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Gamebox 2.0: Games of June 2022

As the summer heats up, we got the perfectly chilled games for you to cool down with. In our latest Gamebox 2.0, we played one of our most anticipated games of the year, TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, tapped on our phones with Netflix’s Poinpy, vanquished evil spirits in Pocky & Rocky Reshrined, and more.  Check out all the games we played this June below.

Poinpy (Zach): Revealed during Netflix’s Geeked Week earlier this month, Poinpy is the latest game from Ojiro Fumoto, who previously created the vertical scrolling roguelike Downwell.  Poinpy is available for anyone with a Netflix subscription and the Netflix downloaded to your mobile device and you play as a Bubble Bobbleesque dinosaur with a hammer who has to climb the vertical scrolling stages in order to collect berries and make juice for a gigantic cat beast.  If you fail to collect the proper berries and make the correct juice within a time limit, the cat beast gets very angry a breathes fire, taking away one of your lives.   When all your lives are gone, you have to start over on a new run but you level up each run and can earn things like additional jumps and other power-ups.

You control your dinosaur friend by holding down and lining up where you want him to jump.  You have multiple jumps and you want to try and collect the berries that the cat beast wants and then land so you can squeeze the juice down to him.  There’s a bit of risk/reward as you can collect additional berries and get bonus points but you risk running out of time or hitting enemies, that will take away one of your lives.  You can bop enemies on the head, which will give you an additional bounce, and part of the joy of Poinpy is chaining jumps and using the environment to quickly reach new heights.  The controls take a bit to get used to as you don’t really have full control and are more launching Angry Birds style but there are helpful tools like lining up another jump in mid-air that causes things to slow down so you can see where you want to go. Poinpy is a simple but addictive game that will have you keep pushing for one more turn and if you have Netflix, it’s definitely worth checking out on your mobile device of choice.

Blast Brigade vs. The Evil Legion of Dr. Cread (Chris): A mad scientist has taken over a remote tropical island to host his evil lair. Dr. Cread has assembled an army of minions and monsters to do his bidding, threatening the world for global domination. A group of spies, agents, and warriors come together to infiltrate Dr. Cread’s base and stop his forces. It’ll take guns, gadgets, and some guts in Blast Brigade vs. The Evil Legion of Dr. Cread. Developed by Allods Team Arcade and published by MY.GAMES, Blast Brigade is a 2D metroidvania-style run and gun shooter. Instead of reinventing the genre, it leans heavily into the best parts of Metroidvania mechanics while adding its own humor for a fun experience.

The story unfolds with Jeff Jefferson, a bumbling but effective agent of the American anti-terrorist organization, B.L.A.S.T. Jeff and his two fellow Blast agents are sent to the island of Atlantis, where Dr. Cread has set up a lair. But their mission goes off plan when the Blast airship makes a crash landing. Jeff is separated from his companions but luckily runs into others on the island that also has their reasons to stop Dr. Cread. Shura is a fierce and nimble KGB agent from Russia. Galahad is a cybernetically enhanced spy from England. And Vortex, an Atlantean priestess, is fighting to free her people. Together, they venture around the island to take down Dr. Cread’s forces.

Blast Brigade’s core gameplay is fast shooting and quick maneuvers. Enemies will be camping on platforms and a few coming straight at you. You can take out most enemies with the standard fire of the weapons, but the game really pushes you to experiment with different combinations and build up buffs for the weapons. The arsenal of weaponry and modules makes combat from feeling like a mindless shooter. Each character carries a unique weapon and a universal secondary weapon, and special abilities. Jeff and Galahad have more offensive abilities while Shura and Vortex have faster defensive capabilities. They all share a currency, collected from defeated enemies that can be used at a shop. This shop allows new modules and weapons to be purchased, as well as new costumes.

The game primarily follows Jeff, who runs into the other super spies on his mission. Characters can be swapped out on the fly, explained thru a funny quantum joke, which makes looking for the right weapon and ability really easy to use. There will be obstacles and pathways that can only be accessed with the right characters, and in true Metroidvania style, will need multiple return trips to access. There are optional items to collect that make exploring the areas worth checking and will make it faster to gain more abilities. There are big boss battles that will take up the screen and really test your dodging skills. Bosses have these massive attacks that give a few seconds of telegraph patterns. These fights are challenging, but fair since they rely mostly on skill than having the right modules or weaponry. Completing some bosses gives the player additional health to help for the increasing difficulty of battles to come.

Overall, Blast Brigade is a very self-aware title that does not come off as a parody of the genre. It showcases a great homage to many different original source materials. The game has lots of zany personalities and quality action-adventure gameplay. Characters have fun dialogue with each other and are very animated. The energetic visuals and voice acting gives the presentation a nice depth. There are lots of notes and memos to find that show the quirky espionage world. Fans of the No One Lives Forever series will be familiar with the dark humor about henchmen hazards and crazy work environments. Blast Brigade delivers on exactly what it promises and some more for a bombastic experience. Blast Brigade was released on April 12 for PC, Switch, Playstation, and Xbox.

Freshly Frosted (Zach): If you’re looking for a chill puzzle game, then you’ll definitely want to bake up some donuts in Freshly Frosted from The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild.  There are 12 stages with 12 puzzles each and they get increasingly more tricky as you progress.  Your goal is to create a conveyor belt so that donuts can travel along with them and hit certain stations, like sprinkles and frosting, in a certain order and reach the order counter.  The trick is that you can’t cross conveyor belts and you have to figure out the one path that will hit all the stations and get the donuts completed.  Things start out with a single order counter but, as you progress, you’ll have to create different types of donuts and get them to different counters, making sure everything has a path to where it needs to get.

If you get stuck, there are hints for each puzzle that will get you started in the right direction and you can skip and come back to puzzles as well.  The game has an absurdly chill vibe with a soothing narrator (who is apparently imagining all these donut factories in the clouds) and a soundtrack that works in time to your factory, which makes every completed puzzle super satisfying as you can just watch all the donuts go through and hit each station rhythmically. The game also has a delightfully simple look with soft colors that adds to the chill vibes but it will challenge your spatial puzzle skills as well.  If you’re looking for a fun puzzle game, Freshly Frosted is out on PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox.

Pocky & Rocky Reshrined (Chris): Refreshed and ready for a new install, the protectors of the spirit world are making their triumphed return in Pocky & Rocky Reshrined. Developed by NatsumeAtari/Tengo and published by ININ Games, Reshrined is a brand new chapter of the cult favorite top-down, scrolling shooter. The game follows Pocky, a young shrine maiden, and Rocky, a Tanuki. They are guardians of magical creatures and ward off evil spirits. Their greatest enemy, the Black Mantle, has resurfaced from the shadows and brought with it a new threat to the land. It will be up to the pair to stop Black Mantle’s evil plans and restore order to the spiritual world.

This new entry is a mix of re-imagined levels from the original Pocky & Rocky, as well as new mechanics and characters for a new experience. The game is a total rebuild with detailed and crispy pixel graphics, that greatly shows off the colorful sprite work. The levels are vibrant and dynamic with simple visual effects. In addition to the pair of heroes, there are three more additional characters to play that have their own unique play styles. But don’t be fooled by the charming graphics to make this an easy shooter. Pocky & Rocky Reshined will be pressuring players to adapt and overcome plenty of challenging levels.

The gameplay follows a traditional 8-directional top-down shooter with added abilities to dodge and deflect. All the characters have a standard range attack that can be swapped and upgraded. Collecting a fire, earth, or scroll power-up changes the character’s attack ability, and fully upgrading them makes it deadlier. Upgrading to the max will temporarily add additional damage. However, taking a hit or colliding with enemies will reduce the attack by a level. Deflecting and dodging will become second nature as there are a lot of things to avoid or reflect on. Deflecting will shield away certain projectiles and damage enemies if they get too close. This is helpful to get some breathing room while being bombarded or get in some quick damage to huge bosses. Dodging will quickly move the characters out of danger, but there is a few seconds of recovery, so it can’t be spammed to dance around the level. Every character has a special attack that can do a wide area of attack and is limited but can be refilled by collecting a certain item.

In the single-player mode, you play as each of the characters for certain stages. It story unfolds as each character explores different areas of the world map that will have the characters explore forest regions, fiery towns, and even the underworld. Pocky is the most balanced and Rocky is slower but has more power. Ame-no-Uzume, a goddess, has more attacks that lock on to enemies. Ikazuchi, a spirit animal, has weaker but faster attacks. And Hotaru Gozen, a warrior, has a wider deflect range and a powerful spin attack.

The game has challenging levels that will have players cautiously checking every inch for safety. Enemies will be dropping in from the sky and popping out of holes. There are a lot of helpful items to power up, but it is usually best to stick to one type of power-up and upgrade it early to overwhelm the enemies. This especially is true when going against some of the tough boss battles that have different phases. Some fights have minions running around to soak up damage and others will have you dodging for your life every moment. Some boss battles are tough and make you regret not getting certain power-ups, but it doesn’t take more than a few attempts to figure out attack patterns. The game is fair to give checkpoints before big events so you can easily get back into the game, but you lost points for the high score.

Reshrined is an excellent example of blending a remaster and sequel that brings back everything fans love and new features for newcomers to enjoy. This retro series does everything right with the presentation that perseveres its original designs. The only issue I had was the mandatory play thru to beat the game in a single player in order to unlock co-op mode. But shooter fans will have no problem replaying this title over and over again by themselves or with friends. Pocky & Rocky Reshrined is now available for digital download and physical editions for PS4 & Switch, with special collector editions from the Strictly Limited Games and Gamesrocket

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge (Zach): We got to play it at PAX East a few months ago but this month Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge finally came out for Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and PC.  Developed by Tribute Games and published by Dotemu, both companies have great histories with games that have gorgeous pixel art and great gameplay and Shredder’s Revenge is no exception.  When Shredder unleashes a new scheme against NYC, the Turtles, along with Splinter and April O’Neil, head across the city to battle the Foot Clan and stop Shredder again.  The game is the spiritual successor to classics like TMNT: Turtles in Time and it plays like how you remember those old-school beat ’em ups playing but there are lots of modern touches that elevate Shredder’s Revenge to another level.  The classic TMNT arcade games are fantastic but they were designed to make money, so they did have some cheap hits and enemies sometimes unleashed some unblockable attacks just to drain some life.  Shredder’s Revenge has the same classic gameplay but the Turtle gang has a bunch of new moves, like dodges and special attacks, that modernizes the beat em-up gameplay, so it feels more like it’s your fault when you get hit or lose a life as opposed to cheap arcade tactics and everything feels tight and fast.  If you played games like Turtles in Time back in the day, a lot of your favorite moves, like chucking Foot Soldiers into the screen or slamming them back and forth to take out other enemies are back along with stuff like the slide attack and backflipping.  Old school beat ’em ups always had a special move that drained health and Shredder’s Revenge also improves this by having a separate power meter that you build up through fighting the Foot and you lose if you take damage.  You can level up and earn more levels for the power meter and you can unlock “Radical Mode” if you build up the max power.

Shredder’s Revenge looks and sounds phenomenal as well, with graphics that are a perfect blending of the beloved 80s cartoon and Paul Robertson’s wonderful pixel art, which you’ve probably seen before in games like Scott Pilgrim.  The original 80s cartoon voice cast is back as well and there are lots of fun voice quotes and easter eggs to discover, like finding and rescuing characters like Irma and Atilla the Frog in levels.  The character animation flows super smoothly and the action is fast and furious and fun throughout and the levels are the perfect length where they end just as they peak in fun and not drag out too long.  As great as the aforementioned Scott Pilgrim was, sometimes the levels went on way too long and there was also a griding/leveling issue in that game that doesn’t seem to exist in Shredder’s Revenge, as you can jump in and out with any of the characters and not feel underpowered.  The soundtrack is great, although it might take some time before the tracks are as iconic as some of the songs from Turtles in Time.  Since it’s a modern game, you can have stuff like songs with lyrics that you couldn’t do in the old-school games, at least on the home consoles, and there are some absolute bangers from composer Tee Lopes, who previously worked on Sonic Mania among others and a killer track from none other than the Wu-Tang Clan.  TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge is absolutely phenomenal on every level and if you’re an old-school beat ’em ups fan, a Turtles fan, or anything in between, it’s a must-play.

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