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Gamebox 2.0: Games of September 2022

 

The September weather got a bit colder, but these new releases were firey hot with action. We investigated a VR murder in Dyschronia: Chronos Alternate, returned to the Wasteland for the demo of Turbo Kid, cleaned up crime scenes with the Serial Cleaners, battled as a blind bionic samurai in Blind Fate: Edo no Yami and more.  Check out everything we played below in the Game Box.

Turbo Kid Demo (Zach):  We loved the 80s throwback of Turbo Kid when it came out in 2015 and now the movie becomes a game. Outerminds’ Turbo Kid has you playing as the titular BMX wasteland scavenger as you explore a Metroidvania-style post-apocalypse.  The Kid has an arm blaster a la Mega Man and a melee weapon and you can use both to break through barriers or battle enemies.  Much like the movie, enemies (and you) die hilariously over the top, gory deaths and you can even use enemy heads and throw them at other enemies.  There’s some great platforming as you can climb and jump between ledges and the animation is fantastic even with the throwback, pixel art style.

One cool element of the game is The Kid’s BMX bike.  You can summon it any time you want and, when you are on the bike, the game almost turns into Trials where you have to build up momentum and control the rotation of your bike.  The demo takes place in an amusement park turned skate park by a bunch of punks and you can use half pipes to build up speed and height to reach higher areas.  You can gain upgrades, like spikes for the wheels of your bike, that lets you ride up vertical walls, which adds to the exploration element of the game.  The bike mechanics do take a bit to get used to but the game lets you practice a bit before throwing some more difficult challenges out there and you can take your time until you get used to the flow.  One of the many excellent pieces of the movie was the soundtrack by Le Matos and they are back to do the score for the game as well, which seems so far like more great synthwave goodness.  Based on the demo, Turbo Kid seems like it’s going to live up to the awesomeness of the movie and be a fantastic Metroidvania platformer.  You can play the demo now on Steam and the full game is coming soon.

Dyschronia: Chronos Alternate (Zach): Out now for Meta Quest 2, Dyschronia: Chronos Alternate is an anime adventure game where you play as a rookie investigator taking on an important murder case.  Coming from developer MyDearest, who previously released Tokyo Chronos and Altdeus for VR, Dyschronia: Chronos Alternate is set in the world of Astrum Close, a city where the population is monitored by AI and crime is at .001%, you literally step into the shoes of Hal Scion.  A “variant” human who came from outside the city when he was young, Hal was taken in by the city’s main law enforcement agency and has trained to become a Supervisor, who can enter the augmented reality of the city and interact with the unconscious avatars of the citizens.  Hal also has the ability to “Memory Dive” and see the past of certain objects, which aids in his murder investigation when the founder of the city is killed.  If you are into games like the Phoenix Wright series, you’ll probably dig the vibe of Dyschronia as the main gameplay has you investigating and collecting evidence and then piecing together the evidence in your log to try and figure out what happened. Because it’s VR, you are actually picking up and manipulating evidence and all the interactions feel natural and realistic and there’s a great sense of scale and presence when you are interacting with the other characters.

I previously played Altdeus from MyDearest and was a bit disappointed at the ratio of gameplay to a sort of visual novel-style story and dialogue.  Dyschronia has much more gameplay going on and it’s much more interesting with the crime scene investigations and murder mystery elements.  You quickly learn that Hal can not only see the past, but he can manipulate it, which is how you solve some of the puzzles and gather certain pieces of evidence.  If you aren’t into anime stylings and characters, Dyschronia is extremely anime, so you may want to look for other VR adventures to take part in.  One of the coolest parts of the game is early on when you get immersed in a Cowboy Bebop/Persona-style intro sequence set to a cool J-pop song and your assistant is Lily, a chibi cat/fox girl robot who helps you investigate the crime scenes and upload data to HQ but she also wants head scratches and talks in an extremely over the top, cutesy manner.  Dyschronia has a cool setting, an interesting story, and some fun gameplay that makes you feel like a detective. Thanks to being in VR, it is a fully immersive gameplay experience.  If you have a Meta Quest 2, check it out now.

No Place for Bravery (Chris): A retired warrior tries to find redemption in a dangerous situation in Glitch Factory and Ysbryd Games No Place for Bravery. This title is a 2D top-down action RPG, that combines elements from Legend of Zelda with Dark Souls, a touch of God of War. The plot follows Thorn, a mighty warrior, who became a broken man after his daughter was taken from him by a warlock. Ten years later, Thorn is haunted by his mistake and has given up the sword to settle down. However, clues about the same warlock and the raising tension for war causes Thorn to pick up arms and set off to find answers.

The gameplay is all about attacking, dodging, and parrying from all angles. Thorn has a health bar, a defense bar, and a stamina gauge that drains with most actions. Attacking or dodging will use up stamina and taking hits with a shield to block widdles down the defense bar. Thorn can wield three main weapons, a sword, a hammer, and a crossbow.  The sword is well-rounded and causes some bleeding damage when charged up. The hammer is useful for taking out enemies in one hit and pushing enemies back a bit. The crossbow gives Thorn some range attacks that pick off enemies from a distance. There are some consumable weapons like the throwing knife, but those are useful to chip a tiny bit of health from enemies. There is also a parry system that lets Thorn stun enemies if they block certain attacks that opens up for a few extra hits. If an enemy is close to death and their stamina is depleted, they can be executed in a finisher move that gives Thorn extra rewards and makes for some spectacular 2D pixelated gore. The stamina and parry system makes mixes up combat a bit and actively engages the player to figure out attack patterns. It’s really important to be aware of the surroundings and incoming enemies since fighting more than four enemies at once become a terribly unfair fight. Enemies with ranged attacks like the bow become a big pain to manage in the heat of battle. Archers camp out at hard-to-reach spaces and are fairly accurate with their shots.

Death come follows Thorn where ever he goes, but sometimes it can catch up to him. Dying in combat or falling into an endless pit too many times will Thorn back to a campfire site, with a small gold penalty. Gold is used to buy upgrades and items, so grinding and dying isn’t as annoying as trying to earn exp points in other games. There are some great modifications in the game that can make a easy or harder in combat. The time for the parry window can be increased, the amount of damage taken or given can be changed and stamina. This helps frustrated gamers that want to get past tough selections without sacrificing too much skill.

While the combat is hectic and fast pace, it doesn’t offer a ton of variety as the game progress further. Enemies don’t have much variety after a while, and the game increases the difficulty by throwing more enemies at once on screen. The gameplay can get limited and sometimes annoying to tackle, especially when trying to hop over pit jumps while under arrow fire. Like most Souls-like games, skillful players can quickly slash their way thru levels with a minimum grind to earn upgrades. But once you reach the halfway point, you tend to stick with a reliable certain combination of items and weapons.

Undoubtedly the big draw for No Place for Bravery is the amazing pixel art. The rich sprite work that spreads from background to character design follows beautifully. Towns, caves, and ruins have an amazing vibrant look with great animations. There is a ton of alluring visual work that makes this game feel timeless. The soundtrack has a very classic gothic style that makes exploring ruins a bit haunted and fights a bit more savage. No Place for Bravery has fast pace-action, amazing visuals, and a beautifully scored soundtrack but doesn’t try to push many boundaries outside of its scope. Gamers that enjoy a mature theme pixelated adventure should take a look at No Place Bravery, now available for PC and Nintendo Switch.

Blind Fate: Edo no Yami (Zach): Out now from Troglobytes Games and 101XP, Blind Fate: Edo no Yami is a super stylish side-scrolling action game for all consoles and PC.  You play as Yami, a samurai who was almost killed by a deadly Yokai demon and was rebuilt as a blind bionic cyber-samurai.  Yami has The Mask of Oni that can generate a virtual representation of the world but if the data is not up to date, there could be features of the world that are actually missing, like what looks like a solid roof is actually a collapsed ruin.  Yami also has different sensors, sound, heat, and blood, and you can use them to find collectibles and points of interest but also to detect his Yokai enemies, who are invisible until attacked or detected with sensors.  Yami has a katana, obviously, but also a shotgun arm.  You can pull off different combos with the katana and some enemies can be stunned with the arm blast, which lets you pull off a finishing move.  If you land a certain amount of hits on enemies, you can also switch to a certain sensor that they are weak against and perform a finishing move by lining up with your analog stick and pressing the attack button.

The game has a great style to it and the mix of classic Japanese folklore and settings combined with a cyberpunk, robotic world is just awesome.  The enemies are all robotic versions of actual creatures from Japanese folklore and you can analyze and learn their history as well as their weaknesses the more of them you defeat.  The game’s combat is challenging but not too difficult and it’s more forgiving and free-flowing than say, a Souls game or the 2D game like Salt and Sanctuary.  You can dodge and block and you gain experience that you can use back at your dojo to unlock a ton of new abilities and combat techniques.  The idea of being blind and how it’s implemented is also really cool, like using noise to sense when enemies are coming, tracking down heat sources, and updating your virtual view of the world so that it changes around you.  If you’re looking for a cool and stylish action game with smooth gameplay and combat, definitely check out Blind Fate: Edo no Yami now.

(Chris): Japanese lore meets cyberpunk elegance in Troglobytes Games and 101XP’s Blind Fate: Edo no Yami. This 2.5D side scroller that is a mash-up of classic platforming titles like Ninja Gaiden and the frenzy sword swinging of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. The game follows Yami, a demon hunter that has been rebuilt with cybernetic technology. He is reborn with advantage equipment but has suffered damage to his visual cues. However, with his heightened senses and AI assistance, Yami is able to navigate thru rough terrains and fight demonic evil in the dark.

Blind Fate offers an interesting visual and gameplay design that changes how players approach to combat.  Yami scans the surroundings by picking up heat signatures or sounds to form visual references like echolocation. But enemies are constantly moving and switching their own approaches, so Yami has to change his method of detection. Hacking away in one direction and angle will leave Yami vulnerable to counterattacks, so spamming attacks for a lucky strike is a bad strategy. Even in navigation, the terrain becomes different as certain obstacles don’t appear under the right conditions and there are pitfalls to run into. There is a rhythm to the combat that will have you toggle the right scanners to find the enemy and continue the flow of battle. This also is required to detect what lies ahead when traveling so Yami doesn’t accidentally jump into a pit.

Yami is armed with deadly attacks and a shotgun arm. Slicing and blasting enemies will weaken them to a point where Yami can perform a critical swipe at an enemy’s weak point. There is a cool mechanic where Yami learns from multiple fights of the same enemy type to increase the chance for a critical hit. As Yami defeats enemies, experiences points are collected for upgrades, leading to more needed abilities to attack and dodge the increasingly difficult enemy types. The game gives you a good degree of control where you can feel like a shifting wind, cutting into an enemy before they have a chance to block.

Blind Fate: Edo no Yami nicely blends Japanese fables with great visuals fairs that switch between the glowing neon cityscapes and solitary ruins. This could have been a run-of-the-mill platformer, but the unique combat mechanics is an artful design that works well. Yami handles well and different enemy types keep it from being mindless. Swiftly taking out enemies feels earned and rewards skills than reckless planning.  Blind Fate: Edo no Yami is a fun addition for any gamer that has been in that cyberpunk mood lately and is a great title to check out. Blind Fate: Edo no Yami was now available for Xbox, Switch, Playstation, and PC.

BPM: Bullets Per Minute (Zach): A “rhythm FPS”, BPM: Bullets Per Minute comes from AWE Interactive and Playtonic Friends.  You play as a Valkyrie, who descends into the underworld to prevent the demonic hordes from invading Asgard.  The game is rogue-like where each level is a randomly generated dungeon and you try to make it as far as you can in each run with your ultimate goal being to defeat seven bosses so you can take on the final boss, Nidhogg.  The big gameplay element of BPM is that it combines rhythm gameplay with an old-school 90s-style FPS, like Doom.  There is a constant beat meter going toward your crosshairs and if you can fire and reload on the beat, you’ll increase your combo meter and score.  The enemies all move to the music as well, so you need to listen and rock out while also dodging attacks and blasting your way through the level.  It is pretty tricky to wrap your mind around and expect to die quite a lot, not just from trying to figure out the mechanics but just from the enemies’ attacks.  BPM is brutally difficult even on Easy and it might be too difficult and frustrating for some players.

There are lots of weapons to collect and items that will give you a number of unique abilities and you can also eventually play as 10 different characters who all have unique strengths and weaknesses.  Being a rhythm game, the soundtrack must be a highlight and it definitely is. The music all rocks and feels like something like Doom and that also extends to the graphics, which throwback to 90s FPS but with modern touches and smooth gameplay.  BPM: Bullets Per Minute has a unique concept that, along with the recently released Metal Hellsinger, is ushering in a new era of the “rhythm FPS” genre.  BPM is brutally hard but if you are looking for a challenge and can keep a beat while blasting away enemies, definitely check it out on Steam, Switch, Xbox, and Playstation.

Hell Pie (Chris): Developed by Sluggerfly and published by Thundeful Games & Headup Games, Hell Pie is a 3D action platformer set in a twisted take on heaven and hell. Players step into the role of Nate, a minor minion that is tasked with helping Hell’s head chef bake a pie for Satan’s birthday. The chef orders Nate to collect various ghoulish items to make Satan’s treat. Chained along with Nate is Nugget, a cherub that is forced to help. Together, Nate and Nugget traverse and battle thru the depths of hell and the heights of heaven to search for ingredients.

Hell Pie‘s gameplay has that early 2000’s 3D platformer feel to it, something like Conker’s Bad Fury Day.  Nate can easily move about, performing short hops and dashes in all directions, but with Nugget’s additional there’s a neat swing mechanic. Since Nate and Nugget are chained together, Nate can use Nugget as a floating anchor like a pendulum and quickly swing. This can be used up to three times per summon, so it’s important to judge distance quickly. Nugget’s ability also extends to Nate’s combat abilities, where Nugget, unfortunately, becomes a melee weapon. Nate uses Nugget like a flail to do a spin attack to smash boxes and enemies. In some areas, there are bomb plants that let Nate grab a timed explosion that can be hurled toward enemies.

Nate and Nugget have to search thru five areas, encountering many inhabitants that will offer some help or put up some resistance. The levels range from tropical beaches, cramped sewers, sterile offices, a shady restaurant, and even the gates of heaven. There around are various shrines that will give Nate new horns to wear that grant special abilities. The cost for these horns is sacrificing baby unicorn horns because you can’t have nice things in hell. Also, there are rare Candymeat cans that grant Nate and Nugget upgraded to increase stats like health points and dodging ability. All of these levels have easy-to-find checkpoints and teleporters, so it’s easy to backtrack for collectibles and missing ingredients.

Hell Pie is crude, rude, and filled with hellish delights. This is an odd game that wouldn’t work for general gamers but strikes well for fans of classic Rare platformer titles and poop jokes. There is a fun charm to the gross humor that you either enjoy or is sick of by the first 10 minutes. The visuals and character designs are warped and shocking as if the designers were creating stuff to gross each other out. The game is one giant fetch ques, but the different scenery and characters you encounter make it a fun experience. Hell Pie is out now for PC, Playstation, Xbox, and Switch.

Serial Cleaners (Zach): The sequel to Serial Cleaner, Serial Cleaners from Draw Distance and 505 Games ups the amount of criminal crime scene cleaners to four as you try to stay one step ahead of the cops and hide bodies and evidence in 1990s New York City.  Bob, Psycho, Lati, and Vip3r are a crew of criminals who are called in to make sure that evidence and bodies from various crimes disappear and you can play as each of them through various scenarios.  At each crime scene, you have to clean up enough of the blood, get rid of the bodies, and collect and dispose of the evidence.  The cops will usually arrive and you have to hide and sneak past them to complete your jobs, so the game is a stealth-action game as well as a cleaning sim.  You have a special vision mode that lets you pick out the blood to clean and evidence to gather and each character has a special ability that you can use to help clean up each scene.  You can also turn on things like radios and flip lights on and off to distract your enemies and, if things get desperate, you can throw bigger pieces of evidence at them to temporarily stun them.  If you get shot or caught, the mission is over but you usually end up checkpointed back to the last successful body or evidence disposal.

The game has a fantastic sense of style, with a grimy 90s VHS look and feel and lots of crazy words and pictures popping up all over the screen.  The characters are fun as well, like Bob being the wily gangster veteran who loves jazz.  The game is played in an isometric style with each location feeling like a little diorama world and there are tons of little details and interesting elements to each one, like one of Psycho’s levels basically being the finale of Fargo that you have to clean up, complete with wood chippers. In fact, a lot of the levels are inspired by 90s crime thrillers or action movies, so it’s a great game for movie fans like us as well. Serial Cleaners is a cool concept executed extremely well and it is an interesting change of pace compared to similar-looking games where you’d be the one causing the mayhem instead of having to clean it up.  There’s a good mix of risk/reward to the clean-ups and the stealth action is solid.  Serial Cleaners is out now PC, Xbox, Playstation, and Switch.

(Chris): When you need evidence to disappear with expert precision, you hire a serial cleaner for the job. Set 90s era of New York City, Serial Cleaners follows a rag-tag crew of fixers working for the underworld. The crew consists of Lati, Vip3r, and Pyscho, and are led by the veteran cleaner, Bob. Each has their reasons for joining Bob and is trying to make a name for themselves. The dirty deeds of the underworld leave behind big and bloody clutter, so there are crime scenes to clear up before the police take everything. Bodies have to be hidden, evidence has to be collected and blood has to be vacuumed up. It will be a tactical match of cleaning and hiding for these cleaners to get the job done.

Serial Cleaners is the sequel to Draw Distance’s Serial Cleaner title that blended stealth and cleaning action in one funky title. The core premise is taking the role of a cleaner that has to make crime scenes vanish. No bodies, no evidence, no crime right? This newest entry evolves the original look and feels, bringing the whole story and vibe to the 90s. The 90s come alive with great aesthetics inspired by movies and computer games from that era. The game focuses on stealth mechanics, even while cleaning. Cleaning up a crime scene has to be done secretly and quietly to not raise alarms. The player has to navigate thru the crime scene to find the evidence and bodies and bring it back to a safe spot, usually their car.  They have to remain practically unseen as the police and civilians will slowly become alerted if something strange is sighted. There will be a line of sight direct at the player that will change color to indicate the level of awareness. police will give chase and can shoot on sight if they feel threatened enough. These cleaners are not Solid Snake and can’t simply fight their way out of a bad situation. Getting swarmed by police or shot is an instant reset to the level unless a quick save was triggered in a designated safe spot.

The gameplay has been expanded with 4 different characters to play that each offers some variety in their cleaning methods. They all can haul bodies, vacuum up blood, collect evidence and throw objects, but how they approach police officers and cause distractions are different.  Bob is a standard cleaner that hasn’t let age slow him down too much, Lati is an artist and more agile, Vip3r is a hacker that trips electronics and is nimble, and Pyscho has brute strength and is prone to fits of rage while he cleans. Each level of the game focuses on one of the cleaners that utilize and challenges their specialty. This offers up some fun variety in levels that lets players experiment with multiple approaches. There is no time limit or order to clean up the scene, so it’s very open to trying wild gambles and panic decisions. There are some physics issues, mainly if toggling or picking up items gets cumbersome if they accidentally overlap each other, but it’s not difficult to sort.

Serial Cleaners has a great polished presentation and a solid gameplay foundation.  The voice work is well acted and gives off a ton of personality that makes you cheer on these criminal cleaners. With its dark themes and unusual premise, Serial Cleaners definitely stands out from regular stealth focus titles. It’s a worthy addition to any stealth-action gamer and a nostalgic trip for many 90s movie fans. Serial Cleaners was released on September 22 and is available on PC, Playstation, Xbox, and Switch.

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