Everything Action

Action news, reviews, opinions and podcast

Gamebox 2.0: Games of March 2023

It was a huge month of gaming here at Everything Action as we attended PAX East 2023 and got to check out a ton of upcoming games. But before we left to cover that event, we got our hands on some fresh games to try out. We raced in the wastelands in rogue-like Death Roads Tournament, went exploring in two different Metroidvania titles in 9 Years of Shadows and Pronty, and a few more! Read on to see what titles we played for this month in the game box and come back for the review of our time in Boston for Pax!

Death Roads Tournament (Zach): We’ve played a bunch of post-apocalyptic racing games, mostly on the tabletop with games like Thunder Road: Vendetta and Joyride and Death Roads Tournament from The Knights of Unity further expands that style of game in digital form. Death Roads Tournament puts you on a cross-country race in a post-apocalyptic America and your goal is to make it from the west coast to the east coast in one piece, engaging in road battles and random events along the way.  The structure should be familiar to rogue-like fans as you pick a starting point and then after each race, you can pick your path and decide how you to proceed, whether it’s toward a harder race with bigger rewards or a garage to repair.  When you get into a race, you play from an overhead perspective where you can see your car and your opponents.  You get a deck of cards based on the weapons and equipment you currently have equipped on your car along with special cards you’ll always have based on your driver.  Some cards are attacks and you’ll see where they will hit; others allow you to maneuver, ram into opponents, or shift gears to play more powerful cards.  You can play as many cards as you have energy for but you have to be aware of your skid meter, which goes down with each card as it represents you maneuvering around the track. If you lose all of your skid meter, you’ll go into a skid and have to draw cards that could send you into a wall or into an opponent.

Eliminating all your opponents will win the race and you’ll earn money and possibly new parts for your car, which you can equip to get new card options.  On your way to the finish line, you can also encounter random events that can greatly help or hinder you depending on your choices. There are also other racers trying to finish before you, so you have to balance speed with exploration on your way across the country.  If you get eliminated, you’ll have to start on a new race but you’ll unlock permanent upgrades that will help you get farther next time and there are also additional cars and drivers to unlock as well.  The game has a cool look, especially when you are in a race and battling other cars, and even though you are not directly controlling your car, there’s still a thrill from each race as you try to outmaneuver and outgun your opponents. Plus there are lots of options between your weapons and trying to ram and smash them.  If you are into rogue-likes and post-apocalyptic racing or if you’ve played physical tabletop games like the aforementioned Thunder Road: Vendetta or Joyride, definitely check out Death Roads Tournament on Steam Early Access now.

Pronty (Chris): When monstrous creatures begin to ascend from underwater trenches, a new guardian will dive into the challenge in Pronty. Developed 18LIGHT with support by FunZone Games, Joy Brick Inc, and Happinet, Pronty has arrived onto consoles for an aquatic take on the Metroidvania formula. The game follows an amphibious creature who becomes the newest Pronty, a protector that keeps the peace from the sinister rogues luring in the sea. As a fresh recruit, this pronty is quickly dropped into tackling increasing dangers that threaten Royla, the major city for all inhabitants. But you are not completely alone on your adventure. Tagging along as a companion and weapon, Bront. Together, the young pronty and Bront head off to find out to stop the invasion of violent creatures and protect Royla from destruction.

Pronty underwater setting offers some interesting visuals and mechanics for the Metroidvania genre. Instead of the usual platforming of jumping, double-jump, and gliding through the air, pronty swims around with some twin-stick support. The gameplay is a mix of something like Echo the Dolphin meets Metal Slugs. Combat involves using the eel-like cyborg weaponized friend Bront as a javelin. Pronty can target enemies and obstacles, then send out Bront to repeatedly strike it. There is some versatility to Bront as later on in the game, pronty unlocks a chipboard that grants perks. There are weapon upgrades that change up Bront’s attack pattern as well as skills that buffer pronty’s defenses. However, pronty can only hold up to three chips at a time, so having the right layout for the situation plays helps in tougher parts of the game.

There are lots of areas to explore and lore to uncover in the secluded dungeon-like environment. There is something so mystifying about an underwater setting that feels like it’s isolated but full of life. The visuals borrow some visual cues from Bioshock and incorporate them well to be its own style. The player can pick up logs and watch animated cut-scenes that tell just give a glimpse of the submersed future. However, it never gets more complex and refocuses back to the exploration elements.

Pronty offers a fun challenge for casual Metroidvania fans. It doesn’t push the combat to new levels, but it has a unique look that stands on its own. It has a quirky, anime-like charm to the characters and plot, and the game gives players lots of room to swim and explore. Some selections can get repeatability, especially when venturing into unknown areas looking for much-needed save rooms. But making it to the next boss battle always feels rewarding. You get the feeling of a small fish in the big sea when tackling some of these mega-size mutant creatures. Overall, Pronty is a fun title that plays on the Switch for its fluid combat and charming imagery. Pronty was released for the Switch on March 7th and is also available on Steam.

9 Years of Shadows (Zach): If you’re a fan of Metroidvanias, 9 Years of Shadows from Halberd Studios and Freedom Games should be right up your alley, as it’s clearly inspired by classics like Symphony of the Night.  You play as Europa, a warrior who is determined to bring life and color back to her world by entering a mechanical fortress called Talos and destroying the corruption within that has caused her land to become dark and colorless.  Early in her mission, she meets the adorable Apino, a magical floating bear that can help Europa restore color and heal.  The game plays like classic Castlevania sidescrollers, with Europa feeling a bit like Lecarde from Castlevania: Bloodlines because of her main spear-like weapon and she can find different armor throughout the game powered by different elements that give her new ways to attack and new ways to explore, unlocking paths that were previously inaccessible.  There are also plenty of platforming and puzzle challenges that will make you use each of the different armors abilities to quickly move through stages, like using the Poseidon water-based armor to lea between different bodies of water.

The pixel art in 9 Years of Shadows is stunning and definitely up to the standards of the games that inspired it.  The fortress of Talos is an extremely interesting and horrific location to explore, with a mix of lots of crystalline structures and more organic elements and there’s a wide variety of enemies to battle and some truly epic and awesome bosses to fight.  The music is also top-notch and actually features into the gameplay, as you can find and rescue different musicians trapped in Talos and you use a special lullaby to heal with Apino.  Two of the trapped musicians are legendary video game composers Michiru Yamane, who worked on Castlevania, and Norihiko Hibino, who worked on Metal Gear Solid. Both composers contributed to the game’s soundtrack and appear as NPCs.  The gameplay is smooth and will definitely make fans of games like Symphony of the Night feel right at home as there are moves like a backward dash to avoid enemy attacks that are right out of the Alucard playbook.  9 Years of Shadows is a great Metroidvania that fans of Castlevania especially should check out.  It’s out now on Steam.

Kung Fury: Street Rage (Zach): Like a True Survivor, Kung Fury: Street Rage arrives on all platforms from Hello There Games.  Based on the cult classic short film, Kung Fury: Street Rage originally came out on mobile platforms and later Steam as a sort of beat em up/rhythm game hybrid that was akin to games like One Finger Death Punch where you can attack left or right and have to time your button presses correctly to take on the incoming enemies and avoid getting hit or whiffing and opening yourself up to damage.  Along with that mode, The Ultimate Edition now has two full-on beat ’em up storylines where you have full control of one of the main heroes from the Kung Fury universe and proceed through different stages.  Along with the main hero Kung Fury, you can play as Hackerman, Triceracop, Barbarianna, and even The Hoff himself, and each hero has a different fighting style and powered-up ability, like Hasselhoff delivering a screen-clearing blast of righteous music.

The original Street Rage mode is a fun but brutal game where you really have to be precise with your button presses and timing.  Fairly quickly you’ll start encountering enemies who take more than a single hit or that you need to hit back and forth and the number of enemies really ramps up.  Luckily for that mode, there is a practice mode where you can try out each character and learn the basic mechanics and you can also get tips and tricks from Hackerman himself.  The beat em up campaigns are short but sweet and while they are a bit simplistic as far as the combat compared to stuff like last year’s brilliant Shredder’s Revenge, the ambiance and ridiculously awesome layering on of the Kung Fury universe make it still a lot of fun to play.  The soundtrack rocks with new synthwave tracks along with Kung Fury staples like “True Survivor” from The Hoff.  The presentation also leans into the classic 80s aesthetic with filters that make it seem like you are playing on an old CRT or arcade machine.  While Kung Fury: Street Rage isn’t the most in-depth beat ’em up, the love for the IP is clearly there and if you love Kung Fury, it’s definitely worth checking it out to beat up some Nazis and rock out to some sweet tunes.  It’s out now on PS4/5, Xbox Series, Switch, and Steam.

(Chris): It’s always great to see cult movies spawn other products that closely follow what made the original source so amazing. Kung Fury came at a time that was ready for silly action comedies, and no one was prepared for what to expect. Hello There Games delivered Kung Fury: Street Rage as the next best thing to get some more hilarious action and now it just got more radical with this new Ultimate Edition. Street Rage continued the adventure of Kung Fury and his friends, cleaning up the tough streets and punching out Nazis. The original game mechanics were pretty simple for a beat ’em-up. There are only two-button inputs to attack left or right and only a handful of enemy types to fight. Each level is just taking on waves of enemies. However, as minimal as it that is, the game offers a big challenge as you don’t get health back and must take on multiple enemies at once. The game mechanics require good timing to find a fighting rhythm. It has a retro design similar to the NES classic Kung-Fu, but with massive updates.

The Ultimate Edition further expands the gameplay by including two modes originally introduced as DLC. The Arcade Strikes Back and A Day at the Beach were expansions that added some new mechanics and the addition to play as David Hasseloff.  The Arcade Strikes Back brings additional chapters to the base game, with all of the same mechanics, plus co-op multiplayer. However, A Day at the Beach adds new gameplay that moves the game closer to a traditional beat ’em-up. In this mode, you can move your characters freely in the 2D planes and be more aggressive toward enemies. You don’t have to wait for them to approach, you can chase after them now.

Kung Fury: Street Rage Ultimate Edition is obviously the best-upgraded way for first-time players to experience the title, and worth a revisit for die-hard fans that played the original releases. The presentation of the game is lovely crafted with the support of the original creators of Kung Fury and has tons of retro appeal. The game doesn’t go for major depth but perfectly feels like it accomplishes the great task of being fun pocket-size entertainment. Pair it with a viewing of Kung Fury and you’ll be wanting to do some kung-fu moves for a few hours after. Kung Fury: Street Rage Ultimate Edition was digitally released on March 17th for PC, PS4/5, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch. Physical editions will be available from Limited Run Games, with pre-orders starting now.

Impaler (Chris): With an aggressive title like Impaler, this action game does not shy away to be anything less than a violent good time. Developed by Apptivus and published by Retrovibe, Impaler is an FPS with rogue-lite elements, that goes minimal on the world-building elements but goes maximum on the fast-paced, twitching shooting performances. The player steps into the role of the nameless and mute warrior, who is on a mission to take on as many waves of enemies as possible. The starting equipment is the impaler, which summons spikes from the ground that can block and impale enemies. And that’s about it for the plot. What happens next is all on the player to fight and survive.

The gameplay is all about eliminating enemies. Each round has a certain amount of enemies that need to be taken out in order to complete a round. The impaler is the primary weapon. It creates large spikes that will impale enemies and generate a bit of health back, or be used to make quick barriers. It has a limited range and a cooldown gauge after a set amount of spikes summoned, so this is not a spray-and-pray usage. Secondary weapons can be found such as a submachine gun, a shotgun, and a rocket launcher. These weapons have unlimited ammo and also have a cool-down gauge if they are repeatedly used. Enemies and giant demonic-looking chalices drop gold currency, that can be used to purchase random perks for the next round. These perks increase the power of weapons or add some defensive abilities to the player.

There are two handy special abilities that make it easy for crowd control. The first is a ground attack that let the player either stomp enemies on their head if they land on them or send out a wave of spikes in one direction. The other ability is a slow-mo/bullet time effect that makes it easy to pick off enemies as they drag on for a few moments. This comes in handy when getting overwhelmed and needing to quickly make some room. Dying in a run resets the player back to round one, with all of the perks removed. The only thing that can be carried over is earned secondary weaponry. This might seem like time wasted, but since this game relies on skills over grind, it’s not hard to fight your way back to the last round again.

Impaler looks and feels like a classic 90s FPS, with some slight visual upgrades. The game is pretty straight forwards for anyone to pick up and play, but with a difficulty challenging that is addictive to master. This compact game is short on price and mechanics, but sizable on intense experiences. Definitely give this one a round to see if you got the need for piercing gameplay today! Impaler was released to PC on December 6th.

Deck ‘Em (Zach): Inspired by classic Windows Solitaire, Deck ‘Em is a simple but fun boxing card game from Frosty Pop where you attempt to survive a fight against The Champ using a deck of cards.  Each round, you’ll draw cards, which can be multiple copies of The Champ, punches, blocks, and items like health.  If you drag a card with The Champ onto your fighter, you take damage equal to the number on the card, so the key is to try and mitigate your damage and figure out when to take hits and when to fight back.  If you get a punch, you can damage and possibly eliminate a Champ card if the number is high enough and blocks can be used to absorb damage, but only if the number on the block card is equal to or higher than the number of the Champ card and the blocks become less effective each time they get used.

You can stack blocks and store health kits but you have to either eliminate or take the hits from The Champ in order to complete the round.  Each round you survive earns you more money and if you lose, you can go double or nothing in the next game to try and earn a high score.  Your ultimate goal is to survive 12 rounds.  The game is something you can easily pick up and play but it’s also got that addictive quality of playing “just one more game” and then playing way longer than you intended.  In an homage to Solitaire, the game starts out in a windowed mode so you can potentially sneak in games while you are supposed to be working. Hopefully, there’s a mobile version in the works because it seems like the perfect game to have on your phone for a quick round or two on the go.  Deck ‘Em is out now on Steam.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *