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Gamebox 2.0: Games of June 2020

Summer has arrived and with it, a fresh batch of titles to try out when the weather gets too hot to hang around outside. We played through some interesting games that started a revolution, confronted nightmares, unleashed a hail of bullets against mutants, and more.  Read on to hear our thoughts on these games.

Liberated (Chris): A city under mass surveillance, a police captain trying to keep order and a revolutionary group bent on sparking change. Developed by Atomic Wolf and L.INC, and published by Walkabout, Liberated is a dystopian cyberpunk action-adventure title that follows different characters undergoing a revolt against an authoritarian regime. Set in the near future, a governmental program has been monitoring the public for every activity. Looking to remove the repression, the Liberated, a resistance group, want to open the public’s eye to the truth.

Liberated is presented as a mixed experience that makes it an interactive motion comic. The story is told through comic panels, following each panel unfolding more of the story and new levels to interact with. Some panels have quick-time events or simple button prompts, which was a nice feature that makes the player be actively engaged while reading.

The gameplay follows traditional action 2D-platformer mechanics and some puzzle elements. Players will move characters down a mostly linear path to the end of the level, jumping and climbing the occasional obstacle. The combat focuses on shooting and some stealth. The gun is aimed with the right stick, giving a wide arc to point from, and unlimited ammo. The stealth selections allow the player to get close to enemies and get a silent kill. Early levels use this to make the player feel outnumber and outgunned, which adds some tension to slowly move around the level. However, later levels kind of ignore the stealth element with little incentive to be quiet. So it’s faster to go run-and-gun, which ruins some of the pressure to the moment.

The world of Liberated is suspenseful and gritty, and the comic book appearance is visually intriguing. But a few gameplay issues hamper this rebellious experience. The stealth and puzzle portions are small and aren’t utilized enough in the game. The different perspectives of the story are nice but lack variety when it comes to gameplay. Different weapons and abilities would have made the characters stand out a bit better. Overall, it’s a neat game that has a unique delivery. There’s a great cinematic presentation and interesting characters to follow.  There are lots of creative ideas that needed to be explored to give this a more satisfying time. Liberated is now available for Switch and will be coming to PC later this year.

Fury Unleashed (Zach): Combining elements of rogue-like RPGs and run and gun classics like Metal Slug, Fury Unleashed from Awesome Games Studio is a fantastic new action game where you’re literally playing through the pages of a comic book.  You take on the role of Fury, a comic book action hero who battles his way through different issues of his comic, taking on undead armies in a jungle, mechanical menaces in an industrial area, and more.  Each “comic” is procedurally generated, so each playthrough is going to be completely different.  You get to see the layout of the two pages you are currently on and your main goal is to work your way through to the exit and move on to the next area but you are definitely rewarded for exploring beyond the main, straight forward path.  You can discover new gear and weapons and characters who can sell you items, offer up a challenge, or give you a temporary or permanent stat boost.  As you progress, you encounter a character named Mister Doodle, who starts to reveal the truth of the world and gives you glimpses into the personal life of the Fury Unleashed comic’s creator.

The action is fast, smooth, and tight and you never feel floaty or unable to shoot what you are aiming at.  The game utilizes the right stick to aim and the left stick to move and Fury is able to double jump and dash, which gives you more control and movement options.  One of the biggest selling points besides the tight gameplay is the incredible graphics.  Imagine all the coolest comics you’ve ever read smashed together into one game and that’s Fury Unleashed‘s art style.  The game leans completely into its comic book aesthetic, even utilizing “ink” as the currency to buy upgrades while in the levels and also after you die, where you have to restart the comic from the beginning but you can build up permanent upgrades that carry over between runs and can let you last longer.  As a cherry on top, you can play the game in co-op with a buddy as well.  With an awesome art style, fantastic music, and incredibly tight controls, Fury Unleashed is a must-play for run and gun with the added complexity and challenge of the rogue-like genre.  It’s out now on Steam, Xbox One, PS4, and Switch.

Neversong (Chris): Charming and eerie, Neversong is a stunning indie title that plays with emotions like a fine-tuned instrument. Developed by Atmosgames with a partnership by Serenity Forge, Neversong is a 2D adventure game. The story follows a young boy named Peet and his attempt to rescue his girlfriend Wren. Peet awakens from a coma in his hometown of Redwind Village, with trouble remembering his past. As Peet starts his journey, he discovering that all the adults have gone missing and a dark presence has taken over the area.

Neversong has a narrative that is told as a first-person fable. At the start of the game, the levels feel innocent and quirky. There are plucky children roaming a mostly empty village, naive he unusual situation. However, it isn’t long until Peet encounters increasingly unsettling things. Strange spider creatures, mutated humanoid bugs, and a man named Dr. Smile, who taunts Peet with the kidnapped Wren. This all plays well on Peet’s dreamlike position. The imaginative setting and characters interpret a compelling message.

The gameplay is heavily inspired by titles like Legend of Zelda and Castlevania. Peet can jump across platforms, swing from ropes, and crawl into tight spaces. He is given a baseball bat as a weapon to fight enemies and it is also used to smack open objects. Combat is light and simple. Enemies easily telegraph their attacks and Peet is pretty nimble to bouncy dodge. There are additional items and upgrades that give Peet more abilities and access to new areas to explore. Later parts of the game use the newer abilities for boss fights and incorporate the mechanics pretty well.

Neversong isn’t a very complex game, but its atmosphere packs a strong punch. The visuals and sounds capture a whimsical fantasy, that all blend well with the mature themes. The game is on the short side but is well-paced to the experience. The game introduces a good mix of puzzles, with little handholding. But some issues stem from unclear objectives or mildly frustrating physics troubles. Overall, Neversong is a very condensed adventure game but leaves a great impression on the brief experience. Neversong is available for Steam, Apple Arcade, and coming to consoles soon.

Tetris Effect (Zach): One of the most acclaimed games of 2018, Tetris Effect has finally arrived on Oculus Quest, bringing the visual extravaganza to the most portable VR platform out there.  Developed by Enhance and officially licensed by The Tetris Company, Tetris Effect features the classic Tetris gameplay you’ve come to expect over the last three decades or so since the OG version came out in the 80s but it’s now backed by an incredible combination of visual and audio that is unlike any other version of the game.  Playing the main mode, Journey, you progress through different areas, each one with a drastically different look and feel.  There are extremely chill ones like “Deep Sea” to frantically paced ones like “Ritual Passion”.  Your main goal is to achieve 36 lines on each area and then progress to the next area and eventually clear all the areas to finish the level.  The layout of the Tetris field remains between areas, so if you just barely survive one area, you are probably not going to last long in the next one.  If you fail, you can restart the current area, but you’ll lose all the combo and score you built up from the previous levels, which will affect your grade for the overall level and also the experience you gain that will let you level up and unlock more modes and bonuses.

Every move and action you do in Tetris Effect contributes to the audio/visual presentation and as you progress in each area, the music and effects become more and more elaborate.  It can be a little overwhelming at times and could cause you to screw up a piece placement but unless you’re obsessed with getting the best score, this version of Tetris is all about enjoying the ride and letting the audio and visuals wash over you.  In VR, the effects are even more immersive and surround you as you play.  In the aforementioned “Deep Ocean”, you’ll start to see celestial stingrays and whales start to swim around you as the song playing during the level starts to fill in.  Besides the main Journey mode, you can replay any area you’ve beaten and there are also Effect Modes, which lets you experience a specific mood as you play, like relaxed or adventurous.  Tetris Effect doesn’t do anything to change the eternally classic Tetris gameplay and if you’re some kind of lunatic who doesn’t like Tetris, this probably won’t convert you but if you love Tetris and want to experience it as you’ve never experienced it before, Tetris Effect is definitely something to seek out, especially if you are lucky enough to have a VR headset.  Tetris Effect is out now on Oculus Quest, PS4, PSVR, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift.

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