Video Games (#110 of 109)

Rise & Shine Game Review

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Rise & Shine Game Review

Adult Swim Games

Rise & Shine Game Review

As one might expect from a game that takes place on Planet Gamearth, Rise & Shine is a rather self-referential title. The first level alone, set in the ruined Candy Mall, is filled with references that range from Q*Bert to Wolfenstein's William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, and the game begins with young protagonist Rise being given his quest by a dying hero who looks suspiciously like Link. But while Rise & Shine is filled with a winking respect to video-game history, the appropriately named developers at Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team have far more on their mind than simply crafting a nostalgic side-scroller, and they use a remote-controlled-bullet mechanic to put an over-the-top spin on the classics.

Corpse Party Game Review

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Corpse Party Game Review

XSeed Games

Corpse Party Game Review

A port of a PSP title, Corpse Party is a five-chapter journey through the haunted Heavenly Host Elementary. In this text-heavy game, the player guides eight students and one teacher out of the corpse-ridden school by using items, such as keys and crowbars, to open paths and making choices that won't get the protagonists killed. Corpse Party has its chilling moments, thanks to the effective interplay between the game's sound, the top-down perspective, and manga-art stills. Yet the horror dries out with the monotony of scouring a small setting to advance the story, often only to experience worn-out chills that are supposed to elicit unease.

Jackbox Party Pack 3 Game Review

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Jackbox Party Pack 3 Game Review

Jackbox Games

Jackbox Party Pack 3 Game Review

There's an odd dissonance found in the Twitch-friendly social games that make up Jackbox Party Pack 3. With each new Jackbox Party Pack release, the included games increase in production value, but diminish when it comes to actual substance. Scripting is at an all-time low for the franchise, replaced by the unevenness of a book of Mad Libs. There's even a despairing sense of this being one giant money grab. For instance, Tee-KO, a mindless game that replaces the strategy of Bidiots and the intentionally undrawable prompts of Drawful 2, has players first dutifully submitting sketches and slogans and then attempting to assemble an audience-backed winning design—all so that you might pay to have your design printed on a T-shirt and mailed to you. (There ought to be a Digital Sweatshop achievement.)

Virginia Review: Memory Walk with Me

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Virginia Review: Memory Walk with Me

505 Games

Virginia Review: Memory Walk with Me

Anne Tarver stares at herself in the mirror, then reaches into her purse to apply some lipstick. She nods, perhaps approvingly, at this familiar mask she wears and then walks down a corridor. Something in Virginia's soundtrack, performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, hints that something is “off,” as does the ominous glow of an emergency exit as Tarver—and the players who control her—wait in line for whatever it is that lies just around the corner. Just as quickly as this foreboding dread is summoned, though, it vanishes, and Tarver simply walks across a stage: She's graduating from the FBI, and this is the ceremony at which she receives her badge. And then, just as abruptly, that eerie sensation returns: a jump cut empties the auditorium of people and a previously unseen cassette player broadcasts the out-of-place sound of a beeping hospital monitor. Where is Tarver, really?

Rive Review: Emulating Cool

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Rive Review: Emulating Cool

Two Tribes

Rive Review: Emulating Cool

Those overwhelmed by Rive's unapologetic difficulty can't say they weren't warned. From the game's title, which means “to tear something apart violently,” to the start menu, which only offers you the option of a Hard Mode, or even the opening level, redolent of a steroidal Gradius, there's rarely a moment in which the multidirectional machine gun mounted atop the protagonist's Spidertank comes to rest. And should an underwater area temporarily disarm that tank, rest assured that enemy turrets can be hacked to provide additional firepower. There's a reason Rive's scavenging hero is named Roughshot, just as the carefully designed set pieces serve to justify the fact that you aren't allowed to freely roam Galaxian Service Vessel #6.

Hue Review: An Experiment in Color

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Hue Review: An Experiment in Color

Curve Digital

Hue Review: An Experiment in Color

At first, Hue seems all too familiar, with a minimalist black-and-white aesthetic that suggests a cross between Limbo and Apotheon. A sudden, unexpected splash of color quickly dispels that notion, and before long, Hue's investigation of his missing mother's “annular spectrum” gives him the ability to swap between eight different prismatic dimensions.

The basic overlay of each is identical, save for the fact that certain blocks literally fade into an identically colored background; an orange obstacle, for instance, will be invisible in the orange spectrum. In a world of all-too similar platformers, then, Hue is a literal palette cleanser.

Early Access Coasting Plastic Games’s Bit Shifter

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Early Access Coasting: Plastic Games’s Bit Shifter

Plastic Games

Early Access Coasting: Plastic Games’s Bit Shifter

Not every strategy game wants to be the next Starcraft or Crusader Kings, but you'd be forgiven for thinking so. In an era where the cooperative action of multiplayer online battle arenas dominates the cold tactics of their stylistic forebears, strategy developers face an onerous fork: to double down on the spheres of interlocking complexity that have come to define the genre, or cast away their hard-won layers of play trying to chase the MOBA dragon by adding mechanics that test a player’s reflexes rather than their tactical acumen. Still, after a few hours with Bit Shifter, a game that tries to wrap the genre's compelling micro-decisions into a lighter, more approachable package, the latter path may be more fraught than once thought.

Try Hard with a Flatulent Vengeance Jackbox Games’s Jackbox Party Pack 2

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Try Hard with a Flatulent Vengeance: Jackbox Games’s Jackbox Party Pack 2

Jackbox Games

Try Hard with a Flatulent Vengeance: Jackbox Games’s Jackbox Party Pack 2

Jackbox Games's Jackbox Party Pack 2 is a disappointingly sophomoric sequel, and in every sense of the word. This five-game collection feels derivative at best, stale most of the time, and simply baffling for the rest. Earwax, for instance, settles for the lowest-common denominator of fart jokes and asks players to choose from sound effects provided to them—such as “Male urinating into toilet (a lot)” and “Trombone slide”—to answer a question, like “How a terrible ninja is noticed.” But humorous bodily functions alone do not a game make.

Jackbox Games similarly misses the mark in all of their offerings, as if they didn't understand the appealing, anarchic charm of their originals. The only direct sequel, Fibbage 2, messes with perfection—a single, hard-to-believe truth is obfuscated by each player's submitted lies—by providing everyone with a single “deFIBrillator” that narrows things down to a binary choice. Meanwhile, Bidiots overcomplicates everything that worked about Drawful (from the original Jackbox Party Pack) by combining a player's incredulous attempts to draw absurdly specific objects (“The Shawshank Redemption,” “San Jose sharks”) with a trite hidden-information game, in which players attempt to identify and purchase the “art” that they believe to be valuable.

A Kinder-Egg Experience Renowned Explorers: International Society

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A Kinder-Egg Experience: Renowned Explorers: International Society

Abbey Games

A Kinder-Egg Experience: Renowned Explorers: International Society

In Victorian London, just around the corner from the legendary Reform Club, on the Southern side of Pall Mall, lies the headquarters of an international society, the Renowned Explorers, where the rejected of the lesser aristocracy, the not-so-distinguished academic, and the occasional inquisitive brawler can still apply for membership. Teams are formed here, plans laid out, and supplies procured before launching expeditions to Transylvanian forests, Egyptian deserts, or Caribbean islands, all in search of as many artifacts as possible in order to earn the title of Most Renowned. Part of Renowned Explorers: International Society's gameplay takes place in that base where, not only do you organize your team's next outing, but also take advantage of the spoils from the previous one. There are profitable lectures to be arranged for Paris, Berlin, and other European capitals. You can perform research to unlock improvements or purchase equipment to boost your characters' statistics. And you can use your newly gained status to attract an entourage of helpers and specialists to assist you with future adventures.

No Trivial Nostalgia Allowed Shutshimi: Seriously Swole

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No Trivial Nostalgia Allowed:  Shutshimi: Seriously Swole

Neon Deity Games

No Trivial Nostalgia Allowed:  Shutshimi: Seriously Swole

Shutshimi: Seriously Swole is one of the best shooters since the turn of the century. Developer Neon Deity Games' spirited rejection of video-game balance almost qualifies as avant garde, but Shutshimi's emphasis on high scores begs for comparisons to great arcade fare such as Galaga, Xevious, TwinBee, and Fantasy Zone. Like each of those shoot-'em-up classics, Shutshimi has a distinct rhythm and personality to its (on-the-surface) mindless violence.

Despite the connection to traditional gaming, Shutshimi isn't consumed by the trivial nostalgia of old-school wannabes like Shovel Knight and Axiom Verge. Rather than base a significant portion of its appeal on retro sentimentality, Shutshimi makes its rules—not another game's—the attraction, exuding a pride for personal expression. The game undoubtedly owes something to the muscle-flexing, horizontally scrolling Cho Aniki, yet the latter tries to coast on silliness and homoeroticism with little compelling action. In contrast, Neon Deity's gymnastic design demands to be taken seriously as an e-sport while fulfilling the absurd premise of a gold fish with human arms defending his home.