The triple AAA onslaught of the fall season is approaching for gamers but before we’re overwhelmed with overblown marketed titles and anything that has to involve chugging down mountain dew, we’ve got reviewed a few titles that require your attention. We checked out the highly anticipated We Happy Few, the full version of neon shooter Hypergun, the deceptively deep simulator Graveyard Keeper, became death herself in Flipping Death, and more in the latest Gamebox 2.0.
We Happy Few: (Zach) We’ve been interested in We Happy Few from Compulsion Games for years as it’s made away through various shows but it finally arrived on August 10th for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Set in an alternate 1960s England, you’ll have to survive the city of Wellington Wells as three different characters and uncover each of their pasts and the secrets of the city. After losing a war, the government became extremely authoritarian and took drastic action to get the citizens back under control, including censoring any unpleasant history from newspapers and other documents and developing a hallucinogen called Joy, which alters perceptions and make things look a lot nicer than they actually are. As far as the gameplay, you’ll travel the open world of Wellington Wells in first person and gather resources and weapons in order to craft useful items and complete objectives and side quests. One thing you’ll definitely need to keep track of is your inventory, as it’s very easy to be a hoarder and reach your carry limit, forcing you to either drop items or deposit them in a pneumatic stash that you can access later from safe houses. Combat is melee based and stealthy approaches are almost a necessity. If you go into encounters with fists raised against multiple enemies, be ready to most likely get a thrashing. Combat is a little loose and mashy and a lot of weapons will break on you after a few blows against an enemy, forcing you to switch things up or try to get by on just your fists or, optimally, avoiding combat altogether and either avoiding enemies or stealthily taking them out.
The biggest strength, by far, of We Happy Few, is its setting and storytelling. The world is as well realized as Rapture or Columbia from the Bioshock series and you’ll encounter tons of backstory and details about how the world works and the locations are jam-packed with details and set dressing, including the disturbingly cheery live action broadcasts from “Uncle Jack”, who hosts a popular TV show and works as the main source of propaganda in the world. The voice acting is great as well and the characters, like former office drone Arthur, are wonderfully neurotic in the most British way possible, constantly fretting and apologizing for choking out or killing enemies. Reviews from around the web have not been especially positive and while We Happy Few could definitely be tighter as far the combat goes and inventory management and crafting requires more attention than some players might be willing to give, the setting and story are definitely strong enough to recommend checking out the game.
Graveyard Keeper: (Zach) From Lazy Bear Games and tinyBuild, the same team that brought us the excellent and hilarious boxing simulator Punch Club comes Graveyard Keeper. If you are a fan of Stardew Valley but felt things needed to be much more macabre, Graveyard Keeper will be right up your alley. You take on the titular role and have to manage the corpses that come from the nearby town and maintain the local cemetery. The game is deceptively complex and after going through a series of tutorial missions to give you the basics, you are basically dumped into the deep end and will have to experiment and figure out how all the various systems work, like maintaining the balance of the cemetery and getting rid of any corpses that are morally corrupt, crafting and building things like workshops and gardens and going on side missions for the various townspeople and your talking skull companion. The world is also massive and you can wander around for hours and find weird side missions or new locations and characters.
Graveyard Keeper can feel overwhelming at first, but if you are willing to buckle down and learn all the various mechanics and systems, you’re going to find a great experience that’s going to steal hours of your life. It’s got the same quirky sense of humor as Punch Club to keep things from devolving too far into the morbid (your main income is dealing with corpses after all). The game is out now on Steam and Xbox One.
(Chris) Working the graveyard shift takes on a whole new meaning in Lazy Bear Games and tinyBuild’s graveyard sim Graveyard Keeper. The player will take on the role of newly hired graveyard owner that must fix up his church and graveyard in the medieval era. Given only a tiny starting budget, you must find ways to earn money in the small town. This new graveyard worker must perform his duties of dealing the corpses and look for a possible way out of the job. Without the use of modern-day engineering, everyday items and necessities must be handcrafted or bought from a specialist. The game has a deep learning curve. The player must juggle their energy level, their budgets, their inventory, their relationships with the town’s people and an actual graveyard. Almost every task in the game requires energy, and finding the right time to eat and sleep is key to progressing. Collecting and crafting items, building up fixtures and even fishing takes up energy, and finding the right balance early on will save the headache of rushing back into bed to recover. Most tasks earn one of three skills points that will be used to unlock abilities for the graveyard keeper. Such skills allow the keeper to harvest better crops, craft improved items and build new structures. The gameplay is very addictive once the basics are understood and you have built up the graveyard for a bit. Over time, the graveyard keeper will find new ways to earn more money but will encounter new and strange situations. The game is definitely aimed for gamers that enjoyed Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley, and other micromanaging games that challenge the player every time they want to dig a hole. Graveyard Keeper was released August 15th for Steam and Xbox One.
Hero Defense – The Haunted Island: (Chris) Created by Happy Tuesday and published by HeadUp Games, Hero Defense mixes a tower defense game with the rapid gameplay of a MOBA. In Hero Defense, players will have to utilize their hero characters to eliminate waves of enemies patrolling the level. The unique mechanic about Hero Defense that makes it stand out from a traditional tower defense game is the ability to move hero characters around the map. Instead of building up bunkers and fortifications, the heroes themselves have to be strategically placed and moved around during combat. Gathering enough kills will allow you to use special abilities and increase stats. This is especially useful during boss battles where the heroes will be laying down attack after attack, waiting for the perfect moment to unleash their powerful moves to finish them. The game offers three modes: story, co-op, and PVP. In story mode, the game centers around Haunted Island and its town that is plagued by the evil armies of the vampire Count Necrosis. Five heroes have gathered to protect the town and stop Count Necrosis from unleashing more evil. Co-op mode allows two players to team up and take on the story mode together. PVP mode allows players to go head to head where each player is spawning minions to send across the maps while defending against the opposing minions from the other player. The first player to have their base destroyed loses the match.
The game was released as early access in 2016 and has polished its gameplay for its final version. The game follows an easy to play mechanic, that is paired well with the cartoony visuals. The character models appear similar to popular MOBAs and are exciting to watch as they attack and move around the levels. Some of the voice acting gets a little tiresome, but that’s usually typical of these kinds of games. The main focus is combat, and how the players will figure out the best tactics for each wave of enemies. Certain enemies will be weaker to certain heroes and the combination of heroes’ abilities and their placement on the map is key to surviving the difficult waves of enemies. It’s pretty fun to be a death-dealing corner, having heroes picking off lines of enemies before they get a chance to make witty comeback comments. For veteran gamers that have defended a lot of towers, this take on the genre adds some fresh designs into the mix. Hero Defense – The Haunted Island was released for PC, PS4 and Xbox One on Aug 15, 2018.
Hypergun: (Zach) In the last edition of Gamebox 2.0, I talked about the preview version of Hypergun from NVYVE Studios but now the full version is out on Steam. In case you’re too lazy to click the link and see my thoughts on the preview build or what the game is about, Hypergun is a neon-drenched rogue-like shooter where aliens have taken over Earth but there’s one last hope as a tech company is working on creating the ultimate weapon, the titular Hypergun. An intern named Dewey puts himself into the Hypergun simulator and takes on alien hordes, trying out different attachments and enhancements. If he can get through all the levels of the simulation, he’ll have discovered the Hypergun, which will be manufactured for real and used to defeat the aliens and save humanity. Each run of the simulator, you start in a procedurally generated dungeon and have to fight your way from room to room, clearing them out and moving on. Along the way, you’ll pick up new pieces for your weapon which will change the fire mode, add sub-weapons or give boosts to things like accuracy or damage. Dewey (or other classes as you unlock them) also has unique skills that can be used.
The game is insanely brutal as far as the difficulty and you’ll probably have a tough time getting through even the first few rooms of the first dungeon to start. You also only seem to start out with one enhancement to start out the run with and, if it’s not the greatest, you’ll be stuck with mostly a standard style assault rifle until you survive long enough to get more attachments. The “sniper” class of alien troop that you’ll encounter constantly right from the start is also kind of a frustrating enemy to deal with; they have a massive shield and requires dumping tons of ammo into them in order to take down their shield and take them down. The aesthetics are incredible though, as the levels will remind you of stuff like Tron and the synth soundtrack will drive you through the hordes of aliens. If you are looking for a stylish and challenging rogue-like shooter, definitely check out Hypergun.
Flipping Death: (Chris) Developed and published by Zoink, Flipping Death is their take on what happens in the afterlife. Meet Penny Doewood, an average woman looking for fun and not following the rules in the town of Flatwood Peaks. She was recently fired from one job but stumbled into a new career after her untimely death. Given the position as Death’s temp worker, she gets involved in a series of odd task and uncovers some creepy evil forces that lurk around Flatwood Peaks.
Flipping Death is an adventure platformer that takes the player into the realm of the living and the dead as Penny. The position of Death’s temp worker grants Penny amazing gifts in the afterlife, allowing her to wield a magical scythe with teleportation powers and the ability to possess the living. The ability to possess the living allows Penny to “flip” into different realms that can influence each other. Flipping Death focuses on exploration and narrative-driven gameplay that pushes the player to venture around both versions of Flatwood Peaks. Penny will be given quest from the dead spirits that have not crossed over from the spirit dead realm, usually involving completing something that the dead have regretted and keeps them around for unfinished business. These tasks usually range from solving family issues, finding lost items and preventing terrible situations. Possessing characters allows for special abilities to help in a certain task. Possessing a lumberjack allows Penny to hack at objects. Possessing a dentist drills holes into things. Possessing a costumed villain that pokes things can poke things really far. It’s all a puzzle mechanic that once the player understands the right combinations will play out fluently.
Zoink shows off their creativity in this strange and humorist take on death and drama. The environments sprout so much detail in the background and foregrounds of the scenery. The living version of Flatwood Peaks is a busy city with colorful characters with their own backstories and hidden desires. While the dead realm is a ghostly copy of the area, with its own cast of spirits to interact with and sights to see. Gamers familiar with Zoink’s previous title Stick it to the Man! will see the similar game mechanics and art style. The cartoony puppet designs and the smooth jazz score sets a relaxing mood for such a morbid game premise. The voice acting is excellent, the actors bring a great personality to the characters in fun and goofy ways. The game is very self-aware of the all the silliness of the story and is paced like a novel. Overall, Flipping Death is a relaxing game experience that deliveries clever puzzles and a funny plot to watch unfold. Flipping Death was released August 7th on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Steam.
All-Star Fruit Racing: (Zach) Available on Switch, PS4, Xbox One and PC, All-Star Fruit Racing is a new cart racer from Pqube Games. If you’ve played Mario Kart (which really, who hasn’t at this point?) the basics of All-Star Fruit Racing will be familiar. You’ll race across colorful, crazy tracks, pick up power-ups and try to take out your opponents while avoiding the power-ups they are trying to use against you and win the race. All the modes you would expect are here including single player championships, time trials, multiplayer racing (both online and local) and there’s even a mode that allows you to create your own custom championship by picking tracks from any unlocked cup and setting the gameplay modes on each.
The racing in All-Star Fruit Racing is solid but the cars feel kind of weightless and the handling is not as tight as you may have come to expect from past cart racing titles. All the carts seem pretty similar as well, they all have the same basic body type and the drivers are all fairly similar as well. The only main distinguishing feature is the special move of each character, which includes things like a launchable tornado or a fruit shark that launches out in front of you and takes out racers. One of the big unique features of the game is the power-up system. There is a mode that is standard Mario Kart style where you hit power-up blocks and get a random power-up but the other mode puts four types of fruit onto the track. As you run over the fruit, you fill four different power-up meters and you can turn them on and off to create different combos or fill all of them to unleash your characters’ special move. It adds an interesting level of strategy to the racing as you can either burn the meters on simple power-ups like a quick speed boost or save them until more powerful attacks are available. All-Star Fruit Racing is not going to change the cart racing genre but it’s a solid little entry and might be worth checking out if you’ve conquered everything Mario Kart has to offer or if you’re on a system besides the Switch that is lacking in cart racers.
Bendy in Nightmare Run (Zach): You might have seen Bendy as the mascot of the PC horror game Bendy and the Ink Machine but the deceptively adorable 1930’s style mascot is now the star of his own mobile game from Joey Drew Studios, Bendy in Nightmare Run. Free on iOS and Android, Nightmare Run has you controlling Bendy as he battles fellow 1930’s style animated bosses in runner style levels, although Bendy runs toward the screen as opposed to into or away from the screen like you might be used to. Bendy collects ink for points and to build XP but your main objective is to collect different weapons, like axes or anvils, and then throw them at the boss racing behind you to defeat them.
The game looks and sounds great, really invoking the 30’s animation feel of stuff like Steamboat Willy and the controls are responsive swipe based ones that work great. There are some freemium elements like watching ads to boost your health and some costumes and other items for sale for real money but it’s not intrusive in any way. Even if you never played the PC game this is spun off of, Nightmare Run is a fun runner game that’s worth checking out.
Evergarden (Zach): A new puzzle game from Flippfly, the team that previously developed the stylish arcade flying/racing game Race the Sun, is Evergarden. Featuring a gorgeous aesthetic and a very chill soundtrack and overall atmosphere, Evergarden has you solving puzzles that are represented by different gardens. The main gameplay mechanic is sliding and if you’ve played something like Threes on mobile devices, Evergarden has a similar mechanic. For instance, you’ll start out causing a flower to sprout and you can send a bud to an open space and that will grow into the simplest flower but you’ll want to slide two of those simple flowers together to make a more complex flower and so on.
It’s a little obtuse at first but if you experiment you should be able to figure out what Evergarden want you to do. As you progress, the mechanics switch up and you’ll have to do things like creating a specific pattern out of tiles. The game is out now on Steam and iOS and if you’re looking for a chill and beautiful puzzle game to poke and prod, check it out.