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Curved Space Review

(Curved Space is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, and Xbox One.)

-REVIEW KEY PROVIDED BY DEVS-

It’s never fun having a highly anticipated experience fall flat on it’s face, failing to stick the landing you desperately hoped it would land. Such is the case with Curved Space, an admittedly heartfelt attempt at honoring the tried and true gaming genre of twin-stick shooters.

Now I will admit right out the gate that not everything in Curved Space is flawed. First impressions are important things. Nearly as important as snacks on a road trip, or blackout curtains in your bedroom window if you’ve found yourself living in a desert or a space station. Curved Space completely nails it in this department. Upon launching the game, you’re met with this aesthetically pleasing main menu, complete with some fantastically retro, synthwavey goodness. It’s good stuff, and threw me right into that arcade-esque mood of yesteryear.

Neon bullets and bugs abound!

I was quite excited to experience what Curved Space had to offer beyond it’s visually pleasing opening seconds, so I promptly chose start on the main campaign and was whisked away into what was sure to be a one of a kind experience.

…And that’s where my enjoyment with Curved Space ended.

I’m going to be honest here, the voice acting in Curved Space was not all too great. Upon hearing the game’s spoken dialogue for the first time, my expectations immediately lowered. They weren’t the worst I’ve ever heard in all of my gaming experiences, but it was still jarring enough to make me take a second to reassess just what exactly I thought this game was capable of pulling off.

The writing felt serviceable, but also fell flat here or there. When it came to the general dialogue, the story’s main protagonist’s personality came off as bland, flat and without depth. Outside of that, the writing was interesting enough to keep me going for a short while. Conversations about multiple realities and all that good stuff are abound here. Sadly, I never experienced how the whole thing wraps up, as I gave in to boredom long before then.

This comic book stuff looked pretty neat!

And we’re talking boredom born of one of the cardinal sins of games: poor gameplay.

As much as I tried to make it to the end of what was supposedly a 2-3 hour campaign, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The general controls of Curved Space were fine enough on their own, but fine doesn’t always mean good. It means fine, as in, it’s serviceable but it doesn’t really do anything better than other games out there. That often results in boredom within me after an extremely short period of time, and Curved Space was no exception to this.

Maybe some of this boredom and repetition could have been mitigated if Curved Space provided a larger array of objectives for you to complete. The variety of mission types here is abysmal, leading to repeating objectives just minutes in to the game. I’m not sure if the design philosophy here was to create building blocks that sit neatly together to build a more complex gameplay tower later on in the game or not, but that’s the vibe I got from this one. Unfortunately, I think the mark was missed there as well.

Space Donut.

I’m sure Curved Space will find a niche fanbase, as indicated by the numerous positive reviews I read prior to jumping in to the game myself. I can say with utmost certainty that I am not a part of that group, as Curved Space brought five cons for every pro it gave me. As much as it pains me (as my initial excitement for this one was quite high), I cannot recommend Curved Space as something that you may or may not enjoy. In my experience, this isn’t one that I would suggest to anyone save for Gen X dads who want to relive childhood through a modern lens.

However, if you do happen to fit that description, Curved Space might be the perfect game for you.

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Speed Limit Review

(Speed Limit: Arcade Edition is available for Playstation 4/5, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One/X/S)

REVIEW KEY PROVIDED BY DEVS

When I hear the words “Speed Limit”, it becomes very difficult to not want to drop everything at that exact moment, book it to the nearest sources of movies in my vicinity, and request an immediate showing of the 1994 box-office hit, “Speed”. One could potentially think then, using the combined powers of deduction and assumption, that I would thoroughly enjoy a fast-paced, high-octane indie game with an ever-shifting set of genres working alongside one another.

That’s what one could potentially think, right? What if I told you that that theory was instead quickly thrown out the window shortly after my first experience with Speed Limit? Here’s my review.

The opening moments of Speed Limit reminded me of the classic flash games of yesteryear. Where you’re given minimal context to anything at all, feeling like a deer caught in the headlights of a plot-free semi-truck barreling right at you. Upon start-up, we’re greeted by a scene of a train ride, with our main character just being a train passenger, passengering about. Moments later, some disheveled, shady as heck looking dude makes their way onto the frame… before keeling over dead. They drop a gun into your lap as they slowly become “aliven’t”, and now you’re the most wanted criminal to ever exist. Better get to running.

What follows is an hour long journey through a variety of different gameplay styles, accompanied by a constant climb in both speed and difficulty. While the game starts you off on foot, pushing you through train-car after train-car at an infuriatingly slow pace (seriously, this guy moves at a snail’s pace), the speed picks up considerably every few minutes. You’ll go from running around in the comfort of your Shoe-baru’s (ha ha) to driving a convertible, to piloting a helicopter, to manning a fighter jet, etc etc. It only keeps going from there.

Now, I’ll be honest with you: On paper, all of this stuff sounds really, really cool. I can’t think of anyone who would argue otherwise. (Maybe an old person, but they’re old so their opinions don’t matter.) Upon execution however, I think a few major missteps were taken, and the end result suffers greatly because of it.

Speed Limit‘s first short-coming became apparent almost immediately after start-up. The second after we’re shown the plot set-up and assume control of the protagonist, it becomes rather obvious that our character moves at an infuriatingly slow speed. Now, maybe this is simply a design choice. It could feel painfully slow as a way to further drive home that feeling of the metaphorical speedometer constantly climbing during one’s playthrough. Sadly, I don’t think it actually works all too well within the confines of the game.

If that wasn’t enough to get me feeling like this wasn’t a good start to the experience, Speed Limit‘s controls in it’s opening moments certainly did the trick. Testing the game on both keyboard/mouse and an Xbox One controller, I found the controls to be pretty hit or miss. I struggled to clear the first area simply because my character would begin to look up while I pressed right for him to go forward. This is an issue because having the character look upward slows him down to an even slower pace than he was already going, making you a near effortless target to take out.

That frustration is taken to an even higher level upon reaching the second phase of the first area. After a short period of running from train-car to train-car, we’re moved to the top of the train where we now have to contend with killer platforms (in addition to the enemies who were already shooting at us). Navigating this area was a nightmare, as the game repeatedly refused to take my inputs into account, smashing me into walls or causing an untimely make-out session with a barrage of bullets.

To top off this cake of conundrums, we have my final gripe with Speed Limit: it’s cameras. Some of the camera positioning in this game is… fine, even great at times. But that’s only sometimes. Outside of those moments, the camera is the worst thing about this game. Having to redo sections of a game due to control issues is something I can tolerate, to an extent. I cannot, however, tolerate a camera that’s been set-up to make me fail.

The first time this becomes apparent is during a chase scene across a waterway, with arches you have to fly through to avoid colliding and, you know, dying. The space you have to clear is pretty small, and you have to be nearly pixel perfect with your movements in order to avoid scraping the walls of the arches. I love pixel perfect movements in games, but only when I can see them. If I can’t see what I’m doing, and have to rely solely on assumptions and luck, that’s a bad thing in my opinion.

This isn’t the only time the camera is an issue either. A later section in the game asks you to control a fighter jet, which I thought would be freaking awesome! It wasn’t. It was nausea-inducing. It’s use of a tunnel-like rotating camera set-up brought upon immediate motion sickness. Bad enough to get me to “nope” the heck out of the game and look away from my monitor. That rarely ever happens.

I went back to revisit Speed Limit a few days after my initial experience, to see if these issues still persisted or if I was being a bit overly-critical in my analysis of the game. The issues still persisted, and they were even harder to overlook on my second playthrough. Maybe it was because I had tried the “normal” difficulty instead of “easy” like I did the first time, but my patience for Speed Limit‘s short-comings was practically non-existent. Which sucks because I love the premise of the game, and was really hoping to enjoy the experience. The pixel art graphics are full of character and charm. The soundtrack had me tapping my foot along to it the entire time. So…

One could potentially think then, using the combined powers of deduction and assumption, that as a fan of both arcade games and genre bending works of programming, I would recommend Speed Limit as a product. However, contrary to potential belief, this is one I cannot suggest based off of my personal experience. As much as it pains me to do this (as it always does), I’ll be giving Speed Limit a verdict of DEFINITELY NOT WORTH ANY PRICE.

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Two Cent Review: Carto

Video review can be found here.

(Carto is available for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Mac, and Xbox One.)

I find maps to be one of the most boring things on the planet known as Earth (as well as other subsequent planets with civilizations that also utilize the power of “maps”). I understand the practicality behind them, and you won’t catch me doubting their importance any time soon. Still, stating my appreciation for maps isn’t suddenly going to lift them from the trenches of boredom. They’ll remain down there forever, sloshing around in the grimy boredom sludge as it bubbles and broils deep within a metaphorical well. Nothing could possibly ever make maps remotely interesting in my eyes. Nothing, except for a video game with a primary mechanic focused mainly on all things “mappy”.

Here’s my two cents on “Carto”.

Story

The premise in Carto is fairly straightforward. There isn’t much room for ambiguity here, on account of the fact that this tale is practically a children’s bedtime story come to life. You take on the role of an adorable cartographer in the making named Carto, as she travels from land to land, searching for her grandmother. Why is she searching for ol’ gamgam? Because Carto has this power that allows her to rotate pieces of the land around her by moving pieces on this map jigsaw puzzle thing, which inadvertently leads to her and her gammy getting caught up in a thunderstorm and subsequently separated from one another. Look, I know it doesn’t make much sense, alright? I get that. It doesn’t help that major story moments are shown through still images either. But at the same time, the game isn’t a non-fiction piece, and it still conveyed it’s messages well enough for me to understand, even if the on-screen action is lacking.

That isn’t to say the entire game is devoid of dialogue though. It’s honestly quite the opposite. This game has a fairly decent roster of side-characters for you to talk to, learn about the world from, and even adventure with. The writing that brings these characters to life is consistently light-hearted, while managing to maintain a strong focus on family, culture, and tradition. It was something I was quite appreciative of, as the light-heartedness reaches beyond the dialogue. It’s found throughout the game and the game’s world. There are no combat sequences in Carto. There is no primary antagonist to contend with. No darkness to banish or end of the world to stop. Personally, I haven’t had such a laid back experience since I played Animal Crossing: New Horizons when that came out. Go at your own pace, combat-free titles aren’t something we see very often in modern day gaming, so I found it to be a refreshing change of pace. 

I didn’t watch the credits roll on Carto at the end of my roughly 5 hour playthrough and immediately reflect on my past life choices or the greater impact of culture and tradition on the societies that form and surround themselves with them. What I did feel, however, was a fairly decent sense of accomplishment for completing what turned out to be a rather challenging puzzle game.

Gameplay

Now let’s talk about gameplay, because it is, without a doubt, the central focus of Carto. As I mentioned in my introduction to this review, Carto’s primary game mechanic is it’s map. Or maps, I guess I should say, since Carto will take you through a variety of levels neatly disguised as different locales. We’ll touch more on these locales once we reach the “presentation” section of the review (that’s the next section coming up), but for now, let’s talk about the map itself. 

See, this map is a special map. It’s a supah dupah vernacular spectacular bad bitch map. It’s a “sell your gold laced glass eye and your hair follicles for good measure” type of map. This map is going to not only allow you to rotate pieces of it like a jigsaw puzzle whenever you want, it’s going to allow you to do so much more. It’s going to allow you to help worms eat dirt, organize a library that may or may not contain the knowledge of everything that has happened and/or will happen, cook a live bird through the power of volcanic ventilation, play Tetris with glaciers, and much more. To say that Carto’s use of it’s primary mechanic is imaginative and consistently enjoyable would be an understatement. This game is practically the Mario Odyssey of maps. (I never thought I’d see the day where I’d say that in a review.)

That isn’t to say the games puzzles are all enjoyable or of consistent quality, either. There were sadly a few obstacles I came across in my journey that brought my progression to a halt and required the use of a guide. I’m happy to inform you that this only happened twice throughout my playthrough, though in a 5 or 6 hour game, having two roadblocks impede progression can feel rather substantial. It didn’t ruin my experience with Carto or anything of that degree, but I did still find it to be worth noting anyway. 

When you aren’t playing Beyblades with map pieces, the only other thing you’ll really spend your time doing is conversing with people. Talking with everyone in any given level is oftentimes vital to progression, as well reminding you where to go if you ever forget your current objective. If you aren’t one to enjoy text-based games devoid of any voice overs, with a focus on world building and character relationships, Carto may not be for you. If you are into those things however, Carto may be worth adding to your video game wishlist, as it supplies dialogue in droves. Not at the level of say, Disco Elysium or Pillars of Eternity, but still enough to where you’ll easily spend a few hours in this game solely on reading. 

Carto sports a unique mechanic that helps it stand out from the crowd of generic, by-the-numbers video games constantly fighting one another for a chance to suck your wallet dry like a mosquito buzzing around in the middle of the Everglades during summertime. It’s a mechanic that’s utilized in enjoyable and creative ways, oftentimes leaving me excited to know what gimmick would come in to play next. However, if Carto were any longer in it’s runtime than what it actually is, I think I would start seeing diminishing returns on my experience to time invested ratio. I also think that while the story-telling and world-building are nice touches, I could have done with a little bit less of it. Dialogue is fine and all, but it’s not something I really expect to see in a puzzle game. So, my patience with conversations tends to be a bit shorter in those situations. 

Still an enjoyable experience from a gameplay standpoint.

I think that’s a great way to summarize Carto as a complete package: enjoyable. The story-telling is enjoyable for what it is, the gameplay is enjoyable despite its flaws, and…

Presentation

The presentation is absolutely adorable, from it’s hand-painted aesthetic down to the design of Carto herself. This game absolutely nails the feeling of visuals reminiscent of a children’s bedtime story, with its centralized color palettes brimming with vibrancy and it’s textured surfaces that help the environments “pop” ever so slightly. Though I was initially worried about a potential lack of environmental variety, I was happy to have those doubts quickly squashed upon visiting my third or fourth locale. Carto starts in somewhat monotonous woodlands but eventually gives way to underground tunnels, deserts, tundras and more. I enjoyed the variety of places Carto journeys through during her quest to find her grandmother, which is a sentiment I initially didn’t think I’d walk away with. 

There isn’t too much to comment on in regards to the games music and sound. While Carto does have a simple, unobtrusive soundtrack, I couldn’t help but occasionally feel annoyed by it. Namely in the moments where I was stuck, but also in moments containing puzzles with more complex solutions. Hearing a few tracks for longer than I would have liked didn’t sit well with me, but aside from this happening on a few occasions, the soundtrack is serviceable, if a bit forgettable.

Sound effects are also fairly generic, with nothing really standing out here, either. The key difference between the sound effects and the soundtrack of Carto being that the former didn’t ever annoy me during my time with the game. As was the case with the soundtrack, sound effects here are serviceable, but they aren’t anything to write home about.

Like the other components we’ve previously discussed, the presentation in Carto is enjoyable, save for a few short-lived occasions. It may not personally be my cup of hot lava, but it works decently within the confines of Carto, which is sometimes all you can ask for when it comes to presentation in video games.

Verdict

Carto is an enjoyable game for both map-lovers and map-deniers alike. Though it’s gameplay may suffer from a lack of variety, and it’s story and presentation leave something to be desired, there are still plenty of things here deserving of your time. There are just the right amount of puzzle mechanics to warrant playing Carto, while an endearing art style helps give reason for enjoying this game passively, be it with a friend or via your favorite content creator. It may not be perfect, but it is perfectly deserving of a verdict of “Definitely Worth Sale Price”.

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Two Cent Video Review: World of Final Fantasy

(World of Final Fantasy is available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation Vita, and Xbox One)

This week, I take a look at a game that celebrates my favorite video game series of all time. World of Final Fantasy is the accumulation of all the things that make Final Fantasy what it is today. It’s a mix of Final Fantasy meets Pokemon, and it’s finally here for PC. So, is this game worth full price?

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Two Cent Video Review: Skylar & Plux (Adventure on Clover Island)

(Skylar and Plux is available for PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, and Xbox One.)

3D platformers are one of my favorite genres in all of the kingdom of gaming. Ratchet and Clank, Jakk and Daxter, Spyro the Dragon, Crash Bandicoot, Croc, Ty, the list goes on and on. Sadly though, this games seemed to vanish completely for a good ten years or so. Luckily, we’ve seen a bit of a resurgence in 3D platformers in 2017, and for the most part, they’ve been decent. Is Skylar and Plux, a modern day 3D platformer inspired by the games mentioned above, worth your time? Yeah, I guess so. Here’s my Two Cents!

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Two Cent Video Review: Blue Reflection

(Blue Reflection is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Windows.)

Has the thought of being in Sailor Moon ever crossed your mind? Does the thought of helping others through struggles and forming a closer bond with them make your heart feel all warm and fuzzy? Then maybe you should check out Blue Reflection! It’s essentially Sailor Moon meets Persona, and it’s one hell of a good time. It may be fairly standard as far as a JRPG is concerned, but it’s still one of the best role playing games I’ve enjoyed in 2017. But that’s just my two cents. Maybe it’ll be good enough to persuade you to check out this title. Either way, here’s my review for Blue Reflection.

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Two Cent Video Review: Hand of Fate 2

(Hand of Fate 2 is available for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, Mac, and Linux.)

Dungeons and Dragons. Magic the Gathering. Yugioh and his boi Dark Magician. What if all of these things were smooshed together into one game? What would that game look like? How would it fare? I set out to answer these questions today, as we take a look at Hand of Fate 2. This game is a mix of ideas pulled from various card, board and fighting games. But does it all work together, or is it all just a waste of time? Find out on this week’s episode of Two Cent Reviews.

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Two Cent Video Review: Little Nightmares

(Little Nightmares is available for Windows, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, and Stadia.)

To start the spooky season off right, I thought I’d review only horror games for the rest of the month. The first game I looked was Little Nightmares. A game I was interested in based off of looks alone. It looked like a unique twist on the Limbo formula, with a little bit of horror and spooks mixed in. So how did it fare?

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Two Cent Review: Nioh

Video review can be found here.

(Nioh is available for PS4, PS5, and Windows.)

So let’s start off with the story of Nioh. Wait, actually, where do I even begin with this story? Well for one, it’s quite the difficult tale to follow along with. Nioh sees you starring in the main role as William, the first westerner turned samurai, on his quest to take back what is rightfully his from some rude guy who decided he can take whatever he wants. William’s journey takes him to 16th century Japan, where he quickly forges an alliance with some locals who agree to help him find what was  taken from him. In exchange for their help in finding the man responsible for taking William’s childhood friend and gold finder, William agrees to lend a hand in fighting  the evergrowing Yokai menace. The story found in Nioh, is certainly entertaining, but I can’t say that it’s anything groundbreaking on memorable. If anything, the plot here is nothing more than a means to travel to new locations, and fight newer, bigger, and badder demons. The story can be a bit jumbled up, and difficult to follow at times, but it’s by no means a mess or convoluted. It seems like there were chunks of cutscenes or dialogue missing from the game. I can’t recall any moments of story progression where I blanked out and absorbed nothing, yet I still found myself a bit lost as to who some of the people were and what was going on in certain cutscenes. All-in-all, the plot here in Nioh is average. It’s ultimately forgettable, but it’s still a fun ride throughout.

Presentationwise, however, this game is far less forgettable. The locations you visit are quite varied, for one. Throughout your adventures through Japan, you’ll explore caves, mines, forests, burning villages, foggy graveyards, and more. Every level has it’s own variance in design, and they’re all a complete treat to look at and explore. The lighting in Nioh is something I found to be especially noteworthy. Sun rays reflect through peeling and cracked boards of wood that make up abandoned buildings. Torches illuminate the ore mines you descend into. Some light sources can even be knocked over, which can lead to some very intense fights deep below the surface. Attacks are also beautifully choreographed, full of particle effects and slashing, swinging streaks of light. And the same goes for enemies movements as well. As far as the music and sound are concerned, they aren’t as good as the graphics here, but they’re still well done nonetheless. Musically, there really isn’t anything too memorable going on. As I wrote the script for this review, I actually found it rather difficult to recall any stand out tracks that I hear along my journey. I couldn’t think of one background song that really stuck with me, and I think that says a lot about a game’s soundtrack. None of it was necessarily annoying or poorly written, per se, but it was overall a bit unmemorable. Soundwise, the game does a hell of a lot better. The sounds of blades bouncing off of metal armor, or arrows whizzing by your face, just barely missing your skull by an inch, are common sounds you’ll hear throughout. And they all hit with the same intensity and grittiness throughout the game. Hearing your weapon cut into flesh, crack  through bone, and cripple your opponent is consistently satisfying, and gives you great feedback on whether or not your attack actually landed. It’s a difficult thing  for many melee oriented games to get right, but Team Ninja absolutely nailed it here. Not just the weapons and combat sound great, either. This whole damn game is just one big old sweet sound designed treat. Voice acting is also found here, but it isn’t anything special or unique. You have both English and Japanese being spoken throughout the game, which I though was a nice added touch of realism. Not everyone here is automatically speaking English, just for the sake of making it more approachable for people who are too lazy to read subtitles. It added a refreshing dose of believability to a game that sits submerged deep in a hot spring of fantasy. All in all, the presentation found in Nioh is very well done.

But it is nowhere NEAR as well done as the gameplay, which is the real highlight of the show, erm, game, here. Now I know we live in 2017, and many people like to refer to any challenging game in a genre is the Soulslike of said genre and we’re tired of hearing that shitty, dried out sales pitch, but I have no choice but to refer to the souls series while talking about Nioh. At least Nioh sits in the same genre as Dark Souls, unlike something like Cuphead, or even CRASH FUCKING BANDICOOT. Wait, Crash Bandicoot? Hold on, somebody actually had the audacity to make the claim that Crash Bandicoot is the Soulslike of platformers? No, no, nononono. Im not sure if you’re aware, but Crash came out a whole 13 YEARS before the first souls game was released. So based on this logic then, we’d have to say that, if anything, Dark Souls is the Crash Bandicootlike of action RPGS. Ahem. Sorry, that was an irrelevant point to make. Shall we continue? Nioh, the Crash Bandicootlike of Action RPGs in 2017. A game about collecting amrita (not souls), praying at shrines (not bonfires), and finding shortcuts. More importantly though, it’s a game about fighting giant ass bosses that’ll decimate you in one blow. It’s a game about calculated strikes, and reading your opponent’s next move. It’s a game about exploration, grinding, and making progress, only to lose all of that progress because of one poorly timed sword strike. This is a game of patience and  opportunity. It’s about slowly learning your way through an intimidating boss, and going from feeling helpless to feeling accomplished and better than you were three hours earlier. In order to achieve these things though, you’re going to have to be ready to deal with some heavy doses of menus and text. There’s a lot to learn about the mechanics of Nioh, and that applies to more than just the melee combat. Talking about the melee combat’s depth alone is already complex enough. Not only do you have a light and heavy attack, but you also have three different stances for each weapon: high, mid, and low. Each stance has it’s own pros and cons, and you have to constantly be reading your opponent and changing up your stance in order to defeat them. This is especially vital during boss fights, which the game has a heaping helping of.  Outside of the combat, you have a looting system with it’s own rarity scale. A blacksmith, who will allow you to purchase new items, melt down old ones for materials, build new gear, and level up old gear. A overworld map where you can take on side quests, main missions, and extra challenging quests. An in depth skill branch for 5 of the game’s 8 weapon types. A dojo to refine and hone your skills. A multiplayer section that I didn’t check out because I don’t have enough friends to play games with. The list goes on.

There’s a lot of stuff to do here. Like, a lot a lot. If Nioh was a house, it would be classified as a hoarder’s house. The amount of content you get here for the price the game is sold at is more than worth your money. The game can easily run you about thirty hours or so, just in the main story alone. That is, if you’re good at these kinds of games. If you’re someone like me, however, who isn’t good at these Soulslike (Crash Bandicootlike) games, then you could very well be looking at a significantly longer playtime. And that isn’t even mentioning the side quests, DLC, and new game plus modes. There’s plenty of meaty, chunky, gory goodness to be had in Nioh. And investing both your time and money into this title will lead you to find one of the most rewarding abiet frustrating experiences you will have in gaming for quit some time to come. Nioh can be a bit overwhelming at times, and to be honest, that’s a bit of an understatement, but stick with it and you’ll find yourself completely immersed in a game that I’d say is: Definitely worth full price.

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Two Cent Review: Cuphead

Video review can be found here.

(Cuphead is available for PS4, Switch, Xbox One, Windows & Mac.)

Imagine an alternate universe, where 1930’s Disney cartoons have access to a time machine. They take that time machine, climb aboard, and head for the 80′s. The 1980′s. Upon arrival, they meet this cool video game named Contra. Contra, Steamboat Willie and friends quickly become best pals and decide to do acid one day together. In their LSD soaked haze, they end up sleeping together and have such an odd looking baby by the end of this completely realistic scenario that everyone who sees it cant help but be intrigued. That baby would be Cuphead. A game about two anthropomorphic cups named Cuphead and Mugman. The two walking, talking, living, breathing ceramic coffee containers end up signing a contract with the devil (not like in a record contract sort of way, but more of like a “sell your soul” kind of way). In the contract, they agree that in exchange for keeping their souls, Cupdude and Mugman must collect the souls of others who have made a similar deal with the devil and didn’t pay up.

This game is firetruckin’, fingersuckin’, fistfuckin’ fantastic to look at. The A E S T H E T I C of it is so eye catching, so mystifying, you can’t help but look on in awe, and wonder “how does something like this exist? How have we not seen this sooner?”. The visuals invoked one of my favorite feelings a person who feels can feel: Nostalgia! It’s happy. It’s joyful. It’s warm and vibrant. It’s violent as hell and I didn’t realize until reviewing this game how graphic cartoons from that era actually were. Some of this shit is straight up nightmare fuel. Everything here is hand drawn, and you can tell that some serious TLC went into the art of this game. It certainly shows. Now lets talk about the music and sound for a second. Do you like brass? Huh? You like brass? You like jazz?! Well get ready for some bombastic brass blown by barotone boys. This game’s soundtrack is like a California hillside in the middle of August: Lit. Every track is bouncy, full of BRASS, energetic and fits the level associated it. Even going as far as to giving each individual boss it’s own epic showdown track. I like that shit. I love that shit! And I think you will as well. The sound here is somewhat harder to critique, however. I’m not sure if I like it all that much. I think I do, but the game weaves the sound effects in and out so well that sometimes they almost seem to disappear into the background music entirely. But I think that’s what they were going for, honestly. The game has this mono sound to it, remenicent of how games on the Gameboy sounded. It certainly fits the style of the game, and adds furthermore to the A E S T H E T I C that Cuphead practically oozes. All together the music and sound effects all come together quite nicely, and even though it may sound odd at times, it fits the game well. Therefore I’d have to say that the presentation here as a whole is pretty top notch. We’re talking about some hella primo stuff here. Careful: It’s Hot!

Cuphead is primarily a boss rush game, bit it has a few gun and run levels sprinkled throughout as well. There’s a central overworld you explore, which opens up more to the player as the stages presented are completed. This game is hard, too. Like Kakuna spamming Harden hard. We’re talking some grade A level diamonds hard. It took me upwards of an hour and a half to complete just one boss fight. Not all of them took me that long, but all of them did leave me with a feeling of tremendous accomplishment upon completion. And that, to me at least, is worth the patience and concentration that some of these levels require. You also have the option of playing with one or two players. I live alone in a hut far off the coast of Madagascar though, so I had nobody to co-op with. Therefore I won’t be commenting on that topic. The gameplay is smooth. It’s slick, and responsive. Some platformers perform like a rental car that’s been around more than your local corner prostitute. Others perform like a sweet, sexy new ride you just purchased off the lot. Cuphead falls into the latter here, most definitely. The controls are simple enough, although they’re layed out somewhat uncomfortably on the controller. You have a button to shoot, a button to dodge, a button for your super ability, and a button to jump. Both movement and aiming are bound to the left stick, which for me, took a bit of getting used to. Once I got it down though, the game played very well. I was able to react in time to most attacks, and the ones I couldn’t avoid were usually followed up by me realizing how easily that damage could have been prevented. The game allows for a bit of customization as well, which becomes practically essential once you reach the later stages. You can equip a primary attack, a secondary, as well as a charm that allows for things like instant parrying or momentary invincibility when dashing. This adds a nice layer of depth to the game that isn’t overly complex or gimmicky.

I love this game. Everything about it to me is what I never knew I wanted in a game. Since it was announced at E3 a few years ago, I’ve had my eye on it. And so have thousands of other people. Now that it’s finally out, I’m more than happy to say it was worth the wait. The guys, gals, and any fourth demensional beings that worked on this game should give themselves a pat on the back. What they have created is something quite close to a masterpiece. It’s rare that I play a game that makes me want to revisit it after completion. There’s something about the setting, the warm, nostalgic vibe it gives off, and the retro gameplay found in Cuphead that envokes the feeling of childhood in me. I’ve more than enjoyed my time with it, and I’m going to keep enjoying it after this review. There’s a good chuck of content to eat through, and it’s all more than reasonably priced at a mere $20. 

Would I recommend it? Would I recommend Cuphead? Oh most certainly. I’d even go so far as to say it’s: Definitely worth full price.