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Gamebox 2.0: Mutant Punk Rapture Edition

Posted on December 13, 2018 by

2018 is coming to a close, why not send it off with some great titles to send it off.  In this edition of  Gamebox 2.0, we got tactical with mutant warriors, piloted giant mechs, moved energy pieces around, fought in an apocalyptic battle royale and much more. 

Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden (Zach): Coming from Funcom and The Bearded Ladies, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is the latest addition to the turn-based tactics genre.  Mutant Year Zero is based on a tabletop game and set in a post-apocalyptic world where most of humanity (and their mutant allies) live on The Ark, a floating sanctuary.  Your trio of heroes, Dux, Bormin and Selma are Stalkers, who head out into the wastelands, battling Ghouls and collecting valuable loot and artifacts. Much like Space Hulk: Tactics, Achtung! and Cthulthu Tactics, all games we had played in recent Gamebox reviews,  Mutant Year Zero is focused on strategy.  The big thing differentiating Mutant Year Zero from other recent tactics games is the use of stealth mechanics. When not in combat, you control your heroes directly and can go into stealth mode when nearing enemies, allowing you to set up ambushes or avoid combat altogether if the enemies are too powerful to take on.  

Once in combat, if you’ve played recent tactics games like X-Com, you’ll feel pretty much at home, as there are similar movement and combat options like sprinting at the expense of other actions and different levels of cover offered by the environment.  Your characters level up and you can give them different skills but there are also mutations that can drastically change things up like giving duck sniper Dux a pair of moth-like wings for flight and an elevated shooting position.  There’s also hats and other equipment you can find that you can equip your heroes with as well.  The characters are fun and well acted and the world looks fantastic and offers some interesting areas to explore.  Mutant Year Zero is probably the best tactics game I’ve played this year (or at least the ones that are new this year, X-Com will always be my #1) and if you’re a fan of tactics, definitely check it out now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

(Chris): When humanity’s last stronghold needs saving, a group of mutants will step up to the challenge.  Based on a tabletop and novel series, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a tactical RPG set in a post-apocalyptic future where humanity had suffered nuclear attacks, changing the environment and the society. Most of humanity are gathered in one settlement known as the Ark. This place is a safe haven from all the chaos of the wasteland, but it relies on a select group of hunters, known as Stalkers, to gather resources. One pair of mutant Stalkers, Bormin and Dux, have been tasked with finding crucial resources and uncovering a conspiracy that threatens the safety of the Ark. As they take their mission, they will find allies and foes that will emerge to save or destroy the Ark. The wastelands of the earth hide many dangers, and only the strongest will survive.

 Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden offers gamers a treacherous world, filled with bandits, wild animals, crazed zealots, and more, all looking for their next kill. The gameplay allows players to venture around an area, look for items and collectibles while being on the lookout for enemies patrolling in real-time movement. Combat with enemies can be initiated by ambushes by the player or getting the attention of the enemy which puts them on attack mode. Engaging enemies shifts the game into a turn-based combat system that uses grids and action points to determine combat. Character positions, weapon stats, enemy stats and the terrain all play a part in how battles begin and flow.

When a battle begins, every character has two action points that can either move, attack, defend or resupply. Knowing which action to take is the key to a successful fight. Advancing to attack might seem like the obvious option at times, but sometimes defending a position and reloading a weapon is how to outsmart an enemy. The game rewards players that choose the stealth approach, granting a first attack and the possibility of silently eliminating the enemy before back up arrives. Early in the game, not every battle is winnable and should be avoided due to the player’s level not being high enough to survive enemy’s attacks. As a squad of stalkers, the characters can handle most combat situations with proper tactics, but some enemies won’t take enough damage in combat and will tear down the squad with devastating effects. The game pushes for exploration to find items and make upgrades to handle stronger enemies, so be prepared to roam around every inch of the level for precious loot. 

Following in the footsteps of modern tactical games, the game attempts to offer a complex challenge with simplified mechanics. Battles are fast and vary in difficulty, showcasing some degree of depth when a good plan pays off or when one simple mistake can turn the tide. However,  most battles are terminated by what kind of equipment is set and how the enemies were approached. When the game is played on normal mode, combat and game mechanics have a very arcade feel with makes easing into complex battles a little easier for casual players. The harder difficulties add more challenges to veteran players that seek a more demanding experience, one that really punishes errors in planning. I recommend this game for anyone interested in more skillful actions in their action games, and for people looking to explore the ruined world with some crazy characters.  Mutant Year Zero is now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

Override: Mech City Brawl (Zach): Override: Mech City Brawl comes from The Balance Inc. and Modus Games and is a fantastic mech/kaiju brawler that will let you live out all your Pacific Rim style fantasies.  You can choose from a roster of anime and movie inspired mechs and then you can either play through the campaign and battle giant monsters and evil mechs or go online and battle other mech pilots.  The battles take place in arenas with tons of destructible buildings and the whole game has a really awesome tilt shift style that makes it look you are controlling mech action figures come to life. 

You control the mech’s arms and legs via the shoulder buttons and triggers of your controller, with the shoulders operating your left and right arms and the triggers controlling your left and right leg.  You can hold them down for a charged up attack and you can perform unique specials when a meter is full and you hold down another button (X on the Xbox Controller) with the shoulder or trigger.  If you really want to get crazy, there’s a party mode where you and up to three other friends can all control one part of the mech and have to work together to move and fight.  I love the look, feel and overall anime/kaiju movie vibe of this game and it reminds me a lot of one of my favorite hidden gems on the PS2, War of the Monsters.  The game is out now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC and if you like giant mechs, kaiju and massive destruction, definitely check it out.

Energy Cycle Edge (Chris):  Sometimes You present a new puzzle title called Energy Cycle Edge, a revamped sequel to Energy Cycle. In this game, players will have to switch through colored cells to complete a solid set of one single color. Every time a cell is cycled through cells horizontally and vertically will also change. Similar to a Rubik’s cube, picking a cell to cycle will greatly change how to approach the solution.

While it looks very simple, the gameplay can be very challenging in the beginning. There are no tutorials to ease the player into the experience, just 44 challenges that the player can complete. Each challenge slightly grows in complexity, but all require some sort of trial and errors to figure out the best solutions. The first set of challenges introduces the concepts of the switching colors and matching mechanics. The later sets add a three-dimensional plane that the player has to keep track up, requiring the puzzle to be rotated a few times to see all the available cells.

My first few playthroughs needed more time than I would have liked, but once I figured out the patterns, I began to understand the flow of the game. Rushing into cells and swapping through colors can be very frustrating since the game does offer any hints or clues that you are doing things correctly. Each challenge has a certain pattern to find, and it really taxes the memory to remember each step carefully. Some moments require a lot of pre-planning to switch colors in areas early, so when you change around a cell, all the rows will align correctly. However, there is still a possibility that you could be doing all the incorrect movement and won’t know it until its too late.

Energy Cycle Edge tries to balance a clever puzzle mechanic with simple resources that rely solely on the player’s patience. There’s are a handful of moments where it feels very satisfying to work out a problem to the end, but at the cost from having to repetitively try out a lot of combinations. The ambient music does try to relax the player, but it can’t repair all the frustrating game play. This budgeted title doesn’t revolutionize any new gameplay experiences, but it could interest gamers that are in the market for a small puzzle game to pass the time. Energy Cycle Edge was released on the Nintendo Switch on December 5th.

Omensight (Zach): Available on PS4 and PC, Omensight actually hits Switch today (12/13) with a new Definitive Edtion giving you everything that’s been added to the game since it’s original launch.  Coming from Spearhead Games, the developers who brought us what I thought was one of the best games of 2016, Stories: Path of Destinies, which was a Choose Your Own Adventure style action/adventure where you replayed scenarios to learn new story clues and eventually get the best ending in the game.  Omensight shares that replay gameplay but takes it’s cues more from Majora’s Mask, as you attempt to solve a murder by rewinding time and playing the same day multiple times, learning new clues every time.  You play as The Harbinger, a spirtual warrior who appears when the world is on the brink of ending.  A war between two kingdoms is raging and a giant world devouring serpeant is unleashed and the priestess who could contain it was murdered.  The Harbinger has to use her advanced combat skills and her ability to bond with certain characters’ souls to figure out who killed the priestess and stop it from happening.

Combat in the game feels very Arkham inspired, you’ll engage multiple enemies at once and use a dodge move to avoid enemy attacks.  The Harbinger has a number of fantastic special abilities, including a projectile attack, the ability to create a bubble of slowed down time and a push/pull grab move.  As you complete each day’s play through, you return to a central hub and can get upgrades and improve your skills and then determine your next move and which character you will join back in time.  The plot is interesting and the murder mystery/time travel element plus the excellent combat makes Omensight another great game from Spearhead.  If you played Stories and enjoyed it as much as I did, Omensight takes everything that game did and makes it deeper and better.

Rapture Rejects (Zach & Chris): Coming from TinyBuild and Cyanide & Happiness, Rapture Rejects is a top-down, isometric entry into the massively popular Battle Royale genre. Set during a biblical rapture, your character is one of the wicked rabble left on earth, doomed to wander around while everything goes to shit. As Hell begins to close in, your only hope to make it into the cloudy paradise is to take out all the other sinners and impress God by being the last man standing, granting you a pass into Heaven. Cyanide & Happiness’ distinctive style is on full display in everything from the character creator to the weapons. There are tons of customization items to make your character stand-out and the world definitely feels like the webcomic come to life. The weaponry has a bizarre spin on typical weapons like a compost gun or a gumball machine gun or an F-word grenade. There are helpful power-ups items to aid in battles like roller blades and a cardboard box disguise. These extra items give a slight edge when taking on enemies or avoiding trouble for a short time. 

The gameplay is similar to a twin-stick shooter with lots of weapons to experiment with. The camera can be rotated around to see all around the player in a small window, so you can properly prepare to attack from all angles. Currently, the game is in early access, so a few issues are present. Mainly the low player count makes matchmaking a bit on the long side. There were times when we were in the map with only 1 other player, which is definitely not what you want from the Battle Royale genre. As the game gets future updates, we hope more players will jump on and other options will be allowed. In a sea of Battle Royale games, this is one of the few that isn’t a first-person shooter and focuses on arcade-style fun, without the need to waste time dancing around. If you are a fan of C&H and enjoy the chaotic fights of battle royales, definitely check it out to get that player count up.

Woodpunk (Chris): The power of wood, steel and gun powder is put to the test in Meteorbyte Studios and Libredia Entertainment’s twin-stick action shooter Woodpunk. Players will take up the role of Aquinas, a brilliant inventor in the 13th century. He takes a job offer to work for Maria Di Medici, developing weapons for her family. But once Aquinas realizes the Medici’s plan to conquer the world, Aquinas sabotages the weapons laboratory and almost perishes in the destruction. Luckily, Aquinas’ robot assistant Theo manages to save Aquinas with wooden parts. Now half man, half wood, Aquinas is a woodborg. Enhanced to handle a wide array of weapons, and joined by Theo at his side, Aquinas begins his quest to take down Maria Di Medici before her terror spreads.

Woodpunk follows in the steps of popular shoot’em ups and roguelike games, with tons of difficult enemies, randomly generated levels and lots of options for upgrades to unlock. Aquinas is able to fight with two types of attacks: melee weapons for short range combat and projectiles for long range shooting. Melee weapons are good for enemies that stand still for a moment and try to shoot at you. Projectile weapons are essential for picking off hordes of enemies at a safe distance. Enemies armed with melee weapons will try to rush Aquinas, quickly surrounding him and can easily overwhelm the player with their numbers. Enemies shooting at Aquinas will typical pepper in some shots from a longer range. Switching between the two in the heat of battle when facing off against certain enemies will make or break rounds. While Aquinas is battling it out, Theo will be nearby collecting dropped gear parts from defeated enemies and developing new weapons for the player to swap out if they choose. Every gear collect goes towards unlocking upgrades for Aquinas and his weapons, and the weapons generated by Theo are randomized with stats unlocked by the player. There’s a chance of risk when taking weapons from Theo. Sometimes he will give you a good weapon with awesome stats, or a crappy weapon with a lot of downgrades.

Meteorbyte Studios only offers a simple tutorial in the first moment of gameplay to get adjusted to the game. After that, its all up to player skill and the selected upgrades to survive the rest. Undoubtedly there will be many player deaths, sending Aquinas back to the beginning of each world, no matter how far into the waves they progressed. The game does reward players that managed to clear a world with lots of customization to build a stronger player and take on harder levels. By unlocking more tiers in the technology tree, Aquinas can increase his damage outputs, his weapon usage, health points, and a few upgrades for Theo. Woodpunk is wildly fun and offers a great challenge for fans that love the chaos of swarms of enemies and bullets. The combat is playfully intense with enemies rushing out in all directions and the stage crumbling apart from the mayhem. Bodies are tossed around, trees are set on fire and debris is flying all around. Meteorbyte Studios has been working on Woodpunk since 2016 and their dedication to intense action gameplay shines in their work. Woodpunk was released for PC on November 5th, 2018.

The Textorcist Beta-Testorcist (Zach): Arriving in 2019, we got the chance to check out a beta version of The Textorcist, coming from Morbidware and Headup Games.  You play Ray Bibbia, a hard-boiled exorcist who wields a magical book that you will type phrases from, which allows you to attack the various demons and enemies you’ll face off with.  The big twist though is that your enemies are not just going to stand still while you type and will launch bullet-hell level projectile patterns at you, so you’ll have to type fast or stop and dodge to avoid losing your book and getting damaged. 

It feels a bit like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time and it’s also unlike anything I think I’ve ever played before.  There’s a great risk/reward to trying to finish the passages and being forced to pause your typing and avoid danger.  Things get even crazier later when when Ray starts using Latin phrases.  The game has a great sense of humor and pixel art style and it will definitely be a game that anyone looking for a unique challenge is going to want to keep on their radar for next year.

The friends of Ringo Ishikawa (Chris):  Inspired by the classic beat’em up game River City Ransom and taking notes from Sega’s Yakuza series, game development studio Yeo created The friends of Ringo Ishikawa, a retro action adventure game. In the game, players will control Ringo Ishikawa, a Japanese high school senior and leader of a small group of delinquent friends. For his high school career, Ringo has been a delinquent and preferred challenging rival gangs instead of focusing on his education. But when life begins to change for the group of five friends, their decisions and actions will determine what happens next in their future.

At first glance, The friends of Ringo Ishikawa appears to be a simple 2D beat’em up, but there is a surprising amount of complex gameplay. There is a focus on an open narrative experience where the player is able to determine how to shape Ringo’s story. The small town where Ringo lives has many intersecting communities and relationships. Ringo and his friends can decide to clean up their behavior or become part of the problems in the streets. At the start of the game, players can lead Ringo to fulfill his duties as a student or power himself up as a powerful fighter. Ringo has many stats that can leveled up by studying, fighting or even relaxing with friends. There is a set time limit to what Ringo can do per day, and every in game moment determines what kind of future Ringo will be heading.

There are many areas to explore and side missions to uncover as Ringo figures out what he wants for his future. Between going to school, training, hanging out with friends, and, of course, fighting, this game throws a lot at the player for them to manage at once. However, the retro visuals paired with the chill, lo-fi soundtrack makes this a relaxing game experience. The first few moments may be very vague with the directions as there are no real tutorials or obvious indicators to guide the player. The game drops you into the shoes of Ringo and wishes you the best of luck. But after figuring out the routines, the social dynamics and some directions you can take, the game begins to greatly open up. Gamers looking for an entertaining anime inspired story, with a few nods to classic franchises should take a look at The friends of Ringo Ishikawa on PC today and a Nintendo Switch port scheduled for 2019.

Pig Eat Ball (Chris): Zach had previously reviewed this title back in September and now I got the chance to experience this game for myself.  Nathan Fouts presents a topsy-turvy action puzzler in Pie Eat Ball, a hybrid of arcade style mechanics with physics based challenges. In the story mode, players take control of Princess Bow, a space pig princess that has been arranged to wed anyone that wins a galactic contest of skill. Determined to fight for her own freedom, the princess disguises herself and participates in the games. Now Princess Bow will have to navigate through traps, eat tennis balls, puke and bash her way in order to avoid being a prized bride. 

The gameplay is a clever mixture of elements that oddly fit together. The top down perspective, with the twin-stick control scheme, and the mixture of offensive and defensive abilities makes this game a strange adventure with physics. There are a handful of challenge objectives that involve Princess Bow collecting a certain amount of balls, destroying objects within a time limit or be the best eater in a round. The mechanic of eating and vomiting balls sounds gross, but it works within the game’s difficulty. Eating a lot of balls causes Princess Bow to grow, making it harder to move around but easier to bulldoze opponents. She can vomit balls as projectiles to freak out her enemies and guide balls into certain areas. Its an interesting mechanic with crude humor and quickly becomes a fun hectic mess. Gamers that love quirky games will be drawn to the art style and engrossing puzzle changes and should find the charm and fun in Pie Eat Ball very quickly.  Pie Eat Ball is out now for Steam with an Xbox One and PS4 version coming soon. 


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