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Gaming PC Reviews Switch

Review: Hypercharge: Unboxed

Developer: Digital Cybercherries
Publisher: Digital Cybercherries
GenreAction , FPS
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch
Rating: E For Everyone
Price: $19.99

Hypercharge: Unboxed is a unique, FPS Romp through the world of a toy as you battle it out across a range of locations including a child’s play room, a bathroom, a kitchen, and numerous other household environments. Step into the plastic boots of one of three action figures (complete with accessories and multiple points of articulation) for some high octane, tower defense destruction! Defend three power cores using your wits, weapons, and a few batteries scattered around the environment while fending off hordes of robots, spinning tops, and little green and tan army men. Developer Digital Cybercherries, a small team of 5, is committed to making Hypercharge: Unboxed the best game that it can be and will be monitoring player feedback and working closely with the community to improve the game. Players can learn more about the game and reach out to the developer on the game’s Steam page or the official Discord.

Content Guide

Hypercharge: Unboxed is a first person shooter and features only violence against toys so there is no blood, gore, or viscera to speak of. There is also no language, drug use, or sexual content of any kind is present in the game (well, maybe and innuendo or two).

The humor in Hypercharge is very punny and right up my alley! But it may not be for everyone.

Review

Hypercharge: Unboxed tells the story of Sgt. Max Ammo and his epic mission to defend the HYPER-CORE. Players are tasked with defending their cores with a range of characters, weapon upgrades, and defensive traps to prevent the enemy hordes from destroying all that they hold dear. All characters, weapons, skins, and traps can be unlocked through regular gameplay and the game does not include micro-transactions of any kind.

Unit D34D just saw all his hopes and dreams get washed down the drain…

Hypercharge: Unboxed is the FPS game that the Switch needs right now. It comes complete with all the features players would expect including numerous progression upgrades to unlock, various character classes, a range of interesting locations to explore, and solid gunplay. This is some of the best first person shooting the Switch has to offer as I didn’t encounter even the slightest bit of lag or stuttering during my time with the game, and this was across, PVP, Co-op, and Single Player modes.

There are three primary ways to play Hypercharge. Venture out alone to get a feel for each location and find the best sniper perches and vantage points for a match. Then, try your luck in PVP and battle it out in deathmatch and a host of other competitive modes with up to 7 other players to dominate the toy box! If you’re the more cooperative type, then every level can be explored with up to three friends as you work together to fight off increasingly difficult waves of enemies and defend those hyper-cores.

“We R Toys and we will defend this power core!” Teamwork is the key to completing missions with that elusive Diamond rank to unlock the best rewards.

Gameplay is fast, fun, and snappy, shooting carnage. Players can find action figure packages throughout the environment that act as an in-game store, allowing them to purchase various weapon attachments and upgrades with currency earned by exploring each environment and defeating enemies. But the bulk of play time is spent between each enemy wave beefing up defenses with various traps that include glue puddles for slowing down enemies, bombs, and anti-air missiles. Turn your standard rifle into a grenade launcher or shot gun by finding various upgrades hidden in each level and blow those robots to bits! Running low on health? Find some cherries (I see what the developer did there) to replenish your HP and get back in the fight.

While Hypercharge just launched at the end of January, the developer is committed to bringing more content to the game soon. They’ve even released a roadmap of what players can expect in the months to come, with voice chat, new modes and characters set to be added.

Developer Digital Cybercherries have shared their development roadmap with expected updates from now through May…voice chat is coming next month!

If I had one complaint about Hypercharge, it would be that finding the three hidden collectibles in each location can feel frustrating as a lot of them are hidden well off the beaten path and require pinpoint precision platforming to reach. This wouldn’t be so bad if players weren’t limited to a small box in each environment. What I mean by this is that players can venture out only as far as the game’s invisible barrier allows them. This made it difficult to obtain these collectibles as I could see where I needed to go, but the most obvious route (or at least, what I felt was the most obvious route) fell outside of the boundaries of this barrier and I could find no other method to reach the collectible.

Glue Traps quickly became my favorite line of defense as it takes most enemies a long time to destroy the trap or get past it and by that time I’ve cleaned house and dispatched every other threat to the core.

This is a bit of a double-edged sword as the developer is committed to making all progression unlocks available through normal gameplay. This means that no micro-transactions of any kind are present in the game. They will also not be added at a later date. While this is great because players only need to pay for the game itself to enjoy all of the content it has to offer, some of the unlocks are frustratingly difficult to obtain and some players may not be patient enough to do what is necessary to unlock them. I, on the other hand, WILL figure out how to reach that last collectible on Operation Alley, even if it kills me! And it has, multiple times, as I died trying to reach it instead of killing enemies and defending the power cores.

Another thing I wasn’t too thrilled about is the lack of distinction between the different action figures and classes. Right now we have a G.I. Joe replica, a lizard man, and a medieval knight available as playable characters. None of these three have any distinguishing characteristics or exclusive abilities that set them apart from the other, and there is no real difference between each “class”. Players also don’t currently have the ability to create pre-set loadouts and different combinations of character types. So, while it’s cool that I can unlock new gear for my knight or dinosaur guy, I have to manually go and select each look every time instead of being able to save a pre-set.

As this is only a minor issue and really comes down to personal preferences, I am sure it will be resolved in the future content updates that the developers have outlined in their roadmap. I would just love to see loadouts and maybe even specific special abilites for each type of character to really give players a way to build their own unique soldier and play style. Despite these complaints, which are more just nitpicks on my part, the game is a fanstastic plastic party that everyone should check out on Switch!

Jolly Keeper Lad is a great and intimidating name for PVP…definitely!

That being said, I love the customization overall. Not only can players change the look of their character, but there is a fun and hilarious random name generator so players can create some really humorous names for their soldier. My personal favorite is Ruby Ricochet Ghost! Even the background color of the customization screen can be changed to the player’s liking along with the music that plays while customizing.

The strongest part of the game is the environments. I really got a sense of scale in the bathroom level (cheekily titled “No. 2”) as I had to climb onto a laundry basket, then the heating unit on the wall just to reach and defend the hyper-core that was in the shower. Another level set in a toy store that was clearly meant to be a riff on Toys R Us features shelves of action figures, doll houses, and other toys and items that can be used to reach a cozy sniper nook or to provide cover from the toy plane that flies by on a routine bombing run. The attention to detail is insane! The graphics are excellent, especially for the Switch, and each gun sounds formidable and powerful.

The name of this store is W R Toys…where have I heard that name before? I can’t quite put my tiny plastic finger on it!

Not only are the environments littered with items and signs that poke fun at or call back to iconic brands (like Toys R Us) but the amount of detail in even the basic gameplay is astounding. On one level, as I helped my online teammates defend our cores from wave after wave of little plastic green and tan army men, a toy plane flew by overhead dropping more army men onto our position. Launching myself up to a higher perch, I began to shoot down at these soldiers and their parachutes as they floated to the ground. Each shot riddled the parachutes with bullet holes and the more holes I put into it, the faster the soldiers fell. It was a neat visual touch that translated to the gameplay and I love that the developer took the time to include that much detail in the combat.

Hypercharge: Unboxed is the Switch shooter for die-hard fans of online shooters. There is something here for everyone and I don’t think I have had this much fun earning progression unlocks before. I normally would find Tower Defense gameplay boring, but the vast assortment of traps, weapon attachments, and environmental vantage points make each combat encounter fun, unique, and exciting, leaving me wanting more every time.

New levels offer new challenges and enemy encounters and the key to unlocking them is to get a specific number of medals on each mission.

Hypercharge is a hard game to put down and it runs great in both docked and undocked modes. The controls are smooth and work well, and there is even the option for gyroscope aiming for those who prefer it. A lot of online games on Switch live or die by their online community, and within the first week of launch I was concerned that the community would fade and it would be hard to find matches. I’ve never been happier to report that this was not the case with Hypercharge. I rarely had difficulty finding a match and even if we didn’t get a full team by the time the match started, I had a full squad of four by the end of the 1st wave and it was rare that leaving to find a new match would place me with the same players I had matched with before. I only hope that this continues to be the case going forward as Digital Cybercherries continues to support the game in the months to come. I can’t wait to see what they pull out of the toy box next!

Review copy generously provided by Digital Cybercherries.
Categories
Gaming Reviews Switch

Review: Family Tree

Developer: Infinite States Games
Publisher: eastasiasoft
Genre: Puzzle, Platformer
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Rating: E for Everyone
Price: $7.99

A couple of years ago, I discovered an indie title called Rogue Aces—a rogue-like, WWII airplane game with addictive gameplay. As flooded as the Nintendo Switch eShop can get with hundreds of games released each month, this little gem became one of my favorite games of 2018. I eventually interacted with the developers over Twitter when I shared some gameplay clips of Rogue Aces and have been following their work since then.

Now, Infinite States Games is back with a unique puzzle game called Family Tree. Fall is a known busy season for gaming, and it can be easy for the work of small indie developers to fly under the radar. Maybe you just got your child a Nintendo Switch Lite for Christmas and can’t afford some of the more prominent first-party titles. At a budget price, Family Tree is a game that everyone can enjoy on that shiny new console.

Content Guide

Family Tree is rated “E for Everyone” by the ESRB. The antagonist of the game is a big skull that sucks in the Fruits Family’s children at the beginning of the game. Spend too much time on a level, and he shows up and causes the player to drop all of their collected items. During transition levels, players will have to run away from him as darkness and lighting begin to cover the level. A variety of enemies are also placed throughout the levels, such as a squirrel that throws nuts and piranha fish. The player does not take damage, but can lose their collected coins and fruits.

Review

Family Tree is a puzzle game that an audience of all ages can enjoy. It has a brightly colored art style, fun puzzle gameplay, and a catchy soundtrack. The premise is quickly set up once the game starts. Mr. and Mrs. Fruits tuck their kids into bed. Then, they all get captured by Pedro, the evil skull, and turned into real fruit, which leads Mr. Fruits to jump into action. The plot doesn’t make much sense, but also feels right out of a storybook. That is all there is to the story, but we don’t need much more than that.

The gameplay of Family Tree is a beautiful mix of puzzles, pinball, and platforming. Players can launch Mr. Fruits up in the air with the push of a button and use the stick to aim, with a line of trajectory to help with aim. The shoulder buttons are used for a short dash or hop for extra maneuvering assistance. Most of the levels are also vertical and have an end goal waiting at the top, hence the reason for the game being called Family Tree.

Each level includes various obstacles and enemies that players need to be aware of, including objects that help the player progress. My favorite objects in the game are the pinball-like bumpers and pots that work like barrels like the ones in Donkey Kong Country. The different kinds of enemies that appear to halt progress are block heads, squirrels that drop acorns, and flying piranha fish. Mr. Fruits doesn’t take damage from these foes, but can drop everything he’s holding if he is hit enough times. The gameplay becomes the most entertaining when entering an unstoppable flow through a level.

When jumping into a level, there are a few different objectives that can lead to a “perfect game” result at the end of a level. Players have the option to collect all the fruit and coins within a level, and won’t be penalized if a level is completed without doing so. The third is time based, meaning that Pedro, the evil skull, will show up if a player takes too long to complete a level. The one penalization comes from Pedro because he can cause you to drop everything to the bottom of the level. Completing a level as quickly as possible is the best way to handle that third objective, and it also encourages speedruns.

Progression is divided up into four seasons per year, with a total of 120 levels. My favorite aspect of the presentation is the change in aesthetic between each season. Spring and Summer are fun, but Fall and Winter are my personal favorites to look at. The change of scenery with each season makes Family Tree into a game you can boot up year-round, especially if you can’t wait for your favorite time of year or just need something to capture the feeling of whatever season you are currently in.

Between the many levels in Family Tree are what I’d consider the more challenging parts of the game. Between each season, players are thrown into transitional bonus stages different from the vertical setting of the main level. These stages move horizontally and share similarities with the auto-runner genre. Collecting is not the objective here as players must get to the end of the stage without being consumed by the storm of Pedro the skull. If you fall or fail, the stage starts over right away. What I enjoy most about these stages is that they bring the most tension that anyone can feel when playing this game.

In Family Tree, there is more to experience outside of the primary gameplay mode. Endless Climb is an alternative option and one that three other family members or friends can simultaneously play along. In this mode, the goal is to outlast your opponents since there is no finish line here. Players choose unlocked characters that we see from the main game and travel vertically via platforms as the challenge increases. Endless Climb has the potential to bring a barrel of laughs to the party, especially when more than two players are involved.

Family Tree has, overall, been a pleasing experience. This is one of the few games I’ve played that gives off an infectious feeling of comfort and joy. It was very easy to sit on the couch or lay in bed and binge a few levels. My one fear is that it may get repetitive for some players. The level design gets increasingly creative, but the gameplay doesn’t change very much. This will be a hard one for people to go back to when there are so many other video games out there.

At such a low price, I recommend supporting the developers and purchasing Family Tree. Its simplistic nature seems like the perfect game for very young kids to cut their teeth on before you have them playing some of the more advanced titles out there. It holds a style that beams with wholesomeness through the ever-changing seasons, and a game that I will be returning to whenever I’m feeling down and out.

Review copy generously provided by Infinite States Games and PR Hound.
Categories
Gaming News

Samurai Shodown Cuts Its Way To Nintendo Switch

Back in June, I wrote our review for the 2019 reboot of Samurai Shodown. It was a welcome return for the franchise as I “embraced death” in various battles against foes that could defeat me in only a few blows. That intense action of colliding blades now has a release date for the Nintendo Switch—unsheath your joycons and hand the other to a friend. SNK announced this week that Samurai Shodown (2019) would be coming to the Nintendo Switch on February 25th for $49.99. Fans can pre-order the game now for 10% off and a few bonuses for the physical and digital versions.

The first bonus is a downloadable handheld spinoff of Samurai Shodown II called Samurai Shodown 2: Pocket Fighting Series. This version of the critically acclaimed sequel initially released on the Neo Geo Pocket Color in 1999 and looks like it might be a fun way to experience a piece of gaming history. The odds are that playing this version of Samurai Shodown II will be the first time for many as the Neo Geo Pocket Color could not step up to the competition that was Nintendo’s Gameboy Color.

The second is for those who purchase the Physical version of Samurai Shodown (2019). Switch owners who enjoy customizing their consoles and Joycons will be please with the controller skin that will be included in a limited number of copies. The controller skin features returning favorite Haohmaru and Yashurama, who is new to the roster. This physical version may be the right purchase for those who want to slay their opponents with style.

Will you be checking out Samurai Shodown (2019) on the Nintendo Switch? Let us know in the comments and be sure to read our official review of the PS4 version.

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Gaming PC PS4 Reviews Switch Xbox One

Paranoia: Happiness Is Mandatory

“Trust no one, report everything, but most importantly, remain happy. Happiness is mandatory.” –Friend Computer

Developer: Black Shamrock and Cyanide Studios
Publisher:
Bigben Interactive
Genre​
: RPG
Platforms​: PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 
Rating​: T for Teen
Price​: $29.99

Content Guide

Violence: There are enemies in the game to be killed including human clones and robots. It is also possible to commit suicide.

Drugs/Alcohol: There are substance addicted robots and clones.

Language/Crude Humor: There is a plethora of crude humor used throughout the story.

Review

In Paranoia: Happiness is Mandatory, you play as a clone who has just been assigned to lead a group of a team of troubleshooters to carry out missions for Friend Computer, our all-knowing ruler. These missions can range from investigating murders to helping bring back a substance-abusing robot. Head to the debriefing room and receive your quest from our almighty AI through an abundance of sometimes demeaning dialogue choices. Once that is finished, gather up your crew! Each crew member has a special ability, so be sure to select carefully, though in the beginning, you don’t have much of a choice. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is ss2moredialogue.png

Once your mission is assigned, take your crew and get to work. There is just one problem however, and that is that there are traitors about! The treacherous fiends are trying to overthrow our beloved ruler and take the world into their own filthy palms! You can root out these traitors along the way during missions assigned with your crew, but be careful because they could be traitors too! Keep an eye out for any suspicious activity from your crew, but don’t think you’re Mr. Clean either because you could very well be compromised, too. 

Throughout the missions, you will be asked to perform certain tasks such as seeking out traitors or having unsuspecting citizens try an experimental batch of a bubbly beverage. You get to and from locations by clicking where you want to go and having your character automatically move there.  Not everywhere you want to go is visible though;some rooms do not light up until you’re inside them, so be careful. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is ss2confessionbooth.png
Here’s the confession booth, a glitch in the game got me to a 90% treason level, so I figured I should get here immediately!

If you do end up running into trouble, you can combat your enemies by clicking on them which automatically attacks them with your equipped weapons. There are other abilities you can have to aid you, such as getting a charged headshot on your enemies along with the mutations you get when becoming a new clone. These mutations can be anything from telekinesis to lightning.

One of the game’s overlying mechanics is the treason bar. You can gain treason points by performing suspicious tasks such as entering an area you don’t have clearance in, hacking machines, poor dialogue choices or your own team throwing you under the bus. You can lower your treason levels by confessing your sins at a confession booth, but be careful because you can fill the bar even more if your wits aren’t about you!

 

If the treason bar ever fills up, you have two choices:

  1. Proceed to a self-termination booth
  2. Wait for someone else to self-terminate you
SPOILER ALERT: The Confession Booth didn’t work out for me.

Being killed in the game isn’t a bad thing. Once killed, you become a different clone, meaning you can re-balance your skill points and get a different mutation to help you throughout your missions. This also means that your treason bar is reset back to zero percent. You don’t even have to wait to die to do thisyou can use the self-terminating booth I mentioned earlier instead of at any time. 

However it is you want to play, whatever the choice you decide to make, just remember one thing:

Remain happy. Happiness is mandatory.

Overall, there are definitely some things to like about this game. I had never played the original tabletop RPG, and being introduced to it through this game definitely made me interested in giving it a try. I enjoyed and appreciated the wit used and the first few hours of the game were new and fresh. I absolutely love the concepts and would definitely welcome a sequel if the game can learn from its shortcomings. The repetitive nature of the combat, the fetch quests, and the long periods of walking (which in a point-and-click walk style video game, you’re doing nothing during that time) gave me a feeling of grinding and boredom at points in an otherwise intriguing setting.

Review copy generously provided by Homerun PR.
Categories
Gaming Reviews Switch

Review: Atelier Ryza—Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout

Developer: Gust Studios
Publisher: KOEI TECMO AMERICA
Genre: JRPG
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4
Rating: T for Teen
Price: $59.99

 

 

Atelier Ryza: The Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout lets players go on an adventure with three young islanders trying to escape a mundane life. The game has a deep story that focuses on the theme of growing up. As a new departure from the mechanics the Atelier series is known for, Atelier Ryza tries to bring in a bigger audience by providing a new fighting mechanic, synthesis system, and mature story tones.

Content Guide

He's talking about Deuteronomy.

Spiritual Content

Magic plays a big part in this fantasy setting. Potions, cauldrons, spells, etc. are the main part of the game. Dragons, pixies, and other mythical creatures roam the lands, but their appearance is of a cartoon nature.

Sexuality

Atelier games give skimpy outfits for girls oftentimes. And often they do not. It can be a near-perfectly clean game with one character dressed coarse. Ryza and Lent show the most skin out of all characters. In case it hasn’t become obvious, Ryza wears very short shorts that reveal her thighs, but enough to cover her posterior. Her shirt hangs a little low. Lent, the swordsman, wears small shirts that show his midriff. 

Language

The words d***, h*** are used.

Alcohol/Substance Abuse

Lent’s father, Samuel, is the town drunk, and is always intoxicated. Though he is a means for Lent to improve himself, Samuel is also a joke, despite his mercenary past, as per Japanese fashion.

Spiritual Take-Away

Atelier Ryza sadly doesn’t explore deep topics enough to offer any answers- Godly or ungodly. Sadly, they are novelty. But the game serves as a reminder that the world also views these things as novelty—things that are. Our faith says otherwise. “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:17), “Pure and faultless religion our Father accepts is looking after widows and orphans,” (James 1:27), and for those of us dealing with growing up and taking on all manner of responsibility, “Do not be children in your thinking… but in thinking be mature” (1 Corinthians 14:20). 

Review

When people talk of Atelier games, they are synonymous with perfect-world settings—the world-ending catastrophes at the end of the games don’t seem to be impactful. When I mention mature tones, I don’t mean themes too heavy for teens to handle. Even with the T rating, problems are shallow: running out of milk, waiting for a storm to pass, or stressing about passing a test. But those are the games of the past. The world of Ryza tries to explore themes of domestic-abuse, bullying, and learning to be an adult. 

Right from the start you see how the trio is treated as kids. The bookworm is picked on, the young girl is told where her future should be, the rich daughter is not allowed away from her house, and the muscular friend seeks acknowledgement as a man. All four of them make plans to get away. They find an old house on the mainland to serve as a secret hideout. Along the way they find two adults who help them learn to fight and use alchemy. Things begin to change for them, and the story eventually picks up, taking some twists and turns I don’t want to spoil. I will say I felt satisfied and given closure.

Battle

The new fighting system takes inspiration from early Final Fantasy games where picking commands is timed, so the fighting flows. Instead of menus, all options are relegated to buttons. Pressing A is a normal attack, Y is your special attacks, and X brings up your item list. You can hit the shoulder buttons to change between your party members at any time, allowing players to specialize if needed. 

The best part is the shared AP during battle. It’s tied to Tactics, a little augment players use to spice up the fighting. When you use the AP you increase the level of your Tactics, which gives you more hits, more abilities, more EXP, and other things. At the max level of Tactics is your Fatal Drive, the uber powerful attack. In the later game, mastering this system becomes key. While it was a learning curve, I found it to be like Grandia games, except without the extremely long, boring, spell casting.

Alchemy

Item creation is what these games are about. But an issue for me was the ridiculous farming. Past games filled one material down with a huge list of traits and effects. Anywhere from particular monster debuffs, to very particular percentage of defense boosts. If you knew how to play the game I would say seventy percent of them were absolutely unnecessary. But  then those useless traits become important as sub quest objectives for coins or other items. What I found worse were the end game traits; a.k.a. the means to beat the optional bosses, sometimes even the final boss. It never failed, every game progressed naturally, and had a decent difficulty increase and pace. All of a sudden a huge wall of difficulty arose at the very end. Up until now, every Atelier game ended this way for me, no matter what difficulty I set.

Atelier Ryza bravely turned things around to make item creation fun, but not tedious. Synthesis is a chart of deciding where to go. Previous installments used a puzzle game to determine the outcome of the effects. 

Increased pocket sizes of the main character makes synthesizing easier than before. Imagine holding thirty items, returning to drop them off, and going back out into the field. It becomes a chore when mass producing, which will happen from time to time in order to grind out levels. Ryza cut out the middle, which is a welcome change.

Thoughts

Having played my share, I really enjoy Atelier Ryza. I was not a huge fan of the previous installments’ stories, since they offered nothing meaty. To fully complete the games it took a horribly long time to get just the right effects and traits. Finding rare items with these traits meant relying on RNG, and most of the time the items would not have that trait/effect. Atelier Ryza did well in eliminating that. Getting rid of side character side-stories was a small loss, however. But according to an interview, the developers wanted to focus on the story, and I’m glad they did.

I’m kind of disappointed in the character development. The biggest elephant in the room gets no conclusion. Lent’s father simply is the bad dad who drinks, and… that’s it. Tao could have had a really great transition into becoming brave, but his character remains timid throughout.

But this was a departure from their normal, yet consistent, routine. If this was the standard Atelier experience from now on, I would not be upset. This is a good first Atelier to get into, and if you like it, go play Atelier Sophie next.