Another edition of Gamebox 2.0 is here and this time around, a bunch of the games share the similar theme of board game inspirations with dice rolls and other cardboard mechanics influencing their gameplay but there’s also some old school shooters and hardcore action games as well.
Galaxy of Pen and Paper: Following up the Knights of Pen and Paper series by Behold Studios, Galaxy of Pen and Paper takes things into the world of sci-fi as you take control of a bunch of friends playing a D&D style RPG with the action playing out above their heads. You get to customize your DM and the two players, who can have a range of different appearances and combat styles and then head out into the galaxy to find adventures. One of the unique systems of the game is the combat system, as you can customize exactly what enemies you’ll face in the old school, turn based combat and you can increase the number and difficulty of the encounter with the risk/reward being that you could get more XP and loot facing off against more enemies. You also get to fully customize the side missions, saying who is giving you the quest and where it’s coming from. The dice of a pen and papre RPG come into play in the form of your ship’s weapons and you find more powerful dice with more sides that lets you do more actions against enemy ships. It has a fun, charming style and great sense of humor with numerous references to various sci-fi and comic properties and it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of RPGs.
Masquerada: Songs and Shadows: Coming from Witching Hour Studios, Masquerada is a tactical RPG in the vein of the Baldur’s Gate games that takes place in a fantasy world inspired by Renaissance era Venice with a really awesome hand-drawn art style. After a brief prologue, you take control of Cicero Gavar, whose brother started a civil war between the lower class Contadani and the government Regenti by stealing a number of powerful masks called Mascherines, and Cicero is tasked to find a missing researcher that leads into a web of intrigue and magic. The combat is in real time but you can pause and go into a tactical mode where you can assign commands to yourself and your companions and you have a choice between four elemental magic powers, all of which have multiple skills and upgrade paths you can progress on. There’s also different masks and stances and, personally, it’s a little overwhelming but the story is interesting and it has an incredible voice cast featuring talent like Matt Mercer, Felicia Day, Ashley Burch, Jennifer Hale and more. It came out this week on PS4 and Xbox One.
Graceful Explosion Machine: Coming from Vertex Pop, Graceful Explosion Machine is a bullet hell shooter with a charmingly simple graphic design that reminds me of the Pixel Junk series that was on the PS3. You play as a spaceship that escape the destruction of it’s mothership by gem stealing aliens and you have to head into the cavernous depths of multiple planets on your quest to recover the gems and get home. Right away, you get a wide arsenal of weapons, including a standard blaster, a 360 energy beam, a powerful sniper blast and a flurry of missiles and you have to survive three waves of enemies in each stage of the various planets. The gameplay seems inspired by classics like Defender, where you can flip back and forth and the levels loop around and you can keep track of enemy locations with a radar at the top of the screen. It’s fun but it gets a tad repetitive and there’s not enough new, for me, to really keep pushing forward for any great length of time. The music is also kind of lacking, as the same track seems to keep playing in every level. It’s not bad by any means and if you are looking for an old school shooter with a unique art style, this is definitely one to check out.
Phantom Trigger: Coming from the team that made Divide by Sheep, Phantom Trigger is much different from that game in that it’s a hack and slash action game in the vein of last year’s Hyper Light Drifter. In Phantom Trigger, you play as Stan, a normal guy who develops some sort of mysterious disease (it seems like cancer but there’s probably more to it) and you also play as a mysterious warrior fighting cancerous looking enemies in a bizarre alternate realm that may be all in Stan’s head, happening in his body or something else entirely (you get brief snippets of story at a fairly regular pace). The gameplay requires extremely fast reflexes and you have to perfect each of your different weapons and the dash move in order to survive. It looks great, with a cool neon/organic look to everything and the combat is fast and responsive but also extremely tough. If you’re a fan of Hyper Light or any of the other similar games that came out recently, this is definitely one to check out, especially if you have a Switch, as it’s hitting that console as well as Steam today.
Fighting Fantasy Legends: Launching a few weeks ago on Steam and Mobile, Fighting Fantasy Legends takes the classic Gamebooks by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, specifically three of the best (City of Thieves, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain and The Citadel of Chaos) and combines them all into one uber adventure where you pick a class between classic fantasy archetypes like barbarian and dwarf and then travel around the game map, entering cities, having random encounters and battling monsters with dice rolls. This is an awesome new way to experience the choices and stories of those classic Fighting Fantasy books and it has a really cool, almost board game style way that you see your character move around and great art on the cards that represent the enemies you attack. One minor gripe is that you may have to make multiple loops through the same locations as you have to get specific items from different shops and you can enter the city with just enough gold, encounter random thieves, and then have to finish the whole loop because you don’t have enough money to buy anything and have to reenter the city and start again. Even if you’re not familiar with the Fighting Fantasy books, this is a cool and unique RPG to check out.
Children of Zodiarcs: Coming from the Square Enix Collective that brought us Black the Fall in the last Gamebox feature, Children of the Zodiarcs comes from Cardboard Utopia and is set in the city of Torus where you control young thief Nahmi and her companions as they try to steal powerful artifacts from the arrogant nobles who run the city and survive encounters with other gangs on the street and the city guards. The game is inspired by old school tactical RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics but uses a unique card and dice style of combat. Each of your actions and skills are on a card in your deck and you get a hand at the start of each combat encounter and can draw more at the cost of turn and then, once you have the attack or skill selected, you roll dice to determine it’s effectiveness and there are dice symbols that give bonuses or cause harm depending on the card. The game looks great and there’s a constant mix up in what type of enemies you are fighting, where you are fighting and what the objective is, as it’s not always kill every enemy on the map. If you like and miss those old school tactics games, this one is definitely worth checking out and it’s out on PS4 and Steam.
Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure: Coming out of the UK, Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure is a physics platformer that seems kind of in the vein of something like Super Monkey Ball. You play as Newbie, a sentient cardboard box for the Global Postal Service, who have developed intelligent box technology to help them deliver mail quicker as a way to save the company. You’ll travel to different open world style locations and complete different challenges, like obstacle courses and hitting a series of switches to activate something, and you can “unbox” yourself as a form of double jump, but you can only do it 6 times, so you have to be careful about how and why you “unbox”. I wasn’t really into anything that was going on in this game, the characters are kind of annoying and it’s cutesy vibe was more annoying to me than charming. The controls also didn’t really feel tight enough and Newbie constantly felt out of control and the challenges are not compellling at all. I don’t know, maybe younger gamers might like it but I think personally this one is a pass but you can check it out and make up your own mind on PS4
Shadow Warrior: Since the last edition of Gamebox, Humble Bundle actually gave Shadow Warrior away for free to anyone who visited their site for a set time period and I picked it up, since I missed it in 2013 and it’s a great, old school shooter that’s all about putting you into combat scenarios with different configurations of enemies and you using your massive arsenal to kill them in the coolest way possible. You play as Lo Wang, an assassin/mercenary who is hired to recover a legendary sword but stumbles onto a plot involving ancient demons and he joins forces with demon outcast Hoji to recover the three different pieces of the sword and use it to take out the demon overlord. The story is fine but this game, like Serious Sam or last year’s Doom, is all about the combat and Wang has a sword along with a full arsenal of guns and you can get graded for style after every combat encounter, with higher rankings giving you more Ki that you can use to unlock abilities and you can also find crystals to gain powers and upgrade your weapons as well. The sword combat is especially cool and you can make heads and limbs fly in gloriously gory fashion. It’s no longer free but it’s definitely one to keep an eye on in a possible future sale on Steam and I’ve heard the sequel is pretty good as well, although I haven’t played it. There’s also the OG Doom style original from the 90’s that you can also check out on Steam if you want to go way back in time.