Gamebox 2.0: Headlanding Edition

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It’s sort of the slow season for AAA gaming, leaving it a prime release time for interesting indie games for this latest edition of Gambox 2.0. This month Chris, Zach and Joe reviewed a few newly released titles they played at previous conventions, downloaded the latest PS Plus monthly games, be the Batman in the latest Telltale series and try to understand what’s inside the Silver Case.

HeadlanderThe formation of Headlander brings two of the funniest companies together: Double Fine Production and Adult Swim Games.  They compliment each other so well to produce a funny and smart Metroidvania game that both challenges the player to think and immerses them into a wacky environment. Headlander is set in the far future where humanity has to merge with machines and human thought is regulated by a powerful A.I known as Methuselah. The game puts the player in charge of a nameless (And Body-less) human that is awoken from cryo-sleep and is thrown into a new world that tries to prevent them from reaching Methuselah. The Player’s head is equipped with abilities that allow them to traverse space and navigate tight corridors, and take over robot bodies. The Player’s head can be upgraded to increase abilities and there are different types of bodies for the player to take over to complete certain objects. The game play is grounded on the classic action-adventure style of Metroidvania, but mixes in some clever uses of bullet hell dodging and precision puzzles that require some patience. The game has a great retro vibe of 1970’s era of sci-fi, complete with space shag carpeting. The designs of the robots, space stations and even the laser sound effects have nods to classic art from past visions of the distance future. The game rewards you for exploring every inch of the levels, looking for upgrade crystals, collectibles and additional ramblings of the inhabitants of the space station. Headlander is out now for PS4 and PC. – Chris

Ultratron: One of the August PS Plus games, Ultratron is a throwback to twin stick shooters like Smash TV or Robotron but unfortunately I found it kind of boring.  There doesn’t seem to really be any interesting stage layouts or enemy patterns, it’s always just the same square arena with enemies coming from the corners.  There have been some fantastic twin stick shooters recently like Assault Android Cactus and Score Rush Extended and Ultratron just doesn’t really stack up. It’s free for every Playstation system if you have Plus, so you don’t lose anything by checking it out but it just didn’t grab me in any way. – Zach

Rebel Galaxy: Another of the PS Plus games for August, Rebel Galaxy is an open world space sim that isn’t quite my cup of tea but will definitely suck hours away from people who are into it.  You play the captain of a ship on the hunt to find your missing smuggler aunt and you run into colorful characters along the way at various space stations who have odd jobs for you to complete and you eventually discover a mysterious artifact your aunt left you is an AI that integrates into your ship’s systems and sends you on another thread of missions.  It looks really great with lots of crazy nebulas and star systems and the map is gigantic, with multiple star systems to warp to and tons of corners to explore.  Combat is reminiscent of old naval combat, as your main weapon are broadside missiles or lasers but you also have a pair of turrets for more precise aiming.  The soundtrack is also very Firefly with sort of western style guitar rock. – Zach

Road to Ballhalla: Road to Ballhalla is the latest from TinyBuild Games and it’s a quirky throwback to games like Marble Madness, as you guide a ball through various hazard filled mazes on your quest to reach the mystical Ballhalla.  The game has a Portalesque sense of humor, as there’s snarky tips, some of which are intentionally misleading.  The challenge quickly ramps up as you have to navigate sweeping lasers and floors full of damaging panels and there’s a kind of Super Mario 64 progression mechanic where you have to earn a certain number of tokens before the next section of levels opens up.  The controls are little loose, especially playing on a keyboard, and it results in some frustrating deaths but the checkpoint system is really generous and it’s definitely worth checking out if your looking for an old school, arcade style challenge. – Zach

Blade BalletWe’ve been watching Blade Ballet‘s development since we got to try it at MAGFest 2016 and again at PAX East 2016. Now Dreamsail has officially launched Blade Ballet to PC and PS4. Inspired by the the competitive multiplayer games like Mario Party and Power Stone, Blade Ballet is part brawler, part sport game and all action. The gameplay of Blade Ballet is a familiar take on spinner top battles, as you need to build up momentum in the  robots before you can attack. There are a variety of robots to select, each having a different weapon and ease of control. Some robots are quick and wield weaker attacks, while others are slower and can dish out deadlier attacks. The game offers various modes such as a Stock Battle where players only have a set amount of lives to fight with, a Timed Battle where players see how many kills they can rack up, and a Soccer Battle that has players trying to hit a ball into a goal post while they attack each other. The level designs are interesting to keep battles intense. Closed battle arenas force the players to quickly plan out their attacks so they aren’t defenseless and open arenas offer some defensive positions at the risk of falling to your destruction. Some levels have environmental hazards such as crumpling floors, exploding cubes and firing lasers, so prepare for some frustrating deaths that your competitors didn’t actively cause (Or they did and you don’t want them to know it). Blade Ballet is a great game to have on hand for those moments when friendly gatherings turn into heated gamer arguments and you need to battle it out. -Chris

The Silver Case Remastered Demo: The debut game from Grasshopper Manufacture and Suda51 arrives in the States for the first time this fall and there’s a demo out right now on Steam.  It’s more an adventure game or an interactive graphic novel, as there’s only one main interactive section where you are controlling a member of the 24 Wards Heinous Crimes division through some creepy woods looking for a serial killer.  It definitely has Suda51’s off kilter style, especially in the awesomely 90’s intro that is an explosion of anime, jazz and weird live action footage. It seems like an interesting story, which is a given when you’re talking about Suda51, but if you’re looking for in depth gameplay, this might not be something you would be interested in. – Zach

Batman- The Telltale Series: I’m not the biggest fan of quick-time events in games. When they’re done right, they’re fun. But when they’re not, they can ruin the entire experience and take you out of the game. Most games, in my opinion, fall into the latter category. So when it was announced that Telltale was making a Batman game, I was intrigued. But frankly, I was pretty worried, too. So when I tell you that the game is awesome, rest assured this is not an endorsement to take lightly. The story (so far) is great. It picks up early in Batman’s career. Early enough that his relationship with the police is questionable (many cops will shoot on sight), Alfred still nags him about the double life, and there are no real super-villains. I estimate it to be circa the “year two” era, just like Arkham Origins. This allows them a lot of wiggle room with characters and events, as you’ll see pretty early on. The opening sequence introduces you to the gameplay perfectly. It eases you into a system the casual gamer, myself included, may not be very familiar with (or a big fan of).  The quick-time events, as in most Telltale games, don’t punish you too severely (or at all) for screwing up. So even in life-or-death situations (and there are a few in the first chapter), the game won’t end because you hit “x” instead of “o.” For a spaz like me, that’s a good thing. There are also point-and-click elements to the game. Plenty of environments to explore which, though confined, have ample clues to investigate. The vast majority of them are important in some way to the greater story. But some are just fan service. Don’t get me wrong, there’s fluff, too. But it never feels like you wasted your time by investigating something. Finally, the decision system is awesome. This is not new to Telltale, obviously, but it factors into the world of Batman in a really awesome way. You’d have to imagine that the decisions Batman makes would actually stick with him or come back to haunt him in some way. There’s no way they couldn’t. This game allows you to play with that idea. Pro tip: If you want to explore all the different options (including answering more like Sterling Archer or Frank Castle to questions than Bruce Wayne or Batman), there’s plenty of room for replay value… But be sure to make a separate save file! If you try to replay on the same save slot, you will overwrite your previous decisions. All in all, this game hasn’t blown me away yet. But it’s very solid and a lot of fun. I can’t wait to see the rest of the content Telltale has planned for us. -Joe

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