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.

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.

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.

RollerCoaster Tycoon Adventures Deluxe

RollerCoaster Tycoon Adventures Deluxe

Theme park simulators are a dime a dozen these days but none capture the simplicity and joy that I had playing RollerCoaster Tycoon and Atari brought it BACK!

The folks at Atari are on fire with all of their gaming reskins/reboots/recharged titles and I was hoping that RollerCoaster Tycoon would be on deck soon. I even told my wife I would love for them to revisit the game again. As the name would imply, the game is centered around building theme parks full of various rides and themes, including rollercoasters. As your park grows there are dozens of features and attractions that can be researched to further fit certain themes or styles.

Do you have what it takes to manage the needs of your guests while also keeping the park profitable. The first step towards these ends for me was to raise the prices of EVERYTHING. Sounds counterintuitive to keeping guests happy but you can raise the prices without it negatively impacting the park. This means you can revenue faster and allowing your park to grow faster. Anytime you need an influx of cash you can always speed up the time mechanics. I only recommend doing this when you have enough facilities in place to keep everyone happy, otherwise you risk the deterioration of your overall park happiness.

Originally designed for computer, the user interface was designed to work best with a mouse on a computer but is one of the easiest to navigate compared to other park builders. Menus are divided into categories, each with subcategories that allow you to find everything rather easily, focusing on overall simplicity. The graphics have also received an overhaul, looking crisp, vibrant and better than ever. The overall simplicity of the game may not be too flashy but it all just works so well. The ability to quickly switch between menus and the simple controls makes playing much more enjoyable than most of the alternatives out there.

Haunted House from Atari

Haunted House

Atari has returned to their classic Haunted House game with a major facelift and other than the story it doesn’t resemble the original title.

When Atari isn’t Recharging their classic titles they are doing them again from the ground up and that’s what they’ve done with Haunted House. You play as Lyn, a female teen who’s uncle has vanished inside this haunted place and you’ve been tasked by one of the many ghosts to find him but also put together a magic vase that will entrap the other restless spirits. The game features procedurally generated stages so no two runs will be the same. As you complete objectives you move from room to room collecting powerups and solving puzzles to unlock the next door. Guided by a friendly ghost, you must use the tools he provides to disable and eliminate the other ghosts. From what I’ve played, this is the ONLY friendly ghost in the game. Each time Lyn is knocked out, the game starts over with an entirely new map, so try not to let that happen.

Gameplay looked like you were playing through the old Scooby Doo cartoons but with actual ghosts instead of people wearing costumes. The scare factor is minimal so this is one that can be enjoyed with the family as I wouldn’t consider the jumpscares to be jumpscares. Sure a ghost may jump out of a painting or two and try to grab you but the surprise is minimal. Controls are simple to learn but the tutorial feels like it takes longer than necessary because of this. The graphics for this remastered Atari classic look better than any recent remaster or recharged title I’ve seen with vibrant colors and immense details. The stealth mechanics are great without feeling overpowered as are the flashlight combat ability. Overall we found the game far exceeded our expectations and look forward to playing it again.

Air Twister

Air Twister

From the mind of Yu Suzuki, creator of iconic titles like Virtua Fighter 4, Out Run, Hang On and Afterburner (to name a few), he is back with his latest creation- Air Twister!

Yu Suzuki is known as the creator of so many gaming classics it’s unreal. These include Virtua Fighter 4, Out Run, Afterburner and even Shenmue. Teaming up with ININ, the genius behind Space Harrier has returned for Air Twister. I have not played a game like Space Harrier or Afterburner since the 80’s and they were awesome. Still are. You can’t convince me otherwise. Air twister plays EXACTLY like Space Harrier, only real difference if you play a female fighter that rides a giant swan to battle. Odd choice, sure, but epic all the same. I’m referring to mechanics and gameplay of course but that doesn’t mean you won’t have anything new to enjoy.

Compared to Space Harrier, the graphics have been massively improved, while keeping to the classic gameplay that will have us 80’s gamers cheering. The one thing I don’t remember from Yu’s older titles was the ability to target-lock on your enemies and this time we have it. It works surprisingly well albeit a little slower that you would like compared to how fast some of the enemies move. Controls are fluid and so simple that without playing a tutorial you’ll have the commands down almost instantly. There’s not much to talk about in terms of story as the game is almost entirely traveling from area to area and killing enemies and that’s enough. I was literally telling some friends about wanting to play Space Harrier again but with modern graphics and this is the EXACT experience I was looking for. If you’ve played any of Yu Suzuki’s classics and enjoyed them or looking for a bit of the familiar the this game is a must for you. May your aim be true and your foes fall at your feet.

Check out the official trailer below:

Dreamworks All-Star Kart Racing

All-Star Kart Racing

Dreamworks and GameMill have teamed up once again to deliver a racing game that uses only their vast intellectual properties with Dreamworks All-Star Kart Racing!

Racers, are you ready? GameMill and Dreamworks sent us a copy of their new All-Star Kart Racing game that exclusively uses many of the Dreamworks characters we know and love. Some of those characters include the Trolls, Hiccup, Po and Donkey, just to name a few. It even has BOTH Boss Babies. All kart racing games can’t help but the classic and wildly popular Mario Kart franchise. There’s no point avoiding it but we’ll keep it to a minimum.

Like many racing titles you start with a list of characters and vehicles, more are available to unlock though by playing challenges or races. Most of the achievements are lifetime gameplay based where some are based on completing specific challenges. For the most part those challenges are mostly default matches where you must win the race AND usually perform a specific goal. For example one of the challenges you play as Puss in Boots and must perform 15 trick jumps and win. As long as you followed the tutorial and hit the magic paths this shouldn’t be too difficult- unless you land the jumps out of bounds. I did that a bunch and took me several tries to complete it.

Visually the game is solid but shines when the effects and magic paths are flying everywhere. Most games force the AI to stick to the prescribed track but this one sends them down the secret and magic paths, giving them an edge that increases the challenge without unfairly boosting their stats. That means improving your own skills will be important. Controls are a little sticky at times and lack the sensitivity needed to weave around some of the cars but the controlled drift mechanics help by adding boosts once you learn to use them regularly. Overall this was a solid contender because of the IP and details in the stages but lack the polish and battle modes of Mario Kart. If you are looking for a racing-centric kart game or don’t really enjoy the battle then this will be perfect for you but if you want something to rival MK then this one is the closest we’ve had but still falls short.