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Gamebox 2.0: I Love the 90s Edition

Gamebox 2.0 is back for another round of gaming goodness. This time around, we explored a few games that are dedicated to bringing back dope times of the 80s and 90s. We played a few titles were inspired by past pop culture like the 80s cop show inspired Beat Cop and the 90’s-era PC titles found in Rad Rogers. Zach even played a title that mimicked navigating through early web sites designed by Angelfire/Geocities. The dark ages before HTML5 made everything easier to read. Check out everything we’ve played since the last Gamebox below.

Hypnospace Outlaw (Zach) I played the beta version of Hypnospace Outlaw from Tendershoot and No More Robots a while ago but the full version came out this week on Steam and the full game is even more wonderfully bizarre than I expected. The premise of the game is that software company Merchantsoft has developed a new online network called Hypnospace. Hypnospace has users access the net while they are sleeping and they can create personal pages, sell products and more.  You have volunteered as an “Enforcer” who monitors pages and reports any violations of the Hypnospace rules. You will get e-mails from the Enforcer HQ with specific items to look out for, like a user who is harassing other users or people using illegal currency and then you’ll have to use the Hypnospace search engine and start digging around people’s pages.

Once you think you’ve found an offending part of someone’s page, you’ll select what type of violation it is and flag it and, if you’re correct, you’ll get some Hypnocoins as a reward. Each case you take on has a certain amount of violations needed to close it but any additional violations will get you a bonus. All the pages are straight out of the 90s and if you spent any time on the web, specifically on places like Geocities or Angelfire, you are going to be overwhelmed by nostalgia as Hypnospace Outlaw perfectly recreates the look and feel of those sites, making them full of terrible text colors, overuse of animated gifs, autoplaying music and more.  As you explore, you’ll find a bunch of software you can download to your Hypnospace OS but, in another throwback to the 90s Internet, they are usually filled with viruses like the Banzai Buddy parodying Hypnospace Professor. Things get progressively weirder as you are allowed into more areas of Hypnospace and become the target of hackers who don’t appreciate you working for the man. Hypnospace Outlaw is a wholly unique experience that really needs to be experienced for yourself. If you have any nostalgia for the 90s era of the internet and like things on the Tim & Eric side of comedy, definitely check out Hypnospace Outlaw.

Rad Rodgers: Radical Edition (Chris): Slipgate Studios brings all of the fun of 90s gaming without the need to boost up floppy disks. Slipgate Studios, 3D Realms, and THQ Nordic present Rad Rogers: Radical Edition, an enhanced version of the critically praised title that brought the nostalgic sense of being a 90s gamer. The game makes its way to Switch and as an update to the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Steam. Rad Rogers follows Rad Rogers, a spunky child who gets sucked into his video game console after a long night of playing. Landing in the digital world, he is greeted by his console, Dusty. The pair find the jungle land to be overrun by evil inhabitants and glitches that have been corrupting the lands. The Elder Tree has lost control and a sinister group has taken over. Rad and Dusty team up to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and they didn’t bring any bubblegum. But in the Radical Edition, maybe their new partners did. Joining Rad and Dusty are 3D Realm characters Duke Nukem, Lo Wang, Cosmo and Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison. Together, the team will unload bullets, flames, and lasers into every baddie they come across and restore order to the world.

The gameplay returns to a simple run and gun platformer, with tons of enemies to shoot at while navigating the maze-like stages. The objective of most levels is to grab four pieces of a portal cog that are scattered through the level. Enemies and obstacles will be waiting for the player and you will need an itchy trigger finger and some quick thinking to get around the place. There are collectibles to find like gems and special items, and a timer to beat. There will usually be a challenge that involves the Pixelverse, a parallel space that exists in the game realm. Dusty will travel into the Pixelverse to correct glitches and open up new areas within the level. Rad Rogers checks off a ton of features gamers want from a game that pays homage to classic PC titles from the 90s. Lots of gun options, dirty humor, tough guy one-liners and overloaded visuals that take up the screen. There are some issues with running around the levels very quickly. It will take a few levels to figure out what is safe to jump on and how tricky some of the platform jumps are. At times, the gameplay encourages an urge to rush through the level, but sometimes taking it slower can avoid a lot of trouble.

Radical Edition brings a ton of new features that should entertain returning players. New characters add some new attacks to dish out, but not alter the game in a huge way. Co-op mode lets two players go guns blazing, covering the screens with even more glowing light. There are some rough areas in the game that makes it kind of annoying to deal with. Some of the platform jumps can be tricky and the bonus levels feel a little on the cheap side. The Pinball and Pogo mini-games add some variety to the gameplay, but aren’t as detailed like the game levels. The game doesn’t take itself seriously and plays up the retro factor for humor. It’s great to see cartoony 3D models, spew out curse words and graphic details. Rad Rodgers: Radical Edition is great for gamers that are looking for an entertaining action title to play with friends and get a few laughs while remembering the golden years of their childhood.

(Zach): Rad Rodgers has been out on PC, PS4 and Xbox One for a while but it just recently hit Switch as well with the “Radical Edition” of the game (If you had any of the prior versions, the Radical Edition arrived as a free content update). The game is a throwback to 90s run and gun platformers like Jazz Jackrabbit and you play as the titular Rad Rodgers (or possibly now guest characters like Duke Nukem or Lo Wang) as he’s sucked into his TV Captain N style and must fight his way through the video game world with the help of his living video game console Dusty. Dusty provides a powerful attack and can also assist with climbing and platforming while Rad fights enemies with an array of weapons. Each level requires that you find 4 pieces of the exit portal in order to clear it. The levels are pretty big and open, with multiple paths leading off leading to the pieces and other bonuses.  At times, Dusty will have to enter a glitch in the game and navigate The Pixelverse in order to clear an obstacle or readd platforms that were not programmed properly.

I don’t mind exploring open-ended levels but my personal preference for old school inspired platformers is for it to be more linear at first, then have additional optional items to find, such as the big golden coins in Mario games. The level design in Rad Rodgers is also kind of confusing at times. It’s sometimes hard to tell what is dangerous and what isn’t. There’s also some physics-based obstacles like rope swinging or getting giant logs to start moving, that feels absolutely atrocious. At times it feels like those parts were added in as an afterthought. There are bonus levels between the main levels on the world map and these including activities like playing pinball or riding a pogo stick but they don’t feel particularly polished either. The character quips also get a little tedious at times, they are funny the first time you hear them but they get more annoying the more you hear them. Rad Rodgers is a solid shooter and platformer with some rough edges but there’s definitely tighter and better feeling throwback games available.

Beat Cop (Zach): We played Beat Cop from 11-bit studios back in 2016 at PAX East and it was released on PC in 2017 but the 80s police action has finally arrived on consoles.  Inspired by 80s cop shows and movies, Beat Cop puts you in the shoes of hotshot detective Jack Kelly. Investigating a break-in at a senator’s house, Jack shoots a suspect and finds valuables stolen from a safe.  Jack is suspected of murdering an accomplice and keeping the valuables, so he’s demoted back to a beat cop and assigned a block of the city to patrol each day. Playing as Jack, you play through each day of his beat and you usually have some sort of quota to meet as far as parking tickets for things like parking violations, bad tires or non-working lights.  While you are patrolling, events will pop up from the various shopkeepers or from dispatch and the main choice of the game is what you are going to deal with each day. If you don’t meet your quota, you’ll be punished when you are scored at the end of the day but if you ignore events to give out tickets, you could miss out on a big reward or a key piece of the story, so you have to decide what is important and you can’t do everything.

There’s a bunch of colorful characters on Jack’s beat who run the various stores and there’s a gang war that’s brewing between the Italians and African-Americans, who run things on opposite ends of the street. Along with the quota and crime-stopping, Jack also has a reputation meter with each of the aforementioned groups, which goes up and down depending on what he says and does to them. The days go by fairly quickly and it’s definitely addictive to try and do one more day to see what will happen and then be a virtual week in before you even realize it. There are tons of references to 80s pop culture and there are specific things that happen during some days, like having to escort a Soviet cop around Red Heat-style. Beat Cop is a fun adventure that has a story that will keep you interested and a gameplay loop that, if it gets its hooks into you, will keep you playing much longer than you expected. It’s out on PC and now Switch, Xbox One, PS4 and also iOS and Android, with the mobile versions being a “try before you buy” model.

Yumenikki: Dream Diary (Chris) Game developer Kadokawa brings a re-imagining to the indie game Yume Nikki with Yumenikki: Dream Diary. Working with original developer KIKIYAMA and published by Playism, Dream Diary is a horror adventure title that tells the story of a young girl named Madotsuki as she explores her dream landscapes. However, these are not happy dreams. Madotsuki has built up a world that is based on reality but is filled with many terrors. Hidden in the dark, monsters lurk around every corner, walls block pathways and nightmares start to feel like reality. In order to understand her dream, Madotsuki will visit six levels to collect items and uncover the meaning behind her surreal fantasy.

Players will take control of Madotsuki, leading her down vacant streets, darkened sewer tunnels and snowy planes. In the beginning, Madotsuki can only run and jump but later can perform some interactions with special equipment. However, the game is focused on exploration and experimenting with the background. Don’t expect this to be an action or survival horror. There are creatures that will come after Madotsuki and the best option is to always run away from them. There is a knife attack but it usually is inefficient.

Like the original game, there is no real explanation about the purpose of Madotsuki’s dream. The game does not guide the player much, making the players go through trial and error with items, and backtracking through stages. While it does not follow the original title with all the level designs, it does put in some effort to mimic some of the unsettling visuals. What I liked about the game is the slow pacing that sprinkles in a few creepy sights to make sure I’m paying attention. But some of the gameplay makes it a chore to deal with. Some levels need multiple visits to figure out the correct solution, and spamming items until something clicks is what I spend most of my time on.

Dream Diary is a unusual experience that makes the game feel more like an interpretative work than a game with formal structure. The game might look modernized, but it has a retro feel that makes the game a little difficult to play. The non-linear narrative and the confusing hints make it frustrating for some gamers to easily pick up and play. The game delivers some mild frights, but not at a mainstream pace. The game plays around with surreal imagery and surreal gameplay. Dream Diary is meant for gamers that enjoy David Lynch style horror and can appreciate nuances of an indie developed title. Yumenikki: Dream Diary was released February 23rd on PC and Nintendo Switch.

Degrees of Separation: (Chris)  When the flame guardian Ember meets the wintry hero Rime, the two will journey together to save their realms from disappearing and discover a deep bond that connects the opposing forces. Moondrop and Modus Games presents Degrees of Separation, a 2D puzzle platformer where the powers of fire and ice will unite to overcome great challenges. The story follows Ember and Rime, guardians with the powers of fire and ice, that live in different worlds but are able to connect in a single realm. Their abilities allow them to change the environment and can alter barriers. Ember and Rime team up after a strange event brings them together and they journey deeper into the world to find answers.

Degrees of Separation lets the player play as both characters by switching control at certain points, or in co-op mode that lets two players control Ember and Rime. The story is the same in both modes, but the gameplay varies with a partner. The game focuses on utilizing Ember and Rime’s unique powers and their teamwork. Ember can heat up and melt away objects. Rime can freeze and form objects. Players will have to figure out where to move characters in certain positions and how best to navigate the levels. Rime can stand on frozen water, while Ember can swim in the same body of water to reach a cove. There will be plenty of exchanging positions and placement in order to open up pathways through the level.

The game flows beautifully like a fairy tale, with narration spoken every few moments about the actions on screen. The narrator elegantly describes actions and emotions, creating a relaxing tone while solving puzzles. The artwork compliments the story, creating a wonderful fantasy setting which feels alive with the warm glow of summer, or frozen by the ice touch of winter. Playing the game in multiplayer or single player is still a fun experience, but having a friend helps move the characters faster. Or it can slow things down if the other player can’t figure out the logical steps. This game comes highly recommended for fans of puzzle co-op and for a gamer to give their non-gaming friends or loved ones. Degrees of Separation was released on February 14th, for the PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Steam.

Pacify: (Chris) When the Paranormal Activity Helpers Incorporated goes to investigates a creepy, ruined mansion, they will encounter a ghostly girl that has decided to make everyone a playmate. Pacify is an FPS horror title where players try to quickly put a ghost to rest or suffer being turned into a doll for the ghost to keep forever. Players will assume the role of an agent of the Paranormal Activity Helpers Incorporated as they try to unlock doors, obtain items and escape the ghost as fast as possible. But the ghost is not going to let you get away that easily. She will be stalking the agents, waiting to strike and zap them into dolls. Its a race against the ghost as the agents try to find all the materials to escape.

Pacify can be played in single player or multiplayer with four players, trying to survive a deadly encounter with the mysterious ghost girl. The paranormal agents find a mysterious note that tells them to unlock doors. Scattered through the level are keys and dolls, some dolls will have special markings. The marked dolls must be collected and burned, causing the ghost some distress. However, tossing normal dolls will distract her for a moment. The ghost girl will wander between rooms but can become agitated and chase the players. Lucky, the ghost isn’t quiet and will make some terrifying sounds to let players know she is nearby. The players do not have any weapons, so most of the gameplay is running away from the ghost most of the time.

The game only has one level, taking place inside a mansion with 3 floors and many connecting rooms. The single player experience makes the game harder since the lone player has to hunt down the keys and dolls by themselves. With a team, its a bit easier to spread out and hunt for items, making the ghost chase more targets. In multiplayer, the game is not over for players that have been turned into a doll. They can make it to a basement respawn point to be turned back to normal. However, it is still hard for everyone to find all the items and not be all turned into dolls at the end.

Pacify feels like a giant fetch quest mixed with a supernatural game of tag. The game causes panic and some chilling moments, making players fearful to enter any room. The plot is minimalistic, favoring the gameplay over the narrative. The game works best in multiplayer as a fun game to play with friends, but can still be enjoyable in the single player for a gamer looking for a challenge. For a budget indie title, the game doesn’t disappoint but doesn’t offer much replayability. The gameplay experience varies on the people you play with and is recommended for gamers that are looking for a quick fright. Pacify was released on February 22 for Steam.

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