Gamebox 2.0: Games of July 2019

Summer is well underway and hot new games have arrived in this blazing weather. Gamebox 2.0 is here in time and this time around we solved puzzlers like Professor Lupo and His Horrible Pets, controlled mechs in War Tech Fighters, brawled with a colorful cast of fighters in Fantasy Strike, fought the undead in classic RTS survival in They Are Billions and more. Check out everything we got to play in July below.

Professor Lupo and His Horrible Pets (Zach): Hitting Steam and Switch on July 11th from BeautiFun Games, Professor Lupo and His Horrible Pets is a great puzzle game with a fun cartoony art style and sense of humor.  You play as an intern for the evil mad scientist Professor Lupo, who is showcasing his array of dangerous creatures captured from around the galaxy. The authorities attack and the space station is damaged, releasing the creatures.  Your job is to survive and escape while avoiding the creatures. There are 100 stages to complete and each one sets you in a room on the space station with creatures stalking about. The main puzzle mechanic has you manipulating doors and switches so that you can reach the exit and not get eaten.  All of the creatures you encounter have a particular quirk you have to exploit, like a giant snake-like creature that will chase you if it hears you. However, you have to use those quirks in order to solve some of the puzzles, like luring the creatures into position so they block others and you can get past.

The game has a fun art style and all of the characters are fully animated and voice acting, so the story is much more in-depth than your typical puzzle game. I played it on Switch and there’s an option to utilize an on-screen pointer that you manipulate by moving the Joy-Cons or Pro controller but I wouldn’t recommend it.  That option probably works much better on the PC when you have a mouse. Luckily on the Switch, you can just play normally, using the sticks to move around and hitting buttons and switches with the controller buttons. If you’re looking to stretch your brain muscles, Professor Lupo is a great puzzle game that really gets tricky the further you get in and the more creatures you encounter and it has a fun story that will keep you wanting to progress to see who or what happens next.

Fantasy Strike (Chris): When a kingdom is in danger from tearing itself apart, warriors will compete to be crowned a champion and restore order in Sirlin Games’ Fantasy Strike. Taking inspiration from fighting games like Street Fighter II  and Guilty Gear, Fantasy Strike is a fighting game that looks to bridge the gap that divides casual and hardcore fighting game fans. It is a 2D fighter with 3D graphics. Sirlin Games’ aim was to make a game that has simple controls with lots of combat variety, and it feels like it achieves that blend.

The gameplay follows traditional fighting game rules, but the health and attacks are simplified to a minimum. Every character has a set limit of hits they can receive before a knockout, and every attack received removes one portion at a time. This means a match can be won by getting in individual blows at a time or a simple chain of combos for a lighting fast victory. Fantasy Strike has many balances to counter overuse of spam tactics. There are no dashing movement or crouching attacks. Blocking too much will result in health loss after 3 consecutive hits. Throwing is only countered by not pressing any buttons. Super attacks automatically charge through the battle. This allows newcomers the inviting experience to learn the basics of combat while playing and pits veteran fights against each other with pure skills alone.

The fighters are broken into four categories: Zoners, characters that have the advantage in long-range combat. Grapplers, characters that are deadly when up close. Rushdown, characters that are nimble and can move back and forward for easy hits. Wild Cards, characters with a mix of style. These different types give a good mix of unique stances that should suit many gamers play style. And there are no simple reskin clones to pad out the roster. Every character is fleshed out with fun animations, voice-overs and endings in the arcade mode.

Aside from the arcade mode that follows a story of one of the fighters, Fantasy Strike has all the trimmings a typical fighter has to offer. There are local and online co-op versus modes, training mode, daily challenges and robust tournament mode for easy setup. While some gamers will feel a bit cheated with the reduced controls, the game really opens up by playing with gamers of different skill levels. Games are fast and smooth, showing Sirlin Games’ attention for perfect frame counter for the veteran fighter. The models are bright and colorful, with quirky personalities and great animations. Fantasy Strike was released on July 25th for Switch, Playstation 4 and PC.

 

War Tech Fighters (Zach): 2019 seems like a great year for mecha fans, as we had Project Nimbus in May and now the recently released War Tech Fighters, which came out on June 27th on Switch, PS4 and Xbox One.  Coming from Blowfish Studios and Drakkar Dev, War Tech Fighters puts you in the cockpit of a War Tech, a powerful mech that is fully customizable to your play style. You’ll battle for a resistance group that is trying to gain freedom from the evil Zatros empire and complete various missions, including escorts, search and destroy and supply runs.  The game feels like a cross between two beloved former mech games, Zone of the Enders and Armored Core. The gameplay feels like Zone of the Enders, where you have a full range of movement, as most of the battles are in space, and a variety of weapons at your disposal. If you get an enemy down to a critical health level, you can utilize your mech’s sword to perform an execution move.  You also use your sword when facing off against other War Techs, as the game moves into a close-quarters combat mode. It feels like a simplified version of a fighting game but since a lot of the enemies you’ll face are enemy fighter ships, every time another mech arrives and you go into close quarters, it feels like a cool, big moment. The execution moves are all flashy and feel like something you’d in a mech anime and the missions offer up some good variety, even if the basics are nothing you haven’t seen before if you’ve played similar space flight/mech games in the past.

You can also play the game in first-person mode from the cockpit if you prefer, although, to me, third-person always feels like the way to go with these games. The Armored Core connection comes in with the customization options. There are hundreds of parts to unlock and upgrade and you can change the look and loadout of your mech to fit your playstyle, like going long-range or focusing on close quarters. You also spend money to research new parts and bonuses to equip to your mech as well and there are items hidden in the levels that will unlock bonus projects. The environments all look great, with lots of space debris, intergalactic dust, and lens flare effects.  From the main hub, which is the resistance group’s main capital ship, you can customize your mech, replay previous missions as simulations to earn additional XP, research parts and continue in the story. The story is not anything drastically original but it does enough to pull you along and continue pressing on with the story. War Tech Fighters is a great arcadey mech combat game that also feels like a throwback to classic flight sims like the X-Wing games or Wing Commander as you dogfight enemy ships but then it goes full mecha when you go sword to sword with an enemy mech. All of the customization options let you play the game however you want and if you’re a fan of mechs and space combat, definitely check this one out.

They Are Billions (Zach): Previously available on PC and Xbox One, They Are Billions from Blitworks and Numantian Games bring its real-time zombie strategy gameplay to Sony’s PS4 on July 9th. Set in an apocalyptic steampunk future where zombies have overrun the planet, you are in charge of setting up a human colony and defending it from the hordes of zombies. You’ll set up your world to start out, setting the difficulty level by tweaking things like how long you have to survive and how many infected will be on the map to start.  Once you are in, you need to get a colony up and running. You’ll need workers to perform various tasks, like gathering food, getting wood, collecting stone and you’ll to build the buildings that can take in all those resources. One of the biggest factors will be getting your defenses set up, most importantly walls, and making sure to recruit and upgrade your troops.

The game will definitely live up to its title, especially if you crank the infected population up all the way, as thousands of infected can swarm your colony at any time. All of the infected have their own AI and react to sound and they’ll also investigate if one of their numbers gets killed or lured away. You can get a wide range of steampunk-inspired troops and defenses and you can also upgrade and get better buildings for your colony, to increase the number of workers and resources that are coming in.

It’s a classic RTS and it was refreshing to play one again, as stuff like MOBAs have made the old-school RTS genre almost extinct. If you played games like Starcraft or Command and Conquer back in the day, you’ll probably feel right at home in They Are Billions as you work your way up the tech tree and figure out the best layout for your base. The one issue I had was playing on PS4, a controller is definitely not the way to go. There are some shortcuts set up and you can pause the game at any time to setup commands, but you definitely want to play this with a mouse and keyboard.  You can use a keyboard and mouse on the consoles, I just didn’t have any around to use.

The game is definitely tough as well and if you don’t get your colony up and running with defenses up, you will be overrun in no time. The worst part is that if infected attack a building, they disable it and a swarm of new zombies comes out of the building, adding to the enemy numbers. They Are Billions has a cool aesthetic, some mind-boggling zombie swarms, and old-school RTS gameplay. If any of that seems cool to you, grab a keyboard and mouse and check it out.

(Chris) If you ever played StarCraft, you know what a pain a Zerg rush was to handle. A fast-moving swarm of critters, destroying everything they could get their hands-on was a panic-inducing annoyance. Blitworks and Numantian Games wanted to bring back those terrifying experiences in a game that has the army of the undead trying to overrun the last colonies of humanity in They Are Billions. The game has the player take control of the leader of a colony, who has to fortify the settlement against the undead that is plaguing the world. As the leader, the player has to manage resources, build up structures and assemble an army to defend the colony. The odds are always in the zombie’s favors, but with the right strategy, you can turn the war around.

The gameplay is a mix of real-time tactics and tower defense. Buildings and units need to be carefully thought out before construction, as to not waste resources and time. Upgrading buildings unlocks new tech branches, which strengthens the colony’s offensive and defensive capabilities. Battles have waves of enemies approach and quickly get mowed down by guns and flames. An enemy can be quickly picked off with the most basic units.  However, when the undead come in massive numbers, this is where having secured positions and proper weaponry comes into play. A few zombies can disable buildings and units, adding to their own numbers and infecting its surroundings. One overlooked weak spot or too few guards can have a domino effect of negative consequences. It’s very important to know when to take the fight head-on or retreat and rebuild.

They Are Billions is a challenging game that crams the screen with tons of visuals. Buildings have to be packed tightly to reduce the risk of vulnerable spots, enemies form big hordes and attack in mass, and the variety of units keeps the gameplay interesting. I also experienced the same issues Zach had previously mentioned about controllers and RTS. There are shortcuts to reduce the need to open up so many menus, but it does make me miss the ease of a mouse and keyboard. There is a little bit of an adjustment to scroll through options by wiggling on the PS4 direction sticks, but it’s manageable.

Dr. Mario World (Zach): Recently released on mobile devices, Dr. Mario World is the latest mobile game from Nintendo that puts a new spin on the classic NES/Game Boy puzzle game.  In this version of Dr. Mario, you are still fighting viruses by matching pills that have the same color as the virus. However, you are dragging viruses from the bottom of the screen instead of having them come from Dr. Mario throwing them into the top of the field.  You can manipulate them on their way to the top of the screen but you cannot pull them back below where they currently are, they are always moving up and you can move them sideways and spin them. The game starts out fairly easy to teach you the basic rules but around level 20, it turns into a typical mobile puzzle game like Toon Blast or Candy Crush, with all the enticements to pay for things that entails.  You have five lives that refill gradually but you can always pay to have them refilled immediately and there bonus items you can buy for both starting the level and once you are inside. One cool thing is that it’s not just Mario this time around, you can play Dr. Peach, Dr. Bowser, and more, and each of them having their own special skill that builds up as you clear lines in the levels. There are also assistants that are other Mushroom Kingdom residents, like Goombas and Koopa Troopas, that give a bonus or ability as well.

The puzzle design is decent, although a lot of them are clearly designed with a main solution in mind that you have to figure out and you only have a certain number of pills available before you fail the level. The game gradually introduces new quirks like Koopa shells that launch horizontally and clear everything in their path or bombs that blow up everything around them and viruses also start to hide in bricks that have to be broken as well. It’s obviously not as good as the original Dr. Mario and the microtransactions are pretty annoying but for a free to play puzzle game on your phone, it’s definitely worth at least checking out and it’s still a decent and fun time killer that, because of the Mario aesthetic, is more appealing than some of the similar, popular puzzle games out there.

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