Game Review: ‘Battle Chef Brigade’, Cookin’ Mina

Game Review: ‘Battle Chef Brigade’, Cookin’ Mina

Have you ever played a video game that feels like it was crafted specifically to your very own gaming tastes? Very few times in my life has that happened, but Battle Chef Brigade managed to be just that for me. A game with lovely hand drawn artwork, Iron Chef style cooking battles and the voice talent of the incredible Erica Mendez? I was on board immediately.
Published by Adult Swim Games and developed by Trinket Studios, a three man team based in Chicago, Battle Chef Brigade is equal parts side-scrolling beat em’ up and cooking puzzle game. That may sound like a strange concept, but it all comes together to make a truly unique and special experience. And there’s even a pretty good story to boot!

Brigade.jpg
Battle Chef Brigade centers on the cooking exploits of Mina Han, a wide eyed and talented young chef with dreams of leaving her village and joining the esteemed ranks of the titular Battle Chef Brigade.
To this end, Mina must compete in a tournament with myriad other culinary hopefuls in order to prove her worth. But as the tournament progresses, it is revealed that somebody has been poisoning the animals that are the source of food for the entire world. What follows is a surprisingly engaging and well written narrative, and I was genuinely surprised at how much care went into the story and worldbuilding.

Tournament.jpg
The story is really good stuff and Mina is a super fun character to spend time as, but the real draws of Battle Chef Brigade are the combat and cooking, and the great thing about both of these gameplay elements is the fact that not only do they feel seamlessly integrated with one another, but both of them are strong enough to hold up as their own games.
The cooking parts of Battle Chef Brigade play similarly to a match three puzzle game, with the pieces being the elements of earth, water and fire, with bone fragments and poison thrown in for added challenge and benefits. Mixing different monster parts and plants can lead to a variety of different dishes, each with their own gorgeous artwork.

Dragon.jpg
Mina can also experiment with different cooking materials and pre-match ingredients, all of which can be earned from the shop. Slow cookers, elemental themed pots, cutting boards, recipe books, these and many other tools can assist Mina in her cooking duels. All of these items can be bought with the money Mina earns from doing side quests in town.
Brigade contestants are tasked with hunting down monsters in order to use their parts as ingredients, and this is where the beat em’ up gameplay comes into play. For starters, Mina is an absolute dream to control. Her movements are super fluid, and I had zero problems with her being responsive to button inputs.

Look

Her default moveset consists of a handful of melee combos, a vanish attack that can be used to keep combos going, a tornado spell, throwing knives and a very handy dodge maneuver. As her adventure progresses, Mina can gain access to a number of tools that can increase the amount of ingredients she can carry, give her a double jump and even increase the damage from her tornado attack.
Battle Chef Brigade’s cooking and combat gameplay come together to create some of the most intense gameplay moments I’ve ever had. If you ever watch shows like Iron Chef or Chopped, you’ll notice that the contestants are constantly at war with the clock, as well as concerned with things like getting their dish plated in time, and making sure they made good use of the the match’s theme ingredients. Battle Chef Brigade perfectly encapsulates these feelings.

Food

Not only does every cooking duel have a theme ingredient, but every judge (a maximum of three) has a certain element(s) that they want their dish to contain. As one can assume, this means the elements of your theme ingredient can sometimes be at odds with the ones desired by the judge, and this requires the player to be both forward thinking and resourceful.
Much like the contestants on television, I always found myself cooking and trying to get things plated down to the very last second, and I would always have sweaty palms by the end of the match. The game’s cooking duels are so intense that I really wish it had a dedicated multiplayer mode, though I understand how unrealistic that is for such a small team.

Sneaky Mina.jpg
Battle Chef Brigade is one of the most unique games I’ve ever played, and easily one of my favorite titles on the Nintendo Switch (it’s also available on Steam). Congratulations to Trinket Studios for making such an awesome game, and I’m looking forward to what they do in the future, as I’d one hundred percent be down for a Battle Chef Brigade sequel!

Advertisements

Tyler’s Favorite Games Of 2017

Tyler’s Favorite Games Of 2017

2017 brought with it so many quality gaming experiences across each and every platform, so much so that many people have claimed it to be one of the all time greatest years to be a gamer, period. I definitely played my fair share of games throughout the year, so today I’d like to talk about the ones that really stuck with me.

Honorable Mentions

Kingdom Hearts

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep 0.2- A Fragmentary Passage was a short and sweet prelude to Kingdom Hearts III that was included in the Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue compilation.

Aqua is one of the coolest characters in the entire series, and piloting her through the realm of darkness was a ton of fun. The general gameplay is a big step up compared to previous entries, and feels a lot closer to something like Kingdom Hearts II, plus the game is absurdly gorgeous. A Fragmentary Passage was just a taste of what we can expect from Kingdom Hearts III, and it got me even more excited to get my hands on it.

Snipperclips.jpg

Snipperclips was a fun, but really challenging puzzle game released around the launch of the Nintendo Switch. Although I rarely get to enjoy them these days, I absolutely love couch co-op games, especially ones like Snipperclips that really test the patience (and trust) that you have in your friends and family.

Naughty Dog is one developer whose games you can never really go wrong with, and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is no exception. There’s no Nate, Sully or Elena this time around, as players follow the escapades of Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross.

Uncharted.jpg

Lost Legacy isn’t as consistently impressive as some of the previous Uncharted games, but its high points are just as high. Gunplay is tight, traversal is nice and comfortable, and the handful of setpieces are among the best in the series.

Zelda.jpg

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild gets an honorable mention mostly because I’ve yet to finish it. Having said that, I absolutely adored everything I played. While I didn’t think much of the story, and I detested the weapon system, being able to go essentially anywhere I wanted to in a vibrant open world was more than enough to keep me engaged.

Nier.jpg

Much like Breath of the Wild, Nier Automata is another game that I loved, but never quite got around to finishing. I enjoyed the story to an extent, and I loved every minute of the hack and slash gameplay that Platinum Games has staked its name in, but the relatively empty feeling open world hampered my experience a bit. Having said that, I still think everybody should give this game a shot, as it really is something special.

Without further ado, these are my 11 favorite games from 2017!

#11. Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash

Cover Image.jpg

 

What’s not to love about a game like Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash. In addition to having costumes and skill cards that are totally unlockable in game without having to spend a dime, there’s also tons of sexy, busty and scantily clad shinobi schoolgirls to play as.

On a semi-serious note, Peach Beach Splash was some of the most mindless fun I had with a game in 2017, and I mean that in a good way. Leveling up my skills and weapons was really satisfying, and seeing their new effectiveness in combat was even better. Plus, ya know… busty shinobi schoolgirls…

#10. Splatoon 2

Splatoon.jpg

With a few exceptions like Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Kid Icarus: Uprising, I don’t generally get too into online multiplayer games, but Nintendo’s Splatoon 2 is another one of those exceptions. I gave the game’s single player campaign a shot, but found it to be extremely boring, as the whole time I was playing it I was thinking about getting in another match of turf war.

The game is such a perfect “pick up and play” experience. Turf war matches only last about three minutes, and as such I would always find myself trying to squeeze in just one more round before I had to go to work, bed etc. While the game does have its share of quality of life issues, I was often having too much fun splatting dudes with my custom little squid kid to care.

#9. Doki Doki Literature Club

Doki Doki.png

My experience with visual novels up to this point has pretty much been limited to the Danganronpa franchise, but Doki Doki Literature Club may have made me a fan of the genre. I can’t say much about the game without spoiling it, and seeing as how the best way to experience the game is to go into it completely blind, there’s no way I’d give away all of its secrets here. What I will say however is that the game is well worth your time, plus it’s totally free to boot.

#8. Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy

Crash.jpg

I grew up with the original Playstation console, but most of my time spent with it was on Goofy’s Fun House and the Spyro franchise. With the advent of the Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy, I’m finally able to experience the platforming escapades of Sony and Naughty Dog’s orange marsupial.

The compilation got quite a bit of flak for its high difficulty upon its release, but I found most of the challenges presented by the game to be tough but fair. Crash and Coco felt awesome to control, level design was consistently challenging and rewarding, and it was fun and refreshing to play such a unique platformer, as well as filling in a sizeable gap in my career as a Playstation fan.

#7. Golf Story

Golf Story.jpg

I love my Nintendo Switch, I love golf and I especially love RPGs, so it should be no surprise that one of my favorite games on the Switch in 2017 was Sidebar Games’ debut project, Golf Story. This quaint little indie game kept me thoroughly entertained for hours on end with its charming and genuinely funny dialogue, super tight golf mechanics, and intense rounds against other aspiring golf champions.

#6. Battle Chef Brigade

Battle Chef Brigade.jpg

I’ve been watching the Food Network ever since I was a kid, and I’ve always been a huge fan of shows like Iron Chef and Chopped. But I never would’ve guessed that Adult Swim Games would bring us the most accurate video game depiction of these shows in the form of Battle Chef Brigade.

Equal parts side-scrolling beat em’ up and match 3 puzzle game, Battle Chef Brigade is easily one of the most unique and inventive games I’ve ever played. Going out into the field to gather monster parts and plants to cook with, making sure each dish has a balanced flavor distribution, all while battling the clock made for some of the most genuinely tense gaming I’ve ever had.

The game has a gorgeous hand drawn 2d art style, and the voice acting is pretty good as well, with special mention going to protagonist Mina Han’s voice actress, the absolutely amazing Erica Mendez (who also voiced Akko from Little Witch Academia and Ryuko from Kill la Kill). Battle Chef Brigade is such a cool addition to the Nintendo Switch’s already impressive library, and easily one of my favorite titles the little hybrid system has to offer.

#5. Horizon: Zero Dawn

Horizon.jpg

What do you get when you take a meticulously crafted open world, storytelling on par with titles from Naughty Dog and top it all off with intense combat scenarios not unlike those found in games like Monster Hunter? The answer to that question is none other than Guerrilla Games’ Horizon: Zero Dawn.

I’m typically not a fan of open world games, but there were so many cool locales to unearth in Horizon that I was hooked from the start. Exploration aside, my favorite part about the game was the dozens of mechanical creatures that threaten protagonist Alloy during her journey, as well as the dizzying array of options that players have available to them. Every Playstation 4 owner should have this game, as it is just as good and often better as offerings from Guerrilla’s first party siblings.

#4. Super Mario Odyssey

Odyssey.jpg

Super Mario Odyssey may not be my number one personal game of the year, but I’ve gone on record as saying I believe it was the best game released in 2017. Nintendo is the Disney of video games for a reason. Just when you think their ideas have become tired and stagnant, both companies give you something that reminds you just who you’re talking about.

Every single part of Super Mario Odyssey, from the control, level design and aesthetic is so lovingly crafted, and the developers at Nintendo crammed secrets into every corner of every kingdom.

I’ve been playing Mario games since I first picked up a controller, and it impresses me to no end that Nintendo is still able to put the overall clad plumber into such fresh and exciting experiences. Playing Super Mario Odyssey made me feel like a kid playing Super Mario World for the first time again, and it will always get endless praise from me for that achievement.

#3. Cuphead

Cuphead Boss.jpg

I’ve talked a lot on this blog about how much I love animation, especially Disney. I’ve also talked about how much I love those challenging, “get good” style games that reward the player for mastering mechanics its mechanics. Studio MDHR’s Cuphead is the absolute perfect marriage of these two passions, and I love it endlessly so because of this.

Challenging but rewarding games need to accomplish two things in order for me to love them. One of these things is having extremely tight and reliable controls, and the other is tough, but fair boss design. Cuphead does both of these things in spades.

Everytime I died on a platforming challenge or boss fight, I knew exactly when and where I messed up, and this really encouraged me to get back in there and try again. In a year that wasn’t so jam packed with amazing games, Cuphead would’ve easily been my personal Game of the Year, but there are just two more titles that managed to rank above it.

#2. Sonic Mania

Sonic Mania.jpg

Sonic Mania encapsulates pretty much everything I love about the blue hedgehog. The music, the visuals, the promotional artwork and trailers, the animated sequences; Sonic Mania is one of those games that I would just play with a big ol’ goofy grin plastered onto my face the entire time.

I’m still not quite ready to say definitively, but it is probably the best Sonic game ever made. It takes the best parts of each of the original classic games, fleshes them out with levels both new and old, and throws in a few fresh ideas for good measure. I can’t wait to see what Christian Whitehead, Stealth and PagodaWest Games come up with for the inevitable sequel, and I really hope Sega and Sonic Team take the leash off and just let their creativity run wild.

#1. Persona 5

The Showstopper.png

My Game of the Year for 2017 is none other than the stylish and cool Persona 5. Coming from acclaimed Japanese developer Atlus, Persona 5 is a incredibly deep and polished experience all the way through.

Persona 4 Golden is one of my favorite games of all time, but even I have to admit that Persona 5 is a better experience in almost every aspect. The thing I’ve always said about Persona 4 Golden is that high school and social life parts of the game were incredible, but the role playing game parts were totally serviceable, just nothing too special.

Ann and Makoto.jpg

Persona 5 completely changed this for me in every possible way. Combat is so much deeper this time around, as the player is given many more options to both attack and change strategies on the fly. In addition, your confidants, Persona 5’s version of social links, yield incredibly useful gameplay benefits this time around, with being able to romance your waifu of choice being an added bonus (Makoto and Hifumi are the only right answers).

My only major complaint with Persona 5 is the narrative. It starts incredibly strong, and I think the pacing and moment to moment story beats are much better told in comparison to Persona 4 Golden, plus the themes the game tackles are surprisingly adult. But the latter third of the game makes some questionable story decisions and felt a bit rushed at times.

Anniversary.jpg Although I have issues with the game’s narrative, the characters arcs are just as strong as they were in the previous Persona title. This extends not only to your party members, but to almost all of your other confidants. Each of them has their own interesting set of problems to deal with, and it always made me genuinely happy to see them reach a satisfying conclusion.

I love Persona 5 as a gaming experience, but I also love the conversations it has spawned between me and my close friends. We talked consistently throughout the year about story opinions, discussed battle strategies and even debated waifus and best girls (I’m fed up with the slander of the Persona 4 girls by the way). I haven’t had these types of discussions with my friends since probably middle school, and it was such a heartwarming experience to have them one more time.

Sora.jpg

2017 was an unforgettable year for gaming, and 2018 is looking to be pretty exciting in its own right with titles like Dragon Ball FighterZ, Marvel’s Spider-Man, a new Tomb Raider, and of course Kingdom Hearts III. I’m looking forward to these games and many more, and I hope each of them ends up being as special and memorable as my favorites from 2017.

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Kingdom Hearts II’

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Kingdom Hearts II’

Role Playing video games are about much more than just the moment to moment gameplay. Story, characters and world building are equally important to the experience as the combat system and level progression mechanics, and for this gamer in particular, Kingdom Hearts II delivers in each of these areas by a large degree. For these reasons and many more, Kingdom Hearts II is my favorite game of all time.

Kingdom Hearts II is one of the first video game stories that I remember being truly and thoroughly invested in. I previously enjoyed the stories from games like Sonic Adventure 2, Pokemon Crystal and especially the original Kingdom Hearts, but Kingdom Hearts II was on an entirely different level as far as I was concerned.

Roxas.jpg

You’ll never hear me argue that the writing on display in any of the Kingdom Hearts games is incredibly deep or well written. But in spite of this claim, myself and millions of other Kingdom Hearts fans love every little story detail about the series, flaws and all.

There’s so many things I adore about Kingdom Hearts II’s overall narrative. I love just how grand Sora’s adventure feels this time around, and having a dangerous group like Organization XIII constantly lurking in the shadows really does a great job of raising the sense of tension.

Namine.jpg

My favorite thing about the game is the portrayal of the characters. Sora, when compared to his original Kingdom Hearts self, has a more defined personality. He comes across as much more mature and confident, and is able to effectively take charge of his group.

Other characters like Riku and Roxas are super enjoyable in the story as well, but I especially love how much development the game gave to Kairi. She was just a damsel in distress during the events of the first game, and while that is still true of Kingdom Hearts II to an extent, she does much more than just sit around and wait for Sora and Riku to come rescue her.

Sora and Riku.jpg

The ending to Kingdom Hearts II will likely always be my favorite of any video game, and is honestly one of my favorites in any storytelling medium. Many games have followed Kingdom Hearts II, but I’ve always said that Kingdom Hearts, Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II all come together to serve as a nice little trilogy, one that Kingdom Hearts II wraps up with a genuinely beautiful and heartwarming finale.

I’ve talked so much about loving games with deeply rewarding systems and mechanics that I’m practically a broken record at this point, and Kingdom Hearts II, in conjunction with multiple Sonic the Hedgehog games is responsible for this.

Keyblades.jpg

Kingdom Hearts II has what is easily one of the most underappreciated combat systems in all of gaming, but I can’t say that this is unjustified. The mechanics that make the game truly shine are best represented in the game’s Final Mix version, which wasn’t available outside of Japan until 2014.

In addition, these same mechanics only really work on the higher difficulty levels like Proud and Critical. Most people are going to experience the game on Normal difficulty, and this, in conjunction with just how many powerful abilities Sora gains access to, is almost entirely why the game has the negative stigma of being a mindless button masher.

Reunion.jpg

 

Boss encounters are without question the best thing about Kingdom Hearts II’s gameplay, more specifically the human sized ones. These fights test your reflexes, reaction time and ability to watch for, observe and adapt to attack and defense patterns.

Kingdom Hearts II’s boss fights manifest themselves not too unlike traditional fighting games, with many fighting game terms being applicable to Kingdom Hearts II. Spacing, active frames, recovery frames, all of these terms and more are necessary to have a solid chance against some of the tougher opponents.

Kairi.jpg

A large part of what makes the combat so engaging is the staggering amount of viable options Sora has available to him. Physical Keyblade attacks are what you’ll normally default to, but there’s also drive forms, summons, magic attacks and limit breaks to consider. Each of these mechanics have their own utility for different situations, and it’s a ton of fun experimenting with different loadouts to see what works best for individual play styles.

From story to gameplay and everything in between, Kingdom Hearts II is an absolute treat in my eyes. There’s practically nothing I don’t love about the game. Certain characters and story moments that were shown in this game have stuck with me for years, and have had a huge influence on the types of stories I enjoy to this day. Kingdom Hearts II truly does have that Disney magic, a magic that can be plainly seen in each and every area of the game.

Kingdom Hearts II Wallpaper.jpg

Defining Game Of The Year In 2017

Defining Game Of The Year In 2017

In spite of its rich and storied history, video games are still a very young hobby, and the modern internet culture surrounding the hobby is even younger. Around this time every year, the gaming industry comes together to discuss what game best represents the hobby, otherwise known as the Game of the Year.

Whether it’s professional sites like IGN and GameSpot, industry influencers on Youtube, fans on message boards like Reddit, or even a humble blog like my own, every gamer on the internet has an opinion on this subject.

Horizon.jpg

But as gaming culture grows from year to year, so too does the meaning behind the title of Game of the Year. While determining Game of the Year was never an exact science to begin with, the sheer diversity in styles of gaming has really changed how these conversations are held, and the most recent example of this is the phenomenon known as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

It’s impossible to have been someone who is invested in gaming culture to not have heard about PUBG this year. It has broken a few really impressive records on Steam, been an extremely popular title for Twitch streamers and been a hot topic of conversation when it comes to deciding whether or not it should be considered for Game of the Year.

Odyssey.jpg

There have been many people that don’t see the game as a contender for the title, with the biggest reason being that it is still in early access, meaning it technically isn’t finished. In spite of this, the game was still nominated for Game of the Year for Geoff Keighley’s Game Awards show, alongside Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Horizon: Zero Dawn and Persona 5.

At their core, video games are about gameplay, and Super Mario Odyssey is my personal pick for game of the year because it’s moment to moment gameplay is incredible. But video games in 2017 are much more than that.

Uncharted.jpg

Games like Uncharted and Bioshock have great gameplay, but it’s their incredible worlds, characters and narratives that have made them into some of the greatest games ever released. Going even further with narrative, games like Journey and Gone Home are almost entirely story based, and are also revered as some of the best games released in recent years.

There is also something to be said about a game’s impact. The argument could be made that there are games much more polished and technically sound than something like PUBG, but one thing that can’t be denied is that game’s impact, as it is easily the biggest game of the year in this respect.

Pokemon.jpg

In that same sense, could not an argument be made for Pokemon Go being 2016’s Game of the Year? It’s initial launch was littered with bugs, and it’s not the deepest gaming experience out there, but it was impossible to go anywhere without hearing or seeing something about Pokemon when that game was at its peak.

The nominees for Game of the Year would look completely different if we were basing the title on one criteria. For pure gameplay, Super Mario Odyssey would likely be accompanied by games like Sonic Mania and Cuphead, but none of those titles would stand a chance if the judging was based on narrative.

Cuphead.png

The great thing about Game of the Year discussions in 2017 is the fact that gameplay, narrative and impact all seem to get a fair chance at the title, as evidenced by the nominees for the Game Awards.

As weird as it may seem, games are no longer simply about raw mechanics and gameplay. Video games have the potential to tell stories that rival and even surpass those seen in theaters, and can have just as big an impact on mainstream culture as any popular song or television show.

Persona.png

As games evolve year after year, so too will the definition of Game of the Year. The conversation may seem pointless to some, but myself and many others get a lot of enjoyment from the various debates held across the internet (the civil ones, anyway).

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Sonic Unleashed’

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Sonic Unleashed’

I’ll never forget how excited I was during the lead up to the November 2008 release of Sonic Unleashed, my all time favorite Sonic the Hedgehog game. The initial teaser trailer featuring the hedgehog whistling and twirling a gold ring around his finger caught my interest, but it’s the trailer that debuted at that year’s E3 convention that really sold me on the game.

Sonic was always known for being the fastest thing alive, and Sonic Unleashed is a game that truly lived up to that title. I had never seen Sonic move at such absurd speeds, and my little 8th grade mind would watch that trailer over and over again until I finally got the game for myself the following Christmas, along with a brand new Playstation 3.

Teaser.png

Sonic Unleashed is my favorite Sonic game for a multitude of reasons, many of which have to do with just how ambitious the game was. To this day, it is still the most visually impressive Sonic game ever released, as well as the best use of the innovative technology afforded to Sega and Sonic Team courtesy of the custom built Hedgehog Engine.

This also extends to the computer animation done by Marza Animation Planet. The opening that they did for Unleashed will likely always be my favorite Sonic the Hedgehog cutscene, and seeing it always makes me wish for a fully animated Sonic movie (it also gives me some serious Toy Story 2 opening vibes).

Windmill Isle.jpg

Speaking of which, Marza did actually get the opportunity to make an animated short film based on the game, aptly titled Night of the Werehog. It’s a cute little short, and I go back and watch it from time to time just to enjoy the animation.

The entire premise of Unleashed is Sonic and his new friend Chip embarking on a globe-trotting adventure to solve a planet sized jigsaw puzzle created by Eggman. Each level in the game is based on a real world location, and the music is appropriately composed to include instruments and sounds from each continent.

Eggman.png

Sonic Unleashed isn’t my absolute favorite Sonic soundtrack, but it’s definitely up there. The music is so catchy and varied, and every song goes a long way towards making each new place you visit feel unique.

Sonic Unleashed is the game that set a new standard for storytelling in Sonic games. It really feels like there was a lot of thought and effort put into the narrative, and tone wise, it feels very appropriate for the franchise. The game also featured one of Jason Griffith’s best performances as Sonic, and he remains my favorite voice for the hedgehog.

Super Sonic.jpg

Gameplay is what really makes or breaks a video game in most cases, and that is absolutely true of Sonic Unleashed. Just to get this out of the way, no, I’m not really bothered that much by the Werehog. While I do think it was a bad inclusion, his gameplay was largely inoffensive to me, outside of his stage length, and that’s about all I have to say on the matter.

The game’s biggest selling point is the new boost gameplay for 3d Sonic, which debuted in Sonic Rush three year prior. The two original Sonic Adventure games tried their best to bring Sonic and his friends into the third dimension, and in many ways, they succeeded. However, there were a few things that they never really nailed, and this held them back from being truly regarded as excellent 3d platformers.

Chip.jpg

Sonic Unleashed’s solution to this problem is to essentially strip Sonic of being a platformer almost entirely. The worst parts of even the classic Sonic games were when they tried to be more like traditional platformers, and this problem was present and even exacerbated for the 3d entries in the series.

The classic games were all about earning your speed. Mastering the game’s controls and mechanics, as well as the Sonic franchise’s unique momentum based pinball physics would reward the player with incredible moments of speed.

Dragon.jpg

Sonic Unleashed takes the concept of speed as a reward, and applies it in a brand new way. Sonic’s boost ability rockets him to top speed in an instant, but the challenge this time around is being able to keep that speed for the duration of the level.

Sonic Unleashed manifests itself like a racing game, and to borrow a term from TSSZ writer BlazeHedgehog, it feels like a “racing platformer”, right down to Sonic’s secondary abilities such as the drift and quick step.

Chip 2.png

 

Levels are littered with obstacles to stop Sonic dead in his tracks. Enemies, fire traps, spikes, springs that misdirect you, quick step challenges, having to drift around tight corners, all of these things and more keep the player engaged as they attempt to flawlessly dash through the beautiful locales the game has to offer.

The game perfectly nails the arcade-y feel that Sega is known for. I love chasing high scores and attempting to beat my own best times, and doing it in Sonic Unleashed feels so darn satisfying.

Empire City.jpg

I actually believe that Sonic Generations is, overall, a better game than Sonic Unleashed, as well as the right direction for the Modern Sonic boost gameplay style. It improves Sonic’s control, adds in platforming challenges that mesh well with the high speed gameplay and scales back on the difficulty present in Unleashed.

Having said that, Sonic Unleashed is my prefered game almost entirely because of the higher difficulty. It’s a game that forces you to master its mechanics if you want to have any real fun, and though this may be offputting to many players, it really appeals to someone like me.

Ready.jpg

I love that feeling of getting your teeth kicked in by a level on your first time playing, only to return to it later on with a better grasp on how to play. This makes Unleashed a deeply rewarding game to play, and is the main reason why I still enjoy it almost a decade later.

Sonic Unleashed is a flawed game, and of that there is no doubt, but the high points of the game are some of the most fun I’ve ever had in any video game. Every inch of this game feels like it was made by people who wanted to make it, who wanted to make a revolutionary Sonic the Hedgehog game, and I can’t commend Sonic Team enough for this.

Coconuts

No matter what bad times the series may go through, and even if I never get to play an amazing 3d Sonic game ever again, I’ll always be able to pick up Sonic Unleashed and have a great time. I’ve been playing it for nearly a decade, and I hope to play it for many more years to come.

Game Review: ‘Sonic Forces’, Something Something, Blue Hedgehogs

Game Review: ‘Sonic Forces’, Something Something, Blue Hedgehogs

The reveal of Sonic Forces, formerly known as Project Sonic 2017, capped off the Sonic 25th anniversary party during the summer of 2016. The trailer showed off Sonic running through a burning city not too dissimilar from Sonic 06’s own Crisis City, before being joined by his rotund and lovable Classic counterpart.

Dr. Eggman has conquered the majority of the world in Sonic Forces, and it’s up to Sonic and the Freedom Figh… er, the Resistance to stop him from achieving total domination. To this end, the Resistance needs your help to overthrow Eggman’s empire.

Avatar Promo.png

Sonic Forces allows players to make their very own original character, and they actually play a small role in the events of the story. The game starts with Sonic traveling to a city under siege to stop Eggman, and he is promptly defeated by a group of villains from his past, as well as newcomer, Infinite.

Fast forward six months, and the Resistance is one the defensive against Eggman’s army. With no Sonic (Eggman took him as a prisoner), the Resistance and their leader, Knuckles the Echidna, are doing all that they can to survive, while at the same time looking for a weak spot in Eggman’s forces.

Infinite.jpg

The main plot device of Sonic Forces is the Phantom Ruby, the very same jewel that was the source of Eggman’s power in Sonic Mania. In what is probably the weirdest move this franchise has ever made, Sonic Mania and Sonic Forces are directly tied together, and the Phantom Ruby is the reason Classic Sonic is back in the first place.

Having said that, Classic’s appearance doesn’t really amount to much. Outside of a small side plot with Tails, the character is barely a presence in the narrative, and he has basically zero meaningful interactions with the rest of the cast, his Modern self included.

Fist Bump.jpg

I don’t wanna spend too much more time on the story, but I will say it was surprisingly enjoyable. It strikes a good balance between comedy and drama, and is more akin to Sonic The Hedgehog SatAM rather than Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.

It feels like a story ripped right out of the Sonic the Hedgehog comics, something I think is a welcome addition to the series. It doesn’t have the best writing I’ve seen in a Sonic game, as there are a handful of points in the story that aren’t well developed, but it’s definitely the most enjoyable Sonic story since at least 2010’s Sonic Colors.

SONIC FORCES_20171111214009.jpg

Sonic Forces has pretty solid presentation across the board. It has a consistent 60fps, and I never saw it stutter a single time. But this excellent performance does come at a cost, namely, the visual fidelity.  Outside of the quality of the character models, Forces doesn’t look nearly as good as Sonic Unleashed or Generations, and backgrounds are much less detailed.

Many level aesthetics also feel way too same-y for my taste. The designs for Chemical Plant, Death Egg and Eggman’s Empire all just look like chunks of metal stuck together, and lack any real distinct sense of identity.

SONIC FORCES_20171111213606.jpg

Although I do wish the game was more visually impressive, I think opting for a rock solid 60fps over high fidelity graphics was the right call. It was just hard for me to ignore the fact that nothing very interesting was ever going on in the levels, with the only major exception being the burning city.

The music in Sonic Forces ranges from bland and forgettable to amazing. Modern Sonic is a mix of guitars and electric synths, while the Avatar is full on EDM. Classic Sonic’s music is very reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog 4, meaning it tries way too hard to emulate the sounds and tones of the Sega Genesis, leading to almost all of his music sounding really generic.

SONIC FORCES_20171111213136.jpg

But when Sonic Forces has a good song, it’s an absolute joy to hear. I loved tracks like Sunset Heights and Park Avenue, and my personal favorite was Aqua Road. The free Episode Shadow DLC had great music too, as well as some genuinely cool callbacks to the black hedgehog’s most famous tunes.

Gameplay in Sonic Forces is split between Modern Sonic, Classic Sonic and the Avatar, and I’ll start by going over Classic Sonic. The cute and mute dude was just sort of there in the story, and the same can be said of his gameplay.

Metal Sonic.jpg

Just to get this out of the way, no, he doesn’t play nearly as good as his Sonic Mania counterpart, and he’s actually not even as good as he was in Sonic Generations. His rolling physics have been slightly improved from that game, and he also has Mania’s Drop Dash, but the level design almost never lets you play around with these mechanics.

Classic Sonic’s stages are littered with boosters and springs that keep you moving forward, and there’s very little in the way of meaningful alternate paths to explore. His gameplay as a whole is largely inoffensive, and nothing special to write home about.

SONIC FORCES_20171111212628.jpg

Now for the Avatar. Players can choose from a handful of different species to create their very own Original the Character such as hedgehogs, wolves and birds. Each species has their own unique ability such as the wolf being able to draw in items, and the cat being able to double jump. These additions are fun, but don’t have too big of an impact on level progression and challenge.

The real source of variety comes from the Wispons, special weapons powered by the alien Wisps that have been featured in the last few Sonic games. Each Wispon has a basic attack to deal with enemies, as well as a special skill that can only be used upon finding specific Wisp capsules, and these can range from having multiple jumps, using the light speed dash and gaining temporary invincibility.

SONIC FORCES_20171111212839.jpg

The Avatar controls like a slightly worse Modern Sonic. He lacks the former’s boost, and his jump doesn’t damage enemies, but he does have his own quick step, stomp, slide and homing attack thanks to his grappling hook.

When levels simply ask you to defeat enemies, explore the area using different wisp abilities and chain together grappling hook attacks, they can be pretty fun. But the few times they ask you to do actual platforming can be a nightmare. The Avatar’s jump is abysmal. He’s stiff as a board, and you can’t really influence his direction once you commit to a jump.

SONIC FORCES_20171111213447.jpg

Level design rarely asks you to be precise with your movement though, and you’ll probably breeze right through them on repeated playthroughs when you have the appropriate Wispons, but his awful jump was a real hindrance at times.

The most fun part about the Avatar is being able to customize them to your heart’s content. The Avatar can equip a number of pretty cool items, and you can even unlock clothing from other characters such as Sonic’s Soap shoes from Sonic Adventure 2, or the scarf worn by the hedgehog in Sonic Boom.

SONIC FORCES_20171111212959.jpg

Last but not least, Modern Sonic. What Sonic 4 was to the Classic Sonic games, Sonic Forces is to Unleashed, Colors and Generations. It features the return of the boost gameplay after being absent in Sonic Lost World, but only on a superficial level.

Modern Sonic in Forces lacks all of the little nuances that made him fun to play, and this especially sticks out to someone like me, whose favorite Sonic game is Unleashed. His control is noticeably worse this time around, and many of the moves that define the boost games are either changed for the worse, or a complete afterthought.

SONIC FORCES_20171107132146.jpg

The boost itself remains much the same, with the only major difference being the fact that the air boost has an upwards arc to it, and no longer fizzles out. The quick step is back, though its uses are few and far between, and the returning slide is never required, and doesn’t offer any real utility. In addition, the drift maneuver has been removed entirely.

Sonic Team made an interesting change to Sonic’s homing attack this time around, as you have to be almost entirely centered in front of an enemy to use it. I think I understand why they did this, as it eliminates the problem of targeting something that you can’t see off screen, but I never really found this to be an issue in previous games.

SONIC FORCES_20171110232822.jpg

In fact, not being able to attack enemies directly to my side would often lead to death, or not being able to access a rail or spring that leads to a different path.

Sonic Forces also epitomizes the “boost to win” complaints that have often been wrongly attached to previous games. Modern Sonic’s 3d sections are almost entirely straight line boosting paths, with practically no obstacles in the way to stop you. 2d sections don’t fare much better, as they usually consist of homing attack chains and basic platforming challenges.

SONIC FORCES_20171111213648.jpg

There were some levels that I beat almost entirely one handed, something I was never able to do in previous games. I have no problem with a linear game, but the linear path has to be interesting.

Sonic Unleashed was a linear game all about going fast, but the fun and challenge came from how well you were able to do so. Levels were often filled with spikes, quick step sequences, obstacles to slide under, and drifting challenges. All of these things and more made levels in Unleashed really fun and engaging, something Forces completely misses.

SONIC FORCES_20171111214057.jpg

Modern Sonic’s levels are also way too short, and always feel like they were just getting started when they end. Most of his stages can be completed in under 2 minutes, and that’s on your very first playthrough.

I’ve been really hard on Modern Sonic so far, (mostly because I’m a student of the boost games), but I still found enjoyment in his levels. While they lack the thrill and challenge of previous boost games, it was still kinda fun to just blast through them.

SONIC FORCES_20171111213922.jpg

I’m just disappointed that they brought back the boost gameplay style, and left out the control accoutrements and level design mentality that made it so rewarding to play in the first place.

Sonic Forces also has a handful of Tag Team stages that have the player take control of both Modern Sonic and the Avatar at the same time. Controlling both characters is surprisingly fun and easy, and it felt pretty natural to switch between boosting and the Wispon abilities.

SONIC FORCES_20171111214219.jpg

There are a handful of other activities to partake in outside of the main campaign. Each level has 5 Red Star Rings to collect, and doing so allows you to collect Numbered Rings and Silver Rings upon revisiting them.

The Numbered and Silver Rings don’t do much of anything, but the Red Star Rings unlock additional clothing options for the Avatar, as well as few secret levels.

SONIC FORCES_20171111212703.jpg

The game also has SOS missions, and these require you to either play through one of the main levels with a random Avatar, or search for a hidden capsule that’s usually pretty easy to find. There are also challenges and daily missions to complete, and these award a score multiplier that helps you obtain easy S Ranks.

There’s also the free Episode Shadow DLC. It consists of three levels unique to Shadow, as well as a short prologue to the main events of the story that gives background to Infinite. I enjoyed this extra little bit of content, and I especially love the remixes that came with it. As a bonus, you also get to play as Shadow in a few of Modern Sonic’s stages.

SONIC FORCES_20171111213908

I was initially really hard on Sonic Forces (mostly Modern Sonic), but my opinion softened the more I played. While I still hold strong to the fact that it doesn’t come anywhere close to the quality of games like Generations and Mania, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have at least a little fun.

My final thoughts are as follows. Classic Sonic’s inclusion is harmless, but I think he should stick to his own games (or dimension, which is now a thing by the way) for future installments. The Avatar was a cool idea, and a great show of fan service, and I wouldn’t actually mind them trying the idea again, just fix his jump and overall control.

Concept Art.jpg

As far as Modern Sonic is concerned, I really hope that Sonic Team goes back to study what made earlier boost games work if they want to continue with this gameplay style, as Forces demonstrates that their understanding of them is cursory and superficial at best.

Although the boost games are my prefered style for 3d Sonic, I wouldn’t at all mind them giving the Sonic Adventure style of gameplay another chance. It’s been years since they last attempted to do so, and I’d at the very least like to see what they would come up with.

Cover Image

 

Sonic Forces is just fine. It’s not great, and I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s very good, but it’s definitely not bad. But I’d be hard pressed to recommend a game that’s just fine when there are so many other amazing titles to play like Sonic Mania, Super Mario Odyssey and Cuphead to name a few.

It’s a totally serviceable game, and the $40 price tag definitely doesn’t hurt, just don’t go into this expecting to have a grand old time. Hardcore Sonic fans have most likely already bought the game, and kids can probably find some enjoyment out of it. I’d say give it a try if you’re curious, but I’ll also say that there are much better games to spend your money on.

Game Review: ‘Super Mario Odyssey’, Hats Off To You Super Star!

Game Review: ‘Super Mario Odyssey’, Hats Off To You Super Star!

Super Mario Odyssey is the best video game of 2017, and considering the staggering amount of quality titles that have released throughout the year, that’s quite the compliment. The game is so full of magic and excitement, and every inch of the game is practically bleeding with that special Nintendo magic.

Super Mario Odyssey begins with everyone’s favorite red capped plumber suffering an uncharacteristic defeat at the hands of Bowser. The giant Koopa’s latest scheme sees him trying to force Peach into a marriage, and he travels to various new kingdoms in order to gain the supplies necessary for the perfect wedding.

Cappy.jpg

Just as he is recovering from his encounter with Bowser, Mario meets a friendly spirit named Cappy, and he informs Mario that Bowser has kidnapped his little sister. With a common enemy in mind, Mario and Cappy join forces to thwart Bowser’s plan and rescue their loved ones.

Super Mario Odyssey takes Mario and Cappy on a globe-trotting adventure. The duo start their journey in the Nightmare Before Christmas inspired Cap Kingdom, and they will eventually discover over a dozen other unique kingdoms to explore.

Tostarena.jpg

Odyssey, much like Super Mario Galaxy before it, largely avoids retreading the standard Mario platformer tropes in terms of level aesthetics. Almost every single kingdom in the game is something entirely fresh and new to the Mario series.

Whether it’s the lush and vibrant Cascade Kingdom where dinosaurs roam free, the Mexico inspired Sand Kingdom or the ever so appetizing Luncheon Kingdom, there’s definitely no shortage of breathtaking sights to see in Super Mario Odyssey.

Shop.png

Not only are the kingdoms unique in their visual design and platforming gimmicks, but they each have their own citizens and currency. Each kingdom has a number of purple coins to collect, and these coins can be used at the shop to purchase new costumes, stickers to decorate the Odyssey (Mario’s ship) and souvenirs to decorate the interior.

Certain costumes must be worn to unlock a door containing a power moon in each kingdom, but aside from these instances, they are entirely cosmetic. I love being able to dress up characters in just about any video game, and the plethora of outfits to choose from in Super Mario Odyssey did a great job of satiating my inner fashionista.

Peach.jpg

Super Mario Odyssey is sort of a best of both worlds experience when it comes to 3d Mario titles. It takes the sandbox layout of Super Mario 64 and Sunshine, meshes them with the more platforming centric, obstacle course design mentality of Galaxy and 3D Land/World, and throws in its own special twists on top of that.

Levels in Super Mario Odyssey are huge, but never feel overwhelming. In addition, they do an excellent job of providing a fun experience for both the explorative gamer, and the ones who prefer to follow a linear path.

Wedding.jpg

 

 

There’s plenty of fun to be had if you stay on the main course of each kingdom, but the game truly begins to shine when you comb through each environment looking for the myriad secrets hidden within the game.

There are hundreds of power moons to find in Super Mario Odyssey, and Nintendo has hidden these little guys in every corner imaginable. Some moons can be found out in the open, usually on top of a tree or building, while others can be found by destroying certain obstacles or ground pounding specific locations.

Musica.jpg

Power moons can also be found by completing special platforming challenges, or playing a host of fun mini games. You’ll play slots, participate in volleyball matches, jump rope in the parks of New Donk City and race RC cars among many other things to find the little luminescent collectibles.

There’s always something to do in Super Mario Odyssey. I would tear through every nook and cranny imaginable on my first visit to a new kingdom, only to be astonished at the amount of power moons I failed to find (though some moons are only unlocked after completing the main campaign).

Broodals.jpg

In addition to having sandbox levels that are an absolute joy to explore, Super Mario Odyssey has what is probably the best controlling Mario in the entire history of the series. Mario comes equipped with his tried and true moves like the triple jump, long jump and backwards somersault, but he’s also gained a ground pound jump and a spin da… er, rolling move.

The most notable addition to Mario’s moveset is his companion Cappy. Mario can throw Cappy to damage enemies, collect coins and interact with certain environmental gimmicks, and using motion controls allows Cappy to perform numerous other attacks.

Goomba Stack.jpg

Cappy also has some pretty cool utility for platforming. After throwing Cappy, Mario can use him as a makeshift platform, something I found myself doing all the time. As a whole, Cappy feels like a great and natural addition to Mario’s moveset.

Cappy’s primary function is the ability to “cap-ture” people and things (so long as they aren’t already wearing a hat). From Goombas to Bullet Bills and trees, Mario can take control of just about anything he comes across.

Ship.jpg

Captures are typically used to complete unique puzzles and challenges, as well as find more power moons. All in all, they feel pretty comfortable to use, and none of them ever overstay their welcome. A few of them even get used for certain boss fights, and I was impressed with just how much fun it was to make use of their abilities to damage them.

Super Mario Odyssey is the most gorgeous Mario game to date, so much so that you can see the individual hairs in Mario’s moustache. These impressive visuals pair up quite nicely with the game’s absolutely delightful soundtrack.

Pauline

The star of the show is obviously the vocal track, Jump Up, Super Star!, but the entire soundtrack is a joy to my ears, and I got some serious Vince Guaraldi Trio vibes from the jazzy tunes of New Donk City.

Super Mario Odyssey is pure and simple fun. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I would find myself smiling and feeling like a kid again during my time with the game, and there were a few moments that made me verbally exclaim how cool the thing happening on my screen was.

Cover Image 2.png

Super Mario Odyssey makes me happy, and it makes me smile as if I was a kid experiencing Super Mario World all over again. Not only is it the best game of 2017, but it’s one of the best games of all time, and will probably surpass Super Mario Galaxy in my mind as the best 3d Mario game. An absolute must own title for any Switch owner.