Gamebox 2.0: Mecha Dragon Crisis Edition

It’s been a few weeks since we got overloaded with games at PAX East, but we’re recharged and back with another edition of Gamebox 2.0. This month, we solved some killer puzzles, did some co-op, commanded a mech lance and saved the earth a few times.

Battletech: (Zach) Although I’m not fully aware of the minutiae of the lore, I’ve always been a casual fan of the Battletech universe and it’s wide variety of Battlemechs and the Mechwarriors who pilot them.  The first major PC our family ever got came with Mechwarrior 2 on CD and I also played a ton of Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries back in the day as well. After a successful Kickstarter campaign (which, full disclosure, I contributed to), Harebrained Schemes has brought back the Battletech universe in a big way with a meaty, fantastic turn based strategy game.  After some initial missions to get your bearings and give you the basics of commanding a “lance” of Mechs, you’ll be given free reign to run your own Mech mercenary company. Much like it’s contemporary, XCOM, you have to balance both your base/business side of things with the on the battlefield tactical warfare and both sides offer tons of interesting options.  On the business side, you can hire Mechwarriors, customize and refit Mechs and take on different mercenary gigs, with the option of bartering how much money and salvage you’ll get from the mission before heading out. You have to balance out all the spending and hiring though with the monthly upkeep of housing and repairing your mechs and the salaries of your merc crew and you could quickly find yourself unable to keep your mechs in working condition or buy the supplies you need to survive the battlefield.  You’ll also get little random events as you’re travelling between planets that lets you effect the morale and status of your team depending on your choices.

Once you are actually in battle, there are tons of tactical options that could be overwhelming for anyone who is just dipping their toes into turn based strategy. You have to get your team into a good position, monitor the weapon efficiency and turn weapons on and off depending on their chances of hitting plus how much heat they build up. Not keeping your heat under control can cause massive damage to your mech and injure your pilots.  You also have the option to melee enemy mechs, use jump jets to gain a height advantage, turn your mechs torso after moving to get into a better position or protect a weak side and so much more. I’ve already lost a ton of hours to this game and plan on losing a ton more.

Radical Heights: (Zach) Cliff Bleszinski’s Boss Key Productions hit a bit of a snag with their first game, Lawbreakers, which got snuffed out due to competition from games like Overwatch.  Now they are trying to get into the Battle Royale genre that has heavy hitters like PUBG and Fortnite with their new game, Radical Heights. In “Extreme Early Access” (emphasis on the Early part), Radical Heights applies some really fun, Smash TV style gameshow trappings to it’s Battle Royal gameplay, where giant prize wheels, showcases and giant prize boxes are scattered around the map that can either give you money or provide some much needed armor and weapons to take on the other 99 players battling out on the “set” of Radical Heights.  I’m not an expert in either game but it seems like Radical Heights is sort of a halfway point between the two big players, lacking Fortnite’s building aspects but sharing a similar cartoony art style but leaning more toward PUBG’s realistic weapons and stalking gameplay. Two distinct things the game does is allow you to take any money you’ve earned in a match and deposit in an “offshore bank account” via in map ATMs, which will protect it if you die but you can also withdraw from your account if you are looking for cash to spend at one of the weapon or armor machines on the map.  You will usually get a little bit of cash even if you die and you get more the longer you last in a match.

The other distinct thing is the way the map restricts certain areas. Both PUGB and Fortnite use an ever closing circle to drive players into contact with each other but Radical Heights uses a grid system, locking down certain grids and then having the damaging grids rotate around the map as the game progresses. This can lead to some of the last few players being given a more narrow, straight alley for the players to battle each other in and random events and prize drops also drive players to certain points.  I love the 80’s game show aesthetic and it’s solid as a Battle Royale shooter but there’s definitely a long road to being anywhere near close to a finished, polished game. A lot of the graphics are crude and most likely placeholders and the music and game show announcer sporadically drop in and out. The game is free to play though, so if you like either PUGB or Fortnite but want to check out something slightly different or if you’ve never played a Battle Royale but like the 80s game show vibe of this game, it’s worth checking out for at least a few matches.

Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle: (Zach) Blue Wizard Digital previously made the fun horror movie themed Slayaway Camp for mobile, PC and Switch where you controlled the slasher villain Skullface as he killed his way through different levels by sliding around and manipulating the environment and victims to clear them.  Skullface was clearly an homage to Jason Voorhees and Blue Wizard got the rights to the actual Friday the 13th and released Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle about a month ago on April’s Friday the 13th. The gameplay is essentially the same as Slayaway Camp, as you control Jason and have to slide him around the levels, killing victims and manipulating environmental elements in order to be in position at the end to kill each level’s “final girl” and exit the stage.  Jason slides all the way in whatever direction you slide him in until he hits a victim or a barrier and the trick is to use the environment to figure out the pattern of movement each level wants you to do. The disembodied head of Pamela Voorhees is on hand to provide hints, although you have to sit through ads for other mobile games to get them. There are daily challenges to complete and Jason levels up and you can earn different weapons and new outfits and versions of Jason.  If you’re fan of the F13 series and also dig some mobile puzzle solving, Killer Puzzle is free to play and is on Steam, iOS and Android right now.

Bombslinger: (Zach) Bombslinger has been out for about a month on Switch, Xbox One and PC and it combines rogue-like, procedurally generated levels with the gameplay of Bomberman, all under a Wild West theme.  You play as the titular Bombslinger, whose ranch is destroyed and his wife murdered, sending him on a quest for revenge against the men that did it. As his name implies though, the Bombslinger prefers to use bombs as his main weapon and you’ll to place them like you would in Bomberman to blow up environmental obstacles and take out enemies.  As you take out enemies, the Bombslinger levels up and you can gain new abilities, like faster movement or more bombs to place and you also can find money in chests or from defeated enemies that you can use to buy items from shops. Those items can be equipped at the beginning of each run, giving the Bombslinger some sort of starting advantage, like more health or the ability to respawn once if killed.

The game looks fantastic, with some excellent pixel art that has an almost 3D look, so when you move from screen to screen, the way the buildings look, it makes it seem like you are looking down into the world from overhead and there’s a cool effect when you enter shops as well where you go behind the back of the pixel sprite of the Bombslinger as he runs inside. Since it’s a rogue-like, you progress as far as you can until you die and then reload and try again, with the map, enemies and items all different.  There are multiplayer options if you want to get your old school Bomberman style brawls and it’s a fantastic game overall, especially on the Switch, where it’s gameplay style is perfect for a run or two during a commute or on a trip.

Venture Kid: (Zach) Venture Kid hit Steam last week and it’s an homage to 8-bit action platforming, specifically Mega Man.  You play as hero Andy, who has to stop the evil Dr. Teklov from completing a dangerous weapon on his space fortress.  Andy battles through 8 worlds, gaining new weapons after each and taking on a wide variety of enemies and robotic bosses.  The game is solid overall with some great music from Retro City Rampage composer Matt Creamer but the levels and enemies do feel slightly cut and paste and uninspired at times where Andy battles through some generic sewers, city streets and forests.  The bosses are fun though and require some pinpoint accuracy and recognition of their patterns and they are the best looking sprites in the game.

It’s hard to 100% recommend Venture Kid, especially as the complete Mega Man Legacy Collection is hitting Switch at the end of the month and there’s games like Shovel Knight and 20XX that are way more interesting graphically and control wise.  Venture Kid is a solid Mega Man clone and if you have conquered everything else that plays like the Blue Bomber, this will scratch that itch, but there are more interesting and better playing options that are worth checking out before or instead of this one.

Catan Universe: (Zach) Catan is a classic tabletop game that was one of the harbingers for the current golden age we are living in as far as board gaming and it’s been available digitally as Catan Universe since late last year.  Available on mobile devices, Steam and in-browser, Catan Universe does exactly what it sets out to do, which is give you a digital version of the board game.  There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles but it’s a nice looking digital board game and it’s available for free, although the catch is that you can only play the original version of Catan in free-play mode and will need to purchase some of the game’s in-app currency to unlock more modes and the different expansions of the game.  It also doesn’t seem like it’s offering too much “how to” instruction on how to actually play Catan, this is for people who already have an idea of how to play.  If you just want to get in and play some random games of original Catan, Catan Universe is worth checking out, especially if you want to take it with you on a mobile device, but you will be kind of restricted if you want to do anything else or play different versions of the game.

Coffee Crisis: (Chris) From the retro loving developers that brings new games to old systems such as Justice Duel and Log Jammers, Mega Cat Studios presents their latest release Coffee Crisis on Steam. Coffee Crisis is about an alien invasion by the Smurglians, determined to steal Earth’s precious resources: metal music, cat videos, the internet and the best coffee beans. Standing in the Smurglians path are two metal loving, cup drinking, fierce baristas Nick and Ashley. These two are the only Earth’s hope to keep the Metal tunes rocking, internet cat videos playing and the coffee refreshed from the Smurglians invasion.

Coffee Crisis is a old school beat’em with retro graphics and familiar game designs. Players can control Nick or Ashley in single player or local co-op and fight through way through waves of enemies. The controls are the standard beat’em up mechanics; throw punches and kicks, avoid attacks and perform emergency jump kicks to get out of messy situations. Along the way, players can pick up weapons and powers ups to aid them in battle. At the end of each level, players have the chance to refill their health by pounding back cups of life saving coffee. Coffee Crisis can get increasingly challenging in later levels as more enemies swarm the stage and players have to be fast to avoid damage. Standing in one spot can take a toll if enemies start to gang up. Reading enemy attack patterns might be tricky at first, but a fast mind and faster hands will get the players into the beat down frenzy.  The level designs take Nick and Ashley all over a fictional version of Pittsburgh PA, but filled with way more wackier inhabitants than the typical jagoffs there. Nick and Ashley will be fighting in the streets, the waterfront, factories and on a distant planet to defend the earth. The story is told through cut scenes with humorous dialogue and edgy 80’s tough guy talk.

Coffee Crisis aims to celebrate all the nostalgic silliness of alien invasion themes, pop culture references and retro gaming. We first tried the original homebrew edition in it’s Sega Genesis Cartridge, and this release updates the graphics on PC with Twitch/Mixer integration. There is a a neat option to let stream viewers effect the gameplay when broadcasting. Mega Cat Studios added a ton of subtle and no so subtle nods to classic gaming that adds to the charm of the experience. Instead of straight save files, Coffee Crisis has a password system to return from the last point in the game. When’s the last time you had to enter a password to return to a level in modern game? Overall, Coffee Crisis is a fun throw back for the beat’em genre and a great title that keeps retro gaming alive. Homebrew collectors looking for a shiny new title for their cartridge collection should take a look at what Mega Cat Studios has released over the years. Coffee Crisis was released May 4th 2018 for Steam, and it’s cartridge version can be bought online now. 

Super Daryl Deluxe: (Chris) Created by Dan & Gary Games, Super Daryl Deluxe is a action adventure title that aims to be weird and unusual. The game stars Daryl, a new student at the Water Falls High School. He’s the quiet, lanky kid that bullies dream of targeting. But high school drama is not the only thing Daryl has to worry about. The town of Water Falls has undergone strange occurrences with dimensional portals opening and people suddenly disappearing. Daryl sets off in a mission to make friends, solve a conspiracy, and eventually become the savoir of Water Falls.

The game design is a mix of Metroidvania and RPG brawler, adding depth to exploration and combat. Players navigate the levels like a 2D-side scroller with basic movement and jumping, encountering platforming obstacles and enemies. Players will explore the various locations around Water Falls, requiring multiple revisits once Daryl has earned new abilities. Along the way, Daryl can gain experience points through combat or side quests, increasing health, defense and attack points. Daryl can equip up to four attacks and a defense moves, each requiring cool down times before repeating actions. Players can customize their move list to adapt to the growing challenges and build up Daryl’s array of fighting techniques. There are over 20 moves to learn and they can be upgraded to become more powerful. 

Super Daryl Deluxe is Dan & Gary Games first major release title and it’s filled with quirky humor, inside jokes and nods to classic games. The comedy rides the fine line between deadpan and cringe, with bizarre character designs and odd dialogue spread through the game. The artwork is wonderful with it’s hand drawn visuals and it’s minimalist colors. Super Daryl Deluxe is entertaining with such a untypical character, Daryl rocks a mullet, bell bottoms and prepubescent mustache. The game shows off the best intentions from a small development team. If you like indie games and looking to experience a upcoming cult favorite, then check out underdog game now. Super Daryl Deluxe was released April 10th 2018 for Steam, PS4 and Nintendo Switch. 

Dragon Crown Pro: (Chris) Gather your adventure party and head back into the Kingdom of Hydeland, Vanillaware and Atlus presents Dragon Crown Pro, the HD port of the PS3 and PlayStation Vita adventure beat’em up. The game is set in a fantasy world filled with magic, monsters, and powerful artifacts. One of the most powerful of them all is the Dragon’s Crown, a legendary relic that grants untold power. Coveted for the allure of it’s might, many people desire the Dragon’s Crown and will stop at nothing to obtain it. Drawn into this struggle are a group of adventurers, banding together to collect riches and fame, and helping protect the innocent.

Players can select from one of six unique classes; a bold Amazon, a hulking Warrior, a sturdy Dwarf, a nimble Elf, an arcane Wizard, or a mystical Sorceress. Each has different states and suit different play styles. The Amazon, Dwarf and Warrior are stronger offensively with strong weapon attacks while the Elf, Wizard, and Sorceress rely on more defensive abilities and can do a lot damage over time. Up to four characters can be brought into a level, either with local co-op, online players or AI controller partners. This changes the gameplay to offer a group of defensive and offensive characters to keep the battles balanced, or an all out brawl with a super team of juggernauts. Game designer George Kamitani, developer on other beat ’em ups like Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara, Odin Sphere and Muramasa: The Demon Blade first released Dragon Crown in 2013 and was a highly rated titled that has become a cult classic. This HD remake contains upgraded graphics, new color palette options, a newly recorded soundtrack, all the original DLC, and save compatibility with the PlayStation 3 and Vita versions to allow previous saved data to be transferred to the PS4 version. Any gamers that enjoy co-ops and Dungeons & Dragons should definitely check out this updated version if they missed the chance the first time. Dragon Crown Pro will be released May 15th 2018 for the Playstation 4.

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