Crossing Souls (PC) Review – Lost Boys

Crossing Souls (PC) Review - Lost Boys

I can’t help but wonder if “80’s-stalgia” has begun to plateau in its popularity. While I often think I was born in the wrong time, and wish I could’ve spent my formative years witnessing the birth of the NES and the Golden-Age of gaming, I’m beginning to wonder if products like Stranger Things, IT, and maybe even as far back as Kung-Fury have ignited the “80s as a theme” popularity to the point of cynicism. I wonder this because of Crossing Souls, a wonderfully crafted—albeit flawed—story driven Beat ‘Em Up that is almost wholly “inspired” by the movies and cartoons of the 80s.

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Crossing Souls (PC) – image for this review provided by Fourratic and Devolver Digital.

Crossing Souls tells the story of a group of friends who discover “The Duat,” a mysterious stone that drains the life of any who possess it for too long.  When the Data of the group, Matt, creates a device that allows them to tap into the Duat’s power, they find they can see the world of the spirits and are able to move within it. What follows is a whirlwind adventure involving life, death, government conspiracies and a plot to rule the world. It’s Stand By Me meets The Goonies meets a Saturday morning cartoon.

Gameplay is actually fairly similar to that of Hyper Light Drifter, but while more linear than that game, players explore each level from a top-down perspective that is somehow flat yet distinctly layered; fighting off wild animals and corrupted spirits. Players can control each of the friends, all of whom have their own unique abilities and playstyles. The leader of the group, Chris, has a trusty baseball bat and can knock back enemy projectiles. Matt has a laser gun and rocket shoes, Big Joe is the strongest, capable of dealing the most damage and also has the most health, and Charlie—who actually plays a little bit like the Drifter—uses a similar dash move and has a jumping rope that gives her a decent range for a melee character.

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Crossing Souls (PC) – image for this review provided by Fourratic and Devolver Digital.

This distinction in characters does come into play in the platforming sections as well as the fact that certain characters are needed to get across certain gaps—Chris is the only character who can jump and climb things, Matt’s aforementioned rocket shoes allow him to glide short distances, Big Joe can push heavy objects, and Charlie can slingshot herself across large gaps. The game does an excellent job of making each character feel unique and each one is so charming and likeable that it’s hard to choose a favourite; further playing into the idea that each one is necessary for the adventure.

The last and most interesting gameplay mechanic does get a little into spoiler territory, so reader be warned. The final member of the group whom I have yet to mention is Chris’ little brother Kevin. When a sinister gang leader tries to steal the Duat and smashes its containment device, Kevin runs off with it—which inevitably kills him. After Matt rebuilds the device, the gang reunites with Kevin, now a ghost. This allows Kevin to move through solid doors, interact with certain spirits, and jump on phantasmal platforms (although he has no combat ability to speak of). This actually makes for a pretty interesting turn in the story and adds a nice layer to hopping in and out of the spirit world.

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Crossing Souls (PC) – image for this review provided by Fourratic and Devolver Digital.

However, the gameplay isn’t perfect. Platforming can be a little tedious given the game’s perspective, and sometimes when you think you’re about to jump onto a platform, you end up landing behind it, or behind a pillar that appeared as a platform. Also, unlike Hyper Light Drifter—which perfectly blended melee with gunplay and precision dashing—Crossing Souls’ combat is a bit clunky and often more aggravating than fun.

For starters, enemies aren’t really affected by attacks, never being knocked back or stunned, so trying for combo attacks usually ends up in taking a hit. What’s worse is that there is a stamina meter that is drained with every attack and dodge, and while this kind of element adds a lot to a game like Dark Souls—where every fight is a precise blend of attacking, dodging and managing stamina—in a Beat ‘Em Up like this, it just makes things incredibly frustrating when you start a string of attacks and try to dodge an incoming attack from a second enemy only to get stunned from a lack of stamina and end up taking a hit from a third.

The stamina bar is also depleted by platforming, which makes sense for things like Matt’s hover ability or Chris’ climbing ability, but should have been reserved for the platforming alone since the meat of the game (the combat) is throttled by something that significantly limits your ability to move and fight.

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Crossing Souls (PC) – image for this review provided by Fourratic and Devolver Digital.

Also, while the game encourages diversity in the characters, the limitation of the stamina meter really only makes Big Joe a worthwhile combatant, since he can fell most enemies in two or three hits. If you wanted to use a character like Charlie, who deals out less damage but theoretically can move quicker and hit farther, you’re definitely going to take a lot of hits.

My biggest problem with the game is definitely the era in which it is set. Crossing Souls leans way too heavily on 80’s references, almost to the point where it feels cynical. There’s a part where you’re on a bridge, outrunning a train. There’s a part where you’re in a Delorean. The world is littered with faux-references to movies and videogames to the point where you almost want to say, “We get it, it’s the 80s.” Unlike the first season of Stranger Things, which used 80’s movies and tropes as inspiration to create something original, Crossing Souls just throws out reference after reference as if to say, “Hey, 80’s stuff right? These were things from the 80s.”

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Crossing Souls (PC) – image for this review provided by Fourratic and Devolver Digital.

However, these problems aside, the game does play very well, although I did notice some significant lag in some of the more populated areas. It has a beautiful 16-bit aesthetic that is filled with colour and detail and an awesome synth-pop soundtrack, not to mention some incredibly charming cartoon animated cutscenes. And while these cutscenes are devoid of any voice-work, and can be more reminiscent of janky flash animation than the cartoons of the 80s that inspired them, it’s hard not to be endeared to the amount of love and effort that went into making them.

That’s really the thing about Crossing Souls: it definitely has its flaws, however, I really can’t help but cherish the amount of love and heart that went into it. Its problems are more disappointing because you can see where a little tightening would’ve made for a better experience and probably would’ve warranted a higher score. But that aside, Crossing Souls is definitely a fantastic experience, and I would highly recommend playing it.

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Crossing Souls (PC) – image for this review provided by Fourratic and Devolver Digital.

Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Jordan Biordi’s reviews of Metroid: Samus Returns and Pokkén Tournament DX for the Nintendo Switch!

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Night in the Woods (Switch) Review: Small Town Blues

Night in the Woods (Switch) Review: Small Town Blues

In the era of the Switch, I resent pretty much any video game that tethers me to my television. This includes Night in the Woods, which I wanted to revisit at the end of last year when its “director’s cut” Weird Autumn Edition launched. Carving out the time to replay the game in the midst of all my other responsibilities when it was on my PlayStation 4 proved a challenge, and I ultimately ended up not completing it or seeing the new content. However, Night in the Woods is now on the Switch, and given the game’s storybook style and focus on the mundane, it feels like a natural fit for the platform that lends itself to a less restrictive type of play.

Night in the Woods (Switch) Review: Small Town Blues
Night in the Woods for Switch (image for this review courtesy of Finji and Infinite Fall)

Set in the small town of Possum Springs, Night in the Woods is an understated look at the life of the young adult in a small town. Mae, the protagonist but not quite the hero of this story, is a recent college dropout forced back into her childhood home with her parents. She forces her way back into the lives of her friends who are caught up in their own coming of age stories, like Gregg, a rehabilitated delinquent looking to leave Possum Springs forever with his boyfriend Angus and feeling trapped in the town as the only queer people there, and Bea, Mae’s childhood best friend who’s taken over her family’s story in the wake of her mother’s death. Mae’s resurgence throws a wrench in all of their lives, as they each have to come to terms with how the years apart have changed them and their priorities.

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Night in the Woods for Switch (image for this review courtesy of Finji and Infinite Fall)

Night in the Woods isn’t a happy story for the group, as everyone is experiencing some kind of growing pain that forms a wedge between their friendships. There’s a sense of obligation to them at some points, as if they hang out with each other due to proximity. Possum Springs is a prison for them, and they know that if they aren’t there for each other that sense of entrapment will be the end of them. Night in the Woods is such an honest portrayal of living in a small town when your heart and mind are elsewhere that it feels bleak. There’s a hope of escape that runs through it, but it never forgets how suffocating the environment can be for people like Mae and Gregg. Gregg longs for a life with Angus free of judgement, and Mae stays because she has nowhere else to go. By the end, not everyone finds the answers to all the questions that haunt them, but Night in the Woods does cast a judgmental eye on how we can drag each other down into a hole of complacency, and it does so by casting the player in the role of the enabler.

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Night in the Woods for Switch (image for this review courtesy of Finji and Infinite Fall)

Beyond these interpersonal relationships, Possum Springs is home to its own sets of problems. Jobs are in short supply, people are leaving the town at alarming rates, and meanwhile, those who are still there are trying to get by. Night in the Woods’ worldview is largely shaped by its cynicism of its setting, but it’s not without glimmers of hope that the people are worth the struggles of living within it. Mae’s parents specifically stand out, as they want more for their daughter than what this town has to offer.

Most of Night in the Woods is spent travelling around this town and talking with the townsfolk. Each of the citizens gets a minute amount of screen time compared to the main cast, but there are stories being told all throughout Possum Springs, each painting a picture of the good and the bad of the town. In between each new scene, there’s a solid variety of mini-games to break up the walking and talking. Band practice makes way for rhythm game sections, committing crimes with Gregg leads to some destruction of property, and Mae’s vivid dreaming creates environments for platforming. Some of this feels like fluff, but in Possum Springs you take fun where you can find it, and there’s enough variety in Mae’s antics to make each individual set piece feel fresh.

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Night in the Woods for Switch (image for this review courtesy of Finji and Infinite Fall)

With the addition of the Weird Autumn content, there are new sides of these people to see. The update is available for all versions of the game for free, and comes pre-installed on the Switch edition. Those looking for a reason to revisit the game will find a lot to enjoy in this “director’s cut,” as well as supplementary side stories, such as the pre-release games Longest Night and Lost Constellation. These short games aren’t pertinent to Night in the Woods’ main story, but will give you some extra time with the excellent characters.

Night in the Woods is the kind of game I find new things in each time I replay it, and the Switch makes doing that practical in a way playing it on other platforms isn’t. It’s the definitive place to play this incredibly special game.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more of Kenneth Shepard’s reviews, such as Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Episode 2, and find out why Kenneth thinks Danganronpa V3’s ending makes a polarizing case for letting the series go!

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Gorogoa (Switch) Review – This is art

Gorogoa (Switch) Review - This is art

Gorogoa is a puzzle game unlike any that has ever graced video games—as far as I know. The entirety of the game plays out in four boxes lined up in a comic book-like grid. Hand drawn images in each can be zoomed into, moved, stacked, and combined to solve puzzles allowing the story to advance.

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Gorogoa (Switch) – gameplay images provided by Buried Signal and Annapurna Interactive for this review.

Think of it less like a sliding box puzzle and more like ripping pages out of a picture book only to find out that when combined, they make one huge intertwined picture. The presentation is mind-blowing, but simple. None of the puzzles are all that difficult to anyone that can spot similarities between images. I’d say Gorogoa is a smidgen harder than a hidden picture book but can sometimes feel like picking up the round peg to put in the round hole; that is to say ‘a no-brainer.’

While visually Gorogoa is impressive, it is held back in other areas. There isn’t much music aside from some ambient sounds, which can make for some really dull moments when stuck on one of the more difficult puzzles. Playing with a controller means moving a cursor around the screen to click on points of interest, which feels like it lags a bit, while touchscreen feels more intuitive. That said, I’m a bit paranoid about possibly scratching my Switch’s screen, so I dealt with the not-ideal cursor control.

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Gorogoa (Switch) – gameplay images provided by Buried Signal and Annapurna Interactive for this review.

I ran into a rather nasty bug while playing that prevented me from being able to progress, which I only realized after I had pulled up a guide to see if I was overlooking something. Turns out if you mash the B button to zoom out from an image while a video is playing in another image, it will sometimes turn the video into a blank white box, thus preventing progression. Exiting the game will then load the incorrect images there meaning the only way to continue was to restart that section.

Thankfully the game offers checkpoints after each section, so it wasn’t too much of a headache, but a very inconvenient one considering this is a puzzle game and for about half an hour I thought I was just a dummy not seeing the solution at hand.

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Gorogoa (Switch) – gameplay images provided by Buried Signal and Annapurna Interactive for this review.

One thing that will surely turn off some potential buyers is the game’s length. My first playthrough took maybe close to 2 hours, but the game can be completed under 30 minutes—which wouldn’t be hard to do on a second playthrough. As there are no collectibles or secrets from what I can tell, there really isn’t a reason to replay this. It is kind of a one and done experience, which may be a bit steep for some at $17 CAD.

Gorogoa may be a short puzzle game that isn’t all that difficult, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in creativity and originality. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game like Gorogoa, a game that I can say with authority is without a doubt, 100 per cent art.

A retail version of the game reviewed was provided by the publisher. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more of Jed Whitaker’s reviews, such as Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinity, Spelunker Party!, and Golf Story!

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Nelo Preview: Gotta Slow Down

Nelo Preview: Gotta Slow Down

Nelo looks beyond slick. Rushing through arenas filled with enemies at blinding speed while firing four machine guns looks like something you’d want to be a part of. However, the alpha build currently available to players shows a game that needs a ton of work, showcasing cramped arenas, incredibly awkward platforming, and many other design decisions that all seem built around making the players regret their great speed.

In video, it looks fantastic. Players act as Nelo, an alien cyborg with telepathic powers and four guns with which to blast aliens. This cyborg can also move extremely fast, allowing players to rush through arenas of enemies as they pepper them with laser blasts. It’s quite tense to play through as well, staying ahead of your enemies while aiming shots at high speeds turns combat into a frantic event.

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Nelo (PC) – Alpha gameplay image credit: Magic & Mirrors

The problems in Nelo don’t take long to start showing up, though. Considering the speeds at which players can move, they require lots of open space to really take advantage of it (like Vanquish’s large arenas), but when enemies show up, players tend to get blocked into tiny arenas. Not only are these areas small, they tend to be filled with buildings and tiny structures that get in the way and prevent the player from running around. They’re all manageable to get around, and their varied heights offer different vantage points for combat, but at the speeds the player will be moving, these structures get in the way and block running far too often.

It doesn’t help that platforming is a chore. Nelo can wall jump to hop up onto taller buildings, but can only do so a limited number of times. However, this jump is quite floaty and clumsy, resulting in absurd hang-times that can make it nearly impossible to land on even a decent-sized platform. Nelo can be irritatingly fussy about whether your wall jump connected with the wall correctly, and since players can only wall jump a few times in a row, they may find themselves stuck in an area while trying to leap up a wall that should be a snap to scale.

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Nelo (PC) – Alpha gameplay image credit: Magic & Mirrors

Players can concentrate on fighting back instead by using their four guns. These fire at a high speed, allowing players to cleave through the dozens of robot foes who show up, but they also chew through ammo quickly. Periodically, enemies will drop more, as well as other guns (which oddly switch out some of the weapons you’re already using with little rhyme or reason, at least in this build), but Nelo still mostly requires players be precise with their shots. That’s not necessarily bad, and the ammo limits are high enough that players can often spray shots when running.

The issue that hurts the core of what Nelo seems to be building is that running around and blasting foes at high speed is not actually advisable. Players need to track their ammo counts and choose their shots. They can’t rush around without tripping over environments, and they can’t use the terrain to their advantage due to the clumsy jumping. Players will always be stumbling into things, forced to stop shooting, and will have trouble getting up the structures that get in their way.

Nelo Preview: Gotta Slow Down
Nelo (PC) – Alpha gameplay image credit: Magic & Mirrors

Some of these issues can be fixed by switching into top-down mode. Players can swap viewpoints to get a better look at the battlefield, moving from first person to a twin-stick shooter style, which does make it simpler to hit enemies. However, the spectacle of running around at ridiculous speed while blasting enemies is the big draw to this game, and swapping to this viewpoint to deal with it cheapens that draw.

These are just the problems players will see in combat. The game also features platforming segments where players will have to precisely land those floaty jumps (which are clumsy enough to make scaling a basic wall nearly impossible at points), or run around at super high speeds and somehow keep your character from careening off a cliff. The speed just doesn’t mix with the precision of these platforming moments, and when you’re slowly hopping around, you’ll just wish you were in a fight again.

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Nelo (PC) – Alpha gameplay image credit: Magic & Mirrors

Nelo can’t seem to stop tripping over its own speed mechanic, as if it is looking for ways to stop the player from using it in any fun ways. The speed that makes the game look so appealing is a constant hindrance, whether by having players stumble around arenas that are too small to fight in, something they need to shut off to get combat under control, or making clumsy platforming even more difficult. When players are freely running and blasting enemies, it’s a delight, but in its current state there is too much taking away from the freedom to move and shoot that makes Nelo special.

Nelo was previewed using a retail Steam download code provided by Magic & Mirrors. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more of Joel Couture’s reviews such as Fight’N Rage, The Evil Within 2, and Outlast 2!

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CGMagazine is Canada’s premiere comics and gaming magazine. Subscribe today to get the best of CGM delivered right to your door! Never miss when a new issue goes live by subscribing to our newsletter! Signing up gives you exclusive entry into our contest pool. Sign up once, you’ll have a chance to win! Sign up today!

Cat Quest (Switch) Review – Purrfectly Ordinary

Cat Quest (Switch) Review - Purrfectly Ordinary

There’s something to be said for the beauty of simplicity. Modern games tend to be complex by default, and while intricate systems have the potential to be engaging, sometimes it’s nice to kick back with something a little more streamlined. Cat Quest aims to reduce the action RPG to its hack-and-slash roots, and while it’s undoubtedly cute, its entertainment value hinges solely upon your tolerance for repetitive, follow-the-marker gameplay.

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Cat Quest (Switch) – gameplay image via PQube and The Gentlebros

In Cat Quest, you play a “Dragonblood,” an anthropomorphic feline with the power to vanquish dragons. When your sister is kidnapped by a second Dragonblood of a villainous persuasion, you embark on a quest to save her. That’s about as far as Cat Quest delves into melodrama, as the rest of the game is a series of simple fetch quests strung together with cat puns.

The entirety of Cat Quest takes place on an overworld that resembles a traditional ink-and-quill fantasy map, with a few caves and temples to break up the monotony. Every town looks more or less the same, and while there is a decent variety of monsters and NPCs (considering its brief, approximately six-hour runtime), the game’s visuals have a cheap quality that lay bare its iOS/Android roots. Animations feel flimsy, with characters that squish and stretch to simulate motion instead of moving organically. There’s not much in the way of memorable music, either; I can recall the game’s level-up fanfare, but that’s the only tune that stuck with me after I had turned the game off.

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Cat Quest (Switch) – gameplay image via PQube and The Gentlebros

Combat in Cat Quest is extremely simple. The pawtagonist (heh) has a three-hit sword combo, a dodge roll, and a handful of magic spells to cast. Enemies utilize the same skillset, and only ever get “harder” by pumping out larger damage numbers or relentlessly healing themselves. There’s little in the way of character progression, either; aside from paying gold to level up spells, the player can…pay gold to roll for random armor pieces. I had zero interest in doing so, and made it through the game using only the equipment I got from doing quests.

As much as I appreciate Cat Quest‘s adorable art design, it’s permeated by an amateur sensibility that kept me from enjoying it any further. It’s full of awkward writing replete with comma splices, and its quest design is too repetitive. In a word, it feels juvenile. Kids will probably have a great time with Cat Quest due to its simplistic nature, but it never really grabbed me. Cat puns, however paw-erful, can only carry a game so far.

Cat Quest (Switch) Review - Purrfectly Ordinary
Cat Quest (Switch) – gameplay image via PQube and The Gentlebros

Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more of Derek Heemsbergen’s reviews, such as  Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth and his second look at Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age!

Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out the First 15: Star Wars Battlefront II, Sonic Forces + Episode Shadow, and  Super Mario Odyssey!

Don’t forget to tune in every Friday the Pixels & Ink Podcast to hear the latest news, previews, and in-depth game discussions!

Never miss when new CGM articles go out by following us on Twitter and Facebook!

CGMagazine is Canada’s premiere comics and gaming magazine. Subscribe today to get the best of CGM delivered right to your door! Never miss when a new issue goes live by subscribing to our newsletter! Signing up gives you exclusive entry into our contest pool. Sign up once, you’ll have a chance to win! Sign up today!

First Fifteen: Battle Chef Brigade – Chapter 1

First Fifteen: Battle Chef Brigade - Chapter 1

Join CGM’s Cole Watson as he takes you through the first chapter of the epic culinary adventure, Battle Chef Brigade!

“In the fantasy realm of Victusia, the members of the elite Battle Chef Brigade are revered for their ability to skillfully take down monsters and transform their kills into delicious cuisine! But joining the brigade isn’t easy; chefs from across Victusia must vie for their spot in a high stakes competition. Play as two unique contestants, Mina and Thrash, as their journeys through the tournament unfold.

Battle Chef Brigade is equal parts old-school brawler and combo puzzler with light RPG elements. The game features completely hand-drawn characters and enemies, two playable chefs brought to life in a charming campaign through unique VO, daily challenges for leaderboard domination, and an original soundtrack.”

Battle Chef Brigade is available on November 20, for Nintendo Switch and PC. Check out Cole’s review of Battle Chef Brigade here!


Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out the First 15: Star Wars Battlefront II, Sonic Forces + Episode Shadow, and  Super Mario Odyssey!

Want to read more by Cole? Check out Cole Watson’s reviews of Assassin’s Creed Origins and Gundam Versus!

Don’t forget to tune in every Friday the Pixels & Ink Podcast to hear the latest news, previews, and in-depth game discussions!

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CGMagazine is Canada’s premiere comics and gaming magazine. Subscribe today to get the best of CGM delivered right to your door! Never miss when a new issue goes live by subscribing to our newsletter! Signing up gives you exclusive entry into our contest pool. Sign up once, you’ll have a chance to win! Sign up today!

A Hat in Time (PC) Review – The Second Best 3D Platformer This Year

A Hat in Time (PC) Review - The Second Best 3D Platformer This Year

A Hat in Time is a crowdfunded 3D platformer and spiritual successor to Super Mario 64, a fact that it does not try to hide whatsoever, and why should it since it does such a good job?

Read moreA Hat in Time (PC) Review – The Second Best 3D Platformer This Year

Tiny Barbarian DX (Switch) Review – Action platformer of the year?

Tiny Barbarian DX (Switch) Review - Action platformer of the year?

On first glance, Tiny Barbarian DX appears like your typical indie action platformer with pixel art and chiptune music, only with a $30 USD price tag. Looks can be deceiving however, as Tiny Barbarian DX is the best platformer I’ve played this year.

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Tiny Barbarian DX (Switch) – gameplay image via StarQuail Games and Nicalis

Tiny Barbarian DX is spread out over four episodes, with each feeling nearly like its own entire game. Each episode has its own theme, gameplay gimmicks, and self-contained story; although all the stories are connected, the story isn’t all that deep as it is told visually. Without spoiling too much, episode two has a few moments where you ride a giant bumblebee while music reminiscent of Kirby plays, while episode three is straight up the best linear Castlevania I’ve played in a decade, just without the series title attached. The fourth and final episode pays homage to both Mad Max and Metroid in a very surprising but welcomed way which you’ll want to see.

Episodes last about an hour or so each depending on your skill level, which admittedly is a bit brief for a game that costs as much as this one. That said there are extra unlockable hidden modes, which I won’t spoil here, as well as the ability to play with two players simultaneously.

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Tiny Barbarian DX (Switch) – gameplay image via StarQuail Games and Nicalis

While Tiny Barbarian DX isn’t the longest game, what is here is quality. The platforming is tight and deeper than you may imagine. The barbarian has a single jump, the ability to grab onto and climb up ledges, a sword attack, an elbow drop, and the ability to flex at will which serves no purpose other than comical purposes as far as I can tell. There are also a few advanced combos to be discovered that include a high jumping slice, and jumping with your sword spinning around you.

While the controls are simple, the platforming found here demands skill and precision. Jumping from chains to ledges and avoiding endless bats while simultaneously dropping elbows on snakes is something you may very well have to do. I can’t stress enough just how great traversing these levels feel.

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Tiny Barbarian DX (Switch) – gameplay image via StarQuail Games and Nicalis

Even better than making the way through levels is fighting the various bosses found throughout the game. You’ll fight a barrel-throwing gorilla (which includes a soundtrack reminiscent of Donkey Kong), a flying wizard that shoots electricity, and even a planet-eating god. Each boss is wholly unique from the last, with each testing that players have perfected the lessons taught by the level that came before them. While that should be considered standard game design, many developers fail to do so, especially with the finesse delivered by the developers here. Many bosses had my heart pounding in my chest as many fights came down to ‘sudden death’ moments where the next person to land an attack that would win the fight.

Perhaps my favorite part of the game, however, is the amazing chiptune soundtrack by Jeff Ball, best known as a violinist for Steven Universe. Don’t take my word for it, give it a listen here and see if you agree. As someone with a fondness in my heart for chiptune, having gone out of my way to see it performed live after having grown up playing and completing nearly every major NES game, I can say without a shadow of a doubt this is one of the best chiptune soundtracks I’ve ever heard in my life—a real achievement.

If you (and possibly a friend) have a hankering for some retro-inspired platforming action with challenging bosses, awesome parallax pixel graphics, and a soundtrack that will have you humming along, you don’t want to miss out on Tiny Barbarian DX. While the price might be a little steep, I certainly came away more than satisfied and quite impressed as the game had me hooked from start to finish. I, for one, can’t wait to see what StarQuail games cooks up next!

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Tiny Barbarian DX (Switch) – gameplay image via StarQuail Games and Nicalis

Tiny Barbarian DX was reviewed using “retail” Nintendo Switch download codes provided by the publisher. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.


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Hypercharged: Unboxed – More Than Just Toys

Hypercharged: Unboxed - More Than Just Toys

A fond memory from my childhood was hanging out with a few friends playing Army Men: Sarge’s Heroes for the Nintendo 64. As someone who owned a ton of action figures and other toys, I thought it was so cool to play a video game that even attempted to animate some of the Army Men toys that I used to play with. This is just one of the reasons I was happy to try out Hypercharged: Unboxed after Digital Cybercherries sent us some codes for an early build of their game.

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Hypercharged: Unboxed (PC) – early access gameplay images via Digital Cybercherries.

Hypercharged: Unboxed is a first-person tower defence shooter which supports up to four players online and locally. You take on the role of an action figure defending a power generator from waves of oncoming toys. The game’s visuals immediately reminded me of Toy Story and Small Soldiers. You’re able to customize your own action figure, selecting from a variety of skins and other cosmetic features that refer to brand name toys and even a few famous video game characters. Weapon layouts are also customizable along with deployable defensive traps. Being able to design my own figure was a really neat idea and I look forward to seeing just how many customization options Digital Cybercherries adds to the final release.

Though there isn’t much to comment on from an audio standpoint, Hypercharged: Unboxed is a great looking game. The first map starts you off on the shelf of a store in the toy aisle, surrounded by other packaged toys. Boxes and other empty packages are sprawled along the floor and can be used as cover. Every detail really works to make it look like the toy section you’d find in a store like Wal-Mart.

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Hypercharged: Unboxed (PC) – early access gameplay images via Digital Cybercherries.

Although it’s possible to play a solo game in Hypercharged: Unboxed, I wouldn’t recommend it. This is a title that really only works if you have at least one friend with you. Most enemies in the game will charge straight for the generator, which can overrun solo players. Fortunately, defensive constructs such as turrets and spike traps can help to pick up the slack but in order to operate they require AA batteries that highly resemble the Duracell brand. Still, the game can feel a bit shallow after a while.

Playing with friends does help to alleviate that problem to an extent. While playing through with a couple of friends, it was exciting to spot the nostalgic toys that would be attacking with each new wave of enemies. We were all taken back to our elementary school days when we saw a swarm of spinning tops that looked nearly identical to Beyblades. I would like even more references to popular toys turned into enemies.

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Hypercharged: Unboxed (PC) – early access gameplay images via Digital Cybercherries.

As it stands, Hypercharged: Unboxed is a fun title to play with friends. I do think that a game with such a fun premise would benefit from additional modes, possibly introducing more exploration rather than keeping you locked to such small areas. I’m looking forward to seeing how this game turns out as it’s developed further but for now, Hypercharged: Unboxed is a short but fun nostalgia trip to play with friends. The game is currently available on Steam for $16.99 CAD.


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New Steam Release Hyperun Channels the Raw Energy of Akira

New Steam Release Hyperun Channels the Raw Energy of Akira

With Blade Runner returning to the big screen after 35 years, and the live-action Akira in talks, the filmmaking zeitgeist today is clawing quite a far ways back to satisfy their questionable diet for established franchises. Instead of continuing the momentum of the creative power-train that these films built by using the inspiration to make something new, film studios seem to want to assure their financial success by resting its laurels on merely reviving these established works and betting on the power of their brands. But for those interested in what it looks like when new brands instead channel the raw energy of the old to create something new, the indie gaming community may be the place to look. Concrete Games’ new release Hyperun may be a model experiment on how a new medium, coupled with a new brand, can propel itself with the rocket fuel of the old giants that came before.

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Hyperun (PC) – gameplay images via Concrete Games.

All it takes is one glance and Hyperun will hold a stare. The game steals away Akira’s sense of velocity, speeding away like a high-speed getaway car with a grin on its face and a bag of style in hand. It manages to channel the spirit of Akira, along with a whole list of other inspirations and can be felt in the very digital brush-strokes of the moving motorcycle and rushing wind. The artwork comes as an instant visual relief, considering the state of Steam’s marketplace right now. In the unruly matrix, Hyperun is a woman in red. Regrettably, big budget production has been putting AAA game developers into an artistic armlock of sorts, only be unbound by those with the bravery of bearing the risk of hundred million dollar losses, or those with the strategic incisiveness between art and economics that Ninja Theory is attempting to pull off with their new game Hellblade—a project that reduced its budget to achieve a game that feels AAA but explores indie ideas. Luckily, the indie development scene is popular enough to allow developers the freedom to entertain one new idea after another, venturing again and again across that bold red line to the breakpoint of the thrilling new.

CGM had an email interview with the team at Concrete Games to explore just what it takes to develop a new artistic vision from scratch.


CGM: Your games seem to draw aesthetic inspiration from cultural staples—Public Enemy and hip-hop for your game Public Enemy; 90’s television for MacGuffin; and now Akira and Tron for Hyperun. Do you guys consider this your style?

Concrete: We don’t particularly like to stick to a style. We could do something entirely different for our next projects. But I must say that there is an energy, a kind a raw power that comes from this cultural influences, and we like it a lot. For Hyperun we have tons of influences: SSX, Extreme G, Studio Ghibli’s movies, a little Moebius, Redline, Dead Leaves, Trackmania—especially Trackmania Turbo, Speed Racer, Syd Mead, and any extreme real sports. There are also tons of small inspirations like Split/Second for the in-game user interface for example.

CGM: Why was this the next project? What’s the process like of choosing and developing a visual style?

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Hyperun (PC) – gameplay images via Concrete Games.

Concrete: Hyperun was the next project because MatLab, our game designer, had already created a working prototype that was fun to play. The process of choosing a visual style is a mix of, one, something that can stand the test of time; two, is technically fun to create; three, something that isn’t too mainstream; and four, that is interesting to research—for example, I wasn’t at all into anime before starting Hyperun, but it was extremely interesting to learn about it.

CGM: How do you see the relationship between art, design, and programming?

In order to create something that players will appreciate, all of those parts are essential. Thanks to the tools we use like Unreal Engine, the lines are blurred between art, design, and programming, allowing us to create and test our ideas faster than ever. Every aspect of the game supports and is supported by the others, like individual instruments in an orchestra.

CGM: For Corentin , why did you decide to get into games over other mediums? What do you think is the future of art in games? Do you think technology ultimately brings less expression or more?

Corentin: Games offer me a mix of world building and technical creation. I like art and technology a lot, for different reasons. Video games offer me both, plus the enjoyment of offering the finished game to people, and that is something that will always be extremely interesting. I’d like to see more non-photorealistic rendering in games. Even if I like photo realism a lot, I prefer to work on things that bring a new vision to people, especially strange ones. I think technology brings more and less expression: some people can do things that they couldn’t have done otherwise, and some others are stronger with less technological tools of expression—but fortunately, all can co-exist because technology isn’t an obligation.

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Hyperun (PC) – gameplay images via Concrete Games.

CGM: What have you guys been playing lately. Any artwork that’s particularly interesting or inspiring?

Corentin: We are quite fond of research, especially in video games, because it doesn’t really exist like in the other industries. Also e-sports, Science Fiction, poetic games, VR. We want to make a lot of prototypes of strange and new ideas. I am interested in fluid simulations, retro sci-fi, utopia sci-fi, dense population areas, colorful environments, absurd things, and the list goes on. I’ve been wanting to make this picture in a 3d game environment for a while. Here’s my Pinterest (I don’t update it often).

CGM: How do you think visual art is explored in science-fiction that makes it unique?

Corentin: I’m a big fan of Syd Mead and John Harris. I think that all sci-fi ideas are born in visual form or books—even for things that now exist, at some time it was science fiction. Let’s look at Apple’s 1987 vision of the future. I think they did everything they projected, in a slightly different form, but when you think about it, the ideas first came to existence in the form of pictures that were translated in this ad. How do you explain a new idea? You can write what it does, or you can draw it. Or for games, you can even make it work in the fictitious world! Just thinking about that makes me want to create a lot of things!

New Steam Release Hyperun Channels the Raw Energy of Akira
Hyperun (PC) – gameplay images via Concrete Games.

CGM: Do you see an importance in blending sound and visual design? Or do the two exist separately?

Concrete: It is of immense importance for sound and visuals to be thought at the same time. Humans like synesthesia a lot, and when pictures and sound form the same shape or complement each other, it creates a message that is really strong. This principle is essential to make the games feel alive and feel juicy!


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