Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure (Xbox One) Review – A little New Unnecessary

Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure (Xbox One) Review – A little New Unnecessary

In a move to introduce older Kinect games to a new audience, Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure was remastered to include controller supported play and modern graphics. While this remaster seems rather unnecessary, it does breathe new life into an old title.

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Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure (Xbox One) – gameplay image via Microsoft Studios and ASOBO

Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure consists of six Pixar worlds to explore: Toy Story, Finding Dory, The Incredibles, Up, Ratatouille, and Cars. Each world consists of 2-3 episodes and can vary in gameplay style. Cars is driving(duh), Dory is swimming(obviously) and the rest are mostly made up of platforming, similar to a bare-bones Disney Infinity. These episodes are short and only take a matter of minutes to complete, however, players can play through again to find secrets and try out new abilities. This does allow for replay value, but that value is measured in cents.

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Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure (Xbox One) – gameplay image via Micorsoft Studios and ASOBO

The remastered graphics for Rush bring the title into the modern day technology. With 4K capabilities, the game really does have a crisper and more colourful appearance, even for those of us without 4K televisions. The sound isn’t anything to write home about, but it is acceptable. The introduction of the controller support works perfectly, allowing a seamless transition from being a strictly Kinect title to one that offers controller play. Although it’s easy to tell Rush was a Kinect game due to the simplistic controls and limited gameplay variety, Pixar fans will enjoy the opportunity to explore these franchises. Especially with the brand new Finding Dory episodes.

Rush is a very middle-of-the-road title. Nothing spectacular, yet nothing weighing it down. If you have already played Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure, there is no need to revisit it. The new content of Finding Dory isn’t enough to justify recommending it for a second time. For young fans who have never experienced Rush, it is worth considering, just don’t expect hours of entertainment.

Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure (Xbox One) Review – A little New Unnecessary 5
Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure (Xbox One) – gameplay image via Micorsoft Studios and ASOBO

Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure was reviewed using “retail” Xbox One download codes provided by Microsoft Studios. 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 Melanie Emile’s reviews such as Cuphead, Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, and Until Dawn!

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Disneyland Adventures Remastered (Xbox One) Review – A Not So Magical Journey

Disneyland Adventures Remastered (Xbox One) Review - A Not So Magical Journey

The Kinect has come and gone. Microsoft is no longer encouraging players to get up off the couch, and in this new era, Kinect games are getting remastered to include controller supported controls. Disneyland Adventures went through this makeover, and it should have been left to rot alongside the Kinect.

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Disneyland Adventures Remastered (Xbox One) – gameplay image via Microsoft Studios and ASOBO

At the beginning of my adventure, I found I was really enjoying myself. Sure, it doesn’t appear to be all that remastered. The sound isn’t perfect, some characters sound hollow and distant, and the graphics—while sharper than the original Xbox 360 release—are unable to rival this generation’s visuals, even in 4K. The animations are awkward, the children run as if they are wearing diapers, and characters occasionally speak without mouth movement—but hey, I was laughing up a storm playing alongside player two. We progressed through the game, doing mundane tasks like chatting up the Disney family and collecting autographs, but not too far into our magical journey the game crashed. Fine, I give games one free crash. Technology isn’t perfect. I restarted the game and continued to play, yet I noticed the longer we played, the glitchier it got. The frame rate dropped, our feet clipped through the ground and at one point player two lost the ability to control his character. The controls refused to respond, making the fun factor of the mini-game drop like the Tower of Terror. And to my sheer disappointment, before I knew it, BAM, we hit the ground floor with the game crashing again.

Disneyland Adventures crashed on average, once an hour, until I had to throw in the towel. Someone stole Tinkerbell’s fairy dust and I can no longer fly high playing Disneyland Adventures. The small variety of gameplay could have easily been forgiven if the game didn’t crash repetitively. The idea of introducing the controller is a brilliant one, but only if players don’t have to live in constant fear of the game crashing. Sadly, I have said goodbye to Disneyland and will be staying away from this not-so-magical adventure. I suggest you do the same.

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Disneyland Adventures Remastered (Xbox One) – gameplay image via Microsoft Studios and ASOBO

Disneyland Adventures was reviewed using “retail” Xbox One download codes provided by Microsoft Studios. 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 Melanie Emiles reviews such as Cuphead, Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, and Until Dawn!

Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out the First 15: Super Mario Odyssey,  The Evil Within 2, and Cuphead!

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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Super Lucky’s Tale (Xbox One) Review – The Only Title to Launch Alongside the Xbox One X

Super Lucky's Tale (Xbox One) Review - The Only Title to Launch Alongside the Xbox One X

2017 has seen the release of so many 3D platformers like Poi, Yooka-Laylee, the Crash Bandicoot trilogy, A Hat In Time, and last but certainly not least Super Mario Odyssey. Where does Microsoft’s one and only Xbox One X launch title, Super Lucky’s Tale, rank on that list? Somewhere near the bottom.

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Super Lucky’s Tale (Xbox One X) – gameplay image via Playful Corp. and Microsoft Studios

Super Lucky’s Tale is a follow up to Lucky’s Tale, a VR exclusive for the Oculus Rift. Microsoft hasn’t done a good job making clear that this game is a wholly original full-fledged title and not just some remake of the original. Don’t fret if you’ve not played the original as you won’t be missing out on anything aside from maybe a stiff neck as the only thing connecting the two games is that they star the same character, a fox named Lucky.

Lucky gets sucked into a magical book where he has to battle the Kitty Litter, a family of cats with their father being the leader of the group—Bowser and the Koopa Kids anyone? The story isn’t all that deep or important here, just know that Lucky has to collect clovers, which open up stages and eventually boss fights against all his feline foes, that will hopefully lead to his escape from the book. It’s no Citizen Kane, by any means.

The controls here are pretty simple and intuitive. Lucky has a double jump, a tail whip that can smash boxes and temporarily prevent him from falling, and can burrow underground where he can move around like Bugs Bunny. Enemies must be jumped on to be defeated, but can be stunned with a tail whip, although I didn’t find doing so all that useful. Movement can feel a little clunky at times, but for the most part, it feels okay.

While the controls aren’t really an issue, the game’s camera is. Unlike most 3D platformers, the camera isn’t able to be rotated fully around Lucky and instead is locked into different positions depending on the type of level. Some levels allow the camera to be panned to one of three positions, none of which allow seeing away from the stage for some reason. Other levels have the camera locked as if in a traditional 2D platformer, which works fine.

The biggest problem, however, is when levels combine 2D style platforming with the 3D style camera. In these stages, the camera is positioned in such a way that it makes it nearly impossible to have any depth perception. Most 3D platformers would have the camera angled downward a bit more than Super Lucky’s Tale does in these stages which instead almost has it parallel to the character. That said, I had depth perception issues in various stages throughout, not just the ones with that annoying camera. Being able to judge where jumps are is the core mechanic of any 3D platformer, and somehow Super Lucky’s Tale manages to mess that up, though a minority of its running time.

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Super Lucky’s Tale (Xbox One X) – gameplay image via Playful Corp. and Microsoft Studios

When the camera isn’t causing issues, Super Lucky’s Tale is alright at best, although quite generic as it doesn’t do anything we haven’t seen before. Coins to collect? Check. Jumping on enemies heads to kill them? Check. Playing as an anthropomorphic animal? Check. Having an overworld with doors to the next level that requires collecting a certain number of a required item? Check. Bees, caterpillars, and ghost enemies? Triple check. The only thing I’d even call original is the variety of stages and how the total number of the main collectable item—clovers—is set to 99 instead of an even 100, which will surely trigger more people’s OCD than just mine.

So about that variety of stages, Super Lucky’s Tale does a good job of mixing things up so you’re not just doing the same type of level one after another. As mentioned there levels that play like a 2D platformer, and ones that are large and open like a traditional 3D platformer, as well as a few endless runner levels, a few levels that has you sliding statues around to solve puzzles, and even a handful of levels that have you tilting a board to roll Lucky around inside of a marble. Again, none of these are exactly original or feel fresh, but variety is the spice of life, as they say.

Graphically speaking, Super Lucky’s Tale is bright and colourful, though nothing all that impressive. Keeping that in mind, I find it odd that the game only manages to run at 1080p 30FPS on the original Xbox One and the Xbox One S versus 4k 60FPS on the Xbox One X. Nothing here is graphically demanding, and due to the way that camera can’t rotate all the way around the character, there isn’t a lot that needs to be rendered at one time. I played all the way through the game on my Xbox One S before booting it up on my gaming PC thanks to this being an Xbox Play Anywhere title, and let me tell you playing at 60FPS just feels so much better; it isn’t just a visual thing.

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Super Lucky’s Tale (Xbox One X) – gameplay image via Playful Corp. and Microsoft Studios

I’m no developer, but I just don’t understand how this couldn’t manage to hit a higher framerate on anything but the Xbox One X. Super Mario Odyssey is a far more busy and beautiful game on the less powerful Switch, yet that it manages to run at 900p 60FPS. I realize I’m comparing a budget title from a small studio to an AAA 1st party game here. Either Super Lucky’s Tale is poorly optimized or—put on your tinfoil hats here—Microsoft had the game purposefully restricted to 30FPS to force it as a meaningful Xbox One X title.

I did run into a few bugs in my time with the game. A few times Lucky got stuck in the ground, which seemed to happen after getting hit mid-air. The only way I was able to get him to pop back out of the ground was to pull up the Xbox One guide. Strangely enough Lucky would pop back on top of the ground the moment I pressed the button. Also had the game crash to the Xbox dashboard once when trying to fast travel to a previous area. Luckily, these issues didn’t occur all that often.

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Super Lucky’s Tale (Xbox One X) – gameplay image via Playful Corp. and Microsoft Studios

Super Lucky’s Tale took me around 10 or so hours to 100 percent complete, and I’d estimate that I could have probably completed the game in maybe 8 otherwise. Smaller levels such as the endless running and puzzle levels have a single clover while each main level has 4 clovers available: one for completing the level, one for finding the letters of the word ‘Lucky’, one hidden clover, and one for collecting 300 coins. Some levels do a nice job hiding the letters and extra clover, but most are rather obvious.

There’s a running tally of coins collected in the overworld which can be used for absolutely nothing as there are no shops to spend them on, no extra levels to unlock, and no achievements linked to them. The same could be said for the total number of lives, as running out of them only takes you to the start of the level—with 5 fresh lives—instead of the previous checkpoint. I don’t understand why coins or lives were included here, other than they are a carryover from other games in the genre, as they serve no real purpose aside from the 300 coin clover.

I wanted to love Super Lucky’s Tale, but at the end of the game, I felt next to nothing. This is easily one of the most generic and forgettable games I’ve played in a very long time, which is a shame due to it being one of the only first party exclusives that Xbox released this year. Xbox players deserve better.

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Super Lucky’s Tale (Xbox One X) – gameplay image via Playful Corp. and Microsoft Studios

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!

Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out the First 15: Super Mario Odyssey,  The Evil Within 2, and Cuphead!

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ReCore (Xbox One) Review

ReCore (Xbox One) Review

Have you ever had a five-course meal where the chef comes out, demands you eat the rest of the dishes on the menu before you can have your dessert? If so, then you know how I feel about ReCore, the latest exclusive for Microsoft platforms.

You’re Joule, the daughter of a scientist that was sent to terraform a desert-like planet because Earth is being destroyed by  “dust devils.” I’m still not quite sure exactly what those are, as it isn’t explained in detail in ReCore. Joule starts her journey with Mack, a robotic dog who acts exactly like you’d expect a real canine to act, aside from shooting lasers. Eventually, you come across other robots, each with its own personality, although those personalities aren’t displayed more than a couple of times each in brief cutscenes.

On your way to make the planet inhabitable, you’ll be facing colourful robots shaped like various animals, all which look very much like something you’d find in the Bionicle line of Lego toys. While your robo-buddies will automatically attack enemies and can be commanded to use special attacks, most of the time you’ll be taking them on via a rifle that shoots different colours. Enemies are mostly red, blue, or yellow and your rifle can eventually shoot each of those colours including a neutral white. Shooting enemies with matching colours means doing more damage, a pretty simple mechanic that neither adds or removes anything from ReCore.

Enemy robots can have their health reduced to make them explode into parts. These can be picked up to craft upgraded pieces for your robots, or you can rip out their cores to upgrade your robot’s core stats. Ripping out cores feels similar to most fishing games, in the sense that you’re gently reeling them in, ensuring the line doesn’t break until you’ve obtained their core. While it might sound dull on paper, the core-ripping mechanic is quite enjoyable.

ReCore (Xbox One) Review 2While ReCore world initially blew me away with its exceptional particle effects, and the stellar physics of flags and pieces of robots waving in the wind, I soon grew tired of looking at brown rocky surfaces and sandy dunes. While I get that this fits the story and setting, it doesn’t mean that it will hold a player’s interest. When not traversing dunes and pillars of stone, you’ll be wading through dungeons that look exactly like the places you’d expect to find in a world dominated by evil robots. You’ve got your soggy laboratories, caves, and chemical spills. In particular, the dungeons are exceptionally dull when held against the overworld.

As ReCore is an open world game, you’re free to roam wherever you’d like, though the game will almost always have an indicator on the screen where you should go next. Getting from place to place means traveling on foot, though thankfully you start with a dash and a generous double jump. The movement is polished and on point. Dashing across dunes carving your path in the sand is mesmerizing, and traversing the ‘cyber obstacles courses’ you’ll see frequently is a blast.
ReCore 2I have to say the first 10 hours of ReCore are great. You meet the robots, see their personalities, start to learn the backstory and unlock new mechanics along the way. Then you are suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, at the ending and it sucks. It sucks that you’re there already and the end portion of the game is easily the worst.

After fighting the villain of ReCore (who is only shown on screen three times, at most,) you enter a series of rooms filled with platforming and repetitive close quarters fights. These rooms require you have a certain number of cores (think Stars in Super Mario 64) to advance. Outside of one measly time, you’re never encouraged to explore the overworld map nor told that you may need to complete the story. If you’re like me, you enjoy saving side quests in open world games for after you complete the story, or doing only what is required to advance. The side missions aren’t bad by any means, either being fun obstacle courses, or battle royals which get a bit monotonous after a while. While you don’t have to complete all of them to reach the ending of the game, you do have to complete a lot more than what the game lets on, which was seemingly only done to artificially extend the length.

ReCore (Xbox One) Review 1I loved what I got to see of the characters, and the movement, but everything else could have been fleshed out  a bit more or been a bit more polished. There were various areas where the game world had breaks in it allowing me to see through walls or the ground, while other places had floating rocks and debris. There were multiple times where my robots froze or the game itself just wouldn’t advance till until closing and restarting the game. Thankfully it saves almost constantly, so not much progress was lost.

As ReCore is the first title in Xbox’s Play Anywhere, it meant not only did I get to play the game on Xbox One and PC, but my save seamlessly transferred between the two versions with no work on my part. That said, play the PC version if you’re able, as it offers 60 frames per second and above as well as faster loading times. The Xbox One version runs at 30FPS, doesn’t look anywhere close to as good, and takes about double the time to load. On my PC, I experienced around 20 seconds to load into the game from the main menu, whereas on the Xbox One it was closer to 40-45 seconds. Not exactly fast but manageable.

ReCore feels like the first quarter of a 40-hour game. There’s a lot of fun to be had, but the abrupt end section and its forced side missions just left a bad taste in my mouth. I really, truly love ReCore, but I know I can’t possibly give it a higher score than this. It’s a fun little game that feels like Metroid Prime, Tomb Raider, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Banjo-Kazooie had a love child. You’ve got fun platforming, dungeons to explore, an open world that encourages revisiting as you unlock abilities, and tons to collect along the way.

With some polish and better character and story development ReCore could have easily passed as a $60, but as it stands even at the budget price of $40 it is hard to recommend. Once it drops to $20, however, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition (PC) Review

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition (PC) Review

How do you talk about Gears of War in 2016? In the decade that’s passed since the original Xbox 360 release, action games have been immeasurably influenced by Epic Games’ post-apocalyptic shooter. Trying to separate its impact on the medium from its successes as an individual game is difficult. But, with the release of The Coalition’s Gears of War: Ultimate Edition remaster, the player is asked to do just that. Luckily, stepping away from the baggage that accompanies one of the most popular and influential titles in videogames reveals an experience that is just as compelling now as it was when it first arrived in 2006.

Gears of War’s story, such as it is, follows Marcus Fenix and a group of Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) soldiers in their attempt to fight back against the army of scaly Locust monsters who have devastated and occupied their country. The plot itself is fluff—a series of pretexts meant to provide context for new combat scenarios—but, despite this, Gears’ has a definite, memorable tone. Part of this is due to its aesthetic—beautiful stone collegiate buildings and European-style urban streets now crumbling after decades of war—but more comes from the way its characters are presented.

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Marcus and the rest of his squad are all hyper-masculine, growling, bulging muscles, and tough-guy attitudes. They bark commands to one another during firefights, spout one-liners after escaping dire situations, and mutter gravel-throated commentary as they find new weapons or kick in locked doors. Gears of War’s vision of cool draws on football players, bodybuilders, wrestlers, and hard-nosed military men as its guiding principles. And, whether intentional or not, the end result is hilarious. The COGs are endlessly aggressive, ever hungry for another life-or-death scrape, and their attitude contrasts wonderfully against the backdrop of a world in complete ruin. As insufferable as they’d be in reality, there’s no better cast of characters suited to keeping the player determined (and entertained) on a tour through a dismal, decimated post-apocalypse.

The writing’s grim tone carries through to Gears’ still remarkable style of play, too. Despite the outward familiarity of Ultimate Edition’s control scheme and visual language (there are chest-high walls everywhere), it’s a surprisingly unique game. The squad bounds through levels like miniature elephants, the ground reverberating with the heavy steps of their metal boots as the player urges them onward to the next fight. And the unwieldy power of the characters extends to the way it feels to control their movement in combat.

Whether shooting, running, or chainsawing enemies, Gears’ action feels heavier—more deliberate—than most modern shooters. Unlike the consistent action of contemporary games, which encourages the player to improvise on the fly, scrabbling from cover to cover during firefights, Gears requires a greater degree of tactical thinking. If Fenix isn’t moved to a flanking position, he can easily be cut down by a hail of bullets. If he spends a few seconds too long standing exposed during combat, his health drains at a pace far quicker than what modern games have taught players to expect. The Locust enemies soak up bullets, their monstrous bodies refusing to drop as readily as the soldiers who constitute a military shooter’s enemy force. The acrobatic character movements that increase the speed of a Tomb Raider, Uncharted, or Call of Duty game are absent here, too. Marcus gathers momentum as he runs and he turns with sluggish, weighty motions. This design style is definitely deliberate—it brings the bulky look of the characters in line with the feel of the shooting—but it’s one of the few elements of the game that makes it feel as old as it is.

Character movement may be a bit clunky, but the level and combat design is outstanding, even in a modern context. Ultimate Edition’s visuals bring Gears in line with the graphical fidelity of recent videogames, making it easier to appreciate the original’s art direction. Modern rendering lends a greater scope to moments when the player looks out across wide swaths of ruined city streets, gazes up at an enormous mining facility, or races to a final confrontation as the sky above is filled with wisps of black smoke and flying creatures. The sound design, too, is still fantastic. From the thundering of the soldiers’ boots to the satisfying mechanical clack of a successfully timed reload, the audio heightens the sense of physicality that grounds the game’s action.

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition (PC) Review 3While Ultimate Edition’s audiovisual updates are welcome, none of them are as impressive as the design foundation they’re built upon. Epic Games’ ability to craft memorable combat encounters, placed within imaginatively constructed environments, is still worthy of praise. There’s a sequence where the squad must navigate city blocks at night, blowing up propane tanks and weathering shoot-outs while also moving from fire to fire in order to keep swarms of ravenous, light-fearing creatures at bay. There’s a level where the soldiers methodically clear a mansion of Locust, only to then have to defend it against an onslaught of reinforcements desperate to reclaim their lost territory. There’s the final stretch of the game, where the COGs fight their way to the front of a speeding train, defeating enemies from all sides as they inch their way forward through the cars.

Probably the best thing that can be said for Ultimate Edition’s audiovisual update is that it makes it easier to appreciate just how strong Gears’ original design is. And, for the most part, the PC version performs very well. The same modes presented in 2015’s Xbox One release—the solo and co-operative campaign and a variety of multiplayer options—are intact and, on modest hardware (an i5-4670k and GTX 770), it’s possible to play on high settings with only minor slowdowns during particularly busy sequences. Unfortunately, there are a few glitches. A scripted event late in the game refused to activate until the latest save checkpoint had been reloaded several times; enemies sometimes stop moving, getting stuck behind objects in the environment; invisible walls occasionally popped up in a later level, too, causing Marcus to take cover against thin air. These are relatively minor problems, but still serve as blemishes on an otherwise great version of the game.

These issues aside, Ultimate Edition doesn’t represent a drastic change from the Xbox 360 original. It may look and sound much better, but the core experience is largely unchanged. For a remaster, this is exactly what players should hope for. Rather than fundamentally alter an excellent game that may feel slightly outdated to modern players, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition provides a simple upgrade, making an important piece of shooter history a bit prettier and more accessible to a 2016 audience.

State Of Decay: Year One Survival Edition (Xbox One) Review

State Of Decay: Year One Survival Edition (Xbox One) Review

Secure The Compound

Zombies games are a dime a dozen in recent years, but how many of them let you have a truly Walking Dead or Romero-esque experience of actually experiencing the day-to-day struggle for survival in a zombie apocalypse? State of Decay, which came out in 2013 for the Xbox 360, is one of the few games that put just as much emphasis on scavenging and security as it did on fighting zombies, and now it’s back on its younger, more powerful brother, the Xbox One.
stateofdecayinsert1Fight Smart, Scavenge Smarter

Even though it doesn’t say so anywhere in the title, this is basically one of those HD+ remasters we’ve been seeing so much from the last generation to this one. The original State of Decay was a surprisingly original and playable title from a small studio headed by ex-Blizzard refugees, and it managed to garner a decent following for itself with its emphasis more on survival than action. As Marcus Campbell, an athletic store clerk out on a camping trip, players run head on into a classic “something-something of the Dead” zombie apocalypse, straight out of a George Romero film. It’s a third person survival horror, but if you were expecting Resident Evil, or Dead Rising, you’re in for a surprise. It’s not about killing zombies, so much as it is forging alliances, securing supplies, and reinforcing compounds in order to endure the zombie apocalypse on a daily basis. In other words, it really is more about the survival than the horror.

As you might expect from a remaster, State of Decay has gotten an upgrade to the world of 1080p. It hasn’t gotten a similar bump in framerate, but the open world nature of the game pretty much killed any chances of 60 frames per second. Players need to keep in mind that this wasn’t a big AAA title with a huge budget. Despite its use of CryEngine 3 for its graphics, this isn’t a looker of a game; manpower and budgetary limitations are evident throughout. So even though the graphics are crisper and the draw distances are better, this doesn’t fix the limited animations,  frequent clipping of enemies through walls, or the unpolished voice acting and stilted cut scenes. Those are all still in place, the same as in the original Xbox 360 version.

Thankfully, what’s also retained is the survivalist atmosphere of the original game, as well as all the DLC that came out subsequent to the game’s release. This is never going to be a good looking game compared to the likes of Halo, but the commitment to a survival game where main characters can die, and the game keeps going, is a testament to the originality of the title. The only real issue plaguing this game might be one of audience. While the remaster of the The Last of Us makes sense, since so many Xbox 360-only users never got a chance to play that PS3 hit, it’s doubtful that there are many PS3-only users now coming to the Xbox One who missed the opportunity to play this stark, original game. Most of the Xbox One users probably were Xbox 360 users, and thus, if they had any interest in this game, already played it religiously during its first release. There might be a few new Xbox One owners here and there that still haven’t played this game—and if they haven’t, they absolutely should—but it doesn’t feel like that “new immigrant audience” opportunity exists here in the same way it does for new PS4 owners.

That aside, State of Decay is still, without a doubt, one of the better zombie games available today. Despite not having all the polish and AAA bells and whistles of a big budget title, it has an original concept, a lot of depth, and a genuine tension evoked by its “no one is ever safe,” atmosphere. If, somehow, you love zombie games, own an Xbox One, but never played this game, buy it, and don’t be put off by the budget presentation. It’s got it where it counts.

 

Crimson Dragon (Xbox One) Review: Repetition at its best

Crimson Dragon  (Xbox One) Review: Repetition at its best

Panzer Dragoon is a big deal to some people. I never had any Sega systems as a child (certainly not Saturn or Dreamcast), so I never got a chance to try it, but the idea of flying a dragon about and blasting tons of enemies is a tantalizing one. I enjoyed the Star Fox series, and this kind of game is of a similar vein. So Crimson Dragon, which boasts the director and many members of the Panzer Dragoon staff, should provide an intense, dragon-based combat experience. Sadly, I can’t say the actual product is too appealing, as repetitive, short levels and a requirement to repeat levels to gather XP and money makes this a tedious game.

The game takes place on a world where human colonies are guarded by the dragon-riders of the Icarus Division, survivors of an alien virus that turns its subjects into scaly mutations. As a new recruit, you deal with the increased instances of this virus, which conveniently also makes the local wildlife go homicidal and spread the disease. The world looks rather good, with great honey-combed rock formations and bizarrely geometric underground structures. The dragons also get a pass, having a collection of rather unique designs, and some impressive-looking powers (of varying degrees of effectiveness).

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What we have here is a rail-shooter, with the dragon flying on a fixed path through a stage. It looks pretty enough, but there’s no exploration to speak of, as you fly your established route. There are rare instances where the game opens up into a small free-flight mode, and you control direction and speed of flight – however, the arenas are too small and flipping about when you hit the edge is disorienting. You feel like you can barely move, and either get pummelled, or fly too fast and miss all shots (until you collide with a boss monster). Many of the maps are clearly suited for open flight, so it’s disappointing to be so restrained. It wastes the art assets that the game provides.

Flying along a straight line and shooting enemies is actually pretty fun, so a free game like this should be sufficient if the gameplay is solid. Sadly, the gameplay’s not really strong enough to save its limitations. Your dragon feels strangely fragile, easily falling to enemy attacks as the game’s dodge mechanics are…. well, dodgy. There’s a delay between when you complete a dodge and when you start firing again, which means that if you’re repeatedly dodging waves of multiple enemy fire, you’re not firing back.

All in all, this game just isn’t really that fun. You have to repeat levels several times to get the items necessary to unlock future levels, as well as the XP and items necessary to survive in said levels. The levels themselves repeat general structure and enemy progression as well, and with only a few actual maps, you tend to see the same thing over and over.  Collecting the data cores, a common mission, is infuriating when only the dragon’s central body collects them, but seems to work better for certain dragons over others. Bosses look imposing, sporting the best designs, and the fights are less tedious than the main missions, and don’t need to be repeated as often.

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Dragon upgrading is a slow, laborious process. Your character gains levels, which allows you to get new dragons, but since each mount must be individually levelled to be effective, it becomes a long process of farming XP items or repeating levels to power up for the later content. Since the rock-paper-scissors elements system doesn’t keep a dragon from learning other elemental powers, you can keep using a single dragon if you don’t mind some harder levels, and by the end your one dragon is often strong enough to crush all enemies regardless of personal element.

The premium currency, jewels, are extremely cheap, with the largest of the three packs being 45 for $9.99. In practice, there’s only one item that jewels are needed to buy (a deluxe item pack), and I doubt it’s worth. You get jewels from fulfilling certain criteria in missions. I surmise the intent was to use these to buy item packs and thus get XP and evolution items needed to level and upgrade your dragon, as a means to skip repeating levels. If this is true, it’s an unfortunate feature; if the levels are too tedious to repeat to get achievements or higher ranks, what’s the point of even having these?

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In the end, it’s the repetition that kills this. The levels look quite good, befitting a science-fiction arcade-style shoot-em-up, the dragons and their powers are cool, and there are moments when you feel great for shooting down a giant serpent or wave of enemies. But you have to keep doing it over and over again, often repeating levels, and it loses its lustre fast. Greater variety and more mobility would have made it a better, more fun game; I had to push on through the first few levels to get to the end of the game. You want people to keep playing, and you want them to consider buying new things so they can keep playing more for free-to-play.

This game didn’t do either. Perhaps updates with give more varied content, but for now, it’s not really worth it.

 

 

Zoo Tycoon (Xbox One) Review: A Dreadful Day at the Zoo

Zoo Tycoon (Xbox One) Review: A Dreadful Day at the Zoo

Tycoon games are always great power trips. You feel a sense of capitalist pride building your theme park, or apartment building, or zoo, and watching little people throw their money at your highly-priced bathrooms and concessions. You feel like a big man in the sky making money, but you also feel like an architect, crafting a great structure to be proud of. Sadly, this game, while pretty and debatably informative, doesn’t give you that kind of freedom.

There are quite a lot of animals available for your zoo. These animals have relatively simple needs, easily learned if you use the left trigger to check which foods and entertainment are best for each animal, and what the animal’s social requirement is. Animals have a level, which is partially based on age, which caps at 15, at which point the animal can be released into the wild to great accolades (and I believe fame). The game makes a point of following your released animals, boosting your ego. On the whole, the animals look good and expressive, and managing the needs of your zoo in general is fairly easy. Easy, but at the cost of customization.

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Zoo sites are fixed areas that can be rotated and dropped as you like; roads appear automatically between structures. This may be a minor point, but I feel it should have more options to place connections between structures and affect the layout. The actual area placement feels bulky and overly-large, leading to unsightly spaces between the different structures, irritating those of us with OCD. What’s worse, there’s a maximum limit on zoo structures, which means you have to strike a balance.

What’s even worse, this limit is shared with animal types – meaning that you can’t fill structures to their personal capacity, even if the main structure is huge. I understand that they put this in to prevent simply loading up on everything, a common strategy in tycoon games, but that wouldn’t be an issue if it wasn’t so easy to get money. I never once found myself losing money at all, even when things started to get hard to manage at the end; but I was prevented from achieving challenges.

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The challenges are pointless busy work with extra money thrown in. Some, like releasing or breeding animals, or building certain structures, make sense as a reward for learning the game. Others, like racing about to deliver medicine, make use of the buggy you can call in personal mode. Personal mode is largely useless, except for the interaction games and photography, both of which are only really useful for challenges. Sure, there IS a social aspect to them, as you can share photos and such, but this is objectively minor and lacks the possibility to really sell the game.

The challenges are pointless busy work with extra money thrown in

And as if we’re not restricted enough, there’s research. This is the most infuriating aspect – you need to research everything you get via Fame rating levels, which unlocks all new animals and upgrades. However, research takes time, and only one thing may be researched at a time – one thing out of all the different categories. And you can’t queue up research to start when the last one is finished, meaning you spend your time digging through research options rather than building or managing your animals. Worse, there’s no central research window for everything, so you have to research as you build. I found this tremendously distracting and created unneeded slowdown. Researching animals shouldn’t actually be a thing – structures, yes, that makes sense, but the animals are out there. Research suggests you’re learning what you need to house them – since that’s covered under structures and upgrades within those, there’s no reason to pad it out with each individual species.

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I don’t argue this because it’s not ‘hardcore’ enough, and that it caters to a casual crowd with motion controls and mini-games. I actually think that’s a great thing. The problem is that throwing in busy work and upper limits on the Challenge section (and making the more-forgiving free-form’s options limited by what you unlock in Challenge) makes the game less accessible and makes it feel like a chore. There’s a multiplayer component, but given the game’s limitations, I can’t see it actually being that fun. I can’t see anyone playing this longer than a few hours, and not more than once, and that’s unforgivable for a tycoon game. Replayability is critical, especially if there’s not a lot of content, and the upper limit puts a stop to that by curtailing expansion.

I wouldn’t bother with this. It’s pretty and tries to be delightful, but there’s not much of a game here. This is $60 retail; if it were $15 or $20, it’d be worth the price. You can find your kids better games.

 

 

Microsoft Studios Shuts Down Office in Victoria, B.C.

Microsoft Studios Shuts Down Office in Victoria, B.C.

Microsoft Studios has closed its office in Victoria, B.C., leaving at least 30 employees jobless. The office opened its doors in early 2012, as Microsoft promised a slew of games would be developed there.

According to the Victoria-based website Times Colonist, Microsoft said in a statement the decision to shut down its game development studio in Victoria was difficult, but “one guided by our desire to centralize development in our Vancouver studios”. The company has also extended its help to those affected by the studio closure by identifying open positions in other studios.

Don Mattrick, a longtime resident of Victoria and former leader of Microsoft’s Xbox division, was influential in Microsoft Studios opening in that particular location. Mattrick left Microsoft this year to become CEO of Zynga.

Victoria is also home to other game development studios, such as TinyMob Games. CEO Alex Mendelev said his company has hired some of the affected Microsoft staff. Black Tusk Studios, which is operated by Microsoft, is located in Vancouver. The studio is currently developing a game for the Xbox One.