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Gamebox 2.0: Games of July 2022

 

Crank that air conditioning, grab some water, and feel refreshed with the coolest video game releases and reviews with have for you. We fought back virus in Arcadegeddon, followed clues in Mothmen 1966, fought back demons in HunterX, freed a tree guardian in The Tale of Bistun, and more. Read on to see all the games we’ve checked out this hot July in the Game Box 2.0

Krut: The Mythic Wings (Zach): Coming from Pixel Perfex and Blowfish, Krut: The Mythic Wings is a side-scrolling action adventure based on Southeast Asian lore.  You play as a warrior from the Garuda, a race of bird-like warriors.  Their ancient enemy, the Rock Ogres, return and take over their kingdom and your Garuda warrior is cast out and presumed dead after trying to take on the Rock Ogre commander.  Waking up on the island of Himmaphan, he gains access to a powerful ancient artifact, the Mythic Wings, but he must travel the different realms of the island and gain seven elemental powers from various guardians to power the wings enough to be able to save his kingdom and defeat the Rock Ogres.  You travel left to right in a classic side-scrolling fashion, battling enemies and taking on mid-bosses and giant final bosses.  There’s a bit of a Shovel Knight element to Krut, as you can choose to spend the points you gain by killing enemies to unlock checkpoints, but if you save your points until later in the level at a further checkpoint, you may have enough to unlock the checkpoint and gain an upgrade.  You have a basic attack and you can charge up by holding down the attack to unleash a powerful energy wave and you can jump and attack from the air as well.  If you build up enough energy by defeating enemies, you can temporarily unlock the full power of the Mythic Wings, which lets you fly anywhere on the screen and launch powerful attacks, which is particularly useful against the bosses.

The combat feels a bit stiff but it seems like it’s going for a more deliberate, Dark Souls style where you watch the enemy’s patterns and attack when you have the opportunity and then dodge out of the way to avoid their attacks.  If you just wade in and hack and slash, you won’t last that long, especially against the bosses.  It reminded me a bit of something like Demon’s Crest back in the day, which also demanded a more deliberate attack style and quick reactions to the boss patterns.  The bosses are definitely the highlight of each level, with unique and interesting designs, while some of the basic enemies are a bit boring like crabs, bugs, and other animals.  The game’s cutscenes also aren’t that interesting as they are static images with text and the main thing driving you forward is probably going to be to see what the next level and next boss look like.  There are probably better side-scrolling action games out there but Krut: The Mighty Wings is a solid entry in the genre that is worth taking a look at if you’re looking for something in that genre.  It’s out now on pretty much everything including the Nintendo Switch, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC (Steam).

HunterX (Chris): A mysterious purple moon appears in the sky and two realms begin to merge. Demons, murderous creatures, and evil spirits begin to emerge into the city streets and terrorize the night. But a teenage hunter Tsuki appears to fight back the monsters in HunterX. Developed and published by Orange Popcorn, HunterX is a Castlevania-inspired 2.5D action-adventure title with a slight anime look. The plot is simple and straightforward: Tsuki is on a quest to stop the demon realm from overrunning the human realm. Along with her trusted familiar Marka, the pair set off into the realm to battle dark forces that are invading and put a stop to whoever is in charge. It’s a paper-thin story that doesn’t get complex and does not get overly involved to explain the backstories. However, the game’s true strength lies in dropping the player right into familiar gameplay.

The gameplay follows the tried and true Metroidvania game designs. There are multiple interconnecting dungeon levels, each leading to different sections that need to be accessed with abilities or unlocked doors and require multiple revisits to freely navigate around. Scattered around the levels are creatures that will try their best to stop you. Enemies come in all shapes and sizes, waiting for Tsuki to come across them and even a few that will charge at her right on sight. Each area has a different theme, there is a maze-like sewer selection, a castle ruin, an underground cavern,  a courtyard, and a tower. At the end of certain areas are boss encounters that will test players’ ability to control Tsuki. Some of the early fights are pretty simple, they just required some basic dodging and attacking, but later bosses need some extra help to even the fight. Magical abilities, buffers, and health potions come in handy to survive powerful bosses that can quicky chip away Tsuki’s health bar. Enemies and bosses will be stronger as the levels progress in difficulty and this requires Tsuki to explore areas for new items and abilities to grow stronger.

At the introductory stage, Tsuki is equipped with basic abilities. She carries a katana given, a block/parry and dash ability, and a powerful combat strike called the Mortal Blow. This special attack unleashes a deadly strike with big damage that can kill most weak enemies and chip some health points from bosses. But Mortal Blows must be built up in combat and needs recharging after each use. The dash ability is really handy in combat and gives Tsuki a few frames of invincibility, but has to be wisely timed to avoid draining Tsuki’s stamina. The equipment and abilities will be upgraded and swapped around to suit the player’s style once Tsuki has gained enough Karma points. Defeated enemies drop Karam crystals and levels are filled with them, so it’s very easy for Tsuki to collect. Karma points can be used to build up Tsuki’s states and later on be used in an item shop. However, Karma can be lost if Tsuki falls in battle. Tsuki’s current count of Karma is left at her last known location. If she can retrieve it without dying a second time, the Karma is restored. But with multiple magical abilities, different weapon types, and a max level cap at 199, every bit of Karma does go a long way to help Tsuki survive the night.

Overall, HunterX is a fun action title that players take on for challenging fights and hours of exploration. It lacks an engaging narrative but the solid gameplay makes up for it. This indie title has a surprising amount of combat abilities that take time to build up. Levels are fast to travel, abilities are fun to use and the game encourages exploration. However, there are so things that pad time to the game, such as the grind to level up Tsuki and the need to find magical abilities throughout the levels before you can spend karma points on it. Orange Popcorn’s attempt at a Metroidvania clone is a direct copy that mostly utilizes what fans most enjoy from the genre. HunterX was released for Switch on July 14th and is also available on Steam.

TombStar (Zach): Throwing back to stuff like Bravestarr, TombStar is an intergalactic western rogue-like shooter from Andy Sum, Marcus Grambau, and No More Robots.  Set on the titular planet of TombStar, you take on the evil GrimHeart Gang to free the planet from the iron grip.  The game plays as a top-down, twin-stick shooter in the vein of stuff like Enter the Gungeon, with each run being unique as far as enemies, layout, and equipment you’ll find.  Your main goal is to work your way through each area, clearing out enemies, gathering loot, and moving on until you die or beat the level and move on.  You gain experience each time you die and you’ll gain unlocks and new characters that you can use on the next run to try and progress further.  You move with your left stick, aim with the right and shoot with the right trigger.  I don’t mind this style, as lots of games have it, but my preference having grown up on games like Smash TV is to just have the right stick aim, and shoot, without a separate shoot button.  TombStar plays perfectly fine and has fantastic, intense action, I just lean more toward a constant stream of fire from wherever my right stick is aiming.

You start out playing as Jake Galloway, your classic revenge-seeking cowboy with a six-shooter, and there are two more characters to unlock with different starting weapons and abilities.  There are perks you can find from shops in each run that will augment your abilities or give you new ones for the length of that run and you can find keys to unlock chests that will give you new weapons and items to help you out.  You can dodge out of the way of enemy fire, which is vital as things get to a bullet hell level at times with enemies shooting out rapid-fire chains of bullets or giant rings of bullets that need to be dodged and the game does a great job of throwing out a variety of enemies at you in each area.  TombStar is a great, solid twin-stick rogue-like and if you like games like Enter the Gungeon, it’s definitely worth checking out.  It’s out now on Steam.

The Tale of Bistun (Zach): Coming from Black Cube Games and Imgn.Pro, The Tale of Bistun is an action-adventure game inspired by the Persian tragedy “Khosrow and Shirin”.  You play as a stone carver who has lost his memory and finds himself on the slopes of Mount Bistun.  A mysterious blight is infecting the local nature and the stone carver must help the tree guardian All-Seeds free his fellow trees, defeat the evil creatures coming out of the blight, and travel into the “Revelations Realm” to try and regain his memories.  The game’s story is told through fantastically stylized cut-scenes and with a constant narrator in the vein of something like Bastion and the narrator does a great job with different character voices that makes it also feel like an audiobook.  The game has an isometric, Diablo-style perspective and gameplay style, as you wade into groups of enemies and hack and slash them with your twin axes and you work to clear all the enemies in different areas.  Once all the enemies are defeated, you can destroy the main source of the blight and restore nature to its former glory in that area. There’s a certain amount of blight sources to clear in each area and then you proceed into the “Revelations Realm”, where you work to clear the blight from crystals and usually work to unlock a statue or something related to a certain memory to progress the story.  It’s a compelling gameplay loop that makes you want to keep playing so you can find out more about the story.

The game has a great, stylized art style with some fantastic use of color, especially in the Revalations Realm which is shrouded in darkness with pops of color.  The gameplay is a bit simplistic but you do unlock more abilities as you progress and the way you can take out large groups of enemies by wading in Diablo style is satisfying and the game does a good job of adding more enemy variety as you progress.  If you are looking for something that is more story driven but still has some fun and solid hack-and-slash action, you can check out The Tale of Bistun on Xbox and PC.

Ghostrunner: Complete Edition (Chris): All the intense cyberpunk ninja action of 2020’s stellar hit Ghostrunner and the expanded game elements have finally been packed in one complete collection in the Ghostrunner: Complete Edition. Developed by a collaborative development effort of Slipgate Ironworks and One More Level, with publishing by All In! Games and 505 Games. Ghostrunner is an FPS action platformer set in a dystopian cybernetic future. The Complete Edition contains the original title, the DLC campaign Project_Hel, and four extra cosmetic packs to make the Ghostrunner dazzle as you cut down your foes.  If you haven’t picked up this must-play title, the storyline of the base campaign follows Jack, a cybernetically enhanced guardian known as a Ghostrunner. However, Jack is the sole remember of this group, with no memory from his past. Jack is tasked to free the Architect and fight his way to restore order in the deadly city. Project_Hel takes place before the events of the base story and follows another cybernetic warrior known as Hel. This version of the game features new levels, bosses, and abilities, and further expands the events leading to Hel’s appearing in the base game.

Ghostrunner is a melee focus title that revolves around freerunning to get your katana as close to your enemies as possible. The player has the ability to dash, wall jump, slide, and a grappling hook, all of which help line up targets for a clean kill. There is an incredibility useful ability that lets the player dodge & dash in slow-motion, which aids in avoiding incoming attacks. However, abilities like the dash and special attacks cost focus, which generates over time. Later on, the characters can be upgraded to have a boost to their weapons, throw projectiles, and even a block ability. However, both Jack and Hel are not built to take on heavy damage. Enemies will be armed with guns and melee weapons, ready to attack onsight. If an enemy lines up a clean attack of their own, it usually results in instant death for the player. Rushing into a fight without a plan tends to a few mistakes, and those mistakes will end up getting the player killed quickly. There are multiple approaches in fights as the levels offer up a few pathways to encounter most enemies. The gameplay pushes the player to utilize their tactics based on the abilities they are using and how best they want to approach each fight encounter.

The combat has a certain rhythm that the player will discover. Some areas can be completed by rushing to surprise the enemies, while others had to be slow to pick apart a group. But the level designs and enemy placement forces the player to constantly pay attention to every new surrounding. Tactics that worked in previous areas may not be so helpful once enemies start to get a bit stronger. However, the one constant rule is to keep moving in battles. Building up speed and getting to new locations fast makes it hard for the enemy to lock on. There is an upgrade system that lets the player pick and choose chips that can enhance their abilities. This can help players that have options that lean towards speed, brute force, or situational awareness. There is only a certain number of chips that can be placed on the Ghostrunner’s board at once, and the amount of chip usage affects how fast the character can generate focus.

If for some reason you haven’t played Ghostrunner yet, it’s obvious the Ghostrunner: Complete Edition is the best way to experience what you have been missing. The whole concept of Ghostrunner is geared towards action fans first and does not disappoint from the hype it has generated. The story and characters feel well developed and convey an oppressive world that is on edge of chaos. Jack and Hel are both brooding characters that carry out their task with deadly precision but show a glimmer of their humanity behind their mechanical shells. The base game and Project_Hel are beautifully scored by synth wave artist Daniel Deluxe, whose music perfectly captures the atmosphere of the game while pumping up the player to take on hordes of enemies. Ghostrunner is a must-play title that is now available for PC, PS4&5, Xbox One & Xbox X, Nintendo Switch, and Amazon Luna.  

Mothmen 1966 (Zach):  Feeling like a throwback to classic CGA/VGA computer games and comics like Tales from the Crypt, Mothmen 1966 is a short but stylish adventure game from Chorus Worldwide and LCB Game Studios.  As part of LCB’s “Pixel Pulp” series, you play as three different characters, with one character featured in the current chapter.  Holt is the owner of an out-of-the-way gas station while Lee and Victoria are a young couple heading to the gas station to observe the Leonid meteor shower in the summer of 1966.  Based on the character you pick, you get to know different inner thoughts and motivations for the story, and progress options that unfold in a Choose Your Own Adventure style.  Each chapter usually has some sort of puzzle or action sequence to get past to progress, although you never directly control the action or the characters.  For instance, there’s a sequence where Lee and Victoria are surrounded by wolves but you fight them off by still making choices like “throw a rock at the wolf to your left” or “throw a rock at the wolf to your right”.  Some of these sequences can only be solved a specific way, so there is some trial and error and it can be a bit frustrating to play the same sequence over and over but you usually aren’t sent back that far if you fail and there’s no lives or chance for a game over unless you quit.

The game has some fantastic visuals that are done in the classic CGA/VGA style with teals and greens but it’s still able to show some of the creepy monsters and build the atmosphere of the game.  The game’s music and sound effects also do a great job of adding to the atmosphere and the writing is also excellent and feels like a classic EC comic with its pulpy storytelling but mixed with real character drama and backstory.  Each chapter is fairly short and it makes you want to keep going to see what happens next, as a lot of them also end on a cliffhanger.  The game is fairly short and it’s possible to play through in one sitting.  There’s one main way the story can end but there are a few variations on events that you can get by replaying if you want to get all the achievements available but even that doesn’t add a lot of replay value.  If you are looking for a fun and interesting pulpy throwback full of creepy creatures, Mothmen 1966 is a great adventure that will keep you compelled and making choices to see how everything plays out. Mothmen 1966 is out now on Switch, Playstation, Xbox, and PC.

Beasties (Zach): Bearing more than a passing resemblance to another monster collecting and fighting game, Beasties is out now on Switch and PC from Rokaplays.  Taking cues from games like Puzzle Quest and, obviously, Pokemon, you play a young Beasties trainer who sets out on a quest to find a missing Beastiemaster.  As you make your way around the world, you’ll encounter wild Beasties, who you battle via match 3 jewel puzzle game.  Like Puzzle Quest and similar games, you are trying to make combos and big chains of matches but your Beasties each have a specific color of gem that you want to focus on, as it will build up their special ability, which may be an attack that will cause massive damage to your opponents or buff or heal your team.  You can have three Beasties on a team at a time and can swap them out outside of battles.  One big element to keep track of is your Beastie’s health, as it doesn’t regenerate between battles, so you either need to make sure you have some health items to get them back up to full strength or head back to town to get them refreshed.  If a Beastie goes down in battle, they are out unless you get back to town and if all your Beasties go down, you are automatically sent back to town no matter where you are.  You collect items like an ax to clear paths and you slowly open up different areas of the island you are on to progress on your quest.

The look of the Beasties is obviously incredibly inspired by Pokemon, to the point where I’m surprised there hasn’t been any sort of lawsuit.  The gameplay is obviously different as it isn’t the turn-based RPG action of Pokemon but there are a lot of other similarities as well.  The random battles are a bit on the high side and it can be annoying at times to keep having to do battles when you just want to get to the next objective but you can use these battles to capture wild Beasties and add them to your ranks.  One strange design choice is that the Beasties and your character along with the other characters are represented by board game-esque pieces and there’s not any other element like dice or moving around a board, as you have free reign to travel around.  It doesn’t affect gameplay but it’s just sort of a weird choice aesthetically.  The match 3 gameplay is what you would expect without really doing anything new or different with it.  If you’ve played Puzzle Quest or similar games, you’ll know what’s going on in Beasties.  If you enjoy Pokemon but are looking for more puzzle-based gameplay as opposed to the RPG battles of actual Pokemon, you can check out Beasties now on Switch and PC.

Contract Killer (Chris): When their master is killed, a crew of writing utensils seeks to stop the deadly contracts that terrorized their city in Contract Killer. Developed by Paperboy Games and published by Behemoth Interactive, Contract Killer is a 2.5D arcade-style beat’em up that has campy vibes and classic gameplay. This title is a retro throwback to older arcade games that have silly plot elements and even sillier character designs. Players can choose from one of four characters; Leadhead, a pencil. Pen, a pen. Mark, a marker. And Pomp, a paintbrush. These instructions of writing will become fighting machines when they set off to punch and scratch out the waves of office supplies that stand in that get in their way.

The gameplay makes use of light and heavy attacks, that can be switched up to create different combos and opportunities. There is a charge attack that sends the character forward and does a good amount of knockback to clear up space. There is also a grab attack which can also be used to parry certain enemy attacks. Attacking builds up a meter and when it gets full, the player can unleash an ultimate attack that can affect a wide area.  The different characters essentially have the same attacks. There is no complex juggling or timing like in most modern-day beat’em up, so it’s easy for anyone to pick up and play.

The plot is playful and the visuals are campy in all the right ways. The 2.5D perspective look gives a bit of room to move around and levels mix up the camera perspectives to see a few angles that make battles a bit different now and then. The game also features a verse mode and an endless to test out your brawling skills. Contract Killer is something that gets a chuckle to experience with a few friends to button mash for a few hours.  This title is great for casual fans of beat’em ups and offers something unique for gamers to try. Contract Killers was initially released for PC, and will be available for Xbox and Switch later this summer.

Arcadegeddon (Zach): The latest game from Illfonic, the developers of Friday the 13th, Predator: Hunting Grounds, and the upcoming Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed, Arcadegeddon is a cooperative shooter set in the digital world of arcades.  You play as Plug, who is recruited by their Uncle Gilly, the owner of the last free arcade in the city, to help defeat a virus unleashed on his new game, Arcadegeddon, by the evil Fun Fun Co.  You’ll enter the digital world of Arcadegeddon and battle your way through increasingly difficult waves of enemies, with your ultimate goal being to battle through the game’s six different environments and defeating the four main bosses.  You can play solo or recruit three friends to take on the PVE challenge together.  There are daily challenges and leaderboards to complete and compete on as well.

The gameplay is very similar to Fortnite, as you play from a third-person perspective and you can find and use a variety of guns and abilities.  There are crates of various colors, with the colors detailing the rarity of the equipment within and there are shops you can come across that you can use to buy new guns, refill your ammo and buy perks.  The game plays like a rogue-like, with runs that go on until you complete the game or die.  You gain experience each run and you can unlock cosmetic items along with new perks, abilities, and weapons you can start the run with.  There is premium currency and in-game purchases on top of the game’s initial purchase price but it doesn’t bug you about buying stuff and most of that stuff seems optional and not required to progress.

The shooting and movement feel fantastic, silky smooth and the weapons all feel satisfying to use, from machine guns and rocket launchers to more exotic weapons and you can experiment and figure out what weapons you prefer and how to build your loadout.  You can have three weapons at a time and you can swap any of them if you find a better or more interesting one during your run.  The game also looks great with a clean, neon-drenched cyberpunk aesthetic and there’s a solid variety of the enemies and their behaviors, from standard grunts who engage you in firefights to enemies that rush you and explode if you can’t stop them in time.  As you progress through each level, you get different objectives to complete, like holding a certain area or surviving a large wave of enemies.  It definitely feels built for multiplayer, although playing solo isn’t overwhelming and is a perfectly viable way to play as well.  Aracadeggedon feels great and is a ton of fun and it’s out now on Xbox, Playstation, and PC via the Epic Games Store.

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