Two Point Hospital Review

Running a profitable hospital is no joke and Two Point Hospital makes this quite clear. Well, maybe it is kind of a joke; honestly, after playing this game I don’t know what to think. The sheer depth of the institution-building simulation is concealed by a humorous coat of paint and it is rather brilliant. This game was hard to put down, driven mostly by its incredible, cheeky dad-jokes. My only significant gripe with the game is how overwhelming it can all be at times. Luckily, thanks to full control over time like many sims before it, you can take it all in at your own pace. Two Point Studios has really outdone themselves on this one.

From a developer I have never heard of before (I never played Theme hospital, the game’s forerunner), I was pleasantly surprised with the level of content on offer. The depth of the game comes from the workers for hire. Many of them have their own dispositions and expertise, all while demanding different pays and pay raises, and it all actually matters in the conception of your hospital. Did I mention there are ghosts? Patients who have passed may linger in disembodied forms, and it requires a janitor with the Ghost Capture ability to rein in these abominations. This is just an example of one of many skills that are required to tackle the tasks presented to you. And this is a rather basic one at that. The key is to hire the right men for the job, or to train your staff to perform competently. Personalities play a huge role in the game as well, and too often did I find my workers not carrying out their duties as expected, lounging in the staff room for a bit too long, or simply taking my hard-earned money for doing a sub-par job. The mastery of the management of employees goes a long way in running an efficient business.

This depth is pleasantly concealed by a cloud of great humor. I found myself chuckling at the occasional puns or satirical comments on the sad state of health care. Looking back on it, in totality, the cleverness of it all had me laughing for a good portion of my play time. This created a light atmosphere for otherwise serious conditions. Feeling light-headed? Let me unscrew the lightbulb head you are afflicted with and provide you with a brand spanking new head with my high-tech machine. There’s a pandemic? We must pull the pans off these patients’ heads at once! I was simply engulfed in the wacky humor to alleviate the stress that would present itself with the influx of patients and the lack of accommodations. Of course, this is the only way to keep a heavy simulation light and fun.

The art style lent a lot to the fun atmosphere of the game also, which played well into the quirky humor. Everyone looked like they were ripped right out of Wallace and Gromit and they moved about, flailing their arms at every step. The characters’ mannerisms were hilarious on their own, but paired with the game’s comedic sense, it was all very fun to watch and added to the overall enjoyment. The objects were nicely detailed in a cartoonish art direction that is akin to what you would see in the Sims. It was all easy on the eyes and unrealistic in the most beautiful way.

The sound was something that left me wanting. I got a kick out of the Radio host attempting to hypnotize himself and the listener, but the music was very similar to something you may hear in an elevator. It got repetitive very fast and for the most part I would tune it out as I focused on building a nice bathroom for my patients and staff to enjoy. This is by far the weakest part of this game and were it to have a greater variety in tunes and dialogue, this may have been avoided. As it stands, I had quite the aversion to the repetitive music which I’m sure many people will feel the same way about.

This game draws you in, and while there is no real lure to play it over, retrying levels in order to get the three-star rating that is so highly sought after was a blast. It was so easy to get carried away and spend too much, but multiple tries allowed for me to rein it in and really focus on what I can do to beat each level. In this respect, the game is very replayable, but to start from scratch on a new save is madness. Who would put themselves through all that stress, really?

Two Point Hospital was a pleasure to say the least, and its quick wit drove this game home. For those seeking depth in the way to approach different scenarios must look no further, as the simulation is quite heavy when you get in the thick of it. I had a blast with this one and it’s easily recommended to anyone looking for a quick chuckle and heady gameplay. My hat is off to Two Point Studios and their incredible take on hospital management.

Sound: 2/5

Gameplay: 5/5

Story: 5/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 5/5

Total: 22/25 or 88/100

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (SEGA AGES) Review

After reviewing the first Sonic game right around the same time the second was to be released on Switch, I thought it might be worth my time to take a magnifying lens to the latter as well. And what I have drawn from this is that M2 has done some fantastic things with the Sega Ages titles. Not only does it present the already beguiling speedy gameplay faithfully, it adds upon the game’s foundation through features new and old. You are essentially given two games in this Sega Ages package with the return of Knuckles in Sonic 2, the game mode that used lock on technology that was only possible with the two Sega Genesis cartridges. I dare to say that this may be the definitive version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

While Sonic 1 introduced us to the titular hero, Sonic 2 tightened the previous game’s performance, physics, and level design. Where the first game was plagued with slowdown in some levels, its sequel used the Genesis’ completely made-up, phony “blast processing” to its fullest potential. I never once experienced so much as a hiccup in gameplay during my time with the game. And Sega Ages is quite faithful in this respect. It’s emulated to near perfection, and that, with this iteration’s additions, rockets the game to a “must own” status for any Switch user. Momentum also seems like it works better here than in its predecessor, making the controls tight and responsive, and overall bolstering the way the game feels from a physics standpoint.

But most notable still is the game’s incredible level design. This is by far the best showing of what Sega is truly capable of when it comes to world-building. Multiple pathways branch out, providing the player with options as to how they want to get from start to finish. Not to mention it seems fast. I know, by today’s standards, Sonic’s 2D excursions don’t seem nearly as speedy as they did back when they released, but Sonic 2 somehow captures what it really means to be fast. Levels are designed to be just long enough to rationalize the purchase, but also short enough to make it feel like you are zipping through the game. While I am a veteran at these games, I was hard-pressed to break more than 3 minutes on any one act, making it great for pick up and play while also keeping the game fresh if you choose to finish it in one sitting as it was intended so many years ago. You will spend less than 6 minutes in an environment, and then be ushered into the next just as quickly as you entered the first. This is great level design at its very core. There are a couple cheap hits that the player is almost assuredly bound to encounter, but that is where replaying the game can impart the player with a way to attain better times and smoother runs.

The 16bit graphics are just as smooth as a veteran’s playthrough. With the Sega Ages copy, like the first, you can adjust screen size, scan lines, and smoothing to suit your fancy. There is something here for anyone to enjoy, catering to both purists and newbies alike. Even to this day the game looks great. Everything is so colorful and the foreground pops from the background nicely, never confusing the player like so many games of that era did. Overall, the game’s graphics are what is to be expected from a title from the early 90s, but even surpasses its cohorts in some ways. And the games visuals, paired with its killer soundtrack, provides quite the experience. The 16bit sounds are captivating from the moment they reach the player’s ears. My favorite of all the music featured in the game’s many levels are Hill Top and Sky Chase’s upbeat melodies. The way everything ties together somehow makes the game feel greater than the sum of its parts. It’s almost ineffable, and results in an experience that has blown me away since the age of five.

Sure, I may be talking from a nostalgic standpoint, but I also believe the game is objectively incredible, and it holds up to this day as one of the best Sonic experiences out there. If you’ve never played Sonic 2, the Sega Ages version is a great place to start, and if you are a longtime fan there is a lot here for you to enjoy as well. Overall this is a fantastic addition to my game library, and the extremities of the many features included in the Sega Ages rendition (counting the ring chase mode and drop dash ability) are just a bonus; but in all honesty, the game holds up even without those inclusions. Altogether, there is a little something for everyone here, and this game remains at the pinnacle of 2D platformers.

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 5/5

Story: 3/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 5/5

Total: 23/25 or 92/100

198X Review

As I get older time seems to become more and more precious. There’s just not enough of it in a day. Therefore my appreciation for short games has grown as I have; where I would have been furious as a child to get home and pop a game into my console only for the experience to be over as quickly as it had begun, I bask in enjoyment when I can complete a game within an hour or two of sitting down with it, as long as it’s fun and impactful. 198X is one of those games. It can be beaten in an hour, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. The story is meaningful, the gameplay is fun and engaging, and it acts as a nice throwback to a simpler time.

198X is essentially an hour-long story that finds a warm home as interactive entertainment. The protagonist’s name is Kid, and we accompany him in the outskirts of a city, appropriately called Suburbia. In the opening moments, he finds an arcade nestled down an alley in what looks to be an old abandoned building. He marvels at the glowing lights permeating the otherwise dark and dreary room. The game’s gimmick is that the player is experiencing old arcade games along with the protagonist as he inserts a coin and escapes into the virtual world, if not only but for a fleeting moment. The story, intertwined with the gameplay, is a neat and inventive idea that I would love to see more of. It’s a real coming of age story that implements gaming and nostalgia in a creative way. It’s relatable, and I was never an 80s kid, which says a lot about the masterfully written narrative.

The gameplay revolves around a variety of different arcade-style games that all fall within a different gaming genre. The first game you experience acts as an introduction, easing the player into the story. It’s a beat ‘em up that resembles the old Streets of Rage games. It controls as well as I expected from a game that has a lot of source material to draw inspiration from. In fact, all the games featured in the story control very nicely and I have no complaints in that regard. You move on to play games inspired by Outrun, Phantasy Star, and other 16-bit gaming staples, all of which are fun in their own right.

One of my favorite parts about this game is its soundtrack. It is comprised of some great 16bit-style tracks that are sort of smoothed out to appeal to a modern audience. Flying through space and blowing up giant starships becomes even more exhilarating when the music is ramping up in the background. Outside of the arcade games, the soundtrack that plays over the narration is just as stellar. It sets the tone for the whole game, evoking emotions that only a masterful soundtrack can draw out of the player. Paired with the incredibly atmospheric narration that Ms. Tuttle brings to the table, the sound in this game is definitely something to keep an eye (or ear) on.

The graphics are what’s to be expected from a 16bit video game, but it somehow looks better than what I am accustomed to in games from the 90s. I’m a sucker for the visuals in pseudo-retro games. The art directors are able to capture the essence of the times, but also upgrade it and make it pop in the world of the 2000’s. It is quite impressive, considering the game’s story, outside of the playable arcade games, is dished out in the same 16bit art style. The entire game, from head to toe, is pixelated heaven. I received pure enjoyment from the game’s art, and I hope we see more games like this one.

While the game is all about quick, pseudo-arcade games that can be finished within a matter of minutes, it allows for a certain level of replay value. When the story is completed, the player can choose to jump in at any point in the story, giving the freedom to play any featured game on a whim. However, these arcade games fall short of their source material. It’s simply more fun to jump into Outrun, or Streets of Rage than to play 198X’s take on these games. All in all, the replay value is there should it be something that interests you, but I would rather invest my time in the actual games rather than their depictions within this title.

198X is a short burst of fun that any fan of old arcades can pick up and find some enjoyment in. On one hand I would love for it to be longer, on the other it is the perfect sized experience that demands my attention for the little free time I have. At the end we are promised that the game is “to be continued” and I hope 198X reaches the level of success that is required for the developers to consider a sequel. If you haven’t checked this one out yet, I urge you to do so.

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 3/5

Story: 4/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 2/5

Total: 19/25 or 76/100

Sonic the Hedgehog (SEGA AGES) Review

With the recent success of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie in theatres now, I thought it would be fun to revisit the game that rocketed the blue blur into the homes of many young and impressionable children of the 90s. The movie has recently reached the status of best box office earnings over any other films based on a video game. I have yet to see it, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling hopeful of video game representations in the film industry.

I decided to jump right back into the series 1991 debut, and what better way than through the Sega Ages collection on my fancy pants, new Nintendo Switch? While the game exudes a 90s feel in charming 16-bit graphics and soundtrack, nostalgia had me expecting more from it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a good game, but some design choices had me scratching my head, and in some ways it is far inferior to even the game’s sequels; which capture everything the first game was about, but with far better execution.

For the most part, the Sega Ages adaptation of Sonic the Hedgehog is fantastic. The greatest notable feature is the inclusion of the spin dash introduced in Sonic 2, and the drop dash that was featured in Sonic Mania. The lack of a spin dash in the original turned me off from the game in my childhood, as I had experienced it after playing Sonic 3. It’s welcomed with open arms in Sega Ages though, and makes the game feel more modern, akin to the later series’ releases in the 90s.

Sonic’s whole shtick is speed; and zooming through the levels is facilitated with this new feature. My issue with the game comes with poor choice in level design. Where the later releases excel in the presence of multiple routes to take and many discoveries to be made, it is lacking in this first installment. It is still there, just not at the same level of quality as Sonic 2, 3, and Knuckles. It is at it’s best when getting from point A to point B is smooth, seamless, and fast. This simply just isn’t the case for some of the levels featured in this game.

Marble zone, the game’s second level clashes with the whole theme of the game that was introduced in Green Hill. Instead of timing your jumps and spins to get to the finish line in one swooping motion, the level forces you to slow down, push blocks, and avoid spike traps at every turn. This dampens the otherwise fun experience. It doesn’t stop at the second stage though, as the slowdown is also present in the game’s fourth stage, Labyrinth zone. And it is here that not only does the pacing slow down, but the actual game stutters and slows occasionally. In this sense, it is faithful to the original as I remember experiencing the same issue and frustrations in my youth. Outside of that, not much can be said about the game that hasn’t been expressed before, and perhaps where some have articulated better than I can hope to. I love Sonic the Hedgehog, and I believe nostalgia may contribute to that love in no small way.

The Sega Ages rendition of Sonic is well worth the entry fee, as it provides a decent level of personalization while also providing outlets for beginners and the more competitive individuals alike. Some basic features include the customization of the screen dimensions, scan-lines, smoothing, etc. While button layout options seem superfluous in a game where every button does the same thing, there are other features that should be commended. It is possible to save your game whenever you so wish, a fundamental necessity that just wasn’t available in games of old. You are also able to jump into any stage you want with the level selection feature. There is a mega-play version that emulates the arcade style gameplay, and a challenge mode that implements the mega-play version and another mode that encourages speed running of the first act in Green Hill zone. All in all, there’s a lot to play with here, and it keeps Sonic the Hedgehog fresh in a way that only the fine folks at M2 (who ported all the Sega Ages titles) can achieve. I highly recommend this to anyone who may have never experienced this 2D platformer before, and to those feeling nostalgic. Personally, Sonic the Hedgehog is the game I have bought the greatest number of times out of any title, as there seems to be a port of these games on every platform imaginable. Still, don’t pass on this one as it is well worth it just to have a portable version of the game. You should especially consider it if it goes on sale. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 will be getting it’s own Sega Ages release, and I’m looking forward to that one as well.

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 3/5

Story: 2/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 5/5

Total: 20/25 or 80/100

Anniversary Announcement

As we approach the one year anniversary of this blog, I have failed to review many of the games I had hoped to this year. Due to time constraints, juggling a full-time job while going to college full-time, I simply could not post as regularly as I would have liked and even found that picking up a controller was impossible at times. Ideally I would have crushed many of the games in my backlog, slowly chipping away at the titles I hoped to feature on this blog. Realistically this was not an achievable goal. I literally have over 200 games in my backlog, and I had hoped to give each one a little bit of my time to publish a review consisting of my thoughts and opinions. And that number only consists of my Xbox library, which has so far been exclusively reviewed. I picked up a New 2DS earlier last year for the sole purpose of reviewing Nintendo exclusives, but I never got around to it, and for that I am gravely disappointed. My hope going forward is to be more consistent with my blog posts although I am not certain if this is possible.

While complaining about the lack of time I have to review the games I already own, I will be a little hypocritical in my next announcement. Yes, I have over 200 games to review. No I will not be able to cover all of them. This daunting task grows ever more so, as I am expanding my game library yet again. It is with great pleasure that I announce I will be adding Nintendo Switch games to my library. That may literally double the reviews I hope to write, while diminishing the time I actually have to write them. I am excited to get my hands on some of Nintendo’s greatest first-party releases and will do my best to write as much as my time allows. Although the mountain before me seems that much taller, I am overjoyed to be able to feature more of the games I love on this blog. I knew I would be investing in more Nintendo hardware, I just didn’t know when, and now seems as good a time as any (especially with Animal Crossing on the horizon).

I would love for all of you to join me on this new adventure, and here’s to hoping none of my consoles become covered in dust as my work, school, and social life persists. I would like to thank everyone so much for taking the time to read some of my posts. I really appreciate the support, no matter how little. Thank you all!

My Top 5 Most Anticipated Games of 2020

With 2020 around the corner it’s time to get hyped about new games scheduled to release within the year. With games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Ori and the Will of the Wisps marked in my calendar, it’s shaping up to be a very good year for video games. I’m tackling a very difficult question today. What should I spend my money on in 2020? If your answer is food and utilities, you’re wrong. Games, games, and more games are on my wishlist. So while I’m huddled around a garbage can fire with some of my besties, eating cold beans out of a can, you can bet I’ll be dreaming of the games in this list, trying to stay warm through happy thoughts alone. This is my top 5 most anticipated games of 2020! In order to make the cut, the game must have a definitive release date. So while I’m hopeful for a Metroid Prime 4 release this upcoming year, I’m reserving games like that for another topic. Here it is folks, coming to you live from the toaster I found while dumpster diving the other day, my top 5 most anticipated games of 2020.

5. Marvel’s Avengers. Release date: May 15, 2020

I am a huge superhero fan, largely inspired by the efforts of Marvel Studios’ cinematic universe. I’m actually a bigger fan of DC so you can throw tomatoes at my head throughout the rest of these ramblings. Regardless, I love Marvel superheroes so I was ecstatic when I heard there was going to be a full length game incorporating a killer line-up of Avengers characters. Sure, we had Ultimate Alliance, and while that was some mindless fun, a large scale superhero story is what I craved. Developed by Crystal Dynamics, the people behind those incredible Tomb Raider games, Marvel’s Avengers could conceivably be a contender for next year’s GoTY. It’s being published by Square Enix who are often involved in some quality projects, so I’m holding my breath for this one. If for no other reason than the possible ability to fly around as Iron Man. Bring it on Crystal Dynamics!

4. Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Release date: February 11, 2020

Ori and the Blind Forest was an amazing game with an excellent art direction. There were moments where my eyes watered to the point that I had to stand in the rain to hide my emotions from my girlfriend’s judging gaze. From the opening moments, that game tugged at the heartstrings of many who were fortunate enough to experience it. There is no doubt that the sequel will be just as powerful. With what is sure to be some quality of life improvements to gameplay that we’ve already seen, Ori will once again venture out into the world, traversing beautiful landscapes and fighting enemies using new abilities. From the trailer that was shown at E3 2019, we can see that this time around we will be facing huge enemies that cover a large portion of the screen. It appears that this new iteration will put weapons in Ori’s hands, like a bow, sword, and hammer among other things. With these new improvements to combat and movement, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is sure to be as fun (if not more so) as it’s predecessor. I’m waiting on this one with the excitement of a child waiting for Christmas in December.

3. Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Release date: March 20, 2020

I don’t know what it is about this franchise that makes me so giddy. Animal Crossing is essentially a town simulation and collectathon, and while those two things sound really boring, Nintendo makes it work somehow. This time around you’re on a deserted island as a certain sketchy raccoon convinces you (no doubt for monetary reasons) that this is the place to be. His goal is for you to be forever indebted to Nook inc. and should you not make payments in a timely manner, he will likely break your legs. From what we saw in the latest Nintendo Direct, it seems there are a plethora of new features to make life on the island much more bearable. One thing I’m excited about is the ability to make paths without having to lay down patterns. There’s a tool for that now! Another feature is the pole vaulting over rivers that probably warrants a gold medal at the Animolympics. I am super excited for this title; I played a lot of Animal Crossing (Gamecube) when I was a kid and have continued to play New Leaf into adulthood. There is no way I’m missing out on this one.

2. Cyberpunk 2077. Release date: April 16, 2020

I honestly don’t know much about Cyberpunk 2077 aside from what was shown in the cinematic trailer. It’s futuristic, cyborg sword arms and self-driving cars (we’re so close Elon!) make this game look soooo badass. Not to mention THE Keanu Reeves has a starring role in the game. That’s right, the nicest man on earth is involved with Cyberpunk, and it’s breathtaking. He is sure to add some star power and great acting to the project, which already looks to be something to talk about. All this coming from CD Projekt Red, the developers of one of the greatest games of the decade, the Witcher 3. With developers like this, it’s sure to be a high quality release. Obviously I’m jumping to conclusions, but can you blame me? The hype surrounding this title is the most I’ve seen in many years, so let’s hope the game lives up to it.

1. Resident Evil 3. Release date: April 3, 2020

The top spot on this list comes as no surprise to those of you who saw the number one game on My Top 5 Games of 2019. Resident Evil 3 will use many of the same assets as its predecessor, and if the Resident Evil 2 remake is any indication of the quality of this newer release, we’re in for a treat. I never had the chance to play Nemesis when it released way back in the day, but that only fuels my desire to play this remake. I thought Mr. X was the scariest thing on this planet, but move over big guy, because the Nemesis is busting through ceilings in search of S.T.A.R.S. members, who you unfortunately play as. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Resident Evil narrative, as laughable as some voice acting makes it out to be. The mansion incident, followed by a larger scale outbreak and the fears that accompany it just feels so (and forgive me for using this horrible, terrible, garbage word) EPIC! I just can’t wait for RE3 and April can’t come soon enough.

And that wraps up my list of games I absolutely need in my library this upcoming year. 2020 is bound to be a banger in the video game world. All the games listed above are coming out in just the first half of the year, which says a lot about how incredible 2020 is shaping up to be. There are many great titles that haven’t been mentioned, and such is the case when narrowing the lineup down to only 5 games. I’m curious though. What games are you most looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!

Spyro the Dragon (Reignited Trilogy) Review

In the late 90’s the video game market was flooded with 3D platformers, such as Gex: Enter the Gecko, and Super Mario 64, as video games made the transition from two-dimensional side scrolling adventures to fully fleshed out 3D environments. One platformer that stood out from the rest for me was Spyro the Dragon. While I never played the original extensively, I dipped my toes in the water whenever I would visit my friend. He had a Playstation 1 while I did not. Therefore, for me, the Reignited Trilogy is a throwback to a more innocent time; nostalgia, accompanying the game through every charging dash into druids and every toasted sheep.

Spyro the Dragon in this new trilogy is the same Spyro I knew and loved in 1998. The game revolves around Spyro, a young dragon who must free his fellow dragons from Gnasty Gnorc’s magic. Following a televised broadcast wherein the dragons insulted Gnorc as being no threat to their lives, he proves this to be untrue as he petrifies every dragon in the land except for Spyro. He also turns all the dragons’ treasure into minions that Spyro must defeat throughout his journey. There really isn’t much depth to the story, but I don’t believe this to be negative. Of the 8 hours it took me to get to 120% completion, I can conclude that it is simply more gameplay oriented than story driven.

In the Reignited Trilogy, Spyro the Dragon got a much-needed aesthetic upgrade that is one of the prettiest remasters I have ever seen. The many worlds within this game are beautifully colorful and vibrant and it made exploring every nook and cranny a pleasure. From the shadows cast by Spyro, to the level of cartoonish detail in wall, grass and sky assets, there is no doubt that Toys For Bob put a lot of time into making the original Spyro game thrive in 2018.

The upgrade in graphics and console capabilities also allowed the developers to bring characters to life, making each dragon you rescue unique while also reflecting the world in which they are found. For example, in the Artisans world there are artistic dragons whereas the Dream Weavers world hosts sleepy dragons. This is a huge improvement to the original as the old dragons seemed to be the same models consistently recycled. Sound has been upgraded as well. While the same melodies bridge the gap between new and old, the depth of the music has been adjusted. The music sounds more clear, crisper and just all around more enjoyable. There is always the option to revert to the original’s musical score while playing Spyro Reignited which is a nice addition, however I never felt the need to change this in the options. The new music is far superior, albeit the choice is nice for nostalgia’s sake.

The beauty of the game does not stop at its visuals and sound. The tight controls have been perfected in this iteration. Each movement of the left thumbstick feels like it is directly connected to the movement on screen, making for an immersive experience. Newly added to the game is the ability to move the camera using the right thumbstick. While as common sense as this might be today, the original was designed to be played without thumbsticks and camera controls were mapped to the L2 and R2 buttons on the original PS1 controller. While now being able to move the camera easily and fluently, including up and down, platforming sequences have lost the difficulty of the original.

On that topic, the game is much easier than I remember all those years ago, however this may be due to my juvenile fine motor skills and reaction times that undoubtedly affected my ability to play video games. This game will not pose a significant challenge to any veteran gamer. The game was designed with children in mind, however that does not mean that others cannot enjoy what it has to offer. Even putting nostalgia aside, the game is genuinely fun. Some of the more difficult (which isn’t saying much) moments I had with Spyro were trying to figure out ways to get to platforms that appeared to be out of reach and not easily accessed. Never was I too stumped to figure things out eventually, but some sequences took much more time than others. I believe this to be a good thing. The challenge was not in facing minions, but the platforming itself which illustrated a focus point in the game’s level design. And that design is nothing short of stellar. Insomniac’s attention to platforming should be commended, as they are the ones who originally designed the worlds.

The greatest part about Spyro’s level design is that it is well structured with clear direction. I was never overwhelmed with too many options of where I had to go to progress through the levels, which cannot be said for many other games in this genre. This is not to say that the game was linear though. Insomniac used the 3rd dimension to their advantage by designing levels with elevated platforms that often stretched over lower platforms that had already been traversed. The home worlds were open-ended with various worlds to choose from which could be completed in the order the player chooses. The home worlds, while acting as a hub for other levels, were their own levels as well, offering a plethora of treasure to collect and dragons to free. There was never a shortage of things to do, and while collecting things may be a turn off for some gamers, I assure you that Spyro is not like other platformers in that way. There are only three things to collect: Gems, Eggs, and Dragons. While most platformers overwhelm gamers with too much to do and no direction of where to start, Spyro approaches the genre differently, and is a gem worth playing.

Now it seems like I’ve been ranting on about how great Spyro the Dragon is, but the flaws in the game must not be dismissed. Although the camera control has been greatly improved in this remaster, there were still moments I fell to my death in a cheap, unforgiving battle with the camera. When I did die, I was never too frustrated though because extra lives are given out too generously. I fell a lot, only to be put into a “reigniting” loading screen which was more of a minor annoyance than frustrating. I looked up at the top right of the screen and there it was, 34 lives remaining. There is no sense of pressure to play well as even a mediocre gamer can accumulate free lives without much sweat. The levels, while having impeccable design, were so small that even if you do die, there is more than likely a recent checkpoint not far. Contrasting the ease at which I completed regular worlds, the flight worlds were quite challenging, which was jarring and certainly took me out of the experience. There is nothing worse than a cake walk that is abruptly interrupted by a time constraint, turning it into a cake run. That was what the flight missions did. You are given a set amount of time to destroy/fly through objects which would give back time, but not nearly enough. Fly through that ring to get back one second, but it will take you three seconds to get there. I know I just complained about the game being both too easy and too hard, but it is this contrast that detracts from the experience.

It must also be mentioned that there have been reports online saying that the game is unplayable for a select few gamers. While it did not bother me, people have been reporting that motion blur has been giving them headaches and nausea. If you are not susceptible to motion sickness, more than likely you will be able to handle the camera movement in this game, but for those of you who tend to get sick playing video games, you may want to stay away. In the end, there is obviously more positives than negatives to be said about Spyro the Dragon.

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 4/5

Story: 1/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 3/5

Total: 18/25 or 72/100

My Top 5 Games of 2019

The year 2020 is just around the corner and we get that much closer to Skynet’s inevitable rise to power. Before that happens though, we can all be actively entertained by its precursor. 2019 was a good year for gaming, no matter what the naysayers preach. Some of my new favorite games were released this year and I am waiting in anticipation for 2020 to knock it out of the park. That being said, it’s good to sometimes take a look back, ignoring what’s ahead, in celebration of all that has transpired in this short year. The following is a list of MY top 5 games of 2019. I have only included the games that I have actually played and am intentionally ignoring many of the great games that I know are contenders for game of the year. It is only because I have not played them and thus cannot speak to their worth, but that does not mean they do not belong on a top 5 list. They just don’t belong on (again) MY top 5 list.

5. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

This is one of the two games featured on this list that I have yet to publish a review on. The colorful, anime-style graphics were enticing, and after playing Curse of the Moon I couldn’t turn this one down. The sheer scale of the boss fights alone make it feel larger than life. The controls were very responsive as well, providing ample maneuvers to slay enemies in style. This Metroidvania is far from my favorite of all time, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a great time with it. While it may not be game of the year worthy, Bloodstained excels in more than one area of interest and I would love to see more games within this franchise. It holds the final slot in my top 5 if for no other reason than the steep challenge it presented. The difficulty common of games from the early 90’s has been lost in more modern titles, but if you’re searching for a 2D sidescroller in the style of old Castlevania games, look no further than Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.

4. Control

I was going back and forth on whether this game belongs at the number 4 position, wrestling with Bloodstained. Both games are incredible, but this one ends up winning out by a fraction. The gameplay was engaging, the story was fantastically weird, and the game was littered with atmospheric tension throughout. It was fun going back and completing all the sidequests long after the main story was completed, and the gameplay never became stale. This is in part due to the abilities you acquire in the game. You can levitate, create shields out of rubble, and just throw your enemies around like you’re on the dark side of the force. This may be controversial and will probably not make a lot of people’s top 5 lists, but it made mine. It would have scored better on the list if it wasn’t plagued with slow-down bugs every time you closed the menu and made for a blurry mess sometimes. For more information about the game and why I liked it so much, you can read my full review HERE.

3. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair

I bought this game with the full intention of writing a review for it to be featured on this blog, however I simply never got around to it as life consumed my free time. The Impossible Lair took the characters from the first adventure and reworked the entire gameplay style. No longer is it a 3D collectathon, but a 2D platformer not unlike the Donkey Kong Country games. It plays out very much like those Super Nintendo titles while adding a fun and engaging hub world to tie all the levels together in a top-down adventure. It has quickly become one of my favorite platformers to grace the Xbox One in many years. If you haven’t already picked this game up, do it. You will not regret this purchase.

2. Monster Hunter: World (Iceborne)

While I acknowledge the newest iteration of Monster Hunter released in 2018, I still consider that Iceborne could very well be a game on its own. To view my full review of this expansion you can click HERE. This new DLC takes Monster Hunter: World and really ups the ante on what’s to be expected from Capcom and this franchise. With a whole new area to explore and many new monsters to hunt, this game resides at the very top of the iceberg. The added difficulty provides a greater experience for veteran hunters, and the prerequisite of having to beat the base game before jumping in assures that the player will be ready for it. While I understand it is not technically a game that was released this year, Iceborne adds enough new stuff to maintain a spot on this list. It is truly an incredible experience.

1. Resident Evil 2

I played the hell out of this game and my full review can be found HERE. This is one of the few games of 2019 that I actually got around to reviewing. The reason it holds the number 1 spot on my list is because of one key video game component. Atmosphere. Resident Evil 2 was spine-chilling, from it’s updated, realistic visuals, to its soundtrack, to Mr. X busting down doors; this is probably the most scared I have been while playing a video game. As I mentioned in my review, the constant pursuit from the Titan is incredibly scary, giving me a gut-wrenching feeling of terror whenever I heard his footsteps in the distance. This feeling never left me, only becoming tolerable as the game progressed. The gameplay is fantastic, the puzzles are fun, and the characters come to life (quite literally, after death) throughout this 8 hour battle with the undead. A nominee for Game of the Year, in my experience it’s deserving of that title.

So, that was my top 5 games of 2019. What do you guys think? I know there are a lot of great games omitted due to not having played every release this year, but from what I have played, I think the quality of each game is reflected above. What is your top 5 games of 2019? Agree with something on this list? Disagree with my horrible opinions? Let me know in the comment section below.

Sonic Forces Review

Probably the biggest disappointment to mascots across the globe is the trajectory Sonic the Hedgehog’s career has followed. Being one of the most iconic characters in video game history, to dishing out disappointment after disappointment in 3D games, Sonic has great potential that goes unrealized time and time again. The kicker is, I actually like the latest installment, appropriately titled Sonic Forces, as this one comes out in full force. While I experienced moments of unmitigated enjoyment, the game falls a little flat in some very important ways. I wanted so desperately to love this game, to see Sonic make a comeback in the video game world; however, it should not be approached with high hopes that will more than likely be dashed; rather, to go in with low expectations and be pleasantly surprised.

The game starts off in a predictable manner, Eggman hatches a plan, Sonic and friends oppose him, blah blah blah. The truth is, Sonic has never carried a strong story in almost all his games across the last 28 years. It’s been Sonic vs Robotnik in nearly all these games. Sure, new characters are often introduced, like Chaos, Shadow, etcetera; but they have always been allied with Eggman, and Sonic Forces continues this tradition. A new character, Infinite, is introduced and may very well be the strongest foe to fight the blue blur yet. Again, this new character is under the direct orders of Dr. Eggman. Nothing new here. The introduction shows Sonic being defeated by this new enemy. Jump several months later and there’s an all-out war between Eggman’s army and a resistance force led by Knuckles. Shortly after, you are recruited as the new rookie on the team. That’s right, YOU. Sonic Forces has, for the first time, allowed the player to customize his own character to be dropped into the game. Your custom character, along with the rest of the gang, attempt to take the world back from Eggman’s control. All in all, it’s a cookie cutter story that really doesn’t do much to enhance the gaming experience. In fact, most of the story is dealt outside of cutscenes, in little dialogue bubbles between characters. These conversations would have served the narrative way better if they had been part of cutscenes and it all seems lazily put together. There is something left to be desired in terms of narrative here. What it lacks in story is made up for in gameplay. After only 4 hours this is probably Sonic’s fastest adventure yet.

There are three different game variants that you are thrown into in separate stages. You can play as modern Sonic, boosting through enemies on what seems like a race track, flipping from 3D to 2D, reminiscent of the day stages in Sonic Unleashed. These levels are fast, most often allowing the player to boost through most of the action, with a few hazards sprinkled here and there. You can also play as your custom character in stages similar to the aforementioned gameplay. In this mode, you are given a weapon and wisp abilities you can use to navigate the stage, and depending on your weapon you are granted different passive and active effects. These were my least favorite segments of Sonic Forces as I found they were so similar to modern Sonic, without the insane speed. Lastly, classic Sonic has been shoehorned into the game with very little rhyme or reason. The only explanation that is given is that somehow, Infinite is messing with different dimensions. It very loosely fits together. However, I actually enjoyed these stages where I imagine most gamers will be turned off. The glaring issue is the game’s physics when controlling classic Sonic. Jumping seems a little floaty, and momentum works differently here than in previous Sonic games. I personally enjoyed these new changes; I felt the controls were fresh and unlike the mechanics I have seen before. It takes some getting used to, certainly, but if you give it a chance these physics may grow on you too.

I’ve always been a strong believer in the importance of level design, especially regarding Sonic games where the whole point is to get to the end in one fast and fluid motion. It can’t be easy to develop these stages knowing that it has to be long enough to appease players all while the character is travelling at the speed of sound. I actually think the devs did a good job here. The levels weren’t too long to bore me, and they were just short enough to leave me wanting more. While it is a common complaint that these levels may be too short, I don’t see how they could have done it any other way. What’s most important here is that fun is distributed in short bursts over a decent period of time. There are over 30 different stages (albeit some within the same locale) that keep the fast and furious playstyle from growing stale. And if that’s not enough, there is the added challenge of getting S rank and collecting all red rings in each stage. There is plenty here to enjoy and even go back to should you so wish.

I have never really been disappointed by music in Sonic games, in fact, Sonic Adventure 2 holds so much musical nostalgia for me that it is a contender for one of my favorite video game soundtracks. Somehow though, I don’t believe Sonic Forces appeals to me that much. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the music and sound effects immensely, but nothing has left a lasting impression on me. I can’t recall a single song that sticks in my head. Ultimately, an okay soundtrack is just that: okay.

Graphically, Sonic Forces does nothing wrong, with a colorful pallet that is visually pleasing, but it doesn’t do anything exceptional either. It’s very average compared to most other cartoony triple A titles. This is saying a lot considering I always felt Sonic pushed the envelope when it came to its graphical style. Even from the early Genesis years, the colors popped so much that it was one of the best looking games on that console. When I saw Sonic Unleashed for the first time my mind was blown. I wasn’t quite as shocked this time around, but that might be the fault of the graphical style itself. It’s hard to imagine the visuals being improved upon, and it may be the case that cartoony graphics such as these have plateaued. In comparison to other graphical styles, this cartoony aesthetic doesn’t bring anything that we haven’t seen before to the table. That being said, the colorful aesthetic is easy on the eyes at the very least.

While there may be no bigger disappointment than Sonic’s evolution, this title is solid enough as a standalone game to provide some enjoyment. While the idea is new, creating your own character to be thrown into the story is not as great as it sounds conceptually. In the end, it’s the fast-paced action within short snippets of levels that make this game hold up as a solid Sonic game. It does some things better than its predecessors but is far from recapturing the essence that made Sonic so fun when I was young. This game is very much average.

Sound: 3/5

Gameplay: 4/5

Story: 2/5

Graphics: 4/5

Replay Value: 4/5

Total: 17/25 or 68/100

Borderlands (GOTY Edition) Review

It’s been nearly 10 years since the first Borderlands stormed onto retail shelves everywhere and defined the video game genre in which it resides. The game blended FPS and RPG elements seamlessly into one cohesive product that we have come to know as “looter-shooter”. By offering bazillions of guns, each with unique stats, rarities and effects, BL had a high drop-rate in the hearts of many gamers from all walks of life. I however, was not one of those gamers. At first. It was only with the recent remastered version of Borderlands that I have come to appreciate what the game does. And whatever it does, it does right.

The story is driven by the Vault Hunters, a gang of misfits who have made it their goal to find the mythic vault and plunder its riches for their own. This rag-tag team include a Soldier, Hunter, Siren, and Brick the… brick. As they are kicked off the bus in the middle of Pandora’s wasteland, a “guardian angel” of sorts reveals herself to them. She is actually some sort of fancy pants AI that helps the protagonists throughout their adventure. The game’s story isn’t laid out to you in cutscenes, but rather spoon-fed to you through quest summaries. The main questline will take a little over 20 hours to beat, however it will more than likely take about twice that due to the structure of quests. There is a certain player level that is recommended for each quest, and if you want to complete the story with the least amount of trouble, the side-quests are more or less forced on you. Indeed, the game can prove to be way too difficult should you tackle quests while under-leveled. Therefore, it is best to look at the story as the totality of all quests, main and side. And there is a lot here to applaud Gearbox for. Witty jokes and puns are ever-present, and they are so well structured that they can get even the most buzzkill people to snicker here and there. While well structured, the story does not encroach on gameplay which is something that I would have wanted. It puts narrative on the back burner. While the gameplay is stellar, I would have liked an occasional cutscene that highlights the incredible world Gearbox has created. Instead, I bust out my reading glasses and prepare for one hell of a ride.

The gameplay loop is simple, you complete quests that reward you with guns and enemies drop a bountiful amount of guns. You sell these guns or swap them into your arsenal so you can complete harder quests that will reward you with better guns. All this happens while you level up and gain skill points to spend within one skill tree of your choice among three. You’re always working toward the next level, collecting guns along the way. It is not uncommon however, for you to discover one overpowered weapon that will be used for a long time before being replaced. It’s in these discoveries that really gets the blood pumping when you see statistics that are off the charts. It’s enough to make the hardest of seasoned criminals giddy. In addition to the astronomical number of guns to experiment with, the gun-play itself is really quite spectacular. Shooting psychos and marauders has never been so much fun, as headshots land critical hits that are presented to you in big red letters and numbers bouncing off the point of impact. It’s strangely addictive to say the least.

This gameplay is wrapped up in a neat packaging of graphic novel style visuals. It looks a lot like cel shading, no matter how much this notion is contested. It’s an approach that award the game a certain graphical longevity, as it will look just as good 10 years from now as it did 10 years ago. The improvements in textures that ship with this GOTY version of the game are almost unnecessary, albeit a slight facelift is never unwelcome. It looks and plays just as I remember it looking and playing back in 2009. While it doesn’t excel as a realistic shooter, the graphics pair well with the over-the-top gameplay. It is not going for realism, and that’s ok. In a world full of triple A graphics pushing the envelope, Borderlands offers a refreshing aesthetic that deviates from the norm.

The game’s music seems to fit nicely with this aesthetic. It’s everything I imagine a wasteland sounds like, from screaming psychos to background acoustics. The weapons however, don’t sound like they have much weight to them. They sound weaker than a cap gun, like a children’s toy that somehow crits big burly raiders in the face. Perhaps these soft weapon sounds play into the lively and ambitious visuals; colorful sounds for a colorful game. Either way, there is something left to be desired here. That being said, the opening theme song and cinematic is probably my favorite opening of any game.

Borderland’s is highly replayable, allowing the player to carry over a character’s progress in a new game with harder, higher leveled enemies. While quests do not change from one new game to the next, it is admittedly quite convenient how progress can transfer over. The bigger the baddies, the better the battle.

Sound: 3/5

Gameplay: 4/5

Story: 2/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 4/5

Total: 18/25, or 72/100