Zombie Panic in Wonderland DX – Switch Review

A few days ago I felt like wanting to play some Virtua Cop. Yeah, I wanted some lighthearted rail shooting action with low poly graphics and bright colours. I was even ready to compromise and playing it with the controller. Filled with nostalgia I opened the Eshop and Zombie Panic popped up.
By an incredibile coincidence, it really fitted the description, and the fact that it is not a light gun shooter, but a third person one with onscreen crosshair so the game is balanced to be played with a stick, it made it the perfect treat for myself so I spent the money and dug into the game.
I’ll give praise to the cute characters and colourful environments and to his basic gameplay but I am not entirely sure what the DX suffix in the title stands for. This is a port of a 3ds/wiiware and despite the first release was years ago, no effort has been put into polishing the game or the user interface, to the point that the options do not even feature a “restore default settings”. Talk about Deluxe.

In Zombie Panic you play as Momotaro, the peach boy, or one of three unlockable girl protagonists in a tale that involve their respective tales, zombies and scented dwarves. Quite a fun setting. To get the job done you have your standard machine-gun and two additional weapons that you need to find ammunition for by destroying the environments with much joy: a very powerful railgun that is extremely efficient and a useless flamethrower which purpose I could understand other than obstructing the visuals and getting you killed in the process. Your character is quite big on the screen so if an enemy is standing directly in front of you, it is almost impossible to see what they are throwing at you. You can move the character left and right to position yourself, but when you ignite the flamethrower you can’t see anything which usually means eating up enemy bullets that can spell game over in a matter of seconds. And this brings up the main flaw of the game.

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I am all up for an arcade difficulty. What I am not up is being treated unfairly just to make the game harder to beat, thus longer. Longevity should come with careful design, not through with artificial impediments, as Zombie Panic does: if you manage two play wisely and end up stocking a few lives by collecting the heart-shaped lollipops, your lives are reset to the three standard at the beginning of each stage. This really managed to upset me.
Get hit three times and you are given a continue. Die again and you are sent back to the main menu (ok, sure you get a continue, but I’d rather keep my hard earned lives, thank you). Even if you select “continue your previous game” you need to start over from square one. HOWEVER if you manage to beat the boss and then you die, by selecting the same option you will be able to start from the fourth stage. So I presume there is a some sort of obscure saving system after each boss, that will eventually allow to beat the game with a little patience.
There is no hint or visual clue about this feature, and this says a lot about the care put into wrapping up the whole thing for the Switch release.
I said presume, because I am not sure when I am going back to beat the thing. It got stale pretty quickly, and I am probably going to save it for some coop action if opportunity arises, just to share the misery.

The action is ok, don’t get my wrong, you want to be on your toes and eliminate threats in a smart way so the screen doesn’t get full of enemies that overwhelm you with numbers and firepower but it still somehow feels slow-paced and it doesn’t do much to have you coming back for more. You often die because you let your guard down after minutes of mildly paced sections that provide little threats. Or because you used the flamethrower to break the monotony a little.
Even if you have a craving for this genre, the Eshop offers a couple of alternatives as Nam 1975 and Wild Guns, two well-known arcade ancestors that might be like 50 years old, but they still kick and provide superior action and an overall better gameplay experience.

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SCORE : MEH out of 5

+ Cute graphics and bright colours.
+ Local co-op
– Unfair balancing and factitious difficulty
– I really need to stop buying these games

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes – Switch Review

To comment Travis Strikes Again I’ll borrow a couple of sentences from the review on Eurogamer, that completely destroys the game with no mercy.

“It’s about as punk as property developer Johnny Rotten going through the motions to hawk Country Life butter.”

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It’s true! That’s exactly what Suda does with all the mentions and winking about the Unreal Engine in the game. And what is more punk that going in the very opposite direction of what is good everybody expects from you, even if it means breaking your bones doing it? It’s no Pokemon advertisement that makes you look cool and trendy, it’s fucking unhealthy, not vegan friendly butter. Take this!
Suda51 is the Sex Pistols of videogames, and Travis Strikes again is his Great Videogame Swindle.

In Travis Strikes again you’ll play ugly minigames, lousy levels that become duller and duller the more you progress to the point you really start thinking Suda is taking the piss and mocking you as a gamer.
Without a reference value (time/money spent on production) it is really hard to tell where the budget ends and the deliberate poor level design starts.
Even receiving the death sentence of an “AVOID” score, rather than a soppy and timid pass, is the best award that Travis Strikes again could possibly get.

“Travis Strikes Again ends up looking – and playing – like a Net Yaroze game made in a hungover fug.”

Yeah, and can you think of a better, accurate, loving description than this?

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I agree about almost everything, excluding the fact that I actually had fun playing it. I found the hack’n slash core gameplay enjoyable and polished. Repetitive, yes, because Travis plays like Gauntlet in a crazy world.
It pays homage to old, weird and indie games but he never copies; it descends into the dark world of creating games level zero, when you experiment with events to get a grasp of the programming tools.
It reminded me when I lost my RPG virginity with an old RPG Maker, and I was like
“oh, so this is how they make Final Fantasy…” BOOM! Santa is dead, this are the strings that keep together a game, it’s like watching a puppet show from the backstage, and looking at the fat bastard’s bum crack while he waves his socks-wearing arms.

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Here everything is unsteadily glued together by Suda’s style, wtf hilarious moments and the fastest visual novel in the world.
I especially liked how Suda keeps mentioning the Sacred Cow of indie gaming, Hotline Miami, almost as if he’s tricking us into compare it to Travis, except you can’t as they play two different sports.
When it’s over, and you try to collect your thoughts about the game, you are still wondering whether Travis Strikes Again is a scam or not. Who knows? But I had fun with it.
Recommended.

SCORE 9/10

+ There is some crazy stuff here
+ An ugly beautiful game
– Sometimes too ugly

Xenon Valchirie + – Switch review

I believe that every game should have a demo, especially on a platform with no refund whatsover policy. For this reason I am inclined to a positive attitude towards wee games like Xenon Valchirie that are not afraid to show what they are made of.

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After a couple of minutes, I was convinced enough to go for the full game (which is quite cheap anyway) and I am not regretting it.

In Xenon Valkyrie + you play as one of three characters: the busty girl on the cover, that starts the game with a key an unlimited bombs that can be used to destroy tiles of terrain to create new passages or reach isolated areas, a scarf guy with a dragon radar and better stats, and a frogface who guess ehat can jump higher. Your mission is to save someplace from something, by delving down a handful of levels to reach the final boss.

The descent itself is quite fast thanks to smooth and reactive controls that will make you jump around like a ninja. However caution is advised as HPs are easier lost than gained, and a run can end abruptly if you are too carefree.
Levels are populated by spikes, flamethrowers and enemies. The enemies follow their patterns religiously, mostly ignoring the player, but this is not a fault, as their jumping/shooting patterns, combined with explosions and a the random level layout generation create some interesting and sometimes unpredictable situations.

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It is also important to explore the levels to gain experience, money, and weapons that are vital to stand a chance against the simpleminded but damaging bosses.
Your weapons are an all purpose melee weapon which strenght can be increased by spending skill points in strengh, and a much safer pistol/rifle than can be used to eliminate foes from a distance, but comes with a limited ammo supply and cannot be used on most bosses for some reason. It doesn’t make mich sense but it works in terms of balancing so hey, that’s ok.

All the gameplay elements work great together, creating a simple but captivating experience. The roguelite curve is perfect, and after another failed run you really feel the reward of improved player skills along with the various unlocks that keep interest high but do not break the game.
New weapons only differ in aspect and stats, and the levels become harder but keeps roughly the same kind of hazards and enemy types.

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Again, it’s very simple but it works wonder. It plays like a mini action Spelunky! And you can expect a couple of surprises along the way.

The game was originally released on PSVita and it fits the Switch screen perfectly. I have spent a few hours on it and I have not beaten it completely yet, but I can foresee a lifecycle of 10 hours or so (if you exclude speedruns and stuff for which the gameplay is really suitable). An average run can last about 20, (maybe 30 minutes if you turtle around), making it perfect for short sessions in portable mode, also because on a 50″ inch telly it looks like a pixel pudding and it will make your eyes bleed.

+ a well thought roguelike action platformer
+ addictive arcade-like gameplay
– not exactly a main game

SCORE: 9/10

Lifeless Planet – Switch Review

Ok let’s start by having a look at the game trailer

Interesting eh?
The trailer is really inviting and hard to resist: what are the Soviets doing on a supposedly lifeless planet? As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to play it just to know the answer.
Unfortunately all the mistery is there, in the trailer, and playing the game you get answers that are not as intriguing as the question itself. Then the plot takes another direction and eventually another one, with a decent finale that however doesn’t completely rescue the plot as a whole.

On the interactive side, Lifeless Planet plays half as a walking simulator and half as a platformer. I didn’t enjoy neither aspect too much. The scenario is quite dull and the Soviets didn’t left behind much more than some recycled buildings and while I appreciate that the landscape is . I understand that a real lost planet is probably very dull and a big crater isn’t necessarily full of activities, but even when the game introduce different scenarios, it doesn’t deliver anything particular interesting to investigate. I mean, you have a jetpack! A jetpack game is fun by definition but not here as in Lifeless Planet there is little emphasis on vertical landscape and the jetpack is mostly used to cover long horizontal jumps and it can only be used during some sections, leaving us with a weak double jump all the time.
I did not expect an Ico on Mars but it still felt a bit too empty.

When the game doesn’t recycle itself with the same badic puzzles (push rock, jump on rock) and crash bandicot reminiscent dull platforming, it manages to be somewhat interesting, but after a few hours I started wishing that it would end so that an excessive lenght would destroy the enjoyment I had so far. Game dragged on a wee bit more, but it eventually ended in a few hours, fiveish or something but it felt too long to me.

– The plot falls apart
– Dull landscape and platforming
+ You are an astronaut

Score 5/10

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