Gamebox 2.0: Return of the Jumping Dragon Edition

The Everything Action crew is about to head off to PAX East to get hands on with a ton of awesome games next week, but before we head out, we checked out a few recent releases at home. We survived grime pixel horrors, dodge bullets in mech suits, kicked butt in Japan and so much more in our latest Gamebox reviews.

The Long Reach: (Zach) Coming out on March 14th on PS4, Switch and PC, The Long Reach is a horror game with an old school, Lucasarts adventuresque look.  You play as Stu, who’s part of an experiment at a research facility where, of course, things go bad and you have to try and figure out what happened and get out of the facility alive.  The game has classic point and click adventure style puzzles and an in-depth dialogue system and despite it’s pixel art style, there’s some creepy and disturbing things going on. The puzzles are designed well with only a little bit of that old school “try this on everything” puzzle solving and most of the solutions make sense and are logical to the world (no chicken pulleys here).  There’s no combat and it is a little tricky to try and evade some of your co-workers who have gone insane and want to bash your skull in, there are only certain areas where you can hide and it seems like the main method of dodging them is to “kite” them back a few rooms and then try to dodge past and get to the rooms they were stalking in front of. That gets a little frustrating and the way the text and dialogue is displaying is also kind of confusing at first, as it sends everything from the bottom up, with the most recent message pushing up the whole chain so it takes a bit to see where the responses from NPCs are showing up.  Those nitpicks aside, this is a great horror adventure game with a great creepy atmosphere, some dark humor and clever puzzles.

Assault Gunners HD Edition: (Zach) A remaster of the PSP game of the same name, Assault Gunners is a mech action game where you and your squad are sent in to investigate a robotic threat to the terraforming of Mars.  There are 35 missions to tackle in the single player campaign and you can unlock and customize your mech with 100 different weapons and equipment, which you unlock as you level up and progress through the campaign.  The game feels a bit like a middle ground between pure arcade mech craziness in something like Virtua On and the hardcore heat and weight management/hours of customizing in something like Armored Core. The gameplay also reminded me a bit of Dynasty Warriors, with the way you can give your squadmates basic commands, the look of the map and the braindead enemies who show up in huge swarrms that you gun down with missiles and machine guns.  The game also isn’t the most interesting visually, with flat gray enemies and your own mech and decent environments and objectives seem to repeat like “capture this point” “eliminate all enemies”, etc. As a handheld game where you can blast robots when you have a spare 10 minutes it seems like a decent time waster but it doesn’t seem meaty enough or look good enough to warrant picking up on console.

Octahedron: (Chris) Developed by Demimonde Studios and published by the Square Enix Collective, Octahedron is a action-plathformer that is a delight to play and to hear. Players take the role of a person brought into a world of pixelated sights. Given the power to summon floating platforms, players can build new paths and reach new heights to navigate around the level. There are many obstacles and enemies that will block the player’s way and must be carefully avoided. If the player takes too many hits, he is taken back to the last check point. Players can collect items that earn points, restore health and help achieve a 100% completion on a level. While the story of the game is really simple, the gameplay has some amazing depth with the jumping and summoning platform mechanics.

There a mix of retro and innovation with how the player is to able to jump and spawn platforms. The player has to be fast to perform the actions, and clever enough to figure out the ideal tactics. There is a learning curve early in the game that gives players a few minutes to figure out the basic game’s mechanics then slowly ramps up the difficulty. There is no hand holding here, players must either master the first few levels or prepare to get frustrated. Players must collect enough points across the levels to unlock the next world, so it’s worth the effort to try and collect everything on each level visit. Later levels ramp up the challenges with the traps and enemies in the level getting more vicious. Good timing, patience and knowing when to spawn platforms is key to getting through the level without pulling your hair out. But the added bonus of hanging around the levels longer is listening to sweet music created by Chipzel, Andre Sobota, Derek Howell, and the game creator himself, MonomirrorOctahedron is a fun game for the gamer that loves difficult platformers and chiptunes. The pixelated aesthetic and trance/house music match nicely to the chaotic action on screen. With over 40 levels to take on, with replay challenges to be the fastest or be a true completionist, Octahedron offers a unique challenge to players that can get lost in the beat. Octahedron  is out not for PC, Xbox One and PS4.

Marvel Strike Force: (Zach) The latest mobile game feature the heroes of the Marvel Universe, Marvel Strike Force is a simple but fun turn based RPG that is out now on iOS or Android. A Kree villain named Ultimus is conquering Earths throughout the Marvel multiverse and corrupting heroes to fight for him.  On Earth 616, Nick Fury turns to you, the commander of STRIKE, to help stop the threat and you build up a team of Marvel superheroes to take on Ultimus and the villains he’s recruited to his side.  Each hero starts out with two actions and you can build up to more as they level up but there’s not a lot of room for deep strategy if that’s something you are looking for. The game does look awesome though and that is one of the big reasons to check it out, besides the free price tag.  The characters all have a great, slightly cartoony look that reminds me a bit of the look that Disney Infinity was going for and there’s lots of big splashy moves that your characters pull off.  There’s quite a bit of “freemium” attempts to get you to buy things like the prior free Marvel games on mobile, with intro packs and different currencies and characters shards but it seems like you can grind if you want and not pay anything, it’s just going to take a lot longer than just buying things outright.  Playing through the first chapter, I already have Spider-Man, Punisher, Luke Cage and Elektra along with a generic SHIELD medic and it looks there’s most of the major characters you would want, leaning heavily on MCU characters, obviously.  I’ve played a bunch of the Marvel mobile games and this seems like one of the best, particularly in the graphics department.  Since it’s free, if you love Marvel, you won’t lose anything by checking this out on your mobile device of choice.

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life: (Zach) Yakuza 6 is coming out April 17th and we’ll probably give an update in a future Gamebox 2.0 but right now it seems like another fantastic entry in the franchise after the first few hours.  I’ve only played Yakuza Kiwami as far as the Yakuza series but I absolutely loved it last year with it’s mix of insanely over the top brawling, melodramatic storytelling and wacky humor; there’s nothing else remotely like the Yakuza franchise and Yakuza 6: The Song of Life brings all of that forward with a brand new adventure for the Dragon of Dojima, Kazuma Kiryu. Following the events of Yakuza 5, Kiryu went back to prison for 4 years to pay his debts and clear his conscience before he could return home to the orphanage he runs with his adopted daughter Haruka. After he gets out, a personal mystery sends him back to Kamurocho and he gets drawn back into the underworld as a war between the Triads and Tojo Yakuza clan has erupted across the city. Even if you’ve never played any Yakuza game before, The Song of Life does a good job of filling in the backstory for you with both text based recaps of every prior game on the main menu and an extensive (like probably an hour of pure cinematics) setup of everything you need to know going into the story here in-game.  Everything fans love about the Yakuza franchise is here with tons of side activities to take part in, like vintage and brand new arcade games at Club Sega (including full arcade versions of Virtua Fighter Final Showdown and Puyo Puyo), bowling, batting cages, online chat rooms and tons more and the mix of serious and wacky side missions that pop up as Kiryu wanders around the city are back as well.

Kazuma Kiryu, gaming’s only yakuza bad-ass and karaoke fan

I also love the feeling of this being a sort of virtual visit to Japan, as along with the aforementioned activities there’s also a ton of restaurants, night clubs and convenience stores to shop and hang out in, with real and nearly real food and drinks that give Kiryu EXP and restore health.  Having only played Yakuza Kiwami, I’m not sure if the changes I noticed here were already implemented in prior games but the big ones were the way the EXP works. You now get a certain amount of points for every action in different categories and each upgrade uses a certain amount of those points in around 2 of those categories, so if you wanted to upgrade Kiryu’s health, it would take 25 points from 1 category and 30 from another.  Everything is also divided into Basic, Heat Actions, Combat and Other categories on the upgrade page, as opposed to the sections and rings that were in Kiwami. The other UI change that is noticeable is that you can see enemies on the mini-map as they are roving around, which gives you more opportunity to decide if and when you want to fight and there’s also much more info in general on the map. The fighting has also changed, or at least is noticeably different from Kiwami. There only seems to be one fighting style to use. After playing Kiwami, I became a huge fan of this series and will definitely keep diving deeper into Yakuza 6 and will most likely give some thoughts post PAX East as we get closer to the game’s actual release.

(Chris): You can’t keep a good man down, and if you are the Dragon of Dojima, you get back up with a raging kick to the face. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life takes place directly after the events of the last game, but jumps ahead 4 years after Kazuma Kiryu has served time in prison. Taking place in 2016, Kiryu is released from prison and returns to his orphanage in Okinawa to see his adoptive daughter Haruka. On his return, Kiryu finds out Haruka had disappeared during his stay in prison. Kiryu returns to Kamurocho and seeks clues to find Haruka’s whereabouts. However, a power struggle between the Yakuza and the Triads has turned the city into a battle ground for the gangsters fighting for control. Forced to protect the innocent from being hurt by the mob war, Kiryu sets out to restore order in the criminal underworld.

Yakuza 6 sports some major updates from the previous games. The graphics and interfaces have been changed, having major menu systems integrated with Kiryu’s phone. There is no longer a generic overall menu like in previous games. Instead, players will navigate the menu items like a smart phone device. Kiryu’s health bar and heat gauge have been giving a new coat of paint too, changing the old orange and blue bars with something with more flair. Yakuza 6 takes advantage of the PS4’s graphics, beautifully rendering the in game cutscenes and character models with all the detailed polygons they deserve. Load times have been reduced, so it doesn’t break the pace when entering shops or getting into street fights. Combat in the game is still great fun from the first battle to the 100th street encounter, and it moves at a faster pace than before. Enemies now appear on radar and you can easily decide to engage or avoid. Players can choose to run away when the trouble is about to start, or grab the nearest blunt object and start swinging. Gaining experience has changed, adding some depth to the RPG elements of the game. There are 4 categories to gain experience for, and each will upgrade abilities in the each of Kiryu’s abilities: Basic, Heat Actions, Combat and Other.

Incoming players to the Yakuza series can quickly get acquainted with the lore by the game’s efforts to explain a ton of backstory and characters, filling in over 5 games worth of history. But for those who had stuck around since Kiryu became the Dragon of Dojima, Yakuza 6 plays service to having characters from across the series reappear. Of course, a Yakuza game isn’t complete without a ton of side quest and mini games. Kiryu will encounter a multiple of people looking for help. Completing side quest gives Kiryu cash and exp to help his adventure. When not helping or giving beat downs, Kiryu can go on visit a hostess club, play arcade games and even get a work out. Gamers that enjoyed their time in the previous Yakuza games can quickly get back into the mood to help Kiryu once again. The newly updated look and feel makes the game a bit more rounded and offers hours of entertainment. Yakuza 6’s American debut will be on April 17th 2018.

Prismata: (Zach) Prismata is currently in Early Access on Steam and is a strategy/card game hybrid where you are playing cards, some of which attack, some defend and some generate currency to defend your side of the playing field and eliminate your opponent.  You have to balance all of them and be able to have income every turn to build units while also building up your attack forces to take down the opponent. It’s basically something like Starcraft where you have to balance your resource gathering units and your attack units as you plan your attack.  It also looks and plays a bit like the card game Star Realms, where you build up a fleet of spaceships and bases and then cash in and destroy units to get bigger units or perform special actions. The look of the game is pretty simplistic but the gameplay is solid and fun and, playing through the single player campaign, it ramps up to hectic pretty fast as you have to maintain defenses against waves of rogue attacking robots and there’s all kinds of special circumstances and objectives in each mission.  If you’re into strategy and/or card games, definitely check out Prismata, as it’s pulling ideas from a bunch of different sources and combining them in a fun and interesting way.

 

Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle: (Zach) A LTTP edition for this Gamebox 2.0, I got my Switch late last year and have been trying to catch up on big games and am pretty deep into Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle.  No one knew what to expect when images leaked last year before E3 and, even more so, no expected an X-COM style strategy game but that’s exactly what we got…and it’s great.  It’s much less brutal than XCOM but there’s still plenty of challenge and strategy to be had and the game has a bunch of great moves that allow your characters to jump off each other or slide into enemies, giving you more movement options than other games in the genre.  The game looks great, with a gorgeous and fun colorful world that mashes the Mushroom Kingdom with the hijinks of the Rabbids and your team, which consists of Mario and friends and their Rabbid counterparts, all have unique skills and abilities that offers you tons of options for who to bring into battle and even to change it up every time.  Everyone has special skills, unique weapons and secondary weapons and you can really setup some crazy combos against the enemy Rabbids, who also have a lot of variety and take different tactics to defeat them and there’s some interesting and challenging bosses as well. Ubisoft really crushed it with the Mario license and if you have a Switch and love turn based strategy, this is a must buy.

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