Ori and the Will of the Wisps Review

I would give Ori and the Will of the Wisps a glowing recommendation; it hits all the right notes in terms of gameplay and controls, wrapped in a beautiful musical score and an art-style that would give Bob Ross a run for his money; but I can’t. As much as I would love to recommend this game, it needs a lot of work on the performance front. It stands on the precipice of greatness but falls short in the most important aspect of all. This game is incredible, but also very disappointing.

A sequel to the 2015 “Ori and the Blind Forest”, it surpasses its predecessor in so many ways while staying true to what made the first game so great. You follow the adventures of Ori, a guardian spirit who finds herself on an adventure in a strange land outside of her home of Nibel. She, along with her owlette companion Ku, fly far across the sea only to be stricken down by inclement weather and trapped in this foreign land. Ori and Ku struggle to go back home after being separated and Ori becomes entangled in an adventure to restore the land from the corruption that had long since consumed it. The story is very emotional, and I even shed a tear when I reached its gripping conclusion. Moon Studios just knows how to tug at the heartstrings of anyone who is fortunate enough to play through the game in its entirety.

The combat has been refined and smoothed out with a fine-toothed comb. No longer are you limited to the Spirit Flames that served as the primary attack in the Blind Forest. Now, Ori has access to a versatile assortment of weapons giving the player freedom of choice in a variety of play-styles. These weapons include, but are not limited to, a sword that slashes away at enemies quickly, a bow that provides range, and a cumbersome hammer that can destroy enemies’ armor and shields. Combat is much more pleasant in this sequel and empowers the player where the Spirit Flames did not.

The platforming should also be praised. Movement is buttery smooth, and each platforming sequence feels perfect in every sense of the word. If you are competent with the controls (and after playing some of the more challenging sequences in the Blind Forest, you should be) you can achieve these incredible platforming feats with such grace and fluidity. It is a masterpiece to behold. There were moments where I would initiate a sequence of jumps and launches and just be amazed by the mobility of the character, almost in disbelief that I input what I was witnessing on screen. It wouldn’t be unfair to say this may be one of the best platformers on offer in 2020.

The art is breathtaking to say the least. Each individual frame of the game can be screenshotted and would make the perfect desktop background. This is the perfect example of games as an artform. Side scrolling backgrounds are masterfully hand drawn and are bursting with color. Landscapes are jaw-dropping and awe inspiring, creating environments that are so full of life. This game, along with its predecessor, are two of the best-looking games I have ever laid my eyes on. It’s pure perfection.

The musical score contributes to the flavorful landscapes in the best way. It is all orchestral tunes that elevates the gameplay to a whole other level. The music howls at you as chase sequences pick up the pace and lulls you to sweet serenity when leisurely exploring the beautiful environment. The art alone is beautiful. The music alone is beautiful. The combination of the two is like Reese’s chocolate and peanut butter, and I honestly could not imagine one without the other. Not only is this one of the best-looking games I’ve seen, but the music stimulates the senses in ways I never thought possible. Expertly orchestrated, from a visual and auditory standpoint the execution is flawless.

And that brings me to my one and only complaint about the game, and boy is it a doozy. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is plagued with performance issues at nearly every turn. It stutters often, especially when transitioning into a new area. This is almost game breaking, and heartbreaking for an otherwise perfect title. At about the 8-hour mark I was frustrated by the constant slowdown and stutters. In one instance the game even crashed on me and I had to load into it from my last checkpoint. I was overwhelmed with anger and frustration that I thought about hanging my hat with this one and finishing my playthrough there, but I persevered and made it to the end, and I am glad that I did. This game desperately needs a patch. I would give it a perfect score were it not for these persistent performance issues. As it stands, this game is incredible but these issues in a 2020 release, and published by Microsoft at that, is unforgivable.

While Ori and the Will of the Wisps exudes perfection in almost every objective angle, where it faults is in one of the most important areas of a video game. I would not be surprised if many people put this game down out of sheer frustration, but I implore anyone giving this title a go to persevere through it, because the ending really needs to be experienced. If you can look past its flaws, there is so much more here than can be described. I believe that an almost perfect score is appropriate for an almost perfect game.

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 4/5

Story: 5/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 4/5

Total: 23/25 or 92/100

Dead Cells Review

It is rare to find a gem, so masterfully crafted as Motion Twin’s Dead Cells. It is the epitome of an amazing game. More so if you own a Switch and want a game that you can jump in and out of on a whim, anywhere, any time. It is of the highest pedigree and should not be passed up no matter what platform you own. Metroidvania and Roguelike elements blend so delightfully to create one seamless whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts. In short, Dead Cells will have me chasing the proverbial dragon for many months to come. It is my introduction into the Roguelike subgenre, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The game revolves around the central, headless character, whose shtick is that he cannot die. Whether he likes it or not, he is constantly revived at the end of every run. A funny reminder of this is the stacks of dead bodies in the mutations room, presumably those of the fallen hero. This sets the stage for the narrative to intertwine with the fundamentals of the genre, making perfect sense to an otherwise nonsensical plot-hole that I can only assume most of its predecessors have fallen through. Again, this is the first Roguelike I have played, but I thought the gimmick was handled quite well while being a little tongue-in cheek.

The prisoner is on a mission to slay the king, who is likely to blame for his incarceration. As you roam the winding passages of the underground holding cells, it becomes clear that you are not alone down here. An outbreak, called the Malaise has made many sick; and worse, has turned some into horrible mutations that you must slay your way through to get to the next area. Along the way you will find little tidbits of story scattered here and there within holding cells and chambers that are stumbled upon seemingly at random. These mostly serve to emphasize the hardships that those residing underground have faced. It is not uncommon to randomly spot hanging corpses and putrid carcasses. It is all handled with a dark sense of humor however, often rewarding these finds with a drumstick or kebab to replenish a bit of health.

The game mechanics are also air-tight. Responsiveness in controls and abilities make the player feel powerful, allowing a skilled player to never miss a beat, and a rookie to feel like he could become a skilled player. A mishmash of rolls, double jumps, and a plethora of pick-up abilities all culminate in a delightful experience that remains unmatched. No other game has made me feel the way Dead Cells makes me feel. Like I can accomplish anything within this world, and if I can’t, I’ll have another go at it with little to no consequence. Sure, the Roguelike elements mean that many of the items and powerups will die with you, but the abilities that do carry over are enough to give a nice sense of progression. The cells as a currency was fine tuned to make you feel that no run is a wasted effort.

The games graphics and sound also add something indescribable to the experience. It is done in a pseudo-16bit art-style that is really nice to look at, with a wide range of color pallets that keep the game looking fresh, be it for a five-minute run or a 30 minute one. The music made me feel like I was in a dystopic world, often ramping up whenever a more difficult enemy or boss was standing before me. The sound effects too did not disappoint. Every swing of the sword that landed, or every twang of the bowstring felt satisfying and rewarding. Ultimately, the sound and art-style were handled perfectly and with fine craftsmanship.

This game is highly replayable on top of all that has been mentioned above. The whole point is to repeat playthroughs, progressing slowly at first, and faster when you get the hang of the game and can put in longer runs. The cells can be spent on a variety of abilities and weapons, and there is almost always something to strive for. The more desirable abilities will cost more cells, encouraging further playtime. This is one of those games that is just so hard to put down, and when it is put down, it is not too long before it is picked back up again. I cannot emphasize enough how fun this game is. A must own in any video game library. It’s a perfect game in my book.

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 5/5

Story: 5/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 5/5

Total: 25/25 or 100/100

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.