Tag Archives: Twin stick

Ruiner review

I’ve bleated on loads of times now about how much I like a good, fast-paced, twin stick shooters with loads of power-ups, explosions and general chaos. When I saw Ruiner for the first time I was hyped because it appeared to be everything I look for in a substantial twin-stick adventure. I was wrong though, because Ruiner is not just a twin stick controlled action game, it’s more than that, a lot more.

Ruiner is brought to us by Reikon Games, who are based in Poland and founded back in 2014. Their credentials are very impressive, they’ve worked on games such as The Witcher 1 – 3, Dead Island and also Dying Light, that’s some impressive CV right there.

Ruiner is a top-down action game with hints of Cyber Punk and Anime all thrown into one, adult-themed combination of brutality and mayhem. The art style for the game is amazing and utilises a comic book style approach. Everything seems to be a variation of red even down to the lighting, I suppose it represents blood or something.

You start off with a nice and concise tutorial explaining how to operate the protagonist who, by the way, is just a psychotic killer on a mission to find his brother and kill the boss. The first few minutes pretty much sums up what Ruiner is all about and it’s clear that your character is insane. He wears a face mask that has his intentions written on the front, this changes depending on the situation but for the most part it says ‘kill’ on it. The story isn’t deep or that interesting to be fair, so I won’t bother you with all that, when all is said and done it’s the action we all want, right?

The control system is pretty easy to get to grips with and you will have to use everything in order to get by. There is a mixture of dashes, slashes and shooting to be done and mastered in order to get through because, on the whole, this game is not easy, good but not easy. You have a basic load-out of a small handgun and a piece of piping for the melee kills. Enemies do drop weapons you can readily collect, however, these have a limited amount of ammo and you quickly return to your basic gun.

As with just about every game nowadays there is an XP system called Karma, you collect Karma by completing bounties and missions but also by breaking open boxes etc. placed around each level. When you level up you’re granted skill points and the ability to place them and take them away as you see fit, allowing to build a character that best suits you. There is the chance to perform combos, however, the enemies don’t come fast enough to be able to create spectacular ones, with that said though the slow-motion effect makes you look like a complete badass and gives you that sense that you’re untouchable. When I say untouchable that’s just for that moment, because as I said, Ruiner is not easy and the death animation is something you’ll soon become used to, like it or not.

There are however, sometimes when you think you’re being hard done by, because on occasion I wandered into the next area only to be met by a trap that completely annihilated me. I basically stood no chance. It’s not all Dark Souls difficulty though, you get the odd lifeline. At various points Gif’s appear that are little floating robots and they drop health, energy and sometimes the odd weapon, indeed a welcome sight on a difficult sub-boss.

Like all twin-stick shooters there is a certain point where you lose track of what’s happening down to how much is happening on-screen, this goes as well for Ruiner. At times I found myself moonwalking into an enemy with my shield facing the wrong way, this is not a gripe but more a warning to keep a sharp eye because you need to move or you’re dead, so make sure you move in the right direction. Ruiner has a very healthy amount of stuff to do, the main game is short in comparison to most but you can jump in and out as you please, especially if the pressure gets a little too much for you. I’m a big fan of games where you can jump in and out for 10 minutes or an hour depending on your mood, Ruiner provides just that and you can still make good progress.

Ruiner is a must, I strongly recommend if this genre takes your fancy. My twin stick biased opinion aside, Ruiner offers the right amount of difficulty mixed with the right amount of mature brutality and a sprinkling of RPG mechanics that makes for the most insane, psychopathic cake you can imagine. Ruiner also has a soundtrack that complements it superbly; there’s a techy underground experimental sense behind the music that fits perfect but at times can get a bit over powering, especially if you’re dying a lot.

Thanks to Reikon and Xbox for supporting TiX

Blue Rider review

Every now and then something comes along that is so simple, intuitive and fun that it could quickly become a classic. Blue Rider is just that. Argentinian developer, Ravegan, have created something with enough nostalgic charm, cute visuals and pick up and play accessibility to grip you throughout it’s short experience, and it’s great.

From the second I launched the game is was clear that there are no frills. You got the obligatory developer screen, a short animation of the title, then that was it, straight into it. There was nothing in the way of extended menus, shop links, DLC teasers, nothing, just simple ‘start game’ and ‘menu’. There is only one level available at the start, the others being greyed out, that’s OK though because it makes the objective nice and clear. You play the part of a small spaceship with a basic weapon. The enemies initially are quite easy, their fire rate is low and pretty ineffective but that doesn’t last forever. The tried and tested twin sticks controls makes Blue Rider intuitive, with movement and firing feeling natural. If I had one little gripe about the movement it’s that at times it takes a while to change direction, due to the way your ship glides, making it feel a little unresponsive, especially while dodging the enemy. This is me being picky though, because it’s not a major concern it’s just how it is and something I got used too.

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Graphically the levels are gorgeous, if you’re a frames per second fan then this won’t disappoint, as I saw no drops or glitches at all. That being said you won’t take much notice of the scenery as there are enough enemies and projectiles to keep your attention on the objective and not the leaves on the trees. It’s a cartoony aesthetic but it looks great, maintaining the same level of quality throughout the different locations each level covers.

The objective is clear: blow everything up to be able to move on, no confusion there. There are gates and doors that you can’t access unless you have cleared stages, but this doesn’t mean that you are endlessly searching for the one stubborn enemy that chose to camp it out, because the levels aren’t that big. There are more than enough enemies to focus your attention on though, and hidden away in the corners are collectibles that add a little more to each stage. However, the focus still relies on out manoeuvring the opposition to get your shot on target. There is the ability to upgrade your weapons as you go on, they stay with you too, which after reviewing another title recently where that doesn’t happen, makes a nice change.

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The levels are well-designed with paths leading out to open spaces. A world map would have been a bonus but it’s not the end of the world that it doesn’t exist. At times you are faced with a bottle neck and a swarm of enemies at the other end, which creates a good excuse for spam firing as much as you can. Pickups are rare, this doesn’t help when your HP bar depletes as you fail to dodge bullets, so keeping your wits about you is important. At the end of each level is the boss, this is the only real place where you could get frustrated. There aren’t any moments before a boss fight where you suddenly come across power-ups and health, so you’re fighting with what you’ve got. The boss has mechanics and patterns that take some getting used to, and guess what? you don’t have lives or checkpoints. When you die it’s back to the beginning of the level, and whilst the levels may be fairly brief, it can get a little frustrating. So purely for the no lives system I’m knocking 0.5 off my overall score, yep I’ve thrown my teddy out the pram. Thankfully, in Blue Riders defence, it’s not a major task getting to the boss and next time you may have a better power-up, so it can be forgiven for that little detail.

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With the game only having ten levels, it doesn’t take long to see all that’s on offer, especially as it’s a joy to play. Its simple approach has proven to be one of Blue Rider’s strong points, with the ability to pick it up and play without any fuss definitely feeling refreshing and something I will go back to time and time again. No news on any DLC though, which is a shame but less is more sometimes.

Thanks to Xbox and Ravegan for supporting TiX

Livelock review

Livelock is one of the best examples of its genre. It’s an impressive package that expertly balances its setting, mechanics, difficulty, pacing and visual prowess to provide an isometric twin-stick shooter that’s superb fun to play alone or with friends.

You play as one of three Capital Intellects; human minds uploaded into towering robots armed to the teeth with weapons. You are a failsafe, designed to fix any problems that occur over the eons between Earth being irradiated with gamma rays, destroying all organic life, and the time humans can return to the planet, their minds having been stored digitally in several massive storage servers. Of course, something went wrong, with the planet now embroiled in a war between robotic factions. You and your two fellow Capital Intellects must bring an end to the corrupted robotic forces and secure the stored human minds.

It’s an intriguing story that spins a pleasant tale with a handful of twists and revelations over the course of the 6-8 hour campaign. Furthermore, your robot foes have their own leadership and elite forces for you to exchange dialogue with in a Saturday morning cartoon fashion that’s hard not to enjoy. Of course, the Transformers comparison is inevitable, this is especially so with the voice-work, which is largely excellent and some notable one-liners serving up a chuckle or smile, however, it’s treads a darker line than that of everybody’s favourite robots in disguise, therefore it soon differentiates itself enough to become its own original thing.

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Whilst an intricate tale is being spun, this translates mechanically to shooting and bashing copious amounts of robots, and it’s terrific fun. The isometric view makes everything looks so small yet at the same time, thanks to detailed environments with derelict buildings and vehicles as well as natural features such as trees and rivers, also provides a wonderful sense of scale. Whichever of the three robots you choose – Hex the ranged weapon specialist, Vanguard the melee specialist, or Catalyst the support specialist – you’re inhabiting a hulking great metal beast of a machine. During the explosive fire fights you’ll knock cars incidentally and send them skidding across the battlefield. Meanwhile, you can walk through most walls, suffering the slightest of slowdown to your gait. You absolutely feel like a huge, unstoppable robot, which is excellent.

The sound design further sales your metal might, with thunderous steps as you walk and shriek of steel on steel as your shred your enemies component from component. Additionally, absolutely stunning visuals and enemy design provides unique robotic monstrosities to combat, a strikingly saturated colour palette, and some of the most impressive particle and weapon effects seen in the genre. But it’s the shadows that really pull you in. Everything onscreen casts one, with framerates largely staying smooth and fast. As the battlefield is changed by the destruction of walls and scattering of debris, new shadows are formed dynamically. It’s marvellous.

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However, as previously hinted, there are occasions when the on-screen action compromises the framerate, but it’s thankfully rare and short-lived when it does occur. Additionally, Livelock supports up to three player cooperative play but online only, which is a bit of a shame for couch co-op fans.

If you do venture online for cooperative play you’ll find excellent difficulty scaling to match the player count. Whether playing alone or with others, the challenge is ideally crafted to offer you an intense fight that is often barely winnable, keeping the satisfaction of victory always high and rewarding.

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Shooting and smashing robots in intense battles across a variety of locations ends up feeling more akin to Diablo than any traditional twin-stick shooter. The inclusion of melee combat options as well as a host of different special attacks on cool-downs, of which you can only have three equipped at one time, further this similarity. A secondary mode to the story-driven campaign, Open Protocol, builds on the comparison, allowing you to take on levels without the narrative threads and concentrate on high scores and gaining more experience. With experience comes more weapon options to unlock and upgrade, allowing you to customise your characters to a significant degree, even to the point of changing their class specific specialisation, such as equipping Vanguard with ranged weapons instead of his default melee ones. It’s superbly customisable and allows you to shape your characters however you feel or to what best suits your team if playing online.

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With weapons and abilities unlocked with experience, loot is kept to a minimum and comes in the form of Firmware for your characters, allowing you to customise their colour, their head and their cape. Collecting capes may sound daft but seeing it flap in the breeze as you tear through hordes of mechanical foes is both heroic and awesome.

Indeed, Livelock is excellent, from the hugely satisfying destruction from the environment and enemies, the complex and unique enemy design – to the point where they’ll limp under the weight of their arsenal – to the thematically excellent soundtrack with unexpected layers of instruments that gives Livelock a one of a kind musical score. It’s a tremendous title and a champion of its genre, hurt quite a bit by a lack of local coop and ever so slightly by the odd hit to the framerate.

Thanks to Xbox and Tuque Games for supporting TiX

Breach & Clear: Deadline review

Breach & Clear plays like a cross between XCOM and Commandos. As such it offers a tactically vast and interesting strategy experience that relies on your team using their expertise to survive against heavy odds. It’s a difficult challenge to begin with, but once you master the mechanics it becomes a highly satisfying experience.

You take control of a team of four elite soldiers, each with a specific role within the team, such as demolitions and heavy weapons. To match their specialty, each soldier has an ability to aid their team in combat. The demolitions expert can throw an explosive charge, the heavy weapons specialist can supress the enemy with a hail of bullets, the medic can stabilise fallen team mates, and the team leader can target enemies increasing the damage they take. Using your team’s abilities and taking advantage of the environment is the key to winning each battle, with cover and environmental hazards playing a big part in your success or failure.

Primarily you’ll be facing off against the undead. A mysterious infection has turned the majority of the local population into zombies and you and your team are stuck in the middle trying to survive and escape the area of operation. The zombie horde consists of your standard shambling flesh eaters and a selection of special infected with unique abilities, meanwhile, in line with zombie apocalypse tradition, there’s also human foes looking to loot and kill indiscriminately.

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Facing off against the undead is a test of endurance. Zombies come at your team in waves and mean to overwhelmed you. Human foes are less numerous but their ability to shoot back makes them a far deadlier foe. Shifting your tactics to best deal with each is a crucial skill, meanwhile, facing off against both at the same time provides opportunities to pit the two sides against in each other.

However, Breach & Clear: Deadline isn’t about just moving from mission to mission facing off against the horde and the looters, instead you’re free to roam around the areas with little restriction, completing side mission and the primary missions at your leisure. This gives it an RPG feel, further enhanced by upgrade trees and experience points for your individual soldiers and copious amounts of loot to equip your team with better armour and weapons, as well as scrap to turn into ammunition.

It’s a great setup that helps provide some variety to what is otherwise a fairly predictable and samey set of missions. Additionally, the ability to roam freely and switch between the tactical command mode allows you to approach combat in multiple different ways.

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Whilst roaming the dilapidated streets, woodland, coast, buildings, caves and sewers of the local area, Breach and Clear: Deadline plays like a twin-stick shooter. You can switch control to any of your team and move and shoot around your environment, with your team following and shooting at any nearby threat. The friendly AI does a fair job of path finding, although they occasionally get trapped in doorways or behind cover, but for the most part they shoot at threats swiftly and avoid becoming a hindrance. If you prefer a stealthier approach you can have your team stay in one place as you move alone.

When you come across a large group of foes or entrenched looters, the strategic command mode kicks in, pausing the action and allowing you to plan out your attack by stacking orders for your soldiers. Holding the right trigger starts the action, meanwhile, releasing it pauses it again, allowing you to make changes to your attack plans without the action overwhelming you. It’s a great system and one that can be activated and deactivated at will. Sometimes taking control of a soldier directly with the twin-stick mode is a better option than any tactic planned out in the strategic mode, so being able to switch between them at will is terrific.

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However, this is where the friendly AI shows its limitations. In strategic mode your soldiers become mindless. If you order one of them to stand in the middle of the battlefield, they’ll stand their getting shot or eaten until they fall. Occasionally they’ll show some freewill and fight back, but other times, especially if flanked or attacked from behind, they won’t react at all. It’s a trade-off that makes sense however. Having your soldiers follow your order so precisely means you have ultimate control in this mode, so your grand plans are never compromised, but it leads to failure more often than victory if you aren’t paying attention.

Unfortunately, we ran into a few bugs during our time with Breach & Clear: Deadline. Some side missions wouldn’t complete, and we were able to leave an area during a battle which then prevented us from being able to progress, requiring a restart. We also suffered a few hard crashes, forcing us back to the dashboard, as well as many achievements not popping despite being achieved. However, Mighty Rabbit Studios have told us that patches are on the way and many of these issues will hopefully be quelled soon enough.

Breach & Clear: Deadline does a great job of tactical variety thanks to the two engagement modes of twin-stick and strategic command, a wealth of items and abilities to unleash, new weapons and equipment you can find, the upgrade trees for each soldier, and the zombies, special infected and human foes. Furthermore, the procedurally generated dungeons of buildings, caves and sewers provides an enjoyable challenge for those brave enough to face it. However, the environments are limited and samey, and the story takes a back seat to the action, hurting the drive to see it through. Additionally, long load times moving between areas and after death is frustrating.

Thanks to Xbox and Mighty Rabbit Studio for supporting TiX

Nine Parchments announced at Gamescom

As well as trailers for games we already know about, Gamescom also has a few surprises in store.

Nine Parchments, a co-operative blast’em up game of magic mayhem from Frozenbyte, has been announced at Gamescom.

You play as a group of drop-out wizard apprentices who decide to skip their training for a quick path to the Nine Parchments.

As the wannabe wizards rapidly discover powerful new spells and ignore all safety aspects, it’s natural that their hasty progress results in lots of unwanted deaths.