Joke #24857

A man entered an ice cream shop and asked, “What flavors of ice cream do you have?”

“Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry,” the girl wheezed as she spoke, patted her throat, and seemed unable to continue.

“Do you have laryngitis?” the man asked sympathetically.

“No,” the girl whispered.  “Just vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.”

 

Neverwinter (PS4) Review

Developer: Cryptic Studios | Publisher: Perfect World International || Overall: 8.0

All it takes is one hit. One bad decision and you are hooked. You’ll tell yourself that the first time was free and that you’ll never do it again, but who are you fooling? Before long, you’ll be back down in that basement looking for another hit. Sure, it’s nice that your dealer will give you some Mountain Dew and Cheetos with your main course of addiction, but you know what you did down there. From there, it isn’t much longer before you’ll start to feel the aftereffects: shaky hands, multiple personalities and even death, more than once in some cases. Dungeons and Dragons creeps into your soul and clenches it tightly until it takes over your life. By the end you will wonder how a free character sheet turned into multiple player’s guides and even a few adventure modules. Of course, if that is what you are thinking you probably already have a weekly gaming group and it is already far too late to save you.

Drug Dealer

“You’re in luck. I got a fresh batch of D6s.”

*Disclaimer: This review is based on playing the Guardian Fighter class with the Onyx Head Start Pack provided by Perfect World.

Getting rid of the polyhedral dice, the play mats, and the physical presence of other people; publisher Perfect World and developer Cryptic Studio are looking to bring the excitement of Dungeons and Dragons to the PlayStation 4 with its port of Neverwinter. Featuring Dungeons and Dragons’ popular Forgotten Realms setting, Neverwinter casts the player as a fearless adventurer in one of the many character classes that tabletop game is known for. While it seems like a natural choice to take a game like Dungeon and Dragons and turn it into an MMO, does the experience translate well to the home console? Does it still feel like a Dungeons and Dragons adventure? Is asking a question a textbook way to lead to the next paragraph?

It is not exactly a one-to-one conversion, but Neverwinter does an admirable job of getting the feel of Dungeons and Dragons just right. The world is a ripe fantasy filled with the sorts of things you’d see at the table. It is populated with humans, elves, orcs and all of the familiar races that usually find their way at the end of your blade once a party member fails a diplomacy check. The starting classes are also standard D&D fair, giving you an assortment of paladins, fighters and magic-users to seek and destroy all those that would bring harm to the people of the Forgotten Realms. Neverwinter even includes a “character sheet” for your character where you’ll find their stats and abilities. There are some notable absences and a few things are locked behind a paywall but what you are given at the start certainly isn’t bad.

Neverwinter_PS4_03

How a failed Diplomacy check usually looks like…

The story itself is also right up the typical playbook for a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, but there is also something for those that simply enjoy fantasy stories to like. That being said, the story doesn’t exactly take the genre and revolutionize it. It’s a pretty standard tale that has the player going throughout the Forgotten Realms to stop the impending invasion of a Litch Queen with an assortment of side-quests that link (and don’t link) into the overall campaign. The quests themselves also feel the same way. They really don’t travel far outside the typical go here, get that, kill these, and defeat this boss format of so many other MMOs but they do a decent job of progressing the player through the narrative. On the other side of the gaming table, the voice acting is far more of a mixed bag. Some of the characters don’t give a very good performance and others will leave you wondering why they choose that voice for that character, but some of the actors give a decent performance for their role and scene.

For those familiar with Dragon Age, you’ll be right at home with the gameplay. Dumping the usual point and click affair for a mostly action-oriented set up, the game has you moving with the joystick and attacking with an assortment of buttons on the control pad. Almost everything is used in some regard, from the face buttons to the triggers, to the point where it may take some getting used to. This is especially noticeable when pressing the L1 button, as it gives you a whole new set of actions to choose from. Once you do master the control scheme, it seems quite natural. Though, finding a good way to balance the button combinations isn’t the only thing that’ll be your responsibility, you also have to aim your attacks. The reticle on screen gives you a good idea on where your attacks will land, and while the game is generous, it is still possible to completely whiff your attacks and lose several precious seconds against your enemies if you are completely off mark. It’s not exactly throwing oddly shaped dice and hoping you’ll hit, but the gameplay gets the job done.

While hostile NPCs are the main threat, they aren’t the only dangerous thing in Neverwinter. There are several traps that can inflict injuries to your character and if you don’t have an injury kit to heal them, you’re forced to suffer from their debilitating effects. Depending on where the character is hurt, they can suffer anything from reduced damage to an increased cooldown time. Thankfully, with an attentive eye to your surroundings, they are largely avoidable. Whether it is a slit in the floor, an oddly shaped tile, or even a hole in the wall, each of the little, but deadly, inconsistencies in the dungeon’s design is a clue to a trap. Of course, it may take several tries before they can all be avoided, but it is rewarding to do so. The only real problem with injuries is that it takes about three minutes near a campsite to fully heal if you don’t have an injury kit or don’t care to waste one. Though, waiting around is pretty standard experience in MMOs from what I can gather.

Lastly, the graphics aren’t all that great. Neverwinter is a three-year-old game and, even at the time, it wasn’t all that graphically impressive. It doesn’t possess the same quality or attention to detail of more high-budget titles but it also doesn’t really detract from the gameplay. Sure, the faces aren’t as detailed, and the glittery dust that leads you to your next mission isn’t as shiny (Kudos though! Made it much easier for a MMO newbie like me to find each mission.), but you’ll probably be too busy killing things to even care. The graphics are serviceable but not impressive.

Even if Neverwinter isn’t heads above the rest when it comes to being an MMO, it is still a fine translation of Dungeons and Dragons to an MMORPG. Many of what D&D players love are represented here in some way, shape or form. Even players that are unfamiliar with D&D can have fun in the world and with the action-oriented combat. Even without the snacks and rules lawyers, Neverwinter is still a fine game and Dungeon and Dragons experience.

When not spreading his Dungeons and Dragons addiction as Unnamedhero, Eduardo Luquin can be reached at Unnamedheromk13@gmail.com.

 

8DAYS (PC) Review

Developer: Santa Clara Games | Publisher: Badland Games || Overall: 8.5

8DAYS is an indie twin-stick shooter from two-man team Santa Clara Games.  Drawing heavily from the contemporary example of Hotline Miami, you’ll even see influence from Metal Gear and traditional “shmups” in this genre cocktail.  The action is spread out over five Chapters, each with a satisfying length and unique theme.

The scenario for the characters you play, known as Lola “Wasp” Cruz and Mike “Ghost” Doe, starts with them working for a Private Military Corporation known as G.O.D. Inc. (Gold, Oil, Diamonds Inc.).  This PMC is apparently the most successful in the world and has its fingers in many political pies — being hired when shit goes down.  For example, the first Chapter has to do with stopping a rice embargo, and the second with a nuclear plant being taken over by Eco-terrorists.  Each Chapter starts with a little vignette to set up the specific mission at hand, and off you go.  The game has tongue-in-cheek humor, considering that the rice embargo is only a problem because the affluent want their daily sushi; another example being the sewers of the nuclear plant have tentacle monsters swimming around in green water, a sharp contrast from the “grounded” first chapter.  The nuclear plant is also occupied by droves of robots that use pistols/rifles/flamethrowers, and then in the middle somewhere you fight some strange mechanical/biological creature that barfs on you as one of his attacks.  It would seem all of these experiments would be a bit much for an energy production facility owned by a utility company.  You also see random “civilians” just moseying about as you have firefights and they tend to get killed in the crossfire or run around and make strange noises.

Normal gameplay consists of strategically taking down enemies before they kill you and getting to the next area.  While there isn’t a requirement to kill everything, if you trip an alarm or are seen by them, they will engage and have the possibility of flanking you.  Deaths will restart you at the very beginning of the area, and some of them can be a bit large.  There are usually multiple paths or strategies to take when completing an area, so if one way doesn’t work, you can try another.  Stealth is also an accessible strategy if you have a melee weapon, as there are a lot of places to hide while enemies patrol around.  Some situations require a gunfight, but as long as you kill whoever is engaged with you, you won’t run the risk of drawing more enemies into the fight.  Bullets are very large and also move slower than you might expect them to depending on the weapon, so it can either be a boon or frustration in that regard.  Co-Op is also available, with a friend being able to jump in at anytime during play.

At certain points through a Chapter you’ll encounter a boss, which breaks up the methodical think-before-you-leap gameplay and works in a traditional shmup-style fight.  As with many things in the game, they take the opportunity to be referential — the final boss of the first Chapter is a Rambo-look-a-like with a machine gun, knife, and red bandana.  You’ll also encounter some other Easter Eggs, such as a “V Has Come To” scribbled on the wall and a party with Metal Gear Solid characters (which is oddly appropriate for me since I’ve been playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain for the past month and a half).

Weaponry is varied, and in the initial stages you’ll mostly encounter rifles, shotguns, and SMGs.  You will also see a lot of melee weapons, and as you get further along rocket launchers, silenced pistols, flamethrowers, and EMP bombs become available.  Sometimes destroying certain types of boxes/crates produce ammo, otherwise you’ll be scavenging from your enemies.  Reloading is clip-based, meaning if you manually reload before completely emptying your clip, you will lose the ammo you had remaining.  This might be a bit annoying considering the game let’s you reload even when you have a full clip, so you can easily waste bullets if you aren’t careful; you aren’t allowed to pick up a clip you threw away.  You are only able to keep two weapons at a time, so if you wanted to hang onto a melee weapon you may be exchanging guns quite a bit.

Considering the game can be very challenging, the amount of playtime would potentially vary for you.  Each Chapter kept me going for about an hour, and I died a lot on the way, having to retry over and over.  When done with a Chapter, you’re treated with a little resolution to the problem you solved and then go right into the next scenario.  Chapters are able to be replayed if you so desire, but will only fully unlock in the menu when you finish the level — if you are in the middle of the stage and start a new game you’ll lose all progress and start from the very beginning again.  When you get a Game Over, it is unfortunately very easy to accidentally select “Retry Mission” instead of just “Retry.”  There is no confirmation after accidentally selecting “Retry Mission” and you can lose all progress with no way to go back… admittedly, I learned that the hard way.  There is also no difference in the gameplay between the two characters you can choose, but I personally preferred the character design of “Wasp” over “Ghost.”

The art style is a purposeful throwback to the 8-bit days, though it has a lot more detail to its art than you may normally see when you think “8-bit.”  There is some gruesome death, such as decapitations and gore, and there are also depictions of torture and tons of previously-killed bodies are strewn about levels, which all enhance the violent atmosphere.  The little intro movies to each Chapter are pretty neat, but aren’t too long.  Other stylistic parts of the game also round out the unique feeling of the art and grows on you as you pay closer attention to the detail and are eventually exposed to the variety of locales each Chapter offers.  The music is also a high point, but dips in and out, crossfading with “battle music” every time you start an encounter with an enemy.  This takes away from the enjoyment of the main stage track since you’ll be constantly going in and out of two different songs, but it isn’t disjointed enough where its awful, just a questionable decision in the sound design.

If you’re in the mood for a side-scrolling shmup, 8DAYS is a challenging and satisfying experience.  Defeating each area rewards you with a feeling of accomplishment — earning your wins little by little and progressing you to a new challenge.  8DAYS will be available July 22nd on Steam.

 

Daydreamer: Awakened Edition (PS4) Review

Developer: Roland Studios | Publisher: ATLUS || Overall: 6.0

This is a strange world we live in. It’s a world where the most popular app for young adults is related to capturing fictional monsters and is not about hooking up with very real people. It’s also a world where ESPN believes that airing the finals of a Street Fighter tournament makes for good sports programming. These are only the most recent examples, too. For a long time now it seems like whatever was considered unpopular is starting to become popular, and the things that the dweebs, geeks and weaboos among us whispered in silence about have become the subject of very public and sometimes loud conjecture among major media, news outlets and the more popular among us. It’s almost like we are living in some geek’s daydream…

FAMILY MATTERS, Jaleel White, 1989-98, (c)Warner Bros. Television/courtesy Everett Collection

Fashion in five years.

Out of the jaws of failure comes Daydreamer: Awakened Edition for your PS4. Originally starting as two Kickstarter projects that failed to make even three percent of their original goals, the game has come a long way to be published by ATLUS and available for the PS4. As a passion project for Roland Studios (which is really just a code name for the one guy who developed this game), Daydreamer is set to take your imagination and your money on this throwback side-scrolling shooter. At first glance, the game is an obvious departure from the usual flair. The art style jumps at you for being one part gorgeous and another part grotesque. Though, whether the game is all art style and no substance remains to be seen.

It's like if they prepared mutilated bodies for glamour shots...

It’s like if they prepared mutilated bodies for glamour shots…

Getting the obvious out of the way first, the art style can only be described as “something else.” It may take a while to get used to, but it eventually settles into your heart as the Lovecraftian-wet-dream that it is. Daydreamer has an awkward beauty to it that presents your nightmares in a sort of picturesque–fashion, as if they were plucked right out of a child’s demented fairy tale. This is further supplemented by the amazing animation for the enemies. Each enemy walks, wriggles, crawls and staggers with a fluidity that makes them come to life; a disgusting, scary and ugly life, but a life nonetheless. This also extends to the main character that possesses the same sort of fluidity but without the characteristic grotesqueness of the enemies. Daydreamer: Awakened Edition is quite the sight to behold.

Unfortunately, the same thing cannot be said of the gameplay. The Kickstarter mentions Alien Solider and Gunstar Heroes as inspirations and the gameplay reflects that, but I can’t help but think that it pales in comparison to its precursors. There wasn’t the same sense of urgency or utter chaos that both of those games are well known for; instead of having to contend with wave after wave of enemies, the standard rhythm of Daydreamer seems to be walking forward, shooting the things in front of you and then repeating that process until a boss appears in front of you. Which is a shame because the game seems to have all of the building blocks needed to pull off a fast-pace and fun shooter: a varied amount of weapons, movement options, melee attacks and even bonuses for chaining kills, but they never seem to come together in just the right way to put all those options to good use. There are a few things to break the monotony that include objectives that have you seeking and destroying power cores and a boss battle at the end of every level. Though, they do little to change the overall pacing. The power core hunts happen far too infrequently to matter and most of the boss battles quickly devolve into an arms races where shooting the boss becomes more important than dodging the boss’ attacks with only one notable exception.

Like the gameplay, the story has good intentions but doesn’t quite live up to them. The premise is sound, with the story taking place on an Earth ruled by alien invaders, and our lone protagonist is kept alive as a living trophy to their conquest. Roused from her matrix-like existence by the mysterious, nightmare-inducing, Gatekeeper, she is tasked with a dangerous mission to the Earth’s core and that’s about the point where the story fizzles out. From that point on there really isn’t much mention about what you are doing and why you are doing it, and it ends in a vague way that leaves you scratching your head. The bits of dialogue each boss offers don’t help much either. Their words are often generic and hardly motivating to the player. One striking example of this is a certain boss that starts his encounter by stating “I’m a rabbit, deal with it!!!” The story had a good start but lacks the proper execution to make that matter.

I'll let you decide which of these bosses says, “I'm a rabbit, deal with it!!!”

I’ll let you decide which of these bosses says, “I’m a rabbit, deal with it!!!”

Daydreamer: Awakened Edition came a long way from being a Kickstarter failure to be available on a home console. It’s a shame that the game turned out to be have more style than substance. While those looking for a game with interesting art direction may be able to find something here, those that want to relive their enjoyment of Gunstar Heroes and Alien Soldier or are interested in a story set in a world dominated by alien forces will have to look elsewhere.

When not reclaiming the earth from alien invaders as Unnamedhero, Eduardo Luquin can be reached at Unnamedheromk13@gmail.com.

 

Super Mutant Alien Assault (PC) Review

Developer: Cybernate | Publisher: Surprise Attack Games || Overall: 8.5/10

Super Mutant Alien Assault (SMAA) bears no shame in calling itself a clone of “Super Crate Box.”  Fortunately for SMAA, I never heard of (nor played) the game it is a clone of, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt when it says that’s what it is.  Now, aside from the gasping in the back corners of the room by those who cannot fathom that someone does not know the “smash hit” Super Crate Box, I say nay nay, good sir.  I heard of it now, and Super Mutant Alien Assault appeals to me on its face much more than whatever that other thing is.  Plus, I like clones because it reminds me of one of my favorite Schwarzenegger movies, The 6th Day.

“You should clone yourself.  So you can go fuck yourself.” (Paraphrased quote from The 6th Day)

SMAA is a platforming shooter that constrains you in one small level.  Each level contains a particular objective that must be completed before proceeding to the next, along the way massacring as many aliens as you need to.  SMAA, at its core, rides on the “roguelite” wave, but only wades in just a bit.  Power-ups are collected, but don’t endlessly stack — you have a limited amount of slots available for special abilities, weapons, and defenses.  Your character isn’t going to get crazy combinations of power-ups, but most of what you use will be swapped for something else that drops.  This forces you to work on a constantly changing strategy throughout your gameplay, rather than sticking with “what works” for as long as you can.  On top of it all, health can be very hard to come by, which makes the game quite a bit unforgiving.  Friendly-fire is also a thing here, so you’ll have to be careful where you chuck your explosives, just in case it bounces back in your general direction.

Level designs and objectives are randomized, but there is a set amount of maps that cycle within each “Galaxy,” which is a set of four levels.  There are no procedurally-generated maps, and objectives will only appear on particular levels designed for that objective.  This doesn’t detract from the enjoyment but it can get a bit stale depending on how long you decide to play in one go.  Objectives include moving an item from Point A to Point B or releasing a build-up of pressure on multiple points on the map.  It is important to get the objective done as fast as possible, as enemies will gain strength the longer you stay in a level.  A level will always require you to clear whatever enemies remain once the objective is fulfilled, so the path of least resistance will not be rewarded in the slightest.

Game unlocks occur as you complete more levels.  Each time you clear a stage you gain a token that sets you along the path to the next automatic unlock.  As you unlock more weaponry/items you’ll also unlock more enemies to have fun with — although this seems more like a punishment when it happens.  It would have been nicer to see enemies unlocked in a different progression, such as number of enemies killed or if a particular boss was cleared.

“Kinda takes the fun out of living, doesn’t it?”

When you actually get into the gameplay it can be quite frantic and most of it is satisfying.  Each level is equipped with its own configuration of Weapon/Explosive vending machines that randomly equip you with one of the weapons you have unlocked so far.  Explosions are by far the most fulfilling thing about the game and it’s a lot of fun to be able to blow the aliens up with a well-timed grenade or cluster bomb.  Some of the normal weaponry is not as exciting, such as the dual submachine guns and the AK47, but the minigun, sniper rifle, and grenade launcher are fun to wield.  My favorite by far is the pogo stick that explodes things you jump on top of — it would have been great if this was more the kind of thing you saw in the game, but instead it is the outlier.  Your weaponry/explosives all have a set number of charges, so you’ll be needing to re-equip yourself as soon as you use up your ammo, which means you’ll get a random item and change your strategy to effectively use your new combination.  Each level also grants you new power-ups in crates to fill out your other ability slots, such as Special Abilities and Defenses.

Special Abilities are fun to use and varied, despite the fact they aren’t able to be used that much due to needing to collect Special Ammo.  Special Ammo drops when you defeat empowered monsters that stick around for a while on the map, and you have to run over the green squares that are dropped before they expire.  This may not always be possible.  Special Abilities and Defenses (that are free to use) include but are not limited to a pillar of energy, pushbacks, running fast, and bullet time.  Defenses don’t damage enemies, but not all Special Abilities deal damage either.

The art is nice and attention is paid to the aliens and levels.  The art style reminds me of old Windows 3.1-era games (not that far removed from DOS games) with a 90’s retro-futuristic design.  The game also runs like a dream 95% of the time, except when you enter hyperdrive when that objective comes around.  The frame lag is helped if you turn off the Screen Shake in the options, but is still apparent even after turning it off — I’m unsure if this is actually intended or not, though, since it “snaps out” of the frame lag as soon as you exit the hyperdrive sequence.  It unfortunately gets pretty annoying when you experience it for the umpteenth time.   The music is all high-energy EDM/Dubstep/electro music and depending on your personal tastes may either be enjoyable or create misery.  It all matches the tempo of the game, but I was somewhere in the middle of the scale with the arrangement.  After about an hour of gameplay, I muted the music and opted for some of my own with the sound effects still on top.

“Doesn’t anybody die any more?”

The game feels a bit bare-bones when you realize that the progression is tied to unlocking weapons through a small number of levels.  Three Galaxies of four levels account for a total of twelve stages, each Galaxy cycling from its own small pool of levels/unlocked bosses.  By design, you’ll be retrying the game over and over since death is inevitable.  Each Galaxy has their own color scheme and set of levels to cycle through, and the game lets you begin on either of the three galaxies you like once you’ve beaten the previous boss level.  To unlock a higher difficulty level you have to start from the first Galaxy and go all the way to the last without dying — which can be quite a task depending on your skills.  Familiarizing yourself with the levels that cycle within a chosen Galaxy is the only way you’ll be able to get through it all in one go.

Super Mutant Alien Assault essentially appeals to those who look for a challenge in their games.  A lot of gameplay comes from perfecting your skills and attempting to get through as many levels as possible before dying and resetting.  The assortment of weapons are fun, keep you on your toes, and as you unlock more powerful weapons and abilities, you’re bound to get further at some point.  However, the biggest buff isn’t a tangible item in the game, it’s your own perseverance to try again and again and again and again….

Super Mutant Alien Assault is available now on Steam for $7.99, currently discounted by 20% from $9.99.

 

Squacklecast Episode 31 – “The Beach Sucks”

Wow its been like 3 or 4 months since the last one?  Well, here’s another SQUACKLECAST.

We talk about how much I hate having “fun” on the 4th of July weekend.

X-Men Apocalypse and Warcraft are the main topics otherwise.

Pixar’s Finding Dory is out, we haven’t seen it, but we talk about how hard it is for us to say which Pixar movies we actually really like for some reason.  Who actually asked for a sequel to Finding Nemo anyway?

Clifford the Big Red Dog is also coming to the big screen.

Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich come up.  We also talk about their careers.

We then talk about this Uno card game for the PS1, with this amazing opening movie.

 

I’m probably missing some things.  ANYWAY!  See ya next time!

 

PSA: Zero Time Dilemma is Out Today!

Zero Time Dilemma Title Pic

Hey everyone! It’s your friendly neighborhood Squackle writer here to mention that Zero Time Dilemma is out today for the 3DS and the Vita! For those in the know, I’m sure you have been eagerly awaiting the exciting conclusion of the series, and for the uninitiated, a primer is incoming.

Zero Time Dilemma is the third adventure game in the Zero Escape series. Starting with Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (mo’ problems), and succeeded by Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward, the titles take place in a world of pseudoscience where several people are forced into demented escape the room games involving supernatural powers. One part character drama, another part science fiction tale and two parts Saw (the movie); the Zero Escape games centers on themes of trust, betrayal and the limits of the human conscience when put under severe duress. That’s not taken lightly either, you often have to make terrible decisions that cause the deaths of several people to get the full story and this newest entry in the franchise seems to continue this trend with a blood-soaked vengeance.

maxresdefaultFun for a whole dysfunctional family!~

Taking place in the near future, Zero Time Dilemma is set in a secret compound in the Nevada desert. The nine main characters of our story are originally sent there to simulate a manned-mission to Mars, but things go awry once they find out that the whole compound is booby trapped. Even worse, a mysterious figure known as Zero appears and announces the start of the dangerous Decision game. Claiming that the survival of our nine main characters, himself, and the several billion people on Earth hangs in the balance, he forces them through a game where the only way to escape is by gathering six passwords to open a door. The catch is that the only way to gather the passwords is for six of them to die; each password equaling one death. Pretty hardcore, right? I didn’t even mention the part where each participant wears a bracelet that carries a mind-altering toxin that causes them to forget what happened in the previous 90 minutes or that it’s conveniently set to inject them every 90 minutes. Beyond that, there is also an insane cult with a disease that threatens to kills billions. Though, don’t expect the twist and turns to simply stop there. This series has a tendency to lift the rug right out from under the player.

For fear of spoiling anything for those interested, I’ll stop here. Just know that there are three games in the series and each one is well worth your time. So whether you begin here, start at the beginning or jump in somewhere in the middle, you are bound to have a good time with the enthralling narrative these three games have spun. Overall though, I’m sure I’m not the only one happy about getting a conclusion to this wonderful series of games.

When not participating in deadly escape the room games as Unnamedhero, Eduardo Luquin can be reached at Unnamedheromk13@gmail.com.