Guilty Gear -Strive- Review: PC

Mankind knew they cannot change society. So, instead of reflecting on themselves, they blamed the Beasts. Heaven OR Hell. Duel 1… Let’s Rock!

Guilty Gear has been one of the staple fighting game franchises in the FGC since 1998, when Daisuke Ishiwatari and his team, Arc System Works, developed the very first Guilty Gear title for Playstation 1. The game was instantly a cult classic among fans, praised for its tight, fluid animation, excellent character design in the form of 2D sprite work, and a unique compressed heavy metal soundtrack that distinguished it from many fighting games of the era. It introduced such characters as Sol Badguy, our quintessential edgy-as-a-knife-face protagonist of the game with his spiky hair wrapped in a bandana, split leather jacket and tank top circa 90s Japanese biker gangs, and his bright red sword with a rectangular blade, Fireseal, nicknamed “Blazer” by Sol himself. Polar opposite to Sol, we have Ky Kisuke, our deuteragonist. A stoic, proud, steadfast religious warrior of the Sacred Order of Holy Knights, and Sol’s eternal rival. Clad in white and wielding a longsword on his hip known as Thunderseal. Ky is the Yin to Sol’s yang, and they and eight other unique, fun characters propelled Guilty Gear into the higher echelons of fighting games and throughout the years have been getting sequel after sequel, the most recent of which being the Xrd series and the last entry being Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2.

Of course, new times call for a new style of Guilty Gear. The FGC is bigger than ever and fighting game fans desire something deeper. A sequel to Xrd which looks stunning, and adds more layers than its predecessors, and that is exactly what Guilty Gear directors Daisuke Ishiwatari and Akira Katano claimed they have accomplished. Guilty Gear has always had many complex systems in place which can at first glance appear imposing to some new players, so, to put it into Katano’s words, “We wanted to change things and tweak the UI and oversimplify the concepts of Guilty Gear, to present an impression of simplicity, while in reality, offering a level of depth previously unseen in early Guilty Gear titles.”

So, that is what they strived (hah) to do. But the question is, did they succeed in making this the quintessential Guilty Gear game for people new to fighting games, while also developing something truly spectacular? Or did they drop the ball and create a game that dumbs down every mechanic and provides nothing old or new fans of the franchise could possibly enjoy? Well, take a ride with me, and I’ll go over and cover every aspect of this entry and we’ll reach the conclusion together. If you are new to fighting games, hopefully I can convince you by the end why you should give them a go and hopefully this will be the perfect place for you to start. Let’s dive right into the smell of the game.

Visuals

Guilty Gear -Strive- has taken a direction its art style that is undoubtedly for the better. Cel-shaded, sharp contrasting tones make it feel borderline comic book-esque, the color scheme has a large emphasis on blood reds and deep blues, clearly a nod to the two most popular characters in the roster. The particle effects and animation lines during fighting are also shaded in a way that they perfectly bleed into the color palettes. But while the color and the cel-shaded visuals are exceptional and enjoyable, the environments and backgrounds of stages are where the art style truly shines.

I do not exaggerate when I say that I have never seen stages in a fighting game look so animated and meld so seamlessly into the foreground with the fighters. I’ll use Original Times Square as my example, the default stage for my main. The random people walking on the street going to their 9 to 5 job or on their phone, the taxis whizzing by the street, the sound and pitter patter of rain drops on the sidewalk and street, and the florescent changing of traffic lights as this whole world goes on in the background of this one stage while two badass fighters beat the hell out of each other on the street. Then I rush down my opponent into the corner and beat them into the glass wall of the current stage; in a flash it shatters, and they fly into a new stage. My opponent lands on their back and I quickly follow. All of a sudden we are fighting in a new location, and I see in the background a woman starring in disbelief at us while tugging on her husband’s shirt to try and get his attention so he can turn around and see our brawl, but he’s too absorbed in the painting he’s staring at. All this attention to detail and effort put into this one stage, and there are many more, with four or so backgrounds to every stage, and ten stages in the game.

Everything oozes style, including the character designs. Sol and Ky’s look remain a sharp take on a great classic, but so many characters get new little takes to their designs. Potemkin gets full face iron and now properly looks a walking human tank, Ramlethal the cute, tan brigadier gets a few new designs to her cape, her massive swords, and a new proper military hat. The new characters like Giovanna, are equally sharp, her blouse and loose-fitting slacks so she can kick faster, the martial arts gloves she wears, and her stance akin to that of Bruce Lee being taken every time while idle. Stylishness is this game’s language and it is extremely fluent in it. Visuals and art design in Guilty Gear -Strive- are excellent and get full marks from me.

Sound Design and Music

Guilty Gear’s sound design has always been top notch but Strive takes it to a new level. Let’s start off with sound. Every impact, whoosh from a projectile, and slow down during a counter hit is punctuated perfectly, I got so used to hearing them while playing, the satisfaction of hearing them was so satisfying. It’s impressive when a fighting game makes you want to play it more and get better at match ups through audio cues alone, isn’t it? Every hit is distinct and defined well enough to be addicting to the ears. Even the menu sounds are gratifying, with little wavey chimes and page turning sounds when you go back to a previous option. But that’s sound design during matches, how does the music hold up?

This is goddamn Guilty Gear, how do you think the music holds up? No other fighting game series is better known for its metal soundtrack than the Guilty Gear games. But I am, let’s just say, beyond ecstatic, to report that Strive has the best soundtrack of any Guilty Gear game. Nary I say to you dear viewer, not even the best Guilty Gear soundtrack, but one of the best fighting game soundtracks I’ve ever heard in my life, right in line with Killer Instinct remake being helmed by the legendary Mick Gordon, and Skullgirls having the wonderfully talented Michiru Yamane. Guilty Gear -Strive- has Daisuke Ishiwatari. How one single man can be so good at melding so many different genres together confounds the hell out of me.

The main theme of the game is of course, the very first track released as promotional material for it, “Smell of the Game”. It plays ala instrumental during the character selection screen, but you can select the actual song during duels too. Sol’s theme is titled “Find Your One Way” – it has an almost early 90s, nasty crunch to it found in most Southern thrash metal, pinch harmonics squealing into the sky while simple chugging riffs in the background break for the verse’s lyrics. The riffs and guitar work itself is a remixed version of Sol’s older themes from previous Guilty Gear titles, as is Ky’s. Ky’s theme is called “The Roar of the Spark”, and I like it considerably more. From right out of the gate, it hits you with two power chords, followed by beautiful synthesizer organ style triplets straight out of a Castlevania game. Gothic power metal would be what I describe it as, and it literally soars through the air as you air dash with Ky into a beautiful combo. Then we look at May’s theme “The Disaster of Passion” and the game suddenly takes a sharp 180 degree turn into bouncy J-pop!? What the fuck, am I even playing the same game? Yet it’s incredible, consistently happy and catchy, making you want to dance, capturing the feeling of the opening of a slice of life anime, matching the bubbly, fish-controlling, anchor-wielding little pirate girl to a T.

That is not even scratching the surface of this game’s soundtrack either. My main and favorite character, Giovanna, her theme “Trigger” is pretty much a Beastie Boys and Faith No More crossover song. Millia Rage’sLove the Subhuman Self” is basically symphonic prog metal. Ramlethal’s theme “Necessary Discrepancy” is phenomenal, it’s like futuristic jazz fusion metal. The rhythms are complex and take off and come back into place, just like her fighting style of throwing massive energy swords she carries at her side. Potemkin’s theme “Society” hits like a tank, just like him, and is so massive, you can almost match up the kick drum to each one of his huge ground-shaking footsteps. I could go on but, basically you got the gist of how truly incredible this game’s music is. I could show this OST to someone as normal music and it’s highly likely it would floor them, especially if they were a musician. Sound design and score in Strive are masterfully done. Hunt for this soundtrack everywhere you can, it’s worth it.

 Gameplay

Now, the most quintessential part of any fighting game. How does it play? The meat of the whole package, how does it feel in the hand, on the pad, through the stick and buttons, and all that good jazz? Well let’s talk about movement first. You have your standard staples of most hyper six button fighters: forward and backward, forward dash and backward dashes. Aerial dashes and double dashes come into play too, every character moves very differently and have definite variations of all these movement staples. Potemkin moves extremely slow and heavily because he is a tank and he also has no dashes or aerial dashes. Instead, being the staple grappler of the game, he has dedicated anti air grabs. Other characters you can hold forward dash and they will run in a solid line across the stage. My girl Giovanna, you can’t hold dash down on ground but you can chain dashes in succession, which is very advantageous to the rushdown character playstyle she has.

Impacts and hits feel tight and heavy, especially when you get counters. Guilty Gear -Strive- has a heavy emphasis on counters and punishment moves, so much so that when you get land one, the screen shakes and slows down and the massive words COUNTER or PUNISH show up on screen with the announcer’s voice yelling them (since we fitegame boys can’t read, evidently). This fighting game more like any other before has the heaviest emphasis on teaching new players to learn how to read their opponent and react with the right move or mix up accordingly, actively encouraging and refining the fighting skills of those newer lads who this may be the first fighting game they’ve really wanted to put the time and effort into. Of course, you also have your supers and special moves for each character, a lot of which are activated through half circle or double quarter circle motions and a single button press.

Roman Cancels of various varieties are here on offer, too. For those not sure what those are, it’s a shockwave using the EX Burst Meter below your character’s health bar to either get out of a stun block chain, slow your opponent’s recovery time, increase your recovery time, and so on. Activated by three simultaneous button presses, each Roman Cancel has dedicated button sets and colors to differentiate it on screen. Also there is the Tension gauge, because what fighting game would be complete without a super meter? It fills as you fight and land hits or take hits, building faster with variety in moves, and has two bars. One bar is burned upon triggering a super, called an Overdrive in Guilty Gear because everything in this beautiful series has to be a reference to a motorcycle gang term.

May’s ridiculous Overdrive attack.

You can also perform a perfect guard and mitigate chip damage while blocking at the cost of burning meter as well, so you have to choose wisely and decide in what situation you want to use the Tension gauge. There’s also a side stage break mechanic I touched on in visuals earlier, allowing you to beat your opponent into the corner against a glass wall, eventually doing enough damage pushing them against it that it shatters, and they (or you) fly off the background and into a new background of the stage while dealing a decent chunk of damage. Nailing it at the end of an Overdrive combo is ridiculously satisfying and makes you want to fist pump in the air.

All in all, this game feels incredible to play. Ishiwatari and Katano have an intense passion for their series, and you can tell in the way the characters move and fight, the amount of polish is unreal, and they absolutely succeeded in their intention to make Strive simple to grasp and jump into for new players, being a deceptively simple, yet incredibly deep and multilayered fighter underneath its surface. If you are new to this series or playing these kind of games, this would be a perfect place to start and I am going to enjoy playing this for years at tourneys and on my own time. A quick addendum as well, I could not get much online time before launch since the servers were down the majority of the time for maintenance, but Strive has excellent, consistent online modes courtesy of a beautifully implemented rollback netcode system, which if you read my previous article about Rollback Netcode and its importance in the scene, which will definitely help Strive retain a consistent player base.

Story and Gameplay Modes

To say Guilty Gear has an over the top and unnecessarily deep amount of lore would be one of the biggest understatements I’ve ever spoken in my life. Thank God this game has a glossary and timeline of all the events of the series and every character and term from it, because if it did not, every new player would be more lost than a blind, mute child in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. I’ll gloss over the details of the series and story mode for you real quick. Basically, back in the 1900s, wars became out of hand to the point where half the world’s population was wiped out, and eventually a single individual among mankind discovered the existence of magic and used it as a limitless supply of energy for all mankind. Science and industry, sources of environmental pollution and weapons of mass destruction, were thus outlawed. But the outlawing of technology did little to soothe mankind’s suffering, bringing about the war to end all wars.

During this war, Gears were developed- ridiculously powerful biological weapons created by fusing human and animal DNA and then magic on top of it. The Gears were used as slaves by each military faction to wage war, destroy, and conquer lands until a single Gear by the name of Justice became self-aware. She gathered all hear Gear brethren and declared war on humanity, and the War of the Gears started, killing countless people. Humans eventually put aside their differences and ended their own wars and formed the Sacred Order of Holy Knights to combat the Gears, and the War of the Gears lasted a further hundred years. That is just the set up for the very first Guilty Gear title. There is a staggeringly large amount of lore during the game series as well, but I implore you to check it out yourself. An entire light novel series or anime could be made from all this shit, and it is ridiculously over the top, edgy, and stupid but in the best, most Japanese of ways. Strive of course has its own story mode as well, among many other game modes it presents. The English voices are also perfectly cast and they do an excellent job.

The Story mode is enjoyable to play and sit back and watch while you digest the insane plot Strive offers. Additionally you have your quintessential single player modes as well, 1v1 via local with CPU battles or other local players, a training mode, and an extremely in-depth Dojo with many, many missions that gradually teach the player the mechanics of the game while helping you get better at fighting games in general while steadily increasing in difficulty. There is also an online lobby with pixelated characters you play as where you can customize your little avatar, fish for new customization items, and duel other people. I can see what they were trying to go for since it is very similar to Dragon Ball FighterZ’s lobby modes, but it’s hit or miss and nowhere near as streamlined, honestly. This game is spectacular when you are in matches, and its just something quick and insignificant you sort of trip through to get into one. I do appreciate the effort to try and implement something different for online lobbies, though. Once you get into a match and enjoy that sweet, sweet Rollback though, its smooth sailing will bring a smile to the face.

Conclusion

I knew to at least expect a decent new entry into the Guilty Gear lineup with Strive, with unique artstyles and pretty solid gameplay. I certainly did not expect it to be one of the most solid 2D fighters I’ve ever played. Every movement and impact in every match feels tight and concise. The art is beyond gorgeous and every stage an immaculate world. The character designs are flooring, with attention to detail. The music is pure serotonin for the nerves and senses. It encapsulates everything a stylish Japanese 2D fighting game should be, and will go down as an incredible fighting game and be played for years to come inside the FGC scene and out. I am elated it turned out so well and will no doubt put it in the upper echelons of fighters, right along Third Strike, Skullgirls, UMVC3, and many more. I recommend wholeheartedly that if you’ve ever been interested in fighting games but just couldn’t find the right one to jump into, you pick up Strive and give it a go. It’s worth it ten times over. And if you don’t believe me… THAT IS BULLSHIT BLAZING, STILL MY HEART IS BLAZING. YOU ALREADY KNOW THE SMELL OF THE GAME~

So why should you play it?

  • You love fighting games.
  • Trying to get into them but don’t know a good place to start.
  • You are a fan of insane batshit crazy anime plots and characters.
  • You adore the feeling of satisfying feedback in a fight.
  • You’re a fan of radical character designs and cel-shaded graphics.
  • You have a pulse.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • You genuinely hate fighting games and have no desire to put the time in to get good at one.
  • Over-the-top Japanese shit doesn’t appeal to you and think it’s too dumb for you to deal with.
  • You can’t handle the tension of a clutch match in a fighting game because it stresses you out.

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

Essays on Empathy Review: PC

empathy | ˈɛmpəθi | noun “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”

Deconstructeam – maybe you’ve heard the name? Based in Valencia, Spain, this close-knit indie game developer consists of three key members, known for creating intimate, emotive narrative games, now in collaboration with Devolver Digital. Weaving stories with important messages conveyed through experimental formats, the studio has been widely-recognised for their games, “Gods Will Be Watching” (PC) and “The Red Strings Club” (Nintendo Switch, PC). While many of us play indie videogames on a daily basis for enjoyment, challenge, or entertainment, how often do we truly gain the opportunity to delve deeper into the motivations and thoughts behind the creative minds that concoct these experiences?

The Red Strings Club Nintendo Switch
Cyberpunk narrative adventure game, “The Red Strings Club”.

This is where Essays on Empathy fills a void. Through a hybrid format of videogames and short video documentaries, the player is taken on a journey into Deconstructeam’s past and present through 10 unique, individual standalone experiences. From a game as simple as picking the right book for a birthday present, all the way through to heart-wrenching human relationships and painful emotional experiences, there is one concept that flows through each game in this collection: empathy.

Accompanying each experience is a 10 – 15 minute dissection from the developers, who explain their creative processes, motivations, and most importantly, the messages and challenges behind the game’s creation. When consumed by a gripping videogame, it’s too easy to forget that these are all experiences for which real people are responsible, something Essays on Empathy expertly emphasises.

So what exactly are the games on offer in this captivating collection?
Let me break it down into its ten components:

Underground Hangovers (Genre: Metroidvania/Platformer)

If you had to leave a mysterious planet tomorrow would you: a) go to sleep at a reasonable time to ensure you don’t miss the only rocket off the planet, or b) have a massive party, wake up with a throbbing hangover, and miss the only rocket off the planet? Well in this case, the unfortunate party from Underground Hangovers chose the latter.

Underground Hangovers Essays on Empathy PC
The “Dual-Hook” makes for some interesting (and occasionally frustrating) platforming.

In what feels like the odd game out in the collection (as it’s far more focused on gameplay), you’re tasked with collecting enough ore to rebuild a rocket to make your way off this desolate planet. Though a simple game initially made for a Game Jam in 2015, it features some creative platforming puzzles that feel right at home in the genre.

Supercontinent Ltd (Genre: Cyberpunk/Narrative)

Bold, atmospheric, gripping and clever. Supercontinent Ltd is a narrative-heavy cyberpunk experience that will leave you thirsty for more. Playing as Brandeis (a character who also appears in The Red Strings Club), this game revolves around the use of ancient technology: a landline phone. Through use of a voice modulator (VOMOD), Brandeis makes phone calls to unravel the plot behind a mysterious organisation on the evening of their plan to overthrow the police force.

Supercontinent Ltd Essays on Empathy PC
Landlines really are ancient technology now.

With its engaging dialogue, gloomy pixel-art aesthetic, and ambient synth soundtrack, this game oozes style from every pixel. Impressively, Supercontinent somehow manages to achieve more character development and world-building in thirty minutes than games like Cyberpunk 2077 do in their entire narrative. Thirty minutes well spent.

Behind Every Great One (Genre: Drama/Narrative)

Riding on a high from Supercontinent, I jumped straight into the next game. I was not prepared for what I was about to feel. This game is, at times, mentally and emotionally difficult to play. Interestingly, the developers too discuss how difficult this game was to create. If you’re not in a good headspace, I would approach Behind Every Great One with caution. It will make you feel like absolute shit.

Behind Every Great One Essays on Empathy PC
Victorine’s life is a dull, unfulfilling loop.

You play as Victorine, the housewife to Gabriel, who is a renowned and celebrated artist. Living in his shadow, life has become a monotonous repetition of household chores and meaningless attempts at activity devoid of passion, interspersed with frequent anxiety attacks. The story becomes progressively more depressing as you delve deeper into the characters’ broken relationship and expectations of Victorine. It’s a highly emotive and confronting game that is not for the faint of heart.

Eternal Home Floristry (Genre: Narrative/Flower Arrangement)

An injured hitman loses his arm in an attack and is forced to seek refuge in the house of a florist called Sebastian, with whom he builds a relationship during their short time together. Learning the art of flower arrangement and the messages the blooms convey, Gordon is able to delve deeper into his own emotions and relationships. A highly emotive narrative that explores raw human emotion and the fragile elements that reside within even the most harsh exteriors.

Eternal Home Floristry Essays on Empathy PC
A truly beautiful narrative.

My favourite in the collection. Several times it even had me on the verge of tears. An impressive feat for a game that can easily be completed in half an hour. Though the game may be short, choices based on your flower arrangements will dramatically affect the outcome.

The Bookshelf Limbo (Genre: Point-and-Click)

Simplistic and charming; more of a minigame than a proper standalone title. Pick a comic book from the shelf at a bookstore to purchase as a birthday present for your father! This game was created as a birthday gift alongside a friend of the developers and features amusing cover art, genre stereotypes, and mocking of internet trolls.

The Bookshelf Limbo Essays on Empathy PC
The first game I’ve encountered that’s essentially an interactive birthday card.

Zen and the Art of Transhumanism (Genre: Sci-Fi/Narrative)

Pottery meets Cyberpunk in a genre mash-up I never thought I’d encounter. As a new member of a human improvement workshop, you’re tasked with creating body modifications to fulfil your client’s needs. By handcrafting differently-shaped mods, you’ll be able to enhance certain physical traits and oblige the wishes of the often-selfish humans.

Zen and the Art of Transhumanism Essays on Empathy PC
I need this one!

Another incredibly stylish game with an odd concept – this intriguing pottery-crafting gameplay re-appears in The Red Strings Club as a major gameplay mechanic. But does crafting your body into the ideal traits really lead to true fulfilment?

Engolasters January 2021 (Genre: Sci-Fi/Adventure)

In my opinion the least-enjoyable game in the entire collection. Set in the real life small mountain town of Engolasters, the protagonist (whose son has just run away from home) stumbles across extra-terrestrial life which offers to bestow great power. She must make a choice to save her son, herself, or unravel the secrets that lure her into the unknown. Afflicted by a wound and slowly losing blood, players must manage their life, phone battery, and car fuel while exploring the frosty overworld. The overworld is vast, empty, and lacking in direction, which led me to become easily frustrated.

Engolasters January 2021 Essays on Empathy PC

11:45 A Vivid Life (Genre: Point-and-Click)

The most interesting concept out of all the games: what if your skeleton didn’t belong to you? This simple point-and-click game explores the topic of body image and acceptance. By stealing an x-ray machine and fleeing to the country, the protagonist discovers more about herself by looking inside. Literally. X-rays reveal implants, evidence of past trauma, and pieces that seem mismatched and out of place. Once located, any foreign body parts must be forcibly removed through the use of pliers or scalpels. Not for the squeamish! Players can choose dialogue that will vary the consequences of the story, weaving an entertaining, introspective narrative with a stylish visual aesthetic.

11:45 A Vivid Life Essays on Empathy PC
Plenty of amusing dialogue in this one.

Dear Substance of Kin (Genre: Horror/Adventure)

For a moment I could have sworn I was playing something straight out of Bloodborne! This title is melancholy, chilling, and is dripping with disturbing atmosphere like a blood-soaked cloth. Exploring a decrepit and dilapidated town, you are the Coppersmith, an immortal artisan who harvests the organs of townspeople in exchange for fulfilling their requests through blood magic. By interrogating the residents, you can perceive their selfish desires and choose to either fulfil or sabotage them.

Dear Substance of Kin Essays on Empathy PC
The colour palette and pixel art create a morbid style.

Dark and brooding narrative alongside macabre art and music make this one of the most memorable titles in the collection, and leaves me thirsting for more. The inspiration behind this title is particularly interesting, as the creator draws upon a method that you’re unlikely to expect. Watch the documentary to find out!

Des Tres al Cuatro (Genre: Comedy/Narrative)

The main feature of this collection, a game that translates to “Three for a Quarter” (e.g. something of such poor quality that you can buy three of them for a single quarter), also the name of the comedy duo that you play as during this game. Garza and Bonachera are two halves of a failing comedy act, two lovers, and two grown men struggling for success, stumbling over the hurdles of their passions and their relationship. The story here is particularly personal to the developers, as it emphasises the harsh reality of making a living off of a creative pastime. Conversations between the characters are deeply intimate and allow the player to dive beneath the surface by revealing the characters’ inner thoughts on a separate area of the screen.

Des Tres al Cuatro Essays on Empathy PC
Many mature themes are discussed between Garza and Bonachera.

Gameplay is incredibly creative and unlike anything I’ve played, combining aspects of deckbuilding games with comedy dialogue, allowing you to attempt to earn coins to improve your deck. Cards will either build upon a joke, execute a hilarious punchline, or fail miserably and embarrass yourself in front of an entire crowd. Not only is it fun to play, but many of the jokes are legitimately amusing and it’s quite satisfying to be able to slowly improve your confidence with each show.

Des Tres al Cuatro Essays on Empathy PC
Easily some of the most creative gameplay you’ll come across.

Des Tres al Cuatro is, in my opinion, the best game in the entire collection, as it offers the perfect balance of innovative gameplay and insightful dialogue, and is an experience that is enjoyable every minute from start to finish. If you’re interested in Essays on Empathy, it’s worth it just for this alone.

Conclusion

A vast amount of passion has been poured into crafting these short but powerful games, which becomes even more apparent while watching the developers discuss each title in their respective documentaries. Thoughtfully reflective, introspective and emotive, Essays on Empathy is 50% videogame, 50% documentary, and 100% heart. If you’re the kind of person who plays videogames not only for enjoyment, but for deep narratives, important messages, or artistic expression, then this is an essential experience. And really, couldn’t everyone benefit from just a bit of extra empathy?

So, why should you play it?

  • You’re a fan of emotive narratives.
  • Looking for creative indie games? Go no further!
  • Gorgeous pixel art and equally gorgeous music.
  • Strong LGBTQIA representation will likely appeal to those within the community.

So, why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Certain games may be best avoided if you’re not in the right headspace.
  • Not a fan of narrative or text-heavy games? Then these probably aren’t for you.

Essays of Empathy is available now on PC via Steam.
Find out more about the game here: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1586880/Essays_on_Empathy/

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

TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight Review – PC

nocras is a name in the gaming industry you may not know, but one that deserves to be known. This individual is an environmental artist that has worked on the likes of Final Fantasy XIV, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and much more. Notable for grand-scale creations, nocras is an artist that 47k Twitter users follow closely, across language barriers and more.

nocras’ latest venture is TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight. One look at screenshots and one may be in awe at the vibrant, elaborate environments broadcast straight from nocras’ vision. Thankfully, there’s more to it than just that, as TASOMACHI serves as a platformer/collectathon in the vein of Super Mario Odyssey and the like.

I could have screenshot any moment of the game and it would prove to be a looker.

GAMEPLAY/PLOT

TASOMACHI tasks the player with navigating towns and collecting Sources of Earth to repair their airship. These are hidden in bushes, the ground, and in other hard-to-reach places, demanding the player to platform their way across town. Along the way, they will encounter shrines in the towns with four platforming challenges each. Once completed, the towns’ mysterious fog disappears and the cat-like villagers return.

VISUALS

Some of the gorgeous environments you’ll explore, scattered with Chinese-style architecture.

Likely the most significant aspect of why TASOMACHI is moving copies is thanks to the mind of nocras. Together with developer Orbital Express, the atmosphere, inspired by a Chinese imperial aesthetic, is eye candy. It feels worthwhile to complete the shrines and make the towns look abuzz with no obfuscation from the fog, a true night-and-day difference. While architecture gets a bit redundant, the color scheme between towns sets them apart enough thanks to varying level design.

AUDIO

Another big draw that I didn’t realize until I took a gander at the Steam page was that Ujico/Snail’s House provided the music for the game. This musical artist is near and dear to me, as they provided the backdrop for some hilarious TF2 SFM videos, and can stretch from quirky bops to scenic jams across their discography. They delivered a standup job in TASOMACHI, providing ambient grace in exploration sections and upbeat tracks during platform dungeons.

CASUAL

Those looking for a relaxed time, look no further. There’s no combat in TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight, and you’ll only lose a few seconds if you fall during a platform challenge. This laid-back pace will make it welcoming for casual players seeking pretty sights and sounds.

Towns are shrouded in fog until you clear platforming challenges within shrines.

CONS

Unfortunately, there are still some pain points within this game. The movement is fairly tight, a necessity for platformers, but requires some getting used to since it’s so floaty. One ability you unlock, “boost”, feels miniscule and nothing like a dash you may see in games within the genre. Text and animation feels similar to some that I’ve seen in early-access/shovelware titles, but not jarring enough to be more than a nitpick. Worse off, I encountered a crash every time I attempted to load the third town. This occurred within a mere 2 hours of gameplay and near to game completion, so it truly hampered the mood. Here’s hoping this gets patched soon.

CONCLUSION

Nevertheless, there’s potential to be had with TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight. It’s undoubtedly gorgeous, an aural pleasure, and a strong first solo effort for nocras. Perhaps the $20 price tag is a bit steep for the state the game’s in, as it currently sits with a “mixed” rating on Steam, but with updates, this could become something great.

So, why should you play it?

  • Relaxed, casual game to experience at your own pace.
  • Bangin’ soundtrack from Ujico/Snail House.
  • Unreal environments.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Game-breaking bug in my build.
  • Some platform challenges are a bit too tough, and need to be skipped.
One of several moments I had to stop and stare. And screenshot.

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

Diablo II: Resurrected Technical Alpha Impressions

Evil has resurrected. But after 20 years, has Diablo II aged like a fine potion, or has is it dated and shrivelled up like a wrinkly Deckard Cain?

Over the last four days I have been almost non-stop bingeing the Diablo II: Resurrected Technical Alpha on PC, which ran from the 10th – 14th of April and gave select individuals the chance to try out this revamped version of Blizzard’s classic dungeon-crawler RPG. Players were given the chance to participate by signing up, however I managed to score a code through fellow gaming website, IGN Australia, who I had the opportunity to play on behalf of.

Remember the South Park WoW guy? That was me over the last few days.

Much to my delight, I soon discovered that Resurrected is truly the definitive version of Diablo II that fans have always wanted. In sticking with the original gameplay Diablo II has become so well-known for, Resurrected adds unmatched graphical detail, finesse, and multiple quality-of-life changes to truly bring this cult classic into the realm of modern gaming.

But what’s so good about Resurrected anyway?
If it’s the same gameplay as it was 20 years ago, is it worth playing again?
Well you might find out if you’d…


What did the Alpha involve?

Though I was hoping for the chance to once again venture all the way from the Rogue Encampment through Hell and into the fearsome Frigid Highlands, the Alpha included only Acts I and II of the game without any option of choosing difficulty. This gave a short snippet of the game: enough to keep me occupied for the few days while the Alpha was active, but certainly left me wanting more. It felt quite jarring to finish Act II without the ability to leave Lut Gholein and sail East towards to Kurast.

Choice of class too was limited. All seven familiar faces stand in front of you around the campfire at the “Select Hero Class” screen, however you only have the option to choose from three: Amazon, Barbarian, and Sorceress. Having played primarily as Paladin and Druid in the past, this came as a bit of a shock, but it forced me instead to step outside of my comfort zone and pick a class I normally would not. Eventually I picked Barbarian, not because of his well-defined rock hard quads that you get to admire each time you boot up the game, but because his emphasis on dual-wielding and melee abilities was more suited to my style of play.

After completing Act II with a Barbarian and dying against Duriel multiple times, I decided to play through the game again choosing the Sorceress class. This came as a massive shock after playing such a resilient melee character. Replayability of the alpha was limited to playing through these same two acts as the three different classes, but still kept me entertained and occupied.

What has changed?

You’d have to have a light radius of 0 not to see the biggest change of all in Resurrected: the visuals. A game that once ran in 4:3 at an impressive resolution of 640 x 480 (and increased to 800 x 600 in Lord of Destruction), now has been brought into the realms of modern gaming in full 3D. Finally you can experience Diablo II in glorious 16:9 without the need for a mod! Graphical options are plenty and can be adjusted to suit your PC – I ran the game at 2560 x 1440 at maximum settings and had a consistent framerate of >60fps, though the game can be run at higher resolutions if you have the capacity.

Plenty of graphical options available to cater to different systems.

What impressed me most about this 3D visual upgrade was the game’s ability to retain the dark, gothic aesthetic of the original’s environment and enemy designs, all while adding a level of detail as if it were a game created only recently. You’ll immediately be able to recognise every single character, item, enemy and small environmental detail from the original game despite the graphical overhaul. Even the game’s UI and menu’s are significantly more detailed while retaining the feel of the original. As an added feature, at any point in the game by pressing “G”, you’ll be able to swap between Resurrected and Legacy graphics, which is a nice touch even through it likely has little functionality.

Press G to travel back 20 years.

Aside from the graphical changes, there are a few other improvements to the interface, options and gameplay that help to update this now 20-year-old game. The character selection screen now feels like logging into World of Warcraft or Diablo III, instead providing a detailed view of your character, their equipment, and an intricate backdrop of whichever area you most recently saved in.

I don’t remember those quads being in the original.

There are also several new settings compared to the original, including accessibility options for those with low vision or colour blindness. One of the most satisfying changes is “Auto Collect Gold” which is set to default, meaning that you won’t have to spend time frantically clicking on coins after they fling out of a chest. Simply walk over the gold and your character will pick it up. A game-changer!

What hasn’t changed?

Literally everything else. This is Diablo II: LoD gameplay almost completely untouched. Every movement, attack, spell and interaction feels 100% as it did all those years ago, and fans of the original will appreciate this far more than newcomers to the series. Every dungeon and encounter has been lovingly recreated in the updated art style, blending traditional gameplay with an attractive modern aesthetic. Most notably, the boss fights still feel exactly as they used to, as I especially noted while facing off against Duriel, trapped in the tiny arena chugging potions rapidly.

The worst boss in the game has not changed one bit. He’ll still mess ya up.

Through my time playing the alpha there were several other elements that had not been changed – the audio including sound effects and soundtrack, while having been remastered, is almost identical, though now sounds crisp and clean. As a massive fan of Matt Uelmen’s atmospheric and ambient score, I’m glad there have been no significant changes made. The inventory system also is identical – same number of slots, ability to swap between two sets of weapons, and the use of your character’s stash (both personal and shared).

More inventory space for all your gems. And Wirt’s Leg, of course.

Reportedly cutscenes have been completely remastered, though in the technical alpha you’re presented with the original cutscenes (which now appear incredibly pixelated!) along with a VISUAL PLACEHOLDER stamp in the bottom right to give you the impression that these are not being kept.

Were there many bugs?

After playing for approximately 20 hours, bugs I encountered were few and far between. In fact, the most common bug I encountered tried to kill me and shot electricity when I attacked it (damn you, Death Beetles!). Though in all seriousness, the game played almost flawlessly. There was the occasional graphical glitch, such as a model popping in or the odd enemy clipping through a closed door. One of the more amusing bugs I encountered was after breaking down the door to Duriel in Tal Rasha’s tomb. After assembling the Horadric Staff, a beam of energy shatters the wall leading to the boss fight. Upon exiting this area there wall would return intact as if to say, “Don’t go in there, Duriel will f*ck you up.

Chamber’s closed, better go home.

Though my experience was mostly uneventful, other players found more interesting bugs, such as one that gave the ability to easily duplicate items. This is the purpose of an alpha test, after all.

Final Thoughts

Although changes are minimal, Resurrected will make you happy to double-dip into what is essentially the same game with a fresh coat of paint. Those who spent hundreds of hours in slashing away in single player or online attempting to climb the ladder will undoubtedly feel right at home. Having played through Diablo II: Lord of Destruction only months ago, booting up Resurrected was as simple as jumping back into the game I already knew so well.

Newcomers to the series may be surprised by Resurrected’s simple, looping gameplay, as in the last couple decades RPGs have become increasingly complex. By today’s standards the game is easily approachable and does well to ease you into a challenge. Hopefully this will also expose a new generation of gamers to an experience often considered as one of the most iconic, influential PC games ever made.

In conclusion, Diablo II: Resurrected is without a doubt the game Diablo fanatics have dreamed of for years. While Resurrected has revitalised the game’s visuals tremendously, it manages to do so while retaining the most important aspects that fans have grown to love: traditional RPG gameplay, and a dark, gothic aesthetic. So, will it be it worth playing? Yes, without a doubt.

The game launches later this year. You can find more info via the official website:
https://diablo2.blizzard.com/en-us/

The Funniest Game on Switch? Say No! More Review – Nintendo Switch

Did you have a ball playing Katamari Damacy? Did you think Untitled Goose Game was a honking good time? Looking for another light-hearted, hilarious game? Then Say No! More.

Have you ever been in a situation where you just wanted to shout “NO!”?
Can you imagine if you didn’t even have the option? If refusal was considered taboo?
Where no matter what was asked of you, even the most tedious of tasks, you had to say “yes!” with enthusiasm.

Welcome to the world of Say No! More, a game that developers, Studio Fizbin, claim to be the world’s very first “NPG (No-Playing Game).” Through literally teaching the player to say “no” more, the game emphasises the power behind using this simple word that we too often take for granted. With its unique simplicity, quirky sense of humour, heavily-stylised visuals and superb voice acting, Say No! More delivers a unique experience I KNOW you won’t want to pass up.

So what makes such a simple concept so entertaining?
Well there’s NO time to waste, read on!

Say No More Nintendo Switch

PLOT

It’s your first day at a new job, you’re one of three new interns hired to work for an unnamed massive corporation. Exciting, right? No.

Only minutes into the new job you find out there is a hierarchy that must be obeyed. And as a lowly intern, guess what? You’re the bottom of the ladder. Anything that is asked of you must be done with enthusiasm, in fact it’s impossible to refuse. But why is that? The word “no” does not exist. It has has been completely outlawed, banished and hidden from society.

Get your superior a coffee? Sure, that’s reasonable!
Unjam the printer that your work colleague so kindly stuffed up? Rightio!
Work unpaid overtime for the fifth time this week? Yes, I would love to!
Even give up your adorable unicorn lunchbox because your supervisor forgot their lunch at home? Of course!

Say No More Nintendo Switch Unicorn Lunchbox
Yep, everyone in this game wants a piece of your badass unicorn lunchbox. Who wouldn’t? Just look at it. Majestic.

But this all changes when you stumble across a hidden tape above your dilapidated office desk. A tape containing a forbidden word that has been lost to society. In listening to this tape you gain a power that others in the world would not even speak of: the ability to say NO!

Say No More Nintendo Switch Tape
The world’s shortest audiobook.

In possessing this unique newfound skill, the oppressed intern seeks to rise up and quite literally spread the good word. What follows is a plot that is not only hilarious, but at times meaningful and strangely heart-warming. What starts out as a simple concept, evolves over 8 chapters into something much more dramatic than I had ever expected from a comedy game.

But how do you say “no” more?

GAMEPLAY

Before assaulting office workers and superiors with a barrage of refusal, you’ve got to look the part, right? The game begins with a detailed character creator, despite the very minimalist low-poly graphics. It feels like a combination of Mii Maker and creating a character in The Sims, allowing you to stylise your character’s facial features, clothing and accessories to be as exciting or boring as you wish. I went for a pretty generic salaryman look (that somehow looked a bit like Robert Downey Jr?).

Say No More Nintendo Switch Character Creator
Change your face? No plastic surgery required.

After creating your character, you need to give them a voice. Impressively you can choose from shouting “NO!” in seventeen different languages, each with a feminine or masculine voice. The voice acting is in English, but this shouldn’t stop you from exploring all the different ways you can refuse someone! Definitely a nice touch. For your entertainment here’s a short clip of how to say “no” in the languages available:

Ever wondered how to say no in Gaelic? No?

Once you’ve created your character and chosen your preferred language, the game drops you into a story that takes place across 8 different chapters. Each is about 10 – 15 minutes long and is packed full of hilarious dialogue, amusing conversations between characters, clever easter eggs, and silly slapstick comedy. Levels follow a linear route akin to an on-rails shooter, but instead of firing bullets you’ll be blasting office workers with the sheer power of your words alone. This is simplistic gameplay at its finest and is approachable enough for literally anyone to play. Even my wife (who is usually terrible at games, sorry!) enjoyed it.

Say No More Nintendo Switch Gameplay
Probably don’t do this in your real-life office though…

As you progress through the chapters, you’ll be given additional means of saying no. Certain situations may require you to respond with an angry, a lazy or a sarcastic no. To further humiliate your colleagues, you can perform actions like sarcastically clapping at them, laughing or nodding your head, all of which have certain situations where they are most appropriate. You’ll also be able to hold down the button to charge up a more devastating “NO” that usually causes havoc by launching the unfortunate office workers or inanimate objects that stand in your way. These are all clever ways of adding slightly more depth to a game that could otherwise be finished just by pressing a single button.

Say No More Nintendo Switch Controls
Next time you have to say “no” to a work colleague, try sarcastically clapping at them while doing so. It’ll go down well, I promise.

Though the gameplay in Say No! More is simple, its comedic delivery is where it truly shines.

COMEDY

I’m in no way exaggerating when I say that Say No! More is quite possibly the funniest game I’ve ever played. Throughout the few hours playing the game, the vast majority of the time was spent either in legitimate laughter or with a big cheesy grim on my face. The game is absolutely packed full of superbly-written clever dialogue, witty responses, and a satirical take on the office lifestyle (which I can really appreciate being an office worker myself).

A few snippets from the game, including a reference to some obscure monster-fighting RPG.

My personal favourite parts of the game are delivered in the form of motivational speeches. The tape which teaches you how to say “NO!” is actually delivered by a character that I can only describe as if Hulk Hogan became a motivational speaker. Levels will be scattered with excerpts from this character as you listen to more of the tape, allowing you to unlock further secrets of this powerful word bestowed upon you by your brawny teacher.

Say No More Nintendo Switch Hulk Hogan Nogan Motivation
Your mentor, or as I like to call him: Hulk NOgan.

VISUALS

As you may have already noticed, the game employs a distinct low-poly art-style with vibrant colours and exaggerated animations. I’d say it has a similar aesthetic to Katamari Damacy, which in my opinion is a very good thing. Though detail is limited, this seems to fit well with the comedic style of the game and means the screen can be full of activity with little-to-no drop in framerate. The game performs well in both handheld and docked mode and looks vivid and visually-pleasing.

The low-poly art style of Katamari Damacy Reroll (2018) vs Say No! More.

AUDIO

The soundtrack is quite simple, comprised of peppy, upbeat music that you might expect to hear in the background of an office training video. During the tape sequences however, you’ll feel as if you’ve been thrown into a workout video, as heavy riffs accompany “Hulk NOgan” yelling motivational lines at you.

While none of the tracks in the game will likely find their way onto your favourite game music playlist, the voice acting and delivery of the game’s hilarious dialogue is something worth writing home about. Every single word in the game is voiced, including all the office worker NPCs you’ll often fling out of the way without a care in the world. If you stop to listen to them you’ll enjoy short monologues that aren’t only amusing, but often also insightful.

Say No More Nintendo Switch Dialogue
Take the time to listen to your co-workers. You might learn something from them.

CONCLUSION

So is Say No! More just another indie game on the Switch that you should ignore? NO!
It’s a unique comedic romp through an office that can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone thanks to its witty dialogue and simple, approachable gameplay. Surprisingly, the game also delivers a deeper message about the importance of being assertive and by the end you might even take onboard some of the life advice it provides.
Completion will only take 2 – 3 hours and you’ll be laughing and smiling the entire time. I’m predicting this game will be quite a hit with YouTube “let’s players” looking to share a hilarious game with their viewers.

So, why should you play it?

  • You enjoy light-hearted games filled with humour.
  • Can’t commit to 100-hour JRPGs? Here’s a brilliant game that you could finish in a single sitting!
  • Work in an office? You’ll relate to this satirical take on the office lifestyle.
  • You’d prefer a game for sheer enjoyment rather than a challenge.
  • Needing to learn to assert yourself? Say No! More.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Bland sense of humour? Don’t enjoy silly games? Maybe not for you.
  • There are NO other reasons not to play this game!

Say No! More launches TODAY for Steam, Nintendo Switch and iOS.
You can find out more about the game here: https://www.saynomo.re/

A Nintendo Switch review code was provided for the purpose of this review.

Voxel Indie Narrative Adventure ‘7 Years From Now’ Making Way to Nintendo Switch and PC

PQube, Fumi and Room 6 are excited to announce that award winning narrative adventure, 7 Years From Now, will be launching on Steam and Nintendo Switch on 28th May!

  • A mature, emotional and uniquely wrenching single player experience
  • All DLC included, featuring epilogue, side story, glossary and Sound Mode
  • Rated 4.9 / 5 on iOS, 4.6 / 5 on Google Play
  • Winner of 5 awards including Vivo’s Best Indie Game, Huawei Most Exciting
  • Downloaded over 6,000,000 times on mobile
  • Launching on Steam & Nintendo Switch on 28th May, 2021

First launched in 2017 for mobile, the deceptively dark and wonderful ‘7 Years From Now‘ charmed audiences with its deeply engrossing story, minimalist voxel art style and ambient score soundtrack.

Check out the 7 Years From Now Trailer:

Winner of 5 awards since its mobile launch in 2017, 7 Years From Now received international acclaim as it approached serious narrative themes from bullying, to mental health and domestic violence with immersive and masterful storytelling.  Now optimised and adapted for PC and console, containing all content from the main story, to epilogue and more7 Years From Now will be coming to Nintendo Switch and Steam on 28th May, 2021.

7 Years From Now Old Well Screenshot 1

Developed as a labour of love by Mafumi Yoshida, a one-man development team, 7 Years From Now is a uniquely emotive non-combat based narrative experience. Embark on a surreal journey retracing the steps of old memories lost 7 years prior. Take on the role of high school student Haruto Soraki as he returns to his hometown on a quest to recover his memory after being involved in an accident, which he knows nothing about.

7 Years From Now Honoka’s Hospital Room Screenshot

In this wonderfully charming yet sinister slice of life adventure, reacquaint yourself with forgotten friends, discover hidden depths as you expose a horrifying conspiracy and learn the truth of your past once and for all.

7 Years From Now Clinic Check Up Room Screenshot

For more information and the latest news, follow PQube on TwitterFacebookTwitchInstagram and our official website: http://pqube.co.uk/ Join the discussion using hashtags #7YearsFromNow and #PQube

Undertale and Octopath Traveler Coming to Xbox Gamepass

In an announcement overnight, Microsoft has revealed the next set of games arriving on Xbox Gamepass. The list includes popular titles like Nier: Automata, Star Wars: Squadrons, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, indie hit Undertale, and my personal favourite of the bunch, the first game in Square Enix HD-2D series: Octopath Traveler. A brilliant lineup of games with some excellent titles!

The full release schedule is as follows:

Week of March 15: 

·       UndertaleAVAILABLE NOW (Console and PC)
·       Empire of SinMarch 18 (Console and PC)
·       Nier: AutomataMarch 18 (PC)
·       Star Wars: SquadronsMarch 18 (Console)
·       Torchlight IIIMarch 18 (PC)

Week of March 22: 

·       Genesis NoirMarch 25 (Console and PC)
·       Octopath TravelerMarch 25 (Console and PC)
·       Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire – Ultimate EditionMarch 25 (PC)
·       SupralandMarch 25 (PC)
·       Yakuza 6: The Song of LifeMarch 25 (Console and PC)

Week of March 29: 

·       OutridersApril 1 (Console)
·       Narita BoyMarch 30 (Console and PC)

For more information, including news about the latest Xbox Game Pass Quests and DLC, head over to Xbox Wire. The official announcement can be found here: Coming Soon to Xbox Game Pass

“To the Rescue” Unleashes Doggos on Nintendo Switch and Steam

To The Rescue! Finds its Forever Home on Nintendo Switch, Steam in Late 2021

A brand new indie dog shelter simulator game To the Rescue! launches later this year which allows you to run a dog shelter. Purchasing the game will also allow you to help real-life doggos, with 20% of all profits from the game being donated to animal shelters. As a veterinarian myself, I’m honestly pretty excited to try out this game!

To The Rescue Nintendo Switch Dog Breeds
Each dog has their own individual personalities, stats, and health traits. Just like real life!

Build a shelter and help stray pups find good new homes with loving families. Construct an ideal environment to meet the needs of man’s best friend and maximize their chances to be adopted. Caring for dozens of doggos is rewarding, but the mission has its share of challenges as well. 

Every pooch has their own personality. It’s important to get to know each dog and find out what makes them unique. People have their preferences too, so learning what they’re looking for in a pupper is critical when making matches that will last a lifetime.

To the Rescue Nintendo Switch Adoption Centre
Gotta adopt ’em all!

Between visits from potential pet parents, there’s never a dull moment. Shelters have plenty of mouths to feed and treating illnesses like kennel cough is always a concern. Then there’s logistics to worry about. It takes no shortage of supplies to keep the operation up and running.

Meanwhile, someone has to manage the finances and make sure to keep the lights on. Shelters need to be thrifty and make hard decisions. Hiring staff and dealing with investors is as much a part of the job as scritching Rex behind the ears and giving Fido belly rubs. There can be tough times, but at the end of the day helping dogs find their forever homes is always worth it.

To the Rescue Nintendo Switch Stats Finances
Finances of the shelter also need to be managed.

“The challenges dog shelters and their volunteers face every day truly inspire us,” said Olivia Dunlap, co-founder, Little Rock Games. “It’s a setting we felt was ripe for exploration in games and we look forward to bringing this world to Nintendo Switch and Steam later this year.”

To The Rescue! will be available in late 2021 for Nintendo Switch as well as Steam on PC and Mac for $19.99USD. The development team pledges 20 percent of profits to pet shelters. 

Here’s the official trailer for the game:

Fore more info check out the official website: Little Rock Games

Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game – Complete Edition Review (PC)

A pilgrimage back to an iconic modern beat ’em up.

The year is 2010. A simpler time.

Books are overrated and don’t have enough pictures, so you’re flipping through a graphic novel:
…it’s Scott Pilgrim.
You’re at the cinema, purchasing overpriced popcorn to eat during a new movie starring an awkward Michael Cera:
…it’s Scott Pilgrim.
You get home and turn on your Xbox 360 and log onto Xbox Live, and what’s on the home screen?
…it’s Scott Pilgrim.

It was the series of graphic novels that for a brief moment in time seemed to spawn a phenomenon, and then after a year or so in the limelight almost vanished completely. The series is less about teenager Scott Pilgrim and more about his struggles against his newfound love’s Seven Evil Exes, who he must defeat in order to date her. It’s a quirky plot packed full of silly humour and pop-culture references, and became popular enough not only to justify a movie, but a tie-in videogame, and now 10 years later an enhanced version of that same game! But is it worth revisiting?

One ex to rule them all.

If you’ve played the original game, you’ll know exactly what to expect from Complete Edition, as not much has changed. It’s a port of the original game with all added DLC, along with some minor additions and quality-of-life changes, available on PS4/Xbox One/Nintendo Switch/PC and… Google Stadia (I feel dirty typing that). For those that haven’t played it, it’s a retro-style beat ’em with simple controls, gorgeous pixel art, and a banger of a soundtrack. But is it worth playing considering it’s pretty much the same game?

Gameplay

In typical beat ’em up style, the gameplay is very simple: choose from a roster of characters from the series, fight swarms of enemies through seven distinct levels, and defeat one of the evil exes at the end of each level. It’s a game that’s easy to pick up and play, either through single player, local co-op, or now in Complete Edition through online co-op (which is how I played majority of the game). There’s not really much that stands out about its gameplay – characters have slightly different play styles, can be levelled up to unlock new attacks and abilities, and by spending in-game currency you can purchase food and other items to improve the characters’ stats.

Can’t put your feet up on the train seats, but fighting is perfectly fine.

Combat initially can be quite a challenge (especially if you’re a rookie to the genre like myself), as enemies easily stun-lock and swarm you without giving you a chance to fight back. Bosses are the same, but follow more of a pattern that allows you to predict and dodge their attacks. Thankfully over the course of the game you’ll have access to shops, weapons and abilities that allow you to dispatch enemies more efficiently, but it took me the majority of the game before I truly had a hang of the combat. If you have the option, I’d recommend playing the game with a friend. Not only is it significantly more fun and less gruelling than single player mode, but you also have the ability to revive allies on screen by mashing a button over their lifeless corpse.

Oh, and on the topic of lifeless corpses, at the end of every level you’re rewarded with a scene of Scott and Ramona making out (much to the disgust of their friends). And sometimes on the top of a pile of lifeless corpses is just the most romantic place.

Gross. The kissing, not the corpses.

Visuals and Style

Its style is hands down the best aspect of the game. The pixel art is vibrant and detailed, with heavy character outlines and intricate backgrounds. In reflecting the style of art from the graphic novels, the game achieves an eye-catching visual aesthetic that works incredibly well and makes the characters, enemies, and environments all stand out against each other. Although sometimes the screen can become quite busy, you’ll rarely lose track of your character thanks to this design.

Each level also has a distinct design themed around the evil ex and their hideout, with matching enemies many of which have very amusing outfits and attacks. You’ll fight through the snowy streets of downtown Toronto, defend against katana-wielding ninjas in a flaming teppanyaki restaurant, and of course fight a giant robot boss on top of a skyscraper. Many times throughout the game I found myself stopping to admire the designs of not only the levels, but some of the animations which are incredibly detailed and impressive (see below).

There are also many visual homages to other series/games, and plenty of pop culture references. For example in one of the later stages a boss battle starts with a Guitar Hero sequence. You can also purchase an Energy Tank to restore your health, and the logo looks like it’s directly ripped from Mega Man. The overworld too is a nice touch, as its retro design is clearly a throwback to the SNES classic, Super Mario World.

The overworld, or should I say, Super Mario Overworld.

Audio and Soundtrack

There’s no way I could write this review without mentioning the killer soundtrack that features in the Scott Pilgrim game. As you fight through the game’s levels and boss battles you’ll notice an intense, fast-paced blend of chiptunes and pop/rock with heaps of catchy licks. That’s thanks to New York-based chiptune rock band: Anamanaguchi. Like other bands in the Nintendcore genre of music (yep, that’s a thing) they use hardware like a Gameboy and NES to play alongside guitar, bass and drums. It’s a sound that seems to fit perfectly in the setting of the Scott Pilgrim game, and a creative way to modernise chiptunes.

To celebrate the launch of Complete Edition, the band even played the entire soundtrack live!
You can find it here: Anamanaguchi – Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game Soundtrack

What else?

In addition to the main gameplay which can be completed by yourself or with a friend, there are four other game modes. First is a boss rush mode in which you face off against every single boss in a row to challenge yourself – I found this was an easy way to revisit some of the cool moments from each boss. There are also three minigames that were introduced as part of the original game’s DLC:

Survival Horror – an endless fight against constantly-spawning zombie enemies.
Battle Royale – no, it’s not 1 v 100. It’s basically PvP and has you fighting against each other in a small arena.
Dodgeball – no weapons this time, your only attack is throwing a small ball at your opponents. Just like real life.

The DLC characters, Knives and Wallace, from the original game are also made available from the start, and there’s an added secret character that unlocks once you beat the game with the four main characters. Though unless you’re a completionist I probably wouldn’t bother with this.

So why should I play it?

  • You haven’t played the original game.
  • Cool pixel art always catches your eye.
  • You’re wanting a simple game to play with friends.
  • Chiptunes and game soundtracks are your jam.

But why shouldn’t I play it?

  • There’s nobody else for you to play the game with. 😦
  • You’ve already played the original game to completion.
  • Lengthy games are more your thing, as this can be finished in a couple hours.
  • You don’t want to download the Ubisoft PC client (if playing on PC).

A download code was provided for the purpose of this review, which was played on PC.

Biomutant Collector’s Editions Revealed

THQ Nordic have announced that Biomutant will be out for PC, PlayStation®4, and Xbox One on May 25th, 2021. Two collector’s editions of the game will be available:

The ultra deluxe Atomic Edition for $599.95 which will probably take up half a room includes:

  • High Detail Diorama – 60cm/23″ long, 25cm/10″ width, 30cm/12″ height
  • Game Biomutant
  • Steelbook
  • T-Shirt in L/XL
  • Oversized Mousepad 80cm/31″ x 35cm/14″
  • Artwork on Fabric A1 size
  • Soundtrack
  • Premium Box
Digital mockup of the Atomic Edition.

If you’re not willing to drop nearly $600 on a sweet diorama, the collector’s edition will set you back $199.95 and includes:

  • Game Biomutant
  • Game hero figurine
  • Artwork on Fabric A1 size
  • Soundtrack
  • Premium Box
Digital mockup of the Collector’s Edition.

More information on the game will be released in the next weeks and months. At this stage there has been no announcement of PS5 and Xbox Series S|X versions of the game.