Tag Archives: Action Platformer

Review

Nostalgia can be an extremely powerful tool for a developer if they can master its nuances, and WayForward has done just that with Shantae and the Pirates Curse. The overall design and mechanics are instantly reminiscent of those SNES golden age titles, that for many of us shaped our childhood.

Although this is my first experience of the Shantae universe, a bit of searching reveals that this is just the latest in quite a long line of titles stretching back to the Gameboy Colour following the adventure of Shantae and friends.

You play as Shantae, a half-genie, who having lost her powers following the machinations of one of her primary foes, the buccaneer Risky Boots, finds Scuttle Town and Sequin Land are at risk again from the Undead Pirate Master. Having been entombed for countless years by genies, Shantae’s loss of her power has weakened the magic holding him in place allowing him to control his denizens in their quest to break the barrier holding him in place and set him free one more.

Shantae must team up with her former adversary Risky Boots, to ensure that the Pirate Master never returns by navigating the islands of Sequin Land to uncover the Den’s of Evil and defeat the minions guarding these sites for their master.

Primarily an action platformer, each of the levels has, in the way Metroid and Castlevania perfected, hidden areas and chambers that can only be accessed once your character develops new skills or unlocks new weapons such as the pirates pistol which allows you to shoot distant switches. With each area containing additional collectables and Risky’s rogue crew of Tinkerbats. These creatures have been mutated by the dark magic of the Pirate Master and once defeated allows you to harvest this foul magic to prevent its use.

Shantae1SATPC also contains numerous RPG Lite elements to give it a bit more depth. Throughout the world, you can collect Heart Squids, once four have been collected can be taken to the “SquidSmith” who smashes them down and provides you with an additional heart to your original three heart health bar. Each area also contains small side missions and quests that can be undertaken to increase your power to allow you to better fight the denizens of the Pirate Master.

Along the way, you will also collect coins, which can be used at the store to purchase a multitude of items and upgrades, from simple food and health potions, all the way up to new attacks and defensive buffs.

The core of the game is a perfect balance of these gameplay elements, with pixel perfect platforming challenging you with precision jumps, disappearing and moving platforms, bottomless pits and everybody’s favourite spike traps. Thankfully, SATPC is not as punishing as a lot of titles, with each enemy or trap hit taking only a quarter of a heart off you, allowing you initially to take a fair amount of punishment before you have to restart. Even falling into a bottomless pit will only reset you to the last screen with a quarter removed, so this title is extremely forgiving to players of all skill levels.

Graphically, SATPC is a perfect example of old school. The 16-bit style really suits the title, and this is further complemented by the dialogue, with its manga-esque character overlays and near perfect humour giving it a charming aesthetic.

RiskyBootsEverything about the game is near perfect, with my singular gripe being as much about me as it is about the game limitation itself. The flaw in SATPC’s armour is the save system. Throughout the world are a series of Save Guy’s, both in Scuttle Town where your adventure begins and also camping within each of the dungeons you must conquer, particularly in the room before a boss fight. With the game pushing you to move directly on to the next island, you can find yourself facing off against powerful enemies that you do not yet know how to defeat, and this can end up with you being sent back to once again topple the boss of the previous dungeon in order to progress.

This aside, Shantae and the Pirates Curse is a superb title offering the current generation of gamers the chance to experience the old school mechanics that made the Super NES such a platform leader.

Thanks to Xbox for supporting TiX

Amazing Princess Sarah review

Amazing Princess Sarah

Amazing Princess Sarah is a call back to the games of my childhood, its 8 bit style and game design triggering memories of Castlevania, Megaman and Mario that have long remained dormant. Its simple story focuses on your father, the King, who while entertaining what appears to be the majority of enemy types you will face within the game in his throne room, is enthralled by a succubus called Lilith and you are whisked away by a demon to prevent you from interfering. As such, you must battle your way through a myriad of castles in order to rescue your father.

Combat and gameplay as a whole takes a lot of cues from these 8 bit classics; enemy attacks have a great deal of variety, environmental items contain health, and successful enemy hits cause a knockback effect, yet there are some innovations here worthy of note.

Aside from your standard sword attack, which can be used to dispose of the majority of enemies, you can also utilise items from the environment and even the enemies’ defeated corpses themselves in your battle against the minions of Lilith. Each of these corpses have differing properties; bats can be thrown long distances, ghosts travel across the screen in a straight line, elementals cast out a fire attack that sweeps across the platforms it hits, and archers disperse a volley of arrows over a short distance. When the screen becomes heavy with enemies, all of whom are attacking and moving in their own way, utilising these special attacks becomes all the more strategic.

Amazing Princess Sarah1

Additionally, APS has a light smattering of RPG elements, with each enemy defeated awarding experience and additional hit points being gained as you level up. This experience is carried even if you die, giving the levels a rogue-like quality with your ever-increasing health pool allowing you to traverse further between checkpoints purely through your ability to take more punishment following each death.

Each Castle is a series of checkpoints, with a lot of platforming tropes contained within; disappearing platforms, moving platforms, bottomless pits, and typically involves a bit of exploring, switch activation and backtracking in order to move on to the next checkpoint. That said, most of the maps are pretty linear and its difficult to actually get lost within the level and the checkpoints are numerous enough that frustration over repeated deaths never really has the chance to kick in.

At the end of each castle you must face a boss battle, and each of these bosses have their own unique attack patterns that you must learn in order to overcome them.  These bosses look somewhat out of place with the overall aesthetic as they appear drastically different from the 8 bit sprites you encounter throughout, but this does not affect the gameplay or hit detection on these enemies, and once you learn their pattern they can be easily overcome. Most can be done at your leisure, and only once did I encounter a boss where a particular attack could not be avoided, lending an air of urgency to that particular battle.

AmazingPrincessSarahBoss

Once completed, you effectively unlock a new game +, and with seven of these in order to “fully” defeat Lilith, there is plenty of content to get through to actually complete the game. These change the mechanics enough to prevent the game feeling like a retreading of the original levels. A ghost version of yourself chases you throughout the game, enemies resist certain attacks, or a constant bleed effect that forces you to speed run from checkpoint to checkpoint help to refresh the game enough to make it feel different.

The game though, is not perfect. Certain enemy attacks can reach you through solid walls, and combined with the knockback effect, (which also makes you drop any item you are carrying), can cause untold frustration when the screen becomes increasingly crowded. I was also able to trick the game’s physics as well, bouncing miles into the air when chaining enemy head bounces together in a specific way. That said, the phasing attacks and breakable physics are the only two gripes I can level at the game, (if I ignore the pixelated jiggle physics that seem to have been added for no particular reason other than to garner attention).

Amazing Princess Sarah almost lives up to its name with pitch perfect platforming and varied attack mechanics, although its reliance on certain old school mechanics and frustrating bugs hold it back. Those issues aside, this is certainly a game that should be on your radar if you are a fan of action platformers.

Thanks to Xbox and Haruneko for supporting TiX

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Extreme Exorcism Review

logoExtreme Exorcism has a deceptively simple premise. Eliminate the phantasms appearing on the screen, within your 3 allocated lives, to reach a set score and unlock the next arena in which you must eliminate further phantasms: simple, concise, deceptive.

You see, Extreme Exorcism utilises a mechanic which, although similar to certain indie games, is utilised in a new and unique way.

Picking one of four individual pixel based protagonists, you are dropped into the first arena with a poltergeist infected chair. Dotted around the level are pick up zones, where randomly generated weaponry spawns, anything ranging from a sword or a baseball bat up to automatic machine guns, rocket launchers and a special Exorcism ability. From this plethora of destruction you can equip up to three of these items simultaneously.

Despatching the phantom furniture resets the level but now, instead of hunting an armchair apparition, you are instead hunting yourself. While you were battling the first spectre, the game tracked all of your movements and any attacks you conducted. So now you must eradicate with extreme prejudice your earlier embodiment while avoiding any attacks that you previously performed.

battle

With each new ghostly version of yourself recounting each movement and attack that you have performed in your previous attempt, things get complicated as you manoeuvre around multiple incarnations of yourself to hunt down your very last spawn. This is made possible, as the phantasm of your last run is topped with a distinctive crown.

Furthermore, as you may imagine, once you get beyond 10 runs, your screen becomes overwhelmed with ghostly apparitions of your former selves, which is where the Exorcism ability comes into its own.

This unique and infrequent ability not only kills anything that comes within its large radius of attack, but also wipes them clean from history. Position yourself correctly, where you know previous manifestations will pass, and you can reset your enemies back to a handful of paths, or if you are extremely tactical in how you approach each successive attempt it is possible to reset back to a single adversary.

high level

Progression is achieved by racking up a sufficient score to unlock the next level and with 5 levels per stage and 8 stages in the game; you have 40 levels to conquer in total with each successive stage having a more complex layout than the last. If you are like me though, you will continue until all 3 of your lives are lost which will place you higher on the leader boards associated to each stage.

Alongside the Arcade mode, which can be played with up to 4 players local co-op, you also have 50 increasingly difficult challenges, imposing trials that will test every ounce of your ghost hunting skills. Finally there is also a local team deathmatch which pits you against your friends to find out who reigns supreme in their ghost hunting skills.

As you rank higher and higher for each stage, new weapons are unlocked, and while these weapons are typically more powerful, they also tend to have unique and more complicated firing paths which tend to make each successive incarnation more perplexing and fraught with dangers.

Extreme Exorcism is first and foremost a platformer, but Golden Ruby Games have managed to lock in a mechanic that, while simple, is completely addictive and fun.

If you enjoy platform action puzzlers, I cannot recommend this highly enough.

Thanks to Xbox and Golden Ruby Games for supporting TiX

[rprogress value=88 text=”TiX Score 88%”]
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Metrico+ announced for next gen

Metrico+_screenshot

Digital Dreams have announced that METRICO+, its new project and follow up to its successful Vita exclusive title, will be making its way to Xbox One, PC and PS4. Like its predecessor, Metrico+ features unique worlds to explore with distinct challenges, mechanics, looks and sounds; however new worlds and features have been added to accommodate for those that required Vita exclusive mechanics.

The puzzle adventure game Metrico+ features lots of new content and the visuals have been completely revamped for the PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

Metrico+ features original music by Dutch synth hero Palmbomen. The game will be shown for the first time in August this year at Gamescom in the Indie Arena Booth on the consumer show floor.

Metrico+ is due to launch in Q1 2016.