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Gamebox 2.0: Games of February 2024

This month in the world of games, we became a cog in the machine in CorpoNation: The Sorting Process, revisited one of the greatest PC games ever made with Free Stars: The Ur-Quan Masters, started a mob war in Of Murder and Moonshine, and more. Check out all the games we have seen in the Gamebox 2.0 below.

CorpoNation: The Sorting Process (Zach): Inspired by things like Black Mirror, CorpoNation: The Sorting Process from Playtonic Friends and Canteen puts you in the shoes of a lab technician working for the mysterious Ringo CorpoNation.  Your task is to sort genetic material into different groups, the quicker and more accurate you sort, the more credits you earn each shift.  You have bills to pay but you can also use credits to buy decorations for your home pod.  There are also “state approved” games, a fighting game and solitaire, that you can use credits to buy upgrades and cosmetics in.  As you progress, the story slowly unravels and you begin to learn about an outside resistance group trying to reveal the truth to you and the other corporate drones and you need to decide if you’re going to be loyal to Ringo or start to work against them.

The gameplay loop is simple but it gets addicting as you try to get the most samples sorted before your shift ends.  Much like Papers, Please, your task gradually becomes more and more complicated as more criteria are added to the sorting process and new tools and tasks are added.  The story is told well through your home computer, where you can read news stories, chat with the other members of your “work pod” and go through e-mails.  It nails the dystopian vibe with its unexplained genetic sorting process, the creepily cheery corporate jargon, and the world it creates is pretty unsettling right off the bat and you’re just waiting for the sinister shoe to drop.  The graphics are simple but stylish and it kind of feels like an old-school Mac game in the way things look.  If you’re into a slowly revealing story and games like Papers, Please, you’ll definitely be into CorpoNation: The Sorting Process.  It’s out now on Steam.

Of Murder & Moonshine (Chris): Rival crime families fight over the control of the illegal alcohol trade in the prohibition era of New Orleans. Each group is just as deadly and ruthless, but one hitman will turn the earn a name for himself and turn the bayou red in Of Murder and Moonshine. Developed by Prestige WWW, Of Murder and MoonShine is a 2D, side-scrolling action title that follows Leonard as he takes on dangerous assassination missions from his mob boss. Leonard will have to infiltrate rival areas, find and take out a target, and then escape without getting killed. It’ll take quick thinking and an even quicker trigger finger to reach the top of the crime families.

Of Murder and Moonshine follows familiar designs like Hotline Miami and Katana Zero where the player has to complete the mission in one attempt with as little to no damage as possible. The plot is pretty straightforward, with no cryptic storyline to follow. The game sets up Leonard as a newcomer hitman who is sent into increasingly dangerous situations with just his wits. The game’s scope is limited, but lets player experiment with different weapons and tactics as they carry out their assassinations. Before each mission starts the player can pick a weapon. There are only six weapons in the game; a handgun, a Tommy gun, a shotgun, a rifle, a bat, and a Molotov cocktail. Each has a different ammo count, range, and damage. A handgun is fast and has decent range, but lacks power to stop multiple people at once. The shotgun can make quick work out of the enemies but needs to be close to be effective. A rifle is good long-range and has stopping power, but does not have a lot of ammo. The weapons are balanced well so there is no single weapon that is perfect for every situation.

The mission levels are compact in scale and can be completed in minutes or more based on the player’s skill. The player has to search an area for Leonard’s target, which is always in a fixed location on the map. Most levels have varied pathways to try to attempt different approaches routes. There is a tiny stealth element to the game that lets you hide your weapon until it’s needed, but once the enemies have been alerted, everyone will be gunning for the player. Also, once a target is taken out, the player has to get out of the level as fast as possible before the police arrive. This usually results in either every enemy dead or the player trying to outrun a hail of bullets.

Of Murder and Moonshine provides a tight experience with a brisk pace and frantic gameplay. Levels are quickly introduced to set up where Leonard’s position in his gang, and then he is sent in to cause as much trouble as possible. The game has that great pick-up-and-play feel that anyone can understand after a few attempts. However, later levels do take some skills to finish. Some missions have obvious safe routes that make it a breeze to complete, while others take a little more luck or brute force. Some later missions could be completed with cheap camping tactics that make Leonard the lazy assassin. The game doesn’t have much depth aside from its simple premise. However, if you are a fan of indie games and are looking for an action-pack title to satisfy a few hours, then check out Of Murder and Moonshine. Of Murder and Moonshine will be released on March 1st, 2024 on PC.

Lords of Exile (Zach): If you’re looking for classic platforming action in the vein of Castlevania or Ninja Gaiden, definitely check out Lords of Exile from PID Games, PixelHeart, and Squidbit Works.  You play as a warrior named Gabriel, who is the deadliest henchman of the evil warlord Galagar. When Galagar kills Gabriel’s beloved, he vows revenge and sets off across the kingdom of Exilia to destroy all of Galagar’s other lieutenants and the warlord himself.  The game is a classic platformer where you have a sword as your main attack and you can pick up sub-weapons like Castlevania with a limited amount of ammunition.  Gabriel also has a slide and can thrust down from a jump to kill enemies and smash through floors.  As you progress and defeat bosses, you can gain helpers that can perform certain actions and feels like a mix between Mega Man weapons and Shatterhand’s drones that you get via collecting various symbols.

Lords of Exile has an excellent 8-bit art style that calls to mind NES classics but with added tricks and graphical power that games like Bloodstained and Shovel Knight have popularized in recent years.  The levels are diverse ranging from creepy castles to modern-looking docks and a wide variety of enemies to take down along the way.  The boss encounters are particularly excellent, where you need to learn the patterns and figure out when to strike and when to avoid attacks.  The controls are a little stiff in a way that feels similar to Castlevania, especially in the jumping. Once you jump, you’re committed and you can’t adjust in mid-air and it feels like you are just barely making some of the gaps.  The combat though feels excellent and will make Ninja Gaiden fans feel right at home.  The game’s soundtrack is also excellent, with a great retro feel that utilizes sounds from the Mega Drive/Genesis and it does a great job of driving you through each stage.  Lords of Exile is an excellent retro platformer and if you’re a fan of the genre, it’s one you should add to your list.  It’s out now on Steam, Switch, PS4/5, and Xbox Series S/X.

Geometry Survivor (Chris): It has been ages since a game with vector graphics has made me grip a controller tightly and carefully watch every close call colliding with so many shapes on screen. Geometry Survivor is the result of Brain Seal wanting to combine the intense shooting mechanics of Geometry Wars with the progression system of Vampire Survivors for a fun and familiar concept. Geometry Survivor is a rogue-lite, auto shooter that uses basic geometry shapes to create an intense bullet hell experience. The simplified controls allow just the player to control the ship, all of which can be done with one hand. The targeting and shooting are automated, leaving the player to handle the navigation and upgrades to the player to survive the overwhelming odds.

The gameplay of Geometry Survivor has the player control a hexagon shape and gradually upgrade and unlock new features. The initial run of the game is to see how long a player can last a 20-minute round of endlessly spawning enemies. Enemies move and attack in certain patterns that will constantly box in the player’s position. Depending on how the player upgrades their speed, they can be agile enough to circle the enemies or charge into their group like a wrecking ball. There are lots of load-outs to try, but there are limited numbers to re-roll for other choices. You can’t unequip or sell off any upgrades, so the safest choice is to upgrade what is most useful at the moment.

One of the standout features of Geometry Survivor is its sleek presentation. Brain Seal nails the modernized look of 80s arcade aesthetics as a homage to the Geometry War series. From the effects of the geometric shapes, vibrant use of colors, and energetic music, the game fits nicely as a parallel title to that series. But you can’t stare at all the dazzling visuals on screen for too long, a lot of the shapes are out to destroy you.

Overall, Geometry Survivor is a well-crafted auto-shooter title that offers a good blend of challenge and enjoyment. The game allows players to increase the difficulty to suit their style. You can enable more conditions to challenge yourself or add in stronger initial perks to make it a casual time. Its minimalist design and captivating visuals make it easy to play but hard to master. Whether you’re a gamer looking for a fun shooter or a seasoned survivor looking for the next challenge, Geometry Survivor is sure to provide hours of entertainment. Geometry Survivor was released this February 21st for PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, and PC.

Free Stars: The Ur-Quan Masters (Zach): Widely considered one of the greatest PC games ever made, Star Control 2 is back as Free Stars: The Ur-Quan Masters, which is available now for free on Steam from Pistol Shrimp.  Coming from the game’s original creators Paul Reiche and Fred Ford, Free Stars is a classic sci-fi adventure game that was the inspiration for games like Fallout, Bioshock, and Mass Effect.  You play as the captain of the last remaining human starship, as Earth has fallen under the control of the ruthless Ur-Quan, who have conquered most of the galaxy with their army of “battle thralls”.  Determined to free your home planet, you set out into the galaxy to find allies and forge a new alliance of planets to battle the Ur-Quan and free everyone trapped under their rule.

The amount of freedom you have in Free Stars is incredible, as there are hundreds of planets that you can travel to at any time, as long as you have the fuel.  Most of them are uninhabited but you can scan them and send down a ship to the surface to collect valuable minerals that you can use to trade for currency. With the currency, you can fuel up, by additional ships and ship components and get additional crew members. As you explore, you’ll encounter various alien species, all wonderfully realized in fantastic old-school graphics and with charmingly retro voice-acting. The writing is also fantastic, with a wonderful sense of humor and a clear love for all kinds of classic sci-fi media.  The game is open to however you want to play and you can keep replaying it to try new routes and make different decisions.

As brilliant as the game is, there are a few quirks that may be frustrating or tedious to modern gamers who have never experienced the series before.  Space travel can take some time, as while there is hyperspace, there’s no modern fast travel, so you have to watch the entire journey of your ship to your destination, which can take up to a few minutes depending on how far you are traveling.  Luckily, you do get to listen to absolute banger that is the hyperspace song.  There’s also momentum involved, so you may have to fidget with your ship to hit a specific planet.  The Asteroids/Space War style ship-to-ship combat sees you battling enemy ships in an arcade-style shooting mode but it can get a little frantic and you can take tons of damage until you get used to how it works.  The game does feature “Super Melee” mode, which lets you just engage in space battles, so it’s a good way to practice outside of the main game.  Free Stars: The Ur-Quan Masters is worth playing just on a historical level but it’s still an incredibly fun game that feels just as exciting and compelling so many decades after the original version first hit PCs.  Considering it will literally cost you nothing except time, get the game right now on Steam.

Ghostrunner 2 Dragon Pack DLC (Chris): Early this month 505 Games and One More Level dropped a new DLC for Ghostrunner 2 was released, a Year of the Dragon content theme simply called the Dragon Pack. Similar to the Ice Pack, this new content has new skins for weapons, hands, and the motorcycle. These skins add a cosmetic change to make your cybernetic experience feel more stylish. Included in this pack are the Chinese Mandarin voiceovers that can replace the original English voicework. This can turn the game into a different vibe completely, or even improve your ears on languages while you slice & dice enemies.

There was a free hardcore mode for an extra challenge and the Dragon Pack adds a bit more flair to revisiting the story. The Dragon Pack is the second DLC pack out of the five planned releases. The Ice Pack was released last December and the upcoming Heat Pack is planned to come out this June. Nothing has been mentioned about what kind of content the Heat pack will include, but with June being a hot month, obviously going to be themed around fiery visuals.  The season pass of DLC is included with the Brutal edition of Ghostrunner 2 but can be individually brought for those looking to upgrade their game at any time.  The Dragon Pack DLC was released on February 8th for Playstation, Xbox, and PC.

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