Due to being born in the early 90s, I, unfortunately, was a little too young to even know what an Atari Jaguar was, let alone play its saving grace of a title, Tempest 2000. A title that in itself was a direct follow up to Atari’s 1981 arcade game, simply titled Tempest.
As greedy gamers we always tend to want more from our games: longer campaigns, more multiplayer modes- these are all things we beg our favourite developers for every year.
Since its launch, the Nintendo Switch has been home to a steady stream of re-released games from the Wii U library, which housed a few excellent games that never got a deserving audience due to the platform’s catastrophic sales performance.
The Shining series is a far cry from what it once was during the Sega Genesis era of gaming. Over years of transforming from a turn-based strategy series into much more anime-inspired action RPGs, the Shining games have become a mostly Japanese exclusive franchise. Shining Resonance Refrain is the first main series Shining title the West has gotten since 2007.
I find that there is a certain kind of joy that comes with discovering a game that otherwise I would have missed but, somehow, ended up playing anyway. This feeling is naturally amplified when the game in question turns out to actually be good — I’m quite happy to say, The Lion’s Song is not only good, it just might be new favourite point and click game of all time.
Right off the bat, I was drawn to The Lion’s Song solely due to its striking art direction. I’m a huge fan of contemporary pixel art and The Lion’s Song’s monochromatic aesthetics were something I found immediately appealing. In other words, I totally judged a book by its pixelated halftone cover. Little did I know that what lay inside was a deep and rich narrative spread across 4 episodes, all intertwined together in a natural and cohesive story full of heart and relatable characters in an otherwise, unrelatable but beautiful depiction of Vienna in the early 20th Century.
Unlike most point and click adventure games or visual novels, which I find generally use fantastical themes as its central crux or hook, The Lion’s Song, instead, focuses on a more realistic story. The game follows the lives of artists during one of the great art revolutions of the world that gave birth to many different styles. This time period is especially interesting, as it was during this era, that the popularity of Salons, institutions that fostered and garnered groups of artists in mostly, European countries (first being popularized in France around the 17th century) reached its climax. This setting is later explored in the second episode of the game.
The first episode opens with players being introduced to the character, Wilma, a famous up-and-coming composer and musician, along with her companion, Arthur, a ruthlessly tough but understanding mentor who is, perhaps, a little more than a friend. In order to prepare for an upcoming show, Arthur essentially forces Wilma to vacate to his secluded cabin, where she can be in isolation and free from the distractions of the mundane and everyday hubbub.
Without diving too deep into the rest of the episode, I’ll just say that the game does an exceptional job of creating this feeling of isolation along with the stresses that come from having to deal with deadlines and the anxieties associated with the creative process, such as not feeling happy with ones’ work. As someone who himself has dabbled in the arts, I found this aspect of the game very relatable and thankfully, the themes present in the first episode carry over to the other three and manifest in diverse and more interesting ways. The creative process is applicable to many mediums of art and The Lion’s Song does a stellar job in portraying the ups and downs of ideation, concept and final execution, while in tandem, exploring the relationships and inner machinations of each individual character that the player controls throughout the episodes.
The Switch version of the game features all 4 episodes in one convenient package and thanks to the large screen, makes it a perfect fit for fans of narrative heavy titles. Although I don’t have the actual times, I feel as though each episode took me around 40 mins to an hour to finish, which I believe to be a great fit for on-the-go players as each episode felt like reading a short story or novella.
Of course, The Lion’s Song is a video game and not strictly a written work, meaning players have the ability to interact with the game world around them. All of the interactions are done through the use of the left-stick or directional buttons and are pretty much your standard point-and-click fare, however, the visual novel aspects of the game are what I found to be the best elements within The Lion’s Song, especially in regards to choice.
Each choice felt impactful and well implemented, almost akin to a good RPG such as the Witcher series, in terms of branching narrative choices that vastly alter the final outcome of the episode — thankfully, Mi’pu’mi Games have made it easy for players to redo their actions in particularly decisive scenes. Once a chapter or episode is complete, Lion’s Song gives players’ a glimpse into what other players chose along with a percentage of how many of those players went with the same action as yourself, finally giving players the ability to revisit each section, if so desired, without compromising the progress made prior.
Unsurprisingly, the sound design in The Lion’s Song is also, top-notch. The game seems to deliberately use a limited amount of sounds and no real background music to speak of. Instead, it relied on the ambience of everyday sound effects, punctuated with sections featuring truly well-realized tracks, spread just far enough between each other making it always feel welcome and well deployed.
At the end of the day, The Lion’s Song is most likely going to be a niche title, making it difficult to recommend to everyone. However, players that enjoy a strong narrative in their games or those who appreciate the arts, The Lion’s Song is a must play and feels right at home on the Nintendo Switch. The Lion’s Song is a rare game that perfectly blends together classic adventure game and visual novel mechanics, while conveying a truly unique and memorable story, elevating it above the rest within its genre.
I have long maintained that the “downfall” of Sonic the Hedgehog has been grossly overstated.
Re-introducing classics to the modern market seems to be an idea that gaming powerhouses like Nintendo and Sega are well aware of, but re-launching nostalgia without improving on a formula is something players know to avoid. Earth Atlantis is a title that perfectly grasps this idea, as during my time with it I found an experience that both kept true to its roots, but innovated immensely to create a god-sent experience.
HP is a well-known name in the computer and laptop world and their Omen line prides itself on providing a top-tier gaming experience. Their newest laptop, the Omen 15 feels very much like a new sports car, as it’s flashy, impressive and held back a little by a few strange shortcomings.
Amazon first launched the Fire TV Stick back in 2014. The small device gave users access to all the main features users expect from the Fire TV line of devices but in a smaller, cheaper, less powerful form factor. Now, four years later, the new Fire TV Stick comes packing a new quad-core processor and Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, all for the low-cost $49.99 CAD. While it won’t compete against the 4K streaming abilities of Roku or the Apple TV, the Fire TV Stick makes a great low-cost 1080p streaming stick for most of your media consumption needs.
The gaming headset market is full of brands utilizing flashy colours and design in order to stand out from their competitors. This is a strange phenomenon given that sound and comfort should, in theory, be the most important part of a headset experience. Case in point, the Far Cry 5 edition Thrustmaster Y-300CPX Over-Ear Headset, which are visually striking, loud, customizable and lacking in depth.
Batman #50 has generated a lot of hype over the past few months. First of all, it’s Tom King’s 50th issue of Batman which is an impressive feat in and of itself. More significantly, the issue has been billed as the big wedding day between Batman and Catwoman. But does the long-awaited issue live up to the hype? To put it plainly: no, not by a longshot.
There was a time in a place called the 90’s when a broken Batman passed on his crimefighting identity to a religious zealot named Jean-Paul Valley. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the caped crusader’s smartest move, but it did make for one of the most significant changes to the Batman mythos. Now, fresh of the publication of Batman Knightfall Omnibus Volume 1, DC Comics has released a second collection and boy is it something!
Right off the bat, it’s important to note that Knightquest is a massive collection. It contains an amalgamation of over 20 issues, spanning 976 pages and isn’t meant to be read in one sitting, which actually works in its favour. The fact is that you would have a hard time reading all of the pages in a row and enjoying it because there is very little change to Jean-Paul’s story arc throughout.
As for the story, the series picks up with a crippled Bruce Wayne travelling the world and trying to find a way to regain his ability to walk. Meanwhile, in the Batcave, Jean-Paul Valley is fresh off of defeating Bane and is in the process of figuring out how to be Batman. This angle is a very interesting one, especially during the period when this story originally came out, as Knightquest was the first time that someone other than Bruce Wayne had taken up the cape and cowl. If you are entering this collection wanting an in-depth look at Bruce’s journey from broken man back to caped crimefighter, you’re going to be disappointed as this is very much Jean’s book.
Speaking of Jean-Paul, he is very much a man tormented and driven by two masters: his religious zealot past in the order of St. Dumas and his responsibility as the heir to the Batman legacy. He views Batman’s mission as one worth fighting but believes that Batman doesn’t go far enough in dealing with criminals. While this is an interesting concept, it’s mostly handled in an over the top and exposition-laden way; and since this collection features such a plethora of stories, his inner battle tends to get old rather fast. That being said, while Jean-Paul is rather one-note, writers Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, and Alan Grant manage to make the villains and inhabitants of Gotham City rather memorable.
Throughout the compendium, Jean-Paul faces off against a number of established Batman villains like the Joker and Lady Clayface, as well as some solid new ones, the standout being a serial killer named Abattoir. Abbatoir ends up featuring in a number of issues and Jean-Paul ends up failing to stop him from murdering a number of people before their final confrontation. Also, the way in which Abbatoir’s story arc ends is very much the tipping point that leads into Volume 3 and the eventual return of Bruce Wayne. The art duties are handled by Mike Manley, Graham Nolan, Bret Blevins, Vince Giarrano and while they all provide solid work, Nolan is very much the standout. Nolan manages to inject life into the scripts that he’s provided with background gags and small details that manage to elevate the overall product.
In many ways, Knightquest is very much a book that feels like it was created in the 90’s as inner monologues are everywhere and action is the order of the day every day. While it may not match up with the complexity of some stories that we’ve seen in the past few years, like Saga and Mr. Miracle, there is something oddly endearing about Batman Knightfall, like a warm glass of milk, albeit a pricey one.
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