Category: Reviews

Jotun: Valhalla Edition

Developer: Thunder Lotus Games
Publisher:
Thunder Lotus Games
Music:
Max LL (Maxime Lacoste-Lebuis)
Platforms:
PC, PS4, Wii U, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Released:
September 29th 2015
Genre:
Action, Adventure

Narrative

The story follows Thora, a dead Viking woman who died by drowning on the freezing Nordic seas. Odin was disappointed in her inglorious death and she is granted a second chance to redeem herself. She must travel through the realms of the Gods and defeat a series of different Jotun who are giant, powerful, Norse elemental beings of nature and chaos. She must defeat these Jotun in order to impress Odin so she may enter Valhalla. Jotun starts in an incredible forest landscape where you are carefully guided to a mountainous peak where a gorgeous cinematic view of the world beneath Thora unfolds. Through Thora’s journey she must find runes that unleash the Jotun and fight for her right of passage to Valhalla. Through out her journey she battles massive bosses, showcasing extraordinary animations that as exquisitely hand drawn.

There are nine stunning levels to explore where you as the player are guided by beautiful Icelandic voice acted dialog that impart detailed lore of Viking mythology. This coupled with a phenomenal musical composition will have you totally engrossed with her fate. There is much to love and learn about this story which educates you on the historical relevance of Norse mythology and experiences that lead Thora through epic battles for honour and glory. There is a lot of environmental story telling where the camera pans out so you can see from a bird’s eye view the surrounding land and words of lore delivered to you by the protagonist herself.

Gameplay

Jotun is a single player game where you play as Thora. She carries a huge axe that is your primary weapon which you can swing repetitively at large groups of enemies or take a huge swing with a longer build up that deals greater amount of damage with a single blow. I did find that the movement felt a bit staggered and jarring, I couldn’t move smoothly in battle or dodge enemies I always felt there was a slight delay with each mechanic I played out. I found this especially frustrating during boss battles when I was grinding my way through the challenge. Throughout game play you gain extra abilities granted to you by the Gods that you can cycle through and select which ones to use for specific situations, some of these abilities heal you or create diversions allowing you to attack from behind.

At some points I found there to be an absence of enemies to engage with, sometimes being bored while traversing breathtaking landscapes, there was little to interact with while on my journey to each rune. In some cases, there was a lacking guidance about which areas are best to tackle first as there is no set order for each area and some of them can be much harder than others. In some instances, this can be good for the players that enjoy exploring and moving at their own pace however for me personally I do like a bit of hand holding and felt lost a times. In saying that the boss battles are outstanding both requiring patience and strategy to defeat which left victory feeling oh so sweet.

Music

The voice acting does a marvellous job of painting the harsh picture of the Viking world, setting wondrous atmospheric tension that transports you to the hostile and unforgiving universe of the Norse Gods. The music is cinematic and up roaring with intense orchestral builds that make you feel like you’re the centre piece of this legendary adventure. As you reach panicle moments of game play the music syncs perfectly which makes everything feel seamless and natural. All the sound effects are thick, chunky and appropriately wet when slicing giant vines which makes sense given that Thora is axe swinging Viking. This is an added extra for when you’re in a boss battle and the demonic like sounds of a Jotun come raging, then there’s the cranked-up bass for their attacks making every boss encounter feel tremendous.

The Experience

Jotun is a visually stunning game from the frozen waste lands to volcanic underground there is a unique design adding flavour with each endeavour. The music is epic, pairing nicely with the aesthetics of each realm and battle undertaken. I was truly mesmerised by this Viking world where the story transports you to a time when a bloody death was your path to eternal rest. The animations stole my heart and transfixed me, even when I had struggled to defeat a boss repeatedly, I still relished the moments I got to see them emerge from their place of slumber for the hundredth time. I highly recommend Jotun for those players that enjoy rich story and visual design these being my personal highlights. I was not disappointed playing my first Thunder Lotus game and it definitely won’t be my last.

Reviewed by Evie Gibbons @eviezgames on January 22nd 2020

They Breathe

Developer: The Working Parts
Publisher: The Working Parts
Music: The Working Parts
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, Android, iOS
Released: 2014
Genre: Horror, Adventure

Narrative

The game starts off with you being . a lonely frog floating on a little piece of driftwood. The water is full of branches and debris almost as if the aftermath of a tsunami or natural disaster. As you do what frogs do, jump in the water and swim around. Using small air bubbles that float up to get oxygen, allowing you to swim around for an indefinite amount of time. Out of nowhere you hear sounds coming from the depths  calling you… 

This is where your story beings, as you dive further and further down; you start to encounter other frogs who are barely breathing but also something more devious. A weird and scary jelly moose(A mix between a jellyfish and a moose). You push on down trying to save your frog friends while also trying to survive the vicious attacks from  the jelly moose. All while trying to figure out,  “why are my frog buddies coming up from below?”

Gameplay

They Breath focuses heavily on its  narrative. The whole point of the game is to push on and try to figure out why things are like they are. It puts you in to a 2D perspective and slowly pans the camera down section after section as you venture. . In each section you are met by a threat, jelly moose, having to save a frog buddy or both at the same time. But it also tells the story of what happened through its background image, hand feeding the story as you go.

The game title: They Breath tells us the gist of the game right away. Oxygen is a big part of this experience. mall little air bubbles pop up from the bottom of your 2D screen throughout the experience. There isn’t an abundance of them, every  bubble you consume is one less for your frog buddies who need it to survive as well. However the jelly moose need them too and will try to get them. The game quickly turns into a melee of trying to survive by avoiding drowning, while also forcing you to make the choice should I try to save my buddies? 

Music

The music score for they breath is fantastic, offering up an eerie vibe as you dive into the darkness. This is not however the part that impressed me the most while playing this experience. What impressed me was the games excellent use of sound effects. Being drawn in by the sounds coming from the depths, being able to tell right away that it is something dark and mysterious that you need to find. Getting flash hints every now and then just makes you want to continue even though the atmosphere grows darker, damper and scarier. 

I was especially taken aback by the sound of the jelly moose drowning as they did not get the oxygen they needed. The effects made me feel bad for them although I knew I had to survive. To me it is one of the things that makes the mechanic of the air bubbles feel the way they do. . Because every time you hear a jelly moose go from drowning too quiet you realize that oxygen is a rare and precious thing.

The Experience

Overall the game brings a terrifying, mysterious but also satisfying experience. The game tells its story and narrative in a short and sweet way (taking only 20 minutes to complete) and never leaves anything untold.  The game play fits the story perfectly and truly makes you feel like the things you are doing makes  sense. Although not out right forcing you to make decisions it definitely asks you to make them. Without spoiling too much, in the end the choices you made directly or indirectly  made play a part in how things turn out. The game’s atmosphere was captivating thanks to both beautiful music score and horrifyingly great SFX. Building a sense of awe and wonder while also keeping the horror around something that most people have experienced at one point or another, the dark depths of water.

Reviewed by William Haumann @William_Haumann on January 15th 2020

Halo: Reach Master Chief Collection

Developer: Bungie & 343 Industries
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Music: Martin O’Donnell & Michael Salvatori
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Released:  Original release on September 14, 2010 re-released on December 3, 2019
Genre: FPS (First Person Shooter)
Game Modes: Single Player, Co-op & VS, Casual & Hard
Website: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1064220/Halo_Reach/

Narrative

Set in the year 2552 humanity has gone to war with the alien Covenant. The Covenant are the main antagonist throughout the Halo universe and in some cases have even been an ally to Master Chief however they are your greatest threat again in Halo: Reach. You play as the character called Nobel Six who joins as a member of an elite Spartan squad. As this happens the human planet known as Reach falls after coming under attack from the Covenant.

You start the game with seeing planet Reach destroyed, whilst having flashes to a time before the devastation from the Covenant invasion. You are then introduced to your new Spartan squad called Nobel Team, and you as the main protagonist are called Nobel Six or just ‘Six’ in some cases throughout the game. The main objective throughout Halo: Reach is to rid the planet of the Covenant invasion and restore the human colonies. Sacrifices are made and there are many emotional moments that affect Nobel Team that help inspire you as Nobel Six to vanquish the alien armies from Reach. Without giving away too much you must play in order to know the rest.

Halo: Reach is a direct sequel to Halo: Combat Evolved. Taking influence from the novel Halo: The Fall of Reach where humans under the command of the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) who have been battling the forces of the Covenant for a long time. The planet Reach has fallen and lost almost all of the human inhabited colonies. Reach is a very Earth like human civilisation including it’s natural landscapes, environment and it’s ecosystems are strong enough to support life aside from just flora and fauna.

Gameplay

You play from a first person perceptive throughout the campaign only during certain moments throughout such as; using a stationary machine gun or driving a vehicle will you shift into third perspective. The vehicles such as Ghosts, Wraiths and of course the Warthog are the same as Halo: Combat Evolved. You can play the main campaign solo or cooperatively which is always a nice feature that is throughout the Halo franchise.

Some new things to the Halo universe is spaceship dog fighting. There are moments where you pilot a craft that defends a UNSC mother-ship from Covenant crafts on the attack. This mechanic is new and refreshing it adds that extra layer of diversifying the game’s experience. There are also power ups that are new such as; Jet packs, Sprint, Camouflage, Holograms, Drop Shield, and Armour Lock. All these abilities are optional secondary abilities that you can collect as drops throughout each level and swap out for a different one depending on your play style. There is also the old weapons from Halo: Combat Evolved however they have a fresh feel and as well as some new ones that can be useful in certain terrain or for specific fights.

You can also now customise your Spartan with this cool new feature, something you might notice early on is that other members of the Nobel Team have cool new Spartan looks. You as the player also have that opportunity to make yourself look the way you want, but first you have to unlock each piece of your new look by completely challenges or reaching achievements.

Most of the game play feels very similar to Halo: Combat Evolved which isn’t a negative thing, you play in a team unit with Nobel Team, as opposed to the lone wolf lifestyle that players are used to with Master Chief. There are moments where you do go solo for various reasons such as if you decide to skip ahead of the team or if the narrative leads you in that direction.

The Experience

During combat I always feel like a badass, I’m not the best aim in FPS games, in saying that whenever I play a Halo game I always feel that I kick some serious butt, that same feeling applies to Halo: Reach. The new secondary abilities are a nice mix up from the tradition mechanics of Halo and I really enjoyed trying out different things, such as the jet pack and the drop shield really came in handy when I was up against a large swarm of Covenant.

The dog fighting for me was a really big highlight. I loved the feeling of flying through space and shooting down the enemy, whilst also pulling cool aerial stunts to dodge projectiles. The developers did a wonderful job creating a some what ‘Star Wars’ feel with the space battles and that sensation of zooming through space. That coupled with a great narrative meant that I felt really determined to defend against the Covenant and bring it home for humanity.

Story wise it is very compelling there are some real gut wrenching moments that add such great tension and the delivery was fantastic I was never disappointed by cut scenes they were super action packed, which provoked some really big “OOH RAA!” moments.

I highly recommend playing Halo: Reach especially now with it’s really slick 4K graphics and the ability to revert back to it’s original design is fantastic, it was very nostalgic to be able to play things at different qualities, it truly gave a nice perspective on how far the Halo franchise has come since my teenage years.

Reviewed by Evie Gibbons @eviezgames on January 8th 2020
Images: https://halo.bungie.net   https://halo.fandom.com

Shadowrun: Hong Kong

shadowrunhk1

Platform: PC, Mac, Linux
Developer: Harebrained Schemes
Website: http://harebrained-schemes.com/shadowrun/hongkong
Australian rating: Unrated

Cyberpunk was a very 1980s thing, and sometimes that comes through in the modern games reviving the genre. Shadowrun began as a tabletop RPG in 1989 and the video games based on it retain some of the era’s qualities, including a fascination with Asian culture as filtered through action movies. Street samurai wield katanas, every city has triads and yakuza, and the world is run by megacorps with names like Shiawase, Wuxing, and Renraku.

So in Shadowrun: Hong Kong of course you work for a triad boss based out of a mahjong parlour and one of your missions is to mess with the feng shui of an office building to harm the owners’ profits. It trades in pretty broad stereotypes, but that’s the nature of Shadowrun’s pulpy adventure fiction background, which mashes up cyberpunk and urban fantasy so that the street samurais are likely to be elves, the triads and yakuza backed up by shamans, and the megacorps run by dragons.

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Audiosurf 2

audiosurf1

Platform: PC, Mac, Linux
Developer: Dylan Fitterer
Website: http://www.audiosurf2.com
Australian rating: Unrated

You know those visualisation things you get with music software like Windows Media Player? The ones that accompany whatever song is playing with geometric patterns, rising and falling and changing colour in time with the music, sort of like what 1990s movies thought cyberspace looked like? Audiosurf takes that idea and makes a video game out of it. Feed it an mp3 (or, new in this sequel, a stream from SoundCloud) and its algorithm analyses the music’s tempo and beat and changes in intensity and then maps them to a rising and falling rollercoaster/racecourse hybrid, which you fly across in a spaceship.

Still with me? Good, because there’s more. While the speed you travel is entirely at the mercy of the BPM you can flit left and right across three lanes on that track to hit certain blocks while dodging others, collecting them in a grid beneath you and earning points. Audiosurf is two games in one – both a score-attack game of reflexes and careful choices about which blocks to grab, and a transformative experience that can turn your favourite music into a physical space and then pull you across it.

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State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition

SOD-3

Platform: Xbox One

Developer: Undead Labs

WebsiteUndeadlabs.com

Australian classification: R18+

I’d long since run out of food and drink. I was bruised, beaten, and exhausted to the point of near collapse. My ute was packed with a days worth of salvage; medicine, materials, fuel, ammunition, supplies we desperately needed. The community was counting on me, but more than anything I just wanted to get home. I decided to take a shortcut. It didn’t go well.

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Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham

lb3lanternworld

Platform: PC, PS3, PS4, Vita, 360, Xbox One, Wii U, 3DS
Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Website: www.legobatman3beyondgotham.com
Australian rating: PG

The Lego games are released on a schedule as constant as Call Of Duty or Assassin’s Creed, and that means they can be formulaic. Lego Batman 2: DC Heroes was one of the series’ innovators, however, introducing fully-voiced characters and an open world. Between missions you and a friend could hoon around Gotham City in Lego vehicles or climb its buildings looking for secrets and punching on hoodlums. It basically had everything I want from future Arkham games and threw in a playable Superman as well.

Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham expands the roster even further, pulling various deep-cut characters from the DC Comics catalogue, while shifting the focus away from Batman’s home turf of Crimetown USA and into outer space. The villainous Brainiac has a plan to shrink the Earth and place it under glass like he’s collecting bugs, and he’s stolen the power of the variously coloured Lanterns to do it. Green Lantern isn’t alone, you see – in the comics he pals around with Red, Pink, Blue, Purple, Orange, and Yellow Lanterns. It’s a whole thing.

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Review: Costume Quest 2

cqtrick

Platform: PC
Developer: Double Fine
Website: www.costumequest2.com
Australian rating: PG

Halloween in Australia is weird. I’ve only had kids come to my door in costume twice, but people love to complain about how this American holiday has invaded our calendar. White Australians complaining about cultural imperialism is odd, right? Kind of tone deaf and crass? Christmas isn’t any more Australian, and we mainly use Halloween as an excuse for adults to dress up and get drunk anyway, like we do every other holiday.

The Costume Quest games are an insight into why Halloween is such a big deal for Americans, letting you play a gang of kids dressed up in dodgy outfits – a robotic suit made of cardboard boxes, a superhero costume that’s just a blanket cape and a pair of underpants on the outside – who are given free rein to roam the suburbs and pretend to be heroes and monsters while eating all the sugar. Those suburbs, by the way, are being invaded by aliens under the cover of Halloween and only you can stop them. Adults won’t believe that big green weirdo is a Grubbin from the planet Repugia and not just someone in a better costume than you, and anyway, you don’t need adults to stop them when you have The Power Of Imagination.

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Review: Wasteland 2

w2robofight

Platform: PC
Developer: InXile
Website: https://wasteland.inxile-entertainment.com
Australian rating: MA15+

I hate reviews that start with a history lesson, but Wasteland 2 needs some context. I’ll try to make it a short history lesson at least. Here goes.

The original Wasteland was a turn-based post-apocalyptic roleplaying game designed by Interplay in 1988, in which cowboy Desert Rangers protected irradiated Arizona from raiders and robots and, if you played like me, got gnawed to the bone by giant mutant rabbits like they were fleshy carrots being chomped by Bugs Bunny. It was popular enough that Interplay started work on a sequel, but not popular enough for publisher Electronic Arts, who cancelled it and then refused to sell them back the rights. Interplay self-published a different post-apocalyptic RPG instead, and that’s the origin story for the classic Fallout. Years later, the Fallout series has changed hands and members of the original Interplay team, now calling themselves InXile, finally got the rights to their game back and – with help from fans via Kickstarter – made the sequel they wanted to make decades ago.

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Review: Gauntlet

gauntletcrazy

Platform: PC
Developer: Arrowhead
Website: www.gauntlet.com
Australian classification: MA15+

The first time I played this remake of Gauntlet I accidentally shot the food within the opening five minutes, so if the only thing you need to know is whether it’s possible to destroy an entire roast turkey with a single, poorly aimed arrow just like in the original, there you go.

Gauntlet is a remake of the 1985 arcade game that gave us one of our first four-player co-op experiences and birthed a bunch of memes about the wizard needing food badly. Arrowhead, the developers of Magicka, have focussed on that arcade multiplayer experience and created a fast-paced action RPG that boils Diablo down to potent stock.

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