layouts, and more to sufficiently provide the player with a new experience each time.

Combat entails both shooting your enemies with the option to bounce on them Mario-style. I found myself particularly loving the boomerang/bola gun, fitting in two powerful shots at the cost of one trigger pull. Mixing this in with ample traversal and getting around to dodging enough made for a strong run where I got through several biomes. Getting health refills after floor clears sure didn’t hurt, either! As far as roguelites go, Orbital Bullet is quite forgiving in how much damage you can take; this isn’t a bad thing, as I love feeling strong in video games.

Audio

Orbital Bullet‘s score is absolutely massive – the instant you get past the tutorial, it ramps into high gear. I’d love to have shared it in the video below, but my amateur nature tuned the game audio too low, so enjoy it within the announcement trailer above. As far as weapon sounds go, it’s pretty standard fare of bangs and booms – the music is the highlight here.

Visuals

Opting for a cross between pixel and realistic aesthetic, Orbital Bullet boasts pretty colors and makes great use of them with compelling terrains. There’s a vast difference between biomes as you progress through levels, not just being the same thing nonstop. Bright colors accompany your shots and enemy clears, all moving along quickly with the refresh rate of your monitor (in my case, with 0 slowdowns at 144fps.)

So, why should you play it?

  • You enjoy visceral, tight action-platforming gameplay.
  • A bangin’ soundtrack is your ideal background to slaying doomed enemies.
  • You want a different experience every time you come to a game.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • The prospect of high difficulty/possible motion sickness puts you off.
  • Too much happening on-screen is a regular occurrence.

A review code on PC was provided for the purpose of this review.

ozgameshop FOR THE GAMERS

Mass Effect 3: Legendary Edition (PC) Review

To talk about Mass Effect 3 and not mention its ending is a bit of an impossibility, so rest assured that we’ll get to that later on. But, let me start in saying that this is the quintessential sci-fi action experience in spite of what takes place in its conclusion. When I think about playing a hero in a game, I want to control an all-powerful, versatile, masterful warrior that is respected by comrades, feared by foes, and earns their high regard every step of the way – I feel no game franchise creates this fantasy better than Mass Effect, and it comes to a head in its final instalment.

Garrus Vakarian: calibrated for 4k.

GAMEPLAY

Mass Effect 3 sees Commander Shepard face an overwhelming Reaper invasion – so when Shepard takes to the battlefield, they have to be at their best in sync with tons of biotic/tech powers to survive the onslaught. There’s more freedom in choosing what powers Shepard has in 3 instead of being locked to a few in 2 – my go-to Vanguard loadout sees Shepard jump from enemy to enemy with Biotic Charge, unleashing Nova to topple nearby enemies, and busting out Shockwave in tight spots. To manage the recharge time on these powers, I limited the weapons to a light shotgun and the overpowered silenced pistol unlocked in The Citadel DLC.

Outside of combat, Shepard can navigate a few locales within the Citadel, carefully scan Reaper-infested galaxies for points of interest, and converse with squadmates aboard the Normandy. Conversation paths have been simplified to two options in most conversations, but you’ll still have to dedicate to Paragon/Renegade for vital conversation points – especially in the final minutes requiring a perfect score to unlock the final dialogue option, something I still didn’t manage to do in my playthrough.

Familiar faces will return at every corner – rewarding players for choices in previous titles thanks to imported saves.

VISUALS

The most recent of the three titles included in the Legendary Edition, not much had to be done to make an already-pretty game look even better. That being said, it’s still an improvement seeing Mass Effect 3 in an even better light than it previously was in, thanks to more graphics options and the upres to 4K. A silky-smooth unlocked framerate was the cherry on top, with not a single slowdown occurring even in heated battles and flying across the map taking place. Draw distance is excellent, and large vistas make for great photo mode usage.

AUDIO

Mass Effect 3 employed new musicians to handle the game’s score, and, unfortunately, there isn’t much to write home about when it comes to memorability. While the music is never inappropriate, I can’t recall a single standout track like I could for the first two games. The best I can say is that it’s serviceable and gets the job done, but isn’t on the level of what Jack Wall crafted in the past. On the other hand, weapon fire and Reaper invasions sound massive – the bloodcurdling cry of a Banshee overbearing everything else on the battlefield still gives me chills. Plus, the voice acting performances are amazing – your friends are endearing, your foes menacing.

Oh boy. Here’s where it gets interesting.

PLOT

I’ve purposely saved the plot of the game for last – it’s the most contentious aspect of Mass Effect 3 and is still being talked about to this day. To continue and conclude a space epic was no small task, but BioWare provided quite a lot of closure to this saga. Almost every significant (and a ton of not-so-significant) character returns in some form in the events of Mass Effect 3; you’ll see squadmates from 1 and 2 lay their life on the line for you – or loathe you, depending on your past actions. You still have a lot of say over how the game plays out, thanks to plenty of turning-point dialogue options and courses of action. It’s exceptionally hard to save some lives as certain conditions have to be met, but it’s possible with enough effort and know-how.

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING?

And here’s the hot take – I think Mass Effect 3 has an excellent ending. You are given three courses of action, all of which are vastly different, and you see the weight of your actions directly after your choice is made. Everything you’ve accomplished to this point culminates in one last choice that speaks about the kind of Shepard you’re playing. There’s pros and cons to every single choice, and large implications about the future and the past that go into what you decide.

Back in 2012, when Mass Effect 3 was released in its original form, there was a lack of closure to this ending – this was later remedied with free DLC to showcase what Shepard’s sacrifice meant. In the Legendary Edition, with all of the paid DLC attached, I feel like I fully completed Shepard’s story in all of its bravado, so this lasting final choice to destroy the Reapers – a goal since early on in Mass Effect 1 – was a perfect, logical action. Earning the “Shepard Lives” ending made it that much sweeter. Now, if only BioWare embraced the Indoctrination Theory

So, why should you play it?

  • The best combat in the series, and arguably in sci-fi action gaming.
  • Tons of full DLC that you may have missed is included.
  • See your old characters get a fulfilling ending/conclusion.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • You’re still bitter about the ending and your mind can’t be changed.
  • You skipped ME1 – you’ll miss out on a LOT.