Gamebox 2.0: Getting Spooky Edition

As we head the fall season and get ready for Halloween, this edition of Gamebox 2.0 we have played some bone-chilling spooky games to get into the seasonal spirit along with a few other less frightening entries so we can sleep at night.

The Conjuring House (Chris):

Developed by RYM Games, The Conjuring House is a return to survival horror that focuses on chilling visuals and puzzle solving. The player will take the role of a photojournalist, a member of a paranormal investigating team sent to figure out a disturbance at the Atkinson Mansion. The mansion has been known for many disappearances and deaths, and the latest victims have died while restoring the mansion. As the photojournalist arrives in the mansion, his team has gone missing and the mansion comes alive with ghostly creatures.

The Victorian era setting is notorious for being unsettling when given the proper aesthetics. The Atkinson Mansion has a great haunted house design; a decaying luxury home that has become twisted by some mysterious force. Every hallway creaks and moans, followed by unknown noises in the far off distance. There are many jump scares that appear, some will be obvious and others are cleverly approached. However, when an unstoppable demonic ghost appears and chases the player, this is when the game truly throws all of its horror elements on the screen. The Conjuring House is focused on being a true survival horror game, offering no weapons or methods to directly attack enemies. The player must run away and trying their best to lose the pursuer. When this happens, the screen blurs a little and the music quickly intensifies to scary tones.

RYM Games offers their take on the horror genre with a new entry that aims to frighten its players. This is their first major release as an indie studio, comprised of former employees from AAA studios. While the plot is generic, the gameplay is intense once the player is invested in exploring the mansion. The level design encourages the player to pay attention to the layout of the mansion, offering no mini map or markers. It relies on pure memorization and the logic of the player. Gamers looking for a retro horror experience with polished visuals should check out this title for the fall season. The Conjuring House was released September 25th on Steam.

Dead by Daylight: Shattered Bloodline (Zach): Dead by Daylight continues to chug along two years after it first started scaring gamers with it’s 4 vs 1 gameplay and the latest expansion just hit on September 18th with a new survivor, killer, and map in the Shattered Bloodline pack.  Adam Francis is the new survivor, a teacher from Jamaica who is now living in Japan and The Spirit is the new killer, a vengeful spirit who can phase into the spirit world and teleport around the map and is inspired by Asian horror.

If The Spirit is the killer, there are also some new additions to the map called Hex Totems that, if activated, will expose all the survivors on the map for a certain number of seconds.  The basic gameplay of Dead by Daylight remains the same as the survivors try to get 5 generators started on the map in order to power a pair of exit gates while the Killer tries to attack them all and place them hooks around the map that will sacrifice them to a horrifying spider god if they don’t escape.  I think I’ve mentioned it other times when we’ve brought up Dead by Daylight but I think I would prefer a few more options to win on either side as it seems like you can get stuck in a pattern or “optimal” playstyle and some more ways to win would make it slightly more interesting and fun for me.  It’s still a very solid and fun multiplayer game, especially with the previously released horror icons like Freddy Krueger and Jigsaw, and the new additions, especially the new Spirit killer, offer up some cool new twists.

Marvel’s Spider-Man (Joe): Spider-Man feels like the one we’ve all been waiting for. While past Spidey games have come close to being great, or even gone deeper into the spider-lore for hardcore fans, this iteration feels definitive.  Web-slinging controls are fluid, fun, and rarely frustrating – especially as you upgrade throughout the game. Sure, you’ll likely still break your flow or overshoot things from time to time, but much less so than past games. Combat gets frustratingly repetitive fast. And to be totally honest, I often forgot that Spidey even had access to in-combat gadgets to help with fights. I got better at that by the last third of the game. But because the gadget system feels less than intuitive (though not totally clunky), it’s easy to get by on button mashing and takedowns alone.

What about the story? Well, they basically got it perfect. No spoilers from me, but they really did an outstanding job of blending Peter’s cursed luck with the best Spidey storylines in an original way. But it never felt like it’s raining crap on Peter. In fact, I’d argue they could’ve gone a little bit darker earlier on and given you tough choices to make… so that you had to live with the consequences.
At the end of the day, Spider-Man is without a doubt the best Spidey game to date. And yes, you could certainly call it Spidey’s Arkham Asylum. This game is likely just the first installment in what will go down as one of the greatest superhero video game series ever. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. But I am excited to watch it evolve over the next few years.

The Dark Room (Chris)Developed by The Fear Corp and Stirfire Studios, The Dark Room is a modern take on the classic text-based adventures. Comedian John Roberston created a stage show that takes members from a crowd to play a choose your own adventure style quest that tortures the players with silly descriptions and hilarious options. Stirfire Studios has digitized John Roberston’s show and has made it into an interactive game that brings that same experience home.

The Dark Room is part adventure game and part comedy show, allowing players to explore the variety of options to discover the best choices to navigate the room. Players will be told they awaken in a dark room, where they must find the light switch, find their family and make an escape. However, how to complete these steps are purposely vague, and it’s up to the player to figure out how to utilize the room. The logic in this game will be as difficult as it is hilarious. Trying to solve each step isn’t clear and a good amount of time playing will end with hearing “Ya Died, Ya Died, Ya Died” multiple times.

The gameplay and graphics are very simple, being very self-aware in highlighting the comical aspects of the game. A run through of the game feels like a drunk Dungeon Master rambling during a Dungeon and Dragon session gone wrong. The Dark Room is in early access, with updates adding more options and balancing out the gameplay. Fans of John Roberton’s performances of this stage show or his Youtube version should check out this new iteration. The Dark Room is out now on Steam.

Pig Eat Ball (Zach): Out this week on Steam from Mommy’s Best Games is the crazy and arcadey Pig Eat Ball. You play as Princess Bow, a pig whose father, King Cake (whose head is literally a cake), is holding a contest and whoever wins will marry Bow.  Bow is having none of this and disguises herself to win the contest herself.  The main gameplay finds Bow having to eat a certain number of tennis balls in each level, the faster you do it the better your score and medal ranking at the end.  Each ball Bow eats makes her get fatter and, if you are too fat, you’ll have to barf up the balls you ate to squeeze through and then re-eat them.

I get very Katamari Damacy vibes but with old-school arcade-style gameplay from Pig Eat Ball.  The graphics are fantastic and quirky and bizarre and it does a great job of slowly teaching you the mechanics and then introducing new mechanics and ramping things up.  There are giant bosses to take on and 5 worlds full of 100s of levels to take on.  It’s definitely worth checking out if you like quirky and bizarre games but it has a solid gameplay base that makes it accessible to lots of gamers.

Slice, Dice & Rice (Zach): Hitting PS4 earlier in February this year, Slice, Dice & Rice hit Switch on September 6th.  Coming from Arc System Works, who previously brought you Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, Slice, Dice & Rice is a 2D fighting game where most fights end in one decisive hit and timing is the most important factor.  Taking characters inspired by Japanese folklore battling in the Underworld, the game features a few basic moves and doesn’t really focus on combos or special moves but it’s not a brainless button masher.  You have to really focus on your opponent and be ready to strike at precise times to score the one hit that will kill them and end the round and you also need to be ready to do pinpoint blocks and parries as well.

If you played Bushido Blade back in the day, you’ll probably feel right at home here, as it’s very similar in gameplay.  The game has an awesome, stylistic look that brings to mind something like Afro Samurai and the characters feel distinct and requires different tactics, as some need to get in close while others can wait and strike from a distance.  If you’re looking for a fighting game that has depth but doesn’t require memorizing pages of combos and specials, definitely check out Slice, Dice & Rice.

Megaquarium (Chris): Developed by TwiceCircled, Megaquarium is a theme park simulator that lets the players build up their dream aquarium. Starting with a basic set up, players will learn to design and balance their aquatic inhabitants while generating revenue and interest from the public. Following traditional tycoon games, creating bigger and flasher aquariums requires more money and adjustments in order to maintain control and popularity.

Megaquarium has an easy to understand game design that lets the player understand every option and gives them the freedom to build their ideal aquariums. The first few levels introduce the basic mechanics, as the player takes the role of a manager of aquariums, building them up and being offered new jobs at increasingly bigger establishments. As the manager, the player is tasked with not only taking care of the aquatic life but must manage their staff and supplies to ensure all the visitors are happy, and the fish don’t starve. Building simple aquariums have little difficulties, easy to care for fish require basic water and heat and they can be grouped together with most other fish. But as the game progress, certain fish have more conditions to care for them, and the layout of the ecosystem of the aquariums becomes very important. Some fish need to be paired up in order for them to survive, while others need more space so they don’t eat other fish. The aquarium building itself must also be maintained; visitors will have their own needs and will make complains if they are going wrong. Thankfully, the game can pause while the player fixes the aquarium, allowing the player to focus on making the best aquarium possible.

TwiceCircled offers a relaxing simulator that is accompanied by soft jazzy music and cute visuals. Players can spend a long amount of time watching their aquariums grow, almost like actually having a real aquarium, but at a fraction of the price. Megaquarium was released September 13th on Steam.

Battle Chef Brigade Deluxe (Chris): Developed by Trinket Studios and published by Adult Swim Games, this new edition of Battle Chef Brigade brings a massive update to the original that came out in 2017. In the world of Battle Chef Brigade, chefs are both providers of culinary services and protectors from monstrous creatures. The game follows Mina Han and Thrash, two cooks looking to become part of the newest Battle Chefs. The game mostly follows Mina as she makes her way to the Battle Chef training and competes to become an elite Chef. Thrash is an orc and a family man, trying to become the first of his kind to be part of the brigade. Battle Chef Brigade Deluxe mixes 2D combat and a match 3 puzzles, creating a unique hybrid of the two genres.

Battle Chef Brigade Deluxe has fun and addictive mechanics. Players control a chef and use their combat abilities to hunt down creatures, gather supplies and take all the ingredients to start cooking. The process of cooking is taking the food ingredients, that become one of three color gems, and begin to match like colors together. Chaining multiple matched gems earns big scores, and creates decadent food dishes. All of these food dishes will need to involve a special ingredient, forcing the players to seek out a certain plant or animal. Then there will be judges that also have their own request to involves a certain color gem focus, making each puzzle a little bit trickier to solve. Later in the game, some gems will have new conditions that need more complex methods to solve and more challenging requirements from the judges.

Trinket Studios cooked up an excellent entry in the puzzle genre that blends the intense action of a 2D platformer and the logic challenging excitement of classic puzzle titles. The story is well focused, compelling players to discover more about the world and its characters. The art style is anime inspired and works perfectly with the colorful food dishes and interesting character designs. This new deluxe edition adds more features to enhance multiplayer and a new character to play in non-story modes. This game should not be passed up, and any puzzle player should definitely check out this title. Battle Chef Brigade Deluxe was released August 28th on Steam, Switch, and PS4.

Mega Man 11 Demo (Zach): Hitting next week, Mega Man 11 has a demo that’s up right now so you can get a taste of the Blue Bomber’s latest adventure.  After the retro throwbacks of 9 and 10, 11 is going in a completely different direction graphically, featuring a gorgeous, cartoony look that literally feels like playing a Saturday morning cartoon.  One of the biggest additions to the Mega formula is two new pieces of gear, Speed and Power.  Mega Man can activate these at any time and Speed will slow things down while Power will boost your Mega Buster up one more level and also will boost your special weapons as well.  The trade-off is that you have to monitor a gauge and if you let either piece of gear overheat, they will be unavailable for a short time.  You can also activate both at the same time, which is useful if you are getting beaten down but that cannot be stopped and will burn out both.

The levels also seem like they are much longer than previous games, at least Block Man’s stage that the demo features, and there are some tricky old-school obstacles and potential for quick deaths.  I’m not sure if it’s just Block Man or if all the bosses are going to do this but, after you blast away at him for a little bit, Block Man powers up and turns into a giant version of himself that is more reminiscent of something you face later on in Wily’s Castle but it’s a cool and challenging way to shake things up.  It looks and feels awesome and seems like a no-brainer must buy for Mega Man fans when it hits on October 2nd.

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