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Gamebox 2.0: Games of August 2020

Posted on August 13, 2020 by

The games we played were as fiery as the weather this August. We ate and ran through tasty enemies, collected DNA in the 50s, and wielded giant weapons as crab monsters. We got our hands on action-packed games, plus a title that helped us relax in this month of reviews in the Gamebox.

Bite the Bullet (Chris) – Mega Cat Studios and Graffiti Games want gamers to build up their appetite for destruction in Bite the Bullet, a 2D roguelike RPG shooter that combines classic run and gun action and the gluttony hunger of a buffet. When the Earth was left in ruins by cataclysmic events, mankind took to space to rebuild. Generations later, the powerful science company DarwinCorps looks to harvest the DNA of creatures that have re-populated Earth. Two mercenaries, Chewie and Chewella, are hired to collect the precious genetic material by any stomach space available. Chewie and Chewella will chomp and shoot their way across an endless horde of mutants, robots, and many unappetizing critters to get their payday.

The plot of Bite the Bullet has a twist on the post-apocalyptic future since it has been awful for the creatures on a decaying Earth, and not for the main characters. As only the select few were able to escape and rebuild, Bite the Bullet focuses on the side that wants to return to Earth and clean up the place. Chewie and Chewella are fine with Earth being a kind of dumpster fire as long as there’s plenty of things to chow down on. It’s a tough business being a mercenary, but the catering is pretty good.

The gameplay follows in the steps of the run-and-gun shooters like Contra and Metal Slugs but has a unique eating mechanic that makes the experience more focused than mindless shooting.  The mercenaries need calories, protein, and fat to fuel their rampage, all of which can be replenished in the heat of combat. All the movement and combat will deplete precious calories, protein, and fat. Not having enough of one category will affect combat. Practically everything in the game is food and can be eaten. Enemies that are stunned can be consumed, adorable living food power-ups can be gulped down, and even projectiles can be snacked on. All of their nutrition will energize the mercs, but eating too much will alter Chewie and Chewella. They can be built up to be a hulking meathead or a chunky tank based on their diet.

There’s a diet system that is pretty intricate to the gameplay that makes players mindful of what they eat. Enemies and power-ups have stats that give different benefits depending on which dietary alignment is chosen. Mega Cat Studios even involved a collection of real-life competitive eater and chefs in the development to get the food elements just right. Typically, plant-based foods give low calories and low fat, while meat-based foods will give high protein and higher calories.  And certain saturated foods like a bucket of mayo or a super protein shake will boost one specific nutritional group.  The diet system can be upgraded to tailor the player’s experience in what they eat.

There are four main skill trees to build up that give buffs for eating certain food groups. It comes down to choosing to eating like vegan/vegetarian, binging on only organic grub, stuffing your face on only meat, or devour everything in sight. This adds some strategy in approaching combat, making the player think on which enemies to gun down or gobble up. The calories, protein, and fat levels are also used to level up their weaponry. By eating spoiled, rotten, or infected foods that will get the mercs to barf and allow weapons can be modified. Weapons can be configured with randomized stats for damage output and defensive capabilities. Eating also builds up a zombie meter that can be used to transform the mercs into an unstoppable machine, leaping and punching enemies into bit.

The game design definitely captures the spirit of classic shooters. Levels are sprawling, filled with tons of enemies and multiple passways and gigantic boss fights. The blend of retro and modern aesthetics are amazing. The pixelated artwork is pretty detailed, being close to looking like it’s running on the Neo Geo. There are lots of neat little animations that make the pixel work dynamic.  There are cool lighting and particle effects that enveloped the surroundings, accenting the old school graphics nicely. The score and sound effects are great, heavy metal and intense action is always a great combo. The enemies and power-ups have utter silly sounds that create a lively environment.

Bite the Bullet is a satiety game with lots of challenges to take on and quirky aspects to experience. There is a fun mix of fast-paced action with some tactical features that don’t make this a mindless shooter. The gameplay has a more traditional aiming mechanic, that only points in the direction you move towards. So the movement can’t be all over the place while the mercs shoot. Each level offers different objects and side quests, and rewards to keep multiple playthroughs. There was a slight slow down on the Switch version when there was a lot of action on screen, but could be later patched for optimization.  There’s a ton of charming features that make this game fun and there is a local co-op mode bring a friend along to share the carnage. The gameplay is pretty solid to bring in hungry gamers that will be looking for a second serving of action. Bite the Bullet was released on August 13th for the Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and Steam.

Destroy All Humans (Zach): 15 years after it first arrived on PS2 and Xbox, Destroy All Humans! is back on PS4, Xbox One and PC with a remastered version of the cult classic from THQNordic.  You take control of Crypto-137, an alien of the Furon Empire who has arrived on Earth in the 1950s looking to cause destruction and harvest human DNA.  Crypto has a wide variety of powers and weapons at his disposal, all of which you can upgrade with points you unlock for completing missions, collecting collectibles on missions, and going back to areas you’ve been to before and completing challenges.  Crypto has weapons like an electricity beam or a disintegrator ray that can turn humans into burning skeletons and mental abilities like telekinesis and the ability to disguise himself as a human with a hologram.  You can also scan human minds to see what kind of inane thoughts the denizens of the 1950s are having.  The minute to minute gameplay is fun and you can get into some great GTA style chaos if you want and throw humans around, burn them to the ground or get in your flying saucer and rain destruction from above but the pacing is definitely much slower than a lot of modern games.  The first few hours are basically an extended tutorial as each mission introduces a new mechanic or weapon and it takes much longer than you might expect to have your full arsenal of weapons and tools.

The voice acting and story is also something that hasn’t aged particularly well.  Crypto has a Jack Nicholsonesque voice that is kind of fun but the jokes and NPC dialogue are pretty rough and you can definitely tell this game came from a different era of gaming in that regard.  Visually though, the game looks fantastic and tons of effort has been put into making the game run and look great on modern systems.  Everything is crisp and sharp and the level of polish ranks it among some of the best recent remasters.  If you’re a fan of the original Destroy All Humans! this remaster is definitely something to check out because everything you loved is still here in a much prettier package but if you’ve never played the original, just be prepared for a slightly different pace and some rougher production aspects than you might be used to in the modern era.

 

Fight Crab (Chris) – Crustaceans warriors fight to find whose claws reign supreme. Developed by Calappa Games and published by PLAYISM, Fight Crab is a wacky 3D fighting game that puts players into the shells of battling crabs. But these crabs are pretty determined to be the best. They will use anything and everything they can pinch their claws on and swing it towards victory.

Fight Crab doesn’t have much of a plot to it, as the game design centers around how much ridiculous stuff can happen on screen at once. Fighting is a one-on-one battle, where two crabs will try to increase a damage meter of the other, weakening an opponent enough to flip them on their back. If an opponent can’t recover in three seconds, the match is over.

The player controls each of the claws of the crab and can move in stiff directions. The controls use a mix of quick button mashing and tank controls, reminiscent of something close to Sega’s Virtual On. The claws will be used to make swiping attacks or pinched together to block an opponent’s attack, and more importantly, grab weapons.

Weapons in the game are where the combat shines and makes the fighting wildly chaotic. There is a wide range of weaponry for the crabs to scoop up and wield. The arsenal includes swords, guns, and jet engines to make crabs ever so deadlier. Weapons like the swords and guns extend the reach of the attacks but are harder to use if an opponent gets up close. Weapons like the nunchaku and jet engines are great for close up combat but are a little harder to control.

The single-player experience is fun to learn all the basics and get antiquated with the weapons. There are fun little aspects like leveling the crab warriors and giving them default weapons to start. But the game is best played in the multiplayer modes. The Steam version has both online and split-screen co-op for two players. The online community is slow at the moment but is sure to have fans.

Fight Crab may lack the depth of traditional fighting games, but it draws players in with an imaginative premise. Plus there are enough silly details for players to stick around and see. Fight Crab works best with gamers that love quirky game experiences and want something off the beaten path. In this case, something from the deep end of the ocean. Fight Crab was released on Steam on July 30 and is coming to the Nintendo Switch this September 2020.

The Ambassador: Fractured Timelines (Zach): Coming from tinyDino Games and The Quantam Astrophysicists Guild, The Ambassador: Fractured Timelines is a twin-stick action game with old school pixel art that puts you in the shoes of Gregor, a newly designated sorcerer to the Eternal Fellowship.  After you complete your training, which includes learning how to stop time, you are thrust into a quest for answers when the Fellowship’s capital city is destroyed and you have to travel to different areas of the world and confront factions who may have been behind the attack.  Gregor has a magical staff that can shoot magical energy, although you have to keep an eye on your mana, and a melee weapon, which Gregor actually throws out no matter if it’s a sword, spear, hammer, etc.  Each melee weapon has different accuracy levels and speed, so as you collect them you can figure out which one works best for your play style.  For both the staff and melee weapon, you aim with the right stick and throw with a shoulder button.

Each area you explore has a good variety as far as the environments and also the enemies that you will encounter.  During your training mission, you’ll face off against some fairly simple zombies but as you move on, you’ll take on armored knights, teleporting assassins, archers, and more along with giant bosses.  Your main mission on each stage is to clear out all the enemies, which will trigger a portal to open.  When you get to the portal, your health and mana are refilled and you’ll be ready for the next level.  The game has some solid twin-stick gameplay and the throwable melee weapons offer up a unique spin on the typical attacks you would normally have in a game like this.  The pixel art is solid as well but it’s not quite as intricate or interesting as some other recent games that really pushed that art style forward.  The Ambassador: Fractured Timelines is out now on Switch, Xbox One and Steam.

Hellpoint (Zach): Coming from Cradle Games and tinyBuild Games, Hellpoint is an intensely difficult new action-RPG that is definitely for fans of the Souls series.  You play as “Spawn”, a creation of the mysterious Architect, who has awoken you on the derelict space station of Irid Novo to investigate what causes a mysterious event called The Merge.  Much like Dark Souls and it’s sequels and spin-offs, the story is not explicitly forced on you but you can start to piece things together as you travel around the station.  Whatever “The Merge” was, it seems to have caused numerous horrific creatures to inhabit the station and the combat should feel pretty comfortable for Souls veterans, as you have a light and strong attack where you have to be very aware of how the animation timing will play out and not overextend yourself, lest you will be vulnerable to a potentially killing attack from an enemy.  You also usually have a shield that you can use to block attacks and you can lock on to a particular enemy in order to focus your attacks and be able to watch them for your opportunity to attack.

The game has an awesome look where it’s sort of a mix of Gigeresque sci-fi and Clive Barker horror and you’ll encounter lots of different and interesting enemies, including some gigantic and intimidating bosses.  As you progress through Irid Novo, you’ll find lots of different weapons, both melee and ranged, and different armor and other equipment that you can equip.  You also find a currency called axiom that you use to level up your different traits, like health, strength and stamina.  You do this at tears in space-time and they act as the campfires did in Dark Souls, although they seem to be pretty far apart, which ramps up the difficulty of an already insanely difficult game.  This is definitely as hard, if not harder, than the Souls games and along with the combat and distance between checkpoints, there’s also the fact that you don’t just have to find your body if you die but you have to fight and defeat your former self in order to gain back experience from your previous run.  You can play the entire game in co-op with a friend, which may help make the game a little less difficult.  Hellpoint seems like it’s definitely something to check out for gamers who love the Souls games or are looking for an intense challenge in a cool sci-fi setting.  The game is out now on PS4, Switch, Xbox One and PC.

 

Find the Letter H (Chris) – Sometimes video games can be overstimulating to the mind and body, and you just need to zoom out. The stress from trying to overcome tough level designs or outwit opponents can make for frustrating moments. Snowrunnerproductions developed Find the Letter H, a experiential little project that wants gamers to just relax.

Just as the title says, the player is asked to find and click the letter “h” in floating random positions. All while listening to tranquil music and words of encouragement from a peaceful avatar. And that’s about it. Some people may wonder what the aspect of the “game” comes in, games aren’t necessarily about a test of skills but can be a form of meaningful expression. Find the Letter H just wants your attention long enough for people to soothe themselves. With that in mind, the game does the job nicely.

Find the Letter H is sort of like an artistic puzzle game, where the player is left to make sense of themselves after the experience. The hand-drawn artwork, soft music, and praising gives brings gamers nostalgic for simpler times. There is no complexity or challenge to the game, which will undoubtedly not appease a board audience. But for anyone who wants a juice box and some gentle banter, Find the Letter H is waiting for you. Find the Letter H is now available for PC on Steam and itch.io.

Primal Light (Zach): Coming from Fat Gem, Primal Light is a throwback to side-scrolling action platformers that feels like a lost game that could have been on the Sega Genesis.  You play as Krog, whose village was destroyed by a malevolent deity.  Krog has to set out and explore his ancient world and find 12 ancient artifacts that, combined, can destroy the deity and get justice for his people.  The game is an old-school side scroller and you’ll jump and attack your way through different levels.  There are lots of challenges that will test your platforming abilities and a wide range of enemies that will test your combat, although there is a bit of an annoyance with the amount of knockback from taking a hit, which sometimes will knock you into instant death pits.  Krog is armed with a knife that he can slash ahead or straight up and you’ll gain abilities as your progress that will let him do things like double jump, air dash, slide, and more and you can also heal yourself by hitting a button, but you only have a limited number of heals in each level.

The game has a great look and a very interesting and cool art style which really evokes a primitive, alien world and the music is also top-notch and calls to mind music from games like Primal Rage with lots of drumbeats and chanting.  If you enjoyed recent games like The Messenger or Shovel Knight, Primal Light isn’t quite as polished as those just because it’s coming from a much smaller team but it is a cool looking old-school throwback with some solid action and challenge.  It’s out now on Steam.

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockdown (Zach): The game that has taken the internet by storm, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockdown comes from Mediatonic and Devolver Digital and is a battle-royal party game we actually got to check out way back at PAX East earlier this year before the world shut down.  After creating your adorable little Fall Guy buddy, you will face off against 59 other players online through a series of different mini-games.  The games have basic categories like a race but the actual individual games vary wildly in terms of the obstacles you’ll face and strategy you need to use.  Your Fall Guy can run, jump, dive and grab and while it seems simple, you really have to get a feel for how they move and the timing in order to advance through the rounds.  Every completed round, a number of players are eliminated and the games progress until there are only a few players left who get to compete for the Crown.  Whoever gets the Crown first is the ultimate winner of that game.  Even if you get eliminated in the first round, you still make a little bit of progress as you’ll get some currency and experience points that will help you unlock new cosmetic items for your Fall Guy (obviously the further you advance and definitely if you win, you’ll get more points and experience).

Fall Guys infamously had quite a bit of server problems when it launched last week, especially since it’s a PS Plus game and thousands of players got it for free, and it definitely made the game unplayable at times but playing some rounds more recently, things seemed to have evened out and I’ve had smooth games with no issues more often than not.  It’s an absolute blast to play, with barely contained chaos reigning in each match as players bump and jostle each other trying to qualify for the next round.  Some of the games are definitely more fun to play than others (Slime Climb can go to Hell) but even if you’re in a mini-game you don’t particularly care for, the rounds are quick and, even if you get eliminated, you can almost immediately jump back into a new game.  The colorful world and upbeat music are also incredibly charming and add to the fun of the game.  If you have PS Plus, it’s a no-brainer must download but even if you have to pay for it on PC or PS4, Fall Guys is an absolute blast that puts breathes so much fresh air into the battle-royal genre, which has been dominated by shooters since PUBG exploded.

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