A Short Hike Review

Getting lost in the wilderness can be a frightful thought, but the tranquility that it offers in Adamgryu’s imagining is anything but. The appropriately named “A Short Hike” is the most blissful nature walk that never outstays its welcome. It is sure to have you grinning ear-to-ear with every side trail you stumble upon. While short (the game can be completed in one swift sitting), this bite-sized experience is easy to digest and left a lasting impression on me. If it is not perfect, it is very close to it. Join me on this short review of A Short Hike.

The feature most apparent as you load up the game for the first time is the visuals. Pixels are jagged, giving it an appearance of something you might see in the mid 90’s. I thought that it added charm, and it was clear that a creative choice was made here. Perhaps not everybody will feel the same, but fear not, because it is possible to adjust the visuals in the settings menu. After my eyes could not take much more of the large and chunky pixels, I switched it over to the sharpest image quality, and I was astonished by what a difference this made in my overall enjoyment. The game looks stunning with the more refined graphics, and I find it hard to believe that this was developed by just one person.

As you start your journey on this small island, you are treated with a cutscene of sorts. It appears that there is someone driving you, Claire, to a summer camping trip, and then you are thrown into the game with little else to go on. As you take your first steps out of the cabin, you discover that your phone has no reception at the base of the island. You are then tasked with scaling the steep mountainside to make a phone call. Along the way, you will meet some colorful characters and have some amusing conversations, none of which are mandatory. This is one of those experiential titles, where you can play it however you would like. If you want to cut all the side missions and just ascend to the top in one quick swoop, you can. I do not recommend playing it that way though. The richness of the extra content you will stumble upon along the way can only be fully appreciated if you stop and smell the roses. Take this game at your own pace and be pleasantly surprised by what it has to offer.

The music in this game is so relaxing. Actually, everything about A Short Hike is relaxing, but the music stands out in this department. I will link you to one song out of the soundtrack that gives me happy, care-free vibes. You can listen to it here on YouTube. The acoustic strings, the light bongos, and the piano melodies make this one of my all-time favorite soundtracks of any game. It is music that makes you feel, and this game really does evoke some strong emotions.

While creative liberties shaped this game into an emotional ride, the gameplay holds up as well. The most appealing mechanic in the game would have to be the flying, or more appropriately, gliding. By holding the A button, you can float ever so gently, slowly losing altitude for every second that passes in the air. It is really satisfying to jump off a ledge and float to another ledge off in the distance. By pressing A as you glide, you can use a golden feather to flap your wings and fly, elongating your hang-time. You can also climb which will be crucial in making it to the peak of the mountain. While flying is by far the more appealing option, climbing will burn through golden feathers a lot slower than the simple flap of your wings, making it the more practical method.

It is hard to judge the replay value A Short Hike has. It will differ from person to person. I am inclined to play it again, maybe in a year or two, so the experience is not fresh in my mind. It is one of those games that almost makes me wish I could play it again for the first time. The game is incredibly short, spanning only a couple hours maximum. In those two hours, I felt this was an adventure well worth the price of entry, but you may not share this sentiment. For those who are looking for a lot of bang for your buck, you may want to look elsewhere. If you are looking for something short and fun to get emotionally invested in, this is that game. I believe this game is a masterpiece, but I am also aware that it may not jive with everyone. If you thought everything outlined in this review is something you would enjoy, then I would highly recommend you jump on this one. I certainly did not regret it, and I am hopeful that neither will you.

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 5/5

Story: 4/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 3/5

Total: 22/25 or 88/100

Update #2

It has been 6 months since my last “Update” post on the site, but many things have changed since then so I thought it would be appropriate to update once again. The New Year has brought new-year resolutions while also kicking a very terrible year out the door. Everything I wanted to achieve last year had to take a back seat to what was going on in the world and how my life was evolving during this tumultuous time. Taking this time to re-center and refocus gave me an opportunity to prepare for an upgrade. I’m not talking about next-generation consoles however.

At the tail-end of 2020 I was able to acquire a half-decent microphone and webcam. Having to participate in distance education partly influenced this decision, but primarily I had a goal in mind. I wanted to expand my YouTube and newly conceived Twitch channels. It has been 9 months since my first two videos on YouTube, and they were certainly rough around the edges. Since my new purchases, I have tried to make videos consistently on either platform, stretching myself a little thin, while also having a blast. My goal for 2021 is to continue with this momentum. I really hope this does not jinx anything and I can remain rather consistent with my uploads.

I have also committed myself to being more active on this platform. I will be reading more articles and posting more reviews in an attempt to improve my connection with the wonderful community here. For everyone following my blog, you have my sincerest thanks. I have a review brewing that I hope to post in the next two weeks (giving myself a large window to work with to avoid a burnout). In the meantime, I would really appreciate it if you could give my YouTube channel a shot. I am dedicating more time and resources into that endeavor than any other platform. I hope to do some video reviews in the near future! If you would like to further show your support for what I am trying to create, give my Twitch, Facebook, and Twitter profiles a look and stay a while! I would love to give you all more content, and I would love for you to give me your feedback so I can improve in these areas.

That’s all for now! I’m wishing each and every one of you the happiest of new year’s and hoping that there are many good moments ahead of us all.

Sincerely,

Alex

My Top 5 Most Anticipated Games of 2021

Another year has come and gone, and I never got around to playing most of the games on last year’s list, but that will not stop me from making a new one for 2021! The games on this list either have definitive or tentative release dates slated for next year. This means that, and I cannot believe I’m talking about this again for the second year in a row, although I would love to get my hands on Metroid Prime 4 next year, the fact that it has yet to be dated leaves me with very little hope on the matter. Regardless, this list is sure to have some people biting their nails in anticipation. This is my top 5 most anticipated games of 2021.

5. Back 4 Blood. Release date: June 22, 2021

Zombies are a little bit over-played at this point, and honestly, I shied away from some of these pandemic-focused games this year in favor of more light-hearted and relaxing experiences (sorry Resident Evil 3 Remake, thank you Animal Crossing). I am excited for the long-awaited Left 4 Dead 3, uh I mean Back 4 Blood, nonetheless. It looks like this will be an incredible cooperative experience regardless if we have seen this type of game time and time again. The formula was perfected by Turtle Rock and I have no doubt that they will build on everything they have learned throughout their last 2 development cycles and the 11 long years watching other developers try to replicate what they succeeded at in 2009. This one is definitely on my radar, and it should be on yours too.

4. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury. Release date: February 12, 2021

As someone who never owned a Wii U, the games that Nintendo ports to the Switch are welcome additions to my library. On top of including all the Super Mario goodness that was found in the original game, Bowser’s Fury is promising to be quite a significant expansion to the base experience. Like I said, I never owned a Wii U, so I still probably would have jumped on this without the new addition, but it is a bonus that I have come to look forward to. Nintendo rarely disappoints with their first-party software, and the prospect of playing this game cooperatively has me VERY excited.

3. Gotham Knights. Release date: Tentative, 2021

It’s no secret, I’m a huge Batman fan. What Warner Bros. have done with the Arkham Trilogy nurtured this fandom into a full-blown obsession. That is why Gotham Knights is one of my most anticipated games for next year. Batman is dead, and his troop of sidekicks come together in this game to fill the void left by his absence. The idea of controlling Robin, Batgirl, Nightwing, and the Red Hood in an Arkham-like experience makes me breathe heavily, drooling with every second breath. We were treated with a trailer that is over 4 minutes long, building my excitement to astronomical proportions. This will be a must-have when it releases.

2. Halo Infinite. Release date: Tentative, Fall 2021

What can I say about this one? While the gameplay reveal reflected a less than impressive product, I am still excited for this. That is a testament to how big Halo has been in my life. I think that 343 made a good move delaying this game into next year, especially after witnessing the train wreck that was Cyberpunk 2077’s launch. I have played the entire Halo arc from the very first Combat Evolved to the more recent Guardians many times over. It has become a gather point for me and my best friend, with the long-held tradition of playing the campaigns cooperatively in chronological order in anticipation for any new entry in the series. This will be no exception; however, it has become increasingly difficult to find the time. This one is near the very top of my list for most anticipated games of next year.

  1. Monster Hunter Rise. Release date: March 26, 2021

This is the game I am most excited for. Everything I have seen about this game has screamed perfection. Following the Monster Hunter Twitter page, I have been building anticipation after every new concept art or gameplay tease. The feature I have been most excited for is the simple addition of a canine companion in the newly conceived Palamutes. AND Ichinose has confirmed that you will have the option to bring TWO along with you on your adventure. As an avid dog person, I approve this message. Another design choice I have admired since we first saw it was the addition of the Wire Bug. This will give you increased mobility, never-before seen in a Monster Hunter game. You will be able to jump high, scale mountains, and rise to victory against a huge assortment of kaijus looking for a fight. This one is going to be amazing.

And with that, this post is a wrap. Obviously, like any opinion-based list, my picks may not reflect yours, so I would love to hear what you are looking forward to in the new year. Let me know in the comments below. Have a wonderful new year, and may 2021 bring us all joy after a very difficult 2020.

My Top 5 Games of 2020

What a year 2020 has been. With many people being shut-ins due to lockdowns across the globe, video games have offered the most pleasant of respites from the otherwise stressful, scary times. It is for this reason that I would like to celebrate this year in video games with my top 5 picks for the best games of the year. This may be a somewhat unconventional list, simply because I have not played everything out there. You will find many games that are not included here that should probably be on everyone’s list. I do not have access to the entirety of the Playstation library, so do not expect to see games like Ghost of Tsushima or Final Fantasy 7 Remake. I have heavily favored playing games on my Nintendo Switch this year, so many of these picks are titles that are easy to pick up and play, jump in for a short period of time and jump out just as quickly. If you disagree with anything here, please feel free to share your picks in the comment section. But enough of my rambling, let’s get into it.

5. Minecraft Dungeons

This was a nominee at The Game Awards for best family game of the year. While it did not win, I believe it is a true contender for best games released this year, or at the very least best games I have played this year. It is a fun, top-down, isometric dungeon crawler that is accessible to a wide audience. It has Minecraft’s aesthetic, along with a low barrier of entry. I beat the game alone but have recently gone back to it with my fiancée who is not well-versed in the video game sphere. But even she was able to learn the mechanics with relative ease, and she was enjoying her time with it. I hold the unpopular opinion that Dungeons is a much better game than the original Minecraft. From a design standpoint, it is a more polished experience. This opinion may also derive from my apathy toward large, procedurally generated sandbox games where there is no clear direction. I favor the more linear, clear-cut game design that Minecraft lacks but Dungeons offers in spades. For that reason, it is number five on my list.

4. Streets of Rage 4

Anybody who knows me well will understand why this has made my top five list. I have been a sucker for the Streets of Rage series since I played it late in the Sega Genesis’ life cycle. The originals were among my favorite beat ‘em ups I have ever played, and this long-awaited new entry captured the essence of those classic games while turning up the heat in close-combat action. Not to mention it has one of the best artistic designs I have ever seen. The colorful palette was vibrant and made characters pop with so much life. It also had a good amount of content to unlock with multiple playthroughs, and it is a game I kept coming back to throughout the year. It is another game that is geared toward cooperative play, providing a lot of fun for me and my brother, throwing us back to our childhood when we played the first in the series many times over. What a phenomenal nostalgic trip.

3. Hades

As a contender for Game of the Year, Hades is a rogue-lite that took Nintendo Switch owners on an adventure through the underworld. Its air-tight mechanics and pleasing visuals rocketed this game toward a top spot on my list. This is particularly fun for anyone interested in Greek Mythology, whether knowing the lore or wanting to learn more about it. The game offers a compendium of mythological goodness and as you progress through the game, conversing with various gods, the story develops and you learn more about the world in which the game is based. Be forewarned however, this game will kick your butt if you are not paying attention. Selecting the proper power-ups and branching pathways will be crucial to your success, or failure. Admittedly, I have yet to beat the game because I suck, but the continuous progression, even after failed attempts, is enough of a hook to keep me playing. You shouldn’t pass on any of the games on my list, but I think this one is a must have for anyone interested in Greek Mythology.

2. Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Every game on this list, with the exclusion of maybe Minecraft Dungeons, have made it in the top 5 in part due to the aesthetic choices. These games are B.E.A.utiful! The most visually stunning of them all must be Ori though. I fell in love with the Blind Forest in 2015 and have waited 5 long years for its well-deserved sequel. Will of the Wisps takes everything that made the first game great and adds a plethora of features to improve upon that foundation. Most notably, the combat is a lot more interesting. The new abilities are nothing to sneeze at either though, with the inclusion of my favorite technique that allows you to burrow through sand and launch out to reach new areas. This game is nothing short of a masterpiece, and it takes the Metroidvania genre and refines it into a perfect gem of a game. The only issue I had with it was at launch on the Xbox One. It suffered a great deal from framerate drops but has since been patched and runs seamlessly. This one is a must-own, but it is also included with Gamepass for anyone already subscribed. If this one flew under your radar, be sure to check it out!

  1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Of course, it is this game, what else could it be? Animal Crossing, from a technical standpoint, may not be the best game of the year, but it is THE game of the year. It came out in North America right around the time a good portion of the population was ordered into a lockdown. It offered the perfect escape from everything that was going on in the world around us. For hours at a time, we had this beautiful island to tend to, with a troop of cute animal villagers to converse with. It gave us an opportunity to connect with other island-dwellers as well. I had so much fun visiting my sister’s island, fishing, catching bugs, and shaking trees. It allowed us to stay in touch in a fun, happy-go-lucky environment. Timing could not have been more perfect for this deserted island getaway. Do I think they will replicate sales with the next entry in the series; I am not sure. To me, it seems to be a product of the circumstances that surrounded its launch. It is nonetheless a fantastic game and well-deserving of the top spot on my list.

So there you have it, my top 5 games of the year. I understand some may be disappointed that their favorite games may not have made this list, but if it is any reconciliation, I probably just have not played your favorite games. I am only one person and it is unhealthy how much gaming experiences I consume in a year as it is. To add any more to my plate at this time would be irrational. In addition to everything that has been coming out, I have a HUGE backlog of games that I am slowly whittling down, the vast majority of which have released outside of 2020. All this to say that I cannot possibly review every game I play, or even play every game I want. However, I do hope that some of you see at least one game you enjoyed on this list. I am interested in what your top five is too, so don’t be shy; leave a comment down below. Happy Holidays!

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 Review

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 is a welcome sequel that came as a surprise to me. While I loved the first game, I never thought it picked up enough steam to warrant a brand-new entry. And yet it released and we are all better off for it. CotM 2 does everything its predecessor did and does it better at that. Graphics, sound, gameplay; everything has been refined to culminate in a more favorable experience than the first. This game is amazing!

While taking heavy inspiration from old Castlevania titles, this new inclusion into the series is far and away a greater departure from the source material. It builds on what made the first game great and improves upon almost every aspect. The controls are tight and responsive, and no death feels cheap, rather they made me feel accountable for my mistakes and gave me room for improvement. It is largely based on trial and error, like many games of the early 90s, and in similar fashion it offers a high level of difficulty. You will die, over and over, and over again. In fact, it became so difficult that I had to switch over to casual mode after a while to see the game to its end. The caveat being that in veteran mode, the default difficulty setting, you experience “knock back” when you are hit, meaning that a hit from an enemy can knock you off platforms if you are not careful. With the ante being upped in this game, there are tighter platforming sections than in the first, that require precise movement and timing, and it can all be ripped out from under your feet with a quick misstep or enemy encounter. If you enjoy a challenge, you will love the game for constantly beating you down, but not punishing you to the point where you give up. While checkpoints are spread further apart than I remember them being in Curse of the Moon, CotM 2 rewards perseverance through its difficulty that is sure to satisfy those who are able to make progress.

Curse of the Moon 2 boasts an astounding level of content for a retro-style title. There are multiple different endings to experience depending on the conditions in which you beat the game. I will try to avoid spoiling anything, but if you want to see everything on offer here, you will have to beat the game a total of 13 times. While this is clearly excessive, and I would be lying if I told you I powered through it, it does allow for a great deal of replay value. I believe my first playthrough I clocked in at a little over an hour. Factor in the increasing difficulty of subsequent playthroughs due to the required conditions, I believe this game can keep you occupied for over 15 hours at the very least. Mind you that is only if you wish to see every ending. I believe to a certain extent; the game overstays its welcome. Like I said, I did not sit down to see everything it has to offer, but I did enjoy the time I had with it. I don’t really see myself continuing any time soon; however, it is nice to know that it is still sitting there on my MicroSD should I ever wish to revisit it.

Like I mentioned above, the graphics and sound are more of what we loved from Curse of the Moon, but seemingly handled with more care this time around. It is clear that Inti Creates has taken their experience from development of the first game to really perfect the art. Backgrounds and foregrounds are more vibrant and full of life, and boss battles are exactly what you would expect from the Bloodstained veterans. The music has been crafted with far more intensity during boss fights, and each new song is better than the last. It is really just a great throwback to a forgotten era while kicking it up a notch.

Gameplay is similar to the first installment, however there is new variety in the characters that are introduced this time around. You have the classic Zangetsu, with his demon slaying sword that functions just as it did in the first game. You are given the ability to power up this sword, giving you more combat techniques with every swipe. Then you have the spear wielding Dominique who is able to attack vertically as well as horizontally. She is also able to bounce off enemies and lanterns, allowing her to reach places the other characters cannot. Next you have Robert, a rifleman who is capable of attacking long range, laying prone, and wall jumping. He is rather squishy though and his basic attack doesn’t do nearly as much damage as the rest of the troop. Finally you have Hachi, the mech-riding corgi (as in the dog) that can hover through the air and ground pound enemies and questionably built floors. I found myself using Hachi a lot during boss fights because he really packs a punch, is very functional with his flying ability, and can also become invincible by spending weapon points. Each character is fun in their own right, and I really enjoyed my time with each of them. In addition (and I hope I’m not spoiling too much), you will eventually have access to the characters from the first Bloodstained game, and they play identical to their earlier counterparts.

Overall, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 is an incredible sequel to an already fantastic game. It improves upon every aspect of the first, and it is evident that the developers put a lot of care into the production of this game. If you’re itching for 8-bit action that looks and plays better than the games it emulates, look no further than CotM 2. I would recommend this game to any retro video game enthusiast. This may be the quintessential retro experience and I say this unabashedly, it is a masterpiece.

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 5/5

Story: 3/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 5/5

Total: 23/25 or 92/100

Update

Hey folks, Alex from XGR here. I just wanted to update you all on my recent time investment into the world of social media. I have a FacebookTwitter, and YouTube now and while posts are sometimes few and far between, I would like to invite you all to go like, follow, and subscribe to those pages if you are interested. I often post gaming related stuff on my Facebook page, be it things I find interesting, or upcoming events that will keep you in the know on all the latest the industry has to offer. My Twitter is brand new, and I’m looking forward to tweeting like the Donald Trump of video games. My Youtube has been around for several months and admittedly I haven’t had time to make many videos. It is where I will post video reviews adapted from what I write here.

In any case, I hope you all enjoy the content I am creating, and I would like to give a BIG THANK YOU to those already following and supporting me, I love you all. I am constantly trying to improve upon the content I create to give professional and astute opinions on the video games we all know and love. We are one big community, and I pride myself on being a part of it in any small capacity. Thank you all, peace!

Ninjala Review

In the last few years we have seen an influx of free-to-play games, for better or worse, seemingly stemming from the business models of popular MOBAs, retooled for the much more recent Battle Royales. Fortnite seemed to pave the way for an entirely new and viable money-making scheme, and damn do I love it! The free to play and NOT pay to win business model satiates many of my video game desires. I can play a game entirely free of charge, or I can choose to buy cosmetics (that don’t affect gameplay in the slightest) and support the developers, it’s a win-win all around. The latest of these games is Ninjala, an entirely free-to-play, online experience for the Nintendo Switch that has won my heart since it launched. Ninjala is both simple and complex in an oxymoron that can only be made sense of through experience, and it is incredible.

The basic premise is that you are a ninja enveloped in constant battles hosted by the WNA, World Ninja Association. They have developed a gum that imbues special ninja powers upon the consumer. A lot of the game revolves around these powers, so you will see a lot of bubbles being blown and gum weapons being wielded. You’re essentially a bad ass ninja with all the perks that come with such a title. The game really shines through its many intricacies, while maintaining a simplistic coat of paint that is very inviting to newcomers.

The game, while being geared toward online multiplayer battles, be it team or battle royale style, also includes a story mode for purchase. While this may be intriguing to some players, single player is clearly an afterthought here and the story is rather uninteresting. Coming in at a total of $10 USD, it is practically highway robbery. The story is dished out through comic book panels that are barely animated and laughably so. You follow the story of Van, a young boy learning the ropes of what it means to be a ninja while practicing his newfound powers.

It’s essentially a tutorial that doesn’t really help you succeed on the online battlefield whatsoever. There is a lot of unmet potential here, as the premise of the game could have been expanded on and really interesting story arches could have been made, but again, the single player is clearly an afterthought here and is a cheap jedi mind trick to get newcomers to dish out an undeserving $10. Steer clear of this purchase, unless you really want to practice your ninja skills when you don’t have internet to play with friends and foes alike. It is worth noting that each episode in the chapter will net you some gold coins if you perfect it, which can then be spent on various upgrades to your ninja, like passive abilities. The amount you can accrue through the story is inconsequential though, maintaining the game’s status as definitely NOT pay-to-win. This game mode does introduce unique enemy types though, and they are rather charming and well designed. That is literally its only redeeming feature.

There are other in-game purchases that can be made aside from the lackluster story mode. There is, like many other Battle Royales before it, a battle pass of sorts that will allow you to unlock cosmetics. Of course there is a standard pass for free that will permit you access to a variety of goodies, but the payed pass will reward you with many more goodies at a much greater rate as you rank up. If you’re not into cosmetics then this can also be avoided, as it is perfectly viable to stick with the free pass. Gameplay is unaffected regardless of the money you choose to spend. This is the best case scenario for free-to-play games in my opinion, where it is very consumer friendly, void of predatory charges.

Now we get down to the most important aspect of the game, gameplay. You wield one of three varieties of weapons, the katana, hammer, or yo-yo. All have very distinct gameplay features that allow you to adjust your playstyle accordingly. Within these three varieties are four different options of weapons that have different passive and active abilities. I am most acquainted with the drill katana because it allows me to burrow into the ground and pounce on unsuspecting enemies, often allowing me to steal kills or surprise attack the oblivious ninja. You swing your weapon by pressing ZR, and you blow a gum-bubble with ZL also acting as a guard. When you clash with another ninja you are given four choices: up, down, left, or right. This amounts to a game of rock paper scissors, where up beats down, down beats side, and side beats up. When you perform a basic attack with ZR and there is no input from the stick, the default attack is up, allowing veterans to exploit noobs by opting for the side attacks.

You can also shoot your bubbles by holding ZL and shooting with ZR. You are given a power meter allowing you to dash. This meter is increased whenever you defeat a drone and will allow you to upgrade your weapon to a bigger form of itself when you accumulate enough power. There are many more intricacies that I will not mention here for fear of my readers figuring out my playstyle and trouncing me when we inevitably meet on the battlefield. I’ll leave the rest up to trial and error. I am hoping now you understand why I have been saying this game is both simplistic and complex at the same time.

The graphics err on the side of simplicity to be more appealing to the uninitiated. It essentially tricks you into playing an overly complex game. I love it. It is very cartoony and colorful and looks like it was made for children. That could very well be the case, but I really don’t see children being able to figure out how to “git gud”. It can be somewhat of a shock to see this giant Pixar animation beat you down if you’re not ready for it. I thought the childish aesthetic to be quite charming in the grand scheme of things, and it definitely motivates me to keep playing. At the very least it’s a nice break from the much more gritty and bleak Skyrim port on the Switch.

The sound is great as well, as I jump for joy when the announcer yells Ippon! or Ninjala! when a combo lands in all the right ways to leave your opponent flying to the other end of the arena. Sound effects are straight out of a cartoon as well, and the music featured in the game has all been originally crafted. You can assign your ninja with a theme song in the avatar customizer, and I’m constantly jamming to the theme song I handpicked for myself. It’s all great fun and appropriate for all ages.

Finally, the game has been designed to be played over and over, ad infinitum. Each game feels different from the last as you can choose to Ippon your way to victory, or steal all the drones, or even just work toward your many missions that will lead you to rank up your battle pass faster. I’ve been playing it rather consistently since its launch and the gameplay has yet to feel dry to me. However, I do believe that many players may fall out of the game if they aren’t winning enough, or the gameplay just doesn’t appeal to them. There are only two maps to choose from so the locations may become stale after a while. I feel like it’s a “love it or hate it” kind of game with very little room in between. If you don’t like the game after giving it a good chance, it will likely never grow on you. However, admittedly I wasn’t a big fan after my first few battles, but after learning the ins and outs, I grew to love it for all of its intricacies. It may very well be a contender for my favorite free to play games of all time.

I would recommend any Switch owner to give this one a go, if for no other reason than that it’s free. You don’t even need a Nintendo Online subscription to battle against other players online, making it one of the only truly free games out there. If you don’t like it after giving it a fair chance, that’s okay, because you literally haven’t lost anything. Well, except for your precious time. Regardless, I think it’s a worthy pick-up for any Switch owner. There’s nothing to lose.

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 5/5

Story: 2/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 5/5

Total: 22/25 or 88/100

Burnout Paradise: Remastered Review

At its core, Burnout Paradise is filled to the brim with fun, fast-paced action wrapped in a myriad of things to do. While EA is extremely criticized for almost every move they make, I have no bone in that fight as I remain a bystander and lover of all things video game related. Without getting too much into the politics of this titan of a company, I can definitively say that Burnout Paradise Remastered for the Nintendo Switch is an amazing game, albeit with a questionable price of entry.

The premise is simple. Here’s an open world full of discoveries to be made and events to take part in, and it is traversed exclusively behind the wheel of some pretty cool cars. Paradise City is appropriately titled, boasting one of the coolest open worlds I have ever experienced. Each detail can become marred in the blur of break-neck speeds however, effectively making each detail put into every turn almost superfluous. Yet it is very much appreciated whenever I choose to simply explore the nooks and crannies at a more reasonable velocity. There is a lot of detail put into this game, yes, but it can also look very grainy at times. Be it the blur in the distance, or somewhat jagged lines detailing the game, this isn’t the best looking game on the system; but it is serviceable and it’s important to note that this was a last-gen game, up-resed to look and perform better by today’s standards. The car destruction is rather visually pleasing, but again, it is nowhere near what the capabilities of today’s technology can achieve. The pieces that fly off the car have about as much detail as low-quality voxels from a bygone era in video games. Burnout doesn’t look completely terrible by any means, but it only attains a caliber that is acceptable to the average gamer.

The fun to be had here mostly comes from the high-octane action that is found throughout. While I, and many other gamers of my generation will agree; Burnout 3: Takedown was the franchise’s climax that has yet to be replicated or achieved by any of the newer entries. In this fashion, I am sure the open world will turn off some purists; however, I found it to be enjoyable and events are still as bountiful, regardless of how they are accessed. In fact, it adds value to the game by allowing discoveries to be made that a traditional Burnout lacks. You will be flying through billboards, mowing down fences, and jumping over impossible ramps in an attempt to discover everything this game has to offer. In this sense, the gameplay has been amped up to 11, with so much content available to whoever chooses to experience its intricacies.

As far as events go, there are six, or arguably seven varieties to participate in. There are standard races, stunt runs, and marked man missions to name a few. Burnout Paradise provides a lot of different gameplay options to really test your skills in many different forms. My least favorite was the point accumulating stunt runs which tasks you with scoring enough points in a set amount of time. The game shines brightest in its standard races that offer incredible arcade racing action, filled with near-misses and takedowns that veterans of the series are accustomed to. There is something here for everyone, except for those expecting simulation. This is nowhere near a simulation, but it does contain a set of mechanics and physics that are geared more toward fast fun rather than simulated racing, and it may be the pinnacle of arcade racing, especially since they are few and far between on the Switch.

There’s no real story present in this game, with the objective being simply to win enough races to upgrade your license and expand your roster of cars so that you have access to even more events. Honestly, the story is not missed in this title. There is enough action to drive this game forward that the addition of a story is grossly unnecessary. I realize that it, as a parameter I include to gauge the overall score and quality of any game, creates somewhat of an injustice to my approximation of the quality of Burnout Paradise Remastered. I nonetheless have to include it in this review as it is a standard I have, and will continue to uphold in the conception of my video game reviews. I apologize if this hurts the score of the game, but it will make up for it in other criteria.

From the onset, as Paradise City by Guns N’ Roses queues up on the title screen, it was clear that this game would have a phenomenal soundtrack, and it didn’t disappoint. Everything about the music in this game screams high-velocity gameplay. I enjoyed the music thoroughly, but its sound effects also shine through here. The crunching of the car crashes, the revving of the engines, it all amounts to peak racing quality. There is no other way to describe it other than simply incredible. Jamming out to a song while going 200 km/h and crashing in slow-motion as the song gets muffled a bit is sound mastery at its finest. I absolutely loved it.

Burnout Paradise Remastered is highly replayable, and I found myself going back and completing races I have already won just to experience the same routes that have been perfected through shortcuts I discovered along the way. It is a masterpiece in many ways, even though I think enjoyment may vary depending on the players’ own inclinations and expectations. I loved my time with Burnout Paradise Remastered for the Nintendo Switch, and it has locked in a permanent spot on my micro SD card. I’m sure I will be coming back to this one regularly. I also forgot to mention that this version of the game is the definitive one as it includes all the DLC previously released for it, including Big Surf Island being accessible at the very beginning. While it is rather expensive upon release, it will likely be marked down in the near future, and I would recommend everyone to wait for a discount. I mean, the game can already be found for under $20 on other platforms. If the Switch is the only thing you have though, and you really want an arcade racing experience, this title will not disappoint.

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 5/5

Story: 1/5

Graphics: 3/5

Replay Value: 5/5

Total: 19/25 or 76/100

Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling Review

I am often presented with a dilemma about how I should operate this review site. For the most part, I am a firm believer that a game should be played in its entirety before I review it, or at least played for a large amount of time in the case of longer titles. Herein lies my problem. Bug Fables is an incredible game, and I want to commend it for everything it does right. That said, I have only played through about half of it because my fat thumbs are not capable of seeing it to its conclusion. I believe this game should be played by a large audience. It’s rather niche, but I feel like a ton of RPG fans that would not normally consider it would have a ton of fun. This is what is driving me to write this review, if you could call it that. Perhaps it is better suited as an impression piece, I don’t know. Suffice it to say, Bug Fables is a must play for any fan of the old school Paper Mario games, and would be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone looking for an RPG-Lite experience.

The primary thing that stands out with this game is the art style. It draws heavy inspiration from Paper Mario, and that is not a bad thing. It ensures the game will still be looking great 10 years from now. Most things are paper, from the two dimensional characters, to the buildings that are seen throughout your journey. It is a three dimensional world however, and there is actually a little bit of a contrast between everything that is paper, and the lands you traverse. At its best, when you enter a building, paper is folded back so that you can get a view of what the interior looks like. At its worst, you are trekking across a world you do not quite look a part of. Overall, there is more good than bad to be said about this art direction.

The gameplay is also a nod to Paper Mario on the N64, from the occasional, albeit weird platforming segments, to the straight rip-off of the combat system. I’m not saying it’s a rip-off in any bad sense of the term. It takes everything that was great about combat in Paper Mario, and fine tunes it for a more mainstream feel. Timed button presses, unique character abilities, it’s all on display here. Where it strays from the source material is in the combatants themselves. You are given three characters to play with throughout the entire game. There are no characters that pop in and out of the story. What you get a little ways into the game is what you get for the duration. Basic attacks remain the same between these three characters, but special moves are unique and require different button presses to perform.

To my pleasant surprise, combat differs through the ability to swap characters on a whim and to give each character the opportunity to give their turn away to someone better suited for the task at hand. For example, Vi can hit flying enemies, Kabbu can hit enemies out of their shell, and Leif can unearth burrowed enemies. When you are facing an enemy that suddenly flies in the air, and Vi has already taken a turn, Kabbu or Leif can give their turn to Vi so she can work her magic. The stipulation being that upon every additional turn any one character takes, their power is reduced. All in all the combat system is enjoyable, and never got old in my 10 hours of playing.

The music once again, you guessed it, is inspired by Paper Mario, with some tunes sounding eerily similar to the source material. Again, not a bad thing. Paper Mario was an incredible game with incredible music, and that is not lacking in this spiritual successor. I found myself enjoying the music so much that I went back and played the soundtrack a couple times. It is incredible, seriously, go listen to it. Sound effects are spot on too, with every boomerang knock to an enemy’s head inspiring cheers within my soul. This game was, simply put, very pleasing to both eyes and ears. Bug Fables does have one issue that I need to point out. The story is uninteresting to me, but I do see how some could come to love it. Again, I never finished the game, so I don’t know how it all plays out, but it seems like they played it very safe with many of the story elements. What it lacks in overarching story it makes up for in sheer talented writing. The writing in this game is incredibly charming. I never felt the need to button mash A through any of the dialogue, and it was very enjoyable. Each character gets developed through what they say and how they react to different situations, and it all just seems very believable. Like, if there actually was a rag-tag team of a bee, beetle, and moth thrown into a power struggle, this is exactly how they would speak and act. I’m just going to leave it at that.

As far as replay value goes, I feel I would be hard-pressed in finding people who desire to play it through multiple times. Heck, I couldn’t even get through it the first time. This was in large part due to a certain gameplay sequence that had me creeping around enemies, trying not to alert them to my presence so they don’t throw me back in jail. It was THE WORST. I typically hate gameplay segments that use a terrible stealth gimmick, where you have to stay out of enemies’ fields of view. It’s terrible. It sucked in Ocarina of Time, was worse in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on the original Xbox (look it up), and is terrible here. I would need some divine intervention to play through that again. No thank you.

Overall, Bug Fables is amazing. It hits all the right notes in most of the important aspects that make a good video game, but fell short for me in a very specific sequence. I still wanted to get the word out there that this game exists and is, for the most part, enjoyable. I loved it, until I hated it. End rant, end review.

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 5/5

Story: 3/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 1/5

Total: 19/25 or 76/100

Thunder Force AC (SEGA AGES) Review

M2 seems to be a game porting monster and that is no exception when talking about the recent Thunder Force AC port to the Switch. As with many SEGA Ages titles before it, this version of Thunder Force may actually be the definitive version, albeit with much less intrigue than an arcade cabinet. Thunder Force AC is a horizontal shoot ‘em up that was born from the ashes of Thunder Force III on the Sega Genesis. While admittedly I haven’t played many games in this genre on the Switch, it has quickly become one of my favorite, short-burst experiences on the console. I use it as a buffer between games when I am not quite sure what I want to play, instead of endlessly scrolling through the eShop that I’m sure many of us are guilty of. It doesn’t just act as a quick in-and-out experience though. This game is great whether you have mere minutes, or a couple hours to play.

The SEGA Ages series is notorious for squeezing great content into retro experiences. You are provided with not only the arcade mode that emulates the original perfectly, but are also given the option of a “kids mode”. While I may have felt a little degraded with the choice of words they used here, it was a welcome addition to the game. I have never been all that good at shoot ‘em ups, but this mode allowed me to see it to its conclusion with very little difficulty. It allowed me to experience all 8 levels that I would have never seen were I to stick with the arcade mode. On top of this new mode, you are given the choice of the difficulty level in each playthrough, the number of lives you are awarded with each credit, and the score necessary to earn an extra life. All of these options offer customized gameplay, tailored to the skill level of the player. Arcades were designed to eat quarters, making it necessary to be difficult within the fundamental design. These options circumvent that and make the game much more user-friendly.

As mentioned above, there are 8 unique levels, each with their own enemies, backgrounds, and bosses. The game does not lack variety, as my thirst for novelty was well quenched with every new screen. One thing I feel is worth mentioning is the nausea evoked from the second level. The background is wavy and there are instances where you speed up. It made the world around me spin uncontrollably, figuratively speaking. It was almost unplayable, which is incredibly disappointing because if I wasn’t driven to review the game, I would have likely stopped my playthrough there. Fortunately, in later levels this is not a problem, so if you can get over this hump your stomach should settle down.

There’s not much more I can say about this game. The music is stellar in typical SEGA fashion. It is full of energy and the funky melodies really compliment the fast-paced gameplay effectively. It is a port of an arcade game, which is the very definition of replay value. It’s just as fun the initial run as the third or fourth time through it, and perhaps even more so as you come to master the game, anticipating every enemy and bullet that is thrown your way. Beyond that I feel I’ve said more than enough about this bite-sized experience. I’m a huge fan of SEGA and love to support these SEGA Ages titles as much as I can because they are significant markers in the annals of video game history. On top of that, M2 does a fantastic job at porting these games to perfection while also giving a suitable amount of added content to remain relevant in this day and age.

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 5/5

Story: 1/5

Graphics: 4/5

Replay Value: 5/5

Total: 20/25 or 80/100