Tag Archives: Side Scrolling

Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn review

The original Shaq Fu received mostly positive reviews at launch, but as time passed it gained the notoriety of being terrible, one of the worst games ever made in fact. Certainly, a sequel or reimagining didn’t seem likely, but after a successful Indiegogo campaign here we have Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn, and what a pleasant surprise it is.

Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn ditches the original Mortal Kombat style tournament fighting setup for a side-scrolling beat ‘em up one instead, and it’s a great fit. Playing as Shaquille O’Neil (Shaq) you fight your way through six locations beating the life out of the many anthropomorphised demons that mean to stop you, before engaging a more varied and grotesque demon boss at the end of each one.

Combat is wonderfully simple and smooth, with a normal attack doing the majority of the work, a heavier shield-breaking attack, a dodge, a dash, and a powerful limited use attack rounding off the compliment of moves. Each one is gradually taught to you as they become necessary; it’s an intuitive move-set that proves fast, effective and fun.

Enemies are varied enough to encourage you to think about what move best suits a situation and which threats are best taken out first, but it’s still a fairly mindless brawler, to its credit that is. Instead you can focus on just how satisfying it is to beat up these enemies, seeing the occasional goon fly towards the screen and crack it, and watch bemused when Shaq randomly unleashes an exaggerated attack involving high kicks and body slamming. It’s silly, over-the-top fun.

The over-the-top-ness continues with the presentation, with crisp, bright cartoon visuals bringing the levels and characters to life, and some excellent caricature design for the enemies. The is especially shown off during the animated storytelling sequences between levels, where the characterisation is brought to life with excellent animation and wonderful transformations as the demons turn from human to demon form. Furthermore, a funny script that’s well acted does its part to make this reimagining feel thoroughly modern.

Indeed, there’s a story to follow as well, and while it begins only as a means to drive you forwards, it soon becomes intriguing, amusing and immersive. Demons hiding as celebrities, Shaq’s peculiar mentor and friends, all help to create a funny adventure and include the occasional fourth-wall breaking jokes. It all feels a bit Deadpool starring Shaq.

Unfortunately, despite the adventure only taking a few hours to complete, the combat scenarios do get repetitive. The odd special transformation for Shaq, a cactus suit and a mech suit, help with variety, as do the occasional environmental hazard, but the majority of play is spent fighting waves of enemies and gradually moving to the right. Additionally, we did run in to a couple of bugs during one boss fight, which was frustrating.

Once the short story is concluded there’s very little to entice you back. A lack of multiplayer is a crying shame and feels like it might have been the silver bullet to keep Shaq Fu interesting after completion, but alas. Instead there’s a Shaq-o-pedia to look up information on enemies and the like, as well as additional difficulty levels, but otherwise nothing to temp you.

Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn certainly provides a fun and amusing single player beat ‘em up experience. The lack of multiplayer, lack of variety, and overall shortness hurt it a little but there’s no denying how enjoyable it is the first time playing through.

Thanks to Wired Productions 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.

Steel Rain X review

It has to be said that I am a big fan of the side scrolling shooter. Such a basic concept can, and has, offered some amazing gaming experiences over the last 30 or so years. With that said there have also been some terrible additions the genre. Where does Steel Rain X sit in the side scrolling hall of fame? Read on to find out.

Swiss indie developers Polarity Flow have set out to make a game that sits firmly among the greats but also add an extra twist to what is quite a generic formula. When I first launched the game I was met with a few on screen instructions, which to be honest I skipped through. This, however, was to be my downfall because Steel Rain X offers a multi-genre experience and you really need to know what’s going on. With your standard seizure-inducing space battles also comes an RPG style element whereby you have to plan and prepare in order to win.

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Your ship is equipped with 3 fire formations, A, B and C. Each has it’s own place during battles. Each fire mode should be used to gain the upper hand in specific situations. An example of this is fire mode C, which is an incredibly short ranged mode but also very powerful, so it is best used when the enemies are going through their fire cycle and there isn’t much in the way of obstructions that could potentially take you out of the game. I often found myself using fire mode A, though, and making it through most of the levels unscathed. I suppose it depends just how tactical you want to be.

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With any upstanding side-scroller the weapon upgrades are what we come to enjoy. There are a few different fire types and again each one suited to a specific situation. I, myself, pretty much stuck to the type that fills the screen with as many bullets as possible and concentrated on not getting hit by enemy fire. There is an addition though where you can purchase upgrades that you keep as you progress. This is certainly something that isn’t expected from most side scrolling shoot ’em ups. The currency for your upgrades are dropped by the enemy and also awarded when you finish the level. The amount you receive will also depend on how good you are as each level awards you with a “Devil May Cry” style grading system of B, A or S.

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Whilst Steel Rain X’s main objectives are the shooting levels, there are many side quests that can be done to boost your earnings or let you proceed to the higher levels. Each stage has 3 levels, once you have completed them you can the colonize the planet for yourself. Colonizing is the RPG element as you can build stuff and gain points through research which in turn can be traded in for awesome upgrades to your battleship. The nice thing is, is that  the colonizing aspect is not mandatory, whilst it does open some doors it is not completely necessary.

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The battles are everything you’d come to expect however there is no real transition when it come to the boss fights. I quite like a small break before embarking with a deadly behemoth, however the boss appears on most levels with no introduction and often with some fairly imbalanced abilities. It is best to be prepared for just about anything.

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Due to my impatience, and to not reading the instructions, it took me longer than it should of done to actually get to grips with the game. I spent quite a few moments just sat not really knowing the point or objective, I suppose therein lies a life lesson for me. I was surprised to see that this game only has 12 achievements and each one is worth a good amount of G score. I was hoping that Steel Rain X would give me the score I need to end my G Score with a 0 or 5…I got stung a while ago and now my score looks funny!

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Overall Steel Rain X offers a little bit of everything for gamers who enjoy just that. It’s not without it’s faults though and sometimes it is obvious that Steel Rain X is a port from PC as some of the controller options maybe are better suited with a mouse and keyboard. I can look past that though and I have to say that I am extremely critical when it come to my beloved side scrollers, but Steel Rain X didn’t disappoint and it did offer some refreshing additions to an already fully established genre. Polarity Flow have been brave to meddle with the formula that comes with most shoot ’em ups, but I feel it has paid off for them.

Many thanks to Polarity Flow and Xbox for supporting TiX

 

 

Slain: Back from Hell review

Slain: Back from Hell is essentially a modern take on Ghosts ‘n Goblins. You wander from left to right, platforming and killing spooky enemies, and dying a copious amount of times. Enemies will often follow you, encouraging you to thoroughly kill everything before attempting to move on, and there are cheap deaths aplenty. But with some excellent heavy metal tunes and highly intricate pixel art, does Slain offer enough to make the frustrations worth it?

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Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Despite strong presentation, mechanically it’s simple and dull and the difficulty feels harsh and unfair.

An intriguing start to Slain’s story sees you awaken from a deep slumber in order to battle the forces of darkness, with some dialogue pertaining to some character background and lore to the world. Moments later you’ll be platforming through a Hell-scape, slicing up a selection of undead and monstrous foes, and occasionally firing off a magical ball of energy. Later you gain a couple of new melee weapons and magical abilities but the gameplay-loop remains unchanged, with a focus on some tricky platforming courtesy of the abundance of beasties knocking you back, that frequently respawn, and a severe lack of checkpoints.

Enemies can really pack a punch and many have attack and defence stances that you’ll need to study in order to efficiently defeat them. And indeed efficiency is critical. The longer you dilly dally with an enemy, the more likely their friends will turn up, and once there’s a crowd it gets very difficult to manage them. This is partially due to the knockbacks that can push you into environmental hazards or straight into the path of another enemy’s attack or view, but also your limited health bar and lack of checkpoints or opportunities to refill it.

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On your travels you’ll occasionally come across health and mana pillars that restore you completely, and less often you’ll hit a checkpoint. Unfortunately, the two are uncommon enough to mean large sections of a level will need repeating over and over again each time you die. And you’ll die a lot; there’s Dark Souls level difficulty going on here. Additionally, much like Dark Souls, you’ll learn something different after each death, better preparing you for that particular foe, or that platforming section, or precisely what that object on the ground does when you walk into it. Unfortunately though, where Dark Souls taught you repeated behaviours of enemies and repeated aspects of its level design, Slain’s lessons are more specific, with enemy traits and level design changing quite drastically throughout the game and never referring to any set rules.

This, inevitably, starts to feel unfair. It does however, help with its nostalgic charm. The enemy and level design is reminiscent of Ghosts ’n Goblins and the original, linear Castlevania titles. Meanwhile, the gory, grotesque theme also draws a comparison with those classics, with its harsh difficulty taking it further into the 8-bit and 16-bit realm. However, whilst the visuals are indeed pixels, Slain sports some of the most impressive, intricate and detailed pixel art on the market. Environments are multi-layered to give a faux-3D effect that’s very effective, meanwhile, every aspects of the game is full of gory detail. Meeting a new enemy for the first time is quite the spectacle, killing them for the first time is equally a visual treat as their death animation delights with blood oozing out of them as they collapse, this is especially so for the end of level bosses. Furthermore, a heavy metal rock soundtrack takes the presentation to new heights. It’s terrific.

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However, the frustration of it all is brought home but just how basic the mechanics are. There’s no skill or finesse to combat. Despite five different attacks it all comes down to simply as whaling on an enemy with until they die. There is a defence mechanic but you’ll take damage regardless, albeit less damage, and whilst a well-timed press of the defence button allows you to counter, it’s so narrow a window it feels more like luck than skill to hit. Additionally, enemies are damage sponges and a chore to keep fighting.

Indeed, Slain: Back from Hell’s terrific presentation is a strong draw but it’s frustrating lack of checkpoints, harsh challenge, and simple mechanics largely undo the good. It can certainly trade a little on nostalgia for those in the mood for such a title, but it heavily features the worst parts of those games of yore.

Thanks to Xbox and Digerati 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.

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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.

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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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OlliOlli review

Having started out as a PS Vita exclusive, OlliOlli has now made its way over to Xbox One, and don’t let it’s minimalist, austere aesthetic fool you, this is a meticulously crafted and compelling, twitch reaction romp in the guise of a skateboarding game.

OlliOlli’s 2D, side-scrolling perspective, washed out colours and 8 bit style are a seldom seen scene for skateboarding games, but it all comes together spectacularly. It looks understated and tame but hides a devilishly difficult experience that’s hard to put down.

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It all seems so simple: You’re goal is to complete each short course, stringing together tricks and grinds to finish with the highest score you can, but achieving this is a remarkably tricky task. Tricks are pulled off with the usual quarter turns and so forth of the left analogue stick, meanwhile, the trigger buttons let you spin, however, jumping and grinding is also tied to the analogue stick, where holding a direction activates a grind and releasing the stick performs a jump. The A button is reserved to achieving a smooth landing, which is the only way to bank the points you may have accumulated through tricks and grinds. It’s an odd control system that feels supremely alien for the first 30 minutes or so. You need to relearn how to use a controller, and how to read obstacles on-screen. To begin with the strange controls dull your reaction times considerable and makes for dozens of failed attempts.

It does eventually click but it’s a humbling experience before it does. Tricks feel risky and intractable; it’s a gamble to try pulling one off in the limited time you’re airborne. And landing becomes crucial, not only because it dictates your score but also because falling off your board resets the level for you to try it all over again. You have one life, so to speak, per run, and you can feel the dread of failure and the presence of mortality far more so than in many other titles on the market. It’s a peculiar feeling but absolutely a welcoming one; OlliOlli feels unique and intense.

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Restarting the level after a fall is practically instant; additionally you can reset yourself at the press of a button. It shares similarities to the Trails titles, in that it’s built upon a high score setting mentality with fast paced skill runs. Where it greatly differs is with its visual austerity. Backgrounds are basic and washed out; meanwhile, foreground objects aren’t much more prominent. It works well at keeping you focused, providing enough visual cues for you to performs your jumps, grinds and trick but not distracting you with superfluous animations. It’s very well designed. This is also evident from the make-up of each level, whether you’re grinding through the streets of an urban environment, a port, junkyard, or neon city, the placements of obstacles, jumps and grindable surfaces are like a single, flowing track rather than a collection of separate objects.

50 levels over five locations make up the primary mode; however, reaching the end of each level in one piece isn’t your only concern. Each level also challenges you to complete specific objectives, these involve performing certain tricks, achieving a specific score, or stringing together a certain combo length, and so on. Complete them all on a level and you’ll unlock the pro run challenge, complete that and you unlock and even harder Rad run. Furthermore, Spots mode challenges you to perform the highest score you can on individual, specific sections of the levels against an online leaderboard. Finally, Daily Grind pits you once again against online adversaries through a leaderboard at achieving the highest score on a randomly chosen level. You can practice on this level as much as you like but once you commit to a ‘real’ run then that score will be uploaded, with no chances to submit another. 24 hours later and a new challenge awaits.

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OlliOlli is a difficult game that plays you against risk vs. reward expertly through its tight mechanics, controls, and level design. The Daily Grind asynchronous multiplayer is a great way to encourage replay even after you’ve mastered the 50 levels, and the chasing of higher and higher scores is a compelling experience. The achievement list is a bit on the small side and it can get frustrating during your initial time learning the controls, but when it all clicks it’s remarkably hard to put down.

Thanks to Curve Digital for supplying TiX with a download code

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