The Seven Deadly Sins: Knights of Britannia (PS4) Review – Another Low Budget Anime Fighter

The Seven Deadly Sins: Knights of Britannia (PS4) Review – Another Low Budget Anime Fighter

Games based on popular anime series have garnered a bad reputation for being low quality. Recent games like Dragon Ball FighterZ have certainly helped to better the general public’s opinion but we’re still far from the point where people expect AAA experiences from anime titles.

Read moreThe Seven Deadly Sins: Knights of Britannia (PS4) Review – Another Low Budget Anime Fighter

Strikers Edge (PlayStation 4) Review: Barely Makes the Cut

Strikers Edge (PlayStation 4) Review: Barely Makes the Cut

Dodgeball is one of the few physical games that doesn’t get adapted to the video game world too often, something I personally consider to be a bit of a shame. Fun Punch Games attempts to change this with their latest title, Strikers Edge.

Read moreStrikers Edge (PlayStation 4) Review: Barely Makes the Cut

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!

Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out the First 15: Monster Hunter World Beta: the Insatiable Nergigante, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT,  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!

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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!

Dynasty Warriors 9 (PC) Review: Open World Warriors

Dynasty Warriors 9 (PC) Review: Open World Warriors

For better or worse, Dynasty Warriors is a franchise that is known for not changing. It will always tell the tale of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, with familiar faces like Lu Bu and Cao Cao returning in installment after installment to cut through thousands of mooks in ancient China. This makes Dynasty Warriors 9 all the more surprising, as Omega Force and Koei Tecmo have decided to dramatically shake up the series with one very big change: the addition of an open world. Unfortunately, while the concept is certainly interesting, it is poorly executed, with issues both big and small taking away from the core Dynasty Warriors experience.

At its core, Dynasty Warriors 9 plays just like its predecessors. You pick one of several dozen characters from Romance of the Three Kingdoms and charge into battle while taking part in the most famous events and battles of the Three Kingdoms period. The simple act of killing hundreds of thousands of enemies is still just as fulfilling, depending on your attitude towards these games.

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Dynasty Warriors 9 (PC) – image for this review provided by Koei Tecmo and Omega Force.

While you can mindlessly hit the same button over and over again to carve a path through your enemies, Dynasty Warriors 9 adds a new attack system called Trigger Attacks that can alter the enemy’s state and can be used to chain new combos. For example, I can end a simple button mashing combo by launching the enemy into the air. The result is that there is some strategy to be found when going toe-to-toe with the more powerful named characters, especially when combined with the returning Musou attacks and new character-specific elemental attacks.

On the downside, there’s a lack of diversity when it comes to playing different characters. Every character can equip any weapon type, with the exception of their unique weapons, with similar animations popping up again and again in the most basic combos. Considering these will be your bread and butter for much of the game, it gets old rather quickly.

Similarly disappointing is the quality of the voice acting. With maybe a handful of exceptions, the voice acting in Dynasty Warriors 9 is bad throughout. It feels less like people are talking and more like the voice actors were reading the line off the page, making everything sound awkward to the ears. Outside of conversations and cutscenes, voice lines will repeat with extreme frequency and it becomes grating on the ears quickly. It is fortunate then that the soundtrack is as good as it is, otherwise I would have turned off the audio altogether to prevent the voices from burrowing into my head.

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Dynasty Warriors 9 (PC) – image for this review provided by Koei Tecmo and Omega Force.

Characters aside, the mission design throughout the game is interesting and refreshing. The game is divided between the four major states that make up the Three Kingdoms period, which are further divided into chapters that feature anywhere from one to a handful of major objectives. While each main objective has a high starting difficulty in comparison to the level your character will likely be at, the difficulty can be lowered by completing smaller scale missions that tie into the big picture. For example, capturing a fort will lower the overall level of an enemy general whom you have to kill. This makes it worthwhile to go after the side missions, though some, like the large number of fetch quests, are best skipped due to being very tedious.

To be blunt, Dynasty Warriors 9’s map is absolutely massive and does a great job of representing both the scale and environments that the many battles of the Three Kingdoms were fought in. Armies will clash along roads and battlefronts across the map, with your forces winning and losing without you, though plot or mission-critical battles will only begin once you enter the area. It is also, by and large, very empty. Cities, towns and forts are scattered around the world that serve as hubs for shopkeepers, craftsmen and larger military forces, but most of the world is taken up by nature with little in the way of defining characteristics.

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Dynasty Warriors 9 (PC) – image for this review provided by Koei Tecmo and Omega Force.

I spent a very long time travelling the map, particularly since fast travel points are only unlocked after you activate them, and unless you are willing to fight every single enemy roadblock that you encounter, you will be running around a world that is neither interesting to explore nor interesting to look at. Playing on a PC, I had to double check that I was running the game at the highest possible graphical settings, as the textures on the environment are pretty poor.

The size of the world also has the side effect of increasing the amount of time between battles or missions. If you like seeing the kill count climb up rapidly, it will do so at a slow pace thanks to the need to travel to each new battle site. The smaller scale battles that populate the map are uninteresting because they lack the scale and scope that Dynasty Warriors games are known for, and I skipped as much as I could on the way to the much more interesting sieges and city battles that are reminiscent of previous titles.

Ultimately, Dynasty Warriors 9 is a major change for a franchise that has long been content to stick to its roots. Yet in adding an open world, it fails to properly marry the new system with the variety and intensity of previous titles. There are some good ideas to be found here, and with the experience gained in making this game and some further iteration, I can see Omega Force coming back with a much-improved sequel in a few years. However, unless you are a die-hard Dynasty Warriors fan, you likely won’t have a good time here.

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Dynasty Warriors 9 (PC) – image for this review provided by Koei Tecmo and Omega Force.

Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more by Preston Dosza like his review of Total War: Warhammer II – Rise of the Tomb Kings and why Monster Hunter World will succeed in the west!

Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out the First 15: Monster Hunter World Beta: the Insatiable Nergigante, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT,  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!

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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!

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT (PS4) Review: The Waiting Game

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT (PS4) Review: The Waiting Game

On paper, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT sounds like an action-oriented Final Fantasy fan’s dream come true. Featuring three-on-three online battles between some of the most recognizable faces in the series’ 30 year history, Dissidia NT fully embodies its role as a vehicle for fanservice. Cloud, Terra, Zidane, Lightning…the gang’s all here, spoiling for a brawl, stuffed to the brim with quips and visual callbacks to the iconic RPGs they hail from. Given the splendid execution of the two Dissidia games to come before it—a pair of speedy, polished fighters woefully limited by the reach of the PlayStation Portable platform they were shackled to—NT seemed poised for success.

After some 15-odd hours with a final retail copy of the game, any hope I held onto that it might improve upon the unimpressive beta version has been ground into dust.

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Dissidia Final Fantasy NT (PS4) – images for this review provided by Square Enix.

Dissidia NT is a winding labyrinth of poor design choices. Where do I even begin dissecting the myriad ways it goes wrong? I can scarcely recall the last time I was so vexed by a video game, much less one that should, by all rights, cater to my sensibilities. First, the game does a miserable job of preparing the player for combat. A basic tutorial gives an adequate rundown of how Dissidia NT works as a whole, but stops short of outlining each character’s quirks and gimmicks. Nowhere in Dissidia NT is there a proper move list, let alone a breakdown of what it means to “master a job” as Bartz, how to time Squall’s attacks for explosive bonus damage, or any other character-specific idiosyncrasies. This information is available, but not where one might expect: The breadcrumb trail leads to an external website, of all places, creating a significant skill gap between players who dive in headfirst and those who take the time to research their characters outside of Dissidia NT itself.

I stand by my assertion that the core three-on-three ruleset simply does not engender balanced competitive play. The essential Dissidia functions—namely, speedy combat utilizing an array of flashy Final Fantasy abilities—are here, but they are warped, having passed through a filter to make them palatable for team play. The presence of a single unskilled player can often spell certain doom for an entire team, because every death counts toward a cumulative total—three strikes and you’re out. Not only does this punish newer players, who can quickly find themselves overwhelmed, but it indirectly discourages experimentation with different characters and ability loadouts. (If only there was an in-game explanation of how these things worked, or even a simple training mode that doesn’t require a player-engineered workaround to function properly! Alas.) The high stakes of failure make learning to play Dissidia NT an intimidating prospect, particularly when compounded by its generally sluggish controls, laggy netcode, and convoluted pre-battle setup process.

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Dissidia Final Fantasy NT (PS4) – images for this review provided by Square Enix.

While battles themselves have the potential to be enjoyable, Dissidia NT‘s menus are an inexcusable mess. Never before have I seen a game so hell-bent upon making itself a chore to play. The sheer drudgery of navigating through layer after layer of nested menus to accomplish anything outside of battle is exhausting. Want to jump into an online match? First you’ll select a mode, then a character, then an ability loadout (which cannot be changed at this step in the process—no, that must be done in an entirely separate menu outside of any battle mode), then wait to be matched with other players, then select a summon, then wait for every player’s vote, and then, finally, enter the skirmish itself. It is no exaggeration when I say that during my time with Dissidia NT, I spent longer waiting for any given match to be prepared than I did actually engaged in combat.

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Dissidia Final Fantasy NT (PS4) – images for this review provided by Square Enix.

Dissidia NT incentivizes continued play with cosmetic bonuses and unlockable story cutscenes, but these too are hindered by the game’s unwieldy design philosophy. Every character sports a variety of fascinating costumes, many of which call back to classic Yoshitaka Amano artworks, unused character designs, or other delicious bits of Final Fantasy esoterica. Yet the majority of these are acquired through random treasure drops (in-game loot boxes, which are thankfully not purchasable with real money), and they must be assigned to cosmetic sets in a mode accessible only from the main menu. Music, another element crucial to the Final Fantasy experience, can also be tailored to the player’s liking through customized playlists, but these are also gated behind a cumbersome menu. Want to switch things up on the fly? Forget it—everything in Dissidia NT demands equal parts preparation and patience.

It is baffling that Dissidia NT would eliminate the functional story mode of its forebears in favour of tepid, disconnected cutscenes that unlock through entirely separate modes. The player spends a currency called “Memoria” to view these scenes in sequential order, and though some feature interstitial battles, there is little in the way of glue to form a cohesive narrative. Make no mistake: this is fanservice, fun and loose and ultimately superfluous. Dissidia NT does explicitly canonize the proceedings of the previous two games by referencing their stories, which is interesting considering its complete disregard for their gameplay mechanics.

My objective as a critic is never to generate outrage or silence dissent, but to draw attention to issues that I think could stand to be corrected. I want to love Dissidia NT, truly; not that it makes me more of a fan than anyone else, but I have no less than four Final Fantasy tattoos permanently emblazoned upon my flesh. To say that I have affection for its source material would be something of an understatement. I bristle with vexation at this new direction for Dissidia because it strips away everything that made the series a success up to this point, thereby robbing Final Fantasy of the considerable magic it has always possessed. The spell is broken. My frustration is a symptom of that dejection.

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Dissidia Final Fantasy NT (PS4) – images for this review provided by Square Enix.

I can think of few words less apt than “success” to describe Dissidia NT in its current state. It is a mystifying, bumbling leap backwards that squanders the abundant potential inherent to its premise. It stands as a testament to its developers’ hubris, rich with audiovisual spectacle but completely lacking in even a basic understanding of effective multiplayer game design principles. The Final Fantasy brand has not been so thoroughly dragged through the mud since the launch of Final Fantasy XIV. Dissidia NT needs its own dramatic overhaul in short order if it is to ever crawl its way back from the precipice of disaster.


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: Monster Hunter World Beta: the Insatiable Nergigante, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT,  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!

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!

Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out the First 15: Monster Hunter World Beta: the Insatiable Nergigante, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT,  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!

Shadow of the Colossus Remake (PlayStation 4) Review: The Eyes Have It

Shadow of the Colossus Remake (PlayStation 4) Review: The Eyes Have It

Remaking a game can be a dangerous affair. Upgrading the visuals can steal away part of the charm of the older work. Tweaking controls can alter some of the nuances of how the game played. It’s an extremely fine line, one the Shadow of the Colossus effortlessly dances along, knowing exactly what to fix and what to leave alone.

The stark, sun-drenched visuals of the original seemed like they might be a tipping point when word got out that Shadow of the Colossus was being remade. Would the developers want to add more detail to the world? Color? It seemed like the sort of thing that might get changed to look ‘prettier’ despite the thematic meaning behind the game’s visual style.

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Shadow of the Colossus Remake (images for this review courtesy of Sony Interactive Entertainment).

Somehow, though it has been made prettier, the team managed to preserve that sense of being dried out, abandoned, and barren. Striking mountain ranges tower above the player, all while grasses sway beneath their feet or sand whirls up around Agro’s hooves. Players can see for miles, looking out onto broken bridges and remnants of lost civilizations tucked into hidden alcoves. All of these places existed in the original, but the finer details of the new visuals make the land seem to breathe new life into Shadow of the Colossus, even as it is dying.

Shadow of the Colossus’ colossi were given a similar treatment in this remake: their details enhanced to make their beauty all the sadder. The stone armour seems harder and more unforgiving in its new detail, the cracks and breaks in the plates hinting at ages of life. Their hair no longer looks coarse but seems fine and soft. It’s the sort of detail that might seem out of place given the age hinted at by the armour, but it indicates a gentleness in these giant creatures that they’re trying to protect. It was a nice touch and helped strengthen a powerful thematic element of the game.

Nowhere was this visual detail more powerful than in the colossi’s eyes. Shadow of the Colossus isn’t filled with giant monsters bent on killing the player, but colossal creatures that simply wish to continue existing. Most of them have no interest in the player’s presence, and will, at most, try to shoo them away. Many only turn violent when the player is stabbing them, and even then, the most many of them do is just try to shake him off. They’re docile creatures despite their size and power.

Shadow of the Colossus Remake (Switch) Review: The Eyes Have It
Shadow of the Colossus Remake (images for this review courtesy of Sony Interactive Entertainment).

This is made abundantly clear with a single look in their eyes. The creatures of Shadow of the Colossus possess that same empty, gentle look in those glassy orbs, at most curious or indifferent to the player. Even when some get angry, their eyes glowing red, it only lasts until the player stops bothering them. They simply wish to exist, possessing little malice in them, and certainly none worth killing them over. All of this is felt by watching any of these creatures focus their soft gaze on the player, and the effect is emotionally staggering. One look tells the player who the monster is.

But we are here to overcome, are we not?

Tackling the colossi is no less thrilling than it was before, with the colossi preserved exactly how they acted before. Players who know the original well can apply old tactics to take these creatures down, and new players will be struck by the thrill of climbing up a creature the size of a skyscraper. Looking at these giant bodies like puzzles to solve, then navigating them with limited grip strength is exciting and compelling, and the variety of creatures makes for endless fun. Well, depressing fun.

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Shadow of the Colossus Remake (images for this review courtesy of Sony Interactive Entertainment).

The music, carried over (but obviously re-recorded/cleaned up) from the original that accompanies these battles is stirring, carrying Shadow of the Colossus’ emotional resonance to incredible heights. Yes, killing these beasts is sad, but that’s forgotten in the thrill of the fight. The music rises along with the player as they climb a swinging arm, grasping for any handhold as the colossus bucks and whips at them. It swells as the player plunges their blade into a weak point of the giant beast they are riding through the skies.

And when the creature falls, and you remember the look of fear in its eyes as you swung a torch toward their face – the way it shivered as you approached – and the music falls to gentle, somber notes, you realize the gravity of what you’ve done.

The controls were the final point where a remake may have floundered. Shadow of the Colossus has a very particular control scheme that, at first, seems fussy. The camera angles tend to stick to a cinematic viewpoint that tends not to be helpful when things get rough in a fight, swirling around uncontrollably. The protagonist can be clumsy, his movements taking time to adjust no matter what the player is trying to make him do. Riding the horse, Agro, also feels closer to guiding rather than controlling, coaxing them to go when you need to move.

For some, these controls may turn the remake into an exercise in frustration. However, the game isn’t especially hard and often factors these limitations in, so most will be fine. They seem like something many developers should have fixed, but they’re part of the themes of Shadow of the Colossus. The player struggles along with the protagonist with the clumsy movements, and Agro is a companion, not a vehicle – someone to ask for help rather than control. Many companies might have tried to ‘clean up’ these controls, but, annoying as they can be, are a key part of the game’s emotional power.

Shadow of the Colossus Remake (Switch) Review: The Eyes Have It 4
Shadow of the Colossus Remake (images for this review courtesy of Sony Interactive Entertainment).

The Shadow of the Colossus remake could have tried to make everything smooth and modern, but its developers knew what made the original game special and preserved it. In doing so, they’ve enhanced its themes, stirring up a crushing sadness in the player in their actions only moments after taking them to heights of excitement. It’s a master class in how to remake a true classic.


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!

Ultimate Chicken Horse (PS4) Review: Frenetic Multiplayer Craziness!

Ultimate Chicken Horse (PS4) Review: Frenetic Multiplayer Craziness!

Ultimate Chicken Horse for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One is a new release, but the original version of the game made its debut for PC over a year and a half ago. For this reviewer, playing this game was my first interaction with the title, and my first time experiencing the frenetic gameplay therein.

First and foremost, this is a party game and is at its best when playing local multiplayer.  When played on its own in a solo-player challenge mode the game loses much of its appeal.  This is a game which is meant to be enjoyed with more than one player, and the more the merrier.

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Ultimate Chicken Horse – images for this review provided by Clever Endeavor Games.

Players take on the role of a farm animal, and in party mode will work on constructing a path from one side of the map to the other, at the same time making the path as complicated and deadly as possible.  Points are given for successfully making it to the other side, collecting coins, and for trapping and killing your opponents. The gameplay is often a little chaotic, and the controls could be a lot tighter and more precise. For a modern game platformer, the physics are at times a bit haphazard and hard to rely upon behaving in a predictable manner.  The game could be a bit more helpful in setting up the rules and walking players through the scoring, and it can make the first few turns a bit frustrating. However, once you get a handle on it, it’s fairly easy to start messing with your opponents while also trying to ensure you can figure out a strategy to successfully complete the level.  When playing for the purposes of this review, I found myself enjoying the balance of the game, as there are more than a few ways to get points, and it was easier than I expected to come from behind and win a round (much to my own chagrin, as suddenly my wife pulled ahead to take the win as a result of collecting as many coins as possible as her goal).  The rounds are fast-paced, and the more players means more chaos, as the screen gets busier and busier, with many more obstacles blocking one’s path.

As much chaotic fun as the game might be for local multiplayer, it loses much of the fun when it comes to online multiplayer. The game plays the same, but it definitely loses some the whimsy when you’re not playing with friends and family.  It drops an aspect of the personality of the game which at first made it seem so endearing.  Matchmaking isn’t the simplest, either, and on numerous occasions, the gameplay didn’t seem to make a smooth transition to the online world.

Ultimate Chicken Horse (PS4) Review: Frenetic Multiplayer Craziness! 2
Ultimate Chicken Horse – images for this review provided by Clever Endeavor Games.

If you were hoping for an enjoyable solo experience you’re not really going to find it here.  The challenge mode is often more frustrating than enjoyable, as players load community-designed and uploaded levels. Some are seemingly built to be impossible, but for the most part there’s a decent array of levels. But when you’re just trying to complete levels that were put up in a series of speed runs, it takes away the more entertaining element that is evident in party mode.  What makes the single-player mode feel even more lacking is that it doesn’t manage to give the player a way to play solo, but still enjoy the frantic level-building that is experienced in local multiplayer.  Presumably it would be harder to program an AI to replicate such an experience, and instead the developers focused on the challenge mode instead of replicating the local multiplayer gameplay for the solo gameplay experience.

The game definitely encourages the player to try their hand at designing and playing their own levels, and uploading them for others to play. If this is your cup of tea, your overall enjoyment of Ultimate Chicken Horse will be substantially higher than this reviewer’s.  If this scratches your gamer itch, it definitely makes this an easy game to recommend, and more worthwhile given the price.

The graphics are simplistic, with a stripped-down aesthetic that really works for the game.  Ultimate Chicken Horse doesn’t need to have sophisticated and highly polished graphics, and it actually works better with a more simplistic style.  When building levels frantically, the art design is appropriately simple.  When starting levels, there’s little on the screen, but it just allows more room in which to cram all of the implements you need to provide your competition with difficult obstacles.

The music is subtle, and the sound effects are very on point and satisfying.  When a trap is unleashed and kills your opponent, the sound effects accompanying the carnage definitely allow you to relish in the mayhem.

Ultimate Chicken Horse (PS4) Review: Frenetic Multiplayer Craziness! 5
Ultimate Chicken Horse – images for this review provided by Clever Endeavor Games.

If you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive PS4 party game, Ultimate Chicken Horse is definitely worth trying out.  If you can get it for a discount (which likely will come at some point) and you like level building I would heartily recommend it.  However, If you’re not going to be able to make use of the local multiplayer, it definitely makes this a tougher game to recommend.  As a game designed for local multiplayer, Ultimate Chicken Horse succeeds and then some.  With the right gamer personality, it becomes a game of one-upsmanship, as differing playstyles start to clash in enjoyable ways.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Adam Chapman’s reviews of Gran Turismo Sport and FIFA 17!

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Celeste (PC) Review: a Dashing Platformer

Celeste (PC) Review: a Dashing Platformer

Sometimes, it’s enough to just play a retro-tinted game or a plain old platformer that merely plays well. What do I mean by that? Well, I don’t really have a stringent requirement for an over-arching narrative that’s going to blow me away all the time. Recent 3D Mario games are proof of that, as Nintendo has made efforts to even downplay the existence of a tenuous plot device to string everything together. You’re going to get a strong base; lots of unique levels, and you will probably fight Bowser for whatever reason. I’m in. But with the rise of Indies in the past decade or so, an extra kick in the story department sure is a nice surprise.

Celeste (PC) Review: a Dashing Platformer 1
Celeste – images for this review provided by Matt Makes Games, Inc.

Celeste, the latest project from the talented Matt Thorson, is one of those surprises. It’s a platformer set to the beat of climbing a mountain, but it quickly becomes so much more than that. Celeste—also the name of the mountain itself—is incredibly thematic, as our protagonist Madeline deals with various psychological challenges alongside of all of the physical hurdles required with scaling a giant crag. These are all conveyed through small breaks, with a light injection of real world humor and sensibilities that almost add a surreal element to the mix.

All of the aforementioned interludes are also spruced up by sharp cartoon art, allowing the characters to get a little more emotive than they would with the already keen sprite-work. The beautiful soundtrack that’s constantly pumping and the minimalist sound effects augment its theme.

Celeste (PC) Review: a Dashing Platformer 2
Celeste – images for this review provided by Matt Makes Games, Inc.

Going along with the lack of heavy-handed, lengthy cut scenes, Celeste is really easy to get into at first. You have an invisible grab meter when holding onto walls, and a limited dash mechanic. Both are presented without meters clogging up the screen; instead you’ll get visual cues like huffing and puffing or colour changes to denote that you need to find another way.

It’s very intuitive, as the grab concept feels right, and the dash is directional like a bullet. Touching the ground or grabbing a special sparing cube power up will let you dash again, and that’s basically it. You need to marry the two together to scale every obstacle, which can be tough to reconcile until you start really getting into the swing of things. The lack of fluff-like, lengthy tutorials make it that much more fun to acclimatize.

Celeste (PC) Review: a Dashing Platformer 4
Celeste – images for this review provided by Matt Makes Games, Inc.

Although it is difficult at times, the chapter-based segmentation and auto-saving is great for taking breaks. You’re also presented with myriad extra content to tackle—or not. You can collect strawberries for extra points, or not. There’s a ton of extra rooms to explore and conquer, sometimes hidden by cracks in the wall Metroid style, or not. You can also find collectibles that unlock extra stages or a retro mini game, or not. You get the picture! For those of you who aren’t all about anything but the critical path, there are no real set options outside of a speedrun timer, which is fine.

Outside of a few uneven rooms—mostly in the middle—my only real gripe with Celeste is the death restart delay. It’s not huge at all and isn’t even a big gripe, but with other games allowing for instant restarts it can sometimes get frustrating when tackling a particularly taxing room to have to wait a brief moment between deaths.

It’s really hard to think of anything fundamentally wrong with Celeste. It presents itself as a whimsical platformer, and ended up exceeding my expectations of it. If anything I wish there was a bit more when it came to the core set of levels—challenge room and mini game-esque extras are fine, but I really wanted to see more of these characters—but that’s a great problem to have.

Celeste (PC) Review: a Dashing Platformer 3
Celeste – images for this review provided by Matt Makes Games, Inc.

Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more of Chris Carter’s  reviews, such as Tokyo 42 and Preacher Season 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!

Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4) Review: Super Saiyan Levels of Gameplay and Presentation

Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4) Review: Super Saiyan Levels of Gameplay and Presentation

The Dragon Ball frenzy of the 90’s has returned to North America in a spectacular resurgence, with a new show being dubbed by the original cast, a new trading card game hitting local game shops’ shelves and now the upcoming release of what may be the best Dragon Ball game to date. The moment it was announced at the E3 2017 during the Xbox press conference I knew I had to review Dragon Ball FighterZ. I was just that excited. Developed by the passionate developers at Arc System Works and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, FighterZ captures the essence of the source material fans have known for decades and has masterfully tuned it into a competitive 2D fighting game.

Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4) Review: Super Saiyan Levels of Gameplay and Presentation 14
Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4) – images for this review provided by Ark System Works and Bandai Namco.

At its core, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a 3v3 fighter akin to the Marvel Vs. Capcom series. Players comprise their 3-member team out of a diverse 24-character roster from Dragon Ball Z as well as newly cherished characters from Super. I adore the detail put into the visually stunning models and stages, but what really captures my heart as a Dragon Ball fan is how every attack these characters perform are ripped straight from manga panels, anime scenes and even previous games. The gameplay of Dragon Ball FighterZ is fun and accessible to all skill levels of fighting game players, with powerful light and heavy auto combos baked into the core system for every character to utilize. Specials and super attacks are also simple to execute by using a basic quarter circle motion.

However, that doesn’t mean FighterZ lacks the depth of a traditional fighter. The intricacies of the combat system will be on full display in the coming weeks as the competitive community learns which characters play well off one another as they start to string together powerful combos by tagging in their teammates and stacking supers. The pace of the combat in Dragon Ball FighterZ is as fast and furious as the anime, with energy blasts, assist moves, high-speed dashes and vanishing attacks quickly filling the screen as players exhaust their meters in a flurry of inputs. The combat system is so focused on aggressive play that it can be overwhelming for some players to keep up with the action and the few defensive responses available rely on proper timing to execute if the pressured player is stuck in the corner.

Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4) Review: Super Saiyan Levels of Gameplay and Presentation 3
Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4) – images for this review provided by Ark System Works and Bandai Namco.

The original story of Dragon Ball FighterZ revolves around Akira Toriyama’s newly designed female character, Android 21. The gist of the story is that the world is in peril by the hordes of clones created by Android 21. Unfortunately, the Z-Warriors and their recently revived rogue’s gallery can’t rise to the occasion as heroes because their immense power is being suppressed by energy waves. That’s where you, the player, comes in to save the day. Acting as a disembodied spirit, the player links to the playable characters and unlocks their suppressed potential so they can fight and stop Android 21 from accomplishing her oh so diabolical scheme. While the actual plot is rather lacklustre, I still enjoyed the story and how it serves as a long-form tutorial to prepare players for competitive play. The complete story is told in three arcs, and upon completion, unlocks the playable Majin form of this mischievous new character. My favourite parts of the story, however, where easily the multiple humorous interactions between characters as players create different teams, which I won’t spoil for eager fans. Once players complete the lengthy story mode, they can further improve their skills by tackling arcade mode and local battles before jumping into the online arena.

Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4) Review: Super Saiyan Levels of Gameplay and Presentation 5
Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4) – images for this review provided by Ark System Works and Bandai Namco.

I love that Ark System Works reused the lobby system of Guilty Gear Xrd: REV 2 and tailored it to Dragon Ball. The lobby essentially acts as the player’s menu system as they jump around to the various game modes available as a chibi-avatar of their favourite character. The real fun comes in online lobbies where up to 34 players can populate a single server and interact with each other by chatting, using emotes or sharing stickers. It’s not a system that works for everyone, but I think this kind of lobby adds another layer of flavour to the presentation of Dragon Ball FighterZ and I enjoy its implementation. What players might not enjoy is that certain avatars and colors are locked behind a loot box system. Thankfully these loot boxes don’t require any actual money to purchase as players accumulate the two forms of in-game currency by playing the game whether their online or off. Zenni is the primary currency and is used to purchase basic capsules. If the capsule contains a duplicate item, then the item becomes a Z-coin which can be used to purchase premium capsules and only contain unobtained items.

My only worry with Dragon Ball FighterZ is the quality of the online play at launch, which I can only talk about from my previous experience as both a closed and open beta participant. Over 85% of my matches played smooth and with minimal frame delay even when I was playing with mediocre connections, but the open beta incident threw that level of consistency out the door when the sheer traffic of players crashed the game for close to an entire day. It’s my hope that Ark System Works has remedied this problem in anticipation for release because both Dragon Ball fans and fighting game enthusiasts alike are ready to swarm in the moment the clock strikes 12.

If it wasn’t obvious, I love Dragon Ball FighterZ. The perfect marriage of source material enriched gameplay and original presentation has created a fantastic experience that a wide audience of players are sure to enjoy. The gameplay is simple enough that any level of player can pick it up and recreate infamous attacks from the show, while at the same time it’s mechanics are so deep and unexplored that the game feels ready to support a competitive community of fighting game enthusiasts. Ark System Works has outdone themselves here and I’m eager to see what other anime properties they will be allowed to play around with in the future.

Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4) Review: Super Saiyan Levels of Gameplay and Presentation 13
Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4) – images for this review provided by Ark System Works and Bandai Namco.

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 Cole Watson’s reviews of Assassin’s Creed Origins and Gundam Versus!

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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!