Review: Hyper Light Drifter

Hyper Light Drifter
Cost
$19.99
Format
Digital
Size
1.24GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4, Windows, OSX, Linux
Release Date
7/25/2016/th>
Developer
Heart Machine LLC
Publisher
Heart Machine LLC
Modes
Single Player

Hyper Light Drifter is an old-school 2D action adventure game with RPG elements that harkens back to the original Zelda on the NES. Funded by Kickstarter, the game smashed its original $100,000 goal and raised over $640,000. The game is Alex Preston under the developing name of “Heart Machine”. Preston has had a terminal heart condition since birth and wanted to tell his story through his game. Hyper Light Drifter is an incredible game that feels simultaneously new and refreshing yet somehow classic and nostalgic. Every aspect of the game is developed with love and care and it’s bursting with a personality unique to itself. Few games leave me thinking and feeling the way I do about Hyper Light Drifter. And fewer still remain in my mind and heart for years to come, I believe Hyper Light Drifter is one of those few true treasures in gaming.

After a short cryptic opening sequence, the game plops the player into the world controlling a nameless hero known as a drifter in an open world. From the start the player can go in any direction in any order to progress through the game and story. There are four main areas to discover; North, South, East and West and it’s up the player to choose in which order to explore. This truly open world feels a lot like the original Zelda for the NES to me. The game opens in a small lively town hub. There isn’t a single piece of text in the whole game, the story is told through the world and through interactions with the characters of the world. Even the NPCs communicate through storybook style static images. Although the story is very mysterious it’s incredibly interesting and thought-provoking, and the added knowledge of understanding that the developer has a terminal condition fleshes out the story in even more intriguing ways.

The gameplay of Hyper Light Drifter is fluid and challenging. The main weapon is a sword but in time guns and bombs can be earned. The drifter has a dashing ability that can be used to dodge and maneuver around enemies. There are multiple guns to collect that all have varying attributes like a long range sniper and a powerful up close spread shotgun (my personal weapon of choice). Back in the hub town there are shops that sell upgrades to the guns, more room for health packs, new dash and sword moves, and more. These upgrades are purchased with yellow collectables that are hidden throughout the world. Speaking of things being hidden, Hyper Light Drifter is showered with secrets, yet another aspect that reminds me of old-school classics. There are hidden things everywhere and there’s always a reward at the end of the rainbow. The game can get perplexing at times, as there are few clues as to how to get to each objective. But it’s extremely rewarding discovering the answers to the various puzzles and they never feel unmanageable. Enemies are diverse and clever. Each enemy seems to have its own character and style and learning how to dodge and attack each enemy is key to surviving. And surviving is not easy! The game is very challenging, but in a completely fair way. I never died and thought that I had been screwed over or that the game unfairly attacked me, if I died it was my own fault for not managing the situation properly. And if I did die, it would always place me at a checkpoint that wasn’t too far back from where I was. There’s a fine line between satisfying challenging combat that feels amazing to master and overbearing impossible gameplay that drives the player crazy. And Hyper Light Drifter walks that line to perfection.

The world of Hyper Light Drifter is gorgeous. Every aspect of the game seems like it was hand painted, like it belongs exactly where it was placed. The game was partially inspired by Studio Gibli’s “Nausicaa of the Wind” and it can’t possibly look any better. Created in amazing 8/16bit, it feels both like something that could have been on the SNES or NES and like something that those consoles wouldn’t have dreamed to create. The enemy and character design is flawless, they all feel real and full of life. The carnage after a bloody battle is awe-inspiring and even with the entire screen filled with enemies and projectiles the game never even hiccups. The music and sound design is also remarkable, it sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard and it fits the world perfectly. The sound design and music fit the tone like a glove and it never lets up. The quiet somber moments are met with ominous music reverberations echoing through the game. And the action packed moments are met with powerful melodies and sounds.

Overall I can’t say enough about how remarkable Hyper Light Drifter is. The gameplay is perfect. The story is cryptic and mysterious in the best ways possible. The art direction and music is unique and beautiful. Every aspect of the game is married to itself perfectly. Often times I play games that don’t agree with themselves. The world and gameplay and story and art direction just don’t fit, there’s always something that just doesn’t feel right. Hyper Light Drifter is that EXTREMELY rare game that somehow manages to pull everything together to create a game that fits perfectly in itself, every aspect of the game feels like it belongs and fits perfectly in its world. I haven’t played a game this magical for a very long time. Hyper Light Drifter looks and feels and sounds and plays like a game from a lost era, almost as if the 3D world of gaming never happened and this is what 2D games have progressed to. In fact Hyper Light Drifter feels like a dream—or possibly nightmare. Like the type of dream you wake up from wondering and wishing if it could be real but thankful that it’s not, but wishing you could somehow return.

PROS:
1) Flawless Gameplay
2) Gorgeous art style and music
3) Engaging cryptic story-telling
4) Perfectly executed tone and feel

CONS:
NONE!

10
Perfection

 

Review: Bridge Constructor Stunts

Bridge Constructor Stunts
image
Cost
$9.99
Format
Digital
Size
353 MB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], Mobile
Release Date
12/16/2016
Developer
Head Up Games
Publisher
Head up games
Modes
Single Player

Bridge Constructor Stunts feels like a mix of the “Trials” series and bridge building PC games from the 90’s. It attempts to take those two game play mechanics to mesh them into one game. It’s a cool concept and in theory it sounds like it could be fun. Building bridges and ramps to skillfully launch yourself through levels seems like a nice idea; but in reality what we have here is a game that feels unfinished and like it would be found on flash gaming websites in 2002.

The gameplay of Bridge Constructor Stunts (BCS) is quite simple. Build bridges and ramps through the creation tools and then get to the end of the level by driving through to the end.

BCS’ game modes are very lacking. The only option for playing the game is simply the classic level 1 world 1 type format. When you beat level 1 you move onto level 2. When you beat level 2 you move onto level 3. Once you complete a world you move onto world 2 and so on and so forth. I was honestly surprised when I saw this and it instantly reminded me of the mobile game market today, it doesn’t feel like an Xbox One game. The game was initially on mobile, but why not update the game when you bring it to home consoles? Why is there no creation game mode? I don’t see why this game couldn’t have a gamemode where we have empty worlds where the creator could build whole levels to replay or send to friends through Xbox Live.
Each level feels like a tutorial, as the game adds a new gameplay mechanic often, like steel beams, wires, and “no-build” zones. Giving me one gameplay twist at a time and letting me master one thing at a time is smart, but when I’m playing level 6 of world 2 and I’m still being introduced to new things, it starts to get old. At some point the game just needs to give me full reigns. And it takes a long time to get there, it feels like a VERY LONG tutorial. The best way to teach a player how to play a game is naturally through the gameplay. In BCS whenever I’m introduced to something new I get some boring text that says, “here’s this new thing and here’s the very specific way we want you to use it to get through this level”. That’s not fun and it doesn’t properly teach the gameplay mechanic in a natural way.
When I finally get to levels that let me play with all the tools, I still felt limited. The level design is such that it feels like there’s only a few ways to properly build, and that’s just the opposite feel of what creation is. Building should be something I intuitively do and find my own way to complete the task, instead it feels like the levels have specific options on how to get past the obstacle. It’s just not fun.

The building tools and the controls on how to use them work great. In general the building aspect of the game is its strongest point. If I could just have an empty level to use the creation tools, I would genuinely have fun. There are also smart options like a “simulation” button where you can test out the bridge’s or ramps’ structure to make sure they hold up before actually playing through.

Driving with the trucks is a mess. The button layout is ancient, no one presses A to accelerate anymore, but that’s how BCS handles it. The B button is breaking. Why RT and LT don’t handle these features is beyond me! It feels like I jumped into a portal to 2005! Also you can’t drive backwards. This is insane to me because it looks like some of the levels are designed with driving backwards in mind but it’s just not a feature, which is ridiculous! The truck feels very light and airy, it just feels off. And accelerating feels sloppy at best, having the tactile control of the RT button would have fixed this easily.

The graphics are also hideous. I’m not gonna sugar coat it, it’s an absolutely disgusting looking game. There’s no need to go into detail about this because the developer seemed to not care about detail either. The simple music that plays during the building moments of the game is nice, but it’s jarring that whenever I pressed the “simulation” button to test out my work the music resets, it instantly takes me out of that tranquil mood of just building and having fun. The music when you drive around is terrible, it’s some crazy over the top rocky sounding song that again sounds super dated.

Overall developer Headup Games has a really cool idea here. And honestly the tools in the building mechanics of the game are really neat! I wish the game did a better job of teaching me the mechanics without stretching out that tutorial over dozens of levels. I took one peak at the trailer of the game and suddenly I learned more about the building features and how to tackle tricky spots than the actual game taught me itself. The driving aspect of the game is just not good. In my opinion the game would have been significantly better if they honed down on the building mechanics and just let the AI drive the trucks around. This way I could learn the minor tweaks I needed to make to adjust ramps and bridges and not worry about the sloppy driving controls. If you LOVE to build things and like the idea of grinding through level by level and mastering each challenge than you might have found a decent game here. However I highly recommend the $3 mobile version because the price tag and lack of new features on the Xbox One version just isn’t worth a buy.

PROS:
1) Building Tools

CONS:
1) Driving
2) Lack of game modes
3) No creation game mode
4) Long unhelpful tutorial

5.2
Dull

 

Review: AIPD

AIPD
Cost
$9.99 / £7.99
Format
Digital only
Size
0.26GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4 & Steam
Release Date
30/01/16
Developer
Blazing Badger
Publisher
mamor games
Modes
Single player and Local Co-op

AIPD (an acronym for Artificial Intelligence Police Department) is a top down twin stick shooter in the same vein as Geometry Wars and Ultratron. Luckily, as Xbox One owners we have been spoilt for choice as far as twin stick shooters are concerned. Just how does AIPD fit in to the ever growing catalogue?

There isn’t much in the way of a story line in AIPD so I’ll dive right into the gameplay. To begin with, you need to kit out your ship. You start off with the Gatling Gun for your weapon and the Allrounder Modification. As you continue to play and rack up the points, you’ll be rewarded with new weapons and modifications to use. Personally, my favourite combination was to use the Phaser for the weapon and the Automatic modifier which activates your power ups as soon as you pick them up. You get to unlock a total of 6 weapons and 6 modifiers and they offer many ways to play the game based on what load out you choose. The game throws 15 waves at you that gradually increase in difficulty. Every few waves or so you are introduced to a new type of enemy with different weapons and attacks to keep you on your toes. If you lose all of your health, that’s game over and you have to start over from wave 1.

The calm before the storm

The calm before the storm.

Along with the main mode, there are 4 other game modes you can have a go at which have different modifiers enabled to increase the difficulty, the fourth mode being a custom mode which you can pick and choose which modifiers are enabled for the game.

Like with other twin stick shooters, you move around with the left stick, aim with the right stick and shoot with the right trigger. Enemies can sometimes drop power ups to help you along your way and you can activate them with the A button. These power ups range from slowing down time to giving yourself a shield. Lastly, you periodically have Transporters fly across the map which, when destroyed, will drop a special weapon like some missiles or some torpedoes, which can be fired using the left trigger.

There are a couple of things that make this different from other twin stick shooters I have played. Firstly, all weapons can overheat, which isn’t to much of an issue on it’s own. But when you combine that with the fact that every time you overheat your weapons, a mine comes flying out of the back of your ship ready to blow you up and take valuable HP from you, it makes you think twice about spamming that right trigger.

The second and most intriguing difference were the challenges that add modifiers to your game. After every wave you go into some kind of wormhole and you are offered up two choices. These choices are modifiers that increase the difficulty of the game in exchange for bonus multiplier. In total, there are 24 different modifiers and upon completion of a wave, two are randomly chosen for you to pick from. Some of them are almost ignorable like the leak modifier which leaves you leaking multipliers constantly throughout the wave, whereas others can be a complete nightmare to deal with. This opens up the opportunity for each playthrough to be somewhat unique depending on what modifiers you get to choose from which, I must say, was a pleasant surprise.

Decisions, decisions..

Decisions, decisions…

When I finished the game my first time I was a bit disappointed it was over so quickly, but upon playing it again on a harder difficulty I found it just as enjoyable (albeit harder) as my first playthrough. The random modifiers can be a bit frustrating at times though. On a few occasions during my attempts at beating the game on Hard mode, I had the distinct feeling that the game was screwing me over after having a few modifier choices that gave me a major disadvantage towards the very end. This is probably my issue and mine alone though based on how I opted to play the game.

AIPD does a great job at catering for different play styles. I opted for the run and gun option and ignored my overheating bar. With my setup I was able to easily work around overheating every now and then and avoid those pesky mines popping out of my backside. Like I said above, I did get burned a few times with the modifiers making my play style very difficult, especially when I had to choose the Short Fuse modifier which shortens the fuse on the mines that pop out when you overheat. I tried other methods as well which didn’t work so well for me but there are definitely many ways to go about AIPD.

Phaser FTW!

Phaser FTW!

Something I wanted to touch on briefly that I don’t generally mention in my reviews is the graphics. I was genuinely impressed with how the game was able to portray the retro style graphics but at the same time you know it’s a brand new game using the Unreal Engine 4. I don’t think I encountered a single bit of lag or screen tear at all. I’m not going into any more detail than that because I would be pretending to know what I’m talking about.

To be honest, my only real criticism of AIPD would be the length of the game. I know I explained above that there is real replayability due to the modifiers but I would have enjoyed it more if there were more waves to contest with and a few more different enemies to destroy. Or failing that, having a boss fight every 5 waves or so. Instead you get 14 waves against the run of the mill enemies and 1 final wave against the boss.

One thing I haven’t touched upon is the local co-op aspect of AIPD. I am a huge fan of local co-op games but it would have been nice to see some online functionality other than the leaderboards (which is a nice addition). From what I got to play in local co-op, the game was as much fun as it was playing solo.

Now onto my favourite part, the achievements list. Anyone who enjoys their twin stick shooters and has a decent skill level will complete AIPD with few issues. The only achievement which can be a pain is defeating the boss in hard mode. With practice it isn’t too bad. Other achievements range from not overheating at all through all 15 waves, unlocking all weapons and modifications and scoring 1 billion points.

All in all, AIPD is a brilliant top down, twin stick shooter and I would highly recommend anyone who enjoys these games to go and buy it now if you haven’t already. The gameplay is fast paced and enjoyable and the graphics are on point. Although, the game does only have 15 waves and it doesn’t have any online gameplay, the modifiers certainly help to add replayability and the local co-op is a blast. AIPD fits into the catalogue very neatly near the top.

A review code for AIPD was provided by the Developer for the purpose of this review.

PROS:
1)Fast paced, entertaining gameplay
2)Modifiers really increase replayability
3)Local co-op
CONS:
1)Too short
2)No online play
8.4
EXCELLENT

 

Review: Cubot – The Complexity of Simplicity

Cubot – The Complexity of Simplicity
Cost
$1.99 / £1.59
Format
Digital only
Size
0.35 GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4, Steam
Release Date
01/08/16
Developer
NicoplvGames
Publisher
NicoplvGames
Modes
Single player

Cubot has a very straightforward mechanic. You control a coloured block (or cube if you prefer) and you need to get it to the like coloured square on the floor. But, as the name suggests there is a great amount of complexity to the implied simplicity. See what I did there?!

The game is split up into 10 episodes each with 8 levels with varying degrees of difficulty. They start off really simple, requiring you to guide your block to the coloured square on the floor by just avoiding some obstacles. As you progress through the levels the game introduces more complicated mechanics, such as extra blocks, different coloured blocks that move differently and teleports.

These pesky blocks move two squares at a time

These pesky blocks move two squares at a time

Cubot does a really good job at introducing a new mechanic during the beginning of each episode so you don’t feel overwhelmed by it. By the time you hit the mid levels of the episode you’re fully comfortable with how the levels work and you can really get into solving the puzzles put in front of you. By the end of some of the episodes I had some real head scratching moments…I just couldn’t figure out how to get the level done.

I’m not going to lie, I struggle with puzzle games and I did end up having to use some guides for the later levels but that didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the game. Anyone well versed, or even average at puzzle games would probably be able to figure them out without the need for a guide.

Blocks moving in different directions gave me more trouble than I care to admit.

Blocks moving in different directions gave me more trouble than I care to admit.

If there is anything to complain about it has to be the length of the game. You could probably finish it within 2-3 hours without the use of guides, maybe even less than that depending on your puzzle skills.

As far as achievements are concerned, the list is pretty unimaginative. There are a total of 10 achievements each for 10 which unlock at the end of every episode. This game is a must buy for any achievement hunters out there without a doubt.

Initially, I was sceptical. That scepticism didn’t last long. This game is a fantastic little puzzler and will give you a few hours of enjoyment. I know I painted the length of the game as a negative, but when you consider the price of the game sits at just $1.99 it is an absolute steal. I mentioned above that this is a must buy for achievement hunters and I would recommend it to pretty much anyone who enjoys casual puzzlers to give it a go.

A review code for Cubot – The Complexity of Simplicity was provided by the Developer for the purpose of this review.

PROS:
1) Great introductions to new mechanics
2) Excellent puzzles
3) More than reasonable price point
CONS:
1) Quite short
2) Achievement list is meh
7.9
GOOD

Review: Teslapunk

Teslapunk
box_teslapunk_w160
Cost
$9.99
Format
Digital
Size
458.78 MB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed]
Release Date
10/7/15
Developer
klutzGames
Publisher
klutzGames
Modes
Single Player

PROS:
1) Good musical tracks
2) Fun while it lasts

CONS:
1) Very short and only 2 modes
2) Disconnected feel to the game
3) Lack of SFX

6
Average

 

Review: Inside My Radio

Inside My Radio
box_insidemyradio_w160
Cost
$14.99
Format
Digital
Size
1.15 GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed]
Release Date
9/18/15
Developer
Seaven Studio
Publisher
Iceberg Interactive
Modes
Single Player

PROS:
1) Fun story mode
2) Excellent music

CONS:
1) Incredibly short
2) Frustrating gameplay mechanic

6
Average

 

Review: Guns, Gore and Cannoli

Guns, Gore and Cannoli
box_gunsgoreandcannoli_w160
Cost
$9.99
Format
Digital
Size
4.58 GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed]
Release Date
9/25/15
Developer
Crazy Monkey Studios
Publisher
Crazy Monkey Studios
Modes
Single Player and Co-op

PROS:
1) Good variety of weapons and enemies
2) Great music and voice work
3) Detailed levels

CONS:
1) Can get repetitive quick

7
Good

 

Review: Penarium

Penarium
box_penarium_w160
Cost
$9.99
Format
Digital
Size
295.88 MB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed]
Release Date
9/23/15
Developer
Self Made Miracle
Publisher
Team17
Modes
Single Player and Local Multiplayer

PROS:
1) Fast paced platforming
2) Spot on difficulty curve
3) Lots of trap variety
4) Excellent narration

CONS:
1) Only 30 story levels

9
Phenomenal

 

Review: Quest of Dungeons

Quest of Dungeons
box_questofdungeons_w160
Cost
$8.99
Format
Digital
Size
165.71 MB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed]
Release Date
9/4/15
Developer
Upfall Studios
Publisher
Upfall Studios
Modes
Single Player

PROS:
1) Randomly generated dungeons keep the game feeling fresh
2) Good variety of character play styles

CONS:
1) RNG can be very harsh at times
2) Only two campaigns

7
Good

 

Review: Yasai Ninja

Yasai Ninja
box_yasaininja_w160
Cost
$19.99
Format
Digital
Size
1.8 GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed]
Release Date
8/26/15
Developer
Recotechnology
Publisher
Recotechnology
Modes
Single Player

PROS:
1) It’s not Toro

CONS:
1) Screen tearing
2) One of the worst cameras ever
3) Slow plodding combat
4) Poor check pointing
5) Sound glitches out

2
Terrible