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Gamebox 2.0: Games of August 2022

Summer is coming to an end but that doesn’t mean the hot gaming season has slowed down one bit. August has been a packed month for games we played and you should know about it. We brawled giant monsters in GigaBash, build up a fierce firefighter team in Fire Commander, tried the new take on an Atari classic with Yars: Recharged, and more.  Check out the thoughts and review of the games we tried this month in the game box.

GigaBash (Zach): Coming from Passion Republic Games, GigaBash is a new monster brawler that features a slew of kaiju inspired by classic monster movies and tokusatsu shows.  You have a choice between 10 unique fighters (7 from the beginning and 3 are unlockable) and then you enter the arenas to duke it out for monster supremacy.  The monsters all have unique ways of fighting and special moves, although they all follow the same basic combos and button commands. You have a basic attack and special attack and holding the button down or using it in combo with other buttons results in different attacks and abilities. There’s Gorogong, a rocky volcanic island god, Thundatross, your classic anime mecha, Rawa, your Godzillaesque giant fire-breathing lizard, Gigaman, a Jet Jaguar-style superhero, and more. Along with a roster of unique monsters, the arenas you fight in are unique as well and all of them feature some sort of element that you have to keep in mind as the battle progresses.  There might be a flood or a volcanic eruption that will totally alter the playing field and force you to get to safe ground or take some massive damage.  You can battle up to 4 friends locally or tackle the sole player mode, where you’ll uncover the story of each monster.  Either mode you play in, you’ll unlock experience points and new items like different music tracks and more arenas.

The game that GigaBash most feels like is the PS2 cult classic War of the Monsters, a game that I loved back in the day and that GigaBash more than picks up the baton from.  All the monsters feel like they have real weight. When you bash another monster into a building or hit them with a tree, you get the sense of the size and power of the monsters but the pacing is fast and your monsters can run and jump all over the arenas with ease.

There are some elements of Power Stone and Super Smash Bros. as well as you can collect orbs around the level or through combat that will allow you to transform into the more powerful, and even more gigantic, S-Class version of your monster, and you if you can do that before your opponents you can really go to town on them as they flee in terror.  There’s also a GigaBash ball that randomly enters the arena and, if you can be the one to deliver the final blow that breaks it, you’ll get to use your monster’s super special attack, a la the Final Smash in Smash Bros. GigaBash is an excellent and super fun brawler that really calls to mind classics like War of the Monsters while forging its own unique identity with its roster of monsters and gameplay mechanics.  It’s out now on PC, PS4, and PS5.

Fire Commander (Chris) When sparks become fiery blazes and people’s lives are in danger, it’s up to a decisive leader to guide their firefighters to extinguish the flames. Fire Commander is a real-time tactical firefighter simulator developed by Atomic Wolf and Pixel Crow Games and published by Movie Games. This game centers around building up a capable team of firefighters while tackling increasingly deadly situations. Many real-life scenarios, training, and procedures are simplified for a causal approach to firehouse management and firefighting. But fires are wild and can escalate into infernos, so every battle is a race against time that needs decisive thinking.

Fire Commander gameplay is broken into two game types. The first type is firehouse management where you have to recruit and train firefighters. The firehouse is the only place to spend each team member’s experience points and learn new skills. At the early start of the game, the firehouse has a limited budget and must stretch the dollars to find good candidates and equipment for the firehouse. After more emergency fire calls are successfully answered, the firehouse unlocks more options to give the team more specialties and a larger roster of teammates. However, every active team member can be worn out. Sending out the same firefighter repeatedly or injured team members will build up their exhaustion meter, making their performances weaker. Exhaustion can be recovered by giving that fighter time in the break room. Managing each fighter’s stats isn’t very complex but it adds a little bit of incentive to train the whole team evenly.

The second game type is the RTS of fire fighting where the firefighters will have to quickly carry out their duties to ensure civilians are saved and fires are put out. Every team member is equipped to put out fires and rescue people, but the speed and efficiency depend on the skill sets of the individual. Every fire scenario is presented like an emergency call board that details the location and fire situation, which gives you some slight hints on how to arrange your team beforehand. Scenarios that have a lot of reported injured people need to have more EMTs, while reports of chemical spills or complex building structures would be faster to tackle with specialized firefighters. There will be a firetruck and an ambulance as part of the team to refill water tanks and take care of injured people. The team will have to make multiple trips back to the fire truck to replenish their water or assist people to the ambulance. These vehicles are independent units that can be ordered to drive to specific locations. In large-scale emergency calls, trucks with water cannons and airplanes with water drops can be used to douse fires from a distance and in a wider area.

The levels are pretty straightforward and direct and get chaotic mostly when the team isn’t properly managed. There’s a handful of environments to put out a fire in; commercial buildings, warehouses, carnivals, and farmlands. Each contains a few unique hazards or emergency issues, like barrels of chemicals or flammable surroundings. The game can dramatically change based on how the player approaches the situation. Fires can burn thru certain structures faster than others, making those most flammable targets the usual priority. However, with injured civilians waiting for rescue or a hazard that needs attention, it will be a juggling act to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Fire Commander is geared toward a causal strategy audience that does not want to agonize over all the details before jumping into the fire fighting action. The firefighter team is just generic characters and is tailored to be interchangeable. The only big distinction is the uniform colors and audio cues, but there isn’t any personality. Each level is like a puzzle that offers a few methods to solve, and takes somewhere around 5 to 15 minutes to complete. Fire Commander offers simple and fun gameplay mechanics that make it a great time for casual RTS fans and maybe something relaxing for more veteran gamers. Fire Commander was released July 27th and is available on PC, PS4 & 5, and Xbox One & X.

Blade Runner: Enhanced Edition (Zach): Coming from Nightdive Studios, Blade Runner: Enhanced Edition is a recently revived of the beloved 90s adventure game Blade Runner for modern consoles and PC.  Taking place in 2019 and weaving around the events of Ridley Scott’s iconic sci-fi classic, Blade Runner has you playing as McCoy, a Blade Runner that is tasked with investigating what is potentially a group of Replicants that broke into a shop selling animals (a rare commodity in the Blade Runner universe) and massacred all the creatures for sale.  Things expand out from there as you begin your investigation and track the suspects throughout Los Angeles. Easily one of the coolest aspects of the game is getting to use the Blade Runner tech featured in the movie, like the ESPER image enhancing tech and administering the Voight-Kampff test on suspects to determine if they are human or not.  The locations and score also really pull you into the world of Blade Runner and everything feels pulled straight from the 1982 original movie.

The visuals at the time of the game’s original release were stunning but they are definitely showing their age in 2022, even though they are updated for HD.  The game has a great atmosphere, as mentioned, and the voice acting is also mostly great with a lot of actors from the movie, including Sean Young, James Hong, Joe Turkel, William Sanderson, and Brion James reprising their roles, but the character models and some of the FMV is that mid-90s style PC game graphics that you’ll either find charmingly retro or incredibly ugly.  Some of the gameplay is also extremely clunky in the modern age of gaming, especially the game’s combat, where you just have to point your gun at a target and hope that you hit them or the game decides to fire a shot.  Compounding the clunky nature of the combat is the fact that, if you die, you are sent back to the main menu and forced to load a save but, if you haven’t saved recently, you may be looking at a huge chunk of progress that needs to be made back up and there’s no modern convenience of an autosave.

The KIA (Knowledge Integration Assistant) menu is also fairly confusing with multiple buttons to turn on and off filters and change pages on all the clues you’ve collected and there’s also not a traditional inventory or dialogue system like you might expect from playing other adventure games, so it’s a bit tricky to make sure that you’ve gotten all the information out of talking to the various NPCs and to know what you have and haven’t collected.  If any game deserved a remake instead of a simple remaster, it would be this one and a version of this game with modern gameplay and graphics would be something that I would absolutely be first in line to play.  As is, there’s still lots of great stuff going on in Blade Runner: Enhanced Edition but you have to be ready for some of the more clunky and antiquated gameplay and graphics along with the great story, atmosphere, and music.  Blade Runner: Enhanced Edition is out now on PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox.

Yars: Recharged (Zach): As Atari continues to celebrate its 50th anniversary, the latest game in the Recharged series, Yars: Recharged, brings back the best-selling Atari 2600 game of all time, Yars Revenge, in a new neon-drenched form.  Based on the original classic from Howard Scott Warshaw, Yars: Recharged sees you as an insect warrior battling against the Qotiles and their deadly space stations.  The original game was a blast when you understood what was going on but it was a bit obtuse without the instruction manual or some idea of what to do. Yars: Recharged simplifies and modernizes things while keeping the back-and-forth flow of the original game.  In each stage, you are presented with multiple space stations and turrets, all guarding a main space station core that can only be damaged by your powerful Zorlon Cannon.  To power up the cannon, you have to battle the smaller turrets and stations and destroy the hives that connect them to gain energy orbs.

When you gain enough energy orbs, you can access the cannon and shoot out two massive energy blasts to take out a huge chunk of the hive or take out the core if you have a direct shot at it.  Along with your weapon, you can also fly close and chomp on the hives and battle stations, which can quickly take them down but also puts you in an incredibly dangerous position.  There’s a gameplay mechanic where the core sends out power to certain turrets, so if you can keep track of what turrets are going to turn on and which are inactive, you can maneuver and plan your attack and avoid the bullet hell patterns of the turrets as they fire.

A new feature that wasn’t in the original game is a co-op, so you and a friend can take on the challenge together.  There’s an arcade mode where you try to survive for as long as you can as you progress through the various stages of the game and there are also challenges you can take on, which puts unique criteria on you, like only being able to chomp or putting you in some truly difficult level layouts.  As you beat challenges, more will unlock and you can try to get on the global leaderboards as well.  All the Recharged games have been great so far, updating classic Atari titles with modern graphics and gameplay but keeping the spirit of the original intact, and Yars: Recharged is no exception.  It’s out now on basically every platform, including PC via Steam and Epic, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Atari VCS, and Stadia.

Fashion Police Squad (Chris): Dressed up and ready for its catwalk, the full version of Mopeful Games and No More Robots’ Fashion Police Squad has been released. When a city is overrun by tacky clothing and horrible color schemes, the Fashion Police Squad is on patrol to help people get some style. In this retro FPS, players step into the role of Sergeant Des, an officer of fashion law who will dispense glam onto the dully dressed. From ill-fitted dressed, puffy suit jackets and socks & sandals, citizens need to be saved from bad clothing. Equipped with apparel adjusting weaponry and tools, Des will take on fashion crimes one alteration at a time.

Fashion Police Squad borrows heavily on shooting mechanics of old-school shooters from the 90s and gives it a cheery make-over. Shooting is fast-paced and lively, even with 2D sprites in a 3D plane. The shooting is something along the lines of spray and pray, but you don’t seem to mind with a colorful presentation. All the weapons except one type have infinite ammo, so having to conserve shots is not an issue. You can unleash a barrage of shots while you move around and dodge incoming fire. You don’t have to hunt for ammo which makes it easier to get into the action. The game really wants you to approach enemies with the right equipment. Enemies with too much color need some of it removed with the dye gun, enemies with baggie clothing need hemming with the sowing machine, and enemies with socks can be weakened with sock hunting gnomes. There is also a belt attack that acts like a melee weapon and a neffy grappling hook. You should approach enemies and quickly figure out which equipment is best at that moment. This is important because the game gets a bit chaotic when swarms of enemies form and their collective barrage of attacks gets harder to avoid. However, Des has a special weapon ready for moments like this, and it comes in the form of his powerful slapping glove. Once a special attack meter has been filled, the player can unleash his glove attack that makes Des invincible for a short period and can one-hit most enemies. This is very useful to clear out a large room of enemies that need a satisfying slap.

Mopeful Games approached Fashion Police Squad as a self-aware culture parody, with cheeky nods to popular anime, movies, games, and real-life fashion trends. Its humor doesn’t feel forced and has the right amount of silly wit for the overall tone of the game. The plot and settings pair really well with the solid gameplay. There are a few variations of stages that feel spacious and open for big shooting-outs, while others are cramped and make every fight up close. There are unique gameplay designs that change the usually run-and-gun action to be focused moments. And the extravagant character sprites are distinct and are a fun blend of retro and modern designs. It would be foolish to pass by this title thinking it’s not enough of a game experience for your time. There is enough challenge in the game for most gamers to enjoy and some lite humor to crack a smile between the action. Fashion Police Squad gets everything right for a retro-style shooter with a dapper presentation. F.P.S was released on August 15 and is available on Steam.

Avenging Spirit (Zach): Originally released in the 90s in arcades, Avenging Spirit is back courtesy of Ratalaika Games and City Connection for modern consoles.  Developed by Jaleco back in the day, Avenging Spirit sees you playing as a ghost who is recruited by a scientist trying to get back his kidnapped daughter.  You have the unique ability to possess enemies and you use that skill to navigate the levels and defeat the bosses.  There’s a wide roster of different enemies to possess, including 1920s-style gangsters, commandos, ninjas, dragonmen, wizards, and more.  You only have two buttons, an attack, and a jump, but each enemy you possess reacts differently to those buttons.  Some can’t really jump while others can jump the entire screen and the attacks vary wildly from a straightforward machine gun to creating giant snowballs to wielding a baseball bat and more.

A lot of the fun is seeing what each enemy you possess does but you can’t seem to manually eject from an enemy until they are defeated, so if you’re stuck in an enemy you don’t particularly care for, your only option is to either press on or try to quickly kill them so you can get into a new body.  You have an energy meter that is always going down and it goes rapidly if you are not possessing an enemy, so if you end up back in ghost form, you need to quickly find another enemy to take control of.  Each stage ends with a battle against a boss and in the boss arena, if your possessed body gets killed, it’s game over (or at least a continue).

Avenging Spirit isn’t the prettiest 90s arcade game ever made but the variety of enemies and the size of the bosses is pretty impressive and the music is fantastic and has a super upbeat energy that drives you through the stages.  The stages themselves are sort of maze-like as you have to work your way back and forth and up to reach the exit but there’s not really any other objective besides getting to the exit with the exception of finding 3 keys that are needed to complete the game.  The idea of possessing enemies and using their unique abilities is usually always a fun concept and it’s still being used today in games like the upcoming Rogue Spirit from 505 Games.  Avenging Spirit is definitely a hidden 90s arcade gem brought back and you can play it now on Switch, PS4/5, and Xbox One.

Bright Memory: Infinite (Zach): Coming from FYQD-Studio and Playism, Bright Memory: Infinite came out last year on PC and recently hit consoles and is a very solid, if maybe somewhat generic, FPS.  You play as Shelia Tran, an agent for SRO (Supernatural Research Organization) who is dispatched to investigate bizarre weather phenomenon that are affecting things around the globe.  Shelia learns that an old enemy, General Lin, has some sort of new technology that has opened a black hole and is trying to harness its power to rebuild the world as he sees fit.  The black hole seems to be causing temporal phenomenon as well, as Shelia seems to find herself getting snapped to the past and having to fight ancient warriors.

The game draws a lot of influences from other games, with the wall-running and maneuvering of something like Titanfall while the shooting and melee combat really gave me Shadow Warrior vibes, although Bright Memory: Infinite is more self-serious than the wacky tone of Shadow Warrior.  You have an arsenal of guns, including your standards like a pistol, shotgun, sniper rifle, and assault rifle, but you can collect special ammo for each one that unlocks a unique ability.  The assault rifle has tracer rounds that will seek out enemies even if you are not aiming at them, for example, and the shotgun has rounds that spew fire and set enemies ablaze.  The shooting feels really solid for the most part and you can aim down the sights as you would in say, a Call of Duty, and it’s easy to flip between weapons and ammo types using the D-pad.  You also have a sword and you can use it to block enemy projectiles and take on enemies that use melee weapons.  You can time your blocks and stun enemies and then launch them into the air to do an almost Metal Gear Solid: Reveagence style hacking flurry on them to take them out.

I actually played the Switch version for review and it looked pretty great on that console despite how underpowered it is compared to monsters like the PS5 and Xbox Series X and I’m assuming the game looks even better on those consoles.  The design is a little generic, especially the enemies, and the story is also not the most compellingly told, with generic voice acting and a mostly blank slate main character in Shelia.  There’s definitely a lot going on mechanics wise and the combat is generally really fun as you switch between guns and melee on the fly and navigating some of the levels by wall-running and jumping adds some nice movement flow to things.  I would put Bright Memory: Infinite on the same tier as something like Singularity back in the day.  It doesn’t have the personality or polish of a massive AAA game like Call of Duty but it’s still a very solid shooter in a great-looking package with lots of fun mechanics that work well together.  You can check it out now on PC, Switch, PS4/5, and Xbox Series X/S.

The Mortuary Assistant (Zach): We got to check out a preview of The Mortuary Assistant at PAX East 2022 and now the eerie mortuary is now released.  Created by DarkStone Digital and DreadXP, The Mortuary Assistant puts you in the role of Rebecca Owens, who has recently gotten a degree in Mortuary Sciences and has an apprenticeship at River Fields Mortuary. The game starts out as a fairly straightforward and surprisingly in-depth simulator of what it’s like to be a mortician. You take out bodies for examination and perform a series of tasks.  You have a fairly lengthy checklist to go through like pumping out the body’s liquids and pumping in embalming fluid and sealing up the mouth and eyes. Each task usually involves some sort of mini-game that requires a button press at a certain time or doing Trauma Center-style tasks like following a specific pattern to sew things up.  That alone is pretty interesting, despite how morbid it is. However, the game ramps up as you soon learn that a demonic entity is haunting the mortuary. As an additional career requirement, you will have to add demonic exorcism tasks. This is something definitely not covered in basic Mortuary Sciences, but Rebecca is up for the challenge.

As Rebecca begins her duties, things get darker and creepier as the night rolls on. Shadow starts to bend, unsettling noses go off and mysterious figures start to appear. Eventually, the demons will become more aggressive, appearing on top of cabinets and outside windows, or bringing the corpse back to life as you are working on it. Dealing with these demonic problems requires an exorcism like figuring out the demon’s name and using a cross to force them back into the corpse. But the lonely night shift in the mortuary is long and draws in unwanted spirits that hate to be bothered.

The game looks great and suitably horrific with a realistic look for all the bodies that come into the mortuary. There is a great sense of attention to detail as far as the actual equipment and tools you need to use to fully perform your mortician duties. If nothing else, you’ll definitely get a new appreciation for the work that goes into getting a body ready for a funeral and burial. There are also plenty of jump scares and nightmare sequences to put you on edge, especially if you are playing it with headphones at night. The Mortuary Assistant also features multiple endings and each playthrough is unique with different corpses to examine and demonic foe. This helps adds some more replay value to check out the variations and find new scary experiences the title has to offer.  The Mortuary Assistant has a fun macabre theme that might not be for everyone but if you’re up for morbid curiosity and jump scares this title will be for you. The Mortuary Assistant offers up an equally fascinating and scary experience that is worth checking out.  The Mortuary Assistant was released on August 2nd for PC.

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