Tag Archives: 2D

The Banner Saga 3 review

The Banner Saga trilogy has introduced us to a Disney meets Don Bluth 2D world, steeped in European-esque medieval fantasy with tactically deep and satisfying combat. But, like all things, it must come to an end. This world where the sun has died and the Varl and Human races’ have suffered and fought to try to overcome the apocalypse, delivers it’s denouement here in The Banner Sage 3, and indeed it’s a strong end to a terrific series.

The march of the two caravans of warriors across the beautiful 2D layered panoramic perspective of the frozen land continues, with the pattern of narrative-driven dialogue and decisions punctuated by grid-based combat still being the order of the day. Decisions still have lasting effects on what’s left of your story, removing characters, sometimes temporarily and other times by permanently killing them off. Despite knowing the end of this tale is imminent, there’s still a terrific minefield of unknown consequences that can play out in completely different ways depending on your choices. This still also occurs with combat, where defeat isn’t necessarily game over, making the adventure feel somewhat more grounded in reality than in many other games, despite the Tolkien-esque fantasy setting.

The combat itself is largely unchanged from previous entries, with grid turn-based conflicts that centre around the three stats of strength, armour and willpower. Your strength doubles up as both your health and your attack power, introducing an interesting tactical challenge where the longer a battle continues the weaker you typically get. Armour, meanwhile, simply measures how much of an incoming attack can be deflected, whilst willpower offers the chance to increase your movement and attack strength from a finite pool that only replenishes outside of combat. It’s a fairly simple system that’s very easy to fathom. Characters and enemies receive a turn based on the order shown at the bottom of the screen, and a turn allows you to move and attack. Varls are larger than humans and take up four squares on the grid whilst humans take up one. The complexity comes with how you use this simple system to defeat your foes.

When you attack you can choose to target their strength/health or their armour. Reducing a foe’s armour means you can deal more damage in the future but means your foes will hit harder come their turn. Meanwhile, if a foe’s armour is higher than your strength, then your ability to inflict damage is reduced giving you a percentage chance to hit, therefore encouraging you to reduce their armour before targeting their strength/health. Additionally some characters have special abilities they can unleash, such as the ability to hit multiple opponents with one attack. When attacking and moving you can spend willpower to increase the amount of damage you inflict or grid squares you can move, adding a tactical consideration, but willpower is limited and won’t replenish automatically in combat, so you need to spend it wisely. It all comes together to offer a fun and easy to learn combat system that offers a nice range of tactical possibilities.

This time around you can often remain in combat taking on additional waves of enemies rather than leaving the battlefield, with more enemy reinforcement joining the battle depending on a turn counter. Defeating these waves provides rewards in the form of special items, providing a risk verses reward system that can benefit you with important supplies if you choose to prolong a fight and allow these waves to keep spawning. However, it doesn’t ever feel necessary to risk staying in combat for these rewards, making it an interesting addition to freshen the experience somewhat, but one that’s not as well integrated into the rest of the game as other systems.

With the experience shifting between combat and narrative heavy dialogue and decisions it’s still a shame that so little of it is voiced, but what is voiced is performed to a high standard, and the writing continues to impress. The tale in this third game has turned from dark to absolutely dire, and tone has shifted well to represent the desperation of the characters. It’s gripping stuff.

The soundtrack is once again fantastic, with powerful brass sections that really work to sell the honour and glory of battle against the darkness consuming this world. However, one issues from the previous titles still remains: the loading, which, whilst fairly short, is still relentless. It’s a problem that optimisation and even faster hardware, as in with the Xbox One X, still hasn’t solved. Practically every screen transition required a black loading screen, and sometimes multiple loading screens stacked on top of each other.

The Banner Saga as a whole has offered a brilliant branching story with intense and accessible turn-based combat that’s hard to put down. Death can take any number of characters you’ve come to love away and decisions can seriously affect how your tale unfolds, making it a wonderfully compelling personal experience within an intriguing fantasy world with good replayability. Meanwhile, this final chapter in the story does a tremendous job tying everything together and maintains the high quality of its predecessors. It’s been a delightful experience to play this trilogy.

Thanks to Xbox and Stoic for supporting TiX

Let Them Come review

There’s a scene in Aliens where the marines setup automatic turrets to shoot the approaching horde of aliens. In Let Them Come you essentially recreate that scene but as a gunner controlling a turret. It’s intense, a little scare despite the pixel art aesthetic, fun and challenging. It’s so very similar to that scene from Aliens, yet to my knowledge, this is the first time it’s been translated to a tower defence game, and it works marvellously.

It’s so very simple. A text introduction paints the picture of a lone soldier needing to setup his turret at different locations to figure out the story behind this alien infestation. It’s then a matter of you earning credits by shooting the aliens, buying upgrades for your character and the turret, then conquering multiple waves of aliens, defeating a boss, and moving on to the next location.

Pixel art conveys the action and gore. The narrow corridors with subtle animations in the background, foreground and the sides bringing each scene to life. Silky smooth animations for your character’s movement as well as that of the many different alien species. It looks fantastic. In fact this art style is miraculous, and not just here but practically everywhere I see it. How these pixel artists capture a person, an alien, a location so beautifully and in such detail while shaping it in pixels is miraculous. Here it also works to add a level of nostalgia to the title, to manage your expectations for a simple game of tower defence. Indeed, it wouldn’t have been out of place as an official Aliens game from 1986, if it wasn’t for the exceptionally smooth frame rate, crisp well-defined pixels and copious amounts of alien hostiles and bullets filling the corridor that only modern system can truly handle at this level of quality.

There’s more to it than simply letting loose with your turret against the waves of aliens, though, and soon you’re contemplating precisely what you need to purchase between waves to best fight the horde; what the best tools are for this violent but necessary job of survival. You can only hold limited ammo types and equipment, and choosing the right combination becomes more and more critical as the waves progress.

Four slots can be filled with passive upgrades, these being buffs to health, or armour against projectiles, cooling vents for the turret, and several more which affect your character’s ability to fight off the waves. Meanwhile, two slots are available for personal equipment, these consisting of melee weapons, grenades and other useful offensive of defensive items. Moreover, there’s a wide selection of different types of grenades that perform better against different species or quantities of aliens. Finally, there’s the two slots for ammo type for the turret, these being the standard ammo, of which you have an infinite amount, and the special ammo types, that run the gamut much like the grenades do. Bullets for the special ammo types need to be bought and used wisely to deal with waves. Indeed, there are many factors to consider when it comes to purchasing these weapons and equipment that will affect your survival rate.

As you defeat waves and progress, more is revealed. Boss creatures test your ability to adapt at the end of each location, providing a stiff challenge that requires you to equip yourself smartly. Meanwhile, power-ups are earned that can provide some much needed boosts to ammo, health, score, or even enhances you and your firepower temporarily. Fortunately, defeat isn’t the end, you are free to restart the wave having kept any credits earned so to spend them more wisely and maybe prevail next time. Additionally, much of the purchasable equipment can be upgraded once you’ve moved to a new location, always giving you something to spend your hard earned credits on, and soon proving crucial to keeping you alive as larger waves attack and new alien species throw something unexpected at you. Let Them Comes certainly keeps you on your toes.

Despite the challenge, however, it doesn’t take long to reach the end, and for some the frustration of overcoming the challenge is going to be too much. Afterwards you can play through again at different difficulty levels, as well as compete for high scores, but your mileage will vary depending on your patients and love of the genre and art style. Although, the time you do spend with this exhilarating and delightful tower defence title is certainly well wasted.

Thanks to Xbox and Versus Evil for supporting TiX

Another Mega Man Legacy Collection on its way soon

Could we be seeing a second collection of Mega Man games on Xbox One soon? It looks like it!

The Korean Ratings Board has outed Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 for Xbox One, with the description telling us that it’ll include Mega Man 7, Mega Man 8, Mega Man 9, and Mega Man 10 – according to gematsu.com‘s translation. Nothing official from Capcom as of yet.

We’re excited at the prospect, considering how much we enjoyed the first Mega Man Legacy Collection, reviewed back in August 2015.

BUTCHER to spray blood on Xbox One in May

Fast-paced 2D shooter and a blood-soaked love letter to the cult classics of the genre, BUTCHER – developed by Transhuman Design – will be published on Xbox One by Crunching Koalas on May 10.

As a cyborg programmed to eradicate the last vestige of humanity, your sole purpose is to annihilate anything that moves. Grab your weapon of choice (from chainsaw, through shotgun, to grenade launcher) and kill your way through underground hideouts, post-apocalyptic cities, jungles and more. And if you’re feeling creative, there are plenty other ways of ending your enemies’ misery – hooks, lava pits, saws… no death will ever be the same.

If kicking corpses into a lava pit and adorning walls with blood is your idea of a good time, then it seems BUTCHER may well be the game for you.

Featuring:

•Ultra-violent uncompromising carnage in the spirit of Doom and Quake (chainsaw included).

•Release your inner artist, paint the walls with (permanent) blood (up to 4 million pixels available to be painted per level).

•Use the environment (saws, hooks, lava pits, animals and other) to brutally dispose of your enemies.

•Put your reflex and patience to the ultimate test.

•Choose from an array of weapons (featuring classics like chainsaw, railgun and the deadly grenade launcher).

•Soak in the dark atmosphere reinforced by a wicked, heavy soundtrack (while you kick corpses around).

•Die painfully: melt in lava, become piranha food, get crushed by heavy doors… and more!

BUTCHER certainly sounds like it lives up to its name and the classics it means to imitate. We’ll know more in just over a week.

Utter Carnage as Butcher is set for Xbox One

Butcher is a fast paced 2D action shooter developed by Transhuman Design. Butcher is clearly a nod to past cult classics, you play a cyborg with one mission and one mission alone, to eradicate humanity.

The 8-bit approach is already a winner but the trailer sets it off with that B-Movie gorefest voice over. Butcher isn’t available just yet but is set to land somewhere in Q2 of 2017

 

BUTCHER’s main features:

  • Ultra-violent uncompromising carnage in the spirit of Doom and Quake (chainsaw included)
  • Release your inner artist, paint the walls with (permanent) blood (up to 4 million pixels available to be painted per level)
  • Use the environment (saws, hooks, lava pits, animals and other) to brutally dispose of your enemies
  • Put your reflex and patience to the ultimate test
  • Choose from an array of weapons (featuring classics like chainsaw, railgun and the deadly grenade launcher)
  • Soak in the dark atmosphere reinforced by a wicked, heavy soundtrack (while you kick corpses around)
  • Die painfully: melt in lava, become piranha food, get crushed by heavy doors… and more!
  • Absolutely no mercy for anyone!

Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic releasing March 3rd on Xbox One

Pixel Heroes, from developer The Bitfather and publisher Headup Games, will be hitting digital shelves on March 3rd, bring it’s nostalgia inducing, amusing, retro-style RPG to Xbox One. You can get a taste of what’s the come, and the kind of humour involved, in the trailer below:

This Roguelike RPG promises a world full of hilarious events and characters, and plenty of deadly dungeons to test your adventuring might and reward you will copious amounts of loot.

It’s set to feature:

•Thirty unique hero classes to unlock, each with individual skills and attributes.
•More procedurally generated axes, spears, maces, swords, shields, bows, crossbows, spells and prayers than a llama has hair on its body.
•Thirteen mystic and beautifully cruel dungeons to explore. Epic bossfights waiting!
•Three campaigns to unlock, each with its own final dungeon and boss.
•Permadeath! You know you want it.
•A detailed graveyard where you can mourn your dead heroes, compare their statistics and see which of their choices led to their tragic death.
•Completely crazy NPCs, each one of them with a significant storyline that you can follow to unlock cool stuff!
•Tons of random events that you will encounter on your way, expecting you to make important choices. Will you yell at the cat like a crazy idiot?
•Many achievements and unlockables, try to get them all and become the most badass Pixel Hero in the world!

Kingdom: New Lands review

Kingdom: New Lands is purposely obtuse, providing a mere slither of context in the beginning and nothing more. As such, it can get frustrating figuring out what you need to do and how to go about doing it. Moreover, this often turns into a trial and error learning curve, inevitably ending in your character’s death. However, this is part of Kingdom: New Land’s narrative: the struggle to keep the crown and conquer each island.

It’s a compelling experience; however many times you die you’ll find yourself quickly yearning to try again, fresh with the knowledge you gleaned from your last attempt. A single mistake, such as building the wrong kind of unit or expanding your kingdom too early, can be extremely difficult and often impossible to come back from, but there’s joy in the discovery and challenge that keeps you playing. Despite the lack of clarity and punishing difficulty, Kingdom: New Lands is also hugely satisfying and fun.

You are tasked, as the new king or queen, in building a kingdom. On each of the islands of the world you must build a settlement, repair your ship, then sail to another land to do it all over again. It’s a cross between a management title and a tower defence game; you recruit citizens to your settlement by giving nomads a gold coin, then you can turn them into engineers to build things, archers to shoot things, farmers to farm things, or knights to lead armies of archers against the things that come out at night. Once the sun has set you’ll be beset by demons, coming from a portal – or set of portals – deep in the forest. These foal things mean to take gold from your citizens, as well as their weapons and tools, and most importantly your crown. It’s imperative that you defend against these raids whilst you complete repairs to your ship.

kingdom-1

Turning your citizens into useful members of your kingdom requires you to purchase their tools or weapons. In the early game this is limited to engineers and archers, with you buying hammers and bows respectively, however, as the game progresses, farmers require scythes and knights require shields. Your settlement adds these new features and stalls as your upgrade the centre, and things get expensive fast. Fortunately, your archers can hunt rabbits and deer to provide cash, a trader visits town daily and generates more gold, and farmers bring in a healthy income after a few days of tending to their crops. Your engineers can get you a little bit of extra spending money from cutting down trees, and deep in the forest lies a couple of chests full of gold, but managing your income and your settlement’s growth is a tricky challenge.

The Nomads for recruiting into your kingdom are found in campsites in the forest. Cut down the trees surrounding them and that campsite disappears. The same goes for the traders hut. And whilst the raiding demons never kill your people, when they do attack them they strip them of their gold, turning them back into nomads. Furthermore, upgrading your settlement costs a pretty penny, as do the walls and archer towers needed to defend your settlement. Controlling your expenditure whilst maintaining a well defended and prosperous settlement proves very difficult.

kingdom-2

With every passing night, the raiding demons become more numerous and introduce variants, putting a strain on your defences, so ensuring you upgrade your defences swiftly is important. However, in order to efficiently and effectively upgrade and manage your settlement you need to understand the layout of the island you’re on, encouraging you to explore from end to end. Here is where Kingdom: New Lands aesthetic really impresses.

The whole game is on a 2D plain, with tremendously detailed and animated pixel art bringing the people of your kingdom and you, upon your trusty steed, to life. What starts off as a set of lush green forests and plains becomes dull and lifeless in autumn, snow covered in winter, before being reborn in spring and back to glory in summer. It’s wonderfully complex and beautiful. Furthermore, the canopy of trees in the forest blocks the light from the sun and forces you to light a torch as you explore. The torches are once again branded at night by characters and buildings. Meanwhile, the action from the middle of the screen is superbly reflected in the flowing water of the bottom third of the screen. It’s a remarkably well-designed and thought-out, showing a level of visual complexity and beauty seldom seen in pixel art. It’s outstanding.

kingdom-3

Despite the stiff challenge, Kingdom: New Lands can easily get its hooks into you, and this is largely because the challenge is fair. The procedural generation is limited to certain features to prevent unwinnable scenarios, and once you crack the mechanics, it’s a matter of planning the most efficient repair of your ship and/or defence of your settlement to claim victory. However, The AI can occasionally make things a little more difficult than they should be. Even when the demons only attack from one side, your forces will split themselves to defend each side of your settlement evenly. Moreover, occasionally a citizen will run off into the wild for no reason at all, only to return a little while later – assuming they aren’t attacked – empty handed and looking foolish. Additionally, archers sometimes won’t mount empty defence towers, hurting your defensive strategy somewhat, and your engineers have a nasty habit of wandering outside your walls and getting ganked by demons.

kingdom-4

Indeed, Kingdom: New Lands is a challenging game that withholds the information you need to survive and prosper, forcing you to explore and experiment to figure it all out. And as frustrating as this can be, it’s also a big part of the fun and works to keep you engaged, and the satisfaction you receive for conquering one of the six islands is rewarding enough to keep you coming back for more time and time again.

Thanks to Xbox and The Fun Pimps and Iron Galaxy for supporting TiX

Mega Man Legacy Collection review

Capcom have a habit of pulling on your nostalgia heart strings, earlier in the year an HD re-release of Resident Evil took us back to Nintendo’s Gamecube days and now an enhanced collection of Mega Man games takes us back to Nintendo’s very first home console, the NES. However, does the Mega Man Legacy Collection trade on nostalgia alone or do these classics still hold up today?

Marvellously Mega Man can fairly comfortably sit amongst todays platforming elite. With the Mega Man series being such a huge influence over the genre, much of it’s legacy survives in modern titles anyway, allowing the Blue Bomber to feel right at home in a new era. Moreover, the recent explosion of indie developed, retro stylised titles also aid in the battle against incongruity.

However, the Mega Man titles deserve the lion’s share of the credit for holding up against contemporaries, these are platformers that have been expertly crafted with outstanding level design and enemy placement, built around challenging the player consistently and fairly throughout their adventures. There’s a reason these titles are considered timeless and beloved. For the uninitiated, the Mega Man formula follows the Blue Bomber on a side-scrolling platforming and combat adventure culminating in boss fights against fellow robots. Each stage can be attempted in any order, and once you defeat that stage’s particular robot master you gain their weapon.

Mega Man Legacy 1

The Mega Man Legacy Collection includes the first six Mega Man titles, all of which are greatly admired and remembered. Here they return in all their original glory, despite a subtle crispness added to the sprites these are precisely the same games that shipped all those years ago. This includes bugs, instances of slow-down, screen transitions and general oddities. The collection is running on a new engine that houses the original code completely intact and unaltered, a move that for lesser games would prove risky, potentially alienating new comers and disappointing returning veterans blinded by nostalgia, but with Mega Man’s timelessness this simply reinforces their quality.

However, the new engines does add some new tricks better suited to modern players. With the press of a button a menu screen appears allowing you to remap the controller, switch between widescreen and the original aspect ratio, as well as add CRT filters to really emulate the games’ original forms. However, the key addition is the ability to save anywhere and reload from that point. Each title offers up a stiff challenge that takes practise and patients to master, the ability to save and reload rather than lose precious lives and continues is a wonderful addition as well as a relief.

Mega Man Legacy 2

Additionally each title has a collection of concept art you can peruse, as well as a juke box of all the iconic chip-tunes from the series; it’s a real celebration of the Mega Man brand. Leaderboards and replays are also present, allowing you to compete against friends and foes for best completion times, as well as witness the playthrough themselves via the replay feature. Finally, a comprehensive set of challenges are also available that pit you against a timer and/or a finite set of lives as you work your way through different levels from each of the games strung together under a theme. It’s overflowing with content.

Indeed this collection is a testament to Mega Man. The quality of the level design, the platforming and combat, the catchy chip-tunes and the charming 8bit visuals, alongside the title’s bugs, glitches and oddities all perfectly preserved, make this a collection any fan must own. New comers are in for a stiff challenge but also a fascinating look at a bygone era of gaming that set the scene for many of today’s greats. Certainly they’ll be some put off by the difficulty, and some may question the reasoning behind keeping elements such as the slow-down when things get hectic, but it’s precisely these things that make Mega Man the experience that it is, Capcom clearly respect the original games and their fan base, resulting a wonderful collection of superb platformers.

Thanks to Xbox and Capcom for their support 

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