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Ikonei Island: An Earthlock Adventure

Ikonei Island

Ikonei Island is an adventure game that is based in the world of Earthlock, both of which are from Snowcastle Games.

Snowcastle Games, the team behind Earthlock and the upcoming Earthlock 2, brings us another adventure title set in the same world- Ikonei Island. The game centers around a group of adventurers that have been shipwrecked on the island and must work together to both survive the elements and make their new homes. Customization features allow you to build your living space however you’d like where you are mostly limited by your own imagination.

The island features many animals and creatures to befriend/control that will assist you with defeating the monsters and collecting materials. Some help you reach new areas where others are geared more for combat. The visuals on these creatures and the island as a whole are gorgeous, even in the early release copy we received. Having never played Earthlock I didn’t know what to expect from this game or the world. At first glance it appears to be a JRPG of sorts set in this world and aimed at younger audiences. Quickly learned that there is a rich banquet of experiences that will be enjoyable to older players but may be a little too complex for some of the younger audience members. Basic controls are easy enough to pick up but some of the creature controls take a little getting used to. Overall I found the game to be fun, gorgeous and an overall enjoyable experience. Despite the early release I did not discover any of the bugs that delayed the release which made it even better for me.

The Adventures of Panzer: Legacy Collection

Adventures of Panzer

The first Adventures of Panzer title was released in 2021 and was rereleased along with it’s sequel in the Legacy Collection from Ratalaika Games.

Originally created by PixelCraft Games in 2021, The Adventures of Panzer is a side scrolling adventure designed to be played on the original NES. A sequel was later developed and added alongside the first for the Legacy Collection release on current generation consoles. This was with the help of Ratalaika Games. You play as General Panzer, a raid leader, who first must find his friend from his raiding party and embark on the most harrowing adventure of his raiding career.

When playing the game I didn’t realize how recent the original was released and immediately began to question it once the first NPCs began talking. Playing a game that looks like it is straight out of the 80’s but dialogue that came from players preparing for a session of World of Warcraft had me really confused. It was also funny as hell. The two experiences shouldn’t have worked as well as they did but they did work. Gameplay felt exactly like I would expect from what I thought was an NES classic. The controls are a little stiff but feels absolutely right for a game that looks the way it does. Further enforcing the NES classic vibe of the game is how unforgiving it is. If you rush forward you will inevitably get injured, frequently. You’ll also fall to your death, quite a bit.

With everything in the experience telling my mind that this was a classic I had never experienced when it came out in the 80’s it left me thinking I was deprived of an experience I should have had. Having actually been released in 2021 I’m actually surprised I had never heard of it until this year. Clearly PixelCraft had done a poor job on marketing it because former NES players will love this one and with the current generation release of the Legacy Collection they now have no excuse to jump in. Same goes for the second game in the series that is also included. They are not only worth playing but are easily some of the best to be released from Ratalaika to date.

Turnip Boy Robs a Bank

Turnip Boy

First Turnip Boy committed the heinous act of Tax Evasion but now he is robbing a bank with the help of a dill pickle and other veggie fiends.

Turnip Boy has returned for a second crime spree, this time alongside the fearsome Pickle Gang in Snoozy Kazoo’s Turnip Boy Robs a Bank. When you start the game, and get through all of the dialogue, you equip a wooden sword, followed by a gun soon after. With weapons in hand and a truck ready to roll, it’s time to rob a bank. Other characters join you at the homebase but only the avocado seems to help in any way while in the bank. If you lose all of your hearts, basically dying, then you return to the hideout but with only half of the funds you collected. You also can end your heist at will by heading to the truck.

Each character is based around some kind of food. Our title character and protagonist is a turnip, as his name implies. There are pickles, tomatoes and your computer support is an avocado to name a few. Each stage gives you about 2 minutes before the more deadly foes arrive to try to arrest or kill you. Gear picked up using the black market or from the corpses of your foes will aid you in reaching new areas and completing numerous missions. Each elevators moves you to a random room to make reaching the vault more difficult.

Graphically the game looks like it would have been home on the 16 bit machines I grew up with but with a humor that was rarely seen. Controls are simple to learn but easy to forget as I found myself switching weapons many times when I meant to club the guards. The dialogue can be tedious at times when you accidentally trigger the same convo again and again and unable to truly quit the dialogue until they finish. To make it worse, if you are mashing the skip button you will accidentally trigger it again putting you into a frustrating loop. Despite the conversation issues/complaint, I found this game to be a lot of fun and after each loss or return from the bank I wanted to go right back into it to try to complete more missions and steal more money. Simply put, the game was great and I look forward to play it more and if the original is half as good it will be worth picking up as well.

Among Cultists from Godot Games

Among Cultists

Among Cultists has been successfully funded on Kickstarter twice, selling out almost immediately, but does it live up to the hype?

Among Cultists is currently enjoying it’s second run through Kickstarter and both times met their goals. The folks at Godot Games must be excited. The first time through the crowd funding platform they included two expansions and one customization pack. This pack allowed you to turn your friends and family into playable characters. One thing that surprises me is the return to Kickstarter. I don’t follow the platform like I used to but this is the first campaign I’ve seen repeat itself. This time of course with a new expansion but little to no other additions that I’ve seen.

From the few companies I’ve watched on the platform, most use their success to build up their abilities to provide their customers with their desired products but most then use that success to fund the infrastructure needed to build or print their product without further outside assistance. Is this a part of crowdfunding that is entirely normal that I was unaware of? Entirely possible. I’d say likely probable even. Of course, I doubt you’re here to read my ramblings about crowd funding and are more interested in the game itself that was funded. Let’s be honest, me too.

At first glace I immediately fell in love with the artwork by Andreas Schroth, Jarrod Owen and Karsten Schulmann. Between the box art and the maps I’m not sure which parts are the best but they absolutely killed it. Speaking of first glances, when looking at the game I had thought that it would be a cross between Clue and Among Us and wasn’t sure how such an amalgamation would work. Social Deduction games have been around awhile and I feel an argument could be made that Clue was one of the first mainstream SD titles. It was a classic when I was a kid and my own will tell you I’m ancient now. Among Us I feel could also be considered one but in video game format.

For those that are visual learners, the Godot Games site features many tools and videos to use to help you learn the game. Gameplay can be quite complex overall, expect to look things up a few times in the book or videos for clarification. This happened quite a bit for us and I’m sure it will for you as well. At the start of the game players learn their role and the rules they follow and then play what reminds me of the grade school classic- Heads up 7-up. All players close their eyes and the cultists open theirs to identify their teammates (if they have one) and anyone that has already been killed and just doesn’t know it yet. Just like in Among Us, death does not mean you can no longer help your team. There are some events that won’t trigger until someone IS dead anyway.

Among Cultists

Each time you interact with a player you exchange cards and can influence the cards in the room. Once the cards are revealed it’s up to you to figure out if the dead player or the room’s cards were ones that were there before or added by a specific player as clues to their identity. Like Among Us, the Cultists win by completing a specified number of kills or with more players playing the game doesn’t just stop once enough are dead. They simply allow the investigators complete their mission and then they reveal if they successfully killed enough prior to the win and if they have they claim the victory. We never had enough playing to play it this way but at this time I can’t see the benefit to changing the end conditions.

The rulebook was our biggest complaint, primarily the organization of it but access to video tools made this more tolerable. Between amazing artwork, some truly ingenious gameplay and a Lovecraftian them that I love, this game is a must play for me. If you like Social Deduction games or investigation based titles then you will love this, more so if you are a fan of the Elder Gods as well! If you manage to get ahold of the expansions Down into the Abyss or Mountains of Chaos, they add SO much to the game in additional art, gameplay twists and expanding on the enjoyment then I’m certain you’ll find the game to be better than before. I can only assume the latest expansion, Under the Surface, only enhances it further. We hope to play that one soon.

The Marvels review featuring Photon, Captain and Ms Marvel

The Marvels

The Marvels is the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the first to make use of one of the recent Disney+ shows.

The Kree are up to their warmongering ways in The Marvels, this time they’re after the resources to restore life to their nearly dead world. As the Kree start this process our three heroes become entangled through their light based powers and keep swapping locations with each other. The first things I was told about this film, prior to seeing it was that several of the Disney+ shows are required viewing. Ms Marvel, obviously, because she’s one of the three heroes caught up in this mess. Secret Invasion because it is a direct follow up to the Captain Marvel film and likely the lead in to this film. Wandavision because that is how Monica gets her powers. Lastly I was told the second season of Loki was required as well. If you want to understand everything in the film. That is entirely false. If you are not caught up on Loki then you have nothing to worry about. To understand the midcredits scene though you should first watch Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

My expectations were rather high for the film. I loved the first film and thoroughly enjoyed each show that directly lead to this one. The first act helped reinforce these expectations until they arrived on the world called Aladna. Aladna is a world that is almost completely water and the population speaks exclusively through song. That’s right, for a brief moment we have our first official Marvel musical. Thankfully they move on as quickly as it starts and as I hoped it did not continue through the film.

From a sales perspective I had read that this film did the worst out of the MCU and most of the comments on why attribute that to Brie Larson, Captain Marvel herself. I seriously don’t understand why so many people in the community dislike her so much but I suspect it might be because she’s a woman that has strong opinions and doesn’t shy away from sharing them. In a male dominated society I consider this to be proof of her strength and bravery. That being said, this has nothing to do with my thoughts on the quality of the film, perhaps some people could learn to be objective about a film regardless of the cast? Visually the effects were fantastic and the story was well written. The cast were perfect in their roles, so much so that I would say that this is the BEST MCU film since COVID. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and hope to see a follow up film bringing these characters together again.

Wish from Disney Pictures

Wish

Wish is the latest animated film from Disney Pictures featuring a talking goat, a new world and a new princess-like character.

The world in Wish centers around a king who collects wishes from his people, with a goal of crafting the perfect wishes. Citizens that wish to live in the kingdom must give up their wish to the king when they turn eighteen. Monthly the king gives a wish ceremony where a lucky citizen gets their wish. Prior to her birthday and losing her wish, Asha interviews to be the king’s apprentice. The king at first appears as a kind and benevolent ruler but the trailers for the film reveal him to be the true villain and he does this himself before the interview ends.

The wishes themselves follow the same rules as those in the comic series Eight Billion Genies from Image Comics. When you turn eighteen you get to make yours but in the comic it comes in the form of a genie that is tied to you from birth. In both stories there are people that collect them in to, at least in their minds, protect their world from dangerous wishing or ideas. Ultimately it comes down to them wanting to keep the power for themselves.

The film and the world are both visually stunning with a diverse cast of characters. Disney has been steadily increasing the number of characters that fit other demographics and do so here in a way that fits perfectly with the film without making it appear that their differences were the only reason for these characters to be included in the film. The overall quality of the film was fantastic and the story was more so. This will definitely be one the family will watch again.

Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths Part One

Crisis on Infinite Earths

Warner Brothers have released the latest Justice League animated film- Crisis on Infinite Earths Part One.

Barry Allen bounces between timelines and alternate worlds in the latest film from Warner Brothers, Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths Part One. Ultimately this puts him in the crosshairs of the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 and joining heroes from dozens of alternate worlds in a fight to save all of reality. The story itself is so large that it requires more than one part, just like the comic series was comprised of multiple issues and tied in stories across multiple series.

It has been many years since the last time I read the original Crisis on Infinite Earths and for this part of the story the main points are followed pretty closely while many of the details are reimagined. The best thing to come from the original story in my opinion was the Crime Syndicate. For the film, the animation quality is similar to most of the Justice League animated films and get a little wonky with some of the expressions. Ultimately the story is well told and voice acting fits each character perfectly. I can’t wait for Part Two, whenever that releases.

Rising Lords from Deck 13 is here

Rising Lords

Argonwood and Deck 13’s latest title for consoles is Rising Lords that features turn-based medieval combat.

Rising Lords is the newest title from Argonwood, published by Deck 13 and is a strategy game based on the dark ages in a made up land and uses some unique resource management mechanics. Players perform multiple actions across a single turn like moving peasants to perform tasks, build your army or march them to war. You may even come across random events like a bear attacking a town where the only defenses are those same peasants.

The art style reminds me very much of Inkulinati with a nearly identical character design, pulling from obvious medieval influences. As the game progresses you change focuses from resource gathering to warmongering. Gameplay feels like a blend of several popular tabletop games like Settlers of Catan, BattleLore and Kings & Things, mixing their styles into a overall experience that focuses on paving their own way. The user interface was clearly build having computers in mind but thanks to the turn-based nature of the game it is still manageable.

The art style of the game felt right for the game where the controls felts a little tough to identify where to click next at times. Despite the controls I found the game to quite ingenious and enjoyable. With the customization options and richness in gameplay it will be a hit among strategy fans for sure.

Next Goal Wins

Next Goal Wins

Next Goal Wins is based on a true story about the American-Samoa football team and their attempts at a comeback.

Next Goal Wins in the latest biopic in theaters, this time centered around the American-Samoa team. The team is most known for their game that they lost with a devastating 31-0. With the World Cup Qualifiers approaching they hire a coach with the intention of bringing them a victory. The premise, while true sounds exactly like that of one of my childhood favorites- Cool Runnings. Searchlight Studios and Director Taika Waititi spearheaded the project with top billing going to Michael Fassbender who plays Coach Rongen. To clarify, this is a film about a football team and not the NFL kind.

Sports movies or shows typically fall flat for me, that is unless they are full of humor. Cool Runnings and Shoresy being two of my favorites, for very different reasons and styles of course. I also am typically a fan of every film Waititi has been tied to so my hopes were higher than normal for this one. I found the film fall a little short in terms of hilarity but it was still quite enjoyable. The story was well told and I felt you got a better understanding of the characters than most other directors would have managed with the same story. If you are looking for a film to watch as a family about an underdog you want to root for then this will be a great choice for you.

Fearmonium from Ratalaika Games

Fearmonium

In Fearmonium from Ratalaika Games you play a Phobia of a young boy, collecting and defeating his fears.

The folks at Ratalaika Games have deviated from their normal platform of simply restoring vintage titles and have added Fearmonium to their ever growing library. Max is a teen plagued by fears and phobias. You play as one of these phobias and are on a quest to help Max not only overcome his fears but to embrace some of them. Let’s face it, a little fear can be healthy at times.

The game is a Metroidvania, meaning a platformer in the style of Metroid or Castlevania, where you move through various parts of Max’s mind, eliminating the things that plague him while also collecting balloons as currency. The art style looks like it was hand-drawn like Cuphead with a similar macabre style where the more hideous things in Max’s head are actually there to assist you. Reviewing the details about the game I can confirm that it is hand-drawn. Unlike Cuphead though is that the story is primarily told through comic book-styled panels.

Lady Depression runs most of the nightmare-scape that is Max’s head and assists you from time to time by providing advice. More often than not though, the advice is simply to remind you save the game often. The phobia you play as looks very much like a female version of Pennywise in the art but in game looks less like the terrible clown and more like clown that is meant to look more sad and painted in predominantly blacks and whites. I found the stages to be rather simple in their layout with sections clearly meant to return to with no obvious way of reaching them but otherwise quite easy to navigate. The art is clean and draws you in to the darkness as you eliminate every foe in your path. The game as a whole was enjoyable but not entirely engaging in terms of story. That being said, it may just be that I haven’t spent enough time in the game but it felt like it was lacking in overall substance even though most Metroidvanias are focused more on the mechanics than they are on story.