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Gamebox 2.0: Games of June 2024

The temperatures are just right for a good time to crank the AC and play video games this month. We checked the retro racing game Rider’s Spirits, explored a spooky 90s suburbia in Echo Generation: Midnight Edition, wagered our luck with a supernatural being in Flathead, took on the undead in Necromantic, and more. Check out everything we played in June below in the Gamebox 2.0.

Echo Generation: Midnight Edition (Zach): Originally released in 2022, Echo Generations: Midnight Edition is a remaster of the turn-based RPG from Cococucumber. After choosing and naming your character, you explore your neighborhood, where all kinds of bizarre events occur, including an alien invasion, evil demonic puppets, and a school principal who may be a serial killer. Despite the dark nature of many of the subplots, the game manages to keep things light with humorous writing and voxel-style graphics. As you explore the neighborhood, you’ll get various quests you can keep track of in your journal. There’s no set order in which you must tackle the quests, but you must complete specific objectives or get particular objects before completing other quests. The subplots are all interesting and compelling, and they keep you playing to see how things play out when you find the correct item or unlock a new area. When you enter combat, things play out in classic turn-based RPG style, with a timeline showing you the upcoming turns. Your party has basic and special attacks, and you can also pull out healing and other items from your backpack if needed. The game has a Super Mario RPG-style timing mechanic for the attacks, where if you manage to complete a timing-based mini-game, you’ll do more damage.

The game has a fantastic look thanks to the voxel graphics, and there’s some incredible lighting, like when you approach the local lake at sunset or are exploring a dark, dimly lit basement. The music is also great and should appeal to Stranger Things fans with its throwback synthwave style. There are plenty of quirky characters to meet, and you slowly build up a party of exciting allies with their own strengths and weaknesses. This new version of Echo Generations adds the quest tracker that allows you to track all the missions you discover, a fast travel system, and some other quality-of-life improvements. The original game came out on Xbox, but this Midnight Edition is now on Steam and Nintendo Switch.

Capes (Chris): When a city rampant with corruption has outlawed superpowers, a brave few will stand up and become the hero the King City needs in Capes. Developed by Spitfire Interactive and published by Daedalic Entertainment, Capes is a tactical RPG that transports players into a gritty, comic book-inspired world. Set in a dystopian city, the game follows a group of vigilantes banding together to protect innocent civilians from menacing thugs and a tyrannical government. These heroes will pit their abilities against overwhelming forces, so every fight has to be well-calculated. Too many mistakes in battle and these heroes will have to hang up their capes for good.

The plot of Capes takes inspiration from the 2000s era of comic books. Almost every hero has a somewhat grim dark origin that drove them into becoming a vigilante. There is a mixed cast of super-powered archetypes that feel familiar to comic fans but are not complete clones of popular characters. The ninja-like rogue, Rebound, can teleport and deliver melee strikes. Mindfire is a telekinetic who is wheelchair-bound but can power his body to move in combat. And Facet, who can harden his body with powerful green energy. Each hero’s backstory unfolds through missions and interactions and a dossier file for additional information. King City has a bit of an enigmatic past, so every chapter in the game slowly explores the fall of the previous heroes while building up the villainous Company, who now controls the streets.

The core gameplay of Capes revolves around tactical combat. Streets, warehouses, laboratories, and many other environments get a battle grid that lets players try to outsmart the enemies. Movement and attacks cost the usual action points, whereas simple acts cost little points and more complex moves have a high expense. You can chip away at enemies by attacking with heroes one at a time, but Capes begins to shine when heroes can combine their abilities for more powerful attacks. Properly understanding their strengths and weaknesses is a big factor in surviving long fights. Tougher enemies require a little more planning to weaken and damage. Having a squad of all-range heavy heroes might make battles seem easy at first, but when enemies start to cover big gaps, the fight can be unnecessarily difficult. There will be times in battle when certain heroes will act like a tank and aggro a cluster of enemies to a certain position, just so the more nimble character can deal out multiple attacks at once.

Every round of the fight will show the action order of the player and the enemy. This helps to plan like knowing if a hero should be on the defense or what enemy to carefully watch. Attacks don’t have a chance to miss and almost all actions are performed instantly, so there isn’t much of a making a tactical error in an earlier round that creeps back up. However, being reckless and not utilizing every player turn will result in a few level restarts. This happens often in stealth missions that require the player to silently take out enemies in as few attacks to an enemy as possible. These levels have patrolling enemies and need some patience to get used to the patrol paths. Many of these missions are optional but are worth playing to get heroes more skill points.

Capes does a fine job of capturing the spirit of a modern comic book without retreading too many tropes. In the age of subversive comic book storytelling, this one has a blend of classic heroics, rebellious personalities, and a commentary on real-life oppressive issues. This game has a long playtime that relies partially on player skill and their need to grind the optional missions. Putting in those longer play sessions will make you notice the inconsistent narrative visuals keep changing from animated character stills to in-game models.

While the story and characters are not exactly up to a Marvel or DC level of fame, the overall game is a solid title to enjoy. The tactical elements are fun and don’t require many hours of mastery to get a good understanding of the different mechanics. Combat feels rewarding when setting up attacks and taking out enemies in a few moves. Capes is a game that challenges your strategic thinking while immersing you in a captivating superhero saga. Whether you’re a tactical RPG veteran or a comic book enthusiast, this game is worth your time. Capes was released on Steam on May 29 and will be coming to consoles shortly.

Rider’s Spirits (Zach): Originally released in 1994 on the Super Famicom, Rider’s Spirits aka Bike Daisuki! Hashiriya Kon is translated and available worldwide for the first time from Ratalaika Games. Inspired by Super Mario Kart and F-Zero, Rider’s Spirits is a 16-bit racing game featuring eight motorcycle racers competing across 20 unique courses. There’s multiple game modes, including the standard GP where you race through various circuits trying to score the most points, Time Trial where you try to set the fastest times, Endurance where you have a pair of riders and have to manage your fuel and switch out when low, Battle Mode where you fight other racers in arena style tracks and the incredibly unique “Chicken Run” where you accelerate and then try to stop and be the closest to the edge of the track without falling off. The game should feel generally familiar to fans of Super Mario Kart or F-Zero, but it has some unique mechanics that are necessary to advance. One is drifting and leaning into the turns, and the other uses the wheelie to help you maintain your speed and get around the tracks quickly.

The game also has a weapons/items system like Super Mario Kart, but unlike that game, there aren’t pickups on the track. Instead, you drive into the pits area near the starting line, and you’ll get a random item. You can switch between your left and right hands and your head to hold up to three weapons at a time, but it’s more cumbersome than the Super Mario Kart system, which requires just getting one item and then using it. It’s also pretty unclear what each item does, so you’ll have to experiment and figure it out yourself. This release does have the original Super Famicom manual, but it’s in Japanese, so unless you can read it, you’re out of luck. The characters all have different attributes, but you’ll have to experiment and figure it out for yourself. The tracks themselves are interesting, with some featuring some complex cutting in and out. Others are giant mud pits, and the different surfaces affect your motorcycle differently. This game release features the original 1994 Japanese version and the new, translated version, along with standard features like save states and different visual filters to make the screen look like a CRT or arcade screen. Rider’s Spirits is an exciting bit of gaming history, but it’s not quite as polished as something like Super Mario Kart or F-Zero, and if you have a Switch Online membership, both of those games are “free” on the SNES app, so I’m not sure if I can recommend this over those unless you’ve fully mastered them and are looking for a new 16-bit racer to dive into. Rider’s Spirits is on Switch as well as PS4/PS5 and Xbox.

Flathead (Chris): How good is your ability to guess a number while being terrified? Flathead wants to know if you can believe in your luck while trying to survive a nightmarish experiment. Developed by Tim Oxton and published by DreadXP, Flathead is a simple but twisted guessing game where the player has to make a correct prediction if an upcoming number is over or under a number from 1 to 20. Answer a certain amount of right guesses and the player can leave. Every wrong guess resets the current point count and brings something from the darkness one step closer. If you make too many mistakes, the darkness will claim you.

Flathead is set in a cryptic industrial office complex that gives off bad vibes. Some mysterious pictures and notes tell strange backgrounds about this experiment, all that point to a horror that you can only just glimmer. There isn’t anything too explicit with blood or gore, but there’s a big uncomfortable look to the place that makes you not want to stare too long. It also doesn’t help that an unknown terror lurks in the background that you can mostly hear until it’s too late.

The gameplay of Flathead revolves around making guesses and wagers. Making a correct guess earns one point which can be transferred to be temporarily stored or used to double the next wager. A wrong guess resets all the points the player did not store and turns off the light for a few seconds. With no light shining on the player, a creature in the dark moves closer. Eventually, the player will either earn enough required points to spend on an option to escape or will be completely left in the dark to face a supernatural being.

If you are one great gambler, you might have too much of an eye full of the creature. It does take some luck to get numbers to a good range that lets you guess if it’s closer to being over and under. If you think the next number will be over and under 18, consider that an easy round. But if it’s 10, then it’s all up to chance. But the player has a few last-ditch options that will come in handy. A manual lightbox that can be used up to three times per game which will delay the creature for a bit. There is an extra button the player can use that will slowly eliminate potential numbers of the next number but at the cost of summoning the creature a little faster. And finally, after a few rounds, the Wheel of Fate will be available which can greatly boost the player’s score or cause the lights to turn off. Some rewards are well worth the risk, but that is never guaranteed.

Overall, Flathead is a must-play for fans of indie psychological horror. While the graphics and gameplay are bare, the obscure atmosphere draws you in. The unnerving experience of guessing and watching for a creature leaves a good impression for its short run time. If you are looking for a great summer scare, you can’t go wrong with this bite-sized game that will make you question the dark. Flathead was released on Steam on May 30, 2024.

Necromantic (Zach): Vampire Survivors has inspired an entire genre of similar games, and one of the latest is Necromantic from Blinkmoon Studios, which is now out in Early Access on Steam. You play a student at Valorborn Academy, where you’ll learn magical abilities while battling the undead hordes that stalk the land outside the school. Necromantic plays how you would expect from a Vampire Survivor-style “Bullet Heaven” game, where your character automatically attacks, and you control where the attacks are aimed and the character’s movement. As you defeat enemies, they drop pellets that build up your experience meter. When you top it off, you’ll level up and gain a new perk or attack. You can get some insane combos going, and the more your attacks are leveled up, the easier the hordes of enemies will go down. There are tons of enemies coming at you a time though and, the longer you survive, the more powerful they get and eventually some massive bosses will make an appearance with the ability to one-hit kill you if you’re not careful.

One thing that sets Necromantic apart from similar games is that you are trying to complete specific objectives in each run. Complete the objectives, and you’ll finish the chapter and gain upgrades, new characters, and new settings. The chapters have a bit of story description, but there’s not a lot of plot currently in the game.    After each run, you can talk to other students at the school, but no cutscenes or central plot beats drive you forward. Don’t expect something like Hades, for instance. Since the game is early access, the developer can add it at some point. The fact that you have something to focus on rather than just surviving as long as you can makes each run of Necromantic exciting, and it also makes you shake up your playstyle, as one objective may task you with not getting hit for a certain amount of time while another may task you with leveling up a specific weapon. You also gain books and currency in each run that you can use to upgrade your character skills and unlock permanent upgrades. You can play the game solo or co-op. Necromantic is a solid Vampire Survivors-style game with massive hordes of enemies to battle and some cool and exciting attacks to unlock and use. There’s room for more to be added to the story, but the objectives of each chapter add some exciting twists to the story’s run.   You can check out Necromantic now on Steam.

 

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