Tag Archives: 3D Platformer

Super Lucky’s Tale review

A lot is asked of modern 3D platformers, largely because the giants of the genre have perfected so many of the mechanics of these terrific adventure games. Bright and welcoming visuals and audio, intuitive and clever level design, likeable characters, tight and responsive controls, and a 3D camera that’s quick and easy to manoeuvre yourself but dynamic enough to follow you and twist and turn at the right moments. Super Lucky’s Tale only really gets some of these elements right, but despite the odd blunder with those it struggles with, it’s still an excellent 3D platformer.

You take control of an adorable fox, on a quest to defeat a family of fiendish felines as they mean to take control of an all-powerful book and take over the world. It provides enough of a narrative drive to push the experience forwards but it certainly lacks the chops to enthral you. Fortunately, it can take a back seat, offering the occasional opportunity for a gag from one of the cats or a tip from your sister in regards to mechanics. It’s the joy of platforming and collecting that truly keeps you coming back.

However, the joy of the platforming is frequently threatened by the aforementioned blunders with the mechanics. It can occasionally feel a little sluggish moving Lucky around, particularly when jumping. Additionally, the camera isn’t free moving and turns in fixed degrees. This can make some areas a little tricky to see and manoeuvre within. Fortunately, the areas you’re exploring are on the small side. Indeed, Super Lucky’s Tale provides themed hub worlds, with doors leading to small self-contained levels. It’s a smart design that helps mark your progress and makes the camera control less frustrating. Moreover, levels take on one of two forms: a 3D environment to explore or a 2D level to scroll through. There’s also variety beyond that, with levels offering different mini-quests, some triggered by denizens of each level and some automatic, such as fetching objects for characters or auto scrolling levels forcing you to react accordingly. It’s pleasantly varied.

We also encountered some performance issues when running on an Xbox One S. Switching to the Xbox One X, however, cleared that issue up completely and granted jaw droopingly crisp visuals to boot. This, however, did introduce a more novel problem: a sense of overwhelming. Super Lucky’s Tale is utterly crammed full of objects, flora and fauna, all beautifully animated and sporting vibrant colours. It makes each frame remarkably busy, offering such a huge array of things you can interact with it can be a bit too much to comprehend. Largely, these are in fact just decoration or destroyable objects hiding trinkets, the rest is superfluous but gorgeous, and a plausible reason for the frame rate issues on the older Xbox hardware. You do eventually get used to it, and despite it being initially overwhelming it’s a marvellous reaction to have to a game’s visual design.

At the core of the experience is collecting four-leafed clovers from each level, unlocking boss fights and defeating the gang of cats. Each level challenges you to find four clovers, each requiring different criteria to be completed. It’s a little on the obtuse side, initially, offering little clue as to how precisely to unlock each clover, but some trial and error soon fixes that. Even the controls are a bit of a mystery at first, with some of Lucky’s moves not explained at all. Indeed, Super Lucky’s Tale fails to fully explain its mechanics and world to you and it can be a little frustrating as you figure it all out on your own, but once it does all click, there’s no denying how much fun the experience is.

The collectathon compulsion is strong here, and completionists will find each missed clover tormenting. Moreover, the boss fights are locked behind collecting a certain number of clovers, pretty high amounts in fact, providing plenty of encouragement to replay levels and conquer their challenges. It makes what is essentially quite a short adventure a much longer one, but it doesn’t fall into the trap of padding so much as it feels like an experience designed around thorough, systematic level completion. It’s a design that forces a more linear progression than what’s typically found in the genre, which helps greatly with your quest to indeed complete the adventure one hundred percent. It’s a design quirk that won’t work for everyone, but for those looking for a 3D platformer with a stricter structure, it’s ideal.

Thanks to Xbox and Playful for supporting TiX

FreezeME review

FreezeME is very good at tugging on those nostalgia heart strings. Indeed, this 3D platformer looks and feels like the classic N64 platformers of yore. However, some of the nostalgia comes from its lack of polish, and the constant battle between its flaws and its strengths threatens to undo the fun.

You play as R, a young girl with a magic camera capable of freezing objects and enemies. Your dog M has been dog-napped by the evil Fat the Cat, who has a dream of a dog-free world. It’s up to you to adventure through multiple magical worlds, defeating bosses and overcoming all manner of platforming challenges, to acquire magic cubes before finally facing off against Fat the Cat.

It’s a fairly original but uninspired story, and one that proves little more than a flimsy framing device to give you an excuse to explore multiple locations through 3D platforming. However, FreezeME’s originality ends there, from there on out it’s almost a clone of Super Mario 64.

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From the protagonist’s moveset and animations, to the level design and sound effects, every inch of FreezeME is in homage to Super Mario 64. And it’s unashamed of this, with graffiti occasionally hinting at the Nintendo mascot’s disapproval at such blatant copying. This does however, mean that behind the bright, saturated colours, plinky plonky music, amusing pig NPCs and simple monster enemies, is the potential for a well-built 3D platformer, and indeed FreezeME is well-built.

Each location is full to the brim with things to see and do, with multiple objectives for each location dished out to facilitate your collection of magic cubes – along with short cut scenes pointing you in the right direction after each one. It’s cleverly and meticulously designed to provide a lot of distracting and fun platforming amongst the primary challenge of securing these cubes.

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Floating platforms that require some precision and well timed jumps to conquer, as well as moving platforms that your freeze ability allows you to traverse, provide some casual jumping puzzles that are challenging enough to engage your grey matter without becoming too frustrating. Meanwhile, the pig citizens of the world have some objectives for you, such as racing through checkpoints, fetching items, or talking to other pigs. There’s plenty to do in each location and it’s fun to tackle them.

However, FreezeME is plagued by the same issues that the early 3D platformers suffered. The camera likes to fight, which hurts your accuracy when moving around and platforming. Additionally, R’s movement isn’t the most responsive, further hurting precision. Largely these issues can be overcome with some patience but the same can’t be said for the following. The detection boxes around platforms and objects is a little hit or miss, meaning sometimes you’ll fall through, fail to grab and pull yourself up, or get temporarily stuck. Furthermore, an on-screen text manual is your only tutorial and it takes some trial and error to figure it all out.

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One of the few original ideas here, the magic camera for freezing things, is unfortunately underutilised. Meanwhile, the boss fights for each world are boring, unimaginative and easy, with many of them only featuring small variations on the same design. Certainly FreezeME’s strengths lie in its complex and intriguing level design, and that is a joy to explore, when the mechanics work as intended.

Indeed, FreezeME’s mimicry of Super Mario 64 is a bit on the nose, but it does at least share that title’s impressive level design and sense of wonder. The rest of the pack is a little inconsistent, and that can make what would otherwise be an enjoyable platformer feel a little too loose and under baked. However, this genre is a rare sight these days and FreezeME is a good attempt to bringing it back.

Thanks to Xbox and Rainy Night Creations for supporting TiX

Yasai Ninja review

Yasai ninja is abysmal. The slightest sliver of adequate variety and aesthetics is completely undone by a mass of poor level design, feckless combat, atrocious checkpoints, a combative camera, noticeable slowdown and rushed storytelling. It reeks of bad design and insufficient play-testing, leading to infuriating situations where the mechanics and gameplay are at such odds that’s it’s barely playable at all.

There’s was certainly some promise initially. You play as either a samurai spring onion or a ninja broccoli, fighting against a vegetable army largely consisting of cucumbers but with the odd squad of chilli peepers and spring onions filling the ranks. Meanwhile, the odd boss battle breaks out between more vegetables, such as a giant cabbage. It’s a quirky setting brought to life by cell shading, sharp, defined edges, and a comic book framing device complete with white border surrounding the play-area and carving out speech bubbles.

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Unfortunately this promise is shattered quickly. The opening cutscene is delivered in Japanese with subtitles but the subtitles are coloured white over a white or lightly coloured background, making them largely unreadable. Once you do take control of the pair of protagonists things get progressively worse.

As the spring onion samurai there’s a slight delay in swinging your katana, and after performing up to three swipes an additional delay before you can perform another combo, leaving you wide open at the beginning and end of your attacking animation. The combat is also horrendously rigid, tying you into very specific combos and punishing you for deviation with the aforementioned animation delays. It all makes for a slow, unresponsive system that is completely devoid of skill and nuance. The ninja broccoli has a slightly faster attack but suffers the same issues overall, and despite additional moves and combos added as you progress, the rigidity remains and the new move sets barely compensate for the increased enemy numbers and strength.

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This, of course, leads to an issue with difficulty, making some fights unfair if you haven’t unlocked a new combo or if your companion is nowhere to be seen. Fortunately, the friendly AI is aggressive enough to, with highly efficiency, fight by your side, an unusual occurrence in cooperative experiences that deserves some praise. However, with your companion so often getting caught on scenery or simply lost in the wilderness, you have to keep a vigilant eye on them and any upcoming foes to ensure you have backup.

Bringing another player into the fold helps with this, is also means you don’t have to switch between characters to perform their specific abilities to solve the simple puzzles that punctuate the combat. However, the platforming is sure to frustrate regardless of whether a friend join your adventure or not.

Water, lava, spikes and bottomless drops are strewn across each of the ten levels, each promising death should you fall into them. Death means respawning at a checkpoint, but with checkpoints largely undisclosed, where precisely this will be can be a mystery. Worse still the checkpoints are often significant distances apart. It’s utterly infuriating to complete a difficult platforming section only to end up in a large battle, get chopped up and respawn back before the platforming section. Moreover, the platforming requires some precision, which is a nightmare to achieve when the camera fights you for control.

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The camera acts as a physical object within the game world, bumping into the terrain and restricting its movement because of it. Furthermore, it barely tilts enough to see the ground, making jumping sections a trail and error challenge rather than a spatial awareness one. This also proves troublesome in combat. No lock-on mechanic is available so focusing the camera on your attackers is a chore, and with boss fights it can lead to plenty of unfair deaths.

At least then the game is only a few hours long. Despite frequent deaths and awful combat, perseverance can get you through to the end in a mere three hours. Collectable scrolls are littered around each level if you’re insane enough to want to explore the title further and find them, as well as some achievement challenges that ask you to perform specific feats within certain levels, but replayability is crippled by how terrible the overall experience is.

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Yasai Ninja does provide some mild variety as your progress. The odd level becomes a 2D perspective, side-scrolling platformer, but the platforming feats expected of you can be fairly extreme in terms of making huge leaps at precisely the right time. Worse still the timings on some of the moving platforms occasionally load in wrong and are therefore impossible to complete. Falling to your death resets them on these occasions but just like the standard 3D levels checkpoints are rare, but at least this time they’re made obvious with particle effects.

Yasai Ninja is terrible. The platforming and combat is amateurish and the camera is as big of a threat as the enemies. Even the ending feels rushed, strongly hinting at a sequel and making the game feel a bit unfinished. How it passed any measure of quality control is a true mystery. The pacing is fast, at least, and there’s a welcome attempt at variety with the 2D side-scrolling levels, meanwhile, the friendly AI shows great promise when in combat, but these are minor victories on a battlefield misery.

Thanks to Xbox and Recotechnology for their support 

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