Dungeon Drafters from Dangen Entertainment

Dungeon Drafters

Dungeon Drafters is a Zelda-like dungeon crawl where you have unlimited lives and a classic SNES look and feel.

Dangen Entertainment provided us a code for their latest title, Dungeon Drafters and it is an experience that quite surprisingly felt both new and nostalgic. How can it be both? I know. it feels weird. Visually the game looks like some of the classic JRPG titles you would play on the Super Nintendo or even the Genesis, with an isometric dungeon crawl. This is most like some of the original Final Fantasy titles. That covers the nostalgia part of it, now on to the NEW. The combat mechanics are a blend of turn based combat, like a tactics game, and merges it with card abilities from a randomized deck. This cards perform actions like rappelling from one end of the map to the other or a flaming sword strike.

As you dungeon crawl through the various stages you will confront monsters and people to save. Sometimes the monsters will attack each other as well. The way to tell the difference is the color of the health bar. If it’s red, then you kill it with extreme prejudiced. If it’s gold however, you need to save them as quick as possible. If this part was explained somewhere I completely missed it. Each chamber of the map seems to get more difficult as time progresses so playing cautiously is important as you rarely get chances to heal. Most enemies can move or act two times per turn where the character I chose had three. Knowing this makes planning your moves even more important because you can force some enemies to lineup to make fighting them easier.

I plan on a minimum of one hour of gameplay prior to writing our reviews.¬† This game sucked me in and somehow I lost almost three hours and had no idea, I was just having fun while slashing my way through the Glacial Library. Some dungeons are harder than others and I think choosing the library was a mistake this early in my gameplay because I didn’t even complete a single floor before getting killed. Interacting with NPCs leads me to believe we will unlock additional characters in our party through the story which will make stages like this one easier to traverse. Not only did I have a great time with this one but my son who was watching me play enjoyed it as well and even helped me understand some of the ability cards I was using better.

Cybertrash STATYX from Sometimes You

Cybertrash STATYX

In a cyberpunk world where corporations control everything you play as Jenet in Cybertrash STATYX from Sometimes You.

You begin Cybertrash Statyx as Jenet, waking up in a facility that is testing your body against numerous stressors. Things like being forced to run an obstacle course during the middle of the night when you should be sleeping. It’s obvious this corporation is EVIL because they are intentionally ruining your sleep. That is sacred. For that, they must pay! You are tested in challenge after challenge while the scientists and corporate bosses watch on.

The game is a two dimensional side scroller from Sometimes You and Uncle Frost Team where your goal is to survive this corporate run world by using their own tools and enhancements against them. Maybe you’ll even uncover a greater conspiracy while you’re at it?

The game looks like a classic title from the days of the Super Nintendo with solid combat mechanics. However where the game really fails is the movement controls. They can be quite sticky at times, especially when trying to jump and move forward at the same time. This has caused me to die more times than any failed reaction by falling short and running into an enemy. Being able to see cinematics and dialogue featuring the heads of the evil corporation make the story more engaging. This in turn makes the events around Jenet make more sense as well as she is fed only the most basic information. The poor movement mechanics do detract from the gameplay but the combat mechanics were surprisingly solid. Being able to switch weapons from item points allows you to better control the combat and made the game enjoyable.

One More Dungeon 2 from Ratalaika Games

One More Dungeon

The team at Ratalaika Games have returned along with Stately Snail to release the sequel One More Dungeon 2.

Our friends of Ratalaika Games shared one of their latest titles, One More Dungeon 2, with us and we recently had the chance to sit down and give it a play. We had never heard of the franchise prior to the announcement of this sequel but based on images alone we were excited to dive right in. In both titles you play an unnamed adventurer. I don’t know much of the original storyline but in OMD2 you are held captive by a kingdom of snails, or are they snails and slugs? Either way, they are green and slimy looking, but in a cute way. To earn your freedom, you must run through the dungeons and remove the evil denizens there to keep them from raiding the snail-king’s domain. More than enough justification for me to explore these dangerous spaces.

As I mentioned, the slugs are pretty damn cute and the enemies themselves are rendered in a chunky art style that reminds me of the Super-Hero Squad line that Hasbro released over a decade ago. The stages are randomly generated with each expedition but are hampered by the controls. Most games with a poor controller setup have a chance to make up for this by having easier gameplay, an engaging story or stellar graphics. The controls for this game are obscenely sticky, making aiming with ranged weapons quite difficult. They were so bad that they turned what would have been a great game into one that is only okay. The difficulty (when set higher) was much higher than I expected and provided a great challenge that was made more frustrating by these same controller issues. Overall we enjoyed the game but, without the necessary controls making it nearly impossible at times, it fell short of its potential.

Cat and Ghostly Road – Distinguished Journey of Demons & Ghosts

Cat and Ghostly Road

Cat and Ghostly Road is a point and click adventure from Sometimes You and BOV featuring BOV’s actual cat as protagonist.

For most of Cat and Ghostly Road you play as a white cat that is adopted by a local painter. The painter “falls ill” and it’s up to you to save him. Specifically after you drift off to sleep, a demon appears and steals the soul of the painter. It’s up to you to follow the demon and get it back. The premise of the game, at least to me, sounds pretty awesome already, however point and click adventures rarely keep me engaged enough that I don’t drift off to sleep at some point due to their tediousness and slow sections. Is this as awesome as I hoped are did I fall asleep part way through? Keep reading!

BOV and Sometimes You teamed up to publish the title, with the main character modeled after BOV’s real cat that they recued from under a bridge. This was about fifteen years ago. Observing this cat they were inspired to create this game, specifically from the fact that the real feline reminded them of a moon cat and they went from there. The game suffers from the typically slow paced monotony that most point and click adventures are plagued with. The quirky nature of the cat does help with some of this but isn’t enough to make it enough to keep me awake or hold my attention for two long, one of the downsides to my ADHD. If you enjoy point and click adventures or an excuse to play as a cat then this will be right up your alley. The thing this game gets right is the puzzles, some require you to essentially play minigames to resolve their objective but unfortunately these were few and far between. I found the game to be cute and easy to play and master but with just a little too much tedium.

Unlife from Ratalaika Games

Unlife

Nukes have fallen and the world all but destroyed in Unlife from Ratalaika Games.

Unlife begins with what looks like vintage, archival footage of the days leading to the end of the world. Bombs falling on city centers and mushroom clouds. It’s a rather grim sight. You play as Michael, the last surviving member of a rescue team and who’s blood may mean the cure to the infection spread by the monsters from the Black Sea. Combining his blood and that of the creatures stops or slows his own infection and may be the key needed for that cure.

The game controls, level formatting and general vibe remind me so much of Shadow Complex from the 360. I absolutely loved that game. With Unlife, the graphics are not nearly as clean but they do the job well enough. In terms of graphics think of Terraria but with a darker pallet. The game suffers from some poor writing but I have a feeling it was originally written in another language and then translated by Google Translate. This is even more apparent when you die. At death you get a message similar to the iconic “You Died” message in Resident Evil and instead see “You Dead”.

Released by Ratalaika Games on Nintendo Switch, PS4/PS5 and Xbox One, the game seems to be one of the few truly original titles from them and not a port or remaster. While much of the game, as I mentioned, reminded me of Shadow Complex it wasn’t enough like it to fully scratch that nostalgic itch. However I found the game to be less smooth with inferior graphics but with the darker tones it actually worked well within the world of the game and game the combat and overall surviving more difficult. The game was fun with enough similarities to keep me playing for a couple hours and the added difficulty, whether intentional or not, kept me playing a bit longer.

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.

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.

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2

GameMill and Nickelodeon have teamed up to bring the second installment of the Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl to consoles, how does it fare?

I enjoy a good fighting game, Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter will forever hold special places in my heart. When GameMill reached out with the opportunity to review Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2, I jumped at the chance, despite never having played the original. For obvious reasons I can’t speak to how it compares or builds on the original, however being a fan of fighting games I CAN speak to fighting games. When it comes to fighting games I have a weird relationship where I regularly lose and keep coming back for more. My biggest failure is that I can never learn or master combos.

In nearly every way the game feels like a clone of the latest version of Super Smash Bros from Nintendo. The biggest difference is the characters in the game, SSB focuses on Nintendo characters and IPs where NASB is centered around the many characters from Nickelodeon. Controls are similar but only about as similar as you can make them comparing Switch to Xbox controllers. In both games they mix stunning 3d models with cartoon or 8-bit drawn stickers battling in fully rendered worlds. The combat plays almost exactly like SSB or Multiversus but in the story mode you alternate between picking up boosts, fighting other characters and then fighting nameless foes. This game is more than just a simple fighter, there’s a story (admittedly I haven’t made it too far into the story, like I said, I’m not that great at these games) with branching paths to unlock different characters and bonuses. SSB had something similar that made it feel more like an RPG but this is more linear. We had a great time with this one and look forward to playing some more soon.