Gamebox 2.0: Games of June 2019

We got excited this month with all the announcements of future games at E3 but there are a ton of cool games you can play right now! June’s edition of Gamebox 2.0 had us review some great action and strategy titles. There was the stylish comic-book action of Void Bastards. The dragon visual novel Golden Treasure: The Great Green. A war-torn Berlin in Sniper Elite V2 Remastered. We dodged waves of projectiles in Voidrun and fought back the forces of darkness in Unruly Heroes. Plus two simulation games that tested how well we can build and manage our own business in Rescue HQ – The Tycoon and Railroad Corporation.

Void Bastards (Zach): Void Bastards is a rogue-like FPS from Blue Manchu and Humble Bundle that completely immerses you in its pulpy comic aesthetic.  You play as a revolving door of convicts that are being stored for their prison sentence as dehydrated dust aboard the prison ship Void Ark.  The ship’s AI “recruits” prisoners and tasks them with getting supplies from derelict ships in the Sargasso Nebula and you’ll play as those various prisoners, who usually have some sort of unique quirk that could be positive or negative.  The game plays as a series of runs like in most rogue-likes you might have played, where you have to survive for as long as you can before dying and restarting for another random run.  Void Bastards gives you a bit more direction than a lot of rogue-likes, you’ll usually have some sort of objective or item that you need to progress and that will be several derelict ships away.  You’ll progress in a sort of FTL style map, with multiple ships you can progress to and raid if you’d like.  You don’t have to raid every ship in your path but you do have to raid some to get vital supplies and you’ll be able to get a general idea of what you will find on each ship.  Once onboard a ship, you get a map of the general layout and the different sections and you can spend as much or as little time on board as you want.  You can make a quick run for fuel and get back to your ship or you can hang out and loot every nook and cranny for money, food, and supplies that could be used for crafting equipment and weapons.

All of this happens within the stunning comic visuals of the game.  Lots of games have done cel-shading before but Void Bastards completely embraces it’s pulp sci-fi roots with the story playing out via comic panels and everything having some sort of sound effect that appears written out in the world.  The various creatures you encounter are all unique as well and you’ll build up a crazy arsenal of weapons and gadgets.  There’s a pretty wide range of ships available to raid, from hospital ships to luxury cruise liners and they all have different threats and rewards.  All the gadgets and weapons you’ve crafted carry over when you die, so there’s a good sense of progress in each run, even if it wasn’t a particularly long one.  Void Bastards is out now on PC and if you are looking for a visually stylish and fun to play rogue-like shooter, it’s highly recommended.

Sniper Elite V2 Remastered (Chris): Rebellion’s hit title Sniper Elite V2 is back to drop players back behind Nazi occupied lines. Sniper Elite V2 Remastered is a new edition of the original for the current generation of consoles. This edition brings high definition graphics and all the featured downloadable content released since 2012. The game lets players take the role of Karl Fairburne, an American OSS officer tasked with finding and securing Nazi V2 rocket technology for America near the end of WW2. Karl is a skilled marksman and silently sent into Berlin while the Nazi army is making its last stand. Karl must track down fleeing key scientists before the Red Army can take them. Karl travels through a war-torn city, army bases and secret laboratories to complete his goal. Every shot from his rifle puts him closer to reaching his next objective.

Sniper Elite V2 Remastered is a third person, action title with a focus on stealth tactics. Players will have to carefully move around levels, approaching every corner with caution. The gameplay is heavily surrounding sniping. Most battles will be fought through long distances and approaching the enemies quietly. Players must patiently stalk and eliminate enemies before they know what hit them. Lining up the perfect kill shot with a rile results in an X-Ray Kill Cam that follows Karl’s bullet from his rifle into his target. Any shot that causes massive bleeding, instant death or triggers explosions are slowed down for players to admire. The game allows players to try out many methods to pull off kill cams, and every one of them feels satisfying.

Some battles will get up close and personal, but Karl will find weapons on the battlefield to use. Karl can equip pistols, machine guns and explosive traps to defend himself. As much as Karl is a formidable soldier, he is not a bullet sponge. Running into the heat of battle with guns blazing will end the missions very quickly. Players will have to monitor their positions, noise levels and approach with every encounter. When enemies are alerted, Karl’s last known position is indicated and enemies will be on the hunt. Some levels will have Karl carefully sniping all enemies from a distance, while others will pit Karl against a number of waves of enemies charging at him. Players will have to mix it up from camping an advantage point to running and gunning from cover.

Sniper Elite V2 Remastered gives players who missed out on the original another chance to play. The game design may seem dated compared to its sequels, but the core gameplay remains entertaining. Combat is fun and activating the kill cam feels rewarding. The updated graphics improve the background textures and frame rate, for a smooth experience through intense firefights. For players that have taken on the story mode, the multiplayer offers competitive and co-op modes. Two players can take on missions as sniper teams to complete objectives and the online multiplayer supports 16 players to test their skills. Sniper Elite V2 Remastered was released May 12th for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC.

Golden Treasure: The Great Green (Zach): Golden Treasure: The Great Green is a visual novel from Dreaming Door Studios where you play out the life of a dragon.  Starting within the egg, you make choices that will decide your nature and what abilities you’ll start with and then, once you are born, you’ll explore the world, learn about the various creatures and try to gather treasures.  The writing of visual novels is always the most important aspect and Golden Treasure is extremely well written.  It gets a little over the top at times with its flowery descriptors of the elements and the nature of the world but it does a good job of trying to describe the world from the POV of a dragon.

Along with making various decisions, you have to make sure you meet your basic needs to survive, including hunting.  Golden Treasure is not an action game by any stretch of the imagination but when you hunt and go after prey, the game does turn into a light RPG style combat system and there are four elements, Fire, Water, Air and Earth, and the decisions you make effect your affinity toward one or more of those elements.  This, in turn, gives you different abilities as you gain more points in those elements and there is also a rock, paper, scissors element when fighting other creatures.  There’s also an action element of chasing down prey if they get spooked and run.  The chase segments are a little strange as they feel like they were designed for a mobile touch screen with things like swiping but, as far as I can tell, there isn’t a mobile version of Golden Treasure.  As the story continues, you’ll meet other dragons, grow in power, encounter man and mate to continue the dragon lineage.  The story is definitely interesting and keeps you progressing to find out what happens next and if you like things like Choose Your Own Adventure books, this will probably be right up your alley.  Golden Treasure: The Great Green is out now on Steam.

Rescue HQ – The Tycoon (Chris): When a city is in trouble, can one rescue headquarters answer the call? Stillalive Studios and Aerosoft GmbH present Rescue HQ – The Tycoon, a simulation game that lets the player design and manages their own rescue service. Players will have set up their own headquarters to house fire, police and medical personal and equipment, and balance a budget to maintain finances and the public’s approval rating.
The gameplay of Rescue HQ – The Tycoon centralizes around micromanagement. Every room in the headquarters the player designs has a purpose and will affect how fast and prepared the staff will respond to an emergency. The headquarters will receive calls requesting specific aid. It could require a squad of firemen, a police swat team, a specialized EMT or a combination of all three. Successfully completing missions earns money and reputation points, both of which are used to upgrade the headquarters. A stable headquarters will attract new staff members and can lead to faster rewards.

Managing a headquarters is a 24-hour watch. There is a day shift and a night shift, and the two will clock in and out at set intervals. The player must recruit and maintain each shift’s needs to be constantly efficient. Dispatching services takes resources and locks them until their task is completed. Every time a staff member goes out for a call, it will consume some of their energy levels and mood. When a staff member is too overworked, their odds of being injured increases.

The player is also responsible for ensuring the headquarters is designed to keep their staff happy and skilled to handle themselves in the field. Staff members can learn specialized skills that will give them an edge in calls and will reduce the need for so many members for one call. Leveling up staff and sending them out to calls will drain staff members, so giving them time to rest between calls is critical.

The game offers two modes: scenarios and sandbox. Scenarios have the player complete certain challenges within a given time limit. Each scenario will have variations like starting budget and equipment, and special requirements that appear over the duration of the scenario. Each scenario also has a sandbox mode where the player is able to extend their playtime with their headquarter in an endless session. Sandbox mode has allows the player to run they’re the headquarter without a time limit and without a main objective. This mode has most building items unlocked and will have emergency calls with varying requirements.

Don’t let the simple graphics fool the more dedicated strategy fans, this game can be quick and addictive with it’s laid back tone. Rescue HQ – The Tycoon is a casual simulator that does not try to over-complicate itself. The gameplay is solid and easy to get right into building up a kick-ass rescue station. Careless overspending and picking the wrong equipment at the wrong time did devastate one playthrough, but I quickly learned from my mistakes. There are never long stretches of boredom between dispatch calls and every new challenge tested my abilities to organize. Rescue HQ – The Tycoon is available now for Steam.

 

Voidrun (Zach): Voidrun is a retro-inspired “shooter” from game designer Benjamin Soule that, while it looks familiar, is incredibly unique.  You play as the underling for The Void, a malevolent force that wants to wipe out life on various planets.  Your task is to destroy the planets by using bombs but you have to encircle your target to detonate the bombs and kill them.  It’s a blend of Snake, Bomberman, Qix, Sinistar and possibly more and it feels like no other retro shooter I’ve played in recent years.  It has all the bullet hell shooter aspects you would expect but the encircling mechanic forces you to play completely differently than if this was just a run of the mill shooter.  You drop bombs by holding down one button and then you must try and encircle your target with them to destroy them.  You can use another button to suck the bombs back up and you have a power meter where each dash is a bomb you can drop.  If you get hit with a projectile or run into an enemy, it’s instant death and your bombs get scattered around the map and will have to be picked back up.  You can pick up power-ups to gain more bombs and when you kill enough enemies, the area explodes and you’ll move on to the next.

There are a number of different modes in Voidrun, the main mode being a rogue-like arcade mode where you are given four different perks before the run and then you must survive long enough to destroy four different planets and there’s also an adventure mode where you can choose your path across various planets and the story of The Void is fleshed out more and you’ll also encounter gigantic boss characters.  The visuals and music are fantastic as well, using a low resolution, four-color graphics style to great effect and there’s a ton of variety to the enemies you’ll encounter and each planet feels unique as well.  If you like retro throwbacks, Voidrun is unlike anything you’ve played recently and definitely needs to be checked out on Steam.

Railroad Corporation (Chris): Corbie Games and Iceberg Interactive returns to the steam age when trains bought American cities together in Railroad Corporation. Taking the role of a company person helping one of three corporations thrive, the game offers several missions where the player must set up a train line for transportation across cities, settlements, factories, and farms to build a stable economic community. The player will have to watch their spending and provide more services to booming areas as their corporation expands throughout America.

The gameplay follows classic strategy and business simulator mechanics. There is a budget with limited resources that need to be properly managed, and taking a risk can yield big rewards or bankruptcy. The player starts at a city that houses their company office and a station that will connect to distance operations. Local townships will require supplies from the train and the player orders and receives train cargo accordingly. Trains have to be issued the right items for loading and unloading, or else payments will not be rewarded.

Train tracks can be arranged to create different pathways to other train stations and start a network of intersecting train lines. Multiple will be in motion at once, each with different cargo and will have their own states. Every time a train leaves, it uses up fuel and accrues mileage, affecting its performance over time. Better trains can be unlocked by investing time into research that can greatly improve speed, cargo hold, and fuel consumption.

The game has allowed the player the freedom to approach challenges with creativity but has a learning curve to understand all the moving parts. It is very easy to go broke when building up train tracks, not prioritizing certain technology trees or forgetting to set up cargo routes. It takes a few missions to get the hang of the flow and feel but it comes alive once a fleet of trains is structured without any issues. Seeing a busy train system instantly brings back the wonder of seeing model trains in motion. However, there is some work to keep the trains running smoothly. Balancing fuel and maintenance, and scheduling train routes is key.

Railroad Corporation follows in the footsteps of similar games that came before it, mainly the Railroad Tycoon series. Railroad Corporation retains many of the classic designs and introduces some business elements to keep the player busy with every moment. There are a few issues with the train track designs though. It doesn’t feel precise when building up rail lines. I wish there was a way to manually design winding pathways instead of letting the computer auto-calculate a path. There are some neat mechanics that gives some attention to the corporation side. It adds another layer of challenge to an already busy experience. Railroad Corporation is on early access on Steam now

Unruly Heroes (Chris): When a peaceful land falls under chaos when dark forces invade, four unlikely heroes will stand together to restore order. Magic Design Studios presents Unruly Heroes, an action-platformer inspired by the Chinese novel Journey to the West. Players will control one of four characters: Sanzang, Wukong, Kihong, and Sandmonk. Each has different combat abilities and special skills that let them traverse puzzling terrain and defeat many foes. The heroes are on a mission to find pieces of a sacred scroll and send back the invaders.

In single-player mode, the player can switch between one of the four heroes on the fly to overcome obstacles and defeat enemies. Each hero has their own health and magic bar. If their health dries up, they will become unavailable to use. If all four heroes are defeated, then it’s a game over, but heroes can be brought back at every checkpoint. In co-op mode, up to four players can take the role of one hero and must work together to navigate the level as a group.

Unruly Heroes has amazing visuals designs that come to life in the gameplay. The game features smooth platforming that makes every jump feel natural. There’s weight to every bounce and there is a variety of approaches to every platform. Every character has a unique ability that opens up new pathways in the levels and encourages players to try different tactics. The game has a nice learning curve that eases the player into its mechanics before the action keeps up. There are some tricky jumps that test the player’s patience and combat sections that send out a gauntlet of enemies to bash. The game is well paced to not make each selection feel repetitive and has beautiful hand-drawn artwork to keep the attention high.

The world is alive with so much great depth to the environments and personality to the NPCs. The musical score is adventurous and adds a fairy tale charm to the presentation. Levels offer a few bonus collectibles and rankings, so players can perform speedruns to earn bragging points. Magic Design Studios wonderfully showcases its talents in this title. The well-crafted gameplay experience is refreshing and memorable. Unruly Heroes is out now for Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Steam. 

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