Soldner X-2: Final Prototype review – Brings Back Memories

Soldner-X2_FinalPrototype_Logo_BlackSoldner X-2 is a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up from SideQuest Studios for the PS3 and PS Vita. Players take the role of a pilot fighting against the D’aarg Empire who are threatening to conquer humanity with nothing standing in their way except for you and your prototype fighter jet. It’s a relatively short game, you can finish all 5 [or 7 in X-2 Last Prototype] stages in about an hour, and there is a lot of gameplay compressed in this game.

Soldner-X2_Final_Prototype_04Visually, Soldner X-2 is amazing. The backdrops for each stage are simply beautiful, and paired with the superb enemy designs lead to an aesthetically pleasing experience. The bosses not only look menacing, but detailed as well. The Xenomorph boss stands out as it just looks intimidating and the level of detail in its face, arms, it’s all just amazing to behold. And it doesn’t look degraded on the Vita at all, it maintains the same visuals as it would on the PS3. Gameplay is very smooth – nothing too complex or unforgiving. There’s still a level of difficulty present that doesn’t make the game “too easy”, and Soldner X-2 does a good job of balancing difficulty and accessibility. The other thing I really enjoyed, that adds to the replayability of the experience, is the challenge system. Clearing stages may not be enough for you, but the challenges the game imposes on you like going through the first 4 stages without dying add an element to this game that will have you coming back to test your skills.

I really didn’t have any issues with Soldner X-2 other than the Secret Key system. It just feels unnecessary. Some keys are tied to your current ranking on the stage while others are hidden in either enemies or breakable items. Often times I found myself breaking my flow to try to find these items and it really took me out of what is more often than not an enjoyable experience.

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Soldner X-2 reminds me of my days as a kid playing Solar Striker on the Game Boy. It has a retro feel but at the same time feels fresh. If you’re a fan of shoot ‘em ups, or just want to blast aliens out of the sky, this game is for you.

[Editor’s Note: The PS3 version supports two player coop.]

Final Score 8.0

Available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita
Dev: SideQuest Studios
Pub: eastasiasoft

Full disclosure: Review code was provided by the publisher.

This review was written by @Ljay90, a member of We Are GAMRs. He’s also a lover of Musou games.

Spy Chameleon review – Color Changing Lizard


Spy Chameleon is a very sneaky game. Premise aside, it’s sneaky in that way where you can quick lose an hour playing. The goal of trying to reach each level’s exit, using your chameleon powers to change colors at will, is simple and satisfying in seemingly small bursts – seemingly because of how easy it is to think you’ve played for 10 minutes and actually having played 30.

Since Spy Chameleon is a very straightforward game with no story or background, it leans heavily upon it’s gameplay to draw your attention. It starts off easy, with the first few levels of each of the five “missions” – sets of 15 individual levels – introducing the latest of the core mechanics. The primary goal is always to reach the exit across the map, but obstacles and strategies make things significantly more difficult the further you go.

01The individual stages never get too difficult to complete, despite the occasional trial and error segment and a few areas that require some fairly precise timing, as the longer, more challenging stages have one or more checkpoints along the way. In that sense, getting through Spy Chameleon’s 75 total levels is pretty easy. You’ll use the face buttons to switch between the appropriate colors needed to hide from robots, cameras, and other means of detection in each of the top-down levels. Matching the color of the background, primarily represented as colored carpets and floor tiles, prevents you from being caught.

Each level has three challenges: one for beating the par time, another for collecting (eating) all 10 flies, and another for collecting (also eating) ladybugs. The flies are the easiest, as they typically guide you in the right direction for completion of a given stage. Where Spy Chameleon gets most interesting is when trying to beat par times and collect ladybugs. Par time is usually pretty easy, but some levels really require some rehearsal to achieve, and near perfection to claim the most difficult achievement (The Sprinter) for having a total time under 18 minutes. Good luck replaying levels to shave a few hundredths of a second off times already below par!

10Ladybugs are their own animal (or insect, if you will). They don’t unlock until after the first time you complete a level. Upon reentering the stage, ladybugs will appear to be collected, often in very tricky areas. Thankfully, all challenges can be completed on individual runs, but expect to replay some of the later levels multiple times to practice and analyze movement patterns and speeds if you’re aiming for completion.

In the event that your espionage isn’t up to snuff and you’re detected, Spy Chameleon is very forgiving. If you’ve reached a checkpoint, you’ll continue from there or, if there are no or you haven’t reached one, you’ll restart from the beginning of the stage. Retrying after being caught is near instantaneous, making multiple attempts at a level easy to cope with.

With very direct gameplay and objectives, Spy Chameleon doesn’t really have any obvious pitfalls. Sure, the couple tunes can be a bit repetitive, but they fade pretty easily into the background. There are leaderboards for both you and your friends and a global leaderboard, but it appears to have no way to scroll – you can’t see the top time on each level.

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Essentially, Spy Chameleon is best described as unremarkable, but remarkably competent. It’s a puzzler that won’t stand out from the pack in any meaningful way, fitting for a game “about” stealth. What Spy Chameleon is is a great value buy for even the most casual puzzle game fans.

Final Score 7.5

Available on Xbox One (reviewed), Wii U, PC
Dev: Unfinished Pixel
Pub: Unfinished Pixel

Full disclosure: Review code was provided by the publisher.

Nom Nom Galaxy review – Yes, soup for everyone!

NomNomGalaxy_PS4game_M2_BannerThere’s nothing like an honest, hard day’s work. We often think about how nice it would be to have automation to make things easier for us. We see it all around us, and it increases every day as technology advances with each breakthrough. We hear about factory jobs being eliminated in the news, with human workers leaving, only to replaced by their robot counterparts. Because of this, we usually predict that our work in the future becomes easier than it ever has before, if we’re still working at all. Who knew that something as simple as running a soup making business in space would be such a challenging endeavor?

Nom Nom Galaxy puts you in the role of a new employee working for an intergalactic soup factory. Easy, right? Just throw in some chicken, noodles and vegetables and you’re good to go. Ah ah ah, not so fast! Not only do you have to make the soup in Nom Nom Galaxy, you also have to get to work building the factory, the automatic processes that run it, and gather the ingredients yourself on hostile alien worlds.

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To accomplish this, you have to platform across these worlds cautiously, using your trusty buzzsaw to dig through the dirt and get to what you need. Aliens, as it turns out, are sort of gourmets when it comes to eating, so you’ll want to build soup machines to cater to their various tastes, and launch rockets to send off the goods and gain market share. Two ingredients are needed for each soup machine, so you’ll want to mix and match them. New flavors will net you a bonus and get you to 100% market shares a bit faster.

Pretty much any plant you find can be turned into an ingredient, but you’ll also face opposition from the native alien life. You must take care when you approach their nests, because they will likely end up swarming and overwhelming you. Luckily, if you can best them, you can use their bodies as ingredients to add new flavors to your product line. You start out with a simple punch attack that does decent damage, but you can find weapons lying around that can decimate your foes in seconds.

20150530_NomNomGalaxy_PS4_Screenshot_06Building the factory requires matter gathered from within the earth, and it’s used for constructing facilities and expanding your factory. You have to keep in mind that you’re in space, so you have a limited air supply save for some pockets of oxygen hidden about the worlds. When you build corridors, you not only keep breathing easy, but you also make it easier for yourself to get around because of their low-gravity property. To keep things moving along, you’ll want to add more kinds of soups as well as the rockets you need to launch them. And on top of that, you need generators to keep all your machines going.

Your rival upstart companies are not going to sit idly by as you battle for days to shut them out of the market entirely. Once you expand enough, they will actually send forces to attack and dismantle your factory, and this is where the tower defense portion of the gameplay comes in. You can use the profits you make from selling soup to build turrets to protect your buildings, but it’s best if you go in yourself to assist them. You can pick up the cash and materials they drop, as well as make any repairs and restock ammunition right there on the spot. Fighting corporate goons for the right to sell soup might sound awfully silly to you, but that is just the cost of doing business in Nom Nom Galaxy.

Nom Nom Galaxy looks great on the PlayStation 4. Environments are colorful and bright, with a complex but clean look to them. The controls were pretty solid, and I didn’t have any issues with slowdown or lag. It’s important to mention as well that if you make a mistake in this game with construction, or want to remove a building that’s in your way, all you need to do is press triangle (not hold) and replace it with something more helpful. The interface makes this very easy by categorizing everything into sub-menus and showing you which parts you can buy with your materials and money. All you need to do is put the part in a spot with enough space to place it.

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Nom Nom Galaxy has a very strong appeal for gamers who enjoy 2D exploration games like Terraria, but this adds really fun simulation and tower defense elements into the mix. That leaves us with something fresh and new that will keep players occupied for many hours, as they discover more efficient ways to take their corporate intergalactic soup empire to the top.

Editor’s Note: This game has mixed coop with up to four players, meaning any mix of local and online players can play together.

Final Score 9.0

Available on PlayStation 4 (reviewed), PC
Dev: Q Games (PC), Double Eleven (PS4)
Pub: Double Eleven

Full disclosure: Review code was provided by the publisher.

Joe Sigadel is an enthusiast of Japanese games and has been since the PS1 era. He is a part-time streamer on going under the alias ““Eritach” and has played dozens of JRPGs over the years, from the well-known to the niche and obscure. He has a strong interest in localization and is currently studying the Japanese language in his spare time.

Teslagrad review – An Attractive Offering

teslagrad_screenshots_0024The rise of indie gaming that the industry has seen in recent years has led to an increase in sidescrolling puzzle-platformers filling the market. With so many new games of this type coming out every year, a title needs something special to make it stand out from the rest. Many games miss this mark, but Teslagrad is different enough to be memorable.

Teslagrad is the story of a kid that has to overthrow a king. The game begins with a man dropping off a baby at a house. Years pass, and the world becomes almost post-apocalyptic looking. A group of knights knock on the door of the house, and the camera pans to the back door. You, the boy, gain control. You’re given no context, but as you begin walking through the streets of the village, a knight begins chasing you. You manage to enter a castle as the drawbridge is closing, narrowly evading the knight.

That’s the extent of the exposition given to the player for the first chunk of the game. There are three more optional scenes, presented as stage performances in the background of certain rooms, that give a bit more of the plot, and collectibles (sort of- we’ll get to that) scrolls that each have a stained glass style portrait depicting the events prior to the game.

teslagrad_screenshots_0003Immediately after entering the castle, the player is exposed to the defining feature of Teslagrad– magnetism. Depicted by red and blue glows, various objects, creatures, and even spaces of air can be polarized and affected by magnet physics. These magnetic physics, naturally, are the driving force behind the puzzles in Teslagrad. You quickly pick up your first item – a glove that allows you to magnetize items within punching distance – and are sent on your way.

The magnet physics in Teslagrad are definitely original and stand out, but they can also be quite finicky at times. There are a few times where jumps need to be affected by the magnets to connect, and I found that they were really inconsistent. I once spent ten minutes trying to land a jump, yet when I returned to the area later, I got it on my first attempt.

The combat in Teslagrad is also very hit-or-miss. While the combat is limited to four boss fights, the second one was incredibly tricky to get to work. Perhaps the issue lies on my ability as a player, but I was constantly finding myself unable to keep from falling off of the platforms. One powerup, a sort of teleport dash that places you a few feet forward of where you were standing, constantly led to my death, sending me through walls, too far, or not far enough. The boss glitched through the floor at one point as well, rendering him unbeatable. One other boss was incredibly difficult, but it wasn’t an issue of game design. It was just plain hard.

teslagrad_screenshots_0022While on the topic of boss fights, it’s important to note how well the final boss of Teslagrad was designed. The final boss is always the last challenge in the path of a hero, and as such, should be the most challenging. It should also give the players a chance to utilize all of the skills that they learned over the course of the game. The final fight against the King requires the player to use every item they’ve found on their journey in order to take the boss down, and it’s just challenging enough to keep the players on their toes the entire time.

In addition to the unique magnet mechanic, Teslagrad manages to stand out through its presentation. The hand-painted art is absolutely gorgeous to look at and the music is consistently pleasant to listen to. The final boss theme in particular is an excellent track, fast paced and exciting enough to keep the player’s heart racing but not overly distracting from the chaos happening on screen.

One aspect of Teslagrad that I found unpleasant was the aforementioned collectible scrolls. There are 36 in the game, and most are hidden off screen or behind an optional puzzle. There is no introduction to them in the game, so the player is left to assume that they’re optional, and up until the end of the game that’s what I assumed. Right before the end of the game, however, I realized that they were not optional. In fact, the player is required to obtain 15 of them before moving on to the final challenges of the game. It wasn’t particularly hard to go back and collect a few more, but if a player hadn’t picked any of them up, it would surely be frustrating. The scrolls aren’t marked on the map, even after the player sees them and passes them by, meaning the game is requiring players that hadn’t taken the time to pick up 15 scrolls to go back and search the entire castle aimlessly until enough scrolls are found.

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In the end, Teslagrad was a fun experience, and it’s certainly one that I’ll be playing through again in years to come, but there were a few flaws that hampered my enjoyment. The occasionally finicky magnet physics and a couple of frustrating bosses kept this game from being nearly perfect, but everything else about it made sure it was memorable.

Final Score 8.0

Available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita
Dev: Rain Games
Pub: Soedesco

Full disclosure: This game was purchased by the writer.

This review was written by @bottlereviews. Follow him on Twitter!

Color Guardians review – A Grey Adventure

CG_screenshot_crystal_cave_001Combining mechanics in games can lead to some truly entertaining outcomes, but it can also become quite frustrating. If too many things are going on, the player can quickly lose focus and be unable to succeed. When playing a game requires focusing on three or more things at a time and messing up on one will cause death, it becomes incredibly easy for a player to lose interest because they cannot progress. This is the key issue plaguing Color Guardians, a side scrolling action-platformer that strongly resembles an endless runner.

Color Guardians takes place in the world Terra Color, where an evil being Krogma has stolen all the color and left everything in shades of grey and purple. You play as three Color Guardians – Rod, Lia, and Grock – and go on a quest to restore color to the land. Through 50 levels and 5 boss battles across various environments, the Guardians run, jump, fly, and glide to bring the colors back.

CG_screenshot_crystal_cave_007Color Guardians plays very similar to endless runners like Bit Trip Runner. There are predetermined stages filled with obstacles, and the characters move at a constant pace from left to right. There are three panes on the Z axis, a la LittleBigPlanet, that the players can move freely between in order to dodge obstacles on their path. What makes Color Guardians different from other games, however, is the use of color as a game mechanic. The player can change the color of the character at will, between blue, red, and yellow, and certain obstacles can only be bypassed while a certain color is active.

The levels are also filled with colored orbs that act as a sort of guide through the obstacles. The orbs can only be picked up if the character’s color matches that of the orb, and extra points are awarded for tapping the button tied to the color of the orb as it is collected. Players are given a score at the end of each level and are rewarded up to three stars for their performance.

On the surface, this seems like a game for children. It’s full of bright colors, fun shapes and animations, and relatively simple gameplay, but somewhere in the second world, it becomes clear that this is not the case. The difficulty ramps up drastically, adding more and more color-sensitive mechanics to the game. The difficulty hits a spike again in the fourth world, and remains very challenging for the remaining dozen or so levels. Personally, I found the earlier levels incredibly tedious, the middle levels quite enjoyable, and the later levels irritatingly difficult.

A key issue in Color Guardians is the amount of things a player must focus on at once. Switching between lanes amidst a flurry of obstacles is already a daunting task for some players, so tying that into the color-switching required to open up paths can lead to some incredibly tricky situations. Once timed obstacles are added into the mix late into the game, it becomes an absurd amount of information for any player to be expected to process at once, leaving the player feeling frustrated.

CG_screenshot_crystal_cave_007The framerate is another detrimental factor in Color Guardians. There were quite a few moments I encountered where the game would stutter, leaving me to guess what was coming next and unable to make actions based on visual cues. This became a more common occurrence once I reached the timed obstacles, making it near impossible to complete certain levels if the framerate happened to dip.

The boss battles in Color Guardians are all very similar, starting with a decently challenging platforming section and ending with a battle against Krogma. These battles consist of picking up colored bombs and throwing them back at the villain. Later battles add color-coded shields that have to be destroyed, more bombs, and in the final encounter, treadmills that speed up or slow down the player character. Because the bombs and shields are random, battles can last anywhere from a minute to five minutes, and with one death sending the player back to the start, five minutes is far too long to be expected to perform perfectly.

Outside of the boss battles, checkpoints are frequent. This leads to a much more satisfying experience for the player, requiring them to tackle small chunks of gameplay at a time rather than entire levels. Most of the levels are vibrant and colorful, giving the player something pleasant to look at while navigating the obstacles. The music is pleasant enough to be noticed, but not so wild as to become yet another distraction.

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While I quite liked a fair number of the middle levels in Color Guardians, the dullness of the early stages and the absurdity of the latter ones left a sour taste in my mouth. There was too much to balance for the game to be great, even at its best, and the various flaws make Color Guardians a tough one to swallow. It’s tough to come up with a demographic that this game would be perfect for; children will become frustrated quite early and more experienced gamers won’t find the beginning of the game enjoyable enough to continue.

[Editor’s Note: Color Guardians is both Cross-Buy and Cross-Save for PS4 and Vita.]

Final Score 4.5

Available on Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, PC, Mac
Dev: Fair Play Labs
Pub: Fair Play Labs

Full disclosure: Review code was provided by the publisher.

This review was written by @bottlereviews. Follow him on Twitter!