Tag Archives: arcade

Jotun: Valhalla Edition review

Thunder Lotus Games’ first outing began life as a Kickstarter dream, like many indie titles in recent years, and after a successful run on the PC, the title has made its transition to console.

You play as Thora, a Viking warrior maiden who, after dying an inglorious death at sea, is given a chance to ascend and join her ancestors in Valhalla by impressing the gods. In order to do so she must overcome the Jotun inhabiting the many realms in the world.

Each Jotun is protected by a rune gate, and in order to face them in battle you must first collect a series of runes to unlock the seal holding the gate shut. These runes are secreted within areas of the nine realms, and will see you take your trusty battle axe from the roots of the world tree Yggdrasill, where Nidhogg eternally gnaws on its roots, to the forge of Brokkr where the god’s weapons were forged.

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Although the combat is fluid and responsive, it is seldom used outside the fights with the towering Jotun. With each swing of your giant axe being methodical and rhythmic, and ultimately taking considerable time to complete, each attack must be timed perfectly in its execution. It is to its merit that this lack of consistent combat does not in any way detract from the pacing of the game, but actually goes to empathise the engaging story and mythos involved in Thora’s attempt to redeem herself.

To assist in your journey, you can pray at the shrine of one of the many gods you may come across, and they can bestow you with a new skill. These range from simple healing or increased speed, to the ability to create an illusion that will attract all enemies to it before exploding.

Boss fights are impressive affairs, as the Jotun tower over your comparatively tiny character, and have attacks that can devastate your health in a few blows, you must deduce the pattern of attacks in order to fell these behemoths. It’s all a bit nostalgic, reminiscent of the boss fights of yore.

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Jotun has a pretty distinct graphical style, a little bit like a cross between Odin Sphere, Valkyria Chronicles and Shadow of the Colossus, with its beautifully stylised artwork filled with little nuanced references to the Norse mythos pantheon throughout. Coupled with the narrator’s dialogue, with his snippets of facts and tales from the mythos that describes the history of the mythology revealed in either the fore or background, it’s an impressive and unique presentation.

The only negative I can attribute to Jotun, is that once the story has played out you are left with little reason to return to the game, largely given the lack of combat throughout and the reliance upon the lore to pull you through to the end.

Overall, this is a fantastic, enjoyable and polished action game, whose story will quickly suck you in and wont let go.

Thanks to Xbox and Thunder Lotus Games for supporting TiX

Slain: Back from Hell launching on Xbox One in October

Prepare for battle against Flesh Hounds, werewolves and other monstrosities with the upcoming console launch of Slain: Back from Hell, from the collaboration of independent game publisher Digerati Distribution & Marketing and indie game developers Andrew Gilmour & 22nd Century Toys.

Releasing October 5th on Xbox One, Slain will features brutal arcade style combat with bloody, intense platforming gameplay that puts a strategic twist on the classic hack-and-slash games of the 80s and 90s.

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Set in a dark, archaic world, Slain has players take control of a grizzled warrior as they seek to liberate the kingdom from deadly overlords. Using elemental weapons, lethal mana attacks and cunning skill, players will battle and exploit the weaknesses of enemies to either save the doomed land or face being slain themselves.

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A brooding heavy metal soundtrack from former Celtic Frost member Curt Victor Bryant adds to the ferocity and gothic aura of the game, serving to heighten the intensity throughout the myriad battles.

Since launching on PC Slain  has undergone a complete overhaul that has made the game a strong mixture of gory combat, platforming and strategy,

said Nick Alfieri, Director at Digerati.

These changes have earned high praise from the community and soon enough console gamers will get to experience the ultimate metal game.

Overcooked review

It turns out too many chefs doesn’t ruin the broth; Overcooked proves that the more chefs you have the more fun you can have. But can this delightfully deranged arcade cook-a-thon satisfy your hunger or is it a mere snack?

In Overcooked you are tasked with preparing a multitude of dishes for hungry customers. You must dash around a variety of kitchens, collecting ingredients, chopping, cooking, plating, serving and cleaning dishes to the whim of customers with particular cravings, scoring more stars depending on how quickly and accurately you serve up your dishes.

It sounds so simple, and indeed the concept is, but in execution it turns out to be anything but. Organising your cooking method to efficiently create your meals is a unique challenge to overcome, one made more difficult by the absurd kitchens you have to cook in. What starts as ordinary kitchens, where learning their layout is your biggest challenge, soon turns into crazy scenarios, such as two trucks with half the kitchen in each, speeding down a road and only crossable during small windows of alignment. It offers a special brand of insanity that’s wonderfully humourous to play within and equally difficult to overcome.

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It’s a pleasant surprise to see what concoction of kitchen chaos is presented in each level, and achieving the full three stars is a satisfying goal. Moreover, just as you think you’ve seen all kinds of layouts, new challenges are introduced, such as rats that steal ingredients. But even on the most ordinary of kitchens there’s still plenty to keep you occupied. Performing all the aforementioned tasks swiftly and efficiently is made all the more interesting by having to watch for food burning on the stove and fires blazing as a result, requiring a blast from a fire extinguisher to quell it.

On your own you control two chefs, able to switch between them at the press of a button and share out the tasks. But Overcooked is by far the most enjoyable when you have a friend or three join in for some local multiplayer. Organising your group of chefs requires constant communication and quickly leads to a room full of people shouting for vegetables, meat and plates, or screaming about fire amongst panicked hollering as things get hectic. It’s delightfully entertaining. Additionally you can play competitively, which offers a fun but fleeting experience, cooperative play is certainly the better bet.

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On your own however, Overcooked is still a lot of fun. It feels like a very different game, one that’s far less hectic and silly and more of an odd puzzle experience as you try to manage the two chefs so that one isn’t idle for too long.

Unfortunately the multiplayer mayhem is restricted to local play, although it’s certainly well suited to this style, making it hard to fault. It even supports the shared controller method of yore where two players can use each side of a controller. Indeed, as one mistake can send the whole kitchen into disarray and get everybody shouting, local play certainly offers the better experience, although having the option for online would still of been appreciated, and may come in the future.

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Driving your group of chefs in their quest to chaotically create meals is a wonderfully ridiculous story. The Onion King and his dog, Kevin, have summoned you to satiate the appetite of The Ever Peckish, a giant spaghetti monster. The collection of crazy levels acts as your training grounds. It’s a simple, odd and amusing way to set the scene that does a tremendous job of setting the silly tone right from the get-go, along with its cute, comical art style.

Indeed, Overcooked offers a terrifically fast paced, multiplayer focused experience, with an incredible variety of levels with additional challenges beyond the primary mechanics, such as icy surfaces you can slip on or ghosts moving things. Meanwhile, a well thought-out single player component keeps things entertaining when you don’t have a room full of friends to cook with.

Thanks to Xbox and Ghost Town Games and Team17 for supporting TiX

Hyperdrive Massacre review

Hyperdrive Massacre offers a pick-up and play local multiplayer experience that’s ideal for relaxed fun with friends, yet has enough depth to entice you into mastering its mechanics for more competitive play. As such it’s easy to recommend if you’re in the mood for some 80s style multiplayer, although the restriction to local play is a slight barrier.

After choosing from a rooster of space cars, you and up to three others – AI or human – compete across a multitude of modes either individually or as two teams. Your space car can boost forward and is then at the mercy of inertia, turning your car around and boosting is your only means of manoeuvring, albeit for firing your weapon which also acts as a force on your car, neatly slowing you down if you’re gliding along at speed, or pushing you backwards if you’re stationary. Destroying enemy cars within the arena is usually your goal.

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It’s a very simple and elegant top-down, competitive, arcade shooter; you each begin in a corner and chase each other around firing your front facing energy weapon and laying mines behind you. The inertia movement means control is loose, often causing hilarious situations where you’re gliding aimlessly around each other desperately firing and trying to score a kill. Other times you’ll careen straight into a mine someone thoughtfully placed, or have it attract to you like a gravitational pull as you spin around trying to lose it, or better yet guide it with your front facing shield to hit another player.

Your shield also absorbs incoming fire but prevents you from firing when activated, so trying to control your intractable movement, dodging mines and using your shield whilst firing at equally out of control enemies, can all get a bit much, leading to hilarious mistakes and frantic fun. Furthermore, power-ups randomly appear in the arena granting you different weapons, such as a scatter shot and powerful beam. Meanwhile, in true retro style, if you go off the edge of the screen you re-appear the other side; this goes from projectiles as well, adding a further concern to be wary of. It’s blast to play, especially with friends.

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Whilst all modes encourage you to gleefully destroy each other, there’s some nice variety to them. One mode recreates the classic game Pong, restricting you and your team mate to one side of the arena as you try to push a puck towards each other’s edge. Meanwhile a football facsimile plays precisely how you’d imagine it would, and a frantic hunt to collect numbers that appear on-screen makes for another compelling competition beyond simple deathmatch. However, even with some cars and arenas to unlock its longevity is limited.

Hyperdrive Massacre is fun, whether you’re playing against AI or friends, but runs out of tricks pretty quickly. As a party game for local multiplayer is great fun, and learning to master the simple mechanics can make for some pretty spectacular matches between two equally competent players, but there’s isn’t enough on offer otherwise.

Thanks to Xbox and 34BigThings for their support

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Rebel Galaxy review

Rebel Galaxy has a lot of personality. There’s character behind its art style; an aesthetic that’s visually pleasing, impressive, vibrant, and not at all based on reality. And indeed it’s this character that’s present throughout this open-world space exploration title that makes it so engaging and unique, allowing it to stand toe to toe with the likes of Elite Dangerous because it offers something different within the same space.

Rebel Galaxy is an arcade version of the open-world space genre. You start with a basic ship and set out doing practically whatever you want: mining, pirating, mercenary work, trading, whatever takes your fancy. But in addition to this open-world universe you can explore and exploit, is a story that sees you hunt down a lost relative before being hunted down yourself for the artefact you harbour. Switching between the story and the many choices of side-professions on offer gives you an experience that’s never dull or static, with plenty to do and intriguing things to discover.

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It’s a terrific mix of linear storytelling and open-world choices that allows you to play at your own pace. Certain mechanics are kept back until you progress further in the story, so eventually you have to progress within it, but you can typically do a story mission or two and then return to your altruistic or nefarious space business.

Whatever you decide to do you’ll be doing it within a brightly coloured and vibrant version of space. Nebulas are bountiful, and stars and planets glow a myriad of different colours; there’s hardly any black to be seen and it’s a wondrous visual treat. Meanwhile, as you hail fellow pilots or converse with aliens and humans alike in bars on space stations, you’ll witness exaggerated and unique individuals with a similar aesthetic to Star Craft that’s sure to impress and occasionally put a smile on your face as you accept jobs from them, make trades, or threaten to steal their entire cargo.

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Whether you’re planning on peaceful trading or aggressive pirating you’ll inevitable have to fight off the odd reprobate, and combat is a delightful dance in the stars. Rebel Galaxy’s combat is naval based, with heavy broadside weapons and lighter point-defence turrets elsewhere. You’ll constantly need to manoeuvre to line up shots and dodge incoming fire and it’s a thrilling and entertaining experience. Larger ships move more slowly and pack a heavy punch forcing you to line up your broadside shots as accurately as possible to do as much damage as you can or even to target specific systems. Meanwhile shields will need tearing down, a perfect job for your smaller turrets, when you’re not using them with a lock-on reticule to shoot down the smaller crafts wiping through the wild black. And finally, a salvo of missiles can turn the tide of most battles, unless smart use of the limited deflector shield nullifies their damage. It’s spectacularly involved and action packed yet supremely easy to perform.

Dodging incoming fire and manoeuvring to line up shots is only half the challenge, however, often you’re surrounded by enemies and are better off fleeing or trying to separate the smaller ships from the large ones so you can pick them off more easily. Furthermore asteroid belts are numerous and popular battlegrounds, challenging you to dodge crashing into them as you fight. Using them as cover is particularly effective, and forcing enemies to engage you within these cluttered fields can often result in them bumping into a few. Wonderfully these asteroids can be destroyed as well, making the battlefield dynamic and interesting.

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Space, however, is a big place, and your warp drive and sub-light engines, even when upgraded to ridiculous speeds, still must contend with large expanses of space to fly through. It’s how it’s supposed to be up there amongst the stars, but the travel time can put the brakes on the pacing a little too hard. Rebel Galaxy is otherwise exceptionally fun and varied. Missions may appear similar to each other on the surface but once you go about completing them they often take a few twists and turns. Moreover, even a simple combat engagement can play out in a myriad of different ways. Add to this a brilliant Southern rock soundtrack and your space cowboy, Firefly fantasies can be realised with Rebel Galaxy.

Thanks to Xbox and Double Damage Games Inc. for their support

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Clash review

Clash provides an enjoyable arena-based combat scenario for up to four players but is severely limited by its content and local multiplayer focus. Certainly Clash can boast an attractive and charming aesthetic but in the end it’s not nearly enough to hold on to a player-base.

Clash has 2-4 players duke it out in a simple, fast-paced arena battle across four maps, each with their own gamemode. Team Deathmatch splits players between two teams as each run, jump, and dash their way around an appropriately sized map, meaning to kill opponents for points. Deathmatch is much the same but with an all-against-all twist. Meanwhile, King of the Hill has two teams competing for points earned from standing within a sphere that randomly appears around the level, and Crystal Hunt spits out gems from fallen players you need to collect, with the first team to 20 being the victor. It’s an unremarkable and predictable arena combat experience but one that proves highly enjoyable.

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Titles like Clash tap in to the competitive spirit wonderfully, encouraging frequent replay as you and your friends explore victory and defeat over each other’s slain characters. It’s compelling stuff that works splendidly within a party setting. Clash’s beautifully rendered backgrounds, immersive soundtrack, and quirky, unique characters adds an element of charm that can further pull you in, and it’s easy to learn, smooth, lightning fast combat is a joy to experience. However, you can only experience it locally.

Clash is restricted to local play only, furthermore, there are no AI opponents you can call upon. Instead Clash requires a minimum of two players to even begin a match. Moreover, only four maps are present, each locked to a specific gamemode, and whilst they offer a handful of secrets and are well designed arenas that complement their respective modes, it’s still a criminally limited amount of content.

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In very little time at all you experience everything Clash has to offer, and whilst playing with friends locally unlocks the fun, it’s short lived. The learning curve is almost non-existent, the controls and mechanics are so simple you can master them within minutes. After playing a session this can’t help but leave you wanting. There’s no real skill involved. The level layout is also easy to read, allowing you to shift quickly across it to square off against your target, then all it takes is an unblocked dash to wipe them out. The block – a shield that lasts a few seconds – offers reprieve from death for a moment and a limited window for counter attack or fleeing, but despite a slight cooldown for its use it fails to provide meaningful tactics or strategy to the combat.

Clash looks beautiful and has a unique charm to its character design that’s hard not to enjoy, but ultimately it lacks substance. It’s in dire need of more maps, and perhaps that would be enough to raise it to average; greatness, however, is a target far beyond its reach. The mechanics and maps lack tactical depth, a lack of AI opponents and/or a campaign doesn’t cater to solo players looking for fun or practice, and a lack of online play restricts it to a niche market where there are better alternatives already.

Thanks to Xbox and FennecFox Entertainment for their support 

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Tachyon Project review

Tachyon Project’s familiar twin-stick shooting action incorporates a few new tricks to make the genre feel little fresher, but a few missteps take its toll to make the fun dwindle quickly.

Indeed, Tachyon Project’s first impression is promising. Partly animated cartoon sequences present a story of two programmers developing a self-learning hacking program that they then unleash on the internet. However, the pair are soon apprehended leaving their new program alone and searching for answers. It’s an intriguing setup of a partially aware AI searching for its ‘parents’, giving you more drive and agency to keep you playing. However, the story isn’t as captivating as if first seems, falling on clichés. It’s addition is a great idea, especially for a genre that so rarely has a story to tell, but it won’t be what keeps you playing.

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High score chasing is the main attraction, which is true for many in the genre. Playing as the AI you’ll dart around a limited space shooting a variety of different programs as they spawn and try to destroy you. Interestingly you’re not destroyed after being hit by an enemy, instead the limited time you have to complete a level is drained. It’s a terrific new approach to health that makes the game less punishing and more original. Additionally, time is gained by destroying foes. However, poor spawn points for enemy programs threatens to undo the clever health system, with enemies spawning anywhere within the play-area as opposed to specific points along the edges as in many of its ilk.

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However, there’s some neat innovation present that the genre could do with more of. A stealth mechanic means enemies that are searching for you only move towards the last location you fired your weapons from, allowing for some tactical play. It’s a smart and thematically appropriate ability that shows a lot of thought and consistency with the overall narrative. Additionally, levels are split by checkpoints which, when you die, you can reload from, reducing the difficulty to manageable bite-sized chucks. Finally, you can customise your weapon’s load-out to suit your style of play. It’s a similar idea to the recently released Ultratron, and it’s great to see this kind of innovation help to increase accessibility.

However, a few additional flaws creep in and upset the balance. The soundtrack’s tempo is all over the place and rarely syncs up with the on-screen action. There are also some odd breaks in the flow and tempo of play when groups of enemies are destroyed, leaving you darting around the play-area with nothing to shoot or do, losing precious time. Finally, the story comes to a close too swiftly and leaves score hunting as the only option for longevity.

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Tachyon Projects has some great ideas that are implemented splendidly, but multiple flaws that have significant enough impact on the overall game to undo the good ruin a lot of the fun. It’s certainly on the right track for producing a refreshing experience for the genre, but it’s not quite there yet. What’s left is a mostly fun, occasionally frustrating, and overall short, neon fuelled twin-stick shooter with better alternatives already on the market.

Thanks to Xbox and Eclipse Games for their support 

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SVdBKdGFjE

Xbox One’s Arcade Titles Have 1000 Gamerscore

It was hinted when the Halo: Spartan Assault achievements were revealed that Arcade titles on the Xbox One  could have 1000 Gamerscore when the One launches next Friday. After much speculating, this comment was released by a Microsoft employee. “On Xbox One games are games. All games follow the same policies for achievements and Gamerscore,”. That’s something that I couldn’t agree more with.

What this means is that downloadable launch titles such as Killer Instinct, PowerStar Golf, LocoCycle, Crimson Dragon and all future arcade titles, or I guess I should call them downloadable games now, will also have the 1000 Gamerscore benchmark.

Happy Hunting, fellow score-whores.

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Final Exam Review

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Final Exam is a 2D/3D (2.5D?) side-scrolling beat ‘em up much like the classic Streets of Rage developed by Mighty Rocket Studio. I don’t really have much to say about this release. It’s kind of barebones. I mean, reviews are usually supposed to be a cavalcade of humorous anecdotes about the writer’s experience, but my experience with this game was far from noteworthy. It wasn’t even bad, I happen to think that the game is fun. It’s just not very memorable or all that interesting.

Final exam is a game with very little plot. It starts with four friends on their way to their old high-school’s alumni ball, when all of a sudden *BLAMMO*, their car crashes when they avoid the silhouette of a giant beast. The game quickly throws you into a tutorial where you learn to battle aliens with a plank of wood, a gun, and some grenades. The plot is presented in true comic-book style. As you can see, the story isn’t very engaging. Nor is it meant to be. The game is simply supposed to be a fun romp you can play with your friends.

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The combat in the game is quite well done, linear as it may be. Mashing X will initiate 3 hit combos, holding up and X will launch aliens in the air for bigger combos a la Devil May Cry, and holding down and X will smash them into the floor. There are guns in the game, you aim with the right stick and press the right trigger to fire. This is how aiming works in all side-scrollers like Serious Sam Double D XXL and Contra. This is of course before you consider upgrades that are unlockable in the game.

The characters have the same four stats. The stats are HP, Grenade Damage, Melee Damage, and Firearm Damage. Again, much like Streets of Rage, each character has different statistics for each one. Three of the characters each have a defining statistic that makes them prolific in one area, this leaves only one character being completely well-rounded. You can increase these stats by finding collectibles hidden around the levels. This means that playing for the stats is eventually useless, as you can max out each character.

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The combat in the game is quite well done, linear as it may be. Mashing X will initiate 3 hit combos, holding up and X will launch aliens in the air for bigger combos a la Devil May Cry, and holding down and X will smash them into the floor. There are guns in the game, you aim with the right stick and press the right trigger to fire. This is how aiming works in all side-scrollers like Serious Sam Double D XXL and Contra. This is of course before you consider upgrades that are unlockable in the game.

The characters have the same four stats. The stats are HP, Grenade Damage, Melee Damage, and Firearm Damage. Again, much like Streets of Rage, each character has different statistics for each one. Three of the characters each have a defining statistic that makes them prolific in one area, this leaves only one character being completely well-rounded. You can increase these stats by finding collectibles hidden around the levels. This means that playing for the stats is eventually useless, as you can max out each character.

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The skill tree is upgraded by using SP. You earn one SP by clearing a level. For the third time, very much like Streets of Rage, each character has a special move that deals great damage. You use the SP you unlock to upgrade these abilities. You can unlock other abilities such as air-dodges and better air-combos.

The levels are massive and have different tiers. The design is a lot like Castlevania, nowhere near as complicated, mind. Just like Castlevania in the way that you can move up or down different planes of the level. They throw a catch-22 into the game mechanics. You earn more CP by exploring the level and finding more pickups. However, you lose CP for taking too long on a mission. This is a mechanic that I assume is supposed to make the game replayable. Each level has different objectives to complete, such as finding a pickup or escorting missions. These aren’t intrusive or boring or anything, but I don’t really feel that they add anything to the game whatsoever.

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The game has online and local co-op. These aren’t different modes, just the campaign with your friends thrown in. I only had the opportunity to do this once for a half hour or so, but I could feel that this was how the game was supposed to be played. A half hour in co-op and I had ten times more fun than I did playing any other part of the game.  I call it co-op, but it is definitely more of a competitive game. The person with the most points at the end of each round is rewarded much more than anyone else. You also cannot see your friends’ health bars. It’s a shame that I didn’t get to play this part of the game as much before writing this review. As once again, this is what the game was made for.screenlg5

To sum up, Final Exam was a good little bit of fun. It’s not excellent by any stretch of the imagination, but it is certainly adequate. The comic-book style has been done before, but there’s a reason for that. It works, fantastically. Level design is multi-tiered but there’s really nothing to that whatsoever. It seems to be in for the sake of being in. Combat is simple but very well-done, and the game will take you a good 5-8 hours to finish. Do not buy this game if you don’t think you’ll get a chance to play the online cooperative mode, as that alone is where all the fun is.

Final Exam is a game that tries to fool you into thinking it’s more than it is. It’s a bog standard side-scrolling beat ‘em up with the illusion of mass exploration and created combos. It’s like they do these extra things, but with the bare minimum. It’s isn’t bad by any stretch of the animation, it can definitely be a spot of fun. But it most definitely isn’t all that great. For fun with friends, turn to Final Exam. If you’re an introvert, just lie down and cry instead.

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Sanctum 2 Review

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When Sanctum was released on Steam in 2011, it was met with mostly positive reviews. A sequel seemed most likely. So of course, unsurprisingly, in 2012 a sequel was announced for Xbox LIVE. Fast forward a year and here is Sanctum 2. Sanctum 2 is a first-person, tower defense shooter developed by Coffee Stain Studios, who are responsible for the predecessor. The Xbox 360 is a bit oversaturated with tower defense. It’s a long list comprised of Grid Defense, Trenched, Orcs Must Die, and South Park: Let’s Go Tower Defense Play, and many others. All of which are great games in their own right. Jumping into a niche genre doesn’t automatically make it a worthwhile, game however. Plain and simple, regardless of genre, it’s either a good or bad game. Read on to find out whether it’s worth your time or not.

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So what with a bevy of other tower defense games you can choose from, you might find yourself asking just why Sanctum 2 would be worth buying over any of the others. Well Sanctum 2 is also a first person shooter, and a pretty good one at that. It plays just as smoothly as the rest of the AAA titles that you might be into. Of all the shooters, it’s most reminiscent of Halo. The art style and the enemies bear a striking resemblance to the weird little creatures of the Halo universe. Like most shooters, your character is limited to a two-weapon loadout. You will unlock more as you progress through the 20 levels of the game. Most of the weapons are futuristic phaser type guns, as you might expect. All the weapons have a more explosive secondary fire option and will reload themselves if you switch to your other weapon. The enemies come at you in waves, of course and after each wave, you have the opportunity to collect resources. That’s where the tower defense comes in.

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Coffee Stain Studios hit the nail on the head with the gun-play, but what about the tower defense? Well it’s not overly innovative or fresh. But it works just like any other tower defense games. You require resources to build defensive barricades and automated sentry guns. You’ll find yourself making tough decisions as to whether you should upgrade your sentry gun, add another gun, or carry on building barricades. Mazing is certainly key as it makes your enemies take longer to get to you. But that’s where you make the strategic decisions on whether defense is the best offense, or whether going all-out John Rambo with the ammunition is the best offense. I opted for a bit of both, and it seems to work just fine. Those that are more in tune with tower defense may like to get more tactical with it, which can definitely be done. Mazing enemies into a thin tunnel is an excellent way to bottleneck the hordes and take them down with the utmost efficiency. So the core aspect of the game is solid, and works extremely well. Better than the few other tower defense games I have played, in fact.

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You can choose between four characters in the game. Each of which have their own special abilities and an arsenal of unique weaponry. Hagen Hawkins carries a shotgun, and has more health than the other characters. He is more suited to taking down the heavy opponents, and the ones that need to be eradicated before they do any major damage. The other characters have their own blend of special abilities and weapons. This means that in co-op play, every member on the squad will be of the utmost importance, and will have their own special task to carry out. This plays into the games heavy strategic style of play.

The art style on Sanctum 2 is absolutely gorgeous. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s eerily similar to that of Halo. The enemies get more and more gruesome as they come out of the woodworks. The weapons all have a sleek look about them. They look like believable weapons of the future. Hell, even the ammo that flies out looks quite pretty. I’d go as far as saying that Coffee Stain Studios have made a game that looks worthy of a full retail release. If there was a bit more depth to it, I’d say that the game should be a full retail release. It’s definitely of a higher standard than most XBLA titles.

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Sanctum 2 does have a bit of a story. Full emphasis on ‘bit’. Between missions, you’ll be met with a simple comic strip during the loading screens describing the current happenings and the reason for your mission. There is no real narrative to the story, but I get the feeling that it’s all about the gameplay. The comic strips are just a nice extra for you to have some understanding as to why this world exists. The lack of a real story becomes apparent immediately as you are thrown into a tutorial level with no explanation of why or what you’re doing.

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Overall, Sanctum 2 is a delightful and very different entry into an already rich genre. The first-person shooter aspect invigorates the game with a real fresh take on the tower defense game. The tower defense works just as it should. Any tower defense aficionados will feel right at home playing this game. Throw in a beautiful backdrop and an amazing art style. Along with a campaign that can take 20-25 hours of solid gameplay. As well as 4 player co-op, and you have a game that’s been bred for success. Sanctum 2 should be a successful outing for Coffee Stain Studios, and I look forward to seeing what they produce in future. The game should be a welcome addition to fans of tower defense, shooters, and all gamers alike.

Sanctum 2 is currently available on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace for 1,200 Microsoft Points.

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